1. Ephesus was the New York of Western Asia — the metropolis of idolatry, honored with the Temple of Diana, which occupied two hundred years in building, and was one of the seven wonders of the world. Such was the importance of this city that Paul actually spent three years there preaching the gospel when he founded the Church. This was written a generation after the death of Paul, of the people converted and sanctified by his ministry. Many had back-slidden, and many more doubtless had come into the Church unsaved; still, however, they were pertinaciously orthodox.
Is the Greek word used by the Holy Ghost for Church. It is from ek (out), and kaleo (to call), and means the souls who hear and obey the call of the Holy Ghost, come out of the world, enter into covenant with God, and become his disciples.
Hagiadzo means to take the world out of you. (1 John 2:16). All this is the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. Hence there is a Church within the Church, consisting of people who have come out of the world in regeneration, and had the world taken out of them in sanctification. This is the blood-washed bride of Christ, and has always been a glorious success. At the present day, she hears the voice of the Heavenly Bridegroom, is under the blood, robed and ready to meet Him coming in the cloud. Noah’s Ark, in which eight souls went up from the doom of a drowning world to re-people the earth, in the good time coming, typifies the cloud in which the Lord is coming, and will take up His Church from the awful tribulations, bursting like ten thousand volcanoes on this wicked world, with its lukewarm Laodicean Churches, in calamities, as our Savior says, more appalling than Noah’s Flood.
Reader, have you heard the voice of God knocking at the door of your heart — “Come out of the world” — then heeded His call to holiness, and had the world all taken out of you, so that you are now safe in the Divine Ecclesia, which the Lord, at His coming, will take up in the cloud, carry over the great tribulations, which shall sweep the unsaveable and incorrigible millions out of the world, and thus prepare all nations for the coming kingdom? The great theologians who stand in the Laodicean Churches which belt the globe at the present day are blind to these momentous realities, because they will not use the eye-salve which the Holy Ghost, especially through the Holiness people, offers them. Good Lord, have mercy on them amid their momentous responsibilities, while they prophesy smooth things, and let their members, who pay them big money, slip through their fingers into hell!
2. In this verse the Holy Ghost highly commends their orthodoxy, and their courageous maintenance of the faith once delivered to the saints.
4. Here the Spirit reveals that these people, with all their sterling orthodoxy, were in a back-slidden state, having lost their first love, instead of exchanging it for perfect love, as the Lord willeth.
5. Here comes in God’s terrible rebuke for apostasy, loving call to repentance, and importunate appeal to come back and do their first works over; i.e., get religion again. So here we see a Church whom God pronounces perfectly orthodox, and against whom there is not an insinuation immorality or disloyalty; yet God condemns them, pronounces them backsliders, and appeals to them to come and get their first religion again.
6. Here God again commends their scrupulous orthodoxy in the loyal fight they nobly maintain against the Nicolaitan heresy, which taught then, as now, that sin resided in the body; so their bodies were compelled to sin so long as they lived.
7. Here is a divine invocation to hear what the Spirit says to the Churches. It sounds superfluous, because all have ears; but remember, the Bible is a spiritual book, and only apprehensible by spiritual people. The soul has eyes, ears, olfactories, tastes, and nerves. Though a dead man have all these senses, yet he can neither see, hear, smell, touch, nor feel, till the Holy Ghost raises him from the dead. The unregenerate world are spiritually dead, and utterly destitute of spiritual sensibility, till the resurrection power comes on them. You may read the Bible all your life, and die as ignorant as a Hottentot, if the Holy Ghost does not open your spiritual eyes. You may hear the most powerful preaching, and get nothing out of it, unless the Omnipotent Savior speaks the Ephthatha to your spiritual ears.
THE ECCLESIASTICAL CLIMAX
These seven Churches, in their historic succession, set forth in vivid climax the visible Church, from the Apostolic Age to the Millennial reign. Ephesus, with its transcendent orthodoxy, though actually back-slidden, condemned, and fallen from the kingdom, emblematizes the general Church in the post-Apostolic Age, when she was rapidly sidetracking from the glorious experience of entire sanctification, which shook the world with the tread of a thousand earthquakes, and interpenetrated all nations during the Apostolic Age.
8. Smyrna was a little, dirty village, under the shadow of the great metropolitan Church at Ephesus. How striking the fact that the Holy Ghost adduces not a solitary charge against this Church! Though poor, illiterate, obscure, and unknown, she walked with God white, her garments unsullied. This Church represents the people of God during the age of pagan persecutions, which began under Nero and ceased under Diocletian, including a period of three hundred years, during which one hundred millions of Christians sealed their faith with their blood. Last summer I visited the Coliseum in Rome, where one hundred thousand cruel heathen men and women assembled nightly for three hundred years, to see the lions eat up the Christians. I saw the old, gloomy, subterranean tunnel through which they brought the lions from their lairs, down into the Coliseum, and turned them loose on the Christians. I visited the old judgment-hall, where Nero sat upon his tribunal, and condemned Paul to decapitation and Peter to crucifixion. I saw the gloomy old Mamertine prison, where Paul was incarcerated. Then I followed him out through the west gate to the spot where the Roman soldiers cut his head off. I also followed Peter to the Campus Martins, where he was crucified with his head down.
10. “You shall have persecution ten days.” The term “day” in the Bible frequently means a period. During the three hundred years of blood and slaughter, there were ten distinct persecutionary epochs, inaugurated and prosecuted by the different emperors, all of whom endorsed and reiterated the cruel edicts of Nero, the originator of the persecutions. Pursuant to these imperial edicts they did their utmost to exterminate Christianity in the Roman Empire, which at that time embraced the known world. The persecutions purified the Church, kept her under the blood, filled with perfect love, robed and ready, and fearless of bloody death.
Pergamus was a large old heathen city, the capital of Phrygia. The conversion of the Emperor Constantine, A.D. 325, wound up all the pagan persecutions, revolutionized the religion of the empire, exchanged the symbols of paganism for those of Christianity, transformed pagan temples into Christian Churches, and filled them with the unregenerate masses of heathen Rome.
Balaam represents the fallen priests who officiated in the Churches, and Balak, the Moabitish king, the Roman rulers, who became nominal Christians, but actual heathens.
Of course, the Churches were filled with idolatry, spiritual fornication, and the Nicolaitan heresy, that sin was inherent in the body, and could not be eliminated, save by death and disintegration. So Pergamus emblematizes the proud and haughty Church of the Constantinian Age, which opened the way for corrupt Catholicism. We see the Church of Thyatira is represented by the harlot Jezebel, who leads the people into fornication. This is the papacy, which is constantly personified by a fallen woman. The harlot Babylon is the uniform symbol of Romanism. Hence, Thyatira is the Roman Catholic Church. She is described as going down into the very depths of Satan.
1. “Seven Spirits” means the Holy Ghost, because seven denotes perfection and represents Christ, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. Though Sardis was a proud city Church, with a boasted reputation, the Holy Ghost says she was dead, and exhorted her to repent and seek the Lord.
3. “I will come as a thief.” The thief comes at midnight, when deep sleep falleth upon men, and no one knows when he comes and when he goes. So the wicked, worldly Churches are fast asleep in the arms of a slumbering world, not having the slightest apprehension that the Lord is nigh. But to his faithful bride, He will not come as a thief in the night. Sardis represents the dead mediaeval Church in the days of Wyckliffe, Huss, and Luther, when truly she had a name to live, but was dead.
4. This verse reveals the consolatory fact that there were some sanctified people, even in the dead Church of the Dark Ages. Thomas a Kempis, Archbishop Fenelon, Madame Guyon, and many others shone like luminaries amid that period of spiritual night.
7. Philadelphia is a compound Greek word, which, means brotherly love, and represents the Church of the Lutheran and Wesleyan Reformation.
8. “I place before thee an open door, and no one can shut it.” God used the Reformation to open the door of gospel grace to a world which had groped in darkness a thousand years. He said no one could shut it. So it is still open, and will so remain to the end of time. God used Luther and compeers to restore the long-lost doctrine of justification by the free grace of God in Christ, received and appropriated by faith only, independently of all priestly intervention and manipulation. He used Wesley and his coadjutors to restore to the world the long-lost gospel of entire sanctification in the cleansing blood, administered by the Holy Ghost through faith only. The reader will observe that the Church at Philadelphia has an irreproachable Christian character, like Smyrna, not a solitary charge being adduced against her by the Holy Ghost. This is the glorious Church of the Reformation, which poured floods of light upon the nations, driving back the fogs of Romanism, which had enveloped the world in rayless night a thousand years.
15. We now come to the great and wealthy city Church, Laodicea, flourishing and prosperous in her numerical, popular, influential, and financial resources. She continued to prosper through the oncoming centuries, being honored with the entertainment of a General Conference during the fourth century. Like the city Churches of the present day, she had everything but salvation. God says she was neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm. Both cold drinks and hot drinks are palatable and desirable; but tepid, lukewarm drinks nauseate, and are administered by physician to their patients to make them vomit. So God certifies that lukewarm Churches make Him sick at His stomach even unto vomiting. So God vomits them out, and they drop into the bottomless pit. Now, reader, do you know that this Laodicean congregation represents the great Protestant Church of all denominations at the present day, with her hundred millions of members and countless billions of money?
17. She says: “I am rich, have become very rich. and have no need.” Then God says: “Thou art wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel thee to buy from me gold, having been purified by the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, and the shame of your nakedness may not appear; and eye-salve, to anoint your eyes, that you may see.”
20. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” This is God’s appalling description of the fallen churchism of the present day. Because they have wealth, popularity, social position, broad influence, and official promotion in the great councils of a world-wide ecclesiasticism, they are inflated with pride, arrogance, presumption, pomposity, and literally saturated and filled with formality and hypocrisy. God, in the Holiness movement, is now standing at the door, calling them the last time, as the end is nigh, and the Lord is at hand. The gold tried in the fire, which he offers them, is regeneration, sanctified by Holy Ghost fire. This constitutes the true riches. It is lamentable in the extreme that so few people in the dead Churches hear God’s knock, open the door, and get regenerated and sanctified. They are in a most deplorable condition, utterly naked, polluted, wretched, and starving to death. Yet they are so hallucinated by the devil as to think they have need of nothing. Hebrews 3:17; They are fallen carcasses in the wilderness, on which Satan’s buzzards — i.e., theaters, dances, circuses, card parties, Church festivals, and all sorts of frolics — hold high carnival and play sad havoc. They are so completely chloroformed and hoodwinked by the devil that they are literally led captive at his will; yet so perfectly satisfied with their religion, that they turn with proud disdain from God’s repeated knock at the door through the Holiness movement.
THE SEVEN VICTORIES
In this verse we reach the first overcometh in regeneration. In the description of these seven Churches we have the seven overcomeths; i.e., the seven victories which every soul must gain before it gets to heaven. These victories are revealed in the conclusion of the Spirit’s message to every Church.
11. Number two is establishment in regeneration.
17. Number three is a glorious case of entire sanctification. In the wilderness, they ate the manna nightly falling on the land, which would breed worms and spoil in twenty-four hours. Thus the blessings received in the justified state are so transitory that we need a new one every day. In the sanctified experience, we live in the sanctum-sanctorum, where we have constant access to the manna hidden in the golden pot, which always keeps fresh and sweet. The white stone symbolizes solidity and purity, and the new name is sanctifier. Before we get sanctified, we only know Jesus as our Savior. When we enter the Valley of Blessings, so sweet, the Holy Ghost reveals to us the Omnipotent Sanctifier.
27. This is victory number four for the soul who keeps God’s works to the end. God’s works are regeneration and sanctification. To the soul who keeps these works to the end of the Gentile Age, till the Lord comes to reign, He will give him the morning star — i.e., Himself — to be his glorious King forever.
3:5. The soul so fortunate as to reach the fifth victory is arrayed in white garments, and shall walk with Jesus in His Millennial glory. Probation passed, he shall never forfeit his royal inheritance.
3:12. Victory number six awaits the heroic soul far out beyond the millennium, fiery sanctification of the earth, its final renovation, and celestialization, when, in the oncoming heavenly state, the new Jerusalem shall come down to abide forever.
3:21. Here is the seventh and last victory, when Jesus shall have completed the mediatorial work, utterly exterminated sin and expurgated every stain from the polluted universe, banished Satan and all of his followers into the outer darkness, beyond the ultima thule, where the combined illumination of one hundred and seventeen millions of glowing suns has never shot one cheering ray. After the din of battle has forever been hushed, and shouts of victory shall ring through one billion and one hundred and seventy millions of glorious celestial worlds, the happy soul that shall have reached this seventh overcometh shall be honored with a seat on the throne, and a participation of the divine administration as the subordinate of the triumphant Christ, to reign with Him amid angels and redeemed spirits forever and ever. Ten thousand times ten thousand incentives inspire the immortal soul to run, strive, and fight for these seven victories. Seven is the perfect number designating Christ Himself. So don’t stop with sanctification, for that is only victory number three; but be a loyal candidate for the seven. Oh, glory to God for the seven overcomeths!
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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Revelation 2". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany