Read Revelation 2:1-7. The Gospels record the attempt Jesus made to find out how his According to Matthew this happened during a visit to the region of Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16), Jesus went ahead to issue an important statement about the Church. He declared he would build his Church on the rock of Peter’s confession of him and that the gates of Hades would not overcome it! So the Church was founded with a destiny of victory. There may be trials and tribulations, periods of uncertainty and dismay, yet none can subdue the Church (Matt. 16:18).

History of the church

Images of the never-capitulating Church appear to have played a role in John’s vision and letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor. Head dressed his letters to the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea, all of which were located in the western area of Asia Minor. It may not have been for nought that Ephesus appeared first on the list, for it was the leading city in that region. Besides, the church at Ephesus served as the mother church to many of the churches in that region, having been the centre of missionary activities in that whole area.

The Acts of the Apostles provide much helpful information on the ministry of the apostle Paul in Ephesus (Acts 18:19-21; 19:1ff; 20:13ff). Paul had visited Ephesus briefly during his second missionary journey(Acts 18:19-21). But it was actually during his third missionary campaign that he engaged in a more pronounced ministry in that city. His ministry there lasted for more than two years (Acts 19:10), longer than he had stayed anywhere else in active missionary work.

F.F. Bruce has said that “the first effective evangelization of the province of Asia was undertaken during the two-and-a-half to three years when Paul made his headquarters at Ephesus, from the summer of A.D. 52 to the spring of A.D.44.”As a result of this extended work in Ephesus, Luke reports that “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Ad 19:10).

Incidentally, early Christian tradition has it that some other apostolic age which dominates Asian, and especially Ephesians, traditions that of John, “not Paul.

Bruce further explained that although John “was in no sense a founder prestige that Peter and Paul enjoyed in Roman tradition.”It may also be Jeannine’s corpus and that John the Seer has been identified with the different Johns associated with the community of the beloved disciple.

Besides, Patmos, from which John claimed to have written his work, off the coast of Ephesus. Ephesus was the big city nearest to it. All of these underscore the importance of Ephesus in John the Seer’s world and experience. Ephesus was not only the leading city of the Roman province of Asia Minor but also the headquarters of the Christian missionary enterprise in that region. It was also to the church in this community that John the Seer addressed the first letter of his vision.

It can be said that the church in Ephesus was very representative of many churches in that region. Therefore in studying it, one is also looking at some of the features of the other churches.

The seven letters addressed to the seven churches of Asia Minor follow the same pattern. Each begins with an identification of the addressee and the addressor, that is, the recipient and the writer of the letter. Then some word of commendation is given for the work the church is doing or for her attitude. Following this is an identification of some of the weaknesses of the church. The nature of the weaknesses varies from church to church. After the depiction of weaknesses comes the offer of corrective measures and exhortation to renewal or change. The letters usually end with threats for those who refuse to change and promises of good rewards for those who would heed the warnings.

The letter to the church in Ephesus follows the above pattern very well. It begins with the identification of the addressee and the address. The letter is addressed specifically to “the angel of the church in Ephesus” (Rev.2:1a). So that angel is the addressee of the letter. On the matter of the addressor, it is said that the words of the letter are from the one “who holds the seven, stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands” (2:1b).

Incidentally, from 1:12ff John the Seer informed us that in his vision he had seen “seven golden lampstands” and someone “like a son of man” among them. He further tells us that this person was holding seven stars in his right hand (1:16). Later in the vision;-this same figure identified the seven stars in his right hand as “the angels of the seven churches” and the seven lampstands as “the seven churches”(1:20).

From the foregoing, it appears obvious that the seven lampstands refer to the seven churches of Asia Minor already mentioned. The seven stars have also been identified as the angels of the churches. But who are these angels, and who is this one who holds the angels in his right hand and walks among the churches (the seven golden lampstands)? Several attempts have been made to explain the identity of the angels in plain terms. Some scholars have seen them as the actual messengers through whom John sent the letters to the churches.

Others think the angels are used in this passage to represent the leaders – bishops, pastors, or elders of the churches concerned. Still, others see the angels as symbolizing the ideals for which the churches stand. According to R.M. Charles, others think of them more in terms of guardian spirits or angels, especially since the belief in such guardian spirits appeared common in the first-century world (cf. Matt. 18:10; Acts 12:15).

But the content’ of the letters applies to the situation of things in the churches – that is, the churches are made up of human beings. So if the angels are accepted as guardian spirits (or guardian angels), they would have to be seen according to Charles, as “the heavenly doubles or counterparts of the seven churches, which thus come to be identical with the churches themselves. G.B. Caird explains that the angels are “the spiritual counterparts of human individuals or communities, dwelling in heaven, but subject to changes depending on the good or evil behaviour of their complimentary beings on earth.”The angels represent the churches, therefore, and what is being said to the angels is directed to the churches, since they are the focus.

The identity of the address seems more obvious. He is said to be the one “who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands”(2:1b). Last, “the “Living one” who was dead but now lives “forever and ever, “be but the Lord Jesus Christ himself? The Gospel records make it very appear to have been his preferred self-identification (Matt. 8:20; 12:8, letter to the church in Ephesus recorded in Rev. 2:1-7 was written by the spiritual representation of the church who was synonymous with the church.

Commendation

After the customary identification of the addressee and the address or at the beginning of the letter, the Lord starts the contents with words of commendation for the church in Ephesus. The church is commended for four main things: their hard work, their perseverance, their intolerance of wicked people, and their hatred for the practices of the Nicolaitans.

Before discussion of these, however, attention must first be paid to the Lord’s declaration: “I know your deeds” (2:2a). He indicates he was fully aware of what was going on among them. God is omniscient. There is no hiding place as far as he is concerned. It will help churches today to always bear it in mind that their deeds are known to the Lord-whether they be evil or good. Such an awareness should make them stand up to their duties, and seek to serve the Lord faithfully.

Hard Work 

The Lord declares he is aware of the deeds or works of the Ephesians’ believers. They were working hard. Nothing further is said about the nature of their hard work. On what were they working hard? Of course, several possibilities can be considered. They could have been training, and equipping believers for service remain primary tasks of the church.

Nurture of the membership could also have included opportunities for Bible study, prayers, and fellowship. The situation of Christians in Ephesus at that time demanded solidarity and mutual support of one another morally and in prayers.

The provision of support for members during periods of crisis or turmoil is a legitimate focus of ministry for any local church. Amid the despair and uncertainty that has hit our land due to economic deprivation, among other things, a church that provides no ministry for the care and nurture of members betrays her reason for being.

It could also be that the church in Ephesus was hard working in her mission and evangelistic outreach. The history of that church and the role she played in the evangelization of the province of Asia Minor would tend to lend credence to such a conclusion. Believers have been working hard to bring others to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Evangelism, of course, remains a primary purpose of the church. Yet some churches may not give it the attention it deserves. A church that focuses on it and works hard at it to achieve results deserves commendation. Whatever may have been the nature of her ministry, the church in Ephesus showed seriousness of purpose and diligence in service. The church earned the Lord’s commendation for hard work.

 Perseverance

In 2:2-3 John the Seer quotes the Lord as commending the Ephesians believers for their perseverance. They are said to have persevered and endured hardships for the name of Christ. They had not grown weary. Theirs was a time of great testing, as indicated earlier. Christians were persecuted and many were put under pressure to recount their faith. Pressure from state agents, family and friends could not have been easy to resist. Yet believers endured. Their steadfastness in their allegiance to Christ was commendable.

Challenges that test the faith of believers vary from generation to generation. In some areas of our country today physical assault on believers and their property has become a regular feature. Christians are often threatened, intimidated and harassed. Church buildings are burnt by religious fanatics, who also kill and maim believers in very gruesome ways.

Although Christians pay their taxes as loyal citizens of the state, state officials still treat them like second-class citizens. In some places, churches find it extremely difficult to buy land for the building of their structures. Deeds of land already acquired are revoked so that mosques may be erected. One can go on listing some of the atrocities Christians are experiencing in certain parts of modern Nigeria. These at times appear unbelievable!

Yet it is not only in circumstances of open violence that Christians face persecution and suffering. These may come in very subtle forms, as in the denial of promotion at work, denial of admission to good schools or denial of other state benefits. Christians are marginalized and not given adequate recognition. They may suffer in silence or raise protests. But their protests are usually either ignored or suppressed with force. More will be said about this situation in the last chapter.

Christians still need to persevere. Enduring trials and tribulations in the name of Christ remains a Christian virtue, a commendable quality. The Lord had warned that things would not be easy for believers and that only those who endured to the end shall be saved (Mark 13:13; Matt.10:22;24:13). Even as Jesus himself endured the shame of the cross, believers are encouraged to run the race of life and faith with perseverance (Heb.12:1-2).In James 1:12 it is said that those who persevere under trial and stand the test will receive the crown of life. That the Lord commended the church in Ephesus for her perseverance is thus understandable.

The write-up continues on another page; you can read further here.


Writer/Minister: B. Uche Enyioba