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. She is known as the daughter of Zeus and the twin sister of Apollo. Artemis was called the ‘goddess of the dawn, the bringer of the light‘ illuminating lives and directing people to find their way. She was also depicted one who punishes humans with natural disasters like earthquakes. With multiple temples and altars, the worship of Artemis was found throughout the ancient Greek world. Today, like her twin brother Apollo, NASA missions are named after being named after Artemis.
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 in the synagogue immersing Jewish believers into the name of Messiah Yeshua and laid hands on them to receive the Ruach haKodesh. For three months he tried to persuade people to enter the Kingdom of Elohim. Many hardened their hearts and defamed ‘The Way’ followed by Messianic Jews and God-fearers. Sha’ul left the synagogue and began holding discussions at the nearby Jewish school.
Jewish exorcists tried to use the name of Yeshua to expel evil spirits, but they had no authority over them and were beat up. Because of this, the name of Yeshua was honored in Ephesus and many Jews came to faith publicly and those involved in the occult publicly burned their scrolls.
Those in Ephesus who crafted silver into idols of Artemis worried that their livelihood of making silver articles to worship Artemis would suffer after Sha’ul began preaching that man-made gods are not gods at all. 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 [the craftsmen] were filled with rage and began bellowing for two hours, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ until the entire city was in an uproar” (Acts 19:27-28).
Sha’ul’s letter to the Ephesians is filled with hope and encouragement about their redemption and their eternal inheritance in the midst of the paganism. 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 the Menorah was made in the image of the heavenly Menorah that Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh (Adonai) showed him on the mountain. It was to be 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 the 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 ensure they are not liars. He sees how they hate wicked people, but still something is missing.
The Messianic believers in Ephesus have one grievous sin –– they have lost their first love. They work hard, not for their ‘first love’, but for themselves. They have become humanistic in their spiritual lives. They no longer love Yeshua, the Light, for whom they should be doing their righteous acts. They must repent from this sin and return to loving him with all of their hearts, or their menorah will be removed. Without light from the ner tamid, the darkness around them will engulf them, and their testimony of good works will be snuffed out (Matthew 5:16).
The Ephesian community of believers, however, hate the Nicolaitans. In Greek, nico means ‘to conquer’, and laitan refers to ‘lay people’; therefore, Nicolaitan means ‘to 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 ruling over the masses and pastors being in authority over lay people. When an individual studies the Word and the Ruach haKodesh reveals a Truth that is not embraced by church doctrine, the the leader quenches the Spirit’s work in order to keep control. This is known as ‘conquering the people.’ There are millions of people who warm church pews or sit in auditorium chairs who no longer read the Scriptures for themselves. They have come to depend on a pastor’s interpretation of 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. The ‘angel of the Adonai,‘ tells Ya’akov that his name is changed to Isra’el because he struggled with Adonai and prevailed: he is 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 corporate 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 the 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 (Acts 2:2). With the arrival of the new covenant, men and women who obey the message of Yeshua and the Kingdom 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 Ephesus to just ‘hear’ his message, but ‘listen’ to it. His message was to be received 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
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