Unto the angel of the Church of Ephesus - By αγγελος, angel, we are to understand the messenger or person sent by God to preside over this Church; and to him the epistle is directed, not as pointing out his state, but the state of the Church under his care. Angel of the Church here answers exactly to that officer of the synagogue among the Jews called ציבור שליח sheliach tsibbur, the messenger of the Church, whose business it was to read, pray, and teach in the synagogue. The Church at Ephesus is first addressed, as being the place where John chiefly resided; and the city itself was the metropolis of that part of Asia. The angel or bishop at this time was most probably Timothy, who presided over that Church before St. John took up his residence there, and who is supposed to have continued in that office till a.d. 97, and to have been martyred a short time before St. John's return from Patmos.
Holdeth the seven stars - Who particularly preserves, and guides, and upholds, not only the ministers of those seven Churches, but all the genuine ministers of his Gospel, in all ages and places.
Walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks - Is the supreme Bishop and Head, not only of those Churches, but of all the Churches or congregations of his people throughout the world.
The Epistle to the Church at Ephesus
The contents of the epistle to the church at Ephesus - the first addressed - are these:
(1)The attribute of the Saviour referred to is, that he “holds the stars in his right hand, and walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks,” Revelation 2:1.
(2)he commends them for their patience, and for their opposition to those who are evil, and for their zeal and fidelity in carefully examining into the character of some who claimed to be apostles, but who were, in fact, impostors; for their perseverance in bearing up under trial, and not fainting in his cause, and for their opposition to the Nicolaitanes, whom, he says, he hates, Revelation 2:2-3, Revelation 2:6.
(3)he reproves them for having left their first love to him, Revelation 2:4.
(4)he admonishes them to remember whence they had fallen, to repent, and to do their first works Revelation 2:5.
(5)he threatens them that, if they do not repent, he will come and remove the candlestick out of its place, Revelation 2:5; and,
(6)he assures them, and all others, that whosoever overcomes he will “give him to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God,” Revelation 2:7.
Unto the angel - The minister; the presiding presbyter; the bishop - in the primitive sense of the word “bishop” - denoting one who had the spiritual charge of a congregation. See the notes on Revelation 1:20.
Of the church - Not of the churches of Ephesus, but of the one church of that city. There is no evidence that the word is used in a collective sense to denote a group of churches, like a diocese; nor is there any evidence that there was such a group of churches in Ephesus, or that there was more than one church in that city. It is probable that all who were Christians there were regarded as members of one church - though for convenience they may have met for worship in different places. Thus, there was one church in Corinth 1 Corinthians 1:1; one church in Thessalonica 1 Thessalonians 1:1, etc.
Of Ephesus - On the situation of Ephesus, see the notes on Acts 18:19, and the introduction to the notes on the Epistle to the Ephesians, section 1, and the engraving there. It was the capital of Ionia; was one of the twelve Ionian cities of Asia Minor in the Mythic times, and was said to have been founded by the Amazons. It was situated on the river Cayster, not far from the Icarian Sea, between Smyrna and Miletus. It was one of the most considerable cities of Asia Minor, and while, about the epoch when Christianity was introduced, other cities declined, Ephesus rose more and more. It owed its prosperity, in part, to the favor of its governors; for Lysimachus named the city Arsinoe, in honor of his second wife, and Attalus Philadelphus furnished it with splendid wharves and docks. Under the Romans it was the capital not only of Ionia, but of the entire province of Asia, and bore the honorable title of the first and greatest metropolis of Asia. John is supposed to have resided in this city, and to have preached the gospel there for many years; and on this account, perhaps, it was, as well as on account of the relative importance of the city, that the first epistle of the seven was addressed to that church. On the present condition of the ruins of Ephesus, see the notes on Revelation 2:5. We have no means whatever of ascertaining the size of the church when John wrote the Book of Revelation. From the fact, however, that Paul, as is supposed (see the introduction to the Epistle to the Ephesians, section 2), labored there for about three years; that there was a body of “elders” who presided over the church there Acts 20:17; and that the apostle John seems to have spent a considerable part of his life there in preaching the gospel, it may be presumed that there was a large and flourishing church in that city. The epistle before us shows also that it was characterized by distinguished piety.
These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand - See the notes on Revelation 1:16. The object here seems to be to turn the attention of the church in Ephesus to some attribute of the Saviour which deserved their special regard, or which constituted a special reason for attending to what he said. To do this, the attention is directed, in this case, to the fact that he held the seven stars - emblematic of the ministers of the churches - in his hand, and that he walked in the midst of the lampbearers - representing the churches themselves; intimating that they were dependent on him, that he had power to continue or remove the ministry, and that it was by his presence only that those lamp-bearers would continue to give light. The absolute control over the ministry, and the fact that he walked amidst the churches, and that his presence was necessary to their perpetuity and their welfare, seem to be the principal ideas implied in this representation. These truths he would impress on their minds, in order that they might feel how easy it would be for him to punish any disobedience, and in order that they might do what was necessary to secure his continual presence among them. These views seem to be sanctioned by the character of the punishment threatened Revelation 2:5, “that he would remove the candlestick representing their church out of its place.” See the notes on Revelation 2:5.
Who walketh in the midst, - In Revelation 1:13 he is represented simply as being seen amidst the golden candlesticks. See the notes on that place. Here there is the additional idea of his “walking” in the midst of them, implying perhaps constant and vigilant supervision. He went from one to another, as one who inspects and surveys what is under his care; perhaps also with the idea that he went among them as a friend to bless them.
The Church of Ephesus. â Some reasons why the seven churches, or more properly the messages to them, should be regarded as prophetic, having their application to seven distinct periods covering the Christian age, have been given in the remarks on chapter 1:4. It may here be added that this view is neither new nor local. Benson quotes Bishop Newton as saying, âMany contend, and among them such learned men as More and Vitringa, that the seven epistles are prophetical of so many successive periods, or states, of the church, from the beginning to the conclusion of all.âDAR 345.3
Scott says: âMany expositors have imagined that these epistles to the seven churches were mystical prophecies of seven distinct periods, into which the whole term, from the apostles' days to the end of the world, would be divided.âDAR 346.1
Although Newton and Scott do not themselves hold this view, their testimony is good as showing that such has been the view of many expositors. Matthew Henry says: âDAR 346.2
âAn opinion has been held by some commentators of note, which may be given in the words of Vitringa: âThat under this emblematical representation of the seven churches of Asia, the Holy Spirit has delineated seven different states of the Christian church, which would appear in succession, extending to the coming of our Lord and the consummation of all things; that this is given in descriptions taken from the names, states, and conditions of these churches, so that they might behold themselves, and learn both their good qualities and their defects, and what admonitions and exhortations were suitable for them.' Vitringa has given a summary of the arguments which may be alleged in favor of this interpretation. Some of them are ingenious, but they are not now considered sufficient to support such a theory. Gill is one of the principal of the English commentators who adopt this view, that âthey are prophetical of the churches of Christ in the several periods of time until he appears again.'âDAR 346.3
It appears from the authors above cited, that what has led commentators of more modern times to discard the view of the prophetical nature of the messages to the seven churches, is the comparatively recent and unscriptural doctrine of the temporal millennium. The last state of the church, as described in chapter 3:15-17, was deemed to be incompatible with the glorious state of things which would exist here on this earth for a thousand years, with all the world converted to God. Hence in this case, as in many others, the more Scriptural view is made to yield to the more pleasing. The hearts of men, as in ancient times, still love smooth things, and their ears are ever favorably open to those who will prophesy peace.DAR 346.4
The first church named is Ephesus. According to the application here made, this would cover the first, or apostolic age of the church. The definition of the word Ephesus, is desirable, which may well be taken as a good descriptive term of the character and condition of the church in its first state. Those early Christians had received the doctrine of Christ in its purity. They enjoyed the benefits and blessings of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They were noted for works, labor, and patience. In faithfulness to the pure principles taught by Christ, they could not bear those that were evil, and they tried false apostles, searched out their true characters, and found them liars. That this work was specially done by the literal and particular church at Ephesus more than by other churches of that time, we have no evidence; there is nothing said about it by Paul in the epistle he wrote to that church; but it was done by the Christian church as a whole, in that age, and was a most appropriate work at that time. (See Acts 15; 2 Corinthians 11:13.)DAR 347.1
The Angel of the Church. â The angel of a church must denote a messenger, or minister, of that church; and as these churches each cover a period of time, the angel of each church must denote the ministry, or all the true ministers of Christ during the period covered by that church. The different messages, though addressed to the ministers, cannot be understood to be applicable to them alone; but they are appropriately addressed to the church through them.DAR 347.2
The Cause of Complaint. â âI have somewhat against thee,â says Christ, âbecause thou hast left thy first love.â âNot less worthy of warning than departure from fundamental doctrine or from Scriptural morality, is the leaving of first love. The charge here is not that of falling from grace, nor that love is extinguished, but diminished. No zeal, no suffering can atone for the want of first love.â â Thompson. The time never should come in a Christian's experience, when, if he were asked to mention the period of his greatest love to Christ, he would not say, The present moment. But if such a time does come, then should he remember from whence he is fallen, meditate upon it, take time for it, carefully call up the state of his former acceptance with God, and then hasten to repent, and retrace his steps to that desirable position. Love, like faith, is manifested by works; and first love, when it is attained, will always bring first works.DAR 347.3
The Threatening. â âI will come unto thee quickly, and remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.â The coming here mentioned must be a figurative coming, signifying a visitation of judgment, inasmuch as it is conditional. The removing of the candlestick would denote the taking away from them of the light and privileges of the gospel, and committing them to other hands, unless they should better fulfill the responsibilities of the trust committed to them. But it may be asked on the view that these messages are prophetic, if the candlestick would not be removed anyway, whether they repented or not, as that church was succeeded by the next, to occupy the next period, and if this is not an objection against regarding these churches as prophetic. Answer: The expiration of the period covered by any church is not the removal of the candlestick of that church. The removal of their candlestick would be taking away from them privileges which they might and should longer enjoy. It would be the rejection of them on the part of Christ as his representatives, to bear the light of his truth and gospel before the world. And this threatening would be just as applicable to individuals as to the church as a body. How many who professed Christianity during that period thus came short and were rejected, we know not; doubtless many. And thus things would go on, some remaining steadfast, some backsliding and becoming no longer light-bearers in the world, new converts meanwhile filling up the vacancies made by death and apostasy, until the church reaches a new era in her experience, marked off as another period in her history, and covered by another message.DAR 348.1
The Nicolaitanes. â How ready is Christ to commend his people for whatever good qualities they may possess! If there is anything of which he approves, he mentions that first. And in this message to the church of Ephesus, having first mentioned their commendable traits and then their failures, as if unwilling to pass by any of their good qualities he mentions this, that they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which he also hated. In verse 15 the doctrines of the same characters are condemned. It appears that they were a class of persons whose deeds and doctrines were alike abominable in the sight of Heaven. Their origin is involved in some doubt. Some say that they sprang from Nicolas of Antioch, one of the seven deacons (Acts 6:5); some, that they only attribute their origin to him to gain the prestige of his name; and others, that the sect took its name from one Nicolas of a later date, which is probably the nearest correct. Concerning their doctrines and practices, there seems to be a general agreement that they held to a community of wives, regarded adultery and fornication as things indifferent, and permitted the eating of things offered to idols. (See Religious Encyclopedia, Clarke, Kitto, and other authorities.)DAR 349.1
The Summons to Attention. â âHe that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.â A solemn manner of calling universal attention to that which is of general and most momentous importance. The same language is used to each of the seven churches. Christ, when upon earth made use of the same form of speech in calling the attention of the people to the most important of his teachings. He used it in reference to the mission of John (Matthew 11:15), the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:9), and the parable of the tares, setting forth the end of the world. Verse 43. It is also used in relation to an important prophetic fulfillment in Revelation 13:9.DAR 349.2
The Promise to the Victor. â To the overcomer it is promised that he shall eat of the tree of life that grows in the midst of the paradise, or garden, of God. Where is this paradise? Answer: In the third heaven. Paul writes, in 2 Corinthians 12:2, that he knew a man (referring to himself) caught up to the third heaven. In verse 4 he calls the same place âparadise,â leaving only one conclusion to be drawn, which is, that paradise is in the third heaven. In this paradise, it seems, is the tree of life. There is but one tree of life brought to view in the Bible. It is mentioned six times, three times in Genesis, and three times in the Revelation; but it is used every time with the definite article the. It is the tree of life in the first book of the Bible, the tree of life in the last; the tree of life in the âparadiseâ (Septuagint) in Eden at the beginning, and the tree of life in the paradise of which John now speaks, in heaven above. But if there is but one tree, and that was at first upon earth, it may be asked how it has now come to be in heaven. And the answer would be that it must have been taken up, or translated, to the paradise above. There is no possible way that the same identical body which is situated in one place can be located in another, but by being transported bodily thither. And that the tree of life and paradise have been removed from earth to heaven, besides the necessary inference from this argument, there is very good reason to believe.DAR 349.3
In 2 Esdras 7:26 occurs this language: âBehold, the time shall come, that these tokens which I have told thee shall come to pass, and the bride shall appear, and she coming forth shall be seen that now is withdrawn from the earth.â There is an evident allusion here to the âbride, the Lamb's wifeâ (Revelation 21:9), which is the âholy city, New Jerusalemâ (verse 10; Galatians 4:26), in which is the tree of life (Revelation 22:2), which is now âwithdrawn from the earth,â but which will in due time appear, and be located among men. Revelation 21:2, 3.DAR 350.1
The following paragraph on this point we quote from Kurtz's Sacred History, p. 50: âDAR 350.2
âThe act of God in appointing the cherubim âto keep the way of the tree of life' (Genesis 3:24), in the garden of Eden, likewise appears not only in an aspect indicating judicial severity, but also in one which conveys a promise full of consolation. The blessed abode from which man is expelled, is neither annihilated nor even abandoned to desolation and ruin, but withdrawn from the earth and from man, and consigned to the care of the most perfect creatures of God, in order that it may be ultimately restored to man when he is redeemed. Revelation 22:2. The garden, as it existed before God âplanted,' or adorned it, came under the curse, like the remainder of the earth, but the celestial and paradisaical addition was exempted, and entrusted to the cherubim. The true paradise is now translated to the invisible world. At least a symbolical copy of it, established in the holy of holies in the tabernacle, was granted to the people of Israel after the pattern which Moses saw in the mount (Exodus 25:9, 40); and the original itself, as the renewed habitation of redeemed man, will hereafter descend to the earth. Revelation 21:10.âDAR 350.3
To the overcomer, then, is promised a restoration to more than Adam lost; not to the overcomers of that state of the church merely, but to all overcomers of every age; for in the great rewards of Heaven there are no restrictions. Reader, strive to be an overcomer; for he who gains access to the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God, shall die no more.DAR 351.1
The time covered by this first church, may be considered the period from the resurrection of Christ, to the close of the first century, or to the death of the last of the apostles.DAR 351.2
The apostle Paul could say of the early church: “They glorified God in me.” Galatians 1:24. Shall we not strive to live so that the same words can be said of us? The Lord will provide ways and means for those who will seek Him with the whole heart. He desires us to acknowledge the divine superintendence shown in preparing fields of labor and preparing the way for these fields to be occupied successfully. 6T 413.1
Let ministers and evangelists have more seasons of earnest prayer with those who are convicted by the truth. Remember that Christ is always with you. The Lord has in readiness the most precious exhibitions of His grace to strengthen and encourage the sincere, humble worker. Then reflect to others the light which God has caused to shine upon you. Those who do this bring to the Lord the most precious offering. The hearts of those who bear the good tidings of salvation are aglow with the spirit of praise. 6T 413.2
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“Ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God.”Read in context »
We may talk of the blessings of the Holy Spirit, but unless we prepare ourselves for its reception, of what avail are our works? Are we striving with all our power to attain to the stature of men and women in Christ? Are we seeking for His fullness, ever pressing toward the mark set before us—the perfection of His character? When the Lord's people reach this mark, they will be sealed in their foreheads. Filled with the Spirit, they will be complete in Christ, and the recording angel will declare, “It is finished” (The Review and Herald, June 10, 1902). 6BC 1118.1
32. Kind Words Never Lost—It should be our aim to bring all the pleasantness possible into our lives, and to do all the kindness possible to those around us. Kind words are never lost. Jesus records them as if spoken to Himself. Sow the seeds of kindness, of love, and of tenderness, and they will blossom and bear fruit (Manuscript 33, 1911). 6BC 1118.2Read in context »