Revelation 2

 

                        The Epistle to the Church at Ephesus (vs. 1-7)

 

1 “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith

He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the

midst of the seven golden candlesticks;”  Unto the angel (see on ch.1:20).

“The angel” seems to be the spirit personified as the church’s  responsible

guardian. The Church of Ephesus.In Ephesus” is certainly the right reading; in

all seven cases it is the angel of the Church in the place that is addressed. In

 Paul’s Epistles we have “in Rome,” “in Corinth,” “in Colossae,” “in

Ephesus,” “of Galatia,” “of the Thessalonians.” Among all the cities of the

Roman province of Asia, Ephesus ranked as “first of all and greatest.” It

was called “the metropolis of Asia.” Romans visiting Asia commonly

landed first at Ephesus. Its position as a center of commerce was

magnificent. Three rivers, the Maeander, the Cayster, and the Hermes,

drain Western Asia Minor, and Ephesus stood on high ground near the

mouth of the central river, the Cayster, which is connected by passes with

the valleys of the other two. Strabo, writing of Ephesus about the time

when John was born, says, “Owing to its favorable situation, the city

is in all other respects increasing daily, for it is the greatest place of trade

of all the cities of Asia west of the Taurus.” Patmos was only a day’s sail

from Ephesus; and it is by no means improbable that the gorgeous

description of the merchandise of “Babylon” (ch.18:12-13) is

derived from John’s own recollections of Ephesus. The Church of

Ephesus was founded by Paul, about A.D. 55, and his Epistle to that

and other Churches, now called simply “to the Ephesians,” was written

about A.D. 63. When Paul went to Macedonia, Timothy was left at

Ephesus (I Timothy 1:3) to check the wild speculations in which some

Ephesian Christians had begun to indulge. Timothy probably followed

Paul to Rome (II Timothy 4:9, 21), and, after his master’s death,

returned to Ephesus, where he is said to have suffered martyrdom at a

festival in honor of the great goddess Artemis.” He may have been still at

Ephesus at the time when this epistle was written; and Plumptre has traced

coincidences between this epistle and those of Paul to Timothy.

According to Dorotheus of Tyro (circ. A.D. 300), he was succeeded by

Gaius (Romans 16:23). In the Ignatian epistles we have Onesimus

(probably not the servant of Philemon), Bishop of Ephesus. Ignatius speaks

of the Ephesian Church in terms of high praise, showing that it had profited

by the exhortations in this epistle. It was free from heresy, though heresy

hovered around it. It was spiritually minded, and took God as its rule of life

(Ignatius, ‘Ephes.,’ 6.-8.). Write (see on ch. 1:11; and compare Isaiah 8:1; 30:8;

Jeremiah 30:2; 36:2; Habakkuk 2:2-4). Holdeth (κρατῶν – kraton – one holding ).

Stronger than “had” (ἔχων – echon – one having) in ch. 1:16. This word

implies holding fast and having full control over. In v. 25 we have both

verbs, and again in ch. 3:11. A Church that had fallen from its

first love (v. 4-5) had need to be reminded of Him who “holds fast” His

own; and one whose candlestick was in danger of removal had need to turn

to Him who is ever active (not merely is, but “walketh in the midst of the

candlesticks,” to supply them with oil when they flicker, and rekindle them

when they go out. It is He, and not the apostle, who addresses them.

 

The Apostle Paul established the church at Ephesus (Acts 19) and spent more time there

than at any of his other churches (ibid. ch. 20:31).  According to extra-biblical sources,

John later ministered there for many years and Mary the mother of Jesus died there.

Between Paul and John, Timothy was said to have been in charge of the churches in

the area.  Christ begins His messages to the churches by starting with the Church at

Ephesus, the church from which apparently the others had been founded.  (Acts 19:10)

(Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)      

 

 

2 “I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou

canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which

say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:”

Owing to the inaccurate use of a corrupt text, the Authorized

Version is here very faulty. The Revised Version is to be preferred

throughout. I know thy works. This introductory “I know” appears in all

seven letters. He whose eyes are “as a flame of fire” (ch. 1:14)

has perfect knowledge of His servants, and this knowledge is the basis of

the praise and blame. “Works,” a favorite word with John, and very

frequent in both Gospel and Apocalypse, is used in a wide sense, including

the whole of conduct (compare John 3:19-20; 5:36; 7:3,7; 8:39, 41, etc.;

I John 3:8, 12;  II John 1:11; III John 1:10). Thy toil and patience.

Explanatory of “thy works;” the Ephesians know how to toil and how to

suffer patiently. They have “learned to labor and to wait.” St. Ignatius

says that he must be trained “in patience and long suffering” by the

Ephesians (‘Ephes.,’ 3.). And that thou canst not bear evil men. Again

St. Ignatius supplies a commentary: “Now, Onesimus of his own accord

highly praiseth your orderly conduct in God, for that ye all live according

to truth, and that no heresy hath a home among you; nay, ye do not so

much as listen to any one, if he speak of aught else save concerning Jesus

Christ in truth” (‘Ephes.,’ 6.). The word for “evil” (κακός - kakos), though one

of the commonest in the Greek language, is rare in John; it occurs only

here and in ch. 16:2 (see note); John 18:23; III John 1:11.

Didst try them which call themselves apostles, and they are not. It is

incredible that this can mean Paul. Even allowing the prodigious

assumption that the “Jewish Christianity” of John was opposed to the

“Gentile Christianity” of Paul, what chance would an opponent of St.

Paul have had in a Church which Paul founded and fostered? And had

such opposition existed, could St. Polycarp, John’s own disciple, have

spoken of “the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul” (‘Philippians,’

3.)? This mention of false apostles is doubly interesting:

 

·         as a fulfillment of warnings given by Paul himself to the Ephesian

            Church (Acts 20:28-30)

·         as a strong incidental mark of the date of the book. In A.D. 68, when

            contemporaries of the apostles were abundant, the claim to be an apostle

            might with some show of reason be made; in A.D. 95 such a claim would

            be ridiculous. This Trench admits, and hence tells us that the meaning of

            “apostles” must not be pressed, “as though it implied a claim to have seen

            and been sent by the Lord Jesus,” But this is just what “apostle” does imply

            (Acts 1:21-22; I Corinthians 9:1).

 

The Ephesian Christians, forty years after their church was started by Paul, were still zealous in

“works and labor and patience”  Faith, love and hope, these three (I Corinthians 13:13) should

“abide” in a church, or it will eventually die, no matter how great its zeal.  It was good and

necessary, that the church had indeed been careful to reject those who falsely claimed to be

apostles or successors of the apostles.  Innumerable people have been led away from God

through the centuries by such false leaders.  There are no successors to the apostles, since

one prime requirement of the Apostleship was that he must be one who had been with Christ!

(I Corinthians 9:1-2)  (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)               

 

3 “And hast born, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast

labored, and hast not fainted.”  The text followed in the Authorized Version is here

very corrupt; we must read with the Revised Version, And thou hast patience

(as in v. 2), and didst bear for my Name’s sake, and hast not grown

weary. The last verb (κεκοπίακες – kekopiakes – you have toiled; labored ) is closely

akin to toil (κόπος – kopos - toil ) in v 2. The seeming contradiction between

“I know thy toil” and “thou hast not toiled” has caused confusion in the text.

Yet οὐ κεκοπίακεςou kekopiakes – not fainted - does not mean “thou hast not toiled,”

but “thou hast not wearied of toil.” It is all the more probable that this play of words

is intentional, because (βαστάζειν – bastazein - bear) is used in two different senses

in v. 2 and v. 3: “canst not tolerate evil men,” and “didst endure suffering” (compare

John 16:12). “So is patience set over the things of God that one can obey no precept,

fulfil no work well pleasing to the Lord, if estranged from it. The good of it

even they who live outside it honor with the name of highest virtue… .

Grand testimony this is to it, in that it incites even the vain schools of the

world unto praise and glory! Or is it rather an injury,’ ‘in that a thing

Divine is bandied about among worldly sciences (Tertullian, ‘De Pat.,’ 1.).

 

Again the Lord emphasizes the zeal and steadfastness of the Ephesian church, all done

in the name of Christ.  Such characteristics were typical of the churches of the firs century –

the Apostolic Age.  As a result, the gospel had spread all over the known world (Colossians

1:5-6, 24)  (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)  

 

4“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left

thy first love.”  The Authorized Version unwarrantably softens the censure by

inserting “somewhat;” the Greek means rather, “I have (this grave thing)

against thee.” In “hath aught against thee” (Matthew 5:23) and “have

aught against any” (Mark 11:25), the “aught” (τι – ti) is expressed in the

Greek; here nothing is expressed. “Thy first love” is expressed very

emphatically with the article repeated; “thy love, thy first one.” The

meaning of it is much disputed. It cannot mean “thy former gentleness

towards evil men and false apostles.” It may mean “thy love of the

brethren,” so much insisted upon in John’s First Epistle. More probably

it means “thy first love for me.” Christ is here speaking as the Bridegroom,

and addresses the Church of Ephesus as His bride (compare Jeremiah 2:2-13).

This thought would be familiar to the Ephesians from Paul’s teaching

(Ephesians 5:23-33). It shows strange ignorance of human

frailty and of history to argue that “a generation at least must have passed

away, and the thirty years from Nero to Domitian must have elapsed, ere

the change here noted could come to pass. Does this writer forget the

Epistle to the Galatians? In a very few years the Churches of Galatia had

left their first love. The frequent and rapid lapses of Israel into idolatry

show the same thing from the time when Aaron made the calf down to the

Captivity. This verse is certainly no obstacle to the theory that the

Apocalypse was written about A.D. 68.

 

This was typical of the churches of the late Apostolic period; their zeal and faithfulness

were still strong, but the warmth of their original love for one another, for the lost and

for the Lord, was beginning to cool.  But this sad testimony can be applied to multitudes

of churches in every age, and every church needs continually to search its heart and test

its love!  It was to the Ephesians that Paul wrote “Grace be with all them that love our

Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.”  (Ephesians 6:24)  A first love, or a chief love or best love,

is a sincere love.  Do we love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, or have we lost our

first love?  That is the great question.  (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record) 

 

(The first sermon I ever read by Charles Haddon Spurgeon was in the late 1960’s

and was from this text and was entitled:

 

                         DECLENSION FROM FIRST LOVE.

                                                NO. 217

            A SERMON DELIVERED ON SABBATH EVENING,

                                    SEPTEMBER 26, 1858,

                                 BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON,

            AT THE NEW PARK STREET CHAPEL, SOUTHWARK

 

            “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee,

            because thou hast left thy first love.” — Revelation 2:4. – CY – 2015)

 

5 “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and

do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will

remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”

The exhortation and threat are clear as trumpet notes:

“Remember, repent, and return, or I will return and remove thee.” A

modem heathen philosophy teaches us that in this world to be happy is to

forget. (Is not that much of the basis of the modern drug culture? – CY –

2015)  That is not the teaching of Christ. The past is both an

encouragement and a warning to us; therefore “remember.” Some have to

remember heights from which they have fallen; others, depths from which

they have been raised; others again, both. Cicero (‘Ad. Att.,’ 4:16) would

remember the one and forget the other. Non recorder unde ceciderim, sed

unde resurrexerim. The present imperative here shows that the remembering

is to continue; on the other hand, the repentance (aorist imperfect)

is a thing to be done immediately, ONCE FOR ALL!  “The first works” means

“the fruits of thy first love.” Christ will have works, not feelings. I come to

thee. There is no “quickly” in the true text; and the verb is present, not

future (compare John 14:18). The coming, of course, refers to a special

visitation, not to the second advent. The removing of the candlestick is not

the deposition of the bishop, but the dethroning of the Church, canceling

its claim to the kingdom, severing its union with Christ. Compare “The

kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and shall be given to a

nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43). The warning

would seem to have been heeded at first, judging from the account of

Ephesus in the Ignatian Epistles. But the Church has long since ceased to

exist. Ephesus itself is a heap of ruins. Except thou repent. This repetition

drives home the charge given above; repentance is the thing absolutely

necessary, and AT ONCE!  This shows that what Christ has against them

cannot be a mere “somewhat (Authorized Version in v. 4). It is nothing

less than this — that with all their discernment of evil, and zeal against it,

they lacked reality. Their light still burned, but in a dull, lifeless way; their

service had become mechanical.

 

Ephesus represents every church whose love for Christ and His Word and His  people

has cooled, and this Ephesian warning still applies!  (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)         

 

6 “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes,

which I also hate.”  They are again commended for their good points. But it is

possible to hate what Christ hates without loving what He loves. It is

possible to hate false doctrine and lawlessness, and yet be formal and dead

one’s self. Who the Nicolaitans were we cannot now determine with

certainty. The name Nicolaus may be intended as a Greek equivalent of

Balaam, but this is by no means certain. Irenaeus and Clement of

Alexandria write as if the sect of Nicolaitans existed in their day. A

common belief was that their founder was Nicolaus of Antioch, one of the

seven deacons. Irenaeus (1:26), followed by Hippolytus (‘Refut.,’ 7:24),

supports this view; Ignatius (‘Trall.,’ 9) and the Apostolic Constitutions

(6:8), are against it. The Nicolaitans may have claimed him as their

founder, or similarity of name may have caused confusion with a different

person. The doctrine of the Nicolaitans, and that of Balaam (v. 14), and

that of the woman Jezebel (v. 20), seem to have this much in common —

a contention that the freedom of the Christian placed him above the moral

Law. Neither idolatry nor sensuality could harm those who had been made

free by Christ. The moral enactments of the Law had been abrogated by the

gospel, no less than the ceremonial. The special mention of “the pollutions

of idols” and “fornication,” in the decrees of the Council of Jerusalem

(Acts 15:20, 29), seems to show that this pernicious doctrine was

already in existence in A.D. 50. In II Peter 2 and Jude 1:7-13 a similar

evil is denounced. It appears in other heretical sects, especially those of

Gnostic origin, e.g. Cerinthians, Cainites, Carpocratians. In this way we

may explain the statement of Eusebius (‘Hist. Eccl.,’ 3:29), that the

Nieelaitan heresy lasted only for a short time; i.e. its religious libertinism

did not die out, but passed over into other sects. Note that it is “the works

of the Nicolaitans,” not the men themselves, that Christ hates. He loves the

sinner, while he hates the sin. “It would have been well with the Church

had this always been remembered. 

 

Does it come as a surprise that Christ can hate and that He approves of hating upon the

part of His followers.  Strange paradox – coming from the One who said “Love your

enemies.”  But it is the deeds, not the doers, which were hated.  An object of hatred on

the part of the One who is Love must indeed be hateful, and it is vital that we know what

it is so that we also can hate it – these deeds of the Nicolaitanes!  (Compare David’s words

in Psalm 139:21-22 – CY - 2015)   But who were the Nicolaitanes at the time of John?

There is no reliable record of the cult.  Paul spoke of  “false apostles, deceitful workers,

transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ and no marvel, for Satan himself

is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also

be transformed into ministers of  righteousness; whose end shall be according to their

works.  (II Corinthians 11:13-15)  Christ also warned against false Christs and false

prophets (Matthew 7:15; 24:5,24)  John had warned “Beloved, believe not every

spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God.”  (I John 4:1)  John certainly must

have taught these Ephesians to do this in his ministry there, and they had indeed “tried

them which say they are apostles and had found them liars.”  (v. 2)  John had also

warned that “every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh

is not of God:  and this is that spirit of antichrist.”  (I John 4:3)  If there are any deeds

that the Lord Jesus Christ must hate, it must be the attempts of men to claim divine

authority or to deny His own nature and authority.  Peter describes them  described them

as “false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies (choices –

CY – 2015) even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves

swift destruction.”  (II Peter 2:1 – see all 22 verses – CY – 2015)  “For many deceivers

are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.  This

is a deceiver and an antichrist….if there come in any such unto you…..receive him not

into your house, neither bid him God speed.”  (II John 1:7,10)  (Basically, I see the

same false teaching and denial of Jesus Christ and His authority in political groups

today, with heavy infiltration of the Democratic, the Progressive and Rainbow

Coalitions, as well as the moderate wing of the Republican party.  This

says to me that the Nicolaitanes, in one form or other has been in each generation

down through the ages, just more numerous and resourceful in their involvement

in anti-God activities, who are exporting “spiritual wickedness in high places” –

Ephesians 6:12, which just happens to be occurring  in a technological savvy world,

“upon whom the ends of the world are come!”  - I Corinthians 10:13 – CY – 2015)

False prophets, false apostles, pseudo-miracles, people conquerors (the name

Νικολαϊτῶν – Nikolaiton -  Nicolaitanes  - comes from two Greek words:

νικἀω – nikao – overcome and λαός laospeople and means those who

conquer the people.  Christ hates the deeds of such as these, and so should we.

We should not hate the mon or women who practice such things, but we must hate and

repudiate their deeds and doctrines. Nικἀω  is used in several places in chapters 2 and 3

and refer to those who overcome in the Christian life.  (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)    

 

7 “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the

churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of

life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”

He that hath an ear, let him hear. These solemn conclusions

of these epistles remind us of the conclusion of many of Christ’s parables

(Matthew 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; 7:16; Luke 8:8; 14:35;

not in John’s Gospel, in which there are no parables). It is very

noteworthy that, although the epistle is addressed in each case to a Church

in the person of its angel, yet the concluding exhortation and promise are

always addressed to the individual Christian. Each must hear for himself.

His Church may perish, yet, if he overcomes, he shall live. His Church may

be crowned with eternal life, yet, if he is overcome, he will lose the reward.

What the Spirit saith to the Churches; not “what he saith to this

Church.” The contents of each epistle are for all; for each individual

Christian and for the Church at large, as well as for the particular Church

addressed in the epistle. The epistle in each case is not from John, who is

only the instrument, but from the Son of God and from the Spirit of God

(ch. 1:4). In the first three epistles the exhortation to hearken

precedes the promise to the victor; in the four last it follows the promise,

and closes the epistle. Is this change of arrangement accidental or

deliberate? There should be a full stop at “Churches.” In the Authorized

Version it looks as if “what the Spirit saith” were confined to the promise

in the second half of the verse. This error was avoided by Tyndale and

Cranmer. It comes from the Genevan and the Rhemish Versions. The verb

to “overcome” or “conquer’’ (νικᾷν – nikan) is strongly characteristic of John.

It occurs seven times in the Gospel and the First Epistle, and sixteen times

in the Revelation; elsewhere only in Luke 11:22; Romans 3:4 (quotation from

Psalm 51:6) and Romans 12:21; compare especially ch.21:7, where,

as in these epistles, it is not stated what is to be overcome. We might

render, “to the victor,” or “to the conqueror.” The expression, “tree of

life,” of course comes from Genesis; we have it again in ch. 22:2, 14.

It means the tree which gives life. So also “the water of life” (ch.21:6) and

“the bread of life” (John 6:35). In all these cases “life” is ζώη - zoae, the vital

principle which man shares with God, not βίος – bios - the life which he

shares with his fellow men. The latter word occurs less than a dozen times

in the New Testament; the former, which sums up the New Testament, occurs

more than a hundred times. The Paradise of God. The word “Paradise” occurs

only thrice in the New Testament (Luke 23:43; II Corinthians 12:4). It is of

Persian origin, and signified a park or pleasure ground. In the New Testament

it seems to mean the resting place of departed saints. There is strong evidence

(B, versions, Cyprian, Origen) in favour of reading, “the Paradise of my God”

(see notes on ch.3:2, 12). In considering this passage, Genesis 3:22 should be

carefully compared with John 6:51. “For him who conquers” the curse which

barred Adam from the tree of life will be revoked by JESUS CHRIST!

 

It is a divine principle that only those who desire to do God’s will can know God’s will

(John 7:17)  So, only those who have spiritual ears can hear the Spirit’s word.  Note

that Christ and the Holy Spirit are so much one that what one says, the other says.

Also note that the message to the church at Ephesus was also the message to all the

churches.   Here, the emphasis is on each person overcoming all things in Christ!

Overcoming in general!  This is the first of these seven gracious promises to the

“overcomer” and looks back to the primeval creation, with the life-giving tree

in the midst of the garden (Genesis 2:8-9; 3:22, 24).  But it also looks forward to the

new creation, where the tree of life will again be planted – not one tree only, but in

the midst of the streets and along the banks of the river of water of life in the New

Jersualem.  Adam was barred from the tree of life but the overcomer will have

free access to it ETERNALLY!       

 

 

            The Epistle to the Church at Smyrna (vs. 8-11)

 

8 “And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things

saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;”

The metropolitan, setting out from Ephesus to visit the

Churches of Asia, would naturally go first to Smyrna. It ranked as one of

the most beautiful cities in Asia; but its magnificence must at times have

seemed poor compensation for the neglect of the architect, who, in

planning the city for Antigonus and Lysimachus, omitted the drains. In time

of floods the streets became open sewers. For its fidelity to Rome against

Mithridates, it received exceptional privileges, but suffered heavily when

Dolabella laid siege to Trebonius, one of Caesar’s assassins, who had taken

refuge there. When eleven cities of Asia competed for the honor of

erecting a temple to Tiberius, the senate decided in favor of Smyrna. This

temple was no doubt standing in John’s time. But just as Artemis was

the great goddess of the Ephesians, so Dionysus was the great god of

Smyrna. Dionysus represented the mysteriously productive and intoxicating

powers of nature — powers which are exhibited most abundantly in the

vine, which in the neighborhood of Smyrna is said to have borne fruit

twice in a year. He was regarded as the dispenser of joy and fertility, the

disperser of sorrow and care. Hence the myth of his death and resurrection,

which was frequently rehearsed and acted at Smyrna — a fact which gives

special point to the greeting in this epistle — “From him who became dead,

and lived.” The priests who presided at this celebration were presented

with a crown; to which there may be allusion in the promise, “I will give

thee the crown of life.” Not long after the martyrdom of its first bishop, St.

Polycarp, Smyrna was destroyed by an earthquake, in A.D. 178, and was

rebuilt by Marcus Aurelius. Earthquakes, fires, and pestilences have always

been common there. But in spite of such calamities, it continues to flourish.

From the large proportion of Christians there, it is known among

Mohammedans as “the infidel city.” Christianity seems never to have been

extinguished in Smyrna, which shares, with Philadelphia, the honor of

receiving unmixed praise in these epistles. Down from the apostolic times

a Church has existed here, and she has repeated, with more or less boldness

and distinctness, the testimony of her martyr bishop, ‘I am a Christian.’

The stadium in which he suffered may still be seen there.

We have already (see on ch.1:20) decided that “the angel” of

each Church is probably not its bishop. But, even if this were the meaning,

this epistle could not be addressed to St. Polycarp, if he was martyred A.D.

155, in the eighty-sixth year after his conversion, and the Apocalypse was

written in A.D. 68. The First and the Last, who became (ἐγένετο – egeneto –

became) dead, and lived (see notes on Revelation 1:17-18). As in the epistle to

Ephesus, the words of the address are taken from the titles of the Christ

given in the opening. It is no mythical deity, with his mock death and

resurrection, but the absolutely Living One, who indeed died, and is indeed

alive forevermore, that sends this message to the suffering Church of

Smyrna. In the epistle to the Church in Thyatira we have what seems to be

an allusion to the worship of Apollo, similar to that to the worship of

Dionysus here.

 

In recent decades, there has been much theological disputation as to whether or not the

Church will go through the tribulation.  The fact is that every real church must endure

some degree of tribulation.  “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom

of God.”  (Acts 14:22)  “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

(II Timothy 3:12)   The church at Smyrna illustrates a suffering church and its needs.

No greater comfort could be addressed to a persecuted church than to be reminded that

the Lord was still in their midst and that He Himself, as the Creator and Heir of all things,

had already conquered death!  In Him, they were certain to gain the ultimate victory.

(Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

9 “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)

and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are

not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” I know thy tribulation, and thy poverty.

“Thy works” has been inserted here and in v. 13 in order to make the opening of all

seven epistles alike. The uncials A, C, P, and the Vulgate, Coptic, and AEthiopic

Versions omit the words in each place. The Sinaiticus inserts them here and

omits them in v. 13, where they are plainly awkward in construction.

Like all wealthy cities, Smyrna showed the extremes of wealth and poverty

side by side. It would be among the poor that Christians would in the first

instance be found, and their Christianity would lead to their spoliation; in

this much of their “tribulation” would consist. But thou art rich (compare

the close parallel, II Corinthians 6:10; 8:2; Matthew 6:20). And the

blasphemy from them which say they are Jews, and they are not. We

have here strong evidence of the early date of the Apocalypse. Throughout

this book “Jew” is an honorable name for the worshippers of the Christ;

“Gentiles,” a name of reproach for those who oppose the Christ

(ch. 2:9; 3:9; 11:2,18; 12:5; 16:19; 18:3, 23; 19:15, etc.).

These persecutors of the Church of Smyrna are Jews in name, but in reality

are rather Gentiles — opponents, and not worshippers of the Messiah. The

view taken in the Fourth Gospel is utterly different. There “the Jews” are

almost invariably the opponents of Christ; the word occurs about seventy

times, and nearly always with this shade of meaning. Assume that the

Gospel was written a quarter of a century later than the Apocalypse, and

there is nothing strange in this. Long experience of Jewish malignity in

opposing the gospel has changed the apostle’s views respecting his

countrymen. He has become fully convinced of the inveterate and

widespread character of THE NATIONAL APOSTASY!   To him “the Jews”

have become synonymous with the enemies of the cross of Christ. Assume that

the Apocalypse was written about the same time as the Gospel, and how

shall we account for this utter difference of view in the two books? Assume

that the Gospel was written long before the Apocalypse, and how shall we

explain the fact that experience of Jewish hostility has turned the apostle’s

abhorrence of “the Jews” into such admiration that to him a Jew has

become synonymous with a believer in Jesus Christ? It is remarkable that,

in the ‘Martyrdom of St. Polycarp,’ the Jews are said to have been present

in great numbers, and to have been foremost in collecting wood with which to

burn him alive. A synagogue of Satan (compare ch.3:9; John 8:44). This is in

marked contrast to “the synagogue of the Lord” (Numbers 16:3; 20:4; 31:16).

With the exception of James 2:2, συναγωγή - sunagogae – synagogue -

is, in the New Testament, always used of Jewish assemblies, never of Christian.

 

The Smyrna Christians were not only persecuted but impoverished as a result of their stand

for Christ.  Nevertheless they were wealthy because they were laying up treasures in heaven. 

(Matthew 6:20)   (I heard today, this being July 20, 2015, that in the New

York Post yesterday, that there was an article about the present presidential administration

in the United States, is wanting to get a data base of information on all citizens in an effort

to control poverty.  Since Jesus said  “For the poor ye always have with you” - Matthew 26:11;

Mark 17:7; John 12:8 – the poor seem to have an integral part in creation.  To me this is a

very serious attempt to breach the natural order along the lines of young children, in their

attempt to break open the shell, to help the pecking chick, in reality doom them. – CY –

2015)  There was a very large community of Jews in Smyrna with intentions of undermining

Christianity by trying to impose a monstrous system of works salvation with almost a

complete disappearance of the doctrines of salvation by grace and justification by faith.

In the embryonic stage of development in churches like Smyrna, there was heavy Jewish

pressure to compromise.  (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

10 “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil

shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall

have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give

thee a crown of life.”  Fear not the things which thou art about to suffer. We

must bring out the difference between (μέλλεις – mulleis – ye are being about to),

in the first two clauses, and the simple future (ἔξετε – exete – ye shall be having)

in the third; compare “I will show him how many things he must suffer for my

Name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). The devil, who inspires the “synagogue of Satan,” is to

be allowed to afflict them, as he afflicted Job. (For “behold,” see note on v. 22.)

The expression, (ἐξ ὑμῶν – ex humon - some of you), is an interesting link of style

between this book and the Fourth Gospel and the Second Epistle; we have

a similar construction in John 1:24; 7:40; 16:17; II John 1:4. (For a

warning of like import, but to the persecutors, not the persecuted, compare

Matthew 23:34.) That ye may be tried. The common meaning of

πειράζεινpeirazein -  as distinct from δοκιμάζεινdokimazein -  is here

conspicuous; it is - to try - with the sinister intent of causing to fail. But what is

temptation on the devil’s side is probation on God’s side (compare I Peter 4:12-14).

Ten days. It is unwise to make anything either mystical or rigidly literal out of

the number ten, which here is probably a round number. The question is

whether the round number denotes a small (Genesis 24:55; Numbers 11:19) or a

large number (Numbers 14:22; I Samuel 1:8; Job 19:3). The former seems probable.

It is not impossible that some analogy between their case and that of the “four children”

(Daniel 1:12, 15) is suggested by the ten days’ probation. Be thou faithful unto

death; literally, become thou faithful; show thyself to be such (γίνου πιστός

ginou pistos – be you faithful). Note how completely the angel of the Church is

identified with the Church. In this one verse we have complete mixture of the two

modes of address: Thou art about to suffer… some of youye shall have… I

will give thee.” “Unto death” does not merely mean “to thy life’s end,” but

“even if fidelity involves death;” compare “becoming obedient even unto

death, yea, the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). The crown of life.

The Authorized Version, by ignoring the article (“a crown of life”), sadly

detracts from the meaning. It is the well-known crown, the crown which is

truly such, in contrast to earthly crowns, and perhaps with a special

reference to the crowns given at Smyrna to the priests of Dionysus at the

expiration of their year of office. The word στεφανηφόρος – stephanaephoros –

has been found in inscriptions at Smyrna in this connection (compare James 1:12,

where the same phrase occurs; also I Corinthians 9:25; I Peter 5:4).

Excepting ch.12:3; 13:1; 19:12 (where we have διάδημα – diadaema – diadem),

στέφανος – stephanos – crown -  is the regular word for “crown” in the New

Testament. “Of life” is the genitive of apposition; the life is the crown, just as in

“the Word of life” (I John 1:1) the life is the Word. It is impossible to determine

whether John has in his mind the crown of a king, of a victorious

athlete, or of a triumphant warrior. The XII. Tables provided that he who

had won a crown might have it placed on his head when his dead body was

carried in the funeral procession. John, both at Rome and in the East,

would have seen this ceremony, possibly in the case of a crowned priest at

Smyrna. “The crown of life” would be the exact opposite of that. The

narrative of the martyrdom of St. Polycarp draws to a close with these

words: “Having by his patience vanquished the unjust ruler, and having

thus received the crown of immortality,etc. The writer seems to have had

this verse in his mind.

 

Although suffering, including imprisonment and even martyrdom, would be the lot of many

in Smyrna, as well as in countless other churches through the centuries, the gracious word

form Christ is “Fear not!”  Not even death can separate us from the love of God in Christ

(Romans 8:38-39) and the martyr’s promised “crown of life” (see also James 1:12) will

far overbalance the testing he is called to endure in this life.  The intent of the passage

is obviously to prepare the church for intense suffering and yet to assure them it would

be very brief and ephemeral in contrast to the endless ages of glory beyond it.  “For

our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding

and eternal weight of glory.”  (II Corinthians 4:17)  Christ assures Christians in Smyrna

and all other suffering churches that a brief “ten days” of testing will, if accepted with a

resolve to be “faithful unto death,” yield a crown of life and glory that will be many times

greater  when Jesus comes!  Furthermore, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the

church and a patient endurance of unjust persecution has always been one of the

church’s most potent tools of evangelism.  (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

11 “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the

churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”

He that hath an ear (see on v. 7). Shall not be hurt of the second death; more

literally, shall in no wise be injured at the hands of the second death. The negative

is the strongest form; the injury seems to be of the nature of a wrong, and the second

death is regarded as the source of the wrong (οὐ μὴ ἀδικηθῇ ἐκ – ou mae adikaethae

ek – not ber hurt of). In ch. 20:6 “the second death” is almost personified, as here:

“Over these the second death has no authority.” The phrase is peculiar to this book

(see ibid. v.14 and ch.21:8, where it is defined to be “the lake of fire”). The

corresponding phrase, “the first death,” does not occur. The one is the death of

the body, to which the faithful Smyrnaeans must submit; the other is the death of

the soul, from which the crown of life secures them: though they die, yet shall

they live, and shall in no wise die, forever (John 11:25-26). This second death,

or death of the soul, IS ABSOLUTE EXCLUSION FROM GOD, WHO IS

THE SOURCE OF ETERNAL LIFE!  The expression, “the second death,”

seems to be borrowed from Jewish theological phraseology. (On the repetition

of the article, “the death, the second (death),” see note on v. 13.)

 

What Christ says “unto the angel of the church” is the same as “what the Spirit saith

unto the churches.”  The glorified Lord gives the message, John writes the message,

the angel guards and assures the arrival of the message, the the Spirit speaks the

message to listening ears and open hearts.  And the wonderful promise to those who

overcome fear and, in their work for Christ, remain steadfast unto death is that death in

this world is entrance to life in a better world where they will never face a second death.

Those who die without Christ, however, will also die again (ch. 20:12-14)

(Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

(The Biblical Formula is:

·         Born once, die twice.

·         Born twice, die once!

Jesus said, “Ye must be born again!”  - John 3:7 – CY – 2015)

 

 

            The Epistle to the Church at Pergamum (vs. 12-17)

 

12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things

saith He which hath the sharp sword with two edges;”

Pergamum is the usual form both in Greek and Latin writers;

“Pergamus” is very rare. And if ΠέργαμοςPergamos – Pergamos – were right

here, why “Pergamos” any more than “Ephesos”? The city lies north of Smyrna, in

Mysia Major, or the right bank of the Caicus. Pergamum is first mentioned

by Xenophon, and becomes important and magnificent under Attalus, the

friend of the Romans (B.C. 241-197), and his son Eumenes (B.C. 196-

159). Its library was second only to that of Alexandria; but Mark Antony

took it to Egypt and gave it to Cleopatra. Parchment gets its name from

Pergamum, and Galen the physician was born there. Pliny writes of “longe

clarissimum Asiae Pergamum” — a description which probably has

reference to its buildings. It still exists under the slightly changed name of

Bergamah, or Bergma; and its ruins still tell of the magnificent public

edifices which have caused it to be described as a “city of temples,” and

again as “a sort of union of a pagan cathedral city, a university town, and a

royal residence.” Its idolatrous rites were frequent and various, and the

contamination which they spread is manifest from this epistle. The sharp

two-edged sword (see notes on ch.1:16 and here, v.13). How much

this weapon is needed is shown by the evils protested against.

 

Pergamos was sixty miles north of Smyrna.  It was a great religious center, with the

cult of the emperor as well as the Greek pagan mysteries, flourished there.  The great

altar of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was located here, the largest

altar in the world.  It was also an intellectual center, with the deity of medicine,

Aesculapius (whence our word “scalpel”) being worshipped, commonly under the

sign of a coiled snake on a pole.  (Note Numbers 21:8-9)  (I recommend Spurgeon’s

1500 sermon on this passage – see # 6 – this web site – CY – 2015)  The twin heresies of

Nicolaitanism and Balaamism had made sharp inroads in the Pergamos church, so Christ

emphasized  He must come to them cutting these out, as it were, with the double-edged

sword proceeding from His mouth.  (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

13 “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s

seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my

faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr,

who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.” I know where thou dwellest.

The words, “thy works and,” are certainly an insertion here — both external and

internal evidence are against them. Even where Satan’s throne is. We must translate

θρόνος  - thronos - throne here, as in ch. 1:4; 3:21; 4:2-3,5, 6, 9-10, etc.

Throughout the Apocalypse heaven and hell are set over against one

another; and as God has His throne, so also has Satan. The Authorized

Version inconsistently alternates between “seat” (ch.11:16; 13:2; 16:10; Luke 1:52)

and “throne,” even in the same verse (ch.4:4). “The throne of Satan” has perplexed

commentators. It probably refers to the infamous idolatry practiced at Pergamum,

which had a cluster of temples to Zeus, Apollo, Athene, Dionysus, Aphrodite, and

AEsculapius. These all lay together in a beautiful grove called the

Nicephorium, the pride of Pergamum, as the temple of Artemis was the

pride of Ephesus. Some have thought that the mention of Satan points to

the serpent, which is so prominent in the cultus of Aesculapius. But the

context leads us rather to understand the abominations connected with the

worship of Dionysus and Aphrodite. Others, again, think that “the throne

of Satan” indicates the persecuting judgments pronounced against

Christians; for Pergamum was a great judicial center. We must be content

to leave the question open. Thou holdest fast my Name. We have the

same expression (κρατεῖς – krateis -  you are holding - with the accusative)

three times in this epistle and again in v. 25 and ch. 3:11. Just as in the literal sense

κρατεῖς, with the accusative means “to seize” a man, i.e. his whole person

(Matthew 14:3; 18:29; ch.7:1; 20:2), as distinct from laying hold of a part

(Matthew 9:25; Mark 5:41), so in the figurative sense κρατεῖς with the accusative

is “to hold fast” the whole of (Mark 7:3-4, 8; II Thessalonians 2:15), as distinct

from keeping a share in a possession common to many (Hebrews 4:14; 6:18). On the

emphatic repetition obtained by denying the opposite, “holdest fast and didst not

deny,” see notes on ch. 3:8. The Greek text in what follows is a good deal confused,

and cannot be determined with certainty; but the general sense is clear. In any case,

“my witness, my faithful one” (Revised Version), is more accurate than “my faithful

martyr” (Authorized Version). The reduplication of the article is frequent in John’s

writings, but in some cases it produces clumsiness to reproduce it in English:

ὁ μάρτυς ὁ πιστός – ho martus ho pistos – the faithful witness - occurs here of Antipas,

and in ch. 1:5 of Christ; compare ἡ ἀγάπη ἡ πρώτη – hae agapa hae protae – the

first love - (v.:4), ὁ θάνατος ὁ δεύτερος – ho thanatos ho deuteros – the

second death - (v. 11; ch.20:14; 21:8), ἡ ῤομφαία ἡ δίστομος – hae romphaia

hae distomos – two edged sword - (v.12), τὸ μάννα τὸ κεκρυμμένον – to manna

to kekrummenon – the hidden manna - (v.17), ὁ δεσπότης ὁ ἅγιος – ho despotaes

ho hagios – the Owner, the holy -  (Revelation 6:10), with John 4:9, 11; 5:30;

6:38, 42, 44, 50-51, 58; 6:38; 7:38; 8:16; 12:26; 14:15, 27; 15:9, 11;

17:13, 24; 18:36; I John 2:7; II John 1:13. Of Antipas nothing is known.

The name is a shortened form of Antipater, as Nicomas of Nicomedes,

Artemas of Artemidorus, Hermes of Hermodorus, Zenas of Zenodorus,

Menas of Menodorus, Lucas of Lucanus, Domas of Demetrius; and

therefore is not derived from ἀντί - anti - and πᾶς pas.  Much mystical trifling

has been expended over the name Antipas, which no doubt is the actual name

of a once well-known sufferer for the truth. Probably of the Pergamene

confessors, Antipas was the only one who was called upon to suffer death.

The silence of Church history respecting a martyr thus honored in

Scripture is strange. Attalus, one of the chief martyrs of Lyons, was of

Pergamum (Eusebius, ‘Hist. Eccl.,’ V. 1:17; comp. IV. 15:48). The

repetition of “where Satan dwelleth” emphasizes this point, like the

repetition of “repent” in v. 5. It rather confirms the view that by

“Satan’s throne” is meant the judgment throne where the martyrs were

condemned.

 

The Lord Jesus commends the Pergamites because they had maintained the true faith

and preached it in the name of the true Christ under extremely trying circumstance

and against much temptation to compromise.  One member had been a witness faithful

even to death (the words “witness” and “martyr” are the same).  The man Antipas is

not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture.  Although he was undoubtedly a real martyr at

Pergamos, the fact that his name can mean “Against All” may suggest he also represents any

believer who has been willing to stand for the true faith in the name of Christ against all

opposition, even if it costs his life.  Pergamos had become probably the greatest center of

pagan religion in the world at that time.  In fact, Alexander Hislop, in his famous book

Two Babylons, gave much documentation to show that Pergamos had inherited the

religious mantle of ancient Babylon when Babylon fell  in the days of Belshazzar.

The priests, who had kept the secrets of the ancient mystery religions centered at Babylon

ever since the days of Nimrod, were forced to migrate at that time, transferring what

amounted to the headquarters of Satan’s religious system away from Babylon north

and west to Pergamos where it endured for several centuries in that great center of

evolutionary pantheistic paganism.  Still later, it moved to Rome.  If Hislop’s analysis

is correct, “Satan’s throne” becomes a very literal description of the invisible principalities

and powers centered at Pergamos.  (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

14 “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them

that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a

stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed

unto idols, and to commit fornication.” But I have a few things against thee.

They are few in comparison with the things commended; but they are very

serious; and there must be a sad want of care in the Church at Pergamum to allow

such things. These corrupt teachers are alluded to in II Peter 2:15 and

Jude 1:11. Like Balaam, they debased spiritual gifts to the vilest purposes, and

thus became a σκάνδαλον skandalon -  a snare or stumbling block, to

others. Like the Nicolaitans, they held that the freedom of the gospel

placed them above the moral Law, and conferred license to commit the

foulest sins. The liberty to eat meats which might have been offered to

idols was made a plea for liberty to take part in idolatrous rites ( I Corinthians 8:10;

Justin Martyr, ‘Trypho,’ 35.; Irenaeus, I. 6:3), and for introducing heathen orgies

into Christian ceremonies. The doctrine of these antinomian teachers was “the

doctrine of Balaam,” because, like him (Numbers 31:16; Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 4:6. 6;

Philo, ‘Vita Mosis,’ 1. p. 647), they prostituted their influence to the seducing of

God’s people into idolatry and impurity. The similarity of this doctrine with that of

the Nicolaitans is obvious; but that Nicolaus (which is equivalent to

“conquering the people”) is intended as a translation of Balaam (which is

possibly equivalent to “lord of the people”) is mere conjecture. That there

were two sects side by side at Pergamum is the natural meaning of this

passage; and though their doctrines were alike in being autinomian in

principle and licentious in result, yet there is no need to identify them.

Among countless small improvements made by the Revisers, note that the

remarkable word εἰδωλόθυτα – eidolothuta – idol sacrifices -  which in the

Authorized Version is rendered in six different ways, is by them rendered

consistently (Acts 15:29; 21:25; I Corinthians 8:4, 10; 10:19; here and v.20).

 

The Pergamites had not kept out the false teachers, as had the churches at Ephesus and

Smyrna.  Even though they had not yet embraced their teachings, they had allowed them

in the church, and the leaven was beginning to work.  The meaning of Balaam (Hebrew

meaning “not of the people”) is similar to that of the Nicolaitanes (Greek meaning

“conquering the people”)  The doctrine of Balaam (who, like the Nicolaitanes, had also

been of a false prophet) was to gain control over God’s people by seducing them to

compromise with the world, especially in sexual sins (Numbers 31:15-16; II Peter 2:15;

Jude 1:11), and in going along with those who worshiped false gods.  This spirit of

compromise has surely become one of the greatest evils in the Christian church ever

since the days of the church of Pergamos.   (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

15 “So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes,

which thing I hate.”  So hast thou also some that hold. As in vs. 13-14

“hold” is κρατοῦντας – kratountas – one’s holding - with the accusative

(see notes on v. 13). What does “also” mean? Probably, “As Israel had Balak

to seduce them, and Balak had Balaam, so hast thou,” etc.). Others take it,

“As the Church at Ephesus has Nicolaitans, so hast thou.” The reading of the

Authorized Version, “which thing I hate,” must certainly yield to that of the

Revised Version, “in like manner,” which is supported by all the best manuscripts

and versions. In the Greek there is much similarity between the two readings,

µισέω - ho miseo – which I am hating and ὁμοίως homoios -  in like manner;

similar; like -  refers to the similarity between those who hold the doctrine of the

Nicolaitans, and those who hold the doctrine of Balaam. It confirms the view that

two sects are meant.

 

The church at Ephesus had encountered the Nicolaitanes, but had not countenanced them (see

v. 6).  The difference here is twofold:  (1) the Pergamites were allowing the Nicolaitanes to be

members of their church and to begin  to propagandize their heresies; (2) the doctrine of the

Nicolaitanes was a problem at Pergamos, rather than only their “deeds” as at Ephesus.

Christ makes it plain that He hates both their deeds and their teaching.

(Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

16 “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against

them with the sword of my mouth.”  See on v. 5). Some take “in like manner”

with this verse: “In like manner (as Ephesus) repent therefore;” but this is not

probable. Repent of having allowed some members to follow the examples of

Balaam and of the Nicolaitanes. With the sword of my mouth (compare ch.1:16

and v.12, here). It is possible that there is here another allusion to Balaam. It

was with a drawn sword that the angel of the Lord withstood him

(Numbers 22:23), and with the sword that he was slain (ibid. ch. 31:8; Joshua

13:22). Those who follow Balaam in his sin shall follow him in his punishment;

and the Church which allows such things will have to suffer along with those

who commit them (compare II Thessalonians 2:8).

 

For the sin of harboring and listening to Balaamites and Nicolaitance in their assembly,

Christ must call the church at Pergamos to repentance.  Their minds must be changed

(which is the meaning of “repent”) from an attitude of compromise to one of

insistence on doctrinal and moral purity.  Otherwise they would face the fearful

prospect of judgment by the same verbal sword which will one day smite the nations!

(ch. 19:15)  (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

17 “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the

churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden

manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new

name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.”

 He that hath an ear (see notes on v. 7). To him that

overcometh. Again it is made clear that the individual can free himself

from the corruption and condemnation of his Church. He may live in the

very abode of Satan, and within hearing of damnable doctrines; yet if he

overcomes the wiles of Satan, and listens to the Spirit rather than to the

seducers, he shall eat of the hidden manna which restores the spirit that

the flesh pots of Egypt have weakened. He shall have the white stone of

absolution, the true spiritual emancipation, which the Balaamite and

Nicolaitan emancipation has counterfeited.   “The manna,

the hidden manna” (see notes on v. 13), is differently explained: by the

repetition of the article, the epithet “hidden” is made very distinct. There is

probably some allusion to the manna stored up in the ark in the holy of

holies (Exodus 16:33), and also to the true Bread from heaven, whose

presence is now hidden from us; or the reference may be to the loss of the

ark, with its contents, when Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem (II Esdras

10:22). There was a tradition that Jeremiah had hidden the manna, and that

it would be brought to light again in the Messianic kingdom. A share in

those things which eye saw not, and ear heard not, and to the heart of man

never occurred (I Corinthians 2:9), will be granted to the conqueror —

a foretaste of them here, and a full participation hereafter (compare ch. 22:4 and

I John 3:2). “To eat” (φαγεῖν – phagein – to be eating) is an insertion

into the true text borrowed from v. 7. I will give him a white stone,

and upon the stone (ἐπὶ τὴν ψῆφον – epi taen psaephon – on the smooth pebble)

a new name written. “White” and “new” are keywords in the Apocalypse; and

it is natural that they should be so. White is “the livery of heaven,” where white

robes, white clouds, white horses, and white thrones abound (1:14; 3:4- 5, 18;

4:4; 6:2, 11; 7:9, 13; 14:14; 19:11, [there is nothing like this in the United States

or world today in leadership – CY - 2015]14; 20:11). And “new” is almost as frequent

as “white” in the book which tells of a new heaven and a new earth, in which is the

new Jerusalem; where the inhabitants have a new name, and sing a new song, and

where all things are made new (ch.3:12; 5:9; 14:3; 21:1, 2, 5). But in spite of the

familiarity and appropriateness of the two epithets, “white” and “new,” a

sure interpretation of the white stone with the new name upon it cannot be

found  As already shown, there may be references to the rites of

Dionysus, to the games, and to the crown placed on the corpse of a victor.

Here there may be an allusion to the white pebble of acquittal used in

courts of justice, or to the lot used in elections; and the word ψῆφος – psaephos -

pebble - favours these views. Or again, the reference may be to the tossers, or

ticket, which the victor in the games received to admit him to the tables

where he was fed at the public expense. Among Jewish symbols a reference

to the “stone with seven eyes” (Zechariah 3:9) seems to be quite out of

place. Nevertheless, Trench’s explanation of the “white stone” as an

allusion to the Urim and Thummim, which the high priest wore behind the

square breastplate of judgment has much that is very attractive. This

precious thing may well have been a diamond, for there was no diamond

among the twelve stones of the breastplate. On each of these stones was

written the name of a tribe; but what was written on the Urim none but the

high priest knew. The usual supposition is that it was the sacred

Tetragrammaton — the ineffable name of God. All this seems to fit in

singularly well with the present passage. But if this explanation is to hold,

“he that receiveth it” must mean he that receiveth the white stone, rather

than he that receiveth the new name. The “new name” is not a fresh name

for himself (Isaiah 62:2; 65:15), but a fresh revelation of God’s Name

and nature, which only those who have received it can comprehend (compare

ch.14:1; 19:12). A variety of other explanations will be found

in the ‘Speaker’s Commentary,’ Smith’s ‘Dictionary of the Bible,’ art.

“Stones,” in Alford, and elsewhere. Whatever the allusion maybe, the

general sense is clear. He that overcometh shall be admitted to the heavenly

holy of holies, and to a glory and knowledge incomprehensible to those

who have not experienced it (I Corinthians 2:9). He shall be made a

priest unto God.

 

This promise to those who overcome, particularly those who are unwaveringly faithful to

God’s truth in an environment of religious compromise, as at Pergamos, is thus of assured access to

God’s presence and faithful provision of all needs.  The most precious promise, however, is that

the Lord will give each such faithful one a new name chosen by Himself, a name of special

communication and fellowship known only to the Giver and receiver, a name reflecting our

service for Him in this world and the world to come.  The names we bear now were chosen

by our parents, and may or may not be appropriate.  In the Scriptures, names were chosen

(especially new names – Abraham, Israel, etc.) to accord with the character and calling of

the one so named.  When we all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, those who are

overcomers will have accumulated to their heavenly accounts “gold, silver, precious

stones(I Corinthians 3:12), and the Lord will “make up His jewels” in that day for

them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name.”  (Malachi 3:16-17)

Then that new name, inscribed in a beautiful pure white gem, will be worn and borne

by us in His Name, for ever!  (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

 

 

            The Epistle to the Church at Thyatira (vs. 18-29)

 

The circuit now turns southwards. From Ephesus to Smyrna, and from Smyrna to

Pergamum, was movement almost due north. Thyatira is on the Lycus,

close to the Roman road between Pergamum and Sardis. It was refounded

and named Thyatira by Seleucus Nicator, after the conquest of Persia by

Alexander. It was strongly Macedonian in population; and it is worth

noting that it is in Philippi, a city of Macedonia, that Lydia of Thyatira is

found (Acts 16:14). An inscription in Greek and Latin shows that

Vespasian restored the roads thereabouts. Three other inscriptions mention

the dyers (οἱ βαφεῖς – hoi bapheis), for which Thyatira and the neighborhood (‘Iliad,’

4:141) were so famous, to which guild Lydia belonged (Acts 16:14).

There is no allusion to the trade here; and modern authorities differ as to

whether it survives or not at the present day. But the statement that “large

quantities of scarlet cloth are sent weekly to Smyrna” (Macdonald’s ‘Life

and Writings of St. John,’ p. 187) seems to be decisive. Apollo, the sun

god, was the chief deity at Thyatira, where he was worshipped under the

Macedonian name of Tyrimnas. There is, perhaps, a reference by contrast

to him in the epistle, in the opening description of the Son of God, and in

the morning star” to be given to “him that overcometh.” A similar allusion

to the worship of Dionysus was traced in the epistle to Smyrna. The

modern name of the town is Ak-Hissar, “the white castle,” so called from

the rocky hill overhanging it, on which a fortress formerly stood. Of the

nine thousand inhabitants, about three thousand are Christians, who have

the trade of the place in their hands. The ancient Church of St. John the

Divine has been turned into a mosque.

 

This fourth and therefore central epistle is the longest of the seven. In some

respects it is the most solemn of all. Here only is the majestic title, “the Son

of God,” introduced. In the introductory vision the expression used is “Son

of man” (ch. 1:13). “The Son of God,” frequent in the Gospel and Epistles of John,

occurs nowhere else in the Apocalypse. It may be suggested by Psalm 2:7,

“Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee;” for ibid.v. 9 is quoted in v. 27

(compare also v. 26 with Psalm 2:8).

 

18 “And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things

saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire,

and his feet are like fine brass;” (see notes on ch.1:14-15).

 

The salutation to Thyatira identifies the speaker as the Son of God, the only place

in Revelation where He is so called.  He was  described initially as “one like unto

the Son of man” (ch. 1:13).  The aspect is awesome, one of offended and angry

deity, with burning eyes searching “the reins and hearts” (v. 23) and with

trampling feet in burnished brass breaking men like potsherds.  (v. 27)

(Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

19 “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy

patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.”

I know thy works… and thy works. This glaring tautology is

a mistranslation. The Revised Version is correct both in the order of the

words and in the rendering. We have first the general statement, found in

most of these epistles, asserting intimate personal knowledge: “I know thy

works.” Then we have, in two pairs, these works particularized, thy love

and faith,” and “thy ministry and patience.” Finally, we have the knowledge

that thy last works are more than the first.” “Thy,” in the central clause,

belongs to all four substantives. Whatever may be thought of  I Corinthians

13., ἀγάπη – agapae - in John’s writings must certainly be translated “love,” and

not “charity.” Love and faith produce as their natural fruit ministry to the

sick and needy and patience in enduring tribulation. Διακονία – Diakonia – service –

excepting here and Hebrews 1:14, occurs only in the writings of Luke and of

Paul; it is specially frequent in the Acts (Acts 1:17, 25; 6:1, 4; 11:29, etc.) and in

II Corinthians  3:7-9; 4:1; 5:18, etc.). That thy last works are more than the first.

With the momentous change of πλείονα – pleiona -  more for χείροναcheiron –

worse this looks like a reminiscence of Matthew 12:45 (compare II Peter 2:20).

Πλείονα probably means more in value rather than more in number; compare

πλείονα σημεῖα τούτων – pleiona saemeia touton -  more signs than these (John 7:31);

πλείονα καρπόν – pleiona karpon – more fruit -  (John 15:2); πλείονα θυσίαν –

pleiona thusian – more (excellent) sacrifice - (Hebrews 11:4)  But both excellence

and number may be included. In any case, the Church at Thyatira exhibits growth

 in good works, which is the surest sign of life. Like Ephesus, Thyatira is both

praised and blamed; but whereas Ephesus has gone back (v. 5), Thyatira

is going forwards. The two Churches are in some respects the exact

opposite one of the other. In Ephesus there is much zeal for orthodoxy, but

little love; in Thyatira there is much love, but a carelessness about false

doctrine.

 

Unlike Ephesus, which had left its first love and ceased its first works (vs. 4-5), the later

works of Thyatira were more impressive than in its beginning.  A Church manifesting

much “love and service and faith and patience and good works,” and with these increasing

all the time, would seem to be almost an ideal church.  It may be that Lydia of Thyatira

(Acts 16:13-15, 40) had left a lasting mark on the church and its members.  But such attributes,

vital as they are, cannot substitute for sound doctrine and godly living, and these were rapidly

failing at Thyatira.  (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

20 “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou

sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to

teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat

things sacrificed unto idols.” But I have against thee that thou sufferest.

This is certainly right. “A few things” (ὀλίγα – oliga) is an insertion in some inferior

authorities. Others insert “many things” (πόλλα – polla); the Sinaitic inserts “much

(πόλυ - polu); while the best authorities have nothing between κατὰ σοῦ - kata sou –

against you - and ὅτιhoti – seeing that -  and then ὅτι must be rendered “that” rather

than “because.” The construction is the same as in v. 4. There is a right and a wrong

suffering; and the Church in Thyatira exhibits both. The enduring of tribulation

(ὑπομονή - hupomonae – patience – v. 19) is commended; the toleration of evil

(ἀφεῖς – apheis) is rebuked. It is not said that Jezebel receives sympathy or

encouragement, but merely that she is let alone; her wickedness is left unchecked,

and that is sinful. For this use of ἀφίεναι – aphienai, compare John 11:48; 12:7.

It is difficult to decide between “the woman” (τὴν γυνααῖκα – taen gunaaika)

and "thy wife" (τὴν γυναῖκα σοῦ - taen gunaika sou) authorities being much divided;

the balance seems in favor of the former. But even if “thy wife” be preferred, there

is no need to understand Jezebel as indicating a distinct person. We are in the region

of figures and metaphors. Perhaps all that is indicated is that the angel of the Church

at Thyatira is suffering from the tolerated presence of a baneful influence, as did Ahab,

whom Jezebel his wife stirred up” (I Kings 21:25). And if it is not certain that

any individual false prophetess is signified, it is scarcely worth while to

speculate as to who this individual is. Jezebel may be a person, or she may

be a form of false doctrine personified. If the former, Jezebel is doubtless

not her real name, but a symbolical name of reproach, and what her name

and status were we have no means of knowing. In any case the error

represented by the name is closely akin to that of the Nicolaitans and to

the doctrine of Balaam.” Whatever differences of detail there may have

been, all three made Christian liberty a plea for an antichristian licence

which claimed to be above the moral Law. And she teacheth and seduceth.

This is an independent statement, and must not, as in the Authorized

Version, be made to depend upon “thou sufferest.” For the construction

τὴν γυναῖκα Ιεζαβήλ ἡ λέγουσαtaen gunaika Iezabael hae legousa – the woman

Jezebel the one saying -  compare τῆς καινῆς Ιερουσαλὴμ ἡ καταβαίνουσα – taes

kainaes Ierousalaem hae katabainousa – the new Jerusalem which is descending –

(ch.3:12). The word for “seduce,” or “lead astray” (πλανᾷν – planan), in the active

is frequent in John, especially in Revelation (ch.12:9 13:14; 19:20; 20:3, 8, 10;

John 7:12; I John 1:8; 2:26; 3:7). A comparison of these passages will lead to the

conclusion that the word implies seduction into error of a very grave kind.

It is not clear whether “fornication” is to be understood literally, or, as

often in the Old Testament, in the spiritual sense of idolatry. The former

seems more probable. “My servants” means all Christians, as is clear from

ch.7:3 and 22:3; it must not be limited to those in authority in

the Church. (For “things sacrificed to idols,” see notes on v. 14.)

 

Ephesus had not been duped by those who falsely called themselves apostles, but

Thyatira had actually entrusted a position of teaching leadership to an immoral woman

calling herself a prophetess.  Paul had specifically forbidden women to speak in the

church (I Corinthians 14:34), referring especially to the use of supposed supernatural

gifts, such as tongues and prophecy) or to teach in such a way as to exercise authority

over men (I Timothy 2:11-12), and ignoring such instructions had led to a tragic situation

at Thyatira.  Whether Jezebel was the actual or assumed name of this false prophetess

or merely a graphic appellation given her by Christ, the spiritual kinship with the Jezebel

of old is clearly recognized.  That Jezebel was the cause of a vast turning to “whoredoms

and witchcrafts” in Israel in the days of Elijah.  (II Kings 9:22) as well as Baal-worshiping

idolatry (I Kings 16:30-33).  This Jezebel had, under the guise of promoting spirituality

in the soul, promoted carnality in the life, no doubt stressing “love” while degrading “doctrine”

and “separation” (as multitudes of churches do today), and justifying this teaching by

asserting she had received it by supernatural revelation.  She had persuaded them there was

no need to create an unnecessary antagonism with those around them by refusing to

participate in the approved practices of the state system (including even religious

prostitution and orgiastic feasting with friends in the temples, since salvation was free and

the important matters were love and faith and good works.  Even those in the church

who still had not followed her teachings were guilty of “suffering that woman Jezebel!”

(Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

21 “And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented

not.”  Here again the Revised Version must be preferred; the

Authorized Version follows a corrupt Greek text. With the construction, “I

gave her time that (ἵνα – hina - that) she should repent,” compare ch.8:3; 9:5;

12:14; 19:8; John 17:4; I John 3:1; 5:20. With “willeth not to

repent,” compare John 6:21, 67; 7:17; 8:44. Jezebel “despised the riches

of Christ’s forbearance and long suffering, not believing that His goodness

led her to repentance” (Romans 2:4). The whole passage should be

compared with this (see also Ecclesiastes 8:11-13; Psalm 10:6; II Peter 3:3-4, 9).

 

(Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

 

22 “Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery

with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.”

Behold! The exclamation “arrests attention, and prepares the

way for something unexpected and terrible.” It is one of the many

differences between the Fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse, that in the

former ἴδε – ide – denoting surprise – behold - is the dominant form, while in the

latter ἰδού - idou – behold -  is the invariable form (καὶ ἰδού – kai idou – and lo;

be perceiving -  in ch. 6:l, 5, 7 is a spurious addition); ἰδού is very

rare in the Gospel; ἴδε is found nowhere in the Apocalypse. In the Epistles

neither form occurs. I do cast her into a bed. ΒάλλωBallo – am casting –

the future has been substituted for the present to match the futures in v. 23.

Forbearance having failed, God tries severity; and, as so often in His dealings

with man, the instrument of wrong doing is made the instrument of punishment.

The bed of sin becomes a bed of suffering. Compare “In the place where dogs

licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine;” and “I will

requite thee in this plat, saith the Lord” (I Kings 21:19; II Kings 9:26). Βάλλω

is one of many words which has become weakened in meaning in late Greek: it

often means no more than “place” or “put” (John 5:7; 12:6; 13:2; 18:11; 20:25).

In the passive it is rather common of being laid up in sickness (Matthew 8:6,

14; 9:2; Mark 7:30). But perhaps we should rather compare such

expressions as “cast into prison, into the sea, into the fire, into Gehenna”

(Matthew 18:30; 18:8-9; 21:21). It may be doubted whether there is

any significance in the fact that her sin is spoken of as πορνείνα – porneina -  

fornication; prostitution - (v. 21), whereas those who sin with her are said

μοιχεύεινmoicheuein – ones committing adultery. Idolatry is spoken of

both as whoredom and as adultery. In the one case it is a contrast to the

marriage tie between God and His faithful worshippers; in the other it is a

violation of it. Jezebel anticipates the harlot of ch. 17., as Balaam

anticipates the false prophet of ch.13. The remarkable construction,

 (μετανοῆσαι ἐκ – metanoaesai ek – they should be repenting out of ), is peculiar

to this book (vs. 21-22; 9:20-21; 16:11; but in Acts 8:22 we have μετανόησον ἀπό -

metanoaeson apo – repent you from -  and in Hebrews 6:1 we have μετανοία ἀπό -

metanoia apo – of repentance from - (compare the converse, μετανοία εἰς, - metanoia eis

 repentance into - Acts 20:21). “Her works” is to be preferred to “their works.”

Αὐτῆς – Autaes – of her - might easily be changed to αὐτῶν – auton – their; of them - 

either accidentally, owing to the preceding ἔργων – ergon - works, or deliberately,

because it seems strange to talk of repenting from the works of another person. But

the point is that those who have become partakers in her sins have

abandoned their own works for hers; and it is therefore from her works

that they are bidden to repent (compare “my works” in v. 26).

 

The pagan rites of the trade guilds at Thyatira involved immoral feasts along with idol

worship, under the aegis of the “priestess” or “oracle” of their temple, and her bevy

of temple prostitutes.  Jezebel had seemingly let the Thyatiran church into a pseudo-

Christian imitation of this system, perhaps ostensibly as a means of more easily winning

converts to Christianity.  But this was not only physical adultery but religious adultery and

could no longer be tolerated by the true Head of the church.  It is remarkable that similar

wicked sophistries have been practiced in one way or another in the name of Christ in

many churches and Christian movements over the centuries and are still cropping up

frequently today. The bed into which Jezebel and her disciples will fall, however, will not

be one of orgiastic abandon, but one of great tribulation!  The same words had been used

by Christ long before on the Mount of Olives.  “For then shall be great tribulation, such

as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”  (Matthew

24:21)  These same words are also used in the Book of Revelation to describe a coming

time in which great numbers of Christian martyrs will be slain.  “These are they which came

out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of

the Lamb.”  (ch. 7:14).  This “great tribulation” will be discussed more fully later, but it should

be noted that this particular church, and others like it (or more precisely those people in such

churches who are, in effect, followers of the false prophetesses and false prophets – the

Nicolaitanes and the Balaamites – who have deceived them and let them to deny the truth

of Christ and His Word) will indeed experience great tribulation, whether (as will be true of

many adulterous churches at the end of the Church Age) they will go through the great

tribulation or will experience great tribulation in other ways. and times.  (Henry Morris –

The Revelation Record)

 

23 “And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall

know that I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will

give unto every one of you according to your works.”

And her children (placed first, in emphatic distinction from

those who have been seduced into temporary connection with her) I will

kill with death. With ἀποκτενῶ ἐν θανάτῳ - apokteno en thanato – I shall be

killing in death - compare the Septuagint in Ezekiel 33:27 and Leviticus 20:10; and

θανάτῳ τελευτάτωthanato teleutato – let him die the death -  Matthew 15:4

and Mark 7:10; the phrase recurs in here in ch. 6:8. Those who

have not merely been beguiled into sin by her, but are united to her in a

permanent moral relationship (John 8:44), shall perish in some signal

manner by the visitation of God. Thus we have three parties marked off:

 

(1) Jezebel herself, the source of all the mischief;

(2) her children, who are even such as herself;

(3) her victims, who have been led astray by her.

 

She and her children are to be visited with sickness and death, because they

will not repent, and the others with tribulation, if they do not repent. Her

doom and that of her children is certain; that of her victims may yet be

averted. Moreover, the one seems to be final, the other remedial. And all

the Churches shall know; literally, shall come to know, shall learn by

experience. This statement seems conclusive with regard to the purpose of

these epistles. Although addressed to local Churches at a particular crisis,

they are for the instruction of “all the Churches” throughout the world, and

throughout all time. He which searcheth the reins and the heart (compare

Romans 8:27; Psalm 7:9; Jeremiah 11:20; 20:12). But ἐρευνᾷν – ereunan –

one searching -  in this connection is a New Testament word; the Septuagint

do not use it, but ἐτάζειν - - etazein -  a word which is not found in the New

Testament, or δοκιμάζεινdokimazein -  etc. Αρευνᾷν – Areunan - occurs thrice in

John’s writings (John 5:39; 7:52), and thrice elsewhere (Romans 8:27; I Corinthians

2:10; I Peter 1:11). We need not attempt to make any sharp distinction

between the reins, which were believed to be the seat of the desires, and

the heart, which sometimes represents the affections and sometimes the

conscience. Put together they are equivalent to “the devices and desires of

our own hearts.” And I will give to each of you. From the angel of the

Church the Lord turns abruptly to the individuals in the Church (compare

Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6).

 

The children of Jezebel possible included actual illegitimate children of her promiscuity,

but the term more definitely refers to her converts.  As Timothy was a “son” of Paul

(I Timothy 1:2) in the faith,” so Jezebel had won many to her hedonistic brand of

pseudo-Christianity, and they would share with her in the coming tribulation.  To

kill with death” is an idiom denoting sure death by execution.  The Lord Jesus Christ

searches and understands the hearts and secret thoughts of men.  He had said,

“Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness,

blasphemies(Matthew 15:19).  “All of the churches (not just Thyatira) must know that

Christ will judge such behavior appropriately, when repentance is not forthcoming.

 (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

 

24 “But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have

not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as

they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.”

But to you I say, to the rest in Thyatira. The “and” after “I

say” in the Authorized Version is a false reading, which it shares with the

Vulgate and Luther: “to you” and “to the rest” are in apposition. Which

know not the deep things of Satan, as they say. Two questions confront us

here, and it is not possible to answer either with certainty:

 

  • Who is it who say something?
  • What is it that they say?

 

(1) Note that “say” (Revised Version), not “speak” (Authorized Version),

is right; the Greek is λέγουσιν – legousin – they are saying -  not λαλοῦσιν lalousin –

they are speaking. The nominative to “say” may be either the faithful in Thyatira,

who have not this doctrine,” and who show their detestation of it by calling it

the deep things of Satan;” or the holders of this doctrine, who profess to be in

the possession of profound knowledge of a mysterious kind. Of these two the former

is rather tame in meaning. Moreover, we should have expected “as ye say” to

harmonize with “to you I say.” Therefore we may suppose that it is those

who have this doctrine who are indicated in “as they say.”

 

(2) What, then, did they say? Did they call their doctrine “deep things,

which the Lord here enlarges into “deep things of Satan,” in order to

declare its true character? Or did they themselves call their knowledge “the

deep things of Satan,” which they fathomed in order to prove their mastery

over them? The former seems better. It is improbable that any sect,

nominally Christian, would in so many words claim special knowledge of

the deep things of Satan.” Rather, he who condemns the “synagogue of

Satan” (v. 9) at Smyrna, and the “throne of Satan” (v. 13) at

Pergamum, here condemns the “deep things of Satan” at Thyatira. In any

case, “deep things” is the prominent thought. It is some early form of

Gnosticism that is indicated, and we know from various sources that

deep” was a favorite expression of theirs with regard to the knowledge

which they professed. “The Valentinians have formed Eleusinian orgies,

consecrated by a mighty silence, having nothing heavenly in them but their

mystery. If, in good faith, you ask questions with contracted forehead and

frowning brow, they say, ‘It is profound’” (Tert., ‘Adv. Valent.,’ 1.).

Similarly, Irenaeus states that they claimed to have found out the “deep

things of Bythos” — “profunda Bythi adinvenisse se dicunt” (II. 22:1).

Βυθός Buthos  (equivalent to “depth”) is the primary being or god of the

Valentinian system, another name for which is Αρρητος - Arraetos  (equivalent to

unspeakable). Hence elsewhere, for profunda Bythi, Irenaeus uses the

expression profunda Dei in speaking of these Gnostic claims (II. 22:3).

Similarly, Hippolytus (‘Refut.,’ V. 6:1) states that the Naassenes called

themselves Gnostics, saying that they alone knew the depths — τὰ βάθη γινώσκειν

ta bathae ginoskein -   which is singularly close to what we have here. Note, however;

that here the true reading is τὰ βαθέαta bathea -  the depths - neuter plural of the

adjective βαθύς,- bathus -  not (as in I Corinthians 2:10) τὰ βάθη – ta bathae –

deep things -  plural of the substantive βάθος - bathos. See also the fragment of a

letter of Valentinus, preserved in Epiphanius (‘Contra Haer. adv. Valent.,’ 1:31).

I cast upon you none other burden. An obvious echo of the decision of the Council

of Jerusalem respecting these very sins, fornication and idolatry, in reference

to Christian liberty (Acts 15:28-29), where the very same word (βάρος – baros)

is used for “burden.” In Matthew 11:30; 23:4; Luke 11:46; Galatians 6:5, the word

for “burden” is φορτίονphortion - whereas βάρος is used in Matthew 20:12;

II Corinthians 4:17; Galatians 6:2; I Thessalonians 2:6. Here, as in v. 22, the true

text gives βάλλω, not βαλῶ ; and obviously the word should be rendered in the same

way in both verses, not “cast” in one place and “put” in another. “None

other means none other than a more determined opposition to these

specious abominations. Hold fast your own doctrine, and denounce the

false. Others, much less probably, interpret “none other burden” than the

sufferings in which they exhibit the “patience” for which they are praised

(v. 19). This gives a very poor meaning, and, moreover, breaks the

connection with what follows: they are certainly not told to hold fast their

sufferings, but Christ’s precepts as to faith and conduct.

 

This letter is actually being addressed to the faithful remnant in Thyatira.  Jezebel and her

followers are “they,” not “you;” even though they dominate the church, they are not really in

the church, as Christ views it, and are destined for destruction in a fast-approaching time

of great tribulation.   The Lord now directs his remaining exhortation to those in the church

who are faithful to His Word and manifesting so beautifully His will in other ways.  (v. 19)

The depths (or “deep things”) of Satan may be contrasted with “the deep things of God”

(I Corinthians 2:10).  Nicolaitanism had been rejected in Ephesus, countenanced in Pergamos,

and indulged in Thyatira.  The pagan mystery religions surrounding the churches did indeed

instruct their own in many of the deepest secrets of the great satanic conspiracy against God,

and the same has been, and still is, true in the various occult religions of the world.  Satan is a

bitter enemy of any true church and accomplishes a victory whenever he can corrupt a church

in any degree.  But his most satisfying triumphs are when he introduces his own “deep things”

into the church instead of the deep things of God.  This he had done so successfully at Thyatira

that the godly remnant there was helpless to combat it.  It must be expunged by Christ Himself!

In the meantime, the true church must simply WAIT FOR HIM! 

(Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

25 “But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.”

Howbeit. Not simply ἀλλά - alla - or δέ - de -  but πλήνplaen – but; moreover –

which occurs nowhere else in John’s writings. Although no other burden than this

is imposed, yet remember what it implies. Hold fast the love, and faith, and

service, and patience, and the growth in these virtues, for which thou hast

been commended (v. 19). Compare ch. 3:11, where a similar

charge is given to the Church at Philadelphia. The Greek for “till I come” is

remarkableἄχρις οῦ αν ἤξω – achris ou an haexo -  where the αν conveys a

touch of indefiniteness as to the date specified — until the time whensoever I shall

come. We have a similar construction in I Corinthians 15:25.

 

This is the first explicit reference in the seven epistles to the return of Christ.

Although the existing church at Thyatira would not be existing when He returned,

as far as they knew at the time.  However, they were certainly expected to be

watching for Him, as is true for all churches with similar problems to those at

Thyatira.  And since Christ knows all churches, He clearly anticipates here that

some Thyatira-like churches will actually be functioning in the world when He

finally does return.  (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

26 “And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to

him will I give power over the nations:”  And he that overcometh. The usual

promise (vs. 7, 11, 17;  ch. 3:5, 12, 21) is here closely connected with the charge

which immediately precedes. In this and in the remaining three epistles the

proclamation, “He that hath an ear,” etc., follows instead of preceding the

promise. Keepeth my works. This is a phrase thoroughly characteristic of

John’s style; compare for this use of “keep,” ch. 1:3; 3:3, 8,10, etc.;

John 8:51-52, 55; 9:16; 14:15, 21, 23-24, etc.; I John 2:3-5; 3:22, 24, etc.;

and for “works,” in the sense of works which Christ does or approves, compare

ch.15:3; John 6:28-29; 7:3, 21; 11:3-4, etc. “My works” here are in marked contrast

to “her works” in v. 22. “He that overcometh, and he that keepeth” is a

nominativus pendens; and such constructions are specially frequent in

John (compare ch.3:12, 21; John 6:39; 7:38; 15:2; 17:2; I John 2:24, 27). Links of

connecton between the Revelation and the Gospel or Epistles of John should be

carefully noted. The phrase for “unto the end” (ἄχριτέλους – achritelous) occurs

only here and Hebrews 6:11; but compare ibid. ch. 3:6, 14; I Corinthians 1:8.

(εἰς τέλος – eis telos - “Unto the end”) in John 13:1 probably means “to the uttermost,”

not “to the end of life.” Authority over the nations. “Authority” is better than “power”

for ἐξουσίαexousia -  not merely as implying that the power is rightly held and

exercised, but also to mark the parallel with “Have thou authority over ten

cities (Luke 19:17; compare Matthew 21:23-24, 27; Acts 9:14; 26:10).

 

Immediately after this mention of Christ’s return comes mention of the millennial kingdom

which follows His return.  These “overcoming” believers in Thyatira, as in other churches,

will thus share Christ’s reign over the nations with those future believers who will be

martyred during the reign of the beast which precedes it.  (ch. 20:4)

 (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

27 “And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter

shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.”

The verse is not a parenthesis. He shall rule them. Here; ch.12:5; and in 19:15,

the Septuagint rendering of Psalm 2:9 is adopted; ποιμανεῖς αὐτούς poimaneis

autous -  Thou shalt rule them -  or more literally, “shalt shepherd them,” instead

of “shalt break them,” which almost certainly is the meaning of the Hebrew. The

Hebrew original, trhm without vowel points, may represent either tirhem or terohem;

but the latter is required by what follows; “shalt dash them in pieces.” Nevertheless,

the gentler rendering better suits the requirements of these passages in the

Apocalypse. The rule over the nations is to be strong, but it is to be loving

also. To those who obey it, it will be a shepherding; only those who resist

it will be dashed in pieces. Precisely the same expression is used in ch 7:17

of the Lamb shepherding His saints, and in John 21:16 in the charge to

Peter to shepherd Christ’s sheep. It is not easy to determine whether the “rod”

(ῤἀβδος - rhabdos) is a king’s scepter, as in Hebrews 1:8, or a shepherd’s staff,

as in 1 Samuel 17:43; Micah 7:14; and Zechariah 11:7. As the vessels of pottery are

broken to shivers. The future tense is a false reading; the insertion of “they” —

shall they be broken” — is a false rendering. Συντρίβειν Suntribein -  to shatter

occurs in a literal sense in Mark 5:4 and John 19:36; and in a figurative

sense in Luke 9:39 and Romans 16:20. As I also have received from my Father.

The Greek is ὡς κἀγὼ εἴληφαhos kago eilaepha – as I also have obtained –

not καθὼς ἐγὼ ἔλαβον – kathos ego elabon even as I received. He shall receive

 authority from me, as I also have received from my Father (compare John 17:18;

20:21; Luke 22:29; Acts 2:33).

 

The introduction to this letter marks Revelation’s only reference to Christ as the Son of God.

However, there are three references to God as His Father (here: ch.3:5, 21).  The terminology

here is clearly taken from Psalm 2:7-9.  There, however, the specific promise is to the Son.

Here the same promise is shared by the Son with His faithful servants.  “The saints shall

judge the world” (I Corinthians 6:2; see also Daniel 7:18,27).  The  rule” which is to be

exercised is actually “tend” or “feed,” like a shepherd or pastor.  The “rod”with which He

rules is the same word as “scepter.” (Hebrews 1:8)  (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

 

28 “And I will give him the morning star.”  In ch. 22:16 Christ Himself is “the

 Bright and Morning Star.” Therefore here He promises to give Himself to him that

overcometh. The morning star has ever been proverbial for brightness and beauty,

and, as the harbinger of the day, is the bringer of light, life, and joy. Moreover, a star

is often a sign of royalty: “There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall

rise out of Israel (Numbers 24:17); and as such it appeared to the Wise Men

(Matthew 2:2).

 

Jesus Christ Himself is “the bright and morning star” (ch. 22:16) so that this promise

assures His own presence as a gift to His people.  Perhaps it also refers to His second coming,

this time in its very first aspect, when He comes to catch up into His presence those who

believe on Him!  (I Thessalonians 4:16-17) (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

 

29 “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the

churches.’

 

This regular exhortation has appeared previously before the promise to the overcomers;

in the last four epistles, however, it comes after the promise and concludes the epistle.

There is no obvious reason for this change, but it is also true that each of the last four

epistles also contain exhortations concerning the imminent return of Christ!   Thus they

seem to represent four types of churches that will be active when Christ comes, perhaps

more in need of a final exhortation from the Holy Spirit TO BE READY than of a

promised blessing in the world to come.  (Henry Morris – The Revelation Record)

 

 

 

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