Rev 2:1-7 – To the Church in Ephesus

Christian MölkRevelation Leave a Comment

Rev 2:1

  1. Ephesus, also known as the “Light of Asia”, is today a ruined city in Turkey, but in New Testament times it was the fourth largest city in the world, located on the west coast of Asia Minor. Ephesus attracted many people, partly because its geographical location made it a hub of trade, but also because many religious pilgrims made the pilgrimage to Ephesus to see one of the seven wonders of antiquity: the Temple of Artemis.
    1. Paul lived three years in Ephesus and taught in the schoolroom of Tyrannus (Acts 19:8-12).
    2. According to Eusebius’ Church History, Timothy was the first bishop of Ephesus (Eusebius Church History, book III, chapter 4). However, there is nothing in the Bible to confirm this, except that Paul urges Timothy to “remain in Ephesus, exhorting some there not to preach false doctrines” (1 Tim 1:3).
    3. There are many who believe that the Apostle John lived and worked in the city of Ephesus. The Bible does not tell us this, but what we do know is that he wrote the book of Revelation from the island of Patmos, which is just outside of Ephesus (Rev 1:9).
  2. The Greek word “angelos” means “messenger” or “emissary” and normally refers to an angel, but it can also refer to a local church pastor, as he is a “messenger” who preaches the word of God to the congregation.
    1. Most likely, in my opinion, it is the pastor of the congregation who is being referred to. He is the leader of the congregation and also the one who receives the letter from John and also the one who reads the letter to his congregation.
  3. In Exodus 25:31-40 we read about the seven-armed candlestick, also called menorah (= Hebrew for “lamp”), which is the oldest symbol of the Jewish faith. The seven-branched candlestick was placed in the Temple of Jerusalem and symbolized that Israel would be a light for other peoples who wanted to know God (Isaiah 42:6). The difference between the menorah and this candlestick is that the temple menorah consisted of a candlestick with seven candles, whereas here we see seven candlesticks.
    1. A candlestick does not shine by itself, but depends on oil and fire. In the same way, the church and we Christians are not the light of God, but we are called to shine God’s light through our lives.
  4. The seven candlesticks are the local churches and the seven stars are the pastors of the churches (Rev 1:20). So Jesus holds the pastors of the local churches in his right hand, and he walks in the midst of his churches.
    1. Just as it says in Matthew 16:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” Jesus again testifies that if we gather in his name, he “walks among” us.
      1. Many local churches may be far from perfect, but they are so precious and valuable to Jesus that he considers it important to be right there. We can complain and think that it would be better if Jesus were somewhere else, but the fact remains; it is in the local churches that Jesus reveals himself, “walks around” and spreads his light.
    1. But not only is Jesus at the centre of the life of the church, he also “holds” the pastors in his hand. The congregations do not belong to the pastor or the leadership of the congregation, but to Jesus.
      1. When I was a simple student at the Bible School of Bjärka-Säby, I saw Jesus on one occasion. It was like a cross between seeing clearly and dreaming, I saw him as a figure but not in detail. I had just been in contact with Bankeryd Pentecostal Church to possibly become their new youth pastor, but I felt unsure if I could really become a pastor. Then Jesus appears to me and says: “This is my church”. I immediately connect these words to Matthew 16:18 where Jesus says to Peter, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” I immediately understood that Jesus’ message to me was that he is the one in charge of the Pentecostal church in Bankeryd, and all other churches for that matter, and that no Eldership in the world can prevent Jesus’ decision if he wants me to become a youth pastor there. From that moment on, I felt sure that Jesus was calling me to a pastorate and that I would also get the job in Bankeryd. There followed six very blessed years just outside Småland’s Jerusalem.
    1. We can be sure and secure that Jesus is in control of his church and that he leads its pastors. If a pastor or a congregation strays from the will of Jesus, then, just as we see here in Revelation, he will speak to the pastor and the congregation in order to lead them right again.

Rev 2:2-3

  1. Jesus sees his church and knows what is going on. When we behave, Jesus sees it and praises and encourages us. When we misbehave, Jesus sees that too and warns us that we have gone down the wrong path.
  2. The first thing the Ephesians get credit for is their hard work. The church in Ephesus did much good and worked hard and perseveringly. They seem to have been a church that was committed and active.
    1. For a local congregation with often limited resources, it is important that each member of the congregation takes the responsibility he or she can and tries to help as best he or she can and according to the conditions he or she has. A congregation should not be run by a few people who are allowed to do everything, but everyone should help.
  3. The other thing the ephemera is praised for is its educational clarity. In the book of Acts we read how Paul warned the church in Ephesus with these words: 29 I know that when I have left you, predatory wolves will come in among you, and they will not spare the flock. 30Yes, men from your own circle will come forward and distort the truth to win over the disciples. 31Therefore, keep yourselves awake and remember that for three years I have been warning each of you night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:29-31)
    1. Undeniably, the church in Ephesus seems to have taken Paul at his word and has certainly stayed away from those who “distort the truth”.
    2. In the same way, local churches today also need to be on guard against those who distort the Word of God and preach outright falsehoods. Don’t look up to a pastor just because he is famous or rhetorically skilled; what matters is that he or she preaches God’s word correctly.
    3. It is especially important to watch out for those who not only preach falsely, but also elevate themselves to the status of “apostles” and claim to be in closer contact with God than the rest of us.
      1. It is quite possible that God will call someone an apostle even today, but then we should all be as careful as the church in Ephesus and “test those who call themselves apostles”.  If what they proclaim does not agree with God’s Word or if there are other doubts, then we should beware.

Rev 2:4-5

  1. Jesus is pleased with many things in the church, but despite all the positives, there are still some negatives that he wants to address, and that is that the Ephesians have abandoned love. One of the most important and central messages in the Bible is that we should “love God with all our heart” and “love our neighbour as ourselves” (Matthew 22:37-40). Moreover, Paul writes that “if we do not have love”, we are only “a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13).
  2. If one had visited the church in Ephesus as an outsider, one would probably have had a very positive first impression! You would have met a hard-working church where many positive things were happening while they strongly defended the truth of the Gospel and Christian doctrine. But in spite of this nice appearance, they seem to have left love.
    1. Firstly, when you are as active and committed a congregation as Ephesus was, there is always a danger of focusing too much on “showing up” and getting involved, so that you forget why you are involved in the congregation: i.e. because you love God and your fellow human being.
    2. Secondly, if, like the Ephesians, one is so meticulous about Christian theology, there is also a risk that one concentrates so much on “believing right” that one becomes cold and hard and loses love for one’s fellow men and becomes suspicious and critical of all others who do not believe exactly the same or who have not made quite as much progress in their understanding.
  3. It is not that the love of the Ephesians has been “diminished” or “neglected”, but that they have “abandoned” love. So it seems to be a conscious choice.
    1. The Ephesians are criticized for abandoning their first love”. Compared to a lifelong marriage, it is quite natural that the first feelings between the two new lovers are often very special and one behaves like a silly little fool. The hope is that this new love will turn into a love that may not be as “exciting”, but that is stronger and deeper. It seems that the new love of the Ephesians never went into the deeper love, but was abandoned when the excitement was over.
    2. The “first love” can also be compared to the first time Adam and Eve lived in paradise before the Fall. Everything was new and wonderful, it was a time when God walked in the midst of his people: “In the evening breeze they heard the Lord God walking in the garden.” (Gen 3:8), and it was a time before all the problems and worries of man became part of everyday life.
  4. In order for the Ephesians to return to where they were before they abandoned their first love, they need to return to their “first deeds” which were an expression of the love they had before. They need to remember how they were when they were newly saved and loved God with all their heart and loved their neighbour as themselves. These “first works” are about returning to what was so important when they were newly saved:
    1. Reading the Bible because you love God’s Word.
    2. To pray because you love God’s voice.
    3. Witnessing to Jesus because you love your neighbour.
    4. To help those in need because you love your fellow man.
  5. Jesus gives the Ephesians a clear warning; if they do not repent, the “lampstand” will be moved from its place, i.e., the church in Ephesus will no longer be a church. Even if they remain as an organization, they will no longer be a place where Jesus is in their midst.
    1. Evidently the Ephesians repented, for the church at Ephesus lived on for several hundred years.

Rev 2:6

  1. Here Jesus inserts another praise, he emphasizes that he is glad that the Ephesians hate “the deeds of the Nicolaitans”.
    1. It is not described exactly what the “deeds of the Nicolaitans” are, but in the letter to Pergamos (Rev 2:12-17) the teachings of the Nicolaitans are connected with idol sacrifice and fornication, so it is easy to believe that the deeds of the Nicolaitans were also about idol sacrifice and fornication.
    2. This interpretation is also confirmed by Irenaeus, who in the 180s wrote: “The Nicolaitans are the successors of the Nicholas who was one of the first seven ordained deacons by the apostles (Acts 6:5). They live a life of unbridled pleasure. The character of these men is clearly pointed out in the Book of Revelation, such as teaching that it does not matter if one practices fornication and to eat that which is sacrificed to idols.” (Irenaeus Against the Heresies, Book I, Chapter 26).

Rev 2:7

  1. Since it says “to the churches”, and not “to the assembly”, all these messages are really addressed to all Christians of all times. But not everyone who listens, listens. In order to hear and understand what Jesus is saying, one must also be prepared to actually listen and accept any criticism that one feels.
    1. If you are willing to listen with an honest heart, the Holy Spirit will convict your heart if you have sinned and need to repent (Acts 16:8-9).
  2. The tree of life is first mentioned in Genesis 3:22 as one of the trees in God’s paradise that people must not eat from because then they will have eternal life. In the Book of Revelation, besides this verse, it is also mentioned in Revelation 22:2, where it is in the New Jerusalem and bears abundant fruit and its leaves bring healing.
    1. The concept of “paradise” is a bit difficult to interpret in the New Testament and can either be interpreted as synonymous with heaven, or as a kind of resting place for the dead believers before the resurrection (Luke 23:43).
    2. The promise of reward is often coupled with the warning the local church received.
      1. For those who repent and return to their “first love” and renounce the fornication of the Nicolaitans, God will allow a return to the innocent paradise of the beginning of creation, a time of love and new love between God and man.
      2. For those who repent and refrain from eating the Nicolaitan idol sacrifice, God will reward them with fruit from the “tree of life”.
Share & Print

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *