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  • JAMIESON-FAUSSET-BROWN - REVELATION 2
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    CHAPTER 2

    Re 2:1-29. EPISTLES TO EPHESUS, SMYRNA, PERGAMOS, THYATIRA.

    Each of the seven epistles in this and the third chapter, commences with, "I know thy works." Each contains a promise from Christ, "To him that overcometh." Each ends with, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." The title of our Lord in each case accords with the nature of the address, and is mainly taken from the imagery of the vision, Re 1:12-16. Each address has a threat or a promise, and most of the addresses have both. Their order seems to be ecclesiastical, civil, and geographical: Ephesus first, as being the Asiatic metropolis (termed "the light of Asia," and "first city of Asia"), the nearest to Patmos, where John received the epistle to the seven churches, and also as being that Church with which John was especially connected; then the churches on the west coast of Asia; then those in the interior. Smyrna and Philadelphia alone receive unmixed praise. Sardis and Laodicea receive almost solely censure. In Ephesus, Pergamos, and Thyatira, there are some things to praise, others to condemn, the latter element preponderating in one case (Ephesus), the former in the two others (Pergamos and Thyatira). Thus the main characteristics of the different states of different churches, in all times and places, are portrayed, and they are suitably encouraged or warned.

    1. Ephesus--famed for the temple of Diana, one of the seven wonders of the world. For three years Paul labored there. He subsequently ordained Timothy superintending overseer or bishop there: probably his charge was but of a temporary nature. John, towards the close of his life, took it as the center from which he superintended the province.
    - holdeth--Greek, "holdeth fast," as in Re 2:25; Re 3:11; compare Joh 10:28, 29. The title of Christ here as "holding fast the seven stars (from Re 1:16: only that, for having is substituted holding fast in His grasp), and walking in the midst of the seven candlesticks," accords with the beginning of His address to the seven churches representing the universal Church. Walking expresses His unwearied activity in the Church, guarding her from internal and external evils, as the high priest moved to and fro in the sanctuary.

    2. I know thy works--expressing His omniscience. Not merely "thy professions, desires, good resolutions" (Re 14:13, end).
    - thy labour--Two oldest manuscripts omit "thy"; one supports it. The Greek means "labor unto weariness."
    - patience--persevering endurance.
    - bear--evil men are a burden which the Ephesian Church regarded as intolerable. We are to "bear (the same Greek, Ga 6:2) one another's burdens" in the case of weak brethren; but not to bear false brethren.
    - tried--by experiment; not the Greek for "test," as 1Jo 4:1. The apostolical churches had the miraculous gift of discerning spirits. Compare Ac 20:28-30, wherein Paul presciently warned the Ephesian elders of the coming false teachers, as also in writing to Timothy at Ephesus. TERTULLIAN [On Baptism, 17], and JEROME [On Illustrious Men, in Lucca 7], record of John, that when a writing, professing to be a canonical history of the acts of Paul, had been composed by a presbyter of Ephesus, John convicted the author and condemned the work. So on one occasion he would not remain under the same roof with Cerinthus the heretic.
    - say they are apostles--probably Judaizers. IGNATIUS [Epistle to the Ephesians, 6], says subsequently, "Onesimus praises exceedingly your good discipline that no heresy dwells among you"; and [Epistle to the Ephesians, 9], "Ye did not permit those having evil doctrine to sow their seed among you, but closed your ears."

    3. borne . . . patience--The oldest manuscripts transpose these words. Then translate as Greek, "persevering endurance . . . borne." "Thou hast borne" My reproach, but "thou canst not bear the evil" (Re 2:2). A beautiful antithesis.
    - and . . . hast laboured, and hast not fainted--The two oldest manuscripts and oldest versions read, "and . . . hast not labored," omitting "and hast fainted." The difficulty which transcribers by English Version reading tried to obviate, was the seeming contradiction, "I know thy labor . . . and thou hast not labored." But what is meant is, "Thou hast not been wearied out with labor."

    4. somewhat . . . because--Translate, "I have against thee (this) that," &c. It is not a mere somewhat"; it is everything. How characteristic of our gracious Lord, that He puts foremost all He can find to approve, and only after this notes the shortcomings!
    - left thy first love--to Christ. Compare 1Ti 5:12, "cast off their first faith." See the Ephesians' first love, Eph 1:15. This epistle was written under Domitian, when thirty years had elapsed since Paul had written his Epistle to them. Their warmth of love had given place to a lifeless orthodoxy. Compare Paul's view of faith so called without love, 1Co 13:2.

    5. whence--from what a height.
    - do the first works--the works which flowed from thy first love. Not merely "feel thy first feelings," but do works flowing from the same principle as formerly, "faith which worketh by love."
    - I will come--Greek, "I am coming" in special judgment on thee.
    - quickly--omitted in two oldest manuscripts, Vulgate and Coptic versions: supported by one oldest manuscript.
    - remove thy candlestick out of his place--I will take away the Church from Ephesus and remove it elsewhere. "It is removal of the candlestick, not extinction of the candle, which is threatened here; judgment for some, but that very judgment the occasion of mercy for others. So it has been. The seat of the Church has been changed, but the Church itself survives. What the East has lost, the West has gained. One who lately visited Ephesus found only three Christians there, and these so ignorant as scarcely to have heard the names of St. Paul or St. John" [TRENCH].

    6. But--How graciously, after necessary censure, He returns to praise for our consolation, and as an example to us, that we would show, when we reprove, we have more pleasure in praising than in fault-finding.
    - hatest the deeds--We should hate men's evil deeds, not hate the men themselves.
    - Nicolaitanes--IRENÆUS [Against Heresies, 1.26.3] and TERTULLIAN [Prescription against Heretics, 46] make these followers of Nicolas, one of the seven (honorably mentioned, Ac 6:3, 5). They (CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA [Miscellanies, 2.20 3.4] and EPIPHANIUS [Heresies, 25]) evidently confound the latter Gnostic Nicolaitanes, or followers of one Nicolaos, with those of Revelation. MICHAELIS' view is probable: Nicolaos (conqueror of the people) is the Greek version of Balaam, from Hebrew "Belang Am," "Destroyer of the people." Revelation abounds in such duplicate Hebrew and Greek names: as Apollyon, Abaddon: Devil, Satan: Yea (Greek, "Nai"), Amen. The name, like other names, Egypt, Babylon, Sodom, is symbolic. Compare Re 2:14, 15, which shows the true sense of Nicolaitanes; they are not a sect, but professing Christians who, like Balaam of old. tried to introduce into the Church a false freedom, that is, licentiousness; this was a reaction in the opposite direction from Judaism, the first danger to the Church combated in the council of Jerusalem, and by Paul in the Epistle to Galatians. These symbolical Nicolaitanes, or followers of Balaam, abused Paul's doctrine of the grace of God into a plea for lasciviousness (2Pe 2:15, 16, 19; Jude 4, 11 who both describe the same sort of seducers as followers of Balaam). The difficulty that they should appropriate a name branded with infamy in Scripture is met by TRENCH: The Antinomian Gnostics were so opposed to John as a Judaizing apostle that they would assume as a name of chiefest honor one which John branded with dishonor.

    7. He that hath an ear--This clause precedes the promise in the first three addresses, succeeds it in the last four. Thus the promises are enclosed on both sides with the precept urging the deepest attention as to the most momentous truths. Every man "hath an ear" naturally, but he alone will be able to hear spiritually to whom God has given "the hearing ear"; whose "ear God hath wakened" and "opened." Compare "Faith, the ears of the soul" [CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA].
    - the Spirit saith--What Christ saith, the Spirit saith; so one are the Second and Third Persons.
    - unto the churches--not merely to the particular, but to the universal Church.
    - overcometh--In John's Gospel (Joh 16:33) and First Epistle (1Jo 2:13, 14; 5:4, 5) an object follows, namely, "the world," "the wicked one." Here, where the final issue is spoken of, the conqueror is named absolutely. Paul uses a similar image (1Co 9:24, 25; 2Ti 2:5; but not the same as John's phrase, except Ro 12:21).
    - will I give--as the Judge. The tree of life in Paradise, lost by the fall, is restored by the Redeemer. Allusions to it occur in Pr 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4, and prophetically, Re 22:2, 14; Eze 47:12; compare Joh 6:51. It is interesting to note how closely these introductory addresses are linked to the body of Revelation. Thus, the tree of life here, with Re 22:1; deliverance from the second death (Re 2:11), with Re 20:14; 21:8; the new name (Re 2:17), with Re 14:1; power over the nations, with Re 20:4; the morning star (Re 2:28), with Re 22:16; the white raiment (Re 3:5), with Re 4:4; 16:15; the name in the book of life (Re 3:5), with Re 13:8; 20:15; the new Jerusalem and its citizenship (Re 3:12), with Re 21:10.
    - give . . . tree of life--The thing promised corresponds to the kind of faithfulness manifested. They who refrain from Nicolaitane indulgences (Re 2:6) and idol-meats (Re 2:14, 15), shall eat of meat infinitely superior, namely, the fruit of the tree of life, and the hidden manna (Re 2:17).
    - in the midst of the paradise--The oldest manuscripts omit "the midst of." In Ge 2:9 these words are appropriate, for there were other trees in the garden, but not in the midst of it. Here the tree of life is simply in the paradise, for no other tree is mentioned in it; in Re 22:2 the tree of life is "in the midst of the street of Jerusalem"; from this the clause was inserted here. Paradise (a Persian, or else Semitic word), originally used of any garden of delight; then specially of Eden; then the temporary abode of separate souls in bliss; then "the Paradise of God," the third heaven, the immediate presence of God.
    - of God-- (Eze 28:13). One oldest manuscript, with Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic, and CYPRIAN, read, "MY God," as in Re 3:12. So Christ calls God, "My God and your God" (Joh 20:17; compare Eph 1:17). God is our God, in virtue of being peculiarly Christ's God. The main bliss of Paradise is that it is the Paradise of God; God Himself dwelling there (Re 21:3).

    8. Smyrna--in Ionia, a little to the north of Ephesus. POLYCARP, martyred in A.D. 168, eighty-six years after his conversion, was bishop, and probably "the angel of the Church in Smyrna" meant here. The allusions to persecutions and faithfulness unto death accord with this view. IGNATIUS [The Martyrdom of Ignatius 3], on his way to martyrdom in Rome, wrote to POLYCARP, then (A.D. 108) bishop of Smyrna; if his bishopric commenced ten or twelve years earlier, the dates will harmonize. TERTULLIAN [The Prescription against Heretics, 32], and IR

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