Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Revelation 2:2

‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Apostles;   Church;   Company;   Decision;   Ephesus;   Heart;   Heresy;   Hypocrisy;   Minister, Christian;   Patience;   Righteousness;   Sin;   Zeal, Religious;   Scofield Reference Index - Life;   Satan;   Thompson Chain Reference - Good;   Patience;   Patience-Impatience;   Work-Workers, Religious;   Works, Good;   The Topic Concordance - Hate;   Knowledge;   Repentance;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Alliance and Society with the Enemies of God;   Patience;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Ephesus;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Apocalyptic literature;   Apostle;   Ephesus;   John, letters of;   Love;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Perseverance;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Patience of God;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Bishop;   Revelation of John, the;   Timothy, the First Epistle to;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Apostles;   False Apostles;   Patience;   Revelation, the Book of;   Works;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Apostles;   Asia;   Jude, Epistle of;   Magi;   Nicolas;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Apostle;   Brotherly Love;   Lying ;   Marks Stigmata;   Patience;   Perseverance;   Temptation, Trial;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Apostle;   Ephesians, Epistle to the;   Jew;   42 Evil Wicked;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Sepharvaim;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Ephesus;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Tim'othy;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Nicolaitans;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - How;   Labor;   Ministry;   Persecution;   Revelation of John:;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Air;  
Devotionals:
Chip Shots from the Ruff of Life - Devotion for April 1;   Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for July 15;   Every Day Light - Devotion for March 25;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

I know thy works - For the eyes of the Lord are throughout the earth, beholding the evil and the good; and, being omnipresent, all things are continually open and naked before him. It is worthy of remark, that whatsoever is praiseworthy in any of these Churches is first mentioned; thereby intimating that God is more intent on finding out the good than the evil in any person or Church; and that those who wish to reform such as have fallen or are not making sufficient advances in the Divine life, should take occasion, from the good which yet remains, to encourage them to set out afresh for the kingdom of heaven. The fallen or backsliding who have any tenderness of conscience left are easily discouraged, and are apt to think that there is no seed left from which any harvest can be reasonably expected. Let such be told that there is still a seed of godliness remaining, and that it requires only watching and strengthening the things which remain, by prompt application to God through Christ, in order to bring them back to the full enjoyment of all they have lost, and to renew them in the spirit of their mind. Ministers continually harping on Ye are dead, ye are dead; there is little or no Christianity among you, etc., etc., are a contagion in a Church, and spread desolation and death wheresoever they go. It is far better to say, in such cases, "Ye have lost ground, but ye have not lost all your ground; ye might have been much farther advanced, but through mercy ye are still in the way. The Spirit of God is grieved by you, but it is evident he has not forsaken you. Ye have not walked in the light as ye should, but your candlestick is not yet removed, and still the light shines. Ye have not much zeal, but ye have a little. In short, God still strives with you, still loves you, still waits to be gracious to you; take courage, set out afresh, come to God through Christ; believe, love, obey, and you will soon find days more blessed than you have ever yet experienced." Exhortations and encouragements of this kind are sure to produce the most blessed effects; and under such the work of God infallibly revives.

And thy labor - He knew their works in general. Though they had left their first love, yet still they had so much love as excited them to labor, and enabled them to bear persecution patiently, and to keep the faith; for they could not tolerate evil men, and they had put fictitious apostles to the test, and had found them to be liars, pretending a Divine commission while they had none, and teaching false doctrines as if they were the truths of God.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/revelation-2.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

I know thy works - The common formula with which all the epistles to the seven churches are introduced. It is designed to impress upon them deeply the conviction that he was intimately acquainted with all that they did, good and bad, and that therefore he was abundantly qualified to dispense rewards or administer punishments according to truth and justice. It may be observed that, as many of the things referred to in these epistles were things pertaining to the heart - the feelings, the state of the mind - it is implied that he who speaks here has an intimate acquaintance with the heart of man, a prerogative which is always attributed to the Saviour. See John 2:25. But no one can do this who is not divine; and this declaration, therefore, furnishes a strong proof of the divinity of Christ. See Psalm 7:9; Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:10; 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39.

And they labor - The word used here ( κόπος kopos) means properly “a beating,” hence wailing, grief, with beating the breast; and then it means excessive labor or toil adapted to produce grief or sadness, and is commonly employed in the New Testament in the latter sense. It is used in the sense of trouble in Matthew 26:10, “Why trouble ye (literally, why give ye trouble to) the woman?” (compare also Mark 14:6; Luke 11:7; Luke 18:5; Galatians 6:17); and in the sense of labor, or wearisome toil, in John 4:38; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 2 Corinthians 10:15; 2 Corinthians 11:23, 2 Corinthians 11:27, et al. The connection here would admit of either sense. It is commonly understood, as in our translation, in the sense of labor, though it would seem that the other signification, that of trouble, would not be inappropriate. If it means labor, it refers to their faithful service in his cause, and especially in opposing error. It seems to me, however, that the word “trouble” would better suit the connection.

And thy patience - Under these trials; to wit, in relation to the efforts which had been made by the advocates of error to corrupt them, and to turn them away from the truth. They had patiently borne the opposition made to the truth, they had manifested a spirit of firm endurance amidst many arts of those opposed to them to draw them off from simple faith in Christ.

And how thou canst not bear them which are evil - Canst not “endure” or “tolerate” them. Compare the notes on 2 John 1:10-11. That is, they had no sympathy with their doctrines or their practices, they were utterly opposed to them. They had lent them no countenance, but had in every way shown that they had no fellowship with them. The evil persons here referred to were, doubtless, those mentioned in this verse as claiming that “they were apostles,” and those mentioned in Revelation 2:6 as the Nicolaitanes.

And thou hast tried them which say they are apostles - Thou hast thoroughly examined their claims. It is not said in what way they had done this, but it was probably by considering attentively and candidly the evidence on which they relied, whatever that may have been. Nor is it certainly known who these persons were, or on what grounds they advanced their pretensions to the apostolic office. It cannot be supposed that they claimed to have been of the number of apostles selected by the Saviour, for that would have been too absurd; and the only solution would seem to be that they claimed either:

(1)that they had been called to that office after the Saviour ascended, as Paul was; or,

(2)that they claimed the honor due to this name or office, in virtue of some election to it; or,

(3)that they claimed to be the successors of the apostles, and to possess and transmit their authority.

If the first of these, it would seem that the only ground of claim would be that they had been called in some miraculous way to the rank of apostles, and, of course, an examination of their claims would be an examination of the alleged miraculous call, and of the evidence on which they would rely that they had such a call. If the second, then the claim must have been founded on some such plea as that the apostolic office was designed to be elective, as in the case of Matthias Acts 1:23-26, and that they maintained that this arrangement was to be continued in the church; and then an examination of their claims would involve an investigation of the question, whether it was contemplated that the apostolic office was designed to be perpetuated in that manner, or whether the election of Matthias was only a temporary arrangement, designed to answer a particular purpose. If the third, then the claim must have been founded on the plea that the apostolic office was designed to be perpetuated by a regular succession, and that they, by ordination, were in a line of that succession; and then the examination and refutation of the claim must have consisted in showing, from the nature of the office, and the necessary qualifications for the office of apostle, that it was designed to be temporary, and that there could be properly no successors of the apostles, as such. On either of these suppositions, such a line of argument would be fatal to all claims to any succession in the apostolic office now. If each of these points should fail, of course their claims to the rank of apostles would cease; just as all claims to the dignity and rank of the apostles must fail now. The passage becomes thus a strong argument against the claims of any persons to be “apostles,” or to be the “successors” of the apostles, in the uniqueness of their office.

And are not - There were never any apostles of Jesus Christ but the original twelve whom he chose, Matthias, who was chosen in the place of Judas Acts 1:26, and Paul, who was specially called to the office by the Saviour after his resurrection. On this point, see my work on the Apostolic Church (pp. 49-57, London ed.).

And hast found them liars - Hast discovered their pretensions to be unfounded and false. In 2 Corinthians 11:13, “false apostles” are mentioned; and, in an office of so much honor as this, it is probable that there would be not a few claimants to it in the world. To set up a claim to what they knew they were not entitled to would be a falsehood, and as this seems to have been the character of these people, the Saviour, in the passage before us, does not hesitate to designate them by an appropriate term, and to call them liars. The point here commended in the Ephesian church is, that they had sought to have a “pure ministry,” a ministry whose claims were well founded. They had felt the importance of this, had carefully examined the claims of pretenders, and had refused to recognize those who could not show, in a proper manner, that they had been designated to their work by the Lord Jesus. The same zeal, in the same cause, would be commended by the Saviour now.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/revelation-2.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

I know thy works, and thy toil and patience, and that thou canst not bear evil men, and didst try them that call themselves apostles, and they are not, and didst find them false;

I know ... This clause appears throughout the letters, reminding all people that, "All things are naked and open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13).

Works ... toil ... patience ... Like the other letters, except in cases where no commendation was possible, this one begins with the Lord's approving recognition of their good points. No list of their works is given, but presumably there were many. Scholars point out that "toil" refers to arduous, sweat-producing labor. They were indeed working at their religion. "Patience" here is the great New Testament word [@hupomone], meaning: "The gallantry which accepts suffering, hardship and loss and turns them into grace and glory."[9]

And didst try them that call themselves apostles ... Many commentators have pointed out that, "To the apostle John, apostle always means one of the Twelve";[10] and so we understand it here. There were men pretending to be apostles in the highest sense of that word. Those who reject this view suggest that this was such a bold claim that none would have dared to make it; but they forget that some even pretended to be Christ! We find full agreement with Carpenter who considered this verse "additional evidence of an early date of the Apocalypse."[11] Supporting the same interpretation, Plummer said:

In 68 A.D., when contemporaries of the apostles were abundant, the claim to be an apostle might with some show of reason be made; but in 95 A.D. such a claim would be ridiculous.[12]

Practically all interpreters are aware of this, but having already chosen a late first century date, they are compelled to insist that "apostles" is here used in some secondary sense. Plummer commented on that thus:

Trench admits this (the implication of an early date), and hence tells us that "apostles" must not be pressed, as though it implied a claim to have been sent by the Lord Jesus; but this is exactly what "apostle" does imply.[13]

Didst try them ... and find them false ... That Christ himself commended the diligence and faithfulness of the Ephesian church in disproving the claims of false apostles indicates that the false claims were reasonably and plausibly advocated, and that the refutation of them was not always easy.

[9] William Barclay, The Revelation of John (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), p. 24.

[10] G. B. Caird, The Revelation of St. John the Divine (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), p. 30.

[11] W. Boyd Carpenter, Ellicott's Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 540.

[12] A. Plummer, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 57.

[13] Ibid.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/revelation-2.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

I know thy works,.... The good works, both of ministers and churches; no evil works are mentioned, nor anything complained of in this church but an abatement of the fervour of her first love. Christ, as the omniscient God, knows all the works of his people, and the springs, and principles, and ends, and views of them, whether they are done in obedience to him, and spring from love to him, and are performed in his strength, and by his grace, and are directed to his glory; and such he takes notice of, approves of, and is well pleased with, not as the ground of his delight in their persons, but as the fruits of his own grace; and during the apostolic age, churches and ministers were very diligent in working; yea, they were laborious, as follows:

and thy labour: particularly the labour of ministers of the Gospel, in these times, in the frequent preaching of it, in season and out of season; and in the constant administration of the ordinances; and in the diligent exercise of church discipline. The work of the ministry is a laborious work to the mind in studying, and to the body in the outward discharge of it; and it becomes more so, through the malice and opposition of enemies, and the weakness of friends; and such as are diligent and laborious deserve respect, even double honour; and though they may not have it from men, yet Christ takes notice of them and their labours, and commends them for them, and will reward them,

And thy patience; as this may refer to the ministers of the word, it may denote their patience in suffering reproaches and persecutions for the sake of the Gospel, which they bore patiently, cheerfully, and constantly; and in bearing the infirmities of weak saints, in their several communities; and in reclaiming and restoring persons out of the way; and in waiting for the success of their ministry, and their continuance and perseverance in it. And as this may respect members of churches, it may point at their patience under afflictions from the hand of God, and under reproach and persecution from men, for their embracing and professing the Gospel; and their patient waiting for the heavenly glory, and their firm expectation of it, and their perseverance unto it,

And how thou canst not bear them that are evil; that were so either in their principles or in their practices, or both; men that lived immoral lives, and held erroneous doctrines, these the primitive ministers and churches could not bear; they had an inward abhorrence and detestation of them in their minds; they could not bear them in communion with them; they admonished them according to the nature of their offence, and cast out such as were obstinate and incorrigible; they withdrew from such as were disorderly, and rejected heretics after the first and second admonition; their zeal for church discipline is here taken notice of to their commendation,

And thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not,

and hast found them liars; this doubtless was done in the church at Ephesus, where, after the Apostle Paul's departure, grievous wolves, in sheep's clothing, entered, and men arose from among themselves, speaking perverse things, Acts 20:29; yet it was not peculiar to that church, though it was to the apostolic age; for in no other could men with any face pretend to be the apostles of Christ; and such there were, who sprung up in the several churches at Jerusalem, Corinth, Galatia, and elsewhere, who called themselves the apostles of Christ, but were false apostles, deceitful workers; they pretended to have their doctrine, call, mission, and commission, immediately from Christ, as the true apostles had, and a power to work miracles, and talked of inspirations and revelations by the Spirit of God. Now the apostles, ministers, and churches of those times, tried their pretensions and doctrines by the word of God, and by the fruits which they produced in themselves and others; and through that discerning of spirits which they had, they found them to be liars; that they were not, nor had they what they pretended to be, and have, and exposed them as such.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/revelation-2.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

3 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) The proposition first condemning the pastor of this church (Revelation 2:2,3) then reproving him (Revelation 2:4) after informing him, and threatening that he will move the church to another place (Revelation 2:5). This threat of divine vengeance Christ mitigates by a type of correction, calling to mind the particular virtue and piety of the Church, which God never leaves without recompense (Revelation 2:6). Concerning the Nicolaitans, see (Revelation 2:15).
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/revelation-2.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

I know thy works — expressing His omniscience. Not merely “thy professions, desires, good resolutions” (Revelation 14:13, end).

thy labour — Two oldest manuscripts omit “thy”; one supports it. The Greek means “labor unto weariness.

patience — persevering endurance.

bearevil men are a burden which the Ephesian Church regarded as intolerable. We are to “bear (the same Greek, Galatians 6:2) one another‘s burdens” in the case of weak brethren; but not to bear false brethren.

tried — by experiment; not the Greek for “test,” as 1 John 4:1. The apostolical churches had the miraculous gift of discerning spirits. Compare Acts 20:28-30, wherein Paul presciently warned the Ephesian elders of the coming false teachers, as also in writing to Timothy at Ephesus. Tertullian [On Baptism, 17], and Jerome [On Illustrious Men, in Lucca 7], record of John, that when a writing, professing to be a canonical history of the acts of Paul, had been composed by a presbyter of Ephesus, John convicted the author and condemned the work. So on one occasion he would not remain under the same roof with Cerinthus the heretic.

say they are apostles — probably Judaizers. Ignatius [Epistle to the Ephesians, 6], says subsequently, “Onesimus praises exceedingly your good discipline that no heresy dwells among you”; and [Epistle to the Ephesians, 9], “Ye did not permit those having evil doctrine to sow their seed among you, but closed your ears.”

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/revelation-2.html. 1871-8.

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

2. In this verse the Holy Ghost highly commends their orthodoxy, and their courageous maintenance of the faith once delivered to the saints.

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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/revelation-2.html.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

I know (οιδαoida). Rather than γινωσκωginōskō and so “emphasizes better the absolute clearness of mental vision which photographs all the facts of life as they pass” (Swete). So also in Revelation 2:9, Revelation 2:13, Revelation 2:19; Revelation 3:1, Revelation 3:8, Revelation 3:15. For the distinction see John 21:17, “where the universal knowledge passes into the field of special observation.”

Works (εργαerga). The whole life and conduct as in John 6:29.

And thy toil and patience (και τον κοπον και την υπομονην σουkai ton kopon kai tēn hupomonēn sou). “Both thy toil and patience,” in explanation of εργαerga and see 1 Thessalonians 1:3, where all three words (εργον κοποσ υπομονηergonεργαkoposκοποιhupomonē) occur together as here. See Revelation 14:13 for sharp distinction between υπομονηerga (activities) and κοποςkopoi (toils, with weariness). Endurance (και οτιhupomonē) in hard toil (κοποςkopos).

And that (ου δυνηιkai hoti). Further explanation of δυνασαιkopos (hard toil).

Not able (βαστασαιou dunēi). This Koiné form for the Attic βασταζωdunasai (second person singular indicative middle) occurs also in Mark 9:22; Luke 16:2.

Bear (και επειρασαςbastasai). First aorist active infinitive of πειραζωbastazō for which verb see John 10:31; John 12:6; Galatians 6:2. These evil men were indeed a heavy burden.

And didst try (δυνηι εχειςkai epeirasas). First aorist active indicative of τους λεγοντας εαυτους αποστολουςpeirazō to test, a reference to a recent crisis when these Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6) were condemned. The present tenses (και ουκ εισινdunēiκαι ουκ ονταςecheis) indicate the continuance of this attitude. Cf. 1 John 4:1.

Which call themselves apostles (λεγονταςtous legontas heautous apostolous). Perhaps itinerant missionaries of these Nicolaitans who posed as equal to or even superior to the original apostles, like the Judaizers so described by Paul (2 Corinthians 11:5, 2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Corinthians 12:11). Paul had foretold such false teachers (Gnostics), grievous wolves, in Acts 20:29; in sheep‘s clothing, Jesus had said (Matthew 7:15).

And they are not (και ευρεςkai ouk eisin). A parenthesis in Johannine style (John 2:9; John 3:9; 1 John 3:1) for ευρισκωkai ouk ontas to correspond to επειρασαςlegontas didst find (πσευδειςkai heures). Second aorist active indicative of πσευδηςheuriskō Dropping back to the regular structure parallel with epeirasas (pseudeis). Predicate accusative plural of pseudēs self-deceived deceivers as in Revelation 21:8.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/revelation-2.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Thy works ( τὰ ἔργα σοῦ )

See on John 4:47.

Labor ( κόπον )

Originally suffering, weariness; hence exhausting labor. The kindred verb κοπιάω is often used of apostolic and ministerial labor (Romans 16:12; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 4:11).

Patience ( ὑπομονήν )

See on 2 Peter 1:6; see on James 5:1. Compare Paul's exhortation to Timothy in Ephesus, 2 Timothy 2:25, 2 Timothy 2:26.

Bear ( βαστάσαι )

See on John 10:31; see on John 12:6. Compare Galatians 6:2, where the word is used of Christians bearing each others' burdens.

Them which are evil ( κακοὺς )

Trench observes that “it is not a little remarkable that the grace or virtue here ascribed to the angel of the Ephesian Church (compare Revelation 2:6) should have a name in classical Greek: μισοπονηρία hatredof evil; the person of whom the grace is predicated being μισοπόνηρος haterof evil; while neither of these words, nor yet any equivalent to them occurs in the New Testament. It is the stranger, as this hatred of evil, purely as evil, however little thought of or admired now, is eminently a Christian grace.”

Hast tried ( ἐπειράσω )

Rev., didst try. See on tried, 1 Peter 1:7; and compare 1 John 4:1; 1 Corinthians 12:10.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/revelation-2.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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:

I know — Jesus knows all the good and all the evil, which his servants and his enemies suffer and do. Weighty word, "I know," how dreadful will it one day sound to the wicked, how sweet to the righteous! The churches and their angels must have been astonished, to find their several states so exactly described, even in the absence of the apostle, and could not but acknowledge the all-seeing eye of Christ and of his Spirit. With regard to us, to every one of us also he saith, "I know thy works." Happy is he that conceives less good of himself, than Christ knows concerning him.

And thy labour — After the general, three particulars are named, and then more largely described in an inverted order, 1. Thy labour6. Thou hast borne for my name's sake and hast not fainted2. Thy patience: 5. Thou hast patience: 3. Thou canst not4. Thou hast tried those who say they are bear evil men: apostles and are not, and hast found them liars.

And thy patience — Notwithstanding which thou canst not bear that incorrigibly wicked men should remain in the flock of Christ.

And thou hast tried those who say they are apostles, and are not — For the Lord hath not sent them.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/revelation-2.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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:

Ver. 2. I know thy works and thy labour] Not thy works only, but thy labour in doing them, and what ends thou puttest upon them. How accurately did our Saviour cast up and count how long the multitude had been with him, how little they had to eat, how ill it would fare with them if sent away fasting, &c., Matthew 15:32.

And how thou canst not bear] Moved with a zeal of God, and having a stomach for him. Mihi sane Auxentius nunquam aliud quam diabolus erit, quia Arianus, saith Hilary: I shall look upon Auxentius as upon a devil, so long as he is an Arian.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/revelation-2.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Revelation 2:2

What Christ approves in Ephesus.

These words disclose the Lord's marvellous generosity. He is quick to see and ready to acknowledge all the good that exists among His people; in this how different from many that speak in His name, and who are perpetually engaged in faultfinding and depreciation. Even where we err, we may ask Him to overrule and bless our very blunders.

I. First the Lord says, "I know thy works." There is to be no dealing with us in the dark, as man is oftentimes compelled to deal with his fellow-man. He brings us into the light. The true knowing of a man's work involves the knowing of the heart, inasmuch as the quality of the work depends on the motive. It is because of this that even our own works are so ill understood by us. There are dim, half-lighted chambers of thought into which we have not penetrated with all our self-scrutiny, and a cunning self-complacency gives everything a turn in our own favour. The Lord knows all our works.

II. Opening out His initial statement, the Lord says, "I know thy labour and patience." (1) One department of labour is Christian learning; (2) a second thought is the labour involved in spreading the Gospel; (3) standing out as the grandest of all things is the doing of Christ's will in our daily life.

III. The Gospel is essentially intolerant—intolerant, not merely of evil in the abstract, but of evil men. Such men we must learn to "try" as the Ephesian Church did. And if they are liars, then, whatever their professions of zeal, spirituality, or holiness, we must reject them.

IV. The patience of Ephesus is commended. Christian patience is not the result of a process of deadening the sensibilities. There is nothing stoical in it, no pretence that we do not feel, but the hardihood that is associated with the keenest capacity of suffering, and that has its root in a firm confidence in God.

J. Culross, Thy First Love, p. 27.


Reference: Revelation 2:3.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1069.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/revelation-2.html.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Revelation 2:2. I know thy works, &c.— Our Saviour having begun with telling the angel, that He holds the seven stars in his right hand, (that is, "directs the angels or bishops of the seven churches,") and that He walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, or lamp-sconces; that is, views, considers, protects, and governs them; it is no wonder that he should know here, and in every one of the rest, what is done therein!

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/revelation-2.html. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Observe here, 1. A general declaration which stands in the front of the several epistles, I know thy works, both thy inward and outward works, to observe and mark them, to punish or reward them, as the case requires. This proves the divinity of Christ, that he is truly and essentially God; he knows the hearts of men, which none but a God can know. Revelation 2:23. All the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and the hearts.

Observe, 2. The commendation which is here given of this church for her labour in propagating the gospel, for her patience in bearing affliction and persecution for in, for the strictness of her discipline, that she did not bear with, nor tolerate and endure, such persons as were either erroneous in judgment or scandalous in practice; for her faithfulness in trying the authority of those who pretended to an immediate call from God to be apostles, but were found liars and false prophets; such were those two succeeding heretics, Ebion and Cerinthus, and their followers.

Mark here, How our Lord Jesus Christ doth observe and approve, doth commend and praise, whatever is good in his church, and whatever is commendable and praiseworthy in the members of it; yet, at the same time, when commends them for what is good, he reproves them for what is evil and amiss; and accordingly,

Observe, 3. The reprehension given, Revelation 2:4. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

As if Christ had said, "I observe amongst you a great abatement of your former zeal and fervour; you have not that hearty love to me, and to one another, which you had at first, but verily you grow cooler when you should grow better."

Learn hence, 1. That where there is truth of grace, there may yet be a sad decay and declining in grace.

2. That Christ takes notice of, and is displeased with, such decays and declining in grace, and severely checks and reproves his people for them: I have somewhat against thee because thou hast left thy first love.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/revelation-2.html. 1700-1703.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Revelation 2:2. τὰ ἕργα σου are not “Christian deeds of heroism against false teachers,” as Hengstenb. thinks;(919) who, partly because of the otherwise inexplicable Revelation 2:4, partly in order not to maintain a repetition with respect to the ὑπομονή, Revelation 2:3, and partly because of Revelation 2:6,(920) understands all of Revelation 2:2-3, as referring to conduct towards false teachers, the κόπος as work against them, while the ὑπομονή, Revelation 2:2, signifies “active” and Revelation 2:3 “passive” patience in suffering, which true confessors experience because of their zeal against them. All this is arbitrary. By τὰ ἔργα σου, the external activity in general, whereby the Church manifests its inner life, is designated. The works (“fruits,” Matthew 7:16 sqq.) cannot be evil (Revelation 2:6; Revelation 2:22; Revelation 3:1; Revelation 3:15; Revelation 16:11; Revelation 18:6; cf. Romans 2:6 sqq.). It is the entire—and here praiseworthy(921)—conversation of the church,(922) including their bearing under suffering,(923) that is here meant. This is shown by what follows, where the works are more accurately explained in a twofold respect, καὶ τὸν κόπον κ. τ. ὑπο΄. σου and καὶ ὅτι οὐ δύνῃ βαστ. κακ.(924) Just because the σου does not stand after κόπον, but only after ( τ. κοπ. καὶ) τ. ὑπο΄ονὴν (Revelation 1:14), these two ideas cohere the more intimately, but not as hendiadys;(925) while as the second point the καὶ οὐ δύνῃ, κ. τ. λ., is rendered prominent.(926) Just as in 1 Corinthians 15:58, the κόπος of believers with their firm steadfastness is required for realizing the ἔργον of the Lord, both are here mentioned; viz., the κόπος, i.e., the toilsome labor,(927) and the ὑπο΄ονή, i.e., the necessary patient perseverance, as a chief item in the ἕργα.(928) The κόπος, together with the ὑπο΄ονή refers to all wherein believers fulfil their peculiar holy task with divine and spiritual power and endurance,—a work which, in its most manifold forms, is always combined with hardship ( κόπος), and therefore cannot be fulfilled without ὑπο΄ονή, as this is essentially and necessarily conditioned by the antagonism between the kingdom of Christ and the world.

The second commendation(929) is, that the Lord knows the “works” of the church at Ephesus, that it “cannot bear them which are evil” ( κακούς without the article). Concerning the form δύνῃ,(930) cf. Wetstein and Winer. The βαστάζειν makes us think of the κακοί as a heavy burden.(931) The expression κακούς(932) designates those meant properly according to their perverted and worthless nature, which, however, in the sense of the prophet, already according to the O. T. view, cannot be estimated otherwise than by the measure of the positive divine norm. Thus “they which are evil” are in some sort of contradiction to the divine truth, whereby the inner and outward life of believers is determined; hence the actual intolerance towards them, or(933) the necessary hatred of their godless nature.(934)

καὶ ἐπειρασας τ. λεγ. ἑαυτ. ἀποστόλους, κ. τ. λ. The praiseworthy conduct of the church towards those that are evil, who are here more accurately designated as false teachers, is still further acknowledged (until ψευδεῖς). πειράζειν, synonymous with δοκιμάζειν(935) and correlate with τό δοκίμιον, δοκίμον γένεσθαι,(936) is more the practical putting to the test, the trial from living experience. In 1 John 4:1, where the question is treated solely with respect to a definite confession, δοκιμάζειν properly occurs: in this place, on the other hand, the πειράζειν indicates that works especially(937) come into consideration. Hence the connection of our false apostles with the false prophets, 1 John 4,(938) is inapposite.

Those here meant call themselves apostles, and yet are not; so the result of the proof is that they are found liars. Those men must, therefore, like the false apostles at Corinth,(939) have professed themselves as sent immediately from the Lord himself.(940) If in so doing they should have appealed to their intercourse with Christ as long as he was on earth,(941)—which, however, is not indicated,—it would of course follow that “that was the apostolic age.” But, at any rate, this declaration has sense only at the time which occurs about the Pauline period, i.e., possibly up to the destruction of Jerusalem; but not at the end of the first century, where a trace nowhere occurs of a false teacher laying claim to apostolic authority.

As to the character of the false teachers, cf. Revelation 2:6.—[See Note XXVIII., p. 155.]

NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR

XXVIII. Revelation 2:2

Hengstenberg calls attention to the danger incurred, when any special duty is incumbent upon the Church, of so concentrating all energies upon it that other spheres are neglected, and to the excuse for this neglect given by conscience on the ground of its activity in the one direction. So intent was the church of Ephesus in properly withstanding errorists, and in its toilsome labors in this cause, that love was vanishing, though the earnestness originally prompted by love remains. A superficial legal orthodoxism, and a zeal in good works, are. gradually supplanting the life-communion with Christ which is the soul and centre of a normal church life. Alford agrees with Dust., that the τὸν κόπον καὶ τὴν ὑπομονήν are epexegetical of τὰ ἔργα. Concerning the hardship implied in the τὸν κόπον, cf. Matthew 26:10; Luke 11:7; Luke 18:5; 2 Corinthians 11:27; Galatians 6:17. It and its derivative κοπιάω are especially applied to the service of ministering the word, John 4:38; Romans 16:12; 1 Corinthians 15:10; 1 Corinthians 15:58 (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:12); 2 Corinthians 6:5; 2 Corinthians 10:15; 2 Corinthians 11:23; 2 Corinthians 11:27; 1 Corinthians 16:16; Galatians 4:11; Philippians 2:16; Colossians 1:29; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:8; 1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 6:10; and are most suitable to the interpretation of the ἀγγέλος, as the bishop or pastor of the church. Hence the practical point of Trench: “How of ten does labor which esteems itself labor for Him stop very short of this! Perhaps, in our day, none are more tempted continually to measure out to themselves tasks too light and inadequate than those to whom an office and ministry in the church have been committed. Others, in almost every other calling, have it measured out to them. We give to it exactly the number of hours which we please. We may well keep this word κόπος, and all that it signifies, viz., labor unto weariness, in mind.” The note of the same author on οὐ βαστάσαι κακούς is also pertinent: “The infirmities, even the sins, of weak brethren, these are burdens which we may, nay, which we are commanded to bear (cf. Galatians 6:2, where the same word βαστάζειν is used): it is otherwise with false brethren (Psalms 119:115; Psalms 109:21-22; 1 Corinthians 5:11).”

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/revelation-2.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Revelation 2:2. οἶδα τὰ ἔργά σου, I know thy works) This word οἶδα, I know, occurs seven times:

I know thy works: Revelation 3:1; Revelation 3:8; Revelation 3:15.

I know where thou dwellest: Revelation 2:13.

I know thy tribulation: Revelation 2:9.

I know thy love: Revelation 2:19.

καὶ ὅτι) καὶ was formerly omitted by some: but it is to be retained.(26) For endurance and sternness against the evil are different virtues, [though they are united in this Man.—V. g.]— ἐπείρασας) Erasmus, without any MS. authority, edits ἐπειράσω:(27) all the MSS. have ἐπείρασας. See App. Crit. Ed. ii. on this passage. The Middle, πειράο΄αι, occurs only with an infinitive, and that but rarely, as ἐπειρᾶτο κολλᾶσθαι, Acts 9:26. πειρῶ΄αί σε, with an accusative, is never used: πειράζω is employed for all purposes. [There must have been a remarkable talent of discernment in this church-president.—V. g.]— ἀποστόλους, Apostles) In this passage false apostles are repulsed: false Jews, Revelation 2:9; those given up to Heathenism, Revelation 2:13-14.

A Memph. omit καί; but BCh Vulg. support it.—E.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/revelation-2.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

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.

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

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

тех, которые называют себя апостолами Церковь в Ефесе обладала духовной проницательностью. Она умела распознавать людей, которые своими идеями и поведением претендовали на духовное господство (ср. 1Фес. 5:20, 21).

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/revelation-2.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Evil; corrupt in doctrine and practice.

Which say they are apostles; false teachers who claimed for themselves the authority of apostles, such as are described by Paul in his second epistle to the Corinthians, chap 2 Corinthians 11:13, etc, and foretold in his address to the elders of Ephesus, Acts 20:29-30.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/revelation-2.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Revelation 2:2. The address to the Church follows, embracing Revelation 2:2-6. The first part of it, extending to the close of Revelation 2:3, seems to contain seven points of commendation:—(1) I know thy works, and thy toil and patience. By the word ‘know’ we are to understand not approbation, but simply experimental knowledge; and by ‘works,’ not hero-deeds, but simply the whole tone and conduct of the church’s life, together with the outward manifestation of what she was. These works are then resolved into two parts; ‘toil,’ which is more than labour in the service of the Lord; and ‘patience,’ which is more than the passive virtue commonly represented by that word. The meaning would be better expressed by ‘endurance,’—the strong, firm, and manly bearing of all suffering inflicted by a hostile world for the sake of Christ—(2) And that thou canst not bear evil men. The ‘evil men’ referred to are a different class from those spoken of in the following clause, and they are thought of as a burden too heavy to be borne. The Ephesian church had a holy impatience of those who, by their evil deeds, brought disgrace upon the Christian name, and she is commended for it.—(3) And thou didst try them that call themselves apostles. These persons had made a special claim to be apostles (comp. 2 Corinthians 11:13), even in all probability disowning St. John himself. But the Ephesian Christians had ‘tried,’ and in trying had discovered their false pretensions. The Greek word here used for ‘try’ is different from that found in 1 John 4:1, where we read, ‘Believe not every spirit, but prove (not, as in the Authorised Version, ‘try’) the spirits, whether they are of God.’ A distinction has been drawn between the two, the latter being referred to faith and doctrine, the former to works; and the distinction has been thought to find support in Revelation 2:6. But the false teachers there spoken of are not the same as those mentioned in the clause before us. The distinction seems rather to lie in this, that ‘try’ expresses simply the trial, with the superadded thought of disinclination to the persons tried; that ‘prove’ expresses the bringing forth of solid worth by trial (comp. 1 Corinthians 16:3; 2 Corinthians 8:8; 1 Timothy 3:10; 1 Peter 1:7). Here, therefore, ‘prove’ could not be used. The Ephesian church knew what these deceivers would show themselves to be, and turned from them with the instinct of the Christian heart before it put them to a formal proof.

And they are not, not as in the Authorised Version with the omission of the word ‘they.’ The addition of the clause, when compared with 1 John 3:1, affords an interesting illustration of the style of the apostle, for ‘and such we are’ ought there to be inserted in the text (comp also chap. Revelation 3:9).—(4) And didst find them false (comp. chap. Revelation 3:9; 1 John 1:6).

There is no evidence to show that false teachers such as these could have existed only in the very earliest period of the Christian Church, that they cannot be assigned to the closing years of the first century, and that the Apocalypse must there-fore have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem. The words of St. Paul to the Ephesian Presbyters in Acts 20:29 lead rather to the belief that the manifestation there spoken of would not take place until at least most of the apostles had been removed from this earthly scene.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/revelation-2.html. 1879-90.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

works. The Lord deals according to works in "the day of the Lord". See Isaiah 66:18.

thy. Omit.

labour = toil. The verb in Revelation 2:3 and Matthew 6:28.

patience. As in Revelation 2:3 with Revelation 1:9. See Romans 2:7.

bear. Gr. bastazo. In Rev. here, Revelation 2:3; Revelation 17:7 (carrieth).

evil. App-128.

hast tried = didst try.

say they. The texts read "call themselves".

apostles. App-189.

hast found = didst find.

liars. Greek. pseudes. Only here; Revelation 21:8. Acts 6:13.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/revelation-2.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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:

I know thy works - His omniscience. Not merely 'thy professions, desires, good resolutions' (Revelation 14:13, end).

Thy labour. A C omit "thy;" 'Aleph (') B support it. [ Kopon (Greek #2873) means 'labour unto weariness.']

Patience - persevering endurance.

Bear, [ bastasai (Greek #941)] - evil men: the Ephesian church regarded as an intolerable burden. We are to 'bear (same Greek, Galatians 6:2) burdens of weak brethren; but not of false brethren.

Tried, [ epeirasas (Greek #3985)] - by experiment; not [ dokimazete (Greek #1381)] 'test,' as 1 John 4:1. The apostolical churches had the miraculous gift of discerning spirits. So (Acts 20:28-30) Paul presciently warned the Ephesian elders of the coming false teachers, and warned Timothy at Ephesus. Tertullian ('De Baptism.,'

17) and Jerome ('In Catal. Vir. Illustr. in Luca,' 7) record of John, that when a professedly canonical history of Paul's acts had been composed by a presbyter of Ephesus, John convicted the author and condemned the work. So once he would not remain under the same roof as Cerinthus the heretic.

Say they are apostles - probably Judaizers. Ignatius ('Ad Ephesum,' 6) says, 'Onesimus praises exceedingly your good discipline, that no heresy dwells among you;' and ('Ad Ephesum,' 9), 'Ye did not permit those having evil doctrine to sow their seed, but closed your ears.'

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/revelation-2.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(2) I know thy works.—This phrase is probably common to all the epistles. See, however, Note on Revelation 2:9. It expresses the way in which all actions are naked and open before the eyes—those flame-like eyes (Revelation 1:14)—of Him with whom we have to do (Psalms 11:4-5; Psalms 139:11-12; Hebrews 4:13). The veneer of a formal faith might impose on the world, but it would not escape His scrutiny (Acts 1:24). He knows, too, and lovingly accepts, the unmarked and unrequited acts of true love (Matthew 10:42; Matthew 26:13), and appreciates, amid all its failures, genuine loyalty to Him (John 21:17).

And thy labour (or, toil), and thy patience.—The same things which St. Paul had pressed on Timothy (2 Timothy 2:25-26). The first word signifies labour carried on unto weariness. The “patience” is more than passive endurance; it is, as Archbishop Trench says, a beautiful word, expressing the brave and persistent endurance of the Christian. But though thus possessed of endurance, He commends them that they could not endure evil men. In one sense, the lingering of this grace among them is the green leaf betokening better things; they have not lost the power of hating evil. (Comp. Romans 12:9.) No man loves God truly who cannot hate evil (Psalms 101:3).

And thou hast tried (literally, didst try) them . . . and hast found them liars.—St. Paul had warned the Ephesian elders of the appearance of false teachers (Acts 20:28-31). Zeal for pure doctrine characterised the Ephesian Church. It is commended by Ignatius in his epistle (ad Ep. 6). The false apostles here spoken of are not, I think, to be identified with the Nicolaitanes of Revelation 2:6; that verse is introduced as a further ground of commendation, mitigating the censure of Revelation 2:4-5. The claims to be considered apostles, which the Ephesian Church had disposed of, affords additional evidence of the early date of the Apocalypse. Such a claim could hardly have been put forward at a later date. But at the earlier periods such troublers of the Church were only too common (2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 11:14-15; Galatians 1:7; Galatians 2:4; Philippians 3:2-3).

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/revelation-2.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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:
know
9,13,19; 3:1,8,15; Psalms 1:6; Matthew 7:23; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:19; Hebrews 6:10
how
6,14,15,20,21; Galatians 1:7; Ephesians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1
thou hast
2 Corinthians 11:13-15; 1 John 2:21,22; 4:1
Reciprocal: Leviticus 13:34 - the seventh;  Leviticus 14:40 - take away;  Deuteronomy 18:21 - GeneralPsalm 36:4 - abhorreth;  Psalm 139:21 - Do not I;  Proverbs 19:27 - GeneralEcclesiastes 3:8 - a time to hate;  Song of Solomon 2:15 - the foxes;  Isaiah 66:18 - I know;  Luke 21:19 - GeneralJohn 10:5 - GeneralJohn 10:14 - know;  1 Corinthians 12:10 - discerning;  2 Corinthians 11:29 - and I burn;  Philippians 1:10 - approve things that are excellent;  1 Timothy 1:3 - charge;  2 Peter 1:6 - patience;  Revelation 13:10 - Here;  Revelation 21:8 - and all

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/revelation-2.html.

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

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.)

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/revelation-2.html. 1952.

Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation

Revelation 2:2

Revelation 2:2 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:

"I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience," etc.

In the narrative of this epistle, from Revelation 2:2-6, we have, first, Christ's approbation and commendation of all the good things in the angel and church of Ephesus. { Revelation 2:2-3} Secondly, Christ's gentle reproof of what HE found amiss in them. { Revelation 2:4} Thirdly, his wholesome and spiritual counsel, and exhortation to repent and reform, urged and amplified by a commination threatening to unchurch them, if they did not repent and amend. { Revelation 2:5} And, fourthly, the reason why Christ gave this church this fair admonition and exercised his forebearance and patience towards them. { Revelation 2:6}

First, Christ's approbation, I know thy works so as to reward them, { Revelation 22:12} Christ is omniscient. { Revelation 2:23} All things are naked and open in his eyes, { Hebrews 4:13} and thy labour, both of the ministers in the word and doctrine { 1 Timothy 5:17} kopiwntev and the labour of love among the members in this church { 1 Thessalonians 1:3} kai tou kopou thv agaphv; love is a very serviceable grace, { Galatians 5:13} towards both saints and sinners, { 1 Corinthians 13:4} love is long-suffering; kind { Revelation 2:5} doth not behave itself unseemly, { Revelation 2:6} rejoiceth in the truth, { Revelation 2:7} beareth, believeth, hopeth and endureth all things. The love of Christ constrains his saints to love and labour in love. "And thy patience." The patience of Christ's ministers and saints was tried and exercised under all their trail of affliction and persecution, which they endured for his sake. { 2 Thessalonians 1:4, etc.}

It is the duty of the ministers and members of Christ in the churches of saints, to exercise patience in all their trials of affliction and persecution. { Revelation 13:10; Revelation 13:12; Revelation 13:14; James 1:3-4; Luke 21:18-19; Colossians 1:11; Hebrews 10:32-34; Hebrews 10:36}

"And how thou canst not bear with them that are evil," etc.

Christ commended this church, her ministers or members, who would not bear with, nor forbear those ministers or members among them "that were evil," that is to say, who were corrupted by evil manners, or wicked opinions, whereby others might be leavened and corrupted by their false doctrines or sinful practices; but did exercise the authority and power which the church had received from Christ; first, in admonishing them. Secondly, in withdrawing from them; and thirdly, in excommunicating them, according to the laws of Christ recorded. { 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:15; Titus 3:10-11; 1 Corinthians 5:4-5; 1 Corinthians 5:12-13}

"And thou hast tried them, that say they are apostles, and are not; and hast found them liars."

Some of the teachers in this church pretended to be apostles of Christ "which say they are apostles," as did also some of the teachers in other churches, who were false apostles and deceitful workers, { 2 Corinthians 11:13} Transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ, who upon trial were found to be liars, i.e. false apostles. "Thou hast tried them," viz. First, what call and commission they had from Christ "and found them liars," for they had not Christ's commission, nor were they called by Christ to be apostles by office. Secondly, what apostolical gifts they had given and received from Christ, and in what respect "also found them liars." Thirdly, what doctrine they preached in the name of Christ "and found them liars," in that respect likewise, for they preached not the doctrine of the apostles, but the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. { Revelation 2:15, etc.} Fourthly, what manner of life they lead and what conservation they lived in, and in that respect "found them liars," for they lived not like the apostles, nor had their conservation as became the gospel in simplicity and godly sincerity, { 2 Corinthians 1:12} but they practiced the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which Christ and this church hated. { Revelation 2:6}

The churches of saints have power and authority from Christ to try the calling, gifts, doctrine, and conversation of their teachers. { 1 John 4:1; 2 Corinthians 13:3; Acts 11:2-4; Acts 11:12; Acts 11:18}

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Knollys, Hanserd. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hkc/revelation-2.html.

Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Revelation 2:2. I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them that are evil, and hast tried those who say they are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars. We have here, and in Revelation 2:3, a threefold three of acknowledgments before us, which the generous love of Jesus made to take precedence of the blame, that there might be obtained for this a more favourable ear and a more hopeful consideration. The middle three throws light upon the first and the third, and supplies a more limited application to what is there said in a general way. Accordingly, the works, the labour, the patience or stedfastness there refer to the zeal that had been shewn against false teachers. If this is not perceived, then the reproach in Revelation 2:4 of their having lost their first love, will be incomprehensible. For, where the first love has ceased, there a praiseworthy zeal in some particular line may for a considerable period easily be found, the love that still remains concentrating itself in that direction (a dead orthodoxy, however zealous, would certainly not have received such praise from the Lord); but it is in the nature of things impossible that Christian works, labour, and steadfastness generally could have been found there deserving of praise. With the cause the effect also is sure to cease. In like manner the patiently borne sufferings in Revelation 2:3 are such as were encountered in their zeal against the false teachers. In Revelation 2:6 all the praise, which in Revelation 2:2-3 had been conferred on the angel at Ephesus, is collected into the one point, that he hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans. There is great danger when the church is called by the pressure of circumstances to give special heed to some one important matter, that all her vigour shall be concentrated there; and also great danger that the accusations of conscience regarding the neglect of other things shall then be silenced by fixing the eye exclusively upon the exertions made in the one department. It was in that extremely perilous condition that the angel of the church at Ephesus now stood. And when in such a condition, if the call to repent is resisted, very soon also will all that is properly Christian in the one remaining virtue be imperilled. All one sidedness ends in the loss even of the one side itself. It is dying life only that survives in a single organ. When the other members have become cold, the heart will not continue long to beat.

The expression, "I know," occurs seven times; "I know thy works," four times according to the genuine text; and, according to the right division of the seven, mention is made thrice of another object of knowing, "I know thy tribulation," Revelation 2:9, "I know where thou dwellest," Revelation 2:13, "I know thy love," Revelation 2:19. Regarding the works with the labour and patience as forming the first three, it is certain that here the discourse can only be of good works, or more definitely of Christian exploits against the teachers of erroneous tenets. We must not conclude from the circumstance of the expression, "I know thy works," occurring also there, where they were only the object of blame, that works are used indifferently, and that only the divine omniscience in general is brought into view. From its connection alone with the labour and the patience the knowledge indicated respecting the works, though in itself indefinite, receives a more specific determination. The labour against the heretics did not belong to the whole community, but to those that were in office; comp. 1 Timothy 5:17,"Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine." The patience in connection with the labour and the not being able to bear the evil can only be active patience, stedfastness. In this way alone do we get rid of the otherwise troublesome repetition in Revelation 2:3. The badness of those who were evil consisted precisely in this, that they maintained they were apostles and were not, but lied. Bengel remarks on the words, "and canst not bear them that are evil," as follows: "Many would regard the pastor as a keen and contentious man, and cry out against him as one who would not keep terms with others that were still not to be rejected. But the Lord praises him. There was in him a pure and tender regard for the truth. In his patience there wasa laudable impatience. To be able, with a cold unconcern about the good, to bear those who are sunk in impurities, is not good. It is not only said, Cleave to that which is good, but also, Hate and shun that which is evil. Here one must not be indifferent.

What is meant is not a self-willed intolerance, but a just hatred against the evil, feeling the existence of such characters to be a burden. For, where there is love to God, and something of an adverse kind comes in the way, zeal will doubtless be awakened thereby.

Paul had testified beforehand, that after his departure pernicious wolves would come in, and from among themselves perverse teachers would arise; in dealing with these the angel of the church had enough to do and to suffer."

The trying stands opposed to a superficial enthusiasm, which at once takes all for gold that glitters. It corresponds to the proving ( δοκιμά ζειν, comp. John 6:6, 2 Corinthians 13:5) in 1 John 4:1-3. These passages are throughout strongly analogous. The angel at Ephesus is here commended for having done what the apostle there enjoined his readers to do.

That the false teachers here are identical with those in Revelation 2:6 is clear, for the simple reason, that otherwise no more specific description of these would be given, which still could not be wanting, since this epistle is not destined merely for the Ephesians, but forms an integral part of the entire book, which belongs to the church at large. How little the book itself contains of definite marks for distinguishing the heretical teachers, is manifest from the vacillating to and fro and want of unanimity on the part of those who confine themselves to it. Further, Revelation 2:6 obviously points back to what had already been said in Revelation 2:2-3. What belonged as matter of praise to the angel at Ephesus is fully declared in Revelation 2:2-3; and, after the sharp reproof has been administered, the commendation is only once again resumed for the purpose of pouring balm into the wounds, and to prevent the painful sense of sin they might feel from generating a mistaken view of their excellencies. If in Revelation 2:6 a new subject had been introduced, something more particular would have been said regarding it, than simply "this thou hast." It would rather have been, "Besides what I have already acknowledged, thou hast so and so;" in which case, however, it would have been introduced in a very unsuitable way.

A third reason is, that only when by the false teachers here we understand those who sought to bring Christianity and heathenism nearer to each other, consequently the Nicolaitans, in Revelation 2:6, do we find a proper explanation of Revelation 2:3, where the Ephesians are commended for their patience under sufferings, which befel them precisely on account of their decided resistance against every attempt to confound the boundary-lines between Christianity and heathenism. Now, whenever it is understood that the false teachers are identical with those in Revelation 2:6, not merely does this verse itself receive a more definite sense, but the epistles also to the angels in Pergamos and Thyatira afford supplementary aid, and the image of the false teachers presents itself to us in clear outline from the scattered traits, as was quite necessary, if the epistles were to answer their destination as sources of instruction and warning for all times. For in that case they behoved to provide the means for ascertaining with certainty what might afterwards arise of a similar kind. But if we indeed have here before us, not Judaizing heretics, but the same ethnicizing seducers, whom we afterwards also meet with, then it is unquestionable that in the whole seven epistles we have escaped in respect to false teaching from the territory of St Paul's time. Paul had always to do chiefly with Judaizing heretics, the ordinary and the philosophical. That the latter in particular had exercised a considerable influence in the churches of Asia, is manifest from the epistle to the Colossians, and, as regards the church at Ephesus in particular, from the first epistle to Timothy—comp. Neander's Apost. Zeitalter, I. p. 465, Baumgarten AEchtheit der Pastoralbr. p. 171, ss. This fact, that the power of the Jewish form of error appears as entirely broken among the Gentile churches and gone (with which it is quite compatible that Justin should have known particular Gentile Christians who could plead for the observance of the Mosaic law), presupposes that at the time when the Revelation was composed Jerusalem already lay in ruins. On the powerful influence which this must have exerted on the formation of the Christian church, Rothe has made some excellent remarks in his Anfànge der Christlichen Kirche, Th. I. p. 341, ss. "The Christian churches stood now perfectly independent. And, indeed, it was the Host High himself who had made them independent, since by the lightning-stroke of his Omnipotence he had torn asunder the sacred bond by which they had been entwined with the institutions of the Old Covenant.

Therefore now, when once the sanctuary of the Old Covenant was laid in the dust, the Jewish Christians must have been set more free from their Judaism, and felt more drawn toward their fellow Christians of the Gentiles. The divine judgment inflicted on Israel was God's solemn rejection of Israel and their religious institutions. From that time Judaism everywhere lost its real power and importance. With the fall of the temple at Jerusalem fell also the wall of separation, which had divided the people of God from the nations of the earth, and from the nature of things the Pauline universalism must rise to the ascendant, with which at first the Jewish particularism, supported by the authority of Peter and James, had so earnestly contended." From that period other dangers and temptations threatened the Christian church, which sprung from heathenism, and which even in Paul's age had begun to operate, but were then only of subordinate importance (Hymenaeus and Philetus turned only some persons from the faith); the danger it threatened was chiefly in respect to the future.

In the Apocalypse the Christian church appears quite escaped from the influence of Judaism. All tendency in that direction, such as everywhere meets us in the times of Paul, has entirely ceased. The Christian church stands opposed to Judaism as the synagogue of Satan, which internally possessed no longer any power over her, and by which she was externally assailed, only that the heathens might be stirred up against her.

The apostles, who are named without any notification of the person who sent them, could only be pretended apostles of God and Christ; and a reference to the supposed sending of the church at Jerusalem would require to have been indicated, even if Judaizing heretics had been the class of persons alluded to. Bengel remarks: "So it was still the apostolic age, otherwise there could no longer have been false apostles in the field. Among the properties belonging to an apostle it was one, that he should have seen the Lord Jesus Christ. So that false apostles were persons, who not only broached false doctrine, but also set this forth with an apostolical air, as if they might have seen Christ, or perhaps falsely pretended to have done so." But we are only led by this to conclude, that the apostolical age had not yet entirely come to an end, as the heretics still did not come forth in the name and the systematic style and form of science, like the later Gnostics, but under a pretended call to a higher mission and enlightenment; comp. John 4:1, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world." That in this sense the apostleship was laid claim to by these heretics, appears from Revelation 2:20, where Jezebel, the representative of such, calls herself a prophetess. The property made so much of by Bengel did not belong to the apostle Paul, to whom these false teachers constantly appealed, as the Rationalists to Luther. He had not seen the Lord in the flesh.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/revelation-2.html.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

2.I knowHis omniscient eyes’ as a flame of fire, (Revelation 1:14,) blaze into the deepest recesses of their hearts and into all the deeds of their daily life.

Thy—As the epistles are addressed each to the angel, it is remarkable how uniformly throughout the second person singular thy, thou, and thee are used. It might at first seem as if the missives from Patmos passed over the heads of the congregation and hit the angel only. Yet we think that no such misconception took place. The letters were to the Churches, (Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:11,) and each Church in its unity knew that the angel and the Church were so one that his fault was their fault, his excellence theirs. And it was no divergency to address plurally you and the rest, as in Revelation 2:24. If the bishops were here addressed, it is certain that bishops were first appointed as the bulwarks of the faith, to preserve the pure, unmingled apostolic tradition, to guard the books of the growing canon of the New Testament, and to repel the entrance of errors and demoralizations. Hence to the bishop belonged a high responsibility. He was praised or blamed as his Church was faultless or faulty. With a similar charge in the second person singular does St. Paul address Timothy. He must see that the true gospel tradition be preserved against all heresies. (1 Timothy 5:1-20, where see our notes.) He is responsible for the trial and suitableness of the elders, and for their careful ordination, 1 Timothy 5:17-22. And we may add, that in the narrative given by St.

Clement of St. John and the young man of Ephesus, the apostle holds the bishop to the same sharp responsibility, in the second person singular, as he exhibits here.

Thy works—Both good and bad, both external and internal, of the hand and of the heart. But it is of the good he first speaks, namely, labour or activity, and patience or firm persistence passively.

Canst not bear— Carry as a burden. They had both a holy patience and a holy impatience.

Tried them’ apostles—Who claimed to be commissioned by Christ to dictate doctrines to the Church, and so to be apostles. The Ephesians had ample means for trying by the then extant gospels of the four evangelists, by St. Paul’s warnings in Acts xx, and in his epistle to their own Church and to other Churches.

Liars—One of St. John’s severe terms, arising from his deep conception of the evil of falsifying Christianity at its fountain, and so sending down a false religion to the future ages.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/revelation-2.html. 1874-1909.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Revelation 2:2. : nothing escapes his notice, neither the good (Revelation 2:2-3; Revelation 2:6) nor the bad (Revelation 2:4-5) qualities. = the general course and moral conduct of life, exemplified more especially in its active and passive sides, as exertion and endurance, by and , which are knit together by the final as epexegetic of . The , or hard work, is further specified in the text of Revelation 2:2 (the church’s vigorous dealing with impostors), while the is developed in Revelation 2:3. For a parallel, verbal rather than real, see 1 Thessalonians 1:3. Here duty follows privilege (Revelation 2:1), and communion with Christ involves practical energy and enterprise on earth. The remarkable prominence of in this book corresponds to its O.T. conception of the fear of God which, as a religious principle, manifests itself effectively in works. The phrase has nothing to do with the special sense in which Paul had employed it during a bygone controversy. Works here are the result of an inner relation to God (Revelation 12:11).—Patient endurance (Revelation 2:2-3; Revelation 2:7) wins everything and triumphs over opposition, as in the case of the Maccabean martyrs (4 Maccabees 1:11) who are lauded for their courage, .— , the weak are a burden to be borne (Galatians 6:2): the false, an encumbrance to be thrown off. Patience towards the former is a note of strength: towards the latter, it is a sign of weakness. The prophet is thoroughly in sympathy (cf.2 John 1:10-11) with the sharp scrutiny exercised at Ephesus over soi-disant missioners; he gladly recognises the moral vigour and shrewdness which made the local church impatient of itinerant evangelists whose character and methods would not stand scrutiny. Pretensions, greed and indolence were the chief sins of this class, but the prophet does not enter into details. He is content to welcome the fact that uncomplaining endurance of wrong and hardship has not evaporated the power of detecting impostors and of evincing moral antipathy to them, upon the principle that , as Clem. Alex. finely explained (Strom, ii. 18), is the knowledge of what is to be endured and of what is not. The literature of this period (1 John, Didachê, etc.) is full of directions upon the moral and religious tests which a community should apply to these itinerant evangelists and teachers called “apostles”. The popularity and spread of Christianity rendered precautions necessary on the part of the faithful against unscrupulous members of this order, which had already attracted men of quite inferior character as well as of heretical beliefs. The evil men here includes these pseudo-apostles as well as the Nikolaitan libertines of Revelation 2:6 (cf.Revelation 2:15) with whom perhaps the “apostles” were in sympathy; . and . denote some definite and recent crisis, while . reflects the permanent obstacles of the local situation. This temper of the church is warmly commended by Ign. (ad Eph. ix.) at a later period; “I have learned that certain folk passed through you with wicked doctrine ( ), but you would not allow them to sow seed in you”. With equal loftiness and severity of tone, John like Ignatius might have added: , , (Smyrn. v.).

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 2:2". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/revelation-2.html. 1897-1910.