John, the recorder of Christ’s Revelation, and his first century world. The earliestChristian traditions hold that John was the beloved disciple who wrote the Gospel ofJohn. No other man of the first century was so well-known that he could write an epistlefrom “John” with no further clarification of his position. This was the view of Justin(ca. 150 C.E.), Origen, Irenaeus, and other leaders in the first two centuries of thechurch. In the third century, Christian scholars began to question this view. Scholarscontinue to debate the identity of John. However, there is little evidence to supportconclusively any other specific ‘John’.
Most scholars accept that authorities banished John to the island of Patmos (Rev.1:9) during the reign of Domitian (81-96 C.E.). They claim that persecution ofChristians so wide-spread during this reign that it would have reached to the churchesaddressed in Revelation. When Domitian’s campaign of emperor worship spreadthroughout the Roman Empire, it forced a no-compromise social situation by thedominant society that led to persecution of Christians.
Other scholars prefer an earlier date (54-68 C.E.) during the reign of Nero knownfor the extensive persecution of Christians within the city of Rome. Those who readpredictions of the Jerusalem Temple destruction (70 C.E.) in the prophecies ofRevelation favor Nero’s reign.
Christ. John locates Christ walking in the midst of the church of Ephesus holdingthe seven stars in his hand that were part of his royal introduction (Rev. 1). From hisposition of God and patron, Christ reminds them of His omniscient knowledge of theirpast and present and warns them to change their present or they won’t be part of Hispredicted future.
The angel of the church of Ephesus. The identity of the “angel of the church ofEphesus” (2:1) has several interpretations. The Bible uses the same Greek word“angel/messenger” for both angelic beings and human messengers (Matt. 11:10; Mark1:2; Luke 7:24, 27; 9:52). Commentators have identified this “angel” variously as aguardian angel, a presiding official, and as the ‘prevailing spirit’ of the church. In thecontext of this passage, the angel is one subordinate to Christ, in a dominant position overthe Ephesian church, yet not chosen to record Christ’s message to the church.
The church of Ephesus. The individuals of the church of Ephesus are thespecifically addressed readers of 2:1-7. Christ addresses them as their “omniscient,omnipotent judge” and commends them for their past good works (2:2-3). However,they have “left [their] first love” (2:4). Yet this is same church that Paul had once praisedfor their love (Eph. 1:15, 16; 6:24). Now they have ignored what Christ described as thegreatest commandment – loving God and others (Matt. 22:37-40). So Christ commandsthe Ephesians to ‘repent and do the first works’ (Rev. 2:5). If the church does not repentand return their former lifestyle, Christ will remove their “lampstand” from among theother churches. He will judge them and extinguish the church. In their favor, theEphesian church had recognized and hated the false teaching of the Nicolaitans, one ofthe heretical sects—in this their beliefs were one with Christ (2:6).
All who read or hear the message. There are several schools of thought about who is included in “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Rev. 2:7). Gregg argues one of those schools – Revelation 2:7 includes all readers of the Book of Revelation (from the first century to the present and the future). Christ will reward all the ‘overcomers’ with the privilege of eating from the tree of life that grows in the New Jerusalem (22:2). This is a promise of return to the fellowship with God lost by Adam in the fall (22:14; Gen. 2:9; 3:22, 24; Prov. 11:30). What will they need to overcome? John 16:33 and 1 John 5:4-5 imply that what they need to overcome is the world and the corrupting influence of the dominant society. To do this the believer must persevere in obedience and be victorious in the predicted trials.