Jesus sees the good (Revelation 1:19-2:2)
People often think of Revelation 2-3 as the chapters where Jesus lambasts the seven churches. Certainly, He does have rebukes for them, but not all that He says is a rebuke. Christ also acknowledged the good things the churches were doing. We'll see that in our passage today.
1:19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 1:20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
2:1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
2:2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.
So, here, in light of the fact that the person standing in front of John was Jesus Christ Himself, the living one, the one who died and is alive forevermore, the one who has the keys of Death and Hades (v. 18), John was to write the things that Jesus showed him. Jesus was about to show him the way things are and the way things would be.
Jesus then explains what John saw earlier: Jesus holding seven stars and standing in the midst of lampstands. He tells him that the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. What that probably refers to is the "messenger" (that's what the word translated "angel" can literally mean) who would deliver the message to that particular church, perhaps an elder or the elders of that church. In verse 3 of chapter 1, John wrote, "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear..." There was someone who would be responsible for delivering Christ's message to the church, and that messenger would be coming with the authority of Christ.
Jesus also explains that the seven lampstands John saw are the seven churches, the recipients of these messages from Jesus.
Then in 2:1, Jesus tells John to write to the angel of the church in Ephesus, basically signing His own name at the beginning of it. Verse 2 has the message. Jesus tells the church that He knows their works; He knows what good they've done. He knows their toil and patient endurance; He knows that they've been working hard and enduring the difficulties that come with being a follower of Christ. He knows that they did not put up with wickedness in the church, including false teaching; He's aware that they rejected people claiming to be Apostles when they weren't.
In a couple of verses after this, Jesus is going to switch gears and tell the church at Ephesus what He does not approve of with them. But for right now, let's just reflect on the reality that Christ sees the good that we do. Of course, all credit and glory go to God because it is He who works in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Still, it's encouraging to know that our Master watches what our churches do for His glory. He's not out to simply watch us fail and discipline us for it. He's pleased with our acts of obedience.
In an episode of the Australian cartoon Bluey, the titular character, a young Blue Heeler, at first doesn't understand why she should clean up after herself. As the episode progresses, she starts to see how doing acts of kindness pleases her parents, and when she realizes this, her own tail starts to wag. Suddenly, she understands that doing the right thing pleases her parents and that it pleases her to please her parents.
How much more should we be happy to know that what we do can please our Savior? Your efforts are not in vain. They may go unnoticed on earth, but they don't go unnoticed by the One who stands in the midst of the lampstands. By the Holy Spirit in you, be pleased to work toward "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:23).