Revelation 1:9

I, John
John also refers to himself this way in Rev. Rev. 21:2+ and Rev. 22:8+, perhaps indicating an awareness of his unworthiness and inadequacy in serving as the chosen vessel for such great revelation (Rev. Rev. 22:8+). The only other writer to refer to himself in such a way was Daniel (Dan. Dan. 7:28; Dan. 9:2; Dan. 10:2).

brother
Like Peter before him (1Pe. 1Pe. 5:1), John emphasizes his equality with other believers. The leadership hierarchy which now characterizes many church bodies of our day was unknown to John.1 He saw himself as a fellow believer and servant of Christ (Rev. Rev. 1:1+).

At the time of the vision, he was the only remaining apostle, and perhaps the only survivor of those with whom Christ had personally conversed. He was therefore the most interesting and exalted Christian then living upon the earth—a most reverend and venerable man. But he was as humble and meek as he was high in place.2


tribulation. . . kingdom. . . patience
Although the earthly kingdom is yet future, those who believe in Jesus have already been “conveyed . . . into the kingdom of the Son” (Col. Col. 1:13). The same triplet occurs in Acts Acts 14:22. Patience is better rendered “perseverance” (ὑπομονη [hypomonē] ). It is through patience that the believer bears fruit (Luke Luke 8:15). By patience those who are in the midst of tribulation are able to possess their souls (Luke Luke 21:16-19; Rev. Rev. 13:10+; Rev. 14:9-12+). It is the perspective and position of the believer which enables him to stand through trials and situations which otherwise would be insurmountable. When cancer strikes or an unexpected automobile accident leaves a loved one paralyzed, our eternal perspective based upon the truth of the Scriptures is the remedy for utter hopelessness. When all else fails and our resources are depleted, we can and must stand upon God’s Word, being convinced of our unshakable position in Christ and the perspective that this life is not all there is. It is but a “shadow” and a “vapor” by which we are prepared for eternity to come.

island called Patmos
A small Greek island off the coast of modern-day Turkey.

Patmos near Asia Minor

Patmos near Asia Minor

The island is one of a group of about fifty islands called the Dodecanese. Patmos is located between two other islands named Icaria and Leros. Patmos, shaped like a crescent with its horns facing eastward, was a safe place for vessels to anchor during storms and was therefore important to navigators. It was the last stopping place when traveling from Rome to Ephesus and the first stopping place on a return trip to Rome. Being a rocky and barren place, it was chosen as a penal settlement by the Romans, as were other islands in the group. Early Christian tradition says John was sent here during Domitian’s reign over Rome (A.D. 81-96) and was forced to work in the mines. Another tradition adds that when Domitian died, John was permitted to return to Ephesus.3

The Island of Patmos

The Island of Patmos 4

Less than a year ago I passed that island. It is a mere mass of barren rocks, dark in colour and cheerless in form. It lies out in the open sea, near the coast of Western Asia Minor. It has neither trees nor rivers, nor any land for cultivation, except some little nooks between the ledges of rocks. There is still a dingy grotto remaining, in which the aged Apostle is said to have lived, and in which he is said to have had this vision. A chapel covers it, hung with lamps kept burning by the monks.5

The Church of the Apocalypse

The Church of the Apocalypse 6

It is a frequent pattern within Scripture that great revelation was often given to those close to God while in captivity outside Israel and while Jerusalem lay in ruins . We think of Ezekiel, Daniel, and now John. Often, the greatest revelation from God occurs when least expected and in the most unusual places (e.g., Paul in Arabia, Gal. Gal. 1:15-17.)

for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ
Some have suggested the John sought out Patmos on a mission to preach the gospel to its inhabitants. But this seems highly doubtful since many more people lived in the mainland population centers in Asia and we have no record of John initiating any such trip. It is much more likely, as tradition records, that John was banished to Patmos contrary to his own desires. “According to Victorinus, John though aged, was forced to labor in the mines located at Patmos.”7 “Tacitus refers to the use of such small islands for political banishment (Annals 3.68; 4.30; 15.71). Eusebius mentions that John was banished to the island by the emperor Domitian in A.D. 95 and released eighteen months later by Nerva (Ecclesiastical History 3.20. 8-9).”8

It has been sometimes asked, When was that prophecy and promise fulfilled concerning John, that he should drink of his Lord’s cup, and be baptized with his Lord’s baptism (Mtt. Mat. 20:22)? . . . Origin, however, no doubt gave the right answer long ago. . ., Now—in this his banishment to Patmos; not thereby denying that there must have been a life-long φλῖψις [phlipsis] for such a one as the Apostle John, but only affirming that the words found their most emphatic and crowning fulfilment now.9

Restricted to a small spot on earth, he is permitted to penetrate the wide realms of heaven and its secrets. Thus John drank of Christ’s cup, and was baptized with His baptism (Mtt. Mat. 20:22).10

Under Domitian, history records the banishment of Christians who were considered “atheists” because they refused to pay homage to Caesar or to Roman gods:

Dio Casius records that Domitian executed the aristocrat Flavious Clemens and banished his wife Flavia Domitilla because of “atheism” (ἀθεότης [atheotēs] ). . . . Dio’s full statement views “atheism” as “a charge on which many others who drifted into Jewish ways were condemned.” A similar but later statement affirms that Domitian’s persecution was explicitly two-pronged, being directed against “maiestas [treason]” or against “adopting the Jewish mode of life.” . . . With particular reference to Flavia Domitilla, inscriptions and Christian tradition affirm that she professed Christianity, which would have made her a prime candidate for a charge of “atheism” by those believing in the deity of the emperor.11

Opposition is to be the expectation for those who truly carry the uncompromising message of the cross. The testimony of Jesus which John was banished for is most naturally understood to be opposition that which he testified about Jesus (objective genitive). “The nominal Christian and the formalist the world cannot hate, for they are of it, and it will love its own; but the Johns and Pauls must go into banishment, or give their necks to the state block.”12 When we are accepted by the world, it is time for serious self-examination. See commentary on Revelation 1:2.

Notes

1 See the discussion of the Nicolaitans for the view that they may have contributed to the development of church hierarchy where none was intended beyond that of elders, deacons, and the flock.

2 J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 35.

3 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 87.

4 Copyright © 2003 www.BiblePlaces.com. This image appears by special permission and may not be duplicated for use in derivative works.

5 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 86.

6 Copyright © 2003 www.BiblePlaces.com. This image appears by special permission and may not be duplicated for use in derivative works.

7 John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1966), 41.

8 Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 28.

9 Richard Chenevix Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1861), 19.

10 A. R. Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 1:9.

11 Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 6-7,9.

12 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 86.

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