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Bible Commentaries

Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation

Revelation 2

Introduction

CHAPTER 2

THE CHURCH ON THE FIELD OF HISTORY

--Revelation 2:1-29

I. STUDY NOTES--; Revelation 2:1-29; Revelation 3:1-22

The fortunes of the church are to be traced in "the Revelation to John" and the first thing necessary is that the reader should learn what the church IS. This is the aim of chapters 2 and 3.

Each of the SEVEN letters is addressed to "the angel" of that church; these are not bishops or elders in our modern sense. In the book of Revelation God’s angels are those who speak or act.

The angels of the churches are the churches themselves as they speak and act.

The SEVEN letters of chapters 2 and 3 set before us a picture of THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH OF ALL AGES.

There were more than 7 churches in Asia in John’s day. John made a selection of "7" to represent the universal church. The number "SEVEN" is throughout the book a symbol of perfect unity. The message to "the SEVEN churches of Asia" is quite plainly addressed to the universal church of all ages. This is again made plain from the constantly recurring summons to "HEED THE MESSAGE TO THE CHURCHES"--that is, to the whole seven, rather than one particular message.

The attempt to see the 7 churches as successive periods in history must be set aside as erroneous.

Many expressions in these 7 letters find their explanation only in later chapters e. g.,

2:7

"The tree of life," of the first letter meets us in Revelation 22:2; Revelation 22:14 in the New Jerusalem.

2:11

"The second death," of the second letter meets us in Revelation 20:14 when the judgment upon the church’s enemies is complete.

2:17

The writing upon believers of "The new name," of the third letter meets us in Revelation 14:1 in the reference to the 144,000--the whole church on Mt. Zion.

2:26, 28

"The authority over the nations, and the gift of the morning star," of the fourth letter cannot be understood until we have the vision of the 1,000 years and the last words of the glorified Redeemer in Revelation 20:4-5; Revelation 22:16.

3:5

"The white garments," of the fifth letter cannot be understood until we see them before God’s throne in Revelation 7:9; Revelation 7:14.

3:12

The mention in the sixth letter of "The city of God, the New Jerusalem which comes down out of heaven from God," remains a mystery until we see her descent in 21:2, 10.

3:21

The "sitting on Christ’s throne," of the seventh letter is only explained by the reign of the 1,000 years with Him 20.4.

It is clear that the message to the 7 churches has a wider application than to 7 churches in Asia in John’s age. The message is to the universal church in all ages.

Take YOUR church. Think of its life. Then hear this word of God. "I KNOW YOUR WORKS."

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES (See Verse notes)

II. MEDITATION--; Revelation 2:1-29; Revelation 3:1-22
(a) FOUR THINGS IN THE MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL

OUR MEDITATION on Chapters 2 and 3 SUMMARISES FOUR THINGS IN THE MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL.

1. FIRST, EACH OF THE SEVEN LETTERS BEGINS WITH A DESCRIPTION OF JESUS CHRIST.

He is presented as the LORD, THE SON OF GOD, IN THE MIDST OF HIS CHURCH, with eyes which search out every secret of our lives;, with full and complete knowledge, and with His Word blessing obedience and judging disobedience.

The presentation reminds us that the church is not a mere human organization which men and women are free to decide to join or not to join--but that the church on earth (with all her faults) holds at the center of her life the Christ who said "Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the world." So, the greatest privilege any person can have on earth is to beg a member of Christ’s church; and the greatest responsibility we have is to be worthy of that privilege.

2. THAT AS CHURCH MEMBERS WE NEED A REAL LOVE FOR CHRIST.

Take the church of which you are a part. Does Christ stand among us today saying as He did to Ephesus "I know your busy auxiliary work--but you have left your first love"?

First love is love in which there is no thought of self. It is love in which devotion to another is the basis of life. Does Jesus come to us, as He did to Peter, asking "Do you love Me?" Where is the first love in which you cease to put home, business, pleasures, material possessions first, and put Christ first? First love doesn’t count as sacrifice the time and talent and energy given in Christ’s service. Where is the emotion, the enthusiasm, the self-sacrifice you once had? First love puts Christ and His church first in service.

3. CHRIST COUNSELS US TO BE MUCH MORE IN EARNEST IN SEEKING A REAL KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WORD.

Through every message to the universal church in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 is the call to church members to "KNOW" and to "DO" the Word of God.

Christ needs to DO something WITH us before we can do anything for others. As spring gets into a clod of dirt but can’t be imprisoned there but bursts out into new life in flower and fruit--so, when we know the Word of God the spring of Holy Spirit power enters this earthly clod and breathes new life. Church growth depends on real Bible study.

4. CHRIST COUNSELS EVERY CONGREGATION TO LET CHRIST INTO EVERY MEMBER’S LIFE AS LORD AND MASTER.

Christ’s word in Revelation 3:20 is a word we each need to hear. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me. "What door is this? The door of a church, and Christ shut outside. But yet, Christ’s message is "IF ANYONE hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him . . ."

"IF ANYONE." It doesn’t need a decision of a church business meeting or of any committee to make this decision. "If anyone"--that means any individual church member. If any one church member will yield completely to Him Christ will come in with peace and power.

The lesson we learn from chapters 2 and 3 is that Christ is Lord of His church, and that He calls us to give our first love and loyalty to Him, and that we know and do God’s word, and that we open the door of our personality by yielding completely to Him. May our prayer be "Lord revive my church BEGINNING WITH ME."

(b) THE MESSAGE TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES

Don’t read chapters 2 and 3 as if they are concerned only with some other church than your own. There is a message for every church member here. We could summarize the messages:

EPHESUS

REMEMBER--And RETURN to your first love. First love never counts as sacrifice what it gives. Give yourself wholly to Christ.

SMYRNA

REALISE your riches. Christ has come to live in you and He gives our lives a new dimension.

PERGAMUM

RESIST the pressure of pagan materialism.

THYATIRA

RESOLVE to hold fast your Christian faith.

SARDIS

RECOGNISE the danger of being satisfied with a mere nominal Christianity.

PHILADELPHIA

RADIATE--Use your opportunities to evangelize a secular world for Christ.

LAODECIA

REPENT and REVIVE an enthusiasm in EVERY church member. Open the door of our lives to allow Christ to live in us. Allow Christ to enthuse us.

"He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to your Church."

"Lord, REVIVE your church, BEGINNING IN ME."

We read chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation as Christ’s message to His universal church of all ages.

Today we read these 7 messages to the church (if we read them at all), with the pleasant feel of limp Morocco leather between our fingers and fail to grasp what these 7 messages meant to inspire, encourage, strengthen and reprove the church members of John’s own age. We fail to realize that these 7 messages are addressed to our church in this generation.

Think of your own congregation. Think of your own place in the church--What you are doing--the present state of your spiritual health--Think, and then listen to these words of the Lord of the church "I know your works." For, whatever Christ said to EVERY one of the 7 churches He begins His message to that church with the words "I know your works." We should listen to the message of Christ to the 7 churches knowing that the Lord is speaking to us. He knows our situation. His message is to us today.

Verses 1-7

2:1-7

EPHESUS--The church which had lost its first love. It is easy to drift into being active as church workers yet to have lost the first love. This church had rejected the Nicolaitans who said, "it doesn’t matter how we live so long as our doctrines are correct." Let us remember that true life and true doctrine both depend on how much we love Christ.

CHRIST’S MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH IN EPHESUS 2:1-7 The Lord here tells us that OUR FIRST NEED AS CHURCH MEMBERS IS A REAL LOVE FOR CHRIST. In verses 2 and 3 Christ mentions 7 good things about the church in Ephesus. It was a working, busy church--it was a toiling energetic church--its work was not spasmodic--it did not condone immorality--it did not tolerate false teaching--in spite of difficulties it maintained its witness, and it "had not grown weary." Truly a live, remarkable congregation. Yet Christ sees one glaring fault. In verse 4 "I have this against you, that you HAVE ABANDONED YOUR FIRST LOVE." Just that! Yet it overshadows all else. All the business in service is useless without "first love." What is first love? And what is it to lose first love? First love is the love in which there is not a single thought of self. First love, loves because it is attracted to the other. First love gives itself and defies sacrifice. First love is love in which devotion to another person is the basis of life. Do you remember your early courtship and early marriage? When first love was devotion to the other as a hallowed thing? When that first love is abandoned the seeds of a broken marriage are sown. First love cannot be measured with any rule. It cannot be weighed with any scales. First love overleaps all barriers--it gives and never counts the cost. When you first fell in love with Christ! Do you remember? When you confessed your faith in Christ before a congregation--when in your baptism you took Jesus Christ as your Master--when in your act of baptism you really said "Now I belong to Jesus." Do you remember? Where is that first love now? In the first love of courtship and marriage you loved to be alone with your beloved. Do you still love to be alone with Jesus Christ in prayer? If the joy and thrill of such first love is missing from your relationship with Jesus Christ all your work, and toil, and patient endurance is useless. Sometimes we sing-- "Where is the blessedness I knew When first I saw the Lord?" Our first need is to regain our first love for Christ. As Jesus came to Peter by the lakeside after Peter’s failure with the question "Do you love Me?" So He comes to us. It is perilously easy for us to become so busy in the Lord’s work that we have no time to be alone with Jesus our Lord. Does He say to us "I miss the first love?" "Where is that emotion you once had when you put Me first--not your home or business?" Remember it is not our busy-ness in church work which lights the lamp of the church’s witness. It is our love--our first love for Christ.

Verses 8-11

2:8-11

SMYRNA--The persecuted church which receives no word of blame. The Lord does not promise to remove the trials, but He gives church members the power to bear and use these trials. Christ limits the period of persecution. "THE TEN DAYS" of verse 10 stand, not for a literal "10 days," but for a "DEFINITE, LIMITED PERIOD."

CHRIST’S MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH IN SMYRNA 2:8-11 (The persecuted church which receives no word of blame.) Our Lord here tells us plainly that Christians will face suffering and persecution. He does not promise to remove the trials, but He does promise to limit the trials and to give Christians power to bear and even to USE these trials. Christ limits the time of trial and persecution according to verse 10 to "TEN DAYS." Remembering the KEY to the symbolism of the book "TEN DAYS" does not mean a literal 10 days of time, but is a symbol of "A DEFINITE, LIMITED PERIOD." Physical persecution may not be our lot today. But ridicule, scorn, social ostracism are forms of modern persecution which are very real especially to your people who meet the persecution of a pagan society. If we follow Christ closely we should not be surprised if we are hit by some of the mud and stones which are flung at Christ.

Verses 12-17

2:12-17

PERGAMUM--The over-tolerant church which allowed worldliness among its members. The subtle weapon used against this church was not active persecution but what we call worldliness. (Balaam counseled Balak to destroy Israel of old by approaching as friends to lure Israel into sin--Numbers 31:16). This danger is real today--the world gets inside the church.

CHRIST’S MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH IN PERGAMUM 2:12-17 The subtle weapon used against this church was worldliness within the church. The picture is used of Balaam who counselled the pagan king Balak to destroy Israel by befriending and then ’white-anting’ the life of Israel from within. This danger of a church losing its spiritual faith is real today.

Verses 18-29

2:18-29

THYATIRA--The compromising church allied with and permeated by a worldly spirit. A church in peril--and we are aware of its dangers.

CHRIST’S MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA 2:18-29 (A church compromising with sinful worldliness is described here as "Spiritual adultery"). Such a church is in dire peril.

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Bibliographical Information
Norris, Harold. "Commentary on Revelation 2". "Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/nor/revelation-2.html. 2021.