“It is unfortunate that God’s children often misunderstand God’s ordained ‘Patmos.’”—Watchman Nee
In a recent Wednesday ministry meeting, while commenting on the section of the good land being a land of wheat, Brother Ed Marks referred to a precious portion by Watchman Nee based on Revelation 1:9 :
John was exiled to the island of Patmos because he was faithful to God’s word and because he was for the testimony of Jesus. This island was in the middle of the ocean, with precipitous rocks and barrenness on all sides. John was put in an uninhabited spot. Humanly speaking, this was lonely and pitiful! However, John did not murmur at all. He knew whom he was suffering for. Thank and praise God. Under such circumstances, the glorious Christ revealed Himself to him and gave him new revelations. The earth had diminished before John’s eyes, but heaven was opened to him! This brings to mind Joseph who was in prison, Moses who was in the wilderness, David who was in distress, and Paul who was in chains. They all received fresh revelations. John was going down the path they had trodden; he received visions that he had never received before, and he came to know the enthroned Lord whom he had never known before. (The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, (Set 2) Vol. 34. p. 165 or Chapter 10, Online Section 1)
Brothers and sisters, do you sometimes have the feeling that you also have been exiled to the “island of Patmos”? Are you in a situation which is “with precipitous rocks and barrenness on all sides”? Maybe marriage has become your Patmos. Maybe children are your Patmos. Or maybe your job. Or even a service group in the church. You feel bound, limited, and frustrated, unable to do or accomplish anything. You are pressed and distressed mentally and even physically. When placed in such a situation, it is very easy to start murmuring, complaining, blaming others, pitying the self, or simply shrinking back. But this was not the case with our brother John. When he, at a very elderly age, was deprived of freedom and pleasure and was isolated from everything and everyone else, he could have complained to God and become passive. Instead, he was there—on the island called Patmos—reaching an unprecedented spiritual height, receiving revelation after revelation, vision after vision, until he saw the ultimate vision of the New Jerusalem.
The reason that John was able to transcend his environment is simple—he was in his spirit (v. 10). His body might have lost freedom and his soul might have been suffering, but his spirit was free and uninhibited by the surroundings. In his spirit, he had the life of ascension. In his spirit, he was able to fellowship with the Lord in an unhindered way and receive fresh revelation. The human spirit is the only refuge where one can behold the heavenly Christ and enjoy the heavenly supply without being bothered, entangled, or bogged down by the earthly problems. Just as Brother Nee points out, when John was in the spirit:
The island of Patmos could not block the heaven above his head. On the contrary, it brought his spirit in touch with heaven. It is unfortunate that God’s children often misunderstand God’s ordained “Patmos.” (pp. 165-166)
If you are “on the island of Patmos” right now, be encouraged. You are not forgotten or abandoned. It is the Lord’s special mercy and a great opportunity for you to see something that you have never seen before, and for you to experience something that you have never experienced before, as long as you are willing to turn to your spirit. Let us become “brothers and fellow partakers” of the apostle John in this matter, following in his footsteps as well as those of Joseph, Moses, David, Paul, and even Watchman Nee—“I maintain my joy.” May none of us misunderstand God’s ordained “Patmos”!