Ephesus – “desire”, some of the congregations are in towns with a name that has a meaning and/or cultural significance which is linked to the message of Christ’s letter to the congregation. This should alert Christians to the necessity of being able to enlighten the community we worship within. The real desire of the church should be to praise & glorify God in Christ. However, Christians in Ephesus (desire) had the Temple of Artemis (Diana) polluting their desire. Pliny tells us that the Temple took 120 years to build but is now represented only by one inconspicuous column. Over four centuries later, an inscription at Ephesus suggests why so little remains at the site “Destroying the image of the demon Artemis, Demeas has erected this symbol of Truth, the God that drives away idols, and the Cross of priests, deathless and victorious sign of Christ.” The assertion that the Ephesians thought that their cult image had fallen from the sky, is known at Ephesus from Acts 19:35.
“Who walks among the seven golden lampstands” v1, this scene must be comforting, intimacy with God, known only by Adam & Eve, remember Genesis 3:8. For the Christians in Ephesus, they may consider this, their second letter, which closes with a view of the tree of life God once walked amongst but had to remove. Their first letter was from Paul, instructing them on speaking the truth in love and walking in love, Ephesians 4:15 & 5:1, but now their love faded and hadn’t been fed.
“I know your works, labor, endurance… and you have not grown weary” v2-3, A Christian’s strength may not be dependant on love, but love is dependant on being nurtured and fed on the truth. It seems they had found a new love in their efforts and had become more satisfied with their performance in doctrine, rather than the One they should praise. Testing to prove what is right & wrong, can lead to knowledge that “puffs up”, 1st Corinthians 8:1.
“first love”, v4 – Protos Agape. It is curious how Jesus uses the word Protos to describe the robe which the Father gives the prodigal son upon his repentant return, Luke 15:22.
“first works”, v5 – Protos Ergon, every new bride treats her groom differently than most Moms treat Dads. This may seem to be an almost blasphemous way to compare the church as a bride with Christ, but we must fully realize what the first works of a Christian are, and never neglect them. Real faith, works! See James 2:17-18
“hate” & “overcomes”, v6-7, Every one of the seven churches are told of a reward if they “overcome”. Each church, no matter their predicament, problem or position, have challenges in front of them to overcome. Learning to love what God loves, and hate what God hates, is the key to experiencing the victory, wherein we taste the glory of being more than a conqueror, Romans 8:37 & John 16:33.
Smyrna – “myrrh” An ancient Greek myth derived the name from an Amazon named Smyrna. Smyrna’s chief export in ancient times was myrrh, but little is known about myrrh from Smyrna of the 1st century. It was densely populated and it’s economy relied on the Port to the Aegean Sea. Amazons were said to have founded the city and temple of Smyrna, and it’s possibly the home of Homer, author of the Iliad & the Odyssey. For a certainty, the city had a large Jewish Synagogue. In AD155, Polycarp, a student of the apostle John, was martyred at Smyrna.
“Slander”, v8-9, Christ encourages the congregation to be brave in the face of imminent persecution from the Jews. Many of the apostles had personal experience in this, 2nd Corinthians 11:26. Slander is often the precursor of physical persecution for God’s children, Psalm 31:13 & Proverbs 10:18.
“Synagogue of Satan…tribulation for ten days”, 10-11, Christ has no charge against the Christians in Smyrna, but expects them to remain faithful unto death, wherein they will not be injured. We should learn that when the church is healthy, Christ expects us to fight the good fight! 1st Timothy 6:12.