Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
Earth-picture of the Seven Churches. The Seven Epistles (Chs. 2, 3)
General.—The seven Churches as real portraits and at the same time as typical pictures of the whole Church, as regards (1) local extension and (2) chronological development.—The seven Churches as the centre of the seven loosed Seals or unveiled worldly history; as the occasion for the seven penitential Trumpets for the world in the Church and the Church in the world; as the organ of the seven Thunders of awakening and reformation; as the object of the enmity of the kingdom of darkness in the seven Heads of Antichrist; purified and saved by the hardening judgments of the seven Vials of Anger which are poured out upon the Antichristian world, in order to the mediating of Christ’s appearing and His union with the Bride, in that one Spirit in Whom the Seven Spirits are united.—The seven Epistles as the all-sided sum of all messages of the heavenly Head-Shepherd to the shepherds and congregations of the Church; as the all-sided ensample of pastoral ministry on the part of the shepherds; and, at the same time, as prophetic alarm voices from the Spirit of the Church to the flocks themselves.—The Johannean Theology.—The Johannean Church.—Its historic continuance within Church History.—Its abiding fundamental features.—Its future.
The seven Churches as the seven candlesticks of the earth:—As portraits of the manifold configurations of Christianity.—Parallels and antitheses: Ephesus and Smyrna. Smyrna and Pergamus. Pergamus and Thyatira (Balaam and Jezebel). Thyatira and Sardis. Philadelphia and Laodicea.—Lights and Shadows: 1. The Metropolis: Growing churchliness, decreasing Christliness. Increased external works at the expense of inwardness—the first love. 2. Smyrna, the Martyr-Church, in conflict with a Judaizing, orthodoxistic tendency. 3. Pergamus, the confessing Church, lax in the exercise of church discipline towards antinomianism. 4. Thyatira, the enthusiastic Church, spotted with immoral fanaticism. 5. Sardis, the Church with a show of churchly life, but spiritually dead. 6. Philadelphia, small and pure—hence also a mission Church. 7. Laodicea, the lukewarm.—How the Lord’s threats and promises to the seven Churches have been fulfilled. Historic life-pictures.—The manifold forms of Christ in relation to the seven Churches. All agreeing with individual traits of His total appearance (Rev 1.).
Special.—To avoid repetition, we here simply refer to the exegetical department.
1. Ephesus. The Mother-Church externally and legally faithful, hut gathering inward and spiritual darkness
How Christ presents Himself to this Church, the metropolis, in accordance with its need (Rev 2:1). Commendation of the Church: its many virtues (Rev 2:2, 3). In contrast to these, the one great, threatening want (Rev 2:4). Corresponding admonition, warning, threat (Rev 2:5). A hopeful sign, limiting the censure of Christ. In the Church’s hatred of Nicolaitanism there remains a trace of the first love (Rev 2:6). Alarm cry and ethically conditioned promise, in harmony with the Church’s stand-point. Ephesus the metropolis, and metropolises in Church History (Jerusalem, Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, etc.).
2. Smyrna. The Martyr-Church persecuted by Judaism
Picture of Christ, in conformity to the needs of this Church (Rev 2:8). Praise of the Church (Rev 2:9). Its tribulation in the present and in the future, and the Lord’s word of encouragement (Rev 2:9, 10). The great promise (Rev 2:10). The alarm cry and the glorious goal, in harmony with the conflict of the Church (Rev 2:11). Smyrna and other martyr-churches in conflict with the various forms of Judaism and orthodoxism (with the false and the great ban). The synagogue of Satan.
3. Pergamus. The Martyr-Church persecuted by Heathenism
Proclamation: Christ as the possessor of the two-edged sword (Rev 2:12). Praise of martyr faithfulness in external conflict (Rev 2:13). Censure of false endurance when there was a call to spiritual conflict (Rev 2:14, 15). Admonition to repentance and threat of the judicial interference of Christ (Rev 2:16). Peculiar promise, referring to the relations of the inner, spiritual life (Rev 2:17). Pergamus, or the libertine Church, defective in the observance of church-discipline towards Nicolaitans and Balaamites. Balaam, the type of the false prophet or apostasy. The first Old Testament Judas (followed by Ahithophel and others), a prelude of the last Judas, the false prophet (Rev. 13).
4. Thyatira. The excited Church stained with antinomistic spiritual fanaticism
Announcement of the Searcher of hearts and reins in His holy motion (Rev 2:18). Commendation of the Church’s zeal (Rev 2:19). Censure of its toleration of Jezebel and the antinomistic extravagances of which she is the instigator (Rev 2:20, 21). Terribly earnest threat of punishment, in perfect harmony with the sin committed (Rev 2:22, 23). Limitation of the threat by a promise to spare the guiltless (Rev 2:23–25). Promise of the spirit of holy discipline and of true progress in antithesis to a false advance—in harmony with the situation of the Church (Rev 2:26–28). The alarm cry comes at the end, instead of preceding the promise, as heretofore. The same change of position between the conditional promise and the alarm cry obtains in the following Epistles. The architectonic distinction hence arising between the first three and the last four Churches may at the same time be suggestive of the antithesis of their geographical position. Smyrna and Pergamus lie to the north of Ephesus; Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea, to the south of Pergamus.—Phases of Jezebel in Church History, or the manifold re-appearance of fanatical and immoral sects and schools. Corrupting women in ancient and modern Church History, contrasted with the line of pious women.
5. Sardis. The Church for the most part spiritually dead
Christ addresses Himself to this Church—in which there is a lack of the Spirit—in His whole general sovereignty over the entire Church and in the fullness of His Spirit. He begins by bringing against it the heavy charge of deadness—doubly a crime, since it has the name of living (Rev 3:1). Alarm cry, in reference to the still extant remnants of life (Rev 3:2, 3). Recognition of the few innocent ones, conjoined with a promise corresponding to the fact that they have not defiled their garments (Rev 3:4, 5). Alarm cry (Rev 3:6).—Sad instances of dead or dying congregations, and even whole Churches.
6. Philadelphia. The pearl among the Churches
Christ in the solemn aspect of the Administrator of the keys of David, i. e. true communion (Rev 3:7). Great recognition of the Church’s faithfulness, and great promise—both in lively alternation (Rev 3:8–10). Encouragement and extraordinary final promise (Rev 3:11, 12). Alarm cry (Rev 3:13).—Characteristic of living Christian Churches and communities: An open door. Open outwardly for missions; open inwardly for communion.
7. Laodicea. The lukewarm Church—nigh unto reprobation
The view which we take of Laodicea—viz., that it has fallen into lukewarmness in consequence of its spiritualistic [spiritualistisch] tendency—is supported by the characteristic announcement of Christ. He appears here entirely as the historic Christ, and characterizes Himself in this very peculiarity as identical with the ideal primal principle of the creation (Rev 3:14). The censure of the Church’s lukewarmness is immediately conjoined with the threat of the judgment of reprobation (Rev 3:15, 16). The Lord then discovers the source of the lukewarmness of the Church to be, pride in its supposed spiritual riches, whilst it is, in reality, in a state of inexpressible spiritual necessity (Rev 3:16, 17). With this condition, correspond Christ’s searching counsel (Rev 3:18), the expression of His love and compassion in the censure which He administers (Rev 3:19), and His peculiar admonition to repentance (Rev 3:20). The ethically conditioned promise is of as concrete a character as the self-presentation of Christ at the beginning, in perfect accordance with the needs of a church dissolved in spiritualism ([Spiritualismus], Rev 3:20, 21). The closing paragraph concludes both the seventh Epistle and all the foregoing Epistles (Rev 3:22).—Spiritualistic [spiritualistisch] back-ground of the lukewarm Church. An idealistic dream-life as unbelief in the historic power of ideas, or, rather, in the Incarnation of the Word.
Upon glancing over the entire group, we behold in most of the Churches a juxtaposition of light and shade—yet in very different proportions; only Laodicea incurs blame alone, and only Philadelphia is entirely free from censure. This contrast is explained by the spiritual pride of the one, and the humility and modesty of the other. Christ is different and yet the same in His posture toward each individual Church.—The celestially perfect Shepherd of the flock and Physician of the soul.
The wealth of homiletical works upon the Seven Epistles is so immense, and the works in question are so accessible, that, instead of attempting to augment this treasure, we shall refer to what is already extant. Even in more ancient times the Seven Epistles have afforded inducement to manifold dissertations on them, as is evident, e. g., from the list of productions relative to them in Lilienthal’s Biblischer Archivarius, pp. 811–819. We have cited on p. 74 of the Introduction the special works of MEISTER, WICHELHAUS, HEUBNER, ZORN, VAN OOSTERZEE. We have still to mention, among others, Lisko, Christenspiegel, Betrachtungen über die sieben Sendschreiben der Offenb. Joh., Berlin, 1837.—To the above may be added the numerous homiletical or generally edifying works upon the whole Apocalypse (see the Int.), especially those of Bengel, Hahn, Schulthess, Roos, Wächtler, et al. The Sermons of Wichelhaus made considerable impression in their time; Wächtler’s Sermons are energized by study, spirit and fervor; the Sermons of Van Oosterzee are especially distinguished by a plenitude of spirit and a grand play of oratory.
STARKE: The title of Christ at the opening of every letter is taken from the vision and description of Christ in Rev 1:11–18; it is, however, not always the same, but varies, on the contrary, in each epistle, corresponding in purpose and appearance with the contents of the epistle and the state of the Church addressed. The promise which in every epistle is given to the conqueror is adapted to the condition of each Church and to the evil that must be overcome.—The first love. The expression is drawn from the first love of married persons, which is wont to be pure and fervid, Jer. 2:2. (This first love is, therefore, the pure bridal phase of religious consciousness—i. e. its receptivity, purity [in the sense of being without admixture of foreign or contaminating elements], freedom, warmth and devotion; in one word, genuine earnestness and depth [wahrhaftige Innigkeit und Innerlichkeit]).—As common traits of the Old Testament Balaam and the New Testament Nicolaitans may be mentioned: 1. Boasting; 2. Covetousness; 3. Seduction to apostasy; 4. Bringing under judgment.—Warm or cold. Warmth is positively wished for; coldness is desired only inasmuch as it is accompanied by less danger and responsibility than lukewarmness.—(Starke allegorizes the names of all the seven Churches—a procedure to which the name of Philadelphia might offer special inducements.)
LAVATER: Jesus Messias, oder die Zukunft des Herrn nach der Offenb. Joh. (a poetical work). SMYRNA: Und der Herrliche rief mir: Schreibe dem Engel in Smyrna: Also der Erste, der Letzte, der todt war und ewiglich lebet: Ich weiss deine Werke, etc. [And the Glorious One cried unto me: Write to the angel in Smyrna: Thus (saith) the First and Last, Who was dead and eternally liveth. I know thy works, etc.]
THE KREUZRITTER ([Knight of the Cross] Von Meyer, Schlüssel zur Offenb. St. Joh.; see p. 73). “Be faithful unto death and I will give thee the crown of life.” Wreath or crown, it is all the same—except that the crowns of victors were wont to be made of living foliage. The Lord over death and life here demands of His followers such faithfulness and steadfastness as shall go with them even to a violent death. He Himself has won the wreath of victory and the highest crown of eternal life, and His first martyr, Stephen (i. e. wreath, crown), in the name that he bears, exhibits, as it were, to all martyrs their heavenly reward.
VAN OOSTERZEE: Let us, then, contemplate the Revelation of the glorified Christ on Patmos: as, for John, never to be forgotten—full of significance for all the centuries of the time following it—rich in instruction for each one of us.—Christ stands before you as the Image of the invisible God, the priestly King of the Kingdom of God, the faithful Friend of His servants, the Lord and Judge of the future.—Smyrna: Poor Smyrna enriched; calumniated Smyrna honored; threatened Smyrna ensured; militant Smyrna faithful; triumphant Smyrna crowned.
Literature: TRENCH, Comm. on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 1867 [New York, 1872].
[From M. HENRY: Rev 2:1. He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand. The ministers of Christ are under His special care and protection.—He walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. Christ is in an intimate manner present and conversant with His churches, and knows the state of each one of them.
Rev 2:2. I know thy works and thy labor. Those that are stars in Christ’s hand had need to be always in motion, dispensing light to all about them.—Thy patience. It is not enough that we be diligent, but we must be patient, and endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ.—Thou canst not bear them that are evil. It consists very well with Christian patience, not to dispense with sin, much less allow it.
Rev 2:4. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee. Those that have much good in them, may have something much amiss in them; and our Lord Jesus, as an impartial Master and Judge, takes notice of both.—Thou hast left thy first love. Observe, (1) The first affections of men toward Christ, and holiness, and heaven, are usually lively and warm. (2) These lively affections will abate and cool, if great care be not taken, and diligence used, to preserve them in constant exercise. (3) Christ is grieved and displeased with His people when He sees them grow remiss and cold toward Him, and He will one way or other make them sensible that He does not take it well from them.
Rev 2:5. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works. Observe, 1. Those that have lost their first love must remember from whence they are fallen; they must compare their present with their former state, and consider how much better it was with them then than now. 2. They must repent; they must be inwardly grieved and ashamed for their sinful declining, and humbly confess it in the sight of God. 3. They must return and do their first works; they must, as it were, begin again, go back step by step, till they come to the place where they took the first false step; they must endeavor to revive and recover their first zeal, tenderness, and seriousness, and must pray as earnestly, and watch as diligently, as they did when they first set out in the ways of God.—Or else I will come unto thee quickly, etc. If the presence of Christ’s grace and Spirit be slighted, we may expect the presence of His displeasure.
Rev 2:7. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Observe, 1. What is written in the Scriptures is spoken by the Spirit of God. 2. What is said to one church, concerns all the churches, in every place and age. 3. We can never employ our faculty of hearing better than in hearkening to the word of God.—To him that conquereth. The Christian life is a warfare against sin, Satan, the world, and the flesh. It is not enough that we engage in this warfare, but we must pursue it to the end; we must fight the good fight till we gain the victory; and the warfare and victory shall have a glorious triumph and reward.—To eat of the tree of life, etc. They shall have that perfection of holiness, and that confirmation therein, that Adam would have had. If he had gone well through the course of his trial, then he would have eaten of the tree of life which was in the midst of paradise, and that would have been the sacrament of confirmation to him in his holy and happy state. So all who persevere in their Christian trial and warfare, shall derive from Christ, as the Tree of Life, perfection and confirmation in holiness and happiness in the paradise of God; not in the earthly paradise, but the heavenly (Rev 22:1, 2).
Rev 2:8. Christ was dead, and by dying purchased salvation for us; He is alive, and by His life applies this salvation to us.
Rev 2:9. I know thy tribulation. They who will be faithful to Christ, must expect to go through many tribulations; but Jesus Christ takes particular notice of all their troubles.—Thy poverty (but thou art rich). Poor in temporals, but rich in spirituals: poor in spirit, and yet rich in grace; their spiritual riches are set off by their outward poverty. Many who are rich in temporals, are poor in spirituals. Some who are poor outwardly are inwardly rich. Spiritual riches are usually the reward of great diligence; the diligent hand makes rich.—I know the blasphemy. He knows the wickedness and falsehood of the enemies of His people.
Rev 2:10. He foreknows the future trials of His people, forewarns them of them, and forearms against them. Forearms them, 1. By His counsel. 2. By showing them how their sufferings would be alleviated and limited: (1) They should not be universal; (2) They should not be perpetual; (3) It should be to try them, not to destroy them. 3. By promising a glorious reward to their fidelity. Observe, 1. The sureness of this reward: I will give thee. 2. The suitableness of it: (1) A crown, to reward their poverty, fidelity and conflict. (2) A crown of life, to reward those who are faithful even unto death, are faithful till they die, and who part with life itself, in fidelity to Christ.
Rev 2:11. He that overcometh, shall not be hurt of the second death. Observe, 1. There is not only a first, but a second death; a death after the body is dead. 2. This second death is unspeakably worse than the first death, both in agony and in duration—it is eternal death, to die, and to be always dying. 3. From this hurtful, this destructive death, Christ will save all His faithful servants.
Rev 2:13. I know where thou dwellest, etc. Christ takes notice of the trials and difficulties His people encounter.
Rev 2:14. Observe, 1. Corrupt doctrines and a corrupt worship often lead to corrupt conversation. 2. To continue in communion with persons of corrupt principles and practices is displeasing to God, and causes those who thus do to become partakers of other men’s sins. Though the Church, as such, has no power to punish the persons of men, either for heresy or immorality, with corporal penalties, yet it has power to exclude them from its holy communion; and if it do not so, Christ will be displeased with it.
Rev 2:19. It should be the ambition and earnest desire of all Christians that their last works may be their best works.
Rev 2:21. Observe, 1. Repentance is necessary to prevent the sinner’s ruin. 2. Repentance requires time. 3. Where God gives space for repentance, He expects fruits meet for repentance. 4. Where the space for repentance is lost, the sinner perishes with a double destruction.
Rev 2:23. All the churches shall know, etc. God is known by the judgments that He executeth. Note here, 1. His infallible knowledge of the hearts of men. 2. His impartial justice.
Rev 2:28. Christ is the Morning Star: He brings day with Him into the soul; the light of grace and of glory.
Rev 3:3. I will come unto thee as a thief, etc. Observe, 1. When Christ leaves a people as to His gracious presence, He comes to them in judgment; and His judicial presence will be very dreadful to those who have sinned away His gracious presence. 2. His judicial presence to a dead declining people will be surprising; their deadness will keep them in security, and, as it procures an angry visit from Christ to them, it will prevent their discerning it and preparing for it. 3. Such a visit from Christ will be to their loss; He will come as a thief, to strip them of their remaining enjoyments and mercies, not by fraud, but in justice and righteousness, taking the forfeiture they have made of all to Him.
Rev 3:4. God takes notice of the smallest number of those who abide with Him; and the fewer they are, the more precious in His sight.—They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. In the stole, the white robes of justification, and adoption, and comfort; or in the white robes of honor and glory, in the other world. This is an honor proper and suitable to their integrity and fidelity, and no way unbecoming Christ to confer upon them, though it is not a legal, but a gospel worthiness that is ascribed to them; not merit, but meetness.
Rev 3:5. He that overcometh shall be clothed in white raiment. The purity of grace [Rev 3:4] shall be rewarded with the perfect purity of glory.—I will not blot his name, etc. Observe, 1. Christ has His book of life, a register and roll of all who shall inherit eternal life: (1) the book of eternal election; (2) the book of remembrance of all who have lived to God. 2. Christ will not blot the names of His chosen and faithful ones out of this book of life. 3. Christ will produce this book of life, and confess the names of the faithful who stand there, before God, and all the angels; this He will do as their Judge, and as their Captain and Head.
Rev 3:7. He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David. Note here Christ’s personal, and His political character.—Observe the acts of His government: 1. He opens—a door of opportunity to His churches, a door of utterance to his ministers, a door of entrance, the heart, a door of admission into the visible Church, laying down the terms of communion, and the door of admission into the Church triumphant, according to the terms of salvation fixed by Him. 2. He shuts the door; when He pleases, He shuts the door of opportunity, and the door of utterance, and leaves obstinate sinners shut up in the hardness of their hearts; He shuts the door of church-fellowship against unbelievers and profane persons, and He shuts the door of heaven against the foolish virgins who have slept away their day of grace, and against the workers of iniquity, how vain and confident soever they may be.
Rev 3:10. Observe, 1. The gospel of Christ is the word of His patience; it is the fruit of the patience of God to a sinful world, it sets before men the exemplary patience of Christ in all His sufferings for men, it calls those who receive it to the exercise of patience in conformity to Christ. 2. This gospel should be carefully kept by all who enjoy it. 3. After a day of patience we must expect an hour of temptation; a day of gospel-peace and liberty is a day of God’s patience, and it is seldom so well improved as it should be, and therefore is often followed by a day of trial and temptation. 4. Sometimes the trial is more general and universal; it comes upon all the world. 5. They who keep the gospel in a time of peace shall be kept by Christ in an hour of temptation.
Rev 3:15. Lukewarmness or indifference in religion is the worst temper in the world. If religion be a real thing, it is the most excellent thing, and therefore we should be in good earnest in it; if it be not a real thing, it is the vilest imposture, and we should be earnest against it.—I will spew thee out of my mouth. As lukewarm water turns the stomach and provokes to a vomit, lukewarm professors turn the heart of Christ against them. … They shall be rejected, and finally rejected; far be it from the holy Jesus to return to that which has been thus rejected.
Rev 3:17. Here observe what a difference there was between the thoughts that the Laodiceans had of themselves and the thoughts that Christ had of them.
Rev 3:19. Sinners ought to take the rebukes of God’s word and rod as tokens of His good-will to their souls, and should accordingly repent in good earnest, and turn to Him that smites them.
Rev 3:20. Observe, 1. Christ is graciously pleased by His Word and Spirit to come to the door of the heart of sinners. 2. He finds this door shut against Him. 3. When He finds the door shut, He does not immediately withdraw, but He waits to be gracious, even till His head be filled with the dew. 4. He uses all proper means to awaken sinners, and to cause them to open to Him; He calls by His word, and He knocks by the impulses of His Spirit upon their conscience. 5. They who open to Him shall enjoy His presence, to their great comfort and advantage; He will sup with them, He will accept of what is good in them, He will eat His pleasant fruit, and He will bring the best part of the entertainment with Him; He will give fresh supplies of graces and comforts, and thereby stir up fresh actings of faith, and love, and delight.
Rev 3:21. It is here implied that notwithstanding the lukewarm and self-confident character of this Church, it was possible that by the reproofs and counsels of Christ they might be inspired with fresh zeal and vigor, and come off conquerors in their spiritual warfare. 2. That if they did so, all former faults should be forgiven, and they should have a great reward.—Those who are conformed to Christ in His trials and victories, shall be conformed to Him in His glory.
From THE COMPREHENSIVE COMMENTARY: By a frequent Scripture metaphor a person, living in the defilements of this world, and neglectful of preparation for another, is said to be “dead while he liveth,” while he who meets death in the discharge of his Christian duty, is pronounced “living though he die,” John 11:25, 26; 1 Tim. 5:6; 1 John 3:14: Jude 12. (WOODHOUSE.)
BARNES: Rev 2:10. Ye shall have tribulation ten days. Affliction in this life, however severe, can be but brief; and in the hope that it will soon end why should we not bear it without murmuring or repining? … Be thou faithful unto death, etc. It is true of every one who is a Christian, in whatever manner he is to die, that if he is faithful unto death, a crown of life awaits him.—Rev 3:3. It is always well for Christians to call to remembrance the “day of their espousals,” and their views and feelings when they gave their hearts to the Saviour, and to compare those views with their present condition, especially if their conversion was marked by any thing unusual.—Thou shall not know what hour I will come upon thee. Every man who is warned of the evil of his course, and who refuses or neglects to repent, has reason to believe that God will come suddenly in His wrath and call him to His bar. Prov. 29:1.
Rev 3:15. I would thou wert hot or cold. Any thing better than this condition, where love is professed, but where it does not exist; where vows have been assumed which are not fulfilled.
Rev 3:20. If any one hear My voice. Any one, of any age, and in any land, would be authorized to apply this to himself, and, under the protection of this invitation, to come to the Saviour, and to plead this promise as one that fairly included himself.—Chaps. 2, 3. Though the churches to which these epistles were addressed have long since passed away, yet the principles laid down in them still live, and they are full of admonition to Christians in all ages and all lands.—From TRENCH: Rev 2:2: I know thy works. These are words of comfort and, strength for all who, amid infinite weakness, are yet able to say, “Search me, O Lord, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me” (Ps. 139:23, 24), or with St. John, “Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee” (John 21:17); but words of fear for every one who would fain keep back any thing in his outer or inner life from the Lord.—Rev 3:4. Observe the gracious manner in which the Lord recognizes and sets His seal of allowance to the good which any where He finds.—From VAUGHAN: Rev 2:10. Christ says to each one of us, Be thou faithful: use well the talent that I have given thee; forget not Who gave it; forget not Who will call for an account of it.—From BONAR: Rev 3:7: He that hath the keys of David. The key (1) Of David’s house, (2) Of David’s castle, (3) Of David’s city, (4) Of David’s treasure-house, (5) Of David’s banqueting-house.
Rev 3:20. Note here (1) the love of Christ: in the message as addressed to Laodicea, the unloving and unlovable; (2) the patience of Christ: I stand at the door; (3) the earnestness of Christ: I knock; (4) the appeal of Christ: If any man will hear my voice and open the door; (5) the promise of Christ: I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with Me.
Rev 3:21. We have here—I. The battle; II. The victory; III. The reward. I. The battle: The Christian’s life in this world a warfare: (1) Inner warfare; (2) Outer warfare; (3) Daily warfare; (4) Warfare not fought with human arms; (5) Warfare in which we are sharers with Christ. II. The victory: multitudinous as is the battle. Sure through Him Who Himself overcame. Individual. III. The reward: (1) A throne; (2) Christ’s throne.]
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;B.—EARTH-PICTURE OF THE CHURCH; OR THE REAL, EARTHLY WORLD-PICTURE OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES. THE SEVEN EPISTLES TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES
1. The Metropolis.1 [Ephesus.]
1Unto the angel of the church of [in2] Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth [ins. fast] the seven stars in his right hand, who [he that] walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2I know thy works, and thy3 labor, and thy patience [endurance], and how [that] thou canst not bear them which [that] are evil: and thou hast tried [didst try4] them which [who] say5 they are apostles, 3and [ins. they] are not, and hast found [didst find] them liars: and hast borne [endurance], and hast patience [didst bear], and [om., and] for my name’s sake hast 4labored [om. hast labored], and hast not fainted [become weary].6 Nevertheless [But] I have somewhat [om. somewhat] against thee, because [that] thou hast left thy first love. 5Remember therefore from [om. from] whence [Lange: from what height] thou art fallen,7 and repent, and do the first works; or else [but if not] I will [om. will] come unto [Lange: upon] thee quickly [om. quickly8], and will remove thy candlestick out of his [its] place, except thou repent. 6But this thou hast [Lange: retainest], that thou hatest the deeds [works] of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;9 To him that overcometh [conquereth] will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of [om. the midst of10] the paradise of [Lange: my11] God.
2.12 The Martyr-Church persecuted by Judaism. Smyrna
8And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was [who became—ἐγένετο] dead [Lange: the First of the martyrs], and is alive [revived]; 9I know thy works13 and [ins. thy] tribulation, and [ins. thy] poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know [om. I know] the blasphemy of them which [thy calumny from those who14] say they are Jews [Lange: and the calumny of those who say they are (true) Jews], and are not, but are [om. are] the 10[a] synagogue of Satan. Fear none of [or not] those things [Lange: nothing of that15] which thou shalt [art about to] suffer: behold,16 the devil shall [is about to] cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation [Lange: a tribulation of] ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a [the] crown of life. 11He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh [conquereth] shall not be hurt of [injured by] the second death.
3.* The Martyr-Church persecuted by Heathenism. Pergamus
12And to the angel of the church in Pergamus write; These things saith he which hath the sharp [ins. two-edged] sword with two edges [om. with two edges]; 13I know thy works, and [om. thy works and17] where thou dwellest, even [om. even] where Satan’s seat [throne] is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied [didst not deny] my faith, even in those [the] days wherein [in which]18 Antipas was my faithful19 martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. 14But I have a few things against thee, because [that20] thou hast there them that hold [ins. fast] the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak21 to cast a stumbling-block [Lange: a means of infatuation] before the children [sons] of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols [Lange: idol sacrifices], and to commit fornication. 15So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans [ins. in like manner],22 16which thing I hate [om. which thing I hate]. Repent [ins. therefore23]; or else [but if not] I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight [war] against them with the sword of my mouth. 17He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh [conquereth] will I give [ins. to him24] to eat [om. to eat]25 of the hidden manna, and will give [ins. to] him a white stone, and in [on] the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving [except] he that receiveth it.
4.26 The Church stained by Idolatry. Thyatira
18And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his27 eyes like unto [as] a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass [to chalcolibanus—(Lange: as white-glowing molten copper)]. 19I know thy works, and [ins. the] charity [love], and service, and faith [the faith, and the service], and thy [the] patience, [endurance of thee;] and thy works; [om. and thy works;] and the [thy] last [ins. works] to be [are] more than the first. [Lange: thy love and thy faith, thy zeal in service and thy endurance in suffering 20(and how28); thy last works are more than the first]. Notwithstanding [But] I have a few things29 [om. a few things] against thee, because [that] thou sufferest [ὰφεῖς] that woman [thy wife or Lange: the woman30] Jezebel, which [who] calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce [and she teacheth and seduceth—Lange: and teacheth (applies herself to teaching) and seduceth]31 my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols [Lange: idol-sacrifices]. 21And I gave her space to [time that she might] repent of her fornication [om. of her fornication]; and [Lange: but] she repented not [om. repented not—ins. willeth 22not to repent of her fornication32]. Behold I will [om. will33] cast her into a bed,34 and them that [those who] commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their [her (αὐτῆς)] deeds [works]. 23And I will kill [slay] her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which [who] searcheth the [om. the] reins and hearts: and [Lange, and that] I will give unto every one of you [to you, to each,] according to your works. 24But unto you I say, and unto [om. and unto] the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine [teaching] [Lange: these doctrines] and [om. and] which [such as35] have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak [say]; I will [or om. will36] put upon you none [cast not upon you any] other burden. 25But that which ye have already [om. already], hold fast till [until] I [ins. shall] come [Lange: until I come37]. 26And he that overcometh [conquereth], and [ins. he that] keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: 27And he shall rule [shepherdize] them with a rod of iron [an iron rod]; as the vessels of a potter shall [om. shall]38 they be broken to shivers [are shattered or he shattereth]: even [om. even] as I [ins. also have35] received of my Father. 28And I will give 29[ins. to] him the morning star. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
5.* The Church for the most part Spiritually Dead. Sardis
1And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast 2a39 name that thou livest, and [ins. thou] art dead. Be watchful [Become thou watching], and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready [which were about]40 to die: for I have not found thy works [or any works of thine]41 perfect [completed] 3before [ins. my42] God. Remember therefore43 how thou hast received and heard [heardest] and hold fast [keep44], and repent. If therefore thou shalt [dost] not watch, I will come on [upon] thee45 as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. [ins. But]46 4Thou hast a few names even [om. even] in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for 5[because] they are worthy. He that overcometh [conquereth], the same shall [or om. the same, and ins. thus (after shall)]47 be clothed in white raiment [garments]; and I will not blot [wipe] out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. 6He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
6.48 The Tried Church. Philadelphia
7And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy [the holy One], he that is true [the true One], he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth [shall shut49]; and [ins. he] shutteth and no man openeth [shall open50]; 8I know thy works: behold, I have set [given] before thee an open door [a door opened], and [which] no man can [is able to] shut it [om. it]: for [Lange: For] thou hast a little strength, and [Lange: ins. yet] hast kept [didst keep] my word, and hast not denied [didst not deny] my name. 9Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which [who] say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them [Lange: om. them] to come [that they shall come] and [ins. shall] worship [Lange: fall down51] before thy feet, and to [om. to—ins. shall] know that I have loved thee. 10Because thou hast kept [didst keep] the word of my patience [endurance], I also will keep thee from [Lange: through] the hour of temptation, which shall [is about to] come upon all [om. all] the [ins. whole] world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. 11Behold, [om. Behold,52] I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. 12Him that overcometh [conquereth] will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and [ins. out of it] he shall [ins. nevermore] go no more [om. no more] out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is [om. which is—ins. the] new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of [from53] heaven from my God: [,] and I will write upon him [om. I will write upon him] my new name. 13He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
7.* The Lukewarm Church nigh unto Reprobation. Laodicea
14And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans [in Laodicea54] write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning [Lange: principle] of the creation of God; 15I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot [Lange: warm]: I [om. I] would [ins. that] thou wert cold or hot [Lange: 16warm]. So then [Lange: However] because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot [Lange: warm], I will [am about to] spew thee out of my mouth. 17Because thou sayest,55 I am rich, and increased with goods [Lange: yea, I have become exceedingly rich], and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable [the wretched and pitiable one56], and poor, and blind, and naked: 18I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in [burnt from (Lange: purified by)] the fire, that thou mayest be [become] rich; and white raiment [garments], that thou mayest be clothed [cover thyself], and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear [may not become manifest]; and [ins. eyesalve to] anoint thine eyes with eyesalve [om. with eyesalve] that thou mayest see. 19[ins. I, (Lange: (do thus).] As [as] many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous57 therefore, and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he 21with me58. To him [om. To him—ins. He] that overcometh [conquereth] will I grant [I will give (ins.) to him] to sit with me in [on] my throne, even as I also overcame [conquered], and am [om. am] set [sat] down with my Father in [on] his throne. 22He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
GENERAL REMARKS ON THE SEVEN EPISTLES.59
In the use of the sacred number seven throughout the Apocalypse, we must note the indications of a distinction between four and three. Düsterdieck remarks (p. 21) that in the case of the seals and trumpets, the quaternary takes the precedence (this is additionally marked in the case of the four riders by the parenthesis of the four beasts; and in the vision of the trumpets, by the fact that the last three are designated as the three woes), and the trinary follows; in the seven churches and the vials, on the other hand, a three precedes the four. In the case of the vials, Düsterdieck, not groundlessly, regards the thought that we have presented as indicated by the interlocution of Rev 16:5–7; though the vials, in respect of their effects, may also be perfectly well divided into four and three. The first three epistles, according to this commentator (and Bengel, Ewald, De Wette and others, p. 141), are distinguished from the last by the form of the conclusion. In the first three epistles, the admonition: he that hath an ear, etc., is followed by the final promise (Rev 2:7, 11, 17), whilst in the last four, such a promise precedes the admonition (Rev 2:29, 3:6, 13, 22). This variation is, we admit, well worthy of notice; yet the inner marks of the churches favor the distinction of four (mixed forms) and three (perfectly distinct forms). The fundamental forms of the individual epistles have been presented by Bengel, as follows (Hengstenb. I. p. 157): The plan of the seven epistles is the same in all. For in each we find: 1. An order to write to an angel of a church. 2. A glorious title of Jesus Christ [“taken for the most part from the imagery of the preceding vision.” ALFORD.—E. R. C.]. 3. An address to the angel of the church: wherein is contained a. a testimonial to the mixed, the bad or the good condition of the angel; an admonition to repentance or perseverance; b. an announcement of what is to come to pass, referring chiefly to the coming of the Lord. 4. A promise to him that conquereth, together with the word of awakening: he that hath an ear, etc.
“The titles put forth by the Lord at the beginning of each letter are most illustrious, as is also indicated by the words: these things saith—the Supreme Majesty,—like the Old Testament: thus saith the Lord.”
“The address in each epistle consists principally of plain and perspicuous expressions. In the promise, on the other hand, the Spirit deals more in figurative expressions. In the address, the Lord Jesus speaks principally and primarily to the churches then existing in Asia Minor, especially and particularly to their angels. The promise speaks in the third person of those who conquer—both in those first times and also in the ages after them.”
“Amongst the seven angels of the seven churches there were two, the one at Ephesus and the one at Pergamus, in a mixed state; and two, those at Sardis and Laodicea, were extremely corrupt. Not only the latter two, whose whole condition was bad, Rev 3:3, 19, but also the former, who were defective in some particular respect, Rev 2:5, 16, are recommended to repent. And so at Thyatira the adherents of Jezebel are admonished to repentance—the woman herself willing not to repent, and the angel of the church having no need of repentance so far as he himself is concerned, Rev 2:21, 22. The condition of two of the angels, those at Smyrna and Philadelphia, was good; hence they needed no admonition to repentance, and are only encouraged to persevere. There is no mixed or good or bad state whose pattern might not be found here, as well as apt and salutary doctrine therefor. Though a man were as dead as the angel of the church at Sardis, or as flourishing as the one at Philadelphia and the aged Apostle John himself, this book suiteth his case, and the Lord Jesus hath somewhat to say to him therein.”
“In the seven epistles there are twelve promises. In the third, fourth, and sixth, there is a two-fold promise, and in the fifth a three-fold promise; each one of the promises being distinguished by a particular expression: I will give. I will not blot out, I will confess, I will write.—The promise to him that overcometh [conquereth] is declaratory, sometimes of the enjoyment of the most precious boons, sometimes of immunity from the extremest misery. The one is included in the other, and when a part of the blessedness and glory of the victor is expressed, the whole should be understood, Rev 21:7. That part is particularly expressed which relates to the virtues and deeds referred to in the address.—Some things contained in these promises are not again expressly mentioned in the Revelation; as, for instance, the manna, the confession of the victor’s name, the name of the New Jerusalem written upon the victor, the sitting upon Christ’s throne. Some things bear a resemblance to what is afterwards declared concerning Christ Himself; viz. the secret name, Rev 19:12; the shepherdizing of the nations, Rev 19:15; the Morning Star, Rev 22:16. Some things are expressly mentioned again in their proper place; as the tree of life, Rev 22:2; immunity from the second death, Rev 20:6; the name in the book of life, Rev 20:12, 21:27; the abiding in the temple of God, Rev 7:15; the name of God and of the Lamb on the righteous, Rev 14:1, 22:4.” BENGEL.
The fundamental idea of all the seven epistles is the fundamental idea of the Apocalypse itself—the Coming of the Lord. The arrangement is the epistolary form in apocalyptic sublimity: superscription, substance, conclusion. The superscriptions have the common form of Christ’s self-designation, with the prophetic announcement: τάδε λέγει (Amos 1:3, etc.); they present the various attributes of His majestic appearance as described in Rev 1. The distribution of the attributes harmonizes with the churches. For Ephesus, the metropolis: the seven stars and seven candlesticks. For Smyrna, the martyr church, He that was dead and is alive again. For Pergamus, where Satan’s seat is: the sharp, two-edged sword. For Thyatira, where the spirit of fanaticism is rampant: the eyes as flames of fire, and the feet like a glowing stream of molten metal. For dead Sardis: the Possessor of the Seven Spirits (of life) and the seven stars. For faithful Philadelphia: the Possessor of the keys of David, the Opener of a door to the church. For Laodicea, as for Ephesus, a more general designation of Christ, yet under the name of the Amen, Who certainly fulfills His threats. The attributes also correspond with the commendations, admonitions, and threats, i.e., with the criticisms and the promises. In the criticisms, praise and blame are sometimes united; and where praise predominates (as in the case of the first four churches), the first place is given to it; where censure predominates, it has the first place (Sardis). So in one case we find praise exclusively (Philadelphia), and, in another, only censure (Laodicea). The promises are always promises of entire blessedness in concrete terms, such as are appropriate to the condition, conduct, and conflict of the church. Ebrard remarks that the first four promises are taken from consecutive items of Old Testament history (Paradise, death, manna, David); the last three relate to the final establishment of the Kingdom (p. 157). The epistle proper is grounded upon the Lord’s complete knowledge of the state of the church (οἷδα, etc.). This is followed by a portraiture of the church and the award of praise and blame; next follows the prognosis, the prediction of good or danger; finally, the application: admonition, threat, consolation. The conclusion is a specific conditional promise, accompanied by the exhortation to hear the words of the Spirit; amid constant reference to the Coming of the Lord.
[See an exceedingly able and interesting article on “The Seven Churches of the Apocalypse,” in Schaff’s History of the Apostolic Church, p. 427 sqq.—E. R. C.]
FIRST EPISTLE. EPHESUS
Rev 2:1. Ephesus was the metropolis of proconsular Asia; not merely in a political, but also in an ecclesiastical sense. It is placed at the head of the seven churches as the actual see of John, Hengstenberg remarks; a proposition which is groundlessly denied by Düsterdieck. On Ephesus, see Winer, Das Wörterbuch für das Christliche Volk, and Books of Travel.60 [Conybeare and Howson’s Life and Epistles of St. Paul, Schaff’s History of the Apostolic Church, Kitto’s Bib. Cyc., etc.—E. R. C.] At the present day, the only remains of this once pleasant city are some ruins and the village of Ajosoluck. The church was founded by Paul (Acts 18:19, 19:1). On its Pauline period, see the Commentaries on Ephesians and 1 Timothy. Because Timothy was the head of this church for a time, Alcasar, Cornelius à Lapide, and others, have regarded him as the angel of the church. This opinion was held even in opposition to the traditional notion, according to which John was the successor of Timothy.
That holdeth [fast].—Κρατῶν, stronger than ἔχων, Rev 1:16. Düsterdieck thinks it involves the idea of Christ’s ability to cast the stars out of His hand. [The idea is that of holding with power, comp. John 10:28.—E. R. C.] We must distinguish, however, between stars and candlesticks (Rev 2:5, Rev 3:1). The stars, perhaps, are “graven in His hand.”
Who walketh.—“The περιπατῶν resembles the passage Rev 1:13.” It is a stronger expression, however. [The idea presented seems to be that of one who walks about to trim the lamps. According to the opinion of Sir Isaac Newton. E. R. C.] Ebrard justly refers this more general designation of Christ, in respect of His relation to the churches, to the metropolitan character of Ephesus. Düsterdieck does not recognize this reference.
Rev 2:2. [I know=οἶδα.—Knowledge concerning, not approval, is indicated by this term; the same word is used in reference to the church of Laodicea, Rev 3:15. The commendation spoken of below is to be gathered from the context and not from this term.—E. R. C.]—Thy works.—With reference to Rev 2:4, it may seem a strange thing that He should begin with a commendation of the works of the church. Yet they are commendable, though not exactly heroic deeds against false teachers, as Hengstenberg maintains. The active zeal of the church may have formed a contrast to the heathen mysticalness and moonstruck character of the city. The form of the works branches first into labor or toil, and perseverance or endurance. It is thus [as perseverance or endurance] that we translate ὑπομονή in this place, since the word cannot be a mere repetition in Rev 2:3. [“This word κόπος, signifying, as it does, not merely labor, but labor unto weariness, may suggest some solemn reflection to every one who at all affects to be working for his Lord, and as under his great Task-Master’s eye. This is what Christ looks for, this is what Christ praises in His servants.” TRENCH.—“Κόπος and ὑπομονή form the active and passive sides of the energizing Christian life. The omission of the σου after τὸν κόπον, serves to bind the two together in one. They are epexegetic, in fact, of ἔργα; cf. 1 Cor. 15:58,” etc. ALFORD.—E. R. C.]—With this zeal in the life of the Church, a healthy polemical system corresponds, which may also be divided into two forms. In the first place, the church cannot bear bad men—this means, of course, in the domain and mask of religion—and, secondly, it even dares, by means of a Christian proving of spirits, to unmask men giving themselves out as apostles, and to show them to be liars. False teachers, manifestly, are meant [see Acts 20:29, 30]; men assuming to possess apostolic authority, whether they appeared in the guise of inspired persons, or as Judaizing traditionalists. According to Düsterdieck, this saying would be meaningless after the destruction of Jerusalem. It is well known, however, that in all ages of the Church persons have appeared who have laid claim to apostolical authority. Düsterdieck thinks that these men were tried by their works pre-eminently; but false apostles should be pre-eminently, though not exclusively, tried by their doctrine. [Comp. 1 John 4:1–3.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:3. And that thou hast patience [endurance].—Here follows the third commendation of the church, for its good conduct under suffering; this also is exhibited under two aspects—suffering in general, for Christ’s name’s sake, and steadfast endurance under these sufferings. [There can be little doubt that the alteration of the text in this passage is due to an apparent inconsistency between οἶδα τὰν κόπον σου, and οὐ κεκοπίακας (see Textual and Grammatical). There is a world-wide distinction between being weary in the flesh (a mark of faithfulness in working) and being wearied in spirit (a mark of faithlessness), which, doubtless, the Apostle designed to indicate, and which the alterers failed to grasp.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:4. [I have against thee.—The unauthorized introduction of somewhat into the E. V. weakens the force of the rebuke—which, as it came from the mouth of Jesus, was unqualified. Trench well remarks: “It is indeed not a ‘somewhat,’ which the Lord has against the Ephesian Church; it threatens to grow to be an ‘every thing;’ for, see the verse following, and comp. 1 Cor. 13:1–3.”—E. R. C.]—That thou hast left thy first love.—This reproach is a contrast and counterpoise to all previous praise, almost outweighing it, in fact. Some of the different interpretations of this first love are characteristic. The two following are antithetic in their nature: Calovius understands the words as signifying a watchful zeal for the purity of the word of God (i.e., doctrine), while Eichhorn, on the other hand, thinks that the church is charged with a want of clemency in the judgment of the false teachers. Grotius understands the passage as referring to a defective care for the poor. Ebrard thinks it indicates a diminution, not of love to Christ, but of Christian brotherly love. Düsterdieck will not allow that the words bear a comparative meaning, but maintains that the first love was actually lost. If it were completely lost, as love, the church’s Christianity were at an end. What Düsterdieck means, however, is the maiden form of love, with reference to Züllig, Hengstenberg, and Jer. 2:2. But the Spirit of Revelation cannot have intended to say that the first bridal or blossom-like form of development of Christian life must be permanent. Neither can brotherly love be called the first love, in comparison with love to Christ; nor can we suppose it possible for the former to vanish whilst the latter remained. Least of all is it assumable, after the commendations bestowed, that the church was lacking in its care for the poor. According to the presentation of the contrast in the epistle, there was, manifestly, in proportion to a flourishing outside show of churchly life, an incipient lack of inwardness and fervor—i.e., a lack of true divine knowledge, of habitual prayerfulness, warmth, contemplativeness; in a word, just those traits began to be lacking whose deficiency became more and more perceptible, not before the destruction of Jerusalem, but toward the end of the first century. Such a deficiency may be connected with a morbid prosecution of Christian works; as, for instance, is the case in our own time, even in evangelical circles. In a time when three important Lutheran ecclesiastical schools no longer sound the depths of the Lutheran doctrine of justification, and the religious expectation of the speedy coming of the Lord is almost universally exchanged for a chronological error, we have a practical illustration of what it is to have left the first love. [The words seem scarce to require a comment. The obvious reference is to the loss of that glowing, all-absorbing love to Jesus, as a personal Saviour, which at the first constrained them to devoted service (comp. Eph. 3:16–19, 4:15, 16). This view is borne out by the following verse, where the decay of love is followed by the decay of works of righteousness. See also Jer. 2:2 sqq.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:5. Whence thou art fallen.—From what a height of ideal Christian life (comp. the writings of the Apostles and the works of the apostolic fathers).
And repent.—In reference to this fall, inward reflection is needed—a new internalization of Christian character. And thus, do the first works does not mean, do yet more outward works, but, do the living inward works on which all sound Christianity rests. [The reference doubtless was to both inward and outward works—to the internal works of love and faith, and to the bringing forth of fruits meet for repentance in the outward life. The “first works” do not mean more ritual observances, yet they do include such outward works as are described, Eph. 4:17, to the end of the Epistle.—E. R. C.]
But if not.—The magnitude of the threatened punishment shows that the internal condition of the church is exceedingly bad. The grand trouble is that it is travelling a downward road. If the inward life be once neglected, and replaced or covered up by an external zeal for works, the false movement, if not corrected by repentance, goes on to spiritual death. This fact is demonstrated by the history of the mediæval Church, and by that of the modern evangelical awakening. [Not only was the internal condition of the church bad, but also the external. It is to be feared that many Protestants confound externality with mere externality, and so lose sight of vital truth. True religion has an outside as well as Pharisaism—an outside which differs from the latter not only in that it is more scriptural, but also in that it is broader, more complete. It may be indeed narrower in a merely ritual direction, but, in all other respects, it is more extensive. It should ever be remembered that our Lord exhorted, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works,” Matt. 5:16, and that the Apostle Paul presented it as one of the characteristics of true Christians that they are “zealous of good works,” Tit. 2:14. The Pharisees, in losing internal piety, narrowed the field of external religion; they placed it altogether in ceremonial observances; in tithing mint, anise, and cummin (which was a duty) and in other uncommanded rites, and ignored the weightier matters of the law, Matt. 23:23. They omitted not merely the internal graces of judgment, mercy, and faith, but the actions proceeding from these graces. The mark of a decaying church is not an external zeal for works, but a zeal for works in a contracted, often an uncommanded field, whilst the broad surrounding territory of Christian duty is left uncultivated. This, doubtless, was the condition of the Ephesian church.—E. R. C.]
I come upon thee.—Properly, unto thee (σοί). (The ἐπὶ σὲ of Rev 2:3 is similar. Both forms are expressive of the unexpectedness of the coming.)
Will remove thy candlestick.—Since the church is also itself called the candlestick (Rev 1:20), the following explanation readily suggests itself: efficiam, ut ecclesia esse desinas (Aret.); or, if the angel be regarded as the bishop: I will take from thee thy church, thy position (Zeger)—the ordinary expression for which, however, would be: I will remove thee. The interpretations of Grotius and Ewald are also inadequate. But since the candlestick is here distinguished from the church, it doubtless denotes the Christian quality of the church, consisting, according to the Christian saying, of light and life. History teaches us what becomes of the dead body in the case of such a removal of the soul. This passage suggests a reference to the perfect desolation of Ephesus, as compared with Smyrna and Philadelphia.
Rev 2:6. But this thou hast.—Properly, doubtless: thou still retainest. The sign of hope presented in Rev 2:3 is again and more distinctly set forth. Hate cannot be resolved into disapprove (as De Wette interprets); it is, however, to be referred to the works of the Nicolaitans—not to them personally (Lyra). The dogmata lying at the foundation of the works, are doubtless also intended, though not exclusively, as Calovius supposes.
Nicolaitans.—A sectarian tendency in the Apostolic Church, on which comp. Church history and the Encyclopædias.61 It is obvious from the epistles themselves—1. That they form a contrast to “the Jews” in Smyrna and at Philadelphia [ch. 2:9], Rev 3:9; and, on the other hand, 2. That they are akin to, and, in practice, even identical with, the Balaamites at Pergamus, Rev 2:14, and the school of Jezebel at Thyatira, Rev 2:20.62 We distinguish three opinions in regard to the Nicolaitans: 1. The Catholic tradition representing the deacon Nicolas, Acts 6:5, as the founder of the sect; 2. The correction proceeding from Clement of Alexandria, stating that from a misunderstanding of an utterance of Nicolas, the doctrine that the lusts of the flesh must be indulged had been derived; 3. The assumption, since Heumann, that the term Nicolaitans is a symbolical expression; in support of this hypothesis it is alleged that the Greek word Nicolas means conqueror of the people; the Hebrew Balaam, devourer of the people; the two, in symbolical unity, signifying religious seducers of the people (analogous is the Antichrist Armillus, ἐρημόλαος [desolator, ravager of the people]). From the Epistle of Jude, Rev 2:11 (comp. 2 Pet. 2:15), we see that the name of Balaam had previously been symbolically employed in reference to antinomistic corrupters of the people. The apocalyptic symbolism might take advantage of this fact, freely translating the name. In this case, however, the Apocalyptist would most probably have made one name suffice him; and so the tradition of the misuse of the name of Nicolas does not seem to be altogether unfounded. It is possible that one and the same antinomianism branched into three forms: 1. A doctrinal form (Nicolaitans); 2. A worldly-wise form (Balaamites); 3. A spiritualistic form (Jezebel).
“The Nicolaitans are, undoubtedly, not identical (Hengstenberg) with the κακόι mentioned in Rev 2:2; yet they certainly do belong to those bad people.” (Düsterdieck.) On the confusion of opinions, see the last-named commentator. The reference of the false apostles [Rev 2:2] to “the Apostle of the Gentiles and his adherents,” is presumptuous and even audacious.
Rev 2:7. He that hath an ear, i.e., the organ of hearing; here in a spiritual sense. The singular is more significant, our plural [Luther’s version has Ohren, ears] more popular and emphatic. [Let him hear.—Hear in the sense of heed, as in Matt. 18:15–17, 13:18 (comp. with 15).—E. R. C.]
The Spirit.—The Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of Christ and the inspiration of the Prophet. Düsterdieck justly gives prominence to the fact that John’s personality is in no way abrogated, but glorified, by his ascription of what is said, to the Spirit.
To him that overcometh [conquereth].—The same exhortation at the close of all the seven epistles denotes the victory of a steadfast life of faith over the temptations and trials indicated, and over all adverse things in general. [It also implies that the Christian life, throughout the entire period covered by the seven epistles, is to be one of conflict. It pre-supposes the warfare and the preparation of Eph. 6:10–20.—E. R. C.]
Will I give.—The give is emphatic, meaning—not bestow a portion—but grant power, authorize.
Of the tree of life.—A reference to the new Paradise (see chaps. 21, 22). To eat of the trees of life, the heavenly-earthly antitypes of the tree of life in the first Paradise. An emphatic promise of eternal life, of the enjoyment of eternal nourishment to eternal rejuvenation. Since the lack of the first love is a lack of life, the promise of heavenly life is a fitting one.
In the paradise of [My] God.—(John 20:17). The word My has been objected to (see the TEXTUAL NOTES) probably because it was thought to militate against the Divinity of Christ. But even in glory, Christ can call the God Who, as the Faithful One, will so transcendently abide by His faithfulness, His God, in order to denote the infinite certainty of infinite promise. [Similar expressions occur, John 20:17; Eph. 1:17; Rev. 3:12. As the Fons Deitatis, the Begetter, the First Person of the Trinity is at once the God and the Father of the Divine Son.—E. R. C.]
SECOND EPISTLE. SMYRNA
Rev 2:8. Of the church in Smyrna.—This city is situated on a harbor of the Ægean sea, and is flourishing even to this day. See the Real-Encyclopædias and Books of Travel. Letters of Ignatius, Polycarp, Church Histories.
“Many, particularly Catholic exegetes, etc., also Calovius and Hengstenberg, have regarded Polycarp as the angel of Smyrna.” [Altered from Düsterdieck.—TR.] This assumption is based upon the false theory in regard to the angel.
[These things saith the first and the last, etc.—“Being addressed, as this epistle is, to the Church exposed, and hereafter to be still more exposed, to the fiercest blasts of persecution, it is graciously ordered that all the attributes which Christ here claims for Himself should be such as would encourage and support His servants in their trial and distress.” TRENCH.—E. R. C.]
Who became dead.—This self-designation of Christ harmonizes with the martyr-state of the church. [And revived.—“The words (both clauses of this designation) seem to point to the promises in Rev 2:10, 11.” ALFORD.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:9. Thy tribulation.—This has reference to sufferings from persecution—shame and distress—extending even to imprisonment and death (Rev 2:10 sqq.)
And poverty.—It is more probable that this has reference to the spoiling of the church’s goods (Heb. 10:34, Primas and others), than to the helplessness of originally poor persons, in contrast to rich Jews, able to bribe the government (Hengstenberg).
But thou art rich.—In heavenly goods (Rev 3:18; Eph. 1:3; Matt. 6:20, [5:11, 12], etc.) Soul-elevating contrast. (Πολύκαρπος, Hengstenberg!)
And (I know) thy calumny.—This calumny,63 as addressed to heathen, might be an accusation of riotousness and sedition (Acts 17:6); as addressed to Jews or Jewish Christians, it might be an accusation of apostasy from the Law or from Ebionite Christianity. It is a query whether real Jews are intended here (most commentators), or Judaizing Christians (Vitringa and others). The two readily made common cause, however, in taking offence at the free development of Christianity, and the Prophet might reproach them both with not being genuine Jews, i.e., believers on the Messiah (comp. the Epistle of James). Hence, even if the Apocalyptist were speaking of real Jews, he would take the word in a higher, symbolical sense; we would remark in this connection, that, in the Gospel of John, on the other hand, the word Jews denotes, in the historical sense, Judaizers. Rev 3:9, however, seems to be more in favor of the supposition that Jewish Christians are intended. Though it cannot be denied that, in many cases, the Jews incited the heathen to the persecution of Christians, we cannot suppose (with Düsterdieck) that, at the beginning of the Jewish war, the Jews, who were almost all insurrectionists, could have accused the Christians, who were peaceable citizens, of anything like insurrection or sedition.64
A synagogue of Satan.—Cutting oxymoron. Not a synagogue of the Lord (Num. 16:3 and elsewhere), but the extreme opposite of that. As Antichristian adversaries of the church’s Christianity (see James 2:2). Düsterdieck recalls Hosea 4:15: Bethel a Bethaven. [ALFORD referring to TRENCH: New Testament Synonyms, § 1, thus writes: “He (Trench) brings out there how ἐκκλησία, the nobler word, was chosen by our Lord and His Apostles for the assembly of the called in Christ, while συναγωγή, which is only once found (James 2:2) of a Christian assembly (and there, as Düsterd. notes, not with τοῦ Θεοῦ, but with ὑμῶν) was gradually abandoned entirely to the Jews, so that in this, the last book of the Canon, such an expression as this can be used. See also his Comm. on the Epistles to the Seven Churches.” It is to be observed that συναγωγή was not gradually abandoned, but was at once relinquished. As a term relinquished by the true Israel, it might be applied to an assembly either of those clinging to Judaism, or of an heretical Christian sect.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:10. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer.—The prison is indicative of persecutions on the part of the magistracy, which, however, in persecuting, is unwittingly the devil’s servant (see Rev 12). Düsterdieck: “The meaning of the name (διάβολος, slanderer) should not be emphasized here (contrary to Züllig and Hengstenberg); otherwise we should expect to find ὁ διάβ, in Rev 2:9, and ὁ σαταν. in Rev 2:10.” Still, the idea of the adversary (Satan) takes precedence of the idea of the slanderer (devil), and the incarceration of the pious is a practical slander.
[Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, i. e., through his influence upon the minds of magistrates, as he influenced the Sabeans and Chaldeans against Job (1:15, 17). This passage agrees with other Scriptures, in teaching not merely the personality of the devil (Satan), but also that his permitted power over the world and members of the Church, though weakened, is still continued. Comp. Luke 22:31; 1 Thess. 2:18, 2 Thess. 2:9; Eph. 6:11, 12; 1 Pet. 5:8, etc.—E. R. C.]
That ye may be tried.—Though temptation on the part of the devil is at the same time a testing or proving on the part of God, here the devil’s tempting to apostasy is intended. Three terms for the devil are presented here, therefore: enemy, accuser, tempter.
Tribulation ten days.—The numeral is not to be taken literally (Grot.), and denotes neither a long time (a Lapide and others), nor a short time (De Wette and others, [Alford, Trench]), but a divinely meted, periodical world-time, according, however, with the minor measure of the worldly life of Smyrna—numbered days; i. e., the period of the expiration of the old world-time in Smyrna; which period, if we regard it as thus meted and modified by days, may undoubtedly appear a short time. Interpretations: 1. Ten days are equivalent to ten years. The persecutions under Domitian or Decius. 2. The ten persecutions of the Christians (Ebrard). This time of persecution must be distinguished from the universal time of tribulation of the Church, Rev 13:5 (42 months=1260 days, Rev 11:3, 12:6=3½ times, Rev 12:14).
Be thou faithful.—Γίνου is significant—pointing to a long and perilous way.
Unto death.—The faithfulness must be the faithfulness of the martyr, who is ready even for death; a faithfulness exceeding the persecutions. This exhortation may be beautifully generalized thus: be faithful until death. [The two ideas of unto and until death are conjoined. Be faithful, though faithfulness lead to death; be faithful until you die.—E. R. C.]
The crown of life.—1 Pet. 5:4. Τὸν στέφ. τ. ζωῆς. Düsterdieck: Genit. apposit. See, in opposition to this, the Lange Comm. on James 1:12, p. 47 [Am. Ed.]. “The summum of life as life’s prize of honor.” Genitive of appertinency, therefore. Various interpretations: Züllig: The royal crown of the faithful. Hengstenberg, figuratively: The most precious thing. Düsterdieck, correctly: The figure of the victor’s crown, taken from the competitive games. [The question here is as to whether the στέφανος spoken of is the diadem of the king, or the wreath of the victor. In favor of the latter interpretation may be urged that the term is στέφανος, and the further fact, that the promise is to the victor. This, at first glance, may seem to settle the question. It will not be denied that, according to strict classical usage, διάδημα represents the crown of the king, and στέφανος that of the conqueror in the Grecian games. It should be remembered, however, that at this very time the crown of the Roman Emperors was the στέφανος—(See Elliot, Hor. Apoc., Vol. I., p. 136 sq.), the symbol at once of victory and dominion. The question is as to the force of the term in the New Testament. Διάδημα occurs but three times, Rev. 12:3, 13:1, 19:2; the word everywhere else translated crown is στέφανος. In 1 Cor. 9:25 and 2 Tim. 2:5, there is, manifestly, reference to the wreath of the victor; but, on the other hand, the crown placed on the head of Jesus in mockery of His claim to be a King, was styled στέφανος, Matt. 27:29, etc.; (see also Rev. 4:4, 10, 6:2, 14:14, where the crown of the ruler is referred to). A consideration of these Scriptures establishes the conclusion that, in the New Testament, this term, like the English crown, is used to designate both the diadem and the wreath. This conclusion is confirmed by the well-known fact concerning the Roman Emperors above alluded to. From this point of view there can be little doubt that the στέφανοι of the glorified saints are the symbols at once of their victory in the contest of earth, and of their authority as kings in the Kingdom of Heaven.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:11. He that overcometh [conquereth].—The promise corresponds with the address and charge. Overcoming is here the concrete victory over temptation in the persecutions announced; a victory founded, as it necessarily must be, upon a general victory over evil.—To such a victor, invulnerableness against the second death is assured.
The second death.—A designation of damnation (Rev 20:6, 14, 21:8), with reference to Jewish Theology (see Düsterdieck, De Wette, Wetstein, Buxtorf). This, therefore, is indirectly the surest promise of eternal life. The more certain the first death seems to be, the more surely will the one assailed by it receive an entrance into that free realm, where all is imperishable and unfading, where death is a thing of the past. [See the Excursus on Hades, p. 364.—E. R. C.]
THIRD EPISTLE. PERGAMUS
Rev 2:12. Pergamus or Pergamum in Mysia; formerly a royal residence; later, a principal city of Roman Asia. This was the city of Æsculapius, as Ephesus was that of Diana. It is now called Bergamo. There are many ruinous remains of the old city. See the Lexicons and Books of Travel.
The sharp, two-edged sword.—Here, too, the attribute of Christ corresponds with the situation of Pergamus; see Rev 2:16. The sharp sword is, however, not an instrument of external penal judgments, but the organ of the Spirit’s judgments (see Eph. 6:17; John 16:8).65 It was an hypothesis of Lyra, that the epistle was addressed to a bishop named Carpus.
Rev 2:13. Satan’s throne.—The same idea is made prominent at the end of the verse: where Satan dwelleth.—Double recognition is made of the church’s faithfulness, on account of the perils of the place in which it is tested. Interpretations of the term throne of Satan: 1. Worship of Æsculapius, whose symbol was the serpent (=devil, Grotius, and others). 2. Acme of idolatry (Andreas and others). 3. Dwelling-place of heathen and Nicolaitans (Calovius and others). 4. Extreme of persecutions (Ewald and others). 5. Museum of Pergamus (Zornius). Pergamus being the seat of the supreme court, it was natural that it should be the central point of persecution (Ebrard). Düsterdieck also mentions this supposition, without giving it its due weight. It has reference, indeed, to a later period of the first century, when persecutions began to be judicial. [TRENCH judiciously remarks: “All which we can securely conclude from this language is, that from one cause or another, these causes being now unknown, Pergamum enjoyed the bad pre-eminence of being the headquarters in these parts of the opposition to Christ and His Gospel. Why it should have thus deserved the name of ‘Satan’s throne,’ so emphatically repeated a second time at the end of this verse, ‘where Satan dwelleth,’ must remain one of the unsolved riddles of these Epistles.”—E. R. C.]
And thou holdest fast My name.—Revelation and knowledge of the essence and governance of Christ. Düsterdieck, on the other hand, in accordance with a widely diffused and inevident interpretation: The true objective Person of Christ, together with its riches and glory. The same expositor denies that confession is intended, as De Wette maintains. The church has already given proof of this, its holding fast of the name of Jesus, in a time of tribulation and martyrdom, when it was tempted to deny and would not.66
My faith; i. e., belief in Christ, resting upon His faithfulness. Objective genitive; Rev 14:12, and other passages. Comp. Rom. 3:25, 26. [This interpretation is not required by the construction. Πίστις may be regarded as having been used concretely, as in Jude 3, etc., and the genitive as that of the source.—E. R. C.]
In which Antipas.—We follow the reading αἶς, supported by Cod. B. and adopted by Griesbach.67 This reading has been objected to, probably on the ground that the church generally was faithful. Accordingly, αἶς has been omitted—a proceeding which gave rise to still greater difficulties, on which comp. Düsterdieck (p. 158). Again, an explanatory ἐν has been prefixed to αἶς. On the plays upon the word Antipas, comp. Düsterdieck (Ἀντί-πας, against all: Anti-papa, or ἰσόπατρον = Athanasianism; Pergamus = Alexandria). De Wette: “A certain Antipas (Antipater) must have suffered martyrdom in Pergamus some time previously.” The later martyrologies announce that in the time of Domitian, Antipas, bishop of Pergamus, was killed by being placed in an iron image of a bull, heated red-hot. Tertullian mentions the martyr Antipas, taking the name, most probably, from our passage. Eusebius (Hist. eccles. vi. 15) cites three other martyrs of Pergamus. Hengstenberg conjectures that the symbolical name, against all (Saskerides68), denotes Timothy. Ebrard ironically expatiates upon this view (p. 174). Consistent symbolical interpretation may lead to attempts at the interpretation of names; but consistent symbolical interpretation does not demand that the names of the seven cities should also be interpreted.
Rev 2:14. A few things against thee.—We must not regard this as a litote and understand the opposite to what is said (Heinrich).
Thou hast there them.—Members of the church are intended, but not the whole church. It has not completely purified itself from these people; has been negligent in church discipline.
Who hold the doctrine of Balaam.—Persistently hold it fast, κρατοῦντας. The combination of the history of Balaam, Num. 22:25 sqq, and the story of the avenging war of Israel against Midian, Rev 31, served for a foundation to a Jewish tradition to the effect that Balaam taught Balak how, by the institution of idolatrous sacrificial feasts, he might entice the Israelites to fornication and thus corrupt them.69 It was a doctrine, not in the sense of a system, but as a maxim. And whilst Balaam hoped for outward gain, and the Nicolaitans, on the other hand, were following an Antinomian principle, we find, together with the coincidence of the two names, a certain difference which we have previously pointed out.
[To cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat idol offerings.—“There are two words which claim here special consideration, σκάνδαλον and εἰδωλόθυτον. Σκάνδαλον, a later form of σκανδάληθρον. … and σκανδαλίζω … occur only, I believe, in the Sacred Scriptures, the Septuagint and the New Testament, and in such writings as are immediately dependent upon these (see Suicer, S. V.); being almost always in them employed in a tropical sense; Judith 5:1, Lev. 19:14, are exceptions. Σκάνδαλον is properly a trap (joined often with παγίς, Josh. 23:13; Ps. 140:9; Rom. 11:9), or more precisely that part of the trap on which the bait was laid, and the touching of which caused the trap to close upon its prey; then generally any loop or noose set in the path, which should entangle the foot of the unwary walker and cause him to stumble and fall; σκάνδαλον = πρόσκομμα (Rom. 14:13) and σκανδαλίζειν = προσκόπτειν (Matt. 4:6; Rom. 9:32); and next, any stone or hindrance of any kind (Hesychius explains it by ἐμποδισμός), which should have the same effect (1 Pet. 2:7). Satan, then, as the Tempter, is the great placer of ‘scandals,’ ‘stumbling-blocks,’ or ‘offences,’ in the path of men; his sworn servants, a Balaam, or a Jeroboam (1 Kin. 14:16), are the same consciously. All of us unconsciously, by careless walking, by seeking what shall please ourselves rather than edify others (1 Cor. 8:10), are in danger of being the same; all are deeply concerned in the warning of Matt. 18:7. Εἰδωλόθυτον is a New Testament word to express what the heathen sacrifices were, as they presented themselves to the eye of a Christian or a Jew, namely things offered unto idols. The Gentiles themselves expressed the same by ἱερόθυτον (which word occurs 1 Cor. 10:28, according to the better reading, St. Paul there assuming a Gentile to be speaking, and using, if not an honorable, yet at any rate, a neutral word), or by θεόθυτον, which the Greek purists preferred.” TRENCH.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:15. So hast thou also.—De Wette explains καὶ σύ as indicative of a comparison with Ephesus. Düsterdieck remarks: “It either refers to Balak, or, which is more probable, to the ancient congregation of the children of Israel. Yet this too would be a reference to Balak.” This fact, at all events, is indicated; viz.: that in Pergamus, as well as elsewhere, two kindred forms of Antinomianism occur. It is also intimated that the sect of the Nicolaitans had its own independent origin in a misinterpretation of the doctrine of Christian liberty. This lax tendency, on the ground of a misunderstood liberty, was springing up in Rome and Corinth at the time of the Pauline Epistles to the Christians of those cities; it had attained further development at the time of the pastoral Epistles, and subsequently received, among the methodical Anomians, the sect-name of Nicolaitanism. At the time of the Epistle of Jude and the Apocalypse it was illustrated by the Old Testament history of Balaam, an etymological kinship of names aiding this comparison. This is more probable than the supposition that the Greek name is a mere translation of the Hebrew Balaam. The practice of the different factions of Antinomianism (Balaamites, Nicolaitans, the fanatical school of Jezebel) amounted to the same thing, viz.: disorderly conduct under the cloak of liberty; the first specific mark of this disorderliness being a participation in heathen sacrificial banquets; the second, connected with the first, a sexual laxity amounting to actual unchastity.
Rev 2:16. Repent, therefore.—This repentance, as the painful self-prostration and stirring of the church, must result in its cleansing from Nicolaitanism. [“This command is addressed not only to the Nicolaitans, but to the Church, which did not, like that of Ephesus, hate them, but apparently tolerated them.” ALFORD.—E. R. C.]
But if not.—The threat appears much milder than that addressed to Ephesus.
I will come unto thee, i. e., upon thee. How?
And will war against them.—This act will be a humiliation for the church, inasmuch as it accomplishes directly, without the church’s instrumentality, what the church itself should effect—thus suspending, to a degree, the church’s authority, and making it appear in the light of a dependent church, taking away its independence. But how shall this be done? Grotius: Prophets are to accomplish what the bishop has neglected to do. Calovius; The Lord will act through another bishop. The fact is, the Lord comes to the slothful individual church with the spirit of the metropolitan church; and, when it becomes utterly sluggish, He comes to it with theocratico-hierarchical authority, or by means of separatist contrasts.
With the sword of My mouth.—This is indicative of a spiritual conflict and victory through the word and the Spirit of God. It has no reference, therefore, to the avenging sword which came upon the misguided Israelites (Ewald, De Wette, and others); particularly, in view of the contrast between the Old and the New Covenant. The sword of the angel that stood in the way of Balaam can scarcely come into consideration, for this reason, if for none other—because that passage in the life of Balaam preceded his actual sin.70
Rev 2:17. Of the hidden manna.—The victor in Pergamus is the recipient of two promises which, however, constitute a substantial unity. The hidden manna stands contrasted with the impure communion of idolatrous sacrifices, and hence, as well as in accordance with the Johannean idea (John 4), characterizes the enjoyment of the highest, heavenly communion with Christ and the holy and blessed, as the partaking of a manna which is hidden as yet—perhaps like that which was kept for the Jewish Sabbath—or as the mystery of the inner life of blessedness. With this manna, the white stone with the new name corresponds. The white stone is that acquittal in the judgment which shall be based upon a recognition of the verification and righteousness of the new life; and the new name is the distinct individual personality of the new life; every beatified spirit has a particular and unique consciousness of this personality—a consciousness known, in this uniqueness, to none but the recipient himself (Rev 19:12).
Different interpretations of the manna: The Lord’s Supper; Spiritual refreshments; Justification; The manna in the Ark of the Covenant, which has been hidden since the destruction of the Temple; Christ; Heavenly bread. [“There can, I think, be no doubt that allusion is here made to the manna which, at God’s express command, Moses caused to be laid up before the Lord in the sanctuary (Ex. 16:32–34; of. Heb. 9:4). This manna, as being thus laid up, obtained the name of ‘hidden’. This ‘hidden manna’ … represents a benefit pertaining to the future Kingdom of glory. … I would not indeed affirm that this promise has not prelibations which will be tasted in the present time. … The words imply that, however hidden now, it shall not remain hidden evermore; and the best commentary on them is to be found at 1 Cor. 2:9; 1 John 3:2.” TRENCH.—E. R. C.]
Interpretations of the white stone: The glorified body; Analogue of the names on the breastplate of the High Priest—priestly dignity, therefore; A reference to the heavenly reward; Tessera hospitalis; The stone used in casting lots for succession in the priestly function; The glory of victory.
The two meanings which attached to the white stone among the Greeks, viz.: acquittal in judgment and the award of some rank or dignity—are, manifestly, most intimately connected. Justification in the final judgment must, however, be distinguished from the justification of faith, though the two are connected and agree in the possession of a negative and a positive element (absolutio; adoptio in the principial sense; in the sense of consummation).
Interpretations of the name: The name of God; Consecrated to God; Son of God, or elect person. Most commentators: The victor’s own name. This is new as the pure expression of the new, heavenly life, in antithesis to the old conventional name, meaningless in many cases, and often a name of shame.
[The remarks of Trench (Ep. to the Seven Churches, pp. 170–181) on the white stone and the new name are worthy of the highest consideration. He repudiates the idea that these symbols “are borrowed from heathen antiquity,” declaring that “this Book moves exclusively within the circle of sacred, that is of Jewish, imagery and symbols; nor is the explanation of its symbols in any case to be sought beyond this circle.” Following Züllig (Offenb. Johannis, Vol. I., pp. 408–454), he suggests that the ψῆφος λευκή may be, not a white pebble, but the Urim and Thummim—probably a diamond, a precious stone shining white. The “new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it (the stone),” he identifies with the new name of Christ Rev 3:12, and suggests that it was symbolized by what was written on the Urim (probably the holy Tetragrammaton) which no one knew except the High Priest to whose charge it was committed.—E. R. C.]
FOURTH EPISTLE. THYATIRA
Rev 2:18. Thyatira.—In Lydia, between Pergamus and Sardis, a provincial city; now called Akhissar. See the Encyclopædias and Books of Travel. Lydia was a woman of Thyatira, Acts 16:14. This Lydia may be referred neither to the loving zeal of the church nor to Jezebel (Düsterdieck). For a mention of wavering views in regard to the elements of the church and worthless views concerning the bishop, see Düsterdieck.
[The Son of God.—“Our Lord thus names Himself here, in accordance with the spirit of that which is to follow; Rev 2:27 being from Ps. 2, in which it is written, ‘The Lord hath said unto me, thou art my Son,’ ” (ALFORD); comp. Rev 2:26, 27, with Ps. 2:8, 9. The reason of the reference to Ps. 2 may possibly be found in a comparison of Rev 2:20 with Ps. 2:1–3, and the history of Jezebel, 1 Kings 16:31; 2 Kings 9:37. The Jezebel of the Old Testament was a heathen, a king’s daughter, and a queen; she took counsel against the Lord, and seduced the people of God to iniquity. This interpretation requires us to suppose that the Jezebel of Rev 2:20 occupied a position analogous to that of her Old Testament type. Symbolically (on the hypothesis that the churches represent different ages of the Universal Church) she may represent a world-power, professedly converted and assuming the position of a teacher, introducing idolatry and impurity into the Church.—E. R. C.]
His eyes like as a flame of fire.—With reference to the fanaticism in Thyatira. His eyes pierce through the sphere of spirit, and perceive the impure motives of all fanaticism, be it hierarchic or sectarian, ascetic or libertine; and this with a view to making it manifest and judging it.71
And His feet.—He, “Who, with His feet like unto brass, tramples on all that is unclean and inimical.” (Düsterdieck.) This, however, is not the way in which fanaticism is judged. It is made manifest in its nothingness by the feet of Christ, in their holy, glowing motion, passing over its imbecility and worthlessness and resolving them into themselves. To the extent that this nuisance is the originator of moral scandals, it is broken in pieces with the iron sceptre as heathenish (Rev 2:27).
Rev 2:19. I know thy works.—These are subdivided into four fundamental traits: love and faithfulness—the one showing itself in a loving service to those requiring help; the other manifested in steadfastness under persecutions and temptations. To these is superadded the fact of the church’s growth—that its last works are more than the first. The opposite of Ephesus (Düsterdieck).
Rev 2:20. But I have against thee.—There is a connection between the very vitality of the church of Thyatira and the fact that it suffers itself to be dazzled by the fiery semblance of life in the fanaticism of Jezebel and her followers; that it is unwatched on that side.
The woman Jezebel.—As the Anomians were formerly traced back to Balaam, so here they are traced to Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, 1 Kings 16. sqq.
The individual traits of the description call for the conclusion that Jezebel was a religious fanatic, who claimed to be a prophetess and had founded a school of Antinomianism, in which an impure intercourse of the sexes was reduced to a religious system, and clothed in the garb of pious enthusiasm. The name is symbolical, but scarcely the sex of the person. It should be observed that the seduction to fornication occupies the foremost place in this instance, and that much more stress is laid upon it than upon the eating of idolatrous sacrifices.72 Here, therefore, we have the primitive type of a story that has been often repeated by isolated Gnostic sects even down to the present day.
Other interpretations: 1. Jezebel was the wife of the bishop (Grotius and others); hence the reading τὴν γυναῖκά σου. 2. Heresy personified, or the Nicolaitan false teachers (Vitringa, Hengstenberg, and others). 3. A woman really called Jezebel (Wolf, Bengel). 4. The Jewish synagogue (Züllig).
The fornication to which the Old Testament Jezebel was the seducer, was connected with the service of Baal and Astarte; Jezebel had brought the worship of these gods with her from Sidon and propagated it in Israel (see 2 Kings 9:22, and other passages). Hengstenberg conjectures that the ancient Jezebel was a demonically inspired prophetess of Baal.
Rev 2:21. And I gave her time.—Ebrard groundlessly takes this in a present sense; rendering it thus—from this time she shall have yet another respite for repentance.—She has not made use of her respite; she willeth not to repent.—The disorder, therefore, has already lasted some time, and though the church, as a church, has suffered its continuance, admonitions to repent have not been wanting. We need not conclude from this, however, that John has previously issued a written reprimand (Ewald. Nor does John here speak as a bishop).
Rev 2:22. Behold, I cast her into a bed.—The punishment, whose prefacing with behold indicates its severity and speediness, is, in its ironical expression, conformable to the sin; just as the cup of intoxication is poured out for the intoxicated. A bed of torment corresponds with the bed of fornication.
According to Lyra and others, κλίνη denotes the punishment of Hell; while most commentators regard it as indicative of the bed of sickness, with reference to Ps. 41:3. [A bed of sickness, physical and symbolical, the result of her own impurity, maybe intended.—E. R. C.] But whether such a menace of sickness is intended to be conveyed here is exceedingly doubtful. By the bed we understand an insulated sectarianism, in which Jezebel and her followers will be the instruments of their own destruction; the threatened casting into this bed, therefore, we apprehend as a threat of excommunication, to be executed by the Spirit of the Lord in and along with the church (1 Cor. 5:3 sqq.), if she do not thoroughly repent.73 We emphasize as follows: Behold, I cast her into a bed, and those that commit adultery with her—into great tribulation.—“For the destruction of the flesh,” St. Paul says. After its excision from the church, the school, as a sect, must necessarily be given over to eccentricity, discord, the pangs of remorse, and despair, to say nothing of the disgrace which would attach to it, and the censure of the world.
Those who commit adultery with her.—The fornication is now characterized as adultery, for together with the actual occurrences of this sort, religious apostasy, previously present in germ, is thus symbolically designated; in this case, it is apostasy from Christ and from the Spirit of His Church. With her. In fellowship with her; as her companions and followers.
Except they repent.—An ultimatum preceding excommunication, such as was addressed to the false teachers in the Galatian Church, Gal. 1.
Of her [ἀυτῆς=] works.
Rev 2:23. And I will slay her children.—According to Grotius and others, these are actual children of fornication—as such, however, they could not be the objects of so severe a threat. According to Düsterdieck and many others, they are the previously mentioned companions of Jezebel, the μοιχεύοντες. Ebrard: “The Jezebel brood, in which iniquity threatens to propagate itself in time to come.” These children are plainly distinguished from the immediate companions of Jezebel, both by name and by the form of the threatened punishment. They are the second generation of disorderly sectarianism, in which the whole power of spiritual and physical death becomes manifest; and there is an unlimited perspective into futurity in the threat—hence it is declared that all the churches shall know this Divine judgment.
With [Lange: By the power of] death.—Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (Jas. 1:15). Explications of ἐν θανάτῳ: 1. Death is Hell: 2. Pestilence (Septuag. Ezek. 33:27); 3. The Hebrew formula: מוֹת־יוּמַת, as the penalty of adultery, Lev. 20:10. Düsterdieck urges cogent reasons against the supposition, entertained by Hengstenberg, that the passage in Leviticus is alluded to. Ἐν signalizes θάνατος as the instrument of killing—hence, as deadly power. [“A strong Hebraistic expression, meaning that he would certainly destroy them.” BARNES.—“Others find a reference to the two sweeping catastrophes which overtook the Baal priests and votaries at exactly that period of Jewish history to which the mention of Jezebel here points (1 Kings 18:40; 2 Kings 10:25). To me it seems no more than a threat that their doom should be a signal one, that they should not die the common death of all men, nor be visited after the visitation of all (Num. 16:29), but leaving the precise manner of that doom undefined.” TRENCH.—E. R. C.]
And all the churches shall know.—Düsterdieck: “Every Divine judgment upon the world is a manifestation of the Lord’s glory, resulting, in accordance with the Divine intention, in the advancement and strengthening of believers in knowledge.”—They shall know, especially, that God is the Holy One, that He is pure Light, and that He knows and judges all impurity, even when arrayed in the closest semblance of holiness.
All the churches—congregations—in the whole Church. We can say, with Grotius, “The Asiatic churches, if we only do not apprehend them externally, but as types of the whole Church.”
That I am He.—The absoluteness of God is here indicated, from the special point of view that it is He who tries and searches the reins and hearts, the whole inner life, and the innermost disposition of man. [“This is clearly a claim to Omniscience, and as it is the Lord Jesus who speaks in all these epistles, it is a full proof that He claims this for Himself.” Barnes.—E. R. C.] Grotius and Bengel make a distinction in the concrete unity of the expression, interpreting loins as the lusts or passions, hearts as the thoughts; this is in opposition to the unitous sense of the passage, in which, at the utmost, a harmonious contrast is indicated.
To you, to each.—Address to the guilty ones. Within the more general chastisement, the judgment upon each individual shall be proportioned to his works. [According to your works.—“This promise, or this threat, for it may be either (is it not both?—E. R. C.) is one which we commonly keep at this time too much in the background; but it is one which we should press on ourselves and others with the same emphasis wherewith Christ and His Word presses it upon us all (Ps. 62:13; Matt. 16:27; Rom. 2:6; Job 34:11; Prov. 24:12; Jer. 22:19). It is indeed, one of the gravest mischiefs which Rome has bequeathed to us, that in a reaction and protest, itself absolutely necessary, against the false emphasis which she puts on works, unduly trusting therein to share with Christ’s merits in our justification, we often fear to place upon them the true; being, as they are, to speak with St. Bernard, the ‘via regni,’ however little the ‘causa regnandi;’ though here too it must of course never be forgotten that it is only the good tree which brings forth good fruit; and that no tree is good until Christ has made it so.” TRENCH.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:24. But unto you I say, [the rest in Thyatira, etc.—The and of the E. V. is omitted; see TEXT. AND GRAM. NOTES.—E. R. C.]. Address to individuals who, as such (not as members of the church as a body), are guiltless. They are characterized by two marks. First, they have not this erroneous doctrine; and, secondly, they have hitherto not known the pretended depths in it as depths of Satan, as they express themselves now that their eyes are opened. The objectionableness of the doctrine in question was clear to them, but not its Satanic depth, its nature, and operation—ruinous to souls, poisoning the words of truth, fatal to spiritual life.
Interpretations: These false teachers boasted that they knew the depths of Satan (Neander, Hengstenberg). These false teachers, like the Gnostics, boasted that they knew the depths of life and, especially, of the Godhead; but the Apocalyptist sarcastically reverses this boast by intimating that their pretended depths are depths of Satan (Grotius and many others).
“As they say,” according to Vitringa, refers purely to the depths; this restriction, however, seems somewhat violent, and it is more probable that the innocent individual members of the church have themselves now recognized the greatness of the evil, and sarcastically handle the claim of the false teachers.
[“It was the characteristic of the falsely called γνῶσις to boast of its βάθεα, or depths, of Divine things. … We may safely therefore refer the expression οὐκ ἔγνωσαν τὰ βάθεα to the heretics spoken of. But it is not so clear to whom, as their subject, the words ὡς λέγουσιν are to be appropriated; and, again, whose word τοῦ σατανᾶ is, whether that (1) of our Lord, (2) of the heretics, or (3) of the Christians addressed. If ὡς λέγουσιν belongs to the Christians, then the sense will be, that they, the Christians, called the βάθεα of the heretics, the βάθεα τοῦ σατανᾶ, and were content to profess their ignorance of them. So Andr., Areth., Heinr., Züllig, Ebrard; and so far would be true enough; but the sentence would be left very flat and pointless, and altogether inconsistent in its tone with the solemn and pregnant words of the rest of the message. If ὡς λέγουσιν belongs to the heretics, we have our choice between two views of τοῦ σατανᾶ: either (1) that the heretics themselves called their own mysteries τὰ β. τοῦ σατανᾶ. But this, though held by Hengst., and even by Neander … as a possible alternative, and recently by Trench, can hardly be so, seeing that the words surely would not bear the sense thus assigned to them, viz.: that they could go deeper than and outwit Satan in his own kingdom: and seeing, moreover, that no such formula, or any resembling it, is found as used by the ancient Gnostic heretics: or (2) that the ὡς λέγουσιν applies only to the word βάθεα, and that, when according to their way of speaking, τοῦ θεοῦ should have followed (cf. 1 Cor 2:10), the Lord in indignation substitutes τοῦ σατανᾶ. This has been the view taken by most commentators, e. g., Corn.-à-Lapide, Ribera, Grot., Calov., Wetst., Vitr., Bengel, Wolf, Eichhorn, Ewald, De W., Stern, Düsterd. And, it appears to me, that this alone comes in any measure up to the requirements of the passage, in intensity of meaning and solemnity, as well as in veri-similitude.” ALFORD. See, as representing other views, Trench and Barnes in loc.—E. R. C.]
I cast not upon you any other burden.—Our first effort must be to gather the meaning of the other burden from the epistle itself. The sinful toleration of Jezebel must now be exchanged for the opposite course, i. e., the excommunication of the false teachers, unless they repent. And this, indubitably, is a painful and heavy task, a burden; the Apostle will, however, lay none other on the church.
Explanations: 1. No other suffering than that which ye already bear (Bengel and others); including the threats (Ewald). 2. No other obligation than the one indicated—to prohibit the eating of idolatrous sacrifices, etc., Acts 15:28. Not the entire Mosaic law, therefore. The former of these interpretations is too indefinite, the latter too far-fetched.74 Equally valueless is the interpretation of Grotius: Jactant illi se rerum multarum cognitione, eam a vobis non exigo (gnosis, then, is the ἄλλο βάρος!); Bengel: As Jezebel was burden enough to them; Eichhorn gives a still different explanation, see De Wette.
By the following promise, we see what they are to do. They are to combat the new heathenism arising in that sectarian school; and to wield the iron sceptre of the Messiah, in accordance with the promise, yet in a spiritual sense.
Rev 2:25. But that which ye have.—The ἔχειν is to be converted into a κρατεῖν in the manner indicated.
Hold fast (have more than ever). Seek to hold it fast in its whole consistency. They need not, therefore, work themselves up to another stand-point, but must consistently work out their actual spiritual life (Rev 2:19). [“The aorist is more vivid and imperative than would be the present; it sets forth not so much the continuing habit, as the renewed and determined grasp of every intervening moment of the space prescribed.” ALFORD.—E. R. C.]
[Until I shall come.—“The ἄν gives an uncertainty when the time shall be, which we cannot convey in our language.” ALFORD.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:26. And he that conquereth.—The promise, in this case also, is in perfect harmony with the tenor of the epistle. The overcoming is modified here by the keeping of Christ’s works to the end, or to the goal of the works themselves in their perfect consistency. In τηρεῖν, we find, on the one hand, the acknowledgment that they occupy the right stand-point, and, on the other, the demand that they should keep it pure, after the example of Christ, and as His instruments. Together with the eschatological goal, therefore, reference is had to the ideal goal of perfect Christian development. The works of Christ, which are particularly meant, however, are here those of purifying severity, Rev 2:27. The works of His people must in their purity be His works, and this in antithesis, also, to the works of Jezebel.
Power over the nations [heathen].—This, according to Düsterdieck, is to be fulfilled, “when the βασιλεία is set in operation at the Coming of the Lord.” A one-sided adjournment of the promises to the day of the Parousia, in accordance with Meyer’s method. It is apostolic doctrine that the Parousia does not bring the beginning of the blessedness and glory of the new life, but their final consummation. It is so with the preceding promises and so with this. The power of Christianity over the heathen world, which power is to be perfected at the end of the world, begins with the victorious power of the Christian spirit over heathen works and ways.75
Rev 2:27. And he shall rule [shepherdize] them with an iron rod.—Neither can the wielding of an iron sceptre be adjourned to the end of the world. This sceptre unmistakably denotes the element of severe discipline in the shepherdizing of the flock; a preponderance of spiritual power over the carnal mind (see the parable of the leaven) is also expressed by the antithesis of the iron sceptre and the earthen vessels dashed in pieces by it. Of course, the dashing in pieces is a spiritual act, and one that is performed only in proportion to the resistance offered.
Düsterdieck, in consequence of his peculiar views, fails to recognize the element of truth in Grotius’ explanation: Evolvam illum in gradum Presbyteri, ut judicet de iis, qui non Christiane, sed ἐθνικῶς; vivunt; and ῥάβδ. σιδ. = verbum dei, cujus pars est excommunicatio. Düsterdieck likewise denies that there is any reference to the conversion of the heathen, either separately or in connection with the idea of the future royal rule.
Shepherdize [ποιμαίνειν] is the Septuagint rendering of תרצם, Ps. 2:9. Alcasar regarded the iron rod as significant of the bishop’s staff or crosier. “Brightman thought it denoted the power which Protestant princes have exercised over Popish cloisters,” etc., (De Wette).
As I also.—The personal Christ as the entire Christ in His Church.
Rev 2:28. And I will give him.—The morning-star is to be a recompense of that purity which is the fundamental requirement of the whole epistle. According to 2 Pet. 1:19, the morning-star symbolizes the full dawn of the New-Testament day. According to Rev. 22:16, Christ, on the way of His speedy Advent, is the bright Morning-star. The promise, therefore, is that the pure and unadulterated Christian, as a victor over fanaticisms, shall, in advance of others, behold the morning-star of the new time, the last time, the Coming of the Lord, as if that morning-star were his own; nay, he shall even point to the morning-star as the object of his prophecy. He shall stand “in the morning radiance of eternity,” in the full enjoyment of Christian hope, Christian progress, the true ante-celebration of the Coming of Christ.
Interpretations: 1. The glorified body of Christ; 2. The devil, with reference to Is. 14:12; 3. The king of Babylon; 4. Christ; 5. The gloria illustris, the heavenly δόξα; starry radiance.
[“It is observable that it is not said that He would make him like the morning-star, as in Dan. 12:3, nor that he would be compared with the morning-star, like the king of Babylon, Isa. 14:12; nor that he would resemble a star which Balaam says he saw in the far distant future, Num. 24:17. The idea seems to be, that the Saviour would give him something that would resemble that morning planet in beauty and splendor—perhaps meaning that it would be placed as a gem in his diadem and would sparkle on his brow—bearing some such relation to Him Who is called ‘the Sun of Righteousness,’ as the morning-star does to the glorious sun on his rising. If so, the meaning would be, that he would receive a beautiful ornament, bearing a near relation to the Redeemer Himself as a bright Sun—a pledge that the darkness was past—but one whose beams would melt away into the superior light of the Redeemer Himself, as the beams of the morning-star are lost in the superior glory of the Sun.” BARNES.—E. R. C.]
Brandt: 1. “The Mother Church.”
Rev 2:1. Read thus in accordance with A. B*. C. [ἐν Ἐφέσῳ]; instead of the Rec. Ἐφεσἰνης (which arose from too great haste [in transcribing]. See Delitzsch, Funde, p. 23). On the difference between τῆς and τῷ see Düsterdieck.
Rev 2:2. The σου after κόπον, founded upon B*. [א.], etc., is wanting in A. C. [P.], etc. Omitted by Tischendorf and Düsterdieck [also by Lachmann and Alford]. Analysis [and analogy] seems to be in favor of its retention.
Rev 2:2. Instead of the Rec. ἐπειράσω (see Delitzsch, p. 24), according to the best Codd. [א. A. C. P. B*.] ἐπείρασας.
Rev 2:2. Read λέγοντας ἑαυτοὺς ἀποστόλους [with א. A. B.*C. P.; instead of the Rec. φάσκοντας εἶναι ἀποστόλους.—E.R.C.]
Rev 2:3. Otherwise the Rec. See Düsterdieck. [The Rec. reads, Καὶ ἐβάστασας καὶ ὑπομονὴν ἔχεις, καὶ δια τὸ ὄνομά μου κεκοπίακας καὶ οὐ κέκμηκας. Alford gives a number of readings, and well remarks, “There is a seeming inconsistency in οἶδα τὸν κόπον σου. … καὶ οὐ κεκοπίακας, which caused those who were not aware of St. John’s use of the last word (John 4:6), to alter the sentence as in var. readd.”—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:5. The reading πέπτωκας [with A. B*. C., Lach., Treg., and Alf., instead of Rec. ἐκπέπτωκας with P. Tisch. gives πέπτωκες with א.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:5. Ταχύ not firmly established. See Delitzsch, p. 24 [supported by B*; om. by א. A. C. P., etc.—E. R. C.].
Rev 2:7. The ἑπτά in Lachmann not tenable; [supported by A. C.; om. by א B*. P., Alford.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:7. Not: in the midst of the Paradise. [Rec. gives ἐν τῷ μέσῳ τοῦ παραδείσου; א. 3a. P. ἐν τῷ μέσῳ τῷ παραδείσῷ. א. A. B*. C, with Lachmann and Alford, give τῷ παραδείσῳ.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:7. The μου after θεοῦ has A. C. א. [P.,] against it, but all versions, Church fathers and theological considerations in its favor: [B*. Vulg. etc., give it; Lach., Treg., and Tisch, omit; Alford brackets.—E. R. C.]
Brandt: 2. “The churches of the beginning, martyr churches.” [Smyrna and Pergamus.]
Rev 2:9. A. C., etc., omit τὰ ἔργα καὶ [also P., Lach., Treg., Tisch., and Alford; א. and B*. give it.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:9. [Rec. omits ἐκ with P.; it is given by א. A. C. B*., Lachmann, and Alford.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:10. The other reading μή is strongly attested by A. B. C., Lachmann [and Alford]. μηδέν in Tischendorf is supported by versions, fathers, and minuscules. The subsequent text is in favor of it. [μηδέν appears in א. and P.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:10. δἡ is omitted [by א. A. C. P., Lachmann; it is given by B*; Alford brackets it.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:13. [Rec. gives τὰ ἔργα σου καὶ with B*.; omitted by א. A. C. P., Vulg., Æth., etc., Lachmann and Alford.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:13. Of this passage there are three readings: viz. ἐν αἶς [Rec. א. P.] αἶς [B*., Alford brackets]—and both omitted [A. C., Lachmann]. The omission may be due to the fact of the seeming inconsistency with the foregoing hast not denied, etc. [Treg., and Tisch. (8th ed.) omit.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:13. [A. and C. give a second μου after πιστός, also Lachmann. Alford brackets, which would give as the translation—my martyr, my faithful one. Treg., and Tisch. give the μου.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:14. The ὅτι before ἔχεις seems to be sufficiently corroborated by A. B*. and many others.
Rev 2:14. Τῷ. Unimportant variations.
Rev 2:15. Instead of ὅ μισῶ read: ὁμοίως [with א. A. B*. C., Vulg., Lachmann, Alford, Treg., and Tisch.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:16. The οὖν which is wanting in the Rec. has strong authorities in its favor. [א. P., Vulg. omit; it is given by A. B*. C., Lach., Treg., and Alf. Tisch. (8th ed.) omits.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:17. [This σὐτῷ omitted by א.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:17. Φαγεῖν is a late addition. [P. gives it; it is omitted by א. A. B*. C., Vulg., etc.—E. R. C.]
Brandt: 3. “The intermediate churches,” externally unimpeacbable, but in wardly fallen. a. Lapsed into idolatry; b. lapsed into spiritual death. (Both too strong). [Thyatira and Sardis.]
Rev 2:18. Αὐτοῦ rests upon B. C. [P.], etc. It is omitted by Lachmann and Düsterdieck.
Rev 2:19. Καὶ is omitted according to A. B. C., etc. [Lange is here mistaken; the καὶ omitted by the authorities cited, and also by א. B*. P., Lachmann, Düsterdieck, Alford, is the one before τὰ ἔσχατα—which requires the translation given in the text.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:20. The addition ὀλίγα is omitted. See Delitzsch, Funde, p. 22, No. 20. [א. gives πολύ; both are om. by A. B.* C. P., etc., and Crit. Eds. generally.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:20. Γυναῖκα without σου or σου τὴν, in accordance with C. א. Vulg. [σου is given by A. B*. Lachmann; Alford brackets.—E. R. C.] Thy wife is probably a conjecture founded upon the supposition that the angel was the bishop.
Rev 2:20. Καὶ διδάσκει καὶ πλανᾷ. A. C. א. See Delitzsch, No. 20, [also B*. P. and critical editors generally.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:21. Καὶ οὐ θέλει μετανοῆσαι. [The reading of which the above is the translation is supported by א. A. B*. C. P., Lachmann, Alford, Treg., and Tisch.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:22. [A. C. Lach., Alford, Treg., and Tisch. give βάλλω; א.3a P., Vulg. βάλω.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:22. Cod. A. φυλακήν—a gloss
Rev 2:24. Οἵτινες without καὶ. [Rec. gives καὶ with Vulg.; it is om. by א. A. B*. C. P., etc.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:24. [Rec. with א. B. Vulg. gives βάλω; A. C. P., Lach., Treg., Tisch., and Alf. give βάλλω. The former reading is probably correct. An alternative translation is given.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:25. [א. A. C. P., with Lach., Treg., Tisch., and Alf. give ἂν ἥξω); B*. reads ἀνίοξω.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:27. Συντρίβεται instead of the Future [with א. A. C.; B*. P. give συντριβήσεται.—E. R. C.]
Rev 3:1. The article τό before ὄνομα is omitted.
Rev 2:2. Instead of μέλλει, read ἔμελλον, according to A. C. etc. [א. P., Treg., Tisch., and Alf.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:2. [A. C. and Lachmann give ἔργα, without the article; א. B*. P. give τὰ; Alford brackets.—E. R. C.]
Ver: 2. Μου is omitted by some manuscripts here as well as in Rev 2:7, but has still stronger authorities in its favor here than in the other passage. [The great authorities all support it; א. A. B*. C. P., Vulg.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:3. [א. omits οὖν; Alford brackets; Treg., and Tisch. give it.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:3. Καὶ ἤκουσας καὶ τήρει is groundlessly objected to by Matth.
Rev 2:3. Επὶ σέ an addition of the Rec. [א. B*., Vulg. (Clem. and Am.) give it; A. C. P. omit with Lachmann and Alford. Treg., and Tisch. retain. The weight of ancient authority, as it seems to me, is in favor of retaining.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:4. [א. A. B*. C. P. give ἀλλά.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:5. Instead of οὖτος, read οὕτως, in accordance with A. C. etc. [also א.1 Lach., Treg., and Tisch.; א.3a B.* P. and Alf. read οὗτος—E. R. C.]
Brandt superscribes Nos. 6 and 7: The churches of the end; a. the beloved; b. the condemnable. Almost right!
Rev 2:7. [Rec. gives κλείει with Vulg.; Crit. Eds., with א. A. B*. C. P., give κλείσει.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:7. [Ἀνοίξει, supported by א B*. Alford, Treg., and Tisch.; ἀνοίγει, by A. C. P., La h.–E. R. C.]
Rev 2:9. A. C. א., ἥξουσι καὶ προσκυνήσουσι.
Rev 2:11. [Ἰδού is omitted by Crit. Eds., with א. A. B*. C. P., etc.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:12. Καταβαίνουσα., A. C., etc.
Rev 2:14. [Crit. Eds., with א. A. C. P., give ἐν Λαοδικείᾳ.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:17. [Lach., Treg., Tisch., with A. C., Vulg., give a second ὅτι after λέγεις; א. B*. P. omit; Alf. brackets.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:17. The article before ἐλεεινός is not established. [It is given by Lachmann with A. B*.; omitted by א. C. P.; Alford brackets; Treg., and Tisch. omit.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:19. Ζήλευε in accordance with A. C., etc. [So Crit. Eds. generally.—E. R. C.]
Rev 2:20. B*. and א. read καὶ before εἰσελεύσομαι, against A. [P.], Lach. [Tisch. gives it; Treg. omits; Alf. brackets.—E. R. C.]
See Lange’s Apostol. Zeitalter, II. 470.
Also Lange’s Apostol. Zeitalter.
See Lange’s Apostol. Zeitalter, II. 525. [Also, Schaff’s Hist. of the Apost. Church, p. 671, sq.—Alford in loc.—E. R. C.]
[The sole reason that can be drawn from the epistles for distinguishing them from “the Jews” is that they are separately mentioned—when, had they been the same, or allied, we should expect the fact to be declared. A similar and still stronger reason exists for distinguishing them from the Balaamites, arising from the fact that they are separately mentioned in the same epistle, and that without a word that could lead us to suppose that they were not distinct sects. No conceivable reason arises from the Scripture for connecting them with the followers of Jezebel. Those, indeed, who hold that the Nicolaitans were allied to the Balaamites, must also hold that they were allied to the school of Jezebel, since It is manifest that the last two were similar, comp. 2:14 with 20.—E. R. C.]
[The translation given in the text—thy calumny from those, etc.—is more nearly in accordance with the Greek than the E. V.—E. R. C.]
[May it not be that our Lord used the term “Jews” in its highest sense, as indicating the true Israel (see note on p. 27.)? This explanation gives obvious and special force to the entire expression, “who profess themselves to be Jews, but they are not, but a synagogue of Satan.”—E. R. C.]
[The term in Eph. 6:17 is, not as here, ῥομφαία, but μάχαιρα; and surely that single passage (neither term occurs in John 16:8) affords too narrow a basis upon which to build any hypothesis as to the general use of even the latter word—most certainly nothing can be gathered from it as to the symbolic force of ῥομφαία. The most natural interpretation of ῥομφαία (comp. Rev 2:16, 1:16, 6:8, 19:15, 21) is that it is symbolic of the destroying power of Christ’s word—it implies external penal judgment; (see also Isa. 11:4; 2 Thess. 2:8). A comparison of the declaration of the following verse, “where Satan’s throne is,” with 2 Thess. 2:8 where it is declared that “the Lord shall consume with the Spirit (i. e., sword) of His mouth. … him, whose coming is after the working of Satan,” may shed light upon the use of this designation in this connection.—E. R. C.]
[The Am. Ed. would suggest that, by the expression My name in this place, and in Rev 3:8, is meant Christ Himself in all His offices. Two meanings of the term ὄνομα seem to prevail in the New Testament. 1. The verbal expression (title) which designates any person or thing, as in Matt. 1:21, 10:2 etc. 2. The personality itself, as in Matt. 12:21: John 1:12, 2:23; Acts 3:16 (bis.), 4:12; Rom. 10:13, etc. To this class belongs the term when it occurs in such phrases as (1) for My name’s sake (Matt. 10:22, etc.) i. e., for My sake; (2) in My (or Thy) name (Matt. 24:5; John 17:12, etc., as the representative of My (or Thy) personality. A third sense is probably found, Rev 3:1. where it seems to indicate reputation; this sense, however, may be resolved into the first. The meaning assigned by Lange is unsupported by argument and is altogether unprecedented. The meaning suggested above is in accordance with a prevalent use of the term, and is consistent with the context.—E. R. C.]
[“As the shorter text runs (omitting αἷς), and probably also if we read the ταῖς of the Cod. Sin., Ἀντίπας is regarded as indeclinable, which circumstance has apparently led to all the perplexing varieties, of reading.” ALFORD.—E. R. C.]
Why not: offering resistance—the whole man?
[“Certainly it is not expressly asserted in Num. 31:16, that it was Balak whom Balaam advised to use this agency against Israel; but the narrative almost implies it. Balak was in power, and was the most likely person to authorize and put in force the scheme.” ALFORD.—E. R. C.]
[See note on Rev 2:12. The interpretation of Lange, in this and the preceding paragraph, requires us both to regard that which was manifestly spoken of as a threat against the persistently unrepentant, as a promise of highest blessing; and to take πολεμεῖν in the altogether unnatural and unprecedented sense of indicating the convincing influence of the Spirit. Comp. comment on Rev 2:12.—E. R. C.]
[The sins of Jezebel and her followers can hardly be styled “fanaticism;” they were lapses into idolatry and impurity (see note on Rev 2:20). The eyes of flame are not only indicative of spirit-searching power (Rev 2:23) but also of the wrath of the Son of God, the Husband of the Church, flaming against those guilty of spiritual, as well as physical, adultery.—E. R. C.].
[It is true that “the seduction to fornication occupies the foremost place,” but it is intimately conjoined with the eating of things sacrificed to idols. This conjunction, together with the distinct reference to the Old Testament Jezebel, implies that the fornication itself was connected with idolatry. Now, whilst it is conceivable that Christian fanaticism (i. e., fanaticism starting from Christianity) may have assumed the form of an improper intercourse of (he sexes, it is utterly inconceivable that it could have assumed that of idolatry. Far better is it to regard Jezebel as a heathen at heart, and those seduced by her, as errorists led astray by her heathen teaching, than as fanatics. She may indeed have been a heathen, but not a Christian, fanatic.—E. R. C.]
[The Church excommunicates; the woe here threatened is one that Christ Himself threatens and inflicts. Excision from the visible Church is not necessarily implied, but rather that spiritual corruption and death which follow a withdrawal of the influences of the Spirit.—E. R. C.]
[The view thus characterized is supported by a comparison of the sins of the Jezebelites with Acts 15:28, 29. In that passage abstinence from these very sins is enjoined, viz.: ἀπέχεσθαι εἰδωλοθύτων … καί πορνείας, and is characterized as a βάρος in almost the same language here employed. In support of the view advocated by Lange, it must be admitted, are the words of our Lord, Rev 2:20, “thou sufferest that woman,” etc., implying the duty of casting her out of the church. The reason assigned for this interpretation in the following paragraph is futile: The “iron sceptre” was not promised to the Church Militant, as an organism, but to individuals; and not to individuals in the present state of conflict, but to those who, at “the end,” should appear as conquerors (Rev 2:25–27).—E. R. C.]
[That Christianity possesses a power over the heathen world is not denied; the power, however, is not that of “the iron sceptre” (Rev 2:2)—the power of government. The adjournment of these promises to the day of the Parousia is in accordance with the express language of Christ Himself. See the preceding note, and the Excursus on the Basileia, ii.; (comp. Luke 19:17).—E. R. C.]