MESSAGE TO CHURCH IN EPHESUS Rev 2:1-4
Vs 1-7: Letter to the Church in
1“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lamp stands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
A special note on how do we connect these ancient seven Churches to the Church in modern times. These were seven local churches in Asia Minor, but they were each representative of a particular age in church history. Therefore in a marvelous way, the Lord takes churches currently existing at that time and compares their behavior and their circumstances with certain epochs which were yet to appear in church history. Throughout the book of Revelation the Lord wants to make one thing clear that he is writing the history of the future.
What phases in church history do these seven churches represent? The church of Ephesus corresponds to the Apostolic Church. The church in Smyrna represents the age of the Ceasar and the emperor worship. The church in Pergamum represents the state church, beginning with Constantine and continuing to the end. The church in Thyatira represents church and state combined. The church in Sardis pictures the Reformation church, beginning the sixteenth century. The church in Philadelphia represents the missionary church, beginning with the rise of modern missions under William Carey (1761-1834). The church in Laodicea portrays the apostate church of the last days. I’ve heard some theologians say that these seven churches can also represent seven different life stages in the journey of a Christian believer.
John begins to write down the revelation he has seen and received to the seven churches in the province of Asia. These letters are addressed to the seven angels of the churches. The word Angel is mentioned 185 times in the N.T out of which 76 times in the book of Revelation alone (The Englishman’s Greek Concordance NT). In Greek it has a range of meanings: such as messenger, envoy, and angel. The following are a few of its usage:
I. (avgge,louj) Angel is used for men who were the religious messengers.
Lk 7:24: After John’s messengers left.
Mk 1:2 “Behold I send my messenger before” (Mt 11:10, Lk 9:52; Lk 7:27; 9:52)
Jas 2:25: She gave lodging to the spies and sent them off
II. Angel is used for a bishop or a particular elder of a presiding church:
Rev 1:20 “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands are the seven churches.”
Rev 2:1 “To the angel of the church in
Galatians 4:14 “but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself.”
III. Angel is used for created spiritual angel either good or evil:
Matthew 24:36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”(Mk13: 32)
Matthew 25:41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;”
Munger notes four functions of the “angel” in the seven letters: 1) To establish a corporate identity between the church and the angel. 2) To establish the unique distinction of each church.3) To emphasize the fact that each church is a spiritual entity. 4) To serving churches by carrying out God’s orders to them.” avgge,lwoj is used more number of times referring to created supernatural celestial beings than the human messengers. Morris notes various opinions of the usage of avgge,lwoj in his commentary:
“The word angel can be used as human messengers, some suggest that it means something like “guardian angels of the churches. Swete suggests, “The angel of a Church may be simply an expression of its prevailing spirit.” Others prefer to think of some earthly representative of the churches. Some others think that the angels or the bishops or pastors, overseer, elder or leader.
In Rev 2:1 avgge,lwoj in my opinion refers to a messenger or an elder rather than an supernatural being. The reason being, the revelation was sent to John by an angel (heavenly being) and when he is sending the message to seven churches in Asia writing to another (heavenly being) angel doesn’t make sense, hence it could be translated as messenger, elder, leader, or pastor.
Background of the city of Ephesus:
It is one of the four most power cities in the Roman Empire. In ancient times it was one of the
Seven Wonders of the World. Religiously, was best known for its temple to the
fertility goddess Artemis (Roman Diana). It was the home of many sacred temples
including some to the emperors (Augustus himself commissioned one to Julius
Caesar in 29 B.C). The imperial cult thrived there. Indeed, under Domitian
was named “warden” or guardian of the imperial cult (called a “temple keeper),
and a temple to Domitian was built. Acts 19:19-20 tells us, there was great
interest in magic and sorcery in Ephesus .
The church was apparently established by Priscilla and Aquila, who had been left there by Paul in A.D 52 and they were aided by Apollos ( Acts 18:18-25). Paul returned and spent two years and three months there (Acts 19), apparently using Ephesus as a center for evangelizing the whole region. Later the church struggled with false teachers (Eph 4:14) 
Vs 1: “The one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven golden lamp stands, says this” indicates the fact that the message is directly coming from God. Osborne notes “Ta,de le,gei( this is what…says) is a prophetic formula built on OT patterns. As BAGD 553 points out, this formula was used by Persian kings as well as OT prophets in authoritative decrees, meaning this is what…says.” Muse (1986:147-61) believes this formula shows that the seven letters are primarily prophetic in nature. Beale (1999:229) points out that the formula of Ywaheh occurs 21 times in the Minor Prophets (12 in Zechariah) and thus means Christ is assuming the role of Yahweh in addressing the churches.”
John begins each letter by describing one of the aspects of the glorified vision of Jesus (Rev 1:13-17) in order to show the sovereignty of Christ. John’s letters, to the churches except to Laodecia follows a similar pattern. The letter typically begins with a commendation, a confrontation, a warning to change and finally it ends with an announcement of reward.
I. Commendation: God knows the deeds or works of the Ephesian Church. In the NT often (the works) denotes what a man is and how he acts.(Key Word Study Bible). Rom 2:6 “He will judge every one according to what they have done.”(NLT) II Cor 11:15 “In the end they will get the punishment for their wicked deeds deserve.”(II Tim 4:14; III John 10; Rev 2:2, 5, 6, 22, 23).
When God says to the church in Ephesus that He knows their deeds could it be that he is saying that he has knowledge of their actions. Osborn confirms this notion “the e;rga are more than just ‘good deeds’ but refer to the whole spiritual walk of the believer, as defined by the contents of the “deeds” in the letters.” The believers in
had persevered, tested the spirits (I
John 4:1) exposed the false apostles, (2 Cor 11:13), endured for the sake of
God’s name, and hated the deeds of Nicolaitans. Ephesus
Nothing much is mentioned about Nicolaitans in the Bible other than what is written in Revelation. Irenaeus says that they owed their origin to Nicolas, who was one of the seven deacons (Acts 6:5). Victorinus of Pettau, the first commentator on Revelation, refers to them as ‘false and troublesome men, who, as ministers under the name of Nicolaus. They had made a heresy, to the effect that what had been offered to idols might be exorcised and eaten, and that whoever should have committed fornication might receive peace on the eighth day.
Confrontation: After acknowledging the good qualities in the
, God confronts
them saying “But I have something against you that you have left your
first Love.” The word avlla. “But”
introduces the change in the tone of God, he was not pleased with some of the
actions of the Ephesians; in this case they left their first Love. The text
doesn’t really give us a clue on what it meant by leaving their first love. Is
it their first love for God or their love for the fellow men or could it be both?
How have they left their first love? church
Osborne explains “In referring to avga,phn many scholars assume that it is horizontal or brotherly love. For instance, Beasley-Murray (1974a: 75) says it “was primarily love for fellow men,” and Ladd says “Due to their struggle with false teachers and their hatred of heretical teachings, the Ephesian believers have left their love they used to have for their fellow men. Others view that it is primarily as love for God. However a growing number e.g Mounce, Johnson, Krodel, Thomas, Giesen) recognize the difficulty of separating love for humans from Love for God and Christ.”
After reading various commentaries I conclude that the Ephesian believers have left their first love for people which once was the result of their love for God. Jesus taught his disciples that they were to Love God first. Matt 22:37-39 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind….You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus also predicted that in the end time many people’s love would grow cold. Matt 24:12 “And because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold.”
Osborn notes, “Throughout the NT love for God/Christ is emphasized (Rom 8:28; I Cor 2:9) as is love for our fellow believers (John 13:34; 15:12; I Thess.4: 9; I Pet 1:22). Indeed one cannot exist without the other.” According to I John 4:20 “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” God equates our lack of love for people to the lack of love towards Himself.
After carefully studying the context, it seems to me that the Ephesian believers in their enthusiasm for the truth, have grown cold in their love towards fellowmen. Outwardly they were zealous for God but in the end God holds this against them. If we say love God then we do not have an option but to love his people regardless of their sexual orientation, ethnic, cultural, religious and gender differences because God loves all people.
 Grant R. Osborne, Revelation Exegetical commentary on NT, (Baker Academic: G.R. Michigan, 2002), 111.
 Leon Morris, Revelation, NT Commentaries,(W.B. Eerdmans Publishing: G.R. Michigan, 1969), 56-57.
 Grant R. Osborne, Revelation commentary on NT, (Baker Academic: G.R. Michigan, 2002),108-109,
 Ibid., 111.
 Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, commentary on NT, (Baker Academic: G.R. Michigan, 2002), 112.
 Leon Morris, Revelation,(W.B Eerdmans Publishing Company: G.R. Michigan, 2002), 61.
 Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, commentary on NT, (Baker Academic: G.R. Michigan, 2002), 116.
 Ibid., 116.