17 July 2012Revelation 1:9-20
"I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus." (v. 9)
Today's passage is the second part of the prologue to the book of Revelation. Having established the majesty of God in the first eight verses, now John makes it plain that his authority for writing "in the Spirit" (v. 10) comes through a stunning and glorious vision of the resurrected Jesus (verses 12-18).
John's writing, in the form of a circular letter to seven churches in various degrees of difficulty, comes out of personal hardship and persecution. John was in exile on the small Aegean island of Patmos - rugged, rocky and mountainous, ideal for use as a penal settlement by the Romans. The authorities had interpreted his preaching as seditious and had exiled him on Patmos in an attempt to stop the spread of this new sect - or as we know it, the early Church. Visiting the tranquil island of Patmos today, slowly walking up the 'monastery in a castle', it is hard to envisage such a peaceful place as a prison for important political opponents; but this was the reality for John, and the harshness of life on this barren island is reflected in much of the imagery of Revelation.
In verse 11 we are introduced to the names of the seven churches on the mainland. John is aware of the persecution they are suffering; some have been imprisoned, beaten or even killed for their faith. They need encouragement. John also writes with an understanding of their deep disappointment that, 60 years after Jesus' ascension (Acts 1:1-11), there has been no physical reappearance of their Lord. The emphasis of verses 19 and 20 is therefore on Jesus encouraging the churches through seven angels (stars) or the prevailing spirit of the Church; and the seven churches themselves given the image of lampstands, bearing light to the world.
- In what ways can you encourage those Christians who feel persecuted or forgotten?
- Does your church see itself as a "lampstand" or light to the community around it? From where does the church gain its strength or fuel?