The last book in the Bible is “the revelation of Jesus Christ ... to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John” (Revelation 1:1, CSB).
The human author of “The Revelation” is John, the Son of Zebedee, the fisherman turned fisher of men. John was an old man, a prisoner of the Roman empire, exiled on the Island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. He writes, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard a loud voice behind me like a trumpet saying, ‘Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea’ ” (Revelation 1:10-11, CSB).
God spoke to John, just like He had spoken to Moses on Mount Sanai ... like He speaks to us through the Word. John recorded everything that God told him in a book and addressed it like a letter to seven churches. These seven first-century churches were real churches in seven cities located on the western side of modern-day Turkey. But these seven real churches are symbolic of every church in every age. (There are differing opinions and interpretations. I’m taking the broadest possible view of their symbolism.)
In the second and third chapters of the Revelation, John addressed these seven symbolic churches individually. The letters within the letter will be the topic of our study this week.
The first of the seven letters is addressed to the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7). Paul had labored in ministry at Ephesus for three years (Acts 20:31). It’s possible that each of the other six churches were planted during those three productive years. In fact, if you locate the seven cities on the map, you’ll see that they are listed in geographic order, and they form a neat little arc around Ephesus.
Jesus’ letter to the church at Ephesus is personal. Jesus knows all about the church. Indeed, the church at Ephesus is His church. His bride. His beloved. Jesus claims to hold the churches in “his right hand” and “walk among them” (Revelation 2:1, CSB). Jesus uses the first-person pronoun, I, more than fifty times in the seven letters.
Jesus affirmed and encouraged the church at Ephesus. “I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil people. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. I know that you have persevered and endured hardships for the sake of my name, and you have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:2-3, CSB). The Church at Ephesus was a hard-working church that had stood strong in the face of false teachers and false doctrines.
The Lord has a note of affirmation for His church, and He also has a note of admonition. “But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” (Revelation 2:4-5, CSB). Jesus says, “Oh, dear church, you have grown cold and loveless. Repent!”
Was Jesus speaking to our church... to your church? I believe so! I believe that these seven letters are directed at every church and at every church member. Every member... that means me and you. These seven letters are straight from the heart of Jesus, lovingly directed to each of us.
One might be tempted to ignore these seven letters because they are found within this apocalyptic, mysterious and confusing prophetic book. Don’t miss out. Read them with me this week, and let the Lord Jesus affirm you, and submit as He admonishes too.
Jesus knows all about us. He “walks among us.” He knows our history, and He affirms our hard work. And He calls us to repentance. He calls us to rekindle the fire! He calls us to love God, to love one-another, and to love the lost world around us.
Jesus’ letter is addressed to me... to you ... to us.