From: Revelation: 1:1-4; 2:1-5
Address and Greeting
Letter to the Church of Ephesus
 “’I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you can-
not bear evil men but have tested those who call themselves apostles but are
not, and found them to be false;  I know you are enduring patiently and bea-
ring up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.  But I have this
against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember
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.
1-20. After a brief prologue (vv. 1-3) and a letter-style greeting (vv. 4-8), St John
describes a vision which acts as an introduction to the entire book; in it the risen
Christ is depicted with features identifying his divinity and his position as Lord
and Savior of the churches.
In the course of the book Jesus Christ will also appear as God’s envoy, sent to
teach Christians of the time, and subsequent generations (chaps. 2-3), and to
console them in the midst of persecution by proclaiming God’s design for the
future of the world and of the Church (chaps. 4-22).
1-3. Despite its brevity this prologue conveys the scope of the book, its authority
and the effect it hopes to have on its readers.
The “content” of the letter is a revelation made by Jesus Christ about contem-
porary and future events (cf. 1:19; 4:1). Its author, John, gives it its “authority”:
Christ’s revelation has been communicated to him in a supernatural manner, and
he bears faithful witness to everything revealed to him. The book’s “purpose” is to
have the reader prepare for his or her definitive encounter with Christ by obeying
what is written in the book: blessed are those who read it and take it to heart and
do what it says.
God made known his salvific purpose through everything Jesus did and said. How-
ever, after his resurrection Christ continues to speak to his Church by means of
revelations such as that contained in this book and those made to St Paul (cf.
Gal 1:15-16; etc.). These bring the Christian revelation to completion and apply
the saving action of Jesus to concrete situations in the life of the Church. When
revelations reach us through an inspired writer they have universal validity, that is,
they are “public” revelation and are part and parcel of the message of salvation
entrusted by Christ to his Apostles to proclaim to all nations (cf. Mt 28:18-20 and
par.; Jn 17:18; 20:21). Public divine Revelation ceased with the death of the last
Apostle (cf. Vatican II, “Dei Verbum”, 4).
1. “The revelation of Jesus Christ”: The word in Greek is “apocalypses”, hence
the name often given to this book of Sacred Scripture. Revelation always implies
the unveiling of something previously hidden — in this case, future events. The
future is known to God the Father (the Greek text uses the definite article, “the
God”, which is how the New Testament usually refers to God the Father); and
Jesus Christ, being the Son, shares in this knowledge which is being communi-
cated to the author of the book. It speaks of “the revelation of Jesus Christ” not
only because it has come to John from Christ but also because our Lord is the
main subject, the beginning and end, of this revelation: he occupies the central
position in all these great visions in which the veils concealing the future are
torn to allow Light (Jesus Christ himself: cf. Rev 21:23; 22:5) to dispel the dark-
“Soon”: as regards how imminent or not all those events are, one needs to
remember that the notion of time in Sacred Scripture, particularly in the Apoca-
lypse, is not quite the same as ours: it is more qualitative than quantitative. Here
indeed “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as
one day” (2 Pet 3:8). So, when Scripture says that something is about to happen
it is not necessarily referring to a date in the near future: it is simply saying that
it will happen and even in some sense is happening already. Finally, one needs
to bear in mind that if events are proclaimed as being imminent, this would have
a desired effect of fortifying those who are experiencing persecution and would
give them hope and consolation.
3. The Book of Revelation is a pressing call to commitment in fidelity to every-
thing our Lord has chosen to reveal to us in the New Testament, in this instance
from the pen of St John.
The book seems to be designed for liturgical assemblies, where someone reads
it aloud and the others listen. This is the preferential place for Sacred Scripture,
as Vatican II indicates: “The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures
as she venerated the Body of the Lord, in so far as she never ceases, particular-
ly in the sacred liturgy, to partake of the bread of life and to offer it to the faithful
from the one table of the Word of God and the Body of Christ” (”Dei Verbum”,
“Sacred Scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy.
For it is from it that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms
are sung. It is from the scriptures that the prayers, collects, and hymns draw
their inspiration and their force, and that actions and signs derive their meaning”
(Vatican II, “Sacrosanctum Concilium”, 24).
The situation when St John was writing called for just the sort of exhortations
and warnings this text contains. Its words call for a prompt, committed response
which leaves no room for any kind of doubt or hesitation. They are also a dire
warning to those who try to hinder the progress of the Kingdom of God, a King-
dom which must inexorably come about and which in some way is already with
4-8. Following the prologue (vv. 1-3), a short reflection (vv. 4-8) introduces the
series of seven letters which form the first part of the book (1:4 - 3:22). This in-
troduction begins with a salutation to the seven churches of Asia Minor, located
in the west of the region known at the time as ‘proconsular Asia’, the capital of
which was Ephesus.
The salutation is in the usual New Testament style: it sends good wishes of
grace and peace on behalf of God and Jesus Christ (vv. 4-5, cf. 1 Thess 1:1; 2
Thess 1:2; etc.); it depicts our Lord and his work of salvation (vv. 5-8) and pro-
jects that work onto the panorama of world history.
4. Even though there were other churches in Asia Minor, John addresses only
seven, a number which stands for “totality”, as an early ecclesiastical writer,
Primasius, explains. “He writes to the seven churches, that is, to the one and
only Church symbolized by these seven” (”Commentariorum Super Apoc.”, 1,
Grace and peace are the outstanding gifts of the messianic era (cf. Rom 1:7).
This form of salutation embodies the normal forms of greeting used by Greeks
(”jaire”, grace) and Jews (”shalom”, peace); but here the words mean the grace,
forgiveness and peace extended to men by the redemptive action of Jesus
Christ. Thus, St John is wishing these gifts on behalf of God, the seven spirits
and Jesus Christ.
The description of God as he “who is and who was and who is to come” is an
elaboration of the name of “Yahweh” (”I AM WHO I AM”) which was revealed to
Moses (cf. Ex 3:14), and underlines the fact that God is the Lord of history, of
the past, the present and the future, and that he is at all times acting to effect
The “seven spirits” stand for God’s power and omniscience and intervention in
the events of history. In Zechariah 4:10 divine power is symbolized by the seven
“eyes of the Lord, which range the whole earth”. Further on in the Apocalypse
(5:6), St John tells us that the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth are
the seven eyes of the Lamb, that is, Christ. This symbolism (also found in the
Old Testament: cf. Is 11:2ff) is used to show that God the Father acts through
his Spirit and that this Spirit has been communicated to Christ and by him to
mankind. So, when St John wishes grace and peace from the seven spirits of
God it is the same as saying “from the Holy Spirit”, who is sent to the Church
after the death and resurrection of Christ. Patristic tradition was in fact interpre-
ted the seven spirits as meaning the septiform Spirit with his seven gifts as de-
scribed in Isaiah 11:1-2 in St Jerome’s translation, the Vulgate.
2:1-3:22. These chapters, which form the first part of the book, contain seven
letters to the churches already mentioned (cf. 1:11), each represented by an
angel to whom the letter is addressed. In these letters Christ (who is referred
to in various ways) and the Holy Spirit speak: hence the warning at the end of
each, “he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
The first part of that formula is reminiscent of things our Lord said in the Gos-
pels (cf., e.g., Mt 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mk 9:23), while the second part underlines
the influence of the Holy Spirit on the churches: one needs to belong to the
Church, to “feel with” the Church, if one is to understand what the Spirit says
and what is being committed to writing in this book. The book, therefore, must
be taken as the true word of God. All Sacred Scripture needs to be approached
in this way: “Since all that the inspired authors, or sacred writers, affirm should
be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books
of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for
the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures. Thus
‘all scripture is inspired by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correc-
tion and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work’ (2 Tim 3:16-17)” (Vatican II, “Dei Verbum”, 11).
Although the letters are different from one another, they all have the same basic
structure: there is reference to the past, which is contrasted with the present;
various warnings are given and promises made; then there is an exhortation to
repentance and conversion, a reminder that the end, and Christ’s definitive vic-
tory, will soon come.
1. Ephesus, with its great harbor and commercial importance, was the leading
city of Asia Minor at the time. It was also the center of the cult of the goddess
Artemis or Diana (cf. Acts 19:23ff).
St Paul spent three years preaching in Ephesus and had considerable success
there: St Luke tells us that “the word of the Lord grew (there) and prevailed migh-
tily” (Acts 19:20). In ancient times it was the most important Christian city in the
whole region, especially after the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70. St John spent
the last years of his life in Ephesus, where his burial place is still venerated.
In these letters in the Book of Revelation, Christ is depicted with attributes con-
nected in some way with the circumstances of each church at the time. In the
case of Ephesus the symbols described in the vision in 1:12, 16 appear again.
The seven stars in his right hand signify his dominion over the whole Church, for
he is the one who has power to instruct the angels who rule the various commu-
nities. His walking among the lampstands shows his loving care and vigilance
for the churches (the lampstand symbolizing their prayer and liturgical life). Be-
cause the Church in Ephesus was the foremost of the seven, Christ is depicted
to it as Lord of all the churches.
2-3. In these verses the church of Ephesus is praised for its endurance and for
the resistance it has shown to false apostles. These two attributes — endurance
or constancy, and holy intransigence — are basic virtues every Christian should
have. Endurance means doggedly pursuing good and holding one’s ground
against evil influences; this virtue makes Christians “perfect and complete, lac-
king in nothing” (Jas 1:4). Indeed, St Paul asserts, “we rejoice in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope” (Rom 5:3-4). In the Epistle to the Hebrews we
read, “For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and
receive what is promised” (10:36). Endurance, patience, is also the first mark of
charity identified by St Paul (cf. 1 Cor 13:4) and one of the features of the true
apostle (cf. 2 Cor 6:4; 12:12). Our Lord has told us that by endurance we will
gain our lives, will save our souls (cf. Lk 21:19). As St Cyprian puts it, patience
“is what gives our faith its firmest basis; it enables our hope to grow to the grea-
test heights; it guides our actions so as to enable us to stay on Christ’s path
and make progress with his help; it makes us persevere as children of God”
(”De Bono Patientiae”, 20).
Another virtue of the church of Ephesus (mentioned again in v. 6) is firm rejection
of false apostles. We know from other New Testament writings especially those
of St Paul (cf. 2 Cor 3:1; Gal 1:7; Col 2:8; etc.) and St John (cf. 1 Jn 2:19; etc.)
that some people were falsifying the Christian message by distorting its meaning
and yet seeming to be very devout and concerned about the poor. Reference is
made here to the Nicolaitans, a heretical sect difficult to identify. However, the
main thing to notice is the resolute way the Christians of Ephesus rejected that
error. If one fails to act in this energetic way, one falls into a false kind of tole-
rance, “a sure sign of not possessing the truth. When a man gives way in mat-
ters of ideals, of honor or of faith, that man is a man without ideals, without
honor and without faith” (St. J. Escriva, “The Way”, 394).
4. “He does not say that he was without charity, but only that it was not such
as in the beginning; that is, that it was not now prompt, fervent, growing in love,
or fruitful: as we are wont to say of him who from being bright, cheerful and blithe,
becomes sad, heavy and sullen, that he is not now the same man he was” (St
Francis de Sales, “Treatise on the Love of God”, 4, 2). This is why our Lord com-
plains that their early love has grown cold.
To avoid this danger, to which all of us are prone, we need to be watchful and
correct ourselves every day and return again and again to God our Father. Love
of God, charity, should never be allowed to die down; it should always be kept
ardent; it should always be growing.
5. This is a call to repentance, to a change of heart which involves three stages.
The first is recognizing that one is at fault — having the humility to admit one is a
poor sinner: “To acknowledge one’s sin, indeed — penetrating still more deeply in-
to the consideration of one’s own personhood — to recognize oneself as being a
sinner, capable of sin and inclined to commit sin, is the essential first step in re-
turning to God” (Bl. John Paul II, “Reconciliatio Et Paenitentia”, 13). Then comes
“love-sorrow” or contrition, which leads us to mend our ways. This is followed by
acts of penance which enable us to draw closer to God and live in intimacy with
Evangelization is always calling us to repent. “To evoke conversion and penance
in man’s heart and to offer him the gift of reconciliation is the specific mission of
the Church as she continues the redemptive work of her divine Founder” (”ibid.”,
23). The church of Ephesus is given a warning that if it does not change its
course it will lose its leading position and possibly disappear altogether.
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.
Thank you friend in Christ. We need lots of prayer. There are dark times ahead.