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Part 3 - Johnís Prelude


Rev 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.

Patmos is a small island near Turkey which is about 8 miles long. It is 25 miles away from the main coast and is essentially a mining township. Most of the workers in the mine were political prisoners. John being very old - nearly 100 - probably was not forced into the mine work and was left alone. Yet John was a political prisoner, a threat to the Rome - its integrity and stable social system. Probably he was chained to the prison walls. But we do not really have anything about the way he was treated in exile. John was exiled to this island by Emperor Domitian who ruled Rome from A.D. 81 to 96. Iraneus who wrote about this in A.D 170 declares that John saw this vision "towards the end of Domitianís reign." Hence we may date the vision at around A.D 96. Like most Roman emperors Domitian claimed to be God. He rebuilt many shrines for Jupiter, Juno and Minerva at enormous costs. His own image was excavated from Ephesus Temple where people probably sacrificed to Domitian. We can therefore understand that Christians who refused to sacrifice to their emperor were considered unpatriotic and aliens. Legend has it that John was finally released from Patmos prisons and returned to Ephesus, his own parish and died of old age in the year A.D 100. John was the last of the Apostles and the year A.D 100 brought to a close the Apostolic era of the church. It is interesting that John was the only apostle who died of old age and a natural death. This echoes the prophecy of Jesus in John 21:22

John 21:22 Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."

John 21:23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"

I presume that the implication is that if the intermediate church age was not ushered in Jesus would have been on the earth by A.D. 100.

John could have certainly written,

"I, John, the Apostle of Jesus, whom Jesus loved most and

Rt. Rev. Yohannes, The Arch Bishop of the Great Bishopric of Asia Minor."

No. He writes "I John, your brother."

This difference shows how early church was built not on human authority or clerical autocracy. Christians as a whole was under a severe persecution and there was no special credence for a Bishop as there were no code of behaviour in war in this battle. As in the times of John we are all partakers of three things.

1. Tribulation. All Christians will have tribulation.

John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

2. Kingdom. We all have the citizenship of a Kingdom which is not of the World, but in this world.

Luke 12:32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom."

3. Patience. This is the result of the first two:

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,

Having identified the visionary, the circumstances of the vision is presented now:

Rev 1:10 On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,

This is a double-edged sword. It has two possible meanings at the same time:

1. John was on Lordís Day - on a Sunday

"In the Spirit" is a typical word of the Prophets who saw visions. Thus we have

2 Chr 24:20 Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah

Ezek 11:5 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon me, and he told me to say:

2 Pet 1:21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

On the first day of the week Christians meet to worship and break bread together and have fellowship. Prayer times are times of visions because God gives his people prophecy in the spirit. This is shown in Old and the New Testament periods.

Dan 9:21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriele, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice.

Acts 10:9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.

Acts 10:10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.

Acts 10:11 He saw heaven opened.

 

The experience of trance and visions were common in the Old and the early New Testament periods. Later in the church age these experiences were lost. Trances are common in all religions, especially in the eastern and mystic religions. But that is no reason to throw the baby with the bath tub. Evidently prophetic experience can be under the possession of Holy Spirit, Good spirits and the evil spirits. Discernment and not denial that is necessary here.

2. The second meaning arise out of the fuller and wider meaning of the phrase, "The Lordís Day". The Day of the Lord is the end of the ages after the period of gentiles. Thus we have Isaiah speak of a day:

Isa 2:12-17 The LORD Almighty has a day .......... the LORD alone will be exalted in that day,

Isa 13:9 See, the day of the LORD is coming --a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger--

Jer 46:10 But that day belongs to the Lord, the LORD Almighty--

This Lordís day is referred to in Jer. 46.10, Ez 7.19, Joel 1.15-2.31 etc

Thus we have the clear picture now. On a Sunday John was in a trance and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in a mighty way. He was transported in time and space to the end of the gentiles into the Lordís Day, where he heard a sound behind him. He turns back into time and sees the vision - the history of the church period spread before him starting from the Apostolic Age to the end of the Ages.

This experience of being transported in space and time was experienced by prophets through the ages.

  • Thus Ezekiel was transported to the Bank of the Chebar from Palestine by the Spirit.

Ezek 3:14 The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the LORD upon me.

Ezek 3:15 I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Abib near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days--overwhelmed.

Ezek 3:16 At the end of seven days the word of the LORD came to me:

  • Phillip the evangelist was transported from the desert road to Azotius.

Acts 8:39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

Acts 8:40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

  • Paul was taken up into Paradise - the Third Heaven.

2 Cor 12:2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows.

2 Cor 12:3 And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows--

2 Cor 12:4 was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.

Such intra dimensional travel seem to have been a regular feature of the Prophets and is done in the Spirit. If dimensional jumps space and time travel cannot be achieved in nature by man it is because our sciences are limited to the four dimensional continuum.

Rev 1:11 which said: "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea."

John is now ordered to write all that he sees and send it to the seven churches named.

These churches are in Asia Minor and formed the various parishes of John. It probably is given in the order in which John visited them in a circuit as can be seen from the map below:

MAP

There were however four other townships where there were flourishing churches at that time - Milletus, Magnesia, Herapolis and Collosea. (These were also visited by Paul in his circuit) But these are not included in the list. Why were these omitted and only seven are mentioned.? On the nature of revelatory symbolism, it indicates the special prophetic meanings of the number 7 which are used in abundance through out the Bible. This will merit a special series of study.

Rev 1:12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,

The seven lampstands evidently represents the seven churches. Jesus is in the midst of them. Lampstand represents the churches whom he has left behind as witnesses.

Mat 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses

In the Old Testament the lampstand in the Temple was a seven pronged stand. Now the lampstand has split into seven different stands so that it will fill the earth. Israel was meant be the light to the nations. It was therefore concentrated as one lampstand in the temple in Israel. But Israel failed to evangelize and when the new Israel was formed, the lamp was no longer a seven pronged single stand, but seven different stands - indicating a scattered church in the midst of the gentiles. Early church had the tendency of remaining concentrated in Jerusalem. They formed a community of self help. But that was defeating the purpose and so Lord scattered them into all parts of the world by bringing in persecution.

 

Rev 1:13 and 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.

Rev 1:14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.

Rev 1:15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.

Rev 1:16 In 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.

But Jesus is still in the midst of them. He is the Lord of the Church. He did promise his presence till the end of the age.

It is strange that Jesus retained his human form even after resurrection. It shows that in the totality of the Kingdom of Heaven, in the vast inter-galactic, inter-dimensional civilization God man has a special place. The Jesus whom John knew and described in the gospel is not the same Jesus whom John met now. The Jesus of the gospel is the forgiving loving merciful person, but now he is seen in glory. John had seed this glory once in the mount of transfiguration. But this was much more awesome. It was difficult for John to exactly explain what Jesus looked like. This was therefore given in such terms as "like" "was like" etc. An abstract impressionistic painting is given to us. If you would try to paint this picture on a canvass, it will be an impossible task and will result in a figure far different from the figure of man - yet he was "like a son of man". Here is the picture:

someone "like a son of man,"  dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and  with a golden sash around his chest.

His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and  his eyes were like blazing fire.

His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and  his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.

In 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.

His dress

The total picture of Mesia the King. Clothed with a gown of royalty, girded in gold. He is also represented as the ancient one with hairs white as wool, white as snow, a 2000 year old man, who has defied decay and death. This is the same vision Daniel had.

Dan 7:9 "As I looked, "thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.

His eyes

His eyes were like fire - searching and consuming fire. The tenderness and mercy which characterized the Jesus on the cross is gone. The period of grace is ended.

Jer 17:10 "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."

Heb 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we

must give account.

His feet

His feet were like unto burnished brass, strong and solid to destroy and to trample as described in Is. 63:1-6

Isa 63:1 Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? "It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save."

Isa 63:2 Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress?

Isa 63:3 "I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing.

Isa 63:4 For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come.

Isa 63:5 I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so my own arm worked salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me.

Isa 63:6 I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground."

His voice

His voice was like the sound of many waters.

Water in the Bible refers to the Holy Sprit and the word. But here the usage is in plural. When used in plural as Waters, or sea it refers to the nations of the world - people of the world. Here Jesusí voice was like many waters, above the voice of all people gathered together. The voice of King of the Worlds. This is the Law which flows out of his mouth. It is also shown in the double edged sword that proceeds from his mouth.

Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

From his mouth procedeth the two edged sword

Isa 11:4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

Rev 1:17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.

Even John, who claimed to be the one whom Jesus loved, one who leaned into the bosom of Jesus felled down at his feet. This is a new revelation - a new aspect which he did not know before. He was told in parables earlier. When he met Jesus, the awesomness was overpowering.

Rev 1:17 When 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.

Rev 1:18 I 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.

Yet the touch of Jesus was the same. It was reassuring. Then Jesus explains to him what he is seeing. This is the revelation of Jesus.

I am the First and the Last. I am God. I am the creator of the Universe. I am the purpose of the creation. Everything finds its ultimate purpose in Jesus

I am the Life. Even though I came down as man and died, I am alive and because I live all men may live. The keys of death and Hades are with me. The key is simply the faith in Jesus.

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;

John 11:26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.