Revelation 2:1-7 Part 6

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 begin this morning at verse six, please listen to the Psalmist at Psalm 139:


17) How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of   them!

18) If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: When I awake, I am still with thee.

19) Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: Depart from me therefore, ye bloodthirsty men.

20) For they speak against thee wickedly, And thine enemies take thy name in  vain.

21) Do not I hate them, O Yahveh, that hate thee? And am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?

22) I hate them with perfect hatred: They are become mine enemies.

23) Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts;

24) And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.


As the Psalmist, here in this Psalm, so the Church at Ephesus loves the Lord and His Church to such an extent that it hates that which the Lord hates.  It loves the Lord by keeping true to His Word over against this sect called “Nikolaitans”.

This is, of course, reminiscent of Jesus’ words as recorded by this apostle John in his Gospel, chapter fourteen:

 21) He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him.

 22) Judas (not Iscariot) saith unto him, Lord, what is come to pass that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?

 23) Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.


Where such love for Him, His truth, and His Church shows itself by such hate of those who are out to oppose Him, there is great hope that this love may be revived to its pristine strength and original energy.  This is the whole “substance” of Jesus’ statement to the Church at Ephesus here in verse six.  And that message carries forth to all the Churches of that time; and it is applicable to all Churches of all times.

Of a “lesser” interest is the more local issue having to do with Nikolaitans.  It is an indisputable fact that our Lord’s warnings to these seven Churches (and therefore all Churches) are similar in nature.  But the warnings indicate that, as the Churches operate in the world order, and as they gather often to worship Him in His throne-room/holy of holies, He is very much imminent and personally involved with them.  And therefore He is personally acquainted with all of their trials, and their hardships and their sins.

And each of their “local” issues, as I said, is based in the overall context of Gentiles being added to the Church in increasing numbers.  And the local issue in Ephesus was “Nikolaitans”.  And our Lord Jesus addressed that local problem with great concern and with vehement hatred and threat!

I’m going to come back to the Nikolaitans in a bit; but first we have to see the overall context here.  And that overall context is the unity of all of those who have been rebirthed into the body of Jesus Christ, be they Jew or Gentile!  The apostles addressed this issue, as we’ve seen several times previously, in nearly every letter to the Churches.  And Paul made it very clear to them that there was no longer Jew or Gentile; but that we are all ONE in Him.  In other words, the heritage, whatever it happened to be before, is Adamic!  But those in Christ are no longer Adamic; they’re Christian!  They all have a new heritage in Christ.  That’s where the unity of the Church is centered.  And let me remind you once more of Jesus’ strong words to His disciples with regard to despising, or “thinking down” on even ONE of these “little ones” who are reborn into Him! (Matt. 18)

But you see, there are “issues” in the Churches.  How do the Churches continue to concentrate on their unity in Christ when all this “stuff” keeps coming up that tends to separate folks whose backgrounds and cultures are so drastically different?

These Churches belong to the Christ; they are “lampstands” in the midst of which our Lord stands, holding them together.  They are the ones for whom He died; and they are the recipients of the messages of created “light” which He holds in His hands.

And yet there is sin and disunity in them all.  And Jesus addresses them firmly and in no uncertain terms as He prepares them for the decreation of the old and the institution of the new…..a very frightening time which will look, to some, as the end of the created realm itself!

But, you see, our Lord isn’t messaging the Churches in a vacuum!  Each of the messages has a context; and that context can be accessed in chapter fifteen of Luke’s Acts of the Apostles.  I’m going to read for you most of this chapter, so please pay close attention to what’s going on here; because this event is filled with the context of Jesus’ messages to the seven Churches.

Here it is; and please keep your minds focused on the Scripture:


1) And certain men came down from Judaea and taught the brethren, saying, Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved.

 2) And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and questioning with them, the brethren appointed that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

 3) They therefore, being brought on their way by the church, passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.

 4) And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church and the apostles and the elders, and they rehearsed all things that God had done with them.

 5) But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees who believed, saying, It is needful to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses.

 6) And the apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider of this matter.

 7) And when there had been much questioning, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Brethren, ye know that a good while ago God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.

 8) And God, who knoweth the heart, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as he did unto us;

 9) and he made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts through faith.

 10) Now therefore why make ye trial of God, that ye should put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

 11) But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in like manner as they.

 12) And all the multitude kept silence; and they hearkened unto Barnabas and Paul rehearsing what signs and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles through them.

 13) And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Brethren, hearken unto me:

 14) Symeon hath rehearsed how first God visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.

 15) And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,

 16) “’After these things I will return, And I will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen; And I will build again the ruins thereof, And I will set it up:

 17) That the residue of men may seek after the Lord, And all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called”,

 18) ‘Saith the Lord, who maketh these things known from of old.’

 19) Wherefore my judgment is, that we trouble not them that from among the Gentiles turn to God;

 20) but that we write unto them, that they abstain from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from what is strangled, and from blood.

 21) For Moses from generations of old hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath.

 22) Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men out of their company, and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:

 23) and they wrote thus by them, The apostles and the elders, brethren, unto the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greeting:

 24) Forasmuch as we have heard that certain who went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls; to whom we gave no commandment;

 25) it seemed good unto us, having come to one accord, to choose out men and send them unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,

 26) men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 27) We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who themselves also shall tell you the same things by word of mouth.

 28) For it seemed good to Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:

 29) that ye abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood and from things strangled, and from fornication; from which if ye keep yourselves, it shall be well with you. Fare ye well.

 30) So they, when they were dismissed, came down to Antioch; and having gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter.

 31) And when they had read it, they rejoiced for the consolation.


What this letter from the first “general assembly” of the Church communicated to the Churches, had to do with the unity of all the members of Christ’s body!  Directly from the apostles and elders of the Church, it simply addressed the points of disunity that were troubling the Churches, and it provided great “consolation” to the local Churches.

The Gentile “world order” (especially in the light of the fertility cult of Diana) considered any sexual practice as just a part of normal life!  It was deemed external only, and “innocent” and “natural”, and nothing immoral. There was not even a “hint” of restraint on satanic and ungodly “porneia” (which, if you remember, is the New Testament word for sins with a sexual focus).  So Gentile converts were always being drawn into temptation toward that which was considered – not “immoral”, but “amoral” - in their former world order.  That’s why Paul had, later on, addressed the Gentiles in the Church at Corinth to “flee fornication”, for sexual pollution is deadly in whatever form it takes.  Therefore the apostles, moved along by the Spirit of Christ, instructed all the Churches to “abstain from fornication”.

Other sources of disunity among the Churches in the nations were issues having to do with food.  The Gentiles didn’t have any problems with eating things that had been sacrificed to idols, because they did that all the time; nor did they have qualms about eating meat with the blood in it – such as animals that had been strangled rather than “blooded”, or drained.

But the Jewish Christians had been eating “kosher” for fifteen hundred years!  So it was a source of some disunity in all of the Churches outside Israel.

The other issue addressed in the letter from the “general assembly” had to do with the judaizers that were “sent” from Israel to disrupt and disturb the peace of Christ’s Church in the nations.  (You remember that Jesus had warned His disciples that this was going to occur.)  And they were teaching and arguing that this Christian “sect” was Jewish in nature; therefore all Gentile believers had to be circumcised in order to be Christian. 

But the apostles would set this issue to rest in their epistles later on, as they explained that the former “mark” of God was now inconsequential in Christ, since He filled up that older mark by being ultimately “cut off” on the cross.  Baptism was now the mark of Christ for His people.

But this very short letter to the Churches from Holy Spirit and the apostles was for the purpose of alleviating those main sources of disunity between Jewish and Gentile Christians in the Churches.  And the letter was received by them; and they were all consoled by it, because it came from the apostles of Jesus Christ, having been moved along by Holy Spirit (as the letter says).  And since these messages to the Churches, here in our text, come from the same Jesus as the One Who sent out the letter from Jerusalem to the Churches, they all agree!

So there, you see, is the context for what we find in our Lord’s messages to the Churches here in Revelation two and three.  “It seemed good” to the Spirit of the resurrected and ascended and enthroned Jesus Christ, and the apostles and elders of His Church, to lay no further burden on the Churches, in order that the unity in the body of Jesus Christ be served.  Since the Spirit of Christ Himself, with His apostles, sent that letter to the Churches, it’s only right that we see these letters in the same light.

And while I’m at it, let me just say that it is incumbent upon us, who are rebirthed into the body of our Lord, to reduce and eliminate irritants to the unity which is to exist in brotherhood.  At the same time that we dispose of antagonists to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the doctrines of the apostles, it is of utmost importance that we exalt the prominence that Jesus Christ places on the brothers that He Himself has rebirthed into His body.  None of them are to be “dismissed”, “degraded”, “dishonored”, “belittled”, “diminished”, “humiliated”, “demoralized”, “dispirited”, “undervalued”, or otherwise led astray; for they all belong to Him and not to you!

Now.  The Nikolaitans.  Apparently there was this local sect in Ephesus which didn’t hold strictly to the teaching and preaching and epistles of the apostles regarding marriage and sexual matters.  And, as we’ll see in the rest of the messages, it had manifested itself in some of the other seven Churches. And judging from the tone of Jesus’ comment regarding them, the leader of that sect had once been a part of the Church, having become a member. 

Having cultivated a following through rational and crafty speech, formulated in agreement with his former pagan practice, he must have gathered some to himself for his own permissive behavior, which, as Jesus’ message states, was “hated” by the Church.  The message also implies that the Church dealt with it decisively.  And that was praised by our Lord.  That message from Jesus and His apostles at the first general assembly of the Church was upheld by the Ephesian Church and by Jesus Christ in this message in Revelation……..”abstain from fornication”.

That’s exactly what Jesus means, here in verse seven, when He says: “Let the one having an ear hear what the Spirit says to the Churches”.  Holy Spirit had spoken in the letter from the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 15).  And here the Spirit of our Lord speaks in the letter to the Churches from John.

Lastly, we have a promise from the Lord to the Ephesian Church and to its people.  It’s similar in all seven messages.  To the one conquering the hostile forces, there is great reward.  To the “victor” is a reward!  It is a gift of the Lord’s abounding grace.  “Overcoming” the hostility of the pagan world order; “overcoming” the hostility of judaists; “overcoming” those who would despise those newborn in Christ; “overcoming” those who would attack and defile apostolic doctrine; “overcoming” those who would promote fornication………  Jesus promised them the tree of life.

The “tree of life” translation is an acceptable one here in verse seven, although the word for “tree” isn’t used here.  It is the word for “wood”.  And it’s the same word that is used in a number of occasions for the cross.  So it is obviously referring to the salvation wrought by our Lord on the cross.  As we’ve seen on a number of occasions, apostolic doctrine teaches that we who belong to Him were “in Him” when He was crucified.  Therefore, as Jesus says here to the Church in Ephesus, we are vindicated as we overcome all hostility and remain faithful to our Lord.

The “paradise of God” is the blessings and benefits of salvation, having been united to Christ.  Although the full consummation of the promise in Him is brought in at the end of the present history, it is, right now, a present and increasing possession of the elect people of God in Christ.  To partake of “the tree” is to have, now, all of those blessings which we enjoy as we rest “in Him”.  But the one who overcomes, the one who conquers, the one who is victorious over the hostile world order, has the paradise of God in this life and forever, for paradise exists in eating the tree of life.  The Words were spoken by God in Genesis 2 verse 9, and Genesis 3 verse 24.

Here our Lord refers to the original Revelation of God to Moses regarding the paradise of God and the tree of life, all prophesying being united to Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.

It was all made evident, at the beginning, to Adam and his wife Eve; and God the Son now reminds the Church at Ephesus of that very same Revelation.  For Jesus Himself is the fullness of the “way of the tree of life”.