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Revelation 2 (web)

The Seven Churches: Part I

2:1 To the angel of the assembly in Ephesus write:
"He who holds the seven stars in his right hand,
he who walks among of the seven golden lampstands says these things:
 
2:2 "I know your works, and your toil and perseverance,
and that you can't tolerate evil men,
and have tested those who call themselves apostles,
and they are not, and found them false.
2:3 You have perseverance and have endured for my name's sake,
and have {TR adds "have labored and"} not grown weary.

2:4 But I have this against you, that you left your first love.

2:5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen,
and repent and do the first works; or else I am coming to you swiftly,
and will move your lampstand out of its place, unless you repent.
2:6 But this you have,
that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

2:7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the tree of life,
which is in the Paradise of my God.
 

2:8 "To the angel of the assembly in Smyrna write:
"The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life says these things:
 
2:9 "I know your works, oppression, and your poverty (but you are rich),
and the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews,
and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
2:10 Don't be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer.
Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison,
that you may be tested; and you will have oppression for ten days.
Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life.
2:11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
He who overcomes won't be harmed by the second death.
2:12 "To the angel of the assembly in Pergamum write:
"He who has the sharp two-edged sword says these things:
 
2:13 "I know your works and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is.
You hold firmly to my name, and didn't deny my faith in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

2:14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to throw a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.
2:15 So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans likewise {TR reads "which I hate" instead of "likewise"}.

2:16 Repent therefore, or else I am coming to you quickly,
and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth.
2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
To him who overcomes, to him I will give of the hidden manna,{Manna is supernatural food, named after the Hebrew for "What is it?". See Exodus 11:7-9.} and I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no one knows but he who receives it.
2:18 "To the angel of the assembly in Thyatira write:
"The Son of God, who has his eyes like a flame of fire,
and his feet are like burnished brass, says these things:
 
2:19 I know your works, your love, faith, service, patient endurance,
and that your last works are more than the first.
2:20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate your {TR, NU read "that" instead of "your"} woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess.
She teaches and seduces my servants to commit sexual immorality,
and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
2:21 I gave her time to repent,
but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.
2:22 Behold, I will throw her into a bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great oppression, unless they repent of her works.
2:23 I will kill her children with Death, and all the assemblies will know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts. I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
2:24 But to you I say, to the rest who are in Thyatira, as many as don't have this teaching, who don't know what some call 'the deep things of Satan,' to you I say, I am not putting any other burden on you.
2:25 Nevertheless, hold firmly that which you have, until I come.
2:26 He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations.
2:27 He will rule them with a rod of iron, shattering them like clay pots; (Ps 2:9)
as I also have received of my Father:
2:28 and I will give him the morning star.
2:29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.

Discussion Questions

Ephesus
Considering the things Jesus commended them for, how can you apply such things to your life and in your interaction with other Christians?
In view of all the things they were doing right, what do you suppose Jesus meant that they left their first love?
What do you suppose were the first works they did?
What does it mean to remove their lampstand?
Of what does Jesus commend having a hatred? Who were the Nicolatians?
Seven times in the first three chapters of Revelation Jesus uses the term "overcomes". What does it mean?

Smyrna
What does Jesus commend them for?
Under what condition would Jesus give them the crown of life?
What constitutes "remaining faithful"?

Pergamum
What did the Lord hold against these Christians?
What was the teaching of Balaam?
What does it mean that Jesus would come to them quickly and fight with the sword of his mouth?
In what measureable way should they repent?
What is significant about the hidden manna and the white stone?

Thyatira
What does he commend them for?
How do you suppose he measured these characteristics?
To what degree should Christians exercise tolerance in the Christian community? (1Cor 5:9-13)
List the things that Jezebel was doing wrong - which they were tolerating. (Also consider the relevance of  1Tim 2:11-13)
How tolerantly does Jesus deal with her?
What is the promise if they overcome? And how is it related to His treatment of Jezebel?
Where else is the morning star alluded to ?


Comments

A categorization of the seven churches.

He's not addressing the churches directly but by proxy through angels. Angels play a major role throughout the book of Revelation. While for most of the Bible, we just see the "stage" itself, as Paul writes: "For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men." 1Cor 4:9 But in Revelation we get to see what goes on behind the stage. Christians can get so caught up in their own lives as to forget that there are greater things going on in the spiritual realm.

EPHESUS

vs 1-3, 6 The three virtuous things that characterized Ephesus were
What is the extent to which most Christians will "labor" for Christ? Your average Christian will simply attend church meetings and that's pretty much it. The Ephesians lived the Christian life not to be served, but to serve. And in their service they didn't give up or grow weary. No doubt this was due to the hopeful anticipation of reward.

Like the Corinthian church, many churches today have a toleration of wicked "Christians" due to the dominance of the philosophy of easy-believism and anti-nominanism. (1Cor 5:1,2) There are Christians who are morally wicked and should be judged according to Paul's commands in 1Cor 5,6. And there are those who are doctrinally wicked. Paul's condemnation of the group of the circumcision in the book of Galatians was such an example. But how do you test them? The book of 1st John has many examples of testing. For example in his statement "do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God" (1John 4:1), he says"We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." (1John 4:6) We compare what they teach against the apostle's teachings. What has been the effect of tolerating such people? They are like yeast added to dough. They corrupt the church doctrinally and morally. And this is illustrated by Paul in 1Cor 5:6-8 and Gal 5:9 and by Jesus in Matt 13:13 and Mat 16:11,12. Thus today many churches are corrupted.

And thirdly, concerning persecution: rarely today do Christians suffer the kind of persecution found in the early church. This is not to say that Christians today are any less virtuous, but that the situations rarely exist for persecution to take place other than in Islamic countries. Even communist countries these days have good deal of toleration of Christianity. But not so in the early church. Without being subject to persecution, how can Christians faith be tested? Indeed how can one even know whether one has a quality of faith that saves, one which endures through persecution? Today the Christian's greatest source of persecution comes from false brethren in the institutional churches.

vs 4-5 What does it mean that they forsook their first love? Weren't they laboring with perseverance for the Lord? Weren't they enduring through persecutions? Yes they did these and they excluded wicked brethren. But they had lost focus on Christ. They may have had a hopeful anticipation of rewards in heaven, but Christ did not dominate their thinking. They may spent much time on religious programs, but Christ was not the center. Like much of institutional Christianity, Christ began to be replaced by the "institution".

It takes humility to repent. Humility is the most essential character quality of the Christian life. What were the things they did at first? What were the things you did at first when you believed? It is interesting that he says "do" - literally "do the first works". It is not simply a change of attitude that he is focussing on. Although I'm sure he means to have a change of attitude and show it by doing the works you did at first. One can only speculate on what those "first works" were.

What does it mean to remove their lampstand from its place? The lampstand is the institutional church. He was threatening to shut down such churches as did not meet his standards. And so he did, for these churches don't exist any more and the area in which they did has become predominately Islamic.

vs 7 What happens to non-overcomers? They apparently are not given the right to eat of the tree of life in the paradise of God. But where are they? If they end up in paradise, is there some kind of enclosure around the tree of life and you have to present your overcomer ID to be allowed in and eat?

Each church has a statement concerning overcoming. I will wait until chapter 3 when all these statements can be analyzed before drawing a conclusion.

SMYRNA

vs 9-11 True richness can only me measured from God's perspective. But it can be humiliating living in a society which measures riches by one's material things and by how much one is looked up to. One the other hand, perhaps that is the greatness benefit of such situtations. For how can a rich person who experiences little conflict in life learn humility? And how does he even know whether he has learned humily without being humiliated?

From the book of Acts it is evident that the primary source of persecution, at first, came from the Jewish unbelievers. There's little doubt that Jesus is referring to people who were actually Jews. But then who is a true Jew? Not necessarily those who were born Jewish and circumcised, anymore than one can define a Christian as one who goes to church.

Jesus was not going to deliver them from circumstances that involved suffering persecution. This was just part of the Christian life. He doesn't make it easy for them. They must be faithful to gain the crown of life. What is the crown of life? And is it or is it not inevitable that all true believers will endure to the end? And is this likened to, "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." Mt 10:22

The only other reference to "crown of life" is:

Jas 1:12 "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."
What happens to those who don't overcome? They are hurt by the second death. What is the second death? It is going to hell for all eternity after the final judgment.
Re 20:14 "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."

Re 21:8 "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."

So far it would seem to be consistent to say that non-overcomers are not saved and they end up in hell. And we will consider more evidence from Jesus' statements to the rest of the churches. But if this is the case, then does this mean that believers can lose their salvation? If there is not an inevitable connection between the proscribed behavior as in the commands, and one's salvation status, then yes, one can lose his salvation. But this is not the case, according to the book of 1John. For it is inevitable that those who have been born of God will act accordingly - not perfectly, but in lifestyle sense. This connection is heavily emphasized in the book of 1John.

But then if this is true, who is he writing to? Are they not all believers? They are called "believers", but what they actually are is reveal by their behavior. These are institutional churches. There is no guarantee that being a member of an institutional church saves you. Consider Acts 15

Ac 15:5 "But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses."
But in mentioning the same event and the same group of people, Paul says of them:
Ga 2:4 "And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:"
Jesus is addressing members of the churches - both nominal and true. He distinguishes the two by their behavior. This is not contrary to the concept of salvation by faith, for there is an inevitable link between one's real faith and one's behavior.

PERGAMUM

vs 12-13 by "Satan's throne", Jesus could have meant one of two things. The Emperor worship cult had its center in Pergamum, in which loyalty was tested by a formal incense burnt at the foot of Caesar's statue. Also, the temple of Zeus had its home in Pergamum. Christians, like Antipas, were threatened with a good deal of persecution if they did not compromise their faith. Tradition has it that Antipas died by being burned in a brazen bull.

vs 14-16 But Christians did compromise - in order to avoid such persecution. They may not have renounced Christ by name, but rather they took on some of the practices of the pagans around them, or tolerated such practices among the Christians. This is quite common even today. Not many Christians will formerly deny Christ in word, but many deny Him in deed, by living a lifestyle inconsistent with their alleged position in Christ.

Jesus' reference to Balaam is most appropriate. For he did not directly teach the Israelites to sin. But rather he enticed them to sin. Sin spreads most effectively when it is kept in the dark, as it spreads its influence subtly.  Christians who are sleeping morally or doctrinally may suddenly wake up to find themselves entrapped in sin. Sexual immorality was of course obviously inappropriate for Christians. But what is this "eating meats sacrificed to idols"?  Doesn't Paul say this is just a grey area - in Romans 14 and 1Cor 10?

There were Christians who abstained from eating meat sacrificed to idols just because they were sacrificed to idols, and thus they disdained the symbolism. Other Christians were not command to abstain, but were commanded to be sensitive to the conscience of such brethren, not to offend them in this matter.

However, Jesus is referring to quite a different situation. Here in Pergamum the Christians were eating such meat just because it was sacrificed to idols - so as to avoid persecution. Some Christians argue - "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" - but this essentially can also be stated "When in Sodom, do as the Sodomites do" or "When in Pergamum, do as the Pergamites do"! Christians need to learn to reject, not all aspects of the culture of a given society, but those aspects which are sinful.

Jesus commands them to repent. Not simply to confess their sins, but to change their behavior. How do we combat such false teachings and practices among the "Christians"? By the Word of God - the Bible. This is the sword that even Jesus' uses as an offensive weapon. For what He has said is absolute. Thus it is inevitable for such Christian groups that have such behavior, the Bible is not emphasized and may be simply treated as "opinion."

vs 17 What is the hidden manna? Notice the "hidden" aspect of the new name. I believe these imply personal intimacy with God. As in relationships, secrets are shared in the most intimate relationship. In fact spouses, for example, may give each other special names. So also with God. The relationship we have with Christ is not simply a corporate thing. The "corporate" aspect is often overemphasized by institutional churches, so as to justify their devaluation of the individual. We individually have a unique relationship with Christ, along with individual giftedness so as to serve in a unique manner. Eternal life is not simply like a "borg collective".

THYATIRA

vs 18-19 Jesus commends them for their performance. Could he say the same for you? But he also notes that they were increasing in these. There is something about increasing - not simply in numbers, but in works and character - which should be characteristic of those born of God. Are you serving God more or less than in the past? Are you a better Christian now than in the past? Peter also mentions this "increasing" aspect.

2Pe 1:8 "For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
vs 20-23 Jezebel - Notice he uses the word "tolerate". Christians often boast of their toleration of sin. But such toleration is often itself sin. Such people as Jezebel should be confronted. With what kind of discipline does God confront the unrepentant? With suffering and death. One is reminded of Ananias and Saphira whom God killed simply because they lied. And Paul handed over the man in 1Cor 5:4 to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. Considering her traits, I would guess that Jezebel is a nominal Christian. Nominal Christians should beware, if they think they can get away with such behavior in a Christian community, for God "The Lord will judge his people." It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."Heb 10:30,31

vs 24-25 Cults often have the promise some "secret" knowledge. They may emphasize some book other than the Bible. It is not sin to be aware of such teachings. But it is sin if one accepts teachings contrary to the Bible - in other words - to learn to practice them.

Jesus imposes burdens on Christians. This is the Lordship aspect of Christ. If we fulfill our reponsibilities as believers and keep free from the "yeast" of nominal Christians, he may not impose any additional burden on us. His yoke is easy and his burden is light.

"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." 1John 5:3,4
vs 26-28 To have authority over the nations, we must do his will to the end. He is, of course, referring to the Millenial Kingdom of Rev 20:6. Interesting that Ps 2:9 is referring to Jesus, but Jesus applies it to the believers. Such is the intimacy between the two. The Morning Star is mentioned in two other places:
And what about those who don't overcome; those who don't do his will to the end? They don't enter the Millenial Kingdom (but are thrown into a place of outer darkness as the parables affirm). They are separated from Christ and do not take on His image. Once again I believe such people to be merely nominal Christians who reveal their salvation status by their behavior.
"And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."1John 2:17
Finally: "To him who has ears, let him hear." This was a phrase that Jesus often used. Everyone has ears, but not everyone has the ears to understand what Jesus is saying. Many people, even in the Christian community, are spiritually blind and deaf. But if you can understand, then take it to heart and apply it. For the more we know, the more we will be held responsible for.


The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources


Jul 29,2015