Tribulation, Kingdom, Endurance

At the start of his vision, John identifies himself as a “fellow participant” with the churches of Asia 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 has endured “tribulation” for the sake of the “kingdom” of God and his witness for Jesus.

This opening statement is remarkable for how it combines “tribulation,” “kingdom,” and “endurance” into one declaration that highlights what it means to be found “in Jesus,” and to follow him wherever he leads:

  • (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.”

THE TRIBULATION


The Greek term rendered “fellow participant” or sugkoinōnos means joint participation. It is related to the Greek word translated as “fellowship” elsewhere in the New Testament. By using it, John aligns 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 TribulationKingdomEndurance. All three terms are grammatically linked. To be “in Jesus” is to know tribulation, kingdom, and endurance.

The subject of the “kingdom” was introduced previously when Jesus was declared as 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).

The English term “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 or “the” indicates a known and specific “tribulation.” It is THE tribulation, the same one called “the great tribulation” in chapter 7.

Tribulation is something the church at Smyrna has experienced already and is 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 did not receive any criticism from Jesus. They remained faithful through every trial and “tribulation,” yet they were facing renewed persecution. Rather than promise them deliverance from further “tribulation,” the Risen Christ exhorted them to endure faithfully through even more trials and thus they would receive the “crown of life.”

Later, John saw an “innumerable multitude” of men redeemed by the “Lamb” coming out of the “great tribulation” and standing 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).

THE ENDURANCE


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, 13:10, 14:12).

Faithful perseverance, even when it results in martyrdom, is the very definition of “endurance.” 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 since it goes to the 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 sacrificing their lives when called on to do so. This is what it means to be “in Jesus.”


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