I have been, at the request of my youth Sunday School Class, teaching through the book of Revelation. The more I read this apocalyptic, prophetic letter (I see Revelation, primarily, as a letter) the more I see the main point being that those who suffer with Christ will also reign with Christ. It is interesting, then, that a couple recently told me that the main point they got from a study of Revelation is that we should hope for a Pre-Tribulation rapture so that we do not have to suffer.
How is it that we have created a Christianity that truly believes that suffering is something to be avoided at all costs, or that we deserve to not suffer because we have come to believe in Jesus? Isn't suffering at the very heart of the gospel? Doesn't Jesus call us to suffer for his name?
Here is a quote from The Believers Church Commentary on Revelation:
"The central message of Revelation is suggested [in 1:9]: those who endure persecution with Christ will rule with Christ. The word persecution means "pressure" or "tribulation" (John 16:33; Acts 14:22). John expected immediate persecution for the church of his day (see also Matt. 11:12; 2 Tim. 3:12) because of the imposition of emperor worship."
And the following is a quote from a letter Anna of Rotterdam (preserved in the Martyrs' Mirror) presented to her son, Isaiah, at nine o'clock in the morning, as she was preparing herself to die for the name and the testimony of Jesus:
"Where you hear of a poor, simple, cast-off little flock (Luke 12:32), which is despised and rejected, by the world, join them; for where you hear of the cross, there is Christ; from there do not depart."
May we, with joy, pick up our cross and carry it. May we, with the help of the Spirit, embrace pressure and tribulation as a mark of God's saving grace in our lives (Rom. 5:3-5, Matt. 5:11-12, Luke 21:10-19, James 1:2-4). May we not make the "wise" choices that lead to security and success, but instead the "dangerous" choices of loving our enemies and the enemies of the powerful, giving away the wealth that makes us comfortable so that others can survive, and welcoming strangers into our homes and communities trusting that by doing so we are offering hospitality to Jesus himself. These are the kinds of activities that, when radically lived out, show us that tribulation is a part of our world right now. Jesus doesn't call us to run from it, he calls us to embrace it.