Letters to the 7 churches. The 7 churches are listed as:
This post is going to deal with the letter to the church of Ephesus.
But first, there are a couple things to note overall. Picture a menorah, with 7 branches. The 7 branches are the 7 churches listed above. The number 7 means “totality” or “completeness” so if you think of all 7 churches, think of them as a symbol of the “whole” church.
And what is the church? The church is made up the entire body of believers. And the believers are people. So we are told that John wrote/recorded the Book of Revelation and sent copies to each of the 7 churches mentioned, meant for all believers.
Over the last 2,000 years scholars cannot “agree” on the absolute meanings of the Book of Revelation.
It was written with such imagery and symbolism it’s difficult to understand.
So as I was reading about what Jesus had to say to the churches I got an overall connection thing going.
7 churches ~ image of menorah ~ symbolism galore here ~ light to the world ~ lamp stand ~ church~ Body of Christ ~ Believers
Jesus addresses each church and identifies Himself a certain way. Each description is different.
To Ephesus – 2:1 The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands…
To Smyrna – 2:8 The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life…
To Pergamum – 2:12 The One who has the sharp two-edged sword…
To Thyatira – 2:18 The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze…
To Sardis – 3:1 He who has the seven Spirits of God and the stars…
To Philadelphia – 3:7 He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens…
To Laodicea – 3:14 The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God…
Read all together the description is pretty powerful. This also suggests that each “church” identifies with Jesus a little bit differently than the others. Each “church” may view Christ in a certain dominant light.
Each letter opens with To the angel of the church in ….. The word “angel” also means messenger or one who is sent.
Then Jesus identifies Himself in a way the church would recognize Him best.
Then Jesus lists some good attributes of the church.
Then He lists a But…
Tells them what they need to do.
And the ones who obey or not, He goes on to tell what they will receive.
Each letter is laid out very similarly.
So, getting back to the first letter, To Ephesus:
Description of Jesus:
The Good Things:
2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.
Here’s the But…
What they need to do:
What will happen:
Another Good thing:
So in this letter we find out that the people of the church in Ephesus are doing good things. They are persevering and toiling and that they are able to uncover some false teachers and haven’t grown weary. More importantly, Jesus is watching and seeing all these things. But Jesus sees some deeper things going on too. He sees that they have lost “their first love”. The people in Ephesus aren’t totally excited and passionate about Him anymore. The day to day persecution and trials they may be going through are beginning to take their toll on them. Jesus says, “Remember how it was at the beginning.” Repent.
He says there are consequences if they don’t repent…He will remove their lampstand out of it’s place if they don’t. What He means by that is ultimately anyone’s guess but, if the lampstand has a place among all the others and the others represent the “whole” church, then I am thinking if they are removed from their place, they will lose their place within the “entirety” of the church, which is the body of Christ. Anyway, the meaning that is clear is that it isn’t anything good. They need to repent and remember their passion for Christ again.
He goes back to saying another good thing…that they hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans which He also hates. Love what He loves, hate what He hates…it’s a good rule to live by.
Notice how Jesus didn’t say He hated the Nicolaitans personally. He specifically said, “the deeds of”. This is a huge thing. As humans we have a tendency to get personal, sometimes real personal with things we don’t like. If someone smokes and we don’t like smoking, then the “smoker” is bad. If someone drinks and we don’t like drinking, then that person is “bad”. We tend to mesh the “deed” with who the “person” is, and that is not good.
There are “deeds”…and there are “people”. Deeds are NOT people. And people are NOT deeds. Two separate things here. Just because someone “does” something, that something is not who they are.
I hate alcohol. That is not the same as saying I hate people who drink. It could mean that I don’t like being around people who are currently in the act of drinking. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like the person, in fact, I’m more apt to help someone who is under the influence of alcohol out of love for that person because I know how destructive alcohol can be to a person.
Jesus loves people, but there are “deeds” He hates.
Letters to actual churches – Message to types of believers
So while John recorded these letters and sent them to the actual churches mentioned, I believe these letters are also describing people, specifically different “types” of Believers.
Ephesus is a specific message to those believers who have “forgotten their first love”. It is a wake up call to not merely go through the motions and do the good deeds but to fire up that passion and love for Christ again! It’s a call to REMEMBER how they felt when they first woke up to their Savior! When they first had their hearts and eyes opened to His absolute awesome love for them. Jesus is saying the Honeymoon is NOT over…it’s not even begun yet! Get the spring in your step back, get the stars back in your eyes, remember whatever you’re going through on earth is temporary but MY love is all passionate and fired up for YOU! Remember!
All the letters are describing different believers. These messages are Jesus telling us the good stuff and also letting us know where we might go off track and more importantly, how to get back ON track.
So you can read these letters as letters written for the specifically named churches and leave it at that. Or, you can read these letters and see the different types of believers they were meant for.
I wonder which churches message would be aimed at me today?