When you think of all the letters in the New Testament the many letters of Paul, the epistles of Peter, James, and John, and these letters from the heart of our Lord to the seven churches in Asia do you ever wonder if the human writers of these letters stopped to think of the history, the 2,000 years of church history that would follow, the millions and millions of believers who would someday read those words? Perhaps not. But I do know that God, when He inspired these letters, was thinking not only of the moment in which they were written, but of the centuries of history to come. That is why these ancient letters continue to live and breathe and give life to the church in our own era, as in every previous era.

You and I are making history. We are the latest links in an unbroken chain of church history that extends all the way back to the time of Jesus and His disciples. The letters of the Bible, including these seven letters to seven ancient churches, were written with history in mind. Future history. Our history, yours and mine. A history filled with computers and electronic media and space travel and the unchanging human condition, the age-old problems of the human spirit.

So let us now turn to the first of these seven letters. If we have ears to hear, let us listen to what the Lord has to say to the churches and to you and me.



Revelation 2:1-7


When Daniel Webster was but a struggling young lawyer in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, he became acquainted with a lovely, delicate young woman named Grace Fletcher. She was his first love, the first woman he had ever given his heart to, and he was deeply devoted to her. Grace's father, a clergyman, allowed young Webster to call on Grace in their home. Webster spent many hours holding skeins of silk for her while she unknotted the thread so that it could be sewn. It didn't matter to him what they did together, as long as he could be near her.

1

On one of his visits to Grace's home to help her unknot her silken thread, Webster waited for just the right moment to speak what was on his mind. Finally, the moment came. Grace's father and mother stepped out of the room for a few moments, and Webster knew it might be a long time before they would be alone again. Screwing up every ounce of his courage, Webster said, "Grace, we have been untying these silken knots for many weeks together. I think it is time we tie a knot which will not be untied for a lifetime."


Speechless, her eyes wide, her heart tripping, Grace watched as Webster took up a piece of red ribbon and began to tie an elaborate knot in the middle of it. Then he handed the ribbon to Grace. She took it and added several more intricate loops, completing the difficult knot. This silent act was the ceremony of their engagement.

Soon afterward, Daniel Webster married Grace, a marriage which lasted until her death, 21 years later. Webster eventually remarried and lived on for many years, but he never lost his affection for his first love. Following his own death in 1852, a box was found hidden among his personal effects. Inscribed upon the box were the words "Precious Documents." Within the box were the letters he and Grace had exchanged during their courtship and marriage. They were well-worn, as if they had been often removed from the box, read, then replaced and hidden again.

And there was one other memento in Daniel Webster's box of memories: a length of red ribbon, still tied in an intricate knot.

This is a beautiful story of a man who never lost his affection for his first love. And in many ways, it is a parable of how our love for Jesus Christ should be: devoted, loyal, fond, tender, filled with remembrance, thankfulness, and yearning. Do you remember the first time you fell in love? Do you recall that feeling of always wanting to be near the object of your love, to simply bask in the presence of that person?

In Revelation 2:1-7, we meet a church that once loved Jesus that way. But tragically, at the time that we encounter this church in Revelation, the fondness, the remembrance, the yearning of that first glow of love had faded. Instead of a church that is ardently in love with its Lord, we find a church that has lost its love.

Revelation 2:1-7

2:1 TO THE angel (messenger) of the assembly (church) in Ephesus write: These are the words of Him Who holds the seven stars [which are the messengers of the seven churches] in His right hand, Who goes about among the seven golden lampstands [which are the seven churches]:

2 I know your industry and activities, laborious toil and trouble, and your patient endurance, and how you cannot tolerate wicked [men] and have tested and critically appraised those who call [themselves] apostles (special messengers of Christ) and yet are not, and have found them to be impostors and liars.

3 I know you are enduring patiently and are bearing up for My name's sake, and you have not fainted or become exhausted or grown weary.

4 But I have this [one charge to make] against you: that you have left (abandoned) the love that you had at first [you have deserted Me, your first love].

5 Remember then from what heights you have fallen. Repent (change the inner man to meet God's will) and do the works you did previously [when first you knew the Lord], or else I will visit you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you change your mind and repent.

6 Yet you have this [in your favor and to your credit]: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans [what they are doing as corrupters of the people], which I Myself also detest.

7 He who is able to hear, let him listen to and give heed to what the Spirit says to the assemblies (churches). To him who overcomes (is victorious), I will grant to eat [of the fruit] of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. [Genesis 2:9; 3:24.] AMP



2:1-3 "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: 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."



The first thing the Lord impresses upon the Ephesian church is that He is the Lord of all the churches. He holds the seven stars in His right hand, and He walks among the seven lampstands. He is in control of the angels of the churches, and He is directly observing the lampstands, the churches themselves, as He walks through their midst.

The city of Ephesus was one of the most important cities in the Roman province of Asia, a center of wealth and commerce and a crossroads of travel and trade, much like San Francisco or New York in our own era. Ephesus was a center of worship for the pagan goddess Artemis (also called Diana), and the world-renowned Temple of Artemis was located there. This temple was longer than two football fields, and was considered one of the seven wonders of the world. Its ruins can still be visited today.

The church at Ephesus was planted by the apostle Paul. You can read of its founding in Acts 19. When Paul came to Ephesus on his third missionary journey he discovered a number of disciples living there who had been given a smattering of truth by Apollos, the great orator of the early church. At the time Apollos had been at Ephesus he had known only the ministry of John the Baptist, so when Paul found these disciples at Ephesus the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was unknown to them.

Acts 19

19:1 WHILE APOLLOS was in Corinth, Paul went through the upper inland districts and came down to Ephesus. There he found some disciples.

2 And he asked them, Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed [on Jesus as the Christ]? And they said, No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.

3 And he asked, Into what [baptism] then were you baptized? They said, Into John's baptism.

4 And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, continually telling the people that they should believe in the One Who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus [having a conviction full of joyful trust that He is Christ, the Messiah, and being obedient to Him].

5 On hearing this they were baptized [again, this time] in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 And as Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke in [foreign, unknown] tongues (languages) and prophesied.

7 There were about twelve of them in all.

8 And he went into the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, persuading and arguing and pleading about the kingdom of God.

9 But when some became more and more stubborn (hardened and unbelieving), discrediting and reviling and speaking evil of the Way [of the Lord] before the congregation, he separated himself from them, taking the disciples with him, and went on holding daily discussions in the lecture room of Tyrannus from about ten o'clock till three.

10 This continued for two years, so that all the inhabitants of [the province of] Asia, Jews as well as Greeks, heard the Word of the Lord [concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God].