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Bible Commentaries

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Revelation 2



Other Authors

Questions For Revelation Chapter Two

1. To which church did he write first letter?

2.How was the authorship here described?

3.What did he say he knew?

4.Tell what they could not bear.

5.What tests had they made?

6.How had they terminated?

7.What had they done for his name"s sake?

8.Why was there something against this church?

9. What should they remember?

10. Tell what they were told first to do

11. What works were they to do?

12. If not what would be done to them?

13. What did they have that was commended?

14. How should ears be used?

15.Where is the tree of life?

16.Who may eat of it?

17.Describe author of letter to Smyrna.

18.What did he know about this church?

19.Were they rich or poor?

20.Who had blasphemed?

21.Of what institution were they?

22.What was this church bidden not do?

23. TeU what the devil was going to do.

24.For what end would this be?

25.What were they to have?

26.How long must they be faithful?

27.TeU the reward to be gained.

28.What should be heard?

29.If one overcomes what will he escape?

30.Describe author of letter to Pergamos.

31.What did He know of this church?

32.At what place did this church dwell?

33.What had this church held fast?

34.Tell what it had not denied.

35.What special trial was mentioned?

36.Whose doctrine did this church encourage?

37.In what way did it encourage this1

38.What was the doctrine of Balaam?

39.State the other false doctrine they encouraged.

40.What was God"s feeling toward this doctrine?

41.What were they exhorted to do?

42.Who is "them" in verse16?

43.TeU what may be given to eat.

44.To whom will it be given?

45.What gift will be made him besides?

46.Who will know the secret?

47.Who authorized the letter to Thyatira?

48.Describe his appearance here.

49.What works were accredited to this church?

50. Tell which item was increased

51.What character wa.s suffered among them?

52.Tell what she professed to be.

53.What influences did she have?

54.What opportunity had the Lord given her?

55.With what result?

56.What association will God force upon her?

57.How could they escape this lot?

58.What would be killed?

59.All the churches would be made know what?

60.How will he deal to every one?

61.What depths had some not known?

62.How were they to be treated by the Lord?

63.What should they hold fast?

64.To whom will power be given?

65.How long must they keep His works?

66.By what shall he rule?

67.From whom was this power received?

68.What bright thing will be given?

69.Who is saying things to the churches

Verse 1

See the comments on last verse of the preceding chapter for explanation of the angel. This letter is written to the same church at Ephesus to which Paul wrote his epistle bearing that name. The beginning of this church is recorded in Acts 18:19. Before John wrote his letter to it the congregation had been placed under elders ( Acts 20:17). The Authority for this letter identifies himself by repeating Revelation 1:13, but adding the significant fact that he walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. This signifies that Christ is present (in spirit) and knows what is going on in the churches of the brotherhood.

Verse 2

This and the following verse( Revelation 2:1-29 :) will name a number of things in the conduct of the church that are favorable. By doing that the Lord sets a good example of giving due credit which would be well for disciples to follow in their treatment of others. I know thy works. The Greek for the first word has many shades of meaning but they are classified under virtually two groups only, namely, to know in the sense of being aware of, and to know in the sense of acknowledging or approving: the connection must determine which is used. In our verse the Lord means he approves of the works which are mentioned. Labor and patience means they were persistent in their labors. They were very good negatively in that they could not bear them which are evil. They were faithful in detecting and exposing false teachers. (See 1 John 4:1.)

Verse 3

Borne and patience are virtually the same as labor and patience in the preceding verse. The main idea is that they had followed such a course for a long time. They had likewise done these things for the Lord"s name's sake, which denotes a proper motive technically for their labors. Have not fainted means they had been unfaltering in their religious activities.

Verse 4

Nevertheless. This single word conveys a very important truth, namely, while the Lord does not fail to see all the good a disciple does, yet that will not cause Him to accept the service unless it is correct as a whole. Left thy first love. This phrase may he illustrated by the warmth of feeling that exists in the first part of the relation of husband and wife. The word love is from .AGAPE and its chief meaning is to have that regard for another that will cause one to be interested in his welfare and happiness. Such a love will prompt one even to "go out of his way" to do things to please the other. Likewise a Christian should have such a feeling for his brother and for Christ who is the bridegroom of the church. This going "out of his way" does not mean to go beyond the lawful regulations, for that would not be pleasing to a bridegroom regardless of its motive. But there are countless instances where a Christian can make a special exertion to show his love for the Lord. The church at Ephesus had fallen into the frame of mind where it performed its services from the legal standpoint only, and it had ceased to be a "labor of love" as Paul mentions in 1 Thessalonians 1:3.

Verse 5

From whence thou art fallen. They had fallen from a condition of fervent love for Christ and his cause to one of legal or technical formality. Repent. They have not been charged with doing anything wrong; everything they did was right as far as the acts themselves were concerned. It was what they were-not doing that made up the Lord"s objection to them; they were right affirmatively but wrong negatively. Yet they were told to repent, which shows a disciple may be condemned for what he is not doing. (See Hebrews 2:3.) Do the first works means those extra acts of love they did in the beginning of their service to Christ, not that they must repeat the first principles of the Gospel. I will come quickly. He was already walking round midst all the churches, but this means He will come specifically to this particular church to judge it. Will remove thy candlestick. Now we can see the reason for the remarks at Revelation 1:12 about the seven candlesticks being separate items. That makes it possible to remove one without disturbing the others. Another important thought is signified in this circumstance, namely, the churches of Christ are independent units as to their government and have no official connection with each other. It should be noted further that notwithstanding the complaints the Lord had against the church, He did not threaten to remove its candlestick (which would be His way of rejecting this church) unless it failed to repent. In connection with this case it is well to consider Matthew 11:20 where Jesus upbraids some wicked cities "because they repented not." In Luke 13:3; Luke 13:5 He declares certain ones will perish "except they, repent." In 2 Peter 3:9 the wicked need not Perish if they will "come to repentance." This group of kindred passages gives us an insight into the principle on which God deals with mankind. A church (or individual) does not forfeit its standing with God at the mere point of doing wrong (else we all would be falling daily), but it is when it does wrong and refuses to repent of it.

Verse 6

Nicolaitans. There is little definiteness in the treatment of this subject by the histories and lexicons and other works of reference. Thayer merely comments that they were "the followers of Nicolaus," a heretic in the time of the apostles. Robinson makes similar remarks about. the subject. We note that both the deeds and the doctrine of this sect are condemned. It had something to do with a life of fleshly indulgencies. The church at Ephesus rejected this sect which was one other point in its favor stated in the letter written by John.

Verse 7

He that hath an ear does not imply that some people are without ears literally, but this is a solemn call upon all to give profound attention to what is being said to the churches. What the Spirit saith is the same as what the Lord says for He uses the Spirit to direct John in writing the letters. To the churches. There is no indication that the seven letters were to be circulated generally among the seven churches. Instead in each separate instance the instruction is to write a certain letter to a particular church. Therefore the phrase to the churches signifies that what the Spirit says to any certain church that may be named among the seven, the Lord intends to be for the instruction of the churches of Christ everywhere. This "call to attention" is made in connection with each of the seven letters and will not be commented upon after this one. But the promises that are made are different each time, hence that part of the letters will be commented upon as we come to them. Tree of life . . . paradise of God. The phrasing about the tree is based on the one that was in the garden of Eden. Man lost that tree by sinning, but it may be regained in a spiritual form by proper conduct, namely, by overcoming his sins while in this life. Paradise comes from a word that may mean any place of bliss or happiness. That is why it is used in reference to the abode of the righteous after death ( Luke 23:43), and to the place where God dwells and will be the abode of the righteous after the judgment. Paul calls it both by "paradise" and "third heaven" in 2 Corinthians 12:2; 2 Corinthians 12:4. John had a vision of the tree of life as he describes it in Revelation 22:2. The reader may see a fuller description of the original word for paradise at Nehemiah 2:8 in Volume2of Bible Commentary.

Verse 8

See the comments on last verse of the preceding chapter for an explanation of the angel. Smyrna is one of the places that received a letter John was told to write. The description of the One who was dictating the letter is the same as in Revelation 1:18; the same who was walking in the midst of the churches. This is one of the two that received no rebuke from the Lord in the letters to the seven churches.

Verse 9

I know thy works. See comments at verse2for the general definition of this phrase which is used at the beginning of each of the seven letters; in this place it means the Lord approves of their conduct. Tribulation refers to the oppression being put upon this church by the enemy. A part of this resulted in the loss of their possessions which brought upon them a condition of poverty. But thou art rich. They were poor as far as this world"s goods was concerned but were "rich in faith" ( James 2:5). Say they are Jews, and are not. They belonged to the Jewish race but were not true to their religious profession; such people frequently joined with-the heathen in persecuting the Christians. Synagogue of Satan means they really were serv- ing the interests of Satan and hence were to be classed with his agents. Such insincere Jews would assemble in their synagogues for their pretended services to God, but due to their hypocrisy the Lord considered it a synagogue of Satan.

Verse 10

Imprisonment as a persecution was to be one feature of their tribulation which will be credited to the devil. Ten days is a figurative reference to a series of persecutions that were heaped upon the church under the opposition from the Roman government. This was to become a trial of their faith, and the Lord consoles them with the assurance that they need fear none of those things. Faithful unto death. Even death cannot defraud a true disciple of his reward. Crown of life. A crown is a decoration for being victor over a foe and such a token is worthy those who remain true to the Lord in the presence of death. Their body may die in His service but it will not deprive them of eternal life. (See Luke 12:4.)

Verse 11

He that overcometh means the one who is "faithful unto death." The second death means the lake of fire ( Revelation 20:14) which cannot hurt the faithful.

Verse 12

The author identifies himself in this place by His possession of the sharp sword with two edges. This refers to the word of God which is described in Hebrews 4:12. The Lord says he hath this sword or that He originated it and has a perfect knowledge of the proper use of it. And to the angel is explained at Revelation 1:20.

Verse 13

I know thy works. (See comments at verse2.) Know is used in the sense of approval with regard to the works in this verse. Where Satan's seat is. Pergamos was in one of the worst centers of idolatry, making the temptation all the greater. This church as a whole withstood the influence of heathendom, holding fast to the name of Christ as the true person to worship. Not denied my faith denotes that they maintained the basis of that faith or system of religion which was the Gospel. Not much is said elsewhere about this Antipas further than what is said here. He is referred to as a "martyr" even as it is in our passage. However, the reason for so classifying him is an error, namely, because it is said that he was slain for his faith. He was a martyr before being slain because death is not what makes a man a martyr; it only proves that he was a martyr. That term is from the same Greek word as "witness" and it means the same. It is the word for "witness" in Hebrews 12:1 where we know Paul is speaking about the faithful servants of God enumerated in the preceding chapter. We also know that some of those "witnesses" (martyrs) did not die, for they "wandered in deserts and in mountains." Hence a martyr is one who is true to the testimony of the Lord come what may, whether it be death or loss of goods or banishment like the case of John. Accordingly in the case of Antipas; he went to his death because he had been a true and faithful martyr for Christ.

Verse 14

Thou hast there means the church was holding within its fellowship these characters. Hold the doctrine denotes that they believe and retain and endorse it. The doctrine of Balaam is briefly stated in direct connection with this passage. It pertains to the advice that Balaam gave Balac after the four speeches that he (Balaam) made under the control of the Lord. The historical account of it is quoted from Josephus in connection with Numbers 25:1-5 in Volume1of Bible Commentary. The persons in the church at Pergamos were endorsing the same practices which were a mixture of idolatry and immorality.

Verse 15

See the comments at verse6 on the Nicolaitans.

Verse 16

Repent. (See comments at Revelation 2:5 on this subject.) Fight against them means a spiritual war since the weapon is the sword of my mouth. It means these guilty members will be exposed and condemned by this sword which is the word of God.

Verse 17

He that hath an ear is commented upon at Revelation 2:7.. Him that overcometh signifies one who is faithful to the Lord until death. Eat of the hidden manna. This is a figure of speech formed from the circumstance recorded in Exodus 16:32-34; it is referred to by Paul in Hebrews 9:4. This manna was in the ark in the Most Holy Place where none were permitted to enter and partake. It is used here to represent the exclusive spiritual blessings that the Lord will bestow only on His faithful servants. A white stone alludes to some practices of old in which a favored contestant was given this kind of stone as a badge of distinction, on much the same principle as a soldier"s decorations. This new name also signifies the special relation between a faithful servant and his Lord. No man knoweth in the sense that no man can realize or appreciate what it means to be thus blessed of the Lord.

Verse 18

See comments at Revelation 1:20 for the explanation of the angel. In this letter the author states his personal name before giving a description of himself and it is the Son of God. Comparing His eyes and feet to fire and brass is explained at Revelation 1:14-15.

Verse 19

I know thy works is commented upon at Revelation 2:2. After naming the works He immediately uses the word notwithstanding, which shows that the works to which He refers are the things named in our present verse. Since they are all good we understand the word know is used in the sense of approval. Charity means an interest in the welfare of others, and service means the doing of something to assist in that welfare. Faith is produced by the word of God ( Romans 10:17) and with the assurance that the divine word is leading them aright, it would cultivate patience or endurance in their activities. In the beginning of the verse the word works is used as a general reference to their manner of life. It now is used to bring out the fact that they performed good deeds for the welfare of others. Last to be more than the first. This is as it should be, for Christians are expected not only to produce the fruits of righteousness but to increase therein ( 2 Corinthians 9:10).

Verse 20

Having given the church credit for the good things it was doing the Lord next makes his complaints. Thou sufierest. When a church retains a bad character in its fellowship, it becomes a partaker of the evil deeds of that person and will be condemned by the Lord. (See verses14 , 15.) The church at Thyatira was doing so concerning a false prophetess named Jezebel. Thayer defines this word, "A second Jezebel," then gives us the following historical statement. "The symbolic name of a woman who pretended to be a phophetess, and who, addicted to antinomianism [the doctrine of faith alone], claimed for Christians the liberty of eating things sacrificed to idols." This statement of Thayer's agrees with the language of the verse.

Verse 21

Gave her space (of time) to repent indicates the longsuffering of God toward evildoers. Repent of her fornication. Doubtless those whose religion was so materialistic as to worship dumb idols also indulged themselves in fieshly fornication. However, it is evident from many passages that idolatry was classed as spiritual fornication in Bible times; one such passage is Jeremiah 3:9.

Verse 22

This verse indicates that spiritual adultery (idolatry) is what is meant through most of these verses. The Lord here threatens to punish this wicked woman by casting her and her customers into a bed together. That would not be any punishment for a woman who was a literal adulteress. But the form of language is used that indicates something unpleasant was to be inflicted, for it refers to the bed as a place of tribulation. Of course in a case of literal adultery the Lord would regard an impure woman and her patrons as being guilty together. Likewise if a woman entices the professed servants of God to commit idolatry, the whole group would be held as partners in the guilt. (See Matthew 15:14.)

Verse 23

Kill her children with death. This may sound strange to us if we try to be technical, for if a person is killed at all it would mean death. It is what is known as a Hebraism which means an expression peculiar to the speech of the Hebrews and used by others for the purpose of emphasis. The idea is to make the hearer realize the certainty that death is to be inflicted. It is similar to "thou shalt surely die" ( Genesis 2:17), or not to "die the common death of all men" ( Numbers 16:29). All the churches shall know. Whatever was going to be done was to be of such a public character as to make it an example. Searcheth the reins and hearts. The Lord is able to penetrate the innermost thoughts and expose the evil to the shame of the guilty. Will give unto every one of you according to your works. Those who are personally responsible for the conditions will be called to account.

Verse 24

Unto you I say . . . as many as have not this doctrine. In every condition of evil there are some who have not endorsed the evils of others, and they are not held responsible for that which they could not prevent. Not known the depths of Satan. Not been mixed up in these evil things of Satan who is prompting Jezebel and her partners. As they speak refers to the false teaching of this wicked woman and those being influenced by her. Put upon you none other burden. The Lord will not condemn them for what they cannot prevent, but He will "burden" them with the duty of abstaining from the evil practices that he has been condemning.

Verse 25

Hold fast, or maintain their disconnection with these evil things. Till I come is equivalent to saying "until death."

Verse 26

Figurative language must be based on some literal fact or possible fact. Christians are not to exercise any temporal rule over the world on the basis of their religious profession, but they are to be joint rulers with Christ as to spiritual conduct that will please the Lord. (See the comments at Revelation 1:6.) This partnership with Christ is on condition that the disciple is faithful unto the end, which means until death if such should be imposed upon him.

Verse 27

An iron rule does not always mean one of harshness, but that metal should also be thought of as being unyielding and strong and enduring under a strain. All the phrases of this verse should be understood in this figurative sense.

Verse 28

Morning star. Jesus calls himself the "morning star" in Revelation 22:16. The significance of this phrase is due to its brightness as it precedes the sun in rising, thus announcing that a new day is dawning. (See 2 Peter 1:19.) The present verse means that the faithful disciple will be given the spiritual brightness of Christ.

Verse 29

He that hath an ear. (See verse7.)


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Bibliography Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 2:4". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 28th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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