Revelation #5 Revelation 1:19-20 & 2:1-7 (MSG) End Times Dilemma: Ephesus 100 % Right and Totally Wrong
Revelation #5 Revelation 1:19-20 & 2:1-7 (MSG) End Times Dilemma: Ephesus 100 % Right and Totally Wrong
After getting an incredible description of Jesus glorified, after fainting dead at Jesus feet, after being lifted from the floor, John is told--
Rev 1:19-20 (MSG)
Now write down everything you see: things that are, things about to be. The Seven Stars you saw in my right hand and the seven-branched gold menorah—do you want to know what's behind them? The Seven Stars are the Angels of the seven churches; the menorah's seven branches are the seven churches."
Jesus the revealer revealed tells John to write down His message. As we read the Revelation, we are going to discover that many of the symbols are presented and then explained. So earlier we read about the gold menorah with 7 branches and the 7 stars. Now we get an explanation. The Seven Stars that Jesus holds in his right hand, don’t forget the symbolism about God's strong right hand, are the Angels of the 7 churches. Angels are always angels; they are never meant to be understood as humans as if the 7 angels meant the human leaders of the congregations. We know that Angels serve as God’s messengers. Several explanations have been offered as to the function of these Angels. They could be guardian angels providing spiritual protection against the forces of evil, they could be the congregation’s representative in heaven, and they can be the medium through which God influences the leaders of the congregation. Most likely though is that these angels are personifications of the churches. They represent the spirit of the congregation. Have you ever experienced sensing the spirit of a congregation? Of course, this is a highly individualized and subjective experience, but as you attend a meeting you get a feeling about the people. You pick up on the character of the congregation. You are free to adopt any of those explanations. One thing stands out and that is that Jesus is intimately aware of what is happening within these congregations. To be held in the right hand signifies protection, favor, approval, guidance, support, and the authority and sovereignty of the one in whose hand is holding.
Time to explore what Jesus has to say to His churches.
Rev 2:1-7 (MSG)
1 Write this to Ephesus, to the Angel of the church. The One with Seven Stars in his right-fist grip, striding through the golden seven-lights' circle, speaks: "I see what you've done, your hard, hard work, your refusal to quit. I know you can't stomach evil, that you weed out apostolic pretenders. 3 I know your persistence, your courage in my cause, that you never wear out. "But you walked away from your first love—why? What's going on with you, anyway? Do you have any idea how far you've fallen? A Lucifer fall! "Turn back! Recover your dear early love. No time to waste, for I'm well on my way to removing your light from the golden circle. "You do have this to your credit: You hate the Nicolaitan business. I hate it, too. "Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches. I'm about to call each conqueror to dinner. I'm spreading a banquet of Tree-of-Life fruit, a supper plucked from God's orchard."
Ephesus was the most important Greek city in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey. The church in Ephesus was planted by the Apostle Paul, with Aquila and Pricilla (Acts 18:18). The Apostle Paul caused a riot in the town (Acts 19), eventually forcing his departure from the city. Not only was Ephesus a major trading hub for the Roman Empire it was also home to the Temple of Artemis or if you were more Roman the Temple of Diana, considered one of the seven wonders of the world. In the Artemis/Diana cult, women served as the priestesses, and female superiority over men was a characteristic. These historical tidbits give us insight into Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus.
30 or so years later Jesus tells the congregation that He is intimately aware of what is happening with this church. Jesus commends them for their hard work. Hard work (kopos and kopian) means by the sweat of your brow. These believers are toiling for the kingdom. They are doing something to make a difference in the city in which they live. Ephesus is a congregation of doers. That they do this work by refusing to quit identifies their patient endurance. They are dealing well with the difficulties being a Christian in a pagan culture entails.
The congregation was well-versed in scripture and able to weed out the false teachers. Ephesus being a trade hub would have had many itinerant ministers, some legitimate, some not. We know some false teachers tried to convince Gentile believers that they needed to keep the law. We know some false teachers turned the liberty believers have in Christ into a license for immoral behavior. The wolf in sheep’s clothing becomes easy to spot once you’ve been burned once or twice (Mattew 7:15, Acts 20:20). We may surmise that this was a constant threat to the congregation, an endless onslaught of apostolic pretenders that could wear you down with their arguments especially if you were new to the faith. The congregation stayed doctrinally pure.
Being doctrinally pure, rightly handling the scripture, and discerning what is true and what is false, apparently isn’t enough. It’s a great part of living the Christian life, but it’s not the greatest part. Jesus tells this congregation that they have walked away from their first love. Jesus describes this situation as a disaster on par with Satan’s rebellion. To figure out what exactly this fall entails we need to consider the passage. The Ephesians are commended for their orthodoxy, keeping the commands of the Father and the teachings of Jesus. If orthodoxy becomes the center, it pushes out love and becomes ridged, ridged orthodoxy becomes judgmental, and love is pushed to the periphery. Within this congregation, they were so concerned about being right that they lost the disciple’s distinctive love for one another. Love for God, obeying His commands, love for others, seeking to meet needs as the opportunity arises, love for the earth, being a good steward of all the material resources you’ve been blessed with, and love for self, partnering with the Holy Spirit to become like Jesus, that passion, that desire, those feelings, were supplanted by duty. “Doctrinal purity and loyalty can never be a substitute for love” (Ladd, p.39). Within the fellowship of the congregation, there is to be love. There is to be an Angel of selflessness, instead of an angel maybe we should say spirit, there is to be a spirit of compassion, forgiveness, empathy, and altruism that can be sensed, a welcoming into the community. It is important to be pure doctrinally and morally but it’s more important to be known by your love for one another.
The year was 1966 and a catholic priest Peter Scholtes wrote the song “We Are One In The Spirit” and the lyrics laid out the importance of love. “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” It’s not our doctrine, or our apologetics, or our stance on moral issues of the day, that we will be recognized as peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9) no, it will be by our love. As those who bent their knee to the Lordship of Jesus knowing what you believe is important but loving one another is more so.
Jesus urges the congregation “Turn back! Recover your dear early love.” The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me” (Jer 2:2 (NIV). The enthusiasm and devotion the new couple had at the beginning had faded. [Mounce, p 89] The fresh glow of love was gone and it desperately needed to be recovered. “A cooling of personal love for God inevitably results in the loss of harmonious relationship within the body of believers” (Mounce p 88). You can recover your first love through daily practicing the 7 habits of a disciple to right this wrong in your heart. Remember what your life was like before you bent the knee to Jesus, what motivated you to commit to being a Christ follower, and what happened in your life when you did and then realize the changes that have made your life better are because you have been loved. If you can identify why you became complacent in your relationship, maybe it was distractions, doubts, disappointments, or minor disobedience, it will help you overcome those love “steelers.” You can rekindle your first love by renewing your commitment and making a conscious effort to put first things first, and that means doing the things that love for God and others does.
Jesus says if they fail, then their light goes out. If the light goes out it means they are no longer going to draw people into the kingdom. Evangelism stops, and decay sets in. They are on their own as a people. They are left with the appearance of godliness, but there is no power, no life, just a philosophy and a moral code to live by (2 Timothy 3:5). They can go through the motions of being alive, continue to work hard in the name of Jesus but miss the boat.
Matthew 7:21-23 (MSG)
"Knowing the correct password—saying 'Master, Master,' for instance—isn't going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. 22 I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, 'Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.' 23 And do you know what I am going to say? 'You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don't impress me one bit. You're out of here.'
It seems that the congregation’s hatred of the Nicolaitans was the only thing keeping Jesus from blowing out their candle. The scholars have pieced together evidence that leans towards the conclusion that the Nicolaitans had worked out a compromise with the culture that violated the edict of Acts 15:29, that Gentile believers abstain from eating food sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality.
Jesus calls the congregation to heed His warning. Those who do, those who put love in the understanding and relationship to Jesus first will conquer. Throughout the book the conqueror, the overcomer, is the one who remains faithful, the victory achieved is similar to the victory won on the Cross. Remain faithful and you will eat from the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is first seen in Genesis (2:9 & 3:22-24). After Adam’s rebellion, an Angel is sent to guard access to its fruit. The tree and its fruit are symbolic of eternal life. Jesus’ disciples who remain faithful to the end will have a banquet of eternal life. God’s orchard, or the paradise of God is the end state.
In one of our delve deepers, “What happens when we die?” Paradise was identified as the place of the righteous dead, where those who have bent the knee await the resurrection. John will take it even further to an existence where all things have been restored in righteousness.
Here’s what we can apply to our lives from this teaching.
You create the spirit of your congregation. It is your eyes that are friendly. It is your hand that extends a welcome. It is your words that encourage, not the facility, not the music, not the programs, not the pastor. It’s you. Individually we are built together to be a spiritual place of worship where people can come and meet with God (1 Peter 2:5). The great characteristic of a place of worship is the love that the people share for one another as an expression of the love they have for God and the love that God has lavished upon them (1 John 3:1). They worship with their friends. This is told of that first group of Jesus lovers: “They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved” (Acts 2:46-47 (MSG). Be the kind of person whose demeanor invites friendship. Let’s be together, eat together, laugh and celebrate together, support and encourage one another. Show your love by being the initiator.
The lesson that we need to apply from this warning to the congregation in Ephesus is that we can be 100% right and if love for Jesus and love for others is missing, be totally wrong. You can rekindle your love for Christ and love for others.
Acknowledge the problem.
Practice the 7 Habits of a Disciple.
Remember why you came to Jesus
Remember how He changed your life.
Identify the love “steelers” so that you and the Holy Spirit can deal with them.
Renew your commitment to the relationship you share with Jesus.
Do the things that demonstrate love for God and others.
It is love and kindness that draw people to God.