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Bible Commentaries

Larkin's Study of the Prophetic Book of Holy Scriptures

Revelation 2

Verses 1-7

7

I. THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS .

(A Backslidden Church.)

Revelation 2:1-7.

1. THE SALUTATION—“Unto the Angel of the Church of Ephesus write; these things saith He that holdeth the ’Seven Stars’ in His right hand, who walketh in the midst of the ’Seven Golden Candlesticks’.”

2. THE COMMENDATION—“I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil; and thou hast tried them which say they are Apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars; and hast borne, and hast patience, and for My Name’s Sake hast labored, and hast not fainted.”

3. THE COMPLAINT—“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou Hast Left Thy First Love.”

4. THE WARNING—“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.”

5. PRAISE—“But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.”

6. THE PROMISE—“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 complaint that Christ makes against this Church is that it “had left its First Love.” Its character is seen in its very name, for Ephesus means to “let go,” “to relax.” It had become a Backslidden Church. Paul, who founded it, warned it of what should happen, in his parting message.

“I know this, that after my departing shall grievous ’wolves’ enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, ’speaking perverse things,’ to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 20:29-30.

The significance of this warning is seen in the commendation of the Message, vs. 6--“But this thou hast, that thou ’hatest’ the deeds of the Nicolaitanes which I also hate.” Here Paul’s “wolves” are called Nicolaitanes. They were not a sect, but a party in the Church who were trying to establish a “Priestly Order.” Probably trying to model the Church after the Old Testament order of Priests, Levites, and common people. This is seen in the meaning of the word, which is from “Niko” to conquer, to overthrow, and “Laos” the people or laity. The object was to establish a “Holy Order of Men,” and place them over the laity, which was foreign to the New Testament plan, and call them not pastors, but--Clergy, Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals, Popes. Here we have the origin of the dogma of “Apostolic Succession,” and the separation of the Clergy from the Laity, a thing that God “hates.” The Church at Ephesus was not deceived, but recognized them as. false apostles and liars.

The character of the Church at Ephesus is a fair outline of the Church Period from A. D. 70 to A. D. 170.

Verses 8-11

1

II . THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA .

(A Persecuted Church.)

Revelation 2:8-11.

1. THE SALUTATION--“And unto the Angel of the Church in Smyrna write; These things saith the First and the Last, who was dead, and is alive.”

2. THE PERSECUTION--“I know thy works, and TRIBULATION, and poverty, (but thou art rich), and I know the blasphemy of them which say, they are Jews, and are not, but are the ’Synagogue of Satan’.”

3. THE EXHORTATION--“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold the Devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have TRIBULATION ten days: be thou faithful UNTO death, and I will give thee a CROWN OF LIFE.”

4. THE PROMISE--“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches: He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the SECOND DEATH.”

The Church in its “Ephesian Period” having lost its “First Love,” the Lord is now about to “chastise” it, so as to cause it to return to Him. Smyrna has for its root meaning “bitterness,” and means “Myrrh,” an ointment associated with death, and we see in the meaning of the word a prophecy of the persecution and death which was to befall the members of the Smyrna Church. They were told not to “fear” the things that they should be called on to suffer, but to be faithful “unto” death, not “until” death. That is, not until the end of their “natural” life. They were not to “recant” when called upon to face a Martyr’s death, but remain faithful until death relieved them of their suffering. The reward would be a “Crown of Life.” This is the Martyr’s crown.

They were told that the “author” of their suffering would be the Devil, and its duration would be “ten days,” which was doubtless a prophetic reference to the “Ten Great Persecutions” under the Roman Emperors, beginning with Nero, A. D. 64, and ending with Diocletian in A. D. 310. Seven of these “Great Persecutions” occurred during this “Smyrna Period” of Church History. Or it may refer to the 10 years of the last and fiercest persecution under Diocletian. This Period extended from A. D. 170 to Constantine A. D. 312.

See the Judgment of Reward Chart.

Verses 12-17

III . THE CHURCH AT PERGAMOS .

(A Licentious Church.)

Revelation 2:12-17.

1. THE SALUTATION--“And to the Angel of the Church in Pergamos write: These things saith He which hath the Sharp Sword with two edges.

2. THE COMMENDATION--“I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where SATAN’S SEAT IS: and thou holdest fast My Name, and hast not denied My Faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

3. THE COMPLAINT--“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the DOCTRINE OF BALAAM, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the Children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the DOCTRINE OF THE NICOLAITANES, which thing I hate.

4. THE WARNING--“Repent! or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the SWORD OF MY MOUTH.

5. THE PROMISE--“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 HIDDEN MANNA, and will give him a WHITE STONE, and in the stone a NEW NAME written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.”

In this Message Pergamos is spoken of as “Satan’s Seat.” When Attalus III, the Priest-King of the Chaldean Hierarchy, fled before the conquering Persians to Pergamos, and settled there, Satan shifted his capital from Babylon to Pergamos. At first he persecuted the followers of Christ, and Antipas was one of the martyrs. But soon he changed his tactics and began to exalt the Church, and through Constantine united the Church and State, and offered all kinds of inducements for worldly people to come into the Church. Constantine’s motive was more political than religious. He. wished to weld his Christian and Pagan subjects into one people, and so consolidate his Empire. The result of this union was that two false and pernicious doctrines crept into the Church. The first was the “Doctrine of Balaam,” and the second the “Doctrine of the Nicolaitanes.” The latter we have already considered under the Message to the Church at Ephesus. And the foothold it had secured in the Church was seen in the First Great Council of the Church held at Nicaea, in A. D. 325. The Council was composed of about 1500 delegates, the laymen out-numbering the Bishops 5 to 1. It was a stormy council, full of intrigue and political methods, and from the supremacy of the “Clergy” over the “Laity” it was evident that the “Doctrine of the Nicolaitanes” had secured a strong and permanent foothold.

The “Doctrine of Balaam” is disclosed in the story of Balaam found in the Book of Numbers, chapters 22 to 25 inclusive. When the Children of Israel on their way to Canaan had reached the land of Moab, Balak the king of Moab sent for Balaam the Son of Beor, who lived at Pethor on the river Euphrates, to come and curse them. When the Lord would not permit Balaam to curse Israel, he suggested to Balak that he invite them to the licentious feasts of “Baal-Peor,” and thus cause Israel to fall into a snare that would so anger the Lord that he would Himself destroy them. This Balak did, and the result was that when the men of Israel went to those sensual feasts and saw the “daughters of Moab” they committed whoredoms with them, which so kindled God’s anger that He sent a plague that destroyed 42,000 of them. Now the word “Pergamos” means “Marriage,” and when the Church entered into a union with the State it was guilty of “Spiritual Fornication” or “Balaamism.”

The “Balaam Method” that Constantine employed was to give to the Bishops of the Church a number of imposing buildings called Basilicas for conversion into churches, for whose decoration he was lavish in the gift of money. He also supplied superb vestments for the clergy, and soon the Bishop found himself clad in costly vestments, seated on a lofty throne in the apse of the Basilica, with a marble altar, adorned with gold and gems, on a lower level in front of him. A sensuous form of worship was introduced, the character of the preaching was changed, and the great “Pagan Festivals” were adopted, with but little alteration, to please the Pagan members of the church, and attract Pagans to the church. For illustration, as the Winter Solstice falls on the 21st day of December, which is the shortest day in the year, and it is not until the 25th that the day begins to lengthen, which day was regarded throughout the Heathen world as the “birthday” of the “Sun-God,” and was a high festival, which was celebrated at Rome by the “Great Games” of the Circus, it was found advisable to change the Birthday of the Son of God, from April, at which time He was probably born, to December 25th, because as He was the “Sun of Righteousness,” what more appropriate birth-day could He have than the birthday of the Pagan “Sun-God”?

It was at this time that

“Post-Millennial Views”

had their origin. As the Church had become rich and powerful, it was suggested that by the union of Church and State a condition of affairs would develop that would usher in the Millennium without the return of Christ, and since some scriptural support was needed for such a doctrine, it was claimed that the Jews had been cast off “forever,” and that all the prophecies of Israel’s future glory were intended for the Church. This “Period” extends from the accession of Constantine A. D. 312 to A. D. 606, when Boniface III was crowned “Universal Bishop.”

Verses 18-29

9

IV . THE CHURCH AT THYATIRA .

(A Lax Church.)

Revelation 2:18-29.

1. THE SALUTATION--“And unto the Angel of the Church in Thyatira write: These things saith the Son of God, who hath His eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass.

2. THE COMMENDATION--“I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.

3. THE COMPLAINT--“Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman JEZEBEL, which calleth herself a Prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication: and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.”

4. THE PROMISE--“But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of My Father. And I will give him the MORNING STAR. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.”

In His commendation of this Church, Christ lays the emphasis on their “works,” as if they depended on them, and claimed they de-served merit for “works” of “Supererogation.” But He had a complaint to make against them that was terrible in its awfulness. He charges them not merely with permitting a bad woman, Jezebel, who called herself a “Prophetess,” to remain in the Church, but with permitting her to “teach” her pernicious doctrines, and to “seduce” the servants to “commit fornication,” and to “eat things sacrificed to idols.”

Who this woman was is a question. She was a “pretender,” and called herself a “prophetess.” Probably she was of noble lineage. She certainly was a woman of commanding influence. Whether her real name was Jezebel or not, she was so like her prototype in the Old Testament, Jezebel the wife of Ahab, that Christ called her by that name. Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, was not by birth a daughter of Abraham, but a princess of idolatrous Tyre, at a time, too, when its royal family was famed for cruel savagery and intense devotion to Baal and Astarte. Her father, Eth-baal, a priest of the latter deity, murdered the reigning monarch Phales, and succeeded him. Ahab, king of Israel, to strengthen his kingdom, married Jezebel, and she, aided and abetted by Ahab, introduced the licentious worship of Baal into Israel, and killed all the prophets of the Lord she could lay her hands on. And this influence she exercised, not only while her husband was alive, but also during the reign of her two sons, Ahaziah and Jehoram. Moreover, the marriage of her daughter Athaliah to Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, introduced idolatrous worship into Judah, and it was not long before there was a house of Baal built in Jerusalem, and so Jezebel caused all Israel to sin after the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 1 Kings 16:29-33.

There is no question that, whether Jezebel was a real person or not, she typified a “System” and that “System” was the “Papal Church.” When the “Papal Church” introduced images and pictures into its churches for the people to bow down to it became idolatrous. And when it set up its claim that the teaching of the Church is superior to the Word of God, it assumed the role of “Prophetess.” A careful study of the “Papal System” from A. D. 606 to the Reformation A. D. 1520, with its institution of the “Sacrifice of the Mass” and other Pagan rites, reveals in it the sway of “Jezebelism.” It was also a period of “Jezebelistic Persecution,” as seen in the wars of the Crusades, and the rise of the Inquisition. A careful comparison of this “Message” with the Parable of “The Leaven” will reveal the wonderful correspondence between the two, the “Jezebel” of the Church of Thyatira, being the “Woman” of the Parable, who inserted the “Leaven” of “False Doctrine” into the Meal of the Gospel. This Period extended from A. D. 606 to the Reformation A. D. 1520.

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Bibliographical Information
Larkin, Clarence. "Commentary on Revelation 2". A Study of the Prophetic Book of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/clr/revelation-2.html.