Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
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,
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
holdeth--Greek, "holdeth fast," as in
Joh 10:28, 29.
The title of Christ here as "holding fast the seven stars (from
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
2. I know thy works--expressing His omniscience. Not merely "thy
professions, desires, good resolutions"
thy labour--Two oldest manuscripts omit "thy"; one supports it.
The Greek means "labor unto weariness."
bear--evil men are a burden which the Ephesian
Church regarded as intolerable. We are to "bear (the same
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
The apostolical churches had the miraculous gift of discerning
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
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"
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," &c. 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
left thy first love--to Christ. Compare
"cast off their first faith." See the Ephesians' first love,
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,
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
I will come--Greek, "I am coming" in special judgment on
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
hatest the deeds--We should hate men's evil deeds, not
hate the men themselves.
Heresies, 1.26.3] and TERTULLIAN
[Prescription against Heretics, 46] make these followers of
Nicolas, one of the seven (honorably mentioned,
Ac 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
Re 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
(2Pe 2:15, 16, 19;
Jude 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
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
overcometh--In John's Gospel
and First Epistle
(1Jo 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
(1Co 9:24, 25;
but not the same as John's phrase, except
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
Pr 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4,
Re 22:2, 14;
It is interesting to note how closely these introductory addresses are
linked to the body of Revelation. Thus, the tree of life here,
deliverance from the second death
Re 20:14; 21:8;
the new name
power over the nations, with
the morning star
the white raiment
Re 4:4; 16:15;
the name in the book of life
Re 13:8; 20:15;
the new Jerusalem and its citizenship
give . . . tree of life--The thing promised
corresponds to the kind of faithfulness manifested. They who refrain
from Nicolaitane indulgences
(Re 2:14, 15),
shall eat of meat infinitely superior, namely, the fruit of the tree of
life, and the hidden manna
in the midst of the paradise--The oldest manuscripts omit "the
midst of." In
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;
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.
One oldest manuscript, with Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic,
and CYPRIAN, read, "MY God,"
So Christ calls God, "My God and your God"
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
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 IRENÆUS, who had
talked with POLYCARP in youth, tell us
POLYCARP was consecrated bishop of Smyrna by St.
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
Re 1:17, 18.
As death was to Him but the gate to life eternal, so it is to be to
(Re 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"
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
Nu 16:3; 20:4,
"congregation of the Lord." Even in
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"
represents the heathens' opposition to Christianity; "the depths
the opposition of heretics.
10. Fear none, &c.--the oldest manuscripts read, "Fear
not those things," &c. "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
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,
Ten is the number of the world powers hostile to the Church;
compare the ten horns of the beast,
unto death--so as even to endure death for My sake.
crown of life--
"crown of righteousness";
"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
was an ingredient in the holy anointing oil
a perfume of the heavenly Bridegroom
and of the bride
"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
Christianity has never wholly left it; whence the Turks call it,
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 Æsculapius,
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
(Re 2:13, 17),
and to convict and condemn to punishment others
compare also see on
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
Æsculapius was worshipped there under the serpent form; and
Satan, the old serpent, as the instigator (compare
of fanatical devotees of Æsculapius, 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
Note: "throne . . . the dragon, Satan
. . . war with her seed,"
Re 12:5, 9, 17.
even in those days--Two oldest manuscripts omit "even"; two
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
hold the doctrine of Balaam--"the teaching of Balaam,"
namely, that which he "taught Balak." Compare "the counsel of Balaam,"
"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
1Co 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 on
namely, to tempt God's people to idolatry.
which thing I hate--It is sin not to hate what God hates. The
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,
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
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
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
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
Joh 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
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
"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 on
whence this description is resumed). Again His attributes accord with
His address. The title "Son of God," is from
Ps 2:7, 9,
which is referred to in
The attribute, "eyes like a flame," &c., answers to
"I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts." The attribute, "feet
like . . . brass," answers to
"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,'
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,
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";
the converse of
Mt 12:45; 2Pe 2:20.
Instead of retrograding from "the first works" and "first love," as
Ephesus, Thyatira's last works exceeded her first
(Re 2:4, 5).
20. a few things--omitted in the three oldest manuscripts.
Translate then, "I have against thee that," &c.
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
formerly priest of Astarte, and murderer of his predecessor on the
[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
2Ki 9:22, 30,
"whoredoms of . . . Jezebel and her
witchcrafts" (impurity was part of the worship of the
Phœnician 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
(Re 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
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
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--
Eze 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
(compare Note, see on
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,
2Ki 10:6, 7, 24, 25.
Kill with death is a Hebraism for slay with most sure and
awful death; so "dying thou shalt die"
Not "die the common death of men"
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," &c.
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,
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
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"
Ac 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--
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,
and keepeth--Greek, "and he that keepeth." Compare the
same word in the passage already alluded to by the Lord,
Ac 15:28, 29,
my works--in contrast to "her (English Version, 'their')
The works which I command and which are the fruit of My Spirit.
unto the end--
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;
"have thou authority [the same word as here] over ten
Ps 2:8, 9.
rule--literally, "rule as a shepherd." In
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
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
"Shepherd" is used in
of hostile rulers; so also in
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,"
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"
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,
"I will give him . . . the hidden manna," that is,
Myself, who am that manna