Revelation 2:2-4 The Greek word used for “know” refers to a complete and full knowledge as opposed to another Greek word which is a knowledge that increases with added information. This is a reference to God’s attribute of omniscience. He knows the future as well as the past with perfect clarity. Nothing is hid from His sight or understanding. This knowledge is evident in each letter written to the churches of Revelation 2-3 as the Lord condemns and commends the churches.
The Lord Jesus commends the Ephesians for what they were doing right first. He commends the Ephesian believers for their toil which in the Greek describes labor to the point of sweat and exhaustion. They worked hard for the work of the Gospel. In the midst of the darkness that surrounded them, they were active in evangelism, ministering to the saints, and caring for those in need. They are commended for their perseverance which speaks of their patience in trying circumstances. The Greek word does not mean a gloomy, fatalistic acceptance, but a courageous embrace of hardship, suffering, and loss. Despite their difficult circumstances, the Ephesian believers were faithful to the Lord.
The Lord commends them for refusing to tolerate evil men. They held to a high standard and followed the practice of church discipline (Matthew 18:15ff). Paul in his letter to them instructed them not to ” give the devil an opportunity ” (Ephesians 4:27). They were spiritually discerning testing those who call themselves apostles again in response to Paul’s warning (Acts 20:28–31). Jesus warned of ” false prophets (Matthew 7:15) as did John in earlier letters to the churches (2 John 7,10). This was a problem that Paul spoke of to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
Jesus added still another commendation in verse 6 concerning the deeds of the Nicolaitans who are also mentioned in the letter to Pergamum (Revelation 2:12–15). There is no conclusive evidence of what this heresy is but there are a few references in the writings of the early church fathers linked it to Nicolas, one of the seven men appointed to oversee the distribution of food in Acts 6. Some argued that Nicolas became an apostate, others suggested that the Nicolaitans misrepresented his teaching. Whatever its origin, Nicolaitanism led people into immorality and wickedness. The letter to Pergamum links it with Balaam’s false teaching that led Israel astray (Numbers 25ff; 31:8-18). The deeds of the Nicolaitans some believe were antinomian (no law) with teachings that led to the idea that sexual immorality and eating things sacrificed to idols (Revelation 2:14) was not a problem to those who have real faith because of the liberty we have in Messiah. It was this kind of teaching that Paul was dealing with in Romans 14.
Irenaeus wrote of the Nicolaitans that they “lived lives of unrestrained indulgence.” Clement of Alexandria added that the Nicolaitans “abandon themselves to pleasure like goats … leading a life of self-indulgence.” The Ephesian church did not tolerate the Nicolaitans and their teachings. Hatred is at times a Biblical attitude and God is described as hating (Deuteronomy 16:22; Psalm 11:5; Proverbs 6:16-19).
Revelation 2:4 – Despite the perseverance and toil that the Ephesian church exhibited, the Lord spoke to them regarding something that was going to jeopardize it all, and that was there loss of their first love. Though they were doctrinally orthodox they had left their first love. That love included love for God and Messiah, love for each other, and love for the lost.
The loss of a loving relationship with the Lord opens the doors to spiritual apathy, indifference to others, love for the world, compromise with evil, judgment, and, ultimately, the death of the church altogether. Despite its outward zeal and signs of life there was a deadly spiritual cancer growing in the life of the Ephesian church. They had lost their sensitivity to Christ, their fervor, spark, and anointing. Their fellowship and community, their praying and sharing with Messiah was not like it was when they were first came to faith.
They were not walking in a conscious awareness of the Lord’s presence, their joy was not the same because they were not as attached to Jesus as they had been. They were more attached to other things and other involvements of life. They loved their church and they had the right beliefs, and they were even ready to fight for the truth of Messiah. But they did not love Him as they did at first. They did not walk and share with Him, taking blocks of time getting to know Him and being with Him.
Revelation 2:5-7 The cure to their fatal spiritual sickness is to remember from where they had fallen. This was the first step of the prodigal son in being restored to his father (Luke 15:11ff). Second, they needed to repent, which literally means to turn from one direction to another; and finally, they needed to demonstrate genuine repentance by doing the things they did at first.
This is just the way we need to confront others:
First – do it with love and with the goal of restoration (Revelation 2:4-5; Galatians 6:1).
Second – begin with encouragement (Revelation 2:2-3,6).
Third – state the problem (Revelation 2:4-5).
Fourth – tell them how to be restored (Revelation 2:5) remember your past, repent of your error, return to the good ways of the past.
Fifth – let them know the consequences for continued disobedience (Revelation 2:5).
If the Ephesians did not respond, their lampstand would be removed. The Church would no longer live and be a vessel of God’s light. The letter to the Ephesians closes with encouragement and a promise. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches each letter to the congregations closes this way. It is a call that all believers have to heed God’s voice in Scripture. The use of the word churches tells us that this message is not just for the seven churches of Revelation but for all churches who read this letter and every church needs to hear this message.
There is a promise to him who overcomes. The overcomer is described by John in his earlier letters (1 John 5:4-5). All true believers are overcomers, who have by God’s grace and power have come to faith in Yeshua and abide in Him who imparts His power to resist the evil world system. Those who abide in Messiah will eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God. The tree of life is first referred to in Genesis 2:9 in the Garden of Eden.
That earthly tree kept from us as a result of sin and in grace we were forbidden from eating of it (Genesis 3:22), but the heavenly tree of life (Revelation 22:2,14,19) will last throughout eternity. The Paradise of God is heaven (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4). The letter to Ephesians is an echo of the call God had and still has for Israel (Hosea 14:1-4).