Sunday, March 3, 2013

St. John’s Apocalypse – Revelation Chapter Two

The Church of Ephesus

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; ‘These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, 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: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” Revelation 2:1-7 KJV

John focused on what Christ is saying to him as he is writing these things down, intolerance to false doctrine and evil. In the following inquiries of the seven churches, it will be John’s home church of Ephesus that Christ deals with in the very beginning. It is noted in church history that John and Christ’s mother Mary came to Ephesus and to the established assembly around 48 A.D. It is notable to say that at this time in the first century church, the concept of denominations had not materialized. Therefore, we are dealing with a body of believers that have not been influenced by doctrines of churches other than the First Church of Jerusalem where it all began. Technically speaking for the church, the mother church for all born-again Christians is the First Church of Jerusalem. This is the reason that when Christ returns, it is Jerusalem He comes to and not the Vatican as some has this wishful thinking. Not to dishearten anyone, but according to the eschatology of Revelation all organized religion will be destroyed including the Vatican, Islam, and all harlot denominations of the world. This will give the returning Christ a clean slate as to establish His Kingdom as He wishes for us to behave in. This was one of the purposes for the Apostle Paul’s visits to these churches to make sure they stay on target in their doctrine of Christ. Even in Paul and John’s time, they all were awaiting the returning Christ with anticipation. It was in their heart and minds to be ready for Him and to make sure they were doing all that Christ expected of them. I feel this is the reason Christ had a hands on effect of the churches to prepare them for the Bema Seat of Christ where they will receive their just rewards.

In verse two, Christ is telling John that his actions towards evil are commendable. There arose inquisitions of some people, which came into the congregation and tried to stir up trouble by asking questions that came to arguments and disagreements. As in our day, there appears the self-proclaimed apostle to try out his theory of doctrine on the unsuspecting church. The only problem with this was that John was an original apostle and had contact with all the others including the Apostle Paul, which was the last of the original apostles. From this knowledge forward anyone who stepped up to the plate was only an imposter and usually driven from the congregation as a troublemaker and a liar. The proof of the apostle credentials was the fact that the man was chosen by Christ as He walked the earth among men. Christ handpicked His apostles and wrote the confirmation of each one in the foundation walls of the City of New Jerusalem. There are only twelve foundations and there won’t be any more added to accommodate the imposters that arrive too late such as in John’s day and ours.

“And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Rev 21:14

On this thought John wrote; “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” 1 John 4:1-3 KJV

Even before the Revelation visions were given to John, I feel he was well aware of the trouble that the church was in at the time. The Elders of Ephesus were simply ‘trying the spirits’ to discern if they were true or false. On many occasions, they found them to be false and thus ensued the cold and callous handling of the infiltrators. The real problem arose when they started suspecting everyone in the congregation probably because of the many differing opinions arising due to the influx of doubtful doctrinal ideas. John had the same problem we all have; we are human with all that ensues with feelings of doubts, and fears. It is a known fact that when the warrior is in the heat of the battle it is easy to get far-sided in our vision and feelings for humanity grow dim by the hour. I feel that this is the reason Christ stopped John and set him aside on Patmos to remind him that he and his followers had left their first love of men’s souls and that the ministry is inhibited by malice. I don’t believe it was John’s intention to do any of these things but when we struggle in the flesh as all men do, anything can happen unawares. Sometimes a period of time out is warranted for us all so we can be refocused on the job at hand. It has been said that we cannot see what we are doing because we are too close to the work. John and his congregation had changed warfare tactics from being on the defensive to going on the offence and this was an offence to the Saviour of the church. As Christ points out in His letter to Ephesus, there is a danger of total intolerance where any compassion is left outside the door of hope. Satan will never cease to stop from attacking and will use every person approachable to achieve his agenda of total destruction of the church. It would pay us to remember the words of Christ spoken to Peter.

“And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18

Christ was not telling Peter that the church would be built on [1]Peter’s ministry alone, but with Christ as the chief corner stone, we all will have an opportunity to build the church according to God’s plans for His Kingdom. Christ is telling the church that Satan and his cronies will not prevail nor win their war on the church. Yes, we will face opposition from the enemy and sometimes persecution as it was in John’s time. There will be times we will begin to think that the enemy is winning, but in the master plans of the ages, the church will be victorious with Christ Yehoshua sitting on the Throne of David. This is the promise of Matthew 16: 18.

The next problem mentioned in Ephesus was the infiltration of the [2]Gnostics. We have to remember where it is that the church is located. This area was of Grecian culture and home to over 300 false Grecian gods. These Gnostic sects, and there are many, embraced many of these false doctrines along with their secret handshakes and underground closed meetings claiming they possessed inside higher knowledge of supernatural proportions aspired from the supernatural gods of their imagination. It had a way of capturing men and women’s minds and conjured up curiosity nothing short of mystery. The more secretive, more the better for the congregation to be swayed away from truth. In our day, many professing Christians also congregate with another the Gnostic sect known as Free Masons; still in use are their secret handshakes and rituals as it was in John’s time. More than ever, the church is unfortunately inundated with Gnostics. Moreover, as it was in the Garden of Eden, Satan continues to blend truth with error and many follow the voice of cunningness with tingling ears. They have a nasty little habit of using secular indoctrination to explain the meaning of the Scripture texts instead of the Holy Spirit revealing the truth of the whole matter. Among the wheat, enter the tares. Most Gnostics are secularist in their view of the Bible and their main purpose is to conjure up obscure ideas that decimates one’s faith and introduces a plethora of doubts. Many have come up with some most amazing analogies that do not even come close to the intended truth of the Scripture. You can find many of these things in libraries around the world. A very good example of this secular doctrine and one of my favorites to attack would be the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, in which the Saviour and Mary are viewed as lovers and have a child in secret. There are many more untruths told by Gnostics and perpetrated by the movie industry. One such untruth on the movie screen was the “The Di Vinci Code” from the novel by Dan Brown.

In addition, another form of Gnostic belief with us today is an atheist movement, which is declared as another form of religion. Once again, employing the higher form of head knowledge but without the system of faith except in one’s self, this aspires into humanism where man has replaced the true and living God with himself above all.

Make note: if a born-again Christian is not grounded in the truth of the Gospel these untruths circulating will surely be the litmus test of their salvation. It is the same scenario played out in different places on many fronts. Satan will never give up on his attacks on the church and Christ will always be there to defend it.

“But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” Revelation 2:6
According to verse six, there was a germ of Gnostics known as [3]Nicolaitans. This new Gnostic sect caused horrific problems in the church of Ephesus in which John was contending. The Nicolaitans were a kindred antinomian sect who abused the doctrine emphasized by the Apostle Paul of Gentile liberty from the Mosaic Law. In defiance of that apostle's [4]warnings as well as of the decree of the [5]Council of Jerusalem, they permitted participation in heathen feasts connected with idolatry as well as the fornication that frequently accompanied such feasts. The Nicolaitans represent a more advanced and aggressive state of antinomianism than that which was found in the Corinthian Church. They are organized into a sect with a 'doctrine,' and stand in a nearer relationship to the 'false teachers' referred to in Jude 4,11,12 & 2 Peter 2:1,2,14,15, who 'turned the Grace of God into lasciviousness, 'denied even the Master' probably through countenancing idolatry, and 'followed the way of Balaam' 'running riotously in his error[6].
My view of the conclusion of Ephesus to me is the heartbreak of the truth of the Gospel of Christ. Did the Church of Ephesus heed Christ’s warning? Well, it is evident it did not. What would have been the outcome of the church in relation to today’s congregations if it had? I am sure there are a lot of ‘what ifs’ that comes to mind. I feel on the return of John when he was released from prison in about A.D.98 that he tried everything in his power to sway and convince the congregation to return to the first works or else. I believe John died in peace with the LORD knowing he had tried everything possible to him even though it might have been too late, although it is never too late for the new influx of knowledge to grasp the reigns. John voiced his efforts, wishes, and heartbreaks through the writings of the Gospel of John, first, second, and third John, and finally the Apocalypse of Revelation, some say after he had returned to Ephesus.
The opportunity still awaits us who are in the land of the living. I believe Christ expects us all to adhere to this unwavering letter to the church. That is what I adore about my LORD and Saviour, there is always hope for change in the right direction. Whether or not this change takes place will be the burden you and I will bear. With the overwhelming evidence that the Church of Ephesus has crumbled to the ground by the cruelty of time, unfortunately, the church of Ephesus is with us today wholly in spirit and truth. I wonder if the candle of Ephesus has been extinguished or is the flicker of it lingering on throughout the denominations of our time. I am not the Christ nor do I possess the wisdom of God fully but if it had been my decision to make, I would have probably written off Ephesus and extinguished the candle long ago. I am glad that I do not hold the judgment seat of the ages. It seems from the very outset Satan unloaded every ounce of literal hell he could and can muster at the church. In fact, not much has changed but rather intensified through the ages. Therefore, as Satan is well aware, his days grow shorter and shorter as the time draws nearer for the return of our LORD and Saviour who will set all things in order. Amen

[1] Peter = Petro’s or ‘little rock’
[2] Gnostics = Higher knowledge outside of the Word of God. A form of Secularists who possessed  head knowledge and rejected the works of faith. Gnosis or science falsely so-called as the Apostle made mention to Timothy in his letter of 1 Timothy 6: 20.
[3] Nicolaos--'he overcomes the people’. An un-translated Greek word meaning, 'rulers over the people.' Nicolaitanism is really clerisy or clerics -- the subjugation of those who were contemptuously styled 'the laity' by a hierarchical order who lorded it over them as their own possessions, forgetting that it is written, 'One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren.' H.A. Ironside
[4] 1 Corinthian’s 6:13-20, 8:9&10, 10:28
[5] Acts 15:29
[6] H.A. Ironside