Sunday, 6 September 2020
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. Revelation 2:5
The Ephesian church had become a church focused on a social gospel, having left their first love. Jesus now warns them of the consequences of this, saying, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen.”
Here, Jesus says “fallen” instead of “stumbled.” They had not merely tripped, thus needing correction and redirection. Rather, they had actually fallen from what is proper. They were in a state which could not continue, but absolutely had to be corrected. Without a love for Christ, there would be no sharing the gospel which leads the lost to Christ. Without that, the church would be entirely ineffective.
Because of this, the Lord next says, “repent.” The word “repent” simply means to changes one’s mind, or to redirect one’s purposes. They were to accept the will of God and turn from their self-imposed will. Here, the Greek reads, “and repent,” – “Remember and repent.” One can remember and not repent – “We used to do that, but this is so much better. These people need to be fed, not to be told they are sinners.” Instead, the Lord warns them that the path they have chosen is entirely wrong.
Tending to one’s earthy needs without tending to his spiritual needs serves no eternal purpose. It is no good to send a well-fed person through the gates of hell. Therefore, the church is to “do the first works.”
When the church was established, they proclaimed the wonder of what Christ did because they understood what it meant to them personally. However, over the years, the memory of the conversion faded, and they began to look for other avenues of service to delight in. These became the primary focus, and the actual purpose of the church was lost. Jesus’ warning is that they should return to these first works. If not, He says, “or else I will come to you quickly.”
The verb is present tense, “I am coming.” It is as if the move has begun and the only thing that will stop it is an immediate turning to the proper path. Also, some manuscripts leave off the word “quickly.” It is the word used in Revelation 1:1, and it can mean “soon,” but also “with quickness,” “suddenly,” or “hastily.” If the word belongs in the original, then being combined with “I am coming,” it would indicate with suddenness. In this, there is the sense of personal judgment. It is His church, and He is the Judge of it.
When His decision is made, it is He who will act. However, there is the truth that there are many churches that have fallen away and yet which continue to exist. Therefore, Christ’s judgment on that church is a spiritual judgment. Just as a church’s lampstand cannot be seen, so it will not be known when the decision has been made. But from that time on, the church is no longer considered as a part of the body by the Lord. As He says, He will “remove your lampstand from its place.”
The Greek literally reads, “and move your lampstand from its place.” The movement of the lampstand is one of judgment. The only other time the word is used in Revelation, it is also a movement of judgment –
“Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.” Revelation 6:14
The purpose of the lampstand is to give light. In a failure to do just that, the Lord removes that which symbolizes the emitting of light. The church becomes a haunt for anything but that light from that point on because it is a place of darkness. The sense here is how the Lord spoke of Israel in the book of Hosea –
“Call his name Lo-Ammi,
For you are not My people,
And I will not be your God.” Hosea 1:8
The same would be true with the church at Ephesus, as the Lord says once again, “unless you repent.” There was no other option open to the church. Repent or perish.
It should be noted that this verse is used incorrectly at times to justify a loss of salvation. “Unless you repent, the Lord will remove your lampstand.” This is wholly inappropriate and entirely out of context. The lampstand is the church, not an individual within the church. As context actually matters, that logic – when used in this way – can be tossed out on its ear.
Life application: For all the commendation of verses 2 and 3, and with what seems to be merely a mild rebuke in verse 4, the thought changes to “Nevertheless… you have left your first love.” In this, we suddenly have words of overwhelming importance. Apparently, leaving our “first love” is far weightier than we may imagine. In fact, it is the basis for complete rejection by the Lord.
Tied up in this verse are three specific verbs –
1) Remember. Jesus says to go back and look at where the church started in its intent and purpose.
2) Repent. The church as a whole must turn back to that original intent and purpose.
3) Do. Tied up in the acts of remembering and repenting is the command to “do.” The church is to return to a gospel-based, Christ-loving entity.
Jesus asks them to remember their first love, change their mind about their actions now (which aren’t directed at all to that first love), and to go back and “do” those things which glorified their first love.
In 2 Corinthians 11:2, 3, Paul says –
“For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
What Paul says is reflected in Jesus’ words today. When a woman marries, she does things for her husband that she later forgets about. Here heart turns away from that first love and the excitement she felt for him. Jesus says this type of attitude towards Him is intolerable and if this condition persists, He will take swift and decisive action.
All the good works in the world, without a heart and love for Christ, are simply a waste of time. He wants our love and devotion, not showy deeds. The penalty for this wrong attitude is a dead church that proclaims a social gospel; one which is directed horizontally, not vertically.
Lord, it is apparent that any gospel that fails to glorify You alone is a false one. It is also evident that those who practice showy deeds for others to see, while forgetting to bring You honor, are simply wasting their time. In the end, our church is to be all about You, or we are merely wasting our effort. So, Lord, help our hearts to be directed to You, our First Love, and our actions will be as they should. Amen.