Overcomers (Study of 7 Churches in Revelation)

Revelation, as the last book, projects into the future by using hundreds of quotations or allusions from the rest of the Bible. In addition to comprehensive eschatological (regarding end times) information, a remarkable, succinct compilation of descriptive information about Yahweh is set forth similar to the Torah when God first revealed Himself. In addition, a graphic, unique description of Jesus the Christ is shown. The second and third chapters record Jesus’ communication to seven of the churches in Asia. This article is the first in a series of seven reviewing these chapters. Although he spoke specifically to each church, his message is vital to all who want to enter the Kingdom of God.

 

A general pattern of communication is seen with each church.

 

  1. Greeting “to the angel [messenger] of the church in…”
  2. An aspect about Christ the high priest, usually taken from chapter one
  3. Praise for what is good in the church (excepting Laodicea)
  4. Criticism of the church (excepting Smyrna or Philadelphia)
  5. Instruction
  6. He who has an ear to hear, let him hear
  7. A promise beginning with “He who overcomes will…”

 

Church at Ephesus (2:1-7)

To the angel [messenger] of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars [messengers] in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands [churches], says this: (2:1)

The Greek word translated “angel” is also translated “messenger” elsewhere in the Scriptures and would be more appropriate here as people and not angels coordinate the churches. Jesus calls them messengers because, as the head of the church, Jesus communicates with the elders who help and instruct the rest of the church. Thus, stress is placed upon the importance of the elders prioritizing their personal relationship with the Lord so that they can effectively communicate with the church on his behalf.  The seven stars and seven lampstands are explained in chapter one verse 20 as the messengers and churches respectively. Jesus as the head of the church walks among the churches fully aware of what is happening.

I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;

and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. (2:2-3)

 

The last time Paul the Apostle met with the Ephesian elders, recorded in Acts 20:25-32, he warned them about savage wolves entering the flock after his departure who would malign the gospel. The elders needed to guard and protect their churches. According to Jesus’ commendation, they heeded Paul’s exhortation and maintained the right doctrine. Unfortunately, as has often been the case since, they lost their first love, the most important matter of all.

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first… (2:4-5a)

The vital importance of discerning false prophets and apostles with their inaccurate doctrine is often stated in the New Testament. However, zealous guardians of the Scriptures often evolve into legalistic, judgmental critics who condemn and even ostracize those who do not agree with them; hence, they lose the most important matter of all – love. The Ephesians’ situation may not have evolved as such since Jesus praised them for guarding the doctrine. However, they indeed lost their first love and the deeds they did at first. The book of Acts provides insight about what was their first love. Paul’s original encounter with the Ephesians is revealing.

Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus and found some disciples…

they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. There were in all about twelve men.

 

This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. Acts 19:1-7, 10

 

Starting with Paul and these 12 men, all in Asia heard the gospel including the other churches mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3: Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea (plus Colossi that is not listed). Their outreach was so effective the culture began to change in that people who practiced magic and spiritualism burned their evil paraphernalia and worshipped the true God. Their first love and deeds were centered in the ministry of reconciling people back to God. Their explosive outreach is summarized in Acts 19:20 – “So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.”

The Ephesians apparently understood Yahweh’s desire to have the whole world filled with believers that He could love and that would love Him. They very were blessed and wanted to love Yahweh so they carried out the ministry of reconciliation. The believers were so head-over-heels in love with their God and Lord Jesus that they could not help but to speak to others about the gospel of the Kingdom. They understood God’s purpose for the ages, His dream, His hope.

Yahweh created Adam and Eve in His image and blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over it….” The original plan, before the fall of mankind, was that the whole earth would be filled with people created in God’s image that He would love and that would love Him in return. Yahweh initiated a covenant with Abraham that assured His original plan would be accomplished. He promised Abraham that his descendants of faith would be like the dust of the earth, the sand on the seashores, and the stars in the sky. Believers of all the ages, those who love God and His Son, are Abraham’s descendants. The book of Revelation tells of the time when God’s dream is fulfilled.

 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them   (Revelation 21:3)

The work that God is doing in the world is reconciling people back to Him. This is His mission, and those who love him align themselves with Him and help to carry out the ministry of reconciliation. Again, their first love was for Yahweh and the Lord Jesus Christ, and their first deeds were witnessing the gospel that brings people back to God. See 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. Jesus warned the Ephesians of the dire consequences that would be theirs if they did not respond.

Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place – unless you repent.   (Revelation 2:5)

The blessings of repenting far outweigh the consequences of disobedience.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’   (Rev 2:7)

Paradise will return, and the tree of life Adam and Eve were prohibited from will again be available. Maintaining our first love and connecting with the ministry of reconciliation should remain vital to us all.

 

 

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