What Is the Patmos Experience?

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john the evangelist on the island of Patmos I once had a dream where I was on an island surrounded by water and a voice said “You are on the island of Patmos.” I was there for a certain time and felt stuck. I couldn’t leave the island because it was surrounded by water and I didn’t have a boat. Nobody came to me and took me away from that island. In the Bible it is John the Apostle who was banished on the island of Patmos because of his testimony of Jesus. He was preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and because of that, evil, Christ-rejecting men had banished him to that island, where he was suffering. Let’s look at the island of Patmos. Patmos is “a small rocky and barren island, one of the group called the “Sporades,” in the AEgean Sea. It is mentioned in Scripture only in Revelation 1:9. It was on this island, to which John was banished by the emperor Domitian (A.D. 95), that he received from God the wondrous revelation recorded in his book. This has naturally invested it with the deepest interest for all time. It is now called Patmo.”

M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for Patmos". "Easton's Bible Dictionary".

Patmos is (Revelation 1:9) “a rugged and bare island in the AEgean Sea, 20 miles south of Samos and 24 west of Asia Minor. It was the scene of the banishment of St. John in the reign of Domitian, A.D. 95. Patmos is divided into two nearly equal parts, a northern and a southern, by a very narrow isthmus where, on the east side are the harbor and the town. On the hill to the south, crowning a commanding height, is the celebrated monastery which bears the name of “John the Divine.” Halfway up the descent is the cave or grotto where tradition says that St. John received the Revelation.”

Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Patmos,'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". . 1901.
The name Patmos means “mortal” because it was a barren island. It’s interesting how God would give revelation to John on such an infertile island! God’s ways are not our ways! I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account 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 a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” Revelation 1:9-11 Imagine the situation in which John was living. He was banished and imprisoned on a barren island. Food was scarce so people might have had to starve. People could have died of starvation. It seems that not many people could survive there. But John did survive on this island. God connected with him in the Spirit and gave him a vision and command to write down what he saw in his vision in a book which we know as the Book of Revelation. John didn’t end up dying on the island of Patmos but God spared his life and let him live until old age. He is the only Apostle said to not have died of martyrdom. God turned John’s desperate situation into something good. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

What can we learn from John’s experience on the island of Patmos?

As Christians we will likely have a Patmos experience in our life. As followers or servants of Christ we will be rejected by other people, separated, banished, isolated or persecuted even until death. It’s because we are not following worldly patterns and ungodly governments. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 2 Timothy 3:12 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. John 15:18-21 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 10:22 Most Christians will encounter some form of rejection in their life because of Jesus Christ but there are Christians who are separated, isolated or banished by their family, the society or the government because of their faith in Jesus. And then there are those who are heavily persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, and even killed for their Christian faith. All these experiences are some kind of Patmos experience – either spiritual or physical in the case of real life persecution, torture, isolation, and imprisonment. Having a Patmos experience leaves you in a place of physical limitation and infertitility, even death, a place of banishment and punishment because of following Jesus Christ and not submitting to worldly patterns and governments, a place of limited supply and connection with the world and other people. At the same time you are also in a place of highest spiritual connection with God. John wrote “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” (Revelation 1:10) In the midst of tribulation, suffering, and despair, John was able to be in the Spirit and see, hear, and know things. He had a spiritual encounter with the risen Jesus Christ. The Lord personally connected with him and gave him a personal revelation which John was commanded to write down. Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. Revelation 1:12-20 Patmos is also a place of prophetic and apocalyptic revelations. The Apostle John received a prophetic and apocalyptic revelation of Jesus Christ. It was so clear, vivid, and real that he was able to write down everything he saw, heard, and felt, and got to know. Jesus was showing John in a special and personal way that in the end, He will judge the world and have final victory over all the evil powers. 4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:4-8 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” Revelation 1:10-11 Finally, Patmos is also a place where the Holy Spirit is highly active because it is surrounded by water. Water, the living water, is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13 Despite all the tribulations, suffering, and despair, John didn’t give up on his faith but continued his relationship with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. He yielded to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He turned his negative experience into a positive one. John was overflown by the Holy Spirit and God let John experience a very special encounter with Him in the spirit. In this special encounter he received revelations which he wrote down in a book called the Book of Revelation which has had a tremendous impact on people since then.

We can learn from John’s Patmos experience that

1. as a follower and servant of Jesus Christ you will have to go through tribulations, suffering, and despair because Jesus Christ experienced the same. However you will never go through all of this alone. God is always with you. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Romans 8:35 Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. Acts 14:22 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. Psalm 139:7-12 2. you will go through the wilderness for some time to be directed, tested, refined, and prepared for for what God has called you to. Even Jesus Christ had to go through this. John the Baptist didn’t even come out of the wilderness but preached and ministered directly from it. Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. Mark 1:12-13 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, Exodus 19:2 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” 4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Matthew 3:1-6 And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” Zechariah 13:19 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. Isaiah 48:10 So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:7 But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. Job 23:10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. Psalm 66:10 And some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time. Daniel 11:35 3. Revelations from God or God’s presence is not depending on any location. God can connect with you and meet you anywhere He wills – in a dream, in a vision, while reading His Word, during prayer and worship time…, even in the wilderness or in a very dark place. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. Revelation 12:6 And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. And God was with the boy, and he grew up. He lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt. Genesis 21:17-21 The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has listened to your affliction. Genesis 16:7-11 “He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Deuteronomy 32:10 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:3-5 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds, then he opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings, that he may turn man aside from his deed and conceal pride from a man; he keeps back his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword. Job 33:14-18 And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Numbers 12:6 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Matthew 2:13 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:21 4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. 1 Kings 19:4-20

Conclusion

As Christians we are not promised an easy life. We will face trials, tribulations, suffering, despair, and even death but God will always be with us. We are set apart from the world to share the gospel and to walk the path God has prepared for us. Sometimes this path might lead us to the wilderness or Patmos where we are directed, tested, refined, and prepared for the calling and purpose God has given us. Revelations from God or God’s presence are not depending on any location. God can connect with you and meet you anywhere He wills – in a dream, in a vision, while reading His Word, during prayer and worship time…, even in the wilderness or in a very dark place. We need to fully trust in Jesus Christ and yield to Him and the Holy Spirit. God is available to meet every challenge life throws at us both negative and positive. When we fully surrender our life to God, He will turn the negative into the positive so that even others can benefit from our experience. Isn’t that amazing?