Here’s the first two letters that Jesus wrote to the congregations on earth, starting with Ephesus.
Ephesus, the Loveless Church
Jesus introduced himself to the church at Ephesus as ‘He who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.’
In other words, Jesus has authority over the seven congregations.
The commendation: “And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.” Rev 2:2-3
The problem: “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 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. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”
The Nicolaitans are false apostles. That much we can gather. Jesus hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans. It’s uncertain what they were teaching. The word ‘Nico’ means ‘rule’ or ‘conquer’ and ‘laity’ means ‘non-ordained members of the church or religious community.’
Together the words mean ‘rule or conquer by clergy.’ If they were lording it over the people it would have been against Christ as he was a servant leader. He never intended His followers to be cogs in the wheel of an authoritarian man-made power structure, a structure which totally misrepresents him and his rule.
To combat false teachers you have to know your Bible. They profit from those who don’t. We thought we knew our Bible and even we nearly got taken for a ride, when the church we were attending at the time merged with a big, flashy mega church.
Don’t be exploited.
Combating power structures is never going to stop as long as the devil remains. Ephesus was so worn out from battling false teachers and false apostles that they became dogmatic and unloving.
Love is not a romantic feeling, it’s an action. Jesus gave two commandments, which pretty much sum up the ten commandments; ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:34-40
The reward: To him who overcomes, I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Rev 2:7
We know Paradise was lost when Adam and Eve were deceived by Satan. They gained the knowledge of good and evil and became sinners. God in His mercy could not permit them to live forever in that fallen condition so he put cherubim on the east side of the Garden to bar the way to the Tree of Life.
For those who overcome, access to Paradise and the Tree of Life is granted.
Smyrna, the Persecuted Church
Jesus addressed the Church at Smyrna, referring to himself as ‘The First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life.’ Rev 2:8
He identified himself as such to John in the last chapter, who’d fainted after seeing him; “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Rev 1:17
The commendation: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.“ Rev 2:9-10
Jesus finds no fault with this church.
The Crown of Life is mentioned in James 1:12; “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Smyrna is associated with persecution as Jewish hatred for the early Christians was particularly fierce there. It’s the city where Polycarp, an early disciple of John was martyred. Smyrna hung on through the Ottoman Empire until 1922, when it was crushed by the Muslim ruler Mustapha Kemal Ataturk.
The Synagogue of Satan
Sabbatai Zevi, a Jewish mystic who was born in Smyrna followed the Kabbalah and claimed to be Messiah. In 1666, upon arriving in Constantinople (now Istanbul) Sabbatai was imprisoned and given the choice of death or converting to Islam. He and some 300 of his followers converted and became known as the Donmeh which is Turkish for ‘convert.’ They went underground. Not much is known about them but various groups called Donmeh continue to follow Sabbatai Zevi, mostly in Turkey. Nowadays they are Jews who follow the Kabbalah. They say they’re Jews, but they’re not.
The meaning of Smyrna
Smyrna means Myrrh which means bitterness, but it’s also associated with the oil of joy. When crushed and mixed with oil, it emits a beautiful fragrance. God anoints Jesus to give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning.
The reward, besides the Crown of Life: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”
The Second Death
Those born once will die twice. Those born twice (born again) will die once. Jesus said in John 3:3 that we must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. Then our names will go into the Book of Life.
Those not in the Book of Life will be consigned to the Lake of Fire. This is the second death and it will happen at the Great White Throne judgement. Rev 20:11-15
But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. Rev 21:8
Please, hell is no joke. The unbelieving will end up in the Lake of Fire. If you believe and you’re wrong what have you lost? Nothing. If you go to hell because of unbelief, what have you lost? Everything! Choose life.