"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass..." With this words, words simple and divinely-inspired at one and the same time, unaffected words and for that reason so vital, the "Book of Revelation" begins. A prophetic book, the supreme example of eschatalogical philosophy, a book imbued with the word of God himself: "I, John...was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as if of a trumpet, Saying... and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches..."
Exiled, and with a deep faith in God and the need for isolation and contemplation, John found unique refuge in a humble cave on desolate Patmos. And here, in this holy cave, he became a witness and participant in the divine revelation of everything that would happen. As he himself said, he was simply the instrument by which God expressed Himself. That is also why the "Book of Revelation" is the only text of the countless works of apocalyptic literature that was made a part of the "Cannon" of the New Testament, being the final book of the Bible. A profound work which has influenced art, politics and even the liturgical life of the Church. All those who have tried to explain it have found it hermetically closed, difficult to explain, but always open to new interpretations or conjectures.
This work by John is distinguished for its poetic lucidity and, frequently, for its surrealism, which is why it has always attracted poets and writers. For Orthodox theology, however, it constitutes an inspired, sacred text leading to repentance. If we compare it to a musical convert we could say that the same motifs return every so often while the finale is in the hands of God. Today, after the passage of more than nineteen hundred years, the mysterious flame of the Book of Revelation is still enticingly vivid there in the hollow of the rock, in Johnís head rest, in the austere reading stand his disciple used and above all in the triple cleft found on the ceiling, a palpable indication of the Holy Trinity. In the cave of the Apocalypse, of hope and salvation, the divine presence will never be missing.
The Cave of the Apocalypse
Patmos is the island to which John, the beloved disciple of Christ, was exiled and the cave is the place where he wrote the Book of Revelation. It lies about halfway along the road from Skala to Chora. The holy cave is today enclosed by the Monastery of the Apocalypse which was built more or less around it. This cave is where the "dialogue of love" began between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.
As you start your descent to the holy cave, you pass through the inner courtyard and going down a few steps encounter on the right the side-chapel of Ayios Artemios (St. Artemios) which dates from the 18th century. You continue to descend until you reach a platform from where you can make out to your right the dome of the narthex and the vault of the church of Ayia Anna (St. Anna) with the bell-tower on the left. After going down the remaining steps you arrive at the entrance to the church of Ayia Anna and the holy cave. The inscription that awatis you at the entrance will flood you with awe and deep emotion:
"As dreadful as this place is it is nevertheless the house of God and this the Gate of Heaven"
Moving straight ahead you enter the church of Ayia Anna. According to tradition it was built by Hosios Christodoulos in honor of St. Anna, the mother of the Virgin Mary and because his mother was named Anna as well, but also for Anna Dalassini the mother of the emperor Alexis I Comnenus who advised her son to cede Patmos to him. To the right of the church stretchs out the holy cave in which is situated the church of St. John the Divine.
It is incredibly moving to see the ceiling of the cave, so low that you can touch it, and the terrible cleft in the rock, the triple schism
- symbol of the Holy Trinity, through which, according to tradition, John heard the voice of God.
"a great voice as a trumpet saying what thou seest write in a book"
The traces of St. John's residence in the cave can be seen in the rock where he rested his head and another niche that he used to help himself up. Right next to these recesses, at the height of a man, yet not made by any human hand, there is a sort of bookstand where according to tradition, Prochoros, the disciple of John, wrote down everything that his teacher dictated to him.
From the Text of the Book of Revelation
The commandment from Heaven to record the Visions
I John, your brother in Christ, and your fellow communicant and participant in your ribulations and the persecutions against you for your faith in Christ and in his glorious kingdom and with your patience and hope in Jesus Christ, came in exile to his island that is called Patmos, in order to teach the word of God and for the witness I have born to Jesus Christ.
I came here in spiritual exaltation on a Sunday and heard behind me a great and powerful voice like a sounding trumpet which said to me:
"write in a book, what thou seest and send it unto the seven churces which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea".
And there I turned to see the person who had just spoken to me. And when I turned to look I saw seven gold lamps which symbolized the unity of the seven mentioned churches in one spiritual body headed by Christ. And in the middle of the seven lamps I swa a glorious face which seemed like a human face and he was clothed in a magnificent garment which reached down to his feet and was girt about his chest with a gold belt. His head and the hairs on it were as white as white wool, as white as snow and he had the appearance of an old man and his eyes were like shining brass as if poured and cleansed in a burning furnace and his voice was as powerful as the sound of many waters falling from a great height. And in his right hand he had seven stars and from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword symbol of the power of his Word and his right judgement and his face was like the shining sun that shone with all its strength.
And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as if dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me:
"Be not afraid, I am the first, because I exist from eternity, and the last, because I will always exist and he that lives forever has life from his very self. And I became dead, because I died but behold despite the death of my crucifixion I have lived for all time and have in my hands the keys of Death and Hell over which I have compete dominion. So write down everyting you saw and whatever will happen from now to the end of the world. And now I will reveal to you the secret meaning of the seven stars, which you saw in my right hand and the seven gold lamps. The seven stars are the seven bishops of the seven churches which represent the whole church, and the seven lamps are the seven churches united in my one and indivisible church..."
The "Book of Revelation" by St. John the Divine is the only prophetic book in the New Testament. The name "Apokalypsis" ("Revelation") refers to the revealing to John by God of things that are destined to happen. The writer mentions the place where he had the visions as the island of Patmos to which he had been exiled. The year the book was written is mentioned as 95 A.D., during the reign of the emperor Domitian.
The "Book of Revelation" begins with a brief prologue which states that it contains the revelations that Jesus Christ made to John and by means of him to all the faithful. Then the writer identifies himself by name, as well as the ones for whom the message is meant, that is, the seven churches of Asia. He also heralds the coming of Jesus Christ to judge all the races of earth. This is followed by seven epistles to these seven churches, some of which praise and others of which cencure.
The description of the visions begins in Chapter 4. The prophet sees God (the beginning of everything) and the Lamb (the beginning of salvation). The Lamb opens a book sealed with seven seals which also means the propagation in mankind of eschatological crises and tribulations.
Then follow the tribulations and the calamities which are proclaimed by seven angels with their seven trumpets. The multitude of voices after the trumpeting of the 7th angel proclaim the triumph of God over the impious.
This is followed by mention of the Kingdom of the Antichrist, the dragon who fell from heaven and the monster that emerged from the sea.
Then the third series of tribulations: seven angels receive seven phials full of divine rage which they successively pour on earth. Christ appears, captures the beast and hurls him into the "lake of fire" for a thousand year kingdom of God will rule. After the passage of the thousand years Satan will undertake the war against the saints but will again be thrown into the "lake of fire" where he will be eternally tormented. Then the prophest sees the Lord seated on a throne while all the dead have been resurrected and are standing before the throne to be judged according to their deeds.
Finally, after thanking the Almightly for everything he heard and saw, John advises everyone to read this prophercy and to keep the commandments of the Lord faithfully.