Revelation Lesson 3: Troubles & Trials in the Church Age :: By Sean Gooding

Revelation Chapter 1: 9-11

“I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,’ and, ‘What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.’”

It may seem tedious that we are taking small chunks of this book and exploring them, but this is how I am being led. I had selected a bigger passage; and then as I was going through it, it seems to me that the Lord just kind of said ‘okay, stop here.’ I kept reading more and tried to get more; but nothing seems to come to me as I am reading, so I go back to the passage at hand and find that there is plenty to deal with here.

Over the past week, two very important events took place in Israel, and they are part of the set-up for the ‘last days.’ On May 14th, 2018, Israel celebrated 70 years back in the Promised Land. This is the end of one generation back in their homeland, the land given to Abraham. On that very same day, the USA opened their Israeli embassy in Jerusalem. This was legally recognizing that Jerusalem is the capital city of Israel.

Many presidents have spoken about Jerusalem being the capital; but to truly acknowledge the capital with the US establishing her embassy there is setting up the world stage that will center around Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Already the promised enemies of Israel from Ezekiel 38 – Gog, Gomer and the others, according to the Interpreting the Times website – these Biblical names represent the modern countries of Turkey, Libya, Russia, Eastern Europe, Ethiopia and Iran, most of whom are active and clearly show themselves to be the enemies of Israel.

Iran has repeatedly called for the annihilation of Israel. I think we will begin to see the ‘sheep and goat’ nations much more clearly now that the standard has been set by the USA. Canada needs to be weary of our current Prime Minister; he is opposed to the move by the US, and he is putting our nation on a collision course with God, one that we cannot win.

We meet John the Apostle who, as we mentioned before, is aged now, some 60-65 years removed from the resurrection of Jesus; and he has been sentenced to live on the Isle of Patmos, an island about 60 square miles in size just off the coast of modern-day Turkey in the Aegean Sea. I remind you of this because I want you to go and see it for yourself on a map and realize that this is a real place.

Patmos is a Roman prison colony. Here, prisoners are jailed on an island with no means of escape. It appears, as I look more into this, that this is a work colony with very little amenities. The Emperor Domitian is running Rome, and Christians are still ‘personas non grata’ in the Empire. The Gospel is not welcomed in the Roman Empire.

Sounds a lot like the current nations of the world; the Gospel is not welcomed, and they prefer if we keep silent. For a long time we have, and we are not doing our jobs as salt and light. I am pointing a finger at me as well; but the Lord’s churches are to act as a scrubber for the blight of sins, and all too often we have become complicit by being silent.

John, our brother and companion, Revelation 1, verse 9

When I look at men like John, there is an awe that comes over me. I see this apostle,  in Revelation, the one who was seemingly the quietest of them, but one that made a great impact. We can see from his writings that he was not the most educated, yet his messages are powerful and speak to the intimate relationship that we have with Jesus. Long after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, John had the care of Jesus’ mother Mary. So, he had a very physical reminder of Jesus in his life for a long time after Jesus had left.

In Revelation, John introduces himself as our brother. That’s it, our brother. I am reminded of the angels as they warned Peter not to worship them, as they are just ‘fellow servants.’ All of us are simply brothers and sisters in the Lord. There are no ‘big and small’ in the Kingdom of God; we are just family bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus.

Moses and Abraham became God’s children the same way we do, by faith. Paul put his faith in Jesus just like we do today. The only big Person is Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith. He is the Master, He is the Saviour, and He is the King; we are all just brothers and sisters in the Lord. All of us are important to the cause, but we are dispensable. Only Jesus is indispensable. If we refuse to do our jobs; if we, in disobedience and by omission, stop being the Light and Salt we are called to be, we can be replaced and will be replaced by another brother or sister.

John then calls himself our ‘companion’ in the tribulation, the kingdom, and in the patience of Jesus. These are all a part of being in the faith. First of all, tribulation – this is not referring to the time of the tribulation. Rather this is what his life has been like for the past 65+ years since Jesus went back home. The other apostles were all killed for the cause of Christ. John was left alive, but not for the lack of trying to kill him.

These men and millions of men and women have suffered for the name of Jesus and the preaching of the Gospel. And lest you think this is a phenomenon of the past, just a few weeks ago President Trump made an address to the country of Nigeria that they should stop allowing Christians to be persecuted in their land and provide them with protection to live out their faith.

According to an article in Christianity Today published on January 11, 2017, the modern persecution of Christians had hit another high from the previous three years. It stated that nationalism was just as much a threat to Christians as Islam and listed the top 50 countries where it was dangerous to be a Christian. Among the list, North Korea remained (for the 14th year) the most dangerous place to be a Christian, but Pakistan and Mali were also listed along with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Laos, and of particular concern was the 62% rise in the killing of Christians in Nigeria.

We live in a bubble here in North America; we do not understand what persecution is. Are we oppressed? Yes, we are. But we have not even begun to comprehend real persecution. We have had a few incidents with persons killed while attending church, but not mass killings and/or executions for the name of Jesus. But make no mistake; this is coming to North America. The establishment took God out of the schools, then the public sphere, then the home, and now they want Him out of the churches— and we are the targets.

The agenda of radical feminism and the Socialists that are very vocal is tolerance of those that agree with them. The rest of us that believe in absolute truth will be silenced and/or killed. “They can’t handle the truth,” to borrow a line from a movie.

In Revelation, John calls himself a companion in the kingdom. We are all a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. Nothing more, nothing less. There are just two kingdoms: that of God and the other of Satan. One of Light, the other Darkness; the one of Pure Holiness, and the other pure Evil – that’s it. There are not multiple kingdoms to choose from. One is either with Jesus or against Jesus, and there is no in-between.

This is very hard for some to accept today; and even some in the Lord’s churches have a hard time understanding that Hell is real and that people actually go there every day, just like the saved go to Heaven. No everyone gets to R.I.P! Not everyone goes to a better place. Once you and I became children of God, brothers and sisters of John, we stopped being citizens of earth and became citizens of the Kingdom.

From the very beginning of the call of Abraham, he was called a “resident alien,” a sojourner. We too are called that in the New Testament. In 1 Peter 2:11 we are called “exiles.” We are living in a place that is not our native land. We are now citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, having been washed in the blood of Jesus.

Sadly, too many of us, myself included, have come to live like citizens of earth. We have lost the uniqueness of our true homeland, Heaven. We have given up the eternal for the temporary, we have given up righteousness for pleasure, and we have traded the precious name of Jesus for anything that helps us not have to change.

I hate my flesh; it lets me down and betrays me and my Lord all too often. We want to be part of the Kingdom, but we do not live like we are a part of the Kingdom. Where are the traits of love and kindness? Where are the traits of holiness and righteousness that set us apart from the world? Do we truly live like citizens of the Kingdom? Would people know from your lifestyle that you are of the Kingdom of Light?

John bore in his body the marks of the Kingdom: the near-death attempts, the weariness of travel all through Rome, Asia, Asia Minor and the Middle East. Everywhere he went they knew that he was an alien from Heaven living in the Roman Empire. Can people tell that you are an alien?

John was also a companion in patience. He, like you and I, was waiting for the return of our Lord and Master, Jesus. He had seen Jesus leave and heard with his own ears the promise to return recorded in Acts 1:11. Little did he know just how long he would have to wait. He had waited now for 65 or so years, and maybe a bit more if he lived past the end of the first century. But the New Testament church has been waiting for almost 2,000 years for the return of Jesus. We all know that the time is short, but that is only relative as to how far we have come.

What if we need to wait another 100 years? What if God in His wonderful and matchless grace extends the offer to more persons? There is no rushing the will of God; He will do what He wants when He is ready. Our job is to pray, proclaim and be patient. Be ready to go, and work to take as many as we can with us. John was a mature Christian; he lived through some persecution, he lived like a citizen of the Kingdom, and he was patiently waiting for the Kingdom to come.

John in the Spirit, Revelation 1, verse 10

In Revelation, John was a saved man who had been given the Holy Spirit by Jesus in John 20: 22. This was before the day of Pentecost when the church was given the Holy Spirit. John, like you and I, are washed in the blood of Jesus and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. But on this day and at least on three other occasions listed in the Revelation, John was in the Spirit. He was transported—moved to see something that the normal eye could not see; taken to a place that normal ears could not hear; allowed to see the end while for all intents and purposes he was at the very beginning.

As I read, I do not think that John saw this all of Revelation, at once like a movie, but more like a series of movies, a series of episodes that allow for him to digest what he sees before more is offered. I could be wrong, and this is only my opinion. But in Revelation,  John was in the Spirit; and what he saw awed Him, drove him to cry, question, react in horror, want to see more, and at times lose his strength.

In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, the apostle Paul was allowed to see heaven; he was speechless and could not put into words what he saw. This makes the writings of John in the Revelation even more powerful. Paul, one of the most learned of the apostles, could not put into words the things he saw. But Jesus often dictates to John and often tells him “write this down.” God can use anyone who will listen and do what he is told. No blight on Paul; he was simply not allowed to write about the stuff he saw.

John to the Seven churches, Revelation 1, verse 11

As I have mentioned before, the seven churches represent actual churches that existed in the days of John, but they summarize the 7 types of churches that would exist through the church age. This church age is now about 2,000 years into its length, and we are nearing the end. The current church age is dominated by Laodicean churches, those that are rich in an earthly way but not in God’s way. Many Christians in North America and the free world are rich in the treasures of earth, but few are rich in heavenly treasures. Many of us are planning for retirement here and not service there in the Kingdom.

Many have forgotten; and it is hardly taught that Jesus is coming soon, that we have a judgment to face and an eternity to serve. Too many no longer feel the need to invest in the Kingdom here. I saw an interview with a young lady who was attending a large church; and over the course of a few years, she had contributed about $4 in her estimation. She did not feel led to give; there was no desire at all. The Bible tells us that where a man’s treasure is, there his heart will be also.

Are you invested in the church age? I have read and heard of many studies that show that the average adult gives about $20 per service attended. Tell me what your average attendance is, multiply that number by about $20, and you will have an approximation of what a church will take in. A very large church in Texas had a theft one Sunday after the morning service, and the take was about $600,000. Their average attendance is about 30,000 on a Sunday morning.

I know of great men, unknown men (to the world) who are actively taking the Gospel to every Olympics and every World Games. I know friends who head organizations that take the Gospel to cities and towns in Canada and the US every year. I know of people who are actively translating the books of John and Romans into dialects and languages for ALL to get the Gospel. The work of the Lord’s churches must continue on until all have heard the Gospel. That must be our goal to do the best that we can do.

He is our power and our strength; He gives the desire and the ability, but we must have it in our minds to not be like the Laodicean church. Jesus must be the head of each church and the head of each endeavor. He is our message, He is the only hope that the world has, and He is the only one who can wash a sinner clean and remove their sins.

Paul summed up the work of the New Testament church in this verse, and we will end our little walk in Revelation 1 today with this.

1 Corinthians 2:2-4 For I decided to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.