―To the angel of the church inEphesus write…‖ The loveless church
The Letter to Ephesus ―To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: ‗I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name‘s sake, and have not grown weary. ‗But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‗Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove yourlampstand out of its place—unless you repent. ‗Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. ‗He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.‘ ‖ (Revelation 2:1–7)
The Opening of the Letter―To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this. . .‖• The angel is the chief elder or pastor of the church• ―As for the mystery of the seven stars which 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. ‖ (Revelation 1:20)• ―Walks among…‖ Examining, assessing, and evaluating.
General Background on Ephesus• In the province of Asia Minor, which is modern Turkey today• Called ―the Light of Asia‖• Other six churches were likely ‗daughter‘ churches of the Ephesian church• Founded by the Apostle Paul; stayed with them about 3 years (―Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.‖)• Revelation was written some forty years after its establishment
General Background on Ephesus• Also shepherded by Priscilla and Aquilla, Timothy, and the apostle John.• .John was no doubt the leading elder in the church at Ephesus when he was arrested by Domitian and exiled sixty miles away from there to the Isle of Patmos, that rock in the middle of the Mediterranean where he was when the Spirit of God revealed all of this to him.• You have a church that had some powerful influence.
Spiritual Background of Ephesus ―God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those whohad the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, ―I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.‖ Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, ―I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?‖ And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all andthe name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing. ‖ (Acts 19:11–20)
Spiritual Background of Ephesus―After quieting the crowd, the town clerk said, ―Men of Ephesus, what man is there after all who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of the image which fell down from heaven? ‖ (Acts 19:35)
Spiritual Background of Ephesus• Temple was one of the seven ancient wonders of the world; made of glittering Persian marble• Center of Artemis/Diana worship• The actual Artemis idol was a big, ugly black cow-shaped thing. It was an ugly beast that was supposed to suckle people and give them spiritual life• Many eunuchs present with thousands of priestesses / prostitutes charged with engaging in orgies and sexual mutilation to move a person up into the presence of the deity
Spiritual Background of Ephesus "The morals of the temple were worse than the morals of animals, for even dogs do not mutilate each other. . . . The people there were fit only to be drowned.‖ - Heraclitus
The Commendation ―I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance‖ (Revelation 2:2)―Toil‖ literally means to labor to the point of sweat and exhaustion in a state of discomfort or distress. The Ephesian church wasn‘t sitting back and taking it easy. ―Perseverance‖ equates to both patience and endurance; to hold out in the face ofdifficulty. In these two regards the Ephesian church makes many churches today (especially in the U.S.) look bad.
The Commendation―and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to thetest those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false‖ (Revelation 2:2)• They have a holy standard against unrighteousness in the church. ―A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. ‖ (Galatians 5:9) . Psalm 5:5: "Thou dost hate all who do iniquity."• They have spiritual discernment. ―Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. ‖ (1 John 4:1)• Both of these traits are something other, upcoming churches lack
The Apostate’s Profile from Jude1. Ungodly (vs. 4) 10. Grumblers (vs. 16)2. Morally perverted (vs. 4) 11. Fault finders (vs. 16)3. Deny Christ (vs. 4) 12. Self-satisfying (vs. 16)4. Defile the flesh (vs. 8) 13. Use arrogant words (vs. 16)5. Rebellious (vs. 8) 14. Use false flattery (vs. 16)6. Revile angels (vs. 8) 15. Mock God (vs. 18)7. Ignorant about God (vs. 8) 16. Cause divisions (vs. 19)8. Proclaim false visions (vs. 10) 17. Worldly minded (vs. 19)9. Self-destructive (vs. 10) 18. Devoid of Spirit/unsaved (vs. 19)
The Commendation ―and you have perseverance and have endured for Myname‘s sake, and have not grown weary.‖ (Revelation 2:3)• They have the mark of real saving faith – perseverance. ―Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.‖ (Revelation 3:10)• They have endured all their trials for the right reasons – for His names‘s sake• ―And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.‖ (Galatians 6:9)
The Rebuke―‗But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‖ (Revelation 2:4)• ―have left‖ indicates a deliberate act on the part of the church• Some commentators think the church‘s first love was the love they had for one another: ―For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints‖ (Eph. 1:15)• Most believe it was a heart-felt love for Christ• ―He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.‖ (Matthew 10:37–38)
The Rebuke―‗But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‖ (Revelation 2:4)• This is the second generation of believers in the Ephesian church. While they maintained the service of the church, they lacked what their previous generation had• Their service and practice evidently had become a mechanical orthodoxy• Could this indicate a lack of new converts in the church? New believers tend to be on fire for God
The Rebuke ―Therefore remember from where you have fallen‖ (Revelation 2:5)• ―For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. ‖ (2 Timothy 1:6)• ―Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. ‖ (2 Peter 1:12)• Christians should be maturing and moving forward, not moving back
The Rebuke ―and repent and do the deeds you did at first‖ (Revelation 2:5) Note that the church is not commanded to merely feel the things they felt at first, but their ‗first love‘ had been demonstrated by action. Works flowed from their first love feelings. What were these things? We aren‘t told.
The Rebuke―or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. ‖ (Revelation 2:5) The lampstand represents the church, so Jesus is telling them that unless they change their ways, He will remove their church from existence; someone else will bear the Light.
Secondary commendation ―Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.‖ (Revelation 2:6) Early second century sources (Irenaeus) say the Nicolaitans started with the Nicolas identified as a proselyte from Antioch (Acts 6:5).Nicolaitanism sported many of the characteristics of Gnosticism in that it encouraged the practice of physical immorality, a fact called out byJesus again by Jesus in Revelation 2:15 in His address to the church at Pergamum.
Secondary commendation ―Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.‖ (Revelation 2:6) In this accepting and ‗tolerant‘ culture, ‗hating‘ the moral activities of another person is not in vogue. But Jesus commends the Ephesian church for their hatred of the immorality of the Nicolaitans. Later in Revelation, we see Jesus condemn the church at Pergamum for their acceptance of the immoral practices of some of their people.
A command to Hear―‗He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.‖ (Revelation 2:7) This phrase is repeated each time in Christ‘saddress to the seven churches of Revelation. In the gospels (it is never used in John), it is always used to highlight radical truths, great principles, and promises.Note that Jesus says it is the Spirit speakingto the churches, even though He is the actualone talking: ―All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness‖ (2 Timothy 3:16)
A Promise to Obtain ―To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.‘ ‖ (Revelation 2:7)―Overcome‖ (nikao) means to be the ‗victor‘; ‗conquer‘. The name Nicolas (from the Nicolaitans) means ‗conqueror of the people‘. Rather than being overcome by them, Christ speaks to those who truly overcome. The overcomers in the New Testament are believers: ―For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. ‖ (1 John 5:4)
A Promise to Obtain ―To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.‘ ‖ (Revelation 2:7) The tree of life first appears inGenesis and is protected after the fall:―So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden Hestationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. ‖ (Genesis 3:24).To be able to eat from the tree of life is to be given eternal life with God.
The Return to Paradise―Then he showed me a river of the water oflife, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river wasthe tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit,yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse;and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. . . .―Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. ‖ (Revelation 22:1-4, 14)
What Happened to Ephesus?―or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. ‖ (Revelation 2:5) Sadly, it doesn‘t look like the Ephesian church heeded Christ‘s letter. Sometime after this letter, the church did indeed die out and today there is no church in Ephesus nor any real city. The light ended up going somewhere else.
Conclusions• God values and expects diligent service and perseverance from the saints• Spiritual discernment is valued and the Church is required to exercise discipline in keeping the body pure in doctrine and deed• God also exercises discipline in the Church. He wants a zeal from the heart in His people that are displayed in their actions