Isle of Patmos

John was exiled to Patmos because of his testimony – A fellow participant in the Tribulation and Perseverance in Jesus. Patmos is a small island in the Aegean Sea approximately ninety kilometers from the city of Ephesus. It is eleven kilometers long by seven wide, making it one of the smaller islands of the Sporades, an archipelago off the west coast of Asia Minor. Roman literature from the period identifies this group of islands as a place where political offenders were exiled - (Tacitus, Ann. iii. 68; iv. 30; v. 71).

The island was NOT a penal colony. It had a population large enough to support a gymnasium, acropolis, and shrines to the Greek gods Artemis and Apollo. However, its physical isolation made it an excellent place to banish political undesirables.

Patmos - Photo by Danae Tsoutreli on Unsplash
[Patmos - Photo by Danae Tsoutreli on Unsplash]

Political offenders were exiled under the regulation of 
in insulam. This included the confiscation of property and loss of civil rights. The purpose was banishment, not necessarily forced labor. Only the Emperor could impose that penalty.

  • (Revelation 1:9) – “I, John, your brother and fellow-partaker with you in the tribulation and Kingdom and endurance in Jesus, came to be in the isle that is called Patmos, because of the word of God, and the witness of Jesus.

Later church tradition claimed that John was forced to labor in the mines on Patmos. However, there is no evidence that mines ever existed on the island during or prior to the Roman period - (William Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches).

Another regulation under which individuals were exiled was the sentence of relegatio in insulam. This did not mean the loss of property or civil rights. It could be imposed by a provincial governor if he exiled the offender to a location within his jurisdiction - (Patmos belonged to the province of Asia). According to the church father Tertullian, John was exiled under this law - (De Praescript. Haer. 36).

Probability supports this last option. It is unlikely the emperor would taken any interest in the case of a minor provincial.

The Letter to Smyrna describes the “slander of them who say they are Jews and are not,” using the Greek noun blasphémia. While the term can mean “blasphemy,” it was used commonly for “slander,” that is, false accusations.

At Smyrna, saints were accused to local authorities by their opponents for activities offensive to Roman sensibilities, accusations that amounted to “slander” in the eyes of Jesus - (Revelation 2:9-10).

John was on Patmos “on account of the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus.” The preposition dia, or “on account of,” indicates either that he went there to proclaim the Gospel, or that he was banished to the island because of his activities elsewhere.

The second alternative is the more probable. First, John calls himself  a “fellow participant” with the Asian Assemblies in the “Tribulation.” Second, in Revelation, saints were persecuted on account of the “Testimony of Jesus.”

Third, an almost identical clause is found in the fifth seal opening where the martyrs were slain “on behalf of (dia) of the word of God and their testimony (martyria).” And fourth, the term “testimony” or martyria has judicial overtones - (Revelation 6:9, 11:7, 12:11, 12:17, 20:4).


Thus, John found himself banished to Patmos; therefore, he identified himself with the suffering congregations of Asia. He was their “fellow participant.” He did not call himself an “apostle” or indicate his status or authority. He was simply “John.” This suggests a figure well-known among the churches, and he linked himself to the plight of his churches.

Therefore, John is a “brother and fellow-participant in the tribulation and Kingdom and endurance in Jesus.” “Fellow-participant” or sugkoinōnos denotes joint participation - (Strong’s - #G4791). The term is related to the Greek noun used elsewhere in the Greek Bible for “fellowship” - (1 Corinthians 9:23, Romans 11:17, Philippians 1:7).

In the Greek sentence, one definite article or “the” modifies all three nouns (tribulation, Kingdom, endurance). They are grammatically linked - each is part of the same whole. To be “in Jesus” is to know tribulationKingdom, and endurance. All three terms characterize what it means to follow him.

Tribulation” translates the Greek noun thlipsis, a “pressing together,” hence “pressure, distress, trouble, tribulation, affliction” - (Strong’s - #G2347). This is something the Assembly was experiencing already at Smyrna. Later, in his vision of the innumerable multitude, John saw a group “coming out of the GREAT TRIBULATION” - (Revelation 2:9-10, 7:9-14).

Thus, “tribulation” occurs “in Jesus.” In Revelation, it is not something God inflicts on the ungodly, but what faithful Christians endure on account of their testimony. In contrast, ungodly men undergo “wrath” – (Revelation 6:16, 11:18, 19:15).

Believers participate in the “Kingdom.” On some level, the reign of Christ is a present reality, and the saints are part of it. The Seven Assemblies were members of his “Kingdom and Priests” - (Revelation 1:6, 5:10-12, 20:4-6).

The “endurance” also occurs “in Jesus.”  The call to endure tribulation and persecution is a theme threaded throughout the Book. For example, the assault against believers by the “Beast from the sea” is labeled the “ENDURANCE and the faith of the saints” - (Revelation 13:10, 14:12).

  • (Revelation 3:10) - “Because you kept my word of endurance, I also will keep you out of the hour of trial, which is about to come upon the whole habitable earth to try them that dwell upon the earth.

Tribulationendurance, and Kingdom all take place “in Jesus”; they typify church life because believers are identified with him, the “Faithful Witness.” He inaugurated the Kingdom by his death and resurrection, and his disciples now reign with him as a “Kingdom of Priests.” However, they do so in and despite opposition.




Absent Church?

His Present Reign