1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus, write this: 'The one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks in the midst of the seven gold lampstands says this:
2 "I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked; you have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not, and discovered that they are impostors. 3 Moreover, you have endurance and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary.
4 "Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. 5 Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
6 "But you have this in your favor: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 "Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the victor I will give the right to eat from the tree of life that is in the garden of God."'" Version: New American Bible.
- Reminder: In case you did not make it through the material on chapter 1, please go back and do so, that you may get the most out of the remaining lessons on Revelation.
- The message is from none other than Jesus Christ (v.1). Although he offers inspiration and practical input to all 7 congregations, only 2 of them are spiritually healthy (Smyrna and Philadelphia, the 2nd and 6th). The other 5 are in trouble.
- The seven lampstands are the seven churches (1:20 -- one of the few places in Revelation where the symbolism is interpreted for us).
- On certain Roman coins, emperors were depicted as holding seven stars in their hands. But only God holds that kind of power!
- Though Jesus Christ commends them on their hard work and endurance (probably referring to perseverance in the face of false teaching), stand against sin and willingness to suffer, (vv.2-3), he condemns them for their loss of fervor (vv.4-5).
- Christ calls them to remember their relationship with the Lord and value it above all. And yet "first love" probably refers to their love for one another (not merely their love for God), since it would be odd that those who'd lost their love for God would care about pure doctrine. (At least that's not my experience!)
- He calls them to return to their original faith and deeds. (See the parallel in Hebrews 10:32ff).
- When they became Christians, they were engaged in good deeds, and with a zealous heart. "Deeds," and especially "good works," refer in the N.T. to concrete and loving actions performed for others, not to deeds generally.
- The letter to the Laodiceans (3:14ff) contains a similar idea. Christians start off hot, but can forget, drift, cool down.
- There are three major implications:
- Initial repentance isn't true repentance unless there's a radical heart change. We must call potential followers of Christ to total commitment to him and his words.
- Just because we're working hard for the Lord doesn't necessarily mean we're pleasing him.
- When Christians drift, they are in a dangerous situation. Not that they are saved by deeds, but when faith is lost -- often by gradual erosion -- it is indeed possible to lose one's salvation.
- In short, he calls them to repentance. If they fail to repent, he will remove their lampstand; they will ultimately no longer be a church.
- Their refusal to follow in the works of the Nicolaitans, a heretical sect, is also to their credit. Some think that Nicolaus (the deacon of Acts 6) apostatized; this seems speculative. At any rate, when false teaching and living are promoted, there is no room for neutrality.
- Thus we see that God is fair. He considers every action, good and bad, and weighs them all in his judgment of the churches (just as he does in his judgment of individuals).
- Jesus calls the Ephesians (and all the churches) to listen (v.7). Those who do will overcome. They will be rewarded with immortality (Genesis 3:22).
- For more on the letter/sermon to the Ephesians, please read the article about The Church of Loveless Orthodoxy.
- The seven "letters" (really, sermons, as N.T. professor Jeffrey Weima demonstrates), find O.T. counterparts in the 7 oracles of blessing of Balaam on Israel (Num 22-24), Amos's 7 oracles of judgment against Israel and its neighbors (Amos 1-2), and Ezekiel's 7 oracles of judgment against the enemies of Israel (Ezek 25-32).
- This is hardly the first address we have directed to the Ephesians.
- First, we have Paul's establishment of the church in Acts 19 and his address to its elders in Acts 20 (c.52 AD).
- Then we have the epistle to the Ephesians (c.60 AD).
- Then we have 1 Timothy (c.63 AD), which was sent to Timothy and the Ephesian church during his ministry in Ephesus.
- Then we have our present text, Revelation 2:1-7 (c.80 AD).
- Then we have Ignatius' letter to the Ephesians (c.107 AD).
- The angel of the church (angelos) is the angel or the (human) messenger. Both are valid translations of the Greek word. The human interpretation may have more in its favor; it seems odd that angels would be the recipients of letter, or exhorted to repent! Either way, the point is to ensure that the message is heard by the members of the church.
- Angels are prominent in the Apocalypse, being mentioned some 80x!
- Click for more on the Nicolaitans.
- "Ears to hear" is a common idea in the Bible (Deuteronomy 29:3; Isaiah 6:10; Jeremiah 5:21; Ezekiel 12:2; Zechariah 7:11; Matthew 11:15; 13:9,43; Mark 4:9,23; Luke 8:8; 14:35; Romans 11:8; and Revelation 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22; 13:9).
- A man "without ears" cannot and will not hear the truth. Until he has ears -- is willing to listen -- there is little point in instructing him.
- We see that God does not force people to listen or to repent. He honors their free will.
- Surely this has implications for how we teach, counsel, and evangelize. We are to show the same respect to those to whom we speak.
- Have I ever lost my "first love"? Do I no longer care for others as I used to (the saved as well as the lost?)
- Is it possible that even now I have lost my fervor? Can I see that, if so, Jesus' words to the Ephesians are directed to me, too?
- Have I confused Christian work (outreach, counseling, fighting against sin) with a love/faith relationship with the Lord? Do I understand that the two are not the same?
NEXT: The letter to Smyrna.
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