What is my first love? Do I love Jesus first?
Jesus speaks to the church in Ephesus – and they are doing so much correctly – they search for truth, they don’t want liars leading, and they value integrity. But they have lost their first love. They have lost the tenderness, the passion for Christ. Do I have my doctrine right, but not my love for Christ?
To the church in Smyrna, Jesus gives encouragement – they are suffering. The churches in Asia minor had a mix of Jewish and Gentile believers, but the Jews in the synagogue were making life miserable for the Christians in Smyrna – speaking against them publicly. This is causing them legal problems, business problems, and even the threat of being thrown in jail. Jesus encourages them to stand strong – and be willing to go to prison, and even die. When I am being spoken against publicly, do I hold on to the opinion of Christ? Am I willing to suffer for Him?
What about you? What is your first love? How can you make sure you don’t lose that love, and be willing to suffer?
What is clear is that Revelation was written during a time of persecution – it is a book written to give Christians hope and comfort in their suffering. In the first century there were scattered times when Christians suffered, and 3 possible concentrated times. The first was under Nero, who in AD64 blamed Christians for a fire in Rome (that he may himself have caused). The second was under Domitian (AD 89-96) and third under Trajan (AD 98-117) – these were probably not as severe across the entire empire. Most scholars think Revelation was written during the reign of Domitian – the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in AD70, and Revelation describes a new (the true) Temple coming from heaven. It is likely that while the persecution under Domitian may not have been empire wide, it may have been more intense in Asia Minor, where the 7 churches were located. Also, while it may not have been imperial policy to persecute Christians, it is likely that others may have been cruel to the Christians – and the officials did nothing to stop them.