In this section of The letter to the church in Ephesus, we’ll look at the conclusion for the church in Ephesus. It includes what I’ve called the “Hear” section, which is almost always identical in both words and placement in all seven letters. Hearing, or not, leads to being given the right to eat from the tree of life, or not.
We’ll also revisit the chart looking at the “psychology” of this church. Remember, the first look was based strictly on a reading of the letter. Now, with more knowledge, we look again at how we view this church. And in the process, what it means to us.
It’s interesting to see how our view changes from the first impressions. That tells us just how important it is to study the Bible, pay attention to our life and our journey to get or stay on the narrow path. It also puts added emphasis on our need to regularly pray the passages from Psalm 139.
Finally, we’ll look at what Jesus promises to those who overcome. To the ones who are able to rise above the warnings and stay true to Jesus. In each church, no matter how much bad news there is, there are always rewards for those who overcome.
Just as with the people in the Ephesian church, the extent to which we are able to hear what Jesus has to say, and our ability to determine how His words relate to us, will go a long way to telling us whether or not we’re likely to be given the right to eat from the tree of life.
Will the people in the church in Ephesus be overcomers? Or will they find excuses to not make the changes Jesus says they need?
Before we resume with the letter to the church in Ephesus, here’s the breakdown for this particular letter.
|To||the angel of the church in Ephesus|
|From||him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands|
|Divine Knowledge||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.|
|But -||Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.|
|So -||If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.|
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
|To those who overcome||I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.|
“Hear …” for all the churches
As I mentioned, the “hear” portion of the letters is very nearly identical. Rather than explain it each time, we’ll take a look at this statement and how it goes back to the Old Testament prophecies. Its origin is from Isaiah, from when the prophet was given his commission from God.
Isa 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Isa 6:9 He said, “Go and tell this people:
“ ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
Isa 6:10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
Isa 6:11 Then I said, “For how long, O Lord?”
And he answered:
“Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,
Isa 6:12 until the LORD has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken.
Isa 6:13 And though a tenth remains in the land,
it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
leave stumps when they are cut down,
so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”
Of course, this was part of the prophecy of the birth of Jesus. But we really can’t stop there, since Jesus Himself used it during His time on earth. One of many examples is in the Parable of the Sower, which we looked at in part 2 of this series. The excerpt below is from that parable, where Jesus explains to His disciples why He speaks in parables.
13:1-15 pp — Mk 4:1-12; Lk 8:4-10
13:16, 17 pp — Lk 10:23, 24
13:18-23 pp — Mk 4:13-20; Lk 8:11-15
Mt 13:10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
Mt 13:11 He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
Mt 13:14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
Mt 13:15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
So while the original prophecy in Isaiah is related to the birth of the Savior, Jesus clearly extends it beyond His birth. And, as we see, He uses it yet again in Revelation. Not just once, but to every church.
Jesus is letting the churches, and us, know that without the Holy Spirit we can only hear words and see images. We must have the Holy Spirit in order to understand what we hear and see.
That’s important for three reasons. Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot understand what Jesus taught during His time on earth. And without the Holy Spirit, we will also not understand the warnings here in Revelation. And finally, even during the tribulation, we will not understand what’s happening without the Holy Spirit.
Keep in mind, without the Holy Spirit, we don’t have God’s kind of love either. No wonder the warnings to this church in Ephesus are so strong. As they are today, both as churches and individuals.
The psychology of the letter to the church in Ephesus
Before we reach the conclusion, let’s return to the graph at the beginning. After reading all this, where would you put the church in Ephesus now? Do you still like your original positioning? Of have you learned some things that cause you to want to put it someplace else?
To those who overcome: being given the right to eat from the tree of life
Whether it be the church in Ephesus as a whole, some people in that church, or even those of us today in this condition – there is a reward for anyone who does take Jesus’ warning to heart.
I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
The tree of life represents eternal life.
Paradise? Well, that’s a bit up in the air.
3857 παράδεισος [paradeisos /par·ad·i·sos/] n m. Of Oriental origin cf 6508; TDNT 5:765; TDNTA 777; GK 4137; Three occurrences; AV translates as “paradise” three times. 1 among the Persians a grand enclosure or preserve, hunting ground, park, shady and well watered, in which wild animals, were kept for the hunt; it was enclosed by walls and furnished with towers for the hunters. 2 a garden, pleasure ground. 2a grove, park. 3 the part of Hades which was thought by the later Jews to be the abode of the souls of pious until the resurrection: but some understand this to be a heavenly paradise. 4 the upper regions of the heavens. According to the early church Fathers, the paradise in which our first parents dwelt before the fall still exists, neither on the earth or in the heavens, but above and beyond the world. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
While many believe Paradise is the Garden of Eden and is somehow hidden, but on this earth, I tend to lean towards #4. That Paradise / the Garden of Eden is not on earth. That’s a topic all by itself, for another day.
Either way though, eternal life with God – what else can we ask for?
We read in the Bible about all those people who rejected God. I always wonder why. Adam and Eve did. In the Exodus, the people didn’t want to deal with God directly, so they had Moses do it for them. Later, the Israelites wanted an earthly king, in spite of the warnings, instead of God. And it just went on and on. You’d think someone, somewhere along the line, would have learned.
Then with Jesus, He was killed. His followers were persecuted and killed. And now we’ve reached a point where it’s often hard to even recognize Jesus’ presence in a lot of so-called Christians.
And I still wonder why. What’s wrong with walking in the Garden with God? I think that’s worth overcoming the ways of this world. How about you?
What else have you learned from the letter to the church in Ephesus? How will it change your life?
|↑1||Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.|