In 95 A.D. the apostle John found himself exiled to an island due to his belief in Jesus Christ and preaching of the word of God.
9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation, kingdom, and perseverance in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of God’s word and the testimony about Jesus. (Revelation 1:9, HCSB throughout)
His banishment was initiated Roman Emperor Domitian, who had begun Rome's second official persecution of Christians in 81 A.D.
While on Patmos John is given a prophetic vision directly by God. He is told to perform two simple tasks - to SEE (meaning to pay attention to what God would show him) and to WRITE (to record what he saw).
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, 'WRITE on a scroll what you SEE and send it to the seven churches: Ephesus, Samyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.' (Revelation 1:10-11)
17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. He laid His right hand on me, and said, 'Don't be afraid! I am the First and the Last . . . 19 Therefore WRITE what you have SEEN, what is, and what will take place after this.' (1:17, 19)
13 Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'WRITE: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' (14:13)
9. And he said to me, "WRITE: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are the true words of God." (19:9)
1 Then I SAW a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea existed no longer. 2 I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.
5 Then the One seated on the throne said, 'Look! I am making everything new.' He also said, 'WRITE, because these words are faithful and true.' (21:1-2, 5)
The seven churches found in Revelation were literal first century Christian fellowships that existed along a Roman mail route. Each city where a particular church resided had its own unique characteristics, some of which offered challenges and temptations to those who were believers. The churches also represent the temptations, trials and troubles, in one form or another, that would exist in the church from the first century to today.