god’s People, part 295: John of Patmos

Read Revelation 1:1-9

“The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:14).

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables uas to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 295: John of Patmos. So, this is it. This is the last part of what turned out to be a 295 part series exploring all of the major and many of the minor people in the Bible. Of course, I will continue on writing general devotions just as I have since 2012; however, this devotion is bitter-sweet to write as I have been working on and off on this series since May of 2017.

In this devotion, we will be looking at our final person, John, who wrote the book of Revelation. When it comes to the Book of Revelation, there is much mystery, confusion and controversy. Often times people will accidentally refer to it as “Revelations”, thus making it plural; however, this is incorrrect. It was one revelation given to the author, John, who recorded it down for the seven churches of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). These churches were located in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

The full title of the Book of Revelation is actually, The Revelation of Jesus Christ to John. Thus, John was less the author and more of the scribe. Jesus dictated to John what he was to write down for the seven churches who had been under, presumably, localized persecution. On top of that, there were many false teachers turning people within those congregations away from Christ and all that the apostles had taught them. Revelation is considered to be a part of the Johannine community because of it’s theological similarities to the Gospel and, especially, the letters of John.

The Gospel of John, and the epistles, never identify who the author was. Church tradition has presumed that the Apostle John, son of Zebedee was the author of these texts; however, it must be said that all were written anonymously. The author of the Gospel only ever refers to himself as the one whom Jesus loved. Christians have identified this author with the Apostle John because he was never mentioned by name in the Gospels, and therefore it seems as if he could have been writing it.

It is clear that the epistles (letters) of John were written by the same author or community, hence the name Johannine Community. As for Revelation, there has been much dispute as to who its author was. Justin Martyr (c. 100 – c. 165 AD) and Bishop Iranaeus   (c. 130 – c. 202 AD) identified the author of Revelation as John the Apostle, son of Zebedee; however, this was later rejected by Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria (d. 265 AD) and an influential elder named Gaius, who also lived in the third centruy.

While Justin Martyr and Irenaeus were closer to the time that Revelation was written, Bishop Donysius and Gaius were probably correct in rejecting the Apostle John as the author. The author of Revelation introduces himself merely as John, a servant of Christ, who was exiled to the small, rocky island of Patmos for preaching and teaching about Jesus; therefore, it is best to refer to this author as John of Patmos, for if John was the apostle, he would have identified himself as such. Furthermore, John refers to the twelve apostles in Revelation 21:14, as if they were distinct from himself.

Revelation is a tough book to decipher because it is filled with tons of metaphorical and apocalyptical imagery, numerology and code language that is hard for one to decipher, especially if one is reading it in an English translation. John wrote the book because he was given a vision of Christ return to earth, where he will one day establish God’s Kingdom on a newly reborn earth. Sin, death, evil, and opression will cease to be. There will be no more mourning or pain, no more suffering or sorrow.

Thus, Christ’s Revelation to John, despite all of its weirdness and horrifying images and events, is a book of hope. John of Patmos, suffering for following Jesus, was given a message, a vision, a revelation about the HOPE we have in Jesus and that HOPE will one day become a reality that will forever end our current state of hopelessness. How awesome is that?

I challenge you to read the first three chapters of Revelation. How do you fit in with Christ’s assessment of those churches? In what ways can you remove the things that are hindering your relationship with our Lord. Revelation is best read as a mirror, as opposed to a measure for other people. Let us find blessing in the fact that Jesus Christ revealed to John of Patmos the ways in which we all can improve for the glory of God and his coming kingdom.

“Look, I am making everything new!” – God (Revelation 21:5, NLT).

Lord, help me to keep my eye on you so that I may not stray from the path you have set me on. Amen.

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