“you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Rev 2:3—4
“Look at us Lord, we are working diligently, getting it done, inexhaustible and persevering just waiting for you to return and find us working!”
“Yeah but—do you love me? Are you still doing the things you did at first when your heart was bursting with joy and hope as you realized and received my gift of love and forgiveness? Or are you just trying to earn it now, or worse, impress others with your godliness? Sorry, but I’m not impressed—come back, rediscover your first love.”
Such is the gist of the first of Jesus’ letters to the churches; to the church at Ephesus.
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,
‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” ’
A short letter with a lot of depth to be sure. It starts with a revelation of who Jesus is, followed by a commendation, turns into a rebuke and a warning, and ends with a promise that those among them who listen to the Spirit, and overcomes that for which they have been rebuked, that they will eat from the tree of life in Paradise.
Just that last line alone opens up a whole mosaic of imagery, revelation and questions. Who would not want to be in God’s paradise? What and where is that, is it different from heaven? Is there really a tree of life? Is it the same one that Adam and Eve had access to until they ate from the bad tree?
Is that the paradise Jesus referred to when he told the thief on the cross he would be with him in Paradise that day?
Well, if you read further into Revelation you will see the Tree of life growing along the river of life that flows from the Temple in the hew Jerusalem come down from heaven to earth.
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, . . . Rev 22:1-3
Sounds pretty literal to me. But aside from the grand unimaginable beauty of a crystalline river flowing from a temple built by God himself lined with trees that never cease to bear fruit, is the implication of it all.
Everything that happened in the Garden of Eden that sent the world and mankind down the path of death and decay, that gave our rightful dominion over creation to the ancient serpent and opened us up to never ending abuse and pain—all of that will be undone, reversed and set back in perfect order—even better than before. The curse will be removed and so will the devil and his minions.
Trying to dissect this simple statement at the end of this letter will just leave you with more questions than answers—but the obvious implication is—we are going to end up in a beautiful place that all of the senses will find extremely pleasing, and the struggle will be over.
The struggle against the selfish and corrupt flesh, the struggle against the wiles of the devil, the struggles against sin and shame, the struggles against our weak flesh which always seems to come up with some new ailment or affliction to torment us until the day it fails completely—usually causing great pain to all we love—that will all be over.
If, we just listen to what the Spirit says.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” ’ Rev 2:7
And the Spirit of the Lord says; ‘Trust me, love me, listen to me, because I have given all for you, and I want you in the paradise I created just for you.’
We dream and fantasize, long for and invent stories of paradise, never really comprehending or grasping the fact that we will be there, in fellowship with our God and in perfect harmony with the creation where we are restored to our rightful place as kings and priests, as we are even today—but then with no opposition or need to fight for our rights as children of God.
For all will be restored by the one who walks in our midst and checks that our light has not been diminished by our propensity to grow cynical and doubtful, lulled to sleep by the weariness of our souls and the lies of those who claim to know our God, but don’t.
Do not be deceived, do not lose heart and remember your first love.
Jesus never forgets us nor does his love grow cold. We see in the beautiful imagery of this letter that Jesus not only walks among us, but that we are in heaven, in the throne room, shining before the Father as an illuminating flame on a beautiful golden lampstand, placed there and made Holy by the blood of the lamb who walks among those beautiful lights that are his church, tending to, trimming the wicks, keeping the oil reservoirs full and fanning the flames with the breath of the Spirit.