“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 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: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 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. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” Revelation 2:1-7 (KJV).
The day in which we live needs the Church to be the Church, and not like the world. The sheep do not need to put on the wolves clothing. The true Church needs admonishment and encouragement to keep doing the good and the right, with the right motive of loving the One who is the Caretaker of the Light and the One who holds the “Messengers” in His hand.
This is the beginning letter to the seven churches. These are important letters to the Church of all ages, and especially, I feel for the Church of today.
In the study of the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians Paul commends them for their faith and teaches them who they are in Jesus Christ. They are a vibrant and faithful people, and growing in faith and knowledge of Jesus.
Jesus says that something is wrong with the church at Ephesus. They have abandoned their “First love”. If they do not repent their “Candlestick” – the light of His glory – “will be removed”. He gave the light. He can also remove it and give it to another.
He commends them, and encourages them to be overcomers to eat of the Tree of Life which can be seen in the “Lampstand” of the tabernacle in the wilderness, of Israel’s wanderings.
Beginning the letter to the church of Ephesus, our Lord reminds the church of who holds the seven stars and walks among the “seven golden lampstands”. Of course it is the One who is speaking. The One who is THE CARETAKER OF THE LIGHT.
We are looking at each “angel” as being the messenger, ie. pastor of each local congregation. It would not make sense for an “Angel of Heaven” come and deliver a letter from Jesus. Jesus used John to pen down the letters, John sent them to each of the churches, and the leader, ie. pastor read it to the congregation. That would be so exciting to have an actual letter from Jesus read to us. Wait a minute!!!! WE DO. WOW!!!
Ephesus was a port city. It was the greatest of these seven cities. It was the seat of “Artemis” worship, also known as “Diana” in Acts chapter 19. Paul preached the gospel here for about three years. He built this church and encouraged them in their faith through the letter of Ephesians. It is said that John was in Ephesus for about 30 years.
In this first verse Jesus gives greeting as He does to the others. He also identfies Himself as the One “That holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks”. This is one of the descriptions given in chapter one. The very fact of His walking “In the midst” shows Jesus’ love for the local church, and that His people are to be found in the local church.
The seven golden candlesticks are an Old Testament picture given in Exodus 25:31-37. The priests were to keep the light in the tabernacle burning. There was no means for the natural light of the sun to enter, so there was need for the “Candlestick” or “Lampstand” for the priests to do the rest of their daily duties. Jesus being our Great High Priest keeps the flames buring the light shining in order that the world might see Him in His Church.
We now enter the “I know” portion of the letter. He is the “All-Knowing” One.
The people of Ephesus Church were a busy people. They were working and laboring to the point of exhaustion. For this devotion Jesus commends them. These were also a people who were sound in doctrine, they hatted evil, and they were a discerning people. They could tell the true from the false. The reason they were able to discern so well is, that , they had learned the truth so well.
Jesus commends them for their perseverance (v. 3) in continuing to deal with the false apostles, and persevering in faith despite the persecution they had faced.
By all appearances Ephesus was a good church. They were seving the Lord well. Not many churches today could be so commended.
It seems, according to verse four, however, that the church was laboring with the wrong motives. Jesus commends them for their work, but suddenly gives them condemning statements. It was only one thing. It was no small thing.
“Thou hast left thy first love” is one of the most tragic, and probably is the most tragic condemnation Jesus could lay on a church. It is the abandonment of the “first love” that causes all kinds of iniquities, and sin. It may have been that the church had been lured away from loving Jesus by the fulfillment received from performing their duties, or by the allurements of the city and their ways of worship.
The “First love” of every Believer is Jesus. If there is no time for Jesus, for hearing His words, sharing your hearts needs with Him, and practicing His ways, then, you have “Left” or “Abandoned” your “First love”.
This is the only one of the seven churches of which is warned of the removing of the “Candlestick”. Ephesus has no Christian witness to this day. Why? Because they had forsaken their love for Jesus. They were diligent in their work and task, but without a passion for Christ. I just recently heard a television preacher say, “Passion is more important than doctrine”. I do not agree with that. Passion without doctrine will end in emotionalism, an anything goes way of worship,and immorality; and doctrine without Passion will be legalistic and cold. So what is the answer? There is need and room for both, and a correct doctrine with the passion for Christ. It seems the church had good works, good doctrine, but no heart for Christ. The light of Christ has been removed.
Jesus’ condemning statement is followed by a statement of hope and warning (v. 5).
He says, “Remember”. Remember from where you have fallen. They had once been Gentiles without hope and Jesus redeemed them (Ephesians 2:11-13). It always helps to go back and remember what you were before Jesus saved you from the bondage of sin. If there has been no change, no difference then, it will do no good to ‘Remember’. You need a time where change begins. It can be now through faith in Jesus.
He then says, “Repent”. Begin to stir the coals. Put some fuel on them. Fan the flames. Ignite the flames of passion for Jesus that you once had. If there are no coals there, but only ashes…….., then what? Turn away from the pride of your work and your labors – love Jesus. We love Him least when we trust ourselves most; we love Him most when we trust Him most.
One of the first works of one with that “First love” mentality is telling others about His love; His death, burial and resurrection.
The warning is that He will judge quickly if there is no turning. The judgment would be removing the candlestick. The light of their witness, their testimony, as a body, would be gone. Today Ephesus is an archaeologist’s fantasy land. The church no longer exist, nor does the city. Ichabod has certainly been written on the church of Ephesus. “Ichabod” meaning THE GLORY IS DEPARTED.
Jesus commends them in verse six for their hating the “Deeds of the Nicolaitans”. There is some dispute over who these were. Some take the name to mean “Conquerors of the people” meaning this group was the beginning of the separation of “Clergy” and “Laity”. The placing of a “Priesthood” lording over the people. Others relate the name to a man whose name was Nicolaus who taught that once you were saved you could live in sin and return for forgiveness anytime. NOTE – I wrote “Live in sin” which is continual action. This belief is called “Antinomiansiam”. I personally see no conflict between these two understandings. The separation of the “Priesthood” from the people lends leniency to immoral living and takes away personal responsibility, for one’s self and others. Though God has set an order for His local church, there is no one person of more importance than another. The pastor is to be the leader, but is no more important than the janitor. Each have their God given duty, and each duty is important in God’s church. Jesus is Superior to all. The very fact that there is no description of these “Nicolaitans”, other than these views, seem to add credibility to this.
In the final verse of this important letter we find an exhortation to hear. It is an exhortation to each individual to hear. The individual is responsible for his/her love for Jesus. Responsible for discerning right from wrong. For repentance when sin is committed. Individuals make up the local church.
The Spirit speaks expressly to the church and the individuals to hear.
To the individual who overcomes he will eat the fruit of the Tree of Life. Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden to keep them from the Tree. There is a symbol of the Tree of Life in the “Lampstand” of Exodus 25:31-37. It is likened to an almond tree. Jesus is the Caretaker, the Priest. Jesus is the only means for man to partake of the Tree of Life. He is in the midst.
Jesus said, “On this rock I will build My church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). In Ephesus there was a remnant who departed and went elsewhere. When the “Candlestick” is removed there is no more light, no more witness. As long as there is a remnant there is light and hope.
Maintaining and feeding your love and passion for Jesus assures you of eating from the Tree of Life.