St John at Patmos,
John’s vision of Patmos (a vision rather than a theophany, incidentally!)
Among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.14His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
17When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
John was exiled to Patmos. Ostensibly, the end of influence, the end of his ministry, the end of his life. His life had ended. (I have so often felt like that, that my life as I had envisioned it has come to to a dead end, and failed!).
Yet, because of the word of God, which can be spoken even in the absence of the written Scripture, when you think your influence and ministry is over, it can be the strongest. (Another example is the wonderful, soul-nourishing letters Paul wrote in the desert of prison.)
(Patmos was hot and barren, incidentally. It informed John’ss vision of heaven–Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”)
And in this desert place, in this wilderness season, he received a vision of God, and it made everything different. He saw Christ--pure, passionate, powerful, eternal, beautiful.
And with the the Revelation, the despised, forgotten, powerless prisoner becomes a prophet and a pastor, a pastor for the ages, as the best spiritual writers are.
The most important things happen on the inside.Our spiritual life is the most important dimension of our lives–not the intellectual, not the physical, not even love and friendship.
And these are the words Christ said to John which changed everything
“Do not be afraid.
I am the Alpha and the Omega. I encompass everything.
The alphabet, all human learning, everything that happened, is happening, can happen, and will happen, is in my hands.
I am the Living One.
And I see you. I control your life, and I will control your death.”
John gains strength. The powerless prisoner becomes a writer and a prophet with a gift for 21 centuries.
And everything can change in the desert, for there you have the best possible conditions for seeing God.