Title : A Letter from Christ to the Church in Ephesus
In the 2nd and 3rd Chapters of Revelation we find the letters dictated by Christ to John to the 7 churches in Asia, and they are wonderful because they show us that the Lord of glory is presently involved in the life of His church. He is presently at God's right hand in heaven - with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him (1 Peter 3:22), but He freely exercises His presence and power from there for the benefit of His church. We need not think that He is an absent landlord , who depends on others to manage His affairs . That is true to some degree, of course. He is gone, and He has left the church in the hands of under shepherds until the day of accounting, but that does not mean that He does not know what is going on in His church on earth. He knows her intimately. More about that in a moment. So, the letters to the 7 churches are essentially pastoral letters from the Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the Sheep. For that matter the whole New Testament is a testimony and letter from Christ for the benefit of the whole church in all times. The reason why e no longer speaks He does not continue to send us letters from heaven, is that He has said everything that He has needed to say. Our challenge is to read His Word, hear His Word and keep His Word. (Rev 1:3). So let us now listen carefully and prayerfully what the Spirit says to our church today.
V. 1 To the church in Ephesus
… Ephesus (today “Efes” in modern Turkey) is about 90 kilometres from the island of Patmos, where John received this message from the Lord Jesus Christ. At that time it was a busy port city and commercial hub. The river “Cayster" on which it was located gradually silted up and thus she eventually lost her significance as a commercial centre. Today the historical city of Ephesus is no more than a place of archaeological interest.The extensive remains of ancient Ephesus (including the temple of Artemis - Acts 19:27ff) still testify to the fact that she once was a prosperous and elegant city. Take note! Today there is no city here , and there is certainly no church there. Oh city of idolatry - how you have fallen! (see Rev. 18)
As John writes down what he sees and hears from the Lord Jesus concerning her, the church in Ephesus would have been at least 40 years old. Her founder was probably the apostle Paul, when accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:19) he arrived there from Corinth in AD 52, on his 2nd missionary journey. He then returned subsequently and spent more than 2 years in establishing the Ephesian church (19:1ff ; 20:17ff).
Historical writings from the 2nd & 3rd century tell us that the apostle John was closely associated with this church as a pastor, and perhaps also as an overseer over the other 6 churches mentioned in 1:11.It is to this church in Ephesus that the first word from Jesus comes through John in written form.
These recorded words are said to be “of Him who holds the seven stars (i.e. the 7 angels of the 7 churches- 1:20) in His right hand. It is He “who walks among the 7 lamp-stands” ( which are the 7 churches). His involvement in the church presently remains active and dynamic.
v. 2 “ I know your works , your toil and your patient endurance and how you cannot bear with those who call themselves apostles and are not…” . Of each church the Lord says: “I know your works…”. The word used here for ‘know’ (Gr. 'oida’) implies a fullness of knowledge . The Lord deeply knows and understand the position and circumstances of each church. He knows what is commendable, and what is concerning about each church. Nothing escapes His all seeing eye and so , to the church of Ephesus He has a word of encouragement, and a word of warning .
A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT (vv. 2&3,6)
Secular history affirms that Christians were gravely mistreated at this time.  This was certainly true in Ephesus, where the worship of Artemis was prominent. Her temple was considered to be one of the 7 wonders of the world. We read in Acts 19:21-41 how the gospel started affecting the commercial enterprises surrounding the worship of Artemis in Ephesus, so much so that a violent riot was instituted against Paul and other Christians. Christians also consistently refused to worship the Roman emperor, and this was viewed very negatively by the Roman authorities. Against such a background the Ephesians Christians had toiled and patiently endured many things. They also had firmly stood against the wickedness of the Nicolaitans , a perverse and corrupt teaching that unsettled the church internally. The Lord Jesus commends the Ephesians resisting and hating this teaching.
Furthermore, this was a church that was committed to the truth! (2b,6) They would not tolerate wicked men among them. They would not tolerate men with biblical titles (e.g. apostle) but who maintained corrupt practises. They certainly did not lack spiritual discernment. That meant that they had a very good grasp of what they believed. They knew the teachings of our Lord through His true apostles such as Paul and John, whose writings later had passed into the canon of Scripture, now known as the “New Testament.”
The Ephesians had endured a barrage of insult , assault , of evil men and of false doctrine and they had endured all this for the sake of Christ's name. And the LORD of the church commends them for all this.
A WORD OF REBUKE (4,5a)
Praise is followed by a rebuke: “ I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” The Lord Jesus is deeply concerned for the well- being of this church, and He loves this church too much to leave her sin unaddressed. Jesus says to His church in all ages: “Those whom I love I reprove and discipline…” (Rev 3:19; Heb.12:6). Jesus loves His church too much to leave her in her sin. This was her sin - she lost her first love!
The picture of Jeremiah 2: 2 - 5 comes to mind. The Lord speaks to His people Israel through His prophet Jeremiah: "I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of his harvest… What fault did your fathers find in me, that you strayed so far from me?” Israel loved God, and then she gradually fell out of love with him , substituting Him with other loves.
Married people may relate to this. Men, when you married your wife, you could find no fault in her. Love is that blind! Your communication was great. And then, slowly and almost imperceptibly, that first love begins to cool down. Sadly the "first love“ is lost. It becomes a marriage of convenience, the spark is gone. This, you will agree is not good. This is not what you wanted when you first got married. What happened? You forgot that a good marriage relationship takes time and effort. "Husbands love your wives , as Christ loved the church…" means expending energy and effort to make sure that this love stays central to your marriage. This is what Paul had said in his letter to the Ephesian church (Eph. 5:25ff). He told husbands ,”Love her ! Nurture her physically, emotionally and spiritually. Make her the #1 in your life !” That takes time , but sadly the demands of life, the raising of children , economic challenges etc. all place a tremendous stress on the love life of every marriage.
Now the church at Ephesus is a part of the great bride of Christ, which He bought with His blood, but this bride has lost her love for her Saviour , and Jesus makes it known that He will not share her with other loves. The Holy One who loves us with a perfect love, expects us to love Him, and if we don’t we sin! This is serious, and there is really only one thing that we can do upon discovery: “ Repent , and do the works you did at first.”
What would have caused the Ephesian church to lose her first love? Living under taxing circumstances, constantly having to contend for the faith is a dangerous thing. If we spend a lot of time defending the gospel, we are in danger of becoming hard and defensive. Now don't misunderstand this. The Lord expects His church to contend for the truth. For this He commends the Ephesians. But this must not become her exclusive activity. We have a great need to spend time every day in developing, nurturing and enjoying our relationship with Jesus.
This is incidentally also what happened in the Corinthian church. Here was a church that had become focussed on man. She became absorbed and obsessed with spiritual power and spiritual gifts. This church gradually became utterly self- absorbed. This led to a lot of infighting. How did Paul address this matter? He wrote the 13th Chapter - the great love chapter of the Bible, which restores the proper focus of the church : Love God ; love your neighbour. They had lost their first love.
A CALL TO REPENTANCE AND A WARNING (5b & 7)
Losing Christ as our first love is a serious thing, for it amounts to idolatry. Losing the first love for Jesus in our hearts is serious. The corporate effect upon the church is soon seen . If many people truly love Christ in the church , they like coals on a fire keep each other warm . But if few people in the church love Christ from the heart, they will soon cause the few burning coals of the church to grow cold due to discouragement. When the heart grows cold, the church falls apart. When Christ no longer occupies the centre of our affections the church (no matter how orthodox in belief) will die. The warning is this : “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” - as has happened in fact in Ephesus.
When that happens , two things are required of us to do:
(i) REPENT! (Gr. metanoia) - literally to have a change of mind – to do a 180 degree turn; This doesn’t mean saying "I'm sorry". It means walking away from the wrong towards the right. What exactly does that mean?
(ii) REPEAT! “and to do the works you did at first.” Return to that place of your first love . Estranged marriage partners must find their way back to that which they did when they first decided to get married. Christians whose love for Christ has cooled down, must get back to that place of loving communion which they once knew- when His presence was a delight, when prayer was real, and when His commandments were not burdensome.
"HE WHO HAS AN EAR" … if this is what the Spirit says to the churches (including us), then let us not be wilfully deaf. Let us hear in such a way as to understand and obey. This is not your pastor speaking, this is the Holy Spirit speaking by the Word of Christ. Each church is comprised of individuals, so it is the responsibility of each individual ( he who has an ear) to listen. Don't think of this abstractly … this is for you!
A PROMISE (7b)
So the challenge to persevere is addressed to the individuals members of the churches.
"To the one who conquers …" is a promise to you dear listener. Remember that the chief purpose for which this Revelation is given, is for the purpose of blessing.(Rev 1:3)- so read , hear and keep !
Here is what you can look forward to: ( 7b)
“To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
To speak of "the tree of life which is in the paradise of God" plainly refers to the garden in which man was first placed at his creation. In the beginning when God created mankind, he had access to the tree of life at the centre of that garden (Gen 2:9). It was however in defiance of God's command (not to eat from that tree) that man fell from his position in the garden, and was driven out of the garden.
Now through Jesus, the consequences of our sin (death , everlasting judgement) are nullified and access to the tree is restored. Our destiny forfeited in Adam is restored in Christ, and the paradise which we have lost is regained in greater splendour.
Don’t you love the Lord Jesus for that ?
 The other word commonly used for “ know” is “ginōskō” – progressive knowledge. Vine’s Expository Dictionary says, “ginōskō” frequently suggests inception or progress while “oida” suggests fullness of knowledge (Vines:346)
 E.g. the testimony of Tacitus and Pliny (Henry Bettenson: Documents of the Christian church, p. 2ff)
 Several of the early church fathers, including Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Epiphanius, and Theodoret mentioned this group, and stated that the deacon Nicolas was the author of the heresy and the sect. Ireneaus ( Against Heresies I 26, para. 3) says : “The Nicolaitanes are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, [when they are represented] as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.