Facing into a stiff ocean wind, the old man pulled his robe tightly around his shoulders. Surf rumbled against the rocks below. A sea gull screeched as it dipped toward him, searching for food. John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, stared across the rocky landscape. This hadn’t been his plan for retirement—exiled on the island of Patmos in the middle of the Aegean Sea. But the Roman emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96) had made plans for him.
History doesn’t give us the details, but it probably started with the clatter of Roman soldiers riding into Ephesus in a cloud of dust. They reined up their horses at the home where John, in his eighties, had retired. They kicked in the door, dragged him outside, forced him onto a horse, and took him off to Rome in the name of the emperor.
This happened some fifty years after the death of Christ. Domitian was a frustrated ruler. He just wasn’t getting the respect he coveted from his people. So he’d declared himself a “god” and started building a religion of emperor worship around himself. The followers of Christ, however, weren’t bowing down to him, even when threatened with exile and execution. So Domitian decided to make an example of John, the well-respected disciple of Christ. John was brought before Domitian and ordered to worship the emperor.
John refused. He would worship only the God of heaven. Historians tell us Domitian tried to boil him alive. But God protected His servant from the bubbling oil! That’s when an embarrassed and angry Domitian exiled John to Patmos.
This rocky island, however, proved to be fertile ground in God’s plan. It was here that the Holy Spirit inspired the greatest prophetic book in the Bible. Guided by the Holy Spirit, John had already penned four books of the Bible: the Gospel of John and three letters—1, 2, and 3 John. Now God was preparing him to write a fifth, the book of Revelation.
Revelation delivers a profound message about the war between good and evil, the great battle between God and Satan. It shows how that epic struggle ends.
It is a message of hope and encouragement, yet it deals with the harsh realities of persecution, death, and heartache. It takes us through the sweep of history—from Earth’s creation to Earth restored to its original state after the second coming of Jesus. The book’s central theme is that Jesus Christ won the victory over Satan on the cross of Calvary. Because of this triumph, Jesus can offer peace, hope, and renewal to you and me. Revelation tells us that, with Jesus, we are already on the winning side!
Revelation is more than just symbols, beasts, and prophetic facts. It dramatically pictures a God who loves us so much He has sacrificed everything to create a plan for His people in the past, the present, and the future. God wants to show you how you can become a part of that wonderful plan. As you face the heartaches and the challenges of this life, God wants to make sure you understand He is in control and walks beside you. He cares about you.
Revelation is a gripping, fascinating account of where we are in God’s grand design for the human race. Through the clashes of history, it reveals just how He cares for us. Let’s begin our study of chapter 1 and together unseal the mysteries of Revelation!