Revelation 2:1-7

Wednesday Night Bible Study

December 11, 1996


We've seen that this unique book is one that comes with a built in blessing (vs.3)

We've also seen that John was given an outline of the things he was going to see and write down.

John was to write down things in three categories: (1:19)

1) The things which thou hast seen (ch.1) - the vision of Jesus

2) The things which are (chs.2-3) - things which pertain to current history, the times of the church.

3) The things which shall be hereafter (chs.4-22) - the prophetic portion of the book.

We now dive into the second portion of the book - the "things which are".

Introduction to the Letters

This second section of the book contains the seven letters that Jesus Christ is sending through John, to the seven churches in Asia Minor.

Seven common characteristics (nice number, huh?)

1) They are all addressed to the "angel" over each church.

2) They all contain a brief description of Jesus in some form that is particularly applicable to each church, a description drawn from the vision of Jesus in chapter 1.

3) Each letter (almost) has a section of "commendation", where Jesus commends them for the good things they are doing.

Note: Not every church has something that Jesus commends it about. Some are REALLY in bad shape.

4) Each letter (almost) has a "rebuke", a section where Jesus points out the problems in the church.

Note: Not every church has a problem that Jesus points out. Some are in REALLY GOOD shape.

5) Each letter has an "exhortation", where Jesus gives them something to do, usually associated with solving the problem in the church.

6) Each letter has a suggestion to "listen", or, "for those with ears to hear ..."

7) Each letter has a "promise", a specific reward for those in the church who "overcome" the problems.

How do we take these letters?

1) They are written to real, historical churches that existed in AD 95.

There was a real church in Ephesus, Smyrna, etc.

As you see the order of the churches, they fall along what would be the route that a messenger would take as he went from church to church, passing on the book.

2) Each letter is also applicable to entire church as a whole.

As we've seen, the number "seven" is the number that represents completion or perfection.

And so in a sense, all seven letters apply to the entire, the complete church of Jesus Christ.

In a sense, there are the same seven churches in existence today.

There have been the same seven types of churches throughout history.

3) Each letter applies to each individual church today. For that matter, each letter applies to each of us today.

Each letter contains the exhortation (in some varied form):

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;

Anybody that has the ability to hear should pay attention to ALL the letters to all the churches.

And in that sense, there are these same seven types of churches within each church, and in fact, the tendency of each of the seven churches can be in each of our lives, if we aren't careful.

4) There seems to be a prophetic nature as well.

If you stand back and look at the flow of these seven letters as a whole, it sure seems to fit an historical pattern.

I believe these letters, in the order they were given, have been a pattern for the church through history.

The idea is that the early church, the church of the apostles, parallels the church at Ephesus.

As you follow the flow, from the persecuted church, to the compromised churches, to the sleeping church, to the outreaching churches, to the lukewarm church, you see the same pattern in church history, in a broad way.

I don't think you can get too exact on the stages in church history, there is certainly some room for overlap, especially since there is a sense in which all seven types of churches have existed throughout church history.

But in the broadest sense, you can see this flow in history, from Ephesus to Laodicea.

:1-7 Letter to Ephesus

:1 Unto the angel

As we've mentioned, each letter is addressed to the "angel" over the particular church.

We've mentioned before that this could be interpreted as either an angelic being who is in charge of each church, or even possibly the pastor of each church.

The word "angel" simply means messenger, whether angelic or human.

:1 of the church of Ephesus

This was one of the most important churches of Asia Minor.

This area first heard the gospel under the ministry of a man named Apollos (Acts 18).

Later, Paul himself came and established a full fledged church, staying and ministering for three years in the area, around AD 55.

It became a center of outreach to the whole area of Asia Minor, and could have possibly been the church that started the other churches mentioned in Revelation.

Luke records:

(Acts 19:10 KJV) ... so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

It's now been forty some years since the beginning of this church, and we believe that the pastor over the church is none other than Timothy, Paul's disciple.

In two more years, Timothy will be martyred, stoned by an angry crowd.

Some have felt that it was possible that John himself was pastor over the church after Timothy.

:1 These things saith he

Each letter mentions the one who is dictating the letter to John.

Each letter is from Jesus Christ Himself.

:1 that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand

We've seen from Rev.1:20, that the stars are the actual angels over the churches themselves.

I think that this is a picture of security and protection for the churches:

(John 10:28-29 KJV) And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. {29} My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

:1 who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks

Again, we saw from Rev 1:20 that this is a picture of Jesus walking in the midst of the churches themselves.

We discussed how this is a picture of Jesus as a priest, in the tabernacle in heaven, walking in the holy place, cleaning and adjusting the lampstands.

In a sense, these letters are the actions of cleaning and adjustment themselves.

Jesus is in the midst, He has His churches around Him.

:2 I know

Each letter (almost) contains a statement where Jesus commends the church for the good things that are going on there.


Jesus knows.

Sometimes we get discouraged, feeling as if nobody knows just how hard we're really trying.

Yet Jesus sees, and He notices.

(Isa 40:27-31 KJV) Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God? {28} Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. {29} He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. {30} Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: {31} But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

:2 thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience

Here we have the things that Jesus is happy about with the Ephesians.


ergon - business, employment, that which any one is occupied


kopos - a beating; a beating of the breast with grief, sorrow; intense labour united with trouble and toil


hupomone - steadfastness, constancy, endurance

in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings

There's a kind of progression here:

First we start doing something for God.

Then we run into troubles.

Then we need to endure, stick it out.


Finish the work.

Don't get discouraged because you run into "labour".

That's a part of what "work" is all about.

We need to have "patience" and "endure".

:2 how thou canst not bear them which are evil

More to commend the Ephesians ...

They did not put up with wickedness.

Wait! Isn't that being judgmental?

This was the problem the Corinthians had:

(1 Cor 5:1-2 KJV) It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. {2} And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

(1 Cor 5:7 KJV) Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

(1 Cor 5:13 KJV) But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

God will judge those outside the church. But we need to have a measure of judgment within the church.

This doesn't mean that every body that sins needs to leave.

Or else we'd have an empty church!

But it does mean that when a person is openly rebellious against the ways of the Lord, and does not want to change, then we need to deal with it.

:2 thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars

It's interesting to see what Paul's parting words were to the elders at Ephesus:

(Acts 20:28-30 KJV) Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. {29} For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. {30} Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

It seems that the elders at Ephesus took Paul's warnings very seriously, and indeed obeyed him.


Don't believe everything you hear.

Nowadays, the common thing you hear people if you become critical of a person's teachings is for them to say, "Touch not the Lord's anointed!".

This isn't even an accurate application of the Scripture.

One of the uses of this principle in Scripture comes from David:

1Sa 24:6 And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD'S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he [is] the anointed of the LORD. (AV)

For David, this meant not KILLING Saul.

But it didn't mean not rebuking him for what he was doing wrong!

Certain teachers put themselves above any kind of scrutiny, and that's dangerous.

John writes:

(1 John 4:1 KJV) Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

How to we test the spirits?

By seeing how it lines up with what God has already spoken.

By testing it with the Word of God.

2Ti 3:16 All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (AV)

:3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.

laboured - kopiao - to grow weary, tired, exhausted (with toil or burdens or grief)

:4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee

Now we get to that part of the letter that none of us likes to get to, the place where we have room to improve. This is the rebuke.

:4 because thou hast left thy first love (agape)

Note that Jesus doesn't say, "lost your first love".

If you lose something, you don't know where to find it.

If you leave something, you know just where to go to get it back.

In a way, you could say that this church was all "motion", with no "emotion".

Ephesus = works without proper motive.


What's your motive?

The lesson of Ephesus is to examine our hearts and our motivation.

Paul wrote:

(1 Cor 13:1-3 KJV) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. {2} And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. {3} And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

If you're not doing things out of love for Jesus, then it's not worth a whole lot.

:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen

Jesus now gives the Ephesians the remedy for their problem.

It comes in three parts: Remember, repent, and Re-do.



If we can't say "If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus 'tis now", then perhaps we need to look back a bit to when we could say that.

The first step to restoration is to remember where you came from.

:5 repent


Turn around.

That's all the repentance means.

If you're going in the wrong direction, then turn around.

If you're doing things in the wrong way, then stop and do it in the right way.


I often hear people say that if they don't want to come to church because they don't want to come because they are forced to, or because they "have to".

Take note at what Jesus says to those with goofed-up motives.

He doesn't say "quit".

He says "repent".

:5 do the first works


Prime the pump.

This seems kind of strange, that if we're doing works for the wrong reason, to fix it with more works.

But that's what Jesus is saying.


The hand pump out on Grandma's farm.

To get a hand pump going, you need to have a bucket of water to prime the pump.

If you don't prime the pump, all you do is suck air.

But if you pour water into the pump, out will come more water.

If you want love in your heart, then do works that are done in love.

If you have lost some of that zeal you used to have with the Lord, then think back to the kinds of things you used to do when you were so in love with Him.

You used to read your Bible ALL THE TIME.

You used to go to church ALL THE TIME.

You used to pray ALL THE TIME.

You even used to tell people about Jesus ALL THE TIME.

Got the idea?

Do the first works.


Love and marriage.

This passage is talking about the church getting it's love back for the Lord.

And Jesus and His church ... the Bridegroom and the Bride.

The same principles apply to love in marriage!

Do you want your love back?

Remember ... repent ... re-do ...

I guarantee it will come back.

The world says that when love is gone, go find another lover.

God says that when your love is gone, get the love back.

:5 or else I will come unto thee quickly

Jesus isn't going to stand around and let this go on.

He's going to deal with it.

:5 and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent

Where is the place of the lampstand?

It's in the presence of Jesus - the one who is in the "midst" of the candlesticks.


Actions without love leads to an absent Lord.

We aren't going to see the Lord's presence in the same way if we become like this.

:6 But this thou hast

One more last commendation, something they're doing right.

It's sure nice of the Lord not to leave this on a sour note!

:6 that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate

Who are the Nicolaitanes?

We really don't know.

There are no records in history of any group known by this name.

What we do know:

1) The meaning of their name.

But we have an interesting idea based on the meaning of their name.

Their name is based on two words - "nikao" and "laos" or "to conquer over" and "the people".

It has been suggested that this group may have held to the idea of a priesthood over the laity.

The idea of an "elite" group that calls the shots, and controls the goings on in the church.

Instead of the leadership group in a church being the ones who order people around, Jesus sees things differently:

Mr 10:42-45 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (NIVUS)

2) Their teachings.

The language in Rev. 2:14-15 gives us an idea of what the Nicolaitanes taught.

(Rev 2:14-15 KJV) But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. {15} So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.

Apparently the Nicolaitanes were teaching the people to do things that were abominable to God, as fornication.

:7 He that hath an ear

Do you have an ear?

Then listen up.

:7 let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches

Note - it's not just if you're in Ephesus that you pay attention to this.

Anyone with an ear needs to pay attention.


This phrase also appears in the gospels, being spoken by Jesus.

Anyone want to guess how many times it's found in the gospels?


Mt 11:15; 13:9,43; Mr 4:9,23; Lu 8:8; 14:35


:7 To him that overcometh

Here comes the promise to those who overcome.

nikao - to conquer; of Christians, that hold fast their faith even unto death against the power of their foes, and temptations and persecutions

Overcome what?

I think it's talking about walking with the Lord until the end.

Perhaps for the Ephesians, it talks about overcoming the problem of leaving their first love.


It's all about trusting.

John tells us a little more about "overcoming" -

1Jo 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, [even] our faith. (AV)

It's about trusting in the Lord to the end.

:7 will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

The same tree that was in Eden, the same tree that Adam and Eve DIDN'T choose to eat.

It was in the garden of Eden:

Ge 2:9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (AV)

After the fall, God kept man from the tree of life, lest he eat it and live forever in his sin.

But now that Jesus has cleansed us from our sin, God once again will offer it to us.

It will be in heaven:

Re 22:2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, [was there] the tree of life, which bare twelve [manner of] fruits, [and] yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree [were] for the healing of the nations. (AV)