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 eartha most reverend and venerable man. But he was as humble and meek as he was high in place.2
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 Domitians 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
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
It has been sometimes asked, When was that prophecy and promise fulfilled concerning John, that he should drink of his Lords cup, and be baptized with his Lords baptism (Mtt. Mat. 20:22)? . . . Origin, however, no doubt gave the right answer long ago. . ., Nowin 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
Dio Casius records that Domitian executed the aristocrat Flavious Clemens and banished his wife Flavia Domitilla because of atheism (ἀθεότης [atheotēs] ). . . . Dios 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 Domitians 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.11Opposition 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.
2 J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 35.
5 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 86.
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.