The old man lived in a cave carved into the rocky cliff face near the sea. He had a very small boat, a fragile thing of wood and canvas. When the waves were still, he sailed out from shore and let down a net. When he brought it up, it groaned with fish.
He kept a few fish for himself, and traded the others to the small garrison of Roman soldiers that watched over the prisoners. The prisoners were criminals, sentenced for life to the rock quarries of Patmos. But the old man named John was not like them. He was, they said, a political exile, perhaps a rabble-rouser... not dangerous in the strictest sense. Anyway, they let him alone. And they gave him what he wanted in exchange for his fish: reed pens, charcoal ink, papyrus scrolls, and oil for his lamp.
In the cave, John placed the lamp and the writing materials on a slanted rock. He prepared the fish he had caught, said a simple prayer of thanksgiving, and welcomed the Sabbath. Then he lay down upon his bed, and slept, and dreamed.
He walked again with the Lord and the other disciples through the streets of Jerusalem to the Temple. Once again, he heard the Master prophesy of the coming desolation; and when he woke, he felt the weight of that old sorrow. When the Lord had said that not one stone would be left upon another, John had not believed that he would live to hear of it: the walls broken down, never to be built again; the Jews dispersed into exile. Yet he had lived to hear, and grieve—and even two decades after the destruction of the second Temple, he still mourned for the visible symbol of the Kingdom of God.
He slipped to his knees beside his cot, hardly aware of the tears still fresh on his face. He cried wordlessly to God for comfort. And a Voice answered him.
I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and what thou seest, write in a book...
The vision came. He saw the Lord transfigured, as he had seen him long ago on the mountain, and John fell at his feet and worshiped. But the Lord comforted him, and said:
He scribed the words that the Lord spoke to him, the messages of admonition and hope for the churches of seven cities that he knew well. But John glimpsed layers of meaning in those words, and understood that they would speak to other churches in other places and other times, as well.
Then a voice beckoned him to the very throne room of God, where the Lord Jesus Christ—the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world—loosed the seven seals that bound the great book of prophecy. And John was carried into the heart of a great and terrible vision of the end of time, a vision that intertwined literal events with rich symbolism. He saw fearful plagues unleashed upon the nations that followed the great beast that was the Antichrist; he witnessed the final defeat of the great dragon, Satan, and those who followed him.
And after all these terrors, John saw a city descending, and knew it to be Jerusalem. But it was not the earthly Jerusalem that he had known. Even Solomonís Jerusalem with its golden tabernacle had been but a shadow, a flawed copy, of this New Jerusalem—a city whose translucent golden walls no Chaldean or Roman army could breach, a city illuminated by the light that is the glory of God.
He could have wept at the knowledge that all would be restored, recreated—but even those tears were consumed by joy.
Write, said the Spirit.
Write? John trembled. How can human language contain all that I have seen? How can the coarse tongues of men speak the mysteries of the Kingdom of God?
Write, said the Spirit, for these words are faithful and true.
The vision ended, but remained vivid and complete in his memory. He rose from his knees, lit the lamp, and submitted his humble tools—pen and ink and paper—to his Master:
And now, O Lord, may these words glorify You, until Your Kingdom comes and all words become one with The Word...
The Word that was in the beginning.
The Word that became flesh.
The Word that is God.
Even so come, Lord Jesus.
NOTE: This narrative assumes the traditional later date (approximately 95 A.D.) for the writing of the Book of Revelation.
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