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Revelation 2:1-7 verse by verse Bible study. Our Bible study guides contain discussion questions, verse by verse commentary, and applications which can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.

Revelation 2:1-7 Verse by Verse Bible Study – Letter to Church of Ephesus


I. Background (1)
II. Commendation (2-3)
III. Criticism (4)
IV. Counsel (5-6)
V. Application and Promise (7)

I. Background

Discussion Questions

  • Who is this letter from?
  • Who is this letter to?
  • Since this letter is to the church of Ephesus, how does it apply to us today?
  • Who is the angel of the church of Ephesus?
  • How does the description of Jesus connect to the description in chapter 1?
  • Why do you think Jesus emphasized these specific things about Himself to this specific church?

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Interpretations – All of these churches were near to Patmos. They were conveniently located on a circular trade route which made it easier for the letters to be circulated and then dispersed throughout the province. These are literal churches which existed in that period in history.

It was normal in that time for churches to pass letters around so that each could benefit from the messages. And from the passage, it is clear that this is what was intended with these letters. Each letter has the phrase “let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” This indicates that all of the churches would read all of the letters.

So although these were letters to literal, specific churches, the issues (good and bad) present in those churches, exist throughout the church age. Solomon once said that there was nothing new under the sun. As a whole, the 7 letters can be taken to represent the message of Jesus to the whole church. The number 7 indicates completeness. So although these are written to specific, real churches, the lessons and principles within are timeless and universal. Much like Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians or other New Testament epistles, we can find many similarities to those churches and our situations today.

As we read study these letters, we must realize that Jesus is writing to us as well as members of His church. We must consider how they apply to us and our situation. Some local churches may tend to be more like Ephesus, which lost it’s first love. Or some may tend to be more like Laodicea, which was lukewarm. The same is true for individuals. So as we continue to go through these letters, let us meditate on them. Treat them as if you received a personal letter hand-written by Jesus.

2. Prophetic, historical, or both? – Many scholars have also noticed that these letters seem prophetic as well as historical, that although they are real letters written to specific churches at the same time they represent something more universal in application. There are a number of clues that these letters could be prophetic.

7 Churches of Revelation Map

7 Churches of Revelation Map – Created With Accordance Bible Software

Firstly, there are seven letters. This is the first of four series of sevens. The number seven represents completeness. Could this indicate that the letters are also symbolic in nature?

Secondly, these seven churches were not all the most famous or influential churches in that region. For example, the church of Thyatira was smaller and less well-known than the church of Colossae, which was also nearby. So it may be that these seven churches were chosen specifically because they symbolized something more about what the church was going to be like moving forward in history.

Thirdly, there is a clear progression in the churches that seems to fit with what we know of church history.

  • Ephesus is the first church written to. And in this first letter, is the only one of the seven that mentions people claiming to be apostles (2:2), which was a problem especially early in the New Testament period. In addition, the main focus is on losing their first love. This was especially fitting for the end of the apostolic age, which was nearing an end when John wrote.
  • Smyrna – After the apostolic age, the church entered a time of persecution, which is reflected in this second letter.
  • Pergammum – They started to display some syncretic leanings.
  • Thyatira – The longest letter could symbolize the longest age of the church, the Middle Ages. They also struggled with syncretism, which was so common in the Middle Ages. And Jesus said the victor would rule over the nations, as we see the church in this time period which much political influence. In addition, Jesus said that their latter works are greater than their first, which could be a reference to the Reformation.
  • Sardis – By this time the revival of the reformation was waning and nearing death, much the like the church mentioned here.
  • Philadelphia – This church is described in a very positive light and could represent the “Golden Age of the church.” In this period of time after the Reformation the church was strong and faithful.
  • Laodicea – We can see a clear similarity between the materialism and self-sufficiency of this church and the culture now which has seeped into the church. Love of money and entertainment are widespread problems. It is blind and naked. Yet Jesus stands at the door, showing how close He is to returning and “eat with him and he with me” could be a reference to the near Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Taken this way, there could also be some overlap between the remnant church of Philadelphia and the “fake” church of Laodicea.

So there does seem to be a clear progression that generally matches with history. This would only be something that could be understood and seen the closer one came to the end of these ages, which would also fit with how Biblical prophecy tends to become more clear the closer you get to it.

For more on this view you can read:

While I am not dogmatic that the letters should be interpreted in this way, it does make sense.

Application: If this interpretation is correct, we are indeed in the last part of the church age before Jesus comes. That is both exciting and challenging. It is a reminder that we must take to heart all of the warnings given to the churches, especially those to the church of Laodicea, which is so similar to our situation today. If you listen to what the Spirit says to the churches from beginning to end and obey, then you will not end up like the blind and naked church of Laodicea. So as we move forward let us pay careful attention to the warnings and take them to heart because His return is drawing ever nearer!

3. Structure – Each of the seven letters follows a basic structure:

A. Addressed the “angel” of the church
B. A description of Jesus
C. I know…
D. Commendation
E. Criticism
F. Counsel
G. A promise to those who overcome
Exceptions: Philadelphia and Smyrna receive no criticism. Laodicea receives no praise.

Application: As we go through these letters, you can outline each letter using the above format.

4. The angel of the church in Ephesus – As mentioned in Revelation 1, the word for angel means “messenger” in Greek. This is then a reference to the leader in the church of Ephesus who would receive this letter and pass it on to the church.

5. Letter from Jesus – Jesus gave John the exact words to write in this letter. It is a letter directly from him to the church of Ephesus. It is a priceless treasure that we have this record of messages directly from Jesus to the churches, and by extension to us. I have often thought of the question, “If Jesus wrote to my church, what would He say?” While that answer is unclear, we can get a pretty good idea by compiling these seven letters and comparing those churches to our own today.

Application: Let us treasure these letters, inclining our ears and our hearts to understand and apply the counsel within.

6. Description of Jesus – In each of the seven letters the beginning includes a description of Jesus. These descriptions are taken direct