The Lord Jesus instructed John to write to the seven churches in Asia Minor. From the comments that Christ gives of these seven churches, we can see what kind of churches are pleasing to the Lord. What are the special characteristics that a church should have? The words that the Lord speaks to these churches are very simple, because prophecies are usually short and to the point.
The prophecies for these seven churches have a set format which is: The Lord’s self description , words of commendation, words of rebuke, words of encouragement, words of warning, and promises. The self-description of the Lord in the beginning and the promise at the end is related to the shortcomings or the needs of the church. When Christ’s self-description is “died and came to life again”, the promise at the end is “will not be hurt at all by the second death, because the Church in Smyrna was a church that suffered profoundly and had great number of martyrs.
THE EARLY CHURCH
1 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write.
Ephesus represents the 1st and 2nd century church during the era of the apostles. At that time there were still apostles, that is why apostles are mentioned in the letter. Apostles are not mentioned again in the letters to the other six churches. This is definitely not a coincidence but an accurate prophecy.
以弗所是最初的教會，所以主責備他們失去｢最初的愛first love ｣，一語雙關，最初的教會，失去初愛。第一期教會非常重要，如果第一個教會開始走偏路，以後的偏差會更大。
Ephesus was the first church that was established that is why the Lord rebukes them for forsaking “their first love”, a double edged remark: the first church lost their first love. The first church was very important, because if the first church started deviating from the truth, then the ones that follow would depart further away from the right path.
Although the seven churches represent seven church eras, the problems that many churches encounter during different times are similar, they all have weaknesses and strengths. Each letter contains things that are worth learning for all the churches. In the four Gospels the Lord himself taught many important lessons. At that time the New Testament church was not established yet, so they did not know what the expectations of the Lord were. Now, the Lord is speaking to the seven churches and He is letting them know very clearly what His expectations are . The Lord said: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” All the churches should make the decision, not only the church in Ephesus. When Jesus was in the world, He also asked people to make a decision. We should seek to become a church that is pleasing to the Lord, and avoid being a church which the Lord rebukes. In this way, we will become children of God that will bring joy to the Lord.
THE LORD ‘ S SELF-DESCRIPTION
1 These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.
He holds the seven stars in His right hand. The seven stars represent the leaders of the church, which He has set up and chosen; these leaders are secure under His strong arm, His right hand. They teach and lead the church to stride towards the establishment of the Kingdom. He walks among the seven lampstands, showing that He cares for the needs of all the churches. He cares for the church and He wants us to care for each other. This action of caring for each other is called love . If the church loses its love, sooner or later it will lose its original belief, its wisdom and its light
THE LORD’S COMMENDATIONS
2 我知道你的行為：勞碌、忍耐；也知道你不能容忍惡人，你也曾試驗那自稱使徒，卻不是使徒的，看出他們是假的來。3 你也能忍耐，曾為我的名勞苦，並不乏倦。
2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
這段稱讚的話有幾個相近的辭。erga 勞工、忍耐作工；kopos 辛勞、忍受煩惱；upomonein 忍受痛苦與苦難；bastazw 容忍，忍辱負重。這種種忍耐力，都受到主的稱讚。即今人所推崇的EQ 情商，為著將來，忍受現在。該忍能忍，不該忍不忍。神喜悅這種有原則的忍耐。他們為主、為主的名，受逼迫忍耐。但對於惡人，對歪曲真理的事毫不容忍，他們為一次所交付的道，竭力爭辯。
These words of commendation contain some terms that are similar. “ Erga ” deeds, to work patiently; “ kopos ” hard work, to endure troubles; “ upomonein ” perseverance, endure pain and suffering; “ bastazw ” tolerate, bear disgrace and a heavy burden. This endurance was praised by the Lord. Like having a high EQ (emotional quotient), enduring hardships at the present and hoping for a better future. Bearing all kinds of difficulties but not tolerating things that are against their principles. God is pleased with this kind of people because they are eager to endure persecution for the Lord and for His name but are not willing to tolerate any wicked people who distort the truth.
[Apostles] This word can be used in two ways. In the narrow sense of the word, it is used only for the 12 apostles, but in the broad sense of the word, anyone who is sent by the church could be called an apostle . At that time, there were some who claimed to be sent by the church, but they were in fact false prophets. During those days, communication was not as developed as today, so it was difficult to verify if a person was a false prophet or not. How then were they able to differentiate a fake one from a real one? One way was thru fellowship in the Spirit; because the characteristic of a real believer is truth and light. We have fellowship in the light. Another way to know if they were the real thing was through their actions, their speech and the books they read. Through these things they could know what kind of spirit they had.
THE LORD ‘ S REBUKE
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.
They guarded their belief very carefully; they did not let anyone change the truth of the Gospel. But they neglected the other important element of the church, which is to love one another, to care for one another.
Some people love just with their mouths saying sweet words like “I love you”. Others love only in their hearts while they say harsh words with their mouths. John said: “let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
Christ is not rebuking them for not having a passionate love for Him in their hearts. The love which the Bible speaks about is: 1) Love with actions; 2) Love for people to demonstrate love for God. The two great sins of the church are: 1) Deviating from the truth of the Gospel; 2) Losing their deeds of love. A church without deeds will lose its light very quickly, and it’s function as a lampstand. At that time, no matter how genuine its faith might be , the church will fall for sure because it has lost its effect as a lampstand.
5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
Before Jesus went on the cross, He instructed His disciples in many ways urging them repeatedly to love one another, in that way others will know that they are Jesus’ disciples. Therefore, the witness of the church is not only to know how to share the Gospel but also to know how to love. The church must love with actions; that is the best way to share the Gospel.
The church that the Lord is not pleased with is a church that does not have actions. The two churches here that were sternly rebuked by the Lord are the church in Laodicea and the church in Sardis. The church in Laodicea represents today’s church, which includes us; we are among those who do not have actions. The Lord knows the actions of each church.
We think that if we do a lot of things, we will make lots of mistakes, if we don’t do much, we will make fewer mistakes, and if we don’t do anything, we will not make any mistakes at all. God doesn’t think that way. If you don’t do the good that you are supposed to do, that is considered a sin. When God created the world and human beings, He hoped that by caring and helping each other, every body will have a better life. But the human race failed, all we think about is to fight against each other and to kill each other. God only requires the church to love one another. When the New church started, by loving one another, they helped each other and shared all their material possessions, they even helped members of the church that spoke different languages; that is the reason why they multiplied in numbers so quickly, that was the love they had at first. That kind of first love, gradually grew cold, they were only emphasizing intellectual knowledge and true belief. They were lacking deeds of love.
But they had something in their favor; they were not promiscuous and were not indulgent. The Nicolaitans indulged in lust, they did what they wanted and did not care if it was right or wrong. They believed God made them that way and they should let nature run its course, they would indulge in eating and drinking, no pressure, no manners, only freedom.
ENCOURAGEMENT AND WARNINGS
5 If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
基督要他們回想，他們是怎樣失去了初愛，要回原位，要有原來的first love ，要再回到first work ，要行起初所行的事。
Christ wanted them to recall how they lost their first love and to return to how they were originally, return to their first love, return to their first work.
How to love one another? Go do it, not just talk about it or think about it. DO IT.
希臘文多個愛字分得很清楚。ergos 慾愛；filia 有情感交流的愛；agapei 行動的愛。這也是主教導的愛：愛仇敵的愛，不是情慾、情感的愛，是行動的愛。行動證明有愛。接待客旅、照顧病人、幫助窮人，應該是常做的事。真正愛主的人，不像效法基督，修道士書上所寫的，應該像德蘭修女那樣去做，有行動纔是真愛。你去探望親戚，看見他們的小孩，可以嘴巴上對他說得很甜，說常掛念他，但他不吃你這一套。他會覺得，如果你真的是掛念他的話，就會帶東西來給他。
In the Greek language, the different kinds of love are defined very clearly. “Eros” intimate, passionate love; “Philia” friendship or affectionate love; “Agape” unconditional, sacrificial love, love with action. That is the love that the Lord taught about: The love for the enemy, not a sexual or emotional love but a love with actions. When there is action, it means there is love. To receive a guest in your house, to care for a sick person, to help the poor, those are things that should be done often. Someone who really loves the Lord, should not withdraw from the world and put emphasis only in his interior life as practices mentioned in the book “Imitation of Christ” written by a monk, but should have actions like Mother Theresa. True love involves actions. When you visit a relative and see their little kid, you could be very sweet to her and tell her that you missed her and that you love her but she will not buy it. The little kid will think: “If you really think of me and love me, you would have brought me a present.”
The early church emphasized in loving one another. If a church does not do that, its lampstand will be removed; it will lose its power to witness. Sure enough, starting in the fifth century, the church in Ephesus began to decline and in the eleventh century, it completely disappeared. In the fourteenth century, this large harbor city in Asia Minor became a dead city; no one lived there any longer. This was also part of the prophecy. At that time, Ephesus was a very important city, Paul preached the Gospel there for some time, later on John pastored a church there in his old age; they received the best teachings. But without the actions of love, at the end it will eventually lose its effect as a lampstand.
THE LORD ‘ S PROMISES
7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
This verse contains words spoken by Christ, our King, our Lord. If we are unclear of His instructions, the Holy Spirit will teach us, He will not give up on us and will continue to speak to us until we follow His will and are content with His ways. Thus, whoever has ears, must listen at all times.
His promise says: “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life.” What is the meaning of the fruit of the tree of life? Does it mean to receive life? If a believer already has the life of the Lord, why does he still have to get life? Furthermore, they have the true Word of God, is this still not enough? What is the difference between receiving the Word of God and receiving the fruit of the tree of life?
我們要從猶太人對生命樹的看法來了解。生命樹在所羅門王的寫作裡面，看為是智慧的源頭。箴言3:13-20 論智慧的時候，特別提到生命樹。11:30 ：｢義人所結的果子就是生命樹，有智慧的必能得人。｣義人的果子與智慧有關。15:4 的｢醫治的舌頭｣，指智慧的言語能幫助人。舊伊甸園中有兩棵樹，代表真假智慧。以弗所教會守著主道，所以自認有智慧。但真智慧是行動的智慧，不是理論的智慧。
In order to understand this concept, we must look at what Jewish people consider the tree of life to be. In the writings of King Solomon, the tree of life is the source of wisdom. There is special reference to the tree of life in Proverbs 3:13-20. 11:30: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.” The fruit of the righteous and wisdom are related. “The soothing tongue” in 15: 4 refers to words of wisdom that can help people. The old Garden of Eden had two trees which represented true and false wisdom. The church in Ephesus guarded the Word of God and thus they thought they had wisdom. But real wisdom is wisdom with actions ; not just wisdom in theory.