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Revelation 2:1-7, Letter to The Church in Ephesus

Updated on February 24, 2019
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Marcelo holds a B.A. in Bible and a M.S. in education. He has ministry experience and is collaborating with church planting in MD.

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Revelation 2:1

The Lord Jesus Christ instructs John to write to the angel of the church in Ephesus, which ancient city is today in the modern city of Selcuk, Turkey. Scholars tell us that Ephesus means "desirable," and that the city was a center of travel and commerce.

The angel of this church, like the angels of the other churches, is most likely not an angelic being, but a human messenger who read the Scriptures to the congregation, and who was thus a church leader (see Colossians 4:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:27, 1 Timothy 4:13). In support of this view, we must consider that the word aggelos (translated as angel) means messenger, and that the angels of the churches are often participants in the works of the churches, whether it be their successes (verse 2) or failures (verse 4).

As leaders of the churches, each angel represents the entire congregation before the Lord, and each angel is given a message that is meant for the whole church.

The Lord identifies himself to this angel as the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and who walks among the candlesticks. Thus, the angels and the churches belong to the Lord; they are accountable to Him, and they follow his leadership.

Revelation 2:2-3, Commendation for Ephesus

The Lord commends the angel of the church in Ephesus for (a) his deeds, (b) his hard work, and (c) his perseverance. This church leader has accomplished much through hard work and endurance.

The Lord also commends this angel because he does not tolerate the wicked, and because he has tested those who claim to be apostles and are not. In other words, he has kept himself holy through separation from worldliness and doctrinally pure through separation from wrong doctrine.

Moreover, despite opposition, this angel has kept pressing forward to serve the Lord Christ. The angel has demonstrated himself to be strong in the Lord.

Revelation 2:4-5, Reproof for Ephesus

The Lord also reproves the angel of the church at Ephesus because he has left his first love. Although the angel has been busy working for the Lord, he seems to have forgotten that all the work believers do for the Lord must be motivated by love for Him (1 Thessalonians 1:3, Hebrews 6:10) and for the brethren (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 1 John 2:10).

The Lord admonishes the angel to repent and to do the first works, those works that were motivated by love. Otherwise, the Lord will come to the angel quickly and remove the candlestick out of its place.

By coming quickly upon the angel, the Lord appears to mean that he will come without delay: his coming upon the angel will be soon. By removing the candlestick from its place, it seems the Lord will remove the assembly (ekklesia) from Ephesus. If so, this could mean that the Lord will scatter the congregation, similarly to how God the Father scattered Israel for its sins (1 Kings 8:46, 2 Kings 17:18, 2 Kings 25:21).

Revelation 2:6, Second Commendation for Ephesus

Moreover, the Lord commends the angel of the church at Ephesus because he hates the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which the Lord also hates.

In Against Heresies 26:3, Iraneus (140 A.D. - 203 A.D.) identifies the Nicolaitanes as a group who were indifferent to committing adultery and eating food sacrificed to idols, which was against the doctrine of the Apostles (Acts 15:20 and 15:29; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7).

Revelation 2:7, Incentive for Ephesus

John, or rather the Lord, begins to bring the message to the angel of the church at Ephesus to a close. Each of the letters to the angels of the churches will begin its conclusion with the same words: "He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7). This refrain is very similar to an expression often used by the Lord (Matthew 11:15, 13:9, and 13:43). The refrain means this message is for everyone who hears it: after all, it is for everyone who has ears.

Moreover, the Lord also clarifies that the Spirit (the Holy Spirit) is speaking to the churches. While in form the letters are addressed to the angels of the churches, these angels are only representatives of the whole church, wherefore we are reminded that the Spirit is speaking to the churches: the message is not just for the angel, but also for the entire church. The characteristics, successes, and failures are not just the angels', but also the churches'.

Finally, the Lord says that to everyone who overcomes, the Lord will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God. This is the same tree of life that was in the garden of Eden, and whose access was blocked by the flaming sword and the cherubim (Genesis 3:22-24). Having paid the price for our sins, the Lord Jesus Christ has restored acces to the tree of life and the garden.

Now, we need to be careful of how we interpret the Lord's promise. I do not think the Lord is saying that only those who manage to do the first works and return to the first love will have access to the tree of life in Paradise (Revelation 2:5): these believers all had eternal life because they had believed the gospel. Instead, I think the Lord is telling the church that all who overcome through faith in Christ (1 John 5:4-5) will receive access to the tree of life in Paradise, and therefore they should be motivated to repent, do the first works, and return to the first love.

Questions for Reflection

Why is love toward the Lord and toward our spiritual brothers and sisters so important in the life of the church?

What heresies are infiltrating the church today?

Why should Christians abstain from fornication and adultery, and from eating food sacrificed to idols?

How does knowing that you have eternal life through faith in Christ motivate you to serve Him more in this life?

Prayer Prompt

Confess your sins to God. Repent, and ask Him to forgive you. Give Him thanks because He has given you eternal life. Praise the Lord, and ask Him to help you resist temptations and to recognize false doctrines. Ask Him to fill you with love for Him and for his children.

© 2018 Marcelo Carcach

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