Revelation 2: “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”

In 1965 the Righteous Brothers released their iconic song, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” Years later, in 1986, this song would be immortalized by a couple of characters names Mavic and Goose in the hit movie, “Top Gun!” Wikipedia indicates, “In December 1999, the performing rights organization Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) ranked the song as the most-played song on American radio and television in the 20th century, having accumulated more than 8 million airplays by 1999,[5] and nearly 15 million by 2011.[6]” It just so happens that this song is my mom’s favorite song as well.

The opening verse of the song tells the tale:

“You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips
And there’s no tenderness like before in your fingertips
You’re trying hard not to show it, (baby)
But baby, baby I know it

Although the reference is between two people, the impact is the same, there once was love, but now there’s not.

Similarly, in the opening of his letter, John records the words of Jesus to the church in Ephesus. Revelation 2:4-5 (NLT) “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! 

Jesus is saying to the church in Ephesus, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin;” and if you’re not careful it will be “gone…gone…gone…woah.”

Now in Chapter 2 we see the initial list of four churches out of seven that John references. It’s important to remember that Jesus is speaking of, and John is writing to, real churches in real cities. We can look at these churches from three perspectives:

  1. Prophetically
  2. Practically
  3. Personally

Prophetically, these churches seem to represent different stages of the church over the last 2,000 years.  If this is true, then the church at Ephesus represents the time period between the Day of Pentecost and 100 AD.  This was a time of great expansion for the early church.  But, it was also a time when some began to lose their zeal and fervency.

Practically, these letters were sent to literal, real congregations that were functioning at the close of the First Century.  While they were written to real churches existing in that day, they still speak to every church in existence today.  God has a word for your Church in these verses!

Personally, these letters speak to congregations, but we should also be mindful that the Lord has a word for the individual in these letters as well.  He has something to say to you and me about our relationship with Him.

So we understand that the church in Ephesus lost their love and feelin,’ but we also need to look at the remedy proposed by Jesus.

Revelation 2:4b-6 (NLT) Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.

Steps to Rekindling the Fire of your Faith

When referencing the church in Ephesus, Jesus indicates through John that he has both good things and bad things for the church. He encourages them with the things they’re doing well, but he also encourages them to work on the things that aren’t going well. The “work on” part is the part I want to end on.

It’s not uncommon for the flame of our faith to wax and wane. I don’t recommend that your faith remains in the embers, but Jesus does give instructions on how to fan it back into flame.

Step #1  Turn back to Jesus (Repent)
Step #2  Do the works you did at first
Step #3  Hate the evil deeds of the people distracting from Jesus
Step #4  Listen to the Spirit

Each of us has an opportunity to learn from the situation of the Ephesians. Talk to God today and allow him to challenge your heart.

 

 

Revelation 1: “Introduction”

Welcome to Revelation!

Our long awaited journey through the New Testament has arrived at its final book! And boy what a book it is. The Book of Revelation is steeped in mystery and confusion for years. Is it a book covering the past, the present, or the future? The simple answer is, yes! The complex answer to this question will play out in the pages ahead. Buckle your seatbelts, cause here we go!

Orienting Data for the Revelation

Content: a Christian prophecy cast in apocalyptic style and imagery and finally put in letter form, dealing primarily with tribulation (suffering) and salvation for God’s people and God’s wrath (judgment) on the Roman Empire.

Author: a man named John (1:1, 4, 9), well known to the recipients, traditionally identified as the apostle, the son of Zebedee (Matt 10:2).

Date: ca. a.d. 95 (according to Irenaeus [ca. 180])

Recipients: churches in the Roman province of Asia, who show a mix of fidelity and internal weaknesses.

Occasion: the early Christians’ refusal to participate in the cult of the emperor (who was acclaimed “lord” and “savior”) was putting them on a collision course with the state; John saw prophetically that it would get worse before it got better and that the churches were poorly prepared for what was about to take place, so he writes both to warn and encourage them and to announce God’s judgments against Rome.

Emphases: despite appearances to the contrary, God is in absolute control of history; although God’s people are destined for suffering in the present, God’s sure salvation belongs to them; God’s judgment will come on those responsible for the church’s suffering; in the end (Rev 21–22) God will restore what was lost or distorted at the beginning (Gen 1–3).


Overview of the Revelation

The cult of the emperor flourished in the province of Asia more than elsewhere in the empire; the result was that by the end of the first Christian century, the church in all its weaknesses was headed for a showdown with the state in all its splendor and might. By the Spirit, John sees that the martyrdom of Antipas (2:13) and John’s own exile (1:9) are but a small foretaste of the great havoc that the state will wreak on the church before it is all over (see 1:9;2:10; 3:10; 6:9–11; 7:14; 12:11, 17).

As a Christian prophet, John also sees this conflict in the larger context of the holy war—the ultimate cosmic conflict between God (and his Christ) and Satan (see 12:1–9)—in which God wins eternal salvation for his people. The people’s present role is to “triumph over [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, … not lov[ing] their lives so much as to shrink from death” (12:11). As God has already defeated the dragon through the death and resurrection of Christ (the Messiah is caught up to heaven, 12:5), so he will judge the state for her crimes against his people.


Specific Advice for Reading the Revelation

You may easily find yourself in the company of most contemporary Christians, for whom the Revelation is difficult to read, mostly because we are so unfamiliar with John’s medium of communication—apocalyptic literature with its bizarre imagery. Thus, along with knowing about the historical context and the way John works out his overall design (noted above), two other items will greatly aid your reading of this marvelous book—(1) to take seriously John’s own designation of his book as “the words of this prophecy” (1:3) and (2) to have some sense of how apocalyptic imagery works, even if many of the details remain a bit obscure.

By calling his work “the words of this prophecy,” John is deliberately following in the train of the great prophets of the Old Testament, in several ways: (1) He speaks as one who knows himself to be under the inspiration of the Spirit (1:10; 2:7; etc.). (2) He positions himself between some recent past events and what is about to happen in the near future. (3) He sets all forms of earthly salvation and judgment against the backdrop of God’s final end-time judgments so that the fall of Rome is to be seen not as the end itself but against the backdrop of the final events of the end.

3 John: “Information”

Orienting Data for 3 John

Date: Most scholars agree that 1, 2, and 3 John were written at the same time as the Gospel of John, from AD 85 to 95. The late date is based on evidence from early church witnesses (Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria), and the early stage of the Gnostic heresy.

Author: The author of 1, 2, and 3 John, is John the son of Zebedee. John was an apostle, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, and the author of the Gospel of John and Revelation. John was one of three disciples in Jesus’ inner circle, and was called the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13: 23). In 2 and 3 John, he calls himself “the elder” (2 John 1: 1; 3 John 1). Although some scholars think the name refers to a different John, the title of “elder” was common in the early church, even for the apostles (see 1 Peter 5: 1 “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder”).

Recipients: John’s third letter was addressed to “Gaius,” a Christian in one of the churches in Asia Minor. Gaius was a common Roman name at the time so it is difficult to identify who he was.

Overview of 3 John

This is the shortest letter in the New Testament and thus the shortest book in the Bible (it is twenty-five Greek words shorter than 2 John). Along with Philemon, it is a personal letter; unlike Philemon, it is a private letter as well.

At issue is Christian hospitality, as evidence that one is “walking in the truth.” The recipient, Gaius, perhaps a convert of John (v. 4), is a dear friend (vv. 1, 2, 5, 11; “dear friend” translates the Greek word agapētos, “beloved”). Along with the truth of the gospel (vv. 3–4), Gaius and the elder share the practice of Christian hospitality toward approved itinerants (vv. 5–8, 11–12).

Sandwiched between Gaius’s two responses of hospitality toward strangers is the opposite example of Diotrephes, who has a twofold problem: (1) He is self-assertive in terms of leadership in the church (KJV, “he loveth to have the preeminence”!), and (2) his way of asserting himself is to reject both a letter from the elder and the approved itinerants who were being commended to the church in that letter. In light of 1 and 2 John, one is tempted to see Diotrephes as also on the false teachers’ side of things, although doctrinal issues as such are not mentioned in this case. But in light of 2 John 10–11, hospitality toward strangers is not automatic; they must be approved as those who walk in the truth.

Specific Advice for Reading 3 John

This letter may seem strange to a North American culture, where itinerant ministers are usually invited to the church and put up in motels or hotels. But in some ways you might find the original recipients’ culture more to your liking. In the first century, hospitality toward strangers was considered a virtue, and accommodations were often linked to a temple or synagogue. This practice became heart and soul for the earliest Christians. Thus if you were on the move, you could expect to receive hospitality within a local church community anywhere in the known world, a fact that runs throughout the New Testament. We find it in Jesus’ sending out the twelve and the seventy-two (Luke 9:4–5; 10:5–8); it is mentioned by Paul as an expression of love (Rom 12:13) and is urged as a form of Christian conduct in Hebrews 13:2. By the very nature of things, such hospitality was usually expected of a householder, who was also the leader of the church (1 Tim 3:2), but it could also be the responsibility of any others who had sizable households (1 Tim 5:10).

Together 2 and 3 John help us see how closely connected a householder, hospitality in her or his house, and the church that meets in the house were in the first-century church. Strangers who claimed to be bearers of the good news about Jesus Christ needed to have letters of commendation (such as 3 John is for Demetrius) in order to be given Christian hospitality in the home that housed a church community. But even when the itinerants were well known (e.g., Titus in 2 Cor 8:16–24), they often carried a letter of commendation from a leader known to the community to which they were going (see Acts 15:23–29; Rom 16:1–2; cf. 2 Cor 3:1–3, where Paul is miffed at the idea that he needed such a letter in Corinth).

This cultural phenomenon is crucial to your understanding of 3 John, as well as of 2 John 10–11. In the present case, such a letter from the elder had accompanied some whom he had sent to a church; but Diotrephes had rejected it, refused hospitality, and disfellowshipped those who would like to have shown it—exactly the position the elder himself took in 2 John 10–11, indicating that the touchstone of everything is the gospel of Christ.

2 John: “Information”

I’m not sure if you know this or not, but 1, 2, and 3 John are the least read books of the entire bible! Here’s the thing; there in the book for a reason, so rather than do what everyone else does with these books, let’s take a deeper dive into what exactly is going on in these letters.

Orienting Data for 2 John

Content: “the elder” warns against false teachers who deny the incarnation of Christ

Author: The author of 1, 2, and 3 John, is John the son of Zebedee. John was an apostle, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, and the author of the Gospel of John and Revelation. John was one of three disciples in Jesus’ inner circle, and was called the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13: 23). In 2 and 3 John, he calls himself “the elder” (2 John 1: 1; 3 John 1). Although some scholars think the name refers to a different John, the title of “elder” was common in the early church, even for the apostles (see 1 Peter 5: 1 “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder”).

Date: Most scholars agree that 1, 2, and 3 John were written at the same time as the Gospel of John, from AD 85 to 95. The late date is based on evidence from early church witnesses (Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria), and the early stage of the Gnostic heresy.

Recipients: the “lady chosen by God”

The following information is from the book “Bible Overview” by Rose Publishing. 

Overview of 2 John

2 John: Since false teachers were corrupting the gospel, John warned believers to use discernment when welcoming teachers into their homes. John also encouraged believers to seek love, hospitality, unity, and recognize the truth that Jesus came “in the flesh” (1: 7).

The following information is from the book “How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth” by Fee and Stuart.

Specific Advice for Reading 2 John

Second and 3 John are both the size of ordinary letters in the Greco-Roman world, written on a single sheet of papyrus. Note how both letters close with a notice about John’s wanting to talk with the recipients “face to face” (which probably indicates that he was running out of space on his piece of paper).

Given its brevity, you should especially note significant repeated words, both where they occur and how often. In fact, you may wish to do this for yourself before you read further, using different colored pens for the different words.

Did you note in verses 1–6 the repetition of truth (5x), its companion walk (3x), the associated word love (5x), and love’s companion command (ment) (4x)? In verses 7–11, “the truth” is now the teaching (3x), which has to do with “Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” and thus with his being the true Son of the Father. Several words refer to those who reject this teaching:deceivers (2x), antichrist, anyone, them, etc. This exercise pretty well tells the story about this letter.