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Author:Rev. Daniel R. Hyde
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Congregation:Oceanside United Reformed Church
 Oceanside/Carlsbad, CA
 www.oceansideurc.org
 
Title:Exiled for Christ
Text:Revelation 1:9 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:End Times
 
Preached:2004-10
Added:2006-01-04
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Daniel R. Hyde, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Originally published in The Presbyterian Banner (October 2004): 8-9.

 

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Much has been made in our times about the so-called seven-year “tribulation period” and even more about the “great tribulation,” which is the last 3½ years of the tribulation, according to the Dispensational understanding of biblical eschatology. These “end times” teachings that are peddled as being “just around the corner” or that will occur “in our generation,” have been popularized so much so in the “Left Behind” books that it is really a non-negotiable among many evangelical Christians today.

Yet our text in Revelation strikes us in a different sense as it speaks of “the tribulation” in a way that is not emphasized by many. What if I were to say to you that the tribulation, yea, the great tribulation is already upon us? What if I really went out on a limb and said that this period of persecution and ungodliness was already around in John’s day? Surely I would be considered liberal, an allegorizer, one who didn’t take the Bible literally. Yet notice in our text before us that John himself, the apostle and receiver of the Revelation, instructs us that he was living in the tribulation some 1900 years ago.

John’s Solidarity With Us

John brings us solace, first of all, in this text as he says of himself, “I, John, your brother and partner.” The man who was made an apostle, who reclined on Jesus’ breast, the apostle whom Jesus called His “beloved,” one of the three apostles who saw Jesus in all his glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, one of those who saw his miracles and signs, and a man who saw the resurrected Lord of Glory – this is one who is speaking to us. But even with these impressive credentials he doesn’t shy away from calling himself our “brother” and our “partner!” He shows his solidarity and bond with us, ordinary Christians, in that he calls himself our “brother” and our “partner,” that is, our intimate companion and friend.

So even though John was given the awe-inspiring visions of this book, who saw Christ in all his glory, and who saw the throne-room of God, he doesn’t lord this position of authority over us. For he is our companion in the suffering of the tribulation, having been exiled for Christ; he is our companion in sin, he is a companion with us in our humanity, and he is a companion with us in being saved by grace alone.

So you see from the outset, there is nothing about John that makes him special in and of himself. Instead he was called by the Lord’s good pleasure to be his servant for the benefit of the Church. Our text applies to us in so many ways, least of which is the truth that this is the nature of all ministers of God’s word. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:12-16:

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

The same is true of your set-apart, ordained minister of the Gospel. And as ministers, we must be the first to say that we are the low man on the totem pole of sanctification and piety among the people of God. But you see, by the grace of God, and may he help us, ministers are to be “examples” (literally, “types”) to you of what God has and can do. Because, believe me, if God could save me, he can save anyone.

So John and Christ’s ministers are not on another level of existence than you; but he and we are your “brothers” and “sharers,” or companions together with you in “the tribulation and kingdom and endurance in Jesus.” Let me illustrate this. Think with me for a moment about a tree. There are roots which draw out nourishment from the ground, and this nourishment is carried up the trunk. As it moves up it is given to each and every branch so it can live. And on a tree there are hundreds of branches, all different sizes, and shapes, some with many leaves and some with a few. But notice something, in this plurality of branches and in this individuality of sizes and shapes there is unity as they all share in, they are all companions in the same nourishment, in the same sap. And so too it is with the body of Christ. This is what John is saying to us in our text. And what do we as branches share in?

The “Marks” of the Christian

We all share in the marks of the being a Christian “in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus.” Again, understand that these three terms describe this present Church age in which we live. John is describing the way things are “already” in this Church age. We are living in “the tribulation” period just as John was. And we are living in the period in which the antichrist is at work: “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). We acknowledge Jesus Christ, but he/it doesn’t: “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).

John shares with us “in the tribulation” because the Church exists as Israel in the wilderness, as pilgrims in this barren land. A church in the wilderness, not a church in glory – not yet. In describing the great cosmic struggle between the seed of the woman and the seen of the serpent, John says this affects us, saying, “and the woman [i.e., the church] fled into the wilderness[…]But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness” (Rev. 12:6, 14). This is the same term Stephen used to describe Israel as “the congregation in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38 cf. 1 Cor. 10:5)

And so with this in mind John says he is our companion in “the tribulation.” This is no special “end times” scenario, but a way of life for Christians in the age between his two comings: “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). You may say that you don’t suffer persecution, or that nothing dramatic has happened in you life that would make you think that you are in the tribulation; but our text says that when one of your brothers or sisters in the Lord suffer, you suffer. This is why a way to love our neighbor as ourselves is to be there for a sufferer. Not only are we “already” in “the tribulation,” but as Revelation 7:14 says to us that we are in “the great tribulation.”

John also is our companion in “the kingdom.” Remember that we’ve already been told that the Lord Jesus has already made us to be his kingdom (1:6), that is, the place where he dwells and reigns. Just as surely as we are members of the kingdom we are members of the tribulation. Never forget that, for this keeps us living in the tension between those things that are “already” and those things which are “not yet.” The kingdom is “already” here; yet it is not a geo-political kingdom in the Middle East awaiting its coming or the potential within a place like America – it is already here. And even more striking, you are it! Why else would the kingdoms of this world hate our kingdom? If the kingdom wasn’t here yet there would be no reason to hate it. But it is here among you, and because of this we are a hated kingdom by the kingdoms of this world. Scripture testifies to this present kingdom, saying,

We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22)

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His Beloved Son (Col. 1:13)

…that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer (2 Thes. 1:5)

Finally, John calls himself our companion and brother in “the patient endurance.” We must be patient, we must be longsuffering in this age during which we are in the tribulation. In Revelation 13:10 and 14:12 “the patience and faith of the saints” is described as dying for Christ and keeping His word in the midst of trial. And that we might be encouraged in suffering, Hebrews 12:1-2 says,

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame…     

Loved ones, we look to the cross of Christ for our encouragement, for our life in this age, for strength to endure. It is the theology of the cross, not the theology of glory that Revelation lays down for us. Christianity is not about the victorious Christian life, it is not about outward splendor, it is not about mega-Churches and huge crusades, but it is about Christ, and our suffering with him!

John shows that us he too undergoes what we undergo because he was exiled to the island of Patmos “on account of,” or, “because of” (NIV) the word and the testimony of Jesus. He was sent to Patmos, a Roman penal colony. The reason? The very reason why there is tribulation and why we need to have endurance in this age: the word and testimony of Jesus is hated. God calls you through this text to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, knowing that “if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Tim. 2:11-12). You may not suffer as John did, as the hundreds who were fed to lions, burned as torches, used as opponents of gladiators, or even as our companions in China, Nigeria, or Indonesia, those faithful brothers and sisters who have to endure much at the seed of the serpent and his kin. Nevertheless, we are reminded that this age is an age of tribulation. It is an age of suffering. And because of this, this is not all there is to life. There is an end, a goal, a blessed hope to which we are making our pilgrimage. And may we lift up our hearts to that celestial city, even as we sing the songs of Zion in a foreign land.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:10-11)




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Daniel R. Hyde, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2004, Rev. Daniel R. Hyde

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