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Rev. 2: 1 In each of the seven letters Christ is described differently, to Ephesus He is set forth as: â€œHe that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.â€ The name Ephesus means desirable end. This was indeed the desirable church. The â€œStarsâ€ which are the messengers, are held in His right hand, the place of power and authority, and the only place where His servants can be sustained and strengthened. Christ walks in the midst of His church as the head of the church, and men take their instructions from Him [Ref. Eph. 1:22-23]. Christâ€™s true believers are safe in His hand and are led by Him. [Ref. John 10:27:30]. The â€œStarsâ€ are His light-bearers (pastors); He holds them. They derive their light and power from Him. In every assembly of believers where Christ is honored, as its Head, He walks among His own and takes a watchful interest in them. The assembly does not need to be a large number to have the blessings of the Divine Overseer, for He will honor two or Three who honor Him [Ref. Mt. 18:20]. Men may admire the fanciful buildings, but Christ is concerned with the â€œliving stones.â€ [Ref. 1Pet. 2:5]
Rev. 2:2-3 having all-seeing and discerning eyes, He knows and is therefore qualified to approve or disapprove. He approved Ephesus for their sacrificial service, their works and labor. The Greek word for â€œlaborâ€ â€œkoposâ€ toil, and means diligent labor even unto weariness and exhaustion. We see here the Lord is receiving great joy for the veritable beehive of the Holy Spirit directed activity at Ephesus. Ephesus weathered the storms against Judaism, legalism, paganism; their church life did not consist of the folding of hands and a listlessness of sitting through a sermon. This was a working church which pushed forward with anguish of soul for the salvation of lost men and women.
Ephesus saw to it that sinful and corrupt men did not hold office in the assembly. Christ approved them for their spiritual discernment. They knew what they believed and why they believed it and they were loyal to the truth. Being grounded in the truth they tested every traveling preacher that came their way. Christ commended Ephesus for ending hardships and not growing weary in serving God.
Rev. 2:4 Ephesus maintained a spirit of sacrifice, steadfastness, separation, and a keenness for detecting heresy, but they were guilty of a sin that only the Lord could detect. They had left their first love. Our Lord told His disciples, concerning the last days, â€œThe Love of many shall wax coldâ€ [Ref. Mt. 24:12]. First love is the love of espousals [Ref. Jer. 2:2]; the tender love of a bridegroom for His virgin bride [Ref. 2Cor. 11:2]; honeymoon love. It is the one thing our Lord wants more than anything else and the one thing He asked of Peter before He went away [Ref. John 21:15-17]. It is not in doctrinal errors, but in the loss of first love, that we find the root cause of the falling away in the Church.
Rev. 2:5 the first step for the Church toward rescue that has left her first love is in acknowledgment of the deed. The individuals pride may hurt to compare a victorious and joyous past with a sad and failing present, but there is no other way back to the first love. Do Christians need to repent, confess, and turn back to God? Yes [Ref. 1Jn. 1:9]! The only proof that the heart is sincere is that the believer returns to â€œdo the first works.â€ No individual Christian or local assembly can isolate the Holy Spirit and escape disaster. Christ pleads to His Church to give the Holy Spirit His rightful place, as Christ is not here in person. He said He was going away [Ref. Jn. 14:2]. We are to continue in our service not simply because it is right but because we love our first love. Christ warns us that if we do not respond, (repent, change our minds) the light of our witness to the community we serve will be extinguished; the lamp stand will be removed.
Rev. 2:6 The Nicolaitanes were an early heretical sect. The origin of this sect, and precisely what it believed and taught, will probably never be known by us, as scripture does not tells us other than the Lord had no use for them. The believers in Ephesus had no use for them either. We do know from the name given the sect (Nicolaitanes) what they did. They caused a division in the Church of Jesus Christ. Two words 1.â€Nikao,â€ meaning â€œto conquer,â€ and â€œLaosâ€ meaning â€œthe people or â€œlaity,â€ the clergy and the laity. When we come to the study of the situation existing in the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira, we shall find this system in full bloom, with bishops, archbishops, and other religious dignitaries who were dominating the people.
Rev. 2:7 we see here our Lord addresses to individuals in the church a promise to those who will hear. The promise is the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. We will see that the tree of life reappears for the believer and is resident in the New Jerusalem [Ref. Rev. 22:2]. We know from Genesis 3:22 that those who eat of it will never die. The New Jerusalem is seen to appear in the eternal kingdom for all believers who dwell with God the Father forever when Christ hands over the kingdom to God the Father at the end of the 1,000 year reign of the Millennium Kingdom on earth. [Ref. Rev. 21:3:10, 22].
Rev. 8 Our Lord Jesus Christ addresses Smyrna as â€œthe First and the Last, who died and came to life again.â€ Our Lord tells us that He is the Eternal One, who suffered death at the hands of the people of the prince to come (anti-christ) and then was resurrected from the grave. Smyrna could relate to Christâ€™s message as the church there was the most afflicted and persecuted of all the churches. Prophetically, Smyrna sets forth the age in church history when the church was persecuted beneath the iron heel of pagan Rome. The name of the city, Smyrna, means â€œmyrrhâ€ an ordinary perfume, used in the anointing oil of the tabernacle, and in embalming the dead bodies. While the Christians of the church at Smyrna were experiencing the bitterness of suffering, their â€œfaithfulnessâ€ in testimony of our Lord was like myrrh or sweet perfume to God.
Rev. 2:9 what a comfort it was to the Christians in Smyrna to know that Christ knew of their sufferings. Besides suffering persecution, they were also enduring extreme poverty, â€œptocheianâ€meaning, and destitution, destitute. Though they were extremely poor, they were rich in the wonderful promises Christ had given them [Ref. 2Cor. 6:10; James 2:5). They were being persecuted not only by pagan gentiles but also by hostile Jews and by Satan himself. We see that our Lord refers to the Jewish Synagogue as the synagogue of Satan. [Ref. Rev. 3:9]. Notable is the fact that there was no rebuke whatever for these faithful, suffering Christians. This is in striking contrast with our Lordâ€™s evaluation of five of the other six churches, which He rebuked. Smyrnaâ€™s sufferings, though extremely difficult, had helped keep them pre in faith and life.
Rev. 2:10 the words of Christ here to these suffering Christians were, an exhortation to have courage: Their severe trials were to continue by imprisonment and additional suffering for 10 days. We know that the church here from history suffered under the 10 pagan Roman rulers through A.D. 313. Christ tells these Christians and us to depend on Him, to be convinced of Him, to let Him be their strength and courage, for He became dead and is alive.
The â€œcrown of lifeâ€ is one of five crowns promised to the faithful believers when Christ returns, they are: 1. the incorruptible crown [Ref. 1 Cor. 9:25); 2. The soul-winners crown [Ref. Phil. 4:1; 1Thess. 2:19]. 3. The crown of righteousness [Ref. 2Tim. 4:8]; 4. The crown of glory [Ref. 1Pet. 5:4]; 5. The crown of life [Ref. James 1:12; Rev. 2:10). These are not to be worn on our heads in heave, but rather to be presented to our blessed Lord [Ref. Rev. 4:10]. Our suffering for Christ is that out of tribulation (endurance of suffering) comes triumph; out of persecution, the prize, out of death we come to reigning life with our Lord and Savior with eternal life.