Revelation 2:1-7

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

Text: Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:1-7

THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS

INTRODUCTION:

In chapters 2-3 we see letters to the seven churches.

Were there other churches in the area which were not mentioned? Yes - Colosse, Magnesia (Manisa), Tralles.

Why were seven churches chosen?

Seven is the number of completeness or universality in Scripture.

Why were these seven churches chosen?

Each church needed a particular message.

Each church illustrated conditions common in local churches at that time and in all ages of church history.

Each church was composed of individuals who needed the instruction and warning personally.

Each church may represent a period of church history.

The church at Ephesus seems characteristic of the Apostolic period.

The church at Laodicea seems characteristic of the apostasy prior to the return of Christ.

The messages seem to go beyond the local churches mentioned.

If there is a foreview of church history in Revelation, this must be it because the completed church is pictured as being in heaven in Revelation of Jesus Christ 4 .

It has been suggested that -

1. Ephesus represents Christianity in the Apostle's day to A.D. 100

2. Smyrna represents Christianity under persecution - A.D. 100 - A.D. 316

3. Pergamos represents Christianity mixing with the world - the Middle Ages

4. Thyatira represents how evil progresses in the churches and evil is practiced

5. Sardis represents Christianity as dead, yet having a minority of godly men and women, as during the Reformation

6. Philadelphia represents revival and a state of spiritual advance

7. Laodicea represents the final state of apostasy

Each letter is addressed to the angel or messenger of the particular church. There then follows a statement from Christ with a description of Christ, repeated from chapter one, which is in some way connected to the particular need of each of the respective churches. In most of the letters there is a commendation as well as a criticism. There is also an appeal to pay attention to what has been said and to act upon it.

I. THE COMMISSION FROM CHRIST - 2:1a

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:1 a - Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write. . . .

The angel or messenger is best understood as the pastor of this church, God's representative leader of the congregation. He is referred to by thy, thou, and thee throughout this passage. What is true of him is also true of the church as a whole.

It is not just any angel or messenger to whom John is instructed to write. It is to the angel of the church of Ephesus, one of God's local churches or congregations.

Ephesus was a large metropolitan city, the most prominent city in the Roman province of Asia.

Ephesus was famous for its temple of Diana, a structure considered to be one of the seven wonders of the world.

Paul had spent 3 years in Ephesus according to Acts 19 ; and his ministry resulted in reduced sales of idols of Diana, which in turn resulted in a riot recorded in Acts 19:23-41 .

Timothy spent much time working in Ephesus where he was apparently pastoring this church when I and II Timothy were written.

The Apostle John spent much time working in Ephesus. According to tradition, which may or may not be accurate, John had come to Ephesus to stay at about the same time Paul was beheaded (A.D. 67) and had been there until his exile to Patmos (in the early-to-mid A.D. 90's).

Write - Its tense suggests write at once and without delay.

II. THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST - 2:1b

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:1 b - . . . These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.

As is clear from a comparison of this verse with chapter one, the speaker is the Lord Jesus Christ.

He that holdeth the seven stars (i.e. angels, messengers) in his right hand. These angels or messengers are best understood as being the pastors of the churches. It is Christ Who holds the seven stars in His right hand.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:16 - And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:20 - The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

It should be noted that Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:16 says, He had in his right hand seven stars and Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:1 says, He holdeth the seven stars in his right hand. The word translated had in 1:16 is not the same term translated holdeth in 2:1, but they are synonyms; and there is no change in meaning.

The fact that Jesus has or holds these seven stars in His right hand indicates that they are under His control and protection.

He that walketh in the midst of the seven golden lampstands indicates that He's in the midst of His churches. He's there with them. He knows what's going on.

This attribute is mentioned in Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:13 .

Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:13 - And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

The significance of this description of the glorified Christ is seen in that He controls and/or protects His messengers and moves among the local churches directing them. There is no indication of any ecclesiastical body, board, or hierarchy controlling any of these churches. It is the Lord Himself Who controls these churches through His messenger, the pastor.

III. THE COMMENDATION FROM CHRIST - 2:2-3, 6

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:2-3 - (2) I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: (3) And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:6 - But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

1. I know thy works - v. 2

It was an active, energetic church.

Thy is your (singular) and refers to the pastor as the representative of the church. What is true of him is also true of the church as a whole.

Works is a general term for things the church has done involving deeds, actions, or accomplishments. It may include the labour and patience which are mentioned next. It may instead be summarized by labour and by patience.

2. I know thy labor - v. 2

Labor is toil and implies the weariness resulting from their labor. They paid a real price in their labor. It cost them. They wore themselves out for the gospel.

3. I know thy patience - v. 2

Patience is endurance, steadfastness, or fortitude. It is a patient endurance which puts up with all kinds of things, persevering through them while remaining steadfast.

4. I know how thou canst not bear them who are evil - v. 2

Thou is you (singular) and refers to the pastor as the representative of the church. What is true of him is also true of the church as a whole.

They were aware of evil and sensitive to evil. They were not able to bear patiently (or to put up with) those who were evil (or with evil {ones}).

5. Thou hast tried them who say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars - v. 2

They were orthodox in their beliefs, i.e. they were straight in their theology (or in their beliefs) and in their practice.

Hast tried means tested or put to the test to discover what kind of a person someone is. One cannot be certain whether this was a formal trial conducted by the church as a matter of church discipline or whether it was a standard practice by which the church put these people to the test in order to discern whether they were genuine. Hast tried has been translated in a way which emphasizes the result of its action.

The ones tried or put to the test were them which say they are apostles, i.e. the ones saying (or repeatedly asserting) that they are apostles. This means that they were claiming to have been sent by God or by Christ just as John, Peter, and Paul had been.

And are not indicates that what they were asserting was not true.

The conclusion or result of the trial or test is and hast found them liars, i.e. found (or discovered) that they are liars, that their claim is false. Hast found has been translated in a way which emphasizes the result of its action.

6. Thou hast borne - v. 3

Hast borne is bore, endured, born patiently, put up with, or persevered. It has likewise been translated in a way which emphasizes the result of its action.

What have they borne? - Toil, sacrifice, persecution, self-negation

7. Thou hast patience - v. 3

Thou hast patience is you have patience. Its tense indicates something that is ongoing.

Patience is the same word translated patience in v. 2, meaning endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, or perseverance. It is a patient endurance which puts up with all kinds of things, persevering through them while remaining steadfast.

8. (Thou) for my name's sake hast laboured - v. 3

For my name's sake is because of my name or on account of my name where my refers to the speaker, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Name stands for the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and implies all that He is and represents. It implies a high motive in their service for the Lord.

Hast laboured is the verb form of the noun translated labour in the previous verse. As a verb it means have labored, have worked, or have toiled and implies the weariness which accompanies the toil in the sense of have become weary or have become tired.

9. (Thou) hast not fainted - v. 3

The church at Ephesus had not fainted, i.e. it had not become weary (or fatigued). Taken together, (thou) hast laboured and hast not fainted means that the church in Ephesus had worked hard and diligently but had not given up. They were tired in the work but were not tired of the work; they were continuing to work faithfully.

10. Thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans - v. 6

This thou hast is you have this.

Thou hatest is you hate, you detest, or you abhor. Its tense indicates continuing action. It is a timeless truth.

What is hated is referred to as the deeds of the Nicolaitans.

The deeds is the works and was translated this way in the phrase I know thy works in verse 2.

Of the Nicolaitans indicates that it is the Nicolaitans who do these works or who work these deeds. The before Nicolaitans indicates that the sum total of the Nicolaitans is being considered as a group or class of people. Exactly who or what the Nicolaitans were is not clear.

The literal meaning of the Greek word translated Nicolaitans is people conquerors; and if it is to be understood in this sense here, it would imply that they were clergy who conquered or dominated the laity as if they were lording it over God's heritage. However, one cannot be certain that this literal meaning is what John intended.

According to some church fathers, the Nicolaitans were professing Christians who lived licentiously, i.e. immorally.

IV. THE CONDEMNATION BY CHRIST - 2:4

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:4 - Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

Nevertheless introduces a strong contrast. It is the word ordinarily translated but and is to be understood in this sense here as well.

I is the speaker, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Have implies continuing or ongoing action. Somewhat (i.e. something) has been supplied by the translators as the direct object of have.

Against thee is against you (singular) and refers to the pastor of the church at Ephesus as representative of the church. What was true of the pastor was also true the church as a whole. In spite of this church's many good qualities, it also had a major fault.

Because thou hast left thy first love is translated as a causal clause, indicating the reason that Christ had something against the church at Ephesus. The word translated because is often used to introduce causal clauses and is translated because when it does. The King James translators have understood it in this way.

However, it is also frequently used to introduce noun clauses; and when it is, it is translated that. In this context it seems better understood as a noun clause functioning as the direct object of have with the result that it should be understood in the sense of I have against thee that thou hast left thy first love. There is really no difference in meaning. So much for your grammar lesson today.

Thou is you (singular) and refers to the pastor of the church at Ephesus as representative of the church. What is true of the pastor is true of the church as a whole.

What the church has done is indicated by hast left thy first love.

Hast left is simply left. The translators have translated it in a way which emphasizes the result of its action. When used figuratively as it is here, left means have given up or have abandoned.

What they have given up or abandoned is indicated by thy first love. Thy is your (singular) and refers to the church at Ephesus as represented by its pastor.

In this context, first implies initial; and thy first love is understood as your initial love.

Love is the term which implies the sort of love which gives itself completely on behalf of someone else without expecting anything in return. It is this sort of love which Christ demonstrated when He died on the cross for the sins of the world. It is this sort of love which a husband is to have for his wife and which Christians are to have for their enemies.

The initial love of the people of the church in Ephesus was that deep, fervent, and exciting love for the Lord Jesus Christ which was theirs when they were newly saved. This same love was for God, for the Word of God, for the people of God, for prayer, for the things of God, for the local church, for the lost, for Christian service, and so forth. Inasmuch as the text does not limit the object of this love, neither should the reader. However, persecution, trials, laborings, weariness, and other things had taken their toll. Although they still loved the Lord, their initial excitement was gone. They were going through the motions and doing things mechanically. They were carrying out their duties, but they were doing them out of a sense of responsibility rather than out of love and excitement about what the Lord had done for them. The people in the Ephesian church needed to give themselves anew to the Lord out of their love for Him. Their love was colder than it had been. If not corrected, this love could be given to other things and might eventually destroy this church. It was a serious problem.

It had now been approximately forty years since the Apostle Paul founded this church, and a new generation of believers had arisen.

Many married couples have gone through similar experiences several years after marriage. Although they still love each other, the excitement about being with each other has a tendency to wane. Times spent together may become less frequent; yet, both partners continue to take care of their responsibilities, but may perform them out of duty rather than out of love. The joy and excitement which they once had are gone from the marriage and need to be rekindled. Husbands and wives need to give themselves on behalf of one another once again as they did during their engagement and first years of marriage. If this situation is not corrected, it may destroy the marriage.

V. THE CORRECTION PRESCRIBED BY CHRIST - 2:5a

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:5 a - Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works. . . .

Remember suggests be remembering or keep on remembering.

Therefore is consequently or accordingly. It introduces an inference from what was stated in the previous verse that Christ had against the church at Ephesus that it had left its initial love.

From whence thou art fallen is from where you fell and refers to thou hast left thy first love. This church as represented by its pastor had fallen from its previous position and needed to get back to where it had been.

Repent, i.e. change your mind and attitude toward Christ and resume that fervent love you once had. The tense of repent suggests repent at once and without delay.

Do the first works suggests do at once and without delay.

Are the first works indicating time, i.e. the earliest works or the earlier works? It could be.

Or, are the first works used to indicate degree of importance, i.e. the foremost works, the most important works, or the most prominent works? It could be, but it is not clear.

The first works implies the things characterized by the first love which had been left or abandoned. These were the works which at one time were of primary importance in the lives of these believers as a whole, works that had previously characterized them. Their works were still great, but they were just going through the motions; and the hearts of the people as a whole needed to be characterized again by their original fervent love for the Lord and for the things pertaining to Him.

VI. THE CONSEQUENCE PROMISED BY CHRIST - 2:5b

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:5 b - . . . Or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Christ's stated consequence is composed of two conditional statements. The first one is or else I will come unto thee quickly, and the second one is and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Or else is the translation of a simple condition, which, for the sake of discussion, is assumed to be true. It is not necessarily actually true, however. Or else is literally and if not, now if not, or but if not and implies and if you do not repent and do not do the first works, now if you do not repent and do not do the first works, or but if you do not repent and do not do the first works.

Inasmuch as this is assumed for sake of discussion to be true and inasmuch as it is not known whether the church at Ephesus will repent and will do the first works, if should be understood in the sense of assuming that and the condition understood to mean assuming that you do not repent and do not do the first works.

I will come unto thee quickly is the statement of what is going to happen if this negative condition is met, i.e. if it turns out to be true that the church does not repent and does not do the first works. I will come is actually present tense which implies that Christ is already on His way and will take care of the matter when He arrives if the church has not repented and begun doing the first works. It is something so certain of fulfillment that it is stated as already happening. It does not mean, however, that He has to be physically present in order to remove the candlestick of this church. The candlestick has long since been removed, but He has not yet returned.

And I will remove thy candlestick [i.e. lampstand] out of his place. Although this church may continue to exist as an organization, it will no longer be able to enjoy its position as a testimony for Christ; and God's blessing will cease to be on it as it has been on it in the past. Today there are many religious organizations which function as churches whose lampstands have long since been removed by Christ.

The condition upon which this action of Christ is based is except thou repent which is literally if you do not repent. Repent is the same word used earlier meaning to change your mind. The change of mind would have to be so thorough that it would result in a change of action or attitude.

VII. THE CALL TO HEAR - 2:7a

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:7 a - He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. . . .

In the first half of verse 7 is found a call to hear what the Holy Spirit says to the churches. This call is repeated word for word for all seven churches.

He that hath an ear, let him hear means that all those who have an ear must hear, must listen to, must follow, or must obey. What he must hear, listen to, follow, or obey is what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

The fact that churches is plural suggests that the Holy Spirit is asserting these things to other churches and individuals as well. The same problems true of these seven churches may likewise be true of other churches or of many individual believers.

VIII. THE CHALLENGE TO THE OVERCOMER - 2:7b

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

What is an overcomer? - According to I John 5:5 , an overcomer is a saved person.

I John 5:5 - Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

John 20:30-31 - (30) And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: (31) But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

It is not a special group of Christians distinguished by their spirituality in contrast to genuine Christians who lack these qualities.

Rather, it is a general description of what is normal, and what is to be expected among those who are true followers of the Lord.

By will I give, Christ is making a commitment to give something to each overcomer or to each saved person.

What Christ will give to the overcomer will be the privilege of eating of the tree of life. The tree of life was seen in Genesis 3:22 ,

Genesis 3:22 - And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.

The tree of life is also seen in Revelation of Jesus Christ 22:2 .

Revelation of Jesus Christ 22:2 - In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

It seems best to understand the tree of life as the tree which gives life, the tree which produces life, or the tree which sustains life. Inasmuch as it is given to the overcomer, it is given to every saved person.

Which is in the midst [i.e. in the middle] of the paradise of God indicates the location of the tree of life. The paradise of God is a reference to heaven in that it is connected with the new Jerusalem.

Of course, if they are going to eat of the tree of life which is located in heaven, they are going to have to be in heaven to do it; so, this is a promise that they will ultimately be in heaven.

CONCLUSION:

Let's ask ourselves a question: have we left our first love? If so, let's follow the course of action Christ prescribed for the church at Ephesus.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:4-5 - (4) Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. (5) Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.