“These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: ‘I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil’.”Revelation 2:1-2
When we consider who is speaking and what He is saying, we realize this is a fear-inducing message. It is the Son of God, the King of all kings, and the Head of the church. When the Lord in His majesty and glory appeared before the disciple John, whom He loved, John fell down on his knees as if dead before the feet of Christ, whose head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow; whose eyes were like a flame of fire; whose feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace; whose voice as the sound of many waters; and out of whose mouth went a sharp two-edged sword (see Revelation 1:14-16) – the Word of God, the message from Jesus Christ to His church.
Let us recall that after the Lord’s transfiguration and ascension to Heaven, He came personally to speak to His people to tell them what was lying heavily upon His heart. This is what He shares with John: “To the angel [pastor or overseer] of the church of Ephesus write: … I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil” (Revelation 2:1-2). He continued listing the good things they were doing. But then He said: “Nevertheless I have this against you.” How appalling it is when He, who has all power over heaven and earth, has something to say against us or against our local congregation!
One would think that if the Ephesian church had so many good points, wouldn’t that be sufficient? After all, are we not only human? But we see here that it does not depend on what people think. The Lord is speaking, He who holds the seven stars in His hand, He who is the First and the Last: “I have this against you, that you have left your first love…Repent…or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place” (verse 5). What does this mean? It means that they will have to sit in spiritual darkness. Christ wants a holy and blemish-free church. This is why He shed His blood. He wants a glorious church, not having a spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Ephesians 5:27). This is the reason He will not tolerate a congregation that has left its first love.
We should also ask ourselves this question: Does the Lord have anything against us? If this should indeed be the case, may God reveal the truth. If the local congregations in former times had issues which Christ, the Head of the church, could not tolerate, would it be a surprise if the Lord would have to say to one of us or to our local congregation: “I have this against you”?
How often we see only smoldering coals, that love and purity have been lost, and that spiritual blessings have become less and less, and the Lord must finally say: “I have this against you.” Only then when a revival takes place, when souls repent and the curse has been removed, can the spiritual blessings flow freshly and freely once again.
We should seriously search our hearts in the presence of our Lord and pray as David did: “Search me, o God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139: 23-24). Let us quickly draw near to the Lord so that we do not experience what the church in Sardis did: It had a name that it was alive, but it was dead.
We could also say, like the church of the Laodiceans did: “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:17). However, God’s verdict is: “And do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” In Scripture, we read of the five foolish virgins whose lamps extinguished while waiting for the bridegroom. What was the end result? They stood before a locked door.
But thanks be to our God that it is not too late for us! The Master speaks once again: “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire” (verse 18). If we lack something, the Lord will reveal to us what we need, and He will also give it to us. He does not want us to be standing naked when He appears. This is the reason why John was directed to write the seven churches; he was to show them what was lacking in their spiritual lives.
Ephesus had left their first love. Pergamos tolerated false doctrines. Thyatira allowed a false prophetess to teach. Perhaps she had a great influence, and the pastor of the congregation was afraid to prohibit her from teaching. Several were led astray, and God spoke: “I have this against you!”
What report does Jesus give us, the local church? Can He testify the same of us as He did of the church in Smyrna: “I know…your poverty (but you are rich)” – in grace, in love, and more. The Lord did not admonish this congregation but instead praised them and encouraged them to continue on.
Oh, how wonderful it is when Jesus, the Son of God, can testify of us, as He did of several individuals in Sardis, saying that they did not defile their garments. May there also be many children of God today who have not defiled their garments! The firm foundation of God still exists, and it still bears the same seal: “The Lord knows those who are His; and let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19). May the Lord protect us all from becoming shallow!
How is our purity, love, and doctrine? Many have began with an earnest commitment in serving the Lord, then slackened off and experienced spiritual death. May the Lord give all His servants of the Word the spirit of the Apostle Paul: “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy … that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2). May this inspire us! May God make His servants like flames of fire so that in this corrupt time many sinners may yet be saved. May the Bride, clothed in the garment of salvation, be ready and waiting to greet the Bridegroom. “Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Revelation 3:11).