Exiles Message #3: The Beloved, Visions of the Patmos Exile
On a lonely island far from his friends and his homeland sat an old man. This life had been an incredible adventure. In his younger days he had been a fisherman, and his home had been near the Sea of Galilee. But one fateful morning he had left his fishing-net to follow a great teacher who would become a dear friend. It became clear that his dear friend was more than a great teacher as he would later write. And when the time came for his friend to go away. Never again would the young man return to his humble toil by the seaside. Already had he written an account about Jesus explaining that he was not simply a man but both a man and God from the beginning of the universe. To the old man Jesus was both dear friend and God. So he had also encouraged the Babylonian churches with letters he had written but now here he was on this lonely island, a prisoner. This was John.
And as he sat there John looked at his skin running down his arm from finger to elbow, from bone to bone. As if new, the wrinkles were made over. No one would now know that he was plunged into vat of boiling oil. As the Coliseum soldiers lowered him into the vat – John thought it was his time. The soldiers were themselves instantaneously frying to death as they dropped John in. But something happened to him.
Instead of an excruciating death, John experienced the presence of the Christ and an incredible cooling all over his skin so that when he came up out of the oil, steam was rising off of each ligament and limb. The screaming of the blood lust crowd went silent. And as the hush reached John’s ears he sensed the Spirit whisper to him once again. He lifted his voice and the words flowed like milk and honey from his lips. The eyes of everyone in the Coliseum were upon him so that when he finished, people, men and women – senators from Rome and harlots from Corinth – street kids and the nobility poured from the stands.
Over bleachers and wine and bone – over deck and step and stone – they came. And they kept coming and coming. And they came moaning and groaning and croning and knowing that John was indeed sent from God. And many of them accepting Jesus as the Christ. Domitian, the Emperor was enraged but he also feared John. How could he shut him up? How could he strike that tone? –Ah indeed he thought – John will live but will be alone. So John he banished to this – an island called Patmos.
You see Satan had worked hard to silence John because of the continued advance of the gospel. On this particular day while John was on the island he sat thinking about God. He remembered how the Christians always met together to worship on that day, which they called the Lord’s day, because Jesus had risen from the grave on the first day of the week.
While he thought about these things, presently he heard behind him a voice like a trumpet-blast, speaking. This voice said, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: what you see write in a book and send to the seven churches which are in Asia.”
This is his story. The Story of John – The Beloved and the Visions of the Patmos Exile.
See John understood the exiles he was speaking to would one day rule and reign. Yes they at the moment were in prisons, or house arrest, or barred from their city, or like Jeremiah staring at what used to be a nation. It could be difficult to imagine ruling and reigning when you were suffering and dying. But the Patmos Exile had to make his hears listen to what he saw. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Church.” This is a call is to stop listening to the siren call of compromise with its promise of peace and affluence and instead listen to the words of Jesus. You see that exiles like John have their ears listening for where the wind of the Spirit might blow.
For some of us, we can spend so much time complaining about how bad the world is, its corruptions and problems and we end up not really doing anything but complaining. I know a lot of doggy downers. Every second you spend denouncing you are not announcing. And the King will be returning so rather than complain about the sins and bad things around you – you aren’t to judge as much as proclaim the good news. A lot of proclaiming is demonstrating through your own life. It is better to Do more than you say, than to say more than you do!
John had seen first hand the reality of a church that could miss the Masters call. He saw first hand the some of the early Christians succumb to the temptation of compromise in the face of the constant barrage fighting for their attention. The whispers of a crafty enemy comes to their ear slowly and unbidden. Its not the exile; itself that can make a man go crazy but the siren’s call that causes twists and perversions in those who listen and swallow down the lies. When faced with it some Christians, like the ones in John writes to in Ephesus, in their zeal to defend the faith, become bastions of strict, unloving and closed orthodoxy. That’s how John sees it. Instead of loving the Creator and his creatures – the twistedness of this perversion is to love the teaching more than the Teacher. They have the law but do not know the law giver. Then they make their fight about doctrine rather than take the fight to the enemy by loving others.
For so many Christians today its about the right belief without loving their neighbor. How do you know if you love your neighbor?
Exiles who have ears to hear understand what the Spirit is saying through John to the Church is this: Do the work of lover warriors, whose war is waged against the enemy, with weapons of loving the unlovable; forgiving the unforgiveable, and being merciful to the merciless.
John looks around at the island Patmos as the waves run back and forth. Crashing upon the rocks and for the moment his pen stops. His head aches but it’s a good ache – the type you can get after watching an incredible movie. The fog rises again and John sees again the multiple sevens and the voice again says – Write this John and address to those in Sardis. “Dear exiled I know your deeds – you act like you’re alive but I see dead people walking around. Wake up from your spiritual deadness – strengthen what’s left of you. Its been tough but get ready because you aren’t going to know when I come for you.”
Jesus is saying be ready and prepared because you don’t have any idea what’s going to happen next. I have an important question for you. Do you know how the mighty fall? So many do not understand that it isn’t what’s on the outside but what lies on the inside that makes a man clean. And Jesus says I will come like lightening in the night so get ready and stay pure. But you say how would you know?
I’ve come to see that decline in an individual or institution like a country, city, church or business is like a staged disease: harder to detect but easier to cure in the early stages. An person or institution can look strong on the outside but already be sick on the inside – on the cusp of a fall. And Jesus says to those of you in the state of Sardis. Revelation 3:3: Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it; and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief – and you won’t know when.
John understood that Exiles must hold in the fight. But look at the REWARDS!!!
The rewards will be incredible. Let me list them in the book of Revelation, Exiles who overcome will be clothed in white garments, and their names will not be erased from the book of life, (This means that God writes you into his estate…This is like when Jesus says the meek will inheriting the earth…its more than all the money in the world because its more than that.) and I will stand before my Father on your behalf (Jesus will be your lawyer at your sentencing for sin and the verdict will read not guilty.) I will give authority over the nations. (Not sure but this is big!) They will eat of the tree of life which is Paradise and they will not be hurt by the second death. (This is Eden 2.0 – delivered by the Second Incorruptible Adam)
Finally it says that Exiles will eat some of the hidden manna, and receive a white stone with a new name that no one knows but he who receives it. Revelation 2:17. (Let me tell you about this stone. In the ancient world a white stone was used as an admission ticket to public festivals. The white stone has been regarded as both the pebble of acquittal in Greek courts, the lots cast in elections, the white conveying the notion of acquittal. The pebble is usually rounded worn by the action of water. The pearl of great price. We find it when we run to the water from which we will never thirst again.
Exiles will see God.
The Return of the King. Seven Times Jesus declares to John that he will return. In chapters 2 and 3 he tells the Church of Ephesus , Pergamum and Philadelphia to repent that he is coming and to hold on to what they have. In the last chapter Jesus says “I am coming quickly three times” The word erchomai – I am coming is found 36 times in the book. It is a message of hope to exiles seeking a future in a bleak state but it is also a warning to those who have grown soft and lazy. Who have over many years allowed the fight to leave their blood because of the smooth words of an enemy who would feed their stomach so that he could take their sword. When the battle comes they think they will survive but they will be sadly mistaken. But this theme of the return of the King is not just one of judgment. It is also one of incredible victory. It will be a victory unlike anything the world has ever seen. When the coronation of the King and Kingdom are sealed as the Lamb sits on his throne.