Revelation 1: 1-3

This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to his servant John, 2 who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

This is what God the Father revealed to Jesus, as he alone knows the day and the hour of Christ return

The word “soon” here actually should be translated suddenly, what is being said here is that when these things begin to happen they will all happen suddenly.

John reported everything he saw, John actually saw these events they were not simply visions or dreams he actually saw what would happen in the future.

3 God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.

Every book in the Bible encourages you in one way or another to read it but this one proclaims blessings on everyone who reads and listens to it and obeys

The  Bible is an integrated system, everything ties in with everything else. The new testament is in the Old testament concealed and the Old testament is in the new testament revealed. 404 verses in the book with over 800 allusions to the Old testament. You have heard me say that you can’t truly understand the New Testament without understanding the Old.

Jesus tells John to write to these seven churches, there were hundreds of churches over 60 years after acts 2:4, Rome, Jerusalem, Philippi, Berea, Colossae, and many others why these seven God has a specific message for each of us through the example of these churches.

All the churches were to read all seven letters, as parts of these letters impact every church then and now. 

Let’s get into the first letter and see how it applies to our church and the overall church today

Revelation 2:1

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:

The word “Ephesus” in the Greek means desired one, darling. You have heard me say many times we are the ones he loves the most.

Ephesus was the center for arts, magic and Diana worship

Timothy, John and Mary’s tombs are in Ephesus.

Jesus starts out saying, regardless of what you are going through, I am with you, right among you and I have the messages for you, he is saying I am with you and I am in control.

He is always in control, Jesus forced Judas’ hand, Jesus was in charge at Gethsemane, “I am he…let these go”

Revelation 2:2,3

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. 3 You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.

Jesus still knows all the things we do, he knows our strengths blessings and our struggles and failures…this is part of why he is always praying for us…He loves you so much he can’t take his eyes off of you.

The Ephesians loved God’s word and his truth dearly. They were truth bearers and would hold others to account for their lack of adherence to that truth. In Acts 18-20 Paul warned the church at Ephesus to be careful to be on the alert for false doctrine and teaching.

Acts 20:29-30

I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. 30 Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following.

1 John was written to Ephesus in that letter John also warns the church of dangers from without and within

1 John 4:1-3

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

The Elders of Ephesus heeded the warnings of Paul and John that is why they are receiving their “pats on the back” which you think would be great but as often happens there is a lack of balance.

We desperately need to know and adhere to God’s word. Part of my challenge in our community is that many claim to know God’s word but do not know it, that is why I challenge to read your Bible, that is why this year I have been putting up on the app and Facebook, a daily reading. The first step to understanding God’s word is to really read it, then to study it and make it part of your life…but even with their strength and adherence to the word something got lost, something they once had…

Revelation 2:4,5

“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! 5 Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.

Some translation say “you have left your first love” the phrase their means the most important thing you have forgotten about.

Jesus is challenging them saying, remember how you felt when you first came to me? You felt grace and love pouring all over you, you had patience and were excited for people to know what you know. You felt a release from sin and you wanted others to have it, it some ways you have become so grown up that you are missing the joy.

It is hard in all that we are going through to remember God really does have it all in the palm of his hands. There are so many black and white things to battle with so little gray. Jesus is not admonishing them for for not compromising their walk but saying remember my yoke is easy and my burden light, yes there are struggles and tribulations in the world but I have overcome them all…when you get so caught up in the works and the black and white of things you miss all the nuances of color. 

Too often I see people condemn others for ministering in a different way, for not coming down on people for their sins, for simply ministering differently than they would; when in fact God uses multiple ways and styles to reach people. It is not a compromise of the Gospel but many lose their joy because the strictness of their theological understanding puts God in a box. They see things as compromise when in fact it is Jesus and the word of God is not compromised but they themselves miss out on God’s blessings and joy because it was not don their way…That is what Jesus’ is challenging them to get back too….love first, then allow me to show you, how to show them Jesus.

 If your joy is lost, if you peace is lost, if you sense of being loved and loving others is lost maybe you too need to return to your first love…That is what the Lord wants for you as he did for Ephesus…Psalm 51, Jeremiah 2, Galatians 5 and other chapters emphasize this…

Don’t get me wrong we need the black and white thinking to grow and mature but we need to have our first priority first, love for God, others and ourselves…Jesus says you will lose

Then Jesus encourages them Revelation 2:6

“But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.”

We are not sure what the Nicolaitans were, there are a couple of different theories basically the theories lead us to believe this sect were extreme legalists. While Ephesus had developed legalistic tendencies they were able to recognize the extremes of complete control you can’t eat this, you must marry this person, we have complete control over your life and if you don’t do things exactly the way we tell you then you are going to hell….that is not God either. They recognized that kind of control and dismissed it.

A simple way is to remind us of the first commandment Deuteronomy 6:5 Love God with all your h, m, s, s. keep that first

Revelation 2:7

Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.

He ends with this blessing for the church but notice it is after the close which we will discuss later why that is important. He is saying to the church who is strong on doctrine and understanding of theology and God word…if you keep my heart, my love alive in you then you will experience all the life I have for you and have it abundantly for you.

Ladies and gentlemen it is easy to judge things through our own glasses, we kind of get lazy and don’t press in to the one who loves us the most, as often as we should (which is daily by the way) we see things going on around us and we either judge the people for judge God for failing to do what we think he should do…we stand on the word but have forgotten to look at things through his eyes of love and slowly but surely it robs our strength, joy, life, love and can rob our health…we become judgmental rather than loving…that was the church at Ephesus, they were not wrong for being strong in the word they simply missed the balance of word and love

What about you today…God loves you and the Holy Spirit will convict you because of His love so please if you are strong in the word, or maybe just missing the joy of what the Lord did for you at first come and allow Him to restore the love and joy of your salvation