Dr. Andrew C S Koh
Revelation 2 and 3 are Christ’s seven letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor i.e. Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. These letters had a seven-preset template consisting of, the destination church, a description of Christ, initial commendation, censure, a call to repentance to avoid serious consequences, final commendation, and a promise of rewards for those who overcome. Christ is omniscient. He knew all the strength and weaknesses about each of these churches. Each letter always ends with, “he who has a ear to hear, let him hear“, which is a call to listen very carefully. The letter to Ephesus was the first letter to first of the seven churches of Asia Minor, which is Turkey today.
Revelation 2: 1-7
1 “To the angel of the assembly in Ephesus write:“ He who holds the seven stars in his right hand, he who walks among the seven golden lamp stands says these things: 2 “I know your works, and your toil and perseverance, and that you can’t tolerate evil men, and have tested those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and found them false. 3 You have perseverance and have endured for my name’s sake and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I am coming to you swiftly and will move your lamp stand out of its place, unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of my GodRevelation 2:1-7
Ancient Ephesus was infamous for pagan worship. It was home to the temple of Artemis, the centre of pagan worship of the Greek goddess Diana. Paul lived and ministered in Ephesus for 18 months during his third missionary journey. He taught in the synagogue for 3 months but when the hostile, unbelieving Jews persecuted him, he relocated to the school of Tyrannus, Acts 19: 9-10.. Here, he taught, preached, and shared the gospel to the Jews and Gentiles from Asia Minor. Timothy and apostle John also played prominent roles in the Ephesian church at various times.
The destination church of this letter was Ephesus. Christ described Himself as “He who holds the seven stars in his right hand, he who walks among the seven golden lamp stands”. The seven stars represent the seven angels of the seven churches. Christ holds the seven stars in His hands. The seven golden lamp stands or menorahs symbolize the seven churches of Asia Minor. Christ walks among the seven golden menorahs i.e. the seven churches. He had close and personal contact with the churches and was never far from them.
Now, the initial commendation. Christ is omniscient. He knew everything about the church of Ephesus. He knew about their suffering, perseverance, and faithfulness. He commended them because they discerned and rejected evil men and false apostles. They endured hardship and persecution for Christ’s sake and in Christ’s name, and yet were faithful to their calling.
Now, the rebuke. Christ censured them for losing their first love for Him. They neglected personal time and intimacy with Christ such as quiet time, prayer, praise and worship, communion, and bible study. Christ encouraged the Ephesian Church, to repent and take steps to return to Him. Work of the ministry cannot substitute personal time and fellowship with Christ. They must repent, dethrone self, enthrone Christ, surrender to Him, and make Him centre of their life.
Now, the warning. If they do not repent, Christ will come quickly and dismantle their church.
Now, the final commendation. Christ commended them for rejecting the works of the Nicolaitans. According to the second century church father, Irenaeus, Nicolaitans were followers of a Gnostic sect, founded by Nicolas of Antioch in Acts 6:5. Gnosticism is a dangerous, heretic cult to be rejected at all cost
Now, the promise of rewards. Those who overcome, hear, and heed His words will be rewarded with the fruit of the tree of life in the new heaven and new earth in the new Jerusalem..
God placed the tree of life in the centre of the garden of Eden for Adam and Eve to enjoy. After the fall, Adam and Eve were banished from the garden of Eden. But God will bring back the tree of life into the new heaven and earth in the new Jerusalem, Revelation 22:2. Those who make it to heaven will be able eat the fruits from the tree of life.
But when some were hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.Acts 19:9-10
On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.Revelation 22:2
Remember your first love for Christ? Remember how fervent you were when you first became a Christian?
Do not lose your first love for Christ. Do not allow your love for Christ to go cold. Do not neglect personal quiet times, bible study, prayer, praise and worship, and communion with the Lord.
Do not give in to persecution, trials, and tribulation. Persevere and be faithful to your calling. Christ will reward you with the tree of life, crown of life and eternal life in heaven.
Discern and reject false teachers and have nothing to do with them.
Repent and take steps to come back to Him. The works of the ministry cannot substitute personal time and communion with Christ. Repent, dethrone self, enthrone Christ. surrender and make Him the centre of you life.
Even the church needs to repent. If they do not repent, Christ will come quickly and dismantle our church.
Heavenly Father, help us to not to lose our first love for You. Help us to cultivate personal intimacy with You. Help us cultivate the daily habit of quiet time, bible study, praise and worship, prayer, and communion. Help us discern false teachers and reject them, in Jesus’ name, Amen.