Breaking Open the Word: Revelation 2:1-7
August 26, 2018 – Letter to the Church of Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7)
Today’s discussion began right at the heart of this passage: “Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first.” (Rev. 2:4) Now that’s a verse that calls us all to examine ourselves! Another translation renders it: “you have left the love you had at first.” As much as we are influenced by outside circumstances, to love (or to leave that love) remains fundamentally an active personal choice for which we will be held responsible. While the Ephesians at first are praised for their works, most of the works that are mentioned are more passive – “endurance,” “patience,” etc. While these are good and necessary virtues, in and of themselves they are not enough; Christ calls for active reparation. Christ’s call to conversion in verse 5 (“repent, and do the works you did at first”) presents this idea of active reparation even more clearly in the Latin text, “Do penance”. And who is the best model of this active effort to show forth love? Our Lord in His Sacred Passion! Various Sisters highlighted elements from the Mel Gibson film The Passion of the Christ that portrayed Jesus “going the extra mile,” embracing His Cross, seeking to spend Himself totally for us, even when exhausted.
We also discussed briefly the reference in verse 6 to “the works of the Nicolaitans.” What is this mysterious heretical sect? The Navarre Bible sums up our findings on this front: they are “a group difficult to identify”! However, one element of their teaching seems to have been compromise, encouraging Christians to “make their peace” with immoral pagan rituals and even to participate in them. Compromise with sin is a sure way to cool our love for the Lord and one another.
We then spent some time on verse 7, where Christ promises, “to the victor I will give the right to eat from the tree of life.” In the original, the phrase “the right to” is absent, thus changing the meaning significantly. Christ does not merely give us a right to the fruit of the Tree of Life, He directly gives that fruit to us. And, as the Church Fathers would say, this “tree of life” (literally “wood of life” in Latin) is the Cross, whose fruit is redemption and eternal life!
At the end of our sharing, a Sister gave us a fitting conclusion by returning to verse 1. She had been contemplating the title Our Lord gives Himself, “The one who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks in the midst of the seven gold lampstands”. Christ had just explained in Rev. 1:20 that “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches,” and so Sister described how this underscored for her Christ’s nearness to His Church, He is holding us in His Hands, even when we are suffering or, as in the case of Ephesus, straying. Finally, Sister noted that the description of the Son of Man had repeatedly referred to His “brightness” – thus, He is the “lamp” that the “lampstands” of the Churches are to radiate!
We’re glad to have you with us for our continuing study of the Book of Revelation; join us next time as we dive into the letter to the Church of Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11)!