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Part 4 - EPHESUS


The name Ephesus means "desirable, full purposed or the city of the moon".

It is situated on the sea coast and was the center of a flourishing sea trade acting as the center of the traffic between East and West. It was a big city governed by itself. It was also a religious center having the famous temple of Artemis which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Goths destroyed it in AD 262 along with the entire city. Artemis is the Greek name for the moon goddess Diana of Rome. Sometimes she is represented as being covered with breasts, a symbol of fertility, lasciviousness and sexuality. As a prominent Roman city it was also the center of regular pageantry and held shows and arena combats and fights. The temple of Artemis was an imposing structure over a large area of several acres of land housing everything from a market place to sex trade. It was an asylum for criminals. It was a market place excelling any supermarkets, where one can find anything. Heraclitus, the great philosopher who lived in that city calls it "Asia’s foremost city" and declared that "one cannot live in this city without continually weeping over its immorality". In the midst of this was a church.

Paul, Appolos, Priscilla Aquilla and John were the early builders of this church in Ephesus. A revealing description of the city and its background can be found in Acts 19 where Paul is seen preaching. This was John’s home town to his end where he returned from Patmos and died a natural death..

Jesus introduces himself as:

Rev 2:1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands:

The seven stars are the future of the church. Jesus holds the seven stars in his hands. He is the guardian of all these churches. He is the Lord of these churches.

Rev 2:2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.

Rev 2:3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Rev 2:4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

He commends them for their active orthodoxy, their toil, patience and intolerance of evil and opposition to false doctrines. In the process of building up a church they lost their first love - the depth and desire was lost. In the process of building an institutional church capable of withstanding the ongoing evil they lost their priorities - Jesus was not given the prominence. The superstructure was built up. We can see this even today in the growth of any church. When the church begins the people are so enthusiastic and filled with love for each other and the life of the church is centered on Jesus. As time went on legalism and superstructures became necessary and eventually they missed the centrality of Jesus and remained as an edifice of structure at the building level and the social level.

Rev 2:6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Nicolaitan heresy is an extreme form of Gnosticism which was rampant during the Apostolic Age. They taught that, since their bodies were physical, it did not matter what the body did. So they resorted to indiscriminate sexual relations and did whatever they liked with their bodies. Iraneas reports that the sect was so called because their leader was Nicolaos. Sex is even today a potential danger of close loving Christian communities. We can foresee the growth of cults like the Children of God and others in the Nicolaitan teachings.

This name has another meaning. Nico means ruler. So Nicolaitan would mean ruler of the laity. Hence this may indicate the growth of clergy in the church. The rise of the Priesthood in Christianity is a copy of the Priesthood in the Roman pagan religion. These cultural traditions were mixed with Aaronic Priesthood and was readopted into the institutional churches. There is nothing wrong in the adoption of cultural setup into Christian Institutionalization as long as it does not produce a basic contradiction in the theological basis of Christian faith. In this case as time went on clergy slowly became the rulers and took over spiritual authority in contrast to the royal priesthood of all believers. This essentially is the difference of opinion of evangelicals with the orthodox and Roman Catholicism.

1 Pet 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Jesus reminds them of their honey moon period, when all was sunshine and joy and exciting. Return and do the first works was his advise.

Rev 2:5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.

The reinstatement consists of three parts:

Remember

Repent

Do

All conversions have these three parts.

Remember your past.

Repent of your mistakes.

Turn around and actively practice.

In the conversion of a sinner to saint these three steps are necessary.

Know you are a sinner.

Repent of your sin.

Accept Jesus as savior and actively confess him with your lips.

The reinstatement of broken family relation is likewise comes in three steps.

Remember your honeymoon period

Repent or desire to get back

Change your ways.

This is the prescription of Jesus for today’s broken relationships not only with him but also within the family and the community as a whole.

If you love Jesus promises life and paradise.

Rev 2:7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

This is true of the love of husband and wife also. With love, marriage becomes a heaven. It is verily a tree of life and a paradise. If this is true of earthly marriage how much more is it true of spiritual love. It is this marriage between the church and Jesus that is going to bring forth the tree of life and paradise. In fact paradise is where love is. Hell is where hate is, where selfishness is. The hell and heaven are decided on the basis of relationships and not on the basis of a place somewhere or material possessions. Satre has vividly described heaven and hell as identical banquet halls. Banquet is spread over the table and people sit around it. But they all have long spoons and forks tied to their arms. In the hell they found it impossible to feed themselves and they all starved. They cursed and screamed and were famished. In the heaven the situation is the same. But they were well fed and nourished because in their love they fed each other. Love is the key to heaven. Marriage in human society is the foretaste of the great marriage of Church with Jesus.

History tells us that Ephesus did get back for a while and was commended for their brotherly love by Ignatius in the second century. But they did not stay there. In AD 262 Goths destroyed the city. A council of Bishops were held in Ephesus in AD 431 which ratified the council of Nicea. But Christianity fell at the onslaught of Islamic invasion. Turks followed Arabs and finally came the Mongols in 1403. Today the city’s once famous sea port is only a marsh, covered with reeds. The village has a few Christians who do not know Paul, Peter or John. The candlestick was removed.

Rev 2:5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

This church describes the state of affairs of the Apostolic era from AD 30 to AD 100. John died in AD 100. This is the period also described in the parable of the Sower. The word was sown and it encountered real physical situations. Some yielded 100, some 60 and some 30 fold.