The apostle John, having in the foregoing chapter written the things
which he had seen, now proceeds to write the things that are, according
to the command of God
that is, the present state of the seven churches of Asia, with which he
had a particular acquaintance, and for which he had a tender concern. He
was directed to write to every one of them according to their present
state and circumstances, and to inscribe every letter to the angel of
that church, to the minister or rather ministry of that church, called
angels because they are the messengers of God to mankind. In this
chapter we have,
I. The message sent to Ephesus,
II. To Smyrna,
III. To Pergamos,
IV. To Thyatira,
|The Church in Ephesus.
||A. D. 95.|
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;
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
3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake
hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou
hast left thy first love.
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
6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the
Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
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.
We have here,
I. The inscription, where observe,
1. To whom the first of these epistles is directed: To the church of
Ephesus, a famous church planted by the apostle Paul
and afterwards watered and governed by John, who had his residence very
much there. We can hardly think that Timothy was the angel, or sole
pastor and bishop, of this church at this time,--that he who was of a
very excellent spirit, and naturally cared for the good state of the
souls of the people, should become so remiss as to deserve the rebukes
given to the ministry of this church. Observe,
2. From whom this epistle to Ephesus was sent; and here we have one of
those titles that were given to Christ in his appearance to John in the
chapter foregoing: He that holds the seven stars in his right hand,
and walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks,
This title consists of two parts:--
(1.) He that holds the stars in his right hand. The ministers of
Christ are under his special care and protection. It is the honour of
God that he knows the number of the stars, calls them by their names,
binds the sweet influences of Pleiades and looses the bands of
Orion; and it is the honour of the Lord Jesus Christ that the
ministers of the gospel, who are greater blessings to the church than
the stars are to the world, are in his hand. He directs all their
motions; he disposes of them into their several orbs; he fills them
with light and influence; he supports them, or else they would soon be
falling stars; they are instruments in his hand, and all the good they
do is done by his hand with them.
(2.) He walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks. This
intimates his relation to his churches, as the other his relation to
his ministers. Christ is in an intimate manner present and conversant
with his churches; he knows and observes their state; he takes pleasure
in them, as a man does to walk in his garden. Though Christ is in
heaven, he walks in the midst of his churches on earth, observing what
is amiss in them and what it is that they want. This is a great
encouragement to those who have the care of the churches, that the Lord
Jesus has graven them upon the palms of his hands.
II. The contents of the epistle, in which, as in most of those that
follow, we have,
1. The commendation Christ gave this church, ministers and members,
which he always brings in by declaring that he knows their works, and
therefore both his commendation and reprehension are to be strictly
regarded; for he does not in either speak at a venture: he knows what
he says. Now the church of Ephesus is commended,
(1.) For their diligence in duty: I know thy works, and thy
This may more immediately relate to the ministry of this church, which
had been laborious and diligent. Dignity calls for duty. Those that are
stars in Christ's hand had need to be always in motion, dispensing
light to all about them. For my name's sake thou hast laboured, and
hast not fainted,
Christ keeps an account of every day's work, and every hour's work, his
servants do for him, and their labour shall not be in vain in the
(2.) For their patience in suffering: Thy labour and thy
It is not enough that we be diligent, but we must be patient, and
endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ. Ministers must have and
exercise great patience, and no Christian can be without it. There must
be bearing patience, to endure the injuries of men and the rebukes of
Providence; and there must be waiting patience, that, when they have
done the will of God, they may receive the promise: Thou hast borne,
and hast patience,
We shall meet with such difficulties in our way and work as require
patience to go on and finish well.
(3.) For their zeal against what was evil: Thou canst not bear those
that are evil,
It consists very well with Christian patience not to dispense with sin,
much less allow it; though we must show all meekness to men, yet we
must show a just zeal against their sins. This their zeal was the more
to be commended because it was according to knowledge, a discreet zeal
upon a previous trial made of the pretences, practices, and tenets of
evil men: Thou hast tried those that say they are apostles and are
not, and hast found them liars. True zeal proceeds with discretion;
none should be cast off till they be tried. Some had risen up in this
church that pretended to be not ordinary ministers, but apostles; and
their pretensions had been examined but found to be vain and false.
Those that impartially search after truth may come to the knowledge of
2. The rebuke given to this church: Nevertheless, I have somewhat
Those that have much good in them may have something much amiss in
them, and our Lord Jesus, as an impartial Master and Judge, takes
notice of both; though he first observes what is good, and is most
ready to mention this, yet he also observes what is amiss, and will
faithfully reprove them for it. The sin that Christ charged this church
with was their decay and declension in holy love and zeal: Thou hast
left thy first love; not left and forsaken the object of it, but
lost the fervent degree of it that at first appeared. Observe,
(1.) The first affections of men towards Christ, and holiness, and
heaven, are usually lively and warm. God remembered the love of
Israel's espousals, when she would follow him withersoever he went.
(2.) These lively affections will abate and cool if great care be not
taken, and diligence used, to preserve them in constant exercise.
(3.) Christ is grieved and displeased with his people when he sees them
grow remiss and cold towards him, and he will one way or other make
them sensible that he does not take it well from them.
3. The advice and counsel given them from Christ: Remember therefore
whence thou hast fallen, and repent, &c.
(1.) Those that have lost their first love must remember whence they
have fallen; they must compare their present with their former
state, and consider how much better it was with them then than now, how
much peace, strength, purity, and pleasure they have lost, by leaving
their first love,--how much more comfortably they could lie down and
sleep at night,--how much more cheerfully they could awake in the
morning,--how much better they could bear afflictions, and how much
more becomingly they could enjoy the favours of Providence,--how much
easier the thoughts of death were to them, and how much stronger their
desires and hopes of heaven.
(2.) They must repent. They must be inwardly grieved and ashamed for
their sinful declension; they must blame themselves, and shame
themselves, for it, and humbly confess it in the sight of God, and
judge and condemn themselves for it.
(3.) They must return and do their first works. They must as it were
begin again, go back step by step, till they come to the place where
they took the first false step; they must endeavour to revive and
recover their first zeal, tenderness, and seriousness, and must pray as
earnestly, and watch as diligently, as they did when they first set out
in the ways of God.
4. This good advice is enforced and urged,
(1.) By a severe threatening, if it should be neglected: I will come
unto thee quickly, and remove thy candlestick out of its place. If
the presence of Christ's grace and Spirit be slighted, we may expect
the presence of his displeasure. He will come in a way of judgment, and
that suddenly and surprisingly, upon impenitent churches and sinners;
he will unchurch them, take away his gospel, his ministers, and his
ordinances from them, and what will the churches or the angels of the
churches do when the gospel is removed?
(2.) By an encouraging mention that is made of what was yet good among
them: This thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans,
which I also hate,
"Though thou hast declined in thy love to what is good, yet thou
retainest thy hatred to what is evil, especially to what is grossly
so." The Nicolaitans were a loose sect who sheltered themselves under
the name of Christianity. They held hateful doctrines, and they were
guilty of hateful deeds, hateful to Christ and to all true Christians;
and it is mentioned to the praise of the church of Ephesus that they
had a just zeal and abhorrence of those wicked doctrines and practices.
An indifference of spirit between truth and error, good and evil, may
be called charity and meekness, but it is not pleasing to
Christ. Our Saviour subjoins this kind commendation to his severe
threatening, to make the advice more effectual.
III. We have the conclusion of this epistle, in which, as in those that
follow, we have,
1. A call to attention: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the
Spirit saith unto the churches. Observe,
(1.) What is written in the scriptures is spoken by the Spirit of God.
(2.) What is said to one church concerns all the churches, in every
place and age.
(3.) We can never employ our faculty of hearing better than in
hearkening to the word of God: and we deserve to lose it if we do not
employ it to this purpose. Those who will not hear the call of God now
will wish at length they had never had a capacity of hearing any thing
2. A promise of great mercy to those who overcome. The Christian life
is a warfare against sin, Satan, the world, and the flesh. It is not
enough that we engage in this warfare, but we must pursue it to the
end, we must never yield to our spiritual enemies, but fight the good
fight, till we gain the victory, as all persevering Christians shall
do; and the warfare and victory shall have a glorious triumph and
reward. That which is here promised to the victors is that they shall
eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of
God. They shall have that perfection of holiness, and that
confirmation therein, which Adam would have had if he had gone well
through the course of his trial: he would then have eaten of the tree
of life which was in the midst of paradise, and this would have been
the sacrament of confirmation to him in his holy and happy state; so
all who persevere in their Christian trial and warfare shall derive
from Christ, as the tree of life, perfection and confirmation in
holiness and happiness in the paradise of God; not in the earthly
paradise, but the heavenly,
|The Church in Smyrna.
||A. D. 95.|
8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These
things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is
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.
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.
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
We now proceed to the second epistle sent to another of the Asian
churches, where, as before, observe,
I. The preface or inscription in both parts.
1. The superscription, telling us to whom it was more expressly and
immediately directed: To the angel of the church in Smyrna, a
place well known at this day by our merchants, a city of great trade
and wealth, perhaps the only city of all the seven that is still known
by the same name, now however no longer distinguished for its Christian
church being overrun by Mahomedism.
2. The subscription, containing another of the glorious titles of our
Lord Jesus, the first and the last, he that was dead and is
alive, taken out of
(1.) Jesus Christ is the first and the last. It is but a little
scantling of time that is allowed to us in this world, but our Redeemer
is the first and the last. He is the first, for by him all things were
made, and he was before all things with God and was God himself. He is
the last, for all things are made for him, and he will be the Judge of
all. This surely is the title of God, from everlasting and to
everlasting, and it is the title of one that is an unchangeable
Mediator between God and man, Jesus, the same yesterday, to-day, and
for ever. He was the first, for by him the foundation of the church
was laid in the patriarchal state; and he is the last, for by him the
top-stone will be brought forth and laid in the end of time.
(2.) He was dead and is alive. He was dead, and died for our
sins; he is alive, for he rose again for our justification, and he ever
lives to make intercession for us. He was dead, and by dying purchased
salvation for us; he is alive, and by his life applies this salvation
to us. And if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled by his
death, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
His death we commemorate every sacrament day; his resurrection and life
every sabbath day.
II. The subject-matter of this epistle to Smyrna, where, after the
common declaration of Christ's omniscience, and the perfect cognizance
he has of all the works of men and especially of his churches, he takes
1. Of the improvement they had made in their spiritual state. This
comes in in a short parentheses; yet it is very emphatic: But thou
poor in temporals, but rich in spirituals--poor in spirit, and yet rich
in grace. Their spiritual riches are set off by their outward poverty.
Many who are rich in temporals are poor in spirituals. Thus it was with
the church of Laodicea. Some who are poor outwardly are inwardly rich,
rich in faith and in good works, rich in privileges, rich in bonds and
deeds of gift, rich in hope, rich in reversion. Spiritual riches are
usually the reward of great diligence; the diligent hand makes
rich. Where there is spiritual plenty, outward poverty may be
better borne; and when God's people are impoverished in temporals, for
the sake of Christ and a good conscience, he makes all up to them in
spiritual riches, which are much more satisfying and enduring.
2. Of their sufferings: I know thy tribulation and thy
poverty--the persecution they underwent, even to the spoiling of
their goods. Those who will be faithful to Christ must expect to go
through many tribulations; but Jesus Christ takes particular notice of
all their troubles. In all their afflictions, he is afflicted, and he
will recompense tribulation to those who trouble them, but to those
that are troubled rest with himself.
3. He knows the wickedness and the falsehood of their enemies: I
know the blasphemy of those that say they are Jews, but are not;
that is, of those who pretend to be the only peculiar covenant-people
of God, as the Jews boasted themselves to be, even after God had
rejected them; or of those who would be setting up the Jewish rites and
ceremonies, which were now not only antiquated, but abrogated; these
may say that they only are the church of God in the world, when indeed
they are the synagogue of Satan. Observe,
(1.) As Christ has a church in the world, the spiritual Israel of God,
so the devil has his synagogue. Those assemblies which are set up in
opposition to the truths of the gospel, and which promote and propagate
damnable errors,--those which are set up in opposition to the purity
and spirituality of gospel worship, and which promote and propagate the
vain inventions of men and rites and ceremonies which never entered
into the thoughts of God,--these are all synagogues of Satan: he
presides over them, he works in them, his interests are served by them,
and he receives a horrid homage and honour from them.
(2.) For the synagogues of Satan to give themselves out to be the
church or Israel of God is no less than blasphemy. God is greatly
dishonoured when his name is made use of to promote and patronize the
interests of Satan; and he has a high resentment of this blasphemy, and
will take a just revenge on those who persist in it.
4. He foreknows the future trials of his people, and forewarns them of
them, and fore-arms them against them.
(1.) He forewarns them of future trials: The devil shall cast some
of you into prison, and you shall have tribulation,
The people of God must look for a series and succession of troubles in
this world, and their troubles usually rise higher. They had been
impoverished by their tribulations before; now they must be imprisoned.
Observe, It is the devil that stirs up his instruments, wicked men, to
persecute the people of God; tyrants and persecutors are the devil's
tools, though they gratify their own sinful malignity, and know not
that they are actuated by a diabolical malice.
(2.) Christ fore-arms them against these approaching troubles,
[1.] By his counsel: Fear none of these things. This is not only
a word of command, but of efficacy, no, only forbidding slavish fear,
but subduing it and furnishing the soul with strength and courage.
[2.] By showing them how their sufferings would be alleviated and
limited. First, They should not be universal. It would be some
of them, not all, who should be cast into prison, those who were best
able to bear it and might expect to be visited and comforted by the
rest. Secondly, They were not to be perpetual, but for a set
time, and a short time: Ten days. It should not be everlasting
tribulation, the time should be shortened for the elect's sake.
Thirdly, It should be to try them, not to destroy them, that their
faith, and patience, and courage, might be proved and improved, and be
found to honour and glory.
[3.] By proposing and promising a glorious reward to their fidelity:
Be thou faithful to death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
Observe, First, The sureness of the reward: I will give
thee. He has said it that is able to do it; and he has undertaken
that he will do it. They shall have the reward from his own hand, and
none of their enemies shall be able to wrest it out of his hand, or to
pull it from their heads. Secondly, The suitableness of it.
1. A crown, to reward their poverty, their fidelity, and their
2. A crown of life, to reward those who are faithful even unto
death, who are faithful till they die, and who part with life itself in
fidelity to Christ. The life so worn out in his service, or laid down
in his cause, shall be rewarded with another and a much better life
that shall be eternal.
III. The conclusion of this message, and that, as before,
1. With a call to universal attention, that all men, all the world,
should hear what passes between Christ and his churches--how he
commends them, how he comforts them, how he reproves their failures,
how he rewards their fidelity. It concerns all the inhabitants of the
world to observe God's dealings with his own people; all the world may
learn instruction and wisdom thereby.
2. With a gracious promise to the conquering Christian: He that
overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death,
(1.) There is not only a first, but a second death, a death after the
body is dead.
(2.) This second death is unspeakably worse than the first death, both
in the dying pangs and agonies of it (which are the agonies of the
soul, without any mixture of support) and in the duration; it is
eternal death, dying the death, to die and to be always dying.
This is hurtful indeed, fatally hurtful, to all who fall under it.
(3.) From this hurtful, this destructive death, Christ will save all
his faithful servants; the second death shall have no power over those
who are partakers of the first resurrection: the first death
shall not hurt them, and the second death shall have no power over
|The Church in Pergamos.
||A. D. 95.|
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.
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.
15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the
Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will
fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
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
Here also we are to consider,
I. The inscription of this message.
1. To whom it was sent: To the angel of the church of Pergamos.
Whether this was a city raised up out of the ruins of old Troy, a Troy
nouveau (as our London was once called), or some other city of
the same name, is neither certain nor material; it was a place where
Christ had called and constituted a gospel church, by the preaching of
the gospel and the grace of his Spirit making the word effectual.
2. Who it was that sent this message to Pergamos: the same Jesus who
here describes himself as one that hath the sharp sword with two
out of whose mouth went a sharp two-edged sword. Some have
observed that, in the several titles of Christ which are prefixed to
the several epistles, there is something suited to the state of those
churches; as in that to Ephesus, what could be more proper to awaken
and recover a drowsy and declining church than to hear Christ speaking
as one that held the stars in his hand, and walked in the midst of
the golden candlesticks? &c. The church of Pergamos was infested
with men of corrupt minds, who did what they could to corrupt both the
faith and manners of the church; and Christ, being resolved to fight
against them by the sword of his word, takes the title of him that
hath the sharp sword with two edges.
(1.) The word of God is a sword; it is a weapon both offensive and
defensive, it is, in the hand of God, able to slay both sin and
(2.) It is a sharp sword. No heart is so hard but it is able to
cut it; it can divide asunder between the soul and the spirit, that is,
between the soul and those sinful habits that by custom have become
another soul, or seem to be essential to it.
(3.) It is a sword with two edges; it turns and cuts every way.
There is the edge of the law against the transgressors of that
dispensation, and the edge of the gospel against the despisers
of that dispensation; there is an edge to make a wound, and an edge to
open a festered wound in order to its healing. There is no escaping
the edge of this sword: if you turn aside to the right hand, it has an
edge on that side; if on the left hand, you fall upon the edge of the
sword on that side; it turns every way.
II. From the inscription we proceed to the contents of the epistle, in
which the method is much the same as is observed in the rest.
1. Christ takes notice of the trials and difficulties this church
encountered with: I know thy works, and where thou dwellest,
The works of God's servants are best known when the circumstances under
which they did those works are duly considered. Now that which added
very much lustre to the good works of this church was the circumstance
of the place where this church was planted, a place where Satan's
seat was. As our great Lord takes notice of all the advantages and
opportunities we have for duty in the places where we dwell, so he
takes notice of all the temptations and discouragements we meet with
from the places where we dwell, and makes gracious allowances for them.
This people dwelt where Satan's seat was, where he kept his court. His
circuit is throughout the world, his seat is in some
places that are infamous for wickedness, error, and cruelty. Some think
that the Roman governor in this city was a most violent enemy to the
Christians; and the seat of persecution is Satan's seat.
2. He commends their stedfastness: Thou holdest fast my name, and
hast not denied my faith. These two expressions are much the same
in sense; the former may, however, signify the effect and the latter
the cause or means.
(1.) "Thou holdest fast my name; thou art not ashamed of thy
relation to me, but accountest it thine honour that my name is named on
thee, that, as the wife bears the name of the husband, so thou art
called by my name; this thou holdest fast, as thine honour and
(2.) "That which has made thee thus faithful is the grace of faith:
thou hast not denied the great doctrines of the gospel, nor
departed from the Christian faith, and by that means thou hast been
kept faithful." Our faith will have a great influence upon our
faithfulness. Men who deny the faith of Christ may boast very much of
their sincerity, and faithfulness to God and conscience; but it has
been seldom known that those who let go the true faith retained their
fidelity; usually on that rock on which men make shipwreck of their
faith they make shipwreck of a good conscience too. And here our
blessed Lord aggrandizes the fidelity of this church from the
circumstance of the times, as well as of the place where they lived:
they had been stedfast even in those days wherein Antipas his
faithful martyr was slain among them. Who this person was, and
whether there be anything mysterious in his name, we have no certain
account. He was a faithful disciple of Christ, he suffered martyrdom
for it, and sealed his faith and fidelity with his blood in the place
where Satan dwelt; and though the rest of the believers there knew
this, and saw it, yet they were not discouraged nor drawn away from
their stedfastness: this is mentioned as an addition to their
3. He reproves them for their sinful failures
But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there those
that hold the doctrine of Balaam, &c., and those that hold the
doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. There were some
who taught that it was lawful to eat things sacrificed to idols, and
that simple fornication was no sin; they, by an impure worship, drew
men into impure practices, as Balaam did the Israelites. Observe,
(1.) The filthiness of the spirit and the filthiness of the flesh often
go together. Corrupt doctrines and a corrupt worship often lead to a
(2.) It is very lawful to fix the name of the leaders of any heresy
upon those who follow them. It is the shortest way of telling whom we
(3.) To continue in communion with persons of corrupt principles and
practices is displeasing to God, draws a guilt and blemish upon the
whole society: they become partakers of other men's sins. Though
the church, as such, has no power to punish the persons of men, either
for heresy or immorality, with corporal penalties, yet it has power to
exclude them from its communion; and, if it do not so, Christ, the head
and lawgiver of the church, will be displeased with it.
4. He calls them to repentance: Repent, or else I will come unto
thee quickly, &c.,
(1.) Repentance is the duty of saints as well as sinners; it is a
(2.) It is the duty of churches and communities as well as particular
persons; those who sin together should repent together.
(3.) It is the duty of Christian societies to repent of other men's
sins, as far as they have been accessory to them, though but so much as
(4.) When God comes to punish the corrupt members of a church, he
rebukes that church itself for allowing such to continue in its
communion, and some drops of the storm fall upon the whole society.
(5.) No sword cuts so deep, nor inflicts so mortal a wound, as the
sword of Christ's mouth. Let but the threatenings of the word be set
home upon the conscience of a sinner, and he will soon be a terror to
himself; let these threatenings be executed, and the sinner is utterly
cut off. The word of God will take hold of sinners, sooner or later,
either for their conviction or their confusion.
III. We have the conclusion of this epistle, where, after the usual
demand of universal attention, there is the promise of great favour to
those that overcome. They shall eat of the hidden manna, and have
the new name, and the white stone, which no man knoweth, saving he that
1. The hidden manna, the influences and comforts of the Spirit of
Christ in communion with him, coming down from heaven into the soul,
from time to time, for its support, to let it taste something how
saints and angels live in heaven. This is hidden from the rest of the
world--a stranger intermeddles not with this joy; and it is laid
up in Christ, the ark of the covenant, in the holy of holies.
2. The white stone, with a new name engraven upon it. This white stone
is absolution from the guilt of sin, alluding to the ancient custom of
giving a white stone to those acquitted on trial and a black stone to
those condemned. The new name is the name of adoption: adopted persons
took the name of the family into which they were adopted. None can read
the evidence of a man's adoption but himself; he cannot always read it,
but if he persevere he shall have both the evidence of sonship and the
|The Church in Thyatira.
||A. D. 95.|
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;
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
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
22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit
adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of
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
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.
25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
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
28 And I will give him the morning star.
29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto
The form of each epistle is very much the same; and in this, as the
rest, we have to consider the inscription, contents, and
I. The inscription, telling us,
1. To whom it is directed: To the angel of the church of
Thyatira, a city of the proconsular Asia, bordering upon Mysia on
the north and Lydia on the south, a town of trade, whence came the
woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, who, being at Philippi in
Macedonia, probably about the business of her calling, heard Paul
preach there, and God opened her heart, that she attended to the
things that were spoken, and believed, and was baptized, and
entertained Paul and Silas there. Whether it was by her means that the
gospel was brought into her own city, Thyatira, is not certain; but
that it was there, and successful to the forming of a gospel church,
this epistle assures us.
2. By whom it was sent: by the Son of God, who is here described
as having eyes like a flame of fire, and feet like as fine
brass. His general title is here, the Son of God, that is,
the eternal and only-begotten Son of God, which denotes that he has the
same nature with the Father, but with a distinct and subordinate manner
of subsistence. The description we have here of him is in two
(1.) That his eyes are like a flame of fire, signifying his piercing,
penetrating, perfect knowledge, a thorough insight into all persons and
all things, one who searches the hearts and tries the reins of the
children of men
and will make all the churches to know he does so.
(2.) That his feet are like fine brass, that the outgoings of his
providence are steady, awful, and all pure and holy. As he judges with
perfect wisdom, so he acts with perfect strength and steadiness.
II. The contents or subject-matter of this epistle, which, as the rest,
1. The honourable character and commendation Christ gives of this
church, ministry, and people; and this given by one who was no stranger
to them, but well acquainted with them and with the principles from
which they acted. Now in this church Christ makes honourable mention,
(1.) Of their charity, either more general, a disposition to do
good to all men, or more special, to the household of faith: there is
no religion where there is no charity.
(2.) Their service, their ministration; this respects chiefly
the officers of the church, who had laboured in the word and doctrine.
(3.) Their faith, which was the grace that actuated all the
rest, both their charity and their service.
(4.) Their patience; for those that are most charitable to
others, most diligent in their places, and most faithful, must yet
expect to meet with that which will exercise their patience.
(5.) Their growing fruitfulness: their last works were better than the
first. This is an excellent character; when others had left their
first love, and lost their first zeal, these were growing
wiser and better. It should be the ambition and earnest desire of all
Christians that their last works may be their best works, that they may
be better and better every day, and best at last.
2. A faithful reproof for what was amiss. This is not so directly
charged upon the church itself as upon some wicked seducers who were
among them; the church's fault was that she connived too much at
(1.) These wicked seducers were compared to Jezebel, and called by her
name. Jezebel was a persecutor of the prophets of the Lord, and a great
patroness of idolaters and false prophets. The sin of these seducers
was that they attempted to draw the servants of God into fornication,
and to offer sacrifices to idols; they called themselves prophets, and
so would claim a superior authority and regard to the ministers of the
church. Two things aggravated the sin of these seducers, who, being one
in their spirit and design, are spoken of as one person:--
[1.] They made use of the name of God to oppose the truth of his
doctrine and worship; this very much aggravated their sin.
[2.] They abused the patience of God to harden themselves in their
wickedness. God gave them space for repentance, but they repented not.
Observe, First, Repentance is necessary to prevent a sinner's
ruin. Secondly, Repentance requires time, a course of time, and
time convenient; it is a great work, and a work of time.
Thirdly, Where God gives space for repentance, he expects fruits
meet for repentance. Fourthly, Where the space for repentance is
lost, the sinner perishes with a double destruction.
(2.) Now why should the wickedness of this Jezebel be charged upon the
church of Thyatira? Because that church suffered her to seduce the
people of that city. But how could the church help it? They had not, as
a church, civil power to banish or imprison her; but they had
ministerial power to censure and to excommunicate her: and it is
probable that neglecting to use the power they had made them sharers in
3. The punishment of this seducer, this Jezebel,
in which is couched a prediction of the fall of Babylon.
(1.) I will cast her into a bed, into a bed of pain, not of
pleasure, into a bed of flames; and those who have sinned with her
shall suffer with her; but this may yet be prevented by their
(2.) I will kill her children with death; that is, the second
death, which does the work effectually, and leaves no hope of future
life, no resurrection for those that are killed by the second death,
but only to shame and everlasting contempt.
4. The design of Christ in the destruction of these wicked seducers,
and this was the instruction of others, especially of his churches:
All the churches shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins
and the hearts; and I will give to every one of you according to your
works. God is known by the judgments that he executes; and,
by this revenge taken upon seducers, he would make known,
(1.) His infallible knowledge of the hearts of men, of their
principles, designs, frame, and temper, their formality, their
indifference, their secret inclinations to symbolize with idolaters.
(2.) His impartial justice, in giving every one according to his
work, that the name of Christians should be no protection, their
churches should be no sanctuaries for sin and sinners.
5. The encouragement given to those who keep themselves pure and
undefiled: But to you I say, and unto the rest, &c.,
(1.) What these seducers called their doctrines--depths,
profound mysteries, amusing the people, and endeavouring to persuade
them that they had a deeper insight into religion than their own
ministers had attained to.
(2.) What Christ called them--depths of Satan, Satanical
delusions and devices, diabolical mysteries; for there is a mystery
of iniquity, as well and the great mystery of godliness. It
is a dangerous thing to despise the mystery of God, and it is as
dangerous to receive the mysteries of Satan.
(3.) How tender Christ is of his faithful servants: "I will lay upon
you no other burden; but that which you have already hold fast till I
I will not overburden your faith with any new mysteries, nor your
consciences with any new laws. I only require your attention to what
you have received. Hold that fast till I come, and I desire no
more." Christ is coming to put an end to all the temptations of his
people; and, if they hold fast faith and a good conscience till he
come, all the difficulty and danger will be over.
III. We now come to the conclusion of this message,
Here we have,
1. The promise of an ample reward to the persevering victorious
believer, in two parts:--
(1.) Very great power and dominion over the rest of the world: Power
over the nations, which may refer either to the time when the
empire should turn Christian, and the world be under the government of
the Christian emperor, as in Constantine's time; or to the other world,
when believers shall sit down with Christ on his throne of judgment,
and join with him in trying, and condemning, and consigning over to
punishment the enemies of Christ and the church. The upright shall
have dominion in the morning.
(2.) Knowledge and wisdom, suitable to such power and dominion: I
will give him the morning-star. Christ is the morning-star. He
brings day with him into the soul, the light of grace and of glory; and
he will give his people that perfection of light and wisdom which is
requisite to the state of dignity and dominion that they shall have in
the morning of the resurrection.
2. This epistle ends with the usual demand of attention: He that
hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
In the foregoing epistles, this demand of attention comes before the
concluding promise; but in this, and all that follow, it comes after,
and tells us that we should all attend to the promises as well as to
the precepts that Christ delivers to the churches.