Adversity, Kingdom, Endurance
Revelation Lesson #016
September 5, 2004
In Revelation 1:19 the Lord Jesus Christ who has appeared to the apostle John says, "Write the things that you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things." This provides the structure for the book of Revelation. There are three broad divisions: "the things which you have seen," past tense. This is basically chapter one; "the things that are," present tense, is chapter two and three dealing with the cycles of history in the church age; "things which shall take place after these things," future tense, is chapters four through twenty-two. Chapter one can be divided into two sections. There is the introduction to the book in verses 1-8; the divine command to write down the information is given in verses 9-20.
The importance is the return or the second coming of the Messiah and that every believer in the church age should understand the apocalypse, the revelation, and its significance for us. This is why it is specifically authenticated by the voice of God who is described as the one who is and was and is to come, the Almighty in verse 8. The salutation is verses 4,5, and 6; the theme is verse 7; the authentication is in verse 8.
Next we are in the command section. There is a command to John to write these things. The original command is given specifically in verse 11. It is reiterated in verse 19. This is the theme of the section from verse 9 to verse 20.
The initial command is given in verses 9-11.
The commander, the Lord Jesus Christ, is described in verses 12-18.
The command is repeated in verses 19 and 20.
What is the initial command? The initial command talks first of all about the author. Who is to write down these things? This is 1:9a. Then we have the author's immediate circumstances given in the second part of verse 9 and verse 10, and then the command itself in verse 11.
Before we get too far into verse 9 we have to note some things about the text. In the exegesis of the Word of God the first thing to understand is what it is that God says. Over the course of time there has been corruption of the original MSS. We don't have the original, we just have a lot of copies. We have corruptions which don't affect doctrine but they affect the way we understand certain key verses.
Revelation 1:9, "I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." Verses 9-11 are what set up the rest of the chapter. The majority text and the KJV have "Jesus Christ," and it should read, "was on the island that is called Patmos, because of the word of God, and because of the testimony of Jesus Christ."
What is being said here? John introduces himself for the third time to make sure we know who is the writer of this revelation. John doesn't describe himself as an apostle, he doesn't describe himself as "the elder" as he did in 2 and 3 John, he describes himself in terms of his relationship to the readers, not in terms of his position of authority. Why is that? It goes back to what was pointed out early in the introduction. This is the revelation from Jesus Christ that God gave him, i.e. Jesus Christ. John is recording the revelation but it is not originating from his own apostolic authority. This is not his message to the church, it is the message from Jesus Christ to the church. So the issue here isn't John's authority, it is the authority of God. John is simply giving the circumstances now of his commission to write down the things that he sees in these visions in the book of Revelation.
He says, "your brother and your companion." No boast there. The word for brother is ADELPHOS [a)delfoj] which simply means a brother. It can refer to a physical brother but it is frequently used in the Scripture to refer between one member of the body of Christ and another member of the body of Christ. It is recognizing the fact that we are all sons of God. The word for "companion" is an interesting word used many times by the apostle Paul and also by other New Testament writers. Again, there is a slight variant in different MSS. In the majority text we have KOINONIA [koinwnia] which means partner related to word for fellowship, someone who is a joint participant in something, someone who shares in something. If we want to over emphasize this idea of being a joint participant or partner we can add the preposition SUN [sun], which becomes SUGKOINONIA [sugkoinwnia]. The emphasis here is that there is a certain partnership, a certain commonality between John and every believer who is reading this. In other words, it is written just as much to John and was just as much a challenge to his persona spiritual life as it is to you and to me. So we have these two terms: 'brother" emphasizing that he is like the rest of us, an adopted child of God in the family of God, royal aristocracy in the church age; but he is also a partner or joint participant in the spiritual life. But it is modified and explained by a prepositional clause which has three nouns as its object. It is usually translated "in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of the Lord Jesus Christ."
It might be easy to look at these three terms and say that these are three different events. However, in the Greek there is a definite article here right after the preposition which is very rare. Usually a preposition replaces the article, but by including the article there is an emphasis on the fact that there is one article which governs all three nouns. In the Greek this represents a rare idiom which involves the use of two or three words with only one thought intended. In other words, these three nouns are so closely related in the mind of the author in terms of what he is trying to communicate that they all tie together as one thought. It is not that they are synonymous. So the best way to translate this is as adversity-kingdom-endurance. That is what the word means. The word translated "tribulation" is THLIPSIS [qliyij], and it is preferable to translate this "adversity" because it is easy to look at this in light of the general message of the book of Revelation which talks about the great Tribulation, that seven-year period known in the Old Testament as the time of Jacob's trouble or Daniel's seventieth week. We should translate the word here as "adversity" because this is talking about the special kind of adversity that comes into every single believer's life. Then second, "kingdom," and it should be translated "kingdom," not power. The word for power is DUNAMIS [dunamij]. While it is true that the concept of BASILEIA [basileia] can refer to the power, it is the power of the kingdom. It is not isolated spiritual power. It is the power that is related to the authority of the kingdom, it can't be separated from the basic meaning of BASILEIA which means kingdom of dominion or the power exercised by that dominion. So it is focusing on the fact that the kingdom here is the future kingdom, the future Messianic kingdom that comes in when Jesus Christ returns. We are not in it now in any way, shape or form. Then the word translated "patience" is the word HUPOMONES [u(pomonhj] which is from a compound of HUPO = under, and MENO = to stay. It means to stay under or remain under pressure, to stay under adversity, to be steadfast. It is not just the idea of patience but rather the idea of endurance.
These three ideas are deeply related in the thinking of the writer because John is focusing on the fact that where this is all headed in history is that we are going to the kingdom, we are headed to the kingdom of Jesus Christ and we are currently being prepared. We are in a training ground right now and that training ground involves adversity and we have to endure and apply doctrine in the midst of that adversity, and that prepares us for the kingdom. In the mind of John at this point all three of these ideas are interrelated and he speaks of them as one grammatically. It is the adversity-kingdom-endurance that we all share. It is this whole matrix of the spiritual life. We are all joint participants in the adversity-kingdom-endurance of Jesus Christ. Actually, it is not translated "of Jesus Christ' it is translated "in Jesus Christ" – EN [e)n] indicates that it is part of our responsibility as members of the royal family of Jesus Christ.
The doctrine of adversity and stress
1) There are two kinds of pressures in life: adversity and stress. Adversity is the inevitable outside pressure of life that is attacks and seeks to disrupt the soul. On the other hand, stress is the optional inside pressure of the soul caused by reaction to the external pressures. When you put a piece of metal through a stress test what you are doing is applying external pressure to reveal internal flaws. That is what God does for us. He puts us under the pressure of outside circumstances in order to reveal our human frailties and inability so that we will learn to trust Him and not try to handle problems on our own.
2) There are two categories of adversity. The first is general adversity as a result of the law of volitional responsibility. We make bad decisions and the result is we get into adverse circumstances. This is true for everyone, believer or unbeliever. The principle for this is Galatians 6:7, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap." The second category of adversity is a category that relates to believers only. We go through adversity for what we classify as suffering for blessing or adversity for blessing where God is specifically tailoring certain negative circumstances in our life for the purpose of knocking off our human viewpoint arrogance and building in us the character of Jesus Christ. That is the idea that John has here. This is the adversity-kingdom-endurance matrix, it isn't the general adversity that any unbeliever can face or a believer may face as divine discipline. This is that adversity specifically tailor made for you in your spiritual life to get you to grow and to accelerate your spiritual growth. That spiritual growth is going to be the basis of your rewards and blessings both in time and in eternity, and it is designed to prepare you to be a leader, a ruler, a priest in the coming kingdom. It is developing in each of us that personal sense of our eternal destiny, that we have a destiny to rule and reign with Jesus Christ. But if we don't prepare for that now we will forfeit those rewards, those blessings in the coming kingdom. We will be there but we will forfeit those responsibilities because we don't have the capacity to rule and reign with Jesus Christ because we failed in the spiritual life.
3) Adversity is what the outside circumstances of life do to you. Stress is what you do to yourself.
4) External pressure is unavoidable. Adversity is inevitable but stress is optional. Stress is the result of your trying to handle life's problems on human resources. It is trying to solve life's problems based on the sin nature; it is the result of reacting to life's circumstances through mental attitude sins, sins of the tongue and overt sins, trying to use human good to solve your problems.
5) Stress in the soul fragments your soul. It destroys your happiness and it will lead to a failure in the Christian life. Stress is the result of sin nature control. If it continues you will degenerate in your spiritual life, which may cause you to forfeit rewards and crowns in eternity and in the Millennial kingdom.
6) Stress perpetuated in the soul results in failure to glorify God and therefore spiritual failure in this life.
7) We have to remember the only solution is the divine solution and that the human solution is no solution. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10. God supplies everything we need to handle any difficulty, any heartache, any problem in life, no matter what it is. He knew about it in eternity past and He gave us the resources today to handle that situation. It is designed to teach us to depend on His strength and not ours. John takes up this idea and says we are all co-participants, we all share in the same situation. It is part of the Christian modus operandi.
John is in exile on the island of Patmos, a Greek island off the coast of Turkey. Then the text gives the reason for his being on the island. He uses two prepositions in the Greek (the same preposition twice), the preposition DIA [dia] plus the accusative. It should be translated "because." This indicates the reason for something or the cause. John says he was there "because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ." We have a similar phrase to this in verse 2. In that verse the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ refers to the content of the book of Revelation, but that is not what is indicated in verse 9. The terms "the word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ" is used elsewhere in Scripture to refer to the teaching of doctrine. So John is on Patmos because he taught the Word of God and because he gave testimony about Jesus Christ. Even though they are similar phrase to what is found in verse 2 they don't have the same import here. Here it is talking about the fact than an apostle and a pastor is teaching doctrine and for that reason he is exiled.
That gives us his geographical location but it doesn't give his spiritual situation. Verse 10 says, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day." Here is a difficult phrase to try to understand. In the Greek it is EN PNEUMATI [e)n pneumati]. This is the dative case of PNEUMA, the word for spirit, and EN is a preposition meaning "by, with" and indicates instrumentality and location. In most of the New Testament this phrase indicates instrumentality, as in "walk by means of the Spirit, be filled by means of the Spirit." But instrumentality doesn't fit here. What some people say that what this means is he was filled with the Spirit. He was filled with the Spirit but that is not what this means. He was filled by the Spirit because he was in the position of giving revelation. He is in fellowship with God because of what is going on here. We know that but that is not the import of this, it is not instrumentality. It probably has a locative sense because what we are talking about is a special kind of revelatory circumstance. This is the idea that there is this opening or unveiling of the eyes, as it were, so that John no longer looks at just the physical realm but is now able to see into the spiritual realm. He is able to see that other reality so that God is able to reveal to him what is going to take place. We know it has to do with the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is the agent of divine revelation, but that doesn't mean that this use of spirit is talking about the Holy Spirit. The word PNEUMA [pneuma] itself refers to spiritual gist in Romans chapter fourteen, so the word has a broad range of meanings. The idea here is that John was in this spiritual realm where he was going to be given special divine revelation. It is not the same as the filling of the Spirit that you and I experience, and it is not the same as walking by the Spirit, it is in a situation where he is receiving divine revelation.
It is on the Lord's day which is the first day of the week. He heard behind him a loud voice. He didn't hear a trumpet, he heard a loud voice that was so loud and so attention-grabbling it is like a trumpet. In the ancient world the trumpet was used like a bugle to grab someone's attention, to announce something. And the voice says—and here we have another textual problem: KJV"I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last." That is only in the Textus Receptus. The majority text doesn't have it; the critical text doesn't have it. This was inserted later. It is a poor reading. The voice says simply, "What you see, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea." The phrase "which are in Asia" in the KJV and the NKJV isn't in the original. He is going to write everything down and send everything to all seven churches, not just the seven letters to the seven churches but the entire book of Revelation.