His father, Arend Roggeveen, was a mathematician with much knowledge of astronomy, geography, rhetorics, philosophy, and the theory of navigation as well. He occupied himself with study of the mythical Terra Australis, and even got a patent for an exploratory excursion, but it was to be his son who, at the age of 62, eventually equipped three ships and made the expedition.
He became notary of Middelburg (the capital of the province of Zeeland, where he was born). On 12 August 1690, he graduated as a doctor of the law at University of Harderwijk. He married Marija Margaerita Vincentius, but she died in October 1694. In 1706, he joined the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC), and between 1707 and 1714 as a Raadsheer van Justitie ("Council Lord of Justice") at Batavia, Dutch East Indies (now Jakarta). He married Anna Adriana Clement there, but she died soon afterward. In 1714, he returned to Middelburg by himself.
He became involved in religious controversies, supporting the liberal preacher Pontiaan van Hattem by publishing his leaflet De val van 's werelds afgod (The fall of the world's idol). The first part appeared in 1718 in Middelburg, and was subsequently confiscated by the city council and burned. Roggeveen fled from Middelburg to nearby Flushing. Thereafter he established himself in the small town of Arnemuiden, and published parts 2 and 3 of the series, again raising a controversy.