Revelation - Chapter 2

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Outline of the Chapter

v.1-7  Ephesus

v.8-11  Smyrna

v.12-17 Pergamum

v.18-29 Thyatira

 

 

Introduction to the Letters.

 

The one in the midst of the churches, knows them well.

 

There appears to have been five different threats to the churches of John's day:

1.   Paganism and Emperor worship.

2.   Jewish harassment.
3.   The temptation of materialism and lawlessness in the form of the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, Baalam, and Jezebel.
4.   A loss of zeal or love.
5.   Lukewarmness and indecision.

Three expressions which challenge the congregations in each letter.

1.   "I know thy works, tribulation, where thou dwellest."
2.   "He that overcometh..."
3.   "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."

General form of all letters.

1.   The church of a given location is addressed.
2.   The speaker identifies Himself.
3.   Good and bad points about the congregation are mentioned.
4.   Exhortation to faithfulness.
5.   Promise of blessings and reward.

 

Letter to Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7).

 

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

 

About the city.

Located in western part of the Asian province at the mouth of the Cayster River.  It was the chief city of this province but not the capital.  Population was about 330,000.  The city derived its greatness from two sources: commercial trade and religion.  It was the chief commercial city of the province and was the center of the mother goddess worship known as Artemis to the Greeks and Diana to the Romans.  Ephesus has a theater that could seat 24,500 people and the temple of Diana which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  On his third journey, Paul spent between 2 and 3 years in the city.  The churches in Colosse, Hierapolis, and Laodicea were quite possible fruits of Paul's work in Ephesus.  Tradition says that Ephesus became the home of John the apostle for many years after the death of Paul.

2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

 

"I know" from the Greek "oida" which means to know perfectly.

 

"Labour" = toiling, strenuous labor.

 

"They cannot bear evil men."

Romans 16:17-18.

Ephesians 5:11.

"Tried them which say they are apostles and are not"

1 John 4:1.

2 Cor 12:12; these are the signs of an Apostle.

3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.

 

They had patience and remained faithful in the face of trials and hard labour for the Lord.

 

James 1:2-4.

 

They had not grown weary.

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

 

One bad thing about the congregation.  They had left their first love.

 

Love was still there as shown by their works, but the first love was gone.

 

A loss of early, fiery devotion for the Lord.

Acts 19:19-20.

Acts 20:36-38.

Eph 1:15.

The church was in its second or third generation.  Always a danger.

 

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.

 

Message is to Remember, Repent, and Work.

 

The way to revive love is by action.  Doing the will of God out of love for Him.

 

To have their candlestick removed would mean that they would no longer belong to Christ but would be separated from Him.

 

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

 

They hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans.

 

Not sure who the Nicolaitans were, but they were condemned by Christ.

 

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.

 

Letter to Smyrna (vv. 8-11).

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

 

The City.

Located about 55 miles north of Ephesus.  It was a coastal city situated on a deep gulf that ran about 30 miles inland from the Aegean Sea.  In 177 A.D. an earthquake destroyed the city.  It was ruled by a Roman proconsul.  It was a booming commercial city being on the sea and it had very fertile soil.  Two crops of grapes were produced each growing season.  Population was from 180,000 to 200,000.  Was one of the wealthiest cities in Asia minor.  Its modern name is Izmir.  Smyrna was center for the worship of Dionysus "the god of wine."  Emperor worship was also prevalent.  Roma, the Roman goddess was also worshiped there.  

The Lord mentioned that He had been dead but was now alive.  This would have greatly encouraged these people who were facing death (Hebrews 4:15).

 

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.

 

These saints were poor physically but rich spiritually (Matt 6:20; Luke 16:11).

 

Blasphemy is defined as reviling, or railing, hurtful speech.

 

The Jews were persecuting these saints in Smyrna.

 

Jesus had charged evil Jews with being the children of Satan (John 8:44).

 

True Jews today are those who are circumcised in heart (Romans 2:28-29).

 

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.

 

They are about to go into a period of persecution.

 

The devil is the real enemy, not the Jews (1 Peter 5:8; Acts 10:38).

 

"Ten days..."  Is not referring to a literal ten days but a definite period of time which would eventually end.

 

They are then told to be faithful even to the point of having to give up their lives.

 

Those who remained faithful would receive the crown of life (1 Cor 9:25; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4).

 

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. 

 

The first death (separation) is our physical death.  The second death is one's separation from God.  Those who are faithful will never have to face this.

 

 

Letter to Pergamum (Rev. 2:12-17).

The City.

Was 71 miles north of Smyrna.  2-3 miles north of the Caicus river and 15 miles inland from the Aegean Sea.  Built on a rock peak 900 ft. high.  The city was under Roman rule and had a proconsul.  It was the capital of the province of Asia for over two centuries.  Had a great library of some 200,000 volumes.  Rivaled only by Alexandria.  Population was about 120,000 in NT times.  Had temples built to such gods as: Serapis, Isis, Athena, Dionysus, Demeter, and Persephone.  In 29 B.C. Pergamum was the first city to build a temple for emperor worship.

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

 

"Where Satan's seat is..."

This city was the seat of pagan worship.

Emperor worship was common.

This city was a stronghold for Satan.

"Holdest fast my name..."

Christ's name stands for all that He is: deity, authority, lordship.

"Hast not denied my faith..."

Had not denied the system of faith (Jude 3).

We know nothing else of Antipas besides what is said here.

 

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 stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

 

Balaam (Numbers 23-24).

 

Was unable to curse God's people for Barak so he laid a trap for them.

 

He told Barak to send the daughters of Moab to entice Israel to participate in their lascivious worship.

 

Thus, his doctrine was one of compromise.

 

His teaching are summed up under three main headings:

 

He cast a stumbling block.  Literally laid a trap on which bait is place and is sprung when the bait is disturbed.  Certain ones at Pergamum were setting such a trap.

 

Sacrificed to idols.

 

Commit fornication.

 

15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.  The only thing that we really know about the Nicolaitans is that the Lord hates their doctrine.  16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

 

Repent or else.

 

Those teaching the false doctrine must repent and those who allow it must repent as well.

 

Christ's judgment was complete.  Both of these "religions" were completely done away with. No documents are left today.

 

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.

 

"Hidden manna" stands in contrast to the things sacrificed to idols (v.14).

 

Jesus says that He is the true manna (John 6:33-35, 50-59).

 

His teaching concerning His death and resurrection were hidden (Luke 18:24) but were later revealed.

 

The treasures of wisdom are in Christ (Col 2:3).

 

"A white stone..."

In NT times in court a black stone was cast to signify a guilty verdict and white was for not guilty.

Acts 26:10   "My pebble of voting" literally.

"A new name..."

Possible referring the name Christian (Isaiah 62:2).

We are made new in Christ (Romans 6:3-4).

Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29).

The City.

Today Thyatira is the modern Turkish city of Ackisar (pop. 75,000).  It was located on te Lycus River in a well watered plain.  It lay about midway along a road that connected Pergamum and Sardis.  When Pergamum was the capital of Asia, this was a very important and heavily traveled road.  It came under Roman rule in about 133 B.C.  The city is famous for its "Turkish Red," a purple dye.  Also famous for its leeches supplied by its streams.  These were used for medicinal purposes.  Apollo was worshiped as the sun god.  There were many trade guilds here which had religious practices involved with them.

 

18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;

 

Here the Lord emphasizes His omniscience and power.

 

He could see all and would punish all those who did evil.

 

19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.

 

This was generally a well rounded congregation.

 

They worked for the Lord.

 

They worked out of love.

 

They were servants.

 

They were faithful and steadfast.

 

They were growing.

 

The last part of the verse is better translated "...and that thy last works are more than the first."

 

20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.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.23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

 

Jezebel is probably just a symbolic name after the wife of Ahab, king of Israel (1 Kings 16:31-33).  She helped to cause idol worship in Israel and even had prophets of the Lord killed (1 Kings 18:4) and fed the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:19).

 

What the Old Testament Jezebel did to Israel, this woman was doing to the church at Thyatira.

 

The main lesson is that it is possible to be so loving (their love was praised in verse 23) that you can bid error God speed.

 

There could be no better place for a false teacher.

 

The fornication being committed was probably spiritual but could have been physical also.

 

She was encouraging the church to compromise and 'cheat' on Christ.

 

God gave her time to repent (Eccl 8:11).  But now God's patience was exhausted (2 Peter 3:9).

 

Now she was going to be cast into a bed of tribulation with all of her followers.  Yet they could still escape if they would repent.

 

Her children are her followers or spiritual offspring.

 

The lesson to be learned from their destruction is that God knows the heart of man and will reward each person accordingly for their works.

 

24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.

 

The teachings of Jezebel were of Satan.

 

Those who had not followed her would face no greater burden than any other Christians.

 

The word "known" is gnosis meaning to know by experience.

 

25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.

 

That which they already had was the truth.

 

The Lord encourages them to hold fast to that truth.

 

26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: 27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star.

 

To those who continue to overcome and continue to keep Christ's commands...

 

He will give power over the nations and they shall rule with Him.

 

Christians rule with Christ and Christ is now ruling (Acts 2:33; Eph 2:6).

 

How do Christians rule?  Through conduct and influence.

 

Psalm 2:9 is quoted in verse 27.

 

Jesus calls Himself the bright and morning star (Rev 22:16).  However I am not sure He is talking about Himself here.

 

Could mean the dawning of a new day.  That the night is almost over.

 

Could also mean that which lives on after the others are gone.  Thus a promise of the resurrection and eternal life.

 

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

 

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10/05/2012