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The Unholy Made Holy

August 14th, 2012

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Revelation 1:9

In these words the apostle introduces himself and the circumstances in which the revelation recorded in the book came to him. He was first and foremost, to us, our brother – born of the same Spirit, with the same heavenly Father, and the same Christ as our elder Brother and Lord. This is what we share in common with all those who have trusted in Christ, this plus the reality of the choosing and election of God. Election is a doctrine clothed in mystery to our minds with their limitations, but the heart of the doctrine is that God chooses us when there is nothing in us worthy of His choice. There is no pre-achieved condition on our part that we must measure up to in order to be saved – it is all strictly by hearing the gospel and the convicting voice of the Spirit and then embracing its truth in repentance and faith.

John says he is also our companion, our fellow Christian sojourner on this earth, a companion who had faced the suffering of being a follower of Christ. Paul wrote that all who seek to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will experience persecution to some degree (2 Tim. 3:12). Suffering can envelop our hearts as much as our bodies and our finances – the suffering of seeing the spiritual and moral degeneration of the world is one unique to believers. All believers share to some degree the rejection of the world due to the stigma of the cross that we carry, and this is something we share. Christ is not ashamed of us so we should not be ashamed of Him.

John says that we are also his companions in the kingdom of God with its joy and peace and hope. We look forward to its full unveiling, for today we only taste it in part. So we also are companions with one another in the patient endurance for the full expression of the kingdom, its complete inauguration.

The final words of this verse remind us of the specific mission that God has for us. We share in the sufferings, in the hopes, and in the patient waiting for their fulfillment, but we also share in the mission of Christ to bear a witness and to make disciples. This mission takes on various expressions and applications in our lives, and we do not know when we might be like John, exiled for our faith. But we must have a mission, one fleshed out in our circumstances, one with names and places and real events on this planet. John’s exile was on Patmos, a treeless, river-less, small Mediterranean isle, apparently good for nothing in that day other than a prison of exile.  It is here on earth that we bear witness to the kingdom that will come, and if for John God could sanctify Patmos, unholy prison that it was, then we can expect God to sanctify the most common, mundane, as well as impure places on earth.

In this way, the apostle and the Spirit introduce the book to us, and recommend it to us as well, that this is a message we need, for we also share in all of these things. We need its direction and its hope, the pure simplicity of its judgments and its promises. We need to know that this world is not eternal, that it is passing away, but Christ will establish His eternal kingdom. So today our hearts should call out to Him in worship and in obedience. We should reach out to our brother and sister in Christ, those with whom we experience rejection and the kingdom and the patient endurance for its inauguration. We should look for our Patmos, that place that though very worldly we can let God sanctify and bless, sending us to serve there and speaking to us there of His love and grace and victory. If Patmos, that vile and corrupt prison colony, could be come a place associated with the hope and victory of God, then God can sanctify any place on earth where He finds hearts to listen and wills that will obey Him.

Second Coming of Christ