Summary: Third in a Series on Revelation dealing with the letter to ephesus and the loss of their first love.
II.Messages to the Seven churches 2-3 (Things with are)
I want to clarify two issues related to all seven churches before we focus in on each individual message. The first issue has to do with the interpretive approach. How you interpret these messages will depend on which method of interpretation you have decided to take on the book as a whole. A symbolic approach will not view these as literal churches but focus on the universal principles to be gleaned from the messages. A historical approach will divide into one of three approaches.
One – these were seven literal churches in John’s day to whom Jesus sent specific messages related to them with no necessary application to the church to day other than learning from their example.
Two – the seven churches addressed represent the state of the church from the apostolic period to the time just prior to the return of Jesus. This is a very popular approach. Dates for these ages vary greatly.
Three – the seven churches were literal churches with issues representative of the church through church history. The strongest reason I chose this approach is that there are absolutely no indicators that we should interpret the messages to the church in any other way but literal churches struggling at the time of the writing. Most commentators who take the church age approach end sup drawing most of their insight from historical data related to the literal church at the time of writing anyway. Trying force each message into a particular church age is arbitrary and unnecessary as interesting as it might be that the church in certain ages bear similar characteristics. The fact is, as we shall see, the messages have personal application to any church in any given age. Why limit it to a particular church age?
The second issue has to do with common pattern or form in all the messages.
I have identified seven common elements in most every message with a couple exceptions.
1 – Jesus began each message with a particular personal characteristic.
Most of them come from things heard and seen in the first chapter.
2 – Jesus started each church with a commendation of something they were doing well. Every church except Laodocia
3 – Jesus addressed an area that needed correction
Every church except Smyrna and Philadelphia
4 – Jesus the called for some kind of action on the part of each church whether corrective action or enduring action.
5 – Jesus declared a consequence for failure or reward for faithfulness.
6 – Jesus calls all those in every church with an open heart to listen.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
7 – A promise for overcomes appears in every message to every church.
John saw Jesus walking among the churches. Why? The next two chapters are what Jesus was doing walking among the churches. It was inspection time. There were things that pleased Him. There were things that displease Him. There were things He commended. There were some things He corrected. He walks among us today. What will He see? What will He say?
What will we do?
A. Message to the church in Ephesus 2:1-7
Background to the church at Ephesus
I would rather spend the bulk of our time on the things Jesus had to say rather than background information concerning Ephesus, but here are a few important details to mention.
Ephesus was a high profile church located in a major seaport with lots of international traffic.
The city was a major tourist destination for those coming to visit the temple of the Greek fertility goddess Artemis or Diana considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
It was a city of maybe 300,000 people with a large 24,000 seat amphitheater.
The level of morality among the city’s population was notoriously low. The people were licentious, superstitious, vile, and violent. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus, a resident of Ephesus, purportedly commented that “the morals of the temple were worse than the morals of beasts, for even promiscuous dogs do not mutilate each other.”
Such was the climate in which the church grew and impacted not only their city but many other cities in Asia. You can read about Paul’s time there in Acts 18 and 19. He spent one prolonged three year stint there teaching the word day and night. His later letter to the Ephesians indicates a strong church doing battle in a pagan city. Paul’s powerful daily teaching of the truth resulted in significant cuts into the local idol trade. The teachings of Christianity was unmistakably counter to the current culture. Timothy pastored the church and church tradition indicates that John pastored there before his Patmos imprisonment and returned after to spend his remaining years there. The church at Ephesus enjoyed a great foundation and had remained faithful to the Word for at least 40 years to the writing of this letters.