A Church of One
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 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.” (Rev. 1:10-11, English Standard Version)
It is not uncommon for people professing to believe in Jesus Christ, to forfeit church attendance. Some forgo the custom or practice or act of devotion for reasons known only to them. Sometimes it is because of hardship or adversity; the sentiment that God did not answer a prayer. John is on the Isle of Patmos. In verse 10 he states that he “was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day”.
Patmos, a Greek island, is located near the west coast of Turkey, among a scattering of islands in the the Aegean Sea called the Sporades. Its size is approximately 10 by 16 kilometers, with a very irregular coastline.
The Romans used Patmos to incarcerate what they considered high risk prisoners. According to Eusebius, John was sent to Patmos in the year 95 by the Roman emperor Domitian but was released less than 2 years later.
Here is a man entirely on his own. What does he spend his time doing? Well, we don’t know. We have no other evidence as to how John occupied the other days of the week (although after this encounter he must have spent time writing). We do have this record informing us that John was “in the spirit”. What was this condition or what is this condition of being “in the spirit”? Was it prayer? Meditation? A higher level of altered consciousness? Again, we don’t know. Whatever this condition of being “in the spirit” is we can say this much that John was in a state of receptiveness to spiritual realities. It was while he was in this state that he heard a voice behind him. While in this state this voice spoke to him and he listened.
More importantly is the fact that John, despite being presumably, totally alone, spent his time being in the spirit or being receptive to spiritual reality. Next, John was in a state of worship on “the Lord’s day”. How did he know that it was the Lord’s day that particular day? Perhaps he kept record; perhaps he marked the days.
But here’s the clincher: John is alone, in exile for the cause of Christ and the Gospel (Rev. 1:9). He nevertheless observes worship despite severely adverse circumstances.
John’s theology testify of a belief in the reality of the person of Jesus Christ, the reality of the omnipresence of God; his ecclesiology that on the Lord’s Day time is made for worship of the living Lord. Alone!
Wow! Was John’s faith and obedience ever rewarded! There on that island, in that state, the Lord showed up on His day and John had a service unlike any other individual ever had.
How grateful we are that God worked thus in John’s life; that God was so real to John. Instead of bemoaning or lamenting his condition, John chose to be “in the spirit on the Lord’s Day”. It was while in that state that he received the revelation. The church, to this day, continues to draw encouragement from this book.
Just like John was not alone even in exile so you and I are never alone even when there is nobody around. When it seems our movements are restricted; when there are attempts to silence us to isolate us, or to punish for this belief in a Jesus that was crucified, buried and ascended into heaven, we are never truly abandoned.
What is your view of church? How important is the observance of the Lord’s day to you? If you were alone on some island or if you were perhaps exiled for your faith would you continue to believe and worship him in that condition, in whatever circumstance he may permit you to encounter?
It seems that in almost every instance when God permits trying circumstances; the experience of isolation; spiritual or social exile, that occasions like these are intended to purify our faith. Under such circumstances we often receive insights (call them them revelations) that we would not otherwise have received or understood. How many songs, hymns or books were created, composed or written by individuals who found themselves in the midst of adverse, painful or even traumatic circumstances?
Let us ever be “in the spirit” even this day. Never lose the expectation that our Lord Jesus Christ will show up to give encouragement; to offer solace and perspective. Expect an assignment despite being in exile.
We are never at the mercy of men but always on mission with God.