Hello everyone and welcome to my seven part study series on the seven churches of Revelations.
In this study we are going to break down the letter that the apostle John gave to the church of Ephesus which Jesus Christ commanded him to write.
The church at Ephesus was started by the apostle Paul during his ministry travels in Asia Minor (now-a-day Turkey). Later John took over as the pastor of the church but was then sentenced to exile on the island of Patmos where he received the message for the book of Revelations. Remember, these seven letters were written to seven actual churches in Asia Minor (Turkey), but they also had another purpose. These letters are a direct representation of the Church (the body of Christ) today. I will go into detail about the message that Jesus gave to the physical church at Ephesus, but also how this message applies to the body of Christ today.
In the Prelude to this series, I explained how each one of these seven letters also has three implications that Jesus reveals to each church: Identification (identifying the recipient of the letter and Jesus Himself to the church), The Message (presenting to each church either their works/deeds or trials) and lastly A Prophetic Outcome (rewards given to the overcomer).
First lets look at the Identification:
This letter begins with identifying who it was written to, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus”. Again in the Prelude to this series, I explained how this is literally translated as “angel” and not the pastor of the church.
Jesus then continues in verse 1 (Rev 2:1 nasb) by identifying Himself using a specific phrase or symbol that was previously used in scripture to identify Him before. This is a further confirmation that the message came from Jesus Himself and not from anyone else. Here Jesus said that He “holds the seven stars in His right hand” and “walks among the seven golden lampstands“. We can clearly see this in Rev 1:12 nasb and Rev 1:16 nasb.
If you look at Rev 1:20 nasb, Jesus explains the mystery of the seven stars and seven lampstands. The stars in His right hand being the angels of the churches and the lampstands are the churches. It is no coincidence that Jesus used this specific phrase to identify Himself in the first letter. Since these letters are also a representation of the “Church” (Christians) today, then what is symbolically being represented here is Jesus securely holding His Church together as the body of Christ, and how He dwells with us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now lets look at The Message:
In all the letters (including this one), Jesus starts off by saying to the church “I know your deeds/trails” (Rev 2:2 nasb). Typically Jesus will start off by announcing the ‘good works‘ that the church is doing in the message, but afterwards He will equally rebuke the church for their trespasses.
Again we, as the body of Christ, should understand this as Jesus knowing all that goes on in our own lives. He sees all things and He knows all things. As His church we should find comfort in knowing that Christ understands all that we go through, our trials, and what we need. Jesus encourages us to continue the works we do for Him and His Church. But we should also equally understand that He knows our transgressions, and later on in this study we will see His rebuke of the church.
So what is the ‘good work‘ that Christ identifies here?
In Rev 2:2-Rev 2:3 nasb, Jesus identifies the churches ‘perseverance,’ meaning their faithfulness to the cause despite the difficulty they were facing around them. The church at Ephesus was a new church that was built in a city where pagan worship had been persisting for many years. The church was being oppressed by the people around them and their faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God was constantly being attacked. Jesus encourages them by identifying this good work that they are doing, but He also gave them a warning of deeds that He did not approve of.
Jesus starts off His rebuke by saying “but I have this against you” (Rev 2:4 nasb), saying that the church has “left their first love“. Jesus is not talking about their marriages here, He is speaking about the love that the church had for Him at the beginning of their ministry. What Jesus is identifying here is that though they are working hard despite rebuke from the people around them, they no longer have the love for Jesus they once had and are now growing cold (Matt 24:12 nasb).
But how does this apply to us today as the body of Christ? We can clearly see the challenges the modern Church has been facing: the separation of church and state, taking God out of public schools, the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, and the more recent closing of churches during the pandemic despite other facilities remaining open. We see the Church persevering through all these challenges and not falling away, but what about the problems inside the Church? Do we still have the love for Christ that we had when we first became believers? Are we still on fire for Christ or has our love become cold?
What Jesus is trying to portray to us is that though we are persevering, we must continue to grow in our love for Christ and strengthen our faith, but so many times we see our love going colder which could eventually lead to our falling away. So how do we combat this? Jesus answers this in Rev 2:5 nasb saying that we must repent, remember, and “do the deeds you did at first”. So what did we do at first that we catch ourselves not doing anymore? We would make time in our day to dig into the Word and study the scriptures. We would be accountable for our transgressions and repent. We also shared the gospel with our friends and family and did not hide our beliefs from others.
To truly preserver is to remain steadfast in our faith and grow in the likeness of Christ. To build a solid foundation in the Word of God by reading and studying the scriptures, learning and growing in the knowledge of who our Creator is. It’s not just continuing to attend and hold church services during a pandemic. Remember your first love, and ‘work’ to grow that love everyday.
Its much like when we first get married to our spouse. We have such a strong love for our significant other at the beginning, but this love can go one of two ways: either grow colder, or get stronger, but in order to get stronger, we must put forth the ‘work‘ to get there. Its no wonder why scripture compares our relationship with Jesus much like our marriages (Eph 5:25-27 nasb, Rev 21:9 nasb).
In the last part of this message, Jesus yet again approves of one of there good deeds which was their rebuke of the teachings of the Nicolaitans. This was a group of people who followed the teachings of Nicolaus of Antioch who strayed away from true doctrine and taught a doctrine that contradicted Paul and the rest of the apostles.
Today, we as the Church, are constantly facing the challenges of widespread teaching of false doctrine. These teachings of false doctrine look very similar to the truth, but Satan cleverly alters the truth just enough to steer us away from the true gospel. It’s like driving on the highway, if you turn to the left just slightly, you may remain in your lane for a time, but little by little you start moving into oncoming traffic. Unless you change your direction, you will put yourself in a very bad situation. This is one of the tactics that Satan uses against the Church.
But with all the false teaching in the world, how are we as the Church able to decipher the true gospel from false teachings? The answer is the Word of God! Gods Word is absolute truth and our authority in the Church (2 Tim 3:16-17 nasb, Matt 4:4 nasb). We have a responsibility ourselves to dig into the Bible and study what the texts are telling us. With knowledge of the scriptures comes the power to discern what is true from what is not true. This takes effort on our part and faith in the Holy Spirit within us to help interpret the text for us (John 14:26 nasb). We cannot put all of our faith in a preacher who just sounds good, we have to do our part as well. Remember the old saying, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket?”
Last we will look at the Prophetic Outcome of this letter:
Jesus ends this message with the same phrase as all the other letters, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches“. In the Prelude to this study, I explain the significance of this phrase and how it applies to the rest of the book of Revelations.
Jesus then ends the letter saying “To him who overcomes” and “I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God“.
An overcomer are those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as our savior (1 John 5:4-1 John 5:5 nasb) so Jesus here is speaking directly to His Church.
Jesus then encourages us with His prophetic promise/reward for all of us who trust and believe in Him, which in this letter (different in each letter) is to eat of the tree of life in His Paradise in eternity future (Rev 22:1-Rev 22:2 nasb).
This concludes Part 1 of my seven part study series “The Seven Churches of Revelations.” In my next study of this series, we will look at and break down the letter given to the church of Smyrna.
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And always remember, why is it important to study Bible prophecy? Because never have we been closer than today..