The book of Revelation is a great study about the victory that faithful Christians enjoy. In the very first verse, the apostle John made it clear that the book is “signified” (Rev. 1:1). As one will notice, the root of “signified” is sign. John was letting the reader know that the things contained in the book were not always to be taken literally. Instead, the book is written in what is called apocalyptic literature. This type of writing would have been better familiar to many in the first century. That would include the seven congregations in Asia Minor that are explicitly listed. The first of those congregations is “the church of Ephesus” (Rev. 2:1).
The message to “the church of Ephesus” is a mixed one. At first, the congregation is lauded for the good that had been done. “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted” (Rev. 2:1-3). From the outside looking in, one might get the idea that the congregation in Ephesus was right where it needed to be. After all, the congregation did not accept the evil that some did. False apostles were not allowed to influence the church. The congregation was even praised because of their hatred of “the deeds of the Nicolaitans”, which God likewise hated (Rev. 2:6).
Yes, the congregation had different reasons to be commended, but unfortunately, they had one major problem. Interestingly, this congregation was guilty of doing something that some today claim is not possible. John wrote, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Rev. 2:4). The congregation was no longer as faithful to the Lord as it once had been. This is easily deduced by reading the verse that follows. “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Rev. 2:5). This is a devastating verse to those who want to believe that Christians can never be lost again after they have been “saved”. This was not written to those in the world, but rather to children of God in the city of Ephesus. They had been “saved” at some point prior. There is no other way around it, unless they repented and went back to faithful living, they would be “lost”. This should come as no surprise to a diligent Bible student. The language that is used is in complete harmony with other verses in the New Testament that teach the need for continued faithfulness. Consider the following verses: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4); “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God…For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end” (Heb. 3:12, 14); “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Heb. 4:11); “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” (2 Pet. 2:20). It baffles me how that one can read these simple verses and then claim the impossibility of apostasy. The church of Ephesus did not get taught such error.
Today, if a child of God leaves his “first love”, then he in like manner needs to repent and get back to faithful living. The same apostle, John, also wrote, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:6-9). We must not be deceived into believing that we can leave our Lord and still be acceptable to Him. Instead, we should do as the church in Smyrna was told. They were instructed to be “…faithful unto death” so that they would receive a “crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
~ Corey Barnette