The Church of Ephesus is the first of seven Churches addressed in Revelation Chapters 2 and 3. It corresponds to the first of seven Kingdom of Heaven parables told by our Lord Jesus in Matthew Chapter 13 which is the Parable of the Sower. They are one and the same.
However, this parable as presented by our Lord Jesus is actually a parable of all seven of the churches. Therefore, the student must know how to interpret and view the parable in such a way that it becomes uniquely applicable to the Church at Ephesus. This first parable then becomes a problem and therefore an obstacle when attempting to develope correlations between all seven parables and all seven churches.
Many Christians ask, "Does the Church at Ephesus exist today?". The answer is definitely - Yes - . Not only does this Church exist, but it is relatively easy to identify this Church among the seven Churches listed in Revelation. This has been true not only throughout Church history, but also at this present time as we shall see. No other Church in the world today displays the character, description, and doctrine to which both the parable and the Revelation letter point.
This Church is a sister church to the church at Smyrna and is located next to it both on the map and in doctrine.
It is best represented in an event that happened to Jesus involving a rich young ruler. this event is important to understanding the doctrine of this church. Our Lord thought is so important that it repeated to us in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
16) Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"
17) So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."
18) He said to Him, "Which ones?" Jesus said, " 'YOU SHALL NOT MURDER,' 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,' 'YOU SHALL NOT STEAL,' 'YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS,'
19) 'HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER,' and, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' "
20) The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?"
21) Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
22) But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Before jumping immediately into an expository presentation of any of the Seven Church Letters, It is important and a prerequisite that the reader first review the Introduction to the Seven Churches article before proceeding. Therein, the reader will gain proper understanding of the relationship between each of the seven letters to the Churches and their associated Kingdom of Heaven Parable.
We begin by looking at the first parable in Matthew Chapter 13 - - -
THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
3 Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: "Behold, a sower went out to sow.
4 "And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.
5 "Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth.
6 "But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.
7 "And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.
8 "But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
9 "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
The thing that makes it difficult to correlate the above parable with the Church at Ephesus is the fact that the focus is usually drawn to where the seed landed and the response of the soil to the seed. The seed in this parable is the Gospel and the parable teaches that the seed will not always produce a crop because of the condition of the soil. The condition of the soil is the "Heart" of man. This is the correct teaching of the parable, but this is not what correlates this parable to the Church at Ephesus.
It should be noted that in the above parable, it is ASSUMED that the seed is GOOD. The seed is uncontaminated, undamaged, undefiled in any way and is capable of producing fruit. This is true of the Gospel, for we know that - - -
For I am not ashamed of the GOSPEL of Christ, for it is the POWER of God to SALVATION for everyone who BELIEVES, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
The Church at Ephesus started out on the right foot - - -
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of TRUTH, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
However, after a period of time, the words of the Apostle Paul would grow distant and the word of Truth would depart from this Church. This Church failed to take heed - - -
28 "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
29 "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.
30 "Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
The parallel between the above parable and the Church at Ephesus is that there is something wrong with the SEED ! ! ! This is the necessary focus point in order to see the correlation between the two. The Church at Ephesus is in the business of sowing a seed of which the - - -
You will recall that in the following parable in Matthew concerning the "Wheat and Tares", the servants asked the Master a question about the seed - - -
"So the servants of the owner came and said to him, Sir, did you not sow GOOD SEED in your field? How then does it have tares?
The servants were concerned about the quality of the seed. However, in the very next verse, the Master explained what was happening with the appearance of the tares in the field - - -
Mat 13:28 "He said to them, An enemy has done this. The servants said to him, Do you want us then to go and gather them up?
By answering the question the way He did, the Master implied that the seed which HE had sown was indeed "GOOD" - - -
Something is wrong with the SEED that the Church at Ephesus is sowing cannot possibly produce fruit regardless of the soil condition. The seed that is being sown is BAD and LIFELESS. After this seed is sown, there will be no plants in the field where there will be reaping - - "some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" Therefore, the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 and the Church at Ephesus is one of CONTRAST of the "GOOD SEED" versus "BAD SEED" and not with a view toward the condition of the soil.
With this in focus, we are now in a position to look at the message to the Church at Ephesus as told to us by our Lord in Revelation Chapter 2 - - -
Revelation 2 1 "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, "These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:
We know from the previous Bible Topic Study on Revelation Chapter One that the - - -
SEVEN STARS = SALVATION
Each of the seven stars represents "Angels" of the seven churches.the Gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way as to overcome the seven obstacles to salvation which reside in man. These obstacles are a part of man's inherent sin nature which opposes and rejects the Word of God, the Gospel. The obstacle that prevents people in the Church at Ephesus from accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this Church is - - -
Jesus addresses this rejecting sin nature of man by declaring - - -
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
It is a natural tendency to associate "works" with this church because they have added WORKS to the gospel. However, It will be shown in another Bible Topic Study that the Church at Smyrna is involved in coming to God by "works" whereas this Church is involved in coming to God by ANOTHER WAY. The underlying sin nature in this case is that they are really rejecting Jesus Christ and HIS completed work for salvation by HIS death, burial, and resurrection from the grave. They desire to approach God using his name, faith in his name, plus their own inventions. We call this the FAITH PLUS type of Church.
2 "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;
The works, labor, and patience are approximately of equal proportions and are represented by - - -
The word "Patience" should really be translated "Perseverance". And this word in the Bible means, "Persistent Determination WITHOUT the intervention of God through demonstrated signs, wonders, and miracles". That is to say the power and glory of God is not present externally, but His presence is with the Believer in their heart.
The "evil" persons and "those who say they are apostles" he is speaking of are one and the same. Jesus commends this Church for their discernment in this matter. HE builds a complete description of these evil persons of whom the Church at Ephesus has ZERO TOLERANCE. This Church is against those who are - - -
3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.
The fact that they have persevered, have patience, and have labored is in reference to the fact that they are NOT seeking the glory of God now, but will wait for it. Jesus commends them for it. These traits do not exist in the Church at Thyatira. Basically, this Church is ANTI-Church at Thyatira
4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
Jesus agrees and commends them for their stand against those who seek the power and glory of God NOW. Now we get to the issue that so displeases the Lord. They have "Left Their First Love". We will find out what this Love is from the next verse.
5 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.
The fact that they have fallen takes us to one place in scripture - - -
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and DO NOT BE ENTANGLED again with a YOKE OF BONDAGE.
2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.
3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.
4 You have become ESTRANGED from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have FALLEN FROM GRACE.
5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by FAITH.
The subject He is talking about is FAITH versus WORKS. The subject might well be assumed to be works, but it is FAITH that is in view here because he commands that they do the FIRST WORKS. That takes us to - - -
"knowing that a man is not justified by the WORKS of the LAW but by FAITH in Jesus Christ, even we have BELIEVED in Christ Jesus, that we might be JUSTIFIED by FAITH in Christ and not by the WORKS of the LAW; for by the WORKS of the LAW no flesh shall be justified.
28 Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the WORK of God, that you BELIEVE in Him whom He sent."
Jesus is saying they are to repent or turn from what they are doing, that is STOP the WORKS and return to FAITH. The Faith he is talking about here is not the WALK OF FAITH, but Salvation by Faith - - - These folk have departed from the TRUTH of the Gospel and have entered the world of salvation by works.
But to him who does NOT WORK but BELIEVES on Him who justifies the ungodly, his FAITH is accounted for righteousness
Now we know for certain that he talking about SAVING FAITH because He says He will ":remove your lampstand from its place". From Revelation Chapter one we know that the Lampstands ARE the seven churches. Therefore, if the lampstand is removed, then there will be NO CHURCH. This is in effect saying that there will be NO SALVATION in this Church ! ! !
The work that this Church is doing and the message they are preaching is that your are - - -
SAVED BY WORKS
Therefore, we can easily conclude what the "FIRST LOVE" is from which they have left - - -
2 Th 2
9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,
10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the LOVE OF THE TRUTH, that they might be SAVED.
This Church is sowing CORRUPTIBLE SEED. The First Love to which they have abandoned is that precious Seed - - -
1 Peter 1:23
having been born again, not of corruptible SEED but INCORRUPTIBLE, through the WORD OF GOD which lives and abides forever,
Therefore, the First Love which the Church at Ephesus has lost is - - -
LOVE OF THE TRUTH
They are in effect sowing a seed that says a person is NOT SAVED by FAITH, therefore, they are approaching God by some other way, other than through Jesus Christ - - -
This Church did not heed the warning from the Apostle Paul when he told them - - -
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but FAITH working through LOVE.
7 You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the TRUTH?
2 Th 2:13
But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for SALVATION through sanctification by the Spirit and BELIEF IN THE TRUTH,
This Church had a great start when the book of Ephesians was first written to them. But grievous wolves have entered in not sparing the flock and now the book of Galatians is applicable to them. This explains why the Book of Ephesians has very little correlation to the Church at Ephesus as described in Revelation Chapter 2. Remember in Ephesians after the Church was started, the Apostle Paul told them - - -
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the WORD OF TRUTH, the GOSPEL of your SALVATION; in whom also, having BELIEVED, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
But this Church has departed from the Word of Truth and the message to them now is - - -
2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
3 Are you so foolish? HAVING BEGUN IN THE SPIRIT, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?
Now we know for certain that they started off well with the Gospel of Salvation, but allowed works to creep in and contaminate the Gospel of their Salvation, thus they are sowing a seed of which the - - -
SEED IS BAD
Of His own will He brought us forth by the WORD OF TRUTH, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Now Jesus continues from verse 2 above and finishes his description of the "evil" persons. We can now conclude that the persons he is describing are the Nicolaitans - - -
The issue of the Nicolaitans will be discussed in more detail when we get to the "Church in Pergamos". It is in this Church that the Nicolaitans make their home.
7 "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."
The only remedy for this Church is to return to their LOVE for the Gospel, the Word of Truth. The Unbelievers who hear and Believe the Word of Truth and accept it by Faith and Faith alone will be saved and eat of the tree of Life. They are preaching and teaching Salvation by Works. This is BAD SEED and the penalty for doing that is severe - - -
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you (Bad Seed) than what we have preached to you, let him be ACCURSED.
It is obvious now that the Christians and Professing Christians in this Church are missing a vital piece of armor - -
14 Stand therefore, having GIRDED YOUR WAIST WITH TRUTH, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
This Church although growing in numbers as are other Churches has lived on the edge of extinction ever since the day the Apostle John penned these words. This Church has not changed its message since that time. Those persons who realize the falsehood of the message and turn to the Word of Truth will have the privilege to eat of the Tree of Life and say - - -
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the TREE OF LIFE, and may enter through the gates into the city.
This Church needs to repent and return to the Truth of the Gospel - - -
1 Th 2:13
For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in TRUTH, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
A complete study and review of this Church will be included in the DVD teaching series on the Seven Churches of Revelation. Other topics of interest concerning this Church will include - - -