It was in 95 A.D. that the elderly apostle John experienced persecution from the mighty Roman Empire. This persecution would ultimately lead to his writing of the Bible's last book. The prophetic visions God would give him would become the book of Revelation. The first of these visions concerned seven churches located in Asia Minor.
The Romans exiled John to a tiny island due to his belief in Jesus Christ and his preaching of the word of God (Revelation 1:9). The island, named Patmos, is located in the Aegean Sea. Its total area is only thirteen square miles (34 square kilometers).
Ephesus, where John had lived, is the closest of the seven churches to the island of Patmos. Roman Emperor Domitian, who had begun Rome' second official persecution of Christians in 81 A.D., initiated his banishment. The apostle wrote Revelation around 95 A.D.
While on Patmos John is given several prophetic visions by God. He is told to perform two simple tasks. They were to see (meaning to pay attention to what God would show him) and to write (to record what he saw).
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last . . . What you see, write in a book, and send it to the (seven) churches that are in Asia . . . WRITE, then, the things you see, both the things that are now and the things that will happen afterward (Revelation 1:11, 19).
Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, WRITE . . . And he said to me, "WRITE: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb" (14:13, 19:9).
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth . . . I also saw the Holy City . . . 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' (Revelation 21:1 - 2, 5).
The seven churches found in the book of Revelation were literal first century Christian fellowships that existed along a Roman mail route. Each city where a particular fellowship resided had its own unique characteristics, some of which offered challenges and temptations to those who were believers.
Revelation's seven 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.