Okay, I promise; this is really the last part of the introduction. I was done, but that old rabbit ran out and I had to chase it. It was no big deal; I just realized I didn’t really know how the seven churches mentioned in Revelation had figured in the rest of Scripture. So, I looked and today I will share what I learned.
The church at Ephesus figures fairly prominently in the writings of the New Testament. The first mention we see of Ephesus was in Acts Chapter 18, where Paul seemingly planted this church on his second missionary journey.
In Acts 19, we see Paul return to Ephesus where he stayed for another three years. Likely during this time, he sent missionaries out to surrounding areas, perhaps even planting some of the other nearby churches mentioned in the seven letters.
Paul never returned to Ephesus, but at the end of his third journey, while on the island of Miletus, he did summon the elders of the Ephesian Church to give them his final goodbye and exhortation. This is in Acts 20.
Finally, the Ephesians got their own Epistle from Paul.
Smyrna. Not mentioned outside of Revelation.
Pergamum. Not mentioned outside of Revelation.
Thyatira. The church is not mentioned, but the town is as the place where Lydia in Acts Chapter 16 was from
Sardis. Not mentioned outside of Revelation.
Philadelphia. Not mentioned outside of Revelation.
Laodicea. Mentioned several times in Colossians, as Paul asked that his epistle to Colossae be read in the Laodicean church as well.
Isn’t that interesting. It sure seems that churches who got a personal letter from Jesus would have had a bigger role in scripture, yet overall they had little mention at all. Why these churches then? There were bigger cities and more churches than just these seven.
It seems it is just a matter of simple geography and information dissemination. If we assume that Jesus wanted all of the Asian churches to see and understand His words, then these seven are fairly perfect. Ephesus is the point at which most commerce and such would enter Asia minor, especially something coming from Patmos, and the others lined up on the main trade routes, and through the seven postal districts of Asia Minor at the time. If the spreading of information is the point, then this was perfect.
I’m sort of disappointed, as I was hoping for some deeply symbolic, Revelation type of thing here. Although this does tie in rather nicely with the idea of the number of churches being seven symbolizing God’s completeness, and the idea that the messages were for all churches, of all times!
Okay, really…I promise: Next time we will start the church at Ephesus.