Fellow Participant in the Kingdom

SYNOPSIS – Exiled to the isle of Patmos, John is a “fellow-participant” in the tribulation with the seven churches of AsiaRevelation 1:9

Island lighthouse - Photo by Jan Majer on Unsplash
Before presenting the opening vision of Revelation, the text introduces John who was exiled to the isle of Patmos for the “testimony of Jesus.” He did not begin his account by holding up his apostolic credentials; instead, he identified himself with the plight of the churches in Asia. Although isolated on Patmos, he was a “
fellow-participant” with the churches in the tribulation and kingdom in Jesus.” - [Photo by Jan Majer on Unsplash].

The island included a penal colony, but it had a large enough population to support a gymnasium, an Acropolis, and several religious shrines to the Greek gods Artemis and Apollo. Its geographic isolation made it an excellent location to banish political undesirables - It was only accessible by ship.
  • (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.”
John found himself on Patmos “on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” This explains why he identified so readily with the suffering churches of Asia – He was their “fellow-participant.” With this term, he aligned himself with the sufferings of the seven churches - He was a “brother and fellow-participant in the tribulation and kingdom and endurance in Jesus.”

Fellow participant” or sugkoinōnos denotes joint participation. It is related to the Greek term rendered “fellowship” elsewhere in the New Testament - (1 Corinthians 9:23, Romans 11:17, Philippians 1:7).

In the clause, the single Greek article or “the” modifies all three nouns - Tribulation, Kingdom, Endurance). This means they are grammatically linked - Each is part of a single whole. To be “in Jesus” means to experience tribulation, kingdom, and endurance for his sake. This is what it means to follow the “Lamb wherever he goes.”

 Tribulation” translates the Greek noun thlipsis - “pressing together” – Hence, it has the sense of “pressure, distress, affliction.” It is something the church at Smyrna had already experienced. In a subsequent vision, John saw an innumerable multitude of men and women from every nation “coming out of the great tribulation.” In Revelation, “tribulation” what the “saints” endure on account of their “testimony of Jesus” - (Revelation 7:9-14).

The churches participate in the “kingdom.” Believers participate in the reign of Jesus in their sufferings, not despite them. By his Death and Resurrection, Jesus has constituted his church a “kingdom and priests” - (Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:4-6).

To be “in Jesus” includes the “endurance.” The call to endure is a theme threaded throughout the book. For example, Jesus promised the Philadelphians that “because you kept the word of my endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial.” The assault against the “saints” by the “Beast from the sea” is part of the “endurance and the faith of the saints” - (Revelation 2:2-3, 2:19, 3:10, 13:10, 14:12).

John is an active participant in the visions recorded in the book and functions as a surrogate for his readers. He does not attempt to hide his occasional missteps.  He is the guide for the readers of the book, yet he remains one of them. As they suffer for Jesus, so does the Apostle.


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