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A.M. 4094. A.D. 90.
In this and the following chapter, the state of the seven churches in Asia, at the time of the vision, is described, as to what was commendable and deserved encouragement, and what was faulty and called for reproof and reformation. This part of the prophecy, which is designed to show the constant care of Christ over his church, is contained in seven letters, endited by Christ, and written by John, to the pastors of the Asian churches, that they might transmit them to their people, commending, reproving, warning, and encouraging them, as their present state required; and intimating what mercies or judgments they might expect, according to their future conduct. Four of those letters are contained in this chapter, namely, one to each of the following churches; to that at Ephesus, Revelation 2:1-7 ; that at Smyrna, Revelation 2:8-11 ; that at Pergamos, Revelation 2:12-17 ; and that at Thyatira, Revelation 2:18-29 .
Of the following letters to the angels of the seven churches it may be necessary to speak first in general, and then particularly. In general we may observe, when the Israelites were to receive the law at mount Sinai, they were first to be purified. And when the kingdom of God was at hand, John the Baptist prepared men for it by repentance. In like manner these letters were designed to prepare these churches for the worthy reception of this glorious revelation. By following the directions given therein, by expelling incorrigibly wicked men, and putting away all wickedness, they were prepared to receive the precious depositum. And whatever church or individual person, in any age or nation, would profitably read or hear the contents of this book, must observe the same admonitions. These letters are a kind of seven-fold preface to the book. Christ now appears in the form of a man, (not yet under the emblem of a lamb,) and speaks mostly in proper, not in figurative words. It is not till Revelation 4:1, that St. John enters upon that grand vision which takes up the residue of the book.
There is in each of these letters, 1st, A command to write to the angel of the church. 2d, Some character and attribute of the speaker, taken from the vision in the first chapter, and appropriated to the matter of each epistle. 3d, An address to the angel of the church, containing a testimony of his good, bad, or mixed state; commendations or reproofs, with suitable promises or threatenings, and an exhortation to repentance or steadfastness: and then in all the same conclusion, He that hath an ear, &c. The address in each letter is expressed in plain words, the promises in figurative. In the address our Lord speaks to the angel of each church which then was, and to the members thereof, directly; whereas in the promise he speaks of all that should overcome, in whatever church or age, and deals out to them one of the precious promises (by way of anticipation) from the last chapters of the book.
“These seven churches,” says Bishop Newton, “are addressed particularly, because they were under John’s immediate inspection; he constituted bishops or pastors over them; he was, as it were, their metropolitan, and resided much at Ephesus, which is therefore named the first of the seven. Many contend, and among them such learned men as More and Vitringa, that the seven epistles are prophetical of so many successive periods and states of the church, from the beginning to the conclusion of all. But there are in these epistles several innate characters, which are peculiar to the church of that age, and cannot be so well applied to the church of any other age. Besides other arguments, there is also this plain reason; the last state of the church is described in this very book as the most glorious of all, but in the last state in these epistles, that of Laodicea, the church is represented as wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. But though these epistles have rather a literal than a mystical meaning, yet they contain excellent precepts and exhortations, commendations and reproofs, promises and threatenings, which may be of use and instruction to the church in all ages. And indeed, what the Spirit saith to one church, he saith, in some measure, to all the churches.” For there can be no state, either of any pastor, church, or single person, which has not here suitable instructions. All, whether ministers or hearers, together with their secret or open enemies, in all places and all ages, may draw hence necessary self- knowledge, reproof, commendation, warning, or confirmation. Whether any be as dead as the angel of Sardis, or as much alive as the angel at Philadelphia, this book is sent to him, and the Lord Jesus hath something to say to him therein. For the seven churches, with their angels, represent the whole Christian Church dispersed throughout the whole world as it subsists, not in one age after another, but in every age. This is a point of deep importance, and always necessary to be remembered; that these seven churches are, as it were, a sample of the whole church of Christ as it was then, as it is now, and as it will be, more or less, in all ages.
Revelation 2:1 . Unto the angel That is, to the pastor, presiding elder, or bishop, called an angel because he was God’s messenger (as the word angel signifies) to the people, or his minister appointed to serve them. “That there was one pastor,” says Doddridge, “who presided in each of these churches, is indeed evident from the expression here used; but that he was a diocesan bishop, or had several congregations of Christians under his care, can by no means be proved. Nor is there the least hint of it in any of these epistles.” Of the church of Ephesus Concerning Ephesus, see note on Acts 19:1, and the preface of the epistle to the Ephesians. The first letter is addressed to the church in this city, as it was the metropolis of the Lydian Asia, and the place of St. John’s principal residence. According to Strabo, it was one of the best and most glorious cities, and the greatest emporium of the Proper Asia. It was called by Pliny one of the eyes of Asia, Smyrna being the other; but now, as eye-witnesses have related, it is venerable for nothing but the ruins of palaces, temples, and amphitheatres. It is called by the Turks Ajasaluk, or the temple of the moon, from the magnificent structure formerly dedicated to Diana. The church of St. Paul is wholly destroyed. The little which remains of that of St. Mark is nodding to ruin. The only church remaining is that dedicated to St. John, which is now converted into a Turkish mosque. The whole town is nothing but a habitation for herdsmen and farmers, living in low and humble cottages of mud, sheltered from the extremities of weather by mighty masses of ruinous walls, the pride and ostentation of former days, and the emblem in these of the frailty of the world, and the transient vanity of human glory. The Rev. H. Lindsay, Chaplain to the Embassy of Constantinople, in a letter to the British and Foreign Bible Society, relative to the present state of the Apocalyptic churches, dated Jan. 10, 1816, says, “The town consists of about fifteen poor cottages. I found there but three Christians, two brothers, who keep a small shop, and a gardener. They are all three Greeks, and their ignorance is lamentable indeed. In that place, which was blessed so long with an apostle’s labours, and those of his zealous assistants, are Christians who have not so much as heard of that apostle, or seem only to recognise the name of Paul as one in their calendar of saints. One of them I found able to read a little, and left with him the New Testament in ancient and modern Greek, which he expressed a strong desire to read, and promised me he would not only study it himself, but lend it to his friends in the neighbouring villages:” so strikingly hath the denunciation been fulfilled, that their candlestick should be removed out of its place. Write So Christ dictated to him every word. These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand To signify that he is the great support of his ministering servants, and directs their several situations and motions in the churches. Such is his favour to them, and care over them, that they may indeed shine as stars, both by purity of doctrine and holiness of life. Who walketh According to his promise, I am with you always, even to the end of the world; in the midst of the golden candlesticks Beholding all their works and thoughts, and ready to remove the candlestick out of its place, if any, being warned, will not repent. Perhaps here is likewise an allusion to the office of the priests in dressing the lamps, which was to keep them always burning before the Lord.
Revelation 2:2-3. I know Jesus knows all the good and all the evil which his servants and his enemies suffer and do. Weighty words, I know! How dreadful will it one day sound to the wicked, how sweet to the righteous! The churches and their angels must have been astonished to find their several states so exactly described, even in the absence of the apostle, and could not but acknowledge the all-seeing eye of Christ and of his Spirit. With regard to us, to every one of us also he saith, I know thy works! Happy is he that conceives less good of himself, than Christ knows concerning him! The good works, which are the proper and necessary fruits of faith, are here intended. See on 1 Thessalonians 1:3; James 2:14-26. And thy labour Of love, thy endeavours to promote the glory of God, and the present and everlasting good of mankind; and thy patience In bearing persecution, opposition, and the various trials to which thou hast been exposed. And how thou hast such zeal for the honour of my gospel, and the establishment of my kingdom, that thou canst not bear them who are evil Canst not suffer them to go uncensured, but proceedest against all those by the exercise of a proper discipline, whose principles or practices are contrary to the gospel, and are stumbling-blocks in the way of others. And thou hast tried them By my word; (see on 1 John 4:1;) who say they are apostles, and are not Who make false pretensions to a divine mission, and inspiration, and have endeavoured to impose their errors on others, on the pretence of apostolical authority; and hast found them liars Or deceivers, and accordingly hast rejected their pretensions with a becoming disdain. And hast borne Endured the contradiction of false apostles, and much opposition from men and devils, and still art not wearied out, but hast patience, and perseverest, and for my name’s sake That is, out of love to me, and with a view to my glory; hast laboured In opposing error and sin, and promoting the progress of truth and grace; and hast not fainted Hitherto, under any difficulties or dangers, trials or troubles, which thou hast had to encounter.
Revelation 2:4. Nevertheless, I have somewhat to allege against thee Exemplary as thou art in many respects; or, as somewhat is not in the original, the verse may be properly read, I have against thee that thou hast left thy first love Namely, the zeal and fervour of it, which thou didst manifest to me and my cause; that love for which the church at Ephesus was so eminent when St. Paul wrote his epistle to them. Neither they nor their pastors need to have left this; they might have retained it entire to the end. And they did retain it in part, otherwise there could not have remained so much of what is commendable in them. But they had not kept, as they might have done, the first tender, affectionate love in its vigour and warmth. Reader, has the love of God, of Christ, and of his people, been shed abroad in thy heart? And hast thou retained it in all its fervour and efficacy? If not, the following exhortation is addressed to thee. “It is very plain,” says Doddridge, “that these epistles, though inscribed to the angels or pastors of the churches, are directed to the churches themselves, as represented by them. Just as the Jewish Church was represented by Joshua their high-priest, Zechariah 3:1. But it is not improbable that where some of the churches are blamed, there might be in their ministers some faults correspondent to those charged on the society; and particularly that the zeal of this minister of Ephesus might be declining. There is, I think, no reason to be anxious with regard to Timothy’s character on this account; for it can never be proved that he was a stated pastor of the church of Ephesus, though such confident things have been said concerning it on very slender foundations.”
Revelation 2:5. Remember therefore, &c. It is not possible for any church, or individual Christian, whether public teacher or private member, that has lost the first love, to recover it, but by taking the three steps here spoken of. 1st, Remember; 2d, Repent; 3d, Do the first works. Remember from whence thou art fallen From what degree of faith, love, holiness, though perhaps insensibly; and repent Have a deep and lively conviction of thy fall, be humbled and truly sorry for it before God, earnestly desiring to be pardoned and renewed, and bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance in all respects; do the first works Outwardly and inwardly, otherwise thou canst never regain the first love; or else thou must expect that I will come unto thee quickly In some awful dispensations of providence. By this word is the warning sharpened to those five churches which are called to repent, this admonition belonging equally to them; (for if Ephesus was threatened, how much more shall Sardis and Laodicea be afraid!) and according as they obey the call or not, there is a promise or a threatening, Revelation 2:5; Revelation 2:16; Revelation 2:22; Revelation 3:3; Revelation 3:20. But even in the threatening the promise is implied in the case of true repentance. And will remove thy candlestick out of its place This threatening, considered as addressed to the angel or pastor of the church, meant, Unless thou repent, I will remove the flock now under thy care to another place, and put it under the care of another pastor, where it shall be better taken care of. Considered as addressed to the church, it implies that it should no longer continue to be a church, if the members of it did not endeavour to recover their lost ground, and to shine at least with their former lustre; but that the hedge of discipline should be broken down, and the light of the gospel removed from them. From the flourishing state of the church, however, at Ephesus, for a time after this, there is reason to believe that both the pastor and his flock did repent, although, not long after, they declined again, and fell lower than ever; and this church, with the other churches addressed in these letters, was ruined and overthrown by heresies and divisions from within, and by the arms of the Saracens from without. So that Mohammedanism prevails and prospers in all those countries which were once the glory of Christendom, their churches being turned into mosques, and their worship into superstitions; even Ephesus, which was once so magnificent and glorious a city, being become, as is observed on Revelation 2:1, a mean, sordid village, with scarcely a single family of Christians dwelling in it.
Revelation 2:6. But Or nevertheless; this thou hast This honour and praise remaining; divine grace seeks whatever may help him that is fallen to recover his standing; that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes A sect so called, it is thought, from Nicolas, one of the seven deacons mentioned Acts 6:5; according to ancient writers, their doctrine and their lives were equally corrupt. They allowed the practice of the most abominable lewdness and adulteries, as well as sacrificing to idols; all which they placed among things indifferent, and pleaded for as branches of Christian liberty.
Revelation 2:7. He that hath an ear, let him hear Every man, whoever can hear at all, ought carefully to hear this; what the Spirit saith In these great and awful threatenings, and in these encouraging and precious promises; to the churches And in them to all in a similar state, in every age and nation. To him that overcometh His spiritual enemies, visible and invisible, that resists the devil, overcomes the world, crucifies the flesh, and conquers every besetting sin, and the fear of death; that goes on from faith to faith, and by faith to full victory over all opposing power; will I give to eat of the tree of life This first thing promised in these letters is the last and highest in the accomplishment, Revelation 22:2; Revelation 22:14; Revelation 22:19; which is in the midst of the paradise of God Namely, the paradise above, and the fruit of which tree gives immortality; so that he who resides within its reach, is possessed of such felicities and delights as are far superior to those which Adam enjoyed in an earthly paradise, though in a state of uncorrupted and perfect innocence. The tree of life and water of life go together, Revelation 22:1-2, both implying the living with God eternally. In these seven letters twelve promises are contained, which are an extract of all the promises of God. Some of them are expressly mentioned again in this book, as the hidden manna, the inscription of the name of the New Jerusalem, the sitting upon the throne. Some resemble what is afterward mentioned, as the hidden name, (Revelation 19:12,) the ruling the nations, (Revelation 19:15,) the morning star, Revelation 22:16. And some are expressly mentioned, as the tree of life, (Revelation 22:2,) freedom from the second death, (Revelation 20:6,) the name in the book of life, (Revelation 20:12; Revelation 21:27,) the remaining in the temple of God, (Revelation 7:15,) the inscription of the name of God and of the Lamb, Revelation 14:1; Revelation 22:4. In these promises, sometimes the enjoyment of the highest good, sometimes deliverance from the greatest evils, is intended. And each implies the other, so that where either part is expressed, the whole is to be understood. That part is expressed which has most resemblance to the virtues or works of him that was spoken to in the letter preceding.
Revelation 2:8-9. And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna “Smyrna was the nearest city to Ephesus, and for that reason probably was addressed in the second place. It is situated on lower ground than the ancient city, and lieth about forty-five miles northward of Ephesus. It is called Esmir by the Turks, and is celebrated, not so much for the splendour and pomp of the buildings, (for they are rather mean and ruinous,) as for the number, and wealth, and commerce of the inhabitants. The Turks have here fifteen mosques, and the Jews several synagogues. Among these enemies of the Christian name the Christian religion also flourishes in some degree. Smyrna still retains the dignity of metropolis, although there are only two churches of the Greeks. But besides them, here is a great number of Christians of all nations, sects, and languages. The Latin church hath a monastery of Franciscans. The Armenians have one church. But the English, who are the most considerable number, next to the Greeks and Armenians, have only a chapel in the consul’s house, which is a shame, says Wheler, considering the great wealth they heap up here, beyond all the rest; yet they commonly excel them in their pastor. Frequent plagues and earthquakes are the great calamities of the place; but the Christians are here more considerable, and in a far better condition, than in any other of the seven churches; as if the promise was still in some measure made good to Smyrna, Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer, be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Newton. “From the conversation,” says Mr. Lindsay, “which I had with the Greek bishop and his clergy, as well as various well-informed individuals, I am led to suppose, that if the population of Smyrna be estimated at one hundred and forty thousand inhabitants, there are from fifteen to twenty thousand Greeks, six thousand Armenians, five thousand Catholics, one hundred and forty Protestants, and eleven thousand Jews.” These things saith the First and the Last Even that glorious and Divine Person, who, having assumed the human nature into union with his Deity, is able to say he was dead and is alive; and who therefore demands, by all considerations of reverence, gratitude, and love, thy most attentive and obedient regards. How directly does this description of the person of Christ tend to confirm the pastor of this church, and all the members of it, against the fear of death! See Revelation 2:10-11. Even with the comfort wherewith St. John himself was comforted, (Revelation 1:17-18,) would the angel of this church, and the people under his care, be comforted. I know thy works To have been, in many respects, extraordinary; and thy tribulation and poverty A poor prerogative in the eyes of the world! The angel at Philadelphia likewise and his flock had in their own sight but a little strength. And yet these two were the most honourable of all in the eyes of the Lord. But thou art rich In faith and love, of more value than all the kingdoms of the earth. And the blasphemy of them who say they are Jews God’s own people; and are not They are not Jews inwardly; not circumcised in heart; but a synagogue of Satan Who, like them, is a liar and murderer from the beginning, and whose temper they breathe in their opposition to my gospel and to my people, being engaged in promoting error, superstition, and wickedness, the very things wherein the kingdom of Satan consists.
Revelation 2:10-11. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer Probably by means of the false Jews. Behold This intimates the nearness of the affliction; the devil Who sets all persecutors to work, and those more particularly who persecute the followers of Christ, to imprisonment, torture, and death; shall cast some of you Christians at Smyrna, where, in the first ages, the blood of many martyrs was shed; into prison, that ye may be tried Which God will permit, for the trial of your faith and patience, to your unspeakable advantage, 1 Peter 4:12; 1 Peter 4:14. And ye shall have tribulation Either in your own persons, or by sympathizing with your brethren; ten days That is, a considerable time: for, as Lowman observes, It is not to be understood literally, which would have been a short time of affliction indeed, and hardly agreeable to such a description of that tribulation as this prophecy seems to have been intended to prepare the church for. Bishop Newton supposes that these ten days mean ten years, according to the usual style of prophecy; and that the persecution of Dioclesian is referred to, which lasted that time, and was the greatest persecution that the primitive church ever endured, most grievously afflicting all the Asian, and indeed all the eastern churches. This persecution, he thinks, and none of the other general persecutions, answers the character here given, none of the others lasting so long as ten years. Be thou faithful Our Lord does not say, till I come, as in the other letters, but unto death Signifying that the angel of the church should quickly after seal his testimony with his blood, fifty years before the martyrdom of St. Polycarp, for whom some have mistaken him. And I will give thee a crown of life The peculiar reward of them who are faithful unto death. He that overcometh That is victorious unto the end; shall not be hurt of the second death Though he may encounter the first death in this world for my sake, he shall not be injured by the second, namely, the lake of fire, the portion of the fearful, who do not overcome, Revelation 21:8; but he shall rest in everlasting security and peace, while those who desert the cause of Christ, and renounce their duty, for the preservation of this transitory life, shall be consigned to that state of misery where they shall seek death, but it shall for ever flee from them.
Revelation 2:12-13. And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write “Pergamos, formerly the metropolis of the Hellespontic Mysia, and the seat of the Attalic kings, is by the Turks, with some little variation, still called Bergamo, and hath its situation about sixty-four miles to the north of Smyrna. Here are some good buildings, but more ruins. All the city, almost, is occupied by the Turks, very few families of Christians being left, whose state is very sad and deplorable. Here is only one church remaining, dedicated to St. Theodorus; and that the name of Christ is not wholly lost and forgotten in Pergamos, is owing to the care of the metropolitan of Smyrna, who continually sends hither a priest to perform the sacred offices. The cathedral church of St. John is buried in its own ruins; their angel or bishop removed; and its fair pillars adorn the graves and rotten carcasses of its destroyers, the Turks, who are esteemed about two or three thousand in number. Its other fine church, called Santa Sophia, is turned into a mosque, and daily profaned with the blasphemies of the false prophet. There are not in the whole town above a dozen or fifteen families of miserable Christians, who till the ground to gain their bread, and live in the most abject and sordid servitude.” There is the less reason to wonder at the wretched condition of this church, when we consider what Christ here testifies concerning the corruptions which now prevailed in it, and the threatening denounced against it, if they did not repent, and purge out the destructive leaven.
These things saith he which hath the sharp sword Coming out of his mouth, with two edges To wound and pierce the unbelieving and disobedient, and bring them to the footstool of divine mercy for pardon and salvation; and to cut off the impenitent, and especially the persecuting enemies of his church; even that Word, which is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword: I know thy works I observe them exactly; so as to reward or punish as the case requires: the ministers are commended for what is good, or blamed for what is amiss in their respective churches, because the state thereof depends much upon them, and they will be made accountable, in some measure, for it. And where thou dwellest What thy situation is, and the circumstances in which thou art placed; even where Satan’s seat is Fixed in the midst of idolatry, superstition, and persecution, by the union of which the kingdom of darkness is supported. Pergamos was above measure given to idolatry. And thou holdest fast my name Openly and resolutely confessing me before men; and hast not denied my faith Any great truth of my gospel; even in those days wherein Antipas Put to death under Domitian; was my faithful martyr Laying down his life in attestation of the truth. Happy is he to whom Jesus, the faithful and true Witness, giveth such a testimony! Slain among you, where Satan dwelleth Seems to take up his residence, as may be inferred from the enormities which are continually practised there.
Revelation 2:14-15. But I have a few things against thee Things that deserve reproof, and require reformation; because thou hast there Those whom thou oughtest to have immediately cast out from the flock, that hold the doctrine of Balaam Doctrine nearly resembling his: who taught Balak And the rest of the Moabites; to cast a stumbling-block before the children Rather, the sons, as των υιων signifies; of Israel So named in opposition to the daughters of Moab, by whom Balaam enticed them to the commission of gross sin; to eat things sacrificed to idols Which, in so idolatrous a city as Pergamos, was, in the highest degree, hurtful to Christianity: and to commit fornication Which was constantly joined with the idol-worship of the heathen. So hast thou also As well as the angel at Ephesus; them that hold the doctrine, &c. Who go so far as to justify their bad conduct by receiving the principles of the Nicolaitanes; which thing I hate Condemn and detest as most inconsistent with the purity of the Christian faith and religion: and these thou sufferest to remain in the flock. “It seems not improbable,” Doddridge thinks, “that the doctrine of Balaam and that of the Nicolaitanes might be the same; or the latter might be more strenuous in justifying and propagating their doctrine, and acting upon it; and that this doctrine might be like that of some modern seducers, namely, that it is lawful to dissemble the Christian faith, and to conform to the established superstition, to prevent persecution: a fatal error, which tends most effectually to overthrow Christianity, the existence of which, in these later ages, is owing to the contrary doctrine and practice.”
Revelation 2:16-17. Repent, therefore, of these irregularities; or else I will come unto thee quickly In the way of chastisement; and will fight against them Those corrupt members; with the sword of my mouth With my word, pronouncing terrible calamities against them, and executing what I have threatened. The word of God is the great engine wherewith Christ fights against, wounds, and overcomes all antichristian powers. He that hath an ear That is disposed to receive useful instruction; let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches Let him carefully regard the arguments and warnings given by the Spirit of prophecy. To him that overcometh, and eateth not of these sacrifices, will I give to eat of the hidden manna He shall be made a partaker of those sacred pleasures which God’s sanctuary above affords, and of which the manna that fell in the wilderness, and was laid up in a golden vessel before the Lord, was only an imperfect type; even the full, glorious, everlasting fruition of God, and those comforts which flow from him. And will give him a while stone The ancients, on many occasions, gave their votes in judgment by small stones; by black they condemned, by white ones they acquitted. Sometimes also they wrote on small smooth stones. Here may be an allusion to both customs; and the thing principally intended by the white stone is complete victory, and full public absolution. And in the stone a new name written Eminent honour following thereon. So Jacob, after his victory, gained the name of Israel. Wouldest thou know what thy new name will be? The way to this is plain: overcome. Till then, all thy inquiries are vain. But then thou wilt read it on the white stone.
Revelation 2:18. And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write “Next to Pergamos is Thyatira situated, at the distance of about forty-eight miles to the south-east. At present the city is called by the Turks Akhisar, or The White Castle, from the great quantities of white marble there abounding. Only one ancient edifice is left standing: the rest, even the churches, are so destroyed, that no vestiges of them are to be found. The principal inhabitants are Turks, who have here eight mosques. So terribly have the divine judgments, denounced in this letter, been poured upon this church!” “Akhizar, the ancient Thyatira,” observes the Rev. H. Lindsay, “is said to contain about thirty thousand inhabitants; of whom three thousand are Christians, all Greeks, except about two hundred Armenians. There is, however, but one Greek church and one Armenian. The superior of the Greek church, to whom I presented the Romaic Testament, esteemed it so great a treasure that he earnestly pressed me, if possible, to spare another, that one might be secured to the church, and be free from accidents, while the other went round among the people for their private reading. I have, therefore, since my return hither, sent him four copies.” Write; These things saith the Son of God See how great he is who appeared like a Son of man, Revelation 1:13; who hath eyes bright and penetrating, like unto a flame of fire Searching the reins and the heart, Revelation 2:23; and his feet like fine brass Denoting his immense strength. Job comprises both these particulars, namely, his wisdom to discern whatever is amiss, and his power to avenge it, in one sentence, (Job 42:2,) saying, No thought is hidden from him, and he can do all things. Or the latter emblem, his feet being like fine brass, may signify that all his ways are gloriously just and holy.
Revelation 2:19. I know thy works Of piety and mercy; and charity Or love, rather. How different a character is this from that of the angel of the church at Ephesus! The latter could not bear the wicked, and hated the works of the Nicolaitanes; but he had left his first love and first works. The former retained his first love, and had more and more works, but bore with the wicked; did not withstand them with becoming vehemence. Mixed characters both; yet the latter, not the former, is reproved for his fall, and commanded to repent. And service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works Love is shown, exercised, and improved, by serving God and our neighbour: so is faith by patience and good works. And the last to be more than the first Greater and better. Very far art thou from that declining state of religion of which I have had reason elsewhere to complain.
Revelation 2:20-21. Notwithstanding, I have a few things, &c. Yet, observe, there are some things in thy conduct I take notice of, which deserve blame, and call for reformation, namely, thou sufferest that woman Jezebel Thou givest too much countenance to some evil persons, who, like that wicked woman Jezebel, of old, who defiled Israel with her idolatrous and lewd practices, set themselves to teach, and, on wicked pretences of prophecy and revelation, to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols Both which are contrary to the truth and purity of the doctrine and worship of my gospel. When the description of the imitators or followers of Jezebel in this verse is compared with what was before said of the Nicolaitanes, Revelation 2:14-15, “the resemblance,” says Doddridge, “appears so great, that I am induced to believe it is the same heresy which is represented under both these views; namely, the doctrine of those who taught it was lawful to dissemble our religious principles, and occasionally to conform to superstition and idolatry, in order to avoid persecution. And as Jezebel was so infamous an idolatress, and so great a mistress of seducing arts, there was an evident propriety in such a representation, 1 Kings 16:31; 1 Kings 21:25.” Some have fancied this was some female heretic. And I gave her space to repent, &c. Though I have granted these persons a long time to consider the sinfulness of their conduct, and to reform it, yet they are so sunk in depravity and wickedness, that they still remain impenitent and obstinate, and afford no signs or hopes of amendment. So, though repentance is the gift of God, man may refuse it: God will not compel.
Revelation 2:22-23 . Behold I will at length execute judgment upon her, and let the process of my righteous vengeance be observed. I will cast her into a bed Not of pleasure, but of great tribulation I will severely punish these seducers for their evil principles and practices; and this punishment shall reach all who have been partakers in such acts of wickedness: and this threatening shall be accomplished as surely as the punishment was which the Prophet Elijah denounced in the name of the Lord against Jezebel, 1 Kings 21:23. Except they repent, &c. Except they be humbled for, and forsake their vile practices. And I will kill her children I will slay those that presume to follow her in her wickedness; with death An expression which denotes death by the plague, or by some manifest stroke of God’s hand. Probably the remarkable vengeance taken on these was the token of the certainty of all the rest. And all the churches To which thou now writest; shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins The desires; and hearts Thoughts; and that though I am very long- suffering with respect to many sinners, and am unwilling immediately to come to extremities; yet I am not to be mocked and trifled with; and therefore they will learn to respect and honour the administration of my government; who, as I know the secrets of men’s hearts, so I will at length give unto every one of you according to your works And according to those principles from which I know they have proceeded; and thus I will approve the perfect justice of my treatment of you all. It is observable, the angel of the church at Thyatira was only blamed for suffering such deceivers to seduce Christ’s servants. This fault ceased when God took vengeance on these seducers. Therefore he is not expressly exhorted to repent, though that is implied.
Revelation 2:24-25. But unto you I say, who have not this doctrine Of Jezebel; and to the rest Who have kept themselves from being led astray by these delusions; and have not known O happy ignorance! the depths of Satan The deep arts of deceit and error practised in his kingdom, to bring in all sorts of corruption, by teaching men to account things as indifferent and innocent that are wicked and abominable; as they speak
It seems they were continually boasting of the deep things which they taught. Our Lord owns they were deep, even deep as hell; for they were the very depths of Satan. I will put upon you none other burden Than that you have already suffered from Jezebel and her adherents. Or, I will lay no new restraints or injunctions upon you; but will only confirm the laws of truth, righteousness, and goodness, given to make you free from the dominion of sin, the truest and most important liberty. But that which ye Both the pastor and the church; have already received through my gospel, as essential to true religion, and necessary in order to your pleasing God, hold fast In principle and practice, in faith, love, and obedience; till I come To put an end to your time of trial, and receive you to the heavenly paradise.
Revelation 2:26-29. And he that overcometh That holds fast faith and a good conscience, notwithstanding the efforts of the enemies of my gospel to wrest them from him; and keepeth my works Those which I have commanded to be done; unto the end Of his time and trials; to him will I give power over the nations That is, I will give him to share with me in that glorious victory which the Father hath promised me over all the nations which as yet resist me, Psalms 2:8-9. This, says Doddridge, appears to be intended of that “final triumph of Christ over his enemies in the last day, when he shall crush them all to utter and irrecoverable ruin, and when all his saints, raised from the dead, and clothed with robes of glory, shall sit down with them on his throne, and constitute that illustrious body which in and with their exalted Head, shall subdue every opposing power.” And he shall rule them That is, shall share with me when I do this; with a rod of iron With irresistible power, employed on those only who will not otherwise submit; who will hereby be dashed in pieces, totally conquered. And I will give him the morning-star Thou, O Jesus, art the Morning-Star! O give thyself to me! Then will I desire no sun, only thee, who art the sun also. He whom this Star enlightens, has always morning and no evening. The duties and promises here answer each other: the valiant conqueror has power over the stubborn nations. And he that, after having conquered his enemies, keeps the words of Christ to the end, shall have the morning-star an unspeakable brightness and peaceable dominion in him.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 2". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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