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If I Were Told the Future - Lesson 22

Letter to the Church of Ephesus

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Let’s begin this lesson with a short prayer to God:

Heavenly Father,

Your letters to the seven churches are a valuable source of teaching and exhortation.

Today, we will tackle the first letter, intended for the church of Ephesus.

We thank You in advance for guiding our study, so that the content of this letter may help us draw closer to You. In Jesus Christ we pray.


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Revelation 1:9-11

I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, (...)

«What you see, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia; to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.»


In our last lesson, we learned that Jesus Christ Himself had instructed the apostle John to write a letter to the seven churches of Asia.

The first letter was addressed to the church of Ephesus, a Greek name meaning «Desirable».

This letter will be the subject of our lesson today.

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Acts 18:19,20

And [Paul] came to Ephesus, and left [his companions] there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.

When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not.


Acts 19:1,10,11

Paul, having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephesus. (...)

And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelled in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

And God worked special miracles by the hands of Paul.


The local church of Ephesus was renowned for its faithfulness to Christ.

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Ephesians 1:1,15,16

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus (...).

I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love to all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.


In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul underlines the consecration, the faithfulness and the perseverance of this church.

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Acts 19:1,8,9

Paul, having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephesus. (...)

He went into the synagogue, and spoke boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.

But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spoke evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.


On the other hand, the people of Ephesus were not all willing to receive the message of the Gospel, as Paul noticed.

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Acts 20:17,18,28

From Miletus [Paul] sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said to them,

«(...) Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood.»


In his last speech to the elders of the church of Ephesus, Paul thought it advisable to remind them of the importance of persevering in what they had learned, and the necessity of exhorting the congregation to do likewise.

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Acts 20:29-31

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.


In this same speech, Paul also warned the church of Ephesus against the coming of false teachers.

Did they follow Paul’s valuable advice?

We will find the answer in the first letter, addressed to the church of Ephesus.

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«What you see, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches.» (Revelation 1:11)

Before beginning, let’s remember that each one of the seven letters presents the following five points, as we have seen in our last lesson, «Introduction to the Seven Letters»:

1.  Portrait of Jesus, according to the spiritual state of the church.
2.  Praise, acknowledgement of the positive points.
3.  Condemnation, identification of the negative points.
4.  Correction, counsels to restore the situation.
5.  Promise, encouragement to persevere.

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Revelation 2:1

To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,

«These things said He that holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the middle of the seven golden candlesticks.»


Revelation 1:12,13,16

I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the middle of the seven candlesticks One like to the Son of man. (...)

And He had in His right hand seven stars.


The letter to Ephesus indeed starts with a portrait of Jesus taken from John’s initial vision.

What does this description mean?

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Revelation 1:19,20

Write the things which you have seen, (...) the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks.

The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which you saw are the seven churches.


Once again, the Bible explains its own symbolism.

By holding the seven stars in His hand, and by walking in the midst of the candlesticks, Jesus gives us a comforting message: He holds the reins of His Church, protects it and promises that He will always be there.

But Jesus is not a tyrant: if the Church chooses to reject Him, He will not impose His will.

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Revelation 2:2,3

I know your works, and your labor, and your patience, and how you can not bear them which are evil.

And you have tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and have found them liars: and have borne, and have patience, and for My name’s sake have labored, and have not fainted.


After the portrait of Jesus, we find the positive points of the church of Ephesus.

First of all, the church has actually followed Paul’s advice, and has «tried them which say they are apostles, and are not».

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Revelation 2:2,3

I know (...) [that you] have borne, and have patience, and for My name’s sake have labored, and have not fainted.


Hebrews 6:10

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which you have showed toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.


As we have learned in our last lesson, this letter can also be directed at each one of us, inviting us to persevere, even during trials.

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Revelation 1:19

Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.


Daniel 2:39,40

And after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to you, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron.


Also, we have seen that the letters to the seven churches have a prophetic range.

Following the pattern of Daniel’s prophecies, they describe the seven stages of Church history, from the days of John until the end.

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Revelation 2:2

You have tried them which say they are apostles, and are not.


1 Timothy 1:3

I sought you to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that you might charge some that they teach no other doctrine.


So the first letter describes the first stage of the Christian Church: the Apostolic Church, renowned for the purity of its doctrine.

This period begins in A.D. 31 (the year of Jesus’ ascension), and ends in A.D. 100 (the year of the death of John, the last apostle).

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Revelation 2:2

I know your works, and your labor, and your patience.


Colossians 1:23

Be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which you have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.


The Apostolic Church has experienced a lightning growth, explaining Paul’s enthusiasm.

At the end of the first century, there were already about six million Christians in the world known at that time.

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Revelation 2:4

Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love.


Ephesians 6:24 (NKJV)

Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.


The letter to the church of Ephesus then shows the negative points.

The diagnosis of Jesus is very clear: the church has lost the love showed in its early times.

Now, let’s note this interesting point: the very last verse of the Epistle of Paul to the people of Ephesus mentions the importance of loving the Lord «with an undying love».

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Revelation 2:4

Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love.


Matthew 24:12,13

And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.


Here again, the letter to the church of Ephesus is also addressed to each one of us, underlining that often, as time goes by, we lose the love we had for Jesus in the first days of our conversion.

This phenomenon also increases a lot in a world full of coldness and hard-heartedness.

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Jeremiah 2:2,5

Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying,

«Thus said the Lord: “I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your espousals, when you went after Me in the wilderness. (...)

What iniquity have your fathers found in Me, that they are gone far from Me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?”»


Each Christian is inclined to abandon his first love.

Yet, God always remains the same.

So it is crucial to keep the fire alive by praying, studying the Bible, and working with perseverance in God’s harvest.

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Revelation 2:4

Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love.


Finally, the prophetic application is perfect, since the experience of the local church of Ephesus was the same as that of the Apostolic Church.

In fact, during the second half of the first century, as the apostles were dying one by one, the Christians progressively lost the vision transmitted at the Day of the Pentecost.

Slowly, they let the evangelical fervor of the early days cool down, that same fervor which had formerly brought about the conversion of thousands of souls day after day.

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Revelation 2:5

Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works.

Or else I will come to you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of his place, except you repent.


Luke 19:40

If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.


Jesus tells this to the local church of Ephesus, to the first century Apostolic Church, and to each one of us: we must regain this first love, before He entrusts someone else with the evangelical mission, which will be accomplished anyway.

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Revelation 2:6

But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.


Revelation 2:15

So have you also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.


However, Jesus praises the church of Ephesus for rejecting the works of the Nicolaitanes, unlike the church of Pergamos (subject of a future lesson), which will be following their doctrine.

What do we know about the Nicolaitanes?

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Acts 6:5

They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch.


Acts 20:30

Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.


The Nicolaitans were the disciples of Nicolas, one of the first deacons of the Apostolic Church.

We do not know much about Nicolas, but it seems that one day, he began to teach a strange and false doctrine.

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1 Corinthians 6:19,20

What? Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?

For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.


Proverbs 23:7

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.


The Nicolaitans were teaching that the body was independent of the soul.

This way, according to them, it was possible to commit sin in one’s body without causing harm to one’s soul.

This doctrine, though firmly rejected by the Bible, can still be found today in some Christian churches.

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Revelation 2:7

He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches.

«To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the middle of the Paradise of God.»


Revelation 22:14

Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.


The letter to the church of Ephesus ends with this promise for those who persevere until the end: the access to the tree of life.

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Genesis 2:9

And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food.

The tree of life [was] also in the middle of the garden.


Genesis 3:24

So [the Lord God] drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.


So, in the letter to Ephesus, Jesus promises to restore access to the tree of life, which had been lost after the disobedience of Adam and Eve.

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Revelation 22:2

In the middle of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bore twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month.

And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.


In his last vision about the New Earth, the apostle John describes this same tree.

Don’t we wish to eat the fruit of the tree of life? Jesus freely offers us the victory which will give us back access to this tree!

Let’s end this lesson with a summary of the letter to the church of Ephesus.

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The five points of the pattern in the letter to the church of Ephesus

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Let’s thank God for His help:

Our Father,

By its prophetic range, Your letter to the church of Ephesus strengthens our faith in Your inspired word.

But it does even more: by its personal application, this letter is for us a vital source of advice and encouragement.

Please help us day after day to keep our first love alive, a burning love for You and for Your work.

We also ask You to give us victory, that we may soon taste the fruits of the tree of life, and live with You forever. In Jesus Christ we pray.


The test of Lesson 22 is waiting for you!

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