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1 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;
Ver. 1. Unto the angel ] This was Timothy, as some think; who not stirring up the gift of God that was in him, had remitted somewhat of his former fervour. By the style here given him ("angel") he is monished not more of his dignity than of his duty. That angel at Bochim, Judges 2:1 , is thought to have been Phineas. And some interpret that of Solomon, "Neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error of the priest," Ecclesiastes 5:6 . It is good counsel to ministers that one gives, Angelorum induistis nomen, induite et naturam, ne sit (ut digit nonnemo) nomen inane, crimen immane: Ye have put on the name, put on also the nature of angels; lest an empty name fill up the measure of your sins.
Of the church of Ephesus ] εφεσις or εφεσι . Languishing Ephesus hath not her name for nought; for she was so named of remissness or slackening her hold, wherewith she is here upbraided, Conveniunt rebus nomina saepe suis.
2 I know thy works, and thy labour, 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:
Ver. 2. I know thy works and thy labour ] Not thy works only, but thy labour in doing them, and what ends thou puttest upon them. How accurately did our Saviour cast up and count how long the multitude had been with him, how little they had to eat, how ill it would fare with them if sent away fasting, &c., Matthew 15:32 .
And how thou canst not bear ] Moved with a zeal of God, and having a stomach for him. Mihi sane Auxentius nunquam aliud quam diabolus erit, quia Arianus, saith Hilary: I shall look upon Auxentius as upon a devil, so long as he is an Arian.
3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
Ver. 3. And hast borne ] Bear the false apostles thou couldst not; but hast borne much from them. Morientium nempe ferarum violentiores sunt morsus. Beasts bite hardest when to bite their last.
4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Ver. 4. Thou hast left thy first love ] Those first ripe fruits that Christ’s soul desireth, Micah 7:1 , that kindness of youth, that spousal love, that God so well remembereth,Jeremiah 2:2; Jeremiah 2:2 . This Ephesus had left, and so became Aphesis, remiss and reckless, possessed with a spirit of sloth and indevotion. And surely he is a rare and happy man that can say in a spiritual sense (as it was said of Moses), that after long profession of zeal, his sight is not waxed dim, his holy heat not abated, that runs not retrograde, as did Solomon, Asa, others, with whom the end was worse than the beginning.
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.
Ver. 5. From whence thou art fallen ] viz. From thy former feelings and present fitness for God’s kingdom,Luke 9:62; Luke 9:62 .
And repent ] See the practice of this second repentance in the relapsed spouse returning to her old husband, Song of Solomon 5:6 . See Trapp on " 2Co 7:11 " See an excellent letter of the Lady Jane to that apostate Harding, sometime her chaplain, Acts and Mon. fol. 1292, and what sweet counsel Bradford afterwards gave the same Harding, lb. fol. 1564, besides the example of Mr Bartlet Green, martyr, fol. 1680.
And do the first works ] Begin the world again (as the Nazarite was to do that had broken his vow, Num 6:1-27 ), and, to set thee up afresh, make a gathering of prayers, and see that thy works be better at last than at first.
And remove thy candlestick ] Sins are the snuffs that dim our candlestick and threaten the removal of it. And surely if we repent not, a removal thereof may be as certainly foreseen and foretold as if visions and letters were sent us from heaven, as to these seven Churches. There is a prophecy in Thelesphorus, reported, that Antichrist shall never overcome Venice, nor Paris, nor London; but we have a more sure word of prophecy here. This nation is sick of a spiritual pleurisy; we begin to surfeit on the bread of life. When God sees his mercies lying under table, it is just with him to call to the enemy to take away.
Except thou repent ] Minatur Deus ut non puniat. God therefore menaceth, that men may be warned. As a bee stings not till provoked; so neither doth God punish till there be no remedy,2 Chronicles 36:16; 2 Chronicles 36:16 . Currat ergo poenitentia, ne proecurrat sententia, saith one; mittamus preces et lacrymas cordis legatos, saith another. Haste, haste, haste, to meet the Lord with entreaties of peace; lest we be laid waste as Sodom and desolate as the people of Gomorrah, Isaiah 1:9 .
6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Ver. 6. But this thou hast ] That they might not say, when called upon to repent, Nay, but there is no hope, Jeremiah 2:25 ; Jeremiah 18:12 . Christ picks out that which is praiseworthy in them, and commends it. Despair carries men to hell, as the devils did the swine into the sea; cast not away therefore your confidence, &c.
The works of the Nicolaitans ] Who taught a community of wives, and that it was but a thing indifferent to commit adultery. (Irenaeus, Theod.)
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.
Ver. 7. Let him hear ] Not with that gristle only that grows upon his head, but with the ear of his heart. Let him draw up the ear of his heart to the ear on his head, that one sound may pierce both. Or, Let him hear what, &c., that is, Let him hear for himself, hear and know that (each member for his own good) that was delivered to the whole Church.
To eat of the tree of life ] This tree is Christ. The devil also (as he loves to be God’s ape) hath prompted Mahomet to promise to such as die in war for the Mahometan faith, delicious fare in Paradise, pleasant walks, and other sensual delights eternally to be enjoyed, notwithstanding any former sins.
8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
Ver. 8. Of the church in Smyrna ] Sweet smelling Smyrna, the poorest but purest of the seven.
9 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.
Ver. 9. I know thy works and tribulations ] Mark (saith one) the conjunction, "works and tribulations." Active stirring Christians are like to suffer much. Of Sardis and Laodicea only, we read not of any troubles they had.
And poverty, but thou art rich. ] Poverty discommends not any to Christ; money bears no mastery in his kingdom. Thou art poor, saith he here; but that is neither here nor there; it is a matter of nothing, that, stumble not therefore at the Church’s poverty. She is ever rich: 1. In reversion, and hath heaven and happiness; she is ever rich in bills and bonds. 2. In an apparent pledge that is worth all the world besides; that is, in Christ. If he have given us his Son, &c. All is yours who are Christ’s, &c.
That say they are Jews ] That is, right worshippers, as the Turks at this day style themselves Mussulmans, that is, the only true believers; Papists, the only Catholics. Faciunt et vespae favos, et simiae imitantur homines. Cyprian.
10 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.
Ver. 10. Fear none of those things ] Quit thy heart of that cowardly passion, and die rather than deny the truth. Put on that resolution, Necesse esse ut eam, non ut vivam, Duty must be done, though I die for it.
Behold, the devil ] viz. By his imps and instruments whom he acts and agitates, Ephesians 2:2 . But he and his are overruled and limited; for he shall cast some of you, not all of you, into prison, not into hell, that ye may be tried, not destroyed; and this for ten days only, not for any long continuance.
Be thou faithful unto death ] Say as one martyr did, "The heavens shall sooner fall than I will deny my dear Lord;" and as another martyr, "Though you may pluck my heart out of my bowels, yet shall you never pluck the truth out of my heart."
A crown of life ] A crown without cares, corivals, envy, end. Kings’ crowns are so weighty with cares, that often they make their heads ache. Not so this crown; the joys whereof are without measure or mixture.
11 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.
Ver. 11. Shall not be hurt of the second death ] Shall not be killed with death, as Revelation 2:23 . Death shall not be to him (as it is to the wicked) a trap door to hell, but ianua vitae, porta caeli, door of life and the gate of heaven, an inlet into life eternal. (Bern.)
12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
Ver. 12. And to the angel ] See Trapp on " Rev 2:1 " See Trapp on " Rev 1:16 "
13 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.
Ver. 13. Even where Satan’s seat is ] There was the court of King Attalus ( discedat ab aula Qui velit esse pius; " flee thee away, O thou seer, for this is the king’s court," Amo 7:13 ), and there was afterwards the seat of the Roman persecuting proconsuls, Qui ab ascensore suo Satana perurgebantur, as Bernard hath it. Such a seat of Satan is both old and new Rome. At Constantinople (which was called new Rome) Arius, that arch-heretic, sedens in latrina effudit intestina, voided his entrails at the stool, and left Mahometism there behind him as his excrement. Yet, as at Pergamos also God had a Church, so hath he still even at Constantinople; the patriarch whereof, Cyril, hath lately set forth a confession of the faith of those Eastern Churches, agreeable in all points almost to the Protestant religion, but diametrically opposite to Popery.
Thou holdest fast ] κρατεις , as with tooth and nail, or by main strength.
Who was slain ] An honour not granted to the angels of heaven, as Latimer was wont to say.
14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
Ver. 14. I have a few things ] More he might have had, but the Lord is not extreme to mark what is amiss in his weak but willing people. The high places were not removed; nevertheless (though that was his fault) the heart of Asa was perfect all his days, 2 Chronicles 15:17 .
And to commit fornication ] Nothing hath so enriched hell (saith one) as fair faces. These were those Balaam’s stumblingblocks that Israel so stumbled at.
15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Ver. 15. The doctrine of the Nicolaitans ] See Trapp on " Rev 2:6 " In the year 1067, the popish synod of Milan made laws against simony a and the heresy of the Nicolaitans; by which latter they meant priest’s marriage. Brutum fulmen, novum crimen. Heavy blow, new sins.
a The act or practice of buying or selling ecclesiastical preferments, benefices, or emoluments; traffic in sacred things. ŒD
16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Ver. 16. Or else I will come unto thee ] He was in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks before. But when he comes to correct, he comes out of his place,Isaiah 26:21; Isaiah 26:21 , and it is a motion that he hath no such mind to, Lamentations 3:33 , it is to do his work, his strange work, Isaiah 28:21 .
With the sword of my mouth ] With fearful threatenings, terrible executions, having vengeance in readiness for the disobedient,1 Corinthians 10:6; 1 Corinthians 10:6 . Elisha had his sword as well as Jehu and Hazael theirs, 1 Kings 19:17 . See Hosea 6:5 ; Jeremiah 1:10 ; Isaiah 11:4 .
17 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 .
Ver. 17. Of the hidden manna ] That is, of Christ, whom none of the princes of this world knew; but God hath revealed him to his hidden ones by the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 2:8 ; 1Co 2:10 cf. Psalms 83:3 , and given them to taste of that heavenly gift.
A white stone ] In token of absolution. With this white stone may the saints comfort themselves against all the black coals wherewith the world seeks to besmear them. If Libanius could say, βασιλειου με επαινεσαντος κατα παντων εχω τα νικητηρια (In epist, ad Basil.), Let Basil praise me, and I shall sing away all care, whoever reproaeheth me; may not we much more say so of Christ? "It is he that justifieth us; who shall condemn us?"Romans 8:34; Romans 8:34 .
A new name ] Better than that of sons and daughters, Isaiah 56:5 . The assurance whereof is (saith Father Latimer) the deserts of the feast of a good conscience, which is inconceivable and full of glory.
18 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;
Ver. 18. Who hath his eyes, &c. ] See Trapp on " Rev 1:14 " See Trapp on " Rev 1:15 "
19 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.
Ver. 19. The last to be more ] This is not every man’s happiness. See Trapp on " Rev 2:4 " It is a disputable question (saith one) whether any Christian (except he die soon after his conversion) do go on from strength without some sensible decay of the inward power of that grace wherewith he is endued.
20 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.
Ver. 20. Thou sufferest that woman Jezebel ] It is a fault, then, not only to be active in evil, but to be passive of evil. Non faciendo malus, sed patiendo fuit, said the poet concerning the Emperor Claudius. The kings of the earth are taxed, Revelation 18:9 ., for not rooting out the Romish religion and setting up the truth.
21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
Ver. 21. And I gave her space to repent ] "In space comes grace" proves not always a true proverb. They that defer the work, and say that men may repent hereafter, say truly, but not safely. The branch that bears not timely fruit is cut off. John 15:2 . The ground that yields not a seasonable and suitable return is nigh unto cursing, Hebrews 6:8 . The chick that comes not at the clucking of the hen becomes a prey to the kite, &c.
22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
Ver. 22. Behold, I will cast her into a bed ] A bed of affliction for that bed of security upon which she had stretched herself, Amos 6:4 . God hath his season, his harvest for judgment, Matthew 13:30 . Men may expect a time of healing when they shall find nothing else but a time of trouble,Jeremiah 14:19; Jeremiah 14:19 . One may defer a sore till it be incurable. See Ezekiel 24:13 .
23 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.
Ver. 23. And I will kill her children with death, ] All men die (saith a divine, descanting upon this text), but all are not killed with death. As a godly man said, that he did aegrotare vitaliter, to be sick so as to endow with life, so godly men do mori vitaliter. die so as to endow with life. He that can so die, is fit to die; and the contrary. Oh, it is a woeful thing to be killed with death.
24 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.
Ver. 24. But unto you I say ] Here Christ comes with his fan, shedding and shoaling out his own from others, that they might not be disheartened, when worse men were menaced,
The depths of Satan ] That science falsely so called, 1 Timothy 6:20 . Those profound points, which the impostors professed and pretended to: as the Gnostics, who would needs be held the only knowing men; the Illuminates, and other seducers, who had taken up a trick to qualify their devilish doctrines with the name of depths or profundities. Depths they are granted to be, but depths of the devil; the whisperings and hissing of that old serpent, not the inspirations of God’s Spirit.
25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
Ver. 25. Hold fast ] κρατησατε , hold by strong hand, tug for it, with those that would take it from you.
26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
Ver. 26. And keepeth my works ] In opposition to Jezebel’s works, q.d. that keepeth himself unspotted from the world, that foul lust that lieth in that wicked one, 1 John 5:19 .
27 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.
Ver. 27. And he shall rule them ] q.d. I will communicate myself wholly to him. See Psa 139:6-9 Matthew 19:28 ; 1 Corinthians 6:2-46.6.3 .
28 And I will give him the morning star.
Ver. 28. I will give him the morning star ] i.e. I will clear his wronged innocence, Psalms 37:6 , and grant him a glorious resurrection, Daniel 12:3 .
29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Ver. 29. He that hath an ear ] See Trapp on " Rev 2:7 "
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 2". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany