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The Life Cycle of a Dangerous Choice - Part 1

By: Arnie Cole & Michael Ross

Four Stages of Temptation

John, now a seasoned “fisher of men”—wise in his years and a bit slower in his step—took a deep breath of sea air and surveyed the jagged coastline of Patmos. A cloudless sky blended perfectly with the intense blue of the Aegean, making it hard to tell where heaven ended and the sea began. And just off to the east he spotted some hills on the Asian mainland. John closed his eyes and groaned.

Despite all the beauty around him, this tiny Mediterranean paradise was nothing more than a prison—a Roman penal colony for those deemed as political and religious troublemakers. And that’s exactly how the empire had labeled John.

It was AD 95, and a deluded emperor named Domitian insisted that everyone address him as dominus et deus (“master and god”).[1] . He simply wouldn’t tolerate a scruffy band of radicals who went around saying, “Jesus is Lord!” Those who challenged him ended up destitute, dead … or detained.

By this time, John was the last living man who had been intimate friends with Jesus. He’d given up everything to follow the Lord—his family and friends, his home by the Sea of Galilee, his father’s lucrative fishing business. He was even willing to lay down his life for the cause of Christ. Yet here he was, sitting on a rock in the middle of the sea, cut off from the churches in his care ... blocked from doing the Lord’s work.

Has it all been worth it?

Is God really in control of earthly events?

Can He change a sinful human heart?

The Roman army had leveled Jerusalem and burned its temple to the ground in an effort to stamp out a Jewish revolt.[2] And now, self-proclaimed “teachers of divine truth”—false prophets and ferocious wolves in sheep’s clothing[3]—were confusing believers with a hodgepodge of spiritual teachings: a pinch of Plato, a dash of Persian dualism, one’s ancestral cult for tradition’s sake … and a little bit of Jesus thrown into the batch.[4] Countless Christians were falling for this stuff.

How can this be?

The war was won on the cross, so why is it still so hard to find the “narrow way”?

Why does it feel as if sin is getting the upper hand?

John was about to learn a key lesson: Two kingdoms had collided when Jesus hung from a cross. And believers—over comers through Christ—are, in fact, on the winning side!

It was Sunday, and John took shelter in a hillside cave—his temporary home on Patmos (what many today call the Cave of the Apocalypse). As he began to pray and worship God, he was startled by a loud voice behind him, something like a piercing trumpet: “Write on a scroll what you see ...”[5]

John turned around and was stunned. It was Jesus—but not just the man he broke bread with on the shores of the Tiberias—the One who showed him the holes in His hands and the side of His body.

The resurrected Lord stood before him, in wondrous glory, unveiled to John’s mortal eyes, glowing with divine fire. This Jesus was a shocking vision of power and judgment and awe: He was positioned at the center of a gold menorah with seven branches, and He was dressed in a long robe with a golden sash around His chest. His head and hair were as white as snow, and His eyes were a flame of fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp, double-edge sword. His face shone like the sun.

[1] Encyclopædia Britannica Online, Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012,

[2] Hinckley, 327.

[3] See Matthew 7:15-23.

[4] Hinckley, 328.

[5] See Revelation 1:9.

From Tempted, Tested, True

© Back to the Bible.

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