Summary: Why had God allowed such hardship to come into John’s life? Sermon explores John’s experience on Patmos and his revelation of Christ.
Banished But Blessed
To set the stage for our message this morning I want you to imagine with me for a moment how you would feel if you had just received an unjust sentence—You will be transported to the Alcatraz of Asia Minor—a desolate island about six miles wide and ten miles long. You will not be permitted to leave that island. There you will be thrown in with hardened criminal and even though you are old and physically weak you will be required to labor in the mines and quarries. Imagine the thoughts that would run through your mind as you stand in the ship with murderers and thieves approaching this island just 15 miles west Ephesus. How long will you hold up to the harsh treatment there? Will this rocky island called Patmos be the place where you die? Why has God allowed this in your life?
In about 95AD that’s what happened to the Apostle John. He was sent to one of the worst imaginable places—a place where back-breaking work in the mines and deprivation were about all that was offered. You and I know what awaits John there. We know by good hindsight the wonderful thing God is about to do. But John doesn’t know. Before we talk about the glorious revelation that God is about to give John, it will benefit us to first get a feel for the context in which it came.
I. The CONTEXT of the revelation
The context in which God works is not always what we might expect or desire. There is this aged man who loved God with all his heart. And he writes these words in Revelation 1:9 “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.” That was the context. The revelation came to this “companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance”—listen to these words closely—“that is ours in Jesus.” I really don’t know how to put those words in our context because as a rule we do not think of those kind of things as being “ours in Jesus”.
We think of worldly success and earthly comfort as being “ours in Jesus.” I don’t think I have ever turned on Christian TV and heard an evangelist say, “Send in your $ 100 gift and receive suffering and kingdom and patient endurance—it’s ours in Jesus.” That does set well with the average American mindset. But John identifies himself as a brother and companion in those three things—“suffering and kingdom and patient endurance”.know very many Christians who could honestly say what John is saying in Revelation 1:9. In the Greek one article is attached to “thlipsei” (suffering), “basileia” (kingdom) and “hupomonee” (patient endurance) tying the three together. Do you want to walk in kingdom authority? Its doubtful that we can do that without some patient endurance as well. And sometimes that includes unpleasant circumstances. Sometimes that involves some suffering. Sometimes we are not spared unjust treatment.
Why do we pause to address the context of John’s revelation? Because revelation from God and special visitations from God tend to come in that kind of environment. Most of Paul’s epistles were written from a dingy prison cell—not from a plush, well-equipped office or from a fancy hotel room. Stephen’s glorious vision of Jesus came while he was being stoned to death. In 1Kings 17 Elijah was sent to a starving widow in Zaraphath rather than a king’s palace. There in a desperate situation the miracles occurred. We tend to want it both ways. We want the power of God and the awesome acts of God. We want the Red Sea to part. But we do not want Pharaoh’s army pursuing us. We do not want to be down to our last meal. None of us would have wanted to be in the place John found himself there on that criminal’s island.
But that’s were it happened—not in a temple somewhere, not even in a church—but on a sin-plagued island full of criminals and undesirables. There (can you believe it?) the Holy Spirit showed up. There Jesus sent an angel to John with the greatest prophetic revelation any man has ever received. I believe the revelation came to a man who was broken, humble and in pursuit of only one thing—God. There on that seemingly God-forsaken island God showed up in a very special way.
Why had God allowed such hardship to come into John’s life? Was it because John had not claimed the blessing with the right words of authority? Was it perhaps that John just didn’t have the faith to get the miracle he needed? We all know that’s not the reason. But can we apply what we see here in John’s life to our own? Can I get a mindset that is cooperative with God when my life gets uncomfortable? Do I have any other prayer than God get me out of here!