Revelation Lesson 5: The Busy But Almost Dead Church :: By Sean Gooding

Revelation Chapter 1: 20-22- 2: 1-7

“The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.

“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:

“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’

Again, we find ourselves in the book of Revelation, and we live in a time that is full of turmoil and hard things. Just recently, the idea of a Universal Minimum Income has surfaced. Canada has signed on, we are told, to this initiative that will guarantee each person a minimum income. We do not know all the details, but we can see the basic framework of the time in the Tribulation where no one will be able to buy or sell without a ‘mark’ from the government.

I cannot see that the billionaires of our world are going to give up their monies to fund the poor. What appears to be in the process of being built is a 2-tier system of ‘haves and have nots’ that will be managed by the government. Stay tuned as we see these plans being fleshed out before us.

Today we will begin a more extensive look at the church age. This is the Biblical age that we live in right now. There are seven types of churches in the church age, and most are present at each stage. This age began with Jesus’ public ministry and will extend until the Rapture sometime in the near future. We begin our look at the end of Revelation 1.

Seven Stars and Lampstands, Revelation Chapter 1 verses 20-22

We will begin with the Lampstands. There is no need to run to the concordance; Jesus tells us that the Lampstands are the churches. We are the Light of the world. Churches have the primary job of being light in our dark world. We are light for the blind to see with and the light that is the truth of the scriptures. Light and truth go together; we are to be the bastions of truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). He is the Light of the world (John 8:12), and we are to tell the world about Him.

We are here to show the world that Jesus is real, that He gave His life for them, and that they need a Saviour. As churches we need to talk about sin, death and life. We are not self-help clubs, we are not charities, and we are not here to help people feel good. We are here to expose sinners to the Light of the Gospel. Sadly, too many churches talk about everything but Jesus, sin, death and Hell.

Look, we all need marital help, we all need financial help, we all need mental help and other types of help. But first and foremost, people need Jesus. They need to be saved and be added to the family of God. Then we can deal with the other stuff. What good are the churches if we are helping people in every way except knowing Jesus as Savior, and they are all better but still going to Hell?

A lot of issues can be solved by being saved and having the Holy Spirit in us. With Him in us, God can lead us into more truth, more healing and more comfort. Too many of our churches have forgotten the first thing, and this is that we are Light to a lost and dying world.

Jesus also tells us that the seven stars are the angels to the seven churches. At first glance it would seem that each church has its own angel; and while this may be true, we see in the second chapter that Jesus addresses the ‘angel’ and give him instructions as to how to fix some of the issues in the church at Ephesus.

A quick read of some of the commentaries on this passage tells us that these angels actually refer to the pastors or elders of each church. Wow, I would never have classed me as an angel; and before we pastors get too ahead of ourselves, just remember that the church age has now been running for about 2,000 years. There have been thousands if not millions of pastors (angels) down through the years.

We current pastors are just some of the men who have served the Lord’s churches for millennia. There is nothing special about us, and it is Jesus who is the head of the church. But we are given the responsibility to keep the churches doctrinally sound, protect them from outside dangers, and focus them on Jesus and the task at hand. This is no easy job. As fallible and sinful men, we find ourselves facing our humanity and our failings every day. We are a broken people trying to point people to a perfect God, all the while trying not to get in His way.

The Good in Ephesus, Revelation Chapter 2: 1-3, 6

In verse 2, Jesus begins His overview of the church at Ephesus with this: “I know your works.” Jesus knows everything you do and why you do it. This should be a sobering thought to us church people. We will be held accountable for how we lived as the local church of the Lord. Notice that Jesus judged each church as an entity and not as a universal body. They were all churches in Asia Minor, but they were each asked to give an account in a specific location.

There is no universal church; rather churches exist as a local entity only. Each church is the Light source to its community and, when given the opportunity, to the world around it via missionaries.

This church at Ephesus had some good things going for it; it worked on getting the message out, it was patient and did not suffer those that were evil. They were a discerning church, not just taking everyone at his word but verifying that a person was who they said they were by asking questions. All too often the Lord’s churches let in men who are not learned in the scripture; they are not led by the Holy Spirit and are novices in the work of the Kingdom. These men end up doing a lot of damage and not furthering the Gospel.

It is sad when you see churches fall like this. If they had just asked one more question or a different series of questions, things would have been better.

I recall as a young man in seminary being asked by a church to be their pastor. I had been filling in for about 6 weeks after their pastor had left to go to another church; and they liked me, and I them. But, I was single, just in my second year of seminary and certainly a novice in the Bible. I turned them down but kept filling in until they found an awesome man to be their pastor. It would be almost 10 years before I would get the chance to be a pastor again.

This church in Ephesus was hard-working; they took doctrine seriously and they had been through some hard times. The scriptures tell us that they had persevered. This means that they had been through some rough patches, maybe persecution under the Roman government or at the hands of locals. We don’t know, but they had been through some rough times for sure. We are told that they had not become weary or tired of the labouring for the name of Jesus. These guys were diligently doing the work of the Gospel, showing the Light of Jesus to all who would listen; and they were not tired, nor had they lost their zeal.

Lastly, Jesus commends them in verse 6 for the hatred of the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. The word hate comes from the word that means to despise and find utterly repulsive. So they did not dislike the Nicolaitans; they hated them for real.

The Nicolaitans, according to all I can find, taught the idea that one did not have to separate the church and paganism totally. Nicolas, after whom the doctrine was named, did not seem to have any issues with mixing Christianity and paganism and did not see the need to completely separate them. He thought that you could worship dark and light at the same time. This is impossible. The church at Ephesus hated this practice, and so should we.

Many modern churches have allowed paganism like yoga, meditation and other pagan methods of worship to creep in the doors and establish themselves in the Lord’s churches because we did not want to seem intolerant. We have polluted the Gospel and watered the message of Jesus. Oh, that more of the Lord’s churches would purge this evil of appeasement!

The Bad in Ephesus, Revelation chapter 2 verse 6

But in the middle of all this stood a blatant lack and a glaring hole at the church in Ephesus; they had lost their first love. They had fallen out of love with Jesus. I recall in seminary that there were discussions about what the first love was; and some felt that it was evangelism. They were no longer reaching the lost. I do not think that the evidence bears that out. These folks were labourers, they stood for the name of Jesus, and they had been through some hard things. They were working at the business of the church, but they had forgotten why they were working. They had forgotten their love for Jesus.

Sometimes, as the Lord’s churches, we can settle for what is good and miss out on what is great. We need to be intimately in love with Jesus. He needs to be our first and foremost. This takes time, solitude, reading the scripture and prayer. All too often we get so busy doing the work of Jesus that we forget about Jesus.

This can happen in marriages. We get so busy paying the bills, mowing the lawn, and getting kids to the events that we forget that we are married to this incredible person that needs our attention. Now, Jesus does not need us; we need Him. But in the same manner, we should be diligent and nurture the relationship between Him and us. We stop doing the little things, like singing praises and talking to Him. We get immersed in business and stop falling in love daily with Jesus.

Make time for Jesus; make time to talk to Him, walk with Him, sit with Him, and be silent with Him. Make time to simply be with Him and allow His presence to overtake you. This is not some ‘mamby pamby’ Disney classic love story, but one with some bones to it, some hard times, some crying, some anguish and a growing confidence in the person, power and presence of our Lord, Master, Savior and Friend.

Sometimes we are afraid to stop being busy because we do not want to tend to our relationships. Oh, what a mess we create! Your relationship as an individual and as a part of the local church will always supersede activity. If the relationship is right, there will be activity, always. Set the priority from the very beginning—Jesus first, all else as He orders them.

If we lose our first love, that of loving the Lord, we are in danger of losing our Light, in danger of Jesus taking away our power and in danger of being just a hollow shell of a church with lots of activity but no power. Let us get back to basics: you shall love the Lord your God with all your mind, strength and heart (Mark 12:30). Stop spinning your wheels and get back to simply focusing on the person of Jesus.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.