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The Church in Ephesus

Rev 2:1-7

Intro.: What we are going to do today is give an introduction to Chapter 2 & 3. This section of Revelation marks the second major division in the book.  In the last part of our class we will begin our exposition of the first seven verses where we will find the first church listed. This is the church at Ephesus.

So let’s begin with an introduction to chapters 2& 3. There are four major things that I would like to say today by way of introducing these two very critical chapters in the book.

1.        The following two chapters represent the second major division in the book of the Revelation.

a.        You will recall that we are basing our outline on Revelation 1:19 .

b.        Have seen, which are, which shall take place.

c.        We have already seen  the things which John had seen in 1:9-18

d.        Now we move into seeing the things which are. Chapter 2-3

e.        Chapter 4 begins with a promise to show John the things which must be hereafter. (Rev 1:19)

f.         Chapter 4-22 then develop the things which shall take place hereafter.

g.        Our outline then takes us to the second major division “the things which are.”

2.        There are three major views in interpreting these two chapters.

a.        Historical View –

                                                               i.      John is writing to seven literal, historical churches in Asia.

                                                              ii.      He is commending or correcting these churches for good and bad traits.

                                                            iii.      This view sees no prophetic events occurring in this chapter.

                                                            iv.      This is the view of many liberal or amillennial churches today.   

b.        The Prophetic View –

                                                               i.      This is a very odd and perplexing view.

                                                              ii.      According to this view these are churches which shall exist in the Day of the Lord.

                                                            iii.      The Day of Lord is a yet future event in which the Lord shall judge the earth.

                                                            iv.      This is the view of Ultradispensationalist.

c.        The  Historical Prophetic View –

                                                               i.      This view believes that the churches listed are seven actually, literal, historical churches.

                                                              ii.      These churches however are representative of churches in the Church age.

                                                            iii.      These churches are types of churches that exist throughout the history of the church.

                                                            iv.      Today there are seven types of churches

1.        This list is a selective list. There were at least twelve churches in this area.

2.        He chose seven churches. It symbolizes perfection are completion.

3.        He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit say to the “churches”. The word is plural. There are many churches that fall into the Ephesian church model.

4.        Seven letters to, seven literal historical churches, seven types of churches, seven stages of church history.

5.        The churches were chosen chronologically to represent the rise and fall of the church throughout church history.

a.        This is a deduction from scripture

b.        Chapters 4 through 19 are chronologically in their development, so that we might expect chapter 2 and three to be chronological.

c.        There  are some very clear parallels seen in history

                                                                                                                                       i.      Ephesus is analogous to 1st century church from the apostles to 100AD

                                                                                                                                      ii.      Smyrna 100-313 AD represents the second era. 84 AD – 313 AD ended the persecution of the church, when Constantine made the Christian church the state church. The church in Smyrna is the persecuted church.

                                                                                                                                    iii.      Pergamos 313 – 600AD the alliance of the church and the state. In Pergamos you find the church increasing in worldliness and decreasing in spirituality.

                                                                                                                                    iv.      Thyatira –Represents Papal dominion 600- 1517

                                                                                                                                      v.      Sardis – 1517-1700 represents the Reformation, and the Reformers Began when Marin Luther  nailed his great thesis to the Wittenberg church door.

                                                                                                                                    vi.      Philadelphia – 1700- 1850 represents the sixth period of time beginning with the Great Awakening and the revivals America and Great Britain.  The open door to the mission field.

                                                                                                                                   vii.      Laodicean – Represents the last period 1850 to present Began with the rise of Rationalism and Higher Criticism in Germany. Apostasy developed and grew quickly.

6.        There is an amazing analogy between the chronology of Rev 2-3 and the development of the church.

3.        The third reason for believing these verses not only contain history but prophecy is found in Revelation 3:10. In that verse there is a promise of the rapture.

4.        The progress that we see in Chapter 2-3 corresponds with the other scriptures that predict decline and apostasy in the last days.

a.        I Tim 4

b.        2 Pet  2

c.        Jude

d.        These all predict great apostasy in the last days.

5.        For these four reasons I am going to suggest that the churches listed are historical, typical, and panoramic.

6.        There is also a remarkable parallel between the seven churches in Rev 2-3 and the seven parables in Matthew 13.

a.        It is not identical, but similar.

b.        The Sower and the Seed -  The

c.        The Wheat and The Tares – The Persecution

d.        The Mustard Seed – Great growth but increasing worldliness

e.        The Leaven – Doctrinal corruption

f.         Hidden Treasure – The Reformation discovers the Just shall live by faith.

g.        The Pearl – In full view seen  and appreciated for it intrinsic value

h.        The Dragnet – Final stage of judgment

i.         The common element between the churches and the parables is…

                                                               i.      The Sower and the Seed and Ephesus –  a beginning and a failure

                                                              ii.      The Wheat and The Tares and Smyrna – The Identity of the evil one.

                                                            iii.      The Mustard Seed and Pergamon -  Increase in growth

                                                            iv.      The Leaven and Thyatira – Evil is corrupting the pure.

                                                              v.      Hidden Treasure and Sardis – An object of value is brought out..

                                                            vi.      The Pearl and Philadelphia –  The value of the object is established

                                                           vii.      The Dragnet and Laodicea - Promised judgment is imminent.

7.        There are two divisions among these seven churches.

a.        First three churches – makes promises to church as a whole to be an overcomer, these churches are exhorted to repent and go back to their first state. They have a beginning and an ending.

b.        Last four churches - They are not exhorted to repent but to hold on, to persevere, to stand fast. Unto the end. The promise of the overcomer is not made to the whole church but to the individual who has an ear to hear, although they all begin at different points in church history they continue unto the end.

c.        Today you can see the characteristics of …

                                                               i.      Thyatira - Roman Catholicism

                                                              ii.      Sardis - Reformation Churches

                                                            iii.      Philadelphia - Missionary Minded Churches

                                                            iv.      Laodicea - Lukewarm Apostate Churches – This church will continue after the rapture and eventually be spewed out of the mouth of the Lord.

·               The Vision of the churches that John sees includes historical, typical, and chronological churches and church ages.

·               When we are studying these churches we will interpret the symbols using OT scripture.

·               We will also want to compare the way the Lord is viewed in chapter 1 and chapter 2-3.

·               We will also seek to know how the letter was understood by each city, in light of their culture. The church seems to always become like the culture they live among.

·               We will look at each church in four ways … Historically, representatively, prophetically, and individually.


1. The Church at Ephesus

Rev 2:1-7 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; 2 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: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 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. 6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. [1]

  1. Historically
    1. The Call - angel (v. 1)—most believe this refers to the elder or pastor of the church, 67 times this word is used in Rev. all refer to a heavenly being. This most likely refers to a guardian angel. 
    2. Ephesus (v. 1)— a great church to the Lord Ephesus means desirable

                                                               i.      This was an inland city three miles from the sea, but the broad mouth of the Cayster River allowed access and provided the greatest harbor in Asia Minor.

                                                              ii.      Four great trade roads went through Ephesus; therefore, it became known as the gateway to Asia.

                                                            iii.      It was the center of the worship of Artemis (Greek), or Diana (Roman), whose temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

                                                            iv.      Paul ministered there for three years (Acts 20:31) and later met with the Ephesian elders on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20).

                                                              v.      Timothy, Tychicus, and the apostle John all served this church;

                                                            vi.      John was in Ephesus when he was arrested by Domitian and exiled fifty miles southwest to Patmos.

    1. The Character of Christ (vrs 2-3)- he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;

                                                               i.      Rev 1 – the Sovereign one

                                                              ii.      Continual Presence – I am with you always

                                                            iii.      Pastoral Character – The great Shepherd of the Flock

                                                            iv.      Judge – Our doctrine, character, practices

    1. The Commendation  - 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 2:3  And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.                                                                i.      Who say they are apostles(v. 2)—The Ephesian church exercised spiritual discernment. It knew how to evaluate men who claimed spiritual leadership judging them by their doctrine and behavior. (Acts 20)

                                                              ii.      not become weary (v. 3)—For over forty years, since its founding, this church had remained faithful to the Word and the Lord. Through difficulty and persecution, the members had endured, always driven by the right motive, that is, Christ’s name and reputation.

    1. The Complaint of the Lord (vr 4)                                                                i.      left your first love (v. 4)—To be a Christian is to love the Lord Jesus Christ. But the Ephesians’ passion and fervor for Christ had become cold, mechanical orthodoxy. Their doctrinal and moral purity, their undiminished zeal for the truth, and their disciplined service were no substitute for the love for Christ they had forsaken.
    2. The Counsel (vrs.5-6)                                                                i.      Remember – Your love

                                                              ii.      Repent – Confess your coldness

                                                            iii.      Do  - the first deeds

    1. The Call – (vrs.7) He that hath an ear let him hear #. The Challenge – (vrs.7)

                                                               i.      him who overcomes (v. 7)— According to John’s own definition, to be an overcomer is to be a Christian (see vv. 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).

                                                              ii.      tree of life (v. 7)—True believers enjoy the promise of heaven (see notes on 22:2; Gen. 2:9).

Ephesus represents any church that is on the decline. Their doctrine is right but their hearts are getting cold.

remove your lampstand (v. 5)—God’s judgment would bring an end to the Ephesian church.

the deeds of the Nicolaitans(v. 6)—A problem in Pergamos also (vv. 12–15), this heresy was similar to the teaching of Balaam (vv. 14–15). Nicolas means “one who conquers the people.” Irenaeus writes that Nicolas, who was made a deacon in Acts 6, was a false believer who later became apostate. Because of his credentials he was able to lead the church astray, and, like Balaam, he led the people into immorality and wickedness. The Nicolaitans, followers of Nicolas, were involved in immorality and assaulted the church with sensual temptations. Clement of Alexander says, “They abandoned themselves to pleasure like goats, leading a life of self-indulgence.” Their teaching perverted grace and replaced liberty with license.



[1]The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (Re 2:1-7). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2]MacArthur, J. (2001). Revelation : The Christian's Ultimate Victory. MacArthur Bible studies (18). Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group.

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