Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Messages to Ephesus and Smyrna

Revelation 2:1-11

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.” (Revelation 2:1-3)

The Lord directed John to write to the pastor or leader of the church in Ephesus, emphasizing that he is the head of the church and has authority over the pastors, that he has them in his right hand.  Not only does the Lord know what they have done, but how hard they have worked at it, even when it seemed to accomplish little.  He knows that they have taken a strong stand against sin, refusing to put up with it in the church. 

They’ve checked out the teachings of those who have claimed to be apostles from God and demonstrated that they are liars.  They’ve endured persecution and testing, patiently staying true to Christ.  They’ve continued to work for the Lord despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  There is a great deal to be admired about this church, and their pastor has had a major part in it.

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.  Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Revelation 2:4-5)

Despite their many admirable qualities, this church has a serious problem.  They have left their first love.  Nearly everybody has observed the newlywed couple who just can’t stand to be apart, but as time goes on they become caught up in their daily activities and hardly ever spend time together.  On the surface the marriage seems to be going quite well, with both of them routinely fulfilling their expected roles, but their marriage has become a meaningless convenience, with him knowing somebody will clean the house and cook and her knowing he will earn a living and fix the car because it is their job.  This is the picture the Lord paints of this church, still doing the same things they did before, but as a duty, rather than as an expression of love.

Unless a concerted effort is made to restore that love, separation becomes a serious threat.  The Lord warns that if the church does not make a concerted effort to renew their love, he will take away their candlestick, that literally they will lose their light before the world, even possibly closing their doors.

“But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.” (Revelation 2:6)

Since there are no records of a group known as the Nicolatanes, we are forced to look at their name for a clue to what they taught.  The name means to rule over the common or lay people.   Jesus said he hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, and in Matthew 20:25-27, Jesus said, “…Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.   But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant,” indicating that this is what he meant.

Although the church no longer loved the Lord the way they once had, they were still faithful to him, like a marriage partner in an unsatisfactory marriage.  They hated the idea of being unfaithful to him and refused to let some man take over as head of the church, setting his own standards and doctrine.

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7)

Anyone who has the ability to understand these messages to the churches should pay close attention.  Those who act on what the Holy Spirit tells them, resolving the issues will be assured of the right eat of the tree of life which is in paradise. 

“And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” (Revelation 2:8-9)

The Lord speaks to the Leader of Smyrna, reminding him that he gave his own life for their salvation and that he is also the God of the universe.  He is fully aware of their efforts to please him, and of the trials they were going through in their efforts.  He knew that they were struggling to just get by, although in reality they were heirs of God and owned everything.  He also knew the opposition and attacks by those who claimed to be God’s people but were really of Satan. 

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)

Though the church in Smyrna was weak and struggling, God saw nothing that needed changing.  Instead, the Lord offered only encouragement.  None of the things they would go through really mattered.  Forces directed by Satan would have some of them arrested and imprisoned in an effort toe turn them away, but their tribulation would be brief, only lasting ten days.  If they remain faithful even to point of being executed for their faith, they were assured of a crown of life.

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” (Revelation 2:11)

I was taught that if God said something once, it was important, but If he repeated himself, it was really important.  This is the second time God has said anyone who can understand needs to pay attention to the messages to the churches.   He promised that anyone who stayed faithful had no reason to fear being cast into the lake of fire, which Revelation 21:8 says is the second death.

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