NT Prophecy – Revelation 2

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’
To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

  • Revelation 2:1-29

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Revelation 2:1-3:22 ‘letters to the seven churches’: “Although these seven churches were actual, historical churches in Asia Minor, they represent the types of churches that perennially exist throughout the church age. What Christ says to these churches is relevant in all times.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 2:1-7 ‘Message to Ephesus’: “Though John the Apostle is the human author of these short letters, they are really from Christ Himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit. They are addressed to ‘the angel’ of each church. Some believe this means each church had a specific guardian angel, but more likely the reference is to the messenger or ‘reader’ in each congregation. The reader was probably the courier, the deliverer of this book from John, and the ‘explainer’ of what was written.  Ephesus was a large city on the west coast of Asia Minor with a population of 250,000.  It was the center of worship for the goddess Artemis (or Diana) with a temple that had 127 columns. The local coins were inscribed ‘Diana of Ephesus.’ Paul faced opposition from the worshippers of this goddess in Acts 19:21-41. Despite nearly losing their lives here, Paul’s team planted the church at Ephesus in about A.D. 52. Tradition says that John lived in the city toward the end of his life and had even been the pastor of the congregation.  Besides enduring the raw paganism of the city, ‘the Ephesian Christians had to confront itinerant missionaries who entered the church and brazenly called themselves apostles. But the followers of Christ tested them and found them to be counterfeit’ (Kistemaker, Revelation, p. 113). Along with such evil and insidious attacks, the Christians suffered persecution and other problems within their church fellowship.  While this congregation had endured persecution for Christ’s sake (2:3), they had become cold to Him, having ‘left [their] first love’ (verse 4). Christ also hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans (verse 6). This was probably a lawless and licentious religious cult, an early pagan form of gnosticism that disappeared in a very short time. If the Ephesian Christians did not repent, Christ would come and remove their lampstand, or the light of their witness in a dark and evil culture. It is possible that the church did repent to some degree, for Ephesus continued to play a prominent role in the history of the early church. A long line of bishops in the Eastern church served there. In A.D. 431 the Council of Ephesus officially condemned the Nestorian heresy, which taught that Jesus Christ existed as two separate persons, one divine and one human.  The Spirit of God says those who overcome the sins they are tempted by will be granted ‘to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God’ (verse 7). The postscript here is addressed to all the churches, which means the messages were applicable to all the churches, not just the one the letter was directed to.”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Revelation 2:1 ‘angel’: “The elder or pastor from the church (see note on 1:20). Ephesus. It was an inland city three miles from the sea, but the broad mouth of the Cayster River allowed access and provided the greatest harbor in Asia Minor. Four great trade roads went through Ephesus; therefore, it became known as the gateway to Asia. It was the center of the worship of Artemis (Greek), or Diana (Roman), whose temple was one of the seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Paul ministered there for three years (Acts 20:31), and later met with the Ephesian elders on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20). Timothy, Tychicus, and the apostle John all served this church. John was in Ephesus when he was arrested by Domitian and exiled fifty miles southwest to Patmos.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 2:2 ‘who say they are apostles’: “The Ephesian church exercised spiritual discernment. It knew how to evaluate those who claimed spiritual leadership by their doctrine and behavior (cf. 1 Thess. 5:20, 21).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 2:4-5 ‘losing our first love’: “What love we had for our Savior the first time he forgave our sins. When we first loved him, how passionate we were. There was not a single thing in the Bible that we did not consider most precious. There was not one command we did not think to be like fine gold. Where did we lose our first love, if we have lost it? Have we lost it in the world? Too much of the world is a bad thing for any person. Have we lost our first love by spending too much time with worldly people? Have we forgotten how much we owe Christ? Have we neglected communion with Christ? There are a thousand possible reasons, but each person must search his own heart.
“If we have lost the love we had at first, we must seek to have it restored. Though we are children of God, if we have lost our first love, there is trouble near at hand. Love and purity go together. The one who loves is pure. The one who loves little will find his purity decrease until it becomes marred and polluted. ‘The Lord disciplines the one he loves’ (Heb 12:6), and he is sure to discipline us when we sin.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Revelation 2:8-11 ‘Message to Smyrna’: “The church at Smyrna had a great natural harbor in western Asia Minor. The city was given the privilege of building a temple dedicated to Emperor Tiberias in 23 B.C. because of Smyrna’s years of faithfulness to Rome. Thus the city was a center for the cult of emperor worship. The assembly of Christians in this city suffered from persecution and poverty, and yet they were spiritually rich (2:9). The Jews were so hateful toward the Christians that their synagogue was called ‘a synagogue of Satan.’ More persecution would follow, with some Christians being cast into prison and tested. In A.D. I56, John’s disciple, Polycarp, was burned at the stake in Smyrna for refusing to worship the emperor. By being faithful unto death, these Christians were promised ‘the crown of life’ for their fortitude (verse 10), and they would not be harmed by the second death (verse 11). Peter wrote, ‘When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory’ (1 Peter 5:4). Some believe this is the same as the crown of life. These crowns could be given for service to the Lord done in this lifetime, or they could represent the actual giving of eternal life (on the crown of life, see also Revelation 3:11).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Revelation 2:9 ‘who say they are Jews’: “Although they were Jews physically, they were not true Jews but spiritual pagans (cf. Rom. 2:28), who allied with other pagans in putting Christians to death as they attempted In stamp out the Christian faith. synagogue of Satan. With the rejection of its Messiah, Judaism became as much a tool of Satan as emperor worship.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 2:12-17 ‘Message to Pergamum’: “This city was the chief city of Mysia near the Caicus River in northwest Asia Minor. The city became a head of the region after Attalus I (241-197 B.C.) defeated the Gauls (Galatians), and it stood as a symbol of Greek superiority over the barbarians. The city had a massive library of 200,000 volumes. The Christians abhorred the local cult of Aesculapius (Asclepius), whose symbol was the serpent, which was called the god of Pergamum. This may be why the Lord called the city ‘Satan’s throne’ (verse 13). It was also the headquarters of the Roman military presence in Asia Minor.
“Some in the church held to the ‘teaching of Balaam’ (verse 14). The allusion goes back to Numbers 22-24, where the king of Moab, Balak, tried to get the false prophet Balaam to curse Israel. The people of Israel had been tempted to commit sexual immorality, intermarry with the heathen, and compromise in the matter of idolatrous worship, and the same temptations were seducing the church in Pergamum. The people of Pergamum were being attracted also to the gnostic cult of the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:15).
“Unless the people repented, Christ would come and make war against this church (verse 16). The overcomers were promised they would receive ‘the hidden manna’ and ‘a white stone, and a new name written on the stone’ (verse 17). When Israel was in the wilderness, manna was a miracle food the people gathered each morning during their desert travels (Exodus 16:33-34). The manna here in Revelation would be the spiritual feeding of the believers in Pergamum in contrast to the pagan banquet meals of the general population. There is much debate about the ‘white stone.’ It probably refers to the Urim on the high priest’s vestment in Exodus 28:30. It could also refer to a ticket of admission, and in this case, an admission to the future heavenly feast. Another view relates it to elections in which white stones were used as ballots. The white stone is clearly meant to signal a blessing for spiritual endurance and fortitude.”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Revelation 2:13 ‘’: “The faith may be denied in several ways. Some deny the faith by never confessing the name of Jesus. Christ is also denied by false doctrine. If we espouse error as to Christ’s person or work, then we have denied his name and his faith. Furthermore, it is possible to deny the name and the faith by unholy living. Let none of us imagine that an orthodox creed can be of any use to us if we lead a heterodox life. Finally, we can deny the faith by actually forsaking it and quitting the people of God. Some do so deliberately; others do so because the charms of the world overcome them.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Revelation 2:17 ‘’: “Makes sense. Fathers are fond of giving their children special names. Princess. Tiger.  Sweetheart. Bubba. Angel …
“Isn’t it incredible to think that God has saved a name just for you? One you don’t even know? We’ve always assumed that the name we got is the name we will keep. Not so … The road ahead is so bright a fresh name is needed. Your eternity is so special no common name will do.
“So God has one reserved just for you. There is more to your life than you ever thought. There is more to your story than what you have read. …
“And so I plead … Be there when God whispers your name.”

  • Max Lucado, When God Whispers Your Name

Revelation 2:18-29 ‘Message to Thyatira’: “The city of Thyatira was a province of Lydia in western Asia Minor on the road from Pergamum to Sardis. Though never a large city, Thyatira was a busy manufacturing and commercial center during New Testament times. Many unions and guilds thrived here. Membership meant practicing superstitious worship, feasts in which union members ate food sacrificed to pagan gods, and sexual immorality.
“The woman ‘Jezebel’ beguiled many Christians at Thyatira to conform to the paganism and sexual immorality that were rampant all around them (1:11; 2:18-29). Jezebel may have been an actual woman serving as a pagan witch. More likely the name is a comparative reference used by John to speak of someone with the kind of evil influence King Ahab’s wife Jezebel exhibited in 1 Kings 18-21. She led Israel into harlotries and evil practices and eventually was trampled by horses (2 Kings 9:33) and eaten by scavenger dogs (1 Kings 21:23). Here in Revelation, ‘Jezebel’ represents a false prophetess of some kind.
“Verse 19 is important because the Lord compliments the church for its ‘love and faith and service and perseverance.’ Unlike Ephesus, Thyatira ‘had not grown slack in love. Love had remained active and diligent so that the last works were not, indeed, lesser but more numerous than the first. The Lord here bestows high praise and full credit for all that he with his all-seeing eyes beheld in the church of Thyatira’ (Lenski, Revelation, p. 114).
“The Lord then prophesies that this ‘Jezebel’ would be cast on a bed of sickness (Revelation 2:22) and that her children, meaning those who followed her, would be slain with pestilence so that the congregation will know that God ‘searches the minds and hearts’ and will recompense the people for their deeds (verse 23). Christ tells this church to hold fast to the truth ‘until I come’ (verse 25). The promise is that they will reign with Him in the kingdom and carry out His ‘authority over the nations’ (verse 26). Verse 26 tells the church that it will join Christ in carrying out His work in the millennial reign. The faithful believer will also be given ‘the morning star’ (verse 28). The morning star shines the brightest in the early dawn, and Peter used this expression to assure that God’s promises about the future will come to pass. ‘So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts’ (2 Peter 1:19). In Revelation 2:28 the morning star is Jesus Christ Himself. Possibly the idea is that He will grant assurance to believers that all is well and that the end of pain and sin is near.”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Revelation 2:22 ‘sickbed’: “Lit. ‘bed.’ Having given this woman time to repent, God was to judge her upon a bed. Since she used a luxurious bed to commit her immorality, and the reclining couch at the idol feast to eat things offered to false gods, He was to give her a bed in hell where she would lie forever.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 2:24 ‘the depths of Satan’: “This unbelievable libertinism and license was the fruit of pregnostic teaching that one was free to engage and explore the sphere of Satan and participate in evil with the body without harming the spirit.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 2:27 ‘rule them with a rod of iron’: “Lit. ‘shepherd them with an iron rod.’ During the millennial kingdom, Christ will enforce His will and protect His sheep with His iron scepter from any who would seek to harm them (cf. Ps. 2:9).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Coffee and Revelation – Introduction
Coffee and Revelation – Part 15, Revelation 2:1-7
Coffee and Revelation – Part 16, Revelation 2:8-11
Coffee and Revelation – Part 17, Revelation 2:12-17
Coffee and Revelation – Part 18, Revelation 2:18-29

My Thoughts

There are many theories on the prophecy in Revelation, even on the letters to the seven churches.  Maybe the best way to put it is as Rev. MacArthur stated above.  There were seven churches.  The letters were meant for those seven churches, but we can learn from the letters because what was going on has continued for the past 2000 years.

I heard a friend speak of the seven letters being seven periods of time over the past 2000 years.  He used such historical markers as the dark ages, the protestant reformation, etc. to place each church’s letter with the overall state of the unified church as a whole during that period.  That places us squarely in the state of the Laodicea church, lukewarm Christianity that God wishes to spit out.

I can see both applying.  I can see that right now there could be churches in my local area that could resemble in some way each of the primary characteristics of the seven churches.

But then, a church is a body of believers rather than the folks that meet on Church Street and go to the XYZ Denomination Church.  Could we not have members of one single church that have the good qualities and bad qualities of each of the churches?  Within a single individual, we could have a combination of various qualities, although some may contradict, such as the Ephesians who rejected the Nicolaitans while those in Pergamum accepted them.

It might be a good exercise in reading each letter and then asking, “Is our denomination like that?” or “our church?” or “our friends within the church?” or “ourselves?”

But on to the letters:

To the church at Ephesus, they had a few good qualities.  They tested people claiming to be apostles, but were not, and they rejected their teaching.  They also rejected the teaching of the Nicolaitans.  But they lost their first love.  That can happen as a church or an individual.  You are enticed by the things of this world and you wander.  A church starts losing membership so you water down the gospel to attract people who had left.  If you go too far in thinking that Jesus is okay with your lax lifestyle, are you really worshipping the true Christ Jesus anymore?  We may not sustain that high emotion that we experienced when we first believed, but we need that spiritual fire to continue to burn within us, something sustaining that is not emotional.  I went to a family retreat about thirty years ago.  The leader asked for testimonials about how people felt at the end of the retreat.  Everyone spoke of how excited they were, how they were renewed and on fire for Jesus.  As the head of the deacons, I had been in charge of much of the extracurricular activities.  But as a church leader, I was not allowed to remain mute.  When pressed, I said, “My feeling right now is that I am exhausted.  I will let you know how I ‘feel’ in a couple of weeks.”  Everyone laughed, but I truly had gotten a lot from the speakers, but what I got was not emotional.  It was spiritual, something that would sustain.  Those who glowed with bubbly remarks were back to the humdrum the next Sunday.

To the church at Smyrna, they were poor, but rich in spiritual things.  People might read my writings as a whole and think I hate the rich, but Jesus was right.  As long as we have riches, do we really know that we totally rely on God when we can buy our way out of the next problem?  The poor know what the line in the Lord’s Prayer really means: Give us this day our daily bread.  For they will pray the same thing tomorrow.  This letter is somewhat positive, but it talks of a synagogue of Satan that is trying to destroy them.  Some will suffer persecution, but those who persevere will be spared.

To the church at Pergamum, they had their troubles.  They accepted the teaching of the Nicolaitans.  They accepted the teachings of Balaam, with sexual perversity and eating food sacrificed to idols.  Jesus had one word for them.  Repent.

To the church at Thyatira, they suffered the same lax rules as Pergamum, with sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols. But a face is applied here, Jezebel, either figurative or literal.  Yet, the church seems split with some who will not leave the teachings of Jesus.  Those are encouraged to continue holding on to what little they have.

Does any of those illustrate you?  Your church?  We may or may not have a Jezebel in our midst, but we have enticements.  We have people that say, “Well, … Let’s see. … Does the Bible really mean what you are saying that it says?  I read that a bit different. …”  Then they introduce all manner of heresies.  How much heresy does it take before we become apostate?

Some Serendipitous Reflections

Revelation 1, Ephesus: 1. Of the positive qualities mentioned about this group, which best describes you? Your church? Why?
“2. In what ways have you lost your first love for Christ? What has helped you to keep that love alive?
Revelation 1, Smyrna: 1. Has it been harder to live out your faith when you’ve been poor, or when you’ve had enough money? Why?
“2. In what ways do you feel spiritually rich?”
Revelation 1, Pergamum: 1. What cultural influences distract you from your relationship with Christ? How subtle are these influences in your life? How direct?
“2. What weapons has God given you to do battle with? Which has proved very helpful?
Revelation 1, Thyatira: 1. Which of the qualities in verse 19 apply to you this week? Why?
“2. Who or what has played a role similar to Jezebel in your life (names aren’t necessary)? How? How did the Lord free you from that influence?
“3. What do you appreciate most about the promise to overcomers in this section? Why?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

There is one set of questions for each letter to the churches in this chapter.

Substitute whatever group for any reference to a small group or ask who could come to your aid.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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