“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)
“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:4–7).
This pointed admonition to the Ephesian church is filled with balanced tensions. The message began by praising them for their works, but rapidly comes to the point where it tells them to return to the works they did at first. He tells them here that they have abandoned their first love. The word translated abandon admits of numerous legitimate translations. I think one of them that makes good sense of the context is that they had grown slack in their first love. Combine this with the other word he uses, which is when he tells them to remember where they had fallen from. Given this description, and the fact that the Lord said that lack of repentance would result in the lampstand of the church being removed (which would mean the extinction of the church there), we see that the situation was very grave.
Their love was seriously unhealthy—but their hatred was still sound. The Lord commends them for that. They hated the works of the Nicolaitans, which the Lord also hated. We don’t know who these followers of Nicolas were, or what their works consisted of, but we do know they were hateful. Their works contrasted badly with the works that are commended in the Ephesians, and to which the Ephesians were summoned to return. The dismaying condition of the church at Ephesus was found in the fact that they were orthodox in their hatred, but not in their love.
The one who had an ear to listen was invited to listen. To listen and to obey (which meant returning to the works that were powered by their first love) is what is meant here by overcoming. And the one who overcomes will be given fruit from the tree of life, located in the midst of the paradise of God. Paradise is defined here as being where the tree of life is. We see later in the book that the tree of life is located inside the new Jerusalem, which is the bride, the wife of the Lamb, the Christian church (Rev. 22:2, 14). This is reinforced in this place by the fact that the tree of life is in the midst (mesos) of the paradise of God. The Lord Jesus walks in the midst of the lampstands (Rev. 1: 13; 2:1). The tree of life is where the Lord Jesus is.