Wednesday, 2 September 2020
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,
‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: Revelation 2:1
As was noted in the previous verse, which closed out Chapter 1, the word “angel” is certainly to be taken as “messenger” and signifying the leader of the congregation. Understanding that, Chapter 2 begins with a note “To the angel of the church of Ephesus.”
The word “church” as used already, and as is used here, is from the Greek word ekklésia. It signifies an assembly or a congregation. It comes from two words signifying “called out.” In this, it is especially signifying those who have been called out from the world and to the fellowship of His kingdom through the gospel.
The church of Ephesus was a real, historical church first mentioned in Acts 18:19. The church began with Paul’s standard entry into the local synagogue to reason with the Jews. Eventually, the church departed from the synagogue and took up its meetings at the school of Tyrannus, being comprised of both Jews and Greeks.
The church ultimately became a predominantly Gentile congregation as is evidenced by Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:11 where the focus is on Gentiles. And yet, the words of Paul there show that it is one gospel shared between Jew and Gentile. It is important to understand these facts so that one does not fall into the heresy of hyperdispensationalism.
That same church continued on at the time of John, and it is this church whom Jesus addresses first in His words to “seven churches” (as stated in the previous verse). To know more about the area of Ephesus, and some of the cultural and geographical history of the location, a review of the commentary of Albert Barnes or Vincent’s Word Studies will provide many details.
Understanding who is being addressed, Jesus next states, “These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand.” Stating this first, just as He opens the letter, is to show that the leader of the church is right within the power of His grasp. Christ is the Head of the body, the church (Colossians 1:18). Therefore, whatever occurs in relation to the church falls under His control. This does not mean that He is responsible for the events, but that He has the power to take action concerning all that occurs. This is certain based on the content of the letters.
Further, the word translated as “holds,” means “to place under one’s grasp.” Thus, it signifies to put under control. For example, it is the word used when John the Baptist was arrested. The ultimate control of the church, meaning any recognized church at any time, is under the power and authority (symbolized by the right hand) of Jesus Christ.
Jesus continues the verse next, saying, “who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.” As noted in the preceding verse, the seven lampstands “are seven churches.” We are being given symbolism of the state of any church at any given time, represented by seven generalized churches. Each is called forth as an example of any church with similar problems.
The verb in this clause is a present participle, “walking.” He is actively coursing through the churches, not sitting around waiting for angels to give him a report every 30 days. It is a note which should be taken to heart. The things that go on in a church are being watched and evaluated at all times. We may forget that the Lord is there, but that does not mean the Lord is absent. He is actively searching out what occurs in His church in Sarasota, Florida, and He is actively searching out His church in Vientiane, Laos. If it is a true church, the Lord is evaluating it.
With this introductory verse of the seven letters to seven churches, it is a good time to note the similarity of all seven letters in the following verses. The Pulpit Commentary notes that placing each side by side will reveal the following six generalities. They say –
“These common elements are:
(1) Christ’s command to the seer to write;
(2) his title, which in most cases is taken from the descriptions in Revelation 1;
(3) the praise, or blame, or both, addressed to the angel, based in all cases on intimate personal knowledge – ‘I know thy works;’
(4) the charge or warning, generally in connexion with Christ’s coming;
(5) the promise to the victor;
(6) the call to each individual to give ear.”
Life application: After this opening, the letters (with two exceptions – Sardis and Laodicea) have a word of commendation, and then a note about the state of the church which leads to a word of correction (with the exception of Smyrna and Philadelphia where no correction is noted). After any correction, a note of encouraging approval and a challenge to persevere is normally given to close out the letter.
This style of writing can be equated with a sandwich. The bread is at the beginning and the end, and anything you may or may not like is in the middle. This type of letter eases into correction and eases out of it, and is a good way of dealing with difficult issues. In the cases where no easing in (or out) occurs, it is because the church is in such a bad state that any commendation may be taken as approval when no approval is due. As these letters represent problems systemic throughout the church age, we can easily determine what type of church we are in when compared to these seven letters.
Look around you as you attend your church. Have you allowed perversion to creep in? It is addressed in these letters. Have you allowed wealth and comfort to replace a heart for Jesus? It is in these letters. Unfortunately, we can normally see deficiencies in other churches better than we can in our own. Jesus holds the stars in his hand – they are under His authority. Jesus also walks among the churches, noting deficiencies, commending, rebuking, and so forth. He is ready to remove the lampstand from whatever church turns away from the truth of His gospel and His word.
Lord Jesus, we are Your people and the sheep of Your pasture. Please bring to our attention the deficiencies in the churches that we attend, and put it in the hearts of Your people to correct those areas that are weak. May we strengthen that which is acceptable and good. Thank You for being attentive to the state of each church and each individual as well. Amen.