As we approach Revelation 1:9, John is beginning his explanation as to why he is writing this book. John is going to let his readers know that he did not sit down and decide to write a letter to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Rather, John was instructed to write these words. John begins his explanation for writing in verse 9 of the first chapter.
John, Your Partner (1:9)
John does not begin this letter by announcing his credentials. John could say, “I, John, the apostle of the Lord.” John identifies himself as their brother and their partner. John is joining himself with the Christian readers in three areas. John is a sharer in the suffering, in the kingdom, and in the patient endurance.
John’s sharing in the tribulation seems to be explained in the rest of the verse. John was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. This is all that is told to us. It is believed that the island of Patmos was used by the Roman Empire as a place of exile, but there is little evidence of anyone being banished there. So we must be careful not to make too much of John’s condition while on the island of Patmos. John appears to be telling his readers that he is on Patmos because he is suffering on account of the word of God and testimony of Jesus. John’s preaching of the word of God concerning Jesus has landed him in trouble. This persecution could have been brought about by the Jews or by the Romans. We read through the book of Acts that the Jews were trying to use the Roman authorities against Christians (see Jews take Jesus to Pilate for trial, Jews take Christians for judgment with the city authorities in Thessalonica, Jews take Paul to the Roman tribunal in Corinth). We also read Paul and Silas getting into difficulties with Roman authorities in Philippi because, “They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice” (Acts 16:21). John could be on Patmos because of the Romans directly dealing with him or because of the instigation of the Jews. Either way, John is telling the Christians that I am with you in the suffering. We are together in this.
Not only does John share in the suffering, but he shares in the kingdom with them. You are suffering but you are in Christ’s kingdom. It is hard to feel that truth of being in the kingdom of Christ when we are suffering. John says that he is suffering with us and we are partners and partakers in the eternal kingdom. John also shares with his audience their steadfastness. John has not given up but continues to serve the Lord in the face of suffering.
In The Spirit (1:10)
What happens to John was extraordinary and special. It is the Lord’s day. By the second century, “the Lord’s day” was the customary way of referring to Sunday. Sunday was the day when Christians gather for worship and for partaking the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). It was Sunday when our Lord Jesus rose from the dead (Luke 24:1). It was on Sunday when Jesus made his appearance to his disciples (John 20:19). Sunday is the Lord’s day.
John is in the Spirit. This is the way the scriptures speak of someone having a divine vision. One example is in Ezekiel. “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones.” (Ezekiel 37:1 ESV) Ezekiel did not physically transport to a valley because he was in exile in Babylon. The scriptures are telling us that Ezekiel is in a visionary state. So also with John. John is in the Spirit which tells us that the divine vision has begun.
Command To Write (1:10-11)
Finally, John is commanded to write what he sees in this vision in a book and send it to the seven churches. Notice the power with which the command comes. John hears a loud voice like a trumpet. We read this event happening at Mount Sinai in the giving of the ten commandments (Exodus 19). This is the voice of the Lord, speaking with authority and power. We are partners and sharers in the kingdom. Suffering and persecution may come upon us at any time. Christians participate now in Christ’s rule over the earth, as well as in the future. We are called to be steadfast during his reign.