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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 2

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Introduction

REVELATION 2 - 3

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4NKJVNRSVTEVNJB
The Message to EphesusThe Loveless ChurchThe First LetterThe Message to EphesusEphesus
Revelation 2:1aRevelation 2:1-7Revelation 2:1Revelation 2:1aRevelation 2:1-7
Revelation 2:1-7 Revelation 2:2-7Revelation 2:1-7a
Revelation 2:7b
The Message to SmyrnaThe Persecuted ChurchThe Second LetterThe Message to SmyrnaSmyrna
Revelation 2:8aRevelation 2:8-11Revelation 2:8Revelation 2:8aRevelation 2:8-11
28b-11 Revelation 2:9-11Revelation 2:8-10
Revelation 2:11a
Revelation 2:11b
The Message to PergamumThe Compromising ChurchThe Third LetterThe Message to PergamumPergamum
Revelation 2:12aRevelation 2:12-17Revelation 2:12Revelation 2:12aRevelation 2:12-13
Revelation 2:12-17 Revelation 2:13-17Revelation 2:12-16Revelation 2:14-17
Revelation 2:17a
Revelation 2:17b
The Message to ThyatiraThe Corrupt ChurchThe Fourth LetterThe Message to ThyatiraThyatira
Revelation 2:18aRevelation 2:18-29Revelation 2:18Revelation 2:18aRevelation 2:18-29
Revelation 2:18-29 Revelation 2:19-29Revelation 2:18-23
Revelation 2:24-28
Revelation 2:29
The Message to SardisThe Dead ChurchThe Fifth LetterThe Message to SardisSardis
Revelation 3:1aRevelation 3:1-6Revelation 3:1aRevelation 3:1aRevelation 3:1-6
Revelation 3:1-6 Revelation 3:1-6Revelation 3:1-5
Revelation 3:6
The Message to PhiladelphiaThe Faithful ChurchThe Sixth LetterThe Message to PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia
Revelation 3:7aRevelation 3:7-13Revelation 3:7Revelation 3:7aRevelation 3:7-13
Revelation 3:7-13 Revelation 3:8-13Revelation 3:7-12
Revelation 3:13
The Message to LaodiceaThe Lukewarm ChurchThe Seventh LetterThe Message to LaodiceaLaodicea
Revelation 3:14Revelation 3:14-22Revelation 3:14Revelation 3:14aRevelation 3:14-22
Revelation 3:14-22 Revelation 3:15-22Revelation 3:14-21
Revelation 3:22

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

GENERAL BACKGROUND

A. This literary unit (chapters 2-3) is connected to the OT titles for YHWH used of the Messiah (cf. Revelation 1:12-20). This is one way the NT author affirmed Jesus' Deity. John's revelation transfers Old Testament titles and actions of YHWH to Jesus, the ascended, glorified Messiah.

B. Its purpose is to show the spiritual needs of these first century churches, and by analogy, all churches (i.e., the number seven). John's ministry in his old age was in Asia Minor, especially in Ephesus. John is obviously well acquainted with these churches and cities. These letters show the ethical aspect of Christianity. They are a call to faithfulness and godliness. The church will also be judged (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10).

C. There were many churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor in John's day. Why did the author only write to seven of them?

1. It is the biblical number to denote perfection (cf. Genesis 1:0). There are numerous literary structures of sevens in John's prophecy.

2. These churches formed a travel route, starting at Ephesus and ending at Laodicea. It was possibly the Imperial postage route.

3. They are to some extent representative of the types of churches found in every age and culture.

D. What is the significance of this literary unit to us today?

1. Some interpret these churches as prophetic descriptions of Western history from Pentecost to the Second Coming

a. Ephesus = the Apostolic Period, A.D. 33-100 (Pentecost to John)

b. Smyrna = the Period of Persecution, A.D. 100-313 (John to Constantine)

c. Pergamum = the Period of Constantine, A.D. 313-590 (Constantine to Gregory)

d. Thyatira = Papal Rome, A.D. 590-1517 (Gregory to Luther)

e. Sardis = Reformation, A.D. 1517-1792 (Luther - Carey)

f. Philadelphia = Modern Missionary Movement, A.D. 1792-1914 (Carey to rapture)

g. Laodicea = Period of Apostasy, A.D. 1914 - Parousia (WWI - Parousia)

This is a relatively recent interpretative grid which has come to characterize "Dispensational Premillennialism" (which usually sees Matthew 13:0 as a parallel to the 7 churches). However, there is nothing in the text itself to commend this view. Although some aspects of western history fit this scheme, others do not. It is arrogant to assert that the Bible was written exclusively to address only western culture. Such a scheme would have been meaningless to a first century audience.

2. Some interpret these churches as a representative sample of the types of churches which are found in all ages and cultures.

E. One of the books that has helped me interpret prophecy/apocalyptic is D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic. He makes an interesting theological point about all the promises made to faithful believers in chapters 2-3 (pp. 28-32). He lists the promises as

1. the tree of life

2. the crown of life

3. the white stone

4. authority over the nations

5. the Morning Star

6. dressed in white

7. a pillar in God's temple

8. the name of God

9. the name of Jerusalem

10. sit on God's throne

He says these are not meant to be interpreted literally or individually, but as a corporate fulfillment, as is seen in Revelation 21:3. I think this is a proper hermeneutical approach to this genre.

STRUCTURAL UNITY OF THE SEVEN LETTERS

A. Many commentators see a seven element structure present in most letters, although not all seven are present in every church.

1. Jesus' common address "to the angel of the church of write . . ." (cf. Revelation 2:1, Revelation 2:8, Revelation 2:12, Revelation 2:18; Revelation 3:1, Revelation 3:7, Revelation 3:14).

2. Description of Jesus taken from Revelation 1:12-20, which are Old Testament titles and actions of YHWH, introduce each message.

3. Jesus' knowledge of the churches, both positive and negative, "I know . . ." (cf. Revelation 2:2, Revelation 2:9, Revelation 2:13, Revelation 2:19; Revelation 3:1, Revelation 3:8, Revelation 3:15).

4. Jesus addresses the individual churches and their cultural, geographical and spiritual opportunities.

5. Jesus speaks of His sudden, soon coming, either in temporal judgment or the Second Coming, (cf. Revelation 1:1, Revelation 1:3; Revelation 2:5, Revelation 2:16, Revelation 2:25; Revelation 3:3, Revelation 3:11).

6. Jesus admonishes spiritual hearing and understanding, (cf. Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:29; Revelation 3:6, Revelation 3:13, Revelation 3:22). Jesus used "He who has an ear, let him hear" in the Gospels (cf. Matthew 11:15, Matthew 11:13:9, 43; Mark 4:24.)

7. Jesus promises a reward for faithful followers, (cf. Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:25-26; Revelation 3:4-5, Revelation 3:11-12, Revelation 3:21).

These seven steps are not consistent in each letter. The order changes and some elements are left out in certain churches, but overall this structure shows one of several of John's seven-fold literary structures.

THE CITIES TO WHICH THE LETTERS WERE DIRECTED

A. Ephesus

1. It was the largest city of the Roman province of Asia Minor. It was not the capital, though the Roman governor lived there. It was a commercial center because of its excellent natural harbor.

2. It was a free city, which allowed it to have local government and much freedom, including no garrison of Roman soldiers.

3. It was the only city which was allowed to hold the biannual Asian games.

4. It was the site of the Temple to Artemis (Diana in Latin), which was one of the seven wonders of the world of its day. It was 425' x 220' with 127 columns which were 60' tall; 86 of them were overlaid with gold (see Pliny's Hist. Nat. 36:95 ff). The image of Artemis was thought to have been a meteor which resembled a many breasted female figure. This meant that there were many cultic prostitutes present in the city (cf. Acts 19:0). It was a very immoral, multicultural city.

5. Paul stayed in this city more than three years (cf. Acts 18:18 ff; Acts 20:13).

6. Tradition asserts that it became John's home after Mary's death in Palestine.

B. Smyrna

1. It was supposedly founded by an Amazon (strong woman leader) named Smyrna. In John's day it was a city of about 200,000.

2. It was located on the Aegean Sea. It had an ideal natural harbor and was, therefore, a commercial center surpassed only by Ephesus in Asia Minor. It was a very wealthy city.

3. It was destroyed by the Lydians about 600 B.C., but was rebuilt by Lysimicus following Alexander the Great's plans whereby the sea breeze blew down every street.

4. It was also a free city because it had helped the retreating Roman soldiers after their defeat by Mithradates.

5. It was a center of worship of the goddess Roma (195 B.C.) and Emperor worship. It had the first temple to Emperor Tiberius (A.D. 26).

6. It was a religious center with the worship of Cybele and the pantheon of Homer. There was even a tradition that Homer was born here. Its many temples were located on the Acropolis called Pagos with a golden road between the Temple of Zeus and Cybele.

7. It had a large active anti-Christian Jewish population.

8. It was the city in which Polycarp (John the Apostle's disciple) was martyred in A.D. 155.

C. Pergamum

1. It was a large wealthy city and the capital of Asia Minor (since 282 B.C.), although not located on a major trade road.

2. It boasted of the largest library in the Roman world outside of Alexandria, Egypt. It had over 200,000 parchment scrolls!

3. Vellum was invented here. It was processed animal skins which were used for writing. This writing medium was developed because Alexandria, Egypt, refused to sell them papyrus reeds. This was because their king, Eumenes II (197-159 B.C.) tried to hire Alexandria's librarian, Aristophanes. When the Ptolemian king, Epiphanes (205-182 B.C.) of Alexandria found out, he arrested the librarian and embargoed papyri from Pergamum. There was a real rivalry between these two learning centers. Anthony later sent Pergamum's library to Alexandria as a present to Cleopatra.

4. It was the home of Galen the physician and the center of the healing arts of Asclepios. It is even said that Asclepios was "a Pergamum god." The symbol for this god was the snake.

5. It also had a temple to Roma and the Emperor Augustus (A.D. 29) and was the administrative center (neokopros) of the Emperor's cult. Its loyalty to Rome was well known.

6. It was known for its worship and defense of the Greek pantheon. There was a huge Temple to Zeus on the acropolis that overlooked the whole city. It was shaped like a throne (i.e.,Satan's throne).

D. Thyatira

1. It was a smaller trade-oriented city. There are many records of its numerous and flourishing trade guilds, each with its own patron deity. It was located on a major road between Pergamum and Sardis which continued on to Philadelphia and Laodicea. It was famous for its woolen products. Lydia (cf. Acts 16:14), a seller of purple cloth, was from this city.

2. It was enlarged by Seleucus Nicateo, who settled his Macedonian soldiers here.

3. It had several temples to local deities

a. Tyrimnos (Apollo) the sun god

b. Artemis (Diana) the love goddess

c. Sibyl Sambathe a local female fortune teller

E. Sardis

1. It was a large, wealthy ancient city. For years it was the opulent capital of the Lydian Empire because of its superb military position, 1500' up on a mountain spur. It is mentioned in Persian records because Cyrus the Great captured the city. It is also mentioned in Obadiah 1:20. It had greatly declined by John's day.

2. It was noted for its dyed wool products. The process was invented there, so they claimed.

3. It was the center of the worship of Cybele, the mother goddess. The ruins of the temple are still visible on the acropolis. The excesses of this worship were known and deplored throughout the Roman Empire.

F. Philadelphia

1. It was located on a plateau and was protected by water. This made it a highly desirable military position. It was the newest of the seven cities. It was founded by Attalus II (159 - 138 B.C.).

2. It was located on a major trade route to Sardis and it had flourished.

3. It was located in a fine agriculture area, especially for grapes. The god Bacchus, or Dionysus, was one of its chief deities. It was also an active earthquake area and was destroyed in the huge quake of A.D. 17, which also destroyed ten other major cities of the area. However, the after-shocks continued in this area and the population moved to the surrounding countryside.

4. It was also a center for the Emperor's cult (as were Smyrna and Pergamum) which was possibly the source of much of the Churches' persecution in the provinces.

5. It was a major center of Hellenistic culture and aggressively exported its influence. It seems to have been founded for this very purpose on the border of Mysia, Lydia and Phrygia.

G. Laodicea on the Lychus River

1. It was one of three cities in the Lychus River valley (the other cities were Colossae and Hierapolis). Churches were founded in each of these three cities, probably by Paul's convert, Epaphras (cf. Colossians 1:17; Colossians 4:12-13).

2. It was founded by the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus II, who named it after his wife, Laodice, in 250 B.C. It was located on a militarily defensible site like Philadelphia.

3. It was located on a major east/west trade route. It was noted as a banking center.

4. It was located in a fertile agricultural and pastoral region, especially suited for raising a special black sheep for which it became famous worldwide. It mass-produced a black outer garment called a "trimeta."

5. It had a very large Jewish population.

6. It, like Pergamum, was a center for the worship of the healing god Asclepios. The city was the site of a medical school which was noted for its ear and eye salve.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why does John's prophecy of the end-times begin with a letter to seven (and only seven) churches in Asia Minor?

2. Why does each letter begin with a description of Christ from chapter 1?

3. How do these letters relate to the Church today?

4. How do you interpret these strong warnings addressed to these churches?

5. How does the doctrine of "once saved, always saved" relate to the warnings and call to perseverance in these letters?

6. Why is Revelation 3:20 not a salvation promise?

7. How is the next literary unit related to the letters to the seven churches? Will God spare the end-time believers from persecution, but not the believers of the first century?

Verse 1

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 2:1 1"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:

Revelation 2:1 "the angel" The Hebrew and Greek term for angel can mean messenger. It could refer to

1. the pastor (cf. Malachi 2:7)

2. the angel of the church (cf. Daniel 10:0)

3. the unique spirit or character of the individual congregations

This same phrase introduces every letter (cf. Revelation 2:1, Revelation 2:8, Revelation 2:12, Revelation 2:18; Revelation 3:1, Revelation 3:14).

"church" This Greek compound term ekklesia is a combination of two Greek terms, "out of" and "to call." It was used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew term, qahal, or "assembly of Israel." The early Christians used it to designate themselves because

1. they saw themselves as the people of God, like Israel

2. they saw themselves as divinely called by God both for salvation and ministry

See Special Topic at Revelation 1:4.

"The One who holds the seven stars" This is a description of Jesus taken from Revelation 1:16. These seven stars referred to the churches (cf. Revelation 1:20). The term "holds" (present active participle) speaks of a firm, sure grasp (cf. John 10:28). Nothing and no one could separate these churches from Jesus (cf. Romans 8:31-39) except their own refusal to repent and follow Him! Only unbelief can separate.

"in His right hand" This is an anthropomorphic (speaking of God in physical terms) metaphor for power and authority (cf. Revelation 1:16, Revelation 1:17, Revelation 1:20; Revelation 2:1; Revelation 5:1, Revelation 5:7).

"walking among" This anthropomorphic metaphor is used in Genesis 3:8 as a symbol of God's presence with mankind (cf. Leviticus 26:12).

SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS A HUMAN (anthropomorphic language)

"the golden lampstands" This does not refer to the Menorah of the Tabernacle, but is another symbol for the seven churches (cf. Revelation 1:12-13).

"says" Jesus' last words to His church are not Matthew 28:18-20 or Acts 1:7-11, but Revelation 2-3.

Verses 2-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 2:2-7 2I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary. 4But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its placeunless you repent. 6Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.

Revelation 2:2 "I know" The form is a perfect active indicative of oida, but translated as a present. Jesus sees, understands, and cares for His churches. His concern involves both affirmation and discipline (which is a form of parental love). This same phrase is repeated in all seven letters (cf. Revelation 2:2, Revelation 2:4, Revelation 2:13, Revelation 2:19; Revelation 3:1, Revelation 3:8, Revelation 3:15).

The Old Testament background of this term implies intimate, personal relationship (cf. Genesis 4:1; Jeremiah 1:5).

SPECIAL TOPIC: KNOW (USING MOSTLY DEUTERONOMY AS A PARADIGM)

"your deeds and your toil" This was an active church, but they had forgotten the priority of fellowship with Christ (cf. Revelation 2:4). Too many good things had robbed them of the best (cf. Galatians 3:1).

"perseverance" This term implies a voluntary, active, steadfast endurance. This is a major theme of the book (cf. Revelation 1:9; Revelation 2:2, Revelation 2:3, Revelation 2:19; Revelation 3:10; Revelation 13:10; Revelation 14:12).

Perseverance must be balanced with security (cf. Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:26; Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:11-12, Revelation 3:21). Most biblical truths are presented in dialectical, seemingly paradoxical, pairs. Both are equally true, but neither is true alone. Salvation is an initial repentance and faith followed by lifestyle repentance, faith, obedience, service, and steadfastness! See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: PERSEVERANCE

NASB"evil men" NKJV"those who are evil" NRSV"evildoers" TEV"evil people" NJB"wicked people"

This is literally kakous (kakos), which is often used of "evil people." The synonym ponçros can be used of evil (neuter) or evil people and ultimately of the evil one (masculine, cf. Matthew 5:37; Matthew 13:38; John 17:15). Context and usage confirm that this text must refer to "bad people" (cf. Romans 2:9; Romans 13:4) in the church (false teachers) or possibly in the community.

Kakos is used only twice in Revelation, here and Revelation 16:2, where it is used to describe the results of the "bowls of the wrath of God" (i.e., sores).

"you put to the test" This Greek term (peirazô) meant to test with either good or bad (majority) intentions (cf. Revelation 2:2, Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:10). The related term (peirasmos) had the connotation of testing with the view toward destruction. The balance is found in 1 John 4:1 where believers are to test (dokimazô) with a view toward approval those who claim to speak for God. The call for believers to examine those who claim to speak for God is found in both Testaments (cf. Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Deuteronomy 18:22; Matthew 7:15-23; 1 John 4:1-6).

There is tension in the NT related to believers critically judging each other (cf. Matthew 7:1-5). However, Christians are called to evaluate each other for leadership roles (cf. Matthew 7:5, Matthew 7:6, Matthew 7:15; 1 Corinthians 5:1-12; 1 Timothy 3:0; 1 John 4:1-6). Attitude and motive are the keys to proper evaluation (cf. Galatians 6:1; Romans 2:1-11; Romans 14:1-23; James 4:11-12).

SPECIAL TOPIC: GREEK TERMS FOR "TESTING" AND THEIR CONNOTATIONS

"those who call themselves apostles" This use of the term "apostles" does not refer to The Twelve, but to the wider use of the term (cf. Acts 14:14; Romans 16:7; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:6). The NT often addresses the subject of false apostles or teachers (cf. Matthew 7:15-16; Matthew 24:24; Acts 20:29; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; 1 John 4:1 and throughout the Pastoral Epistles). This church had correctly identified these false apostles and rejected them.

Revelation 2:3 This church was faithful amidst difficult circumstances, even persecutions. They had not denied Christ or grown weary in well-doing (cf. Galatians 6:9; Hebrews 12:3; James 5:7-8). See note at Revelation 2:7.

Revelation 2:4

NASB, NKJV"you have left your first love" NRSV"you have abandoned the love you had at first" TEV"you do not love me now as you did at first" NJB"you have less love now than formerly"

There have been several theories as to what this meant.

1. TEV and Charles Williams translations assume it means love for Christ.

2. James Moffatt assumed it means love for one another.

3. Hershell Hobbs in his commentary assumed it means love for the lost.

4. J. B. Phillips in his translation combined all of the above.

5. Some think it is related to the problem of second generation believers (cf. Judges 2:7-10).

6. Some see it as a loveless church of cold orthodoxy (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:0).

Revelation 2:5 "remember" This is a present active imperative meaning "always keep in mind." Believers are often admonished to remember their previous condition in sin and their new position in the grace and mercies of God through Christ.

"from which you have fallen" This is a perfect active indicative. Leaving their "first love" had become a settled condition of neglect!

"repent and do the deeds you did at first" These are two aorist active imperatives. Notice the church as a whole is called on to make a decisive repentance (cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14) and to become active in its love for Christ, for each other, and for the lost.

Repentance is crucial for a faith relationship with God (cf. Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15; Mark 6:12; Luke 13:3, Luke 13:5; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 20:21). The Hebrew term meant a change of actions, while in Greek it meant a change of mind. Repentance is a willingness to change from one's self-centered existence to a life informed and directed by God. It calls for a turning from the priority and bondage of the self. Basically it is a new attitude, a new worldview, a new master. Repentance is God's will for every fallen child of Adam, made in His image (cf. Ezekiel 18:21, Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:32 and 2 Peter 3:9).

The NT passage which best reflects the different Greek terms for repentance is 2 Corinthians 7:8-12.

1. lupç, "grief" or "sorrowing" Revelation 2:8 (twice), Revelation 2:9 (thrice), Revelation 2:10 (twice), Revelation 2:11

2. metamelomai, "after care," Revelation 2:8 (twice), Revelation 2:9

3. metanoeô, "repent," "after mind," Revelation 2:9, Revelation 2:10

The contrast is between a false repentance (metamelomai, cf. Judas, Matthew 27:3 and Esau, Hebrews 12:16-17) and a true repentance (metanoeô, cf. Peter, John 21:15-23; Matthew 26:75; Mark 14:72; Luke 22:62).

True repentance is theologically linked to

1. Jesus' preaching on the conditions of the New Covenant (cf. Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3, Luke 13:5)

2. the Apostolic sermons in Acts (kerygma, cf. Acts 3:16, Acts 3:19; Acts 20:21)

3. God's sovereign gift (cf. Acts 5:31; Acts 11:18 and 2 Timothy 2:25)

4. perishing (cf. 2 Peter 3:9)

Repentance is not optional!

"or else I am coming to you" This is a common theme in this book; Christ is coming soon (cf. Revelation 1:2, Revelation 1:3; Revelation 2:5, Revelation 2:16; 25; 3:3,11). In the OT the coming of God could bring blessing or judgment. In this context Christ was coming to discipline His church (cf. 1 Peter 4:17)! Therefore, it has a temporal, as well as eschatological, orientation.

"and will remove your lampstand out of its place" The lampstand symbolizes the entire church. This may have involved the removal of Christ's presence and blessing. The entire congregation was not facing apostasy, but the loss of their effective ministry. This also applies to the churches of Pergamum (cf. Revelation 2:16); Thyatira (cf. Revelation 2:22-23); Sardis (cf. Revelation 3:3); and Laodicea (cf. Revelation 3:19). It is possible that each of these churches were affected by a Nicolaitan type of false teaching which promoted compromise with pagan culture.

Revelation 2:6 "that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans" There has been much speculation about who these Nicolaitans were and what they believed. The only biblical source we have is Revelation 2:6, Revelation 2:14-15. Speculation began early in the Church around A.D. 180 when Irenaeus and Hippolitus supposed that these were the followers of one of "the seven" chosen in Acts 6:5 named Nicolas. This is totally unsubstantiated. Irenaeus, in his book, Contra-heresies, Revelation 3:11:7, assumed that they were followers of Cyrenian Gnosticism of the second century. Eusebius, in his book, Ecclesiastical History, 3:29:1, said that this particular sect did not last long.

In Revelation 2:14-15, the teachings of Balaam and the teachings of the Nicolaitans are similar. There is a possible etymological connection between their names in Greek; it means "conqueror" and "people" (very similar to the meaning of the name Nicodemus). What is obvious is that both were encouraging believers to participate in pagan worship practices which involved ritual sexual activity. In this sense the Nicolaitans and Balaamites (cf. Numbers 25:1-9; Numbers 31:16-18) are very similar to the teachings of Jezebel (cf. Revelation 2:20).

Revelation 2:7 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" This admonition is repeated throughout the letters to the seven churches (cf. Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:29; Revelation 3:6, Revelation 3:13, Revelation 3:22). It was a phrase that came from the words of Jesus (cf. Matthew 11:15; Matthew 13:9, Matthew 13:43). Spiritual truth must be responded to by mind and hand. This is similar to the Hebrew term shema, "hear so as to do" (cf. Deuteronomy 5:1; Deuteronomy 6:4; Deuteronomy 9:1; Deuteronomy 20:3; Deuteronomy 27:9-10).

"churches" See Special Topic at Revelation 1:4.

"To him who overcomes" There is a continuing theological emphasis on the perseverance of believers (cf. Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:25-26; Revelation 3:4-5, Revelation 3:11-12, Revelation 3:21). It is the experiential evidence of a true conversion (cf. Matthew 24:13; Galatians 6:9)! Jonathan Edwards said, "Sure proof of election is that one holds out to the end." W. T. Conner said, "The salvation of a man elected to salvation is from all eternity certain in the mind and purpose of God, yet it is conditioned upon faith, and a faith that perseveres and conquers." See Special Topic at Revelation 2:2.

"I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God" This is an allusion to a tree in the Garden of Eden (cf. Genesis 2:9). As humans began in fellowship with God and with the animals in a garden, so the Bible ends in the same manner (cf. Isaiah 11:6-9; Revelation 22:2, Revelation 22:14, Revelation 22:19).

The term "paradise" was a Persian word for a nobleman's walled garden, which was used in the Septuagint to translate the Garden of Eden (cf. Ezekiel 28:13; Ezekiel 31:8). It is one of the many references to the Messianic age that is found throughout the letters to the seven churches.

The term "paradise" is used in two senses: (1) in Luke 23:4 it may refer to the righteous part of Sheol/Hades (see Special Topic at Revelation 1:8). Jesus tells the repentant thief that he would be with Him there that day (Jesus did not return to heaven for 40 days, cf. John 20:17) and (2) in 2 Corinthians 12:3 it refers to God's presence, God's heavenly throne room ("the third heaven").

God's purpose for mankind, made in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27), has always been eternal life. The fall of Genesis 3:0 and the rest of the Bible document God's commitment to mankind's redemption and eternal fellowship with Him. This fallen world, this gap in full fellowship, was not God's desire, but mankind's shame. God will restore creation for His purposes.

Verses 8-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT Revelation 2:8-11 8And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: 9I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death."

Revelation 2:8 "The first and the last" This is one of the recurrent titles for Jesus found in Revelation 1:17 and Revelation 22:13. Initially it referred to YHWH (cf. Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 48:12). It is synonymous with the phrase "I am the Alpha and Omega" (cf. Revelation 1:8; Revelation 21:6; 27:13) and "the beginning and the end" (cf. Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:13). See fuller note at Revelation 1:8.

"who was dead, and has come to life" This may have been a slap at the nature cult of Cybele, the mother goddess. Many of the ancient fertility religions based their worldview on personified cycles of nature, winter death, and spring rebirth. In context this relates theologically to Revelation 1:18; Revelation 5:6, where Jesus is the lamb that was slain but is now alive. It emphasizes Jesus' once-for-all (not repeated) substitutionary death and resurrection (cf. Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:10).

Revelation 2:9 "I know your tribulation and your poverty" These are two very strong Greek words. They are significant because the city of Smyrna was very prosperous. The fact that the church was poor seems to imply economic persecution. It is theologically significant that in the book of the Revelation believers suffer "tribulations" from unbelievers and the evil one, but unbelievers suffer "the wrath of God." See full note at Revelation 7:14. Believers are always protected (sealed, see Special Topic at Revelation 7:2) from divine judgment.

SPECIAL TOPIC: TRIBULATION

"(but you are rich)" Believers cannot judge their standing in Christ by worldly standards (cf. Matthew 6:33).

NASB, NKJV"blasphemy" NRSV, NJB"slander" TEV"evil things said against you"

This is literally the term "blasphemy," which had an OT connotation of "to revile" and was usually used in connection with verbal attacks on YHWH (cf. Leviticus 24:13-23). Twice in the OT the term "blessed" (barak) is used in the sense of blasphemy (cf. 1 Kings 21:10, 1 Kings 21:13). In context these Jewish religionists claim to know God ("bless God"), but they do not (cf. Matthew 7:21-23).

"who say they are Jews and are not" A very similar phrase is used in Revelation 3:9; there it is obvious that they are racial Jews who claim to be God's people but really are not (cf. John 8:44; Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 3:29; Galatians 6:16). From Acts and Galatians we know that the Jews caused great opposition to the proclamation of the gospel (cf. Acts 13:50; Acts 14:2, Acts 14:5, Acts 14:19; Acts 17:5).

Revelation 2:13 suggests that this refers to local cults of emperor worship called the Concilia which demanded that Christians call Caesar "Lord" and burn incense to him once a year.

"a synagogue of Satan" John saw the world in sharp contrast, God versus Satan. Satan (see SPECIAL TOPIC: SATAN at Revelation 12:3) is mentioned often in the book (cf. Revelation 2:9, Revelation 2:13; Revelation 3:9; Revelation 12:9, Revelation 12:10; Revelation 20:2, Revelation 20:7). He slanders the believers and energizes their persecutors. This conflict or dualism in the spiritual realm characterizes apocalyptic literature. There is a battle for control of the hearts and minds of the children of Adam.

Revelation 2:10 "Do not fear" This is a present middle or passive (deponent) imperative with the negative particle which usually meant to stop an act already in process. These churches were afraid. Persecutions were a sign of their salvation and God's blessings (cf. Matthew 5:10-12).

"the devil is about to cast some of you into prison" Behind evil human leaders lurks a supernatural personal force of evil (cf. Ephesians 6:10-19).

The term Satan is an OT title and description. His God-given task was to provide a rebellious, self-centered alternative to mankind and thereby accuse them when they yielded to temptation (cf. Genesis 3:0; Job 1-2; Zechariah 3:0). There is a development of evil in the OT. Satan was created as a servant and progressed into an enemy (cf. An Old Testament Theology by A. B. Davidson p. 300-306).

It is surely an assumption that the highly figurative language of Isaiah 14:0, which directly refers to the arrogant King of Babylon, and Ezekiel 28:0, which directly refers to the prideful King of Tyre, ultimately identifies the spiritual pride and fall of Satan. The language of Ezekiel 28:0 is taken from a description of the Garden of Eden. It is difficult to accept a description of a human, historical, pagan king in angelic terms taken from Eden (cf. Genesis 3:0). However, Ezekiel does the very same thing with the King of Egypt in chapter 31. He is described as a huge tree in the garden of Eden.

All believers long for more information, especially about the origins of God, angels, evil, etc. We must be cautious of turning metaphorical, prophetic description into dogmatic theology. Much modern theology comes from isolated, figurative texts mixed with modern concepts, both theological and literary (Dante and Milton).

In the NT he is called the devil (cf. Revelation 12:9, Revelation 12:12; Revelation 20:2, Revelation 20:10), which is a composite Greek term meaning "to throw across," "to slander," or "bring accusations against." This again reflects his task of accusing and tempting. These terms are synonymous in the Revelation (cf. Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2). See SPECIAL TOPIC: PERSONAL EVIL at Revelation 12:9.

"that you may be tested" This term is used in two senses: (1) believers are tested so as to show their true faith and grow stronger (cf. Revelation 2:10; Acts 14:27; Romans 5:3-4; Romans 8:17-19; Hebrews 5:8; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 4:12-19) and (2) unbelievers are tested to show their unbelief and deserved judgment (cf. Revelation 3:10). In Revelation the Christian's trials are called "tribulations" (see Special Topic at Revelation 2:9), while the unbelievers are subjected to "the wrath of God."

There were two Greek terms translated "test," "try," or "tempt." One had the connotation of "to test with a view toward destruction" (peirasmos, peirasmo). The other terms (dokimos, dokimazo) were used with the connotation of "to test with a view toward approval." Satan tempts to destroy; God tests to strengthen (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Peter 1:7; Genesis 22:1; Exodus 16:4; Exodus 20:20; Deuteronomy 8:2, Deuteronomy 8:16; Deuteronomy 13:3; Judges 2:22; 2 Chronicles 32:31). See Special Topic at Revelation 2:2.

"ten days" There has been much speculation about the phrase "ten days":

1. some say that it referred to a literal ten day period of persecution in the city of Smyrna in John's day

2. others say that because ten is the number of completion, it simply meant a complete number of days of persecution

3. some say that it referred to an unspecified period of persecution

The good news is that it has a limit. The persecution will end!

However, in an apocalyptic book one is never sure if the numbers are used figuratively or literally. If the number was often used in the OT and interbiblical apocalyptic literature with a symbolic meaning then probably it is figurative. The most often used symbolic numbers are 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 12 and their multiples (see Special Topic at Revelation 1:4).

"be faithful unto death" This is a present middle or passive (deponent) imperative which emphasizes the believer's need to continue in faith even if it means physical death (cf. Matthew 2:13; Matthew 12:11; Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:13; Luke 12:4; Galatians 6:9). Some believers were and are killed. This is the paradox of the sovereignty of God and our experience in a fallen world.

"and I will give you the crown of life" This was the victor's crown called the "stephanos" (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:25). It was the reward of Christian martyrs. We learn from Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, 4:15, that there were many martyrs, including Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna. There are also other crowns (rewards) mentioned in the New Testament (cf. 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 3:11).

John uses the term for life, zoç, to refer to eternal life, resurrection life (cf. John 1:4; John 3:15, John 3:36; John 4:14, John 4:36; John 5:24, John 5:26, John 5:29, John 5:39, John 5:40; John 6:27, John 6:33, John 6:35, John 6:40, John 6:47, John 6:48, John 6:51, John 6:53, John 6:54, John 6:63, John 6:68; John 8:12; John 10:10, John 10:28; John 11:25; John 12:25, John 12:50; John 14:6; John 17:2, John 17:3; John 20:31; Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:12, Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:6, Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:1, Revelation 22:2, Revelation 22:14, Revelation 22:17, Revelation 22:19). True life is far more than physical existence!

SPECIAL TOPIC: DEGREES OF REWARDS AND PUNISHMENT

Revelation 2:11 "He who overcomes" This is also a recurrent admonition to faithfulness (cf. Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:26; Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:12, Revelation 3:21; Revelation 21:7). It is certainly an emphasis on perseverance (see Special Topic at Revelation 2:2).

"will not be hurt by the second death" This is a double negative construction with aorist passive subjunctive which shows God's ultimate care for those who are martyred (cf. Revelation 12:11). The "second death" referred to hell (see Special Topic at Revelation 1:18) or eternal separation from fellowship with God (cf. Revelation 20:6, Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:8).

"He who has an ear, let him hear" This is a recurrent admonition for spiritual attention and discernment (cf. Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:29; Revelation 3:6, Revelation 3:13, Revelation 3:22; Revelation 13:9).

Verses 12-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT Revelation 2:12-17 12"And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: 13'I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. 15So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. 17He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.'"

Revelation 2:12 "The One who has the sharp, two-edged sword" This is the same reference to the glorified Jesus found in Revelation 1:16. It was an OT metaphor for YHWH (cf. Isaiah 11:4; Isaiah 49:2). It is used in the NT for the penetrating power of the word of God (cf. Revelation 2:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Hebrews 4:12).

Revelation 2:13 "I know where you dwell" "Dwell" in the OT implied "to live permanently with." These believers faced strong local governmental and demonic pressure. Jesus knew them and their perilous situation. He was there with them.

"where Satan's throne is" There have been several possible interpretations of this phrase:

1. It could refer to the large throne of Zeus which was located in Pergamum.

2. It could refer to the god of healing, Asclepios, whose symbol was a serpent.

3. It seems that the whole city looked like a giant throne because of the Acropolis which stood hundreds of feet above the city itself.

4. It could be a reference to the Concilia, the local organization to promote emperor worship, which was very powerful in Pergamum.

Because of the historical context, either #1 or #4 seems best.

"you hold fast My name" This is a present active indicative. It shows the significance of the name as representing the character of a person. Believers trust by calling on His name (cf. John 1:12; John 3:18; Romans 10:9-13) and worship by calling on His name (cf. Genesis 4:26; Genesis 12:8; Genesis 26:25) and persevere by calling on His name (cf. John 17:11-12).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NAME OF THE LORD

"and did not deny My faith" This is an aorist middle (deponent) indicative. During these early centuries of Christianity, and even today in certain societies, there was a real temptation to save one's prosperity or life by denying faith in Christ during physical or judicial trials. The church has always struggled with how to handle these apostates.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FAITH (PISTIS [noun], PISTEUÔ, [verb], PISTOS [adjective])

"Antipas, My witness" We know nothing about this man. The title given him is the same that was used for Christ in Revelation 5:1. The term "witness" can mean "martyr" (cf. Revelation 11:3; Revelation 17:6). Tertullian said that Antipas was roasted in a brazen bull, but this is simply later tradition.

Revelation 2:14 "yet I hold it somewhat against you" Jesus had a negative statement for six of the seven churches. Righteous living in some areas does not excuse sin in others!

"because you have there some who hold to the teaching of Balaam" Balaam was a prophet of God (cf. Numbers 24:2) who was lured into helping to compromise the people of Israel (cf. Num. 22-2Revelation 2:5 and 31:16). He is condemned in both the OT and the NT (cf. Numbers 31:16; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 1:11).

It is possible that the name Balaam in Hebrew meant "conqueror of the people" and the name Nicolaitans may have meant the same thing in Greek (Nicodemus of John 3:0 also has a similar meaning). This would identify these two groups as to their immoral practices (cf. Jezebel, Revelation 2:20).

"who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel" Balaam's suggestion to Balak, King of Moab, was to involve the children of Israel in the fertility worship of Ba'al (cf. Numbers 25:1-3). There was a continuing cultural temptation to the sexual worship practices of first century pagans.

SPECIAL TOPIC: ISRAEL (THE NAME)

"to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality" These two sins involved pagan worship practices (cf. Revelation 2:3 and 31:16). Not only were there pagan meals where the food was sacrificed to idols (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:1-13), but often sexual immorality was the normal and expected worship practice at these pagan assemblies. Human sexual activity was a supposed means of assuring the health and fertility of herds, crops, and society.

Revelation 2:15 "you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans" Because of the similarity of the teachings of Balaam, the Nicolaitans (cf. Revelation 2:6), and Jezebel (cf. Revelation 2:20), all three of these refer to pagan, idolatrous worship practices. Believers must not revert to, or compromise with, the pagan cultures.

Revelation 2:16 "Therefore repent" See note at Revelation 2:5.

"or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth" This is an aorist active imperative. There is an ongoing emphasis concerning repentance (cf. Revelation 2:5, Revelation 2:16, Revelation 2:22; Revelation 3:3, Revelation 3:19). The coming could refer to temporal judgment against the church or to the Second Coming of Christ to judge the world. It is significant that the church as a whole was called on to repent (cf. Revelation 3:20; 2 Chronicles 7:14) because of the sins of some; if they did not, the consequences were corporate discipline! See Special Topic: Soon Return at Revelation 1:2.

Revelation 2:17 "to him I will give some of the hidden manna" Manna was God's supernatural provision for the children of Israel during the Wilderness Wandering Period (cf. Exodus 16:14-15, Exodus 16:31; Psalms 78:17-33, especially Revelation 2:24). There have been several theories proposed to interpret this cryptic phrase:

1. It could refer to the Ark of the Covenant being brought out of hiding by Jeremiah from Mt. Nebo (cf. II Maccabees 2:4-8) because it contained a jar of manna (cf. Exodus 16:32-34; Hebrews 9:4).

2. It could refer to the food of the new age of righteousness (cf. II Baruch 29:8).

The exact reference is uncertain but it was obviously an allusion to the new age of the Spirit inaugurated by Christ. Some have even asserted that because of John 6:31-35, the hidden manna referred to Christ Himself. This is a good example of the difficulty in interpreting the specific details of this book which the contemporary hearer understood, but the exact reference has since been lost.

"and I will give him a white stone" This stone, also called Tessera, had many usages in the Ancient Near East.

1. it could be used for a ticket to special banquets

2. it could be used to vote for acquittal by a jury

3. it could be used as a symbol of victory for an athlete

4. it could be used to show the freedom of a slave.

In this context, #1 seems to be the best, referring to the Messianic Banquet (a common theme in Jewish apocalyptic literature).

"and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it" This new name seems to be a symbol of the New Age or a title for the Messiah (cf. Isaiah 56:5; Isaiah 62:2; Isaiah 65:15; see SPECIAL TOPIC: MESSIAH at Revelation 1:1). This new name is mentioned often in the book of the Revelation (cf. Revelation 3:12; Revelation 14:1; Revelation 19:12, Revelation 19:13, Revelation 19:16; Revelation 22:4).

Verse 18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 2:18-29 18"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this: 19'I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. 20'But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21'I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. 22'Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. 23'And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. 24'But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call themI place no other burden on you. 25'Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come. 26'He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; 27and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father; 28 and I will give him the morning star. 29'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

Revelation 2:18 "The Son of God" It was very common to refer to Jesus as "Son." The most common title using this metaphor was "Son of man," which was Jesus' self-chosen title. The other term was "Son of God" which was a common designation for Jesus in John's writings (cf. John 1:34, John 1:49; John 5:25; John 9:35; John 10:36; John 11:4, John 11:27; John 19:7; John 20:31; 1 John 3:8; 1 John 4:15; 1 John 5:5, 1 John 5:10, 1 John 5:12, 1 John 5:13, 1 John 5:20). A third use of "son" is found in the book of Hebrews (cf. Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 5:8; Hebrews 7:28) where Jesus is contrasted with a servant (i.e., Moses, the prophets). He is a full family member with the Father.

This is not one of the descriptive phrases from chapter 1. This term, like "virgin-born," was used sparingly by NT authors probably because of the possible misunderstanding of pagan hearers, who would immediately relate these terms to their usages in the pagan pantheons. The Homeric gods and goddesses often were sexually active with humans, producing special offspring.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SON OF GOD

"who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze" This was another title for Jesus taken from Revelation 1:14, Revelation 1:15. It is an allusion to Daniel 10:6 showing Jesus' heavenly origin. It is possible that it was used in connection with Thyatira because this city was famous for its bronzeware.

Revelation 2:19 This verse is Jesus' acknowledgment of the ministry of the believers at Thyatira. They were active in kingdom work and getting even more active. This affirmation, however, did not excuse the heresy of Revelation 2:20.

Revelation 2:20 "But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess" This is an allusion to the Jezebel of 1 Kings 16:31-33; 2 Kings 9:21-22. Alexandrinus (MSS A) adds "Thy" before Jezebel, which implied that she may have been the wife of the pastor of this church or an active church leader. But this is speculation. Her teachings (cf. Revelation 2:20c) were similar to the Balaamites in Revelation 2:14b and the Nicolaitans in Revelation 2:15.

Jezebel was not rejected because she was a woman prophetess. There are many biblical examples of godly women leaders.

1. Miriam, Exodus 15:20

2. Deborah, Judges 4:4

3. Huldah, 2 Kings 22:14

4. Anna, Luke 2:36

5. Philip's daughters, Acts 21:9

6. Phoebe, Romana Revelation 16:1

SPECIAL TOPIC: WOMEN IN THE BIBLE

Revelation 2:21 God's mercy and patience as well as His justice are evident in Revelation 2:21-23 (cf. Romans 2:5).

Revelation 2:22 "I will throw her on a bed of sickness" This is sarcasm related to her bed of adultery (teachings about immorality).

"great tribulation" See SPECIAL TOPIC: TRIBULATION at Revelation 2:9 and the big end-time one at Revelation 7:14.

"unless they repent of her deeds" This is a third class conditional, which referred to potential future action but with an element of contingency.

Revelation 2:23 "and I will kill her children" This does not refer to literal children, but to her followers (cf. Revelation 2:22; 2 John 1:1).

"and all the churches will know" This shows that the seven letters were to be read and the truth applied by all the churches, then and now. For "church" see Special Topic at Revelation 1:4.

"I am He who searches the minds and hearts" The Bible asserts that God knows the motives and thoughts of all humans (cf. Psalms 7:9, 26:2; Psalms 39:1; Proverbs 24:12; Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:10; Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24; Hebrews 4:12-13; 8:27).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART

"and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds" This spiritual truth is presented so clearly in Galatians 6:7. We reap what we sow. This principle does not imply a salvation by human effort (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9), but that those who have met God in Christ will live godly, loving, serving lives (cf. Revelation 3:12; Matthew 25:1-46; Ephesians 2:10).

This is a spiritual principle. God is ethical-moral and so is His creation. Humans break themselves on God's standards. We reap what we sow. This is true for believers (but does not effect salvation) and unbelievers (cf. Job 34:11; Psalms 28:4; Psalms 62:12; Proverbs 24:12; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 32:19; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 2:6; Romans 14:12; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7-10; 1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 2:23; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:12).

Revelation 2:24 "the deep things of Satan" There are several theories relating to this phrase. It could refer

1. to a catch-phrase of Jezebel and her followers

2. to the Gnostic false teachers' emphasis on knowledge

3. to the initiation rites of the mystery religions of the Roman Empire

4. in an antithetical way, to "the deep things of God" (cf. Romans 11:33; 1 Corinthians 2:10; Ephesians 3:18)

"I place no other burden on you" This is an affirmation of the true believers in the city of Thyatira. They had an active, aggressive faith (cf. Revelation 2:19).

Revelation 2:25 "hold fast until I come" Christ's followers must persevere (cf. Revelation 2:20) amidst persecution, heresy and apathy. This is a command (aorist active imperative). Jesus is on His way; He is coming soon (cf. Revelation 2:16; Revelation 22:7, Revelation 22:20). This is the hope and encouragement of every generation of Christians.

Revelation 2:26-27 This is an allusion to Psalms 2:8-9, possibly with Isaiah 30:14 and Jeremiah 19:11 added in. Jesus is the Messianic king. His kingdom is coming in worldwide power and consummation. It will be worth it all when His followers see Him!

Revelation 2:26 "nations" The use of this term from the OT implies that it refers to those outside the covenant of YHWH (the exception is Revelation 7:9). It becomes a way of referring to godless, wicked peoples (cf. Revelation 2:26; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 10:11; Revelation 11:2, Revelation 11:9, Revelation 11:18; Revelation 12:5; Revelation 13:7; Revelation 14:6, Revelation 14:8; Revelation 16:19; Revelation 17:15; Revelation 18:3, Revelation 18:23; Revelation 19:15; Revelation 20:8).

Revelation 2:27 "I also have received authority from my Father" Jesus has already been given all authority (cf. Psalms 2:0; Matthew 28:18; Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus' kingdom was present, but not consummated.

The OT quote in verse Revelation 2:27 is from Psalms 2:8 which initially referred to the Messiah (cf. Revelation 12:5; Revelation 19:15), but here it is used for believers who put their trust in Jesus Christ. They reign with Him. See Special Topic at Revelation 5:10.

Revelation 2:28 "and I will give him the morning star" There have been several possible interpretations of this phrase:

1. it referred to a metaphor for Christ (cf. Revelation 22:16)

2. it referred to intimate knowledge and fellowship with Christ (cf. 2 Peter 1:19)

3. it referred to resurrection (cf. Daniel 12:3)

4. it referred to the military Messiah mentioned in Numbers 24:17

5. it referred to the joy of God's people (cf. Job 38:7)

6. it referred to a phrase used of Satan in Isaiah 14:12, but now for Christ

Revelation 2:29 See note at Revelation 2:7.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Revelation 2". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/revelation-2.html. 2021.
 
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