Revelation – Remedy for a Cold Heart – 4

Revelation 2:1-71 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

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Do you take complements well? There are some people who just have to have positive feedback on everything they do to feel valued. Other people have a hard time receiving complements and don’t know how to react when they are given. Though these two types of people are completely different, they have one thing in common. They each would prefer to hear the good things over the bad.

Can you think of a time you were complemented by somebody and it just meant the world to you? Maybe because of how hard you tried and someone finally noticed it, or maybe just because of who that person is, it meant the world that they would say something nice about you.

What would you do if Jesus, to your face, told you all the good things you are doing, even the things nobody sees? That’s what’s happened here in this first letter to the church in Ephesus. Jesus starts off by giving essentially a long run-on sentence of nine things they are doing well.

Remember, Jesus stands among the lampstands, which are the seven churches. He is with you and sees you. As one commentator said, “As one who walks in the midst of the churches, Christ is able to say, “I know your deeds” (2:9; 3:1, 8, 15).”[1] This was a great church. The city of Ephesus was huge and important, and this church was actively living out their faith. Jesus spouts off a list of nine things this church is doing well. As we think about these, we need to evaluate our life and see if we look like this as well. Would Jesus say the same things to us?

The list of positive things they did can be broken up into two categories: deeds and theology.


1) Their works. (vs 2)They served the Lord. A Christian is not saved by works, but a Christian is saved to work. You could tell these people knew Jesus because there was fruit to show of it (Matt 7:17).

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

James 2:14-1714 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Is there fruit from your faith? Are there works to show that you follow the Way? If there are not, there is a good chance you don’t actually follow Jesus. Jesus even says as much (Matt 7:21-23).

2) Their labor. (vs 2)They served tirelessly and under threat of persecution. Following Jesus is hard work. It’s not the easy road. They understood this and lived it out.

Matthew 7:13 – Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.

We live in a time where the American dream has crept its way into the church. Most Christians think the extent of being a Christian is not being too bad of a person and you will get good things in life.[2] What it really means to be a Christian is to deny yourself and take up your cross daily (Matt 16:4; Lk 9:23). That’s not as enticing. But it’s the true way. It’s not the way our flesh or our culture says is best, but it’s the way the Creator and sustainer of the cosmos and the lover of your soul says is best.

3) Their endurance. (vs 2, 3)Chuck Swindoll states,

“The Ephesian Christians faced special challenges. Because they refused to bow the knee to the goddess Diana or the images of the emperor, they found themselves maligned, slandered, boycotted, and abused. Not unlike Jewish merchants in Berlin in the 1930’s Christians in Ephesus would have been the objects of physical violence, social ostracism, and economic repression. Yet they endured. They bore up under the load. Clearly, Ephesus had been taught well by its predecessors, Paul, Timothy, and John.”[3]

Do you persevere in following Jesus, or do you give in to the pressures around you? If you keep going even when its hard, you are a lot like this Ephesian church, and Jesus will say “well done.”

Theology: (vs. 2, 6)

1) They separated from evil.

2) They believed the right things.

They didn’t bear with those who were evil and tested those who claimed to be apostles and found them to be false. They were not just believing everything they were told but were seeking true truth.

The culture around them worshiped false Gods. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world was there, the temple of Artemis, which became a revered place of worship.[4] Also, in verse 6, we see mention of the Nicolaitans. They are only mentioned here and a few verses later, but many commentators agree that these people brought in a thinking that it was ok to be sexually immoral and to not follow the law. Early church fathers had some harsh words against them, as Jesus does here, saying he even hates what they are doing. Irenaeus[5] said, “They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence,” and Tertullian[6] argued that they aimed at destroying the happiness of sanctity by their lust and luxury.[7]

This church stood against this false teaching and wayward lifestyles. They stood firm on the truths that God has laid out in scripture, and they were unashamed of it. Is that you? Do you live that way? What you believe determines how you live. Do you believe the right things, and therefore do you live the right way?

With all the good Jesus commended them for, there was one problem. Jesus says, “You do this and this and this and this and this and this and this BUT…I have this against you…”

As much as we want to hear all the good, you know how easily one negative comment can cancel out all the good things you see in your life. It’s the negative you dwell on. It’s the negative that ruins your day. And Jesus intends it to be that way with this negative.

“Every virtue carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction. It seems probable that desire for sound teaching and the resulting forthright action taken to exclude all imposters had created a climate of suspicion in which love within the believing community could no longer exist.”[8]

“Barclay concludes that ‘heresy-hunting had killed love and orthodoxy had been achieved at the price of fellowship’ (1.64), while Robbins observes that ‘their hatred of heresy had left no room for love of those who differed in their beliefs’” (54).[9]

After all the good Jesus noted about them, He said this…but…You have abandoned the love you had at first. (vs 4)

Have you ever been in love? What was it like? Take a few moments to think back and remember the beginning of all those rushes of feelings and your willingness to move mountains for that person.

Listen to what Warren Wiersbe said: “The church that loses its love will soon lose its light, no matter how doctrinally sound it may be.”[10]

This quote struck me in a pointed way. These people were commended for serving God tirelessly and being doctrinally sound, yet Jesus had this one thing against them, and their lack of love threatened to undo it all. In verse 5, Jesus said their lack of love, even amidst all the good they were doing, threatened to take their lampstand away. There is no need for a lampstand when there’s no light shining. Remember, the lampstands are the churches.

It’s the Olympics right now, and I love watching the Olympics. If you’ve ever watched the opening ceremonies, you know that the main point is when they light the torch. This is modeled after the Greek’s Lampadedromia. In it, the winner was not the runner who finished first. It was the runner who finished with his torch still lit. I want to run all the way with the flame of my torch still lit for Him.[11]

Hamilton says, “The church in Ephesus is doing nine things right and one thing wrong. But that one thing they have abandoned, the love they had at first, threatens to nullify everything that they are doing right.”[12]

Akin says, “They didn’t have a head problem but a heart problem. Obedience out of duty had replaced obedience out of love for Christ.”[13]

Allow God’s Word and Spirit to shine and heat up some dark and cold places in your heart right now. Maybe your light isn’t shining brightly because your love has grown cold.

Warren Wiersbe says, “The Ephesian believers were so busy maintaining their separation that they were neglecting adoration.”[14]

Remedy for a cold heart:

Remember. (vs 5)

Memory can be a powerful tool. Remembering what it was that caused someone to fall in love with somebody can stop a divorce in its tracks. Remembering all that somebody has done for you can fill your heart with gratitude unlike anything else. Remember what Jesus has done for you. Remember how sweet and free the gospel is. Remember what He saved you from. Remember the great love He has showered upon you. Remember who He is and what He has done.

Repent. (vs 5)

Danny Akin says, “Jesus reminds them that labor is no substitute for love, purity is no substitute for passion, and deeds are no substitute for devotion. Do not pat yourself on the back for doing good things for the wrong reason. God looks on the heart (1 Sam 16:7; Mark 7:6).”[15]

Evaluate the state of your heart, and if it’s not in the right place…if it’s not beating on fire for God and His glory alone, repent. Turn. Admit your failure. And trust that God hasn’t changed and is right there waiting for you to return.

Do what you did. (vs 5)

When you were so in love, how did you act? You would do anything for that person. When you first fell in love with Jesus, how did you act? You passionately followed Him. Your poured over His Word. You worshipped Him with hands raised and the hairs on your arms standing up. Do it again. God hasn’t changed. Your salvation is still the same. You’ve been pardoned from an eternity of punishment. You’ve been given life now and forever. You have hope. Jesus is still the same Jesus you fell in love with.

And remember this: The reward is great. (vs 7)

“Those who conquer will eat from “the tree of life.” The tree of life will be infinitely satisfying, and those who fail to conquer because they prized other things over Jesus will feel infinite remorse. And that remorse will never end.”[16]

“What Adam and Eve forfeited through sin we regain in Christ.”[17]

Heaven and eternity are your reward. Beholding forever the glory you lived for here on earth is yours. True love displayed and comprehended forever is yours. And it starts now.

[1] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1997), 68.

[2] This is called moralistic therapeutic deism and is prominent among the American church.

[3] Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 38.


[5] Against Heresies 1.26.3

[6] Against Marcion 1.29

[7] Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 2016), 35.

[8] Mounce, 69.

[9] Mounce, 69n13.

[10] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2007), 1041.

[11] Fan The Flame, J. Stowell, Moody, 1986, p. 32

[12] James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 70.

[13] Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 2016), 37.

[14] Wiersbe, 1041.

[15] Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 38.

[16] Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, 71.

[17] Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 40.


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