Exiled on Patmos, John was a “fellow-participant” in the tribulation, kingdom, and endurance that is in Jesus – Revelation 1:9.
At the start of his vision, John identified himself as the “fellow-participant” with the churches in “the tribulation and kingdom and endurance in Jesus.” He was banished to the isle of Patmos for his “testimony” for Jesus, and like the “seven churches” on the Asian mainland, he had endured “tribulation” for the sake of the “kingdom” of God and his witness.
This opening statement is remarkable for how it combines “tribulation,” “kingdom,” and “endurance” into one declaration 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.”
“Fellow participant” or sugkoinōnos means joint participation. It is related to the Greek word rendered as “fellowship” elsewhere. By using it, John aligned himself with the sufferings of the “seven churches.”
Moreover, in the Greek clause, the single definite article or “the” modifies all three nouns – it is THE Tribulation, Kingdom, Endurance. All three terms are grammatically linked. To be “in Jesus” is to know tribulation, kingdom, and endurance.
The subject of the “kingdom” was introduced already when Jesus was declared to be the one who “made us a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.” Already he reigns over the “kings of the earth,” and already, his saints participate in that rule (“He made us,” 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, the article “the” indicates a known and specific “tribulation.” It is THE tribulation, the same one called “the great tribulation” in chapter 7.
It was something the church at Smyrna had experienced already and was about to endure once more:
- (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 saints at Smyrna had received NO criticism from Jesus. They had remained faithful through “tribulation,” yet they were facing renewed persecution. Rather than promise them deliverance from further “tribulation,” the Risen Christ exhorted them to endure faithfully through it and thus receive the “crown of life.”
Later, John saw an “innumerable multitude” of men redeemed by the “Lamb” coming out of the “great tribulation” to stand before the “Lamb.” Each one was wearing a priestly robe and “rendering divine service day and night” before the “throne.” Like the congregation in Smyrna, they had faithfully endured the “tribulation” – (Revelation 7:9-17).
To be “in Jesus” also means “endurance,” representing the Greek noun hupomoné, which means “steadfastness, endurance, perseverance.” It occurs seven times in the book, and always for 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.”
Faithful perseverance, even when it results in martyrdom, is the very definition of “endurance” and “faithfulness.” It is what characterizes the “overcoming” believer:
- (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.”
The call to endure “tribulation” is threaded throughout the book, for it goes to the very heart of its message. Overcoming saints participate with Jesus in his reign in the here-and-now, but they do so as “priests,” mediating his light to the world by bearing faithful testimony, and by sacrificing their lives when called to so. This is what it means to be “in Jesus.”