October 29, 2008 on 8:10 pm | In REVELATION FOR BEGINNERS | Comments Off on PRISON MINISTRY–1:9

If I were writing this to you from Guantanamo, Alcatraz, or Abu Ghraib, what would you think? Would you wonder what crime I had committed? It’s somewhat like that in Revelation 1:9. John says he’s on the isle of Patmos. His readers would know that as an island penal colony for serious offenders. So they wouldn’t misjudge the situation, John immediately explains the real reasons for his internment—“for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ,” i.e. because he was a Christian. Though essentially imprisoned, yet in writing this letter to the churches he would do his best to minister to them from afar.
Yet in this verse I also see some elements of what the Christian witness is all about. For example, he starts off by saying, “I, John, your brother and companion in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ…” Right at the beginning he’s following a good first principle—he is establishing common ground with those he is communicating with. “I’m going through trials similar to what you’re experiencing. I’m also a part of the kingdom of God like you are.” He puts himself in the same boat they are in—he’s not talking down to them. This can be a very useful approach in our Christian witness also.

Secondly, he states he is in Patmos for the sake of the Word of God. This tells me that he believed in and proclaimed the truth of God’s Word. He was not preaching just someone’s opinions, but the clear Word of Scripture. This is also critical for our witness—that we stick to the Word as the basis for our teaching, not human opinion.

Thirdly, he says he was there for the “testimony of Jesus Christ.” This suggests to me that he wasn’t just preaching doctrinal discourses, but was making Jesus his focus. Apparently his persecutors couldn’t stand this emphasis on Jesus then anymore than they could when Jesus Himself was alive on the earth. Jesus needs to be front and center in all our witness and teaching. People need to see Him as the source of our salvation and His atoning sacrifice as the central truth around which all others truths cluster.

Finally, I believe there is another implied reason underlying why John was on Patmos. He evidently practiced what he preached or he likely would not have been there—the authorities probably would have paid him little or no attention. If we don’t practice what we preach, people aren’t likely to give us much credence either. People today want to know if what we believe really makes a difference. The so-called “post-modern” world wants to see authenticity—will I truly be better off for believing and accepting this as a lifestyle principle or is it really irrelevant? What has it done for you?”

To summarize:
1. Establish common ground where possible.
2. Make the Word your foundation and basis of teaching.
3. Make Jesus foremost and be sure you know Him as your own personal Savior.
4. Put into practice what you preach.

In these last days of turmoil, uncertainty, and fear, there is urgent need of this Christian witness to bring assurance of a caring Savior and of the better things He is preparing for His people. Revelation will help us understand this better.

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