John the Apostle


Revelation was likely the last book of the New Testament to be written, and was placed last in the New Testament. It was probably written in the 80s or 90s AD by the Apostle John while he was exiled on the Island of Patmos.

The apocalyptic imagery in Revelation makes the book difficult to understand and open to a wide variety of interpretations. Some believe the book describes events of John’s time, others believe it describes portions of the history of the Roman empire, while others believe it describes events that still have yet to occur. Many others think it describes portions of those three times along with other events, while others think it is entirely symbolic or allegorical.

The book opens as the revelation of Jesus is communicated to John, who is instructed to write down all he hears and sees. A brief description of Jesus is given. All of this happens in Chapter One.

Chapters Two and Three describe messages from Jesus to seven churches in the province of Asia. These messages include greetings, compliments, warnings, punishments, and rewards.

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The Scariest Bible Verse

John had possibly been living in Ephesus for many years prior to the writing of Revelation. If so, he would have been very familiar with the churches in Asia, including the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2 and 3.

Revelation 1:19-20 introduces Revelation 2 and 3, and these two verses are sourced from Revelation 1:12-16. All seven letters in Revelation 2 and 3 are addressed to the angel of that church, but it is not clear to modern readers what that means. It is possible that angel refers to the human leader of each church or to the envoys these churches had sent to John. It seems as if the letters are meant to be applied both by the angel and the church members.

The seven churches are located in a rough geometrical oval. The order of the church letters starts with Ephesus on the southwest side and progresses in a clockwise fashion to Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. The church at Ephesus was the largest of these churches and, along with Laodicea, is the only church mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament (although Lydia of Thyatira is mentioned). Due to its location, it seems like the church at Colossae should have been included in this list; we don’t know why it was not.

The letters of Revelation 2 and 3 are from Jesus. The general pattern of the letters is: the address to the angel of the church, a characteristic of Jesus, an acknowledgement of the condition of the church, something good about the church, a warning to the church, and a promise of a reward for changed behavior.

Although the letters are addressed to seven specific churches, you can easily see that the problems addressed in them are experienced by modern churches, making Revelation 2 and 3 very valuable and relevant to modern Christians and churches. To many people, some of the most sobering verses in the Bible are found in passages such as Revelation 2:4-5, 2:14, 3:3 and 3:15-17. However, some of the most encouraging verses of the Bible are also found in these two chapters.

An Elder of Laodicea
Primary Scriptures:
Revelation 2, 3
Story Summary:
Background of the letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3
Roman Empire, Island of Patmos
AD 30 Jesus crucified and resurrected; Pentecost; Holy Spirit arrives AD 48 Paul’s “famine visit” to Jerusalem; First Missionary Journey starts AD 50 Council at Jerusalem; Start of Second Missionary Journey. AD 53 Start of Third Missionary Journey AD 67/68 Paul probably killed in Rome AD 85-95 John writes Revelation