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Dr. Walter D. Huyck Jr. D.Min.

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The Church in Ephesus

Revelation 2.1-7

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A.     The Community (vs 1) [– Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; . . . - The formal church, Ephesus, was located in a city which was once the chief port of Asia Minor.  Its harbor was much given to change because of its continual silting.  What was once water became land; what was once land became water. This shifting character of the city is reflected in the Lord’s letter for the Ephesian assembly.  Those who once were so strong in their love for Him are seen by Him as shifting away from Him.] 

[Of the city of Ephesus J. Vernon McGee wrote,] 

[Ephesus was not only a beautiful city, it was also the chief city of the province of Asia. It was called "the Vanity Fair of Asia." Pliny called it "the Light of Asia." It was both the religious and commercial center of that entire area which influenced both East and West -- Asia and Europe. When Paul landed at the harbor in Ephesus, he looked down Harbor Boulevard, all in white marble. As he moved toward the center of the city, he saw all sorts of lovely buildings, temples, and gift shops. There was a large market on his right as he went up the boulevard, and ahead of him on the side of a mountain was a theater that seated twenty thousand people. Off to his left was the great amphitheater that seated over one hundred thousand people. At times there were as many as one to two million people gathered in Ephesus. It was here that Paul had his greatest ministry, and it was here that John later became pastor.[1]] 

[We know that the apostle Paul, by his own testimony, remained in Ephesus for three years (Acts 20.31).  Ephesus was also the seacoast capital of proconsul Asia and one of the great religious, political, and commercial centers. Ephesus contained the temple of Diana which is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world (Acts 19).] 

[This was the setting of the Church to whom the first of the seven letters of the Revelation is addressed.  The Greek word ἐκκλησίας which is translated Church  means,] 

[. . . noun from ékklētos (n.f.), called out, which is from ekkaléō (n.f.), to call out. It was a common term for a congregation of the ekklētoí (n.f.), the called people, or those called out or assembled in the public affairs of a free state, the body of free citizens called together by a herald (̄rux [2783]) which constituted the ekklēsía . . .[2]]

[Thus, these people were called out of the world around them to be different for the sake of serving the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of the culture around them.  This is true of each of these seven churches and the whole of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are in this present world, but should not be of this present world.  Our world’s culture will be, and should be alive around us, but we should be distinctly different from this present world.  So much so that the lost in our world will notice us, and our lives, and be drawn to hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.]

B.     The Credentials (vs 1; Eph 5.25; Matt 5.14-16)  [- . . . these things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; - The word Ephesus by definition means desirable. Let the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ never forget how much He loves and desires her.  The Bible reminds us,] 

[Ephesians 5:25 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;]

[Our Lord reminds us that He loves not only each and every human being enough to die for them, but He also loves His Church, the body of the Lord Jesus Christ, enough to die for her.  When people abandon the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ they cannot rightly understand the depth of our Lord love for His Church.] 

[Two credentials are mentioned in association with the letter written to the Church in Ephesus,] 

1.      [The Stars in His Right Hand – We were told previously that these stars represented the angels or messengers of these seven Churches (Rev 1.20).  The right hand indicates that they are in a place of power and authority, but not their own power or authority.  Their power is found in the one who possesses them and His authority must guide and control them.  That they are seen as stars indicates that they provide illumination.  Jesus said,] 

[Matthew 5:14-16 14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.]  

2.      [The Candlesticks - The candlesticks represent the assemblies of the believers where Christ is honored (Rev 1.20). That there are seven candlesticks means that they represent the Church as a whole.] 

[Now it is important to note that the text emphasizes that the Stars are held in Christ’s right hand and Christ is in the midst of these candlesticks.  This implies that they are guided and controlled by Him and as a result He is gladly standing right in their midst.  They are willingly His, and He is willingly theirs.  This was the case for the early apostolic Church without any doubt.] 

[From whom does this letter come?  From the Lord they have loved and trusted so dearly and who walks and talks with them day by day.  They can trust what He says because they have trusted Him with so much already.] 

C.     The Confirmation (vs 2-3, 6; 2 Tim 3.12; ) [-   In each of the seven letters Christ says, "I know thy works" (Rev 2.2,9,13,19; 3.1,8, 15).  To this first of these seven Churches our Lord says,] 

[Revelation 2:2-3 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: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.]

1.      He approved them for their Sacrificial Service (vs 2-3) [-  The Greek word, κόπον,  translated “Labour” here means,] 

[“strictly beating; (1) as exhausting physical or mental exertion toil, labor, work (JN 4.38); (2) as exhausting and wearisome difficulties encountered trouble, burden, hardship (MT 26.10).”[3]]  

[Thus denoting a diligent labor even unto weariness and exhaustion.  Born again Christians need to be reminded that service in our Lord’s kingdom will be exhausting laborious work.  We will often feel like we are under the task masters whip, but this is the labor we are called to do.] 

[It is important to note here that their labor was not just any and every kind of labor.  It was labor purposefully performed for His names sake.  It was tedious work done in keeping with our Lord’s will and desires.  Because the work was done in keeping with His calling and will it was persistent, persevering work.  When Churches are doing the communities work, the social organizations work, or their own work they will often faint and fail because the purpose for their work becomes lost in their labor.  Our Lord’s work is undying work because it is focuses on the eternal souls of lost men.  Their peril is terrible and everlasting; if they do not hear the gospel message, repent and receive the Lord Jesus Christ.  How can one dare to quit when the life of a human being lies in the balance of eternity?] 

2.      He approved them for their Steadfastness (vs 3; 3.1) [– The Greek word, ὑπομονήν, translated patience means, ]  

[“In standard Greek ὑπομονή refers overwhelmingly — and positively — to independent, unyielding, defiant perseverance in the face of aggressive misfortune, and thus to a kind of courageousness; in the negative sense it refers also to the enduring of humiliation (attestations in Hauck 581f.).”[4]]   

[Clearly, the early Church faced aggressive misfortune, commonly called perscution and martyrdom, which they endured without failing in their continuing ministry and mission.  This bringing to mind Paul’s words to Timothy when he wrote,] 

[2 Timothy 3:12 12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. ]

3.      He approved them for their Suppression of Evil (vs 2) [- . . . 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: - This early Church was not nearly as concerned with the quantity of their congregation as they were about the quality of their congregation.  They would not, and did not, bear, or put up with, those who are evil or even deceivers in their midst.  They diligent uncovered those who said they were something that they were not and exposed them.  The passage states that they tried them.  This kind of discipline is the kind that has become lost to most contemporary churches.] 

4.      He approved them for their Stand (vs 6)  [- For their stand against the deeds of the Nicolaitanes– But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. - The actual deeds of this sect are unknown.  John Walvoord wrote,] 

[Much scholarly speculation has arisen concerning the precise nature of this groups error.  The Nicolaitans apparently were a sect, and some have interpreted their name as meaning “conquering of the people” from nikao, meaning “to conquer” and laos, meaning “the people.”  This view considers the Nicolaitans as the forerunners of the clerical hierarchy superimposed upon the laity and robbing them of spiritual freedom.  Others have considered them as a licentious sect advocating complete freedom in Christian conduct including participation in heathen feasts and free love.[5]]

Some of the early church fathers view this sect as follows, 

[The Nicolaitanes are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, [when they are represented] as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practise adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.[6]] 

[Hence, there is much debate about who the Nicotaitans really were.  Regardless we know that they were a sect of people who tried to find their way into this early Church, were rightfully identified and refused.  However, they were not always refused because in another Church letter we find them inside that Church.] 

D.    The Correlation (Acts 8.1-4) [– Before we address the problems that plaque this congregation we must take a moment to understand the correlations between this Church and its Dispensational position and the Parable that correlates to this congregation in its kingdom perspective.  Keeping this correlation in view will help us to understand those things that contributed to the problems that found their way into this Church and the resulting condition identified by our Lord.  In referring to the Church Age Chart (Fig. 1) we are reminded that,] 

1.      [The Dispensations of the Church Theory places this Church in the universal Churches history in the historical time frame of AD 33 to 100.  This might be referred to as the Apostolic Age in general.  During this period the apostles lived and guided the Church in its doctrine and expansion.  Many of the doctrinal disputes that arose could be taken to men who walked with our Lord Jesus Christ and who could either substantiate or refute the teachings in question.  Thus the Church had a present authority that could help them in identifying and rebuking false teachers. ] 

2.      [The Kingdom Parables Theory highlights this Church age as the age of the spreading and broadcasting of the gospel.  We know that during this time period in the history of the Church the gospel spread to the uttermost parts of the world.  This scattering of the gospel occurred in numerous different ways.  However in the book of Acts we learn that is occurred largely as a result of the persecution of the Church by Jewish religious leaders.  The Bible records,] 

[Acts 8:1-4 1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. 4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.]

[As in the parable of the sower we know that as the gospel spread throughout the known world that there were differing results to the message that was being boldly proclaimed.  In some places the seed of the Word of God and the gospel of Christ had no impact at all, the messengers were quickly driven out of these cities.  But in other places the gospel message took root and many would believe and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. ] 

[It is important to note at this point that the persecutions experienced by the Church were largely the result of their Jewish religious roots.  The Jews were responsible for persecuting this early Church.  The Roman political system counted this new Christian sect as a part of Judaism during this Church Age.  It would not be until the next Church Age that the Roman political system would begin to persecute these Christians as a new and illegal religious sect.] 

[We will look back at these correlations as we consider the remaining elements of this letter to the Church in Ephesus.] 

E.     The Condition (vs 4; Prov 3.11-12; Heb 12.4-13; Jer 2.2; Matt 13.5-7,20-22,) [- Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. – Now our Lord sends a strong rebuke to this first of the seven Churches addressed in The Revelation.  Correction, especially strong correction, is never easy to stomach.  Many feel that strong corrections are an indication of a lack of love; however God reveals just the opposite in His Word.  The Bible states,] 

[Proverbs 3:11-12 11 My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: 12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. ]

[Hebrews 12:4-13 4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. 5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. 12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. ]

[Correction and the sterner chastening is an indication of love rather than the opposite.  As a matter of fact the opposite of love is not hate, as many would assume, it is indifference.  When someone does not care about what you are doing when you are blindly and obviously destroying your life through sin, then they reveal that they do not love you.  True love, godly love, fatherly love cannot just stand by and watch you go the wrong way and do the wrong things without rendering a warning.] 

[The condition addressed by our Lord is briefly stated as they had left their first love.  What does our Lord mean by they had left their first love.  Just what is meant by a first love? ] 

ˇ        [First love is the love of espousals, Jeremiah wrote,] 

[Jeremiah 2:2 2 Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. ]

[This is a pursuing love.  A love that seeks out the one suited.  It is a love of abandonment and sacrifice.  As was the case in the early Church, they were willing to spend and be spent for their Lord Jesus Christ and the cause of His gospel message.] 

ˇ        [First Love is the love of a bride prepared for her wedding.  Paul wrote,] 

2 Corinthians 11:2 2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. ]

[This is the love of God’s preserving jealousy.  God is not jealous of us, He is jealous for us.  We were created to walk with God in sweet and undying intimacy, and that intimacy is only preserved through purity, the kind of purity marking a bride preparing for her wedding.] 

ˇ        [First love is honeymoon love.  Honeymoon love is whole hearted love, which is the kind of love described in,] 

[1 Corinthians 13:4-8 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.]

[It must be noted that it was not in doctrinal errors, but in the loss of first love, that we find the root cause of the falling away of the early church. ] 

[The Parabolic Correlation lends much to our understanding of what might have contributed to the faltering love of this early Church.  Two contributors of specifically addressed within the parable.  These are,] 

1.      Stony Ground (Matt 13.5-6,20-21) [– The stony ground provided little soil and moisture, so the life was starved out of the plant resulting from the seed.  The scorching sun is referred to as the tribulation and persecution that arose to challenge the new Christians.  We know that in the early Church persecution and tribulation arose immediately upon them.  The deacon Stephen was stoned very shortly after being ordained as a deacon by the early Church and things just got worse after that.  It is not a question of whether trials and persecution will arise upon born again Christians it is a matter of when they will arise and whether Christians will have the root to survive the ordeal or will they be offended and lose their first love.] 

2.      Thorny Ground (Matt 13.7,22) [– Some of the seed of the word fell among thorny ground and produced life and grew.  But as it grew the thorns choked the life out of the precious plant and it could produce no fruit unto harvest.  These thorns are identified in the parable as the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches.  We know that for the early Church, for one to admit that they were a Christian could have meant the loss of their job, business, home, and community.  Many were driven out of their life long communities because they confessed to love and live for the Lord Jesus Christ.  These worldly concerns could easily cause many to remain silent, secret believers choked the life giving possibilities right out of them.  Silent Christians never share the gospel and will never produce life in another human being.] 

[The other soils mentioned within the parable are not contributors to faltering love.  For the seed on the path, there never was a love to falter for there never was life.  For those seeds in the good ground there was not only life but there was fruit, they were reproducing Christians, because they loved the Lord Jesus Christ enough to risk everything to proclaim His gospel message.] 

F.      The Challenge (vs 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. – There are there things our Lord challenged them to do,] 

1.      Remember [- Our Lord calls this Church to remember where they once where and what they once had.  They had fallen from a place that was worth remembering.  In other words our Lord is calling upon them to acknowledge their need.  Before we can correct any issue in our life we must remember.  We must look in retrospect and recall what we had and lost.] 

2.      Repent [- Not only does our Lord ask them to remember but he also commands them to repent.  Repentance means, μετανόησον (Gk), “repent, have a change of heart, turn from one’s sins, change one’s ways[7] - They are called to not only remember what they had lost, but they were asked to return to the place that they had fallen from.] 

3.      Redo (John 14.15) [– They were also called to “. . . do the first works.” Here we have the revelation that their faltering love resulted in neglected action or work.  The are called in their remembrance and repentance to do what their first love had initially compelled them to do.  Thus we are reminded that true love cannot be idle love.  Our Lord Jesus Christ had said, “ If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14.15)  One cannot say they love our Lord the way they ought to love our Lord and not be compelled to serve Him.  This is not referring to just any service, but it is referring to the kind of service that matters to our Lord.  They must do the first works.  These are the works that their faltering love caused them to fail to do.  These are the works that resulted in their persecution and their loss of possessions or their faltering love.] 

[A warring accompanies this Churches challenge and it is a stern warning indeed. Should this Church refuse or fail to respond to their Lord’s correction, then their candlestick could be removed out of his place.  Hence, indicating that, if they continue on the course upon which they are going they could come to a point where they will no longer be recognized as a Church of our Lord any more.  Much as we will find when we study the Laodicean Church at the end of chapter three, where Christ is seen standing outside of the Church knocking to be let in.  This is a fearful warning for every Church of every Church Age. ] 

G.    The Contemporary Lesson (vs 7; Gen 2.9; Rev 22.2,13) [– 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.  – Without any doubt there are lessons to be learned from the letter written to the Church in Ephesus.] 

[This final verse in this churches letter reveals that there are lessons for the congregations and lessons for the individuals of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The message of this final verse emphasizes that all who have spiritual ears to hear the message illuminated in this text should take care to hear it and heed it.  Those who hear and heed this message are referred to as overcomers in our text and are granted a definite and sure reward for their conquering spirit and resolve.] 

[By nature an overcomer is someone who exhibits the resolve and discipline to gain the victory over some obstacle.  The obstacle in this context is that of a faltering love and a failing work.  Those things that likely caused this faltering love, as we have seen are the expected things that accompany living a life truly in love, or sold out, to the Lord Jesus Christ.  The overcomer in this case must overcome the persecutions and tribulations that must be endured when living this Christian life.  The overcomer must also overcome the allurement of this world’s prosperity and stuff to stand up for the one loved, the Lord Jesus Christ, even if it means suffering some kind of loss.] 

[The Reward Offered is “. . . to eat of the tree of life . . .”  This is the very tree that Adam and Eve were denied once they had fallen in their sin.  This tree is noted in our text to be in the midst of the paradise of God.  This statement reminds us of,] 

[Genesis 2:9 9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.]

[Revelation 22:2 2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.]

[It is also important to note,]

[Revelation 22:13 13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.]  

[The tree of life is seen in the presence of God.  Therefore, to be privileged to eat of the tree of life, in the midst of the paradise of God is indicative of being privileged to be in the presence of God.  Hence, those who will overcome will be those in eternity to come who will be the closest to God.] 

[Many seem to have the idea that when we all get to heaven we will all be absolutely equal in stature in that eternal place.  However, this has never been a fact of scripture.  The Bible indicates that when we enter into that eternal place there will be rewards that we have earned in this life that we will take with us into heaven.  One of those rewards is this privilege to be one who will be given a place very close to the throne of our Lord, for this is where the tree of life is always seen; in the midst of the paradise of God.  It is near to the very presence of God.] 

[Therefore, be an overcomer.  Live your Christian life loving our Lord deeply.  Be willing to suffer persecution for our Lord and to make sacrifices as well.  For these are the obstacles that we must anticipate and overcome as we walk in our Christian journey.] 

CrossRoads Baptist, Nov 11, 2009

[1]  J. <Vernon> McGee, Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, under: “Chapters 2 and 3”.

[2] Zodhiates, G1577

[3] Barbara Friberg Timothy Friberg, Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker's Greek New Testament Library 4 (<<Grand Rapids>>: Baker Books, 2000), S. 235.

[4] Gerhard Schneider Horst Robert Balz, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990-c1993), S. 3:405.

[5] John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ: A Commentary By John F. Walvoord (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), 58.

[6] James Donaldson Alexander Roberts, A. Cleveland Coxe, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325 (Oak Harbor: Logos Research System, 1997), S. 352.

[7] Barclay Moon Newman, Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Biblegesellschaft; United Bible Societies, 1993), S. 115.

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