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An Island Dream

Key References: Revelation 1; The Acts of the Apostles, chaps. 56, 57, pp. 568-592; The Bible Story (1994), vol. 10, pp. 167-170; Our Beliefs nos. 18, 2, 13

Power Text

“ ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty’ ” (Revelation 1:8).

Power Point

We worship Jesus as the Son of God and Lord of our lives.

Imagine that you were separated from all your friends, that you were on a small, isolated, rocky island in the middle of nowhere. How would you feel? That was John’s situation, but God used it to give John a wonderful message for you and me.

A white-haired man stands before the tribunal. The emperor Domitian presides at the trial of the last living disciple of Jesus. His enemies expect the emperor to give the death penalty.

Patiently, silently, John listens as people accuse him of sharing the gospel of Jesus. Then John is lost in thought. He doesn’t hear the angry words. Instead he remembers a time 50 years earlier when Jesus stood before a similar group. John had watched as High Priest Caiaphas secured the death penalty for Jesus. John had heard witness after witness lie about his Master. John had cringed as violent hands abused his Savior. A shudder brings John back to his own trial.

He sees Domitian’s angry face. He hears the threatening words of his enemies. John thinks, I am unworthy to share in Jesus’ experience. John remembers Jesus standing calmly before His false accusers. That memory helps John stand calmly before these men in Rome. He silently praises God for the hope he found in Jesus.

The Jewish leaders have followed John to Rome. They have refused to give up. They hate the teachings of Jesus’ followers and are determined to destroy every shred of Christianity. But this old man is in their way. They have destroyed Christians’ homes. They have thrown Christians into prison. They have stoned them and crucified them, yet they still grow. And the Jewish leaders know that John’s wisdom and support have strengthened the Christians and worked against their purpose. If only they can destroy John, the last of the original 12 disciples, they think they can eliminate the Nazarene’s followers once and for all. The hall becomes silent as John steps forward. His shoulders stoop with age, but his white head stands tall as he speaks. In a calm, clear voice John talks about Jesus. His words are simple yet powerful. Those listening can’t help being astonished at his eloquence. Suddenly Domitian bursts from his throne and pronounces the sentence, “To death with him.” The Jewish prosecutors are thrilled. Their plan has worked. Soldiers drag John outside to a huge vat of bubbling oil prepared for this execution. They drop the aged apostle into the churning brew. But instead of boiling to death, John sits peacefully. Amazed, the soldiers lift him out. Coated with oil, but unharmed, John stands dripping before the startled monarch.

the startled monarch. Domitian’s anger sputters to a silence. He can’t kill John, but he does not want to release him either. Instead, he banishes him to Patmos, a barren island used to exile prisoners. Surely this will end John’s influence over the Christian church. Surely this old man will die alone and forgotten.

But Domitian is wrong. In spite of the gloom, John thrives. He can’t visit from church to church to strengthen the believers anymore. He can’t preach to crowds hungry for the teachings of Jesus anymore. But John finds Jesus in the rocky hills of Patmos. John sees the works of creation and draws near to the Creator-God. It is here, on Patmos, that Jesus reveals Himself to John.

Day after day John sees Jesus in vision. He tells John, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last” (Revelation 1:17). John is comforted knowing that the church will not be persecuted to death. Jesus will take care of His church.

Jesus tells John to write what he was shown in vision and send it to His people. “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later” (verse 19). Now John knows why he did not die in a vat of boiling oil. Now he knows why he alone of all the 12 is still alive. The revelation of Jesus must be written down for God’s people now and in the centuries to come. So John writes. Removed from his preaching and healing for the fledgling church, John is able to focus on one task. The emperor expected to silence John by sending him to Patmos. Instead he made it possible for Jesus’ message of Revelation to be given to the whole world.