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;
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:
And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my names sake hast labored, and hast not fainted.
[1. Unto the Angel of the Church of Ephesus, write, etc.]. This first epistle written to the Ephesian Church (and all the other six epistles to the other six churches), doth contain three general parts; viz. First, a preface. Secondly, The narrative of the mater either commended or reproved. Thirdly, the conclusion of the epistle.
[Ephesus] was the chief city in Asia the less, situated toward the Ionian Sea, where the Apostle Paul preached the gospel with great success (though not without some opposition; Acts 19:9,10,18,19,20). So mighty grew the word of God and prevailed, that there this church was planted by Paul, and watered by Apollo, Timotheus and Arastus, ministers of Jesus Christ (Acts 18:24,25; 19:1,22), unto which church the Apostle Paul afterwards wrote that epistle, entitled, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians. What is said in general touching this and all other gospel churches, you may read in the exposition of the 11th verse of the first chapter.
The Ephesian Church, at the first planting thereof, was a particular congregation consisting of a few baptized believers, who were separated from the profane idolatrous gentiles and their idol temples; also from the formal superstitious Jews and their synagogues, by the ministers of Christ, and congregated together to worship God in spirit and in truth visibly, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of God blamelessly, according to the order of the gospel (read Acts 19:1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9; Eph. 1:1, 2, 13, 14; 2;19Ė22; 4:1, 2, 3, 15, 16).
The angel of this church, and the angels of the other six Asian Churches, were not of the holy elect celestial angels of God, those ministering spirits (Heb. 1:14), nor was this angel any one of the apostles of Christ, though there were some in this church at that time, who said they were apostles, but were not, as appears from verse 2. Nor was this angel any one individual man or minister, that had the superintendence over, or precedence above all the other ministers in this church, as being the Apostle Johnís delegate or substitute in his absence; for we read not of any such in this prophecy of the Revelation.
But by [Angel], in this and all the other epistles written to the seven churches in Asia, we are to understand the episcopacy, presbytery, and ministry in each particular church, unto whom the charge, oversight, care and government thereof was committed by the Holy Spirit, whom the Apostle Paul called [touV presbuterouV, Acts 20:17 and episkopouV, verse 28; elders and bishops], among whom none were lords over Godís heritage, (1 Pet. 5:1, 2, 3) [mhd wV katakurieuonteV twn klhrwn, not as them that over-rule the clergy; Arias Mont. Neg; ut dominantes cleris]. So the word [Angel] in all these seven epistles, is a noun collective, comprehending all the bishops and presbyters, called elders (Acts 20:17), in this Church of Ephesus, so in all other churches of Christ in Asia, and elsewhere.
[These things faith be, that holdeth the Seven Stars in his right hand, etc.]. By holding ministers [in his right hand] is signifying Christís powerful and gracious protection over them for their safety and preservation (see 5:16): Did not Christ by his Almighty power, hold up and keep safe his faithful ministers, the powers of this world would soon cast down those stars from the ecclesiastical heaven, silence the ministers of the gospel, and exile them, and persecute them even unto death; as the Roman, pagan emperors did, and as the Roman powers and prelates did, when God suffered then so to do, but Christ hath these [Stars in his right hand] and none can pull them out of his hand: And when Christ sets before his faithful ministers an open door, none can shut it (Rev. 3:7,8).
[Who walketh in the midst of the seven golden Candlesticks]. Christís walking [in the midst of the Candlesticks] implies, first, his special and spiritual presence in the Christian saints, according to his gracious promise (Matthew 18:20). Secondly, his inspection into the churchís condition, administrations, gifts, operations, and ordinances; seeing and observing their order and the steadfastness of their faith; also beholding their decent and reverent behavior and gesture in the public worship of God; and especially looking into and taking notice of the holy, spiritual, and heavenly frame of the hearts of his ministers and members (Rev. 2:23). Thirdly, his protection and preservation of his churches in their liberties, privileges and administrations (Rev. 3:8,9,10). Fourthly, his observation of what disorders, corrupt opinions, false doctrines, male-administrations, and what formality, contentions, divisions, schisms, or sinful separations are among his churches; as appears by what he commanded his servant John to write unto these seven churches, in the second and third chapters (Read 2:5,14,20,23; 3:2,15,16,17).
There is a special and spiritual presence of Christ with his churches of saints, and his peculiar providence and protection is towards them for their preservation in all his ways (Matthew 18:20; Rev. 3:8,9,10,11).
[2. I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, etc.]. In the narrative of this epistle, from this second to the end of the sixth verse, we have, first, Christís approbation and commendation of all the good things in the angel and church of Ephesus (vv. 2,3). Secondly, Christís gentle reproof of what HE found amiss in them (v. 4). Thirdly, his wholesome and spiritual counsel, and exhortation to repent and reform, urged and amplified by a commination threatening to unchurch them, if they did not repent and amend (v. 5). And, fourthly, the reason why Christ gave this church this fair admonition and exercised his forebearance and patience towards them (v. 6).
First, Christís approbation, I know thy works so as to reward them (Rev. 22:21), Christ is omniscient (Rev. 2:23). All things are naked an open in his eyes (Heb. 4:13), and thy labour, both of the ministers in the word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17) [kopiwnteV] and the labour of love among the members in this church (1 Thess. 1:3) [kai tou kopou thV agaphV]; love is a very serviceable grace (Gal. 5:13), towards both saints and sinners (1 Cor. 13:4), love is long-suffering; kind (v. 5) doth not behave itself unseemly (v. 6), rejoiceth in the truth (v. 7), beareth, believeth, hopeth and endureth all things. The love of Christ constrains his saints to love and labour in love. [And thy patience]. The patience of Christís ministers and saints was tried and exercised under all their trail of affliction and persecution, which they endured for his sake (2 Thess. 1:4, etc.).
It is the duty of the ministers and members of Christ in the churches of saints, to exercise patience in all their trials of affliction and persecution (Rev. 13:10,12,14; Jam. 1:3,4; Luke 21:18,19; Col. 1:11; Heb. 10:32,33,34,36).
[And how thou canst not bear with them that are evil, etc.]. Christ commended this church, her ministers or members, who would not bear with, nor forebear those ministers or members among them [that were evil], that is to say, who were corrupted by evil manners, or wicked opinions, whereby others might be leavened and corrupted by their false doctrines or sinful practices; but did exercise the authority and power which the church had received from Christ; first, in admonishing them. Secondly, in withdrawing from them; and thirdly, in excommunicating them, according to the laws of Christ recorded (2 Thess. 3:6,15; Titus 3:10,11; 1 Cor. 5:4,5,12,13).
[And thou hast tried them, that say they are apostles, and are not; and hast found them liars]. Some of the teachers in this church pretended to be apostles of Christ [which say they are apostles], as did also some of the teachers in other churches, who were false apostles and deceitful workers (2 Cor. 11:13), Transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ, who upon trial were found to be liars, i.e. false apostles. [Thou hast tried them], viz. First, what call and commission they had from Christ [and found them liars], for they had not Christís commission, nor were they called by Christ to be apostles by office. Secondly, what apostolical gifts they had given and received from Christ, and in what respect [also found them liars]. Thirdly, what doctrine they preached in the name of Christ [and found them liars], in that respect likewise, for they preached not the doctrine of the apostles, but the doctrine of the Nicolaitans (v. 15, etc.). Fourthly, what manner of life they lead and what conservation they lived in, and in that respect [found them liars], for they lived not like the apostles, nor had their conservation as became the gospel in simplicity and godly sincerity (2 Cor. 1;12), but they practiced the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which Christ and this church hated (v. 6).
The churches of saints have power and authority from Christ to try the calling, gifts, doctrine, and conservation of their teachers (1 John 4:1; 2 Cor. 13:3; Acts 11:2,3,4,12,18).
[3. And hast born, and hast patience, and for my names sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted]. This church and her ministers did bear and endure reproaches, persecutions, and sufferings for the gospel and name of Christ, as other churches of Christ did (1 Thess. 2:14,16; 2 Thess. 1:4; 2 Cor. 4:8Ė11). [And hast patience] to bear, suffer, endure more for Christís sake. [And for my nameís sake, etc.]. By the name of Christ is meant himself, his gospel, his ordinances, and whatsoever bears his name (Matthew 28:19,20). [Hast laboured], viz. In the word and doctrine, and in the work and labour of love, which they shewed towards his name (Heb. 6:10). [And hast not fainted] in the work of the ministry (2 Cor. 4:1,8,9,10), because they received mercy (v. 1) and God received glory (v. 15), for which cause we faint not (vv. 16,17,18), nor in the way of Christianity.
Christís faithful ministers, and sanctified members, are preserved from fainting under all their tribulations and burdens, which they suffer patiently in the course of their ministry, and in the way of Christianity (2 Cor. 1:8Ė10,15,16).
That which keeps them from fainting, is, first, the serious consideration of the contradictions of sinners, which Christ himself suffered (Heb. 12:3). Secondly, an open vision and spiritual fight of unseen glory (2 Cor. 4:18). Thirdly, That Divine Power, which God in Christ by the Holy Spirit doth suitably and seasonably communicate unto them (Col. 1:11; Isa. 40:28,29,30,31).
Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
[Nevertheless] or not withstanding all these good things in which Christ found and approved in this Church, yet all was not well, something was blame-worthy, for which Christ did gently reprove her, and call her to repent and to reform.
[Thou has left thy first love], she had not left the object of her love, the LORD Jesus, whom she loved (vv. 2,3), but she had cooled in her spiritual affections to Christ and to his saints, which she had manifested in the day of her first espousals; which Christ well remembered and here minds of, as God did his Israel of old (Jer. 2:2,3) They were not so kind to Christ and his saints formerly.
Christ takes it unkindly, when his churches, ministers, or saints cool their spiritual affections towards himself, or any of his.
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.
This verse contains, first, Christís counsel unto this church and her angel. Secondly, his commination if they repent not and reform. To [remember] in this place, implies, first, a calling to mind their former lively acts, fruits, and exercise of love to Christ and his saints, etc. and secondly, to compare them with the heartless, lifeless acts and fruits of their love to Christ and his saints, now, and of late days; and thirdly, to consider from whence they were fallen.
[And repent, and do the first works]. To repent is to sorrow after a godly manner, as they did (2 Cor. 7:9,10,11), which worketh repentance to salvation: And to [do the first works], implies a performing with zeal and confidence those duties of love to Christ and his saints etc. which this church, her ministers and members did at their first conversion, and in the day of their first espousals.
[Or else, I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent]. In this commination, we have, first, the punishment which Christ threatened, [I will remove thy candlestick out of his place]. Secondly, his patient waiting for their repentance; or else, [except thou repent].
Christ may be said to [remove the candlestick out of its place], first, when he suffers and adversaries or enemies either by hostility or persecution, so to disperse and scatter them, that they cannot meet together as a church with one accord in any one place, or part of that city visibly to worship God in the administrations and ordinances of the gospel. Secondly, when Christ suffers and false teachers or brethren among them, to cause divisions, schisms, and sinful separations through errors, contentions and heresies, whereby the church is divided and broken in pieces; so that the ministers and members do utterly refuse to assemble themselves together to worship God: Or, thirdly, when Christ forsakes the church, and will not walk with them any longer, but denies them his spiritual presence, and refuseth to hold communion with them, because they refute his counsel, will not repent nor reform what is amiss, but hold fast their sin obstinately; whereby they provoke the Lord to reject them (Rev. 3:16).
A true, visible, constituted, particular church of Christ may sin away their church estate by their iniquity and impenitency (Hosea 2;1,2,3,4,5; Rev. 3:16). And a church of Christ may become a synagogue of Satan, God hath removed those and other [golden candlesticks] out of their places, for their impenitency added unto their Transgressions.
But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
The Nicolaitans were so called, either from that Nicolas (Acts 6:5), a proselyte of Antioch, from whose faith and manners they had degenerated; or rather from some other man of that name (different from Nicolas the Deacon, both in faith and holy life) from whose corrupt doctrine and wicked deeds, those here, and in verse 15 are called Nicolaitans. Though neither the doctrine, nor the deeds of those Nicolaitans be here named, yet we may conclude they were unsound and damnable doctrines, and ungodly wicked deeds, for Christ again and again testified that he hated them (vv. 6,15). And so did this church which Christ took notice of, saying [Which I also hate]; and therefore he exercised this great patience towards this church. [this then hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans].
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.
[He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches]. This verse contains the conclusion of this epistle, which consists of two general parts; first, an exhortation. Secondly, a promise. In the exhortation, Christ, first, requires ever one to [hear], (Isa. 55:3). Incline your ear, come unto me, hear and your soul shall live. Secondly, he exhorts them to hear what the Spirit speaketh in the word written and read in the churches, unto which a promise of blessing is annexed (Prov. 8:34,35). Blessed is the Man that heareth me, waiting at the Posts of my doors (Rev. 1:3). Those epistles were not preached, but written to the seven churches, and the promise of blessing is annexed to the reading and hearing of them read (Rev. 1:3). Likewise, the epistles of Paul and other of the apostles were not preached, but written unto and read in the churches of saints (Col. 4:16). And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read in the Church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.
The Holy Spirit is not limited unto the preaching of the word; but he also speaketh and teacheth in the reading of the Holy Scriptures. So then, the Holy Scriptures ought to be read in the churches of saints. See exposition on chapter 1 verse 3.
[To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God]. In these words we have, first, the qualification of the person unto whom the promise is made, [to him that overcometh], a metaphor taken from the athletes, who strive for victory by running or fighting (1 Cor. 9:26,27), that is to say, to every one that getteth the victory over all his soul enemies, his spiritual antagonists, to with, the world (1 John 5:4,5), the beast (Rev. 15:2), Satan (1 John 2:13,14) and sin (Rom. 12:21). That tree of life is Jesus Christ (Rev. 22:2,14), who was typed out by that material tree of life in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:22,24). This spiritual tree of eternal life, yields all manner of fruit that is good for our soulís food (John 6:57). [Which is in the midst of the paradise of God]. Eden had in it, an earthly paradise, to wit, the garden that God planted there (Gen. 2:8). In Heaven there is a celestial paradise (2 Cor. 12:2,4; Luke 23:43), where Christ is. Paradise, is originally a Persian word, which the Hebrews and the Greeks have by use made theirs (see Eccl. 2:5; Rev. 2:7), and so have the Latins, and we also in English: It signifies a place of pleasure called the paradise of God by way of excellency, as, the city of God, the temple of God, the people of God, etc.
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, etc.]. Smyrna was a city of Iconia in Asia the less near the sea-side, where the gospel was preached, and where this church was planted, unto whom this epistle was written by Christís command (Rev. 1:11). See the exposition thereof, and upon the first verse of this chapter, concerning the word [angel, and church].
[These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive]. See the exposition of the 8th, 11th, 17th, 18th verses of the first chapter, which Christ repeated again, as a divine encouragement to the ministers and members of this church to endure their tribulations; and not to fear any of those things which they must suffer (testified in verse 10). See the exposition thereof. As if Christ had said (totidem verbis) they persecuted me to death, I was dead, nevertheless, I live, and live for evermore (Rev. 1:18) being raised from the dead by the power of God the Father: And, if any of you shall be persecuted and suffer death for my sake and the gospels, I will quicken you and raise you from the dead (Rev. 20:4,5,6), and because I live you shall live also (John 14:19).
I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou are 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, etc.]. Thus Christ testified unto all the seven churches; [I know thy works], see chapter 2 verse 2. The knowledge of Christ (as He is God, and the only wise God our Saviour, Jude 25), is, first, the knowledge of perfection, whose understanding is infinite (Ps. 147:5), whereby he doth perfectly know himself (Rev. 19:12; Prov. 30:4), and all things else, being the wisdom of the Father (Prov. 8:12; 1 Cor. 1:24). Secondly, the knowledge of approbation, or reprobation (Rom. 9:11,12,13 compared with Acts 13:48 and Jude 4), whereby he doth know distinctly both persons and things good and bad; so Christ knew the works of this church with approbation, and the works of the church of the Laodiceans with rejection (chapter 3:14,15,16), I will spue thee out of my mouth.
[And tribulation, and poverty]. By [tribulation] here, we may understand either their outward afflictions and persecutions, which they had or should endure, which Christ took notice of (2 Thess. 1:6), or their inward griefs and sorrows, their troubles of soul (Ps. 88:4; 143:11), which Christ also looks upon (Ps. 102:2,17,19,20,21), and by [poverty] here we may understand the low and poor condition this church was in at this time in respect of temporal things, the wants and straits that some of her ministers or members were in, the church not having wherewith to supply them, which was the condition of the church at Jerusalem and the churches in Judea in the apostles days; Read 1 Corinthians 16:1,2,3 and 2 Corinthians 8:3,4,6,13,14,15.
[(But thou art rich)]. Though Christ knew her outward poverty, yet he acknowledged her spiritual riches; which God knows is the state and condition of very many of his precious saints in this world (Jam. 2:5), rich in spirituals, rich in grace, rich in faith, rich in good works, etc. but poor in temporals.
[And I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, but are not, etc.]. (blasfhmia, in approved Greek authors, blasphemy), doth signify any evil works or speeches uttered against men with calumniation of their persons, or contumely of their gods; sacred writers, and the penmen of the Holy Scriptures do use this Greek word for any injurious, opprobrious, envious or slanderous words uttered by ungodly men, to the reproach of God (Rev. 13:6), his Son Jesus Christ (Acts 26:11), his name (Rom. 2:24), his written word (Titus 2:5), his doctrine (1 Tim. 6:1), his ministers (1 Cor. 4:13), his churches (Rev. 13;6), or his saints (Jam. 2:7; 1 Pet. 4:4).
These blasphemers said they were Jews, but were not. A Jew is one of Abrahamís seed, either after the flesh, and so were they (John 8:31, 33), who vainly boasted in a fleshly confidence, and so did these who say they are Jews, or after the spirit, such are the children of promise (Rom. 9:8), even all them that are Christís (Gal. 3:29), so were not these, though they said so, they did lye (Rev. 3:9), though they were Jews outwardly, whose circumcision is outward in the flesh, yet they were not Jews inwardly, whose circumcision is inward, that of the heart in the spirit (Rom. 2:28,29).
[But are the synagogue of Satan]. It is likely the Jews had a synagogue in this city of Smyrna, where they worshipped God according to the Mosaical administrations, mixed with the traditions of their fathers, which Christ testified against as vain and false worship (Matthew 15:8,9), and therefore he calls them the synagogue of Satan (Rev. 3:9). Some of those Jewish worshippers blasphemed the Lord Jesus Christ, and the doctrine and worship which the Christians in this church professed, by speaking some evil, opprobrious, and slanderous words against them, which Christ took notice of, and called [blasphemy]: See the exposition of chapter 3, verse 9.
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]. Those sufferings were part of this churches tribulation, which Christ foreknew, and he testified in this verse. First, the kind of their sufferings, to wit, imprisonment. Secondly, the time thereof ten days. Thirdly, the end why God permitted them to suffer, to try them. Fourthly, the instruments of their sufferings, [the devil], the adversary, etc. Fifthly, their duty to be [faithful unto Death]: And sixthly, their reward, to wit, [a crown of life]. Suffer thou must, if thou be a true visible church of God (1 Thess. 2:14). If thou be a faithful minister of Christ (2 Tim. 2:10,11). If thou be a sanctified believer, who lives godly (2 Tim. 2:12), fear thou should not (Isa. 8:11,12,13), nor be terrified by the adversaries (Phil 1:28,29).
[Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, etc.]. The [devil] by a metonymy of the efficient cause, is here put for his instruments, who were provided and instigated by him to persecute and imprison some of the ministers and members of this church. [diaboloV, signifies an adversary], whose enmity is here noted with [an idou, behold], that is, consider and know, who will prove your adversary, and will act the devilís design against you, which was the them Roman, pagan emperors, and other grand persecutors, metaphorically called the red dragon, the serpent, called also the devil and his angels (Rev. 12:3,4,7,14,15,16,17).
[That ye may be tried, etc.]. that your faith may be tried (1 Pet. 1:7), and your patience (Rev. 13:10), and all other graces (Rom. 5:3,4,5,), which was commended by the apostle in the primitive suffers (2 Thess. 1:4,5). The saints may expect fiery trials (1 Pet. 4:12), which they ought not to thing strange, but to rejoice in (Jam. 1:2,3,4).
[And ye shall have tribulation ten days, etc.]. Times of persecution are times of [tribulation], so it was with the apostles and saints (2 Cor. 4:8,9,10). We are troubled on every side, etc. [Ten days], that is, a certain time put mystically for the ten bloody persecutions under the heathen emperors, as Dioclesian, or for some other times of persecution, which are here numbered by Christ; so that the times of the saintís churches, and ministers sufferings are in the hand of the Lord (Ps. 31:15), not in the adversaries power. The time when the churches, ministers, or saints shall suffer persecution and imprisonment, or any other kind of [tribulation] is appointed of God, and ordered and measured out by our Lord Jesus Christ.
[Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life]. The faithfulness of the church ministers, and saints of Christ consists, first, in a bold confession of the faith of Christ, when they are thereunto called (Acts 24:13,16). Secondly, in enduring sufferings for Christís sake, not loving their lives unto death (Rev. 12:11).Thirdly, in not accepting deliverance upon any sinful terms (Heb. 11:35,38). [The Crown of life] which Christ promiseth is an eternal weight of glory (1 Cor. 4:16,17,18). ďFor which cause we faint not, but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory: While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen, are temporal; but the things which are not seen, are eternal.Ē
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.
See the exposition of the seventh verse of this chapter. The first death is usually a painful separation of the body from the soul for a time (Acts 2:24). The second death is a penal separation of the soul from God for evermore (2 Thess. 1:9; Matthew 25:32,41). Those that overcome the world, the beast, Satan, and sin, [shall not be hurt of the second death]: That death, which [the second death], shall have no power over them (Rev. 20:6).
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.] See the exposition of chapter 1 verse 20, and the first verse of the chapter touching the word [Church], and the word [Angel]. Pergamos was a city of ∆tolia, in Asia the less, where the Attalian kings kept their court and residence in ancient times, and the Roman governors over that providence had their residence there in Johnís time. Some writers say, that there was in this city a temple, wherein the devil, by the name of Gsruiapius, used to give answers unto the priests who worshipped in that temple. Certain it is, there was a true visible constituted church of God planted in this city in the apostles days (Rev. 1:11).
[These things saith he, which hath the sharp sword with two edges]. The two-edged sword is the written word of God (Heb. 4:12), which is quick and powerful, mighty in operation and sharper that a two-edged sword; call the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17), which sword Christ is here said to have, because this sharp two-edged sword is elsewhere said to come out of Christís mouth (Rev. 19:15,21), and is called the sword of his mouth in the 16th verse of this chapter and chapter 1 verse 16. See the exposition thereof.
The ministry of the written word of God, when managed by the hand of the Lord is sharp, powerful, and mighty in the operation thereof; by the Holy Spirit upon the consciences and in the hearts of sinners and saints (Acts 2:37; 1 Thess. 1:5; Heb. 4:12).
I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even when Satanís 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, and where thou dwellest, even where Satanís seat is, etc.]. The matter of this epistle contains, first, Christís commendation of this church and her angel. Secondly, his reproof of their faults (vv. 14,15). Thirdly, an exhortation to repentance (v. 16). Christ takes notice of their works; so as to approve them, that were good works, done according to his revealed will in his written word (v. 13), and so as to reprove them that were evil (Vv. 14,15). And Christ also took notice where they dwelt, to wit, the nation, country and city, viz. Asia, ∆tolia and Pergamos, where Satanís throne then was; that is to say, where iniquity and idolatry was practiced and established by law, which Christ here call Satanís throne, because the devil gave the Roman, pagan emperors (as he did afterwards the anti-Christian beast; Rev. 13:2) his power, and throne, and great authority, as appears in chapters 12 and 13.
[And thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, etc.]. By Christís name here we may understand his word, his ordinances, his doctrine, his gospel, and whatsoever bears his name: and to hold fast his name is to cleave to the Lord, his truth, is ordinances of divine worship; and not to deny the faith of Christ and his gospel, once delivered to the saints (Jude 3), but contending earnestly for the faith, striving together for the faith of the gospel (Phil. 1:27).
[Even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth]. Who this Antipas was is not recorded in holy writ; some historians say, he was one of the ministers of this church: Christ testifieth he was a martyr and faithful unto death.
Jesus Christ takes notice, and keeps a record in heaven of all the sufferings, and death of his faithful servants (Ps. 116:15; 1 John 5:7; Rev. 6:9,10,11; 20:4).
But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the Doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the Children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto Idols, and to commit fornication.
[But I have a few things against thee, etc.]. Those few things were not sins of infirmity, for God useth to pass by the transgressions of his churches, ministers and saints of that kind (Micah 7:18), but sins of enormity, gross pollutions, and defiling abominations, which Christ saw amongst them in this church that were held by some of her teachers and members, which his soul loathed, as appears by those iniquities Christ charges them with, in the 14th and 15th verses.
[Because thou hast there them that hold the Doctrine of Balaam, etc.]. You may read [the doctrine of Balaam, Num. 31:16] to wit, the wicked counsel he gave to the Midianitish women, which occasioned the people of Israel to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab, and to commit idolatry also etc. (Num. 25:1,2,3), for which wicked counsel Balaam was killed (Num. 31:8). And Moses was wroth with the commanders and captains of the host of Israel, because they saved those Midianitish women alive who followed Balaamís counsel, and caused them to be put to death (Num. 31:14,15,16,17).
Some teachers in this church, by their false doctrines and opinions, did (like Balaam) [cast a stumbling block] before the members of this church, which became a sin and a snare unto them, as Balaamís doctrine and counsel did unto the people of Israel.
So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Touching [the doctrine of the Nicolaitans], and their deeds, see the exposition of the 6th verse of this chapter. Itís probable their doctrine allowed of spiritual and corporal whoredom, both which Christ hateth; and that which Christ chargeth upon this church and her angel, as their sin, which he was offended with them for, was because they were suffered in the, and not cast out, and put away as wicked and ungodly persons.
It is a sinful fault in any church to suffer those ministers or members to continue in their society, and to have communion with them who teach such doctrines, or practice such deeds as Christ hateth (1 Cor. 5:2,5,7,13). See exposition of the 20th verse of this chapter.
Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword on my mouth.
[Repent], that is to say, let the angel repent, and the church repent, and these ministers and members especially, who are guilty of those doctrines which I hate, repent and sorrow after a godly manner. [Or else I will come unto thee quickly], to wit, in a way of visitation and correction. [And I will fight against them] that hold the doctrine of Balaam, and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, that is to say, erroneous, false, and damnable doctrines, such teachers and such doctrines, as the apostles prophetically foretold and testified against (1 Tim. 4:1,2,3; 2 Pet. 2:1,2). [With the sword of my mouth]. See the exposition upon the 12th and 16th verses of this chapter: Christ fights against a church and people [with the sword of his mouth], first, when he sends some Boanerges with awakening, thundering word of God, who shall so preach and declare his righteous judgments unto them, that shall sew and cut as a sharp sword (Hosea 6:4,5). Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of my mouth. Secondly, when he, by the hand of his divine judgments upon them for their sins and impenitency (Jer. 31:5); And I my self will fight against you with an outstretched hand, and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit faith unto the Churches, to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white throne, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it.
This verse contains the conclusion of this epistle. See the exposition of the 7th verse. [Manna] is the corn and bread of heaven (Ps. 105:40), called angelís food (Ps. 78:24,25). This was the bread which God gave the children of Israel in the wilderness, some whereof was put in a pot, and laid before the testimony (Ex. 16:33,34). And by this hidden manna we are to understand Jesus Christ who is called the Bread of Life that came down from heaven (John 6:48,49,50,58), which life is hid with Christ in God (Col. 3:3), therefore called hidden manna, that is, those inward secret communications of Christís love, grace, etc., which they that sup with Christ are nourished and refreshed with (Rev. 3:20), whereby he feeds and strengtheneth their souls.
[And will give him a white stone]. There was among the Romans a two-fold use of [a white stone]. First, he that was victor, and overcame in their Olympic games and wrestlings, had [a white stone] given him, which he did bear as a badge of honor and victory. Secondly, he that being accused of any crime in their civil courts and judicatories was found innocent, and so was acquitted of that crime, had [a white stone] given to him as a sign of absolution: Both these uses of the [white stone] will fitly quadrate with Christís act of grace here, where Christ doth promise [him that overcometh] by wrestling against sin and Satan (Eph. 6:11,12), that he will give him a crown of glory (2 Tim. 4:7,8), and also a full and open absolution before men and angels at the day of judgment (Rev. 20:11,12).
[And in the stone a new Name written, etc.]. Whereby is meant some spiritual dignity, or something very eminently honorable, which Christ will confer upon them that overcome (Zeph. 3:20). For I will make you a name, and a praise among all people of the earth. [A new name] is that name of dignity and honor which Christ himself will name upon them (Isa. 62:2) and it shall be an everlasting name (Isa. 56:5), that is to say, they shall be partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), and shall have the communications of his saving sanctifying grace (Eph. 4:7), and also the indwelling presence of his Holy Spirit (Gal. 4:6). The witness and seal thereof, by the promises of the new covenant in their hearts is this new name in the with stone, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it (1 Cor. 2:9). The spiritual senses of the new man only is capable to know and understand the divine nature of Christís [new name] (1 Cor. 2:9,13,14), written in this white stone (Rev. 2:17) of absolution and pardon of sin, and gracious promises of eternal life. And this is Christís own hand-writing (Rev. 3:12), in which respect believers are said to be the epistle of Christ written by the Spirit of the living God in the fleshly tables of the heart (2 Cor. 3:3).
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.
[Thyatira] was a city which lay on the borders of the regions of Lydia and Mysia, opposite unto Macedonia, and southwards of Pergamos, in Asia the less, where Lydia was born, whom Paul converted at Philippi (Acts 16:13,14) in which city this church was planted. See exposition of verse 2 and 12 Touching the title that Christ here again takes unto himself, suitable unto this angel and churches condition. See exposition on chapter 1 verses 14 and 15.
I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
This verse contains Christís commendation of what was good in this church, her ministers and members. First, in general, [thy works]. Secondly, in particular, their charity towards the poor saints, and services of love to God, Christ, his churches and people; also their faith and patience in all the perfections and tribulations which they endured for his names sake; yea, and their [works], to wit, their renewed acts, or works of obedience, of faith to God and charity to the saints, etc. [And the last to be more than the first]. It was with this church as it was with the church of the Thessalonians; (compare Thess. 1:3 with 2 Thess. 1:3,4) for whose work of faith, labor of love and patience, of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the fight of God the Father, the apostle acknowledged and praised God that their faith did grow exceedingly, and the charity of every one of them all towards each other abounded.
Notwithstanding, I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth her self a Prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto Idols.
[Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, etc.]. Christ in this verse, and in the three following verses, doth reprove this church and her ministers for suffering corrupt and false doctrine to be preached amongst them, whereby his servants were seduced, that is, drawn away from the truth, and led into errors both of judgment and in conversation. See Exposition on verses 14 and 15.
[Because thou sufferest that Woman Jezebel, which calleth her self a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants]. Not that there was such a woman in the church called Jezebel, or any other woman that pretended to be a prophetess, who taught or spake publicly in the church, for that was against the law of Christ and command of the apostle (1 Cor. 14:34; 1 Tim. 2:22), and itís probable would not have been suffered by the angel or ministers of this church: But rather as Christ used the name of Balaam (v. 14) to make the doctrine of the Nicolaitans odious to the saints in Pergamos; so he useth the name of this painted woman, Jezebel, who was infamous for idolatry, and other wickedness (1 Kings 16:31, etc.), to make that doctrine whereby his servants were seduced to be the more odious and hateful unto the saints in Thyatira, or else by the [woman Jezebel who called her self prophetess], we are to understand those false teachers who called themselves prophets and ministers of God, who taught corrupt and false doctrine in this Church, to wit [to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols], which was the doctrine of Balaam and of the Nicolaitans, and their deeds also which Christ hated and here reproved sharply; which opinion I rather cleave unto, because that false teachers and false prophets in the church of Rome are called a woman, and the great whore (Rev. 17:1,3,5,7; 19:20).
And I gave here space to repent of her fornication, and she repented not.
Here followeth the manifestation of Christís patience; [I gave her space to repent of her fornication], that is, Christ did forbear to punish her for a time, expecting that she should repent both of her corrupt doctrine, and also of her wicked life. [And she repented not], notwithstanding all his patience and long suffering, she remained impenitent (Rev. 9:21; 16:9).
Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
[Behold], that is, consider what I say, and how I threaten this false prophetess, or wicked woman, and lay it to heart; she is past recovery, having lived impenitently in her whoredoms, both corporal and spiritual fornications; but yet those that have been seduced and enticed by her doctrine to commit fornication, shall have some longer time of repentance. This [bed] is a bed of great tribulation, some corporal and some spiritual judgments are hereby threatened (as Ezek. 32:25). They have set her bed in the midst of the slain, with all her multitude.
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, etc.]. [Her children] were the children of whoredoms, begotten by corrupt doctrine, and in the sense, born of fornications; not that there was such a woman in the church, not that these [her children] were begotten by corporal fornication: But as the mother is a mystical woman, so [her children] are those that she seduced by her doctrine to commit fornication. And by children here, we are to understand some members of this church, who being seduced by Jezebelís doctrine, did commit fornication, that is, both spiritual and corporal whoredom, which is called by Christ [their deeds]. As the Nicolaitans had their doctrine and their deeds, so Jezebel had her doctrine and her deeds. By [killing her children with death] is meant, that thy shall be destroyed by Godís just and righteous judgments (Jer. 18:21). Therefore deliver up her children to the famine, and pour out their blood by the force of the sword.
[And all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts, etc.}. This is another testimony of Christís omnisciency. Before he told the churches that he knew their works; and now he gives them to understand, that he knows their hearts also: [And the Churches shall know], that is, shall understand, confess and acknowledge that Christ hath been trying, searching, and examining the reins and hearts, that is to say, the inward bent and frame of the spirits of men (Jer. 17:10). I the Lord search the hearts, and try the reins.
[And I will give unto every one of you (ministers and members) according to your works]. Those works faith, love, patience, charity and service, which Christ commends, shall be rewarded; Christ will own them and crown them with acceptance, and with reward of grace and glory, saying, Well done good and faithful Servant, enter into the joy of thy Master. And those works or deeds of fornication and other evil doings, which Christ reproved and gave them space and time to repent of, and they repented not, Christ will also reward by executing his righteous judgments upon them, even unto death and eternal condemnation (Rom. 1:18; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 2:5,6,11) except they repent.
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], that is, ministers [and to the rest], to wit, the members of the church [in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine], to wit, of the Nicolaitans, that is to say, as many of you members as have not received that doctrine, and which have not known, that is, have not owned, nor approved [the depths of Satan, as they speak]. [They], that is the false teachers, or they that taught this false and corrupt doctrine of the Nicolaitans; and they, to wit, those that were seduced by that doctrine, and received it and approved it. [They speak], as if there were a depth of wisdom and mystery in that doctrine; but saith Christ it is [the depths of Satan]. Such false doctrines the apostle calls the doctrine of devils (1 Tim. 4:1), and the mystery of iniquity (2 Thess. 2:7,11). [I will put upon you none other Burden], saith Christ, that is, no other duty or yoke.
But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come.
That doctrine of faith, that command of holy life, which ye have already received from Christ and his apostles, was the yoke and burden of Christ which he would lay upon them; And the yoke of Christ is easy, and his burden light (Matthew 11:28,29,30) and Christ will put no other burden upon them, only chargeth them to hold fast that doctrine and commandment which they had received, till he come.
And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works, unto the end, to him will I give power over the Nations.
The conclusion of this epistle followeth in the four last verses of this chapter, wherein you have an addition annexed unto the ordinary qualification of those persons, to whom Christ in these epistles maketh great and precious promises (as in the 7th, 11th, and 17th verses of this chapter), which addition annexed, is perseverance in the works of Christ, viz., the work of faith, the labor of love, the service of charity, and all the works of piety which god commandeth in the Holy Scripture of truth to be done or performed by his ministers and saints (Matthew 28:20). [Unto the end], that is, to the end of their lives, or until he comes again.
[To him will I give power over the Nations]. There is no power that we read of in the Holy Scripture, which the saints have been given by Christ over the nations (or gentiles or heathens), but that power and dominion of rule and government, which he hath purchased, and God hath promised to give them in the last days; the power which Christ purchased for his redeemed ones, over the nations and kingdoms of the world, is a kingly power and authority (Rev. 5:9,10). Thou hast redeemed us with thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people and nation and hath made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on earth. Likewise, the power which God hath promised to his saints over the nations, is a kingly power and dominion (Dan. 7:27). And the kingdom and dominion, and greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most high. But for any other power, either spiritual or ecclesiastical, which the saints should have over the nations, we know not how it can be proved by scripture; but many scriptures do bear a clear testimony, that the saints shall have a kingly power over the nations when Christ comes the second time. See the exposition of the 6th verse of the first chapter, and chapter 5 the 9th and 10th verses, and chapter 20 verse 4.
(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 my Father.
[And he shall rule them with a rod of iron, etc.]. He, that is Christ (Ps. 2:9), and, he that overcometh by Christ (v. 26), to whom God will give power or kingly dominion over the nations, to wit, Christ and the righteousness, who shall have the dominion in the morning (Ps. 49:14). He shall rule them and govern them with an iron rod, that is to say, according to the laws of God, with the kingly power of Christ, which is signified by his [rod of iron] (Ps. 2:9; 19:15), and that kingly power is given unto the saints (Rev. 12:5). And she brought forth a Man-Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; which is Christ and his saints, as one mystical Body.
[As the Vessels of a Potter shall they be broken to shivers]. They, who shall not have Christ and his saints to reign over them (Luke 19:27), and who will not serve Christ and his saints (Isa. 60:12). [Even as I received of my Father]. The same rule, authority, dominion and power which Christ received of God his Father, he will give to his saints over the nations at his second coming, which is undeniably his kingly power. The saints are joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). In all the blessings and dignities of the New Covenant, whereof that of the kingdom is one. The saints are joined in commission with Jesus Christ in his kingdom (Rev. 11:15), and they shall judge the world (1 Cor. 2:3).
And I will give him the Morning Star.
That is, Himself (Rev. 22:16). I am the bright Morning Star, The Day Star (2 Pet. 1:19), which doth arise, and shine gloriously in the hearts of the saints (Isa. 60:1,2).
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.
That is, attend and labor to understand [what the Spirit saith unto the Churches], expounded before (vv. 7, 11).