ὁ κρατῶν τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἀστέρας ἐν τῇ δεξιᾷ αὐτοῦ,
ὁ περιπατῶν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἑπτὰ λυχνιῶν τῶν χρυσῶν·
τὰ ἔργα σου καὶ
τὸν κόπον καὶ
τὴν ὑπομονήν σου καὶ
ὅτι οὐ δύνῃ βαστάσαι κακούς,
καὶ ἐπείρασας τοὺς λέγοντας ἑαυτοὺς ἀποστόλους καὶ οὐκ εἰσὶν καὶ εὖρες αὐτοὺς ψευδεῖς,
ὑπομονὴν ἔχεις καὶ
ἐβάστασας διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου καὶ
ἀλλὰ ἔχω κατὰ σοῦ
ὅτι τὴν ἀγάπην σου τὴν πρώτην ἀφῆκες.
πόθεν πέπτωκας καὶ
μετανόησον καὶ τὰ πρῶτα ἔργα ποίησον·
εἰ δὲ μή,
καὶ κινήσω τὴν λυχνίαν σου ἐκ τοῦ τόπου αὐτῆς,
ἐὰν μὴ μετανοήσῃς.
ἀλλὰ τοῦτο ἔχεις,
ὅτι μισεῖς τὰ ἔργα τῶν Νικολαϊτῶν ἃ κἀγὼ μισῶ.
Ὁ ἔχων οὖς ἀκουσάτω τί τὸ πνεῦμα λέγει ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις.
Τῷ νικῶντι δώσω
αὐτῷ φαγεῖν ἐκ τοῦ ξύλου τῆς ζωῆς,
ὅ ἐστιν ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ τοῦ θεοῦ.(NA27 Int.)
Verse as a whole –
The verse introduces the prophecy reminding the church that Jesus is the only one with the supremacy authority over all and that the church’s behavior must be submitted to him. There must not have place for pride on the part of the church because only him can hold the seven stars and can walk among the seven golden lampstands, not the church.
The angel is the messenger of the Lord responsible to deliver His message to the church in the city of Ephesus. “This is in keeping with 1:1-2, in which the Apocalypse is sent from God through Christ to an angel and then to John to give to the churches” (Osborne).
Church in Ephesus –
Many reasons can be given to explain why Ephesus was addressed first. Among the reasons one find the importance of Ephesus as a leading city in the beginning of Christianity in the gentile world (Beale). The city was the home of two temples devoted to the worship of the emperor (Beasley-Murray), and the home of the temple of Artemis, which in its second version became one of the seven wonders of the ancient world (Osborne). The importance of Ephesus can also be stated in regard to its role as the administrative center of the province of Asia, under the authority of the Roman Republic only (Aune). Ephesus was also the center of Paul’s missionary endeavor and later the residence of John (Beale).
τάδε λέγει –
A demonstrative pronoun followed by the Greek verb lego, forming an uncommon way of prophetic introduction in the New Testament. However, in the LXX this formula is used more than 250 times (Aune). It happens twenty one times in the Minor Prophets (twelve times only in Zechariah), sixty five times in Ezekiel, thirty times in Jeremiah and eight in Amos. By implication, τάδε λέγει calls attention to Christ assuming the role of Yahweh in addressing the churches (Beale, Osborne).
Who walks –
Here may be an allusion to Christ’s presence among the seven congregations (Aune), or perhaps, it relates to the idea of Christ watching over the churches (Osborne). One may also recall the passage in the book of Daniel where the one like a son of God walked with the three in the furnace (Sweet).
Revelation 2:2: “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false”
Verse as a whole –
“The Lord praised the Ephesian Christians for their deeds, perseverance, and endurance. Toil and patience characterized their overall lifestyle. They were doctrinally sound and had exposed false teachers (cf. Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29).”
οἶδα τὰ ἔργα σου –
The absolute knowledge of Christ regarding the spiritual walk of the believers (Osborne). ἔργον happens twenty times in Revelation, however, twelve only in chapters two and three (Aune). Oιδα happens twelve times in Revelation but extremely concentrated in chapters two (five times) and three (four times). Oιδα is also found introducing the body of letters, providing models for letters of repentance and in edicts, such as the edict of Claudius (Aune). In this context works is related to toil or labor in keeping the faith sound and endurance to not quit the task (Beasley-Murray).
Those who are evil, […] those who call themselves apostles and are not –
The Ephesian church tested (ἐπείρασας) these apostles and found out that they were impostors (Aune). These men were Gnostics and their evilness was more for their lack of morality than for their unorthodox beliefs (Beasley-Murray). Paul several times admonished the first generation of Christians in Ephesus against false teachings (cf. 1 Tim 1:3-11; 4:1-8; 6:2-7, 20-21; 2 Tim 3:1-17) (Beale).
Are the evil apostles the Nicolaitans of verse six?
Beasley-Murray argues that “the evil men are the Nicolaitans of verse 6, whose works were hateful not only to the Ephesian believers but also to Christ” (author’s emphasis).
Aune explains that the verb in verse two is in the aorist tense (past in translation) showing that the issue with the “so-called apostles” was an event that happened in the past in the life of the church. However, in verse six, the Nicolaitans are described in present tense verbs, emphasizing their continuing threat to the church.
Sweet points out that the Nicolaitans are only mentioned as a “preparation for the assault in the third letter.”
Beale considers the Nicolaitans as a different group that must be disciplined by the church of Ephesus, however, the evil apostles’ teachings “was probably not too different from that of the Nicolaitans […].”
Revelation 2:3: “and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.”
Verse as a whole –
The church in Ephesus is also commended by Christ for its perseverance and endurance of several difficulties. The church’s suffering is due to their love for Christ.
καὶ ὑπομονὴν ἔχεις καὶ ἐβάστασας διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου καὶ οὐ κεκοπίακες -
This is a polysyndetic sentence consisting of three short clauses (introduced by και) with finite verbs. The first verb is in the present tense showing the churches actual condition. The second verb is in the aorist indicating what the church had done and the third verb is in the perfect demonstrating their faithfulness up to the present (Aune). While enduring trials for Christ’s sake the church could not endure evil apostles (Aune).
It refers to patient perseverance and to a life of trust in the midst of trials (Osborne).
διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου –
It refers to an objective type of faith (Beale). For the cause (or name) of Jesus, the church stood up for Christ in the midst of persecution and false teachings (Osborne).
οὐ κεκοπίακες –
The church have not only stood firm against false teachings but have also triumphed over the false teachers (Osborne).
Revelation 2:4: “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love”
Verse as a whole –
“Yet all that the Ephesian Christians are doing right is not sufficient to excuse what they are doing wrong” (Keener). This verse is the turning point of Jesus’ approval speech. The first accusation against the church of Ephesus is that they left their first love.
Adversative conjunction contrasting the words of the immediate clause (words of approval) from the one preceding it (words of disapproval). This type of conjunction is very common in Hellenistic Greek literature but not so common in Revelation appearing only thirteen times (eight in chapters two and three) (Aune).
ἔχω κατὰ σοῦ -
This is a common formula in the seven letters and it describes spiritual and moral problems in the church. It shows divine discontentment along with warns of probable future judgment (Osborne).
that you have left your first love –
Theologians are divided on the matter. Towards whom has the Ephesian church left their first love? For Beasley-Murray, the love Christ is talking about here is “love for fellow men.” Beale defends the idea that the Ephesians lost their love “for Jesus by witnessing to him in the world” (author’s emphasis). Beale supports his argument mentioning the introductory words of Jesus “walks among the seven golden lampstands,” in this chapter by saying that Jesus intention was to remind the readers that they should be as a light, witnessing to the outside world. Sweet supports Beasley-Murray’s idea of love towards men, however, his emphasis is that this lack of love is a mark of the end of times (cf. Matt 24:12). Osborne contribution is that love for men and love for Christ are difficult to separate. The combination of both types of love is exactly what Jesus asks his followers to do in Mark 12:29-31: “Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Osborne concludes that the Ephesians loved the correct doctrine (orthodoxy) more than they loved God or one another.
Revelation 2:5: “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”
Verse as a whole –
The entire congregation is exhorted to remember, repent and do their first deeds; otherwise, Christ himself would come to them to execute judgment. However, the punishment is conditional to the change that might or might not happen. A return to the cross, a submission to the risen Lord, and a rejection of all self-righteousness is what Jesus demands from the Ephesian church (Beasley-Murray).
“Remember (μνημονευε [mnēmoneue]). Present active imperative of μνημονευω [mnēmoneuō], ‘continue mindful’ (from μνημων [mnēmōn]).”
The present imperative is usually used for required conduct. This case follows the same pattern of “knowing” terms, which is to bring it to mind and act upon it (Osborne). This verb is used twice only in Revelation two and three and in both passages it refers to moral and spiritual state that once was enjoyed but now has departed (Aune). Aune also explains that this statement seems to imply a lengthy intimacy between the author (Christ) and the congregations (Ephesus and Sardis). “The present tense of the imperative Remember stresses a continuous state of mind: ‘Keep on remembering,’ ‘Keep on thinking about,’ or ‘Never forget.’ The command is that they keep in mind what they used to be when they became Christians.”
from where you have fallen –
The author particularizes the object of remembrance. The Ephesians had to remember πόθεν πέπτωκας. Some theologians have considered this passage to be in accordance with the “fallen angels.” Sweet says “[T]he angel addressed is a star (1:20): ‘How art thou fallen from heaven, O day star, son of the morning!’ (Isa. 14:12); […] the surprise is in applying this symbolism to the gleaming orthodoxy of Ephesus, but Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).” Osborne disagrees with this interpretation; however, he sees “echoes” of Isaiah in the passage. “All of this is to highlight their past love and their present condition […] of coldness,” concludes Osborne.
καὶ μετανόησον –
The previous present imperative word “remember” is followed by two aorist imperatives “repent” and “do” (Osborne). The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament provides the correct perspective of the word repentance in the book of Revelation.
In Revelation, μετανοέω belongs to the fixed vocabulary of the circular letter to the seven churches, inasmuch as these churches are presented with the threat of judgment (2:5 bis, 16, 21f.; 3:3, 19). The call to repentance appears to make up part of a fixed penance exhortation (U. B. Müller, Prophetie und Predigt im NT  57–92). Unlike its predominant meaning elsewhere in the NT, the word here does not refer to repentance but to the return of Christians to their original deeds (2:4f.; cf. 3:15f.; for the connection with ἔργα, cf. further 2:22f.; 3:2f.; 9:20; 16:11), which correspond with the received teaching that was to be preserved (3:3; cf. 2:10, 25; 3:8, 10f.).
καὶ τὰ πρῶτα ἔργα ποίησον –
This is not referring to good deeds, but rather, works out of love. This work must be towards men and God. The church must go back to act accordingly to their high calling and do what they used to do in the past. Being consistent for the right doctrine is not enough for Christ. Osborne summarizes saying, “orthodoxy without orthopraxy is a false religion.”
ἔρχομαί σοι καὶ κινήσω τὴν λυχνίαν σου ἐκ τοῦ τόπου αὐτῆς, ἐὰν μὴ μετανοήσῃς –
This is not Jesus’ second coming (parousia), although some theologians, such as Sweet, consider this coming of Christ as the parousia. Sweet says, “[I]n any case for John the parousia is not simply a final future event, […]” (Sweet). Beale sees this passage as a support to the theory that “first love” refers to the Ephesian’s lack of witnessing. He says, “[T]hat the concern is primarily for witness is shown by the warning that, if the church does not repent, Christ ‘will come and remove [their] lampstand from its place’ (present ἔρχομαί [‘I come’], followed by future κινήσω [‘I will remove’], is a futuristic present).” For Osborne, there is a dual judgment (present and future) in Jesus’ words. Osborne states that “Christ’s displeasure will be felt both in the present and at the final judgment.”
Some have suggested that the removal of the church lampstand from its place is an allusion to the “silt deposits of the Cayster River, which eventually forced the literal relocation of the city.” (Keener). Sweet seems to agree with this position when he says that, “[R]amsay saw an allusion to Ephesus’ location at the mouth of the Cayster which was always silting up […], and took it as a threat not of physical destruction but of being made to begin again anew.” Another interpretation is that the threat is a reference to 1 Kings 11:36 where the term lamp is used as a metaphor for the tribe of Benjamin which will always belong to Judah. (Aune) In this case John is alluding to the Old Testament imagery to make his assertion. However, the most probable interpretation is the one that considers the removal of the church’s place and lampstand as a warning that they may cease to be a church (Osborne).
Revelation 2:6: “Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”
Verse as a whole –
The Ephesian church position towards the Nicolaitans parallels God’s own position, namely both hate their deeds.
Hate vs. love –
Apparently, this verse contradicts the previous verse 4, where God says that the church had forgotten their first love. However, as Osborne says, love for God and fellow man (believers) do not require an acceptance of their evil deeds. Neither God nor the Ephesians hate the Nicolaitans but their works or deeds.
Several interpretations have been suggested to explain who the Nicolaitans are. Considering that they are not the evil apostles of verse 2 (see above “Are the evil apostles the Nicolaitans of verse six?”), let see a few positions regarding the origin of this group.
Irenaeus identified them with the second-century biblical Nicolas (Acts 6:5), whereas Hippolytus associated them with antinomian Gnosticism (Keener).
Osborne, argues that the Nicolaitans fall in the same category of those of the cults of Balaam (Rev. 2:14) and Jezebel (Rev. 2:20-23). He further argues that their practices were idoloatry, immorality and syncretism (Osborn).
Aune recognizes that the Nicolaitans may be a minority group within the Christian community trying to receive more recognition from the Ephesians; however he does not exclude the possibility of the Nicolaitans being a symbolic figure rather than historic. The reason for this would be the nature of Revelation (apocalyptic literature) that avoids actual names (Aune).
Revelation 2:7: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”
Verse as a whole –
Beasley-Murray summarizes this verse this way: “The Spirit calls on every congregation to show vigilance towards evil men and their deeds, and at the same time to keep ablaze an ardent love which expresses itself in loving deeds, for without such love the church of Christ is spurious.”
This verse concludes the exhortation to the Ephesian church with a promise that is the main objective of the letter. Eating from the tree of life “is a picture of forgiveness and consequent experience of God’s intimate presence” (Beale).
He who has ear –
Common ending formula repeated in all letters in Revelation two and three. It has a dual function. First, it assumes that it will be addressed to believers and unbelievers, but only accepted by the chosen believers. Second, it gives Christ and the Spirit the same words, representing that Christ resides in the church through the Spirit (Beale). Other theologians have come with two other functions for Ὁ ἔχων οὖς ἀκουσάτω. First, one finds the esoteric function. This function assumes that what has been said has a deeper and hidden meaning. The second function is the parenetic function, which simply is the assumption that the hearer or reader has to hear and obey what was said or read (Aune).
let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches –
It is rooted in the Jesus tradition. This phrase occurs not only in the New Testament, but also in non-canonical literature. In the New Testament, it occurs seven times in the synoptic Gospels and six other times as variant readings (Aune).
Osborne gives his interpretation of this verse saying that a better translation would be “Let the one who is willing to hear, listen.” Osborne’s emphasis is on human freedom and responsibility. He ends saying that in both Testaments, “to hear” is “to obey” (Osborne).
Τῷ νικῶντι –
This is a key word in Revelation’s Christology and understanding of Christian life. (Boring). Sweet brings the idea which conquer has in the New Testament. It can be a reference to war (literal or spiritual), to athletic games, to lawsuit and to Christ’s death and resurrection (Sweet). However, the ultimate conqueror is not man but God and only Him. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God is the final conqueror (cf. Revelation 17:14: “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful”) (Osborne).
I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God –
The ending words of the letter to the church of Ephesus have a very strong Jewish tone, but not exclusively. Ramsay makes reference to the pagan concept of the tree to the Ephesian as part of their Asian culture. He states, “[T]he tree of life in the Revelation was in the mind of the Ephesians a Christianization of the sacred tree in the pagan religion and folklore.” Beale in reference to this pagan concept of the tree says, “[W]hat paganism promised only Christianity as the fulfillment of the OT hopes could deliver” (Beale). On the other hand, some consider the terms “tree of life” and “paradise of God,” as a straight reference to Genesis two and three. In Genesis account, Adam and Eve are prohibited to eat from the tree. In Revelation though, the one who conquer will be awarded with the eating of the tree. Aune gives several insights on the tree of life and paradise of God terms. First, he mentions that this vocabulary is common in Jewish eschatological concepts. Second, he refers to the act of eating from the tree as a metaphor for salvation (both Jewish and Christian literature). Third, the tree of life is usually associated with paradise. Finally, he mentions that the tree of life “represents the sacrality of the world in terms of its creation, fertility, and continuation and, therefore, is a tree of immortality” (Aune). Osborne captures the idea of immortality in Christ through His cross. Thus, the tree of life is connected to the cross of Christ producing life and making the inheritance of the “paradise of God” possible. (Osborne). Also in Judaism, the tree of life speech can be portrayed as the “righteous (Ps. Sol. 14:3-4), God Himself (4 Macc. 18:16), edifying speech (Prov. 11:30; 15:4), and most frequently among teachers of the law, God’s law (Sifre Deut. 47:3.2; b. Ab. 6:7)” (Keener).
τῷ παραδείσῳ τοῦ θεοῦ -
“The word ‘Paradise’ occurs only thrice in the New Testament (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:4). It is of Persian origin, and signified a park or pleasure-ground. In the New Testament it seems to mean the resting-place of departed saints.”
Osborne mentions that the tree of life being located in the paradise “shows that while the “tree” is anchored in the past (the cross), it will actually be experienced in the future glory of eternity” (Osborne)
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(Beasley-Murray) Beasley-Murray,George Raymond. The Book of Revelation: based on the Revised Standard Version. New Century Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1981.
(Boring) Boring,M.Eugene. Revelation. Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for teaching and preaching. Lousville.: John Knox, 1989.
(Aune) Aune, David E.. Word Biblical Commentary. Word Biblical Commentary. Waco.: Word Books, 1982.
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(Osborne) Osborne,Grant R.. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academics, 2002.
(Ramsay) Ramsay,William Mitchell. The Letters to the Seven Churches. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1994.
(Sweet) Sweet,J.P.M.. Revelation. Westminster Pelican Commentaries. Philadelphia.: Westminster, 1979.
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Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol.V c1932, Vol.VI c1933 by Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. (Re 2:5). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.
Bratcher, R. G., & Hatton, H. (1993). A handbook on the Revelation to John. UBS handbook series; Helps for translators (42). New York: United Bible Societies.
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The Pulpit Commentary: Revelation. 2004 (H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.) (59). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.