Introduction to the Revelation of John

The Revelation of John was written in c.90AD by the apostle John, who was the leader of the church in Ephesus but had been exiled to the island of Patmos off the coast of Asia Minor. It contains a series of visions about Jesus Christ and prophesies concerning the days leading up to the ‘Day of Judgement’ – which many early Christians believed would happen during their lifetime.


Roman arched gateway at Ephesus

Roman gateway at Ephesus  (Revelation 1:4)


The Book of Revelation begins with a series of individual letters from John to the seven churches in the Roman province of Asia (in modern-day Turkey). After the messages to the seven churches, John goes on to prophesy about the events of the ‘end times’ using symbolism and ‘coded’ language – the exact meaning of which is often unclear today.



The last book of the New Testament is a revelation about Jesus Christ. It is written in the form of a dream or vision, and the dramatic pictures it draws are not meant to be taken literally. The Revelation of John was written in c.90AD by John, the leader of the Christian church in Ephesus. Many scholars believe that this is the same John who was one of the first twelve disciples of Jesus and who wrote the Gospel of John and the three Letters of John between c.85 and 88AD.

John may well have fled with other believers from Jerusalem to Ephesus to escape the violence when war broke out with the Romans in 66AD (see 1 Peter 1:1). He was later persecuted during the reign of Emperor Domitian (81-96AD) and exiled to the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea (off the coast of the Roman province of Asia, in modern-day Greece) (see Map 29).

Because of the danger of further persecution by the Roman authorities, much of the content of the Revelation is written in symbolic and ‘coded’ language which would have been understood by the early Christian believers, but whose real meaning is often hidden to us today.

The Revelation begins with an introduction (Revelation 1:1-20) and is followed by individual messages to each of the seven churches of Asia Minor: Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7), Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11), Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17), Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29), Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6), Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13), and Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) (see Map 29). This is the order that John’s messenger would have visited the seven churches after he arrived in Ephesus by sea from Patmos.

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