The meaning of “revelation” (Rev. 1:1-3)
At the beginning of Revelation we are given two clues that help us understand and use the book’s contents. The first clue is the use of the word revelation to define the book (1:1). The word comes from the Greek apokalypsis. For this reason, the book has also been called “the Apocalypse.” In the earliest manuscripts the book has the title, “The Apocalypse of John.”
The book itself tells us it is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The Greek word is apokalypsis, which refers to an uncovering, exposing, unveiling or revealing of something hidden or concealed (Luke 12:2; see the apostle Paul’s use of apokalypsis in Romans 16:25; Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 3:3).
What is unveiled in Revelation is the grand purpose of God in human affairs. The centerpiece of that purpose is the incarnation, death, resurrection and glorification of Jesus. From those acts springs the judgment of God, which will be revealed in the end-time. The judgment will fall on both the evil and righteous. The one will be condemned (Romans 2:5) and the other saved (1 Peter 1:7).
Revelation summarizes God’s judgment in a unique way in terms of it being imminent. The Old Testament had described the day of the Lord—the time of God’s judgment—as both imminent and far off. While there was a sense that it was coming soon, the relationship between the present and future was ambiguous at best. Revelation, however, appears to say the end-time is just about to overtake us.
In this regard, the contrast between Revelation and a similar type of literary work and message in Daniel is striking. After seeing his apocalyptic visions Daniel was told: “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end” (Daniel 12:9). But John is told to reveal what he saw: “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near” (22:10).
The book of Revelation has an urgency about it because the end is near. Its message must be revealed—and it is wonderful news, even though it contains God’s wrath. Its gospel is good news because it reveals the end of human-directed civilization.
God’s righteous judgment will be revealed against those who oppose him. God’s servants will testify to the world of God’s grace through suffering, and perhaps martyrdom. They will experience salvation “to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).
What is uncovered by Revelation, then, is neither a code for pinpointing events in history nor a diagram of the future. Revelation discloses the unseen working of God in the history of the world and in the spiritual lives of his people.
The second important clue in the first verses of Revelation is the word prophecy, also used to define its content (1:3). Like revelation, prophecy is dependent on God unveiling understanding and truth. “No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation,” insisted Peter, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God, as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).
Revelation is not a collection of John’s ideas or his own literary creation. He is not setting down human-created hopes or writing a cryptic work meant to confuse the Roman police. Neither is John writing fictitiously in the name of a long-dead person such as Abraham or Ezra—as did other writers of apocalyptic works of the time. Nor can John call upon his own ecclesiastical office to give his writing its authority.
John is simply the servant-slave of God (1:1). In modern slang, he is the messenger boy. His revelation and prophecy is from the supreme ruler of the universe, given to Jesus Christ the High Priest of his people, delivered through angelic messengers, and relayed to John to pass on to the churches.
John regarded Revelation as Scripture—useful for the edification of the church (2 Timothy 3:16-17). He calls his work a prophecy, and at its end he warns against meddling with its contents (22:18). This warning recalls Paul, who pronounced a curse on anyone who would preach a false gospel (Galatians 1:8-9).
The revelation of Jesus Christ (1:1)
The book is “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1). From a grammatical standpoint, we could understand the revelation to be about Jesus Christ, or as a revelation from him, that is, its source. Jesus Christ is the focal point—the message of the book itself. He appears throughout Revelation under a variety of titles, names and images, as well as in many references.
A quick review of the titles in Revelation that refer to Jesus Christ makes clear that he is the active focus and agent of the book. The book is an unveiling of the Person and work of Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God. Revelation is a thoroughly christocentric work.
On the other hand, Revelation carries a vital message from Jesus to church members of John’s day—and by extension to Christians of all ages. The book focuses on the end-time, and stresses its impact on and meaning for God’s people. In that sense, it is a message from Jesus Christ to his church.
Titles given to Jesus in Revelation
- Jesus, Jesus Christ, and Christ (1:1; 21:21, and almost 20 references)
- Faithful witness (1:5)
- Firstborn from the dead (1:5)
- Ruler over the kings of the earth (1:5)
- Alpha and the Omega (1:8; 22:12)
- Beginning and the End (1:8; 22:13)
- Who is, and who was, and who is to come (1:8)
- The Almighty (1:8)
- A Son of Man (1:13)
- First and the Last (1:17; 2:8; 22:12)
- The Living One (1:18)
- He who died and came to life (2:8)
- The Son of God (2:18)
- Holy and true (3:7)
- He who holds the key of David (3:7)
- The Amen (3:14)
- Faithful and true witness (3:14)
- Ruler of God’s creation (3:14)
- He who overcame (3:21)
- He who sits with God on his throne (3:21)
- The Lamb (5:6; 22:3, and elsewhere in nearly thirty references)
- Son destined to rule all nations (12:5)
- Faithful and True (19:11)
- His secret name, known only to himself (19:12)
- The Word of God (19:13)
- King of kings and Lord of lords (19:16)
- Bright and Morning Star (22:16)
- Root and the Offspring of David (22:16)
John, the book’s author (1:1, 4, 9)
The author of Revelation calls himself, simply, John, a servant (1:1). He is a faithful witness to “the testimony of Jesus” (1:9) and one “who heard and saw these things” (22:8). John does not call himself an apostle in Revelation. He claims to be a prophet (22:9) and calls his book a prophecy in several places (1:3; 22:7, 10, 18-19). He was obviously very familiar with the Jewish scriptures, the Christian Old Testament.
We learn that John was exiled to the island of Patmos, presumably because of his being a witness “of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (1:9). Revelation tells us very little else about John.
Early tradition unanimously declared that Revelation was written by the apostle John. Justin Martyr, who lived at Ephesus during the first part of the second century, held the author of Revelation was John, one of the apostles of Christ (Dialogue with Trypho, 81.15). Irenaeus, who as a boy had known Polycarp, a man closely associated with John, said the author was the disciple of the Lord.
What Revelation “signifies” (1:2)
Revelation communicates its message largely through symbols – various things represented by other words. For this reason, the things Jesus made “known” is better understood by the English word “signified” (1:2). The Greek word comes from the root semion, which stands for a sign, or a figurative representation. That is, Revelation signifies, or expresses in signs, certain aspects of the future. G. R. Beasley-Murray says,
“The occurrence of the term in the title of John’s prophecy is almost certainly deliberate. The prophet wishes to make clear that he does not provide photographs of heaven, nor do his descriptions of coming events constitute history written in advance. He uses ‘sign language’ to portray the invisible realities of the present and the future of man and his history.” (The New Century Bible Commentary, “Revelation,” p. 51)
So Revelation does not present a literal newspaper-style history, but it is a coded or symbolic presentation of the future. However, this does not mean we can ignore the fact that these symbols refer to real historical situations and events.
As we make our way through Revelation, it will become clear how much the book relies on the language of symbol and myth, much of it derived from the Old Testament. (See the earlier chapter on cosmic symbols.)
A symbol stands for a universal principle that explains a large group of sometimes varying events or ideas. That is why Revelation is capable of speaking to people in all generations—not simply to the generation for whom it was originally written or for the generation at the end time.
The time is near (1:3)
The book’s contents are presented as though the end-time is ready to break out in the immediate future. John is shown things that “must soon take place” (1:1) because “the time is near” (1:3). The concept of the end as being imminent is encountered throughout Revelation.
By insisting that the “time is near,” Revelation forced the original hearer-readers to see themselves as immersed in the shattering events of the last days of human-directed civilization. They could not disregard the book’s message by thinking it described events in some far off future.
The message has a sense of extreme urgency. The end is presented as looming over the horizon. The events described in Revelation are often written in the historical present. It’s as though the original hearer-readers were eyewitnesses to what was already happening. Revelation insists: “He is coming with the clouds” (1:7); “There will be no more delay!” (10:6); “Your wrath has come” (11:18); “The devil has gone down to you” (12:12); “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon” (14:8);
The Jewish apocalyptic writings were still anticipating “the end” when the prophetic spirit would once again work. On the other hand, Revelation is written from the point of view that the end had already begun with the coming of Jesus.
Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart say,
“Some of the pictures that were intended primarily to express the certainty of God’s judgment must not also be interpreted to mean “soon-ness,” at least “soon-ness” from our limited perspective. Thus when Satan is defeated a Christ’s death and Resurrection and is ‘cast down to earth’ to wreak havoc on the church, he knows his time is ‘short.’ But ‘short’ does not necessarily mean ‘very soon,’ but something much more like ‘limited.” (How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, p. 216)
The sense of the impending End is not a chance idea, accidentally tossed into the book for effect. Revelation is an interactive book, meant to involve hearer-readers in its symbolic world. It assaults the senses; forces people to come to terms with its claims; stirs up the mind to consider one’s own spiritual condition. In other words Revelation demands we “take to heart what is written in it” (1:3).
The book’s central message is that we should consider our spiritual state, for the times that try our souls are nearly upon us. This world is on a collision course with God’s justice and judgment, and his people should forsake the world and be faithful to Christ. Revelation is meant as a lesson to all Christians. The book insists they must, ultimately, choose between Christ and Caesar. Who will they seek to please: God, or the people around them?
A blessing for readers (1:3)
A blessing is pronounced on the one who reads the “words of this prophecy,” a statement that defines the book of Revelation (1:3). The “one who reads” refers to the person who was responsible for reading the book aloud in church, to the congregation. The hearers themselves are blessed if they listen to what is written in Revelation “and take it to heart.”
This is the first of seven blessings in the book (14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). It recalls Jesus’ words in Luke 11:28, “Blessed...are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” The people were expected to do something with the information in Revelation – to apply it to their Christian lives. The chief purpose of the book, as with much biblical prophecy, is to provide moral exhortation rather than prediction.
The book’s message is pastoral. The hearers are not called upon to construct blueprints of the future, but to build themselves up in the faith of Jesus. Revelation seeks to impel the reader to live the Christian life, not try to calculate the year of the beginning of the End.
Most people of the times did not have a personal copy of any portion of the Bible, as we do today. The Scriptures were usually hand-written on bulky scrolls. Few people were unable to study the book systematically. Instead of reading the scriptures in their own homes, Jews heard the scriptures read in the synagogues (Nehemiah 8:2; Luke 4:16; Acts 13:15). This practice was adopted by the church (Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27).
One gets a different impression of Revelation if it is listened to rather than read and studied. Those who have Revelation on audio will find it a surprising and pleasant experience to listen to it—just as the first recipients of the book did.
John, to the seven churches (1:4)
John uses a standard form of introduction to the letters of his time. This tells us the book is not only a revelation and a prophecy, but also a pastoral letter. John is an actual person writing to real people living in a particular time in history. This firmly anchors Revelation in the concrete world of the church.
Revelation is written to seven specific congregations in the Roman province of Asia. This province occupied the western portion of Asia Minor, today the nation of Turkey. There were Christian congregations in other cities of Asia. This suggests that seven churches have been chosen because the number stood for completeness.
John’s greeting to the churches wishes them grace and peace from God and Christ (1:4). This dual salutation is found in Paul’s letters as well, as for example in 2 Corinthians 1:2. Paul had adapted a Greek letter opening, and made it his own. It was a trademark that identified his teaching letters. John’s use of the formula, “Grace and peace…” shows that he means to follow in the broad tradition of the apostle Paul’s teaching.
After his brief greeting, however, John transitions into praise to Christ. He returns for a few lines to the letter form (1:9-11), but just as quickly, he recounts a vision of Christ’s glory.
Except for the stylized letters to the seven churches in chapters 2-3, John disregards the letter form until the second part of the last chapter (22:8-21). John ends with a final blessing—“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (22:21). This was another convention of Paul’s letters. Philippians 4:23 and 2 Thessalonians 3:18 are two very similar examples. (22:21).
Praise to Jesus Christ (1:4-8)
John says that grace and peace come from “him who is, and who was, and who is to come” (1:4). This title is repeated in verse 8. This description of God is similar to God’s self-definition of his being made known to Moses at the burning bush. God identified himself as: “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). The Hebrew word for God, YHWH, is a form of the verb “to be.”
He who was, who is and who will be, is eternal. He exists before and outside of time. Since God, from whom the revelation comes, is eternal, he must by nature be sovereign over creation, over history, over the world, and over salvation. Whatever occurs on the stage of human history, God knows it. He is history’s sovereign Lord. By this, John directs Jews to see where the God they worship is now working – in the church.
At the same time, Gentiles are also directed to this Name as the one who is the true Timeless One. Similar titles of eternity were sometimes applied to the pagan gods. In one song, Zeus is identified as “Zeus who was, Zeus who is, and Zeus who will be.” Orphic worshippers would cry out: “Zeus is the first and Zeus is the last; Zeus is the head and Zeus is in the middle; and from Zeus all things come.”
But John says Christ is the true beginning, the end, and everything in between (21:6). “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God…” (1:8). Alpha is the first and omega the final letter of the Greek alphabet. In English, when we want to state something similar we say, “From A to Z.”
The seven spirits (1:5)
In an unusual statement, John also brings greetings from “the seven spirits” in the presence of God (1:5). Who are these spirits?
There are three other references to the seven spirits of God in Revelation. In the letter to Sardis the one like a Son of Man holds—or we could say, has—these seven spirits (3:1). Two other references to the seven spirits of God are in the throne room vision of chapters 4 and 5. Here they are identified as seven blazing lamps (4:5) and the seven eyes of the slain Lamb (5:6).
Revelation also refers to seven angels “who stand before God” to whom were given the seven trumpets of the seventh seal (8:1-2).
Various explanations have been given for the seven spirits. Some commentators identify them with the seven angels in God’s presence; others say they describe seven manifestations of God’s Spirit, or the seven archangels of Jewish tradition.
Perhaps we cannot identify them with certainty. The enigmatic reference in Zechariah 4:10 to the “seven eyes of the Lord, which range throughout the earth” may indicate a possibility, since Revelation often uses images from the Old Testament, though sometimes with new meaning. These eyes seem to be equated with seven lights or lamps on a golden lampstand in Zechariah (4:2). Zechariah perhaps connects both lights and eyes to the Spirit of the Lord (4:6). Similarly, in Revelation 5:7 “the seven eyes which are the seven spirits of God” are “sent into all the earth.”
Some conjecture that the seven spirits represent the one Holy Spirit. If that is so, a scripture from Isaiah might form the background to what Revelation is describing in symbolic terms—the various aspects of the Spirit. Isaiah wrote: “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2). Here we see six attributes of the spirit; the seven spirits would symbolize the complete manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps, then, there is a reference here to the perfect complement of the functions provided by the Holy Spirit among the people of God.
This is one of the first examples in which we see Revelation’s dependence on Old Testament passages. We will see this intertextuality—and its meaning—become more dramatic as we make our way through the book.
The faithful witness (1:5)
John now draws our attention to Jesus Christ (1:5) by describing him through various phrases. Thus, at the very beginning of the book, the source of the church’s blessing and content of the book is identified. We should briefly note these titles and acts of Jesus because of their importance to the message of Revelation.
First, Jesus Christ is the “faithful witness” (1:5). This was his purpose as God in the flesh. He bore witness to the true God by what he said and how he lived (John 3:32-34). But his testimony was rejected and he was crucified because of it.
The title for the Christian martyr mentioned in the letter to Pergamum, Antipas, is also “faithful witness.” In both cases the Greek word for “witness” is martys, from which we get the English word “martyr.” The Greek word is associated with the martyrdom that comes from witnessing to Christ by keeping faith with him (11:3; 17:6). This would be an important reminder to the churches in which Revelation was read. Antipas is faithfully following the model set by Jesus, and readers are thereby encouraged to see themselves in the terms, if they are threatened with death: they will be a faithful witness, like their Savior.
John also tells us Jesus was the “firstborn from the dead” (1:5). This title is found in Colossians 1:18. There Paul tells us that Jesus’ resurrection has given him supremacy over everything in the church. Paul also tells us that Christ is “the firstborn over all creation” (verse 15).
There is no part of the church nor of the world over which Christ is not supreme. This title would be extremely encouraging to the churches for whom the book was written. They were being told that in the near future, they faced a high likelihood of suffering martyrdom if they were faithful to Christ. But the Christian need not fear. Christ has already conquered death and will give the martyr a future beyond death – a future far better than the life they now had.
This title flows smoothly into the next one that John gives to Jesus Christ. He is “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (1:5). This and the previous title were already united by the psalmist: “I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89:27).
This title points to Jesus’ manifestation on the earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords (17:14; 19:16). The title “ruler of kings on earth” contradicted the claim of the Roman Caesars, who thought their rule to be sovereign. The Christians to whom this letter-book was sent were being asked to remember that the Caesars’ power was an illusion—even though Rome might persecute them. Jesus Christ, despite all appearances to the contrary, was the unseen but real ruler over even the king of the Roman Empire.
Jesus Christ is next identified as “him who loves us” (1:5). How has he shown his love? By freeing us from our sins through his sacrifice (1:5). In the words of Paul, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Later in Revelation we will encounter the slain Lamb as the book’s pivotal concept. Faithful Christians are those who have washed their clothes in the Lamb’s blood and made them white.
This is a good place to introduce another concept that will loom large in Revelation. The redemption of God’s people—the symbolic martyrs—is presented as a second exodus. But God’s people are not saved from political persecution so that they might to move to the homeland of Israel for the purpose of restarting temple worship. God’s people are spiritual Israel—the New Jerusalem—and God is their temple. Their exodus is an emancipation from the slavery of sin. Their restoration is a spiritual one, to salvation and the kingdom of God, where they serve God as a nation of priests.
With this in view, John says in the next verse that Christ “has made us to be a kingdom and priests” (1:6). Revelation again recalls the Old Testament, where God promised he would establish Israel as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6). But for John, as for the New Testament, the church is the new Israel (1 Peter 2:5, 9). The church is not a different “nation” with no ties to an Old Testament heritage. Israel of old continues in the church. It is, however, transformed into a spiritual nation. All peoples—Jews and Gentiles—are grafted into it through the Holy Spirit (Galatians 6:16; Philippians 3:3).
In the religion of ancient Israel, only the priest had direct access to God. Isaiah prophesied a time when all the people would be priests of the Lord (61:6). But what did this mean? From the New Testament, including Revelation, we see that it means God’s people have access to the presence of God through the Spirit. The priesthood includes all believers (Hebrews 4:16; 10-19-22). They perform the priestly function in that they offer themselves to God (Romans 12:1). John says that God’s people, as priests, serve God (1:6).
Every eye will see him (1:7-8)
Revelation now gives us its pivotal theme. Christ’s coming represents the time when the supreme God will exercise his dominion over the world, and transform history. Jesus Christ will come with clouds, yet the world will mourn when they see him, including “those who pierced him” (1:7).
This is one of many times when a vision or prophecy is clearly related to Scripture, especially the Old Testament. However, Revelation does not quote the scripture, nor does the book appeal to it as authoritative. Sometimes, as in this case, Revelation may combine two passages, altering their meaning to reflect a new message. In this case, Revelation refers to part of a vision in Daniel about “one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven” (7:13). This is combined with a vision in Zechariah that describes people looking upon someone they have pierced, and mourning for him (12:10).
These two independent prophetic strains are combined in Revelation and adapted to describe the imminent return of the victorious Christ as well as the world’s hostile response. This kind of adaptation of the Old Testament points to Revelation as an interpretive book. It recasts old motifs and gives them new meaning and spiritual insight.
Revelation tells us we should not limit the piercing of Jesus to the actual incident (John 19:37). Nor should we restrict it to the people of Jerusalem (standing for the tribes of Israel) in Zechariah 12:10. Revelation lifts the event to the cosmic level by turning it into a symbol. Those who pierced Jesus are people of every age who struggle against the will of God. More precisely, since Revelation is concerned with the end-time, “those who pierced him” refers to those who will resist the conquering Lamb as he establishes his government on earth.
Despite opposition, Jesus Christ will be victorious. That is because he is Almighty or all-mighty (1:8) The Greek word for Almighty is pantokrator. He is the one who has power, authority and supremacy over everything that exists. The word appears only ten times in the New Testament. But nine are in Revelation (1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 15; 21:22). There is a purpose for John’s use of this and the other titles. Revelation describes a time of great crisis to fall on the church. How encouraging it is to be reminded that God is supreme over all things and ruler of earth’s kings. The church need not worry about those who may kill the body, but can do no harm to the soul.
Partner in suffering (1:9)
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com
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This article was written by Paul Kroll in 1995 and updated in 2013. Copyright Grace Communion International. All rights reserved. If you'd like to learn more about the Bible, check out Grace Communion Seminary. It's accredited, affordable, and all online. www.gcs.edu.
John does not introduce himself by an official title such as apostle, evangelist or bishop. He is simply the spiritual brother of the members to whom he is writing. More importantly, he is a partner in their suffering and endurance. His authority to counsel the church for patience and endurance on Christ’s behalf comes from the fact that he, too, has suffered and remained faithful.
In verse 9, John refers to Revelation’s major themes. They represent three things John and the congregations share—suffering (tribulation, persecution, martyrdom), the kingdom of God, and patient endurance (1:9). This is only one way to get from persecution to the kingdom, and that is endurance.
This recalls the words of Jesus, who said: “He who stands firm [endures] to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). As does John, the other apostles also encouraged the church to remain true to the faith in the face of persecution and hardships (Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 2:12).
John had mentioned that he was a companion of those in the church who had suffered (1:9). Now, he proceeds to give an example of his own suffering. John tells us he was on the Greek island of Patmos. Why he was there and under what conditions is explained by the phrase: “…because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (1:9).
It is not likely that John purposely went to Patmos to preach the gospel. Patmos is a tiny, rocky island in the southeast Aegean sea. It is isolated, 30 miles or 50 kilometers west of Asia Minor. Historians tell us there is evidence in Roman literature to identify the islands in this area as places for the banishment of political offenders. (Tacitus, Annals, 3.68; 4.30; 15.71).
John was exiled there because of being a disciple of God’s word and testifying to Jesus. In other words, John was probably quarantined there for being a Christian leader.
However, we do not have evidence of any widespread persecution by civil authorities in the province of Asia during John’s day. This doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. As we know from the book of Acts, sporadic episodes of harassment instigated by the Jews, in particular, were not unusual. Often, there was an attempt to picture the Christians as defying Roman laws and revolting against the government (Acts 17:7; 24:5).
Local Roman governors or proconsuls of provinces could remand political troublemakers into exile. We have the example of Gallio. He was proconsul of Achaia, in Greece, when Paul’s preaching caused an uproar in Corinth. In this case, Gallio decided in favor of Paul, and Christians were protected from government harassment.
But it would not always be so, as Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome demonstrates. We also have Pliny’s letter to the Roman emperor Trajan in A.D. 112. Pliny was the governor of Bithynia, the province just north of Asia. From Pliny’s letter we can deduce Rome’s attitude to Christians about 20 years after Revelation was written. In Pliny’s time it does not appear that Rome was actively persecuting Christians. But if a Christian was accused in a court of law, there apparently was a standard test he or she had to take to demonstrate loyalty to Rome. This included making an offering to Caesar and cursing Christ.
We also learn from Pliny’s correspondence that some who were accused of being Christians claimed to have abandoned their faith two decades earlier. This led G. B. Caird to speculate “that there was some kind of severe social pressure at work in A.D. 92” (20-21). Whatever the form or intensity of persecution, John was evidently swept up in the net and banished to Patmos.