JESUS AND HIS CHURCH – [1] Revelation 1:9 – 11

© Rosemary Bardsley 2015

A. JOHN INTRODUCES HIMSELF [1:9]

John’s brief self-introduction is very important for our understanding of Revelation. It helps us to see the whole book, and our struggles as Christians, in clear perspective.

In relation to God and to Jesus Christ, John has already described himself as ‘his servant’ [1:1]. Now he describes himself in relation to the believers to whom he is writing:

‘… your brother and companion’ – he identifies with them, he is one of them and one with them. The word translated ‘companion’ is sugkoinonos – which means a co-participant, one who shares or takes part in the same thing.

in suffering’ – John experienced suffering, his readers experienced suffering.

‘and kingdom’ – both John and his readers [and all believers] also are co-participants, sharers, in ‘kingdom’. This, like the suffering, is already true. They and all believers already share in ‘kingdom’. There are three aspects of this ‘kingdom’:

Check these references:
[1] we are already in the kingdom of Jesus Christ [Colossians 1:13],
[2] we already reign [Romans 5:17],
[3] we are already ‘a kingdom’ [see 1:6].

 ‘and patient endurance’ – the ‘suffering’ and the ‘kingdom’ seem incongruous. The first seems to deny the second. This ‘patient endurance’ is lived out in the tension between these other two, in the incongruity, in the apparent denial of ‘kingdom’ by ‘suffering’. Already believers are in the kingdom of the Son [Colossians 1:13], but they are not yet delivered from suffering [Romans 8:18-39]. Already believers are children of the King, and seated with Christ at the Father’s side [Ephesians 2:6] but they are despised, they are persecuted, they are the victims of both human and Satanic attack, and of their own weakness. This tension involves waiting – waiting for the interim between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’ to be finished. The ‘patient endurance’ [Greek hupomone] is not a stoical resignation; rather it is joyful, hope-filled waiting, grounded in the sure and certain knowledge of what is already true, but not yet fully experienced. This patient endurance lives with the sure and certain expectation of the final consummation.

‘that are ours in Jesus’ – the suffering, the kingdom, and the patient endurance are all ours ‘in Jesus’. This phrase indicates that these seemingly incongruous things, are not contrary to faith in Christ, but are the expected condition and experience of all who believe in Jesus Christ.

Check these references:
John 15:18-21:
John 16:33:
2Timothy 3:12:

In introducing himself John has taken the opportunity to introduce the underlying tension that runs through this book, and, indeed, through the whole New Testament: the tension between the already and the not yet.  Here, at the very beginning, John defines the reality in which the church of all ages lives: suffering and kingdom. Both are present realities for all believers between the first and second comings of Jesus Christ. It is within this context of tension that Christian hope and joy exist. It is this tension, this reality, that Revelation addresses, and it is this hope and this joy that it confirms. [On a still broader perspective, it is the tension that has existed since Genesis 3 for all who have called upon the name of the Lord.]
 

I was on the island of Patmos’ – a small island off the western shore of the Roman province of ‘Asia’ [that is, off the west coast of modern day Turkey].

‘because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus’ – because John preached and taught the word of God, and because John had ‘the testimony of Jesus’. It is the word of God and the truth about Jesus Christ that is the real focus of the world’s hatred. Not John himself, but what he taught and what he stood for. As we work through Revelation we will find in several places that it is because believers have ‘the testimony of Jesus’ that Satan’s hatred is directed against them [quite apart from whether or not they verbalize that truth]. Satan’s determination is to eradicate the truth about Jesus Christ, the record, and to do so by destroying the church by whatever means he can.

 

B. JOHN TELLS US HOW THE VISIONS BEGAN [Revelation 1:10,11]

 ‘On the Lord’s Day’ – this is most commonly understood to refer to a Sunday.

‘I was in the Spirit’ – John uses the phrase ‘in the Spirit’ [literally ‘in spirit’] here and in 4:2, 17:3 and 21:10.  There seems to be no common factor in these to help us understand what John means by ‘in the Spirit’:

In 1:10 he was ‘in the Spirit’ before anything unusual occurred.
In 4:2 he was ‘in the Spirit’ immediately after the loud voice called him to ‘come up here’.
In 17:3 and 21:10 John says that an angel ‘carried me away in the Spirit’.

Two of the visions that followed are of things on earth; two are of things in heaven.

What we can say, is that:

[1] In the Greek text there is no ‘the’ in each of these references. John simply says ‘in spirit’. To translate the words as ‘in the Spirit’ [with a clear reference to the Holy Spirit], is an interpretation, not a translation. John may be referring to the Holy Spirit, but we cannot assume that from the text. Against such an assumption is the fact that all believers actually live all the time ‘in the Spirit’.

[2] Jesus used the same phrase in John 4:23,24, when he spoke about worshipping God ‘in spirit’ and in truth [John 4:23,24], that is, without the need for physical ritual or ‘holy’ place.

[3] Paul uses the identical phrase when he commands us to ‘pray in the Spirit’ [Ephesians 6:18].

[4] Paul uses the same phrase also in Romans 2:29, where he distinguishes between those who are Jews physically and those who are Jews spiritually.
It could be that John does not mean the same thing each time he uses this phrase. Keeping the above uses of the phrase in mind, it is possible that:

  • In 1:10 John was worshipping God or praying to God in his spirit [he had no church meeting to attend physically]. Perhaps he was praying for the seven churches, and bringing them and their suffering before God, the Holy Spirit helping him in his prayers [see Romans 8:26,27 and its broader context of suffering – 8:18-39].
  • In 4:2, having been focused on the seven churches and their difficulties [because of the letters dictated by Christ in chapters 2 and 3], he is called away from his focus on these earthly problems to focus on what was going on in heaven. Immediately his attention is drawn to spiritual realities.
  • In 17:3 and 21:10 he uses the phrase to clarify to his readers that he was not physically carried away by the angel, only spiritually: that in his spirit he was given the visions that he reports.

In any case, the phrase ‘in the spirit’ indicates that he is reporting things he saw and heard in visions, not physical realities.

‘and I heard a voice behind me like a loud trumpet’ – this is the first of many references to a ‘voice’. Sometimes, as here, it is the voice of Jesus Christ. Sometimes it is the voice of a mighty angel, or of many angels.  Sometimes it is the voice of God. Always the voice or voices are loud. This one is ‘like a loud trumpet’.

[Note: Some translations begin Jesus’ words here with ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last …’ This concept will be addressed in comments on 1:17 below.]

‘Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches …’ – These are John’s instructions. They cover everything he sees from this point onwards, up to the final vision of Revelation 22. He has to write everything he sees, and send it to these churches. There is, however, one exception to this instruction: he is told not to write down what the seven thunders said [10:4].