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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Revelation 2

 

 


Other Authors
Verses 1-7

Revelation 2:1-7. The Letter to the Church at Ephesus.

Revelation 2:1. Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia (Revelation 1:4*). The worship of Artemis, for which it was notorious, is referred to in Acts 19, which also gives an account of Paul's three years' work in the city. Paul's speech to the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:18-35) throws no little light on the character of the church. The Epistle to the Ephesians is probably a circular letter, but there can be little doubt that Ephesus was one of its recipients. Tradition connects the Apostle John with Ephesus, and probably the Fourth Gospel and the Johannine Epistles reflect the influence of his teaching.—he that holdeth: this description of Christ is borrowed from Revelation 1:6. It should be noted that each epistle contains a different description, taken mostly from the same source.

Revelation 2:2. I know thy works: this phrase occurs in five of the seven letters. The Ephesians are praised (a) for their labour and patient endurance, (b) for their power of discrimination, which enabled them to reject false prophets and apostles (1 Thessalonians 5:20*).

Revelation 2:4. The charge against the church is that their love has grown lukewarm. Whether the writer is specifically referring to love to God or love to the church is uncertain. Probably both ideas are included.

Revelation 2:5. remove thy candlestick: i.e. take away that which makes you a true church.

Revelation 2:6. the works of the Nicolaitans: cf. Revelation 2:15. We have no definite information with regard to the founder or the views of this particular sect. The most probable theory is that they were antinomians, and pushed their conception of Christian liberty to extremes. Their motto seems to have been, "Only believe and then you can do what you like."

Revelation 2:7. To him that overcometh: this phrase occurs in each letter. It is significant that while the writer has many descriptions of Christ, he has only one name for the Christian, "the overcomer."—tree of life: see Revelation 22:2*.


Verses 1-29

Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22. The Letters to the Seven Churches.—These letters are addressed to individual churches, but their messages are intended for the Church as a whole. In every letter there occurs the phrase, "He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."


Verses 8-11

Revelation 2:8-11. The Letter to the Church at Smyrna.—Smyrna was situated about 35 miles N. of Ephesus, and from a commercial point of view was its most serious rival in Asia. We have no information about the church at Smyrna before this letter, and do not know when or by whom it was founded. It was later the home of Polycarp, and the scene of his martyrdom.

Revelation 2:8. the first, etc.: borrowed from the description of Christ in Revelation 1:18.

Revelation 2:9. thy tribulation: i.e. persecution, apparently from the Jews.—poverty: probably explained by the fact that the mass of Christians were drawn from the poorer classes, though possibly they may also have sustained losses in the persecutions.—blasphemy: i.e. the calumnies or revilings of the Jews, who, as we know from Ignatius (Ep. ad Smyrn. 5), were specially bitter against Christianity at Smyrna.—they are not: the true Jew would have recognised that Christianity was the culmination of the teaching of the prophets. These men can, therefore, only be described, as in Revelation 3:9, as a synagogue of Satan.

Revelation 2:10. Persecution is ascribed to the agency of Satan.—ten days: not to be taken literally; the phrase denotes a brief period.—crown (cf. James 1:12*, 2 Timothy 4:8, 1 Peter 5:4).

Revelation 2:11. second death: the final death of the wicked after the resurrection (cf. Revelation 20:6, Revelation 21:8).


Verses 12-17

Revelation 2:12-17. The Letter to the Church at Pergamum.

Revelation 2:12. Pergamum was a town of great importance about 50 miles NE. of Smyrna. It was one of the most renowned centres of paganism in Asia, and possessed many temples, among them one dedicated to the worship of Augustus. In such a stronghold of paganism as the letter indicates, Christianity was confronted with exceptional opposition.—two-edged sword: for this description of Christ see Revelation 1:16.

Revelation 2:13. where the throne of Satan is: the specific reference in this phrase seems not to be to the prevalence of immorality or the strength of paganism at Pergamum, but rather to the fact that Pergamum was the chief centre of Emperor-worship in the province. "It was," as Sir W. M. Ramsay says, "the worship of the Emperor that was recognised, when the Apocalypse was written, as the special foe of Christianity." [Zahn and J. Weiss think the reference is to the worship of Asclepius the healer. Christians would regard this cult as a caricature of their own religion. Hort says, "Doubtless those are right who refer this to the serpent-worship attached to Asclepius."—A. S. P.]—Antipas: nothing is known about this man, except the fact that he was one of the earliest Christian martyrs.

Revelation 2:14. Balaam: cf. Numbers 31:16; Numbers 25:1 ff. Balaam advised Balak to attempt to seduce the children of Israel from the worship of Yahweh by tempting them to licentiousness.—to eat things sacrificed: cf. the discussion in 1 Corinthians 8:1-9; 1 Corinthians 10:14-33, where Paul lays down the principle that while such eating is a matter of indifference to an enlightened man, yet for the sake of example it is better to abstain (p. 650). In a stronghold of paganism like Pergamum it would be necessary for Christians to take a firm stand in this matter (cf. Revelation 2:20).

Revelation 2:15. Nicolaitans: Revelation 2:6*.

Revelation 2:17. the hidden manna: Aaron was commanded (Exodus 16:33) to lay up a gold pot of manna before the Lord. According to later Jewish tradition mentioned in 2 Maccabees 2:1-8, this was placed in the Ark when it was hidden away by Jeremiah till the Messiah should appear, at which time, according to the Apocalypse of Baruch, the treasury of manna would again descend from on high (cf. Revelation 11:19*).—a white stone: this phrase has never been explained, and it is still impossible to be certain about the allusion. It has been interpreted of (a) the white pebble used by jurors to signify acquittal; (b) a tablet of admission to banquets or entertainments; (c) the Urim and Thummim (pp. 100f.) which were inscribed with the Divine name; d) the precious stones which are said in Jewish tradition to have fallen with the manna. But whatever be the origin of the metaphor, the meaning seems obvious. The white stone inscribed with the new name (i.e. the name of Christ) is a kind of charm or amulet which will secure entrance for the Christian into the new kingdom which is to be established. The white stone is thus the symbol of citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven.


Verses 18-29

Revelation 2:18-29. The Letter to the Church at Thyatira.—Thyatira, which was about 4 miles SE. of Pergamum, was relatively much less important than the cities already mentioned. It was a commercial centre, and seems to have been chiefly famous for the dyeing trade (cf. Acts 16:14 f.).

Revelation 2:18. the Son of God: while the rest of the verse is borrowed from the description of Christ in Revelation 1:13, this phrase is an addition.

Revelation 2:19. last works, etc.: contrast Revelation 2:4 f., where the reverse is said of Ephesus.

Revelation 2:20. Jezebel: probably some Jewish-Christian woman of great influence and power, who had been leading the church at Thyatira astray, by advocating the principles of the Nicolaitans. Another, but less likely, suggestion is that the name Jezebel stands for a heathen priestess or Sibyl who exercised great influence at Thyatira, and led an attack upon Christianity.—idols: Revelation 2:14*.

Revelation 2:22. a bed: i.e. a bed of pain or tribulation.—those that commit adultery: probably used metaphorically, hence her followers and adherents.

Revelation 2:23. her children: i.e. her converts.

Revelation 2:24. the deep things: the Jezebel party had probably undertaken to lead the church into "the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10*) and had interpreted this phrase to mean, "All things are lawful." The writer takes up their phrase and changes it into "the deep things of Satan."—no other burden: a reference to the Apostolic Decree in Acts 15:28.

Revelation 2:26. authority: the imagery is suggested by Psalms 2:8. Christians are to share in the glory of the Messianic reign.

Revelation 2:27. Cf. again Psalms 2:8 f.

Revelation 2:28. the morning star: in Revelation 22:16 Christ is described as "the morning star," and many commentators take this verse as a promise of the Parousia. But though the metaphor is the same, its application may be different, and the words need only indicate in this passage "the freshness and beauty of the glory with which the redeemed are to be clothed."

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Revelation 2:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/revelation-2.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 24th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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