The Letter to Ephesus
1This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Ephesus:
I am the one who holds the seven stars in my right hand, and I walk among the seven gold lampstands. Listen to what I say.
2I know everything you have done, including your hard work and how you have endured. I know you won't put up with anyone who is evil. When some people pretended to be apostles, you tested them and found out they were liars. 3You have endured and gone through hard times because of me, yet you have not given up.
4But I do have something against you! And it is this: You don't have as much love as you used to. 5Think about where you have fallen from, and then turn back and do as you did at first. If you don't turn back, I will come and take away your lampstand. 6But there is one thing you are doing right. You hate what the Nicolaitans are doing, and so do I.
7 If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will let everyone who wins the victory eat from the life-giving tree in God's wonderful garden.
The Letter to Smyrna
8 This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Smyrna:
I am the first and the last. I died, but now I am alive! Listen to what I say.
9I know how much you suffer and how poor you are, but you are rich. I also know the cruel things being said about you by people who claim to be God's people. But they are not really God's people. They are a group that belongs to Satan.
10Don't worry about what you will suffer. The devil will throw some of you into jail, and you will be tested and made to suffer for ten days. But if you are faithful until you die, I will reward you with a glorious life.
11 If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. Whoever wins the victory will not be hurt by the second death.
Chapters two and three contain love letters to the seven churches. These are personal letters from Christ to seven churches that existed in Asia Minor in the first century A.D. The appeal of the letters is personal, but the principles and practices addressed have a universal application. In this sense the seven churches can be understood as representing seven different ‘types’ of churches, each with unique characteristics, strengths and weaknesses.
Before any message of judgment can be given to an unbelieving world, Christ calls on the churches to get their act together. Judgment begins in the church, as should repentance.
The message to each church usually follows a sevenfold pattern of commission (“to the angel of the church”), character (“This is what you must write”), commendation (“I know everything you have done”), condemnation (“But I do have something against you”), command (“Turn back!”), call (“If you have ears, listen”) and challenge (“To everyone who wins …”).
The proclamation and promise to the Ephesus and Smyrna churches are as follows:
Ephesus – the complacent church. It’s commended for its performance, perseverance, patience and purity (vv.2-3, 6) in the midst of a society marked by immorality and idolatry connected with the worship of the Greek goddess Artemis. However, the Ephesus Christians love for God had waned (v.4). This was probably evidenced by a lack of devotion to Christ, a lack of desire for Christ, and a lack of denial concerning the things of the world (the basics of being a Christian).
To restore their priorities they must return to their original commitments (v.5a) and if they don’t, they will no longer be used as a witness and testimony (v.5b). If they repent they will receive the promise of eternal life (v.11b).
Smyrna – the consistent church. It’s commended for the way it endured enormous unrelenting oppression and persecution from the Roman government and the Jewish community (vv.9-10). There are no words of condemnation for this church. The only command is that they stay “faithful until you die” (v.10). The twofold promise for the faithful is a “glorious life” (v.10) and eternal life (v.11).
Lord, help us to step into the living drama of your Story; to faithfully find our part and play it well . Amen.