Ephesus in the Bible
The city of Ephesus in Bible times was the leading city and capital of the Roman province of Asia. The name Ephesus means "desirable." Paul stopped at Ephesus on the return from his second missionary journey. On his third trip, he spent three years there. And, of course, Paul wrote an epistle or letter to the congregation at Ephesus, now the Bible book of Ephesians.
The largest temple in the world at that time was the temple of Diana (or Artemis) located in Ephesus (near the modern town of Selcuk, in Turkey). Worship of the Greek goddess Diana was widespread. Acts 19 takes place in Ephesus where Demetrius a silversmith said:
"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." (Acts 19:27)
The temple was one of the 7 wonders of the world. It had 127 columns each 197 feet tall.
See the introduction to the messages to the seven churches of Revelation for a map of the location of Ephesus and a table comparing the parts of each message.
"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;" (Rev 2:1)
The message to the church of Ephesus was actually directed to the angel of the church - seemingly this is the leader or messenger of the church. It is interesting that the apostle John was actually the pastor of that congregation and of the other six churches. Of course, we are told in Rev 1:1 that the message (actually, the whole book of Revelation) was given to John. However, as we saw in the introduction to chapter 2, there are multiple applications to these messages.
The description of Christ included here is from chapter 1:
"... being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man ..." (Rev 1:12-13)
That walking among the candlesticks would seem to indicate His concern and care for the churches and the people in them.
"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:" (Rev 2:2)
One commendation of the Ephesians was that they could not bear (or tolerate) evil. Acts records that they burned many books:
"And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. 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. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed." (Acts 19:17-20)
Ephesus was known as a city where the superstitious magical arts ("curious arts") were commonly practiced. It seems that the time referred to in the following verse had not yet come, at least not to the Ephesian church:
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;" (2 Tim 4:3)
"And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted." (Rev 2:3)
The Ephesians were patient under persecution; they worked to spread the gospel for the sake of their Master.
"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." (Rev 2:4)
Notice that the word "somewhat" is supplied. Some have suggested that it could have the meaning "I am against thee" but that doesn't seem consistent with the following verse. Many translations have something like "I have this against thee ..." Evidently, they had left their first love - they weren't as on fire for their faith as it seems was the church on the day of Pentecost.
"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." (Rev 2:5)
The instruction that is given to them is to "repent" or to turn back to where they fell from - from being on fire with that first love. If they did not, they risked losing their position among the churches.
"But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." (Rev 2:6)
The Ephesians were commended for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans which were later tolerated by the church of Pergamos (Rev 2:15).
"Nicolatians" comes from two Greek words:
"nikos" meaning victory (think of "Nikes" the athletic shoes)
Some interpret this to mean "conqueror of the people." Jesus would hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans for it is the way of Satan (contrary to the way of God) to use force. They also taught that the deeds of the flesh do not affect the purity of the soul.
Paul had warned the Ephesians that falsehood would come into the church. This may be what led to them leaving their first love.
"And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, ... For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:17-18, 29-30)
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;" (Rev 2:7)
This phrase is repeated exactly for each of the seven messages. "He that hath an ear" basically includes everyone. This is a good indication that the messages apply not just to the members of each of those seven congregations but to us as well.
Jesus used this same expression in Matt 13:9 in reference to the parable of the sower.
"To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." (Rev 2:8)
"To him that overcometh" (or "he that overcometh") is also repeated in each of the messages. The overcomers are given promises of a place and role in the eternal kingdom of God. It is interesting that "the tree of life" is mentioned as being in paradise. The tree of life was in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:9). Is it possible that this same tree was taken to heaven sometime after man was banished from the Garden?
While each of the seven messages gives a different promise to those that overcome this is just, in a sense, a sample of what will be given to all of the overcomers since we are told that
"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." (Rev 21:7)The message to Ephesus in the Bible is followed by a letter to the next church, Smyrna.
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