Tribulation and Endurance

Exiled on Patmos, John declared himself a “fellow-participant” in the tribulation and the endurance “in Jesus”Revelation 1:9

Endurance - Photo by Danka & Peter on Unsplash
The Apostle John found himself exiled on the “
isle of Patmos” for the “word of God and the testimony of Jesus,” and there, he received visions concerning “things that must soon come to pass” that he recorded and sent to seven beleaguered congregations in the province of Asia. Like them, he was experiencing “tribulation” for the kingdom - [Photo by Danka & Peter on Unsplash].

But rather than complaining about his situation, John identifies himself as the “fellow-participant” with the churches in the tribulation and kingdom and endurance in Jesus.”

 

His statement is remarkable for how it combines “tribulation,” “kingdom,” and “endurance” into one statement that highlights what it means to be “in Jesus”:

  • (Revelation 1:9) – “I, John, your brother and fellow participant with you in the tribulation and kingdom and endurance in Jesus, was on the isle that is called Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”


JOINT PARTICIPANT

 

Fellow participant” or sugkoinōnos means joint participation, to share in the same experience(s) as someone else. It is related to the Greek word rendered as “fellowship” elsewhere in the New Testament. By using it, John aligns himself fully with the sufferings of the “seven congregations of Asia.”


Moreover, in the Greek clause, the single definite article or “the” modifies all three nouns - it refers to THE tribulationkingdom, and endurance. All three are grammatically linked. To be “in Jesus” is to know tribulation, kingdom, and endurance.


The subject of the “kingdom” was introduced when Jesus was identified as the one who “made us a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.” Already he reigns supreme over the “kings of the earth”; already, his saints are participating in his reign as “priests” (“He made us” is in the past tense – Revelation 1:5-6).


Tribulation” translates the Greek noun thlipsis. The original sense was a “pressing together,” and derivative meanings include “pressure, distress, affliction.” Here, like the other three nouns, it is definite. It is not just one of many tribulations, but “THE tribulation.” The definite article indicates a known and specific “tribulation,” namely, the same one called “the great tribulation” in chapter 7.


SMYRNA

And the church at Smyrna had experienced “tribulation” already. Moreover, despite its faithful endurance in persecution, it was about to undergo even more tribulation:

  • (Revelation 2:9-10) – “I know your tribulation and poverty, and the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan. Fear not the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful unto death and I will give thee the crown of life.”


The church of Smyrna receives NO criticism from the glorified “Son of Man.” It has remained faithful through “tribulation,” yet its members are facing renewed persecution. Rather than promise deliverance from further “tribulation,” Jesus exhorts them to endure faithfully through what is coming and thus receive the “crown of life.”


Climbing Trail - Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash
[Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash]

Later, John will see the “innumerable multitude” of men redeemed by the “Lamb” exiting the “great tribulation” and standing before the “Lamb.” The redeemed do not escape the “tribulation,” they go through it.


And the saint who does remain faithful will find himself wearing a priestly robe and “rendering divine service day and night” before the “throne” day and night. Like the congregation in Smyrna, they have participated and endured faithfully in the “tribulation” - (Revelation 7:9-17).


ENDURANCE

To be “in Jesus” also means “endurance.” This rendering represents the Greek noun hupomoné which means “steadfastness, endurance, perseverance.”  It occurs seven times in the book, and always it is applied to saints who “endure” persecution - (Revelation 1:9, 2:2-3, 2:19, 3:10, 14:12):

  • (Revelation 13:10) – “If any man is for captivity, into captivity he goes: if any man is to be killed with the sword, with the sword must he be killed. HERE is the endurance and the faith of the saints.”


Thus, faithful perseverance, even when it results in martyrdom, is the very definition of “endurance.” Faithfulness in suffering is what characterizes the “overcoming” believer who will inherit the kingdom:

  • (Revelation 12:11) – “And they overcame the Dragon by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and because they loved not their life even unto death.


And the call for saints to endure “tribulation” is threaded throughout the book and goes to the very heart of its message.


Overcoming saints participate with Jesus in his reign in this life, but they do so as “priests” who serve Jesus by mediating his light to the world, bearing faithful testimony to friends and enemies alike, and by sacrificing their lives when called to do so.


And that is what it means to be “in Jesus” and a “fellow participant” with the rest of the saints in the “kingdom.” Suffering for the “word of God and the testimony of Jesus” is not a curse or punishment, but a great honor and privilege.


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