The Seven Letters Ephesus

The Seven Letters Ephesus

SEVEN LETTERS: EPHESus

 

Pr Edi Giudetti

 

 

 

Introduction.

 

What we have before us is one of the most incredible portions of the Bible.

 

It is found in the last book of the Bible and, it is placed historically in two ways;

  1. It is both at the end of the Apostle Johns life, who lived during the time of the physical presence of the seven Churches referred to in chapters one to three;
  2. But it is also yet future to John the apostle and indeed looks forward deep into the future to a time we would refer to as The End of the Church age.

 

This all should be borne out as we go through what is called, The Seven Letters to The Seven Churches of Revelation.

 

The number seven we see in scripture is the number of completion, the number of that which is whole, complete, sometimes perfect. It is used by the Lord extensively throughout the scriptures and we note its use contextually.

 

This is not the only number, many uses of numbers appear in the Bible, each of them is not without significance, but what has become known as The Heptadic Structure of Scripturehas been well documented throughout the years.

 

In fact, I have a book in my Library called The Heptadic Structure of Scripture where the author outlines specifically the details throughout the Bible of the use of the number Seven. He also finds these same links in Nature.

 

His studies followed on from the Biblical Numeric’s work of the Late Scholar and Author DrIvan Nicolaye Panin early last century.

 

Nevertheless here, in the first few chapters of Revelation, no more and no less than Seven Churches are given a report card; a letter to Reprove, Rebuke and Exhort with all long-suffering.

 

The Churches, their respective orders given to us twice, once in Revelation chapter one and then again in chapter two, are;

 

Ephesus,

Smyrna,

Pergamos,

Thyatira,

Sardis,

Philadelphia,

Laodicea.

 

What we will discover is that each of these Churches are real Churches in real history that existed in a real geographical location; all of them in Asia Minor, specifically located in modern Turkey’s western section.

 

But we are going to discover something else as we go through this Study.

 

  1. We are going to find that the Churches, in their respective order, also represent periods of Church history.

 

What I mean to say is that each Church noted, in their order, describe the type of Churchthat rose to greater prominence in its peculiar time; and had done so in the specific consecutive order of that noted in Revelation 1-3.

 

Please understand that this was not known to those living at the time and it is not something you will get directly out the passage itself.

 

Yes, indeed the recognition of it is somewhat ‘Extra Biblical’ and would likely never have been known had we not been able to identify the types of Churches each of these Churches represent.

 

This will be made plainer as we go through each of the Churches in the coming weeks.

 

  1. Lastly we will discover that each of the Churches represent the types of Christians and their respective faiths throughout Church history.
    1. Yes, it is likely you may see elements of yourself in these Churches, both in that which is recognised as faithful; that which is reported as unfaithful; and finally that which they have endured in life.

 

 

As I am attending to each of these Churches in each week I cannot commit myself to an outlinethat is representative of each letter. Each of these Churches are different and therefore each outline may differ.

 

That’s not to say that there are no patterns in the writing of these letters, there is certainly a structure each letter represents, some are typical, but one is curious and that is the last one, the Church of Laodicea; We will speak more of it when we get there.

 

 

 

Lets Pray

 

 

Revelation 2:1

 

The Judgement Of The Writer

 

1Unto 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 command is given to John that he might write, and the style of the writing is one that would constitute and report, an accurate representation of the nature of the Church being addressed.

 

Now this is important.

 

None of us who have attended a school or a workplace are concerned about the opinions of those who have no authority to judge our work are we?

We don’t even know the value of their opinions;

 

Are they qualified to give any criticism or praise?

What is the weight of judgement they carry?

 

Should a fellow student or Co Worker complain or praise our work, it truly makes little difference to us. Unless, the praise or criticism comes directly from the teacher marking the work or the employer who pays the wages.

 

So, we need to take heed with respect to the nature of the one writing the letter to the Ephesians.

 

As he is the writer of all these short Epistles, these Seven Letters, we should consider his qualification to judge.

 

To what value is The Judgement of The Writer?

 

 

Each of the letters begins with a partial description of the writer to the relevant Church, each description is identified specifically to that Church .

 

Rev 2:1

1Unto 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;

 

he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand ? Who is the author and what are his qualities that he can thus judge the work,nature and heartof an entire church?

 

For this we turn back one Chapter and consider him who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.

 

Revelation 1:10

 

 

10I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and senditunto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. 12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticksonelike unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.14 His head andhishairswerewhite like wool, as white as snow; and his eyeswereas a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenancewasas the sun shineth in his strength. 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:

 

This is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, this is he to whom the Church is purchased, is redeemed, is prepared and saved.

 

She is HIS bride and she exists because of him. He, Jesus Christ is the purpose and the proclamation of the Church

 

Many Churches today act as if they are the Alpha and Omega, many pastors that think they are the First and the Last.

 

No, no beloved, this is Christ and without him was not anything made that was made, he is the mighty God, the everlasting father, the prince of Peace

 

And John gives a frightening description of him with 14eyes as a flame of fireAnd his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.

 

And now verse 16 we come to the portion found in our text of chapter 2;16 And he had in his right hand seven stars

 

Well what are these Seven Stars? Moreover, what do the Seven Candlesticks represent, in the midst of whom he walks?

 

 

Verse 20 gives us the interpretation;

 

20The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

 

Beloved, don’t make the mistake many do in trying to interpret the interpretation. Christ is making it clear here that the Apostle might understand, he is not trying to add cryptography to a cryptic message, he is unwinding what he acknowledges is The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks.

 

The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. Many teach this refers to the Pastors, they think this is the case because the word Angel essentially is the same word for Messenger…but God can say Pastors if he wants to say pastors can he not?

 

Besides which, never in the Bible are Pastors referred to as “Stars”, though it seems that is the motivation of many pastors in these last dayswith their darkened congregations, stage lights, warmup performance of the band before the main act.

An act consisting of nothing more than a fifteen-minute sermonette to Christianettes; watered down and sweetened for easy consumption and the praises of men.

Fluffing the pillows of those asleep to an eternal hell that awaits them when they awake.

 

Far too much time spent ‘Scratching ears’ rather than piercing hearts.

 

No, the Stars are not the Pastors of the Churches, but the Angels of the Churches.

 

There is an angel that is overseeing each of these Churchesand the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

 

And verse one of the second chapterreveals to us the nature of the Judgment of the writer. These things saith he that holdeththe seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;

 

The Angels themselves are held in the right hand of Christ, and it is he himself that walks in the midst of the Churches.

 

 

Each one of us individually have one ultimate desire, one report that we all would like to hear from our Lord and I trust each of you here know what it is that you most would like your Lord to say to you when you come to see him…?

 

“Well done my good and faithful servant”

 

But how many will truly hear those words?

 

There are only two of the seven Churches in which nothing bad is said of them. Incredibly, there are also two in which nothing good is said, and that might surprise you.

 

Our desire is to hear those words from Christ, well done my good and faithful servant. This letter to the Ephesians tells you that even though there is a turning away of the heart, the Lord tells of how it might be turned back.

 

 

 

The Discernment of The Recipient

 

2I 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.

 

Beloved to achieve such praise as this is no mean feat.

 

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

 

It was an ancient and large Coastal City. And it claimed to its fame the greatest temple of the ancient world, the Temple of Dianna (Roman) Artemis (Greek).

 

The Temple was 137 meters long (450ft Old Scale) and half that wide, about 68 meters. Most of us don’t have blocks of land that large.

 

The Temple was supported by 127 Columns, each of them 60 ft High, that’s 18mt high, equivalent to six stories. That’s just the columns, then add the roof segment of another 30 ft (9m) and you come to recognize this as a huge building.

 

It was in fact, one of the seven wonders of the ancient worldand dedicated to the Goddess Dianna.

 

Turn in your Bible to Acts 19:26-29

 

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.

 

Her links to other like Goddesses from Old Testament times are also worth noting as “there is nothing new under the sun”

 

26Moreover 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 heardthese sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, GreatisDiana 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 this was not a small theatre. A huge outdoor complex not too dissimilar in view to the Myer Music Bowl on Melbourne but with Concrete steps all the way around for people to sit upon.

 

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 usthey were given permission to a separate form of worshipto the Pagans and hence their Synagogues in which Paul accustomed.

 

Aquilla, Priscilla and Apollos labored diligently in this City.

 

After Paul’s second missionary journey where he first took a glimpse of the depravity and idolatry of the City, the Apostle Paul determined to return quickly and when he did he remained for three years because he certainly saw the City given over and desired to remove Satan’s throne from there.

 

Contrary to many today, Paul saw that the worse the state of the community, the greater the opportunity for the Gospel.

 

Contrary to many, Paul had seen as the easiest targets those who looked the furthest from Christ, the most difficult targets those who think themselves near.

 

Was it a success?

 

Rev 2:2

 

2I 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.

 

Revelation 2:2 gives indication that many turned to faithfulness and trust in Christ.

 

The passage we read in the Book of Acts demonstrates also that the impact made on the city was substantial enough to affect the very trade of Idols in the City.

 

If you are still in Acts 19, turn to verse 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 allmen: and they counted the price of them, and founditfifty thousandpiecesof 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.

 

Ephesus was to the Ephesians what Melbourne is to us. A Great cultural city, but one given over completely to the whims and turnings of the world.

 

People are today turned to so many forms of Idolatry, so many notions, so many ideas;

 

In fact, so many are the innocuous Placebos in our land that none are able to discern one false one from another.

 

Our City is no different to that of the Ephesians and yet consider the joy in discovering the truth and hope found in Christ through hearts born again. A new spirit shined within them and they were intent never again to be deceived.

 

Consider Jesus words to them; 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:

 

Historically the Church at Ephesus became known to be discerning, they despised the evil in which they were once deceived and wanted no part of it again;

 

We have a letter from Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch in ‘The Apostolic Fathers’ who wrote to the Ehesian 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.9

 

They tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars,

 

And then also this

 

“But I have learned that certain people from there have passed your way with evil doctrine, but you did not allow them to sow it among you. You covered up your ears in order to avoid receiving the things being sown by them[1]

 

and how thou canst not bear them which are evil:

 

 

The witnesses of History give testimony to the witness of Christ concerning them.

 

Are you one of these Christians, do you hold tight to the truth of the doctrines of Christ, do you even know what the Bible teaches concerning your faith, or are you easily led astray, falling for every wind of doctrine that comes your way?

 

Are you one of those who determine something is true because you agree with it, or are you as firm as Isaiahwho states, “To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them”? (Isa 8:20).

 

Perhaps if Christians were so discerning as this through history, the last of the Seven Churches would never have appeared in Revelation the way it has.

 

 

 

The Hardening of The Redeemed

4Nevertheless I havesomewhatagainst thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

 

How can it be that a Church so strong in the knowledge of the word, in holding to that which is good and destroying that which is evil, in having burned the books that bound them and distained the Idols that consumed them, how is it that they could leave that first love?

 

Clearly that first love is the Love for Jesus, that Jesus refers to. This is that love that hates loved ones as its comparisonin Luke 14.

 

Jesus is our first love.

 

But here the passage tells us they have left it.

 

Can I ask you, do you still have your first love? I know that if you once had that first love for Christ you would not have to think long on the question before you recognize it in you.

 

Many years ago, I was spending time with a pastor who confessed to me that he had “Lost” his first love. The word he used was “lost” and not ‘Left’. (We know that the love for Christ cannot be Lost but it can consciously be left.)

 

Nevertheless, he knew what it was he was experiencing and I was only a new Christian then, probably five years old in the faith. But I knew enough already that the thought came across my mind that he should repent.

 

But I never had the courage to say it.

 

But we prayed together, and I prayed that he might again ‘find’ his first love. Not thinking that he should simply return to that which he left.

 

What was it that caused him to leave his first love? What is it that caused you?

 

Well I have a hint on what it was for the Ephesians.

 

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

 

Cosider 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.17The hints of increasing danger from the pagan opposition will readily explain the activity of Nicolaitans.[2]

 

A return to the worship of Artemis or Dianna began after the Temple was expanded under Domitians reign. The Temple also became a form of Refuge, an Asylum, a Safe House in which few would dare enter to disrupt.

 

Criminals would take refuge there and, as a result, believe it or not, it eventually became the central point of organized Crime.

 

The many Jews also continued to make it difficult for Christians as the phrase “The Enemy of our Enemy is our friend”so too the Pagan world and the Jew made things very difficult for the Christians.

 

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

 

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

 

One by one people began to turn back to the world and forsake the hope they have been redeemed from.

 

Too difficult to confess Christ, to harsh to deal with the bickering of people behind my back, I need to live in this world and get along with people, I need to be accepted by my peers, by my friends…yes the same friends who hate the God I Love….

 

 

I need to work the shifts I am assigned, I cant tell them I am a Christian and have people who benefit from my fellowship.

 

Even though other false religions are all protected and the followers of those errors hold tight to their traditions, I feel as if I cannot stand for the truth of what I say I believe.

 

Is that how it starts? Are your priorities the things of the world?

 

You have a late night the night before and give all manner of excuse to yourself to separate from fellowship, is that the real indicator of the First love being left?

 

Or is the first indicator your unwillingness to confess your faith to someone?

 

The persecution of the Ephesian Christians was nothing compared to that of the Christians of Smyrna which follows.

 

The Ephesians lived in a very Cosmopolitan City, not too different from our own.

With such luxuries and pleasures the smallest decline in a standard of living was thought of as too uncomfortable, and the Ephesian Christians slowly became ashamed of the Gospel.

 

 

The Rebuke of The Redeemer

 

 

5Remember 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.

 

If you have been a Christian for any length of time you too may have also felt what it is like to leave your first love. I certainly have.

 

The last time it happened I got a broken leg! Yeh, not too long ago.

 

But take a look again at the passage and see the hope that is offered to people like me.  Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works

 

I recall times I would read some of the articles I wrote more than a decade earlier and I remember thinking, Where is that man? Did I really write that?

 

So far I had fallen in my love and faith toward Christ.

 

Sadly this has happened in my life far too often

 

 

To repent is to go back, it’s a chance to turn around, to go again and do the first works. We don’t LOOSE our first love, we leave it and all we need do is return!

 

Every moment of every day we have a choice to be faithful, and not in the big things, but certainly in the small things.

 

Faithfulness in Reading your Bibles, Faithfulness in Prayer, Faithfulness in Church.

 

Those three and then comes the others as naturally as can be, faithfulness in Giving, in sharing of the Gospel, in loving the brethren, in thinking and even living for others, and in loving your enemy.

 

Returning to LOVE the Lord however is the first step. Determining that no matter what I feel like on a given day The Lord is the love of my life and I will trust and rejoice in all he has done

 

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;

Clearly, the Lord missing no person in his address.

 

To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

 

Interesting to note that the Temple of Artemis was believed to house an origin of what is known to be a Tree Shrine. Multiple temples were found built on the same site; The historian takes up the accounts;

 

D.G. Hogarth reached the basic soil beneath a great depth of accumulated silt, and found remains which he identified with those of this tree-shrine. The history of the subsequent temples and their rebuildings is much confused in the literary authorities, but they testify clearly to the fact of successive structures of increasing magnificence erected upon the same spot, and this general picture has been confirmed by excavation.

 

He goes on a says;

 

The literary references are late, and their poetic language cannot be pressed, but they are valuable as evidence of the persistence of the idea of the sacred tree into the Hellenistic and Roman periods.[3]

 

There is a reason Jesus speaks of the True Tree of life in THIS letter. The same one that is found in Genesis is that found in Revelation and gives life and nourishment to the nations.

 

 

Many turned back again to the placebo’sthey once abandoned, but the Lord turns their focus back to the truth in his last attemptat encouraging repentance and a return to their First love.

 

His warning that if they will not repent, Verse 5…. or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

 

Did they repent?

 

It is interesting that the encroaching silting of the Harbour of Ephesus became a harbinger of that which was to come. Plans were beginning to go into effect in the early years of the New Century to remove the Silt knowing it will endanger the Cities future.

 

But the effort turned about and slowly the City began to Choke.

 

The City of Ephesus, once on the coast, is now 8km inland.

 

 

Beloved, do not leave the love that first loved and died for you.

 

You are given eternal life, not because we loved him, but because he first loved us.

 

No man can love the world and love God, the world is the enemy of God and the world will have you turn on the one you love first, before your candle is put out.

 

Please, if you have left your first love, return and let the candle continue to glow in its Candlestick.

 

 

 

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

[2]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.

[3]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), 45.

0 Comments

%d bloggers like this: