Bible Commentary on the
To the Church in Ephesus
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 liars:
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 repent.
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.
To the Church in Smyrna
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;
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 death.
To the Church in Pergamum
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 it.
To the Church in Thyatira
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 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.
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 my Father.
28 And I will give him the morning star.
29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
The word Ephesus means 'first' or 'desirable.' In the first century 'Ephesus' was the capital of Asia Minor. It was also the centre of trade from both the east and the west. At the time that John was writing, Ephesus was a stronghold of Greek culture. Paganism was well established for there were many heathen temples in that city. The most prominent being that of Diana of the Ephesians.
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;
Unto the Angel of the church of Ephesus write
The first message which John was bidden to deliver was to the church of Ephesus. There were other churches in Asia Minor, but there were reasons why Ephesus was first addressed, and why it should be taken to represent the church in general during the first years of its existence.
It was in Ephesus that the Gospel met in open conflict with the darkest forms of Pagan worship.
Acts 19:18, 19: "And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver."
The preaching of the Gospel had a remarkable effect on the people. Magicians and astrologers were in great numbers and they carried on a brisk trade in charms, books of divination and so on. As St Paul preached, those who accepted the Gospel soon realised that the power of Christianity was superior to the curious arts, charms and mystic names. They burned their books, an act of real sacrifice, for it involved not only the cost of the books but the loss of potential income.
Ephesus was the church of the Apostles, active and pure. Paul was the first preacher about A.D. 52. Aquila and Priscilla settled there and along with Apollos preached the Gospel. Paul returned later and spent three years there, longer than at any other place on his recorded missionary journey, which indicates that his ministry there must have been very fruitful.
Unto the angel
You will notice that in these letters, they are addressed to the 'angel' or 'leader' of the Church. John the Revelator had been the leader of this church up to the time of his imprisonment. Just who took his place does not seem to be known.
These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand
The seven stars represent the angels of the Seven Churches. The Angels are a symbol of leaders. The fact that the leaders are held in the right hand of the Saviour, shows that the leaders of the church on earth are under the protection and control of Christ. In their appointed tasks in God's Church they are sustained by divine power and grace.
Who walketh in the midst of the Seven Golden Candlesticks
Candlesticks or lamp stands in chapter 1:20; these lamp stands are declared to represent the seven Churches. God intended that the Church should be a light to the world. Each church should be a light to the particular community. The fact that the lamp stands are gold suggests the preciousness of the Church in bringing light and life to the community.
Who walketh in the midst
Christ is intensely interested in His Church and that He walks among the lamp stands shows the love and care He has for His Church on earth, it is very precious in His sight.
The Christians at Ephesus were noted for the love and unity that existed among them. 'Testimonies to the Church by EG White', Vol 6. p.421: "Filled with love for their Redeemer they sought as their highest aim to win souls to Him." The work of spreading the Gospel message was carried out vigorously going to every town and city and multitudes of believers were added to the Church.
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 thy works, and thy labour
And thy patience
Rather perseverance, or endurance. Despite violent opposition and persecution they actively engaged in spreading the Gospel message.
And how thou canst not bear them which are evil
The Church at Ephesus was to be commended for making a clear distinction between truth and error and for taking a firm stand against it. Too often the Church finds it easier to remain silent concerning the sins of their congregations than to take a bold stand for truth.
And thou hast tried them which say they are Apostles, and are not
Thou hast tried them
It was John in one of his epistles who cautioned the believers with respect to the coming of 'antichrist' and advised them to "try the spirits whether they are of God",
1 John 4:1-3. Paul had also warned them regarding 'grievous wolves' who would enter in among them, "speaking perverse things",
Acts 20:29, 30.
Which say they are Apostles
Tradition indicates that a Gnostic named Cerinthus, visited Ephesus and fomented trouble for John and his congregation; other heresies caused trouble in that early church. The Church in general has been plagued with similar problems.
And hast found them liars
The sincere Christian who is sensitive to spiritual things can usually detect the unchristian spirit and motives of those who make pretence of their religion. The Ephesians were able to see through the false pretensions of these so called Apostles.
AND HAST BORNE, AND HAST PATIENCE, AND for MY NAME'S SAKE HAST LABOURED, AND HAST NOT FAINTED.
And hast borne, and hast patience
They were very patient with the false apostles they gave them a hearing. Possibly some were quite fanatical and difficult to deal with but the Ephesian Church treated them fairly, and if found false, firmly.
And for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted
It was vigilant Church, a very active Church, a Church that was aflame for Christ. Earnestly seeking for souls for the Kingdom. There was no doubt that the Kingdom of Christ was invading the realm of the enemy. In the space of thirty years the Gospel went to every creature under heaven. Poor and rich alike heard the glad tidings, it even crept into the palace, for Paul preached to some of Nero's household.
NEVERTHELESS I HAVE SOMEWHAT AGAINST THEE, BECAUSE THOU HAST Left THY FIRST LOVE.
Philips translation has "You do not love as you did at first." This is still talking about Ephesus when it says they did not love as they did at first.
This is the Church that was baptized with tongues of fire, that staggered the populace by being able to speak in many languages. The Church that saw the conversion of thousands in one day alone, more than 3,000 converted. The Church that was star studded with great evangelists such as Peter, Paul, John, Timothy, Stephen, Apollos and many others too numerous to mention.
Pentecost had dimmed, as the Church grew larger and larger and began to spread out and out, somehow the vigour of that first missionary thrust began to wane as the false apostles slowed the work considerably. When there is trouble in the church much time and effort is used up in combating the problem. This is what happened at Ephesus, their mission efforts slowed down.
'Acts of the Apostles by EG White' pp. 580, 581: "Twas at this critical time in the history of the church that John was sentenced to banishment, never had his voice been needed by the church as now. ... After a time the zeal of the believers began to wane, and their love for God and for one another grew less. Coldness crept into the church ..."
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.
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent
Three things are suggested in this verse: remember, repent, return. These three things are important steps to regaining the first love experience. Remember the thrill of that first love, the overwhelming desire to tell others of our new found experience. The need to repent of the stagnant, sour, soul destroying spiritual situation we have allowed ourselves to get in, to return to that vibrant, soul seeking first love.
'Review and Herald', February 25,1902: "The love of God has been lost, and this means the absence of love for one another. Self, self, self is cherished, and is striving for the supremacy..."
And do the first works
It was imperative that a revival and reformation take place in the Church and this can only come about as the believers allow the Holy Spirit to take control of their lives and actions.
Or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candle stick out of his place
Unless that revival came, then the light would go out and leave the Church in darkness, no longer to be a guide and life giving agency to those around it.
Except thou repent
It is wonderful to know that the Church did heed the warning given to it by the Saviour. In his Prologue to his epistle to the Ephesians, Ignatius reports that the Church did heed the call. It is a call that is just as timely today as ever. Your Church and my Church must take heed of this vital message.
BUT THIS THOU HAST, THAT THOU HATEST THE DEEDS Of THE NiCOLAITANES, WHICH I ALSO HATE.
The Nicolaitanes referred to in this verse are an early Gnostic sect. The Gnostics gave themselves that name; it means "the men who know." Gnosticism is an attempt to answer all the remote and abstract questions that religion can raise in the minds of men. It was a combination of Christianity with Greek philosophy and Oriental faiths. They placed God so far above the world that He could not be either its creator or its law giver. They did not believe in the divinity of Christ nor did they believe in the Bible record of Creation. They held to a community of wives, regarding adultery and fornication as matters of indifference. They permitted the eating of things offered to idols. In order to keep their employment they joined various craft guilds, one of the requirements for membership being that at least once a year, they pay worshipful homage to the emperor such as offering incense, etc.
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, WHICH is in the midst OF THE PARADISE OF GOD.
He that hath an ear
It is vitally important that the Seven Churches should take heed of the counsel that has been given. If they fail to do so, then they will fail in the purpose God has for them. The purpose of the Church is to lighten those in darkness.
Let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches
The Holy Spirit has the oversight of the Church of God on earth. When Christ ascended to heaven and joined the Father, the Holy Spirit was sent to direct the Churches in spreading the Gospel.
To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life
The Holy Spirit has a very important message.
To him that overcometh
Overcoming is a recurring theme in the Book of Revelation. It is used seven times in the message to the Seven Churches. It is used here in the sense of a person who continues to overcome, right to the very last hour of their life.
Which is in the midst of the paradise of God
The Bible tells us that Paradise is where God dwells. In
2 Corinthians 12:2, 4 Paul speaks of the third heaven and of Paradise. So the 'tree of life' is up there in the 'Garden of Eden' which was taken up to heaven before the flood.
At one time the 'tree of life' was right here on this earth and Adam and Eve had free access to it, but because of sin, they lost that privilege and were no longer allowed to enter the 'Garden of Eden'. But Christ has by His death on the cross, reconciled man to God and made it possible to partake of the life-giving fruit if he heeds the message of the Holy Spirit.
AND UNTO THE ANGEL OF THE CHURCH IN SMYRNA WRITE; THESE THINGS saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write
Smyrna means 'myrrh' or 'a sweet-smelling savour'. Myrrh is a sweet smelling plant found in Arabia and used in the manufacture of an aromatic ointment.
As far as the local Church is concerned, in spite of many persecutions, Christianity is still alive and active at Smyrna today. About half of the present population is Christian. It is the headquarters of several denominational mission enterprises. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, is still a strong city today having a population of 154,000. Located 35 miles north of Ephesus at the head of a beautiful bay and has a splendid harbour. It is quite possible that this Church was established by the Apostle Paul.
As the Seven Churches are a representation of the Church in general during the Christian period, as well as local Churches, Smyrna takes us from the close of the first century to the Edict of Milan. A.D. 100-313.
These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive
There is no question of whom this is speaking. The first and the last, or the Alpha and the Omega. Alpha and Omega is clearly Christ, for this title is applied to Him in
Revelation 22:13 as is evident from verse 16. The first and the last is the writer of the Smyrna letters.
The fact that He was dead and now is alive not only proves that this is Christ but is great encouragement to a Church that is facing persecution and death for its faith.
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.
I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty
You will notice that Christ does not censure this Church. The Smyrna period of the Church was a period of persecution and martyrdom. The growing Church was hated and its members were hunted down and put to death. Christians were accused of every conceivable crime and were blamed for every calamity - fire and famine, pestilence and earthquake. Rome came to regard Christians who acknowledged their first allegiance to God as enemies of the empire and instituted terrible persecutions against them. It was the age of the arena and the amphitheatre, when Christians were thrown to wild beasts to make sport for the populace, when they were burned and crucified.
But thou art rich
In spite of the poverty of these Christians in Smyrna, they were rich in the eyes of the Lord. The spirituality of these Christians was of a high order.
The Smyrna period represents a time when the Church was almost crushed, Caesar worship became compulsory throughout the Roman Empire, and one was regarded as disloyal who did not burn a pinch of incense at some public altar and so doing would say, Kaisar kurios (Caesar is Lord) meaning deity.
And I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not
The Book of Acts reveals that many of the troubles of the early Church arose from the violent opposition of the Jews. In the second century Jews are said to have brought about the martyrdom of Polycarp, a bishop of Smyrna. During this time Tertullian spoke of the synagogues as "fountains of persecutions".
Which say they are Jews, and are not
They make this claim but their lives and actions deny it. A true Jew is clearly defined by Paul in
Romans 2:28: "He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly;..." Verse 29,"... but he is a Jew which is one inwardly". Again in
Romans 9:6, 7: "For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel; neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children."
If they were real Jews then they would have the same character as that of Abraham.
John 8:39, "They answered and said unto Him Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham."
But are the synagogue of Satan
Satan was behind the evil plots against the Christians. It was in the synagogues where many wicked schemes was devised.
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.
Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer
'Great Controversy by EG White' p.41, "In vain were Satan's efforts to destroy the church of Christ by violence. The great controversy in which the disciples of Jesus yielded up their lives, did not cease when these faithful standard bearers fell at their post. By defeat they conquered. God's workmen were slain, but His work went steadily forward. The gospel continued to spread and the number of its adherents to increase. It penetrated into regions that were inaccessible, even to the eagles of Rome.."
Behold, the Devil shall cast some of you into prison
It was the Devil who was working behind the persecution, stirring up hatred and enmity against the Christian Church.
That ye may be tried
It is rather a strange thing but trial and persecution brings the best qualities out in a church. And God has a purpose in trial and affliction, He uses it to purify the Church. 'Testimonies to the Church by EG White', Vol 9. p.228, "He suffers no affliction to come upon the church but such as is essential for her purification, her present and eternal good... All that He brings upon the church in test and trial comes that His people may gain deeper piety and more strength to carry the triumphs of the cross to all parts of the world."
And ye shall have tribulation ten days
In prophecy a day equals a year and obviously this time mentioned here is prophetic time, for ten years of intense persecution came upon the Church.
Diocletian the Roman emperor put into effect a savage decree and many Christians suffered death and intense suffering. The Church historian Theodoret describes the horrors of this persecution, he tells of the gathering of the bishops of the church to the Council of Nicaea some years after the end of the persecution A.D. 325. Some came without eyes some without arms, which had been pulled from their sockets, others with their bodies horribly maimed in different ways, many of course did not survive.
Be thou faithful unto death, and l will give thee a crown of life
Be thou faithful unto death. There is no need to be fearful of the first death. As God's children we have the assurance that the grave will not hold us. Christ's resurrection is authority for that.
I will give thee a crown of life
A Crown of Life. No greater reward could be offered to God's people than this. Not a monarchs crown, a Kingly crown, but a Crown of Life. Death was claiming many of God's people even as John penned those lines, but they gladly laid down their lives knowing that eternal life would be theirs.
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 SECOND DEATH.
He that hath an ear
That is, to heed the counsel given by the Holy Spirit.
Let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches
It is very important that we take heed of the message the Holy Spirit has for us, for it means the difference of life or death and comes to every believer from the throne room of God.
He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death
Right through the Book of Revelation there is a special emphasis on overcoming. As we have already noticed, overcoming is a recurring theme. Paul says in
1 Corinthians 9:27, "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."
Matthew 10:22, "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved."
In spite of severe trial and bitter persecution, faithfulness right to the very end is necessary if the Christian is to escape the second death.
AND TO THE ANGEL OF THE CHURCH IN PERGAMOS WRITE; these THINGS saith he which hath the sharp sword with two EDGES;
And to the angel of the church in Pergamos
The city of Pergamos located forty miles north of Smyrna and fifteen miles from the sea, was built on a high rocky mass rising a thousand feet above the valley. It was a city of temples, the most important being the temple of Zeus with its great altar 90 feet square and 40 feet high.
Judging from the condemnation that is given to this church it seems apparent that compromise, apostasy and seeking for worldly approbation had sapped the spirituality of the church.
As representing the Church universal covering the period of 323 A.D. until 538 A.D., it is rather fitting.
The 'ten years' persecution of Diocletian failed to accomplish what the emperor had hoped for. By faith the martyrs could see the crown of eternal life held out to them by the Son of God. Nothing it seems could curb the spread of Christianity for it spread with wonderful rapidity.
However as we follow this church period we notice that a great change takes place. Up to this time the Roman emperors had cruelly persecuted the Christians, but now the Emperor Constantine becomes the champion of Christianity. It was through the efforts of Constantine that the Church and Christianity was raised to a high position in the Roman Empire. Pergamos means 'elevation' and fittingly described the Church of this period.
Christianity became very popular and rich rewards, plus promotions to office in the government were offered as inducements to the people to become Christians. The number of converts rapidly increased and Church buildings multiplied.
A great struggle for power began to take place between the bishops of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Rome, Ephesus, and Alexandria. They all contended one with the other for supremacy and power, but finally the bishop of Rome (the seat of the Dragon) was acknowledged the head of the Christian Church. Christ as He watched from heaven the way things were going on earth sent this timely message.
These things saith He which hath the sharp sword with two edges
The 'sword of truth' with its sharp and double sided cutting edges, once again does its work of separating truth from error. As it does, it lays bare the faults and the failings of this Church.
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.
I know thy works
Although these words are not in the original text, they still apply as Christ kept a very close watch on the missionary activities of this Church.
And where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is
Pergamos was the center of pagan cults. It was the headquarters of Oriental mystery religions that had been brought from Mesopotamia. It was the religious capital (pagan) of Asia Minor. The religious life of the people of the city of Pergamos was so perverted, that Jesus refers to it as the place where Satan himself was enthroned.
And thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith
In spite of compromise, worldliness and apostasy, there were in the Church those who stood true and firm to principle. This has always been the case, for there are always dedicated Christians in every church in every age. The lesson for the Church in these messages is total separation from the civil power. The lesson to the home and to the individual is complete separation from the world.
Even in those days wherein Altipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth
Antipas is a Greek name. There has been some uncertainty about whether he was a real person who had been recently martyred or if this name is used to represent the many thousands who had given their lives.
As other names used in connection with the 7 Churches are genuine names of real people it would seem that Antipas was also a real person. An old tradition claims that he was the bishop of Pergamum at the time of his death. We could be safe in assuming that he was a martyr and his name is used in this Scripture to represent the large number of martyrs who suffered in the same way.
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.
I have a few things against thee
It is rather sad to read these words, the Church which had suffered so much for the sake of the Gospel has allowed certain corruptions to enter the Church and spoil its purity. Heaven must have been very disappointed to see Satan succeed in his efforts to spoil the work of God upon earth.
Because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam
The question is, what is the doctrine of Balaam? Compromise would seem to be the right answer. It is true that he was covetous but that is not his doctrine. Balaam knew the truth. He was a prophet of God but he was avaricious. He was very interested in advancing his own interests rather than God's. He flirted with the world, for he desired honour, wealth, the applause of the people. He tried to divide the church, by encouraging practices that were forbidden to Christians. He gave counsel for leading Israel astray by guile.
Compromise was evident in the Church of the Pergamos period. Christianity and heathenism joined hand and hand. 'Great Controversy by EG White' pp. 49,50: "But as persecution ceased, and Christianity entered the courts and palaces of Kings, she laid aside the humble simplicity of Christ and His apostles for the pomp and pride of pagan priests and rulers; and in the place of the requirements of God, she substituted human theories and traditions. The nominal conversion of Constantine, in the early part of the fourth century, caused great rejoicing; and the world, cloaked with a form of righteousness walked into the church ..."
The sins of the Church of Pergamos are given in the form of a parable. If you take the name 'Balaam' and in its place substitute 'church' then for the name Balac you read Constantine, you have the picture. The Church had known God but it became covetous. It was anxious to obtain wealth and power and popularity.
And so the Church united with the state to get power, in order to receive wealth. In so doing, it committed the spiritual sins of idolatry and fornication. Idolatry was the love of money, of the world. Fornication is the union of Church and state.
SO HAST THOU ALSO THEM THAT HOLD THE DOCTRINE OF THE NICOLAITANES, WHICH THING I HATE.
So hast thou also them
Christ is very disturbed about those in the Church who endeavour to lead the believers away from the truth.
That hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate
We have already noticed in verse 5 of this chapter something of what they believed and taught. The doctrine that especially annoyed the Saviour is the teaching that the Gospel of Christ has made the Law of God of no effect, that by believing, the believer is released from the necessity of being doers of the Word. This is something that has plagued the Church through the centuries and goes contrary to Jesus teachings.
"If ye love me, keep My commandments."
1 John 2:3
"And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep his commandments."
1 John 3:22
"And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight"
1 John 3:24
"And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him..."
1 John 5:3
"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous."
2 John 6
"And this is love, that we walk after His commandments"
It is love to God which prompts obedience, obedience does not save us but in order to show our love for what God has done we do that which pleases Him.
However coming back to the rebuke Christ gives the Church in this verse, it is worth noting the specific nature of this reproof. The Church is not charged with holding these two false doctrines but rather with tolerating those who believe them. Where Ephesus zealously resisted the false teachers and their doctrines, Perqamos has tolerated those who held these false doctrines which has divided the Church.
REPENT; OR ELSE I WILL COME UNTO THEE QUICKLY, AND FIGHT AGAINST THEM WITH THE SWORD OF MY MOUTH.
Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly
This sharp warning reflects the grave spiritual peril that confronted the Pergamum church.
Will fight against them with the sword of my mouth
Christ declares that if they do not repent, He will take the matter into His own hands. The sword mentioned here is symbolic of judgment. Christ threatens to bring judgment upon the Church in that they have been responsible for not casting out the false teachers.
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.
He that hath an ear
That is to take heed of this special counsel given not only to the Church in particular, or in general, but to the individual as well. This same admonition is given to each Church.
Let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches
The Holy Spirit has a very important work to do on behalf of God the Father and His Son Christ Jesus. He was sent to this world to build up the work of God and to promote the spreading of the Gospel. It is very important that we should take heed of what He says.
To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna
As we have already noticed overcoming is a recurring theme in this Book.
Will I give to eat of the hidden manna
Manna is the good of angels. During their wilderness wanderings, God's people were sustained by this heavenly food. However it only sustained them day by day as they partook of it. This hidden manna gives eternal life to those who eat of it.
John 6:51, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." Those who make Christ the centre of their lives are eating of the hidden manna.
And I will give him a white stone
Stones were used as a token of authority or recommendation, The 'white stone' was significant in that at the time John was living, the Judges in the courts used white and black stones in making their decisions. White Was used for acquittal, black for condemnation.
And in the stone a new name written
John would be well acquainted with stones having names on them. In ancient Israel, the high priest wore on his chest a breastplate which had twelve stones, each one having inscribed upon them, the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. In the Bible, a person's name often stood for his character. So the new name written on this stone could well be descriptive of a new character.
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;
And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write
Thyatira located in Lydia, near the boundary of Mysia, 25 miles south east of Pergamos. It was an outstanding manufacturing city and its inhabitants were famed for their skill in dyeing purple. It is believed that Lydia, the seller of purple, carried the Gospel back to her home city of Thyatira.
We are told that "Lydia received the truth gladly. She and her household were converted and baptized." 'Acts of the Apostles by EG White', p. 212.
Thyatira as representing one of the Churches of the Gospel Age is the Church with the longest history, and has the longest message given to it. The period covered by this Church is from 538 - 1563 A.D. This is the period which is called by the historians - 'The Dark Ages'
These things saith the Son of God
There is no question as to who is the author of this special message to this particular Church. The Son of God! This is the only place in all the Book of Revelation where this title is used.
During the Dark Ages or the period of this Church, the man of sin spoken of by Paul in
2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4 usurped the place of the Son of God. However the Son of God is still directing things despite the efforts of this unholy power to take over. That is why it says "These things saith the Son of God". He has a special message for this Church, strangely enough, this is the only church which is commended for an improvement in spiritual things.
Who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire
John like Daniel, in trying to describe the appearance of the Son of God finds it very difficult to do so in human language. In likening the appearance of His eyes to "a flame of fire" there is the suggestion of brilliance or extreme brightness.
And his feet are like fine brass
The 'brass' of Bible times was actually bronze, most likely highly polished and radiant in appearance. The above description is an endeavour on John's part to paint a pen picture of the glory which surrounds the Saviour.
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.
I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith
This is the only church where Jesus notes an improvement in the believers' works. Though the period of Thyatira was a time of great spiritual darkness it was also a period of much light. These were the days of the Waldenses and the Albigensians and other groups of true believers.
Speaking of the Waldensians, the book 'Great Controversy by EG White' says, "Behind the lofty bulwarks of the mountains, in all ages the refuge of the persecuted and oppressed, the Waldenses found a hiding place. Here the light of truth was kept burning amid the darkness of the Middle Ages. Here, for a thousand years, witnesses for the truth maintained the ancient faith."
And thy patience, and thy works
Through those long ages, those who upheld the torch of truth patiently carried on, often with the threat of death ever before them. They allowed nothing to deter them in their efforts to take the Word of God to others. Copies of the Bible were hard to come by so they memorized large passages of Scripture, many of them were engaged in copying the Scriptures, a long and painstaking occupation.
And the last to be more than the first
As time went on, more and more men arose proclaiming the truth and breaking the barriers of ignorance. In different countries of Europe men were moved by the Holy Spirit to search the Scriptures and to proclaim to others the wonderful message revealed to them. Such men as John Wycliffe who produced the first English translation of the Bible ever made. It was through the writings of Wycliffe that John Huss of Bohemia became a reformer, and from Bohemia the work extended to other lands. Jerome, who while in England had accepted the teachings of Wycliffe, also joined in the work of reform. These men gave their lives for the cause of truth but others stood up in their places.
NOTWITHSTANDING I HAVE A few things against thee, because tho 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.
Not withstanding I have a few things against thee
This should be rendered 'much' or 'many' things.
Because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which callest herself a prophetess
Jezebel was a princess of Phoenicia. Jezebel was also a prophetess of the god Baal. When Ahab, the king of Israel, married her and she became queen, she set out to introduce sun worship into Israel. So successful were her efforts, that almost the whole nation went into idolatry. Unlike Balaam, who before his fall worshipped the true God, Jezebel made no pretensions of worshipping God but did her best to persecute those who did. At her table in the royal palace, were seated the prophets of Baal. During her reign, the prophets of God were put to death by her order. Even Elijah fled for his life when he knew her intentions.
In every detail, the story of Jezebel and her dealings with God's people certainly fit this church period. It was a period of absolute tyranny and whoever dared to raise a hand against the Church were slain without mercy. Sorcery, witchcraft, idolatry, and fornication took the place of the true religion of Jesus Christ. And just as Jezebel wrote in the king's name and had an innocent man put to death, just so the Apostate Church of the Dark Ages slew innocent men and women in the name of the God of Heaven.
'Great Controversy by EG White', p. 54, "And now began the 1260 years of papal oppression foretold in the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation. Christians were forced to choose either to yield their integrity and accept the papal ceremonies and worship, or to wear away their lives in dungeons or to suffer death by the rack, the fagot, or the headsman's axe..."
To teach and to seduce my servant to commit fornication
In Revelation this term is used to describe spiritual apostasy. Few symbols have ever been so appropriate as that of Jezebel when applied to the church of Thyatira. Jezebel came from the house of Baal to the house of God. Pagan at heart, she became the queen of Israel and from her place of influence upon the throne, she put forth every effort to seduce the worshippers of God and to establish the worship of Baal. During those Dark Ages, Paganism and Christianity went hand in hand, Church and state were closely linked together.
And to eat things sacrificed unto idols
This was a practice which was prohibited to Christians by the council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:29;
1 Cor 8:1). It was this sin that led to a mixture of paganism with true religion And when applied to this church it fits very well.
AND I GAVE HER SPACE TO REPENT OF HER FORNICATION; AND SHE REPENTED NOT.
She was given every opportunity to repent but she refused to do so. Fornication is sexual relationship between an unmarried man and woman, and seeing that Rome is pictured as the mother of harlots, it is evident that the fornication of this Jezebel was habitual and of long standing for she had children.
BEHOLD, I WILL CAST HER INTO A BED, AND THEM THAT COMMIT Adultery WITH HER INTO GREAT TRIBULATION, EXCEPT THEY REPENT of THEIR DEEDS.
"And in all history there is not another character which so completely represents the Papal system - its character, works and worship as the unclean wife of Ahab, the Jezebel of these Epistles. She was a heathen, married to a Jew; and such is the character of the Papal system in its main elements - Paganism joined to an obsolete Judaism. She is described as calling herself a prophetess, and as undertaking to be the teacher of God's servants; and Popery claims and professes to be heaven's only infallible teacher of God's truth. ...She was an adulteress; and Popery, above all, has been characterized by her unclean dealings with the kings and powers of the earth, lending herself to serve their pleasure, to bring them under her sway, and teaching God's people to accept worldly conformity as a means of Christian victory." J.A.Seiss, The Apocalypse, Vol. 1. pp.194,195.
Behold, I will cast her into a bed
Weymouth's Translation gives this rendering, "I tell you that I am about to cast her upon a bed of sickness, and I will severely afflict those who commit adultery with her, unless they repent of conduct such as hers..."
And them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation
Those who have supported her and shared with her in this unholy alliance of Paganism and Christianity will suffer the same fate as this symbolic Jezebel.
Except they repent of her deeds
The door of mercy had not yet closed completely. God never shuts Himself off from sinners, rather it is they who shut themselves off from Him.
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.
And I will kill her children with death
Just as Jehu had the sons of Ahab slain and all relatives, besides his important officials, personal friends,
2 Kings 10:1, 8, 11. So will symbolic Jezebel's children and supporters be likewise slain.
All the Churches shall know
The churches should benefit by the lessons of the downfall of Jezebel, but it is quite evident that they do not, for in the closing chapters of Revelation is pictured the final and complete downfall of the harlot mother and her daughters.
That I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts
The strange thing about Jezebel and her harlot daughters is that they believe and are convinced that they are God's chosen representatives here on this earth. Everything they did was done in the name of religion even in the terrible tyrannies they felt justified because they believed it was for furtherance of God's cause. However among Jezebel's followers there were some who were genuine believers, who stood out against the corrupted religion of their day. Christ the One who is able to discern the thoughts and motives of the heart knew those who were true and sincere among Jezebel's followers.
And I will give unto every one of you according to your works
The works of Jezebel and her followers were evil. The fiendish cruelty of the inquisition was devilish. The corruptions in the Church itself have been recorded by the historians in fine detail. The Son of God in speaking to this church, warns that as they have dealt with others so they will receive punishment.
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.
But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira
Christ is now speaking to the loyal believers in the local church of Thyatira and at the same time to the Church of the Dark Ages. There were small groups in the Catholic Church as well as outside who were true to the apostolic Christianity. In Europe the Waldenses were the better known and in England the followers of Wycliff stood out for truth.
As many as have not this doctrine
That is, the teachings of Jezebel and strange as it may seem, even in a church as corrupt as was Thyatira, there were still some who upheld the true teachings of Christ. Even in times of greatest apostasy, God has always those who stand true and are not corrupted by false religion.
And which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak
To be more accurate, the rendering should be 'the deep things of Satan', seeing the "deep things" is connected with the doctrines or teachings of Jezebel, it suggests that these doctrines are the invention of Satan himself.
I will put upon you none other burden
Christ knew that His people at this time were experiencing great difficulty in witnessing and living up to the light of the Gospel message. So He says to them "I will not make it any harder for you to bear."
BUT THAT WHICH YE HAVE ALREADY HOLD FAST TILL I COME.
This is the first reference to Christ's second coming in all of the letters to the churches. It is very interesting this should be found in the message to Thyatira. During those long dreary eleven centuries, the precious hope of the 'second advent' must have grown very dim. The Church itself taught that the second advent was not literal. The people did not have access to the Holy Scriptures and many were unable to read or write. Now in encouragement to His loyal followers, Christ brings to their attention the blessed hope of all the ages. That grand and wonderful day when Christ will come to claim and redeem His own.
AND HE THAT OVERCOMETH, AND KEEPEth my works UNTO THE END, TO HIM WILL I GIVE POWER OVER THE NATIONs.
This is a wonderful promise, a special reward to those who remain loyal and true to the end. The word 'power' in this verse comes from a word meaning 'authority'. It is not an authority that is naturally ours but rather given to us by God. The same word is used in
John 1:12, "But as many as received Him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." In a way, Revelation 2:26 and
John 1:12 are related.
Adam was a 'son of God' created in the beginning with power and rulership over the earth. When he sinned, that power was temporarily taken away by Satan. But Jesus, as the Son of God, came as the second Adam to pay the price to restore our lost world to us. As 'sons of God' we are to have 'power over the nations' once again.
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.
And he shall rule them with a rod of iron
The rod is a symbol of rulership and also an instrument of punishment. The nations are to be given by the Father into the hands of Christ who will rule with absolute authority.
As the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers (pieces)
The master potter breaks the old so he can reconstruct the new. Before there can be a new order of things the old must be broken. Christ breaks in pieces all the wicked nations so He might restore the dominion of Adam and the kingdom of David and takes the rule of KING of KING'S and LORD of LORD'S.
Even as I received of my father
Jesus says in Matthew 11:27 first part, "All things are delivered unto me of my Father:" Again in
Matthew 28:18 last part, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth."
Ephesians 1:20-22 emphasizes this point also. "Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, ..."
When Christ returned to the Father, He resumed the position that He had had with the Father prior to the incarnation. 'Acts of the Apostles by EG White', pages 38,39, "When Christ passed within the heavenly gates, He was enthroned amidst the adoration of angels... Christ was indeed glorified, even with the glory which He had with the father from all eternity... He had, as priest and king, received all authority in heaven and on earth."
AND I Will GIVE HIM THE MORNING STAR.
Just as the daystar, or morning star, appears in a dark hour of the night, so Christ who is 'the daystar', of
2 Peter 1:19 or 'the bright and morning star' of
Revelation 22:16, promises to appear in the hour of our greatest trial.
Isaiah 9:2 says, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined."
To those living in the blackness of spiritual night, there comes a light to lead them heavenward. How comforting to know that at the time when the church was passing through her darkest hour, a time of great apostasy, the Morning star was still there as a guide to those who were seeking for light and truth.
Here and there were other lights as well, God fearing men and women inspired by the Holy Spirit who were holding the lamp of truth such as Wycliff, Huss, Jerome and many others.
HE THAT HATH AN EAR, LET HIM HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT SAITH UNTO THE Churches.
It is very important that the churches should give careful attention to what the Spirit of God has to say, for these messages are given with the express purpose of giving counsel and encouragement to God's people. The Holy Spirit has been given charge of the Church of Christ here on earth and His work is to shepherd the flock.
The greatest need of the church and the church members is spiritual power. The cares of the world, the love of money and worldly pleasure, and the icy chill of scepticism are felt everywhere. The church needs a Pentecost with the fire of the Holy Spirit to enable her to fulfil the commission of the Master to carry the saving power of the gospel to a lost world.