Gems in Revelation - Part 127
Jan 13th,2018

Gems in the book of Revelation

Part 127 - Revelation 2:7

Eating from the tree of life.

As with all the other seven cities the ‘gem’ is in the promise that ends the letter following the words ‘to the one who is victorious’. To put those promises in context we need to read the rest of the letter in each case so it is printed first.

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

These seven letters to churches in what is now west Turkey are not full of gems. They tend rather to analyse the specific churches and that implies finding faults. Only two, Smyrna and Philadelphia, escape without words of condemnation.

However each church receives words of encouragement towards the end of their letter following the words “To the one who is victorious, I will give …”, or some minor variation on it, and these we will consider gems, particularly as it is quite clear that the gifts are available for all people of all times who qualify in the same way as the folk for whom they were first designed.

What did being victorious mean in real everyday terms for people in churches under increasingly hostile attention from the authorities? It means having succeeded in moving forward along the narrow and difficult path that leads onwards towards the final great day.

The first and largest city in this journey of the imagination is Ephesus. The congregation in the church here are strongly criticised. They have done many good things but in doing so have failed to live up to the standards they originally set for themselves. It is not hard to form a story suggesting what might have happened:

By the time John wrote this the church in Ephesus had been going for probably at least 30 years. They had started off with a great flash of enthusiasm imitating Jesus as much as they could in all their relationships with their neighbours. But – guessing a bit - probably some legalistically minded guys had got hold of the reins of control and, with the best of intentions, set out to bring system to what was going on in so many small, diverse and apparently chaotic ways. They wrote down what should happen, made sure it did and generally brought order to a confused situation. Unfortunately in doing so they had succeeded in killing off that first flush of enthusiasm and leading of the Holy Spirit - they had never really begun to understand the Holy Spirit and how he works. That sort of scenario fits rather well the very brief comment about what was going on. Is it a familiar picture?

What is shocking is the depth of the punishment the church was to receive. Although it survived for a long time it eventually disappeared, as Jesus said it would.

On the other hand for those who survived the problems, sorted them out and returned to the attitudes of love that had motivated them at first, all would be well. The tree of life first appears in Genesis 2: 9 and in Genesis 3: 22 is described as the way to live for ever. It reappears in Revelation 22: 2 and 29 where it is clearly implied that it is the way to eternal life, which we may think of not only as a life that will go on for ever but one of the greatest possible quality to be lived on this earth here and now.

And the implication is that this is available for us!

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