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Bible Commentaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary
Revelation 2

 

 

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Verse 1

CONTENTS

Here begins the Lord's Message to the seven Churches. This Chapter contains what was commanded to be delivered to four of them; namely, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, and Thyatira. And the Chapter closeth with a solemn Admonition, which is repeated to each: to hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.


Verses 1-7

(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; (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: (3) And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. (4) Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. (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. (6) But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. (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.

I beg on our entrance, of viewing these messages of Christ to his Churches, to make one or two general observations, as suited to the whole; and which, I request the Reader to keep in remembrance, through all the parts of this book of God.

And, first. It evidently appears, from several striking circumstances which meet us in the body of those several Epistles, that what our Lord then caused to be delivered by his servant John to those Churches, while it had an immediate eye to them, from particular things the Lord reproved in them; yet was intended as so many messages to the Church of Christ, from that period, to the very end of time; different parts corresponding to the different ages. And, indeed, whoever reads with attention the Lord's charges against some of those Churches, will find, that they were not special to that age, or confined to that Church, to whom the Lord sent it; but that the same spots are seen in the Lord's Church even now. As for example. In this first charge to Ephesus, the Lord complains, that she had left her first love. Not that the Church was totally void of love, but that it was less warm, and fervent, than in the first days of her espousals. Reader! this is but too common now. And wherever it is found, we here learn how painful it is to Christ. See how sweetly the Lord took notice of the first love of the Church, at the coming forth out of Egypt; and how highly the Lord prized it, Jeremiah 2:1-3. So again, to the Church at Sardis - I know thy works, that thou hast a name, that thou livest and art dead, Revelation 3:1. Reader! is not this very resembling the present hour, of the professing Church?

Secondly. Some of those Churches to whom John was directed to write, could hardly be said at that time, to be formed, but were forming. We have no account, either of the Church of Sardis or Philadelphia, before the Second Century. It doth not follow, indeed, from hence, that they were not in being. However, from the slenderness of those Churches in general, and from the too much sameness in defects, between those spoken of, and the Church of Christ in the several ages since, even to the present hour; we have full authority to conclude that the Lord Jesus, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and who looketh through all time, intended these Epistles for the Church, to the latest period of the world.

Thirdly. To render this statement the more probable, it should be observed also, that while the Lord sent these Epistles to those seven Churches, which were in Asia; and some of them hardly in being, there were none of a like nature directed by the Lord to the Churches in Judaea, and Corinth, and Colosse, and Philippi, or the Thessalonians. All which carries a very strong conviction with it, that not those Churches only, and at that period, the Lord Jesus had in view, but to be of perpetual use in his Church, through all the intermediate ages, to the end of time.

Fourthly. As all these seven Churches are now no more, but the Lord hath, as he threatened he would, removed the candlestick out of its place, and the very ground where those highly favored temples once stood, are in the possession of the deluded followers of the false Prophet; and yet those messages sent to them, are with us, it should seem to be a most plain, and self evident conclusion, the Lord intended those Epistles for persons, and not places; and that in them the Lord still speaks to the Church, here represented by the perfect number seven, as representing the whole body in the different periods of time.

Having premised these observations, I would now call upon the Reader, to attend to the precious and important subjects, contained in those Epistles, and according to the order, in which they are here placed.

And first, of Ephesus. Of this city we have an account, Acts 28:19. It was a place of great trade and magnificence but wholly given to Idolatry. Here the Lord directed the steps of his Servant the Apostle Paul, and caused him to plant a Church in it. And so greatly did the Lord bless and own his labors, that he continued in it two years; so that all they which dwell in Asia, heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks, Acts 19:10. Here then, as this Church was in being, the message of the Lord Jesus to it, came under that part of Christ's command to John, in writing the things which he had seen, and the things which are. The other parts, either to Churches afterwards to rise, or of prophecies afterwards to be fulfilled, came under that part of Christ's command to his servant, to write of the things which were to be hereafter, Revelation 1:19.

The Lord begins his charge, with a short but sublime account of himself. These things, saith he, that holdeth the seven stars in his right-hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden Candlesticks. What a sweet thought to the Church of Jesus in all ages, both as it concerns the Servants of the Lord, whom he dignifies amidst all their unworthiness, with the name of stars; and his people, in the midst of whom he here declares himself to walk, as in the midst of golden Candlesticks. Reader! do not fail to keep these things always in remembrance! All the Pastors, the Holy Ghost ordaineth to the Church, however weak in themselves and humble, Jesus calls them stars, and He it is that holdeth them up, and blesseth them, both in their own souls, and to the souls of his people. And all his regenerated people, they are golden in Christ's view, being comely in his comeliness which he hath put upon them; and His is the office, to supply them with grace, amidst all their own darkness, that as golden Candlesticks, they may shine as lights in the world, Ezekiel 16:14; Philippians 2:15.

The Lord next proceeds to tell the Church, how perfectly well acquainted he was, with all that concerned his people. I know thy works. And this includes, the complete knowledge the Lord hath, of all their persons; and of all their thoughts, and words, and actions. Oh! what a sweet testimony, in proof of Christ's Godhead! But what I particularly beg the Reader to observe, in the Lord's charge to this Church, (yea, and all the Churches in this and the following Chapter, for the same observation suits the whole,) is, that though the Lord had somewhat against all, yet he had much more to speak in the favor of all, from their union with, and interest in him. This is a great point to be kept in view, and always highly proper, for every regenerated child of God, to bless God for. From what Jesus here saith, in commendation of the Church at Ephesus, it is plain that they were in a state of regeneration. And the God of all grace, which had called them to his eternal glory, by Christ Jesus, in that call, and by that quickening their souls into a state of spiritual life, had thereby given them, an earnest of that glory, 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14.

As this is a point of great importance, I beg indulgence to state it somewhat more particularly. When God the Holy Ghost quickens a sinner, which before was dead in trespasses and sins, by that spiritual life imparted, the child of God is truly and everlastingly united to the Lord Jesus. The Holy Ghost bears this testimony himself, by his servant Peter. According (saith he) as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of him, that hath called us unto glory and virtue, 2 Peter 1:3-4. Hence, there is now in this awakened and regenerated new creature; an union with Christ, and an interest in Christ. He is brought out of darkness and the shadow of death, and being justified freely through the grace that is in Christ Jesus, he is habitually in a state of favor, and acceptance with God. This is his high calling in Christ. And this is the general frame and state of his mind. But beside this habit of grace, in which the soul is formed by regeneration, there is an actual state, for the exercise of grace upon the Person of Christ, belonging to the believer, and this will be more or less lively, as the Lord the Holy Ghost calls forth into action, the graces by regeneration, which he hath planted in the soul. Here it was in a defect of this exercise, the Church of Ephesus was discovered by Christ. On this ground, the Lord reproved them. They had not left Christ, neither lost their joy and confidence in Christ. For Jesus tells them, that he knew their labors and patience, and their hatred for his sake of false Apostles, and the deeds of the Nicolaitanes. But, though they had not lost all love to Jesus, yet they had left their first love. Reader! do not overlook this, for it is a great point to be well understood in the Church of Christ. The Lord's children when called by grace, are savingly called, and their spirit being born of the Spirit, can die no more. But there may be a great leanness of soul, and there will be, where spiritual strength is not spiritually received, by a life of faith upon Jesus day by day. Hence Jesus, when describing his Church, as branches in himself, the Vine enjoins an abiding in him, that is, a lively acting of faith upon him, John 15:5. If the soul desires a perpetual spring and summer season, it must be induced from drawing all life, and nourishment, and fruitfulness from Christ. From me, saith the Lord, is thy fruit found, Hosea 14:8. But it will be winter in that soul where, though there is no separation from the root, and therefore the tree still lives, the communication is just to keep alive, and that's all. Oh! how needful to feel our daily want of Christ, and as constantly to be in the exercise of faith upon Christ.

But perhaps it may be said, that in the exhortation Christ gives to this Church of Ephesus, (and in like manner to all his Churches, under the same circumstances,) to remember and repent, on pain in the neglect of which, the Lord saith, that he will remove the Candlestick out of his place, there should seem, as if a total separation from the Lord might follow. To which the answer is direct. All the word of God, with one voice declares the work of regeneration, is the imparting of spiritual life, which can die no more. The children of God in that sovereign act, are expressly said to be born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, which liveth and abideth forever, 1 Peter 1:23. The Candlestick, which is a moveable in God's house, (as it is in a Man's house,) may be removed out of its place; and as it was indeed in the instance of this Church at Ephesus, but the house itself is founded upon Christ, the rock of ages; against which the gates of hell can never prevail. God's children may, and (without his grace keeping them alive, in active fruitfulness, upon Christ's Person and righteousness) God's children will, continually feel the workings of sin, in a body which is virtually all sin. But it is Christ's special office, to keep all his redeemed from finally falling, and to present them faultless, before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy. Jude 1:24. Oh! then for grace, to hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.


Verses 8-11

(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; (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. (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. (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.

Smyrna, the second Church to whom the Lord sent his message, appears to have been not much more than forty miles from Ephesus, and neither of them, far remote from Ramos. The Epistle to this Church comes now to be considered. Here the Lord takes to himself, in opening his message, those distinguishing perfections of character. These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive, Probably the Lord Jesus made choice of these, in a more especial manner, in that he was here arming the Church, against a time of persecution; and therefore, in his own glorious Person, they might be found faithful unto death. By the Jews here spoken of, is to be understood, with a special eye to the subject, Christ's followers in the regeneration, or as Christ himself was a Jew after the flesh, those who professed to be his disciples, were in those days generally called Jews. Indeed, we read that the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch, Acts 11:26. But it was only in process of time, that the name became universal. Such, however, could only be properly called so, who were regenerated. Let the Reader observe, that Christ calls it blasphemy, to take the name without the grace. It is indeed most awful, to find men who are by works, of the synagogue of Satan, call themselves Christians!

Let the Reader observe, and observe with thankfulness, how graciously the Lord Jesus limits the power of Satan. Fear none of these things, which thou shalt suffer! The devil would have cast them all into hell, if he could. But no! It shall be only some of them, that he shall exercise by captivity; and that not into hell, but only into a prison. And he would have cast them in forever. But no! It shall only be for ten days, that they shall have tribulation. And this not for his triumph, but for the trial of their graces. And Jesus, in bidding them be faithful, wills them into it. It is, as if the Lord had said ye shall be faithful. For the crown he promised, was not of doubtful issue. Oh! how sure is it, that the overcomers in Christ, having part in the first resurrection in grace, shall not be hurt by the second death, Revelation 20:6. Lord! give grace and the hearing ear, to hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches!


Verses 12-17

(12) And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; (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. (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. (15) So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. (16) Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. (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.

Pergamos, now called by the Turks Bergamo, appears to have been about threescore miles from Smyrna. The features a character which Christ here adopts, seem to have been with a design, to intimate that as the Impostor, which in after ages would arise, to oppose the truth of Christ, would accomplish his wickedness with the sword, the Lord would only oppose him, with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, Ephesians 6:17. And it is worthy the Reader's remark, that in this Epistle, while the Lord is speaking of those in Pergamos, who held the doctrine of Balaam, and the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, and tells his people, that if they do not repent, that is, drive them out from their Churches, he will fight them not his people, but them, and by that sword of his mouth, namely, his holy word; convince them of their ungodly deeds, and of all their hard speeches, which they had spoken against him. See Jude 1:16, and Commentary.

Of the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, we cannot speak particularly. But we find great cause to thank God the Holy Ghost, for the light this passage, throws over the history of Balaam. We should not have known, as we now do, the full infamy of this wretch, but from this account. If the Reader will read the story in the book of N umbers, how this man hired himself out, to curse God's people, while God compelled him to bless them, he will discover some very sweet and precious things. He will see, how much the seed of the Serpent, as Balaam evidently was, may learn by head knowledge, the truths of God, while like him, in heart they abominate them. And the Reader will further learn, how the Lord is unceasingly watching over his people for good, when they themselves, are most unconscious of it. Balak and Balaam, were planning and contriving Israel's destruction, by all the mock services of religion; while Israel lay unconscious in their tents, either of the hatred of Moab, or the policy of Balaam. Reader! who shall say how often, in ten thousand instances, such things are going on now in the present hour! Precious Jesus! as oft as I think of it, how sweet is that scripture to my soul, and the assurance of its being minutely carried on, to my heart, Isaiah 27:2-3.

I beg the Reader, before he goes further, to read the history of the Church, concerning this transaction, as it is recorded in the Book of Numbers. Moab saw Israel conquering the nations around. And under an alarm for his own safety, he sent for Balaam, a famous Magician from the East, to come and curse Israel. The great rewards Balak King of Moab offered him, soon prompted this man, to hasten to this employment, but be received continued checks from his conscience not to go. We have the account, the Book of Numbers, Nu 22; 23; 24, and Nu 25. But this relation of the Lord, in this Chapter of the Revelation, explains what those Chapters in the book of Numbers, do not acquaint us with. We here find, that it was Balaam's advice to Balak, to entice Israel to get the displeasure of God, by first tempting their young men, with lustful desires to Moab's daughters; and, then, Moab's daughters to tempt Israel to their sacrifices. Reader! see what our corrupt passions tempt even God's children to commit. And see what a mercy it is, that Jesus watches over his people for good! Well might one of old cry out, and say, hold thou me up, and I shall be safe! Psalms 119:117. Oh! Sir! how sure a truth it is, that they who are kept, are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, 1 Peter 1:5.

I do not think it necessary, to the Reader of this Poor Man's Commentary, to swell these pages, by leading him into enquiries from Ecclesiastical History concerning Antipas. That he was a faithful servant of the Lord is certain, from the honorable testimony the Lord hath given of him, and a Martyr to the cause of Christ. I would rather raise up a prayer from his faithfulness, and beg of Christ to give to all his redeemed, the hidden bread which is Christ himself; and the white stone with the new name, Written therein, even the Lord our righteousness; to testify whose we are, and whom we serve in the Gospel of God's dear Son! Oh! for grace to hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.


Verses 18-29

(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; (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. (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. (21) And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. (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. (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 everyone of you according to your works. (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. (25) But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. (26) And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: (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. (28) And I will give him the morning star. (29) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

The fourth Church noticed in this Chapter, is that of Thyatira. When this Church was formed, and by whom, is not said; but it should seem probable, that there was none there at the time Paul first preached at Philippi. For ye are told that Lydia, a woman of this city was converted to the faith, when at Philippi, through the Lord's opening her heart, under the preaching of the word by Paul, Acts 16:14. In the opening of this Epistle, Christ describes the penetrating power of his omniscience, under the similitude of eyes like unto a flame of fire; and his duration and everlasting firmness, in supporting his Church, and going about unceasingly for her welfare, under the figure of feet of fine brass.

Jesus, in all his Epistles, graciously takes notice, of the graces of his people. Their righteousness is of me saith the Lord, Isaiah 54:17. This should not be lost sight of. He that gives grace, will give glory, Psalms 84:12. And while he noticeth the infirmities of his people, it is blessed to recollect, the Lord's engagements to do them away. We have a beautiful instance of this, Isaiah 57:17. The Lord is there speaking of his Church. He declares his wrath. Be hides his face. Still the Church goeth on frowardly. Well! what is the issue? Is there no change in the Church? No. Then God will accomplish it. The Lord saith, I have seen his ways and will heal him. God's grace shall, not be outdone, by man's frowardness. Grace shall triumph, even over abounding transgression.

Who this Jezebel is, is not said. If this Epistle be, as some have thought, a prophecy alluding to a different period of the Church, than when John wrote, and referred not to the things which then were, but to the things which the Lord said shall be hereafter; then it is possible, that the whore of Babylon, concerning whom so much is said, in the after Chapters of this book, is meant. The features here drawn of a prophetess, and the committing fornication and the like, carry no doubt, a strong resemblance to each other. But where things are doubtful, it is prudent not to decide. It is enough, however, for our present purpose, in making improvements from this Chapter, to behold in the history of this Church of Thyatira, some of God's dear ones, of whom He, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, bears testimony to their faith, and charity, and patience. And that though living in perilous times, when a Jezebel is suffered among them, yet they themselves in a state of grace, and their last days, more than the first. One consolation, however, there is in this prophecy, (if it be a prophecy,) concerning the latter-day dispensation; namely, Jesus will cast her into a wretched state of pining desolation; and all her children the Lord will kill. And all the Churches shall know, to their joy, and the Lord's glory, the final overthrow of this Antichrist. And in the same hour, the destruction of Christ's enemies, and of his Church are destroyed, the Lord, will give to his people power over them. The God of peace will bruise Satan under their feet shortly, Romans 16:20. Yea, Christ who is the morning star, will be their everlasting light, their God, their glory, Isaiah 60:19; Revelation 22:16. Reader! again let you and I look up for grace, to hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.


Verse 29

REFLECTIONS

HAIL! thou glorious Lord! thou Almighty Head of thy Church, and people. Blessed be thy Name, for those gracious messages, to thy redeemed. Truly, Lord, amidst all their spots and defilements, we behold thy mercy over them, and thy grace towards them. Thou bearest testimony to their faith and patience, for all that is wrought in them is thy grace and of thee, have they received it. And yet, Jesus graciously beholds it, and speaks of it, as their own. Lord! give thy Churches, under every state, grace, to be looking wholly unto thee, and to know thee, under all these distinguishing characters. It is thine, O Lord, to hold thy ministers, as stars in thy right hand, and to walk in the favorite haunts of thy Churches, as amidst the golden Candlesticks, thy people. Thou art the first and the last in all the designs of Jehovah; and the first and the last, yea, the whole sum and substance of everlasting joy to all thy people! Thou art the bright, and the morning-star, the sure harbinger of everlasting day, and in the souls of thy people, thou arisest when the Day-spring from on high visitest them. Be thou, Lord, my light, my life, my everlasting portion, that amidst all the darkness of the present state of the world, in thy light I may see light, and walk under the light of thy countenance forever!

 


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Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Revelation 2:4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/revelation-2.html. 1828.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020
the Second Week after Epiphany
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