The first part of this study will be about the 7 churches of Revelation and the letters Jesus tells John to write to each of them. We’ll first start with the Church of Ephesus – the Loveless Church.
The church of Ephesus has found partial favor in the eyes of Jesus. They hate what is evil and labor for Christ (Revelation 2:2-3). However, their one great flaw is that they’ve forgotten their first love (Revelation 2:3-4). Jesus tells them to repent and to “do the first works”. What first works is Jesus referring to here? I believe he’s talking about the first commandment he gave his disciples in Matthew 22:36-38 as well as in Mark 12:28-30, in which a Pharisee asks Jesus a question about the law, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” From this we can see the problem with Ephesus is that they have their minds in the right place – wanting to serve God, having a plan and putting that plan to action but they don’t have their heart there too, which according to 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 is meaningless,
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 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, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. ”
The consequence of not repenting is Jesus will come quickly and will remove their “candlestick” from its place, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:5). Two things stick out to me from the punishment they’ll get if they don’t repent; Jesus says he’ll “come quickly” and that their candlestick will be removed. This seems like a reference to the rapture/2nd coming as well as the judgement seat of Christ.
In many parts of the Bible Jesus likens his return to the earth as a “thief” in the night or he says he’s “coming quickly”. This language is used by Jesus when talking to the Church of Sardis later but it can be applied here as well, “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.” (Revelation 3:3). Jesus refers to the action of him coming back as a “thief”, meaning his return will catch them by surprise but only IF they aren’t paying attention. If Ephesus pays attention and repents, they won’t be caught off guard. This verse can apply to the church today; many Christians are “asleep” spiritually and aren’t aware of the many signs Jesus gave us concerning the end of this age and his soon return. For the Christians that are awake and are eager for his return, we know very well that we’re in the season so when he does come back we’ll be prepared.
As for the candlestick that will be removed from its place, that may be alluding to the judgement seat of Christ in which every believer in Christ will be judged according to their works. This judgement however, doesn’t result in damnation as we already have been saved through our belief and confession of Christ as our savior but it results in either the burning up of our works that didn’t have a benefit to the kingdom or those that were beneficial will withstand the fire and we’ll be rewarded,
“Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)
At the end, Jesus lets us know the rewards of overcoming and also repenting and coming back to him, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7) If we overcome, we are promised eternal life. What’s also interesting is everything is coming back full circle; Adam and Eve were the first to have access to the tree of life in the garden of Eden in Genesis but had the privilege revoked due to their disobedience. Now we can partake of that same fruit by overcoming through Christ.