the weblog of Alan Knox

I will come to you and remove your lampstand

Posted by on Nov 3, 2009 in definition, scripture | 11 comments

In my previous post, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you,” I asked, “Is it possible for God to “remove the kingdom” from a portion of his kingdom today?”

First, I want to make clear that I am not talking about personal salvation. I am not asking if it is possible for God to remove salvation from someone. Instead, I’m asking if its possible for one group of people to cease to be God’s church. In fact, I would assume this would happen over time, not instantaneous, much like we see God removing his kingdom from one group – i.e. the Jews – and giving it to another group – i.e. the Jews that followed Jesus.

So, to answer my own question, I would say, “Yes, it is possible for God to remove his kingdom from one group.” In fact, I think we see Jesus warning about this very thing happening.

In Revelation, John records the following words of the risen Jesus:

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ (Revelation 2:1-7 ESV)

Notice that Jesus has several positive things to say about the church in Ephesus. They work hard; they are patient; they cannot stand evil; they test apostles and point out the ones who are false apostles; they have not grown weary; they hate the work of the Nicolaitans.

However, Jesus says that he has one thing against them: they have left their first love.

He says that if they do not repent of this one thing, “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” Now, there is alot of symbolism in the book of Revelation, but we do not have to wonder what the lampstand symbolizes, because John has already told us: “As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:20 ESV)

So, the lampstand represent the church of Ephesus. Jesus warns the church at Ephesus that he will remove the church from them. Wow… this is a big deal… all because they turned away from their first love… even though they were working hard and standing up against evil and false teachers.

But, does this connect to what I said previously about God removing the kingdom from those who are disobedient and giving it to the remnant who remain obedient? Yes. Because some of the Ephesian Christians had a problem with love, and love is related to obedience.

John wrote elsewhere that Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) He also wrote, “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.” (1 John 2:4 ESV)

John even tells us what he means by “keep his commandments”:

And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him… (1 John 3:23-24 ESV)

So, what does it mean to love God and keep his commandments? It means to believe in Jesus Christ and to love one another. In fact, if we do not demonstrate love to one another, then we can assume that we do not love God. Again, John writes:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18 ESV)

So, Jesus warns the Ephesians that even though they think they love God (as demonstrated by the good things they were doing), they had actually lost their first love. More than likely, they had lost their love and concern for one another, given John’s understanding of loving God.

By failing to love others, John says that they are being disobedient – they are no longer “keeping his commandments.” Because of this, Jesus says that he will remove the church, unless they repent and become obedient by returning to this kind of love.

Now, I do not know what it would look like for God to “remove his lampstand,” but it seems to be a possible outcome, especially if the Ephesian church did not repent. We have to assume that it could also be a possibility today.

A church that ceases to love God by ceasing to love one another (regardless of how much truth they proclaim) could be in danger of having their “lampstand” removed. Why? Because just as in the case of the Old Testament, the kingdom is removed from those who are disobedient (failing to love others, according to John) and given to those who are obedient.


11 Comments

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  1. 11-3-2009

    Great post and thoughts for us to meditate on Alan.
    I believe the answer is yes.
    If we fail to love.
    Love is I believe the most essential doctrine in the Christian church today.
    Everything is centered around it.
    Thanks for your blog and challenging us with your words.
    God bless you and hope you have a great day!!

  2. 11-3-2009

    Hi Alan. Love the post.

    Loving God, our brother, neighbor and enemies as commanded by the Law of Christ is impossible for people to do in and of themselves. Thank God for this…and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5

    The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit by which we are sealed unto the day of redemption and by whom we are led into all truth is the very distinguishing mark of new and better covenant (the law written on the heart, the new heart) ratified in the blood of Christ.

    Those who are in Christ therefore have the resource of God’s love being poured out into their hearts allowing them to love God, their brother, their neighbor and their enemies as they submit to the Holy Spirit/walk in the Spirit.

    The natural flow of our new nature in Christ should manifest itself in a lifestyle of loving others.

    Could we say that a church that has lost its first love by failing to love and thereby has had its lamp stand removed from it might still physically exist as a group of believers meeting together but that has become merely a religious organization and no longer functions as a church, the body of Christ? Just wondering out loud.

  3. 11-3-2009

    Alan,

    I believe God will, and has, and, as you imply, the habits (traditions?) of such congregations will be so ingrained that they will not even know.

    That has been my belief for many years now, having spoken on the matter several times.

    The love of which John speaks, I believe, is not something which can be generated from within, but is as natural for a genuine believer, as breathing is to all of us. Initiated by God it flows through genuine believers from the Source.

    Contrived “love”, because it is “expected” of Christians seems to be more common.

    Maybe I’m just being cynical, or old and grumpy. I hope not.

  4. 11-3-2009

    Alan,

    Very good post. I would ask though, we see in the text that Christ would remove the lampstand(church) from the church in Ephesus. Wow. Does this mean He would remove faithful Christians from among those who are content with doing works absent of their love for Christ?

    Thanks for the post,
    Phillip

  5. 11-3-2009

    preacherman,

    I agree. I think love is the first response of someone who is indwelled by the Spirit and a great test for those who may be hindering the work of the Spirit.

    Hutch,

    Yes, I think the group could continue to exist as an entity, but according to Revelation, that group would not longer be a lampstand, i.e. church.

    Aussie John,

    Maybe you’re just being honest about what you’re seen.

    Phillip,

    Yes. In fact, given that in Scripture God always removes the kingdom from one group and gives it to a remnant of that same group, then I would expect it to work that way.

    -Alan

  6. 11-4-2009

    Love this post. What is the church in the biblical sense? Is it not the community of flesh-and-blood believers in whom the living Spirit of Christ dwells? What makes it a “church” is the Spirit, and if love is absent in the corporate body, so is the Spirit. Sobering thoughts.

  7. 11-6-2009

    There is a “remnant” teaching, doctrine, etc. out there that says there is a remnant among the church that will be raptured and reign with Christ during the 1,000 years, and that the body of Christ is not necessarily the bride of Christ. It was promulgated by parts of the brethren movement and then by Robert Govett of Surrey Chapel, Pembert, and then Watchmen Nee, and various offshoots of Nee. They use the parable of the virgins as an example of Christians without the testimony, and suggest that many Christians will endure a “weeping and nashing of teeth”-utter regret of not “knowing” Christ fully. Are you familiar with this Alan? Any thoughts?

  8. 11-6-2009

    Hal,

    I’m not familiar with that teaching. I’ve been reading Matthew 24-25 lately – which includes the parable of the virgins – and I don’t really see the connection.

    -Alan

  9. 5-26-2013

    I’m 17 years old and therefore have had not as much time to grow in the Lord. These verses had left me puzzled for so long. I thought it meant that we could lose our salvation and it made a bit resentful toward God, but being resentful to God is stupid and useless. haha Thank you so much for posting this!!!

  10. 5-27-2013

    Mica,

    I’m glad that you found this post helpful. Thank you for the feedback!

    -Alan

  11. 11-21-2013

    Jesus is commending the church for their understanding of falsities. Yet what is ironic without Christ the church becomes false, even though they have an excellent grasp of sound doctrine, they neglect the living Christ. It is so easy to get caught up in the academic theological details about Christ, but unawares move from the Spirit to the formal. Church history is evident of this. It is also a challenge for us Christians. A healthy thing to do is just sit among new converts.

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