The Seven Churches: Ephesus

The Seven Churches: Ephesus

The Seven Letters


Revelation 1:9–20

The beginning of the Church was Pentecost in Acts 2. 

In the Old Testament the same day is known as Shavot, or “The Feast of Weeks“, it was a harvest feast that was to be celebrated the day after 7 weeks from the passover, 50 days.

50 days after Jesus Christ, our Lord had given his life on the Cross, becoming the true passover that was foreshadowed in the Levitical law and remembered every year until the true passover came, was the beginning of the Church.

It was identified by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the gathering in Jerusalem and 3,000 Jews were saved, these were devout men from every nation under heaven says the passage in Acts 2:5.

That was the BEGINNING of the Church.

The word of God went North into Turkey, South into Africa, westward into Europe and Eastward into India. 

Those who preached the world were persecuted and troubled everywhere they went and yet the word of God was like a fire in their bones. Each of them were beaten, were imprisoned and finally killed for the word of God sake. 

But not before a multitude of Churches, “assemblies“, “called-out-ones“, or as the greek refers to it, “the ecclesia“, were planted in every City.


It was the City of Antioch, directly north of Jerusalem, in Syria (Today Southern Turkey) where those of that “Way” were first called “Christians” and it was this city which became the base of all missionary journeys for the early missionaries.

But this is not one of the Seven Churches referred to in Revelation 2 or 3.

The Gospel we know, went to Rome, SLIDE but she is not mentioned, to Corinth but nothing referred to there, to Thessalonica, indeed we have letters written by Paul to each of these Churches, but the report card given by Christ does not mention them.

Why then these seven?

We don’t know the answer in full, but in the fullness of the times of History, the geographical location of each of them, the order in which they are addressed and the names by which each are called, that these seven churches and these seven letters reveal some wonderful truths to us today. 

The Seven Churches of Revelation are;

Historical Churches.

These are churches of real history that existed in real time during the days of John. 

Geographical Churches


We also notice that, if the letters were to take their journey from John on the Isle of Patmos, they would travel in a clockwise direction beginning with Ephesus, until the last Church at Laodicean. 

Representative Churches

What is also interesting to note is that the Churches seem to be representative Churches whose character and effects seem to identify distinct Church TYPES.

The Ephesian Church indicates a doctrinally strong church unwilling for any error to creep in, being warned of Paul during his missionary journeys of the “Grievous wolves” that would come in after his departure and having warned them night and day for three years. This is the Ephesian Church of Acts 20:17-35.

The Church of Smyrna, being the persecuted church, who’s very name represents death, which died and then lived again.

Pergamos, being the compromising Church as it negotiated with the ruling elites of the day.

Thyatira, an interesting representation of the WORKS BASED Church.

Sardis, a church that had a name that it did live but was in fact a dead church

Philadelphia, the faithful Church that holds to the word of God. This church had little strength, in other words, it was a popular church, but it was faithful.

And lastly, the Laodicean Church, The Church that thinks it is rich and has no need of anything, but does not realise itself as poor and lacking in everything. It is the apostate Church. 

Representative Chronology of Churches

Now, what seems most fascinating is not only that they were real churches, that they were geographically arranged for a clockwise distribution of their respective letters, not only that they are representative of Church types through history, but ALSO that they are a representation of a CHRONOLOGY of Church history as it is seen LOOKING BACK.

We will go into that as we go deeper, but;

Ephesus, the first church, doctrinally sound but lacking in love.

Smyrna, the persecuted Church that stood strong, even to death.

Pergamos, the compromised Church seen during the time of Constantine until it became the Church represented by the empire under Theodosius 379-395, when the Church of;

Thyatira came to the fore and well represented by the Roman Catholic Church.

Sardis, which has a name that it lives, is also well represented by the Reformation era Churches

Philadelphia, the faithful Churches that have held to the word of God from the begining, but came to the fore AFTER the Bible was able to be translated into the common language of the people. Baptists, anabaptists, Brethren churches etc, all pictured here.

The Chronological timeframe concludes with the apostate Churches of the Laodicean era in which we live.

Representative of Christians

Finally, these church types are also a representation of the types of Christians who represented the Churches. 

Each of these Church “Types” have their corresponding ‘types’ evident in the lives of Christians. Every Church is likely to have a mix of each of these though usually dominated by those who better represent the Church type.

Every Christian can and will fit into one or several of these representations, even as they grow in the Lord. 

The key is to first “know thyself”.

I pray the journey is a blessing.

Due to the introduction, it is likely that we will only have time for the first Church today.

Perilous Times Pt 3: The Seven Letters

Revelation 2:1–7

1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. 6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

We had witnessed that this letter is a letter from the Lord Jesus Christ himself, given to the apostle John. We had seen this in the first chapter of Revelation and we also see that similar letters are given to each of these seven churches.

1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;

The letter begins first with the introduction of its author, “he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;”

In verse 20 of chapter 1 we have the interpretation of the “stars” and the “golden candlesticks” The stars “are the angels of the seven churches and the seven golden candlesticks… are the seven churches“.

He holds the angels in his right hand and walks in the midst of the seven churches. 

We are often ignorant of the knowledge that Jesus Christ knows intimately all that is happening in his churches. 

He sees and is aware of the acts of the people and the preachers. 

Some are acutely aware of the reality of this and behave themselves wisely, fearful of the knowledge that they are to give an account (these seven letters are a testimony that an assessment is going to be made), and in that fear are careful as to the decisions they make in all matters, even desiring to be accountable

Then there are those with no fear of God before their eyes and seem largely ignorant that they will be held to account for their actions. 

I know thy works Says the Lord, his first direct address to the church of Ephesus, his first address to you and I in his church.

2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.

The Lord goes into detail of the matters that of of the greatest evident importance. 

Jesus does not spend time on the minor things, there are no perfect churches and the Lord does not indicate he is trying them for not dotting every “I” and crossing every “T”. But the focus of those elements in the church that direct and govern it;

Labour….patience and intolerance of evil.

The Ephesian Church examines and make discovery of the truth, and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

They bear their burdens in such matters and patiently endure them, they labour and for the Lords sake, have not fainted under the burden of those things.

The Church of the Ephesians well known the responsibility they have, they were directly taught of Paul the apostle who warned them of the challenges they would face.

Turn to

Acts 20:25-31

25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. 26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. 28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

There is no doubt that this was a vital exhortation to the Church at Ephesus and they abided diligently in the teaching of Paul in this regard, and so they should have.

The City of Ephesus was the most Cosmopolitan of all the Cities represented by these Churches.

It was an ancient, wealthy and large Coastal City. 

The theatre itself was huge in comparison to the theatres of other Roman cities, it could accomodate 25,000 people. There are not ANY theatres in Melbourne that large.

The Myer Music bowl can accomodate only 2030 people. The largest we have is ‘Plenary Hall at the Exhibition Center that can seat 5,500 people.[1]

Historians would use the accomodating seating of ancient city theatres to estimate the potential populations of the citifies by a multiple of 10. A 25,000 seat theatre = a population of approximately 250,000 people.

It was a large city in the scheme of things.

It added to its credit one of the seven wonders of the world, the Temple of Dianna.

It was immense in size, at its base the Temple was 110 meters long by 55 meters wide, that’s 6,050 m2. In other words, the Temple was 1.5 acres UNDER ROOF.

To further place it into its proper perspective, The Acropolis in Greece is our only present day example at 2,150, or closer to a half acre in size under roof.

The 127 Temple columns supporting the roof structure alone were 6 stories high. 

The Temple of Dianna took 120 years to build and completed in the lien of King Creosis, it was then destroyed by fire apparently the same day Alexander the Great was born[2]thenrebuilt in the same footprint until finally destroyed in the 35rd century AD by invading Goths and little of the temple remains but the foundation and one solitary pillar out of the 127 originally employed.

The Temple was referred to as The Temple of the great goddess Diana” in the New Testament (Acts 19:27), and as is the case of many of the ancient gods worshipped in the different dominating cultures of the ancient world, they are given names in accord with the dominating culture.

Diana is the Roman name for Artemis in Greek culture, being the same goddess of Egyptian mythology called Isis, until we come to the Mesopotamian empires of Assyria and Babylon where the name Ishtar is given and where the celebration of Easter is believed to have as its true origin.

Each of these goddesses are most likely the one and the same; each have similar attributes, but not all the same, goddess of love, of war, of the hunt, of sex, and yet one they all share is the goddess of fertility

Artemis (Diana) is depicted in statues with having many breasts. 

Both the Rabbit and the Egg are symbols of fertility, to which children were given in sacrifice at the beginning of the Spring season.

The sacrifice of Children was not unusual in the ancient world, just as it is not unusual in the modern world, the Bible refers to it in the voice of the vanity of the people respecting the appeasement of God or ‘the gods’ , saying in Micah;

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Mica 6:7). 

In the Old Testament it was to the god Moloch as but one of the gods of the pagan world. 

She was also known as the Queen of the Universe, the Queen of the Sky and the Queen of Heaven, and her link points all the way back to a woman by the name of Semiramis, the wife of Nimrod who first appears in Genesis 10 as the son of Cush, who was the son of Ham, the son of Noah. 

Semiramis, the wife of Nimrod was also the mother Of Tamuz, and an ancient account of resurrection!

It is Interesting that most share an account of resurrection respecting their husbands, this was true of Semiramis and Nimrod, true also of Isis and Osiris, 

Each also are depicted with Babies of these Goddesses;

While we dont have imagery respecting Semiramis, we do with Isis with Horus (who’s father was Osiris), and Ishtar with Tamuz (the same name as that of Semiramis) 

Ephesian Church

Turn in your Bible to Acts 19:26-29

The effect of the preaching of Paul could only be attributed to the Holy Spirt in that City, for the changes there were so swift that one might gain the impression that they were truly White for the Harvest.

Paul enters Ephesus at the end of his Second Missionary Journey but does not remain long. Acts 18:19-21

But now in his Third Journey, this second visit to Ephesus, he remains and many were persuaded to Christ.

Now we read the complaint of the silversmiths who made and sold Idols to Dianna, the only Goddess named in the New Testament.

26 Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: 27 So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. 

28 And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. 29 And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.

And we recall this was not a small theatre

This City was completely given over to paganism. It was the general way of life there and the only people group that competed with the paganism was the large population of Jews living in Ephesus.

They were there in such number, the history books tell us they were given permission to a separate form of worship to the Pagans and hence their Synagogues in which Paul accustomed.

We learn from Acts 20:31 that Paul remained for three years because he certainly saw the City given over and the effect upon the people was enormous.

Turn to. Acts 19:18

And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. 19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

This is an enormous Book burning!

A zealous and true response to the truth of Christ and the salvation found in Christ.

The Ephesians turned away from everything they thought was of value in their world. 

And so we have Jesus commendation in this letter 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:


But then, in verse 4 we have this;

Revelation 2:4–7

 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love

Something had changed in the hearts of the people of this Church. John writing this letter some 30 years after it was planted, and something had changed.

The commendation was there and it was understood. They were in a great city, a metropolitan city, many perks and many riches present there, one of the seven wonders of the word and one of the largest theatres of all. The City was prosperous and much gain was had in the worship of Diana, yet these people still came to Christ and the City was altered.

But something changed.

Thou has left thy first love

It is interesting that the text says “left” and not “lost”. There are many who claim they have “lost their first love”, but that is not the reality that the Bible presents.

The Ephesians were so preoccupied with making sure they had things RIGHT and checked the belief of all those who came in, they had cleaved to that which was right…but they had left the LOVE that saved them in the first place.

This is not a ‘leaving and forsaking’ of the object of their love, but they have left the fervency of their love that was first seen when they were saved.

Beloved this is true of many of us, and how easy it is to occur. We love the Lord with all our heart when we are saved, but then our love grows often cold through the deceitfulness of sin within. We often then try to modify our hearts distance from our Lord by ensuring we DO THINGS RIGHT, but our heart grows cold.

What might explain this?

Our heart is weary of repenting for sin. It is weary of the fight of the flesh and finds itself having left its first love.

The result? 

We will either be fervent in doctrine, cross every T and dot every I, or we will be quick to point out the shortcomings of others. Quick to remove the ‘speck’ from the eyes of others before the ‘beam’ in our own eye.

Little comfortable clicks begin to form in the church and before you know it, we become SELF focused, desiring to remain COMFORTABLE and SELF Absorbed. 

Visitors attend and find us COLD. We wont discomfort ourselves to welcome them, we will only spend time with those we feel comfortable with.

What else might explain this?

The Church of Ephesus began to find themselves persecuted.

Emperor Domitian began to rule between the years 81-96 AD, before the end of that first century. And he began to force a form of worship that was, till that time, unheard of.

Consider the words of Historian Colin Hemer who, writing on this topic, considered the beginning of the fall of the Ephesian Church.

It is likely that Domitian’s reign marked a deterioration in the standing of the Ephesian church. That emperor enforced his worship with a rigour hitherto unknown, and a pretentious temple to him was actually established in Ephesus. He appears also to have extended the boundaries of the temple of Artemis, an act whose significance we must consider below.17 The hints of increasing danger from the pagan opposition will readily explain the activity of Nicolaitans.[1][3]

Advantages where taken away, both in business and in life. Privileges were diminished and even Citizenship was Curtailed.

The jews added to their troubles also, for between the pagans and the jews, the Christians were seen as a common enemy and so they banded together against the Church of the Ephesians.

A two tiered society began to form and the Christians found themselves on the outer. This, they were not used to and slowly they began to hide their faith and in many ways demonstrate to one another that they were ashamed of the Gospel.

Through persecution it became easier to leave love that to live for it.

Ephesian Opportunity.

Revelation 2:5

5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Weather it be due to a cooling heart or a persecuted life, what is clear in this verse is there is an opportunity to repent before it is too late.

Jesus instructs them to remember…from where they are fallen. This is the first step to warm the heart again and return to that love we had left.

The Christian life is not an easy life. We have the same troubles that others have, but added to those troubles is a duel nature that would buffet us. The tendency is to turn our hearts away from repentance toward Christ and focus our minds of the sins of others.

Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch acknowledge their diligence and wrote to the Ephesian Church saying;

“Now Onesimus himself highly praises your orderly conduct in God, reporting that you all live in accordance with the truth and that no heresy has found a home among you. Indeed, you do not so much as listen to anyone unless he speaks truthfully about Jesus Christ.1[4]

Though this is praiseworthy on the one hand, it has a tendency of lifting our hearts in pride. Being so well equipped to point out the errors of others does not often mix well with seeing the sin in ourselves.

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

The name ‘Ephesus’ means “Desirable”, and though such a wonderful, coastal, wealthy and notable city was no doubt a desirable, it was also a city that would be engulfed by its own pride.

Timothy is said to have been the first pastor of the Church at Ephesus. The seven sons of Sheva  tried to exercise a devil in the same place (Acts 19:13-17). It was in Ephesus that Priscilla and Aquilla gave to Apollos a better understanding of the Gospel (Acts 18:26), it was there that Paul baptised twelve disciples of John who were baptised only in the baptism of repentance rather than Christ (Acts 19:1-4), it was hear Paul healed many people through the handkerchiefs and aprons he wore (Acts 19:11-12) and it was here that Paul disputed daily in the school of a man named Tyrannus for two years (Acts 19:9). 

But the silting of the adjacent river against the harbour of the city would find the place abandoned eventually, just as the building up of the pride of our lives will have us leave our first love.

Ephesus is today only an archeological site, the light of its candle has well been removed.

Beloved, you cannot illuminate the love of Christ to a dark world when leave your first love. Our candle is to burn brightly that all may find Christ as we had. 

If you have left your first love, “do the first works“, “remember from where you had fallen“. If you feel you are leaving that first love, the same holds true.

If you choose to leave your first love and will not return, your candle may indeed go out and the only people you will attract are visitors to a site where love once flourished. 

It is good to KNOW the doctrine and not tolerate error, it is not good if with that you have left your first love.

Of the two cities and churches, which better identify you as a Christian?

The church of Ephesus were well spoken of for their diligence and willingness to hold to the truth. Sound doctrine was their focus and they seemed to have quickly dealt with error.

But they also made a choice to leave their first love. They experienced some persecution where both goods and privilege was removed from them, and life in their great cosmopolitan city was altered to become more uncomfortable than what they were used to. 

If we were to give consideration to the modern times in our city, we might equate the days during Covid as a reasonable example. Life was certainly not in question, but privileges and freedoms were, hearts were revealed at the time for where they were at, at the time. But this does not determine the future, there may be those who held strong that will falter, or those who faltered that shall be strong in the Lord. 

The Church of Ephesus KNEW their doctrines, but they held too tightly for this world and “Left their first love”.



[3] [1] Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.; Livonia, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Dove Booksellers, 2001), 40.

[4] Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Updated ed., (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 143.


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