The book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John around c 95. It was at a time when the Roman government was strictly enforcing Emperor cult worship. In other words, all people were to name Caesar as "lord god," or face imprisonment, starvation, or even death!
Christian persecution was nothing new to the first century church. Many who professed Christ as their Lord and Savior had already been put to death. Both secular and religious historians of the day made references to that fact. A great number of Christians doggedly upheld their convictions, right up to the bitter end!
However, there were some who gave in to the Roman intimidation. Casting aside the name of Jesus, they became lackluster and complacent in their Godly service. Some denied Him altogether in order to save their lives. Of course this was a dangerous practice, and even more so at this time they were now facing...
One example of a church in danger was located in Ephesus. In the beginning, they were a zealous, hardworking congregation. However, over time, they were guilty of a downward spiral which threatened their lives and salvation. In (Revelation 2: 2-4) we read these words:
"I (Jesus) know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverence. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love."
Despite their good start, the members had grown weak in some ways and strayed away from the righteous deeds for which Jesus had just praised them. This letter in Revelation was meant as a "wake up" call to the church.
The Lord knew they were capable of doing His will and wanted to encourage them to do so once again. In addition, since the Romans were now strictly enforcing Emperor worship, it was no time to become lax in their service to God!
Finally, in (V7), the Lord reminds the Ephesian congregation of the matchless rewards which await those Christians who endure hardships and persecutions to the very end. Here, we read:
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God."
No doubt it was a very difficult task to hold true to your religious beliefs when threatened with death! However, this was surely one of the reasons that Christ gave them such vivid descriptions of life evermore in the sweet rest and comfort of God's very home!
May we all see beyond this earthly life to those riches which await the faithful in heaven!
StevenPaul, I enjoyed this one! I just finished Beth Moore's Revelation overview in December so all of this was fresh in my mind. Thank you for bringing it back fresh to me yet again. Hazel P (aka rockymountainlady; aka minerscut). By the way, Miner's cut is the name of a series of novels I have been writing for about a year now.)