The seven epistles to the seven churches of Asia have a remarkable agreement in their structure. They all begin with the same form of address, with which is connected one or more of the attributes of the Son of God, as given in the first chapter. Then follow the words, "I know thy works," with reproofs, commendations, warnings, and encouragements adapted to the case of each church. They all close with the solemn call: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches"; and with a promise "to him that overcometh," which varies with each church. In the case of the first three churches, the call to hear precedes the promise; in that of the other four, the reverse is true. We are to understand each address as sustained by all the attributes of the Son of God named in the other addresses, and each promise as including all the good contained in the other promises. From the seven different conditions of the seven churches addressed, arises such a manifoldness and completeness of instruction as adapts these epistles to the spiritual wants of all Christ’s churches in all ages. They are expressed with wonderful vividness and power, and should be earnestly studied by all-teachers and taught-who hope to find, at the last day, their names not blotted out of the Lamb’s book of life, but confessed by him before his Father, and before his angels, chap Revelation 3:5.
Holdeth the seven stars in his right hand; these words express Christ’s supreme power and authority over all the rulers and teachers of his churches. From him they receive it; and to him they must render their account at the last day.
Walketh in the midst-candlesticks; words which represent Christ’s constant presence with his churches. For their qualifications for usefulness, and for their fidelity and success, ministers and Christians are dependent upon Jesus Christ. He sees their thoughts and feelings as well as their outward conduct, and he requires that they be not only sincerely, but earnestly devoted to his service.
Evil; corrupt in doctrine and practice.
Which say they are apostles; false teachers who claimed for themselves the authority of apostles, such as are described by Paul in his second epistle to the Corinthians, chap 2 Corinthians 11:13, etc, and foretold in his address to the elders of Ephesus, Acts 20:29-30.
Left thy first love; for the abatement of which no steadfastness in outward services can be a compensation, since it is the heart that Christ desires.
Do the first works; devote thyself as earnestly and heartily to my service as at the beginning.
Remove thy candlestick; extinguish the light of thy church-an awful warning which Christ fulfilled long ago to the church in Ephesus, that has been for centuries extinct, and which he has fulfilled to many unfaithful churches since.
Nicolaitanes; a corrupt sect, who seem to have turned Christian liberty into licentiousness.
Overcometh; in the conflict with sin. Compare Matthew 24:13; Ephesians 6:13.
The tree of life; compare chap Revelation 22:2. To eat of the tree of life in the earthly paradise was to our first parents the token. By sin they lost the right to eat of it, and fell under the sentence of death. But Christ restores what was lost in Adam in a higher and nobler form.
But thou art rich; spiritually rich, notwithstanding thy deep poverty in temporal things. Here, as in all the epistles, the angel of the church represents the church itself, and what is said to him is said to the church also.
Say they are Jews; a corrupt sect of Judaizers seems to be referred to. They boasted of their Jewish origin, and magnified the institutions of Judaism, but lacked the spirit of true Jews, Romans 2:28-29, and had, instead of it, the spirit of Satan. To true believers, Christ is a faithful, ever-present, all-sufficient friend; making them rich in the deepest poverty, honorable in the greatest abasement, and blessed in the heaviest trials. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.
The devil shall cast some of you into prison; you shall be cast by his instigation.
Ten days; a symbolical designation for a short time. The persecution of Christians on account of their religion is instigated by Satan; and those who engage in it are his servants, doing his work, and ripening for the place prepared for him and his angels. Matthew 25:41.
The second death; the punishment of the wicked in the future world.
The sharp sword with two edges; see note to chap Revelation 1:16.
Satan’s seat; the place in which and from which he exerts great influence.
Hold the doctrine of Balaam; imitate Balaam in their spirit and teachings. When Balaam could not obtain permission to curse Israel, he counselled Balak to seduce the Israelites to fornication and idolatry through the agency of the women of Moab. Numbers 25:1-9; Numbers 31:16; 2 Peter 2:15-16; Judges 1:11-12.
The hidden manna; the true spiritual manna laid up in heaven for Christ’s faithful servants; alluding to the literal manna that was laid up before the Lord in holy of holies. Exodus 16:32-34.
A white stone; there is a reference here to the practice in common use among the ancients of making inscriptions on small stones for various purposes. White is the color of victory.
A new name written; expressive of the new character and new privileges bestowed upon the bearer.
No man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it; an intimation that the love of God shed abroad in the hearts of his children here, and the heavenly inheritance of which it is the foretaste and earnest, can be known only by possession; perhaps, also, that each child of God has his own individual experience, which he alone can understand. The blessedness of true religion is great beyond description, and known only to those who enjoy it.
Last-more than the first; instead of declining, they had increased in good works.
Jezebel; a wicked woman like the wife of king Ahab; pretending to be a religious teacher, yet seducing the people into error and sin. The doctrine that she taught was the same as "the doctrine of Balaam," chap Revelation 2:14.
I will cast her into a bed; a bed of sickness, instead of the bed of fornication which she encourages. Thus Christ will punish her and her followers with great judgments.
Her children; her followers. The discrimination of character which Christ will make as to each individual, will show his complete knowledge of the heart, and that nothing has ever been thought, said, or done, with which he was not perfectly acquainted.
The depths of Satan, as they speak; this Jezebel and her followers were in the habit of speaking of the depths of knowledge which they possessed; but the apostle calls them the depths of Satan.
Over the nations; they shall not prevail against him, but he shall prevail over them.
He shall rule them; reign with Christ over all his foes.
As I received of my Father; Psalms 2:8-9.
Give him the morning-star; to shine in glory with Christ the true Morning-star. Chap Revelation 22:16.
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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Revelation 2". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany