Monday, October 10, 2011

Quarantining the Gospel (Revelation 1:9)

Which New Testament character was exiled on an island? John

A Christian named John wrote the Bible’s last book, Revelation, while on the Island of Patmos.

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. (Revelation 1:9 NASB)
Which John penned Revelation and the circumstances during its writing are debated as the book does not explicitly say.

John does not claim to be exiled on Patmos, only that he was there “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 1:9 NASB).” These words echo those spoken at the breaking of the fifth seal (Revelation 6:9) which clearly speak of Christian martyrs. As such, it has been deduced that John, too, was persecuted.

Tradition claims that the author was exiled on the island. Chuck Swindoll (b. 1934) colorfully compares Patmos to Alactraz (Letters to Churches … Then and Now, 3). There is no concrete evidence to justify this analogy. John Philip McMurdo “J.P.M.” Sweet (1927-2009) counters that there is “no contemporary evidence that it was used as a penal settlement” (Sweet, Revelation (TPI New Testament Commentaries), 64).”

Assuming John was exiled at the time of his writing, the reader is left to wonder why the pastors of the seven churches to whom he was writing were not also exiled. If the author is John the Apostle writing during Nero’s reign, the reader must wonder why he was exiled instead of executed.

Historically speaking, who do you think of when you think of exile? Why would a government exile someone instead of executing them? Would it change the interpretation of Revelation were its author not exiled when it was penned?

Whether exiled or not, John wrote from a remote location. Patmos is a rocky crescent shaped Greek island in the Aegean Sea near the west coast of Turkey. It is relatively small, spanning only 5 by 10 miles. Revelation 1:9 marks the only time Patmos is referenced in the Bible.

If John was exiled, the intent would be to isolate him to reduce his influence. If this was the case, it did not work as the letter John wrote there is still impacting the world centuries later. The Gospel cannot be quarantined.

“Only the misfortune of exile can provide the in-depth understanding and the overview into the realities of the world.” - Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), a Jewish novelist who fled to Austria when Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) rose to power

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