1“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
2“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.
3I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.
4But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
5Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
6Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
“The sins or failings [of the seven churches] seem to suggest a pattern or sequence. That is, each sin, when encountered in temptation and then in commission, leads to the following temptation or sin.
- When Christians leave their ‘first love’ for Christ (2:4),
- There then follows the sin, or at least the temptation, of fear (2:10).
- Fear then gives way or leads into the sin of attempting to serve both God and mammon,
- And thus the danger of idolatry as exampled by Balaam and Balak (2:14).
- The sin or temptation of idolatry can lead into the error of the teaching of Jezebel (2:20), which denies the uniqueness of Christianity, and which in turn gives way to a deadness (3:1) of faith and heart.
- Once this has happened there is no longer the desire to take full advantage of opportunities to serve others in proclaiming the Gospel (3:8).
- The final sin which results from these is that of being ‘lukewarm’ (3:16) in one’s relationship with the Lord Christ. Once this has happened, one is fit only to be separated from the Lord by being cast of out of his holy presence.”
Brighton, L. A. ©1999. Revelation (p. 62). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House.
The first church addressed by Jesus is Ephesus. Ephesus ultimately became the provincial capital of the region within the Roman Empire. By the writing of Revelation it had a population of around a quarter of a million people. It was an important commercial center and was the hub of three great trade routes. The worship of the Roman Emperor flourished in Ephesus and during the reign of Domitian, which coincided with the writing of Revelation, persecution of the Christians was rampant. The church in Ephesus was known for its sanctity and steadfastness.
- The angel of the church: There is dispute as to exactly who this might be. Most commentators fall into two camps. 1. This is an actual angel – the guardian of that church; or 2. The bishop or head pastor of the church. Since the word ‘angel’ always refers to an actual angel in the rest of Revelation that is probably the cleanest interpretation.
- Jesus is the One who holds the seven stars and walks among the seven lampstands. The stars are the angels of the churches and the lampstands are the churches.
- Jesus commends the Ephesians for their ability to recognize false apostles and teachers. He also commends their patience in the face of the suffering they had to endure under the false worship of the Caesars.
- Their warning comes in regards to the loss of their “first love.” It appears they may have become lax in the passion for the Lord. This apathy is the deadly foundation of the sins mentioned against the next six churches.
- Finally comes the call for repentance.
As will be true with all of the warnings to the seven churches, we do well to heed them for ourselves. Anyone who has walked in the faith for more than a few months will be able to tell you that our one of our greatest enemies isn’t the devil; it’s our own feeble brains that grow bored or weary of everyday spirituality. We fall into complacency and that is the first step on the long slow road to a world of sin and pain. Losing sight of your passion for the Lord is tragic and 100% relatable, usually happening slowly and subtly. It’s the “frog in the kettle” syndrome. You don’t even know you’ve slid into that apathy until it owns you and things are out of hand.
But Jesus also gives the remedy: Repent! Recognize your need of His saving work and throw yourself at His feet – every day. Repent of letting other passions rise up and replace Him in your heart. Repent of entertaining sin and allowing yourself to wallow in it. Repent of forgetting your first love. He is faithfully there to forgive you every time and His Spirit will rekindle your fire.
Dear Lord Jesus, I can write about this with deep understanding for apathy is one of my greatest enemies. The words “I don’t care” slip from my mouth with ease and regularity. I am sorry for those times when I have allowed my apathy to take me over and I have forgotten my first love. Please forgive me and renew my spirit so that I am dedicated to You with every breath. In Your name I pray. Amen.