The Church Of Ephesus
Revelation 2:1 "Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write "
This we see means unto the messenger, singular, and so he's dealing first of all with the local pastors of these churches as the messenger to their flock. Encompassed in this messenger is all the leadership of the church age, and so Jesus is looking at all the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors teachers of the whole church as the one that he is addressing this letter to. Just as the pastor is one man over each local assembly, so this whole collective government of God is seen as one messenger presenting one message to the church in this whole age.
"Unto the church"--Church, the Greek is ecclesia--those called out--those who have been assembled unto me and my name.
"Ephesus"--has a peculiar meaning--it means DELIGHTS and what the delights are referring to is the spiritual paradise of God. Jesus is showing that He was delighted w/ the first fruits church which included the apostles that had seen Him and then them that had believed afterwards.
1.) It was a church that was walking in the power of God. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were manifest and they had pure doctrine.
2.) The 1st age of man ( e.g. Adam and Eve after the fall) shows man outside the Garden of Eden or "paradise"--the presence of God--is again made available to mankind in Jesus.
The revelation of Jesus to Ephesus is in 2:1 " He that holdeth the 7 stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the 7 golden candlesticks;"
Why does Jesus reveal Himself in this particular way to this church?
a.) He is showing them here, I am the timeless one. I am the one who is outside time and above it and able to look at the whole situation and you're just the beginning. He's showing that these churches are as if they were present w/ Him before they even existed. 1 Peter 1:2, He chose us before He ever knew us because He knew the path that we would take before He ever saw us.
b.) Why does He say this to Ephesus? Because Ephesus was the age in which these 7 local churches actually existed, so He says I'm He that holdeth 7 stars in my hand and walk in the midst of the candlesticks. Because these 7 local churches actually did exist in that church age.
c.) But also what He is revealing is you are the beginning, so don't get into the frame of mind that you have arrived because you're just the first church. They probably didn't see this but this is the revelation that we see. They were a beginning and had to follow on. They weren't the perfected sum of what God was trying to do. He wanted them to go deeper in the knowledge of Him (Hos.6:3).
Rev. 2:2 " 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. "
Jesus goes on to talk about the condition of the church and we'll find a lot of wonderful principles and truths in this message that well keep us.
False Teachings Brought Into The Church
1.) First of all, He shows that false apostles had tried already in that early day to deceive the foundation which Christ had laid. And we see that philosophies very early, pagan philosophies, and worldly philosophies and Greek philosophies that had been developing for several 100 years began to infiltrate their way into the church and to mix themselves w/ the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ.
2.) One philosophy that began to enter in was GNOSTICISM. It was a Greek philosophy of a higher knowledge, gnosis meaning knowledge. Salvation thru knowledge like Satan tricked Eve in the garden. You obtain this high spiritual place because of this mysterious knowledge. It was a man-exhaling philosophy--God hated it.
3.) LOGOS CHRISTOLOGY: began to develop in Alexandria which began to pervert the doctrine of the nature of God. False nature of God.
4.) JUDAIZERS: men who were trying to bring the Christians back under the law as in Galatia, and to make them subject to a yoke which God had already made them free from. This was an attempt, unknowingly, to destroy the grace of God for the saints. (Rom.3:7,8;Acts 15:1,5;Gal.5:4)
Background on the city of Ephesus--go to the end of this study.
"I know thy works and thy labour"
The condition of the church is seen here. Rev. 2:2 talks of the labor and works that this church has performed for God. I know your works-- literally, your acts. I know your labor--signifies a hard exhausting toil.
They had done a hard work. They had endured persecution. The church had expanded, had been faithful to preach the Word, and they were not yet exhausted and that was the commendation. You've labored hard and you've remained steadfast. He is commending his people for this.
1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul said he labored more abundantly than all the rest of the apostles. Acts 19:11,12,19, The new converts of Ephesus labored to put away the lies of the devil and the abominations they'd been involved in, and we find that they labored in this city which was a Babylon of every strange philosophy and idolatry. Hordes of demons fastened on their lives being that they were coming out of the Greek life.
" I know thy patience." Patience shows a brave persistent endurance. It is from the Greek word--Hupomono = to remain under. You've faithfully remained under the load you had to carry.
" And how thou canst bear them that are evil "
You are not able to bare or carry them that are bad men. You're not able to bear it when you see these bad men coming into the church. We find that they made evil men strangers among them. They didn't mix or associate with them.
False teachers had crept into the church and Paul had warned the elders at Ephesus of this very thing in Acts 20:17,28-31 The main false doctrine was Gnosticism involving that Christ had not really come in the flesh as the Bible said-- that Christ walking around on earth wasn't really a full man as you and I are. The reason they taught this was because they reasoned in their "wise" hearts that matter was evil because they saw the evil in the world; therefore, if Christ was God, he couldn't be matter. So he was an apparition or a spirit being taking the substance or the form of a man.
John refuted this particular philosophy in 1 John 4:2. Here is what he said about the teaching that Jesus had not come in the flesh: 1 John 4:1,2. Paul also refuted this thing in the best refutation you could ever read, Colossians 2:8,9. So Christ did indeed dwell in a body and he wasn't evil because matter is not evil. The lower nature is what's evil, not matter itself. God created matter and said it is good. Man created the lower nature by yielding to Satan's temptation, and this is what's evil.
We find that the Ephesians' pastor and elders and the pastor and elders after them took this admonition of Paul to heart and they walked in it. References not particularly of Ephesus but of the church in general. (2 John 7,8;3 John 9-11;1 Timothy 1:3;6:20,21;Titus 1:10-12;2 Timothy 2:17-19).
Revelation 2:3 " And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. "
Borne = to bear a burden--they withstood all the Greek teachings etc....
Revelation 2:4 " Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love."
Somewhat is not in the Greek. It is actually saying: Nevertheless I have against thee that thou hast left thy first love. That's the particular thing he had against them. Thou hast left or dismissed or sent away. Showing that the love was the thing that had left. They had dismissed it, in the past tense, it was already gone. You're already in this state and you don't even know it.
You can get to hung up on works, etc... Fighting doctrine, enduring the persecution, that you forget to do the most important--loving God, the 1st commandment.
" Hast left " -- A.T. Robertson says--it signifies a definite sad departure.
" First love " --Greek, protane agape--indicated first--not only in time but also in importance. You've left the most important thing that you were supposed to love and you left the thing you started out loving before anything else--me and to know me--to have my presence and to do all that you're doing out of a LOVE for ME. That's what they had left. They began to lose the revelation of saved by GRACE.
Matthew 22:26-38;Jude 21. What happened? 2 Corinthians 11:2,3 gives insight as to how this happened. This is what had happened to this church at large. LOVE FOR GOD as our husband should grow and expand, but somehow their love had begun to cool off and they had not even intended for it to happen.
What Happened To The Church Of Ephesus?
Partly their ministry became all important to them and their goal began to be their ministry. We must do this ministry, fulfill this calling which we've been given, and that's true, they did have to fulfill that calling. But, they had to fulfill it out of a love for Jesus, keeping that relationship vital and fresh with Jesus, Galatians 5:6,13.
This is such a lesson today--our only protection is the same thing, just to lay ourselves and our soul bare before God in prayer and just to cut the same Covenant again and again of total surrender, death to self, living a love relationship with Him
Also they got into a frame of mind where they began to view themselves as the standard of righteous, as the preservers of the truth and as the standard of God amidst all opposition. They began to put themselves and their position first. They forgot there's a spiritual perfection, and you haven't arrived and you need to follow on to know me. Your only the beginning, not the end.
Revelation 2:5 " 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. "
" Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen "--REMEMBER that you once walked with me in a high and lofty place in my presence, in my love. You were filled with my energy. You weren't striving in yourself. It was a bridal love that was fresh and new and you've lost it.
First step is to remember. 2nd step is to repent. 3rd step is to do.
" REPENT " --This is an urgent call. Repent before the things of God. Repent = to change your mind or direction. Revivals always start with repentance.
" DO the first works " Not different works but the works that flowed out of the first love. This is showing that God sees the works according to the heart and motive behind the works. That's how He views the works, and so they were still doing the same things but he said return to the first works as though they were different works, because He's interested in the heart.
1 Samuel 16:17, Man looks on the outward, God looks on the heart. This is the deception involved here, on the outward they still looked good. Saul is a type of the flesh man, David is a type of the spiritual man. And I also suspect that the worship had become formalized and a little bit routine and stiff.
" Repent or I will come unto thee quickly. "
1.) Quickly is not in the Greek. Literally, it is repent or else I am coming unto thee and I will remove thy lampstand out of his place. I am coming--present tense.
2.) The lampstand, of course, is both the individual in the church and it's the whole church.
3.) Removing it out of its place--that's the place where Jesus walks. That's His presence. That's the position in His presence. You're going to loose your position w/ me, and to an extent they had already lost that position of a lover and of a bride. Removing your light and power with God.
Revelation 2:6 " But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. "
He goes on in verse 6 to tell about the condition of this church, and He does make a commendation here in 2:6: Thou hatest the deeds of these men.
1.) Nicolaitans literally means to conquer the people. The laity is the people. It means to conquer or have power over the people. Nico = to conquer, laos = people.
2.) This same error is also mentioned in Revelation 2:14,15 to the church of Pergamos. The church here vs. 14,15 had gotten to the point where He said these Nicolaitans are among you now. But back in Ephesus He said, "You hate their deeds-they are not yet filtered into the church."
3.) Through these men Satan was trying to conquer the people. Through the particular deception that these men brought, it was beginning to infiltrate, but they were holding the line against it. A sect of people that say you can do anything you want; the main doctrine involved in this holding power over the people (It's not actually that there was a sect called the Nicolaitans, but Jesus is furnishing this title to the whole deception involved). The doctrine of the Nicolaitans was a deception which Satan was trying to bring into the church and is still trying to do today. So this is a timely portion of scripture.
4.) Jesus was using here a symbolic name for a certain group of people. Satan was using these men to conquer God's people through the deception they brought and to bring them into bondage to sin.
5.) It was a doctrine: well brothers we're free. We're not bound by the moral law. They taught that Christians had risen to a new higher place in the Spirit where they were above being influenced by the world and therefore they could partake of sin and not be touched or harmed by it. And Christians were taught not to be bound by the moral law.
They were taught to master it by experiencing it and to abandon themselves to the lusts of the body because they said, well it doesn't touch your spirit you see. You've reached this spiritual realm and you're enlightened now and you don't have to worry about the world afflicting you. This dovetailed right in w/ the doctrine of Gnosticism which taught that spirit is good and matter is evil. And matter was co-eternal w/ spirit and that evil was co-eternal with God.
In other words, eternally there was this battle between God and evil. So the Nicolaitans said, you are living in this spiritual realm. You're enlightened spirits, therefore, spirit is good and you're in a plane up above this evil material world, and now you have a license to dive in and experience it how ever you want and it won't touch you, won't hinder your relationship with God.
Some scriptures dealing with this philosophy
1.) All the scriptures are in condemnation and say negative, not to the people but against the doctrine they brought, and he has some stiff things to say about the people also.
a.) Jude 3,4-- So by bringing this teaching they were in actuality denying Jesus Christ as Lord. They were going out from under the Lordship of submitting their lives to Jesus saying, we can live as we please under this guise of super spirituality.
b.) Jude 8-- They despise dominion and speak evil of dignities--literally this means that Lordship they are putting aside. They are saying, in effect, I can walk w/ Jesus but he doesn't have to be my Lord. I can live as I please and still be spiritual. They would never put it into those words but this is what it amounts to. They speak evil of dignities--literally--glories they are blaspheming. There are some glorious things that they are blaspheming and what they are doing is they are blaspheming the glorious truths of holiness and separation from the world that Jesus taught. And they are blaspheming the power of God to produce a glorious spotless church, because they're saying we're separate, we're in this higher realm. They're using the same language as though they were holy and spiritual, but they are blaspheming the truth because what they mean by it is totally the opposite.
What they do is drag spirituality down into the muck of licentiousness and immorality in the name of spirituality.
2.) Jude 11-13 gives a vivid description.
3.) 2 Peter 2:1-3-- They call the way of truth-well you're legalistic, no we're free brothers.
2 ditches: Legalism and license.
4.) 2 Peter 2:3,10-- A more specific description, dignities = lordships. They are not afraid to speak evil of what the government of God through the apostles and those that they ordained is telling the people.
5.) 2 Peter 2:17-19-- God was telling His people, He wanted them to overcome this kind of thing. He that overcometh shall inherit...
God says about this doctrine--which I also hate. This shows Jesus' heart. He hates their deeds. He doesn't say I hate those men but He hates sin, not the sinner. He hates what is being done to His church, not the people who are deceived.
Revelation 2:7 " 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. "
" He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; "
1.) This phrase is spoken to each of the church ages--7 times in all.
2.) What the Spirit is saying, present tense--what the Spirit is saying throughout the whole church of these ages to these different churches. (Luke 8:18;Proverbs 15:31 Hear the word).
" To him that overcometh "
1.) Jesus gives a promise of a reward to the overcomer: to every church, to him that conquereth. This is what Jesus did; He overcame. You see, being in Jesus is how we conquer.
2.) Jesus is that one who has a sharp sword w/ 2 edges coming out of His mouth. He's saying--to him that takes my word and makes it a part of him and walks also w/ that sword of God--this is what he's going to inherit. Now the saints are those overcomers, and He calls us to have that same sword and follow in those same footsteps. (John 16:33; 1 John 5:4).
3.) Isaiah 49:1-3 (read) Jesus is that Israel--that prince w/ God, but also His people are to walk in that same authority and power w/ that same sword of God.
" Will I give to eat of the tree of life "
1.) The reward He promises the saints of this age is to eat of the tree of life. The meaning of this reward is wonderful.
2.) The tree of life, Genesis 2:9 and 3:22-24. It was that source from which Adam and Eve partook of eternal life before sin separated them form God. So here God is saying that sin will have no more chance to separate me from you. You're going to be in a position where you have eternal life and partake of that life in Jesus, and there will no longer be anyone who can try to take it from you. (John 5:26;14:6).
3.) Revelation 22:2-4 (read) These verses show the tree of life restored to the people of God. His name will be in their forheads--showing possession-- He owns them fully. No man can ever again tempt them and take them away. And we find it's a symbol of eternal life; to eat of the tree of life means to partake of eternal life. Jesus is on both sides and in the midst of the street--He is all and all that we will ever need.
" Which is in the midst of the paradise of God "
1.) Paradise-Persian word = to have a wall around--a king's delight-His own park. We see the true church that started before corruption set in was God's delight.
2.) This tree is said to be in the midst of the paradise of God. In the beginning there was the Garden of Eden, and what is that? It's the place that man was before there was a curse and a wicked world system. He's telling them, you shall have spiritual life in a place apart from this world of false prophets, deception, and sin. You're going to be in a garden where there's no more curse, no more wicked world. You'll be in paradise w/ Me.
3.) This garden is a symbol of the presence of God because Genesis says that the presence of God was there and He walked w/ them and communicated w/ them in the cool of the day. There was an open, fresh, intimate, available communication w/ God at all times in His presence. Only we're going to experience it in a much greater way.
4.) And we find that this garden is indeed the people of God. It's God's garden w/ His presence in the midst--eternal life is in God and God in His people. God in the midst of His people.
a.) Song of Solomon 4:12-16 (read); 5:1--He answers--the people of God are His precious garden, and there's all different kinds of plants in there. These are different saints in different positions of beauty before Him. 4:15 A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon, John 7:37-39;John 4:14 to sustain life--God's Spirit for ever.
b.) Luke 23:43-- We see the presence of God given to us in heaven.
c.) 2 Corinthians 12:2,4-- Paul is talking about his experience in Paradise.
The spiritual lessons from the Ephesian church age--these lessons can be applied to all Christians of all ages, individually
1.) First, in Rev. 2:2 we see that the labor and works and patience of the Ephesians was excellent even when they didn't have the whole N.T. cannon to read and to follow. They are an example to the rest of the church to toil and labor patiently in the work of God. They were long-suffering, and if they could do it w/out even the whole word of God, if they could do it w/out the book of Revelation to tell them the vision of the end times; certainly we can now that the book is complete and we have the whole plan of God laid out before us.
2.) Another lesson-- they couldn't bear the evil ones when false apostles were exposed in their church.
a.) This is a lesson to use in these days, and the lesson is to expose falsehood in love and not allow error to creep into the churches. And it's a lesson to be zealous against evil even among those who claim to have authority from God but are wrong-- 1 Timothy 5:20 " Them that sin, rebuke before all; that others might also fear. "
b.) There's a time to openly confront evil for the sake of the safety of the church.
3.) Another lesson in verses 4 & 5 is: Not to leave the first love, as they did, and to keep doing the same works but keep the motive behind them unchanged--a love for Jesus and an excitement for Him, pleasing Him in His presence and doing what delights His heart. That has to continue to be our motive to do all Christian work out of agape love. We also find that when God convicts us and we can tell that that isn't really our heart's motive, we learn that we can repent and get right before it hurts us.
4.) Another lesson is he who hears and overcomes will inherit the tree of life that is in the paradise of God, never to be taken from us. We will be with God for ever.
Ephesus ("Delights" or "Desirable")
On West coast of Asia Minor at mouth of Cayster, 60 miles from Patmos. Foremost city of province of Asia; residence of Roman proconsul. Magnificent, wealthy trade center in fertile country; called "the light of Asia."
Marketplace and "Vanity Fair" of Asia, on Roman route to the east. Harbor busy, but troubled with silt, is now a marsh 7 miles from the sea. Beautiful temple of Diana (Artemis), one of 7 wonders of ancient world; 360 x 180 feet, with over 100 columns each 55 feet high. Foundation now sits in a frog--ridden swamp.
Temple was also a secure bank. Stadium seated 50,000. City full of idolatry, magical arts, and sorcery. Paul ministered there three years (next longest to Rome); also wrote epistle to the Ephesians. Acts 19--Converts burned books on magical arts. Spread of Christianity diminished Diana-worship, causing craftsmen to protest. Great tumult ensued. Aquila and Priscilla lived there, held services in their home (1 Cor. 16:19).