January 19, 2003
A Message to Ephesus, Revelation 2:1-7
2:1 Tw/| avgge,lw| th/j VEfe,si,nhj evkklhsi,aj gra,yon\ Ta,de le,gei o` kratw/n tou.j e`pta. avste,raj evn th/| dexia/| auvtou/ o` peripatw/n evn me,sw| tw/n e`pta. lucniw/n tw/n crusw/n\ 2:2 Oi=da ta. e;rga sou kai. to.n ko,pon sou kai. th.n u`pomonh,n sou( kai. o[ti ouv du,nh| basta,sai kakou,j kai. evpeira,sw tou.j fa,skontaj ei=nai avposto,louj kai. ouvk eivsi,n kai. eu-rej auvtou.j yeudei/j 2:3 kai. evba,stasaj kai. u`pomonh.n e;ceij kai. dia. to. o;noma, mou kekopi,akaj kai. ouv ke,kmhkaj 2:4 avllV e;cw kata. sou/ o[ti th.n avga,phn sou th.n prw,thn avfh/kaj 2:5 mnhmo,neue ou=n po,qen evkpe,ptwkaj( kai. metano,hson kai. ta. prw/ta e;rga poi,hson\ eiv de. mh, e;rcomai, soi ta,cei kai. kinh,sw th.n lucni,an sou evk tou/ to,pou auvth/j eva.n mh. metanoh,sh|j 2:6 avlla. tou/to e;ceij o[ti misei/j ta. e;rga tw/n Nikolai?tw/n a] kavgw. misw/ 2:7 o` e;cwn ou=j avkousa,tw ti, to. pneu/ma le,gei tai/j evkklhsi,aij tw/| nikw/nti dw,sw auvtw/| fagei/n evk tou/ xu,lou th/j zwh/j o[ evstin evn me,sw/ tou/ paradei,sou tou/ qeou/
Tw/| avgge,lw| th/j VEfe,si,nhj evkklhsi,aj gra,yon\ Ta,de le,gei o` kratw/n tou.j e`pta. avste,raj evn th/| dexia/| auvtou/ o` peripatw/n evn me,sw| tw/n e`pta. lucniw/n tw/n crusw/n\
To the angel the one at the church of Ephesus, write: “These things sayith the one holding the seven stars in His right, the one walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:”
First of all, it should be stated that these are letters to seven literal churches that co-existed at the time of John’s writing. These addresses are given in the same order as their listing in chapter 1 verse 11. The ordering is not based on any type of suceession, but rather on proximity to Patmos, with Ephesus being the closest. I think another important note to make here is that while this chapter division denotes an individualized message to each of the seven churches, it is made quite clear in 1:11 that everything John saw was to be written in one book and distributed to all seven churches.
Concerning the two present participles in this verse, o` kratw/n and o` peripatw/n, this verse animates His power and His majesty. He is “the Holding One”; and who can separate His loved ones from His grasp? Likewise, He is “the Walking One”; and is always ready to intervene on bahalf of His churches. There is no chance of a true church, in its service and zealousy to Him, to out pace Him. He is always walking about and can be found in their midst.
Oi=da ta. e;rga sou kai. to.n ko,pon sou kai. th.n u`pomonh,n sou( kai. o[ti ouv du,nh| basta,sai kakou,j kai. evpeira,sw tou.j fa,skontaj ei=nai avposto,louj kai. ouvk eivsi,n kai. eu-rej auvtou.j yeudei/j
I know your works, and your hardships, and your perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate foul ones; and put to the test the ones alleging to be apostles and are not, and found them liars.
The Greek word Oi=da is used here to denote an intellectual knowledge of the works of the Ephesian elders. Comprising this knowledge is a tri-fold knowledge of their works, hardships and perseverence. There is undoubtedly a difference between one’s works and one’s labors here. One speaks of responsibility. The other speaks of actual sweat and tears associated with one’s occupation or position. Finally, we are told that Christ even knows of the duration of their daily struggles in carrying out their offices. These elders had absolutely no tolerance for worthless church members. In the KJV, the term used here is evil. But the Greek makes clear that these are not evil in terms of anti-christs. These are kakou,j— base, good-for-nothing individuals. Some of these even considered themselves to be apostles, but were not. No doubt, this also includes members who are poor students of the Word of God. These elders did not possess any capacity to welcome such characteristics and tried them. The two infinitives used here, basta,sai and evpeira,sw, are both in the aorist tense. I think the distinction is that they did not spend their time searching for false teachers. There are those, who are zealous, who find it their mission in life to seek out all false prophets. The tend to key in on any flaw and magnify it greatly. That is not what occured with regards to these false teachers. False teachers will manifest themselves without the need for turning over rocks. It is in the passive discovery of such individuals that we should try them by the Word of God, and then deal accordingly.
Just to point out, in our day, there are many who occupy the office of a pastor, yet do not labor as a pastor, nor possess much perseverance in being faithful to God’s word. It is much easier, today, to use another preacher’s outlines to derive a lesson or message. It is far too convenient to guilt others into servitude, while avoiding service altogether. Men, entering the ministry, expect a form of steroid christianity. They want to show the effects of spiritual development, but without putting in their own sweat. The end result is that they are malnourished with a derivitive theology that would leave a child anemic.
kai. evba,stasaj kai. u`pomonh.n e;ceij kai. dia. to. o;noma, mou kekopi,akaj kai. ouv ke,kmhkaj
And you bore and possess patient endurance, and because of my name have laboured and have not discouraged,
This verse reiterates the work, hardships and perseverance of the previous verse. It is important to note that these elders could go through such hardships on account of the Lord. The word dia. is used here. When used in the accusative it means on account of or because of. In other words, these elders, in careful execution of their office, had no choice but to endure such affliction. This is not to undermine their willingness to serve. But when a man is born again and created as a new creature, he is created as a willing bond-slave to Christ’s righteousness. There is no real way to separate this characteristic from his nature. To suggest such a possibility is to suggest that the re-birth is a flawed process on the part of the Holy Spirit. The process is not flawed, but rather the materials utilized are flawed. The end result is that the born again child of God will endure affliction for His name’s sake, though at times he will commit acts of sin. Thus, the Christian, and certainly the elder, can be fully expected to carry out the imperatives of 2Timothy 4:2-5.
avllV e;cw kata. sou/ o[ti th.n avga,phn sou th.n prw,thn avfh/kaj
But I have against you that your first love you left.
Despite their earlier tendencies concerning those false teachers among them, these elders, and probably the church as well, changed their habits from what distinguished them favorably. They left their first love, which can only come as a result of an improper faith in the Word of God. This is not to say that they no longer believed God’s word. Instead, it is merely to say that they were caught up with other issues. Rather than seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, they looked to the problems and disputes. As mentioned in the commentary on verse 2, it is important to focus on Christ and His word and not upon the falacies and errors of the generation. They are there. And there must be an acknowledgement of them. But to dwell on them, especially to the point of despair, is not wise. When such conditions exist, brotherly love departs as suspicion takes root. Upon detection, it is vital that the child of God repent and turn back to the careful administration of the Word of God. It is far too easy to get pulled into the trenches of issues and causes. Once there, it is all too hard to get back on to the main path. To a certain extent this is probably by design. It is in the recognition of our own tendencies that we often grow spiritually. At all costs, we must be faithful to God’s word.
mnhmo,neue ou=n po,qen evkpe,ptwkaj( kai. metano,hson kai. ta. prw/ta e;rga poi,hson\ eiv de. mh, e;rcomai, soi ta,cei kai. kinh,sw th.n lucni,an sou evk tou/ to,pou auvth/j eva.n mh. metanoh,sh|j
Remember, therefore, from where you have run aground, and repent, and the first works do; and if not, I come to you quickly, and I will remove your lampstand from its place— if you do not repent.
The remedy for the condition of the previous verse can be found wrapped up in three imperatives listed here. The first, mnhmo,neue, is in the present durative tense— keep making mention of or keep on remembering. This first imperative is to be constantly practiced in our individual lives. This is not necessarily introspection. It certainly isn’t for self-flogging. The purpose of this imperative is to remind us that God has chosen to glorify Himself through the use of corrupt vessels. While we have been saved from our bondage to sin, we still suffer from indwelling sin and corruption, and will continue to do so until the resurrection. Therefore, we must continue to bear this in mind as we are to also constantly consider every departure from true faith and practice.
The second key imperative found in this verse is metano,hson. Unlike the previous command, which is intended for constant practice, this one is issued in the aorist tense. It is meant to be carried out with a great sense of urgency and immediacy. With the utmost importance we must have our hearts and minds changed that they may once again be consistent with God’s word. It is not enough to feel bad about our state. It is not even enough to agree with God that our actions are sinful. Neither of these is proper repentance. Proper repentance is never gradual in its process. To view our actions as sinful, yet to continue in them, is to make folly of them. Contrarily, when we actually come to the place where we agree with God, we will find ourselves so constrained to do the will of God that our hearts, minds, and members will yield themselves accordingly and swiftly.
Like the previous imperative, poi,hson is also in the aorist. By turning back to the first works, we will once again love Christ’s words and keep them. We will also love the brethren— even when they may appear to be unlovable. Therefore, we must do the first works with all determination and readiness of mind.
Closing off this verse is a stern warning for those who will not repent. The warning isn’t that Christ will come to remedy the situation Himself. He is already coming quickly. In the case of the local church, Christ may already be present to distribute the cure. In fact, the fix may already be administered. How many churches find themselves in decline these days. While numerical analysis is not a sure fire method of determining a church’s health. It cannot be altogether dismissed either. Likewise, those churches, which have experienced tremendous numerical growth at the expense of sound doctrine, are also in danger of having their lampstand removed. The death of a church is not signified by the lights going out for good. That is simply the final manifestation of a longstanding condition. Regardless of the outward signs, the elders, as well as the membership, need to be dilligent in their faithfulness to God’s word. This is always the best preventative medicine.
avlla. tou/to e;ceij o[ti misei/j ta. e;rga tw/n Nikolai?tw/n a] kavgw. misw/
But this you have, that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Once again, there is a kind observation and a bit of hope for this church as they are found to hate heresy, which God also hates. This is not a contradiction to the warning against becoming overly critical. Proper faith and obedience to the scripture will result in detesting any and all inconsistencies to the same. But again, this is very much different than dwelling on evil doing. It is both sad and ironic when our own zealousy of the scriptures turns into idolatry.
o` e;cwn ou=j avkousa,tw ti, to. pneu/ma le,gei tai/j evkklhsi,aij tw/| nikw/nti dw,sw auvtw/| fagei/n evk tou/ xu,lou th/j zwh/j o[ evstin evn me,sw/ tou/ paradei,sou tou/ qeou/
The one having an ear— give heed to what the Spirit says to the churches. To the overcoming one, I will permit him to eat of the wood of the life, which is in the middle of the paradise of God.
Here is a final admonition to the Ephesians. It is an intensely personal plea. We have the present participial form of e;cw, combined with the noun, ou=j. While I’ve translated this as “the one having an ear”, it can also be translated as “the one possessing hearing”. This is to whom the plea is made. Now follows the admonition. Avkousa,tw is the aorist imperative form of the verb avkou,w; which means to hear, give heed to, understand, or even to give a judicial hearing. The use of the aorist imperative means to execute this command with the greatest sense of urgency. But the use of this particular verb means more than to just listen. It means to listen with the purpose of understanding.
Now comes the reassurance from the Lord. Those who are victorious, and only those, will receive a reward from God. There are some professing believers who are under the impression that at the end of age, God will reveal Himself to be much more compassionate and mericiful than we have given Him credit. The God will go an extra step and forgive even those who have ignored His pleas. But this particular participial phrase makes it quite clear that any reward is strictly reserved to the one who overcomes. To these, God will allow to eat or to consume of the cross of His son. In other words, we will be allowed to benefit from it. Not only this, but we’re reminded that this wood of the life is in the middle of God’s paradise. This is the same paradise where Paul was caught up to in 2Corinthians 12. Likewise it is where Jesus promised to meet the malefactor in Luke 23.