JOHN WRITES THE SEVEN CHURCHES
There were seven literal churches John wrote to. The number Seven in the bible is known to be a perfect number and seven churches were chosen for these messages. There was nothing perfect about the seven churches but were just chosen as being mere eligible to receive the rebuke and counsel from Christ. There were clear evidences of other churches being in existence but these other fall into categories of the seven. This also includes churches of the future, that is churches yet to be born. The churches were not perfect at all but Christ’s messages are. The eligibility of the churches for the messages depicts the character and conditions in which they find themselves. The character of the churches again reveals the situation of Christendom over the 2000 years period since Jesus Christ ascended into heaven. The churches acquired certain characteristics which were not the trait of her Redeemer thus there was need to be advised.
He did not abandon them due to their condition but as a redeemer had to render advice and instructions on how they could better themselves and be a better bride. He intercedes for the church and also advocates for her pride. He cares for His church which represents the entire body of faithful believers, past, present and future who call upon His name.
Jesus Christ, was to be revealed to the world in a manner never seen before. Jesus, before His crucifixion prayed that He will be glorified (John 17: 1-4). Christian Adventist (Christians expecting His second return) from different denominations believe that the book of revelation could be a fulfilment of a continuation in Christ’s mission not only on earth here but in heaven where He is still interceding for humanity. A message from God about His son was passed on to Jesus, handed over to the angel who will eventually give it to the servant of God John (Revelation 1:1). This heavenly protocol is to ensure the authenticity and to debunk any possible critics' notion that the revelation story is a made-up story. This is a message dedicated to the seven churches passed on from celestial beings unto mortal and sinful terrestrial beings that we are . Who will argue or doubt the authenticity of this communication?
Does these letters apply to the post-modern, that is to say the church in the 21st century. The prophecy of the seven churches can be applied in three ways:
• The local application considers the messages as directed to the specific churches in Asia Minor.
• The historical application recognizes the messages as especially relevant to seven periods of church history. "The names of the seven churches are symbolic of the church in different periods of the Christian era. The number 7 indicates completeness, and is symbolic of the fact that the messages extend to the end of time, while the symbols used reveal the condition of the church at different periods in the history of the world."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 585.
• The spiritual application sees all seven messages as spiritual counsel for the church at any one time. Ellen White applies all seven messages to us today…
-Dr, J.J. Battistone, Sabbath School quarterly April-June 1989.
The spiritual application of this message here could also be a spiritual one to an individual since many individuals that make up the church. The bible sees this individual as the temple of the Holy Ghost. (1Corinthians 6:19). This is where the Holy Spirit lives, in the individual.
John needs to send out these letters to these seven churches namely
Laodicea. (Rev 1:11).
LETTER TO THE CHURCH at EPHESUS
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF EPHESUS
For cities or mega cities and metropolitan cities that are successful today made it simply on the premise of a good communication and transportation. The proximity of Ephesus to the sea was a big plus to the city that had existed in history since about 13th century B.C. Ephesus was the center of commerce of all Asia minor. Goods sold all throughout Asia minor passed through the ports of Ephesus and the port made her such an important place that historian sees her a victim of most conquerors: Ephesus was under the rule of the Persians for decades, Lydian king 6th century B.C and in 4th century B.C she became a territory of the Grecian empire. In 263 Ephesus fell back into the hands of the Egyptian, Seleucid king in 196 B.C.E and finally into the hands of the Roman in 129 B.C.
Ephesus was famous because of the temple of Artemis. This temple in 7th century B.C was funded mostly by the Lydian King Croesus. ‘Artemis was the goddess of the hunt, chastity, childbirth, wild animals and the wilderness. ’-(history.com)
Ephesus was an important location that when Christianity was exported to the gentiles after the death of Stephen at about A.D 34 she became one of the first to have a church. The church at Ephesus became the first on God’s list to receive this love letter. The church at Ephesus was already recorded in the book of Acts Of The Apostles chapters 18, 19, 20. and also in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians chapters 15 and 16. (see References below). Ephesus is found on the western shore of the country we know today as Turkey. Ephesus as a city today lay in ruins and remains an important archeological site today but is very close to a modern city of Selcuk which is also in the district of Selcuk near the province of Izmir.
By 60 A.D Christianity which was perceived to be dangerous was at least gaining a lot influence in Asia minor. New converts were being baptized by the thousands. Acts 2:41, Acts 19:26.
The One who holds the seven stars in his hands and walks among the seven candle stands. (Rev 2:1). Jesus has the seven angels or messengers in his hands. They are his messengers and no other and they are to deliver His message and non-other. He is the custodian of the seven churches walking among them ensuring that the (the word of God) does not quench (Psalms 119:105). These lights on the lamp stands have no need even to flicker. This describes His ultimate relationship with the church of Ephesus.
‘I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil ’ He says. We, as humans can’t phantom what sin has done to us. Sin has destroyed a lot about us and our environment that we have lost a great deal of our cognitive abilities to even know between good and evil. We do not even know how to assess our works and labor. The human assessment tool is very defective. He knows our works and our labor. His evaluation parameters are perfect. In her evaluation the church of Ephesus did not do too badly compared to other churches because there were values that still kept them on the same page with Christ. The evaluator says “…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: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.” (Rev 2:2-3). While Ephesus was being evaluated Christ saw that there were His teachings they still held very strongly and they never grew weary of what Christ’s teaching stood for.
The church at Ephesus also hated the Nicolaitanes. Christ confirmed “…But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.” Another plus for the church at Ephesus.
Who are these Nicolaitanes?
After the ascension of Christ, when Pentecost was over, the number of Christians were growing exponentially and it happened that there were other problems that were cropping up. There were among the multitude the Jews, Greeks, Romans, gentiles of which Africans, precisely those from Ethiopian were also present. There were among the widows from Greece who were neglected and were not being taken care of. This nearly divided the early Christian church and the twelve apostles decided to appoint seven elders. These elders were Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas. (Acts 6:5) The responsibility of these seven is to ensure that the widows were never again neglected and abandoned especially those that were Grecian. This is the spirit of the first century Christians.
Among the names of the seven deacons or elders was the one or the last on the list called Nicolas. Years after the appointment of the seven there came a group called the Nicolaitanes who held beliefs contrary to the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Among the beliefs of the Nicolaitanes was that our spiritual life has no influence on our physical. they believed that a child of God can live whatsoever life he or she wishes or chooses to live (even living like the devil). They believed that the life lived physically is not influenced by one's spiritual life. This can not be true. Going by this concept, they are denying the influence of the Holy Spirit on the human lives. How will they explain the conversion of Paul of Tarsus? This explains Christ’s hatred for this group.
There is still no evidence linking deacon Nicolas and the group. Historians and theologians for decades had been debating on this issue to link up the group and the deacon without success.
Christ has assessed the Ephesian church and now identified their ongoing problem despite all the good works they were doing and he said “Nevertheless I have [somewhat] against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” Revelation 2:4.
Ephesus was one of the first places to receive the gospel of God as the death of Stephen made the Christian Jews to carry the gospel to the gentiles. At about AD 60 Christians were being baptized by the Thousands and with the number of people coming into the church the enthusiasm that the church had when she was born was never the same.
One leaving her first love could be illustrated by this little story. -A group of people in the early 80s mostly immigrants from South America and Asia were worshiping in a congregation on arrival to the United States. This congregation had a population of about 2500 members and they got themselves into the activities of this congregation in order to integrate. Big congregations usually have their own challenges as we have seen in the case of the first century churches: presence of members are at times ignored as one might not know who were present at church services; Attention is not paid at times to the immediate needs of the homeless, orphans and widows; efforts by devoted brethren always go unnoticed and as usual the problem of groups and clicks seen in large churches and congregations .
Posed by these challenges the immigrants remembered the warm and heart felt services, vibrant evangelism they enjoyed back home and decided to carve out a ‘baby’ church from their ‘mother’ church. The enthusiasm by which this 63 member church kicked off was amazing. All they did and professed was Christ: weekly activities were no different from regular weekend church services as all members attended. The church’s activities in the neighborhood, to be precise the Soup Kitchen and visitation was captivating. They bought a church and within a time frame of fifteen years they had almost paid off the mortgage. Car note on the church bus paid off.
This ‘baby’ church after 20 years looks back on her achievements -satisfactory but there was a something strange going on: Their population stands at about 512 membership - from 63 with a 23 percent deficit on their tithing signaled a Holy Spirit deficient church. It took almost 20 years to pay off the 17% remaining balance on the mortgage. Visitation and procrastination became the order of the day. Church programs were full of talk, talk, talk, with less of the do, do, dos.
Leaving their first love has nothing to do with the numbers and statistics above but the figures above demonstrates the outcome or the reflection of the relationship between the baby church and her Savior. The time they were focused on the Lord and Redeemer with a fewer number of members, They were better in their former state than later despite the fact they had five folds membership. When members were questioned about these complacent attitudes toward the things of God, a particular response was resonant: “We’ve got bills to pay”.
This ‘baby church’ first love was Christ she focused on Him and labored on quite well but as time passed on there were distractions which led to a change in focus on her mission.
“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). This is a tough love counsel to the Ephesian church. She knows very well where she has gone wrong and knows how to make amends. Complacency was the order of the day.
The evaluator is calling on the church institution in Ephesus to turn her eyes to the only one that is faithful and just to pardon her and our faults and weaknesses - Christ Himself. (1 John 1:9)
The church in Ephesus is asked to go back and ‘do the first work’. Anyone reading this page must have had a new job once longed for or a new relationship with a boy or girl friends or wife or husband. The initial thrilling and exciting feelings associated with these experiences are always formidable and is never forgotten. In a place of work, the new hires are always working with joyful exuberance and zestfulness. The newly baptized also exhibit this kind of attitude towards the things of God. This is the first love and first work Jesus Christ is talking about.
Christ reiterated the love the Ephesian church has for His teachings hating the teachings of the Nicolaitanes which turns out to be a total opposite. He also liked the Ephesian church for being able to differentiate true followers from the fake- false apostles. The Ephesians were also beloved for their hate for evil. Jesus Christ as He was talking to his disciples warned against such people who claim that they are his disciples but are not “Beware of false prophets”, Christ says “which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves”. (Matt 7:15).
Once the church at Ephesus keeps up the first work, then they are there and Christ’s blessings on the church is the promises of paradise and will have to eat from the tree of life.
The Tree of Life
God is love and at creation He made man because there was need for Him to extend this love to the Being He has made. At creation God created three kinds of trees: the trees that we see today in our every day life, in season and out of season. This is the tree God spoke into existence out from the ground, ‘pleasant to the eye’ and bears fruits when the season comes. (Gen 2:9) Then comes these other two trees: tree of Life and the tree of knowledge. The tree of Life and the tree of Knowledge were planted in the middle of the garden. The tree of knowledge is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Gen 2:9) of these three kinds of trees man may eat except for the tree of knowledge of good and evil. To this instruction God added a penalty…Death. Let us go to Genesis and hear directly from God. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17).
But God’s created Being, Man, disobeyed God and went ahead to eat from this tree, its fruit also call the ‘forbidden fruit’ and today we all are dying and will continue to die. Adam and Eve, man’s ever first parents were chased out of the garden of Eden so that they do not continue to eat from the tree of Life and live forever in sin. To ensure that they do not re-enter Eden God placed angels at the gates of Eden. (Genesis 3:22-24).
The tree of life that was removed from man as he left the garden of Eden will be restored in the new Earth. More information was provided to us about the tree of Life and it found in the book of Revelation. The tree of life, as the angel showed the vision to John was in the new earth, planted for those who will inherit everlasting life. The tree of life in the new earth will bear twelve different kinds of fruits and will do so every month.( Revelation 2:2) Isn’t that fantastic.
Make sure you make it to the new earth where God’s saints will make a lot of new discoveries. This is the reason the reward for the church of Ephesus and all those who will inherit eternal life will be to eat the fruit of the tree of life, and ‘live for ever’, the tree of life who’s leaves shall be for the healing of all nations. (Revelation 2:2)
Christ Jesus, the Evaluator and Counselor concludes His message to the Church at Ephesus by saying, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;”
History Channel: http:// www.history.com/topics/ancient-greece/ephesus.
The Holy Bible (king James Version) These are some proof of the church in Ephesus Acts 18:19,21,24; Acts 19:1,17, 26,35; 1 Corinthians 15:32; 1 Corinthians 16:8
Dr. Joseph J. Battistone – Present truth, future Glory, Adult Sabbath School Lessons, April-June 1989. Copyright © 1989 by Pacific Press Publishing Association.
next: Letter to the church of Smyrna