So the church in Ephesus had a good thing going, but later, the Lord saw that a potentially fatal flaw had developed.
“The love you had at first is gone. Remember how far you have fallen. Return to me and change the way you think and act, and do what you did at first. I will come to you and take your lamp stand from its place if you don’t change (Rev.elation 2:4-5)
If you visit Ephesus today, the church is in ruins. It appears that Christ did indeed remove its lampstand because the church would not repent of having forsaken their first love.
In his commentary on Revelation, Leon Morris wrote that the word used there (aphekes) “is a strong term; they had completely abandoned their first fine flush of enthusiastic love. They had yielded to the temptation, ever-present to Christians, to put all their emphasis on sound teaching. In the process, they lost love, without which all else is nothing.”
Losing their first love was a sad development because earlier, the church at Ephesus received praise for their love:
“I have heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. For this reason I never stop thanking God for you. I always remember you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:15-16).
The church in Ephesus forgot about God’s kindness toward them. As we saw above, Paul argued along this line. He told the pagan world,
“Do you have contempt for God, who is very kind to you, puts up with you, and deals patiently with you? Don’t you realize that it is God’s kindness that is trying to lead you to him and change the way you think and act?” (Romans 2:4)
That is, it is designed to make you think about the God who loves you enough to supply your needs and to fill your life with food and shelter and clothing and all the other things God has given us.
Do you stop to think about where all this comes from, and who it is that gives it to you? You see this beautifully reflected in the spirit of that first Thanksgiving when the Pilgrim’s stopped to give thanks. Even in the midst of poverty, distress, and threats to their very lives, they gave thanks that God had abundantly blessed them.
The Lord’s kindness isn’t only referring to His natural blessings; it is also speaking of His redemptive work. This same word appears in the letter to Titus, where Paul says, “When God our Savior made His kindness and love for humanity appear, He saved us . . . because of his mercy, he saved us through the washing in which the Holy Spirit gives us new birth and renewal” (Titus 3:4-5).
All this is meant to establish the way God works in our lives. Have you ever stop to think about these things? Have you ever woke up in the morning and offered some gratitude for the food, the clothing, the shelter, and all the other things He has given you? According to Paul, all this has just begun to appear. He fully intends to pour out the full degree of Grace and Kindness He has promised. As Paul points out, His intention is to manifest an abundance of His grace in His kindness toward us through the coming ages.
If you read a passage like that without stopping to think a little bit, you will miss the full impact of what Paul is saying. You should begin to ponder what it means for your life here and now! How long is an age? Well, according to the Scriptures, so far there have only been two ages in the history of man.
One was the age from Adam to the Flood of Noah. The other is the age from the Flood to where we are today. It will end when our Lord Jesus returns! That is when another age will begin. Now, I am not talking about dispensationalism. The teaching that claims we can break Bible history into eras or administrations where God changes how He governs, and along with it, changes some of the rules and laws of the way He would govern.
Now, when you talk about dispensations, there is a very broad spectrum of just how we should view them. At one end of the spectrum, some teach Replacement Theology, where the Church replaces Israel. At the other end of the spectrum, they correctly deny and denounce Replacement Theology and see that Israel and the Church have lots of overlap. However, most dispensationalists hold that with every change of the way humans were governed (from Moses to the Judges, to the Kings for example), that there were significant shifts in the way God’s justice system worked and even that He altered some of His principles.
But then, when Christ arrived, a whole new, never before existing, judicial system and religion was created just for Gentiles, while mostly leaving intact the old justice system that applied only to Jews.
I passionately and aggressively deny that the Scriptures ever envision such a thing. The Lord God has never ended, destroyed, abolished, or made any substantial changes to His covenants. The Church has never replaced Israel, nor are there two separate justice systems: one for Jews and the other for Gentiles. It does not matter what form and structure of human government may have changed over time (and continues to change), God’s laws and principles and covenants remain intact and in force.
However, according to what we just read in Ephesians, there are many ages yet to come. You will notice that the word is in the plural: “in the coming ages.” How long will that be? Well, I have no idea. But what we can see is that our Father intends to give us far more vast possibilities in the future than anything we have ever dreamed of before.
We have already tasted only a mere “trickle” of His grace, yet it is so rich and abundant that it blows all the fuses of our understanding when it begins to dawn on us what we already have. And here Paul says it will increase on into the future, that in the coming ages God will demonstrate His kindness. I hope this helps you to grasp something of the majestic greatness of the God we have united ourselves with, the God who has already so richly blessed our lives. If you have experienced anything of what it means to be made alive in Christ, to be raised up with him, you know how abundant your life has become. But that is just the beginning. It is to go on into the coming ages.
This is true not only of His redemptive kindness but His natural kindness as well. It always “blows my mind” when I begin to think about this. It is so fantastic in its possibilities that Scripture gives us no more than the briefest hints about it, just in case we become so caught up with what we have, that it will be all we ever consider. However, certain passages in the Scriptures hint about some of the possibilities that lie ahead. I am thinking of the references to the New Heavens and New Earth, to a resurrected body that is equipped to meet the demands of the human spirit in ways we have never known or dreamed of before. Certain passages scattered here and there seem to bring this out for us, to tantalize us, to tease us with a foretaste of the great possibilities that lie ahead in Jesus Christ.
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