Revelation chapters 2 and 3 contain a series of letters from Christ to the 7 churches in Revelation 1:11. Each letter is in a similar form, but the situation in each church, and its difficulties, are different. Christ knows the situation in each church, and he urges its members to overcome their difficulties by trust in him.
Many Christians believe that these 7 letters describe 7 periods in the history of the Christian churches. Those Christians think that this first letter describes the typical state of churches during the first century after Christ. They think that the last letter, to Laodicea (3:14-22), describes the typical state of churches today. The other letters describe the periods of history between these.
That is an interesting idea, and it can be useful to study church history. However, clearly, all 7 churches existed at the time of John. Today, too, churches can be very different from each other.
This first letter is to the church in Ephesus. Paul established that church (Acts chapter 19); he worked there for more than 2 years. The Book of Ephesians is probably to that church, although some early copies of it do not mention Ephesus. It describes a church that seemed in a good state; its members were serving God well then.
Several years afterwards, it seems likely that John became a leader in that church. He would have been working in that region when the government sent him to Patmos as a prisoner.
In each letter, Christ first describes himself by what John saw in chapter 1. Here, the description refers to the stars and the lampstands (objects to hold a burning oil lamp). Revelation 1:20 says that those things mean the churches. So Christ is reminding the Christians in Ephesus about his relationship with his people and their churches. Christ loves and cares for each Christian. That was why he sent this letter to Ephesus.
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© 2016, Keith Simons.