New Defender's Study Bible Notes
2:1 Ephesus. Ephesus was an important seaport on the Aegean Sea, where the Apostle Paul had spent a long time (Acts 20:31). It was the location of the great temple of Artemis (or Diana—see Acts 19:27), considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and a very immoral city. As the first church addressed in the seven epistles, it is often considered typical of the apostolic-era church, with the later epistles representing successive later periods of church history. The supposed correlations, however, are arbitrary at best. Since each type of church is represented somewhere in the world in every period of church history, it is more realistic to understand the seven churches in general as depicting all churches in general, thereby surveying all the merits and defects of churches everywhere.
2:2 works. Compare I Thessalonians 1:3—“work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope.” However, their love was beginning to wane.
2:2 are not. These false apostles were also of great concern to Paul (II Corinthians 11:13-15). John had no doubt warned the Ephesians to “try the spirits whether they are of God,” for they might well be “false prophets” (I John 4:1). They had done just that, and Christ commended them for it.
2:5 remove thy candlestick. The removal of a candlestick must signify the removal of a church, since the candlesticks stand for the churches (Revelation 1:20). The effect would be the same whether the church simply closes its doors or becomes firmly apostate in its teachings. In spite of all the sinfulness appearing in the seven churches as described, it is significant that the Lord is still speaking to them as his churches. There is still a remnant of Biblical truth and practice in each church.
2:6 Nicolaitans. The “Nicolaitans” are mentioned only here and in Revelation 2:15. There was no known sect or movement with this name during the apostolic period, so this is probably a descriptive term rather than a proper noun. Since these messages were meant ultimately for all churches, it is certain that the term has meaning for all churches. In context, it almost certainly is referring to the false apostles of Revelation 2:2. Practically all churches have been plagued at one time or another by false teachers, false prophets, false apostles and sometimes even by false christs. The term “Nicolaitans” means literally “overcomers of the people.” That, of course, is precisely what false apostles seek to do, desiring to turn the love and allegiance of the people in the church to themselves rather than to Christ. Christ hates both the deeds and doctrines (Revelation 2:15) of Nicolaitanism, and we should do the same.
2:7 unto the churches. Note that each of the seven letters was intended to be heard, not by just the one church to which it was addressed, but by all “the churches.”
2:7 overcometh. Each epistle has a special promise to those who “overcome.” We are urged to “overcome the wicked one” (I John 2:13) “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11).
2:7 tree of life. John confirms that “the tree of life” and “paradise” were historical realities and will also be future realities (Revelation 22:2).