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Harry Whittaker
Revelation - A Biblical Approach

Chapter 2 - The Letters To The Churches (1) (ch. 2)

General characteristics.

  1. Each has: “To the church at . . . write; These things saith . . . “
  2. Each has: “I know they works.”
  3. Each has: “He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.”
  4. In the first three, “he that overcometh” precedes “he that hath an ear . . . “ In the last four this order is reversed. Why? (See Ch. 6).
  5. Each introduces Christ by some description from chapter 1 appropriate to the particular church, and ends with a promise, which agrees with this description (details in notes).
  6. Five churches are told to repent. The other two are promised a crown.
  7. A coming of the Lord is referred to in five of the letters; “Satan” is mentioned in four.
Historical application.

The view that the Letters to the Churches are also prophetic of seven periods of church history has been somewhat uncritically received. Some of the reasons against it are:

(a)
Church history through 1,900 years is not the history of the Truth, it is the history of the apostasy.

(b)
The history of the Truth during that period is not known. For rnost of that long era, the Truth may have disappeared altogether. Certainly nothing approaching a continuous history of the faithful remnant is available. It is a big mistake to confuse communities such as Donatists, Waldenses, Huguenots with the true Faith. It is demonstrable that all of these were sadly astray on fundamentals.

(c)
If “Ephesus” corresponds to the earliest period, “Smyrna” is manifestly better. Did the spiritual condition of the early church actually improve after the time of the apostles?

(d)
The best of the seven-Philadelphia-is sandwiched between the two worst, Sardis and Laodicea. Can any consecutive periods in the history of the Truth be pointed to as corresponding clearly with such remarkable phenomena?

(e)
If the twentieth century is the “Laodicean” period, then in what sense does the Truth today consider itself to be “rich and increased in goods?” - materially, or spiritually? And in what sense is it actually “poor and blind and naked?” If spiritually, how does it - apply, since ecclesias vary from one to the next very considerably?

(f)
Is there so much as one small Biblical hint that this mode of application of the Letters to the Churches should be adopted?

1. Ephesus first because (a) it was nearest of them all to Patmos (see map); (b) it was John’s OWII ecclesia, according to universal tradition of the early church.

angel of the church at Ephesus. If the “angel” is the individual leader of the ecclesia (see Chapter 1 - The Son Of Man (ch. 1)), then the person addressed here could be Timothy. The reproach of this letter (v. 4) may not have been true of him personally; nevertheless he bore the responsibility. “We are members one of another;” cp. Exodus 32:25: Aaron, although reluctant, was held responsible.

that holdeth the seven stars. Gk.=holds firmly, has dominion over; cp. John 10:28. And among these seven-Sardis and Laodicea!

walketh in the midst. A most impressive idea. This one phrase will do efficiently the work of many a long exhortation, when it really penetrates the mind. “Thou God seest me.” Old Testament basis: Deuteronomy 23:14; Leviticus 26:11, 12 and 24:2-4.

2. I know thy works, both good and evil. This phrase is from Isaiah 66:18, where v. 18b=Matthew 25:32: the Day of Judgement! There is tremendous emphasis in the gospels on the Lord’s intuitive knowledge of the attitudes and thoughts of others: John 1 :48, 49; 2:24, 25; 3 :7; 4:18, 29; 6:61, 64; 11 :14; 13:38; 16:19, 30; 20:27; 21:17; Mark 2:6, 8; 3:23; 5:30; Luke 6:8; 7:39, 47; 9:47; Matthew 16:8; 17:25; Revelation 1:14; 2:1, 23, 18; Romans 8:27; Hebrews 4:12.

labour and patience. So the church at Ephesus was not “a comfortable club for the conserving of the life of a few saints,” as are so many ecclesias today. Cp. 1 Thessalonians 1:3-work of faith, labour of love, patience of

hope. In Ephesus love was dwindling (v. 4) and with it, doubtless, faith and hope also. Contrast 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 4 where these were “growing, abounding, enduring.”

labour here = labour to weariness. It is surely a correct inference that this was the past record of the Ephesians, not characteristic of the present; cp. v. 5: “do the first works.”

canst not bear them which are evil but hast tried them. Ecclesial discipline implied; 1 John 4:1. The command is to bear with weak brethren, but not false ones; Galatians 6:2.

say they are apostles and are not. Probably a reference to travelling preachers, who were a characteristic feature of the early church; 2 John 7,3 John 5-7. These did not claim to be apostles of the Lord (since there were only 13 such), but they did claim to be apostles of the church (2 Corinthians 8:23 R.V., Philippians 2:25 R.V.). In those days it would be a simple matter to appear in an ecclesia, claiming to be fully accredited from some other unknown ecclesia. Such individuals made a lot of trouble for Paul at Corinth; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, 3-6, 20 and 10:7-12 (this Satan was Paul’s chief personal opponent). The same problem arose elsewhere also; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 3:6-11. Paul foretold it in Ephesus: Acts 20:30. According to Tertullian John rebuked an elder of an Asian church for writing an epistle in the name of Paul. Later, this kind of thing became a common phenomenon. But in this verse the immediate reference may well be to Hymenaeus, Alexander, Philetus (1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:17), or the Nicolaitans.

found them liars. s.w. ch. 21 :8.

3. and thou hast borne what? reproach, probably. Contrast use of s.w. in v. 2.

4. thou hast left thy first love. Loss of earlier zeal. Cp. 2 Corinthians 11: 2, 3. “First love” for Christ; see Acts 19:10 and Acts 20:30; 2 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:5; Ephesians 5:23-32 and 1:15; all of these Scriptures were written to the same ecclesia. This was a fulfilment of Christ’s own words: Matthew 24:11, 12; but he only mentions it here after all the good features of the ecclesia have been mentioned. And so it will be in the Day of Judgement. The figure has its basis in Jeremiah 2:2; Ezekiel 16:8-15 and other similar passages.

I have against thee. Same phrase in Matthew 5:23. Therefore, “be reconciled to Christ thy brother.”

5. Remember. Not spoken to Ephesus for the first time; Ephesians 2:10, 11; Acts 20:31.

repent. Greek aorist suggests: “at once and drastically.” come quickly. R.V. omits “quickly,” but not in 3:11. Would this be by John returning from Patmos with authority to apply discipline? Cp. 3 John 10. With any other view, 1,900 years’ lapse of time is a serious difficulty. Another explanation in the Appendix.

remove thy candlestick. This threat would have special force after A.D. 70, when the temple was destroyed and the seven-branched candlestick was “moved out of its place” to Rome. Cp. the force of Jeremiah 7:12. Cp. also Matthew 25:28, 29 and 21:41; Romans 11:17. These words are remarkably apt because (a) v. 1; (b) Ephesus was known as “the Light of Asia” (Pliny); (c) the city had already been moved out of its place by the silting up of the river estuary and the consequent shift of the trading centre. Why does Christ say “remove” and not “extinguish”? except thou repent. Notice the force of this repetition, twice in one verse.

6. hatest . . . the Nicolaitans. See on v. 14, 15. Here Christ praises his servants for hating; Psalm 119:104 and 139:21, 22 and 101:3.

7. he that hath an ear. Spoken by Christ on 14 separate occasions: Matthew 11:15 and 13:9, 43; Malk 4:23 and 7:16; Luke 14:35; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29 and 3:6, 13, 22 and 13:9.

churches. Not “church.” Mark 13:57. Therefore all the letters are for all the ecclesias, then and now.

what the spirit saith. Therefore here the Spirit=Christ; cp. Acts 13:2. Why not “what Christ saith?” Because he speaks through John and a book, not directly.

to him that overcometh what?-temptation? self? 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 2:4.

eat of the tree of life. Cp. John 5:26 and contrast Matthew 25:35. Greek aorist must mean “eat once and for all” i.e. of the fruit, ch. 22:14. Contrast 22:2 and Ezekiel 47:12-eating of the leaves heals but does not abolish mortality. In the light of “fruit every month,” can any inference be made about the duration of Adam’s probation? Note the appropriateness in the promises made in the other letters also. Every promise in the seven letters is alluded to in the rest of the book (see also Chapter 41 - The Seventh Vision: The New Jerusalem (21:1-8)).

tree of life
2:7 = 22:14
second death
2:11 = 20: 14 and 21 :8
new name
2:17 = 14:1
power over the nations
2:26 = 20:4
the morning star
2:28 = 22:16
white raiment
3:5 = 4:4 and 16:15
new Jerusalem
3 :12 = 21 :10
sit with me in my throne
3:21 = 22:3, 4

8. was dead and is alive. Cp. Smyrna’s history-the city practically died out for 400 years, and then revived remarkably. A prominent feature of the local religion was commemoration of the death and resurrection of the god Dionysus.

9. I know. This time not only through inspection, but also through personal experience - tribulation, poverty, the blasphemy of enemies; contrast v. 2

tribulation in the form of persecution: v. 10.

poverty through expropriation of property. Christ offers no solution to their problem of suffering, but only the assurance that he knows about it.

rich. ch. 3:17; James 2:5; Matthew 6:19, 20; Luke 12:21; 2 Corinthians 6:10 and 8:9. Their commendation is in a parenthesis (“but thou art rich”) and a silence (no rebuke of any kind).

Jews. Wherever Paul took the gospel, his and its greatest enemies were the Jews. This was especially true in Smyrna. These Jews even broke the Sabbath to help in the burning of Polycarp, A.D. 147.

and are not. Romans 2:28, 29; Philippians 3:2, 4; Matthew 3:9; Romans 9:6.

blasphemy. Meek Moses was provoked to speak inadvisedly with his lips; Numbers 20:10; Psalm 106:33. But not so the Smyrna ecclesia!

synagogue of Satan. Truly the Jews were an adversary-synagogue. Today the Truth’s biggest enemies are those who claim to be spiritual seed of Abraham but are not.

10. Fear not. If there was no need to fear the very presence of the Lord of Glory (1: 17), how much less to fear futile godless enemies such as these.

the devil. The Jews, through their false accusations before the civil authorities; Acts 17:6, 7 and 24:5, 6.

tribulation ten days. All kinds of explanations, and none of them worth
much:

(a)
symbolic number for worldly power; cp. ten horns.

(b)
ten persecutions from Nero to Diocletian.

(c)
for a short while, as in Genesis 24:55.

(d)
to the bitter end, for ever; Deuteronomy 23:2; Nehemiah 13:1.

(e)
ten literal days.

(f)
ten years. But this was not true in Nero’s or Domitian’s reign.


In the circumstances dogmatism is difficult.

Most likely (c) or (e). When Nero died, the persecution he had set going came to a sudden stop.

be thou = “some of you.” “Thou” personifies the ecclesia or else refers to its Bishop. “You” speaks of the ecclesia as individuals.

faithful here = loyal. The city of Smyrna had a reputation for being faithful to its alliances.

unto death here = violent death. Smyrna took its name from the local trade in myrrh, and it was myrrh that embalmed the dead body of Jesus (read again v. 8). There is no promise given that they would escape suffering.

crown of life. Round the crest of the hill at the back of the city was a line of fine buildings known as “the crown” of Smyrna. Christ promised something more majestic, more enduring. It was also a Smyn1ean practice to present a crown to the high priest of Dionysus at the end of his term of office. Several epitaphs include the title: “crownbearer.” But what a flimsy honour compared with what Christ offers here! Note that all of v. 10 happened to Christ himself.

crown used to describe: (a) the crown of suffering (Matthew 27 :29); (b) faithful converts who will be a crown of joy in the day of Christ (I Thessalonians 2:19, Philippians 4:1); (c) the blessing of immortality (I Peter 5:4; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; this last is a puzzle. It reads as though it were an allusion to Revelation, but the dates of the two books do not allow of this. Is it a reference to Matthew 19:28?).

11. second death. Appropriate after v. 8. “The Smyrnean persecutors will pass through death to death, but these faithful will pass through death to life.”

12. Pergamos. An intellectual city, with a huge library. It gave its name to “parchment.” Centre of Roman administration for the province and of the state religion (Emperor worship), hence v. 13. Centre also of worship of Aesculapius, god of healing-his symbol a serpent. Temple prostitution was rampant here, more even than at other centres of idolatry.

sharp sword. Jesus appropriately chooses the word which describes, not the soldier’s weapon, but the proconsul’s ceremonial sword of office.

two-edged, to separate between true and false (Hebrews 4: 12), and to convert and to punish (v. 16).

13. Satan’s seat. R.V.: throne. In Smyrna (v. 9) the adversary was a Jewish synagogue. Here he is Roman governor.

holdest fast my name. It is the time of Nero’s persecution. At all costs every true disciple must hold to the name of Christian; cp. 1 Peter 4: 14, 16 (written in Rome in very similar circumstances).

Antipas my faithful martyr. (a) Some prominent Christian who had already suffered at the hands of the Romans. Shortened form of Antipater. (b) Shortened form of Antipanton = the one over against the many - not “against” in the sense of contending or combating, but in the sense of distinct from. Contrast the latitudinarianism now in the ecclesia, v. 14, 15. Jesus is the Faithful Witness (1: 5), and those who are signally loyal share this title of honour; cp. Acts 22: 20.

14. thou hast there. Note the distinction between the ecclesia and its unworthy members. The ecclesia itself was not false, but it tolerated false doctrine. “What the church lacked was discipline. What cursed it was a false charity.”

the doctrine of Balaam involves a careful study of Numbers 25 and related Scriptures. Its essence is in Numbers 25:1. The plan to corrupt Israel by idolatry and its associated unholy alliances was Balaam’s, Numbers 31:16. It involved not only the worship of Baal-Peor (a form of sun-worship; hence v. 4), but also ritual fornication (v. 2, 3 R.V.m., 8 and Hosea 9:10), belief in the immortality of the soul (Psalm 106:28) and spiritualism (Deuteronomy 32:16, 17), and orgiastic feasting in the presence of the “god.” The situation demanded drastic discipline, calling for loyalty to God even at the expense of severity to one’s own kith and kin (v. 5, 7). Eli in later years failed to supply this discipline when the same evil flourished and thus his line lost the high-priesthood; I Samuel 2:22 and 3: 13. Because the earlier Phinehas was prompt to apply discipline in similar circumstances, God made with his house an everlasting covenant. This danger was a normal part of the “civilization” of the Roman Empire in New Testament times. Temple “virgins” were recruited in hundreds. Temple prostitution was as respectable as going to church or political meetings today. Public banquets and special celebrations such as birthdays were commonly arranged in the pagan temples, so that each course of the meal was a kind of votive offering to the god. These facts explain the tremendous emphasis in the New Testament against fornication and eating food offered to idols-the two outstanding features of the Baal-Peor transgression; Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 and 10:14-33 (v. 8 refers back to Numbers 25) and the whole of chapter 8; Colossians 3:5 (this word “covetousness” is used several times in the New Testament for coveting a woman); I Peter 4:3, 4; 2 Peter 2 (the entire chapter but especially v. 7 R.V., 10, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 22 – “dog” cp. Deuteronomy 23:18); Jude 4, 7, 8, 11; I John 5:21. Revelation 14:4 makes utter nonsense until it is read as a reference to temple prostitution. Paraphrase: “they have not indulged in temple fornication because they are life-long servants of another god, the holy God of heaven, and must serve Him in His temple.”

But what was the doctrine of Balaam? It was the argument: “These wonderful prophecies of blessing which I have been guided to pronounce concerning Israel (Numbers 22, 23, 24) arc bound to come true. How then can anything which you do interfere with what is the plan of the Almighty? Therefore by all means indulge yourselves in all kinds of illicit enjoyment. Since God has blessed, what curse can come to Israel from Moab?”

This Antinomianism was a serious danger in the early church. In Corinth “meats for the belly and the belly for meats” was the slogan (caustically quoted by Paul), meaning: “God has made the body with certain functional powers. Then can it be wrong to use the body in these ways?” But 1 Corinthians 6:12, 13 shews that it was fornication which was being justified. Cp. also the emphasis in Romans 6:1, 15 and 3:8; I John 3:3, 7; Jude 4, which shew that the argument sometimes took the form: “Since we have forgiveness (grace) through the blood of Christ, the more we sin the more sin will be forgiven, and thus the more God will be magnified!” Obviously this argument is wrong; but where is it wrong?

stumbling-block. Literally, that part of the trap on which the bait was laid; Joshua 22:17 and 23:13.

Balaam. Cp. the False Prophet of ch. 13; and with Jezebel (v. 20) cp. the harlot of ch. 17.

15. Nicolaitans. This Greek name means “conqueror of the people.” “Balaam” is Hebrew for the same thing. Thus Nicolaitan = Balaamite. Hence this explains the apparent absence of any mention of Nicolaitanism elsewhere in the New Testament. Both names would be in use because of the Jewish and Gentile elements in the ecclesia.

also-as in Ephesus (v. 6) and Thyatira (v. 20). But note the contrast with Ephesus. In Pergamos the doctrine was tolerated.

doctrine. At the root of all evil works is an evil doctrine.

16. Repent or-the Greek particle adds a kind of sardonic emphasis. It is the entire ecclesia, which is commanded to repent, and not just the Nicolaitans. How repent?-by exhortation and reprimand of the evil doers, and (if necessary) by excommunication. To allow such to go uncorrected would be uncharitable, encouraging them to think themselves safe when they were not safe.

come unto thee quickly. See on v. 5.

fight against them with the sword of my mouth. Still referring to the story of Balaam; Numbers 22:31 and 24:17 and 31:8 and also, of course, Revelation 2:12. The normal meaning of this verse, especially in the light of Revelation 19:15, would appear to require reference to the Second Coming. What other kind of fulfilment is possible?

17. hidden manna. Genitive implies having some of it, sharing it with others. Contrast v. 14: “eating things offered to idols.” Reference is to Exodus 16:32, 33, where note: “that they may see the bread.” But if it were always in the Holy of Holies “before the Lord,” it would never be seen at all. Inference is that on the Day of Atonement the High Priest brought forth the golden pot (Hebrews 9:4) of manna at the time when he blessed them in the name of the Lord, and shewed the manna to the people. Jesus refers to this in John 6:49, 50, 27 (sealed). The other manna corrupted. The hidden manna did not, and so becomes a fit symbol of eternal life in Christ. And as this manna was brought forth on the Day of Atonement, so the fullness of eternal life will be bestowed in the Day when sin is done away, when the High Priest Jesus returns from the Divine Presence to bless the people in the name of the Lord; Hebrews 9:28. Further reference to this: Colossians 3:3, Revelation 11:19. Christ’s “hidden food” when on earth was (a) the Word of God, Job 23:12; (b) the work of conversion of sinners; John 4:32, 34. So also the saints in the Millenium.

White stone. All kinds of ideas have been suggested:


(a)
the symbol of acquittal of a criminal, each judge putting a white stone into an urn;

(b)
the token of victory given to a Roman general at his “triumph;”

(c)
the honour accorded to a victor in the public games, entitling him to food at the public expense (cp. the manna);

(d)
the symbol of unending friendship; a stone was broken, and a half kept by each; years later the correspondence of stone with stone would bring back memories of earlier faithfulness. There is a neat application here to the Second Coming of Christ.

But all these ideas lack a Biblical association. Like the hidden manna, the white stone must have some connection with Tabernacle or High Priest. So possibly:


(e)
one of the seven “stars” in the crown of the High Pricst (see on 1:16); one of the principal passages used there is Isaiah 62: verses 2-4, 11, 12 there supply suggestions for the “new n.ame.” The combination of “hidden manna” and “white stone” would then be a symbolical equivalent of Revelation 5:10;

(f)
(and this has more in its favour than any of the others) the white stone is an allusion to Urim and Thummim. These were small objects (stones of some kind-diamonds?) hidden in the pouch formed by the breastplate of the High Priest (the idea that the Urim and Thummim were the 12 jewels upon the breastplate is entirely without supporting evidence). Procedure when asking counsel of the Lord was to come before the High Priest and put a question to be answered Yes, or No. The High Priest drew the divine lot and thus gave decision.

Exodus 28:16-the breastplate had a pocket. v. 30-”the breastplate” in LXX=logeion=speaking place, oracle; the word “in” does not mean “upon,” but “inside.”

1 Samuel 14:18 R.V.m. is correct. Urim and Thummim were in the breastplate attached to the ephod; see v. 19 and also v. 37 (was one of the stones a blank, indicating “No answer?”). v. 41 according to Symmachus: “O Lord the God of Israel, why hast thou not ans\vered thy servant this day? If the iniquity be in me or in Jonathan my son, give Urin1, and if thou sayest thus, the iniquity is in the people, give Thummim; and the lot fell on Jonathan.”

1 Samuel 23:6, 9-12. Note that the questions have a Yes or No answer. Also consider: Joshua 7:16-18 and 18:6; Ezra 2:63 (with which connect Zechariah 3:9), Proverbs 16:33 R.V., Psalm 60:6-9 and 43:3; Colossians 2:3. If this suggestion be correct, the white stone has immediate connection with the hidden manna, the latter symbolizing life eternal in Christ, and the former a sharing of his priesthood.

A new name which no man knoweth (learneth). Cp. new names of disciples -Peter, Boanerges, Paul, Barnabas. Only the High Priest knew what was inscribed on the Urim and Thummim. Or, was the new name Christ’s own “new name”-the Lord our Righteousness (see on 3:12)? Further, the new name, the new song, the new heavens and earth, the new Jerusalen1 and the hidden manna (all in Revelation) are all to be found in Isaiah 65:13-18. This suggests that the “new name” is the name of “the God of Truth” (Revelation 3 :14) i.e. the Amen. “Truth” is also the meaning of Thummim, according to the LXX.

white stone - new name. In view of the obvious dependence of this Letter to Pergamos on Numbers 25, it is interesting to observe that “Phinehas” is said to be Egyptian for “negro”. Now note the promise of abiding priesthood made to him.

18. Thyatira. Was the ecclesia founded by Lydia taking the Truth home? Acts 16:14.

Son of God. In chapter 1:13 it is “Son of man.” This change anticipates the allusion to Psalm 2:8, 9 in v. 27 (read the entire Psalm).

eyes as a flame of fire. ch. 1:14. Intimate knowledge, penetrating vision, appropriate here in view of v. 23: “searcheth hearts and reins.”

feet . . . fine brass. ch. 1:15. Coming judgement; Isaiah 63: 1-6 and 41:25 and I4:25; Malachi 4:3. Does this detail anticipate v. 27? Brass smelting and polishing were prominent among the local trades.

19. Read: thy works, even thy love and faith and ministry and patience. So in the service of Christ, “works” include the passive virtues such as love and faith.

patience probably means here: doggedness in face of persecution.

ministry in the New Testament means: (a) secretarial work, as 2 Timothy 4:11; 2 Corinthians 3:3, Acts 13:5; (b) succour in time of need, as Acts 11:29; 2 Corinthians 9 12; 1 Corinthians 16:15; (c) the ministry of the Word; Romans 11:13; 12:7; 2 Corinthians 3:7-9.

Iast works more than the first. i.e. more excellent (cp. Greek of Hebrews 11:4). Their Christian service was even better than it had been in former days; cp. 1 Thessalonians 4:1. One of the plainest signs of decadence is for an individual or ecclesia to look back on the past with wonder or satisfaction at the zeal and energy displayed in those earlier days; this spells retrogression. See frequeIlt emphasis on this: Revelation 2:4, 5; Matthew 12:43-45; 2 Peter 2:20.

20. sufferest. s.w. John 12:7; Hebrews 13:22.

Jezebel... a prophetess. Daughter of Ethbaal, king of Zidon, who is known to have been also priest of Astarte. Similarly Jezebel would be priestess of the foul religion she introduced into Israel; 1 Kings 16:31-33 and 21:25, 26; 2 Kings 9:22, 30. It is known that at this period on the outskirts of Thyatira there was a religious cult led by a woman calling herself a prophetess. Is this an allusion to her? Can it be that she accepted Christianity and brought her former errors with her? R.V.m. goes further and reads: “thy wife Jezebel” which might well mean that she was the wife of the Bishop of the ecclesia (cp. Ahab whose name means “love;” see v. 19). Even the reading behind the A.V. text probably means “thy wife” -- cp. “the brother” in 2 Corinthians 8:18, which = “his brother.” So Deuteronomy 13:6-8, 5 is appropriate. In Ahab’s reign the evil was the worship of Baal along with the worship of Jehovah; in Thyatira, participation in rites associated with local idolatries along with the service of Christ.

teacheth and seduceth. Ephesus had zeal for orthodoxy but little love. Thyatira lacked discipline in doctrine, but was active in good works. Ephesus hated Nicolaitans, Pergamos tolerated them. Thyatira allowed them official position. The New Testament requires drastic action against those who teach false ideas; 2 John 10, 1 John 4:1; Titus 1:10, 11; 1 Timothy 1:3; Galatians 1:8. Paul’s attitude to those who immaturely hold (but do not teach) wrong ideas is distinctly milder; Romans 14:1; Galatians 3:1; 1 Corinthians 15:12, 35, 36.

my servants. Contrast “her children” (v. 23).

fornication . . . idols. Cp. on v. 14. Thyatira had lovely groves, which were infamous for their association with these foul rites. Both ideas are included in 1 Kings 18:19, and in Acts 15:20, 29.

21. I gave her time to repent. Reference to a warning addressed to this Jezebel by John before he went to Patmos? Implication is that she had formerly been a worthy member of the ecclesia. R.V.: she willeth not to repent. Hence strong measures threatened.

22. cast. The normal New Testament idiom, as in Matthew 9:2 (Greek).

into a bed. The punishment fits the crime. But the bed is one of tribulation, not of evil enjoyment. Jezebel died under Jehu’s horses (cp. v. 18).

them that commit adultery. Here, and in v. 21, spiritual adultery. The idea moves readily from literal (v. 20) to figurative.

repent immediately and drastically. Greek aorist.

23. her children. i.e. disciples, as in Matthew 12:27 and many others (e.g. Hebrews 2:13). Similarly denunciation against Jezebel’s children (2 Kings 9:7-9), and devotees (1 Kings 18:40).

kill her children with death. Either: (a) as R.V.m. “pestilence” and ch. 6:8 (cp. the Black Death), or (b) very common Hebraism-repetition for emphasis, as Genesis 2:17; contrast Numbers 16:29; or (c) reference to Leviticus 20:10.

all the churches. Shews that the seven letters are intended for all the seven churches.

shall know. A different gnosis from v. 24.

searcheth the hearts and reins. See instructive mg. refs. especially: (a) Jeremiah 17:10, where the title applies to God; and cp. v. iOb with 23c here; (b) Romans 8:27, Christ; (c) 1 Corinthians 2:9, 10, where v. 10b =24b here; (d) Proverbs 24:11-14, where note: “he that pondereth the heart,” “render to every man according to his works,” “eat thou honey” (divine wisdom), and contrast 25:16 (human wisdom, the deep things of Satan).

24. Instead of the usual triad, the Lord here uses four phrases to describe the faithful remnant in Thyatira.

the rest. cp. 1 Kings 19:18.

the deep things of Satan. Cp. synagogue and throne of Satan; v. 9, 13. Was this false philosophy a reaction from Jewish emphasis on bodily cleanliness and ritual purity? “The body is nothing; it is the mind that matters; if only we truly serve God in our minds, it is of no concern at all how the body is used.” Perhaps by some such specious reasoning the practical conclusion was reached that sin is not sin. Apart from an explanation of this kind, it is difficult to see how the woman “Jezebel” could be a prophetess and teacher in the ecclesia. Note how such an approach starts from a very different idea but reaches the same practical conclusion as the Nicolaitan heresy (v. 20). The name and character of Jezebel is an apt summary; it means “chaste, virgin, pure!”

as they say. Three possibilities: (a) a skit on the jargon of these devotees (“the deep things of God”) who were stressing their own knowledge of the deeper things (the same sort of pose is not unknown today); they would use such passages as Daniel 2:21, 22; Romans 11:33; 1 Corinthians 2:10 (but see the warnings in 1 Timothy 6:20; 1 John 2:3); (b) they=the outside world, already beginning to speak with contempt of the evil in this ecclesia; (c) they = the apostles, who had already denounced these tendencies as “the deep things of Satan.”

none other burden. Elsewhere: (a) a burden of commandments to be observed; Matthew 23:4; (b) a revelation from God of coming judgement; Jeremiah 23:33-38. The allusion to Acts 15:28, 29 here requires the first of these. Note: Here Jesus is quoting from the inspired wisdom of his own apostle. A unique passage, surely.

25. holdfast. Ch. 3:11; Jude 3.

till I come. The Greek implies uncertainty (on the part of Jesus! Mark 13:32) as to when this might be.

26. And. This copula does not occur in v. 7, 11, 17, etc. Here it suggests that “overcoming” is by “holding fast” (v. 25).

power over the nations. Cp. v. 13. This reward, proper to one who first overcomes self, is a leading idea in Revelation; cp. ch. 1 :6, 9 and 3:21 and 5:10 and 20:4 and 22:5.

keepeth my works. John 6:29; 1 John 3:23. Contrast v. 22. “their works,” and v. 23, 19.

unto the end. See Matthew 24:13, 14 (and concordance). Reads very strangely if indeed the Lord knew that all the Thyatirans would be in their graves long before the End.

27. rod of iron. Psalm 2:9; what will be true of Christ (ch. 19:15) will be true also of his saints; cp. v. 28. And so also in many a place. Cp. the way in which various titles of God are applied to Christ. The Hebrew of Psalm 2:9 can be pointed so as to read “break” or “scatter” hence “rule;” here the Holy Spirit says “rule,” confirming the LXX.

rule. Greek=rule as a shepherd, which seems to accord ill with a rod of iron. The dominion of Christ and his saints will be mild as a shepherd’s but in face of contumacy strong as iron.

rod = sceptre, in Hebrews 1 :8. Note the appropriateness of Psalm 2: 3, 12 to Thyatira.

broken to shivers. Because unclean; Leviticus 15:12; Jeremiah 19:10, 11.

received. Past tense (Matthew 28:18)-although his rule is not yet begun -with reference to Psalm 2:7, which belongs to the day of Christ’s resurrection (Hebrews 5:5).

from my Father. Luke 22:29. Not from the Devil; Matthew 4:9.

28. the morning star. Symbol of royalty; ch. 22:16 (note the context); Numbers 24:17; Isaiah 14:12-14 (here “Lucifer” = morning star, the planet Venus; the reference is to Sennacherib, not to Nebuchadnezzar, seeking dominion over all lands); 2 Peter 1:19.
give him the morning star = he shall share my regal majesty (note v. 26, 27); cp. v. 7 = he shall share my eternal nature; v. 17 = he shall share my priesthood; contrast Jezebel (see on vv. 20, 24).

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