John, The Apostle
I am drawn to this man, John, as he was drawn to Jesus. As I consider those words, I turn my eyes past him to that One, Jesus Christ. John is among the cloud of witnesses now. He is one of the twelve who lived a full life. His martyrdom (martyr=witness) was not one that saw death in the brutal way as we understand most, or all, of the other first disciples. They were all personally called to follow Jesus. John and his brother James were both called. They were not the same in their calling or their life journey. The same was true of Peter and John. Jesus’ conversation with Peter on the beach after breakfast is so amazing. Quiet, deeply personal, and wonderful. He wants to meet each of us that way. Have you ever had breakfast with Jesus? He will sit with you at a table, you know. Read Rev. 3:19-20 again.
I have understood that John and James were part of Jesus’ extended earthly family. That makes me think, he had known them as they grew up as kids. Yes, this awesome One, Jesus, grew as a child. John was close to Him from the start. At the table, on the night Jesus was betrayed, John was leaning on Him. Men will hug, but in today’s Western culture, we avoid the appearance of a distorted lifestyle. John was the closest one to Jesus of the twelve. Their was an intimacy and trust between them. And Jesus knew John’s destiny was different than the others. Read John 21:12, 20-25. Peter would experience the sufferings of Christ by crucifixion. John would know it another way.
Tradition tells us, and I believe it, that John suffered severe persecution under a Roman emperor, Domitian. That man was known as the one of the most violent persecutors of believers. He had John dipped in boiling oil but it was to no effect. With that, John was exiled to Patmos which was the prison for the worst criminals and the insane. We understand that John brought with him the power and presence of the Holy Spirit and we expect many on that island were transformed. The Lord saw and knows. Having passed through all this trouble, the Lord brought John to the place for a most awesome revelation of Himself. John was in the Spirit and heard and saw the things that were about to take place. He saw The Lamb of God, the root of David, The Lion of the tribe of Judah, open the scroll of God’s purpose through the remainder of human history.
This was two thousand years ago. We could follow that trail but we want to continue with John. Jesus had indicated on the beach that were He to want John to remain until He returned that was up to Himself. John went on to clarify in His gospel that Jesus did not say that he, John, would not die. On Patmos, he did see the glory of God. He saw and experienced more than Daniel, and Ezekiel, and Isaiah. This exile was not John’s end. Domitian died and his successor allowed for John’s release. He went to Ephesus, where we understand he had been earlier. I have heard, and believe it true, that he was then part of that gathering where Timothy was the overseer, the elder. We also understand it was there that he passed fully into the glory he had seen in part on the island.
While there is some disagreement about the timing and the sequence of John’s writing, if we consider his own spiritual growth, the content and character of each book speaks for itself. I should also mention that all may not agree or accept the history I mention. That history is not essential. I think it valuable that we agree that he wrote all his work after Patmos. He writes having seen so much that is truly heavenly reality. Consider that in his gospel, chapter 3, he writes of Jesus saying that He is in heaven as He speaks to Nicodemus. That is not included in all manuscripts, I know, but it is in most. Jesus walked in a spiritual awareness of heaven to which He later introduced Peter, James, and John. We know it as the transfiguration. In Jesus day, the Jews and others recognized spiritual realties. Angels appeared and people fell into trances produced by the Holy Spirit.
Consider that Jesus knew the experience to which He was bringing the three when they went up to a mountain. Also consider Moses and the elders sharing a meal with the Lord at the glassy sea. I am not writing to exalt such experience. Peter was caught in that mentality as he was ready to build a “church.” Hear the message here. We want to build earthly structures. The experience of the transfiguration and John’s revelation of Christ and heaven on Patmos had the effect of losing more of earthly pursuits and a greater alignment with the Lord’s purposes. I repeat Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians, “Pursue love, yet earnestly desire spirituals (it is a singular Greek word).”
Paul had been blinded for three days, and then the Lord sent a man, Ananias, to pray and Paul’s eyes were opened. John’s eyes were opened. The Holy Spirit gives gifts severally as He wills. I asked for the gift of tongues as I saw it as valuable by Paul’s discussion. Without drama, alone in my bedroom, I received it. I look to use it wisely. I have had unction, leading of the Spirit, to pray for a brother’s healing. He received it. It happened as I prayed. On other occasions, I had no such leading although I wanted to see a dear one avoid a surgery.
John had seen much as he walked directly with Jesus, sat at the foot of the cross, was at the transfiguration, and heard and saw Jesus Christ resurrected. As John went the way he was led by the Spirit, he endured and passed through much persecution. See Rev. 1:9. It was intense. Those experiences brought him to Patmos where he was given tremendous revelation of the ascended, glorified Lord and heavenly reality. He was forever changed and ended his days in peaceful joy, loving the believers and exercising true authority by the Spirit.