Text: Revelation 1:9

Revelation 1:9 introduces us to the theme and thrust of the Book of Revelation – “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.”

John assures the suffering saints his time that he was their “companion” (sukoinōnos). This word is formed by a combination of two Greek terms. The first term is koinonia, which is often translated in the Bible as “fellowship”. The second term is the preposition sun which means “with” or “together”. Thus, the word their “companion” (sukoinōnos) stresses the bond and togetherness in the Lord Jesus Christ. This unity cuts across all social divides, languages and races. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

A Companion in Identity
John was the last surviving member of the Apostles of Christ. Yet he humbly presents himself as a “brother” of the first century saints. This is an expression of love, endearment, and relationship. John acknowledged that he was a sinner saved by grace and a like member of the heavenly family. Thus, he also identified with the saints in their sufferings. What an encouragement for the suffering saints to know that they have a common identity in Christ!

Herein is a principle for us to learn when we are comforting the saints. We ought not to be condescending but humbly identify ourselves with them as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Weep with them that weep (Romans 12:15b) while ministering God’s comfort and truth in love.

A Companion in Purpose
While John shares a common identity with the Christians in Asia, he was not physically present with them. He was exiled on the isle of Patmos at the time of writing. However, John was united with the saints in a common purpose, that is, to live “for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” This is also the call of all Christians today, that they must magnify and defend Christ and His Word.

Let us observe how the Word of God is intricately linked with Jesus Christ, the Living Word. The Living Word is the one who gives us the Written Word, and it is through the Written Word that we know the Living Word. Therefore, to live for Christ the Living Word is to live according to the Written Word. The Living Word and the Written Word cannot be separated.

Patmos was employed as one of the penal islands to isolate political dissidents and criminals. However, the only “crime” that John was “guilty” of was to live for Christ and His Word. The other Christians in the Roman Empire were persecuted for the same reason. Revelation 6:9-10 further states that many saints in the last days will be killed “because of the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.” That is what it means to live for Christ. Are you prepared for the same?

Sadly, many professing Christians today are willing to forsake their testimony for the things of this world. When it appears inconvenient to follow God’s Word, they are willing to compromise the truth. Their purpose in life seems to be very different from that of the Apostle John and the saints described in Revelation 6:9-10.

Dear reader, what is your purpose in life? Do you share the same purpose as John and the suffering saints of all ages?

Companion in Tribulation
The isle of Patmos is located off the west coast of Turkey. While it is a volcanic island, the land is hard, rocky and infertile. This made it a suitable candidate to house political dissidents and criminals in exile. They will be forced to work on the sterile and barren land to produce crops. The exiles would also be made to work in the mines on the island. Life on Patmos would have been most exhausting and brutal for the Apostle John. 

While laboring on the isle of Patmos, it would be easy for John to feel discouraged and alone. Yet, he was aware that he was never alone because the Lord Jesus Christ is with him. Moreover, were not the early Christians in Asia also suffering for the faith? They were companions together in suffering.

Let us also observe that John with the rest of the saints were suffering for a common cause. They were not suffering because they have done anything wrong, but for the sake of the truth. All they have done was to stand up for Christ and His Word. They have conducted themselves righteously and blamelessly before God and man.

We cannot claim to be companions with the saints in tribulation when we are suffering for our wrong-doing. To such, Peter says, “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?” (1 Peter 2:20a) He then adds, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” (1 Peter 4:15)

On the other hand, those who suffer for righteousness sake can rest assured that they are companions with the prophets of old. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matt. 5:10-12 KJV)

Companions in Patience
The work of an exile on the island of Patmos was designed to be crushing and brutal. The whip of a Roman official was always waiting for one who refused to adhere to his demands. Nevertheless, in Christ and His Word, a Christian can persevere in such tribulations and persecutions. Those who love Christ will endure such difficult and exacting situations. They will hold on to their faith and not give up. The Lord will grant them grace to fight the good fight of faith unto the very end. 

Dearly beloved, are you suffering for the sake of Christ? You are in good company! This has been the way of the saints from old. Let us bear such circumstances with patience, looking to Christ who is Captain of our soul. The Book of Revelation assures us that soon all these things will be over, and a life of eternity with our blessed Lord will soon commence. On the other hand, let us also be at hand to be a true companion to those who are suffering because they stand with God’s Word. We must purpose in our heart to stand on the side of those who are “for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Amen.

Yours affectionately,
Rev C. Chew