I, John, your brother, who share with you the distress, the kingdom and the endurance we have in Jesus, found myself on the island called Patmos, because I proclaimed God's word and gave testimony to Jesus. I was caught up in spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a voice as loud as a trumpet, which said, 'write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia; Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.
And I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and when I turned, I saw seven gold lampstands and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, wearing an anklelenght robe, with a gold sash around his chest. The hair of his head was as white as wool or as snow and his eyes were like a fiery flame. His feet were like polished brass refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing water. In his right hand he held seven stars.
A sharp two edged sword came out of his mouth, and his face shone like the sun at its brightest. When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead. He touched me with his right hand and said, 'Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to dead and the netherworld. Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards. This is the secret meaning of the seven stars you saw in my right hand, and of the seven gold lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches".
In the Book of Revelation St. John does not give any detailed information about the cause of his exile. He merely says that he was exiled to Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Christ (Rv 1:9). A late Greek tradition has it that after arriving in Ephesus the story of St. John's miracles reached the ears of Domitian and he was called to Rome. Here his power was tested in front of the emperor by making him drink a cup of poison which killed a criminal but did not harm him, and by asking him to raise a girl who had supposedly been slain by an evil spirit. Domitian, impressed by what he had witnessed, decided only to banish him to Patmos.
His banishment lasted until the death of the emperor. The place chosen to banish St. John was one of the volcanic islands scattered in Aegean about eighty km. south of Ephesus, and was used a s a penal colony. A later Byzantine chronicle refers to the island as being 'deserted and uncultivated, covered with an made impassable by thorns and shrubs, and by reason of its aridity completely barren'. The length of his exile is claimed to have been one and half, or five or fifteen years. During his stay there he did not stop preaching the Gospel and converting the inhabitants.
In Patmos St. John was unchained and free to go where ever he wished. It was in a grotto on Patmos that he wrote the Fourth Gospel and received the visions of the last book of the New Testament known as the Book of Revelation. Some of the imagery, for instance:
"The sky was divided like a torn scroll curling up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place." (Rv 6:14)
"Every island fled, and mountains disappeared. (Rv 16:20)
is thought to have been inspired by the island. The Book of Revelation gives few facts about St. John's life, expect for the fact that he had a Jewish background and probably a priestly ancestry. So far as is known, he remained celibate. In art he is often shown as an old man on Patmos, seated and writing his book, standing or sitting in front of a cave and looking up into heaven, and writing or dictating to his disciple Prochorus. Sometimes he is shown sitting alone writing the Fourth Gospel.
In such representations the inscription on the Gospel or open scroll in his hand or in front of his disciple Prochorus reads In the beginning was the Word (Jn 1:1). St. John's Patmos exile terminated with Domitian's death. However, his ship was wrecked on leaving Patmos and swimming on a cork St. John landed at Miletos; from there he went to Ephesus.
He is thought to have died at a great age, claimed to have been a hundred and twenty, around the year 100 and to be buried on a hill. According to the tradition, after his tomb was dug, he laid himself down in it and gave up his spirit. he following day his body was not found because presumably he had ascended to heaven.
By the end of the second century most of the churches in western Anatolia regarded him as their founder.