Revelation Chapter 2 – Ephesus

Messianic Community in Ephesus

‘Church’ or Community

The reason I will be using the word community is because the word ‘church’ brings forth certain preconceived ideas about worship and Bible study. In the first century when Yochanan (John), the apostles, and Sha’ul (Paul) were preaching the message of Messiah, there were no ‘churches’ where Christians gathered to worship. Instead believers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, continued to attend synagogue or the Temple courts to hear Torah or they met in homes. By meeting in a home, a community of fellowship developed through shared beliefs and faith-based goals. It is in this context of community that Yeshua sent his messengers to challenge, rebuke, encourage, and promise rewards to his followers.

“Continuing faithfully and with singleness of purpose to meet in the Temple courts daily, and breaking bread in their several homes, they shared their food in joy and simplicity of heart … (Acts 2:46).

“My host Gaius, in whose home the whole congregation meets, greets you. Erastus the city treasurer and brother Quartus greet you” (Romans 16:23).

“Give my greetings to the brothers in Laodicea, also to Nympha and the congregation that meets in her home” (Colossians 4:15).

“To: Our dear fellow-worker Philemon, along with sister Apphia, our fellow-soldier Archippus and the congregation that gathers in your home …” (Philemon 1-2).

Ephesus was an ancient Greek port city on the Ionian coast. It was situated on the northern slopes of the hills south of the Cayster River. It was also known for its Temple to Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Artemis was 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 preaching in Ephesus telling the crowds that man-made gods are not gods at all. The craftsmen in the city became concerned because their trade of making silver articles for the worship of Artemis would suffer and the temple of the “great goddess Artemis will come to be taken lightly. It could end up with the goddess herself, who is worshipped throughout the province of Asia and indeed throughout the whole world, being ignominiously brought down from her divine majesty!” Hearing this, they were filled with rage and began bellowing, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:27-28).

“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 angel with a message for Ephesus.  ‘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 menorahs.’  He holds the seven messengers in his right hand and releases them to take messages to the seven communities.

The Menorah for the Tabernacle was 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 one in the heavenly Tabernacle that yod-hey-vav-hey showed him on the mountain.  It was a ‘shadow’ of the heavenly Menorah.  As the pure Menorah, the Light of the World, Yeshua walks among the seven individual branches representing his light in his people; for without him, they would have no light.

“Yeshua spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life” (John 8:12).

Sha’ul’s letter to the community in Ephesus is filled with hope and encouragement about their redemption and their inheritance. He tells 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.  

It is also to the Ephesians that Sha’ul teaches that salvation is by grace through faith; it is not in their works. Yet, Yeshua sees their works of perseverance through adversity. He has seen they don’t grow weary even though they are persecuted for his sake. 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 have lost a love for Yeshua, the “Light of the World’ for the ‘light bearer.’ If they don’t repent from this sin and return to loving Yeshua with all of their hearts, their menorah will be removed. Without light from the ner tamid, the darkness will engulf them and even their testimony of ‘good works’ will be snuffed out. 

“In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

To their credit, they do hate the Nicolaitans. In Greek, nico is ‘conquer,’ and laitan refers to ‘lay people,’ thus Nicolaitan means  ‘conquer the lay people.’ This implies there is a hierarchy in Ephesus of 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 the Bridegroom for his bride.  

The ‘church’ has come to exemplify a Nicolaitan culture with priests ruling over the masses and the hierarchy of pastors being in authority over lay people.  If anyone in a ‘church’ reads their Bible and sees a Truth that is not embraced by that ‘church’, then the  ‘conqueror’ quenches the Spirit in order to keep control. This would be likened to ‘conquering the people.’ The thousands of people who warm auditorium chairs and no longer read the Scriptures for themselves, who depend on a pastor’s interpretation for the Word are evidence of modern-day Nicolaitans.

Yeshua uses the word overcomer for the victor in this spiritual battle.   In Genesis 32:22-32 Ya’akov wrestles with with an ‘angel of Adonai.’   The wrestling match appears to be between equals, but Ya’akov doesn’t give up; he perseveres.  In order to end the confrontation, the angel touches Ya’akov’s hip dislocating it, but Ya’akov continues to wrestle the angel until daybreak. At that time he requests a blessing. Yeshua, who is the ‘angel of the Adonai,’ tells Ya’akov that his name would be changed to Isra’el because he struggled with Elohim and prevailed – overcame.

The man said, “Let me go, because it’s daybreak.” But Ya‘akov replied, “I won’t let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked, “What is your name?” and he answered, “Ya‘akov.” Then the man said, “From now on, you will no longer be called Ya‘akov, but Isra’el; because you have shown your strength to both God and men and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:27-29). 

For the overcomer in Ephesus, Yeshua promises a reward when he returns. In order to receive their 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 darkness of the world. The overcomer will be allowed to eat from the Tree of Life in the new heavens and new earth.  They will enter through the gate into the New Jerusalem.

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. After receiving the consequences for their sin, spiritual darkness, they were sent out of Paradise.

“So he drove the man out, and he placed at the east of the garden of ‘Eden the k’ruvim and a flaming sword which turned in every direction to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24).

The reward for the overcomers in Ephesus will be a restoration of what was lost in the beginning. They guarded gate will be opened and they will enter the New Jerusalem and eat from the Tree of Life.

“How blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they have the right to eat from the Tree of Life and go through the gates into the city!” (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 that he taught in parables was so the people could “look but not see, and listen but not understand” the message of the Kingdom (Luke 8:10).  Because his disciples were given deeper understanding to the coming Kingdom, he would explain their ‘secret’ meaning to them away from the crowds.

Another reason may be that the parables all occurred 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 new covenant, men and women who believed the message of Yeshua are given new hearts of flesh and a renewed spirit – neshama.  The Ruach haKodesh within would compel them obey his Torah (Ezekiel 36:24-27). His Ruach would give them “ears to hear what the Spirit was saying” so they could His voice.

Yeshua doesn’t want this community to just ‘hear’ the message, but to ‘listen’ to it.  His message was to be ‘heard’ through spiritual ears that were fine-tuned to his voice, the voice of the Shepherd.  His sheep were to ‘listen’ to the message and ‘obey’ what he instructed in order to be an overcomer – Isra’el – and receive an eternal reward.  

For he is our God, and we are the people in his pasture, the sheep in his care. If only today you would listen to his voice … “(Psalm 95:7-8).

“My sheep listen to my voice, I recognize them, they follow me, and I give them eternal life. They will absolutely never be destroyed, and no one will snatch them from my hands” (John 10:27-28). 

“In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says, ‘You will keep on hearing but never understand, and keep on seeing but never perceive, because the heart of this people has become dull — with their ears they barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, so as not to see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and do t’shuvah [repent and turn from sin], so that I could heal them.’

But you [Ephesus], how blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear!” (Isaiah 6:9-10, Matthew 13:14-16). 

Revelation 2 – Messianic Community of Smyrna

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