Genesis and Revelation are the critical bookends to God’s living word. In Revelation, the Apostle John receives from Jesus prophetic visions of apocalyptic events that continue to stun believers with a deeper fear and awe of God.
Little, however, is described about the godly vessel chosen to reveal these awesome truths. As an elderly man of God, John shared with believers,
I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus. Rev 1:9
“Exiled” and “suffering” may not fully depict John’s life on Patmos but does, even vaguely, open our minds to his hardship. It is commonly known that Patmos was a small barren island, treeless and stark, used by Rome as a site to banish exiles. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, Patmos means “my killing“. Greek scholar Alexander Cruden defines Patmos as “I am squeezed to pieces.”
This chosen beloved man of God personally walked with the Lord, powerfully expounded the life of Jesus Christ for the world to embrace, and established churches that impacted the world. He witnessed the power of God through his life and through the lives of the other apostles. However, while embracing his ministry and pursuing the kingdom of God, John is banished into a barren place of suffering….with God in full control.
There is only one beloved Apostle John.
However, many believers even today find themselves unexpectedly on Patmos. The ‘Unexpected’ magnifies the pain…if one could plan, who wouldn’t pack provisions for a barren place?
It is true that God can strip your life at it’s very peak. I know, for example, a sister who left a wonderful career for the sake of her spouse only to learn weeks later of his adulterous affair and secret life. She was heading toward Patmos when shortly thereafter the ministry she loved, with whom she traveled and evangelized imploded by exposed corruption, scattering precious sheep in utter despair….At the same time, God set her in the position of caring for that unfaithful spouse during illness and injury while yet revealing other depths of betrayal. Then she went nearly bald. (ok, c’est moi)
When totally alone in despair, stripped of all that ‘made us’ who we are, when gone are the very things, even godly things, that brought pleasure, fulfillment, and security….
You are here
Most assuredly the apostle John stood strong on Patmos, continuing to live the strong spiritual foundation that he set forth to the churches….urging them to live like Christ, standing strong in adversity, separated from the things of this world,
“Do not love the world or anything in the world…The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” I John 2:15-17
John knew that the purposes and plans of God are not at all deterred by circumstance, in fact the apostles knew that God worked their sufferings and adversities to promote the Gospel. John was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day”. Banishment from the places and people he loved did not interrupt his worship or intimacy with the Lord Jesus. Moreover, we have every reason to believe that John’s exile brought him into a deeper relationship with God, ultimately preparing him to receive the greatest revelation of Christ’s awesome return.
The barren place of Patmos gave birth to the fearsome final word of God, the merciful warning of coming judgement.
I don’t know anyone like the apostle John but I do know brethren in a state of Patmos, a place of “my killing”….where life seems “…squeezed to pieces.” Unexpected upheavals and unraveling, reversals and losses all shake the pillars of life and expose the only sure foundation found in Christ.
He is our Head and is in control. If you are His follower, no one can take you to Patmos except by His will. God is not finished with you, He has a plan and purpose in the places of Patmos…that could only come to fruition through that barren place.
“Lord, walk us through the places of Patmos. Let all that was lost fade away next to the reality of You. Renew our minds through Your powerful living word. I pray that we see purpose in the ‘barren places’ – let them be places of spiritual and supernatural life. Plant in us a living hope that the promises of You, sovereign God, can never fail.”
I think there’s a song for us on Patmos….