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“Write this to the angel of the church at Ephesus: These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars

in His right hand, the one who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

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“Write this to the church that is fully known and understood by God, and is facing opposition from the fanatical idolatry of popular culture: These are the words of Him who holds the heartbeat and reputation of all the churches as seen from heaven in His powerful and protective hand, and the one who walks among all the people of God serving as demonstrations of God’s glory, through purity of life, which is made possible by the Holy Spirit, causing them to shine the light of the Gospel to the world.


1: “seven golden lampstands”

This was intended as encouragement. When it gets very tough for them they should remember that He is with them and will give them the strength they need. He is also reminding them that, with His help, they can indeed be a light in that culture. Even while popular culture is trying to influence them toward idolatry, they can have a powerful impact on that culture for Christ.

The Seven Cities Can Represent Differing Types of Opposition

Just like famous places today, the cities mentioned by name in Revelation were famous in their day for a variety of reasons, not just one. However, I believe their inclusion was focused on just one or two characteristics which would have been in the forefront of the believers’ minds. What were those cities known for by the Christians of that day? The people of John’s day who heard these cities mentioned in his vision would immediately think of the reputation those cities had among believers, i.e. what type of opposition they represented.

As is often the case, there is both a real meaning and a symbolic meaning here. John did write to seven specific congregations, and the letter was sent to, and read by, those seven congregations. So the seven cities were real cities. But the fact that there were seven of them would not have gone unnoticed. As mentioned before, there were more than seven congregations of the Christian faith in Asia, so “seven” was obviously a symbol. Was it intended to represent “all” the churches in Asia to the exclusion of the churches elsewhere? Or does it represent all the churches everywhere throughout all time? It is most likely the latter.

If my assumption is correct that these cities represented different types of opposition to the followers of Jesus, then the fact that there were seven cities mentioned would be a way of saying “all” the types of opposition possible. If you are going through something that is not specifically represented by one of those cities, the opposition you face is still included because of the symbol for “all.”

In order to determine the type of opposition each city represented I have taken into account the following factors:

– The Reputation of the city

– The Meaning of the city’s name

– The Identity of Jesus as stated

– The Good characteristics of the local church in that city

– The Negative characteristics of the local church in that city

– The Other word-pictures used

– The Rewards for those who overcome

If there is any importance to be found in the meaning of the city’s name, it is a twist, a reversal of the name. The names end up being the opposite of what the followers of Jesus experienced in that city. Here we find sarcasm and irony at their best! (This reversed symbol is explained in the comment about each city.)

The Possible Symbolism of Ephesus

What the city was known for: Ephesus was a strong commercial center, and possibly the most important city in Asia at that time. Its religious tone was very base, or vile, and was sometimes hostile to Christianity. Its markets offered many forms of decadence. It was also a center of the magical arts.

Their most prominent deity was named Diana, also called Artemis.

The story found in Acts chapter 19 is key to understanding what believers who lived in Ephesus went through. At one point the makers of the idols of Artemis got up in arms because Paul was hurting their sales. They got people worked into a frenzy and then the crowd started moving toward the large amphitheater. Most of the people did not even understand why they were gathered in the amphitheater; they had simply gone along with the crowd that was rushing that direction. Someone shouted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians,” and everyone joined in, sensing that somehow their beloved goddess was being threatened. They shouted those words for two full hours! That is fanatical idolatry.

This was not a persecution from the authorities, for a person of authority in the city was the one to calm them down, fearing harsh action from the Roman garrison. This was persecution from the common people of the city. It was the pressure of popular culture.

Believers today, in America and various parts of the world, face pressure from popular culture. In Paul’s case the pressure was not subtle, but it can be, and when it is subtle it is very hard to fight against. We do not realize how much influence our culture has over us.

What the city’s name meant: The Name “Ephesus” means “desirable.” It was desirable for the fulfilling of sinful cravings, but not desirable for spiritual growth. The irony is that the very characteristics that made it desirable in a worldly sense made it undesirable for the people of God.