Summary: John had a remarkable encounter with Jesus - When: On the Lord’s Day; Where: In Patmos; and How: In the Spirit - and he wants us to share it with him.
A REVELATION ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS
John, the apostle of Jesus, tells us in the book of the Revelation of a remarkable encounter with his Lord. He sets the scene: "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" (1:9,10). There are three little phrases that stand out, and linked together as they are, demonstrate quite simply the essential meaning and message of the Christian church - On the Lord’s Day, in Patmos, in the Spirit. They answer the questions: When, Where, How the revelation came – and how it still comes. Notice first: When the revelation came - it was:
ON THE LORD’S DAY
If John the apostle was asked which day of the week meant most to him we can be fairly sure he would reply "Sunday, the Lord’s day". It was the day on which three of the most wonderful events in his life took place. The first he shared with his fellow disciples. They had sought refuge from the hostile religious Jewish authorities in a safe house in Jerusalem immediately following the crucifixion of their Lord. They were a group of somewhat bewildered men, loyal to Jesus, but ashamed of their failure to stand up and be counted for him. They didn’t really know what to believe because their hopes and aspirations had been cruelly shattered when he allowed himself to be ignominiously put to death the preceding Friday.
But then came Sunday, the first day of the new week, and the first day in a new era in their lives, for it was the day of resurrection of the risen Christ and his revelation to them that he was risen indeed. "On the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were gathered together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ’Peace be with you’" (John 20:19). John, himself, wrote these words in his Gospel, and could do no other than to record: "the disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord" (20).
That was a Sunday to remember, but it was followed by another memorable occasion, seven weeks to the day, on the Feast of Pentecost. This time John was one of a larger group of 120 disciples and followers of Jesus. They were believers to be sure but feeling somewhat at a loss because, although Jesus had revealed himself to them a number of times, in the meantime he had surprisingly ascended from before their eyes, leaving them alone once more. Before Jesus left them he gave them clear instructions not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for God the Father’s promise of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had told the disciples of his coming ministry but its reality had yet to be experienced. Then the day of Pentecost came when the Holy Spirit descended upon them and baptised them with spiritual power and gifts. The signs from heaven of the sound of the blowing of a violent wind and what seemed to be tongues of fire were symbolic of a revolution which took place in their lives. The Holy Spirit illuminated their understanding of Jesus and the significance of his life and ministry, his death and resurrection.
That too was a day to remember. John could remember a good many more Sundays because he was probably the longest living member, of the original band of disciples. Right at the end of his life came the third of these memorable Sundays. Writing to the churches in Asia, he specifically states that this particular vision took place on the Lord’s day. It was on this occasion, on the Lord’s day, that the Lord Jesus revealed himself and his purposes for the church as never before. This is the only occasion recorded in the New Testament when this day is mentioned as "the Lord’s day" and so we have the first reference to a Christian Sunday. There are a few earlier references to the observance of the first day of the week as a day for Christian assembly and worship, but now it was to be known as "the Lord’s day". No wonder that Christians want to "keep Sunday special". Do we honour and respect the Lord’s day? Do we come to it with a sense of expectancy that the Lord will reveal himself?
It’s helpful to reflect for a moment on how the Christian church left the observance of the Sabbath, Saturday, and came to observe the Lord’s day, Sunday, as their holy day. After all, the church sprang from the Jewish faith that laid down that the Sabbath, the seventh day was the day, which commemorated the rest that God took after the creation of the world. Christians wouldn’t have lightly abandoned that holy tradition, indeed, God given commandment. But the fact is that they did so because the former revelation was fulfilled in the new. In commemorating the rising of Jesus from the dead on the first day of a new week it demonstrated that they had moved on from the limited and symbolic revelation given to the Jews through the prophets. They were now in a new era, a new order had arrived, for God had spoken through his Son.