John wrote the “book” of Revelation to the seven churches of Asia while he was an exile on the Island of Patmos “because of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” The earliest external evidence we have of the date for John’s exile (Irenaeus, Victorinus, Eusebius, Origen, and Clement) tells us that it occurred toward the end of the reign of Domitian (81-96 AD). For this reason a majority of scholars today date the writing at 95 AD. This is the view that I have tentatively accepted. (There is a significant minority of scholars today who date the writing prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD). 

          With the destruction of Jerusalem already accomplished by the time John wrote, Asia had surpassed Palestine in importance within the Christian Churches. Asia was a Roman Province with a rich heritage and a strong Hellenistic background. Each of the seven cities identified by John held its own unique place of prominence within the region.

           For the most part the Roman culture was tolerant of foreign religions and particularly tolerant of Judaism. However, the growing distinction and animosity between Jews and Christians toward the end of the first century, together with the increased pressure to pay “appropriate honor to the Emperor,” had a definite impact upon Christians. Although sustained, broad-scale, government-initiated persecution against Christians in the first century cannot be proved, there is substantial evidence of sporadic, isolated, often quite severe persecution during this time. In other words, large-scale, government-sanctioned persecution against Christians was beginning to break in during John’s final days; furthermore, there is evidence of increasing government-initiated persecution occurring shortly after the writing of John’s Revelation. 

           Such persecution against Christians often came at the hands of the Romans at the instigation of the Jews. Many Christians were required to (1) confess Caesar as lord; (2) worship the Roman gods; and (3) deny that Christ was Lord. Some were even required to curse Christ. The penalty for refusing was torture and, in many cases, execution.

                It is within this historical context that John wrote his letter to the churches. The letter is a pastoral encouragement to trust God, obey His commands, and remain filled with faith—even if faced with death.