Ephesus was in a cosmopolitan prominent city. This place held a wonder of the world, the Temple of Diana. It could seat 24,000 people at one time. For comparison, Saddleback church, one of the most famous mega churches holds 3,000. The Georgia Dome held 71,000. So worship of Diana could be seen as 8 Saddlebacks or about ⅓ a Georgia Dome.
David Jeremiah points out in some translations it doesn’t talk about their hard work but their LABOR.
You see this church was doing a lot of good works, but they were exhausted. There’s an old addage about 10% of the people doing 90% of the work. But that doesn’t seem to be the case here, the church as a whole were working, LABORING to the point of exhaustion. And they are persevering. Think about when you’re working out and you’ve set in your mind you’re going to lift something or you’re going to walk THIS much. Maybe by the end of it your muscles start talking to you don’t they? Maybe they start getting shaky.
You know how good it would feel to lay this down?
You did good up to this point…close enough!
Perseverance says you push through to do the rest of what you set out to do. And we read they’re still going even though they are tired.
But instead of compromising, like some other churches we will discuss, they rooted out false worship in their midst. They practiced church discipline. Have any of you ever seen church discipline practiced?
There was a practice going on until about 150 AD, so nearly 120 years after Jesus’ death on the cross, called Apostolic Succession. You see the Apostles wouldn’t live forever. And people knew that Jesus had given them power to cast out demons, drink poison and it not hurt them (we saw this evidenced when people tried to poison John didn’t we?!, baptize, and other things.) People started saying that an Apostle before they died appointed them to be a replacement. So now they would have that authority. And supposedly power.
It was grifters come into the church. Some people even today call themselves Apostle this or Apostle that. Now we all have an encounter with Christ as He comes into our hearts but that’s not the same thing as Paul and the original Twelve. It sounds like a term to tell people you are important. Ephesus saw these goings on and said no to it. Nope you’re not an apostle, take your act somewhere else.
But despite all of this, doctrinal purity, hard work, perseverance, Jesus had one major course correction for them. They had lost their first love. They were just going through the motions. Like we said, auto pilot. They may have started off excited and passionate about God. But their walk with Jesus was more a chore now. A ritual. Something to check off a list. Have you ever felt that way?
Jesus offers some hope to them, somethings they can do to REVIVE what was there. They aren’t coming up with someting brand new they must first REMMEMBER how it was. REPENT of the attitude they held that wasn’t loving probably. And REPEAT what they had done at first.
If they don’t do these things, Jesus will put out their light. That sounds bad but think about a marriage. If you don’t love your spouse but are just going through the motions, don’t ever do anything loving, forget what drew you to them, you just might be putting out that light yourself!
The next church we’ll look at is Smyrna. That city had been established about 1,000 BC, destroyed in 600 BC and rebuilt some time later. The city would be a symbol of having died and come back to life. Hmmm… what might that mean later…?
It was considered the most beautiful of the Greek cities and was the center of Ceaser worship.
There’s no condemnation in this letter, just encouragement.
Christians were seen as unpatriotic and probably not appreciative. How dare they not bend the knee to Rome?
The tribulation they underwent is a term that means constant pressure.
Could sound like the song “under pressure” But also sounds Like they were pressed on every side. That sounds like
2 Corinthians 4:8-9New International Version8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
They would be poor because no one is giving them a job.
Persecuted by syncretism’s that are emperor worshippers first, fake Jews later.
Here we get a guidebook on how to survive this kind of thing. be fearless and faithful. Don’t fear the specific things about to face and stay true to their faithfulness to the end.
Remember we said the resurrected city would come back up? Jesus says He is the true First and Last the resurrected.
The next church we’ll discuss, and the last for tonight is Pergamum. It’s the church in Satan’s city Jesus tells us. If it’s charting a course on that sea what do you think might happen to the church? Hopefully they change the culture around them. But if they’re not careful the culture can change them.
How many think the church is sometimes more changed by the culture than they are changers of the culture?
Pergamum was the capital of Rome in Asia and had the worlds second best library, behind Alexandria in Egypt. So they have the brains and authority. Now what does Jesus say, what attribute of Himself does He match up with this?
12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
So Jesus presents the word of truth from His mouth. Despite all the authority they can muster, the one with ultimate authority steps up and offers them truth as opposed to their lies.
Imagine the school body government, a class president has decided how best to run the school, says he’s smarter than all those teachers. Teacher leave us kids alone, all that sort of thing. And he’s got some authority among his peers, until a teacher walks in and simply says no. No - we’re not doing any of that. And suddenly all his rebellion looks pretty foolish.
They had a huge altar to Zeus that from a distance looked like a throne. That’s probably what Jesus is referring to. Yall think it’s Zeus, it’s just the devil by another name.
They worshipped one particular god named Asclepius who was associated with healing and was called the Savior. When someone was sick, instead of a hospital you took them to one of his temples. He had this symbol that became associated with medicine, a snake coiled around a rod. We’ve never seen anything like that associated with medicine right? Hmmm…
The church had not given up on Jesus. That’s a good thing. But some of them held various conflicting beliefs. Sometimes when I’m driving I see people take what I call a buffet approach to driving. They want to take a little bit of their lane and a little bit of my lane. I’m a little selfish I admit, I want the vehicle with it’s headlights bearing down on me to NOT enter my lane but stay in their own. These people were having a little bit of Jesus but also some Balaam or Nicolations on the side.
From Balaam they got corruption of their purity.
From Nicolations they got division between priests and laity.
Jesus is saying with the hidden manna you can’t eat at their table and His. You have to pick onee. But only Jesus’ table has the hidden manna which can sustain you.