John wrote Revelation in 96 A.D. A great deal of time had passed since the Crucifixion and ascension of Christ, over sixty years earlier. And in that time, Christianity has been viewed as a nuisance sect, by Rome, and then an outlaw religion, when it was noted that the Jews openly denounced Christianity.
Nero blamed the Christians for the burning of Rome. And by the nineties A.D. all of the apostles had long since died. Paul had been executed some thirty years earlier. Emperor Dominion had instigated open persecutions of Christians, and all seemed pretty bleak. And John, the last of the Apostles, had been banished to the island of Patmos, just off the coast of modern day Turkey, in the Aegean Sea.
Although John was one of the original Apostles, one who had actually walked and talked with Jesus, he identified himself here as merely a brother, or fellow Christian. John did not see himself as some sort of elite person, but maintained his humility as a normal person should.
He identifies himself as a fellow partaker of the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance.
This is a reference to his current situation, and is not a reference to the seven year period which Christian doctrine has formally identified as the Tribulation.
Far too many people read the English versions of the Bible and just because they see a familiar word, tend to believe that it is a literal event, or something with which they are familiar. For example, tribulation. And they do not consider the context within which it is written, or the many definitions or figures of speech, that might apply.
Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘Dumb as a rock?’ Does that mean the person is a rock? No it is a figure of speech, or an expression. Anyway, tribulation here means anguish, trouble, affliction. In other words, this was a difficult time for John, and is not a reference to the future historical period by that same name.
He had been sent to the island, along with many other criminals and Christians, and there, was suffering along with everyone else under the circumstances. But he wanted his readers to know that he was of the same ‘kingdom’ as they, and that this ‘kingdom’ was still intact. The kingdom here is a reference to Christianity in general, as a faith. Again this is not the Kingdom of God, which will be established at the Second Advent.
Just as you or I might say that we are of the same brotherhood, or of the same family, then we know that we are speaking symbolically of the Christian faith and not as family members by the same blood parents and such. Our common bond is faith in Christ, not the same house or neighborhood.
Patience or perseverance, refers to his endurance of the suffering without giving up, that everyone there was made to endure. And John was enduring his hardships without giving up. Most folks, blame God, blame life, and give up.
His hardships ‘of Jesus’, refers to difficulties that are common to Christians in general. Being Christian means that the world is against you, and along with that will come problems. Some folks try to go out of their way to suffer for Jesus, and that is an evil concept. For it suggests a program of works to obtain recognition or approval in some fashion. We have already studied that works are rejected by God. Mans works amount to nothing as far as the spiritual life is concerned.
But John was suffering because of a massive hate against Christians, by the then ruling government in Rome.
You could say that you suffer for Jesus by virtue of the many government policies imposed on citizens, that are anti-doctrinal. Or, that you suffer because it is the devils world and you may be unemployed, having a business downturn, have lost something, etc. And all of that is simply because you live in this devils world. You do not have to go far to find trouble for yourself. It is all around you, just by living a normal day to day life.
To look for additional suffering on purpose, is a fools pursuit. Remember, ‘works’ are the devils distraction.
Your purpose and priority in life is to grow up to maturity, and to be responsible and spiritually productive, not to attempt to evade responsibility by pretending that you are doing something for God.
And that being said, we have the most remarkable vision that anyone has ever had in history. John was exiled to the island as a criminal Christian. The island was a bleak and barren place, where food and clothing were in short supply, and John was about ninety years old.
With poor food and poor clothing, lots of harsh and hard work forced upon the inmates, imposed by some Roman soldier, who probably did not like his duty there either, then you can easily see that Johns predicament becomes a visual background of suffering which enhances the vision that he is about to receive.
Life for John was harsh, but life for the world is going to get even more harsh, when that future period eventually arrives.