Visit to Patmos and the Seven Churches
22nd November 2018
We stood at the cave of Revelation on the island of Patmos where John was taken up in the spirit. It was early October as we looked out through the eucalyptus trees now dotting the island at the vast expanse of the Aegean Sea that spanned before us. One could imagine John watching the beast coming out of the sea rising from the azure waters. The book of Revelation began to come alive and make sense, especially as the book was a letter, written to a persecuted people, addressing real suffering, to give them hope.
The cave on the island of Patmos where the apostle John was exiled is an austere rocky space with an atmosphere of awesomeness in light of its spiritual association with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We all fell silent inside recalling what happened there. It was an essential stop as we journeyed through the seven churches of Revelation.
If one is looking for seven church edifices in each of the areas associated with the seven churches one would be disappointed. Church buildings came only much later in the Byzantine era when Constantine made Christianity a state religion. Until then, believers worshipped in each other's living rooms. There were well over twenty such groups meeting on the western coast of Turkey, known then as Asia Minor.
We visited each city where the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 1:11 were situated: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
Laodicea and Sardis are extensively excavated and have much to be explored; while Thyatira, Philadelphia and Smyrna lie beneath modern cities making archaeological excavation virtually impossible. But then, we were not there to see some left-over ruins from antiquity. We were there just to be in the places where our Christian forefathers stood firmly faithful to our Lord in spite of persecution. They were thrown to wild animals, burnt at the stake and put to the sword for their belief in Jesus Christ. They would have gladly sung, if it were penned then: "Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also; The body they may kill: God's truth abideth still, His Kingdom is forever."
We read and considered each letter to the churches where they were originally read out, putting ourselves in the shoes of the original listeners, trying to understand as they would have done. Revelation began to be demystified and come alive. For instance, we understood why the phrase 'neither hot or cold' was used about Laodicea. Laodicea is flanked by snow-topped mountains and hot springs! Need one say anymore!
We also visited the tombs of Apostle John and Apostle Philip, and the site of Colossae still waiting for excavation
We returned challenged and encouraged by the faithfulness of the believers of the churches of Revelation, and with a renewed commitment to bear the testimony of Jesus to the world around us.
[O P Chackochen]