The Book of REVELATION
James J. Barker
THE CHURCH OF EPHESUS
- In the New Testament, there are actually two
epistles to the Ephesians. The apostle Paul wrote the first one, in
approximately 64 AD.
- Then over 30 years later, a second epistle to the
church of Ephesus was written. This second letter was written by the Lord
Himself (Rev. 2:1).
- The man who holds the seven stars in His right hand and
who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks (2:1) is referred to in
Revelation 1:13 as “the Son of man.”
- All seven letters in Revelation 2 and 3 end with the
same message: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith
unto the churches” (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).
- Ephesus was the most prominent city in the Roman
province of Asia.
- Ephesus is west of Laodicea, and is located on a gulf of
the Aegean Sea. In the apostolic era, it was an important and flourishing
commercial and export center for Asia.
- The city of Ephesus was also a major center of heathen
idolatry and worship. In Acts 19, we read of Paul’s ministry in
Ephesus. A big riot broke out, and Acts 19:34 says that for two hours the
unruly mob cried out, “Great is Diana of the
- The temple of Diana in Ephesus was one of the seven
wonders of the ancient world. In that ornate heathen temple stood an
idol of Diana, the goddess of fertility. Her followers engaged in wicked,
sensual and vile religious rites.
- It was in this wicked city that the apostle Paul spent
three years preaching the Gospel (Acts 20:31). Referring to the apostles’
ministry in Ephesus, Acts 19:20 says, “So mightily grew the word of God
- After Paul left
Ephesus, Timothy served for some time as the pastor (I Tim. 1:3). Also, the
apostle John pastored the church for some time.
- The Lord told the church at Ephesus that He knew the
quality of their service, and their obedience (2:2,
- In Rev. 1:14, the Bible says our Lord’s eyes “were as a
flame of fire.” This signifies His omniscience. The Lord
knows all things. He knows everything. Nothing escapes His
- In fact, if you study these seven letters to the seven
churches, you will notice the same thing over and
- To the church at Ephesus, “I know thy works”
- To the church at Smyrna, “I know thy works”
- To the church at Pergamos, “I know thy works”
- To the church at Thyatira, “I know thy works”
- To the church at Sardis, “I know thy works”
- To the church at Philadelphia, “I know thy works”
- To the church at Laodicea, “I know thy works”
- Our Lord knows our “works.” We are not saved by
our good works, but if we are genuinely saved, we will work (cf. Eph.
2:8-10; Titus 3:8).
- James 2:18 says, "Yea, a man may
say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and
I will shew thee my faith by my works."
- The church at Ephesus was a working church. “And
hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast
not fainted” (2:3).
- DL Moody used to say, “I get weary in the work,
but I never get weary of the work.”
- Our Lord commended the church at Ephesus for their works
and their labor and their patience (2:2). In fact, this commendation is
repeated for emphasis (cf. 2:3).
- Furthermore, our Lord commends them because they would
not tolerate sin and false teaching (2:2, 6). “And how thou canst not
bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are
apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars”
- The church at Ephesus
had discernment. They had strong convictions. They
would not tolerate phony apostles and liars.
- The church at Ephesus
was commended for their patience (2:2, 3), but they had no patience for evil
men and false prophets.
- The apostle Paul had
warned the elders of Ephesus that evil men would try and infiltrate the church
(cf. Acts 20:17, 27-31).
- Grievous wolves are
always trying to sneak into churches. Jude 4 says they creep in
“unawares.” I work hard trying to keep the wolves out of our
- Our Lord said in
Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
- Before moving on,
notice the contrast between 2:6 and 2:15. That which was hated in the
church at Ephesus was accepted and embraced in the church at Pergamos.
AN IMPORTANT WARNING
- The church at Ephesus had left its first love
(2:4). Perhaps the gradual declension was almost imperceptible. Outwardly,
everything seemed to go on as usual.
- But they had grown cold. They had lost their
enthusiasm. Their services were becoming mechanical, routine and
- Their fire had gone out. They no longer had the same
fervency. Their preaching services were beginning to dry up. The
power of God was no longer present.
- AJ Gordon was a great 19th century
preacher. He pastored the Clarendon Street Baptist Church in Boston.
When he first arrived the church was cold and very formal. They had a paid
(unsaved) choir, which he wisely got rid of. They had to work hard to get
the church back on track because they had left their first love.
- Gordon wrote this, “Ecclesiastical corpses lie all about
us. The caskets in which they repose are lined with satin and are
decorated with solid silver handles and abundant flowers. Like the other
caskets, they are just large enough for their occupants with no room
for converts. These churches have died of respectability and have been
embalmed in self-complacency.”
- “Thou hast left thy first love” (2:4). What are
some of the warning signs? We need to watch out for certain
- When Christians would rather talk about sports, or their
job, or shopping, or worldly entertainment, or other frivolous things, than talk
about the things of God.
- When prayer and serious Bible reading is
- When there is a lack of interest in preaching services,
prayer meeting, Sunday School, missions conference, revival meetings,
- Vance Havner said, “People go where they want to go.
Where their hearts are their heels will follow.”
- When regular church attendance and godly living becomes
- When Christians are cheap and stingy. Vance Havner
heard some of these cheap Christians complain that they cannot figure out their
tithe. He said, “If it was coming their way, they’d figure it
- When Christians make excuses for lukewarmness and
backsliding. Some new Christians are zealous and fervent until they meet
up with a few wishy-washy Christians. Then they start to cool
off. How sad!
- When Christians will not deal with besetting
- When Christians can grieve the Holy Spirit and not seem
- When there is a lack of interest in winning
- When there is a lack of interest in missionary
- When Christians are just about as worldly and carnal as
- Isaac Watts wrote many great
“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”
“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a
present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my
life, my all.”
- Is that how you feel about the Lord Jesus
Christ? If not, then you need to repent (2:5). You have left your
AN URGENT CALL TO REPENT
- Twice we see the word “repent” in Revelation
2:5. Repentance means a change of mind which leads to a change in
direction – “and do the first works; or else…”
- The church at Ephesus was warned that their golden
candlestick would be removed. A candlestick is of little value without
light, and their light was starting to go out.
- They needed to repent, but they did not
repent. So our Lord had to eventually remove their candlestick.
Today the great city of Ephesus is a desolate
- Today there is no Christian witness in Ephesus. It
is part of modern-day Turkey, a Muslim country (cf. Acts 19:1, 20). This
is the judgment of God upon a people who would not
- Vance Havner said it would be either “revival or
removal.” Ephesus chose removal. It is far better to have
- Repentance always precedes revival. And
remembrance must follow repentance. Our Lord says in Rev. 2:5,
“Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and
- The prodigal son was in the hog pen, when our Lord said
in Luke 15:17, “He came to himself.” In other words – he
remembered, and then he repented. And then he returned to
his father (cf. Rev. 2:5). This reminds us that genuine repentance always leads to
- We need to remember…to think…to do some
soul-searching. Remember, it is the Holy Spirit who gives us this great
love for Christ.
- Romans 5:5 says, “The love of God is shed abroad in our
hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto
- The letter to
the Ephesians, like the six other letters in Revelation 2 & 3, closes with
an invitation – “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto
the churches” (2:7).
- The Holy Spirit is speaking, and so we must listen.
- There is an invitation, and there is also a
promise: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of
life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God”
- Who is he “that overcometh”? First John 5:5
says, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus
is the Son of God?”
- If you are saved, then according to the Bible, you are
an overcomer. First John 5:4 says, “For whatsoever is born of
God overcometh the world.”
- In all seven letters, the final challenge is to the
overcomer is addressed not to the church, but to the individual –
“To him that overcometh” (Rev. 2:7). It is not, “To them
- In all seven
letters, the invitation and the promise is always directed to the
individual. The action of the church must begin with the response of each