Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Revelation 1:18-2:5
Pastor Steve Schell
Revelation 1:18
Verse 18 (continued): The third title Jesus uses to identify Himself is, “I have the keys of death and Hades.” Not only has He died and been resurrected, but He holds the keys which can unlock the gates of death for others. “Hades” is the Greek word used to translate the Hebrew word “Sheol” which at times simply means the “grave.” However, at other times (Isa 26:19; Da 12:2) it appears to refer to the place where the spirits of the dead wait for the day of judgment. While the body decays in the grave, the spirit descends into Sheol. In the case of the righteous dead the Old Testament did recognize that at least some rise immediately upon death into the presence of God. No description is given of this heavenly place except to say that these were with God (Ge 5:24; 2Ki 2:11; Ps 16:9-11; 49:14, 15). So the meaning of Jesus’ claim to have “the keys of death and Hades” is that neither the body nor the spirit of His followers will perish. Because of His resurrection, death can’t hold their spirits and the grave can’t hold their bodies. Jesus has the power to take their spirits immediately to Paradise (He 23:43) and restore their physical bodies at the resurrection (Jn 5:28, 29).

Revelation 1:19, 20
Verse 19: Again Jesus commands John to write (v 11). John is to write down “the things which you have seen…” meaning the vision he has been shown of Jesus in His glory (vs 12-16). He is also told to write down “the things which are…” meaning the present spiritual condition of the seven churches which the Lord is about to disclose to him (Rev 2:1-3:22; 22:6-21). And he is told to write down “the things which will take place after these things” meaning the visions of the final events which will bring this era of human history to a close (Rev 4:1-22:5). Verse 20: Jesus acknowledges that the vision of Himself which He has shown John contains mysteries, namely the seven “stars” which He held in His right hand and the seven golden “lampstands” among which He was standing. But John will not be left wondering or guessing as to the meaning of these prophetic symbols. Jesus tells him the seven stars symbolize seven angels which He will send to the churches (Job 38:7; Isa 14:12; Da 8:10; Rev 12:4). Apparently, an angel will be dispatched to help the prophets in each city understand the message which the Lord will speak to them (Rev 1:1; 22:6, 8, 9).

Revelation 1:20
Verse 20 (continued): The seven lampstands symbolize the seven churches. God placed each church in its city to be a “light” in the “darkness,” yet that light was in danger of being dimmed. As He promised, the Lord had not left them but stands in their midst (Mt 18:20; 28:20)and knows exactly what is taking place in each congregation. So these prophetic words must not be ignored, nor should the churches debate the authenticity of the message. These words come from the Lord Himself and He will send an angel to make His meaning clear to them.

Revelation 2:1
Verse 1: Each of the seven letters (Rev 2:1-3:22) is addressed to “the angel of the church….” If we observe the role angels play throughout the Book of Revelation the reason becomes obvious. In the first verse of the book John explains that Jesus sent the entire book to him by an angel (Rev 1:1). On several occasions an angel instructs him as to what he should do or explains what he is seeing in a particular vision (Rev 10:8-11; 17:1, 3, 7, 15; 19:9, 10; 21:9, 10, 15; 22:1, 6, 8-10). At the conclusion of the book an angel says he had been sent to show God’s prophets “the things which must soon take place” (Rev 22:6), and Jesus Himself tells John, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches” (Rev 22:16). This is why the letter to the church in Ephesus is addressed to an angel. There is a specific angel assigned to help them understand what Jesus has said to them.

Revelation 2:1, 2
Verse 1 (continued): The Lord’s charge to the Ephesian church opens with these words: “These things says the One holding the seven stars in His right hand, the One walking in the middle of the seven golden lampstands” (literal). In other words, the same glorious, resurrected Jesus who so frightened John that he “fell at His feet like a dead man…” Rev 1:17) will now speak to the believers in that city. Verse 2: Here is a paraphrase of what the Lord tells them: “I know all you have accomplished in serving me. I know how hard you had to labor to do these things. I know the suffering you had to bear in order to keep serving me over the years. I know you refused to tolerate those in the church who acted immorally or unethically and disciplined them as necessary. I know you have carefully examined the teachings and lifestyle of those who came to you pretending to be apostles, but were not true apostles. You recognized they were liars.”

Revelation 2:3-5
Verse 3: “And I know your faith has endured even though you have been persecuted for being Christians (Rev 1:9), yet in spite of all you’ve been through you have never denied Me in order to escape from suffering.” Verses 4, 5: At this point Jesus stops rehearsing the positive qualities in the Ephesian church and tells them that nonetheless they are failing badly in an area which is so important that, if they don’t change their ways, “I am coming to you and will move your lampstand out of its place….” Since John has just seen a vision in which the lampstands were placed close to Jesus (Rev 1:12, 13), moving a lampstand “out of its place” must mean it will be moved away from Him. In other words, He will no longer be spiritually present in their gatherings and they will cease to be His “light” to their community.

Revelation 2:4, 5
Verses 4, 5 (continued): Then Jesus tells them that the sin which put them in such danger is leaving their “first love.” He doesn’t specifically define these words, so it’s not certain who or what they stopped loving, but since He has just commended them (v 2) for their labor and accomplishments for the gospel and their perseverance under persecution and their refusal to accept false teaching or false doctrine, and since their repentance will involve doing “the deeds you did at first,” it appears they have ceased loving each other (Eph 1:15). If so, the “deeds” they are no longer doing are the deeds of caring for those in need. This type of practical love (“koinonia”) was a very high value for Jesus and the early church (Mt 25:34-40; Ac 2:44-47; 4:32-37; 1Ti 5:10; 6:18; Heb 10:32-34; 13:1-3, 16; Jas 2:14-17; 1Jn 3:17, 18; 4:20, 21). Repeatedly it is said that believers who fail to love each other in practical ways prove that they don’t really love God. So though the Ephesian church had worked hard to evangelize and had not yielded to immorality or heresy, they had also grown weary of caring for the needy among them, and their hearts had hardened over time. If this trend continued, the active presence of the Spirit would lift off their gatherings and their ability to draw people to Christ would wither (Jn 13:35). 

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