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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Revelation 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-7

The Epistle to the Church of Ephesus - The fact that Ephesus was listed first of the seven epistles to the churches in Asia Minor implies that this was the leading church in the region. To this early church history testifies. The early church fathers tell us that John the apostle lived in Ephesus during his later years after the death of Paul the apostle in order to oversee the churches established by him. In A.D 450 Ephesus was still an important center of Christianity, along with Rome, Constantinople, Chalcedon, Nicaea, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria.

The church at Ephesus were busy labouring and working, but they had become purpose "driven-rather" than "presence-driven."

Revelation 2:1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;

Revelation 2:1 — "These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks" - Comments- The different titles that Jesus gives to each of the seven churches of Asia Minor were chosen because they relate to each of His messages. Jesus tells the church of Ephesus that He is the One who holds seven stars in his right hand and walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. They were told to keep their affects and love upon Him so that His presence and anointing would remain with them. He will ask this church to repent so that their candlestick will remain in place. Otherwise, He will remove their candlestick out of it place.

Revelation 2:4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

Revelation 2:4Comments- No other writing in the Holy Bible uses the Greek word for "love" more than in the epistle to the Ephesians. It is used a total of nineteen times in its noun (10), verb (7) or adjective forms (2). Paul practically opens and closes the letter with this word ( Ephesians 1:4, Ephesians 6:24). It is not possible to understand the deep truths of Ephesians without developing a love for God and for the people of God. Thus, it is not surprising that John the apostle later rebukes them for leaving their first love.

Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Revelation 2:6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Revelation 2:6Comments- Eusebius (A.D 260 to 340) makes mention of the heretical sect of the Nicolaitans in his Ecclesiastical History. He tells us that Nicolaus, the founder of the sect of the Nicolaitans that is referred to in Revelation 2:6; Revelation 2:15 as a heresy, used his beautiful wife to entice believers to commit fornication. Note:

"At this time the Song of Solomon -called sect of the Nicolaitans made its appearance and lasted for a very short time. Mention is made of it in the Apocalypse of John. They boasted that the author of their sect was Nicolaus, one of the deacons who, with Stephen, were appointed by the apostles for the purpose of ministering to the poor. Clement of Alexandria, in the third book of his Stromata, relates the following things concerning him. "They say that he had a beautiful wife, and after the ascension of the Saviour, being accused by the apostles of jealousy, he led her into their midst and gave permission to any one that wished to marry her. For they say that this was in accord with that saying of his, that one ought to abuse the flesh. And those that have followed his heresy, imitating blindly and foolishly that which was done and said, commit fornication without shame. But I understand that Nicolaus had to do with no other woman than her to whom he was married, and that, so far as his children are concerned, his daughters continued in a state of virginity until old age, and his son remained uncorrupt. If this is Song of Solomon , when he brought his wife, whom he jealously loved, into the midst of the apostles, he was evidently renouncing his passion; and when he used the expression, "to abuse the flesh," he was inculcating self-control in the face of those pleasures that are eagerly pursued. For I suppose that, in accordance with the command of the Saviour, he did not wish to serve two masters, pleasure and the Lord. But they say that Matthias also taught in the same manner that we ought to fight against and abuse the flesh, and not give way to it for the sake of pleasure, but strengthen the soul by faith and knowledge." So much concerning those who then attempted to pervert the truth, but in less time than it has taken to tell it became entirely extinct." (Ecclesiastical History 3291-4)

Revelation 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Revelation 2:7 — "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God" - Word Study on "paradise" - Strong says the Greek word παρά δεισος (G 3857) ("paradise") is of Oriental origin. BDAG says it is derived from the Old Persian language and meant, "enclosure." The Greek historian Xenophon (430-354 B.C.) uses the word παρά δεισος to describe beautiful Persian gardens and enclosures (Anabasis 127, 9; 1410; 2414). 42] The Jewish historian Josephus (A.D 37-100) uses it in the same context to describe the gardens of King David. 43] In the New Testament, it appears to be a synonym for Heaven. This Greek word is only used three times in the New Testament ( Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians 12:4, Revelation 2:7). All three uses describe a literal place, which we also call Heaven.

42] William Barrack, Lexicon to Xenophone's Anabasis for the Use of Schools (London: Longmans, Green, and Co, 1872), 105.

43] Josephus writes, "Now Adonijah had prepared a supper out of the city, near the fountain that was in the king's paradise…" (Antiquities 7144)

Luke 23:43, "And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise."

2 Corinthians 12:4, "How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter."

Revelation 2:7, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God."

Comments- In the Garden of Eden, God tests man's love and devotion to Him by asking Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Here in Revelation 2:1-7 God asks for the Ephesians to love Him first above all else, and will reward them by restoring them to the Paradise of God.


Verses 1-22

The Seven Letters to the Churches of Asia Minor (John as Overseer of the Churches) - Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22 record the messages that Jesus Christ gave to John the apostle while on the Isle of Patmos to deliver to seven churches of Asia Minor. We see in the Revelation of John that Jesus appears to John and gives him messages for seven churches. The fact that Jesus would give these messages to John , and not another, to deliver to the seven churches is a likely indication that John was overseeing these churches.

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. Letter to Ephesus — Revelation 2:1-7

2. Letter to Smyrna — Revelation 2:8-11

3. Letter to Pergamos — Revelation 2:12-17

4. Letter to Thyatira — Revelation 2:18-29

5. Letter to Sardis — Revelation 3:1-6

6. Letter to Philadelphia — Revelation 3:7-13

7. Letter to Laodicea — Revelation 3:14-22

Historical Setting- Why would John be ministering to these churches, which were founded by Paul the apostle? Early church historians tell us that John the apostle became the under-shepherd of these churches after the death of Paul the apostle. After Christ ascended, church historians tell us that John the apostle remained in Jerusalem and cared for the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ until her death about fifteen years after the Crucifixion of Jesus. Adam Clarke writes:

"John was banished by the Roman emperor, Domitian, to the isle of Patmos, in the Aegean Sea: but his successor Nerva having recalled all the exiles banished by Domitian, John returned to Ephesus, where he died, aged upward of one hundred years. The holy Virgin is said to have lived with him till her death, which took place about fifteen years after the crucifixion." 39]

39] Adam Clarke, The Preacher's Manual: including Clavis Biblica and A Letter to a Methodist Preacher (New York: G. Lane and P. P. Sanford, 1842), 37.

Church history tells us that John the apostle moved to Asia Minor, probably Ephesus, at some point after the death of Mary the mother of our Lord. There is no record of when John the apostle moved from Jerusalem to Asia Minor and the city of Ephesus. Philip Schaff says that it was probably not before the death of Paul around A.D 63, since there are no references to John in Paul"s letters to his churches in Asia Minor. He supposes that the death of Paul and Peter in Rome would have urged John to take charge of these churches. 40] Since Ephesus was the capital of that region of the Roman Empire, it would have been the choice city to take up residence in order to manage nearby churches. Therefore, it is most likely that he moved to Ephesus in the 60's. Perhaps his move was also encouraged by the Jewish War of A.D 66-70, which would have made Judea a very dangerous place to live.

40] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 424-425.

The Recipients to the Seven Letters- Note that in the seven messages to the churches of Asia Minor, Jesus is speaking to the "messenger" of each church. Therefore, He is addressing an individual in these messages, using the second person singular. Jesus is not addressing a group of people by using the second person plural because the verb is singular. However, Revelation 1:11 has already told us that these messages are intended to be given to these seven churches.

Revelation 1:11, "Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea."

A Description of the Characters of the Seven Churches- According to one preacher, the seven churches of chapters 2,3can be described with the following adjective, all beginning with the letter "L":

1. Ephesus - Lacking

2. Smyrna - Loyal

3. Pergamos - Lax

4. Thyatira - Loose

5. Sardis - Lifeless

6. Philadelphia- Loving

6. Laodicea - Lukewarm

Jesus Prepares His Church for the Rapture and the Second Coming- The fact that Jesus judges these seven churches in these epistles immediately before the events of the Great Tribulation which follow symbolizes the fact that Christ will purge His Church in preparation for His Second Coming, which takes place at this same time in history. These seven letters are the qualifications that Jesus gives to the churches in order to partake of the soon coming Rapture. We see in the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 that not every believer will be raptured. Only those who are filled with the Spirit and carry the testimony of Jesus while looking for His Coming will be taken. The others, who are carnal, will have to suffer through the Tribulation Period. Peter said that judgment begins at the house of God ( 1 Peter 4:17). Thus, the Lord judges His Church prior to judging the world with the Great Tribulation.

1 Peter 4:17, "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?"

If we examine these seven epistles, we will see a promise of the believer's deliverance from the Tribulation period if they will walk in obedience to the Lord. Jesus Christ clearly tells three of these seven churches how to avoid the Great Tribulation period by repenting. It seems as if some of these churches had believers who were in danger of missing the Rapture of the Church.

1. The Church in Pergamos- The church in Pergamos ( Revelation 2:12-17) was warned that if they did not repent, they would be destroyed by the sword of Jesus' mouth.

Revelation 2:16, "Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth."

This is a reference to Revelation 19:15; Revelation 19:21 when the Word of God comes from heaven to smite the nations with the sword of His mouth.

Revelation 19:15, "And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."

Revelation 19:21, "And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh."

2. The Church in Thyatira- The church in Thyatira ( Revelation 2:18-29) was warned not to commit adultery lest they go into the Great Tribulation period with the adulteress.

Revelation 2:22, "Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds."

3. The Church in Sardis- The church in Sardis ( Revelation 3:1-6) was told to repent so that they will be able to watch and to know the hour of Jesus' coming to rapture the Church lest they miss His coming which will be as a thief in the night..

Revelation 3:3, "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee."

There are several New Testament passages that refer to Jesus' Second Coming as a thief in the night.

Matthew 24:42-43, "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up."

1 Thessalonians 5:2, "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night."

Revelation 16:15, "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."

4. The Church in Philadelphia- The church in Philadelphia ( Revelation 3:7-13) was promised to be kept from "the hour of temptation," which is a reference to the Great Tribulation period.

Revelation 3:10, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."

Jesus also told this church that He has opened a door for them.

Revelation 3:8, "I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name."

This may refer to the Rapture of the Church within the context of Revelation 4:1 when an open door into Heaven was revealed to John as he was caught up into Heaven.

Revelation 4:1, "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter."

5. The Church in Laodicea- The church in Laodicea ( Revelation 3:14-22) was promised a white garment.

Revelation 3:18, "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see."

This may refer to Rapture and entrance into Heaven within the context of Revelation 4:4 where we see the twenty-four elders clothed in white garments.

Revelation 4:4, "And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold."

The Parable of the Ten Virgins ( Matthew 25:1-13) also teaches us that not every believer will be taken in the Rapture.

We also see this symbolism of the need to prepare for the Second Coming in the book of Ezekiel. While John seems to emphasize the role of the Church in the last days, Ezekiel places emphasis upon the role of the nation of Israel. The fact that the judgments against Jerusalem in Ezekiel 3:22 to Ezekiel 24:27 precede those upon the seven nations ( Ezekiel 25:1 to Ezekiel 32:32) reveals to us the truth that the events taking place in the nation of Israel are a forewarning from God of the events that about to come upon the nations of the world. In addition, since Jerusalem is a symbol of the Church, the order of judging Jerusalem first symbolizes the fact that God will judge His Church immediately before He ushers in the Great Tribulation period upon the earth in preparation for His Second Coming.

The Message to the Seven Churches: Jesus Calls the Churches to Overcome - Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22 contains seven epistles written to seven churches in Asia Minor. The message to these churches does not emphasize the Great Commission to take the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the world; nor do these epistles emphasize church doctrine and ministry. The emphasis is placed upon the need to prepare themselves for Christ's Second Coming. The phrase "to him that overcometh" is used in each of these seven letters because all seven churches had to overcome something in order to be ready for the Rapture.

1. Ephesus- overcomes loving this world ( Revelation 2:7)

Illustration: 2 Timothy 4:10, "For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia."

2. Smyrna- overcomes persecution ( Revelation 2:10-11)

3. Pergamos- overcomes false doctrine ( Revelation 2:14-15)

4. Thyatira- overcomes false doctrine and sin

5. Sardis - overcomes complacency

6. Philadelphia - overcomes liars

7. Laodicea- overcomes indifference to God

The Greek word νικά ω (G 3528) that is translated "overcome" is used seventeen times in the book of Revelation. Seven of those occurrences are found in John's epistles to the seven churches of Asia Minor in which the Lord Jesus Christ exhorts these believers to overcome. Now we see in Revelation 12:11 the means by which they are to be overcomers, which is by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony and by not loving their lives even if it cost them their death. John the apostle will use this Greek word again in 1 John 5:4 by emphasizing that it is our faith in Christ Jesus that enables us to be overcomers.

Revelation 12:11, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death."

1 John 5:4, "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."

The word "overcometh" summarizes the goal of the Christian life. We can see that the books of the New Testament are structured according to the journey of our Christian life. From a person's conversion (Gospels and Acts), to his doctrinal education (Romans to 2Thessalonians), to him becoming established in a local church (1Timothy to Titus), to his perseverance against persecutions from without the Church (Hebrews to 1Peter) and overcoming false doctrines from within the Church (2Peter to Jude), a person then find his eternal reward as promised to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3.

The phrase "to him" implies that Jesus is speaking to individuals within the Church. This is because salvation is not corporate, but an individual decision. At first, Jesus addresses the churches as a whole because a congregation exhibits certain characteristics. But He gives His promises to individuals and not to the group as a whole.

The Method Jesus Uses to Correct His Church- Hilton Sutton gives an excellent summary of the similar way in which Jesus spoke to each of the seven churches in Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22. He first commended them for what they were doing right, such as their works, their patience, their intolerance for evil, the holding fast to His name, their love, and their faith. He then tells them some things that they are doing wrong, such as leaving their first love, holding on to false doctrines or simply tolerating false doctrines, their defiled garments, and their lukewarmness. Jesus then calls them to repentance. Finally, He warns them of the consequences of their disobedience and encourages them with rewards of obedience. This is a pattern for correction that we could follow in bringing discipline upon our children, or as pastors, upon our congregations. 41]

41] Hilton Sutton, Revelation: God's Grand Finale (Tulsa, Oklahoma, c 1984), 39-40.

False Prophets in the Churches of Asia Minor - The seven churches of Asia Minor were being attacked by persecutions from without and by false doctrines from within. Some of these false teachers from within were exalting themselves among the congregation by using false titles. They call themselves by the title of apostle ( Revelation 2:2) or prophetess ( Revelation 2:20). There was a group of Jewish ancestry who exalted their heritage in order to gain preeminence above the Gentile believers ( Revelation 2:9, Revelation 3:9).

Sometimes it can be very confusing for new believers to tell the difference between what is genuine and what is false. My experience as a missionary in East Africa has helped me to see some clear distinctions. False ministers tend to us big titles in front of their names. They place a tremendous amount of emphasis upon their ability to work the miraculous. It is the miraculous that causes many people to consent and accept them as a minister of God. But in fact, in Africa, mantles of witchcraft are handed down and individuals are ordained to carry these miraculous abilities. These people believe that they are the true ministers of God, when in fact they are the ministers of Satan. Their miraculous presentation confused the churches of Asia Minor because they knew the apostles of the Lamb were anointed to perform miracles. The difference between the true and the false is that the true apostles and ministers of God preached and exalted Jesus Christ and only moved by faith and by the unctions of the Holy Spirit to perform miracles, while the false prophets exalt their own miracle-working powers and only use the name of Jesus to hide their unbecoming lifestyles.


Verses 8-11

The Epistle to the Church of Smyrna - Revelation 2:8-11 contains the epistle to the church of Smyrna.

Historical Setting- Polycarp (A.D. c 69 - c 155) was one of the earliest bishops of the church in Smyrna. He was martyred in A.D 155 as prophesied to this church in Revelation 2:10. This is the same city that is mentioned in the book of Revelations Revelation 2:8-11. He was apparently a leading Christian figure during the latter part of his life. Verse 10 says, "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (KJV). Polycarp had to do just that, which is to die a martyr for his faith in Jesus Christ. He spent much energy defending the Church against heretics. Around A.D 155, after a visit to see the bishop of Rome, Polycarp was arrested and asked to recant his faith in Christ. Proclaiming that he had served Christ for 86 years, he refused and chose death. This event is recorded in an ancient piece of literature entitled The Martyrdom of Polycarp, which was written by an eyewitness of this event. Here is the first recorded miracle in Church history after the Holy Bible was written.

"His pursuers then, along with horsemen, and taking the youth with them, went forth at supper-time on the day of the preparation, with their usual weapons, as if going out against a robber. And being come about evening [to the place where he was], they found him lying down in the upper room of a certain little house, from which he might have escaped into another place; but he refused, saying, "The will of god be done." So when he heard that they were come, he went down and spake with them. And as those that were present marveled at his age and constancy, some of them said, "Was so much effort made to capture such a venerable man?" Immediately then, in that very hour, he ordered that something to eat and drink should be set before them, as much indeed as they cared for, while he besought them to allow him an hour to pray without disturbance. And on their giving him leave, he stood and prayed, being full of the grace of God, so that he could not cease for two full hours, to the astonishment of them that heard him, insomuch that many began to repent that they had come forth against so godly and venerable an old man." (The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrnam Concerning the Martyrdom of the Holy Polycarp 7) (ANF 1)

Polycarp was then carried away to be tried for being a Christian and given a chance to recant. When he refused, he was sentenced to be burnt alive.

"When he [Polycarp] had pronounced this amen, and so finished his prayer, those who were appointed for the purpose kindled the fire. And as the flame blazed forth in great fury, we, to whom it was given to witness it, beheld a great miracle, and have been preserved that we might report to others what then took place. For the fire, shaping itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, encompassed as by a circle the body of the martyr. And he appeared within not like flesh which is burnt, but as bread that is baked, or as gold and silver glowing in a furnace. Moreover, we perceived such a sweet odour [coming from the pile], as if frankincense or some such precious spices had been smoking there. At length, when those wicked men perceived that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to go near and pierce him through with a dagger. And on his doing this, there came forth a dove, and a great quantity of blood, so that the fire was extinguished; and all the people wondered that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect, of whom this most admirable Polycarp was one, having in our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the catholic church which is in Smyrna. For every word that went out of his mouth either has been or shall yet be accomplished." (The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrnam Concerning the Martyrdom of the Holy Polycarp 15-16) (ANF 1)

Revelation 2:8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

Revelation 2:8 — "These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive" - Comments- The different titles that Jesus gives to each of the seven churches of Asia Minor were chosen because they relate to each of His messages. Jesus tells the church of Smyrna that He is the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive. He asks this church to suffer until death so that they would not have to be injured by the second death. Jesus would not ask them to do something that He Himself would not be willing to do, or something He has already done.

Revelation 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Revelation 2:9Comments- The Laodiceans had become rich material, but poor spiritually ( Revelation 3:17). In contrast, the church at Smyrna were poor materially, but rich spiritually ( Revelation 2:9).

Revelation 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Revelation 2:10 — "and ye shall have tribulation ten days" - Comments- It is interesting to note the fact that in church history between A.D 100 to 325 there were ten major periods of persecution against the Church by the Roman emperors beginning with Nero in 67 AD and ending with Diocletian in A.D 303. These persecutions ended when Emperor Constantine converted the Roman Empire to Christianity in A.D 324and gave the churches rest. Perhaps the ten days mentioned in Revelation 2:10 refers to these ten periods of intense persecutions.

Revelation 2:10 — "be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" - Comments- In Revelation 2:10 Jesus exhorts the believers in Smyrna to be faithful until death. Jesus has become our example of faithfulness until death and of glorification with the Father to receive His "crown of life." He died for our sins and now has been given power and dominion over death, Hell and the grave. This is the reason He addresses Himself to the church at Smyrna as "the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive." He would not ask them to do something that He was not also willing to do Himself.

Revelation 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

Revelation 2:11 — "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." - Comments- Jesus has told this church to be faithful unto death ( Revelation 2:11), meaning that if they must be persecuted unto death for their faith, then they should be ready to do so. He promises that the second death will never harm them. The second death is a reference to the judgment of sinners on the final Day of Judgment before the Great White Throne of God. Note the use of the phrase "second death" on three other occasions in the book of Revelation. It is not found elsewhere in the Scriptures.

Revelation 20:6, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."

Revelation 20:14, "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."

Revelation 21:8, "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."


Verses 12-17

The Epistle to the Church of Pergamos - Revelation 2:12-17 contains the epistle to the church of Pergamos.

Historical Setting- The ancient city of Pergamos (modern Bergama, Turkey) was located in the in the fertile valley of Caicus. Its early population of Greek colonists struck their own coins around 450 B.C. This city became recognized around 300 B.C. because of a Greek family named the Attalids whose wealth was able to establish it as a center of Hellinestic culture. It became the capital of the Roman province of Asia in A.D 129 after the Roman army defeated Aristonicus, the son of the last king of the Attalid dynasty that ruled the region for over one hundred years. Thus, its earlier history was one of wealth as well as being highly developed in art and literature. The city of Pergamos contained a library of two hundred thousand volumes which later Anthony gave to Cleopatra. This ancient library was only rivaled by the one in Alexandria. Because the library was characterized by the extensive use of parchment, these paper documents took their name "parchments" after the name of the city. Pergamos also contained many marvelous architectural structures, the greatest being the altar of Zeus, which is considered one of the wonders of the ancient world. Because the city contained temples to three other Greek gods, Dionysus, Athena and Asklepios, as well as three temples to Roman emperors, it became known as the religious center of the Roman Empire as politics were married to religion. Although Smyrna later became the capital, Pergamos remained a religious center for this ancient culture. Also among its ruins archaeologists have discovered a Roman theater, an amphitheater, and a circus, which testify to its height of cultural development. 44]

44] E. J. Banks, "Pergamos," in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, c 1915, 1939), in The Sword Project, v 1511 [CD-ROM] (Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008).

The Altar of Zeus in Pergamos- From 1879 to 1886 the German government financed excavations among the ruins of Pergamos and were conducted by the German archaeologist Herr Humann. As a result, a number of these temples were brought to Germany and can now be seen in the Pergamon Museum of Berlin. 45] Perhaps the most famous of these temples is the altar of Zeus which dominates the museum. It was built during the time of Eumenes II (197-59 b.c.) to celebrate the victory of the Pergamenes over the Gauls in 190 b.c. 46] It is built with a set of ascending stairs decorated on the sides with an elaborate series of friezes. Humann discovered this altar in good condition, so that the Germans were able to disassemble and reassemble it in the former East Berlin.

45] E. J. Banks, "Pergamos," in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, c 1915, 1939), in The Sword Project, v 1511 [CD-ROM] (Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008).

46] David E. Aune, Revelation 1-5:14, in Word Biblical Commentary: 58 Volumes on CD-Rom, vol 52, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word Inc, 2002), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 30b [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2004), 182 [comments on Revelation 2:13a].

It was upon the steps of this famous altar that the blood of many martyrs was shed, of which Antipas is mentioned in Revelation 2:13 as one of these early martyrs. Some scholars believe that the phrase "Satan's seat" refers to the fact that the city of Pergamos served as a stronghold of Satan during this period of history because of the large scale of temple worship conducted in this city both to Greek gods as well as to Roman emperors. Many scholars go so far as to suggest that the altar of Zeus, the most elaborate of these temples, is the focus of when referring to Satan's seat. Within a few years, modern history records two world wars that find their roots in the German empire. Some scholars do not believe that this is a coincidence. It is as if Satan relocated himself to Berlin when the altar of Zeus was moved there. It is interesting to compare how the former president of Iraq, Saddam Hussien, has also attempted to rebuild the Tower of Babel in order to create for himself an empire.

Revelation 2:12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;

Revelation 2:12 — "These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges" - Comments- The different titles that Jesus gives to each of the seven churches of Asia Minor were chosen because they relate to each of His messages. Jesus tells the church of Pergamos that He is the One who has the sharp two-edged sword. One of the church members named Antipas was killed as a martyr. This church embraced the sins of fornication and appears to have provoked Jesus to the most amount of wrath. For He tells them that unless they repent of this wickedness He will come with His sword and smith this church. Such sexual sins usually led to the quickest forms of chastisement from God in order to save the souls of His people.

The epistle to the church in Pergamos refers to two wicked men, Balaam and Nicolaus, who lured God's people into acts of fornication.

Revelation 2:13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan"s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

Revelation 2:14 — "But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel" - Comments- We have the account in Numbers 25:1-18 of how Balaam taught Balak to cause the children of Israel to stumble into sin. Balaam knew that God would judge the Israelites because of sin, so he counseled Balak how to lure them into sin.

Revelation 2:14 — "to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication" - Comments- Eating meats offered to idols and temple prostitutes were a common form of pagan idolatry and temple worship in the Greco-Roman culture during this period of history. In the city of Pergamos where the famous temple of Zeus was located, these prostitutes could be found on the steps of this large temple. Partaking of idolatrous meat usually meant partaking of fornication during such temple worship. Both were indulgences of the flesh that fed the physical appetites of Prayer of Manasseh , but deprived his spiritual being. Some of the church members of Pergamos had not been fully delivered from such activity.

Revelation 2:15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

Revelation 2:15Comments- Just as some Israelites stumbled at the doctrine of Balaam, so did some of the church in Pergamos have some believers who embraced the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. Evidently, the doctrine of the Nicolaitans embraced the Greco-Roman pagan temple worship, characterized by eating things sacrificed unto idols, and committing fornication, as described in the previous verse ( Revelation 2:14).

Eusebius (A.D 260 to 340) makes mention of the sect of the Nicolaitans in his Church History. He tells us that Nicolaus, the founder of this sect that is referred to in Revelation 2:6; Revelation 2:15 as a heresy, used his beautiful wife to entice believers to commit fornication. As Balaam was used to lure the children of Israel into fornication, so were the Nicolaitans used to lure the New Testament believers into the same. Note:

"At this time the Song of Solomon -called sect of the Nicolaitans made its appearance and lasted for a very short time. Mention is made of it in the Apocalypse of John. They boasted that the author of their sect was Nicolaus, one of the deacons who, with Stephen, were appointed by the apostles for the purpose of ministering to the poor. Clement of Alexandria, in the third book of his Stromata, relates the following things concerning him. "They say that he had a beautiful wife, and after the ascension of the Saviour, being accused by the apostles of jealousy, he led her into their midst and gave permission to any one that wished to marry her. For they say that this was in accord with that saying of his, that one ought to abuse the flesh. And those that have followed his heresy, imitating blindly and foolishly that which was done and said, commit fornication without shame. But I understand that Nicolaus had to do with no other woman than her to whom he was married, and that, so far as his children are concerned, his daughters continued in a state of virginity until old age, and his son remained uncorrupt. If this is Song of Solomon , when he brought his wife, whom he jealously loved, into the midst of the apostles, he was evidently renouncing his passion; and when he used the expression, "to abuse the flesh," he was inculcating self-control in the face of those pleasures that are eagerly pursued. For I suppose that, in accordance with the command of the Saviour, he did not wish to serve two masters, pleasure and the Lord. But they say that Matthias also taught in the same manner that we ought to fight against and abuse the flesh, and not give way to it for the sake of pleasure, but strengthen the soul by faith and knowledge." So much concerning those who then attempted to pervert the truth, but in less time than it has taken to tell it became entirely extinct." (Ecclesiastical History 3291-4)

Revelation 2:16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

Revelation 2:16Comments- If we refer back to the story of Balaam in the Old Testament ( Numbers 22:1 to Numbers 24:25; Numbers 31:8; Numbers 31:16, Deuteronomy 23:4, Joshua 13:22; Joshua 24:9-10, Nehemiah 13:2, Micah 6:5), it becomes clear that God remedied this problem by slaying all those who fell into this doctrine with a plague. It was only when Phinehas thrust an Israelite through with a sword that the plague was stayed. Thus, the sword of the mouth of the Lord mentioned in Revelation 2:16 is a similar remedy for the church of Pergamos.

Revelation 2:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

Revelation 2:17 — "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna" - Comments- In direct contrast to partaking of meats offered to idols ( Revelation 2:14), Jesus will feed them with hidden manna. The phrase "hidden manna" may be a reference to that manna which was placed within the Ark of the Covenant ( Exodus 16:33-34).

Exodus 16:33-34, "And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations. As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept."

Jewish tradition records in its extra-biblical writings that God will again rain down manna for His people when the Messiah comes.

"And it shall come to pass at that self-same time [in the days when the Messiah comes] that the treasury of manna shall again descend from on high, and they will eat of it in those years, because these are they who have come to the consummation of time." (2Baruch ) 47]

47] Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, ed. R. H. Charles, in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), .

Revelation 2:17 may also be a reference to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

Revelation 19:9, "And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God."

Revelation 2:17 — "and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it" - Comments- The statement by Jesus Christ that He will give the church at Pergamos a white stone with a new name written has left many Bible scholars puzzled. There are a number of references in ancient literature to a "white stone." We are most familiar with the Jewish Old Testament Scriptures that refer to the two stones called the Urim and the Thummim, which were used by the priests and Levites to pass judgment upon a matter. These two stones were placed in the breastplate of the high priest. The name "Urim" means "light" and might correspond to the white stone. In addition, the breastplate of the high priest had gem stones placed on it with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel written on these stones.

Archeologists have dug up small white stones in Rome with names and letters engraved upon them. One custom of the Roman Emperor was to throw small white stones among the crowd during athletic events with the names of gifts written upon them. Whoever caught a stone received the name of the gift engraved upon it. 48]

48] Albert Barnes, Revelation , in Barnes" Notes, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1997), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), comments on Revelation 2:17.

Or, in the ancient custom of casting lots, two stones of black and white were used in casting a vote. The white stone was a symbol of good fortune or of innocence while the black stone symbolized bad luck or guilt. Adam Clarke 49] cites the Latin poet Ovid, who writes of just such a casting of stones:

49] Adam Clarke, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, in Adam Clarke"s Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), notes on Revelation 2:17.

"It was the custom in ancient times to use white and black pebbles, the black for condemning prisoners and the white for freeing them from the charge. At this time also the fatal vote was taken in this way; and every pebble that was dropped into the pitiless urn was black! But when the urn was turned and the pebbles poured out for counting, the colour of them all was changed from black to white; and Song of Solomon , by the will of Hercules, the vote was made favourable, and Alemon"s son was freed." (Metamorphoses 1541) 50]

50] Ovid, Metamorphoses, vol 2, trans. Frank J. Miller, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1958), 367-368. See Adam Clarke, Revelation , in Adam Clarke"s Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), notes on Revelation 2:17.

Or, the white stone with a name inscribed may be an illusion to the winning athlete in public games who was given just such a stone, which entitled him to a life of maintenance at public expense.

"Trophies of many a well-fought field

He won in glory"s sacred cause,

The Theban tripod, brazen shield

At Argos, and Arcadia"s vase.

Her palms Boeotia"s genuine contests yield;

Six times Aegina"s prize he gain"d,

As oft, Pellene"s robe obtarn"d,

And graved in characters of fame,

Thy column, Megara, records his name." 51]

51] Pindar, trans. C. A. Wheelwright (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1846), 56.

Or, during public distributions of corn a person was given a stone, called a "tesserae frumentariae," which entitled him to a portion of the grain.

Or, the "tesserae hospitales" was a stone given to mark a friendship between individuals. Sometimes a small oblong square piece of wood, bone, stone, or ivory, was taken and divided into two equal parts and given to the two parties to engravings served as a testimony to such contracts and agreements or friendships.

Or, a white stone with a person's name inscribed, called a "tesserae conviviales," was used by the ancients to serve as an invitation to a banquet. The one holding the stone had a right to attend the function that was being held. This idea of an invitation stone fits most appropriately the contrast of the invitations for the citizens of Pergamos to attend heathen banquets of idolatry and fornication to an invitation from Jesus Christ to attend the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. 52]

52] Adam Clarke, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, in Adam Clarke"s Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), notes on Revelation 2:17.

Revelation 2:17 — "and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it" - Comment- God will give us a new name in Heaven. If we examine the people in the Scriptures whom God named (such as Song of Solomon , the sons of Isaiah and Hosea), or renamed (such as Abraham and Sarah) we see that they these names reflected their prophetic office and ministry. We can also note that Jesus Christ's name prior to His incarnation was "The Word of God." His name "the Lamb of God" reflects His redemptive work on Calvary, and His name "King of Kings" reflects His office and ministry after the Great Tribulation when He will rule and reign over the nations of the earth for eternity. Revelation 2:17 implies that our new names in Heaven will be given as a part of assigning us a heavenly office and ministry.

Scripture Reference - Note a similar verse:

Isaiah 62:2, "And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name."


Verses 18-29

The Epistle to the Church of Thyatira - Revelation 2:18-29 records for us John's letter to the church of Thyatira.

Revelation 2:18 — "These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass" - Comment- The different titles that Jesus gives to each of the seven churches of Asia Minor were chosen because they relate to each of His messages.

Revelation 2:20 — "Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess" - Comment- If we refer back to the story of Jezebel in the Old Testament ( 1 Kings 16-21, 2 Kings 9), we find that she set up an order of prophets dedicated to Baal, whose prophecies became a stumbling block to the children of Israel.

"to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols" - Comment- Like some believers in the church of Pergamos, some believers in Thyatira fell back into pagan worship practices, characterized by fornication and eating things sacrificed to idols during pagan feasts. Paul warned the church of Corinth to abstain from foods offered unto idols because of the temptation of some to backslide back into these pagan practices ( 1 Corinthians 8-10).

Revelation 2:27 — "And he shall rule them with a rod of iron" - Comment- Iron is used as a symbol of strength and authority throughout Scriptures. Until King David led the nation of Israel in to obedience to the Laws of God, the children of Israel lacked the wisdom to exploit the natural resources of iron and brass. Once God gave them the use of these metals, Israel began to rule in power and authority. In the building of the Temple, David had accumulated a tremendous amount of these metals. Note:

1 Chronicles 22:16, "Of the gold, the silver, and the brass, and the iron, there is no number. Arise therefore, and be doing, and the LORD be with thee."

In contrast, the children of Israel were oppressed during the time of the Judges because their enemies were using iron.

Judges 1:19, "And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron."

Judges 4:3, "And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel."

During the time of King Saul, the Philistines also oppressed the children of Israel because of the advantage of having iron weapons.

1 Samuel 13:19-22, "Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears: But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock. Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads. So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found."

Thus, we can see how iron represents strength. Therefore, it is used as a symbol of strength and authority in Scripture in the phrase, "a rod of iron." Note other uses of this term:

Psalm 2:9, "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter"s vessel."

Revelation 12:5, "And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne."

Revelation 19:15, "And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."

Revelation 2:27Comment- Revelation 2:27 describes for us the manner in which the Church will rule and reign with Christ on earth during the thousand-year Millennial reign of Christ. Since there will be rebellious people on earth during this time, Jesus will give each believer the authority to rule with a "rod of iron." For the saints, we will be like Him with our immortal, resurrected bodies and will serve Him faithfully and willingly.

 


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Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Revelation 2:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/revelation-2.html. 2013.

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