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Bible Commentaries

Wells of Living Water Commentary
Revelation 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-11

The Churches at Ephesus and Smyrna

Revelation 2:1-11

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

In the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, God has recorded for us His messages to the seven Churches of Asia. The question which comes before us is this: Do the messages to those Churches have anything to do with the churches of today? Do they all fit our churches, or is it, as some have felt, true that only the seventh Church fits and parallels the church of our own hour? There are some questions, therefore, which we want to answer:

1. Were the seven Churches seven literal churches? We believe that they were. In fact, we know they were. We may even know their location. In the seven cities mentioned, God bad His testimony. The Churches lay in a geographical line from John, as he wrote from the Isle of Patmos.

2. Did the churches of those days need such strenuous words of approval and condemnation as are recorded in these two chapters? There Is no doubt but that they needed it. The Lord knew what He was writing about, and He knew the very inner throbbings of the people who composed the seven Churches. All that we are, and do, is naked and open unto Him. "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him."

3. Did the seven Churches type seven periods of church life, beginning with the days of the Apostles, and concluding with the churches of our own time? Perhaps they did. There are some who think so. That God was writing in His message to the Church at Ephesus to the Early Church may be true. In Smyrna. He was writing to the churches of the next period. In Pergamos, to the next period, until at last, in the Church at Laodicea, He was writing to the churches of our own time. As these messages to the Churches are studied, one cannot feel but that there was a sequence, a development, sometimes of evil and sometimes of good. Therefore we judge that God may have had something like this in mind.

4. Were there In the early days, and in every period that followed, including our own church life, churches which were existent in each age, churches some like Ephesus, some like Smyrna, some like Pergamos, and so on through Laodicea? There is no doubt but what this is true. It is peculiarly true today. To say that all the churches of the present hour are Laodicean is absolutely incorrect. We have churches like the Church at Ephesus. We also have them like the Church at Smyrna, and like all the rest of them.

5. Is there anything in the Letters to the Churches to show that God intended what He wrote to the seven Churches of Asia to foe a direct message to the churches of the 20th century , as well as to other churches during the years? Yes, there is unanswerable evidence. Here is an. expression which occurs in each, of the seven Letters: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches." The expression carries with it the thought that the Spirit is continually speaking; that He is saying, to the churches of our period, what He said of old.

This fact is patent throughout the whole Bible. For instance, in the Book of Malachi God gives a message to a certain people, exposing their infidelities; particularly in the realm of the recognized Headship of Christ, including a special message on their serving and giving.

It would be very easy to raise an umbrella and let everything that God said to and through Malachi fall over onto the people of Malachi's day, but God wants us also to grasp the truth, because everything written by Malachi has a message to us, It is written, "All Scripture * * is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."

I. SOME GOOD THINGS AT EPHESUS (Revelation 2:2-3 )

1. "I know thy works, and thy labour." There must be a difference between works and labor, because God is not increasing words to fill up space. Works suggest tasks that are wrought out, but labor suggests tasks wrought out laboriously. When you labor you perspire, so to speak. You work in difficult places, but keep on working. This was well spoken, because Ephesus was a hard-working people. Christianity to them was not a pastime, a mere trifle lo be observed once a week, Christianity was something to them which appealed to the strenuous and continual efforts of the saints. Does Christ know our works and our labor?

2. "I know thy * * patience." Here is a continuance of truth, It is working even unto labor, and working on and on and on. It is bearing burdens without giving up. It is fidelity to Christ unmoved by persecution, or pain. "I know thy * * patience." Thou mayest become faint at times and wearied at times, but thou dost patiently endure. Thou dost not fret under thy burden. Thou dost not talk back to thy Master, but, unabashed, thou dost work on and on.

3. "I know * * thou canst not bear them which are evil." Here is something worthy of note. There is so much of evil in our churches today, and the church-goers not only bear with them which are evil, but they sometimes even commend evil workers.

There is, however, a peculiar kind of evil mentioned in Revelation 2:2 . It is "them which say they are apostles, and are not." The Church at Ephesus tried and found them liars. They insisted that they were sent of God, but they lied. Let us look into our own churches. Do we not need to weigh our deeds by the deeds of this remarkable Church?

II. SOME OTHER GOOD THINGS AT EPHESUS (Revelation 2:3 )

1. Thou "hast borne." Back of these words is a beautiful vision of the fidelity of Ephesus to her Lord. It is not so much the bearing of the burdens of spiritual labor and toil, as it is bearing the shame, the stigma, and the ignominy of the faith.

In the days of the Church in Ephesus, there was much of persecution, much of suffering, in the behalf of Christ. Ephesus, however, bore their cross. They knew what it was to have tribulation for Christ's sake. They knew what it was to be maligned, misrepresented.

Perhaps some of them were separated from the company of men, all because of their fidelity to their Saviour. In all this they gladly bore the shame. They remembered that Jesus Christ bore shame and spittle for them. They remembered that being smitten, He smote not again; but went like a lamb to the slaughter, and, like a sheep before her shearers, He was dumb. They therefore bent their backs to take stripes, and to bear shame for His Name's sake.

2. Thou "hast patience." This is not the patience of Revelation 2:2 . That was the patience in labor. This is patience under persecution, under the strain and the stress of the hatred of men. You remember how the Lord through James wrote, "Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the Coming of the Lord draweth nigh." Then He said, "Take, my brethren, the Prophets, who have spoken in the Name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience." We have all heard of the patience of Job, and we have heard also of the patience of many other precious saints. We know the patience of our Lord. Let us therefore be patient.

3. Thou "hast laboured" for "My Name's sake * * and hast not fainted." Here is something wonderful. The Church at Ephesus held high the hallowed Name of their Lord. They did not want to drag the banner of His honor down into the mire of the swineherd. Certainly God has given to us a very intimate relationship to His Name. The believers of today are called "Christians." The Name Christ, therefore, is inseparably linked to them. It is for the sake of that Name which they bear, that they labor and faint not.

Let each one of us lift high that precious Name. Let us never do anything in service, or in living, that will shame our Lord, that will make us blush. His Name should be the great incentive to us to serve. His Name is as ointment poured forth. Therefore do His children love Him, and therefore do they serve Him.

III. THE SEVENTH GOOD THING (Revelation 2:6 )

1. "Thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes." The verse before us reads: "But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate."

The word "Nicolaitanes" suggests victory and authority over the laity. This authority was exerted by certain men who seemed to desire the pre-eminence. In the Church of Jesus Christ "One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren."

The Church at Ephesus hated these things. They were not willing to be ruled, dominated, directed by men.

2. "Which I also hate." The word is very strong. "Thou hatest * * I also hate." Is it right for us to hate anything? Certainly it is. We are taught to hate the garments spotted by the flesh. Certainly we are to hate every evil way, not to hate it maliciously, but to hate it in the sense that we place the ban upon it; that we refuse to yield to it. Hate it in the sense that we are told, "If any man * * hate not his father, and mother, * * he cannot be My disciple."

Christ said, "I also hate" it, He hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes. He hated them because they sought to displace Divine power with human power. They sought to place truth in the place of error. Christ saw down through the years, and saw the havoc which the exercise of human authority would work in the churches.

Even in the days of the Apostles, one man was saying, "I am of Paul, I am of Cephas, and I am of Apollos," and they were followers of men.

IV. THE ONE ONLY REBUKE AGAINST EPHESUS (Revelation 2:4-5 )

1. "Thou hast left thy first love." One is almost astounded at such a statement. Had we gone to Ephesus we no doubt would have been so carried away with their work, and their labor, and their patience, and with their trials of false prophets, that we would have scarcely noticed any lack of love. Had we been there and had seen how they had borne for His Name's sake, and had had patience, and had labored and had not fainted, we would have taken it for granted that their hearts were filled with love for the Master.

The Lord Jesus, however, saw what we no doubt have overlooked. We would have been charmed that they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which He also hated.

The truth of it all lay in this: that they were so consumed in the ardor of their labor and their trials of false prophets, in their bearing of persecutions, and in their hatred of the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, that they began to lessen in their love for Christ. What is the supreme desire in the heart of Christ? Christ wants love.

Let us look deep into our hearts. Do we love Him? Do we tell Him so? Do we manifest our love toward Him?

2. "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen." How great was the fall! How serious was the fall! In the lack of love, Jesus Christ saw the possibility of their labor soon becoming neglected, of their patience vanishing, of their trial of false prophets passing away. As their love for Him lessened, they would soon cease to bear for His sake. His Name would more and more become of no value whatever.

The truth, is that though we speak with tongues of men and of angels, that though we give our bodies to be burned, and though we have all faith so that we could remove mountains, and have not love, we are nothing.

V. A WONDERFUL STATEMENT TO THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA (Revelation 2:8 )

1. "The First and the Last." To Smyrna Jesus Christ said, "These things saith the First and the Last."

The word "first" suggests the eternity of Christ. He was before all things. By Him all things were made.

He is the Last, because He endureth forever. After all His purposes and plans are wrought out, He Himself is still there, In other words, Jesus Christ is announced as the eternal Son, from everlasting to everlasting.

2. He that "was dead, and is alive." This was the second statement concerning Christ to Smyrna, In the expression, "was dead," we gather up all the woes of Calvary; all the wages of sin; He tasted the cup of death for every man. He took our curse. He gave His life for the sheep. He died that we might live. In the words. "Which was dead," we find a seeming victory of Satan, but that seeming defeat soon passes into the paeans of victory. Thank God that He died!

But He is alive again. Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph over His foes! His resurrection, however, was not His first triumph, because He triumphed upon the Cross in His death over sin and Satan, over principalities and over powers. On the Cross itself in the hour of His shame and ignominy. He vanquished Satan and all his hosts, and triumphed over them in it, making a show of them openly.

In His resurrection, He was acclaimed Victor. In His resurrection, the Father gave His signet to the victory which He wrought out on Calvary.

VI. THE GOOD IN THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA (Revelation 2:9 )

1. "I know thy works." How glad we are that the Lord Jesus does not pick out, first of all, our failures and our faults. In each one of the seven Churches He always told the good before the bad. He emphasized their accomplishments before He mentioned their failures. This is to say that Christ bathed His people in a commendation of love to prepare them for the correction of love. Christ knew the works at Smyrna. Their works were somewhat different from the works at Ephesus, no doubt. They wrought in tribulation and in poverty. They wrought in the midst of blasphemy, and in the midst of the synagogue of Satan, where the evil one's authority and power were exerted. Thus it was that through great trials and afflictions, and great antagonisms against the truth, God saw their works.

2. "I know thy * * tribulation. Is it not wonderful that in the hour of our trial, He standeth near? Did He not say, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with Thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee?" Can we not say: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me"? We are so thankful that God does not cast us off in the hour of trial. It is in that hour that He is preciously near.

3. "I know thy * * poverty." Our Lord Himself had known poverty. The foxes had their holes, the birds of the air had their nests, but He, by whom were all things created, and for whom they were created, had nowhere to lay His head. Now He said to the Church at Smyrna, "I know thy * * poverty." "I know it because I have experience," He could have said. Where thou art, I have been. How wonderful, however, is His parenthetic statement: "I know thy * * poverty (but thou art rich)." It was true at Smyrna, and it is still true that when we are poor, we are rich rich in faith, in grace, and in all spiritual blessings, but not that alone. Be we ever so poor, we are rich, because He has said to the impoverished: "All things are yours." The things present are ours, and the things to come are ours. The passing things are ours, the eternal, ever-abiding things are ours: all are ours!

4. "I know the blasphemy of them which are * * the synagogue of Satan." In the Church at Smyrna there were certain ones who opposed and condemned and berated the saints. They claimed that they were Jews, but they were not: they were of the household of Satan.

VII. COMFORTING WORD TO THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA (Revelation 2:10-11 )

1. "Fear none of those things." The Lord Jesus, walking upon the waters which were tossing the disciples and filling them with terror and were against them, said, "Fear not; it is I." When He was asleep in the boat on another occasion, and they awakened Him. saying, "Lord, save us: we perish," He said, "O ye of little faith." In other words, He said, "Why should you be afraid when I am here?" and why should Smyrna have been afraid? or why should we be afraid? Though all things be against us, what does that matter? The truth is that if Christ be for us, nothing can be against us.

2. "Be thou faithful unto death." This did not mean to be merely faithful until you die: it meant to be faithful though you are martyred. Be faithful, if necessary, even unto the stakes. Was He not faithful for us? Did He not love His own and love them even unto the end? Was He not faithful unto the death of the Cross? And shall we not be faithful? Shall we not be faithful even unto death? Suppose we do die for the faith. Suppose we are slain for Christ's sake. Shall our friends bemoan us, or shall our enemies rejoice over us? They have done no more than to open the door into the life everlasting.

3. "I will give thee a crown of life." The story is told of how 40 Christians were led out into the Siberian snows. They were placed upon the ice, in the scantiest of clothing. Guards were placed in shelters here and there, so that none could escape by running. As the guards gathered them together and left them to freeze unto their death, they said, "If any of you will recant, you will be received in our little hut where there is warmth." The Christians were singing hymns of praise, and none of them ran. None of them re-canted. Finally one of the guards fell asleep, and he saw forty angels with forty crowns. One Christian was overcome by the cold and died, only to receive his crown. Finally, the guard was awakened by one Christian knocking at the door, and crying out, "I can't stand it! Let me in! I recant!" The guard opened the door and looked at him, "Fool that you are. Take my gun. Stand in my stead. I am going out to die and get that fortieth crown!" Thus Christ said, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."

AN ILLUSTRATION

Ephesus did much, but did she stand under God's smile in all things? That was the main issue.

A tiny boy, two years old, stood in a ray of sunshine and said gayly, "Me standing in God's smile, mamma." His mother replied, "God grant my darling boy may so live as always to stand in God's smile." Not long after, God called the mother, and the boy was left to the care of others. He grew to manhood and grew in favor with the king, and tried to please him, and forgot to put God first. But he was restless and unhappy. God's smile was gone. One day looking over some relics, he found a paper parcel, and opening it found a tiny pair of shoes and these lines in his mother's handwriting: "These shoes were worn by my darling boy when he was two years of age. He stood in a ray of sunlight, 'Me standing in God's smile, mamma.' God grant that my darling boy may so live as always to stand in God's smile." Through these lines God spoke to him. He saw that he had been standing in the king's smile, and lost God's smile. He dedicated his life to his mother's God, and became a humble follower of her Saviour and Lord (Judges 1:1 , Judges 1:21 ).


Verses 12-27

The Churches at Pergamos and Thyatira

Revelation 2:12-27

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

We wish, by way of introduction, to set before you the various seven statements which occur in the Letters to the seven Churches.

1. In each case, the angel of the Church is addressed. It is "unto the angel of the Church of Ephesus"; "unto the angel of the Church in Smyrna"; "in Pergamos," etc. What is the significance of this reiteration? The word "angel" comes from the Greek word " angelo ." It really means "messenger." Angels, to be sure, are messengers. But so also is the pastor of the church a messenger. In the first chapter of the Book of Revelation we read, "The seven stars are the angels of the seven Churches." These seven stars were held in the right hand of the Lord, and they were the messengers of God, the pastors, who were held responsible for the conduct of the Churches. The Lord addressed the angels, or the messengers, of the Churches, because it is at their hands that He requires the character and conduct of the various assemblies.

2. To each of the Churches the Lord says, "I know." This shows that He is watching over the churches. He knows exactly what they are doing. He looks from above and tries the reins of the hearts of His people. In His description in the first chapter of Revelation, as He walks in the midst of the Church, we read, "And His eyes were as a flame of fire." There is nothing that is not naked and open to the One with whom we have to do.

3. In each of the Churches is a word of commendation. The Lord Jesus does not fail to see the good things. He not only sees them, but He records them.

4. In each of the Churches, the Lord is described in a most befitting way. To Ephesus, He is the One who holds the stars in His hands. To Smyrna, He is the First and the Last, the One who liveth and was dead. To Pergamos, He is the One with a sharp sword with two edges. To Thyatira, He is the One who has eyes like unto a flame of fire. To Sardis, He has the seven spirits of God. To Philadelphia, He is the holy and true, who has the key of David. To Laodicea, He is the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the beginning of the creation of God.

5. There are the seven overcomers. In Ephesus, the overcomer is given to eat of the tree of life. In Smyrna, the overcomer shall not be hurt of the second death. The overcomer in Pergamos receives the hidden manna, and the white stone, with a new name written in it. In Thyatira, the overcomer Is given power over the nations to rule them with a rod of iron. The overcomer in Sardis is arrayed in white raiment, and is confessed before the Father and the angels. The overcomer in Philadelphia will be made a pillar in the Temple of his God. The overcomer in Laodicea will be given the privilege of sitting with Christ on His throne.

6. There are the seven warnings, with a call to repentance. Ephesus is called to repent and do her first works. Smyrna is called upon to be faithful unto death, retaining her position in spite of the persecutions which surrounded her. Pergamos is called to repent, or else the Lord will come upon her, and fight against her with the sword of His mouth. In Thyatira, the woman Jezebel was given space to repent, but she repented not. In Sardis, the Lord said, "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent." To Philadelphia, the word is, "Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." To Laodicea it is written, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous, therefore, and repent."

7. There are seven calls to those who have an ear, to hear what the Spirit is saying unto the Churches. God does not want His Word of warning and of commendation to fall on dull ears. He wants people to hear and to heed what the Spirit saith.

I. THE GOOD IN PERGAMOS (Revelation 2:13 )

1. "I know thy works." This same thing was said of the Churches at Ephesus and Smyrna. But here is something different in the line of works. Here are works under the most trying and difficult circumstances. There are some people who will work for the Lord Jesus Christ when working is popular, when working brings forth immediate results. Smyrna, however, worked for God in the midst of tribulation and poverty. Pergamos worked for God where Satan's seat was. That is not an environment conducive to Christian service.

2. "I know * * where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is." Milton describes the devil as being in hell, writhing in fury. He is plying his wicked works down there. The Bible, however, tells us that he is the prince of the power of the air. He is not yet cast into the pit of the abyss. His realm is in the Heavenlies, although, according to this verse, he had headquarters in Pergamos. That was his seat. It was from there that he operated, and the Church at Pergamos was, beyond doubt, the center of his attack.

3. "I know * * thou boldest fast My Name." Here is a wonderful statement. The Names of the Lord Jesus stand for His character. They were holding those Names fast. They held fast to the Name "only begotten Son." They held fast to the Name "Jesus," which means the Saviour from sin. They held fast to the Name "Lord," which meant the displanting of Satan's authority, and the acknowledgment of Christ's supreme power and rule. They held fast to the Name "Christ," the Anointed of God.

4. "I know" that thou "hast not denied My faith." Here is another remarkable statement. God is discovering in Pergamos certain vital characteristics which He did not find in Ephesus or in Smyrna. In the days when Antipas was His martyr, the saints at Pergamos did not deny the faith. They were not all martyrs in fact, but they were martyrs in spirit. They held fast Christ's Name, and they also held fast to the faith which is in Him, even when they were threatened with death. They held fast to the faith, even when Satan, who dwelt in their midst, was slaying their comrades. God give us more Christians like this, who can say, "I shall not be moved." These good things in Pergamos are certainly needed in the churches of today. Let us take our stand with the saints of old, and be unmoved by any and every wind which blows.

II. THE EVIL AT PERGAMOS (Revelation 2:14-15 )

There are two things which the Spirit had against the Church at Pergamos. God called them "a few things." Let us see what these things were, and examine into the depth of these "few things."

1. They had them there that held the doctrine of Balaam. We are more or less familiar with the doctrine of Balaam. The Bible talks of Balaam's way, and of the error of Balaam, and of the doctrine of Balaam. Let us look at these one at a time. First, The way of Balaam was the way of least resistance. It was the way which goes against the voice of the angel, and the warning of God, and follows after the rewards of the world, and its honors and fame.

Balaam was told not to go to Balak, but he went. He was warned by the ass which spoke, and then he said to God, "If it displease Thee, I will get me back again"; but God knew that his heart was set on going. It was the large gift of money and of raiment and of preferment that pulled Balaam over into the land of the Moabites.

Again we have the error of Balaam. It was this that led him on to live after the things of the flesh instead of the Spirit; to lay up for himself money on earth instead of true riches in Heaven; to set his affection on things beneath and not on things above. Balaam lived for the things which are seen, and not for the things which cannot be seen, for the temporal instead of for the eternal, for the carnal instead of the spiritual. Are there any of us who fall into this error for reward? We lay up treasures on earth where the moth corrupts, and the thieves break through and steal.

Third, There is the teaching of Balaam, Balaam taught Balak how he could cause God to curse Israel. He said, literally, "If you will marry your sons to their daughters, and take their sons for your daughters, God will curse them."

God would not allow Balaam to curse Israel, but Balaam well knew that if he could join hands with the devil, and cause Israel to commit fornication, in world mixing, that God Himself would send the judgment and the curse.

This teaching or doctrine of Balaam, is what the Lord had discovered in the Church at Pergamos. They had in their fellowship certain men who were walking in the ways of Balaam, who taught Israel to sin.

2. Thou hast "them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate." This was treated under the Church at Ephesus.

III. THE WARNING (Revelation 2:16 )

1. "Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly." The word "repent" includes a turning away from the old attitude, and the taking of the new life in Christ. The word suggests a reversal of opinion, as well as of action. The things which I once loved, I now hate. The Lord Jesus is calling upon the Church at Pergamos to repudiate the doctrine of Balaam, and the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes.

2. "And [I] will fight against them with the Sword of my mouth." We may say what we wish, and act as we will; however, if our churches do not take their stand against the doctrine which taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the Children of Israel, and unless they take their stand against the clergy dominating the laity, God is going to fight against them with the Sword of His mouth.

There is a good deal in this Book about the Sword of His mouth. We all know what that Sword is. It is the Word of God. When that Word is sounded forth, it will judge us of what manner of men we are. Where is he who would like for God to fight against him? Where is the church that would want the Lord to fight against her?

This is a terrible statement, and yet it is true; "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men"; "for our God is a consuming Fire." Again it is written; "The Lord shall judge the people."

Think you that we can live as we list, and walk in the ways of the world, without judgment falling upon us?

IV. THE GOOD THINGS AT THYATIRA (Revelation 2:19 )

1. "I know thy works." This expression occurs twice in the message to Thyatira. They evidently were filled with works, and works are not to be despised. It is written, "Created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." We can do nothing to become saved, but when we are saved we should do everything to serve Him.

We are saved by grace through faith, but we are saved unto good works. The truth is that if you show us a person who has faith, we will show you a person who has works. The two are inseparably linked, and cannot be separated. Thus we take it that the Church at Thyatira, having their works twice stressed, certainly were saved people.

2. "I know thy * * charity." "Charity" is the kindness of God made manifest in them. It was no doubt love one to another; but love also to God. Even the Church in Ephesus lacked the full expression of this first love to God. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren"; "Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." God is always looking for the heart throbs of love within us.

3. "I know thy * * service." What is the difference between service and works? Perhaps works were, toward God, but service was in behalf of their fellow men. The Bible says that we are to serve one another, and when we do this, we serve God.

4. "I know thy faith." Here is something that is worth considering. "I know thy works," "thy charity, (love)," "thy service," and now "thy faith." These saints believed God. They were fighting the good fight of faith. They were faithful unto Him who had called them.

5. "I know thy * * patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first." So the Church at Thyatira was not slipping away. They were abounding more and more in all these manifestations of the grace of God, which He had wrought in them. They were not larger when they were born, as children of God, than they were afterward. They were growing in the knowledge of Christ, and in service for Him. They were increasing more and more. Here is the standard of every true believer.

V. THE BAD THINGS AT THYATIRA (Revelation 2:20-22 )

1. After having read so many good things relative to the Church saints at Thyatira, it seems too bad that the picture must be partially spoiled. There were some bad things there. Here is what the Lord had against the Church in Thyatira: "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."

The Church itself did not walk with Jezebel. They would not have done what Jezebel did. However, they suffered Jezebel to teach, and to seduce God's servants.

It was to the Church at Pergamos that the Lord said, "Thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam." In Thyatira, they went so far as to suffer that woman Jezebel to seduce God's servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

Jezebel was the wife of Ahab. She was the woman who brought in the prophets of Baal, displacing the true Prophets of God. These prophets did exactly the things which are spoken here. It was for this reason that God called this interloper in Thyatira, Jezebel, She professed to be a prophetess, and she came in as a teacher.

God had given this woman space to repent, but she had repented not. Therefore He pronounced a great judgment against her, with untold tribulation. He would cast her into tribulation, and all those who followed with her. He would kill her children with death. It is an evil thing and bitter when we forsake the Living God. It is especially so when, like Thyatira, we have works and love and service and faith and patience, and yet, withal, suffer a Jezebel to teach and to seduce true saints.

VI. THE JUST JUDGE (Revelation 2:23-25 )

1. Jesus Christ is not only the head of the Church, but He is also her Judge. In Revelation 2:23 we read, "I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts." This reminds us of the 139th Psalm, where it is written, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me." Yes, God is the One who judges His Church.

2. Jesus Christ will judge every one according to his works. That is the closing statement of Revelation 2:23 . That is also the statement of many verses of Scripture.

In Romans 14:10 , we read, "Why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and. every tongue shall confess to God." It is still true that every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.

Again it is written, in 2 Corinthians 5:10 , "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." Then 2 Corinthians 5:11 says, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." In Colossians 3:23-25 it is written. "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done," In Revelation 22:12 it gives the great climactic on reward: "Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be."

All the Scriptures above are in line with the passage spoken to the Church at Thyatira: "I will give unto every one of you according to your works." It behooves us who are members of various churches scattered throughout the world, to remember these things. God is going to judge us, and reward us according to our works, whether they be good or bad. If we have been like Jezebel, seducing the servants of God, He will judge us with judgments of fire.

VII. THE OVERCOMERS AT PERGAMOS AND AT THYATIRA (Revelation 2:17 ; Revelation 2:26-27 )

It will be interesting to observe God's rewards to the overcomers in these two churches, which we have just discussed.

1. The rewards to the overcomers in Pergamos. Let us remember as we study this theme that Pergamos was a Church where God held over it His sharp and two-edged sword. It was a Church where Satan's seat was, and yet, in that place wherein Antipas was a faithful martyr, God had a group of saints who had not denied the faith. To be sure, the doctrine of Balaam and the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes were protected in the church, and they were allowed sway. Nevertheless, God knew that He had His faithful and His true ones there.

Let none of us ever think that we are the only ones who are standing true and faithful. Elijah said, "I, even I only, am left." God, however, immediately said, (literally) "There are seven thousand in Israel who have not bowed the knee to Baal!"

Here is the promise to the overcomer in so difficult a situation as that which confronted the saints at Pergamos: "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."

In studying the overcomers in Revelation 2:1-29 and Revelation 3:1-22 , we find that the greater the test, the greater the reward to those who overcome. How wonderful it will be to eat of the hidden manna! We must remember that Christ Himself is the manna that came down from Heaven, and to eat of the hidden manna must express some very definite and intimate relationship to the Lord Jesus who is the Bread of Life.

The white stone, and the new name, is a signet of special recognition and honor. Such shall belong to those who overcome in the midst of the churches which are patterned after the order of Pergamos.

2. To the Church at Thyatira were special rewards. "He that overcometh, and keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: 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."

The second Psalm placed this power into the hands of the Lord. The Lord now promises to share the authority of His rule with the saints in Thyatira, who would stand against the wicked woman, Jezebel, and who had not known the depths of Satan.

Let those of the saved hold fast that they have, until He comes,

AN ILLUSTRATION

Thinking of Balaam's going after Balak's gold, reminds us of the following:

When Rowland Hill was going down a street one day he saw a number of pigs following a man. "This," says Hill, "excited my curiosity so much that I determined to follow. I did so; and, to my great surprise, I saw them follow him to the slaughterhouse. I said to the man; 'My friend, how did you induce the pigs to follow you here?' He replied, 'I had a basket of beans under my arm, and I dropped a few as I came along, and so they followed me.' And so it is," added Hill, "that Satan has the beans of pleasure, lust, passion, folly, and sins innumerable and unnameable in his basket; he drops them as he goes along, and what multitudes he induces to follow him to an everlasting slaughterhouse!" Be not, therefore, led captive by him who goeth about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8 ).

 


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Bibliography Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Revelation 2:4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lwc/revelation-2.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, January 26th, 2020
the Third Sunday after Epiphany
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