Patmos & Revelation

Patmos is a Greek island off the western coast of Turkey. It’s especially important for Christians as the place where the Book of Revelation was written. The author refers to himself as John and there are varying opinions as to whether he and the author of the Gospel of John (the “beloved disciple” of Jesus) were one in the same.

In any case, John of Patmos  was an exile or refugee on the island during the Christian persecutions by the Roman emperor Domitian near the end of 1st century. If he was the disciple of Jesus, he would have been in his 90s. The story goes that John took shelter from the heat of the day in a cave and there encountered Jesus in the form of an angel, who dictated a message to each of seven Christian communities in Asia Minor (western Turkey). Then John was transported to heaven and the throne of God, where he received an apocalyptic message that has deeply affected Western culture, religious and secular.

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Whether read as prophecy or allegory, the imagery is vivid and terrifying. John is shown the radiant throne of God encircled by a rainbow and emitting thunder and lightning. Jesus stands before the throne in the form of a slaughtered lamb and he shows John the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Then John sees a sign in heaven – a pregnant woman clothed in the sun and a tremendous red dragon waiting to take her child. As soon as the child is born, he is taken to heaven and his mother escapes to the forest. The enraged dragon is thrown out of heaven to earth, where he calls upon 2 beasts to assist him in a battle against heaven. In heaven, 7 angels pour 7 bowls full of God’s wrath onto the earth to torment the faithless there. Jesus leads an army of angels against the dragon and his angels and the ungodly humans. The forces of heaven prevail and vultures devour all the ungodly dead. The dragon is thrown into Hell. All the dead rise to be judged by Jesus, who throws the evil-doers into Hell and welcomes the good to eternity in Heaven. That’s the short version. Until recently, I had never read the full text. Actually, I still haven’t read it. I listened to a mesmerizing audio recording by Max McLean.

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Getting to Patmos is not easy. For groups, we usually charter a private boat from Kusadasi, Turkey, but that’s expensive for couples and small parties. Most Aegean cruises include a port stop at Patmos, see the cruise tours on our website. Ferries from Piraeus take 7-8 hours. It may be possible to fly from Athens to Samos and ferry to Patmos from there.