Having, in the first chapter, mapped out the subject by a general reference to the seven churches, represented by the seven candlesticks, and to the ministry of the churches, represented by the seven stars, John now takes up each church particularly, and writes the message designed for it, addressing the epistle in every case to the angel, or pastors, of the church. p. 345, Para. 2.
"VERSE 1. Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write: These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2. I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3. And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast labored, and hast not fainted. 4. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5. Remember therefore from whence thou are fallen and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. 6. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. 7. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." p. 345, Para. 3.
The Church of Ephesus. -- Some reasons why the seven churches, or more properly the messages to them, should be regarded as prophetic, having their application to seven distinct periods covering the Christian age, have been given in the remarks on chapter 1:4. It may here be added that this view is neither new nor local. Benson quotes Bishop Newton as saying, "Many contend, and among them such learned men as More and Vitringa, that the seven epistles are prophetical or so many successive periods, or states, of the church, from the beginning to the conclusion of all." p. 345, Para. 4.
Scott says: "Many expositors have imagined that these epistles to the seven churches were mystical prophecies of seven distinct periods, into which the whole term, from the apostles' days to the end of the world, would be divided." p. 346, Para. 1.
Although Newton and Scott do not themselves hold this view, their testimony is good as showing that such has been the view of many expositors. Matthew Henry says:-- p. 346, Para. 2.
"An opinion has been held by some commentators of note, which may be given in the words of Vitringa: 'That under this emblematical representation of the seven churches of Asia, the Holy Spirit has delineated seven different states of the Christian church, which would appear in succession, extending to the coming of our Lord and the consummation of all things: that this is given in descriptions taken from the names, states, and conditions of these churches, so that they might behold themselves, and learn both their good qualities and their defects, and what admonitions and exhortations were suitable for them' Vitringa has given a summary of the arguments which may be alleged in favor of this interpretation. Some of them are ingenious, but they are not now considered sufficient to support such a theory. Gill is one of the principal of the English commentators who adopt this view, that 'they are prophetical of the churches of Christ in the several periods of time until he appears again,'" p. 346, Para. 3.
It appears from the authors above cited, that what has led commentators of more modern times to discard the view of the prophetical nature of the messages to the seven churches, is the comparatively recent and unscriptural doctrine of the temporal millennium. The last stage of the church, as described in chapter 3:15-17, was deemed to be incompatible with the glorious state of things which would exist here on this earth for a thousand years, with all the world converted to God. Hence in this case, as in many others, the more Scriptural view is made to yield to the more pleasing. The hearts of men, as in ancient times, still love smooth things, and their ears are ever favorably open to those who will prophesy peace. p. 346, Para. 4.
The first church named is Ephesus. According to the application here made, this would cover the first, or apostolic age of the church. The definition of the word Ephesus is desirable, which may well be taken as a good descriptive term of the character and condition of the church in its first state. Those early Christians had received the doctrine of Christ in its purity. They enjoyed the benefits and blessings of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They were noted for works, labor, and patience. In faithfulness to the pure principles taught by Christ, they could not bear those that were evil, and they tried false apostles, searched out their true characters, and found them liars. That this work was specially done by the literal and particular church at Ephesus more than by other churches of that time, we have no evidence: there is nothing said about it by Paul in the epistle he wrote to that church; but it was done by the Christian church as a whole, in that age, and was a most appropriate work at that time. [See Acts 15; 2 Cor. 11:13.] p. 347, Para. 1.
The Angel of the Church. -- The angel of a church must denote a messenger, or minister, of that church; and as these churches each cover a period of time, the angel of each church must denote the ministry, or all the true ministers of Christ during the period covered by that church. The different messages, though addressed to the ministers, cannot be understood to be applicable to them alone; but they are appropriately addressed to the church through them. p. 347, Para. 2.
The Cause of Complaint. -- "I have somewhat against thee," says Christ, "because thou hast left thy first love." "Not less worthy of warning than departure from fundamental doctrine or from Scriptural morality, is the leaving of first love. The charge here is not that of falling from grace, nor that love is extinguished, but diminished. No zeal, no suffering, can atone for the want of first love." -- Thompson. The time never should come in a Christian's experience, when, if he were asked to mention the period of his greatest love to Christ, he would not say, The present moment. But if such a time does come, then should he remember from whence he is fallen, meditate upon it, take time for it, carefully call up the state of his former acceptance with God, and then hasten to repent, and retrace his steps to that desirable position. Love, like faith, is manifested by works; and first love, when it is attained, will always bring first works. p. 347, Para. 3.
The Threatening. -- "I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." The coming here mentioned must be a figurative coming, signifying a visitation of judgment, inasmuch as it is conditional. The removing of the candlestick would denote the taking away from them of the light and privileges of the gospel, and committing them to other hands, unless they should better fulfil the responsibilities of the trust committed to them. But it may be asked on the view that these messages are prophetic, if the candlestick would not be removed anyway, whether they repented or not, as that church was succeeded by the next, to occupy the next period, and if this is not an objection against regarding these churches as prophetic. Answer: The expiration of the period covered by any church is not the removal of the candlestick of that church. The removal of their candlestick would be taking away from them privileges which they might and should longer enjoy. It would be the rejection of them on the part of Christ as his representatives, to bear the light of his truth and gospel before the world. And this threatening would be just as applicable to individuals as to the church as a body. How many who professed Christianity during that period thus came short and were rejected, we know not; doubtless many. And thus things would go on, some remaining steadfast, some backsliding and becoming no longer light-bearers in the world, new converts meanwhile filling up the vacancies made by death and apostasy, until the church reached a new era in her experience, marked off as another period in her history, and covered by another message. p. 348, Para. 1.
The Nicolaitanes. -- How ready is Christ to commend his people for whatever good qualities they may possess! If there is anything of which he approves, he mentions that first. And in this message to the church of Ephesus, having first mentioned their commendable traits and then their failures, as if unwilling to pass by any of their good qualities, he mentions this, that they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which he also hated. In verse 15 the doctrines of the same characters are condemned. It appears that they were a class of persons whose deeds and doctrines were alike abominable in the sight of Heaven. Their origin is involved in some doubt. Some say that they sprang from Nicholas of Antioch, one of the seven deacons [Acts 6:5]; some, that they only attribute their origin to him to gain the prestige of his name; and others, that the sect took its name from one Nicholas of later date, which is probably the nearest correct. Concerning their doctrines and practices, there seems to be a general agreement that they held to a community of wives, regarding adultery and fornication as things indifferent, and permitted the eating of things offered to idols. [See Religious Encyclopedia, Clarke, Kitto, and other authorities.] p. 349, Para. 1.
The Summons to Attention. -- "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." A solemn manner of calling universal attention to that which is of general and most momentous importance. The same language is used to each of the seven churches. Christ, when upon earth, made use of the same form of speech in calling the attention of the people to the most important of his teachings. He used it in reference to the mission of John [Matt. 11:15], the parable of the sower [Matt. 13:9], and the parable of the tares, setting forth the end of the world. Verse 43. It is also used in relation to an important prophetic fulfilment in Rev. 13:9. p. 349, Para. 2.
The Promise to the Victor. -- To the overcomer it is promised that he shall eat of the tree of life that grows in the midst of the paradise, or garden, of God. Where is this paradise? Answer: In the third heaven. Paul writes, in 2 Cor. 12:2, that he knew a man [referring to himself] caught up to the third heaven. In verse 4 he calls the same place "paradise," leaving only one conclusion to be drawn, which is that paradise is in the third heaven. In this paradise, it seems, is the tree of life. There is but one tree of life brought to view in the Bible. It is mentioned six times, three times in Genesis, and three times in the Revelation; but it is used every time with the definite article the. It is the tree of life in the first book of the Bible, the tree of life in the last; the tree of life in the "paradise" [Septuagint] in Eden at the beginning, and the tree of life in the paradise of which John now speaks, in heaven above. But if there is but one tree, and that was at first upon earth, it may be asked how it has now come to be in heaven. And the answer would be that it must have been taken up, or translated, to the paradise above. There is no possible way that the same identical body which is situated in one place can be located in another, but by being transported bodily thither. And that the tree of life and paradise have been removed from earth to heaven, besides the necessary inference from this argument, there is very good reason to believe. p. 349, Para. 3.
In 2 Esdras 7:26 occurs this language: "Behold, the time shall come, that these tokens which I have told thee shall come to pass, and the bride shall appear, and she coming forth shall be seen that now is withdrawn from the earth." There is an evident allusion here to the "bride, the Lamb's wife" [Rev. 21:9], which is the "holy city, New Jerusalem" [verse 10; Gal. 4:26], in which is the tree of life [Rev. 22:2], which is now "withdrawn from the earth," but which will in due time appear, and be located among men. Rev. 21:2,3. p. 350, Para. 1.
The following paragraph on this point we quote from Kurtz's "Sacred History," p. 50:-- p. 350, Para. 2.
"The act of God in appointing the cherubim 'to keep the way of the tree of life' [Gen. 3:24], in the garden of Eden, likewise appears not only in an aspect indicating judicial severity, but also in one which conveys a promise full of consolation. The blessed abode from which man is expelled, is neither annihilated nor even abandoned to desolation and ruin, but withdrawn from the earth and from man, and consigned to the care of the most perfect creatures of God, in order that it may be ultimately restored to man when he is redeemed. Rev. 22:2. The garden, as it existed before God 'planted,' or adorned it, came under the curse, like the remainder of the earth, but the celestial and paradisiacal addition was exempted, and entrusted to the cherubim. The true paradise is now translated to the invisible world. At least a symbolical copy of it, established in the holy of holies in the tabernacle, was granted to the people of Israel after the pattern which Moses saw in the mount [Ex. 25:9, 40]; and the original itself, as the renewed habitation of redeemed man, will hereafter descend to the earth. Rev. 21:10." p. 350, Para. 3.
To the overcomer, then, is promised a restoration to more than Adam lost; not to the overcomers of that state of the church merely, but to all overcomers of every age; for in the great rewards of Heaven there are no restrictions. Reader strive to be an overcomer; for he who gains access to the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God, shall die no more. p. 351, Para. 1.
The time covered by this first church may be considered the period from the resurrection of Christ to the close of the first century, or to the death of the last of the apostles. p. 351, Para. 2.
"VERSE 8. And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive; 9. I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty [but thou art rich], and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. 10. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. 11. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." p. 351, Para. 3.
It will be noticed that the Lord introduces himself to each church by mentioning some of his characteristics which show him to be peculiarly fitted to bear to them the testimony which he utters. To the Smyrnian church, about to pass through the fiery ordeal of persecution, he reveals himself as one who was dead, but is now alive. If they should be called to seal their testimony with their blood, they were to remember that the eyes of One were upon them who had shared the same fate, but had triumphed over death, and was able to bring them up again from a martyr's grave. p. 351, Para. 4.
Poverty and Riches. -- "I know thy poverty," says Christ to them, "but thou art rich." Strange paradox this may seem at first. But who are the truly rich in this world? -- Those who are "rich in faith" and "heirs of the kingdom." The wealth of this world, for which men so eagerly strive, and so often barter away present happiness and future endless life, is "coin not current in heaven." A certain writer has forcibly remarked, "There is many a rich poor man, and many a poor rich man." p. 352, Para. 1.
Say They are Jews, and Are Not. -- That the term Jew is not here used in a literal sense, is very evident. It denotes some character which was approved by the gospel standard. Paul's language will make this point plain. He says [Rom. 2:28, 29]: "For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew [in the true Christian sense] which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God." Again he says [chapter 9:6, 7]: "For they are not all Israel which are of Israel; neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children." In Gal. 3:28, 29, Paul further tells us that in Christ there are no such outward distinctions as Jew or Greek; but if we are Christ's, then are we Abraham's seed [in the true sense], and heirs according to the promise. To say, as some do, that the term Jew is never applied to Christian's, is to contradict all these inspired declarations of Paul's, and the testimony of the faithful and true Witness to the Smyrnian church. Some were hypocritically pretending to be Jews in this Christian sense, when they possessed nothing of the requisite character. Such were of the synagogue of Satan. p. 352, Para. 2.
Tribulation Ten Days. -- As this message is prophetic, the time mentioned in it must also be regarded as prophetic, and would denote ten years. And it is a noticeable fact that the last and most bloody of the ten persecutions continued just ten years, beginning under Diocletian, from A.D. 303 to A.D. 313. It would be difficult to make an application of this language on the ground that these messages are not prophetic; for in that case only ten literal days could be meant; and it would not seem probable that a persecution of only ten days, or only a single church, would be made a matter of prophecy; and no mention of any such case of limited persecution can be found. Again, apply this persecution to any of the notable persecutions of that period, and how could it be spoken of as the fate of one church alone? All the churches suffered in them; and where, then, would be the propriety of singling out one, to the exclusion of the rest, as alone involved in such a calamity? p. 352, Para. 3.
Faithful unto Death. -- Some have endeavored to base a criticism on the use of the word unto, instead of until, as though the idea of time was not involved. But the original word, rendered unto, signifies, primarily, until. No argument, however, can be drawn from this for consciousness in death. The vital point for such an argument is still lacking; for it is not affirmed that the crown of life is bestowed immediately at death. We must consequently look to other scriptures to learn when the crown of life is given; and other scriptures very fully inform us. Paul declares that this crown is to be given at the day of Christ's appearing [2 Tim. .4:8]: at the last trump [1 Cor. 15:51-54]; when the Lord shall himself descend from heaven [1 Thess. 4:16, 17]; when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, says Peter [1 Pet. 5:4]; at the resurrection of the just, says Christ [Luke 14:14]; and when he shall return to take his people to the mansions prepared for them, that they may ever be with him. John 14:3. "Be thou faithful until death;" and having been thus faithful, when the time comes that the saints of God are rewarded, you shall receive a crown of life. p. 353, Para. 1.
The Overcomer's Reward. -- "He shall not be hurt of the second death." Is not the language Christ here uses a good comment upon what he taught his disciples, when he said, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell"? Matt. 10:28. The Smyrnians might be put to death here; but the future life, which was to be given them, man could not take away, and God would not; hence they were to fear not those who could kill the body, -- to "fear none of the things which they should suffer;" for their eternal existence was sure. p. 353, Para. 2.
Smyrna signifies myrrh, fit appellation for the church of God while passing through the fiery furnace of persecution, and proving herself a "sweet-smelling savor" unto him. But we soon reach the days of Constantine, when the church presents a new phase, rendering a far different name and another message applicable to her history. p. 354, Para. 1.
According to the foregoing application, the date of the Smyrnian church would be A.D. 100-323. p. 354, Para. 2.
"VERSE 12. And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write: These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges: 13. I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is; and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. 14. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. 15. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. 16. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." p. 354, Para. 3.
Against the church of Smyrna, which has just been considered, there was no word of condemnation uttered. Persecution is ever calculated to keep the church pure, and incite its members to piety and godliness. But we now reach a period when influences began to work through which errors and evils were likely to creep into the church. p. 354, Para. 4.
The word Pergamos signifies height, elevation. The period covered by this church may be located from the days of Constantine, or perhaps, rather, from his professed conversion to Christianity, A.D. 323, to the establishment of the papacy, A.D. 538. It was a period in which the true servants of God had to struggle against a spirit of worldly policy, pride, and popularity among the professed followers of Christ, and against the virulent workings of the mystery of iniquity, which finally resulted in the full development of the papal man of sin. p. 354, Para. 5.
Where Satan's Seat Is. -- Christ takes cognizance of the unfavorable situation of his people during this period. The language is not probably designed to denote locality. As to place, Satan works wherever Christians dwell. But surely there are times and seasons when he works with special power; and the period covered by the church of Pergamos was one of these. During this period, the doctrine of Christ was being corrupted, the mystery of iniquity was working, and Satan was laying the very foundation of that most stupendous system of wickedness, the papacy. Here was the falling away foretold by Paul in 2 Thess. 2:3. p. 355, Para. 1.
Antipas. -- That a class of persons is referred to by this name, and not an individual, there is good reason to believe; for no authentic information respecting such an individual is now to be found. On this point William Miller says:-- p. 355, Para. 2.
"It is supposed that Antipas was not an individual, but a class of men who opposed the power of the bishops, or popes, in that day, being a combination of two words, anti, opposed, and papas, father, or pope; and at that time many of them suffered martyrdom in Constantinople and Rome, where the bishops and popes began to exercise the power which soon after brought into subjection the kings of the earth, and trampled on the rights of the church of Christ. And for myself, I see no reason to reject this explanation of this word Antipas in this text, as the history of those times is perfectly silent respecting such an individual as is here named." -- Miller's Lectures, pp. 138, 139. p. 355, Para. 3.
Watson says, "Ancient ecclesiastical history furnishes no account of this Antipas." Dr. Clarke mentions a work as extant called the "Acts of Antipas," but gives us to understand that it is entitled to no credit. p. 355, Para. 4.
The Cause of Censure. -- Disadvantages in situation are no excuse for wrongs in the church. Although this church lived at a time when Satan was especially at work, it was their duty to keep themselves pure from the leaven of his evil doctrines. Hence they were censured for harboring among them those who held the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitanes. [See remarks on the Nicolaitanes, verse 6.] What the doctrine of Balaam was, is here partially revealed. He taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel. [See a full account of his work and its results in Numbers, chapters 22-25 and 31:13-16.] It appears that Balaam desired to curse Israel for the sake of the rich reward which Balak offered him for so doing. But not being permitted by the Lord to curse them, he resolved to accomplish essentially the same thing, though in a different way. He therefore counseled Balak to seduce them by means of the females of Moab, to participate in the celebration of the rites of idolatry, and all its licentious accompaniments. The plan succeeded. The abominations of idolatry spread through the camp of Israel, the curse of God was called down upon them by their sins, and there fell by the plague twenty-four thousand persons. p. 356, Para. 1.
The doctrines complained of in the church of Pergamos were of course similar in their tendency, leading to spiritual idolatry, and an unlawful connection between the church and the world. Out of this spirit was finally produced the union of the civil and ecclesiastical powers, which culminated in the formation of the papacy. p. 356, Para. 2.
Repent. -- By disciplining or expelling those who hold these pernicious doctrines. Christ declared that if they did not do this, he would take the matter into his own hands, and come unto them [in judgment], and fight against them [those who held these evil doctrines]; and the whole church would be held responsible for the wrongs of those heretical ones whom they harbored in their midst. p. 356, Para. 3.
The Promise. -- To the overcomer it is promised that he shall eat of the hidden manna, and receive from his approving Lord a white stone, with a new and precious name engraved thereon. Concerning manna that is "hidden," and a new name that no one is to know but he that receives it, not much in the way of exposition should be required. But there has been much conjecture upon these points, and an allusion to them may be expected. Most commentators apply the manna, white stone, and new name, to spiritual blessings to be enjoyed in this life; but like all the other promises to the overcomer, this one doubtless refers wholly to the future, and is to be given when the time comes that the saints are to be rewarded. Perhaps the following from the late H. Blunt is as satisfactory as anything that has ever been written upon these several particulars:-- p. 356, Para. 4.
It is generally thought by commentators that this refers to an ancient judicial custom of dropping a black stone into an urn when it is intended to condemn, and a white stone when the prisoner is to be acquitted; but this is an act so distinct from that described, 'I will give thee a white stone,' that we are disposed to agree with those who think it refers rather to a custom of a very different kind, and not unknown to the classical reader, according with beautiful propriety to the case before us. In primitive times, when traveling was rendered difficult from want of places of public entertainment, hospitality was exercised by private individuals to a very great extent of which, indeed, we find frequent traces in all history, and in none more than the Old Testament. Persons who partook of this hospitality, and those who practiced it, frequently contracted habits of friendship and regard for each other, and it became a well- established custom among the Greeks and Romans to provide their guests with some particular mark, which was handed down from father to son, and insured hospitality and kind treatment whenever it was presented. This mark was usually a small stone or pebble, cut in half, upon the halves of which the host and guest mutually inscribed their names, and then interchanged with each other. The production of this tessera was quite sufficient to insure friendship for themselves or descendants whenever they traveled again in the same direction, while it is evident that these stones required to be privately kept, and the names written upon them carefully concealed, lest others should obtain the privileges instead of the persons for whom they were intended. p. 357, Para. 1.
"How natural, then, the allusion to this custom in the words of the text, 'I will give him to eat of the hidden manna!' and having done this, having made him partake of my hospitality, having recognized him as my guest and friend, I will present him with the white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth save he who receiveth it. I will give him a pledge of my friendship, sacred and inviolable, known only to himself." p. 358, Para. 1.
On the new name, Wesley very appropriately says:-- p. 358, Para. 2.
"Jacob, after his victory, gained the new name of Israel. Wouldst thou know what thy new name will be? The way to this is plain -- overcome. Till then, all thy inquiries are vain. Thou wilt then read it on the white stone." p. 358, Para. 3.
"VERSE 18. And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; 19. I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. 20. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. 21. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. 22. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. 23. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. 24. But unto you I say, and unto the rest of Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. 25. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. 26. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: 27. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. 28. And I will give him the morning star. 29. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." p. 358, Para. 4.
If the period covered by the Pergamos church has been correctly located, terminating with the setting up of the papacy, A.D. 538, the most natural division to be assigned to the church of Thyatira would be the time of the continuance of this blasphemous power through the 1260 years of its supremacy, or from A.D. 538 to A.D. 1798. p. 358, Para. 4.
Thyatira signifies "sweet savor of labor," or "sacrifice of contrition." This would well describe the state of the church of Jesus Christ during the long period of papal triumph and persecution. This age of such dreadful tribulation upon the church as never was [Matt. 24:21], improved the religious conditions of believers. Hence they receive for their works, charity, service, faith, and patience, the commendation of Him whose eyes are as a flame of fire. And works are then again mentioned, as if worthy of double commendation. And the last were more than the first. There had been an improvement in their condition, a growth of grace, an increase in all these elements of Christianity. This church is the only one that is commended for an improvement in spiritual things. But as in the church of Pergamos unfavorable circumstances were no apology for false doctrines in the church, so in this church, no amount of labor, charity, service, faith, or patience could compensate for a like sin. A rebuke is therefore given them for suffering in their midst -- p. 359, Para. 1.
That Woman Jezebel. -- As in the preceding church Antipas denoted, not an individual, but a class of persons, so, doubtless, Jezebel is here to be understood in the same sense. Watson's Bible Dictionary says, "The name of Jezebel is used proverbially. Rev. 2:20." William Miller, Lectures, p. 142, speaks as follows:-- p. 359, Para. 2.
"Jezebel is a figurative name, alluding to Ahab's wife, who slew the prophets of the Lord, led her husband into idolatry, and fed the prophets of Baal at her own table. A more striking figure could not have been used do denote the papal abominations. [See 1 Kings, chapters 18, 19, and 21]. It is very evident from history, as well as from this verse, that the church of Christ did suffer some of the papal monks to preach and teach among them. (See the 'History of the Waldenses.')" p. 359, Para. 3.
The Comprehensive Commentary has the following remark upon verse 23: "Children are spoken of, which confirms the idea that a sect and its proselytes are meant." The judgments here threatened against this woman are in harmony with the threatenings in other parts of this book against the Romish Church under the symbol of a corrupt woman, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth. [See chapters 17-19.] The death which is threatened is doubtless the second death, at the end of the one thousand years of Revelation 20, when the righteous retribution from the Searcher of "the reins and hearts" of all men will be given. And further, the declaration, "I will give unto every one of you according to your works," is proof that the address to this church looks forward prophetically to the final reward or punishment of all accountable beings. p. 360, Para. 1.
And All the Churches Shall Know, etc. -- It has been argued from this expression that these churches could not denote seven successive periods of the gospel age, but must exist contemporaneously, as otherwise all the churches could not know that Christ was the searcher of the reins and hearts from seeing his judgments upon Jezebel and her children. But when is it that all the churches are to know this? -- It is when these children are punished with death. And if this is at the time when the second death is inflicted upon all the wicked, then indeed will "all the churches," as they behold the infliction of the judgment, know that no secret thing, no evil thought or purpose of the heart, has escaped the knowledge of Him, who, with eyes like flames of fire, searches the hearts and reins of men. p. 360, Para. 2.
I Will Lay upon You None Other Burden. -- A respite promised the church, if we rightly apprehend, from the burden, so long her portion, -- the weight of papal oppression. It cannot be applied to the reception of new truths; for truth is not a burden to any accountable being. But the days of tribulation that came upon that church were to be shortened for the elect's sake. Matt. 24:22. "They shall be holpen," says the prophet, "with a little help." Dan. 11:34. "And the earth helped the woman," says John. Rev. 12:16. p. 360, Para. 3.
Hold Fast till I Come. -- These are the words of the "Son of God," and bring to our view an unconditional coming. To the churches of Ephesus and Pergamos, certain comings were threatened on conditions: "Repent, or else I will come unto thee," etc., implying visitations of judgment. But here a coming of a different nature altogether is brought to view. It is not a threatening of punishment. It is suspended upon no conditions. It is set before the believer as a matter of hope, and can refer to no other event but the future second advent of the Lord in glory, when the Christian's trials will cease, and his efforts in the race for life, and his warfare for a crown of righteousness, will be rewarded with everlasting success. p. 361, Para. 1.
This church brings us down to the time when the more immediate signs of the soon-coming advent began to be fulfilled. In 1780, eighteen years before the close of this period, the predicted signs in the sun and moon were fulfilled. [See chapter 6:12.] And in reference to these signs the Saviour said: "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." In the history of this church we reach a point when the end is drawing so near that the attention of the people could properly be called more particularly to that event. All along Christ has said to his followers, "Occupy till I come." Luke 19:13. Now he says, "Hold fast till I come." p. 361, Para. 2.
Till the End. -- The end of the Christian age. "He that shall endure unto the end," says Christ, "the same shall be saved." Matt. 24:13. Is not here a like promise to those who keep Christ's works, do the things he has enjoined, keep the faith of Jesus? Chapter 14:12. p. 361, Para. 3.
Power over the Nations. -- In this world the wicked bear rule, and the servants of Christ are of no esteem. But the time is coming when righteousness will be in the ascendancy; when all ungodliness will be seen in its true light, and be at a heavy discount; and when the scepter of power will be in the hands of the people of God. This promise will be explained by the following facts and scriptures:  The nations are to be given by the Father into the hands of Christ, to be ruled with a rod of iron, and dashed in pieces like a potter's vessel [Ps. 2:8, 9];  Associated with Christ when he thus enters upon his own work of power and judgment, are to be his saints [Rev. 3:21];  They are to reign with him in this capacity for one thousand years [chapter 20:4];  During this period, the degree of judgment upon wicked men and evil angels is determined [1 Cor. 6:2,3]:  At the end of the one thousand years, they have the honor of sharing with Christ in the execution of the sentence written. Ps. 149:9. p. 361, Para. 4.
The Morning Star. -- Christ says, in chapter 22:16, that he is himself the morning star. The morning star is the immediate forerunner of the day. What is here called the morning star, is called the day star in 2 Pet. 1:19, where it is associated with the dawn of the day: "Until the day dawn, and the day star arise." During the saints' weary night of watching, they have the word of God to shed its needful light upon their path. But when the day star shall arise in their hearts, or the morning star be given to the overcomers, they will be taken into so close a relationship to Christ that their hearts will be fully illuminated with his Spirit, and they will walk in his light. Then they will no longer need the sure word of prophecy, which now shines as a light in a dark place. Hasten on, O glorious hour, when the light of heaven's bright day shall rise upon the pathway of the little flock, and beams of glory from the eternal world shall gild their banners! p. 362, Para. 1.
© S. D. Goeldner, February, 2011. Last updated October, 2019.
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