The 7 Churches Mystery – Letter No.1

THE EPHESUS LETTER

Does the idea of exploring old mysteries intrigue you?¬†Then you may be fascinated by astounding spiritual clues¬†hidden within¬†7 ancient letters¬†written to 7 churches in Asia Minor.¬†¬†This 7 part series¬†is simply an introduction to a small portion of Revelation, the last book, and an entirely prophetic book of the Bible.¬†We’re on a search for clues to determine the essential value¬†of these letters. However, for a¬†more detailed or intensive study of Revelation, you may wish to review other web studies such as those found at¬†apocalipsis.org.

As mentioned in our Introduction, the ¬†7 letters¬†to the 7 churches were the beginning of a¬†vision recorded by¬†a disciple of Jesus, John of Patmos¬†in the last book of the Bible sometimes entitled, ‘The Revelation‘. (Note:¬†When¬†studying prophetic writings of the Bible, it is important to realize¬†prophetic writings reveal mysteries and¬†truths,¬†as outlined¬†in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah 28: 8-9): 8From early times the prophets who preceded you and me have prophesied war, disaster and plague against many countries and great kingdoms. 9But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the LORD only if his prediction comes true.” Jeremiah 28:5-9

Armed with this¬†insight into ‘true’ Bible prophecy,¬†¬†let’s take a ‘sneak peek’ visit to Ephesus.¬†¬†The Ephesus Church was an important and mature church in the time of early followers of Jesus Christ. The church was situated in the seaport city of Ephesus, which was a leading¬†capital of some quarter of a million people. As you¬†may already¬†know, the Apostle Paul wrote a long letter to the Ephesians, which informs us that¬†this church probably played a key role¬†in the lives of¬†early followers of Jesus Christ. However, the Ephesian society of the day was powerfully influenced by false gods and idolatry.¬†Chief amongst¬†¬†these ‘gods’ was a female fertility god, Artemis.¬†People¬†believed Artmenis brought wealth and revered her by building her a temple. The temple of Artemis at Ephesus was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.¬†Within this ‘other gods’ environment, Christianity was considered¬†a dangerous influence with its emphasis on humility and moderate living and worship of one true God.¬†Non-Christians feared losing their wealth if they offended Artemis and allowed Christianity to take hold.

Time to open Mystery Envelope #1 (or should that be unroll the scroll of Letter # 1?) (a drum roll, please…) As we read the Letter to the Ephesus Church: (Revelation 2: 1-7)¬†…we discover that it opens on a positive note:

I KNOW THE MANY GREAT THINGS YOU’RE DOING…

Encouraging words!

This letter is addressed to the angel’ (some texts say ‘leader’) of¬†the¬†church in¬†Ephesus.¬†Jesus commends¬†the Ephesus Church for working hard and¬†for their godly patience¬†in the midst of trials and sufferings. The letter shows us that the Ephesus Church aren’t ‘quitters’.¬†They¬†are disciplined, determined and make godliness a priority. They don’t tolerate sin. They are¬†adept at examining¬†‘leaders’.¬†This church even¬†uncovered¬† ‘leaders’¬†amongst them who¬†were¬†false and had lied¬†about being apostles. The Ephesus Church¬†stayed¬†on its¬†spiritual¬†toes by also silencing the¬†ungodly influence of a group called the Nicolaitans (better known as the Balaamites,¬†who had seduced the Israelites¬†into¬†immorality). However, in the midst of approval, this church¬†receives a solemn¬†warning. In spite of their merits, we hear in the letter that the Ephesus Church¬†has forfeited¬†something of immense¬†value to their faith– their ‘first love’¬† –¬†a love for God and putting Him first.

Personal Deduction & Study:

Read through this letter again in Revelation 2: 1-7 . Consider answering the following questions as you read:¬†How¬†is it¬†possible that¬†a Church of Great Things’ might¬†end up doing great things, yet¬†lose¬†sight of their ‘first love’? What might¬†Jesus be asking¬†this church to hear or learn from¬†the Spirit of God? How can¬†Christians listen more closely to God and hear from God’s Spirit?

Clue Collection:

Collect # 1 of 7 clues here. The same great promise or inheritance available to the Ephesus Church is also for you! What is it?

(Next Letter – No. 2 The Smyrna Letter)

© 2011 S. Michaels

The Seven Churches Mystery – Introduction

One of my all-time¬†favourite drama-suspense films is entitled ‘The Seven Per Cent Solution‘,¬†and is based on the novel of the same name penned by the American writer, Nicholas Meyer. (roll thunder…lightning…strange music…) A 1976 film was produced based on Meyer’s book, which delivers¬†a heart-stopping complex plot about certain ‘absences’ of detective Sherlock Holmes which were not apparently explained properly by the original¬†‘inventor’ of¬†Holmes, that is to say — by the famed author — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.¬†The¬†Granada Television series out of Britain, featuring actor Jeremy Brett as the great detective himself, is possibly the ‘top’¬†portrayal of¬†that inimitable and admirable sleuth,¬† Sherlock Holmes…

Okay…before you ask, “Where are you going with this and why are you bringing up the great Mr. Sherlock Holmes?” Why, it’s elementary, my dear…Watson…You see, I have always enjoyed studying the character of ‘Holmes’, developed by Conan Doyle. If you’ve read Doyle’s series, you know that Holmes was a ‘master’ of reasoning. Holmes would seek out answers to great mysteries and puzzles by utilizing the art of problem-solving though careful listening, examination and deduction. I believe God and the Bible allow us to do the same. Is there a mystery to be solved related to 7 letters which were written to 7 churches found in Chapters 2 and 3 of the last book of the Bible? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Whatever the case, are you ready to play ‘Sherlock Holmes’ with me?

What if one of ‘real life’s’ most fascinating mysteries of all time is ensconced in the Bible’s prophetic apocalyptic book of The Revelation? As we know it, this amazing book chronicles an incredible vision received by a follower of Jesus Christ, (sometimes referred to as John the Divine) and ‘John of Patmos’ (John was so named because he received his profound vision while exiled on the Isle of Patmos). The entire book of 22 chapters is believed to outline and foretell the most marvellous mystery of the ages. It asks the question, “How will the history of humankind wind up its long and often tumultuous twist through time?” In The Revelation, (the story of ‘the beginning of the end’ as some might call it…) we discover an address of seven letters sent to seven churches of ancient Turkey. (Note: These letters are found in Chapter 2 and 3 of The Revelation. Many translations indicate these letters are addressed to the ‘angel’ of the churches in question. I like to refer to The Living Bible (by Dr. Ken Taylor) whose translation references the letters as being written to the ‘leader’ of the churches in question).

Tomorrow… I shall aim to unveil important clues to the mystery of the future of the 1st of 7 churches, the Ephesus Church. When you read it, ask yourself if you think this letter is of relevance only to John the receiver of the prophetic word, or to the Ephesus Church…or to both? Or… to anyone else, and if so, to whom is it being addressed in particular? I’m not a scholar, so I can’t say that I know ‘the answer’ for sure. But I am an explorer… so if you care to come along, I’ll see you in Ephesus…

copyright 2011 S. Michaels