In Revelation 2-3, John records letters to seven churches dictated to him by the Lord. The letters give the churches a sober assessment of where they stand in the eyes of Jesus, himself. In some ways they are commended. In others they are “called out” and warned to repent.
REVELATION 2:1-7 (Letter to the Church at Ephesus)
The letter is addressed to the “angel of the church at Ephesus.” The Greek word translated “angel” can refer to either an actual heavenly being given charge to watch over the church, or to a human messenger to the church, such as a church leader who would deliver the message. Either way, it is clear that the message is ultimately intended to be communicated to the disciples in Ephesus.
Jesus proclaims himself to the Ephesian Christians as, “him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.” The language beckons back to the image of Jesus which John records seeing in chapter 1. Remember what the imagery represents.
The stars represent the angels of the seven churches (1:20).
The lampstands represent the churches themselves (1:20).
The fact that Jesus holds the seven stars in his hands communicates his sovereignty over the churches. The fact that he walks among the lampstands emphasizes his presence in the churches and the fact that he lives among his people. Why do you think Jesus chooses to introduce himself in this way to the Ephesians?
Verse 2 begins, “Jesus knows.” Note how this same phrase occurs early in each of the seven letters. Take a moment to compare its use in the letters and consider the types of things Jesus knows regarding the disciples and the life of the churches?
Rev 2:2-3 Rev 3:1
Rev 2:9 Rev 3:8
Rev 2:13 Rev 3:15
In what ways is it encouraging to realize Jesus knows what is going on in our lives, hearts, and church? In what ways might it be sobering? How should the fact he knows impact our lives individually and as a community of faith?
In verses 2-3, for what does the Lord commend the church in Ephesus?
In verse 4, for what does he rebuke and correct the church?
What do you think it means that they have “forsaken the love they had at first?”
Are there any areas in your life where you see yourself, or others see you, losing the love for Jesus, the body of Christ, and/or the lost that you had at first, when you became a disciple? In what ways are you different?
Jesus calls the church to consider how far they have fallen, repent, and return to the things they did at first. What was Ephesus like in the beginning?
ACTS 18:18-20:38 paints a picture of Ephesus “at first.”
1. Holy Spirit led
3. Confession of and Repentance of sin out of reverent fear and awe of God
4. Counter-cultural! Disrupted the norm socially, politically, economically
5. Relational, as exemplified by hospitality, community, and affection for one another.
Think about what your life as a young disciple looked like in these areas. How does it look and compare today? Do you need to repent and return to what you did at first? If so, what would repentance look like for you?
Repentance and returning to God is a matter of heart. We are powerless to change our own hearts (though we can choose to obey and do what is right as a step of faith). Fortunately, God is able to change hearts. If we are having trouble returning to what we were and did at first, we should pray, fast, and put our faith into practice through obedience, trusting in God to change us. (Jeremiah 24:4-7)
REVELATION 2:5, 7
What is the cost of refusing to repent and return?
What is the reward of listening, hearing, taking the message to heart and repenting?
What, if any, decisions will you make after your study of this letter?