Main point summary
Jesus commends the Ephesian Church for her intolerance, but condemns the Ephesian Church for her original love of the Gospel growing cold
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of e him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, f who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
Τῷ ἀγγέλῳ ⸀ τῆς ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ἐκκλησίας γράψον· Τάδε λέγει ὁ κρατῶν τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἀστέρας ἐν τῇ δεξιᾷ αὐτοῦ, ὁ περιπατῶν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἑπτὰ λυχνιῶν τῶν χρυσῶν·
g “‘I know your works,
Οἶδα τὰ ἔργα σου,
and your toil
καὶ τὸν ⸀ κόπον
and your patient endurance,
καὶ τὴν ὑπομονήν σου,
and that you cannot tolerate evil people,
καὶ ὅτι οὐ δύνῃ βαστάσαι κακούς,
and h have tested those i who call themselves apostles
καὶ ἐπείρασας τοὺς λέγοντας ἑαυτοὺς ⸀ ἀποστόλους,
and are not,
καὶ οὐκ εἰσίν,
and found them to be false.
καὶ εὗρες αὐτοὺς ψευδεῖς·
and you are enduring patiently
καὶ ὑπομονὴν ἔχεις,
and bearing on account of my name,
καὶ ἐβάστασας διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου,
and you k have not grown weary.
καὶ ⸂ οὐ κεκοπίακες ⸃ .
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned l the love you had at first.
ἀλλὰ ἔχω κατὰ σοῦ ὅτι τὴν ἀγάπην σου τὴν πρώτην ἀφῆκες.
Remember therefore from where you have fallen;
μνημόνευε οὖν πόθεν ⸀ πέπτωκας,
and repent, and do m the works you did at first.
καὶ μετανόησον καὶ τὰ πρῶτα ἔργα ποίησον·
εἰ δὲ μή,
n I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
ἔρχομαί ⸀ σοι, καὶ κινήσω τὴν λυχνίαν σου ἐκ τοῦ τόπου αὐτῆς, ἐὰν μὴ μετανοήσῃς.
Yet this you have: you hate the works of o the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
ἀλλὰ τοῦτο ἔχεις ὅτι μισεῖς τὰ ἔργα τῶν Νικολαϊτῶν, ἃ κἀγὼ μισῶ.
p He who has an ear,
ὁ ἔχων οὖς
let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
ἀκουσάτω τί τὸ πνεῦμα λέγει ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις.
q To the one who conquers
I will grant to eat of r the tree of life, which is in s the paradise of God.’
δώσω αὐτῷ φαγεῖν ἐκ τοῦ ξύλου τῆς ζωῆς, ὅ ἐστιν ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ τοῦ ⸀ θεοῦ.
Gentry sees the first and the last letters as the churches most in trouble. Gentry sees the "leaving their first love" as losing fire for the Gospel and witness Greg Bahnsen Jesus walking among the lampstands was a subtle rebuke for them to be active in the work of witnessing for the sake of the Gospel James B. Jordan in his lectures on Revelation sees each as a day of the creation week, this is the creation of light on day one, hence references to light. James B. Jordan in his lectures on Revelation also sees these each as periods of history, so this would represent man in the garden, with God walking in the midst of the garden being like Jesus walking among the lampstands, and the lampstands were fashioned like almond trees, and the literal rendering for almond tree is watcher tree, so there's an idea of watching and evaluating. James B. Jordan in his lectures on Revelation presents this helpful chiasm: Ephesus: unified but compromised church. 1. To the angel write…. 2. Seven stars and seven lampstands. 3. I know good deed: Intolerance of evil. 3 ½. I have this against you: Left first love. 4. Repent: Do first deeds. 5 ½. I will come and remove lampstand. 5. You have this: Hate evil. 6. Listen to what has been written. 7. Eat of Tree of Life.
Revelation 2:1-7 SBL
2 1 Τῷ ἀγγέλῳ ^ τῆς ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ἐκκλησίας γράψον· Τάδε λέγει ὁ κρατῶν τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἀστέρας ἐν τῇ δεξιᾷ αὐτοῦ, ὁ περιπατῶν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἑπτὰ λυχνιῶν τῶν χρυσῶν· 2 Οἶδα τὰ ἔργα σου, καὶ τὸν ^ κόπον καὶ τὴν ὑπομονήν σου, καὶ ὅτι οὐ δύνῃ βαστάσαι κακούς, καὶ ἐπείρασας τοὺς λέγοντας ἑαυτοὺς ^ ἀποστόλους, καὶ οὐκ εἰσίν, καὶ εὗρες αὐτοὺς ψευδεῖς· 3 καὶ ὑπομονὴν ἔχεις, καὶ ἐβάστασας διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου, καὶ // οὐ κεκοπίακες \\ . 4 ἀλλὰ ἔχω κατὰ σοῦ ὅτι τὴν ἀγάπην σου τὴν πρώτην ἀφῆκες. 5 μνημόνευε οὖν πόθεν ^ πέπτωκας, καὶ μετανόησον καὶ τὰ πρῶτα ἔργα ποίησον· εἰ δὲ μή, ἔρχομαί ^ σοι, καὶ κινήσω τὴν λυχνίαν σου ἐκ τοῦ τόπου αὐτῆς, ἐὰν μὴ μετανοήσῃς. 6 ἀλλὰ τοῦτο ἔχεις ὅτι μισεῖς τὰ ἔργα τῶν Νικολαϊτῶν, ἃ κἀγὼ μισῶ. 7 ὁ ἔχων οὖς ἀκουσάτω τί τὸ πνεῦμα λέγει ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις. τῷ νικῶντι δώσω αὐτῷ φαγεῖν ἐκ τοῦ ξύλου τῆς ζωῆς, ὅ ἐστιν ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ τοῦ ^ θεοῦ.
Revelation 2:1-7 ESV
To the Church in Ephesus 2 1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of e him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, f who walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 g “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but h have tested those i who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up j for my name’s sake, and you k have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned l the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do m the works you did at first. If not, n I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of o the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 p He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. q To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of r the tree of life, which is in s the paradise of God.’
Amazingly here, Jesus commends the Ephesian Church for her intolerance. In our decadent and effeminate age, we, as rich and intellectual Christians, are tempted to make Christianity as comfortable as we can to worldly intellectuals, so we do not call out sins that might hurt our reputation. Instead, we just call out the ones that can be found in museums (I.E. slavery), or the ones that poor non-intellectuals are tempted to fall into (I.E. the prosperity Gospel). But then we tolerate worldliness, and worse, try and make the worldly people in our midst comfortable by never calling out sins that might make them leave (how often do you use the Bible's word "sodomy" to describe homosexuality?). Jesus would not be pleased by this. We might be more hot about the Gospel then the rapidly cooling Ephesian Church, but let's be rebuked by her faithfulness to hate the things Jesus hates. However, some of us do have that zealous heresy hunter in our soul; maybe you do hate the things Jesus hates? Maybe you do use words sodomy and effeminacy? If so, let's also be rebuked by Jesus' sobering accusation that the Ephesian church had abandoned her first love. G.K. Chesterton famously said, “A true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” Let us not let our zeal for contending for the faith cause us to lose the very object of the faith. This is very much like the Pharisees, the word "Pharisee" which is derived from a word meaning "separated ones." The Pharisees as a sect arose during the Hasmonean Dynasty in Israel during the intertestamental period and they courageously continued to keep God's Law when various parts of it were being forbidden by the wicked rulers over Israel. They started out good, not tolerating wicked laws. But, they lost their first love. Or, they lost the forest for the trees. Looking at the Sabbath, they were so preoccupied by trimming and maintaining the hedges around this sacred day, that they completely missed the reason the Lord hallowed and commanded us to keep the day in the first place, that namely, it was to be day of rest and blessing. And Jesus adeptly took this whole matter and brought it to a head when He restored the man's withered hand ( Mark 3:5 ), a totally gracious act completely in line with the heart of the Sabbath, but forbidden by very the rules they were so zealous about enforcing to guard that Sabbath. This was the only time we are explicitly told that Jesus was angry, " And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was restored." And l et's not forget, the title of "Pharisee" was respected during Jesus' day, so much so that the Sadducees somewhat feared the Pharisees, and it was Jesus who eternally besmirched their respectability to the point where "Pharisee" is a byword today. So, in the same way, let us be sobered by this: the Ephesian church does not exist anymore. Jesus did eventually remove their lampstand. But, let us rejoice that we serve such a gracious Lord. For, Jesus says to the Ephesian church, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first" ( Rev. 2:5 ). Think about God's gracious response to wicked Cain when he brings the wrong sacrifice, " Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it" (Gen. 4:6-7). Or, think about God's response to the repentance of one of one of Israel's worst kings, Ahab, in 1 Kings 21:25-29, “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house” ( 1 Kings 21:29 ). Yahweh who reveals Himself as “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in faithfulness and truth" (Exod. 34:6). This is the very essence of Who Yahweh is, He is a God Who eagerly watches and waits for our repentance to respond with overflowing mercy. And let us remember the words of the first of Martin Luther's 95 Theses, "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent'' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." The Christian life is one of continual repentance, let us repent of all the ways our love has gone cold, and let us do the work we did at first, recognizing that our God is a merciful and gracious God.