Sermon: Jesus, Plain and Simple – His Word to the Churches Revelation Chapters 2-3
This morning we are going to be in the Book of the Revelation. One of my favorite Books in the Bible, primarily because we see Jesus in His full majesty as “The One.” The Lord and Savior over all creation.
I would like to focus the next few weeks on what Jesus said when speaking to the Apostle John about what he was to write to senior leaders of seven churches. Those churches being Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
Jesus gave a specific message to each of those seven churches, as we will pick apart in Revelation Chapters 2 and 3. Jesus said to the Apostle John, write to the “angel of the church”. So we see with each church letter, “To the angel of the church of Ephesus, to the angel of the church in Smyrna, and so on.
What Jesus was telling the Apostle John, was, “I want you to write a letter to each of the primary leaders or Overseers of each of these churches. Jesus uses the word angel, because as we look in the Greek, angel is the word “Angelos” which means messenger.
There are some who think it is a real angel over each church; I don’t believe that because what Jesus says, because I believe Jesus was not referring to angel of God, but referring to an apostolic leader. Someone who was a strong voice to the church in that city or region.
As we know the early church was run quite different then today. There was generally an Apostle, or Apostles who worked with churches in a region. We are quite aware that there were no denominations, because they all believed the same thing. The Apostle John being a leader in the area of the Ephesians church.
That church probably being connected to other churches in the city and the region. You can think of it as in Jerusalem. There was the Temple, the main point of worship, but with synagogues throughout the city connected to it.
These churches that Jesus was speaking to usually had a Bishop over the church or churches with Elders that worked within the hierarchy over those churches, who were or worked with the Apostles, and Prophets, and Evangelists, Pastor’s and Teachers so Jesus was telling the Apostle John, communicate these words I have for the church to its Senior Leader probably the Bishop, knowing that this leader would hand down the information to individuals like Elders who would disseminate what Jesus said.
That Senior Leader, would have much influence.
As we read what Jesus said, we see that His Words were for the whole Body of Christ, and it was something of great importance, primarily for that day and hour, but also a word from Him for the future.
Something I read from Mike Bickle, is that the messengers of each one of the seven churches mentioned, would be responsible to steward that message faithfully and not let it be distorted through compromise, fear, or neglect. They were to proclaim the message that Jesus spoke through the Apostle John to establish an action plan to implement the truths.
I also like what Mike Bickle said about certain church leaders, “in God’s kingdom there is a head among equals among leadership.” And that is true. There are those who carry weight in the Kingdom of God, and what they say is to be believed, and if they give a message, those who that person stewards, should listen, and act on what he says.
Today that type of church leadership is convoluted with many people who are exalted as some great leader, and it is hard to distinguish a Lead Leader like a Billy Graham who was respected by all when he gave a word. Today if you are not part of a certain belief structure you are discounted even if you are an oracle for God. But that is why the church is limping along. But I believe in the near future, you will see true anointed people that Jesus will raise up that will be heard because people will see the anointing of God on them and listen to them. I believe they will operate in a strong apostolic anointing that will be undeniable with undeniable signs wonders and miracles.
As we move along, there are three ways I want to look at what Jesus said to the Apostle John.
1. Look at what Jesus is saying to us individually: The letters were intended to inspire obedient love and persevering faith in individual believers. Jesus gave us authority to respond to His word. He said, “He who has ears to hear”, so Jesus was talking about hearing with our ears, but hearing with our hearts. Physically yes, but spiritually also.
2. Look at what Jesus said to us on a corporate level: These letters were to the whole church, or you can say like us in this one. The most powerful application of Jesus’ Word is when local Bodies of Christ walk in these truths together. It has an impact on those around us when we are fully engaged to His Word. Also, Jesus gave insight on how to prepare the end-time Church for its most difficult time in history to live out His truths during that time so we can participate with Him in the great end time harvest.
3. And lastly, Look at what Jesus said historically about the Church: The letters were first written to seven historical churches in the Apostle John’s generation to address the actual conditions of seven real churches. But some end-times Bible Scholars have seen parallels of the spiritual conditions of these seven churches in Asia in the first century to the spiritual conditions of successive periods in church history.
Now we cannot substantiate that fully, but when reading the Word, you can see parallels between what Jesus says with what has actually happened to those specific churches in their current time and future, with what was going happen to church overall in the future.There appears to be successive periods of church history within the two chapters.It can’t be totally proven, but many church leaders and biblical scholars over the past so many years of church history believe this.
Let me say this:
You need to study yourself to see what the early scholars are talking about, and even what I am talking to you about today.Search the Scriptures. Study, read about the times and the truths.The internet has much to say concerning biblical history, yes some not so good, but much that is good that gives you a perceptive of the Biblical author’s view.Like the Apostle Paul, or Apostle John we are talking about today. Don’t take mine or any other preacher’s words for absolute truth.Pray to the Holy Spirit for discernment, and study the Word to know the truth.1 Corinthians 2:15, “the spiritual man judges all things.”Be spiritual men and women, search out the truth.
The Church of Ephesus Revelation 2:1-7
1 "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. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
My first thought was why Jesus began with this church? I am not sure, but maybe it was because it was where the Apostle John was at, at the time. Maybe because it was a gateway church? An opening to the region.
The Church of Ephesus was located in a major man-made port city in Asia Minor that was at the time a Roman Province. The city stood at the entrance of a valley that reached far into the province. It was also connected via highways to other important cities in the region. The ease of traveling to Ephesus, either by land or sea, made it the most accessible populated destination in Asia.
Ephesus at the time was known to have some of the most eminent orators and speakers in the world there. And the city was also known for building the largest outdoor theater also in the world, capable of containing 50,000 spectators. For many years Ephesus was the largest city in the Roman Empire next to Rome and boasted a population of more than a quarter million people. So, this city had clout and I believe it also had purpose by Jesus to have a church there that would open the door to region to preach His name.
We read first of Ephesus in Acts 19:1-7, when you can say that the Church of Ephesus was to be developed. There were believers there, but through John the Baptist.
“While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions and came to Ephesus. He found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” “No,” they told him, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” “Then what baptism were you baptized with?” he asked them. “With John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people that they should believe in the One who would come after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began to speak in other languages and to prophesy. Now there were about 12 men in all.”
In Acts 19 verse 10, we read that the Apostle Paul preached there for two years, in the synagogues and in the Lecture Hall of Tyrannus. Scholars say that the Apostle Paul was in Ephesus 2-3 years, and the church was well established with Elders, and leaders during that time.
So we can see that the Apostle Paul opened the door for Christ to be preached in this Major Port City that had thousands of people going in and out as they either traveled and traded who would go to and fro to the ends of the known world.
The Apostle Paul had impact there, Apollos who was a church leader there and in Corinth, Timothy who became the Bishop of Ephesus, and the Apostle John. So, this church you can say was well watered by the Word and Spirit of God because it was known for its love. The Apostle Paul even mentioning this in his letters.
Looking at scripture, Jesus speaks to the Apostle John about the Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:2, and starts out by says’ “I know your deeds, or as it states in the Greek, I know your business, the Greek word “ergon”, I know what you do. Jesus ever aware of what we do individually, but also looking at what we do corporately. He is always aware. I think we forget that. He is always in the life of His people and the life of the Body of Christ as a whole. He has a plan for our lives and the life of a church if we listen and follow.
Jesus also mentions He knew their works and perseverance. The word for works is the Greek word, “kopos”, it means “a beating” beating the breast in sorrow, being grieved, intense labor, with trouble or toil. These people may have had physical toil, but I would imagine it was spiritual in nature. Dealing with a life that was not easy.
Jesus said they had perseverance, the word “hupomone’, having steadfastness, a person who does not swerve, deliberate purposeful loyalty. One who waits.
So Jesus commended the church because it did go through a time of persecution. For one, the Jews there were persecuting them, but the Romans as well. But the church was steadfast and strong in their faith. They did not waver when it got rough. A good example to us, who go through times that do not feel good.
We all have different trials, but Jesus is there. He knows. If He knows our business, He knows our trials. Individually and corporately, and all He wants is us to trust Him.
The Ephesian church stood strong. Why, because they were together, and they were all unified. Unification of the church only comes when you are one in the Spirit. You can go through rough times when you are surrounded by family. That is another word for us today. We are not alone. When we run off during hard times, we will be alone. Better to be in the fight as a group, right. We will find that we can persevere together.
Jesus also commended them in verse 2, not only did they stand strong in their faith, they operated in their faith.
“I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. “
Another important word for us today. Jesus said in Matthew 7 to watch out for false teachers. Other writers throughout the New Testament said the same thing.
False preachers even in the Apostle’s days when the Word was pure right from Jesus’ lips. People who twisted the truth, and even those who used witchcraft to lead people astray.
We are in those days. The Ephesians could point out false teachers, false apostles, and false prophets, because they knew the Word of God, and they had discernment through the Holy Spirit. They were Spiritual people. They operated in the Spirit of God.
Remember what Jesus said, and I say it all the time, John 14:26, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
With this statement by Jesus the word relationship is the first thing I think of. We need a relationship with our Father in heaven who has sent the Holy Spirit to live in us, so that in that relationship, the Father can download in us the truth, and that we in the Spirit can operate in the gifts that He has given us to know and discern truth, and even that which is false.
The Ephesian Church had this relationship, and Jesus commends them for it. They knew who was anointed and who wasn’t. They knew the real and the fake. Today from my view, much of the church cannot distinguish what is true or false coming out of those who claim they are anointed of God, and give themselves titles that were not given to them by God. They are just good sales people, and people purchase their tainted goods and are led astray.
Jesus said in Matthew 24:24, “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”
That is happening today. The elect are being deceived. I have been prophesied over by people and knew right when they opened their mouths they were fake. We cannot be deceived.
The Holy Spirit in us was placed there by God to be a Helper to be like our radar for the truth. We must be totally submitted and totally engaged with Him at all times to be aware of things that are not of God even coming from those who say they represent Him. The Spirit and anointing you carry because of a strong relationship with Jesus will call out any false teacher. They will know who you are, and you will know who they are.
Story about Prophetic Conference. Young Man – Good. Older Man – Bad.
When Jesus said in Mark 12:30, to love the Lord your God first. His 1st Commandment, everything in our Christian walk is tied into that. To love your God is to know your God. To know your God is to be intimately connected into Him through His Spirit. That connection is the fullness of life to us. Perseverance, no problem. Hardships, we can cruise through them. When we run into false teaching, no issue, and instant rejection, all because our Father in heaven loves us and covers us to keep our hearts whole. Faith really becomes an easy thing. Because we are so tied into the heart of God we just know He will come through. We have no worries, no doubts. I takes total submission and humility. Individually and corporately.
In verse 3 of Revelation chapter 2 Jesus says to the Ephesian Church, “you have endured and have not grown weary.” That’s from relationship too. With our heavenly Father and fellow believer.
I am thinking I need to be like that. Because I don’t always feel that way. That is my fault. Because I want to endure in my own strength and not in God’s. I know what to do, because the Spirit leads me to do it. I must submit my will to Him to overcome.
In the good times, I need to get real close to Him, because that will carry me in the not so good times. Amen! Steadfastness. Perseverance even in the good. Remember the word “hupomone’ having steadfastness, a person who does not swerve, deliberate purposeful loyalty. One who waits. Yes, it’s the one who continues and moves in faith because of knowing God.
We all need to be that. People who get into the face of God daily no matter what. What can move you when you are in the arms of the Lord? What can move us?