Life-Study of Revelationby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we need to consider 1:9, which says, “I John, your brother and joint partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and endurance in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” The book of Revelation is composed in a marvelous way. It is quite significant that this verse comes shortly after the mention of the Lord’s coming in 1:7. This indicates that if we would be those who are watchfully waiting for the Lord’s coming back, we must be those who are joint partakers, not in outward blessing, but in the tribulation, kingdom, and endurance in Jesus.
The phrase in Jesus governs the words tribulation, kingdom, and endurance, and we must pay close attention to it. This phrase very rarely occurs in the New Testament. The phrase in Christ or in Christ Jesus, on the contrary, is used many times. In the New Testament, the truth is mainly in Christ, but here the phrase in Jesus is employed. This tells us that if we would be those who are waiting for the Lord’s coming back, we must be those who are joint partakers in the tribulation, kingdom, and endurance “in Jesus.” When we talk about salvation, grace, enjoyment, and all the other good things, we say that we are “in Christ,” for this phrase refers to everything on the positive side of God’s salvation. But to say that we are partakers of the tribulation, kingdom, and endurance in Jesus means that we are suffering. When Jesus lived on earth as a man, He suffered constantly. According to the facts of His life, His name, Jesus, denotes a suffering person, a man of sorrows (Isa. 53:3). Hence, when we say that we are in Christ, this means that we are saved, are enjoying God’s grace, have peace with God, and are under God’s blessing. But when we say that we are joint partakers of the tribulation, kingdom, and endurance “in Jesus,” this means that we are suffering and are being persecuted as we follow Jesus the Nazarene. In the book of Revelation, the in Christ is not used. In Ephesians, on the contrary, the term in Christ or in Him is used repeatedly, being found in every chapter of that epistle. The book of Revelation is for those who are suffering tribulation “in Jesus.” This means that those who are waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus must be people who suffer tribulation in Jesus. In other words, those who wait for the Lord’s coming back are the suffering ones. In the eyes of God, we are the followers of Christ, but in the eyes of people, especially religion, we are the followers of Jesus.
While Jesus was on earth, He was persecuted by the Jewish religion (John 5:16; 15:20). He was not persecuted by a heathen, pagan religion, but by the typical religion formed according to God’s oracles. Religion is greatly utilized by God’s enemy. Religion is versus Christ, and Christ is versus religion. John 5:16 reveals that the Jews persecuted Jesus because He broke their Sabbath. Religious people cannot tolerate the breaking of their regulations. Any violation of their religious regulations will stir up persecution against the violators. The Jewish religion was established on three pillars, one of which was the Sabbath; the other two are circumcision and dietary regulations. When Jesus broke the Sabbath, He tore down one of the three pillars of the Jewish religion. Hence, they persecuted Him and even sought to kill Him. Eventually, religion succeeded and actually killed the Lord Jesus, sentencing Him to death according to their Scriptures. However, under the sovereignty of God, the Jews at that time did not have the right to kill anyone. Thus, they delivered Jesus over to the Roman government and the Roman government, using its method of executing criminals, crucified the Lord Jesus on the cross.
Just as religion persecuted Jesus, it will also persecute the followers of Jesus. We know from the book of Acts that the Jews in the synagogues in every city stirred up opposition against the apostles, and Paul suffered this type of persecution very much. John, the writer of the book of Revelation, also underwent this kind of persecution. When John received the revelation of this book, he was on the island of Patmos, having been exiled there for “the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” In writing the book, he was encouraging the saints to wait for the Lord’s coming back, telling them that he was their brother and joint partaker, not in grace, life, peace, and light, but in the suffering, the affliction, in Jesus.
As we have seen, when Jesus was on earth, He suffered at the hands of religion. The Roman Empire paid very little attention to Him. It was the Jewish religion that asked the Roman government to execute judgment upon Him. Thus, the persecution against Him did not originate with the secular world but with the religious world. In the book of Acts we see that it was the same with the apostles. The opposition did not come mainly from the Gentiles but from the Jewish religion. The Jews followed Paul wherever he went, perhaps even picketing him. In like manner, a great many martyrs suffered persecution by the so-called Roman Catholic Church. As Foxe points out in his history of martyrs, the Roman Catholic Church killed more saints than the Roman Empire did. Who imprisoned Madame Guyon? The Roman Catholic Church. Who imprisoned John Bunyan? The Church of England. Religion always persecutes the genuine followers of Jesus.
Now it is our turn to undergo this persecution. During the years I was with Brother Nee in China, I saw how much he was persecuted by religion. The rumors, opposition, and condemnation came, not from the Gentiles, but from Christianity, even from some missionaries. The Devil is subtle. The secular world does not oppose us as much as the so-called religious people do. Many Christians think of religion as a good thing, but actually it is something used by the Devil. If you read the book of Galatians, you will see how intensely Paul persecuted the church when he was in the Jewish religion. Galatians 1 reveals that religion is against Christ and that Christ is versus religion. If we cooperate with religion, there will be a type of compromising peace. But how can we go along with religion? It is so subtle and false; it is a counterfeit of God’s economy. Anyone who sees that religion is a counterfeit of God’s economy will condemn it.
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