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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Revelation 2

Verse 1

Rev 2:1. See the comments on last verse of the preceding chapter for explanation of the angel. This letter is written to the same church at Ephesus to which Paul wrote his epistle bearing that name. The beginning of this church is recorded in Act 18:19. Before John wrote his letter to it the congregation had been placed under elders (Act 20:17). The Authority for this letter identifies himself by repeating chapter 1:13, but adding the significant fact that he walketh in the midst of the seven golden, candlesticks. This signifies that Christ is present (in spirit) and knows what is going on in the churches of the brotherhood. Rev 2:2. This and the following verse will name a number of things in the conduct of the church that are favorable. By doing that the Lord sets a good example of giving due credit which would be well for disciples to follow in their treatment of others. I know thy works. The Greek for the first word has many shades of meaning but they are classified under virtually two groups only, namely, to know in the sense of being aware of, and to know in the sense of acknowledging or approving: the connection must determine which is used. In our verse the Lord means he approves of the works which are mentioned. Labor and patience means they were persistent in their labors. They were very good negatively in that they could not bear them which are evil. They were faithful in detecting and exposing false teachers. (See 1Jn 4:1.) Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 1-2 The letter to the church at Ephesus--Rev 2:1-7. 1. "He that holdeth the seven stars . . . who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks"--Rev 2:1. The text says, these things saith he, not John, not the Holy Spirit, not God, but Christ Himself, the Head of the church, to whom was given all authority, and who, as Paul wrote to the same Ephesian church, was made "the head over all things to the church." 2. "I know thy works"--Rev 2:2. The works here mentioned were not described as either good or bad, but simply works, and it rather refers to the divine omniscience of Christ than to the character of the works mentioned; that nothing escapes his eye or his attention-- he knows the works of every church of his own, of which he is the head. 3. "Thy labor and thy patience"--Rev 2:2. These words set forth the active and the passive sides to the relationship between the church and its divine head. The use of the word works would indicate that which is outward; but labor is a deeper word, it is underlying, a working at the price of toil. And patience denotes the inward grace of faithful continuance and endurance. Hence, the active and the passive elements in the life a church. 4. "Thou canst not bear them that are evil: and thou has tried them"--Rev 2:2. This is a retrospective reference to a crisis in the Ephesian church, to an experience of the congregation somewhere in the past. The evil men were detected, convicted and expelled. 5. "Which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars"--Rev 2:2. The teaching of these pretenders was found to be false when tried, as John had exhorted the members of the church to do in respect to the claims of strolling teachers. It is good advice to follow even today. The imposters were tried by what Paul and John, the inspired apostles, had taught the Ephesian church in their own labors among them. It connects with Paul's own charge to the Ephesian elders in Act 20:29, warning them against the "wolves that would enter in" among them. What Paul said there that would occur, Jesus said here that it had occurred. It is also retrospective of the reason why Paul left Timothy in Ephesus, as mentioned in 1Ti 1:3 : "As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine." Here is the evidence of the necessary inference that the other apostles were living at the time John composed Revelation, as has been previously mentioned, for on no other supposition could such a claim by these imposters have even appeared plausible. Doubtless the men who made this claim, like most promoters of religious cults, appeared as wise and venerable persons in outward mien and manner; and they carried weight and influence enough to set up such a claim, and to make it so effective as to precipitate a crisis of such proportions that required the action of a trial for their conviction and expulsion. It was not a mere passing incident, but of sufficient importance that it rated the mention in this message of Christ to this church. This reference has a signal place in the cumulative contents of book bearing out the claim of its early date.

Verse 3

Rev 2:3. Borne and patience are virtually the same as labor and patience in the preceding verse. The main idea is that they had followed such a course for a long time. They had likewise done these things for the Lord's name's sake, which denotes a proper motive technically for their labors. Have not fainted means they had been unfaltering in their religious activities. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 3 6. "Hast borne, hast patience, hast labored . . . hast not fainted"--Rev 2:3. Here is the sphere of tolerance, what to bear and what not to bear. Infirmities and weaknesses can be shared with tolerance, but never to the point of condoning false doctrine, or of upholding false teachers. Of that class Paul said, in Gal 2:5 : "To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you." In verse 6, they were commended for hating something; some graces had decayed, as in verses 5 and 6, but the hatred of evil had remained, and was extolled.

Verse 4

Rev 2:4. Nevertheless. This single word conveys a very important truth, namely, while the Lord does not fail to see all the good a disciple does, yet that will not cause Him to accept the service unless it is correct as a whole. Left thy first love. This phrase may he illustrated by the warmth of feeling that exists in the first part of the relation of husband and wife. The word love is from AGAPE and its chief meaning is to have that regard for another that will cause one to be interested in his welfare and happiness. Such a love will prompt one even to "go out of his way" to do things to please the other. Likewise a Christian should have such a feeling for his brother and for Christ who is the bridegroom of the church. This going "out of his way" does not mean to go beyond the lawful regulations, for that would not be pleasing to a bridegroom regardless of its motive. But there are countless instances where a Christian can make a special exertion to show his love for the Lord. The church at Ephesus had fallen into the frame of mind where it performed its services from the legal standpoint only, and it had ceased to be a "labor of love" as Paul mentions in 1Th 1:3. Rev 2:5. From whence thou art fallen. They had fallen from a condition of fervent love for Christ and his cause to one of legal or technical formality. Repent. They have not been charged with doing anything wrong; everything they did was right as far as the acts themselves were concerned. It was what they were not doing that made up the Lord's objection to them; they were right affirmatively but wrong negatively. Yet they were told to repent, which shows a disciple may be condemned for what he is not doing. (See Heb 2:3.) Do the first works means those extra acts of love they did in the beginning of their service to Christ, not that they must repeat the first principles of the Gospel. I will come quickly. He was already walking round midst all the churches, but this means He will come specifically to this particular church to judge it. Will remove thy candlestick. Now we can see the reason for the remarks at chapter 1:12 about the seven candlesticks being separate items. That makes it possible to remove one without disturbing the others. Another important thought is signified in this circumstance, namely, the churches of Christ are independent units as to their government and have no official connection with each other. It should be noted further that notwithstanding the complaints the Lord had against the church, He did not threaten to remove its candlestick (which would be His way of rejecting this church) unless it failed to repent. In connection with this case it is well to consider Mat 11:20 where Jesus upbraids some wicked cities "because they repented not." In Luk 13:3 Luk 13:5 He declares certain ones will perish "except they repent." In 2Pe 3:9 the wicked need not perish if they will "come to repentance." This group of kindred passages gives us an insight into the principle on which God deals with mankind. A church (or individual) does not forfeit its standing with God at the mere point of doing wrong (else we all would be falling daily), but it is when it does wrong and refuses to repent of it. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 4-5 7. "Remember . . . and repent, and do the first works" - -Rev 2:5. This divine injunction goaded the memory in reference to the things of the past; it commanded the will with respect to the present determination; and it exhorted obedience in the restitution of the first works--not in quantity, but in quality. It meant to do the first works in the spirit of first love.

Verse 6

Rev 2:6. Nicolaitanes. There is little definiteness in the treatment of this subject by the histories and lexicons and other works of reference. Thayer merely comments that they were "the followers of Nicolaus," a heretic in the time of the apostles. Robinson makes similar remarks about the subject. We note that both the deeds and the doctrine of this sect are condemned. It had something to do with a life of fleshly indulgencies. The church at Ephesus rejected this sect which was one other point in its favor stated in the letter written by John. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 6 8. "But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate"--Rev 2:6. The claim that this designation of a sect or a party derived its name from Nicolas, of Act 6:5, rests on assertion. There is no historical or factual evidence of it. It is more consistent with the code language of Revelation to regard the term Nicolaitanes as a symbolic expression, along with the use of the word Balaam. The two words actually are similar in meaning, one meant a "victor of the people" and the other a "devourer of the people." These meanings of the two words significantly unite the two symbols as signs of the religious seductions of the Libertine party in the Ephesian church.

Verse 7

Rev 2:7. He that hath an ear does not imply that some people are without ears literally, but this is a solemn call upon all to give profound attention to what is being said to the churches. What the Spirit saith is the same as what the Lord says for He uses the Spirit to direct John in writing the letters. To the churches. There is no indication that the seven letters were to be circulated generally among the seven churches. Instead in each separate instance the instruction is to write a certain letter to a particular church. Therefore the phrase to the churches signifies that what the Spirit says to any certain church that may be named among the seven, the Lord intends to be for the instruction of the churches of Christ everywhere. This "call to attention" is made in connection with each of the seven letters and will not he commented upon after this one. But the promises that are made are different each time, hence that part of the letters will be commented upon as we come to them. Tree of life ...paradise of God. The phrasing about the tree is based on the one that was in the' garden of Eden. Man lost that tree by sinning, but it may be regained in a spiritual form by proper conduct, namely, by overcoming his sins while in this life. Paradise comes from a word that may mean any place of bliss or happiness. That is why it is used in reference to the abode of the righteous after death (Luk 23:43), and to the place where God dwells and will be the abode of the righteous after the judgment. Paul calls it both by "paradise" and "third heaven" in 2Co 12:2 2Co 12:4. John had a vision of the tree of life as he describes it in chapter 22:2. The reader may see a fuller description of the original word for paradise at Neh 2:8 in Volume 2 of Bible Commentary. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 7 9. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches"--Rev 2:7. Let him hear: As the eye is the organ of light to lighten the body (Mat 5:1-48), the ear is the organ of spiritual discernment. What the Spirit saith: The Spirit is here identified with Christ, since the phrase these things saith he represents Christ as the speaker. To the churches: What Jesus Christ said to each of the seven churches, he said in substance to all of the churches, and to every church of his own thereafter and now. 10. "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life"--Rev 2:7. To him that overcometh: This condition attached to the promise that followed was a specific reference to the impending persecutions, thus adding evidence that the book belongs to the period of their own experiences; they were expected to be the overcomers of these persecutions and the conquerers of the persecutors. To eat of the tree of life: The expression give to eat, had reference to distribution and reward, and it meant that the promise was as sure as the One who gave it was true. The phrase to eat meant to participate in the life that is the fruit of the tree of life. The tree of life is an allusion to the tree that disappeared in Eden, but did not perish; it is now in the paradise of God, instead of the paradise of man where it once was enjoyed by the first man and his mate; it consists, in this symbolic presentation, in the reward given to the overcomers of the persecutions, which comes only from above--from God. The warnings to the Ephesian church surround the two elements--the false apostles and the Nicolaitanes. The first formed a parallel with the warning of Christ in Mat 24:1-51 concerning the false prophets that should arise to disturb the disciples after the establishment of the church and before and during the siege of Jerusalem; and the latter was parallel to the warnings of Paul against the parties of Judaism that would develop within the churches.

Verse 8

Rev 2:8. See the comments on last verse of the preceding chapter for an explanation of the angel. Smyrna is one of the places that received a letter John was told to write. The description of the One who was dictating the letter is the same as in chapter 1:18; the same who was walking in the midst of the churches. This is one of the two that received no rebuke from the Lord in the letters to the seven churches. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 8 The letter to the church at Smyrna--Rev 2:8-11. 1. "These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive"--Rev 2:8. This sublime language repeats the eternity of the One who addresses this church, whom death could not vanquish, and it was intended for the encouragement of the Smyrna members to follow him even unto death, or martyrdom, with no fear of the consequences.

Verse 9

Rev 2:9. I know thy works. See comments at verse 2 for the general definition of this phrase which is used at the beginning of each of the seven letters; in this place it means the Lord approves of their conduct. Tribulation refers to the oppression being put upon this church by the enemy. A part of this resulted in the loss of their possessions which brought upon them a condition of poverty. But thou art rich. They were poor as far as this world's goods was concerned but were "rich in faith" (Jas 2:5). Say they are Jews, and are not. They belonged to the Jewish race but were not true to their religious profession; such people frequently joined with the heathen in persecuting the Christians. Synagogue of Satan means they really were serving the interests of Satan and hence were to be classed with his agents. Such insincere Jews would assemble in their synagogues for their pretended services to God, but due to their hypocrisy the Lord considered it a synagogue of Satan. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 9 2. "The blasphemy of the Jews"--Rev 2:9. This phraseology is not addressed to the true Jews, but to the pseudo-Jews, and had regard to the Jewish persecutions, which the calumnious and bitter opposition of the fanatical Jews waged against their own kinsmen who had accepted Christ. Again, it finds parallel in the Jewish persecutions foretold by the Lord in Mat 24:1-51.

Verse 10

Rev 2:10. Imprisonment as a persecution was to be one feature of their tribulation which will be credited to the devil. Ten days is a figurative reference to a series of persecutions that were heaped upon the church under the opposition from the Roman government. This was to become a trial of their faith, and the Lord consoles them with the assurance that they need fear none of those things. Faithful unto death. Even death cannot defraud a true disciple of his reward. Crown of life. A crown is a decoration for being victor over a foe and such a token is worthy those who remain true to the Lord in the presence of death. Their body may die in His service but it will not deprive them of eternal life. (See Luk 12:4.) Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 10 3. "Ye shall have tribulation ten days"--Rev 2:10. This cannot mean a literal ten days, but rather to the ten persecutors, the number of which is historically factual. As there were five fallen imperial rulers before Nero--from Nero to Diocletian there were ten persecuting emperors. This era of persecution reached its crescendo in Diocletian's reign of terror, in which he vowed to obliterate the name Christian from the Roman empire. The indications are too plain for doubt that this ten days tribulation had immediate reference to the era or epoch of the ten persecuting emperors. Their succession is symbolized in Rev 17:8-11, which describe the ebbing and the flowing of the tide of persecution, in the expressions was, is not and yet is. In the verses 10 and 11 the succession of these emperors is so plainly indicated that the mention of them by name could not have been plainer to the members of the churches to whom this code language was addressed. The history of these apocalyptic facts is verified in Gibbon's History Of The Fall And Decline Of The Roman Empire. 4. "Be thou faithful unto death"--Rev 2:10. The death of this admonition predicted the martyrdom of some of their number. It does not refer to ordinary death as related to the usual span of life, not merely until one dies; it was a warning to them with specific reference to martyrdom. It was an exhortation to be faithful even unto martyrdom, a consequence of loyalty to Christ in the persecutions, and apocalyptic forecast fulfilled in the experiences of these churches in their own time, the trials of the immediate conflict, not prophecies of remote centuries.

Verse 11

Rev 2:11. .He that overcometh means the one who is "faithful unto death." The second death means the lake of fire (chapter 20:14) which cannot hurt the faithful. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 11 5. "He that overcometh shall not be hurt with the second death"--Rev 2:11. This passage finds its apocalyptic fulfillment within the vision itself, in Rev 20:6, in the description of the culmination of all of the imagery of these scenes with the victory of the saints in the conflicts that come to end. The first law of the higher mathematics is that "things equal to the same thing are equal to each other." This law applied to the comparison between these two passages, chapter 2:11 and chapter 20:6, yields the following conclusion: 1. Overcoming the persecutions equaled exemption from the second death; 2. Part in the first resurrection equaled exemption from the second death; 3. These two things being equal to the same thing were equal to each other. Therefore, the result of overcoming the persecutions was pictured as the first resurrection of the apocalypse, and was prerequisite to the living and the reigning with Christ in the triumphant state of victory that is described.

Verse 12

Rev 2:12. The author identifies himself in this place by His possession of the sharp sword with two edges. This refers to the word of God which is described in Heb 4:12. The Lord says he hath this sword or that He originated it and has a perfect knowledge of the proper use of it. And to the angel is explained at chapter 1:20. Verse 13. 1 know thy works. (See comments at verse 2.) Know is used in the sense of approval with regard to the works in this verse. Where Satan's seat is. Pergamos was in one of the worst centers of idolatry, making the temptation all the greater. This church as a whole withstood the influence of heathendom, holding fast to the name of Christ as the true person to worship. Not denied my faith denotes that they maintained the basis of that faith or system of religion which was the Gospel. Not much is said elsewhere about this Antipas further than what is said here. He is referred to as a "martyr" even as it is in our passage. However, the reason for so classifying him is an error, namely, because it is said that he was slain for his faith. He was a martyr before being slain because death is not what makes a man a martyr; it only proves that he was a martyr. That term is from the same Greek word as "witness" and it means the same. It is the word for "witness" in Heb 12:1 where we know Paul is speaking about the faithful servants of God enumerated in the preceding chapter. We also know that some of those "witnesses" (martyrs) did not die, for they "wandered in deserts and in mountains." Hence a martyr is one who is true to the testimony of the Lord come what may, whether it be death or loss of goods or banishment like the case of John. Accordingly in the case of Anti-pas; he went to his death because he had been a true and faithful martyr for Christ. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 12 The letter to the church at Pergamos.--Rev 2:12-17. 1. "He which hath the sharp sword with two edges"-- Rev 2:12. The sword is an instrument of war, hence Christ threatened to wage war against the church in Pergamos, because of the evils within it, with the weapon designated "the sword of my mouth." A sword of the mouth would necessarily be the spoken word, and it meant the employment of the two-edged sword of his word (Heb 4:12), as a dual condemnation of the outside espionage of Satan's seat in Pergamos, and the inside sabotage of Balaam's doctrine within the church itself--the combined infiltration of pagan secular practices on one hand, and the Nicolaitane spiritual contaminations of erroneous doctrines on the other hand.

Verse 13

Rev 2:13. I know thy works. (See comments at Rev 2:2.) Know is used in the sense of approval with regard to the works in this verse. Where Satan's seat is. Pergamos was in one of the worst centers of idolatry, making the temptation all the greater. This church as a whole withstood the influence of heathendom, holding fast to the name of Christ as the true person to worship. Not denied my faith denotes that they maintained the basis of that faith or system of religion which was the Gospel. Not much is said elsewhere about this Antipas further than what is said here. He is referred to as a "martyr" even as it is in our passage. However, the reason for so classifying him is an error, namely, because it is said that he was slain for his faith. He was a martyr before being slain because death is not what makes a man a martyr; it only proves that he was a martyr. That term is from the same Greek word as "witness" and it means the same. It is the word for "witness" in Heb 12:1 where we know Paul is speaking about the faithful servants of God enumerated in the preceding chapter. We also know that some of those "witnesses" (martyrs) did not die, for they "wandered in deserts and in mountains." Hence a martyr is one who is true to the testimony of the Lord come what may, whether it be death or loss of goods or banishment like the case of John. Accordingly in the case of Antipas; he went to his death because he had been a true and faithful martyr for Christ. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 13 2. "Where Satan's seat is"--Rev 2:13. The stronghold of Satan consisted in the pagan and Jewish oppositions, which were combined in Pergamos into deadly threats against the church. The Pergamos church had been weakened by the heathen surroundings of Mysia, known for its famous temples, dedicated to Zeus, Minerva, Apollo, Venus, Bacchus, and Aesculapius. The figure, Satan's seat, denotes the wickedness of these idolatrous temples and the nuptials to these gods. The name Pergamos meant the "place of nuptials." It was a fitting figure of Satan's seat. 3. "In those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr"--Rev 2:13. There is a traditional claim that Antipas was once a bishop of the Pergamos church, but history does not identify him. In this book of symbols and code, the same reason for not mentioning other persons by name, such as Nero, the emperor, would also argue against the reality of these names. It is more consistent with the character of the book for Antipas to be a symbolic designation and representative for martyrdom. The word Antipas is derived from antipater: "anti," against; and "pater," father, or paternal--and its meaning was, against the gods: hence, symbolic of faithfulness to Christ to the extent of "against all" gods of paganism. It therefore stood for all who would become victims of martyrdom in the persecutions to follow.

Verse 14

Rev 2:14. Thou hast there means the church was holding within its fellowship these characters. hold the doctrine denotes that they believe and retain and endorse it. The doctrine of Balaam is briefly stated in direct connection with this passage. It nertains to the advice that Balaam gave Balac after the four speeches that he (Balaam) made under the control of the Lord. The historical account of it is quoted from Josephus in connection with Num 25:1-5 in Volume 1 of Bible Commentary. The persons in the church at Pergamos were endorsing the same practices which were a mixture of idolatry and immorality. Rev 2:15. See the comments at Rev 2:6 on the Nicolaitanes. Rev 2:16. Repent. (See comments at Rev 2:5 on this subject.) Fight against them means a spiritual war since the weapon is the sword of my mouth. It means these guilty members will be exposed and condemned by this sword which is the word of God. Rev 2:17. He that hath an ear is commented upon at Rev 2:7. Him that overcometh signifies one who is faithful to the Lord until death. Eat of the hidden manna. This is a figure of speech formed from the circumstance recorded in Exo 16:32-34; it is referred to by Paul in Hebrews 4. This manna was in the ark in the Most Holy Place where none were permitted to enter and partake. It is used here to represent the exclusive spiritual blessings that the Lord will bestow only on His faithful servants. A white stone alludes to some practices of old in which a favored contestant was given this kind of stone as a badge of distinction, on much the same principle as a soldier's decorations. This new name also signifies the special relation between a faithful servant and his Lord. No man knoweth in the sense that no man can realize or appreciate what it means to be thus blessed of the Lord. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verses 14-17 4. "Thou hast them that hold the doctrine of Balaam . . . also the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes"--Rev 2:14-17. The mongrel prophet of the Old Testament contrived the evil scheme to destroy the purity of the Israelites by a twofold seduction: first, seducing Israel into the worship of Baal; and second, tempting the men of Israel into lewdness by fornication. This doctrine of Balaam in the Pergamos church referred to apostate teaching. And the association of the Nicolaitanes with Balaam, in the teaching of immorality with the outward profession of Christianity, is a strong indication that the Nicolaitanes were identical with those who held the doctrine of Balaam, and it was a dual symbol of one party in the Pergamos church. Actually, then Balaam and the Nicolaitanes stood for the same things. It is significant to mention here that the term Nicolaitane is the Greek equivalent of the name Balaam in the Hebrew, and they both meant "the destroyer of the people." There is no factual authority for the view that the Nicolaitanes were the degenerate followers of a depraved and anonymous Nicolas, who is supposed to have demoralized and corrupted the Pergamos church. It is rather the symbolic association between Balaamism and Nicolaitanism. It seems too significant not to be true.

Verse 18

Rev 2:18. See comments at Rev 1:20 for the explanation of the angel. In this letter the author states his personal name before giving a description of himself and it is the Son of God. Comparing His eyes and feet to fire and brass is explained at chapter 1:14, 15. Rev 2:19. I know thy works is commented upon at Rev 2:2. After naming the works He immediately uses the word notwithstanding, which shows that the works to which He refers are the things named in our present verse. Since they are all good we understand the word know is used in the sense of approval. Charity means an interest in the welfare of others, and service means the doing of something to assist in that welfare. Faith is produced by the word of God (Rom 10:17) and with the assurance that the divine word is leading them aright, it would cultivate patience or endurance in their activities. In the beginning of the verse the word works is used as a general reference to their manner of life. It now is used to bring out the fact that they performed good deeds for the welfare of others. Last to be more than the first. This is as it should be, for Christians are expected not only to produce the fruits of righteousness but to increase therein (2Co 9:10). Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 18-19 The letter to the church at Thyatira.--Rev 2:18-29. 1. "These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire"--Rev 2:18. The reader is requested to turn back to the notes on chapter one for the incisiveness of this description.

Verse 20

Rev 2:20. Having given the church credit for the good things it was doing the Lord next makes his complaints. Thou sufferest. When a church retains a bad character in its fellowship, it becomes a partaker of the evil deeds of that person and will be condemned by the Lord. (See verses 14, 15.) The church at Thyatira was doing so concerning a false prophetess named Jezebel. Thayer defines this word, "A second Jezebel," then gives us the following historical statement. "The symbolic name of a woman who pretended to be a phophetess, and who, addicted to antinomianism [the doctrine of faith alone], claimed for Christians the liberty of eating things sacrificed to idols." This statement of Thayer's agrees with the language of the verse. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 20 2. "Thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess"--Rev 2:20. The name Jezebel is the symbol of the powerful heathen influences and applied to the same defections designated by the doctrine of Balaam and the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes. The expression that woman Jezebel was a gradation of the same evil Jewish parties in the Pergamos and the Thyatira churches. She was representative of a pseudo-prophetess in the person of a female Judaizer, a sort of the Lady Macbeth, of the Shakespearean play; a representation of an added source of opposition and seduction to the already existing Balaams and Nicolaitanes.

Verse 21

Rev 2:21. Gave her space (of time) to repent indicates the longsuffering of God toward evildoers. Repent of her fornication. Doubtless those whose religion was so materialistic as to worship dumb idols also indulged themselves in fleshly fornication. However, it is evident from many passages that idolatry was classed as spiritual fornication in Bible times; one such passage is Jer 3:9. Rev 2:22. This verse indicates that spiritual adultery (idolatry) is what is meant through most of these verses. The Lord here threatens to punish this wicked woman by casting her and her customers into a bed together. That would not be any punishment for a woman who was a literal adulteress. But the form of language is used that indicates something unpleasant was to be inflicted, for it refers to the bed as a place of tribulation. Of course in a case of literal adultery the Lord would regard an impure woman and her patrons as being guilty together. Likewise if a woman entices the professed servants of God to commit idolatry, the whole group would be held as partners in the guilt. (See Mat 15:14.) Rev 2:23. Kill her children with death. This may sound strange to us if we try to be technical, for if a person is killed at all it would mean death. It is what is known as a Hebraism which means an expression peculiar to the speech of the Hebrews and used by others for the purpose of emphasis. The idea is to make the hearer realize the certainty that death is to be inflicted. It is similar to "thou shalt surely die" (Gen 2:17), or not to "die the common death of all men" (Num 16:29). All the churches shall know. Whatever was going to be done was to be of such a public character as to make it an example. Searcheth the reins and hearts. The Lord is able to penetrate the innermost thoughts and expose the evil to the shame of the guilty. Will give unto every one of you according to your works. Those who are personally responsible for the conditions will be called to account. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verses 21-23 3. "I will cast her into a bed . . . and I will kill her children" --Rev 2:21-23. The Lord had given this leader of degenerates in the Thyatira church "a place to repent," that is, a respite, or period of probation, as he had done for the antediluvians in the days of Noah--but instead of accepting this suspension of sentence and repenting, they proceeded in their degeneracy from bad to worse, and the Lord said: "I will cast her into a bed," that is, of pain, instead of the sensuality which represented spiritual fornication in the corruptions of doctrine and practice. This symbolic Jezebel would be cast into a bed of retribution for her sins, referring to the judgment that would be brought upon the followers of these apostate teachers in the churches. And the Lord added: "I will kill her children"--that is, by exterminating the seeds of wickedness and false doctrine, thus preventing its offspring.

Verse 24

Rev 2:24. Unto you I say . . . as many as have not this doctrine. In every condition of evil there are some who have not endorsed the evils of others, and they are not held responsible for that which they could not prevent. Not known the depths of Satan. Not been mixed up in these evil things of Satan who is prompting Jezebel and her partners. As they speak refers to the false teaching of this wicked woman and those being influenced by her. Put upon you none other burden. The Lord will not condemn them for what they cannot prevent, but He will "burden" them with the duty of abstaining from the evil practices that he has been condemning. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 24 4. "The rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine"--Rev 2:24. This word of approval was directed to those in Pergamos who had not accepted the philosophy and practices of the libertine degenerates, who had not corrupted their minds with the depths of their degenerates and depraved philosophy--he would not lay upon them further duties than they were faithfully performing, nor burden them with the condemnations of the evil things in which they had not participated. It seems evident that the depths of the degenerate philosophies of paganism which endangered these churches, and apparently taking root in them, were symbolized in the condemnations of the Balaams, the Nicolaitanes and the Jezebels within their midst.

Verse 25

Rev 2:25. Hold fast, or maintain their disconnection with these evil things. Till I come is equivalent to saying "until death." Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 25 5. "But that which ye have already hold fast till I come" --Rev 2:25. The mention of the "rest" in Pergamos referred to those of their number who were holding to the truth against the Jezebel pagan philosophies and Nicolaitane doctrines, and they were exhorted to hold fast to these truths until the rendering of the judgment against the evil elements in the church, and the execution of the judgments pronounced, in the events that were to follow. The statement "till I come" has no reference to the second advent of Christ. Jesus did not deceive the church at Thyatira into believing that his Second Advent and the Judgment Day would occur during their life time. The admonition referred to his coming in the events of judgment against the Jezebel paramours there. Again, it is solid proof that the things mentioned had fulfillment in the period of their own lives, the time to which the apocalypse belonged.

Verse 26

Rev 2:26. Figurative language must be based on some literal fact or possible fact. Christians are not to exercise any temporal rule over the world on the basis of their religious profession, but they are to be joint rulers with Christ as to spiritual conduct that will please the Lord. (See the comments at Rev 1:6.) This partnership with Christ is on condition that the disciple is faithful unto the end, which means until death if such should be imposed upon him. Rev 2:27. An iron rule does not always mean one of harshness, but that metal should also be thought of as being unyielding and strong and enduring under a strain. All the phrases of this verse should be understood in this figurative sense. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 26-27 6. "To him that overcometh . . . will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron"--Rev 2:26-27. This is not a future millennium text. It is plainly the imagery of the irresistible force of the gospel. It compares with Jer 1:10; Isa 11:9; Psa 2:9; Psa 110:2, and 1Co 6:2. The figure of the rod is used to denote the chastening of the truth, and for the power and authority of Jesus Christ transferred in a figure to his followers who proclaim it. It is used to denote the power of the gospel published in the new dispensation, as previewed in the prophetic psalms-- Psa 2:9; Psa 110:2. It is used for censure and discipline in 1Co 4:21. In Rev 2:26 it refers to the impact of the gospel on the pagan world through the victory of the church emerging from persecution.

Verse 28

Rev 2:28. Morning star. Jesus calls himself the "morning star" in Rev 22:16. The significance of this phrase is due to its brightness as it precedes the sun in rising, thus announcing that a new day is dawning. (See 2Pe 1:19.) The present verse means that the faithful disciple will be given the spiritual brightness of Christ. Comments Verse 28: Rev 22:16 identifies Christ as the Moming Star. The redeemed also get Christ. The morning star is the object in the sky that is seen just before the dawn. Christ leads the lighting of the spiritual world with his truth. (2Pe 1:19)

Verse 29

Rev 2:29. He that hath an ear. (See Rev 2:7.) Comments Verse 29: John closes the statement to the church in Thyatira the same way he closes all the other letters. It means pay attention to what has been written because it comes from God through Christ and the Holy Spirit.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 2". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/revelation-2.html. 1952.