“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
Jesus had messages for seven specific churches in Asia Minor. John would be the one to convey these messages to the churches of that time, understanding that the Words of Jesus would apply to all churches of all ages. The rest of this week we will look at the message to each one of these churches.
The first church mentioned is the church located in Ephesus. Jesus commends this church for “your deeds, your hard work, and your perseverance.” On the surface, this church seemed to be doing everything right. They persevered despite fierce opposition to their faith. Yet, Jesus points out a glaring blind spot: “You have forsaken your first love.” This church was going through the motions of serving the Lord, yet their love for the Lord had grown cold. The City of Ephesus was the center of cult worship in first century Rome. Materialism and paganism marked this heathenistic society. In the midst of all this wickedness, the saints in Ephesus had lost that intense and enthusiastic devotion to Christ. Perhaps the influence of the culture had taken its toll on this once vibrant fellowship.
Jesus’ instruction to this church are to “remember and repent.” He wanted them to remember their passion for Him and make a course correction! The good news here is that no matter how far off course you go, you can always make a course correction. To repent means to stop moving away from the Lord and move back toward Him. If our love for the Lord has grown cold, we must remember this: repent and return to our First Love. If the Ephesian church did not repent, He would remove their lampstand. The light of God would go out in this church, and they would lose their ability to influence their city for Christ.
The second church mentioned is the church in Smyrna. He reminds them that despite their physical poverty they were rich in the spiritual blessings. He warns this church that severe persecution is about to come to them. He encourages them to suffer well and remain faithful, even unto the point of death. He promises that He will give them “the crown of life.”
This message is intended to encourage this church. There is no rebuke in this message. He reminds them that He is still in control. Because He lives, they will also live. This church is still in existence today. Many scholars believe that the true light of Christ still shines forth from this church. Today this church is located in Izmir, Turkey. This message is relevant to many churches today that are experiencing severe persecution because of their faith in Christ. If you are currently being persecuted because of your faith in Christ, you should find comfort and encouragement in knowing that the Living One is still in control!
Questions to Ponder
Have you lost your enthusiastic passion for Christ? Is your spiritual life in need of a course correction? Does the light of Christ still shine forth from your life? Are you currently being persecuted for your faith? If so, how does the message to the church in Smyrna encourage you? Challenge you?
- Praise the Lord for being faithful, compassionate, and honest with us.
- Thank Him for being Way maker. Thank Him for being Provider.
- Tell Him you are sorry if you have been serving out of an “empty well” (serving in your own strength or have forsaken your first love, Jesus).
- Pray a simple breath prayer such as: “I want to love You, Lord, the way You love me. Come and impact my heart afresh.”
- Pray for yourself and His church, that we would be strong, firm, and faithful in His power during persecution.
All powerful God, You uphold and sustain all things. I praise You for knowing all things and seeing all things. I lift up myself and the greater one church. I ask that we would be ones who burn for You, Jesus, with a holy love. And I pray that we would run with You in ministry out of that place of intimacy with You. Help us to be ones who are burning and shining lamps for You, compelled by Your love. I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.