Revelation Part 3: The Messages to the Seven Churches (Revelation 2-3)
(New American Standard Bible, 1995):
Rev. 2:1 ¶ "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
¶ The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:
Rev. 2:2 ¶ I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;
Rev. 2:3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary.
Rev. 2:4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
Rev. 2:5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its placeunless you repent.
Rev. 2:6 Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Rev. 2:7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.'
Rev. 2:8 ¶ "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
¶ The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:
Rev. 2:9 ¶ I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
Rev. 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Rev. 2:11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.'
Rev. 2:12 ¶ "And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
¶ The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:
Rev. 2:13 ¶ I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
Rev. 2:14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.
Rev. 2:15 So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
Rev. 2:16 Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.
Rev. 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.'
Rev. 2:18 ¶ "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
¶ The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:
Rev. 2:19 ¶ I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.
Rev. 2:20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
Rev. 2:21 I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.
Rev. 2:22 Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.
Rev. 2:23 And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
Rev. 2:24 But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call themI place no other burden on you.
Rev. 2:25 Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.
Rev. 2:26 He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS;
Rev. 2:27 AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father;
Rev. 2:28 and I will give him the morning star.
Rev. 2:29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'
Rev. 3:1 ¶ "To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
¶ He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.
Rev. 3:2 Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.
Rev. 3:3 So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.
Rev. 3:4 But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.
Rev. 3:5 He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
Rev. 3:6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'
Rev. 3:7 ¶ "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
¶ He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:
Rev. 3:8 ¶ I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.
Rev. 3:9 Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lieI will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.
Rev. 3:10 Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
Rev. 3:11 I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
Rev. 3:12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.
Rev. 3:13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'
Rev. 3:14 ¶ "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
¶ The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:
Rev. 3:15 ¶ I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.
Rev. 3:16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
Rev. 3:17 Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,
Rev. 3:18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
Rev. 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.
Rev. 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.
Rev. 3:21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
Rev. 3:22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'"
Novum Testamentum Graece (New Testament in Greek)
Nestle-Aland, 27th Edition, prepared by Institut für neutestamentliche Testforschung Münster/Westfalen, Barbara and Kurt Aland (Editors). Copyright © 1898 and 1993 by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.
Used by permission.
Morphological tagging by William D. Mounce and Rex A. Koivisto
Copyright © 2003 William D. Mounce.
Copyright © 2006 OakTree Software, Inc.
All rights reserved.
(You must have the Helena font installed in order to see the Greek text rendered correctly; it can be obtained here: http://www.accordancebible.com/)
Rev. 2:1 ¼ Tw× aÓgge÷lw thvß Efesi÷nhß ekklhsi÷aß gra¿yon, ¼ Ta¿de le÷gei oJ kratw×n tou\ß epta» aÓste÷raß en thØv dexia× aujtouv, oJ peripatw×n en me÷sw tw×n epta» lucniw×n tw×n crusw×n:
Rev. 2:2 Oida ta» e¶rga sou, kai« to\n ko/pon sou, kai« th\n uJpomonh/n sou, kai« o¢ti ouj du/nhØ basta¿sai kakou/ß, kai« epeira¿sw tou\ß fa¿skontaß einai aÓposto/louß kai« oujk eisi÷, kai« eureß aujtou\ß yeudeiß,
Rev. 2:3 kai« eba¿stasaß kai« uJpomonh\n e¶ceiß, kai« dia» to\ o¡noma¿ mou kekopi÷akaß kai« ouj ke÷kmhkaß.
Rev. 2:4 aÓll e¶cw kata» souv, o¢ti th\n aÓga¿phn sou th\n prw¿thn aÓfhvkaß,
Rev. 2:5 mnhmo/neue oun po/qen ekpe÷ptwkaß, kai« metano/hson, kai« ta» prw×ta e¶rga poi÷hson: ei de« mh/, e¶rcomai÷ soi tacu/, kai« kinh/sw th\n lucni÷an sou ek touv to/pou aujthvß, ea»n mh\ metanoh/shØß.
Rev. 2:6 aÓlla» touvto e¶ceiß, o¢ti miseiß ta» e¶rga tw×n Nikolai¦tw×n, a± kaÓgw» misw×.
Rev. 2:7 oJ e¶cwn ouß aÓkousa¿tw ti÷ to\ Pneuvma le÷gei taiß ekklhsi÷aiß. tw× nikw×nti dw¿sw aujtw× fagein ek touv xu/lou thvß zwhvß, o¢ estin en me÷sw touv paradei÷sou touv Qeouv.
Rev. 2:8 ¼ kai« tw× aÓgge÷lw thvß ekklhsi÷aß Smurnai÷wn gra¿yon, ¼ Ta¿de le÷gei oJ prw×toß kai« oJ e¶scatoß, o§ß ege÷neto nekro\ß kai« e¶zhsen:
Rev. 2:9 Oida¿ sou ta» e¶rga kai« th\n qliyin kai« th\n ptwcei÷an (plou/sioß de« ei), kai« th\n blasfhmi÷an tw×n lego/ntwn Ioudai÷ouß einai eautou/ß, kai« oujk eisi÷n, aÓlla» sunagwgh\ touv Satana×.
Rev. 2:10 mhde«n fobouv a± me÷lleiß pa¿scein: idou/, me÷llei balein ex uJmw×n oJ dia¿boloß eiß fulakh/n, iºna peirasqhvte: kai« e¢xete qliyin hJmerw×n de÷ka. gi÷nou pisto\ß aýcri qana¿tou, kai« dw¿sw soi to\n ste÷fanon thvß zwhvß.
Rev. 2:11 oJ e¶cwn ouß aÓkousa¿tw ti÷ to\ Pneuvma le÷gei taiß ekklhsi÷aiß. oJ nikw×n ouj mh\ aÓdikhqhØv ek touv qana¿tou touv deute÷rou.
Rev. 2:12 ¼ kai« tw× aÓgge÷lw thvß en Perga¿mw ekklhsi÷aß gra¿yon, ¼ Ta¿de le÷gei oJ e¶cwn th\n rJomfai÷an th\n di÷stomon th\n ojxeian:
Rev. 2:13 oida ta» e¶rga sou kai« pouv katoikeiß, o¢pou oJ qro/noß touv Satana×: kai« krateiß to\ o¡noma¿ mou, kai« oujk hjrnh/sw th\n pi÷stin mou kai« en taiß hJme÷raiß en aiß Anti÷paß oJ ma¿rtuß mou, oJ pisto/ß, o§ß aÓpekta¿nqh par uJmin, o¢pou katoikei oJ Satana×ß.
Rev. 2:14 aÓll e¶cw kata» sou ojli÷ga, o¢ti e¶ceiß ekei kratouvntaß th\n didach\n Balaa¿m, o§ß edi÷dasken en tw× to\n Bala»k balein ska¿ndalon enw¿pion tw×n uiw×n Israh/l fagein eidwlo/quta kai« porneuvsai.
Rev. 2:15 ou¢twß e¶ceiß kai« su\ kratouvntaß th\n didach\n tw×n Nikolai¦tw×n: o§ misw×.
Rev. 2:16 metano/hson: ei de« mh/, e¶rcomai÷ soi tacu/, kai« polemh/sw met aujtw×n en thØv rJomfai÷a touv sto/matoß mou.
Rev. 2:17 oJ e¶cwn ouß aÓkousa¿tw ti÷ to\ Pneuvma le÷gei taiß ekklhsi÷aiß. tw× nikw×nti dw¿sw aujtw× fagein aÓpo\ touv ma¿nna touv kekrumme÷nou, kai« dw¿sw aujtw× yhvfon leukh/n, kai« epi« th\n yhvfon o¡noma kaino\n gegramme÷non, o§ oujdei«ß e¶gnw ei mh\ oJ lamba¿nwn.
Rev. 2:18 ¼ Kai« tw× aÓgge÷lw thvß en Quatei÷roiß ekklhsi÷aß gra¿yon, ¼ Ta¿de le÷gei oJ uio\ß touv Qeouv, oJ e¶cwn tou\ß ojfqalmou\ß aujtouv wJß flo/ga puro/ß, kai« oi po/deß aujtouv o¢moioi calkoliba¿nw:
Rev. 2:19 Oida¿ sou ta» e¶rga, kai« th\n aÓga¿phn kai« th\n diakoni÷an, kai« th\n pi÷stin kai« th\n uJpomonh/n sou, kai« ta» e¶rga sou, kai« ta» e¶scata plei÷ona tw×n prw¿twn.
Rev. 2:20 aÓll e¶cw kata» souv ojli÷ga o¢ti ea×ß th\n gunaika Iezabh/l, th\n le÷gousan eauth\n profhvtin, dida¿skein kai« plana×sqai emou\ß dou/louß porneuvsai kai« eidwlo/quta fagein.
Rev. 2:21 kai« e¶dwka aujthØv cro/non iºna metanoh/shØ ek thvß pornei÷aß aujthvß, kai« ouj meteno/hsen.
Rev. 2:22 idou/, egw» ba¿llw aujth\n eiß kli÷nhn, kai« tou\ß moiceu/ontaß met aujthvß eiß qliyin mega¿lhn, ea»n mh\ metanoh/swsin ek tw×n e¶rgwn aujtw×n.
Rev. 2:23 kai« ta» te÷kna aujthvß aÓpoktenw× en qana¿tw: kai« gnw¿sontai pa×sai ai ekklhsi÷ai o¢ti egw¿ eimi oJ ereunw×n nefrou\ß kai« kardi÷aß: kai« dw¿sw uJmin eka¿stw kata» ta» e¶rga uJmw×n.
Rev. 2:24 uJmin de« le÷gw kai« loipoiß toiß en Quatei÷roiß, o¢soi oujk e¶cousi th\n didach\n tau/thn, kai« oiºtineß oujk e¶gnwsan ta» ba¿qh touv Satana×, wJß le÷gousin, Ouj balw× ef uJma×ß aýllo ba¿roß.
Rev. 2:25 plh\n o§ e¶cete krath/sate, aýcriß ou a·n h¢xw.
Rev. 2:26 kai« oJ nikw×n kai« oJ thrw×n aýcri te÷louß ta» e¶rga mou, dw¿sw aujtw× exousi÷an epi« tw×n eqnw×n:
Rev. 2:27 kai« poimanei aujtou\ß en rJa¿bdw sidhra×: wJß ta» skeu/h ta» keramika¿, suntri÷betai: wJß kaÓgw» ei¶lhfa para» touv patro/ß mou:
Rev. 2:28 kai« dw¿sw aujtw× to\n aÓste÷ra to\n prwi¦no/n.
Rev. 2:29 oJ e¶cwn ouß aÓkousa¿tw ti÷ to\ Pneuvma le÷gei taiß ekklhsi÷aiß.
Rev. 3:1 ¼ Kai« tw× aÓgge÷lw thvß en Sa¿rdesin ekklhsi÷aß gra¿yon, ¼ Ta¿de le÷gei oJ e¶cwn ta» epta» pneu/mata touv Qeouv kai« tou\ß epta» aÓste÷raß: Oida¿ sou ta» e¶rga, o¢ti to\ o¡noma e¶ceiß o¢ti zhØvß, kai« nekro\ß ei.
Rev. 3:2 gi÷nou grhgorw×n, kai« sth/rixon ta» loipa» a± me÷llei aÓpoqanein: ouj ga»r eu¢rhka¿ sou ta» e¶rga peplhrwme÷na enw¿pion touv Qeouv.
Rev. 3:3 mnhmo/neue oun pw×ß ei¶lhfaß kai« h¡kousaß, kai« th/rei, kai« metano/hson. ea»n oun mh\ grhgorh/shØß, h¢xw epi÷ se wJß kle÷pthß, kai« ouj mh\ gnw×ß poi÷an wran h¢xw epi÷ se.
Rev. 3:4 e¶ceiß ojli÷ga ojno/mata kai« en Sa¿rdesin, a± oujk emo/lunan ta» ima¿tia aujtw×n: kai« peripath/sousi met emouv en leukoiß, o¢ti aýxioi÷ eisin.
Rev. 3:5 oJ nikw×n, outoß peribaleitai en imati÷oiß leukoiß: kai« ouj mh\ exalei÷yw to\ o¡noma aujtouv ek thvß bi÷blou thvß zwhvß, kai« exomologh/somai to\ o¡noma aujtouv enw¿pion touv patro/ß mou, kai« enw¿pion tw×n aÓgge÷lwn aujtouv.
Rev. 3:6 oJ e¶cwn ouß aÓkousa¿tw ti÷ to\ Pneuvma le÷gei taiß ekklhsi÷aiß.
Rev. 3:7 ¼ Kai« tw× aÓgge÷lw thvß en Filadelfei÷a ekklhsi÷aß gra¿yon, ¼ Ta¿de le÷gei oJ agioß, oJ aÓlhqino/ß, oJ e¶cwn th\n kleida touv Dabi÷d, oJ aÓnoi÷gwn kai« oujdei«ß klei÷ei, kai« klei÷ei kai« oujdei«ß aÓnoi÷gei:
Rev. 3:8 Oida¿ sou ta» e¶rga (idou/, de÷dwka enw¿pio/n sou qu/ran aÓnewgme÷nhn, kai« oujdei«ß du/natai kleisai aujth/n), o¢ti mikra»n e¶ceiß du/namin, kai« eth/rhsa¿ß mou to\n lo/gon, kai« oujk hjrnh/sw to\ o¡noma¿ mou
Rev. 3:9 idou/, di÷dwmi ek thvß sunagwghvß touv Satana×, tw×n lego/ntwn eautou\ß Ioudai÷ouß einai, kai« oujk eisi÷n, aÓlla» yeu/dontai: idou/, poih/sw aujtou\ß iºna h¢xwsi kai« proskunh/swsin enw¿pion tw×n podw×n sou, kai« gnw×sin o¢ti egw» hjga¿phsa¿ se.
Rev. 3:10 o¢ti eth/rhsaß to\n lo/gon thvß uJpomonhvß mou, kaÓgw¿ se thrh/sw ek thvß wraß touv peirasmouv, thvß mellou/shß e¶rcesqai epi« thvß oikoume÷nhß o¢lhß, peira¿sai tou\ß katoikouvntaß epi« thvß ghvß.
Rev. 3:11 idou/, e¶rcomai tacu/: kra¿tei o§ e¶ceiß, iºna mhdei«ß la¿bhØ to\n ste÷fano/n sou.
Rev. 3:12 oJ nikw×n, poih/sw aujto\n stuvlon en tw× naw× touv Qeouv mou, kai« e¶xw ouj mh\ exe÷lqhØ e¶ti, kai« gra¿yw ep aujto\n to\ o¡noma touv Qeouv mou, kai« to\ o¡noma thvß po/lewß touv Qeouv mou, thvß kainhvß ÔIerousalh/m, h§ katabai÷nei ek touv oujranouv aÓpo\ touv Qeouv mou, kai« to\ o¡noma¿ mou to\ kaino/n.
Rev. 3:13 oJ e¶cwn ouß aÓkousa¿tw ti÷ to\ Pneuvma le÷gei taiß ekklhsi÷aiß.
Rev. 3:14 ¼ Kai« tw× aÓgge÷lw thvß ekklhsi÷aß Laodike÷wn gra¿yon, ¼ Ta¿de le÷gei oJ Amh/n, oJ ma¿rtuß oJ pisto\ß kai« aÓlhqino/ß, hJ aÓrch\ thvß kti÷sewß touv Qeouv:
Rev. 3:15 Oida¿ sou ta» e¶rga, o¢ti ou¡te yucro\ß ei ou¡te zesto/ß: o¡felon yucro\ß ei¶hß h£ zesto/ß.
Rev. 3:16 ou¢twß o¢ti cliaro\ß ei, kai« ou¡te yucro\ß ou¡te zesto/ß, me÷llw se eme÷sai ek touv sto/mato/ß mou.
Rev. 3:17 o¢ti le÷geiß o¢ti Plou/sio/ß eimi, kai« peplou/thka, kai« oujdeno\ß crei÷an e¶cw, kai« oujk oidaß o¢ti su\ ei oJ talai÷pwroß kai« eleeino\ß kai« ptwco\ß kai« tuflo\ß kai« gumno/ß:
Rev. 3:18 sumbouleu/w soi aÓgora¿sai par emouv crusi÷on pepurwme÷non ek puro/ß, iºna plouth/shØß, kai« ima¿tia leuka», iºna periba¿lhØ, kai« mh\ fanerwqhØv hJ aiscu/nh thvß gumno/thto/ß sou: kai« kollou/rion e¶gcrison tou\ß ojfqalmou/ß sou, iºna ble÷phØß.
Rev. 3:19 egw» o¢souß ea»n filw×, ele÷gcw kai« paideu/w: zh/lwson oun kai« metano/hson.
Rev. 3:20 idou/, eºsthka epi« th\n qu/ran kai« krou/w: ea¿n tiß aÓkou/shØ thvß fwnhvß mou, kai« aÓnoi÷xhØ th\n qu/ran, eiseleu/somai pro\ß aujto/n, kai« deipnh/sw met aujtouv, kai« aujto\ß met emouv.
Rev. 3:21 oJ nikw×n, dw¿sw aujtw× kaqi÷sai met emouv en tw× qro/nw mou, wJß kaÓgw» eni÷khsa, kai« eka¿qisa meta» touv patro/ß mou en tw× qro/nw aujtouv.
Rev. 3:22 oJ e¶cwn ouß aÓkousa¿tw ti÷ to\ Pneuvma le÷gei taiß ekklhsi÷aiß.
(Using Dr. Constable's excellent outline this week)
The letters to the seven churches chs. 23
A. The letter to the church in Ephesus 2:1-7
1. Destination and description of Christ 2:1
2. Commendation 2:2-3
3. Rebuke 2:4
4. Exhortation 2:5-6
5. Promise 2:7
B. The letter to the church in Smyrna 2:8-11
1. Destination and description of Christ 2:8
2. Commendation 2:9
3. Exhortation 2:10a
4. Promise 2:10b-11
C. The letter to the church in Pergamum 2:12-17
1. Destination and description of Christ 2:12
2. Commendation 2:13
3. Rebuke 2:14-15
4. Exhortation 2:16
5. Promise 2:17
D. The letter to the church in Thyatira 2:18-29
1. Destination and description of Christ 2:18
2. Commendation 2:19
3. Rebuke 2:20-23
4. Exhortation 2:24-25
5. Promise 2:26-29
E. The letter to the church in Sardis 3:1-6
1. Destination and description of Christ 3:1a-b
2. Commendation and rebuke 3:1c, 2b
3. Exhortation 3:2a, 3
4. Promise 3:4-6
F. The letter to the church in Philadelphia 3:7-13
1. Destination and description of Christ 3:7
2. Commendation 3:8
3. Promise 3:9-11a, 12
4. Exhortation 3:11b, 13
G. The letter to the church in Laodicea 3:14-22
1. Destination and description of Christ 3:14
2. Rebuke 3:15-17
3. Exhortation 3:18-19
4. Promise 3:20-22
2:6 Who Were the Nicolaitans?
See comment on REVELATION 2:15.
2:13 Where Does Satan Live?
This verse seems a little strange, for it mentions that Satan had his "throne" in the city of Pergamum in Asia Minor. We are accustomed to thinking about Satan as traveling everywhere in the world (Job 1:7; 2:2); is there really a locality in which Satan himself lives? Does he have an actual throne? And is it visible? Should this affect our own decisions on our place of residence? How did the church in Pergamum experience what John is writing about?
On the one hand, it is clear that Satan, as a finite being, must have a localized existence. Unlike God, he is not omnipresent, so he must be somewhere (and not be everywhere) at any given point in time. But Satan is also a spiritual being, probably the one identified in Ephesians 2:2 as the "ruler of the kingdom of the air." This means that he does not appear to be physically localized in our material sense, but rather lives in the spiritual world (or heavenlies) through which he has access to the physical world. Although we do not fully understand the relationship of the spiritual to the physical, we would be surprised to discover that Satan had limited himself to a specific physical locality by setting up his throne in a given city. Indeed, what we find elsewhere in Revelation is that when he rules on earth he does so through a human being whom he controls (see Rev 13:2).
On the other hand, Pergamum is a place known to us from history. It was an independent city until 133 B.C., when its last king willed it to Rome. It thereafter became the capital city of Roman Asia, the seat of the proconsul who as the senatorial governor of the province had an almost unlimited power for the period of his office. By 29 B.C. the city had become the center of the imperial cult with a temple erected to "the divine Augustus and the goddess Roma." The city also had a great temple to Zeus Soter (Savior Zeus), and its citizens worshiped the serpent god Asclepius, who was the god of healing. This history gives a rich background for identifying the city with Satan.1
Any of the images we have mentioned would have served Satan well. Asclepius as a serpent (found on the coat of arms of the city and used as a symbol of medicine today) would remind one of Satan as the serpent and dragon in Revelation. The altar of Zeus was said to have been thronelike, the temple dominating the city. He was, after all, the king of the Greek gods. But the central image in this passage appears to have been that of Roman rule.
The key to this identification is the reference to Antipas, a Christian martyr. Given that the proconsul did have the power to put people to death, this probably indicates official persecution (although it may have been localized). Where else but at the center of imperial rule would the church be more likely to come into direct conflict with Rome? Imperial rule was not separated from imperial cult. While educated people did not take the cult seriouslythey looked on it as a patriotic ceremony, much as pledging allegiance to the flag is seen in the U.S.A. todaythe church saw in it a clash between the call of Christians to worship God alone and the demand of the state to have one's ultimate allegiance. What is more, the state always kept a watchful eye on unsanctioned societies. The growth of the Christian community and its influence in the lower classes, especially among slaves (who had been known to revolt in Rome itself), was threatening. Here was a group who called Jesus, not Caesar, Lord, a group that could not be controlled. The clash was inevitable. Antipas had been martyred. And in the aftermath of his martyrdom the church must have lived in fear, for they were located in the very seat of Roman power and could hardly escape the notice of Rome.
This throne of Caesar, then, is the throne of Satan. Satan is not identified with Rome totally; he is independent of all of his tools. But in Revelation 13 it is Roman rulers through whom Satan works, and Roman power is in this sense the throne of Satan. It is the means through which Satan rules and controls that area, in this case Asia Minor. It is therefore also the means through which he persecutes the church of God.
The relevance of this passage to Christians today is obvious. While there may not be any recent martyrs in some Christian localities, many, if not most, Christians live under governments that claim absolute allegiance ("My country, right or wrong"). John reminds us that all such claims fly in the face of absolute obedience to Christ. They are satanic in origin. To the extent that the country decides to enforce its claim, either ceremonially or in action, a clash with a faithful church is inevitable. The closer one is to the center of government, the more certain the clash and the more inescapable the consequences. As Satan's throne appears behind whatever the architectural façade of our capital may be, the Christian will be forced to decide whom he or she serves. John lets us know that the decision is difficult, but he is encouraging us to be faithful, even if it means following in the footsteps of Antipas.2
A secondary application is also probable. Paul speaks eight times of "principalities and powers," which are part of the demonic hierarchy of Satan's kingdom (see Eph 6:12). Some such forces are on occasion identified with a particular people or land (see Dan 10:13). Thus, some demonic spirits appear to be localized, an idea that is confirmed by the experience of many Christian workers.3 This means that some areas may be more directly under the control of such powerful beings than are others, or that the being that controls a given area may himself be more powerful than the one controlling another area. Paul lists various articles of armor with which Christians are armed for battle with such beings (Eph 6:1318). He does not mention direct prayer against them (such as "binding them" or "casting them out"), but rather exemplary Christian faith and conduct, such as the conduct that probably got Antipas in trouble and the faith that sustained him through his martyrdom.4
If this analysis is accurate, then some Christians should recognize that they live in very difficult territory. Such a recognition is not a call to move, but an acknowledgment that the situation they face is tougher than normal and therefore the virtues they must arm themselves with are more than normal. At the same time, this verse reminds us that Christ is in total control of these powers. Even our martyrdom is under his control. Although our area of the battle may be tough, there is no danger of losing. The important thing is that we, like the believers in Pergamum, hold out and remain faithful, even in the face of death itself.
1 A. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1978), p. 109.
2 An encouragement in this direction is found in John White's excellent Magnificent Obsession (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1990).
3 See C. Peter Wagner, "Territorial Spirits," in C. Peter Wagner and F. Douglas Pennoyer, eds., Wrestling with Dark Angels (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1990), pp. 73100, for one description of this phenomenon.
4 This does not imply that Christians are never called upon to pray directly against such beings, but that such activity is not their normal occupation; it should be engaged in only at the direct command of God.
2:15 Who Were the Nicolaitans?
Revelation has many strange symbols and images, but there are also unusual names. In Revelation 2:6, 15, the unfamiliar name blocks understanding. Here in two verses in letters written to two different churches (Ephesus and Pergamum) we discover the Nicolaitans. Presumably the author believed that the readers of the letters would know who they were, but we are not in their position. What were their practices, and why would God hate them?
The earliest identification of the Nicolaitans, found in the church fathers, was as followers of Nicolas of Antioch, a proselyte to Judaism, who was one of the Seven (Acts 6:5). Unfortunately, none of the writers seems to know much about the heresy, and one, in fact, argues that Nicolas himself was orthodox but had been misunderstood. While it is possible that some of this information is accurate (there have been Spirit-filled church leaders who have lapsed into heresy), this looks like an attempt to find some name in Scripture to use to identify this sect. Nicolas may have simply had the misfortune of bearing the wrong name. Still, even if the Nicolas of Acts had nothing to do with the movement, it is probable that some Nicolas was the leader of the group (after all, Nicolas was a reasonably common name).
A second identification common in some theological circles is to look at the Greek etymology of "Nicolaitan" (nikan and laos meaning respectively "conquer" and "people") and argue that this was a group that suppressed the laity in favor of the developing clergy. However, this explanation is determined more by modern concepts of clergy and laity than by any first-century information, for such terminology (such as the use of laos for only a section of the church) was unknown this early. Etymology is a notoriously dangerous way to discover the meaning of a term. Furthermore, there is nothing in the text to support this meaning.
The clue to the real meaning of this term is found in the identification of the Nicolaitans with "the teaching of Balaam" in Revelation 2:1415. Not only is it possible that "Nikolaitan" is a Greek form of "Balaam" (as understood by the rabbis), but, more important, this interpretation fits both the text and the first-century situation.
John identifies the teaching of Balaam with two problems: "eating food sacrificed to idols" and "sexual immorality." The early church constantly struggled with compromises with paganism, as we see in Paul's long discussion in 1 Corinthians 810, as well as in the conclusions reached in Acts 15:20, 29. Both of these center on food offered to idols, Paul's conclusion being that one could eat such food if purchased in the marketplace, but one should not go to a meal in a pagan temple. Following this Pauline rule, however, would cut one off from membership in trade guilds, patriotic celebrations (including ceremonies honoring the emperor, considered essential to good citizenship, although not taken seriously by the upper classes as religious events) and many family celebrations. We can easily see the pressure to rationalize and thereby develop a compromise.
The issue of sexual immorality is more difficult, for it is also mentioned in Revelation 2:20, 22, in the case of Jezebel (an Old Testament code word for a New Testament woman leader of the church in Thyatira, indicating her spirit and God's evaluation, rather than the woman's actual name). On the one hand, sexual immorality was a problem in the early church, as Paul's discussions show (1 Cor 5:1; 6:1220; compare Heb 13:4). In the middle of a pagan society that accepted the use of prostitutes (although wives were expected to remain faithful), it was difficult to remain obedient on this point and relatively easy to compromise. On the other hand, "sexual immorality" was used in the Old Testament for involvement with pagan deities. For example, the Old Testament Jezebel was not to our knowledge physically immoralshe was likely faithful to Ahab all her lifebut she did lead Israel into Baal worship. Since Israel was God's "bride," such involvement with other gods was called "adultery" or "sexual immorality."
Furthermore, the line between the two meanings of "immorality" was difficult to draw. Sexual immorality was involved in the Peor incident (connected to Balaam, Num 25:118), but the biggest issue was that the women were Moabites or Midianites, pagan women, and they led the men to eat feasts associated with their gods and then to worship the gods themselves. In other words, the sexual immorality was wrong because it was associated with the worship of other gods, a commonplace in the pagan world in which many temples had prostitutes in them through whom a man could become "joined" to the god.
If, then, John is taking the Old Testament examples as the basis for his discussion, the sexual immorality is figurative, standing for their worship of other deities, which was implied in their attending feasts in idol temples. If, on the other hand, he is using the Old Testament examples loosely, he may be indicating two related problems, attending feasts in idol temples and engaging in extramarital sexual intercourse, probably with prostitutes. The difference between the two explanations is narrow. Both types of problems are condemned elsewhere in the New Testament, however one may interpret this particular passage.
The Nicolaitans, then, appear to be a group that corrupted God's people by suggesting compromise with the culture of the day. Rather than worship God and him alone, they suggested that it was appropriate to engage in patriotic ceremonies (such as feasts associated with the worship of the emperor) and other cultural institutions (for example, trade guilds, something like our modern unions or professional associations, and their worship). It is possible that either as part of these ceremonies or as a separate area of compromise they also permitted the use of prostitutes (perhaps as an accepted part of the "business ethic" of their day). Jesus (who is speaking through John) was not impressed. In fact, he threatened judgment on the church.
While the exact issues are different, similar compromises face the church today. Each society has its own "idols" that it expects all its citizens to worship, whether those idols be the government itself or some values or practices of the society. These "idols" are the places at which the values of the society conflict with total allegiance to Christ. Furthermore, the Nicolaitans are still with us under a variety of names, for there are always people who in the name of being "realistic" or under any number of other theological justifications counsel compromise with the dominant culture. This passage warns us that Jesus will not "buy" these justifications. He demands nothing less than total loyalty to his own person and directions. Anything less than this will put those who compromise in danger of his judgment.
IVP-New Bible Commentary
2:1-7 The letter to the church in Ephesus
Ephesus was one of the great cities of the ancient world and by far the largest in Asia Minor. It was proud of its title Temple Warden', which originally referred to the temple of Artemis (Diana) but later included two temples devoted to the worship of the Roman emperors. The temple of Artemis was a famous place of refuge for fugitives, but its vaunted salvation' was greatly abused, and the surrounding area gave the criminal a sanctuary beyond the reach of the law, becoming the headquarters of organized crime. The interest of the populace in magic and superstition is illustrated in Acts 19:13-20. Paul founded the church in Ephesus and made it the centre for evangelizing the province (Acts 19:1-10). According to later tradition the apostle John and Mary, the mother of Jesus, settled there. 1 The opening greeting cites 1:12, 20: the Lord holds the seven stars in his right hand. This indicates that he maintains the spiritual life of the churches; he walks among the seven golden lampstands, and so is present with all the churches. But the power that sustains is also capable of judicial removal; the title thus prepares the hearer for v 5.
2-3 I know your deeds heads each of the letters, sometimes imparting encouragement (e.g. 2:9, 13) and sometimes causing shame (e.g. 3:1, 15). Here it introduces a commendation. The deeds of the Ephesians are hard work and perseverance; the former shows itself in efforts to overcome false teachers, the latter in endurance in face of opposition, whether from false prophets or from other sources. The wicked men are those who claim to be apostles but are not. It is likely that these are the persons named in v 6 as Nicolaitans. Their wickedness relates not so much to their doctrine as to the moral evil to which the doctrine gave rise. (On the Nicolaitans, see on 2:14-15.)
4-5 The failure of the Ephesians was the perversion of their chief virtue: You have [p. 1427] forsaken your first love. The call for repentance and to do the things you did at first suggests that the failure of these Christians was not primarily loss of love for God but loss of love for people. When hate for the practices of those who err (6) becomes hatred of those who err, Christians depart from the redeeming love of God in Christ (cf. Jn. 3:16) and pervert the faith. Hence the grave warning in v 5: I will come to you denotes a coming in judgment, even as the Lord will come to the world one day to sweep away its evil. The removal of the lampstand from its place can signify nothing less than the end of Christ's recognition of the church as a church of his. It will become as devoid of Christ as the temple of Jerusalem became empty of God prior to its destruction (cf. Ezk. 11:22-23; Mt 23:38). So grave is the sin of lovelessness in a Christian church.
7 The injunction He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches appears in the promises to the overcomers in all seven letters. It is unlikely that the Spirit speaks only the promises; he speaks throughout the letters. It would appear that the risen Lord addresses the churches through the Holy Spirit. This is wholly in accordance with the teaching of Jesus in the upper room discourses of Jn. 14-16 (see especially Jn. 16:12-15). The believer who overcomes does so by virtue of Christ's conquest over all powers of evil; he shares in his Lord's victory (see 12:11; Jn. 12:31-32; 16:33). To the overcomer will be given the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. The term paradise is a Persian loan word, denoting especially a park surrounded by a wall. The term was used in the LXX to translate the word garden' (Eden). In Jewish literature Garden of Eden' and paradise' were both used for the dwelling of the righteous in the future life. Jewish teachers therefore spoke of the paradise of Adam, the paradise of the blessed in heaven and the paradise of the righteous in the coming kingdom of God. It is the last of these meanings which is in mind in this promise. Adam and Eve lost access to the tree of life and were driven from the garden (Gn. 3:22-23); the believer who shares his Lord's victory is promised that both blessings will be restored (see 22:2). A frequent term for the cross of Jesus in the NT is tree' (especially on the lips of Peter; see Acts 5:30; 10:39; 1 Pet. 2:24). The temple of Artemis was built on a tree shrine, and a tree frequently symbolized Ephesus or its goddess. Whereas the Ephesian believers once viewed the tree of Artemis as the seat of divine life and the intermediary between that life and human nature, they now learn that life eternal in the paradise of God was theirs through the cross of him who died and rose.
2:8-11 The letter to the church in Smyrna
Smyrna was a seaport, and its prosperity on account of its position was well established before Christian times and continues (as Izmir) to this day. The first city on the site was destroyed in 600 BC, and it was rebuilt by the successor of Alexander the Great. The image of the phoenix, the legendary bird that rises from the ashes of its destruction, was applied to Smyrna. This is not the only instance of a church reflecting the history of the city in which it is set. For one theme dominates this short letter, that of suffering persecution. Hence the greeting from the Lord in the opening sentence: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. The church is reminded that its Lord is the conqueror of death and has conquered it for their sakes. It so happens that one of the best known Christians in the early church was probably sitting in the congregation when this letter was read. This was Polycarp, who later became Smyrna's bishop and was martyred about 160 AD. When at his trial he was commanded to curse Christ, he stated that he had served the Lord for eightysix years and had received only good from him, how could he forswear his king?
9 The afflictions and poverty of the Smyrnean Christians are likely to have been due to the persecutions they had suffered. (For this see Heb. 10:32-34, and contrast what is said of the Laodiceans in 3:17). The slander of the Jews of Smyrna is characteristic of the Jewish bitterness against Christians in this city, and is referred to by other Christian writers. These Jews would have taken the opportunity of informing against the Christians. The church of Smyrna later cited the Jewish allegations that Polycarp resisted the state religion; they spoke of him as the teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians, the puller down of our gods, who teaches numbers not to sacrifice nor to worship'. Such Jews were no longer worthy of the name Jew', but had become a synagogue of Satan (cf. Nu. 16:3, which reads the synagogue of the Lord' in the LXX). The name Satan means an accuser, slanderer; this group of Jews had approximated to his nature. Naturally this is not an indication of John's view of Jews; he was a Jew himself! It reflects the depths of apostasy to which this congregation had sunk.
10 The devil through his instruments will put some of the Christians of Smyrna into prison, and their persecution will last ten days. Prison was not for punishment, but a place to await sentence, whether for forced labour in salt mines, or deportation, or death. The persecution will be short, but it could suffice for some to pay the ultimate sacrifice. If so, there remains [p. 1428] the assurance of the crown of life from the Lord, i.e. the laurel wreath for the victor at the games which will consist (in its application) of life in the kingdom of God.
11 The overcomer's consolation is that he or she will not be hurt... by the second death. That is a Jewish expression, which contrasts the death which all must suffer with the fate of those who are destined never to escape its power, either because they are unworthy of resurrection from death or because they suffer judgment at the end of the age (in 21:8 it means to be cast into the lake of fire). Such a doom is to die twice. The Smyrneans are reminded that to die through human wrath is small compared with suffering the judgment of God.
2:12-17 The letter to the church in Pergamum
For many years there was rivalry between Ephesus, Smyrna and Pergamum as to which was the first city of Asia. Of one thing there was no doubt: Pergamum was the centre of the religious life of the province. The city was dominated by a huge hill that rose to 1000 ft above sea level and had many temples. The most famous was the temple of Asclepios, the god of healing, closely associated with the snake, which gave Pergamum a reputation like Lourdes today. There was also a huge altar of Zeus, built to commemorate a notable victory. Most important of all, Pergamum had the first temple in the area dedicated to Augustus and Rome, hence it became the centre for the worship of the emperor in the province. As this was as much a political as a religious affiliation it created peculiar problems for Christians. The titles of Lord, Saviour and God were constantly applied to the emperor, which Christians could do no other than resist in the light of their sole rightful ascription to Jesus.
12 The title echoes 1:16 and anticipates 2:16.
13 The Lord acknowledges Pergamum as being where Satan has his throne. This most plausibly relates to the thronelike altar of Zeus, itself a symbol of the idolatry that held sway in Pergamum. Yet these Christians remained true to the name of Jesus, the only Lord, Saviour and God incarnate. Clearly a persecution had taken place, when one of their number had been executed, Antipas, my faithful witness. This could be the first occasion of witness (Gk martyr') being consciously used of one who laid down his life on account of witness to Christ.
14 But the church in this city had some who hold to the teaching of Balaam, with which was associated the teaching of the Nicolaitans. From early times the latter were reputed to have been followers of Nicolaus of Antioch, one of the Seven appointed to help the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 6:5). The two names were popularly assumed to have a similarity of meaning. Nicolaus means he overcomes the people' and Balaam he has consumed the people'. The evil at stake was persuasion to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and committing sexual immorality. After Balaam uttered his oracles of blessing instead of cursing on Israel (Nu. 22-24), the Israelites engaged in sexual immorality with the Moabite women and ate their sacrifices and worshipped their gods (Nu. 25:1-2). In Nu. 31:16 it is stated that the Moabite women acted by the counsel of Balaam. In Pergamum, as elsewhere, teachers had entered the churches and sought to persuade the members to act freely on the acknowledged truth that Christians were not under the Mosaic law. The concept of a permissive society is clearly not new! Likewise its evils.
16 The Lord calls for repentance (i.e. turning from such sin), otherwise he will soon come and exercise judgment on those who so teach and act (cf. 2:5).
17 The promise to the overcomer is twofold. I will give some of the hidden manna. This is in accord with the understanding of redemption as a second exodus. The Jews put it thus, As the first Redeemer brought the manna down, so the second Redeemer will bring the manna down.' For the Christian, of course, that is given a spiritual meaning, akin to the water of life' (cf. 22:17). The white stone is ambiguous, in that it had a variety of meanings and uses in ancient society. An individual on trial would be given by the jurors a stone, a black one indicating guilt, a white one acquittal. If this were in mind the promise would be related to that given to the Smyrneans (2:11). A custom existed when two persons wishing to seal friendship, broke a stone into two and each retained a half, thereby giving access to each other's home. An extension of such a custom was the use of a stone for admission to a feast; when it applied to an association that regularly held feasts it could be expensive and restrictedmuch like an exclusive club today. There is evidence of donating to victors at the games a stone which served as a reward and was provided out of public funds. Much would depend, in interpreting possibilities of understanding, as to whose new name written on the stone is in mind. If it were the Christian's, then the promise would indicate entrance into a distinctive relationship in the new life of the kingdom of God. If it were the name of God (cf., or of Christ (cf. 19:12b), then it would denote a new and hidden relationship with the Lord, with perhaps an allusion to the power inherent in the name of God. The Christian participates in the power of the Lord and, in a unique manner shared by none, in the character of God. [p. 1429]
2:18-29 The letter to the church in Thyatira
Thyatira was a city of craftsmen and merchants. We recall that the first convert in Macedonia was Lydia of Thyatira, a seller of purple cloth (Acts 16:14). The major problem for the church was posed by the many trade guilds in the city. This was unusual, in that Roman administration discouraged such; but it is thought that Thyatira was useful to the Romans as a supplier for their garrison in nearby Pergamum, so they could overlook the guilds. The Christians, however, could not. Guilds had a patron god; the local god of Thyatira, a representation of Apollo, probably served that purpose. The feasts of the guilds were held in a temple and were viewed as religious occasions; the meat was offered to the god, so that participators shared it with him, and the occasions not infrequently ended in debauchery. How could Christians participate in such meetings? That woman Jezebel had an answer (20).
V 18 echoes 1:14b and 15a. Eyes... like blazing fire see all. Burnished bronze was a popular alloy and was produced in Thyatira, though strangely the technical term for it used here occurs nowhere else in Greek literature. Its association with the local representation of Apollo, and the finding of coins on which he is portrayed as holding the emperor's hand, may be in mind in this introduction, where the Son of God is described as arrayed in armour flashing like the refined metal from the furnaces of the city! The deeds mentioned in v 19 are significant, not least for understanding what are acceptable to God, and for the interpretation of judgment according to works in 20:12-14. Here was a church that was growing in its service for Christ (you are now doing more than you did at first).
20 But the church allowed a prophetess to exercise a dangerous ministry in its midst. Jezebel is clearly a symbolic name, recalling King Ahab's queen, who introduced idolatry into Israel and threatened the continued existence of true religion (see 1 Ki 16:29-32; 2 Ki 9:22). Some authorities have a curious variant in v 20 and read your wife Nezebel; it is unlikely to be correct, but it reflects a belief that the prophetess would have been the wife of the angel' of the church, namely its bishop. Jezebel would have been of the order of the Nicolaitans and encouraged the members of the church to have no scruples about participating in the meetings of their guilds and so freely engage in sexual immorality and the eating of foods sacrificed to idols. This is typical of the beyond morality' attitude of the libertarian gnostics.
21 Warning had already been given to Jezebel to cease her baleful influence, but to no avail. Accordingly, she and those responsive to her were to be punished. The language in vs 22-23 is clearly figurative, setting forth a punishment befitting the crime. Those who commit adultery with her are the same as her children the entire group of her followers will be brought to an end, and all the churches will know by experience what they already know in theory, that the Lord searches hearts and minds and repays according to deeds.
24 Satan's socalled deep secrets could refer ironically to the gnostics' claims to know (in an exclusive manner) the deep secrets of God; the Lord's response to such a claim would then be that their deep secrets' are inspired by Satan, not by God. Alternatively, the Nicolaitans may have taught that Christians should not hesitate to learn the secrets of Satan', but rather demonstrate their superiority over the sins of the flesh, since in any case these cannot affect the spirit within. Either interpretation demands a repudiation of such notions. I will not impose any other burden on you alludes to the two chief demands of the apostolic council in Acts 15:28, namely abstention from food sacrificed to idols and from immorality. The call to perseverance in v 25 occurs again in 3:11, but with a significant addition.
26-27 The overcomer is described as one who does my will to the end. Such a person is to receive a delegation of Christ's authority over the nations and share in his triumph over rebellious peoples. The verbs in v 27, rule and dash... to pieces, are in parallelism, and either term may be viewed as controlling the meaning of the other. While most opt for the latter (i.e. destroy) the former would be more in keeping with the context: the Christians in Thyatira, conscious of their helplessness, are promised power over their adversaries. (Note that the term here translated rule' means lit. to shepherd' and originally referred to the use of a shepherd's staff, and so of a sceptre [Ps. 45:6] and also of an instrument of punishment [Is. 10:24].)
28 I will also give him the morning star is less to be interpreted in terms of 22:16, where Christ himself is the bright Morning Star, than by the fact that the morning star is Venus. For the Romans that star was a symbol of victory and sovereignty; Roman generals built temples in honour of Venus, and Caesar's armies had its sign inscribed on their standards. If that be in view the promise strengthens the declarations in vs 26-27; the overcomer is doubly assured of his participation with Christ in his triumph and rule.
3:1-6 The letter to the church in Sardis
Sardis was a city with an illustrious past of which it was proud, but it had less to be proud of in John's time. The capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, it reached the peak of its wealth about 700 BC under Gyges, known to the Assyrians as Gugu. The Jews called this king Gog, and he was thought of as symbolic of the evil powers to arise at the end of the age. He was slain in a surprise attack by the Cimmerians. The city sank into oblivion after the Persian conquest, but it recovered something of its prestige when, through the help of Tiberius, it was rebuilt following an earthquake in AD 17. The church in Sardis reflected the history of the city; once it had had a name for spiritual achievement, but now it was lifeless (1). Two other elements in the city's life are echoed in the letter. Sardis was built on a mountain and had an acropolis which was viewed as impregnable. To capture the acropolis of Sardis' was proverbial in Greek to do the impossible. But no less than five times the acropolis was conquered, twice through lack of vigilance. The parallel with the church's lack of wakefulness and its dire situation is striking (2-3). Sardis was also a centre for woollen goods and claimed to be first in the business of dyeing wool; this, too, seems to be reflected in vs 4-5.
1 The title echoes 1:4 and 16. The risen Lord possesses the seven spirits of God; in view of the imagery of 1:4 this would appear to represent the Holy Spirit sent to the seven churches. The Spirit inspires prophecy and quickens the dead; this church needed to listen to the prophetic warning and seek the Spirit's quickening life. As in 2:1 the seven stars, the churches, are in Christ's hand, both to hold fast and to judge. I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God (2). But none are mentioned! The Sardis congregation needed those qualities which the church in Thyatira had: love, faith, service, perseverance. If they had any of those, or any like them, they were halfhearted in putting them into practice. Nothing they started ever came to completion. The church therefore is called on to awake (cf. Eph. 5:14); to strengthen what remains, i.e. whatever was of God in the church that had not died; to remember what you have received, i.e. of the apostolic gospel and teaching on the Christian life; to obey it and repent (3), i.e. turn to God as at their conversion. Otherwise, says the Lord, I will come like a thief. The parable of the thief is clearly echoed here (Mt. 24:43-44; cf. 1 Thes. 5:2-4), as it is in 16:15. In view of the use of this language in the letters to Ephesus and Pergamum (2:5, 16), however, it is likely that a coming of the Lord for judgment in the present is in view, rather than the possibility that the church will suffer judgment at the Lord's coming in power and glory.
4 The few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes are those who had resisted the temptation to accommodate their lives to the heathen customs of their neighbours. They, accordingly, will walk with the Lord, dressed in white. 5 The same promise is addressed to the overcomer (cf. 19:7-8). Holiness is always a gift of the Lord wrought in the life of the believer, the life of the Redeemer lived out in the redeemed. Note further that the wearing of white is associated with festivity (as in 19:7-8; cf. also Ec. 9:8) and victory. A complex of ideas attaches to the picture. For the concept of erasing a name from the book of life see Ex. 32:32, where the thought is of a register of citizens. In Dn. 12:1, Lk. 10:20, Phil. 4:3 and in this passage it symbolizes a register of the citizens of the kingdom of God. The Lord's confession of the overcomer echoes Mt. 10:32, I will also acknowledge him before my Father'.
3:7-13 The letter to the church in Philadelphia
Philadelphia, like the neighbouring town of Sardis, suffered grievously from earthquakes and, while not so badly affected as the latter in the catastrophic earthquake of AD 17, it experienced them more frequently. Of this aspect of the city's life Strabo wrote, The walls never cease being cracked, and different parts of the city are constantly suffering damage. That is why the actual town has few inhabitants, but the majority live as farmers in the countryside, as they have fertile land'. The insecurity of life in Philadelphia is contrasted in v 12 with the promise of a permanent place in the city of God, and they who live in it will not have to find a safer place outside its walls% The whole letter is dominated by the sure and certain prospect of life in the kingdom of God.
7 The risen Lord is holy and true, like the Father (6:10), and so may be trusted to keep his word. He holds the key of David. In 1:18, as the resurrected one, Jesus has the keys of death and Hades', and so can unlock the gates of death and lead into eternal life; here the phrase recalls Is. 22:22, where it signifies authority over David's house and means the Messiah's undisputed authority over entrance into, or exclusion from, the kingdom of God.
8-9 The symbol of the open door is often interpreted in the light of Paul's usage in 1 Cor. 16:9 and 2 Cor. 2:12, namely the opening up of evangelistic opportunity. In this context, however, it almost certainly refers to the door of God's kingdom. As in Smyrna, the Jews of this city are called the synagogue of Satan; they would [p. 1431] have not only opposed the Christians but asserted that the latter had no place in the kingdom of God, since it was for Jews alone. On the contrary, the Lord of the kingdom has already opened it to his followers, and in the day of its revelation he will make these apostate Jews do what they expected the Gentiles would do for them: they will fall down before the Christians they despised and will acknowledge that they are the beloved of the Messiah (see Is. 60:14).
10 The hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world denotes not the clock time when the Messianic judgments come on the world, but the trials themselves. A comparable use of hour is seen in the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane, where it represents the horrors of the crucifixion and all it signified for him (Mk. 14:35; Jn. 12:27). The tribulation is to test those who live on the earth. This phrase is regularly used in Revelation for the unbelievers of the world (see 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8, 14; 17:8). The preservation of the church from the effects of these judgments is set forth in various images in this book of the judgments of God (see 7:1-8; 11:1; 12:6) and has a close parallel in Jn. 17:15.
11 A note of urgency is now introduced, which appears again in 22:7, 12, 20.
12 The conqueror is to be a pillar in the temple of my God. 21:22 makes it clear that there is to be no temple other than God and the Lamb in the city of God. The promise here given is an assurance of inseparable unity with God in his coming kingdom. I will write on him the name of my God ... continues the metaphor of the pillar, hence the inscription is depicted as on the pillar, not on the forehead of the victor. 1 Macc. 14:25-27 relates how the deeds of Simon Maccabeus were inscribed on tablets of brass, which were fixed in a conspicuous place in the precincts of the sanctuary', so ensuring a permanent record of Simon's greatness. The victor's glory, however, is not to be in his deeds but in that he bears the name of my God, the name of the city of God and Christ's new name, i.e. in the fact that he belongs to God and to the Son of God in his glory, and is a citizen of the new Jerusalem, the eternal kingdom of God (21:2).
3:14-22 The letter to the church in Laodicea
Laodicea was situated on the bank of the River Lycus. Its position at the junction of three imperial roads traversing Asia Minor favoured its development as a wealthy commercial and administrative centre. Three facts known throughout the Roman world about the city throw light on this letter: it was a banking centre, whose banks even Cicero recommended for exchanging money; it manufactured clothing and woollen carpets, made especially from the glossy black wool of sheep reared locally; and it had a medical school and produced medicines, notably an eye ointment made from a pulverized rock in the area. The stern characterization of the church's spiritual life (17) and the call for its repentance (18) are both couched in terms of these three activities of the city.
14 As The Amen Jesus is the embodiment of the faithfulness and truthfulness of God (see Is. 65:16). The Christian use of Amen' adds the thought that he is also the guarantor and executor of the purposes of God. Such a designation stands in vivid contrast to the faithlessness of the Laodiceans. The title the ruler of God's creation is better rendered the prime source of all God's creation' (NEB). It is like Alpha' in the title Alpha and Omega' (1:8), and here is perhaps intended to emphasize the Lord's authority and power to carry out that purpose of which he is guarantor and faithful witness.
1516 The terms cold, hot and lukewarm are likely to relate to waters around and in Laodicea. Nearby Hierapolis was famed for its hot springs; Colosse, also near at hand, was noted for a cold, clear stream of excellent drinking water. Since, however, the River Lycus dried up in summer, Laodicea had to use a long viaduct for its water, which was not only tepid but impure and sometimes foul, making people sick. The church of that city had that effect on Christa vivid and horrifying picture of judgment. (V 16 should not be taken as indicating that the Lord prefers an atheist or a fanatical religious zealot to a tepid christian. The issue is the prossession of genuine life in christ by those who profess the Christian faith, not the way they hold it.)
1718 In a single sentence with contrasting clauses (You say...I counsel you...) the irony of the Laodiceans' situation is brought home to them. In spite of their wealth they are wretched and pitiful; despite their physicians and medicaments for the yees they are blind; and in spite of their abundance of cloth they are naked. Accordingly the Lord calls on them to buy from him what they lack (cf. 1 Cor. 2:6-16; 2 Cor. 4:1-6).
19 The nauseating condition of the Laodiceans has not quenched the love of Christ for them; his scathing judgments are the expression of an affection that wishes to lead them to repentance (cf. Heb. 12:4-11). The gracious invitiation that follows in v 20 is given, not to the church as a whole, as though Christ was outside the church (which would require, If the church will hear my voice...I will go in and eat with them, and they with me'), but to each individual within it, conveying the offer of the risen Lord to share with any who will open the door of fellowship in even the commonest activities of life.
21 Just as a high privilege is offered to these unworthy Christians so is a promise greater than all those previously uttered: just as believers invite Christ to make his home with them in this transitory life, so the Lord will invite anyone who endures to the end to share in the coming ages the throne that the Father has given to him. The fulfilment of the promise is portrayed in 20:4-6, the millennial' rule in history, and 22:5, the eternal reign in the new creation.
2:1. "Says this" (NASB) echoes the Old Testament formula that prophets of God borrowed from royal edicts and typical messenger formulas: "Thus says the lord/king."
2:2-3. Rhetorical experts (teachers of professional public speaking) recommended that speakers mix praise and blame for their hearers, to avoid closing them to the message while also avoiding populist flattery. Rhetoricians normally began with praise, as do most of the letters in Revelation 2-3. Edicts sometimes included "I know," although the allusion here is to the omniscience of the one who inspires prophecy, a standard ancient idea.
2:4. Sound doctrine and perseverance are inadequate without love. Whether love for other Christians (as in 1 Jn; cf. "works" Rev 2:5, 19; "hate" 2:6) or for God (Jer 2:2) is in view is not clear.
2:5. Royal emissaries could threaten judgment on cities, but this threat is closest to God's warnings to the unrepentant in the Old Testament. These oracles address the churches rather than the cities they represented before God, but Ramsay's notes on the future of each city are nonetheless interesting. Eventually only a village remained of what was once mighty Ephesus, several miles from the original site of the city; due to silt deposits, it was already beginning to lose its geographical position as a coastal city in John's day.
2:6. This teaching may be related to that of "Balaam" (2:14-15); this sect may have advocated compromise with the imperial cult to avoid persecution. Later church fathers identified them as an immoral Gnostic sect. As in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the "hatred" here is hatred of sin, not private revenge (the Scrolls taught that vengeance should be left to God).
2:7. "The Spirit " in Judaism was especially associated with prophetic enablement; thus the Spirit inspires John's vision and prophecy (1:10; 14:13). On having an "ear" see comment on Mark 4:9. Some moralists also exhorted hearers to "hear" sages of old they were citing, but the formula here resembles the common Old Testament formula "Hear the word of the Lord" (e.g., Amos 3:1; 4:1; 5:1). "Overcoming" (especially a military or athletic image of conquest or victory) here involves persevering in the face of conflict and hardship; this is all that the Lord requires to secure ultimate victory. Although the "tree of life" was used to symbolize the law in later Jewish teaching, this vision alludes to Genesis 2:9 and a restoration of paradise (on which cf. 2 Cor 12:2-4). Each of the promises in these oracles to the churches is fulfilled in Revelation 21-22.
Oracle to the Church at Smyrna
Only Smyrna and Philadelphia are fully praised; Ramsay notes that of the seven these two cities held out longest before the Turkish conquest. Ephesus and prosperous Smyrna were the two oldest centers of the imperial cult in Asia. One of the oldest and most prominent cities in Asia, Smyrna sought but failed to achieve honor equal to that of Ephesus in this period. It was also known for its beauty. On the situation in Smyrna and Philadelphia, which apparently includes expulsion from the synagogues, see the introduction to John.
2:8. On the description of Jesus here, see comment on 1:17-18. (Some commentators have argued that Smyrna was likewise dead and living, because it enjoyed only a shadow of its former reputation. This interpretation is unlikely in view of its prosperity, even if it had been overshadowed by Ephesus. According to Strabo, Smyrna had been razed by the Lydians and rebuilt with great beauty many centuries before, but this revival of a city was not commonly understood as death and resurrection, and the occasion was now so remote in the past that the Smyrneans themselves would probably not have caught such a purported allusion. Furthermore, Sardis was once burned as well, but 3:1 says the opposite about it.)
2:9. The strength of the Jewish community in Smyrna is well attested. In denying that his opponents are spiritually Jewish, he seems to return the charge they had made against the Christians; in calling them a " synagogue of Satan," his rhetoric resembles that of the Dead Sea Scrolls, where a persecuted Jewish sect that considered the rest of Judaism apostate called its opponents "the lot of Belial" (Satan).
People were betrayed to provincial officials by delatores, "informers," and by the early second century it is attested that Christians in Asia Minor were generally charged only if accused by such informers. By the early second century, Jews in Smyrna were reportedly fulfilling this function against Christians (such as Polycarp). But simply claiming publicly that Christians were no longer welcome as part of the synagogue community was a form of betrayal; Christians who were not seen as Jewish had no protection against civil requirements for participation in the emperor cult.
2:10. Prison was merely a place of detention until trial and could therefore be a prelude to execution. "Testing" for "ten days" is a symbolic allusion to the minor test of Daniel 1:12, which preceded the major trials faced by Daniel and his three companions. "Behold" is common in prophetic literature and occurs repeatedly in Ezekiel (e.g., 1:4, 15).
Many Christians were martyred in Smyrna over the next several centuries. Jewish martyr stories praised those who were faithful to death and thus would be resurrected at the end; "crowns" were victors' (2:11) rewards for athletes or military heroes. (A number of ancient writers also mentioned the "crown of Smyrna," possibly referring to the city's beauty.)
2:11. Other Jewish literature also refers to the "second death," although often meaning annihilation (Revelation uses it of eternal torment- 20:10, 14). The text of 4 Maccabees portrays Jewish martyrs as fighting and triumphing by death and thus crowned as victorious athletes by godliness.
Oracle to the Church in Pergamum
There is some evidence for a Jewish community at Pergamum, but it was a strongly pagan city (see comment on 2:13). It was also a famous and prosperous city, and its rulers had been the first to invite the Romans into the affairs of Asia Minor. It was the center of the imperial cult for its province.
2:12. The "sword" in the Old Testament and apocalyptic literature often symbolized judgment or war; cf. 1:16, 2:16 and 19:13. Romans thought of the "sword" as the power to execute capital punishment (as in Rom 13:4).
2:13. Pergamum was traditionally known for its worship of Asclepius (whose symbol on Pergamum's coins was the serpent; cf. chap. 12), Demeter, Athena and Dionysus, along with Orphic elements. Its famous giant altar of Zeus (120 by 112 feet) overlooked the city on its citadel, and some have suggested that this is the background for " Satan's throne" in this verse. A more likely allusion for " Satan's throne" is the local worship of the emperor, celebrated on Pergamum's coinage in this period. Local rulers had been worshiped before the Roman period, and Pergamum was one of the first cities of Asia to build a temple to a Roman emperor (also on the citadel), making it a center of the cult. A further imperial temple was dedicated there within a decade or two after John wrote Revelation, so it is clear that the cult was popular there.
All citizens were expected to participate in civil religion or they would be suspected of disloyalty against the state; but Christians could not participate in imperial festivals or eat the meat doled out there, and as a group would thus naturally be suspected. Once one Christian was martyred, the legal precedent was set for the execution of Christians in other provinces.
2:14-15. The false teachers may be advocating compromise with the imperial cult, for humanly appealing reasons (2:13). "Balaam" was the most famous pagan prophet of the Old Testament and Jewish tradition (see comment on Jude 11) and is thus provided as the pseudonym for the heretical leader of the compromisers, like "Jezebel" in Thyatira (2:20). Both claimed inspired authority for their views and may, like the Jewish Sibyls, have used their prophecies especially to commend themselves to some elements of pagan universalism.
Balaam, a prominent ancient figure also attested outside the Bible, was believed to have led Israel to eat meat offered to idols and to have sexual intercourse with pagans to whom they were not married (Num 25:1-3). Other nations could not destroy Israel, but Balaam knew that if he could subvert their morals, God would withdraw his blessing and judge them (see Josephus and Pseudo-Philo; cf. Num 25:8). God judged Israel, but Balaam, who acted from mercenary motives, also lost his life (Num 31:8; Josh 13:22). "Sexual immorality" may be meant literally here (it was common in paganism) or may refer, as often in the Old Testament prophets, to spiritual infidelity against God (perhaps to emperor worship; cf. 17:5).
2:16. Although there would be one ultimate end of the world, the Old Testament prophets and Jewish literature occasionally described judgments in history in the language of the final day of the Lord.
2:17. The original ark of the covenant was permanently lost in 586 B.C. (cf. Jer 3:16), and the manna inside it had vanished before then. But a wide spectrum of Jewish tradition declared that Jeremiah (e.g., 2 Maccabees, 4 Baruch) or an angel (2 Baruch) had hidden them and that they would be restored at the end time (a similar view took root among the Samaritans, who dated the departure earlier). On the symbol of spiritual manna, see comment on John 6:35-40. Pebbles of various colors were used for admission to public celebrations; a black stone was the sacred symbol of the infamous Asian goddess Cybele; white stones used for medical purposes were associated with Judea; and perhaps most significant, jurors used black stones to vote for a person's guilt but white ones to vote for innocence. The Old Testament associated change of name with a promise (e.g., Gen 17:5, 15).
Oracle to the Church in Thyatira
Thyatira's economy seems to have emphasized trades and crafts. The trade guilds each had common meals (normally about once a month) dedicated to their patron deities. Although Thyatira had a Jewish community, it does not appear to have been influential; Christians who refused to participate in the life of the guilds would thus find themselves isolated socially and economically (cf. 13:17). Thyatira was only beginning to achieve prosperity in this period, hence its citizens probably valued wealth highly.
2:18. Thyatira hosted a major cult of Apollo, son of Zeus and the deity associated with prophecy and the sun. The emperor was linked with Apollo and may have been worshiped in Thyatira as his earthly manifestation. Although bronze-working was not unique to Thyatira, some scholars have also pointed to the bronze-workers' guild in that city.
2:19-20. The biblical "Jezebel" was not a prophetess, but the name is used here for its related connotations (for false prophetesses cf. Neh 6:14; Ezek 13:17-19). Jezebel had nine hundred prophets (1 Kings 18:19) and led God's people into idolatry (see comment on Rev 2:14). She was accused of harlotry, a damaging charge against a king's wife (the term was probably meant spiritually, as one who led Israel from their commitment to God), and of witchcraft, no doubt for her occult involvement in pagan cults (2 Kings 9:22). As a harlot she becomes the prototype of the evil empire of chapters 17-18.
Some scholars have suggested that Thyatira was one of the Asian cities with an oracle of the Sibyl; this cult purported to involve female prophetesses in the Greek style, and its literary forms had come to be used by Diaspora Judaism. Jewish Sibylline oracles may at any rate have influenced the style and thinking of "Jezebel"; later Christian sources mention the Sibyl's prophecies frequently.
The compromises with sin here (as in 2:14) might be related to the imperial cult, although such compromises were less prominent in Thyatira than in some of the previously mentioned cities. It is known that the imperial cult employed some priestesses in first-century Asia Minor; but even if Jezebel was advocating compromise with the cult, it is unlikely that she could have had any credibility with Christians while being a priestess in it.
2:21-23. Jewish texts speak of judgment against children produced by illicit unions, but the children are meant figuratively here (cf. Is 57:3-4, 7-8): disciples were sometimes called "children." Jewish texts regularly portray God's omniscience and sometimes call him "Searcher of Hearts and Minds" (based on Old Testament descriptions of him); here this characteristic of God applies to Jesus. God gave false prophets opportunity to turn from their falsehood and hear the true word of the Lord (Jer 23:22-23).
2:24. Mystery cults stressed deep secrets shared only among the initiates. For "no other burden" (NASB) cf. perhaps Acts 15:28-29.
2:25-27. Revelation cites here an enthronement psalm that celebrated the promise to David and pointed to his seed who would reign over the nations that sought to rebel against him (Ps 2:8-9). The Messiah, to whom the psalm applied par excellence (and to whom it was generally understood to apply, as in, e.g., Psalms of Solomon), here makes his people partakers of his rule over the nations. Someone who did not know the Old Testament would have applied this description to the Roman emperor; Revelation declares that Jesus is greater than the most powerful emperor the world had ever known.
2:28-29. The morning star, Venus, heralded the dawn, and great people could be compared to it as well as to the sun shining in glory (Ecclus 50:6); cf. Revelation 22:16. Because most of the Greco-Roman world believed that life was ruled by the stars, to be given authority over one of the most powerful of stars (a symbol of sovereignty among the Romans) was to share Christ's rule over creation (2:26-27).
Oracle Against the Church of Sardis
Ramsay pointed out that the two churches condemned most harshly belong to the only two cities of the seven that are completely uninhabited in modern times, Sardis and Laodicea. Sardis had a large, powerful and wealthy Jewish community that had long been a respected part of civic life. Sardis hosted many pagan cults; Artemis, Cybele, Demeter and Kore (Persephone) were all worshiped there. The Greek goddess Demeter, absorbing the character of the old Asiatic goddess Cybele, had also been locally identified with the deified mother of an emperor. But mixing of deities was common in antiquity, and paganism permeated all the non-Jewish cities of the Roman Empire. Despite the city's paganism, the Christian community there seems to have experienced no persecutionand hence no spiritual life.
3:1-2. On the "spirits" and "stars" cf. 1:4, 16, 20; the "alive ... dead" here reverses the imagery of 1:18 and 2:8. The past glories of Sardis as chief city of Lydia under Croesus were proverbial; its present prosperity could never regain for it the position it had once held.
3:3. This verse refers to Jesus' saying preserved in Matthew 24:43 (as do 1 Thess 5:2; 2 Pet 3:10). Sardis's acropolis had never been taken by battle, but twice in its history invaders had captured it by stealth unexpectedly in the night.
3:4. Inscriptions in Asia Minor indicate that many temples barred worshipers with soiled garments, whose entry would insult the deity. White robes were worn by priests (and purportedly other worshipers) in the Jerusalem temple, worshipers of most deities (e.g., Isis, Apollo, Artemis), celebrants in cult festivals for the emperor and so on.
3:5-6. All Greek and Roman cities had official rolls of citizens, to which new citizens could be added and from which expelled citizens would be removed. The "book of life" appears in the Old Testament and figures prominently in Jewish apocalyptic; see comment on Philippians 4:3. On confessing the believer's name before God's judgment tribunal, cf. Matthew 10:32 and Luke 12:8.
Oracle to the Church in Philadelphia
Philadelphia housed temples of Artemis, Helios, Zeus, Dionysus and Aphrodite. A third-century inscription from the Jewish synagogue there has been recovered. The church in Philadelphia, like the church in Smyrna, had apparently been expelled from the Jewish community; the background resembles that for the Fourth Gospel (see introduction to John).
3:7-8. These verses clearly allude to Isaiah 22:22, which speaks of one who had David's key to open and shut, indicating full authorization to rule the house. To Jewish Christians excluded from the synagogue, this was Jesus' encouragement that he who rightly ruled the house of David now acknowledged them as his own people.
3:9. see comment on 2:9-10. Exclusion from the synagogue could lead to more direct persecution by the Roman authorities, as in Smyrna. Jesus' claim that their opponents would know that he had loved them might echo Malachi 1:2, where God tells Israel that he loved thembut despised Esau/Edom; cf. Proverbs 14:19. Jewish people expected the kings of the nations to bow before them in the end time (Is 49:23; 60:11, 14; 1 Enoch; Dead Sea Scrolls; cf. Ps 72:10-11).
3:10. Apocalypses sometimes prophesied special deliverance (i.e., protection) for the righteous in the coming times of hardship; the Old Testament also promised God's faithfulness to his people in such times (see comment on 7:3). Some texts spoke of the righteous being tested by the future time of suffering (e.g., the Dead Sea Scrolls), although the motif of the righteous being tested in sufferings in general was a common one (see comment on 1 Pet 1:7). ("Keep from" could mean "protect from" [cf. Rev 7:3; cf. Jn 17:15, the only other New Testament use of the construction] or "preserve from." The "hour of testing" is too universal for a local testing [ 2:10 ] and must refer either to the great tribulation or, as Allen Kerkeslager has argued, with attention to ancient parallels and the usage of "hour" throughout Revelation, to the final hour, the day of judgment.) Revelation contrasts the wicked "earth dwellers" with the righteous " heaven dwellers"; apocalypses (like 4 Ezra, the Similitudes of Enoch and 2 Baruch) also announce judgments on the "inhabitants of the earth."
3:11. "Crown" here alludes to the victor's crown, received at the end of a race or for military exploits.
3:12-13. God's remnant people appear as a new temple in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in various other New Testament texts. Pillars could be used to symbolize the people of God (Ex 24:4; see also comment on Gal 2:9) but were a natural feature of temples and often bore dedicatory inscriptions (also on the pillars of the Capernaum synagogue, just as military standards and other items bore inscriptions). The primary allusion is probably to Isaiah 56:5, where those whom the Jewish community rejected (cf. Rev 3:8-9) received a place within God's house and a new name. On the new Jerusalem see 21:2; "coming down" was natural in the vertical dualism common in apocalyptic literature and the Fourth Gospel, which typically contrasts heaven (where God rules unchallenged) and earth (where many disobey him until the day of judgment). Revelation portrays God's throne room in heaven as a temple (see, e.g., comment on 4:6-8).
Oracle to the Church in Laodicea
Laodicea became important only in Roman times. It was capital of the Cibryatic convention, which included at least twenty-five towns. It was also the wealthiest Phrygian city, and especially prosperous in this period. It was ten miles west of Colosse and six miles south of Hierapolis. Zeus was the city's patron deity, but Laodiceans also had temples for Apollo, Asclepius (the healing deity), Hades, Hera, Athena, Serapis, Dionysus and other deities. Many Jewish people lived in Phrygia.
3:14. "Beginning" is a divine title; see comment on 1:8 and 22:13. (It may also be relevant that the Roman emperor's primary title was princeps, "the first," i.e., among Roman citizens.) Jesus is also the "Amen," the affirmation of God's truth; cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20.
3:15-16. Cold water (and sometimes spiced hot water) was preferred for drinking, and hot water for bathing, but Laodicea lacked a natural water supply. Water piped in from hot springs six miles to the south, like any cold water that could have been procured from the mountains, would be lukewarm by the time it reached Laodicea. Although water could be heated, the natural lukewarmness of local water (in contrast with the hot water available at nearby Hierapolis) was undoubtedly a standard complaint of local residents, most of whom had an otherwise comfortable lifestyle. (Their imported water was also full of sediment, though better, said the geographer Strabo, than the water of Hierapolis.) Jesus says: "Were you hot [i.e., for bathing] or cold [i.e., for drinking], you would be useful; but as it is, I feel toward you the way you feel toward your water supplyyou make me sick."
3:17-18. Laodicea was a prosperous banking center; proud of its wealth, it refused Roman disaster relief after the earthquake of A.D. 60, rebuilding from its own resources. It was also known for its textiles (especially wool) and for its medical school and production of ear medicine and undoubtedly the highly reputed Phrygian eye salve. Everything in which Laodicea could have confidence outwardly, its church, which reflected its culture, lacked spiritually.
Although Greeks did not share Palestinian Jews' moral abhorrence of nudity, everyone except Cynic sages agreed that the lack of clothing described here, that of poverty (here spiritual), was undesirable. Phrygian "eye salve" (KJV, NASB) was apparently not an ointment per se but was probably powdered and smeared on to the eyelids (contrast Tobit 6:8). On white garments cf. Revelation 3:4; here it may be a stark contrast with Laodicea's famous "black wool."
3:19. Compare the many prophetic rebukes of Israel in the Old Testament.
3:20. Compare John 10:1-4, Matthew 24:33 and 42. Table fellowship was a sign of intimacy and committed the guest and host to friendly relations. Jesus here invites the Laodicean Christians to dine (cf. Rev 2:7; contrast 2:14, 20) in the present at the messianic banquet (see comment on 19:9); it is an invitation to a genuinely lavish banquet, implying again their spiritual poverty (cf. 3:17-18). But the door to fellowship is presently closedfrom their side (contrast 3:7-8).
3:21-22. The image here is one of sharing God's rule; Jesus shares as coregent or viceroy, whereas his people share because they are exalted to rule over the earth (as in Old Testament and Jewish expectations for Israel's exaltation). God's preexistent and glorious throne was the subject of much discussion among Jewish apocalyptic writers and mystics.
Revelation 2:1-29. EPISTLES TO EPHESUS, SMYRNA, PERGAMOS, THYATIRA.
Each of the seven epistles in this and the third chapter, commences with, "I know thy works." Each contains a promise from Christ, "To him that overcometh." Each ends with, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." The title of our Lord in each case accords with the nature of the address, and is mainly taken from the imagery of the vision, Revelation 1:12-16. Each address has a threat or a promise, and most of the addresses have both. Their order seems to be ecclesiastical, civil, and geographical: Ephesus first, as being the Asiatic metropolis (termed "the light of Asia," and "first city of Asia"), the nearest to Patmos, where John received the epistle to the seven churches, and also as being that Church with which John was especially connected; then the churches on the west coast of Asia; then those in the interior. Smyrna and Philadelphia alone receive unmixed praise. Sardis and Laodicea receive almost solely censure. In Ephesus, Pergamos, and Thyatira, there are some things to praise, others to condemn, the latter element preponderating in one case (Ephesus), the former in the two others (Pergamos and Thyatira). Thus the main characteristics of the different states of different churches, in all times and places, are portrayed, and they are suitably encouraged or warned.
1. Ephesus famed for the temple of Diana, one of the seven wonders of the world. For three years Paul labored there. He subsequently ordained Timothy superintending overseer or bishop there: probably his charge was but of a temporary nature. John, towards the close of his life, took it as the center from which he superintended the province. holdeth Greek, "holdeth fast," as in Revelation 2:25; Revelation 3:11; compare John 10:28, 29. The title of Christ here as "holding fast the seven stars (from Revelation 1:16: only that, for having is substituted holding fast in His grasp), and walking in the midst of the seven candlesticks," accords with the beginning of His address to the seven churches representing the universal Church. Walking expresses His unwearied activity in the Church, guarding her from internal and external evils, as the high priest moved to and fro in the sanctuary.
2. I know thy works expressing His omniscience. Not merely "thy professions, desires, good resolutions" (Revelation 14:13, end). thy labour Two oldest manuscripts omit "thy"; one supports it. The Greek means "labor unto weariness." patience persevering endurance. bear evil men are a burden which the Ephesian Church regarded as intolerable. We are to "bear (the same Greek, Galatians 6:2) one another's burdens" in the case of weak brethren; but not to bear false brethren. tried by experiment; not the Greek for "test," as 1 John 4:1. The apostolical churches had the miraculous gift of discerning spirits. Compare Acts 20:28-30, wherein Paul presciently warned the Ephesian elders of the coming false teachers, as also in writing to Timothy at Ephesus. TERTULLIAN [On Baptism, 17], and JEROME [On Illustrious Men, in Lucca 7], record of John, that when a writing, professing to be a canonical history of the acts of Paul, had been composed by a presbyter of Ephesus, John convicted the author and condemned the work. So on one occasion he would not remain under the same roof with Cerinthus the heretic. say they are apostles probably Judaizers. IGNATIUS [Epistle to the Ephesians , 6], says subsequently, "Onesimus praises exceedingly your good discipline that no heresy dwells among you"; and [Epistle to the Ephesians, 9], "Ye did not permit those having evil doctrine to sow their seed among you, but closed your ears."
3. borne . . . patience The oldest manuscripts transpose these words. Then translate as Greek, "persevering endurance . . . borne." "Thou hast borne" My reproach, but "thou canst not bear the evil" (Revelation 2:2). A beautiful antithesis. and . . . hast laboured, and hast not fainted The two oldest manuscripts and oldest versions read, "and . . . hast not labored," omitting "and hast fainted." The difficulty which transcribers by English Version reading tried to obviate, was the seeming contradiction, "I know thy labor . . . and thou hast not labored." But what is meant is, "Thou hast not been wearied out with labor."
4. somewhat . . . because Translate, "I have against thee (this) that," etc. It is not a mere somewhat"; it is everything. How characteristic of our gracious Lord, that He puts foremost all He can find to approve, and only after this notes the shortcomings! left thy first love to Christ. Compare 1 Timothy 5:12, "cast off their first faith." See the Ephesians' first love, Ephesians 1:15. This epistle was written under Domitian, when thirty years had elapsed since Paul had written his Epistle to them. Their warmth of love had given place to a lifeless orthodoxy. Compare Paul's view of faith so called without love, 1 Corinthians 13:2.
5. whence from what a height. do the first works the works which flowed from thy first love. Not merely "feel thy first feelings," but do works flowing from the same principle as formerly, "faith which worketh by love." I will come Greek, "I am coming" in special judgment on thee. quickly omitted in two oldest manuscripts, Vulgate and Coptic versions: supported by one oldest manuscript. remove thy candlestick out of his place I will take away the Church from Ephesus and remove it elsewhere. "It is removal of the candlestick, not extinction of the candle, which is threatened here; judgment for some, but that very judgment the occasion of mercy for others. So it has been. The seat of the Church has been changed, but the Church itself survives. What the East has lost, the West has gained. One who lately visited Ephesus found only three Christians there, and these so ignorant as scarcely to have heard the names of St. Paul or St. John" [TRENCH].
6. But How graciously, after necessary censure, He returns to praise for our consolation, and as an example to us, that we would show, when we reprove, we have more pleasure in praising than in fault-finding. hatest the deeds We should hate men's evil deeds, not hate the men themselves. Nicolaitanes IRENAEUS [Against Heresies, 1.26.3] and TERTULLIAN [Prescription against Heretics, 46] make these followers of Nicolas, one of the seven (honorably mentioned, Acts 6:3, 5). They (CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA [Miscellanies, 2.20 3.4] and EPIPHANIUS [Heresies, 25]) evidently confound the latter Gnostic Nicolaitanes, or followers of one Nicolaos, with those of Revelation. MICHAELIS' view is probable: Nicolaos (conqueror of the people ) is the Greek version of Balaam, from Hebrew "Belang Am," "Destroyer of the people." Revelation abounds in such duplicate Hebrew and Greek names: as Apollyon, Abaddon: Devil, Satan: Yea (Greek, "Nai "), Amen. The name, like other names, Egypt, Babylon, Sodom, is symbolic. Compare Revelation 2:14, 15, which shows the true sense of Nicolaitanes; they are not a sect, but professing Christians who, like Balaam of old. tried to introduce into the Church a false freedom, that is, licentiousness; this was a reaction in the opposite direction from Judaism, the first danger to the Church combated in the council of Jerusalem, and by Paul in the Epistle to Galatians. These symbolical Nicolaitanes, or followers of Balaam, abused Paul's doctrine of the grace of God into a plea for lasciviousness (2 Peter 2:15, 16, 19; Jude 1:4, 11 who both describe the same sort of seducers as followers of Balaam ). The difficulty that they should appropriate a name branded with infamy in Scripture is met by TRENCH: The Antinomian Gnostics were so opposed to John as a Judaizing apostle that they would assume as a name of chiefest honor one which John branded with dishonor.
7. He that hath an ear This clause precedes the promise in the first three addresses, succeeds it in the last four. Thus the promises are enclosed on both sides with the precept urging the deepest attention as to the most momentous truths. Every man "hath an ear" naturally, but he alone will be able to hear spiritually to whom God has given "the hearing ear"; whose "ear God hath wakened" and "opened." Compare "Faith, the ears of the soul" [CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA]. the Spirit saith What Christ saith, the Spirit saith; so one are the Second and Third Persons. unto the churches not merely to the particular, but to the universal Church. overcometh In John's Gospel (John 16:33) and First Epistle (1 John 2:,13,14,5:4,5) an object follows, namely, "the world," "the wicked one." Here, where the final issue is spoken of, the conqueror is named absolutely. Paul uses a similar image (1 Corinthians 9:24, 25; 2 Timothy 2:5; but not the same as John's phrase, except Romans 12:21). will I give as the Judge. The tree of life in Paradise, lost by the fall, is restored by the Redeemer. Allusions to it occur in Proverbs 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4, and prophetically, Revelation 22:2, 14; Ezekiel 47:12; compare John 6:51. It is interesting to note how closely these introductory addresses are linked to the body of Revelation. Thus, the tree of life here, with Revelation 22:1; deliverance from the second death (Revelation 2:11), with Revelation 20:14; 21:8; the new name (Revelation 2:17), with Revelation 14:1; power over the nations, with Revelation 20:4; the morning star (Revelation 2:28), with Revelation 22:16; the white raiment (Revelation 3:5), with Revelation 4:4; 16:15; the name in the book of life (Revelation 3:5), with Revelation 13:8; 20:15; the new Jerusalem and its citizenship (Revelation 3:12), with Revelation 21:10. give . . . tree of life The thing promised corresponds to the kind of faithfulness manifested. They who refrain from Nicolaitane indulgences (Revelation 2:6) and idol-meats (Revelation 2:14, 15), shall eat of meat infinitely superior, namely, the fruit of the tree of life, and the hidden manna (Revelation 2:17). in the midst of the paradise The oldest manuscripts omit "the midst of." In Genesis 2:9 these words are appropriate, for there were other trees in the garden, but not in the midst of it. Here the tree of life is simply in the paradise, for no other tree is mentioned in it; in Revelation 22:2 the tree of life is "in the midst of the street of Jerusalem"; from this the clause was inserted here. Paradise (a Persian, or else Semitic word), originally used of any garden of delight; then specially of Eden; then the temporary abode of separate souls in bliss; then "the Paradise of God," the third heaven, the immediate presence of God. of God (Ezekiel 28:13). One oldest manuscript, with Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic, and CYPRIAN, read, "MY God," as in Revelation 3:12. So Christ calls God, "My God and your God" (John 20:17; compare Ephesians 1:17). God is our God, in virtue of being peculiarly Christ's God. The main bliss of Paradise is that it is the Paradise of God; God Himself dwelling there (Revelation 21:3).
8. Smyrna in Ionia, a little to the north of Ephesus. POLYCARP, martyred in A.D. 168, eighty-six years after his conversion, was bishop, and probably "the angel of the Church in Smyrna" meant here. The allusions to persecutions and faithfulness unto death accord with this view. IGNATIUS [The Martyrdom of Ignatius 3], on his way to martyrdom in Rome, wrote to POLYCARP, then (A.D. 108) bishop of Smyrna; if his bishopric commenced ten or twelve years earlier, the dates will harmonize. TERTULLIAN [The Prescription against Heretics, 32], and IRENAEUS, who had talked with POLYCARP in youth, tell us POLYCARP was consecrated bishop of Smyrna by St. John. the first . . . the last . . . was dead . . . is alive The attributes of Christ most calculated to comfort the Church of Smyrna under its persecutions; resumed from Revelation 1:17, 18. As death was to Him but the gate to life eternal, so it is to be to them (Revelation 2:10, 11).
9. thy works, and omitted in two oldest manuscripts, Vulgate, and Coptic. Supported by one oldest manuscript. tribulation owing to persecution. poverty owing to "the spoiling of their goods." but thou art rich in grace. Contrast Laodicea, rich in the world's eyes and her own, poor before God. "There are both poor rich-men, and rich poor-men in God's sight" [TRENCH]. blasphemy of them blasphemous calumny of thee on the part of (or arising from ) them. say they are Jews, and are not Jews by national descent, but not spiritually of "the true circumcision." The Jews blaspheme Christ as "the hanged one." As elsewhere, so at Smyrna they bitterly opposed Christianity; and at POLYCARP'S martyrdom they joined the heathens in clamoring for his being cast to the lions; and when there was an obstacle to this, for his being burnt alive; and with their own hands they carried logs for the pile. synagogue of Satan Only once is the term "synagogue" in the New Testament used of the Christian assembly, and that by the apostle who longest maintained the union of the Church and Jewish Synagogue. As the Jews more and more opposed Christianity, and it more and more rooted itself in the Gentile world, the term "synagogue" was left altogether to the former, and Christians appropriated exclusively the honorable term "Church"; contrast an earlier time when the Jewish theocracy is called "the Church in the wilderness." Compare Numbers 16:3; 20:4, "congregation of the Lord." Even in James 2:2 it is "your (not the Lord's ) assembly." The Jews, who might have been "the Church of God," had now, by their opposition and unbelief, become the synagogue of Satan. So "the throne of Satan" (Revelation 2:13) represents the heathens' opposition to Christianity; "the depths of Satan" (Revelation 2:24), the opposition of heretics.
10. Fear none, etc. the oldest manuscripts read, "Fear not those things," etc. "The Captain of our salvation never keeps back what those who faithfully witness for Him may have to bear for His name's sake; never entices recruits by the promise they shall find all things easy and pleasant there" [TRENCH]. devil "the accuser." He acted, through Jewish accusers against Christ and His people. The conflict of the latter was not with mere flesh and blood, but with the rulers of the darkness of this world. tried with temptation by "the devil." The same event is often both a temptation from the devil, and a trial from God God sifting and winnowing the man to separate his chaff from his wheat, the devil sifting him in the hope that nothing but chaff will be found in him [TRENCH]. ten days not the ten persecutions from Nero to Diocletian. LYRA explains ten years on the year-day principle. The shortness of the duration of the persecution is evidently made the ground of consolation. The time of trial shall be short, the duration of your joy shall be for ever. Compare the use of "ten days" for a short time, Genesis 24:55; Numbers 11:19. Ten is the number of the world powers hostile to the Church; compare the ten horns of the beast, Revelation 13:1. unto death so as even to endure death for My sake. crown of life James 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:8, "crown of righteousness"; 1 Peter 5:4, "crown of glory." The crown is the garland, the mark of a conqueror, or of one rejoicing, or at a feast; but diadem is the mark of a KING.
11. shall not be hurt Greek, "shall not by any means (or possibly) be hurt." the second death "the lake of fire." "The death in life of the lost, as contrasted with the life in death of the saved" [TRENCH]. The phrase "the second death" is peculiar to the Apocalypse. What matter about the first death, which sooner or later must pass over us, if we escape the second death? "It seems that they who die that death shall be hurt by it; whereas, if it were annihilation, and so a conclusion of their torments, it would be no way hurtful, but highly beneficial to them. But the living torments are the second death" [BISHOP PEARSON]. "The life of the damned is death" [AUGUSTINE]. Smyrna (meaning myrrh ) yielded its sweet perfume in being bruised even to death. Myrrh was used in embalming dead bodies (John 19:39); was an ingredient in the holy anointing oil (Exodus 30:23); a perfume of the heavenly Bridegroom (Psalms 45:8), and of the bride (Song Of Songs 3:6). "Affliction, like it, is bitter for the time being, but salutary; preserving the elect from corruption, and seasoning them for immortality, and gives scope for the exercise of the fragrantly breathing Christian virtues" [VITRINGA]. POLYCARP'S noble words to his heathen judges who wished him to recant, are well known: "Fourscore and six years have I served the Lord, and He never wronged me, how then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour?" Smyrna's faithfulness is rewarded by its candlestick not having been removed out of its place (Revelation 2:5); Christianity has never wholly left it; whence the Turks call it, "Infidel Smyrna."
12. TRENCH prefers writing Pergamus, or rather, Pergamum, on the river Caicus. It was capital of Attalus the Second's kingdom, which was bequeathed by him to the Romans, 133 B.C. Famous for its library, founded by Eumenes (197-159), and destroyed by Caliph Omar. Parchment, that is, Pergamena charta, was here discovered for book purposes. Also famous for the magnificent temple of Aesculapius, the healing god [TACITUS, Annals, 3.63]. he which hath the sharp sword with two edges appropriate to His address having a twofold bearing, a searching power so as to convict and convert some (Revelation 2:13, 17), and to convict and condemn to punishment others (Revelation 2:14-16, especially Revelation 2:16; compare also see note on Revelation 1:16).
13. I know thy works Two oldest manuscripts omit this clause; one oldest manuscript retains it. Satan's seat rather as the Greek is translated all through Revelation, "throne." Satan, in impious mimicry of God's heavenly throne, sets up his earthly throne (Revelation 4:2). Aesculapius was worshipped there under the serpent form; and Satan, the old serpent, as the instigator (compare Revelation 2:10) of fanatical devotees of Aesculapius, and, through them, of the supreme magistracy at Pergamos, persecuted one of the Lord's people (Antipas) even to death. Thus, this address is an anticipatory preface to Revelation 12:1-17; Note: "throne . . . the dragon, Satan . . . war with her seed," Revelation 12:5, 9, 17. even in those days Two oldest manuscripts omit "even"; two retain it. wherein Two oldest manuscripts omit this (then translate, "in the days of Antipas, My faithful witness," or "martyr"); two retain it. Two oldest manuscripts read, "My witness, MY faithful one"; two read as English Version. Antipas is another form for Antipater. SIMEON METAPHRASTES has a palpably legendary story, unknown to the early Fathers, that Antipas, in Domitian's reign, was shut up in a red-hot brazen bull, and ended his life in thanksgivings and prayers. HENGSTENBERG makes the name, like other apocalyptic names, symbolical, meaning one standing out "against all" for Christ's sake.
14. few in comparison of the many tokens of thy faithfulness. hold the doctrine of Balaam "the teaching of Balaam," namely, that which he "taught Balak." Compare "the counsel of Balaam," Numbers 31:16. "Balak" is dative in the Greek, whence BENGEL translates, "taught (the Moabites) for (that is, to please) Balak." But though in Numbers it is not expressly said he taught Balak, yet there is nothing said inconsistent with his having done so; and JOSEPHUS [Antiquities, 4. 6. 6], says he did so. The dative case is a Hebraism for the accusative case. children Greek, "sons of Israel." stumbling-block literally, that part of a trap on which the bait was laid, and which, when touched, caused the trap to close on its prey; then any entanglement to the foot [TRENCH]. eat things sacrificed unto idols the act common to the Israelites of old, and the Nicolaitanes in John's day; he does not add what was peculiar to the Israelites, namely, that they sacrificed to idols. The temptation to eat idol-meats was a peculiarly strong one to the Gentile converts. For not to do so involved almost a withdrawal from partaking of any social meal with the heathen around. For idol-meats, after a part had been offered in sacrifice, were nearly sure to be on the heathen entertainer's table; so much so, that the Greek "to kill" (thuein ) meant originally "to sacrifice." Hence arose the decree of the council of Jerusalem forbidding to eat such meats; subsequently some at Corinth ate unscrupulously and knowingly of such meats, on the ground that the idol is nothing; others needlessly tortured themselves with scruples, lest unknowingly they should eat of them when they got meat from the market or in a heathen friend's house. Paul handles the question in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; 10:25-33. fornication often connected with idolatry.
15. thou emphatic: "So THOU also hast," As Balak and the Moabites of old had Balaam and his followers literally, so hast thou also them that hold the same Balaamite or Nicolaitane doctrine spiritually or symbolically. Literal eating of idol-meats and fornication in Pergamos were accompanied by spiritual idolatry and fornication. So TRENCH explains. But I prefer taking it, "THOU also," as well as Ephesus ("in like manner" as Ephesus; see below the oldest reading), hast . . . Nicolaitanes, with this important difference, Ephesus, as a Church, hates them and casts them out, but thou "hast them," namely, in the Church. doctrine teaching (see note on Revelation 2:6): namely, to tempt God's people to idolatry. which thing I hate It is sin not to hate what God hates. The Ephesian Church (Revelation 2:6) had this point of superiority to Pergamos. But the three oldest manuscripts, and Vulgate and Syriac, read instead of "which I hate," "IN LIKE MANNER."
16. The three oldest manuscripts read, "Repent, therefore." Not only the Nicolaitanes, but the whole Church of Pergamos is called on to repent of not having hated the Nicolaitane teaching and practice. Contrast Paul, Acts 20:26. I will come I am coming. fight against them Greek, "war with them"; with the Nicolaitanes primarily; but including also chastisement of the whole Church at Pergamos: compare "unto THEE." with the sword of my mouth resumed from Revelation 1:16, but with an allusion to the drawn sword with which the angel of the Lord confronted Balaam on his way to curse Israel: an earnest of the sword by which he and the seduced Israelites fell at last. The spiritual Balaamites of John's day are to be smitten with the Lord's spiritual sword, the word or "rod of His mouth."
17. to eat omitted in the three oldest manuscripts. the hidden manna the heavenly food of Israel, in contrast to the idol-meats (Revelation 2:14). A pot of manna was laid up in the holy place "before the testimony." The allusion is here to this: probably also to the Lord's discourse (John 6:31-35). Translate, "the manna which is hidden." As the manna hidden in the sanctuary was by divine power preserved from corruption, so Christ in His incorruptible body has passed into the heavens, and is hidden there until the time of His appearing. Christ Himself is the manna "hidden" from the world, but revealed to the believer, so that he has already a foretaste of His preciousness. Compare as to Christ's own hidden food on earth, John 4:32, 34, and Job 23:12. The full manifestation shall be at His coming. Believers are now hidden, even as their meat is hidden. As the manna in the sanctuary, unlike the other manna, was incorruptible, so the spiritual feast offered to all who reject the world's dainties for Christ is everlasting: an incorruptible body and life for ever in Christ at the resurrection. white stone . . . new name . . . no man knoweth saving he TRENCH'S explanation seems best. White is the color and livery of heaven. "New" implies something altogether renewed and heavenly. The white stone is a glistening diamond, the Urim borne by the high priest within the choschen or breastplate of judgment, with the twelve tribes' names on the twelve precious stones, next the heart. The word Urim means "light," answering to the color white. None but the high priest knew the name written upon it, probably the incommunicable name of God, "Jehovah." The high priest consulted it in some divinely appointed way to get direction from God when needful. The "new name" is Christ's (compare Revelation 3:12, "I will write upon him My new name"): some new revelation of Himself which shall hereafter be imparted to His people, and which they alone are capable of receiving. The connection with the "hidden manna" will thus be clear, as none save the high priest had access to the "manna hidden" in the sanctuary. Believers, as spiritual priests unto God, shall enjoy the heavenly antitypes to the hidden manna and the Urim stone. What they had peculiarly to contend against at Pergamos was the temptation to idol-meats, and fornication, put in their way by Balaamites. As Phinehas was rewarded with "an everlasting priesthood" for his zeal against these very sins to which the Old Testament Balaam seduced Israel; so the heavenly high priesthood is the reward promised here to those zealous against the New Testament Balaamites tempting Christ's people to the same sins. receiveth it namely, "the stone"; not "the new name"; see above. The "name that no man knew but Christ Himself," He shall hereafter reveal to His people.
18. Thyatira in Lydia, south of Pergamos. Lydia, the purple-seller of this city, having been converted at Philippi, a Macedonian city (with which Thyatira, as being a Macedonian colony, had naturally much intercourse), was probably the instrument of first carrying the Gospel to her native town. John follows the geographical order here, for Thyatira lay a little to the left of the road from Pergamos to Sardis [STRABO, 13:4]. Son of God . . . eyes like . . . fire . . . feet . . . like fine brass or "glowing brass" (see note on Revelation 1:14, see note on Revelation 1:15, whence this description is resumed). Again His attributes accord with His address. The title "Son of God," is from Psalms 2:7, 9, which is referred to in Revelation 2:27. The attribute, "eyes like a flame," etc. answers to Revelation 2:23, "I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts." The attribute, "feet like . . . brass," answers to Revelation 2:27, "as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers," He treading them to pieces with His strong feet.
19. The oldest manuscripts transpose the English Version order, and read, "faith and service." The four are subordinate to "thy works"; thus, "I know thy works, even the love and the faith (these two forming one pair, as faith works by love,' Galatians 5:6), and the service (ministration to the suffering members of the Church, and to all in spiritual or temporal need), and the endurance of (that is, shown by) thee (this pronoun belongs to all four)." As love is inward, so service is its outward manifestation. Similarly, faith and persevering endurance, or "patient continuance (the same Greek as here, Romans 2:7) in well-doing," are connected. and thy works; and the last Omit the second "and," with the three oldest manuscripts and the ancient versions; translate, "And (I know) thy works which are last (to be) more in number than the first"; realizing 1 Thessalonians 4:1; the converse of Matthew 12:45; 2 Peter 2:20. Instead of retrograding from "the first works" and "first love," as Ephesus, Thyatira's last works exceeded her first (Revelation 2:4, 5).
20. a few things omitted in the three oldest manuscripts. Translate then, "I have against thee that," etc. sufferest The three oldest manuscripts read, "lettest alone." that woman Two oldest manuscripts read, "THY wife"; two omit it. Vulgate and most ancient versions read as English Version. The symbolical Jezebel was to the Church of Thyatira what Jezebel, Ahab's "wife," was to him. Some self-styled prophetess (or as the feminine in Hebrew is often used collectively to express a multitude, a set of false prophets ), as closely attached to the Church of Thyatira as a wife is to a husband, and as powerfully influencing for evil that Church as Jezebel did Ahab. As Balaam, in Israel's early history, so Jezebel, daughter of Eth-baal, king of Sidon (1 Kings 16:31, formerly priest of Astarte, and murderer of his predecessor on the throne, JOSEPHUS [Against Apion, 1.18]), was the great seducer to idolatry in Israel's later history. Like her father, she was swift to shed blood. Wholly given to Baal worship, like Eth-baal, whose name expresses his idolatry, she, with her strong will, seduced the weak Ahab and Israel beyond the calf-worship (which was a worship of the true God under the cherub-ox form, that is, a violation of the second commandment) to that of Baal (a violation of the first commandment also). She seems to have been herself a priestess and prophetess of Baal. Compare 2 Kings 9:22, 30, "whoredoms of . . . Jezebel and her witchcrafts" (impurity was part of the worship of the Phoenician Astarte, or Venus). Her spiritual counterpart at Thyatira lured God's "servants" by pretended utterances of inspiration to the same libertinism, fornication, and eating of idol-meats, as the Balaamites and Nicolaitanes (Revelation 2:6, 14, 15). By a false spiritualism these seducers led their victims into the grossest carnality, as though things done in the flesh were outside the true man, and were, therefore, indifferent. "The deeper the Church penetrated into heathenism, the more she herself became heathenish; this prepares us for the expressions harlot' and Babylon,' applied to her afterwards" [AUBERLEN]. to teach and to seduce The three oldest manuscripts read, "and she teaches and seduces," or "deceives." "Thyatira was just the reverse of Ephesus. There, much zeal for orthodoxy, but little love; here, activity of faith and love, but insufficient zeal for godly discipline and doctrine, a patience of error even where there was not a participation in it" [TRENCH].
21. space Greek, "time." of her fornication . . . she repented not The three oldest manuscripts read, "and she willeth not to repent of (literally, out of,' that is, so as to come out of) her fornication." Here there is a transition from literal to spiritual fornication, as appears from Revelation 2:22. The idea arose from Jehovah's covenant relation to the Old Testament Church being regarded as a marriage, any transgression against which was, therefore, harlotry, fornication, or adultery.
22. Behold calling attention to her awful doom to come. I will Greek present, "I cast her." a bed The place of her sin shall be the place of her punishment. The bed of her sin shall be her bed of sickness and anguish. Perhaps a pestilence was about to be sent. Or the bed of the grave, and of the hell beyond, where the worm dieth not. them that commit adultery with her spiritually; including both the eating of idol-meats and fornication. "With her," in the Greek, implies participation with her in her adulteries, namely, by suffering her (Revelation 2:20), or letting her alone, and so virtually encouraging her. Her punishment is distinct from theirs; she is to be cast into a bed, and her children to be killed; while those who make themselves partakers of her sin by tolerating her, are to be cast into great tribulation. except they repent Greek aorist, "repent" at once; shall have repented by the time limited in My purpose. their deeds Two of the oldest manuscripts and most ancient versions read "her." Thus, God's true servants, who by connivance, are incurring the guilt of her deeds, are distinguished from her. One oldest manuscript, ANDREAS, and CYPRIAN, support "their."
23. her children (Isaiah 57:3; Ezekiel 23:45, 47). Her proper adherents; not those who suffer her, but those who are begotten of her. A distinct class from the last in Revelation 2:22 (compare Note, see note on Revelation 2:22), whose sin was less direct, being that only of connivance. kill . . . with death Compare the disaster that overtook the literal Jezebel's votaries of Baal, and Ahab's sons, 1 Kings 18:40; 2 Kings 10:6, 7, 24, 25. Kill with death is a Hebraism for slay with most sure and awful death; so "dying thou shalt die" (Genesis 2:17). Not "die the common death of men" (Numbers 16:29). all the churches shall know implying that these addresses are designed for the catholic Church of all ages and places. So palpably shall God's hand be seen in the judgment on Thyatira, that the whole Church shall recognize it as God's doing. I am he the "I" is strongly emphatical: "that it is I am He who," etc. searcheth . . . hearts God's peculiar attribute is given to Christ. The "reins" are the seat of the desires; the "heart," that of the thoughts. The Greek for "searcheth" expresses an accurate following up of all tracks and windings. unto every one of you literally, "unto you, to each." according to your works to be judged not according to the mere act as it appears to man, but with reference to the motive, faith and love being the only motives which God recognizes as sound.
24. you . . . and . . . the rest The three oldest manuscripts omit "and"; translate then, "Unto you, the rest." as many as have not not only do not hold, but are free from contact with. and which The oldest manuscripts omit "and"; translate, "whosoever." the depths These false prophets boasted peculiarly of their knowledge of mysteries and the deep things of God; pretensions subsequently expressed by their arrogant title, Gnostics ("full of knowledge"). The Spirit here declares their so-called "depths," (namely, of knowledge of divine things) to be really "depths of Satan "; just as in Revelation 2:9, He says, instead of "the synagogue of God," "the synagogue of Satan." HENGSTENBERG thinks the teachers themselves professed to fathom the depths of Satan, giving loose rein to fleshly lusts, without being hurt thereby. They who thus think to fight Satan with his own weapons always find him more than a match for them. The words, "as they speak," that is, "as they call them," coming after not only "depths," but "depths of Satan," seem to favor this latter view; otherwise I should prefer the former, in which case, "as they speak," or "call them," must refer to "depths" only, not also "depths of Satan." The original sin of Adam was a desire to know EVIL as well as good, so in HENGSTENBERG'S view, those who professed to know "the depths of Satan." It is the prerogative of God alone to know evil fully, without being hurt or defiled by it. I will put Two oldest manuscripts have "I put," or "cast." One oldest manuscript reads as English Version. none other burden save abstinence from, and protestation against, these abominations; no "depths" beyond your reach, such as they teach, no new doctrine, but the old faith and rule of practice once for all delivered to the saints. Exaggerating and perfecting Paul's doctrine of grace without the law as the source of justification and sanctification, these false prophets rejected the law as a rule of life, as though it were an intolerable "burden." But it is a "light" burden. In Acts 15:28, 29, the very term "burden," as here, is used of abstinence from fornication and idol-meats; to this the Lord here refers.
25. that which ye have already (Jude 1:3, end). hold fast do not let go from your grasp, however false teachers may wish to wrest it from you. till I come when your conflict with evil will be at an end. The Greek implies uncertainty as to when He shall come.
26. And implying the close connection of the promise to the conqueror that follows, with the preceding exhortation, Revelation 2:25. and keepeth Greek, "and he that keepeth." Compare the same word in the passage already alluded to by the Lord, Acts 15:28, 29, end. my works in contrast to "her (English Version, their') works" (Revelation 2:22). The works which I command and which are the fruit of My Spirit. unto the end (Matthew 24:13). The image is perhaps from the race, wherein it is not enough to enter the lists, but the runner must persevere to the end. give power Greek, "authority." over the nations at Christ's coming the saints shall possess the kingdom "under the whole heaven"; therefore over this earth; compare Luke 19:17, "have thou authority [the same word as here] over ten cities."
27. From Psalms 2:8, 9. rule literally, "rule as a shepherd." In Psalms 2:9 it is, "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron." The Septuagint, pointing the Hebrew word differently, read as Revelation here. The English Version of Psalms 2:9 is doubtless right, as the parallel word, "dash in pieces," proves. But the Spirit in this case sanctions the additional thought as true, that the Lord shall mingle mercy to some, with judgment on others; beginning by destroying His Antichristian foes, He shall reign in love over the rest. "Christ shall rule them with a scepter of iron, to make them capable of being ruled with a scepter of gold; severity first, that grace may come after" (TRENCH, who thinks we ought to translate "SCEPTER" for "rod," as in Hebrews 1:8). "Shepherd" is used in Jeremiah 6:3, of hostile rulers; so also in Zechariah 11:16. As severity here is the primary thought, "rule as a shepherd" seems to me to be used thus: He who would have shepherded them with a pastoral rod, shall, because of their hardened unbelief, shepherd them with a rod of iron. shall they be broken So one oldest manuscript, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic Versions read. But two oldest manuscripts, read, "as the vessels of a potter are broken to shivers." A potter's vessel dashed to pieces, because of its failing to answer the design of the maker, is the image to depict God's sovereign power to give reprobates to destruction, not by caprice, but in the exercise of His righteous judgment. The saints shall be in Christ's victorious "armies" when He shall inflict the last decisive blow, and afterwards shall reign with Him. Having by faith "overcome the world," they shall also rule the world. even as I "as I also have received of (from) My Father," namely, in Psalms 2:7-9. Jesus had refused to receive the kingdom without the cross at Satan's hands; He would receive it from none but the Father, who had appointed the cross as the path to the crown. As the Father has given the authority to Me over the heathen and uttermost parts of the earth, so I impart a share of it to My victorious disciple.
28. the morning star that is, I will give unto him Myself, who am "the morning star" (Revelation 22:16); so that reflecting My perfect brightness, he shall shine like Me, the morning star, and share My kingly glory (of which a star is the symbol, Numbers 21:17; Matthew 2:2). Compare Revelation 2:17, "I will give him . . . the hidden manna," that is, Myself, who am that manna (John 6:31-33).
Revelation 3:1-22. THE EPISTLES TO SARDIS, PHILADELPHIA, AND LAODICEA.
1. Sardis the ancient capital of Lydia, the kingdom of wealthy Croesus, on the river Pactolus. The address to this Church is full of rebuke. It does not seem to have been in vain; for MELITO, bishop of Sardis in the second century, was eminent for piety and learning. He visited Palestine to assure himself and his flock as to the Old Testament canon and wrote an epistle on the subject [EUSEBIUS Ecclesiastical History, 4.26]; he also wrote a commentary on the Apocalypse [EUSEBIUS, Ecclesiastical History, 4.26; JEROME, On Illustrious Men, 24]. he that hath the seven Spirits of God that is, He who hath all the fulness of the Spirit (Revelation 1:4; 4:5; 5:6, with which compare Zechariah 3:9; 4:10, proving His Godhead). This attribute implies His infinite power by the Spirit to convict of sin and of a hollow profession. and the seven stars (Revelation 1:16, 20). His having the seven stars, or presiding ministers, flows, as a consequence, from His having the seven Spirits, or the fulness of the Holy Spirit. The human ministry is the fruit of Christ's sending down the gifts of the Spirit. Stars imply brilliancy and glory; the fulness of the Spirit, and the fulness of brilliant light in Him, form a designed contrast to the formality which He reproves. name . . . livest . . . dead (1 Timothy 5:6; 2 Timothy 3:5; Titus 1:16; compare Ephesians 2:1, 5; 5:14). "A name," that is, a reputation. Sardis was famed among the churches for spiritual vitality; yet the Heart-searcher, who seeth not as man seeth, pronounces her dead; how great searchings of heart should her case create among even the best of us! Laodicea deceived herself as to her true state (Revelation 3:17), but it is not written that she had a high name among the other churches, as Sardis had.
2. Be Greek. "Become," what thou art not, "watchful," or "wakeful," literally, "waking." the things which remain Strengthen those thy remaining few graces, which, in thy spiritual deadly slumber, are not yet quite extinct [ALFORD]. "The things that remain" can hardly mean "the PERSONS that are not yet dead, but are ready to die "; for Revelation 3:4 implies that the "few" faithful ones at Sardis were not "ready to die," but were full of life. are The two oldest manuscripts read, "were ready," literally, "were about to die," namely, at the time when you "strengthen" them. This implies that "thou art dead," Revelation 3:1, is to be taken with limitation; for those must have some life who are told to strengthen the things that remain. perfect literally, "filled up in full complement"; Translate, "complete." Weighed in the balance of Him who requires living faith as the motive of works, and found wanting. before God Greek, "in the sight of God." The three oldest manuscripts, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic, read, "before (in the sight of) MY God"; Christ's judgment is God the Father's judgment. In the sight of men, Sardis had "a name of living": "so many and so great are the obligations of pastors, that he who would in reality fulfil even a third of them, would be esteemed holy by men, whereas, if content with that alone, he would be sure not to escape hell" [JUAN D'AVILA]. Note: in Sardis and Laodicea alone of the seven we read of no conflict with foes within or without the Church. Not that either had renounced the appearance of opposition to the world; but neither had the faithfulness to witness for God by word and example, so as to "torment them that dwelt on the earth" (Revelation 11:10).
3. how thou hast received (Colossians 2:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Timothy 6:20). What Sardis is to "remember" is, not how joyfully she had received originally the Gospel message, but how the precious deposit was committed to her originally, so that she could not say, she had not "received and heard" it. The Greek is not aorist (as in Revelation 2:4, as to Ephesus, "Thou didst leave thy first love"), but "thou hast received" (perfect), and still hast the permanent deposit of doctrine committed to thee. The word "keep" (so the Greek is for English Version, "hold fast") which follows, accords with this sense. "Keep" or observe the commandment which thou hast received and didst hear. heard Greek aorist, "didst hear," namely, when the Gospel doctrine was committed to thee. TRENCH explains "how," with what demonstration of the Spirit and power from Christ's ambassadors the truth came to you, and how heartily and zealously you at first received it. Similarly BENGEL, "Regard to her former character (how it once stood) ought to guard Sardis against the future hour, whatsoever it shall be, proving fatal to her." But it is not likely that the Spirit repeats the same exhortation virtually to Sardis as to Ephesus. If therefore seeing thou art so warned, if, nevertheless, etc. come on thee as a thief in special judgment on thee as a Church, with the same stealthiness and as unexpectedly as shall be My visible second coming. As the thief gives no notice of his approach. Christ applies the language which in its fullest sense describes His second coming, to describe His coming in special judgments on churches and states (as Jerusalem, Matthew 24:4-28) these special judgments being anticipatory earnests of that great last coming. "The last day is hidden from us, that every day may be observed by us" [AUGUSTINE]. Twice Christ in the days of His flesh spake the same words (Matthew 24:42, 43; Luke 12:39, 40); and so deeply had His words been engraven on the minds of the apostles that they are often repeated in their writings (Revelation 16:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4, 6; 2 Peter 3:10). The Greek proverb was that "the feet of the avenging deities are shod with wool," expressing the noiseless approach of the divine judgments, and their possible nearness at the moment when they were supposed the farthest off [TRENCH].
4. The three oldest manuscripts prefix "but," or "nevertheless" (notwithstanding thy spiritual deadness), and omit "even." names persons named in the book of life (Revelation 3:5) known by name by the Lord as His own. These had the reality corresponding to their name; not a mere name among men as living, while really dead (Revelation 3:1). The gracious Lord does not overlook any exceptional cases of real saints in the midst of unreal professors. not defiled their garments namely, the garments of their Christian profession, of which baptism is the initiatory seal, whence the candidates for baptism used in the ancient Church to be arrayed in white. Compare also Ephesians 5:27, as to the spotlessness of the Church when she shall be presented to Christ; and Revelation 19:8, as to the "fine linen, clean and white, the righteousness of the saints," in which it shall be granted to her to be arrayed; and "the wedding garment." Meanwhile she is not to sully her Christian profession with any defilement of flesh or spirit, but to "keep her garments." For no defilement shall enter the heavenly city. Not that any keep themselves here wholly free from defilement; but, as compared with hollow professors, the godly keep themselves unspotted from the world; and when they do contract it, they wash it away, so as to have their "robes white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14). The Greek is not "to stain" (Greek, "miainein "), but to "defile," or besmear (Greek, "molunein "), Song Of Songs 5:3. they shall walk with me in white The promised reward accords with the character of those to be rewarded: keeping their garments undefiled and white through the blood of the Lamb now, they shall walk with Him in while hereafter. On "with me," compare the very same words, Luke 23:43; John 17:24. "Walk" implies spiritual life, for only the living walk; also liberty, for it is only the free who walk at large. The grace and dignity of flowing long garments is seen to best advantage when the person "walks": so the graces of the saint's manifested character shall appear fully when he shall serve the Lord perfectly hereafter (Revelation 22:3). they are worthy with the worthiness (not their own, but that) which Christ has put on them (Revelation 7:14). Ezekiel 16:14, "perfect through MY comeliness which I had put upon thee." Grace is glory in the bud. "The worthiness here denotes a congruity between the saint's state of grace on earth, and that of glory, which the Lord has appointed for them, about to be estimated by the law itself of grace" [VITRINGA]. Contrast Acts 13:46.
5. white not a dull white, but glittering, dazzling white [GROTIUS]. Compare Matthew 13:43. The body transfigured into the likeness of Christ's body, and emitting beams of light reflected from Him, is probably the "white raiment" promised here. the same Greek, "THIS man"; he and he alone. So one oldest manuscript reads. But two oldest manuscripts, and most of the ancient versions, "shall THUS be clothed," etc. raiment Greek, "garments." "He that overcometh" shall receive the same reward as they who "have not defiled their garments" (Revelation 3:4); therefore the two are identical. I will not Greek, "I will not by any means." blot out . . . name out of . . . book of life of the heavenly city. A register was kept in ancient cities of their citizens: the names of the dead were of course erased. So those who have a name that they live and are dead (Revelation 3:1), are blotted out of God's roll of the heavenly citizens and heirs of eternal life; not that in God's electing decree they ever were in His book of life. But, according to human conceptions, those who had a high name for piety would be supposed to be in it, and were, in respect to privileges, actually among those in the way of salvation; but these privileges, and the fact that they once might have been saved, shall be of no avail to them. As to the book of life, compare Revelation 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; Exodus 32:32; Psalms 69:28; Daniel 12:1. In the sense of the "call," many are enrolled among the called to salvation, who shall not be found among the chosen at last. The pale of salvation is wider than that of election. Election is fixed. Salvation is open to all and is pending (humanly speaking) in the case of those mentioned here. But Revelation 20:15; 21:27, exhibit the book of the elect alone in the narrower sense, after the erasure of the others. before . . . before Greek, "in the presence of." Compare the same promise of Christ's confessing before His Father those who confessed Him, Matthew 10:32, 33; Luke 12:8, 9. He omits "in heaven" after "My Father," because there is, now that He is in heaven, no contrast between the Father in heaven and the Son on earth. He now sets His seal from heaven upon many of His words uttered on earth [TRENCH]. An undesigned coincidence, proving that these epistles are, as they profess, in their words, as well as substance, Christ's own addresses; not even tinged with the color of John's style, such as it appears in his Gospel and Epistles. The coincidence is mainly with the three other Gospels, and not with John's, which makes the coincidence more markedly undesigned. So also the clause, "He that hath an ear, let him hear," is not repeated from John's Gospel, but from the Lord's own words in the three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 11:15; 13:9; Mark 4:9, 23; 7:16; Luke 8:8; 14:35).
6. (See note on Revelation 2:7.)
7. Philadelphia in Lydia, twenty-eight miles southeast of Sardis, built by Attalus Philadelphus, king of Pergamos, who died A.D. 138. It was nearly destroyed by an earthquake in the reign of Tiberius [TACITUS, Annals, 2.47]. The connection of this Church with Jews there causes the address to it to have an Old Testament coloring in the images employed. It and Smyrna alone of the seven receive unmixed praise. he that is holy as in the Old Testament, "the Holy One of Israel." Thus Jesus and the God of the Old Testament are one. None but God is absolutely holy (Greek, "hagios," separate from evil and perfectly hating it). In contrast to "the synagogue of Satan" (Revelation 3:9). true Greek, "alethinos ": "VERY God," as distinguished from the false gods and from all those who say that they are what they are not (Revelation 3:9):real, genuine. Furthermore, He perfectly realizes all that is involved in the names, GOD, Light (John 1:9; 1 John 2:8), Bread (John 6:32), the Vine (John 15:1); as distinguished from all typical, partial, and imperfect realizations of the idea. His nature answers to His name (John 17:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:9). The Greek, "alethes," on the other hand, is "truth-speaking," "truth-loving" (John 3:33; Titus 1:2). he that hath the key of David the antitype of Eliakim, to whom the "key," the emblem of authority "over the house of David," was transferred from Shebna, who was removed from the office of chamberlain or treasurer, as unworthy of it. Christ, the Heir of the throne of David, shall supplant all the less worthy stewards who have abused their trust in God's spiritual house, and "shall reign over the house of Jacob," literal and spiritual (Luke 1:32, 33), "for ever," "as a Son over His own house" (Hebrews 3:2-6). It rests with Christ to open or shut the heavenly palace, deciding who is, and who is not, to be admitted: as He also opens, or shuts, the prison, having the keys of hell (the grave ) and death (Revelation 1:18). The power of the keys was given to Peter and the other apostles, only when, and in so far as, Christ made him and them infallible. Whatever degrees of this power may have been committed to ministers, the supreme power belongs to Christ alone. Thus Peter rightly opened the Gospel door to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-48; 11:17, 18; especially Acts 14:27, end). But he wrongly tried to shut the door in part again (Galatians 2:11-18). Eliakim had "the key of the house of David laid upon his shoulder": Christ, as the antitypical David, Himself has the key of the supreme "government upon His shoulder." His attribute here, as in the former addresses, accords with His promise. Though "the synagogue of Satan," false "Jews" (Revelation 3:9) try to "shut" the "door" which I "set open before thee"; "no man can shut it" (Revelation 3:8). shutteth So Vulgate and Syriac Versions read. But the four oldest manuscripts read, "shall shut"; so Coptic Version and ORIGEN. and no man openeth Two oldest manuscripts, B, a, Coptic Version, and ORIGEN read, "shall open." Two oldest manuscripts, A, C. and Vulgate Version support English Version reading.
8. I have set Greek, "given": it is My gracious gift to thee. open door for evangelization; a door of spiritual usefulness. The opening of a door by Him to the Philadelphian Church accords with the previous assignation to Him of "the key of David." and The three oldest manuscripts, A, B, C, and ORIGEN read, "which no man can shut." for "because." a little This gives the idea that Christ says, He sets before Philadelphia an open door because she has some little strength; whereas the sense rather is, He does so because she has "but little strength": being consciously weak herself, she is the fitter object for God's power to rest on [so AQUINAS], that so the Lord Christ may have all the glory. and hast kept and so, the littleness of thy strength becoming the source of Almighty power to thee, as leading thee to rest wholly on My great power, thou hast kept My word. GROTIUS makes "little strength" to mean that she had a Church small in numbers and external resources: "a little flock poor in worldly goods, and of small account in the eyes of men" [TRENCH]. So ALFORD. I prefer the view given above. The Greek verbs are in the aorist tense: "Thou didst keep . . . didst not deny My name": alluding to some particular occasion when her faithfulness was put to the test.
9. I will make Greek present, "I make," literally, "I give" (see note on Revelation 3:8). The promise to Philadelphia is larger than that to Smyrna. To Smyrna the promise was that "the synagogue of Satan" should not prevail against the faithful in her: to Philadelphia, that she should even win over some of "the synagogue of Satan" to fall on their faces and confess God is in her of a truth. Translate, "(some) of the synagogue." For until Christ shall come, and all Israel then be saved, there is but "a remnant" being gathered out of the Jews "according to the election of grace." This is an instance of how Christ set before her an "open door," some of her greatest adversaries, the Jews, being brought to the obedience of the faith. Their worshipping before her feet expresses the convert's willingness to take the very lowest place in the Church, doing servile honor to those whom once they persecuted, rather than dwell with the ungodly. So the Philippian jailer before Paul.
10. patience "endurance." "The word of My endurance" is My Gospel word, which teaches patient endurance in expectation of my coming (Revelation 1:9). My endurance is the endurance which I require, and which I practice. Christ Himself now endures, patiently waiting until the usurper be cast out, and all "His enemies be made His footstool." So, too, His Church, for the joy before her of sharing His coming kingdom, endures patiently. Hence, in Revelation 3:11, follows, "Behold, I come quickly." I also The reward is in kind: "because thou didst keep," etc. "I also (on My side) will keep thee," etc. from Greek, "(so as to deliver thee) out of," not to exempt from temptation. the hour of temptation the appointed season of affliction and temptation (so in Deuteronomy 4:34 the plagues are called "the temptations of Egypt"), literally, "the temptation": the sore temptation which is coming on: the time of great tribulation before Christ's second coming. to try them that dwell upon the earth those who are of earth, earthy (Revelation 8:13). "Dwell" implies that their home is earth, not heaven. All mankind, except the elect (Revelation 13:8, 14). The temptation brings out the fidelity of those kept by Christ and hardens the unbelieving reprobates (Revelation 9:20, 21; 16:11, 21). The particular persecutions which befell Philadelphia shortly after, were the earnest of the great last tribulation before Christ's coming, to which the Church's attention in all ages is directed.
11. Behold omitted by the three oldest manuscripts and most ancient versions. I come quickly the great incentive to persevering faithfulness, and the consolation under present trials. that . . . which thou hast "The word of my patience," or "endurance" (Revelation 3:10), which He had just commended them for keeping, and which involved with it the attaining of the kingdom; this they would lose if they yielded to the temptation of exchanging consistency and suffering for compromise and ease. that no man take thy crown which otherwise thou wouldst receive: that no tempter cause thee to lose it: not that the tempter would thus secure it for himself (Colossians 2:18).
12. pillar in the temple In one sense there shall be "no temple" in the heavenly city because there shall be no distinction of things into sacred and secular, for all things and persons shall be holy to the Lord. The city shall be all one great temple, in which the saints shall be not merely stones, as m the spiritual temple now on earth, but all eminent as pillars: immovably firm (unlike Philadelphia, the city which was so often shaken by earthquakes, STRABO [12 and 13]), like the colossal pillars before Solomon's temple, Boaz (that is, "In it is strength") and Jachin ("It shall be established"): only that those pillars were outside, these shall be within the temple. my God (See note on Revelation 2:7). go no more out The Greek is stronger, never more at all. As the elect angels are beyond the possibility of falling, being now under (as the Schoolmen say) "the blessed necessity of goodness," so shall the saints be. The door shall be once for all shut, as well to shut safely in for ever the elect, as to shut out the lost (Matthew 25:10; John 8:35; compare Isaiah 22:23, the type, Eliakim). They shall be priests for ever unto God (Revelation 1:6). "Who would not yearn for that city out of which no friend departs, and into which no enemy enters?" [AUGUSTINE in TRENCH]. write upon him the name of my God as belonging to God in a peculiar sense (Revelation 7:3; 9:4; 14:1; and especially Revelation 22:4), therefore secure. As the name of Jehovah ("Holiness to the Lord") was on the golden plate on the high priest's forehead (Exodus 28:36-38); so the saints in their heavenly royal priesthood shall bear His name openly, as consecrated to Him. Compare the caricature of this in the brand on the forehead of the beast's followers (Revelation 13:16, 17), and on the harlot (Revelation 17:5; compare Revelation 20:4). name of the city of my God as one of its citizens (Revelation 21:2, 3, 10, which is briefly alluded to by anticipation here). The full description of the city forms the appropriate close of the book. The saint's citizenship is now hidden, but then it shall be manifested: he shall have the right to enter in through the gates into the city (Revelation 22:14). This was the city which Abraham looked for. new Greek, "kaine." Not the old Jerusalem, once called "the holy city," but having forfeited the name. Greek, "nea," would express that it had recently come into existence; but Greek, "kaine," that which is new and different, superseding the worn-out old Jerusalem and its polity. "John, in the Gospel, applies to the old city the Greek name Hierosolyma. But in the Apocalypse, always, to the heavenly city the Hebrew name, Hierousalem. The Hebrew name is the original and holier one: the Greek, the recent and more secular and political one" [BENGEL]. my new name at present incommunicable and only known to God: to be hereafter revealed and made the believer's own in union with God in Christ. Christ's name written on him denotes he shall be wholly Christ's. New also relates to Christ, who shall assume a new character (answering to His "new name") entering with His saints on a kingdom not that which He had with the Father before the worlds, but that earned by His humiliation as Son of man. GIBBON, the infidel [Decline and Fall, ch. 64], gives an unwilling testimony to the fulfilment of the prophecy as to Philadelphia from a temporal point of view, Among the Greek colonies and churches of Asia, Philadelphia is still erect, a column in a scene of ruins a pleasing example that the paths of honor and safety may sometimes be the same."
13. (See note on Revelation 2:7).
14. Laodiceans The city was in the southwest of Phrygia, on the river Lycus, not far from Colosse, and lying between it and Philadelphia. It was destroyed by an earthquake, A.D. 62, and rebuilt by its wealthy citizens without the help of the state [TACITUS, Annals, 14.27]. This wealth (arising from the excellence of its wools) led to a self-satisfied, lukewarm state in spiritual things, as Revelation 3:17 describes. See note on Colossians 4:16, on the Epistle which is thought to have been written to the Laodicean Church by Paul. The Church in latter times was apparently flourishing; for one of the councils at which the canon of Scripture was determined was held in Laodicea in A.D. 361. Hardly a Christian is now to be found on or near its site. the Amen (Isaiah 65:16, Hebrew, "Bless Himself in the God of Amen . . . swear by the God of Amen," 2 Corinthians 1:20). He who not only says, but is, the Truth. The saints used Amen at the end of prayer, or in assenting to the word of God; but none, save the Son of God, ever said, "Amen, I say unto you," for it is the language peculiar to God, who avers by Himself. The New Testament formula, "Amen. I say unto you," is equivalent to the Old Testament formula, "as I live, saith Jehovah." In John's Gospel alone He uses (in the Greek ) the double "Amen," John 1:51; 3:3, etc.; in English Version," Verily, verily." The title happily harmonizes with the address. His unchanging faithfulness as "the Amen" contrasts with Laodicea's wavering of purpose, "neither hot nor cold" (Revelation 3:16). The angel of Laodicea has with some probability been conjectured to be Archippus, to whom, thirty years previously, Paul had already given a monition, as needing to be stirred up to diligence in his ministry. So the Apostolic Constitutions, [8.46], name him as the first bishop of Laodicea: supposed to be the son of Philemon (Philemon 1:2). faithful and true witness As "the Amen" expresses the unchangeable truth of His promises; so "the faithful the true witness," the truth of His revelations as to the heavenly things which He has seen and testifies. "Faithful," that is, trustworthy (2 Timothy 2:11, 13). "True" is here (Greek, "alethinos ") not truth-speaking (Greek, "alethes "), but "perfectly realizing all that is comprehended in the name Witness" (1 Timothy 6:13). Three things are necessary for this: (1) to have seen with His own eyes what He attests; (2) to be competent to relate it for others; (3) to be willing truthfully to do so. In Christ all these conditions meet [TRENCH]. beginning of the creation of God not he whom God created first, but as in Colossians 1:15-18 (see on Colossians 1:15-18), the Beginner of all creation, its originating instrument. All creation would not be represented adoring Him, if He were but one of themselves. His being the Creator is a strong guarantee for His faithfulness as "the Witness and Amen."
15. neither cold The antithesis to "hot," literally, "boiling" ("fervent," Acts 18:25; Romans 12:11; compare Song Of Songs 8:6; Luke 24:32), requires that "cold" should here mean more than negatively cold; it is rather, positively icy cold: having never yet been warmed. The Laodiceans were in spiritual things cold comparatively, but not cold as the world outside, and as those who had never belonged to the Church. The lukewarm state, if it be the transitional stage to a warmer, is a desirable state (for a little religion, if real, is better than none); but most fatal when, as here, an abiding condition, for it is mistaken for a safe state (Revelation 3:17). This accounts for Christ's desiring that they were cold rather than lukewarm. For then there would not be the same "danger of mixed motive and disregarded principle" [ALFORD]. Also, there is more hope of the "cold," that is, those who are of the world, and not yet warmed by the Gospel call; for, when called, they may become hot and fervent Christians: such did the once-cold publicans, Zaccheus and Matthew, become. But the lukewarm has been brought within reach of the holy fire, without being heated by it into fervor: having religion enough to lull the conscience in false security, but not religion enough to save the soul: as Demas, 2 Timothy 4:10. Such were the halters between two opinions in Israel (1 Kings 18:21; compare 2 Kings 17:41; Matthew 6:24).
16. neither cold nor hot So one oldest manuscript, B, and Vulgate read. But two oldest manuscripts, Syriac, and Coptic transpose thus, "hot nor cold." It is remarkable that the Greek adjectives are in the masculine, agreeing with the angel, not feminine, agreeing with the Church. The Lord addresses the angel as the embodiment and representative of the Church. The chief minister is answerable for his flock if he have not faithfully warned the members of it. I will Greek, "I am about to," "I am ready to": I have it in my mind: implying graciously the possibility of the threat not being executed, if only they repent at once. His dealings towards them will depend on theirs towards Him. spue thee out of my month reject with righteous loathing, as Canaan spued out its inhabitants for their abominations. Physicians used lukewarm water to cause vomiting. Cold and hot drinks were common at feasts, but never lukewarm. There were hot and cold springs near Laodicea.
17. Self-sufficiency is the fatal danger of a lukewarm state (see note on Revelation 3:15). thou sayest virtually and mentally, if not in so many words. increased with goods Greek, "have become enriched," implying self-praise in self-acquired riches. The Lord alludes to Hosea 12:8. The riches on which they prided themselves were spiritual riches; though, doubtless, their spiritual self-sufficiency ("I have need of nothing") was much fostered by their worldly wealth; as, on the other hand, poverty of spirit is fostered by poverty in respect to worldly riches. knowest not that thou in particular above all others. The "THOU" in the Greek is emphatic. art wretched Greek, "art the wretched one." miserable So one oldest manuscripts reads. But two oldest manuscripts prefix "the." Translate, "the pitiable"; "the one especially to be pitied." How different Christ's estimate of men, from their own estimate of themselves, "I have need of nothing!" blind whereas Laodicea boasted of a deeper than common insight into divine things. They were not absolutely blind, else eye-salve would have been of no avail to them; but short-sighted.
18. Gentle and loving irony. Take My advice, thou who fanciest thyself in need of nothing. Not only art thou not in need of nothing, but art in need of the commonest necessaries of existence. He graciously stoops to their modes of thought and speech: Thou art a people ready to listen to any counsel as to how to buy to advantage; then, listen to My counsel (for I am "Counsellor," Isaiah 9:6), buy of ME" (in whom, according to Paul's Epistle written to the neighboring Colosse and intended for the Laodicean Church also, Colossians 2:1, 3; 4:16, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge ). "Buy" does not imply that we can, by any work or merit of ours, purchase God's free gift; nay the very purchase money consists in the renunciation of all self-righteousness, such as Laodicea had (Revelation 3:17). "Buy" at the cost of thine own self-sufficiency (so Paul, Philippians 3:7, 8); and the giving up of all things, however dear to us, that would prevent our receiving Christ's salvation as a free gift, for example, self and worldly desires. Compare Isaiah 55:1, "Buy . . . without money and price." of me the source of "unsearchable riches" (Ephesians 3:8). Laodicea was a city of extensive money transactions [CICERO]. gold tried in, etc. literally, "fired (and fresh) from the fire," that is, just fresh from the furnace which has proved its purity, and retaining its bright gloss. Sterling spiritual wealth, as contrasted with its counterfeit, in which Laodicea boasted itself. Having bought this gold she will be no longer poor (Revelation 3:17). mayest be rich Greek, "mayest be enriched." white raiment "garments." Laodicea's wools were famous. Christ offers infinitely whiter raiment. As "gold tried in the fire" expresses faith tested by fiery trials: so "white raiment," Christ's righteousness imputed to the believer in justification and imparted in sanctification. appear Greek, "be manifested," namely, at the last day, when everyone without the wedding. garment shall be discovered. To strip one, is in the East the image of putting to open shame. So also to clothe one with fine apparel is the image of doing him honor. Man can discover his shame, God alone can cover it, so that his nakedness shall not be manifested at last (Colossians 3:10-14). Blessed is he whose sin is so covered. The hypocrite's shame may be manifested now; it must be so at last. anoint . . . with eye-salve The oldest manuscripts read, "(buy of Me) eye-salve (collyrium, a roll of ointment), to anoint thine eyes." Christ has for Laodicea an ointment far more precious than all the costly unguents of the East. The eye is here the conscience or inner light of the mind. According as it is sound and "single" (Greek, "haplous," "simple"), or otherwise, the man sees aright spiritually, or does not. The Holy Spirit's unction, like the ancient eye-salve's, first smarts with conviction of sin, then heals. He opens our eyes first to ourselves in our wretchedness, then to the Saviour in His preciousness. TRENCH notices that the most sunken churches of the seven, namely, Sardis and Laodicea, are the ones in which alone are specified no opponents from without, nor heresies from within. The Church owes much to God's overruling Providence which has made so often internal and external foes, in spite of themselves, to promote His cause by calling forth her energies in contending for the faith once delivered to the saints. Peace is dearly bought at the cost of spiritual stagnation, where there is not interest enough felt in religion to contend about it at all.
19. (Job 5:17; Proverbs 3:11, 12; Hebrews 12:5, 6.) So in the case of Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:11-13). As many All. "He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. And shalt thou be an exception? If excepted from suffering the scourge, thou art excepted from the number of the sons" [AUGUSTINE]. This is an encouragement to Laodicea not to despair, but to regard the rebuke as a token for good, if she profit by it. I love Greek, "philo," the love of gratuitous affection, independent of any grounds for esteem in the object loved. But in the case of Philadelphia (Revelation 3:9), "I have loved thee" (Greek, "egapesa ") with the love of esteem, founded on the judgment. Compare the note in my English Gnomon of BENGEL, John 21:15-17. I rebuke The "I" in the Greek stands first in the sentence emphatically. I in My dealings, so altogether unlike man's, in the case of all whom I love, rebuke. The Greek, "elencho," is the same verb. as in John 16:8, "(the Holy Ghost) will convince (rebuke unto conviction) the world of sin." chasten "chastise." The Greek, "paideu," which in classical Greek means to instruct, in the New Testament means to instruct by chastisement (Hebrews 12:5, 6). David was rebuked unto conviction, when he cried, "I have sinned against the Lord"; the chastening followed when his child was taken from him (2 Samuel 12:13, 14). In the divine chastening, the sinner at one and the same time winces under the rod and learns righteousness. be zealous habitually. Present tense in the Greek, of a lifelong course of zeal. The opposite of "lukewarm." The Greek by alliteration marks this: Laodicea had not been "hot" (Greek, "zestos "), she is therefore urged to "be zealous" (Greek, "zeleue "): both are derived from the same verb, Greek, "zeo," "to boil." repent Greek aorist: of an act to be once for all done, and done at once.
20. stand waiting in wonderful condescension and long-suffering. knock (Song Of Songs 5:2). This is a further manifestation of His loving desire for the sinner's salvation. He who is Himself "the Door," and who bids us "knock" that it may be "opened unto" us, is first Himself to knock at the door of our hearts. If He did not knock first, we should never come to knock at His door. Compare Song Of Songs 5:4-6, which is plainly alluded to here; the Spirit thus in Revelation sealing the canonicity of that mystical book. The spiritual state of the bride there, between waking and sleeping, slow to open the door to her divine lover, answers to that of the lukewarm Laodicea here. "Love in regard to men emptied (humbled) God; for He does not remain in His place and call to Himself the servant whom He loved, but He comes down Himself to seek him, and He who is all-rich arrives at the lodging of the pauper, and with His own voice intimates His yearning love, and seeks a similar return, and withdraws not when disowned, and is not impatient at insult, and when persecuted still waits at the doors" [NICOLAUS CABASILAS in TRENCH]. my voice He appeals to the sinner not only with His hand (His providences) knocking, but with His voice (His word read or heard; or rather, His Spirit inwardly applying to man's spirit the lessons to be drawn from His providence and His word). If we refuse to answer to His knocking at our door now, He will refuse to hear our knocking at His door hereafter. In respect to His second coming also, He is even now at the door, and we know not how soon He may knock: therefore we should always be ready to open to Him immediately. if any man hear for man is not compelled by irresistible force: Christ knocks, but does not break open the door, though the violent take heaven by the force of prayer (Matthew 11:12): whosoever does hear, does so not of himself, but by the drawings of God's grace (John 6:44): repentance is Christ's gift (Acts 5:31). He draws, not drags. The Sun of righteousness, like the natural sun, the moment that the door is opened, pours in His light, which could not previously find an entrance. Compare HILARY on Psalm 118:19. I will come in to him as I did to Zaccheus. sup with him, and he with me Delightful reciprocity! Compare "dwelleth in me, and I in Him," John 6:56. Whereas, ordinarily, the admitted guest sups with the admitter, here the divine guest becomes Himself the host, for He is the bread of life, and the Giver of the marriage feast. Here again He alludes to the imagery of Song Of Songs 4:16, where the Bride invites Him to eat pleasant fruits, even as He had first prepared a feast for her, "His fruit was sweet to my taste." Compare the same interchange, John 21:9-13, the feast being made up of the viands that Jesus brought, and those which the disciples brought. The consummation of this blessed intercommunion shall be at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, of which the Lord's Supper is the earnest and foretaste.
21. sit with me in my throne (Revelation 2:26, 27; 20:6; Matthew 19:28; 20:23; John 17:22, 24; 2 Timothy 2:12). The same whom Christ had just before threatened to spue out of His mouth, is now offered a seat with Him on His throne! "The highest place is within reach of the lowest; the faintest spark of grace may be fanned into the mightiest flame of love" [TRENCH]. even as I also Two thrones are here mentioned: (1) His Father's, upon which He now sits, and has sat since His ascension, after His victory over death, sin, the world; upon this none can sit save God, and the God-man Christ Jesus, for it is the incommunicable prerogative of God alone; (2) the throne which shall be peculiarly His as the once humbled and then glorified Son of man, to be set up over the whole earth (heretofore usurped by Satan) at His coming again; in this the victorious saints shall share (1 Corinthians 6:2). The transfigured elect Church shall with Christ judge and reign over the nations in the flesh, and Israel the foremost of them; ministering blessings to them as angels were the Lord's mediators of blessing and administrators of His government in setting up His throne in Israel at Sinai. This privilege of our high calling belongs exclusively to the present time while Satan reigns, when alone there is scope for conflict and for victory (2 Timothy 2:11, 12). When Satan shall be bound (Revelation 20:4), there shall be no longer scope for it, for all on earth shall know the Lord from the least to the greatest. This, the grandest and crowning promise, is placed at the end of all the seven addresses, to gather all in one. It also forms the link to the next part of the book, where the Lamb is introduced seated on His Father's throne (Revelation 4:2, 3; 5:5, 6). The Eastern throne is broad, admitting others besides him who, as chief, occupies the center. TRENCH notices; The order of the promises in the seven epistles corresponds to that of the unfolding of the kingdom of God its first beginnings on earth to its consummation in heaven. To the faithful at Ephesus: (1) The tree of life in the Paradise of God is promised (Revelation 2:7), answering to Genesis 2:9. (2) Sin entered the world and death by sin; but to the faithful at Smyrna it is promised, they shall not be hurt by the second death (Revelation 2:11). (3) The promise of the hidden manna (Revelation 2:17) to Pergamos brings us to the Mosaic period, the Church in the wilderness. (4) That to Thyatira, namely, triumph over the nations (Revelation 2:26, 27), forms the consummation of the kingdom in prophetic type, the period of David and Solomon characterized by this power of the nations. Here there is a division, the seven falling into two groups, four and three, as often, for example, the Lord's Prayer, three and four. The scenery of the last three passes from earth to heaven, the Church contemplated as triumphant, with its steps from glory to glory. (5) Christ promises to the believer of Sardis not to blot his name out of the book of life but to confess him before His Father and the angels at the judgment-day, and clothe him with a glorified body of dazzling whiteness (Revelation 3:4, 5). (6) To the faithful at Philadelphia Christ promises they shall be citizens of the new Jerusalem, fixed as immovable pillars there, where city and temple are one (Revelation 3:12); here not only individual salvation is promised to the believer, as in the case of Sardis, but also privileges in the blessed communion of the Church triumphant. (7) Lastly, to the faithful of Laodicea is given the crowning promise, not only the two former blessings, but a seat with Christ on His throne, even as He has sat with His Father on His Father's throne (Revelation 3:21).
Analysis of the Chapter
This chapter comprises four of the seven epistles addressed to the seven churches: those addressed to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, and Thyatira. A particular view of the contents of the epistles will be more appropriate as they come separately to be considered, than in this place. There are some general remarks in regard to their structure, however, which may be properly made here.
(1.) They all begin with a reference to some of the attributes of the Saviour, in general some attribute that had been noted in the first chapter; and while they are all adapted to make a deep impression on the mind, perhaps each one was selected in such a way as to have a special propriety in reference to each particular church. Thus in the address to the church at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1) the allusion is to the fact that he who speaks to them "holds the seven stars in his right hand, and walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks ;" in the epistle to the church at Smyrna, (Rev. 2:8,) it is he who "is the first and the last, who was dead and is alive ;" in the epistle to the church at Pergamos, (Rev. 2:12,) it is he "which hath the sharp sword with the two edges ;" in the epistle to the church at Thyatira, (Rev. 2:18,) it is "the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet like fine brass;" in the epistle to the church at Sardis, (Rev. 3:1,) it is he who "hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars;" in the epistle to the church at Philadelphia, (Rev. 3:7,) it is "he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth ;" in the epistle to the church at Laodicea, (Rev. 3:14,) it is he who is the "Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God."
(2.) These introductions are followed with the formula, "I know thy works." The peculiar characteristics then of each church are referred to, with a sentiment of approbation or disapprobation expressed in regard to their conduct. Of two of the churches, that at Smyrna, (Rev. 2:9,) and that at Philadelphia, (Rev. 3:10,) he expresses his enure approbation; to the churches of Sardis, (Rev. 3:3,) and Laodicea, (Rev. 3:15-18,) he administers a decided rebuke; to the churches of Ephesus, (Rev. 2:3-6,) Pergamos, (Rev. 2:13-16,) and Thyatira, (Rev. 2:19, 20, 24, 25, ) he intermingles praise and rebuke, for he saw much to commend, but at the same time not a little that was reprehensible. In all cases, however, the approbation precedes the blame: showing that he was more disposed to find that which was good than that which was evil.
(3.) After the statement of their characteristics, there follows in each case, counsel, advice, admonition, or promises, such as their circumstances demandedencouragement in trial, and injunctions to put away their sins. The admonitions are addressed to the churches as if Christ were at hand, and would ere long come and sit in judgment on them and their deeds.
(4.) There is a solemn admonition to hear what the Spirit has to say to the churches. This is in each case expressed in the same manner, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches," Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.
These admonitions were designed to call the attention of the churches to these things, and at the same time they seem designed to show that they were not intended for them alone. They are addressed to any one who "has an ear," and therefore had some principles of general application to others, and to which all should attend who were disposed to learn the will of the Redeemer. What was addressed to one church, at any time, would be equally applicable to all churches in the same circumstances; what was adapted to rebuke, elevate, or comfort Christians in any one age or land, would be adapted to be useful to Christians of all ages and lands.
(5.) There then is, either following or preceding that call on all the churches to hear, some promise or assurance designed to encourage the church, and urge it forward in the discharge of duty, or in enduring trial. This is found in each one of the epistles, though not always in the same relative position.
THE EPISTLE TO THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS
The contents of the epistle to the church at Ephesusthe first addressedare these:
(1.) The attribute of the Saviour referred to is, that he "holds the stars in his right hand, and walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks," Rev. 2:1.
(2.) He commends them for their patience, and for their opposition to those who are evil, and for their zeal and fidelity in carefully examining into the character of some who claimed to be apostles, but who were in fact impostors; for their perseverance in bearing up under trial, and not fainting in his cause, and for their opposition to the Nicolaitanes, whom he says he hates, Rev. 2:2, 3, 6.
(3.) He reproves them for having left their first love to him, Rev. 2:4.
(4.) He admonishes them to remember whence they had fallen, to repent, and to do their first works, Rev. 2:5.
(5.) He threatens them that if they do not repent he will come and remove the candlestick out of its place, Rev. 2:5; and
(6.) he assures them and all others that whosoever overcomes, he will "give him to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God," Rev. 2:7.
1. Unto the angel. The minister; the presiding presbyter; the bishopin the primitive sense of the word bishopdenoting one who had the spiritual charge of a congregation. See Note on Rev. 1:20.
Of the church. Not of the churches of Ephesus, but of the one church of that city. There is no evidence that the word is used in a collective sense to denote a group of churches, like a diocese; nor is there any evidence that there was such a group of churches in Ephesus, or that there was more than one church in that city. It is probable that all who were Christians there were regarded as members of one churchthough for convenience they may have met for worship in different places. Thus there was one church in Corinth, (1 Cor. 1:1) one church in Thessalonica, (1 Thess. 1:1,) etc.
Of Ephesus. On the situation of Ephesus, See Note on Acts 18:19, and the Introduction to the Notes on the Epistle to the Ephesians. It was the capital of Ionia; was one of the twelve Ionian cities of Asia Minor in the Mythic times, and was said to have been founded by the Amazons. It was situated on the river Cayster, not far from the Icarian Sea, between Smyrna and Miletus. It was one of the most considerable cities of Asia Minor, and while, about the epoch when Christianity was introduced, other cities declined, Ephesus rose more and more. It owed its prosperity, in part, to the favour of its governors, for Lysimachus named the city Arsinbe, in honour of his second wife, and Attalus Philadelphus furnished it with splendid wharves and docks. Under the Romans it was the capital not only of Ionia, but of the entire province of Asia, and bore the honourable title of the first and greatest metropolis of Asia. John is supposed to have resided in this city, and to have preached the gospel there for many years; and on this account perhaps it was, as well as on account of the relative importance of the city, that the first epistle of the seven was addressed to that church. On the present condition of the ruins of Ephesus, See Note on Rev. 2:5.
We have no means whatever of ascertaining the size of the church when John wrote the book of Revelation. From the fact, however, that Paul, as is supposed, (see Introduction to the Epistle to the Ephesians,) laboured there for about three years; that there was a body of "elders" who presided over the church there, (Acts 20:1) and that the apostle John seems to have spent a considerable part of his life there in preaching the gospel, it may be presumed that there was a large and flourishing church in that city. The epistle before us shows also that it was characterized by distinguished piety.
These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand. See Note on Rev. 1:16.
The object here seems to be to turn the attention of the church in Ephesus to some attribute of the Saviour which deserved their special regard, or which constituted a special reason for attending to what he said. To do this, the attention is directed in this case to the fact that he held the seven starsemblematic of the ministers of the churchesin his hand, and that he walked in the midst of the lamp-bearersrepresenting the churches themselves, intimating that they were dependent on him; that he had power to continue or remove the ministry, and that it was by his presence only that those lamp-bearers would continue to give light. The absolute control over the ministry, and the fact that he walked amidst the churches, and that his presence was necessary to their perpetuity and their welfare, seem to be the principal ideas implied in this representation. These truths he would impress on their minds in order that they might feel how easy it would be for him to punish any disobedience, and in order that they might do what was necessary to secure his continual presence among them. These views seem to be sanctioned by the character of the punishment threatened, (Rev. 2:5,) "that he would remove the candlestick representing their church out of its place." See Note on Rev. 2:5.
Who walketh in the midst, etc. In chapter Rev. 1:13, he is represented simply as being seen amidst the golden candlesticks, See Note on Rev. 1:13.
Here there is the additional idea of his "walking" in the midst of them, implying perhaps constant and vigilant supervision. He went from one to another, as one who inspects and surveys what is under his care; perhaps also with the idea that he went among them as a friend to bless them.
2. I know thy works. The common formula with which all the epistles to the seven churches are introduced. It is designed to impress upon them deeply the conviction that he was intimately acquainted with all that they did, good and bad, and that therefore he was abundantly qualified to dispense rewards or administer punishments according to truth and justice. It may be observed, that as many of the things referred to in these epistles were things pertaining to the heartthe feelings, the state of the mindit is implied that he who speaks here has an intimate acquaintance with the heart of mana prerogative which is always attributed to the Saviour. See John 2:25. But no one can do this who is not Divine; and this declaration, therefore, furnishes a strong proof of the divinity of Christ. See Psa. 7:9; Jer. 11:20; 17:10; 1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39.
And thy labour. The word here usedkopoßmeans properly a beating, hence wailing, grief, with beating the breast; and then it means excessive labour or toil adapted to produce grief or sadness, and is commonly employed in the New Testament in the latter sense. It is used in the sense of trouble in Matt. 26:10"Why trouble ye [literally, why give ye trouble to] the woman?" (compare also Mark 14:6; Luke 11:7; 18:5; Gal. 6:17) and in the sense of labour, or wearisome toil, in John 4:38; 1 Cor. 3:8; 15:58; 2 Cor. 6:5
2 Cor. 10:15; 2 Cor. 11:23, 27
et al. The connexion here would admit of either sense. It is commonly understood, as in our translation, in the sense of labour, though it would seem that the other significationthat of troublewould not be inappropriate. If it means labour, it refers to their faithful service in his cause, and especially in opposing error. It seems to me, however, that the word trouble would better suit the connexion.
And thy patience. Under these trials; to wit, in relation to the efforts which had been made by the advocates of error to corrupt them, and to turn them away from the truth. They had patiently borne the opposition made to the truth; they had manifested a spirit of firm endurance amidst many arts of those opposed to them to draw them off from simple faith in Christ.
And how thou canst not bear them which are evil. Canst not endure or tolerate them. Compare Note on 2 John 1:10.
That is, they had no sympathy with their doctrines or their practices; they were utterly opposed to them. They had lent them no countenance, but had in every way shown that they had no fellowship with them. The evil persons here referred to were doubtless those mentioned in this verse as claiming that "they were apostles," and those mentioned in Rev. 2:6 as the Nicolaitanes.
And thou hast tried them which say they are apostles. Thou hast thoroughly examined their claims. It is not said in what way they had done this, but it was probably by considering attentively and candidly the evidence on which they relied, whatever that may have been. Nor is it certainly known who these persons were, or on what grounds they advanced their pretensions to the apostolic office. It cannot be supposed that they claimed to have been of the number of apostles selected by the Saviour, for that would have been too absurd; and the only solution would seem to be that they claimed either
(1) that they had been called to that office after the Saviour ascended, as Paul was; or
(2) that they claimed the honour due to this name or office in virtue of some election to it; or
(3) that they claimed to be the successors of the apostles, and to possess and transmit their authority. If the first of these, it would seem that the only ground of claim would be that they had been called in some miraculous way to the rank of apostles, and, of course, an examination of their claims would be an examination of the alleged miraculous call, and of the evidence on which they would rely that they had such a call. If the second, then the claim must have been founded on some such plea as that the apostolic office was designed to be elective, as in the case of Matthias, (Acts 1:23-26,) and that they maintained that this arrangement was to be continued in the church; and then an examination of their claims would involve an investigation of the question whether it was contemplated that the apostolic office was designed to be perpetuated in that manner, or whether the election of Matthias was only a temporary arrangement, designed to answer a particular purpose. If the third, then the claim must have been founded on the plea that the apostolic office was designed to be perpetuated by a regular succession, and that they, by ordination, were in a line of that succession; and then the examination and refutation of the claim must have consisted in showing, from the nature of the office, and the necessary qualifications for the office of apostle, that it was designed to be temporary, and that there could be properly no successors of the apostles as such. On either of these suppositions such a line of argument would be fatal to all claims to any succession in the apostolic office now. If each of these points should fail, of course their claims to the rank of apostles would ceasejust as all claims to the dignity and rank of the apostles must fail now. The passage becomes thus a strong argument against the claims of any persons to be "apostles," or to be the "successors" of the apostles in the peculiarity of their office.
And are not. There were never any apostles of Jesus Christ but the original twelve whom he chose; Matthias, who was chosen in the place of Judas, (Acts 1:26;) and Paul, who was specially called to the office by the Saviour after his resurrection. On this point, see my work on the "Apostolic Church," [pp. 49-57, London ed.]
And hast found them liars. Hast discovered their pretensions to be unfounded and false. In 2 Cor. 11:13, "false apostles" are mentioned; and in an office of so much honour as this, it is probable that there would be not a few claimants to it in the world. To set up a claim to what they knew they were not entitled to would be a falsehood; and as this seems to have been the character of these men, the Saviour in the passage before us does not hesitate to designate them by an appropriate term, and to call them liars. The point here commended in the Ephesian church is, that they had sought to have a pure ministrya ministry whose claims were well founded. They had felt the importance of this; had carefully examined the claims of pretenders; and had refused to recognise those who could not show in a proper manner that they had been designated to their work by the Lord Jesus. The same zeal in the same cause would be commended by the Saviour now.
3. And hast borne. Hast borne up under trials; or hast borne with, the evils with which you have been assailed. That is, you have not given way to murmuring or complaints in trial; you have not abandoned the principles of truth and yielded to the prevalence of error.
And hast patience. That is, in this connexion, hast shown that thou canst bear up under these things with patience. This is a repetition of what is said in Rev. 2:2, but in a somewhat different connexion. There it rather refers to the trouble which they had experienced on account of the pretensions of false apostles, and the patient, persevering, and enduring spirit which they had shown in that form of trial; here the expression is more general, denoting a patient spirit in regard to all forms of trial.
And for my name's sake hast laboured. On account of me, and in my cause. That is, the labour here referred to, whatever it was, was to advance the cause of the Redeemer. In the word rendered "hast laboured"ekopiasaßthere is a reference to the word used in the previous verse"thy labour"kopon sou; and the design is to show that the "labour," or trouble there referred to, was on account of him.
And hast not fainted. Hast not become exhausted, or wearied out, so as to give over. The word here used (kamnw) occurs in only three places in the New Testament: Heb. 12:3, "Lest ye be wearied, and faint; James 5:15, "the prayer of faith shall save the sick;" and in the passage before us. It means properly to become weary and faint from toil, etc.; and the idea here is, that they had not become so wearied out as to give over from exhaustion. The sense of the whole passage is thus rendered by Professor Stuart: "Thou canst not bear with false teachers, but thou canst bear with troubles and perplexities on account of me; thou hast undergone wearisome toil, but thou art not wearied out thereby." The state of mind, considered as the state of mind appropriate to a Christian, here represented, is, that we should not tolerate error and sin, but that we should bear up under the trials which they may incidentally occasion us; that we should have such a repugnance to evil that we cannot endure it, as evil, but that we should have such love to the Saviour and his cause as to be willing to bear anything, even in relation to that, or springing from that, that we may be called to suffer in that cause; that while we may be weary in his workfor our bodily strength may become exhausted (compare Matt. 26:41)we should not be weary of it; and that though we may have many perplexities, and may meet with much opposition, yet we should not relax our zeal, but should persevere with an ardour that never faints, until our Saviour calls us to our reward.
4. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee. Notwithstanding this general commendation, there are things which I cannot approve.
Because thou hast left thy first love. Thou hast remittedafhkaßor let down thy early love; that is, it is less glowing and ardent than it was at first. The love here referred to is evidently love to the Saviour; and the idea is, that, as a church, they had less of this than formerly characterized them. In this respect they were in a state of declension; and though they still maintained the doctrines of his religion, and opposed the advocates of error, they showed less ardour of affection towards him directly than they had formerly done. In regard to this, we may remark,
(1.) that what is here stated of the church at Ephesus is not uncommon.
(a) Individual Christians often lose much of their first love. It is true, indeed, that there is often an appearance of this which does not exist in reality. Not a little of the ardour of young converts is often nothing more than the excitement of animal feeling, which will soon die away of course, though their real love may not be diminished, or may be constantly growing stronger. When a son returns home after a long absence, and meets his parents and brothers and sisters, there is a glow, a warmth of feeling, a joyousness of emotion, which cannot be expected to continue always, and which he may never be able to recall again, though he may be ever growing in real attachment to his friends and to his home.
(b) Churches remit the ardour of their first love. They are often formed under the reviving influences of the Holy Spirit when many are converted, and are warm-hearted and zealous young converts. Or they are formed from other churches that have become cold and dead, from which the new organization, embodying the life of the church, was constrained to separate. Or they are formed under the influence of some strong and mighty truth that has taken possession of the mind, and that gives a peculiar character to the church at first. Or they are formed with a distinct reference to promoting some one great object in the cause of the Redeemer. So the early Christian churches were formed. So the church in Germany, France, Switzerland, and England, came out from the Roman communion under the influence of the doctrine of justification by faith. So the Nestorians in former ages, and the Moravians in modern times, were characterized by warm zeal in the cause of missions. So the Puritans came out from the established church of England at one time, and the Methodists at another, warmed with a holier love to the cause of evangelical religion than existed in the body from which they separated. So many a church is formed now amidst the exciting scenes of a revival of religion, and in the early days of its history puts to shame the older and the slumbering churches around them. But it need scarcely be said that this early zeal may die away, and that the church, once so full of life and love, may become as cold as those that went before it, or as those from which it separated, and that there may be a necessity for the formation of new organizations that shall be fired with ardour and zeal. One has only to look at Germany, at Switzerland, at various portions of the reformed churches elsewhere; at the Nestorinns, whose zeal for missions long since departed, or even at the Moravians, among whom it has so much declined; at various portions of the Puritan churches; and at many an individual church formed under the warm and exciting feelings of a revival of religion, to see that what occurred at Ephesus may occur elsewhere.
(2.) The same thing that occurred there may be expected to follow in all similar cases. The Saviour governs the church always on essentially the same principles; and it is no uncommon thing that when a church has lost the ardour of its first love, it is suffered more and more to decline, until "the candlestick is removed"until either the church becomes wholly extinct, or until vital piety is wholly gone, and all that remains is the religion of forms.
5. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen. The eminence which you once occupied. Call to remembrance the state in which you once were. The duty here enjoined is, when religion has declined in our hearts, or in the church, to call to distinct recollection the former statethe ardour, the zeal, the warmth of love which once characterized us. The reason for this is, that such a recalling of the former state will be likely to produce a happy influence on the heart. Nothing is better adapted to affect a backsliding Christian, or a backsliding church, than to call to distinct recollection the former conditionthe happier days of piety. The joy then experienced; the good done; the honour reflected on the cause of religion; the peace of mind of that period, will contrast strongly with the present, and nothing will be better fitted to recall an erring church or an erring individual from their wanderings than such a reminiscence of the past. The advantages of thus "remembering" their former condition would be manyfor some of the most valuable impressions which are made on the mind, and some of the most important lessons learned, are from the recollections of a former state. Among those advantages, in this case, would be such as the following:
(a) It would show how much they might have enjoyed if they had continued as they beganhow much more real happiness they would have had than they actually have enjoyed.
(b) How much good they might have done, if they had only persevered in the zeal with which they commenced the Christian life. How much more good might most Christians do than they actually accomplish, if they would barely, even without increasing it, continue with the degree of zeal with which they begin their course.
(c) How much greater attainments they might have made in the Divine life, and in the knowledge of religion, than they have made: that is, how much more elevated and enlarged might have been their views of religion, and their knowledge of the word of God. And
(d) such a recollection of their past state, as contrasted with what they now are, would exert a powerful influence in producing true repentancefor there is nothing better adapted to do this than a just view of what we might have been, as compared with what we now are. If a man has become cold towards his wife, nothing is better fitted to reclaim him than to recall to his recollection the time when he led her to the altar; the solemn vow then made; and the rapture of his heart when he pressed her to his bosom and called her his own.
And repent. The word here used means to change one's mind and purposes, and, along with that, the conduct or demeanour. The duty of repentance here urged would extend to all the points in which they had erred.
And do the first works. The works which Were done when the church was first established. That is, manifest the zeal and love which were formerly evinced in opposing error, and in doing good. This is the true counsel to be given to those who have backslidden, and have "left their first love," now. Often such persons, sensible that they have erred, and that they have not the enjoyment in religion which they once had, profess to be willing and desirous to return, but they know not how to do ithow to revive their ardourhow to rekindle in their bosom the flame of extinguished love. They suppose it must be by silent meditation, or by some supernatural influence, and they wait for some visitation from above to call them back, and to restore to them their former joy. The counsel of the Saviour to all such, however, is to do their first works. It is to engage at once in doing what they did in the first and best days of their pietythe days of their: espousals (Jer. 2:2) to God. Let them read the Bible as they did then; let them pray as they did then; let them go forth in the duties of active benevolence as they did then; let them engage in teaching a Sabbath school as they did then; let them relieve the distressed, instruct the ignorant, raise up the fallen, as they did then; let them open their heart, their purse, and their hand to bless a dying world. As it was in this way that they manifested their love then, so this would be better fitted than all other things to rekindle the flame of love when it is almost extinguished. The weapon that is used keeps bright; that which has become rusty will become bright again if it is used.
Or else I will come unto thee quickly. On the word rendered quicklytaceiSee Note on Rev. 1:1.
The meaning is, that he would come as a Judge, at no distant period, to inflict punishment in the manner specifiedby removing the candlestick out of its place. He does not say in what way it would be donewhether by some sudden judgment, by a direct act of power, or by a gradual process that would certainly lead to that result.
And will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. On the meaning of the word candlestick, See Note on Rev. 1:12.
The meaning is, that the church gave light in Ephesus; and that what he would do in regard to that place would be like removing a lamp, and leaving a place in darkness. The expression is equivalent to saying that the church there would cease to exist. The proper idea of the passage is, that the church would be wholly extinct, and it is observable that this is a judgment more distinctly disclosed in reference to this church than to any other of the seven churches. There is not the least evidence that the church at Ephesus did repent, and the threatening has been most signally fulfilled. Long since the church has become utterly extinct, and for ages there was not a single professing Christian there. Every memorial of there having been a church there has departed, and there are nowhere, not even in Nineveh, Babylon, or Tyre, more affecting demonstrations of the fulfilment of ancient prophecy than in the present state of the ruins of Ephesus. A remark of Mr. Gibbon (Dec. and Fall, iv. 260) will show with what exactness the prediction in regard to this church has been accomplished. He is speaking of the conquests of the Turks. "In the loss of Ephesus, the Christians deplored the fall of the first angel, the extinction of the first candlestick of the Revelations; the desolation is complete; and the Temple of Diana, or the Church of Mercy, will equally elude the search of the curious traveller." Thus the city, with the splendid Temple of Diana, and the church that existed there in the time of John, has disappeared, and nothing remains but unsightly ruins. These ruins lie about ten days' journey from Smyrna, and consist of shattered walls, and remains of columns and temples. The soil on which a large part of the city is supposed to have stood, naturally rich, is covered with a rank, burnt up vegetation, and is everywhere deserted and solitary, though bordered by picturesque mountains. A few corn-fields are scattered along the site of the ancient city. Towards the sea extends the ancient port, a pestilential marsh. Along the slope of the mountain, and over the plain, are scattered fragments of masonry and detached ruins, but nothing can now be fixed on as the great Temple of Diana. There are ruins of a theatre; there is a circus, or stadium, nearly entire; there are fragments of temples and palaces scattered around; but there is nothing that marks the site of a church in the time of John; there is nothing to indicate even that such a church then existed there. About a mile and a half from the principal ruins of Ephesus, there is indeed now a small village called Asalooka Turkish word, which is associated with the same idea as Ephesus, meaning, The City of the Moon. A church, dedicated to John, is supposed to have stood near, if not on the site of, the present Mosque. Dr. Chandler (p. 150, 4to) gives us a striking description of Ephesus as he found it in 1764: "Its population consisted of a few Greek peasants, living in extreme wretchedness, dependence, and insensibility, the representatives of an illustrious people, and inhabiting the wreck of their greatness. Some reside in the substructure of the glorious edifices which they raised; some beneath the vaults of the stadium, and the crowded scenes of these diversions; and some in the abrupt precipice, in the sepulchres which received their ashes. Its streets are obscured and overgrown. A herd of goats was driven to it for shelter from the sun at noon, and a noisy flight of crows from the quarries seemed to insult its silence. We heard the partridge call in the area of the theatre and of the stadium ....Its fate is that of the entire countrya garden has become a desert. Busy centres of civilization, spots where the refinements and delights of the age were collected, are now a prey to silence, destruction, and death. Consecrated first of all to the purposes of idolatry, Ephesus next had Christian temples almost rivalling the Pagan in splendour, wherein the image of the great Diana lay prostrate before the cross; after the lapse of some centuries, Jesus gives way to Mohammed, and the crescent glittered on the dome of the recently Christian church. A few more scores of years, and Ephesus has neither temple, cross, crescent, nor city, but is desolation, a dry land, and a wilderness." See the article Ephesus in Kitto's Cyclo., and the authorities there referred to. What is affirmed here of Ephesus has often been illustrated in the history of the world, that when a church has declined in piety and love, and has been called by faithful ministers to repent, and has not done it, it has been abandoned more and more until the last appearance of truth and piety has departed, and it has been given up to error and to ruin. And the same principle is as applicable to individualsfor they have as much reason to dread the frowns of the Saviour as churches have. If they who have "left their first love" will not repent at the call of the Saviour, they have every reason to apprehend some fearful judgmentsome awful visitation of his Providence that shall overwhelm them in sorrow, as a proof of his displeasure. Even though they should finally be saved, their days may be without comfort, and perhaps their last moments without a ray of conscious hope. The engraving on the previous page, representing the present situation of Ephesus, will bring before the eye a striking illustration of the fulfilment of this prophecy that the candlestick of Ephesus would be removed from its place.
6. But this thou hast. This thou hast that I approve of, or that I can commend.
That thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes. Gr., worksta erga. The word Nicolaitanes occurs only in this place, and in Rev. 2:15. From the reference in the latter place, it is clear that the doctrines which they held prevailed at Pergamos as well as at Ephesus; but from neither place can anything now be inferred in regard to the nature of their doctrines or their practices, unless it be supposed that they held the same doctrine that was taught by Balaam. See Note on Rev. 2:15.
From the two passages, compared with each other, it would seem that they were alike corrupt in doctrine and in practice, for in the passage before us their deeds are mentioned, and in Rev. 2:15 their doctrine. Various conjectures, however, have been formed respecting this class of people, and the reasons why the name was given to them.
I. In regard to the origin of the name, there have been three opinions:
(1.) That mentioned by Irenoeus, and by some of the other fathers, that the name was derived from Nicolas, one of the deacons ordained at Antioch, Acts 6:5. Of those who have held this opinion, some have supposed that it was given to them because he became apostate and was the founder of the sect, and others because they assumed his name in order to give the greater credit to their doctrine. But neither of these suppositions rests on any certain evidence, and both are destitute of probability. There is no proof whatever that Nicolas the deacon ever apostatized from the faith and became the founder of a sect; and if a name had been assumed in order to give credit to a sect and extend its influence, it is much more probable that the name of an apostle would have been chosen, or of some other prominent man, than the name of an obscure deacon of Antioch.
(2.) Vitringa, and most commentators since his time, have supposed that the name Nicolaitanes was intended to be symbolical, and was not designed to designate any sect of people, but to denote those who resembled Balaam, and that this word is used in the same manner as the word Jezebel in Rev. 2:20, which is supposed to be symbolical there. Vitringa supposes that the word is derived from nikoß, victory, and laoß, people, and that thus it corresponds with the name Balaam, as meaning either MDo lAoA;b lord of the people, or MDo oA;lI;b he destroyed the people; and that, as the same effect was produced by their doctrines a by those of Balaam, that the people were led to commit fornication and to join in idolatrous worship, they might be called Balaamites or Nicolaitanesthat is, corrupters of the people. But to this it may be replied,
(a) that it is far-fetched, and is adopted only to remove a difficulty;
(b) that there is every reason to suppose that the word here used refers to a class of people who bore that name, and who were well known in the two churches specified;
(c) that, in Rev. 2:15, they are expressly distinguished from those who held the doctrine of Balaam, Rev. 2:14"So hast thou also (kai) those that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes."
(3.) It has been supposed that some person now unknown, probably of the name Nicolas, or Nicolaus, was their leader, and laid the foundation of the sect. This is by far the most probable opinion, and to this there can be no objection. It is in accordance with what usually occurs in regard to sects, orthodox or heretical, that they derive their origin from some person whose name they continue to bear; and as there is no evidence that this sect prevailed extensively, or was indeed known beyond the limits of these churches, and as it soon disappeared, it is easily accounted for that the character and history of the founder were so soon forgotten.
II. In regard to the opinions which they held, there is as little certainty. Irenaeus (Adv. Haeres. i. 26) says that their characteristic tenets were the lawfulness of promiscuous intercourse with women, and of eating things offered to idols. Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. iii. 29) states substantially the same thing, and refers to a tradition respecting Nicolaus, that he had a beautiful wife, and was jealous of her, and being reproached with this, renounced all intercourse with her, and made use of an expression which was misunderstood, as implying that illicit pleasure was proper. Tertullian speaks of the Nicolaitanes as a branch of the Gnostic family, and as, in his time, extinct. Mosheim (De Rebus Christian. Ante Con. 69) says that "the questions about the Nicolaitanes have difficulties which cannot be solved." Neander (History of the Christian Religion, as translated by Torrey, i. pp. 452, 453) numbers them with Antinomians; though he expresses some doubt whether the actual existence of such a sect can be proved, and rather inclines to an opinion noticed above, that the name is symbolical, and that it is used in a mystical sense, according to the usual style of the book of Revelation, to denote corrupters or seducers of the people, like Balaam. He supposes that the passage relates simply to a class of persons who were in the practice of seducing Christians to participate in the sacrificial feasts of the heathens, and in the excesses which attended themjust as the Jews were led astray of old by the Moabites, Numbers 25. What was the origin of the name, however, Neander does not profess to be able to determine, but suggests that it was the custom of such sects to attach themselves to some celebrated name of antiquity, in the choice of which they were often determined by circumstances quite accidental. He supposes also that the sect may have possessed a life of Nicolas of Antioch, drawn up by themselves or others from fabulous accounts and traditions, in which what had been imputed to Nicolas was embodied. Everything, however, in regard to the origin of this sect, and the reason of the name given to it, and the opinions which they held, is involved in great obscurity, and there is no hope of throwing light on the subject. It is generally agreed, among the writers of antiquity who have mentioned them, that they were distinguished for holding opinions which countenanced gross social indulgences. This is all that is really necessary to be known in regard to the passage before us, for this will explain the strong language of aversion and condemnation used by the Saviour respecting the sect in the epistles to the churches of Ephesus and Pergamos.
Which I also hate. If the view above taken of the opinions and practices of this people is correct, the reasons why he hated them are obvious. Nothing can be more opposed to the personal character of the Saviour, or to his religion, than such doctrines and deeds.
7. He that hath an ear, let him hear, etc. This expression occurs at the close of each of the epistles addressed to the seven churches, and is substantially a mode of address often employed by the Saviour in his personal ministry, and quite characteristic of him. See Matt. 11:15; Mark 4:23; 7:16. It is a form of expression designed to arrest the attention, and to denote that what was said was of special importance.
What the Spirit saith unto the churches. Evidently what the Holy Spirit saysfor he is regarded in the Scriptures as the Source of inspiration, and as appointed to disclose truth to man. The "Spirit" may be regarded either as speaking through the Saviour, (compare John 3:34;) or as imparted to John, through whom he addressed the churches. In either case it is the same Spirit of inspiration, and in either case there would be a claim that his voice should be heard. The language here used is of a general character" He that hath an ear;" that is, what was spoken was worthy of the attention not only of the members of these churches, but of all others. The truths were of so general a character as to deserve the attention of mankind at large.
To him that overcometh. Gr., "To him that gains the victory, or is a conqueror"tw nikwnti. This may refer to any victory of a moral character, and the expression used would be applicable to one who should triumph in any of these respects:
(a) over his own easily-besetting sins;
(b) over the world and its temptations;
(c) over prevalent error;
(d) over the ills and trials of life, so as, in all these respects, to show that his Christian principles are firm and unshaken. Life, and the Christian life especially, may be regarded as a warfare. Thousands fall in the conflict with evil; but they who maintain a steady warfare, and who achieve a victory, shall be received as conquerors in the end.
Will I give to eat of the tree of life. As the reward of his victory. The meaning is, that he would admit him to heaven, represented as paradise, and permit him to enjoy its pleasuresrepresented by being permitted to partake of its fruits. The phrase "of the tree of life" refers undoubtedly to the language used respecting the Garden of Eden, Gen. 2:9; 3:22where the "tree of life" is spoken of as that which was adapted to make the life of man perpetual. Of the nature of that tree nothing is known, though it would seem probable that, like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it was a mere emblem of lifeor a tree that was set before man in connexion with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that his destiny turned on the question whether he partook of the one or the other. That God should make the question of life or death depend on that, is no more absurd or improbable than that he should make it depend on what man does nowit being a matter of fact that life and death, happiness and misery, joy and sorrow, are often made to depend on things quite as arbitrary apparently, and quite as unimportant, as an act of obedience or disobedience in partaking of the fruit of a designated tree. Does it not appear probable that in Eden there were two trees designated to be of an emblematic character, of life and death, and that as man partook of the one or the other he would live or die? Of all the others he might freely partake without their affecting his condition; of one of thesethe tree of lifehe might have partaken before the fall, and lived for ever. One was forbidden on pain of death. When the law forbidding that was violated, it was still possible that he might partake of the otherbut, since the sentence of death had been passed upon him, that would not now be proper, and he was driven from the garden, and the way was guarded by the flaming sword of the Cherubim. The reference in the passage before us is to the celestial paradiseto heavenspoken of under the beautiful image of a garden; meaning that the condition of man, in regard to life, will still be the same as if he had partaken of the tree of life in Eden. Compare Note on Rev. 22:2.
Which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Heaven, represented as paradise. To be permitted to eat of that tree, that is, of the fruit of that tree, is but another expression implying the promise of eternal life, and of being happy for ever. The word paradise is of Oriental derivation, and is found in several of the Eastern languages. In the Sanscrit the word paradesha and paradisha is used to denote a land elevated and cultivated; in the Armenian the word pardes denotes a garden around the house planted with grass, herbs, trees for use and ornament; and in the Hebrew form sEdVrAÚp and Greek paradeisoß, it is applied to the pleasure gardens and parks, with wild animals, around the country residences of the Persian monarchs and princes, Neh. 2:8. Compare Eccles. 2:5; Cant. 4:13; Xen. Cyro. i. 3, 14.Rob. Lex. Here it is used to denote heavena world compared in beauty with a richly cultivated park or garden. Compare 2 Cor. 12:4. The meaning of the Saviour is, that he would receive him that overcame to a world of happiness; that he would permit him to taste of the fruit that grows there imparting immortal life, and to rest in an abode fitted up in a manner that would contribute in every way to enjoyment. Man, when he fell, was not permitted to reach forth his hand and pluck of the fruit of the tree of life in the first Eden, as he might have done if he had not fallen; but he is now permitted to reach forth his hand and partake of the tree of life in the paradise above. He is thus restored to what he might have been if he had not transgressed by eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and in the Paradise Regained, the blessings of the Paradise Lost will be more than recoveredfor man may now live for ever in a far higher and more blessed state than his would have been in Eden.
8. And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write. On the meaning of the word angel, See Note on Rev. 1:20.
These things saith the first and the last. See Notes on Rev. 1:8, Rev. 1:17.
Which was dead, and is alive. See Note on Rev. 1:18.
The idea is, that he is a living Saviour; and there was a propriety in referring to that fact here from the nature of the promise which he was about to make to the church at Smyrna: "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death," Rev. 2:11. As he had himself triumphed over death in all its forms, and was now alive for ever, it was appropriate that he should promise to his true friends the same protection from the second death. He who was wholly beyond the reach of death could give the assurance that they who put their trust in him should come off victorious.
9. I know thy works. The uniform method of introducing these epistles, implying a most intimate acquaintance with all that pertained to the church. See Note on Rev. 2:2.
And tribulation. This word is of a general signification, and probably includes all that they suffered in any form, whether from persecution, poverty, or the blasphemy of opposers.
And poverty. It would seem that this church, at that time, was eminently poor, for this is not specified in regard to any one of the others. No reason is suggested why they were particularly poor. It was not, indeed, an uncommon characteristic of early Christians, (compare 1 Cor. 1:26-28,) but there might have been some special reasons why that church was eminently so. It is, however, the only church of the seven which has survived, and perhaps in the end its poverty was no disadvantage.
But thou art rich. Not in this world's goods, but in a more important respectin the grace and favour of God. These things are not unfrequently united. Poverty is no hindrance to the favour of God, and there are some things in it favourable to the promotion of a right spirit towards God which are not found where there is abundant wealth. The Saviour was eminently poor, and not a few of his most devoted and useful followers have had as little of this world's goods as he had. The poor should always be cheerful and happy, if they can hear their Saviour saying unto them, "I know thy povertybut thou art rich." However keen the feeling arising from the reflection "I am a poor man," the edge of the sorrow is taken off if the mind can be turned to a brighter image"but thou art rich."
And I know the blasphemy. The reproaches; the harsh and bitter revilings. On the word blasphemy, See Notes on Matt. 9:3; 26:65.
The word here does not seem to refer to blasphemy against God, but to bitter reproaches against themselves. The reason of these reproaches is not stated, but it was doubtless on account of their religion.
Of them which say they are Jews. Who profess to be Jews. The idea seems to be, that though they were of Jewish extraction, and professed to be Jews, they were not true Jews; they indulged in a bitterness of reproach, and a severity of language, which showed that they had not the spirit of the Jewish religion; they had nothing which became those who were under the guidance of the spirit of their own Scriptures. That would have inculcated and fostered a milder temper; and the meaning here is, that although they were of Jewish origin, they were not worthy of the name. That spirit of bitter opposition was indeed often manifested in their treatment of Christians, as it had been of the Saviour, but still it was foreign to the true nature of their religion. There were Jews in all parts of Asia Minor, and the apostles often encountered them in their journeyings, but it would seem that there was something which had particularly embittered those of Smyrna against Christianity. What this was is now unknown. It may throw some light on the passage, however, to remark, that at a somewhat later periodin the time of the martyrdom of Polycarpthe Jews of Smyrna were among the most bitter of the enemies of Christians, and among the most violent in demanding the death of Polycarp. Eusebius (Eccl. Hist. iv. 15) says, that when Polycarp was apprehended, and brought before the proconsul at Smyrna, the Jews were the most furious of all in demanding his condemnation. When the mob, after his condemnation to death, set about gathering fuel to burn him, "the Jews," says he, "being especially zealous, as was their custommalista proqumwß, wß eqoß autoißran to procure fuel." And when, as the burning failed, the martyr was transfixed with weapons, the Jews urged and besought the magistrate that his body might not be given up to Christians. Possibly at the time when this epistle was directed to be sent to Smyrna, there were Jews there who manifested the same spirit which those of their countrymen did afterwards, who urged on the death of Polycarp.
But are the synagogue of Satan. Deserve rather to be called the synagogue of Satan. The synagogue was a Jewish place of worship, (compare Note on Matt. 4:23,) but the word originally denoted the assembly or congregation. The meaning here is plain, that though they worshipped in a synagogue, and professed to be the worshippers of God, yet they were not worthy of the name, and deserved rather to be regarded as in the service of Satan. Satan is the word that is properly applied to the great evil spirit, elsewhere called the devil. See Notes on Luke 22:3; Job 1:6.
10. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. He did not promise them exemption from suffering. He saw that they were about to suffer, and he specifies the manner in which their affliction would occur. But he entreats and commands them not to be afraid. They were to look to the "crown of life," and to be comforted with the assurance that if they were faithful unto death, that would be theirs. We need not dread suffering if we can hear the voice of the Redeemer encouraging us, and if he assures us that in a little while we shall have the crown of life.
Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison. Or, shall cause some of you to be cast into prison. He had just said that their persecutors were of the "synagogue of Satan." He here represents Satan, or the devilanother name of the same beingas about to throw them into prison. This would be done undoubtedly by the hands of men, but still Satan was the prime mover, or the instigator in doing it. It was common to cast those who were persecuted into prison. See Acts 12:3-4; 16:23. It is not said on what pretence, or by what authority, this would be done; but, as John had been banished to Patmos from Ephesus, it is probable that this persecution was raging in the adjacent places, and there is no improbability in supposing that many might be thrown into prison.
That ye may be tried. That the reality of your faith may be subjected to a test to show whether it is genuine. The design in the case is that of the Saviour, though Satan is allowed to do it. It was common in the early periods of the church to suffer religion to be subjected to trial amidst persecutions, in order to show that it was of heavenly origin, and to demonstrate its value in view of the world. This is, indeed, one of the designs of trial at all times, but this seemed eminently desirable when a new system of religion was about to be given to mankind. Compare Note on 1 Pet. 1:6-7.
And ye shall have tribulation ten days. A short time; a brief period; a few days. It is possible, indeed, that this might have meant literally ten days, but it is much more in accordance with the general character of this book, in regard to numbers, to suppose that the word ten here is used to denote a few. Compare Gen. 24:55; 1 Sam. 25:38; Dan. 1:12, 14.
We are wholly ignorant how long the trial actually lasted; but the assurance was that it would not be long, and they were to allow this thought to cheer and sustain them in their sorrows. Why should not the same thought encourage us now? Affliction in this life, however severe, can be but brief; and in the hope that it will soon end, why should we not bear it without murmuring or repining?
Be thou faithful unto death. Implying, perhaps, that though, in regard to the church, the affliction would be brief, yet that it might be fatal to some of them, and they who were thus about to die should remain faithful to their Saviour until the hour of death. In relation to all, whether they were to suffer a violent death or not, the same injunction and the same promise was applicable. It is true of every one who is a Christian, in whatever manner he is to die, that if he is faithful unto death, a crown of life awaits him. Compare Note on 2 Tim. 4:8.
And I will give thee a crown of life. See Note on James 1:12.
Compare 1 Pet. 5:4; 1 Cor. 9:24-27. The promise here is somewhat different from that which was made to the faithful in Ephesus, (Rev. 2:7,) but the same thing substantially is promised theme happiness hereafter, or an admission into heaven. In the former case it is the peaceful image of those admitted into the scenes of paradise; here it is the triumph of the crowned martyr.
11. He that hath an ear, etc. See Note on Rev. 2:7.
He that overcometh. See Note on Rev. 2:7.
The particular promise here is made to him that should "overcome;" that is, that would gain the victory in the persecutions which were to come upon them. The reference is to him who would show the sustaining power of religion in times of persecution; who would not yield his principles when opposed and persecuted; who would be triumphant when so many efforts were made to induce him to apostatize and abandon the cause.
Shall not be hurt of the second death. By a second death. That is, he will have nothing to fear in the future world. The punishment of hell is often called death, not in the sense that the soul will cease to exist, but
(a) because death is the most fearful thing of which we have any knowledge, and
(b) because there is a striking similarity, in many respects, between death and future punishment. Death cuts off from lifeand so the second death cuts off from eternal life; death puts an end to all our hopes here, and the second death to all our hopes for ever; death is attended with terrors and alarmsthe faint and feeble emblem of the terrors and alarms in the world of woe. The phrase, "the second death," is three times used elsewhere by John in this book, (Rev. 20:6, 14; 21:8) but does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The words death and to die, however, are not unfrequently used to denote the future punishment of the wicked.
The promise here made would be all that was necessary to sustain them in their trials. Nothing more is requisite to make the burdens of life tolerable than an assurance that, when we reach the end of our earthly journey, we have arrived at the close of suffering, and that beyond the grave there is no power that can harm us. Religion, indeed, does not promise to its friends exemption from death in one form. To none of the race has such a promise ever been made, and to but two has the favour been granted to pass to heaven without tasting death. It could have been granted to all the redeemed, but there were good reasons why it should not be; that is, why it would be better that even they who are to dwell in heaven should return to the dust, and sleep in the tomb, than that they should be removed by perpetual miracle, translating them to heaven. Religion, therefore, does not come to us with any promise that we shall not die. But it comes with the assurance that we shall be sustained in the dying hour; that the Redeemer will accompany us through the dark valley; that death to us will be a calm and quiet slumber, in the hope of awaking in the morning of the resurrection; that we shall be raised up again with bodies incorruptible and undecaying; and that beyond the grave we shall never fear death in any form. What more is needful to enable us to bear with patience the trials of this life, and to look upon death when it does come, disarmed as it is of its sting, (1 Cor. 15:55-57) with calmness and peace?
12. And to the angel of the church in Pergamos. See Note on Rev. 1:20.
These things saith he which hath the sharp sword etc. See Note on Rev. 1:16.
Compare Heb. 4:12; Eccles. 12:11; Isa. 49:2.
Professor Stuart suggests that when the Saviour, as represented in the vision, "uttered words, as they proceeded from his mouth, the halitus which accompanied them assumed, in the view of John, the form of an igneous two-edged sword." It is more probable, however, that the words which proceeded from his mouth did not assume anything like a form or substance, but John means to represent them as if they were a sharp sword. His words cut and penetrate deep, and it was easy to picture him as having a sword proceeding from his mouth; that is, his words were as piercing as a sharp sword. As he was about to reprove the church at Pergamos, there was a propriety in referring to this power of the Saviour. Reproof cuts deep; and this is the idea represented here.
13. I know thy works. The uniform mode of addressing the seven churches in these epistles. See Note on Rev. 2:2.
And where thou dwellest. That is, I know all the temptations to which you are exposed; all the allurements to sin by which you are surrounded; all the apologies which might be made for what has occurred arising from those circumstances; and all that could be said in commendation of you for having been as faithful as you have been. The sense of the passage is, that it does much to enable us to judge of character to know where men live. It is much more easy to be virtuous and pious in some circumstances than in others; and in order to determine how much credit is due to a man for his virtues, it is necessary to understand how much he has been called to resist, how many temptations he has encountered, what easily-besetting sins he may have, or what allurements may have been presented to his mind to draw him from the path of virtue and religion. In like manner, in order to judge correctly of those who have embraced error, or have been led into sin, it is necessary to understand what there may have been in their circumstances that gave to error what was plausible, and to sin what was attractive; what there was in their situation in life that exposed them to these influences, and what arguments may have been employed by the learned, the talented, and the plausible advocates of error, to lead them astray. We often judge harshly where the Saviour would be far less severe in his judgments; we often commend much where in fact there has been little to commend. It is possible to conceive that in the strugglings against evil of those who have ultimately fallen, there may be more to commend than in cases where the path of virtue has been pursued as the mere result of circumstances, and where there never has been a conflict with temptation. The adjudications of the great day will do much to reverse the judgments of mankind.
Even where Satan's seat is. A place of peculiar wickedness, as if Satan dwelt there. Satan is, as it were, enthroned there. The influence of Satan in producing persecution is that which is particularly alluded to, as is apparent from the reference which is immediately made to the case of Antipas, the "faithful martyr."
And thou holdest fast my name. They had professed the name of Christ; that is, they had professed to be his followers, and they had steadfastly adhered to him and his cause in all the opposition made to him. The name Christian, given in honour of Christ, and indicating that they were his disciples, they had not been ashamed of or denied. It was this name that subjected the early Christians to reproach. See 1 Pet. 4:14.
And hast not denied my faith. That is, hast not denied my religion. The great essential element in the Christian religion is faith, and this, since it is so important, is often put for the whole of religion.
Even in those days wherein Antipus was my faithful martyr. Of Antipas we know nothing more than is here stated. "In the Acta Sanctorum (ii. pp. 3, 4) is a martyrology of Antipas from a Greek MS.; but it is full of fable and fiction, which a later age had added to the original story."Professor Stuart, in loc.
Who was slain among you. It would seem from this, that, though the persecution had raged there, but one person had been put to death, It would appear also that the persecution was of a local character, since Pergamos is described as "Satan's seat;" and the death of Antipus is mentioned in immediate connexion with that fact. All the circumstances referred to would lead us to suppose that this was a popular outbreak, and not a persecution carried on under the authority of government, and that Antipas was put to death in a popular excitement. So Stephen (Acts 7) was put to death, and so Paul at Lystra was stoned until it was supposed he was dead, Acts 14:19.
Where Satan dwelleth. The repetition of this ideavery much in the manner of Johnshowed how intensely the mind was fixed on the thought, and how much alive the feelings were to the malice of Satan as exhibited at Pergamos.
14. But I have a few things against thee. As against the church at Ephesus, Rev. 2:4. The charge against this church, however, is somewhat different from that against the church at Ephesus. The charge there was, that they had "left their first love;" but it is spoken in commendation of them that they "hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes," Rev. 2:6. Here the charge is, that they tolerated that sect among them, and that they had among them also those who held the doctrine of Balaam. Their general Course had been such that the Saviour could approve it; he did not approve, however, of their tolerating those who held to pernicious practical errorerror that tended to sap the very foundation of morals.
Because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Baalam. It is not necessary to suppose that they professedly held to the same opinion as Balaam, or openly taught the same doctrines. The meaning is, that they taught substantially the same doctrine which Balaam did, and deserved to be classed with him. What that doctrine was is stated in the subsequent part of the verse.
Who taught Balac to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel. The word stumbling-block properly means anything over which one falls or stumbles, and then anything over which any one may or fall into sin, which becomes the occasion of one's falling into sin. The meaning here is, that it was through the instructions of Balaam that Balak learned the way by which the Israelites might be led into sin, and might thus bring upon themselves the Divine malediction. The main circumstances in the case were these:
(1.)-Balak, king of Moab, when the children of Israel approached his borders, felt that he could not contend successfully against so great a host, for his people were dispirited and disheartened at their numbers, Numb. 22:3-4.
(2.) In these circumstances he resolved to send for one who had a might distinguished reputation as a prophet, that he "curse" that people, or might utter a malediction over them, in order at the same time to ensure their destruction, and to inspirit his own people in making war on them: in accordance with a prevalent opinion of ancient times, that prophets had the power of blighting anything by their curse. See Note on Job 3:8.
For this purpose, he sent messengers to Balaam to invite him to come and perform this service, Numb. 22:5-6.
(3.) Balaam professed to be a prophet of the Lord, and it was obviously proper that he should inquire of the Lord whether he should comply with this request. He did so, and was positively forbidden to go, Numb. 22:12.
(4.) When the answer of Balaam was reported to Balak, he supposed that he might be prevailed to come by the offer of rewards, and he sent more distinguished messengers, with an offer of ample honour if he would come, Numb. 22:15-17.
(5.) Balaam was evidently strongly inclined to go, but, in accordance with his character as a prophet, he said that if Balak would give him his house full of silver and gold he could do no more, and say no more, than the Lord permitted, and he proposed again to consult the Lord, to see if he could obtain permission to go with the messengers of Balak. He obtained permission, but with the express injunction that he was only to utter what God should say; and when he came to Balak, notwithstanding his own manifest desire to comply with the wish of Balak, and notwithstanding all the offers which Balak made to him to induce him to do the contrary, he only continued to bless the Hebrew people, until, in disgust and indignation, Balak sent him away again to his own land, Numbers chapters 22-23 and Numb. 24:10 seq.
(6.) Balaam returned to his own house, but evidently with a desire still to gratify Balak. Being forbidden to curse the people of Israel; having been overruled in all his purposes to do it; having been, contrary to his own desires, constrained to bless them when he was himself more than willing to curse them; and having still a desire to comply with the wishes of the king of Moab, he cast about for some way in which the object might yet be accomplishedthat is, in which the curse of God might in fact rest upon the Hebrew people, and they might become exposed to the Divine displeasure. To do this, no way occurred so plausible, and that had such probability of success, as to lead them into idolatry, and into the sinful and corrupt practices connected with idolatry. It was, therefore, resolved to make use of the charms of the females of Moab, that through their influence the Hebrews might be drawn into licentiousness. This was done. The abominations of idolatry spread through the camp of Israel; licentiousness everywhere prevailed, and God sent a plague upon them to punish them, Numb. 25:1. That also this was planned and instigated by Balaam is apparent from Numb. 31:16: "Behold these [women] caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord, in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord." The attitude of Balaam's mind in the matter was this:
I. He had a strong desire to do that which he knew was wrong, and which was forbidden expressly by God.
II. He was restrained by internal checks and remonstrances, and prevented from doing what he wished to do.
III. He cast about for some way in which he might do it, notwithstanding these internal checks and remonstrances, and finally accomplished the same thing in fact, though in form different from that which he had first prepared. This is not an unfair description of what often occurs in the plans and purposes of a wicked man. The meaning in the passage before us is, that in the church at Pergamos there were those who taught, substantially, the same thing that Balaam did; that is, the tendency of whose teaching was to lead men into idolatry, and the ordinary accompaniment of idolatrylicentiousness.
To eat things sacrificed unto idols. Balaam taught the Hebrews to do thisperhaps in some way securing their attendance on the riotous and gluttonous feasts of idolatry celebrated among the people among whom they sojourned. Such feasts were commonly held in idol temples, and they usually led to scenes of dissipation and corruption. By plausibly teaching that there could be no harm in eating what had been offered in sacrificesince an idol was nothing, and the flesh of animals offered in sacrifice was the same as if slaughtered for some other purposeit would seem that these teachers at Pergamos had induced professing Christians to attend on those feaststhus lending their countenance to idolatry, and exposing themselves to all the corruption and licentiousness that commonly attended such celebrations. See the banefulness of thus eating the meat offered in sacrifice to idols. See Note on 1 Cor. 8:1.
And to commit fornication. Balaam taught this; and that was the tendency of the doctrines inculcated at Pergamos. On what pretence this was done is not said; but it is clear that the church had regarded this in a lenient manner. So accustomed had the heathen world been to this vice, that many who had been converted from idolatry might be disposed to look on it with less severity than we do now, and there was a necessity of incessant watchfulness lest the members of the church should fall into it. See Note on Acts 15:20.
15. So hast thou also them, etc. That is, there are those among you who hold those doctrines. The meaning here may be, either that, in addition to those who held the doctrine of Balaam, they had also another class who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes; or that the Nicolaitanes held the same doctrine, and taught the same thing as Balaam. If but one class is referred to, and it is meant that the Nicolaitanes held the doctrines of Balaam, then we know what constituted their teaching; if two classes of false teachers are referred to, then we have no means of knowing what was the peculiarity of the teaching of the Nicolaitanes. The more natural and obvious construction, it seems to me, is to suppose that the speaker means to say that the Nicolaitanes taught the same things which Balaam didto wit, that they led the people into corrupt and licentious practices. This interpretation seems to be demanded by the proper use of the word so"outwßmeaning, in this manner, on this wise, thus; and usually referring to what pr cedes. If this be the correct interpretation, then we have, in fact, a description of what the Nicolaitanes held, agreeing with all the accounts given of them by the ancient fathers. See Note on Rev. 2:6.
If this is so, also, then it is clear that the same kind of doctrines was held at Smyrna, at Pergamos, and at Thyatira, (Rev. 2:20) though mentioned in somewhat different forms. It is not quite certain, however, that this is the correct interpretation, or that the writer does not mean to say that in addition to those who held the doctrine of Balaam, they had also another class of errorists who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes.
Which thing I hate. So the common Greek texto misw. But the best supported reading, and the one adapted by Griesbach, Tittmann, and Hahn, is omoiwßin, like manner; that is, "as Balak retained a false prophet who misled the Hebrews, so thou retainest those who teach things like to those which Balaam taught."
16. Repent. Rev. 2:5.
Or else I will come unto thee quickly. On the word quickly, See Note on Rev. 1:1.
The meaning here is, that he would come against them in judgment, or to punish them.
And will fight against them. Against the Nicolaitanes. He would come against the church for tolerating them, but his opposition would be principally directed against the Nicolaitanes themselves. The church would excite his displeasure by retaining them in its bosom, but it was in its power to save them from destruction. If the church would repent, or if it would separate itself from the evil, then the Saviour would not come against them. If this were not done, they would feel the vengeance of his sword, and be subjected to punishment. The church always suffers when it has offenders in its bosom; it has the power of saving them if it will repent of its own unfaithfulness, and will strive for their conversion.
With the sword of my mouth. See Notes on Rev. 1:16; 2:12.
That is, he would give the order, and they would be cut as if by a sword. Precisely in what way it would be done he does not say; but it might be by persecution, or by heavy judgments. To see the force of this, we are to remember the power which Christ has to punish the wicked by a word of his mouth. By a word in the last day he will turn all the wicked into hell.
17. He that hath an ear, etc. See Note on Rev. 2:17.
To him that overcometh. See Note on Rev. 2:7.
Will I give to eat of the hidden manna. The true spiritual food; the food that nourishes the soul. The idea is, that the souls of those who "overcame," or who gained the victory in their conflict with sin, and in the persecutions and trials of the world, would be permitted to partake of that spiritual food which is laid up for the people of God, and by which they will be nourished for ever. The Hebrews were supported by manna in the desert, (Exod. 16:16-35) a pot of that manna was laid up in the most holy place to be preserved as a memorial, (Exod. 16:32-34) it is called "angel's food," (Psa. 78:25) and "corn of heaven," (Psa. 78:24) and it would seem to have been emblematical of that spiritual food by which the people of God are to be fed from heaven, in their journey through this world. By the word "hidden," there would seem to be an allusion to that which was laid up in the pot before the ark of the testimony, and the blessing which is promised here is that they would be nourished as if they were sustained by that manna thus laid up before the ark: by food from the immediate presence of God. The language thus explained would mean that they who overcome will be nourished through this life as if by that "hidden manna;" that is, that they will be supplied all along through the "wilderness of this world" by that food from the immediate presence of God which their souls require. As the parallel places in the epistles to the churches, however, refer rather to the heavenly world, and to the rewards which they who are victors shall have there, it seems probable that this has immediate reference to that world also, and that the meaning is, that, as the most holy place was a type of heaven, they will be admitted into the immediate presence of God, and nourished for ever by the food of heaventhat which the angels have; that which the soul will need to sustain it there. Even in this world their souls may be nourished with this "hidden manna;" in heaven it will be their constant food for ever.
And will give him a white stone. There has been a great variety of opinion in regard to the meaning of this expression, and almost no two expositors agree. Illustrations of its meaning have been sought from Grecian, Hebrew, and Roman customs, but none of these have removed all difficulty from the expression. The general sense of the language seems plain, even though the allusion on which it is founded is obscure or even unknown. It is, that the Saviour would give him who overcame, a token of his favour which would have some word or name inscribed on it, and which would be of use to him alone, or intelligible to him only: that is, some secret token which would make him sure of the favour of his Redeemer, and which would be unknown to other men. The idea here would find a correspondence in the evidences of his favour granted to the soul of the Christian himself; in the pledge of heaven thus made to him, and which he would understand, but which no one else would understand. The things, then, which we are to look for in the explanation of the emblem are twothat which would thus be a token of his favour, and that which would explain the fact that it would be intelligible to no one else. The question is, whether there is any known thing pertaining to ancient customs which would convey these ideas. The word rendered stoneyhfonmeans properly a small stone, as worn smooth by watera gravel-stone, a pebble; then any polished stone, the stone of a gem, or ring.- Rob. Lex. Such a stone was used among the Greeks for various purposes, and the word came to have a signification corresponding to these uses. The following uses are enumerated by Dr. Robinson, Lex.: the stones or counters for reckoning; dice, lots, used in a kind of magic; a vote, spoken of the black and white stones or pebbles anciently used in votingthat is, the white for approval, and the black for condemning. In regard to the use of the word here, some have supposed that the reference is to a custom of the Roman emperors, who, in the games and spectacles which they gave to the people in imitation of the Greeks, are said to have thrown among the populace dice or tokens inscribed with the words, "Frumentum, vestes," etc.; that is, "corn, clothing," etc.; and whosoever obtained one of these received from the emperor whatever was marked upon it. Others suppose that allusion is made to the mode of casting lots, in which sometimes dice or tokens were used with names inscribed on them, and the lot fell to him whose name first came out. The "white stone" was a symbol of good-fortune and prosperity; and it is a remarkable circumstance that, among the Greeks, persons of distinguished virtue were said to receive a yhfonstonefrom the gods, i.e. as an approving testimonial of their virtue. See Robinson's Lex., and the authorities there referred to; Wetstein, N. T., in loc., and Stuart, in loc. Professor Stuart supposes that the allusion is to the fact that Christians are said to be kings and priests to God, and that as the Jewish high priest had a mitre or turban, on the front of which was a plate of gold inscribed "Holiness to the Lord," so they who were kings and priests under the Christian dispensation would have that by which they would be known, but that, instead of a plate of gold, they would have a pellucid stone, on which the name of the Saviour would be engraved as a token of his favour. It is possible, in regard to the explanation of this phrase, that there has been too much effort to find all the circumstances alluded to in some ancient custom. Some well-understood fact or custom may have suggested the general thought, and then the filling up may have been applicable to this case alone. It is quite clear, I think, that none of the customs to which it has been supposed there is reference correspond fully with what is stated here, and that though there may have been a general allusion of that kind, yet something of the particularity in the circumstances maybe regarded as peculiar to this alone. In accordance with this view, perhaps the following points will embody all that need be said:
(1.) A white stone was regarded as a token of favour, prosperity, or success everywherewhether considered as a vote, or as given to a victor, etc. As such, it would denote that the Christian to whom it is said to be given would meet with the favour of the Redeemer, and would have a token of his approval.
(2.) The name written on this stone would be designed also as a token or pledge of his favouras a name engraved on a signet or seal would be a pledge to him who received it of friendship. It would be not merely a white stoneemblematic of favour and approvalbut would be so marked as to indicate its origin, with the name of the giver on it. This would appropriately denote, when explained, that the victor Christian would receive a token of the Redeemer's favour, as if his name were engraven on a stone, and given to him as a pledge of his friendship; that is, that he would be as certain of his favour as if he had such a stone. In other words, the victor would be assured from the Redeemer, who distributes rewards, that his welfare would be secure.
(3.) This would be to him as if he should receive a stone so marked that its letters were invisible to all others, but apparent to him who received it. It is not needful to suppose that in the Olympic games, or in the prizes distributed by Roman emperors, or in any other custom, such a case had actually occurred, but it is conceivable that a name might be so engravedwith characters so small, or in letters so unknown to all others, or with marks so unintelligible to othersthat no other one into whose hands it might fall would understand it. The meaning then probably is, that to the true Christianthe victor over sinthere is given some pledge of the Divine favour which has to him all the effect of assurance, and which others do not perceive or understand. This consists of favours shown directly to the soulthe evidence of pardoned sin; joy in the Holy Ghost; peace with God; clear views of the Saviour; the possession of a spirit which is properly that of Christ, and which is the gift of God to the soul. The true Christian understands this; the world perceives it not. The Christian receives it as a pledge of the Divine favour, and as an evidence that he will be saved; to the world, that on which he relies seems to be enthusiasm, fanaticism, or delusion. The Christian bears it about with him as he would a precious stone given to him by his Redeemer, and on which the name of his Redeemer is engraved, as a pledge that he is accepted of God, and that the rewards of heaven shall be his; the world does not understand it, or attaches no value to it.
And in the stone a new name written. A name indicating a new relation, new hopes and triumphs. Probably the name here referred to is the name of the Redeemer, or the name Christian, or some such appellation. It would be some name which he would understand and appreciate, and which would be a pledge of acceptance. Which no man knoweth, etc. That is, no one would understand its import, as no one but the Christian estimates the value of that on which he relies as the pledge of his Redeemer's love.
18. And unto the angel of the church. See Note on Rev. 1:20.
These things saith the Son of God. This is the first time, in these epistles, that the name of the speaker is referred to. In each other instance, there is merely some attribute of the Saviour mentioned. Perhaps the severity of the rebuke contemplated here made it proper that there should be a more impressive reference to the authority of the speaker; and hence he is introduced as the "Son of God." It is not a reference to him as the "Son of man"the common appellation which he gave to himself when on earthfor that might have suggested his humanity only, and would not have conveyed the same impression in regard to his authority; but it is to himself as sustaining the rank, and having the authority of the Son of Godone who, therefore, has a right to speak, and a right to demand that what he says shall be heard.
Who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire. See Note on Rev. 1:14.
Before the glance of his eye all is light, and nothing can be concealed from his view. Nothing would be better fitted to inspire awe then, as nothing should be now, than such a reference to the Son of God as being able to penetrate the secret recesses of the heart.
And his feet are like fine brass. See Note on Rev. 1:15.
Perhaps indicative of majesty and glory as he walked in the midst of the churches.
19. I know thy works. See Note on Rev. 2:2.
He knew all they had done, good and bad.
And charity. Love: love to God, and love to man. There is no reason for restricting this word here to the comparatively narrow sense which it now bears. See Note on 1 Cor. 13:1
And service. Gr., ministrydiakonian. The word would seem to include all the service which the church had rendered in the cause of religion; all which was the proper fruit of love, or which would be a carrying out of the principles of love to God and man.
And faith. Or, fidelity in the cause of the Redeemer. The word here would include not only trust in Christ for salvation, but that which is the proper result of such trustfidelity in his service.
And thy patience. Patient endurance of the sorrows of lifeof all that God brought upon them in any way, to test the reality of their religion.
And thy works. Thy works as the fruit of the virtues just mentioned. The word is repeated here, from the first part of the verse, perhaps, to specify more particularly that their works had been recently more numerous and praiseworthy even than they had formerly been. In the beginning of the verse, as in the commencement of each of the epistles, the word is used, in the most general sense, to denote all that they had done; meaning that he had so thorough an acquaintance with them in all respects, that he could judge of their character. In the latter part of the verse, the word seems to be used in a more specific sense, as referring to good works, and with a view to say that they had latterly abounded in these more than they had formerly.
And the last to be more than the first. Those which had been recently performed were more numerous, and more commendable, than those which had been rendered formerly. That is, they were making progress; they had been acting more and more in accordance with the nature and claims of the Christian profession. This is a most honourable commendation, and one which every Christian, and every church, should seek. Religion in the soul, and in a community, is designed to be progressive; and, while we should seek to live in such a manner always that we may have the commendation of the Saviour, we should regard it as a thing to be greatly desired that we may be approved as making advances in knowledge and holiness; that as we grow in years we may grow alike in the disposition to do good, and in the ability to do it; that as we gain in experience, we may also gain in a readiness to apply the results of our experience in promoting the cause of religion, lie would deserve little commendation in religion who should be merely stationary; he alone properly developes the nature of true piety, and shows that it has set up its reign in the soul, who is constantly making advances.
20. Notwithstanding, I have a few things against thee. See Note on Rev. 2:4.
Because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel. Thou dost tolerate, or countenance her. See Note on Rev. 2:14.
Who the individual here referred to by the name Jezebel was, is not known. It is by no means probable that this was her real name, but seems to have been given to her as expressive of her character and influence. Jezebel was the wife of Ahab; a woman of vast influence over her husbandan influence which was uniformly exerted for evil. She was a daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre and Sidon, and lived about 918 years before Christ. She was an idolater, and induced her weak husband not only to connive at her introducing the worship of her native idols, but to become an idolater himself, and to use all the means in his power to establish the worship of idols instead of the worship of the true God. She was highly gifted, persuasive, and artful; was resolute in the accomplishment of her purposes; ambitious of extending and perpetuating her power, and unscrupulous in the means which she employed to execute her designs. See 1 Kings 16:31. The kind of character, therefore, which would be designated by the term as used here, would be that of a woman who was artful and persuasive in her manner; who was capable of exerting a wide influence over others; who had talents of a high order; who was a thorough advocate of error; who was unscrupulous in the means which she employed for accomplishing her ends, and the tendency of whose influence was to lead the people into the abominable practices of idolatry. The opinions which she held, and the practices into which she led others, appear to have been the same which are referred to in Rev. 2:6, and Rev. 2:14-15. The difference was, that the teacher in this case was a womana circumstance which by no means lessened the enormity of the offence; for, besides the fact that it was contrary to the whole genius of Christianity that a woman should be a public teacher, there was a special incongruity that she should be an advocate of such abominable opinions and practices. Every sentiment of our nature makes us feel that it is right to expect that if a woman teaches at all in a public manner, she should inculcate only that which is true and holyshe should be an advocate of a pure life. We are shocked; we feel that there is a violation of every principle of our nature, and an insult done to our common humanity, if it is otherwise. We have in a manner become accustomed to the fact that man should be a teacher of pollution and error, so that we do not shrink from it with horror; we never can be reconciled to the fact that a woman should.
Which calleth herself a prophetess. Many persons set up the claim to be prophets in the times when the gospel was first preached, and it is not improbable that many females would lay claim to such a character, after the example of Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, etc.
To teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication. Compare Rev. 2:14 Whether she herself practised what she taught is not expressly affirmed, but seems to be implied in Rev. 2:22. It is not often that persons teach these doctrines without practising what they teach; and the fact that they desire and design to live in this manner will commonly account for the fact that they inculcate such views.
And to eat things sacrificed unto idols. See Note on Rev. 2:14
The custom of attending on the festivals of idols led commonly to licentiousness, and they who were gross and sensual in their lives were fit subjects to be persuaded to attend on idol feastsfor nowhere else would they find more unlimited toleration for the indulgence of their passions.
21. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication. Probably after some direct and solemn warning of the evil of her course. The error and sin had been of long standing, but he now resolved to bear with it no longer. It is true of almost every great sinner, that sufficient time is given for repentance, and that vengeance is delayed after crime is committed. But it cannot always be deferred, for the period must arrive when no reason shall exist for longer delay, and when punishment must come upon the offender.
And she repented not. As she did not do it; as she showed no disposition to abandon her course; as all plea of having had no time to repent would now be taken away, it was proper that he should rise in his anger and cut her down.
22. Behold, I will cast her into a bed. Not into a bed of ease, but a bed of pain. There is evidently a purpose to contrast this with her former condition. The harlot's bed and a sick bed are thus brought together, as they are often, in fact, in the dispensations of Providence and the righteous judgment of God. One cannot be indulged without leading on, sooner or later, to the horrid sufferings of the other: and how soon no one knows.
And them that commit adultery with her. Those who are seduced by her doctrines into this sin; either they who commit it with her literally, or who are led into the same kind of life.
Into great tribulation. Great suffering; disease of body or tortures of the soul. How oftenhow almost uniformly is this the case with those who thus live! Sooner or later, sorrow always comes upon the licentious; and God has evinced by some of his severest judgments, in forms of frightful disease, his displeasure at the violation of the laws of purity. There is no sin that produces a more withering and desicating effect upon the soul than that which is here referred to; none which is more certain to be followed with sorrow.
Except they repent of their deeds. It is only by repentance that we can avoid the consequences of sin. The word repent here evidently includes both sorrow for the past, and abandonment of the evil course of life.
23. And I will kill her children with death. A strong Hebraistic mode of expression, meaning that he would certainly destroy It them. has been made a question whether the word children here is to be taken literally or figuratively. The word itself would admit of either interpretation; and there is nothing in the connexion by which its meaning here can be determined. If it is to be taken literally, it is in accordance with what is often threatened in the Scriptures, that children shall be visited with calamity for the sins of parents, and with what often occurs in fact that they do thus suffer. For, it is no uncommon thing that whole families are made desolate on account of the sin and folly of the parent. See Note on Rom. 5:19.
If it is to be taken figuratively, then it refers to those who had imbibed her doctrines, and who, of course, would suffer in the punishment which would follow from the propagation of such doctrines. The reference in the word death here would seem to be to some heavy judgment, by plague, famine, or sword, by which they would be cut off. And all the churches shall know, etc. That is, the design of this judgment will be so apparent, that it will convince all that I know what is in the hearts of men, even the secret acts of wickedness that are concealed from human view.
I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts. This is clearly a claim to omniscience; and as it is the Lord Jesus who speaks in all these epistles, it is a full proof that he claims this for himself. There is nothing which more clearly appertains to God than the power of searching the heart, and nothing that is more constantly claimed by him as his peculiar prerogative, 1 Chron. 28:19; Psa. 7:9; 11:4; 44:21
Psa. 139:2; Prov. 15:3; Jer. 11:20; 17:10; 20:12; 32:19; Heb. 4:13.
The word reinsnefroußmeans, literally, the kidney, and is commonly used in the plural to denote the kidneys, or the loins. In the Scriptures, it is used to denote the inmost mind, the secrets of the soul; probably because the parts referred to by the word are as hidden as any other part of the frame, and would seem to be the repository of the more secret affections of the mind. It is not to be supposed that it is taught in the Scriptures that the reins are the real seat of any of the affections or passions; but there is no more impropriety in using the term in a popular signification than there is in using the word heart, which all continue to use, to denote the seat of love.
And I will give unto every one of you according to your works. To every one of you; not only to those who have embraced these opinions, but to all the church. This is the uniform rule laid down in the Bible by which God will judge men.
24. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira. The word "and"kaiis omitted in many MSS. and versions, and in the critical editions of Griesbach, Tittmann, and Hahn, and the connexion demands that it should be omitted. As it stands in the received text, it would seem that what he here says was addressed to those who had received that doctrine, and to all others as well as to them; whereas the declaration here made pertains manifestly to those who had not received the doctrine. With that particle omitted, the passage will read, as rendered by Professor Stuart, "But I say unto you, the remainder in Thyatira, so many as hold not this doctrine," etc. That is, he addresses now all the members of the church who were not involved in the charges already made. He does not say how large a portion of the church had escaped the contaminating influence of those opinions, but to that portion, whether great or small, he addresses only words of exhortation and comfort.
As many as have not this doctrine. To all who have not embraced it, or been contaminated with it. It may be presumed that there was a considerable portion of the church which had not.
And which have not known the depths of Satan. The deep art and designs of Satan. Deep things are those which are hidden from viewas of things which are far under-ground; and hence the word is used to denote mysteries, or profound designs and purposes. The allusion here is not to any trials or sufferings that Satan might bring upon any one, or to any temptations of which he might be the author, but to his profound art in inculcating error and leading men astray. There are doctrines of error, and arguments for sin, to originate which seems to lie beyond the power of men, and which would appear almost to have exhausted the talent of Satan himself. They evince such a profound knowledge of man; of the Divine government; of the course of events on earth; and of what our race needs; and they are defended with so much eloquence, skill, learning, and subtilty of argumentation, that they appear to lie beyond the compass of the human powers.
As they speak. This cannot mean that the defenders of these errors themselves called their doctrines "the depths of Satan," for no teachers would choose so to designate their opinions; but it must mean, either that they who were opposed to those errors characterized them as "the depths of Satan," or that they who opposed them said that they had not known "the depths of Satan." Professor Stuart understands it in the latter sense. A somewhat more natural interpretation, it seems to me, however, is to refer it to what the opposers of these heretics said of these errors. They called them "the depths of Satan," and they professed not to have known anything of them. The meaning perhaps would be expressed by the familiar words, "as they say," or "as they call them," in the following manner: "As many as have not known the depths of Satan, as they say," or, "to use their own language." Doddridge paraphrases it, "as they proverbially speak." Tyndale encloses it in a parenthesis.
I will put upon you none other burden. That is, no other than that which you now experience from having these persons with you, and that which must attend the effort to purify the church. He had not approved their conduct for suffering these persons to remain in the church, and he threatens to punish all those who had become contaminated with these pernicious doctrines. He evidently designed to say that there was some token of his displeasure proper in the case, but he was not disposed to bring upon them any other expression of his displeasure than that which grew naturally and necessarily out of the fact that they had been tolerated among them, and those troubles and toils which must attend the effort to deliver the church from these errors. Under any circumstances the church must suffer. It would suffer in reputation. It would suffer in respect to its internal tranquillity. Perhaps, also, there were those who were implicated in these errors, and who would be implicated in the punishment, who had friends and kindred in the church; and the judgments which were to come upon the advocates of these errors must, therefore, come in a measure upon the church. A kind Saviour says, that he would bring upon them no other, and no weightier burden, than must arise from his purpose to inflict appropriate vengeance on the guilty themselves. The trouble which would grow out of that would be a sufficient expression of his displeasure. This is, in fact, often now all that is necessary as a punishment on a church for harbouring the advocates of error and of sin. The church has trouble enough ultimately in getting rid of them; and the injury which such persons do to its piety, peace, and reputation, and the disorders of which they are the cause, constitute a sufficient punishment for having tolerated them in its bosom. Often the most severe punishment that God can bring upon men is to "lay upon them no other burden" than to leave them to the inevitable consequences of their own folly, or to the trouble and vexation incident to the effort to free themselves from what they had for a long time tolerated or practised.
25. But that which ye have, etc. All that there is of truth and purity remaining among you, retain faithfully. See Rev. 3:11.
Till I come. To receive you to myself, John 14:3.
26. And he that overcometh. See Note on Rev. 2:7.
And keepeth my works unto the end. The works that I command and that I require, to the end of his life. See John 13:1.
To him will I give power over the nations. The evident meaning of what is said here, and in the next verse, is, that in accordance with the uniform promise made to the redeemed in the New Testament, they would partake of the final triumph and glory of the Saviour, and be associated with him. It is not said that they would have exclusive power over the nations, or that they would hold offices of trust under him during a personal reign on the earth; but the meaning is, that they would be associated with him in his future glory. See Notes on Rom. 8:17; 1 Cor. 6:2-3.
27. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron. There is an allusion here to Psa. 2:9: "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." There is a slight change in the passage, "he shall rule," instead of "thou shalt break," in order to adapt the language to the purpose of the speaker here. The allusion in the Psalm is to the Messiah as reigning triumphant over the nations, or subduing them under him, and the idea here, as in the previous verse, is, that his redeemed people will be associated with him in this dominion. To rule with a sceptre of iron, is not to rule with a harsh and tyrannical sway, but with power that is firm and invincible. It denotes a government of strength, or one that cannot be successfully opposed; one in which the subjects are effectually subdued.
As the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers. The image here is that of the vessel of a pottera fragile vessel of claystruck with a rod of iron, and broken into fragments. That is, as applied to the nations, there would be no power to oppose his rule; the enemies of his government would be destroyed. Instead of remaining firm and compacted together, they would be broken like the clay vessel of a potter when struck with a rod of iron. The speaker does not intimate when this would be; but all that is said here would be applicable to that time when the Son of God will come to judge the world, and when his saints will be associated with him in his triumphs. As, in respect to all the others of the seven epistles to the churches, the rewards promised refer to heaven, and to the happy state of that blessed world, it would seem also that this should have a similar reference, for there is no reason why "to him that overcame" in Thyatira a temporal reward and triumph should be promised more than in the cases of the others. If so, then this passage should not be adduced as having any reference to an imaginary personal reign of the Saviour and of the saints on the earth.
Even as I received of my Father. As he has appointed me, Psa. 2:6-9.
28. And I will give him the morning star. The "morning star" is that bright planetVenuswhich at some seasons of the year appears so beautifully in the east, leading on the morningthe harbinger of the day. It is one of the most beautiful objects in nature, and is susceptible of a great variety of uses for illustration. It appears as the darkness passes away; it is an indication that the morning comes; it is intermingled with the first rays of the light of the sun; it seems to be a herald to announce the coming of that glorious luminary; it is a pledge of the faithfulness of God. In which of these senses, if any, it is referred to here, is not stated; nor is it said what is used implied by its being given to him that overcomes. It would seem to be here to denote a bright and brilliant ornament; something with which he who "overcame" would be adorned, resembling the bright star of the morning. It is observable that it is not said that he would make him like the morning star, as in Dan. 12:3; nor that he would be compared with the morning star, like the king of Babylon, Isa. 14:12; nor that he would resemble a star which Balaam says he saw in the distant future, Numb. 24:17. The idea seems to be, that the Saviour would give him something that would resemble that morning planet in beauty and splendourperhaps meaning that it would be placed as a gem in his diadem, and would sparkle on his browbearing some such relation to him who is called "the Sun of Righteousness," as the morning star does to the glorious sun on his rising. If so, the meaning would be, that he would receive a beautiful ornament, bearing a near relation to the Redeemer himself as a bright suna pledge that the darkness was pastbut one whose beams would melt away into the superior light of the Redeemer himself, as the beams of the morning star are lost in the superior glory of the sun.
29. He that hath an ear, etc. See Note on Rev. 2:7.
Analysis of the Chapter
THE EPISTLE TO THE CHURCH AT SARDIS
The contents of the epistle to the church at Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6) are:
(1.) The usual salutation to the angel of the church, Rev. 3:1.
(2.) The usual reference to the attributes of the Saviourthose referred to here being that he had the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, Rev. 3:1.
(3.) The assurance that he knew their works, Rev. 3:1.
(4.) The statement of the peculiarity of the church, or what he saw in itthat it had a name to live and was dead, Rev. 3:1.
(5.) A solemn direction to the members of the church, arising from their character and circumstances, to be watchful, and to strengthen the things which remained, but which were ready to die; to remember what they had received, and to hold fast that Which had been communicated to them, and to repent of all their sins, Rev. 3:2, 3.
(6.) A threat that if they did not do this, he would come suddenly upon them, at an hour which they could not anticipate, Rev. 3:3.
(7.) A commendation of the church as far as it could be done, for there were still a few among theta who had not defiled their garments, and a promise that they should walk before him in white, Rev. 3:4.
(8.) A promise, as usual, to him that should be victorious. The promise here is, that he should walk before him in white; that his name should not be blotted out Of the book of life; that he should be acknowledged before the Father, and before the angels, Rev. 3:5.
(9.) The usual call on all persons to hear what the Spirit said to the churches. Sardis was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, one of the provinces of Asia Minor, and was situated at the foot of mount Tmolus, in a fine plain watered by the river Pactolus, famous for its golden sands. It was the capital where the celebrated Croesus, proverbial for his wealth, reigned. It was taken by Cyrus, (B.C. 548,) when Croesus was king, and was at that time one of the most splendid and opulent cities of the East. It subsequently passed into the hands of the Romans, and under them sank rapidly in wealth and importance. In the time of Tiberius it was destroyed by an earthquake, but was rebuilt by order of the emperor. The inhabitants of Sardis bore an ill repute among the ancients for their voluptuous modes of life. Perhaps there may be an allusion to this fact, in the words which are used in the address to the church there, "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments." Successive earthquakes, and the ravages of the Saracens and the Turks, have reduced this once celebrated city to a heap of ruins, though exhibiting still many remains of former splendour. The name of the village which now occupies the place of this ancient capital is Sart. It is a miserable village, comprising only a few wretched cottages, occupied by Turks and Greeks. There are ruins of the theatre, the stadium, and of some ancient churches. The most remarkable of the ruins are two pillars supposed to have belonged to the temple of Cybele; and if so, they are among the most ancient in the world, the temple of Cybele having been built only three hundred years after that of Solomon. The Acropolis serves well to define the site of the city. Several travellers have recently visited the remains of Sardis, and its appearance will be indicated by a few extracts from their writings. Arundell, in his "Discoveries in Asia Minor," says, "If I were asked what impresses the mind most strongly in beholding Sardis, I should say its indescribable solitude, like the darkness of Egypt, darkness that could be felt. So the deep solitude of the spot, once the lady of kingdoms',produces a corresponding feeling of desolate abandonment in the mind, which can never be forgotten."
The Rev. J. Hartley, in regard to these ruins, remarks: "The ruins are, with one exception, more entirely gone to decay than those of most of the ancient cities which we have visited. No Christians reside on the spot: two Greeks only work in a mill here, and a few wretched Turkish huts are scattered among the ruins. We saw the churches of St. John and the Virgin, the theatre, and the building styled the Palace of Croesus; but the most striking object at Sardis is the temple of Cybele. I was filled with wonder and awe at beholding the two stupendous columns of this edifice, which are still remaining: they are silent but impressive witnesses of the power and splendour of antiquity."
The impression produced on the mind is vividly described in the following language, of a recent traveller, who lodged there for a night:
Every object was as distinct as in a northern twilight; the snowy summit of the mountain [Tmolus], the long sweep of the valley, and the flashing current of the river [Pactolus]. I strolled along towards the banks of the Pactolus, and seated myself by the side of the half-exhausted stream.
"There are few individuals who cannot trace on the map of their memory some moments of overpowering emotion, and some scene, which, once dwelt upon, has become its own painter, and left behind it a memorial that time could not efface. I can readily sympathize with the feelings of him who wept at the base of the pyramids; nor were my own less powerful, on that night, when I sat beneath the sky of Asia to gaze upon the ruins of Sardis, from the banks of the golden-sanded Pactolus. Beside me were the cliffs of the Acropolis, which, centuries before, the hardy Median scaled, while leading on the conquering Persians, whose tents had covered the very spot on which I was reclining. Before me were the vestiges of what had been the palace of the gorgeous Croesus; within its walls were once congregated the wisest of mankind, Thales, Cleobulus, and Solon. It was here that the wretched father mourned alone the mangled corpse of his beloved Atys; it was here that the same humiliated monarch wept at the feet of the Persian boy who wrung from him his kingdom. Far in the distance were the gigantic tumult of the Lydian monarchs, Candaules, Halyattys, and Gyges; and around them were spread those very plains once trodden by the countless hosts of Xerxes, when hurrying on to find a sepulchre at Marathon.
"There were more varied and more vivid remembrances associated with the sight of Sardis than could possibly be attached to any other spot of earth; but all were mingled with a feeling of disgust at the littleness of human glory. Allall had passed away! There were before me the fanes of a dread religion, the tombs of forgotten monarchs, and the palm-tree that waved in the banquet-hall of kings; while the feeling of desolation was doubly heightened by the calm sweet sky above me, which, in its unfading brightness, shone as purely now as when it beamed upon the golden dreams of Croesus."Emerson's Letters from the AEgean, p. 113, seq. The present appearance of the ruins is indicated by the following engraving.
1. And unto the angel of the church in Sardis. See Note on Rev. 1:20.
These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God. See Note on Rev. 1:4.
If the phrase, "the seven spirits of God," as there supposed, refers to the Holy Spirit, there is great propriety in saying of the Saviour, that he has that Spirit, inasmuch as the Holy Spirit is represented as sent forth by him into the world, John 15:26-27; 16:7, 13-14.
It was one of the highest characteristics that could be given of the Saviour to say, that the Holy Ghost was his to send forth into the world, and that that great Agent, on whose gracious influences all were dependent for the possession of true religion, could be given or withheld by him at his pleasure.
And the seven stars. See Note on Rev. 1:16.
These represented the angels of the seven churches, (See Note on Rev. 1:20) and the idea which the Saviour would seem to intend to convey here is, that he had entire control over the ministers of the churches, and could keep or remove them at pleasure.
I know thy works. See Note on Rev. 2:2.
That thou hast a name that thou livest. Thou dost profess attachment to me and my cause. The word life is a word that is commonly employed, in the New Testament, to denote religion, in contradistinction from the natural state of man, which is described as death in sin. By the profession of religion, they expressed the purpose to live unto God, and for another world; they professed to have true, spiritual life.
And art dead. That is, spiritually. This is equivalent to saying that their profession was merely in name; and yet this must be understood comparatively, for there were some even in Sardis who truly lived unto God, Rev. 3:4. The meaning is, that, in general, the profession of religion among them was a mere name. The Saviour does not, as in the case of the churches of Ephesus and Thyatira, specify any prevailing form of error or false doctrine; but it would seem that here it was a simple want of religion.
2. Be watchful. Be wakeful; be attentive and earnestin contradistinction from the drowsy condition of the church.
Strengthen the things which remain. The true piety that still lives and lingers among you. Whatever there was of religion among them, it was of importance to strengthen it, that the love of the Saviour might not become wholly extinct. An important duty in a low and languishing state of religion is, to "strengthen the things that still survive." It is to cultivate all the graces which do exist; to nourish all the love of truth which may linger in the church; and to confirm, by warm exhortation, and by a reference to the gracious promises of God's word, the few who may be endeavouring to do their duty, and who, amidst many discouragements, are aiming to be faithful to the Saviour. In the lowest state of religion in a church there may be a few, perhaps quite obscure and of humble rank, who are mourning over the desolations of Zion, and who are sighing for better times. All such it is the duty of the ministers of religion to comfort and encourage; for it is in their hearts that piety may be kept alive in the churchit is through them that it may be hoped religion may yet be revived. In the apparent hopelessness of doing much good to others, good may always be done to the cause itself by preserving and strengthening what there may be of life among those few, amidst the general desolation and death. It is much to preserve life in grain sown in a field through the long and dreary winter, when all seems to be deadfor it will burst forth, with new life and beauty, in the spring. When the body is prostrate with disease, and life just lingers, and death seems to be coming on, it is much to preserve the little strength that remains; much to keep the healthful parts from being invaded, that there may be strength yet to recover.
That are ready to die. That seem just ready to become extinct. So sometimes, in a plant, there seems to be but the least conceivable life remaining, and it appears that it must die. So, when we are sick, there seems to be but the feeblest glimmering of life, and it is apparently just ready to go out. So, when a fire dies away, there seems but a spark remaining, and it is just ready to become extinct. And thus, in religion in the soulreligion in a churchreligion in a communityit often seems as if it were just about to go out for ever.
For I have not found thy works perfect before God. I have not found them complete or full. They come short of that which is required. Of what church, of what individual Christian, is not this true? Whom might not the Saviour approach with the same language? It was true, however, in a marked and eminent sense, of the church at Sardis.
3. Remember therefore how thou hast received. This may refer either to some peculiarity in the manner in which the gospel was conveyed to themas, by the labours of the apostles, and by the remarkable effusions of the Holy Spirit; or to the ardour and love with which they embraced it; or to the greatness of the favours and privileges conferred on them; or to their own understanding of what the gospel required, when they were converted. It is not possible to determine in which sense the language is used; but the general idea is plain, that there was something marked and unusual in the way in which they had been led to embrace the gospel, and that it was highly proper in these circumstances to look back to the days when they gave themselves to Christ. It is always well for Christians to call to remembrance the "day of their espousals," and their views and feelings when they gave their hearts to the Saviour, and to compare those views with their present condition, especially if their conversion was marked by anything unusual.
And heard. How thou didst hear the gospel in former times; that is, with what earnestness and attention thou didst embrace it. This would rather seem to imply that the reference in the whole passage is to the fact that they embraced the gospel with great ardour and zeal.
And hold fast.
(1.) Hold fast the truths which thou didst then receive;
(2.) hold fast what remains of true religion among you.
And repent. Repent in regard to all that in which you have departed from your views and feelings when you embraced the gospel.
If therefore thou shalt not watch. The speaker evidently supposed that it was possible that they would not regard the warning; that they would presume that they would be safe if they refused to give heed to it, or that by mere inattention and indifference they might suffer the warning to pass by unheeded. Similar results have been so common in the world as to make such a supposition not improbable, and to make proper, in other cases as well as that, the solemn threatening that he would come suddenly upon them.
I will come on thee as a thief. In a sudden and unexpected manner. See Note on 1 Thess. 5:2.
And ye shall not know what hour I will come upon thee. You shall not know beforehand; you shall have no warning of my immediate approach. This is often the way in which God comes to men in his heavy judgments. Long beforehand, he admonishes us, indeed, of what must be the consequences of a course of sin, and warns us to turn from it; but when sinners refuse to attend to his warning, and still walk in the way of evil, he comes suddenly, and cuts them down. Every man who is warned of the evil of his course, and who refuses or neglects to repent, has reason to believe that God will come suddenly in his wrath, and call him to his bar, Prov. 29:1. No such man call presume on impunity; no one who is warned of his guilt and danger can feel that he is for one moment safe. No one can have any basis of calculation that he will be spared; no one can flatter himself with any probable anticipation that he will have time to repent when God comes to take him away. Benevolence has done its appropriate work in warning him;how can the Great Judge of all be to blame, if he comes then, and suddenly cuts the sinner off?
4. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis. The word names here is equivalent to persons; and the idea is, that even in a place so depraved, and where religion had so much declined, there were a few persons who had kept themselves free from the general contamination. In most cases, when error and sin prevail, there may be found a few who are worthy of the Divine commendation; a few who show that true religion may exist even when the mass are evil. See Note on Rom. 11:4.
Which have not defiled their garments. See Note on Jude 1:23.
The meaning is, that they had not defiled themselves by coming in contact with the profane and the polluted; or, in other words, they had kept themselves free from the prevailing corruption. They were like persons clothed in white walking in the midst of the defiled, yet keeping their raiment from being soiled.
And they shall walk with me in white. White is the emblem of innocence, and is hence appropriately represented as the colour of the raiment of the heavenly inhabitants. The persons here referred to had kept their garments uncontaminated on the earth, and as an appropriate reward it is said that they would appear in white raiment in heaven. Compare Rev. 7:9; 19:8.
For they are worthy. They have shown themselves worthy to be regarded as followers of the Lamb; or, they have a character that is fitted for heaven. The declaration is not that they have any claim to heaven on the ground of their own merit, or that it will be in virtue of their own works that they will be received there; but that there is a fitness or propriety that they should thus appear in heaven. We are all personally unworthy to be admitted to heaven, but we may evince such a character as to show that, according to the arrangements of grace, it is fit and proper that we should be received there. We have the character to which God has promised eternal life.
5. He that overcometh. See Note on Rev. 2:7.
The same shall be clothed in white raiment. Whosoever he may be that shall overcome sin and the temptations of this world, shall be admitted to this glorious reward. The promise is made not only to those in Sardis who should be victorious, but to all in every age and every land. The hope that is thus held out before us, is that of appearing with the Redeemer in his kingdom, clad in robes expressive of holiness and joy.
And I will not blot out his name out of the book of life. The book which contains the names of those who are to live with him for ever. The names of his people are thus represented as enrolled in a book which he keepsa register of those who are to live for ever. The phrase "book of life" frequently occurs in the Bible, representing this idea. See Note on Phil. 4:3.
Compare Rev. 15:3; 20:12, 15; 21:27
Rev. 22:19. The expression "I will not blot out" means, that the names would be found there on the great day of final account, and would be found there for ever. It may be remarked, that as no one can have access to that book but he who keeps it, there is the most positive assurance that it will never be done, and the salvation of the redeemed will be, therefore, secure. And let it be remembered that the period is coming when it will be felt to be a higher honour to have the name enrolled in that book than in the books of heraldryin the most splendid catalogue of princes, poets, warriors, nobles, or statesmen, that the world has produced. But I will confess his name, etc. I will acknowledge him to be my follower. See Note on Matt. 10:32.
6. He that hath an ear, etc. See Note on Rev. 2:7.
7. And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. See Note on Rev. 1:20.
These things saith he that is holy. This refers undoubtedly to the Lord Jesus. The appellation holy, or the holy one, is one that befits him, and is not unfrequently given to him in the New Testament Luke 1:35; Acts 2:27; 3:14.
It is not only an appellation appropriate the Saviour, but well adapted to be employed when he is addressing the churches. Our impression of what is said to us will often depend much on our idea of the character of him who addresses us, and solemnity and thoughtfulness always become us when we are addressed by a holy Redeemer. He that is true. Another characteristic of the Saviour well fitted to be referred to when he addresses men. It is a characteristic often ascribed to him in the New Testament, (John 1:9, 14, 17; 8:40, 45; 14:6; 18:37 1 John 5:20) and one which is eminently adapted to impress the mind with solemn thought in view of the fact that he is to pronounce on our character, and to determine our destiny.
He that hath the key of David. This expression is manifestly taken from Isa. 22:22, "And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder." As used by Isaiah, the phrase is applied to Eliskim; and it is not to be inferred because the language here is applied to the Lord Jesus that originally it had any such reference. "The application of the same terms," says Professor Alexander on Isa. 22:22, "to Peter, (Matt. 16:19) and to Christ himself, (Rev. 3:7) does not prove that they here refer to either, or that Eliakim was a type of Christ, but merely that the same words admit of different applications." The language is that which properly denotes authority or controlas when one has the key of a house, and has unlimited access to it; and the meaning here is, that as David is represented as the king of Israel residing in a palace, so he who had the key to that palace had regal authority.
He that openeth, and no man shutteth, etc. He has free and unrestrained access to the house; the power of admitting any one, or of excluding any one. Applied here to the Saviour, as king in Zion, this means that in his kingdom he has the absolute control in regard to the admission or exclusion of any one. He can prescribe the terms; he can invite whom he chooses; he can exclude those whom he judges should not be admitted. A reference to this absolute control was every way proper when he was addressing a church, and is every way proper for us to reflect on when we think of the subject of our personal salvation.
8. I know thy works. See Note on Rev. 2:2.
Behold, I have set before thee an open door. Referring to his authority as stated in Rev. 3:7. The "open door" here evidently refers to the enjoyment of some privilege or honour; and, so far as the language is concerned, it may refer to any one of the following things: either
(1) the ability to do goodrepresented as the "opening of the door." Compare Acts 14:27; 1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3.
(2.) The privilege of access to the heavenly palace; that is, that they had an abundant opportunity of securing their salvation, the door being never closed against them by day or by night. Compare Rev. 21:25 Or
(3) it may mean that they had before them an open way of egress from danger and persecution. This latter Professor Stuart supposes to be the true meaning; and argues this because it is immediately specified that those Jewish persecutors would be made to humble themselves, and that the church would but lightly experience the troubles which were coming upon the world around them. But the more natural interpretation of the phrase "an open door," is that it refers to access to a thing rather than egress from a thing; that we may come to that which we desire to approach, rather than escape from that which we dread. There is no objection, it seems to me, to the supposition that the language may be used here in the largest senseas denoting that, in regard to the church at Philadelphia, there was no restraint. He had given them the most unlimited privileges. The temple of salvation was thrown open to them; the celestial city was accessible; the whole world was before them as a field of usefulness, and anywhere, and everywhere, they might do good, and at all times they might have access to the kingdom of God.
And no man can shut it. No one has the power of preventing this, for he who has control over all things concedes these privileges to you.
For thou hast a little strength. This would imply that they had not great vigour, but still that, notwithstanding there were so many obstacles to their doing good, and so many temptations to evil, there still remained with them some degree of energy. They were not wholly dead; and, as long as that was the case, the door was still open for them to do good. The words "little strength" may refer either to the smallness of the numbermeaning that they were few; or it may refer to the spiritual life and energy of the churchmeaning that, though feeble, their vital energy was not wholly gone. The more natural interpretation seems to be to refer it to the latter; and the sense is, that although they had not the highest degree of energy, or had not all that the Saviour desired they should have, they were not wholly dead. The Saviour saw among them the evidences of spiritual life; and in view of that he says he had set before them an open door, and there was abundant opportunity to employ all the energy and zeal which they had. It may be remarked that the same thing is true now; that wherever there is any vitality in a church the Saviour will furnish ample opportunity that it may be employed in his service.
And hast not denied my name. When Christians were brought before heathen magistrates in times of persecution, they were required to renounce the name of Christ, and to disown him in a public manner. It is possible that, amidst the persecutions that raged in the early times, the members of the church at Philadelphia had been summoned to such a trial, and they had stood the trial firmly. It would seem from the following verse, that the efforts which had been made to induce them to renounce the name of Christ had been made by those who professed to be Jews, though they evinced the spirit of Satan. If so, then the attempt was probably to convince them that Jesus was not the Christ. This attempt would be made in all places where there were Jews.
9. Behold, I will make. Greek, "I give"didwmi; that is, I will arrange matters so that this shall occur. The word implies that he had power to do this, and consequently proves that he has power over the heart of man, and can secure such a result as he chooses.
Them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews. Who profess to be Jews, but are really of the synagogue of Satan. See Note on Rev. 2:9.
The meaning is, that, though they were of Jewish extraction, and boasted much of being Jews, yet they were really under the influence of Satan, and their assemblages deserved to be called his "synagogue."
And are not, but do lie. It is a false profession altogether. See Note on 1 John 1:6.
Behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet. The word rendered worship here, means properly to fall prostrate; and then to do homage, or to worship in the proper sense, as this was commonly done by failing prostrate. See Note on Matt. 2:2.
So far as the word is concerned, it may refer either to spiritual homage, that is, the worship of God; or it may mean respect as shown to superiors. If it is used here in the sense of Divine worship properly so called, it means that they would be constrained to come and worship "before them," or in their very presence; if it is used in the more general signification, it means that they would be constrained to show them honour and respect. The latter is the probable meaning; that is, that they would be constrained to acknowledge that they were the children of God, or that God regarded them with his favour. It does not mean necessarily that they would themselves be converted to Christ, but that, as they had been accustomed to revile and oppose those who were true Christians, they would be constrained to come and render them the respect due to those who were sincerely endeavouring to serve their Maker. The truth taught here is, that it is in the power of the Lord Jesus so to turn the hearts of all the enemies of religion that they shall be brought to show respect to it; so to incline the minds of all people that they shall honour the church, or be at least outwardly its friends. Such homage the world shall yet be constrained to pay to it.
And to know that I have loved thee. This explains what he had just said, and shows that he means that the enemies of his church will yet be constrained to acknowledge that it enjoys the smiles of God, and that instead of being persecuted and reviled, it should be respected and loved.
10. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience. My word commanding or enjoining patience; that is, thou hast manifested the patience which I require. They had shown this in the trials which they had experienced; he promises now, that in return he will keep them in the future trials that shall come upon the world. One of the highest rewards of patience in one trial is the grace that God gives us to bear another. The fact that we have been patient and submissive may be regarded as proof that he will give us grace that we may be patient and submissive in the trials that are to come. God does not leave those who have shown that they will not leave him.
I also will keep thee. That is, I will so keep you that you shall not sink under the trials which will prove a severe temptation to many. This does not mean that they would be actually kept from calamity of all kinds, but that they would be kept from the temptation of apostasy in calamity. He would give them grace to bear up under trials with a Christian spirit, and in such a manner that their salvation should not be endangered.
From the hour of temptation. The season; the time; the period of temptation. You shall be so kept that that which will prove to be a time of temptation to so many shall not endanger your salvation. Though others fall, you shall not; though you may be afflicted with others, yet you shall have grace to sustain you.
Which shall come upon all the world. The phrase here used"all the world"may either denote the whole world; or the whole Roman empire; or a large district of country; or the land of Judaea. See Note on Luke 2:1.
Here, perhaps, all that is implied is, that the trial would be very extensive or generalso much so as to embrace the world, as the word was understood by those to whom the epistle was addressed. It need not be supposed that the whole world literally was included in it, or even all the Roman empire, but what was the world to themthe region which they would embrace in that term. If there were some far-spreading calamity in the country where they resided, it would probably be all that would be fairly embraced in the meaning of the word. It is not known to what trial the speaker refers. It may have been some form of persecution, or it may have been some calamity by disease, earthquake, or famine that was to occur. Tacitus (see Wetstein, in loc.) mentions an earthquake that sank twelve cities in Asia Minor in one night, by which, among others, Philadelphia was deeply affected; and it is possible that there may have been reference here to that overwhelming calamity. But nothing can be determined with certainty in regard to this.
To try them that dwell upon the earth. To test their character. It would rather seem from this that the affliction was some form of persecution as adapted to test the fidelity of those who were affected by it. The persecutions in the Roman empire would furnish abundant occasions for such a trial.
11. Behold, I come quickly. That is, in the trials referred to. See Notes on Rev. 1:1, Rev 1:11, Rev. 1:16.
Hold that fast which thou hast. That is, whatever of truth and piety you now possess. See Note on Rev. 3:3.
That no man take thy crown. The crown of life appointed for all who are true believers. See Note on 2 Tim. 4:8.
The truth which is taught here is, that by negligence or unfaithfulness in duty we may be deprived of the glory which we might have obtained if we had been faithful to our God and Saviour. We need to be on our constant guard, that, in a world of temptation, where the enemies of truth abound, we may not be robbed of the crown that we might have worn for ever. See Note on 2 John 8.
12. Him that overcometh. See Note on Rev. 2:7.
Will I make a pillar in the temple of my God. The promised reward of faithfulness here is, that he who was victorious would be honoured as if he were a pillar or column in the temple of God. Such a pillar or column was partly for ornament, and partly for support; and the idea here is, that in that temple he would contribute to its beauty and the justness of its proportions, and would at the same time be honoured as if he were a pillar which was necessary for the support of the temple. It is not uncommon in the New Testament to represent the church as a temple, and Christians as parts of it. See 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; 1 Pet. 2:5.
And he shall go no more out. He shall be permanent as a part of that spiritual temple. The idea of "going out" does not properly belong to a pillar; but the speaker here has in his mind the man, though represented as a column. The description of some parts would be applicable more directly to a pillar; in others more properly to a man. Compare John 6:37; 10:28-29; 1 John 2:19, for an illustration of the sentiment here. The main truth here is, that if we reach heaven, our happiness will be secure for ever. We shall have the most absolute certainty that the welfare of the soul will no more be periled; that we shall never be in danger of falling into temptation; that no artful foe shall ever have power to alienate our affections from God; that we shall never die. Though we may change our place, and may roam from world to world till we shall have surveyed all the wonders of creation, yet we shall never "go out of the temple of God." See Note on John 14:2.
When we reach the heavenly world, our conflicts will be over, our doubts at an end. As soon as we cross the threshold, we shall be greeted with the assurance, "he shall go no more out for ever." That is to be our eternal abode, and whatever of joy or felicity or glory that bright world can furnish, is to be ours. Happy moment, when, emerging from a world of danger and of doubt, the soul shall settle down into the calmness and peace of that state where there is the assurance of God himself that world of bliss is to be its eternal abode!
And I will write upon him the name of my God. Considered as a pillar or column in the temple. The name of God would be conspicuously recorded on it to show that he belonged to God. The allusion is to a public edifice on the columns of which the names of distinguished and honoured persons were recorded; that is, where there was a public testimonial of the respect in which one whose name was thus recorded was held. The honour thus conferred on him "who should overcome" would be as great as if the name of that God whom he served, and whose favour and friendship he enjoyed, were inscribed on him in some conspicuous manner. The meaning is, that he would be known and recognised as belonging to God; the God of the Redeemer himselfindicated by the phrase "the name of my God."
And the name of the city of my God. That is, indicating that he belongs to that city, or that the New Jerusalem is the city of his habitation. The idea would seem to be, that in this world, and in all worlds wherever he goes and wherever he abides, he will be recognised as belonging to that holy city; as enjoying the rights and immunities of such a citizen.
Which is New Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the place where the temple was reared, and where the worship of God was celebrated. It thus came to be synonymous with the churchthe dwelling-place of God on earth.
Which cometh down out of heaven from my God. See Note on Rev. 21:2
Of course, this must be a figurative representation, but the idea is plain. It is,
(1.) that the church is, in accordance with settled Scripture language, represented as a citythe abode of God on earth.
(2.) That this, instead of being built here, or having an earthly origin, has its origin in heaven. It is as if it had been constructed there, and then sent down to earth ready formed. The type, the form, the whole structure is heavenly. It is a departure from all proper laws of interpretation to explain this literally, as if a city should be actually let down from heaven; and equally so to infer from this passage, and the others of similar import in this book, that a city will be literally reared for the residence of the saints. If the passage proves anything on either of these points, it is, that a great and splendid city, such as that described in chapter 21, will literally come down from heaven. But who can believe that? Such an interpretation, however, is by no means necessary. The comparison of the church with a beautiful city, and the fact that it has its origin in heaven, is all that is fairly implied in the passage.
And I will write upon him my new name. See Note on Rev. 2:17.
The reward, therefore, promised here is, that he who by persevering fidelity showed that he was a real friend of the Saviour, would be honoured with a permanent abode in the holy city of his habitation. In the church redeemed and triumphant he would have a perpetual dwelling; and wherever he should be, there would be given him sure pledges that he belonged to him, and was recognised as a citizen of the heavenly world. To no higher honour could any man aspire; and yet that is an honour to which the most humble and lowly may attain by faith in the Son of God.
13 There are no notes for Rev. 3:13.
14. And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write. See Note on Rev. 1:20.
These things saith the Amen. Referring, as is the case in every epistle, to some attribute of the speaker adapted to impress their minds, or to give peculiar force to what he was about to say to that particular church. Laodicea was characterized by lukewarmness, and the reference to the fact that he who was about to address them was the "Amen"that is, was characterized by the simple earnestness and sincerity denoted by that wordwas eminently fitted to make an impression on the minds of such a people. The word Amen means true, certain, faithful; and, as used here, it means that he to whom it is applied is eminently true and faithful. What he affirms is true; what he promises or threatens is certain. Himself characterized by sincerity and truth, (See Note on 2 Cor. 1:20) he can look with approbation only on the same thing in others: and hence he looks with displeasure on the lukewarmness which, from its very nature, always approximates insincerity. This was an attribute, therefore, every way appropriate to be referred to in addressing a lukewarm church.
The faithful and true witness. This is presenting the idea implied in the word Amen in a more complete form, but substantially the same thing is referred to. He is a witness for God and his truth, and he can approve of nothing which the God of truth would not approve. See Note on Rev. 1:5.
The beginning of the creation of God. This expression is a very important one in regard to the rank and dignity of the Saviour, and, like all similar expressions respecting him, its meaning has been much controverted. See Note on Col. 1:15.
The phrase here used is susceptible, properly, of only one of the following significations, viz.: either
(a) that he was the beginning of the creation in the sense that he caused the universe to begin to existthat is, that he was the author of all things; or
(b) that he was the first created being; or
(c) that he holds the primacy over all, and is at the head of the universe. It is not necessary to examine any other proposed interpretations, for the only other senses supposed to be conveyed by the words, that he is the beginning of the creation in the sense that he rose from the dead as the first-fruits of them that sleep, or that he is the head of the spiritual creation of God, are so foreign to the natural meaning of the words as to need no special refutation. As to the three significations suggested above, it may be observed, that the first onethat he is the author of the creation, and in that sense the beginning, though expressing a scriptural doctrine, (John 1:3; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16)is not in accordance with the proper meaning of the word here usedarch. The word properly refers to the commencement of a thing, not its authorship, and denotes properly primacy in time, and primacy in rank, but not primacy in the sense of causing anything to exist. The two ideas which run through the word as it is used in the New Testament are those just suggested. For the formerprimacy in regard to timethat is properly the commencement of a thing, see the following passages where the word occurs: Matt. 19:4, 8; 24:8, 21; Mark 1:1; 10:6; 13:8, 19; Luke 1:2; John 1:1-2
John 2:11; 6:64; 8:25, 44; 15:27; 16:4; Acts 11:15 1 John 1:1; 2:7, 13-14, 24
1 John 3:8, 11 2 John 5-6.
For the latter signification, primacy of rank, or authority, see the following places: Luke 12:11; 20:20; Rom. 8:38
1 Cor. 15:24; Eph. 1:21; 3:10; Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:16, 18; 2:10, 15; Tit. 3:1.
The word is not, therefore, found in the sense of authorship, as denoting that one is the beginning of anything in the sense that he caused it to have an existence. As to the second of the significations suggested, that it means that he was the first created being, it may be observed
(a) that this is not a necessary signification of the phrase, since no one can show that this is the only proper meaning which could be given to the words, and therefore the phrase cannot be adduced to prove that he is himself a created being. If it were demonstrated from other sources that Christ was, in fact, a created being, and the first that God had made, it cannot be denied that this language would appropriately express that fact. But it cannot be made out from the mere use of the language here; and as the language is susceptible of other interpretations, it cannot be employed to prove that Christ is a created being.
(b) Such an interpretation would be at variance with all those passages which speak of him as uncreated and eternal; which ascribe Divine attributes to him; which speak of him as himself the Creator of all things. Compare John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2, 6, 8, 10-12.
The third signification, therefore, remains, that he is "the beginning of the creation of God," in the sense that he is the head or prince of the creation; that is, that he presides over it so far as the purposes of redemption are to be accomplished, and so far as is necessary for those purposes. This is
(1) in accordance with the meaning of the word, Luke 12:11; 20:20, et al, ut supra; and
(2) in accordance with the uniform statements respecting the Redeemer, that "all power is given unto him in heaven and in earth," (Matt. 28:18) that God has "given him power over all flesh," (John 17:2) that all things are "put under his feet," (Heb. 2:8; 1 Cor. 15:27) that he is exalted over all things, Eph. 1:20-22. Having this rank, it was proper that he should speak with authority to the church at Laodicea.
15. I know thy works. See Note on Rev. 2:2.
That thou art neither cold nor hot. The word cold here would seem to denote the state where there was no pretension to religion; where everything was utterly lifeless and dead. The language is obviously figurative, but it is such as is often employed, when we speak of one as being cold towards another, as having a cold or icy heart, etc. The word hot would denote, of course, the oppositewarm and zealous in their love and service. The very words that we are constrained to use when speaking on this subjectsuch words as ardent, (i.e. hot, or burning;) fervid, (i.e. very hot, burning, boiling)show how necessary it is to use such words, and how common it is. The state indicated here, therefore, would be that in which there was a profession of religion, but no warm-hearted piety; in which there was not, on the one hand, open and honest opposition to him, and, on the other, such warm-hearted and honest love as he had a right to look for among his professed friends; in which there was a profession of that religion which ought to warm the heart with love, and fill the soul with zeal in the cause of the Redeemer; but where the only result, in fact, was deadness and indifference to him and his cause. Among those who made no profession, he had reason to expect nothing but coldness; among those who made a profession, he had a right to expect the glow of a warm affection, but he found nothing but indifference.
I would thou wert cold or hot. That is, I would prefer either of those states to that which now exists. Anything better than this condition, where love is professed, but where it does not exist; where vows have been assumed which are not fulfilled. Why he would prefer that they should be "hot" is clear enough; but why would he prefer a state of utter coldnessa state where there was no profession of real love? To this question the following answers may be given:
(1.) Such a state of open and professed coldness or indifference is more honest. There is no disguise; no concealment; no pretence. We know where one in this state "may be found;" we know with whom we are dealing; we know what to expect. Sad as the state is, it is at least honest; and we are so made that we all prefer such a character to one where professions are made which are never to be realisedto a state of insincerity and hypocrisy.
(2.) Such a state is more honourable. It is a more elevated condition of mind, and marks a higher character. Of a man who is false to his engagements, who makes professions and promises never to be realized, we can make nothing. There is essential meanness in such a character, and there is nothing in it which we can respect. But in the character of the man who is openly and avowedly opposed to anything; who takes his stand, and is earnest and zealous in his course, though it be wrong, there are traits which may be, under a better direction, elements of true greatness and magnanimity. In the character of Saul of Tarsus, there were always the elements of true greatness; in that of Judas Iscariot, there were never. The one was capable of becoming one of the noblest men that has ever lived on the earth; the other, even under the personal teaching of the Redeemer for years, was nothing but a traitora man of essential meanness.
(3.) There is more hope of conversion and salvation in such a ease. There could always have been a ground of hope that Saul would be converted and saved, even when "breathing out threatening and slaughter;" of Judas, when numbered among the professed disciples of the Saviour, there was no hope. The most hopeless of all persons, in regard to salvation, are those who are members of the church without any true religion; who have made a profession without any evidence of personal piety; who are content with a name to live. This is so, because
(a) the essential character of any one who will allow himself to do this is eminently unfavourable to true religion. There is a lack of that thorough honesty and sincerity which is so necessary for true conversion to God. He who is content to profess to be what he really is not, is not a man on whom the truths of Christianity are likely to make an impression.
(b) Such a man never applies the truth to himself. Truth that is addressed to impenitent sinners he does not apply to himself, of course; for he does not rank himself in that class of persons. Truth addressed to hypocrites he will not apply to himself; for no one, however insincere and hollow he may be, chooses to act on the presumption that he is himself a hypocrite, or so as to leave others to suppose that he regards himself as such. The means of grace adapted to save a sinner, as such, he will not use; for he is in the church, and chooses to regard himself as safe. Efforts made to reclaim him he will resist; for he will regard it as proof of a meddlesome spirit, and an uncharitable judging in others, if they consider him to be anything different from what he professes to be. What right have they to go back of his profession, and assume that he is insincere? As a consequence, there are probably fewer persons by far converted of those who come into the church without any religion, than of any other class of persons of similar number; and the most hopeless of all conditions, in respect to conversion and salvation, is when one enters the church deceived.
(c) It may be presumed that, for these reasons, God himself will make less direct effort to convert and save such persons. As there are fewer appeals that can be brought to bear on them; as there is less in their character that is noble and that can be depended on in promoting the salvation of a soul; and as there is special guilt in hypocrisy, it may be presumed that God will more frequently leave such persons to their chosen course, than he will those who make no professions of religion. Compare Psa. 109:17, 18; Jer. 7:16; 11:14
Isa. 1:15; Hos. 4:17.
16. So then because thou art lukewarm-I will spue thee out of my mouth. Referring, perhaps, to the well-known fact that tepid water tends to produce sickness at the stomach, and an inclination to vomit. The image is intensely strong, and denotes deep disgust and loathing at the indifference which prevailed in the church at Laodicea. The idea is, that they would be utterly rejected and cast off as a church: a threatening of which there has been an abundant fulfilment in subsequent times. It may be remarked, also, that what was threatened to that church may be expected to occur to all churches, if they are in the same condition; and that all professing Christians, and Christian churches, that are lukewarm, have special reason to dread the indignation of the Saviour.
17. Because thou sayest, I am rich. So far as the language here is concerned, this may refer either to riches literally, or to and spiritual riches; that is, to a boast of having religion enough. Professor Stuart supposes that it refers to the former, and so do Wetstein, Vitringa, others. Doddridge, Rosenmuller, and others, understand it in the latter sense. There is no doubt that there was much wealth in Laodicea, and that, as a people, they prided themselves on their riches. See the authorities in Wetstein, on Col. 2:1, and Vitringa, p. 160. It is not easy to determine which is the true sense; but may it not have been that there was an allusion to both, and that, in every respect, they boasted that they had enough? May it not have been so much the characteristic of that people to boast of their wealth, that they carried the spirit into everything, and manifested it even in regard to religion? Is it not true that they who have much of this world's goods, when they make a profession of religion, are very apt to suppose that they are well off in everything, and to feel self-complacent and happy? And is not the possession of much wealth by an individual Christian, or a Christian church, likely to produce just the lukewarmness which it is said existed in the church at Laodicea? If we thus understand it, there will be an accordance with the well-known fact that Laodicea was distinguished for its riches, and, at the same time, with another fact, so common as to be almost universal, that the possession of great wealth tends to make a professed Christian self-complacent and satisfied in every respect; to make him feel that, although he may not have much religion, yet he is on the whole well off; and to produce, in religion, a state of just such lukewarmness as the Saviour here says was loathsome and odious. And increased with goods. peploukhta"I am enriched." This is only a more emphatic and intensive way of saying the same thing. It has no reference to the kind of riches referred to, but merely denotes the confident manner in which they affirmed that they were rich.
And have need of nothing. Still an emphatic and intensive way of saying that they were rich. In all respects, their wants were satisfied; they had enough of everything. They felt, therefore, no stimulus to effort; they sat down in contentment, self-complacency, and indifference. It is almost unavoidable that those who are rich in this world's goods should feel that they have need of nothing. There is no more common illusion among men than the feeling that if one has wealth, he has everything; that there is no want of his nature which cannot be satisfied with that; and that he may now sit down in contentment and ease. Hence the almost universal desire to be rich; hence the common feeling among those who are rich that there is no occasion for solicitude or care for anything else. Compare Luke 12:19.
And knowest not. There is no just impression in regard to the real poverty and wretchedness of your condition.
That thou art wretched. The word wretched we now use to denote the actual consciousness of being miserable, as applicable to one who is sunk into deep distress or affliction. The word here, however, refers rather to the condition itself than to the consciousness of that condition, for it is said that they did not know it. Their state was, in fact, a miserable state, and was fitted to produce actual distress if they had any just sense of it, though they thought that it was otherwise.
And miserable. This word has, with us now, a similar signification; but the term here usedeleeinoßrather means a pitiable state than one actually felt to be so. The meaning is, that their condition was one that was fitted to excite pity or compassion; not that they were actually miserable. See Note on 1 Cor. 15:19.
And poor. Notwithstanding all their boast of having enough. They really had not that which was necessary to meet the actual wants of their nature, and, therefore, they were poor. Their worldly property could not meet the wants of their souls; and, with all their pretensions to piety, they had not religion enough to meet the necessities of their nature when calamities should come, or when death should approach; and they were, therefore, in the strictest sense of the term, poor.
And blind. That is, in a spiritual respect. They did not see the reality of their condition; they had no just views of themselves, of the character of God, of the way of salvation. This seems to be said in connexion with the boast which they made in their own mindsthat they had everything; that they wanted nothing. One of the great blessings of life is clearness of vision, and their boast that they had everything must have included that; but the speaker here says that they lacked that indispensable thing to completeness of character and to full enjoyment. With all their boasting, they were actually blind,and how could one who was in that state say that he "had need of nothing?"
And naked. Of course, spiritually. Salvation is often represented as a garment, (Matt. 22:11-12; Rev. 6:11; 7:9, 13-14) and the declaration here is equivalent to saying that they had no religion. They had nothing to cover the nakedness of the soul, and in respect to the real wants of their nature they were like one who had no clothing in reference to cold, and heat, and storms, and to the shame of nakedness. How could such an one be regarded as rich? We may learn from this instructive verse,
(1.) that men may think themselves to be rich, and yet, in fact, be miserably poor. They may have the wealth of this world in abundance, and yet have nothing that really will meet their wants in disappointment, bereavement, sickness, death; the wants of the never-dying soul; their wants in eternity. What had the "rich fool," as he is commonly termed, in the parable, when he came to die? Luke 12:16, seq. What had "Dives," as he is commonly termed, to meet the wants of his nature when he went down to hell? Luke 16:19, seq.
(2.) Men may have much property, and think that they have all they want, and yet be wretched. In the sense that their condition is a wretched condition, this is always true; and in the sense that they are consciously wretched, this may be and often is true also.
(3.) Men may have great property, and yet be miserable. This is true in the sense that their condition is a pitiable one, and in the sense that they are actually unhappy. There is no more pitiable condition than that where one has great property, and is self-complacent and proud, and who has nevertheless no God, no Saviour, no hope of heaven, and who perhaps that very day may "lift up his eyes in hell, being in torments;" and, it need not be added, that there is no greater actual misery in this world than that which sometimes finds its way into the palaces of the rich. He greatly errs who thinks that misery is confined to the cottages of the poor.
(4.) Men may be rich, and think they have all that they want, and yet be blind to their condition. They really have no distinct vision of anything. They have no just views of God, of themselves, of their duty, of this world, or of the next. In most important respects, they are in a worse condition than the inmates of an asylum for the blind, for they may have clear views of God and of heaven. Mental darkness is a greater calamity than the loss of natural vision; and there is many an one who is surrounded by all that affluence can give, who never yet had one correct view of his own character, of his God, or of the reality of his condition, and whose condition might have been far better if he had actually been born blind.
(5.) There may be gorgeous robes of adorning, and yet real nakedness. With all the decorations that wealth can impart, there may be a nakedness of the soul as real as that of the body would be if, without a rag to cover it, it were exposed to cold, and storm, and shame. The soul, destitute of the robes of salvation, is in a worse condition than the body without raiment: for, how can it bear the storms of wrath that shall beat upon it for ever, and the shame of its exposure in the last dread day?
18. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire. Pure gold; such as has been subjected to the action of heat to purify it from dross. See Note on 1 Pet. 1:7.
Gold here is emblematic of religionas being the most precious of the metals, and the most valued by men. They professed to be rich, but were not; and he counsels them to obtain from him that which would make them truly rich.
That thou mayest be rich. In the true and proper sense of the word. With true religion; with the favour and friendship of the Redeemer, they would have all that they really needed, and would never be in want.
And white raiment. The emblem of purity and salvation. See Note on Rev. 3:4.
This is said in reference to the fact (Rev. 3:17) that they were then naked.
That thou mayest be clothed. With the garments of salvation. This refers, also, to true religion, meaning that that which the Redeemer furnishes will answer the same purpose in respect to the soul which clothing does in reference to the body. Of course, it cannot be understood literally, nor should the language be pressed too closely, as if there was too strict a resemblance.
And that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear. We clothe the body as well for decency as for protection against cold, and storm, and heat. The soul is to be clothed that the "shame" of its sinfulness may not be exhibited, and that it may not be offensive and repellent in the sight.
And anoint thine eyes with eye-salve. In allusion to the fact that they were blind, Rev. 3:17. The word eye-salvekollourionoccurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is a diminutive from kolluracollyraa coarse bread or cake, and means properly a small cake or cracknel. It is applied to eye-salve as resembling such a cake, and refers to a medicament prepared for sore or weak eyes. It was compounded of various substances supposed to have a healing quality. See Wetstein, in loc. The reference here is to a spiritual healingmeaning that, in respect to their spiritual vision, what he would furnish would produce the same effect as the collyrium or eye-salve would in diseased eyes. The idea is, that the grace of the gospel enables men who were before blind to see clearly the character of God, the beauty of the way of salvation, the loveliness of the person and work of Christ, etc. See Note on Eph. 1:18.
19. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Of course, only on the supposition that they deserve it. The meaning is, that it is a proof of love on his part, if his professed friends go astray, to recall them by admonitions and by trials. So a father calls back his children who are disobedient; and there is no higher proof of his love than when, with great pain to himself, he administers such chastisement as shall save his child. See the sentiment here expressed fully explained. See Note on Heb. 12:6, seq. The language is taken from Prov. 3:12
Be zealous therefore, and repent. Be earnest, strenuous, ardent in your purpose to exercise true repentance, and to turn from the error of your ways. Lose no time; spare no labour, that you may obtain such a state of mind that it shall not be necessary to bring upon you the severe discipline which always comes on those who continue lukewarm in religion. The truth taught here is, that when the professed followers of Christ have become lukewarm in his service, they should lose no time in returning to him, and seeking his favour again. As sure as he has any true love for them, if this is not done, he will bring upon them some heavy calamity, alike to rebuke them for their errors, and to recover them to himself.
20. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock. Intimating that, though they had erred, the way of repentance and hope was not closed against them. He was still willing to be gracious, though their conduct had been such as to be loathsome, Rev. 3:16. To see the real force of this language, we must remember how disgusting and offensive their conduct had been to him. And yet he was willing, notwithstanding this, to receive them to his favour; nay more, he stood and pleaded with them that he might be received with the hospitality that would be shown to a friend or stranger. The language here is so plain that it scarcely needs explanation. It is taken from an act when we approach a dwelling, and, by a well-understood signknockingannounce our presence, and ask for admission. The act of knocking implies two things:
(a) that we desire admittance; and
(b) that we recognise the right of him who dwells in the house to open the door to us or not, as he shall please. We would not obtrude upon him; we would not force his door; and if, after we are sure that we are heard, we are not admitted, we turn quietly away. Both of these things are implied here by the language used by the Saviour when he approaches man as represented under the image of knocking at the door: that he desires to be admitted to our friendship; and that he recognises our freedom in the matter. He does not obtrude himself upon us, nor does he employ force to find admission to the heart. If admitted, he comes and dwells with us; if rejected, he turns quietly awayperhaps to return and knock again, perhaps never to come back. The language here used, also, may be understood as applicable to all persons, and to all the methods by which the Saviour seeks to come into the heart of a sinner. It would properly refer to anything which would announce his presence:his word; his Spirit; the solemn events of his Providence; the invitations of his gospel. In these and in other methods he comes to man; and the manner in which these invitations ought to be estimated would be seen by supposing that he came to us personally and solicited our friendship, and proposed to be our Redeemer. It may be added here, that this expression proves that the attempt at reconciliation begins with the Saviour. It is not that the sinner goes out to meet him, or to seek for him; it is that the Saviour presents himself at the door of the heart as if he were desirous to enjoy the friendship of man. This is in accordance with the uniform language of the New Testament, that "God so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son;" that "Christ came to seek and to save the lost;" that the Saviour says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden," etc. Salvation, in the Scriptures, is never represented as originated by man.
If any man hear my voice. Perhaps referring to a custom then prevailing, that he who knocked spake, in order to let it be known who it was. This might be demanded in the night, (Luke 11:5) or when there was apprehension of danger, and it may have been the custom when John wrote. The language here, in accordance with the uniform usage in the Scriptures, (compare Isa. 55:1; John 7:37; Rev. 22:17) is universal, and proves that the invitations of the gospel are made, and are to be made, not to a part only, but fully and freely to all men; for, although this originally had reference to the members of the church in Laodicea, yet the language chosen seems to have been of design so universal (ean tiß) as to be applicable to every human being; and any one, of any age and in any land, would be authorized to apply this to himself, and, under the protection of this invitation to come to the Saviour, and to plead this promise as one that fairly included himself. It may be observed farther, that this also recognises the freedom of man. It is submitted to him whether he will hear the voice of the Redeemer or not; and whether he will open the door and admit him or not. He speaks loud enough, and distinctly enough, to be heard, but he does not force the door if it is not voluntarily opened.
And open the door. As one would when a stranger or friend stood and knocked. The meaning here is simply, if any one will admit me; that is, receive me as a friend. The act of receiving him is as voluntary on our part as it is when we rise and open the door to one who knocks. It may be added,
(1.) that this is an easy thing. Nothing is more easy than to open the door when one knocks; and so everywhere in the Scriptures it is represented as an easy thing, if the heart is willing, to secure the salvation of the soul.
(2.) This is a reasonable thing. We invite him who knocks at the door to come in. We always assume, unless there is reason to suspect the contrary, that he applies for peaceful and friendly purposes. We deem it the height of rudeness to let one stand and knock long; or to let him go away with no friendly invitation to enter our dwelling. Yet how differently does the sinner treat the Saviour! How long does he suffer him to knock at the door of his heart, with no invitation to enterno act of common civility such as that with which he would greet even a stranger! And with how much coolness and indifference does he see him turn awayperhaps to come back no more, and with no desire that he ever should return!
I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. This is an image denoting intimacy and friendship. Supper, with the ancients, was the principal social meal; and the idea here is, that between the Saviour and those who would receive him, there would be the intimacy which subsists between those who sit down to a friendly meal together. In all countries and times, to eat together, to break bread together, has been the symbol of friendship, and this the Saviour promises here. The truths, then, which are taught in this verse, are
(1) that the invitation of the gospel is made to all"if any man hear my voice;"
(2) that the movement towards reconciliation and friendship is originated by the Saviour"behold, I stand at the door and knock;"
(3) that there is a recognition of our own free agency in religion"if any man will hear my voice, and open the door;"
(4) the ease of the terms of salvation, represented by "hearing his voice," and "opening the door;" and
(5) the blessedness of thus admitting him, arising from his friendship"I will sup with him, and he with me." What friend can man have who would confer so many benefits on him as the Lord Jesus Christ? Who is there that he should so gladly welcome to his bosom?
21. To him that overcometh. See Note on Rev. 2:7.
Will I grant to sit with me in my throne. That is, they will share his honours and his triumphs. See Notes on Rev. 2:26-27; Rom. 8:17.
Even as I also overcame. As I gained a victory over the world, and over the power of the tempter. As the reward of this, he is exalted to the throne of the universe, (Phil. 2:6-11) and in these honours, achieved by their great and glorious Head, all the redeemed will share.
And am set down with my Father in his throne. See Note on Phil. 2:6-11.
That is, he has dominion over the universe. All things are put under his feet, and, in the strictest unison and with perfect harmony, he is united with the Father in administering the affairs of all worlds. The dominion of the Father is that of the Sonthat of the Son is that of the Father; for they are one. See Notes on John 5:19, Eph. 1:20, seq, See Note on 1 Cor. 15:24,seq.
22. He that hath an ear, etc. See Note on Rev. 2:7.
Jewish New Testament Commentary
Ephesus had the most important Messianic community in the province of Asia. It was already a religious center, home of the pagan goddess Artemis (Ac 19:35), and a focus for magic (Ac 19:19). The congregation had been founded by Aquila and Priscilla (Ac 18:18), and with Sha'ul's guidance it quickly became an evangelistic center (Ac 19:10). Timothy later took Sha'ul's place (1 Ti 1:3), and tradition has it that Yochanan the emissary lived here (Irenaeus, Eusebius).
You have lost the love you had at first not the strong emotions, which cannot be expected to last, but the zeal for God, which can be renewed by repentance and rededication.
Remove your menorah, so that you will cease to exist as a part of the Messiah's body, even though you may continue as an institution or social grouping.
Nicolaitans. A heretical sect which encouraged idolatry and sexual sin; see vv. 14-15. Writing in the late second century, Irenaeus speculated that they were followers of Nicholas, the Jewish proselyte who was appointed shammash in the Jerusalem community (Ac 6:5) but, by implication, later went astray. There is no evidence for his hypothesis.
To him who wins the victory (or: "to him who overcomes"). The victory is over evil, temptation and apathy. According to 3:21&N Yeshua himself is our role-model.
To eat from the Tree of Life means to have eternal life. Genesis 2:9; 3:22, 24 shows that this was true in the original Gan-Eden ("Garden of Eden" or "Paradise," Lk 23:43N). It is also true in God's Gan-Eden, which is the New Jerusalem (21:2; 22:2, 14, 19). In the Tanakh the term "tree of life" is used at Proverbs 3:18, 11:30, 13:12 and 15:4 to describe wisdom, the fruit of the righteous, desire fulfilled, and a wholesome tongue all of which may be seen as aspects of eternal life.
Smyrna was a wealthy seaport, a competitor of Ephesus, and a center of emperor-worship.
Yochanan writes about Gentiles who call themselves Jews but aren't on the contrary, they are a synagogue of Satan, the Adversary (see Mt 4:1N). Perhaps they, like the Gentile Judaizers of the book of Galatians, adopted a smattering of Jewish practices and tried to force them on Gentile Christians. They may have subjected themselves to a legalistic perversion of the Torah (see 1C 9:20&N). They apparently organized a pseudo-Messianic synagogue. Their false doctrine probably led them to wrong and immoral behavior, since false doctrine usually does. They probably drew Gentile Christians away from the truth and thereby threatened the Messianic community.
Virtually all the commentators ignore the obvious and straightforward interpretation that Yochanan is talking here about Gentiles who pretend to be Jews. The same kind of expression is used in v. 2: "...you tested those who call themselves emissaries but aren't and you found them to be liars." It obviously refers to false apostles, and there the commentators accept the literal sense without demur. But here they opt for the metaphorical interpretation that Yochanan is talking about Jews who reject Yeshua as the Messiah instead of the literal understanding that these are non-Jews who lie and say they are Jews but in fact are Gentiles. In this way a verse which says nothing about Jews is given a virulently antisemitic significance. The result is that over the centuries Jews have had the epithet "synagogue of Satan" hurled at them by Christians who thought they understood the Bible.
But nowhere in the New Testament are unbelieving Jews called non-Jews, although Ro 2:28-29 is sometimes mistakenly brought as evidence to the contrary (see note there). Nor does anything in the present context call for a violent outburst against Jews. A good rule of interpretation is that when the literal sense makes good sense, seek no other sense. The only explanation I can see for its nearly universal disregard in this case is the anti-Jewish mindset that infected the Church, including its theologians and commentators, so that even those without antisemitic feelings rejected the p'shat in favor of imposing on the text their own drash (see Mt 2:15N). For another instance of this process, see Ro 10:4&N.
In the first century, the Jewish religion was highly regarded; many Gentiles became Jewish proselytes. It is not surprising that other Gentiles preferred a short-cut, reaping the advantage of Jewish identification without the burden of adherence to Torah. Sha'ul had already encountered such types in Galatia (see Ga 6:12-13).
Should it nevertheless be thought improbable that Gentiles would call themselves Jews, Hebrews or Israelites, consider the following modern examples. The "British Israelites" regard the British as the Ten Lost Tribes. The Mormons not only consider themselves to be the Ten Lost Tribes but regard themselves as Jews and everyone else (real Jews included) as Gentiles! A sect of mostly American-born blacks consider themselves the true Hebrews; several thousand of them are living in Israel. All of these are outside the pale of Christianity. In addition, scattered about are well-meaning Gentile Christians whose strong identification with and love for the Jewish people has made them believe without a shred of evidence that they are actually Jewish themselves (see 1 Ti 1:3-4&N). In fact, some years ago a congregation was expelled from the American Lutheran Church because, along with a general drift into weirdness, its pastor and dozens of its members claimed to have heard from God that they were really Jews; many even said they knew which tribe they belonged to.
Without exception this phenomenon of Gentiles imagining and asserting they are Jewish when they are not leads to strange patterns of doctrine and practice. Such people are not accepted by Jews as Jewish; nor, as this verse shows, are they to be accepted by Christians as Christian. Isolated and self-defensive, they can easily become prideful, neither obeying the Torah nor showing brotherly love to Yeshua's real followers. It is easy to see why Yeshua does not regard them as harmlessly neutral but pegs them as a synagogue of the Adversary.
Ten days, that is, a short time. It is impossible to recover what ordeal is referred to.
The second death, eternal death in the lake of fire, according to 20:6, 14; 21:8.
Revelation 2:12-13a Pergamum was a center for pagan worship of many deities, hence it is called the site of the Adversary Satan's throne, with the result that the sins of vv. 14-15 are widespread.
Antipas, unknown except here, was apparently one of the early believers who died at the hands of the Roman overlords al kiddush HaShem (see Ac 7:59-60N; Greek marturos can be translated either "witness" or "martyr"). Some twenty to forty years later the same Roman government put to death the ten Jewish martyrs recalled in the Musaf liturgy on Yom-Kippur, among them Gamli'el II and Rabbi Akiva.
The teaching of Bilam (Balaam). Although God did not allow Bilam to do what Balak had hired him for, namely, to curse Israel (Numbers 22-24; see 2 Ke 2:15-16&N), Bilam made up for the king of Moab's disappointment by counseling Israel to engage in idolatry and harlotry (Numbers 25:1-3, 31:16). Bilam's counsel was indirect he taught Balak to set a trap for the children of Israel, so that they would eat food which had been sacrificed to idols and commit sexual sin. The issue here is not eating meat used in pagan rituals, as at 1C 8:1-13, 10:21, but actually participating in idolatrous feasts and sexual sin, thus violating the mitzvot laid down for Gentile believers at Ac 15:28-29.
An alternative understanding here and at v. 20, based on the Tanakh's frequent figurative use of the word translated "sexual sin": the Israelites ate food sacrificed to idols, thus joining in idolatrous worship and thereby "committing adultery" against God- that is, they became apostate.
Hidden manna. The biblical data are that God fed Israel in the wilderness with "bread from heaven" (Exodus 16:4, 35; Yn 6:31-35), which was called manna (Exodus 16:15, 31), and that a pot of it was preserved in the ark of the covenant (Exodus 16:32-34, MJ 9:4). The Talmud says that in the third heaven "mills grind manna for the righteous" (Chagigah 12b). According to 2 Baruch 29:8, in the Messianic Era "the treasury of manna will again descend from on high, and those alive then will eat of it." When the first Temple was destroyed, Jeremiah (2 Maccabees 2:4-8) or an angel (2 Baruch 6:5-10) rescued the ark with its pot of manna, and they are being kept for the days of the Messiah, when God's people will again eat manna. Yochanan here uses the language of such traditions to show that believers in him will be admitted to the Messianic Banquet, "the marriage supper of the Lamb" (19:9).
In the ancient world a white stone was used as an admission ticket to public festivals; believers will be admitted to the Messianic feast. On it is written either their own new name or that of the Messiah (19:12); this reflects the quantum jump in purity and identification with Yeshua attained by those winning the victory.
Thyatira was a small town noted for its trade guilds, and these held meals probably dedicated to a pagan god. A believer whose livelihood depended on his membership in a guild was thus faced with the problem of whether he could in good conscience participate.
Yeshua remains the Son of God (see Mt 4:3N) even after his resurrection and ascension into heaven. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (MJ 13:8&N).
Eyes like a fiery flame... feet like burnished brass. See 1:14-15.
That Izevel woman, that is, someone who resembles King Ahab's queen, Izevel (Jezebel). She supported idolatry and came dangerously close to eliminating true worship of God (1 Kings 16:30-33; 18:4, 13, 22; 2 Kings 9:22). Evidently the "Izevel woman" injects occultism and other demonic practices into the Messianic community.
Those who join in the sins connected with what the Jezebel woman does are in turmoil; they are struggling with how to be loyal to the Messiah and at the same time function in their social and business environment (see v. 18N). But her children have no such ambivalence; trained by her, they are fully committed to her teachings. Hence their punishment, death, is worse than hers, a sickbed (literally, "a bed"; but see Exodus 21:18).
"Deep things." Various Gnostic philosophies appealed to people's pride by promising spiritual knowledge deeper than that available to ordinary mortals. Many modern cults and movements make the same empty promises.
Psalm 2 is understood as referring to the Messiah as early as in the first century B.C.E. Pseudepigraphic work, Psalms of Solomon 17:21-27. The believers will reign with the Messiah when he returns compare 20:4, 6; also Mt 5:5, 19:28; 1C 6:2. Psalm 2 is also cited at 11:18, 12:5 and 19:15.
The morning star. Literally, this would be Venus, the brightest object in the sky after the sun and the moon. Here it means either great glory; or, as in 22:16, the Messiah himself, whose coming was foretold by Bilam: "A star shall step forth out of Jacob" (Numbers 24:17).
The people of Sardis were spiritually apathetic, as a result of their luxurious, loose way of life.
You have a reputation for being alive, but in fact you are dead! Today this statement about hypocrites describes people (Jews, Christians, other) who support charitable works but have no spiritual connection with the living God (Isaiah 64:5(6)); people who feel close to God or have correct theological doctrine but produce no evangelistic or social action fruit (Ya 2:17); people whose lack of faith in God and ignorance or rejection of Yeshua produce dead religious formalism, social clubbiness, fortress mentality defensiveness, and/or pride in self-accomplishment; and people who try to fill their spiritual vacuum with sensual gratification.
The Sardis congregation was severely backslidden; Yeshua prescribes the only possible cure: spiritual revival.
I am coming like a thief, that is, suddenly and unexpectedly. The way to be prepared for it is to be ready and alert always, that is, always leading a godly life. Yeshua gives the same warning at 16:15; compare his remarks at Mt 24:42-50 and Lk 12:39-46; also 1 Th 5:2-8 and 2 Ke 3:8-13, which speak of the Day of the Lord itself coming like a thief.
Revelation 3:4-5a Soiled their clothes... clothed in white. Throughout the Bible white, clean clothes refer to the righteous deeds God gives his people to do so that they may exercise and express their faith (19:8 , Isaiah 61:10, Ep 2:10); also see below at 3:18; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9, 13-14; 16:15; 19:14. Contrast the outwardly righteous works which people without faith organize for themselves to do; these God calls "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:5(6), cited above, v. 1N).
I will not blot his name out of the Book of Life. Compare Pp 4:3. On "Book of Life" see 20:12bN.
I will acknowledge him individually before my Father and before his angels. Compare Mt 10:32-33, Lk 12:8-9, Yn 10:3.
Of the seven cities Philadelphia was the one founded most recently. Its congregation was in a healthy condition, for Yeshua only praised it.
HaKadosh means "the Holy One." At 6:10 the term designates God the Father. Moreover, in the Talmud, the Prayerbook and other Jewish writings, it is common to refer to God as "HaKadosh, barukh hu" ("the Holy One, blessed be he"). But here (and possibly at 1 Yn 2:20) this title refers to Yeshua. (So there is no need for a "blessed be he," because here the Holy One is talking about himself.) Thus Yeshua is to be identified with God, yet he is not the Father (see 1:17N).
Yeshua is also the True One, the one who is faithful and trustworthy.
At Isaiah 22:20-22, Elyakim was given "the key of the house of David," that is, full authority to act on behalf of King Hezekiah in his household. Likewise Yeshua, "the Root and Offspring of David" (5:5, 22:16), has full authority (Mt 28:18) to act on behalf of God, our King. Yeshua does not permit others to usurp this authority (see v. 9), yet he voluntarily shares "the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven" with those who commit themselves to him (Mt 16:19). Two others named Elyakim appear in the genealogies of Yeshua (Mt 1:13, Lk 3:30). For other "keys" Yeshua has in his possession see 1:18&N.
I know that you have but little worldly power, but much spiritual power, since you have obeyed my message and have not disowned me.
Those who call themselves Jews but aren't. On these Gentile pretenders, see 2:9N.
I will cause them to come and prostrate themselves at your feet, and they will know that I have loved you. In his remarks on this phrase the non-Jewish commentator George Eldon Ladd notes verses from the Tanakh in which it is prophesied that the pagan nations of the world will come and bow before Israel (Isaiah 45:14, 49:23, 60:14; Ezekiel 36:23, 37:28), and then writes,
"These and many other passages look forward to a day of the triumph of Israel over the nations; sometimes it is expressed in terms of the humiliation of the gentiles before Israel, sometimes in the conversion of the gentiles to the faith of Israel." (Revelation, Eerdmans, 1972, pp. 6061)
The time of trial (or: "temptation") coming upon the whole world is spoken of in the Tanakh at Daniel 12:1; in other books of the New Testament at Mt 24:4-28, Mk 13:5-23, 2 Th 2:1-12; and in Revelation throughout Chapters 6-18. Premillennialists call this period the Tribulation (on these two terms see 4:1N, 7:14&N, 11:1-2&N; 1 Th 4:15-17&N).
I will keep you from the time of trial. Those who believe in a "Pre-Tribulation Rapture" (see 4:1N, 1 Th 4:15-17&N) understand Yeshua to be saying here that he will remove ("rapture") the faithful from the earth before the time of the trial begins. Others are satisfied to take it in a general sense to mean that God will seal his people against harm when the trial comes (9:4) and will warn them to flee impending judgment (18:4).
The people living on earth. There are two equivalent Hebrew phrases in the Tanakh. "Yoshvei-tevel" appears in the Tanakh five times. Four times it means "inhabitants of the habitable world," all human beings (Isaiah 18:3, 26:9, Psalm 33:8, Lamentations 4:12); but at Isaiah 26:18 it seems to exclude God's people and refer to the world's pagans. "Yoshvei-ha'aretz" ("inhabitants of the Land" or "...of the earth") appears over 20 times and can mean: (1) all human beings (Isaiah 24:6, 26:21; Jeremiah 25:30; Psalm 33:14), (2) the pagan tribes of Canaan (Exodus 23:31, Joshua 2:9, Jeremiah 47:2, Nehemiah 9:24), or (3) the Jews in their Land, Israel (Jeremiah 6:12; 10:18; Hosea 4:1; Joel 1:2, 14; 2:1).
Here, by context, "the people living on earth" are, as at Isaiah 26:18, all humans on earth except those devoted to the Lord, in other words, all pagans, all who follow the beast (13:3, 8) and do not turn to God. This expression has the same meaning also at 6:10; 8:13; 13:8, 14; and 17:8 13:12, 17:2 and Ac 17:26 are similar); but at 11:10&N it probably refers to Jewish people living in Israel.
The pagans will be put... to the test of experiencing God's judgment upon the earth (Chapters 6-18). Some will pass the test by repenting 11:13), which is God's fervent desire (2 Ke 3:9); but most will not 9:20-21; 16:8-11, 21).
I will make those winning the victory pillars (leaders, Ga 2:6-9) in the Temple of my God. In Solomon's Temple were two pillars named Boaz and Yakhin (1 Kings 7:21). Compare 1 Ke 2:5, where believers are said to be "living stones,... being built into a spiritual house." Later in Yochanan's vision there is a Temple in heaven (7:15, 11:19, 14:15, 15:5, 16:1), and Yeshua ministers there as cohen gadol (MJ 2:17&N). But in the New Yerushalayim coming down out of heaven (see 21:2&N), God himself will be the Temple, so it is not surprising that its pillars will be believers.
I will write on him the name of my God. People signify by the names they bear whom they belong to. In the Tanakh, God put his name (YHVH) on the people of Israel by having the cohanim recite the Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:24-27). The faithful bear the name of God (here, 22:4) and the name of the Messiah (14:1), including his own new name (2:17, 19:12). Likewise, the followers of the beast signify that they belong to him by bearing his name 13:17).
The name of my God's city. This signifies citizenship in that city (see 21:2N).
Sha'ul worked hard for Laodicea's congregation (Co 2:1, 4:13), greeted them as brothers (Co 4:15), and even wrote them a letter (Co 4:16). Perhaps the fact that their letter is now lost is a sign of how little good it did them. Here Yeshua finds the Laodiceans worthy only of blame and exhortation; he does not praise them for anything.
The word "Amen," from the Hebrew word meaning "truth," confirms the truth of a previous statement (see Mt 5:18N, Ro 9:5N). Compare "the God of Amen" (Isaiah 65:16). Yeshua is the Ruler (Greek archê) of God's creation, literally, "the beginning of God's creation," who as the Word of God began it and continues to uphold and rule it (Genesis 1:2, Yn 1:1-3, Co 1:17, MJ 1:3). But the word "archê" as used at 21:6 and 22:13 suggests a philosophical understanding of Yeshua as the supertemporal one, "the A' and the Z'" 1:8 &N). Thus in relation to the Laodiceans, Yeshua is the Amen, confirming how serious is their spiritual condition. He is the faithful and true witness (see 19:11N) whose testimony on the subject cannot be controverted. And he is the Ruler of God's creation, capable of bringing judgment upon them if they do not repent.
While "hot" is best, believers who feel threatened by people hostile to the Gospel and are more at ease with the apathetic, the indifferent, the complacent and the nominal should conform themselves to Yeshua's preference for "cold" over "lukewarm." "Zeal for God but not according to knowledge" (Ro 10:2) is more fertile ground for the Gospel than zeal for nothing.
And now a drash: what about people who are "cool" (in the slang sense current since my high school days)? Someone seeking to be "cool" wants to be well regarded by the "in-crowd." If his referent "in-crowd" consists of believers in Yeshua, then "cool" is hot.
Yeshua's strong words of judgment are meant to jar the Laodiceans from their complacency, so that they will repent (vv. 18-20). To their false claim of spiritual well-being (I am rich) they add the spiritual pride of the "self-made man" (I have gotten rich by my own efforts) and a false and dangerous (Ya 4:13-16) sense of self-sufficiency (I don't need a thing). Compare Hosea 12:9-10, where Efrayim (the Northern Kingdom, Israel) says, "I have become rich, I have found wealth for myself, in all my labors they will find no iniquity in me that is sin"; and in consequence God promises to make them dwell in tents (as nomads).
Yeshua here does not command but offers his advice. Being infinitely wise, he knows the Laodiceans are far too undisciplined to obey orders. Likewise, observe his courtesy at v. 20.
Of course one does not buy for money Yeshua's spiritual gold which makes people truly rich; it is free (22:17 , Isaiah 55:1, Ro 3:24). But Yeshua is catering to the psychology of people who measure everything in monetary terms, who think that if you don't buy it, it isn't worth anything.
Laodicea had a famous medical college where "Phrygian powder" was used to make eyesalve. Yeshua can heal not only the physically blind (Yn 9:1-7), but also the spiritually blind; however, these must first admit that they cannot see (Yn 9:39-41).
I rebuke and discipline everyone I love. Compare MJ 12:6. Yeshua still loves the errant Laodiceans; this is why he criticizes them in vv. 15-18. Because God loves Israel he criticizes them throughout the Tanakh; this is one of the glories of biblical truth.
Exert yourselves, and turn from your sins. Repentance is not a gift placed in waiting hands. The excuse, "I'm not ready to repent yet," often hides such a passivist theology of repentance. Yeshua, however, has a different idea, a Jewish idea: it takes effort to lift oneself out of apathy and turn from sin.
God's readiness to receive repentant sinners, well known from the Tanakh (for example, Zechariah 1:3: "Thus says Adonai of Heaven's Armies: Return to me, and I will return to you.'") and restated in the New Testament (Ac 2:38), is the ground for what Yeshua says in this verse. Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. Yeshua does not barge in or bang at the door, but courteously stands there knocking, waiting to be invited in. He does not force his way into people's hearts, either those of believers who have turned away from him like the Laodiceans, or those of nonbelievers who have not yet received him. On the other hand, he does not stand silently, so that no one could suspect his presence, but he makes his presence insistently yet not intrusively felt through the behavior of believers, through the preaching of the Gospel, through the conformity of history to prophecy, through nature, through conscience. He waits until someone hears Yeshua's still small voice prompting belief and trust, removes the intellectual and emotional barricades, and opens the door to faith and the first steps of repentance. Then, when thus invited, I will come in and eat with him, and he will eat with me. It might be added that unlike most guests Yeshua provides the food, the spiritual nourishment that gives the strength needed for exerting oneself to take the more difficult steps of repentance. The metaphor of meal-sharing (compare Lk 15:2, Yn 14:23, Ac 11:3) is appropriate to Jewish and to most oriental cultures, where table fellowship implies affection, intimacy and mutual confidence. In short, Yeshua is promising to be intimately and truly present with anyone who genuinely asks him, Jew or Gentile alike.
Yeshua presents himself as the model for anyone who wants to win the victory over evil, temptation and apathy. Compare Pp 2:6-11, and also MJ 2:9-11, 18; 4:15-16. There too the Messiah is depicted as having overcome temptation, and we are invited to "approach" God's throne boldly when we have need. Here Yeshua promises that believers who overcome will actually sit with him on the throne (see 20:11N) which he shares with God the Father.
Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament
1. Ephesus. Ephesus was built near the sea, in the valley of the Cayster, under the shadows of Coressus and Prion. In the time of Paul it was the metropolis of the province of Asia. It was styled by Pliny the Light of Asia. Its harbor, though partly filled up, was crowded with vessels, and it lay at the junction of roads which gave it access to the whole interior continent. Its markets were the "Vanity Fair" of Asia. Herodotus says: "The Ionians of Asia have built their cities in a region where the air and climate are the most beautiful in the whole world; for no other region is equally blessed with Ionia. For in other countries, either the climate is over-cold and damp, or else the heat and drought are sorely oppressive" (i., 142).
In Paul's time it was the residence of the Roman proconsul; and the degenerate inhabitants descended to every species of flattery in order to maintain the favor of Rome. The civilization of the city was mingled Greek and Oriental. It was the head-quarters of the magical art, and various superstitions were represented by different priestly bodies. The great temple of Diana, the Oriental, not the Greek divinity, was ranked among the seven wonders of the world, and Ephesus called herself its sacristan (see on Acts 19:27). To it attached the right of asylum. Legend related that when the temple was finished, Mithridates stood on its summit and declared that the right of asylum should extend in a circle round it, as far as he could shoot an arrow; and the arrow miraculously flew a furlong. This fact encouraged moral contagion. The temple is thus described by Canon Farrar: "It had been built with ungrudging magnificence out of contributions furnished by all Asia the very women contributing to it their jewels, as the Jewish women had done of old for the Tabernacle of the Wilderness. To avoid the danger of earthquakes, its foundations were built at vast cost on artificial foundations of skin and charcoal laid over the marsh. It gleamed far off with a star-like radiance. Its peristyle consisted of one hundred and twenty pillars of the Ionic order, hewn out of Parian marble. Its doors of carved cypress wood were surmounted by transoms so vast and solid that the aid of miracles was invoked to account for their elevation. The staircase, which led to the roof, was said to have been cut out of a single vine of Cyprus. Some of the pillars were carved with designs of exquisite beauty. Within were the masterpieces of Praxiteles and Phidias and Scopas and Polycletus. Paintings by the greatest of Greek artists, of which one the likeness of Alexander the Great by Apelles had been bought for a sum equal in value to £5,000 of modern money, adorned the inner walls. The roof of the temple itself was of cedar-wood, supported by columns of jasper on bases of Parian marble. On these pillars hung gifts of priceless value, the votive offerings of grateful superstition. At the end of it stood the great altar adorned by the bas-relief of Praxiteles, behind which fell the vast folds of a purple curtain. Behind this curtain was the dark and awful shrine in which stood the most sacred idol of classic heathendom; and again, behind the shrine, was the room which, inviolable under divine protection, was regarded as the wealthiest and securest bank in the ancient world "("Life and Work of St. Paul," ii., 12).
Next to Rome, Ephesus was the principal seat of Paul's labors. He devoted three years to that city. The commonly received tradition represents John as closing his apostolic career there. Nothing in early Church history is better attested than his residence and work in Ephesus, the center of the circle of churches established by Paul in Ionia and Phrygia.
Who walketh (oj peripatw×n). More than standeth. The word expresses Christ's activity on behalf of His Church.
2. Thy works (ta» e¶rga souv). See on John 4:47.
Labor (ko/pon). Originally suffering, weariness; hence exhausting labor. The kindred verb kopia¿w is often used of apostolic and ministerial labor (Romans 16:12; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 4:11).
Patience (uJpomonh/n). See on 2 Peter 1:6; James 5:1. Compare Paul's exhortation to Timothy in Ephesus, 2 Timothy 2:25, 26.
Bear (basta¿sai). See on John 10:31; 12:6. Compare Galatians 6:2, where the word is used of Christians bearing each others' burdens.
Them which are evil (kakou\ß). Trench observes that "it is not a little remarkable that the grace or virtue here ascribed to the angel of the Ephesian Church (compare verse 6) should have a name in classical Greek: misoponhri÷a hatred of evil; the person of whom the grace is predicated being misopo/nhroß hater of evil; while neither of these words, nor yet any equivalent to them occurs in the New Testament. It is the stranger, as this hatred of evil, purely as evil, however little thought of or admired now, is eminently a Christian grace."
Hast tried (epeira¿sw) Rev., didst try. See on tried, 1 Peter 1:7; and compare 1 John 4:1; 1 Corinthians 12:10.
3. The best texts omit ouj ke÷kmhkaß hast not grown weary, and read kai« ouj kekopi÷akeß hast not grown weary. The transcribers supposed the verb kopia¿w to mean only to labor; whereas it includes the sense of weariness from labor.
4. Somewhat. Not in the text, and unnecessary. The following clause is the object of I have. "I have against thee that thou hast left," etc. "It is indeed a somewhat which the Lord has against the Ephesian Church; it threatens to grow to be an everything; for see the verse following" (Trench). For the phrase have against, see Matthew 5:23; Mark 11:25; Colossians 3:13.
Hast left (aÓfhvkaß) Rev., more correctly, rendering the aorist, didst leave. The verb originally means to send, away or dismiss. See on John 4:3.
First love. Compare Jeremiah 2:2. The first enthusiastic devotion of the Church to her Lord, under the figure of conjugal love.
5. Thou art fallen (ekpe÷ptwkaß) Lit., hast fallen out.
Repent (metano/hson). See on Matthew 3:2; 21:29.
l will come (e¶rcomai). Rev., correctly, I come.
Will remove thy candlestick. "Its candlestick has been for centuries removed out of his place; the squalid Mohammedan village which is nearest to its site does not count one Christian in its insignificant population; its temple is a mass of shapeless ruins; its harbor is a reedy pool; the bittern booms amid its pestilent and stagnant marshes; and malaria and oblivion reign supreme over the place where the wealth of ancient civilization gathered around the scenes of its grossest superstitions and its most degraded sins" (Farrar, "Life and Work of Paul," ii., 43, 44).
John employs the verb kine÷w remove (Rev., move) only in Revelation, and only once besides the present instance, in chapter 6:14, where, as here, it signifies moving in judgment.
The Nicolaitans. From nika×n to conquer, and lao/ß the people. There are two principal explanations of the term. The first and better one historical. A sect springing, according to credible tradition, from Nicholas a proselyte of Antioch, one of the seven deacons of Jerusalem (Acts 6:5), who apostatized from the truth, and became the founder of an Antinomian Gnostic sect. They appear to have been characterized by sensuality, seducing Christians to participate in the idolatrous feasts of pagans, and to unchastity. Hence they are denoted by the names of Balaam and Jezebel, two leading agents of moral contamination under the Old Testament dispensation. Balaam enticed the Israelites, through the daughters of Moab and Midian, to idolatry and fornication (Numbers 25; 31:16). Jezebel murdered the Lord's prophets, and set up idolatry in Israel. The Nicolaitans taught that, in order to master sensuality, one must know the whole range of it by experience; and that he should therefore abandon himself without reserve to the lusts of the body, since they concerned only the body and did not touch the spirit. These heretics were hated and expelled by the Church of Ephesus (Revelation 2:6), but were tolerated by the Church of Pergamum (Revelation 2:15). The other view regards the name as symbolic, and Nicholas as the Greek rendering of Balaam, whose name signifies destroyer or corrupter of the people. This view is adopted by Trench ("Seven Churches"), who says: "The Nicolaitans are the Balaamites; no sect bearing the one name or the other; but those who, in the new dispensation, repeated the sin of Balaam in the old, and sought to overcome or destroy the people of God by the same temptations whereby Balaam had sought to overcome them before." The names, however, are by no means parallel: Conqueror of the people not being the same as corrupter of the people. Besides, in verse 14, the Balaamites are evidently distinguished from the Nicolaitans.
Alford remarks: "There is no sort of reason for interpreting the name otherwise than historically. It occurs in a passage indicating simple matters of historical fact, just as the name Antipas does in verse 13."
7. He that hath an ear, etc. Compare Matthew 11:15; Mark 4:9. The phrase is not found in John's Gospel. It is used always of radical truths, great principles and promises.
To him that overcometh (tw× nikw×nti) A formula common to all these Epistles. The verb is used absolutely without any object expressed. It is characteristic of John, occurring once in the Gospel, six times in the First Epistle, sixteen times in Revelation, and elsewhere only Luke 11:22; Romans 3:4; 12:21.
Will I give. This phrase has a place in every one of these Epistles. The verb is John's habitual word for the privileges and functions of the Son, whether as bestowed upon Him by the Father, or dispensed by Him. to His followers. See John 3:35; 5:22, 27, 36; 6:65; 13:3; 17:6. Compare Revelation 2:23; 3:8; 6:4; 11:3.
Of the tree (ek xu/lou). The preposition ek out of occurs one hundred and twenty-seven times in Revelation, and its proper signification is almost universally out of; but this rendering in many of the passages would be so strange and unidiomatic, that the New Testament Revisers have felt themselves able to adopt it only forty-one times out of all that number, and employ of, from, by, with, on, at, because of, by reason of, from among. See, for instance, chapter 2:7, 21, 22; 6:4, 10; 8:11; 9:18; 14:13; 15:2; 16:21. Compare John 3:31; 4:13, 6:13, 39, 51; 8:23, 44; 9:6; 11:1; 12:3, 27, 32; 17:5.
Tree, lit., wood. See on Luke 23:31; 1 Peter 2:24. Dean Plumptre notes the fact that, prominent as this symbol had been in the primeval history, it had remained unnoticed in the teaching where we should most have looked for its presence in that of the Psalmist and Prophets of the Old Testament. Only in the Proverbs of Solomon had it been used, in a sense half allegorical and half mystical (Proverbs. 3:18; 13:12; 11:30; 15:4). The revival of the symbol in Revelation is in accordance with the theme of the restitution of all things. "The tree which disappeared with the disappearance of the earthly Paradise, reappears with the reappearance of the heavenly." To eat of the tree of life expresses participation in the life eternal. The figure of the tree of life appears in all mythologies from India to Scandinavia. The Rabbins and Mohammedans called the vine the probation tree. The Zend Avesta has its tree of life called the Death-Destroyer. It grows by the waters of life, and the drinking of its sap confers immortality. The Hindu tree of life is pictured as growing out of a great seed in the midst of an expanse of water. It has three branches, each crowned with a sun, denoting the three powers of creation, preservation, and renovation after destruction. In another representation Budha sits in meditation under a tree with three branches, each branch having three stems. One of the Babylonian cylinders discovered by Layard, represents three priestesses gathering the fruit of what seems to be a palm-tree with three branches on each side. Athor, the Venus of the Egyptians, appears half-concealed in the branches of the sacred peach-tree, giving to the departed soul the fruit, and the drink of heaven from a vial from which the streams of life descend upon the spirit, a figure at the foot of the tree, like a hawk, with a human head and with hands outstretched.
In the Norse mythology a prominent figure is Igdrasil, the Ash-tree of Existence; its roots in the kingdom of Eels or Death, its trunk reaching to heaven, and its boughs spread over the whole universe. At its foot, in the kingdom of Death, sit three Nornas or Fates, the Past, the Present, and the Future, watering its roots from the sacred well. Compare chapter 22:2,14,19. Virgil, addressing Dante at the completion of the ascent of the Purgatorial Mount, says:
"That apple sweet, which through so many branches
The care of mortals goeth in pursuit of,
Today shall put in peace thy hungerings."
"Purgatorio," xxvii., 115117.
Paradise. See on Luke 23:43. Omit in the midst of. Para¿deisoß Paradise "passes through a series of meanings, each one higher than the last. From any garden of delight, which is its first meaning, it comes to be predominantly applied to the garden of Eden, then to the resting-place of separate souls in joy and felicity, and lastly to the very heaven itself; and we see eminently in it, what we see indeed in so many words, how revealed religion assumes them into her service, and makes them vehicles of far higher truth than any which they knew at first, transforming and transfiguring them, as in this case, from glory to glory" (Trench).
8. Smyrna. Lying a little north of Ephesus, on a gulf of the same name. The original city was destroyed about B.C. 627, and was deserted and in ruins for four hundred years. Alexander the Great contemplated its restoration, and his design was carried out after his death. The new city was built a short distance south of the ancient one, and became the finest in Asia Minor, being known as the glory of Asia. It was one of the cities which claimed the honor of being Homer's birthplace. A splendid temple was erected by the Smyrnaeans to his memory, and a cave in the neighborhood of the city was shown where he was said to have composed his poems. Smyrna's fine harbor made it a commercial center; but it was also distinguished for its schools of rhetoric and philosophy. Polycarp was the first bishop of its church, which suffered much from persecution, and he was said to have suffered martyrdom in the stadium of the city, A.D. 166. It is argued with some plausibility that Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna at the time of the composition of Revelation, and was the person addressed here. This question, however, is bound up with that of the date of composition (see Trench, "Epistles to the Seven Churches"). The city was a seat of the worship of Cybele the Mother of the gods, and of Dionysus or Bacchus.
Was dead (ege÷neto nekro\ß). Lit., became dead.
Is alive (e¶zhsen). Lit., lived. Rev., properly, lived again; the word being used of restoration to life. See, for a similar usage, Matthew 9:18; John 5:25.
9. Thy works and. Omit.
Tribulation (qliyin). See on Matthew 13:21. Referring to the persecutions of Jewish and heathen oppressors. See on Smyrna, verse 8.
Poverty (ptwcei÷an). Because, like all the other early Christian churches, the majority of its members were of the poorer classes, and also, perhaps, with reference to their robbery by persecutors. See on poor, Matthew 5:3.
Rich. In faith and grace. Compare James 2:6, 7; 1 Timothy 6:17, 18; Luke 12:21; Matthew 19:21.
Blasphemy (blasfhmi÷an). See on Mark 7:22. Not primarily direct blasphemy against God, but reviling at believers.
Jews. Literally. Not Christians, as in Philippians 3:3; Romans 2:28, 29. Actually Jews by birth, but not spiritually. The title is not given them by the Spirit, nor by the seer, but by themselves; and none would use that title except such as were Jews by birth and by religion. The enmity of the Jews against Christians is a familiar fact to all readers of the book of Acts; and it is a matter of history that their malignity was especially displayed toward the Church of Smyrna. In the circular letter addressed by the Church of Smyrna to the churches in the Christian world, it is related that Jews joined with heathen in clamoring that Polycarp should be cast to the lions or burned alive, and were foremost wÓß e¶qoß aujtoiß (as was their wont) in bringing logs for the pile, and in the endeavor to prevent the remains of the martyr from being delivered to his Christian associates for burial.
Synagogue of Satan. For synagogue, see on assembly, James 2:2, the only passage in which the word is used for a Christian assembly. This fact goes to support the literal explanation of the term Jews. For Satan, see on Luke 10:18. For John's use of the expression the Jews, see on John 1:19. The use of the word here in an honorable sense, so different from John's custom, has been urged against his authorship of Revelation. But John here only quotes the word, and, further, employs it without the article.
10. Fear not (mhde«n fobouv). Lit., fear nothing. For the verb, see on Luke 1:50.
Behold (idou\ dh\). The particle dh\ for certain, which is not rendered, gives a quality of assurance to the prediction.
The Devil (dia¿boloß). See on Matthew 4:1. The persecution of the Christians is thus traced to the direct agency of Satan, and not to the offended passions or prejudices of men. Trench observes: "There is nothing more remarkable in the records which have come down to us of the early persecutions, than the sense which the confessors and martyrs and those who afterwards narrate their sufferings and their triumphs entertain and utter, that these great fights of affliction through which they were called to pass, were the immediate work of the Devil."
Shall cast (me÷llei balein). Rev., rightly, is about to cast.
Prison (fulakh\n). See on Acts 5:21.
May be tried (peirasqh/te). Tempted. See on 1 Peter 1:7.
Tribulation ten days (qliyin hJmerw×n de÷ka). Lit., a tribulation of ten days.
Be thou (gi÷nou). The exact force of the word cannot be given by a corresponding word in English. Lit., "become thou." There is to be a succession of trials demanding an increase in the power and a variety in the direction of faith. With reference to these trials, faithfulness is to be not only existent but becoming, developing with new strength and into new applications.
Unto death (aýcri qana¿tou). Not faithful until the time of death, but faithful up to a measure which will endure death for Christ's sake. "It is an intensive, not an extensive term."
A crown (to\n ste÷fanon). Rev., rightly, "the crown." See on 1 Peter 5:4; James 1:12. Crown is used with a variety of words: crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8); glory (1 Peter 5:4); beauty Isaiah 62:3, Sept., A.V., glory); pride (Isaiah 28:1); rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
Of life (thvß zwhvß). The full phrase is the crown of the life: i.e., the crown which consists in life eternal. The image is not taken from the Greek games, although Smyrna contained a temple of Olympian Jupiter, and Olympian games were celebrated there. It is the diadem of royalty rather than the garland of victory, though more commonly used in the latter sense. It is not likely that John would use an image from the games, since there was the most violent prejudice against them on the part of Jewish Christians; a prejudice which, on occasions of their celebration, provoked the special ferocity of the pagans against what they regarded as the unpatriotic and unsocial character of Christ's disciples. It was at the demand of the people assembled in the stadium that Polycarp was given up to death. Moreover, it is doubtful whether any symbol in Revelation is taken from heathenism. The imagery is Jewish.
11. Be hurt (aÓdikhqhvØ). Strictly, wronged.
Second death. An expression peculiar to the Revelation. See 20:6, 14; 21:8. In those two passages it is defined as the lake of fire. The death awaiting the wicked after judgment.
12. Pergamos. The proper form of the name is Pergamum. It was situated in Teuthrania in Mysia, in a district watered by three rivers, by one of which it communicated with the sea. The original city was built on a lofty hill, which afterward became the citadel as houses sprang up around its base. The local legends attached a sacred character to the place, which, together with its natural strength, made it a place of deposit for royal treasure. The city was mainly indebted to Eumenes II. (B.C. 197159) for its embellishment and extension. In addition to walks and public buildings, he founded the library, which contained two-hundred-thousand volumes, and was second only to that of Alexandria. The kingdom of Pergamum became a Roman province B.C. 130; but the city continued to flourish, so that Pliny styled it by far the most illustrious of Asia. All the main roads of Western Asia converged there. Pergamum was celebrated for the manufacture of ointments, pottery, tapestries, and parchment, which derives its name (charta Pergamena) from the city. It contained a celebrated and much-frequented temple of Aesculapius, who was worshipped in the form of a living serpent fed in the temple. Hence Aesculapius was called the God of Pergamum, and on the coins struck by the town he often appears with a rod encircled by a serpent. The great glory of the city was the Nicephorium, a grove of great beauty containing an assemblage of temples. The city has been described as a sort of union of a pagan cathedral-city, a university-town, and a royal residence, embellished during a succession of years by kings who all had a passion for expenditure and ample means of gratifying it. The streams which embraced the town irrigated the groves of Nicephorium and of Aesculapius, in which flourished the licentious rites of pagan antiquity. The sacred character of the city appears in coins and inscriptions which described the Pergamenes by the title claimed by the worshippers of Diana at Ephesus, newko/roi temple-sweepers or sacristans.
The sharp sword with two edges. See on chapter 1:16.
13. Dwellest (katoikeiß). See on Luke 11:26; Acts 2:5.
Seat (qro/noß). Rev., rightly, throne, which is a transcript of the Greek word. Better than seat, because it is intended to represent Satan as exercising dominion there. The word is used in the New Testament of a kingly throne (Luke 1:32, 52; Acts 2:30): of the judicial tribunal or bench (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30): of the seats of the elders (Revelation 4:4; 11:16). Also, by metonymy, of one who exercises authority, so, in the plural, of angels (Colossians 1:16), thrones belonging to the highest grade of angelic beings whose place is in the immediate presence of God.
Holdest fast (krateiß). See on Matthew 7:3; Acts 3:11.
My name. See on 1 John 1:7.
My faith. See on Acts 6:7.
Antipas. There is no other record of this martyr.
14. Doctrine (didach\n). Rev., better, teaching.
Balaam. See Numbers 25:19; 31:15, 16. Compare 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11.
A stumbling-block (ska¿ndalon). See on offend, Matthew 5:29, and offense, Matthew 16:23.
Before (enw¿pion). Lit., in the sight of. See on Luke 24:11.
Things sacrificed to idols (eidwlo/quta). In the A.V. the word is rendered in four different ways: meats offered to idols (Acts 15:29): things offered to idols (Acts 21:25): things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols (1 Corinthians 8:4); and as here Rev., uniformly, things sacrificed to idols.
The eating of idol meats, which was no temptation to the Jewish Christian, was quite otherwise to the Gentile. The act of sacrifice, among all ancient nations, was a social no less than a religious act. Commonly only a part of the victim was consumed as an offering, and the rest became the portion of the priests, was given to the poor, or was sold again in the markets. Hence sacrifice and feast were identified. The word originally used for killing in sacrifice (qu/ein) obtained the general sense of killing (Acts 10:13). Among the Greeks this identification was carried to the highest pitch. Thucydides enumerates sacrifices among popular entertainments. "We have not forgotten," he says, "to provide for our weary spirits many relaxations from toil. We have regular games and sacrifices throughout the year" (2:38). So Aristotle: "And some fellowships seem to be for the sake of pleasure; those of the followers of Love, and those of club-diners; for these are for the sake of sacrifice and social intercourse "("Ethics," viii., 9, 5). Suetonius relates of Claudius, the Roman Emperor, that, on one occasion, while in the Forum of Augustus, smelling the odor of the banquet which was being prepared for the priests in the neighboring temple of Mars, he left the tribunal and placed himself at the table with the priests ("Claudius," 33). Also how Vitellius would snatch from the altar-fire the entrails of victims and the corn, and consume them ("Vitellius," 13). Thus, for the Gentile, "refusal to partake of the idol-meats involved absence from public and private festivity, a withdrawal, in great part, from the social life of his time." The subject is discussed by Paul in Romans 14:221, and 1 Corinthians 8:111. 1. The council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) forbade the eating of meat offered to idols, not as esteeming it forbidden by the Mosaic law, but as becoming a possible occasion of sin to weak Christians. In his letter to the Corinthians, among whom the Jewish and more scrupulous party was the weaker, Paul, in arguing with the stronger and more independent party, never alludes to the decree of the Jerusalem council, but discusses the matter from the stand-point of the rights of conscience. While he admits the possibility of a blameless participation in a banquet, even in the idol-temple, he dissuades from it on the ground of its dangerous consequences to weak consciences, and as involving a formal recognition of the false worship which they had renounced at their baptism. "In the Epistle to the Romans we see the excess to which the scruples of the weaker brethren were carried, even to the pitch of abstaining altogether from animal food; as, ill the Nicolaitans of the Apocalyptic churches, we see the excess of the indifferentist party, who plunged without restraint into all the pollutions, moral as well as ceremonial, with which the heathen rites were accompanied" (Stanley, "On Corinthians"). "It may be noted as accounting for the stronger and more vehement language of the Apocalypse, considered even as a simply Human book, that the conditions of the case had altered. Christians and heathen were no longer dwelling together, as at Corinth, with comparatively slight interruption to their social intercourse, but were divided by a sharp line of demarcation. The eating of things sacrificed to idols was more and more a crucial test, involving a cowardly shrinking from the open confession of a Christian's faith. Disciples who sat at meat in the idol's temple were making merry with those whose hands were red with the blood of their fellow-worshippers, and whose lips had uttered blaspheming scoffs against the Holy Name "(Plumptre).
In times of persecution, tasting the wine of the libations or eating meat offered to idols, was understood to signify recantation of Christianity.
15. So. Even as Balak had Balaam for a false teacher, so hast thou the Nicolaitan teachers.
Nicolaitans. See on verse 6.
Which thing I hate. Omit.
16. I will make war (polemh/sw). The words war and make war occur oftener in Revelation than in any other book of the New Testament. "An eternal roll of thunder from the throne" (Renan).
17. To eat. Omit.
Of the hidden manna (touv ma¿nna touv kekrumme÷nou). The allusion may be partly to the pot of manna which was laid up in the ark in the sanctuary. See Exodus 16:3234; compare Hebrews 9:4. That the imagery of the ark was familiar to John appears from chapter 11:19. This allusion however is indirect, for the manna laid up in the ark was not for food, but was a memorial of food once enjoyed. Two ideas seem to be combined in the figure:
1. Christ as the bread from heaven, the nourishment of the life of believers, the true manna, of which those who eat shall never die (John 6:3143; 4851); hidden, in that He is withdrawn from sight, and the Christian's life is hid with Him in God (Colossians 3:3). 2. The satisfaction of the believer's desire when Christ shall be revealed. The hidden manna shall not remain for ever hidden. We shall see Christ as He is, and be like Him (1 John 3:2). Christ gives the manna in giving Himself "The seeing of Christ as He is, and, through this beatific vision, being made like to Him, is identical with the eating of the hidden manna, which shall, as it were, be then brought forth from the sanctuary, the holy of holies of God's immediate presence where it was withdrawn from sight so long, that all may partake of it; the glory of Christ, now shrouded and concealed, being then revealed to His people" (Trench).
This is one of numerous illustrations of the dependence of Revelation upon Old Testament history and prophecy. "To such an extent is this the case," says Professor Milligan, "that it may be doubted whether it contains a single figure not drawn from the Old Testament, or a single complete sentence not more or less built up of materials brought from the same source." See, for instance, Balaam (2:14); Jezebel (2:20); Michael (12:7, compare Daniel 10:13; 12:1); Abaddon (9:11); Jerusalem, Mt. Zion, Babylon, the Euphrates, Sodom, Egypt (21:2; 14:1; 16:19; 9:14; 11:8); Gog and Magog (20:8, compare Ezekiel 38, 39.). Similarly, the tree of life, the sceptre of iron, the potter's vessels, the morning-star (2:7,17, 27, 28). Heaven is described under the figure of the tabernacle in the wilderness (11:1, 19; 6:9; 8:3; 11:19; 4:6). The song of the redeemed is the song of Moses (15:3). The plagues of Egypt appear in the blood, fire, thunder, darkness and locusts (chapter 8). "The great earthquake of chapter 6. is taken from Haggai; the sun becoming black as sackcloth of hair and the moon becoming blood (chapter 8) from Joel: the stars of heaven falling, the fig-tree casting her untimely figs, the heavens departing as a scroll (chapter 8.) from Isaiah: the scorpions of chapter 9. from Ezekiel: the gathering of the vine of the earth (chapter 14.) from Joel, and the treading of the wine-press in the same chapter from Isaiah." So too the details of a single vision are gathered out of different prophets or different parts of the same prophet. For instance, the vision of the glorified Redeemer (1:1220). The golden candlesticks are from Exodus and Zechariah; the garment down to the foot from Exodus and Daniel; the golden girdle and the hairs like wool from Isaiah and Daniel; the feet like burnished brass, and the voice like the sound of many waters, from Ezekiel; the two-edged sword from Isaiah and Psalms; the countenance like the sun from Exodus; the falling of the seer as dead from Exodus, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; the laying of Jesus' right hand on the seer from Daniel.
"Not indeed that the writer binds himself to the Old Testament in a slavish spirit. He rather uses it with great freedom and independence, extending, intensifying, or transfiguring its descriptions at his pleasure. Yet the main source of his emblems cannot be mistaken. The sacred books of his people had been more than familiar to him. They had penetrated his whole being. They had lived within him as a germinating seed, capable of shooting up not only in the old forms, but in new forms of life and beauty. In the whole extent of sacred and religious literature there is to be found nowhere else such a perfect fusion of the revelation given to Israel with the mind of one who would either express Israel's ideas, or give utterance, by means of the symbols supplied by Israel's history, to the present and most elevated thoughts of the Christian faith "(this note is condensed from Professor Milligan's "Baird Lectures on the Revelation of St. John").
A white stone (yhvfon leukh\n). See on counteth, Luke 14:28; and white, Luke 9:29. The foundation of the figure is not to be sought in Gentile but in Jewish customs. "White is everywhere the color and livery of heaven "(Trench). See chapter 1:14; 3:5; 7:9; 14:14; 19:8, 11, 14; 20:11. It is the bright, glistering white. Compare Matthew 28:3; Luke 24:4; John 20:12; Revelation 20:11; Daniel 7:9.
It is impossible to fix the meaning of the symbol with any certainty. The following are some of the principal views: The Urim and Thummim concealed within the High-Priest's breastplate of judgment. This is advocated by Trench, who supposes that the Urim was a peculiarly rare stone, possibly the diamond, and engraven with the ineffable name of God. The new name he regards as the new name of God or of Christ (chapter 3:12); some revelation of the glory of God which can be communicated to His people only in the higher state of being, and which they only can understand who have actually received.
Professor Milligan supposes an allusion to the plate of gold worn on the High-Priest's forehead, and inscribed with the words "Holiness to the Lord," but, somewhat strangely, runs the figure into the stone or pebble used in voting, and regards the white stone as carrying the idea of the believer's acquittal at the hands of God.
Dean Plumptre sees in the stone the signet by which, in virtue of its form or of the characters inscribed on it, he who possessed it could claim from the friend who gave it, at any distance of time, a frank and hearty welcome; and adds to this an allusion to the custom of presenting such a token, with the guest's name upon it, of admission to the feast given to those who were invited to partake within the temple precincts a feast which consisted wholly or in part of sacrificial meats.
Others, regarding the connection of the stone with the manna, refer to the use of the lot cast among the priests in order to determine which one should offer the sacrifice.
Others, to the writing of a candidate's name at an election by ballot upon a stone or bean.
In short, the commentators are utterly divided, and the true interpretation remains a matter of conjecture.
A new name. Some explain the new name of God or of Christ (compare chapter 3:12); others, of the recipient's own name. "A new name however, a revelation of his everlasting title as a son of God to glory in Christ, but consisting of and revealed in those personal marks and signs of God's peculiar adoption of himself, which he and none other is acquainted with" (Alford). Bengel says: "Wouldst thou know what kind of a new name thou wilt obtain? Overcome. Before that thou wilt ask in vain, and after that thou wilt soon read it inscribed on the white stone."
18. Thyatira. Situated on the confines of Mysia and Ionia. According to Pliny it was known in earlier times as Pelopia and Euhippia. Its prosperity received a new impulse under the Roman Emperor Vespasian. The city contained a number of corporate guilds, as potters, tanners, weavers, robe-makers, and dyers. It was from Thyatira that Lydia the purple-seller of Philippi came, Paul's first European convert. The numerous streams of the adjacent country were full of leeches. The principal deity of the city was Apollo, worshipped as the Sun-God under the surname Tyrimnas. A shrine outside the walls was dedicated to Sambatha, a sibyl. The place was never of paramount political importance.
Son of God. Compare Son of man, chapter 1:13; Psalms 2:7; chapter 19:13.
Who hath His eyes, etc. See on chapter 1:14,15.
Thy works, and the last, etc. Omit and, and read, as Rev., and that thy last works are more than the first.
20. A few things. Omit.
Thou sufferest (ea×ß). Used absolutely. Toleratest.
That woman. Rev., the woman. Some translate thy wife.
Jezebel. Used symbolically, but with reference to the notorious historic Jezebel. She was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon (1 Kings 16:31), formerly a priest of Astarte, and who had made his way to the throne by the murder of his predecessor Pheles. Ahab's marriage with her was the first instance of a marriage with a heathen princess of a king of the northern kingdom of Israel. This alliance was a turning-point in the moral history of the kingdom. From the times of David and Solomon many treaties had been concluded between Phoenicia and Israel; but it was at the same time the special business of the kingdom of the ten tribes to restore the ancient rigidness of the nationality of Israel. Jezebel looked down with perverse pride upon a people whose religion she neither understood nor respected. Though the ten tribes had yielded to idolatry in the worship of the calves, the true God was still worshipped and the law of Moses acknowledged. From the time of Ahab's marriage the apostasy of Israel became more decided and deadly. She was "a woman in whom, with the reckless and licentious habits of an Oriental queen, were united the fiercest and sternest qualities inherent in the old Semitic race. Her husband, in whom generous and gentle feelings were not wanting, was yet of a weak and yielding character which soon made him a tool in her hands. ... The wild license of her life and the magical fascination of her arts or her character became a proverb in the nation. Round her and from her, in different degrees of nearness, is evolved the awful drama of the most eventful crisis of this portion of the Israelite history" (Stanley, "Jewish Church"). She sought to exterminate the prophets of Jehovah (1 Kings 18:13), and inaugurated the worship of Baal the Sun-God on a magnificent scale. Two sanctuaries were established, one for each of the great Phoenician deities, at each of the two new capitals of the kingdom, Samaria and Jezreel. The sanctuary of Astarte or Ashtaroth (the Phoenician Venus) at Jezreel was under Jezebel's special sanction, and there is reason to suppose that she ministered as a priestess in that licentious worship. Four hundred priests or prophets were attached to this sanctuary and were supported at her table. The sanctuary to Baal at Samaria was large enough to contain all the worshippers of the northern kingdom. Its staff consisted of four hundred and fifty priests, and the interior contained representations of the Sun-God on small pillars, while a large statue of the same deity was set up in front. At these sanctuaries Ahab in person offered sacrifices.
Expositors are divided as to the symbolic import of the name in this passage, some referring it to a single person "some single wicked woman in the Church of Thyatira inheriting this name of infamy in the Church of God," giving herself out as a prophetess, and seducing the servants of Christ to commit fornication and to eat things offered to idols. Others interpret the name as designating an influential heretical party in the Church: but, as Alford remarks, "the real solution must lie hidden until all that is hidden shall be known." It is clear, at any rate, that Thyatira, like the Church of old, had sinned by her alliance with a corrupt faith and practice.
To teach and to seduce (dida¿skein kai« plana×sqai). The best texts read kai« dida¿skei and she teacheth and seduceth. So Rev. For seduceth see on err, Mark 12:24, and deceiver and error, Matthew 28:63, 64. The word plana×n to seduce is found oftener in Revelation than elsewhere in the New Testament. It never means mere error as such, but fundamental departure from the truth.
To commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols. Both sins of the historical Jezebel. See 2 Kings 9:22, 30; Jeremiah 4:30; Nahum 3:4.
21. Space (cro/non). Lit., time, as Rev.
Repent (metanoh/shØ). See on Matthew 3:2; 21:29.
Of her fornication (ek). Lit., out of; i.e., so as to come out of and escape from her sin. See on verse 7.
22. Into a bed. Of anguish. The scene of the sin is also the scene of the punishment.
Commit adultery (moiceu/ontaß). A wider term than porneuvsai to commit fornication. Compare the metaphorical meaning expressing the rebellion and idolatry of Israel (Jeremiah 3:8; 5:7; Ezekiel 16:32).
With her (met aujthvß). Not with her as the conjux adulteri, but who share with her in her adulteries.
Of their deeds (ek tw×n e¶rgwn aujtw×n). Read aujthvß her (deeds). Repent out of (ek) as in verse 21.
23. Children (te÷kna). Emphatic. Distinguished from the participators of verse 22, as her proper adherents, "who are begotten of her and go to constitute her." Others, however, deny any distinction (Milligan), and others (as Trench) explain as the less forward and prominent members of the wicked company, deceived where the others were the deceivers.
With death (en qana¿tw). To kill with death is a very strong expression. Compare Leviticus 20:10, Sept., qana¿tw qanatou/sqwsan shall be put to death (A. 5:and Rev.). Lit., let them be put to death with death. The reference can hardly be to the slaughter of Ahab's seventy sons (2 Kings 10:6, 7) who were not Jezebel's children.
All the churches. Not merely the seven churches, but the churches throughout the world.
Shall know (gnw¿sontai). See on John 2:24.
Searcheth (ereunw×n). See John 5:39; 7:52; Romans 8:27. Compare Jeremiah 11:20; 17:10; 20:12; 1 Peter 1:11. Denoting a careful search, a following up or tracking. See Genesis 31:35; 1 Kings 20:6; Proverbs 20:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10.
Reins (nefrou\ß). Only here in the New Testament. Strictly, kidneys. Used of the thoughts, feelings, and purposes of the soul. A similar use of the physical for the spiritual organ is spla¿gcna bowels for heart. See pitiful, 1 Peter 3:8.
24. And unto the rest. Omit and, and render, as Rev., to you I say, to the rest, etc.
And which (kai« oiºtineß). Omit kai« and. The compound relative, which, classifies; which are of those who know not, etc.
The depths of Satan (ta» ba¿qh touv Satana×). The reference is, most probably, to the Gnostic sect of the Ophites (o¡fiß a serpent), or, in Hebrew, Naasenes (vDjÎn a serpent), serpent-worshippers, a sect the origin of which is unknown, but which existed as late as the sixth century; since, in 530, Justinian passed laws against it. "The veneration of the serpent was but the logical development of a theory, the germ of which is common to many of the Gnostic sects. Proceeding on the assumption that the creator of the world is to be regarded as an evil power, a thing in hostility to the supreme God, it follows as a natural consequence that the fall of man through disobedience to the command of his maker must be regarded, not as a transgression against the will of the supreme God, but as an emancipation from the authority of an evil being. The serpent, therefore, who tempted mankind to sin, is no longer their destroyer but their benefactor. He is the symbol of intellect, by whose means the first human pair were raised to the knowledge of the existence of higher beings than their creator. This conception, consistently carried out, would have resulted in a direct inversion of the whole teaching of scripture; in calling evil good and good evil; in converting Satan into God and God into Satan. The majority of the Ophite sects, however, seem to have shrunk from this portentous blasphemy. While acknowledging the fall of man as, in some manner, a deliverance from evil and an exaltation of human nature, they hesitated to carry out their principle by investing the evil spirit with the attributes of deity. A kind of compromise was made between scripture and philosophy. The serpent was, notwithstanding his service to mankind, represented as a being of evil nature and au enemy to man, though his work was overruled to man's good, and he himself was, beyond his intention, the instrument of a higher wisdom. Rut in one sect at least of the Ophites, the more logical and thoroughly blasphemous consequences of the first principles were exhibited openly and unblushingly" (Mansel, "Gnostic Heresies"). The characteristic boast of the Gnostics was their knowledge of the depths of divine things. In this they were probably perverting and caricaturing the words of Paul (Romans 11:33; 1 Corinthians 2:10).
As they speak. Rev., as they say. The questions are, 1st. What is the phrase alluded to? Is it the familiar formula of these heretics, "the depths," or "the depths of God," the depths of Satan being added by the Lord himself in ironical contrast with the depths of divine knowledge, or is it the depths of Satan? 2nd. Does as they say refer to Christians, describing the depths of the Gnostics as depths of Satan, or does it refer to the heretics themselves, calling their own mysteries depths of Satan?
The majority of commentators regard as they say as referring to the heretics, and as applying only to the word depths; of Satan being added by the Lord in indignation. Alford says that no such formula as depths of Satan, or any resembling it, is found as used by the ancient Gnostic heretics.
Other burden (aýllo ba¿toß). The words for burden in the New Testament are o¡gkoß (only in Hebrews 12:1), ba¿roß (Matthew 20:12; Galatians 6:2), and forti÷on (Matthew 11:30; 23:4; Galatians 6:5). Ogkoß refers to bulk, ba¿roß to weight, forti÷on to a burden so far as it is born (fe÷rw). Thus in Hebrews 12:1, "lay aside every weight (o¡gkoß)," the figure being that of runners in the race-course, and the word appropriate as denoting the bulky robes and the accoutrements of the ordinary dress which might impede the freedom of the limbs. In Matthew 20:12, "the burden (ba¿roß) and heat of the day," the idea is that of heavy toil pressing like a weight. So Galatians 6:2, "Bear ye one another's burdens." But in Galatians 6:5, the emphasis is on the act of bearing; and therefore forti÷on is used: "Every man shall bear his own burden;" i.e., every man shall carry that which it is appointed him to bear. The reference in that passage is probably to the prohibition enjoined by the apostolic council of Jerusalem, which concerned the very things which are rebuked here fornication and abstinence from idol-meats. In the narrative of that council the phrase occurs "to lay upon you no greater burden" (Acts 15:28). The meaning accordingly will be, "I put upon you no other burden than abstinence from and protest against these abominations."
25. Hold fast (krath/sate). See on Mark 7:3; Acts 3:11.
Till I come (aýcriß ou a·n h¢xw). The conditional particle a·n marks the time of His coming as uncertain.
26. Keepeth my works (thrw×n ta» e¶rga mou). The phrase occurs only here in the New Testament. The works are those which Christ commands, which He does, and which are the fruits of His Spsrit. See on John 4:47.
Power (exousi÷an). See on John 1:12. Rev., better, authority.
Nations (eqnw×n). See on Matthew 25:32, and Gentiles, Luke 2:32. Properly, here, the Gentiles, as opposed to the true Israel of God.
27. Shall rule (poimanei). Lit., shall shepherd. A comparison with chapter 7:17, brings out the terrible irony in this word. Compare Psalms 2:9, Sept., where the same word is used. A.V., break. See on rule, Matthew 2:6; feed, Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2; Jude 12.
Rod (rJa¿bdw). Commonly rendered staff, once sceptre, Hebrews 1:8. This is its meaning here.
Vessels (skeu/h). See on goods, Matthew 12. 29; vessel, 1 Peter 3. 7.
Of the potter (keramika»). From ke÷ramoß potter's clay.
Shall they be broken to shivers. The A.V. follows the reading suntribh/setai, the future tense of the verb. The correct reading is suntri÷betai, the present tense. Render therefore, as Rev., "as the vessels of the potter are broken." See on Mark 5:4, and bruising, Luke 9:39. The oun together gives the picture of the fragments collapsing into a heap.
28. The morning-star (to\n aÓste÷ra to\n prwi¦no/n). The star, that of the morning. One of John's characteristic constructions. See on 1 John 4:9. The reference is, most probably, to Christ himself. See chapter 22:16. He will give Himself. This interpretation falls in with the promise of power over the nations in verse 26. The star was the ancient emblem of sovereignty. See Numbers 24:17; Matthew 2:2. "It was the symbol of sovereignty on its brighter and benignant side, and was therefore the fitting and necessary complement of the dread attributes that had gone before. The king came not only to judge and punish, but also to illumine and cheer" (Plumptre). Compare 2 Peter 1:19.
1. Sardis. The capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia. It was situated in a plain watered by the river Pactolus. The city was of very ancient origin. Herodotus (i., 84) gives the account of its siege and capture by Cyrus, and of its previous fortification by an old king, Meles. It was ruled by a series of able princes, the last of whom was Croesus, celebrated for his wealth and his misfortunes. In the earlier part of his reign he extended his dominion over the whole of Asia Minor, with the exception of Lycia and Cilicia. The Lydian rule was terminated by the conquest of Cyrus. From the Persians it passed into the hands of Alexander the Great, after which, for the next three hundred years, its fortunes are obscure. In B.C. 214 it was taken and sacked by Antiochus the Great after a siege of two years. The kings of Pergamus next succeeded to the dominion, and from them it passed into the hands of the Romans.
In the time of Tiberius it was desolated by an earthquake, together with eleven or twelve other important cities of Asia, and the calamity was increased by a pestilence.
Sardis was in very early times an important commercial city Pliny says that the art of dyeing wool was invented there, and it was the entrepôt of the dyed woolen manufactures, carpets, etc., the raw material for which was furnished by the flocks of Phrygia. It was also the place where the metal electrum was procured. Gold was found in the bed of the Pactolus. Silver and gold coins are said to have been first minted there, and it was at one time known as a slave-mart. The impure worship of the goddess Cybele was celebrated there, and the massive ruins of her temple are still to be seen. The city is now a heap of ruins. In 1850 no human being found a dwelling there.
The seven Spirits of God. See on chapter 1:4.
1. Be watchful (gi÷nou grhgorw×n). Lit., become awake and on the watch. See on Mark 13:35; 1 Peter 5:8. Become what thou art not.
Strengthen (sth/rixon). See on 1 Peter 5:10, and compare Luke 22:32; Romans 1:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:3.
That are ready to die (a± me÷llei aÓpoqanein). Read e¶mellon were ready or about (to die).
I have not found thy works (ouj eu¢rhka¿ sou ta» e¶rga). Some texts omit the article before works, in which case we should render, I have found no works of thine. So Rev.
Perfect (peplhrwme÷na). Lit., fulfilled. So Rev.
God. The best texts insert mou, "my God."
3. Thou hast received and heard (ei¶lhfaß kai« h¡kousaß). The former of these verbs is in the perfect tense: thou hast received the truth as a permanent deposit. It remains with thee whether thou regardest it or not. The latter verb is ill the aorist tense, didst hear (so Rev.), denoting merely the act of hearing when it took place.
Watch. See on verse 2.
On thee. Omit.
As a thief (wÓß kle÷pthß). Thief, as distinguished from hp lhØsth/ß robber, a plunderer on a larger scale, who secures his booty not by stealth, but by violence. Hence the word is appropriate here to mark the unexpected and stealthy coming of the Lord. Compare 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4; 2 Peter 3:10.
Thou shalt not know what hour l will come upon thee. The Greek proverb says that the feet of the avenging deities are shod with wool. The sentiment is voiced in the two following fragments from Aeschylus:
"Whether one sleep or walk or sit at ease,
Unseen and voiceless Justice dogs his steps,
Striking athwart his path from right or left;
Nor what is foully done will night conceal:
Whate'er thou doest some God beholdeth thee."
"And dost thou deem that thou shalt e'er o'ercome
Wisdom divine? That retribution lies
Somewhere remote from mortals? Close at hand,
Unseen itself, it sees and knows full well
Whom it befits to smite. But thou know'st not
The hour when, swift and sudden, it shall come
And sweep away the wicked from the earth."
4. Thou hast a few names. The best texts insert aÓlla» but between these words and the close of the preceding verse. So Rev. But, notwithstanding the general apathy of the Church, thou hast a few, etc. Compare verse 1, thou hast a name, and see on chapter 11:13. Names is equivalent to persons, a few who may be rightly named as exceptions to the general conception.
Even in Sardis. Omit kai« even.
Defiled (emo/lunan). See on 1 Peter 1:4.
Garments. See the same figure, Jude 1:23. The meaning is, have not sullied the purity of their Christian life.
In white (en leukoiß). With imati÷oiß garments understood. See on chapter 2:17, and compare Zechariah. 3:3, 5. "White colors are suitable to the gods" (Plato, "Laws," xii., 956). So Virgil, of the tenants of Elysium:
"Lo, priests of holy life and chaste while they in life had part;
Lo, God-loved poets, men who spake things worthy Phoebus' heart:
And they who bettered life on earth by new-found mastery;
And they whose good deeds left a tale for men to name them by:
And all they had their brows about with snowy fillets bound."
"Aeneid," vi., 661665
The same shall be clothed (outoß peribaleitai). For outoß this, or the same, read ou¢twß thus: "shall thus be arrayed." so Rev. The verb denotes a solemn investiture, and means literally to throw or put around.
5. Book of life. Lit., the book of the life. For the figure, see Exodus 32:32; Psalms 69:28; Daniel 12:1; Philippians 4:3. Compare Luke 10:20; Hebrews 12:23.
I will confess (exomologh/somai). Openly confess (ex). See on Matthew 11:25; Acts 19:18; James 5:16.
7. Philadelphia. Seventy-five miles southeast of Sardis. The second city in Lydia. The adjacent region was celebrated as a wine-growing district, and its coins bore the head of Bacchus and the figure of a Bacchante. The population included Jews, Jewish Christians, and converts from heathenism. It suffered from frequent earthquakes. Of all the seven churches it had the longest duration of prosperity as a Christian city. It still exists as a Turkish town under the name of Allah Shehr, City of God. The situation is picturesque, the town being built on four or five hills, and well supplied with trees, and the climate is healthful. One of the mosques is believed by the native Christians to have been the gathering-place of the church addressed in Revelation. "One solitary pillar of high antiquity has been often noticed as reminding beholders of the words in chapter 3:12; Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God.'"
He that is holy (oj agioß). See on Acts 26:10. Christ is called holy, Acts 2:27; 13:35; Hebrews 7:26; in all which passages the word, however, is o¢sioß, which is holy by sanction, applied to one who diligently observes all the sanctities of religion. It is appropriate to Christ, therefore, as being the one in whom these eternal sanctities are grounded and reside. ðAgioß, the word used here, refers rather to separation from evil.
He that is true (oj aÓlhqino\ß). See on John 1:9. Alhqino\ß is not merely, genuine as contrasted with the absolutely false, but as contrasted with that which is only subordinately or typically true. It expresses the perfect realization of an idea as contrasted with its partial realization. Thus, Moses gave bread, but the Father giveth the true bread (to\n aýrton to\n aÓlhqino/n). Israel was a vine of God's planting (Psalms 80:8), Christ is the true (hj aÓlhqinh\) vine (John 15:1). The word is so characteristic of John that, while found only once in the Synoptic Gospels, once in a Pauline Epistle, and four times in the Epistle to the Hebrews, it occurs nine times in the fourth Gospel, four times in John's First Epistle, and ten times in Revelation, and in every instance in these three latter books in its own distinctive signification.
The key of David. See on chapter 1:18, and compare Isaiah 22:22. David is the type of Christ, the supreme ruler of the kingdom of heaven. See Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23; 37:24. The house of David is the typical designation of the kingdom of Jesus Christ (Psalms 122:5). The holding of the keys, the symbols of power, thus belongs to Christ as Lord of the kingdom and Church of God. See on Matthew 16:19; He admits and excludes at His pleasure.
No man shutteth (oujdei«ß klei÷ei). Read klei÷sei shall shut So Rev.
8. I have set (de÷dwka). Lit., I have given. For a similar phrase see Luke 12:51.
An open door (qu/ran aÓnewgme÷nhn). Rev., more literally, a door opened. This is variously explained. Some refer it to the entrance into the joy of the Lord; others to the initiation into the meaning of scripture; others again to the opportunity for the mission-work of the Church. In this last sense the phrase is often used by Paul. See 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3. Compare Acts 14:27. [Note: This is the explanation of Trench, Plumptre, Düsterdieck, and Alford, and seems on the whole, to be the preferable one. Professor Milligan argues at length for the second explanation, which is Bengel's.] I have given is appropriate, since all opportunities of service are gifts of God. See on chapter 2:7.
For thou hast (o¢ti e¶ceiß). Some texts make behold-shut parenthetical, and render o¢ti that, defining thy works, etc. So Rev.
A little strength (mikra»n du/namin). This would mean, thou hast some power, though small. Many, however, omit the indefinite article in translating, and render thou hast little strength; i.e., thou art poor in numbers and worldly resources. So Alford, Trench, and Düsterdieck.
And (kai«). John's single copula instead of a particle of logical connection. See on John 1:10; 6:46; 1 John 1:5; John 8:20.
Hast kept my word (eth/rhsa¿ß mou to\n lo/gon). Rev., rendering the aorist more strictly, didst keep. For the phrase, see John 17:6,8.
9. I will make (di÷dwmi). Rev., rightly, I give. See on verse 8. The sense is broken off there and resumed here.
Of the synagogue (ek thvß sunagwghvß). Certain ones of the synagogue. Most interpreters refer to the Jews. Others explain more generally, of the bowing down of the Church's enemies at her feet. Trench refers to a passage in the Epistle of Ignatius to this Philadelphian church, implying the actual presence in the midst of it of converts from Judaism, who preached the faith which they once persecuted.
Of Satan. See on chapter 2:9.
I will make them to come (poih/sw aujtou\ß iºna h¢xwsin) Lit., I will make them that they shall come.
Worship before thy feet. Compare Isaiah 60:14; 49:23.
10. The word of my patience (to\n lo/gon thvß uJpomonhvß mou) Not the words which Christ has spoken concerning patience, but the word of Christ which requires patience to keep it; the gospel which teaches the need of a patient waiting for Christ. On patience, see on 2 Peter 1:6; James 5:7.
From the hour (ek). The preposition implies, not a keeping from temptation, but a keeping in temptation, as the result of which they shall be delivered out of its power. Compare John 17:15.
Of temptation (touv peirasmouv). Lit., "of the trial" See on Matthew 6:13; 1 Peter 1:7. Rev., trial.
World (oikoume÷nhß). See on Luke 2:1
11. Behold. Omit.
That no one take thy crown (iºna mhdei«ß la¿bhØ to\n ste÷fanon). Take it away. The idea is not that of one believer stepping into the place which was designed for another, but of an enemy taking away from another the reward which he himself has forfeited. The expression is explained by Colossians 2:18. It is related by Mahomet that, after having attempted, in vain, to convert one Abdallah to the faith, and having been told by him to go about his business and to preach only to those who should come to him he went, downcast, to a friend's house. His friend, perceiving that he was sad, asked him the reason; and on being told of Abdallah's insult, said, "Treat him gently; for I swear that when God sent thee to us, we had already strung pearls to crown him, and he seeth that thou hast snatched the kingdom out of his grasp." For crown, see on chapter 2:10. Thy crown is not the crown which thou hast, but the crown which thou shalt have if thou shalt prove faithful.
12. Pillar (stu/lon). The word occurs, Galatians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:15; Revelation 10:1. The reference here is not to any prominence in the earthly church, as Galatians 2:9, but to blessedness in the future state. The exact meaning is doubtful. Some explain, he shall have a fixed and important place in the glorified church. Compare Matthew 19:28. Others emphasize the idea of stability, and find a possible local reference to the frequent earthquakes from which Philadelphia had suffered, and which had shaken its temples. Strabo says: "And Philadelphia has not even its walls unimpaired, but daily they are shaken in some way, and gaps are made in them. But the inhabitants continue to occupy the land notwithstanding their sufferings, and to build new houses." Others again emphasize the idea of beauty. Compare 1 Peter 2:5, where the saints are described living stones.
Temple (naw×). See on Matthew 4:5.
Upon him. The conqueror, not the pillar. Compare chapter 7:3; 9:4; 14:1; 22:4. Probably with reference to the golden plate inscribed with the name of Jehovah, and worn by the High-Priest upon his forehead (Exodus 28:36, 38). See on chapter 2:17.
New Jerusalem. See Ezekiel 48:35. The believer whose brow is adorned with this name has the freedom of the heavenly city. Even on earth his commonwealth is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). "Still, his citizenship was latent: he was one of God's hidden ones; but now he is openly avouched, and has a right to enter in by the gates to the city" (Trench). The city is called by John, the great and holy (Chapter 21:10); by Matthew, the holy city (4:5); by Paul, Jerusalem which is above (Galatians 4:6); by the writer to the Hebrews, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22). Plato calls his ideal city Callipolis, the fair city ("Republic," vii., 527), and the name Ouranopolis, heavenly city, was applied to Rome and Byzantium. For new (kainhvß), see on Matthew 26:29. The new Jerusalem is not a city freshly built (ne÷a), but is new (kainh\) in contrast with the old, outworn, sinful city. In the Gospel John habitually uses the Greek and civil form of the name, Ieroso/luma; in Revelation, the Hebrew and more holy appellation, Ierousa¿lhm. [Note: The literature of hymnology is very rich in hymns depicting the glory of the heavenly city. In Latin there are Jerusalem luminosa which reappears in Jerusalem my happy home, and O Mother dear Jerusalem: Urbs beata Jerusalem, which reappears in Blessed city, heavenly Salem: Urbs Sion Aurea, in Jerusalem the golden and Jerusalem the glorious. Of this O bona patria, translated in To thee, O dear, dear Country, is a portion. Also Bernard's Me receptet Sion, Illa. In English may be noted, besides the translations just referred to, Sweet place, sweet place alone; Hear what God the Lord hath spoken; Jerusalem, my happy home, when shall I come to thee? In German, Meyfart's Jerusalem du hochgebaute stadt, and Hiller's O Jerusalem du Schone. Of Meyfart's hymn there are two English translations, one by Miss Winkworth, Jerusalem, thou city fair and high, and the other by Bishop Whittingham of Maryland, Jerusalem, high tower thy glorious walls.]
14. Of the Laodiceans (Laodike÷wn). Read en Laodikei÷a in Laodicea. Laodicea means justice of the people. As Laodice was a common name among the ladies of the royal house of the Seleucidae, the name was given to several cities in Syria and Asia Minor. The one here addressed was on the confines of Phrygia and Lydia, about forty miles east of Ephesus, and was known as Laodicea on the Lycus. It had born successively the names of Diospolis and Rhoas, and was named Laodicea when refounded by Antiochus Theos, B.C. 261246. It was situated on a group of hills between two tributaries of the Lycus the Asopus and the Caprus. Towards the end of the Roman Republic, and under the first emperors, it became one of the most important and flourishing cities of Asia Minor. One of its citizens, Hiero, bequeathed all his enormous property to the people, and adorned the city with costly gifts. It was the seat of large money transactions and of an extensive trade in wood. The citizens developed a taste for Greek art, and were distinguished in science and literature. Laodicea was the seat of a great medical school. During the Roman period it was the chief city of a Roman conventus or political district, in which courts were held by the proconsul of the province, and where the taxes from the subordinate towns were collected. Cicero held his court there, and many of his letters were written thence. The conventus represented by Laodicea comprised not less than twenty-five towns, and inscriptions refer to the city as "the metropolis." The Greek word dioi÷khsiß, corresponding to the Latin conventus was subsequently applied to an ecclesiastical district, and appears in diocese. The tutelary deity of the city was Zeus (Jupiter). Hence its earlier name, Diospolis, or City of Zeus. Many of its inhabitants were Jews. It was subject to frequent earthquakes, which eventually resulted in its abandonment. It is now a deserted place, but its ruins indicate by their magnitude its former importance. Among these are a racecourse, and three theatres, one of which is four hundred and fifty feet in diameter. An important church council was held there in the fourth century.
The Amen. Used only here as a proper name. See Isaiah 65:16, where the correct rendering is the God of the Amen, instead of A.V. God of truth. The term applied to the Lord signifies that He Himself is the fulfilment of all that God has spoken to the churches.
Faithful (pisto/ß). The word occurs in the New Testament in two senses: trusty, faithful Matthew 24:45; 25:21, 23; Luke 12:42); and believing, confiding (John 20:27; Galatians 3:9; Acts 16:1). Of God, necessarily only in the former sense.
True (aÓlhqino\ß). See on verse 7. The veracity of Christ is thus asserted in the word faithful, true being not true as distinguished from false, but true to the normal idea of a witness.
The beginning (hj aÓrch/). The beginner, or author; not as Colossians 1:15, the first and most excellent creature of God's hands.
"The stress laid in the Epistle to the Colossians on the inferiority of those to whom the self-same name of aÓrcai«, beginnings principalities was given ... to the One who was the true beginning, or, if we might venture on an unfamiliar use of a familiar word, the true Principality of God's creation, may account for the prominence which the name had gained, and therefore for its use here in a message addressed to a church exposed, like that of Colossae, to the risks of angelolatry, of the substitution of lower principalities and created mediators for Him who was the Head over all things to His Church" (Plumptre). Compare Hebrews 12:2, aÓrchgo\n leader.
15. Cold (yucro/ß). Attached to the world and actively opposed to the Church. "This," as Alford remarks, "as well as the opposite state of spiritual fervor, would be an intelligible and plainly-marked condition; at all events free from the danger of mixed motive and disregarded principle which belongs to the lukewarm state: inasmuch as a man in earnest, be he right or wrong, is ever a better man than one professing what he does not feel."
Hot (zesto/ß). From ze÷w to boil or seethe. See on fervent, Acts 18:25.
16. Lukewarm (cliaro/ß). Only here in the New Testament.
Foremost and most numerous among the lost, Dante places those who had been content to remain neutral in the great contest between good and evil.
"Master, what is this which now I hear?
What folk is this, which seems by pain so vanquished?
And he to me: "This miserable mode
Maintain the melancholy souls of those
Who lived withouten infamy or praise.
Commingled are they with that caitiff choir.
Of angels, who have not rebellious been,
Nor faithful were to God, but were for self.
The heavens expelled them, not to be less fair;
Nor them the nethermore abyss receives,
For glory none the damned would have from them."
"Inferno," iii., 3342.
I will (me÷llw). I am about or have in mind. Not a declaration of immediate and inexorable doom, but implying a possibility of the determination being changed.
Spue (eme÷sai). Only here in the New Testament. Compare Leviticus 18:28; 20:22.
17. Because thou sayest. Connect, as A.V. and Rev., with what follows, not with what precedes. Some interpret I will spue thee out of my mouth because thou sayest, etc.
Increased with goods (peplou/thka). Rev., have gotten riches. The reference is to imagined spiritual riches, not to worldly possessions.
Wretched (oj talai÷pwroß). Rev., better, giving the force of the article, the wretched one. From tla¿w to endure, and peira¿ a trial.
Miserable (eleeino/ß). Only here and 1 Corinthians 15:19. An object of pity (e¶leoß).
Poor (ptwco/ß). See on Matthew 5:3.
18. I counsel (sumbouleu/w). With a certain irony. Though He might command, yet He advises those who are, in their own estimation, supplied with everything.
To buy. Compare Isaiah 4:1; Matthew 13:44, 46. Those who think themselves rich, and yet have just been called beggars by the Lord, are advised by Him to buy. The irony, however, covers a sincere and gracious invitation. The goods of Christ are freely given, yet they have their price renunciation of self and of the world.
Gold (crusi÷on). Often of gold money or ornaments. So 1 Peter 1:18; Acts 3:6; 1 Peter 3:3. Also of native gold and gold which has been smelted and wrought (Hebrews 9:4). There may very properly be a reference to the extensive money transactions of Laodicea.
Tried in the fire (pepurwme÷non ek puro\ß). The verb means to burn, to be on fire: in the perfect passive, as here, kindled, made to glow; thence melted by fire, and so refined. Rev., refined by, fire. By fire is, literally, out of the fire (ek; see on Chapter 2:7).
White raiment. Rev., garments. See on verse 4.
Mayest be clothed (periba¿lhØ). Rev., more literally, mayest clothe thyself. See on verse 5.
Do not appear (mh\ fanerwqhvØ). Rev., more literally, be not made manifest. See on John 21:1. Stripping and exposure is a frequent method of putting to open shame. See 2 Samuel 10:4; Isaiah 20:4; 47:23; Ezekiel 16:37. Compare also Matthew 22:1113; Colossians 3:1014.
Anoint thine eyes with eye-salve (kollou/rion e¶gcrison tou\ß ojfqalmou/ß sou). The correct reading is e¶gcrisai, the infinitive, to anoint, instead of the imperative. So Rev., eye-salve to anoint thine eyes. Kollou/rion, of which the Latin collyrium is a transcript, is a diminutive of kollu/ra a roll of coarse bread. See 1 Kings 14:3, Sept.; A.V., cracknels. Here applied to a roll or stick of ointment for the eyes. Horace, describing his Brundisian journey, relates how, at one point, he was troubled with inflamed eyes, and anointed them with black eye-salve (nigra collyria. Sat., i., v., 30). Juvenal, describing a superstitious woman, says: "If the corner of her eye itches when rubbed, she consults her horoscope before calling for salve" (collyria; 6., 577). The figure sets forth the spiritual anointing by which the spiritual vision is purged. Compare Augustine, "Confessions, vii., 7, 8. "Through my own swelling was I separated from Thee; yea, my pride-swollen face closed up mine eyes. ... It was pleasing in Thy sight to reform my deformities; and by inward goads didst Thou rouse me, that I should be ill at ease until Thou wert manifested to my inward sight. Thus, by the secret hand of Thy medicining, was my swelling abated, and the troubled and bedimmed eyesight of my mind, by the smarting anointings of healthful sorrows, was from day to day healed." Compare 1 John 2:20, 27.
19. As many as I love. In the Greek order I stands first as emphatic.
Rebuke (ele÷gcw). See on John 3:20. Rev., reprove.
Chasten (paideu/w). See on Luke 23:16.
Be zealous (zh/leue). The verb is akin to zesto/ß hot in verse 16, on which see note.
Repent. See on Matthew 3:2; 20:29.
20. I stand at the door and knock. Compare Cant. 5:2, Krou/w I knock was regarded as a less classical word than ko/ptw. Krou/w is to knock with the knuckles, to rap; ko/ptw, with a heavy blow; yofein of the knocking of some one within the door, warning one without to withdraw when the door is opened. Compare James 5:9. "He at whose door we ought to stand (for He is the Door, who, as such, has bidden us to knock), is content that the whole relation between Him and us should be reversed, and, instead of our standing at His door, condescends Himself to stand at ours "(Trench). The Greeks had a word quraulein for a lover waiting at the door of his beloved. Trench cites a passage from Nicolaus Cabasilas, a Greek divine of the fourteenth century: "Love for men emptied God (Philippians 2:7). For He doth not abide in His place and summon to Himself the servant whom He loved; but goes Himself and seeks him; and He who is rich comes to the dwelling of the poor, and discloses His love, and seeks an equal return; nor does He withdraw from him who repels Him, nor is He disgusted at his insolence; but, pursuing him, remains sitting at his doors, and that He may show him the one who loves him, He does all things, and sorrowing, bears and dies."
My voice. Christ not only knocks but speaks. "The voice very often will interpret and make intelligible the purpose of the knock" (Trench).
Hear open the door. No irresistible grace.
Will sup (deipnh/sw). See on Luke 14:12. For the image, compare Cant. 5:26; 4:16; 2:3. Christ is the Bread of Life, and invites to the great feast. See Matthew 8:11; 25:1 sqq. The consummation will be at the marriage-supper of the Lamb (Mark 14:25; Revelation 19:79).
He with me. It is characteristic of John to note the sayings of Christ which express the reciprocal relations of Himself and His followers. See John 6:56; 10:38; 14:20; 15:4, 5; 17:21, 26. Compare John 14:23.
21. He that overcometh. See on chapter 2:7.
Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 52a: Revelation 1-5, Volume 52b: Revelation 6-16 & Volume 52c: Revelation 17-22, David E. Aune
Barnes' Notes on the New Testament: Revelation of St. John the Divine, Albert Barnes
The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 1-24 and The Book of Ezekiel: Chapter 25-48: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Damiel I. Block
An Introduction to the New Testament, D. A. Carson & Douglas J. Moo
Dr. Constable's Notes on Revelation, Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Dallas Theological Seminary (his class notes)
Revelation: Four Views. A Parallel Commentary, Steve Gregg
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, 1871 Edition, Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown
Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, Dennis E. Johnson
Revelation Unveiled, Tim LaHaye
Macarthur New Testament Commentary Series: Revelation 1-11, Revelation 12-22, John MacArthur
The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Book of Revelation, Robert H. Mounce
The Preacher's Commentary: 1,2 & 3 John/Revelation, Earl F. Palmer
Exploring Revelation: Am Expository Commentary, John Phillips
The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation, Vern S. Poythress
"Behold, He Cometh": A Verse-by-Verse Commentary on the Book of Revelation, John R. Rice
Jewish New Testament Commentary, David H. Stern
Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Marvin R. Vincent
The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of Revelation, Michael Wilcock
IVP Pocket Dictionaries:
Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzke and Cherith Fee
Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies, Arthur G. Patzia and Anthony J. Petrotta -
Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of
Religion, Stephen Evans -
Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament
Greek, Matthew S. DeMoss Intervarsity Press' New Testament Commentary Intervarsity Press' New Bible Commentary Intervarsity Press' Hard Sayings of the Bible
IVP Pocket Dictionaries:
- Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzke and Cherith Fee Nordling
- Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies, Arthur G. Patzia and Anthony J. Petrotta
- Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion, Stephen Evans
- Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament Greek, Matthew S. DeMoss
Intervarsity Press' New Testament Commentary
Intervarsity Press' New Bible Commentary
Intervarsity Press' Hard Sayings of the Bible
Back to the main page...