Vincent's Word Studies
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;
Ephesus was built near the sea, in the valley of the Cayster, under the shadows of Coressus and Prion. In the time of Paul it was the metropolis of the province of Asia. It was styled by Pliny the Light of Asia. Its harbor, though partly filled up, was crowded with vessels, and it lay at the junction of roads which gave it access to the whole interior continent. Its markets were the "Vanity Fair" of Asia. Herodotus says: "The Ionians of Asia have built their cities in a region where the air and climate are the most beautiful in the whole world; for no other region is equally blessed with Ionia. For in other countries, either the climate is over-cold and damp, or else the heat and drought are sorely oppressive" (i., 142).
In Paul's time it was the residence of the Roman proconsul; and the degenerate inhabitants descended to every species of flattery in order to maintain the favor of Rome. The civilization of the city was mingled Greek and Oriental. It was the head-quarters of the magical art, and various superstitions were represented by different priestly bodies. The great temple of Diana, the Oriental, not the Greek divinity, was ranked among the seven wonders of the world, and Ephesus called herself its sacristan (see on Acts 19:27). To it attached the right of asylum. Legend related that when the temple was finished, Mithridates stood on its summit and declared that the right of asylum should extend in a circle round it, as far as he could shoot an arrow; and the arrow miraculously flew a furlong. This fact encouraged moral contagion. The temple is thus described by Canon Farrar: "It had been built with ungrudging magnificence out of contributions furnished by all Asia - the very women contributing to it their jewels, as the Jewish women had done of old for the Tabernacle of the Wilderness. To avoid the danger of earthquakes, its foundations were built at vast cost on artificial foundations of skin and charcoal laid over the marsh. It gleamed far off with a star-like radiance. Its peristyle consisted of one hundred and twenty pillars of the Ionic order, hewn out of Parian marble. Its doors of carved cypress wood were surmounted by transoms so vast and solid that the aid of miracles was invoked to account for their elevation. The staircase, which led to the roof, was said to have been cut out of a single vine of Cyprus. Some of the pillars were carved with designs of exquisite beauty. Within were the masterpieces of Praxiteles and Phidias and Scopas and Polycletus. Paintings by the greatest of Greek artists, of which one - the likeness of Alexander the Great by Apelles - had been bought for a sum equal in value to 5,000 of modern money, adorned the inner walls. The roof of the temple itself was of cedar-wood, supported by columns of jasper on bases of Parian marble. On these pillars hung gifts of priceless value, the votive offerings of grateful superstition. At the end of it stood the great altar adorned by the bas-relief of Praxiteles, behind which fell the vast folds of a purple curtain. Behind this curtain was the dark and awful shrine in which stood the most sacred idol of classic heathendom; and again, behind the shrine, was the room which, inviolable under divine protection, was regarded as the wealthiest and securest bank in the ancient world "("Life and Work of St. Paul," ii., 12).
Next to Rome, Ephesus was the principal seat of Paul's labors. He devoted three years to that city. The commonly received tradition represents John as closing his apostolic career there. Nothing in early Church history is better attested than his residence and work in Ephesus, the center of the circle of churches established by Paul in Ionia and Phrygia.
Who walketh (ὁ περιπατῶν)
More than standeth. The word expresses Christ's activity on behalf of His Church.
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:
Thy works (τὰ ἔργα σοῦ)
See on John 4:47.
Them which are evil (κακοὺς)
Trench observes that "it is not a little remarkable that the grace or virtue here ascribed to the angel of the Ephesian Church (compare Revelation 2:6) should have a name in classical Greek: μισοπονηρία hatred of evil; the person of whom the grace is predicated being μισοπόνηρος hater of evil; while neither of these words, nor yet any equivalent to them occurs in the New Testament. It is the stranger, as this hatred of evil, purely as evil, however little thought of or admired now, is eminently a Christian grace."
Hast tried (ἐπειράσω)
And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
The best texts omit οὐ κέκμηκας hast not grown weary, and read καὶ οὐ κεκοπίακες hast not grown weary. The transcribers supposed the verb κοπιάω to mean only to labor; whereas it includes the sense of weariness from labor.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Not in the text, and unnecessary. The following clause is the object of I have. "I have against thee that thou hast left," etc. "It is indeed a somewhat which the Lord has against the Ephesian Church; it threatens to grow to be an everything; for see the verse following" (Trench). For the phrase have against, see Matthew 5:23; Mark 11:25; Colossians 3:13.
Hast left (ἀφῆκας)
Rev., more correctly, rendering the aorist, didst leave. The verb originally means to send, away or dismiss. See on John 4:3.
Compare Jeremiah 2:2. The first enthusiastic devotion of the Church to her Lord, under the figure of conjugal 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.
Thou art fallen (ἐκπέπτωκας)
Lit., hast fallen out.
I will come (ἔρχομαι)
Rev., correctly, Icome.
Will remove thy candlestick
"Its candlestick has been for centuries removed out of his place; the squalid Mohammedan village which is nearest to its site does not count one Christian in its insignificant population; its temple is a mass of shapeless ruins; its harbor is a reedy pool; the bittern booms amid its pestilent and stagnant marshes; and malaria and oblivion reign supreme over the place where the wealth of ancient civilization gathered around the scenes of its grossest superstitions and its most degraded sins" (Farrar, "Life and Work of Paul," ii., 43, 44).
John employs the verb κινέω remove (Rev., move) only in Revelation, and only once besides the present instance, in Revelation 6:14, where, as here, it signifies moving in judgment.
But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
From νικᾶν to conquer, and λαός the people. There are two principal explanations of the term. The first and better one historical. A sect springing, according to credible tradition, from Nicholas a proselyte of Antioch, one of the seven deacons of Jerusalem (Acts 6:5), who apostatized from the truth, and became the founder of an Antinomian Gnostic sect. They appear to have been characterized by sensuality, seducing Christians to participate in the idolatrous feasts of pagans, and to unchastity. Hence they are denoted by the names of Balaam and Jezebel, two leading agents of moral contamination under the Old Testament dispensation. Balaam enticed the Israelites, through the daughters of Moab and Midian, to idolatry and fornication (Numbers 25; Numbers 31:16). Jezebel murdered the Lord's prophets, and set up idolatry in Israel. The Nicolaitans taught that, in order to master sensuality, one must know the whole range of it by experience; and that he should therefore abandon himself without reserve to the lusts of the body, since they concerned only the body and did not touch the spirit. These heretics were hated and expelled by the Church of Ephesus (Revelation 2:6), but were tolerated by the Church of Pergamum (Revelation 2:15). The other view regards the name as symbolic, and Nicholas as the Greek rendering of Balaam, whose name signifies destroyer or corrupter of the people. This view is adopted by Trench ("Seven Churches"), who says: "The Nicolaitans are the Balaamites; no sect bearing the one name or the other; but those who, in the new dispensation, repeated the sin of Balaam in the old, and sought to overcome or destroy the people of God by the same temptations whereby Balaam had sought to overcome them before." The names, however, are by no means parallel: Conqueror of the people not being the same as corrupter of the people. Besides, in Revelation 2:14, the Balaamites are evidently distinguished from the Nicolaitans.
Alford remarks: "There is no sort of reason for interpreting the name otherwise than historically. It occurs in a passage indicating simple matters of historical fact, just as the name Antipas does in Revelation 2:13."
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.
He that hath an ear, etc.
To him that overcometh (τῷ νικῶντι)
A formula common to all these Epistles. The verb is used absolutely without any object expressed. It is characteristic of John, occurring once in the Gospel, six times in the First Epistle, sixteen times in Revelation, and elsewhere only Luke 11:22; Romans 3:4; Romans 12:21.
This phrase has a place in every one of these Epistles. The verb is John's habitual word for the privileges and functions of the Son, whether as bestowed upon Him by the Father, or dispensed by Him to His followers. See John 3:35; John 5:22, John 5:27, John 5:36; John 6:65; John 13:3; John 17:6. Compare Revelation 2:23; Revelation 3:8; Revelation 6:4; Revelation 11:3.
Of the tree (ἐκ ξύλου)
The preposition ἐκ out of occurs one hundred and twenty-seven times in Revelation, and its proper signification is almost universally out of; but this rendering in many of the passages would be so strange and unidiomatic, that the New Testament Revisers have felt themselves able to adopt it only forty-one times out of all that number, and employ of, from, by, with, on, at, because of, by reason of, from among. See, for instance, Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:21, Revelation 2:22; Revelation 6:4, Revelation 6:10; Revelation 8:11; Revelation 9:18; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 15:2; Revelation 16:21. Compare John 3:31; John 4:13, John 6:13, John 6:39, John 6:51; John 8:23, John 8:44; John 9:6; John 11:1; John 12:3, John 12:27, John 12:32; John 17:5.
Tree, lit., wood. See on Luke 23:31; see on 1 Peter 2:24. Dean Plumptre notes the fact that, prominent as this symbol had been in the primeval history, it had remained unnoticed in the teaching where we should most have looked for its presence - in that of the Psalmist and Prophets of the Old Testament. Only in the Proverbs of Solomon had it been used, in a sense half allegorical and half mystical (Proverbs 3:18; Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 15:4). The revival of the symbol in Revelation is in accordance with the theme of the restitution of all things. "The tree which disappeared with the disappearance of the earthly Paradise, reappears with the reappearance of the heavenly." To eat of the tree of life expresses participation in the life eternal. The figure of the tree of life appears in all mythologies from India to Scandinavia. The Rabbins and Mohammedans called the vine the probation tree. The Zend Avesta has its tree of life called the Death-Destroyer. It grows by the waters of life, and the drinking of its sap confers immortality. The Hindu tree of life is pictured as growing out of a great seed in the midst of an expanse of water. It has three branches, each crowned with a sun, denoting the three powers of creation, preservation, and renovation after destruction. In another representation Budha sits in meditation under a tree with three branches, each branch having three stems. One of the Babylonian cylinders discovered by Layard, represents three priestesses gathering the fruit of what seems to be a palm-tree with three branches on each side. Athor, the Venus of the Egyptians, appears half-concealed in the branches of the sacred peach-tree, giving to the departed soul the fruit, and the drink of heaven from a vial from which the streams of life descend upon the spirit, a figure at the foot of the tree, like a hawk, with a human head and with hands outstretched.
In the Norse mythology a prominent figure is Igdrasil, the Ash-tree of Existence; its roots in the kingdom of Eels or Death, its trunk reaching to heaven, and its boughs spread over the whole universe. At its foot, in the kingdom of Death, sit three Nornas or Fates, the Past, the Present, and the Future, watering its roots from the sacred well. Compare Revelation 22:2, Revelation 22:14, Revelation 22:19. Virgil, addressing Dante at the completion of the ascent of the Purgatorial Mount, says:
"That apple sweet, which through so many branches
The care of mortals goeth in pursuit of,
Today shall put in peace thy hungerings."
"Purgatorio," xxvii., 115-117.
See on Luke 23:43. Omit in the midst of. Παράδεισος Paradise "passes through a series of meanings, each one higher than the last. From any garden of delight, which is its first meaning, it comes to be predominantly applied to the garden of Eden, then to the resting-place of separate souls in joy and felicity, and lastly to the very heaven itself; and we see eminently in it, what we see indeed in so many words, how revealed religion assumes them into her service, and makes them vehicles of far higher truth than any which they knew at first, transforming and transfiguring them, as in this case, from glory to glory" (Trench).
And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
Lying a little north of Ephesus, on a gulf of the same name. The original city was destroyed about b.c. 627, and was deserted and in ruins for four hundred years. Alexander the Great contemplated its restoration, and his design was carried out after his death. The new city was built a short distance south of the ancient one, and became the finest in Asia Minor, being known as the glory of Asia. It was one of the cities which claimed the honor of being Homer's birthplace. A splendid temple was erected by the Smyrnaeans to his memory, and a cave in the neighborhood of the city was shown where he was said to have composed his poems. Smyrna's fine harbor made it a commercial center; but it was also distinguished for its schools of rhetoric and philosophy. Polycarp was the first bishop of its church, which suffered much from persecution, and he was said to have suffered martyrdom in the stadium of the city, a.d. 166. It is argued with some plausibility that Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna at the time of the composition of Revelation, and was the person addressed here. This question, however, is bound up with that of the date of composition (see Trench, "Epistles to the Seven Churches"). The city was a seat of the worship of Cybele the Mother of the gods, and of Dionysus or Bacchus.
Was dead (ἐγένετο νεκρὸς)
Lit., became dead.
Is alive (ἔζησεν)
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.
Thy works and
Because, like all the other early Christian churches, the majority of its members were of the poorer classes, and also, perhaps, with reference to their robbery by persecutors. See on poor, Matthew 5:3.
See on Mark 7:22. Not primarily direct blasphemy against God, but reviling at believers.
Literally. Not Christians, as in Philippians 3:3; Romans 2:28, Romans 2:29. Actually Jews by birth, but not spiritually. The title is not given them by the Spirit, nor by the seer, but by themselves; and none would use that title except such as were Jews by birth and by religion. The enmity of the Jews against Christians is a familiar fact to all readers of the book of Acts; and it is a matter of history that their malignity was especially displayed toward the Church of Smyrna. In the circular letter addressed by the Church of Smyrna to the churches in the Christian world, it is related that Jews joined with heathen in clamoring that Polycarp should be cast to the lions or burned alive, and were foremost ὡς ἔθος αὐτοῖς (as was their wont) in bringing logs for the pile, and in the endeavor to prevent the remains of the martyr from being delivered to his Christian associates for burial.
Synagogue of Satan
For synagogue, see on assembly, James 2:2, the only passage in which the word is used for a Christian assembly. This fact goes to support the literal explanation of the term Jews. For Satan, see on Luke 10:18. For John's use of the expression the Jews, see on John 1:19. The use of the word here in an honorable sense, so different from John's custom, has been urged against his authorship of Revelation. But John here only quotes the word, and, further, employs it without the article.
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.
Fear not (υηδὲν φοβοῦ)
Lit., fear nothing. For the verb, see on Luke 1:50.
Behold (ἰδοὺ δὴ)
The particle δὴ for certain, which is not rendered, gives a quality of assurance to the prediction.
The Devil (διάβολος)
See on Matthew 4:1. The persecution of the Christians is thus traced to the direct agency of Satan, and not to the offended passions or prejudices of men. Trench observes: "There is nothing more remarkable in the records which have come down to us of the early persecutions, than the sense which the confessors and martyrs and those who afterwards narrate their sufferings and their triumphs entertain and utter, that these great fights of affliction through which they were called to pass, were the immediate work of the Devil."
Shall cast (μέλλει βαλεῖν)
Rev., rightly, is about to cast.
See on Acts 5:21.
May be tried (πειρασθήτε)
Tempted. See on 1 Peter 1:7.
Tribulation ten days (θλῖψιν ἡμερῶν δέκα)
Lit., a tribulation of ten days.
Be thou (γίνον)
The exact force of the word cannot be given by a corresponding word in English. Lit., "become thou." There is to be a succession of trials demanding an increase in the power and a variety in the direction of faith. With reference to these trials, faithfulness is to be not only existent but becoming, developing with new strength and into new applications.
Unto death (ἄχρι θανάτου)
Not faithful until the time of death, but faithful up to a measure which will endure death for Christ's sake. "It is an intensive, not an extensive term."
A crown (τὸν στέφανον)
Rev., rightly, "the crown." See on 1 Peter 5:4; see on James 1:12. Crown is used with a variety of words: crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8); glory (1 Peter 5:4); beauty Isaiah 62:3, Sept., A.V., glory); pride (Isaiah 28:1); rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
Of life (τῆς ζωῆς)
The full phrase is the crown of the life: i.e., the crown which consists in life eternal. The image is not taken from the Greek games, although Smyrna contained a temple of Olympian Jupiter, and Olympian games were celebrated there. It is the diadem of royalty rather than the garland of victory, though more commonly used in the latter sense. It is not likely that John would use an image from the games, since there was the most violent prejudice against them on the part of Jewish Christians; a prejudice which, on occasions of their celebration, provoked the special ferocity of the pagans against what they regarded as the unpatriotic and unsocial character of Christ's disciples. It was at the demand of the people assembled in the stadium that Polycarp was given up to death. Moreover, it is doubtful whether any symbol in Revelation is taken from heathenism. The imagery is Jewish.
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.
Be hurt (ἀδικηθῇ)
An expression peculiar to the Revelation. See Revelation 20:6, Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:8. In those two passages it is defined as the lake of fire. The death awaiting the wicked after judgment.
And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
The proper form of the name is Pergamum. It was situated in Teuthrania in Mysia, in a district watered by three rivers, by one of which it communicated with the sea. The original city was built on a lofty hill, which afterward became the citadel as houses sprang up around its base. The local legends attached a sacred character to the place, which, together with its natural strength, made it a place of deposit for royal treasure. The city was mainly indebted to Eumenes II.((b.c. 197-159) for its embellishment and extension. In addition to walks and public buildings, he founded the library, which contained two-hundred-thousand volumes, and was second only to that of Alexandria. The kingdom of Pergamum became a Roman province b.c. 130; but the city continued to flourish, so that Pliny styled it by far the most illustrious of Asia. All the main roads of Western Asia converged there. Pergamum was celebrated for the manufacture of ointments, pottery, tapestries, and parchment, which derives its name (charta Pergamena) from the city. It contained a celebrated and much-frequented temple of Aesculapius, who was worshipped in the form of a living serpent fed in the temple. Hence Aesculapius was called the God of Pergamum, and on the coins struck by the town he often appears with a rod encircled by a serpent. The great glory of the city was the Nicephorium, a grove of great beauty containing an assemblage of temples. The city has been described as a sort of union of a pagan cathedral-city, a university-town, and a royal residence, embellished during a succession of years by kings who all had a passion for expenditure and ample means of gratifying it. The streams which embraced the town irrigated the groves of Nicephorium and of Aesculapius, in which flourished the licentious rites of pagan antiquity. The sacred character of the city appears in coins and inscriptions which described the Pergamenes by the title claimed by the worshippers of Diana at Ephesus, νεωκόροι temple-sweepers or sacristans.
The sharp sword with two edges
See on Revelation 1:16.
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.
Rev., rightly, throne, which is a transcript of the Greek word. Better than seat, because it is intended to represent Satan as exercising dominion there. The word is used in the New Testament of a kingly throne (Luke 1:32, Luke 1:52; Acts 2:30): of the judicial tribunal or bench (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30): of the seats of the elders (Revelation 4:4; Revelation 11:16). Also, by metonymy, of one who exercises authority, so, in the plural, of angels (Colossians 1:16), thrones belonging to the highest grade of angelic beings whose place is in the immediate presence of God.
Holdest fast (κρατεῖς)
See on 1 John 1:7.
See on Acts 6:7.
There is no other record of this martyr.
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.
Rev., better, teaching.
A stumbling-block (σκάνδαλον)
Lit., in the sight of. See on Luke 24:11.
Things sacrificed to idols (εἰδωλόθυτα)
In the A.V. the word is rendered in four different ways: meats offered to idols (Acts 15:29): things offered to idols (Acts 21:25): things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols (1 Corinthians 8:4); and as here Rev., uniformly, things sacrificed to idols.
The eating of idol meats, which was no temptation to the Jewish Christian, was quite otherwise to the Gentile. The act of sacrifice, among all ancient nations, was a social no less than a religious act. Commonly only a part of the victim was consumed as an offering, and the rest became the portion of the priests, was given to the poor, or was sold again in the markets. Hence sacrifice and feast were identified. The word originally used for killing in sacrifice (θύειν) obtained the general sense of killing (Acts 10:13). Among the Greeks this identification was carried to the highest pitch. Thucydides enumerates sacrifices among popular entertainments. "We have not forgotten," he says, "to provide for our weary spirits many relaxations from toil. We have regular games and sacrifices throughout the year" (ii., 38). So Aristotle: "And some fellowships seem to be for the sake of pleasure; those of the followers of Love, and those of club-diners; for these are for the sake of sacrifice and social intercourse" ("Ethics," viii., 9, 5). Suetonius relates of Claudius, the Roman Emperor, that, on one occasion, while in the Forum of Augustus, smelling the odor of the banquet which was being prepared for the priests in the neighboring temple of Mars, he left the tribunal and placed himself at the table with the priests ("Claudius," 33). Also how Vitellius would snatch from the altar-fire the entrails of victims and the corn, and consume them ("Vitellius," 13). Thus, for the Gentile, "refusal to partake of the idol-meats involved absence from public and private festivity, a withdrawal, in great part, from the social life of his time." The subject is discussed by Paul in Romans 14:2-21, and 1 Corinthians 8:1-11:1. The council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) forbade the eating of meat offered to idols, not as esteeming it forbidden by the Mosaic law, but as becoming a possible occasion of sin to weak Christians. In his letter to the Corinthians, among whom the Jewish and more scrupulous party was the weaker, Paul, in arguing with the stronger and more independent party, never alludes to the decree of the Jerusalem council, but discusses the matter from the stand-point of the rights of conscience. While he admits the possibility of a blameless participation in a banquet, even in the idol-temple, he dissuades from it on the ground of its dangerous consequences to weak consciences, and as involving a formal recognition of the false worship which they had renounced at their baptism. "In the Epistle to the Romans we see the excess to which the scruples of the weaker brethren were carried, even to the pitch of abstaining altogether from animal food; as, ill the Nicolaitans of the Apocalyptic churches, we see the excess of the indifferentist party, who plunged without restraint into all the pollutions, moral as well as ceremonial, with which the heathen rites were accompanied" (Stanley, "On Corinthians"). "It may be noted as accounting for the stronger and more vehement language of the Apocalypse, considered even as a simply Human book, that the conditions of the case had altered. Christians and heathen were no longer dwelling together, as at Corinth, with comparatively slight interruption to their social intercourse, but were divided by a sharp line of demarcation. The eating of things sacrificed to idols was more and more a crucial test, involving a cowardly shrinking from the open confession of a Christian's faith. Disciples who sat at meat in the idol's temple were making merry with those whose hands were red with the blood of their fellow-worshippers, and whose lips had uttered blaspheming scoffs against the Holy Name" (Plumptre).
In times of persecution, tasting the wine of the libations or eating meat offered to idols, was understood to signify recantation of Christianity.
So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Even as Balak had Balaam for a false teacher, so hast thou the Nicolaitan teachers.
See on Revelation 2:6.
Which thing Ihate
Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
I will make war (πολεμήσω)
The words war and make war occur oftener in Revelation than in any other book of the New Testament. "An eternal roll of thunder from the throne" (Renan).
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.
Of the hidden manna (τοῦ μάννα τοῦ κεκρυμμένου)
The allusion may be partly to the pot of manna which was laid up in the ark in the sanctuary. See Exodus 16:32-34; compare Hebrews 9:4. That the imagery of the ark was familiar to John appears from Revelation 11:19. This allusion however is indirect, for the manna laid up in the ark was not for food, but was a memorial of food once enjoyed. Two ideas seem to be combined in the figure:
1. Christ as the bread from heaven, the nourishment of the life of believers, the true manna, of which those who eat shall never die (John 6:31-43, John 6:48-51); hidden, in that He is withdrawn from sight, and the Christian's life is hid with Him in God (Colossians 3:3). 2. The satisfaction of the believer's desire when Christ shall be revealed. The hidden manna shall not remain for ever hidden. We shall see Christ as He is, and be like Him (1 John 3:2). Christ gives the manna in giving Himself "The seeing of Christ as He is, and, through this beatific vision, being made like to Him, is identical with the eating of the hidden manna, which shall, as it were, be then brought forth from the sanctuary, the holy of holies of God's immediate presence where it was withdrawn from sight so long, that all may partake of it; the glory of Christ, now shrouded and concealed, being then revealed to His people" (Trench).
This is one of numerous illustrations of the dependence of Revelation upon Old Testament history and prophecy. "To such an extent is this the case," says Professor Milligan, "that it may be doubted whether it contains a single figure not drawn from the Old Testament, or a single complete sentence not more or less built up of materials brought from the same source." See, for instance, Balaam (Revelation 2:14); Jezebel (Revelation 2:20); Michael (Revelation 12:7, compare Daniel 10:13; Daniel 12:1); Abaddon (Revelation 9:11); Jerusalem, Mt. Zion, Babylon, the Euphrates, Sodom, Egypt (Revelation 21:2; Revelation 14:1; Revelation 16:19; Revelation 9:14; Revelation 11:8); Gog and Magog (Revelation 20:8, compare Ezekiel 38, 39). Similarly, the tree of life, the sceptre of iron, the potter's vessels, the morning-star (Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:27, Revelation 2:28). Heaven is described under the figure of the tabernacle in the wilderness (Revelation 11:1, Revelation 11:19; Revelation 6:9; Revelation 8:3; Revelation 11:19; Revelation 4:6). The song of the redeemed is the song of Moses (Revelation 15:3). The plagues of Egypt appear in the blood, fire, thunder, darkness and locusts (Revelation 8:1-13). "The great earthquake of chapter 6 is taken from Haggai; the sun becoming black as sackcloth of hair and the moon becoming blood (Revelation 8:1-13) from Joel: the stars of heaven falling, the fig-tree casting her untimely figs, the heavens departing as a scroll (Revelation 8:1-13) from Isaiah: the scorpions of chapter 9 from Ezekiel: the gathering of the vine of the earth (chapter 14) from Joel, and the treading of the wine-press in the same chapter from Isaiah." So too the details of a single vision are gathered out of different prophets or different parts of the same prophet. For instance, the vision of the glorified Redeemer (Revelation 1:12-20). The golden candlesticks are from Exodus and Zechariah; the garment down to the foot from Exodus and Daniel; the golden girdle and the hairs like wool from Isaiah and Daniel; the feet like burnished brass, and the voice like the sound of many waters, from Ezekiel; the two-edged sword from Isaiah and Psalms; the countenance like the sun from Exodus; the falling of the seer as dead from Exodus, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; the laying of Jesus' right hand on the seer from Daniel.
"Not indeed that the writer binds himself to the Old Testament in a slavish spirit. He rather uses it with great freedom and independence, extending, intensifying, or transfiguring its descriptions at his pleasure. Yet the main source of his emblems cannot be mistaken. The sacred books of his people had been more than familiar to him. They had penetrated his whole being. They had lived within him as a germinating seed, capable of shooting up not only in the old forms, but in new forms of life and beauty. In the whole extent of sacred and religious literature there is to be found nowhere else such a perfect fusion of the revelation given to Israel with the mind of one who would either express Israel's ideas, or give utterance, by means of the symbols supplied by Israel's history, to the present and most elevated thoughts of the Christian faith "(this note is condensed from Professor Milligan's "Baird Lectures on the Revelation of St. John").
A white stone (ψῆφον λευκὴν)
See on counteth, Luke 14:28; and see on white, Luke 9:29. The foundation of the figure is not to be sought in Gentile but in Jewish customs. "White is everywhere the color and livery of heaven" (Trench). See Revelation 1:14; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 7:9; Revelation 14:14; Revelation 19:8, Revelation 19:11, Revelation 19:14; Revelation 20:11. It is the bright, glistering white. Compare Matthew 28:3; Luke 24:4; John 20:12; Revelation 20:11; Daniel 7:9.
It is impossible to fix the meaning of the symbol with any certainty. The following are some of the principal views: The Urim and Thummim concealed within the High-Priest's breastplate of judgment. This is advocated by Trench, who supposes that the Urim was a peculiarly rare stone, possibly the diamond, and engraven with the ineffable name of God. The new name he regards as the new name of God or of Christ (Revelation 3:12); some revelation of the glory of God which can be communicated to His people only in the higher state of being, and which they only can understand who have actually received.
Professor Milligan supposes an allusion to the plate of gold worn on the High-Priest's forehead, and inscribed with the words "Holiness to the Lord," but, somewhat strangely, runs the figure into the stone or pebble used in voting, and regards the white stone as carrying the idea of the believer's acquittal at the hands of God.
Dean Plumptre sees in the stone the signet by which, in virtue of its form or of the characters inscribed on it, he who possessed it could claim from the friend who gave it, at any distance of time, a frank and hearty welcome; and adds to this an allusion to the custom of presenting such a token, with the guest's name upon it, of admission to the feast given to those who were invited to partake within the temple precincts - a feast which consisted wholly or in part of sacrificial meats.
Others, regarding the connection of the stone with the manna, refer to the use of the lot cast among the priests in order to determine which one should offer the sacrifice.
Others, to the writing of a candidate's name at an election by ballot upon a stone or bean.
In short, the commentators are utterly divided, and the true interpretation remains a matter of conjecture.
A new name
Some explain the new name of God or of Christ (compare Revelation 3:12); others, of the recipient's own name. "A new name however, a revelation of his everlasting title as a son of God to glory in Christ, but consisting of and revealed in those personal marks and signs of God's peculiar adoption of himself, which he and none other is acquainted with" (Alford). Bengel says: "Wouldst thou know what kind of a new name thou wilt obtain? Overcome. Before that thou wilt ask in vain, and after that thou wilt soon read it inscribed on the white stone."
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;
Situated on the confines of Mysia and Ionia. According to Pliny it was known in earlier times as Pelopia and Euhippia. Its prosperity received a new impulse under the Roman Emperor Vespasian. The city contained a number of corporate guilds, as potters, tanners, weavers, robe-makers, and dyers. It was from Thyatira that Lydia the purple-seller of Philippi came, Paul's first European convert. The numerous streams of the adjacent country were full of leeches. The principal deity of the city was Apollo, worshipped as the Sun-God under the surname Tyrimnas. A shrine outside the walls was dedicated to Sambatha, a sibyl. The place was never of paramount political importance.
Son of God
Who hath His eyes, etc.
Thy works, and the last, etc.
Omit and, and read, as Rev., and that thy last works are more than the first.
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.
A few things
Thou sufferest (ἐᾶς)
Used absolutely. Toleratest.
Rev., the woman. Some translate thy wife.
Used symbolically, but with reference to the notorious historic Jezebel. She was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon (1 Kings 16:31), formerly a priest of Astarte, and who had made his way to the throne by the murder of his predecessor Pheles. Ahab's marriage with her was the first instance of a marriage with a heathen princess of a king of the northern kingdom of Israel. This alliance was a turning-point in the moral history of the kingdom. From the times of David and Solomon many treaties had been concluded between Phoenicia and Israel; but it was at the same time the special business of the kingdom of the ten tribes to restore the ancient rigidness of the nationality of Israel. Jezebel looked down with perverse pride upon a people whose religion she neither understood nor respected. Though the ten tribes had yielded to idolatry in the worship of the calves, the true God was still worshipped and the law of Moses acknowledged. From the time of Ahab's marriage the apostasy of Israel became more decided and deadly. She was "a woman in whom, with the reckless and licentious habits of an Oriental queen, were united the fiercest and sternest qualities inherent in the old Semitic race. Her husband, in whom generous and gentle feelings were not wanting, was yet of a weak and yielding character which soon made him a tool in her hands.... The wild license of her life and the magical fascination of her arts or her character became a proverb in the nation. Round her and from her, in different degrees of nearness, is evolved the awful drama of the most eventful crisis of this portion of the Israelite history" (Stanley, "Jewish Church"). She sought to exterminate the prophets of Jehovah (1 Kings 18:13), and inaugurated the worship of Baal the Sun-God on a magnificent scale. Two sanctuaries were established, one for each of the great Phoenician deities, at each of the two new capitals of the kingdom, Samaria and Jezreel. The sanctuary of Astarte or Ashtaroth (the Phoenician Venus) at Jezreel was under Jezebel's special sanction, and there is reason to suppose that she ministered as a priestess in that licentious worship. Four hundred priests or prophets were attached to this sanctuary and were supported at her table. The sanctuary to Baal at Samaria was large enough to contain all the worshippers of the northern kingdom. Its staff consisted of four hundred and fifty priests, and the interior contained representations of the Sun-God on small pillars, while a large statue of the same deity was set up in front. At these sanctuaries Ahab in person offered sacrifices.
Expositors are divided as to the symbolic import of the name in this passage, some referring it to a single person - "some single wicked woman in the Church of Thyatira inheriting this name of infamy in the Church of God," giving herself out as a prophetess, and seducing the servants of Christ to commit fornication and to eat things offered to idols. Others interpret the name as designating an influential heretical party in the Church: but, as Alford remarks, "the real solution must lie hidden until all that is hidden shall be known." It is clear, at any rate, that Thyatira, like the Church of old, had sinned by her alliance with a corrupt faith and practice.
To teach and to seduce (διδάσκειν καὶ πλανᾶσθαι)
The best texts read καὶ διδάσκει and she teacheth and seduceth. So Rev. For seduceth see on err, Mark 12:24, and see on deceiver and error, Matthew 27:63, Matthew 27:64. The word πλανᾶν to seduce is found oftener in Revelation than elsewhere in the New Testament. It never means mere error as such, but fundamental departure from the truth.
To commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols
And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
Lit., time, as Rev.
Of her fornication (ἐκ)
Lit., out of; i.e., so as to come out of and escape from her sin. See on Revelation 2:7.
Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
Into a bed
Of anguish. The scene of the sin is also the scene of the punishment.
Commit adultery (μοιχεύοντας)
With her (μετ' αὐτῆς)
Not with her as the conjux adulteri, but who share with her in her adulteries.
Of their deeds (ἐκ τῶν ἔργων αὐτῶν)
Read αὐτῆς her (deeds). Repent out of (ἐκ) as in Revelation 2:21.
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.
Emphatic. Distinguished from the participators of Revelation 2:22, as her proper adherents, "who are begotten of her and go to constitute her." Others, however, deny any distinction (Milligan), and others (as Trench) explain as the less forward and prominent members of the wicked company, deceived where the others were the deceivers.
With death (ἐν θανάτῳ)
To kill with death is a very strong expression. Compare Leviticus 20:10, Sept., θανάτῳ θανατούσθωσαν shall be put to death (A. V. and Rev.). Lit., let them be put to death with death. The reference can hardly be to the slaughter of Ahab's seventy sons (2 Kings 10:6, 2 Kings 10:7) who were not Jezebel's children.
All the churches
Not merely the seven churches, but the churches throughout the world.
Shall know (γνώσονται)
See on John 2:24.
See John 5:39; John 7:52; Romans 8:27. Compare Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 20:12; 1 Peter 1:11. Denoting a careful search, a following up or tracking. See Genesis 31:35; 1 Kings 20:6; Proverbs 20:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10.
Only here in the New Testament. Strictly, kidneys. Used of the thoughts, feelings, and purposes of the soul. A similar use of the physical for the spiritual organ is σπλάγχνα bowels for heart. See pitiful, 1 Peter 3:8.
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.
And unto the rest
Omit and, and render, as Rev., to you I say, to the rest, etc.
And which (καὶ οἵτινες)
Omit καὶ and. The compound relative, which, classifies; which are of those who know not, etc.
The depths of Satan (τὰ βάθη τοῦ Σατανᾶ)
The reference is, most probably, to the Gnostic sect of the Ophites (ὄφις a serpent), or, in Hebrew, Naasenes (naash a serpent), serpent-worshippers, a sect the origin of which is unknown, but which existed as late as the sixth century; since, in 530, Justinian passed laws against it. "The veneration of the serpent was but the logical development of a theory, the germ of which is common to many of the Gnostic sects. Proceeding on the assumption that the creator of the world is to be regarded as an evil power, a thing in hostility to the supreme God, it follows as a natural consequence that the fall of man through disobedience to the command of his maker must be regarded, not as a transgression against the will of the supreme God, but as an emancipation from the authority of an evil being. The serpent, therefore, who tempted mankind to sin, is no longer their destroyer but their benefactor. He is the symbol of intellect, by whose means the first human pair were raised to the knowledge of the existence of higher beings than their creator. This conception, consistently carried out, would have resulted in a direct inversion of the whole teaching of scripture; in calling evil good and good evil; in converting Satan into God and God into Satan. The majority of the Ophite sects, however, seem to have shrunk from this portentous blasphemy. While acknowledging the fall of man as, in some manner, a deliverance from evil and an exaltation of human nature, they hesitated to carry out their principle by investing the evil spirit with the attributes of deity. A kind of compromise was made between scripture and philosophy. The serpent was, notwithstanding his service to mankind, represented as a being of evil nature and au enemy to man, though his work was overruled to man's good, and he himself was, beyond his intention, the instrument of a higher wisdom. Rut in one sect at least of the Ophites, the more logical and thoroughly blasphemous consequences of the first principles were exhibited openly and unblushingly" (Mansel, "Gnostic Heresies"). The characteristic boast of the Gnostics was their knowledge of the depths of divine things. In this they were probably perverting and caricaturing the words of Paul (Romans 11:33; 1 Corinthians 2:10).
As they speak
Rev., as they say. The questions are, 1st. What is the phrase alluded to? Is it the familiar formula of these heretics, "the depths," or "the depths of God," the depths of Satan being added by the Lord himself in ironical contrast with the depths of divine knowledge, - or is it the depths of Satan? 2nd. Does as they say refer to Christians, describing the depths of the Gnostics as depths of Satan, or does it refer to the heretics themselves, calling their own mysteries depths of Satan?
The majority of commentators regard as they say as referring to the heretics, and as applying only to the word depths; of Satan being added by the Lord in indignation. Alford says that no such formula as depths of Satan, or any resembling it, is found as used by the ancient Gnostic heretics.
Other burden (ἄλλο βάτος)
The words for burden in the New Testament are ὄγκος (only in Hebrews 12:1), βάρος (Matthew 20:12; Galatians 6:2), and φορτίον (Matthew 11:30; Matthew 23:4; Galatians 6:5). ὄγκος refers to bulk, βάρος to weight, φορτίον to a burden so far as it is born (φέρω). Thus in Hebrews 12:1, "lay aside every weight (ὄγκος)," the figure being that of runners in the race-course, and the word appropriate as denoting the bulky robes and the accoutrements of the ordinary dress which might impede the freedom of the limbs. In Matthew 20:12, "the burden (βάρος) and heat of the day," the idea is that of heavy toil pressing like a weight. So Galatians 6:2, "Bear ye one another's burdens." But in Galatians 6:5, the emphasis is on the act of bearing; and therefore φορτίον is used: "Every man shall bear his own burden;" i.e., every man shall carry that which it is appointed him to bear. The reference in that passage is probably to the prohibition enjoined by the apostolic council of Jerusalem, which concerned the very things which are rebuked here - fornication and abstinence from idol-meats. In the narrative of that council the phrase occurs "to lay upon you no greater burden" (Acts 15:28). The meaning accordingly will be, "I put upon you no other burden than abstinence from and protest against these abominations."
But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
Hold fast (κρατήσατε)
Till I come (ἄχρις οὗ ἂν ἥξω)
The conditional particle ἂν marks the time of His coming as uncertain.
And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
Keepeth my works (τηρῶν τὰ ἔργα μου)
The phrase occurs only here in the New Testament. The works are those which Christ commands, which He does, and which are the fruits of His Spsrit. See on John 4:47.
See on John 1:12. Rev., better, authority.
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.
Shall rule (ποιμανεῖ)
Lit., shall shepherd. A comparison with Revelation 7:17, brings out the terrible irony in this word. Compare Psalm 2:9, Sept., where the same word is used. A.V., break. See on rule, Matthew 2:6; see on feed, Acts 20:28; see on 1 Peter 5:2; see on Jde 1:12.
Commonly rendered staff, once sceptre, Hebrews 1:8. This is its meaning here.
Of the potter (κεραμικὰ)
From κέραμος potter's clay.
Shall they be broken to shivers
The A.V. follows the reading συντριβήσεται, the future tense of the verb. The correct reading is συντρίβεται, the present tense. Render therefore, as Rev., "as the vessels of the potter are broken." See on Mark 5:4, and see on bruising, Luke 9:39. The σύν together gives the picture of the fragments collapsing into a heap.
And I will give him the morning star.
The morning-star (τὸν ἀστέρα τὸν πρωΐ́νόν)
The star, that of the morning. One of John's characteristic constructions. See on 1 John 4:9. The reference is, most probably, to Christ himself. See Revelation 22:16. He will give Himself. This interpretation falls in with the promise of power over the nations in Revelation 2:26. The star was the ancient emblem of sovereignty. See Numbers 24:17; Matthew 2:2. "It was the symbol of sovereignty on its brighter and benignant side, and was therefore the fitting and necessary complement of the dread attributes that had gone before. The king came not only to judge and punish, but also to illumine and cheer" (Plumptre). Compare 2 Peter 1:19.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.