To the messenger 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 perseverence. 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 me name, and have not grown weary.
Yet I have this against you: you have forsaken the love you had for me 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 practice of the nicolatians, 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.
~ Revelation 2:1-7
This letter is the first of seven, which may or may not indicate a degree of importance above the others. While the importance in relation to the other letters is not clear, the subject matter is certainly one that is a big problem in today's culture, as well as during the first century AD. THe message is essentially this: Christianity is not a religion based on works as a means of salvation, but it is a way of life lead by faith and love.
Notice in the first paragraph where Jesus praises the church on all they have done well. They work hard and persevere through struggle, and they do not want others to be led astray by false apostles. This is a church that does much in the name of Jesus, and does not grow weary in their actions for Christ. Yet when you look at the other letters, you notice that Jesus did not commend them on their faith. They put stock in their actions and their deeds, forgetting that we are justified by faith, forgetting the love they had at first. And this is no small bump, the first commandments we are given are to love God, and second to love our neighbors as ourself, as written in Matthew 22:37-40. All Scripture is based on this love we have for each other! To forget about loving on another or loving Jesus is to completely disregard the Word of God, and therefore we are no longer worshipping God but the idol that we have turned our actions into.
And yet, the very actions themselves are not without their merits; God has called us to be humble and serve one another, but we are to serve in love and reverence for our King. We are not to serve because we feel like we must, but rather we should serve because Jesus was a servant, and we have been called to live like Jesus. First and foremost, we must must have strong faith, and because we have faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives within us, and the Spirit gives us the urge to serve one another. So "as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead"(James 2:26).
Faith and works are inseparable. One does not achieve salvation by any action or deed of their own, and one does not truly have the Spirit within them if they do not have a desire to serve. And such is the result of living like the Church in Ephesus, for Jesus will remove their lampstand if they do not repent and change their ways. The lampstand is representative of the church as part of the body of Christ, and so if we do not repent of our ways and regain our love for Christ and our love to serve others in Jesus' name, then we will have our lampstand removed, meaning we have not received salvation. My bible's study note says that the removal of the lampstand is immediate judgement, meaning that until we have repented, we have already been judged unworthy in God's eyes.
There is just one thing I want to note here, and that is that not repenting is implying that we have lost salvation, but rather the "removal" of the lampstand is symbolic of one believing to have received salvation and to then have what you though you had taken from you, but in reality you never had it in the first place. I believe that one cannot lose salvation once they have received it, but rather it is a matter of whether or not you ever had it to begin with. But this is a topic for another time, all that matters here is that if you are tryin to gain God's favor by the things you do, then you have missed out on the largest part of the Gospel, and therefore you cannot know God and you cannot have salvation. And appropriately, the reward for repentance is to be given the right to eat from the tree of life, receiving salvation.