Revelation Chapter 2: I just started a series at Benson Grove Baptist on Wednesday nights on the “Seven Letters to the Seven Churches”. I have also planned on sharing some of my notes on Revelation here. For chapters 2 and 3, I will post notes here as I cover each church. Chapter 2: The seven churches in chapters 2 and 3 were located within what is modern day western Turkey. Jesus introduced Himself to John as walking amongst the candlesticks (these churches) in chapter 1 and He is about to relate to each church His judgment of their state at that time. The letters to the churches and the description of the condition of those churches mirror chronologically the condition of Christendom from Pentecost to the Rapture. Each church’s condition represents a different point on the timeline of Christian Church history as seen below:
1. Ephesus (A.D. 30-100)—name means “desirable.” The Apostolic Church.
2. Smyrna (100-313)—name means “myrrh.” The Martyr Church.
3. Pergamos (314-590)—name means “marriage.” The Compromising Church.
4. Thyatira (590-1517)—name means “continual sacrifice.” The Roman Catholic Church.
5. Sardis (1517-1700)—name means “remnant.” The Reformation Church.
6. Philadelphia (1700-1900)—name means “brotherly love.” The Revival Church.
7. Laodicea (1900—rapture)—name means “people’s rights.” The Worldly Church.
Notice each church’s name had a particular meaning which is also unique to the era represented.
Ephesus was a major city of the Roman Empire during the 1st century. It was second in size and importance only to Rome itself. Pliny the elder called Ephesus ‘Lumen Asiae’ or the Light of Asia. It was the center of religious and commercial growth in the region. One particular attraction that drew many visitors was the temple of Diana which was one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. It was four times larger than the Parthenon of Athens and the largest Greek temple ever built. Oddly, the Greeks chose to build it on a floating foundation of skins and charcoal in the middle of a swamp so as not to be affected by earthquakes which plagued the region. It had 100 external columns which reached 56 feet in height. The doors were of cypress wood; columns and walls were of Parian marble; the staircase was carved out of one vine from Cyprus. The temple served as the bank of Asia as vast sums of money was deposited there. It was an art gallery displaying the masterpieces.…Behind a purple curtain was the lewd, many breasted image of Diana, the goddess of fertility. Ephesus had a large amphitheater, shown in the attached photo, which sat 100,000 and the Apostle Paul actually stood in it. The city itself had about half a million inhabitants in the first century. Paul spent two years in Ephesus and John became pastor of the church there. It was destroyed by the Goths in 263 A.D. but rebuilt by Byzantine emperor Justinian who used some of the green marble columns form the Temple of Diana in his new cathedral in Constantinople which became known as the Hagia Sophia (the largest Cathedral for almost 1,000 years).
Christ says in His introduction to Ephesus, that He walks amongst the candlesticks or His churches. Ephesus represents the Apostolic Age and was a time of spiritual growth among the church. Christ’s position was in their midst. By contrast, by the time we get to the Laodicean Age, Christ is outside the door knocking. He tells them next that He knows their works. No matter what show we may put on, Christ knows the intent of our hearts. He first lists their positive works:
(1) It was an evangelistic church.
(2) It was a patient church
(3) It was a separated church, they did not tolerate evil in their membership
(4) It was an orthodox church, they were doctrinally sound and tested those who professed to be apostles.
(5) It was a church which labored for Christ denoting weariness, but they had not fainted from the work. Dwight L. Moody once said when he came home exhausted after a campaign and his family begged him not to go to the next campaign. He said to them, “I grow weary in the work but not of the work.”
(6) It was a discerning church. “Thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (2:6).
Many fundamental theologians say that the word Nicolaitans is a metaphor for the rise of the Catholic Church. The greek word Nico means ‘to conquer’ and Laity means ‘the people’ so some have assumed it merely refers to the rise of a clergy over the people. However, Jesus refers to them as having deeds and doctrine so that it is likely they were an actual sect. Additionally, many early church fathers, ie. Irenaeus, Epiphanius, Theodoret, Tertullian, and Hippolytus of Rome, wrote that the sect was started by the heretic Nicholas of Antioch. Nicholas was originally a Greek proselyte who professed Christianity and was the seventh to be chosen as a deacon of Antioch in Acts 6:5.
According to Irenaeus in his work, “Against Heresies”, the Nicolaitans that ‘they lived lives of unrestrained indulgence’. Several sources say this was due to Nicholoas teaching a variety of Gnosticism known as Antimonianism which taught lawlessness. Paul argued against their philosophy in Romans 6:1. Clement of Alexandria said the Nicolaitans merely used Nicholas’ name and they were taking his teaching out of context. Whether the sect was started by Nicholas or whether they misused his name and teachings most early sources indicate it was a real sect that preached that it was not only ok to sin but essential to sin in order to not only understand sin but to experience more of God’s grace. That being said it makes sense then that Jesus would later say that He hates their deeds and their doctrines are later lumped in with the doctrine of Baalim in Pergamos which bears striking resemblance to their doctrine.
Jesus’ condemnation of Ephesus is “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (2:4). He admonishes them to do three things:
(1) Remember. Their heads were to be given over to Christ.
(2) Repent. Their hearts were to be given over to Christ.
(3) Repeat. Their hands were to be given over to Christ. Repeat the first works. Unless this was done… “I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place” (2:5).
This is a message still important to you and I. We must remember to examine ourselves. Do we work for Him because we love Him? Is our walk one of progress toward being more like Him? If you are not growing spiritually closer to Him, then friend, by definition your backslid. Remember were you have fallen, Repent, and Repeat the first works. Jesus once said, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength..” (Mark 12:30) That is what He essentially reminds Ephesus to do.
“THINK ON THESE THINGS…”