Revelation 2:1-7 – Ephesus – 2024 Feb 15

Here we are!  We are beginning the seven letters to the seven churches!  There is a lot of stuff in here, as there is in all of Scripture, but we will have to leave some of this for future study or to do for yourselves!    I am so grateful and appreciative of what the Lord has done and how he blesses us with His word.

There are a great deal of historical facts we know about Ephesus, and Chuck Missler’s commentary on Revelation, which you can now find in its entirety on YouTube on the Koinonia House channel (that’s his old outfit from when he lived here on earth).  If you want a very key understanding of the historical facts, you should definitely watch that series.  It should not be our goal here to duplicate Dr. Missler’s work, but we will point it out when it is relevant.  I like Chuck Missler, but he isn’t the only bible scholar I have read or heard.  For the record, Chuck was not a Doctor of religious studies.  His doctorate was in Information Systems.

There is a theory that I first noted many years ago when I read Miller’s Church History when I was in university.  It goes like this, and interestingly does not work if the churches are in any other order than they appear in chapters 2 and 3.  The seven churches, while being real churches with the real problems that our Lord addressed, represent all of church sequential history.  If you look at church history as a whole, it seems to bear out this pattern.  We go from the Apostolic church in Ephesus to the persecuted church in Smyrna, then the church that compromised in Pergamum, to the church that ruled politically (some ID this with the Catholic church) at Thyatira, then to Sardis (if Thyatira is Catholicism, then Sardis is the Reformation church) the dead church, through Philadelphia the missional church, into the church that does everything by majority vote apart from the Spirit of God, Laodicea.  That is more or less a pretty good historical description of church history as a whole, though there are always shining lights in all of those places that either skew or blind some to the history taking place.  Miller is not the only individual to hold this view.  Certainly, Chuck Missler did, and a number of other scholars I have either heard or read.  Those would include Drs. MacArthur and Lawson to name a few, and I think also Justin Peters, though I could be wrong on that last one.  It is seen as somewhat (though not completely) dispensational because it discusses different “dispensations” or periods of time in church history.  I think though we should examine the theory ourselves to see if it holds water, rather than just telling people that all of this happened before AD 70 like a postmillennial or spiritualizing the content like an amillennial.  I won’t reject those ideas out of hand, but on balance, I think this fits well into a premillennial model of eschatology, of which dispensationalism is a specific subcategory. 

This is important preamble.  Many of my Christian friends and influences are in fact from the amillennial camp, but I can’t align myself with that intellectually.  If the millennium in which Christ reigns is now, the Biblical prerequisite for that is that Satan should be bound for that time period.  Friends, if Satan is already bound, I think they made his chains a little long.  Postmillennialism has the same issue, and there are clearly NT prophecies that have yet to happen or are perhaps happening now.  These ideas also seem to me to be intellectually unsatisfying.  A former pastor I know called these options intellectually lazy.  These things must have resolution, and this book is where they resolve.  I can’t tell people that it has already happened or spiritualize it all away.  That leaves me to be premillennial, and if not dispensational, at least near that territory, and I have to be if I am to be faithful in conscience to my Lord, with respect to my brothers in Christ who do not agree.  I am not trying to pick a fight here, I am trying to accurately handle the word of truth for the souls that God has put in my care.  If you can help with that, your comments below are welcome.  If you just want to fight, your comments will be ignored and possibly deleted if we here at think you’re just being contentious and mean.  We should all be here to learn, and that’s what I will humbly try to accomplish for the sake of the body of Christ.

Having said all that by way of introduction, I broke tonight’s passage down as follows:

KV5:  A Lifestyle of Repentance Breeds Love

5:  Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.

1-3:  Praise for faithful keeping of the Testimony

4-6:  Rebuke for leaving the first priority

7:  A Promise to the Overcomer

My emphasis in this study is to speak of Christ’s message to the church at Ephesus and how that applies to us.  As such, it assumes that you are already a follower of Christ.  Because you are either at a Bible Study here with us or are watching the livestream, it is our job to make sure you know what that means.  A follower of Christ is the result of two things:  Repentance and faith.  Repentance is simply changing your mind and admitting that you are a sinner and have sinned.  You can be as specific as you need to be with the Lord, He knows the truth already anyway.  Admit that to Him and maybe to yourself!  You have sinned against a just and holy God who is not okay with that.  Then have faith in His Son, also God (the same God).  God loves you so much that He sent His only Son to become human for all those who would ever believe in Him to pay for our wrongdoings against Him, and He did it willingly and gladly because of that love for us and for His Father.  That believing, or faith, placed in Him and admitted out loud before Him will save you for eternity if you really repented and really believed.  And if you think this journey ends there, you are SO wrong…

It continues into our study this evening, certainly, and we get that right from the title I gave the chapter.

KV5:  A Lifestyle of Repentance Breeds Love

5:  Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.

Who is the Lord saying must repent?  The church at Ephesus, HIS PEOPLE!  Those who have believed!  Beloved, I have been in a place that departed from those first works, and the testimony of Christ was removed because of a genuine lack of repentance.  Ironically, I preached on this very passage about a month or so before all the events took place that ended the fellowship, and before that, my time there.  I was there for about 15 years, nearly as long as I have been here, and after that place, for a year or so, I couldn’t go anywhere.  I had to heal, and I know I am not the only one that was in that boat.  At least one other fellow from there goes here also.  The other thing I needed to do was REPENT.  Yes, I had to change my mind about a few things…more than a few really…and tell God that He was God and that He was right and I was not.  We ended up here for a while, because I recognized the name on the marquis out by the driveway into the parking lot.  The fellow who was the interim pastor here then was the chaplain at Carleton University when I was a student, and I think my first year was his first year there.  We spoke, and here we are now.  He’s still a member here, incidentally.

The habits that I formed then are still in place now.  It was a habit of repenting and walking with Christ in the Spirit that He provided, and then failing, and doing it again.  I fail less over time, but I still repent.  Interestingly, the longer I walk with the Lord, the more I repent, because I hate sin more all the time.  Recently, I heard John MacArthur preach that it really SHOULD be that way for the believer, and I am now developing, or continuing to develop, the idea that repentance is more than a one-time action that is necessary for our justification before God.  It is an ongoing process that needs to become our lifestyle as God uses the hard things in our lives to purify us.  This will cause us to love Him more, and will cause His love to spill out of us toward all humankind, through the leaky vessels, or “cracked pots” that Paul told us we are in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12.  “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.”  Earthenware vessels tend to crack easily and leak.  That is by intention, apparently.  That life and blessing is intended to flow out of us as we are broken while walking with Him.

Too often today, this is not the case in churches.  Churches over Superbowl weekend were troublesome to me.  One had a team that literally punted a Bible across the sanctuary.  She was a good kicker, apparently.  Beloved, why would a church, which is a body supposedly founded upon and governed by the written Word of God Himself, treat that selfsame Word of God with that kind of disrespect?  I believe it starts here in Ephesus and works its way down to that punting away of the Scriptures literally or figuratively over time.  The process is here in Ephesians and has been at work for a while, at least from what I can discern from the text.  We’ll jump in here.

1-3:  Praise for faithful keeping of the Testimony

This is where I have to remind you that I am not simply talking about “going to church” on Sundays.  First, as you all know, you cannot go to church, you ARE the church, or at least members of it, those living stones that Peter names us, being built up into the house of God.  I think Ephesus knew this truth, and it is what kept them going even when their motivation for doing so was left in the dust.  We’ll say more about that later.  Second, your Christianity is to be on display seven days out of the seven-day week, beloved.  All 24 hours in the day, all 365 days of the year.  If it is on display less, then you MUST repent.  Otherwise, you are not being faithful to that holy calling of God, and that will have consequences for you, which we will see in a bit.  That said, Ephesus was faithful here, and we’ll get into the text here.

1:  To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:  The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:

  • The first thing to see here is the specificity of the address.  It is to the “angel,” who I take to be the lead pastor in our modern terms, of the church that was located in Ephesus.  Also, it is Jesus Himself who is dictating the letter, just to remind ourselves that John is merely the scribe here.  The letter here is to Ephesus, that place in Asia Minor that was home to the Greek “goddess” Artemis, also known as the Roman “goddess” of Diana.  It is also the place where the Apostle Paul stopped an outreach tradition.  He had before this been known to go to the synagogue to try to reason the Jews into faith by discussing the Scriptures.  When they told him to take a hike, I think by putting him out of the synagogue, He figuratively shook the dust off his feet and went out to the Gentiles, settling for more than 2 years at the School of Tyrannus, which we call the beginnings of campus outreach (with our tongues planted firmly in our cheeks).  From this, one of the most important churches in history was born, with Paul being its first pastor.  That was later given to Timothy, and although it is not clear here, may still have been the pastor there when this letter arrived, or maybe it had moved on to someone else.  Either way, this letter is addressed to them personally by Christ.  It takes the form of a report card of sorts, and I will thank Dr. Chuck Missler for the term, as do all the letters to these seven churches.
  • The title that the Lord takes to Himself for identification is always appropriate for that church given their situation.  Here, He is as John saw Him, seven stars that represent the pastors of the seven churches in His mighty hand, and who is walking in the midst of the lampstands, showing that He is not simply passive and sitting by in the administration of those who name His name.  He is clearly “the One who is in charge.”  I personally get the impression that he’s adding, “…so listen up!”  That’s where I grew up and who I am in there, I suspect, but it does seem to fit. 

2:  I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;

  • I find this next statement both comforting and a little frightening.  “I know you.”  The Greek word translated as “know” is oida, and the equivalent Hebrew verb is ‘yada.  This is used in the sense that Adam “knew His wife.”  There is an intimacy here.  I know you.  I know everything about you.  I know all of the things you do.  (I know your deeds, as it says in the text.)  Christ knows us, and He knows all of us collectively in the same way, intimately.  He saw the “toil.”  The hard work, the beating out of the crops in harvesting is the picture here.  The perseverance.  Hupomone. That “remaining under” the effort and the suffering it may produce.  These things for Christians are seen as GOOD things, and I have preached on that recently as you may recall.  It’s on our church sermon lists at any rate.
  • They cannot and will not tolerate evil men.  That Greek word [kakous] means a person that is lacking in good qualities that SHOULD be possessed.  Those who are bad in character either (a) morally, by way of thinking, feeling or acting, or (b) in the sense of what is injurious or baneful.  Either meaning or both work here, and that is what Vine indicates in his Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.  It can also mean things, but in this case, it means people because of the context coming from the next phrase.
  • You put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false.  Well, this isn’t the first time we have encountered false apostles in Scripture.  Paul ran into them in Corinth.  His fourth and final letter to the church at Corinth (Second Corinthians), and it was written to address these guys who called themselves “super apostles.”  Paul even wrote a second letter to the Thessalonians to undo a fake letter written by some guy claiming to be HIM!  Peter and John as well as Jude both speak about these false teachers, who I might add, always seem to claim to be sent by God with apostolic authority.  How do we spot them?  Well, today, usually they are claiming to be apostles or prophets and they yammer in some babble they call the gift of tongues.  In the days of these letters, it wasn’t so simple.  I think the first bunch of what one of those false apostles calls “heresy hunters” were tasked with knowing the true teachings of Christ and His Apostles so well that what is false stood out immediately.  Counterfeit money today is spotted the same way, and it isn’t a bad way to do it.  Doctrine matters, Beloved.  We are not commanded as Christians to “give those who call themselves brothers the benefit of the doubt.”  John tells us in 1 John 4:1 to TEST the spirits, or to exercise discernment.  We are not to go easy on these guys (and girls!).  We are NOT to tolerate them, but are to find them false and then warn everyone to avoid them!  THAT is what Jesus Himself calls GOOD here!  This was the exercise that was being done in the church at Ephesus.

3:  and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.

  • After some research into the Greek and reasoning, I think I am safe in saying that we could translate this verse as, “…and you have patiently carried on in these tasks for my Name’s sake and have not grown weary.”  The word for “endured” here gives the image of lifting heavy stones off of something to bring it to light, or to carry away something heavy, to bear something as a burden.  It is heavy and one would have to “remain under,” [hupomone] that.  Why?  Well, for the sake of Christ’s name.  The special praise here is that they had not grown weary in guarding the good name of Christ in all of their deeds.
  • Think about that for a moment.  We as believers are often cast into a bad light by the world, more and more as time seems to be winding down.  We are called bigots because we say there are only two sexes in humans, and that “gender” is a linguistic issue, and there are only three.  By degree, I am a biologist, and I can tell you that in humans there are only two natural sexes, male and female, and you normally need one of each to naturally produce offspring.  That is what I learned at Carleton University here in Ottawa during the course of my education there, and in fact, all of biological science collapses if you mess with that model.  In non-humans there are two others, that is asexual and hermaphrodite, but neither of those occurs in humans.  For those who say there are humans with two sets of genitalia, that is true, but one set is always vestigial, that is non-functional.  These are extremely rare, and almost all of them are female with a vestigial male organ that is too small to use in any event.  I even know examples, but I don’t want to bore you with my scientific knowledge. 
  • That’s an example of things that many in our world today want to throw us under the bus for, sometimes literally I suspect.  We must have patience, we must bear this burden for the sake of Christ’s name, and we must not grow weary.  That means fellowship with other believers becomes important, as does the study of the Scriptures, prayer, and worshipping God every day by yourself, and at least once a week corporately, and I’m of the opinion that more is better.

Forgive me if I have difficulty resisting making practical applications to what the text says as we go.  I’m not sorry, and we need to be instructed in the way we need to walk, and sometimes even reasons why, and as Peter said in 1 Peter 1:12-13, “Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder…” 

But this is a sort of progress report for Ephesus, remember.  We will move on to areas they needed improvement.

4-6:  Rebuke for leaving the first priority

I mostly got fair to middling grades at least in grade school, and those improved to the point I let them in high school.  I could explain why, but I would get into places where it wasn’t nice to be me at times.  I had to keep my parents happy, so they had to be decent grades, but I had to be able to live and not get verbally assaulted as I walked down the hall, though that changed in the last year of high school.  So I picked a spot and aimed for it, and I hit what I was aiming at for the most part.  What I regret, and I suspect the Ephesians did as well, was that I was aiming for the wrong spot at times.  I should have been aiming for the highest spot possible.  I was saved between my grade 12 and grade 13 years, and it did make a difference for me scholastically, and it seems to have made that same kind of difference for the Ephesians, but we both suffered from a problem that seems common to both of us:  we did not set the right priorities.  For the believer, there should be one that is up at the top, and that is what the Lord criticizes them for.  Let’s see.

4:  But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

  • Well, Dr. Voddie Baucham said it best.  “If you can’t say amen, say ouch.”  Ouch.  Does anyone here now want to take a crack at what the first love of every Christian should be?  Anyone?  Just shout it out.  No shame for wrong answers, I’ll give you the right one. [wait]
  • Jesus Christ should be your first love.  He is God the Son that became human for YOU.  He lived a perfect life for YOU.  He laid that life down and died on the cross for YOUR sins, not His.  He paid the ultimate price to redeem you from eternal suffering in hell for YOU!  How can you NOT love Him for that?  God was so pleased with that sacrifice that He rose from the grave to PROVE all YOUR sins had been paid for, Beloved!  I say again, Jesus Christ should be your first love.
  • And they LEFT THAT.  The scripture is clear.  They didn’t lose it.  The Greek here is the word aphekes as used in the text.  This is in the Greek aorist tense, and it is a simple statement of fact, having been completed in the past and continuing into the present.  You left it then and you have still left it in the equivalent past perfect arrangement of this in English.  If the Apostle had meant “lose” he would have used some version of the word zemioo, to lose.  No, they left it, they didn’t lose it.  They LEFT it.
  • Have you ever started one thing for a particular reason and then continued it for a completely different reason?  I wonder if this principle was involved in a negative way in Ephesus.  Maybe it was a byproduct of the suffering that Christianity brought them.  Maybe they just grew weary in well-doing.  Whatever the reason was, or whatever combination of reasons it was, they forgot that it was “the One who is in charge” who was really in charge, and it was affecting their testimony to Him. 
  • Beloved, this is a pattern in the lives of Christians who are not constantly taking the time to cultivate that personal walk with Him in Love and in the Spirit.  It is a commitment that must be constantly renewed no matter what, and it is hard to do that all the time.  I know because this describes me also.  They are filled with joy and love when Christ first finds and saves them, and then for one of a dozen reasons or more, don’t go on with the same vigor they once did.  Maybe they ultimately leave, because they were never really His to begin with.  Maybe they don’t leave but they just settle for comfort and ease.  That’s my big temptation.  I am sure you are aware of this, but this sometimes takes more energy than I have to pull off.  I pull it off anyway, because Christ is my helper, and I just do all I can.  There have been times that I couldn’t think, I couldn’t focus my eyes to read, and I still pulled it off in Him with the help of the Holy Spirit.  There are other times that because of my health issues I had to forestall for a week or more between studies because I just couldn’t do it.  But we are still here because I love my Lord Jesus and He loved me first.  Maybe some in Ephesus had forgotten that.  Whatever their case, the Lord is about to give them the best remedy of all.

5:  Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.

  • Remember from where you have fallen.  I don’t think that the reason for that is to make you feel guilty as I once heard a family member suggest (I’m not sure if she was being serious or not, but she was Catholic, so guilt was a big motivator for her).  It is important when you are trying to return to a place that you know where you are in relation to the place that is your desired destination!  We need to know where we are, and then we can start in the right direction. 
  • Also, we need to change our minds about whatever took us away from our first love, Christ.  We need to stop doing it, commit to stop doing it, and then do something else.  That is the meaning of the word “repent” in English.  Then we need to do the deeds we did at first!  Does anyone want to take a guess what the very first deed is we need to perform?  I’m curious if you know.  I’m putting you on the spot a bit, but it isn’t fatal.  What do you think? [wait]  I will tell you directly:  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (Jn. 6:29).  Beloved, the very way we get back to the place we need to be is repentance and faith!  How were you justified?  Repentance and faith, right?  How are we being sanctified?  Repentance and faith!  There is no secret here! 
  • What does that involve?  It means we need to do the deeds we did at first, back when we were walking in the Spirit.  I believe here, and you will have a difficult time moving me away from this notion, that we must be SPECIFIC as we repent.  If you have a problem with stealing cars, you aren’t going to repent of your general sins.  You’re going to ask forgiveness for the cars you were involved in stealing, Beloved!  This is so simple that a child can understand this concept.  It isn’t rocket science, and I have done some rocket science!  I know the difference, and this isn’t rocket science!
  • There is something very serious for us here, though Beloved.  There are consequences that the Lord Himself gives if we will NOT repent.  It is a spiritual “or else” that we must heed.  If we will not return to our first Love of the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and obedience, He will come and remove our lampstand out of its place.  We will lose our status as one of His gatherings.  I’ve been in a place where this happened while it happened, and it was not a pleasant experience, Beloved!  And I might point out that evidently, Ephesus at some point ceased to walk as a spiritual gathering to Christ.  It used to have a harbour on the Aegean Sea.  Now it is 6 miles inland and is a city of ruins.  No one but archeologists lives there anymore, and tourists are the only ones who stroll through the city.  How sad.  Hopefully, that realization makes us all realize that we must labour for the Master from the dawn until the setting sun.  We must talk of all His wondrous love and care for us.  THEN when all of life is over and our work on this earth is done, and only then, when the Roll is called up yonder, will we appear there.  Otherwise…who can say?  All I know is that it will not be as pleasant.  Next verse.

6:  Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

  • This is an interesting thing.  Praise to the church after a call to repentance.  It is interesting in terms of modelling how to speak to others about their need to repent.  Start with praise for what they have actually done.  Then make the clear call to repentance and state any consequences for not doing it.  Then find more praise!  It’s very much like a course I took in how to write difficult emails where one had to deliver bad news of a disciplinary nature.  This is known as the “bad news sandwich,” and it is still used effectively in business today, and I have used it in those cases and also as a way of recording things like this in writing to fellow church members on very rare occasions.  I think Jason took the same course for his work as well.  But what is the Lord actually praising here?
  • He is praising them for hating the “deeds of the Nicolaitans,” which the Lord Jesus also states that He hates right here.  Nicolas was one of the original seven deacons selected in Acts 6:5 according to sources, and unlike all the others chosen, was a “proselyte,” meaning that he converted to Judaism, whereas the other six men were born into Jewish families.  Then he had a second “conversion” so-called from Judaism to Christianity.  I mention this because Irenaeus and Hippolytus both give us some of the details of what happened concerning Him, and I believe both of them call him the “spiritual father” of those who became known as the Nicolaitans.  Nicolas was originally found in the Scriptures as a “Proselyte of Antioch,” where I’m guessing he was from.  He was therefore originally a Pagan who converted to Judaism and then Christianity.  According to the aforementioned church fathers (and possibly others), Nicolas taught a doctrine of compromise with the world (which will figure into our next meeting with his followers in these letters).  He implied that separation between Christianity and occult paganism was not necessary to be a Christian.  (Gee, sounds eerily similar to the NAR movement.)  He was so immersed in occult practices and Judaism that he had no problem with intermingling different belief systems into various kinds of poison for the believer in terms of doctrine and practice.  This kind of compromise has a particular term for it today. We call it “syncretism.”  Learn that term, Beloved, and learn how to recognize it.
  • Another way of looking at the deeds of the Nicolaitans and is not mutually exclusive to Nicolas and his followers is to analyze the Greek word.  It is a compound Greek word.  Nikos, to conquer; Laos, the people.  It may have been that followers of Nicolas organized into groups of “priests” based on the Judaistic influences on Nicolas himself, and came up with a kind of “priestcraft” akin to mystical or occult practices today.  We will say more about this “conquering of the people” by a “priest” class when the deeds of the Nicolaitans becomes doctrine in Pergamum.  Christ hates both the structure of false priests over the people and the occult practices that take away the glory that is due to Him alone.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting the impression that walking with the Lord in the Spirit the way we are supposed to avoids a lot of things we should not be doing.  Is it a great deal of work?  Oh yes, it is.  Are we all lazy?  Some more than others, but yes.  One of the marks of spiritual leadership though is that they are not afraid of hard work.  Of any kind.  If that hard work is digging ditches, real spiritual leaders will find a shovel.  If it’s shovelling fertilizer, then where is the pile to shovel?  If it is carrying a soldier’s pack the legal maximum of one mile, then they are okay for the second mile.  If it is digging into the word to see what’s so, then that is what they do, and along the way, they equip themselves in the best way that they can as the Lord allows. 

My opinion is this.  Ephesus was doing it all right.  They had the right doctrine.  They had the right practices.  And those two things, even combined, as powerful as that is, are not enough.  If you do not work out of love for Christ, then nothing you do is enough.  If Christ is not therefore your highest and first priority, then your testimony to Christ will not be good, and will not be taken seriously by the world or by your brothers or sisters in Christ.  Because they love you, they may say things to you about it.  Don’t rebuff them in frustration and anger.  Instead, yield to Christ and see it for what it is–a desire that you enter into the best that God has for you as you walk away from your self-inflicted skubalon.

The whole point of this portion of the text is to get your priorities right.  If you can do that, then you simply do it, and you don’t whine that the Church Bible Study is on the night you like to play cards with friends, beloved!  The real question you need to answer for yourself here is this:  Do you love Him or not?  If you do, you will find a way to be at the bible study in my applicable example.  There are others I could make, like reading the Scriptures daily, finding time to pray, or making oneself presentable for fellowship with other believers.  Maybe even worshipping with them.  If you read that the Lord said it, you find a way to obey.  I’m not saying we get that right every time, but at least the effort is there.  If it isn’t, and all you want to do is please yourself, you cannot say that you love Him, because you are not obeying His personal call to you.  I’ll leave that off because a word to the wise is sufficient, and for those who will not be wise, there is nothing else that can be said to make you turn to Christ.

But if you turn to Christ, and in doing so, overcome yourself, there is a great promise, and you find a different promise in each letter.  Last paragraph.

7:  A Promise to the Overcomer

Each of these letters contains a promise to those who will repent and believe, and in so doing overcome themselves as their own biggest obstacle.  (Many do not realize that they are their own worst enemy occasionally, and that all of their pain is somewhat self-inflicted.). Those who overcome the challenge in the letter, in this case, to place Christ as your highest priority because you love Him and then let everything work out of that, will receive a particular promise.  Let’s look and see what that is.

7:  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’

  • The first thing in this verse is that it is clearly addressed to those who want to listen.  Those who value the Word of God, those who will obey.  Otherwise, why would anyone listen?  Many who name the name of Christ do not listen, though they think they do.  Examine yourself here to see if you are indeed in the faith.  Are you listening to the things Christ has to say?  Or are you pretending to love Christ and speaking spiritual words so that no one knows what is really going on with you?  The chances are, you’re not fooling anyone but yourself, just so you know. 
  • So let the one who has the ears to hear, actually HEAR what the Spirit of God is saying here to the churches.  To the one that overcomes, Christ will personally grant them the right to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in God’s paradise.  What?  What is this talking about?  Genesis 2:9 is the first mention of it.  “Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  Then in Genesis 3, as man rejected the rule of God and chose instead to be little “gods” against God, in verse 24, “So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.”  We as humans lost our access because of sin.  To the one that overcomes that sin through repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, that access will be restored.  For those that will not, no access will be given, and this too is an act of love.  If one wants to remain in their sin, they will be miserable in the presence of God, His paradise, don’t you think?
  • What does this mean?  I think this is true in detail, but like most things in Scripture, there is more to it.  Those who will repent and believe Christ will have eternal life!  Christ will grant those who believe Him and trust that He did what was necessary to pay the price for their sins eternal life!  Those whom God foreknew, He foreordained to be conformed to the image of Christ, and then called, and justified, and glorified them all!  Beloved, this is a glorious promise!  It is the promise of our ultimate salvation and reward, having our fellowship and access re-established by, to, and for Christ!  Praise the Lord.

In our “history of Christendom” theme, Ephesus represents the Apostolic church.  It is the one that the Apostles created and grew at the Lord Jesus’ command, and at this point, the only living Apostle left was writing this letter from a prison colony.  There are some major takeaways from this.  The first of those is that everything must come from love (agape if you needed to know) for Christ.  Anything done without that is NOT ENOUGH.  You WILL fail if you try to do this in your own strength or for any other reason.

Another big takeaway is that Syncretism in the Church is something Jesus HATES.  He used that word, and so should we.  This kind of puts the lie to Vatican II-style ecumenicism movements like Chrislam, the suggestion that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.  Allah is a false god, and YHWH is NOT Allah.  Sorry, not sorry if that offends people.  That’s just ONE example.  Christian TAROT CARDS?  That’s not a thing for real Christians.  That’s another.  The mixing of truth and error takes many forms, and those are just a couple of random examples.  Jesus says He HATES that.

A HUGE personal takeaway here is that most of the circumstances that we suffer from are in some measure self-inflicted.  We have our own narratives that we tell ourselves so we don’t feel stupid, and we tell others so we don’t lose public face.  Here’s a thought.  Some day, we will have to stand before the throne of Christ and give an account for all of those false narratives we have propagated about ourselves and the reasons we did them.  Does that sound like a good time to you?  It doesn’t to me.  I’m actively seeking those things out and repenting of them now, even in cases where I can’t change the consequences or outcomes anymore.  I recommend you do the same, because that is what it means to do the first works:  we repent, and then we believe.  May we do these things in obedience to Christ.

That’s what I saw in the text.

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