Tradition has it that John was exiled to Patmos which is where he wrote the book of Revelation. Patmos, and other islands in the Sporades group of islands off the east coast of Greece, was used by the Roman authorities to keep ‘political prisoners’ banished and out of the way. Political prisoners could include magicians, astrologers, prophets and anyone expressing views that could be considered a threat to Roman power. Clearly the preaching of the new followers of Christ would come into that category, and one who had been known to be someone who had spent time with Jesus and whose teachings and writings would therefore carry more weight was someone to be watched by the authorities.
According to Revelation 1:9 John ‘was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus’, in other words, because he preaching the salvation Christ offered. Like other apostles such as Peter, John did not see imprisonment as a time to sit moping and worrying about his own sorry state and lack of opportunity to continue his evangelistic endeavours, but as a time to spend more time with God, and to witness to those around him. So it was that in verse 10 we read that John was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day – spending time with God – when he had his ‘revelation’, initially being instructed to write to the seven churches and then seeing various visions of heaven which he also wrote down to share with other followers of Christ.
Time in prison, or banishment, is similar to ‘waiting’, waiting for Jesus’ return, waiting for release to continue speaking and witnessing about Jesus, waiting on God to hear what work He has for you to do, or to hear what he wants you write or to see what he wants you to draw or paint or write about. John had a head start on us; he had spent three years with Jesus, hearing his teaching, seeing his miracles, witnessing His transfiguration, with him in His agony in Gethsemene, having his feet washed by Jesus at the Passover meal, seeing His crucifixion and His ascension, and through the Holy Spirit God revealed some amazing things to John while he was on Patmos.
I hope we all might have taken the opportunity of the ‘imprisonment’ imposed by lockdown to spend time with God, to be with Him in the Spirit, and hope we might all have the desire to continue to do that as lockdown lifts and we are released to speak and witness more openly about Jesus. We might not have the revelations John had, but we won’t know unless we spend that time with God!