Last week we studied the 3 R's required to recovery our First Love of Christ. The 3 R's to recovery are:
1. Remember from where you have fallen.
3. Repeat what you used to do - do the first works again.
You will notice that along with Christ's prescription for recovery, those in the congregation at Ephesus have two choices. They can follow the advice of Jesus, or refuse to do so. And with each choice is found a consequence for that choice.
1. Not to repent would cause the Lord to remove the church from this city. Not to repent brings a 4th R - Removal of the lampstand
2. To those who repent and follow the prescription, God gives a promise. It is a promise to eat from the tree of life in the midst of the Paradise of God. To obey and repent brings a 5th R - Restoration or Revival.
Revelation 2:5 NKJV
5 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.
Today we also have the same choices and the same consequences. We will look at these consequences more fully in a later lesson.
Disobedience - Removal of the Lampstand.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT THE LAMPSTAND REFERS IN CONNECTION TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES?
Revelation 1:20 tells us 7 lampstands are the seven churches.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A LAMPSTAND?
The lampstand is what you put a lamp upon. It is used to help the light shine in the place it is located.
The 7 lampstands mentioned in chapters 1 through 3 of Revelation are not the only lampstands mentioned in the book.
CAN YOU TELL ME WHERE I CAN FIND OTHER LAMPSTANDS IN REVELATION?
If I told you there were two other lampstands mentioned, could you now answer the question?
Revelation 11:3-4 NIV
3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth."
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.
The two witnesses of God are called lampstands. We are not going to get into who these two lampstands might be today. But, once again, they hold the light of God for all to see. Again, let me say that when Christ commands those in Ephesus to repent, it is accompanied by a serious warning of the consequences they face if they don't repent. "I will come quickly and remove your lampstand."
A few weeks ago, I took you by way of some photos nearby to Caesarea Philippi. Jesus took his disciples there to teach them several truths. I mentioned that it was the first time Jesus mentions a body called the church. It was here where Jesus said, "On this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."
Although Christ has promised to build his church worldwide, He guarantees permanence to no individual congregation. A loveless church is no longer truly a church. And Christ has the right to extinguish such a congregation.
Illustration: There are times when, say a Four Seasons hotel loses its charter for failing to maintain the standard of excellence required by the chain. The hotel may continue in business, but no longer affiliated with the Four Seasons chain. Whatever they may be in the future, they are not a Four Seasons hotel. This can happen to churches as well. For a church to lose its lampstand is the equivalent of losing its charter. The church may continue to have its door open and people meeting there, but it is no longer part of His church which He is building.
It is foolish for any church today to think that it is not possible to lose its lampstand. I suspect there are more than a few gatherings on Sunday mornings that are lacking a "charter" from God. There may be activity, lively singing, fun fellowship, and strong preaching, but for whatever reason, the Holy Spirit is not participating and the angels are not observing the festivities. Such organizations are little different from secular service clubs from God's perspective.
The critical question, then, is this: What are the basic requirements for a church to obtain and maintain a "charter" and thereby enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit and the angels in its gatherings. What must be present for Him to be present. And what must be absent for Him to remain?
Our passage in Revelation 2 gives us 2 factors that I believe are non-negotiable:
1. A love for God expressed in obedience.
2. A love for one another manifested by active participation in one another's lives.
I came across the writings of a Presbyterian minister, written in 1899. This minister was about to retire and writes a book titled: "80 Years: Embracing the History of Presbyterianism in Baltimore." In the book, he writes a brief sketch about each of the Presbyterian churches in Baltimore. Churches like:
o Third Church
o Fourth Church
o Fifth Church
o Constitutional Church
o Broadway Church,
o Westminster Church
o Twelfth Church
o Tone Street Church
o Lafayette Square Church
o Boundary Avenue Church
o Fulton Avenue Church
o Church of the Covenant
o Bohemian Church
o Park Church
o Ridgely Street Church
o Crisp Memorial Church
o Reed Memorial Church
The person I was receiving this information from tells me that none of those church exist today. 107 years ago those churches were going shows. What happened? I don't really know. But, unless we follow Christ's prescription for a church's existence, we have no guarantee for continued existence from Him.
Christ tells the members of the church in Ephesus that if they disobey or ignore his commands and do not repent, their church's existence will be ignominiously terminated. "If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand."
No church has a secure and permanent place in the world. The church - our church - is continuously on trial.
Some of you have asked me what happened to the church in Ephesus. Did they obey Christ when they received this letter from the hands of the apostle John? One of the early Christian leaders was a man named Ignatius. He was born in Syria in about AD 50. He was a martyr in Rome in the year AD 107. He gained a prominent position in the church at Antioch in Syria. This is the same Antioch where followers of Christ were first called "Christians." Of course, "Christian" is an English word, but the word in Greeks is very close to it - "Christianos" (Khris tee ahn OS). Antioch is also the place from where Paul begins his first three missionary journeys.
Near the end of his life, Ignatius wrote a number of letters to churches in Asia. One of those letters was written to the congregation at Ephesus. I went through that letter this past week. And if we can judge from the letter of Ignatius, it appears that the church returned to their first love. Ignatius describes the church in glowing terms, and that they rallied after Christ's appeal.
But the life of this church did come to an end during the middle ages. This church was still in existence in the fifth century. One of the major councils of the church was held in Ephesus in AD 431. This doesn't on its own say that the church was strong and faithful at that time. Here is the Ephesus City Hall - called the Prytaneion. It is believed by some to be the place of the church Council of 431.
That fact does say that the church here lasted far longer than the Temple of Artemis. Within 125 years of the apostle John, the temple was burned and greatly damaged. In AD 262, the Goths destroyed most of the temple. Finally, in AD 401, John Chrysostom, one of our early church leaders tore down anything else that was standing.
In the 19th century, archaeologist found the foundation where it is located in a very swampy area. An attempt was made to rebuild it, but only a column or two were restored. One source I have read stated that the church in Ephesus grew to over 50,000 people. Sometime during the middle ages, the Christian witness here diminished greatly. One historian said that it had been "obliterated." And any Christians still there during the 12th century were driven out by Saladin, the Moslem conqueror.
Christ's warning to Ephesus is just as appropriate to us today. Our own church's light will be extinguished if we stubbornly persevere in our refusal to love Christ. The church - even our church - has no light without love. Only when its love burns can its light shine. Many churches today have ceased really to exist, even though people still meet. Their buildings may be intact - their minister still minister - and congregations still congregate. But, because they do not love Christ as their first love, their lampstand has be removed. It has no light, because it has no love. We need to keep Christ's warning to the church in Ephesus ever before our eyes.