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;
From Whom the Epistle Comes.
I. The form that John beheld in the opening vision, and at whose feet he fell down as dead, was that of the glorified Jesus, arrayed as a royal Priest, holding seven stars in His right hand. The holding has energy in it; none can pluck them out of His hand. These stars are explained to be the angels of the Churches. Through them as chosen agency the Lord is pleased to impart light to the Churches. The fact that the Lord holds the stars in His right hand seems to symbolise that they belong to Him, are dependent upon Him for their place and lustre, are His gift for the illumination of His people, and give. Him pleasure by their clear shining. They are not like torches, consuming their own substance and speedily going out; they derive their light from the source of light.
II. The main idea to be apprehended from the symbol of a golden candlestick is that a Church is designed to hold up and hold forth the word of life. It is not merely that individual believers are lights in the world and ought to let their light shine, but a Church viewed as a community ought to do so. This design is to be carried out in part by the various arrangements and methods whereby a public exhibition is made of the Gospel. These methods may be included under the general head of preaching, which is the proclamation of the Gospel without selecting your audience, and irrespective of moral condition, culture, social rank, nationality, geographical limits, or any other distinction between man and man.
III. The Lord walketh in the midst of the candlesticks. This walking in the midst implies inspection. But we must not be misled, as if this inspection were designed only for a terror and a check to evil. The Lord's searching eye is welcome to the believer. Knowing this, we may not only be willing to have His light shine in upon us, but we may well pray that He would search and know our heart, in order that He may lead us in the way everlasting.
J. Culross, Thy First Love, p. 14.
I. We have in this symbol important truths concerning the Churches and their servants. Note (1) that the messengers are rulers. They are described in a double manner: by a name which expresses subordination and by a figure which expresses authority. I need not do more than remind you that throughout Scripture, from the time when Baalam beheld from afar the star that should come out of Jacob and the sceptre that should rise out of Israel, that has been the symbol for rulers. It is so notably in this book of Revelation. (2) The messengers and the Churches have at bottom the same work to do. Stars shine, so do lamps. So all Christian men have the same work to do. The ways of doing it differ, but the thing done is one. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man for the same purpose: to do good with. And we have all one office and function, to be discharged by each in his own fashion—namely, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (3) Again, observe the Churches and their messengers are alike in their religious condition and character. There is such a constant interaction and reciprocal influence that uniformity results. Either a living teacher will, by God's grace, quicken a languid Church, or a languid Church will, with the devil's help, stifle the life of the teacher.
II. Note the Churches and their work. (1) The Church is to be light—light, silent, gentle, and itself invisible. (2) The Church's light is derived light. (3) It is blended or clustered light.
III. The text shows us the Churches and their Lord. He is with them to hold up and to bless. His unwearied hand sustains, His unceasing activity moves among, them. He is with us to observe, to judge, and, if need be, to punish. Let us hold fast by the Lord, whose blood has purchased, and whose presence preserves through all the unworthiness and the lapses of men, that Church against which the gates of hell shall not prevail.
A. Maclaren, Sermons in Manchester, 2nd series, p. 150.
To Whom the Epistle is Sent.
The letter to Ephesus is addressed "unto the angel of the Church." It is an unwarranted inference that Christ is hereby putting the Church at a distance. He is simply employing the most natural instrumentality that could under the circumstances be employed to communicate with them and to restore them to their first love.
I. Who or what, then, was the angel of the Church of Ephesus? According to one view, he was a purely spiritual being, appointed of the Lord to be the guardian or ministering angel of that particular Christian community. A second view makes the angel of the Church a purely ideal figure or personification, having no real, but only an imaginary, existence, and intended, in a highly symbolical book, to denote the manner of spirit characterising the particular Christian community. A powerful objection to both these views is that a letter, written with pen and ink on paper or parchment, is required to be put into the hands of the angel, to be communicated to the Church, which could not be done if he were a celestial being or a mere ideal personification or symbol.
II. Without entering into discussion, I can say that we must regard the angel as a name either for the eldership collectively, or for a single individual occupying a place of service and responsibility under Christ, and the natural channel of communication with the Church—in all likelihood a lowly, undistinguished man. He who knows and believes the great message of the Gospel has a right to tell it forth and expound it to his fellow-men. I do not say that he has a right to be listened to that is for the hearer to judge. The man to whom the Lord gives fitness for this service and whom He calls to it is in so far the Lord's "angel" or messenger; and in each of the seven Churches there was, as a matter of fact, one such man as Christ's minister, known and acknowledged to be such by his brethren. The letter, however, while it is directed to the angel and while it undoubtedly touches him first, is not a personal and private one. It is for universal use. Every age needs it, and every age is summoned to listen.
J. Culross, Thy First Love, p. 1.
Reference: Revelation 2:1-7.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. ii., p. 186.
Revelation 2:2What Christ approves in Ephesus.
These words disclose the Lord's marvellous generosity. He is quick to see and ready to acknowledge all the good that exists among His people; in this how different from many that speak in His name, and who are perpetually engaged in faultfinding and depreciation. Even where we err, we may ask Him to overrule and bless our very blunders.
I. First the Lord says, "I know thy works." There is to be no dealing with us in the dark, as man is oftentimes compelled to deal with his fellow-man. He brings us into the light. The true knowing of a man's work involves the knowing of the heart, inasmuch as the quality of the work depends on the motive. It is because of this that even our own works are so ill understood by us. There are dim, half-lighted chambers of thought into which we have not penetrated with all our self-scrutiny, and a cunning self-complacency gives everything a turn in our own favour. The Lord knows all our works.
II. Opening out His initial statement, the Lord says, "I know thy labour and patience." (1) One department of labour is Christian learning; (2) a second thought is the labour involved in spreading the Gospel; (3) standing out as the grandest of all things is the doing of Christ's will in our daily life.
III. The Gospel is essentially intolerant—intolerant, not merely of evil in the abstract, but of evil men. Such men we must learn to "try" as the Ephesian Church did. And if they are liars, then, whatever their professions of zeal, spirituality, or holiness, we must reject them.
IV. The patience of Ephesus is commended. Christian patience is not the result of a process of deadening the sensibilities. There is nothing stoical in it, no pretence that we do not feel, but the hardihood that is associated with the keenest capacity of suffering, and that has its root in a firm confidence in God.
J. Culross, Thy First Love, p. 27.
Reference: Revelation 2:3.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1069.
Revelation 2:4What was Wrong in Ephesus.
I. The spectacle Ephesus presented was that of a Church working most laboriously and patiently, the machinery kept steadily in motion, all at work and always at work, but with waning love, the fires going down. The word "somewhat" in our English version suggests that the evil was comparatively slight. In point of fact, however, there is no "somewhat" in the original, and the charge is really a very grave and serious one: "I have against thee that thou hast left thy first love." It is as if the doctor, called in to prescribe for what you deem a trifling ailment, should startle you by pronouncing, "There is disease of the heart."
II. How is this decline of love to be accounted for? The answer must vary according to the case. In the onset we must be clear about this: that it is not due to any capricious action on the part of Christ, to any unaccountable desertion of the soul by Him, to any arbitrary hiding of Himself behind a veil, far less to any change in His heart. (1) One man tries to retain the joy of conversion all his days, without making any progress or seeking anything beyond. A kind of fitful emotion is kindled, a flashing up of affection with vows of fresh consecration and a better life, followed in a little while by apathy and gloom, and he resigns himself helplessly to let things take their course. This cause of declension is operating today more widely and subtly than many of us think. (2) Another cause of waning love is the abuse of self-examination. It is beset with many and most subtle dangers. (3) Again, a Christian man becomes absorbed in worldly pursuits and enjoyments. He has no time for spiritual pursuits, for meditation, for making acquaintance with things unseen and eternal. Can any one be surprised that he loses his first love? Would it not be a miracle if he kept it? Or again, there are worldly friendships, followed in no long space by worldly conformity. "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?"
J. Culross, Thy First Love, p. 62.
References: Revelation 2:4.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 217; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 42. Revelation 2:4, Revelation 2:5.—Ibid., Sermons, vol. xxxii., No. 1926.
Revelation 2:5The Cure of what was Wrong.
How shall old, faded love be revived? In reply to this question, a great many plans have been proposed and urged, while the Lord's own method has been either overlooked or perversely set aside. The directions He gives are few and simple, but they go to the very core of the matter, whether it be a single individual who has left his first love or a whole Church. Let us mark the things that He names, and the order in which He names them. Memory, conscience, will, are called into play.
I. "Remember whence thou art fallen." That is sure to be painful, but it is the first step towards healing. There was a better estate, an estate that has been left by thine own fault; thou art "fallen" from it. Remember this better estate; call it up again into memory; live the old days over again, those days of heaven upon earth when the name of Jesus sounded so sweetly in your ears, and joy dwelt in your soul. Take the best of them, the most heavenlike of them, and in thought live them over again. This is one of the most blessed uses of memory, and it is the first step in a return to first love.
II. "And repent." This is the Lord's second word of direction. It is an absolutely vital word. He who summons to repentance will see to it that nothing of needful grace is lacking. He "gives" repentance, and we are to take this for granted without need of argument, however dull or insensible our hearts may have become. This word "repent" is one of the profoundest words in the Bible, however superficially modern evangelism or modern legalism may deal with it. It does not indicate mere regret, such as may be caused by the consequence of our actions. That regret may be the beginning of good, but of itself it is not repentance. Repentance is a change in the mind. It implies a true sense of sin and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ. It is the turning of the inner being from sin to God.
III. The Lord's third word is this, "And do the first works." They might seem at Ephesus to have ground for saying, "We have never ceased working from the very beginning," and in a sense they had not. But their works were not the same as at first; in a measure the love was out of them, the love that not merely made them vital, but gave them beauty in the Lord's sight. The summons to do the first works is, therefore, a summons to begin, as it were, over again, throwing love into every deed. To secure compliance He adds this word of warning: "Or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent." He will bring salutary fear into play as well as gratitude, love, and hope. It is not loss of the soul that is threatened, but loss of the privilege of usefulness and the suppression of them as a Church. The sure way to ruin and extinguish a Christian Church as a light in the world is that it should lose its love.
J. Culross, Thy First Love, p. 86.
Those who have fallen in the Church and those who are fallen from the Church are both to be found in the midst of us. The world abounds with backsliders in heart and in life; and if the census could be taken of the multitudes now irreligious, of the prayerless households and Sabbathless families, the result would be something absolutely appalling.
I. Some of the ordinary causes of falling: (1) adverse or persecuting influence brought to bear upon the soul; (2) an overweening attachment to the present world; (3) self-confidence; (4) a neglect of secret intercourse with God. Only the heart that has renewed its strength on the mount can maintain its consistent walk with the multitude and its influential citizenship in the world, and it is certain that many of the temptations under whose terrible pressure so many are apt to yield would either be entirely disarmed, or would assail with diminished power, if the soul were strengthened from the onset by secret fellowship and prayer.
II. The signs that it has taken place. The Scriptures speak of individuals who may have left their first love, while many of the characteristics of a religious profession continue to be maintained, backsliders in heart, who hang on as useless encumbrances to a Church from which their affections are estranged. Minor apostacy prepares the way for greater; the restraints of conscience once violated, the gap grows wider and wider; easy is the descent to perdition, and you are speeding thither. Your only safety is in a renewed application to the Saviour, who has promised to heal your backslidings and to love you freely.
W. M. Punshon, Sermons, p. 51.
Revelation 2:6What was Hopeful in Ephesus.
At a first glance this verse seems out of its place. It looks like a part of the Lord's commendation that had been forgotten at the proper moment, and is now mentioned as an afterthought. A little reflection, however, shows that it occupies its proper place, and it carries force from this very fact. Here is, so to speak, a starting-point for return to first love. This very "hatred" will make the revival of love the easier. Let them be encouraged and take heart and hope accordingly.
I. I do not think we can speak with much certainty about Nicolaitanism. We may set it down as a heathenish mode of life under a Christian designation, turning the grace of God into licentiousness, a reconciling of Christian faith with the practice of fleshly lusts, or Antinomian principles.
II. The Ephesian believers had not been poisoned by that false and deadly charity which speaks smooth and honeyed things to sin, and stands on friendly terms with it. They "hated" the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, and we are to take the word "hate" in its full force as the opposite of love. Coexistent with hatred of their deeds, there doubtless was compassion for the men themselves and some endeavour to save them.
III. Christ hates as well as loves. He would not be perfect if He did not; He would lack one of the most regal qualities of His nature. The angel of the Church of Ephesus was at one with Christ in hating the deeds of the Nicolaitanes; and this, so far as it went, was a token of vitality and vigour in the Church's system, and it formed a starting-point for return to first love. It was not merely a good sign, but a good thing. Once let a Church or an individual cease to be shocked by Nicolaitane deeds, make light of them, wink at them, apologise for them, and the downward course is all but certain. On the other hand, so long as evil is sternly hated, there is not merely the possibility, but the hope, of returning first love, with all that this restoration involves.
J. Culross, Thy First Love, p. 95.
Reference: Revelation 2:6.—W. Arnot, Good Words, vol. iii., pp. 189-191.
Revelation 2:7The Promise to the Overcomer.
I. In Ephesus the special evil to be contended against was the waning of first love. The overcomer, therefore, in Ephesus, would be the man who rose above the tendencies to waning love, the man in whose heart love continued, not merely to abide, but to deepen and intensify. Health and strength might fail, inducing physical languor; age might come stealing on, with its feebleness and loss of enjoyment; but even unto death would love continue, profounder, and more ardent, and more fit for service and sacrifice in the end than the beginning, able to take up the glorious challenge, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"
II. To this victor, loving on in spite of deadening and benumbing influences, a very great promise is given. The promise is announced with the utmost solemnity, in the hearing of the whole Church, in order that all might be inspired for the conflict, the promise of blissful and glorious, if yet mysterious reward, not as bribe, but as hope set before them. The doctrine of reward is really a further disclosure of the infinite generosity of Christ, and is fitted to captivate the heart. In suspecting the doctrine, we are really mistrusting, if not blaming, Christ Himself.
III. The Christian victor shall eat of fruit that grows in the paradise of God; the overcomer shall enjoy a Divinely sustained and everlasting life. While the life eternal in its beginnings is a present possession of the believer in Jesus, yet in its glorious fulness, or what Jesus calls its abundance, it shall be also the future reward of him that overcometh. What we are sure of is that body, soul, and spirit shall all share in the perfectness of the redemption; and that the perfected and triumphant life of love shall have suitable nourishment, Divinely provided and supplied, in the fruit of the tree of life. The very mystery of the promise enkindles desire, and gives intensity to the prayer, "Even so come, Lord Jesus."
J. Culross, Thy First Love, p. 103.
The Tree of Life.
We always look with great interest on any representation of a future state of things which borrows its imagery from the paradise wherein our first parents were placed. There is nothing which more assures us how complete will be the final triumph of the Redeemer than sketches of the thorough restoration of what sin hath destroyed or defaced, so that the garden of Eden shall again blossom in all its loveliness, and be once more filled with its sacramental mysteries. The question is not whether these sketches are accurate delineations of what is yet to occur. They may be only employed as parables, and not to be literally interpreted. But the mere fact that representations of the future are given in what may be called the language of paradise does always seem to us a most striking proof that the effects of redemption shall at last be commensurate with those of apostacy; so that there is nothing of what the one hath lost which shall not be finally recovered through the other. Let this globe resume its lost place among the morning stars of the universe, let its first verdure return, and everything like discord and unhappiness be banished from its habitations, and then will there be a demonstration such as can hardly be given on any other supposition that Christ Jesus hath effected the very purpose for which He was "manifested"—namely, "that He might destroy the works of the devil."
I. Our text is a beautiful instance of the employment of what we call the imagery of paradise. Our Lord Himself is the Speaker. He is addressing the Church of Ephesus, which, though still presenting many things for which it gains commendation, had somewhat declined from its first love, and needed, therefore, to be bidden to remember from whence it had fallen—to "repent and do the first works." And Christ would encourage the Ephesians to the attempting of the recovery of the ground which has been lost by speaking to them of the recompense which is laid up for the righteous: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches." The Christian life must be a warfare: a constant battle has to be maintained with "the world, the flesh, and the devil"; but "to him that overcometh"—to him who perseveres to the end, "fighting the good fight of faith"—to him "will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God."
II. We must not forget that our text refers to the heavenly state. The paradise in the midst of which is the tree of life is the final dwelling-place of those who shall overcome in the "good fight of faith." Therefore we must not illustrate the matter under review by reference to what belongs only to our present condition. Yet who shall say that what is figuratively set forth by the combination of the river and the tree will not equally hold good in our eternal inheritance? Rather, since it is in our eternal inheritance that the combination is represented as subsisting, we are bound to believe that the river, whose streams shall "make glad the city of our God," will be bordered hereafter, as it is now, by the tree of life; in other words, that Christ and the Spirit will never be separated from the experience and the happiness of the Church. The occupation and gladness of eternity shall greatly consist, we may believe, in the searching more deeply into the mysteries of redemption and comprehending more and more that love which will always pass knowledge. Now we see only through a glass, darkly; and dim and feeble are our apprehensions of that magnificent scheme which perhaps includes the whole universe of animated beings in that unlimited mercy which held nothing too costly that this scheme might be perfected. But hereafter, in the manhood of our faculties and in possession of eternal life, we shall be admitted into acquaintance with the height, and depth, and breadth of the Atonement; and we shall be able at last so to climb, and penetrate, and explore, as vastly to outstrip our present feeble progress, though the result of every advance may be that untravelled immensity is still stretching beyond. And why may we not suppose that in these our lofty and glorious researches we shall be aided by the Spirit who now "takes of the things of Christ and shows them" to the soul?
III. But the Evangelist John tells us yet more of this tree of life—more by which he encourages us in the endeavour to overcome all the enemies of our salvation. It may be that wherever the river rolls only one species of tree is found on its banks; nevertheless there is no sameness, for we are told of this tree that it bears twelve manner of fruits, and yields fruit every month. It is not, surely, for us to suppose the number of twelve is the exact number of fruits which are produced. The number is evidently given with reference to the length of the year, that we may know that the tree, unlike every other tree, yields fruit at all seasons, and is at no time barren—a beautiful emblem of the Lord our Redeemer! He is represented as the tree of life, inasmuch as He is the root whence every order of being derives its animation. But He is also the tree of life to sinners who have banished themselves from paradise, where that tree was first planted. The grand thing for us to be satisfied of in reference to the Redeemer is that there is in Him a supply for our every necessity. If He be the tree of life, we must be able to obtain from Him whatever we require as candidates for immortality. And what can more admirably affirm that He is such a tree than the saying that it bears twelve manner of fruits and yieldeth fruit every month? This is certainly a description, if any can be, of the largeness and fulness of the Mediator's office. This sets before us the Mediator as offering to every individual case exactly what is suited to its circumstances. We do not believe that the variety and sufficiency which we can now find in the Mediator shall have ceased in another state of being. There will not, indeed, be precisely the same wants to satisfy, nor the same desires to appease; and therefore neither do we suppose that precisely the same fruits will hang on the branches of the tree. But this is only saying that the fruits change with the season. Why should they be the same beneath the cloudless shinings of eternity as amid the bleak winds of time? Nevertheless there may be a great variety, and yet there may still be the twelve manner of fruits. There are to be degrees in heaven hereafter, each being happy up to the full measure of his capacity, but the capacity of one differing from that of another, as "one star differeth from another star in glory." Why may not this be represented by the twelve manner of fruits? Why may we not think that when the tree of life grows in the midst of the celestial paradise—for we read of no other tree, though every species were found in the terrestrial—and when this is represented as yielding varieties of produce, why may we not think that it is a figurative declaration that Christ will hereafter fill the capacities of the whole company of the redeemed, giving Himself to each individual exactly in that measure in which there is power to receive Him? Every one who enters heaven shall find himself made perfectly happy. Eating of that tree which is in the midst of the paradise of God, he will enjoy in full measure the highest felicity of which he is capable. But there must be warfare, struggle, endurance, beforehand. "To him that overcometh," to no other, is the promise made. Fight, then, as those who strive for the mastery. The prize is worth the conflict. Yet a little while, and the battle shall be ended; and they who have "overcome," by the aid of that Spirit "which speaketh unto the Churches," shall sit down beneath the shadow of "the tree of life," and its fruits shall be "sweet to their taste."
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1807.
References: Revelation 2:7.—G. T. Coster, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 206; J. Oswald Dykes, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 248. Revelation 2:8-10.—T. Hammond, Ibid., vol. xv., p. 204. Revelation 2:8-11.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. ii., p. 374.
Revelation 2:10Faithfulness is the main distinction of the noblest and best of all these angels of Christ's Church. The high moral excellence of honourably discharging the duties which were assigned to them is obviously made by our Lord the great principle and test of acceptable service. These words of the Master mean—
I. Faithfulness to the human heart. We sometimes make mistakes by not listening to what our hearts tell us about our fellow-men. When under the power of conscience, in the hard grip of logic, and amid the unyielding dicta of our theological dogmas, we are often in danger of forgetting some of the most fundamental facts of human nature which are witnessed to us by our "heart of hearts."
II. Faithfulness to the conscience. The spirit that overcomes the world is the spirit of Christ. It is only when we arm the soul with the same mind that was in Him, only when we take up the cross to follow Him even to Calvary, and there to suffer with Him, that we can gain the victory. He has promised victory to him that overcometh.
III. Faithfulness to our Master and His word under all circumstances. We may be forgotten by our fellows, hidden from all eyes but His; we may have no sympathy from companions, no cheering words from comrades in the fight; we may even hear nothing further on this score from the great Captain of our salvation. But we must be faithful unto death in our spirit, our trust, our obedience, and our love. He looks at death as a foe whom He has worsted; He knows the mettle and the malice of His great antagonist; He has put him to the proof, and the proof was too great. Whereas we tremble at the thought of the encounter, with Him it is the moment of our discharge from doubt, from temptation, from servitude, from waiting, from patience, from tedious toil; to Him it is our acceptance of the reward, the crown, and the glory.
H. R. Reynolds, Notes of the Christian Life, p. 353.
I. These words of the Divine Redeemer imply that a sacred trust has been confided to our keeping.
II. Fidelity in keeping our sacred trust is another point brought out in the text. "Be thou faithful" is the command of our Lord and Saviour to every one who has enlisted in His holy service.
III. The length of the period to which our faithfulness is expected to extend is "unto death"—"faithful" at home and abroad; "faithful" in prosperity and adversity; "faithful" through the whole course of our lives; "faithful unto death. A reward is promised in the text to all who have loved the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity which should stir up the most languid of us to renewed and increasing effort: "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
J. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 494.
References: Revelation 2:10.—E. Paxton Hood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 257. Revelation 2:12-17.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. ii., p. 433. Revelation 2:13.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 155.
Revelation 2:17The New Name.
I. The new name is Christ's and ours. It is His first; it becomes ours by communication from Him. (1) It includes revelation: "I will give him a new name"—a deeper, a more inward, a fresh knowledge and revelation of My own character, as eternal love, eternal wisdom, all-sufficient, absolute power, the home, and treasure, and joy, and righteousness of the whole heart and spirit. (2) On this new revelation of the name of Christ there follows as a consequence assimilation to the name which we possess, or transformation into the likeness of Him whom we behold. The gift of the name is such an inward revelation of Christ in His glory and perfectness as presupposes full sympathy with Him as its condition, and implies a still more thorough conformity to Him as its result. (3) Then there is a third idea implied in the promise, if the new name be Christ's, and that is possession or consecration. His name is given; that is, His character is revealed, His character is imparted, and further by the gift He takes as well as gives: He takes us for His own even in giving Himself to be ours. It is a sign of ownership and authority to impose one's name. We belong to Him in the measure in which we are like Him. He possesses us in the measure in which we possess His name—that is, His revealed self.
II. Look at the other thought which is here, namely, that this new name is unknown, except by its possessor. The text seems to imply that though there shall be no isolation in heaven, which is the perfection of society, there may be incommunicable depths of blessed experience even there. We must possess to understand; we must stand before the throne to apprehend; and after countless ages we shall have to say, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be."
III. The text gives the condition and the true cause of possessing this new nature. The new name is won and given; it comes as the reward of victory; it comes as a bestowment from Christ: "To him that overcometh will I give." No heaven except to the victor. The victor does not fight his way into heaven, but Christ gives it to Him.
A. Maclaren, Sermons in Manchester, vol. iii., p. 75.
Revelation 2:17I. Note the large hopes which gather round this promise of a new name. (1) The new name means new vision; (2) it means new activities; (3) it means new purity; (4) it means new joys.
II. Look at the connection between Christ's new name and ours. Our new name is Christ's new name stamped upon us. On the day of the bridal of the Lamb and the Church the bride takes her Husband's name.
III. Note the blessed secret of this new name. There is only one way to know the highest things of human experience, and that is by possessing them.
IV. Note the giving of the new name to the victors. The renovation of the being and efflorescence into new knowledges, activities, perfections, and joys, is only possible on condition of the earthly life of obedience, and service, and conquest.
A. Maclaren, The Unchanging Christ, p. 223.
References: Revelation 2:17.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iii., p. 50; Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 304. Revelation 2:18-29.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. iii., p. 48. Revelation 2:21.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iii., p. 233. Revelation 2:23.—S. Minton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 280. Revelation 2:25.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. vi., p. 161. Revelation 3:1-6.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. iii., p. 204; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 303. Revelation 3:2.—J. H. Thom, Laws of Life, p. 281. Revelation 3:4.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii., No. 68; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 343. Revelation 3:7.—Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 167.
I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
And I will give him the morning star.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.