In the Spirit on the Lord’s Day
The Apostle John is writing this “letter” to seven churches in Asia Minor: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. These were real churches in that time (roughly A.D. 95) and what he says to each church is specific to that church. But as I have previously said, the number seven indicates that John is addressing the universal Church the world over, which at that time centered around the Mediterranean Sea and eastward.
And why is he writing these churches and the Church as a whole? The Book of Revelation sugarcoats nothing but describes in graphic though symbolic language what is coming upon the whole world, and, indeed, is the very nature of the world which is ever at war with God. And though God’s people win in the end, their victory is not without great tribulation and suffering. Though I believe in a rapture, I see nothing in Scripture that even hints that Christians will be taken up before any tribulation described in this Book. Christians have been persecuted the world over throughout history and the fact that we in America have yet to experience such is an anomaly and not the norm. And we should not expect that we of all people shall miss out on any tribulation or persecution yet to come.
Indeed, the Book of Revelation suggests that tribulation is the modus operandi of a Christian’s life. That is why John calls believers “partner(s) in tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance.” John’s readers already know this; they have already suffered. He writes to tell them that more is coming (and it did over the course of the next two centuries plus) and that they must remain faithful by refusing to compromise and by mortifying remaining sin in their lives. Their patient endurance through suffering is their victory (G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, NIGTC, 201-2).
Note that John received his revelation when he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” It is so important that we prepare ourselves for worship the evening before through prayer and meditation, and that our time in worship is profitably spent listening intently to the proclamation of the word—not so that we may receive a vision, but that we may commune with God, which is the believer’s greatest reward. And while in the Spirit—listening, meditating, praying—he heard behind him “a loud voice like a trumpet” commanding him to write what he saw in a book. Revelation now begins. But it begins with John ready to receive. Be sure to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.