Osborne, Grant R. Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002. Location: Ellis BS 2825.53.O73 2002
II. Churches Addressed (1:9-3:22) pp. 77-217.
B. Letters to the Seven Churches (2:1-3:22) pp. 104-217.
Osborne reiterates that the letters of Revelation chapters 2-3 re still considered part of the divine vision introduced in chapter 1 (Osborne 2002, 104). Each letter has the same basic outline. There is some debate about whether the letters are truly specific to individual churches. They certainly contain specific details but they also present more general types of problems which can be found in many times and places. Some commentators also suggest the churches represented problems found at different periods in history (Osborne 2002, 105).
“1. Letter to Ephesus (2:1-7).” pp. 108-126.
The first of the letters to churches found in Revelation 2-3 is to the church at Ephesus. Osborne notes that Ephesus was “one of the four most powerful cities in the Roman Empire (Osborne 2002, 108). The city is very well knwon for its temple to Artemis (Osborne 2002, 109). Temples were used as treasuries as well as places which would inspire worship. In addition to the temple to Artemis, there were temples to numerous other gods as well as Julius Caesar.
Ephesus is known to have had a significant Jewish population, as well as a church congregation established by the year 52 (Osborne 2002, 109).
The letter is commanded to be written to the angel of the church (Osborne 2002, 110). Osborne notes this would indicate a message addressed to the entire church. The address to an angel also reminds the reader “that divine forces are at work and watching” (Osborne 2002, 111). The church is reminded that Christ holds the seven stars. He, not the church, is the ruling power. At the same time, Christ is seen as the one walking amid the churches. His care is very present (Osborne 2002, 112).
In that Christ “knows” the works of the church, Osborne says he understands it perfectly and completely (Osborne 2002, 112). The particular way he knows it is in the labor and endurance. Specifically, the Christians have worked against false teaching (Osborne 2002, 113). The conflict with false teachers showed that the false teachers could not withstand inspection.
Osborne notes that the word “apostle,” as used here, could be used in two ways. Frequently it referred to the Twelve, Paul, and at times a few others who were appointed by the church as leaders (Osborne 2002, 114). Alternatively, they could be those wandering people with a commission from the church but not necessaarily enduring and broad authority. Because the apostles tested by the Ephesians failed, Osborne assumes they were the latter, not the former.
Though the Ephesians did have strength and had defended the truth, all was not well. Revelation 2:4 speaks to weakness. God has something against the Ephesians (Osborne 2002, 115). They have left their original love. Osborne finds authors who recognize this a a love for one another, some who see it as love for God, and others who do not think we can make such a distinction (Osborne 2002, 116).
The problem of the Ephesians does have a solution, presented in Revelation 2:5-6. They are to remember their former stance. Osborne considers that remembering implies necessary action and change (Osborne 2002, 116). The remembering here is followed by two aorist imperatives, repent and do. Osborne finds these as the ways remembrance is to be implemented (Osborne 2002, 117). If the Ephesians do not repent and implement life change, they are threatened with judgment (Osborne 2002, 118). However, Osborne asks just what it means when the Lord will remove even the Ephesians’ lampstand. They could lose the credibility of their testimony as in 1:12, or the warning could be against a loss of their very identity as a church. Osborne considers the latter to be more likely (Osborne 2002, 118). The language of the passage calls the Ephesians to intensify their efforts to combat the things rejected by God. God’s righteousness does not admit competition (Osborne 2002, 120).
The letter to the Ephesians mentions the Nicolaitans. However, it does not make it entirely clear what they are and what they believe. Yet the sins of the Nicolaitans are always mentioned as idolatry and immorality. Osborne considers that this was probably related with the growth of the imperial cult and possibly of an antinomian faction which would spin off from Paul’s teaching about being free from the Law (Osborne 2002, 121).
The letter closes with a prophetic call to listen (Osborne 2002, 121). The message is from the Holy Spirit and deserves the attention of the recipient. Osborne observes that the message of the Spirit is intended for all people (Osborne 2002, 122). The hearer is challenged to overcome, a military metaphor. The true victory is to come from God, but Osborne notes the person who hears and perseveres will participate in God’s eventual victory (Osborne 2002, 122). The essence of overcoming as used in Revelation 2:7 is believing on Christ. This, Osborne notes, is the way Revelation shows one is to receive God’s promises. Here, the promise is to eat of the tree of life (Osborne 2002, 123). There is credible reason to see the “tree of life” in Revelation as a referece to Christ’s cross. This further emphasizes the view of Christ as the slain Lamb of God who restores paradise, where life is found (Osborne 2002, 124).