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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Revelation 2

 

 

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Verse 1

Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;

Each of the seven commences with, "I know thy works." Each contains a promise, "To him that overcometh." Each ends with "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." The title of our Lord in each accords with the address, and is mainly taken from the imagery of the vision, Revelation 1:1-20. Each of the addresses has a threat or a promise, and most have both. Their order seems ecclesiastical, civil, and geographical: Ephesus first, as the Asiatic metropolis (termed 'the light' and the 'first city of Asia'), nearest to Patmos, where John received the letter to the seven churches; also being that church with which John was especially connected; then the churches on the west of Asia; then those in the interior. Smyrna and Philadelphia, the most afflicted, alone receive unmixed praise. Sardis and Laodicea, the most wealthy, receive almost solely censure. In Ephesus, Pergamos, and Thyatira, there are some things to praise, others to condemn-the latter preponderating in Ephesus, the former in Pergamos and Thyatira. The different states of different churches, in all times and places, are portrayed, and they are suitably encouraged or warned.

Ephesus - famed for the temple of Diana, one of the seven world-wonders. For three years Paul laboured there. He subsequently ordained Timothy superintending overseer or bishop: probably his charge was but temporary. The praise and blame accord with Timothy's character. The zeal against self-called apostles and the Nicolaitanes, the unwearied labour, and the declension from first love, are not inapplicable: the promise, Revelation 2:7, accords with 2 Timothy 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:6. Paul's death, and the charge in the pastoral letters to Timothy, may have changed his position from superintendent of many churches to Bishop of Ephesus. He was only 35 when the pastoral letters were addressed to him. Now he was advanced in years. But all this is conjecture. John, toward the close of life, took Ephesus as the center from which he superintended the province.

Holdeth , [ kratoon (Greek #2902)] - 'holdeth fast in His grasp,' as Revelation 2:25; Revelation 3:11 : cf. John 10:28-29. Christ's title as 'holding fast the seven stars (Revelation 1:16 : only, for having is substituted holding fast), and walking in the midst of the seven candlesticks,' accords with the introduction, Revelation 1:16; Revelation 1:20. Walking expresses His unwearied activity in the Church, guarding her from internal and external evils, as the high priest moved to and fro in the sanctuary.


Verse 2

I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

I know thy works - His omniscience. Not merely 'thy professions, desires, good resolutions' (Revelation 14:13, end).

Thy labour. A C omit "thy;" 'Aleph (') B support it. [ Kopon (Greek #2873) means 'labour unto weariness.']

Patience - persevering endurance.

Bear , [ bastasai (Greek #941)] - evil men: the Ephesian church regarded as an intolerable burden. We are to 'bear (same Greek, Galatians 6:2) burdens of weak brethren; but not of false brethren.

Tried , [ epeirasas (Greek #3985)] - by experiment; not [ dokimazete (Greek #1381)] 'test,' as 1 John 4:1. The apostolical churches had the miraculous gift of discerning spirits. So (Acts 20:28-30) Paul presciently warned the Ephesian elders of the coming false teachers, and warned Timothy at Ephesus. Tertullian ('De Baptism.,'

17) and Jerome ('In Catal. Vir. Illustr. in Luca,' 7) record of John, that when a professedly canonical history of Paul's acts had been composed by a presbyter of Ephesus, John convicted the author and condemned the work. So once he would not remain under the same roof as Cerinthus the heretic.

Say they are apostles - probably Judaizers. Ignatius ('Ad Ephesum,' 6) says, 'Onesimus praises exceedingly your good discipline, that no heresy dwells among you;' and ('Ad Ephesum,' 9), 'Ye did not permit those having evil doctrine to sow their seed, but closed your ears.'


Verse 3

And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.

Borne ... patience. 'Aleph (') A B C, Vulgate, transpose. 'Thou, hast borne' my reproach ('Aleph (') adds 'all afflictions' [ thlipsis (Greek #2347) pasas (Greek #3956)]), but 'canst not bear the evil' (Revelation 2:2). A beautiful antithesis.

And ... hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 'Aleph (') B [ekopiasas] A C h, Vulgate, read [ ouk (Greek #3756) kekopiakas (Greek #2872)], 'and ... hast not laboured;' omitting 'and hast fainted.' The difficulty which the received text tried to obviate was the seeming contradiction, 'I know thy labour ... and thou hast not laboured.' What is meant is, 'thou hast not been wearied out with labour.'


Verse 4

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

Somewhat ... because - rather, 'I have against thee (this) that,' etc. Not a mere "somewhat:" it is everything. How characteristic of our gracious Lord, that He puts foremost all He can find to approve, and only afterward notes the shortcomings!

Left thy first love - to Christ. Compare 1 Timothy 5:12. See their first love, Ephesians 1:15. This letter was written under Domitian, thirty years since Paul had written to them. Their warmth had given place to lifeless orthodoxy. Compare Paul's view of faith so-called without love, 1 Corinthians 13:2.


Verse 5

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Whence - from what a height.

Do the first works - which flowed from thy first love. Not merely 'feel thy first feelings,' but do works flowing from the same principle as formerly (Galatians 5:6).

I will come - `I am coming' in special judgment on thee.

Quickly. So B omitted in 'Aleph (') A C, Vulgate, Coptic versions.

Remove thy candlestick out of his place - "remove" the Church from Ephesus elsewhere. 'Removal of the candlestick, not extinction of the candle, is threatened here; judgment for some, the occasion of mercy for others. The seat of the Church has been changed; the Church itself survives. What the East lost, the West has gained. One who lately visited Ephesus found only three Christians, and these so ignorant as scarcely to have heard the names of Paul or John' (Trench).


Verse 6

But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

But. How graciously He returns to praise for our consolation, and as an example to us, that we should show, when we reprove, we have more pleasure in praising than fault-finding.

Hatest the deeds - hate men's evil deeds, not the men.

Nicolaitanes. Irenaeus ('Haereses,' 1: 26, 3) and Tertullian ('Praescriptione Haereticorum,' 46) suppose followers of Nicolas, one of the seven (Acts 6:3; Acts 6:5), as there was a Judas among the twelve. They, Clemens Alexandrinus ('Stromata,' 2: 20; 3: 4) and Epiphanius ('Haereses,' 25), confound the later Gnostic Nicolaitanes, followers of one Nicolas, with those of Revelation. Michaelis' view is: Nicolas (conqueror of the people) is the Greek of Balaam, from the Hebrew: Bil`am (Hebrew #1109) `Am (Hebrew #5971), Destroyer of the people. Revelation abounds in duplicate Hebrew and Greek names: Apollyon, Abaddon; Devil, Satan; Yea [ Nai (Greek #3483)], Amen. The name, like other names, Egypt, Babylon, Sodom, is symbolic. Compare Revelation 2:14-15, which shows the true sense; not a sect, but professing Christians who, like Balsam, introduced a false freedom - i:e., licentiousness; a reaction from Judaism, the first danger to the Church, combated in the council of Jerusalem, which, while releasing Gentile converts from legal bondage, required their abstinence from idol meats, and concomitant "fornication;" also in the letter to Galatians. These Nicolaitanes, or followers of Balaam, as Christ designates them by a name expressing their true character, abused Paul's doctrine of the grace of God into a plea for lasciviousness (2 Peter 2:15-16; 2 Peter 2:19; Jude 1:4; Jude 1:11, who both describe such seducers as followers of Balaam). They persuaded many to escape obloquy, by yielding in what was a test of faithfulness, the eating of idol meats: going further, they joined in fornication of the idol feasts, as permitted by Christ's 'law of liberty.' Thus the 'love-feasts' were made like pagan orgies (Jude 1:12).


Verse 7

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

He that hath an ear. This clause precedes the promise in the first three addresses, succeeds to it in the last four. Thus, the promises are enclosed on both sides with the precept urging the deepest attention to most momentous truths. Every man "hath an ear" naturally; he alone will be able to hear spiritually to whom God has given "the hearing ear;" whose 'ear God hath wakened' and "opened" (Isaiah 50:4). Compare 'faith, the ears of the soul' (Clemens Alexandrinus).

The Spirit saith - what Christ saith; so one are the Second and Third Persons.

Unto the churches - not merely to the particular, but to the universal, Church.

Give ... the tree of life. The promise corresponds to the faithfulness. They who refrain from Nicolaitane indulgences (Revelation 2:6) and idol meats (Revelation 2:14-15) shall eat of meat infinitely superior-namely, the fruit of the tree of life, and the hidden manna (Revelation 2:17).

Overcometh - in John's gospel (Rev. ) and first letter, (Revelation 2:13-14; Revelation 5:4-5) an object follows-namely, 'the world,' 'the wicked one.' Here, where the final issue is spoken of, the conqueror is named absolutely. Paul uses a similar image, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25; 2 Timothy 2:5; not the same as John's, except Romans 12:21.

Will I give - as Judge. The tree of life in Paradise, lost by the fall, is restored by the Redeemer. Compare Proverbs 3:18; Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 15:4; prophetically, Revelation 22:2; Revelation 22:14; Ezekiel 47:12 : cf. John 6:51. These introductory addresses are linked closely to the body of Revelation. Thus, the tree of life here, with Revelation 22:2; deliverance from the second death (Revelation 2:11), with Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:8; the new name (Revelation 2:17), with Revelation 14:1; power over the nations (Revelation 2:26), with Revelation 20:4; the morning star (Revelation 2:28), with Revelation 22:16; the white raiment (Revelation 3:5), with Revelation 4:4; Revelation 16:15; the name in the book of life (Revelation 3:5), with Revelation 13:8; Revelation 20:15; the new Jerusalem and its citizenship (Revelation 3:12), with Revelation 21:10.

In the midst of the paradise. 'Aleph (') A B C h, Vulgate, omit "the midst of." In Genesis 2:9, appropriate; for there were other trees in the garden, but not in the midst of it. Here the tree of life is simply in the paradise; for no other tree is mentioned in it. In Rev. 29:2 , the tree of life is 'in the midst of the street of Jerusalem;' from this the clause was inserted here. Paradise (Persian), originally any garden of delight: then specially Eden: then the temporary abode of pious souls: then "the paradise of God," the third heaven, the immediate presence of God (2 Corinthians 12:4).

Of God - (Ezekiel 28:13) 'Aleph (') A C but B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Cyprian, 'MY God,' as Revelation 3:12. So Christ calls God " My God and your God" (John 20:17 : cf. Ephesians 1:17). God is our God, as being peculiarly Christ's God. The main bliss of Paradise is, it is the Paradise of God: God dwells there (Revelation 21:3). We lost in Adam the paradise of man; we gain in Christ the paradise of God. We were driven out of that: we 'go no more out' of this.


Verse 8

And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

Smyrna - in Ionia, north of Ephesus. Polycarp, martyred in 168 AD, eighty-six years after conversion, was Bishop: probably "the angel of the church in Smyrna." The allusions to persecutions unto death, accord with this view. Ignatius ('Martyrium Ignatii,' 3:), on his way to martyrdom in Rome, wrote to Polycarp, then (108 AD) Bishop of Smyrna. If his bishopric commenced ten or twelve years earlier, the dates will harmonize. Tertullian ('Praescriptione Haereticorum,' 32:) and Irenaeus, who talked with Polycarp in youth, tell us, Polycarp was consecrated by John.

The First and the Last, which was dead, and is alive - attributes of Christ most calculated to comfort Smyrna under its persecution: resumed from Revelation 1:17-18. As death was to Him the gate to life eternal, so it is to them (Revelation 2:10-11).


Verse 9

I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Thy works, and - so 'Aleph (') B But A C, Vulgate, and Coptic, omit.

Tribulation - owing to persecution.

Poverty - owing to 'spoiling of their goods.'

But thou art rich - in grace. Contrast Laodicea, rich in the world's eyes, poor before God. 'There are both poor rich-men, and rich poor-men in God's sight' (Trench).

Blasphemy of them - blasphemous calumny of thee arising from them, etc.

Say they are Jews, and are not - Jews by national descent, not spiritually of "the true circumcision." The Jews blaspheme Christ as 'the hanged one.' As elsewhere, so at Smyrna, they bitterly opposed Christianity; at Polycarp's martyrdom they joined the pagans in clamouring for his being cast to the lions; and when there was an obstacle to this, for his being burnt alive; with their own hands they carried logs for the pile.

Synagogue of Satan. Only once is "synagogue" in the New Testament used of the Christian assembly, and that by the apostle who longest maintained the union of the Church and Jewish synagogue (margin, James 2:2). As the Jews opposed Christianity, and it more and more rooted itself in the Gentile world, "synagogue" was left altogether to the former, and Christians appropriated the honourable term "Church:" contrast an earlier time, when the Jewish theocracy was "the church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38). Compare Numbers 16:3; Numbers 20:4, "congregation of the Lord." The Jews, who might have been "the Church of God," had now, by their opposition, become the "synagogue of Satan." So 'the throne of Satan' (Revelation 2:13) represents the pagan's opposition; "the depths of Satan" (Revelation 2:24), the opposition of heretics.


Verse 10

Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

None. So 'Aleph ('), Vulgate, Syriac; but A B C, Coptic, 'Fear not those things,' etc. 'The Captain of our salvation never keeps back what faithful witnesses for Him may have to bear; never entices recruits by promising they shall find all things easy and pleasant' (Trench).

Devil - `the accuser,' acting through Jewish accusers, against Christ and His people. The conflict is not with mere flesh and blood, but with the rulers of the darkness of this world.

Tried , [ peirastheete (Greek #3985)] - with temptation. The same event is often both a temptation from the Devil, and a trial from God-God sifting the man to separate his chaff from his wheat, the devil sifting him in hope that nothing but chaff will be found in him (Trench).

Ten days - not the ten persecutions from Nero to Diocletian. Lyra explains ten years on the year-day principle. The shortness of the persecution is made the ground of consolation. The time of trial shall be short, the joy forever. Compare "ten days" for a short time, Genesis 24:55; Numbers 11:19. Ten is the number of the world-powers hostile to the Church: cf. the beast's ten horns, Revelation 13:1.

Unto death - so as even to die for my sake.

Crown of life - (James 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:8, "of righteousness;" 1 Peter 5:4, "of glory.") The crown is the garland of a conqueror, or one rejoicing, or at a feast; but diadem is the mark of a KING.


Verse 11

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

Shall not be hurt - `shall not by any means be hurt.'

The second death - `the lake of fire.' 'The death in life of the lost, contrasted with the life in death of the saved' (Trench). "The second death" is unique to the Apocalypse. What matter about the first, which sooner or, later must come, if we escape the second death. 'They who die that death shall be hurt by it. If it were annihilation, so a conclusion of their torments, it would be no way hurtful, but highly beneficial to them. But the living torments are the second death' (Dr. Pearson). Smyrna (myrrh) yielded its sweet perfume in being bruised to death. Myrrh was used in embalming dead bodies (John 19:39): was an ingredient in the holy anointing oil (Exodus 30:23): a perfume of the heavenly Bridegroom (Psalms 45:8), and of the bride (Song of Solomon 3:6). 'Affliction, like it, is bitter, but salutary; preserving the elect from corruption, seasoning for immortality, giving scope, for the fragrantly-breathing Christian virtues' (Vitringa). Polycarp's words to his pagan judges, refusing to recant, were, 'Fourscore and six years have I served the Lord, and He never wronged me: how then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour?' Smyrna's faithfulness is rewarded by its candlestick not having been removed (Revelation 2:5): Christianity has never wholly left it: whence the Turks call it 'Infidel Smyrna.'


Verse 12

And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;

Trench prefers Pergamus, or Pergamum: on the river Caicus. Capital of Attalus the Second's kingdom, bequeathed by him to the Romans, 133 BC Famous for its library, founded by Eumenes (197 BC - 159 BC), and destroyed by Caliph Omar. Parchment - i:e., Pergemena charta-was here discovered for book purposes. Also, famous for the magnificent temple of Esculapius, the healing god (Tacitus, Annals, 3:, 63).

He which hath the sharp sword with two edges - His address having a twofold bearing, a searching power to convict and convert some (Revelation 2:13; Revelation 2:17), and to condemn others (Revelation 2:14-16, especially Revelation 2:16 : cf. note, Revelation 1:16).


Verse 13

I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

I know thy works. So B but 'Aleph (') A C, Vulgate, Coptic, omit. Satan's seat - rather, all through Revelation, "throne." Satan, in impious mimicry of God's heavenly throne, sets up his earthly throne (Revelation 4:2). Esculapius was worshipped there under the serpent form. Satan, the old servant, as instigator (cf. Revelation 2:10) of devotees of Esculapius, and, through them, of the supreme magistracy at Pergamos, persecuted one of the Lord's people (Antipas) to death. This address is an anticipatory preface to Revelation 12:1-17, notes.

Even in those days. So A C but 'Aleph (') B omit "even."

Wherein. So B but 'Aleph (') A C, Vulgate, Coptic, omit: then translate, 'in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness.' So 'Aleph (') B but A C read, 'My witness, MY faithful one.' Another form for Antipater. Simeon Metaphrastes has a legendary story, that Antipas, in Domitian's persecution, was shut up in a redhot brazen bull, and ended his life in thanksgivings and prayers. Hengstenberg makes the name symbolical, meaning one standing out 'against all' for Christ.


Verse 14

But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

Few - in comparison of many tokens of thy faithfulness.

Hold the doctrine (teaching) of Balaam - that which he "taught Balac." Compare "the counsel of Balaam," Numbers 31:16. Balac is dative, whence Bengel, 'taught (the Moabites) for (i:e., to please) Balac.' But though in Numbers it is not expressly said he taught Balac, yet there is nothing inconsistent with his having done so; Josephus ('Antiquities,' 4:, 6, 6) says he did. The dative is a Hebraism for the accusative.

Stumblingblock - literally, that part of a trap on which the bait was laid, and which, when touched, caused the trap to close on its prey: then any entanglement (Trench).

Children - `sons of Israel.'

Eat things sacrificed unto idols - common to the Israelites and the Nicolaitanes. He does not add what was special to the Israelites-namely, that they sacred to idols. The temptation to eat idol meats was peculiarly strong to the Gentile converts. Not to do so involved almost a withdrawal from any social meal with the pagan. For idol meats, after a part had been offered in sacrifice, were generally on the pagan entertainer's table; so much so, that 'to kill' [ thuein (Greek #2380)] meant originally 'to sacrifice.' Hence arose the decree of the council of Jerusalem forbidding such meats: subsequently some at Corinth ate knowingly such meats, on the ground that the idol is nothing; others tortured themselves with scruples, lest unknowingly they should eat them, in getting meat from the market, or in a pagan friend's house (1 Corinthians 8:1-13 and 1 Corinthians 10:25-33).

Fornication - often connected with idolatry.


Verse 15

So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

Thou - `so THOU also hast,' etc. As Balac and the Moabites of old had Balaam's followers literally, so hast thou also them that hold the same Balaamite or Nicolaitane doctrine spiritually. Literal eating of idol meats and fornication in Pergamos were accompanied by spiritual, idolatry and fornication. So Trench. I prefer, "THOU also," as well as Ephesus ("in like manner" as Ephesus), hast ... Nicolaitanes, with this important difference, Ephesus hates and casts them out, THOU 'hast (retainest) them.'

Doctrine - teaching (note, Revelation 2:6): tempting God's people to idolatry.

Which thing I hate. It is sin not to hate what God hates. Ephesus (Revelation 2:6) had this superiority to Pergamos. But A B C 'Aleph ('), Vulgate, Syriac, read, instead of [ ho (Greek #3588) misoo (Greek #3404)] 'which I hate' [ homoios (Greek #3664)], 'IN LIKE MANNER.'


Verse 16

Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

A B C read, 'Repent, therefore' [ oun (Greek #3767)]; 'Aleph (') h, Vulgate, Syriac, omit 'therefore.' Not only the Nicolaitanes, but all Pergamos, is called on to repent of not having hated the Nicolaitane teaching and practice. Contrast Acts 20:26.

I will come - I am come.

Fight against (war with) them - the Nicolaitanes primarily: including chastisement of the whole church at Pergamos: cf. "unto THEE."

With the sword of my mouth - from Revelation 1:16; but with an allusion to the angel of the Lord confronting with a drawn sword Balaam on his way to curse Israel: an earnest of the sword by which he and the seduced Israelites fell (Numbers 25:5; Numbers 31:8). The spiritual Balaamites are to be smitten with the Lord's spiritual sword, the word of His mouth (Isaiah 11:4).


Verse 17

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

To eat. Omitted in 'Aleph (') A B C, Vulgate Coptic.

The hidden manna - Israel's heavenly food, in contrast to the idol meats (Revelation 2:14). A pot of manna was laid up in the Holy Place 'before the testimony.' The allusion is to this: also to the Lord's discourse (John 6:31-35). 'The manna which is hidden.' As the manna hidden in the sanctuary was by divine power preserved uncorrupt, so Christ, in His incorruptible body, is hidden in heaven until His appearing (Acts 3:21). Christ is the manna "hidden" from the world, but revealed to the believer, who has already a foretaste of His preciousness. Compare Christ's own hidden food on earth (Job 23:12; John 4:32; John 4:34). The full manifestation shall be at His coming. Believers are now hidden, even as their meat is (Psalms 83:3; Colossians 3:3). Like the incorruptible manna in the sanctuary, the spiritual feast, offered to all who reject the world's dainties for Christ, is everlasting: an incorruptible body and life in Christ at the resurrection.

White stone ... new name ... no man knoweth saving he ... Trench, White is the livery of heaven. "New" [ kainon (Greek #2537)] implies something altogether renewed. The white stone is a glistering diamond, the Urim borne by the high priest within the choshen (Hebrew #2833) or breastplate of judgment, with the twelve tribes' names on the twelve precious stones, next the heart. The word Urim means light, answering to white. None but the high priest knew the name written upon it: probably the incommunicable name, "Yahweh." The high priest consulted it in some divinely-appointed way for direction from God when needful. The priest-judges of Egypt wore suspended an image of Truth or Justice. Thmei or Themis, answering to the Thummim [aleetheia in Septuagint]: the closed eyes of Thmei answer to Deuteronomy 33:9. So answering to the Urim, the Egyptian priest wore in his breastplate the Scarabaeus of precious stone, symbol of light.

The high priest gazing on the gems symbolizing Light and Truth, and on the holy name Yahweh, became entranced, and so was enabled to give responses to those consulting God (cf. 1 Samuel 14:19). Psalms 43:3 is a worshipper's echo of the high priests prayer. Now, the priest's special treasure, consultation of God's light and truth, belongs to all believers, as spiritual priests (Smith, 'Dictionary of the Bible'). The "new name" is Christ's (cf. Revelation 3:12): some new revelation of Himself hereafter to be imparted to His people, which they alone are capable of receiving. The connection with the "hidden manna" is thus clear, as the high priest alone had access to the 'manna hidden in the sanctuary. What believers had to contend against at Pergamon was idol meats and fornication, put in their way by Balaamites. As Phinehas was rewarded with 'an everlasting priesthood' for his zeal against these sins to which the Old Testament Balaam seduced Israel, so the heavenly high priesthood is the reward promised to those zealous against the New Testament Balaamites tempting Christ's people.

Receiveth it - namely, "the stone:" not the "new name:" which is Christ's new character as the glorified Son of man; not the believer's own new name. See above. The 'name that no man knew but Christ Himself' (cf. Revelation 3:12, end, with Revelation 19:12), He shall hereafter reveal to His people.


Verse 18

And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;

Thyatira - in Lydia, south of Pergamos. Lydia, the purple seller of this city, converted at Philippi, a Macedonian city (with which Thyatira, as being a Macedonian colony, had naturally much contact), was probably the instrument of first carrying the Gospel to her native town. John follows the geographical order; for Thyatira lay a little to the left of the road from Pergamos to Sardis (Strabo, 13:, 4).

Son of God ... eyes like ... fire ... feet are like fine brass - or 'glowing brass' (resumed from Revelation 1:14-15). Again, His attributes accord with His address. "Son of God" is, from Psalms 2:7; Psalms 2:9, referred to in Revelation 2:27. 'Eyes like flame,' etc., answers to Revelation 2:23, "I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts." "Feet are like fine brass" answers to Revelation 2:27, "as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers," He treading them to pieces.


Verse 19

I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.

A B C, Vulgate, transpose, and read, 'faith and service.' The four are subordinate to "thy works:" 'I know thy works, even the love and the faith (forming one pair, as "faith works by love," Galatians 5:6), and the service (ministration to suffering members, and to all in spiritual or temporal need), and the persevering endurance of (i:e., shown by) thee.' As love is inward, so service outward. Similarly, faith and persevering endurance (Romans 2:7) are connected.

And thy works; and the last. Omit the second "and," with A B C 'Aleph ('), Vulgate, 'And (I know) thy works which are last (to be) more in number than the first;' realizing 1 Thessalonians 4:1 : the converse of Matthew 12:45; 2 Peter 2:20. Instead of retrograding from "first works" and "first love," as Ephesus, Thyatira's last works exceeded her first (Revelation 2:4-5).


Verse 20

Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

A few things. So oldest Vulgate; omitted in A B C: 'I have against thee that,' etc. 'Aleph (') has 'much' [ polu (Greek #4183)].

Sufferest , [ eaoo (Greek #1439); but 'Aleph (') A B C read, afeis (Greek #863), 'lettest alone']. That woman. So 'Aleph (') C, Vulgate; but A B, 'THY wife.' The symbolical, Jezebel was to Thyatira what Jezebel, Ahab's 'wife,' was to him. Some self-called prophetess (or, as the feminine in Hebrew often collectively expresses a multitude, a set of false prophets), as closely attached to the church of Thyatira as a wife is to a husband, and as powerfully influencing for evil that church as Jezebel did Ahab. As Balaam, in Israel's early history, so Jezebel, daughter of Eth-baal, king of Sidon (1 Kings 16:31), formerly priest of Astarte, and murderer of his predecessor on the throne (Josephus, 'Contra Apron,' 1:, 18), was the great seducer in Israel's later history. Like her father, she was swift to shed blood. Wholly given to Baal-worship, like Eth-baal, whose name expresses his idolatry, she, with her strong will, seduced the weak Ahab and Israel beyond the calf-worship (a worship of the true God under the cherub-ox form; i:e., a violation of the second commandment) to that of Baal (a violation of the first also). She was herself a priestess and prophetess of Baal. Compare 2 Kings 9:22; 2 Kings 9:30, "whoredoms of ... Jezebel and her witchcrafts" (impurity was part of the worship of the Phoenician Astarte, or Venus). Her spiritual counterpart at Thyatira lured God's "servants" by pretended inspiration to the same libertinism, fornication, and idol meats, as the Balaamites and Nicolaitanes (Revelation 2:6; Revelation 2:14-15). By false spiritualism these led their victims into gross carnality, as though things done in the flesh were outside the man, and therefore indifferent. 'The deeper the Church penetrated into paganism, the more she became paganish. This prepares us for "harlot" and "Babylon," applied to her afterward' (Auberlen).

To teach and to seduce. So Vulgate; but 'Aleph (') A, B C, 'and she teaches and seduces' [ plana (Greek #4105), 'deceives']. 'Thyatira was just the reverse of Ephesus. There, zeal for orthodoxy, but little love; here, activity of faith and love, but insufficient zeal for discipline and doctrine: a patience of error even where there was not a participation in it' (Trench).


Verse 21

And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.

Space - `time.'

Of her fornication; and she repented not. 'Aleph (') omits "and she repented not;" A reads, 'she willed not;' B C, Vulgate, 'she willeth not to repent of [ ek (Greek #1537), out of] (i:e., so as to come out of) her fornication. A transition from literal to spiritual fornication (cf. Revelation 2:22). Yahweh's covenant relation to the Old Testament Church being regarded as a marriage, any transgression against it was fornication, or adultery (Isaiah 54:5).


Verse 22

Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

Behold - calling attention to her awful doom.

I will - present, 'I cast her.'

A bed. The bed of her sin shall be her bed of anguish. Perhaps a pestilence was to be sent. Or the bed of the grave, and the hell beyond, where the worm dieth not.

Them that commit adultery with her - spiritually: including both the idol meats and fornication. "With [ meta (Greek #3326)] her" implies participation in her adulteries-namely, by suffering her (Revelation 2:20), or letting her done, virtually encouraging her. Her punishment is distinct from theirs: she is to be cast into a bed, and her children to be killed; while those who partake in her sin, by tolerating her, are to be cast into great tribulation.

Except they repent , [ metanoeesoosin (Greek #3340)] - aorist, "repent" at once: shall have repented by the time limited in my purpose.

Their deeds. So A, Cyprian; but 'Aleph (') B C, Vulgate, Coptic, Syriac, 'her.' God's true servants, who, by connivance, incur the guilt of her deeds, are distinguished from her.


Verse 23

And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

Her children - (Isaiah 57:3; Ezekiel 23:45; Ezekiel 23:47.) Her proper adherents: not those who suffer, but those who are begotten of, her. A distinct class from those, Revelation 2:22 (cf. note there), whose sin was that only of connivance.

Kill ... with death - which overtook the literal Jezebel's votaries of Baal, and Ahab's sons (1 Kings 18:40; 2 Kings 10:6-7; 2 Kings 10:24-25). A Hebraism for slay with sure and awful death: so 'dying, die' (Genesis 2:17). Not "die the common death of all men" (Numbers 16:29).

All the churches shall know. These addresses are for the Catholic Church of all ages and places. So palpably shall God's hand be seen in the judgment on Thyatira, that the whole Church shall recognize it.

I am he - strongly emphatic: 'it is I am He who,' etc.

Searcheth ... hearts - God's special attribute is given to Christ. The "reins" are the seat of the desires; the "heart," that of the thoughts. [ Eraunoon (Greek #2045), "searcheth:" accurately following up all tracks and windings.]

Unto every one of you - `unto you, to each,' etc. According to your works - to be judged, not according to the act as it appears to man, but with reference to faith and love, the only motives which God accepts.


Verse 24

But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.

You ... and unto the rest. A B C omit "and," 'unto you, the rest.' 'Aleph (') [ en (Greek #1722)], 'among the rest.'

As many as have not - not only do not hold, but are free from contact with.

And which. 'Aleph (') A B C omit "and," 'whosoever.'

The depths. These false prophets boasted of their knowledge of the deep things of God: pretensions subsequently expressed by their arrogant title, Gnostics ('full of knowledge'). The Spirit declares their so-called "depths" (of knowledge) to be really "depths of Satan;" just as Revelation 2:9, He says, instead of 'the synagogue of God,' "the synagogue of Satan." Hengstenberg thinks the teachers professed to fathom the depths of Satan, giving loose rein to fleshly lusts, without harm. They who think to fight Satan with his own weapons find him more than a match for them. "As they speak," i:e., 'as they call them,' coming after not only "depths," but "depths of Satan," favours this. The sin of Adam was a desire to know EVIL as well as good: so those who professed to know "the depths of Satan." It is the prerogative of God alone to know evil fully, without being hurt by it.

I will put. So 'Aleph (') B but A C have, 'I put,' or 'cast.'

None other burden - except abstinence from, and protestation against, these abominations: no "depths" beyond your reach, such as they teach; the old faith and rule once for all delivered to the saints. Exaggerating Paul's doctrine of grace without the law for justification and sanctification, the seducers rejected the law as an intolerable "burden." But it is a 'light' burden. In Acts 15:28-29, "burden," as here, is used of abstinence from fornication and idol meats: to this the Lord refers.


Verse 25

But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.

That which ye have already - (Jude 1:3, end.)

Hold fast do not let go from your grasp however they try to wrest it from you Hold fast - do not let go from your grasp, however they try to wrest it from you.

Till I come - when your conflict with evil will end [ achris (Greek #891) hou (Greek #3757) an (Greek #302) heexoo (Greek #2240), implies uncertainty when He shall come].


Verse 26

And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

And - implying the close connection of the promise with the exhortation, Revelation 2:25.

And keepeth - `and he that keepeth:' alluding, as in Revelation 2:24, to Acts 15:28-29, end.

My works - in contrast to 'her (or their) works' (Revelation 2:22). The works which I command, the fruit of my Spirit.

Unto the end - (Matthew 24:13.) The image is from the race, wherein it is not enough to enter the lists: the runner must persevere to the end.

Give power , [ exousian (Greek #1849)] - 'authority.'

Over the nations. At Christ's coming, the saints shall possess the kingdom "under the whole heaven" (Daniel 7:27): therefore over this earth (cf. Luke 19:17).


Verse 27

And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.

Rule , [ poimanei (Greek #4165)] - 'rule as a shepherd.' In Psalms 2:9 it is, "Thou shall break them with a rod of iron." The Septuagint, pointing the Hebrew differently, read as Revelation. The English version of Psalms 2:9 (note) is right, as the parallel, "dash in pieces," proves. But the Spirit sanctions the additional thought, that the Lord shall mingle mercy to some with judgment on others: beginning by destroying anti-Christian foes. He shall reign in love over the rest. 'Christ shall rule them with a sceptre of iron, to make them capable of being ruled with a sceptre of gold: severity first, that grace may come after' (Trench, who translates 'SCEPTRE' for "rod," as in Hebrews 1:8). 'Shepherd' is used, in Jeremiah 6:3, of hostile rulers; so Zechariah 11:16. As severity is prominent, 'rule as a shepherd' is used thus: He who would have shepherded them with a pastoral rod, shall because of their hardened unbelief, shepherd them with a rod of iron.

Shall they be broken So B Vulgate Syriac Coptic versions read; but A C 'as the vessels of a potter are Shall they be broken. So B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic versions read; but A C, 'as the vessels of a potter are broken to shivers.' A potter's vessel dashed to pieces, because of its failing to answer its makers design, is the image for God's sovereign power to give reprobates to destruction, not by caprice, but in His righteous judgment (Romans 11:21-22). The saints shall be in Christ's victorious 'armies' when He shall inflict the last decisive blow, and afterward shall reign with Him, (Revelation 19:1-21; Revelation 20:1-15.) Having by faith "overcome the world," they shall also rule the world.

Even as I - `as I also have received of (from) my Father,' in Psalms 2:7-9. Jesus refused to receive the kingdom without the Cross at Satan's hands: He would receive it from the Father alone, who appointed the Cross, the path to the crown. As the Father has given the authority to me over the pagan and uttermost parts of the earth, so I impart a share to my victorious disciple.


Verse 28

And I will give him the morning star.

The morning star - i:e., Myself (Revelation 22:16): so that, reflecting my brightness, He shall shine like me, the morning star, and share my kingly glory (of which a star is the symbol, Numbers 24:17; Matthew 2:2). Compare Revelation 2:17, 'I will give him the hidden manna,' i:e., Myself (John 6:31-33).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 2:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/revelation-2.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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