Hello again, Friends, and Welcome
Before we begin to talk about the letters to the churches, and specifically, today, the Church at Ephesus, I promised we would look at numbers in the Bible. I’m not talking about the book of Numbers, I’m talking about how numbers are used in the Bible.
This tells us so much about our amazing God and I don’t want you to miss it,
I am taking much of this from a message shared by Dr. Adrian Rogers, my former pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. His message was called Making Numbers Count.
Numbers are used in the Book of Revelation in a symbolic way, and the number seven is very key in understanding the book. In this book we are studying, there are 7 churches, 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 persons, 7 vials or bowls, 7 judgments, and at the end of the book are 7 new things. 7 groups of 7 make up the Book of Revelation. That didn’t just happen by chance. I want to explain three things about numbers.
First of all is the science of numbers . It is almost as if God actually wrote two books, the Bible and the book of nature. As you look at the book of nature you find numbers written through and through, now WHY? Because God is a God of order. He is a God of design and balance and proportion. He is a God of mathematical precision.
Second, there is the symbolism of numbers. To God and the authors of the Bible, numbers were more than science, They had a spiritual connection and meaning. It is amazing how God uses numbers throughout the Bible. For instance:
the number 1 is the number of unity and primacy; therefore, it speaks to us of God (Deut 6:4; Zech 14:9.
The number 2 stands for witnesses (John 8”17)
3 is a divine number and it speaks of the Holy Trinity (Matt 18:19) The angels cry out “Holy Holy Holy” (Is 6:3)
4 stands for creation and the earth (11:12). There are 4 directions on a compass, North East, South, and West. 4 seasons, Spring Summer Autumn and Winter.
5 symbolizes completeness as does 10 (Rev 12:13)
6 is one of the more interesting numbers. It is the number if a man. He was created on the sixth day, and the beast, a man who pretends to be God, has the number 666 (13:18)
7 of course, we have already discussed but as a reminder, 7 is the perfect number. God rested on the 7th day, 7 days are one week, There are 7 notes on a musical scale, with the eighth just a repetition of the first. Perfect forgiveness is 70 times 7. In Revelation seven is used again and again. The whole book has multiples of seven. Watch for them as we study. The number of earth, plus the divine number 3. That is earth crowned with heaven. Also. in scripture the number 7 cut in half spells danger and disaster in Rev 13:5
And, Friends, there is more: 7 Plus 1 is 8, the symbol of the Resurrection and new birth. Because Jesus came out of the grave on the eighth day. 9, 10, and 11 have no significance that we know of, but the Bible speaks of God’s governmental as 12. The Old testament had 12 tribes, the New Testament has 12 apostles.
Last there is the significance of numbers. This speaks to the lost.
1 tells us there is one God
2 tells us that He has witnessed to us.
3 tells us that God is God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
4 tells us that this world belongs to God and is headed for judgment.
5 tells us that God is going to finish what He started because that is the complete number.
6 tells us that we are sinners and need to be saved.
7 tells us that God’s love for us is perfect. And that God demands perfection that we can’t supply.
8 tells us that we can be born again.
Hallelujah, you can be saved
LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES
CHAPTER 2 The letter to Ephesus
Some people don’t think churches are important. They say they can worship anywhere, they don’t need organized religion. God thinks churches are important. Some churches are overflowing. Others, almost empty.
What denomination do you think God is a member of? NONE. These letters begin with the first century church and end with the last type of church which will be on earth at the end of the age. These churches were real. Real people attended them. These churches mirror the characteristics of various churches today. I mean by that, that the churches in our world today, have the same characteristics as the churches mentioned in chapter 2 of this book. Of course, all churches do not have all of the characteristics, but all churches have at least one of the characteristics of these mentioned here.
How do you choose a church home? When Bill and I moved here to Fort Worth, we visited 7 different churches before we found our church home. When we walked inside that first time, we knew we were home. How? We felt the Holy Spirit in the people, in the service, and in the music. The people were friendly and welcoming, and we just felt at home. There was a survey of 8,600 people from 39 different denominations (bet you didn’t know there were that many denominations out there!). They were asked to measure their “loving care quotient”. Here’s the result:
Members of growing churches are more loving to each other and to visitors. Loving churches, regardless of their denomination or location attract more people.
In each letter- distinct patterns emerge
Who the letter is going to’
Who the letter is from
5 of the 7 are complimented for the things they had done right.
5 of the 7 are chastised for what they were doing wrong.
Each is encouraged.
Each is promised a blessing
Each one corresponds to a historical period of church history to come.
Before there is any criticism, Jesus compliments them.
Let’s look at the things in the letters that Jesus compliments the various churches for. Things they were doing right. Then we will see the things that Jesus had against them. Read the first letter to Ephesus in chapter 2:1-7
1, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.
2. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false
3. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name and have not grown weary.
4. Yet I hold this against you’ you have forsaken the love you had at first.
5. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
6. But you have this in your favor; you hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
What things were right with them? Patience, Zealous of good works and service. Look at v, 2 – what is the difference between work and labor? Labor carries a meaning of weariness. We can grow weary in our labors for the Lord but not weary OF the work of the Lord. Paul made Ephesus a center for evangelism during the three years he pastored there. After Paul left, Timothy became pastor and then it is thought that John followed Timothy.
A fairly impressive group of ministers, right? The congregation was dynamic and must have had a great budget. Church discipline was prevalent. They were careful to examine visiting ministers to see if they were genuine. They hated the Nicolaitans, who were a very immoral cult, free love, self-indulgence, etc. Sounds like a great church, doesn’t it? Dynamic dedicated, patient, disciplines, discerning. What more could you want? Would you like to be a part of that church?
But Jesus saw right past the façade. The church of Ephesus. It had heart trouble. They had some serious love problems, just as some churches do today.
Look at v 4. What a shock to be told that you don’t love Christ as you once did. We hear the same thing about marriage. “I just don’t love him anymore”. What happened to the girl whose heart beat faster when she heard his car outside? What happened to the man who used to bring flowers and tell her how much he loved her? The Ephesians had lost the thrill of first love.
Jesus warned the church at Ephesus that it would lose its light and its testimony in the community if this love for Jesus was not revived. This actually happened years later. Ephesus declined as a city. Now uninhabited and one of the major ruins of the area. Ephesus appeared to be a model church on the outside, but inside the love was growing cold. People were involved in “good works” out of duty.
The historical era that this church represents was A.D. 33-100
Jesus gave them a solution. He encouraged them to remember what it was like when they were new converts and to repent. They were promised eternal salvation. Why is there a tendency for most of us to lose the initial enthusiasm and excitement we had when we first came to know Christ? What are some of the warning signs that we are losing our first love? Where is the excitement we experienced as a new believer?
What steps can be taken to renew our commitment to Jesus?
1. Remember what it was like. Relive the desire to tell the world how wonderful He is.
2. Repent and turn your life around.
3. Repeat. Do the things you did at first, even if you don’t feel like it. Talk about revival and it can explode. Do you love Jesus It doesn’t matter what your denomination is, what your program is, what your rules of worship are, that’s all for nothing if you don’t love Jesus
The early church went astray, not because of doctrine, but because of their personal relationship with Jesus.
Next week: Smyrna. See you then, precious ones, Maggie