Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Revelation 3:22

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'"
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Laodicea;   Thompson Chain Reference - Churches, the Seven;   Seven;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Laodicea;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Ascension;   Laodicea;   Revelation, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Asia;   Laodicea;   Magi;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Angels;   Apocalypse;   Laodicea;   Type;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Ear;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Sepharvaim;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Laodice'a;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Ear;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Moses;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Revelation of John:;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

He that hath an ear, let him hear - Mr. Wesley has a very judicious note on the conclusion of this chapter, and particularly on this last verse, He that hath an ear, etc. "This (counsel) stands in three former letters before the promise, in the four latter after it; clearly dividing the seven into two parts, the first containing three, the last four letters. The titles given our Lord in the three former letters peculiarly respect his power after his resurrection and ascension, particularly over his Church; those in the four latter, his Divine glory and unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Again, this word being placed before the promises in the three former letters excludes the false apostles at Ephesus, the false Jews at Smyrna, and the partakers with the heathens at Pergamos, from having any share therein. In the four latter, being placed after them, it leaves the promises immediately joined with Christ's address to the angel of the Church, to show that the fulfilling of these was near; whereas the others reach beyond the end of the world. It should be observed that the overcoming or victory (to which alone these peculiar promises are annexed) is not the ordinary victory obtained by every believer, but a special victory obtained over great and peculiar temptations, by those that are strong in faith."

The latest account we have of the state of the seven Asiatic Churches is in a letter from the Rev. Henry Lindsay, chaplain to the British embassy at Constantinople, to a member of the British and Foreign Bible Society, by which society Mr. Lindsay had been solicited to distribute some copies of the New Testament in modern Greek among the Christians in Asia Minor.

The following is his communication, dated: - "Constantinople, January 10, 1816.

"When I last wrote to you, I was on the point of setting out on a short excursion into Asia Minor. Travelling hastily, as I was constrained to do from the circumstances of my situation, the information I could procure was necessarily superficial and unsatisfactory. As, however, I distributed the few books of the society which I was able to carry with me, I think it necessary to give some account of the course I took:

  1. The regular intercourse of England with Smyrna will enable you to procure as accurate intelligence of its present state as any I can pretend to offer. From the conversations I had with the Greek bishop and his clergy, as well as various well-informed individuals, I am led to suppose that, if the population of Smyrna be estimated at one hundred and forty thousand inhabitants, there are from fifteen to twenty thousand Greeks, six thousand Armenians, five thousand Catholics, one hundred and forty Protestants, and eleven thousand Jews.
  • After Smyrna, the first place I visited was Ephesus, or rather (as the site is not quite the same) Aiasalick, which consists of about fifteen poor cottages. I found there but three Christians, two brothers who keep a small shop, and a gardener. They are all three Greeks, and their ignorance is lamentable indeed. In that place, which was blessed so long with an apostle's labors, and those of his zealous assistants are Christians who have not so much as heard of that apostle, or seem only to recognize the name of Paul as one in the calendar of their saints. One of them I found able to read a little, and left with him the New Testament, in ancient and modern Greek, which he expressed a strong desire to read, and promised me he would not only study it himself, but lend it to his friends in the neighboring villages.
  • "
  • My next object was to see Laodicea; in the road to this is Guzel-hisar, a large town, with one church, and about seven hundred Christians. In conversing with the priests here, I found them so little acquainted with the Bible, or even the New Testament in an entire form, that they had no distinct knowledge of the books it contained beyond the four gospels, but mentioned them indiscriminately with various idle legends and lives of saints. I have sent thither three copies of the modern Greek Testament since my return. About three miles from Laodicea is Denizli, which has been styled (but I am inclined to think erroneously) the ancient Colosse; it is a considerable town, with about four hundred Christians, Greeks, and Armenians, each of whom has a church. I regret however to say that here also the most extravagant tales of miracles, and fabulous accounts of angels, saints, and relics, had so usurped the place of the Scriptures as to render it very difficult to separate in their minds Divine truths from human inventions. I felt that here that unhappy time was come when men should 'turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned unto fables.' I had with me some copies of the gospels in ancient Greek which I distributed here, as in some other places through which I had passed. Eski-hisar, close to which are the remains of ancient Laodicea, contains about fifty poor inhabitants, in which number are but two Christians, who live together in a small mill; unhappily neither could read at all; the copy therefore of the New Testament, which I intended for this Church, I left with that of Denizli, the offspring and poor remains of Laodicea and Colosse. The prayers of the mosque are the only prayers which are heard near the ruins of Laodicea, on which the threat seems to have been fully executed in its utter rejection as a Church.
  • "
  • I left it for Philadelphia, now Alah-shehr. It was gratifying to find at last some surviving fruits of early zeal; and here, at least, whatever may be the loss of the spirit of Christianity, there is still the form of a Christian Church; this has been kept from the 'hour of temptation,' which came upon all the Christian world. There are here about one thousand Christians, chiefly Greeks, who for the most part speak only Turkish; there are twenty-five places of public worship, five of which are large regular churches; to these there is a resident bishop, with twenty inferior clergy. A copy of the modern Greek Testament was received by the bishop with great thankfulness.
  • "
  • I quitted Alah-shehr, deeply disappointed at the statement I received there of the Church of Sardis. I trusted that in its utmost trials it would not have been suffered to perish utterly, and I heard with surprise that not a vestige of it remained. With what satisfaction then did I find on the plains of Sardis a small Church establishment; the few Christians who dwell around modern Sart were anxious to settle there and erect a church, as they were in the habit of meeting at each other's houses for the exercise of religion. From this design they were prohibited by Kar Osman Oglu, the Turkish governor of the district; and in consequence, about five years ago they built a church upon the plain, within view of ancient Sardis, and there they maintain a priest. The place has gradually risen into a little village, now called Tatar-keny; thither the few Christians of Sart, who amount to seven, and those in its immediate vicinity, resort for public worship, and form together a congregation of about forty. There appears then still a remnant, 'a few names even in Sardis,' which have been preserved. I cannot repeat the expressions of gratitude with which they received a copy of the New Testament in a language with which they were familiar. Several crowded about the priest to hear it on the spot, and I left them thus engaged.
  • "
  • Ak-hisar, the ancient Thyatira, is said to contain about thirty thousand inhabitants, of whom three thousand are Christians, all Greeks except about two hundred Armenians. There is, however, but one Greek church and one Armenian. The superior of the Greek Church to whom I presented the Romaic Testament esteemed it so great a treasure that he earnestly pressed me, if possible, to spare another, that one might be secured to the Church and free from accidents, while the other went round among the people for their private reading. I have, therefore, since my return hither, sent him four copies.
  • "
  • The Church of Pergamos, in respect to numbers, may be said to flourish still in Bergamo. The town is less than Ak-hisar, but the number of Christians is about as great, the proportion of Armenians to Greeks nearly the same, and each nation also has one church. The bishop of the district, who occasionally resides there, was at that time absent, and I experienced with deep regret that the resident clergy were totally incapable of estimating the gift I intended them; I therefore delivered the Testament to the lay vicar of the bishop at his urgent request, he having assured me that the bishop would highly prize so valuable an acquisition to the Church. He seemed much pleased that the benighted state of his nation had excited the attention of strangers.
  • "Thus, sir, I have left at least one copy of the unadulterated word of God at each of the seven Asiatic Churches of the Apocalypse, and I trust they are not utterly thrown away; but whoever may plant, it is God only who can give the increase, and from his goodness we may hope they will in due time bring forth fruit, 'some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred fold.' "Henry Lindsay."

    In my note on Acts 19:24; (note), I have given an account of the celebrated temple of Diana at Ephesus, to which building, called one of the seven wonders of the world, St. Paul is supposed to allude in his epistle to this Church, particularly at Ephesians 3:18; (note), where I have again given the measurement of this temple.

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    Bibliographical Information
    Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

    Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

    He that hath an ear … - See the notes on Revelation 2:7.

    This closes the epistolary part of this book, and the “visions” properly commence with the next chapter. Two remarks may be made in the conclusion of this exposition:

    (1) The first relates to the truthfulness of the predictions in these epistles. is an illustration of that truthfulness, and of the present correspondence of the condition of those churches with what the Saviour said to John they would be, the following striking passage may be introduced from Mr. Gibbon. It occurs in his description of the conquests of the Turks (“Decline and Fall,” iv. 260,261). “Two Turkish chieftains, Sarukhan and Aidin left their names to their conquests, and their conquests to their posterity. The captivity or ruin of the seven churches of Asia was consummated; and the barbarous lords of Ionia and Lydia still trample on the monuments of classic and Christian antiquity. In the loss of Ephesus, the Christians deplored the fall of the first angel, the extinction of the first candlestick of the Revelations: the desolation is complete; and the temple of Diana, or the church of Mary, will equally elude the search of the curious traveler. The circus and three stately theaters of Laodicea are now populated with wolves and foxes; Sardis is reduced to a miserable village; the God of Muhammed, without a rival or a son, is invoked in the mosques of Thyatira and Pergamos; and the populousness of Smyrna is supported by the foreign trade of Franks and Armenians. Philadelphia alone has been saved by prophecy or courage. At a distance from the sea, forgotten by the emperors, encompassed on all sides by the Turks, her valiant citizens defended their religion and freedom above fourscore years, and at length capitulated with the proudest of the Ottomans. Among the Greek colonies and churches of Asia, Philadelphia is still erect, a column in a scene of ruins; a pleasing example that the paths of honor and safety may sometimes be the same.”

    (2) the second remark relates to the applicability of these important truths to us. There is perhaps no part of the New Testament more searching than these brief epistles to the seven churches; and though those to whom they were addressed have long since passed away, and the churches have long since become extinct; though darkness, error, and desolation have come over the places where these churches once stood, yet the principles laid down in these epistles still live, and they are full of admonition to Christians in all ages and all lands. It is a consideration of as much importance to us as it was to these churches, that the Saviour now knows our works; that he sees in the church, and in any individual, all that there is to commend and all that there is to reprove; that he has power to reward or punish now as he had then; that the same rules in apportioning rewards and punishments will still be acted on; that he who overcomes the temptations of the world will find an appropriate reward; that those who live in sin must meet with the proper recompense, and that those who are lukewarm in his service will be spurned with unutterable loathing. His rebukes are awful; but his promises are full of tenderness and kindness. While they who have embraced error, and they who are living in sin, have occasion to tremble before him, they who are endeavoring to perform their duty may find in these epistles enough to cheer their hearts, and to animate them with the hope of final victory, and of the most ample and glorious reward.

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    Bibliographical Information
    Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

    The Biblical Illustrator

    Revelation 3:22

    Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches

    The Spirit speaking the Church

    That there are certain great moral elements by which alone we can determine the character of individuals or of communities.

    II. That in proportion to the depth and vitality of holy character will be the struggle with error and with evil.

    III. That the rewards and honours of the heavenly state will be determined by the struggles and the conquests of earth. (R. Ferguson, LL. D.)

    Visible Churches warned

    1. Let me warn all who are living only for the world to take heed what they are doing. You are enemies to Christ, though you may not know it.

    2. Let me warn all formalists and self-righteous people to take heed that they are not deceived. Where is your faith? Where are your evidences of a new heart? Where is the work of the Spirit?

    3. Let me warn all careless members of Churches to beware lest they trifle their souls into hell.

    4. Let me warn every one who wants to be saved not to be content with the world’s standard of religion.

    5. Let me warn every one who professes to be a believer in the Lord Jesus not to be content with a little religion. (Bp. Ryle.)

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    Bibliographical Information
    Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Revelation 3:22". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

    Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

    He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.

    For the seventh time this message has been thundered from the gates of heaven, indicating that these letters to seven ancient churches have a relevance infinitely beyond the circle of the original recipients. "They are a composite word to the church universal throughout time."[79]


    The background. The discerning student cannot fail to see that Jewish persecution against the church is active in these letters, in which "the synagogue of Satan" is twice mentioned (Revelation 2:9; 3:9). The casting of Christians into prison at Smyrna is evidently related to this Jewish opposition. "When the appeals of sophistry failed to draw the Christians back to the religion of their ancestors, the Jews sought every association possible with the Romans to crush the new sect (Acts 24:14)."[80] At the time Revelation was written, this power of the Jews to enlist Roman authority in their campaign against the church was drawing to a close; and therein, perhaps, is the explanation of the "ten days" reference in the letter to Smyrna. Such a deduction as this is disputed; but the fact cannot be denied that there is a strong Jewish complexion in the opposition cited in these two chapters. "Therefore, it appears that this was written before the fall of Jerusalem."[81] If Jewish persecutions were about to end, however, there was yet a greater trial upon the horizon, "the great trial" coming upon the whole world (Revelation 3:10); and that is best understood as the great Roman persecutions, already begun under Nero, but due to be intensified and continued.

    The throne. There is only one throne of universal power and authority, and that is the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22:1); and these seven letters show the power of the throne judging, encouraging, protecting, and guiding the church, reaching a climax in Revelation 3:21, where the church itself is promised a seat upon it, true in a sense now, but to be followed by greater honors later. In these letters, "ominous warnings provide a dark background for glowing promises."[82] The next two chapters will provide a revelation of that great throne in more specific terms, but it is the same throne (authority) that dominates these letters. In this is seen the unity and logical sequence of progression in the Apocalypse.

    The judgment. This is the theme of Revelation (Revelation 1:7); and the coming of Christ in his judgment of the churches is evident in all of the seven letters, his infinite knowledge of their affairs being invariably repeated, "I know thy works." Significantly, however, the judgments threatened are obviously related to the present time, being contingent in some cases upon the repentance of those judged; but beyond this, there are undeniable echoes of the Second Advent, as indicated by the repeated promises of eternal life, variously stated as eating of the hidden manna, receiving the crown of life, walking with the Lord in white, etc. In this double application of "judgment" both to things in the present life and to the saints' entry into heaven, the exact pattern of the Saviour's great Olivet address (Matthew 24, etc.) is followed. Much of Revelation will remain unintelligible unless this conformity to that pattern is observed. "Each representative church is being judged by the living Lord in anticipation of that climax (the judgment), and the correctives that he seeks to apply are preparatory for His elevation of the church to His side on the throne."[83]

    The dangers. What are the dangers against which these admonitions are designed to warn Christians? They are the danger of leaving our first love (Ephesus), the fear of suffering (Smyrna), the toleration of false teaching (Pergamum), allowing leadership to fall into evil hands (Thyatira), spiritual deadness (Sardis), the danger of not holding fast (Philadelphia), and that of an indifferent complacency and lukewarmness (Laodicea).

    Plan of interpretation. We have rejected the futuristic notion that in the future all these cities are to be restored and that then these things shall be fulfilled, and also the conception that seven successive ages of the church are indicated. The seven churches have been understood here as literal, historical congregations, and that these seven were chosen because of the varied types of correction needed, thus making the letters applicable to all situations in the future of the church, in which the specified conditions might occur. Regarding the "seven successive ages" interpretation, we agree with Wilbur M. Smith who said:

    The only aspect of this interpretation that may have some virtue is the interpretation of Laodicea. It seems that lukewarmness and indifference will mark the church at the end of the age, particularly indifference to the great doctrines of the faith and unwillingness to defend them.[84]


    These seven letters are a marvelous introduction to the whole prophecy because: (1) there are just seven mentioned, corresponding to the seven successive parallel views of history which follow; (2) each of the seven letters ends with a reference to the "judgment" of Christ upon each church; and (3) the great and final reward of eternal life appears under various figures in each of them, corresponding exactly to the culmination of the whole prophecy in the final JUDGMENT and the awarding of eternal life in the NEW JERUSALEM for the saints. These letters, in a sense, are a preview of the entire book of Revelation.

    [79] Robert H. Mounce, op. cit., p. 130.

    [80] Beeson, Ulrich R., The Revelation (Little Rock, Arkansas: Ulrich R. Beeson, 1956), p. 42.

    [81] Ibid.

    [82] Charles M. Laymon, The Book of Revelation (New York and Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1960), p. 72.

    [83] Merrill C. Tenney, op. cit., p. 68.

    [84] Wilbur M. Smith, Wycliffe Bible Commentary, New Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 1063.

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    Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
    Bibliographical Information
    Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

    John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

    He that hath an ear, let him hear,.... See Gill on Revelation 2:7.

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    The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
    A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
    Bibliographical Information
    Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

    Wesley's Explanatory Notes

    He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

    He that hath an ear, let him hear, … — This stands in the three former letters before the promise; in the four latter, after it; clearly dividing the seven into two parts; the first containing three, the last, four letters. The titles given our Lord in the three former letters peculiarly respect his power after his resurrection and ascension, particularly over his church; those in the four latter, his divine glory, and unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Again, this word being placed before the promises in the three former letters, excludes the false apostles at Ephesus, the false Jews at Smyrna, and the partakers with the heathens at Pergamos, from having any share therein. In the four latter, being placed after them, it leaves the promises immediately joined with Christ's address to the angel of the church, to show that the fulfilling of these was near; whereas the others reach beyond the end of the world. It should be observed, that the overcoming, or victory, (to which alone these peculiar promises are annexed,) is not the ordinary victory obtained by every believer; but a special victory over great and peculiar temptations, by those that are strong in faith.

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
    Bibliographical Information
    Wesley, John. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

    Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

    Here end the epistles to the seven churches of Asia. These churches were situated on the main land, near to the Island of Patmos, where John was then residing; and they are named in geographical order, as they would naturally present themselves to the mind of the writer, as he passed in imagination from one to the other, over the region in which they were situated. The nature of the instructions which they contain,--the fact that a mystical number, seven, was the number of churches addressed,--the incorporation of the epistles into this mysterious book,--and, still more, the general address to Christians with which the several epistles are closed,--all conspire to indicate that these warnings and instructions were intended, even in a higher sense than the other Epistles of the New Testament, for the church at large in all ages. They have, accordingly, exerted an influence in respect to the standard of piety, and to the aims and obligations of the Christian life, fully equal to that of any other writings of the apostles. These letters constitute the first division of the book of Revelation. The reader will now enter upon a portion of the book entirely different from what has preceded it, both in structure and design.

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    Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

    Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

    22.] See on ch. Revelation 2:7.

    From this point begins the Revelation proper, extending to the end of the book. And herein we have a first great portion, embracing chapp. 4–11., the opening of the seals and the sounding of the trumpets. But preparatory to both these series of revelations, we have described to us in chapp. Revelation 4:5, the heavenly scenery which furnishes the local ground for these visions. Of these, chap. 4 is properly the scene itself: chap. 5 being a further unfolding of its details with a view to the vision of the seals which is to follow. So that we have,—

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    Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

    John Trapp Complete Commentary

    See Revelation 4:1

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    Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

    Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

    Thus Christ shuts up this, as he did all the preceding epistles before, with a repeated exhortation to all Christians to the end of the world, to hear, read, attend unto, and observe, all the cautions and warnings, all the reproofs and counsels, all the promises and threatenings, contained in this and the other epistles, as matters that do greatly concern all Christians to understand and know, Let him that hath an ear, hear.

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    Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.

    Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

    DISCOURSE: 2506


    Revelation 3:22. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.

    PERHAPS there is not another expression in the whole Scriptures which occurs so frequently as this. Our blessed Lord, in the days of his flesh, used it very often at the close of his parables: and here, at the close of every one of the epistles to the seven Churches of Asia, did he repeat it. Surely this marks its peculiar importance: and, to impress it upon all your minds, I will,

    I. Make some general observations arising out of it—

    The first thing which strikes us, on reading these words, is, that there must be many who have no ear to hear the word of God

    [This is an awful truth. Whilst there are some who “will not endure sound doctrine,” there are multitudes who hear it without being at all affected with it. They even approve of it; but still never receive it truly into their hearts. On subjects connected with their temporal welfare they would feel an interest; but on these, which relate to eternity, they are unmoved: they are satisfied with hearing them; and when they have given them a respectful hearing, they think they have done their duty in relation to them: “they have ears, and hear not; they have eyes, and see not; they have hearts, but understand not:” and, during the course of a long life, they either gain but very little insight into the great mystery of the Gospel, or acknowledge it as a mere theory, without any practical effect upon their souls.]

    The next thing which forces itself upon our notice is, that the things spoken to the primitive Churches, so far as we are in similar circumstances with them, demand precisely the same attention from us that they did from them

    [I will grant, that, so far as the Scriptures applied solely to the particular circumstances of this or that particular Church, so far they are applicable to us only in their general tendency, or under circumstances similar to theirs. But the great mass of the inspired volume related to men as sinners, who needed mercy from God, and were bound to devote themselves altogether to God: and, consequently, it is applicable to mankind in all places, and in all ages. Many, if a passage of Scripture be urged on their attention, will say, that it was proper for the apostolic age, but inapplicable to us at this time. But men’s duty to God is the same now as ever it was; and the way of acceptance with God is the same as ever: and therefore this objection is altogether futile, and unworthy of any serious notice. We are not to expect a new Revelation, suited to our circumstances: on the contrary, we are enjoined, at the peril of our souls, neither to add to, nor to take from, the Revelation already given: and the command given, that every one who has an ear should hear what the Spirit has said to the Churches, shews, that not only were Christians then living to pay attention to what was spoken to their own individual Church, but that Christians, at every period of the world, should hear and obey what was spoken to the Churches generally.]

    The last thing which I shall mention, as offering itself to our notice from the words before us, is, that we can never hope to be benefited by the word we hear, unless we receive it as from God, and as dictated by inspiration from the Holy Spirit—

    [It is “the Spirit of the living God that speaketh to the Churches:” and his authority must be regarded in every part of the written word, and in all that is delivered agreeably to it by those who minister in the name of God. The hearers of the Gospel are too apt to look at man; and to exalt Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, in their estimation, one above another, on account of some peculiarity in their ministrations; forgetting, that, “whoever plants or waters, it is God alone who gives the increase.” Provided it be really agreeable to the standard of truth, the word, by whomsoever delivered, should “be received, not as the word of man, but, as it is indeed, the word of God.” And if, in attending on the ordinances, this were habitually kept in view, there can be no doubt but that the lighting down of God’s arm would be more visible amongst us, and that the Holy Ghost would accompany it with far greater power to the souls of men.]

    After these brief remarks, arising out of the words of my text, I will,

    II. Draw your attention to one or two things in particular, that are contained in the foregoing epistles—

    The epistles to the seven Churches contain a great variety of matter, applicable to the existing state of each. In that to Laodicea, there is unqualified reprehension; in those to Smyrna and Philadelphia, unqualified applause; in the others, a mixture both of praise and blame. To enter into the peculiarities of those epistles would be altogether foreign to my present purpose. It is my intention to notice only the things which are spoken indiscriminately to all: and these are two:

    1. “I know thy works”—

    [This “the Spirit spake” to every one of them, without exception: and therefore we may consider it as spoken to the Church of God in all ages. And a most solemn truth it is. Almighty God inspects the ways of every child of man. He knows what we do in our unregenerate state: he knows also what we do after we become followers of the Lord Jesus. He discerns infallibly the precise quality of all our actions; how far they accord with the written word; from what principles they flow; for what ends they are performed. He discerns also the measure of them, how far they correspond with the professions we make, the obligations we acknowledge, the advantages we enjoy. He sees every thing which enters into the composition of them; how much of what is pure, and how much of what is selfish and impure. In a word, he “weigheth,” not our actions only, but “our spirits;” and according to his estimate of them will he judge us in the last day. He will not form his judgment, in any respect, from the esteem in which we are held by our fellow-men, or from the opinion which we have formed of ourselves: he will weigh us in the unerring balance of his sanctuary, and will “judge righteous judgment” respecting every individual of mankind.]

    2. “To him that overcometh will I give”—

    [This also is repeated to every Church. And it is of infinite importance to every child of man. Every saint has a conflict to maintain, against the world, the flesh, and the devil: and he must not only fight a good fight against them, but must continue to do so, even to the end. As, in a race, it is not he who “runs well for a season,” but he who finishes his course well, that wins the prize; so it is not he who wars a good warfare for a time, but he who endures to the end, that will be crowned with victory. There is to be no enemy to which we are to yield; nor any period when we are at liberty to take our ease. We are never to be weary of well-doing, never to sink under any discouragement, never to turn our back even for a moment. We must act as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, and fight under his banner to the latest hour of our lives: and then may we be assured that victory, yea, and the rewards of victory too, shall be ours. “To him that overcometh,” saith our Lord, “will I give to sit down with me upon my throne; even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father upon his throne.”]

    That these hints may produce their proper effect, I will,

    III. Point out the special ends to be answered by bringing them to your remembrance—

    Certainly I would wish them to be improved,

    1. For your humiliation—

    [I will suppose, that, like the members of all the different Churches, you profess to be faithful followers of Christ. I will also suppose that, in a good measure, you adorn your holy profession. Yet, when you remember what the heart-searching God has said, “I know thy works;” which of you has not reason to hang down his head with shame and confusion of face? If it were but a man, who had been privy to all the workings of our hearts since first we professed to serve God, we should not feel altogether easy in his presence: for though, by reason of his own imperfections, we might expect some allowances to be made in our behalf, yet the consciousness of what we were in his eyes would humble us even in our own, and would tend greatly to stop our mouths before him. Should we not, then, put our hands on our mouths, and our mouths in the dust, before God, under the consciousness of our extreme unworthiness in his sight? Let us individually apply to ourselves that solemn admonition, “I know thy works.” It is addressed to us individually, as much as if we were the only individual upon earth: and God has noticed us as particularly as if there had been no other person in the universe for him to notice. I pray you, brethren, bear this in mind; and learn to walk softly before God, all the days of your life.]

    2. For your warning—

    [When it is said, “To him that overcometh, will I give,” it is evidently implied, that on this description of persons exclusively will any reward be conferred. Should not this, then, operate as a solemn warning to us? When any temptation presents itself to our minds, should we not consider, what will be the effect, the ultimate and everlasting effect, of our compliance with it? Should we not balance against each other, the gratifications of sense against the joys of heaven, the sufferings of sense against the pains of hell, the transitoriness of time against the duration of eternity? When persons, calling themselves our friends, would dissuade us from an entire surrender of ourselves to God, should we not bethink ourselves what they can do for us hereafter, or what recompence they can make us for the loss of heaven? Let this, then, operate on our minds, with all the weight that it deserves; and let us never forget the admonition given here to every child of man, “To him that overcometh, and to him exclusively, will I give any portion in the realms of bliss.”]

    3. For your encouragement—

    [See the rewards held forth to all the different Churches; and then say, whether you want encouragement to persevere? And remember who it is that says, “I will give.” It is no other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the Judge of quick and dead. The world, it is true, makes promises also: but what can it give? If it could give you kingdoms, they were but a poor possession, which you must relinquish in a little time. And as for the mere gratifications of sense, your past experience will tell you how empty and vanishing they are. But, when Almighty God promises to you the glory and blessedness of heaven, that may well allure you; for that shall live for ever; and you shall live for ever to enjoy it. “Have respect then, my brethren, even as Moses had, to the recompence of the reward,” and “hold fast the rejoicing of your hope steadfast unto the end:” and doubt not but that, in due season, there shall be given you “a crown of righteousness and glory that fadeth not away.”]

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    Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

    Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

    We have had this in the conclusion of every epistle before: see Revelation 2:7,11,17,29, and in Revelation 3:6,13.

    Those who make these churches typical of all Christian churches, from the time John had this Revelation, and prophetical of the complexion of the Christian churches in all ages, say, that the church of Laodicea typifieth the churches towards the end of the world till Christ cometh; but this necessitateth them to think there shall be no such pure and glorious state of the church just before the end of the world, as many believe there shall be, but that the state thereof shall grow yet worse and worse, of a Laodicean temper, so as when Christ cometh he shall hardly find faith on the earth.

    For my part, I could allow the seven epistles to be typical and prophetical, but can by no means judge them to be purely prophetical; believing there were such churches when John wrote, and that their complexion is in the first place described in these epistles; though possibly, as face answers face in a glass, so succeeding churches have answered, and shall answer, the face of these churches, even to the last day.

    This chapter concludes John’s first vision. In the following chapters we have a representation in visions of what was to happen in the world more remarkably, with reference to the church of God, from the year 95, to the end of the world.

    There are very different opinions about the epocha, or the time, when the visions began to be fulfilled. My opinion is, it began soon after John had the vision; for it is twice said, Revelation 1:1 22:6, that the visions were to be about things that shall come to pass, (not that were come to pass), and that shortly; but we cannot fix the certain year, which maketh the interpretation difficult.

    There are also divers opinions how far in this book the revelations go that concern the state of the church under Rome pagan, and where they begin that foretell the state of the church under antichrist. But of these we shall speak more particularly as we go along with the several chapters.

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    Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

    Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary


    BLESSED Lord of thy Churches! Give thy servants grace to praise thee for such love-tokens of thy favor, that in thine infinite condescension thou didst send those gracious messages to thy Churches; and still more, didst cause them to be handed down to us, even to the present hour. Lord! we see enough to be humbled to the dust in all. There are now the same features of character among thy people. Like Ephesus, too many of thy dear children have left their first love. Like Smyrna, we have the blasphemy among us of those who profess the truth, but are not. Like Pergamos, we have men of corrupt minds, who follow doctrines in head-knowledge, but void of hearth influence: and, like Thyatira, we have multitudes now in our land, who not only suffer, but follow the doctrine of Jezebel, and are running back to the idolatry, of false worship. Lord Jesus! do thou purge the land! And amidst the Sardis state, if we are in that state, prepare us for the more glorious one that is to follow, under the Philadelphian, and bring on the great day of our God. Lord make it a short work among all Laodicean spirits, and hasten that blessed period, when Jesus will close up all in glory.

    In the mean time, blessed Lord Jesus, be not sparing of the sweet visits of thy love to thy people! Oh! for grace to hear thy voice, at the door of our hearts, and to receive Christ to his holy supper, and to be among those that eat bread in thy kingdom. Even so, Amen. The Lord be praised for these sweet Epistles to his Churches.

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    Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

    Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

    ‘He who has an ear to hear, let him hear, what the Spirit says to the churches’.

    It is up to every man how he hears. And we have been warned seven times. How foolish we would be not to hear!


    The care with which the letters to the churches were compiled is demonstrated when they are compared.

    Firstly. The promises to overcomers follow a direct pattern, reflecting the Old Testament. The earthly Paradise (Genesis 2-3) will be replaced by the heavenly Paradise (Revelation 2:7). The earthly death (Genesis 3 with 5, and 4) will be replaced by the Second Death (Revelation 2:11). The earthly manna (Exodus 16:32-34) will be replaced by the heavenly manna (Revelation 2:17). The earthly stones on the High Priests garments (Exodus 28:9; Exodus 28:12; Exodus 28:15) will be replaced by the heavenly ‘pure white stones’ (Revelation 2:17). The earthly judgmental authority over the nations, the sceptre of iron (Numbers 24:17-19), will be replaced by the heavenly authority (Revelation 2:27). The earthly robes of the High Priest (Exodus 28:4; Exodus 28:39) will be replaced by the heavenly robes (Revelation 3:5). Entry in the earthly book of life (Exodus 32:32-33) will be replaced by entry in the heavenly book of life (Revelation 3:5). The earthly Temple (1 Kings 6 on) is replaced by the heavenly Temple (Revelation 3:12). The earthly Jerusalem is replaced by the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2). The earthly rule is replaced by the heavenly rule (4-5; Revelation 20:4). It is clear from all this that the earthly has been replaced by the heavenly, and therefore that all seemingly earthly promises should be interpreted in this light.

    Secondly. The words to the churches reflect what is described in Revelation 4 onwards. The stress on overcomers and on overcoming (Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:17 etc) is repeated throughout Revelation (Revelation 12:11; Revelation 15:2; Revelation 21:7), and prepares the churches so that they will prevail in the tribulation that is to come (Revelation 6:9; Revelation 7:14; Revelation 12:11; Revelation 14:4; Revelation 15:2; Revelation 21:7). The Ephesians are in danger of having their lampstand removed (Revelation 2:5), by being decimated. The church in Smyrna is ‘about to suffer’ and will ‘have tribulation’ (Revelation 2:10). The church at Pergamum dwells where Satan’s throne is, preparing us for the descriptions of Satanic activity to come. Their new name is in contrast with those who are marked with the mark and name of the Beast (Revelation 13:17). The church at Thyatira harbours Jezebel, paralleling and preparing us for the scarlet woman (Revelation 17:3-4). The tribulation and killing with death of her followers is illuminated continually in later chapters (e.g. Revelation 12:17; Revelation 13:7). The church in Sardis are to be arrayed in white garments reflected in Revelation 6:11; Revelation 7:9; Revelation 7:14. The Philadelphians are warned of the hour of trial that is coming, from which He will ‘keep’ them. The church at Laodicea are to obtain gold refined in the fires of tribulation, and white garments (see above). In the light of all these warnings it seems perverse to separate them from what clearly follows in fulfilment of the warnings.

    Thirdly. The churches are depicted in terms of the history of the people of God in the Old Testament, from when Adam lost his first love to when the overweening pride of Judah led to its downfall.

    · Man lost his first love in Eden (Genesis 3) - the church’s first love is lost (Revelation 2:4) - the promise to the overcomer is Paradise restored (Revelation 2:7).

    · Man is connected with the assembly of people in Cain’s new city, away from the presence of the Lord (Genesis 4:16), who were responsible for the first death (Genesis 4:8) and the second death (Genesis 4:23), who are Adam’s seed and yet are not - the church is connected with the ‘assembly of Satan’, who say they are Jews and are not (Revelation 2:9) - the overcomer will escape the Second Death (Revelation 2:11).

    · Man sets up Satan’s throne in Babel, a dwelling place of the gods (Genesis 11:4) - the church dwells where Satan’s throne is, a dwelling place of the gods (Revelation 2:13) - the overcomer will share the Heavenly Tabernacle where the hidden manna is hid in the Ark of the Covenant over which is God’s throne (Revelation 2:17).

    · Israel is taught by Balaam to commit idolatry and sexual perversions (Numbers 25:1-2) - the new ‘Balaam’ teaches the church to commit idolatry and sexual perversions (Revelation 2:14) - the overcomer will receive the white stone carrying Christ’s new name (Revelation 2:17), they will be clean from idolatry and sexual perversion.

    · Jezebel, the foreign queen, teaches Israel sexual perversion and idolatry (1 Kings 16:31; 1 Kings 21:25; 2 Kings 9:7) - a prophetess like ‘Jezebel’ teaches the church sexual perversion and idolatry - (Revelation 2:20) - the overcomer will stand in judgment on the nations (Revelation 2:26-27).

    · Israel had a name to live but is now dead (Hosea 13:1; Amos 5:2; Amos 7:8; Amos 8:2; Amos 8:10; Amos 9:10; Ezekiel 23:10), its name is blotted out (Exodus 32:33; Psalms 69:28; Psalms 109:13), and it is no more remembered before God (‘our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, we are clean cut off’ (Ezekiel 37:11 compare v. 2-3)) - (see 2 Kings 18:11-12; Hosea 1:6-9; Hosea 8:8; Hosea 9:16-17; Amos 7:11; Amos 7:17; Ezekiel 36:19) - the church has a name that it lives and is dead (Revelation 3:1) - the name of the overcomer will not be blotted out but will be remembered before God.

    · In contrast to Israel, Judah (under Hezekiah) opens the door of the house of the Lord (2 Chronicles 29:3) which had been shut up (2 Chronicles 27:2; 2 Chronicles 28:24), thus an open door is set before Judah and Hezekiah’s steward opens and no man shuts (Isaiah 22:22) - an open door is set before the church (Revelation 3:8) by Him Who opens and no man shuts (Revelation 3:7) - the overcomer will become a pillar in the Temple of God (Revelation 3:12) and will receive a new name.

    · But Judah in their pride and arrogance at their wealth (‘I am rich, I have found me wealth’ - Hosea 12:8; compare Ezekiel 16:15-17; Zechariah 11:5; Isaiah 2:7; Isaiah 39:2; Hosea 2:5) are advised to buy true wealth (Isaiah 55:2) and not trust their beauty (Ezekiel 16:15) or they will be stripped naked (Ezekiel 16:39; Hosea 2:3). They are poor (Ezekiel 22:18; Isaiah 1:22; Jeremiah 5:4) and blind (Isaiah 59:10; Isaiah 42:18) and naked (Lamentations 1:8) and are therefore defeated and led captive into Babylon and the house of the Lord is destroyed and the walls of Jerusalem broken down (Jeremiah 52:14) and there is no more a throne (Jeremiah 52:10-11). From now on the throne is in Babylon (Jeremiah 52:32) . Their wealth and their failure to see their true state has destroyed them and they receive the punishment threatened from the beginning, they are spewed out of the land (Leviticus 18:25-28) - similar accusations are made of the church (Revelation 3:17-18) and a similar fate threatened, they will be spewed out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16) - those who overcome will receive a throne within God’s kingdom (Revelation 3:12).

    Although there may be controversy over detail the main line is clear.

    Fourthly. While the letters are addressed to genuine churches, (and that the letters are to be delivered is suggested by the fact that the churches are in a circular pattern so that a messenger can pass easily from one to the next), it is clear that what is written to them applies to all churches, and that they are selected to cover the wide variety of experience within the worldwide church. Thus the church as a whole is being prepared for the tribulation to come.

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    Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

    Foy E. Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation

    6. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches"--3:22.

    What the Spirit said to these seven churches has spiritual application to all churches. The lessons may be summed up as follows:

    One: the Ephesian church was commended for an outward work and labour and patience, but were censured for having left their first love. By comparison with the Thessalonians--who were said (1 Thessalonians 1:3) to have had "a work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope" --it appears that the missing qualities in the church at Ephesus were faith, or fidelity, in works; and love, or deTHE votion, in labour; and hope, or expectation, in patience.

    Theirs was an external work, a servile labour, and an impassive hope. They had rejected false teachers and were doctrinally sound; they abhorred the libertine practices of Nicolaitanism, and were maintaining moral rectitude. But the Lord issued the irrevocable directive for immediate resolution to restore the missing qualities, under the pain of the withdrawal of divine presence.

    Two: The church at Smyrna had attained congregational perfection, for which they received divine approval, but no assurance for the suspension of suffering was given to them; rather, they were exhorted to maintain the same degree of faithfulness in martyrdom that they had manifested in life, and their vouchsafed reward would be the inestimable crown of life.

    Three: the church at Pergamos had theoretically rejected all forms of idolatry and pagan sensuality, but the harboring of libertines and idolaters within their membership would expose them to the Lord's declaration of war against these heathenisms within the borders of the church,

    Four: The church at Thyatira had been constant in the possession and practice of the virtues of charity, and service, and patience and works; but the purity of these qualities had been somewhat tinctured by their tolerance of certain wicked influences among them; nevertheless with divine approval of their constancy, they were exhorted to cling to the things that had been approved, with the promise of the Lord's presence in the time of tribulation.

    Five: the church at Sardis was reproved for the declension of spiritual life and were upbraided for general decadence; but they were extended probation under a mandate for rehabilitation.

    Six: The par-excellent church at Philadelphia was the object of full divine approval, in nothing blameworthy, and was given the Lord's guarantee of preservation and deliverance from the imminent period of tribulation, the reward for their devoted loyalty to his Word, and faithful allegiance to his Name.

    Seven: The church at Laodicea was the object of stern rebuke for their failure to evaluate the true riches, and their blindness to their own spiritual deficiencies, and were threatened with expulsion from all communion with Christ, if they further rejected his overtures; but he would extend to them opportunity to open their hearts to his entrance, and he would accept them in mutual communion and fellowship.

    This concludes the visional prologue, and with the fourth chapter the general apocalypse begins.

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    Wallace, Foy E. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". "Foy E. Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation". 1966.

    Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

    Revelation 3:22. The Epistle closes with the usual call of the Spirit to the churches. We have considered the Epistles to the seven churches separately; but, before leaving the subject, it may be well to make a few remarks upon them as a whole. That they are intended to be thus looked at is allowed by every interpreter. We have not merely before us seven letters to seven individual churches, which no inner bond connects with one another, and where there is no thought of any general result; we have a representation or picture of the Church at large. Yet the traits given us of the condition of each church are historical, the seven churches selected being preferred to others, because they appeared to the apostle to afford the best typical representation of the Church universal.

    The seven Epistles, however, are not merely seven. They are clearly divided into two groups, the first of which consists of the first three, the second of the four following, Epistles. Various circumstances combine to prove this, one of which—the difference of position assigned in the different groups to the call, ‘He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches’—is at once perceptible to the English reader. Another—the omission (by later reading) of the words ‘I know thy works’ from the Epistles to Smyrna and Pergamos, while they occur in all the remaining Epistles—is not so obvious, nor is its force so easily determined. Yet we know of no more satisfactory explanation than that the words are omitted from the second and third Epistles, because these two are so intimately connected with the first that the expression, when used in it, was supposed to extend its influence into them. It is true that the same thing does not occur in the last four, the expression ‘I know thy works’ meeting us in each; but this may only show that the unity of the second group is not so profound and intimate as that of the first. If, then, it be now asked what the difference between these two groups is, we answer that in the first we have the Church of Christ in herself, in the second the Church of Christ as she mingles with the world and learns its ways. No doubt in the first group sin and suffering are spoken of; but it must be borne in mind that it is the actual not the ideal Church with which we have to deal; and the Church had not then, nor has she even now, attained to the ‘stature of the perfect man in Christ Jesus.’ Sin marks her, and she stands in need of suffering; but it is the characteristic of the first of the two groups, that in it sin has more the aspect of weakness, while in the second it is intensified and yielded to through contact with the world. When, accordingly, we look more closely at the first three Epistles, the leading idea of each appears to be as follows. In Ephesus the church is faithful to her commission. She has indeed lost the warmth of her first love, but she holds fast the revelation of the will of God, the ‘form of sound words,’ with which she had been entrusted; she has tried them which ‘call themselves apostles, and they are not, and has found them false,’ and she has ‘not grown weary in her toil.’ In Smyrna this faithfulness continues, but the idea of suffering is now brought in, and the Church is told that the time is at hand when she must meet it. Lastly, in Pergamos we have a similar faithfulness even under persecution which has begun, although at the same time there are now ‘some’ within her own borders who have given way to evil, so that actual affliction is required to purify her. In the three Epistles taken together we have thus set before us the main New Testament conception of the Church, the Body of believers true to Christ’s cause upon the whole, but taught to expect affliction, and actually afflicted, that they may be cleansed and be made to bring forth more fruit (John 15:1-2).

    When we turn to the churches of the second group we enter upon a different field. The Church is now in actual contact with the world, and, forgetting her high calling to be Christ’s witness in and against the world, she yields to its corrupting influences. Thus in Thyatira, the first of the four, it is no longer ‘some’ (chap. Revelation 2:15) in her midst who tolerate evil. The Church as a whole does so. She ‘suffereth,’ beareth with, Jezebel, a heathen princess the fitting type of the world and the world’s sins. She knew the world to be what it was, and yet she was content to be at peace with it. It may be worthy of notice, too, that as the first picture of the church in herself—that in the Epistle to Ephesus—showed her to be peculiarly faithful on the point of doctrine, so the first picture of the church, as she begins to yield to the world, shows us that it was in doctrinal steadfastness that she failed. In the Epistle to Sardis, the second city of the second group, there is more yielding to the world than even in Thyatira. A few indeed there have not defiled their garments, but the church as a whole reproduces the Pharisees in the days of Christ, loud in their profession and renowned for it, but with no works of a true and genuine righteousness fulfilled before God. Declension in doctrine had soon been followed by declension in practice. Amidst all such declensions, however, it must never be forgotten that the Church has her times of noble faithfulness, and such a time seems to be set before us in the Epistle to Philadelphia. That the church there has been struggling with the world we see by the description of her vanquished enemies who come in and worship before her feet (chap. Revelation 3:9); but she had not yielded to the world. No word of reproach is uttered against her. The Epistle to Philadelphia represents either a time when the Church as a whole maintains her allegiance to the Captain of her salvation, or that remnant within the Church (as there was a remnant even in the Jewish Church of our Lord’s time) which keeps ‘the word of the Lord’s patience’ in those seasons of conflict with the main body of the Church herself that are far more hard to bear than any conflict with the world. Lastly, in Laodicea all that is most melancholy in the history of the Church’s relation to the world culminates, and the last picture that is given us of her state is at the same time the saddest (comp. Luke 18:8). The Church is here conformed to the world, and takes her ease amidst the wealth and the luxury which the world affords to all her votaries, and to none with so much satisfaction as to those who will purchase them at the cost of Christian consistency.

    Such appears to us to be a general outline of the course of thought embodied in these seven Epistles. But it is not easy to speak with confidence regarding it. The general conception of the two groups of three and four may perhaps be accepted as correct;(1) and starting from that point, other inquirers may be more successful in determining the special characteristic of the Church which each Epistle of both groups is undoubtedly intended to express.

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    Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

    Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

    Revelation 3:22. He that hath an ear, let him hear, &c. — This stands in the three former letters before the promise; in the four latter, after it; clearly dividing the seven into two parts; the first containing three, the last four letters. The titles given our Lord in the three former letters peculiarly respect his power after his resurrection and ascension, particularly over his church; those in the four latter, his divine glory and unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Again, this word being placed before the promises in the three former letters, excludes the false apostles at Ephesus, the false Jews at Smyrna, and the partakers with the heathen at Pergamos, from having any share therein. In the four latter being placed after them, it leaves the promises immediately joined with Christ’s address to the angel of the church, to show that the fulfilling of these was near: whereas the others reach beyond the end of the world. It should be observed, that the overcoming or victory (to which alone these peculiar promises are annexed) is not the ordinary victory obtained by every believer, but a special victory obtained over great and peculiar temptations by those that are strong in faith. “Such,” says Bishop Newton on the close of these chapters, “is the state and condition of these seven once glorious and flourishing churches; and there cannot be a stronger proof of the truth of prophecy, nor a more effectual warning to other Christians. ‘These objects,’ Wheeler justly observes, ‘ought to make us, who yet enjoy the divine mercies, to tremble, and earnestly contend to find out from whence we are fallen, and do daily fall from bad to worse; that God is a God of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; and seeing the axe is thus long since put to the root of the tree, should it not make us repent and turn to God, lest we likewise perish? We see here what destruction the Lord hath brought upon the earth. But it is the Lord’s doing: and thence we may reap no small advantage by considering how just he is in all his judgments, and faithful in all his promises.’ We may truly say, (1 Corinthians 10:11-12,) that all these things happened unto them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

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    Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

    Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

    He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
    6,13; 2:7,11,17 Reciprocal: 2 Chronicles 15:2 - Hear ye me;  Nehemiah 8:3 - ears;  Proverbs 5:1 - attend;  Jeremiah 7:2 - Hear;  Jeremiah 29:1 - of the letter;  Ezekiel 44:15 - the sons;  Micah 1:2 - hearken;  Matthew 11:15 - GeneralMatthew 13:9 - GeneralMatthew 24:15 - whoso;  Mark 4:9 - GeneralMark 7:16 - GeneralActs 1:2 - through;  Romans 1:7 - To all;  2 Corinthians 3:3 - the epistle;  Galatians 6:9 - if;  1 Timothy 4:1 - the Spirit;  Hebrews 10:15 - General1 John 2:14 - ye have overcome;  Revelation 1:19 - and the things which are;  Revelation 4:1 - After;  Revelation 10:4 - I was;  Revelation 22:16 - General

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    Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

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

    He that hath an ear is commented upon at Revelation 2:7.

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    Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.

    Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation

    Revelation 3:22

    Revelation 3:22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

    Besides the Exposition of the eleventh verse of the second Chapter; See KNOLLYS: Revelation 2:11 consider, that the Holy Spirit spake some things in every epistle to every Church, that concerned all the Churches to hear, and every particular person that could hear, to hearken diligently unto those things that

    the Spirit spake unto the Churches in those seven epistles that St. John wrote unto them.

    Before I proceed unto the Exposition of the fourth chapter, I think it meet for me, and not unprofitable for the conscientious and diligent reader, to say a few words touching the Churches of God in these latter days.

    First, the fit matter of a true visible Church of God under the gospel, is a company of sanctified, baptized believers; such was the Church at Jerusalem, the Churches in Judea, the Church at Rome, in Corinth, and all the Churches of Christ at their first constitution, in the days of the apostles, Acts 4:23-32; Acts 8:12; Acts 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 14:23-33, Churches of saints.

    Secondly, The essential form of a true visible Church of God, is the right joining and orderly compacting of those sanctified believers together into one mystical body, by the ministers of Christ, according to the constitution of the gospel, Ephesians 2:19-22; Ephesians 4:15-16; 1 Corinthians 3:5-9.

    Thirdly, The end why the Church is so planted, builded, and formed, is that they may meet together in ONE to worship God publicly in Spirit and in truth in all His sacred gospel ordinances, to the glory of God, and for the mutual edification of that mystical body of Christ, whose head He Isaiah, 1 Corinthians 14:23; Hebrews 10:25; John 4:22-24; 1 Corinthians 11:1-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:12; 1 Peter 4:10-11; 1 Corinthians 14:12-26, let all things be done to edifying.

    Fourthly, It is not lawful for any member of a true Church to separate himself from it, nor forsake the assembling of himself with it, Hebrews 10:25; 1 John 2:19. Our blessed Lord Jesus did not blame, nor reprove any of the ministers or members of any of those Churches in Asia, (although Christ reproved the Churches and their elders for suffering errors in doctrine, in worship, and in manners, among them;) but commended them that held their communion with the Church, and kept themselves free from those errors, Revelation 2:24; Revelation 3:4. Separation from a true Church is schism, and schism is a sin, 1 Corinthians 12:25 which causeth division, 1 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 11:18 although the apostles did command the saints in Corinth to separate themselves from idolatrous Gentiles, 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 and he himself did separate the disciples from the unbelieving Jews, Acts 19:9 yet, neither Paul, nor any of the apostles, nor our Savior, commanded any of the saints to separate themselves from any true Church of Christ.

    Fifthly, The ministers and members of a Church may keep themselves from being partakers of other men's sins, and from being defiled with them, by bearing their testimony and witness orderly in the Church, against them that hold any unsound doctrine, or any corrupt manners, or any false worship, 2 Timothy 4:2-3; Ephesians 5:11; Matthew 18:15-17. We ought to be followers of Christ, who bare His witness against the unsound doctrine, and corrupt manners, and neglect of discipline in some of the seven Churches in Asia, and waited patiently for their repentance; yet He did not forsake them, nor reject them, but owned them to be His Churches, Revelation 1:11; Revelation 2:12-16; Revelation 2:18; Revelation 2:20; Revelation 2:22-23; Revelation 3:14; Revelation 3:19; Revelation 3:22, until they added final impenitency unto their iniquity and transgressions.

    Sixthly, The Churches of Christ, and the ministers and members thereof shall be broken, dispersed, scattered, and mystically slain and killed, Revelation 11:7; Revelation 13:15-17.

    Seventhly, God will gather His Churches or saints again; and will glorify the house of His glory and give them pastors after His own heart, pure worship and ordinances, and they shall serve him with one consent, Zephaniah 3:9-13; Zephaniah 3:17-20; Psalm 50:5; Isaiah 49:18; Isaiah 60:4; John 11:52; Ephesians 1:11.

    Eighthly, When the Churches of saints are scattered by persecution, as Acts 8:1-3; Acts 9:12, then the ministers and members may assemble themselves together in several companies, as Acts 4:1-3; Acts 18:1-23; John 20:19-23; John 20:26; Acts 1:2-4; Acts 1:13-15; 1 Corinthians 15:6 and they may also break bread from house to house, Acts 2:42-46 not only on the first day of the week, for Christ did break bread on the fifth day, Matthew 26:26-31; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. The apostle also did break bread on the second day morning early, Acts 20:7-11, after midnight, before break of day. And the brethren that have received a spiritual gift may minister the same one to another, 1 Peter 4:10-11 building up themselves in their most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, Jude 1:20-21. Read 1 Corinthians 14:3-12; 1 Corinthians 14:31, let all things be done to edifying, 1 Corinthians 14:26

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    Knollys, Hanserd. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". "Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation".

    Joseph Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation

    Lecture 7
    (Revelation 3:21)


    Revelation 3:22. - He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.

    We have glanced over the contents of these Epistles, considered in relation to the particular Churches addressed. But this is not the only nor the chief aspect in which they are to be viewed. As I have repeatedly affirmed, these particular Churches have a representative character, comprehending the entire Church of all places and ages. It is impossible to find an adequate reason why only these seven were written to in this manner, except upon this assumption. The number is that significant of dispensational fulness, entire completeness. The Saviour speaks of them as involving some sort of "mystery," having significance beyond what appears upon the surface. The command to hear and consider what is said is given with such urgency and universality, as to argue something peculiarly significant to all people of all time. Much of the language is symbolically applied, and fits and receives a comprehensive lucidness, in a prophetic acceptation, which it is not otherwise found to possess. These seven Epistles are also a very prominent and vital part of a book which is specifically described as a book of prophecy. (Revelation 1:3; Revelation 22:18.) There is also an evident historical consecutiveness in the several pictures, as well as contemporaneousness; and such a complete successive realization of them can be traced in the subsequent history of the Church, even down to the present, that it seems to me impossible fairly to get rid of the conclusion, that these seven Churches were selected as affording, in their respective names, states, wants, and messages, a prefiguration of the entire Church in it successive phases from the time John wrote to the end of its history. Joseph Mede has well presented the case, where he says: "If we consider their number, being seven (which is the number of revolution of times, and therefore in this book the seals, trumpets and vials also are seven); or if we consider the choice of the Holy Ghost, in that He taketh neither all, no, nor the most famous Churches then in the world, as Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, and many others, and such, no doubt, as had need of instruction as well as those here named; if these things be well considered, it will seem that these seven Churches, besides their literal respect, were intended to be as patterns and types of the several ages of the Catholic Church from the beginning thereof unto the end of the world; that so these seven Churches should prophetically sample unto us a sevenfold successive temper and condition of the whole visible Church, according to the several ages thereof, answering the pattern of the seven Churches here."(21)

    Receiving this, then, as the truth in the case, I now take up the topic deferred when we last had this subject before us, and proceed to note some of the teachings of these Epistles, considered:


    And so important and far-reaching is the subject, that it becomes us to approach it with solemn hearts, and to pray God to aid us with His enlightening grace, that we may indeed hear, mark, learn and inwardly digest what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.

    1. Viewing these Epistles, then, as descriptive of the entire Church, I find in them this item of fact: that the professed Church, as pronounced upon by Christ himself, is a mixed society, embracing interminglings of good and evil from its beginning to the end. Whether we take the seven Churches as significant of seven successive or as seven coexisting phases, they must needs reach to the end, and so depicture the entire Church. And as there is not one of these Epistles in which the presence of evil is not recognized, so there can be no period in the earthly history of the Church in which it is without bad admixtures. Whether the Ephesian Church extends, as in some sense it must, from the apostolic era to the consummation, or whether it relates mainly to the first period alone, and the Laodicean the last, we still have a vast deal which the Lord and Judge of the Church condemns, stretching its dark image from the commencement to the close. There were fallen ones, and some whose love had cooled, and some whose first works had been abandoned, and some giving place to the base deeds of the Nicolaitanes, and some false ones claiming to be apostles and were not, even among the warm, patient, fervent, enduring and faithful Ephesians. In Smyrna were faithless blasphemers, and those of Satan"s synagogue, as well as faithful, suffering ones, and those whom Christ is to crown in heaven. In Pergamos were those who denied the faith, and followed the treacherous teachings of Balaam, and the doctrines of the detested Nicolaitanes, as well as those who held fast the name of Jesus, and witnessed for Him unto death. In Thyatira, we find a debauching and idolatrous Jezebel and her death-worthy children, and multitudes of spiritual adulterers, as well as those whose works, and faith, and charity, and patience are noted with favour, and who had not been drawn into Satan"s depths. In Sardis there was incompleteness, deadness, defalcation, need for repentance, and threatened judgment, as well as names of those who had not denied their garments. In Philadelphia we discover "the synagogue of Satan," falsifiers, those who had settled themselves upon the earth, and such as had not kept Christ"s word, as well as such as should be kept from the sifting trial, and advanced to celestial crowns. And in Laodicea there was found disgusting lukewarmness, empty profession, and base self-conceit, with Christ himself excluded.

    Never, indeed, has there been a sowing of God on earth, but it has been oversown by Satan; or a growth for Christ, which the plantings of the wicked one did not mingle with and hinder. God sowed good seed in Paradise; but when it came to the harvest, the principal product was tares. At earth"s first altar appeared the murderer with the saint-Cain with Abel. God had His sons before the flood; but more numerous were the children of the wicked one. And in all ages and dispensations, the plants of grace have ever found the weeds upspringing by their sides, their roots intertwining, and their stalks and leaves and fruits putting forth together. The Church is not an exception, and never will be, as long as the present dispensation lasts. Even in its first and purest periods, as the Scriptural accounts attest, it was intermixed with what pertained not to it. There was a Judas among its apostles; an Ananias and a Simon Magus among its first converts; a Demas and a Diotrephes among its first public servants. And as long as it continues in this world, Christ will have His Antichrist, and the temple of God its men of sin. He who sets out to find a perfect Church, in which there are no unworthy elements and no disfigurations, proposes to himself a hopeless search. Go where he will, worship where he may, in any country, in any age, he will soon find tares among the wheat, sin mixing in with all earthly holiness; self-deceivers, hypocrites and unchristians in every assembly of saints; Satan insinuating himself into every gathering of the sons of God to present themselves before the Lord. No preaching, however pure; no discipline, however strict or prudent; no watchfulness, however searching and faithful, can ever make it different. Paul told the Thessalonians that the day of the Lord should not come until there came a falling away first, and an extraordinary manifestation of sin and guilt in the Church itself; and assured them that that embodied apostasy was to live and work on until the Lord himself should come and destroy it by the manifestation of His own personal presence. The Saviour himself has taught us, that in the Gospel field wheat and tares are to be found; that it is forbidden to pluck up the bad, lest the good also be damaged; and that both are to "grow together until the harvest," which is the end of the economy-the winding up of the present order of things-"the end of this world."

    2. But I further ascertain from these Epistles, that, in Christ"s judgment of the Church, the evil that is in it is constantly cumulative and growing. The first of nearly everything in the Scriptures is mostly considered the best; and so the Church was purest at its beginning. As Hegisippus has said, "The virgin purity of the Church was confined to the days of the apostles." The further centuries carry it from its first years, the more of its original excellence does it lose, and the more apostate does it become. It was so before the flood. It was so in the Jewish economy. And it is so in our dispensation. If these seven Churches represent so many phases or states of the Church general, those phases or states must also be successive, as well as coexistent. And if successive, then they must succeed each other in the order in which Christ has put them: the first first, and the last last. The Church in Ephesus thus becomes descriptive of the first phase or period; that in Smyrna of the second; that in Pergamos of a third; that in Thyatira of a fourth; and so to the end. Viewing them, then, in this order, we can readily identify the growth of evil, from its first incoming, through its various stages, to its final culmination. Indeed, these seven Epistles are so many photographs of apostasy, taken at different periods of its life, from its infancy to its maturity.

    In the first Epistle, the Lord puts his finger upon the origin of the mischief. Here is depictured a first and model estate, which is described as that of "first love." From that "first love" the Saviour notes a decline. This is the first picture. It was in the very hearts of Christ"s own people that all corruptions of Christianity and apostasy began. "Thou hast left thy first love." It is to the heart that Christ traces all evils. And it is according to the estate of the heart that He judges of us. Where love declines, bad practices soon creep in. The Ephesians waned in original fervour, and soon were troubled with those who departed from the simplicities of the Gospel, betook themselves to Jewish and Pagan intermixtures, and began to put forward the ministry as a sort of priestly class, depreciating and setting aside the laity. Of these were Diotrephes, who coveted preeminence; and those of whom Peter disapproved, as undertaking to be "lords over God"s heritage;" and those whom Paul resisted, as seeking to transfer to Christianity what pertained to the Jewish ritualism and Pagan philosophy. These were the "Nicolaitanes,"(22) whose "deeds" are singled out for reprehension. But so long as the apostles lived, their influence was inconsiderable. At first, they had but few followers and small success. It was not long, however, as Church history shows,(23) until they gained adherents and force, and laid the foundations of all subsequent defections and troubles. What in the first picture was feeble, and vigorously resisted, and found only in isolated cases, in the second picture has already grown to be a distinguished and influential party, whose utterances are heard and felt, and which is now characterized as a "synagogue of Satan." And in the third picture, what were only "deeds" have come to be taken up as doctrine. The false practices now appear in the shape of an article of faith. What had previously been kept pretty well at bay, is now found nestled in the very heart of the Church. What in the first picture was hated and withstood, is now tolerated, and seemingly cherished. And to it is added another feature, equally condemned by the Saviour, and equally favoured by many of these Pergamites. To the Nicolaitanes are added Balaamities: destroyers of the people, as well as vanquishers of them, as the meaning of the word Balaam is.(24) The sin of that prophet was, that he counselled with the enemies of Israel, and advised the drawing of them into forbidden friendships and adulterous and idolatrous alliances, by means of which "twenty and four thousand" were destroyed. (Numbers 25:9.) The Pergamite Church had those who counselled like unlawful unions between the Church and its powerful enemies, thus repeating the apostate prophet, who taught Balak to seduce Israel to sin. And whatever interpretation of the matter we accept, it bears the condemnation of Christ, and in His view so unfavourably characterizes the Pergamites as to furnish a picture of most fearful advances in the inroads of evil.

    And the next view gives us a still further advance in the same disastrous tendencies. Here is a heathen, impure and bloody woman, exalted to queenly dominion over God"s people, governing them, and domineering over them, and drawing them away into spiritual harlotry and abomination. She is even taken to the bosom of the very angel of the Church, and suffered to assume the prerogatives of a prophetess to the people, though in reality another Jezebel. Have we not here the plain and indubitable evidences of continuity and growth in evil, defection, and apostasy? From the gradual decline of first love we have one steady and onward march, till that line of development reaches its climax in the scarlet woman.

    But now comes a new and reactionary movement. The pure Gospel is reproduced, once more heard, and largely received. The old and corrupt order of things is not overthrown or superseded, but a remnant escapes from it, and starts out upon a career of fresh life in a new order. But notwithstanding the re-announcement of the Gospel, and the many noble names whom God enabled to clear their skirts of the abounding and terrific abominations, the growth of evil, though it took another direction, was not stopped. The renewal was hindered, and the works of the Sardians did not come to perfection. Christ does not find them complete before God. What was "received and heard "was not properly remembered and held. The things which were preserved were left to droop, ready to fall into the embrace of death. The new life that had been engendered was soon enfeebled and brought to languishment. And under the name and boast of life, there was death. The old was not changed, and the new which had escaped out of it was stagnant and lifeless. Evil had gained a new victory on a new field. Christendom had completed a new phase, and was one step further in its process of ripening for ultimate rejection.

    Another is described, in which the work of God is revived and thriving in many hearts, who are drawn together in united efforts and brotherly affection. An open door of usefulness in the spread of the truth is set before them, which no one can shut. They show a little strength, and in poverty and self-denial hold fast to the word and the name of Christ. But they are an exceptional band of brothers in the Lord. About them are the great multitudes of nominal Christians, dwelling upon the earth, and comfortably settled down in its good things, who require the sifting of great trial to bring them to even a tolerable Christianity. And besides, there is a great herd of errorists and liars, who wear the profession of Christians, but are really "the synagogue of Satan."

    One other picture is added, and it is the worst. In the first four, the progress of mischief is in the line of consolidation and concentration of power, with all its abuses. In the last three, the reverse obtains, and the evil runs in the line of disintegration, separation, and individualism, until finally each man comes to be pretty much his own Church. The Laodicean Church is not the Church in Laodicea, as in the other cases, but "the Church of Laodiceans."(25) It would seem as if the Church, in its proper character of an elect company, had quite faded from view, and the world itself had now become the Church. The confessing body is hardly any longer distinguishable from any other body. It is neither one thing nor the other--"neither cold nor hot." And yet, in pride and boastfulness, hypocrisy and self-deception, there never has been its like. It claims to be rich, and increased with goods, and having need in nothing, and yet is the wretched and pitiable, and poor, and blind, and naked. It thinks itself all it ought to be, and appropriates to itself all divine favour and blessedness; and yet, the very Lord in whom it professes to trust is denied a place in it, and is represented as barred out, where He stands and knocks as His last gracious appeal before giving over the infamous Babylon to the judgments which are ready to sweep it from the earth. That which started as a little band of loving, self-sacrificing and persecuted saints, redeemed out of the world, and no longer of it, comes to be a vast, widespread, characterless, Christless, conceited thing, to which Jehovah says, "I am about to spue thee out of my mouth."

    We may trace this continuous growth of ecclesiastical evil, also, in the varying attitude and conduct of the Saviour toward these several Churches. To the first, He utters himself in the utmost gentleness. He first commends with great satisfaction, and then rebukes with great mildness and reluctance. Much the same tone is maintained in the second Epistle, with a stronger insinuation with reference to the closer and more potent presence of a body of Judaizers, whom He denounces as blasphemers. But in the third, His words gather sharpness, and the angel of the Church of Pergamos is reproved with an intensity of displeasure and condemnation for the first time seen, and which heightens with the next. "Thou hast there those who hold the teaching of Balaam.... Thou thyself also hast those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes." And in the fourth Epistle, besides the sweeping severity of His complaints and threatenings, He makes a change in the position of the admonition of the Spirit to hear. Up to this point, that admonition precedes the promise; here, and in the subsequent Epistles, it is put after the promise. In the first three instances, it would seem to be the address of the Spirit from within the professing body, calling to the world without; but in the last four, it would seem that the Spirit itself is without, and that the call is considered now as having the same relation to the body of the professed Church as to the world. It is thus intensely significant of prevailing apostasy, which has so Paganized the professing Church as to make true Christians as exceptional in the Church as in the world. As the pillar of cloud went up from before the camp of Israel, and took its place behind it, to sever the Lord"s people from the Egyptians, so this change intimates that the Church, as a body, has become so blended with the world, that a separation needs to be drawn between Christ"s true people and it, the same as its calling was meant to sever it from the world. Hence, in all the Epistles in which the Spirit"s warning takes its place after the promise, the great body of the professed Church, as such, is treated as apostate, and hopelessly corrupt, whilst at the end the fearful announcement is made that Christ is about to cast it loathingly from Him.

    And in still another respect does Christ successively alter His attitude toward these Churches, indicative of growing displeasure on His part, and gradual ripening for judgment on their part. He required of the Ephesians to repent of their decline of love, simply referring to the fact that He "will come." He enjoined upon the Pergamites to repent of their still worse defections, by the sharper announcement: "Otherwise I am coming to thee quickly." Concerning the Thyatirans, he gives a still more fearful picture of His coming to judgment, and declares that He will cast Jezebel and her paramours into perdition, and slay her children with death. Upon the Sardians he threatens the disaster of arriving over them as a thief, at a moment of supposed security. The liars and errorists of Philadelphia He says He will humble in the utmost degree, and bring upon those settled down in the world an hour of dreadful trial, the same as shall befall the world itself; and that He is coming quickly, as already in the very act of it. And with reference to the loathsome Laodiceans, He represents himself as already present, appealing to them for the last time, and ready now to spue them out of His mouth.

    What, then, does all this mean, but that the Church, as a professing body, pure and excellent as it was at the beginning, and with all the partial revivals that mark different periods of its career, and with all the myriads of saints it has embraced, is yet, in the judgment of the Son of God himself, a subject of gradual and ever-increasing decline and decay, first in one direction, then in another, until it becomes completely apostate, and, as such, is finally and forever rejected? This will be for many a very sad and startling doctrine. It is a paradox. It crosses many a fond dream. It carries dismay to certain humanitarian theories, which are much preached up. It strikes the deathblow to the doctrine of a temporal millennium, and to the hope of an ecclesiastical renovation of the world. Contrary to much of the thinking which prevails, it shows the professed Church in process of conversion to the world, instead of the world in process of conversion, by its means, to Christ. But I am sure that it is the truth of God. Be the logical consequences what they may, I stand here upon the solid rock of Christ"s own presentation of the case, as viewed from the judgment seat.

    3. But I further learn from these Epistles, considered in their representative relations, what is equally, if not more, important. They give Christ"s own judgment and decision concerning many very grave matters which have agitated, divided, distracted and despoiled the Church in various ages, and some of which are still of the most intense practical moment. In this respect, they differ greatly from most other portions of Scripture. We elsewhere find what, if rightly applied, would give us the same results. But here we have, not only principles, which we in our weakness are to take and apply as facts and circumstances may require, but the facts themselves, under Christ"s own eye, and directly and authoritatively pronounced upon by Him; not only the materials out of which to form our judgment of what Christ is likely to think of particular systems, tendencies or measures in the Church, but those systems, tendencies, and measures themselves, brought before the judgment seat, reviewed by His all-searching intelligence, and their true character declared direct from His own lips.

    In view of these Epistles which I have been endeavouring to bring out, we can be at no great loss to know what Nicolaitanism is. If they relate to successive phases of the Church general, there can be no disagreement as to the identity of the Smyrna period with the era of the Pagan persecutions. Smyrna was to have a tribulation of "ten days;" and all ecclesiastical writers agree in enumerating "ten" of these persecutions, raging most fearfully during ten years, from the decree of Dioclesian in A.D. 303, to the Constantinian edict of Milan in A.D. 313. Even the opponents of the prophetic view of these Epistles agree, that "Smyrna represents excellently well the ecclesia pressa in its last and most terrible struggles with heathen Rome."(26) The distinctive Pergamite period did not therefore commence before the fourth century. And as we find these Nicolaitanes in full sway in this period, and giving character to it, it follows unmistakably that they were not a primitive sect, of which some have spoken, but of which no one knows anything.

    Existing already in the Ephesian era, we find Nicolaitanism stretching through centuries, and exerting an influence so marked, that it is not possible that history should be entirely silent with reference to it, although not known by this name. The truth is, that it figures largely in all Church annals; and we have only to look at the signification of the name which Christ gives it, and at the characteristic tendencies of the period succeeding the Pagan persecutions, to identify it. We know that it was a thing which started in practice, and afterwards embodied itself in theory, and became a feature of doctrine. We know that it was something which put down the people, superseded them in their rights, and set them aside; for this is the plain import of the name which Christ gives it, and the names which are divinely given are always exactly descriptive of the things or persons that receive them. We also know, from the Scriptures, and from the common representations of all ecclesiastical historians, that the Church was hardly founded until it began to be troubled with the lordly pretensions and doings of arrogant men, in violation of the common priesthood of believers, and settling upon ministers the attributes and prerogatives of a magisterial order, against which Peter, Paul and John were moved to declare their apostolic condemnation, but which grew nevertheless, and presently became fixed upon the Church as part of its essential system. We know that there is to this day a certain teaching, and claim, and practice, in the largest part of the professed Church, according to which a certain order severs itself entirely from the laity, assumes the rights and titles of priesthood, asserts superiority and authority over the rest in spiritual matters, denies the right of any one, whatever his gifts or graces, to teach or preach in the Church who has not been regularly initiated into the mysterious puissance of its own self-constituted circle, and puts forward its creatures, however glaringly deficient in those heavenly gifts which really make the minister, as Christ"s only authorized heralds, before whom every one else must be mute and passive, and whose words and administrations every one must receive, on pain of exclusion from the hope of salvation. We also know that this system of priestly clericalism and prelatical hierarchism claims to have come down from the earliest periods of the Church, and traces for itself a regular succession through the Christian centuries, and appeals to patristic practice as its chief basis, vindication and boast. We know that it first came into effective sway in the period immediately succeeding the Pagan persecutions,(27) reaching its fullest embodiment in Popery, and has perpetuated itself in the same, and in Laudism, tractarianism, and high-Churchism, even to our day, and to our very doors. And if we would know what the Lord Jesus thinks of it, we have only to recur to these Epistles, in which He lays His hand right on it, and says: "This thing I hate."

    Contemporaneous with the flowering of Nicolaitanism, was another influential and characterizing feature manifested in the Church, of which the name of Pergamos itself is significant-a certain marriage with worldly power, which the Saviour pronounces adulterous, idolatrous and Balaamitic. Nor can we be in doubt respecting this, any more than the other. Its development is located in the period immediately succeeding the Pagan persecutions, when the Church, according to all historians, sacred and secular, did consent to one of the most marked and marvellous alliances that has occurred in all its history. We know that there was then formed a union between the Church and the empire, which the fall of that empire hardly dissolved, and which has been perpetuated in the union of Church and State, in the greater part of Christendom, down to this very hour. It was an alliance cried up at the time, and by many since, as the realization of the millennium itself, and the great consummating victory of the cross. But Christ here gives His verdict upon it, pronouncing it an idolatrous uncleanness; Israel joining himself to Baal-peor; a fearful and disastrous compromise of Christianity with the world, which disfigured and debauched the Church, and destroyed myriads of souls. Nor can any one dispute the appropriateness of the imagery, or the justness of the sentence. (See also Hebrews 12:6; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15; Revelation 18:3-9)

    And by means of Nicolaitanism and affiliation with worldly power, by which all sorts of corrupting elements were taken up, the Church soon put on another phase, the distinguishing features of which are most graphically sketched. "For such Protestant expositors," says Trench, "as see the Papacy in the scarlet woman of Babylon, the Jezebel of Thyatira appears exactly at the right time, coincides with the Papacy at its height, yet at the same time with judgment at the door in the great revolt which was even then preparing."(28) Systematized prelacy, and Balaamism, made the emperor president of the Church Councils and the confirmer of their decrees, brought the community of saints into conjunction with "Satan"s throne," and so gave being to that mongrel but mighty thing in which Pagan life was transferred to Christian veins, heathen pomp and ceremony commingled with Christian rites and sacraments, and the professed Bride of Christ transformed into a queenly adulteress, the harlot mother of a harlot household. And in all history there is not another character which so completely represents the Papal system-its character, works and worship-as the unclean wife of Ahab, the Jezebel of these Epistles. She was a heathen, married to a Jew; and such is the character of the Papal system in its main elements-Paganism joined to an obsolete Judaism. She is described as calling herself a prophetess, and as undertaking to be the teacher of God"s servants; and Popery claims and professes to be heaven"s only infallible teacher of God"s truth. She is described as having a set of "works," emphatically "her works," as distinguished from others which are called Christ"s "works;" and Popery is a system of works-a religion of ceremonies, penances, fasts, masses, prayers, vigils, abnegations, bodily macerations, purgatory, and supererogatory and meritorious holiness of saints, by which it proposes to save its devotees. She was an adulteress; and Popery, above all, has been characterized by her unclean dealings with the kings and powers of the earth, lending herself to serve their pleasure, to bring them under her sway, and teaching God"s people to accept worldly conformity as a means of Christian victory. She was a persecutor and murderess of God"s prophets and witnesses; and the Papacy is marked by nothing more than its severity toward such as stood out against its impious pretences, and its public and secret tortures and butcheries of the saints. "For in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth." According to the most credible reading of these Epistles, this Jezebel is represented as the angel"s wife; and it is characteristic of Popery to enforce celibacy upon the clergy, holding them to be married to the Church, and hence teaching all her sons and daughters to call them "fathers." This Jezebel is also described as having "children," alike with her unsatisfactory to Christ; and whence but from that unclean source have we those semi-Papal national religious establishments, by which the Church of Jesus is befouled, hindered and disgraced, even in many Protestant countries? We thus obtain from these Epistles Christ"s own direct verdict upon Romanism, both in its more offensive features in the old mother, and in its more modified forms in the daughters.

    And so, if we would know how the Reformation stands in the Saviour"s estimation, we also find it here. As to the great spiritual leaders in it. His comforting declaration is, that their garments were undefiled; that their names are held in honour; and that they shall walk with Him in white; "for they are worthy." As to the character of the doctrines on which it was based, His command is to remember them, observe them, and watch, as the means of being ready for Him when He comes. And as to the final outcome of the blessed movement, His plain and unmistakable word, on the other side, is, that it was not complete; that its works have not been found perfect in the sight of God; that the new phase of the Church which resulted from it had not the vitality which it professed; and that the things which it had taken in hand to conserve, it did too much neglect and leave to droop and wither. Its agents were pure and noble, its principles were right and true; but its fruits were incomplete, its results were marred, and its achievements fell short of the mark at which it aimed. The Saviour almost names the great-souled men who led in that glorious work, and seems almost to sign with His own hand the Protest of Spire and the Confession of Augsburg, and to reiterate from heaven the great foundation doctrines:

    An open Bible man"s only law of faith;
    Trust in a crucified Saviour man"s only justification;
    The glorified Jesus the only Lord and Master of the Church.

    But the working out of these principles in what followed, He as clearly pronounces defective; and the embodying of them in the life developed upon them, He adjudges to be a thing of "name" more than reality.

    Two centuries passed and the Protestant Churches assumed another phase. The times of the Pietists, and the Puritans, and the Methodists came on, and there was a new stir in dead Christendom. Those who had escaped from the dominion of Jezebel began to remember how they had received, and heard, and to observe, and repent, and wake up to a sense of the common brotherhood of man, and especially of believers. Christians began to see and feel that the Gospel is more than orthodoxy, and that living aggressiveness is one of its fundamental features. The era of revivals, and missions, and united efforts for the general conversion of mankind ensued, such as had not been since the primitive ages. Many indeed continued to live on in ease, settled comfortably upon the earth, and but slightly influenced by the new spirit. Great multitudes of false professors, boastful of their claims, and sneering and censorious toward the men of true faith, yet swarmed throughout Christendom. But, upon the whole, there was great revival of life and fraternity among Christians. All this we find depictured in the Sixth Epistle, and verified in the history of the last hundred years. And Christ"s estimate of this state of things is also given. The true men of love He declares He loves. As their hearts have been to extend the victories of the cross, He promises them an open door of success which none should be able to shut, notwithstanding the efforts made to silence and hinder them. Because they kept His word in patient waiting on Him and for Him, He promises that they shall be kept out of the sifting trials which He threatens to send upon those dwelling at ease. And as for the rest, they are the "synagogue of Satan," whom He engages to humble at the very feet of His faithful ones.

    There is yet one other phase. Shall I say that it is yet future, or that we have already entered it? Here are still some whom Christ loves,-mostly suffering ones, under the rebukes and chastenings of their gracious Lord. But the body of Christendom is quite apostate, with Christ outside, and knocking for admission into his own professed Church. Paul prophesied of the Church that in the last period, men would be mere "lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having the form of godliness but denying the power thereof." (2 Timothy 3:1-5.) This is a fearful picture, almost as dark as that which he gave of the heathen world before Christianity touched it. (See Romans 1:26-32.) But it answers precisely to the Saviour"s portraiture of the characteristics of the Church in its last phase.

    It is Laodicean,--confirmed in everything to the popular judgment and will,--the extreme opposite of Nicolaitane. Instead of a Church of domineering clericals, it is the Church of the domineering mob, in which nothing may be safely preached except what the people are pleased to hear,-in which the teachings of the pulpit are fashioned to the tastes of the pew, and the feelings of the individual override the enactments of legitimate authority.

    It is lukewarm,--nothing decided,--partly hot and partly cold,--divided between Christ and the world,--not willing to give up pretension and claim to the heavenly, and yet clinging close to the earthy,--having too much conscience to cast off the name of Christ, and too much love for the world to take a firm and honest stand entirely on His side. There is much religiousness, but very little religion; much sentiment, but very little of life to correspond; much profession, but very little faith; a joining of the ball-room to the communion-table, of the opera with the worship of God, and of the feasting and riot of the world with pretended charity and Christian benevolence.

    And it is self-satisfied, boastful, and empty. Having come down to the world"s tastes, and gained the world"s praise and patronage, the Laodiceans think they are rich, and increased with goods, and have need in nothing. Such splendid churches, and influential and intelligent congregations, and learned, agreeable preachers! Such admirable worship and music! Such excellently manned and endowed institutions! So many missionaries in the field! So much given for magnificent charities! Such an array in all the attributes of greatness and power! What more can be wanted?

    And will it answer to say that all this is not largely and characteristically the state of things at this very hour? Can any man scrutinize narrowly the professed Church of our day, and say that we have not reached the Laodicean age? Is it not the voice of this Christendom of ours which says: "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need in nothing?" And is it not equally the fact that this selfsame Christendom of ours is "the wretched, and the pitiable, and poor, and blind, and naked?" Did the "Mene, mene, tekel upharsin" of Belshazzar"s palace better fit the ancient heathen than this modern Christian Babylon? Men talk of it as destined to glorious triumph. They proclaim it commissioned of God to convert the world. They point to its onward march as about to take speedy possession of the race for Christ and heaven. But "The Amen" hath spoken. "The faithful and true Witness" hath given His word: "I am about to spue it out of my mouth."

    Friends and brethren, I have not made these pictures; I have found them; and the sevenfold admonition of Almighty God with reference to them is:

    "He that hath an ear, let him hear." You have listened to my statements; have you taken in their truths? If there is any just apprehension of Holy Scriptures in them, these seven Epistles stand out in transcendent interest and value, as they do in the urgency with which they are pressed upon our attention. They are Christ"s own history of His Church. They are Christ"s own criticisms upon all its characteristic features and doings for nearly two thousand years. They are Christ"s own verdict upon all the great questions which have agitated it, and upon all the great influences and tendencies, from within and from without, which have affected its character or destiny in every period of its career. The touches are few, but the marks of their divinity are in them. They are comprehensive, true, and unmistakable to Him who will rightly approach and fairly deal with them.

    And if these Epistles really are what I have represented them to be, then we have in them what Christians have so much felt the want of, namely, an authoritative settlement of the great questions between us and prelatists, papists, state-churchists, and false pretenders, errorists and radicals of many sorts. Then also we have in them a final settlement of the question whether the Church, or the returned Saviour, is to carry redemption into successful effect upon earth"s depraved and rebellious peoples,-whether there is to be a millennium of peace and universal righteousness wrought by present instrumentalities or not,--whether the tendency of Christendom is toward improvement and perfection, or, like everything else with which fallen man has to do, earthward, deathward, and hellward,-and whether or not the true flock of God is ever to be anything else in this dispensation than a feeble, depressed, and hated minority. All these questions, and many more alike interesting, important, and vital, are put beyond all reasonable disputation in these Epistles if the doctrine of their proper prophetic aspect is to be maintained. And I submit it to you, as you shall answer before the bar of God, whether the truthfulness of this acceptation of them has not been credibly and conclusively made out. The key exactly fits the lock, the impression answers to the stamp, the cast bears the precise outlines of the mould; and it would seem to me like trifling with the truth not to admit that, in the mind of Jesus, they belong together. Let us see to it, then, that we hear as the text commands, and learn to view the Church"s errors, corruptions, mistakes, and sins, as Christ views them; to love what He loves, to hate what He hates, and to hope only as He has given us authority to hope. And to this may Almighty God grant us His helping grace! Amen.

    Help, mighty God!

    The strong man bows himself,

    The good and wise are few,

    The standard-bearers faint,

    The enemy prevails.

    Help, God of might,

    In this thy Church"s night!

    Help, mighty God!

    The world is waxing gray,

    And charity grows chill,

    And faith is at its ebb,

    And hope is withering!

    Help, God of might,

    Appear in glory bright!

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
    Bibliographical Information
    Seiss, Joseph A. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". Seiss' Lecutres on Leviticus and Revelation.

    Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

    22.He that hath an ear—The last clear ring of this refrain sounding through the world and through the ages.


    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
    Bibliographical Information
    Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

    The Bible Study New Testament

    22. If you have ears, then. A grim word of warning; but also a promise!




    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Bibliographical Information
    Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Revelation 3:22". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.