Ephesus

To him that overcometh I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Rev. 2:7

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The first of the seven letters written to the churches of Asia Minor is directed to the “angel” (understood as the spiritual community) in Ephesus. John of Patmos relays both praise and criticism to the faithful. In the letter, Ephesus’ Christian community is extolled for its orthodoxy, reproached for its moral deficiencies and warned of the consequences of failing to repent: an admonishment that speaks to repentance as an action and not mere sentiment.

The “gift” promised in Rev. 2:7 is reminiscent of the story of Adam and Eve who were barred from paradise because of their disobedience. To those who overcome sin and forsake false prophets, the letter notes, assurance of eternal life is granted.

Though angels are sometimes regarded as genderless, Tiffany portrayed the Ephesian angel as the most feminine among the seven. It is unknown whether the artist who painted this face had knowledge of Ephesus’ consideration as the mother church of Asia, but it is fitting that God’s gift of spiritual life (the tree of life) be represented by a female form embodying the gift of physical life.


Theologian Emanuel Swedenborg says that Ephesus represents people “who focus primarily on truth they have been taught and not the good they could do. “This letter makes a promise to those who, seeing this tendency in themselves, change their desire to learn truth into a desire to do good: ‘I will give to eat of the tree of life which is in middle of the paradise of God.’ This, in turn, allows them to receive “all loving-kindness from the Lord.”