John On The Island Of Patmos
By Rodney W. Francis
The Book of Revelation was revealed to the Apostle John on an island called Patmos. He was banished there for his testimony of Jesus. This study is mainly to do with Verses 9-11 of Revelation 1 , and is bringing together the different Bible translations and descriptions of Patmos and of John being in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.
PATMOS (mentioned only once in Scripture):
Patmos is “A sterile island about 30 miles in circumference, in the Aegean Sea, South West of Samos and 45 miles West of Miletus; now called Patino, or Patimo, or Patmosa, and reckoned among the Sporades (“two groups of Greek islands in the Aegean . . . which lie off the South West coast of Turkey” ~ Collins Dictionary), with an excellent harbour” (Young’s).
“Patmos” means “my killing” (Dictionary of Scripture Proper Names by J.B. Jackson). It was a sterile island. “Sterile” meaning “1. unable to produce offspring; infertile. 2. free from living . . . 3. (of plants or their parts) not producing or bearing seeds, fruit, spores, stamens, or pistils. 4. lacking inspiration or vitality; fruitless” ~ Collins). How interesting that God would use such a place to bring to John the Revelation of Jesus Christ! (God sure works in an “opposite spirit” to what man does)!
Patmos is “An island off the West coast of Asia Minor . . . an islet in the Mediterranean” (Strong’s).
“A small, rocky island belonging to the group called “Sporades,” in that part of the Aegean known as the Icarian Sea. On account of its rocky, barren and desolate nature the Roman government used the island as a place of banishment (“banish” means “to expel from a place, especially by an official decree as a punishment. To drive away” - Collins) for criminals. The prisoners were compelled to work the mines of the island. The Emperor Domitian banished the revelator St. John to this island (Revelation 1:9-10 ), A.D. 95. Patmos was the locale for the far-reaching apocalyptic visions of the Book of Revelation. The 30-mile square Aegean island has magnificent scenery and the white crags of the shore line and the beauty of the open ocean furnish an example of a geographical background which aids the Biblical interpreter to expound the events and experiences of the revelator who was banished to its shores” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary).
“A Greek island in the Aegean, in the North West Dodecanese: St. John’s place of exile (about 95 A.D.), where he wrote the Apocalypse. Population: 2486 (1971). Area: 34 square kilometres (13 square miles)” (Collins).
While the comments of the island are given as “magnificent scenery,” we must not forget it was a place of banishment, punishment. John was not there because of any desire of his own; he was there because he was being persecuted for proclaiming the powerful message of Jesus Christ! Let’s look now at some Bible translations:
BIBLE TRANSLATIONS OF REVELATION 1:9-11
The following is a list of several Bible Translations to help us see how these verses are presented to us. They give us a wonderful picture of triumph over adversity, of God coming through for us, in spite of the negative circumstances or the evil desires of those in worldly positions of authority. Let the Word of God speak to your heart today and inspire you to seek to be caught up in the Spirit of God. He holds the answers for all your circumstances, struggles and problems. He has your future firmly in His hand. Trust Him!
KING JAMES VERSION: “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation(“pressure, compression, straitness; hence, pressure from evils, affliction, distress” - Bullinger’s Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament), and in the kingdom and patience (“a remaining under, a bearing-up under; hence, patient endurance, holding out, enduring” - Bullinger’s) of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and for the testimony(Greek word is “marturia” from “martus” meaning “a witness, martyr” - Strong’s) of Jesus Christ.”
John was suffering. He was living in the patience of Jesus Christ ~ not his own! (That is something far beyond what we can muster up of ourselves.) Patmos was no picnic! He was subject to the wicked taunts of evil, Christ-rejecting men! Men in authority had banished him to that island, to make him suffer for his pricking their consciences through the preaching of the mighty Word of God!
KING JAMES VERSION (Continued): “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia . . . ”
NEW KING JAMES VERSION: “I, John, both your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,’ and, ‘What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia . . . ’”
AMPLIFIED BIBLE: “I, John, your brother and companion ~ sharer and participator ~ with you in the tribulation and kingdom and patient endurance [which are] in Jesus Christ, was on the isle called Patmos, [banished] on account of [my witnessing to] the Word of God and the testimony ~ the proof, the evidence ~ for Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit ~ rapt in His power ~ on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a great voice like the calling of a war trumpet, Saying, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last. Write promptly what you see (your vision) in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia . . .”
THE LIVING BIBLE: “It is I, your brother John, a fellow sufferer for the Lord’s sake, who is writing this letter to you. I, too, have shared the patience Jesus gives, and we shall share His kingdom! I was on the island of Patmos, exiled there for preaching the Word of God, and for telling what I knew about Jesus Christ. It was the Lord’s Day and I was worshipping, when suddenly I heard a loud voice behind me, a voice that sounded like a trumpet blast, saying, ‘I am A and Z, the First and Last!’ And then I heard him say, ‘Write down everything you see, and send your letter to the seven churches in Turkey . . .’ ”
NEW AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION: I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos, because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches . . .”
NEW ENGLISH BIBLE: I, John, your brother, who share with you in the suffering and the sovereignty and the endurance which is ours in Jesus ~ I was on the island called Patmos because I had preached God’s word and borne my testimony to Jesus. It was on the Lord’s day, and I was caught up by the Spirit; and behind me I heard a loud voice, like the sound of a trumpet, which said to me, “Write down what you see on a scroll and send it to the seven churches . . .”
GOOD NEWS BIBLE: I am John, your brother, and as a follower of Jesus I am your partner in patiently enduring the suffering that comes to those who belong to His Kingdom. I was put on the island of Patmos because I had proclaimed God’s word and the truth that Jesus revealed. On the Lord’s day the Spirit took control of me, and I heard a loud voice, that sounded like a trumpet, speaking behind me. It said, “Write down what you see, and send the book to the churches in these seven cities . . .”
JERUSALEM BIBLE: My name is John, and through our union in Jesus I am your brother and share your sufferings, your kingdom, and all you endure. I was on the island of Patmos(used by the Romans as a penal colony) for having preached God’s word and witnessed for Jesus; it was the Lord’s day and the Spirit possessed me, and I heard a voice behind me, shouting like a trumpet, “Write down all that you see in a book, and send it to the seven churches . . .”
THE NEW TESTAMENT IN MODERN ENGLISH ~ J. B. PHILLIPS: I, John, who am your brother and your companion in the distress (“1. to cause mental pain to; upset badly. 2. to subject to financial or other trouble. 5. mental pain; anguish. 6. the act of distressing or the state of being distressed. 7. physical or financial trouble” - Collins), the kingdom and the faithful endurance to which Jesus calls us, was on the island called Patmos because I had spoken God’s message and borne witness to Jesus. On the Lord’s day I knew myself inspired by the Spirit, and I heard from behind me a voice loud as a trumpet-call, saying, “Write down in a book what you see, and send it to the seven Churches . . . ”
THE MESSAGE ~ Eugene H. Peterson: I, John, with you all the way in the trial and the Kingdom and the passion of patience in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of God’s Word, the witness of Jesus. It was Sunday and I was in the Spirit, praying. I heard a loud voice behind me, trumpet-clear and piercing: “Write what you see into a book. Send it to the seven churches . . .”
EVEN IN ADVERSITY WE CAN BE IN THE SPIRIT
What a tremendous lesson there is in these verses for us. John would have been shipped out to Patmos ~ against his will ~ as a result of a decision made by unbelieving Governmental authorities. They sent him there “to get him out of the way” and to “teach him a lesson as to who has the last say.”Their authority did not bargain on the higher, greater authority of God in a Christian believer’s life! John turned the negative into a positive. Instead of life becoming somewhat one of despair, to the point of overwhelming him, he used those negative circumstances and that foreign place to continue his relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. So much so that we read he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” What man had designed to break (and then destroy) John’s heart and faith, was turned by God into a tremendous victory. John received revelation of Jesus Christ that has impacted an unbelieving world ever since! The Book of Revelation lives on today, speaking to and challenging the lives of millions.
YIELD TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
The true way for a Christian to rise above the trials and testing of life is to continually seek to yield to the Holy Spirit. He is living within us and He is far greater than any obstacle man or the devil can bring against us! We need to keep reminding ourselves that THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE SAME HOLY SPIRIT THAT RAISED JESUS FROM THE DEAD!! (Romans 8:11 ). AND HE LIVES INSIDE OF YOU AND ME FOR EVER!! NOW! TOMORROW! and ALWAYS!! Praise the Lord!
Let us learn from the statements of the afore-mentioned Bible translations.
If John could rise to such great heights in the Spirit in the midst of tribulation, suffering and despair, then surely we can too. When we are in the Spirit we are able to see, hear and know things. John received a revelation of Jesus Christ that was awesome. It was so clear and real that he was able to write it down so others could benefit from his experience (I wonder if John realized way back there the size of the impact that experience on Patmos would have had on Christians for generations to come?)
It seems to me that Patmos was a place where many did not survive. It was a sterile place; crops could not produce. Food would have been scarce; maybe people like John would have been left to starve to death? But he didn’t! He survived. How do we know? We would not have had the Book of Revelation if God did not somehow work a way to get John off that desolate prison colony. What a testimony of the deliverance of our God!
These few verses set the scene for the Book of Revelation. May we not under-estimate the cost that was paid (by John) to bring to us the inspired Word of God.
What about us?
May you be caught up in the Holy Spirit today!