Summary: a look at the church at Ephesus
Seven Letters to the Seven Churches (01)
Today we’re commencing a short series of seven studies looking at Revelation chapters 2 and 3. The focal point of these studies is on the seven letters to the seven churches. The title I have given to these is very apt and appropriate – it is ‘The Church under Glass’.
Some folks don’t think churches are important. God doesn’t look at it like that. He thinks churches are vitally important, so much so that he gave the apostle John a vision, not of one church, but of seven churches. We see them through his looking glass. When we see them, we sit back and say to ourselves: ‘Ah, I know a church like that, it fits the bill perfectly!’
There were seven of them in Asia which have been singled out for special attention. There were many more which he could have chosen but he opted for these ones. If you look at them on a map you will find they are only a couple of days walk from each other. In fact, a round trip of the seven congregations starting and finishing at Ephesus was no more than 300 miles.
Yes, they were real churches in what is now known as modern day Turkey. People attended them. They sang songs in them. They worshipped in them. They prayed in them. They found the Lord in them. They listened to the Word preached in them. Yes, they were made up of men and women just like you and me.
As we approach the third millennium I want you to look back with me to one of the churches in the first century. You read all about it in Revelation 2 verses 1 to 7.
What about this church? It is the only church in the New Testament which has letters addressed to it by two apostles – Paul and John. When Paul wrote his letter the church was in its heyday, it was at its peak, its very best. It was her finest hour. Paul revealed many wonderful truths to many different churches, none excel that which he shared with the folks in Ephesus. It is the Everest of his epistles. He prays for them twice, in chapter one it is a request for more light, and in chapter three it is a request for more love.
When John wrote a few years later it was the crisis church of the day. The tide was going out, they had lost and left their first love. The furnace was still there but the fire was almost extinct. There was still a measure of warmth but the coals had lost their glow. It was the dying embers syndrome. There was a coolness that had crept into their relationship with the Lord. It is to this community of believers which our Lord now speaks. A company of people we could describe as making up an evangelical fellowship.
What about the city? Ephesus was the chief city of the province of Asia. It was known as the vanity fair of Asia. It was a centre for trade, business and commerce. It had its own harbour and a population approaching a quarter million. It was a pagan city with all sorts of weird and wonderful things taking place. You name it, they had it. I’m sure you will be aware of the fact that Ephesus could boast with considerable pride that within its boundary there stood one of the seven wonders of the world – the famous temple of Diana. This shrine actually served as the bank of Asia, it doubled as an art gallery, and played host as a safe sanctuary for the criminal fraternity. So, you can see, it was a typical city.
What’s in the letter? Well, in verse 1, we have the master’s revelation. He writes to the ‘angel of the church’ – this reminds us that the Lord has his own messenger, his servant, in every church. He is the person responsible for the spiritual welfare and pastoral care of the people of God.
Where is the messenger? He is held as a star in the right hand of Jesus. That’s the place of power and authority. That is the only place where his servants can be strengthened and sustained. When we are there we will be under his control for he is the manager of every messenger.
Where is the master? Can you see him, for he is walking among the seven golden lampstands. He is surveying the churches under his control. He is walking up and down every aisle reminding us that the members are ruled by the divine overseer. He is the master of the members. It’s marvellous to realise that they are reminded of a beautiful truth that he is in their midst. So long as he is in the central place they can enjoy a real sense of his presence. When we move down the chapter to verses 2 and 3 we notice the master’s remarks.