Sharing In Suffering
John was on the island of Patmos. It was small, about 45 square km in area, one of the Dodecanese (meaning ‘12 islands’) grouped off what is now the western coast of Turkey, some 50 km west of today's Didim. It was not a holiday for John. He had been sent there as a captive to be punished for preaching the gospel and speaking about Jesus. According to Jerome, John was probably there during the last three years of the Emperor Domitian's rule, and was released when the Emperor was killed in AD96.
Domitian continued persecuting Christians, as Nero had done, and most churches were under threat. John could certainly identify with them. He wrote as a brother in Christ, not elevating himself above his readers or claiming personal authority for what he wrote. He was simply a messenger, the person who wrote down what the Lord Jesus told him. But he also knew suffering. Before his enforced exile he would have been beaten, shackled and imprisoned in inhumane conditions. Patmos may have provided more liberty, but also time to think and pray and meditate on God's Word.
Suffering is a normal part of following Jesus. Paul said, "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him …" (Philippians 1:29). It was a consequence of being in Christ's kingdom which imperial rulers considered a threat to their authority. Like many in the churches, John learned the grace of patient endurance through unjust, cruel and oppressive ill-treatment. It was a physical, psychological and spiritual sharing of Christ's sufferings; but like Christ, the prospect of sharing in His glory sustained them (Romans 8:17; 1 Peter 5:1). It also created a personal bond for mutual encouragement with others who suffered (2 Corinthians 1:5-7).
This tension between suffering and glory is a major theme of Revelation. Most 21stC believers will experience something of the tension, but some of our brothers and sisters around the world reading Word@Work today are feeling its full force today. The temptation to give up the faith or shut up about Jesus is real, as is the temptation to compromise. That is why Revelation was given to us, to give hope to persevere patiently in dark days and to know that in the end, Jesus will reign supreme. This book should encourage you, if in any way you experience the tensions of suffering. So, do not give up trusting Jesus or talking about Him, and do not compromise. Be greatly encouraged by this book, written to a suffering church by a suffering church leader about Jesus who has suffered, but one day will be revealed in glory. He has promised to share that glory with those who have also shared in His suffering (1 Peter 4:13).
© Dr Paul Adams