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Monday, December 11th, 2023
the Second Week of Advent
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 2

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Verse 1

The Seven Messages

The chapters 2 and 3 are extraordinarily interesting. Therefore I first would like to make some introductory remarks before we deal with the text itself. In these two chapters seven churches are being addressed with regard to their actual spiritual condition. It is however clear that the meaning goes beyond what happened then.

It is also clear that you can draw spiritual lessons from their spiritual condition for our time. But these two chapters show in the seven churches also seven sequential stages in the church history, from the beginning of the church until its rapture. They contain a prophetic outline of the history of Christianity, for the whole book is after all prophecy (Revelation 1:3), thus including both of these chapters.

You read here the history of the church as she has behaved and developed on earth through the ages. Therefore it is all about her responsibility. On other places in the Bible you read about the church as how she has been formed and seen by God. In that case we speak about the church in accordance to the counsel God, wherein everything is perfect. That is not the side from which the church is presented in this book. In this book of judgment the house of God, Christianity, is the first to be judged (1 Peter 4:17). This judgment takes place in accordance to the way she has fulfilled her duty to be a testimony (a ‘lampstand’) in the world. After the judgment over Christianity, from chapter 4 the judgment over Israel and over the world follow.

Briefly said you can see in the sequential missives the following periods in the church history:

1. Ephesus (means: lovely) is the time that followed right after the death of the apostles when outwardly a lot of things were in order, but the first love had been abandoned.

2. The time of Smyrna (means: bitterness) corresponds with the time of the Christian persecution by the Romans. Of all these persecutions there were ten that took place under ten Roman emperors (probably the tribulation of ‘ten days’ refers to that, Revelation 2:10). That period comprises the end of the second century and the third century.

3. The time of Pergamum (means: fortress) runs from the fourth up to the seventh century. It begins with the acceptance of Christendom by emperor Constantine. Christendom became the state religion. It was advantageous to become a Christian.

4. The time of Thyatira (means: incense or sacrifice) covers the period of the seventh to the sixteenth century. In that period the (roman) church dominates in the person of the pope over the world, the contrary of Pergamum, where the church sought protection from the world. As the dominating church the roman church has been dismissed (for the time being), but as an institution it still exists and it will exist until the coming of the Lord.

5. In the time of Sardis (means: remnant) the protestantism originates from the roman church and exist next to it in the sixteenth century. Also the protestant churches will remain to exist till the coming of the Lord.

6. During the period of the protestantism which is being characterized by a confession without life, the period of Philadelphia (means: brotherly love) arises in the nineteenth century. God’s grace causes in the dead protestantism a strictly biblically grounded revival movement that separated itself from it. As well as the roman-catholicism and the protestantism also Philadelphia will remain till the coming of the Lord.

7. The final stage of the church history is characterized by Laodicea (means: people’s government) which also finds its origin in the nineteenth century. The characteristic of Laodicea is lukewarmness. There is the high confession of Philadelphia, but the Lord is outside. We find that spiritual condition in various churches and denominations that have come forth from the revivals of Philadelphia, but which are today often spiritually worse than Sardis. Also Laodicea remains till the coming of the Lord.

As a conclusion of these introductory remarks on the chapters 2 and 3, I would just like to draw your attention to the structure of the messages, which is almost the same in all of them:
1. The command “write”.
2. A feature of the description of the Lord Jesus from chapter 1 followed by “says this”.
3. The judgment “I know”.
4. The judgment (except for Smyrna and Philadelphia) “but I have … against you”.
5. The admonition (threat or exhortation) “repent”.
6. The appeal “he who has an ear”.
7. The promise “to him who overcomes”.

It is also remarkable that in the last four messages the promise is first given and then the appeal follows.

Revelation 2:1. The first message regards the church at Ephesus. This church has played a major and typical role in the early church history:
1. Paul has worked there during his third missionary journey for over three years (Acts 19);
2. he has spoken out his most important farewell speech to the elders of Ephesus with a warning for the oncoming decay (Acts 20:17-Habakkuk :);
3. he wrote to them his letter with the highest Christian truths (the letter to the Ephesians);
4. after Paul also Timothy worked there (1 Timothy 1:3); to him Paul wrote his farewell letter concerning the decay in the last days and about the path of the believer in that time (the second letter to Timothy);
5. and now the Lord addresses the church in Ephesus as the first of the seven churches.

John does not receive the order to write to the church in Ephesus, but to the angel of the church. As I already remarked earlier, angel means ‘messenger’ or ‘representative’. To think of a literal angel will cause more troubles than solutions. As a matter of fact, there is nowhere an example to be found that an angel fails in doing his duty and even less that an angel is called to repent. The angel represents people who are responsible for the condition in the church.

You could think of persons who have a special responsibility in a church, like elders. But that doesn’t alter the fact that also the rest of the people have a responsibility. Each member of the church is responsible to ensure that the church is faithful to God’s Word and that there is faithfulness in testifying of the truth. You can compare this with the people of Israel and the king who ruled over them. God held the king responsible for the condition of the people, but He did not decrease the guilt of the people in that way.

The Lord Jesus presents Himself here as “the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand”. All stars are in His hand. He “holds” them in His hand (cf. Revelation 1:16) and has them ‘in’ His hand (Revelation 1:20). That indicates power and authority, protection and support to prevent her from total decline, but also to exercise control over her. This authority He exercises in all local churches and He checks up on it whether His authority is taken into consideration in the right way. Therefore He walks “in the middle of the seven golden lampstands”. He, as it were, goes around to see whether the lampstands are burning clearly, whether they spread the light which He has kindled.

Now read Revelation 2:1 again.

Reflection: Learn the order of the seven messages by heart and try to relate them to the sequential periods in the church history.

Verses 2-7

Message for Ephesus

Revelation 2:2. The Lord Jesus starts by saying “I know”. He can say that because He is the all-knowing God. It is a great privilege that He knows everything about you (Hebrews 4:12; Amos 4:13). It means that He totally knows you. He is involved with everything you go through, He knows what you think and feel, He knows all your plans (Psalms 139:1-Numbers :). If knowing that makes you restless, there may be something in your life that you do not want Him to be involved with. Then say it to Him.

In the church in Ephesus there are many good things. They are mentioned by the Lord first. He always seeks the good first. When Paul writes his letters to the churches he also often mentions things first which are praise worthy before he deals with things that are not good. The Lord says that He knows the “deeds”, the “toil” and the “perseverance” of the church in Ephesus. He see them doing good works, that they make the best efforts to do so (you may say that ‘labor’ is hard working) and that they also persevere in it. That is a nice recognition.

But there is something missing. You see that when you take a moment to read what Paul could say of the Thessalonians. Regarding them he could speak of “your work of faith and your labor of love and your steadfastness of hope” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). It is striking that here at Ephesus their deeds do not come forth from the true Christian characteristics of faith, hope and love. The heart is not involved (anymore).

Nevertheless the Lord continues to mention the good things that He sees with them. They also “cannot tolerate evil men”. Here you see a significant characteristic of a church. The evil may reveal itself, but it must not remain. It will become clear for each sincere Christian that the holiness of the Lord is not to be united with the welcoming of evil people as if they are Christians. Evil people are people who refuse to break with sin, whether it concerns the practice or the doctrine. Such people have always been there and they still are. When unknown people come into a church they will need to be tested.

In the beginning false apostles have tried to destroy the church with lies. But the Ephesians did not accept everyone who presented themselves as apostles. As watchful as they were, they tested the spirits of those they did not know (1 John 4:1). They applied the test of the Scripture. Also today that is the touch stone which must be used for each confession.

Revelation 2:3. The Lord has more reasons to praise them. The church has not only started well, she also shows “perseverance”. Perseverance is important if you want to grow in your faith, for there is opposition involved. You have to learn to endure that. It goes without saying that it is about opposition for the sake of the Name of the Lord Jesus. As soon as you openly come out for His Name’s sake you will notice that.

The Ephesians also “have not grown weary”, which means that they did not think of giving up being a Christian because they began to find it more and more burdensome to fight against the evil or to face resistance for the sake of His Name.

Revelation 2:4. If this is where the description had stopped, you could say that the church in Ephesus, except for one minor issue, was a perfect church. Which church today could compare itself to this? But the ‘minor issue’ which is missing in Revelation 2:2, shows that there is something essential missing and that is what the Lord is pointing at when He has to say: “But I have [this] against you.”

What He has against them is “that you have left your first love”. After all positive notices, this word still has to follow. Amongst all outwardly perceivable and also valuable activities there was something inwardly missing. That is what the Lord has against them. It is ‘only’ one thing, but it determines the real value of all outward activities. The contrast with what is previously said, is therefore major.

Leaving the first love is the origin of all evil in the church, as the following churches will be showing. A lot of various activities may be done in the church, but if the heart is not involved, it misses its real value. A wife may act out of obligation toward a husband and a husband toward a wife and do that in such a way that everything seems to be okay. However, when it is no more than an obligation, while the love of the heart is missing, which was there first, the other will notice that. He or she will then not be satisfied anymore with everything that is done for her or his sake. The Lord always remembers the first love and also reminds His own of it (Jeremiah 2:2).

The Ephesians did not lose the first love, but they had left it. That refers to an activity. The Lord Jesus cannot stand it that a distance arises between Him and His own. Love can only be satisfied by love. He longs for your love, for your ‘first love’. The first love is the best or highest love. It indicates the quality of this love. It is a love that only seeks the Person of the Beloved and it submits everything else to it. Works are good, they are even necessary, but they are only valuable when they are done out of love for Him.

Revelation 2:5. In His grace the Lord appeals to repent. That starts with a reminder of the beginning of the deviation, how it was before that time (cf. Luke 15:17). In case you have deviated from the Lord you are to return to the moment where the deviation started and you are to confess that. The Ephesians had fallen from the high position which they had learned to know and enjoy by the means of the letter that Paul wrote to them.

Their conversion would appear from doing “the deeds” they “did at first”. ‘First works’ are the works that are motivated by the first love. Without the first love there is no mention of first works. Only when a church starts to love Christ again, she can be a real testimony, a real light bearer.

When a church does not give Christ that place, He has to come as a Judge and intervene. He will then take away the lampstand of its place, which means that a church ceases to be a bearer of the light it once had, but now has lost it. Just as the darkness of the islam surrounds the places wherein once the seven churches found themselves, just like that the churches in the Western world run the risk of losing the lampstand and the risk of the darkness. When they do not remain in the goodness of God they will also be cut off (Romans 11:22).

Revelation 2:6. The Lord always praises what is worthy of praising, also even after threatening to be taking away the lampstand. He has not forgotten what is said here, but at this moment He wants to mention this separately and in that way emphasize it. It concerns the hatred of a special kind of evil, hateful to both the Lord and the church. Not the people, but the works are hated. Nicolaitans means ‘overcomers of the people (or: of the laymen)’ which probably indicates that here clericalism (the exercise of power through the clergy) is to be found.

You find this doctrine when people are appointed by people to do spiritual work, for which they get payment and power is being given to them to command (cf. Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 6:5; 1 Peter 5:3), because otherwise the church should not be able to function and disorder would enter. It is a denial of the fact that the church has only one Head and that all believers are ‘brethren’ (Matthew 23:8). The Lord hates this doctrine and practice, because it makes ‘laymen’, ‘accursed ones who do not know the law’ (John 7:49) of those who were bought with a high price. They are being kept ignorant, dependent on the clergy that dictates how the Bible is to be read.

Revelation 2:7. The Lord speaks to the whole, but in the whole He addresses the individual. The point is that you hear personally what the Spirit says to the churches (plural). Also that what is said to the other churches, is to be taken to heart by you. Notice that it is about what the Spirit says, not about what the church teaches, to which the demand is attached that each member submits himself to the decisions of the church. Each member of the church is called to acknowledge what is of the Spirit.

The Lord concludes with a promise for “him who overcomes”. In each church overcoming has got to do with overcoming the evil that is to be found in the church which is concerned. Here overcoming is keeping or returning to the first love, right against everything that has to do with leaving the first love. The promise is that the Lord Himself will feed you from out of Himself (He is the tree of life). For this blessing is indeed kept for each believer, but here it is promised as a special consolation to everyone who on earth has kept his first love or has returned to it, which is the one who has overcome.

If you want to persevere in the first love, it will be a precious promise for you that you once and for all will enjoy of Him without distraction. That will happen “in the Paradise of God”. A paradise is a garden of delights (Nehemiah 2:8; Ecclesiastes 2:5; Song of Solomon 4:13; cf. Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4). The “Paradise of God” is a paradise of which the delights and the splendor could in no way ever be lost because of the unfaithfulness of man. The overcomer will then find himself in the glory of the resurrection and he will perfectly enjoy what he chose for on earth. Is that your purpose too?

Now read Revelation 2:2-7 again.

Reflection: How about your first love for the Lord Jesus? Is it still there?

Verses 8-11

Message for Smyrna

Revelation 2:8. John receives the order to write a second message. He must address that “to the angel of the church in Smyrna”. In this message we find no blame (just as in the message to Philadelphia there is none). It is a message full of comfort. This comfort is important because the church in Smyrna has to face tribulation, poverty and blasphemy. Each of those tests separately means a great suffering already. Now they have to face three trials. In such a case comfort is very desirable.

The comfort comes from the Lord Jesus, Who presents Himself as “the first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life” to this tested church. So you see that the Lord presents Himself in accordance to the condition of the church. What He says of Himself here is also related to the features that you have seen of Him in the previous chapter (Revelation 1:8; Revelation 1:17-Job :). He exposes Himself as the One Who rules over time and eternity, Who has everything in control, even death. Death has no power over Him. He has conquered death, for He has risen from the dead. He is sovereign in the greatest tribulation. This is a great comfort for those who run the risk of dying.

That this message directly follows after that one to the church in Ephesus, implies an important lesson. In the message to the church in Ephesus you have seen that the Lord has to blame them for leaving the first love. In the message to Smyrna you read about several tests. Therein you could see the love of the Lord Who, through the means of tests, wants to work that His people go back to Him with their heart. He would love to regain their first love. He again wants to be the only One for them on Whom their attention is focused.

The same will happen in your personal life. If you deviate from the Lord, if He does not mean everything anymore for you, He will not let you go. He will through certain (sometimes unpleasant) events make sure that you will ask for Him again. You actually are only happy when you live in fellowship with Him and when your whole life is for Him. He has the right to your life, but it is also a privilege to live for Him, to which also the greatest possible happiness is related.

Revelation 2:9. When there is “tribulation”, “poverty” and “blasphemy” in the life of a church, He knows about it. He is involved. It is not that He allows it and that He is passively watching, but it really matters to Him. In a certain way He even directs it to go like that. You can see that with Job. There satan comes to God and God draws satan’s attention to Job. Then satan challenges God, as it were, by suggesting to Him to test Job for a moment. And God permits satan to attack Job. Therefore God stands behind and beyond the tests that Job has to face. That is how Job also sees it when he says: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away” (Job 1:21). So Job does not blame satan, but takes everything from the hand of the Lord (Job 2:10).

After all his vain attempts to tempt Job to sin, satan had nothing more to say. But God had not achieved His purpose with Job yet. God used the corruptness of satan to bring Job to the point where He could bless him. Job needed to become aware of the evil in his heart. That awareness starts to grow in the conversations that are held from Job 3 and onward between Job and his friends.

Until Job finally, after God had spoken to him, cried out: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-Joshua :). Then he comes to the point where God wanted him to be and He showers Job with greater blessings than he had before. Therefore God’s actions are always blessing, even though it seems hard.

The awareness that what happens to you, happens from the hand of your Father Who loves you, gives strength to bear it. The faith knows and holds on to: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Except that the Lord Jesus knows of all trials and that God has His way and loving intentions with them, the Lord Jesus Himself has experienced them all. He Who says this, speaks from experience. Also that is a great comfort to those who have to face suffering and have a lack of everything. It is a special honor to them to be that close to Him and to be like Him that much. You can be like that too when you suffer for His Name’s sake (Luke 6:22-Isaiah :; Acts 5:41; Philippians 3:10-1 Kings :).

With the tribulation also comes poverty. They suffer from a shortage of foodstuff. The Lord knows it. He comforts them by pointing at their spiritual riches. You can win the whole world, but what profit is it if you lose or forfeit yourself (Luke 9:25)? However, in the midst of the greatest poverty you can have the greatest peace and joy in your soul, when you consider that you have Christ and everything that is in Him. What you have in Christ is yours till eternity. Those treasures are in heaven and are untouchable for people who can rob you from everything on earth or withhold you from provisions.

An extra painful test is the blasphemy of people who confess to be “Jews”, which means people who arrogate themselves to be the people of God. Just like in the church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:2) there are also people here who arrogate themselves to have the true knowledge and claim to be superior to others. They arrogate themselves to be the true people of God with the exclusion of others.

This arrogance occurs during the whole history of Christianity. You also deal with it today. Especially the so-called Christians make it very difficult for the true Christians to remain faithful to the Word of God. Whether it is in regard to be a church or whether in regard to forms of cohabitation, as soon as you allow God’s Word to speak, you run the risk of being blasphemed by the nominal Christians. Such people refuse to obey God’s Word, but are a mouth piece of satan. Do not let yourself to be intimidated by them, but remain faithful to the Bible.

Revelation 2:10. With the words “do not fear what you are about to suffer” the believers are – and you are – encouraged to face the future without fear, even though that future surely includes suffering. They are being prepared for the suffering in a very comforting way. Tribulation, poverty and blasphemy are awful enough, but worse things will happen. There is not only persecution, but there is also a risk to be caught. The freedom has disappeared; satan gets the power to determine what happens to the believer. It may imply death.

But the Lord has His own purpose with it. The test serves to purify the faith and cleanse the life (1 Peter 1:6-Judges :) and not to bring the believer down. Thereby in addition to that He also determines the limit of the tribulation, which means that He determines the duration of the time (cf. Daniel 1:12). The tribulation will last for “ten days” and not one day longer. Just like that God also has determined the number of the days of the great tribulation in the end of time, which will last for twelve hundred and sixty days, that is three and a half year, a period that will not be exceeded (Matthew 24:21-Song of Solomon :; Revelation 11:2-Leviticus :).

In prophetical view there is something remarkable related to the duration of ten days. That has to do with the period of the church history that bears the character of Smyrna, meaning the second and third century of our era. In that period actually ten great persecutions took place. The prophetic application is therefore that the tribulation of ten days refers to ten separate periods in which the believers were oppressed by Roman rulers.

The Lord exhorts His tested church in Smyrna to be faithful until death. He was faithful, wasn’t He? As an encouragement He also promises them in advance that they will be rewarded with “the crown of life” which He Himself will give to them. The enemy cannot go further than death (Matthew 10:28). Up to that moment the believer is exhorted to remain faithful. What follows after that is the resurrection, the world of the Resurrected. That’s where his attention is drawn to.

Revelation 2:11. Although the whole is addressed, the individual responsibility is being fully maintained. The point is whether you have an ear for it to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches”. If you have understood the message addressed to the angel in Smyrna and want to heed it, you are an overcomer. You will not allow yourself to be knocked out, but right through all adversary you will remain faithful to Him, Who has bought you with His blood.

The reward for being faithful to the extreme is that you “will not be hurt by the second death”. “Will not” is a strong expression with the power of ‘in no thinkable way’. Also this promise is the share of each believer, but also here it is for the believers who are in oppression and are facing death a great encouragement. The enemy has the power (meaning: he is allowed) to kill them by the first death (Matthew 10:28). But they may know that the second death (which is hell, Revelation 20:14) has been conquered for them and has no power over them in any way whatever.

Now read Revelation 2:8-11 again.

Reflection: In what way do you have to deal with tribulation, poverty and blasphemy?

Verses 12-17

Message for Pergamum

Revelation 2:12. A new period begins in the church history. This period is presented in the church in Pergamum. In Smyrna you have seen the period of the Christian persecutions. After that period a period of rest begins, which starts in the year 313. In that year the emperor Constantine the Great outwardly converts to Christendom and therefore Christendom becomes the religion of the state. It becomes profitable to be a Christian, for that delivers a job, money and a status.

Satan changes his strategy from here. In Smyrna he incited pagan rulers to persecution. There he exposed himself as “a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8). However, his attempts to eradicate Christendom had no effect. In Pergamum he becomes a protector of Christendom and “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). He makes sure that the church feels at home in the world so that she goes on with focusing on a comfortable residence in the world.

But there is Someone Who sees through this deception. That is “the One who has the sharp two-edged sword”, which is the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). Only through the Word of God you will become aware of the deceptions of satan. If satan does not succeed to defeat you through adversity and trials, he will try to make you become unfaithful to your call as a Christian through luxury and prosperity. He will make his best efforts to cause you to forget that you are related with Christ in heaven, Who was rejected on earth. But by reading God’s Word and the desire to live up to it, you will remain faithful to your heavenly calling.

Revelation 2:13. The Lord begins by saying that He knows that the church dwells “where Satan’s throne is”. To find yourself where satan’s throne is, is not to be blamed, it is inescapable. But it is indeed to be blamed when you dwell there. ‘To dwell’ has the meaning of feeling at home somewhere, not only reside somewhere, but it includes having all your interests there and be bound there.

But how can the church feel at home on the territory where satan’s throne is, where he in fact rules? Satan is “the ruler of the world” (John 14:30). He rules the world in a way that pleases him. The church has been rescued from the world (Galatians 1:4), in order to be one with the glorified Head in heaven (Ephesians 4:15-Nehemiah :). It is not God’s intention that Christians get established in the world and feel themselves at home. However, because of the deception of satan the church did not hold on to the Head, but has become earthly focused (Philippians 3:19).

But still the Lord notices that the church in Pergamum holds on to the basic elements of being a Christian. They have held on to the Name of Christ and have not sworn by the name of Caesar. They also have not given up the faith in Him, the Son of God and the Son of Man, and His redemption work. They have not succumbed under the enmity from the world, which they certainly experienced, in spite of their relation with the world. In what has happened to Antipas they could see that the world has not really changed in its nature, regarding its tolerance for a worldly Christianity.

Being faithful to the Name of the Lord will always arouse the hatred of the world. The Lord calls Antipas “My witness, My faithful one”. It is a great tribute to this witness. Antipas means ‘against all’. Even though the mass of people let themselves be tempted to a comfortable Christendom, he continued to fight against the flow and testified of his Lord. It is remarkable that the Greek word for witness is martus, which means ‘martyr’. The voice of Antipas could not to be moved to silence than only through death. This was also the fate of earlier witnesses, like John the baptist (Mark 6:16-Job :), the prophets (Matthew 23:34) and above all the Lord Jesus (Revelation 1:5). Antipas was to Christ just like Christ was to God.

Revelation 2:14. After the praise, which the Lord still ascribes to this church, He tells them what He has against them. He blames them for being tolerant towards the false teachers in their midst. Their false doctrine is called “the teaching of Balaam”. The corruptness of this doctrine is the deceptive way of mixing the truth with lies and the children of God with the world. Balaam tempted the Israelites “to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit [acts of] immorality” (Numbers 25:1-Exodus :; Numbers 31:16).

It is a major deception of satan, which is also very successful today. You see that everywhere where worldly principles get entry into the church. ‘The doctrine of Balaam’ gets entry when you see the church as an organization or company. If you want to make a company prosperous, then structures are to be established, duties to be delegated and consultative group meetings need to be developed. The church has a product that has to be promoted and must be made desirable to ‘buy’. The important aspect of the group is brand awareness. Also political influences are of importance.

This evolvement is to be found in the whole church history since Pergamum. The followers and defenders of such an evolvement are called “adulteresses” by James (James 4:4). It is spiritual fornication when the church associates herself with the world. Also eating the sacrifices of idols is to be found in a spiritual sense in Christianity. When I recently visited a church, it shocked me again when I saw people kissing images of saints and respectfully bowed themselves before these images. The adoration of Mary and the pope is inextinguishable. Countless people give in to and ‘eat’ sacrifices of idols. Mary and the pope are not consecrated to Christ but to the devil by the (roman) church. The reverence the people ascribe to them is being received by demons.

Revelation 2:15. In the footsteps of the doctrine of Balaam “the teaching of the Nicolaitans” is found. That doctrine also got entry in Pergamum, for which the Lord also had to blame them. What in Ephesus only consisted of works and also was hated (Revelation 2:6), here already had been raised to a doctrine. As it was already noted in Revelation 2:6, Nicolaitans means ‘conquerors of the people’ (or: ‘conquerors of the laymen’). These conquerors of the people consider themselves to be the clergy and consider the church people to be laymen. By speaking about ‘the doctrine of the Nicolaitans’ the distinction between clergymen and laymen is raised to an ordinance.

You can hear this distinction already in the names that were accepted by clergymen since the third century in Christianity. In those days the Roman bishop for instance was for the first time called ‘papa’, from which the familiar word ‘pope’ has been derived. This evil has deeply established itself in Christianity, it is anchored in it.

Revelation 2:16. After the blames not the judgment follows, but the call “repent”. The only way you can consider that is that it is a proof of grace. The Lord gives an opportunity for repentance before judging. The church can heed that call by breaking the connections with the world and removing the corrupted doctrines out of their midst. If that does not happen Christ will come and execute judgment over them through His Word.

Evil in the church is always to be condemned on the basis of the Word. If the church does not do that, He Himself will do that. By the way, here you see the distinction between the angel and the faithful ones on the one side (“I am coming to you”) and the followers of the wrong doctrines on the other side (“I will make war against them”). So there are two groups in that church.

Revelation 2:17. Here the call to hear is still being applied before the conquerors are addressed. That means that the whole is addressed, while what is said, is personally to be realized by each believer.

Each believer who obeys the call, is a conqueror. The victory is gained by each one who does not let himself to be drawn by the dangers that threaten this church. Such a person is a real pilgrim who does not allow himself to come under the influence of the ruler of this world.

In order to gain victory in a situation where the church has allowed herself to feel at home in the world and allowed the ideas of the world in her midst, it is necessary that the believer lives in secret with God in the power of the Word. The “hidden manna” speaks of the Son of God, Who became Man to give us life and Who has humbled Himself and has entered into all of our circumstances. This bread is eaten by the angels, it gives them the strength for their service (Psalms 78:25).

The manna was within arm’s reach for God’s people each morning during the whole journey in the wilderness that lasted forty years. This is how Christ has to be our daily food. When the church in her heart goes back to the world, she feeds herself with ‘the garlic and onions of Egypt’ (Numbers 11:5). You can compare that with the television soap series and tabloids. They seem to be spicy, seasoned, but have no nutritional value and they stink.

Conquerors are they who like Christ have lived separately from the world. To them ‘the hidden manna’ is promised by Christ Himself. I think that this means that He, Who in His life on earth was perfectly separated to God, will tell the conqueror about His wondrous way on earth.

The “white stone” speaks of approval and appreciation. In the judicial system this meant an acquittal decision. At an election people made their preference for a person known by giving a white stone. The Lord Jesus shall do that with the conqueror in Pergamum. It expresses the personal fellowship between the Lord Jesus and the conqueror.

The “new name” on the stone is the name of the believers by which he is written in heaven (Isaiah 62:2; Isaiah 65:15; Luke 10:20; Hebrews 12:23). It is a name “which no one knows but he who receives it”. That indicates that we, although we enjoy together with others the things in heaven, we also will have a personal bond with and joy in the Lord Jesus, in which another person will not share.

Now read Revelation 2:12-17 again.

Reflection: How about your separation from the world?

Verses 18-29

Message for Thyatira

Revelation 2:18. Prophetically speaking this church shows the worst-case period of church history. In Pergamum the church was under the protection of the world. In Thyatira the church rules over the world. This is the period in which the roman-catholic church has conquered and exercised the world power. It is generally accepted that that period started in the year of 590 with the election of Gregory the Great as the first pope and has lasted to the reformation in the beginning of the sixteenth century. The pope has had such a great influence in that period that no king or prince could resist him. In this ruling church you see what the Lord Jesus calls in Revelation 2:20 “the woman Jezebel”.

The Lord Jesus addresses Thyatira as the Son of God. As the Son of God He is the foundation of the church (Matthew 16:16-Job :). That is totally in contrast to the roman-catholic church that claims that Peter is the rock and at the same time the first pope. Every next pope is considered to be the successor of Peter.

As the Son of God the Lord Jesus is also Son over His house (Hebrews 3:6). That is in contrast to ‘the woman Jezebel’ who acts as if the church is her house. In contrast to the evil of the roman church the Son of God presents Himself as the One Who has eyes “like a flame of fire”. That indicates His Divine insight with the capability to judge the evil. He will judge everything that is in contrast to His holiness and will do that through the way of perfectly clear righteousness, which is indicated by “His feet like burnished bronze”. You have already seen His eyes and feet in chapter 1 (Revelation 1:14-Ezra :).

Revelation 2:19. Although the situation in the church in Thyatira is a low point in the church history, the Lord still sees here issues that are appreciative. Actually, His praise is more abundant than the praise that He has for other churches. The reason is that because in such dark times the faithfulness of the faithful ones shines clearer. In the dark Middle Ages there was a great power of faith and devotion with little light with those who wholeheartedly loved the Lord Jesus. The examples that we have are the Waldensians and the Albigensians who resisted the great false doctrines of the powerful church of Rome.

The Lord speaks of “your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance”. He mentions each aspect of their effort and devotion separately. He pays attention to every detail of the expression of their faithfulness. He can even say to them “that your deeds of late are greater than at first”. He observes an increase with them instead of them breaking down under the pressure.

Revelation 2:20. Then He has to tell them what He has against them. They allow “the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess”, that “she teaches and … leads astray”. She represents the strange element in the church that does not belong there, like the historical Jezebel did not belong to the people of God (1 Kings 16:31), but who got the leading role. Thereby she arrogates to be ‘a prophetess’, which means that she claims to speak words of God. This is exactly like the papacy. The Lord Jesus blames the angel for allowing her. That is a great sin. It is bearing or tolerating what God hates.

Jezebel “teaches”. That is what the roman church does: she arrogates to have the authority of teaching. The church system, represented in a woman (cf. Zechariah 5:5-1 Kings :), claims to have the true doctrine and that she cannot make doctrinal mistakes. She decides the doctrine and life of her confessors. From the arrogated infallible speaking (Ex Cathedra, which is the authoritative speaking from Rome by the pope) she tries to seduce the bond-servants of the Lord and makes them commit apostate deeds. You see here that the doctrine of Balaam that some in Pergamum held on to (Revelation 2:14), is being taught by this woman, the church as a whole, and is brought as a deception. The leaven of Pergamum penetrates further in Thyatira.

Revelation 2:21. The Lord has had patience with her for a long time. But all that patience only exposed the persistence of her wickedness even clearer. There is not only blindness and ignorance, but also a willingness that acts against God. “She does not repent of her sexual immorality.” She does not want to forsake the world. Exercising authority ‘feels’ too good.

Revelation 2:22. Because she does not want to repent the judgment is spoken out to her and it will strike her inevitably. The “bed”, as a symbol of her sexual immorality and pleasure, will be turned into a symbol of sickness and pain by God. That God ‘casts her into a sickbed’ means in effect that He delivers her to her corrupt ways.

The judgment of God however, doesn’t only come over the roman church. It also comes over “those who commit adultery with her”. That relates to all churches that combine with her ecumenical pursuit. Also several protestant churches want to share in the influence of the politics of the world and therefore pursue an approach to the roman church. The roman church will absorb them. The church system that will then arise is called ‘Babylon the great’ and will be judged by God (Rev 17-18). However, for those who have joined her, without being considered to belong to them, there still seems to be an opportunity to repent of her deeds.

Revelation 2:23. The “children” of Jezebel are the unbelievers who participate in the system and who are jointly responsible for it. Those are the kindred spirits, people whose spiritual mother is Jezebel. They will be killed by the Lord. Each life will be taken away by Him.

Through this judgment all other churches, that is the rest of Christianity, will know that it comes from God and that He acts with perfect knowledge. They may have felt to be attracted by her doctrine, but because of the death that the Lord caused to her, they will understand that it was corrupt. The judgment of the Lord will be exercised by Him to the extent of the responsibility that each class had that belonged to Thyatira. That applies to the angel, to Jezebel, to her children and to those who have committed adultery with Jezebel.

Revelation 2:24. Now the Lord addresses the remnant in Thyatira. As characteristics He mentions that they have not accepted the false doctrine of the roman church and that they were not involved with “the deep things of satan”, which refers to the occultism of that church.

The Lord will “place no other burdens on” them. He does not yet say here that they have to leave that place. In Sardis He will give them that opportunity. In the end times, in which we live, the call sounds: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4). It indicates that up until the coming of the Lord there will be faithful ones in the roman-catholic church.

Revelation 2:25. What the faithful ones have is not that much. Still, the Lord calls them to hold on to it until He comes. Thyatira, or the roman-catholicism, will therefore exist until the coming of the Lord, which is in contrast to the three previous churches that have had their time in the prophetical history, which is over. Thyatira will not be replaced by Sardis, but Sardis will be a result of it and will develop further next to Thyatira. Sardis is the protestantism that will remain next to the roman-catholicism.

Revelation 2:26. Also in Thyatira the Lord has a promise for the conquerors. However, He not only speaks about conquerors, but also about keeping His deeds. His deeds are the deeds that were ordered by Him and are done in His power. Therefore there is mention of a twofold condition here. To those who meet that condition He promises that they will share in His government over the nations. Thyatira has ruled and they have not participated in it. Now they are allowed to rule with the Lord. Those who have refused to rule over the world during the absence of the Lord Jesus, will receive the power to rule from Him in the day of His glory (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:8-1 Samuel :).

Revelation 2:27. He who overcomes will reign “with a rod of iron”, which is a rod that cannot be broken. His reign means to “rule”, that is leading, keeping and protecting, of the nations that have entered into the millennial kingdom of peace.

His kingdom will also consist of dashing the ungodly pagans to pieces. The execution of that judgment is ascribed to the Lord Jesus (Psalms 2:9), but is also declared to be of application to those who have overcome in Thyatira. Each authorization of power granted by the Lord Jesus is the authorization of power that He Himself has received from His Father (cf. Matthew 11:27; Matthew 28:18; John 3:35; John 5:22John 5:27; John 13:3).

Revelation 2:28. As an extra reward the conqueror receives “the morning star” out of the hands of the Lord Jesus. The morning star is the Lord Jesus Himself (Revelation 22:16). It means that as an encouragement He presents Himself to them in a special way as the One Who comes for His church (2 Peter 1:19). Before He rises as “the sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2), He will rise as ‘the morning star’ to lead His church into heaven, amongst which are the faithful ones of Thyatira. They will not be destroyed in the judgment over Babylon.

Revelation 2:29. The message to Thyatira closes with a call to the individual who has an ear to hear and indeed to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. In this case this has extra significance, for it is totally in contrast to what the roman church says: ‘Hear what the church says.’

Here this call appears for the first time after the promise to the one who overcomes. In the previous churches each church was called as a whole. Now this call is addressed only to those who overcome. They hear the voice of the Spirit to the churches. The whole of Christianity cannot repent anymore. The Spirit is still speaking to the churches. But only of a faithful remnant, not of the whole, is expected that they will hear.

Now read Revelation 2:18-29 again.

Reflection: Which characteristics of ‘that woman Jezebel’ do you recognize in Christianity?

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Revelation 2". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/revelation-2.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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