Revelation 2:4

4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. KJV, ©1769

Δʹ ἀλλʼ ἔχω κατὰ σοῦ ὅτι τὴν ἀγάπην σου τὴν πρώτην ἀφῆκες. NA28, ©2012

To what does “first love” refer?

  • Verses 4 and 5 in Revelation prove that there is hope for people who has fallen. Although repentance is needed. "Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first". Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 9:25
  • The word love here is in the Greek original text the word "agape". This love is the love of God. It is distinguished from the word "phileo", which means to love our fellow man, and the word "eros", which means carnal love with a woman. So, the Bible passage in question speaks of deeds of charity. Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 11:38
  • The word "first" in "thy first love" means, I believe, 'first in rank, and importance'. Of all the different loves, this love is "agape", which is the God kind of love. Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 8:46

6 Answers 6


The love for God is the first possible answer that comes to mind.

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matt. 22:36-40


I believe that Paul answers your question in Galatians 2:20 :

... the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

We love him, because he first loved us, I John 4:19.

For love, came Christ - for love he suffered, for love he died.

And we see Paul's response to such love made known - we see his own love expressed to Christ and his people in his devotion, his zeal, his labours, his sufferings, his afflictions and his strivings.

The love of Christ inspired Paul to leave behind an example of one who retained his first love from the moment he met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus until the moment he departed this life to be with Christ for ever.


The clue to the answer lies in the letter that Paul wrote to the Christians in the Church at Ephesus. His letter describes how zealous and passionate those Christians were when they first came to saving faith in Christ Jesus:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:1-5).

The “first love” mentioned in Revelation 2:4 was the love they felt for Christ when they first realised how much God, in Jesus, loved them. Because of God’s great love for the Ephesians, they were “made alive in Christ” and that new life was exhibited in the passion of gratitude. That passion for the Saviour spilled over onto one another and out to those in the corrupt culture they inhabited.

In Revelation, Jesus commends the Ephesians for their many good works and hard work. They tested teachers to see whether their professions were real; they endured hardship and persevered without growing weary. But they had lost their warmth and zeal for Christ. They were “going through the motions” of good works, motivated not by the love of and for Christ, but by the works themselves. What was once a love relationship had cooled into mere religion. They had lost that “first love” for Christ as their Saviour.



The “first love” is the love for all people….not just for those who love us but also including our enemies. It is first and foremost to have love for all people.

Matthew 5:43-48 KJV (43) Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. (44) But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (45) That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. (46) For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

We must not only have brotherly love but love for ALL people….even those who mistreat us.

(47) And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? (48) Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

In the case of the church at Ephesus, they failed at having love for the false apostles (their enemies) that they correctly found were not true but liars (the apostles were saying that that they are “sent” by Jesus but were not).

The “first love” is love for ALL people…not just those who love us but also for our enemies. The church at Ephesus did not show love towards the false apostles.

Revelation 2: (4) Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

Jesus only hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans but did not hate them. The church of Ephesus was doing both: hating the false prophets and hating their deeds. They needed to have love for their enemies even though they were correct in hating their deeds as Jesus did.

Revelation 2:6 KJV (6) But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

The church at Ephesus was “fallen” and were called to change their minds (repent) and do the “first works”.

Revelation 2: (5) 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.

We find the first works listed in 2 Peter 1.

Do the “first works”:

Add to faith virtue and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge add temperance; and to temperance add patience; and to patience add godliness; and to godliness add brotherly kindness (have love for our brothers in Christ); and to brotherly kindness add “charity”…that is, love for all people (not just our brothers but also add love even for those who hate us).

We shall never fall if we do these things and they abound in us. The Ephesians had fallen in this and were unproductive in His knowledge. Jesus: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen…”.

2 Peter 1:3-11 KJV (3) According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: (4) Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (5) And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; (6) And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; (7) And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

The Ephesians were “barren” and “unfruitful” in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ(His revelation knowledge) because they did not show love for their enemies (the false apostles).

Even though we may have all knowledge and understand the mysteries of the Kingdom but have not love for all (the first love), we are nothing. Our speaking of the revelation knowledge of the Lord will not have an effect on others if we do not show love towards all people. Our witness shall will be unfruitful as no one will listen to us because of our lack of love (first love).

(8) For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Ephesians had forgotten that they were purged from their old sins and were instructed to “remember”: 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.

(9) But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

We shall never fall (as the Ephesians did) if we make these “first works” abound in our doing of them....remembering to do them always.

(10) Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: (11) For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Our witness to others in His knowledge will be unfruitful if we do not show love toward others (even our enemies). We shall become as a “sounding brass” or a “tinkling cymbal”. No one will listen to the message if we do not have love… the “first love” (love for all people). We will only be just "noise" to them and will not be meaningful and productive in the ears of others.

1 Corinthians 13:1-2 KJV (1) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. (2) And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

The witness to others (the “candlestick”) is removed out of its place if we do not show love even to our enemies. They will not listen as judgment upon us for our lack of love (the first love for all).

We become unfruitful in having His revealed knowledge as others will not listen because of our lack of love we display to others (our enemies). Without love for all people (including our enemies), we shall be unproductive in the hearing of others in our witnessing for Jesus who reveals the Word of Truth to His people.

Revelation 2:5 KJV (5) 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.

We shall be fruitful if we can overcome. To him that overcomes will He give us to eat of the tree of life….to be fruitful in it.

Revelation 2:7 KJV (7) 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.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life and he that wins souls is wise. We are able to eat of it…to be productive with His knowledge as we win souls with His words of knowledge when we show love towards all people....even our enemies. They will listen then and we can enjoy the productivity of His Word in our speech towards others.

Proverbs 11:30 KJV (30) The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.


Their first love is remedied by returning to their first works/deeds. Put differently you devote yourself to what you love. You devote, time, attention, energy, importance to what you love. The Ephesians stopped devotion to their first love/deeds and turned to identifying heresy, possibly because there was some overlap. So what did the early Church devote themselves to?

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭2:42‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Their first love was manifested in the studying of Scripture/Word, the fellowship, conversations and building up relationships with other believers, communing and enjoying meals together and prayer, loys of prayer.

It appears that the Ephesians got so distracted with identifying heresy and resisting false doctrine that they forgot the basics and it was draining their devotion to Jesus and to each other. He advises them to return to their first deeds or to the way they manisfested love one to another and to their Lord. It seems all this effort to filter out error had caused them to drift apart from each other and cool off.

There was an overlap with devoting themselves to the Apostle’s teachings because it involved the Scripture except it seems they only studyied the Scriptures ow to identify the heretics, probably no longer fellowshiping due to lack of trust (you can’t stand wicked people) and certainly no longer breaking bread together. Most likely not praying together either.

Jesus is saying correct your ways, refocus because you’ve started down a wrong track caused by false teachers and instead of realigning you reacted and it’s causing you problems, evident by the fact that you have abandoned and stop devoting yourself to what you once loved

That’s my take on forsaking the first love.


Revelation 2:4-5 (DRB)

But I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first charity. 5 Be mindful therefore from whence thou art fallen: and [repent], and do the first works. Or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou [repent].

The 'initial charity they had' of the Christian community was their initial enthusiastic doing of '[good] deeds,' from which they drifted—'fell'—into lukewarmness.

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