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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
Revelation 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

REVELATION CHAPTER 2

Revelation 2:1-7 What John was commanded to write in commendation or

reproof to the angels of the churches of Ephesus,

Revelation 2:8-11 Smyrna,

Revelation 2:12-17 Pergamos,

Revelation 2:18-29 Thyatira.

Chapter Introduction

Some things are to be observed of all the epistles, before we come to the particular epistles.

1. God’s writing in this form, (as a man to his friend), speaks Christ’s love to the church, his spouse.

2. There were not seven books written, but one book in which these seven epistles were, out of which each church, or the church in its several periods, might learn what concerned it.

3. These epistles concerning matters of faith and manners, are written plainly, not in mysterious expressions.

4. The scope of them all is to instruct, reprove, commend, and comfort.

5. They are all directed to the ministers of the churches, as their heads, but the matter concerns the whole church.

6. It is also observed, that Christ, in the beginning of every epistle, notifieth himself by some one of those things mentioned in the vision in the former chapter.

Revelation 2:1,

These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars, Revelation 1:16 Revelation 2:8, The first and the last, which was dead and is alive, Revelation 1:17,18 Re 2:12. These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges, Revelation 1:16 Revelation 2:18, The Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet like fine brass, Revelation 1:14,15 Re 3:1. He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, Revelation 1:4,16 Re 2:7, He that hath the key of David, that is holy and true, that openeth, & c., Revelation 1:5,18 Re 2:14, The faithful and true witness, Revelation 1:5.

Ephesus was the principal city of Asia the Less, it lay in the western parts of it, upon the Ionian Sea; a city of great riches and trade, but much given to idolatry and superstition, famous for the temple of Diana. Paul was there twice; at his second coming he stayed thereabouts three years, Acts 18:1-20:38. He was by a tumult driven thence into Macedonia, and left Timothy there, 1 Timothy 1:3. It appears from Acts 20:17, that there were more ministers there than one; but they were all angels, and from the oneness of their business are all called an angel.

These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand; that is, Christ, Revelation 1:16,20, who hath put an honour on his ministers, showeth special favour to them, and will protect them.

Who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; who hath a special eye to his church, being not an idle spectator, but present with his church, to observe how all in it walk and perform their several parts, and is at hand, either to reward or punish them.


Verse 2

I know thy works: these words being in the front of all the seven epistles, cannot be interpreted as signifying a knowledge of approbation, as Psalms 1:6, but of a comprehension in the understanding, and as signifying Christ’s omnisciency; though it be true, that the Lord both understood and approved of some of the works of this church particularly.

And thy labour, and thy patience; their labour in propagating the knowledge of Christ and doctrine of the gospel, and their patient taking up and bearing the cross.

And how thou canst not bear them which are evil; and their zeal and warmth, that they would not endure either persons erroneous in judgment, or lewd in their lives, in their communion.

And thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not: in the primitive church there were some that falsely pretended an immediate call or mission from Christ, to preach what they did, but this church would not endure them. It appears from Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy, that there were then false teachers very busy in that church; possibly Ebion and Cerinthus, (who both lived in this time, and Cerinthus preached in Asia), or their disciples, might be some of them. They tried them, possibly, by the word of God, according to the rules given in it to try the spirits.

And hast found them liars; and found that they had no such immediate mission, no authority from Christ.


Verse 3

And hast borne the contradiction of false teachers, and the persecutions of Jews and pagans; for at this time the second persecution was began by Domitian.

And hast patience; grace (with quietness and submission) to bear the will of God in any sort of evils.

And for my name’s sake hast laboured; and for me hast laboured actively in propagating the truths of my gospel, as well as passively in the furnace of trials and persecutions.

And hast not fainted; and hast persevered so as thou hast neither been seduced to other doctrine by false teachers, nor lost thy integrity and holiness of conversation.


Verse 4

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee; something to accuse thee of, and blame thee for.

Because thou hast left thy first love; of late thou hast not been so warm in the propagation of my gospel, and maintaining my truth. The love of many in this church, both toward God and their brethren, probably was cooled, though not wholly extinguished.


Verse 5

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen; that is, in what degree thy love was formerly, and compare it with what it is now.

And repent; repentance in man, signifieth both the change of the heart and of the actions.

And do the first works; recover thy former warmth of love, and zeal for good works.

Or else I will come unto thee quickly; if thou do not, I that know thee, and walk in the midst of thee, will show myself an enemy to thee.

And will remove thy candlestick out of his place; and unchurch thee, and say unto thee, Lo-ammi, You are not my people. Which threatening is long since made good; for where is now the famous church of Ephesus?


Verse 6

But this thou hast; thou hast yet thus much to commend thee.

That thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes; thou hatest the deeds of those who teach the lawfulness of a common use of wives, and eat things offered to idols; for these, they say, were the tenets of the Nicolaitanes, so called from one Nicholas; but whether he were one of the first deacons, named Acts 6:5, (who, they say, to avoid the imputation of jealousy, brought forth his wife, being a beautiful woman, and prostituted her), or from some other of that name, I cannot determine.

Which I also hate: God, as a lover of his own order, and of human society, hateth such doctrines and practices as are contrary to the rule of his word, and tend to the confusion of human societies.


Verse 7

He that hath an ear, let him hear; to whom God hath given an ability and power to understand what I say. It is a form of speech which Christ often used, when he would quicken up people’s attention, Matthew 11:15 13:9,43 Mr 4:9,23 7:16: we shall find it again in these two chapters six times; from which some would conclude, that in these epistles there is something mysterious, parabolical, and prophetical, it being a form of speech prefixed to many parables.

What the Spirit saith; the Holy Spirit of God, from whose inspiration all Scripture is.

Unto the churches; not only at Ephesus, but elsewhere in Asia, or any other part of the world.

To him that overcometh; that is, a conqueror in fighting the good fight of faith, against the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Will I give to eat of the tree of life; I will give him a share in my merits, and eternal life; which blessed enjoyments are set out unto us under the notion of eating, Luke 12:37 22:28, &c.; John 10:28.

This is the promise that he hath promised us, 1 John 2:25. Heaven is expressed to us under this notion, with reference to the tree of life, mentioned Genesis 2:9, which was in the old Paradise; for it is added,

which is in the midst of the paradise of God; or, which is the same, Christ himself is here intended, who is the free of life, mentioned Revelation 22:2; and the happiness of heaven is thus expressed, 1 Thessalonians 4:17, We shall be ever with the Lord. This is the sum of the epistle to the first mentioned church, by which those that judge these epistles prophetical, understand all the primitive churches during the apostles’ age, or the most of their ages, for John himself lived under the second persecution.


Verse 8

Smyrna was a city in Ionia; we read not when, or by whom, the gospel was first planted and a church gathered there; nor can we tell who are meant by

the angel of this church: see Revelation 1:20. That it was no single person is probable, for he speaks plurally, Revelation 2:10, the devil shall cast some of you, ex umwn, into prison.

These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive: for the meaning of this phrase, see annotations on Revelation 1:8,17,18; only it is observable how Christ, speaking to this church under great tribulation and persecution, fits a name proper to comfort them; for he himself was dead, and yet now alive, and he living, those that believe in him, because he lives, shall live also, John 14:19; and as he was the first, so he will be the last, surviving all his enemies, and be at last a conqueror over them.


Verse 9

I know thy works, and tribulation: though the term know doth not necessarily signify approbation, yet, both as to the church of Ephesus and Smyrna, the particular works mentioned assure us, that God approved their patient suffering affliction for his name.

And poverty; and the poor condition (as to outward things) into which they had brought themselves, for their owning and profession of the gospel of Christ, having their estates rent from them, &c.

But thou art rich; but yet they were rich, both really in the love and favour of God, and also in the esteem of God, who accounteth them rich who abound in spiritual habits, and good works, the exercise of those habits.

And I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not: God also knows the evil speeches of his church’s enemies, whether native Jews, glorying in circumcision and the law, and that they were descended from Abraham; or false Christians, who may be here meant (called Jews by a figure; the Jews being once the only church of God).

But are the synagogue of Satan; but are indeed a collection of devils, or the children of the devil, whose works they do, continually reviling true Christians, and murdering the saints, after the manner of their father, who was a murderer from the beginning.


Verse 10

Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer; thou art like to suffer yet sharper things than thou hast suffered, the persecutions are but begun; but pluck up a good courage, fear not your enemies, Matthew 10:28.

Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison; you shall be cast into prison, by Jews and pagans, who are the devil’s instruments, and execute his malice against you; which should both encourage you, that your fight is with the common enemy of mankind, and teach you to pity and pray for your persecutors, who are but the devil’s instruments, whose hearts he hath filled with malice against you.

That ye may be tried; that your faith, love, patience, obedience, may be tried.

And ye shall have tribulation ten days: interpreters are divided about these ten days, what space of time is meant by them; some think the whole time of the ten persecutions, but they lasted above two hundred years; others will have them the ten years of Trajan’s persecution, from the year 99 to 109. Others observe, that in ten days are two hundred and forty hours, which make up the number of years from 85, when the second persecution began, (under which John at this time was), to 325, when all the persecutions ceased. But to let these fancies go: it is either a certain number put for an uncertain; or, it signifies many days; as in Genesis 31:42, Thou hast changed my wages ten times, that is, many times; so 2 Samuel 19:43 Job 19:3. Or else it signifies a little time, as in Genesis 24:55 Amos 5:3 6:9. If we understand this epistle as only concerning the church of Smyrna at that time, it may signify a small time. If we understand it prophetically, describing the state of all churches, till the pagan persecution ceased, (which was more than two hundred and forty years), ten days signifies a long time.

Be thou faithful unto death, hold fast to thy profession of faith and holiness to the end of thy life here,

and I will give thee a crown of life, and I will give thee eternal life and salvation, which shall be a great reward. It is called a crown of righteousness, 2 Timothy 4:8.


Verse 11

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh: for the opening of these passages: See Poole on "Revelation 2:7".

Shall not be hurt of the second death; we read of the second death, Revelation 20:6,14: the meaning is, that he shall escape the eternal damnation of soul and body in the day of judgment.

Those that make these epistles prophetical say, that the church of Smyrna was a type of all the churches of Christ to the year 325, (when Constantine overcame Lycinius, and gave rest and peace to the churches of Christ), which was all a time of severe persecution under the Roman emperors, who to that time were all heathens. It is very observable, that Christ blameth nothing in this church; the church of God keeps always its purity best in the fire; but doubtless there were in this time many apostacies, and other errors, but God allows much to his people’s temptations; hence, though Job showed much impatience, yet we are called to behold him as a pattern of patience.


Verse 12

Pergamos was a famous city of Troas; we read of Pergamos no where else in Scripture, but of Troas we read of Paul’s being there, Acts 16:8,11 20:5,6, and preaching Christ there, 2 Corinthians 2:12.

These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges: see the notes on Revelation 1:16.


Verse 13

I know thy works, and where thou dwellest; God knows all his people’s circumstances, where they dwell, as well as what they do, and how they behave themselves in their habitations.

Even where Satan’s seat is; where the devil rules by his pagan deputies and antichrist’s officers.

And thou holdest fast my name; the word of my truth, by which I am known, as a man by his name.

And hast not denied my faith; neither by the words of thy mouth, nor by any apostacy from this profession, notwithstanding the temptations thou hast had from suducers and from persecutors, and the sight of those who have been put to death for their profession.

Even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr: it is much no ecclesiastical history makes mention of this martyr Antipas, which argueth him to have been a person but of an obscure note in the world; but Christ seeth and taketh notice of those little ones who belong to him, though the world overlooks them. Our being able from no history to give an account of this martyr, hath inclined some to think this epistle wholly prophetical, and that Antipas signifieth not any particular person, but all those that have opposed the pope, as if it were Antipapa. But certainly there was such a martyr as Antipas belonging to the church at Smyrna at that time, who suffered for the truth, though we do not allow this church to have been typical of all the gospel churches for many years.


Verse 14

But I have a few things against thee; though I have much to commend thee for, yet I have some things to accuse thee of, and to complain of thee for.

Because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam: by the doctrine of Balaam, he means the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, (as he expounds himself, Revelation 2:15), which was like the doctrine of Balaam.

Who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel; that Balaam of whom we read, Numbers 24:1-25:18, who being sent for by Balak the king of Moab to come and curse Israel, and finding that God restrained him, and turned his tongue from cursing them to pronounce blessings to them, instructed Balak at last how to lay a stumblingblock before them, to make them to fall, viz. to set the Moabitish women to tempt them to commit uncleanness with them, and so to feast with them in their idols’ temples, and eat of their meat first offered unto their idols.


Verse 15

So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes; so, saith he, thou sufferest in thy communion filthy persons, who maintain fornication lawful, and the lawfulness of eating meat offered to idols, which exactly corresponds with Balaam’s doctrine or counsel given to Balak, in order to his weakening the Israelites by separating them from God. His counsel took place, to the destruction of twenty-four thousand Israelites.

Which thing I hate; I am the same God still, and hate such doctrines, as much as ever I did in the time of Balak.


Verse 16

Repent; thou that art guilty of conniving at such things, change thy mind and practice, and let those who have entertained these opinions, and run into those filthy practices, change their hearts and practices;

or else I will come unto thee quickly; I will quickly come against thee, and punish thee: See Poole "Revelation 2:5".

And will fight against them with the sword of my mouth; and fight against them by my word; either convincing them, or pronouncing sentence against them; or, by raising up other teachers, who shall preach my word more faithfully, and whose doctrine shall be like a sword to devour and to destroy them.


Verse 17

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh: see the annotations on Revelation 2:7.

Will I give to eat of the hidden manna; here is a manifest allusion to that bread from heaven, with which God fed his people in the wilderness, called angels’ food, Psalms 78:25. The story of it we have, Exodus 16:31,32; a pot of which God ordained to be kept in the ark, for a memorial of God’s mercy, Hebrews 9:4. It was a type of Christ, who was the true bread that came down from heaven, John 6:32,33. It here signifies Christ himself, with all the influences of his grace, whether for strength or comfort. As a feast was wont to follow a victory; so Christ promiseth to those that fought, and overcame in the spiritual fight, to feast them with himself and the influences of his Spirit.

And will give him a white stone: the use of stones anciently was so various, that it hath given a great liberty to interpreters to vary in their senses of the white stone here mentioned. They made use of them (as we since of counters) to count; they used them also in judgments, acquitting persons by white stones, on which their names were written, as they condemned others by black stones; they also used them in giving suffrages in elections, &c.; they also used them to mark happy or lucky days, and they used other stones to mark such days as they counted unlucky; and finally, they used them as rewards to those who conquered in their games. Hence interpreters vary in their opinions, whether this be a general promise of a reward, or a more particular promise of pardon and absolution; or, of the assurance of their election to life. It seems most properly to be interpreted of pardon, or the notification of pardon of sins, or more generally of a reward. By the new name, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it, the same thing seemeth to be signified, the Spirit witnessing with their spirits that they are the children of God. They say, that in those white stones (used in absolutions of persons, or in giving suffrages) the name of the person absolved or chosen was wont to be written, and none knew it but those that had it, unless they imparted it, to which custom this allusion is.

Those that make this church typical, say it typified the churches of the gospel during the times of popery, to the end of the persecutions of the Waldenses and Albigenses, when about one hundred thousand of them were destroyed by eight thousand papists; or, the time when antichrist first sat in the temple of God, as Revelation 13:1-18, and the woman fled into the wilderness, Revelation 12:1-17.


Verse 18

Thyatira was a city of Mysia or Lydia, not far from Philippi, the chief city of Macedonia; for Lydia, who traded in purple, and was of this city, went to Philippi to trade, as we read, Acts 16:12,14.

Eyes like unto a flame of fire: see Revelation 1:14,15: it signifies either angry eyes, or quick and piercing eyes. The comparing of

his feet to fine brass, seemeth to signify both the purity and holiness of his ways and methods of providence, and also his firmness and steadiness in them.


Verse 19

I know thy works; the works of the ministry of this church were such as Christ knew, not only with a knowledge of comprehension, but approbation also.

And charity; such were his charity to Christians that were in distress.

And service; his diligence in his ministration.

And faith; his faith, and adherence to Christ, and the doctrine of the gospel.

And thy patience; his meek bearing of his crosses and trials.

And thy works; his other works, the fruit of faith and love.

And the last to be more than the first; and his proficiency both in spiritual habits, and good works, the fruits of them.


Verse 20

Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee: See Poole on "Revelation 2:4", See Poole on "Revelation 2:14".

Because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel: the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, mentioned Revelation 2:6,15, is so plainly expressed in the latter part of the verse, viz. maintaining the lawfulness of eating things offered to idols, and of fornication; that whosoever this woman was, it is plain she was one of that filthy sect. It is also plain, that she is called Jezebel with allusion to that wicked woman of that name who was the wife of Ahab, of whom we read, 1 Kings 16:31. She was an instrument to bring Ahab her husband to serve and worship Baal. It is also piain, that she was one that pretended to Divine revelations; she called herself a prophetess; and that taught in public, which no women but prophetesses might do, 1 Corinthians 14:34 1 Timothy 2:11,12: and that she taught a community of women, and the lawfulness as of fornication, so of eating things sacrificed to idols, directly contrary to the apostle’s doctrine, 1 Corinthians 9:10. But what she was cannot be determined; for though we allow this church to be typical of the church in the times of popery, and the popish synagogue, which maintaineth both these things to be the antitype; yet certainly there was some famous heretical strumpet in this church, which the governors did not restrain and cast out of their communion; which is the thing Christ had against this church, and the officers in it, who ought to have restrained her extravagancies both in teaching such doctrines, (being contrary to the apostle’s doctrine in the places before mentioned), and from teaching at all, being no prophetess though she pretended to it.


Verse 21

I was not quick with her, but gave her a time of patience, and did not cut her off at first; but she was incorrigible, and went on in her sinful courses.


Verse 22

I will cast her into a bed; another kind of bed than she hath sinned in and by, not a bed of ease and pleasure, but of pain and torment. Nor shall the seduced escape, they shall also be cast into

great tribulation, pains and torments of conscience, or afflictions more corporal, either from the more immediate hand of God, or the hands of men.

Except they repent of their deeds; this is to be supposed to all God’s threatenings of judgments, the execution of them ordinarily may be prevented by repentance, and such is the patience of God, that he gives the vilest sinners a space to repent.


Verse 23

And I will kill her children, those who are seduced by her,

with death; I will destroy them; unless some special death, such as the plague, be here threatened. So shall all the churches near Thyatira know, that I am a God who do not only take notice of overt, scandalous acts, but of the secret thoughts, motions, counsels, and designs of men’s hearts, Psalms 7:10 Jeremiah 11:20 17:10; and that I am a just God, who will deal with all according to their works.


Verse 24

But unto you I say; you that are the ministers, for they are distinguished from the rest in Thyatira. The word again is plural, which lets us know these epistles were directed to no single persons.

And unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine; the rest of the members of the church in Thyatira, who have not embraced this doctrine of the Nicolaitanes published by Jezebel, &c.

As they speak; those seducers call their doctrine deep things, great mysteries revealed to them; as there are the deep things of God, 1 Corinthians 2:10, so these seducers would pretend their doctrines also were deep things: Christ calls them the devil’s mysteries, deep things of Satan.

I will put upon you none other burden; I will lay no other burden of trials and afflictions.


Verse 25

But that which ye have already; than you already groan under. Or, no other precepts than what you have had from the apostles: the precepts of God are called burdens, Matthew 11:30 Acts 15:28.

Hold fast till I come; hold fast your profession, your faith and holiness, till I come to judgment.


Verse 26

And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end: See Poole on "Revelation 2:7", See Poole on "Revelation 2:11", See Poole on "Revelation 2:17". Overcoming is here expounded by keeping Christ’s works; that is, either the works by him commanded, or walking as he walked, and persevering therein to the end of his or their lives.

To him will I give power over the nations; either to judge those who live heathenish lives; or to convert nations to the faith; or, which is most probable, he shall sit with me upon a throne in the day of judgment, Matthew 19:28, and judge the world, 1 Corinthians 6:2.


Verse 27

And he shall rule them with a rod of iron: an iron rod either signifies a right rod, that will not be easily bent and made crooked; or a severe rod, which is most probably the sense: see Psalms 2:9 Psalms 12:5. The words by the psalmist are applied to Christ, and to the church, Revelation 12:5: to particular saints here, who rule the nations either in Christ their Head, or with Christ as their Chieftain, with the word of God powerfully convincing the world of sin and righteousness.

As the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers; and all paganism and heathen idolatries shall be broken in pieces. Or, in the day of judgment, the saints that persevere shall sit with Christ, and judge and condemn the world severely; and then they shall be broken in pieces, never again to be sodered or cemented.

Even as I received of my Father; for such a power and authority my Father hath given me, and I will give it to all them.


Verse 28

Either the light of glory, the blessed vision of God, or a certain hope of eternal life; or the Holy Spirit, called so, 2 Peter 1:19; or rather, of myself. Christ himself is not called the Sun of righteousness, Malachi 4:2, but the Morning star, Revelation 22:16, because he excelleth all other stars in glory, and scattereth the darkness of ignorance and error by the light of his gospel: I will make him partaker of myself.


Verse 29

Here the same conclusion of this epistle as of all the rest, Revelation 2:7,11,17: See Poole on "Revelation 2:7".

Those who make this epistle typical and prophetical, make it a type of all the churches of Christ, from about the year 1260, or the end of the persecution of the Waldenses, until the protestant religion so far obtained, that whole nations owned it, which was about 1560, by which time England and Scotland had made it the religion of those nations: it had before this prevailed in Germany, Helvetia, France, and many other places, where it was the religion of whole cities and particular jurisdictions, &c.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Revelation 2:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/revelation-2.html. 1685.

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Sunday, January 19th, 2020
Second Sunday after Epiphany
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