A lot of folks love Revelation because it is the “end of the book.” Revelation allows us to glimpse into how everything is going to turn out. And while there is struggle and there is pain in that book, in the end we can sum up the whole book with a simple phrase: “God wins.” Others avoid the book because it has a lot of language that paints a picture of what John saw. Some of the language represents things on earth, for instance, the lampstands representing real flesh and blood churches which were in existence when John had his vision. But some of the descriptions are hard to comprehend, like the images of the creatures in Revelation 4.
However, if we don’t delve into Revelation, we’ll miss some key lessons for living as Christ would have us live. For instance, we miss the instructions to those flesh and blood churches. And that’s where we’ll spend the next seven days of devotionals. We’ll look at the instruction given to each church and look at how those words are applicable to our daily walk with the Lord. First up is the church in Ephesus.
“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:
‘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; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 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. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 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.’
– Revelation 2:1-7, NASB
There’s a lot to commend the church in Ephesus for. The believers were faithful, even when the going was tough. They didn’t put up with those who sought to do evil. They rightly applied Scripture and checked out the credentials of those who claimed to be Jesus’ apostles. And those that were false were identified as such. When persecution and trials came because they were believers, they didn’t back down, they didn’t give up, and they didn’t desert their faith. Also, they are commended for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans. We don’t know anything that’s been proven conclusively about the Nicolaitans and why Christ hated them, but apparently what they were doing ran contrary to God’s instruction. Maybe archaeology will one day turn up more about this group of people, but for now, we can simply remember the following warning Paul gave:
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! – Galatians 1:8-9, NASB
So the church in Ephesus had a lot going for it. We can take the following from what they were commended for:
– Our faith should lead us towards good deeds and acts of love.
– Our faith should lead us to persevere in times of trial.
– We should be able to examine our leaders and verify their authenticity based on God’s Word.
– We must not stand for the deeds which are contrary to Christ’s teachings. By the way, based on the Sermon on the Mount, this first starts with our own commission of deeds.
But Christ also had a warning for this Church. He said they had forgotten their first love: Him. If they didn’t return to Him as being the foremost of their affections, they were wrong. And He would eventually eliminate the church there. Think about that for a minute. Think about the state of many churches today. In all honesty, is their first love Jesus Christ? Or are they caught up in all the other things? Would He deliver a similar judgment to these churches? What about us as His people? Is He our first love? Or in the busyness of life, has something else taken His place?
Putting all this together, we see there are several important life lessons in Jesus’ words to the church in Ephesus. But the one about first love, that’s the strongest message of all. We could be doing everything right, but if we’re not doing them for the right reasons, our love for our Savior, we’re still wrong. Therefore, Jesus must be our first love. And when He is, all the other lessons fall out as a result.