CHAPTER TWO -

EPHESUS

REVELATION CHAPTER TWO - EPHESUS

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CHAPTER TWO - EPHESUS PREFACE

 

This chapter of Revelation deals with the messages to the seven churches. In Chapter One lesson we mentioned that these seven churches relate to church history as well as the local churches in John's time. We also pointed out that doctrinally, these passages may also be aimed at the local churches in the Great Tribulation while, spiritually, they also picture the course of the Church Age from the first coming of Jesus Christ to His Second Coming. Why do I try to point out what is doctrine and what is spiritual?

 

Satan's most subtle trick is not to deny God, nor to deny the Virgin Birth, nor the Deity of Christ, but to use the Bible against people who believe in it. Remember his approach with Eve in Genesis 3:1? He twists meanings, leaves out words and takes texts out of context. Any text taken out of context is a PRETEXT!! Most heresies come from this type of twisted thinking and application; it is the equivalent of taking a passage out of Leviticus 11 and putting it on a Christian in the Church Age, or taking a passage like Romans 10 and putting it on Noah. We should be very careful not to make the Bible say something it does not say. This garbling of passages is like taking a message written to the twelve tribes of Israel (James 1:1), and making it apply doctrinally to a New Testament, born-again Christian in the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2), which, of course, it does not. Oops! Perhaps now some of us might ask, "Isn't James in the New Testament?" Yep! It sure is. Now, it is not my intention to cause people to doubt the Bible. Instead my intent is to tweak your interest enough to cause each one of us to dive into the Word of God, ankle deep - HEAD FIRST!

 

Revelation 2 and 3 are, in type, a perfect picture of the "Church Age." In type, for example, the first church, Ephesus, mentioned in Revelation 2, is a purposed church, working hard and doing the right thing. Their only fault is that they have begun to get a little cool in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The last church, Laodicea, mentioned in Revelation 3, is a church in total and complete apostasy, and yet it professes Orthodoxy. That is, it is not an Atheistic, Communistic church. It is a church that is rich, it is a church that has plenty of everything, yet God says their spiritual condition is the worst condition of any church in the Book of Revelation. Their spiritual condition is poor, wretched, miserable, naked, and blind.

 

Secular History:

When we know something of the history of Ephesus and learn something of its conditions at this time, it is easy to see why it comes first in the list of the seven Churches.

 

Pergamos was the official capital of the province of Asia but Ephesus was by far its greatest city. It claimed as its proud title "The first and the greatest metropolis of Asia." A Roman writer called it Lumen Asiae, The Light of Asia. Lets examine, then, some of the factors which gave it its pre-eminent greatness.

 

In the time of John, Ephesus was the greatest harbor in Asia. All the roads of the Cayster Valley--the Cayster was the river on which it stood--converged upon it. But the roads came from further afield than that. It was at Ephesus that the road from the far-off Euphrates and Mesopotamia reached the Mediterranean, having come by way of Colossae and Laodicea. It was at Ephesus that the road from Galatia reached the sea, having come by way of Sardis. And from the south came up the road from the rich Maeander Valley. Strabo, the ancient geographer, called Ephesus "The Market of Asia." It may well be that in Revelation 18:12,13 John was setting down a description of the varied riches of the market-place at Ephesus.

 

Ephesus was the Gateway of Asia. One of its distinctions, laid down by statute, was that when the Roman proconsul came to take up office as governor of Asia, he must disembark at Ephesus and enter his province there. For all the travelers and the trade, Ephesus was the highway to Rome. In later times, when the Christians were brought from Asia to be flung to the lions in the arena in Rome, Ignatius called Ephesus the Highway of the Martyrs.

 

Its position made Ephesus the wealthiest and the greatest city in all Asia and it has been aptly called the Vanity Fair of the ancient world.

 

Ephesus had certain important political distinctions. It was a free city. In the Roman Empire certain cities were free cities; they had had that honor conferred upon them because of their services to the Empire. A free city was within its own limits self-governing; and it was exempted from ever having Roman troops garrisoned there. The Roman governors made periodical tours of their provinces; and at certain specially chosen cities and towns, courts were held where the governor tried the most important cases. Further, Ephesus held yearly the most famous games in Asia which attracted people from all over the province.

 

Ephesus was the center of the worship of Artemis or as some call her, Diana of the Ephesians. The Temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was four hundred and twenty-five feet long by two hundred and twenty feet wide; it had one hundred and twenty columns, each sixty feet high and the gift of a king, and thirty-six of them were richly gilded and inlaid. Ancient temples consisted mostly of colonnades with only the center portion roofed over. The center portion of the Temple of Artemis was roofed over with cypress wood. The image of Artemis was one of the most sacred images in the ancient world. It was by no means beautiful but a squat, black, many-breasted figure; so ancient that none knew its origin. We have only to read Acts 19 to see how precious Artemis and her temple were to Ephesus. Ephesus also had famous temples to the godhead of the Roman Emperors, Claudius and Nero. Later it was to add temples to Hadrian and Severus. In Ephesus pagan religion was at its strongest.

 

Ephesus was a notorious center of pagan superstition. It was famous for the Ephesian Letters, amulets and charms which were supposed to be infallible remedies for sickness, to bring children to those who were childless and to ensure success in any undertaking; and people came from all over the world to buy them.

 

The population of Ephesus was very mixed. Its citizens were divided into six tribes. One tribe consisted of those who were descendants of the original natives of the country. Another, consisted of those who were direct descendants of the original colonists from Athens. A third tribe consisted of other Greeks. And another, probably, consisted of Jews.

 

Besides being a center of religion the Temple of Artemis was also a center of crime and immorality. The Temple area possessed the right of asylum; any criminal was safe if he could reach it. The temple possessed hundreds of priestesses who were sacred prostitutes. All this combined to make Ephesus a notoriously evil place. Heraclitus, one of the most famous of ancient philosophers, was known as "the weeping philosopher." His explanation of his tears was that no one could live in Ephesus without weeping at its immorality.

 

Such was Ephesus; an unpromising soil for the sowing of the seed of Christianity. Yet it was there that Christianity had some of its greatest triumphs.

R.C. Trench writes:

"Nowhere did the word of God find a kindlier soil, strike root more deeply or bear fairer fruits of faith and love."

 

Paul stayed longer in Ephesus than in any other city (Acts 20:31). It was with Ephesus that Timothy was so connected that he is called its first bishop (1 Timothy 1:3). It is in Ephesus that we find Aquila, Priscilla and Apollos (Acts 18:19,24,26). Surely, Paul was never more closer to others than to the Ephesian elders, as his farewell address so beautifully shows (Acts 20:17-38).

 

In later days John was the leading figure of Ephesus. Legend has it that he brought Mary the mother of Jesus to Ephesus and that she was buried there. When Ignatius of Antioch wrote to Ephesus, on his way to being martyred in Rome, he would write: "You were ever of one mind with the apostles in the power of Jesus Christ."

 

There can be few places which better prove the conquering power of the Christian faith. We may note one more thing. Ephesus was once the greatest harbor of Asia. Today there is little left of Ephesus but ruins and it is six miles inland from the sea. The coast is now "a harborless line of sandy beach, unapproachable by a ship." What was once the Gulf of Ephesus and the harbor is "a marsh dense with reeds." It was ever a fight to keep the harbor of Ephesus open because of the silt which the Cayster brings down. The fight for the harbor was lost because of all the silt - and the Ephesus church vanished from the scene because of all the filth!

PRAYER

See this link for further details: Psalms 51

Our Father, we beg for forgiveness for leaving our first love, Jesus Christ Your only Begotten Son. We cry along with David as he cried in Psalms 51, we also ask that you create in us clean hearts, renew a right spirit within us, restore unto us the joy of our salvation. Bring honor and glory to yourself though us whether in life or in death. Amen.

 

CHAPTER TWO - EPHESUS

2:1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;

 

 

John begins the letter to Ephesus with two descriptions of the Risen Christ.

  1. He holds the seven stars in his right hand. That is to say, Christ holds the Churches in his hand. This is a very strong word picture, it means that Christ has complete control over the Church. If the Church submits to that control, it will never go wrong; and more than that--our security lies in the fact that we are in the hand of Christ. "They shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:28). There is another point here: when we humans take hold of a thing, we seldom take hold of the whole of it but of part of it. When Christ clasps the seven stars in his hand, He holds the whole Church in his hand. We do well to remember that. It is not only our Church, Grace Fellowship UMC that is in the hand of Christ; the whole Church is in His hand. When men put up barriers between Church and Church, they do what Christ never does.
  2. He walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. The candlesticks are the Churches. This expression shows Christ's untiring activity in the midst of His Churches. He is not confined to any one of them; wherever men are met to worship in his name, Christ is there.

 

John goes on to say certain things about the people of the Church of Ephesus.

  1. The Risen Christ praises their toil. Toil is a favorite New Testament word, all Christians worked hard in the Lord (Romans 16:12). The one thing that Paul claims is that he has toiled harder than all (1 Corinthians 15:10). He fears lest the Galatians slip back, and his labor is in vain (Galatians 4:11). The special characteristic of these verses is that they describe the kind of toil which takes everything of mind and sinew that a man can put into it. The Christian way is not for the man who fears to break sweat. The Christian is to be a toiler for Christ, and, even if physical toil is impossible, he can still toil in prayer.
  2. The Risen Christ praises their steadfast endurance. It is not the grim patience which resignedly accepts things. It is the courageous gallantry which accepts suffering and hardship and turns them into grace and glory. It is often said that suffering colors life; but when we meet life with the endurance which Christ can give, the color of life is never gray or black; it is always tinged with glory.

2:2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

 

 

The Risen Christ goes on to praise the Christians of Ephesus because they have tested evil men and proved them liars. Notice the "pictures" in the very selection of the words - there is harshness and judgement. This Risen Christ is not the gentle Lamb that was meekly led to Calvary's Cross! Undoubtedly, many an evil man came into the little congregations of the early church. Jesus had warned of the false prophets who are wolves in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15). In his farewell speech to the elders of this very Church at Ephesus, Paul had warned them that grievous wolves would invade the flock (Acts 20:29). These evil men were of many kinds. There were emissaries of the Jews who sought to entangle Christians again in the Law and followed Paul everywhere, trying to undo his work. (Remember our study of Galatians?) There were those who tried to turn liberty into license. There were professional beggars who preyed on the charity of the Christian congregations. The Church at Ephesus was even more open to these itinerant menaces than any other Church. It was on the highway to Rome and to the east, and what R.C. Trench called "the whole rabble of evil-doers" was liable to descend upon it.

 

More than once the New Testament insists on the necessity of testing. John in his First Letter insists that the spirits who claim to come from God should be tested by their willingness to accept the Incarnation in all its fullness (1 John 4:1-3). Paul insists that the Thessalonians should test all things and then hold on to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). He insists that, when the prophets preach, they are subject to the testing of the other prophets (1 Corinthians 14:29). A man cannot proclaim his private views in the assembly of God's people; his words must agree with the Word of God! Jesus demanded the hardest test of all: "By their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:15-20).

 

The Church at Ephesus had faithfully applied its tests and had weeded out all evil and misguided men; but something got lost in the process.

 

"I have this against you," says the Risen Christ, "that you have lost your first love." That phrase may have two meanings.

  1. It can mean that the first enthusiasm is gone. Jeremiah speaks of the devotion of Israel to God in the early days. God says to the nation that he remembers, "the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride" (Jeremiah 2:2). There had been a honeymoon period, but the first flush of enthusiasm is past. It may be that the Risen Christ is saying that all the enthusiasm has gone out of the religion of the Church of Ephesus.
  2. It can also mean that the first fine rapture of love for the brotherhood is gone. In the first days the members of the Church at Ephesus had really loved each other; dissension had never reared its head; the heart was ready to kindle and the hand was ready to help. But something had gone wrong. It may well be that heresy-hunting had killed love, and orthodoxy had been achieved at the price of fellowship. When that happens, orthodoxy has cost too much. All the orthodoxy in the world will never take the place of love.

2:3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.

 

Hast borne.

Hast patience.

Hast labored.

Hast not fainted.

This must have been like an annual report that Christ was making about the Church at Ephesus. Obviously, the Ephesian congregation was dynamic. It would have never matched an annual report of a church that was recently observed:

"Annual report - new members: NONE. Baptisms: NONE. Gifts to Missions: NONE." Then at the bottom of the report the church clerk had written, "Brethren, pray for us that we might be faithful unto the end."

 

The Ephesian church persevered through times of trouble. Church discipline was prevalent, if someone falsely claimed to be an apostle, he was called a liar.

 

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a hero of conservative Christian faith, once said, " Pray to God to send a few men with what Americans call "grit" in them, men who when they know a thing to be right, will not turn away, or turn aside, or stop; men who will persevere all the more because there are difficulties to meet or foes to encounter."

 

Sounds like a great church, dynamic, dedicated, patient, disciplined, and discerning! But Jesus Christ saw past the pious façade; the Church of Ephesus had heart trouble.

2:4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

 

Then, the first criticism of the early church is not that they are not orthodox or that they don't exercise church discipline. This church is just as straight as a gun barrel. (We can be straight as a gun barrel theologically, and empty as a gun barrel spiritually.) This church was sound in its orthodoxy, and it was a working church, and a separated church. But, it was a church that had begun to get a little ritualistic, formalistic, and had left its first love. This is the hardest thing for any Christian to do - to keep his first love for Jesus Christ. The death of Jesus Christ and His crucifixion means something to us as Christians. It touched our hearts when we first heard about it. When we were first a "new-born babe" in Christ, it was precious to us. But, the older we get, the longer we live, the more we grow in grace, the more danger we have of losing that first warmth and appreciation of what He did for us.

 

This is the same trouble in marriages. The hardest thing we have to do, as a man, is to keep that strange fascination and infatuation for our wife that we had for her in the days when we began our engagement. And, the hardest thing a woman ever has to do is to keep the admiration and respect she had for her husband before he said "I do."

 

2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

 

 

Yes, in Ephesus something had gone wrong. The earnest toil was there; the gallant endurance was there; the unimpeachable orthodoxy was there; but the love was gone. So the Risen Christ makes his appeal and it is for the three steps of the return journey.

 

First steps, He says Remember.

He is not here speaking to someone who has never been inside the Church; He is speaking to those who are inside but have somehow lost the way. Memory can often be the first step on the way back. In the far country the prodigal son suddenly remembered his home (Luke 15:17). O. Henry tells in a short story - There was a lad who had been brought up in a village; and in the village school he had sat beside a village girl, innocent and sweet. The lad found his way to the city; fell into bad company; became an expert pickpocket. He was on the street one day; he had just picked a pocket--a neat job, well done--and he was pleased with himself. Suddenly he saw the girl he used to sit beside at school. She was still the same--innocent and sweet. She did not see him; he took care of that. But suddenly he remembered what he had been, and realized what he was. He leaned his burning head against the cool iron of a lamppost. "God," he said, "how I hate myself."

 

Memory was offering him the way back.

William Cowper wrote:

Where is the blessedness I knew

When first I saw the Lord?

Where is the soul-refreshing view

Of Jesus and his word?

 

A verse like that may sound like nothing but tragedy and sorrow, but in fact it can be the first step of the way back; for the first step in recovery is to realize that something has gone wrong.

 

Second step, He says Repent.

When we discover that something has gone wrong, there is more than one possible reaction.

  • We may feel that nothing can sustain its first luster, and so accept what we consider inevitable.
  • We may be filled with a feeling of resentment and blame life instead of facing ourselves.
  • We may decide that the old thrill is to be found along forbidden pathways and try to find spice for life in sin.

 

But the Risen Christ says, "Repent!" Repentance is the admission that the fault is ours and our feeling of true sorrow for it. The prodigal's reaction is: "I will arise and go to my father and say I have sinned." (Luke 15:18). It is Saul's cry of the heart when he realizes his folly: "I have played the fool and I have erred exceedingly" (1 Samuel 26:21). The hardest thing about repentance is the acceptance of personal responsibility for our failure, for once the responsibility is accepted the godly sorrow will surely follow.

 

Third Step, He says Do.

The sorrow of repentance is meant to drive us to two things. First, it is meant to drive us to fling ourselves on the grace of God, saying only: "God, be merciful to me a sinner." Second, it is meant to drive us to action in order to bring forth fruits meet for repentance. Some will say that no one has truly repented when they do the same things again. Fosdick said that the great truth of Christianity is that "no man need stay the way he is." The proof of repentance is a changed life, a life changed by letting God have His way and the only way we have the strength to even to get to this point is by the grace of God.

 

2:6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.

 

 

 

 

See this link for further details: The Nicolaitans

 

We meet here a heresy which the Risen Christ says that he hates and which he praises Ephesus for also hating. It may seem strange to attribute hatred to the Risen Christ; but two things are to be remembered. First, if we love anyone with passionate intensity, we will necessarily hate anything which threatens to ruin that person. Second, it is necessary to hate the sin but love the sinner.

 

The heretics we meet here are the Nicolaitans. They are only named, not defined. But we meet them again in Pergamos (verse 15). There they are very closely connected with those "who hold the teaching of Balaam," and that in turn is connected with eating things offered to idols and with immorality (verse 14). We meet precisely the same problem at Thyatira where the wicked Jezebel is said to cause Christians to practice immorality and to eat things offered to idols.

 

We may first note that this danger is coming not from outside the Church but from inside. The claim of these heretics was that they were not destroying Christianity but presenting an improved version.

 

We may, second, note that the Nicolaitans and those who hold the teaching of Balaam were, in fact, one and the same. There may be a play on words here. The name Nicolaus, the founder of the Nicolaitans, could be derived from two Greek words, nikon, to conquer, and laos, the people. Balaam can be derived from two Hebrew words, bela, to conquer, and ha 'am, the people. The two names, then, are the same and both can describe an evil teacher, who has won victory over the people and subjugated them to poisonous heresy.

 

In Numbers 25:1-5 we find a strange story in which the Israelites were seduced into illegal and sacrilegious unions with Moabite women and into the worship of Baal-peor. These seductions which, if it had not been sternly checked, might have ruined the religion of Israel and destroyed her as a nation. When we go on to Numbers 31:16 we find that seduction definitely attributed to the evil influence of Balaam. Balaam, then, in Hebrew history stood for an evil man who seduced the people into sin.

 

Now let us see what the early historians have to tell us about these Nicolaitans. The majority identify them with the followers of Nicolaus, the proselyte of Antioch, who was one of the seven commonly called deacons (Acts 6:5). The idea is that Nicolaus went wrong and became a heretic, lrenaeus says of the Nicolaitans that "they lived lives of unrestrained indulgence." Hippolytus says that he was one of the seven and that "he departed from correct doctrine, and was in the habit of inculcating indifference of food and life." The Apostolic Constitutions describe the Nicolaitans as "shameless in uncleanness." Clement of Alexandria says they "abandon themselves to pleasure like goats, leading a life of self-indulgence." But he acquits Nicolaus of all blame and says that they perverted his saying "that the flesh must be abused." Nicolaus meant that the body must be kept under; the heretics perverted it into meaning that the flesh can be used as shamelessly as a man wishes. The Nicolaitans obviously taught loose living.

 

Let us see if we can identify their point of view and their teaching a little more definitely. The letter to Pergamos tells us that they seduced people into eating meat offered to idols and into immorality. When we turn to the decree of the Council of Jerusalem, we find that two of the conditions on which the Gentiles were to be admitted to the Church were that they were to abstain from things offered to idols and from immorality (Acts 15:28-29). These are the very conditions that the Nicolaitans broke.

 

Nicolaitans probably argued their doctrine along these lines:

  1. The Law is ended; therefore, there are no laws and we are entitled to do what we like. They confused Christian liberty with unchristian license. They were the very kind of people whom Paul urged not to use their liberty as an opportunity for the flesh (Galatians 5:13).
  2. They probably argued that the body is evil anyway and that a man could do what he liked with it because it did not matter.
  3. They probably argued that the Christian was so defended by grace that he could do anything and take no harm.

 

What lay behind this Nicolaitan perversion of the truth? The trouble was the necessary difference between the Christian and the pagan society in which he moved. The heathen had no hesitation in eating meat offered to idols and it was set before him at every social occasion. Could a Christian attend such a feast? The heathen had no idea of chastity and sexual relations outside marriage were accepted as completely normal and brought no shame. Must a Christian be so very different? The Nicolaitans were suggesting that there was no reason why a Christian should not come to terms with the world.

Sir William Ramsay describes their teaching thus: "It was an attempt to effect a reasonable compromise with the established usages of the Graeco-Roman society and to retain as many as possible of those usages in the Christian system of life."

 

This teaching naturally affected most the upper classes because they had most to lose if they went all the way with the Christian demand. To John the Nicolaitans were worse than pagans, for they were the enemy within the gates.

 

The Nicolaitans were not prepared to be different; they were the most dangerous of all heretics from a practical point of view, for, if their teaching had been successful, the world would have changed Christianity and not Christianity the world.

2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

 

 

In Revelation 2 and 3 many references seem to apply to a different situation than the Age of Grace. For example, here in Revelation 2:7 notice the promise for the overcomer to eat of the tree of life. All of us that are saved and are reading this donít need to eat of the tree of life. We received our eternal life from Jesus Christ. We didn't get it from a tree; we got it from a living Savior. We don't need to eat of the tree of life to live forever; we have eternal life right now. This tree - Revelation 2:7 - is the tree of life that was forbidden to Adam in Genesis 3, and there is no need for us to eat of it. We already have eternal life. But the people in the Tribulation will need to eat it because their type of salvation is a little different.

 

Here, Christ makes a great promise to those who overcome. (Christians - see 1 John 4:4.) In this picture there are two concepts.

  1. There is the concept of the tree of life. This is part of the story of the Garden of Eden; in the midst of the garden there was the tree of life (Genesis 2:9); it was the tree of which Adam was forbidden to eat (Genesis 2:16,17); the tree whose fruit would make a man like God, and for eating which Adam and Eve were driven from Eden (Genesis 3:22-24). In later Jewish thought the tree came to stand for that which gave man life indeed. Wisdom is a tree of life to them that lay hold of her (Proverbs 3:18); the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life (Proverbs 11:30); hope fulfilled is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12); a tongue is a tree of life (Proverbs 15:4). To this is to be added another picture. Adam was first forbidden to eat of the tree of life and then he was barred from the garden so that the tree of life was lost forever. But it was a regular Jewish concept that, when the Messiah came and the new age dawned, the tree of life would be in the midst of men and those who had been faithful would eat of it. The wise man said: "They that do the things that please thee shall receive the fruit of the tree of immortality" (Ecclesiastes 19:19). The rabbis had a picture of the tree of life in paradise. Its boughs overshadowed the whole of paradise; it had five hundred thousand fragrant perfumes and its fruit as many pleasant tastes, every one of them different. The idea was that what Adam had lost the Messiah would restore. To eat of the tree of life means to have all the joys that the faithful conquerors will have when Christ reigns supreme. This Jewish idea of the "tree of life" pictures perfectly that most of Revelation is written for those of the Jewish culture to understand the events of the tribulation and millennium.
  2. There is the concept of paradise. It may be that we do not attach any very definite meaning to it but when we study history, we come upon some of the most diverse thinking the world has ever known.

(a) Originally paradise was a Persian word. Xenophon wrote much about the Persians, and it was he who introduced the word into the Greek language. Originally it meant a pleasure garden. When Xenophon is describing the state in which the Persian king lived, he says that he takes care that, wherever he resides, there are paradises, full of all the good and beautiful things the soil can produce. Paradise is a word to describe a thing of serene beauty.

(b) In the Bible paradise has two applications. First, it is regularly used for the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8; 3:1). Second, it is regularly used of any stately garden. When Isaiah speaks of a garden that has no water, it is the word paradise that is used (Isaiah 1:30). It is the word used when Jeremiah says: "Plant gardens and eat their produce" (Jeremiah 29:5). It is the word used when the preacher says: "I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees" (Ecclesiastes 2:5). Jews thought that after death the souls of all alike went to Hades, a gray and shadowy place. Whereas early Christian thought conceived of an intermediate state between earth and heaven to which all men went and in which they remained until the final judgment. There was a special part in which the patriarchs and the prophets lived, and that was paradise. (Luke 16:19-31)

 

In the end, Christian thought did not retain this idea of paradise being an intermediate state. Instead it came to be equivalent to heaven. Turn to the words of Jesus to the dying and penitent thief: "Today you will be with me in paradise'' (Luke 23:43). Here we see a mystery about which it would be difficult to define; but is there any better definition of paradise than to say that paradise is life forever in the presence of our Lord?

 

When death these mortal eyes shall seal,

And still this throbbing heart,

The rending veil shall thee reveal

All glorious as thou art--

and that is paradise.

 

 

 

 

STUDY QUESTIONS

  1. What makes Houston famous? Katy? Your home town?
  2.  

  3. Think back to the time you first fell in love. What was it like for you? Share with our Home Group, please!
  4.  

  5. In what ways has your love for Christ changed since you became a Christian?
  6.  

  7. Christ was pleased that the Church of Ephesus didn't give up. Why do you think this pleased Him?
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  9. What good things characterize this church? How might its strengths have been the cause of its failure?
  10.  

  11. What are the strengths of Grace Fellowship UMC? How might our strengths cause our failure?
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  13. What was lacking from the labor and patience of the Ephesian church?
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  15. What do you think their weekly worship was like?
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  17. In what ways could the Ephesians reconcile themselves to God? Can we do the same?
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  19. What do you think it means that their candlestick would be removed from its place? Do you think Christ has removed the Ephesian candlestick? Why do you think that?
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  21. How can we re-ignite the flames of our love for Christ?
  22.  

  23. Is it possible to keep our love for Christ evergreen, intense and enthusiastic? What are some practical ways we can keep our relationship with Christ a priority?
  24.  

  25. In what way can we motivate others to renew their relationship with Christ?
  26.  

  27. What does Christ's reaction to the Ephesians show about His feelings for the church in general? How do you think Jesus feels about Grace Fellowship UMC?
  28.  

  29. What personal insights do you have from this lesson? Can you compare your personal spiritual condition (pro or con) to that of Ephesus? What do you want to do about it?
  30.  

  31. What motivates you in service and sacrifice for Christ?

HOME

GROUP PRAYER

 

Is there something our home group can pray with you about?