To get a better understanding of the church and the way it was intended to be, we are embarking on a sermon series called Seven Letters to Seven Churches. In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, Jesus sends specific messages to seven churches in what is now Asia Minor.
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John. Revelation 1:1
The apostle John is now an old man, close to 90 years old, and He encounters visions from the Lord that are now the book of Revelations.
I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Revelation 1:9
The Roman emperor had arrested and banished John to Patmos because of his work in Christianity. John is held captive there.
On the Lord’s Day, I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” Revelation 1:10-11
John has been instructed to send these letters to on a course from Ephesus to the following church, seven in total. Ephesus is about 60 miles away from Patmos.
These letters are like a checkup. He tells them what they do well, but he also lets them know that they are going off-course. The first letter went to the Church of Ephesus, which was the most prominent church. Jesus first gives the good news, but then He gives them the bad news: they are distracted.
Through this, we discover three vital truths about how Jesus relates to the church. The first is that Jesus is here.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. “ Revelation 2:1
Picture that image in your mind. The seven golden lampstands allude to the seven churches as they illuminate the areas around them with the truth of Christ.
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. Revelation 1:12-16
You may have heard of the omnipresence of God meaning that He is everywhere all at once. That includes walking amongst those churches then and includes here and now. This is a personal encounter with Christ; Jesus is here now.
The second thing we learn is that Jesus knows. He is not just here with us, but He knows us. We are open books to Him.
I know your deeds, your hard work, and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Revelation 2:2-3
This was a hardworking, steadfast, active church full of doers, and Jesus knows. The apostle Paul planted the Church of Ephesus about 40 years prior. Jesus says He knows its history, works, and people. This is true today. He sees and knows how GFC serves the community, the volunteers in the children’s ministry, the production team who shows up hours early, and those who show up tired, discouraged, and weary. He knows it all.
I know your deeds, your hard work, and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. …But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Revelation 2:2, 6
In several of these letters, Jesus refers to false teachings. There is a redefining of the truth of God to fit the societal wishes of the time. Ephesus was on the land bridge between Europe and Asia. It was swarming with languages, cultures, expectations, and desires from all different perspectives. It was not user-friendly for the local church. Jesus gives them a major compliment to say that they are hardworking, persevering, and guarding the truth.
Finally, we also learn that Jesus cares.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Revelation 2:4
It was a distracted church. With all of the activity and faithfulness and evangelism efforts, they lost sight and began to drift in their love for the Savior.
Have you drifted? Is your faith in cruise control or autopilot? We need continual renewal and revival.
Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the paradise of God. Revelation 2:5-7
Reflect on the original intentions, change your direction, and take action. Then, you will understand more deeply. Jesus commends them for the work they have done while prompting them to make better decisions moving forward.
What choices will you make differently as Jesus communes with your heart?
Jesus invites you into a relationship with Him. He encourages you to be renewed in spirit. He cares for you.