“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:'”
The book of Revelation partitions into three unequal sections (Re1:19). Chapter one is the “things which you have seen.” Now we come to the “things which are” (chapters two and three). The “things which shall take place after this” are chapters four to twenty-two. This chapter begins with the messages to the seven churches. These messages contain strong exhortations toward spirituality.
There were more than seven churches in Asia Minor. Important churches were located in Magnesia, Tralles, and Hierapolis. Note the Muratorian Canon (a.d. 180): “John also, though he wrote in the Apocalypse to seven churches, nevertheless speaks to them all.” He chose the seven churches for specific messages. Jesus scores the merits and failings of each church. He then encourages and exhorts them accordingly. Each of the seven symptoms of these churches is found in the churches of today.
To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,
At the time of writing, Ephesus was a major commercial metropolis of Asia Minor. Ephesus was located on a seaport. Ephesus was a center for trade, travel, culture, religion, and business. The seat of the Roman provincial governor was located there. The population was about 225,000.
One of the great wonders of the world located there, the great temple of Artemis (Ac 19:24,27-28, 34-35). The temple of Artemis was 425 feet long by 220 feet wide with 120 columns (each 60 feet high). Artemis was a squat, black, and man-breasted image. Ephesus was also a center for the imperial cult (four imperial temples).
Paul came to Ephesus about A.D. 53 (Ac 18-19, cf. esp. 19:8,10; 1 Co 15:32; 16:8). He stayed in Ephesus longer than any other city (Ac 20:31). He was so successful in his ministry that his ministry turned the city upside-down (Ac 19:11-41). The silversmiths launched a riot because they lost their business of making shrines of Artemis.
The church in Ephesus was about four decades old by the time John wrote this letter. Paul wrote the book of the Bible to the Ephesians fifteen years after he founded the church there. The principal churches of Asia Minor were located in Ephesus. The Ephesian church receives a positive evaluation from the Lord. It is not a church that bought into false teaching (Re 2:2). Instead, they unmasked the false teachers. Jesus commends them for their opposition to the Nicolaitans.
The church of Ephesus was not without criticism, however. The Lord faults them for abandoning their first love (Re 2:5). Jesus exhorts them to remember when they first came to Christ. This is the problem of second-generation Christians.
Ephesus was syncretistic. It combined many religions of that day. The catalyst for this was the Imperial cult.
Jesus always works through the pastor. He does not by-pass the pastor, for the pastor has the responsibility to teach the Word to his congregation.
‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand,
Jesus gives Himself a title in this and the following phrases. This title consists of two parts, one relating to pastors and the other to churches. Pastors are under Jesus’ special care. Jesus’ presence is also always in the midst of the churches; He knows and observes their status quo.
Jesus “holds” the seven stars [the seven churches] in His right hand. The word “hold” means to be strong, mighty, to prevail. When it comes to the church, Jesus is strong. He holds sway over and is sovereign over the church. He is Commander in Chief of the church.
who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands
Jesus takes pleasure in His churches. He knows what is wrong, and He encourages them to correct their aberrations.
Jesus is in complete control of the church.
Jesus reminds us that He is Lord of the churches. His presence is among the churches. No church is without His presence.