Friday, 20 May 2016 19:00

14. Church in Ephesus, starting down a dangerous road * Revelation 2:1-7, Part 2

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1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things says he that holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands;

2 I know your works, and your labor, and your patience, and how you can not bear them who are evil: and you have tried them who say they are apostles, and are not, and have found them liars:

3 And have endured, and have patience, and for my name's sake have labored, and have not fainted.

4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love.

5 Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto you quickly, and will remove your lampstand out of its place, except you repent.

6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

7 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

 

PART 2

 

*** Recipient -> "To the Angel of the Church of Ephesus" ***: As we studied in lessons #9 and #12, we know that the word ‘angel' refers to the messenger or leader of that church. Good part of the letter is addressed to the leader of the church. As we read the message, we can see what a great responsibility a leader has before God. The conditions described are directed at the leader, but they reflect the general state of the church.

*** Sender -> "he that holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the middle of the seven golden candlesticks" ***: In Revelation 1:20, we read that the seven stars in His right hand are the seven angels, or leaders of the churches, and that the seven candlesticks are the seven churches. He is telling the leader of the church in Ephesus that He is in control of everything. He is among the church members, and He has never abandoned the church leaders. He literally knows them like the palm of His hand.

*** Assessment -> "I know…" ***: Here Jesus is describing how well He knows the situation in the church. These are the things Jesus points out about the leader and the church:

- Works: the church of Ephesus is praised for their incessant 'hard work' or labor (from the greek kopon), and patience. They are still not tired from laboring for Jesus’ sake. They have endured evil people coming along threatening the truth they stood for.

- True doctrine: they tested the apostles that arrived at their church or that came from within the members, and were able to identify the ones who were not telling the truth. The church was able to stay faithful to the original instructions of the Gospel, and rejected the false teachings of the Nicolaitans.

- Problem: losing their first love. The problem with checking everyone who comes along, but without love, is that we run the risk of becoming legalist and overly critical. Separating the liars from the truth-tellers was and still is extremely important. But it looks like the emphasis in Ephesus was on the “trying” the so called apostles. Yes, they were right in finding out if those people were telling the truth or not. But all the good works a church may do are worthless if there is no love (1 Corinthians 13). Only love can maintain the balance between church responsibility and interpersonal relationships.

*** Appeal -> "Remember, repent, and do, or else" ***: The first step was to keep remembering, or to keep in mind the place from where they had fallen. They had lost focus on what is central to the church: love. The second step was to repent. Repenting requires an action. It gives the idea that someone is walking on the opposite direction, and needs to make a 180 degree turn. They had forgotten who God is, because God is love (1 John 4:8). The church of Ephesus was walking away from God. Jesus is here calling them back to God. After doing the first two steps, the third step should then come naturally. If you have in mind that the God you serve is love, you will want to walk towards Him, and so you will automatically want to do the things which are pleasing to Him. Just as you did it in the beginning. That is why the Bible tells us that we can recognize people by their fruits/works (Matthew 7:16). Works with meaning (love) indicate in which direction of the path you are going. Now, Jesus does warn the leader that if the church does not repent, judgement will fall upon them, and they will lose the privilege of being light bearers. Jesus will remove their lampstand from its place. Ancient Israel lost their first love (Jeremiah 2:2), and their condition after that was very serious (Jeremiah 2). When Israel rejected Christ, God removed their lampstand from its place (Jeremiah 32:30-31), and gave it to the spiritual descendants of Abraham, through Jesus’ new covenant signed with His blood on the cross (Hebrews 8). All who believe in Jesus and His sacrifice are called to be light bearers of His truth. When we consciously refuse to bear His light, as He instructed us to, we become responsible for our own sentence, and therefore, with our actions, we are choosing to have our lampstand removed from His presence.

*** Call to hear the Spirit -> The Spirit says to the churches ***: The Spirit is saying this message about loss of love loud and clear to all in the churches (plural). There are no excuses for not listening. If someone didn’t hear the message, it is because they chose to show their backs to God, and not their faces (Jeremiah 32:33). This call back, although very serious, is a call coming from Jesus’ love for the sinner. This is not a call of hopelessness. If the situation was hopeless for all the members in the church, there would not be a need for a promise made to those who overcome it. Since we do have a promise, we can still decide to turn back to God and follow His love.

*** Promise -> To the one who overcomes ***: Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (1 John 4:16). By turning away from God (Love), the church in Ephesus was starting a journey down a very dangerous path that inevitably leads to falseness and death. The further we move away from God, the closer we move towards Self. And Self leads to destruction. Not surprisingly, the promise to the one who turns away from this path of eternal death is a promise about eternal life. The tree of life was first mentioned in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9), and it was located in the middle of the garden. To eat from the tree of life meant that the ones who ate from it would live forever (Genesis 3:22). Because of Christ’s death, we are able to remain in the path towards eternal life. When people choose His path, they will be able to enjoy the benefits of the tree of life that is in Heaven.

*** Church history view and prophetic application ***: We cannot ignore what Jesus said to John when He told John to write this letter. The message to the churches was about the first century Christians, but was also about the churches that were to come (Revelation 1:19). After Jesus resurrected and ascended, the church experienced an exponential growth. But, around the last decade of the first century, by the time John wrote the book of Revelation, the church started to experience the loss of the feeling that first sparkled the church growth. And so, they started to depart from the freshness and clarity of the original teachings of Jesus: "[…] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. […] and […] love your neighbor as yourself". (Matthew 22:37-39).

*** Overview ***: The church in Ephesus was a good church, with many good qualities. But it was starting to go down a very dangerous and deadly road, the road of lovelessness. When we move away from the purity and simplicity of the Gospel and start on the path that points to ourselves, we place our life in jeopardy. When we move away from love, whether individually, or as a church, and regardless of the time in history we are in, what we are actually doing is rejecting the call to hear the Spirit. When we remove love from the church equation, we are left with empty laws and rituals, and meaningless talk. True Christian religion cannot exist without love. When Love is out, Self is in, and the church becomes just a building and stops being the body of Christ. Jesus is extending His right hand to us today, just as He extended His right hand to the church in Ephesus. He wants to show us that He still has a place for us there among His stars, and His lampstands. Through His death we become overcomers, and can receive His promise of eternal life.

   
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