The message to the church of Ephesus was the first of seven letters to individual churches. The Revelation was written as an apocalyptic message speaking of the culminating conflict between universal good and evil. Viewing today’s Ephesus, an insignificant Turkish city of ruins separated from the harbor by a floodplain of silt, one may question “why was Ephesus the first church singled out for attention?” However, at the time of the writing, Ephesus was the largest city in proconsular Asia with an estimated population of 300,000 people. As the capital of the wealthy province of Asia with an excellent harbor at the intersection of major land and sea routes of the era, Ephesus boasted of many impressive Greek-influenced public buildings.
Built on a high point of the city and visible to all Ephesus, the magnificent Temple of Artemis – four times the size of the Parthenon in Athens – was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.5 Many held that the huge statue of Artemis came down from heaven (Acts 19:35). Paul refers to Christian believers as fitted together into a holy temple as a dwelling place of God (Ephesians 2:21-22), perhaps in contrast to this looming edifice over Ephesus.
If John wrote the Book of Revelation during the reign of Domitian (a point discussed later in this paper), the large imperial temple built by Domitian would havebeen along the main thoroughfare of Ephesus. The Ephesians would have daily passed the huge library of Celsus, the impressive columns of government buildings, the great amphitheater seating 2,500 people, public bath complexes, and gymnasiums.
The house churches in this city had a strong Christian foundation. Paul started the church (Acts 19) and wrote a strong letter to the Ephesians. According to tradition, the apostle John had also ministered in Ephesus.
In the letter of Revelation, the Christians in this once magnificent city again heard about the world to come, revealing an even more glorious city, the New Jerusalem, foretold in Christ’s Revelation (Rev. 1). The following will examine a portion of the message given to John on the island of Patmos, using Robbin’s techniques of ideological texture and socio-rhetorical analysis. Ideological texture will examine the actors; their interactions, choices, and conflicting viewpoints; and their relationships within their first century culture to discover a first century model of foresight.