Revelation 2 today, and an inside look at how Jesus sees the church. The time of the Christian church in this world, from the first century to today.
I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Jesus called. He wants His religion back.” Nice. Another one said, “Help me Jesus! Save me from your people.” And you know, I have heard of some crazy things in the name of the Christian church. And church history can be scary! And I wonder sometimes, what does Jesus think of His church?
Well, wonder no more. He tells us right here in Revelation 2 and 3, as Jesus writes 7 letters to seven churches. And this is really something amazing. In seven letters, Jesus speaks to seven churches – and many believe – to seven eras in church history, ahead of time. Past for us but future for Him.
See, each of the seven churches was a real church in 95 AD when this was written, but each church also shows us a picture of the Christian church in a particular period of history, right up to today. Jesus speaks to His church in advance, and gives each one direction, encouragement, and correction.
And more than that, in every letter we find application for us, my church and yours. We all have issues, and Jesus speaks to each one right here. From persecuted to popes to protestants, Jesus loves His church. And those he loves, he disciplines. So get ready for some personal correction from the One who loves you enough to say what hurts and heals.
Now remember, this whole book is about revealing Jesus. And here each church letter begins with a revelation of who Jesus is. In the church age, Jesus reveals himself to and through the church.
Do you remember when Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” And when they got it right, he said, “On this rock I will build my church.” What rock? “Who he is.” The foundation of the church is who Jesus is.
And that is why to every one of the churches, Jesus reveals an element of who he is, and each one is a reference to chapter 1. For me – this is the most interesting part of Revelation.
Letter number one is to Ephesus – a good church, but with something missing.
Jesus reveals himself as him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.
Remember the lamps are the churches. Jesus holds the church and he is among the church. Jesus is God with us. Verse 2:
“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance” (Revelation 2:2).
The Ephesians are a hard working church, with sound doctrine and strong determination, and Jesus knows it. He sees their work and their perseverance, and he commends them. But in verse 4:
“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (2:4).
In all their hard work, in all their diligence and doctrine, they forgot love. Agape. The word Ephesus can mean “darling” or “first” – a term of endearment for young lovebirds. But the relationship that this church had with Jesus was like a good marriage gone stale. Not bad, just cold. They were going through the motions, but lost the emotions. And when your love for God fades, your love for people fades with it. So Jesus challenges the church in verse 5:
“Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (2:5).
Jesus tells us to go back. Remember when you first loved God. I remember I was brand new in Christ, and the whole world was new again. I used to sing my way to work every day, just amazed that Jesus cared to listen. Jesus says, if you’ve lost that loving feeling, go back and do the things you did at first.
Repent. Return to love.
Now for every church, no matter the struggle, Jesus makes a promise for those who overcome. The NIV calls it “victorious.”
“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” (2:7).
Now that is a serious reward! Now this letter can speak to any of us, but historically I believe it speaks to the first century church, after the book of Acts until about 100 AD.
So read this letter from Jesus, and take it to heart. Strengthen your own foundation by coming back to who Jesus is. Return to love, and meet me back here for letter number 2.
Host: Thanks for joining us for today’s quick audio guide. You can find the full audio guide for this chapter and hundreds more on the Through the Word app and website. The app is free and free to share, so tell your friends and take the journey together. And remember, faith comes by hearing, and hearing Through the Word (Romans 10:17).
Bible quotes in NIV unless otherwise stated.