“ I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus. . . .” (Revelation 1:9).
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ our Lord,
As you know, one of the New Testament’s most frequently employed ways of describing Christians is to speak of us as those who are “ in Christ,” or “ in Christ Jesus.” One particular place in the New Testament comes to mind immediately:
“ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
And then, I also remember these words from Paul:
“ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3).
Being “ in Christ” means belonging to those whom God the Father has saved by the righteousness and blood of resurrected His Son. And, as Paul makes clear in Ephesians 1, it also means possessing all of the blessings of our Lord’s own eternal inheritance!
But we need to take a look at how the Apostle John identified himself to those Christian believers in the seven churches of Asia-Minor (eastern Turkey) who were the first to receive and read his final book, Revelation. In this short line from Revelation 1, he speaks of himself as their “ brother” and fellow-sharer of three common things (blessings!) that are “ in Jesus.” And as we examine them, they seem to be at odds with each other, at least upon initial glance.
First is “ the tribulation.” Both John and his readers are experiencing a time of tribulation and suffering (about the year 95 AD). John is exiled on Patmos. His fellow Christians, though not sequestered on a rocky island-prison, are also being persecuted for their faith in Christ, and some have even been martyred (2:13).
Secondly, they share in “ the kingdom.” And this is certainly a reference to the indestructible Kingdom of God, which was inaugurated with the first coming of Christ, and will be spectacularly consummated with His Second Advent.
And then, he speaks of the “ patient endurance” that they also share, or partner in. John, and his beloved brothers and sisters “ in Jesus,” are displaying one of the most powerful of the Christian graces; steadfastness of faith and hope in times of extreme difficulty.
What is so very significant and encouraging about this is that these three, “ kingdom,” “ tribulation,” and “ patient endurance” are simultaneous blessings that all those who are “ in Jesus” share together! But, as I mentioned earlier, they seem incongruent.
For example, at this very instant we are all sharing in, and benefiting from, the experience of the eternal “ kingdom” and reign of our Savior! He is Lord of all things now! We are not waiting on Him to take over, for He is already the undisputed King of all! And yet, at the very same time, we are also sharing in “ tribulation.”
For a (short) season, our Father has exposed His Covenant people to the pains, sorrows and difficulties that have always characterized this fallen world. We are all, to one degree or another, paying a price for our faithful allegiance to Jesus and to the Gospel. And yet, our “ tribulation” is occurring under the reign of our Sovereign Lord! As crazy as it may seem, our suffering is a ‘kingdom-suffering’! It is victorious! It is an experience of suffering that will give way to the final, explicit conquest of all of the Lord’s enemies, and all of those world-forces that are opposed to Him and His redeemed Bride! Suffer we do. But we do so as those who are citizens of another, eternal Empire! We are in no way ‘victims.’ We are “ more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37)!
And then, at the same time, we also share in “ the patient endurance” that has always characterized those who are “ in Jesus.” What makes this “ endurance” unique, however, is that it is the very perseverance of Christ Himself! It is not our patience or steadfastness of faith under duress that is in view here, but that which was at work in the life of our Savior Himself. It is a spirit of “ patient endurance” that has its origin in the Holy Spirit, who indwells and empowers all who belong to Christ, all those “ in Jesus”! The truth is that we are always “ strengthened with power through his Spirit in [our] inner being” (Ephesians 3:16), and “ strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10), and “ being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1:11).
As we begin this new week together, there are three things that we who are “ in Jesus” may fully count on:
We shall share in “ the tribulation” as we endeavor to be loyal to our King.
We shall know fellowship in His full victory as members of “ the kingdom.”
And we shall display, and participate together in, “ the patient endurance” that His Spirit always supplies!
And this will remain true until that Great Day when we hear the last trumpet sound, and our King comes again in glory!
I love you all so very much!