The Apostle John, although he might have been Jesus’ most intimate associate, did not receive any special favors. In Revelation we meet John, probably in his mid to late 80’s, exiled to a remote island called Patmos. He was banished there for refusing to obey the ruling powers by ceasing to preach Jesus. All he could see was desolation; all he experienced was loneliness; everything spoke of death and destruction. His heart was heavy as he worried about the churches and the severe persecution of his brothers and sisters of the faith – and he was helpless to assist and stand with them.
Then, on the Lord’s Day, John was overwhelmed by and taken up in the Spirit of God and saw the risen, reigning Lord Jesus Christ. (1) Through this experience he learned an enduring lesson that he shared with his churches and with us: we can experience victorious living through a vision of the Sovereign Lord.
We can live victoriously when we acknowledge that there is an overwhelming presence. John’s geographical limits were no hindrance to him; his spirit was not in exile! He had turned to Christ and was taken up in the Spirit! It makes me reflect upon times when I felt defeated and all alone, and also how often I’ve had such flimsy excuses as to why I do not follow Christ more closely. I wonder how many blaring trumpets, burning bushes, or brilliant voices I have missed because I have taken my eyes off of Christ. But not John. He focused on Christ and was given a glorious vision: (Revelation 1:12-16): “Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force.”
Jesus is the “Son of Man” from the book of Daniel, before whom all nations and people will bow. Jesus Christ is Lord of all. Our focus is to remain on Jesus Christ the Lord. We can be in the middle of a dreary Patmos Island and yet be in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ! As Christians we can be in two places at once! So Dante was in prison yet wrote The Divine Comedy. So John Bunyan, while in prison, penned Pilgrim’s Progress. So John Milton, after going blind, authored Paradise Lost. So John, abandoned on a remote island, met the risen, reigning Lord Jesus Christ. So on our islands of restrictions we can be lifted up in the Spirit and be free! We are never alone!
So: what are your restrictions, frustrations, imprisonments? From what do you long to be free? You live surrounded by the overwhelming presence of Jesus Christ. Focus on Him.
Notice what happened to John when he focused on Christ – the things of earth grew strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” That’s when he experienced overwhelming encouragement. (Revelation 1:17-18): “But he placed his right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive for ever and ever…’” Notice it was Jesus’ right hand – the right hand in the Bible is:
• the hand of authority,
• the hand which holds the stars and planets,
• the hand with which Jesus blessed and healed,
• the hand through which He raised the dead
• the hand by which He broke the bread.
It is the hand through which surges the power of life. And with that hand Jesus reaches out and touches John’s shoulder and says, “Do not be afraid.” “I’ve got this! It’s okay!
I like how The Rev. Dr. Lloyd Oglivie explained it. He said Jesus disillusions us! In other words, He sets us free from our illusions, of our misunderstandings and misrepresentations of reality. Up to this point, John did not have a complete nor accurate view of the reality of the sovereignty of Christ – all He could see was the peril and struggles of the world. So Jesus disillusioned John and gave him a dose of heavenly reality. He extended the hand of blessing – the same hand He extends to each of us.
• What is your illusion?
• What do you fear?
• What do you doubt?
• Where do you need a dose of this heavenly reality?
• From what do you need to be disillusioned?
As Jesus reaches out to you, hear Him say, “And I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Jesus holds the keys to our destiny and the destiny of nations in His hands. It is Christ with whom we have to deal. And He is the One who says, “Do not be afraid.” “I’ve got this! It’s okay!” Jesus is the key to victorious living. He disillusions illusions!
What an overwhelming presence and encouragement! No matter what the circumstances of your life, commit to believe and live by the truth that with Jesus, our Lord and King, the last word is never darkness, but always light; never despair, but always hope; never death, but always life. After all, He’s got this! It’s okay!
(1) Picture from LOGOS