“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:” (Revelation 2:1-2).
Ephesus was a great commercial center of Asia Minor, and was noted for the great temple of Diana, one of the wonders of the ancient world (Acts 19:27). The site of the city is now covered with ruins.
Jesus is described as one who “holdeth” and “walketh.” The idea of holding the preachers or elders of the synagogue in His right hand was discussed to some degree in our comments on chapter 1 verse 20. The right hand is symbolic of a place of favor and privilege. Jesus is said to sit at God’s right hand. Stephen sees Him standing on the right hand of God. Thus, the right hand speaks of special privilege, honor, and protection. These ministers of God are assured of God’s love and protection in the Day of the Lord.
The glorified High Priest also walks in the midst of the churches. As the Lord walked in the midst of the camp so all Israel might know his presence, this glorified One was also in their midst. “For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.” (Deuteronomy 23:14).
That presence assured them that He, too, was their brother in tribulation and suffering. This is the theme of many of the Psalms.
The Lord Jesus was fully aware of their works (v.2). The four Gospels and Hebrews through Revelation clearly teach the necessity for works to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. This explains why most religious systems think works are necessary for salvation in this day of grace. The problem is not that a works system for salvation is not taught; the problem is their inability to rightly divide the Word of God. The Gospels and Hebrews through Revelation are not written to the church of this dispensation. They concern Israel and their Kingdom.
Not only will works be required to enter the kingdom, great patience will also be needed to endure the tribulations. Luke12:43-46 gives a clear account of the patience and commitment needed to enter the kingdom, “Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.” You have the same warning in a different setting in the parable of the ten virgins. “And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 25:10-13).
In 2:2 where it states, “…say they are apostles,” Jesus promised the Twelve apostles that they would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel in the kingdom. Just as Simon the sorcerer saw the advantage of apostolic gifts, so these, who say they are apostles, see some benefit to that title and possession. Just as it was necessary to manifest the “signs” of an apostle in the Acts period, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2 Corinthians 12:12), so those within the Day of the Lord will also be “tried” and found to be false apostles.
“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 Nicolaitanes, 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 2:3-7). (The reader should note the frequency of the word “overcometh.”)
In verse 3, notice the past tense of their action. They were experiencing persecution and suffering when John was brought forward in the vision. The persecutions will begin between the Rapture of the Church and the beginning ofDaniel’s seventieth week. We are not certain how long that period will be.
In verses 4 and 5 the evidence that they had “left” and “fallen” was seen in their departure from their “first love.” Jesus said to His kingdom followers, “ye are the light of the world.” At the Second Advent of Christ, Israel is called on to rise and shine. They will mourn for Him and repent of rejecting and crucifying Him. Then their light will shine to all the earth. They will have returned to the One they had left, and He will recover them from their fall. “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” (Isaiah 60:1-3).
The positive note was their work, patience, and disdain for the present evil. In addition, they hated the “deeds of the Nicolaitanes” (v.6). We find little help from the commentaries on who these Nicolaitanes are or what their deeds were. Since they cannot be sure or agree, we will leave the revelation of their identity for the Day of the Lord.
It is the “churches” (plural), which are addressed in verse 7. This letter, as well as the others, is not only for those at Ephesus, it is intended for all the churches in the Day of the Lord. “Overcoming” will be the requirement for salvation and permission to enter the Kingdomof Heaven. To overcome is the same as to endure. The context of the four Gospels is the Day of the Lord and faithfulness is the requirement. None make that more clear than the Gospel of Matthew in chapter 24, which speaks specifically of that day. Jesus makes it clear that those who would be citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven must endure unto the end of the Day of the Lord. “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
The promise of access to the “tree of life” is to all those within the churches who overcome. This “tree of life” first appears in the paradise called Eden. It was there for man’s eternal physical life. That is why God forbade man to eat of it after the fall. “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:” (Genesis 3:22).
Dake says concerning this verse, “There must have been an inherent virtue in the tree of life to preserve life indefinitely. If man was created to live forever should he not sin, then he lost eternal life in the fall.Christ brings it back to him (2Timothy1:10). The tree of life would have caused even sinful man to live forever physically; hence, the action of Genesis 3:22-24. See notes on Genesis 2:9, Revelation 22:1-3.”
Those who overcome and endure to the end of the Day of the Lord will enter the kingdom in their natural bodies. They, no doubt, will “never die” and will maintain their eternal physical life by eating of the tree. These and the saved nations, which come out of the Great Tribulation, will eat of the tree of life. Certain nations will be assigned a month in which to come up and eat. “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2. Zech. 14:16-18).
The “paradise of God” (v.7) speaks, not of heaven, but of the eternal bliss, comfort, and joy on the earth for those who overcome. Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines it as, “A Persian word (pardes), properly meaning a “pleasure-ground” or “park” or “king’s garden.” This will be fulfilled in Revelation 21:1 where John says, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”
Pastor Ken Blue was born in Boswell, Ark. In 1955 he accepted Christ as his Savior. He and his wife Joyce were married in 1955. They have 5 children. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Bible College in 1969 and started the Open Door Baptist Church in Lynnwood, Wa. where he pastored for 39 years. Because of health issues (ALS) he was forced to resign as pastor. It is his desire to continue to be used of God to help pastors and believers through this ministry.