Revelation 1:17 – 2:7
As John recognizes Jesus in His majesty and glory, he is afraid. He falls down at Jesus feet “as though dead” (v. 17). While we don’t want to swing the pendulum too far in one direction, it seems to me that we do need to recover a greater sense of awe and reverence for Jesus. Yes, Jesus loves us and calls us friends, but He is also the One from whose mouth, “came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” For those who love CS Lewis’ Narnia stories, we are reminded of young Susan Pevensie asking if Aslan the Lion is safe, only to receive the answer, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” When John sees Jesus, he falls at his feet.
Jesus, though, bids John stand. He holds the keys of death and Hades, power over eternal life and death. This is the ground of our confidence: the One who conquered death and the grave, who has authority over eternal life, calls us His own and bids us to stand without fear. As John stands, Jesus gives him the charge to write and deliver the very letter we are reading. The first part of that letter will entail Jesus speaking to the Church He is standing in the midst of.
Jesus will speak to seven specific churches, but in doing so, will speak to the whole church down through the ages. Ephesus is first to be addressed. Ephesus was a church John himself served. His ears must have immediately pricked up when Jesus began with this beloved congregation. So what did Jesus have to say to the church at Ephesus?
He commends the Ephesians for their zealous commitment to orthodox teaching. But they have forsaken their first love. This could mean that they were content with, as we might say today, dead orthodoxy, that they now loved theology more than God Himself. While theology is extremely important, we are saved by knowing God, not theological systems. But there is something more going on here in my opinion. The first love likely refers to reaching out to those in need of salvation. In other words, the Ephesians were no longer active in mission. The two sides of the love of God go hand in hand. If we love God, we love what He loves and are driven to do what He does. God so loved the world that He sent Jesus to save it. If we love God, we are driven to pursue a dying world.
The threat to Ephesus was that if they didn’t repent, their light would be taken from them. The city is now no more than a ruin and tourist site. The word remains for the Church down through the ages: let the loveless church beware. It is good to be zealous for truth, but let us also live out the call to love God, one another, and the world. What would Jesus have to say about your love?