“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance…yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” Revelation 2:2a, 4
Ephesus was the Roman provincial capital of Asia minor and was the hub of commerce, civic life, and religion. Ephesus also guarded the temple of Artemis, was very involved in the occult and magic, and was also an important site for imperial cultic worship.
Jesus commends the Ephesian church for rejecting false teaching but indicts them for losing their love in the midst of their good works; calling them to repent and return to their first love.
“Each letter is a prophetic word from Jesus (e.g., Rev. 2:1) through the Spirit (e.g., 2:7), who is inspiring John (1:10).”14
“A serious danger in hearing Jesus’ message to the Ephesian church’s weakness in love is that we will simply dismiss it from any relevance to ourselves. Yet dismissing the church in Ephesus is somewhat like reading the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14) and concluding, ‘Thank God I’m not like that Pharisee!’ We need to hear the warning this church presents to us.”15
“In God’s kingdom, truth and love are woven together. Truth without love becomes little more than a cold demonstration of power, and love without truth ceases to be genuine love; both are relational disasters.”16
“The term Nicolaitans means ‘victorious over the people’ or ‘victory people’ and probably captures a wordplay on the important work nikaō used throughout Revelation, which calls Christians to ‘overcome’ or ‘conquer.’ The Nicolaitans are a group of false teachers closely connected to the cults of Balaam (2:14) and Jezebel (2:20-23), who are trying to redefine the faith to allow Christians to fit in with (and perhaps profit from) the surrounding culture with its idolatry, immorality, deceit, and false worship.”17
“Notice Christ’s self-designation: ‘He that holds the seven stars in His right hand, he that walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.’ What is the reason for this designation?…He holds the stars and walks in the midst of the lampstands. Thus we find that in each separate instance Christ’s self-designation has its bearing on the church to which the epistle is addressed.”18
- What is your initial response to the fact that Jesus says “I know your deeds,” and how might that motivate you to live?
- What is the significance of Jesus’ self-disclosure (the way He describes Himself) to the church of Ephesus given the context?
- What does this passage say about the importance of love for God and others compared with dutiful works in light of 2:5?
- Reword this section as if Jesus were speaking to you, what would He say?
- Jesus points out something that displeases Him in this passage. What does He tell the Ephesians to do to fix the situation? (Rev. 2:4-5)
Spend time in prayer over this passage this week and ask the one who walks among the lampstands to reveal to you how you may be doing the same things as the Ephesians.
If after reflection you find yourself in the same place as the church at Ephesus, what is Jesus’ command to you?
14, 15 Keener, Craig S. Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.
16, 17 Duvall, J. Scott. Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014.
18 Hendriksen, William. More than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998.