Keep in mind that Ephesus was a thriving port city. The church established there was vigorous. Not only was Paul influential, Timothy and John were active in the church. Patmos, the island where John was banished, is off the coast of Ephesus. It’s known that John was probably banished to Patmos around 96 A.D. The current ruler was replaced by another one which historians report that John was released, returned to Ephesus, and probably died there.
The church at Ephesus was planted as early as 52 A.D. By the time of John’s old age this church would be close to 45 years old. In a pagan city the church flourished. Yet, Jesus found it necessary to prophesy to this church. Revelation 1:3 states, “…for the time is at hand.” A warning to be prepared.
Jesus, in his own words, says that he knows their works, how they work for God, how they have had great victory. He knows how they hate evil and can discern those who say they are apostles and are not. He knows all of their labors for God and how they are patient and do not give up. It’s obvious. Jesus has seen all of their efforts. There is only one thing that distresses him—they have left their first love.
How sad. And how easily it can happen to any church, then or now. The excitement of first being a Christian is exhilarating. You breathe in and it just seems like the air you inhale is different. It’s fuller, it’s richer, it’s sweeter. You know that God is there with you. Everything is wonderful. You want to do everything you can think of to serve this wonderful God who has made you a part of his kingdom.
Jesus says to remember how it was. Go back to the beginning and remember those days. Then he says to repent. Regret that all the busyness of being churchy has replaced the gospel, the good news. Then, repeat what is remembered of the early days. Have a renewal of the Spirit. Experience God all over again. “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16)