6B.      What John Saw (1.9-18)


(1.9)    I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 

1.   “Here begins the narrative of the visions and prophecies of this book.”[1] “This vision of Christ is equaled in grandeur only by the vision of His final return as King of kings and Lord of lords (19:11-16).”[2] 

2.  “I John 

a.   This is the third time that John has identified himself. It must be important for us to know who the man was that this Revelation of Jesus Christ was given to so that he might pass it on to the seven Churches. Let us have no doubt that this is the apostle. 

b.   With this opening statement in the vision that John saw he stands with Daniel as the only other Scripture writer who refers to himself in this way. In Daniel 7.28, 9.2, and 10.2, the prophet writes in similar fashion. 

3.   “I John, who am also your brother 

a.   I want you to notice something in this verse which is quite important, but which is usually overlooked. When the Revelation was penned John was the only surviving apostle of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, notice that he refers to himself, despite his high office and calling, as “your brother.” Why does he not refer to himself as a prince of the church? Because there is no such thing, that is why. You see, in God’s plan for His family we are all peers. This does not at all deny the obvious leadership roles that some have been called to, but it does deny any so-called spiritual hierarchy, such as is found in Roman Catholicism. 

b.   The fact that John emphasizes his spiritual kinship with his readers rather than emphasizing his apostolic office serves to show that his role in receiving and passing on this Revelation is not as one who is an apostle of Jesus Christ, but as one who is a seer, faithfully recording what he has seen. 

4.  “and companion in tribulation 

a.   Do you see the word “companion”? sugkoinwnos. That word is a form of the word for the Greek word “communion,” and means partners, co-sharers. John is a brother in Christ who has shared in three things which are mentioned here: 

#1 Tribulation. From qliyei, a word which refers to affliction or pressing. “John is not referring to the Great Tribulation, but to the persecution that was already befalling the believers.”[3] As his brothers and sisters in Christ were being persecuted, so he was being persecuted. For as Second Timothy 3.12 declares, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 

#2 The kingdom. This might be a reference to the fact that even in the midst of great trials and persecutions Jesus Christ rules supreme as Lord of all. 

#3 Patience. This is the same word James uses in 1.3-4: “3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” This word is translated from upomonh, a word which means “to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty.”[4] It refers to a difficult situation that you might be able to avoid, but you do not because you know it is God’s will for your life. We usually think of this determination as endurance or perseverance. John could have knuckled under to the Romans, burned just a pinch of incense to worship Caesar, and been freed. After all, others who professed to be Christians compromised in that way. 

b.   Why did John not knuckle under? Why did he not give in to the intense pressure and persecution? Because all of the hardship he endured came as a direct result of his relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. To avoid the hardship he would have had to deny his relationship with his Lord and Master. He would have had to compromise himself. That he would not do, by God’s grace. 

c.   You see, as a Christian leader, because of his stand for the Word of God and his testimony (the witness, if you will) concerning Jesus Christ, he was sent to the isle of Patmos. He was not only willing to die for Christ . . . he was willing to live for Christ. 

d.   You need to ask yourself from time to time, “What pressures will I resist to stand for Christ?” 

5.   “and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ 

a.   As John shared with his readers the afflictions they endured for Christ’s sake, so will he share with them life in Christ. This does not refer to the coming millennial kingdom here on earth, but to that aspect of the kingdom which exists presently when the believer is born again.[5] 

b.   But not to be forgotten with his present suffering and with his future blessing is John’s present companionship in grace. As I just mentioned, this word “patience” refers to what we usually describe as endurance, which the Christian can only accomplish by the grace of God. 

6.   “was in the isle that is called Patmos 

The exile of John to the Isle of Patmos is in itself a moving story of devotion to Christ crowned with suffering. This small island, rocky and forbidding in its terrain, about ten miles long and six miles wide, is located in the Aegean Sea southwest of Ephesus just beyond the Island of Samos. Early church fathers such as Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Eusebius state that John was sent to this island as an exile under the ruler Domitian. According to Victorinus, John, though aged, was forced to labor in the mines located at Patmos. Early sources also indicate that about A.D. 96, at Domitian’s death, John was allowed to return to Ephesus when the Emperor Nerva was in power.

It was in these bleak circumstances, shut off from friends and human fellowship, that John was given the most extensive revelation of future things shown to any writer of the New Testament. Though men could circumscribe his human activities, they could not bind the Spirit of God or the testimony of Jesus Christ. John’s experiences paralleled those of the Old Testament prophets. Moses wrote the Pentateuch in the wilderness. David wrote many psalms while being pursued by Saul. Isaiah lived in difficult days and died a martyr’s death. Ezekiel wrote in exile. Jeremiah’s life was one of trial and persecution. Peter wrote his two letters shortly before martyrdom. Thus in the will of God the final written revelation was given to John while suffering for Christ and the gospel.[6]

7.   “for the word of God 

Has anything ever happened to you “for the word of God”? Have you ever taken a stand “for the word of God”? Have you ever wondered why you have not if you have not? A person should not have to be a Christian for very long before something happens in his life “for the word of God.” Would you not agree? 

8.   “and for the testimony of Jesus Christ 

a.   This is somewhat different than “for the word of God.” It is one thing, and quite commendable I might add, to suffer the consequences of taking a stand for the Word of God. But it is quite another thing to suffer the consequences “for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 

b.   Have you noticed how groups get together and are willing to pray to God, but get very upset when someone prays “in Jesus’ name”? When John refers to suffering “for the testimony of Jesus Christ”, he has gone to higher spiritual ground than when suffering, and I say this respectfully, “for the word of God. 

c.   It is commendable to suffer “for the word of God.” Do not think I am denigrating the Word of God. Yet, it is better yet to suffer “for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Why so? Because suffering for “the testimony of Jesus Christ” requires that the Christian testify, requires that the Christian witness, requires that the Christian speak of Jesus Christ to sinners. 

d.   I ask again, Christian. When was the last time you were opposed for your stand on the Word of God? Even better, when was the last time you were opposed for your Lord Jesus Christ? If it has been along while since you were opposed by the unconverted for your stand on the Bible or for representing Jesus Christ then you have a serious problem. 

(1.10) I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 

1.  What is “in the Spirit?” The Greek phrase here is en pneumati. Although “in the Spirit” is frequently used by Christians and even pastors as a way of categorizing someone who is in a particularly spiritual frame of mind or heart, the phrase as John uses it here properly seems to have been a special spiritual condition that certain apostles and Old Testament prophets were in when God revealed truths to them. Since the revelation of God’s Word is now complete such trances are no longer occurring; at least not the genuine ones. 

2.   So, when someone talks about being “in the Spirit,” be careful to make sure he knows what he is talking about. In one sense, every child of God is “in the Spirit” (see Romans 8.9). When someone is attempting to convince you that he has received extra-biblical revelation, mark it down that he is in error (see First John 4.1). 

3.   Here are some examples of being “in the Spirit” in the sense of being prepared by God to receive supernatural revelation: 

Ezekiel 3.11-27: 11   And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.

12  Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the LORD from his place.

13  I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and a noise of a great rushing.

14  So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me.

15  Then I came to them of the captivity at Telabib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.

16  And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

17  Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.

18  When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

19  Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

20  Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

21  Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.

22  And the hand of the LORD was there upon me; and he said unto me, Arise, go forth into the plain, and I will there talk with thee.

23  Then I arose, and went forth into the plain: and, behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river of Chebar: and I fell on my face.

24  Then the spirit entered into me, and set me upon my feet, and spake with me, and said unto me, Go, shut thyself within thine house.

25  But thou, O son of man, behold, they shall put bands upon thee, and shall bind thee with them, and thou shalt not go out among them:

26  And I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover: for they are a rebellious house.

27  But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear: for they are a rebellious house. 

Acts 10.1-20: 1      There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,

2   A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.

3    He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.

4    And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.

5    And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:

6    He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.

7    And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;

8    And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.

9    On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:

10  And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,

11  And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:

12  Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.

13  And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.

14  But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.

15  And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

16  This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.

17  Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate,

18  And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.

19  While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.

20  Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them. 

Acts 22.17-21: 17   And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance;

18  And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.

19  And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee:

20  And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.

21  And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. 

4.   So, the Spirit of God is here described as doing his office work.[7] It was back in John 16.13-14 that the Lord Jesus Christ told His apostles of the kind of work John now describes: “13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” 

5.   Now that we have a better idea of what “in the Spirit” was in that special sense, what does John mean by the phrase “the Lord's day?” Some explanation is called for here. The most common interpretation of “the Lord’s day” is that it refers to Sunday, the first day of the week, and is so called by Christians in the first century because they refused to call Sunday what some in the Roman Empire called it, “imperial day.”[8] Opinions are divided.[9] My own belief is not strong enough to argue with anyone on this issue, but I am of the opinion the phrase “the Lord’s day” should not be interpreted as referring to a Sunday, for two reasons: 

a.   First, because there is no indication anywhere in the Bible that the phrase “the Lord’s day” refers to Sunday. Sunday is referred to as “the first day of the week” in First Corinthians 16.1-2: “1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” But “the first day of the week” is not the same thing as “the Lord’s day.” 

b.   Second, because the Greek word for “Lord” is an adjective here, not a possessive noun. If John were referring to a day of the week which was the Lord’s, the word for “Lord” would have to be a possessive noun. So, what I think we have here is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament “the day of the LORD.” My understanding is that John is telling us that “in the Spirit” he was transported to that future time the Old Testament prophets referred to as “the day of the LORD.”[10] It is from that future perspective that most of John’s Revelation is given, which fits with his statement of being “in the Spirit.” 

6.   In that setting, John heard behind him “a great voice, as of a trumpet.”  

Remembering that John was a Jewish believer, what significance would you attach to John’s description of the great voice that he heard behind him, remembering that “throughout Revelation, a loud voice indicates the solemnity of what God is about to reveal”?[11] Consider several passages with me: 

a.   First, Exodus 19.13, 16, 19, where we see that the sound of trumpets is associated with God’s presence among His people: 

13  There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount. 

16  And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. 

19 And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. 

b.   Next, Numbers 10.1-10, where the sounding of trumpets signifies gladness, or alarm, or the issuance of marching orders: 

1    And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

2   Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps.

3   And when they shall blow with them, all the assembly shall assemble themselves to thee at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

4   And if they blow but with one trumpet, then the princes, which are heads of the thousands of Israel, shall gather themselves unto thee.

5   When ye blow an alarm, then the camps that lie on the east parts shall go forward.

6   When ye blow an alarm the second time, then the camps that lie on the south side shall take their journey: they shall blow an alarm for their journeys.

7   But when the congregation is to be gathered together, ye shall blow, but ye shall not sound an alarm.

8   And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow with the trumpets; and they shall be to you for an ordinance for ever throughout your generations.

9   And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the LORD your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies.

10 Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God. 

c.   Finally, Zechariah 9.14-17, where trumpets signal the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ: 

14  And the LORD shall be seen over them, and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning: and the Lord GOD shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the south.

15  The LORD of hosts shall defend them; and they shall devour, and subdue with sling stones; and they shall drink, and make a noise as through wine; and they shall be filled like bowls, and as the corners of the altar.

16  And the LORD their God shall save them in that day as the flock of his people: for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land.

17 For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty! corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids. 

7.   When John used the symbolism of trumpets, he rightly knew that Jewish minds, and Gentile Christians who had been taught the Hebrew Scriptures, would run wild with possibilities of what might be occurring. Whatever was actually occurring in the reader’s own imagination, he was sure to know from what John has written that some stupendous event is about to transpire.

[1]  John Gill, The John Gill Library, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000)

[2]  See footnote for Revelation 1.9-17, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1992.

[3]  J. Vernon McGee, Reveling Through Revelation, Part 1, (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Books, 1979), page 15.

[4]  Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 1039.

[5]  J. Vernon McGee, Reveling Through Revelation, Part 1, (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Books, 1979), page 15.

[6]  John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), page 41.

[7] J. Vernon McGee, Reveling Through Revelation, Part 1, (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Books, 1979), page 15.

[8] Jim Combs, Rainbows From Revelation: How To Understand The Apocalypse, (Springfield, MO: Tribune Publishers, 1994), page 23.

[9] Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 813.

[10] John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), page 42.

[11]  See footnote for Revelation 1.10, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1993.

Home   Sermons   Sermon Outlines  Who Is God?   God's Word   Tracts   Q & A   Feedback