God’s Message to the Ephesus Church in Revelation and Your Church

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

The Book of Revelation has a message for the 7 churches that could help us examine the health or sickness of our own church, including the Church at Ephesus.

The Churches: Past and Present

The Book of Revelation has a message for the 7 churches that could help us examine the health or sickness of our own church. The 7 churches in Revelation were actual physical churches in the locations John gives, so these were churches that existed at the time John wrote these letters. Some scholars believe that these 7 churches are related to 7 different church ages that have existed since Jesus founded His church 2,000 years ago, but these letters to the 7 churches were sent to each of the 7 churches. These churches were to share or exchange these letters with the other churches. I believe these messages for the churches in the Book of Revelation were meant for all the churches (Rev 1:11), and not just them, so I believe they have a message for our churches today. We would do well to listen to Jesus’ admonishments.

The City of Ephesus

The city of Ephesus gets its name, it is thought, from “Apasas,” the name of a city in the “Kingdom of Arzawa.” The meaning is the “city of the Mother Goddess,” or “To Sit Upon” (Rule?). When Jesus first addresses the Church at Ephesus, He tells them, “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false” (Rev 2:2), and today, there is no shortage of self-proclaimed apostles who are not actually apostles at all. They’ve been tested and found false (Rev 2:2). How were they tested? It was by Scripture. The Word of God exposed them as false prophets. Jesus does commend the church for “enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary” (Rev 2:3), however He chastises them by saying, “you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev 2:4).

When Churches Die

Jesus passionately desires the church to “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Rev 2:5). The lampstand represents the church itself, so the threat of having their lampstand removed means that Jesus could end this church’s life. Churches are like people; they are born, they live and they die, but some will die sooner than others. Today, Ephesus is history, not having embraced the warnings from Jesus. To their credit, Jesus said the church did “hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (Rev 2:6), so who were the Nicolaitans?

The Nicolaitans

Could the Nicolaitans be related to Nicolaus who was a proselyte of Antioch? Could he be the same man who was also a deacon in the early church? Remember that Nicolaus and other church leaders were “set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:5-7), so it may have been Nicolaus who started this satanic cult. Revelation chapter 2 seems to link the practices of the Nicolaitans with the practices of those who listened to Balaam (Rev 2:15). If you remember the account, Balaam used Midianite women to seduce the men of Israel which led them into worshipping other gods (Num 31), so the Nicolaitans could represent false churches who now allow sin in the church to go unchecked. As such, they have a different Jesus than the One taught in Scripture; One Who taught against sexual immorality.

Fallen Churches

Many churches today accept and ordain women as pastors and elders, even though this is contrary to Scripture (1 Tim 3; Titus 1), and worse, they marry same-sex couples in what is supposed to be a church that Jesus is the Head of. I agree that it’s a church, but Jesus is not the Head of it. Just as Satan has his own ministers, he has his own churches, and now he apparently has his own denominations! We know this cannot be from God since those who practice such things will definitely not enter the kingdom (1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:21; Heb 13:4; Rev 22:15), so there are churches who are embracing the teachings and sexual immoralities of the Nicolaitans, just as Balaam put a stumbling block before Israel, sending Mediante women into the Israelite camp so that they committed sexual immorality.

Idolatry in the Church

The Nicolaitans were those who were attending idolatrous temples where they gladly received food given or sacrificed to idols, and we know for certain that those satanic temples were also places where they would engage in sexual immorality. So they indulged their pleasures in food, drink, and sex…or whatever felt good. On the other hand, believers are taught to deny themselves (Matt 16:24-26), but the Nicolaitans denied themselves nothing. Irenaeus, who was an early Church Bishop (Overseer), identifies the followers of Nicolas as one of the seven deacons chosen in Acts 6, and as men who now “lead lives of unrestrained indulgence,” so apparently, Nicolas was never fully converted. He was a deacon in the church but never saved. He walked the walk and talked the talk but he was a false convert. What caused his fall? It could have been his pride that induced him into forming a cult; the Nicolaitans. Nicolas fell, perhaps from the same root cause of Lucifer’s fall from grace; pride and power.

Spiritual Blessings

Early in the Church of Ephesus’ history, she was a strong church. The Apostle Paul commends the church, writing, “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints” (Eph 1:15), meaning this church had a good reputation early on of their benevolence toward the saints. Likely the church was a giving church and helping the church members in Jerusalem who were losing all that they had and had been thrown into poverty in many cases. Paul reminded them that God has already “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3), so they must not take those blessings for granted. If they did, they could easily be taken away.

Conclusion

The very same thing could happen to our churches that happened to the 7 churches of Revelation. They could be shut and shuttered. They could if we do not heed Jesus’ warnings to recapture that first love; that passionate, on-fire zeal for Christ. If that happens, there is the danger that Jesus could take away the lampstand of my or your church. We must repent and do the first works as we did when we were new believers (Rev 2:4). If we do not heed these warnings from Jesus for our own churches and not just the Church at Ephesus, He too could say to us, “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (Rev 2:5). As I said before; churches are born, they live and they die. Whether they live or die is up to them. We’ve been warned.

Here is some related reading for you: Ephesians Commentary: Summary and Key Verses

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.





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