Part 005 – Ephesus

The Book of REVELATION

A Study

Part 005

To the church in Ephesus… the tree of life (Rev.2:1-7)

The seven epistles

In Chapters 2 and 3, we find seven epistles sent backwards, from the Judgment Seat of Christ to seven churches which were on the earth during John’s time. Two things should be noted while studying these epistles. Firstly, each of these epistles has the command, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The Lord in His mercy has sent these epistles to admonish, exhort and prepare all believers for that day of our Judgment. Secondly, it is also evident that a history of Christendom is shown through the activities in these seven churches. First, let us see what lessons we can learn from each of these epistles.

 

Good works appreciated

The Lord has appreciated many good works found in the church in Ephesus; we must take note of these and be careful to follow them. The Lord said, “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.” They are highly appreciated for their patient and persevering labors in the name of the Lord. They are also appreciated for understanding the word of God rightly and adhering very strictly to the right teachings and doctrines found in it.

The Lord further lauded them saying, “…this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” A reference to Nicolaitans is also seen in the epistle to the church at Pergamos (Rev.2:15). The Lord hates the deeds and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. But within Church history, there is no record of any group of individuals known by the name, “Nicolaitans.” To understand anything about the “Nicolaitans,” we can only go to the meaning of the word. The word “Nicolaitans” is an Anglicized form of the compound Greek word, nikolaites [from nike, "a victor," "a conqueror"; and laos, "people"]. Thus, the word “Nicolaitans” means, “to conquer [be victorious over] the people.” From the meaning of the word, a reference to the “Nicolaitans” could only be understood as a reference to individuals forming a hierarchy within the Church, ruling over the people. The emergence of a class called clergy who have become a mediatory class between the laity (the common believers) and the Lord; a class of people mediating between the Head and the members of the Body. When the believers do not have the true love for the Lord, they don’t find time for spiritual ministries. They look for “qualified, ordained and appointed and paid” full-time workers who take care of all spiritual ministries. The Lord hates this and He desires that each and every member of His body should be directly connected to the Head for all spiritual matters — hearing His voice, doing His will, sharing His word with other members of the body, encouraging and edifying one another and growing together (Eph.4:15, 16).

 

Bad works condemned

Though so many good things were found in this church, the Lord has one thing which grieved His heart. He laments, Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Today, we may have many good works, sacrificial and sustained labors in His name and correct doctrines. In spite of all these good things, we may be lacking in love. Only if we have a proper understanding of God’s love, will we be able to love God and love others.

God is love (1John 4:8, 16). From the beginning, the one God, Elohim existed in three persons, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. It is essential that more than one person should exist, to express and enjoy love. In creation, God made man in His own image and His own likeness because only those belonging to the same species can share their thoughts and feelings and love each other (Gen.1:26-28). In redemption also we see God’s love; God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2Cor.5:19). In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1John 4:9, 10). Even if we have a slight understanding of God’s love, we would reciprocate by loving Him wholeheartedly. The greatest commandment of God is, “Love Me” (Matt.22:36-39); how deeply God yearns for our love!

 

Call to repentance

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. Please re-examine your heart according to the details given below and see how much you really love the Lord and how much you love others. Do you love God? (1) Firstly, if you love Him, you will obey His commands (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10); you will love His law and meditate it all day (Psa.119:97). And through His word you will grow spiritually and become fit to partake in His glory and power (1Pet.2:2; Acts 20:32). (2) Secondly, if you love Him, you will love His house, that is, you will love His people (Eph.4:15, 16; 1Cor.12, 13, 14; Heb.10:24, 25); and come together often for mutual encouragement and edification. (3) Thirdly, if you love Him, you will love His appearing (Phil.3:20; 2Tim.4:8; 1John 3:3); your life will be more and more detached from this world and instead more and more attached to the coming glorious kingdom. (4) Fourthly, if you love Him, you will love to be in His presence and spend more time with Him, in prayer and meditation (Psa.27:4; 65:4; 84:1-4). If you do not repent and do the first works, you will not be worthy to be a part of the Bride. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, all the overcomers (those who repent and do the first works of love) will be “called out” from among the “called” (church) to become the Bride. Those who do not repent (non-overcomers), though they are in possession of eternal life and will never be cast into the lake of fire, they will not be a part of the Bride who will share in the power and glory of our Lord in the Millennial Kingdom.

 

Promise to overcomers

To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Saved individuals are presently upon the earth, and Satan walks “to and fro in the earth… up and down in it” (Job. 1:7; 2:2; cf. I Peter 5:8), seeking at every turn to bring about their defeat and consequent disqualification to occupy a position with Christ during the coming day of His power. Satan, at every turn, seeks to overcome Christians, rather than allowing Christians to overcome him. Overcoming Christians will occupy the numerous proffered positions of power and authority with Christ in the kingdom, but the Christians who are overcome will be denied these positions. Future positions with Christ in the kingdom, presently being offered to the saved individuals, are for the overcomers alone.

 

The tree of life

Adam had the provision of the tree of life, from which he could have acquired all the abilities needed to fulfill the purpose for which he was created. Similarly, in the coming glorious kingdom of Christ, we too will acquire all the abilities needed to rule with him from the tree of life. Solomon was the only king about whom it is said that he sat on the throne of the Lord (1Chron.29:23; 2Chron.9:8). He used the expression, “a tree of life,” four times in the Book of Proverbs (3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4).

(1) Wisdom and understanding …is a tree of life (Prov.3:13 …18). Solomon asked God for the ability to judge the people of Israel in equity, justice, and righteousness. Such a request pleased the Lord, and Solomon was granted not only “wisdom and knowledge” but also “riches, and wealth, and honor.” God’s bestowal of wisdom, understanding, riches, wealth, and honor upon Solomon typifies that which He will bestow upon overcomers during the coming age. But presently, in Christ are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). A continual feeding upon Christ, through the Written Word, allows us to develop and grow, becoming more and more like Him through acquiring this wisdom and knowledge. And in this way we can become the overcomers, who will, in that day, partake from the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God. Thus we will be equipped to reign with Christ in His glorious kingdom.

(2) “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he who wins souls is wise” (Prov. 11:30). This second mention of the “tree of life” in the Book of Proverbs is in connection with righteousness and soul-winning. This righteousness is not the imputed righteousness of Christ received at the time one was saved. This has to do with “the righteous acts of the saints,” which form the wedding garment. The “righteous” are those overcomers who will be properly clothed at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9, ASV). Then soul-winning is largely misunderstood in Christian circles today. It is not correct at all, to equate soul-winning with carrying the message of salvation by grace through faith to the unsaved. The unsaved are to be told “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 2:1, 2; 15:3); and Christ has paid the penalty for sin. Redeemed man, on the other hand, is to hear an entirely different message. He is to be told that the Lord will return to judge His servants on the basis of their faithfulness in carrying out His business during His time of absence; and he is to be told that the outcome of this judgment will determine his position in the coming kingdom (Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27). This message is not about the past completed aspect of our salvation; it is about the salvation of the soul, which is the present continuous aspect of our salvation, which is attained by mutual encouragement and edification. Direct references to the salvation of the soul are found in New Testament passages such as Matt.16:24-27; Heb.10:38, 39; James 1:21; 5:19, 20; I Peter 1:9-11 and are always spoken of in a future sense within a context dealing with those who are already saved. Soul-winning is associated with the righteous acts of the saints, with overcoming, and with one day being extended the privilege of partaking of the tree of life.

(3) “Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (Prov.13:12). The third mention of the “tree of life” in the Book of Proverbs is in connection with hope that is realized. We have been begotten from above to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This hope looks ahead to the salvation of our soul and consequent reception of a glorious inheritance after our faith is tested and proved to be genuine (1Pet.1:3-9; Titus 2:12-14; 1John 3:3). Such overcomers will one day come into a realization of their present hope. They will be the ones allowed to partake of the tree of life to equip them to reign with the Lord Jesus Christ in His glorious kingdom.

(4) A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit (Prov.15:4). The fourth mention of the tree of life in the Book of Proverbs is in connection with a wholesome tongue. James is an epistle dealing strictly with the salvation of the soul, which is the present continuous aspect of our salvation. James mentions the tongue in chapter one (vv. 26, 27) and then continues in chapter three: “The tongue …boasts great things …is a fire, a world of iniquity… it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell [Gehenna] …but no man can tame the tongue; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (3:5-8). A believer attaining the salvation of the soul, can be seen through the control of his tongue. The tongue can be properly controlled only through the use of that wisdom and knowledge which comes from above (James 3:13-18). The tree of life, on the other hand, is reserved for those who attain the salvation of their souls.

 

Concluding Thoughts:

The overcomer alone (1) will come into possession of the required wisdom and knowledge by loving and obeying His word, (2) will demonstrate righteous acts and attain the salvation of his soul (life) by loving His people and coming together often for mutual encouragement and edification, (3) will realize that blessed hope by loving and eagerly awaiting His appearing and (4) and will show to have a wholesome tongue by loving to be in His holy presence always. And such overcomers will be allowed to partake of “the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” and rule as a co-regent with Christ in the coming glorious kingdom.