The Perspective From Patmos! by: Dan Gulley, Smithville, TN
Lyle Schaller, in Activating the Passive Church, related the following story. A young couple rented a vacation cottage for a week. One afternoon the husband, sitting in the living room, looked out a window at the swimming pool and called to his wife, “Let’s change our clothes and go get some exercise.” His wife, washing dishes in the kitchen while looking out the window watching some people playing tennis, quickly agreed. While she dressed for a tennis match, he put on swimming trunks. Schaller concludes correctly that different windows result in different perspectives which bring about different behaviors! “Perspective” is defined @ merriam-webster.com as “a visible scene,” but also “the ability to view things in their true relations or relative importance.” Let’s now think spiritually for a bit.
When the book of Revelation begins, things don’t look very promising for the church of Christ. The apostle John reveals at 1:9 he is suffering “tribulation” along with other Christians in the Roman Empire. He was a political prisoner on “the island called Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” John preached Jesus at a time when preaching Jesus was costly and even dangerous to anyone who preached about the Lord. Throughout the book the church is depicted as facing a fierce and extremely powerful foe. Read the book and you’ll see the church involved in a life and death struggle at a time when Christians really were dying for their faith (see 2:13; 6:9, etc.). From a purely sight-only perspective it looked like a hopeless situation. But then in 1:10 John reveals his perspective is anything but sight-only. John writes, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” He heard a loud, ear-piercing voice “as of a trumpet” speaking, and when he turned he saw (while “in the Spirit”) “One like the Son of Man.” Check it out for yourself – that’s Bible parlance for Jesus Christ. What John saw was opposite how he had seen Christ when He died on the cross possibly some 60 years earlier — bruised, beaten, bloody, and eventually dead and buried in Joseph’s borrowed tomb (John chapter 19); a tomb the same Son of Man vacated three days later (John 21). Now on Patmos John sees a Christ arrayed in a glorious and royal garment (vs 13). John goes on to describe Jesus in evocative figurative terms that depict His power, purity, sovereignty, holiness, durability, authority, splendor and majesty! The Christ John sees so completely overwhelms him he writes, “and I fell at His feet as dead” (vs 17). The Jesus John sees is “the ruler of the kings of the earth,” including the pompous, proud, power-hungry one ruling in Rome at the time. Jesus is the One who “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (vs 5b). He is the eternal One, “The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (vs 8). He defies death, declaring, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (vs 18). There’s more, but surely we can see that a little more of the Patmos perspective would go far in empowering and emboldening many in the Lord’s church who are too much for this world. Is the Jesus you see a mamby-pamby weakling, or a glorious, living, reigning Lord? Maybe we should all be a little more “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (1:10a). Maybe then we could see what John saw.