In our last study, we ended on the note of judgment on the church age, according to 1 Peter 4:15 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
And judgment does begin first at the house of God, pointing to the church age. This is why Revelation 2-3 is revealed first, before God’s judgment on the whole world.
And this is Jesus Christ’s first line of business, because He is the head of all churches all across the world that bears His holy name. As it is written,
Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the Saviour of the body.
Colossians 1:18 And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.
It is unusual how the Apostle Peter uses the word judgment here in 1 Peter 4:15. Because it is usually used in the context of punishment.
Judgment: ‘Verdict; decree; A period of time; sentence; punishment.”
But the meaning here is used more as “correction,” which is one of God’s ways to bring His people back to Himself in repentance. Reminding us that this-or-that happened because of our drifting away from Him; and that’s what Revelation chapters 2-3 is really all about.
Revelation 2:1-5 (The Loveless Church)
Verse 1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, Who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
This tells us the fact that Jesus Christ is speaking here. Because, remember back in our past studies, John was taken up into Heaven in the spirit, He heard Jesus Christ’s voice (Revelation 1:9-11).
And as John turned to see who was speaking, he saw Jesus Christ is His full eternal glory in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks (Revelation 1:13)
John also noticed the seven stars in the right hand of Jesus Christ as well (Revelation 1:16). So, we know this is He who is also speaking here to the angel of the church of Ephesus, to dictate the following verses of 2-7.
Now before we go on any further in this study, we need to address the background of Ephesus, since Jesus Christ is addressing an important issue He has against this specific church
A Quick Background of Ephesus
Ephesus was a large seaport city on the west coast of Asia Minor (in modern day Turkey), which sits at the mouth of the Cayster/Menderes River. The Apostle Paul was the one who established the church here for the cause of Jesus Christ our Lord around AD 52.
Besides its bustling commerce, impressive buildings and theater, Ephesus was also known as the epicenter for pagan worship of diana (also known as artemis). In fact, the massive temple of diana was one of the “seven wonders” of the world.
And the Ephesians worship to diana, was so prominent here, that they minted coins with this inscription, “Diana of The Ephesians.” Which was meant to be a direct mockery against Christianity and Jesus Christ.
The reason why I say this is because in the Book of Acts 19:34, this phrase was recorded, when Demetrius started a riot in Ephesus against the Christian movement.
The Apostle Paul also noted a coppersmith in Ephesus, by the name of Alexander, who has done great evil against Christianity as well in 2 Timothy 4:14.
Which illustrates how prominent pagan worship was in Ephesus. In fact Timothy was martyred in Ephesus during a pagan festival known as Catagogion in AD. 97; for standing against it.
“Timothy was the celebrated disciple of St. Paul, and bishop of Ephesus, where he zealously governed the church till A.D. 97. At this period, as the pagans were about to celebrate a feast called Catagogion, Timothy meeting the procession, severely reproved them for their ridiculous idolatry, which so exasperated the people, that they fell upon him with their clubs, and beat him in so dreadful a manner, that he expired of the bruises two days after.”excerpt from the Foxes Book of Martyrs pg. 13
Yet Christianity continued to thrive here in Ephesus in spite,
“Many traditions testify that the Apostle John lived in Ephesus toward the end of the first century. In his vision from the island of Patmos off the coast of Asia Minor, John described the church of Ephesus as flourishing, Although It was troubled with false teachers and had lost its first love (Revelation 2:1-7).
In the sixth century A.D the Roman Emperor Justinian (A.D. 527-565) raised a magnificent church to John’s memory in this city. Ephesus continued to play a prominent role in the history of the early church. A long line of bishops in the Eastern church lived there. In A.D. 431 the Council of Ephesus officially condemned the Nestorian heresy.”excerpt from the Nelson’s Illustrated Dictionary of The Bible: pg. 346
Also historically noted, after the once thriving port was eventually buried by river silt, an earthquake that partially damaged the city, and hundreds of years after wars, revolts and takeovers; Ephesus was eventually abandoned in the 15th century.
Jesus Christ Knows All Our Labours In Detail
Jesus Christ’s first line of business, He is pointing out all the good fruits the church body of Ephesus were doing, is right.
Verse 2-3 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: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
Notice, He says, “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience,” which reveals to us immediately, this powerful revelation: He walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks in verse 1; meaning, He actually walks among all His church body.
And He knows everything about every church. He sees every little detail such as our works, or the lack thereof. How hard we work for the Kingdom of God, whether full-heartedly or not.
He knows what every church in all the world teaches, or refuses to teach according to His word. He knows in detail every denomination who has perverted (adding to and subtracting from) His teachings. He has heard and knows our complaints. He has seen the hidden sins.
He also knows in detail the intent of every heart and how much we have endured in opposition and tolerated liars who call themselves something they are not. He has seen and knows our fruits and labourings. There is nothing hidden from Jesus Christ.
This also shows that Jesus Christ is Omnipresent, just like God His Father is. He’s not just in Heaven as our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).
And walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks before the throne of God Most High His Father. But He is also here on earth observing, because He says, “I Know thy works…”
We see that they were doing good works. They were active in the works of Jesus Christ. Ministering His gospel, labouring, bearing the burdens over lost souls of sinners. As He revealed, “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience;” “And hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast laboured”
Patient in crazy oppositions, because remember, Ephesus was the epicenter of serious pagan worship of diana, as Luke records in the Book of Acts 19:23-41. Which Jesus Christ also pointed out in their good works, “and how thou canst not bear them which are evil.”
No matter what they all went through as Christians in a pagan city, they never gave up, they pressed in and endured, “and hast not fainted.”
They didn’t lack the love for others or for one another as their title, ‘The Loveless Church’ at first glance would suggest.
That part of the body of Christ were even active in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially discerning false ministries and character of people who were trying to pull wool over their eyes, “and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:”
A Close Relationship With God Is The Principle Thing
So, He first commends them for all their good works for His name’s sake. But the one serious thing Jesus Christ found against them. Here is His verdict, here is His judgment, His correction if you will; He has this one thing against them in Verse 4 ‘Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.’
So, what does this mean exactly? Jesus Christ is pointing out, they backslid away from their relationship with Him. Meaning, they had forsaken their close intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, “their first love.”
They found that the works were more important, then prayer, fellowship and an intimate communion with God. And that’s really a dangerous place to be in, not just as a church body, but also individually as well.
“In essence, they had not forsaken the work of the Lord, BUT… they had forgotten the Lord who empowers the work.”
You see, the reality is, your prayers and your work for the Lord will not be effective until you establish that close relationship with Jesus Christ first, and continue in that closeness with God. This is why Jesus Christ died and raised from the dead for. For the remission of our sins and reconcile us back to God His Father.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
That ministry of reconciliation is establishing that relationship, fellowship and communion with God His Father through Jesus Christ. And to be empowered by God to do His work effectively through the power of His Holy Spirit.
“Fellowship with God produces effective work. Anointed work is produced as a result of our relationship with God and Jesus Christ. And that’s what the church of Ephesus has lacked and forgotten.”
So, Jesus Christ our Lord is reminding them as well as us today, He appreciates the work we do for the Kingdom of God. But ultimately our relationship with God and Jesus Christ empowers His work, He calls us to do.
Because first of all, it is His ministry that He privileged you with; and it is His power that anoints His work through you, not our slave efforts.
He’s the One that blesses it. We can pray and beg God with 5-minute prayers and an hour or two of a laundry list of wishes to bless whatever we are doing. But until we humble ourselves and submit unto God, full-hearted!
Living the lifestyle of worship! Living according to His holy and righteous standards! Singing songs and hymns and Spiritual songs to the LORD! Having daily fellowship, communion with God and with the Holy Spirit, in reading and studying His word daily, and in prayer, as the result of our love and affections for God!
Until that happens, He will never bless what you are doing! Even if you have a calling on your life according to His perfect will! Because His will first, is to be honored and glorified, praised, worshiped and adored; having fellowship by you; His born-again children!
He cannot use anyone who are not surrendered to Him completely! When we are, then He will bless the work of our hands He has called us to!
The Lord is showing us also, that He and His Father desires to have that close relationship with us like a father to sons and daughters’ kind of a relationship. Like a friend. Not like a master and servant.
Even Jesus Christ expounds on this in John 15:5-16 I Am the Vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.
If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples. As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.
These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
This is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.
Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you.
The Lord Jesus Christ is pointing out: what the most important thing we can be doing first, is having that close relationship He longs for with us. And THAT produces powerful results in the work. Powerful praying; blessed in the fire of the Holy Ghost, and effective anointed teaching and preaching of His word.
And this is not just for the church of Ephesus then only. This is a warning from Jesus Christ directly for all of us today, in the entire church age from beginning to end! Because, believe it or not, this is a common problem throughout the church age then and now!
Next, Jesus Christ doesn’t leave them hanging there in their sin. He gives them the only cure, the remedy for their backslid condition,
Verse 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works;
And what is “the first works” that Jesus Christ is referring to? Love the Lord thy God with all our hearts, strength, mind, body and soul. This is exactly what Jesus Christ taught in,
Matthew 22:36-38 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.
To have that close fellowship, relationship with Jesus Christ, their first love that they all started out with.
He also says, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen,” Remember where you were from the beginning of your relationship with Jesus Christ, to where you are at right now. See how far you have fallen. See where the church body has fallen from the days of the Book of Acts 1 & 2!
You see, Jesus Christ is emphasizing the importance of being close to God, through Himself. The importance of that close intimacy with Christ, because our salvation and the power of God in us, working through us depends on it.
If you have fallen away from Christ, from that close relationship with Him, then don’t expect to enter the kingdom of Heaven, unless you repent, meaning to forsake completely that backslidden condition. And draw close to Jesus Christ again as you were when you first got saved.
He ministers this in Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in Heaven.
Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.
He’s teaching here that our salvation is hinged on our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. “I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” shows us that if we do not take the time to have that close relationship with God, then He doesn’t know us. And strangers to God will not enter His place of Paradise.
His warning to all of us unto repentance, shows us that He desires all His church body to succeed not fail. He leaves us all with this choice to repent or not, because in the next line, He also outlines the consequence for not heeding His instructions to succeed, He says,
or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
The consequence is, removing the churches’ candlestick from the it’s place in the throne room of God. This means the removal of that part of the church body, who refuses to repent of this specific sin from their place in Paradise.
Those who refuse to repent from this sin will not make it into Paradise, unless you repent and turn back to Jesus Christ full-heartedly.
You see, He leaves the responsibility on us all, whether we as a church body succeed or fail. That’s not up to Him, that’s solely on us individually, whether those who are in this apostate condition repent from this sin or not. It’s entirely our choice what we do with His direction.
This is why Jesus Christ emphasizes relationship as our first priority with God. Because our salvation in Jesus Christ truly depends on our relationship with God