John identified himself the 2nd time in verse 9. In verse 4, he just recites his name. But here he describes himself in several ways:
partner in the tribulation;
partner in the kingdom that is in Jesus; and
partner in the patient endurance that is in Jesus.
John identified himself as a fellow believer with his audience in Asia. He is a brother and a partner in the kingdom that is in Jesus. Again we see John speak of the kingdom of Christ as a present reality.
John is also a partner in the tribulation. This tells us that persecution and suffering had already come to the churches of Asia. More was on the way. John had suffered along with them. John remembered what Jesus told him: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) I do not think John is writing of a great tribulation at the end of time, but of the tribulation that already occurred in persecution and harassment by government and people against Christians. Paul spoke of his suffering for the gospel. He was imprisoned and finally executed. He said “remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal.” (2 Timothy 2:8) James spoke of suffering trials. (James 1:2)
But John is also a partner in the patient endurance that is in Jesus. The main theme of Revelation is that Christ is triumphant over all his enemies and will conquer them in due time. But a strong sub-theme is the need for patient endurance by the church. I found this stated 14 times in the book.
John also tells his readers he was on the island called Patmos when he received the vision. He was there because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Patmos is an island off the coast of Turkey. It was used to exile those who were disruptive to Roman order. Evidently, John’s preaching of the Word and this testimony as a witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus upset the locals. It could also be that John preached against Christians participating in emperor worship. That would definitely have upset things.
This brings us to the question of the date Revelation was written. This question is relevant to the idea of the tribulation to which John refers. Most scholars believe the date to be about 95 A.D. There are some who believe the date to be right before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The later date places the time of writing during the reign of Domitian as emperor of the Roman Empire. Domitian’s father, Vespasian, became emperor in 69 A.D. His son, Titus, Domitian’s older brother, because emperor in 79 when Vespasian died. Titus died in 81 A.D. Domitian became emperor and ruled for 15 years, until 96 A.D. Domitian was very interested in Roman religion and morals. He built the temple of Jupiter and the Temple of Vespasian and Titus. Domitian’s favorite deity was Minerva. He kept a personal shrine to her and put her image on coins.
Domitian also revived the imperial cult. He deified his father and brother. Eusebius of Caesarea, a church historian, wrote that Domitian persecuted Christians toward the end of his reign. It is believed that Domitian exiled John to Patmos.
Exile did not prevent John from worshipping. On the Lord’s Day, on Sunday, he was “in the Spirit”. This is similar to the visions of Ezekiel, whose visions began with the Spirit taking him to a place and showing him things. It was during John”s communion with the Lord that Jesus appeared to him. Jesus appeared behind John and spoke to him with a loud voice, so loud it sounded like a trumpet. He told John to write down what he would see in the vision and send it to the 7 churches of Asia.
The loud voice of Jesus is a symbol of power. It had the sound of a trumpet, signaling an important message. This symbol was used in the Old Testament also. When God came to Mount Sinai to give the covenant, there was a very loud trumpet blast, so loud it made all the people tremble. (Exodus 19:16)
When John turned to face the voice, he saw 7 golden lamp stands. This makes us think of Zechariah 4. There, Zechariah saw a lamp stand with 7 lamps. This is the type of lamp that was in the temple. It was a symbol of the temple, as the Lord told Zechariah that the temple would be rebuilt by the returned exiles even though the rebuilding had stopped for a time. The lamps represented the Spirit. The Lord told Zechariah that the temple would not be build by might or power, but by the Spirit. Similarly, then, the seven lamp stands stand for the church. Later we are told that the seven lamp stand represent the seven churches of Asia. But the number 7 leads us to believe it stands for the church as a whole. And the Spirit is building the church into the new temple of God.