Revelation 2:1-7 Part 3

1) Write the message for the Church in Ephesus:  The One Who holds the seven stars in His hand, the One Who moves about in the midst of the seven golden lampstands says these things.

2) I know your works, and your hardship, and your perseverance   and inability to bear evils, and putting those calling themselves apostles to the test and they aren’t and found them false,

3) and you have perseverance and did endure through My Name and not wearied.

4) But I have against you that you did suffer your first love.

5) Be remembering therefore from whence you fell, and repent and do the first works; but if not, I Am coming to you and I will remove your lampstand out of its place should you not repent.

6) But this you have, that you hate the works of the Nikolaitans which I too hate.

7) Let the one having an ear hear what the Spirit says to the churches: to the one overcoming I will give to him to eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God.


As we’ve seen on several occasions from the older Scripture, in the tabernacle and in the temple there was a golden lampstand just outside the holy of holies in the “holy place”.  It was a single lampstand; and it had seven “branches” and seven “lamps” which were fueled continuously with oil.  As you may remember, it was an earthly, man-made “picture” of the heavenly reality.  And that reality was the perfection (indicated by the “seven”) – the perfection of the covenantal unity of God’s people (the “Church”), fueled continuously by Holy Spirit.

But as we saw in the text of chapter one, we have something “new”, don’t we?  We have One like the Son of Man appearing in the midst of seven golden lampstands!  Not a lampstand with seven lamps; but seven lampstands!  And John doesn’t mention seeing a fuel-source for the lamps.

And the question has to be asked – and answered: what has happened?  What’s different?  Why is Jesus standing in the midst of seven golden lampstands, since the man-made temple was required to be furnished with a single lampstand with seven lamp-bowls with a fuel-source to each (a single fuel-source).

And, of course, the answer is the ascension to the throne of God by Jesus the God-man.  Before His resurrection and ascension, the Church had a centralized, national character.  And the unity of the Church was focused geographically – in Jerusalem.  The covenantal people of God was Israel.

But after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the Church – the new Israel – is multi-national, multi-centralized!  The Church is still a “seven” – still a unity – but what holds it together is no longer a covenant with one nation in a special, holy piece of real estate.  The unity of the Church is centered in Jesus.

The Church is no longer one covenanted nation, for it has been sent into all the world to take dominion in the name of the newly-crowned universal King of the nations.  There is no longer a special place on the earth that is “holy”; rather, the whole world has become “holy place”!  For Jesus Christ has redeemed it.

The glorious sight that John describes in chapter one is a blaze of glorious light because of Jesus, Who is in the “midst of them”.  It is He Who holds them together as a “seven”; and it is He Who feeds them and causes them to shine brightly in the world.

In “that which is to be done quickly”, Jesus will terminate the covenant with the nation symbolized by the single lampstand; and covenant with the nations of the earth as their King.  And His Church – pictured by the seven lampstands – will shine upon the whole earth with His glorious light.  And all the earth will see their good works and glorify the Father in the heavens.

The imagery in verses twelve and thirteen of chapter one is of Jesus, the Ascendant to the throne of God, Immanuel – God with us.  He is in the midst of the entire Church for which He died and was resurrected.  He is the One Lampstand from Whom all the Church receives its nourishment and its light.

 John saw seven golden lampstands, and like a Son of Man in the midst of them.  John recalls the prophecy of Daniel in which the earlier prophet saw One like a Son of Man.  It was the One Who would soon be the fifth great King Whose Kingdom would never end.

And in His message to the Church at Ephesus, He identifies Himself to the Ephesians as that great King of the nations, Who also, for the sake of His Father’s elect, has established His Church in all the nations; and Who also, Himself, holds that Church together in unity.

“I AM that One, Ephesians, Who John saw in the midst of seven lampstands.  I AM the One issuing this message for the Church in Ephesus.”

Jesus also tells John to write in the message for Ephesus, that He is the One Who holds the seven stars in His hand.  Let me remind you of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis twenty two: “that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the seashore. And thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies”.

While we’re on the correspondence between the large numbers of stars and the large numbers of Abraham’s “seed”, let me just read once again, from Moses’ Deuteronomy, what is prophesied should Israel not obey God.  Listen:

And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou didst not hearken unto the voice of Yahveh thy God (Deuteronomy twenty eight).

And then, after many such correspondences between men and stars, we begin to see just how God views these things.  Listen to Isaiah in His prophecy of Israel’s destruction:


9) Behold, the day of Yahveh cometh, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger; to make the land a desolation, and to destroy the sinners thereof out of it.

10) For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in its going forth, and the moon shall not cause its light to shine.

11) And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity: and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.

12) I will make a man more rare than fine gold, even a man than the pure gold of Ophir.

13) Therefore I will make the heavens to tremble, and the earth shall be shaken out of its place, in the wrath of Yahveh of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger (Isaiah chapter thirteen).


We begin to see, in the prophets, the terrible wrath of God toward judaism – Israel’s heretical religion.  And one of the similitudes, or equivalences, in His Revelation to the prophets, is His de-creating Israel’s “lights”.  Heaven and earth – Israel – had been created by God; and it had “lights”…….. i.e. prophets, and priests, and kings, and wise men- saints of God who were to lead Israel and be shining beacons to the Truth.

But in the wrath of God toward this adulterous and idolatrous nation, all of these “lights” would be turned off.  What light – what wisdom – what truth - they did have would be taken away from them.  Should you remember from our exegesis of Matthew chapter twenty four, this is exactly what Jesus said in answer to His disciples question “when shall these things be?”  Listen again:


“But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken (Matthew 24:29).


But listen to Daniel chapter twelve, which is the condition of the earth under the Kingship of the coming fifth great kingdom:


“And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”


So, what we see in the Scriptures is an equivalence between the righteous and wise in the coming King of Kings, and the brightness of the realm of the creation! ……..a “correspondence”, if you will, between rulers and kings and wise men and elders and leaders who righteously lead God’s people in truth of His covenant (all on the one hand), and the bright lights of the heavens which God so gloriously made in the similitude of His Own fiery Light.

And Jesus Christ says to the Church at Ephesus that He is the One Who holds the “lights” of creation in His right hand; and He is the One Who will destroy the wisdom of the greats of the old covenant nation, and raise up wisdom among the greats in His new Kingship.  He is the One Who has all of that in His hand (and it is a perfect “seven); and He is the One sending this “light” - this message to them!  HE says these things!


“I know your works, and your hardship, and your perseverance and inability to bear evils, and putting those calling themselves apostles to the test and they aren’t and found them false, and you have perseverance and did endure through My Name and not wearied.”


Doctor Luke tells us, in The Acts of the Apostles, that Ephesus was a hornet’s nest, or a plague spot, of Jewish occultism and the magical arts.  Throughout the nations, thoroughly apostate judaism was accommodating itself to many pagan ideologies and practices – occult wisdom, rabbinical lore, mystery religion, asceticism and licentiousness, jumbled up with some bits and pieces of Christian theology.  And this bastardized religious quackery was a symptom of all the heresies that tormented all the Churches of Jesus Christ in Asia and beyond.  So, in addition to all of the world order/Gentile depravity in Ephesus, thoroughly satanic judaism was all around them – and in their midst!

But the apostle Paul had exhorted the elders before he left them (as written by Luke in Acts 20:28-31)


“Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood. I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.”


But Jesus says to them, about five or six years later, here in our text:


“I know your works, and your hardship, and your perseverance and inability to bear evils, and putting those calling themselves apostles to the test and they aren’t and found them false, and you have perseverance and did endure through My Name and not wearied.”


Now, there’s a lot here in these two verses (two and three).  But let me give you an overview of them; and then I want to comment on a couple of the specifics.

The Church in Ephesus was well known among the Churches of Jesus Christ in the nations.  The apostolic letter to the Ephesians by the apostle Paul was a theological letter, and there is no “corrective” in it.  It’s the only one of his epistles without one!  So this was a “stout” Church theologically.  It heeded well the exhortation that Paul had given them when he was there: “Guard yourselves and all the flock of which Holy Spirit has made you overseers…….” he said.  There were “savage wolves” ready to tear them apart.  So, “be on your guard”!

Forty years later, as Ignatius (a post-apostolic father of the Church) observed in his letter to the Ephesians, “you all live according to truth, and no heresy has a home among you; indeed, you do not so much as listen to anyone if he speaks of anything except concerning Jesus Christ in truth.   I have learned that certain persons passed through you bringing evil doctrine; and you did not allow them to sow seeds among you, for you stopped up your ears so that you might not receive the seed sown by them.  You are arrayed from head to foot in the Commandments of Jesus Christ.”

This strict orthodoxy bespeaks a love for Jesus Christ and His atonement; it bespeaks a love for the Christ and what He was about to do; it bespeaks a love for living IN Christ Jesus in righteousness; it bespeaks a love for the apostles (two of whom had been their pastors); and it bespeaks a love for apostolic doctrine and preaching.  And, in addition, it speaks of a love for the members of the congregation, because the overseers were jealous for their safety and their faithfulness.

In my opinion this is the mark of our Lord’s Church.  It’s the heart of the matter.  Without a love of Christ and apostolic doctrine, and without jealousy for the safety and faithfulness of the whole membership, the Church isn’t what it was called into being!  The Church at Ephesus worked – toiled, under the harshest of conditions in order to persevere in The Faith.  And they didn’t “weary”; and they didn’t faint.  They received high praise from the Lord Jesus Christ because they wouldn’t put up with false doctrine and bad people.

That’s contrasted with today’s attitudes.  Even though we’re not under any ruthless and relentless persecution like they were, we’re still badgered constantly about our being exclusive and intolerant.  If any Church should ever have been aroused and induced, externally and internally, to less exclusivity and more tolerance it would have been the Church in Ephesus!  But, as our Lord’s message to them indicates, they were tenacious and persistent in their faithfulness to Jesus Christ and to His Church!  They wouldn’t allow the congregation of newborns in Christ Jesus to be exposed to false doctrine and bad practices!

And the enthroned Jesus, in the midst of the lampstands, and with the stars in His hand, praises the Church for these works.  It’s His Church!  He’s the One Who created it by shedding His blood and raising it out of death; and He’s the One holding it together in Himself.

And He’s the One Who, in the clearest terms, praises the Church for its works, in an atmosphere of toil and hardship; works having to do with intolerance of impiety and intolerance of false teachers!  Even in the context of Ephesus and all of its evil, they persevered in these works!

Let’s look at these two things a bit more closely…..verse two.  First Jesus praises the fact that the Church was just unable to bear evil.  The Greek word there is not “porneia”.  The word is “kakos”, which has to do with “bad things”, “wrong things”….. or bad people, or those who do bad things.

Porneia, as we’ve seen before, brings forth our word “pornography” (and others).  When God’s Word uses the word porneia, it is referring to things having a sexual focus and bringing death penalty and eternal punishment.  Israel, for example, was accused and convicted of adultery and whoredom; and it was divorced and executed.

But “kakos” is the word used of those things which are “bad”, but not necessarily sexual in nature.  And it has to do with people and the things they do!  It is bad behavior.  It is wrong behavior.  It is intemperate behavior.  It is impious behavior.

One commentator said (and I agree with him) that this would include those in the Church who were seemingly unaffected by the preaching of apostolic doctrine and who were unrepentant in attitude and lifestyle.  In other words, the behavior of some did not fit the definition of one who had been rebirthed into the body of Jesus the Christ!  And the enthroned Jesus, the One with all authority in the heavens and upon the earth, praises the fact that the Church just could not bear those whose demeanor and behavior and attitude were incompatible with being rebirthed into Christ.

Secondly (verse two), our Lord praises the Church at Ephesus for being good shepherds and watchmen who were willing to “sound the trumpet of alarm” concerning false teachers, prophets, and apostles.  The Church called them out!  And they put them to the test and tried them.  And they did so openly so that the congregation could see the errors!

This was a good thing!  It wasn’t seen by Jesus as being critical of others or their religion.  It was seen by Him, and openly praised, as required of the Church in order to persevere in the faith, and to love the worshippers of Christ, and to hold fast the faith.  That’s what He means in verse three.  The Church has persevered through all of this, including the bad behavior and the false teachers.  And all in the context of the satanic, Gentile world order, and in the context of judaistic persecution.

Jesus, as recorded by John in verse two, uses the word “apostles”….  “those calling themselves apostles”.  Now, the Churches knew who the apostles of Jesus Christ were, so they couldn’t be fooled by someone calling himself one of “the twelve”.  It’s probably the case that our Lord is using the word in the generic sense, in that the Greek word “apostolos” means “one sent”.  And it would include all of those claiming to be “sent” to them by whatever means; and it would cover teachers, evangelists, preachers, pastors, prophets, seers, mystics, judaists……. anyone on the scene claiming some special message or insight.

But the Church put them all to the test, trying them, exposing them should they not hold firmly to Jesus Christ and the doctrine of His apostles.  Whatever the case, their overseers would not allow their congregation to hear them; and they publicly exposed them as false.  That means they were “liars”.

This Church in Ephesus was greatly exposed to everything imaginable.  Especially hurtful and distressing was the judaists who pursued them and accused them and persecuted them, as Jesus had said they would.  I’m going to leave you this morning with some of the letter written to all the Churches by the apostle Jude from Jerusalem.  This pretty much tells the story in a few succinct lines:


“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ:

Mercy unto you and peace and love be multiplied.

Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.

For there are certain men crept in privily, even they who were of old written of beforehand unto this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Woe unto them! For they went in the way of Cain, and ran riotously in the error of Balaam for hire, and perished in the gainsaying of Korah.

These are they who are hidden rocks in your love-feasts when they feast with you, shepherds that without fear feed themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn leaves without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;

Wild waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the blackness of darkness hath been reserved forever.

And to these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones,

to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their works of ungodliness which they have ungodly wrought, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.

These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their lusts (and their mouth speaketh great swelling words), showing respect of persons for the sake of advantage.

But ye, beloved, remember ye the words which have been spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ;

That they said to you, In the last time there shall be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts.

These are they who make separations, sensual, having not the Spirit.

But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,

keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

And on some have mercy, who are in doubt;

and some save, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

Now unto him that is able to guard you from being snared, and to set you before the presence of his glory without blemish in exceeding joy,

to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and power, before all time, and now, and for evermore. Amen.