John looked out over the Agean Sea from the high hills of Patmos, as he no doubt often did, and saw islands tantalizingly close. One wonders how difficult it must have been for the apostle in exile (Revelation 1:9). Used to a busy life, it must have been suffocating to be confined to this lonely place surrounded by endless water. He longed to be with his brethren.
In his book he speaks of Jesus Christ “who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood” (1:9). For a prisoner, the word released is all-important. John looked forward to the day when he would be free again. What made his exile tolerable was the fact he had been released from his sins. No matter his surroundings, he was free.
Released in Greek is very close to the word washed, which is the way the King James Version translates it. Here we have our cherished phrase, “washed in His blood.” Freedom from sin is the result, so our modern versions translate it “released” or “freed.” His blood washes away our sins and grants us freedom. The tense of the verb indicates a one-time action in the past that still affects us today. John is reminding us that when Jesus gave His blood on the cross, it was all that was needed to free us. It flows down through the centuries and frees us today.
I find it remarkable that John felt free even while confined. Paul expressed similar thoughts in 2 Tim.2:9, “I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.” Freedom from sin’s penalty and practice grants us a tremendous new life inside, even if life seems outwardly shackled in some way.
We are free indeed!
– Tim Johnson