On the isle of Patmos, suddenly, John found himself “in the Spirit,” and projected into the “Day of the Lord” – Revelation 1:9-10.
While exiled on the island of Patmos, John came to be “in the spirit,” where he found himself “in the lordly day” and received visions about the seven churches of Asia. Though his visions commenced in the first century, ultimately, they culminated in the final judgment, the “Day of the Lord,” when the wicked were punished and the righteous vindicated.
The opening vision centers on Jesus and his care for the churches, which, increasingly, were under pressure from within and without, for “tribulation” was at hand. Christ was the glorious “son of man” figure walking among the churches. Revelation begins and ends with his concern for his congregations.
- (Revelation 1:9-10) – “I, John, your brother and fellow-participant with you in the tribulation and kingdom and endurance in Jesus, was in the isle that is called Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I came to be in spirit on the lordly day.”
John called himself a “fellow participant” in the “tribulation,” thus, aligning himself with the plight of the Asian churches. The Greek noun sugkoinōnos denotes joint participation – (Strong’s – #G4791) and is related to the term commonly translated “fellowship.” The single Greek article, or “the,” modifies all three nouns, tribulation, kingdom, endurance. The terms are grammatically linked, each is part of the same whole.
The text refers not to just one among many “tribulations,” but to “the tribulation,” singular. In the Greek sentence, the noun is quite definite. It is the same “great tribulation” from which John saw the vast “innumerable multitude” exiting to stand victorious before the “Lamb” in New Jerusalem. To be “in Jesus” is to experience tribulation” – (Revelation 2:9-10, 7:9-17).
“I came to be in spirit.” The verb ginomai means “become; to come to be.” It signifies a change of condition or state. The verb tense (aorist) indicates a past action seen in its entirety, a singular event that occurred at a specific point in time.
Two prepositional clauses are used with the single verb, “I came to be.” First, “in spirit,” which is the direct object of the verb; and second, “in the lordly day,” the indirect object. Both clauses have en or “in” in the locative case, which indicates the place of action; that is, John came to be “in spirit in the lordly day.”
The same image of John coming to be “in spirit” occurs three more times, each time signaling the start of a new literary division, and each time locating John at a new vantage point: “in heaven” (4:1-2), “in the wilderness” (17:1-3), “in a high mountain” (21:10).
The “lordly day” translates the Greek noun kyriakos, which, in the New Testament, occurs only here and 1 Corinthians 11:20 – (When, therefore, you come together into one place, it is not possible to eat the lordly supper”).
“Lordly” or Kyriakos represents the Greek adjective that refers to something that pertains to one who is a lord, thus, “lordly” – (Strong’s – #G2960). The term is unusual in the New Testament, but its use with “day” points to the biblical concept of the “Day of the Lord,” the time when God acts decisively to judge His enemies and vindicate His people – (Isaiah 13:6, Joel 1:15, 2:31, Amos 5:18, Obadiah 15, Zephaniah 1:7, Malachi 4:5, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:2).
Thus, “in the spirit,” John was projected into “the Day of the Lord.” This is demonstrated in several of his visions that culminate in a day of great finality.
For example, the opening of the “sixth seal” ushered in the “great day of wrath.” The emptying of the “sixth bowl of wrath” resulted in the gathering of all nations to the final battle, the “great day of Almighty God.” When “Babylon” was judged, “in one day” she was annihilated, “for strong is the Lord God who judged her” – (Revelation 6:17, 16:14, 18:8).
Not coincidentally, the descriptions of the traumatic celestial and terrestrial events in the “sixth seal” echo Old Testament passages about the “day of Yahweh”:
- (Joel 2:10, 2:30) – “The earthquakes before them; the heavens tremble; the sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining…for great is the day of Yahweh and awful exceedingly, Who then shall endure it?… And I will set forth wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and awful Day of Yahweh.”
- (Isaiah 34:3-5) – “Then shall be dissolved all the host of the heavens, and the heavens shall roll up as a scroll, Yea, all their host shall fade like the fading and falling of a leaf from a vine, and like what fades and falls from a fig-tree.”
- (Isaiah 2:17-21) – “And the haughtiness of mean men shall be humbled, and the loftiness of great men shall be laid low, and Yahweh alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols shall wholly pass away, and they shall enter into the holes of the rocks and into the caves of clay, because of the terribleness of Yahweh and for his majestic splendor when he arises to shake terribly the earth. In that day shall the son of earth cast his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which had been made for him to worship, into the hole of the mice and to the bats; that he may enter into the clefts of the rocks and into the fissures of the crags, because of the terribleness of Yahweh and for his majestic splendor, when he arises to shake terribly the earth.”
At the heart of the book are three sevenfold series, the “seals,” “trumpets,” and the “bowls of wrath.” Each concludes with “flashes of lightning, loud noises, and claps of thunder,” and each culminates in a scene of final judgment. Thus, the “seven seals” climax in the “day of wrath.” The “seventh trumpet” produces the judgment of the nations and the vindication of the righteous. The sixth and seventh “bowls of wrath” contain the final battle of Armageddon on the “day of God, the Almighty,” and the destruction of “Babylon, the great city.” Each sevenfold series concludes at the same endpoint.
As judgment is rendered, the “Day of the Lord” produces two different results: Punishment and destruction for some, but everlasting life for others. What determines one’s fate is whether his or her name is “written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
The Book of Revelation begins with the churches of Asia in the first century, but does not end there. From the outset, the book has strong eschatological overtones. It concerns “things that must soon come to pass.” The saint who reads and heeds its visions is “blessed,” for the “season is at hand.”
The era of fulfillment and the “last days” began with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the “faithful witness” (his death), the “firstborn of the dead” (his resurrection), and the “ruler of the kings of the earth” (his present reign). The struggles of the marginalized congregations of Asia are a microcosm of the vast cosmic battle taking place behind history, the war between the “Lamb” and the “Dragon.”
However long this “war” is, in the end, it culminates in the final judgment on the “Day of the Lord,” the endpoint towards which Revelation moves relentlessly. That day will mean nothing less than the destruction of all God’s enemies, and the vindication of all His faithful witnesses. For the wicked, the day will end in the “Lake of Fire.” For the righteous, it will mean entry into the “new heavens and new earth.”