A Handful of Mud: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XII)

March 11, 2010

In this post, I’m finally getting back to the text of the Book of Revelation itself.  As I said in a previous post, I have long been frustrated over my inability to fully come to grips with the wording in the first part of Revelation 1:9: “I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation, kingdom, and perseverance in Jesus…” (HCSB).  However, I now believe that I have achieved enough fresh insight to: 1) take a decent shot at explaining why John put those three concepts—“tribulation, kingdom, and perseverance”—back-to-back; and, 2) going out on more of a limb, determining where in Scripture John’s idea of putting them together came from.

Due to limited time availability, I need this to be a shorter post.  So, I am going to treat 1) in this post and leave 2) until next time.

Actually, once I got my head wrapped around it, the question of “why” these three terms are used together here is not that difficult to understand.  A simple word study of the usage of the three terms in Revelation helps considerably in clarifying John’s choice to put them side-by-side in 1:9.

In regard to thlipsis, the Greek word translated “tribulation,” John’s suffering as a prisoner on the island of Patmos (1:9) was akin to the affliction/suffering (the same Greek term: thlipsis) of the church at Smyrna, in 2:9, 10.  Hence, he is clearly their “partner” in that regard.

With “kingdom,” the answer is even closer at hand.  Just before 1:9, John had Christ “has made us (i.e., John and his readers) a kingdom…” (1:6; see also 5:10; 20:4, 6; 22:5).  (By the way, I will be discussing the meaning of the present-tense sense of “kingdom” in Revelation in another post soon.)  So, the reality that John and the churches in Asia Minor were “partners” in “kingdom” is a slam dunk—just not exactly what it means.

Finally, John and his readers were in partnership in “perseverance (or endurance)” (Greek hupomome).  This also is a very important word in Revelation, occurring among the letters to the churches in chs. 2-3 in four places: 2:2, 3, 19 and 3:10.  Of these, far and away the most significant is 3:10, where the promise that Christ will keep them from “the hour of testing (i.e., the so-called Tribulation Period) that is about to come over the whole world” (HCSB) is based upon the demonstrated hupomone of the church at Philadelphia.

However, the idea of “perseverance” is also very prominent in the body of the Apocalypse.  In the grand chiastic structure of the book (which I will also handle in future posts), the “twin peaks” (i.e., side-by-side midpoints) of the book are found in ch. 13 and ch. 14.  Strikingly, at the structural midpoint of each of those chapters is this same Greek term, hupomone.  In 13:10, we read: “Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints” (HCSB).  In 14:12, is it a coincidence that we again find “Here is the endurance of the saints… (HCSB)?  I don’t think so.

As I close this quickie post, suffice it to say that these three terms are all major players in the Book of Revelation.  And, just this brief look is enough to convince anyone with an open mind that they belong together in John’s up-front description of the status of his situation as his readers’ “partner” in 1:9.

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