358 - John Has a Profound Encounter with God
December 24 - Nº 358 Revelation 1
John was living in Ephesus and ministering to churches in Asia when Domitian was declared the Emperor of Rome. He was a very authoritarian ruler. He wanted to be known as the Supreme Ruler—not only politically but religiously as well. He claimed to be divine and demanded to be worshipped as Dominus et Deus (“Lord and God”). He despised Christianity, and the persecution of Christians rose to a new level. As the key leader of seven churches in a Roman province, John was targeted. The elderly apostle was exiled to the island of Patmos for being a threat to Rome. Patmos was a small, prison island in the middle of the Aegean Sea made up of volcanic rock. The worst criminals and political offenders were sent there to live out their sentences. They were forced to work in rock mines six days a week, and they huddled together in cold, dark caves at night. Food was scarce. It was so harsh that most prisoners did not survive. It was on Patmos under these horrible conditions that John received four visions from God. They revealed to him what was going to take place in the future. They all centered around Jesus, the resurrected Messiah. John recorded these visions in a letter and addressed it to the seven churches he had served. [It is interesting to note that Revelation is the only book in the Bible that promises a blessing to anyone “who reads it out loud,” as well as “to those who hear it and take it to heart.” Although some of the symbols and images may seem very mysterious and confusing, most of them were previously defined in the prophecies of the Old Testament. When this is not the case, John explains them in the context of his visions.] John received his first vision on a Sabbath Day. In it he saw seven golden lampstands. Standing in the middle of them was someone who looked like “a son of man.” (In Daniel 7:13-14, the prophet used this phrase to describe the coming Messiah.) He was dressed in a robe that reached down to his feet, and he had a golden sash around his chest. His hair was white like wool and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet glowed and his voice sounded like rushing waters. He held seven stars in his right hand, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was as brilliant as the sun. The vision shocked John so much that he fell at the son of man’s feet as if he were dead. The glorified Jesus told him not to be afraid. He said, “I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! I hold the keys of death and Hades” (the place unbelievers go to wait for judgment). He directed John to write down what he had just seen (the past), what was currently taking place (the present), and what would take place later (the future). Jesus had just given John a divine outline for his message. He explained that the seven lampstands were the seven churches that John had ministered to in Ephesus. And the seven stars that he was holding were the angels who were assigned as messengers to each of these churches.
John served Jesus for almost his entire life, yet he ended up on a dreadful prison island. But while he was there, God revealed glorious things that no one else has ever seen—things John would never have wanted to miss. God sometimes takes us to dark places so we can fully appreciate and experience His presence and His glory!