It was the year A.D. 96 in the province of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), the region where a few decades earlier, the apostle Paul had written his letters to the churches at Colossae and Ephesus. John the beloved disciple is the leader of the church in Ephesus and the region of Asia Minor. During the late 60s, this region had been devastated by Nero, an emperor of unmatched ruthlessness towards Christians. . . If Nero was the most ruthless emperor up until the late 60s, the Roman Empire had not seen anything until the 90s when Domitian (A.D.81-96) came into full power. . . When the subjects of the empire wanted to buy or trade goods in the marketplace (agora) of Ephesus, they would need to acknowledge the maker of all goods by offering incense at altars before entering. Then they would take a pinch of the ash from the incense and take it as the mark of Domitian and say, “Caesar is Lord” (Kaisar Kurios) before they could enter to do their buying and selling. Always good to recognize who is sovereign, right? This is the social, political, and cultural mix in which one day a letter arrived to the church communities of Ephesus. The letter stated, “The revelation of Jesus Christ,” and it was for the servants of God! These Christians were familiar with letters and edicts, because all the emperors would send them out to the various districts to announce their “good news.” But this letter was different. This letter was from their resurrected Savior, to John, to their church communities!”
I’m a sucker for some historical context. He goes on into a great explanation of how the letter would likely have been received and understood by the Christians to whom it was sent from not just a historical perspective, but from a faith perspective. Good stuff.