Revelation… From the Top of My Pile of Rocks!

(Sequel too…”Thank God for My Pile of Rocks!!!”)

I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 
                                                                     (Revelation 1:9)


“Patmos” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Although it is one word, its two syllables begin and end with a feel, much like “thank you”.  Had the island of Patmos meant “thank you” in the Greek language, it certainly would have been fitting for John the apostle of Jesus Christ our Lord.  John was faithful, as history and the Bible affirm his exemplary life for Christ.  Jesus closest friend and follower, with great care, provided for our Savior’s mother after His resurrection and ascension.  With great concern John ministered the word of God and protected the flock, throughout Asia Minor.  In the midst of persecution for the sake of Christ, the beloved disciple stood firm in his faith, always living to testify another day of what he had heard and seen and handled of the Word of life (I John 1:1-2).   By any thought of human logic or natural common sense John would have been worthy of a geography that communicated “thank you”, yet as we will discover the opposite is actually true.

“A Dictionary of Scripture Proper Names” by J.B. Jackson (published in 1909) defines Patmos as “My Killing”.  This definition rings true in more ways than one.  Situated  about 40 miles off the coast of modern day Turkey.  The island of Patmos, in its natural and ancient state, is basically a rock, topped with crumbled rocks and a little bit of un-consumable vegetation; kind of like a 1000 year old cupcake with some blades of grass thrown on top. This location was chosen by the Roman Empire, in order to serve as a place of exile for political prisoners; many being too high profile to kill publicly, yet deemed dangerous to the government.  Although having some freedom of movement on the island, the prisoners were exposed to harsh weather, little food, and hard labor in mines.  John, a man the Romans tried to eliminate before in various ways, was of the highest profile and most likely kept in seclusion from the other prisoners.  It is most likely for this reason, we know the location of his receiving the revelation in the “Cave of the Apocalypse”.  Although Patmos was intended by the Romans to be John’s place of “My Killing” it was Jesus place of “Thank You”.

Although it is contrary to our human nature to be thanked with hardship, it should not be so to those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our Savior’s declaration in John 15:18-25 guarantee’s the type of treatment the apostles, yeah all the followers of Jesus, should expect for being faithful to Him.  Contrary to our current difficulty with this truth, the apostles counted it a great honor to suffer for Jesus (Acts 5:41).  In fact is was one of Paul’s greatest desires to know Jesus “in the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).  

John understood why He was exiled on Patmos.   He was being persecuted for his powerful testimony for Jesus Christ.  He was being abused for His adoration of His Great God and Savior.  John’s sentence to isolation, deprivation and possible death was a direct result of his hunger and thirst for Christ’s righteousness, and he was fine with it.  We must ask ourselves if we will be also.  

Our Christianity has, in the west, is often expressed in wanting praise for our piety and ovations or applause for obedience and service.  Where that does not rule our hearts we will at times fall into the erroneous thinking that we deserve the occasional break for pronouncing the truth of God’s word.  It is time for the saints in America to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith, for it is quite possible that in the near future, the golden shores and geography of this American continent, may become the location of “My Killing” for many servants of the Lord.  Will we respond as John the apostle?

John’s Thankful Heart and His Corresponding Behavior
As we discovered in the last blog “Thank God for My Pile of Rocks”, John considered the rock pile of his new island home, to be a place of ministry and purpose for Christ. Therefore, He was content and thankful.  In the midst of deprivations most of us have yet to face we read…

Revelation 1:10 (NKJV) I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 

John was in full blown worship mode.  Even though he had no sanctuary, no worship team, no power-point, no lights or smoke machines, no hymn book, no other fellow worshipers of God, no car radio with K-LOVE or MP3 player… John was worshiping.  Interestingly, the gospel that bears John’s name, has the definitive teaching from Christ, concerning true worship.  In John 4, Jesus is having a discussion with a Samaritan woman, where she becomes uncharacteristically religious while under conviction for her sin.  She begins to discuss where the proper place of worship happens to be, as this was a huge point of contention between the Jewish and Samaritan people.  After Jesus sets here theology straight, He declares…

John 4:21-24 (NKJV) Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.  You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus declares that true worship does not need a preferred location, or building, or musical style, or circumstance.  True worship takes place in the heart of one who has been born of the Spirit and the Word of God.  True worship can take place where ever that person is located and in whatever circumstance that person may find themselves; They could be in a prison, a rock island place of exile, the place of our execution, the privacy of our prayer closet, the environment of our workplace, or the places we gather for fellowship.   

This of course lays to waste our modern religious idea of worship, which tries to foster an ethereal atmosphere and musical excellence in our times of congregational singing. Contrary to our stated reasons, most of our “worship” is not to show appreciation or adoration for God, but to please our own carnal religious preferences and musical sensibilities or those of our congregations; or of those we would like to have in our congregations.  This kind of pandering to the flesh was foreign to John and the early church as a whole.  On an Island with a name meaning “My Killing”, John’s worship led to his encountering the Holy Spirit (The very Presence of God).  Do we in the midst of all our effort and machinations encounter God?  Before answering that question, maybe we should read Psalm 139:23-24 and wait for The Lord’s answer.  John’s life also reveals another vital element of worship, we may be hesitant to sign up for.

Romans 12:1 (NKJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

In the NASB bible, the phrase “reasonable service” is translated “spiritual service of worship”.  What is our “spiritual service of worship”? To be a “living sacrifice”.  This idea of living sacrifice hearkens back to the O.T. burnt offering, a sacrifice which was completely consumed in the act of worship in O.T. system of religion.  The true worshiper not only worships in Spirit and in truth, but their worship is a life where every action is for the purpose of revealing Jesus.  For the true worshiper, whether going to the store, gathering in fellowship, at work, at home, all alone in prayer, being persecuted or in dying, they are worshiping Christ, as they reveal the Saviors in all they do as living sacrifices (their spiritual service of worship.  The heart of worship is a heart thankful for for the Savior’s love and determined to show that love, by pouring out all its vitality and life for His sake.  This is how John could be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, in such contrary conditions.  It is for that reason He received new revelation.

John’s Rock Pile Enabled a New Encounter with Jesus
In Oswald Chamber’s classic devotional “My Utmost for His Highest” dated May 24 he speaks of John’s time on the Lord’s Day.  Entitled “The Delight of Despair” Chambers communicates that because of John’s disposition to be a living sacrifice, his place of despair was a launching point for his greatest delight.  Let’s all assume that John would have preferred a more amenable and comforting environment for his latter years, yet in spite of the pain, discomfort and difficulty he knew he was there for Jesus sake.  It was his sold out heart and earnest seeking of Christ in a place of despair that gave him the leg up to receive a new revelation of Jesus.

Revelation 1:10-13 (NKJV) I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,  saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”  Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands,  and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man,

Who John saw, we know now as Jesus Christ the Lord, yet to John, Jesus was so different his reply appears to be uncertain, “And having turned I saw… One like the Son of Man”. Was not John the beloved, a close intimate of Jesus?  Yes, but Jesus was amazingly and stunningly different.  John was seeing the Messiah as Daniel did (Daniel 7:13).  John was seeing the Lord high and lifted up as Isaiah did (Isaiah 6:1-6).  John was encountering the Lord Jesus Christ, as Paul did as a sinner on the road to Damascus, when he was blinded by the full glory of the Messiah.  John was seeing what he wrote from Jesus own mouth, when Jesus asked our Father to glorify him with the glory they had together before the world began (John 17:5).  Even though John was saved and sanctified, this new revelation of Jesus Christ floored Him.

Revelation 1:17 (NKJV) And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. 

The delight of despair is not the revelation of all Jesus majesty, which John describes in great detail, but what comes after the real despair, which is not Patmos or its conditions. The real despair is our own weakness and sense of unworthiness, even as forgiven, in the presence of the Holy and Almighty God. John was utterly undone in God’s presence. John was perhaps one of the most set apart of all the followers of Jesus, yet when Jesus came to Him, John went limp in face down reverence.  That is despair and may I ask, have we encountered Jesus in this way? For without this disposition of reverent despair, we do not get the delight.  It was not correction that John received, for he was where he was at for his faithfulness. 

Revelation 1:17 (NKJV) And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me…

The delight was that Jesus laid His hand on him, not as his friend, but as his Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6).  My dear friends we need a pile of rocks like Patmos, where we follow Jesus into “My Killing”.  These places and circumstances prove our faith, and make us more faithful to Jesus.  These places wear us thin, where in the pain and difficulty we are must discipline ourselves to fix our eyes on Jesus, remembering we have not yet shed blood striving against sin.  These places brings us to the end of ourselves where our Savior comes to us “As a father pities (condescends) his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him (Psalm 103:13).  Our “Patmos” in its many forms are the places where you and I remember, He is truly with us.  These places remind us of his success through our lives, regardless of the discomforting circumstances.  Our pile of rocks is necessary if we will continue to see Jesus as He truly is right now and forever more…

Philippians 3:10-11 (NKJV) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,  if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 

Dear friends, stay faithful and filled with love for Christ while in your “Patmos” moments. May we be completed consumed for the sake of the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ.
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About Michael J Erdel

Mike is a pastor with The Christian and Missionary Alliance in the Rochester N.Y. area at "The Savior's Chapel". His desire is to encourage the Church of Jesus Christ, and declare God's hope through His Son Jesus, to a world which is long on excuses and short on hope. Mike has experienced the truth that when we kneel before Christ, surrendering to Him as Savior and LORD, we truly can rise above this world and the sinfulness that entangles us. We can Defy Gravity.
This entry was posted in Christian suffering, despair, enduring faith, Faith, holiness, Jesus is Faithful, John the Apostle, martyrs. Bookmark the permalink.

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