Remembering is the first in a three-step process. All three steps (remember, repent, and do the first works) are in the imperative tense: remember! . . . repent! . . . do! The Ephesians were commanded to go back in their minds to an earlier time when their motivation and fellowship with Christ had been different.
An important function of festivals, signs, and altars is to help men remember the earlier works of God and the dedications they made (Gen. Gen. 9:15-16; Num. Num. 15:39-40; Deu. Deu. 16:13; Jos. Jos. 22:10, Jos. 22:27-28).
If the Ephesian church were to repent and return to their first love, they would find that God is also once again closer to them (Zec. Zec. 1:3).
Properly speaking, metanoein is to know after as pronoein is to know before; metanoia is afterknowledge . . . The next step that metanoia signifies is the change of mind that results from this afterknowledge. Thus Tertullian wrote: In the Greek language the word for repentance is not derived from the admission of a fault but from a change of mind. . . . Last of all metanoia signifies a resulting change of conduct. . . . Only in Scripture and in the works of those who were dependent on Scripture does metanoia predominantly refer to a change of mind, to taking a wiser view of the past, to the souls perception of the wicked things it has done.1Repentance includes a recognition of wrong-doing together with a decision to move in a different direction: Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Acts Acts 3:19).
from where you have fallen
Their current estate is said to be lower than before. As they drifted apart from God in their relationship, their spiritual state also declined. have fallen is in the perfect tensethe fall had already taken place, but Jesus is concerned with their present spiritual condition.
do the first works
The Ephesian church was not lacking in works, but the motivation for the works had changed and was now adversely affecting the results. Not the quantity, but the quality, of . . . works was now other and worse than once it had been.2 How often has this been the case in Christian history when works of mercy, intended to exhibit the character of Christ and to point people to the solution of their ultimate need, suffer a gradual reduction in their zeal and focus on Christ. The result is that the Christian organization becomes just one more social institution doing good works, but failing to engage the culture with the priority of salvation.
The solution is found in retracing our steps back to where we went astray and calling upon the Lord as we did at the first. After straying in Egypt, Abraham returned to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abraham called on the name of the Lord (Gen. Gen. 13:3-4).
But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. (Heb. Heb. 10:32-35) [emphasis added]
Instantly, let us say, this is not a call to Christian service or renewed activity. Ephesus had toil, patience, intolerance toward evil, patience in suffering,everything. But the first works are the goings forth of affection to Christ, freely, devotedly, as in our first love.3I will come
The futuristic present, ἔρχομαι [erchomai] is in the present tense: I am coming. His impending arrival is imminent!4
Κινήσω [Kinēsō] (from which we get the word kinetic) can also mean to shake, move, provoke, stir. This may be indicating not only that the lampstand will be removed, but that it will be disturbed in such a way as to disperse its membership elsewhere to form new churches (Mtt. Mat. 10:23; Acts Acts 8:4). The seat of the Church has been changed, but the Church itself survives.5 Even if a church remained physically present at Ephesus, if its membership failed to return to their first love, then the essential Christian testimony of the church would be curtailed. Without genuine Christians remaining, it is impossible for a church to produce light.6
Those with illumination bear greater responsibility for bearing fruit. When we fail to bear fruit, God raises up others in our stead (Mtt. Mat. 21:43; Mark Mark 12:9; Luke Luke 20:16). This would be the destiny of the Ephesian church if it did not repent.
Gibbon (Decline and Fall, c. lxiv.), . . . writes like one who almost believed that the threatenings and promises of God did fulfill themselves in history: In the loss of Ephesus the Christians deplored the fall of the first Angel, the extinction of the first candlestick, of the Revelations; the desolation is complete; and the temple of Diana or the church of Mary will equally elude the search of the curious traveller. The circus and three stately theatres of Laodicea are now peopled with wolves and foxes; Sardis is reduced to a miserable village; the God of Mahomet, without a rival or a son, is invoked in the mosques of Thyatira and Pergamus, and the populousness of Smyrna is supported by the foreign trade of the Franks and Armenians. Philadelphia alone has been saved by prophecy, or courage. . . . Among the Greek colonies and Churches of Asia, Philadelphia is still erecta column in a scene of ruins,a pleasing example that the paths of honour and safety may sometimes be the same.7The lampstand at Ephesus was indeed removed. I have before me a picture of the Ephesus of todaya ruined archway, a Moslem dwelling, and a forbidding castle, midst desolate hills. No lampstand for Christ where once Paul labored three years, night and day with tears!8
2 Richard Chenevix Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1861), 80.
4 The present tense may be used to describe a future event, . . . it typically adds the connotations of immediacy and certainty.Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House and Galaxie Software, 1999, 2002), 535.
5 A. R. Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 2:5.
7 Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 187-188.