The seven churches are not seven different time periods throughout history. These letters are relevant for ALL congregations.
The letters all follow a similar format – an aspect of Messiah is revealed, the deeds of those in the church are then addressed, and then the letters end with criteria that need to be met in order for the people to be overcomers.
Paul wrote the letter of Ephesians to the people in this church of Ephesus.
v1 “angel” = messenger/leader
- The congregation/church is not a building. It is made up of people who are(or should be) the manifest(clear and obvious to the eye) presence of G-d in the world -both in speech and in deeds.(Matt 5v13-16)
- G-d holds the leaders(stars) in His hand (John 10v27-30).They find support from Him in order to carry out the calling they have received.
- “walks” – His Presence is with the body of believers(Leviticus 26v3 and verse 11-13). Messiah is in our midst. We would not be able to carry out what G-d has called us to do if His Holy Spirit was not with us(Ex 33v15-16)
v2 As believers we are not judged/evaluated for salvation(that is a free gift given to us – Eph 2v8-9) but our works(deeds) will be judged and we will be rewarded, in heaven, according to what we have done on earth. (Rev 20v12-13, 1 Corinthians 3v10-15, Psalm 62v11-12 etc)
- evil -this congregation did not tolerate wickedness. We are called to deal ruthlessly with wickedness (1 Cor 5v13)
- “tested those… And found them liars”- we need to be a people who are able to discern truth and deception(Matt 24v24-25, Acts 17v11) At the end of time a strong delusion will lead people astray (2 Thess 2v11) Believers need to speak, teach and warn others.
v4 It is possible to know truth, but knowledge of truth doesn’t produce intimacy/love. Doing things out of duty, and not out of love, is not pleasing in G-d’s eyes.
v5 “Repent… if you do not (repent)… ” G-d does not go against our free will. We always have a choice. Repent means to change direction in response to truth.
- Why would G-d remove the lampstand (church)? It is not fulfilling its purpose therefore cannot be a light/salt – it has lost its flavour/example. If our lives do not reflect G-d’s glory it is an indication that we are not truly saved. We need to be quick to repent. Unwillingness to repent is a sign that we do not believe.
v6 the word ‘Nicolaitan’ is two Greek words. The first means ‘conquering’, and the second, ‘people’. These were people who loved to rule over or dominate other people. They infiltrated the house of G-d in order to build themselves up. They didn’t lift people up. They pushed them down and triumphed over them.
v7 If we choose to repent(we “have an ear” to listen and to obey…what G-d says to ALL The churches – in plural here) we see the first reward on offer – a right to eat from the tree of life! Back to the garden of Eden(Garden/Paradise of G-d – new and improved) type of relationship. (Genesis 2v8-17)
v8 ‘First and Last’: this is the 4th time that this phrase is used to describe Messiah. It is a phrase set in the context of redemption. The message of Redemption encourages us.
- Our hope is not based on living in this world – physical death shuts the door on this life and opens it to the next. (2 Cor 5v6-10) Spiritually we are called to be dead to sin and alive to Christ(Rom 6v11, Col 3v1-4)
Death should not be scary for us as believers – it is something that we should be doing on a daily basis – Luke 9v23
- ‘was dead and came to life’ speaks of victory.
v9 This church has a kingdom perspective -poor, but see themselves as rich(Matt 6v19-21, v25-34)
- This passage is talking about those who claim exclusivity (‘say they are…but are not’).These people claim that their place of worship is where true worship happens, to the exclusion of everywhere else.
- these people claimed to worship G-d but in actuality they blasphemed everything G-d stood for (‘synagogue of satan’)
v10 Faithfulness (especially as we approach the last days) will be persecuted. Prison, persecution and, for some, physical death. (Matt 24v9, see James 1v2-4)
- 10 days could be literal or it can be understood as the number related to completion or the full measure. Tribulation brings about a change (a purification) in the lives of those persecuted.
This church has been promised 2 rewards:
- Crown of life(crowns are used in the worship of G-d – Rev 4v10)
- v11: Not to be hurt by the Second death -also known as the lake of fire(Rev 20v11-15, Heb 2v14-15
v12 A double edged sword is a weapon that brings about death. Some things in our lives need to be put to death as they are not pleasing to G-d.(Romans 8v13, Colossians 3v5-10)
v13 This church is a faithful church who do not deny truth -even to the point of martyrdom.
- satan’s presence is very strong in this place. The spiritual battle is fiercer where the enemy is strong.
- There is a need for these people to be equipped and prepared for the battle – as fleeing this situation is not an option for them.
v14 Balaam’s story is found in Numbers 22-24. Balaam was a prophet (who liked profit) of G-d. He knew truth but was not wholly committed to it. See also Jude v11, 2 Peter 2v15-16 Balaam understood the weaknesses of Israel and how to exploit them for his own benefit and financial gain.
v15 The Nicolaitans were bullies -3 John v9-10. They were self-centered people who wanted to bring glory and honour to themselves rather than to G-d.
v16 Repent… Shows that there is still hope/time for changes to be made(2 Peter 3v9-15)
When our lives are in conflict with the truth of Scripture we set ourselves up for judgement. G-d is wanting to strengthen this congregation and sometimes that involves a purging.
v17 ‘he who has an ear let him hear’= the implication is: “and obey”. There is a connection between repentance and obedience. We only experience victory in our lives when changes are made.
The rewards in this verse:
- Hidden manna (provision) – Exodus 16, Hebrews 9v3-4. There is a relationship between the Word/commands of G-d and food(Matt 4v4)
- White stone – Ancient Greek courts would cast a white stone to signify acquittal. A black stone pronounced the defendant guilty. Zech 3v9 – an engraving shows permanence.
- A new name – signifies a changed person/character(2 Corinthians 5v17, Isaiah 62v2, Isaiah 65v15)
This passage deals with change. If we run from battles we will not be prepared for the last days