April 17, 2014


Revelation 2:1—7 (contd)

JOHN begins the letter to Ephesus with two descriptions of the risen Christ.
(1) He holds the seven stars in his right hand. That is to say, Christ holds the churches in his hand. The word for to hold is kratein, and it is a strong word. It means that Christ has complete control over the church. If the church submits to that control, it will never go wrong; and more than that–our security lies in the fact that we are in the hand of Christ.

‘They will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand’ (John 10:28).
There is another point here which emerges only in the Greek. Kratein normally takes a genitive case after it (the case which in English we express by the word of) because, when we take hold of a thing, we seldom take hold of the whole of it but usually of part of it. When kratein takes an accusative after it, it means that the whole object is gripped within the hand. Here, kratein takes the accusative, and that means that Christ clasps the whole of the seven stars in his hand. That means he holds the whole Church in his hand.
We do well to remember that. It is not only our church which is in the hand of Christ; the whole Church is in his hand. When people put up barriers between church and church, they do what Christ never does.
(2) He walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands. The lampstands are the churches. This expression tells us of Christ’s tireless activity in the midst of his churches. He is not confined to any one of them; wherever men and women meet together to worship in his name, Christ is there.
John goes on to say certain things about the people of the church of Ephesus.
(1) The risen Christ praises their toil. The word is kopos, and it is a favourite New Testament word. Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis all work hard in the Lord (Romans 16:12). The one thing that Paul claims is that he has worked harder than all (1 Corinthians 15:10). He is afraid that the Galatians may slip back and his labour should be in vain (Galatians 4:11). In each case–and there are many others–the word is either kopos or the verb kopian. The special characteristic of these words is that they describe the kind of toil which takes up all mental and physical effort that can be put into it. The Christian way is not for those who are afraid to break sweat. Christians are to toil for Christ; and, even if physical toil is impossible, they can still toil in prayer.
(2) The risen Christ praises their steadfast endurance. Here is the word hupomonē, which we have come across again and again. It is not the grim patience which resignedly accepts things. It is the courageous gallantry which accepts suffering and hardship and turns them into grace and glory. It is often said that suffering colours life; but, when we meet life with the hupomonē which Christ can give, the colour of life is never grey or black; it is always tinged with glory.

Barclay, W. (2004). The Revelation of John (3rd ed. fully rev. and updated., Vol. 1, pp. 68—70). Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press.

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