Messianic Community in Ephesus
‘Church’ or Community
I will be using the word community because the word ‘church’ holds preconceived ideas about worship, study, and doctrine. In the first century when Yochanan (John), the apostles, and Sha’ul (Paul) preached the message of Messiah, there were no Christians or churches. Instead followers of Messiah, both Jewish and gentile, continued to go to the Temple, attended synagogues on Sabbath to hear Torah, and met in homes for table fellowship (Acts 20:7-12). By gathering in homes, a community of fellowship developed with unity of faith and faith-based goals (Acts 2:46, Romans 16:23, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1:2). It is in this context that Yeshua sent his messengers to challenge, rebuke, encourage, and promise rewards to his followers.
Ephesus was an ancient Greek port city on the Ionian coast –– present-day Turkey. It was situated on the northern slopes of the hills south of the Cayster River. It was known for its Temple to Artemis –– one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Artemis was called the ‘goddess of the dawn, the bringer of the light‘ illuminating lives and directing people to find their way.
According to Acts chapter 19, Sha’ul began his diaspora preaching in Ephesus. He spent more time in Ephesus than any other city, nearly three years on his second visit. His ministry began by telling the crowds that man-made gods (idols) are not gods at all. The craftsmen in the city worried that their trade of making silver articles for the worship of Artemis would suffer. No one wanted the temple of the “great goddess Artemis … to be taken lightly. It could end up with the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and indeed throughout the whole world, being ignominiously brought down from her divine majesty!” Upon hearing the message of Sha’ul, they were filled with rage and began bellowing, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:27-28).
Sha’ul’s letter to the Ephesians is filled with hope and encouragement about their redemption and their eternal inheritance. He reminds them they are no longer foreigners to the covenants of Elohim and are being built into a holy, spiritual temple, a dwelling place for God. He teaches them that salvation is by grace through faith, not by works; and how to stand against the wiles of the enemy.
“To the angel of the Messianic Community in Ephesus, write: ‘Here is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven gold menorahs: “I know what you have been doing, how hard you have worked, how you have persevered, and how you can’t stand wicked people; so you tested those who call themselves emissaries but aren’t — and you found them to be liars. You are persevering, and you have suffered for my sake without growing weary. But I have this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Therefore, remember where you were before you fell, turn from this sin, and do what you used to do before. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your menorah from its place — if you don’t turn from your sin! But you have this in your favor: you hate what the Nicolaitans do — I hate it too. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities. To him winning the victory I will give the right to eat from the Tree of Life which is in God’s Gan-‘Eden'” (Ephesians 2:2-7).
Yeshua sends his first messenger –– ‘angel’ in Hebrew is malak and means ‘messenger’ –– to the community in Ephesus. Yeshua reveals himself as the “one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven gold menorah.” He holds the seven messengers in his right hand and releases them to take messages to the seven communities.
The golden Menorah in the Tabernacle had seven branches made of pure, hammered gold. It was lit every evening by the priests with a new supply of pure olive oil. The central lamp, the ner tamid, was never to go out, even during the day. No specific dimensions were given to Moshe as it was made in the image of the heavenly Menorah that Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh (Adonai) showed him on the mountain. It becaue a ‘shadow’ of the heavenly Menorah. As the holy Menorah, the Light of the World, Yeshua walks among the seven individual branches representing his light; for without him, they would have no light.
Yeshua sees their works of faith and perseverance through adversity. He has seen they don’t grow weary, even though they are persecuted. He sees how they test those who come to them as missionaries to make sure they are not liars. He sees how they hate wicked people, but something is missing.
The Messianic believers in Ephesus have one grievous sin –– they have lost their first love. They work hard, but not for their ‘first love,’ but for themselves –– humanism. They have lost their love for Yeshua, the Light, for whom they should be doing their righteous acts. If they don’t repent from this sin and return to loving him with all of their hearts, their menorah will be removed. Without light from the ner tamid, the darkness will engulf them, and their testimony of good works will be snuffed out (Matthew 5:16).
To the credit of the Ephesian community of believers, they hate the Nicolaitans. In Greek, nico means ‘conquer,’ and laitan refers to ‘lay people’; Nicolaitan means ‘conquer the lay people.’ This implies there is a hierarchy in Ephesus –– those who rule and those who submit. Yeshua hates this hierarchy because he is to be the only Shepherd over his sheep, King over his Kingdom, High Priest over his Priesthood, and Bridegroom for his Bride.
Christiandom has come to exemplify a Nicolaitan culture with priests or ruling over the masses and pastors being in authority over lay people. If someone studies the Word and sees a Truth that is not embraced by church tenets or doctrines, the the leader quenches the Spirit’s work in order to keep control. This is called ‘conquering the people.’ There are millions of people who warm pews and sit in auditorium chairs and no longer read the Scriptures for themselves. They have come to depend on a pastor’s interpretation for the Word or just the pastor himself. This is evidence of modern-day Nicolaitans.
Yeshua uses the word overcomer for the victor. In Genesis 32:22-32, Ya’akov (Jacob) wrestles with with an ‘angel of Adonai.‘ The wrestling match appears to be between equals, but Ya’akov doesn’t give up; he perseveres. To try to end the confrontation, the ‘angel’ touches Ya’akov’s hip, dislocating it. Ya’akov continues to wrestle the ‘angel’ until daybreak even with an injured hip. At the end of the match, he requests a blessing. Yeshua, who is the ‘angel of the Adonai,‘ tells Ya’akov that his name is changed to Isra’el because he struggled with Adonai and prevailed –– an overcomer.
To the overcomer in Ephesus, Yeshua promises a reward when he returns. To receive the reward, the community in Ephesus must return to their first love so their menorah will not be removed leaving them to completely assimilate into the dark world.
When Adam and Eve sinned and lost their ‘first love,’ they lost the light of Elohim’s presence. They made a covering of leaves for themselves –– a work of their own doing. After receiving the consequences for their sin, spiritual death, they were sent out of Paradise and away from the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24).
The reward for the overcomer in Ephesus will be a restoration of what was lost in the beginning to Adam and Eve. In the new heavens and new earth, the cherubim will be removed and the overcomer will enter through gate into the New Jerusalem and eat from the Tree of Life (Revelation 22:14).
“Those [in Ephesus] who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit, Ruach haKodesh [the holy wind] is saying to the Messianic community”
Yeshua uses these same words in the gospels when he speaks in parables, however, he doesn’t include the words, ‘what the Spirit says to the communities.’ One reason he taught in parables was so that people could ‘look but not see, and listen but not understand’ the message of the Kingdom (Isaiah 6:9-10, Luke 8:10). Because he wanted his disciples to have a deeper understanding of the coming Kingdom, he explained the hidden meaning away from the crowds.
Yeshua spoke all of his parables before the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot when the ‘holy wind’ was poured out and the new covenant was instituted (Acts 2:2). With the arrival of the new covenant, men and women who obey the message of Yeshua are given new hearts and a renewed spirit. The Ruach haKodesh gives them ‘ears to hear what the Spirit is saying’ so they can obey His voice.
Yeshua doesn’t want this community to just ‘hear’ his message, but ‘listen’ to it. His message was to be heard through spiritual ears that were fine-tuned to his voice, the voice of the Shepherd (Psalm 95:7-8, John 10:27-28) His sheep were to ‘listen’ and ‘obey’ the message so they would be overcomers –– Isra’el –– and receive their eternal reward.
But you [Ephesus], how blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear!” (Matthew 13:14-16).
Revelation 2 – Messianic Community of Smyrna
©2020 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved. No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.