Some people have a phobia about islands. They feel trapped – surrounded by water. Confined. Cut-off. Stranded. We live on an island that is only 224 kilometers long but do I feel cut off? Not at all! The North American continent was connected to Prince Edward Island in the 1990’s by the world’s longest bridge over ice-covered waters. We can come and go as we wish. But Patmos was different.
About 40 kilometers off the coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea, the tiny island of Patmos was used as a prison. If you were just a common criminal or an unknown Christian in the 1st century – you would just be thrown to the lions or burned at the stake. But if you were a well known, very public Christian, it was too risky for the Roman Emperor to get rid of you that way. It may have caused a riot. So Emperor Domitian chose Patmos (34 square kilometers in size) as an island of exile.
The Apostle John was banished to Patmos. I wonder what he thought as he was dropped off and left alone on that tiny island. It’s a tourist resort today but in John’s day it sure wasn’t a destination of choice.
Trapped. Confined. Alone. Exiled. Abandoned. Isolated. Did John question God? As the boat sailed away and he climbed the rugged cliffs, did the tears begin to fall? As the stars came out and he spent that first night all alone on the deserted Island did he pray? “Lord, I have been faithful to Your Word. I taught and preached the Word. I defended the truth. I told everyone I met about Jesus Christ. Why is this happening to me now, Lord?”
Perhaps you feel that way today: deserted, abandoned and stranded on a very lonely island of circumstances. No escape. The future is bleak. Trapped and filled with despair.
It was Sunday on the Island of Patmos when it happened. There were no Christians to fellowship with. From a human standpoint, it could have been a really blue, lonely and bleak Sunday for John. But He was ‘in the Spirit’ that day occupied with the Risen, Returning and Regal Christ.
and the patient endurance that are in Jesus,
was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet ……
“saying, Fear not, I am the first and the last,
and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore…”
Revelation 1:9,10,17,18 ESV
Sometimes we can read the Book of the Revelation and forget what an encouragement the experience must have been to dear old exiled John. Would the cruel and vicious Roman Emperor really have the last word on Christianity? Will the kings and emperors of this world have the last say? Was John the loser for taking sides with Christ and remaining true and faithful? Never!! Human governments may flex their muscles against God and act as if they have ultimate power but that will be short lived. That Sunday on Patmos, it was clearly revealed to John that the Christ who was hated and despised now will return as the mighty Conqueror. He will reign Supreme on this earth. Unpopular and downtrodden believers will share in this triumph of Christ and we can look forward to a glorious future.
Dear Child of the Living God: as you wander around on the lonely island of your circumstances, filled with despair listen to His words:
“Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one.
I died, and behold I am alive forevermore…”
Circumstances are only temporary. Christ is forever!