1:20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. 2:1 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. ~ Revelation 2:3
These seven churches are carefully selected and representative of all types of churches down through church history. This is to say, there are only seven types of churches that exist at any one given period of time. Every church can be recognized as one of these seven at some particular moment of its history.
These seven churches are called "lampstands" because they are light-bearers. No church is the light, but each are expected to bear the light. The light, of course, is the truth as it is found in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Revelation 2:1 we read, "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands."
Each letter is addressed to the angel of the church. This word angel appears many times in the book outside these seven letters, and in every case it refers to a heavenly being. It is suggestive here that each church has an angel who is responsible for guiding the human leadership of each.
Throughout the Scriptures, leadership is always in the plural -- elders of churches. But, in Revelation 2-3, there is no human leader addressed. It is sent to the angel of the church, the one is responsible to help the human leaders of the church to know the mind of the Lord.
Of the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2-3, five of them had a mix of good and bad behavior. As we work through these seven messages, five of the churches will need correction, and two of them, Smyrna and Philadelphia, will not need correction.
We find here in these seven messages the same format used, the Lord Jesus commends them, then He issues a word of correction. That is the order He follows in all but three of the churches (in Smyrna and Philadelphia He found nothing to correct; in Laodicea He found nothing to commend).
The first church addressed was the church at Ephesus which began in Acts 19, when the Apostle Paul visited them during his third missionary journey. The church at Ephesus was the church at its best. It was located in the city where we saw religion at its worst. Ephesus was the center of heathen idolatry. Pagan practices there were more degraded than in any other place.
In v.2 we read, "I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false."
After the Gospel came to their city, the church in Ephesus embraced the word of God and they subsequently turned from idols, the occult, black magic, and immoral practices. In fact, they burned their magic books at a tremendous price, putting the idol makers of Ephesus who made the silver idols out of business, creating a riot in the city when the union of idol workers found out about it. The church in Ephesus was born out of a great revival.
In addition, the Ephesians were known for their good doctrine which meant that their faith was well defined and well defended. They did not run after every theological fad that came along. They examined the teaching to determine whether or not it was consistent with the Scriptures. They also openly opposed false teachers.
They were known for their commitment to the truth. They took their faith seriously and they put it to work. They witnessed, they labored and they ministered to human needs. They helped the downcast and ministered to the homeless and outcasts of society. They were busy in ministry, continually working, and our Lord commends them for all of this.
In v.3 we read, "You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary."
The believers in the church at Ephesus were determined to persevere in their faith. They persevered in their faith because the faith had persevered in them. They not only took a hold of the truth but the truth took a hold of them. The Ephesian church was the most prominent of all the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2-3 because it was the mother church to the other six. This group of believers were strong in the faith because their trials served them in their walk with the Lord. The trials drove them to the Scriptures which drove them to God. And, as a result, they loved people with the truth. This is our calling: to know Him and to make Him known.