The next 2 chapters in our study covers messages directed from Jesus to the 7 churches mentioned in chapter 1. Let’s study them to see what golden nuggets we can mine out of these letters.
You will see they have a pattern to them: Jesus will first address each church then make an introductory statement to the church. He’ll then give a statement and judgment about each church, followed by a command to each church. He’ll lastly give an exhortation and promise of reward directed towards all chirstians.
Let’s see what he has to say to the first church, Ephesus:
Revelation 2:1 – “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands
As discussed in our study of chapter 1, it isn’t exactly known who the angels of the churches are, but make no mistake they are representatives of each church so these letters are to the whole church, this letter being to Ephesus. And as you will see, they are also in fact written to all of us.
Ephesus was a very famous city in the ancient world as it was a religious, cultural, and economic center of its region. Along with Alexandria and Antioch in Syria, it was one if the 3 most influential cities in the Roman empire and it was a center for land and sea trade. It was also a strong hold for Satan as many false Gods were worshiped and praised here. It was known for a temple of the fertility goddess Diana that was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. It also housed a famous Christian church. Paul ministered for 3 years here and one of the Books of the Bible was addressed to this church. Timothy (whom 2 other books of the Bible are addressed to) ministered here, and John himself spent a lot of time ministering to this church.
Read Acts 19:23-27. What can you deduct from this scripture as to how much of a hold Satan had on this city?
We have already studied what the 7 stars and 7 golden lampstands represent. Holding speaks of Jesus’ ownership of the angels and the churches, and walking among them speaks of His authority and never ending presence in and around these churches.
Revelation 2:2 – I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.
“I know”. There is no mystery to Jesus. He knows all. There is no good deed that goes unnoticed, and there is no sin that is hidden from His sight. He sees all in all of our lives. This is also the case here with the church of Ephesus. He knew all of the good deeds they were doing. All their hard work was not going unnoticed even though it took great perseverance. Let this be said of us all, and let us strive and pray for the steadfast endurance to do the will of God.
“I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men”. Let this not be an excuse to hate people. This is not at all what Christ meant. We are to follow the golden rule and love all people and treat them as we would want them to treat us. We are however to despise wicked actions, motives, and
thoughts. Share the truth with them so they can have the chance to repent and be saved. Be a good example of right conduct to them so they want what you have. Hate a person’s sin, not the person.
Read Acts 20:29-31. Paul warned the Ephesians directly that false teachers and false apostles would come to try and spread their lies and lead Christians astray. As we can read here in Revelation, to no surprise, false teachers did come and the church of Ephesus would not put up with it. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and 1 John 4:1. We are to test everything we here that is presented to us no matter where or from whom it may come from. This includes anything you may hear from a stranger, family member, friend, teacher, leader, or pastor.
Revelation 2:3 – You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
"You have persevered and have endured hardships”. Standing up for the truth will not be and is not easy. You will be ridiculed, mocked, and hated for standing up for the truth. We have mentioned on this in an earlier posting, but let us be counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus Christ. He suffered far more for us. The Ephesians understood this and had endurance in all of this as they did not grow weary.
Revelation 2:4 – Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.
“Yet” is such a small word but big in its meaning. It means “nevertheless” or “despite all of that”. Even though there was so much good things happening in the church of Ephesus, there was still something wrong. “Yet” means that all of the good didn’t cover up the wrong things in the church. The right things we do in life can not cover our sins. Only the blood of Christ can. Look to Him for salvation and righteousness.
What was their sin? That they forsook their first love. What love did they forsake? The church in Ephesus was a hard working and doctrinally pure church. They might’ve become more wrapped up in their works and in sound Christian doctrine that they did it without love. They had also more than likely forgotten their deep love they had for their Savior when they first found truth. Without a Christ like love in our hearts, our good deeds become nothing but going through the motions and our beliefs and teachings become nothing more than legalistic rules. The church in Ephesus more than likely had a religion and not a relationship. The Holy Spirit spoke of this through the apostle Peter. Read 2 Peter 5-9.
Revelation 2:5 – Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
Going back to the last verse, you will notice that the church of Ephesus did not lose their first love but they left their first love. They forsook it or they left it behind. In order to correct this they needed to “Remember the height from which you have fallen!”. Read Luke 15:11-24. How does this parable compare to backsliding Christians and what Jesus is commanding the church in Ephesus to do?
They were not only commanded to remember, but to also repent. To repent does not mean to feel sorrowful about something, but to change and go in a different direction. Read 2 Corinthians 7:10.
In order to change their direction Jesus commands them to do the things they did at first. David Guzik expounds on this perfectly: “What are the first works? Remember how you used to spend time in His Word? Remember how you used to pray? Remember the joy in getting together with other Christians? Remember how excited you were about telling others about Jesus? We might say that Satan has done a masterful job in creating a sense of general dissatisfaction with these first works. Christians will run after almost every new, strange “method” or “program” for growth and stability. Our shortened attention spans make us easily “bored” with the truest excitement. Sometimes we will do almost anything except the first works.”
This verse also contains a disturbing image for the church if they did not repent. He would remove his presence among them and His light would no longer shine from them. They could continue on as an organization but not as a true church of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 2:6 – But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
It's almost as if Jesus didn’t want to discourage the church completely with his harsh warning as He comes back and encourages them a little more with another commodation.
What was it? They hated the practices of the Nicolaitans. One of the early church fathers Irenaeus wrote this about the Nicolaitans: “The Nicolaitanes are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles (Acts 6:5). They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrifice to idols.” They believed that what was done in the flesh did not effect the spirit and that they almost had to indulge in sin to understand it. Read Galatians 5:19-21. This scripture is written to us as Christians and is not just for unbelievers. Let us heed its warning.
Like Chirst we are to hate sin, but also like Chirst we are to not hate the sinner.
Revelation 2:7 – He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
“He who has an ear” means that this is not just for the church of Ephesus, nor just for all churches at that time, but it is for ALL OF US. We all have ears and let us hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through these scriptures. Check your own hearts. Have you lost your first love? Are you just going through the motions? Are you being legalistic and just trying to enforce rules for people to follow? Do you have a religion and not a relationship with Chirst and your fellow Christians? We are to do good deeds as Chirstians, and we are to be righteous and holy and encourage our fellow Christians to do the same and correct them in love if they are not. But we are to do all of these things in love.
If you are guilty of the above sins, “remember and repent” and Jesus will give you the right to eat from the tree of life. This is a promise of restoration and eternal life. To be by Jesus’ side for eternity. This is not saying that salvation comes by works, because salvation can only come from our belief and faith in the risen Christ. But our faith and belief is lived out in our actions, and as is our unbelief. Read James chapter 2.
The tree of life was one of two trees that was mentioned in Genesis that was in the garden of Eden. The other was the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and became sinful beings by not obeying God’s command. They were then put out of the garden of Eden so they would not be able to eat from the tree of life. Read Genesis 3:21-24. Why do you think God did not want them to eat of this tree in their new sinful condition?
All believers will get that right to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God. Paradise is originally a Persian word for pleasure garden, but now symbolizes the state in which God and believers are restored to perfect fellowship. Oh how glorious it will be!!!!!