Revelation  2:1-7  (CLICK HERE FOR BIBLE VERSES)

Hi GAMErs,

Today’s passage is Revelation 2:1-7.  As usual, I encourage you to read the passage yourself first and see what you can glean with the Holy Spirit’s help, then read the GAME sharing below.  Let’s go!

Revelation 2:1 (NIV) 
1  “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands:

On verse 1:  Starting in chapter 2 John records 7 messages from Jesus that he is told to send to 7 churches in the province of Asia.  The first message is for the church of Ephesus.  Notice how the message is worded “To the angel of the church in Ephesus”.  Who is this angel?  The Greek word for angel here is angellos, which is mostly translated in the New Testament as “angel” but is sometimes translated as “messenger”.  According to some scholars, the two main possibilities for what the “angel” is referring to are: (1) the “angel” refers to an actual angelic being who supernaturally watches over the church; or (2) the “angel” refers to the pastor of the local church, who practically serves as God’s messenger to the church and who would likely be the one to receive and read out to the church this particular message that John had written.

If “angel” is read to mean an angelic being who supernaturally watches over the church, what a comfort it is to know that it is not just human leaders presiding over the church in any given city, but that heaven has also sent a supernatural messenger to watch over the church as well.

If “angel” is read to mean the pastor of the church, and if each angel is symbolized by the “seven stars” (see Revelation 1:20), then every pastor can find great comfort in Jesus’ words when He describes Himself as the one “who holds the seven stars in his right hand” (v1).  In other words, Jesus holds pastors in the right hand of His favour, blessing, strength and protection.  What a great comfort and encouragement this is for pastors who, according to this interpretation of Revelation 1 and 2, are described as stars and angels in Jesus’ right hand.

Praise God that, however you interpret “angel” in verse 1, we know that Jesus Himself walks among His churches, represented by the seven golden lampstands (Revelation 1:20).  Praise God that Jesus stays close to His church.

Revelation 2:2-6 (NIV) 
2  I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 
 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 
 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 
 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 
 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

On verses 2-6:  As you read the different messages Jesus has for the churches, you’ll notice a pattern: in almost every case (5 out of the 7 churches), Jesus will speak an encouraging and affirming word to the church before he rebukes them.  Except in extreme cases, Jesus tends to celebrate the positives before He points out the negatives.  What can we learn from this?

1. Jesus keeps a close, watchful eye on each of His churches.  He doesn’t treat them all the same but recognizes that each has unique strengths, weaknesses, victories and challenges.  He is such a good shepherd.

2. When you have a tough word to speak to someone, unless it is an extreme case, start with the positives before addressing the negatives.  By affirming the person first, you show that person that you are on their side.  That person will then be less defensive and more open to hearing what you have to say.  Pointing out the positives first also helps you and the other person to keep things in perspective, helping you see that the situation is not necessarily all bad.  This is all part of what the Bible calls speaking the truth in love.

Particularly in the case of the church of Ephesus, Jesus commends them for their acts of service, their hard work and their perseverance (v2a).  He also commends them for how they have stood up for the truth and stayed clear of false teachers (v2b).  Though it has not been an easy time for this church, they have persevered and kept moving forward (“not grown weary” – v3).

Then comes the rebuke:  Jesus challenges the church of Ephesus on how they have forsaken their first love.  What does that mean?   It means that though they had persevered through hardship, their hearts were no longer as passionate about Jesus as they used to be.  He tells them to repent (i.e. to agree with God that they have gone astray, to feel remorse and to turn their feet in a new direction).  In particular, He tells them to “do the things you did at first” (v5).  Though we don’t know what those things are exactly, we can guess that those were things they did in the past when they were more passionately in love with Jesus.

What can we learn from this?

1. God wants our hearts and not just our service.  God wants an intimate love relationship with us and not just a master-servant relationship.  So don’t just get busy serving the Lord.  Make time to draw close to Him.   As the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10 teaches us, it is good and important to serve Jesus, but it’s even more important to draw close to Jesus.

2. If there’s a relationship in your life that has grown cold, try doing the things you used to do when the relationship was hotter.  When the relationship was hotter, most likely you did four things: (1) you appreciated and celebrated one another more often; (2) you would check in on one another and ask how each other is doing; (3) you would try new, playful things with your loved one; and (4) you were a student of your loved one, that is, you were intent on learning as much as you could about your loved one.  If you would make it a point to do these four things again consistently, it would take a miracle for that relationship NOT to improve.

Revelation 2:6 (NIV) 
 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 

On verse 6:  Jesus follows up his rebuke to the church in Ephesus with some more encouragement.  He commends them on how, like Him, they hate the practices of the Nicolaitans.  While it is not clear who the Nicolaitans are, notice that Jesus does not say that He hates the Nicolaitans, but rather their practices.  Whether they were spreading false teaching or doing something else that Jesus hated, the lesson for us is that sometimes we must distinguish between hating a person and hating what they do.

Revelation 2:7 (NIV) 
 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

On verse 7:  In each of Jesus’ messages to the seven churches, He will say “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”.  We want to be sensitive to what the Holy Spirit has to say to us.

Finally, when Jesus says, “to him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God”, what is Jesus referring to?  First, the kind of overcoming that Jesus is referring to is hanging on to your faith in Jesus (1 John 5:4).  When you hang on to faith in Jesus, you are an overcomer and you get to eat from the “tree of life”.   The tree of life is first mentioned in Genesis 3:22 in the Garden of Eden, with the promise that those who eat from it will live forever.  Whether the tree of life is an actual tree in heaven that we can eat from or a picture for Jesus (whom we eat by faith to receive eternal life as per John 6:53), the lesson is that through faith in Jesus we are overcomers and have eternal life.

Lord Jesus, thank You for every precious lesson we can learn from Your Word.  Thank You for staying close to Your church and keeping careful watch over us.  Thank You for wanting my heart and not just my service.   Thank You for showing us how to speak the truth in love.  Thank You for being the strength by which we overcome.  Thank You for being our tree of life by whom we can live forever.  In Jesus’ name, AMEN!

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