People who met Jesus : 39 : John on Patmos
Rev 1:9,10,12,13 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet… I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me…. someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.
I never intended writing this meditation until I was doing the previous one and realised that, like Paul, John had encountered the risen and ascended Lord Jesus. Now I know that earlier in this series I covered the apostle John but never touched on this incident. This is as much a time-space historical incident as any other and is a legitimate meeting between John and Jesus. Each of these encounters has told us something about the person and something about Jesus, and this one is no exception.
Most scholars date the book of Revelation as being written by John about AD95 which makes it something like 62-65 years after the death of Jesus. John must be in his eighties or even his early nineties. As noted in the earlier meditation we consider John is the apostle who became a senior elder in the Church and probably settled in Ephesus where eventually he was arrested in a time of persecution and was exiled to the prison island of Patmos, where he stayed for possibly a couple of years before being returned to Ephesus to see out his remaining years. He is an elder statesman of the church, one who knew he was especially loved by his Lord. He isn’t going to be martyred but he surely has only a few years left on this earth before he goes to meet his Saviour in heaven.
It is a Sunday (as the Christians had now designated it the first day of the week, or the Lord’s Day). Presumably he has been praying and is caught up in the Spirit when he suddenly hears an incredibly loud voice. He turns to see who is addressing him in such a way and receives a revelation that has astounded men ever since.
There before him stands one in the form of a man who stands in the midst of seven Lampstands which are later shown to be the seven churches of Asia Minor (v.20). He holds in his hand seven stars which are shown to be the angels or leaders of those churches (v.20). He is clearly coming as Lord of the church. He is dressed in the manner of a priest or judge of that day. In that form his characteristics are even more significant. His white hair indicates age and wisdom. His eyes penetrate and see everything. His mouth speaks words that cut right through to the heart of the matter and destroy all opposition. His face shines with absolute purity, there is no doubt whatsoever that what this Being says will be absolutely right. We see Jesus here in a very different form from that seen in the Gospels, as the Lord of the church, one who comes on behalf of the church of God (see 1 John 2:1,2), and yet one who comes with corrective and challenging words to His church. He is Lord AND Saviour (judge and priest)!
His effect on John is similar to that which we saw in Saul – he fell at his feet as though dead. Such was His awesome presence! He then touched John, apparently to restore him, and encouraged him with one of the Bible’s 366 “fear not’s”. He described himself as one who exists in eternity (first and last), who is living, but was dead, and who, because he was resurrected, now lives for ever. Without a doubt this is the risen and reigning Lord Jesus. Because of what he has done and who he is, he also has the authority to say who enters death, who enters Hades (hell) and when. He is the supreme overseer over life and death. He has earned that right.
Jesus comes to reassure and the way He does it is by revealing the wonder of who he is himself. Before he commissions John he reassures and strengthens him. Then he goes on to instruct John to record a) what he has seen, b) what is happening [Revelation 2 & 3] and then c) what he will be shown will happen later on [Revelation 4 onwards]. In conclusion He reveals Himself as the one who speaks as Lord over the church, and what follows in the next two chapters is His word to these churches.
So, to conclude our series, we have two very different people from the ones we have seen previously. John is an aged and revered elder who is still to be a mouthpiece for his Lord. It is almost as if he is being rewarded for his long-term faithfulness by being given this revelation. Jesus is no longer the itinerant preacher but the risen Lord and Saviour of the world. He is head over the Church and comes with words of both correction and encouragement. He comes now as a figure before whom no man will stand. Now he is awesome, now he is to be revered and worshipped. This is the Jesus who today is reigning at his Father’s right hand in heaven, before one day we will stand. This is a very different Jesus from the man who walked in Galilee. This is the Son of God as he really is. How wonderful. Worship him!