Friday, April 4, 2014


To the Angel of the Church of Ephesus
Revelation 2:1-7

Historical Setting: Ephesus, population half a million people, 1,000 year old port city, a major city of western Asia. Location of the Temple of Artemis/Diana (one of the Seven Wonders of the World). Church received epistle from Paul, who stopped there several times, pastored by Timothy (1 Tim. 1:3-4), Apostle John, had mother of Jesus as member.

Name Defined: “Desired One” The “desired one” left her first love of Christ. The early church is also desired by subsequent churches as the standard to which later churches should return.

    I.     Christ’s Description – Holds the stars (angels), walking in midst of lampstands (1:13, 16, 20)

   II.     Commendation
1. Tenacity-works, labor, patience, perseverance, weariless (2, 3)
Their patience is that they kept the commandments of God (“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Rev. 14:12). It is a steadiness despite distractions.

2. Tolerance-cannot bear those who are evil (2)
Notice of its tolerance of sin—they didn’t have any. It could not bear sin. Remember in Acts 5 when Ananias and Saphira kept some money back. They died instantly upon Peter’s confrontation. That will inspire intolerance of sin. Do we in the church tolerate sin?

3. Testing-tested those claiming to be apostles (2)
False apostles were tested and proven false and liars. What are some false doctrines in the church today? Do we test those who claim to be apostles or sent out ones?

4. Testimony-hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans (6, see also 2:15)
 III.     Condemnation
1. left first love
Notice that the early church labored for Christ’s name’s sake. They had not fainted or become weary, despite all the persecution. But even in Jesus’ name, if we don’t have the right motivation of love, Christ calls us to repent.

Remember Matthew 7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

What made the works Jesus was describing “lawlessness”? What were the first works of the Ephesian church? It is works done in faith and love. We know that faith without works is dead, according to James 2:17, but works without faith or works without love is also dead, according to Revelation 2:5.

 IV.     Commands
1. remember from where you have fallen
2. repent
3. return to the first works
  V.     Consequences
1. return of Christ in judgment
2. removal of lampstand (church) from its place (city)
3. overcomers-to eat from tree of life, in the midst of the Paradise of God

The Primitive Church (30-100 A.D.)-This church is one which relates to the early church. Christ describes Himself as walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands and the early church did have Christ living among them. There also were false apostles in the Ephesian church, something predicted by Christ (Matt. 24:11) and reported by Paul (2 Cor. 11:3). After the death of John, churches no longer had true apostles as explained in Acts 1:22, using the criterion to replace Judas Iscariot.

While the early church was to be greatly commended, the Apostle John felt compelled to write frequently about the great need for love within the church during the last part of the first century, employing this same word agape (agape) in his gospel, all three letters and the Revelation. John uses a variation of the word to address the “beloved” and himself as the disciple whom Jesus “loved”. A working church losing its “first love” is an apt description of the church in John’s day.

The early church was wonderful, but it was not perfect. Just read 1 Corinthians!

Throughout Israel’s history, the shema (the Hebrew word for the first word “Hear” of Deuteronomy 6:4-7) was recited faithfully by Jewish men and women, sons and daughters. It shows the primacy of love for God as being the motivation for the people of God to keep the commandments.

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Love should motivate us

Despite the call from the Old Testament, and the repeated commands from Christ, it is oh so easy to stop loving God, even though we do everything else He commands us to do. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

What is your motivation for your service to God? If it is anything less than love for Him, it is something to be repented of and returned to the first works which came from a heart of love for Christ.

Hatred should describe our attitude toward sin

But to have love does not mean we cannot hate sin. Notice what Christ commends them for in verse 6: Hatred! Hatred of deeds, not of people.

Irenaeus, writing less than 100 years after John, said these were followers of Nicolas, the last of the seven “deacons” listed in Acts 6:5 who had apparently backslid into a life of “unrestrained indulgence”—something that would likely be very popular in Ephesus. By the second century, it had grown into a Gnostic sect who taught that Christians could indulge in any and all lusts of the flesh.

Notice the commendation Christ has for the church. The church has labor, patience, perseverance, not becoming weary, and later in verse six, it had a hatred of the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which was shared by God Himself.

We see the blessing for all of us who hear. You will see this phrase “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” That’s for us.

What does John mean by being an overcomer?

1 John 5:4-5, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”

And what will we have for overcoming? Jesus will personally give us to eat from the tree of life.

Where is the tree of life? In paradise.

Where is paradise? In the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:4).

Who will be there? It is where we go to be with Christ (Luke 23:43).

According to Rev. 22:2 and 14, paradise will come down from heaven and be on earth

Seven Literal, Historic, Personal and Prophetic Churches

The Seven Churches In Revelation
Revelation 1:4-20
Tim McKeown

What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.  Revelation 1:11

The primary recipients of the book of Revelation were seven actual literal churches, located on the western end of Asia, now modern-day Turkey. They were near the isle of Patmos. There were likely dozens if not hundreds of churches in existence by that time to whom Jesus could have written. He strategically chose these churches  and gave them commendations, condemnations, commands, and consequences of their conduct (see chart). Over the next few sessions, we will see these churches historically and prophetically, and how they apply to us today.

v. 4 - Why seven churches? Seven is a number for God’s holy completion. We must remember that these were literal, existing churches at the time of John’s writing, and they were the primary recipients of the letters. However, we can also see these seven churches are representatives of churches over the past 2,000 years. Even the very names of the locations where the churches were have significance.
Seven Spirits-Not literally seven different personages of the Holy Spirit, but even in the Old Testament we see that God’s Spirit has seven distinct attributes (Isa. 11:2 – Spirit of the Lord1, wisdom2, understanding3, counsel4, might5, knowledge6, and of fear of the Lord7).

v. 5, 6 - The Prince who makes us kings. The word is “archon” arcwn  which is also translated ruler. Jesus is described as the Prince of life (Acts 3:15), a Prince and Savior (Acts 5:31), and Daniel calls Christ the Prince of Princes (8:25) and the Prince of Hosts (8:11). Peter says that we are a royal, holy priesthood (1 Pet 2:5, 9). Some versions have “freed” us from our sins, rather than “washed”. The differences in words in Greek is one letter (lusanti=freed; lousanti=washed). Both have the same effect—His blood cleanses (1 John 1:9) and Christ frees us (Gal. 5:1). The original word was likely washed since it was used in several instances in reference to our sins (Eph. 5:26, Titus 3:5, Heb. 10:22, John 13:10). Being “freed” using this word is never used in relation to our sins or to the power of Christ’s blood.

v. 7 - He comes with clouds is a reference to numerous Old Testament passages of God’s judgment. Ezek. 30:3, Joel 2:2, and Zeph. 1:15 say the Day of the Lord will be a day of clouds. Dan. 7:13, “One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days…” Jesus said in Matthew 24:30 and Mark 14:62 that the Son of Man will come in the clouds of heaven, clouds with “great power and glory” (Mark 13:26). The importance of Rev. 1:7 cannot be overstated, as John is telling his readers early on that this book is about the terrible and great day of God’s wrath, even though it is not fulfilled until Rev. 19. All will see Christ, living and dead and the unsaved will wail and mourn. The saved, like John, say, even so, amen (so be it)!

v. 8 - The first two of the seven “I AM”s of the Revelation with “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,” Alpha and Omega O are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and designate Jesus Christ (Rev. 22:13-16). Jesus affirms He is all-powerful, “Almighty,” linked everywhere else in the New Testament to God, the Lord, or the Lord God Almighty, thus being yet another proof that Jesus is God Almighty.

We have seen the I AM statements (see links here and here) in the gospel of John. The Greek form is ego eimi, but in Hebrew, "I AM" sounds like "Yahweh," the holiest name of God which stems from Moses asking God, “Who shall I say sent me?” at the burning bush in Exodus chapter 3.

13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? 14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

v. 9 - John is a companion in tribulation, but obviously not the “great tribulation” which is yet to be. Yet, Jesus said, “In this world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Certainly the days of John were filled with trouble, but even those were not as severe as what will be in the “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matt. 24:21). The reason for John’s exile to Patmos was two-fold: the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

v. 10 - The Lord’s Day can mean “Sunday” or, if John still esteemed the Sabbath, Saturday, or it could be “the Day of the Lord.” However, at this point of his vision, John is not yet transported to heaven or the future to see events unfold. So this is not yet “the Day of the Lord” in the sense of Christ’s coming in judgment. Nowhere else does John use “the Lord’s Day” to refer to that “Great Day” (see Rev. 6:17 and 16:14).

v. 11 - The third “I AM” is “the first and the last.” John is told to write the things in a book, a “biblion,” the word from which we get Bible. The seven churches are the “called out ones.” There are four applications to the seven churches:

1) Particularly. To the local churches actually addressed in the day John wrote.
2) Pervasively, to all churches in all times
3) Personally, Jesus applied his letters to all who “has an ear, let him hear.”
4) Prophetically, disclosing seven phases of the spiritual history of the church

Strong parallels can be seen in the seven churches and eras of the church. Tim LaHaye gives the seven periods as:

1.      Ephesus—Apostolic church (30-100)
2.      Smyrna—Persecuted church (100-313)
3.      Pergamos—State church (313-590)
4.      Thyatira—Papal church (590-____)
5.      Sardis—Reformed church (1517-____)
6.      PhiladelphiaMissionary church (1730-____)
7.      LaodiceaApostate church (1900-____)

This does not mean those "types" of churches only existed in those time periods or years, (think about it...all of the churches literally existed in John’s day). But there are clear similarities in the eras given.

v. 12-17 - John hears the Lord’s voice like a trumpet and turns to see Jesus. Remember in the Old Testament when God spoke from Mount Sinai, it sounded as a loud trumpet (Exodus 19:19, Heb. 12:19) Portions John’s description of Jesus will be repeated to each church and we will discuss those descriptions then. That John would fall down as dead is not surprising, especially after so many years of Christ’s absence and upon seeing Him in such grandeur. Jesus places his right hand upon John and tells him to not fear.

v. 18 The fourth through seventh “I AM” statements differ from the previous three. The first three refer to Jesus’ eternality and deity. The final four “I AM” declarations refer to Jesus’ relation to humanity.

I AM … 
“He who lives, and was dead, and …alive forevermore” Rev. 2:23, 
“He who searches the minds and hearts”; Rev. 22:16, 
“the Root and the Offspring of David” Rev. 22:16, 
“the Bright and Morning Star.”

v. 19-20 - John explains some of the imagery in the vision. The implication is that there are other symbolism in Revelation which are not necessarily spelled out or explained. However, caution should be used to avoid making the Revelation too allegorical. The stars and lampstands represented literal objects.

The next seven sessions will cover the seven churches and the letters.

Seven Churches of the Revelation