The book was written by John the disciple and apostle. This is our same old friend John, whom we met first that ever-memorable afternoon, down by the Jordan River road, when he was introduced to Jesus by the John of the deserts, and had his first long, quiet talk with Him. [Note: Joh_1:35-42.] The friendship began that day, grew steadily, and never flagged. It was one of the few friendships that Jesus had that never knew any lapse nor eclipse.
He became, in an outstanding sense, the bosom friend of Jesus. Probably it was not because of any special gentleness or amiability on John's part, though he may have had something of these traits. It was more likely because of the deep, intelligent sympathy between the two, a sympathy not only of personality, but deeper and stronger because of a mental and spirit likeness growing up between them. It would seem likely that John developed a mental grasp, a spirit insight, a student thoughtfulness, a steadiness of temperament, and with these, a growing understanding of much—at the least—much of Jesus' spirit and ideals and vision.
It may quite be that all this came slowly, and grew up out of the constant contact with Jesus, and out of the warm personal love between the two men; quite likely. Who could live so close to Jesus as he and not bear the marks on mind and spirit? The fire that burned so fiercely in early years [Note: Luk_9:54.] grew into a steady, unflickering flame under the influence of that personal friendship.
It seems not unlikely that John belonged to a good family, and had his home in Jerusalem. He was clearly on terms of easy intimacy at the palace of the High Priest, [Note: Joh_18:15-16.] which in itself would suggest his social standing in the city. It was to this man that Jesus, on the Cross, committed the care of His mother. And John accepted the trust as a tender token of friendship, and took Mary at once to his own home. And as Mary remained in Jerusalem at least some time, and John clearly for a long time, the home was likely there.
John was one of the chief leaders in Jerusalem during the Pentecost days, and after. Peter was the chief spokesman, but John was always close by his side. The friendship between the two seems to have been close and of long standing. They were sent together by the Master to arrange for the supper that memorable betrayal night, [Note: Luk_12:8.] and they are seen together in the activities in Jerusalem for many years. [Note: Act_3:1; Act_3:3-4; Act_3:11; Act_4:13; Act_4:19; Act_8:14; Act_8:25; Gal_2:9.]
It would seem that in later years John left Jerusalem, and made his home for the remainder of his life in Ephesus. Doubtless he was led, after the years of leadership in the mother Church, to leave the great Jew centre, and devote his strength to missionary service in the outside Gentile world.
Ephesus was the chief city of the province of Asia, and the natural centre of the population and life of the province. John probably worked out from Ephesus, preaching throughout the whole district; teaching, advising, praying with, and visiting the groups of little Churches scattered throughout the province, perhaps founding some, and strengthening all. For his work seems to have been, not so much evangelizing, but the much more difficult work of teaching, patiently, carefully, teaching; a work so essential to the life of any Church. So he would be quite familiar with the Churches to which the Revelation letters are sent, and would be well known by these people and loved and revered by them as a father in the faith.
This personal bit about John is of intensest interest in studying this book of his. It was to this man that Jesus could entrust the writing of this special message. John could take in what the Master was showing him as few, if any others, could. The close, sympathetic friendship made him able to take in what his old Friend and Master is now telling him in the glory. And he could give it out too, simply, fully, clearly, just as it was given to him.
Love can see and grasp, and can obey simply, where mere mental keenness fails. There is no tonic for the brain like love in the heart. No brain ever does its best work, nor can, until the heart is fired by some tender, noble passion. It was to Mary Magdalene who had such reason to love tenderly that Jesus showed Himself first after the resurrection. [Note: Mar_16:9; Joh_20:1; Joh_20:11-18.]
And it is to John, the bosom friend, whose friendship stood the severest test where all others failed, that He now shows Himself in glory, and entrusts this pleading message, and vision of coming events, and of the after glory. He that willeth to do the Master's will shall know surely and clearly what that will is. And he that goeth farther yet, and willeth to give the tenderest love of his heart, ever kept at summer heat, shall know the Master Himself, in present personal touch, and in clear and clearing understanding of His coming victorious action and crowning glory.
John wrote a Gospel; one chief Epistle, besides the two very brief personal letters; and this book of the Revelation. The Gospel and Epistles were quite likely written while in Ephesus.
The Gospel was his plea to all men to whom it might come to accept Jesus as their personal Saviour. Its characteristic word is "believe." And the plan of it is a simple array of incidents about Jesus that would lead men to a warm, intelligent belief in Him.
The chief Epistle is written to the little groups of believers scattered throughout Asia Minor, and doubtless in the old home district of Judea, too. Its characteristic word is "abide." It is an intense plea, by a personal friend to abide, steadily, fully, in Christ, in spite of the growing defections and difficulties pressing in so close.
The Revelation was written, quite likely, on the island of Patmos while all was yet fresh in his mind; or possibly in Ephesus after his release from his island prison; or perhaps begun in Patmos and put into its final shape in Ephesus. It is written to the little groups of believers in and near Ephesus. It is a most intense plea to be personally true to the Lord Jesus in the midst of subtle compromise and of bitter persecution.
Its characteristic word is "overcome." It speaks much of the opposition to be encountered, and tells of greater opposition yet to come, the greatest ever known. And it pleads, with every possible promise, and every warning of danger, that the true believer set himself against the evil tide, at every risk, and every possible personal loss, and so that he "overcome" in the Name of the Lord Jesus.