Revelation 2:1-7 Part 5

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.


Let me read a couple of passages for you.  First, from Psalm 51:


“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: According to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me.

Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight; that thou mayest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part thou wilt make me to know wisdom.

Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”


And from Jeremiah chapter thirty-one:


“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people:

And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Yahveh; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Yahveh: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.”


The entire Older Scripture, of which these are only two of the many examples, prophesy a rebirth, by God, for His people.  This is Biblical doctrine that we are desperate to hear again and again……and then again!  For there is nothing more central to the Christian faith.  And there’s nothing more antagonistic to the Christian Faith than the attainment of “peace with God” by any other means!

God the Father loves God the Son and all those united to Him by rebirth into His new humanity.  There is no way for God to be pleased with fallen humanity other than being reborn into Christ’s humanity.

Some time ago we were blessed and pleased to read and hear the preaching from Matthew chapter nineteen.  That was the occasion in which the “rich young ruler” (as he is sometimes called) approached Jesus and asked what good thing he might do to be saved.

Matthew takes up a lot of space in his Gospel with this event, giving evidence to its importance.  And it is very important, since it deals with the rebirth!  And it is weighty and pre-imminent for our text this morning as we deal again with verse four – and then with verse five and beyond.

So, what does God say in His Word about the rebirth?  Listen to the apostle Paul in Titus 3:5:


“not by works which we did in righteousness, but according to His mercy He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”


The “washing of regeneration…….”

The word there, as we heard back in Matthew chapter nineteen, is “palingenesia”.  The prefix, “palig”, means “again”.  And “genesia” means “born”, or “life”.  So palingenesia means “reborn”, or “regenerated”, or “life again”!

Paul says that God saved us through the “washing” of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit.  “Washing” means the totality of the cleansing wrought by the Spirit of Christ as we are united in His body.  And “union with Christ” is light and life; it means death to the old man and life in the new Man Jesus Christ.  The “washing” or “cleansing” of rebirth removes us from the sin nature of Adam – it cleanses us of our degeneracy.  And it provides us with the perfections and virtues of Christ, which is righteousness!

Here’s another.  Listen to the apostle Peter in his first letter to the refugee Churches in the nations, chapter two and verse twenty four:


“Who carried up our sins onto the tree in His Own body in order that, dying to sin, we might live to righteousness, for which you were restored by the bruise” (the bruise referring to the early Genesis prophecy of the coming crucifixion of God’s Messiah).


The “bruising” (or crucifixion) of the Christ carried our sins to the tree with Him, separating us out from the sin life of Adam, in order that we might live to righteousness!  In Him we die to the “sin life” in Adam in order to live in the “righteousness life” in Christ.

Here’s another.  This very apostle who wrote our text, in his Gospel of Jesus Christ, chapter five and verse twenty-four, quotes Jesus Himself; and Jesus uses a very unusual word.  Listen:


“the one hearing My Word and believing the One Who sent Me has life eternally and comes not into judgment, but is ‘co-passed’ out of death into life.” 


Co-passed!  Passed out of death into life in Jesus.  The one hearing Jesus, and believing God the Father, is no longer dead – but alive!  And it was all accomplished when Jesus was resurrected out of death.

One more and I’ll quit.  In the apostle Peter’s first letter again, chapter one and verse three we read this:


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the One Who, because of His great mercy, regenerated us into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ out of death.” 


There’s our root word again – “regenerated”.  Except it has a different prefix this time.

It’s not “palig-genesia”, but “ana-genesia”.  This time it’s not “again life”; it is, in this case, the “raising up of new life” through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  So Peter, by using the word in this way, is saying that God our Father has “birthed us up” into a living hope in the raising up of Jesus Christ from death.  As Jesus was raised unto life from death, so we, upon being rebirthed, are raised up out of death with Him to be united to Him.

So there are a number of like expressions all through the Scripture, including the older texts, having to do with the very center of the faith.  And in every case the new birth is unto righteousness. It is “created new life” which dwells in righteousness.  Created new life does not dwell in sin.  It dwells in righteousness because it is separated from the sin life; because it is co-passed out of death; because it is birthed up with Christ from death unto life; because it is united to Christ in Whom dwells righteousness!

The “rich young ruler” of Matthew chapter nineteen wouldn’t give up his heritage!  He wouldn’t give it up to follow Jesus and be united to Him.  You see, the entire old heritage has to die in the incorporation into a new one!  Upon being united to Christ, there is an all-new heritage, and the old one dies!  When one becomes a Christian, the “Adam heritage” passes.  And the heritage of the Christ begins.

The rich young ruler wouldn’t give it up……it was his “first love”.

This was a very, very serious issue for some in the Church at Ephesus, since the enthroned Jesus Christ threatens the Church because of it.  The threat is to remove the lampstand!  Should some in the Church retain their love for their Jewish heritage, they were denying a new heritage in Jesus Christ – an extremely serious offense against the One Who stands in the midst of the lampstands, holding the Churches together in Himself.

Just as a sidelight here, I get painfully frustrated when I hear Christian ministers, Jewish rabbis and even some modern Islamic mullahs proclaim our joint heritage in Abraham.  “It’s a shame we can’t live in peace”, it is said.  “After all, the three great religions of the world all claim to have come from Abraham.”

But not only do Christians not have their heritage in Adam, but neither do we have our heritage in Abraham; and neither do we have our heritage in Moses; and neither do we have our heritage in king David.

Pharisaical judaism gloried in its heritage from Abraham, from Moses and from David.  And that was the one thing that ‘guaranteed’ them of God’s love.  God had brought them forth from Abraham, through Moses, and through David.  And God would always love them, no matter what!  And because of that, she would always survive; she would always flourish; she would always prosper……..even in hard times.  God would always bring them back.  And the glory of Israel would one day shine again as in the time of David and Solomon.  That was the first love of Israel’s Jews.

But Jesus told the rich young ruler that all of that had to go.  He had to give it all up, because to follow Jesus meant another heritage entirely!

Once when Jesus was teaching and healing, and there were huge crowds around Him, someone came and told Him that His mother and siblings were there.  Jesus’ comment was, “who are my mother and my siblings”?  The issue there wasn’t whether Jesus honored His parent; the issue was which heritage?  Jesus was the Second Adam; He was not of the line of the first Adam!  He was proclaiming the heritage and brotherhood of Himself and all His Father’s elect!

If you’re still wondering about comments about His mother, Jesus, when He was on the cross, gave her to the apostle John for her perpetual care; and it is speculated that she is buried somewhere on Patmos with the apostle (regardless of what the Roman Catholic Church says).  Whether that’s true is another issue; but Jesus did make provision for His mother.  And the apostle John did what Jesus required of him.  We can be certain of that.

But rebirth (paliggenesia) is the complete disconnect (death) from our birth heritage in Adam; and it is a new birth (life) into Christ Jesus.  Those in Him are “newborn little ones” who no longer have an ancestry in Adam (or Abraham, or Moses, or David, or our birth parents (unless they, too, are in Christ).

When Jesus sent the message to the Church at Ephesus, He said that they had suffered their first love - their first attachments, their first ancestry, their first heritage.  They had “suffered” it…..they had tolerated it, they had “indulged” it!  And if they didn’t repent, He would cut off the Church!  He would remove the lampstand.  The heritage in Jesus is exclusive!

Which brings us to the second part of the issue in verses four and five.  And that has to do with the exclusivity of our heritage in Christ Jesus the Second Adam.

The question is, should the Church indulge itself in tolerance of “bad actors” who demonstrate, by lifestyle or by teaching, that they have an allegiance to the first Adam, and not the Second Adam?

Should there be a demonstrated allegiance to the first Adam, what does that say about rebirth into Christ the Second Adam?  If we, as Jesus and all His apostles said, are to “die” to our former heritage and be united to Jesus Christ, having forfeited all else from which we came, how is the Church of Jesus Christ to respond to those who remain devoted to their former heritage?  Is that behavior to be “suffered” – tolerated?  Indulged?

Although the context specifically has to do with judaism and the Jews attempted requirements for Gentiles to be Christians (demonstrating, of course, their allegiance to their former Jewish heritage), there is a much broader inference here by our Lord, isn’t there?  And even though coming passages include instances in which our Lord Himself was forebearing and patient with some (as the apostles themselves were), there are lines which, having been crossed, bring judgmental threats from the King of Kings and Head of the Church!

You see, this Church in Ephesus, as is this Church in Tyler, was a congregation of covenanted, baptized people, in communion with one another as professing newborns in Christ!   And when allegiance to another heritage was demonstrated there in Ephesus, then our Lord issued a very serious threat to them!

And that ought to be very clear to us and all other Churches that bear His Name.  The Church must not allow anything other than the doctrine of Christ and His apostles to be taught.  And those bad actors, who consistently demonstrate by their lifestyles (and without repentance) that they have no regard for their professions and baptisms, must be dealt with by the Churches!  Like I said before, the threat to the Church is rather serious!  Before our Lord removes the Church’s lampstand and leaves the Church to its own demise, the congregation needs to be proactive.

Bad doctrine must be exposed so that Christ’s little ones can see it and recognize it; and bad behavior must be addressed. This is an exclusive group of newborns saved by grace.  And don’t even bring up the “judgmental” criticism, because that just won’t fly.  Bad doctrine and bad, unrepentant behavior testify to a lying profession and a disregard for one’s baptism.  And that comes from Jesus and His apostles – not from me.  We should be much more afraid of His threats than we are of the criticism of others.  He’s the One Who adopted us into His body; and He’s the One Who requires the exclusivity among the brothers; and He’s the One Who issues the threats against those who won’t retain that exclusivity.

What is Jesus requirement of the Church at Ephesus in order to avoid the threat of judgment?  Listen to Paul in Acts chapter twenty-six:


 19) Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

 20) But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

 21) For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.


What does Jesus require?  “Repent and do the first works.”

What does the apostle require of all those to whom he preaches?  “Repent and do the works meet for repentance.”

The “first works” are the works meet (appropriate) for repentance”.  Stop doing that which is inappropriate for anyone who lives united to Christ.  Turn and do all those things which are appropriate for one who lives united to Christ.

Listen to three verses from the Acts of the Apostles as they preach to Jews and Gentiles after Jesus’ resurrection:


“And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)


Repent ye therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Holy Spirit.”  (Acts 3:19)


Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray the Lord, if perhaps the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee.”  (Acts 8:22)


The first work of the Church is to repent of its sin against the Lord Jesus Christ, recognizing our Lord’s right to demand exclusive allegiance to Him.  For He is the One Who has covenanted with The Father and Holy Spirit for the death of the old man and the resurrection of the new man in Christ.  He has put the old man in Adam to death and provided His Father’s people a new life in Himself – the Second Adam.

As one of our greatest theologians of the past put it:  “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.”