11. THE CHURCH AGE OF EPHESUS.
Revelation 1:12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man,
Revelation 1:20 The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.
In the kingdom parables, the Church age begins with the sowing of the good seed (the gospel of Jesus Christ) out into the world. In Jesus Christ Revelation to the seven churches, the Church Age starts with Jesus Christ (who is the bright morning star [2 Peter 1:19]) standing in the midst of the seven churches, which are represented by seven lampstands, which also represent the fullness of the presents of God and the fullness of the power of the Holy Spirit within the early Church (Zechariah 4:1 – 6; Revelation 3:1 & 5:5). In a sense Christ is the tree of the Light of truth, and through Christ the power of the Holy Spirit flows to the branches, (the churches) to the believers whose purpose it is to shine the Light of the Gospel to the world (Matthew 5:14 - 16).
The Church age of Ephesus. (Approximately 30 A.D. to 100 A.D.)
Revelation2:1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things say He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place - unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”
7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.”’
Right at the beginning of the church age of Ephesus, Jesus Christ is standing in the midst of the seven golden lampstands. As seven is both the symbolic number of all and the symbolic number for purity, this means that Christ is standing in the midst of all the churches, and all the churches in Christ are pure, the offspring of the undefiled word of God. Jesus also has in His right hand the seven stars that represent the seven angels of the seven churches. The Greek word for angel means messenger. The angels in this passage are the pastors of the seven churches, who are anointed by the Holy Spirit to be Jesus Christ messengers to the churches. It is for this reason the letters from Jesus are addressed to the angels of the churches.
While Jesus can and does speak to all believers in Christ, for there is safety in the multitude of counselors (Proverbs 11:14), when Jesus Christ has an important message to the local church, usually He will speak first to the pastor of the local church.
The seven golden lampstands are also symbolic of the fullness of the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:1 – 6). The early church began with the fullness of the presence of God and the fullness of the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Historically, the church of Ephesus was planted around 55 A.D and at first the church of Ephesus like most first generation Christians, was full of a love and joy for Jesus Christ their Lord and Saviour, and full of the fire and power of the Holy Spirit. Forty-years later, most of this founding generation had now passed on to be with the Lord and a new generation had become the church of Ephesus; a generation who lacked the fire, the passion and the joy that came with knowing Jesus Christ as their first love.
This Church age is commended:
1. For it’s good works. The early church served one another and their community.
2. For it’s labor. They were not lazy people but hard workers.
3. For it’s patience. They were patient with all people, and patient with God.
4. Because they could not bear those who were evil, neither would they tolerate evil people in the church, who were either non-repentant or proud of their sin. God’s word tells us to put these evil people out of the church (I Corinthians 5:5)
5. For testing those who claimed to be apostles but were not, and finding them to be liars.
I John4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
II Peter2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on them selves swift destruction.
6.For their perseverance, patience and their labors for Jesus Christ name sake, and that they not become weary.
Then Jesus rebukes them, because they have lost their first love.
Can you remember when you were first saved, born again and filled with the Holy Spirit? You were filled with love and joy for Jesus Christ, and filled with love and joy for His people and His Church. You couldn’t stay away from church, for this is where you met with your love Jesus Christ, His Church and your new family, the family of God.
It was this love that drove you to do good works of love for one another. It was because of your newfound love of righteousness that you could not bear those who were evil in the church, and it was because of this love of truth that you tested those who said they were apostles but were not.
Then something happened; slowly over time, more and more you began to do these things less and less because of love and more and more because of a sense of duty. When we do the right things because of love, it brings life and vitality to others and to ourselves, but when we do the right things solely out of a sense duty it brings weariness, a weariness that can bring death to love.
This is not just true of the church’s love towards Christ; it is also true of marriage between husband and wife. When a young couple first marry, it is love that motivates them to serve each other, but if we allow ourselves to fall into that trap serving to each other less out of love and more due to sense of duty, soon we will grow weary of doing good towards our husband or wife, and we will weary of them, then our love for each other will die.
Jesus is our bridegroom and we (the church) are His bride. The church of Ephesus, gives us a picture of Christ’s bride losing it’s first love for Jesus their bridegroom; and losing their first love for fellow believers, the Church, righteousness and truth. Because of this their service to Jesus became less and less because of love, and more and more because of a sense of duty. The Church was in danger of becoming weary of doing good, and in danger of tolerating evil people and accepting the teachings of false prophets.
So Jesus warns His bride to remember from where she has fallen; repent and do the works she first did; works done out of a love for Jesus, or He will come quickly and remove her lamp stand.
When our love of righteousness and truth shine brightly, Jesus Christ places us on a lamp stand, so that we give light for all to see. But when we grow weary of righteousness and truth, our light goes out, and our lamp stand is removed; then neither others nor our-selves can see clearly to judge between what is righteousness and what is evil, nor between what is truth and what is error.
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Then before signing off, Jesus commends them for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans. Who are the Nicolaitans? In Greek the word ‘Nico’ means ‘conqueror’, and the word ‘Laitans’ means ‘the common people’. So the name Nicolaitans means ‘the conqueror of the common people’. Thus the deeds of the Nicolaitans included the suppression of the common people, under an authoritarian priesthood who held all power and authority in the church. Also the Nicolaitans would seek to suppress any move of the Holy Spirit among the common people, ultimately quenching the freedom we have in the Spirit, and bringing the Church back under law.
Revelation 2:7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.”
While on earth in the flesh Jesus Christ, when teaching the Jews would often speak to them in parables and then finish with the line. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15; 13:9 & 42; Mark 4:23; Luke 14:35). Then in the book of Revelation, Jesus finishes each of the seven letters to the seven churches by saying, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Don’t we all have ears? Can we not all hear? Then why did Jesus, when speaking in parables and in writing to the seven churches use this line over and over again and again? The answer to this question is found in Jesus Christ answer to the disciples:
Matthew13:10b “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to known the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”
Mathew13:34 All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, 35 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:
“I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.”
The mysteries of the kingdom, also known as the secrets of the kingdom, have all been written down in The Holy Bible for all to read. To those who have ears to hear, and eyes to see, these mysteries are clearly revealed to us by the Spirit of Christ who dwells within us. But to those who do not have the Spirit of Christ dwelling within them, to a great extent the Bible remains as a closed book, and they shall gain little or no understanding of the mysteries of the kingdom.
So when Jesus Christ says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” He is not just telling us to listen and hear His words; He is declaring a blessing upon those who have an ear to hear; the blessing that we will hear and understand what the Holy Spirit is saying to the churches.
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Jesus Christ declares that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth.
John 16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
It is so important we be filled with the Holy Spirit, that after giving His first disciples the great commission, He then tells them to wait in Jerusalem until the Promise of the Holy Spirit has come upon them (Acts 1:4 – 8). So it was that the first disciples waited in Jerusalem until, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon them; but when can we who live 2,000 years after the Day of Pentecost expect the Promise of the Holy Spirit to come upon us?
On the Day of Pentecost, after the Promise of the Holy Spirit had come upon the first disciples, Peter declared:
Acts2:38 “- - - - - - - - Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
The gift of the Holy Spirit is promised to all who will repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. The promise is “To all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Even to this day, the gift of the Holy Spirit is promised to all who repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.
The Greek word ‘baptizo’ which we translate into English as ‘baptized’ means to dunk or dip. In the dyeing of garments, the word ‘baptizo’ was used to describe the act of dunking and fully immersing a garment into a vat of dye.
It was also this word the early church used to describe public dunking of a new believer under waters of baptism, symbolizing their death to the old life, the washing away of very stain of sin, and their rebirth to a new life of righteousness in Jesus Christ. (Romans 6:3 – 4) This is more than just a symbolic act, for it was at His baptism of repentance that Jesus Christ received the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is at our baptism of repentance, God promises, we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
What about those who pray to the Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit? After all does not God’s word say; “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13)
The message here from Jesus Christ is, pray to the Father for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, for your heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. Of course, if Jesus Christ tells us to pray to the Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is only reasonable for us to believe that Jesus Christ Himself would pray to the Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit. When did Jesus pray to the Father for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit? Answer: Jesus prayed just before His baptism of repentance, then as Jesus came up out of the waters of baptism the Holy Spirit came upon Him (Mark 1:9 – 11).
Yes I know there is a popular move in the Church today, to skip the baptism of repentance, and just ask the Father for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. I also know God the Father will often send the promised gift of Holy Spirit upon these children of God, with the evidence of speaking in other languages; but in most cases, if these children of God will not listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, (even if the Holy Spirit does not abandon them) they usually soon return to their original condition of spiritual deafness and blindness. Why? Because they refused to listen to the Holy Spirit and be baptized into Christ.
Before Jesus Christ ascended to the Father, He gave to us the Great Commission.
Mark 16:15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these sign will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.
When the early disciples of Jesus Christ went out into the world and preached the gospel, those who believed repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, not only received the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, they also spoke in new tongues, cast out demons, and when they laid hands on the sick they recovered.
So effective was the early church in carrying out the Great Commission with signs and wonders following, as recorded in the gospel according to Mark 16:9 – 20, that the devil tried to have this passage removed from Bible. For this reason a number of incorrect Bible manuscripts, with this passage missing were written in the late 3rd century and early 4th century.
It is very possible that the Arians were responsible for writing some of these incorrect manuscripts. I say this, because Arians did not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and not only has Mark 16:9 – 20 been removed from these incorrect manuscripts, but also a number of other passages that support our belief in divinity of Jesus Christ, have either been removed or altered.
Although the Church later destroyed most of these incorrect manuscripts a couple did survive. In the1840s, those who did not favour the Greek majority text, which was the main text used for the majority of Bible translations for over 1,400 years (including the Vulgate of 405 and the King James of 1611) came up with a revised Greek text, using as its main source these two incorrect manuscripts.
In the parable of the sower, it is the birds, representing Satan who came to remove the word of God. By seeking to remove Mark 16:9 – 20, Satan is not only seeking to remove the Great Commission, but also remove the power of the Holy Spirit who is promised to all who believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, our ability to hear, see and understand God’s written word and spiritual truth is very much limited.
Because Jesus Christ says to all the seven churches, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” we can say that throughout the history of the Church, there has always been those without ears to hear and eyes to see. Both Christians and Jews have fallen into the same error, “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt 15:8 – 9), thus exalting the teachings of men above the teachings God, they have closed their eyes and ears to the truth allowing Satan to both take truth out of the church and sow in lies.
By the early 4th century God’s command to “repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38); was no longer being obeyed by the majority of those who called themselves Christians. Instead, most obeyed the commands of men to sprinkle babies with water. Thus they made the commandment of God of no effect by the tradition of man (Matthew 15:9). Because most never got baptized, neither did they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who guides us into all truth (John 16:13), and because they exalted the commands of man above the commands of God, the devil was able to deceive them and blind them to the truth.
Then a final promise to those who overcome:
Revelation2:7b “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.”
Yes, in the resurrection all overcomers will eat from the tree of life, but this promise is also a promise that all Christians can enjoy in this life. In this life Jesus Christ is the tree of life and we are the branches. Just as life and energy flow from the tree out into the branches, so life and energy flow from Jesus Christ out into the believers.
Jesus only rebukes the church of Ephesus for one thing, that they have lost their first love. If any Christian finds them-self in this position, all they need to do is repent and ask for forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ. Then by the power of God working within them, they will be able to overcome this problem. The love of God will flood their soul, and the joy and vitality of the Holy Spirit will flood them with life. If they fail to overcome this problem, weariness of soul and spirit will overcome them and spiritual death will surely follow.
Written by Kenneth Allan Clark and printed and published by
VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN MINISTRIES INTERNATIONAL. P.O. BOX 144 WYNNUM QLD 4178 AUSTRALIA.
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Scripture taken from the “Clarks English Translation” © Copyright 2011 by Victorious Christian Ministries International. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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