However you visualized the figure who is instructing John to write, he begins messages to each of 7 churches in turn. What does the figure in yesterday’s vision said to each one, while striding among their lampstands, holding their 7 stars, like the Colossus of Rhodes, familiar to the original writer and hearers?
First, to the church in Ephesus (you know, the Ephesians to whom Paul wrote – Google it, or find it on a map…)
What does the figure know about the character of the Ephesians’ church? What does the figure know about their discernment of false apostles? What does the figure affirm about their habits and attitudes?
What criticism does he offer – and what threat does he make?
About what or whom does he agree with them?
What ultimate promise does he hold out for them?
Then a closing admonition:
The pattern is reshaped the next, second time for the church in Smyrna, (still the source of great figs, eh? Find it on a map or Google it!)
The figure self-identifies as first, last, who died and lives again
Their opposition slandering them
The realistic warning that it will get worse, followed by the ultimate promise…
Who do you imagine as ‘the synagogue of Satan’? How do you imagine that’s been used, in sectarian fights among Christians, and in persecution of Jews by Christians?
What stories of martyrs do you know, communities who suffered stubbornly, who lost in the short term, only to be recognized in the end? ‘Ten days’ contains the burden to a finite stretch, with ultimate consequences.
Close your eyes and listen, to visualize the imagery, or read along in NRSV below:
Messages to 1st and 2nd of 7 Churches
1 'Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus and say, "Here is the message of the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and who lives among the seven golden lamp-stands:
2 I know your activities, your hard work and your perseverance. I know you cannot stand wicked people,
and how you put to the test those who were self-styled apostles, and found them false.
3 I know too that you have perseverance, and have suffered for my name without growing tired.
4 Nevertheless, I have this complaint to make: you have less love now than formerly.
5 Think where you were before you fell; repent, and behave as you did at first, or else, if you will not repent, I shall come to you and take your lamp-stand from its place.
6 It is in your favour, nevertheless, that you loathe as I do the way the Nicolaitans are behaving.
7 Let anyone who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches: those who prove victorious I will feed from the tree of life set in God's paradise."
8 'Write to the angel of the church in Smyrna and say, "Here is the message of the First and the Last, who was dead and has come to life again:
9 I know your hardships and your poverty, and -- though you are rich – the slander of the people who falsely claim to be Jews but are really members of the synagogue of Satan.
10 Do not be afraid of the sufferings that are coming to you. Look, the devil will send some of you to prison to put you to the test, and you must face hardship for ten days. Even if you have to die, keep faithful, and I will give you the crown of life for your prize.
11 Let anyone who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches: for those who prove victorious will come to no harm from the second death."
Messages to First 2 of 7 Churches
‘To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands:
2 ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false.
3I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary.
4But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
5Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
6Yet this is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.
8 ‘And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life:
9 ‘I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
11Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death.