2:1 Letters to the Churches
SUMMARY OF REVELATION 2:
The Letter to the Metropolitan Church of Ephesus. To the Angel of the Martyr Church of Smyrna. To the Angel of the Church at Pergamos, Persecuted by the. Heathen. To the Angel of the Church at Thyatira, Defiled by Idolatry.
THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS
To the angel. See The Seven Stars, topic 9652.
The church of Ephesus. They city of Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia, and the greatest city. As a great center it was sought by the Apostle Paul, who founded the church and labored there more than three years (Ac 18:19 19:1), and afterwards addressed to it the Epistle to the Ephesians. At a later period he placed Timothy there and addressed two epistles to him. All early church tradition declares that John from about A.D. 70 made this city his home until his death. There is not now standing a single house upon the site of the ancient city, though the ruins are of the most imposing character. The Turkish village of Agasalouk, upon the Smyrna and Aidan R. R. is about two miles distant.
These things saith he, etc. See Re 1:13,16,20.
2:2 I know thy works. The manner of life of the church. There was much to commend.
And thy patience. Rather, endurance. Perseverance in the face of difficulties.
Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles. False teachers, who made false claims. Every age of revolution throws up such false teachers. We often find traces of them in the epistles. 1Jo 4:1,2 shows how to test them. The Ephesian church had put them to the test and rejected them.
2:3 Hast not fainted. Though called to bear afflictions for Christ they had not wearied.
2:4 Nevertheless. After these words of promise a stain on the garments of the church is pointed out.
Thou hast left thy first love. They have not maintained the ardor and devotion of the love of their earlier history. Nothing but the fervent love of the Bride can satisfy the Bridegroom. This change shows that many years must have passed since the last communication of Paul to the Ephesian church.
2:5 Remember, etc. Note what this exhortation includes:
(1) From which. They had been at a height of excellence.
(2) Thou hast fallen. They had fallen from that height; there had been a spiritual declension.
(3) Repent. The comparison and its proof that they were retrograding should bring repentance.
(4) Do the first works. There must be the first love, and the fruits of that love in a renewal of their first works.
I will come. Unless this is done Christ will come. Not in person, but in providence and judgments. The church with a waning love will be repudiated.
Will remove thy candlestick. Thy refers to the Angel of the church through whom the address is made. To remove the lampstand would be to suffer the church to cease to exist. How signally this has been fulfilled in the case of Ephesus is seen in the fact that not one vestige of the church remains, and of the city itself naught but moldering ruins. What concerns us, however, is that this warning is addressed to every church which has lost its first love. Unless it repents, and does its first works, its lampstand will finally be removed from its place.
2:6 But this thou hast. There is another ground of commendation. They hate
the deeds of the Nicolaitans. Opinions are not agreed concerning this sect, but it is probable that the followers of a Nicolaus are meant who taught that Christian liberty meant license to commit sensual sins.
2:7 He that hath an ear. The call to solemn attention found at the close of each epistle. See Re 2: 7,11,17,29 3:6,13,22.
To him that overcometh. The Christian life is a battle and must also be a victory. The Greek word nikao, rendered overcome, is peculiar to John. It occurs once in his Gospel (Joh 16:33), six times in his epistles (1Jo 2:13,14 4:04 5:4,5), and sixteen times in Revelation (Re 2:7,11,17,26 3:5,12,21 5:05 6:02 11:07 12:11 13:07 Re 15:2 17:14 21:7), but only three times in all the rest of the New Testament (Lu 11:22 Ro 3:4 12:21).
To eat of the tree of life. The symbol of eternal life. The tree is seen in Eden (Ge 2:9 3:22), here, and in the New Jerusalem (Re 22:2).
Which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Since the tree of life is found in both, Paradise and the New Jerusalem must mean the same. Paul uses the term as a synonym of the Third Heaven, or Heaven itself (2Co 12:2-4).
2:8 THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA
The church in Smyrna. The history of its planting is unknown, but it was probably founded by some of the evangelists under Paul's supervision. During the second century the church was prominent, and it has never ceased to exist. When I visited the city in 1889, I was told that there were more than 70,000 professing Christians in the place. The city, so old that its beginnings are unknown, is still the second in commercial importance of the Turkish empire.
The first and the last. See Re 1:17.
2:9 Tribulation. Affliction.
Poverty. Most of those first enlisted for Christ were poor. See 1Co 1:26-29.
But thou art rich. Rich in faith, hope and fruits.
And [I know] the blasphemy. Reviling of the Jews against the Lord.
Them who say they are Jews. Those who say that they are Jews were of the Jewish race, but were not of the true Israel. He is not a (true) Jes who is one outwardly, etc. (Ro 2:28). John denies the right of these Jewish opposers to use the term Jews in the sense of God's chosen people. Their synagogue was
the synagogue of Satan. Such strong language implies a complete separation of the church and synagogue, an event that occurred at the period of the destruction of Jerusalem. See Ac 21:20-26
2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. The church shall suffer, but it need not fear for the reasons about to be given.
The devil shall cast [some] of you into prison. He may use the Jews as instruments, but he is the real agent.
And ye shall have tribulation ten days. Whether the ten days of persecution means a short time, or a definite period symbolized by ten days is uncertain. A day is often a symbol of a year. Ten persecutions are named by church historians and two persecutions of ten years each. It might refer to one of the latter which should bear very heavily on that church. The Diocletian persecution continued ten years and three months.
Be thou faithful to death. Unto martyrdom.
I will give thee a crown of life. Not a royal crown, but the garland crown of victory over death. See 2Ti 4:8.
2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear. See PNT Re 2:7.
He that overcometh shall not be hurt by the second death. Those who win the victory shall live forever. To die the second death is to be sent from the judgment throne into hell. See Re 20:14.
2:12 THE CHURCH AT PERGAMOS
The church in Pergamos. The farthest north of the Seven Churches, a city once the capital of the kingdom of Pergamos, which was great and flourishing when John Wrote. It still exists with about 14,000 population, of whom over 3,000 profess to be Christians.
He which hath the sharp sword with two edges. See Re 1:16.
2:13 Where Satan's seat [is]. In a center of heathen idolatry. Pergamos was a notorious center of idolatry.
Thou holdest fast my name. Honor and trust in the name of Christ.
Hast not denied my faith. Still continue firm in the profession of Christ though persecuted.
Antipas [was] my faithful martyr. Some fanciful saint who had suffered martyrdom among them because he was a faithful witness of Christ.
2:14 But I have a few things against thee. Much as been to the credit of the church, but there is another side.
Them that hold the doctrine of Balaam. Teachers like Balaam who seduce the true Israel into sin. Balaam showed Balak how to lead the children of Israel astray. See Nu 25:2 31:16:00 In the same way there were false teachers at Pergamos who taught that Christians might join the idol feasts and in heathen fornication.
2:15 Nicolaitans. See PNT Re 2:6.
2:16 Repent. This may save the sinner, whether an alien, or a church member. To repent one must leave off his sins.
Will fight against them. Those who teach and practice these pernicious doctrines.
With the sword of my mouth. See Re 1:16. With all the power of the word of God.
2:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear. See PNT Re 2:7.
I will give to eat of the hidden manna. The bread of life, the bread from heaven. The living bread is Jesus Christ, unseen in the earth and hence called hidden.
I will give him a white stone. Among the Greeks a white stone was a symbol of acquittal, as a black stone was of guilt. The white stone implies justification, innocence and victory.
And in the stone a new name written. All conjectures concerning this new name are idle. It is only given to those who have finally overcome and cannot be known to us here, but implies their new relation to God and the Lamb in their triumphant state.
2:18 THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA
The church in Thyatira. This is the first of the second group of four epistles. Thyatira has been mentioned in Ac 16:14 as the home of Lydia, who was converted at Philippi. It is likely that the church began when she and her household returned. The three churches before named were on or near the court; the others were in the interior. Thyatira was southeast of Pergamos, and northeast of Smyrna. It is still a place of about 17,000 population, of whom nearly 3,000 profess to be Christians.
Like unto a flame of fire. See Re 1:14,15.
2:19 The last [to be] greater than the first. That thy last works are more than the first (Revised Version). Instead of retrograding, their works grew more excellent.
2:20 However I have a few things against thee. Of the seven churches only two are blameless, on which see topic 9654.
That woman Jezebel. Either a person or a party of which the wicked wife of Ahab was a type. As a woman in Revelation is a symbol of the church, true or false, I believe this symbol is used to designate a faction in the church at Thyatira of an idolatrous spirit. This faction had teachers who claimed the gift of prophecy.
Which calleth herself a prophetess. Some have strongly urged that by Jezebel is meant a Sybil, half heathen, half Christian, claiming prophetic powers, who is known to have lived in Thyatira.
To teach and to seduce my servants. They taught the doctrine of Balaam named in Re 2:14. See note there. See also Re 2:24.
2:21 I gave her space to repent. Time to repent, as in the Revised Version. The long suffering and mercy shown in the delay of judgment are here pointed out.
2:22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed. Sickness and a bed are symbols of affliction and punishment.
And them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation. This is the term applied to idolatrous Israel (Jer 3:9 Eze 16:32). To practice the idolatrous rites of this faction would be spiritual adultery.
2:23 I will kill her children with death. Her children are the adherents; those who perpetuate the immoral practices. The threat implies that they shall come to certain destruction.
And all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts. By reason of the judgments inflicted.
2:24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira. But to you I say, to the rest that are in Thyatira (Revised Version). To all who have naught to do with Jezebel.
As many as have not this doctrine. Jezebel then represents a false doctrine and a faction.
Which have not known the depths of Satan. Have not learned the mysteries and wisdom of Satan taught by these false teachers.
I will put upon you none other burden. None other than to avoid the sins of the false faction and teachers. Compare Ac 15:28,29.
2:25 Hold fast till I come. To the gospel as it has been taught to you.
2:26 To the end. Until death.
To him will I give power over the nations. In the coming period, when Christ shall rule all kingdoms, the saints who have endured shall share his authority.
2:27 He shall rule them. Shall rule as a shepherd is the meaning of the Greek word poimaino. The rule will not be a cruel, but a guardian rule.
With a rod of iron. A scepter of iron means a firm and enduring power.
As the vessels of a potter shall be broken to shivers. So the nations shall be broken in pieces and all become one under the rule of Christ.
2:28 I will give him the morning star. The Morning Star is one of the titles of Christ. See Re 22:16. This, then, means that Christ will give them a fellowship with himself; they shall share his dominion.
2:29 He that hath an ear, let him hear. See PNT Re 2:7.