To the Churches in Revelation, Part 1: Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7)
The letters to the churches in the Book of Revelation chapters 2-3 are from Jesus to His people in the 1st century. However, they are more than applicable to us in the 21st century. This wisdom is fitting for times such as these! Times may have changed, but hearts have not.
Jesus addresses the churches to hold fast in the midst of evil. He gets right down to the root issue. The rebukes are to keep Christians from falling away. In part 1 of this series, we’ll look at the church in Ephesus. We’ll see Christ’s diagnosis of them along with the prescription.
1“To the angel (or messenger, or pastor) of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars (messenger, angel, or pastor) in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands (the 7 churches). 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious (overcomes), I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
Background of the church at Ephesus:
- Chief city of the province of Asia.
- Name means “desirable.”
- Located halfway between Jerusalem and Rome.
- Largest Greek Temple ever constructed- the Temple of Diana (goddess of fertility), which was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.
- Paul was there 40 years before and did his most successful work (AD 54-57).
- Christianity in Ephesus had seen phenomenal growth but signs of corruption were beginning to appear, thus the reason for the letter to the church here in Revelation.
- Modern day- Selçuk (Sell-juk), Izmir province, on the coast of Turkey.
Jesus’ Diagnosis- The positive report:
- Ephesus was a patient church.
- Ephesus was not a worldly church.
- Ephesus was a doctrinally sound church.
The Nicolaitans (noted in verse 6) were false teachers that caused great trouble in the church. The church stood solidly against their teaching and guarded Biblical doctrine.
Jesus’ Diagnosis- The negative report:
- You have forsaken the love you had at first. The Ephesians let their fire burn out for their True Love, Jesus. They were becoming indifferent, half-hearted- not quite yet lukewarm but they were headed in that direction. Jesus rebuked them for letting complacency, self-sufficiency, and self- satisfaction set in.
Jesus’ Prescription- They were to do 3 things:
- Remember- Their heads were to be given over to Christ.
- Repent- Their hearts were to be given over to Christ.
- Repeat- Their hands were to be given over to Christ.
Unless this was done, fearful results would transpire as we see in verse 5: “I will come to you and remove your lampstand (your church) from its place.” Tragically, history records the sad fact that Christ did indeed remove the church in Ephesus. It has been gone for centuries. Today, there are no local churches within miles of Ephesus.
The challenge and reward for the faithful-
Very important: Jesus does not end any of these letters to the churches in Revelation with a rebuke/warning, but instead a reward for the faithful! What grace!
Jesus is repeating the same message to the body of Christ today. In verse 7 He states, “Whoever has ears, let them hear . . .”
The question is, are we listening?
Keep Looking Up,
Rev. Jon Barrett | Director of CVCCS