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The Church who Left Her First Love, Ephesus

(ef'-e-sus) (Ephesos, meaning "desirable"): A city of the Roman province of Asia, near the mouth of the Cayster river, 3 miles from the western coast of Asia Minor, and opposite the island of Samos. With a harbor accessible to the largest ships, standing at the entrance of the valley which reaches far into the interior of Asia Minor, and connected by highways with the chief cities of the province  Ephesus was the most easily accessible city in Asia, both by land and sea.  See map

Ephesus, at the time of the writing of the Revelation, was a city of great importance in Asia Minor. This city, with an approximate population of 225,000 was the gateway to and the capital of the Roman province of Asia and as such it was a city of great wealth, great culture, and great corruption both politically and socially. Of the seven churches of Asia Minor, Ephesus is the only one that we can trace to the beginning.

It is believed Paul established this congregation of God's people on the heels of Apollos who came through before him.  On Paul's third missionary journey he remained there two years preaching in the Jewish Synagogue (Acts 19:8,10).  As a result of this, "all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks" (Acts 19:10).   Timothy was an evangelist in Ephesus when Paul wrote both letters to Him.  The church in Ephesus had elders, "And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church" (Acts 20:17).  Thus we learn that the church in Ephesus was a tremendous influence on the spreading of the gospel throughout the Roman province of Asia. 

This church was not a tiny little congregation of the Lord's people nestled away in a remote community.  This congregation was the result of years of evangelism and instruction by Apostles and other great teachers.  This congregation was directly involved with the evangelism of the entire province of Asia.  This congregation was large and influential, located in one of the richest cities in all of the Roman Empire.  Thus the Christians in Ephesus developed a satisfied complacency in their service to God and allowed themselves to become a little too full of themselves.  As such they were not motivated by love and it appears that they desired the praises of men more than the praises of God. It is with this background that Christ addresses this Church.

The message to them was threefold.  Hard times are on the horizon, stop loving yourselves and return to your first love or suffer eternal consequences and he that overcomes will eat of the tree of life. 

Revelation 2:1
"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, he that walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks:"

As discussed earlier this is Jesus Christ who walks among the congregations of His church which is His body over which He rules as the head.   

"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."

Jesus calls attention to the good qualities the church was exhibiting.  They were rich in works and labor, they were being patient and faithful, they had encountered people who were evil and they could not bear them.  They had confronted and exposed false prophets.  They had worked for the name of Christ and not given up in spite of some pretty severe persecution. 

"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love."

Notwithstanding all the good works they had done, Jesus had something against them.  The importance of being a well rounded Christian complete and sound in the faith cannot be overstated.  We are commanded to Love Christ "out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned" (1 Timothy 1:5), and to "follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2:22).

Going through the motions of Christianity is not enough.  Evangelizing, visiting the sick, helping the widows and afflicted is for nothing if it not done out of love for Christ and for each other.  We are His bride, a bride is expected to love her husband. 

"Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent."

These Christians had fallen away from their first love.  They were going through the motions of Christianity but they didn't have their hearts in the right place.  They were told to repent.  Their departure from their first love was sin and Jesus said if they did not repent and return, He would remove their candlestick.  This can only mean one thing.  Christians of the first century were warned by Jesus Christ that they could lose their standing as a congregation of His church.  And they were doing everything right with only one exception and if they did not fix the problem, they were going to be rejected by Christ. 

The Church who would claim Jesus as her head cannot depart or deviate from the truth and trust in their righteous deeds to pull them through.  All of the good deeds and works we can do will not erase unrighteousness.  Jesus was unwilling to overlook this one thing in favor of all the rest of the good things they were accomplishing.  The importance of this cannot be overstated.  An entire congregation of the Lord's church can lose their candlestick, their light, their standing, their fellowship with Christ over a single shortcoming, except they repent. 

"But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."

How significant this is that Jesus would mention the Nicolaitans at this time.  The Nicolaitans started their apostasy with a single transgression.  They had been around for a while when Revelation was written, but in the beginning of their existence they started by eating meat sacrificed to idols.   There was a lot of pagan worship going on in the Roman Empire and many of them included animal sacrifices.  When these sacrifices were completed, the meat from the dead animals was used for huge public feasts.  The Nicolaitans wanted to participate in these feasts and they did so in transgression of God's will (Acts 15:29).  This was the beginning of their apostasy.  As time went on, they assimilated many of the other idolatrous pagan practices into their worship until it resembled nothing of Christian worship.   How fitting for Jesus to correct a church who was guilty of only one transgression and then conclude with an example of one that likewise started with one transgression and ended up far worse.  When Jesus mentioned the Nicolaitans to the Ephesian church, He used them as an example of where they could end up starting with but a single transgression. 

The application for us today is the same.  We are to be diligent to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15), contending earnestly for the faith that was once delivered (Jude 3), realizing and accepting that the commandments of men constitute vain worship in the eyes of God (Matthew 15:9, Mark 7:7).  Apostasy no matter how far from righteousness it may be in then end, starts with a single departure from the truth.  Jesus' warning to the church at Ephesus has just as much significance for the church today as it did for the church in Ephesus 2000 years ago.

"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God."

Finally, Jesus makes a promise to the faithful of Ephesus.  He was saying to them and to us today that He will give eternal life to those who remain faithful and overcome all obstacles and remain faithful to the end.  The application for us today is no different.  Christians of the 21st century are not any different than those of the 1st.  God's will has not changed in 2000 years.  Those of us today who hope to inherit eternal life must overcome and endure to the end. 

Church of Christ Lessons on the Revelation of Jesus Christ

1.  Understanding Revelation
2.  Symbolic Objects in Revelation
3.  Understanding the Numerical Symbolism in Revelation
4.  Identifying the Opposition Characters in Revelation
John's Introduction to the Churches of Asia

6.  John's Vision of Jesus Christ
7. The Church who Left Her First Love, Ephesus
8.  Smyrna, the Suffering Church
9.  Pergamum, the church in Hell's Headquarter
10.  Thyatira, the church that Condoned Sin
11. Sardis (The Dead Church)
12. Philadelphia (The Church With Opportunity)
13.  Laodicea (The Lukewarm Church)

14.  Letter to Your Church
15.  John's Throne Vision (chapter 4)
16.  God the Redeemer Revealed  (chapter 5)
17.  God the Avenger of His Children (Chapter 6)
18.  Who Will Be Able To Stand  (Chapter 7)
19.  The First Four Trumpets
(Chapter 8)
20.  The Fifth Trumpet (Chapter 9:1-12)
21.  The Sixth Trumpet Announcement (Chapter 9:13-21)
22. The Little Book and the Unutterable Thunders (Rev 10)
23.  The Seventh Trumpet Announcement (Rev 11)
24. The Conflict (Revelation 12)
25.  Revelation 13 (Identification of the First Beast)

26.  Revelation 13 (Identification of the Second Beast)

27.  Chapter 14 (The Victorious Lamb and the Redeemed)
28.  Revelation 14 (The Turning Point)
29.  Revelation 14 (The Sickle and the Winepress)
30.  Chapter 15 (Comfort for the Saints)
31.  Chapter 16 (Bowls of Wrath)
32.  Chapter 16 (The Battle of Armageddon)
33.  Chapter 17 (The Scarlet Woman)
34.  Chapter 18 (Fallen  is Babylon)

35.  King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Chapter 19)
36.  The Fall of Satan  (Chapter 20)
37.  Heaven, the Home of the Soul  (Chapter 21)
38.  The Spirit and the Bride Say Come  (Chapter 22)
39.  The Dating of the Revelation

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Revelation 21:5-7

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.  And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.  He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.