Revelation 2 Commentary

Revelation 2

Dr Tony Garland

(Links immediately below go to Dr Garland's commentary)
Supplemental Commentary 
Dr Bruce Hurt

(links below go to the supplemental commentary)

Revelation 2:1

Having been commissioned by Christ to write “the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this” (Rev. 1:19+), John now records the things which are—Jesus’ assessment of the condition of the Seven Churches of Asia at the time John wrote. This subject will occupy Revelation 2:1-29+ and Revelation 3:1-22+ until John is called up to heaven at the beginning of Revelation 4:1+ in order to witness and record the things which will take place after this.The evaluation, exhortation, and promises which Jesus gives to each of the seven churches provide important insights into the conditions of the early church. The seven letters to the churches also challenge us today to examine our own lives to see which attributes of the seven churches, whether good and bad, are evident in our own lives?

the angel

See the discussion concerning the identity of the angel at Revelation 1:20.

the church of Ephesus

See Seven Churches of Asia.At the time of John’s writing, Ephesus was an important seaport city of the Roman province of Asia. Today, the site is stranded several miles from the sea on the edge of a swampy alluvial plain and the former harbor is marked by a reed-bed.1 Ephesus was famous for its Temple of Artemis (Diana in Latin), 425-feet long by 220-feet wide with each of its 120 columns donated by a king, one of the seven wonders of the world (Acts 19:27,35+).2

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus


The presence of the temple of Artemis (Diana) added to the commercial importance of Ephesus, for two reasons. First, the temple was regarded as sacrosanct throughout the Mediterranean world and thus became the primary banking institution of Asia Minor. Second, pilgrims swelled the population and contributed substantially to Ephesian business, especially during the festivals of Artemis (March/April). So prominent was the city that during the early Christian period the population of Ephesus probably exceeded a quarter million.4

The important place which Artemis held in the city, both religiously and commercially, can be seen by the riot which ensued in reaction to Paul’s ministry (Acts 19:24-41+). One of the months of the calendar was named after Artemis and a yearly celebration was held in her honor.5 The ancient temple of the great goddess identified with Artemis stood less than a mile outside the walls of the city.6 Ephesus also participated in the imperial cult where temples were built to Claudius, Hadrian, and Severus.7 Magic was a thriving art at Ephesus. Scripture records the value of books burned by those who practiced magic as “fifty thousand pieces of silver” (Acts 19:19+).8Ephesus also had a reputation as a seat of learning. Paul is recorded as having taught at one such established school, the School of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9+). Ephesus was the scene for Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho.9Ephesus was probably listed as the first city of the seven to receive the letter from John due to its proximity to Patmos (see Seven Churches of Asia - Why These 7 Churches? see map) and its key location on major overland routes:

Ephesus lay at the intersection of two ancient major overland routes: the coastal road that ran north through Smyrna and Pergamum to Troas (near ancient Troy); and the western route to Colossae, Hierapolis, Laodicea, and regions of Phrygia and beyond. Ephesus can also be viewed as the starting-point of a type of postal route . . . running north to Pergamum and southwest through Sardis to Laodicea.10

Although Paul ministered extensively at Ephesus: “The first arrival of the gospel in Ephesus is unrecorded. According to Acts 2:9+ Jews resident in Asia were present in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. And we are told of ‘disciples’ in Ephesus before Paul’s arrival, though they are represented as imperfectly instructed [Acts 19:1ff+; Acts 18:24ff+].”11Paul first visited Ephesus on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19-28) and on his third missionary journey taught there for a period of almost three years (Acts 20:31+). Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church from there.12 It was at Ephesus that Apollos, a disciple of John the Baptist, was instructed by Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:24-26+). When returning from his third missionary journey to Jerusalem, Paul passed by Ephesus, but stopped in Miletus. From there, he sent for and met with the elders of the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:17+). The church at Ephesus had plural eldership well in advance of John’s writing this letter (which adds to the difficulties attending the identification of the angel of the church—see commentary on Revelation 1:20). Paul asked Timothy to remain in Ephesus in his absence (1Ti. 1:3+) and wrote his epistle to the Ephesian church in A.D. 60-62 (after his third missionary journey, A.D. 53-57) which was delivered by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21+).Tradition holds that the John left Jerusalem prior to its destruction and in about A.D. 66 relocated to Ephesus which was his main place of ministry during the closing years of his life. If Mary were still alive, she would have undoubtedly traveled with him (John 19:27).

About 5 km (3 mi) from Ephesus was constructed the Basilica of St. John. John is supposed to be buried there. But Meinardus asks which John, since according to Eusebius (HE iii.3) Papias, the famed second-century bishop of Hierapolis, “asserts there were also two tombs in Ephesus, and that both are called John’s even to this day.” This church erected to the memory of John is not to be confused with the Church of the Virgin Mary in which the Council of Ephesus was held in A.D. 431, when Nestorius was condemned in the Theotokos issue. . . . The stones and pillars [of the Temple of Artemis] were used in the construction of both the great Basilica of St. Sophia at Constantinople and the early Church of St. John at Ephesus. . . . Although Ephesus lies in ruins today, the railway station nearby is called Ayasoluk, a corruption of Gk hagios Theologos, “the holy theologian,” a well-known reference in Eastern Christendom to the beloved Evangelist.13

holds the seven stars in His right hand

The titles which Jesus assumes in each letter are primarily derived from Revelation 1:12-18+ and are tailored to the message which attends each letter. Here, The Ephesian church has lost its first love (Rev. 2:4+). Jesus reminds them that it is He Who is the protector of the stars—they are held in His right hand, secure and in a position of favor (John 10:27-30). He has not left them, but they have left Him (Dt. 31:6, 8; Jos. 1:5; Mt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5). See commentary on Revelation 1:16.

walks in the midst

He is the One in the midst of the churches and will always be with them (Mt. 28:20), even if they have forsaken a close relationship with Him (Rev. 2:4+). See commentary on Revelation 1:13.

Revelation 2:2

I know

Perfect tense, οἶδα [oida], “I have known.” His knowledge of their past works results in the commendations and exhortations which presently follow.14 Christ is omniscient. See commentary on Revelation 1:14.

labor and patience

The Ephesian church had worked hard and born a consistent load of service. The Christian life, though full of joy, is also attended by much labor and hardship (2Cor. 11:27+). Continual labor requires continual patience. Believers are to persevere and not grow weary (Isa. 40:31+; Gal. 6:9+; 2Th. 3:13; Heb. 12:3). Those who die in the Tribulation are said to obtain rest from their labors and their works follow them (Rev. 14:13+).

cannot bear

The Ephesian church did not bear those who were evil. This must refer to the Scriptural application of church discipline to protect the gathering from those who were not truly of them (Mat. 18:17; 1Cor. 5:5; 1Ti. 6:3-5):

The sphere in which the Angel of Ephesus had the chief opportunity of manifesting this holy intolerance of evil-doers was, no doubt, that of Church-discipline, separating off from fellowship with the faithful those who named the name of Christ, yet would not depart from iniquity (2Ti. 2:19).15

A letter written by Ignatius (A.D. 98-117) mentions this commendable characteristic of the Ephesian church:

But I have learned that certain people . . . have passed your way with evil doctrine, but you did not allow them to sow it among you. You covered up your ears in order to avoid receiving the things being sown by them—Ignatius, The Letter of Ignatius to the Ephesians16

tested those

The Ephesian church was diligent in evaluating those who ministered in their midst.All things are to be tested by the measure of God’s Word (Isa. 8:20) and the fruit which is produced (Mat. 7:16). This is especially true of those things which are claimed to be of the Spirit of God, but are not (1Th. 5:2; 1Ti. 4:1; 1Jn. 4:1; Rev. 2:20+). The most serious threats to the Christian assembly come from within (Acts 20:29-31; 1Ti. 1:3-4).Peter warned of false teachers who would pattern themselves after the false prophets of the OT:

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. (2Pe. 2:1)

When the church accepts these false teachers, and fails to confront their error, then “the way of truth will be blasphemed.” A key attribute of such teachers is their deception—appearing to be what they are not. They are all the more effective in their convincing zeal since they themselves are deceived (2Ti. 3:13).It is a lamentable fact in our time that the Church seems unwilling to test its own. Application of the guidelines set forth by the NT writers is seen as judgmental or quenching the Spirit. Yet it was the Spirit Himself who inspired the writers who urge us through the pages of Scripture to proactively guard doctrine! The NT makes plain how essential this testing is to the health of the assemblies. Shouldn’t we expect that Satan will concentrate his greatest efforts at the very ‘ground zero’ of God’s work upon the earth—within the local Christian assembly? We cannot say that we have not been warned: “test the spirits, whether they are of God” (1Jn. 4:1)!

say they are apostles

These were not apostles in the sense of having seen the risen Christ (Acts 1:21-22; 1Cor. 9:1) since John alone survived at the time of writing.17Paul had previously warned the Ephesian church about the need to watch for false teachers:

For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (Acts 20:29-31)

Paul mentioned such false apostles when writing to the church at Corinth and was not hesitant to cut off their “ministry”:

But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. (2Cor. 11:12-15)

A key attribute of those who are not what they appear to be is their self proclamation. In the church of Thyatira, it was Jezebel who called herself a prophetess (Rev. 2:20+). Paul says that they transform themselves, patterning their deceit after Satan who transforms himself into an angel of light. This transformation would be entirely effective if the church did not have the Word of God and gifts of spiritual discernment to expose such imposters (1Cor. 12:10). Spiritual discernment is necessary because the natural mind is ineffective in the spiritual realm where the seduction takes place (Mat. 24:24; Mark 13:22; 2Th. 2:9-11; 1Ti. 4:1). The power of seduction by demonic spirits may be assessed by noting how easily deceiving spirits convince the kings of the earth to participate in the height of folly: going to war against God (Rev. 16:13-14+)!

Revelation 2:3


The Ephesians had in common their perseverance (ὑπομονὴν [hypomonēn]) with John’s patience (Rev. 1:9+), the trait of faithfully waiting while “abiding under” or bearing a heavy load. Patience and perseverance are qualities which attend selflessness, for they seek things other than self (Rom. 2:7). Perseverance is produced by tribulation (Rom. 5:3). What God has revealed afore time helps us remain patient under conditions we might not otherwise tolerate because we have hope (Rom. 15:4).

have labored

The Ephesian church had dutifully labored to produce fruit (Tit. 3:8, 14). These labors were evidence of the reality of their faith (Jas. 2:17-26). The Ephesian church had a clean bill of health from an external perspective.

My name’s sake

Jesus predicted that the Ephesians and all believers would be reviled, hated, and persecuted for His name’s sake (Mat. 5:11; 10:22). It is extremely important that we take care that our persecution is for His name’s sake rather than for our name’s sake. How often do we abuse His name to defend insensitivity or rudeness on our part? When the world hates or persecutes us, is it truly because of His name? Are there times when we deserve the treatment which we have justly earned, but rationalize it by incorrectly attributing it to our position in Christ?Anything done for His name’s sake must be done with His character. Since we are called by His name (Acts 15:17; Jas. 2:7), when our actions contravene the Word of God, we profane His name (Lev. 19:12; 20:3; 22:2, 32; Pr. 30:9; Isa. 48:11; 52:5; Jer. 34:16; Eze. 20:9, 14, 22, 30; 36:21-23; 39:7).

Revelation 2:4


Despite the good works and patience, there is something lacking in the Ephesian church. How sobering it is to hear the Lord say “nevertheless” after a word of commendation!

left your first love

“Left” is ἀφῆκες [aphēkes] meaning “to send away. . . . to bid going away or depart. . . . of a husband divorcing his wife,”18 to “give up, abandon . . . Rev. 2:4+.”19 “Note, the word is ‘leave,’ not ‘lose.’ To love lies in the power of the will, otherwise it would not be commanded. . . . This is the beginning of that decline which ends in Laodicea.”20The Ephesian church had fallen prey to the same fate as Israel before them (Jer. 2:1-9):

Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: “I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal, when you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holiness to the LORD, the firstfruits of His increase. All that devour him will offend; disaster will come upon them,” says the LORD.’ ”

God reminds Israel of “the love of her betrothal,” when they sought after Him in the wilderness. Although the nation lacked many things in the wilderness, they had a zeal and hunger for the Lord. This is analogous to the zeal and hunger we had for God when He first calls us from the “wilderness” of the world. At that time, nothing else was as important as our relationship with Him!

Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the LORD: “What injustice have your fathers found in Me, that they have gone far from Me, have followed idols, and have become idolaters? Neither did they say, ‘Where is the LORD, Who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, Who led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and pits, through a land of drought and the shadow of death, through a land that no one crossed and where no one dwelt?’ ”

God relates the next stage in Israel’s flagging relationship with Him. They have “gone far from” Him and have begun to follow idols. They have forgotten the wonders He did when they were rescued from a desperate situation and now other things have begun to eclipse the importance of intimacy with God. God specifically mentions Israel’s having “followed idols”—the nation is turning its attention elsewhere.

“I brought you into a bountiful country, to eat its fruit and its goodness. But when you entered, you defiled My land and made My heritage an abomination. The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me; the rulers also transgressed against Me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit. Therefore I will yet bring charges against you,” says the LORD, “And against your children’s children I will bring charges.”

The nation has now drifted so far apart from God that “those who handle the law did not know Me.” This is a very serious state of affairs! The very people who should know God and accurately represent Him, no longer “know Me.” How similar this sounds to the sobering words of Jesus:

Many will say to Me in that Day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Mat. 7:22-23) [emphasis added]

If Jesus never knew them then they could not have truly known Him. Yet they are actively ministering in His name—attributing their activities to His character! The disturbing reality is that it is possible to think one is actively “serving God,” but without a true relationship with Him. Even in the case where we begin following after Him, time and circumstances often turn our hearts aside. When Solomon grew old, “his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David” (1K. 11:4).Our priority must ever be relationship over service (works). This is the essential message of the incident involving Mary and her sister Martha related by Luke. Martha’s priority was serving whereas “Mary . . . sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word” (Luke 10:39). Martha was so focused on serving that she missed a golden opportunity to listen to her Lord. Jesus summarized the actions of the two sisters: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).Time spent sitting at the Master’s feet will never be taken away from us. Although some fret that such time reduces our ability to serve, the result is actually the opposite. Our devotion, motivation, and understanding of God are deepened causing an increase in the fruit of God’s ministry through us. Our ministry and service must be grounded in and out of our love for Him (Heb. 6:10-12). We are “priests to His God,” our primary focus is God-ward, only then man-ward. Instead of waning, our love for Him is to be continually increasing (Php. 1:9).The Ephesian church had lost its focus. They had taken their eyes off of Jesus and were now focusing on their works done for His name. This is the essence of idolatry.The condition of the Ephesian church at the time of John appears considerably different to that when Paul wrote his epistle. “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.”21 This is evidence for a late date for the writing of the book of Revelation.

Revelation 2:5


Remembering is the first in a three-step process. All three steps (remember, repent, and do the first works) are in the imperative tense: remember! . . . repent! . . . do! The Ephesians were commanded to go back in their minds to an earlier time when their motivation and fellowship with Christ had been different.An important function of festivals, signs, and altars is to help men remember the earlier works of God and the dedications they made (Gen. 9:15-16; Num. 15:39-40; Deu. 16:13; Jos. 22:10, 27-28).


If the Ephesian church were to repent and return to their first love, they would find that God is also once again closer to them (Zec. 1:3).

Properly speaking, metanoein is “to know after” as pronoein is “to know before”; metanoia is “afterknowledge” . . . The next step that metanoia signifies is the change of mind that results from this afterknowledge. Thus Tertullian wrote: “In the Greek language the word for repentance is not derived from the admission of a fault but from a change of mind.” . . . Last of all metanoia signifies a resulting change of conduct. . . . Only in Scripture and in the works of those who were dependent on Scripture does metanoia predominantly refer to a change of mind, to taking a wiser view of the past, to “the soul’s perception of the wicked things it has done.”22

Repentance includes a recognition of wrong-doing together with a decision to move in a different direction: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

from where you have fallen

Their current estate is said to be lower than before. As they drifted apart from God in their relationship, their spiritual state also declined. have fallen is in the perfect tense—the fall had already taken place, but Jesus is concerned with their present spiritual condition.

do the first works

The Ephesian church was not lacking in works, but the motivation for the works had changed and was now adversely affecting the results. “Not the quantity, but the quality, of . . . works was now other and worse than once it had been.”23 How often has this been the case in Christian history when works of mercy, intended to exhibit the character of Christ and to point people to the solution of their ultimate need, suffer a gradual reduction in their zeal and focus on Christ. The result is that the Christian organization becomes just one more social institution doing “good works,” but failing to engage the culture with the priority of salvation.The solution is found in retracing our steps back to where we went astray and calling upon the Lord as we did at the first. After straying in Egypt, Abraham returned to “the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abraham called on the name of the Lord” (Gen. 13:3-4).

But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. (Heb. 10:32-35) [emphasis added]

Instantly, let us say, this is not a call to “Christian service” or “renewed activity.” Ephesus had toil, patience, intolerance toward evil, patience in suffering,—everything. But the “first works” are the goings forth of affection to Christ, freely, devotedly, as in our first love.24

I will come

The futuristic present, ἔρχομαι [erchomai] is in the present tense: “I am coming.” His impending arrival is imminent!25


Κινήσω [Kinēsō] (from which we get the word kinetic) can also mean to “shake,” “move,” “provoke,” “stir.” This may be indicating not only that the lampstand will be removed, but that it will be disturbed in such a way as to disperse its membership elsewhere to form new churches (Mat. 10:23; Acts 8:4). “The seat of the Church has been changed, but the Church itself survives.”26 Even if a church remained physically present at Ephesus, if its membership failed to return to their first love, then the essential Christian testimony of the church would be curtailed. “Without genuine Christians remaining, it is impossible for a church to produce light.”27Those with illumination bear greater responsibility for bearing fruit. When we fail to bear fruit, God raises up others in our stead (Mat. 21:43; Mark 12:9; Luke 20:16). This would be the destiny of the Ephesian church if it did not repent.

Gibbon (Decline and Fall, c. lxiv.), . . . writes like one who almost believed that the threatenings and promises of God did fulfill themselves in history: In the loss of Ephesus the Christians deplored the fall of the first Angel, the extinction of the first candlestick, of the Revelations; the desolation is complete; and the temple of Diana or the church of Mary will equally elude the search of the curious traveller. The circus and three stately theatres of Laodicea are now peopled with wolves and foxes; Sardis is reduced to a miserable village; the God of Mahomet, without a rival or a son, is invoked in the mosques of Thyatira and Pergamus, and the populousness of Smyrna is supported by the foreign trade of the Franks and Armenians. Philadelphia alone has been saved by prophecy, or courage. . . . Among the Greek colonies and Churches of Asia, Philadelphia is still erect—a column in a scene of ruins,—a pleasing example that the paths of honour and safety may sometimes be the same.28

The lampstand at Ephesus was indeed removed. “I have before me a picture of the Ephesus of today—a ruined archway, a Moslem dwelling, and a forbidding castle, ’midst desolate hills. No lampstand for Christ where once Paul labored three years, night and day with tears!”29

Revelation 2:6

hate the deeds

The Ephesian church had left their first love, but had not left their former hatred for evil. Their hatred for evil was the diametric opposite of the tolerance of the church in Pergamum toward the teachings and deeds of the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:14-15+).30God hates the deeds and the doctrine (Rev. 2:13+). God hates evil ways (Pr. 8:13), abominable activities (Jer. 44:4), a false oath (Zec. 8:17), and insincere offering (Jer. 44:4; Amos 5:21). Believers are to have no fellowship with such unfruitful works and are to expose them (Eph. 5:11; 2Jn. 1:9).


See Nicolaitans.

you hate . . . I also hate

Both verbs are in the present tense—both the Ephesian church and Jesus are in ongoing opposition to the works of the Nicolaitans.

Revelation 2:7

He who has an ear

“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.’ ”31

let him hear

Each letter closes with this imperative command which is very similar to Jesus’ invitations in the synoptic gospels (Mat. 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 8:8; 14:15).32 It is Christ’s desire that “those who hear the words of this prophecy” (Rev. 1:3+) not only hear the subject matter, but understand its significance. This phrase recognizes the reality that those whose hearts are not open to Christ may hear (or read) the words, but will not understand the message: “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1Cor. 2:14+). See Hiding or Revealing?.If we desire that God would reveal more to us, we must first respond in obedience to that which has already been revealed. If we fail to respond to what He has already revealed, then we stand to lose what we already understand (Mark 4:24-25+; Luke 8:18+). Thus is the dilemma of the lukewarm Christian who believes he sees and hears, but has become blind and deaf (Rev. 2:16-17+).

[The seven letters] are also accompanied with a seven times repeated entreaty and command to hear what is said in them. And yet there is not another portion of Scripture, of equal extent and conspicuity, to which so little attention has been paid.33

what the Spirit says

Christ had been speaking but now it is the Spirit who speaks - a declaration of Christ’s deity and a testimony to the inspiration of Scripture. When Jesus promised to send another helper (παρακλητον [paraklēton]), the Spirit of Truth, He said, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” [emphasis added] (John 14:18). It is the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, Who initiates prophecy (1Pe. 1:11). He is the source of all spiritual revelation and illumination (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).

to the churches

Each letter is given for the benefit of all seven churches. The book of Revelation is given to: (1) John; (2) each individual church; (3) all seven churches; (4) all churches of all time; (5) all believers in every age (Rev. 2:7+, 11+, 17+, 29+; 3:6+, 13+, 22+; 13:9+). See Seven Churches of Asia.

him who overcomes

The appearance of this phrase is an indication of John’s apostolic authorship. “It is characteristic of John, occurring once in the Gospel, six times in the First Epistle, sixteen times in the book of Revelation, and elsewhere only Luke 11:22; Rom. 3:4; 12:21.”34 See Authorship. See Who is the Overcomer?

tree of life

The tree of life originally stood in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:9). By partaking of its fruit, man had eternal life. But through the Fall, man lost access to the tree (Gen. 3:22-24).The tree of life is a common motif for righteousness and wisdom in Scripture (Ps. 1:3; Pr. 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4) for it is by righteousness and wisdom that life is lived to the full. For this reason, the Jews referred to the Word of God as the tree of life”. “[Torah scrolls are] written on parchment, sewn together, rolled onto wooden rollers called eytz chayeem (tree of life), and read regularly in the synagogue.”35During the present age, while man is barred from the tree of life, God has provided another tree of life: the cross of Jesus Christ. Those who place their trust in His atoning work upon the cross have eternal life (John 3:14-16).36 Even though every man has been bitten by the Serpent (Gen. 3:15), by merely looking upon this tree in faith, he will be healed (cf Nu 21:9+).In the eternal state, believers will once again obtain full access to the tree of life (Rev. 22:2+, Rev 22:14+). The promise made to the overcomer is an essential element of salvation. In the eternal state, man will still be dependent upon God for access to the tree of life (Rev. 22:2+) because independence from God is sin.

Paradise of God

Significantly, the church which had lost its first love was given the promise of access to a tree which was in the midst of the garden wherein God and Adam used to have sweet fellowship (Gen. 3:8). This is the very essence of the first love which the Ephesians had left.Paradise Παράδεισος [Paradeisos] was originally a Persian word, denoting an enclosed garden, especially a royal park.”37 “Among the Persians a grand enclosure or preserve, hunting ground, park, shady and well watered, in which wild animals, were kept for the hunt; it was enclosed by walls and furnished with towers for the hunters.”38 Although Paradise was initially associated with the Garden of God (Gen. 2:8; 13:10; Isa. 51:3; Eze. 28:13; 31:5), the meaning of the term has changed with time: “We may thus trace παράδεισος [paradeisos] passing 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.”39 “What was originally a garden of delight has taken on the connotation of the new heavens and the new earth.”40Prior to the cross, paradise was a compartment within Hades (Luke 16:22-23). At His crucifixion, Jesus told the repentant thief, “today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The location of paradise after the victory of Jesus on the cross moved to heaven, for Paul was “caught up into Paradise” [emphasis added] where he heard inexpressible words (2Cor. 12:4). Essentially, the term describes the abode of righteous men upon death:

It is a term describing the abode of the righteous ones, no matter where that above may be at any point in time.... from Adam until the Ascension of Jesus, Paradise was in Abraham’s Bosom. From the Ascension of Jesus until the end of the Millennium, Paradise is in Heaven. Then, after the Millennium and for all eternity, Paradise will be in the New Jerusalem on the new earth.41

Revelation 2:8

the angel

See the discussion concerning the identity of the angel at Revelation 1:20.Trench suggests that Polycarp may have been “the angel of the church in Smyrna”:

Knowing as we do that at a period only a little later than this, Polycarp was bishop there, a very interesting question presents itself to us, namely, whether he might not have been bishop now; whether he may not be the Angel of whom this epistle is addrest [sic]. There is much to make this probable. . . . It is true indeed that we have thus to assume an episcopate of his, which lasted for more than seventy years; for the “good confession” of Polycarp did not take place till the year 168, while the Apocalypse was probably written in 96. . . . As early as AD 108 Ignatius . . . found Polycarp the bishop . . . of the Church of Smyrna . . . We have only to extend his episcopate twelve years a parte ante, and he will have been Angel of Smyrna when this Epistle was addrest [sic] to that Church. Is there any great unlikelihood in this? His reply to the Roman Governor who tempted him to save his life by denying his Lord, is well known . . . that he could not thus renounce a Lord whom for eighty and six years he had served . . . [These eighty-six years] represent no doubt the years since his conversion. Counting back eighty-six years from the year 168, being that of his martyrdom, we have AD 82 as the year when he was first in Christ. This will give us fourteen years as the period which will have elapsed from his conversion to that when this present Epistle was written, during which time he may very well have attained the post of chiefest honour and toil and peril in the Church of Smyrna. Tertullian indeed distinctly tells us that he was consecrated bishop of Smyrna by St. John . . . and Irenaeus, who affirms that he had himself in his youth often talked with Polycarp, declares the same42

the church of Smyrna

See Seven Churches of Asia.

Temple of Athena in Old Smyrna

Temple of Athena in Old Smyrna


Like Ephesus at the time of John, Smyrna was a coastal city which commanded the trade of the Levant.44 It was noted as a center of learning, especially in science and medicine and claimed to be the birthplace of Homer.45 Polycarp presided here as bishop.46 Smyrna is represented today by Izmir, the third city of Turkey and the largest in Asia Minor until overtaken by the recent growth of Ankara.47

Many writers of that time referred to it as the loveliest city of Asia. Smyrna had a magnificent natural situation and setting at the end of a long, protected inlet of the Mediterranean which gave it a natural harbor well sheltered from the elements. The harbor was compact and easily defended in time of war by simply drawing a chain across its entrance. The city itself began at the harbor and covered the undulating ground between the harbor and the Pagos, a hill covered by temples and public buildings. These noble buildings encircled this hill, and the locals proudly called these the crown of Smyrna (see Rev. 2:10+).48

The meaning of the name Smyrna, myrrh or bitter, “Smyrna means ‘bitter,’ certainly an appropriate description for the lot of Christians who lived there.”49 is associated with death:

In the New Testament the word σμύπˊα [smyrna] occurs only twice (Mt. 2:11 and John 19:39) and a derivative form once (Mark 15:23). Commentators note the enormous quantity of myrrh and aloes brought by Nicodemus for the burial of Jesus. Use of these spices evidently accorded with normal Jewish practice (cf. John 11:44), except that their quantity in this case represented a costly act of devotion to Jesus, resembling that of Mary (John 12:2-11), Jesus there applied the lesson of her gift to his forthcoming burial (John 12:7; cf. Mark 14:8; Mat. 26:12).50

So much has been idly written upon names, not a little most idly on the names of these seven Churches, and the mystical meanings which they contain, that one shrinks from any seeming fellowship in such foolish and unprofitable fancies; and yet it is difficult not to remember here that σμύρνα [smyrna], the name of this suffering Church which should give out its sweetness in persecution and in death, is a subform of μύῤῥα [myrhra] . . . [which] . . . served for embalming the dead (John 19:39) . . ., went up as incense before the Lord (Ex. 30:23), was one of the perfumes of the bridegroom (Ps. 45:8), and of the bride (Song 3:6)51

Significantly, this is the church of tribulation and martyrdom. Ignatius, in his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans recognized the ongoing zeal of the church at Smyrna: I observed that you are established in an unshakable faith, having been nailed, as it were, to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ in both body and spirit and firmly established in love by the blood of Christ.52This is one of only two churches (Philadelphia being the other) for which Christ gives no word of criticism.

the First and the Last

Jesus emphasizes His eternality, especially in relation to eternal life because this is the church which is to suffer martyrdom and to which He holds out the promise of the crown of life (Rev. 2:10+). See commentary on Revelation 1:11 and Revelation 1:17.

who was dead, and came to life

Literally, “became dead.”53 Jesus reiterates His victory over death. It was of paramount importance that the saints at Smyrna understand their possession of eternal life for they would be asked to “be faithful until death” (Rev. 2:10+). Although the devil could destroy the body, he could do no more (Mt. 10:28; Luke 12:4). See commentary on Revelation 1:18.

Revelation 2:9

I know

See commentary on Revelation 2:2.

tribulation and poverty

The connection between tribulation and poverty is found in the likelihood that their goods were plundered due to persecution for their faith (Heb. 10:34). How contrary is the condition of the church at Smyrna from that of the church in Laodicea which was lacking persecution and abounding in goods (Rev. 3:17+). Yet, the Smyrnaean church received no word of condemnation while the Laodicean church received no word of commendation!


“Greek has two words for poor: penes means having nothing superfluous, ptocheia means abject poverty, destitution. [This verse] uses the latter.”54

you are rich

The church at Smyrna could not be accurately judged by external measures. As Trench observes: “there are both poor rich-men and rich poor-men in his sight.”55 The riches of the church at Smyrna were laid up in heaven (Mt. 6:20+; Mt 19:21; Luke 12:21+; Jas. 2:5+). “There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches” (Pr. 13:7). Material goods have no ultimate value, but will all be destroyed. Knowledge of this reality should bring a shift in priorities towards spiritual things which are truly lasting (2Pe. 3:10-11+). The church at Laodicea had great material prosperity, but Christ said they were “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17+).

who say they are Jews but are not

This church of martyrdom faced its most intense opposition from those who at one time were closest to God. Three sources of antagonism to Christians emerge in these seven messages, Jewish (here), pagan (Rev. 2:13+), and heretical (Rev. 2:24+).”56That these “Jews” are the natural seed of Abraham can be seen by the description of their assembly place as a synagogue57 and by the analogy of Scripture (Ro 2:28-29+; Ro 9:6; Php. 3:2-3). These were the unbelieving Jews of Smyrna, who had physical circumcision, but lacked the circumcision of the heart:

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Rom. 2:28-29+)

Such Jews relied upon their physical descent from Abraham, but denied him as father by their actions (ED: IN OTHER WORDS THEY DID NOT BELIEVE AS ABRAHAM BELIEVED - SEE Genesis 15:6+). John the Baptist warned the Pharisees and Sadducees, “and do not think to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” (Mt. 3:9+).

They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.” Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.” (John 8:39-41) (ED: SEE Jn 8:44 FOR WHO JESUS SAYS IS THEIR FATHER! THIS PARALLELS THE DEPICTION "SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN")

Paul noted that only a subset of the Jews were “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16+). This believing remnant within Israel were the true Jews:58

But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. (Ro 9:6-8)

He warned the Philippian church to beware of the “mutilation” (a euphemism for the physically circumcised unbelieving Jews, Gal. 5:12):

Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: (Php. 3:2-4)

The unbelieving Jews were the major threat to the early church (Acts 13:50; 14:2, 5, 19; 17:5). This threat was compounded because Christians initially enjoyed protection from Rome by being considered a sect within Judaism. Since Judaism enjoyed protection as a recognized religion by Rome, so long as Christianity was seen as a sect within Judaism, persecution was minimal. But the fundamental rift between Judaism and Christianity eventually brought persecution, not only by the Jews, but also from Rome.

synagogue of Satan

The local synagogue in Smyrna opposed the Christian assembly, as did the synagogue in Philadelphia (Rev. 3:9+).59The gathering of Christians at Smyrna is “church” ἐκκλησίαις [ekklēsiais], whereas the gathering of these blasphemers is “synagogue” συναγωγὴ [synagōgē]. The difference in words is significant making it unlikely that Jesus is describing some other group of Christians who hold faulty doctrine concerning their Jewishness. Some interpreters take this verse as describing Christian groups who hold to Replacement Theology. While we are opposed to Replacement Theology, such an interpretation appears to us to be a subversion of this text to serve the ends of the interpreter rather than accurate exegesis.60 Jesus tells the Philadelphian church that members of the synagogue of Satan “say they are Jews and are not” (Rev. 3:9+). They undoubtedly were Jews in the national sense—physical offspring of Abraham—but lacked faith in Messiah Jesus. Persecution by the Synagogue was something that Jesus had promised (Mt. 23:34; Mark 13:9; Luke 21:12; John 16:12) and Paul had experienced (Acts 9:20-23; 13:45-50; 14:2; 17:5-10; 18:6, 28; 19:9; 22:22). “[This] shocking statement affirmed that those Jews who hated and rejected Jesus Christ were just as much Satan’s followers as pagan idol worshipers (cf. John 8:44).”61 Persecution by the unbelieving Jews was heightened by the belief that they alone had the true understanding of God:

The measure of their former nearness to God was the measure of their present distance from Him. In the height to which they were lifted up was involved the depth to which, if they did not continue at that height, they must inevitably fall; and this, true for them, is true also for all62

This persecution by Judaism was especially troubling because it meant the loss of the protection Christianity initially enjoyed while considered a sect within Judaism:

The letters in Revelation suggest that Jewish Christians were tempted to escape persecution by seeking some form of identification with Jewish synagogues, which were exempted from emperor worship, and that Gentile Christians were tempted to compromise with trade guild cults and even the emperor cult in order to escape persecution. Such a situation is more likely to have been present toward the end of the first century rather than earlier.63

According to Roman law, religions were considered illegal outside their country of origin, . . . The only exception to this law was Judaism, the practice of which was allowed throughout the Empire. Christians were probably considered a sect of Judaism until 70 A.D., though they likely would not have been completely disassociated from Judaism in the minds of pagans in the years following 70 A.D. After that date, Judaism made formal attempts to dissociate itself from Christianity.64

Judaism had a special privilege that the Romans allowed only them, freedom from worshiping the Roman gods and participating in the Greco-Roman cults. Christianity was considered part of Judaism at least through the Jewish War (A.D. 66-70) and also benefited from this privilege. However, Judaism tried more and more to separate itself from Christianity and get the Roman Empire to recognize that Christianity was not exempt. . . . the Romans imposed on Jews [the Judean tax] that allowed the Jews freedom from participation in the imperial cult. Christians refused to pay this tax; thus the Jews denounced Christians as not being true Judeans and as being troublemakers.65

The intensity of the hatred of the Smyrnaean Jews for Christians was illustrated in the burning of Polycarp some years later: “[The martyrdom of Polycarp] was in the year 165, but the attitude of the Asian Jew towards Christianity had been determined at least seventy years before.”66 “The most striking instance [of persecution by Jews] actually relates to Smyrna: the Jews gathered fuel on the Sabbath for the burning of Polycarp (Mart. Pion. 4; Cadoux, pp. 378-79).”67 “These things happened with such swiftness, quicker than words can tell, the crowd swiftly collecting wood and kindling from the workshops and baths, the Jews being especially eager to assist in this, as is their custom.”68Although it seems best to understand the text as describing unbelieving Jews (true physical offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), some have noted the trend among cults (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses, British Israel) of claiming to be “Jews,” “One common element among cults is to claim to be the ‘real’ Jews by declaring themselves to be the 144,000 Jews or the ten lost Tribes of Israel.”69If the Jews had recognized their Messiah, what is here described as a synagogue of Satan could have been described as the “church of the living God.”

Revelation 2:10

you are about to suffer

The Smyrnaeans were about to enter a time of testing. God often warns his servants prior to a time of trial (Eze. 2:3-7; Mt. 10:16-31; Luke 9:23-24; John 16:1-4; Acts 9:16). This gives the saints His perspective and great hope knowing that He recognizes what they are going through and yet it remains within His sovereign will and purpose to leave them there (Luke 22:31-32; Ro 8:28).

the devil is about to throw

The devil is called διάβολος [diabolos], a compound of δια [dia] (“against”) and βαλλω [ballo] (“to throw”). He is the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10+) who “throws against” them his accusations (Job 1:6; Zec. 3:1-2). Oppression often comes by way of people, but Scripture identifies the motivating powers behind the scene (Eph. 6:12). The early church understood this fact:

There is nothing more remarkable in the records which have come down to us of the early persecutions, and in this point they singularly illustrate the Scripture before us, 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, and no mere result of the offended passions, prejudices, or interests of men. The enemies of flesh and blood, as mere tools and instruments, are nearly lost sight of by them in a constant reference to satan as the invisible but real author of all.70

When members of the church at Smyrna found themselves in prison, they were to understand that it was spiritual powers which had placed them there. This would make it easier to bear the Tribulation and especially to pray for those who persecuted them (Mat. 5:44).

that you may be tested

The knowledge that their tribulation was within the plan and design of God would provide immeasurable comfort.God makes use of evil for His own purposes: He allowed a lying spirit to go forth (1K. 22:22; 2Chr. 18:21); He allows Satan to test His saints (Job 1:12; 2:6; Luke 22:31; 2Cor. 12:7; Rev. 20:8+); and wayward believers to be chastened by evil (1Cor. 5:5; 1Ti. 1:20). God even uses demons in judgment (Rev. 9:15+; Rev 16:14+). God allowed Satan to test Jesus in order to illustrate His sinless impeccability (Mat. 4:1).

God sifting and winnowing the man to separate his chaff from his wheat, the devil sifting and winnowing him in the hope that nothing else but chaff will be found in him (Luke 22:31).71

Scripture is full of God’s testing of men. He already knows what is in a man, but does the man? Usually not. Testing makes it self-evident (Gen. 22:1; Ex. 15:25; 16:4; 20:20; Deu. 8:2, 16; 13:3; Jdg. 2:22; 3:1, 4; 2Chr. 32:31; Job 23:10; Ps. 11:4-5; 105:19; Isa. 48:10; Jer. 12:3; 20:12; Luke 4:1; 22:31; Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10+).

ten days

The briefness of this period may be intended as a motivation for endurance (Isa. 26:20; Ps. 30:5; Mat. 24:22; 2Cor. 4:17; 1Pe. 1:6)72. Hemer suggests the phrase betrays the language of the arena where the Smyrnaean saints might meet their supreme test.73Some have seen the days as allusions to ten historical periods of persecution:

[To] those who interpret here [an] allusion to the ten persecutions which the Church is often said to have passed through, during the three hundred years of its conflict with heathen Rome . . . it has been objected that this enumeration of exactly ten persecutions is altogether arbitrary; that, if we include in our list only those which had some right to be called general, as extending over the whole Roman empire, the persecutions would not be so many; if all those which reached any one city or province, they would be many more.74

It seems best to take this time period as representing ten literal days: “The ten days are literal and refer to an unknown persecution within a definite period of time during the generation to which this message was addressed,”75 “In the book of Revelation, time zones, be they days, months, or years, are always quite literal, and it is best to take these ten days as being the same.”76 For a survey of different views regarding the meaning of the ten days see [Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 168-170]. (ED: SEE NOTE BELOW)

until death

How sobering to receive a personal message from Jesus requesting we remain faithful to the point of death! He Who knows all things is asking these at Smyrna to prepare for the ultimate witness! The phrase speaks of intensity rather than chronology. “It needs hardly be observed that this ‘unto death’ is an intensive, not an extensive, term. Christ does not mean, ‘to thy life’s end,’ contemplating life under the aspect of time; but ‘to the sharpest and worst which the enemy can inflict upon thee, even to death itself.’ ”77At a later date, Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, proved faithful “until death”:

We learn from that precious document, the Epistle of the Church of Smyrna recording the martyrdom of Polycarp, that Jews [those of the synagogue of Satan] joined with heathens in crying out in the amphitheatre that the Christian bishop should be cast to the lions; and when there was a difficulty about this, that he should be burned alive; which being granted, the Jews, as was their wont . . . were forwardest in bringing logs for the pile; they, too, doing all that lay in their power to hinder the remains of the martyr from being delivered to his followers for burial.78

The death of His saints throughout history stands as the ultimate witness to the belief in eternal life provided to those who have believed upon His name (Rev. 12:11+).

crown of life

They were to understand that death would be merely a transition for them. An exit from this world and an entry into His presence where all suffering is behind. “The thought then is that the time of interim suffering is likely to terminate in actual death, not the mere threat of it, but that death for the Christian is the prelude to life.”79The crown of life represents eternal life, and as here, is found in association with steadfast continuance in the faith (Jas. 1:12):

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath. (Rom. 2:5-8). [emphasis added]

The church at Smyrna was told to be faithful to receive the crown, for temptation and weariness are ever near along the Christian path (Rev. 3:11+). See Crowns.

Revelation 2:11

let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches

See commentary on Revelation 2:7.

He who overcomes

See Who is the Overcomer?

shall not

The double-negative οὐ μὴ [ou mē] emphasizing the impossibility of being hurt by the second death. “It is the strongest negative assertion about the future of which the Greek language is capable.”80

second death

Although members of the church would experience martyrdom (the first death), they would be assured of avoiding the dreaded second death—the Lake of Fire. See Births, Deaths, and Resurrections. It is by way of the second birth, being “born again,” that a person moves from the category of the second resurrection to the first resurrection. Over those, “the second death has no power” (Rev. 20:6+). The promise to the overcomer is given to all those who come to faith in Jesus Christ—they need not fear the second death, being cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:14+). No believer ever finds his way to the second death. “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8+).

Revelation 2:12

the angel

See the discussion concerning the identity of the angel at Revelation 1:20.

the church of Pergamos

See Seven Churches of Asia.

Temple of Dionysus in Pergamum

Temple of Dionysus in Pergamum


Pergamos, now Bergamo, the ancient metropolis of Mysia, and the residence of the Attalian kings, is situated on the river Ciacus, about sixty miles north of Smyrna, in long. 27 degrees East lat. 39 degrees 11 minutes North. It still retains some measure of its ancient importance; containing a population of about 15,000 souls, and having nine or ten mosques, two churches, and one synagogue.82

Pergamos served as the capital of Alexander’s successor, Lysimachus and was bequeathed to Rome by Attalus III. At one time “it had a vast library of 200,000 volumes, which was moved by Antony to Egypt and presented to Cleopatra.”83

Pergamum was a university city, famous for its library of 200,000 parchment scrolls, second only in size to the library of Alexandria in Egypt. Indeed, parchment was invented in Pergamum, for when its king decided to establish a library and enticed Alexandria’s librarian to head up his library, the Egyptian king banned the export of papyrus to Pergamum. This forced Pergamum’s scholars to find an alternate writing material, and they invented parchment. Parchment lasts much better than papyrus, so this invention played a big part in preserving the Bible for us.84

It used to be common to credit Eumenes II, king of Pergamum shortly after 200 B.C., with the invention of parchment. Eumenes was building up his library to rival the great library of King Ptolemy in Alexandria. The king of Egypt moved to cut off the supply of papyrus to Pergamum, and in response Eumenes was forced to develop “parchment.” This story is true if taken in the sense that Eumenes was the first to make use of parchment or leather; for long before the second century, animal skins for writing were unquestionably in use. In Egypt, for example, mention is made of leather documents as far back as 2500 B.C. . . . So Eumenes was by no means the first to use animal skins for writing, although he may have developed and perfected a better process for treating the skins. Whatever the case, Pergaumum and parchment are indisputably connected, the word “parchment” being derived from the Greek term pergamene.85

The fame of Pergamum rested chiefly on its religious preeminence. A tetrad of local deities, Zeus Soter, Athena Nicephoros, Dionysius, Kathegemon, Asklepios Soter, presided over the city; the temple of Athena almost crowned the acropolis, and beneath it, on the slope of the hill and visible from the agora, stood a great al fresco altar of the Pergamene Zeus. Still more celebrated was the Pergamene cult of Asklepios, to whose temple there was attached a school of medicine which attracted sufferers from all quarters. . . . What Artemis was to Ephesus, such was Asklepios to Pergamum.86

Asklepios was the deity of medicine: “Aesculapius (whence our word ‘scalpel’) being worshiped, commonly under the sign of a coiled snake on a pole (note Numbers 21:8-9).”87

the sharp two-edged sword

The significance in Christ’s title can be seen in the doctrinal errors of the Balaamites (Rev. 2:14+) and Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:15+) which are being promoted by some in the church at Pergamum. These doctrinal errors are judged by the teachings found in the Word of God. “It is the first negative introduction of Christ because the Pergamum church faced imminent judgment.”88 See commentary on Revelation 1:16.

Revelation 2:13

I know

See commentary on Revelation 2:2.

where Satan’s throne is

In Pergamum., two saviors competed with the One True Savior. Asklepios, associated with the serpent, was said to be savior because of his healing power.89 Zeus was also considered a savior. Some believe this reference to Satan’s throne goes beyond a general recognition of the pagan religious practices which flourished at Pergamum and denotes the throne-like altar of Zeus Soter, so dominant as to typify Satanic heathendom.90 The obsessive serpent-motif of its sculptures and the title ‘Sotre’ [savior], like a blasphemous parody of its Christian use would alike give point to this identification.91 “The most splendid monument of Pergamum was the ‘altar of Zeus,’ 12 m (40 ft) high, that once crowned its acropolis and was later reconstructed in East Berlin. . . . This lofty pagan shrine could have been the ‘Satan’s throne.’ ”92It is also possible the phrase Satan’s throne may principally be in recognition of the place of Pergamum in relation to emperor worship:

Most commentators see the principal or only background in the position of Pergamum as the centre of emperor worship. This was the present threat to the church, and the reminder that Christ has the ‘sharp two-edged ῤομφαία [romphaia]’ is then set against the proconsul’s ius gladii. It was on this ground that the Christian faced the actual threat of Roman execution. . . . It is well known that Domitian required to be addressed as dominus et deus [“Lord and God”].93

Inscriptions proclaim the dignity of the city as the first in Asia to erect a temple to Augustus; and as it was the first, so it continued to be the chief Asian set of the emperor-cult.94

The major threat to Christians in Pergamum came from its role as a center of emperor worship in Asia, a function that went with it being the capital city. Caesar worship required each citizen, once a year, to offer a pinch of incense to Caesar on his altar and profess him as Lord. The citizen was then given a certificate valid for one year which allowed him to worship whatever god or gods he preferred with impunity.95

Satan’s throne may also denote the activities of the secret mystery religions at Pergamum:

Alexander Hislop, in his famous book Two Babylons, gave much documentation to show that Pergamos had inherited the religious mantle of ancient Babylon when Babylon fell in the days of Belshazzar. The priests, who had kept the secrets of the ancient mystery religious centered at Babylon ever since the days of Nimrod, were forced to migrate at that time, transferring what amounted to the headquarters of Satan’s religious system away from Babylon north and west to Pergamos.96


A faithful saint, unknown to history, but not missed in the records of Christ. Precious is the death of His saints (Ps. 116:15)! His name means either like the Father97 or against all.98 Nothing reliable is known of him, although “according to tradition he was burned to death in a bronze bull. Little else is know of him, but his testimony must have been dramatic and the knowledge of his sacrifice widespread.”99 It is likely that Antipas died for refusing to worship the emperor. “Antipas, the city’s Christian martyr, was the victim of Rome, because only the imperial cultus had the power of capital punishment.”100 He had been faithful until death and had earned the crown of life (Rev. 2:10+).

Revelation 2:14


What a mix of zeal and error at this church! Antipas had stood firm in faith to the point of death, yet others within the same fellowship were promoting unscriptural teaching.A number of commentators understand the conjunction which begins Revelation 2:15 as an indication of an emphatic comparison made between Balaam and the Nicolaitans.101 It is thought that the doctrine of the Nicolaitans may have promoted licentiousness, in common with that of Balaam. Both are treated in our discussion of the Nicolaitans.

The teaching of Balaam was encouragement of corruption by intermarriage resulting in fornication and idolatry. No doubt in the city of Pergamum intermarriage with the pagan world was a real problem. Because civil and religious life were so intertwined, for believers to accept social engagements probably meant some involvement with paganism.102

stumbling block

Σκάνδαλον [Skandalon] can be used to describe a trap, more specifically the trigger of the trap upon which the bait is laid.103 In the case of Balaam, the bait which brought about the downfall of Israel was the desire of the men for sexual relations with the women of Moab. And so we come upon the tragic pattern of temptation, brought about both by Satan and our flesh. That which God has ordained for His purposes is twisted in unnatural ways to become the means of our downfall. Sexual relations, designed as the means of procreation within the confines of marriage (1Cor. 7:2; Heb. 13:4), becomes the lure leading to fornication and adultery.This warping aspect of ungodly desire is in view when Paul writes to the believer’s in Rome telling them to “reckon yourselves dead indeed to sin” (Rom. 6:10), for they had “died with Christ” (Rom. 6:8). The believer is to be dead to sin: dead things do not respond to stimulus. It is by stimulus of our ungodly desires that Satan and our flesh achieve their most damaging results. Satan is a master at providing what we desire, be it status, wealth, or a host of other wants so long as he is successful at getting us to compromise and participate in an ungodly activity.Jesus did not succumb to the tempter because there was nothing within the desire of Jesus that was outside of the will of the Father (John 14:30). Therefore, Satan lacked a “handle” by which he could manipulate the Son of God (Mat. 4:3). Jesus warns us not to be the instrument by which bait is placed (Mat. 18:7). Even our Christian liberty can become a stumbling block for others (1Cor. 8:9).

things sacrificed to idols

Εἰδωλόθυτα [Eidōlothyta] “refers to sacrificial meat, part of which was burned on the altar, part was eaten at a solemn meal in the temple, and part was sold in the market for home use.”104 This message was mainly to Gentile converts at Pergamum since Judaism prohibited this practice (Num. 25:2; Ps. 106:28; Dan. 1:8). The church at Pergamum was integrated into the culture, rather than being set apart.

[Christians] were expected to pay their “dues” to trade guilds by attending annual dinners held in honor of the guilds’ patron deities. Homage to the emperor as divine was included along with worship of such local deities.105

The dietary restrictions imposed upon Gentiles by the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:20, 15:29) were out of concern for retaining Gentile fellowship with Jewish believers. Paul allows such meat sacrificed to idols to be eaten (1Cor. 8:7; 10:18-33), but only when it does not cause offense to brothers. Here the issue was one of compromising the witness of the church within the pagan culture and partaking of pagan practices which were associated with such banquets. These dinners included the eating of meat sacrificed to idols as well as licentious behavior. See Worldly Churches.

to commit sexual immorality

Πορνεῦσαι [Porneusai]: “To give one’s self to unlawful sexual intercourse.”106 This may have referred either to physical relations connected with the pagan feasts or be a description of the idolatry practiced by the church at Pergamum which participated in pagan ritual.

Revelation 2:15

thus you also have

The phrase thus . . . also have indicates “a similarity between the teaching of Balaam and the Nicolaitans.”107The problem for the church at Pergamum was not that Nicolaitans existed in the city, but that they were within the church. We are to separate from those who call themselves believers, but deny Christ by their actions (1Cor. 5:11).


See Nicolaitans.

Revelation 2:16


An imperative command: repent!

I will come to you quickly

A futuristic use of the present tense, ἔρχομαι [erchomai], I am coming. If the saints at Pergamum do not repent, His arrival is imminent! He is already on His way! Here it seems best to understand quickly as denoting a spiritual coming in judgment upon the Nicolaitans. No mention of such a sect extends beyond the early church. “This ‘coming,’ like that of Revelation 2:5+, is not our Lord’s second advent, but His entering personally and that quickly, upon their affairs judicially.”108

sword of my mouth

If Trench is correct in correlating the Nicolaitans with the doctrine of Balaam, then this may be an allusion to Num. 31:8 (cf. Jos. 13:22; Num. 22:31).109 The church at Pergamum had not been upholding sound biblical teaching. The teaching of the Nicolaitans did not measure up to the “Sword of the Spirit,” the Word of God (Eph. 6:17) and would be defeated. See commentary on Revelation 1:16.

Revelation 2:17

let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches

See commentary on Revelation 2:7.


See Who is the Overcomer?

hidden manna

The manna is set in direct contrast to the things sacrificed to idols. The church was eating earthly pagan food, but the overcomer is promised heavenly food from above.When Israel was in the wilderness, God supernaturally provided manna for their food. Manna was something like white coriander seed and tasted like wafers made of honey (Ex. 16:31; Num. 11:7). The manna was provided for a period of forty years (Ex. 16:35) until Israel crossed the Jordan (Jos. 5:12). Manna provided life in a barren wilderness and is even called angel’s food” (Ps. 78:23-25).In an intentional comparison between Himself and the feeding of Israel in the wilderness, Jesus fed the multitude (John 6:1-14). Afterwards, Jesus taught the significance of the event, which was not found in the miracle itself, but in what it signified:

“Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:31-35)

Jesus is the true manna which gives eternal life. The manna in the wilderness sustained the Israelites for a time, but they still died in the wilderness:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (John 6:48-51)

The overcomer has faith in Christ and is a partaker of His flesh given on our behalf. Thus he has eternal life:

“As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:57-58)

This manna is said to be hidden. “There can, I think, be no doubt that allusion is here to the manna which at God’s express command Moses caused to be laid up before the Lord in the Sanctuary (Ex. 16:32-34; cf. Heb. 9:4). This manna, as being thus laid up in the Holy Place, obtained the name of ‘hidden.’ ”110

The allusion is ultimately traceable to Ex. 16:32-34, where the Lord commanded a sample of manna to be preserved as a memorial for future generations. Tradition was quick to explain its subsequent disappearance. It was taken to have been originally kept in the ark of the covenant (cf. Heb. 9:4), and on the destruction of Solomon’s temple Jeremiah, according to 2 Macc. 2:4-7, was warned to take the tabernacle, the ark and its contents to Sinai and there hide them underground. There they would remain until the coming of the Messiah, when Jeremiah would reappear and deposit them in the new Messianic temple in Jerusalem. A variant in 2 Baruch 6:7-10, ascribing their concealment to an angel, is almost contemporary with the Revelation. neither of these passages mentions manna, but its inclusion in this tradition is inferred from Heb. 9:4 and explicit in the Rabbinic sources (so Yoma 52b).111

Christ Himself may be considered hidden manna, being no longer visible since His ascension:

Life eternal commences on this side of the grave, and not first on the other; and here in the wilderness Christ is the bread from heaven, the bread of God, the true manna, of which those that eat shall never die (John 6:31-33, 48-51). Nay, more than this; since his Ascension he is in some sort a “hidden manna” for them now.112

The fact that the manna is described as “hidden,” points to the mystery of eternal life, a mystery that is only perceived through faith. The hidden (or secret) manna seems to be the bread of life which is a secret from all who have not experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ.113

Eating the manna may also be an allusion to participation in the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9+).114 Bullinger sees a literal fulfillment in the nourishment of Israel in the future wilderness (Rev. 12:14+).115From the perspective of the saints at Pergamum, the hidden manna was a reminder of God’s provision in spite of deprivation. “The person leaving the state church might be deprived of his job and welfare. But in spite of what he may be deprived of, God will provide his sustenance.”116

white stone

In understanding the white stone, we meet with a tendency of many interpreters to derive an understanding of scriptural imagery from pagan cultural practices.117 See Searching for Meaning in all the Wrong Places.A number of alternative interpretations have been offered for the meaning of the white stone.

  1. Token of Innocence - A white pebble was placed in a ballot box by a Greek judge pronouncing a sentence of acquittal (a black pebble indicating condemnation). Stone is ψῆφον [psēphon]: “The word means (lit.) pebble, but has a secondary meaning of ‘vote,’ for the same word is used in Acts 26:10.”118 “There are many opinions on what the white stone represents, but when we note that Acts 26:10 uses the same Greek word for ‘vote,’ then we can advance a strong case that the white stone may well represent a vote of innocence. It then depicts the believer’s new character and symbolically denotes the purity which flows from the cleansing from sin that takes place at conversion.”119 “This white stone is absolution from the guilt of sin, alluding to the ancient custom of giving a white stone to those acquitted on trial and a black stone to those condemned.”120
  2. Token of Privilege - A tessera (also called ψῆφος [psēphos]) was given at Olympic games to the victor with subsequent attendant social privileges. Allusion has been seen to yet another kind of tessera, one supposedly given to a gladiator at his discharge from the arena, exempting him from the obligation to risk his life again there. Many such tokens survive. They take the form of elongated rectangular tablets of bone bearing the name of a man, the letters ‘SP’, and the day and year, often incised in sequence on the four faces.121
  3. Token of Initiation - A token of initiation into the cult of Asklepios. Roman examples were sometimes dated on the first of January, a day said to have been a festival of Asklepios. None of the known specimens is from Pergamum, but the importance of the Asklepios cult there . . . lends a strong circumstantial appeal to the theory.”122
  4. Good Omen - Reflecting the practice of a person who placed a white or black pebble for each happy or unhappy day into an urn. At his death, the colors were totaled to rate the happiness of his life.
  5. High Priest’s Headdress - “One explanation links the white stone with the platelet of gold that graced the high priest’s headdress (Ex. 28:36-37). The words inscribed on it were ‘Holiness to the Lord.’ According to this interpretation the overcomer will wear a headdress with a precious stone, on which shall be engraved the new name which belongs to the new Lord of the new kingdom, a name equivalent in value to that of Jehovah under the Old Testament, which no one but the high priest knew how to utter.”123
  6. High Priest’s Breastplate - “Another explanation from Jewish customs is that the imagery of the white stone originated with the twelve stones in the high priest’s breastplate. The names of each of the twelve tribes in Israel were inscribed on the stones. One difficulty with this view is that the stones in the breastplate were not white (Ex. 28:17-21). Another problem is that while the priest’s breastplate had twelve stones, Revelation 2:17+ mentions only one stone.”124
  7. Urim and Thummim - Trench supposes the white stone may be a diamond, the same stone which is the Urim and Thummim.125 “The stone is white or ‘bright,’ the Greek term λευκό [leuko] can refer either to the color white (traditional here) or to an object that is bright or shining, either from itself or from an outside source of illumination.”126 “The word Urim means ‘light,’ answering to the color white. None but the high priest knew the name written upon it, probably the incommunicable name of God, ‘Jehovah.’ The high priest consulted it in some divinely appointed way to get direction from God when needful. The ‘new name’ is Christ’s (compare Rev. 3:12+, ‘I will write upon him My new name’): some new revelation of Himself which shall hereafter be imparted to His people, and which they alone are capable of receiving. The connection with the ‘hidden manna’ will thus be clear, as none save the high priest had access to the ‘manna hidden’ in the sanctuary.”127 “A third explanation for the white stone is based on the Urim and Thummim in the high priest’s breastplate. The Urim and Thummim may have been stones, with names meaning ‘lights’ and ‘perfections,’ related to the revelation of God’s will (Ex. 28:30; Num. 27:21; Deu. 33:8; 1S. 28:6). This suggestion seems possible for several reasons. (a) The promised stone in Revelation 2:17+ could be white in the sense that it will have a whitish glisten. If Urim means lights, then it too could have had a whitish appearance. (b) Any engraving on the Urim was known only to the priest. This corresponds with the name written on the promised stone known only by the person who receives it. (c) Since the hidden manna Christ promised in the same verse is analogous to the Old Testament manna, the white stone could also be analogous to an Old Testament stone. It appears then that if Christ intended His audience to see an analogy between His white stone and the Urim, His reward would be experiencing God’s will fully.”128 “The white stone presumably is a sparkling diamond, perhaps answering to the Urim (‘lights’) also worn in Aaron’s breastplate (Leviticus 8:8). . . . [This was ] were worn by the high priest when he would enter into the holy place into the presence of the Lord. He alone could then have access to the ark of the covenant wherein reposed the hidden manna.”129
  8. Stone Tablets of the Law - “A fourth explanation in Jewish custom for the white stone connects it with the stones on which God inscribed His moral will (i.e., the Ten Commandments). Rosscup, who suggests this view, points out that this connection ‘could be directly relevant . . . to sins at Pergamum committed against God’s moral standard (Rev. 2:14-23+). As the overcomer received and honored the Word disclosing God’s Person and will, Christ assures [him] that he is to receive the ultimate disclosure of God’s Person and will. His symbol for this is the “white stone.” ’ This view is also possible for several reasons. (a) It is consistent in seeing both the manna and the stone as imageries from the same era in Israel’s history. (b) It fits with other rewards in Revelation 2+ which also reach back to the Old Testament (e.g., the tree of life [Rev. 2:7+], from Genesis 2 and 3; the crown of life, not the second death [Rev. 2:10-11+], going back also to Genesis 2 and 3; the rod of authority and the morning star [Rev. 2:26-28+], from Psalm 2 and Numbers 24). (c) The idea of what ‘God had written’ (Rev. 2:17+) is also emphasized with regard to the stones of the Law (Ex. 32:15-16). (d) The Lord made His name prominent and repeated it in writing on the stones of the Law, as in Exodus 20. (e) This view also suits the context of Revelation 2+. Standing against the sin-darkening environment, the overcomer honors the value of God’s moral law associated with His will (Rev. 2:14-15+; cf. Rev. 2:20-23+). So Christ will honor him with the ultimate enjoyment that relates to knowing and doing God’s will.”130

We believe it is inappropriate to base the interpretation of symbols within the book of Revelation upon pagan, non-Jewish cultural practices. The Bible is an inspired Jewish book (Rom. 3:2; 9:4), so we should not expect to find our answers in practices or beliefs which are considered blasphemous by God. When we apply the Golden Rule of Interpretation, we compare Scripture with Scripture to gain an understanding of the text. If this premise is true, and we believe it is, then it rules out all but the last four views as being contenders for understanding the white stone.Of the last four views, we believe the last two views are most likely connected with this passage.The white stone does not stand alone in our text for on the stone there will be a new name written. Observe several characteristics concerning this passage: (1) the gift given is a stone; (2) the stone is white; (3) the stone is written upon; (4) the writing conveys a name. We believe these factors connect the stone with the Stone Tablets of the Law given to Moses and upon which was recorded God’s moral law, the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17; 24:12; 34:2, 29). Throughout Scripture, names convey the character of the one bearing the name. It is no coincidence that when God met with Moses for the second time to write the tablets of the law, He proclaimed His character (Ex. 34:6-7). The record of the law written on stone is a reflection of God’s character.As for the white aspect of the stone, we note the command given to Joshua when the law was renewed prior to crossing the Jordan:

And it shall be, on the day when you cross over the Jordan to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones, and whitewash them with lime. You shall write on them all the words of this law, when you have crossed over, that you may enter the land which the LORD your God is giving you, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey,’ just as the LORD God of your fathers promised you. Therefore it shall be, when you have crossed over the Jordan, that on Mount Ebal you shall set up these stones, which I command you today, and you shall whitewash them with lime. And there you shall build an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones; you shall not use an iron tool on them. You shall build with whole stones the altar of the LORD your God, and offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God. You shall offer peace offerings, and shall eat there, and rejoice before the LORD your God. And you shall write very plainly on the stones all the words of this law. (Deu. 27:2-8) [emphasis added]

This command was later fulfilled by Joshua (Jos. 8:32). The written law upon the tablets of stone was a picture of how one day God would write the law upon tablets of flesh:

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. (2Cor. 2:2)

The white stone may be a memorial to the law in that it records a new name which expresses the character of God to which the believer is being conformed (Rom. 8:29; 1Cor. 15:49; 2Cor. 3:18; Php. 3:21; Col. 3:10).There is a textual variant at Revelation 15:6+ which mentions a white stone, but is generally thought to be a transcriptional error. See commentary on Revelation 15:6.

new name written

There are two possibilities concerning this new name. Either it is a new name given to the overcomer or it is the new name of God given to the overcomer in the church at Philadelphia (Rev. 3:12+).

This may indicate one or more of three main ideas. First, the name might be a new name Christ will give to each believer. It will be appropriately different for each overcomer and no one except the one who receives it will know the name. Second, the name might be the same for all believers. It will be known to all victors (all believers) just as the things of God are known (in different degree) to all believers (1Jn. 2:20, 27; 1Cor. 2:15-16). This view also fits with the Lord’s promises in Isaiah that He will give to His people—all of them in common—a “new name” (Isa. 62:2; cf. 56:5; 65:15). Third, the name might be that of God the Father or of Christ Himself, a common heritage for all overcomers. In favor of this view is the parallel passage in Revelation 3:12+, which says the name Christ will give is God’s own name. (Further support is in Revelation 14:1+ and 22:4+, which refer to God’s name on the foreheads of the 144,000 and all believers in the New Jerusalem.) This name could be a name of God that He deems appropriate for His own as an expression of the fact that they belong to Him (cf. Isa. 56:5; 62:2; 65:15). Also, as already noted, the white stone may allude to the stones of the Law on which God wrote His name (Ex. 20).131

The name is new: “Gr. kainos, new in quality, use, application, or character, as opposed to being new in time; see Mat. 9:17 where contrasting terms occur together, kainos being second, applied to wineskins which were not brand new (as was the wine), but simply not having been used before, unused. See the use of kainos at John 13:34.”132Isaiah described how God would give a name to those who follow after Him—even to those who were not Jews:

Even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants-everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant—even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, yet I will gather to him Others besides those who are gathered to him. (Isa. 56:5-8)

Whether the name is that of God or a new name given the believer, it describes the new character and inheritance of the believer (2Cor. 5:17; Eph. 4:24) who has been adopted into the family of God. “The new name is the name of adoption: adopted persons took the name of the family into which they were adopted.”133

no one knows except him

The name is secret—known only to the one who receives the stone. Full disclosure of the things of God is reserved for those who share intimacy with Him, who know Him and are known by Him. This pattern is seen in the great revelation given to those who had an especially close relationship with God such as Moses, Daniel, and John (Ps. 25:14; Mat. 11:27). God spoke to Moses “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11). Daniel was “greatly beloved” of God (Dan. 9:23; 10:11, 19). John was the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20).The name is unknown, as is Jesus’ new name (Rev. 3:12+; Rev. 19:12+). This recalls the mysterious, but unrevealed name attending the Angel of the Lord and Son of God throughout Scripture. The name is hinted at, but never revealed: when Jacob wrestled with the Angel and was named Israel (Gen. 32:29); when the Angel announced the birth of Samson to his parents (Jdg. 13:6, 18); in the question concerning the Son of God (Pr. 30:4); and in God’s new name to be written on the overcomer (Rev. 3:12+).Him may refer to the category of all overcomers—that the new name of God is only known to believers. If it refers to the individual, then it would seem to imply that a different name is revealed to each overcomer.134 If the latter, then the name may be that given to the individual overcomer, or perhaps a different name revealing one of the many facets of God’s character is given to each.

receives it

The one who knows the name is the one who receives the stone. It refers not to the name, but to the stone (containing the name).”135

Revelation 2:18

the angel

See the discussion concerning the identity of the angel at Revelation 1:20.

church in Thyatira

See Seven Churches of Asia.Thyatira means sacrifice of labor; odor of affliction.”136

Excavations at Thyatira

Excavations at Thyatira


Thyatira is very rarely mentioned in ancient literature, and its site is covered by the modern town of Akhisar, which betrays few outward signs of its past and whose presence has prevented excavation. . . . Thyatira is first know to us as a Seleucid colony, whose foundation is ascribed to Seleucus Nicator at the time of his war with Lysimachus. . . . The increasing abundance of later inscriptions suggests that Thyatira, still of limited importance at the time of the Revelation, reached a peak of prosperity in the second and third centuries. The words of Rev. 2:19+ were addressed to a growing church in a growing city.138

The most outstanding feature in Thyatiran life was probably the institution of trade-guilds. . . . At Thyatira there were guilds of bakers, potters, workers in brass, tanners, leather-cutters, workers in wool and flax, clothiers, dyers; the workers in wool and the dyers were probably the most numerous, for the manufacture and dyeing of woollen goods was a Lydian speciality, in which Thyatira excelled.139

Not surprisingly, religion played no major role in Thyatira’s way of life, for it was not a major center of Caesar worship or Greek worship; its local god was Tyrimnus, a horse mounted god, armed with a battle-ax and a club. The only notable thing about Thyatira religiously was that it was home to the oracle Sambethe, an oracle presided over by a female fortune teller.140

This church may have been established from Paul’s ministry to Lydia (Acts 16:14). “At the riverside at Philippa Lydia, a seller of purple of Thyatira became the first recorded Christian convert in Macedonia (Acts 16:14).”141

Thyatira was famous for a purple or crimson dye manufactured from the madder root, which was a cheap rival for the expensive Phoenician murex dye made from a particular marine shellfish. Acts 16:14 attests to this specialty, for the Philippian convert, Lydia, was a seller of purple fabrics who hailed from Thyatira (she was 300 miles from her home city).142

Son of God

Frequent allusions to Psalm 2 in the letter to Thyatira underscore both the judgment of Jezebel and her children (Rev. 2:22-23+) and the promises made to the overcomer who is given power over the nations” (Rev. 2:26+). (See Rev. 2:18+ cf. Ps. 2:9; Rev. 2:26+ cf. Ps. 2:8; Rev. 2:27+ cf. Ps. 2:9.143) This is the first instance in the letters to the seven churches where the self-identification of Christ is in the form of a title rather than a descriptive attribute.144

eyes like a flame of fire

The church at Thyatira had been allowing Jezebel to promote her unscriptural teaching in their midst (Rev. 2:20+), but not the slightest detail had escaped the eyes of the Master. As discussed in Revelation 1:14, the eyes like a flame of fire indicate His omniscience and omnipresence. He is well aware of what is happening within the church at Thyatira, especially those things he opposes (Rev. 2:20+).

feet like fine brass

Fine brass is translated from a word of unknown derivation (only occurring here and in Revelation 1:15+) which probably denotes bright shining metal or perhaps its purity or hardness. See commentary on Revelation 1:15.The imagery of both eyes and feet is that of impending judgment upon Jezebel and her children (Rev. 2:22-23+). The judgment will serve as a witness of His omniscience: “All the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts” (Rev. 2:23+).

Revelation 2:19

I know

See commentary on Revelation 2:2.

your works, love, service, faith, ... your patience

The ministry (“service,” διακονίαν [diakonian]) of the saints at Thyatira evidenced the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Their faith was real and made evident by their works (Tit. 3:8, 14; Jas. 2:22). The grammar implies that love, service, faith, and patience may be an elaboration of their works and that their love and faith are evidenced by their service and patience. 145

the last are more than the first

“This highly commendable state of affairs was the opposite of what had happened in Ephesus (cf. Rev. 2:5+; cf. Mat; 12:45; 2Pe. 2:10).”146

Revelation 2:20


The works done at Thyatira did not stand on their own for good works are necessary, but not sufficient in Christian service. The world is full of organizations which focus on beneficent works to fellow man. This cannot be the measure of acceptability to God because many of these organizations embrace beliefs and practices which are directly opposed to God’s Word (e.g., Shriners, Masons). Therefore, works alone say nothing about an organization’s relationship with God. It is the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that makes service Christian.

you allow

In contrast to the church in Ephesus which could not bear false apostles and hated the Nicolaitans, the church at Thyatira tolerated a false prophetess, Jezebel.We ourselves do not need to actively teach or promote error to come under Christ’s corrective judgment. All we need do is tolerate those in our midst who do so. The failure to confront those teaching error in our midst is a fundamental error of the modern church and reflects a generation of church-goers more likely to quote Matthew 7:1 than John 3:16.

that woman Jezebel

See Jezebel.The MT indicates that Jezebel may have been the wife of the angel of the church.147

calls herself a prophetess

Scripture recognizes numerous women who fulfilled the role of prophetess: Miriam, sister of Aaron (Ex. 15:20); Deborah (Jdg. 4:4); Huldah (2K. 22:14); Noadiah (Ne. 6:14);148 Isaiah’s wife (Isa. 8:3);149 Anna (Luke 2:36); the daughters of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:9).150 But nowhere does it record a true prophetess that is self-proclaimed.Jezebel may have been a prophetess of sorts, but her prophetic powers were not from God. “Employing her intellectual faculties in the service of Satan, and not of God; but claiming inspiration, and probably possessing it, wielding spiritual powers, only they were such as reached her from beneath, not such as descended on her from above.”151 The Thyatiran church was making the serious mistake of attributing her spiritual powers to God. Unlike the Ephesian church (Rev. 2:2+), they had failed to test the spirits” (1Jn. 4:1).Perhaps the most telltale aspect of those who are not truly hearing from God is their incessant self-proclamation.152 This is often evidence of pride and an inability to produce the genuine gift of the Spirit which they claim. God’s Word indicates a different pattern for those who would serve Him in humility: “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips” (Pr. 27:2), “For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends” (2Cor. 10:18).This problem was not unique to the church at Thyatira, for Ezekiel’s day experienced it:

Likewise, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people, who prophesy out of their own heart; prophesy against them, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Woe to the women who sew magic charms on their sleeves and make veils for the heads of people of every height to hunt souls! Will you hunt the souls of My people, and keep yourselves alive? And will you profane Me among My people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, killing people who should not die, and keeping people alive who should not live, by your lying to My people who listen to lies?” ’Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against your magic charms by which you hunt souls there like birds. I will tear them from your arms, and let the souls go, the souls you hunt like birds. I will also tear off your veils and deliver My people out of your hand, and they shall no longer be as prey in your hand. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. Because with lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and you have strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life. Therefore you shall no longer envision futility nor practice divination; for I will deliver My people out of your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” ’ (Eze. 13:17-23) [emphasis added]

How similar this sounds to the modern church which has no shortage of self-proclaimed “prophetesses” who frequent various conferences, peddling their ministries as being inspired by the Holy Spirit while teaching concepts which contradict God’s Word.

to teach

“In her own eyes, Jezebel’s alleged special revelations from God qualified her as an authoritative teacher in the church. Some others agreed and she became a recognized leader.”153 Scripture indicates that although women can have great wisdom (Pr. 31:26) and work alongside men instructing other believers (Acts 18:26), in the assembly they are not to occupy teaching roles over men (1Cor. 14:34; 1Ti. 2:12). The reason for this prohibition is not cultural, but reflects God’s created order (1Ti. 2:13) and recognizes differences between men and women (1Ti. 2:14). The teaching role of women is primarily to be instructing other women (Tit. 2:3-4) and children (2Ti. 1:5, 3:15).

The sin, apparently involving the majority of the Thyatira church’s members, was twofold. First, they violated the biblical teaching that women are not to be teachers or preachers in the church (1Ti. 2:12). That led them to tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. They compounded their error of permitting her to teach by allowing her to teach error.154

In our own day, this Scriptural restriction on the teaching role of women has been twisted by the feminist agenda which distorts the Scriptures using techniques not unlike that of “Christian homosexuals” who deny the plain meaning of the text. As a result, the Christian church is reaping the whirlwind with self-proclaimed prophetesses as well as female “bishops” and pastors usurping roles which God has ordained strictly for men. If a woman believes “God is calling her to be a pastor,” she should think again! God does not contravene His own word.


is πλανᾳ̃ [plana] meaning “To cause to stray, to lead astray, lead aside from the right way.”155 Most often, it denotes deception, which by its very nature leads astray. Our ability to be led correlates with the strength we give to our desires. Jezebel’s seduction was much like that of the Balaamites in the church at Pergamum (Rev. 2:14+). See the discussion of stumbling block at Revelation 2:14.

eat things sacrificed to idols

Jezebel led the church at Thyatira into the same error as the Balaamites in the church at Pergamum:

Satan seems to have used commerce to undercut the church in Thyatira, for unless one was a member of a trade guild, one had little hope of commercial prosperity; indeed, one’s commercial existence was in jeopardy. Two characteristics of these guilds were incompatible with Christianity: first, they held banquets, often in a temple, and these banquets would begin and end with a formal sacrifice to the gods, so the meat eaten at these affairs was meat offered to idols (Acts 15:29). Second, these functions were, as would be expected, occasions of drunken revelry and slack morality.156

Pagan worship was associated with trade guilds in that each guild had its guarding god. Guilds for wool workers, linen workers, manufacturers of outer garments, dyers, leather workers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave dealers, and bronze smiths were known. Membership in a guild was compulsory if one wanted to hold a position. . . . Guild members were expected to attend the guild festivals and to eat food, part of which had been offered to the tutelary deity and which was acknowledged as being on the table as a gift from god. At the end of the feast grossly immoral activities would commence.157

See Worldly Churches. See commentary on Revelation 2:14.

Revelation 2:21

I gave her time

Herein is the evidence of God’s grace which is so often turned against Him. Those who complain that a perfect and loving God would not allow such evil in the world need to stop and consider that if He were to step into history at the very next instant to remove all evil, they themselves would be guaranteed a place in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:15+)! Peter explains that the delay of God in judging evil is motivated by His longsuffering and that none should perish. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2Pe. 3:9).


God gave Jezebel time to recognize her error and to change her conduct accordingly, to repent: It is always God’s desire that men and women would repent and avoid judgment (Eze. 18:30-32; 33:11-15). Concerning the word repent, see commentary on Revelation 2:5.

she did not repent

Jezebel had been given time to recognize her wickedness and repent, but she would not. Here is introduced the pattern of the enemies of God throughout this book. Even in the face of clear evidence of God’s disapproval, those who have set their hearts against Him refuse to repent (Rev. 9:20-21+; 16:9-11+).We often assume lack of repentance indicates a lack of understanding or the knowledge of evil. Yet Scripture indicates repentance has less to do with the head and more to do with the heart which is hardened toward God (Ex. 7:13, 23; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:34; Rom 2:5).

Revelation 2:22

I will cast

A futurist use of the present tense, βαλλω [ballō], the judgment is imminent as if it had already begun.


Although κλίνην [klinēn] may refer to a bed occupied by a sick person (Mat. 9:2; Mark 7:30; Luke 5:18; Acts 5:15), it may also refer to a couch used for other purposes (Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16; 17:34). Here, the reference to eating things sacrificed to idols would seem to imply a dining couch. The root from which it is derived, κλινω [klinō], has the meaning “to cause to lean, make to slope or slant”158 from which we get our word incline. This bed may refer to a couch on which Jezebel and those who followed her teaching would recline during the pagan feasts.159 “Ramsay . . . strongly maintained here a reference to the dining-couch of the guild-feasts. It seems likely enough that there are allusions which escape us here through our ignorance of the inner life of the guilds, but the primary meaning is probably ‘sick-bed’.”160Her bed of whoredom will be changed into a bed of anguish.161

those who commit adultery

The adultery here referred to may have been literal—in connection with the licentious aspects of the guild feasts—or spiritual.Τοὺς μοιχεύοντας [Tous moicheuontas], “those who commit adultery,” “A Hebrew idiom, the word is used of those who at a woman’s solicitation are drawn away to idolatry, i.e. to the eating of things sacrificed to idols”162 (Eze. 16:37-41). The activity of Jezebel is a type representing the Harlot of Revelation 17+: “With whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication” (Rev. 17:2+).

great tribulation

This exact phrase appears both in Matthew’s gospel and later in this book (Mat. 24:21; Rev. 2:22+; 7:14+). Although in the context of the letter to Thyatira, it seems best to understand the phrase in its non-technical sense as denoting a personal time of great trouble for the unrepentant prophetess,163 there are also reasons to take the phrase in its technical sense:

Since the encouragement to the faithful in Rev. 2:25-26+ refers to His second advent, the case for a technical eschatological meaning . . . is still stronger. In consideration that the main body of the Apocalypse (Revelation 4+-19+) includes a detailed description of this future period, it is exegetically sound to conclude that the threat to the followers of Jezebel is that of being thrust into this period of unparalleled misery.164

Even if the Tribulation relates specifically to the woman Jezebel in the church at Thyatira, it does not preclude understanding the passage as a type denoting the fate of the apostate church. The apostate church of the last days, which does not participate in the Rapture, remains on earth to enter the Great Tribulation.165 See Jacob’s Trouble and the Great Tribulation.

unless they repent

She was already given time and did not repent (Rev. 2:21+). Now God gives one last chance before bringing judgment. Such is the mercy and grace of God. “The very time during which ungodly men are heaping up for themselves greater wrath against the day of wrath, was a time lent them for repentance (Rom. 2:4; 2Pe. 3:9), if only they would have understood the object and the meaning of it.”166

their deeds

MT and NU texts have εργων αὐτῆς [ergōn autēs] (“deeds of her”) whereas TR has ἐργων αὐτων [ergōn autōn] (“deeds of them”).

Revelation 2:23

will kill her children with death

A futuristic use of the present tense: “I am killing”. An indication of imminency of the judgment. “Kill with death is a Hebraism for slay with most sure and awful death; so ‘dying thou shalt die’ (Gen. 2:17).”167Jezebel’s children are probably those who follow her spiritual teaching. “The children of Jezebel possibly included actual illegitimate children of her promiscuity, but the term more definitely refers to her converts. As Timothy was a ‘son’ of Paul (1 Timothy 1:2) ‘in the faith,’ so Jezebel had won many to her hedonistic brand of pseudo-Christianity.”168 God will cut them off as were Ahab and Jezebel’s children by Jehu (2K. 10:6-7).

shall know

Middle voice, γνώσονται [gnōsontai]: “the churches themselves shall know.”The judgment of God often serves two purposes: to chasten or eliminate the one being judged; and to serve as warning to others who might otherwise follow a similar path (Deu. 17:13; 19:20; 21:21). The one who led the children of Israel to worship other gods was to be stoned so “All Israel shall hear and fear, and not again do such wickedness as this among you” (Deu. 13:11). When judgment fell upon Ananias and Sapphira, “great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things” (Acts 5:11).

minds and hearts

Νεφροὺς καὶ καρδίας [Nephrous kai kardias], kidneys and hearts, but translated minds and hearts.169 Here is the explanation of Christ’s selection of title in the letter to Thyatira: “the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame” (Rev. 2:18+). Nothing escapes his gaze. See commentary on Revelation 1:14.God alone searches the minds and hearts, for we ourselves cannot. The condition of our fallen mind and deceitful heart make it an impossible task. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:9-10).Christ knows the heart of men. “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:23-25).

according to your works

The fellowship in Thyatira, consisting both of believers and unbelievers, would be judged according to their works. The threat of being judged according to our works should send a shiver up the spine of all who are acquainted with their own depravity as a member of Adam’s race. Yet multitudes are unaware of how far short their works fall when measured against the requirements of a perfect and Holy God. Rather than recognizing their desperate need of the righteousness of Christ, they continue forward trusting in their own righteousness (Luke 10:29; 18:9; John 9:41; Rom. 10:3) unaware that before God it “is as filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6).Eventually, God will grant them what they desire—the opportunity to stand before Him and be judged according to their works:

And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. (Rev. 20:12+)

At the resurrection of the unsaved dead, the dead are judged according to their works as recorded in “the books.” These books will reveal their lack of perfection. Then, another book, the Book of Life will be consulted to verify that they have not availed themselves of the blood of Christ to obtain the righteousness provided by God (Rom. 3:5, 21-26; 10:3; 2Cor. 5:21; Php. 3:9; Jas. 1:20). Lacking both perfection and a relationship with the Perfect One, they will find their destiny in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:15+).Believers too will be judged for their works. But the judgment they face is infinitely different than that of the nonbeliever for it is a judgment for rewards. Even if the believer is devoid of works, he himself escapes the wrath of Almighty God (1Cor. 3:13-15), for his righteousness is provided by God Himself (Jer. 23:6).170Biblical faith is to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit and the works thereof which are an indication of true faith:

It is indeed one of the gravest mischiefs which Rome has bequeathed to us, that in a reaction and protest, itself absolutely necessary, against the false emphasis which she puts on works, unduly thrusting them in to share with Christ’s merits in our justification, we often fear to place upon them the true; being as they are, to speak with St. Bernard, the “via regni” [way of royalty], however little the “causa regnandi” [cause of royalty].171

Revelation 2:24

to you . . . and to the rest

You is plural (ὑμῖν [hymin]). The question then becomes if you refers to the members of the Thyatiran church (and not just the angel), then who are the rest? The MT and NU do not have the conjunction “and” (καὶ [kai]), and read to you, the rest. The TR kai could possibly be translated by “even,” that is to you . . . even the rest. In either case, it appears that you and the rest denote the same group of individuals: the members of the church at Thyatira beside the angel. Christ’s words which have been primarily addressed to the angel (Rev. 2:18+, see commentary on Revelation 1:20), are now explicitly broadened to the entire fellowship.

depths of Satan

Two explanations of ‘the deep things of Satan’ are widely held: (1) that the phrase is an ironical retort to the claims of Jezebel’s followers to esoteric knowledge of ‘the deep things of God’; (2) that the opposition actually boasted of a knowledge of ‘the deep things of Satan’, saying that the spiritual man should experience all evil to demonstrate his superiority over it.172

He ventures into Satan’s strongholds to demonstrate the powerlessness of the enemy over him, or else to learn the real nature of sin in this firsthand way.173

Some may have felt that they could attend trade guild festivities honoring patron gods or acknowledge Caesar as god if called to, since close association with idolatry would enable a Christian to “know the deep things of Satan” (Rev. 2:24+) and his inner council. Such knowledge purportedly would allow Christians to know the satanic opponents’ deceptive methods so well that they could all the better defeat Satan in the future.174

A trademark of all mystery religious and secret societies is the teaching that true knowledge lies below the surface, only attainable by the initiate. By mysterious activities, they purport to know “the deep things of God” (1Cor. 2:10). These “deep mysteries” stand in stark contrast to the simple gospel of Jesus Christ which is hidden from those who purport to be wise, but revealed to babes (Ps. 8:2; Mat. 11:25; Luke 10:21; 2Cor. 11:3).

The Magians from Babylon continually spoke of their “deep things,” their “inner knowledge,” just as the Theosophists, Christian Scientists, Spiritualists, and “Unity” devotees do today (simply ancient Gnosticism revived!). The Lord sees through all the enemy’s delusions and “mysteries”; they are not “deep” to Him. . . . It is no sign of spirituality to be familiar with Satanic psychic or demonic “depths.”175

They taught, as we know, that it was a small thing for a man to despise pleasure and to show himself superior to it, while at the same time he fled from it. The true, the glorious victory was, to remain superior to it even while tasting it to the full; to give the body to all the lusts of the flesh, and yet with all this to maintain the spirit in a region of its own, uninjured by them; and thus, as it were, to fight against pleasure with the arms of pleasure itself; to mock and defy Satan even in his own kingdom and domain.176

The fatal error of such cultish systems is overconfidence in the ability of man and a woeful underestimate of the appetite of the flesh and the schemes of the devil. Weaving webs of sophistry, the resulting philosophy often exchanges truth for error:

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.177

Scripture makes plain we are not called to focus on the darkness, but to focus on the light (Php. 4:8). Paul warned the Colossians against such worldly philosophy which stands opposed to the simplicity which is in Christ:

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Col. 2:8-10) [emphasis added]

The pattern of those who purport to plumb the depths of Satan is one of bondage, not liberty. “Promising liberty to others, being themselves servants of corruption.”178

Revelation 2:25

hold fast

An aorist imperative, κρατήσατε [kratēsate], “you all hold fast!”179 Similar instructions are given to the Philadelphian church (Rev. 3:11+).The church at Thyatira was to actively hold onto the good things they had until the coming of Christ (Rev. 2:19+). They must be held fast in the face of active opposition by the flesh, the devil, and enemies of the church. This is the theme throughout Scripture for those who seek after God.

I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me. I cling to Your testimonies; O LORD, do not put me to shame! I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart. Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. (Ps. 119:30-35) [emphasis added]

The Christian life is like a greased pole that we are either actively climbing up or passively sliding down. There is no opportunity to remain stationary.

until I come

The imminent coming of Jesus is an important theme throughout this book (Rev. 1:7+. 22:7+, 20+). That this coming is not a spiritual coming can be seen by the context. The promises of the next few verses are for “he who overcomes until the end” (Rev. 2:26+) and include being given authority at the commencement of the millennial reign (Rev. 20:4+). See Imminency. See Theme.

Revelation 2:26

he who overcomes

See Who is the Overcomer?

keeps my works

Jesus spoke of the need for endurance, especially as lawlessness would abound and the love of many grew cold (Mat. 24:12-13). There are many distractions which can undermine fruitful and consistent development in the Christian life. In the parable of the four soils, Jesus explained that the devil is partly to blame, but that some lacking any root will fall away due to temptation. Still others have their potential works choked by the cares, riches, and pleasures of life. But those who have a noble and good heart hear the word and bear fruit with patience (Luke 8:11-15).Keeping His works requires abiding (μενω [menō]) in His word (John 8:31-32). To abide is to “live, dwell, lodge . . . [and is used] of someone who does not leave the realm or sphere in which he finds himself”180. Thus, we are to be immersed and live in His Word. Otherwise we will not be His disciples and whatever we keep won’t be His works.

until the end

For the believer, the end arrives when either we step through the doorway from this life into the presence of God (2Cor. 5:8) or we remain alive until the coming of the Lord (John 14:3; 1Th. 4:15).

power over the nations

This power can only be given to the overcomer by One who has such power (Gen. 49:10; Ps. 2; Eze. 21:27).181power is εξουσίαν [exousian]: “The power exercised by rulers or others in high position by virtue of their office.”182 This authority is not innately the overcomer’s, but is granted to him by virtue of his identity with Christ, for it is Christ who is destined to rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Rev. 12:5+; 19:15+). The overcomer will reign with Him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6+).

Revelation 2:27

he shall rule them

This promise is closely related to that given to the Laodicean overcomer: “I will grant to sit with Me on My throne as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” See commentary on Revelation 3:21. See commentary on Revelation 1:6. See commentary on Revelation 20:6.This power will be given, He shall rule. It is yet future, at the time of the millennial reign of Christ on earth (Mat. 25:21-23; Luke 19:17-19; Rev. 20:4-6+). Of particular interest concerning the timing of this power being granted to the overcomer is the parable Jesus told “because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.” In this parable, the nobleman who goes to a far country to receive a kingdom is Jesus returning to the right hand of the Father. The kingdom is received just prior to His Second Coming (Luke 19:15), after the little horn is defeated and “the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom” (Dan. 7:22-27). The servants who remain faithful in His absence, like the overcomers at Thyatira, are given authority over cities (Luke 19:11-19). At the end of the Millennial Kingdom when Christ has put down the last of His foes (Rev. 20:9-10+), He will then deliver the kingdom to God the Father (1Cor. 15:24-28). The reign of the overcomer extends beyond the Millennial Kingdom into the eternal state (Rev. 22:5+).

rod of iron

Unlike other scepters, this scepter is of iron indicating His divine prerogative to rule and the impossibility of disobedience. This is a “breaking scepter” (Rev. 12:5+; 19:15+). “The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations, He shall fill the places with dead bodies, He shall execute the heads of many countries” (Ps. 110:5-6).

dashed to pieces

See Trouble Ahead.The allusion here is to Psalm 2. The dashing will take place when Jesus’ rule is extended to the ends of the earth—at His return to establish the Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 20:4-6+).183

Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel. (Ps 2:8-9)

The Hebrew word for “Thou shalt break,” and that for “Thou shalt rule,” only differ in their vowels; their consonants are identical; at the same time the parallelism of the latter half of the verse, “Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel,” leaves no doubt that “Thou shalt break” was the intention of the Psalmist.184

Christ shall rule them with a sceptre of iron to make them capable of being ruled with a scepter of gold; severity first, that grace may come after.185

During the millennial reign, the saints are destined to execute vengeance on the nations and judge according to the written judgment of God (Ps. 149:5-9).

like potter’s vessels

“The allusion . . . is apt in view of the known existence of a guild of potters in Thyatira.”186 The clay of the potter was originally intended to be formed and fashioned according to the purpose of the potter (Isa. 29:16; 64:8; Jer. 18:1-11). Since the clay refuses to serve its intended purpose, it is the right of the potter to dash it to pieces (Isa. 41:25; 45:9; Dan. 2:35, 43-44).

received from My Father

God cares as much or more about the means as the ends. Many Christians would do well to remember this when seeking the miraculous from questionable sources. The Son would only receive the kingdom from the Father, not from Satan (Luke 4:5-8).There is a divine chain of authority: Father to Son to believer. The Son has authority because He is under authority and likewise the believer. This authority is forfeited when the chain is broken. The centurion, in explaining his authority said that he, like Jesus, was also under authority (Luke 22:29). All things have been given to Jesus by the Father (Mat. 11:27). Jesus can bestow a kingdom because His Father bestowed one upon Him (Luke 22:29).

Revelation 2:28

morning star

Christ Himself is said to be the morning star (Rev. 22:16+).187 What is the purpose of the morning star, but to serve as an indicator of the approaching dawn? Those who see the morning star are encouraged by the fact that the long night is almost over and soon the sun will shine in its brilliance dispelling all traces of darkness.The current period, between the ascension of Christ and His Second Coming, is the “night.”

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning-Yes, more than those who watch for the morning. (Ps. 130:5-6)

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2Pe. 1:19)

Isaiah 24 sets forth the Day of the Lord and the awful destruction and judgment which attend it. (See Trouble Ahead.) In the middle of the passage, Isaiah mentions the “dawn.” “Therefore glorify the LORD in the dawning light, the name of the LORD God of Israel in the coastlands of the sea” (Isa. 24:15).Yet, the destruction which attends the Day of the Lord is itself an indicator that the long night is nearly over and that the sun will soon rise:

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the LORD of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.” (Mal. 4:1-2)

Psalm 46 indicates a time of great upheaval upon the earth, at which God intervenes to rescue Jerusalem “at the break of dawn” (see Zec. 12). His intervention is followed by a time of universal peace (Isa. 2:4; 9:5, 7; 14:7; Hos. 2:18; Zec. 9:10):

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah (Ps. 46:1-11) [emphasis added]

When the Millennial Kingdom arrives, it will be a glorious day upon the earth during which the sun shall shine:

Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isa. 60:1-3)

You in this passage is the earthly Jerusalem which will be the center of Christ’s reign during the thousand years (Rev. 20:4-6+).188The morning star rises prior to the dawn:

The “morning star” comes before “the day” dawns; the “sun” shines during “the day”; Jesus is both. As the morning star, He is seen by few: as the sun, He is seen by all. Those who watch not merely for the sun, but for the morning star, properly heed the cautions and injunctions relating to the posture of watching.189

We have in the “Morning Star” an implied reference to the first stage of the Advent, the thief-like coming for the saints, and to obtain it indicates that we are worthy of the better resurrection, or (if living) of the translation. The mention of this in such a connection is also exceedingly significant of the exaltation of the saints to coheirship with the Christ when the morning breaks.190

Christ has just mentioned a scepter and now mentions a star, both elements of the prophecy of Balaam (Num. 24:17). In Balaam’s prophecy, the star is seen first followed by the scepter. This accords with the view that the morning star will rise prior to the reign of Messiah on the earth.

Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:32-36)

The morning star given to the overcomer in Thyatira may be the promise of a visitation prior to the dawn—participation in the Rapture of the church by all true believers and thus avoiding the last part of the night, the Great Tribulation, immediately before the dawn of the Millennial Kingdom. “Perhaps it also refers again to His second coming—this time in its very first aspect, when He comes to catch up into His presence those who believe on Him (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).”191 See Rapture.At the very least it denotes the blessing of the continual expectancy of His coming:

Into the heart of the faithful believer comes that wondrous expectancy of His coming , which John elsewhere describes as having our “hope set on him” (1 John 3:3). This is the experience of the believer who awakes out of sleep (Romans 13:11), who by the grace of God hears His voice when He says, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from among the dead (ones), and Christ shall shine upon thee” (Ephesians 5:13). . . . so these spiritually awakened or aroused find Christ’s coming arising as the day-star in their hearts (2 Peter 1:19).192

Revelation 2:29

let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches

See commentary on Revelation 2:7.


1Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 35.

2Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 129.

3Copyright © 2003 This image appears by special permission and may not be duplicated for use in derivative works.

4G. L. Borchert, “Ephesus,” in Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979, 1915), 115.

5“In the Ephesian calendar the month of the spring equinox was named after Artemis . . . and during that month the city celebrated a yearly festival in honour of the goddess.”—Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998, 1906), lvii.

6Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 35.

7Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), 86.

8“Acts 19:19 hints that the church in Ephesus was very large indeed, for 50,000 pieces of silver represents 50,000 days’ wages, which, at a daily wage of $100, was equivalent to $5,000,000. Now, if each person burned an average of $250 worth of books on magic, that value would represent 20,000 people; and even if every second person in the church was involved in magic this would require a church of, very conservatively, 40,000 members. (Do four-member Christian families on average own $1,000 worth of Christian books?) This, too, is simply an estimate of the size of the Ephesian church before three years of Paul’s ministry was completed (Acts 20:31—church history claims an Ephesian church of 100,000 members in John Chrysostom’s day).”—Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987).

9“[Ephesus had a] reputation as a seat of learning. . . . according to Eusebius Ephesus is the scene of Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho.”—Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, lvi.

10Borchert, Ephesus, 115.

11Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 39.

12J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 56.

13Borchert, Ephesus, 116-117.

14“[The perfect tense] describes an event that, completed in the past . . . has results existing in the present time (i.e., in relation to the time of the speaker). ... the perfect tense is used for ‘indicating not the past action as such but the present state of affairs resulting from the past action.’ ”—Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House and Galaxie Software, 1999, 2002), 572.

15Richard Chenevix Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1861), 72.

16J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers, 2nd ed (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), 89.

17“A wider group of authoritative apostles existed [then those which had seen the Lord]. James the Just, Barnabas, Paul, Silas, Andronicus, and Junias were also apostles (Acts 14:14; Rom. 16:7; 1Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:18; 1Th. 2:6).”—Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 137.

18James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), G863.

19Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

20William R. Newell, Revelation: Chapter by Chapter (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1994,c1935), 38-39.

21A. R. Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 2:4.

22Richard Chenevix Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1989), 270-272.

23Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 80.

24Newell, Revelation: Chapter by Chapter, 39-40.

25“The present tense may be used to describe a future event, . . . it typically adds the connotations of immediacy and certainty.”—Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, 535.

26Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 2:5.

27Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 147.

28Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 187-188.

29Newell, Revelation: Chapter by Chapter, 40.

30Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 147.

31Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 2:7.

32A. T. Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures in Six Volumes (Escondido, CA: Ephesians Four Group, 2003).

33Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 67.

34M. R. Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies (Escondido, CA: Ephesians Four Group, 2002), Rev. 2:7.

35Israel My Glory, May/June 2001, 23.

36“It is suggested that the phrase ‘tree of life’ may have carried the connotation of the cross of Christ to the original readers of Rev. 2:7+.”—Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 55.

37Ibid., 50.

38Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, G3857.

39Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 95.

40Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 153.

41Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 755-756.

42Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 97-98.

43Copyright © 2003 This image appears by special permission and may not be duplicated for use in derivative works.

44“The countries bordering on the eastern Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Egypt.”—American Heritage Online Dictionary, Ver. 3.0A, 3rd ed (Houghton Mifflin, 1993), s.v. “Levant.”

45Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 159.

46“[Polycarp] may have been a young man in the church which first received the present letter. He evidently came much under its influence.”—Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 65.

47Ibid., 60.

48Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 2:8.

49Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 158.

50Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 64.

51Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 111-112.

52Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 110.

53Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies.

54Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 2:9.

55Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 100.

56Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 164-165.

57The term συναγωγὴ [synagōgē] is used only once for a Christian place of assembly. (Jas. 2:2).

58For more on the believing remnant, see 1K. 19:18; 2K. 19:4, 30; 21:14; 25:22; Isa. 1:9; 6:13; 7:3; 10:20-22; 28:5; 37:4, 31-32; 46:3; 59:21; 65:8; Jer. 5:10, 18; 23:3; 50:20; Eze. 5:3; 6:8-10; 9:8; 9:11; 11:13; Joel 2:32; Zec. 11:10; Mic. 2:12; 7:18; Zec. 13:8-9; Rom. 9:6, 27; Rom. 11:5, 17, 25.

59 “Has Christ a Church, then Satan has his ‘synagogue’ (Rev. 2:9+).”—Arthur Walkington Pink, The Antichrist (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1999, 1923), s.v. “The Antichrist will be the Son of Satan.” See Master Imitator.

60“This method of identifying Jews is hard-pressed to produce any exegetical support either within the Apocalypse or in the rest of the NT. Besides this, if they had called themselves Jews in this mystical sense, why would they be named as the principle source of calumny against the church? . . . It is inexplicable why a person who was not a physical descendant of Abraham would claim to be so and then turn to persecuting fellow-Christians without recanting this claim. The context demands that the offenders be of the physical descent of Abraham.”—Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 165.

61John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 71.

62Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 102.

63Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 13.

64Ibid., 30-31.

65Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 11.

66Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, lxxxix.

67Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 67.

68Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 140.

69Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 64.

70Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 104.

71Ibid., 105.

72Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia.

73“We have thus at least the attestation of this form of expression at Smyrna. . . . there is reason to think that John’s words may have recalled to the Christian the language of the arena. An appearance at some great festival there might well await those who were ‘faithful unto death’.”—Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 69.

74Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 107.

75Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 170.

76Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 53-54.

77Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 108.

78Ibid., s.v. “Martyrdom of Polycarp.”

79Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 71.

80Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 174.

81Copyright © 2003 This image appears by special permission and may not be duplicated for use in derivative works.

82Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), Rev. 2:12.

83Merrill Frederick Unger, R. K. Harrison, Frederic F Vos, and Cyril J. Barber, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1988), s.v. “Pergamum.”

84Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 2:12.

85Neil R. Lightfoot, How We Got the Bible, 3rd ed (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 18-19.

86Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, lviii-lix,lxiii.

87Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), 57.

88MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 83.

89“Asklepios . . . was also designated ‘Soter’, and was closely identified with the serpent. Though he had celebrated shrines elsewhere he was preeminently the Pergameus deus [God of Pergamus].”—Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 85.

90“The designation of Pergamum as the place where ‘Satan’s throne’ is (Rev. 2:13+) probably refers to Pergamum’s being the official Asian center for the imperial cult.”—R. North, “Pergamum,” in Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979, 1915), 3:768.

91Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 85.

92North, Pergamum, 3:768.

93Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 85-86.

94Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, lix.

95Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 2:13.

96Morris, The Revelation Record, 57.

97“Probably short for Ἀντίπατρος [Antipatros], ‘like the Father.’ ”—Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.

98“Antipas. i.e. against all.”—Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 2:13.

99Mal Couch, “Ecclesiology in the Book of Revelation,” in Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 138.

100Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 184.

101“What is the point of the emphatic comparison (ου῝τως . . . καὶ σύ . . . ὁμοίως [houtōs . . . kai sy . . . homoiōs]) between Balaam and the Nicolaitans?”—Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 88.

102Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 56.

103Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 118.

104Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.

105Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 30.

106Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, G4203.

107Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 2:15.

108Newell, Revelation: Chapter by Chapter, 51.

109Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia.

110Ibid., 124.

111Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 94-95.

112Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 125.

113Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 2:17.

114“Eating the ‘hidden manna’ is but another way of picturing what can also be represented as the joyous boon of feasting at the Messianic banquet (cf. Rev. 19:9+).”—James E. Rosscup, “The Overcomer of the Apocalypse,” in Grace Theological Journal, vol. 3 no. 1 (Grace Seminary, Spring 1982), 279.

115E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), 91.

116Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 56.

117Interpreters frequently look to pagan sources when they mistakenly believe Scripture offers no clues: “The ‘white stone’ (Rev. 2:17+) has no precedent in the Old Testament.”—Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1957), 190.

118Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 2:17.


120Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996, c1991), Rev. 2:17.

121Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 99.

122Ibid., 100.

123Daniel Wong, “The Hidden Manna and the White Stone,” in Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 155 no. 617 (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, January-March 1998), 351.


125Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 132.

126 New Electronic Translation : NET Bible, electronic edition (Dallas, TX: Biblical Studies Press, 1998), Rev. 2:17.

127Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 2:17.

128Wong, The Hidden Manna and the White Stone, 352.

129Morris, The Revelation Record, 59.

130Wong, The Hidden Manna and the White Stone, 353.


132Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, 2Jn. 1:5.

133Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Rev. 2:17.

134“Clearly the new name is the recipient’s own name, a new one, reflecting his status as belonging to Christ. This is verified in its being a secret name given to the man himself.”—Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 202.

135Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, Rev. 2:17.

136Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 2:18.

137Copyright © 2003 This image appears by special permission and may not be duplicated for use in derivative works.

138Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 106-107.

139Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, lix-lx.

140Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 2:18.

141Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 109.

142Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 2:18.

143Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia.

144Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation, 186.

145Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 211.

146Ibid., 213.

147“The textual question may be summarily treated. Two uncial manuscripts (A and 046 == Q, of the 10th century) and many cursives and versions insert σοῦ [sou] [your] after τὴν γυναῖκα [tēn gynaika] [the woman/wife]. The decisive weight of textual authority however appears against this (א, C, etc.), and the addition is readily explained by dittography.”—Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 117.

148Noadiah opposed Nehemiah in his work of reconstruction.

149“Isaiah’s wife was called a prophetess because the son to whom she gave birth was prophetic of the Assyrian conquest.”—John MacArthur, ed., The MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1997), Isa. 8:3.

150Although the daughters are not called prophetesses, they are said to prophesy.

151Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 140.

152“Now to do this was to take the place of the Spirit, who indeed spake ‘not from Himself,’ but ‘what He heard’ from the Lord in glory.”—Newell, Revelation: Chapter by Chapter, 54.

153Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 215.

154MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 100.

155Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, G4105.

156Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 2:20.

157Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 207-208.

158Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, and Henry Stuart Jones, A Greek-English Lexicon. With a revised supplement, 1996., With a revised supplement, 1996 (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1996).

159The word may refer to dining or a dining couch: “Dining Eze. 23:41; Mark 4:21; 7:30; Luke 8:16; 17:34; dining couch Mark 7:4.”—Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 436.

160Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 121.

161Newell, Revelation: Chapter by Chapter, 57.

162Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, G3431.

163A technical phrase has the same or similar meaning regardless of context. The meaning of a non-technical phrase varies with context.

164Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 221.

165“This means that unlike the true Church, the Roman Catholic Church will go into the Great Tribulation and will play a role during that time.”—Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 60.

166Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 141.

167Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 2:23.

168Morris, The Revelation Record, 62.

169“The only things left in the body cavity by the Egyptian embalmers.”—Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, s.v. “nephras.”

170If the life of a professing believer is truly devoid of all good works, then Scripture indicates the profession is suspect (Jas. 2:14-26).

171Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 144.

172Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 122.

173Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 228.

174Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 32.

175Newell, Revelation: Chapter by Chapter, 59.

176Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 145.

177Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies, Rev. 2:24.

178Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 145.

179Here is an example of a verb in an aorist tense which implies continuous action.

180Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, s.v. “meno.”

181Rabbinic interpretation associated the title Shiloh with the Messiah: a midrash takes “Shiloh” to refer to “King Messiah” (Genesis R. 98.13), the Babylonian Talmud lists “Shi’loh” as one of the names of the Messiah (Sanhedrin 98b), and Medieval Jewish biblical expositor Rashi makes the following comment: “Shiloh - i.e. King Messiah whose is the Kingdom.” Note that Eze. 21:25-27 was given to Zedekiah, the last king of the Davidic dynasty. Shiloh means “to he whose it is” or “to he who it belongs” or “he whose right it is” or “to whom kingship belongs” (Midrash Rabbah 98).

182Ibid., s.v. “exousian.”

183“It would appear that this section is eschatological in nature and looks 1) to the Millennium when all nations and peoples will acknowledge Christ as king and 2) to Jerusalem as His royal capital (cf. Eze. 28:25, 26; Joel 3:9-17; Mic. 5:4-15).”—MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, Ps. 149:6-9.

184Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 148.

185Ibid., 149.

186Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 125.

187Elsewhere, Satan is called הֵילֵל בֵן־שָׁחַר [hêlēl ḇēn–šāḥar], “shining one [or Lucifer], son of the morning,” (Isa. 14:12).

188Those who take this passage as describing the New Jerusalem have difficulty explaining this verse: “Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, so that no one went through you, I will make you an eternal excellence, a joy of many generations” (Isa. 60:15). When was the New Jerusalem forsaken and hated? See also Isa. 62.

189George H. N. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1978, 1884), 2:317.

190Ibid., 2:418.

191Morris, The Revelation Record, 63.

192Newell, Revelation: Chapter by Chapter, 61.

Copyright © 2004-2020 by Tony Garland
(Content generated on Thu Apr 30 16:37:46 2020)
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- Bruce Hurt MD

                          Apostle John on Isle of Patmos




Click charts to enlarge
Charts from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
Another Chart from Charles Swindoll

NOTE - These comments on Revelation 1 and Revelation 2 are separate and distinct from the Revelation Commentary above by Tony Garland.

Revelation 2:1  "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:

NET  Revelation 2:1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus, write the following: "This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who has a firm grasp on the seven stars in his right hand– the one who walks among the seven golden lampstands:

NLT  Revelation 2:1 "Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:

ESV  Revelation 2:1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: 'The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

NIV  Revelation 2:1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands:

GNT  Revelation 2:1 Τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ἐκκλησίας γράψον· Τάδε λέγει ὁ κρατῶν τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἀστέρας ἐν τῇ δεξιᾷ αὐτοῦ, ὁ περιπατῶν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἑπτὰ λυχνιῶν τῶν χρυσῶν·

KJV  Revelation 2:1 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;

ASV  Revelation 2:1 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, he that walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks:

CSB  Revelation 2:1 "Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus: "The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says:

NKJ  Revelation 2:1 "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,`These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:

NRS  Revelation 2:1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands:

YLT  Revelation 2:1 'To the messenger of the Ephesian assembly write: These things saith he who is holding the seven stars in his right hand, who is walking in the midst of the seven lamp-stands -- the golden:

  • the angel: Rev 2:8,12,18 3:1,7,14 
  • church: Rev 1:11 
  • holds: Rev 1:16,20 Rev 8:10-12 12:1  John 5:35 
  • walks: Rev 1:12,13 Eze 28:13,14 Mt 18:20 28:20 
  • Revelation 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Ephesus on Cayster River in Asia Minor
Click to Enlarge


Related Passages:

Revelation 1:12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands;

Revelation 1:13 and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash.

Revelation 1:16; In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. 

Revelation 1:20 “As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

The seven letters to the 7 churches are "the things which are (present tense)" (Rev 1:19+), i.e., the churches which were physically in existence when he received this revelation from the angel of Jesus. Why "seven"? It symbolizes perfection or completion and some propose that these 7 would be representative of every church until the Lord returns. That is certainly possible. 

Ray Pritchard introduces his sermon series on the 7 churches with this comment - We need this series because it’s easy to think that as long as the church is busy, everything must be okay. I have had plenty of time to think about this because the largest part of my ministry has been spent in the local church. As I look back on those many years spent pastoring in California, Texas, and Illinois, I have plenty of good memories and not too many regrets. I do remember many times when I wondered, “How are we really doing?” It’s hard to know the answer to that question when you are in the trenches. We tend to figure out the answer by the numbers: counting nickels and noses, as they say. And those things do matter. The money we give says something important, and the number of people who show up says something. People vote with their pocketbook and with their feet every Sunday. We measure our churches that way. Jesus evidently doesn’t. That’s a bit of a shock. So what is Jesus looking for when he comes to church? These seven letters provide an important answer. (Revelation 2:1-7  When Jesus Comes to Church)

To the angel (aggelos/angelos) of the church (ekklesia) - The recipient of the letter is named first as the angel. The angel (aggelos/angelos) is addressed in all 7 churches (Rev 2:8,12,18 Rev 3:1,7,14 ) and while there is some disagreement as to whether this could be a created angel, the evidence points to this as a man who functions as a messenger. As MacArthur says "the New Testament nowhere teaches that angels are involved in the leadership of the church. Angels do not sin and thus have no need to repent, as the messengers, along with the congregations they represented, are exhorted to do (cf. Rev 2:4–5, 14, 20; 3:1–3, 15, 17, 19)." (See Revelation Commentary) Furthermore, angels are never described as head of a local church anywhere in Scripture. Finally, angel (aggelos/angelos) is translated as "messenger" several times in the NT - Mark 1:2 has "I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU," and this refers to John the Baptist (cf other NT uses that mean "messenger" - Lk 7:24, Lk 9:52, Jas 2:25). In sum, this "angel" is probably a messenger of (from) the Church (but one cannot be dogmatic).

Right Hand in the Revelation - Rev. 1:16; Rev. 1:17; Rev. 1:20; Rev. 2:1; Rev. 5:1; Rev. 5:7; Rev. 10:5; Rev. 13:16

In Ephesus - This is the "postal address" (so to speak) of this letter. Ephesus means desirable. See below for background on Ephesus to get a good sense of the social/cultural/historical context.

Write (grapho) -The glorified Christ gives John this command to write (aorist imperative = do this now; don't delay; it is important), the same command He gives for each of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor (Rev. 2:1; Rev. 2:8; Rev. 2:12; Rev. 2:18; Rev. 3:1; Rev. 3:7; Rev. 3:14). John then records the words of the risen, ascended, glorified Christ (Rev 1:10-17+) sent and communicated by His angel (Rev 1:1). Recall that earlier Jesus had commanded John to "Write (aorist imperative) in a book what you see (present tense = what you are seeing), and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” (Rev 1:11+) To what does this writing refer? From the context this passage would indicate that John recorded the entire vision from Revelation 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 and that it was this scroll that was to be sent to each of the churches. The reason that this is almost surely the entire Revelation that was to be circulated and not the letters to each individual church is because each of those letters was not what HE SAW but what HE HEARD, in effect representing the "dictation" of Christ's letter to each individual church. 


The One who holds (krateo) the seven (hepta) stars in His right hand (see note) - The One from the context is clearly the risen, ascended, glorified Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, the Chief Shepherd (1Pe 5:4+). The verb holds is krateo which means to be strong, possess power and in the present tense pictures Jesus' continually having a firm grasp on all His churches. His right hand depicts the hand of power and authority (the churches belong to Jesus), indicating the churches are safely and securely in His grasp. Holds would also picture His close contact with His churches, His control of them and the frim foundation He provides for each of the churches. Finally, theuse of the verb krateo would also be another way to say He is sovereign over His Church, that He is Lord and Master over His Church. 

A Menorah

The One who walks among the seven (heptagolden lampstands (luchnia) -  Comparing Scripture with Scripture (the seven lampstands are the seven churches Rev 1:20+), the seven golden lampstands are the seven churches. Walks is peripateo which literally pictures Jesus walking around and the present tense depicts Him continually walking around. He is always in the middle of all that goes on in His church. Nothing is hidden from Him. He is not distant from the life of the church. He IS the life of the church! This speaks of His omniscience, His authority, His headship, etc.

THOUGHT - Dear pastor or church goer, He is also walking around your church, with eyes aflame, perfectly assessing each person's heart. How does He see your heart...your church? Are you in danger of having the lampstand removed?

Why are they referred to as lampstands? Literal lampstands were stands on which lamps were place to provide light the darkness. Spiritually speaking,each church was to provide spiritual light to the moral darkness of the lost world. The churches were to be the source of the proclamation of Jesus, the Light of the world (Jn 8:12+) and the "light of the Gospel." (2Co 4:4+, 1Ti 1:10+, 1Jn 2:8+, Eph 5:8+, 1Th 5:5-8+). Jesus charged those who would be His disciples "“Let your light shine (aorist imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) before men in such a way that they may see your (VISIBLE) good works, and glorify (GIVE A PROPER OPINION OF) your (INVISIBLE) Father Who is in heaven." (Mt 5:16+) Paul wrote "For God, Who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." (2 Cor 4:6+) And to the Philippians he wrote "Do (present imperative  see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey - which he had just described in Php 2:13+) all (HOW MANY?) things without grumbling or disputing; so that (PURPOSE CLAUSE) you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world." (Phil 2:14-15+)  

A holy life will make the deepest impression.
Lighthouses blow no horns, they just shine.
-- D L Moody

Angel (messenger)(32aggelos/angelos [gg in Greek is pronounced ng] possibly from ago = to bring) literally means a messenger (one who bears a message - Lk 1:11, 2:9, etc or does an errand). Most of the NT uses refer to heavenly angels (messengers) who are supernatural, transcendent beings with power to carry out various tasks. All uses of aggelos that refer to angels are masculine gender (the feminine form of aggelos does not occur.) Vine writes that aggelos refer to "an order of created beings, superior to man, Heb 2:7; Ps. 8:5, belonging to Heaven, Mt. 24:36; Mark 12:25, and to God, Luke 12:8, and engaged in His service, Psa. 103:20. Angels are spirits, Heb. 1:14, i.e., they have not material bodies as men have; they are either human in form, or can assume the human form when necessary, cp. Luke 24:4, with Lk 24:23, Acts 10:3 with Acts 10:30."

Aggelos in the Revelation 76x/72v (out of 172v in NT) - Rev. 1:1; Rev. 1:20; Rev. 2:1; Rev. 2:8; Rev. 2:12; Rev. 2:18; Rev. 3:1; Rev. 3:5; Rev. 3:7; Rev. 3:14; Rev. 5:2; Rev. 5:11; Rev. 7:1; Rev. 7:2; Rev. 7:11; Rev. 8:2; Rev. 8:3; Rev. 8:4; Rev. 8:5; Rev. 8:6; Rev. 8:8; Rev. 8:10; Rev. 8:12; Rev. 8:13; Rev. 9:1; Rev. 9:11; Rev. 9:13; Rev. 9:14; Rev. 9:15; Rev. 10:1; Rev. 10:5; Rev. 10:7; Rev. 10:8; Rev. 10:9; Rev. 10:10; Rev. 11:15; Rev. 12:7; Rev. 12:9; Rev. 14:6; Rev. 14:8; Rev. 14:9; Rev. 14:10; Rev. 14:15; Rev. 14:17; Rev. 14:18; Rev. 14:19; Rev. 15:1; Rev. 15:6; Rev. 15:7; Rev. 15:8; Rev. 16:1; Rev. 16:5; Rev. 17:1; Rev. 17:7; Rev. 18:1; Rev. 18:21; Rev. 19:17; Rev. 20:1; Rev. 21:9; Rev. 21:12; Rev. 21:17; Rev. 22:6; Rev. 22:8; Rev. 22:16

Seven (2033hepta (For discussion of imagery of seven click here and is the indeclinable number 7 (a cardinal number) denotes sufficiency. In Jewish usage hepta often designated a round or complete number. W E Vine notes hepa- is found in "English words beginning with "hept," and corresponds to the Hebrew sheba' (which is akin to saba', signifying "to be full, abundant"), sometimes used as an expression of fullness, e.g., Ruth 4:15 ("better to you than seven sons"): it generally expresses completeness," See Tony Garland's comments on Seven: Perfection, Completeness.

Hepta in the Revelation - Matt. 12:45; Matt. 15:34; Matt. 15:36; Matt. 15:37; Matt. 16:10; Matt. 18:22; Matt. 22:25; Matt. 22:26; Matt. 22:28; Mk. 8:5; Mk. 8:6; Mk. 8:8; Mk. 8:20; Mk. 12:20; Mk. 12:22; Mk. 12:23; Mk. 16:9; Lk. 2:36; Lk. 8:2; Lk. 11:26; Lk. 20:29; Lk. 20:31; Lk. 20:33; Acts 6:3; Acts 13:19; Acts 19:14; Acts 20:6; Acts 21:4; Acts 21:8; Acts 21:27; Acts 28:14; Heb. 11:30; Rev. 1:4; Rev. 1:11; Rev. 1:12; Rev. 1:16; Rev. 1:20; Rev. 2:1; Rev. 3:1; Rev. 4:5; Rev. 5:1; Rev. 5:5; Rev. 5:6; Rev. 6:1; Rev. 8:2; Rev. 8:6; Rev. 10:3; Rev. 10:4; Rev. 11:13; Rev. 12:3; Rev. 13:1; Rev. 15:1; Rev. 15:6; Rev. 15:7; Rev. 15:8; Rev. 16:1; Rev. 17:1; Rev. 17:3; Rev. 17:7; Rev. 17:9; Rev. 17:10; Rev. 17:11; Rev. 21:9

Lampstands (3087)(luchnia from  luchnos a portable lamp fed with oil and not to a candle usually placed on a stand) is the ordinary word for the stand upon which a “lamp” (luchnos) was placed. Such a lampstand was elevated and thus helped to extend the light. The translation of luchnia as “candlestick” is highly unlikely since there is no evidence of a lamp that did not use oil in either the Old or New Testaments. The vital function of lamps and lampstands in the ancient world was taken for granted. It was in such a context that Jesus illustrated the role of His disciples in the world (Mt 5:15; Mk 4:21; Lk 8:16; 11:33). “The disciples are to have an illuminating effect upon their environment,” even as the lamp set on its stand lights up the darkness (Hahn, “light,” Colin Brown, 2:487). In Revelation (Rev 1:12,13,20; 2:1,5) the seven churches are spoken of as seven golden luchnia. Friberg - as a place for setting a lamp, other than a candlestick lampstand (Mt 5.15); metaphorically; (1) of a church as a place where people can learn things about God as they really are (Rev 1.20); (2) of a witness who tells things as they really are (Rev 11.4) (Borrow Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament)

Luchnia - Matt. 5:15; Mk. 4:21; Lk. 8:16; Lk. 11:33; Heb. 9:2; Rev. 1:12; Rev. 1:13; Rev. 1:20; Rev. 2:1; Rev. 2:5; Rev. 11:4

Write (1125)(grapho from root graph- = primarily means to scratch on or engrave as on an ornament, reports, letters, etc; English = graph, graphic, etc) means to engrave or inscribe with a pen or stylus characters or letters on a surface which can be wood, wax, metal, leather, stone, parchment, dirt (John ), paper, etc. Note that John is given 12 commands to write what he SAW (NOTE: THIS IS A VERY "VISUAL" BOOK!) -  Rev 1:11, 19; 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; 14:13; 19:9; 21:5) and one command to not write (Rev 10:4+). 

Grapho - 30x in 29v in Revelation - Rev. 1:3; Rev. 1:11; Rev. 1:19; Rev. 2:1; Rev. 2:8; Rev. 2:12; Rev. 2:17; Rev. 2:18; Rev. 3:1; Rev. 3:7; Rev. 3:12; Rev. 3:14; Rev. 5:1; Rev. 10:4; Rev. 13:8; Rev. 14:1; Rev. 14:13; Rev. 17:5; Rev. 17:8; Rev. 19:9; Rev. 19:12; Rev. 19:16; Rev. 20:12; Rev. 20:15; Rev. 21:5; Rev. 21:27; Rev. 22:18; Rev. 22:19

Church (1577ekklesia/ecclesia from ek = out + klesis = a calling, verb = kaleo = to call) literally means called out (but see note by Louw-Nida below) and as commonly used in the Greco-Roman vernacular referred to citizens who were called out from their homes to be publicly assembled or gathered to discuss or carry out affairs of state. Wuest writes that "The word assembly is a good one-word translation of ekklesia."

John Walvoord has a helpful discussion of ekklesia - This word translated church or assembly is found in at least four important meanings in the New Testament. It is used (1) to mean an assembly of people. In this sense it has no special theological meaning. It can refer to Israel as a gathered people in the wilderness (Acts 7:38) or a regular assembly of citizens (Acts 19:39) or a group of people gathered for religious worship (Heb. 2:12). (2) The same word is used for an assembly of Christians in a local church (Acts 8:1, 8:3; 11:22, 26) and in the plural for a group of such churches (1Cor. 16:19; Gal. 1:2). Each assembly or church has a local gathering composed of professed Christians. That all in the assembly are not necessarily true believers is clear from the messages to the seven churches of Asia (Rev 2:1-29; Rev 3:1-22). (3) Ecclesia is also used of the total of professing Christians without reference to locality and is practically parallel in this sense to Christendom (Acts 12:1; Ro 16:16; 1Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13; Rev. 2:1-29, Rev 3:1-22; etc.). The same word is used (4) of the body of Christ, composed of those baptized by the Holy Spirit into the church (1Cor. 12:13). Ecclesia used in this connection becomes a technical word referring to the saints of this age. (Borrow The Millennial Kingdom on page 224) (See also his article Revelation 2: The Letters To Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, And Thyatira)

Ekklesia in the Revelation - Rev. 1:4; Rev. 1:11; Rev. 1:20; Rev. 2:1; Rev. 2:7; Rev. 2:8; Rev. 2:11; Rev. 2:12; Rev. 2:17; Rev. 2:18; Rev. 2:23; Rev. 2:29; Rev. 3:1; Rev. 3:6; Rev. 3:7; Rev. 3:13; Rev. 3:14; Rev. 3:22; Rev. 22:16 = “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches." NOTE THE STRANGE ABSENCE OF THE WORD EKKLESIA IN Revelation 4-20 WHICH EVEN HAS NO ALLUSION TO THE CHURCH! 

Holds (2902)(krateo from kratos = strength) has basic meaning to be strong or possess power and then means to take hold of, to grasp, to hold fast. Krateo is used most often in the sense of “take hold of forcibly” as when Pharisees wanted to “take hold of” Jesus  (Mt 21:46; Mark 12:12). Krateō can also mean “hold fast” with the idea of being loyal to or closely united with someone or something. The Pharisees were admonished for holding fast to the traditions of the elders (Mark 7:3ff.), while Christians are encouraged to hold to the traditions of Christianity (2 Th 2:15).

Hold fast (seize)(2902)(krateo) has the basic meaning of to be strong or possess power and thus means to take hold of, grasp, hold fast. Krateo is used most often in the sense of “take hold of forcibly” as when Pharisees wanted to “take hold of” Jesus  (Mt 21:46; Mark 12:12). In the present context Krateō means to “hold fast” with the idea of being loyal to a person, in this case Christ. The Pharisees were admonished for holding the traditions of the elders (Mark 7:3ff.), while Christians are encouraged to hold to the traditions of Christianity (2 Th 2:15) See also note below on Rev 2:25.

Heb 4:14+ Therefore, since we have a Great High Priest Who has passed through the heavens (cf Heb 6:19, 20+), Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast (krateo in present tense - continually hold fast) our confession. (NOTE: What will help us today to "hold fast our confession" as did the saints at Pergamum? In context it behooves us to frequently be recalling to mind the truth that Jesus is our Great High Priest, that He has gone on before us into our eternal home and that He is seated at the right hand of the Throne of God, continually interceding for us! Ro 8:34+, Heb 7:25+). 

Krateo is a KEY WORD in Revelation 2 because it is used 5 times in this chapter (out of a total of 48x/46v in NT) - Mt. 9:25; Mt. 12:11; Mt. 14:3; Mt. 18:28; Mt. 21:46; Mt. 22:6; Mt. 26:4; Mt. 26:48; Mt. 26:50; Mt. 26:55; Mt. 26:57; Mt. 28:9; Mk. 1:31; Mk. 3:21; Mk. 5:41; Mk. 6:17; Mk. 7:3; Mk. 7:4; Mk. 7:8; Mk. 9:10; Mk. 9:27; Mk. 12:12; Mk. 14:1; Mk. 14:44; Mk. 14:46; Mk. 14:49; Mk. 14:51; Lk. 8:54; Lk. 24:16; Jn. 20:23; Acts 2:24; Acts 3:11; Acts 24:6; Acts 27:13; Col. 2:19; 2 Th 2:15; Heb. 4:14; Heb. 6:18; Rev. 2:1; Rev. 2:13; Rev. 2:14; Rev. 2:15; Rev. 2:25; Rev. 3:11; Rev. 7:1; Rev. 20:2

Lehman Strauss on the meaning of the 7 churches - First, each letter has a primary association, having a local and direct bearing upon the church to which it was written. We must not fail to see this. Certainly the letters were intended to be meaningful and helpful to those Christians in each church who first received the message. Each letter was a measuring rod by which each church could know its standing in the sight of the risen Lord.

Secondly, each letter has a personal application. In addition to being historical and local as regards an assembly in each city named, the message to each applies to every individual Christian. To each church Christ says, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). It should also be noted that even though Christ addresses each church as a whole, the message to overcome is addressed to the individual (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).

Thirdly, each church individually, and the seven churches combined, set forth prophetic anticipation. I see in them seven ages or stages in the life of the Church on earth, commencing with Pentecost and concluding with the Rapture. R. H. Clayton wrote: “It can be no mere coincidence that these Epistles do set out the salient characteristics of the Church through the centuries, and no one can deny that they are presented in historic sequence.” When John wrote he probably did not see that each epistle contained an announcement of the future, any more than did David when he wrote Psalm 22. Nevertheless there is a prophetic picture of seven periods of the Church’s history on earth. For myself, I do not doubt for one moment that a prophetic foreview of the entire Church dispensation was in the mind of our Lord when He dictated the letters to John. My personal study of church history brings me to this conclusion. (Borrow The Book of the Revelation: Outlined Studies

RIGHT, RIGHT HAND - from Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (online)

(ADDENDUM: Right Hand in Scripture - 126x/122v Gen. 24:49; Gen. 48:13; Gen. 48:14; Gen. 48:17; Gen. 48:18; Exod. 14:22; Exod. 14:29; Exod. 15:6; Exod. 15:12; Lev. 8:23; Lev. 8:24; Lev. 14:14; Lev. 14:17; Lev. 14:25; Lev. 14:28; Num. 22:26; Deut. 33:2; Jos. 23:6; Jdg. 5:26; Jdg. 16:29; 2 Sam. 16:6; 2 Sam. 20:9; 1 Chr. 6:39; 1 Chr. 12:2; Neh. 8:4; Job 30:12; Job 40:14; Ps. 16:8; Ps. 16:11; Ps. 17:7; Ps. 18:35; Ps. 20:6; Ps. 21:8; Ps. 26:10; Ps. 44:3; Ps. 45:4; Ps. 45:9; Ps. 48:10; Ps. 60:5; Ps. 63:8; Ps. 73:23; Ps. 74:11; Ps. 77:10; Ps. 78:54; Ps. 80:15; Ps. 80:17; Ps. 89:13; Ps. 89:25; Ps. 89:42; Ps. 91:7; Ps. 98:1; Ps. 108:6; Ps. 109:6; Ps. 109:31; Ps. 110:1; Ps. 110:5; Ps. 118:15; Ps. 118:16; Ps. 121:5; Ps. 137:5; Ps. 138:7; Ps. 139:10; Ps. 144:8; Ps. 144:11; Prov. 3:16; Prov. 27:16; Cant. 2:6; Cant. 8:3; Isa. 9:20; Isa. 41:10; Isa. 41:13; Isa. 44:20; Isa. 45:1; Isa. 48:13; Isa. 62:8; Isa. 63:12; Jer. 22:24; Lam. 2:3; Lam. 2:4; Ezek. 21:22; Ezek. 39:3; Dan. 12:7; Hab. 2:16; Zech. 3:1; Zech. 12:6; Matt. 5:30; Matt. 6:3; Matt. 22:44; Matt. 26:64; Matt. 27:29; Mk. 12:36; Mk. 14:62; Mk. 16:19; Lk. 6:6; Lk. 20:42; Lk. 22:69; Acts 2:25; Acts 2:33; Acts 2:34; Acts 3:7; Acts 5:31; Acts 7:55; Acts 7:56; Rom. 8:34; 2 Co. 6:7; Gal. 2:9; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; Heb. 1:13; Heb. 8:1; Heb. 10:12; Heb. 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22; Rev. 1:16; Rev. 1:17; Rev. 1:20; Rev. 2:1; Rev. 5:1; Rev. 5:7; Rev. 10:5; Rev. 13:16

The predominance of right-handedness provided a ready basis for metaphors and geographic perspective in the Ancient Near East. Geographically, a natural orientation toward the Eastern sunrise put south on the right. In social concourse, oaths and agreements were affirmed with the right hand (Gen 14:22; Ezek 17:18; Dan 12:7), expressions of fellowship were sealed with a right-handed handshake (Ezra 10:19), and giving and receiving were done with the right hand (Ps 26:10; Gal 2:9).

All of this provides ready imagery whenever particular emphasis, distinct identification or full and energetic participation of a biblical protagonist is intended. Particularly instructive is the instance of the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood. In recounting this event the narrator takes great pains to prepare the reader for the climactic portion of the ceremony—the symbolic seal of ordination. The blood of the sacrificial ram for ordination is placed on the right earlobe, right thumb and big toe of the right foot of the new priests (Lev 8:23–24). By this action each is reminded of his solemn duty to hear and obey God’s Word, undertake his holy work and walk in his ways. Similar emphases may be found in the ritual for cleansing of the leper (Lev 14:14–18, 25–29).

The right hand is the preferred one in patriarchal blessings (Gen 48:17–20); solemn oaths are made via the uplifted right hand (Is 62:8; Rev 10:5–7); and the risen Christ is portrayed as holding seven stars (the “angels” of the seven churches) in his right hand, before placing his right hand of comfort on the awe-struck, prostrate John (Rev 1:16–17).

The right hand is used particularly as a synecdoche to emphasize God’s person and actions. God’s right hand is said to be “filled with righteousness” (Ps 48:10) and effective might (Ps 80:15–16; 89:13). With his right hand he delivered Israel out of Egypt (note Ex 15:6, 12, where the right-hand motif forms an important stitching device) and brought them into the land of promise (Ps 44:1–3). God is a saving God (Ps 2:6; 98:1) who judges his foes (Hab 2:16) and delivers trusting believers from theirs (Ps 17:7). Accordingly, believers can find in God a source of omnipresent help and strength (Ps 139:10; Is 41:10), for in him they can expect present security (Ps 10:8), protection (Ps 121:5; 138:7), sustenance (Ps 18:35; 63:8; 73:23) and joyous victory (Ps 18:15–16) as well as the hope of eternal pleasures (Ps 16:11).

To be at the right side is to be identified as being in the special place of honor (1 Kings 2:19; Ps 45:9). Thus the full participation of the risen Christ in God’s honor and glory is emphasized by his being at God’s right hand (Acts 2:33–34; Heb 1:3). From there he will return to judge the world, welcoming believers to blessings on his right while assigning the wicked to the left (Mt 25:31–46).

This last text, Matthew 25:31–46, forms part of a well-attested right hand/left hand motif emphasizing completeness or totality, often with concentration on a fixed goal. Citizens of Nineveh “cannot tell their right hand from their left” and thus are totally spiritually ignorant (Jon 4:11 NIV), whereas godly wisdom offers long life in the right hand, riches and honor in the left (Prov 3:16). The wise person chooses the right path (Gen 24:49; Eccles 10:2) and thus avoids such spiritual dangers as idolatry (Deut 28:14; Josh 23:6–8) and lawlessness (Deut 17:8–12). Above all, godly individuals, and especially spiritual leaders, are to let their lives be ruled by God’s Word, not deviating toward the right or toward the left, so that they may enjoy proper success (Deut 5:32; 17:18–20; Josh 1:6–9).


QUESTION - What was Jesus’ message to the church in Ephesus in Revelation?

ANSWER - Revelation 2 begins a series of brief letters to seven churches that existed during the apostle John’s time in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Each of these messages includes information apropos to each church, and from these messages we can draw lessons applicable to our own lives today. The first letter is to the church in Ephesus. Ephesus was a city on the western coast of Asia Minor, near the mouth of the Cayster River. The city was famous for its temple of Diana (or Artemis, Acts 19:27), and pilgrims came to Ephesus from all over the Mediterranean world to worship the goddess.

The first thing to note in this letter to the Ephesian church is that the message is from the Lord Jesus Christ: “To the angel [or messenger] of the church in Ephesus . . .” (Revelation 2:1). This is not John’s message to the Ephesian believers; it is a message from the Lord, the One “who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.” The lampstands are the churches themselves, set as lights in a dark world; the stars are the pastors of the churches, held in God’s hand.

Jesus affirms the Ephesians’ positive actions: “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:2-3). The Ephesian church was a hard-working group of believers full of fortitude. Also to their credit, they were gate-keepers of the truth and did not compromise with evildoers, and they showed patient endurance in bearing up under hardship.

However, Jesus also notes their shortcoming: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (Revelation 2:4). They were hard-working, but they no longer had the same passion for Christ as when they first believed. Their work was no longer motivated by love.

Jesus called the Ephesians to repent: “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:5). In this case, the corrective was to remember the heights of their former love, repent (change their mind about their current status), and return to their previous way of doing things. It was time for revival in the church.

Jesus warns His church of impending judgment if they did not repent: “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (Revelation 2:5b). In other words, their punishment would be the disbanding or destruction of the Ephesian church. The light in Ephesus would go out.

Jesus adds another commendation concerning doctrinal purity: “But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (Revelation 2:6). We don’t know much about the Nicolaitans and their doctrine, except that it was heretical. Irenaeus, an early church father in Lyons (modern-day France), wrote that the Nicolaitans promoted fornication and a compromising position on eating food sacrificed to idols, leading many into an unrestrained, carnal lifestyle.

Jesus then promises a blessing to those who heed the word: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). The “tree of life” and the “paradise of God” refer to the new heavens and new earth, discussed in Revelation 21–22. Those who conquer, or the “overcomers,” are simply believers (1 John 5:4-5). The Ephesian believers could look forward to the future glory of eternity with the Lord.

Like the Ephesian church, we can easily fall prey to a cold, mechanical observance of religion. Like the Ephesians, many tend to focus solely on doctrinal purity and hard work, to the exclusion of true love for Christ. As this letter shows, no amount of zeal for the truth or moral rectitude can replace a heart full of love for Jesus (see John 14:21, 23; 1 Corinthians 16:22) 


Says this - Literally the Greek reads "These things says"  Says this could be accurately paraphrased "“this is the solemn pronouncement of” (NET) 

Greek = “These things says [the One] …” The expression τάδε λέγει (tade legei) occurs eight times in the NT, seven of which are in Rev 2–3 [Rev. 2:1; Rev. 2:8; Rev. 2:12; Rev. 2:18; Rev. 3:1; Rev. 3:7; Rev. 3:14]. “The pronoun (tade) is used to add solemnity to the prophetic utterance that follows.…In classical drama, it was used to introduce a new actor to the scene (Smyth, Greek Grammar, 307 [§1241]). But the τάδε λέγει formula in the NT derives from the OT, where it was used to introduce a prophetic utterance. Thus, the translation “this is the solemn pronouncement of” for τάδε λέγει is very much in keeping with the OT connotations of this expression (because) the expression This is the solemn pronouncement of reflects an OT idiom. The Septuagint (Lxx) has the same Greek phrase (τάδε λέγει, tade legei) about 350 times, with nearly 320 of them having “the LORD” (Heb יהוה, Yahweh) as subject. That the author of Revelation would use such an expression seven times with the risen Christ as the speaker may well imply something of Christ’s sovereignty and deity. Cf. also Acts 21:11 in which the Holy Spirit is the speaker of this expression. (NET Note - Bolding added)

EDITORIAL COMMENT - "TADE LEGEI" is used over 350 times in the Septuagint (Lxx) - here are a few representative uses which are as noted above usually are from the LORD Himself and begin "Thus says the LORD (or "Lord God" or "LORD of hosts")" - 

Amos 1:6; Amos 1:9; Amos 1:11; Amos 1:13; Amos 2:1; Amos 2:4; Amos 2:6; Amos 3:11; Amos 3:12; Amos 5:3; Amos 5:4; Amos 5:16; Amos 7:11; Amos 7:17; Mic. 2:3; Mic. 3:5; Obad. 1:1; Nah. 1:12; Hag. 1:2; Hag. 1:5 = "Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways!"; Hag. 1:7; Hag. 1:9; Hag. 2:6; Hag. 2:11; Zech. 1:3; Zech. 1:4; Zech. 1:14; Zech. 1:16; Zech. 1:17;



“To the angel of the church in…”


"The One...says this..."


"I know..."


"I am pleased about this..."


"I have this against you..."




"He who has an ear, let him hear..."


"To him who overcomes..."

Guzik adds "The letters to the seven churches share a similar structure. They each feature:

      •      An address to a particular congregation
      •      An introduction of Jesus
      •      A statement regarding the condition of the church
      •      A verdict from Jesus regarding the condition of the church
      •      A command from Jesus to the church
      •      A general exhortation to all Christians
      •      A promise of reward

We can see the state of each of these seven churches—and the state of our own walk with Jesus—by looking at what Jesus has to say to each church in each section.

William Barclay

WHEN we know something of the history of Ephesus and learn something about its conditions at this time, it is easy to see why it comes first in the list of the seven churches.

Pergamum was the official capital of the province of Asia, but Ephesus was by far its greatest city. It claimed as its proud title ‘The first and the greatest metropolis of Asia’. A Roman writer called it Lumen Asiae, the Light of Asia. Let us look at the factors which gave it its preeminent greatness.

Ephesus with Cayster River on North

(1) In the time of John, Ephesus was the greatest harbour in Asia.

All the roads of the Cayster Valley—the Cayster was the river on which it stood—converged upon it. But the roads came from further afield than that. It was at Ephesus that the road from the far-off Euphrates and Mesopotamia reached the Mediterranean, having come by way of Colosse and Laodicea. It was at Ephesus that the road from Galatia reached the sea, having come by way of Sardis. And from the south came the road from the rich Maeander Valley. Strabo, the ancient geographer, called Ephesus ‘the Market of Asia’—and it may well be that, in Revelation 18:12–13, John was setting down a description of the varied riches of the market place at Ephesus.

Ephesus was the gateway of Asia. One of its distinctions, laid down by statute, was that when the Roman proconsul came to take up office as governor of Asia, he must disembark at Ephesus and enter his province there. For all the travellers and the trade, from the Cayster and the Maeander Valleys, from Galatia, from the Euphrates and from Mesopotamia, Ephesus was the highway to Rome. In later times, when the Christians were brought from Asia to be flung to the lions in the arena in Rome, Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch, called Ephesus the Highway of the Martyrs. Its position made Ephesus the wealthiest and the greatest city in all Asia—and, because it resembled so well John Bunyan’s picture in The Pilgrim’s Progress, it has been aptly called the Vanity Fair of the ancient world.

Ruins of Main Street of Ephesus

(2) Ephesus had certain important political distinctions.

It was a free city. In the Roman Empire, certain cities were free cities; they had had that honour conferred upon them because of their services to the empire. A free city was within its own limits self-governing, and it was exempted from ever having Roman troops garrisoned there. It was an assize town. The Roman governors made periodic tours of their provinces; and, at certain specially chosen cities and towns, courts were held where the governor tried the most important cases. Further, each year, Ephesus held the most famous games in Asia, which attracted people from all over the province.


(3) Ephesus was the centre of the worship of Artemis or, as the Authorized Version calls her, Diana of the Ephesians.

Model of Temple of Artemis (Diana)

The Temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was 425 feet long by 220 feet wide; it had 120 columns, each sixty feet high and the gift of a king; and thirty-six of them were richly gilded and inlaid. Ancient temples consisted mostly of colonnades with only the centre portion roofed over. The centre portion of the Temple of Artemis was roofed over with cypress wood. The image of Artemis was one of the most sacred images in the ancient world. It was by no means beautiful but a squat, black, many-breasted figure, so ancient that no one knew where it had come from. We have only to read Acts 19:23-42, 34+ to see how precious Artemis and her temple were to Ephesus. Ephesus also had famous temples to the godhead of the Roman emperors Claudius and Nero, and in future years it was to add temples to Hadrian and Severus. In Ephesus, the ancient religion was at its strongest.

COMMENT: This was a cesspool of iniquity filled with temple prostitutes, dancers, eunuchs, drunkenness, orgies. In the middle of this, God birthed His church. God does His greatest work in the most difficult places, because He gets all the glory. Ephesus was in a sense the "gates of Hell!" 

Ruins of Temple

(4) Ephesus was a notorious centre of superstition.

It was famous for the Ephesian Letters, (Ephesia Grammata) small objects and charms which were supposed to be infallible remedies for sickness, to bring children to those who were childless and to ensure success in any undertaking; and people came from all over the world to buy them.

(Acts 19:1-41-commentary) 1It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. 2 He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. 7 There were in all about twelve men.  8 And he entered the synagogue (IN EPHESUS) and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (NOTE: THIS IS LIKELY WHEN THE OTHER 6 CHURCHES IN ASIA MINOR WERE BIRTHED BY PAUL'S PROCLAIMING THE "WORD OF THE LORD.) 11 God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. 13 But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 14 Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16 And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.


17+ This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. 18 Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. 19 And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.  


21 Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.  23 About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing no little business to the craftsmen; 25 these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades, and said, “Men , you know that our prosperity depends upon this business. 26 “You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all. 27 “Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis (SEE PICTURE ABOVE) be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence.”  28 When they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 The city was filled with the confusion (THERE WERE 250,000 to 500,000 IN EPHESUS), and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia. 30 And when Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him. 31 Also some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent to him and repeatedly urged him not to venture into the theater. 32 So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together. 33 Some of the crowd concluded it was Alexander, since the Jews had put him forward; and having motioned with his hand, Alexander was intending to make a defense to the assembly. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, a single outcry arose from them all as they shouted for about two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 35 After quieting the crowd, the town clerk *said, “Men of Ephesus, what man is there after all who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of the image which fell down from heaven? (cf Ro 1:21 = "they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.") 36 “So, since these are undeniable facts, you ought to keep calm and to do nothing rash. 37 “For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples (TEMPLE OF DIANA FUNCTIONED AS A MAJOR BANK) nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38 “So then, if Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a complaint against any man, the courts are in session and proconsuls are available; let them bring charges against one another. 39 “But if you want anything beyond this, it shall be settled in the lawful assembly. 40 “For indeed we are in danger of being accused of a riot in connection with today’s events, since there is no real cause for it, and in this connection we will be unable to account for this disorderly gathering.” 41 After saying this he dismissed the assembly.

“The Temple of Artemis was also a major treasury and bank of the ancient world, where merchants, kings, and even cities made deposits, and where their money could be kept safe under the protection of deity.” (Longenecker commentary on Acts)

(5) The population of Ephesus was very mixed.

Its citizens were divided into six tribes. One consisted of those who were descendants of the original natives of the country; one consisted of those who were direct descendants of the original colonists from Athens; three consisted of other Greeks; and one, most probably, consisted of Jews. Besides being a centre of religion, the Temple of Artemis was also a centre of crime and immorality. The temple area was a recognized place offering asylum; criminals were safe if they could reach it. The temple possessed hundreds of priestesses who were sacred prostitutes. All this combined to make Ephesus a notoriously evil place. Heraclitus, one of the most famous of ancient philosophers, was known as ‘the weeping philosopher’. His explanation of his tears was that no one could live in Ephesus without weeping at its immorality.

Such was Ephesus; a more unpromising soil for the sowing of the seed of Christianity can scarcely be imagined; and yet it was there that Christianity had some of its greatest triumphs. Bishop Trench, the nineteenth-century Archbishop of Dublin, writes: ‘Nowhere did the word of God find a kindlier soil, strike root more deeply or bear fairer fruits of faith and love.’

Paul stayed longer in Ephesus than in any other city (Acts 20:31). It was with Ephesus that Timothy had a connection, so that he is called its first bishop (1 Timothy 1:3). It is in Ephesus that we find Aquila, Priscilla and Apollos (Acts 18:19, 18:24, 18:26+). Surely Paul was closer to no one than to the Ephesian elders, as his farewell address so beautifully shows (Acts 20:17–38+). Later on, John was the leading figure of Ephesus. Legend has it that he brought Mary the mother of Jesus to Ephesus and that she was buried there. When Ignatius of Antioch wrote to Ephesus, on his way to being martyred in Rome, he could write: ‘You were ever of one mind with the apostles in the power of Jesus Christ.’

There can be few places which better prove the conquering power of the Christian faith.

We may note one more thing. We have spoken of Ephesus as the greatest harbour of Asia. Today there is little left of Ephesus but ruins, and it is now at least six miles from the sea. The coast is now a harbourless line of sandy beach, unapproachable by a ship. What was once the Gulf of Ephesus and the harbour is a marsh dense with reeds. It was always a battle to keep the harbour of Ephesus open because of the silt which the Cayster brings down. The battle was lost, and Ephesus vanished from the scene. (Daily Study Bible - Revelation - William Barclay)

Revelation 2:2  'I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;

NET  Revelation 2:2 'I know your works as well as your labor and steadfast endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have even put to the test those who refer to themselves as apostles (but are not), and have discovered that they are false.

NLT  Revelation 2:2 "I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don't tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars.

ESV  Revelation 2:2 "'I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.

NIV  Revelation 2:2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.

GNT  Revelation 2:2 Οἶδα τὰ ἔργα σου καὶ τὸν κόπον καὶ τὴν ὑπομονήν σου καὶ ὅτι οὐ δύνῃ βαστάσαι κακούς, καὶ ἐπείρασας τοὺς λέγοντας ἑαυτοὺς ἀποστόλους καὶ οὐκ εἰσὶν καὶ εὗρες αὐτοὺς ψευδεῖς,

KJV  Revelation 2:2 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:

ASV  Revelation 2:2 I know thy works, and thy toil and patience, and that thou canst not bear evil men, and didst try them that call themselves apostles, and they are not, and didst find them false;

CSB  Revelation 2:2 I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars.

NKJ  Revelation 2:2 "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;

NRS  Revelation 2:2 "I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false.

YLT  Revelation 2:2 I have known thy works, and thy labour, and thy endurance, and that thou art not able to bear evil ones, and that thou hast tried those saying themselves to be apostles and are not, and hast found them liars,

  • know: Rev 2:9,13,19 3:1,8,15 Ps 1:6 Mt 7:23 1Th 1:3 2Ti 2:19 Heb 6:10 
  • that you cannot tolerate evil men: Rev 2:6,14,15,20,21 Ga 1:7 Eph 4:14 1Th 5:21 2Pe 2:1-3 1Jn 4:1 
  • you put to the test : 2Co 11:13-15 1Jn 2:21,22 4:1 
  • Revelation 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Related Passages:

Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good. 

Hebrews 4:13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. 

Psalm 1:6   For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.

2 Timothy 2:19  Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.” 

Matthew 7:15  “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

1 Thessalonians 5:21  But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;

2 Corinthians 11:13-15  For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. 


Recall that the church at Ephesus had about as firm a foundation laid for them as any church in history. What do I say that? In his parting words Paul commanded the elders "“Therefore be on the alert (present imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey), remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears." Ephesus was blessed with 3 years of Pauline doctrine! 

I know - Know (oida/eido used in all 7 introductions - Rev 2:9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15) and "speaks of absolute, beyond the peradventure (chance) of a doubt knowledge, a knowledge that is self-evident...a positive know absolutely and know absolutely...a sure knowledge, a positive absolute acquaintance with something." (Wuest) oida/eido is the perfect tense of the obsolete verb eido (stem = eid- in Latin - "video") which means to see, so literally it means "have seen" hence to know something. Someone has said this verb for know "emphasizes better the absolute clearness of mental vision which photographs all the facts of life as they pass." The use of this verb (eido) indicates that Jesus is intimately acquainted with every aspect of this church (and all 7 churches). He has perfect knowledge of this church. Nothing is hidden from Him. Notice that before He corrects, He commends, which is a good pattern for all of us in authority! And note the many positive things He has to say about Ephesus (they are numbered to make a list).

THOUGHT - Do you live with a sense of your every thought, word and deed is seen/known by Jesus? Do you live with the idea that we should be motivated to be approved by an audience of One? Do you rely on Him (His Spirit, rest in Him and respond to Him in unhesitating obedience (cf 1Sa 15:22)? This truth applies to all of us. Jesus sees perfectly into our heart, and knows our every thought whether we speak it or not (See what Jesus sees/knows in Ps 139:1-4+). He knows every motive, even for our "good deeds." (cf 1 Cor 4:5+) "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare ("naked and exposed" = Heb 4:13NET+) to the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do ("to Whom we must render account" - cf 2 Cor 5:10+)." (Heb 4:13+, cf Eccl 12:14) The reality of this truth should give us cause to pause when we are being tempted to stray (Jas 1:13, 14+), because we can never stray from or hide from His perfect, piercing, righteous gaze! This truth should motivate us, enabled by His Spirit (Php 2:13NLT+) to "to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age." (Titus 2:12+)

How could Christ know so perfectly? Of course He is the omniscient God. And in the context John tells us "His eyes were like a flame of fire." Nothing could be hidden from Him. We might try to put up barriers through which He could not see, but His eyes like a flame of fire burn away every excuse, every rationale we might try to offer. Pr 15:3 says "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good." Hebrews 4:13 adds "there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." 

Spurgeon - “There are also working Christians who do not approach to laboring; yet a lifetime of such work as theirs would not exhaust a butterfly. Now, when a man works for Christ he should work with all his might.” 

ILLUSTRATION OF "I KNOW" - By means of satellite imagery and software programs that can find almost any address on the planet, I can see almost any church building in the world from my study at home. If, for example, I want to see a certain church in South Africa, I can open a software application and a spectacular picture of our blue and green planet spinning in space appears on my computer screen. I type in Africa and the spinning planet rotates to the giant continent of Africa. I then type in South Africa and zoom in on the country of South Africa. I type in Barberton (a city west of Swaziland), and in seconds I see the entire city. Finally, I type in the address of the church. Before I know it, I’m looking down at the roof of a church building 9,800 miles (15,680 km) from my home. As powerful and amazing as this technology is, however, I still can’t see inside the building. I see only the roof. I cannot see or hear God’s people as they worship, nor can I look into the hearts and minds of the people who gather there. But there is one who can see perfectly into every human heart. He can perceive the corporate spirit of a church. Not only can he see into every church and every heart, he can walk among the churches on earth without being detected! And he does it all without the benefit of our feeble computers, cameras, or satellite imagery.

(1) Your deeds (ergon) - This could refer to specific deeds are encompass all the deeds that follow in Jesus' commendation. Most versions have "Your works." Works don't save a person. We are not saved by good works (Eph 2:8,9+, Titus 3:5+), but for good works (Eph 2:10+) and if Jesus commended their deeds, they are Good Deeds! Jesus should know for as He told the disciples "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit (aka "Good Deeds"), for apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) Good Deeds are evidence of genuine faith (see James 2:17-26+). And keep the cultural context in mind -- these saints lived in a cesspool of idolatry and paganism (even the Imperial Cult where you were required to say "Caesar is Lord!") as well as unspeakable debauchery and immorality. And yet they are commended by Christ for good works in the face of opposition, antagonism and hatred. 

Do you serve Christ because you love him, or has He gotten lost in your good works?
-- Joseph Stowell

Rod Mattoon - He approved them for their SERVICE. The Greek word for "labor" means "toil or diligent labor, even to the point of weariness and exhaustion." It was a beehive of Holy Spirit directed activity. They did not just attend church, but they labored for Christ. There are three groups of people in every church.
    1. The Shirkers—who do nothing. They let others do the work and giving. 
    2. The Jerkers—who start out fine, give a jerk or two, and then run out of gas spiritually. They become indifferent and unreliable. 
    3. The Workers—they work. Ephesus was a working church. 

Related Resources:

And (2) your toil (kopos) - The Church at Ephesus was not a lazy church, but willing to work up a little "holy sweat," so to speak, because the Greek word for toil refers to exhausting physical or mental labor and in some contexts describes work that is fraught with difficulties, hardships or burdens. The saints at Ephesus did not shrink back for this type of work. 

Adrian Rogers says toil "means that's the price of the works. This speaks of the perspiration; this speaks of the hard work. There's no cheap way; there's no easy way; there's no lazy way to serve the Lord Jesus..... I know the blood, sweat, and tears that you have put into your church and your work for Christ." You know what the deacon's prayer is, don't you? "Now I lay me down to sleep. The sermon's long; the subject's deep. If he should quit before I wake, give me a nudge, for goodness sake." Now, there are a lot of deacons like that, a lot of Sunday School teachers like that—just simply asleep. Not this church....I saw a tract the other day that captured my attention. It said, "How to Build a Great Sunday School." Well, I was looking for some deep, dark secret; and so, I opened the tract up, and, on the inside, in big, bold, boxcar letters, it said this: "Go to work." Amen? "Go to work."

MacArthur on their toil - The Ephesians were diligent workers for the cause of Christ. Theirs was no spectator mentality; they did not want merely to be entertained. Nor were they content to eat the fruit of others’ labor, but were willing to plow, plant, and harvest their own crop. In the midst of the pagan darkness that surrounded them, they were aggressively evangelizing the lost, edifying the saints, and caring for those in need. (See Revelation Commentary)

And (3) perseverance (endurance, steadfastness) - Jesus goes on to commend their perseverance (hupomone), a word which speaks of steadfast endurance when circumstances are difficult (clearly the implication is that the source of "energy" for this kind of endurance is the Holy Spirit - Gal 5:22). This is not a passive acceptance but a strong fortitude even when faced with opposition. Jesus uses this same word (hupomone) again in Rev 2:3 stating "you have (present tense - continually) perseverance." 

The difficulties in our lives,
The obstacles we face,
Give God the opportunity
To show His power and grace.   

Perseverance (hupomone) - see note below "This commendation indicates that, despite their difficult circumstances, the Ephesian believers remained faithful to their Lord" (MacArthur)

Charles Swindoll on perseverance (hupomone) -  The Greek term hupomone, used already in Rev 1:9+, implies endurance under extreme hardship, in the face of life-threatening challenges or against seemingly impossible odds. The Ephesian Christians faced special challenges. Because they refused to bow the knee to the goddess Diana or the images of the emperor, they found themselves maligned, slandered, boycotted, and abused. Not unlike Jewish merchants in Berlin in the 1930s, Christians in Ephesus would have been the objects of physical violence, social ostracism, and economic repression. Yet they endured. They bore up under the load. Clearly, Ephesus had been taught well by its predecessors, Paul, Timothy, and John. (See Insights on Revelation)


and (4) that you cannot tolerate evil men - Tolerate is bastazo used again in Rev 2:3. More literally this reads "you (absolutely) cannot tolerate evil." ESV = "you cannot bear with those who are evil." In context the evil was those men who were lying and claiming to be apostles.

Vance Havner said, "The temperature was so high that he killed the germs."

MacArthur - Four decades earlier Paul had commanded them not to “give the devil an opportunity” (Eph. 4:27+), and they were still reluctant to do so. (See Revelation Commentary)

Spurgeon - This was grand of them: it showed a backbone of truth. I wish some of the churches of this age had a little of this holy decision about them; for nowadays, if a man be clever; he may preach the vilest lie that was ever vomited from the mouth of hell, and it will go down with some.”

William Newell - “Ministerial courtesy” had no place at Ephesus! Plain scripture tests are given. The saints have “an anointing from the Holy One.” (1 John 2:20+) They may know, if they will, false teachers, those who do “not abide in the teaching of Christ” (2Jn 1:9) We are not to receive them into our house, and we are to give them no greeting (2 John 1:10); much less are we to suffer them to preach and teach in our assemblies. Ephesus had both the discernment and the spiritual energy to reject those whom she “found false.” (Commentary on the Revelation)

and (5) you put to the test (peirazo) those who call themselves apostles (apostolos), and they are not, and (6) you found them to be false - NLT = "examined the claims." The Ephesians sought to ascertain the character and truthfulness of those who continually claimed or professed to be apostles. They also tested and hated "the deeds of the Nicolaitans" (Rev 2:6+). Today people call themselves apostles but by Biblical criteria they cannot be true apostles because they have had no first person exposure to the resurrected Christ (Read Acts 1:21, 22+, 1 Cor 9:1+). 

1 John 4:1  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Adrian Rogers - "A true church, a New Testament church, has a right to screen out the bugs, when it lets in the light." That's what this church was doing—screening out those teachers who did not take a stand...Before we let you teach, we're going to examine you; we're going to find out what you believe.

In Acts 20:28-30+ Paul warned the Ephesian elders...

Be on guard (present imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise (AN "INSIDE JOB!"), speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Tony Garland points out that "A key attribute of those who are not what they appear to be is their self proclamation." (PRINCIPLE - Be suspect of anyone who comes into your fellowship and begins to proclaim their glorious abilities!)

The New Testament repeatedly insists on the necessity of testing spiritual ideas and people --  (1) the spirits of men who claimed to be sent from God were tested by their willingness to accept the Incarnation of Jesus Christ "and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God." (1Jn 4:1-3+). (2). Paul wrote "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good" (1Th 5:21+).  (3). Paul insisted that, when the prophets preached, they were to be subject to the testing of the other prophets (1Co 14:29).  (4). Jesus demanded the hardest test of all which was to test them "By their fruits" (Mt 7:15,16+).

Even though it was some 40 years (or so) prior that Paul had warned the Ephesian elders, they seem to have for the most part (see exception below) taken to heart Paul's clear warning to...

Be on guard (present imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) for yourselves (THEY SEEM TO HAVE MISSED THIS PART - THE LEADERS WERE NOT GUARDING THEIR OWN HEARTS - AND THEY LOST THEIR FIRST LOVE) and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 “Therefore be on the alert, (present imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) remembering (THEY FORGOT TO REMEMBER!!!) that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. (Acts 20:28-31+)

Paul writes of some of the ways of false apostles 

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers (dolios from dolos = bait - LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON - 2 Cor 11:3), disguising (metaschematizo - alter the outward appearance in such a way as to deceive to be what one is not) themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. (2Co 11:13-15)

Evil (bad, harm) (2556) (kakos related word = kakia) is a word which basically denotes a lack of something so that it is "bad" or "not as it ought to be. Kakos means not meeting accepted standards of behavior, and thus worthless, bad or inferior. Kakos then speaks of lack of goodness, of a bad nature. morally, of persons characterized by godlessness evil, bad

Toil (2873)(kopos from kopto = chop, hew, cut down, strike; figuratively to lament which apparently came from the idea of striking one's breast) (See related verb kopiao) is strictly a smiting as a sign of sorrow, then sorrow itself. Kopos (toil) denotes labor to the point of sweat and exhaustion. It describes an all-out effort, demanding all that a person has to give—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Kopos thus describes a state of discomfort or distress, trouble, difficulty, transferring the sense of the primary meaning which is beating. Kopos referring to labor conveys the sense that the labor involves toil, fatigue, suffering, weariness and sorrow. It thus speaks of an intense effort which can be united with trouble. In short kopos conveys the idea of arduous toil involving sweat and fatigue and emphasizes the weariness which follows as a result of the straining of all of one's powers to the utmost.

Test (3985)(peirazo)  can have several nuances depending on the context: (1) trials with a beneficial purpose and effect, (2) divinely permitted or sent, (3) with a good or neutral significance, (4) of a varied character, (5) definitely designed to lead to wrong doing, temptation, (6) of men trying or challenging God. The trials may come from God or under His permissive will from Satan, or may be the result of our own wrong doing. The solicitations to do evil come from the world, the evil nature (the "flesh"), or the Devil.

Related Resources:

Revelation 2:3  and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary.

NET  Revelation 2:3 I am also aware that you have persisted steadfastly, endured much for the sake of my name, and have not grown weary.

NLT  Revelation 2:3 You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.

ESV  Revelation 2:3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary.

NIV  Revelation 2:3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

GNT  Revelation 2:3 καὶ ὑπομονὴν ἔχεις καὶ ἐβάστασας διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου καὶ οὐ κεκοπίακες.

KJV  Revelation 2:3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.

ASV  Revelation 2:3 and thou hast patience and didst bear for my name's sake, and hast not grown weary.

CSB  Revelation 2:3 You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary.

NKJ  Revelation 2:3 "and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.

NRS  Revelation 2:3 I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary.

YLT  Revelation 2:3 and thou didst bear, and hast endurance, and because of my name hast toiled, and hast not been weary.

  • you have perseverance Ps 69:7 Mic 7:9 Mk 15:21 Lu 14:27 1Co 13:7 Ga 6:2 Heb 13:13 
  • have endured: Rev 1:9 Rev 3:10 Ps 37:7 Lu 8:15 Lk 21:19 Ro 2:7 Ro 5:3,4 Ro 8:25 12:12 Ro 15:4,5 Col 1:11 2Th 3:5 Heb 6:12,15 10:36 Heb 12:1 Jas 1:3,4 James 5:7-11 2Pe 1:6 
  • hast laboured (ONLY IN KJV): Ro 16:12 1Co 16:16 2Co 5:9 6:5 10:15 11:23 Php 2:16 4:3 1Th 1:3 2:9 5:12 2Th 3:8 1Ti 4:10 5:17 Heb 6:10 
  • have not grown weary: Lu 18:1 2Co 4:1,16 Ga 6:9 2Th 3:13 Heb 12:3-5 
  • Revelation 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


(7) and you have perseverance  -  NRSV is an accurate rendering "you are enduring patiently" (Rev 2:3NRSV) because Have is in the present tense indicating that they had continued perseverance, or as the NRSV renders it "you are enduring patiently." Although they had moved away from their first love (Rev 2:4), they continued to manifest an attitude of of patience and steadfastness, continuing to manifest the capacity to bear up in the face of difficulty. Perseverance pictures the saints at Ephesus steadfastly and unflinchingly bearing up under a heavy load, a quality of character which does not allow one to surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial. While they shared some of the commendable traits of the church at Thessalonica, they lacked love (Rev 2:4), Paul commending this first church in Europe writing they  were "constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness (hupomone) of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father." (1 Th 1:3+)  Earlier John had described his own perseverance (hupomone), the Source of his perseverance being "in Jesus." (Rev 1:9+).

and (8) have endured (bastazo) for My name's sake - The CSB is a good rendering = "have tolerated many things because of My name." NET has "endured much for the sake of My Name." This commendation indicates that the saints at Ephesus continued "bearing up" (NRSV)(bastazo in the present tense). What motivated their endurance? They endured for the sake of Christ's Name and clearly did not deny His Name or their association with Him. Jesus had warned His disciples that when they stand for Him, the world would come against them (see Mt 5:10, 11, 12+, Mt 10:22, cf 2 Ti 3:12+, Php 1:29+, et al). This attitude would speak to some degree of devotion and reverence to Christ, despite the fact that they generally had left their first love. One more point of caution -- we need to make sure when we are reviled, persecuted, slandered, etc, it is for HIS sake

And (9) have not grown weary (kopiao - perfect tense) - The Ephesian saints seemed to have been heeding the exhortation of Paul "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." (Gal 6:9)

Our love for Him is the fuel that fires our compassion and service to others.

Warren Wiersbe writes "No matter how you examine this congregation, you conclude that it is just about perfect. However, the One among the lampstands saw into their hearts, and He had a different diagnosis from ours."  (Bible Exposition Commentary)

Richard Mayhue writes that Jesus’ confrontation of the Ephesian church models how believers are to confront:

  •   First, confronting was done with love and with the goal of restoration (Rev 2:4–5).
  •   Second, encouragement preceded correction (Rev 2:2–3, 6).
  •   Third, Christ openly and concisely stated the problem (Rev 2:4–5).
  •   Fourth, He told them how to be restored (Rev 2:5): remember your past, repent of your error, return to your best.
  •   Fifth, Christ clearly laid out the consequences if they did not obey (Rev 2:5).
  •   Sixth, He wrote with the expectation that they would respond positively (Rev 2:7). (What Would Jesus Say About Your Church? - See blog post by John MacArthur - What Would Jesus Say About Your Church?)

Perseverance(5281)(hupomone from hupo = under + meno = stay, remain, abide) literally means abiding under. The root idea of hupomone is to remain under some discipline, subjecting oneself to something which demands the submission of one's will to something against which one naturally would rebel.  And so hupomone does not describe a grim resignation or a passive "grin and bear" attitude but a triumphant facing of difficult circumstances knowing that even out of evil God guarantees good. It is courageous gallantry which accepts suffering and hardship and turns them into grace and glory. For believers, it is a steadfastness, especially as God enables us to "remain under" (or endure) whatever challenges, trials, tests, afflictions, etc, He providentially allows in our life. Vincent adds hupomone is "Not merely endurance of the inevitable, for Christ could have relieved himself of his sufferings (Heb. 12:2, 3; compare Matt. 26:53); but the heroic, brave patience with which a Christian not only bears but contends."

Hupomone - 31v - Lk. 8:15; Lk. 21:19; Rom. 2:7; Rom. 5:3; Rom. 5:4; Rom. 8:25; Rom. 15:4; Rom. 15:5; 2 Co. 1:6; 2 Co. 6:4; 2 Co. 12:12; Col. 1:11; 1 Th. 1:3; 2 Th. 1:4; 2 Th. 3:5; 1 Ti 6:11; 2 Ti 3:10; Titus 2:2; Heb. 10:36; Heb. 12:1; Jas. 1:3; Jas. 1:4; Jas. 5:11; 2 Pet. 1:6; Rev. 1:9; Rev. 2:2; Rev. 2:3; Rev. 2:19; Rev. 3:10; Rev. 13:10; Rev. 14:12

Related Resources:

Have endured (used also in Rev 2:2)(941)(bastazo from basis = foot) literally means to take up and hold (Jn 10:31) or to bear/carry (Mk 14:13). In Acts 9:15 "to bear My Name" means to announce it to "Gentiles and kings and sons." Metaphorically bastazo means to bear, support, endure, i.e., labors, sufferings (Mt. 20:12, burden or weight, implied in Rev. 2:3). To bear a burden, whether physically, as of the cross, John 19:17, or metaphorically in respect of sufferings endured in the cause of Christ (Luke 14:27+; Rev. 2:3);

Grown weary (2872) (kopiao from kopos = labor, fatigue) means to to exhibit great effort and exertion, to the point of sweat and exhaustion. becoming worn out, weary and/or faint. Figuratively kopiao means to become emotionally fatigued and/or discouraged and thus to lose heart and/or give up. The work described by kopiao was left one so weary it was as if the person had taken a beating. Kopiao describes not so much the actual exertion as the weariness which follows the straining of all one's powers to the utmost. Kopiao was sometimes used to refer to athletic training. Lightfoot says that kopiao "is used especially of the labor undergone by the athlete in his training. MacArthur adds that kopiao "does not stress the amount of work, but rather the effort. A man’s reward from God is proportional to the excellence of his ministry and the effort he puts into it. Excellence combined with diligence mark a man worthy of the highest honor. (1Timothy Moody Press) Paul gave us the secret of how one can work like this and not become weary - "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored (kopiao) even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me." (1 Cor 15:10+). - See the "Paradoxical Principle of 100% Dependent and 100% Responsible" (100/100)

Commended and Corrected

Read: Revelation 2:1-7 

You have persevered and have patience . . . . Nevertheless I have this against you. —Revelation 2:3-4

Imagine 8-year-old Danny coming to bat three times in a Little League game. He strikes out twice and singles once. After the game, a famous major league player approaches him. “Danny,” he says, “I liked the way you hit that single and hustled to first. You’re going to make a good ball-player someday.”

Danny beams. He’s receptive and eager to improve. So he’s all ears when the pro adds, “But Danny, you tend to top the ball. You’ve got to change your stance and the way you hold the bat. Let me give you a few tips.” The advice is heeded because it combines commendation with correction.

Many people view God as a stern disciplinarian who issues warnings and threats without praise. But that’s not the picture we get in today’s Scripture reading. The Ephesian church had left its first love (Rev. 2:4) and needed to renew the warm glow it once had or it would cease to exist (v.5). Jesus gave the Ephesians a stern warning, but in calling them to repent He also recognized all that was good in the church (Rev 2-3,6).

That’s how God motivates us. He affirms our faithfulness to Christ and reminds us of what we can become. But He also points out where we fall short. We can be thankful that God not only corrects us, but He also commends us. Dennis J. DeHaan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

For Further Study
Read Revelation 2 and 3. Seven times Jesus said, “I know your works.” For what did He commend the seven churches? For what did He correct them?

God’s commendation gives us encouragement;
God’s correction gives us hope.

Revelation 2:4  'But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

NET  Revelation 2:4 But I have this against you: You have departed from your first love!

NLT  Revelation 2:4 "But I have this complaint against you. You don't love me or each other as you did at first!

ESV  Revelation 2:4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

NIV  Revelation 2:4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

GNT  Revelation 2:4 ἀλλὰ ἔχω κατὰ σοῦ ὅτι τὴν ἀγάπην σου τὴν πρώτην ἀφῆκες.

KJV  Revelation 2:4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

ASV  Revelation 2:4 But I have this against thee, that thou didst leave thy first love.

CSB  Revelation 2:4 But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first.

NKJ  Revelation 2:4 "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

NRS  Revelation 2:4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

YLT  Revelation 2:4 'But I have against thee: That thy first love thou didst leave!

  • I have: Rev 2:14,20 
  • because: Rev 3:14-17 Jer 2:2-5 Mt 24:12,13 Php 1:9-11 3:13-16 1Th 4:9,10 2Th 1:3 Heb 6:10,11 
  • Revelation 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Related Passages:

Mark 12:28-33+ One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD ("THE SHEMA" - Dt 6:4+); 30 AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31 “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; 33 AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

1 John 5:1-3 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. (WHEN WE ARE IN SIN WE ARE NOT LOVING GOD!)

First Love Lost


D A Carson writes of the church at Ephesus - They still proclaim the truth, but no longer passionately love Him Who is the Truth. They still perform good deeds, but no longer out of love, brotherhood, and compassion. They preserve the truth and witness courageously, but forget that love is the great witness to truth (ED: cf Jn 13:35). It is not so much that their genuine virtues have squeezed love out, but that no amount of good works, wisdom, and discernment in matters of church discipline, patient endurance in hardship, hatred of sin, or disciplined doctrine, can ever make up for lovelessness. (From article The Church that Does All Things Right)

But (alla) - This is one of the more dramatic terms of contrast in the Bible. This is abrupt "about face," a major spiritual "u turn!" What is Jesus contrasting? One would think all the positive things the Ephesian church had accomplished (total of 10 if you include Nicolaitans) would be enough "credit" (so to speak) to offset their debit (love). But love trumps everything else (1Cor 13:13+)! And their lack of love had consumed all of the credit stored up by their good deeds! But means all the good in the Ephesian church did not cancel out the bad Jesus is about to describe.

Has the fire in our heart for Christ begun to smolder?

Swindoll on but - Like an unexpected twist in the road during a pleasant drive through the countryside, Christ interrupted His commendation of the Ephesians with one abrupt word: “but” (Rev 2:4). The small Greek word alla indicates a sharp contrast, and in the case of Ephesus, it’s very significant: The church in Ephesus had everything but the greatest thing. The erosion of the love they had at the beginning didn’t happen overnight. No one suddenly wakes up one morning and says, “I don’t love Jesus anymore. I’m tired of Jesus and I’m finished with all this Christianity stuff.” It doesn’t happen like that. It happens over the years—after hardship, questions you can’t get answered, trials that don’t seem to have reason, loss of health, loss of hope, loss of a loved one. In the midst of the Ephesians’ hard work and endurance for Jesus, their love for Him began to wane. (See Insights on Revelation)

COMMENT (see also Newell's comment) - While the picture above says "lost" that is probably not the best translation. In English LOST means to no longer be in the possession, care, or control of something, no longer in existence; vanished or spent. No longer known or practiced and clearly they had denied Christ. LEFT on the other hand means gone away from or abandoned. Clearly this love is not completely gone out of existence or else how could they return to it. It would seem a better picture is like a fire where blazing flame has died down and all that is left is the live coals. The coals have not completely lost their glow and therefore when blown on (as by a bellows) they can be made to flame up again. So too the love of a genuine believer has not been totally lost but is clearly at low ebb, with "coal" barely glowing, so to speak. When the wind of the Spirit (and the Word) come "blowing" on such a heart, the potential is there for spiritual renewal and revival. Jesus says the "steps" to "revival" are (1) remember (2) return and (3) re-do. The psalmist writes of a heart with barely glowing coals in Psalm 119:25+ "My soul cleaves to the dust; Revive me according to Your word." If the "coals" of your heart, your love for Jesus, has grown cold, obey the commands of Jesus and consider adding the prayer of the psalmist. Then wait on the Lord. It is in His will that you experience revival, for in that state He is most glorified. So wait on the Lord's timing for "those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength (literally exchange their strength for His strength); They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:31+

Some 35-40 years earlier Paul had described their love in his letter writing "For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints." (Eph. 1:15+) And then he added multiple references to love in his letter to the church at Ephesus (Love is mentioned 20x - see below! Contrast the letter to the Colossians which has a number of parallels with the letter to the Ephesians but not when it comes to the subject of love! Colossians has only 4 mentions of love compared to 20 mentions of love in Ephesians! What is the upshot? The Ephesians could not claim ignorance of this vital topic of LOVE!  

LOVE in the Letter to the Ephesians -  Eph. 1:4; Eph. 1:15; Eph. 2:4; Eph. 3:17; Eph. 3:19; Eph. 4:2; Eph. 4:15; Eph. 4:16; Eph. 5:2; Eph. 5:25; Eph. 5:28; Eph. 5:33; Eph. 6:23; Eph. 6:24.

Note especially the command the church seems to have forgotten some forty years later...this is part of what they needed to REMEMBER! - Therefore be (present imperative  see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk (present imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) in love, just as (TERM OF COMPARISON) Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us (THIS IS THE ESSENCE OF CHRISTIAN LOVE!), an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (Eph 5:1-2+)

Related Passage: (OT Example of Leaving First Love)

Jeremiah 2:2-5 “Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, “I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, The love of your betrothals, Your following after Me in the wilderness, Through a land not sown.  3 “Israel was holy to the LORD, The first of His harvest. All who ate of it became guilty; Evil came upon them,” declares the LORD.’”  4 Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. 5 Thus says the LORD, “What injustice did your fathers find in Me, That they went far from Me And walked after emptiness and became empty?

I have this against you, that you have left (aphiemi) your first love - Note that Jesus does not say they have no love, for they had love, but their love had lost it's luster! The coals on the fire of their hearts were still live coals but they were not flaming up. There is an old secular song from 1965 "You've Lost that Loving Feeling." That could have been the theme song of the church at Ephesus. The verb for left is aphiemi in the aorist tense (at a point in time in the past) and active voice signifying they volitionally or of their own volition/will left their first love. What is their first love? In a word it is JESUS (but see MacArthur below)! It is interesting that aphiemi is the very word God uses of forgiving our sins, but it is also the word used for sending one's wife away or divorce. Christ is our husband and the church is His bride. How sad when a bride ceases to love her husband. How tragic is a loveless marriage! 

John Phillips - With eyes aflame, the Lord says that one large debit consumed all their credit. The spiritual coin of poor insolvent Ephesus never saw the mint of love. It is possible to serve the Lord for a variety of motives-for the praise of men, for prestige or position, for the sake of reputation, because it is simply the thing to do. because of a sense of duty. If service for God is not born of a devoted passion for the Lord Jesus it is worthless.  Thus, in one terse, tragic statement, the Lord sums up the problem. When Rehoboam came to the throne of Israel, he acted like the fool he was. To humble him, God allowed the Egyptians to invade Judea and to carry away as spoil the golden shields that Solomon had provided for the Temple guard. Rehoboam took the loss in his stride. He made shields of brass instead. They would do! They looked like gold. The shields would shine in the sun just the same (1 Kings 14:25-27). That is what had happened at Ephesus and what has happened to many a fundamental church. The enemy has made off with the gold of devotion, and we make do with the brass instead. "Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal" is the way Paul describes Christian duty devoid of love (1 Cor. 13:1). (Borrow Exploring Revelation)

A synonym for lost your first love would be what we often refer to as Backsliding (see numerous insightful quotes on backsliding). (See Related discussion of our continual need for REVIVAL!)

Warren Wiersbe writes that "Most Christians do not jump into sin and get away from God’s will. They gradually decline spiritually, then find themselves in trouble and wonder how it happened. They leave their first love (Rev. 2:4) and start living for the flesh and not the Spirit (Gal. 3:1-3). That is why our Lord admonished us to watch and pray (ED: both in the present imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) (Mt 26:41+)  When we least expect it, the germ of sin (SEE THOUGHTS ON "LITTLE SINS") can enter the system. (Borrow With the Word - page 498)

Spurgeon - A church has no reason for being a church when she has no love within her heart, or when that love grows cold. Lose love, lose all.” When love dies orthodox doctrine becomes a corpse, a powerless formalism. Adhesion to the truth sours into bigotry when the sweetness and light of love to Jesus depart.

Left (863)(aphiemi from apo = prefix speaks of separation, putting some distance between + hiemi = put in motion, send) conveys the basic idea of an action which causes separation. Literally aphiemi means to send from one's self, to forsake, to put away, disregard. It conveys the basic idea of an action which causes separation and refers to detachment and/or separation from a previous condition. In secular Greek aphiemi initially conveyed the sense of to throw and in one secular writing we read "let the pot drop" (aphiemi). From this early literal use the word came to mean leave or let go. It is translated forgive/forgave/forgiven 48 (of 133 uses).  Aphiemi in Revelation - Rev. 2:4; Rev. 2:20; Rev. 11:9

Steven Lawson - As in any relationship our love for Christ is subject to fluctuation. While this relationship can never be broken, it can suffer a severe waning of intensity. Sometimes our passion for Christ explodes and grows. And at other times it grows stale. It can become stagnant, mechanical, routine and we begin to simply go through the empty motions of Christianity without a blazing, fiery love for Him. Sadly, that is precisely what took place at Ephesus. The church there was a great church. They believed correctly, they served exhaustively, they defended valiantly, but something over time was missing and that which was missing is that they had left their first love. They had not left it in total, for such is impossible, for nothing shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. (Ro 8:35+, Ro 8:39+). But they had left it in part. Once on fire for Christ, their blazing passion had cooled off to a flickering. They still coming, serving, believing rightly, but their hearts were no longer an altar upon which the fire of Christ was burning brightly. Their activities FOR Christ had begun to suppress their intimacy WITH Christ. And rather than it being a relationship, their Christianity had become a performance. They had full heads, busy feet, and cool hearts. The glow was gone....Where are you. Because sometimes the more involved we become in serving the Lord, there can be a sacrifice in our personal communion with and fellowship with the Lord. Is your passion for Christ dynamic?...Has your love faded? (Final call - BORROW)

THOUGHT - After Peter had denied Jesus three times, the risen Jesus ask "Do you love me?" three times (Jn 21:15, 16, 17). How would we (I) answer if Jesus ask me this question three times today? 

Vincent on first love - The first enthusiastic devotion of the Church to her Lord, under the figure of conjugal love.  (Revelation 2)

Joseph Stowell - In Revelation 2:4 Jesus speaks of wanting our “first love” (see also John 21:15–17). The word first in this text refers to priority. It is a love that motivates and drives all that we do. We have been loved with the deepest love possible. After all, who would go to the cross for offensive sinners if it weren’t the purest kind of love? And being loved with such amazing love, the only response our heart can have is, “How can I love You in return?” (Borrow Strength for the journey : day-by-day with Jesus)

MacArthur - That love could include love for God and Christ, love for each other, and love for the lost. It is love defined as obedience (2 John 6). They had sunk to the place where they were carrying out their Christian responsibilities with diminishing love for their Lord and others. (See Revelation Commentary)

Adrian Rogers - Now, that doesn't mean they didn't love Jesus anymore. He was their first love, and they did love Him. But, they did not love Him as they used to love Him. The honeymoon—the spiritual honeymoon—was over. And, those of you who are married, do you remember your honeymoon? Do you remember how wonderful that first love was? Do you remember how sweet, how tender, how romantic those days were? I hope that you're still on your honeymoon. I hope your honeymoon is not over. But, if you don't love your wife more than you did when you first got married, the chances are you love her a whole lot less. Sometimes honeymoons don't last very long. Somebody has said, "The honeymoon is that period of time between 'I do' and 'you'd better.'" Now, I don't know whether you have come from "I do" to "you'd better," or not. I don't know whether your honeymoon is over, or not. Do you remember when you first got married, and you went off to work, and how she'd get up and fix you that marvelous breakfast, fix herself up before she'd let you see her in the morning, and then send you off with a big hug and a kiss? And now, she just kind of rolls over, and opens one eye, and says, "There's some coffee on, left over from last night; you can heat that up." I heard about one woman whose husband was the one who was neglecting her, and he just never seemed to be romantic anymore, never seemed to be tender anymore. And, a young married couple moved in next door, and they were so much in love—still on their honeymoon. And, she watched this young lady, as she would come to the door to send her husband off to work; and, before he'd go, he'd put his arms around her and give her a great big ol' kiss and a hug. She watched that for several mornings; then, she brought her husband to the window. She said, "I want you to watch that. You see that, over there? You see what he's doing? Why don't you do that?" He said, "I hardly know the woman." Well, dear friend, sometimes the honeymoon is over; sometimes that love that we had just grows cold and stale. And, there are a lot of men who love their wives, and there are a lot of wives who love their husbands—but you just don't love with the love that you first had—that reckless love, that abounding love, that enthusiastic love. Now, that was what was wrong with this church, right here. They had left their first love. It wasn't that they didn't love Jesus anymore; they just didn't love Jesus like they used to. They were still respectable; they were still active; they were still decent; they were still orthodox; they were still growing. But, they had lost the glow, and that's what we're talking about tonight. I wonder if you have lost the glow. I'm wondering if I'm speaking to someone here tonight who is orthodox; I'm wondering if I'm speaking to someone who is active; I'm wondering, tonight, if I'm speaking to someone here tonight who is patient, someone who is a church worker, and someone who labors for the Lord Jesus Christ—but your spiritual honeymoon is over. You don't love Jesus like you once loved the Lord Jesus Christ.....I'm not asking you, tonight, "Do you love the Lord Jesus?" If you're a Christian, I know you love the Lord Jesus. What I'm asking you tonight is, "Do you love Him with that first love?"

Rod Mattoon - They maintained a spirit of sacrifice, steadfastness, separation, and keenness for detecting heresy, but they were guilty of sin that the average person could detect.... they lost their first love for the Lord. In the Greek it is rendered.... "your first love you have left." Jesus said that in the last days, the love of many would wax cold (Matthew 24:12). Here in this situation, the spiritual furnace was still there, but the coals no longer had a bright, red luster. They had lost their honeymoon love for Christ. The same can happen to a husband and wife. They can remain faithful to each other, yet, lose their first love for each other. A church member can be regular in attendance, tithe, be active, yet lose their first love. Like Martha, we can be occupied with doing for Christ and miss becoming like Christ. Some people can get so busy in the work of the Lord that they neglect the Lord of the work. For this reason it is vital you develop and maintain your relationship with Christ lest you become burned out in your service to Him. God wants us to spend time with Him. A little girl made some slippers for her father. For three months she was consumed with making them. The day came when she gave them to her father. Her Dad loved them, but tenderly said, "Next time honey, go buy some slippers. I want your fellowship and company." God also wants our fellowship. When our love declines for Him, we eventually drift away spiritually and our dedication and service dies. This is what eventually happened to the church at Ephesus. Consistency in dedication to Christ is maintained by intimacy with Him. If the relationship crumbles, eventually the service for the Lord crashes. For this reason, spend time studying the Word of God each day and have a time of prayer. If you are a pastor, you can't adequately feed your church if you don't feed yourself. Get into the Word!

Rod Mattoon goes on to list 8 things that will cause a believer to lose their first love (See below "What a Christian Can Lose," beginning with #1 "First love and Fervency for the Lord and His Work." and on page 57 Hard Heartedness in the Bible - "We cannot avoid growing old, but we can avoid growing cold!).

The fire of God in your heart will melt the lead in your feet!
-- Rod Mattoon

Henry Morris - It was to the Ephesians, in fact, that Paul had written as he closed his epistle: “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity” (Ephesians 6:24, ED: SEE PAUL'S PRAYER IN Eph 6:23). A “first love” (or “chief love,” or “best love”) is a sincere love. Do we love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, or have we lost our first love? That is the great question. (Borrow The Revelation Record

Adrian Rogers - I want you to take a spiritual journey in your mind through your spiritual pilgrimage. And, I want to ask you this question—are you ready for it? Was there ever a time in your life—are you listening?—was there ever a time in your life when you loved the Lord Jesus more than you do at this moment? Was there? If there was, you, my friend, are a backslider. Was there ever a time when you loved Jesus more? Jesus says, "Remember." Do you remember those first days? Oh, dear friend, if you don't love Him now with that burning, glowing enthusiasm, you need to remember what it used to be.....If you don't love the Lord Jesus, it's because there's sin in your life. And, you need to repent of it; you need to get on your face before Him and say, "God, I deplore this sin. I turn from it."

“The cross is the blazing fire at which the flame of our love is kindled.” 
-- John Stott

A T Robertson on your first love.-  “Thy love the first.” This early love, proof of the new life in Christ (1 John 3:13-18+), had cooled off in spite of their doctrinal purity. They had remained orthodox, but had become unloving." (Aka, orthodoxy without orthopraxy!)

“There is no use trying to do church work without love.
A doctor, a lawyer, may do good work without love, but God’s work cannot be done without love.”
-- D L Moody

D A Carson writes of the church at Ephesus - "Yet I hold this against you," Jesus says: "you I have forsaken your first love" (Rev 2:4). This devastating charge is the more horrible for the fact that the recipient of the love is not specified. We do not read, "you have forsaken your first love for God," or "you have forsaken your first love for fellow believers," but simply, "you have forsaken your first love." The love the church gives out, whether to God or to man, has dwindled and withered (ED: cf Mk 12:30,31). Its efficient good works and sensible discernment are gigantic; its love is dwarfish.(From article The Church that Does All Things Right)

Paul spared no words in addressing the danger of doing without loving this way...

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (1Co 13:1-3+).

Then Paul reminded the church in Corinth "But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1 Cor 13:13) Swindoll writes "Over and over again the New Testament emphasizes the primary place of love in the Christian faith. In fact, 1 Corinthians 13:13 tells us the golden virtue is love—beating out the silver and bronze winners, faith and hope, every time. “The greatest of these is love.” (See Insights on Revelation)

Love (26)(agape) is unconditional, sacrificial love and Biblically refers to a love that God is (1Jn 4:8,16), that God shows (Jn 3:16, 1Jn 4:9) and that God enables in His children (see fruit of the Spirit - Gal 5:22+). Agape love does not depend on the world’s criteria for love, such as attractiveness, emotions, or sentimentality. Believers can easily fall into the trap of blindly following the world’s demand that a lover feel positive toward the beloved. This is not agape love, but is a love based on impulse. Impulsive love characterizes the spouse who announces to the other spouse that they are planning to divorce their mate. Why? They reason “I can’t help it. I fell in love with another person!” Christians must understand that this type of impulsive love is completely contrary to God’s decisive love, which is decisive because He is in control and has a purpose in mind. Agape is a love that impels one to sacrifice one’s self for the benefit of the object loved...(it) speaks of a love which is awakened by a sense of value in the object loved, an apprehension of its preciousness. There are many reasons a proper understanding of the truth of God's word (and of the world's lie) is critical and one of the foremost is Jesus' declaration that "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love (agape) for one another." (John 13:35). Agape may involve emotion, but it must always involve actionAgape is unrestricted, unrestrained, and unconditional. Agape love is the virtue that surpasses all others and in fact is the prerequisite for all the others. Jesus when asked "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” replied ”‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment." (Mt 22:36, 37, 38)   

Wiersbe - This busy, separated, sacrificing church really suffered from “heart trouble”—they had abandoned their first love! They displayed “works … labor … and patience” (Rev. 2:2), but these qualities were not motivated by a love for Christ. (Compare 1 Thes. 1:3—“work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope.”) What we do for the Lord is important, but so is why we do it! What is “first love”? It is the devotion to Christ that so often characterizes the new believer: fervent, personal, uninhibited, excited, and openly displayed. It is the “honeymoon love” of the husband and wife (Jer. 2:1–2). While it is true that mature married love deepens and grows richer, it is also true that it should never lose the excitement and wonder of those “honeymoon days.” When a husband and wife begin to take each other for granted, and life becomes routine, then the marriage is in danger. Just think of it: it is possible to serve, sacrifice, and suffer “for My name’s sake” and yet not really love Jesus Christ!  The Ephesian believers were so busy maintaining their separation that they were neglecting adoration. Labor is no substitute for love; neither is purity a substitute for passion. The church must have both if it is to please Him.   (Bible Exposition Commentary)

John Phillips says "It is possible to serve the Lord for a variety of motives-for the praise of men, for prestige or position, for the sake of reputation, because it is simply the thing to do. because of a sense of duty. If service for God is not born of a devoted passion for the Lord Jesus it is worthless." (Exploring Revelation - BORROW) 

MacArthur writes "The current generation was maintaining the doctrine handed down to them, but they had left their first love. That love could include love for God and Christ, love for each other, and love for the lost. It is love defined as obedience (2 John 6). They had sunk to the place where they were carrying out their Christian responsibilities with diminishing love for their Lord and others....As it had in Israel, the honeymoon had ended at Ephesus. The loss of a vital love relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ opened the doors to spiritual apathy, indifference to others, love for the world, compromise with evil, judgment, and, ultimately, the death of the church altogether. Despite its outwardly robust appearance, a deadly spiritual cancer was growing at the heart of the Ephesian church. (See Revelation Commentary)

William Newell on left your first love - Note, the word is “leave,” not “lose.” To love lies in the power of the will, otherwise it would not be commanded. Now the love of Christ and the Church is that of bridegroom and bride. You cannot judge by what you see in the lukewarm churches today of the intense devotion to Christ’s Person into which such assemblies as Ephesus were brought by the Holy Ghost. You may see it in the martyr days, sometimes today on the mission field, and in supremely devoted souls like Samuel Rutherford, Fletcher of Madeley, Madame Guyon, Brainerd, Payson, McCheyne, and Cookman. We regard such cases of devotion as unusual; no, we should say they are normal. Christ has immeasurable love, and that continually, for every redeemed one; and love yearns for love. Consider newly-married people. Their life is one continuous story of affection—delight in one another. Service is not service, but gladness, for such a bride. Two New England girls worked in a textile factory. Mary went away on a visit of several months. Returning, and meeting her friend on the street, she asked her,“Maggie, are you working at the same old factory?” “I’m not working at all,” burst out Maggie: “I’m married!” Doubtless such a one was busier with her housework than ever she had been at the factory! But she toiled unconscious of the work as such—it was for him. She parted from him with an embrace as he went to work in the morning, and she prepared the evening meal ever looking out at door or window for his coming. As he neared home, she went to meet him. All her labor was a mere circumstance, swallowed up in her devotion to her husband. But days, weeks, months pass, and she becomes occupied with the details of her housekeeping, of her own life. She prepares just as good meals, keeps the house in as good, perhaps even better, order; but she has gradually changed her habit of watching for her husband at night, or going eagerly to meet him. She calls, “Goodbye” from somewhere upstairs in the morning, instead of holding him fast every moment she can. Now this was Ephesus; and this was the departure from first love: while Christ, the Bridegroom, has love in all its freshness, and will evermore have, for the Church. It was Ephesus, leaving that devoted pouring out of response to His love that grieved His very heart! This is the beginning of that decline which ends in Laodicea, and Laodicea’s awful state: “I have need of nothing,” yet loathsome, in poverty, wretchedness, misery, blindness, nakedness! Men that question the very virgin birth, and the deity of Christ, and His physical resurrection, are suffered today! The “Christian religion” has taken the place of personal devotion to the Bridegroom. (Commentary on the Revelation)

    Where is the blessedness I knew,
    When I first saw the Lord?
    Where is the soul refreshing view
    Of Jesus and His Word?

    What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
    How sweet their memory still!
    But they have left an aching void
    The world can never fill.
-- William Cowper

D Martyn Lloyd-Jones - The secret of the early Christians, the early Protestants, Puritans and Methodists was that they were taught about the love of Christ, and they became filled with a knowledge of it. Once a man has the love of Christ in his heart you need not train him to witness; he will do it. He will know the power, the constraint, the motive; everything is already there. It is a plain lie to suggest that people who regard this knowledge of the love of Christ as the supreme thing are useless, unhealthy mystics. The servants of God who have most adorned the life and the history of the Christian Church have always been men who have realized that this is the most important thing of all, and they have spent hours in prayer seeking His face and enjoying His love. The man who knows the love of Christ in his heart can do more in one hour than the busy type of man can do in a century. God forbid that we should ever make of activity an end in itself. Let us realize that the motive must come first, and that the motive must ever be the love of Christ. (The Unsearchable Riches of Christ)

Rod Mattoon - What a Christian Can Lose

1. First Love & Fervency for the Lord and His Work.

Revelation 2:4—Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

The fire of God in your heart will melt the lead in your feet.

2. The Fun & Festivity of God's Salvation. You can lose your joy. This is what happened to David when he sinned against God.

Psalm 51:12—Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

3. Fellowship with God.

1 John 1:7—But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

Sin hurts our walk with God.

4. Fellowship with other Believers.

Hebrews 10:25—Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Sin causes Christians to break fellowship with spiritual believers and get out of church.

5. Our Focus on the Lord and Future Spiritual Goals.

Matthew 13:13a—Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not;

Proverbs 29:18—Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

6. Our Formidableness and Power to Serve the Lord.

Judges 16:20, 21—And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the Lord was departed from him. But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.

Deuteronomy 32:36—For the Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.

7. Our Force and Favor with Others. Lot lost his influence with his own family.

Genesis 19:14—And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.

8. Our Final Breath. Sin in the life of the Christian can shorten the life of the Christian.

1 John 5:16—If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5—... It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. [2] And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. [3] For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, [4] In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, [5] To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

1 Corinthians 11:29, 30—For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

9. Future Reward. Believers can lose rewards from the Lord.

1 Corinthians 3:14, 15—If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

2 John 1:8—Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.
10. The Favor or blessing of the Lord.

Jeremiah 5:25—Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you.
Are you losing anything today?

James Scudder - Stale Christianity Revelation 2:3-4

Have you ever reached for your favorite piece of candy, dreaming of its delightful tastes streaming down your throat? Then you open the wrapper, pop it on your tongue, only to discover that it is stale? Is there anything worse?

Nobody enjoys eating food that has sat around too long. We prefer digging into freshly prepared meals. It is more satisfying when it comes directly out of the oven and onto our plate.

Stale Christianity is also very unappealing. That was the problem with the church in Ephesus. According to Revelation, this congregation had stood firm on the Scriptures, resisted heresy, and had become mature in their faith. Yet, they had "lost their first love." The fire that burned so brightly became a smoldering coal.

It is so easy to let our faith become mechanical and mundane. We get up at the same time every week and drive to church. We participate faithfully in the same ministries, year after year. But, we grow cold and cynical. We lose our excitement and the joy that we once possessed.

When this happens, we should heed the warning signs and engage in serious soul-searching. We should spend long periods in the Scriptures and ask God to bring back our fiery passion for service.

Have you fallen into the trap of stale Christianity? Has your faith been "sitting out" too long? Ask God to rejuvenate your soul today and give you a dose of fresh faith once again.

 A Christian is a person who makes it easy for others to believe in God.  Robert M'Cheyene

Joseph Stowell - OUR MAIN SQUEEZE


On my way home from the office, I used to regularly pass a florist shop that had a large marquee on its roof advertising special flower deals. I’ll never forget passing by one evening and noticing that it said: “Take roses to your main squeeze.” I chuckled at the thought of Martie as my “main squeeze.” I hasten to add that there are no secondary squeezes!

When it comes to getting things straight in our walk with Christ, the pivotal issue is who will be our “main squeeze.” “The Father” should be our eager response. After all, the first and greatest commandment is that we “love the Lord [our] God” (Matthew 22:37). Yet many of us are still in love with the world, living and sacrificing for all it offers. We too easily yield our careers, our cash, our children, and our chastity to the sizzle that this world offers.

Loving the world means to yield to it, to make aspects of it our primary point of allegiance. Clearly, love for the Father is not in us when the world has its grip on our heads and hearts. We can say it, sing it, or even chant about our love for God, but if our choices consistently point to the cosmos rather than the kingdom, the world has stolen our “first love” (Revelation 2:4).

Loving the world puts us at risk. When we are yielded to its allures, we embrace its lies and destructive power. In fact, our loving allegiance to its misinformation is epidemic. Ask the average Christian what success means, and you will hear answers about careers and lifestyle. Ask about life’s main pursuit, and you will often hear us answer, “Happiness.”

Lovers of God, however, know the difference. For them, success is faithfulness, and the pursuit of life is not happiness but reflecting the glory of God in our lives. Loving Him means yielding to the sound of His voice and living by His Word.

What is there in your life that reflects a love for this world? Deal with it by turning your heart toward Him. (Borrow Strength for the journey : day-by-day with Jesus)

Rick Renner - Excerpt from Thou Hast Left Thy First Love

It often happens that the first generation of Christians, during a move of God, experiences dramatic salvations as that segment of the Church is born in the power of the Spirit. However, the second generation, raised in a Christian environment, often doesn’t experience the same radical deliverance their parents did. Of course, it should be the goal of all believing parents to raise their children in a godly environment; however, they can never stop working diligently to keep the fires of spiritual passion burning.

As each successive generation becomes more accustomed to a Christian environment — learning to speak the language of the church, sing the songs of the church, and act the way “church” people should act — it becomes easy for the younger generations to slip into a mindset of familiarity. Too often this can produce apathy in people’s hearts, ultimately leading them to take the redemptive work of Christ for granted (ED COMMENT - GREAT POINT AND ANOTHER REASON LORD'S SUPPER SHOULD BE CELEBRATED FREQUENTLY!). Therefore, the potential for spiritual fires to die down and become a pile of smoldering embers increases dangerously with each new generation. The only way for each local body and its members to avoid that process is to become unrelenting in their commitment to retain their spiritual passion for Christ.

There is no clearer example of this vital principle than the illustrious church of Ephesus, which was perhaps the finest congregation that existed in the First Century. Although only a few decades had passed since the birth of this church, the fervency that once gripped these believers’ hearts had waned. The spiritual fire that once blazed in their midst was gradually diminishing into a flickering flame, replaced instead by orthodoxy, creeds, and dogmas — a form of religion that lacked the power known by the earlier generation (see 2 Timothy 3:5).

If this could happen to the church of Ephesus, it must be taken as a warning for the Church in every generation. We must regularly allow the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and reveal whether or not we are still on fire for the Lord as we once were. It may be a painful revelation to realize that we have become doctrinally sophisticated yet powerless. However, if we are willing to remember from whence we have fallen and then to repent, we can be spared the tragedy of becoming irrelevant to our generation.

As I conclude today, my own heart is stirred. Oh, let each of us examine our own heart to see if we have let anything slip in our fervent pursuit of Jesus. And if we discover that we have left our first love in any way, let’s take every step necessary to fan the fire within until it blazes hot and high for Him the way it did when we first came to know Jesus Christ!

The Murky Cloud

"Thou hast left thy first love."—Rev. 2:4

Have you ever been out on a fine day in the brightness of the early summer? You have wandered over mountain and vale, perhaps, enjoying everything, when all of a sudden you have become conscious of a depressing influence; you do not know exactly what it is, you cannot tell why you do not feel so buoyant and cheerful as you did, and why everything is not so jubilant as it was just now. At last you begin to discover what is the matter. You look up, and you see that a thick murky cloud has come between you and the sun; nature seems to have stilled her joyful song of jubilee, and all beauty seems to have faded from the landscape; all is changed, changed almost imperceptibly, but oh, how changed! Just so is it with regard to our spiritual experience. The light is stolen from us, and we scarcely thought it was gone. There is some dark form of worldly care, or it may be of religious activity—something or other has crept in between us and God, and the whole heaven is darkened, the light is eclipsed, and the blessedness is gone. Already there is a voice sounding in our ears: "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love."

Lost First Love - Pulpit Helps, May, 1992
  1. When my delight in the Lord is no longer as great as my delight in someone else, I have lost my first love.
  2. When my soul does not long for times of rich fellowship in God’s Word or in prayer, I have lost my first love.
  3. When my thoughts during leisure moments do not reflect upon the Lord, I have lost my first love.
  4. When I claim to be “only human” and easily give in to those things I know displease the Lord, I have lost my first love.
  5. When I do not willingly and cheerfully give to God’s work or to the needs of others, I have lost my first love.
  6. When I cease to treat every Christian brother as I would the Lord, I have lost my first love.
  7. When I view the commands of Christ as restrictions to my happiness rather than expressions of His love, I have lost my first love.
  8. When I inwardly strive for the acclaim of this world rather than the approval of the Lord, I have lost my first love.
  9. When I fail to make Christ or His words known because I fear rejection, I have lost my first love.
  10. When I refuse to give up an activity which I know is offending a weaker brother, I have lost my first love.
  11. When I become complacent to sinful conditions around me, I have lost my first love.
  12. When I am unable to forgive another for offending me, I have lost my first love.

Here is a chart adapted from Precept Revelation Part 1 (highly recommended course)


The Deed

What It Was Like When I First Came to Know Him? What was my motivation then?

Where I Am Now?
What is my motivation now?

A hunger to read God's Word, delighting to be in it, to discover truth, to see His promises.



A desire to be with other Christians, to hear His Word taught, to have fellowship with others who love Him and are eager to serve Him.



An awareness of God's presence and a desire to talk to Him, to know His will and do what pleases Him.



A desire to share Whom and what I've found with others so they can know and experience the same.



A desire to share material things with others.



An eagerness to serve God in some way, seeking His direction, His purpose for my life.



QUESTION - What does it mean to have left your first love (Revelation 2:4)?

ANSWER - Revelation 2:1-7 contains Jesus’ message to the church in Ephesus, the first of seven exhortations to various churches in the Roman Empire. Ephesus had some unique challenges for a Christ-follower in that it was home to the Emperor’s cult and the worship of the Greek goddess Artemis (Acts 19:23-40). Because of these influences, the Ephesian believers had developed great discernment when it came to false teachers and heresy. Christ commended them for this discernment, but He faulted them for having lost their “first love.”

The first love which characterized the Ephesians was the zeal and ardor with which they embraced their salvation as they realized they loved Christ because He first loved them (1 John 4:19) and that it was, in fact, His love for them that had made them “alive together with Christ.” So overwhelmed were they by the joy that came from understanding their former state—dead in trespasses and sins—and their new life in Christ, that they exhibited the fruit of that joy (Ephesians 2:1-5). Because of God’s great love for the Ephesians, they were “made alive in Christ” and that new life was exhibited in the passion of gratitude. That passion for the Savior spilled over onto one another and out to those in the culture they inhabited, corrupt as it was.

Jesus commends the Ephesians for their many good works and hard work. They tested teachers to see whether their professions were real; they endured hardship and persevered without growing weary. But they had lost their warmth and zeal for Christ, and when that happened, they began to “go through the motions” of good works, motivated not by the love of and for Christ, but by the works themselves. What was once a love relationship cooled into mere religion. Their passion for Him became little more than cold orthodoxy.

Surrounded by paganism and false teachers, the Ephesian church would have had ample opportunity to correct false doctrine and confront heretical teachers. If they did so for any reason other than love for Christ and a passion for His truth, however, they would have lost their way. Instead of pursuing Christ with the devotion they once showed, much like a bride who follows her groom “through the desert” (Jeremiah 2:2), the Ephesians were in danger of falling away from Christ completely. This is why He warns those who have “ears to hear” to prove the reality of their salvation by returning to Him and rekindling the love that had begun to cool. No doubt there were among the Ephesians those whose profession was false and whose hearing had become dulled. He warns the rest not to follow them, but to repent and return to Him with the passion they once had for Him.

We face the same challenges in the twenty-first century. There are few churches that aren’t subject to, and in danger of, a certain amount of false teaching. But Jesus calls us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and to not let the frustration of false teaching overpower the love of Christ in us (Ephesians 4:31-32). Our first love is the love Christ gives us for God and each other. We should be zealous for the truth, but that zeal should be tempered so that we are always “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15)

Rod Mattoon - How do you know if you are losing your first love for the Lord? There are several red flags to watch out for that would indicate a problem.

A. A Loss of Joy
We find great joy in what we truly love. When we lose the joy in our relationship with someone, it's a sign that our love for that person has somehow diminished. A loss of joy in our relationship with God, is thus, one indicator that our first love has dimmed. David lost his joy after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. He described his anguish in Psalm 51 as he realized how far away from the Lord he had drifted. If he only could have seen what was at the end of this destructive path that he chose, he would have never started in the first place. * Psalm 51:12—Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

B. A Loss of Desire to Pray and Read God's Word
We want to spend time with those we love, talking and listening to what they have to say. When that desire is gone, there is an indication that love is waning or gone. If this describes your attitude or condition toward the Lord, you have lost your first love.

C. A Discomfort in Being Around Other Christians
When you lose your first love for the Lord, you are more reluctant to go to church or spend time with other Christians. You don't want to be around those who remind you of the One you want to forget.

D. Your Priorities Get Misplaced
The focus of your life shifts from Christ to something else when you cool off spiritually. Your focus will be upon that which is important to you or what you dearly treasure. * Matthew 6:21—"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." If we lose our love for God, other loves will fill His place in our hearts. Time once spent with God will be devoted to other pursuits that yield little or no spiritual fruit. Once we stop searching for the one pearl of great price, we will devote our time, energy, and money to the pursuit of other treasures.

E. You Cover Up Your Sin
Sin is covered to hide the shame that is attached to it. After their fall in the garden, Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves with fig leaves (Gen. 3:7). When sin is covered, the result is it makes a person harder in their heart. Covering sin only leads to more complications and catastrophic decisions because the sin problem is not corrected in the person's life. This is why a person does not prosper. See  

Proverbs 28:13. He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. 

Psalm 32:5. David learned the hard way the trouble that comes from covering up your sin. He realized the best thing to do is to confess it to the Lord and get matters right with God.  In the early stage of disobedience, we fool ourselves into thinking that somehow, God won't know what we've done as long as we don't admit it to anyone. That, however, is not true. Hiding sin from the Lord is useless. You are wasting time and not fooling the Lord at all. 


Text: Revelation 2:4 Read: vs. 1–5

    “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.”

INTRODUCTION: The meaning of “first love” as used here is obviously that feeling of dedication to God’s will as we, by faith, accept Christ as our Savior. I suppose that the best expression of this feeling of one’s first love is seen in Peter’s First Epistle: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

It is no secret that many alleged Christians seem to have outgrown a sense of vital relationship with Christ. Far too many regard—
          1.      The Bible as a kind of “moral inconsistency.”
          2.      Jesus’ command of “Take up your cross” as fanaticism.
          3.      “Ye shall be witnesses” as just “preacher talk.”
          4.      Prayer as a kind of “public embarrassment.”

          1.      Diotrephes had preeminent religion, 3 John 9.
          2.      Saul had “I … thought” religion, Acts 26:9.
          3.      The rich young ruler had “ten commandment” religion, Matt. 19:20.
          4.      The scribes and Pharisees had “public show” religion, Matt. 23:5.

          1.      First love for Christ as Savior, John 21:15.
          2.      First love for Christ’s will to be done, Acts 9:6.
          3.      Love for Christ’s “first love”—the church, Acts 20:28.

          1.      Jesus is in close contact with His people, v. 1.
          2.      The Bridegroom is “jealous” of His Bride, v. 4.
          3.      Broken vows cancel Christ’s plans for us, v. 7.
          4.      Christians can lose their first love, v. 4.
          5.      The remedy: “Repent, … do thy first works,” v. 5.
          6.      Jesus always warns us before He brings judgment, v. 4.
          7.      A Christian can lose nothing more vital for time and eternity than his first love, v. 5.
          8.      Christ always stands ready to forgive us, v. 7.

Inward deterioration

Does it not often happen in the Christian life that the soul retains earnestness, patience, truth, endurance, a hatred of evil, long after it has left its first love; that its religious service is continued, apparently unaltered, while the spirit that prompted that service is changed for the worse? But though love is altered, there may yet remain the sense of duty. None without can detect the difference. The soul itself is perhaps hardly conscious of it. Or if conscious of anything, it is that prayer is not so easy and pleasant as it used to be, that the thoughts are more wandering, that temptation is more attractive, and thanksgiving is irksome, unreal, and unblessed. The whole tendency of our being is to deteriorate. Most of us can remember a time at which we think we were more fit to die than we are now. Our self-examination has told us that we are not now what we were; and perhaps self-examination was hardly necessary for the acquirement of this knowledge. It is forced upon us continually throughout the day as we feel and act so coldly towards good, so readily and kindly towards evil. Now if it be really that we have fallen back only one step in faith and love, if we have left our first love, what must we do? We must struggle against the languor which threatens to benumb us. We must struggle with all our might, not giving up any one duty merely because it is irksome. This may not indeed be restoration, but it will at least maintain that communication with the Source of all strength by which restoration may be looked for. When we have realised what we once were, and reflect that by God’s grace we might have lived the rest of our lives according to that beginning, and neared the goal in the heavenward race, then we may be able to measure our decline, and, weeping over what we have lost, pray for grace to regain it. “And repent.” Yes I this must be, We will not trust in that which remains, in our hatred of the worst sins, in sympathy with Him, not in our works, or our labour, or our patience, our distrust of false teachers, our perseverance under trial. These are nothing without love. We will confess that other lords besides Him have had dominion over us. We will confess that we have left our first love, and implore Him to recover us, and turn our hearts. (W. Mitchell, M. A.)

Vance Havner - Ephesus: Lovelessness “... thou hast left thy first love.”—Revelation 2:4 - (Borrow book "Repent or Else" - page 18)

EPHESUS IS THE only one of the seven churches of Revelation concerning which we have much scriptural information and that is recorded largely in Acts, chapters eighteen through twenty. Paul visited the city first with Priscilla and Aquila and left them there. Later the eloquent Apollos came to Ephesus preaching the baptism of John. Aquila and Priscilla heard him and of course they discovered that he had an incomplete and inadequate message. However, they did not stamp out of church in a huff and label him a modernist. They probably invited him to go home with them to a chicken dinner. (You can do a lot with a preacher after a chicken dinner!) Anyway, they straightened him out so that he began to preach the gospel.

Later Paul returned to Ephesus and preached in the synagogue for three months. But soon opposition began. Paul wrote concerning Ephesus: “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:9). Opportunity brings opposition and it took three forms in Ephesus. First, there was a hardening of heart among the listeners. The same sun that melts ice also hardens clay and the gospel either humbles or hardens the human heart, so a preacher should be prepared to expect both. Paul moved over to the school of Tyrannus where he taught for two years. He carried on a threefold work. For a living he made tents. He “reasoned,” that is, he was an apologist as well as an apostle; his message was “... repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). And he taught from house to house, warning everyone night and day with tears, so he was a pastor.

Soon the opposition took a new form. This time it was an old trick of the devil, imitation—“If you can't beat them, join them.” Some Jews tried to cast out demons in the name of Jesus. But the demon said, “Jesus I know and Paul I know but who are ye?” The devil is probably saying that to a lot of modern exorcists who are trying to produce gospel results without gospel power. These imitators at Ephesus took a beating at the hands of the evil spirit instead of defeating him—and any man who tackles the Adversary without the power of God will fare no better.

Out of all this there came a revival. All the elements of a true awakening are here (Acts 19:17-20). Fear fell on them all. The name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. Many professed believers, who had been mixed up with these black arts, confessed and made a clean sweep of everything. Judgment began at the house of God. It would be about the same thing if some modern church members would own up to dabbling in seances and dark magic. Many of the spiritualists also came clean and about ten thousand dollars' worth of bad books were burned in public. A revival always produces a bonfire and if we really had such a revival in our churches it would take a forty-acre field to accommodate the tons of books, magazines and all other paraphernalia of the devil that would go up in smoke. No wonder we read next, “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” God’s word always prospers when an awakening like that hits town. Indeed, during this two-year ministry of Paul, all Proconsular Asia was evangelized. That included all the territory of the other six churches in Revelation, so everything began with this mighty work in Ephesus.

The opposition took a third form. Ephesus was devoted to the worship of Diana and there was a big business of making silver shrines for this goddess. Paul preached the gospel and when the Ephesians became Christians, they had no further use for silver shrines for Diana. That stirred up Demetrius, the silversmith, who called all his fellow craftsmen together and threw the whole city into an uproar. We read that “there arose no small stir about that way.” Here was a spiritual awakening that stirred up the devil because it hurt the devil's business. I am afraid of any religious movement that does not arouse the bitter opposition of entrenched evil. You will remember that our Lord once cast the demons out of a man and the demons entered the hogs. The hogs committed suicide and the hog-owners asked Jesus to leave the country. When the power of God casts out the devil, all hog-owners whose business is affected will raise a protest. A real revival today would cause a commotion in the traffic of evil. The liquor business, for instance, would suffer. Of course the liquor business is not exactly hog business but it is swill business.

I would remind you, however, that Paul did not shake Ephesus by lecturing about Diana. He preached Jesus Christ the Lord and when people came to know the Lord they had no further use for Diana. That principle still holds, although a lot of church members do not illustrate it very well these days.
When Paul left Ephesus there was a growing missionary church there. Thirty-odd years later our Lord calls it to repentance. It was still a remarkable church but it needed a revival. Someone has said that the church today does not need efficiency so much as “Ephesiansy,” meaning the truth contained in Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians. But there is a Second Epistle to the Ephesians here in Revelation. By now Ephesus needs a revival and our Lord tells them three things. He tells them what is right in the church, what is wrong in the church, and what to do about it.

He begins with commendation because He always commends where and when He can. He says, “I know thy works...”: Ephesus was a working church. “I know... thy labour...”: it was toilsome work. “... and thy patience...”: they did not go by fits and starts, but were persistent. “... and how thou canst not bear them which are evil...”: the church used discipline. Ephesus was a wicked city and they did not let bad men corrupt the church from the outside or the inside. They knew that they were as sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16) but they were also on guard against wolves among the sheep (Matthew 7:15). Paul had warned the elders of Ephesus: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30). He anticipated trouble from without and within so the church was forewarned and forearmed.

“... and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.” The church had dealt with evil doctrine and had refused to let false teachers poison the membership. The church has a right to screen out the bugs while it lets in the light. We do that in our houses and we should do it in the house of God.

Again our Lord said, “And [thou] hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.” They had been faithful to the Lord in a hard situation and had not grown weary in well doing. A lady complained to her maid, “You are so slow. Don't you ever do anything fast?” “Yes'm,” she replied, “I gits tired fast.” We faint easily in the Lord’ work and say, “Behold, what a weariness is it!”

What a church was Ephesus with all this to its credit! Could anything possibly be wrong? Yes, and after telling them what is right with them, our Lord tells them what is wrong: “... thou has left thy first love.” He had told His disciples, concerning the last days before He returns, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). Abounding lawlessness and abating love! What could describe better this present age! Lawlessness does not merely exist, it abounds. It is more extensive and more excessive. This generation loves everything but righteousness and fears everything but God. Juvenile delinquency, broken homes, crime waves, anarchy in art, music, literature, world-wide communism—if Paul could write long ago that “the mystery of lawlessness doth already work,” what would he say today! Only the restraining power of the Holy Spirit in God’s people keeps lawlessness from totally engulfing the world and, once the church is removed, you might as well try to dam up Niagara Falls with toothpicks as to hold back the floods of iniquity from completely submerging mankind.

In the midst of abounding lawlessness, love abates. In fact He really says, “The love of most, of the majority, will grow cold.” And Ephesus, for all her works and toil and orthodoxy and discipline and perseverance, leaves her first love. He did not say, “Zeal shall wax cold.” Ephesus had plenty of zeal. A man may give his goods to feed the poor and his body to be burned and have no love. Our Lord did not say, “Doctrine shall grow unorthodox.” It has, but that was not the trouble at Ephesus. One may be as straight as a gun barrel theologically and as empty as a gun barrel spiritually. In fact, it may be that in their very opposition to evil men and false teachers these Ephesian saints had left their first love. Our Lord commended them for the stand they had taken against the deeds of the Nicolaitanes which He said He also hated. But so often it turns out that fundamental and orthodox Christians become so severe in condemning false doctrine, gnashing their teeth at every sniff of heresy, that they end up without love. One may do a right thing in a wrong way. The same Paul who wrote, “... though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel... let him be accursed,” also wrote the love chapter to the Corinthians. Unless we can get that combination we shall be theological Hawkshaws and doctrinal detectives, religious bloodhounds looking for heretics but with hot heads and cold hearts.

Moreover, Ephesus proves that religious activity without love calls for repentance. I have wondered what would be left nowadays if we eliminated from our church work all that is not the spontaneous expression of our heart's love for Christ. Deacons and Sunday school teachers and choir singers should ask themselves, “Why do I do what I do in church? Because I ought to do it, because somebody has to do it, because I was chosen to do it?” If the love of Christ is not our compelling motive, God will not accept our service.

And we preachers had better ask, “For all my labor and perseverance and orthodoxy and condemnation of evil, is it the love of Christ that constrains me?” If not, then all eloquence and prophecy and knowledge and faith and benevolence and even martyrdom are but so much dust in a windy street.
What is this first love? It is the Christian's early love for Christ. The believer is married to Christ (Romans 7:4). Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “... I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ...”—that is Corinth or Ephesus or any other church at its beginning. Then he added: “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ”—there is Ephesus or any church without its first love. Nowadays the marriage relationship does not mean as much as it used to and neither does the Christian's relationship to his Lord, so the home and the church both suffer. There are Christians and churches that boast of being mature when really they are spiritually frostbitten. We have developed a prejudice against feeling and emotion until amens would be no scarcer if they cost a hundred dollars apiece—and the real truth is, we have left our first love. Our theme-song ought to be:

   Where is the blessedness I knew
   When first I saw the Lord?

This accounts for a lot of church troubles. When we love the Lord we love the brethren. When we break up the fallow ground of our hearts we uncover roots of bitterness. Paul wrote, “Love thinketh no evil,” that is, love does not keep account, does not keep books, of every little slight and hurt and criticism. Some Christians grow ulcers and bring on nervous breakdowns and live at high tension, harboring resentments that fester and poison body, mind and spirit. They need to return to first love and have a book-burning like the one they had at Ephesus in the early days.

But love for the brethren, love for the church, love for church work, all grow out of love for the Lord. We talk much about church loyalty while we beg and coax and almost bribe church members to come to church. People go where they want to go. Where their hearts are their heels will follow. Deeper than church loyalty there must be Christ loyalty and that must grow out of love to Christ. The Lord of the Lampstands, the Christ of the Candlesticks is asking, “Lovest thou me?” We are not ready to feed the sheep until we love Him. Hudson Taylor said the primary qualification for a missionary is not love for souls, as we so often hear, but love for Christ.

There is a reckless enthusiasm about first love. It is not cold and calculating. A young lover buys his sweetheart a gift he cannot afford. When you were a young Christian you could not do too much for the Lord. Like the poor widow at the treasury, you wanted to put in everything. Mary of Bethany did not count the cost of that high-priced perfume. Only Judas grumbled about it. He would, for there was no love in his heart. There are church Scrooges who are always afraid they will overdo it, who never give a dollar without wanting to sing, “When we asunder part it gives us inward pain.” They complain that they cannot figure out their tithe. If it was coming their way, they'd figure it out!

I am glad my mother didn't say, “I can't afford to sit up all night with this sick child. It might endanger my health!” I am glad my Lord did not say, “I cannot afford to go to the cross.” True love and first love are not stingy and when your heart is filled with it, nobody will have to beg you to serve God.
So our Lord stands among the churches and what He wants most is our love. Without that, all our orthodoxy and church work can never satisfy Him. He stands now as He stood in that great church at Ephesus and He tells us, as He told them, what to do. Remember, repent and repeat. Let us remember how we loved Christ as young Christians when we were the happiest people in the world, before we met too many Bible scholars and saw too many church members! Remember our sweetheart love for the Lord before it degenerated into cold orthodoxy and mechanical church work. Let us repent, turn, confess, go back and ask God to fill our hearts with the love of God shed abroad by the Holy Spirit. Let us repeat, do again the first works as we used to do when our orthodoxy was the hot faith of a loving heart and our church work was a labor of love and not just labor.

We preachers need to remember that all these messages of our Lord to the Asian churches were given first to the angel of the church, the messenger, the pastor. We need to recall our first love, when we were converted, called to preach, when we were in our first pastorate, before we had seen so much evil and had been disappointed in men we once respected and had the Spirit quenched in us until our consecration threatened to become cynicism. Many preachers do not need a new church or a new degree—we have more degrees now than we have temperature—so much as a refresher course in our Lord’ three R's.

There is one more R: “Or else I will... remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” It is revival or removal. With every one of these five churches it is a matter of Repent or else—and the else is judgment. With Ephesus it meant removal and I have seen many a preacher, many a Christian, many a church disapproved, on the shelf, no longer usable.

God help us to remember, repent and repeat, that there may be revival and not removal!  (Borrow Vance Havner's book "Repent or Else" - page 18)

Robert Neighbor - The Church at Ephesus

"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love" (Rev. 2:4)

When Paul visited Ephesus, he found a people who received the Truth into honest hearts. For three years he labored among them. When at last the time came for him to leave them he gave this solemn warning:

"For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:29, 30).

Matters turned out quite as Paul prophesied.

At the time the Apostle John addressed the seven Letters to the Churches of Asia, and carried forth the message of the Risen Christ to them, the Church at Ephesus was reckoned as a strong and healthy spiritual body.

1. Let us notice some of the good things that the Spirit of God was glad to emphasize concerning Ephesus.

(1) "I KNOW THY WORKS, AND THY LABOUR, AND THY patience." What a sweep of commendation there is in these words." Not only was Ephesus full of works, but she was full of works that were laborious; undertakings that were difficult of accomplishment. Better still — is all of this, Ephesus had been patient. She had perhaps ofttimes been faint, but she had been "still pursuing." She had met obstacles but, she had persevered and overcome them. She had been of the class who "lap as they run" but who never stop to stoop and drink — she was worthy of being numbered in "Gideon's three hundred."

(2) "I KNOW * * 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." Ephesus as a Church stood against two phases of church-membership. — First, she disciplined the morally corrupt, and secondly, she disciplined those who were mentally corrupt. Neither bad deeds nor bad doctrine were permitted untried in her fellowship.

In all of this Ephesus is a rebuke to the generality of churches of today. We have but little discipline any more. Church-members can live as they list, because as they list, and still hold places of honor in many of our churches and denominations.

(3) "I KNOW * * THOU * * HAST BORNE, AND HAST patience, and for My name's sake hast labored, and hast not fainted." This is more than we found in (1), for this expresses a patient endurance and an unwearied continuance of labor. It brings in view how Ephesus, 'mid many trials within and without, had patiently pressed her way. She had not fainted under the most trying times. Persecution had not weakened her fidelity.

2. Let us notice the root of evil that the Spirit of God saw in Ephesus — "Thou hast left thy first LOVE."

No casual observer, in fact, no close observer, would have detected this departure. However, it was not a light matter — "somewhat" is not in the original. The complaint does not read: "I have somewhat against thee," as though it was of small consequence. The Spirit wrote — "I have against thee that thou hast left thy first love."

The matter was so serious that the Spirit cried out, "Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works," or else "I will come upon thee and remove thy candlestick."

Let this sink deeply into our hearts. A church may be ever so full of works and ever so true in life and in doctrine, and yet be far away from the One Who loved the church and bought it with His own Blood. A church may be busy for Him, and yet lose sight of Him.

As we proceed in this study of the churches the way will grow darker and darker, but it will all prove to be the outgrowth of this first defection — "Thou hast left thy first love."

Desert Of Diversion

You have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen. —Revelation 2:4-5

Today's Scripture: Revelation 2:1-7

Muynak was once a thriving fishing port on the Aral Sea. But today Muynak sits on the edge of a bitter, salty desert. Sand dunes are strewn with the rusted, hollow hulls of a fishing fleet that once sailed high above on the surface of Central Asia’s fountain of life.

Things began changing around 1960 when Soviet government planners began diverting the Aral’s water source to irrigate the world’s largest cotton belt. No one, however, envisioned the environmental disaster that would result. Weather has become more extreme, the growing season has been shortened by 2 months, and 80 percent of the region’s farmland has been ruined by salt storms that sweep in off the dry seabed.

What happened at Muynak parallels the history of the church of Ephesus. Once a thriving spiritual community, the Ephesian believers diverted their attention from Christ to the works they were doing in His name (Revelation 2:2-4). They had lost sight of what was most important in their relationship with Christ—their love for Him.

Lord, help us to recognize and repent of whatever it is that diverts our attention from loving You. Flood the desert of our souls with Your living water.  Mart DeHaan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

The works we do in Jesus' name
And battles that are won
Will not be pleasing to the Lord
Unless in love they're done.

To renew your love for Christ,
review Christ's love for you.

Revelation 2:5  'Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.

NET  Revelation 2:5 Therefore, remember from what high state you have fallen and repent! Do the deeds you did at the first; if not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place– that is, if you do not repent.

NLT  Revelation 2:5 Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don't repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.

ESV  Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

NIV  Revelation 2:5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

GNT  Revelation 2:5 μνημόνευε οὖν πόθεν πέπτωκας καὶ μετανόησον καὶ τὰ πρῶτα ἔργα ποίησον· εἰ δὲ μή, ἔρχομαί σοι καὶ κινήσω τὴν λυχνίαν σου ἐκ τοῦ τόπου αὐτῆς, ἐὰν μὴ μετανοήσῃς.

KJV  Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, (ONLY KJV) and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

ASV  Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent.

CSB  Revelation 2:5 Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place-- unless you repent.

NKJ  Revelation 2:5 "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place-- unless you repent.

NRS  Revelation 2:5 Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

YLT  Revelation 2:5 remember, then, whence thou hast fallen, and reform, and the first works do; and if not, I come to thee quickly, and will remove thy lamp-stand from its place -- if thou mayest not reform;

  • Remember: Rev 3:3,19 Eze 16:61-63 20:43 36:31 2Pe 1:12,13 
  • you have fallen: Isa 14:12 Ho 14:1 Ga 5:4 Jude 1:24 
  • repent: Rev 2:16,21,22 3:3,19 9:20,21 16:9 Ac 17:30,31 
  • do: Rev 2:19 3:2,3 Isa 1:26 Jer 2:2,3 Ho 9:10 Mal 3:4 4:6 Lu 1:17 
  • else: Rev 2:16 3:3 Mt 21:41-43 24:48-51 Mk 12:9 Lu 12:45,46 20:16 
  • Steven Lawson's sermon - Rekindling Your Spiritual Fire
  • Revelation 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


Or this could also be subtitled "Falling in Love Again!" And note the loving heart of Jesus Who with the reproach, now offers the remedy (or repair).

Therefore - This is a term of conclusion. What is Jesus concluding and what is His basis for making this conclusion?

Remember (mnemoneuo) from where you have fallen (pipto - perfect tense = past event with abiding effect/result) - Remember is a COMMAND in the present imperative which can not be obeyed by relying solely on our strength or power. We must learn to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey. How important is it to obey Jesus' commands? Jesus tells us "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15) So even continually (present tense for we are a forgetful people) remembering is obedience and shows our love for Him. This must be Spirit enabled (not legalistic or duty bound) obedience to Jesus' command to remember. This "step" begins to demonstrate a rekindling of one's love for Jesus! Are you becoming as convicted as I am (I have been saved 38 years and am thinking back to those first days and months when it was difficult to control my enthusiasm for Jesus)? I would submit that one of the ways they could have remembered how they had fallen would have been to re-read the letter which Paul wrote to them in 60-61 AD. That letter is filled with descriptions of LOVE even including a prayer by Paul for them to know the love of Christ (Eph 3:16-19+!) and even a command to LOVE like Jesus loved, a command in the present imperative in Ephesians 5:1-2+ (see above), but sadly a command the church clearly had forgotten (thus the need to remember) and disobeyed! 

THOUGHT - Even as the memory of the Ephesians could have been stirred up by re-reading Paul's letter to the Ephesians, our memory can also be stirred by re-reading the words of Scripture, because the Bible is God's love letter and His story of redemption which has the power to revive our love for Him Who first loved us (1Jn 4:19+). May the Spirit prompt us to pray the words of the psalmist -  "My soul cleaves to the dust; Revive (a command that speaks of urgency and our great need) me according to Your Word." (Psalm 119:25+) Beloved, may be read God's love letter not out of duty, but out of delight, so that we might receive His promised blessing (cf Ps 1:1-3+).

D A Carson  - Memory is a tricky faculty that can be put to good or bad use. There is a place for "forgetting what is behind" as part of our "straining toward what is ahead" (Phil. 3: 13). But there is also a place for remembering what is I behind. Jesus is saying to the Ephesian church something like this: think back to earlier days in your walk in the Way, when the spontaneity of your love for Me and for each other knew no bounds. Remember the times when out of sheer I love for Me you gathered for prayer. Remember when you cheerfully took on another's problems not out of duty but out of love. And remember the devotion in your worship, when you poured out your love from hearts unsullied by the rigidity of mere duty, when your partnership with one another in the enterprise of the kingdom provided a basis for fellowship deep and true. Remember these things. Remember them constantly for such I is the force of the present imperative in the text). (From article The Church that Does All Things Right)

Steven Lawson - Can you remember when you first fell in love with Christ? I can. After I graduated from college, I attended a dynamic church in Memphis, Tennessee. Every time they opened the church’s doors, I was sitting in the middle of the front row. Everything the preacher had to say was for me. I shed tears when the choir sang. The Holy Spirit tugged on my heart when people were saved. For some of us, such a time was only three months ago. For others, it was three years ago. For others, 10 years ago. The road back to Christ begins by, first, remembering. Remember the joy that was yours with Him. Get a good look at when you were on fire for Him. Can you remember the pit from which you were dug?
That’s where revival begins—remember! (Falling in Love Again)

MacArthur - Forgetfulness is frequently the initial cause of spiritual decline, and the Ephesians needed to recognize the seriousness of such a lapse. (See Revelation Commentary)

Rod Mattoon - It is when we forget what God had done for us or decisions we have made for the Lord, that we begin to digress spiritually and fall flat on our face.

Guzik - When the Prodigal Son was in the pigpen, the first step in restoration was remembering what life was like back in his father’s home (Luke 16:17–19+). This is always the first step in getting back to where we should be with the Lord.  What are the first works?  Remember how you used to spend time in His Word? Remember how you used to pray? Remember the joy in getting together with other Christians? Remember how excited you were about telling others about Jesus?

Garland on importance of remember - The solution is found in retracing our steps back to where we went astray (ED: Think of the story of Hansel and Gretel and their bread crumbs!) and calling upon the Lord as we did at the first. After straying in Egypt, Abraham returned to “the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abraham called on the name of the Lord” (Ge 13:3-4).

Hansel and Gretel an excerpt - "They would just need to find the breadcrumbs and that would lead them home. Yet when they looked for breadcrumbs, there were none to be found - all the breadcrumbs were gone! A bird whooshed up into the air and in its beak was a large crumb.  Hansel and Gretel were struck with grief – the birds must have taken all their breadcrumbs!  A wolf howled in the distance.  The sun was setting.  Hansel and Gretel were lost and hungry.  Now they were scared, too."

THOUGHT - Jesus puts this command remember in the present tense which indicates that our heart is prone to wander and will always (daily) need to recall when we by grace through faith first fell in love with Jesus and our passion for Him was at a fever pitch, red hot. Remember is also in the active voice which means we each individually must choose to made a definite decision of our will to remember Jesus, our first love. I would submit that such a continual obedience to Christ's command is IM-possible but is only HIM-possible. In other words we need to continually, daily rely not on our natural strength to remember our first love of Jesus but we must learn to rely wholly on the Holy Spirit's supernatural power to enable us to successfully obey this command! There is simply no other way to obey! It is either to try and obey in our natural, fleshly power (and fail, and begin to "fall" or drift or "cool" in our love for Christ) or it is to trust in the Spirit's power to enable us to obey! This necessitates that we must daily be filled with His Spirit (Eph 5:18+) Who is controlling us "at work (energeo in present tense = "continually energizing") in (us), both to will and to work (giving us the "desire" to obey and the "power" to obey) for His good pleasure." (Php 2:13NLT+). One other important point is to note the clear association of being filled with His Spirit and filled with His Word. (See the chart comparing Filled with His Spirit/Richly Indwelt with His Word which shows the incredible parallel in Ephesians 5:18ff+ and Colossians 3:16ff+) In short, our remembering needs to be energized by the Spirit and the Spirit's flame is fueled to full blaze by us choosing to spend time in God's Word, daily sitting at the Master's feet, listening to His Word (cf Mary's "one thing" in Lk 10:39-42+). We need to be more like kneeling Mary than like busy Martha to whom Jesus gently said "only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10:42+). Only one thing is really necessary to enable us to continually remember our first love. Have you chosen that one thing? Are you daily in His Word, sitting and soaking, even singing (play My One Thing)? Or are you in His Word with a stopwatch in your hand, ready to race off into the busyness of your day? Our love for Jesus will be kindled by kneeling at our Master's feet! 

A T Robertson on fallen perfect tense active indicative of piptō, state of completion. Down in the valley, look up to the cliff where pure love is and whence thou hast fallen down.

Newell - “Fallen”(perfect tense)! With all their earnestness and activity, the leaving of their first intense love made them a fallen assembly! “Remember—repent—do first works!” Recalling, even with severe effort and anguish, our moments of greatest devotion to our Lord, the hours when we felt most deeply His tender love, and our own response—to remember such times—this is our first task. Thus His love, His goodness, will lead us to repentance (cf Ro 2:4+). Repentance is not mere sorrow (though godly sorrow works repentance—2 Corinthians 7:10+); but repentance is a changed state of soul. It is “the judgment we have passed, in God’s presence, under grace, upon ourselves and all we have done and have been.” In this case especially it will be “the goodness of God that leadeth us to repentance.” (cf Ro 2:4+) Christ’s unvarying, undiminished affection for us, even through our coldness and neglect, will break us up. If not, nothing will! (Commentary on the Revelation)

Tony Garland on fallen - Their current estate is said to be lower than before. As they drifted apart from God in their relationship, their spiritual state also declined. Have fallen is in the perfect tense—the fall had already taken place (AND WAS NOW THEIR STATE), and Jesus is concerned about their present spiritual condition. 

One might ask from where had they fallen? Recall what Paul said about them in Ephesians 2:6+ "and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." They had in a sense fallen from an understanding of their lofty, exalted position in Christ as well as their "love for all the saints," (Eph 1:15+) which Paul had commended them for in his letter in about 60-61. 

Rod Mattoon - The first step in being rescued is acknowledging your need. They needed to remember or keep on remembering from where they had fallen. It is when we forget what God had done for us or decisions we have made for the Lord, that we begin to digress spiritually and fall flat on our face. God tells them they need to remember where they came from. Memory is precious and also haunting. (Treasures from Revelation)

That this falling is not beyond repair Jude 24-25+ assures us

"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Revival is the Church remembering, the Church repenting, and the Church repeating.
-- Rod Mattoon

And repent  - Repent (metanoeo) is a command in the aorist imperative  (JUST DO IT! DO NOT DELAY! DO NOT PROCRASTINATE! - see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey and for God to grant it - see below) and calls for a change of mind and purpose that in turn results in an individual turning from sin and unto God. It is an "urgent appeal for instant change of attitude and conduct before it is too late." (A T Robertson). Such a change involves more than fearing the consequences of God’s judgment. Genuine repentance knows that the evil of sin (in this case leaving one's first love) must be forsaken and the person and work of Christ totally and singularly embraced. John gives us an excellent working definition of repentance declaring to the Pharisees "bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance." (Mt 3:8+). In other words, a genuine change of mind (repentance) is shown to be genuine by the subsequent production of "fruit" or "good works." Good works are Spirit initiated and energized works, works such as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness" (Gal 5:22+) Note their first aspect of the Spirit's fruit is LOVE, the very thing in which the saints at Ephesus were deficient!

John Phillips - Apart from repentance there can be only one end. The testimony of the church will have to be extinguished. The lamp will be allowed to go out....No love, no light is the rule. Love is to be paramount: nothing less will do. If there is no real love for the Lord Jesus, the reason for the assembly's existence has vanished. A local church that is functioning without love for the Lord is worse than useless. It gives a wrong impression of what Christianity is all about, and it is best removed. (Borrow Exploring Revelation)

Swindoll - Repentance is a true inward change, not a fake reformation of life or a mere outward modification of behavior. It’s a work powerfully wrought by the grace of God in our innermost being, which involves a deeply personal decision.

Repent (3340)(metanoeo from meta = with, among + noeo = to think, exercise the mind <> from nous = mind; cf metanoia) means to have another mind. One of the best definitions of repentance is in the Gentiles in Thessalonica - For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come." (1Th 1:9-10) Repentance is aptly depicted by the military command "About, face!" The repentant person in effect turns around 180 degrees and goes the other direction.  Acts 26:20+ gives a good picture of repent declaring "they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance." Acts 11:18+ teaches that ultimately repentance is a gift from God "When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life." We see a similar divine dynamic in 2 Timothy Paul writing that "24  And the Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25  with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth. 26  and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will." (2 Ti 2:24-26+) The upshot is that repentance is a divine gift but true repentance also entails a human responsibility or response. God gives us the ability/desire to repent (Php 2:13NLT+), but we still have to exercise our will and repent (cf Php 2:12+ = "Work out your salvation" in this context Repent!) 

Steven Lawson - Step Two: Repent. Second, Jesus says, “Repent.” After you remember, repent! Repentance means to change the direction of your life. It is a change of heart. A change of mind. A change of will. It means to head back to the way things once were. It is a turning around and coming back to Christ. The fact is, something or someone has replaced your first love. It’s not that you don’t have a first love anymore. It’s that you have a new first love. It’s no longer Christ. Anything that you love more than you love Christ is your new first love. It may be your job. It could be a relationship. Or your education. Or your house. Or your family. Whatever. It’s anything or anyone that you are more excited about than you are about Christ. Repent! Get on your knees and confess your spiritual apathy. Turn your cold heart back to Christ. As a decisive act of your will, choose to change your heart. Say, “God, my heart has been distant from You. I’ve been far away from You. Lord, I want to change. Jesus, I’m turning my life around right now. Right now, I’m rededicating my life afresh to You. God, I want the passion for You back in my life.” (Falling in Love Again)

 "A revival is the Church remembering, the Church repenting, and the Church repeating.'
-- Vance Havner

And do the deeds you did at first - Note the order (alliterated) - Remember, Repent, Repeat (or Remove if we do not). This command (do...deeds) parallels John the Baptist's charge to "bring forth (aorist imperative see need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) fruits (deeds) in keeping with repentance." (Lk 3:8+). In other words the deeds would indicate they had genuinely repented. That is a basic truth regarding repentance. If you say you repent and there is no change (no good deeds), then you have most likely not truly repented! Do is a command in the aorist imperative calling for the doing to be done NOW! (which parallels the same command for repent) Do not put this off! And absolutely do not attempt to "do" these deeds in your own natural power or you will fail! See our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey To reiterate, the doing demonstrates the reality of the repenting. If we say we repent and do not do, we are deceiving ourselves. Ironside says "If lips and life do not agree, the testimony will not amount to much"

THOUGHT - I recall when I was first saved 38 years ago (age 39) that when I would commit a sin against God, it would occasionally bring me to tears, especially if it recurred. It seems now that I am older (age 77) the hardening effect of sin (Heb 3:13+) has made my tears to be far less frequent. For me that is one aspect of falling from my first love and thus the need for me to return to the deeds I did at first. In those early days of being in love with Jesus, I was more aware of and sensitive to hurting His heart (cf what sin does to God = "I was crushed by their unfaithful heart" Eze 6:9NET)! Oswald Chambers alludes to this writing "The old Puritans used to pray for 'the gift of tears.' (THEY WERE REFERRING TO THE GOD'S GIFT OF REPENTANCE - cf Rev 2:21, 2Ti 2:25) A man has the power to harden himself against one of God's greatest gifts. If in order to dissolve a piece of ice, you take a hammer and smash it up, you simply break it into so many pieces of ice; but put the ice out in the sunshine and it quickly disappears. That is just the difference between man's handling of wrong and God's. Man's handling may cause it to crumble, but it is only so much crumbled-up wrong; when God handles it, it becomes repentance, and the man turns to God and his life becomes a sacrament of experimental repentance." 

D A Carson on do the things you did at first - This ("do") is part and parcel of repentance, of course; but to put it this way ensures that the command to repent will not be taken to mean simply, "Say you're sorry." The Christians in Ephesus must do again the things they did at first, those things prompted by their first love. The imperative does not mean they are to work up their first love by means of returning to first duties, for the tenor of this letter is that the Ephesians were remarkably efficient at doing their duties. It is not that they must do more things as if the things they did at first must be added to the things they are now doing. Rather, they must return to the quality of the first things, those that were done out of unfeigned love rather than out of mere efficiency (From article The Church that Does All Things Right)

William Newell on do the deeds - This (DOING) is not a call to “Christian service” or “renewed activity.” Ephesus had toil, patience, intolerance toward evil, patience in suffering,—everything. But the “first works” are the goings forth of affection to Christ, freely, devotedly, as in our first love. It is the story of the bride of the Song of Solomon (Song 5:2–16). Her slowness caused His withdrawal, and it caused her much trouble; but it brought her at last to cry, “My beloved is the chiefest among ten thousand; he is altogether lovely!” “First deeds” with her, were, finding again Him whom her soul loved! Most Christians—yes, real Christians—let Christ go, when He “makes as if He would go further.” This, those walking to Emmaus did not: “They constrained him, saying, Abide (aorist imperative) with us.” (Lk 24:29KJV+) And He went in with them. In Laodicea we shall find Him standing outside (Rev 3:20+). Astonishing! Outside of the Church when His place is in their midst!  (Commentary on the Revelation)

Steven Lawson - Step Three: Repeat. Third, Jesus says, “do the deeds you did at first.” In other words, “Get back to the basics.” What are these first deeds? Simply put, these first deeds are what the early believers did when they were first saved and added to the church. After Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, 3,000 souls were converted, baptized, and enfolded into the church. Immediately, these new believers were “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). These are the first deeds to which these early Christians devoted themselves—teaching, fellowship, worship, and prayer. They studied the apostles’ teaching. Biblical truth is essential to the health of every believer. It is the Word of God that stimulates our hearts to love Christ. The early disciples remarked, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was … explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Lk. 24:32). They maintained close fellowship. They were continually sharing and encouraging one another. Bearing one another’s burdens. Comforting one another’s hearts. They came together to break bread. The early church worshiped Christ by regularly taking the Lord’s Supper together. Communion with the living Christ kept their hearts aflame (See below). The Lord’s Table cultivated reverence, gratitude, purity, and the anticipation of Christ’s return. They devoted themselves to prayer. These early disciples spent much time on their knees. Kneeling in God’s presence was as necessary as breathing. Daily, they enjoyed intimate fellowship with Him. Prayer transforms God’s truth into personal devotion to Christ. It keeps us fervent for our first love. (Falling in Love Again)

Acts 2:42+ (read full context - Acts 2:42-47) is one of the best examples of first love of a body of believers in the Bible, Luke writing 

They were continually devoting (proskartereo in present tense) themselves (1) to the apostles’ teaching and (2) to fellowship (koinonia), (3) to the breaking of bread and (4) to prayer (proseuche). 

So what was the "doing" that reflected this church's first love? Teaching and fellowship were obvious. Note the third thing is "breaking of bread" which most writers feel speaks of celebrating the Lord's Supper. And how would the Lord's Supper relate to our first love? John MacArthur writes "Communion calls for self-examination and purging of sin, thus purifying the church. Nothing is more vital to the church’s ongoing, regular confrontation of sins in the lives of its people than the thoughtful expression of devotion to the remembrance of the cross." (See Acts Commentary )

And based on the "First Church of Jerusalem's" practice, regular communion is clearly integral to falling back (or staying) in love with Jesus! Why do I say that? Notice Jesus' own words (recorded by Paul) where He gives two commands... 

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; DO (present imperative) this in remembrance of Me.” (AMPLIFIED = "Do this to call Me [affectionately] to remembrance." TLB = "Do this to remember Me." - cf Jesus' first command in Rev 2:5 = "Remember" also a present imperative) In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; DO (present imperative) this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”(1Cor 11:23-25+)

THOUGHT - When was the last time you took communion? How often does your church celebrate communion, every week or once a month (or even less often)? Can you see how frequently partaking of the Lord's Supper (not out of ritual or habit, but out of love to remember the One Who loved us) will help prevent you from leaving your first love? (Increasing love for Jesus will result in decreasing love for sin. See Expulsive Power of a New Affection)

Note that the "First Church of Jerusalem" prayed. And two wonderful prayers to pray for the church so that she will not lose her first love are to frequently intercede in the Spirit for all the saints (Eph 6:18+) with Paul's prayers...

And this I pray, that your love may abound (perisseuo - overflow, superabound - present tense) still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Php 1:9-11+

Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase (pleonazo) and abound (perisseuo) in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. (1Th 3:11-13+)

THOUGHT - If you pray these prayers for each other in your family, your small group, your church, you can be assured God will answer affirmatively, for John writes "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. (1Jn 5:14-15+). I challenge you (as I did my fellowship group) to frequently pray Paul's prayers for abounding love for each other. Then watch and wait for what God will do!!! And to this prayer you could add the singing of the hymn More Love to Thee, by Elizabeth Prentiss (1856) (Song below sung by Fernando Ortega)

More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee!
   Hear Thou the prayer I make
   On bended knee;
   This is my earnest plea:
   More love, O Christ, to Thee!
   More love to Thee,
   More love to Thee!

   Once earthly joy I craved,
   Sought peace and rest;
   Now Thee alone I seek—
   Give what is best;
   This all my prayer shall be:
   More love, O Christ, to Thee!
   More love to Thee,
   More love to Thee!

Then shall my latest breath
Whisper Thy praise;
This be the parting cry
My heart shall raise;
This still its prayer shall be:
More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee,
More love to Thee!

One other thought about how to keep our love for Jesus at full flame is to regularly spend time with Him in the mornings, a practice we often call Quiet Time. Ps 5:3 says 'In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch." Ps 59:16 says "But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength (GET YOUR HYMN BOOK OUT IN THE MORNING AND SING A HYMN TO HIM!); Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress." Ps 88:13 "But I, O LORD, have cried out to You for help, And in the morning my prayer comes before You." Ps 90:14 "O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." Ps 143:8 "Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul." Ps 25:14 says "The secret (see this wonderful Hebrew word "sod") of the LORD is for those who fear Him, And He will make them know (yada - intimately know) His covenant." 

THOUGHT: How are your quiet times in the morning? Are they too quiet? Are they like the times you once spent with Him in the morning when you were first saved and could not wait to meet with Him (I'm looking in the mirror as I ask that question beloved!)? See Thoughts on the Quiet Time and Quiet Time: 7 Minutes With God

Now let's look at James 4:4+ which says "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship (philia) with the world (kosmos) is hostility (echthra) toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend (philos) of the world (kosmos) makes himself an enemy (echthros) of God." First, note that James is speaking of spiritual adultery, in effect describing one who is unfaithful to their vows to Jesus their Bridegroom (cf 2Co 11:2ff+, Rev 19:7-8+, 2Co 6:14-18+, 2Co 7:1+, Jn 17:15), which is manifests itself by going after other "lovers," specifically loving the things of the evil, godless world system. (See related topic - Israel, the Wife of Jehovah) His statement "do you not know..." means in effect they do know this truth. They know that if they get in bed with the world, they are acting in hostility toward God, are at enmity and war with the Almighty God! Woe! James is saying, “You can’t straddle the fence. You can’t have one foot in and one foot out. You can’t be a friend of the world and a friend of God at the same time. Choose which will it be. It’s either-or, not both-and.” Then James adds "therefore" using the word friend, which conveys the idea of mutual affection for others but here is directed to the anti-God world system. Whoever wishes to be a close confidant of the world, whoever wishes to be best friends with the world makes himself an enemy of God.

THOUGHT - Are there any areas of your life in which you have become too friendly with this evil world system which is run by Satan (1Jn 5:19+)? If so...then...Confess. Repent. Return to the Lord Jesus. Be revived by His Spirit.

Jesus warned "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." (Mt 6:24+)

Left - Circle marks ancient city with harbor 2 miles away!
Right - Looking toward W  to marshes & then ocean (hard to see)

THOUGHT - WATCH OUT FOR THE SLOW DRIFT -  Ephesus had a great harbor on the CAYSTER RIVER (Wikipedia)- "The ancient city of Ephesus was once an important port on the river,[1] but over the centuries, sedimentation gradually filled in the inlet around the city." (See picture above - today harbor is 2 miles from ancient city!) Beloved, is this not what "LITTLE SINS" can do in our life over days, months, years? That's rhetorical of course! We all need to pray for God to "catch the little foxes" before they completely corrupt the vineyard of our heart (cf Song 2:15+) and we find ourselves far from our first love. What sin is laying down sediment so to speak in your (my) heart and impeding the flow of the rivers of living water from your innermost being (Jn 7:38-39+)? Sin is deceitful (Heb 3:13+) and convinces us these "LITTLE" sins will never take a BIG toll on our spiritual life! Wrong! Paul warns (commands) us not to continue to be deceived (by the deceitfulness of sin) "Do not be deceived (present imperative with a negative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey), God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows (even little sins), this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption (AKA "SEDIMENT" BUILDING UP IN THE RIVERS BLOCKING THE OUTFLOW FROM OUR HEART!), but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (AND MIGHTY RUSHING RIVERS ENERGIZED BY THE SPIRIT)." (Gal 6:7-8+) By God's grace and for His glory, may the Spirit enable each of us to kill the "little foxes" (Ro 8:13+), that we might keep our first love for Jesus at full flame. In the mighty Name of Jesus. Amen. And if we need additional motivation to kill the "LITTLE" sins that are laying down sediment in the rivers flowing from our heart, the writer of Hebrews adds "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing your eyes on Jesus (Vertical Vision)." (Hebrews 12:1-2+)

Or else - Only two words but they are so terribly ominous and threatening (as they should be!)

I am coming (erchomai) to you and will remove (kineo) your lampstand (luchnia) out of its place--unless you repent (metanoeo) - In a sense this is a prophetic warning. Note the second key to opening our heart and returning to our first love after remembering is to repent (repeated because of its importance!) So the key is not doing more works but repenting. It is not getting busy but getting broken. How do we know I am coming to you is not the Second Coming? Historically the church in Ephesus is in ruins because Jesus came and removed their light! Recall that Rev 1:20+ shows that the lampstand is a symbol for the church. 

I am coming (erchomai) - The futuristic present, [erchomai] is in the present tense: “I am coming.” In the present tense, the idea is that His impending arrival is imminent! It could occur at any time! We see this same futuristic present in 2Ti 4:1ESV where we read Paul's warning to Timothy that Jesus "is to judge the living and the dead" where the verb "is" means "is about to" and speaks of His imminent appearance (See notes ["Future Focus"] on the only sermon I have ever preached and it was on 2 Timothy 4:1-2).

Will remove (2795)(kineo - gives us kinetic) means to move, put in motion, stir up, shake, remove, excite, wag (Mt 27:39, Mk 15:29). Speaks of general activity of humans (Acts 17:28). Of moving mountains (Rev 6:14). Removing a local church (Ephesus). Figuratively of exciting passions (Acts 21:30). 

Gilbrant - In classical Greek kineō means “to set something in motion, to propel forward.” When used figuratively of the mental or spiritual realm it means “to disturb, move, cause” (cf. Bauer). In matters of politics and law kineō usually means “to instigate” or “employ action against.” It is also a sign of contempt in the sense of “call into question.” In the Septuagint kineō frequently translates the Hebrew nûa‛ which means “to shake one’s head as a sign of derision or scorn” (Job 16:4; Lamentations 2:15). In the New Testament kineō expresses the hypocrisy of the Pharisees’ behavior in relationship to the Law. Jesus accused the Pharisees of putting heavy burdens on other men and yet they would not “move” even “one of their fingers” to help (Matthew 23:4). Luke used kineō when he recorded Paul’s address to the men of Athens; in a figurative sense it referred to the omnipresent spiritual realm of God in whom “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Kineō also means “removal” or “rejection,” as in the case of the church at Ephesus whose punishment was removal of their lampstand if they did not repent (Revelation 2:5). It also means “to excite, to arouse passion, to incite to riot, to disturb,” or “to throw into commotion,” as was the case when the whole city of Jerusalem was set in motion against Paul (Acts 21:30). Finally, the New Testament also uses kineō to denote an expression of derision, revulsion, or contempt. When the people passed Jesus while He was on the cross, they “wagged” their heads, which was an expression of the contempt they felt for Him (Matthew 27:39). (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)

Kineo - 8x in 8v - move(2), moved(1), provoked(1), remove(1), stirs(1), wagging(2). Matt. 23:4; Matt. 27:39; Mk. 15:29; Acts 17:28; Acts 21:30; Acts 24:5; Rev. 2:5; Rev. 6:14

Here is a sad woe...

The church that loses its love will soon lose its light,
no matter how doctrinally sound it may be!
--- Warren Wiersbe

William Newell - The words “I come to thee,” correspond to the judicial, personal visit of the Lord to Sodom ere its destruction (Genesis 18). These words do not signify operations by the Spirit, but an act of Christ, who is head over all things to the Church, and who is judging over each assembly. The fatal visit would not be recognized by the church, but it would definitely occur. After the Judge’s visit there would be no more assembly there in Christ’s eyes. The Spirit would be withdrawn, and darkness and desolation follow. So it happened at Ephesus, and, alas, to how many thousands of other careless “Christian” assemblies in the centuries since! No longer a lampstand! This “coming” is not His coming again at the rapture, to receive His own; but His special, necessary, judicial action toward an assembly persisting, after much light, and blessing, in neglect of Himself. Alas, the lampstand removed! The priceless privilege of setting forth such a Christ before a dying world, gone forever. I have before me a picture of the Ephesus of today—a ruined archway, a Moslem dwelling, and a forbidding castle, ’midst desolate hills. No lampstand for Christ where once Paul labored three years, night and day with tears! (Commentary on the Revelation)

Ray Pritchard  -  How does a church know when its lampstand is removed? I suggest that the church itself would never know because in one sense nothing would change. God would take his hand off the church and everything would continue a usual. The preacher would preach. The choir would sing. The lights would shine. The sound system would work. The Sunday School would meet.....And God would not be there. It would be religion without reality, preaching without power, and church without Jesus. (Revelation 2:1-7 When Jesus Comes to Church)

John Phillips - No love, no light is the rule. Love is to be paramount: nothing less will do. If there is no real love for the Lord Jesus, the reason for the assembly's existence has vanished. A local church that is functioning without love for the Lord is worse than useless. It gives a wrong impression of what Christianity is all about, and it is best removed. (Exploring Revelation - BORROW)

Vincent - “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). (Revelation 2)

Guzik - When their lampstand was removed, they could continue as an organization, but no longer as a true church of Jesus Christ. It would be the church of Ichabod, where the glory had departed (1 Samuel 4:21+ = What does Ichabod mean). Apparently, at least in the short term, the Ephesians heeded this warning. In the early second century (not too long after John wrote), Ignatius praised the love and the doctrinal purity of the Ephesians. “You, who are of the most holy Church of the Ephesians, which is so famous and celebrated throughout the world … you, being full of the Holy Spirit, do nothing according to the flesh, but all things according to the Spirit. You are complete in Christ Jesus.” (Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 8. From the Ante Nicean Fathers Volume 1, page 52). From what Ignatius wrote, it seems that the Ephesians returned to their first love without compromising doctrinal purity. That isn’t always an easy balance to keep, but the Ephesians apparently kept it, at least for a time.

Wiersbe "The glorious city of Ephesus is today but a heap of stones and no light is shining there." (Borrow Be Victorious)

THOUGHT - Just as Jesus walked around and examined the lampstands, so Christ is walking around and examining whether our own lights of love have dimmed. How common it is for believers who were once ablaze with love for God and love for others to slowly soften to smoldering embers! Christ wants to fan the flame so we’ll become brilliant beacons of love in a loveless world. Stop and think. Has your love grown cold? Reflect on your own love for the Lord and for others when you first came to Christ. Would you say your current attitudes and actions reflect a greater, lesser, or similar love? If you feel your love has lessened, what specific unloving behaviors have developed? (Charles Swindoll - see Insights on Revelation)

Vance Havner - “Repent... or else....”—Revelation 2:5, 16 - (Borrow his book - Repent or Else)

THE LAST WORD of our Lord to the church is not the Great Commission. The Great Commission is indeed our program to the end of the age but our Lord’ last word to the church is “Repent.” That was His command to five out of seven of the churches in Asia and that proportion still holds. Five out of seven Christians and churches today need first of all to repent.

The present religious world is marked by three movements. There is a wave of religious interest, a wave of mass evangelism and a wave of church activity. But none of these, nor all of them put together, add up to revival within the church.

There is a wave of religious interest. National organizations sponsor “Back-to-Religion” campaigns. Civic groups put on “Go-to-Church” drives. I visited a church that was observing “Go-to-Church Sunday.” (I had always thought any Sunday was “Go-to-Church Sunday.”) Books are being written by the dozen based on the Gospels, the early church, the Roman persecutions. Certain Bible characters have “made Hollywood.” I notice that when I mention such characters nowadays a lot of people look intelligent who hadn’t done so before—and they haven’t been reading the Bible, I fear. Editorials on Christianity appear along with liquor ads in the same periodicals. Auditoriums are crowded to hear religious ragtime and gospel boogie. Politicians take time out to say a good word for God.

People are talking religion but many of them are not willing to face the cross of Christ and all that it means for the saint as well as the sinner. Like those who stood at the cross long ago, they say, “Let Him now come down from the cross and we will believe Him.” They are willing to accept the joy and peace that salvation brings but they are not willing to admit that they are sinners and build their hopes on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Sometimes it is a fad, like reducing or antiques. We should buy up whatever opportunities it affords but of itself it does not mean revival.

There is a wave of mass evangelism. We thank God for it. It sends a backwash of blessing into the churches, for church members are converted and sinners are saved. It is part of God’s program, and a great part; but the extensive movement needs to be joined with a corresponding intensive movement in the local churches. Both are set forth in the Scriptures. Our Lord preached to the multitudes and He made disciples out of a handful. There must be the double movement, for either without the other is incomplete.

Let me illustrate. In a city-wide campaign some members of a certain church are stirred and awakened; some are saved and others brought to a new experience of dedication. They return to their church where most of the members, the officers and workers, have not been moved at all. These awakened members are like hot coals in cracked ice—the church has had no revival and is in no condition to receive them. It is like putting a new baby in a refrigerator or, as another has put it, turning a newborn child over to someone who, however well-intentioned, lacks the love of the mother who gave the child birth. Moody was asked, “Would you put live chicks under a dead hen?” True church revival is where the church hatches and mothers her own chicks. It has been said that it is hard to win to the church those not won through the church.

The proper combination is a local church aflame with revival sharing in mass evangelism. When Mr. Moody held his great campaign in Boston, Dr. A. J. Gordon was being used of God to revive Clarendon Street Baptist Church. Moody's evangelism poured new members into Gordon's church and gave it a “blood transfusion” but at the same time, under Gordon's leadership, the church was being readied to nurture the converts.

The ideal is to have the local church be the center of evangelism. The Welsh Revival was an awakening within the churches that spread from church to church. Today we are seeing God work in great meetings. It has been pointed out that the movement is from evangelism to revival, that it is aimed at the outsider and does not dwell on the need of Christians, for that is not its mission. Along with mass evangelism we still need to see a movement from within the churches. Evangelism is not revival. There are local and occasional revivals, of course, but no general and genuine repentance leading to a clean break with the world, the flesh and the devil.

There is a wave of church activity today but that is not revival. Church membership, church building, church attendance and church work are at an all-time high but the morals of the country are at an all-time low. That does not make sense. Churches are busy but so were the churches in Asia, yet five of the seven needed a revival. When church membership grows statistically but the church members do not grow spiritually in proportion, that is not revival. The greatest need of the church today is not more members, more buildings, more money. The supreme issue is not even missions or evangelism. It is repentance and revival.

It is regrettable that the words “revival” and “evangelism” have become synonymous in our thinking. They do not mean the same thing at all. Evangelism is the proclamation of the gospel in order to win the lost. Revival is a work of the Spirit among God’s own people whereby they get right with God and with each other. It is sometimes said that there is not much in the New Testament about revival. One would not expect to find much in Acts. They did not need a revival—they had a “vival”! The normal New Testament Spirit-filled church is in the Acts. But in the first three chapters of Revelation we have the church in need of revival. Strictly speaking, revival is an Old Testament term: “Wilt thou not revive us again,” “Revive thy work, O Lord.” The New Testament word is “Repent.”

Revivals should not be necessary. God intended that His people should grow in grace without periodic spells of backsliding and repenting. But so long as we have such a malarial brand of Christianity, a fever and a chill, a fever and a chill, we shall need revivals. Nor is a revival a mere emotional upheaval. The way out of a stupor is not by getting into a stew. God does not intend that we live in a fever of excitement all the time. The farmer must break up his fallow ground, but if he did only that he would never plant or cultivate or reap. Surgery may be necessary at times but it is not normal to live in a hospital. What we call revival is simply a return to normal New Testament Christianity. Most of us are so subnormal that if we ever became normal we would be considered abnormal!

Revival means self-examination on the part of Christians—repentance, confession of sin, renunciation of sin, restitution, submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, separation from the world, being filled with the Spirit. Finney says, “Revival is the renewal of the first love of Christians, resulting in the conversion of sinners to God. It presupposes that the church is back-slidden and revival means conviction of sin and searching of hearts among God’s people. Revival is nothing less than a new beginning of obedience to God, a breaking of heart and getting down in the dust before Him with deep humility and forsaking of sin. A revival breaks the power of the world and of sin over Christians. The charm of the world is broken and the power of sin is overcome. Truths to which our hearts are unresponsive suddenly become living. Whereas mind and conscience may assent to truth, when revival comes, obedience to the truth is the one thing that matters.”

Too many “revivals” begin with the assumption that the present church membership is in good shape. That is usually wide of the mark. Some hold that the regular activities of the church will take care of the spiritual needs of the members. They should but one needs only to take a good look at the average membership to be cured of that illusion. Others fear that setting a high standard for church members will frighten away some prospects. It probably will. After the death of Ananias and Sapphira, the superficial dared not join the church but multitudes believed and were added to the Lord.

The church needs time out to tune up. We are so busy building a bigger orchestra that we cannot stop to tune our instruments. What good is a big orchestra if two-thirds of the members never show up for practice or else are off key when they perform? We are too busy chopping wood to sharpen the axe. Just as we are often too busy to have a physical check-up, so the church is often too occupied to submit to spiritual examination. Yet we never needed one more. We never need to go to the mourner's bench more than when we feel least like it. We are lengthening our cords without strengthening our stakes. Our intensive program must match the extensive. We must improve the sort while we increase the size.

We need to face the Christ of the Candlesticks, the Lord of the Lampstands, calling the church to repentance. Too many Christians have an incomplete and inadequate vision of our Lord. You will remember that Rip Van Winkle awoke from his long sleep to find that times had changed. When he went to sleep, King George III was the ruler of the American colonies. When he woke up, George Washington was President of the United States. Unaware of all that, Rip began to whoop it up for the King and got himself into trouble. He was yelling for the wrong George!

Some today are trying to follow a Galilean Teacher but a lot has happened since Jesus walked on earth in the days of His flesh. Calvary has taken place and the resurrection and Pentecost. We are not dealing now with only a meek and lowly Jesus going about doing good, with nowhere to lay His head, and upon whose breast John laid his head. That chapter is past. We are dealing now with a crucified, risen, ascended, glorified and coming Lord with His countenance as the sun, His eyes like fire and His voice like the sound of many waters, and before whom John fell as dead. In the Gospels we have Christ, the Example (and that is important for if we are to walk as He walked, we must know how He walked). In the Acts we have the Christ of Evangelism, the complete gospel message. In the Epistles, we have the Christ of Christian and church experience. But in the Revelation we have the Christ of Revival and the Coming King who will return to destroy the powers of evil, put the devil out of business and reign forever. And while He still says, “Come unto me and I will give you rest,” and while He still says, “Go ye into all the world,” His last word to us is a call to repentance.
A lot of Sunday-morning Christians, who want to sit with folded hands and listen to a mild discourse on the Teacher of Galilee, need to be aroused from their stupor by a vision of the flaming Christ of the Candlesticks. Eight times in these messages to the churches He says, “He that hath an ear, let him hear.” Eight times in the Gospels He says, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Some of us have ears... period. “Hearing we hear not.” We sit at church looking but not listening. God grant us ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches! And eyes to behold the Lord of the Lampstands bidding us “Repent... or else!”

Vance Havner - Revival—or Else

Thou hast left thy first love. Revelation 2:4.

In the course of history, Christianity periodically clutters up with its own projects and paraphernalia. Then God raises up a new fellowship of fresh Christians somewhere, all aglow in simple faith and obedience. Sometimes this happens in a local church, either when the old crowd has a revival or there is a blood transfusion of new converts.

In individual experience we tend to get away from our first love, not always into false doctrine or worldly living, but, like the saints at Ephesus, while still orthodox and busy at church work.

Happy is the man who can go deeply into profound doctrine or multiplied activities and yet not lose the warmth of simple faith and love. How to maintain the glow of our early love for Christ amidst all the complexities of today and not lose the best amongst the good is a major matter. How to delve deeply into the mysteries of God and still be just a simple Christian; how to work hard in involved labors of the church and yet be just a humble believer is a supreme concern.

If you have left your first love, the way back is Remember, Repent, Repeat. Our Lord offers a grievous alternative... Removal. It is Revival—or else.

Alexander Strauch - Love or Die: Christ's Wake-up Call to the Church - Growth in love does not happen overnight. I once heard a country preacher tell how he discovered the limitless capacity of love. When he was in his early twenties and still quite immature, he and his wife had their first child. He loved his newborn baby girl so much that he couldn’t imagine having a second child. He was a completely devoted father. He carried her picture with him and showed it to everyone. He couldn’t wait to get home from work to see and hold his baby girl. He didn’t think he ever could love anyone else as much as he loved her. He thought he had no more love to give.
After a period of time, his wife suggested that they have another child. He protested, “But dear, I don’t have any more love to give. I’ve poured out all my love on our little girl. It’s not possible to love any more!”
Well, his wife prevailed and a year later they had a beautiful baby boy. Quickly the father discovered he loved his new baby boy as much as his little girl. Now he loved two children equally.
After a year or so, his wife said, “We should have another child.”
Again he protested, “Sweetheart, I don’t have any more love in me. I love these two children with all the love I have. I’m loved out.”
His wife prevailed and they had a third child, another boy. When the third child arrived, the father found that he had plenty of love. He loved the third child as much as the other two. Finally he understood that he wasn’t going to run out of love.

The same is true of us. As believers, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we have an immense capacity to love all people—even our enemies and those who are unlovely or disagreeable. We have the power to love as Jesus loved and to continue to abound in love throughout life.

Commentator William Hendriksen states the principle well: it “is of the very essence of love … to overflow.” 

I cannot encourage you enough to make praying for love a regular part of your prayer life. - Alexander Strauch

Review of Strauch's book - Excerpt - "Pastors, get this book and consider how love should permeate each aspect of your church. Pass it out to other leaders. Consider using it for a Sunday School class or as a discipling tool. Lovelessness poses a terrible threat to the health and vitality of our churches. Pastors, we must constantly remind our sheep of its dangers and encourage our church members to cultivate their affection for Christ and for one another." 

Here is Strauch's list of Fifty Key Texts On Love- "Read and slowly meditate on each of these fifty texts of Scripture. If you desire, look up each text in your Bible so that you can read each one in its full context. Don’t rush! Say with the Psalmist “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97)."
    1. The Lord…proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious…abounding in steadfast love.” (Ex. 34:6) 
    2. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Lev. 19:18) 
    3. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deut. 6:5) 
    4. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you…but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers. (Deut. 7:7-8) 
    5. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them. (Deut. 10:15) 
    6. But I have trusted in your steadfast love. (Ps. 13:5) 
    7. His steadfast love endures forever. (Ps. 106:1) 
    8. In his love and in his pity he redeemed them. (Isa. 63:9) 
    9. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jer. 31:3) 
    10. And the Lord said to me [Hosea], “Go again, love a woman [Gomer] who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods.” (Hosea 3:1) 
    11. I will love them [Israel] freely. (Hosea 14:4) 
    12. Love your enemies. (Matt. 5:43) 
    13. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.... This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matt. 22:37-40) 
    14. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son. (John 3:16) 
    15. The Father loves the Son. (John 3:35) 
    16. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15) 
    17. I [the Son] love the Father. (John 14:31) 
    18. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (John 15:10) 
    19. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:9) 
    20. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?... [Nothing] in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:35, 39) 
    21. Let love be genuine. (Rom. 12:9) 
    22. Owe no one anything, except to love each other. (Rom. 13:8) 
    23. Love is the fulfilling of the law. (Rom. 13:10) 
    24. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds. (1 Cor. 8:1) 
    25. And I will show you a still more excellent way [love]. (1 Cor. 12:31) 
    26. If I…understand all mysteries and all knowledge…but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Cor. 13:2) 
    27. The greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13) 
    28. Pursue love. (1 Cor. 14:1) 
    29. Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Cor. 16:14) 
    30. For the love of Christ controls us. (2 Cor. 5:14) 
    31. The fruit of the Spirit is love. (Gal. 5:22) 
    32. But God…because of the great love with which he loved us…made us alive together with Christ. (Eph. 2:4) 
    33. To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. (Eph. 3:19) 
    34. Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. (Eph. 5:2) 
    35. And this is my prayer that your love may abound more and more. (Phil. 1:9) 
    36. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Col. 3:14) 
    37. May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all. (1 Thess. 3:12) 
    38. The aim of our charge is love. (1 Tim. 1:5) 
    39. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love. (Heb. 10:24) 
    40. Love one another earnestly from a pure heart. (1 Peter 1:22) 
    41. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8) 
    42. Whoever does not love abides in death. (1 John 3:14) 
    43. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16) 
    44. Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18) 
    45. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7) 
    46. God is love. (1 John 4:8) 
    47. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10) 
    48. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19) 
    49. Keep yourselves in the love of God. (Jude 21) 
    50. To him [Jesus] who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. (Rev. 1:5) 

Joseph Stowell - LOVING JESUS


Feeling good about Jesus is not what He had in mind when He reproved the believers at Ephesus for not making Him their “first love.” Loving Jesus is not an issue of manipulating our emotions to always “be in love with Him.” It is rather a transaction that takes place in our wills . . . in the choices we make. Obviously, the emotional dimension of our relationship with Christ is very satisfying. But the central issue in a thriving relationship with Him is to love Him by choosing to make Him our absolute priority—the consuming center of all that we are and do. Loving Jesus like this will cause something down deep inside to resist because placing Christ at the core threatens the sin, the false security systems we have constructed, the importance of some valued relationships, and the fulfilling of some desires. It is far more comfortable to have Him along for the ride than sitting in the driver’s seat.

In fact Satan would be delighted if you felt “in love with Jesus” while continuing to manage your own life. So delighted that he offers a whole menu of things as substitute priorities. You can name them—goods, friends, pleasures, business, plans, and dozens of other delights. But, in the end, wouldn’t you rather have Jesus?

And, it must be noted, a “first love” commitment is not a one-time, never-to-be-repeated experience. As my friend who, when teaching Romans 12:1, says that the trouble with living sacrifices is that they keep climbing off the altar. Having Christ at the core is like marriage; it is not the original investment but the maintenance that makes the long-term difference.

Putting Christ first in our choices fuels the burners of our emotions for Him. When we live lives that are directed into righteous ways by Him, joy is the promised result (John 15:11). The more He is in charge, the closer we get to Him; and in that closeness is potential for falling in love with Him afresh.
What would it take to make Him your “first love”? (Borrow Strength for the journey : day-by-day with Jesus)



At first blush, we’d vote for the church at Ephesus as described in Revelation 2:1–3 to receive the “Church of the Year” award. In His first letter to the churches of Asia Minor, Jesus showered the Ephesians with bouquets of affirmation for their faithfulness, doctrinal purity, and perseverance. But before we voted, we would need to hear what else Christ had to say. He added, “Yet I hold this against you” (v. 4). That’s an unsettling charge. We revel in the claim in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” but what if the reverse is true?

Christ’s complaint? “You have forsaken your first love” (Revelation 2:4). The Greek word for “first” here doesn’t mean first in terms of time. It’s not referring to how they felt the first day they were saved. We’ll never feel the same way again until we get Home. He meant first in terms of priority or preeminence. Christ was saying that the Ephesians had abandoned Him as the priority of their love. They were busy doing all the right religious things, but they were not doing them because they loved Him.

Which leads us to ask some important questions of ourselves. Why do you resist temptation? Because you might get caught or because you fear the consequences? Why do you give your money? So He will bless you in return? Why do you teach or serve on committees and boards? For your own glory? Do you sing in the choir because you love to sing? When we do what we do for God for any reason other than the expression of our love for Christ, we become busy for all the wrong reasons. That was Christ’s point. All we do should be about Him, for Him, and because of Him.

Jesus calls us to repent and cultivate hearts that serve Him for one central reason: because we love Him. Happily, doing all we do because we love Him keeps us at it regardless of who sees or affirms or what the outcomes might be. Loving Him makes serving Him worth it, regardless.

Do you serve Christ because you love him, or has He gotten lost in your good works? (Borrow Strength for the journey : day-by-day with Jesus)

David Cooper -  When Revival Comes  Text: Revelation 2:1-7

Revival... we hear the word a lot these days. What is revival? The word revival simply means "a coming back to life again." It describes a spiritual awakening; a restoration of spiritual passion; a renewal of faith; a returning to God. A revival is more than emotionalism or spiritual phenomena.

One of the biggest misconceptions about revival is that revival is only needed by those who have fallen away from God—for those who are "backslidden," to use an old-fashioned term. The truth is that revival is needed in every believer's life, in every church's life. We all need seasons of spiritual renewal where the latter rain of the Holy Spirit is poured out to refresh and renew us. So, our prayer for revival is not an indictment but, rather, a recognition of our need of God. In other words, good churches need revival too.

Revival is both personal and corporate. Throughout the Scripture, we hear a stream of prayers for revival:

    • Psalm 51:10-13: "Create in me... restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then will I teach transgressors..." 
    • Psalm 85:6: "Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?" 
    • Isaiah 44:3: "For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants." 
    • Joel 2:28, 29 
    • Acts 3:19 

What is a revival? It was a revival when...

    • Samuel interceded at Mizpah (1 Samuel 7:2-6) 
    • Elijah prevailed at Carmel (1 Kings 18:39) 
    • Hezekiah called the nation to repentance (2 Chronicles 30:18-20) 
    • Ezra proclaimed the Word (Nehemiah 8:10) 
    • John the Baptist announced the Messiah (John 1:29) 
    • Jesus ushered in the kingdom of God (Matthew 4:17) 
    • The Spirit came at Pentecost (Acts 2:4) 
    • The martyred church stood firm under the persecution of Rome. 

The Reformation was born under men like John Wycliffe, Martin Luther and John Calvin. The first Great Awakening came in the 1700s with John and Charles Wesley in England. The Puritans and Anglicans founded Harvard and Yale to educate ministers. Jonathan Edwards (c. 1750) led a revival in Massachusetts. George Whitefield, associate of the Wesleys, began preaching tours in the U.S. David Brainerd and others preached to the American Indians and African-Americans.

The second Great Awakening came in the 1800s. The Sunday school outreach began in England. World mission endeavors were birthed through William Carey and David Livingstone. Inner-city revivals emerged with D.L. Moody. The church acted to abolish slavery and to secure women's rights. Charles Finney's revival in New York (1824) produced far-reaching results.

Revival came in the early 1900s with...
    • The Asuza Street Revival 
    • Billy Graham's evangelistic crusades in the 1950s where he preached Christ to the world 
    • The Charismatic Renewal broke through denominational barriers 
    • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the Civil Rights Movement and brought social justice. 
    • The modern church growth movement and the seeker-sensitive movement opened the door of the Kingdom in new and dynamic ways to the lost of this generation. 

Past revivals are great, but we, too, need revival. Our hearts are hungry. Our prayers are ascending heavenward We are not content to live on yesterday's manna. We cry out with the psalmist, "Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?" (Ps 85:6).

We learn important truths about revival from Jesus' message to the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:1-7. This church was founded by Paul on his second missionary journey. He preached there for two years, and from Ephesus, the message of Christ was preached in the entire area so that everyone heard the word of the Lord.

On the one hand, Ephesus was a great church. Christ commended them for their service (deeds, hard work, perseverance); their stance (they did not tolerate wicked men, they tested those who claimed to be apostles and were not, and found them to be false, they hated the practices of the Nicolaitans); and their steadfastness (they endured hardships for His name and did not grow weary). Yet, they needed revival. What are the conditions and marks of real revival? When revival comes, there is...

I. A Rekindling of Our Love for God

    A. "You have left your first love" (Revelation 2:4, NKJV). You have abandoned, or forsaken, your first love. What is "first love"? The analogy is made to the inception of love, a deep passion for God, a pure love for Jesus unencumbered by the weights of human religion, uncomplicated with the details of theological doctrine. Wilson Carlisle, founder of the Christian Army said, "Jesus captured my heart. For me to know Jesus is a love affair." 

    B. The greatest mark of revival is a rekindling of our love for God (Deuteronomy 6:5). 

II. A Refreshing of the Spirit's Power

    A. "Remember the height from which you have fallen" (Revelation 2:5). What does He mean? I believe He is recalling their remembrance to their beginning point—the outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 19:1-6). The Ephesian church was born out of a reenactment of Pentecost. E. Stanley Jones said in The Way to Power and Poise, "The Holy Spirit has been lost in large measure from modern Christianity. We are presenting a Holy Spiritless Christianity—a demand without a dynamic." 

    B. Pentecost is a recurring experience in the believer's life (Acts 1:8; 4:31; 13:52). In Ezekiel's vision of the valley of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-10), when he prophesied to the wind (that is, the Holy Spirit), they stood on their feet as an exceedingly vast army. When the Spirit blows the wind of Pentecost in the church, we, too, stand up as an exceedingly vast army, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against us! 

III. A Return to the Basics
    A. "Repent and do the things you did at first" (Revelation 2:5). Return to the basics of discipleship and the essential ministry of the church. The German adage is apropos; "The main business is to keep the main business the main business." 

    B. The church often gets distracted from its mission. One church analyst observes that 70 percent of America's churches are in a survival mode; 25 percent are in a success mode; and only 5 percent, in his opinion, have moved past success to dealing with issues of significance (David Shibley, "What Is God Saying to the American Church?" Global Advance Update [Summer/Fall 1996]). 

In an article in the Atlantic Monthly, Peter Drucker says: "Every agency, every policy, every program, every activity, should be confronted with these questions: What is your mission? Is it still the right mission? Is it still worth doing? If we were not doing this, would we go into it now?" These questions get at the heart of honest self-evaluation, enabling any organization, whether spiritual or secular, to remain on the cutting edge.

These are the questions we need to ask ourselves today as the church of Jesus Christ and return to our mission of making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). If we succeed at this simple mission, we will hear Christ say to us, "Well done, good and faithful servants" (see Matthew 25:21, 23). (Borrow Preaching Through the Year: 52 Motivational Messages)

QUESTION - What are the first works mentioned in Revelation 2:5?

ANSWER - Jesus Christ’s letter to the first-century church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1–7) expresses a concern our Lord might share with any number of churches today: “I have this against you,” He writes, “that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent” (Revelation 2:4–5, NKJV).

Jesus calls the Ephesian Christians to repent because they have stopped loving as they had initially. They are still very busy, observes Jesus: “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting” (Revelation 2:2–3NLT). Despite all their labor and patient suffering, Jesus recognizes that they have lost their initial zeal and abandoned their first love.

Some scholars believe “first love” refers to the fresh passion and devotion believers have for Christ when they are newly saved. Set in the context of Revelation 2, “first love” seems also to speak of their love for one another, which Jesus said would “prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35NLT). The “first works” mentioned in Revelation 2:5 correspond directly with their “first love.” Their “hard work” and “patient endurance” are commendable. But as time passed, they had become more motivated by a sense of duty than passionate love for God as demonstrated in compassionate service to others.

Most of us have experienced the uninhibited enthusiasm that accompanies new love. In the initial stages of romance, we will do almost anything for our beloved without batting an eyelash. The honeymoon period of a new job is similar. We will work tirelessly and serve unselfishly. The Ephesians stopped performing “first works” because they had lost their “first love.” The Lord had a similar case against His people in Jeremiah’s day: “I remember the unfailing loyalty of your youth, the love you had for me as a bride. I remember how you followed me into the desert, into a land that couldn’t be farmed” (Jeremiah 2:1–2, GW).

Like many of us today, the Ephesian believers were busy keeping themselves set apart from evil people and identifying false apostles while neglecting heartfelt devotion. To stay the course in “first works,” we must remain fervent in undying “first love” for Christ (see Ephesians 6:24; 1 Thessalonians 1:3+ = "labor of love").

Our love for Him is the fuel that fires our compassion and service to others.

Jesus told the Ephesians how to keep their first love alive. First, He said we must remember, which literally means “to remember and respond” in the original Greek language. We ought to continually call to mind the things we have lost, abandoned, or neglected (Psalm 119:55; Psalm 42:5–6; Jeremiah 51:50; Matthew 16:9–10; Acts 20:35; Galatians 2:10; Hebrews 13:2–3; 1 Corinthians 11:24–28). Next, we repent. We respond to our memories by changing our minds about sin, confessing our sins to the Lord, and returning to Him, our First Love (Revelation 3:3; 1 John 1:9). Third, we return; we do the first works. For believers, the “first works” are to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33+).

We regain the lost ground “from where we have fallen” by stoking the fire of our devotion and nurturing our relationship with the Lord. We spend time in God’s presence, worshiping, praying, and letting His Word go deep into our hearts (ED: SEE Meditation). Wisdom instructs, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 3:3+). As we abide in Jesus Christ, we will bear the fruit of obedient service (John 15:4–8). With His love burning bright in us, we naturally demonstrate compassionate love for our brothers and sisters (1 John 4:10–12; Ephesians 5:1–2). Only through His power and grace working in us can we continue to do the first works “which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10+; see also Philippians 2:13+)

QUESTION - What does it mean to repent and do the first works (Revelation 2:5)?

ANSWER - In Revelation 2:5, the apostle John records Jesus exhorting the church in Ephesus to “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works” (NKJV). If they fail to heed His words, Jesus gives a warning: “If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (verse 5).

Paul had written a letter to the church in Ephesus roughly 30 years prior to Jesus’ letter. At that point in the Ephesians’ growth, Paul commended them for their love (Ephesians 1:15–16). In Revelation 2:1–7, Jesus also commends the Ephesians for some things: 1) their toil and perseverance, 2) their intolerance of evil people, 3) their discernment amongst false apostles, and 4) their endurance for Christ (Revelation 2:2–3). Jesus’ issue with the Ephesians is that they “have forsaken the love [they] had at first” (Revelation 2:4). The church at Ephesus was a hard-working, faithful church, but they were lacking in love.

In response to this abandonment of their first love, Jesus exhorts them to “repent and do the first works.” Repentance is confirmed in the follow-through; repentance is followed by reformation. John the Baptist stressed the need for action in his preaching: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8+). Jesus points to the early days of the church in Ephesus and bade His people remember the service they had accomplished and the love they had expressed—and then do those things again.

There is also a relationship between works and love here. The apostle John attests to this reality in 1 John 5:3: “This is love for God: to keep his commands.” This echoes Jesus’ words in John 14:23: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word” (ESV). It seems that, as one grows in love for Christ, he or she will desire to obey even more. In Revelation 2, Jesus exhorts the Ephesians to do the works they did before, encouraging the love they once had for God.

These “first works” aren’t defined in the text. Jesus could be referring to their past zeal in maintaining pure doctrine or their eagerness to love their neighbors as themselves. Whatever the specifics, Jesus wanted the Ephesians to do the first works, which would encourage them to return to their first love.

What does it mean, then, to “repent” and do the first worksRepent, in its most literal sense, simply means “to change one’s mind.” A change of mind often results in a change of attitude, emotion, and action. This meaning can be seen clearly in Acts 2. Peter is presenting Jesus as the rightful Messiah, King of Israel. His hearers are comprised of the very people who had crucified the Lord via the Romans. Peter tells them they needed to repent, or change their mind, and be baptized (Acts 2:38). Their repentance involved changing their minds about Jesus being a mere man and their own need to be forgiven. Happily, about 3,000 people repented and were saved that day (Acts 2:41).

In Revelation 2:5, Jesus exhorts the Ephesians to repent, and that change of mind would lead to a change of attitude. The follow-through would be a return to their first works, encouraging their love for God. Jesus’ message to the church of Ephesus should be a warning to all of us. We can do great works and persevere through trials and still lose sight of loving God. Saying or doing the right thing is meaningless without love (1 Corinthians 13:1–3+). We must not forsake our first love, and we must continue doing the things that encourage our love for God.

Revelation 2:6  'Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

NET  Revelation 2:6 But you do have this going for you: You hate what the Nicolaitans practice– practices I also hate.

NLT  Revelation 2:6 But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.

ESV  Revelation 2:6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

NIV  Revelation 2:6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

GNT  Revelation 2:6 ἀλλὰ τοῦτο ἔχεις, ὅτι μισεῖς τὰ ἔργα τῶν Νικολαϊτῶν ἃ κἀγὼ μισῶ.

KJV  Revelation 2:6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

ASV  Revelation 2:6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

CSB  Revelation 2:6 Yet you do have this: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

NKJ  Revelation 2:6 "But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

NRS  Revelation 2:6 Yet this is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

YLT  Revelation 2:6 but this thou hast, that thou dost hate the works of the Nicolaitans, that I also hate.

  • that: Rev 2:14,15 2Ch 19:2 Ps 26:5 101:3 139:21,22 2Jn 1:9,10 
  • Revelation 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Yet - Another term of contrast. So after the strong warning just given, Jesus gives them another commendation, which should be an encouraging word to motivate them to heed His commands to remember, repent and repeat, and experience revival of their first love for Him. 

This you do have, (10) that you hate (miseothe deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate (miseo) - Interesting contrast - just spoke of love and now of hate. Notice that they hate the deeds, not the doers. The verb hate (miseo) is used twice both in the present tense speaking of continual hate—both the Ephesian saints and Jesus were in ongoing opposition to the works of the Nicolaitans. As we often hear, God hates the sin, but loves the sinner (enough to give His Son to die in their place - Jn 3:16+). It is to easy to fall into the trap to hate the doers more than their deeds.

Who were the Nicolaitans? We cannot be sure, but Jesus uses the term again in Rev 2:15 which reads in context as follows...

But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel (HAPPENED IN Num 25:1-2+), to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. 15 ‘So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. (Rev 2:14-15+)

Comment - We may not know their exact identity, but we can definitely know their modus operandi. The trafficked in the trickery of Balaam and the result was they led people into idolatry and immorality. And Jesus hated their abominable deeds as did the Ephesian believers. Peter also mentioned false teachers (make a list of their characteristics) "having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness." (2Pe. 2:14,15+)

Nicolaitans (3531)(nikolaites from nikos = conquer, victory + laos = people) was an adherent of Nikolaos or a Nicolaitan, but that is not a very helpful "definition." Nicolaos means victor or conqueror of the people and Balaam means devourer of the people. See Tony Garland's lengthy discussion of Nicolaitans. If the derivation is accurate one simple descriptive definition is conqueror of the people. John Walvoord writes "“Some have interpreted their name as meaning ‘conquering the people’ from nikaō, meaning ‘to conquer’ and laos, meaning ‘the people.’ This view considers the Nicolaitans as the forerunners of the clerical hierarchy superimposed upon the laity and robbing them of spiritual freedom.” Interesting. Whoever they are Jesus hates them! 

Question - Who are the Nicolaitans mentioned in Revelation 2:6, 14-15?

ANSWER - The exact origin of the Nicolaitans is unclear. Some Bible commentators believe they were a heretical sect who followed the teachings of Nicolas—whose name means “one who conquers the people”—who was possibly one of the deacons of the early church mentioned in Acts 6:5. It is possible that Nicolas became an apostate, denying the true faith and became part of a group holding "the doctrine of Balaam," who taught Israel "to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality." Clement of Alexandria says, “They abandoned themselves to pleasure like goats, leading a life of self-indulgence.” Their teaching perverted grace and replaced liberty with license.

Other commentators believe that these Nicolaitans were not so called from any man, but from the Greek word Nicolah, meaning "let us eat," as they often encouraged each other to eat things offered to idols. Whichever theory is true, it is certain that the deeds of the Nicolaitans were an abomination to Christ. They, like the Gnostics and other false teachers, abused the doctrine of grace and tried to introduce licentiousness in its place (2 Peter 2:15, 19; Jude 1:4).

Jesus commends the church of Ephesus for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans as He does (Revelation 2:6). No doubt the leaders of the Ephesian church protected their flock from these destructive heresies and kept their people from committing the same evil deeds. All sin is hateful to Christ, as it should be to His followers, as we hate men’s evil deeds, not the men themselves. For the church at Pergamos, Jesus had not commendation, but censure. Unlike the Ephesians, they actually embraced the teachings of the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:15). Jesus warns them that unless they repent, they are in danger of the judgment that is sure to fall on those who teach false doctrine, attack His church, and destroy His people. The sword of judgment is poised over their heads, and His patience is not limitless (Revelation 2:16; 19:15).

The lesson for us is that the church of the Lord Jesus throughout the ages has been plagued by those of the Nicolaitan spirit. The only way to recognize false teaching is to be intimately familiar with truth through the diligent study of the Word of

Revelation 2:7  'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.'

NET  Revelation 2:7 The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will permit him to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.'

NLT  Revelation 2:7 "Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.

ESV  Revelation 2:7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.'

NIV  Revelation 2:7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

GNT  Revelation 2:7 ὁ ἔχων οὖς ἀκουσάτω τί τὸ πνεῦμα λέγει ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις. τῷ νικῶντι δώσω αὐτῷ φαγεῖν ἐκ τοῦ ξύλου τῆς ζωῆς, ὅ ἐστιν ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ τοῦ θεοῦ.

KJV  Revelation 2:7 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.

ASV  Revelation 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. To him that overcometh, to him will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.

CSB  Revelation 2:7 "Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in God's paradise.

NKJ  Revelation 2:7 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."'

NRS  Revelation 2:7 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.

YLT  Revelation 2:7 He who is having an ear -- let him hear what the Spirit saith to the assemblies: To him who is overcoming -- I will give to him to eat of the tree of life that is in the midst of the paradise of God.

  • He who has an ear: Rev 2:11,17,29 3:6,13,22 13:9 Mt 11:15 13:9,43 Mk 7:16 
  • let him hear: Rev 14:13 22:17 1Co 2:10 12:4-12 
  • To him who overcomes: Rev 2:11,17,26-28 3:5,12,21 12:10,11 15:2 21:7 Joh 16:33 1Jn 5:4,5 
  • I will grant to eat of the tree of life: Rev 22:2,14 Ge 2:9 Ge 3:22-24 Pr 3:18 11:30 13:12 15:4 
  • the paradise: Lu 23:43 2Co 12:4 
  • Revelation 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Related Passages:

Genesis 2:9+   Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 

Genesis 3:22-23+  Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”–23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.

Proverbs 3:18   She (WISDOM) is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who hold her fast. 

Proverbs 11:30  The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls. 

Proverbs 13:12  Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life

Proverbs 15:4 A soothing tongue is a tree of life, But perversion in it crushes the spirit. 

Revelation 2:7 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’

Revelation 22:2  in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Revelation 22:14   Blessed are those who wash their robes (HOW? SEE Rev 7:14), so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.

Revelation 22:19  and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. 


It is interesting to ponder the rewards to the overcomers, for they are all promises that Christ will fulfill in the future and they are all essentially a description of what our life will be like in Heaven, so that each reward amplifies the description of Heaven in Revelation 21-22! So as you study the promises to overcomers, let these picture of our eternal bliss motivate each of us to diligently discipline ourselves (present imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) for godliness which "is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." (1Ti 4:8+)! 

He (singular) who has an ear, let him hear (akouo) what the Spirit (pneuma) (present tense - continually) says to the churches (ekklesia) - Let him hear is a command in the aorist imperative and the only way we can obey is by depending on the Holy Spirit to give us the desire and power to obey (Php 2:13NLT+). This command is found only on the lips of Jesus, 8 times while He was still on earth and 8 times after He ascended to Heaven! The command conveys a sense of urgency, what I like to call the "Nike commercial command" "Just Do it!" Hear it and heed it. Hear and obey. The idea is do not delay, procrastinate or prevaricate! Note the recipient is churches plural so this combined entreaty and command is repeated to every church (See Pattern). The command to hear is similar to the Hebrew command shema, “hear (so as to heed is the idea)” (Dt. 5:1; Dt 6:4; Dt 9:1; Dt 20:3; Dt 27:9–10).And remember, the idea of akouo is not just to hear the "sound waves" but to heed (obey) what is heard. It is not to be in one ear and out the other, because that results in self-delusion as Jesus' half-brother James wrote "But prove (present imperative) yourselves doers (poietes) of the word, and not merely hearers (akroates) who delude (paralogizomai - present tense continually deceiving by false reasoning) themselves.." (James 1:22+).This addresses any and every person who has a "spiritual" ear. As Paul says in 1 Cor 2:14+ we know "a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand (AKA CANNOT "HEAR") them, because they are spiritually appraised." The Spirit speaks all 7 letters to the churches in John's day and throughout the church age! (cf Rev 14:13 and Rev 22:17). So in all 7 messages, both Christ and His Spirit deliver the messages!

THOUGHT - If you are a pastor it would behoove you to consider an expository series on these letters to the 7 churches every few years, like performing "preventive maintenance on the heart and soul of the congregants.

Jesus speaks to the vital importance of hearing and heeding...

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 “Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 “But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”(Lk 6:46-49+, cf James 1:22+)

Garland - It is Christ’s desire that “those who hear the words of this prophecy” (Rev. 1:3+) not only hear the subject matter, but understand its significance. This phrase recognizes the reality that those whose hearts are not open to Christ may hear (or read) the words, but will not understand the message: If we desire that God would reveal more to us, we must first respond in obedience to that which has already been revealed. If we fail to respond to what He has already revealed, then we stand to lose what we already understand (Mark 4:24-25+; Luke 8:18+).

Spurgeon rightly said "There are many, who have ears, who do not hear to any real purpose. There is the physical act of hearing, but they do not hear in the heart and the mind. It is a very different thing to have an impression on the drum of the ear and to have an impression on the tablet of the heart. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

Mark Hitchcock - One of my favorite lines from the lips of Jesus is His oft-repeated statement, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Jesus is saying, "Look, if you have a set of ears on your head you'd better use them and listen up to what I'm about to say." It's a direct challenge to us to be spiritually sensitive to the words of Jesus. The responsibility to listen carefully to Him is serious. (ED: OUR RESPONSIBILITY = TO HEAR & HEED; GOD'S SOVEREIGN PROVISION = 1Co 2:14-16 cf Isa 50:5) As we move into a careful study of Jesus' forecast for the future, I can't think of a better reminder. Let's listen carefully and willingly to the mighty Master as He leads us down the corridors of time to the end of the age. And be ready to follow His instructions about how to live while we wait for that day to come. (See What Jesus Says about Earth's Final Days)

John Phillips - Again the Lord's challenge rings forth. He has used these very words before (16 times in the NT). It is a phrase often repeated. In writing from glory to the seven churches of Asia, the Lord uses the expression over and over again (Rev. 2-3). Shakespeare borrowed the expression and used it in a different form when recounting Mark Anthony's speech to the Romans attending Caesar's funeral: "Friends, Romans and countrymen, lend me your ears." The words are a challenge to us to pay attention to what is being said. That is important when listening to any communication. When the speaker is God, it is vital! (See Exploring the Gospel of Mark)

Avery Willis - The simplest way to receive the Word is to hear it. Even a child or a person who cannot read can hear the Bible. "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear" (Mark 4:23). "Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17). Matthew 13:3-23 lists four kinds of hearers of the Word: the apathetic hearer who hears the Word but is not prepared to receive and understand it (v. 19); the superficial hearer who receives the Word temporarily but does not let it take root in the heart (vv. 20, 21); the preoccupied hearer who receives the Word but lets the worries of this world and the desire for other things choke it out (v. 22); and the reproducing hearer who receives the Word, understands it, bears fruit, and brings forth results (v. 23). (See MasterLife: Developing a Rich Personal Relationship with the Master)

Fausset writes that "“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."

THOUGHT - The picture of "open ears" (and I would add an "open heart") reminds us of Lk 24:45+ where Jesus "opened (dianoigo) their minds to understand (suniemi) the Scriptures!" Truth be told, if the Spirit of Jesus does not open our minds when we open His book, it will be like reading just another book! Pray Ps 119:18+ "Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law." 

A T Robertson on He who has an ear - An individualizing note calling on each of the hearers (cf Rev 1:3+ = "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy") to listen and a reminiscence of the words of Jesus in the Synoptics (ED: This challenge to heed Christ's words appears eight times in the gospels and eight times in Revelation. Mt. 11:15+; Mt 13:9, 43+; Mark 4:9+ = He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”, Mk 4:23+; Mk 7:16+; Lk 8:8+; Lk 14:35+ also Rev. 2:7; Rev. 2:11; Rev. 2:17; Rev. 2:29; Rev. 3:6; Rev. 3:13; Rev. 3:22; Rev. 13:9), but not in John’s Gospel.

What the Spirit says to the churches - The speaker has been Jesus Christ, but now it is the Spirit of Christ. Notice the churches indicates all 7 churches will "read each other's mail" so to speak! The Spirit takes the doctrines of Christ and makes them understandable to the believer. The Spirit speaks to the church through the communication of the Word of God.

Garland on the Spirit - When Jesus promised to send another helper (παρακλητον [paraklēton] ), the Spirit of Truth, He said, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” [emphasis added] (John 14:18). It is the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, Who initiates prophecy (1Pe. 1:11). He is the source of all spiritual revelation and illumination (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13)....Each letter is given for the benefit of all seven churches. The book of Revelation is given to: (1) John; (2) each individual church; (3) all seven churches; (4) all churches of all time; (5) all believers in every age. 

MacArthur points out that churches is significant - The use of the plural noun churches signifies the universal nature of this invitation each time that it appears. This call cannot be limited just to a group of overcomers in a single church; it must apply to all churches. Every church needs to hear every message.

All true believers are overcomers,
who have by God’s grace and power
overcome the damning power of the evil world system.
-- John MacArthur

To him who (present tense = continually) overcomes (nikao) - First note that this is not a reference to some spiritually elite believers ("super saints") but to all believers as John explains below. Second, note that overcomes is present tense signifying he or she continually has victory. In other words present tense  indicates this is their lifestyle, their habitual practice (thus Lenski translates it "To the one conquering."). Thomas adds that the "thought is not that of victory finally achieved at the end of life, which would have been an aorist participle. It is rather the picture of a believer who from the beginning of his faith in Christ to the end of life stands victorious because he keeps on overcoming whatever the enemy has to offer." (Bolding added).

THOUGHT - Dear follower in the footsteps of Jesus (1Pe 2:21), if you are like me, there are times when I shudder at the thought of standing at the Bema Seat of Christ (2Co 5:10+) where eternal rewards are dispensed by Jesus according to our deeds. I shudder when I think of those times in my earthly life in which I have willfully sinned against His grace, His goodness and His holiness, wondering if I will end up "smelling like smoke" (so to speak), for Paul writes "If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (1Cor 3:15+) In light of that thought, Jesus' promises at the end of each letter to the 7 churches (some 14 or so promises in these 7 letters) is incredibly encouraging, because all of these "rewards" are given to ALL OVERCOMERS! Be encouraged beloved. Your best is yet to come! I am also encouraged by 1Cor 4:5+ in which Paul writes "Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise (READ THAT AGAIN - EACH MAN AND WOMAN WILL RECEIVE PRAISE!!!) will come to him (or her) from God." These truths are what make grace so truly amazing! Thank You Father. Amen. 

In Rev 12:10-11 we read a descriptive definition (so to speak) of the overcomer, John writing "Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren (SATAN) has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because (TERM OF EXPLANATION) of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony (TERM OF EXPLANATION), and they did not love their life even when faced with death." As Paige Patterson explains "The one who overcomes does so based on two things. First is the blood of Jesus Christ, which alone makes it possible for God to be both just and the justifier of them who are saved (Ro 3:24+). However, as Paul also says in Ro 10:9–10+, an appropriation of that atonement must be made in the life of the believer, and hence one must “confess with your mouth … and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,” which results in his salvation. Therefore, the second, appropriating basis for overcoming is the “word of their testimony.” (Revelation: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition)

As noted above the verb overcomes is in the present tense which indicates we are continually victorious over the world, the flesh and the devil.  Another way to say it is that this person perseveres to the end. His/her overcoming or persevering does not earn salvation but proves they possess genuine salvation and thus have the Spirit Who enables them to habitually overcome. Two points must be remembered - (1) We as followers of Christ are still living in bodies with a sin nature and so there are times when we will sin and in those times we do not "overcome" and to the contrary in effect are "overcome" by the power of sin, but that is not our dominant pattern of living. (2) Our dominant pattern of living is more about our direction than perfection (that will come with glorification!), and the way (the only way) it is possible for that to our dominant or habitual pattern is because Jesus has sent us His omnipotent Spirit Who lives in us (1Co 6:19+) and Who continually "energizes" us ("is at work [energeo]" = continually - present tense in Php 2:13) giving us the desire to overcome our mortal enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil, and the power to overcome them, so that we might walk in a manner that pleases our Father in Heaven (Php 2:13NLT+, cf Col 1:10+, Eph 4:1+, 1Th 2:12+). 

Only believers can "receive" and "understand" this spiritual truth. It is worth noting that the verb nikao is in the present tense indicating that this is their lifestyle, their habitual practice (thus Lenski translates it "To the one conquering."). Thomas adds that the "thought is not that of victory finally achieved at the end of life, which would have been an aorist participle. It is rather the picture of a believer who from the beginning of his faith in Christ to the end of life stands victorious because he keeps on overcoming whatever the enemy has to offer." (Bolding added).

John explains who overcomers are writing

"For whatever is born of God overcomes (nikao in present tense = in Christ we CONTINUALLY HAVE THE VICTORY OVER) the world; and this is the victory (nike = victory in battle, in the athletic games, over all opponents) that has overcome (nikao in present tense) the world–our faith.  (NOT FAITH IN FAITH BUT AS HE EXPLAINS FAITH IN JESUS AS THE SON OF GOD) 5 Who is the one who overcomes (nikao) the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5+)

Robertson observes "Faith is dominant in Paul, victory in John, faith is victory (1 Jn 5:4+)."

As Charles Swindoll reminds us "While it is true that believers will receive rewards proportionate to their works at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:10–15; 2 Cor. 5:10), the promises in Revelation apply to ALL BELIEVERS (ED: READ THAT AGAIN BELOVED!!!) who have overcome death, sin, the world, and the devil by faith in Christ alone. The specific promise in Revelation 2:7 refers back to the book of Genesis, tying together the all-but-forgotten original creation and the always-longed-for new creation. What a glorious future we look forward to: enriching fellowship, intimacy with the Almighty, and enduring love! (See Insights on Revelation - Page 36


I will grant to eat of the tree (xulon) of life (zoe) - I will grant speaks of Christ's authority and sovereignty over everything! This grant denotes a gift of His Own accord and good will! And it is a gift from Christ for all believers, because all believers are overcomers. This particular gift, in a sense, is the realization of the gift promised to Adam in the Garden of Eden, but one regarding which he could not partake because of his sin! What the first Adam loss by sin, the last Adam gained by sacrifice. Overcomers can partake because they are no longer in Adam but in Christ! And one other important distinction is that none of these promises from Jesus to overcomers in the seven letters has even a hint of the dreaded woes depicted in Revelation 4-19. Note Jesus uses the verb eat, indicating that we as overcomers/believers will enjoy eating in our glorified bodies and we can be assured it will be perfectly healthy food! This is a literal tree of life that gives life, both the fullness of life and eternal life, because Jesus on a tree of death, the Cross, in our place.

The tree of life is first seen in Genesis 2:9+, in sinless paradise, the Garden of Eden. While the tree of life symbolizes life, but it is a literal real tree in "Paradise Found," just like it was in "Paradise Lost!" The word tree (xulon) is used in 1Pe 2:24+, Peter writing that Jesus "Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross (xulon), so that we might die to sin and live (zao) to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." Christ's death on the tree He created enabled us to become overcomers and to receive life from that the Cross of Christ as the gift of God's grace.  Sin had barred man from the tree of life in the Garden (Ge 3:24), but when Christ defeated sin, He restored our right to eat from the tree of life in paradise. Hallelujah! Amen! 

For victors in the fight there is eternal life without alloy and without fear of failure.
-- Herbert Lockyer

Tony Garland - The tree of life is a common motif for righteousness and wisdom in Scripture (Ps. 1:3; Pr. 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4) for it is by righteousness and wisdom that life is lived to the full. For this reason, the Jews referred to the Word of God as the “tree of life”. “[Torah scrolls are] written on parchment, sewn together, rolled onto wooden rollers called eytz chayeem (tree of life), and read regularly in the synagogue.”    During the present age, while man is barred from the tree of life, God has provided another tree of life: the cross of Jesus Christ. Those who place their trust in His atoning work upon the cross have eternal life (John 3:14-16). Even though every man has been bitten by the Serpent (Gen. 3:15), by merely looking upon this tree in faith, he will be healed (Num. 21:9).   In the eternal state, believers will once again obtain full access to the tree of life (Rev. 22:2, 14+). The promise made to the overcomer is an essential element of salvation. In the eternal state, man will still be dependent upon God for access to the tree of life (Rev. 22:2+) because independence from God is sin.

John Stott - The promise in this case is particularly apt. It offers free access to the tree of life in God’s paradise, whose fruit was previously forbidden to fallen human beings. This means the enjoyment of eternal life in heaven. But what is eternal life if it is not to know and love God and his Son Jesus Christ (John 17:3)? And what is heaven but the abode of love? For heaven is where God is, and God is love. So the reward of love is more love in the perfect communion of heaven. No hint is given in this letter as to how love may be quickened, but John tells us the way in his first letter. “We love,” he writes, “because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This prior love of God took Christ to the cross to die for our sins. There he gave himself for us with the absolute self-giving of love, as he bore our sins in his own body. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). The cross is the blazing fire at which the flame of our love is kindled, but we have to get near enough to it for its sparks to fall on us. So the church today, like the church of Ephesus, has a work to be done, a fight to be fought and a creed to be championed. But above all it has a person to be loved, with the love we had for him at first, a love undying. (BORROW What Christ thinks of the church : Revelation 1-3 expounded)

William Barclay on tree of life -  Adam was first forbidden to eat of the tree of life, and then he was barred from the garden so that the tree of life was lost forever. But it was a regular Jewish belief that, when the Messiah came and the new age dawned, the tree of life would be in the centre of all people, and those who had been faithful would eat of it. The wise man said: ‘Those who do what is pleasing to him enjoy the fruit of the tree of immortality’ (Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 19:19). The Rabbis had a picture of the tree of life in paradise. Its boughs overshadowed the whole of paradise; it had 500,000 fragrant perfumes and its fruit as many pleasant tastes, every one of them different. The idea was that what Adam had lost the Messiah would restore. To eat of the tree of life means to have all the joys that the faithful conquerors will have when Christ reigns supreme. 

Paige Patterson has an interesting note related to archaeology and the tree of life - First, there is the apparent connection to the Artemesion, which was the jewel of Ephesus. Excavations, as well as examination of historical sources, have led to the discovery that a large garden area was a part of the temple of Artemis in Ephesus. In the heart of that garden, there was a tree, either an oak or an elm. Hemer notes: For the Christian in Domitianic Ephesus these thoughts would, I suggest, have come to a focus in a contemporary reality. The words of the epistle contrasted with a shocking parody which the pagan cult of the city offered. At the heart of its changing fortunes was the theocratic power of the Artemis temple, marked by the fixed point of the ancient tree-shrine which was the place of “salvation” for the suppliant, surrounded by an asylum enclosed by a boundary wall. But this “salvation” for the criminal corrupted the city. The Ephesian who had to live with this problem understood the promise of a city-sanctuary pervaded by the glory of God. Of that city it was said: “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie” (Rev. 21:27)." (See Hemer page 50 The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting - BORROW - see also additional note below) This “tree-shrine” was a special holy place for the worship of Artemis. Evidence suggests that it was, in fact, the most sacred of all the parts of the famous temple shrine and may even have been spoken of as a “tree of life.” The image appears in some form on most of the coinage from ancient Ephesus along with the additional symbols of the stag and the bee, which were associated with the worship of Artemis. John’s readers in the church at Ephesus knew well that this tree could provide no life at all, but there was a tree with which the Scripture writers were familiar from the earliest biblical stories in Genesis 1–3. This tree of life to which our first parents had access had been lost to them as a result of sin and their exclusion from the garden. John suggests that just as that tree of life was found in the midst of the initial paradise of Eden, so it has been somehow transplanted to “the paradise of God.” (Page 90 Revelation: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition)

Additional Note from Hemer page 55 - The ‘tree’ and the ‘paradise’ may have had pointed local analogues in the tree and the temenos/asylum of Artemis which gave them a special meaningfulness for the Ephesian Christian. The cross was the place of refuge for the repentant sinner in contrast with the tree which marked the asylum for the unrepentant criminal.

Guzik on tree of life - The promise for these overcomers was a return to Eden, a restoration, and eternal life. This was meant first in the eternal sense of making it to heaven, which was no small promise to a church threatened with the removal of Jesus’ presence. It is also meant in the sense of seeing the effects of the curse rolled back in our own lives though walking in Jesus’ redeeming love

Related Passages: Tree of Life - speaks of immortality. Initially in the garden of Eden, now in the "garden of God" in paradise (forever)!

Genesis 2:9+ Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 

Genesis 3:22-24+ Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”– 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.

Revelation 22:2, 14+ in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.

Revelation 22:19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. 

Which is in the Paradise (paradeisosof God - This represents a reversal of the curse. It is notable that the Septuagint translates "garden" with paradeisos (e.g., in Ge. 2:8, 9, 10, 15,16). The use of paradeisos in Genesis 3:1-3 is especially interesting because Ezekiel 28:13 describes Satan in stating "You were in Eden, the garden (Lxx - paradeisos) of God." Satan will not be in the new "garden" in the presence of God, because John says "the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down" (Rev 12:10). As overcomers we will be in the new "garden," the Paradise (paradeisosof God  enjoying unbroken, intimate fellowship with our Creator and Redeemer forever and ever. All that life is and was ever meant to be—that is what will be in the paradise of heaven. Amen! Christ's eternal redemption (Heb 9:12+) makes all things new.

As A T Robertson says paradise is "The abode of God and the home of the redeemed with Christ, not a mere intermediate state. It was originally a garden of delight and finally heaven itself  as here."  

Tony Garland points out that "Significantly, the church which had lost its first love was given the promise of access to a tree which was in the midst of the garden (paradeisos) wherein God and Adam used to have sweet fellowship (Gen. 3:8+). This is the very essence of the first love which the Ephesians had left." 

Bishop Trench on paradise - 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”. 

William BarclayParadise is a lovely word to describe a thing of serene beauty. In the Septuagint, paradise has two uses. First, it is regularly used for the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8, 3:1). Second, it is regularly used of any stately garden. When Isaiah speaks of a garden that has no water, it is the word paradise that is used (Isaiah 1:30). It is the word used when Jeremiah says: ‘Plant gardens and eat what they produce’ (Jeremiah 29:5). It is the word used when the preacher says: ‘I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees’ (Ecclesiastes 2:5).  Our minds must turn to the words of Jesus to the dying and penitent thief: ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise’ (Luke 23:43). We are in the presence of mysteries about which it would be irreverent to dogmatize; but is there any better definition of paradise than to say that it is life forever in the presence of our Lord? As Ray Palmer’s hymn, ‘Jesus, these eyes have never seen’, has it:

      When death these mortal eyes shall seal,
         And still this throbbing heart,
      The rending veil shall thee reveal
         All glorious as thou art—

....and that is paradise.

Vincent on paradise - Originally an enclosed park, or pleasure-ground. Xenophon uses it of the parks of the Persian kings and nobles. “There (at Celaenae) Cyrus had a palace and a great park (παράδεισος), full of wild animals, which he hunted on horseback.… Through the midst of the park flows the river Maeander (“Anabasis,” i., 2, 7). And again: “The Greeks encamped near a great and beautiful park, thickly grown with all kinds of trees” (2:4, 14.) In the Septuagint, Gen. 2:8, of the garden of Eden. In the Jewish theology, the department of Hades where the blessed souls await the resurrection; and therefore equivalent to Abraham’s bosom (Lk 16:22, 23+). It occurs three times in the New Testament: here; 2 Cor. 12:4; Rev 2:7; and always of the abode of the blessed.

Paige Patterson - Elaborate explanations making paradise distinct from heaven are common among biblical interpreters, but usually these are given without actual biblical reference. There is a good reason. The three occasions in which paradise does occur suggest that “paradise” is synonymous with the unique dwelling place of God or heaven. The first occurrence is in the gospel narrative when the convicted felon on the cross with Christ is told by Jesus, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Since according to the text, upon our Lord’s physical demise his Spirit was with God (“into your hands I commit my spirit”) and since a promise of some inferior destination would hardly have been great comfort to the felon, the place he was promised was probably none other than the presence of God. (A Pilgrim Priesthood: An Exposition of the Epistle of First Peter) A similar situation occurs in Paul’s description in 2 Corinthians 12 of his temporary transfer to “the third heaven” (2Cor 12:2), which is also identified as “paradise” (2Co 12:4). Here is a clear indication that paradise and the third heaven, or the dwelling place of God, are viewed synonymously. All of the above is in perfect keeping with the understanding of the tree of life as being in the midst of the paradise of God in Ge 2:7. In fact, such a remarkable tree is again in view in Rev 22:2. The overcomer is promised that he will have the right to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. One final word needs to be said about the language of the text. What is promised to the believer is that there is a xulon of life in the midst of the paradise of God. Almost inevitably the word used for “tree” in Greek is dendron. Xulon by comparison generally means simply “wood” and is not infrequently used as a reference to the cross. (ED: XULON FOUR TIMES TRANSLATED AS CROSS = Acts 10:39; Acts 13:29, Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:24) Is it possible that in John’s mind, the xulon of life mentioned here is none other than the cross of the Lord? Whatever the case, the promise is rich with the potential of a life eternal in the presence of God himself. (Page 91 Revelation: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition)

Paradise is “the place where God lives.” Where God is, that is Paradise!
-- David Guzik (Play Steven Curtis Chapman's old song  Paradise.)

Related Passages:

Luke 23:43+  And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” 

2 Corinthians 12:4+  (PAUL) was caught up (harpazo ~ "raptured"!) into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.

MacArthur - The example of the Ephesian church warns that doctrinal orthodoxy and outward service cannot make up for a cold heart. Believers must carefully heed Solomon’s counsel: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Pr 4:23+) (See Revelation Commentary)

Charles Swindoll closes this section - Let me challenge you to do something concrete in light of the importance of maintaining your love. Would you consider memorizing 1 John 4:19–21+? Take time right now to commit this short passage to memory so you can always be reminded of the need for growing in love. (See Insights on Revelation)

Herbert Lockyer - The Lord in heaven, and the Spirit on earth make the true Church their special subject of care. Each letter proves their present oversight of the Church, and ends with promises and rewards to those within the Church who overcome the world, flesh and the devil. Each promise could be studied in the light of the letter containing it. The first promise to the overcomer contains an evident allusion to the Garden of Eden, with the tree of life in its midst (Genesis 2). Walter Scott says, "Adam had not to overcome in the Garden, he had simply to obey and keep his innocence, and the test of an innocent creature's obedience was the prohibition against eating of the symbolical tree of knowledge of good and evil." For the Christian overcomer the scene presented is far more glorious than Eden. In the coming Paradise, expression of heaven's blessedness, there is the tree of life of which one may freely eat, and no tree of good and evil, the symbol of creative responsibility. For victors in the fight there is eternal life without alloy and without fear of failure. There, conquerors are to enjoy an everlasting feast. Overcoming false prophets and their evil teaching: Overcoming our own faintness of heart and tendency to decline from our first love, we have the promise of an unending walk with God in Paradise. (Borrow All the promises of the Bible)




Rev 12:11+ Saints overcome Satan

(1) The blood of the Lamb
(2) The word of their testimony
(3) Not loving their life even to death!

Rev 17:14+ Lamb overcomes kings and beast (antichrist)

He is Lord of lords and King of kings

1 Jn 2:14+ Young men overcome the evil one

(1) They are strong
(2) Word of God abides in you

1 Jn 4:4+ Saints (little children) overcome the false prophets and spirit of antichrist

Greater is He (Spirit -1Jn 3:24) Who is 

1 Jn 5:4-5+ Whoever is born of God overcomes the world

(1) Our faith overcomes the world
(2) He who believes (as a lifestyle) that Jesus is the Son of God

John 16:33 Saints overcome their tribulation in the world

(1) They are in Christ
(2) Christ has overcome the world

Promise to Overcomers in Ephesus - Lehman Strauss - The Promise to Ephesus (Rev 2:7)

To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God (Rev 2:7).

Only those who have eternal life may eat of the tree of life. Now the tree of life is not reserved for a preferential few chosen from among God's children; it is for all who possess eternal life. In Eden, which was man's paradise, there was the tree of life (Genesis 2:9; Ge 3:22). To eat of that tree was to become immortal, that is, incapable of dying. This right was forfeited by man when he sinned. The promise to the overcomer is that he shall be given perpetuity of life, complete conquest over further liability to die. Now is this promise made only to certain of the redeemed in Heaven? Certainly not! Jesus said, "Whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die" (John 11:26). Here He is not referring to a select number from among those who believe. Is Paul's inspired word to some—or to all—believers when he says, "This mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:53)? I do not know of one evangelical teacher of the Bible who would limit Paul's words to a mere part of Christ's true Church. Paradise lost in the Garden of Eden brought death. Paradise restored means the abolishment of death. The immortality of the Christian is not dependent upon his own faithfulness, but upon Him "Who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10). The paradise of God and the tree of life will be shared by all who are in Christ. It is the lot and portion of all the redeemed.

Our Lord knew well that the entire local assembly as such would not inherit the promise, inasmuch as there were unbelievers among the believers. So the promise was made to each individual believer in the assembly, "to him that overcometh." Salvation is a personal and an individual matter. The gate into the Paradise of God is still open with its access to the tree of life. Each must decide for himself whether or not he will enter. Every soul who trusts Christ now may be assured that one day our blessed Lord will escort him to the tree of life where he shall eat and never die again. And remember, the right to the tree of life and immortality is not to those who struggle but to those who are saved.

Dear Robert McCheyne must have been a great soul, judging from all that I have read about him, but I feel he missed our Lord's meaning in His promise to the overcomers at Ephesus. McCheyne wrote in his pamphlet, The Seven Churches of Asia, concerning Christ's promise in Revelation 2:7: "I know there are some of you who are struggling, struggling hard, and you are overcoming. Well, then, you shall eat of the tree of life." In this I cannot concur. Our right to the tree of life is not through our struggling but through Christ's suffering. That for which man was created will be reached at last, not because we struggled here on the battleground of human life, but because we have been redeemed through the sacrifice of God's dear Son. If you want to be an overcomer, then come to Christ. Unbelief and immortality cannot coexist in Heaven where God dwells. You need the salvation that God offers to you through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Come to Him at once and you shall overcome at last. (Borrow The Book of the Revelation: Outlined Studies)

Hear (191akouo primarily means physical hearing of sounds and the apprehension of the sounds with one's mind. Akouo gives us our English acoustics which is the science of designs that helps one hear (We need "spiritual acoustics" to help us hear spiritual truth!). Friberg summarizes akouo - listen to; (1) followed by the genitive to indicate sense perception hear (Acts 9.7); (2) followed by the accusative to indicate understanding of what was said hear (Acts 9.4); (3) as a legal technical term give a hearing, grant a court trial ( Jn 7.51); (4) of being informed about something learn or hear (of) (Mt 14.13); (5) impersonally avkou,etai it is reported ( 1Co 5.1); (6) of discipleship listen to, pay attention to, obey ( Lk 9.35); (7) of inner comprehension understand, be aware of, listen to (Gal 4.21) (Borrow Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament)

Akouo in the Revelation - Rev. 1:3; Rev. 1:10; Rev. 2:7; Rev. 2:11; Rev. 2:17; Rev. 2:29; Rev. 3:3; Rev. 3:6; Rev. 3:13; Rev. 3:20; Rev. 3:22; Rev. 4:1; Rev. 5:11; Rev. 5:13; Rev. 6:1; Rev. 6:3; Rev. 6:5; Rev. 6:6; Rev. 6:7; Rev. 7:4; Rev. 8:13; Rev. 9:13; Rev. 9:16; Rev. 9:20; Rev. 10:4; Rev. 10:8; Rev. 11:12; Rev. 12:10; Rev. 13:9; Rev. 14:2; Rev. 14:13; Rev. 16:1; Rev. 16:5; Rev. 16:7; Rev. 18:4; Rev. 18:22; Rev. 18:23; Rev. 19:1; Rev. 19:6; Rev. 21:3; Rev. 22:8; Rev. 22:17; Rev. 22:18

Overcomes (conquers) (3528)(nikao from nike = victory, conquest) means to conquer, to be the victor, to gain the victory, to be victorious or to prevail in the face of obstacles. Nikao is a military metaphor that connotes superiority and victory over a vanquished foe. Webster's 1828 dictionary says to overcome means "o conquer; to vanquish; to subdue; as, to overcome enemies in battle.To surmount; to get the better of) Overcome describes the quality of a true saint who may (will) stumble and fall but who God always picks up and he continues onward and upward in the power of the Spirit and in the motivation of the victory Christ has won for us on the Cross (cf 2Pe 1:10-11+). Metzer says "The word conquer is a military term. It suggests that the Christian life, so far from being a bed of roses, involves a struggle against anyone and anything that saps the Christian life of all that gives it strength and power.” As Jesus alerted His soon to be vigorously persecuted disciples "These things (Ed: Always ask "What things?" - forces you to read the preceding context - See Jn 14:1ff, esp Jn 14:23) I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage (present imperative see need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey); I have overcome (perfect tense pictures permanence of our Lord's victory over this evil world system and its evil ruler! Glory!) the world." (Jn 16:33)

Nikao in NT - most uses in the Revelation - 25v - Lk. 11:22; Jn. 16:33; Ro. 3:4; Ro. 12:21; 1Jn. 2:13; 1Jn. 2:14; 1Jn. 4:4; 1Jn. 5:4; 1Jn. 5:5; Rev. 2:7; Rev. 2:11; Rev. 2:17; Rev. 2:26; Rev. 3:5; Rev. 3:12; Rev. 3:21; Rev. 5:5; Rev. 6:2; Rev. 11:7; Rev. 12:11; Rev. 13:7; Rev. 15:2; Rev. 17:14; Rev. 21:7.

Luke 11:22   “But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder.

John 16:33  “These things (John 13-16 UPPER ROOM DISCOURSE) I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation (thlipsis), but take courage (present imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey); I have overcome (perfect tense = victory at Calvary which will endure eternally!) the world.”

Romans 3:4 May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, “THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED.” 

Romans 12:21  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome (present imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) evil with good.

1 John 2:13  I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because (TERM OF EXPLANATION) you have overcome (perfect tense = when you became a believer with this effect enduring) the evil one (DEVIL AND HIS CHILDREN). I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.

1 John 2:14  I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome (perfect tense = when you became a believer with this effect enduring) the evil one (DEVIL AND HIS CHILDREN).

1 John 4:4  You are from God, little children, and have (perfect tense = when you became a believer with this effect enduring) them; because greater is He who is in you (Christ - Col 1:27, Spirit of Christ - 1Co 6:19) than he who is in the world (DEVIL AND HIS CHILDREN).

1 John 5:4  For whatever is born ((perfect tense = past completed act, enduring effect = cf "Eternal Security"!) of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. 

1 John 5:5  Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Revelation 2:7   ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who (present tense - continually) overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’

Revelation 2:11  ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who (present tense - continually) overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’

Revelation 2:17   ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who (present tense - continually) overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’

Revelation 2:26   ‘He who (present tense - continually) overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS;

Revelation 3:5   ‘He who (present tense - continually) overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

Revelation 3:12  ‘He who (present tense - continually) overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.

Revelation 3:21  ‘He who (present tense - continually) overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

Revelation 5:5   and one of the elders *said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” 

Revelation 6:2  I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

Revelation 11:7   When they (Rev 11:3) have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them.

Revelation 12:11  “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.

Revelation 13:7  It was also given to him (ANTICHRIST) to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.

Revelation 15:2  And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who (present tense - continually) had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God.

Revelation 17:14  “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” 

COMMENT - Note that at His first coming the Lamb was slain, conquering the enemy (Jn 16:33, cf Rev 3:21 = "as I also overcame") and at His second coming, He will conquer all who oppose His rule and authority (Rev 17:14). The Cross was the victory, the Second Coming is the crushing of His foes as described by Daniel when Christ "the Stone was cut out without hands, and...struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the Stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth (THE MESSIANIC KINGDOM). (Da 2:34-35+)

Revelation 21:7  “He who (present tense - continually) overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

Tree  (3586xulon from xuo = to scrape) is literally wood and refers to anything made of wood, including a tree or other wooden article or substance. In Acts 5:30, 10:39, 13:29, 1Pe 2:24 and Gal 3:13 xulon refers to the old rugged Cross. The NT idea of xulon/xylon as a cross is related to Deuteronomy 21 which emphasizes the shame that befalls the one who is exposed and punished in such a way.

If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree (Lxx = xulon)  his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree (Lxx = xulon), but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.(Deut. 21:22,23+)

Paul in Galatians adds a "commentary" on the "tree" explaining that Christ became a "curse" in our place. In other words, Christ became a curse that we might be blessed! Hallelujah, O What a Savior

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE (xulon, quoting Dt 21:23+)”– (Gal 3:13+) (What does it mean that we are redeemed from the curse of the law? |

TDNT use of xulon for the Cross. A distinctive use of xyÃlon in the NT is for the cross. The basis is Dt. 21:22, which stresses the shame of being exposed on a tree. Acts 5:30; 10:39, etc. make the point that crucifixion is the greatest possible insult to Jesus, but that God has displayed his majesty by raising him from the dead. Paul in Gal. 3:13 shows that Christ has redeemed us from the curse by being made a curse for us according to Dt. 21:22. A curse lies on those who break the law, but Christ, who has not broken the law, voluntarily and vicariously becomes accursed, as his death on the accursed wood makes plain. He thus releases us from the curse and from the death that it entails. 1 Pet. 2:24 is to the same effect when it says that Christ bore our sins in his own body on the “tree” (with a plain reference to Is. 53:4, 12). The vicarious element is prominent here. Human sins are laid on Christ, crucified in him, and thus set aside. Christ does not lay sins on a scapegoat, but takes them to himself and cancels them on the cross, so that sinners, dead to sin, may live to righteousness. (BORROW Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament : abridged in one volume)

Xulon - 20x in 18v - clubs(5), cross(4), stocks(1), tree(7), wood(3). Mt 26:47; Mt 26:55; Mk. 14:43; Mk. 14:48; Lk. 22:52; Lk. 23:31; Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39; Acts 13:29; Acts 16:24; 1 Co. 3:12; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:24; Rev. 2:7; Rev. 18:12; Rev. 22:2; Rev. 22:14; Rev. 22:19

Life (2222zoe in Scripture is used (1) to refer to physical life (Ro 8:38+, 1Co 3:22, Php 1:20+, Jas 4:14, etc) but more often to (2) to supernatural life in contrast to a life subject to eternal death (Jn 3:36, see all 43 uses of "eternal life" below). This quality of life speaks of fullness of life which alone belongs to God the Giver of life and is available to His children now (Ro 6:4+, Ep 4:18+) as well as in eternity future (Mk 10:30, Titus 1:2+ on Eternal Life).

Zoe uses in the Revelation - Rev. 2:7; Rev. 2:10; Rev. 3:5; Rev. 7:17; Rev. 11:11; Rev. 13:8; Rev. 16:3; Rev. 17:8; Rev. 20:12; Rev. 20:15; Rev. 21:6; Rev. 21:27; Rev. 22:1; Rev. 22:2; Rev. 22:14; Rev. 22:17; Rev. 22:19

Paradise (3857)(paradeisos) is a loan word from old Persian, where the pairi-daēza- (read pari-daiza- or -dēza-) of the Avesta denotes an enclosure, then the park surrounded by a wall. In Greek it occurs first in Xenophon for the parks of the Persian king and nobility.  a nobleman's beautiful walled garden or park which may include animals and vegetation (cf Eccl 2:5). It is used only 3x in the NT but some 45x in the OT and most of the uses in the Septuagint are translated garden, and specifically of the Garden of Eden (Ge 2:8). It is ironic that man sinned in the first Garden but in the future "Garden" will be forever sinless because of the blood of the Lamb. In Isaiah 51:3 paradeisos is used to describe future of redeemed and restored Zion (and the nation) in the Messianic Kingdom as like the bliss of the Garden of Eden before sin entered writing "Indeed, the LORD will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness will be found in her, Thanksgiving and sound of a melody."

Paradeisos - 3x in NT - Lk. 23:43; 2 Co. 12:4; Rev. 2:7

Paradeisos - 25x in the Septuagint - Gen. 2:8; Gen. 2:9; Gen. 2:10; Gen. 2:15; Gen. 2:16; Gen. 3:1; Gen. 3:2; Gen. 3:3; Gen. 3:8; Gen. 3:10; Gen. 3:23; Gen. 3:24; Gen. 13:10; Nu. 24:6; 2 Chr. 33:20; Neh. 2:8; Eccl. 2:5; Cant. 4:13; Isa. 1:30; Isa. 51:3; Jer. 29:5; Ezek. 28:13; Ezek. 31:8; Ezek. 31:9; Joel 2:3

Vance Havner - Are You Listening?

Speak; for thy servant heareth. I Samuel 3:10.
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 11:15.
He that hath an ear, let him hear. Revelation 2:7.

It is an oft-recurring word from our Lord, found throughout the Gospels—"He that hath ears to hear..." Some have ears—period! Samuel was listening—and God spoke. God has much to say today, but we have "ears to hear, and hear not" (Ezek. 12:2). Some stop their ears (Acts 7:57). Some turn their ears from the truth (2Ti 4:4). Some have itching ears (2Ti 4:3).

Are you tuned in on God? It is said that John Burroughs, the naturalist, could walk along a noisy street and overhear a cricket in the hedge. His ear was tuned to the little voices of nature. You can make your way through the hubbub and still keep in touch with heaven.

Samuel was listening. The boy who listens for God to speak will hear Him, for God is looking for such boys. God's men have been men of a double resolve: "I will hear what God the Lord will speak" (Ps. 85:8); and then, "What the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak" (1Ki 22:14).

Related Resource:

Vance Havner adds - A lot of Sunday-morning Christians, who want to sit with folded hands and listen to a mild discourse on the Teacher of Galilee, need to be aroused from their stupor by a vision of the flaming Christ of the Candlesticks. Eight times in these messages to the churches He says, "He that hath an ear, let him hear." Eight times in the Gospels He says, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." Some of us have ears ... period. "Hearing we hear not." We sit at church looking but not listening. God grant us ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches! And eyes to behold the Lord of the Lampstands bidding us "Repent ... or else!"

Vance Havner - Learn How to Listen 
We spend much time and money learning how to speak when we need to learn how to listen.

   "... hearing they hear not" (Matt. 13:13).
   "... if any man hear my words" (John 12:47).
   "He that hath ears, let him hear" (Mark 4:9).

After all, we have two ears to hear with and only one mouth to speak with—thank the Lord!

QUESTION - What did Jesus mean when He said, “He who has ears to hear”?

ANSWER - In the Gospels, Jesus speaks of those who have “ears to hear” at the end of a difficult saying or parable (e.g., Matthew 11:15; Mark 4:9, 23). Who is “he who has ears to hear”? Better yet, who is “he who has ears”? Ears are a feature shared by all of humanity—to not have ears would be an unnatural occurrence. Therefore, when Jesus addresses those who have ears, He refers to all who have been given His words—no matter their age, ethnicity, language, or status.

But there is a difference between having ears and having “ears to hear.” Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seed contrasts types of hearers: those who let the Word of God pass straight through their ears and those who truly listen and seek understanding (Mark 4:13–20). Some hear the Word, yet they do not allow it to take root because the seduction of worldly pleasures and comfort overcomes them. Others end up rejecting the Word because of persecution or trials. Others hear the Word and open themselves to understand and accept it so that it transforms them. Those who have “ears to hear” allow the Word to bear fruit to the glory of God. It is up to the hearer to decide whether to take the Word seriously and pursue understanding; only a few are willing—the rest have ears, but they do not have “ears to hear” (Matthew 7:13–14, 24–27).

Whenever Jesus says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” He is calling for people to pay careful heed. It’s another way of saying, “Listen up! Pay close attention!” Speaking in parables was one way in which Jesus sought to gain the attention of the crowds —people love stories, and the parables depicted events and characters with which they could readily relate. But unless they were willing to tune out other distractions and come to Jesus to understand the meaning of His preaching, His words would be only empty stories. They needed more than ears, however keen they were; they needed ears to hear.

When asked by His disciples why He was speaking to the crowds in parables, Jesus refers to Isaiah 6, which speaks of people who have eyes and ears, yet who have hardened their hearts and chosen to ignore the Word of the Lord (Matthew 13:10–15; cf. Isaiah 6:8–10). Part of the judgment on those who refuse to believe is that they will eventually lose their opportunity to believe: “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them” (Matthew 13:12; cf. Romans 1:18–32).

A similar phrase is found in Revelation in each of the seven letters to the churches: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). And in Revelation 13:9, immediately following a description of the Antichrist, we read, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” The readers of Revelation are called upon to pay close attention and seek God’s wisdom concerning what’s written.

Who is “he who has ears”? The simple answer: all people who have been or are being given the words of God. Like the parables’ original audience, we must also “Listen up! Pay close attention!” Jesus’ simple request is that we use our God-given faculties (eyes to see, ears to hear) to tune in to His words (John 10:27 –28; Mark 4:24; Revelation 3:20). “For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open” (Mark 4:22). Seeking God’s truth takes energy and focus; it takes a willingness to be challenged and changed. While the way of God’s truth is not the most convenient or fun path to take, we can be assured that it is the best one (John 1:4; 10:9; 14:6). And so He bids us, “Come” (Matthew 11:28 –30).

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. (Isaiah 55:1–3)

Vance Havner - The Deaf Generation

In Caesarea we saw an outdoor theatre, not an amphitheatre, but a semicircular stone auditorium. From the back row we could hear our leader speak in conversational tones from the platform. Moreover, he told us that a larger theatre in Ephesus that could hold twenty-four thousand was constructed centuries ago with the same marvelous acoustics. All this in a day when in my travels all over America I have had congregations of a hundred or so complain that they could not hear in a tiny church! Larger edifices wrestle continually with the problem. All our experts somehow cannot come up with the acoustics of antiquity!

How many times have listeners in little auditoriums lamented that hearing was bad only a few yards from the pulpit! Could it be that we slaves of our own devices have become so accustomed to hearing aids of all sorts that we imagine we cannot hear without them? We limp on our crutches and if the amplifier does not work "hearing we hear not" (Matthew 13:13).

Once I listened to the veteran evangelist, Gipsy Smith. He was a preacher of the old days and abhorred all new devices. I thought I could not hear him and when he asked if any of us were having trouble about it, I raised my hand. "You're not listening!" was his reply. Could it be that, conditioned as we are to mechanical aids, we just think we cannot hear the preacher?

And of course those dear souls who come to church early to get a back seat could move up closer and fill that empty lumberyard of ten rows of seats right in front of the pulpit. But they never do, yet still insist that they cannot hear!
"Ears that hear not." "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Mark 4:9). Ears to hear! All of us are equipped with ears but hearing is another matter. We hear and we do not hear. Our ears catch vocal sounds emanating from the pulpit, but the message escapes us. We hear (after a fashion) what the minister says but our Lord said, "Let him hear what the Spirit saith..." (Revelation 2:7). Of course sometimes the preacher is not saying what the Spirit says and if we listened ever so well there would be no word from God. Or the trouble, may be not with the transmitter but with our receiver! There is a preparation to hear the sermon as well as a preparation to deliver the sermon.

We live now in an ear-splitting age of amplified dissonance and some think the next generation will have to be equipped with hearing aids. The more our eardrums are bombarded with demonic waves of music (which is not music but only an excuse for not being able to make music), the deafer our souls will be.

Something has gone wrong with our hearing—both physically and spiritually. We are not going to correct it by clever devices. We must get at the cause. We need to do something about how we hear as well as what we hear. There is famine of the hearing of the Word of God—a famine because in some quarters it is not being preached and in others because our ears are not tuned and trained to hear it.

God grant us more Samuels who can say, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth" (1 Samuel 3:9)!

Robert Neighbor - The Overcomers at Ephesus

"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" (Rev. 2:7)

(1) THE MIND AT ONCE RUSHES BACK ACROSS THE INTERVENING AGES TO THE GARDEN OF GOD, CALLED EDEN. It was there that God placed the man whom He had created; it was there that God walked with man and talked with man. In Eden we have a vision of "our first love." What hallowed relationship was there? In Eden we have the Tree of Life, the central glory! What glorious food! The Tree of Life, the harbinger of life and joy and gladness was there.

(2) THE MIND LEAVING EDEN WHICH ADAM LOST, PASSES THROUGH THE MILLENNIUMS PAST AND THEN THROUGH THE MILLENNIUM TO COME, AND PRESSES ITS WAY INTO PARADISE RESTORED. There the overcomer finds all that was lost — it is restored again." He who overcomes; he who, 'mid many works and labors and 'mid much contentions for the faith, keeps tryst with Christ, and forgets Him not, will walk with Him within the city walls. He will be restored to a union and a communion with God the Father and with God the Son such as only comes to those who overcome. He will walk with God as Adam walked, and he will have the Tree of Life.

 Question: What is the meaning of the tree of life?

Answer: The tree of life, mentioned in the books of Genesis and Revelation, is a life-giving tree created to enhance and perpetually sustain the physical life of humanity. The tree was planted by God in the Garden of Eden: “The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9). The centrally located tree of life would have been easily accessible to Adam and Eve from any point in the garden.

More details concerning the tree of life come after Adam and Eve’s sin: “The LORD God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever’” (Genesis 3:22+). In his disobedience, Adam lost his eternal life. The tree of life in Eden must have had some role to play in maintaining the life of Adam and Eve (and possibly the animals). Adam would “live forever,” even in his fallen condition, if he had eaten the tree of life after his sin. God placed a sword-wielding cherub at the entrance to the garden specifically “to guard the way to the tree of life” (Ge 3:24+). It seems access to the tree of life would have prolonged Adam’s physical life indefinitely, dooming him to an eternity in a cursed world.

It was a mercy that God kept us from the tree of life. By barring access to the tree of life, God showed compassion in His omniscience. Knowing that, because of sin, earthly life would be filled with sorrow and toil, God graciously limited the number of years men would live. To live eternally in a sinful state would mean endless agony for humanity, with no hope of the relief that comes with death. By limiting our lifespan, God gives us enough time to come to know Him and His provision for eternal life through Christ but spares us the misery of an endless existence in a sinful condition.

In His great love, God provided One who would redeem fallen mankind. Through one man, Adam, sin entered the world, but through another Man, Jesus Christ, redemption through the forgiveness of sin is available to all (Romans 5:17). Those who avail themselves of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross will be resurrected to see the tree of life again, for it stands in the middle of the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, where it bears “twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). In the eternal state, the curse will be no more (verse 3), access to the tree of life will be reinstated, and darkness will be forever banished (Rev 22:5). Eden will be restored.(

Related Resources:

  • Easton's Bible Dictionary Tree of Life
  • Holman Bible Dictionary Tree of Life - Plant in Garden of Eden symbolizing access to eternal life and metaphor used in Proverbs. For the biblical writer the tree of life was an important consideration only after Adam and Eve disobeyed. Sin interrupted the quality of life God intended for them. They were to obey God (Genesis 2:17 ) in a family setting (Genesis 2:18-25 ) and perform their assigned tasks (Genesis 2:15 ). The implication is that they had access to all the trees in the garden, including the tree of life, but God gave an explicit command not to eat of the tree of knowledge. Their relationship to God changed radically when they disobeyed that command. Chief among the radical changes was that they no longer had access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24 ).

    The “tree of life” appears in Proverbs four times (Proverbs 3:18; Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 15:4 ) and in Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:2 ,Revelation 22:2,22:14 . To lay hold of wisdom is to lay hold on “a tree of life” (Proverbs 3:18 ). “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life” (Proverbs 11:30 NIV). Yet another proverb has this comparison: “a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” ( Proverbs 13:12 NIV). The author of another proverb wrote, “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life” ( Proverbs 15:4 NIV). None of these proverbs seems to refer to “the tree of life” mentioned in Genesis. All of the references in Revelation do. See Adam and Eve; Eden; Tree of Knowledge .

  • Hastings' Dictionary of the NT Tree of Life
  • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Tree of Life
  • McClintock and Strong's Bible Encyclopedia Tree of Life
  • The Jewish Encyclopedia Tree of Life
  • Thompson Chain Reference Genesis 2:9 Genesis 3:22 Proverbs 3:18 Proverbs 11:30 Ezekiel 47:7 Ezekiel 47:12 Revelation 2:7 Revelation 22:2

Question:  What is paradise? Is paradise a different place than Heaven?

Answer: Paradise is a place of blessing where the righteous go after death. The word paradise is usually used as a synonym for “heaven” (Revelation 2:7).

When Jesus was dying on the cross and one of the thieves being crucified with Him asked Him for mercy, Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43+). Jesus knew that His death was imminent and that He would soon be in heaven with His Father. Therefore, Jesus used “paradise” as a synonym for “heaven.” The apostle Paul wrote of someone (probably himself) who “was caught up to paradise” (2 Corinthians 12:4). In this context, paradise obviously refers to heaven.

There has always been a separation of believers and unbelievers after death (Luke 16:19-31). The righteous have always gone to paradise; the wicked have always gone to hell. For right now, both paradise and hell are “temporary holding places” until the day when Jesus Christ comes back to judge the world based on whether or not individuals have believed in Him. The first resurrection is of believers who will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive rewards based on meritorious service to Him (2Co 5:10). The second resurrection will be that of unbelievers who will stand before the Great White Throne Judgment of God. At that point, all will be sent to their eternal destination—the wicked to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15), and the righteous to a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21-22).

There are cases in which paradise can refer to the Garden of Eden, such in the Douay-Rheims translation of Genesis 3:8, which speaks of Adam and Eve hiding “amidst the trees of paradise.” The context of the word will determine whether it refers to heaven or Eden. (

QUESTION -  What did Jesus mean when He said, “Today you will be with me in paradise”?

ANSWER - It is common knowledge that punctuation, including commas, was introduced into the biblical manuscripts centuries after the books were completed. Therefore, commas are not authoritative.

However, the placement of commas can affect our understanding of a text. For example, in Luke 23, one of the thieves crucified next to Jesus says, “‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Lk 23:42-43). Commas help us keep the original phrasing intact. Was Jesus saying, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me . . .” (meaning that “today” is when the thief would be in paradise)? Or was He saying, “I tell you the truth today, you will be with me . . .” (meaning that “today” is when Jesus was speaking”)?

First, we note that every major Bible translation inserts the comma before the word today. Thus, the KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, ESV, and RSV all agree that Jesus was speaking of the time that the thief would enter paradise. The thief would be in paradise with Jesus on that very same day.

Also, Jesus prefaced His response with the phrase, “I tell you the truth” (“Verily I say unto thee” in the KJV). Many scholars have noticed that Jesus uses this as a prefix phrase when He is about to say something that should be listened to with care. Seventy-six times in the New Testament, Jesus uses the phrase. Interestingly, no one but Jesus ever says it. When the Lord says “I tell you the truth,” He is affirming that what He is about to say is worthy of special attention. It was Jesus’ way of saying, “Listen up! What I’m about to say is very important and should be listened to carefully.” We’re too used to hearing the phrase to appreciate the astonishing authority it expresses and the often solemn nature of the announcement that follows. In every one of the 76 times Christ uses this introductory phrase, He simply says it and then makes a startling statement.

It would be strange indeed if, in this one instance, Jesus departed from His normal way of making His signature statement by adding the word today to it. In every case where this sort of introductory phrase is used, Greek scholars add a punctuation break after the phrase in question and before the rest of the statement. So, the translators have it right. The comma in Luke 23:43 belongs where they put it.

This brings us to another question. If Jesus was buried and rose after three days and then many days later ascended to heaven, how could He have been in paradise with the thief?

After Christ died, it was His body that was buried in the tomb. However, Jesus’ spirit/soul was not in the tomb. Jesus’ spirit was in the Father’s presence (Luke 23:46; Ephesians 4:8). See more information in our article here.

As Jesus was hanging on the cross, paying our penalty for sin, He made a promise to a dying, repentant thief. By the grace of God and the power of Christ, that promise was kept. The thief’s sins were washed away, and his death that day was his entrance to

Related Resources:

Revelation 2:8  "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:

BGT  Revelation 2:8 Καὶ τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐν Σμύρνῃ ἐκκλησίας γράψον· Τάδε λέγει ὁ πρῶτος καὶ ὁ ἔσχατος, ὃς ἐγένετο νεκρὸς καὶ ἔζησεν·

KJV  Revelation 2:8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

NET  Revelation 2:8 "To the angel of the church in Smyrna write the following: "This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who is the first and the last, the one who was dead, but came to life:

CSB  Revelation 2:8 "Write to the angel of the church in Smyrna: "The First and the Last, the One who was dead and came to life, says:

ESV  Revelation 2:8 "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: 'The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.

NIV  Revelation 2:8 "To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.

NLT  Revelation 2:8 "Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. This is the message from the one who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive:

NRS  Revelation 2:8 "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life:

NJB  Revelation 2:8 'Write to the angel of the church in Smyrna and say, "Here is the message of the First and the Last, who was dead and has come to life again:

NAB  Revelation 2:8 "To the angel of the church in Smyrna, write this: " 'The first and the last, who once died but came to life, says this:

YLT  Revelation 2:8 'And to the messenger of the assembly of the Smyrneans write: These things saith the First and the Last, who did become dead and did live;

  • the angel: Rev 2:1 
  • the first: Rev 1:8,11,17,18 (KJV has "first and last" in Rev 1:11KJV)
  • Revelation 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Seaport of Smyrna


Related Passages: 

Rev 1:17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,

Rev 22:13 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” 

Isaiah 41:4 “Who has performed and accomplished it, Calling forth the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last. I am He.’” 

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me. 

Isaiah 48:12 “Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I am also the last. 

Commiphora myrrha tree

This is the shortest of the seven letters and one of two churches without condemnation (the other is Philadelphia). 

And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: Similar introduction in all 7 letters - see Pattern. We have no record in the NT of the founding of this church in Smyrna but it may be related to Acts 19:10+ where Luke describes Paul's stay in Ephesus," with the result being "that all who lived in Asia (Smyrna is in Asia about 30-40 miles north of Ephesus) heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks." Beginning in Ephesus, the letters to the seven churches move clockwise with the next stop at Smyrna about 40 miles north of Ephesus. The messenger carrying this letter from John would have been like an ancient version of Paul Revere crying Jesus' final call to the churches. 

THOUGHT - Steve Lawson writes "Once more the call must go out. A shroud of darkness covers America. While the future of our nation hangs precariously in the balance, the church (IN AMERICA) sleeps (NOTE: HE WRITES THIS IN 1994 - I WRITE IN 2023!). Content to slumber and lie comfortably tucked in bed. Content to pull the covers up over her head. But the war wages on. The struggle for the soul of America escalates. The battle for the heart of our nation builds. And ONLY the church can stem the tide of darkness. ONLY the church can repel the forces of evil. Let the church be the church!...Smyrna represents every persecuted church in every age, and every persecuted believer in every cultural setting." (Final call - BORROW - Beloved this is must read in light of the darkness encroaching on America in 2023.)

Mattoon on Smyrna - Alexander the Great rebuilt the city and determined to make it a model Greek city. It was a city of wealth and commercial greatness and was referred to as "The Beautiful." It received its name from one of its principal commercial products.... myrrh. It also had a profitable trade in wine. Today it is known as Izmir, located in the country of Turkey, and has a population of over 300,000 with 2/3 of the people being professing Christians. (Treasures from Revelation)       

Recall Jesus' command in Rev 1:11+ to "Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” So while each angel of the churches received a letter specifically for them, it is clear from Jesus' words that all 7 churches received all 7 letters. 

Oil of Myrrh

Smyrna (4667)(smurna) was a resinous gum oozing from a kind of balsam tree, used for incense and ointments. The tree would also yield its sweet smelling resin when it was crushed or bruised even to death. Myrrh describes various aspects of the relationship of the lovers in the Song of Solomon. Smurna - 4x in the NT - Mt. 2:11; Jn. 19:39; Rev. 1:11; Rev. 2:8 All uses of myrrh in Septuagint and the NT - 14x in 13v - Ex 30:23; Ps. 45:8; Song 3:6; Song 4:6; Song 4:14; Song 5:1; Song 5:5; Song 5:13

EXCURSUS ON MYRRH - At Jesus' birth Matthew records that "Magi from the east" (Mt 2:1,2+), "After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (smurna)." (Mt 2:11+) Myrrh was an ingredient in the holy anointing oil, Moses instructing the sons of Israel to “Take also for yourself the finest of spices of flowing myrrh (Lxx = smurna) five hundred shekels," (Ex 30:23+), which was used to anoint the high priest Aaron (Ex 28:41+, Ex 29:7+, Ex 40:13+ cf how lavishly Aaron was anointed in Ps 133:2+) Who foreshadowed the Great High Priest Christ Jesus (Heb 4:14+). And not only at His birth, but at His death our Great High Priest Christ Jesus was anointed with myrrh after His body had been crushed and bruised, and he was embalmed and prepared for burial, for "Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh (smurna) and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight." (John 19:39). Finally, myrrh is used in a clearly Messianic psalm, Psalm 45, where we read

6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.  (QUOTED IN Hebrews 1:8,9+)
7 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows.  
8 All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh (Lxx = myrrh) and aloes and cassia; Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad. (Ps 45:6-8+

Spurgeon - The divine anointing causes fragrance to distil from the robes of the Mighty Hero. He is delightful to every sense, to the eyes most fair, to the ear most gracious, to the spiritual nostril most sweet. The excellences of Jesus are all most precious, comparable to the rarest spices; they are most varied, and to be likened not to myrrh alone, but to all the perfumes blended in due proportion. The Father always finds a pleasure in him, in him he is well pleased; and all regenerated spirits rejoice in him, for he is made of God unto us, "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." Note that not only is Jesus most sweet, but even his garments are so; everything that he has to do with is perfumed by his person. All his garments are thus fragrant; not some of them, but all; we delight as much in his purple of dominion as in the white of his priesthood, his mantle as our prophet is as dear to us as his seamless coat as our friend. All his dress is fragrant with all sweetness. To attempt to spiritualise each spice here mentioned would be unprofitable, the evident sense is that all sweetnesses meet in Jesus, and are poured forth wherever he is present.

The first and the last (see Rev 1:17+) -  In ancient letters the writer of the letter always identified himself at the beginning of the letter, not the end. So Jesus begins His identification by a title that was used by the prophet Isaiah (see passages above). The Revelation ends with another designation of Jesus as the First and the Last (Rev 22:13+).  Jesus' use of the first and the last which was used in Isaiah to describe God is tantamount to Jesus stating that He is God. (See First and the Last - study by A B Simpson) This description speaks of His eternality to the church at Smyrna because in the midst of suffering an eternal perspective is what is needed. "In the midst of trials, let us remember that Jesus existed before time, that He rules over time and the at He will reign for all time! What we suffer here is insignificant compared to the eternal glory that awaits us there....It was His victory over death that causes the church to be victorious in the face of death." (Steve Lawson)

Lehman Strauss said, He is the one Who created, controls, and will consummate all things. (Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:16-17) (Borrow The Book of the Revelation: Outlined Studies

Who was dead, and has come to life - The first and the last speaks to Jesus as the eternal God and yet here Jesus clearly alludes to His humanity and the incredible truth that the eternal God died as a man, but He came back to life, a description of Christ's resurrection from the dead. This would be an encouraging truth to this church that faced the prospects of death for their faith, knowing that even if they died, they would live again because they were in Christ. 

MacArthur explains the practical significance of Jesus' title in this opening line of the letter - Knowing that they were undergoing difficult times, Christ was reminding them that He transcends temporal matters, and, through their union with Him, so should they. And should they face death at the hands of their persecutors, beside them is the One who conquered death (Heb. 2:14) and who promised, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25–26). Jesus Christ also endured the most unjust and severe persecution anyone ever suffered (cf. Heb. 12:3–4), so He can serve as a compassionate and understanding source of power (Heb. 2:17–18; Heb 4:15)." (See Revelation Commentary)

Says this - Literally this reads "These things says"  Says this could be accurately paraphrased "“this is the solemn pronouncement of” 

TECHNICAL NET NOTE - Grk “These things says [the One] …” The expression τάδε λέγει (tade legei) occurs eight times in the NT, seven of which are in Rev 2–3 [Rev. 2:1; Rev. 2:8; Rev. 2:12; Rev. 2:18; Rev. 3:1; Rev. 3:7; Rev. 3:14]. “The pronoun (tade) is used to add solemnity to the prophetic utterance that follows.…In classical drama, it was used to introduce a new actor to the scene (Smyth, Greek Grammar, 307 [§1241]). But the τάδε λέγει formula in the NT derives from the OT, where it was used to introduce a prophetic utterance. Thus, the translation “this is the solemn pronouncement of” for τάδε λέγει is very much in keeping with the OT connotations of this expression.

EDITORIAL COMMENT - "TADE LEGEI" is used over 350 times in the Septuagint - here are a few representative uses - Amos 1:6; Amos 1:9; Amos 1:11; Amos 1:13; Amos 2:1; Amos 2:4; Amos 2:6; Amos 3:11; Amos 3:12; Amos 5:3; Amos 5:4; Amos 5:16; Amos 7:11; Amos 7:17; Mic. 2:3; Mic. 3:5; Obad. 1:1; Nah. 1:12; Hag. 1:2; Hag. 1:5; Hag. 1:7; Hag. 1:9; Hag. 2:6; Hag. 2:11; Zech. 1:3; Zech. 1:4; Zech. 1:14; Zech. 1:16; Zech. 1:17;

Glen Spencer - Smyrna represents a period of great persecution. The name Smyrna means myrrh. Myrrh is a fragrant spice which must be crushed to bring forth its full fragrance. The Christians of this era were crushed and persecuted, but the more they suffered, the more fragrant was their testimony. During this time thousands of Christians were brought into the theaters of Rome to be fed to lions while spectators cheered. Many were crucified, others were covered with animal skins and ripped apart by wild dogs. They were covered in tar and set on fire as human torches. They were boiled in oil and burned at the stake. It was during this time that Justin Martyr was beheaded and Polycarp the aged soldier of Christ was burned at the stake. When Polycarp was 86 years old, he was pressured by the Roman proconsul to renounce Christ to be set free. He answered, "Eighty and six years have I served Him and He never did me any injury. How then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?" 

Related Resources: 

Vance Havner - The First and the Last  "Fear not; I am the first and the last." Rev. 1:17
Why should I fear? He is the alpha and omega, the author and finisher, the first and the last. He was here before there was any fear and he will be here when all fear has passed away! Before there was a universe he saw everything from the beginning. If I could stand for five minutes at his vantage point and see the entire scheme of things as he sees it, how absurd would be my dreads, how ridiculous my fears and tears! But I see only this mixed and muddled present. I snatch these hours out of the pattern of the ages and of course there are ragged edges and loose ends, and things don't seem to make sense. Like jerking a text out of its context I tear this leaf of today out of the book of eternity and wonder why it looks so incomplete. He sees it all and if I could see it all I would not fear. But why should I fear anyway? He has told me that there is nothing to fear and he knows. Can't I take his Word for it? He has overcome pain and sorrow and fear and death: he will outlast them all. My life is in union with Christ in God and I shall outlast all of life's pressures. We think of ourselves as transient and these things as permanent but really they are but transient and we are eternal! I am identified with him: "To live is Christ"... and even to die is gain! What is there to fear?

Related Resources:

William Barclay

Related ResourceSmyrna in Wikipedia (Modern day Izmir - see time of Roman Rule)

IF it was inevitable that Ephesus should come first in the list of the seven churches, it was only natural that Smyrna, its great rival, should come second. Of all the cities of Asia, Smyrna was the loveliest. It was known as the ornament of Asia, the crown of Asia and the flower of Asia. The Greek satirist Lucian said that it was ‘the fairest of the cities of Ionia’. Aristides, the Greek Christian writer, who sang the praise of Smyrna with such splendour, spoke of ‘the grace which extends over every part like a rainbow … the brightness which pervades every part, and reaches up to the heavens, like the glitter of the bronze of armour in Homer’. It added to the charm of Smyrna that the west wind, the gentle zephyr, constantly blew through its streets. ‘The wind’, said Aristides, ‘blows through every part of the city, and makes it as fresh as a grove of trees.’ The constant west wind had only one disadvantage. The sewage of the city drained into the gulf on which the city stood, and the west wind tended to blow the smell back upon the city rather than out to sea.

View from Lower Town towards hill of Pagos
from Ramsay's Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia

Smyrna was magnificently situated. It stood at the end of the road which crossed Lydia and Phrygia and travelled out to the far east, and it commanded the trade of the rich Hermus valley. Inevitably, it was a great trading city. The city itself stood at the end of a long arm of the Aegean sea, which ended in a small land-locked harbour in the heart of the city. It was the safest of all harbours and the most convenient; and it had the added advantage that in time of war it could be easily closed by a chain across its mouth. It was fitting that on the coins of Smyrna there should be the image of a merchant ship ready for sea.

The setting of the city was equally beautiful. It began at the harbour; it crossed the narrow foothills; and then behind the city there rose the Pagos (610 feet in elevation), a hill covered with temples and noble buildings which were spoken of as ‘the Crown of Smyrna’. One traveller has described it as ‘a queenly city crowned with towers’. Aristides likened Smyrna to a great statue with the feet in the sea, the middle parts in the plain and the foothills, and the head, crowned with great buildings, on the Pagos behind. He called it ‘a flower of beauty such as earth and sun had never shown to mankind’.

Ruins of Agora in Smyrna

Smyrna’s history was very much connected to its beauty, for it was one of the very few planned cities in the world. It had been founded as a Greek colony as far back as 1000 BC. Round about 600 BC, disaster had befallen it, for then the Lydians had broken in from the east and destroyed it. For 400 years, Smyrna had been no city but merely a collection of little villages; then the Macedonian general Lysimachus (map of his kingdom) had rebuilt it as a planned whole. It was built with great, straight, broad streets. Strabo, the Greek geographer, speaks of the handsomeness of the streets, the excellence of the paving and the great rectangular blocks in which it was built. Most famous of all the streets was the Street of Gold, which began with the Temple of Zeus and ended with the Temple of Cybele. It ran across the foothills of the Pagos at an angle; and, if the buildings which encircled the Pagos were the crown of Smyrna, the Street of Gold was the necklace round the hill. (ED: DON'T MISS THE IRONIC DESCRIPTION OF THE CHRISTIANS IN SMYRNA - Rev 2:8 I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich)"

Here we have an interesting and a significant thing which shows the care and knowledge with which John set down his letters from the risen Christ. The risen Christ is called ‘the one who died and came to life’ (Ro 2:8). That was an echo of the experience of Smyrna itself.

Smyrna had other claims to greatness. It was a free city, and it knew what loyalty was. Long before Rome was undisputed ruler of the world, Smyrna had thrown in its lot with Rome, never to waver in its faithfulness. The Roman statesman Cicero called Smyrna ‘one of our most faithful and our most ancient allies’. In the campaign against Mithridates in the east, things had gone badly with Rome. And when the soldiers of Rome were suffering from hunger and cold, the people of Smyrna stripped off their own clothes to send to them.

Such was the reverence of Smyrna for Rome that, as far back as 195 BC (see note), it was the first city in the world to build a temple to the goddess Roma (pix). And in AD 26, when the cities of Asia Minor were competing for the privilege of erecting a temple to the godhead of Tiberius, Smyrna was picked out for that honour, overcoming even Ephesus.

Not only was Smyrna great in trade, beauty and political and religious status; it was also a city where culture flourished. Apollonius of Tyana had urged upon Smyrna the truth that only the people can make a city great. He said: ‘Though Smyrna is the most beautiful of all cities under the sun, and makes the sea its own, and holds the fountains of the zephyr, yet it is a greater charm to wear a crown of men than a crown of porticoes and pictures and gold beyond the standard of mankind: for buildings are seen only in their own place, but men are seen everywhere and spoken about everywhere and make their city as vast as the range of countries which they can visit.’ So Smyrna had a stadium in which famous games were held each year, a magnificent public library, an Odeion, which was the home of music, and a theatre which was one of the largest in Asia Minor. In particular, Smyrna was one of the cities which laid claim to being the birthplace of the Greek poet Homer; it had a memorial building called the Homereion, and put Homer’s head on its coinage. This was a disputed claim. Thomas Heywood, the seventeenth-century poet, wrote the famous epigram: "Seven cities warr’d for Homer, being dead, Who, living, had no roof to shroud his head."

In such a city, we would expect magnificent architecture; and in Smyrna there was a host of temples to Cybele, to Zeus, to Apollo, to Nemesis, to Aphrodite and to Asclepios.

Smyrna had rather more than its share of a characteristic which was common to all Greek cities. The German historian Theodor Mommsen said that Asia Minor was ‘a paradise of municipal vanity’, and Smyrna of all cities was noted for ‘its municipal rivalry and its local pride’. Everyone in it wanted to exalt Smyrna and had a personal desire to climb to the top of the municipal tree. It is not without significance that in the address of the letter the risen Christ is called ‘the first and the last’. In comparison with his glory, all earthly distinctions are worthless.

There remains one feature of Smyrna which stands out in the letter and which had serious consequences for the Christians there. The Jews were especially numerous and influential (Rev 2:9). We find them, for instance, contributing 10,000 denarii to make the city beautiful. It is clear that in Smyrna they were particularly hostile to the Christian Church, no doubt because it was from them and from those interested in Judaism that Christianity drew many of its converts. So, we may well end this study of Smyrna with the story of the most famous Christian martyrdom which happened there.

Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, was martyred on Saturday, 23rd February, AD 155. It was the time of the public games; the city was crowded, and the crowds were excited. Suddenly the shout went up: ‘Away with the atheists; let Polycarp be searched for.’ No doubt Polycarp could have escaped; but already he had had a dream in which he saw the pillow under his head burning with fire; and, when he woke, he told his disciples: ‘I must be burnt alive.’

His whereabouts were betrayed by a slave who collapsed under torture. They came to arrest him. He ordered that they should be given a meal and provided with all they required, while he asked for himself the privilege of one last hour in prayer. Not even the police captain wanted to see Polycarp die. On the brief journey to the city, he pleaded with the old man: ‘What harm is it to say: “Caesar is Lord” and to offer sacrifice and be saved?’ But Polycarp was adamant that for him only Jesus Christ was Lord.

When he entered the arena, there came a voice from heaven saying: ‘Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.’ The proconsul gave him the choice of cursing the name of Christ and making sacrifice to Caesar—or death. ‘Eighty and six years have I served him,’ said Polycarp, ‘and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?’ The proconsul threatened him with burning, and Polycarp replied: ‘You threaten me with the fire that burns for a time, and is quickly quenched, for you do not know the fire which awaits the wicked in the judgment to come and in everlasting punishment. Why are you waiting? Come, do what you will.’

So the crowds came flocking from the workshops and from the baths with bundles of wood—and the Jews, even though they were breaking the Sabbath law by carrying such burdens, were ahead of everyone in bringing wood for the fire. They were going to bind him to the stake. ‘Leave me as I am,’ he said, ‘for he who gives me power to endure the fire will grant me to remain in the flames unmoved even without the security you will give by the nails.’ So they left him loosely bound in the flames, and Polycarp prayed his great prayer:

 O Lord God Almighty, Father of thy beloved and blessed Child, Jesus Christ, through whom we have received full knowledge of thee, God of angels and powers, and of all creation, and of the whole family of the righteous, who live before thee, I bless thee that thou hast granted unto me this day and hour, that I may share, among the number of the martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, for the resurrection to eternal life, both of soul and body in the immortality of the Holy Spirit. And may I today be received among them before thee, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as thou, the God without falsehood and of truth, hast prepared beforehand and shown forth and fulfilled. For this reason I also praise thee for all things. I bless thee, I glorify thee through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, thy beloved Child, through whom be glory to thee with him and the Holy Spirit, both now and for the ages that are to come. Amen.

So much is plain fact; but then the story drifts into legend, for it goes on to tell that the flames made a kind of tent around Polycarp and left him untouched. At length, the executioner stabbed him to death to achieve what the flames could not do. ‘And when he did this there came out a dove, and much blood, so that the fire was quenched, and all the crowd marvelled that there was such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect.’

What is certain is that Polycarp died a martyr for the faith.

It cannot have been easy to be a Christian at Smyrna—and yet the letter to Smyrna is one of the two in which there is undiluted praise. (William Barclay's Daily Study Bible)

Revelation 2:9  'I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

BGT  Revelation 2:9 οἶδά σου τὴν θλῖψιν καὶ τὴν πτωχείαν, ἀλλὰ πλούσιος εἶ, καὶ τὴν βλασφημίαν ἐκ τῶν λεγόντων Ἰουδαίους εἶναι ἑαυτοὺς καὶ οὐκ εἰσὶν ἀλλὰ συναγωγὴ τοῦ σατανᾶ.

KJV  Revelation 2:9 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.

NET  Revelation 2:9 'I know the distress you are suffering and your poverty (but you are rich). I also know the slander against you by those who call themselves Jews and really are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

CSB  Revelation 2:9 I know your affliction and poverty, yet you are rich. I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

ESV  Revelation 2:9 "'I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

NIV  Revelation 2:9 I know your afflictions and your poverty--yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

NLT  Revelation 2:9 "I know about your suffering and your poverty-- but you are rich! I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan.

NRS  Revelation 2:9 "I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

NJB  Revelation 2:9 I know your hardships and your poverty, and -- though you are rich -- the slander of the people who falsely claim to be Jews but are really members of the synagogue of Satan.

NAB  Revelation 2:9 "I know your tribulation and poverty, but you are rich. I know the slander of those who claim to be Jews and are not, but rather are members of the assembly of Satan.

YLT  Revelation 2:9 I have known thy works, and tribulation, and poverty -- yet thou art rich -- and the evil-speaking of those saying themselves to be Jews, and are not, but are a synagogue of the Adversary.

  • know: Rev 2:2 
  • tribulation: Rev 7:14 John 16:33 Ac 14:22 Ro 5:3 Ro 8:35 Ro 12:12 1Th 3:4 2Th 1:6,7 
  • poverty: Lu 4:18 Lu 6:20 2Co 8:2,9 Jas 2:5,6 
  • you are rich Rev 3:17,18 Lu 12:21 2Co 6:10 1Ti 6:18 Jas 2:5,6 
  • the blasphemy: Lu 22:65 Ac 26:11 1Ti 1:13 
  • who are Jews: Ro 2:17, Ro 2:28,29 9:6 
  • the synagogue: Rev 3:9 
  • Revelation 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Related Passages:

Mt 5:3+ Blessed are the poor (ptochos) in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

2 Corinthians 6:10+  as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things. 

Philippians 1:29+ For to you it has been granted (charizomai ~ GIFT OF GRACE!) for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

2 Timothy 3:12+  Indeed, ALL who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (NOTE: You likely won't find this one in books on God's promises!)

1 Peter 4:12-14+  Beloved, do not be surprised (present imperative with a negative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

1 Thessalonians 3:2-5+ (WE NEED EACH OTHER WHEN WE ARE SUFFERING!!!) and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, 3 so that (term of purpose) no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. 4 For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction (thlibo - present tense); and so it came to pass, as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.

Luke 22:31-32+ “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen (aorist imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) your brothers.”

Matthew 6:20-21+ (THIS IS WHAT SAINTS AT SMYRNA WERE DOING THAT MADE THEM RICH!) “But store (present imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal. 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (WHERE IS YOUR TREASURE BELOVED?)

 What does it mean that “where your treasure is there will your heart be also”? |

How can we store up treasures in heaven? |

Luke 12:21+ “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself (ON EARTH), and is not rich toward God.”

Persecutions in the Early Church
Source: Insights on John - Swindoll


John Phillips - Smyrna was a burning bush of a church. The saints of all ages, coming across this letter and contemplating the persecution being faced at Smyrna, have borrowed the language of Moses and said, “I will now turn aside, and see this great sight” (Ex. 3:3). Here was a company of believers who “quenched the violence of fire … had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Heb. 11:34, 37–38). The Lord says, “I know.” (Exploring Revelation - BORROW)

I know - Jesus begins every one of the seven letters with the words "I know" which speaks of His omniscience. "How blessed that Christ keeps saying, “I know”; no matter what the troubles and the poverty." (Newell)

THOUGHT - We should have the words "I KNOW" tattooed on our heart and mind beloved. The gaze of Christ is inescapable. There is no place to hide! And what is He looking for? Christlikeness! Holiness! 

Steve Lawson - When Jesus says "I know your tribulation," He is saying "I know exactly what your're going through. I know beause I've been there. I know what your tribulation feels like. I know what is is to be falsely  accuse, physically harmed and spit upon. I know what it i to be beaten, mocked, and dying unjustly." (Final call - BORROW )

John MacArthur writes "Throughout its history, the seemingly paradoxical truth has been that the more the church has been persecuted, the greater has been its purity and strength....The lifting of the Iron Curtain revealed a powerful, pure church, one characterized by genuine faith, deep spirituality, humility, zeal, love of the truth, and single-minded devotion to the Lord....As Scripture makes clear, persecution and trials are an inevitable and essential part of the Christian life (Acts 14:22+; 2Ti 3:12+). The example of the church at Smyrna instructs all churches on how to properly respond when they come." (See The MacArthur Commentary )

The purest Christian graces are those forged in the furnace of adversity.
-- John MacArthur The Uncompromising Church

Your (1) tribulation (thlipsis) - Note that this is not the Great Tribulation but is tribulation that impacted the local church at Smyrna. Crushing, pressing circumstances were a reality in their lives and served to effectively separate genuine from false believers. The persecuted church has always been the purest church because hypocrites cannot take the "heat" and "jump ship!" Smyrna was a seat of emperor worship which would have been one source of tribulation especially when they were commanded to declare "Caesar is Lord," but refused. (see example of story of Polycarp above). MacArthur adds that "Under Emperor Domitian, it became a capital offense to refuse to offer the yearly sacrifice to the emperor. Not surprisingly, many Christians faced execution."

Jesus forewarned His disciples

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21“But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. (John 15:18-21)

"These things (WHAT THINGS? THE THINGS IN John 13-16) I have spoken to you, so that in Me (NOTE THE "IN" - IN UNION WITH, IN COMMUNION WITH, IN COVENANT WITH) you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage (present imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey); I have overcome (WHICH IS THE REASON BELIEVERS CAN ALSO OVERCOME) the world.”  (John 16:33)

In Acts 14:21-22+ we read

"After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith (NOTE WHY THEY WERE STRENGTHENING AND ENCOURAGING THEM), and saying, “Through many tribulations we must (speaks of necessity and present tense = continuous necessity) enter the kingdom of God.

THOUGHT - Tribulation is par for the course, if our course is headed Heavenward! The corollary is that if you have never experienced tribulation for the cause of Christ (cf 2Ti 3:12+, Php 1:29+), then perhaps you might ponder Paul's words in 2Cor 13:5+

What would have been the effect of tribulation on the church at Smyrna? Jesus helps us understand when He explained in the parable of the soils that "the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy." So far so good, right? Jesus went on to explain that "they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction (thlipsis) or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away."(Mk. 4:17+) So let's ask the question again -- what effect would tribulation have on the Church at Smyrna? Clearly it would have a "purifying" effect, separating the "wheat" (true believers) from the "chaff" (those who simply professed belief). 

The purest Christian graces are those forged in the furnace of adversity.
-- John MacArthur

John MacArthur - The purest Christian graces are those forged in the furnace of adversity. The church at Smyrna displayed the power and purity that comes from successfully enduring persecution. Persecution had purified and purged it from sin and affirmed the reality of its members’ faith. Hypocrites do not stay to face persecution, because false believers do not want to endure the pain. Trials and persecution strengthen and refine genuine saving faith, but uncover and destroy false faith. Though they suffered physical privation and poverty, the Christians at Smyrna clung to their immeasurable spiritual riches. (See Revelation Commentary)


And your (2) poverty (ptocheia - "dirt poor") but you are [3] rich (plousios) - What a contrast the materially wealthy church of Laodicea (Rev 3:17+)! Here is another paradox of Christianity, the poor who are rich (See Spiritual Paradox in the Christian Life). The world cannot understand these paradoxes but the Scripture clearly teaches this truth. They were wealthy because they were laying up treasures in heaven (Mt 6:20) and possessed “the true riches” (Lk 16:11). See also Eph 1:3 where Paul says our Lord Jesus Christ, "has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." 

James 2:5+ says "Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor (ptochos) of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?"

Paul adds "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9+)

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.
-- Jim Elliot

MacArthur - The church at Smyrna typifies the spiritual richness of faithful suffering churches throughout history. (See Revelation Commentary)

Riches that God values, that will last for eternity.
Anything money can’t buy and death can’t steal.
-- Johnny Hunt

Newell - He had no place to lay His head. But thou art rich—spiritual riches: they had the “gold refined by fire” which wretched Laodicea so woefully lacked. Riches in grace come when patience has its “perfect work” in trial (James 1:2, 4+). (Revelation 2)

J Vernon McGee quips "When I am a visiting conference speaker in churches across the land, pastors like to tell me about the millionaire or persons of prominence whom they have in their congregation. Well, the martyr church couldn't brag about that. They had in their congregation slaves, ex-slaves, runaway slaves, freed slaves, poor people, and those who had lost whatever money they had when they became Christians. (Thru the Bible Commentary Vol. 58: The Prophecy (Revelation 1-5) - BORROW)

Warren Wiersbe on why they may have been poor - Smyrna was an important center of the Roman imperial cult, and anyone refusing to acknowledge Caesar as Lord would certainly be excluded from the (TRADE) guilds. This would mean unemployment and poverty. The word used here for poverty means “abject poverty, possessing absolutely nothing.” A large Jewish community also thrived in Smyrna. The Jews, of course, did not have to patronize the imperial cult since their religion was accepted by Rome (ED: THEY WERE EXCEPTED FROM EMPEROR WORSHIP); but they certainly would not cooperate with the Christian faith. So, from both Jews and Gentiles, the Christians in Smyrna received slander and suffering. But they were rich! They lived for eternal values that would never change, riches that could never be taken away. “As poor, yet making many rich” (2 Cor. 6:10; 8:9). In fact, their suffering for Christ only increased their riches. (Borrow Be Victorious - In Christ You Are an Overcomer)

As Charles Stanley said, “There was peculiar honor in being near and like Himself, who had nowhere to lay His head. I have learned this: Jesus is specially the partner of His poor servants.”

Guzik  - This is what Jesus thought of them, and if Jesus considered them rich, then they were rich. Our estimation of ourselves is far less important than God’s estimation of us. In contrast, the Christians at Laodicea thought they were rich, but they were really poor (Revelation 3:17+). Laodicea was a poor rich church. Smyrna was a rich poor church. Better to be a rich poor church than a poor rich church. The contrast between material poverty and spiritual riches of the Christians in Smyrna reminds us that there is nothing inherently spiritual in being rich. Nevertheless, there is also nothing inherently spiritual in poverty.. Material riches are an obstacle to the Kingdom of God, an obstacle that some do not overcome (Mark 10:23–25). There is nothing wrong with having money; the trouble is that money so easily “has” us. Often, material riches are acquired and maintained at the expense of true spiritual riches. A story is told of the glory days of the Renaissance Papacy, when a man walked with the Pope and marveled at the splendors and riches of the Vatican. The Pope told him, “We no longer have to say what Peter told the lame man: ‘Silver and gold have I none.’ ” His companion replied, “But neither can you say, ‘rise up and walk.’ ”

Jesus gave a stern warning against fixing our hopes on temporal treasures in a parable about a rich man - (Context = Lk 12:16-19+)

"But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21 “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20-21+)

Paul gave a similar warning to Timothy commanding him to

"Instruct (present imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope (ONE OF THE FEW PLACES "HOPE" IS USED IN THE WORLDLY SENSE) on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. [Instruct them] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share." (1 Ti 6:17-18+).

Guzik - The Christians of Smyrna knew poverty because they were robbed and fired from jobs in persecution for the gospel. Early Christians joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven (Hebrews 10:34+). This kind of economic persecution was one important reason why Christians were poor in Smyrna. Even today, this is a common form of persecution against Christians.

 When you set your eyes on it, it is gone.
For wealth certainly makes itself wings
Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens. 
--- Proverbs 23:5 


And (4) the blasphemy (blasphemia - slander) by those who say they are Jews (Ioudaios) and are not (cf Acts 13:45+) - Why would they blaspheme the inhabitants of Smyrna? Most likely some were members of the synagogue began to believe the Gospel and understand that Jesus was their long expected Messiah. Recall that the early church began primarily among the Jews and so for a period there was an association of non-believing and believing Jews in the Synagogues, but this soon changed into ethnic ("orthodox") Jews persecuting believing Jews. Note that despite the suffering and persecution of the church at Smyrna, they did not forsake their first love as did the busy, successful church at Ephesus. Who was really the most "successful" church? That's rhetorical of course! The church persecuted is the church purified.

McGee - The implication is that the Jews in Smyrna who had come to Christ were Jews inwardly as well as outwardly....Down through the years there has been only a remnant of these people who have truly been God's people. (Ibid)

Jesus had clearly forewarned about the coming Jewish persecutions (Mt. 23:34; Mark 13:9; Luke 21:12) and Luke alluded to it repeatedly in Acts (Acts 2:13; Acts 4:2–3, 18; Acts 5:17–18, 28, 40; Acts 6:9ff.; Acts 7:54–60; Acts 8:1ff.; Acts 9:20–23; Acts 12:1–3; Acts 13:6, 45; Acts 14:2, 19; Acts 17:5ff., 13; Acts 18:6, 12–13; Acts 19:9; Acts 20:3; Acts 21:27ff.; Acts 23:12ff.).

Swindoll - "Although the Christian church had once been a part of the Jewish synagogue in many cities, when opposition grew from Jews who didn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah, synagogues eventually rejected Jews who accepted the Messiah and ejected the Jewish Christians from their fellowship." (See Insights on Revelation)

Newell - Terrible words! Satan early entrenched himself against Christ and His gospel in Judaism,—“those who pretended to have the legitimate, hereditary claim to be God’s people.” (Revelation 2)

MacArthur - Unbelieving Jews commonly accused Christians of cannibalism (based on a misunderstanding of the Lord’s Supper), immorality (based on a perversion of the holy kiss with which believers greeted each other; cf. Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26), breaking up homes (when one spouse became a Christian and the other did not, it often caused conflict; cf. Luke 12:51–53), atheism (because, as already noted, Christians rejected the pagan pantheon of deities), and political disloyalty and rebellion (because Christians refused to offer the required sacrifices to the emperor). Hoping to destroy the Christian faith, some of Smyrna’s wealthy, influential Jews reported these blasphemous, false allegations to the Romans....Persecution of the church at Smyrna reached its peak half a century after this letter, with the execution of its aged bishop, Polycarp, in which the unbelieving Jews played a major role. A translated second-century document entitled The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna Concerning the Martyrdom of the Holy Polycarp (click to read the story) relates the striking story of Polycarp’s martyrdom. (See Revelation Commentary)

Related Resources: 

Who are Jews (Ioudaios) who are not Jews? They were physical descendants of Abraham but not spiritual descendants. Paul helps us in Romans 2 explaining that "he is not a Jew who is one outwardly (REFERRING TO PHYSICAL JEWS IN THE LINE OF ABRAHAM), nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God." (Ro 2:28,29+; see also  Circumcision of the Heart) I agree with Vincent "Not primarily direct blasphemy against God, but reviling at believers."

Paul added that ":we (JEWS WHO WERE BORN AGAIN) are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh." (Php 3:3+)

Newell - Judaism is more acceptable to the flesh than faith in an unseen Lord; an earthly “religion” is more attractive to a carnal heart than a heavenly walk! (Revelation 2)

Swete - The Jews at Smyrna were both numerous and aggressively hostile (The Apocalypse of St John : the Greek text )


But (term of contrast) are a synagogue (sunagoge) of Satan (satanas) - NLT says "their synagogue belongs to Satan." (Rev 2:9NLT)

Jesus addressing a group of Jews who had "professed" to believe in Him (John 8:30) went on to show their belief was not genuine and in John 8:44 He declared “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." Satan is the real enemy behind the attacks on the saints at Smyrna. Paul tells us how to fight against this invisible, crafty foe...

2 Corinthians 10:3-5+ For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

Ephesians 6:10-18+ Finally, be strong (present imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on (aorist imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up (aorist imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm (aorist imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, 15 and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take (aorist imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

Swete - Behind the ‘synagogue of Satan’ was the Devil himself (Rev 12:10, 12:9, Rev 20:2), who by means of false charges laid before the magistrates would cast certain members of the Church (ἐξ ὑμῶν) into prison. His purpose was to try the faith of the whole body  (cf. Lk 22:31-32). That its Jewish and pagan adversaries were prompted by Satan was the firm belief of the early Church (The Apocalypse of St John)

Newell - Believers today need to be faithfully warned regarding their attitude to the Jews: (a) not to join at all in that Gentile envy and hate lying at the root of “anti-semitism”; and (b) not to give special place to Jews, even Jewish believers, as such; but (c) to glorify God for the “remnant according to the election of grace,” among them, now being saved; and (d) to remember that the most of the nation is to be cut off as apostate before the Millennium sets in; (e) to believe that God’s words in Romans 3:22, 23, and Ro 10:12 are true today: “There is no distinction … for all have sinned”; and, “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all … that call upon him.” Jewish sinners, Irish sinners, American sinners, Hottentot sinners, Hindu sinners, English sinners, Scotch sinners: no difference at all! Just sinners, all! (Revelation 2)

G Campbell Morgan - It is a very remarkable thing that the church of Christ persecuted has been the church of Christ pure. The church of Christ patronized has always been the church of Christ impure." 

The church does the most good for the world when the church is least like the world. 
The church persecuted is the church purified.

Persecution purifies.
Pampering putrifies! 

Tribulation (2347)(thlipsis from thlibo = to crush, press, squeeze in turn derived from thláo = to break) originally expressed sheer, physical pressure on a man. Thlipsis is a strong term which does not refer to minor inconveniences, but to real hardships. Medically thlipsis was used of the pulse (pressure). It is a pressing together as of grapes. It conveys the idea of being squeezed or placed under pressure or crushed beneath a weight. When, according to the ancient law of England, those who willfully refused to plead guilty, had heavy weights placed on their breasts, and were pressed and crushed to death, this was literally thlipsis. The iron cage was stenochoriaThlipsis thus refers not to mild discomfort but to great difficulty.

Thlipsis in the Revelation - Rev. 1:9; Rev. 2:9; Rev. 2:10; Rev. 2:22; Rev. 7:14 = "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation"

Vincent - Tribulation is perhaps as accurate a rendering as is possible, being derived from tribulum, the threshing-roller of the Romans. In both the idea of pressure is dominant, though θλῖψις does not convey the idea of separation (as of corn from husk) which is implied in tribulatio. Trench cites, in illustration of θλῖψις, pressure, the provision of the old English law, by which those who wilfully refused to plead had heavy weights placed on their breasts, and so were pressed and crushed to death

Poverty (4432)(ptocheia) means abject poverty, state of being destitute. It speaks of extreme poverty, as in the life of a beggar. BDAG says it means a "state of being deficient in means of support." In 2 Co. 8:9 ptocheia describes Christ's poverty for us, so that we might become spiritually rich. In 2 Cor 8:2 ptocheia describes the churches in Macedonia though in deep poverty overflowed in their generous giving for the saints at Jerusalem. Used only 3x -  2 Co. 8:2; 2 Co. 8:9; Rev. 2:9. There are 12 uses in the Septuagint where it is used chiefly for affliction (Ps 44:24, Ps 88:9) and occasionally for misery (Ps 107:10) - Deut. 8:9; 1 Chr. 22:14; Job 30:27; Job 36:21; Ps. 31:10; Ps. 44:24; Ps. 88:9; Ps. 107:10; Ps. 107:41; Isa. 48:10; Lam. 3:1; Lam. 3:19;

Contrast ptocheia with the other Greek word for poorPoor (3993penes (from  penomai = to work for one’s daily bread) describes one with few provisions but not yet at the point of begging and still able to help oneself through his own labor or toil. In classical Greek usage the penēs are those who expend great personal energy to earn a living.

Rich (rich man) (4145plousios from ploutos = wealth, abundance, riches) is an adjective which defines that which exists in a large amount with implication of its being valuable. Literally plousios refers to having an abundance of earthly possessions that exceeds normal experience. As used in Eph 2:4 plousios refers to being plentifully supplied with something. Rich is used most often in the NT in the sense of having abundant possessions and especially material wealth and was a frequent topic addressed by the Lord Jesus. It is used figuratively in James to describe those who are rich in faith (Jas 2:5) similar  to the figurative use to describe the believers in Smyrna. 

Plousios in the Revelation - Rev. 2:9; Rev. 3:17; Rev. 6:15; Rev. 13:16

Blasphemy (slander)(988)(blasphemia from blapto = hinder, injure, hurt + pheme = report, rumor, fame from phemí = to speak; see study of verb form blasphemeo) refers to verbal abuse against someone which denotes the very worst type of slander. It is speech which seeks to wound someone's reputation by evil reports, evil speaking. Abusive speech against someone by telling lies or otherwise offending them. In Classical Greek blasphemia/blasphemeo represented the strongest expression of personal defamation. Blasphemia means literally to speak to harm and in general therefore means to bring into ill repute and so to slander. 

Blasphemia - 18x in 17v (note concentration in Revelation) - Matt. 12:31; Matt. 15:19; Matt. 26:65; Mk. 3:28; Mk. 7:22; Mk. 14:64; Lk. 5:21; Jn. 10:33; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; 1 Tim. 6:4; Jude 1:9; Rev. 2:9; Rev. 13:1; Rev. 13:5; Rev. 13:6; Rev. 17:3

Synagogue (4864sunagoge from sunago = lead together, assemble or bring together) refers to a group of people “going with one another” (sunago) literally describes a bringing together or congregating in one place. Eventually, sunagoge came to mean the place where they congregated together. The word was used to designate the buildings other than the central Jewish temple where the Jews congregated for worship. Historically, the Synagogues originated in the Babylonian captivity after the 586 BC destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar and served as places of worship and instruction. Sunagoge was the name of a group "Synagogue of the Freedmen" (Acts 6:9). Synagogues should have been (and frequently were) a place of teaching and proclamation of the Gospel (Mt 4:23, 9:35, 12:9, 13:54, Mk 6:2, Lk 4:15, 16, Lk 4:44, 6:6, 13:10, Jn 6:59, 18:20, Acts 9:20 = Paul immediately "began to proclaim Jesus," Acts 13:5 = Paul proclaimed "the word of God," Acts 14:1 = place Paul, et al, spoke and where "a large number of people believed," Acts 17:17, 18:4, 18:19, 19:8 = Paul, et al reasoned with various audiences in synagogues). Sunagoge is used a second time in Rev 3:9 "Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie–I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you."

Satan (4567)(satanas transliterated from Hebrew Satan - see 07854 and Aramaic sātānâ) literally means Adversary, the evil antagonist who offers opposition, hostility, resentment, etc and is an enemy who continually contends, opposes, and resists. In English dictionary an adversary is one who hates or opposes another person and tries to harm them or stop them from doing something because of hatred and malice. Satan is the inveterateimplacable, relentless, ruthless, remorseless, merciless, heartless, pitiless, cruel, hard, harsh, hardened, incorrigible, dedicated enemy of God and man. Satan is not a myth or a fable, but a created, fallen angel who is a real, supernatural evil being (Mt 16.23; 1 Th 2.18+). Satan is not divine but is subject to the divine Creator Jesus (John 1:3+, Col 1:16+). He was the tempter of Jesus and sifter of men like Peter  (Mt 4.1+, Lk 4:2+, Mk 1:13+, Lk 22:31+). 

Satanas in the Revelation - Rev. 2:9; Rev. 2:13; Rev. 2:24; Rev. 3:9; Rev. 12:9; Rev. 20:2; Rev. 20:7

Related Resources:

Excerpts from The Epistle of Polycarp - translated by J B Lightfoot 

    9:3 But when the magistrate pressed him hard and said, ‘Swear the oath, and I will release thee; revile the Christ,’ Polycarp said, ‘Fourscore and six years have I been His servant, and He hath done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?’
    10:1 But on his persisting again and saying, ‘Swear by the genius of Caesar,’ he answered, ‘If thou supposest vainly that I will swear by the genius of Caesar, as thou sayest, and feignest that thou art ignorant who I am, hear thou plainly, I am a Christian. But if thou wouldest learn the doctrine of Christianity, assign a day and give me a hearing.’
    10:2 The proconsul said; ‘Prevail upon the people.’ But Polycarp said; ‘As for thyself, I should have held thee worthy of discourse; for we have been taught to render, as is meet, to princes and authorities appointed by God such honor as does us no harm; but as for these, I do not hold them worthy, that I should defend myself before them.’
    11:1 Whereupon the proconsul said; ‘I have wild beasts here and I will throw thee to them, except thou repent’ But he said, ‘Call for them: for the repentance from better to worse is a change not permitted to us; but it is a noble thing to change from untowardness to righteousness.’
    11:2 Then he said to him again, ‘I will cause thee to be consumed by fire, if thou despisest the wild beasts, unless thou repent.’ But Polycarp said; ‘Thou threatenest that fire which burneth for a season and after a little while is quenched: for thou art ignorant of the fire of the future judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly. But why delayest thou? Come, do what thou wilt.’43

Robert Neighbor - The Church at Smyrna

"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" (Rev. 2:9)

While in the Church at Smyrna we have the second of the Churches of Asia, a literal church with its own peculiar history; yet in the Church of Smyrna the Holy Spirit is evidently giving us a vision of the times that followed the days of the first Apostles.

We mean there was not alone a geographical aggression as the Spirit brought out church after church stretching over Asia, but that there is also a most evident chronological aggression, scoping the whole time from the Apostles until the return of Christ, when He receives the Church unto Himself.

With this time element in mind there are several things in the Church at Smyrna for our consideration:

1. We have in Smyrna two results of the walk of life of the Church at Ephesus.

(1) THERE IS THE PERSECUTION THAT WAS THE OUTGROWTH OF THE FAITHFUL WITNESS OF THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS. Christ says to Smyrna: "I know thy tribulation and poverty." He even prophesies, "Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried, and ye shall have tribulation ten days."

Persecution is always a result of fidelity. "Yea, and all that will live Godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution" (II Tim. 3:12).

The persecution may not now be the same kind but persecution will be keen and strong wherever there is real separation and sanctification.

(2) THERE ARE THE JUDAISTIC TEACHERS CREEPING IN, AS THE RESULT OF THE EPHESIAN LOSS OF THE FIRST LOVE. "I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of satan."

We have before us the second step in the church's departure from the Living God. When we have left our first love, we are sure to begin to turn towards the commandments of men.

In the day of the Apostle Paul there were many who sought to place upon the church burdens heavy to be borne. It proved hard to get Christian Jews away from their Judaism. The wanted to continue the old Jewish ceremonies while they at the same time, received the Lord Jesus as their Saviour.

The Epistle to the Galatians was particularly written to warn against this very thing.

2. We have in Smyrna and its false teachings a parallelism with the second parable of Matthew 13 — the parable of the tares of the field.
"Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:

But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way" (Matt. 13:24,25).

(1) THE GOOD SEED WAS SOWN. The Church at Ephesus sowed this good seed, she was a faithful and true witness; she held the Word of God in its purity and she preached it, in its power.

(2) "WHILE MEN SLEPT." This passage may refer to the same condition expressed in the words, "Thou hast left thy first love." There was a lethargy in spirit, a weariness in fellowship; the eyes of the saints became drowsy toward Christ.

The whole picture is that of the weariness of saints. This is pictured in the garden, as Peter and James and John, through the weakness of their flesh, forgot to "watch and pray" with the Master, and fell asleep.

(3) AN ENEMY SOWED THE TARES. There are some who vainly imagine that the tares sowed in those early days (the Judaism that crept in unawares) was of short duration. Not so. The wheat and the tares were to grow together unto the end of the age. The tares are still here. On every hand there are those who are confounding the church with Judaism.

An example of this is seen in the effort of some to lead the church into bondage to the Jewish Sabbath. Another example is the sacerdotalism of the present day — an effort to lead the church under the authority of men who assume priestly powers.

The final result of Judaism's entrance is also seen today in the entrance of liberalism and modernism into the very heart of church life. Such are the dire results of the church which left its first love.

Joe Stowell - HE KNOWS


After the evening service at a conference where I was speaking, a couple approached me and asked if we could talk privately. As we went into a side room, it was obvious that they had something deep on their hearts. They told me about their son who was a senior in high school. He loved the Lord and was a leader in their church youth group as well as holding leadership positions at school. They wept as they went on to say that he had been killed two weekends before in a head-on collision. It was one of those times when it seems like there aren’t any words in our dictionary to express the grief or to console a broken heart. As I searched for ways to help them see it from God’s point of view the boy’s mother said, “Our pastor told us that God didn’t know this was going to happen and that God was just as surprised as we were that our son had lost his life.”

I was shocked. If you want to comfort grieving hearts, that’s not where you start. While it may be a valiant attempt to excuse God for not preventing the tragedy, this kind of poor theology leaves us as victims of the careless winds of fate. Thankfully, nothing could be further from the truth. God did know. As Oswald Chambers wrote,

“The circumstances of a saint’s life are ordained of God.
In the life of a saint there is no such thing as chance.”

He is all-knowing, (Rev 2:9 = "I know") and nothing escapes His perception or permission. And although we don’t always understand why He permits pain, we do know that we can trust in His character. He is a good, loving, and wise God, and He cannot be unfaithful to Himself.

Take comfort in knowing that God knows; that He is never distracted; that nothing escapes His attention. Thankfully, there is no need for contingency plans in heaven. Working all things together for good is not an insurmountable problem for Him.

He knows! Sometimes that is all we need to know.  (Borrow Strength for the journey : day-by-day with Jesus)



Have you ever envied the prosperity of the wicked? Particularly if in your commitment to righteousness you have not prospered as others have? As a child I enjoyed “3-D” comic books. A special set of glasses with colored plastic lenses and cardboard frames came with them. Without the glasses, the books were blurred and unclear. With the glasses, they came alive with action and color.

Seeing life through God’s glasses will always provide an accurate assessment of life around us. From God’s point of view, the wicked are not in an enviable position. As the psalmist said, “Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed. . . . As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies” (Psalm 73:18–20). Or to put it another way, what difference does it make to have a big inning and lose the whole ballgame?

Is it a sign of prosperity to stand before God and hear Him say, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41)? As Christ said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

In Luke 12 Christ told of a wealthy man who was so prosperous that he had to tear down his old barns and build new ones. He said to himself, “‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’” (Lk 12:19–20+).

True prosperity is not measured in cash or commodities but in our privileged relationship with the ever-present God. That is why we can sing with Fanny Crosby, “Take the world, but give me Jesus.”

Would you be willing to define prosperity in terms of God’s unfailing presence in your life and His provision for an eternal experience with Him? (See Psalm 73:23–28.) (Borrow Strength for the journey : day-by-day with Jesus)

Take the world, but give me Jesus.”
all its joys are but a name;
but his love abides forever,
through eternal years the same.

Take the world, but give me Jesus,
sweetest comfort of my soul;
with the Savior watching o'er me,
I can sing, though thunders roll. [Refrain]

Oh, the height and depth of mercy!
Oh, the length and breadth of love!
Oh, the fullness of redemption,
pledge of endless life above!

Take the world, but give me Jesus;
in his cross my trust shall be
till with clearer, brighter vision
(Fanny Crosby was blind!)
face to face my Lord I see. [Refrain]

Revelation 2:10  'Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

BGT  Revelation 2:10 μηδὲν φοβοῦ ἃ μέλλεις πάσχειν. ἰδοὺ μέλλει βάλλειν ὁ διάβολος ἐξ ὑμῶν εἰς φυλακὴν ἵνα πειρασθῆτε καὶ ἕξετε θλῖψιν ἡμερῶν δέκα. γίνου πιστὸς ἄχρι θανάτου, καὶ δώσω σοι τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς.

KJV  Revelation 2:10 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.

NET  Revelation 2:10 Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. The devil is about to have some of you thrown into prison so you may be tested, and you will experience suffering for ten days. Remain faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown that is life itself.

CSB  Revelation 2:10 Don't be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will have affliction for 10 days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

ESV  Revelation 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

NIV  Revelation 2:10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

NLT  Revelation 2:10 Don't be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.

NRS  Revelation 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

NJB  Revelation 2:10 Do not be afraid of the sufferings that are coming to you. Look, the devil will send some of you to prison to put you to the test, and you must face hardship for ten days. Even if you have to die, keep faithful, and I will give you the crown of life for your prize.

NAB  Revelation 2:10 Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Indeed, the devil will throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will face an ordeal for ten days. Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

YLT  Revelation 2:10 'Be not afraid of the things that thou art about to suffer; lo, the devil is about to cast of you to prison, that ye may be tried, and ye shall have tribulation ten days; become thou faithful unto death, and I will give to thee the crown of the life.

  • Fear: Mt 10:22 
  • what you are about to suffer: Da 3:16-18 Mt 10:28 Lu 12:4-7 
  • the devil: Rev 12:9-11 13:2,7,15-17 Lu 21:12  Joh 13:2,27 Eph 2:2 6:12 1Pe 5:8 
  • you will be tested: Rev 2:9 
  • ten days: Hab 2:3 1Pe 1:6,7 
  • Be faithful until death: Rev 12:11 Mt 10:22 Mt 24:13 Mk 8:35 13:13 Lu 21:16-19 Joh 12:25 Ac 20:24 Acts 21:13 2Ti 4:7,8 
  • I will give you the crown of life: Rev 3:11 Jas 1:12 1Pe 5:4 
  • Revelation 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Crown of Life - One of 5 Crowns


Related Passages:

Revelation 12:11+ “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. (see Lk 12:1+)

Matthew 10:22+  “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured (How? see below) to the end who will be saved. 

Matthew 24:13+ “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. (NOT WORKS SALVATION! -- only possible because the Spirit enables the believer to continue to endure -- yet he must still do his part! - see principle of 100/100)

1 Peter 1:6; 7+  In this (WHAT?) you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while (HOW LONG? cf 2 Cor 4:17+), if (SINCE IT IS) necessary (cf Acts 14:22+), you have been distressed by various (SEE 1 Pe 4:10+ "MANIFOLD" GRACE FOR VARIOUS) trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

James 1:12+ Blessed is a man who perseveres (present tense - only possible because the Spirit enables us -- yet we must still do our part! - see principle of 100/100) under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life (ONLY HERE AND Rev 2:10)which the Lord has promised to those who love (present tense - again, only possible because the Spirit enables us -- Php 2:13NLT+-- yet we must still do our part! - see principle of 100/100 cf Jn 14:15 - not "Let go, let God," but "Let God, let's go!") Him.

Jesus gives 3 commands (if you include behold which is a command to "Pay attention") in this passage. 

Do not fear (phobeo) what you are about to suffer (pascho) - Do not fear is present imperative with a negative calling for them to stop being afraid (Jesus gave the same command to John in Rev 1:17+). Sometimes we think that Christians who endure persecution are almost super-human, and we don’t appreciate the depths of fear they struggle with. Fear is the normal reaction to the threat of persecution or suffering. Here is the principle that when we suffer for His Name, we can be assured He will provide the grace to go through the suffering, whether it passes or whether we pass from this life to the next. His grace is sufficient in every one of these "crushing" circumstances (cf 2Co 12:9+). Notice that Jesus does not say what you might suffer but what you are about to suffer. About to is mello in the present tense indicating that suffering was "coming" or was "on its way" and thus was imminent or just around the corner so to speak! And so Jesus gave the saints at Smyrna a prophetic warning providing time for them to prepare their hearts for the persecution that was coming. The purifying fires of affliction caused the lamp of the testimony of the church in Smyrna to burn all the more brilliantly.

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.

     “Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take!
         The clouds ye so much dread
      Are big with mercy, and shall break
         In blessing on your head.”
       --William Cowper

Jesus addressing His disciples (Lk 12:1+) - 

“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. 5 “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear (aorist imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!" (Lk 12:4-5+)

The church at Smyrna (nor we) did not have to fear death because Jesus has conquered death (1 Cor 15:55, 56, 57+) for them (and us) and with that victory also conquered the fear of death....

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free (apallasso - liberate, release, set free from a controlling state) those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14, 15+)

McGee - Fear none of those things" is the encouragement of the Lord to His own in the midst of persecutions. This is the second time in this book that the Lord has offered this encouragement. History tells us that multitudes went to their death singing praises to God. (Ibid)

John Stott - Here was an appeal to be faithful and not to be afraid. Faith and fear are opposites. They cannot coexist. Faith banishes fear. “When I am afraid,” wrote the Psalmist, “I put my trust in you” (Ps 56:3). There is no other course to take. Jesus prescribed the same remedy. “Don’t be afraid,” he used to say, “just believe” (Mark 5:36). True, here the call is to faithfulness rather than to faith, but we need to remember that faith and faithfulness are the same word in Greek. This is because it is from faith that faithfulness springs. Trust in Christ, and we shall ourselves be trustworthy. Rely on Christ, and we shall be reliable. Depend on Christ, and we shall be dependable. Have faith in Christ, and we shall be faithful—faithful if necessary even to the point of death. The way to lose fear is to gain faith. (What Christ thinks of the church : Revelation 1-3 expounded)


Behold (idou) - Jesus says listen up! You don't want to miss this! It will not be good news, but if they forewarned, their hearts and minds will be forearmed and ready for the attack which Jesus predicts will soon come on the overcomers in Smyrna. 

The devil (diabolos) is about to cast (ballo) some of you into prison (phulake), so that (term of purpose) you will be tested (peirazo) - Note the repetition of about to (again mello in present tense) indicating that this diabolical action was imminent! Note the word "some" indicating not all would be imprisoned. The term so that identifies a purpose clause and should always stimulate us to seek to glean the purpose and what are the prerequisites of the purpose. God allowed the devil a short chain, just like He did with Job (Job 1:12, 2:6), but he was still on God's omnipotent chain! And God would use evil for good fulfilling Romans 8:28+ (cf Ge 50:20) for the saints at Smyrna. Here the purpose is clearly stated that you will be tested. Notice Jesus does not say you might be tested but you will be tested. This is one of those "promises" that you probably won't find in God's book of promises! The perpetrator again was the devil. The test was not to destroy but to purify the saints and their faith (cf James 1:2-4+).

THOUGHT - Do you think there is any relationship between two uses of the devil (Satan) in the poor church at Smyrna which was spiritually rich and no mention of the devil against the rich church at Laodicea which was spiritually poor? Just thinking! 

“When God puts His own people into the furnace,
He keeps His eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat.
He knows how long and how much.”
-- Warren Wiersbe

Charles Swindoll - Satan may be permitted to persecute the church, but as in the case of Job’s suffering, God-appointed limits constrain what Satan can do. (See Insights on Revelation)

McGee - You and I tend to blame the immediate person or circumstance which serves as Satan's tool, but the Lord Jesus goes back to the root trouble. (Thru the Bible Commentary Vol. 58: The Prophecy (Revelation 1-5) - BORROW)

Note that the verb for tested is peirazo which is a morally neutral word. So the test can be for good (Heb 11:17) or for evil (Mt 4:1+). The purpose of the test depends on the intent of the one giving the test. When the scriptural context clearly indicates the testing is an enticement to evil, the word is most frequently translated tempt, which carries a negative connotation. In this passage it is translated as tested, because God allows the devil to test them and God's goal is their purification. Or stated another way the devil meant to tempt them to do evil, while God means to test them for their good. 

John MacArthur - God’s purpose in permitting that imprisonment was so that they would be tested. By successfully enduring that trial, they would prove the reality of their faith, be strengthened (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9–10+)—and prove once again that Satan cannot destroy genuine saving faith. (See Revelation  Commentary)

Related Resources:

And you will have tribulation (thlipsis) for ten days (see R L Thomas' summary of 5 interpretations) - Note the two "will's" in this verses signifying prophecies for Smyrna. This is the second mention of tribulation. Smyrna is the "crushed" church (see above). But the question regarding the tribulation is how long? In other words is 10 days literal or figurative? Is there anything in this context which would suggest is it symbolic?  Ten days would seem to be a literal 10 days. It is as literal as 1000 years. Notice (1) it is relatively short duration (compared to eternity) and (2) it has an end (in contrast to the second death which has no end!)  

Temptations and trials are two sides of the same coin, for a single Greek word peirasmos conveys both ideas (cp Jas 1:2+ with Jas 1:13+) in short, all that goes to furnish a test of character. The trials may come from God or under His permissive will from Satan, or may be the result of our own wrong-doing (aka "discipline" in Heb 12:5-11). The solicitations to do evil come from the world, the evil nature, or Satan (the world, the flesh or the devil). In a sermon titled "Faith Tested and Crowned," Alexander Maclaren distinguished between being tempted and being tried. He said that "the former word conveys the idea of appealing to the worst part of man, with the wish that he may yield and do the wrong. The latter means an appeal to the better part of man, with the desire that he should stand." "Temptation says, 'Do this pleasant thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is wrong.' Trial or proving says, 'Do this right and noble thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is painful.'"

Guzik - Surely, the devil wanted to imprison them for a longer time, but God limited the tribulation to ten days. Being thrown into prison was severe persecution. In that day, prison was never used to rehabilitate someone, and rarely used to punish someone. Normally, you were thrown into prison as you awaited trial and execution.

Vitringa - “Affliction, like it, is bitter for the time being, but salutary; preserving the elect from corruption, and seasoning them for immortality, and gives scope for the exercise of the fragrantly breathing Christian virtues”.

Henry Morris - The intent of the passage is obviously to prepare the church for intense suffering and yet to assure them it would be very brief and ephemeral in contrast to the endless ages of glory beyond it. (The Revelation Record - BORROW )

John Phillips - God never permits the saints to suffer without a cause. In this case there are two comforting factors that show God sovereign even in Satan’s permitted onslaught on the saints. First we note the divine reason for this fiery trial. It is simply that ye may be tried. The church is to be tested, the chaff to be separated from the wheat. Next we note there is a divine restriction to it. Ye shall have tribulation ten days. The exact period is marked. On the other side of the trial, the church would be stronger than ever. Tertullian, who lived in the midst of persecution, said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” It has been an axiom from that day to this. When Saul of Tarsus made havoc of the Jerusalem church, the saints fled far and wide, taking the gospel with them and spreading it abroad. The devil, in his blind rage against the infant church at Jerusalem, simply took the precious gospel seed, stored in the Jerusalem granary, and cast it to the four winds of heaven. Wherever it came to rest, it took root and sprang up in a mighty harvest. That is one of the ministries of persecution.(Borrow Exploring Revelation)

Vance Havner on tribulation - “This ‘tribulation’ does not mean the common trials to which all flesh is heir. Some dear souls think they are bearing their cross every time they have a headache. The tribulation mentioned here is trouble they would not have had if they had not been Christians.”

Satan tempts us to bring out the  worst in us;
God tests us to bring out the best.

Adam Clarke leaves the literal rendering "in the dust" which makes subsequent accurate interpretation not just problematic but impossible. He muses "As the days in this book are what is commonly called prophetic days (ED: WHERE DOES IT SAY THAT IN THE REVELATION?), each answering to a year, the ten years of tribulation may (ED: HOW ABOUT "MAY NOT") denote ten years of persecution; and this was precisely the duration of the persecution under Diocletian, during which all the Asiatic Churches were grievously afflicted.” 

Even Charles Ryrie spiritualizes the 10 days writing "This may refer to a 10-day period of intense persecution to come, or it may indicate 10 periods of persecution from Nero to Diocletian." It seems that Ryrie, usually a literalist, takes some liberty in the interpretation, for one could arrive at less than or more than 10 periods of persecution depending on how one assessed the rule of different Roman emperors.

THOUGHT - A T Robertson the renowned Greek scholar says "It is unwise to seek a literal meaning for ten days." So are we surprised when Robertson goes on to discard a literal interpretation of 1000 years in Revelation 20:2+? Here is Robertson's comment on 1000 years in Rev 20:2 = "Here we confront the same problem found in the 1260 days. In this book of symbols how long is a thousand years? All sorts of theories are proposed, none of which fully satisfy one." I beg to disagree, there is one interpretation that satisfies supremely and that is a literal interpretation which allows one to jettison "all sorts of theories." God is not trying to confuse or give theory but give truth, literal truth! Notice how Robertson alludes to the 1260 days (Rev 11:3+, cf Rev 12:6+) as non-literal, despite the fact that this number fits perfectly with 42 months (Rev 11:2+, Rev 13:5+) and with "time, times and half a time" (Rev 12:14+ [parallels Rev 12:6], Daniel 7:25+)! Therefore, I submit that to jettison a literal interpretation of 10 days (when there is nothing whatsoever in the context to support such an approach) sets one up for rejecting literal interpretation of the other critically important time phrases in the Revelation! Is it just a coincidence that the synonymous time periods (1260 days, 42 months, "time, times, half a time") just happen to be 3.5 years and Daniel's Seventieth Week is a Seven Year period? And is it a coincidence that Daniel 9:27+ describes the breaking of a covenant with Israel at the middle of the week (in context - a 7 year period), so that 3.5 years (1260 days, 42 months, "time, times and half a time") after making this firm covenant with Israel, it is broken? Is this just coincidence? I don't think so. 

See R L Thomas' summary of the interpretations of 10 days.

Matthew Poole has another strange interpretation - “Others observe, that in ten days are two hundred and forty hours, which make up the number of years from 85, when the second persecution began, (under which John at this time was) to 325, when all the persecutions ceased.” 

John MacArthur -  Though some see the ten days as symbolically representing everything from ten periods of persecution under the Romans, to an undetermined period of time, to a time of ten years, there is no exegetical reason to interpret them as anything other than ten actual days. Satan’s major assault on that local church would be intense, but brief. (See Revelation Commentary)

Steve Lawson - Some Bible teachers have speculated that these 10 days are symbolic of ten successive eras of Roman emperors, or 10 consecutive stages of church history. Personally, I think that's more imagination than interpretation. I think they suffered for ten literal days, just as the text plainly says, in the Roman cells. Again, nobody stayed long in a Roman prison because the physical abuse was so intense. Ten days seemed like ten lifetimes! Graciously, the Lord sets the limits on our suffering (1Co 10:13+). Our tests will not last longer than we can endure. If the Lord says "ten days." then there is no force on earth that could make it last eleven!...If the Roman officials came for you and said "Caesar or Christ?" would you stand for the Lord? The answer must be yes. I believe that God will give us dying grace, if need be, to make such a bold confession. (cf Mk 13:11+) (Final call - BORROW )

Here is an important point to make if you truly want to accurately interpret and understand this last, great book of the Bible. You need to be especially careful who you consult for commentary because symbolic, allegorical interpretations are rampant and can be very confusing! One needs to be especially careful to avoid the older commentaries that are excellent on many other books of the Bible but which fall woefully short when they interpret eschatological passages. As a generalization (there are exceptions - Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, Seiss) anything written before 1900 is very likely to be symbolic and will not help you interpret Revelation accurately. Specially avoid works by Matthew Henry, Adam Clarke, John Gill, Matthew Poole, John Trapp, etc. See the recommended resources

Barclay -- “The expression ten days is not to be taken literally; it is the normal Greek expression for a short time.”

THOUGHT - I would ask Barclay how can he draw such an unqualified, definitive, authoritative conclusion? He has no evidence in context to support his premise, which I think is absolutely false and wrong and misleading. Why do I say misleading? Because to the unwary reader who is not familiar with inductive Bible study, they begin to thing all of the numbers in the Revelation are non-literal. This false assumption is like an interpretation sink hole, so to speak. The Revelation of Jesus which He wants His bond-servants to understand that they might be encouraged (to stand strong and steadfast) and motivated (to share Him) begins to become a "fuzzy" revelation and one that only the "experts" can understand and that even they themselves don't understand. Au contraire, 10 days is literal and Revelation is a literal record [albeit with frequent symbolism] and we can understand it. Just be careful reading the commentaries on Revelation and putting too much faith in their dogmatic statements. Let the Spirit of Truth and the Word of Truth be your ultimate Guide to the Truth. 

Guzik - However, there is no compelling reason to believe it means anything other than ten days of severe persecution, with an emphasis on the idea that it is a limited time. 


Be faithful (pistos) until death - The verb be is in the present imperative (see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) This is the only command to be faithful in the entire Bible! There are two ways to interpret this and (in my opinion) they overlap - (1) Be faithful (Do not deny Christ) even if it costs you your life! In context this is likely the main sense (2) Be faithful until you take your last breath.

Those who are prepared to die for Jesus are most prepared to live for Him

Regarding both interpretations (1) and (2), if one continues to be faithful until death (for the rest of their life), this is evidence that they are a genuine believer, a "possessor" not just a "professor" of Jesus. (cf Mt 24:13+, Heb 3:6,14+ - See Perseverance of the Saints) The expression of time until means something will continue to happen up to a point and then it will not happen. In context what Jesus calls for is continued faith until our last breath (on a stake being burned or on one's death bed), for upon our last breath, our faith will become sight. At that moment and forever after, we will be in the presence of the One we have believed in, longed for and been faithful to. What we (and the saints at Smyrna) see now by faith (2Co 5:7+, cf 2 Cor 4:18+), we shall soon see by sight (1Jn 3:2+). So in a sense "faith" is no longer necessary (compare "Hope" in Ro 8:24+). As Paul said in 1 Cor 13:13+ "now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love." In Heaven our faith becomes sight and our blessed hope is realized, but love will endure forever and ever. Amen. 

Ease and prosperity are nowhere promised the Christian as a reward for his faith.
-- John Phillips

Faithful is a key word in Revelation 1-3 - Rev 1:5 (Rev 19:11), Rev 2:10, Rev 2:13, Rev 3:14. It is one of the 3 characteristics of those who return with Jesus when He judges the earth (Rev 17:14). Finally twice in the last two chapters of the Bible we are reminded that "these words are faithful and true" (Rev 21:5, Rev 22:6)! You can trust these words all the way to the end!!!

William McDonald- The believers were encouraged to be faithful until death, that is, to be willing to die rather than renounce their faith in Christ

John MacArthur - The crown (reward, culmination, outcome) of genuine saving faith is eternal life, and perseverance proves the genuineness of their faith as they endure suffering. The Scriptures teach that true Christians will persevere. That biblical truth was understood by the authors of the Westminster Confession of Faith, who wrote “They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.” That is the unmistakable teaching of Scripture (e.g., Matt. 10:22; 24:13; Mark 4:13–20; John 8:31; Col. 1:21–23; 1 John 2:19). (See Revelation Commentary)

Henry Morris - “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” and a patient endurance of unjust persecution has always been one of the church’s most potent tools of evangelism. (The Revelation Record - BORROW)

Vance Havner - “The saints at Smyrna had not been given a pep-talk on ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.’ They had no testimony on ‘How Faith Made Me Mayor of Smyrna.’ They were not promised deliverance from tribulation, poverty and reviling. In fact, the worst was yet to come.”

A T Robertson on Be faithful - “Keep on becoming faithful” (present middle imperative of ginomai), “keep on proving faithful unto death” (Heb. 12:4) as the martyrs have done (Jesus most of all). 

Lehman Strauss - Christ was not telling His suffering saints to “keep a stiff upper lip” or to “keep your chin up” or “keep smiling” or “grin and bear it.” What He told them was to depend on Him, to be convinced of Him, to let Him be their strength and courage. He knew they would fail if they merely tried to bear up in their own strength. He wanted them to live within the limit of the great assurance that He became dead and is alive. (Borrow The Book of the Revelation: Outlined Studies

William Newell published his commentary on the Revelation in 1935 before World War 2 began and he wrote these "prophetic" words " It is our profound conviction that not only in Russia and Germany but in other countries there are terrible days of trial directly ahead for the Church of God (ED: THIS PROVED TRUE FOR GENUINE BELIEVERS LIKE DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, AND MANY OTHERS). It is our proper portion—all the day (of grace) long are we to be killed, counted as sheep for slaughter. Therefore, remember the exhortation of Peter (who at the first, fled and denied, but later was crucified for his Lord): “Forasmuch then as Christ suffered in the flesh, arm ye yourselves also with the same mind,” or “thought,” “intent,” “resolution” (1 Peter 4:1), that is, with the same “expectation,” when necessary." (Revelation 2)

Even in times of peril and persecution Christians can enjoy the wonderful promises of Heaven.


And I will give you the crown (stephanos) of life (zoe) - NET = " I will give you the crown that is life itself." (Rev 2:10NET)" Smyrna was the site of an annual athletic competition at which time crown (stephanos) were awarded to those who ran and won (cf 1Cor 9:24-27+). Ramsey adds that "The words of Apollonius show that “the crown of Smyrna” was a familiar phrase with the Smyrnaeans; and there can be no doubt that the phrase arose from the appearance of the hill Pagos, with the stately public buildings on its rounded top and the city spreading out down its rounded sloping sides." Is this a literal crown? While I personally think (opinion time) it could be literal, it seems that most commentators take it as a figurative crown, in this case signifying the "crown that is life." Who receives the crown? In context the one who remains faithful. John writes "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (Rev 5:10+). We will reign with the King of kings, who wears a crown (diadema). Will we wear a crown (stephanos)? We will have to wait for that great day to answer the question.

Revelation 20:4-6+  Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed (THIS STATEMENT IS A PARENTHETICAL COMMENT BY JOHN). This is the first resurrection. (SEE RESOURCES BELOW ON FIRST AND SECOND RESURRECTION) 6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.

Comment - Beloved, believers will participate in the Kingdom and will reign with Christ for 1000 years. One could read Rev 20:5 and think that the rest of the dead who did not come to life until after the 1000 years are the ones in the first resurrection. The key is to let context guide the interpretation. What does Rev 20:6 say about the first resurrection? The second death has no power and they will reign for 1000 years. Those described in the first part of verse 5 are said to not come to life (or be resurrected) until AFTER the 1000 years. In other words the first resurrection even though it follows their description cannot apply to them but must apply to those in the following verse. 

Revelation 1:6+  and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father–to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 5:10+ “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

Comment - Note Matthew Henry's misleading comment: "Here is an account of the reign of the saints, for the same space of time as Satan is bound. Those who suffer with Christ, shall reign with him in his spiritual and heavenly kingdom..." Henry clearly has spiritualized the 1000 years. Wrong...they will reign with Christ on earth for 1000 years." 

THOUGHT - ALL true believers WILL ABSOLUTELY remain faithful, not because of their faith per se but because the faithfulness of God Who will not let go of them! In other words Their cry is “Once saved, always saved.” However, the caveat is that the person is genuinely saved, and not just a professor of Christ! In this latter case to tell them "Once saved, always saved" is a grave mistake for they may never see their need to repent and believe! Paul underscores the assurance that genuine believers will remain faithful until death writing "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge (DOWN PAYMENT) of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory." (Eph 1:13-14+). In other words the indwelling Spirit is God's guarantee of our final redemption (GLORIFICATION). See discussion of Perseverance of the Saints .

Note the striking contrast between temporal death and eternal life. The One Who Himself had died and come back to life is imminently qualified to carry out this promise. 

John Stott - Life as your victor’s crown (Rev 2:10)—an earlier translation renders this “crown of life”—is the same as the tree of life (v. 7), but the metaphor has changed. Heaven is now no longer a pleasure garden, with eternal life as a tree bearing delicious fruit, but the winning post at the end of a race, with eternal life as the victor’s wreath or garland. Smyrna was famous for its arena and its games. So the Smyrna church will not have found it difficult to imagine the Christian life as a race or contest. It required diligent training, energy, and strong exertion. The pace would be fast and the going hard. There would be sweat and pain. But at the end stood the one who is the First and the Last, the supreme Victor; and in his hand was the victor’s crown which every conqueror would receive. The message of the letter to the church of Smyrna is as searching for us as it was for them: if we are true, we shall suffer. But let us be faithful and not fear. Jesus Christ, the First and the Last, who died and lives again, knows our trials, controls our destiny, and will invest us at the end of the race with the crown of life. (What Christ thinks of the church : Revelation 1-3 expounded)

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John Phillips - There is a natural shrinking from suffering. The Lord encourages His own to face boldly the hatred and the violent opposition of the world. History tells us that the saints of God in those days of the early church responded nobly to the challenge.

History tells of a man who, at the age of ninety-two, chose abuse and death in a dungeon rather than deny the Lord; of a fifteen-year-old boy who could be deterred by no sort of cruelty from confessing Christ; of a young woman slave who showed almost superhuman strength under the most cruel tortures and who was thrown finally in a net to a wild beast; of Polycarp, the last of the saints to have known and talked with the apostle John, who was burned at the stake. Interestingly enough, Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna. He suffered martyrdom during the reign of Marcus Aurelius.

The long history of the church has been one of constant persecution. Many of those whose names have become household words in the family of God have had to suffer severely for their faith. John Knox, for example, labored at the oar of a French ship as a galley slave at one point in his confrontation with Mary Queen of Scots. He was a man of iron who could be neither coaxed nor cowed into submission. One day when at the oar, John Knox was presented by a priest with an image of the virgin mother and was required, as a blasphemous heretic, to do it reverence. John Knox took the image in his hand and looked at it. “Mother? Mother of God?” he snorted, “This is no mother of God; this is a piece of painted wood, more fit for swimming than worship.” And he pitched it overboard!

Nor is the twentieth century without its roll of martyrs. The church in all ages has suffered fiery trials. Who can calculate on the human level the misery of it? “Do not fear,” says the Lord. The Lord has promised grace sufficient for every need. He does not give martyr grace until martyr time. (Borrow Exploring Revelation)

Do not fear (5399phobeo from phobos = fear source of our English "phobia") means to be in an apprehensive state that can range from mild uneasiness to stark terror as when one is frightened, terrified or alarmed. (Mt 10:31). Phobeo can be a fear of man (Lk 20:19, Mt 2:22, Mt 21:26, 46) as when Peter feared "the party of the circumcision" (Gal 2:12) which motivated him "to withdraw and hold himself aloof." Pilate experienced fear when he was about to sentence Jesus to death (Jn 19:8). Fear of people kept religious leaders from laying hands on Jesus (Luke 20:19) On the other hand Moses did not fear man (pharaoh - Heb 11:27) Believers were afraid of Paul after his Damascus Road experience, not realizing he had been born again (Lk 9:26). Detzler - In ancient Greek the word phobos came from the word phebomai meaning to flee, or to be startled. Thus phobos meant flight or terror, and was connected with fear of the unknown, fear of the future, and fear of authorities. It also took on the meaning of fear or reverence for God. This was particularly true in the teaching of Aristotle. (Borrow New Testament Words in Today's Language)

Suffer (3958)(pascho) means essentially what happens to a person experience. It means to undergo something; to experience a sensation, to experience an impression from an outside source, to undergo an experience (usually difficult) and normally with the implication of physical or psychological suffering. Pascho is used in 1 Peter 5:10+ to encourage suffering saints, Peter writing "After you have suffered (pascho) for a little while (ONE'S SUFFERING MAY SEEM LONG BUT COMPARED TO ETERNITY IT IS ONLY FOR "A LITTLE WHILE"), the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you."

Devil (1228)(diabolos from diá = through, between + ballo = to cast, throw) means a false accuserslanderer (one who utters false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation), backbiting (malicious comment about one not present), one given to malicious gossip or a calumniator (one who utters maliciously false statements, charges, or imputations about, this term imputes malice to the speaker and falsity to the assertions). Diabolos is the noun form of the verb diaballō which describes not only those who bring a false charge against one, but also those who disseminate the truth concerning a man, and do so maliciously, insidiously and with hostility. Notice how the root words (diá = through + bállō = throw) picture what the devil does. He constantly throws between seeking to divide whether it be between a husband and wife, a child and parent, a church, etc. Resist his divisive, condemnatory accusations firm in your faith. Wuest has an interesting comment that the literal meaning of "to throw through" means “to riddle one with accusations.” (cf Rev 12:9)

Diabolos - Matt. 4:1; Matt. 4:5; Matt. 4:8; Matt. 4:11; Matt. 13:39; Matt. 25:41; Lk. 4:2; Lk. 4:3; Lk. 4:6; Lk. 4:13; Lk. 8:12; Jn. 6:70; Jn. 8:44; Jn. 13:2; Acts 10:38; Acts 13:10; Eph. 4:27; Eph. 6:11; 1 Tim. 3:6; 1 Tim. 3:7; 1 Tim. 3:fp11; 2 Tim. 2:26; 2 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 2:3; Heb. 2:14; Jas. 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8; 1 Jn. 3:8; 1 Jn. 3:10; Jude 1:9; Rev. 2:10; Rev. 12:9; Rev. 12:12; Rev. 20:2; Rev. 20:10

Faithful (4103)(pistos from peitho = to persuade - induce one by words to believe, have confidence) is something or someone who is worthy of faith or keeps promises and is applied to God, humans, His Word, etc Pistos means dependable (worthy of reliance or trust), trustworthy, steadfast, unswerving. Webster says that "Faithful" means firm in adherence to whatever one owes allegiance and implies unswerving adherence to a person or thing or to the oath or promise by which a tie was contracted."

Pistos in the Revelation - Rev. 1:5; Rev. 2:10; Rev. 2:13; Rev. 3:14; Rev. 17:14; Rev. 19:11; Rev. 21:5; Rev. 22:6

Behold (idou) is an interjection which serves to(1) prompt or arouse the reader's attention (introducing something new or unusual), (2) to mark a strong emphasis ("Indeed!" Lk 13:16) and (3) to call the reader to pay close attention (very similar to #1) so that one will listen, remember or consider. As Spurgeon says  "Behold is a word of wonder; it is intended to excite admiration. Wherever you see it hung out in Scripture, it is like an ancient sign-board, signifying that there are rich wares within, or like the hands which solid readers have observed in the margin of the older Puritanic books, drawing attention to something particularly worthy of observation." I would add, behold is like a divine highlighter, a divine underlining of an especially striking or important text. It says in effect "Listen up, all ye who would be wise in the ways of Jehovah!" And as an aside there are some 1218 uses of "behold" in the Old and New Testament, which should give us sufficient opportunities to practice using this word to help us in our study of Scripture. 

Behold in the Revelation (There is a lot to BEHOLD in the Revelation!) - Rev. 1:7; Rev. 1:18; Rev. 2:10; Rev. 2:22; Rev. 3:8; Rev. 3:9; Rev. 3:20; Rev. 4:1; Rev. 4:2; Rev. 5:5; Rev. 6:2; Rev. 6:5; Rev. 6:8; Rev. 7:9; Rev. 9:12; Rev. 11:14; Rev. 12:3; Rev. 14:1; Rev. 14:14; Rev. 16:15; Rev. 19:11; Rev. 21:3; Rev. 21:5; Rev. 22:7; Rev. 22:12

Death (2288thanatos (see in depth note) is a permanent cessation of all vital functions and thus is the end of life on earth (as we know it). The separation of the soul from the body and the end of earthly life. Spiritual death is separation from the life of God forever by dying without being born again. The first use in the Septuagint is in a well known promise from God "you shall surely die (Lxx = thanatos apothnesko).” (Ge 2:17) followed by the second use in the deceptive lie by Satan “You surely shall not die (thanatos apothnesko)!" (Ge 3:4) Death is natural to humanity as part of the created world. Death is a result of Adam’s sin (Ro 5:12). Death is universal - no one can escape it.

Crown (4735)(stephanos from stepho = to encircle, twine or wreathe) was a wreath made of foliage or designed to resemble foliage and worn by one of high status or held in high regard. The stephanos was a familiar metaphor in the athletic games at Smyrna and elsewhere in which the prize was a garland. The stephanos was literally an adornment worn around the head as a crown of victory in the Greek athletic games, this reward being given to the runner who crossed the goal first, to the disc thrower with the longest toss, etc. Apart from recognition of athletes and winners of various kinds of competitions, in the Greco-Roman world, the awarding of a crown or wreath signified appreciation for exceptional contributions to the state or groups within it. The recipients were usually public officials or civic-minded persons serving at their own expense. Stephanos is the Greek word used to describe all 5 of the crowns believers will receive. The most dramatic use is the first one in Matthew = "And after twisting together a crown (stephanos) of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”" (Mt 27:29)

Stephanos in NT (most uses in Revelation) - Matt. 27:29; Mk. 15:17; Jn. 19:2; Jn. 19:5; 1 Co. 9:25; Phil. 4:1; 1 Th. 2:19; 2 Ti. 4:8; Jas. 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 2:10; Rev. 3:11; Rev. 4:4; Rev. 4:10; Rev. 6:2; Rev. 9:7; Rev. 12:1; Rev. 14:14

QUESTION - Why does God test us? Watch the associated video.

ANSWER - When we ask why God tests us or allows us to be tested, we are admitting that testing does indeed come from Him. When God tests His children, He does a valuable thing. David sought God’s testing, asking Him to examine his heart and mind and see that they were true to Him (Psalm 26:2; 139:23). When Abram was tested by God in the matter of sacrificing Isaac, Abram obeyed (Hebrews 11:17–19) and showed to all the world that he is the father of faith (Romans 4:16). In both the Old and New Testaments, the words translated “test” mean “to prove by trial.” Therefore, when God tests His children, His purpose is to prove that our faith is real. Not that God needs to prove it to Himself since He knows all things, but He is proving to us that our faith is real, that we are truly His children, and that no trial will overcome our faith.

In His Parable of the Sower, Jesus identifies the ones who fall away as those who receive the seed of God’s Word with joy, but, as soon as a time of testing comes along, they fall away. James says that the testing of our faith develops perseverance, which leads to maturity in our walk with God (James 1:3–4). James goes on to say that testing is a blessing, because, when the testing is over and we have “stood the test,” we will “receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). Testing comes from our heavenly Father who works all things together for good for those who love Him and who are called to be the children of God (Romans 8:28).

The testing or trials we undergo come in various ways. Becoming a Christian will often require us to move out of our comfort zones and into the unknown. Perseverance in testing results in spiritual maturity and completeness. This is why James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). The testing of faith can come in small ways and daily irritations; they may also be severe afflictions (Isaiah 48:10) and attacks from Satan (Job 2:7). Whatever the source of the testing, it is to our benefit to undergo the trials that God allows.

The account of Job is a perfect example of God’s allowing one of His saints to be tested by the devil. Job bore all his trials patiently and “did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22). However, the account of Job’s testing is proof that Satan’s ability to try us is limited by God’s sovereign control. No demon can test or afflict us with beyond what God has ordained. All our trials work toward God’s perfect purpose and our benefit.

There are many examples of the positive results of being tested. The psalmist likens our testing to being refined like silver (Psalm 66:10). Peter speaks of our faith as “of greater worth than gold,” and that’s why we “suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:6–7). In testing our faith, God causes us to grow into strong disciples who truly live by faith and not by what we see (2 Corinthians 5:7).

When we experience the storms of life, we should be like the tree that digs its roots ever more deeply for a greater grip in the earth. We must “dig our roots” more deeply into God’s Word and cling to His promises so we can weather whatever storms come against us.

Most comforting of all, we know that God will never allow us to be tested beyond what we are able to handle by His power. His grace is sufficient for us, and His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). “That is why,” Paul said, “for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”


R L Thomas' summary of the ways 10 Days have been interpreted: (See Revelation Exegetical Commentary) (Note: Numbers have been added to the various interpretations)

Different interpretations of the ten days of affliction have emerged.

(#1) A widely held view says it refers to ten specific periods of persecution under the Roman emperors during the first three centuries of the Christian era. The ten persecuting emperors that are sometimes listed are Nero (A.D. 54), Domitian (A.D. 81), Trajan (A.D. 98), Hadrian (A.D. 117), Septimus Severus (A.D. 117), Maximin (A.D. 235), Decius (A.D. 249), Valerian (A.D. 254), Aurelian (A.D. 270), and Domitian (A.D. 284). (Scott, Revelation, p. 72(n.); William R. Newell, The Book of Revelation (Chicago: Moody, 1935), p. 46; Smith, Revelation, p. 67. The dates cited are the beginnings of reigns, not necessarily the beginning of the persecution under that emperor.) Besides these persecutions being well-known facts of history, this interpretation is weak. It is somewhat fanciful (Alford) in light of the writing date of the Apocalypse. In A.D. 95, if this view were valid, one of the persecutions would have been in the past and the second one almost at its end. This would render the future tense hexete (“you will have”) inexplicable. That this prediction pertained to the church in Smyrna only, not to the church throughout the Roman Empire, is another negative consideration against this view.

(#2) Another way of understanding the ten days is to take “day” symbolically to refer to a year. This then is a prediction of ten years of affliction (Lee). This symbolism is used elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., Ezek. 4:6), and the fact is that the persecution under Diocletian lasted for approximately ten years, from February 23, 303 to June 13, 313. (Lee, “Revelation,” 4:481, 520, 532.) Furthermore, the persecution under Decius and Valerian lasted for ten years, from 249–259, as did that under Domitian, from 81–91 (Lee). The prophecy of Daniel’s seventy weeks is best explained on the basis of the year-day theory too (cf. Dan. 9:24–26; cf. Rev. 11:2, 3; 12:6). The problems with this view include the fact that the persecution of 81 to 91 transpired before the writing of the book and could hardly fulfill this prediction. Also the nature of the prediction necessitates its fulfillment to that generation, not to a generation many years later. The year-day symbolism is appropriate to the apocalyptic portion of the book, from chapter 4 on, but not to these seven messages that are epistolary in style. Various schemes have sought to apply this theory, and each has proved inadequate (Lee).

(#3) A third explanation of the ten days is also symbolical, making it refer to a long period of time (Lee). In the Bible ten often represents a very large number (cf. Gen. 31:41; Num. 14:22; Job 19:3; cp. Deut. 23:3 with Neh. 13:1). This view is more in keeping with the seriousness of the impending crisis the Lord predicts. (Ray Summers, Worthy is the Lamb (Nashville: Broadman, 1951), p. 113; Mounce, Revelation, p. 94.) The immediate context dooms this attempted solution, however. Whatever else this prediction may do, it is provided as an encouragement for those in Smyrna. To accomplish this, the period of their suffering must be of limited duration rather than being so extended. Were the latter the case, their incentive to be faithful would be quelled rather than strengthened.

(#4) A further attempt to find symbolic import in the ten days sees the words referring to an indefinite period of persecution, in a short and limited time (Alford; Swete; Scott; Walvoord). “Ten” is said to be a well-known symbol for a very short period (cf. Gen. 24:55; Num. 11:19; 14:22; 1 Sam. 1:8; 25:38; Job 19:3; Dan. 1:12). (Alford, Greek Testament, 4:567; Trench, Seven Churches, pp. 114–15.) It is a round number denoting fullness or completeness quite often in the Bible and in apocalyptic writings. Here it denotes a period that is not long, but long enough to bring severe trial to the sufferers (Lee; Beckwith). Ten days of suffering and suspense might seem an eternity while they lasted, but in retrospect they would be but a moment (cf. 2 Cor. 4:17). The trial might be long, but it had a limit known to God (Swete). This view also accords with the significance of the case of hēmerōn. As an adverbial genitive of time it does not denote duration of time, which would have been expressed by an accusative case. It indicates the kind of time period during which this affliction transpires. (Swete, Apocalypse, p. 32; A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville: Broadman, 1934), p. 495; BDF, par. 186.) This view encounters difficulty in two areas, however. First is the observation that numerical symbolism is more characteristic of the apocalyptic portions of the book, which begin at chapter 4. The OT examples cited in support are literal ten-day periods and are not symbolic. A second difficulty is to observe that nothing in the context of this message indicates that the expression is intended to be symbolic (Bullinger).

(#5) In light of these difficulties a fifth interpretation of the ten days is preferable. The ten days are literal and refer to an unknown persecution within a definite period of time during the generation to which this message was addressed. Such limited periods of persecution are well known in biblical history (Gen. 7:4; 40:12, 13, 20; Num. 14:33; Esth. 3:13; Ezek. 4:1–8; Matt. 12:40).52 This is the most natural understanding of the expression in epistolary literature such as this. No reason to take the ten days as symbolic exists. This explanation also allows for a proper understanding of the genitive case of hēmerōn, which was cited above in connection with the fourth view. It is a “ten-day” affliction. The view is illustrated by, but not fulfilled by, the persecution of Polycarp in this city in the mid-second century.53 A similar surge of opposition against some Christians in Smyrna apparently came a short time after the publication of the Apocalypse.


Crown of Exultation

1 Th 2:19+

For those who win others to Christ (ARE YOU SHARING THE GOSPEL?)

Crown of Righteousness

2 Ti 4:8+

For those who have loved His appearing (CONTRAST 1Jn 2:28+)

Crown of Life

Jas 1:12+
Rev 2:10

For those who endure persecution unto death

Crown of Imperishability

1Cor 9:25+

For those who run the race of life in purity and self control

Crown of Glory

1Pe 5:4+

For those who lead the church with humility

Insights on Revelation - Charles Swindoll
What are the five heavenly crowns? |

Related Resources: 

Order Which Timing Who Description Scriptures
The Third Day
Jesus Christ
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (Click here for 3 charts on "Feast of Firstfruits") Mat. 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-11; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18; 1Cor. 15:20
Shortly after Christ’s Resurrection.
A Few OT Saints
At the earthquake attending the crucifixion, graves were opened. Shortly after the resurrection of Christ, these saints were raised Mat. 27:50-53
Before the Tribulation.
The resurrection of Church-age believers at the Rapture. John 14:3; 1Th. 4:13-18; 1Cor. 15:50-53
Middle of the Tribulation
Two Witnesses
God’s two witnesses will be raised after being killed by The Beast. Rev. 11:11-12‣
After Jacob’s Trouble
(Jer 30:7+)
OT Saints
Old Testament saints will be resurrected to enter the Millennial Kingdom.54 Dan. 12:1-2‣; Isa. 26:19; Eze. 37:13-1455
Beginning of Millennial Kingdom.
Tribulation Martyrs
The Tribulation martyrs will be resurrected so that they can rule and reign with Christ. Rev. 20:4-6‣
End of Millennial Kingdom
Unbelieving Dead56
At the end of the millennial reign of Christ, the final resurrection will consist of all of the unbelieving, wicked dead. They will be found guilty at the Great White Throne Judgment and cast into the Lake of Fire. Rev. 20:11-15‣
Source: Tony Garland

Revelation 2:11  'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.'

  • He who has an ear: Rev 2:7 13:9 
  • the second death: Rev 20:6,14 21:8 
  • Revelation 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Related Passages:

Luke 12:4-5+  I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!


He (singular) who has an ear, let him hear (akouo) what the Spirit (pneuma) (present tense - continually) says to the churches (ekklesia) - See detailed note above on this urgent command. This (to hear) is our RESPONSIBILITY, to respond to His living and active Word of Truth! This is Jesus' command to hear not just with our physical ears (in one ear and out the other, cf Lk 6:46-49+, cf James 1:22+), but with spiritually opened ears that truly grasp the words heard, so that we obey them (enabled by the Spirit) as the general direction of our life. As discussed in the note above these are genuine overcomers. As overcomers we all possess the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables each of us to obey Jesus' command, giving us first the desire to HEAR and then the power to HEAR what Jesus is saying (cf Php 2:13NLT+, cf Lk 24:45+). Note that He is singular thus speaking to each individual, while churches is plural, so that these words are applicable to every church of every age. 

Spurgeon   Some people have ears, but they have not “ears to hear.” They have ears, but they close them to that which they ought to hear. When a man is really willing to listen to the truth, then may God help him to listen with all his heart, and spiritually! But how many there are that have ears and do not hear! The external organ is affected, but the internal ear of the soul is not reached at all. Blessed are they who, having ears, do in very truth hear. May God give us such ears as can hear his voice, and may we take to heart the solemn teachings of our Lord! Amen.

William Newell - The saints may have to bow their heads to those who execute the first death—who “kill the body”; but over these, we read, “the second death hath no authority” (Revelation 20:6+). No real believer is coming into judgment. (cf John 5:24). Believers’ works will be examined (2 Cor 5:10+, Ro 14:10-12+, cf Rev 22:12+), but not as sin: that is gone forever, borne on the cross! (1 Pe 2:24+) Hebrews 9:28+: “so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” (Revelation 2)

He who (present tense - continually) overcomes (nikao) will not be hurt (adikeo) by the second death (thanatos) - Genuine believers will continually overcome, not by their might or power, but by the enabling power of the Spirit. Not is a double negative (ou me), the strongest way one can express a negative in Greek. The Second Death is described in Rev 20:14-15+ says "Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." So what is the Second Death? This passage teaches two points (1) All those not written in the book of life (all non-believers in Jesus Christ) and (2) they will be cast into the Lake of fire, which "burns with brimstone' (Rev 19:20). In Rev 20:10 indicates this will be a place of conscious torment "day and night forever and ever." (See eternal punishment - note the Second death is absolutely NOT annihilation!). In other words those who refuse to believe in Jesus Christ will "die twice!" The old saying puts it this way "Born Once, Die Twice. Born Twice, Die Once.” The caveat is that this old saying is not a "fire insurance policy" and the saying is valid only if one has truly been born again (and is not relying for example on a prayer prayed years before that was never associated with a significant change in one's lifestyle - see What is the prayer of salvation?  What is the sinner's prayer?). 

MacArthur - Though persecuted believers may suffer the first (physical) death, they will never experience the second death (which is not annihilation but conscious, eternal damnation in hell; Rev. 20:14; 21:8). Not (ou me) is the strongest negative the Greek language can express. (See Revelation  Commentary)

Paige Patterson -  the first death is defined as the separation of the soul from the body, whereas the second death is the separation of the soul from God and its confinement in the place the Bible denominates as hell (Page 99 Revelation: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition)

Lehman Strauss - I believe that this promise draws a cleavage between the true believers and the mere professors in the local assembly. It is too much for me, as a pastor, to say that all in our local assembly are overcomers. I am obliged to face the fact that possibly there are those who have not been born again. The promise of our Lord is not extended to those persons who merely give assent to a creed or a doctrine or a set of church by-laws. It is for those who have heard and believed the gospel of Christ and thereby have "passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). (BORROW The Book of the Revelation: Outlined Studies)

Alan Johnson -  Death was a real possibility for these believers. But greater than the fear of physical death should be the fear of God’s eternal judgment (Lk 12:4–5). Even though death was the outcome of Adam’s sin, in Christ there is a complete reversal for humankind (Ge 2:16–17; Ro 5:15–19). Since the messianic believers at Smyrna were under attack by some in the Jewish community, it was reassuring indeed to hear the Lord himself say that his followers would not be harmed by the second death, i.e., the lake of fire (Rev 20:14; 21:8). (See Revelation)

Overcomes (nikao) is in the present tense which means as their general lifestyle they experience victory over their enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil. This is not speaking of perfection (only Jesus achieved perfection in this earthly life) but of direction, a direction only possible by the supernatural enablement of God's Spirit (cf Php 2:13NLT+, see notes above on Ephesus). In other words, if one says they believe in Jesus and yet they bring forth no "fruit" giving evidence that they are pursuing holiness (cf Heb 12:14+), but instead continually, habitually practice deeds of wickedness, there is little evidence that they are genuine believers whose names are in the book of life. These souls are not destined for heaven but sadly are destined for a forever future in the Lake of fire, the Second Death. 

Herbert Lockyer - This second letter came from Him "which was dead, and is alive again," and was addressed to those who were about to die for their faith (Revelation 2:8, 10). Overcomers in Smyrna required endurance suited to the death struggle. What conflict raged between light and darkness! Allegiance to Christ then meant loss of character, possessions and life itself, and the faithful required strong faith and clear spiritual trust of Him who would not forsake His valiant saints. Many of them were called upon to die terrible deaths, even as their Master had died, but the promise enabling them to die triumphantly was deliverance from "the second death" which issues in "the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:14; 21:8). For such overcomers there was the promise of the crown or completeness of life for evermore. To escape the hurt of the second, eternal death is a prize worth fighting for throughout a lifetime with Satan and sin dogging our heels. (Borrow All the promises of the Bible)

Question - What is the second death?

Answer: The second death is mentioned on multiple occasions in the book of Revelation and is synonymous with the lake of fire. It is a “death” in that it is a separation from God, the Giver of life. It is called the “second” one because it follows physical death.

Revelation 21:8 explains the second death in the most detail: “The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Three other places in Revelation also mention the second death. The first is Revelation 2:11: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.” In this verse, Jesus promises that believers (“overcomers”; see 1 John 5:4) will not experience the lake of fire. The second death is exclusively for those who have rejected Christ. It is not a place believers in Christ should fear.

Revelation 20:6 speaks of the second death in relation to a future period called the Millennium: “Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” This verse notes three important facts. First, those who die for their faith in Jesus during the Tribulation will later be resurrected to enter the Millennium and live with Him. Second, these martyrs will escape the lake of fire or second death. Third, they will reign with Christ.

The second death is also mentioned in Revelation 20:14-15: “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” At the end of time, even death and the grave (Hades) will be thrown into the lake of fire. In addition, every person not included in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire. This condition will be final; the destination is permanent.

In summary, the second death is a reference to the lake of fire where those who are separated from God by their sin will dwell for eternity. This judgment was recorded in Scripture as a warning to unbelievers to seek the salvation that Jesus Christ provides. The coming judgment should also challenge believers to share their faith. There is a vast difference between the final destination of those who know Christ and those who do not. (


Participation in Births,
Deaths, and Resurrections
Event Unbeliever Believer Description
Born Again
The first birth is physical birth. The second birth is spiritual and occurs when a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ Only believers are “born twice.”
1st Death
The first death occurs at the end of one’s physical life.
1st Resurrection
The first resurrection is a category and occurs in stages, beginning with the resurrection of Christ (1Cor. 15:20) and ending with the resurrection just prior to the Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 20:5-6). Only believers participate in the first resurrection. 
2nd Resurrection
The second resurrection occurs at the end of the Millennial Kingdom at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-13). Only unbelievers participate in the second resurrection. See Order of Resurrection..
2nd Death
The second death is after the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:14-15). As there is eternal life beyond this present life for the faithful, so there is eternal death beyond the death of the wicked The second death is commonly known as hell.
Source: Tony Garland

Related Resources:

Robert Neighbor - The Overcomers at Smyrna

"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" (Rev. 2:11)

It will help us in studying the Smyrna overcomers, to once more follow the same line as we followed in the Church at Ephesus.

1. The vision of Christ as He presents Himself to Smyrna. "These things saith The First and The Last, which was dead and is alive." This vision of Christ was particularly encouraging to the saints in Smyrna because they were suffering great tribulation and standing in jeopardy of their lives at every moment.

Christ seems to tell them that He too was hated even unto the death. Around His Cross the enemy centered his attack; the mob passed by, wagging their heads against Him; the assembly of the wicked enclosed Him.

Finally Christ sounded forth His victorious cry, "It is finished." Then He commended His spirit unto the Father and yielded up the ghost.

Three days later Christ came forth from the grave bearing in His hand the keys of death and of hades. It is this Christ Who comforts Smyrna's persecuted saints with the words: "I was dead but am alive again."

2. A vision of Smyrna's drift from the simplicities of the Gospel. Paul wrote to Galatia, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him who called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel."

That was Smyrna's fault — "There were those among them who troubled them perverting the Gospel of Christ."

Against these the Holy Spirit gives strong warning to the Church at Galatia, a warning applicable to Smyrna:

"But though we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
"As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8, 9).

3. A vision of the Smyrna overcomers. There are two distinct thoughts just here.

(1) THEY ARE OVERCOMERS BECAUSE THEY STOOD TRUE TO GOD against the encroachments of Judaistic teaching, the "other gospel" that had crept into the Church at Smyrna.

They overcame in that they were not caught in the drift away from the faith. Many around them, concerning the faith, had made shipwreck, of these there were such as Hymenæus and Alexander (see I Tim. 1:20), who were delivered unto satan that they might learn not to blaspheme. They found no part in the overcomer's reward.

(2) THEY ARE OVERCOMERS BECAUSE THEY STOOD THE STORM OF PERSECUTION and "were faithful unto death." That is, they paid for their faith with their lives; they were ready to be "offered up," to be martyrs unto the Lord Jesus Christ.

4. A vision of the overcomer's reward. "He that overcometh shall in no wise be hurt of the second death." If, under Ephesus, our minds went back to Eden they now go back again. This time we go back to hear the sentence of death pronounced upon Adam. However, as we stand with the dying of Smyrna we have no dread of the greatest sting of all that lay in that old Adamic sentence. The sting of death has been taken away.

If under Ephesus, our minds went forward to the Tree of Life in the new Paradise of God, they now go forward again. Only, this time, we stand about the Great White Throne and we see the dead small and great standing before God and being judged according to their works. Then the judged are cast into the lake of fire which is the second death. In the day of that great assize, the Smyrna overcomers will realize the value of their victorious faith — they shall not be hurt of the second death.

Revelation 2:12  "And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:

NET  Revelation 2:12 "To the angel of the church in Pergamum write the following: "This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who has the sharp double-edged sword:

NLT  Revelation 2:12 "Write this letter to the angel of the church in Pergamum. This is the message from the one with the sharp two-edged sword:

ESV  Revelation 2:12 "And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: 'The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.

NIV  Revelation 2:12 "To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.

GNT  Revelation 2:12 Καὶ τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐν Περγάμῳ ἐκκλησίας γράψον· Τάδε λέγει ὁ ἔχων τὴν ῥομφαίαν τὴν δίστομον τὴν ὀξεῖαν·

KJV  Revelation 2:12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;

ASV  Revelation 2:12 and to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These things saith he that hath the sharp two-edged sword:

CSB  Revelation 2:12 "Write to the angel of the church in Pergamum: "The One who has the sharp, double-edged sword says:

NKJ  Revelation 2:12 "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write,`These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:

NRS  Revelation 2:12 "And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword:

YLT  Revelation 2:12 'And to the messenger of the assembly in Pergamos write: These things saith he who is having the sharp two-edged sword:

NAB  Revelation 2:12 "To the angel of the church in Pergamum, write this: " 'The one with the sharp two-edged sword says this:

NJB  Revelation 2:12 'Write to the angel of the church in Pergamum and say, "Here is the message of the one who has the sharp sword, double-edged:

GWN  Revelation 2:12 "To the messenger of the church in Pergamum, write: The one who holds the sharp two-edged sword says:

BBE  Revelation 2:12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos say: These things says he who has the sharp two-edged sword:

  • the angel: Rev 2:1 1:11 
  • Who has: Rev 2:16 Rev 1:16 Rev 19:15,21 Isa 11:4 Heb 4:12 Eph 6:17 2 Th 2:8
  • Revelation 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Related Passages:

Isaiah 49:2  He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; And He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver. 

Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. 

About 100 mIles North of Ephesus


John Phillips calls it "The Faltering Church." John MacArthur calls it "The Worldly Church." Michael Andrus calls it "The Too Free Church." R L Thomas called it the "Church of Indiscriminate Toleration." John Walvoord calls "The Church in Compromise." Wiersbe calls it " the Compromising Church." Swindoll says " The Church That Compromised the Truth." Henry Morris says "The Church Infiltrated." 

And to the angel (aggelos) of the church (ekklesia) in Pergamum write (grapho) - See "JESUS' PATTERN TO ALL HIS CHURCHES." Pergamum means citadel and also gives us our name for parchment (animal skins used for writing - See Backgrounds of Early Christianity). The modern city of Bergama (60,000 population) is the site of Pergamum which was the capital of the Roman province of Asia for almost 250 years. It is built on a cone shaped hill about 1000 feet above the surrounding valley.

PERGAMOS MEANS ''MARRIED''! It  comes from the same root word from which we get such words as MONOGAMY & BIGAMY. Tommy Nelson says "Pergamum means ''thoroughly married'' and many believe it has the picture of bigamy." We MUST NOT TOLERATE AS A CHURCH IMMORALITY. Tommy Nelson has called down a few men and announced their name to the girls and that they were not to date them. If he did it again and he was gone! A little compromise destroys the entire organism. Of all the churches in Revelation, this church scares Tommy Nelson more than any other bc the job of the shepherd is to protect the sheep. He can teach the doctrine. That's not the danger. The danger is that the church becomes so complacent that he can have in his midst adulterers and his church compromises. Look at those little areas that we begin to acquiesce to, to give in, to subtlely compromise: the bride of Christ and yet whoring with the world, all the while saying I'm O.K. you're O.K. to bring it in. Christ says I have a DOUBLE EDGED SWORD- I CAN CONVERT YOU OR I CAN TAKE YOUR CHURCH OUT. He does not say WAIT UNTIL IT GETS TOTALLY CORRUPTED BUT DEAL WITH IT NOW. 

Warren Wiersbe - Called “the greatest city in Asia Minor,” Pergamos had the first temple dedicated to Caesar and was a rabid promoter of the imperial cult.   (Bible Exposition Commentary)

Of the three greatest cities in Roman Asia, Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum, Emperor Worship was the most influential in Pergamum. Every five years or so, the Pergamene games were held in honor of the imperial family. It was a circus of epic proportions.

Paul passed through this province, embarking at the port of Troas, on his first voyage to Europe but there is no record that he planted a church at Pergamum 

They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; 7 and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; 8 and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:6-10+)

One of Pergamum's greatest claims to fame was being name Neokoros or Temple Warden ("temple sweeper") of the "Emperor Cult" in Asia Minor because they had constructed a Temple for the worship of emperor Augustus (29BC) and the goddess Roma in 19BC. In so doing Pergamum surpassed Ephesus and Smyrna as the leading proponent of emperor worship. In short Caesar worship was intense in Pergamum, which would have created a strong temptation of the believers to compromise their loyalty to Jesus. This honor of Neokoros was found on inscriptions of buildings in the city as the one below which honors the director of the gym and its leaders and reads "the Council and the People of Pergamenes, the first to be award the title of Temple Warden (Neokoros)."  Swete adds that "Inscriptions proclaim the dignity of the city as the first in Asia to erect a temple to Augustus; and as it was the first, so it continued to be the chief Asian set of the emperor-cult." Thus one can begin to understand the intense pressure on the those who denied Caesar is Lord acclaiming only Jesus is Lord in the city that prided itself on being one of the leading if not the premier city for emperor worship. 

Mills adds that "The major threat to Christians in Pergamum came from its role as a center of emperor worship in Asia, a function that went with it being the capital city. Caesar worship required each citizen, once a year, to offer a pinch of incense to Caesar on his altar and profess him as lord. The citizen was then given a certificate valid for one year which allowed him to worship whatever god or gods he preferred with impunity."

Pergamum - Neokoros - "City Warden"

Related Passages:

Revelation 1:17+ - In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. 

Revelation 19:15+ From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.

Revelation 19:21+ And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.

Ancient Rhomphaia

The One Who has the sharp two-edged sword (rhomphaia) - Jesus introduces Himself in graphic terms! He Who Himself is the Word of God (Rev 19:13+, cf Jn 1:1+) has the sharp two-edged sword which symbolizes the Word of God (Heb 4:12+, Eph 6:17+, Rev 19:15+)! Just as the Romans used their swords to exert their authority and to carry out judgment, so too Jesus' sword is His Word which speaks of His authority and power and also will bring about judgment. For those who reject His Word of the Gospel, His sword will bring about eternal separation in the future! The Word ("sword") of God in Acts 4:12 is clear that "there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

The sword was also the symbol of the Roman proconsul. We are to fear the Lord not man. The Risen Christ is called he who has the sharp two-edged sword. Roman governors were divided into two classes--those who had the ius gladii, the right of the sword, and those who had not. Those who had the right of the sword had the power of life and death; on their word a man could be executed on the spot. Humanly speaking the proconsul, who had his headquarters at Pergamum, had the ius gladii, the right of the sword, and at any moment he might use it against any Christian; but the letter bids the Christian not to forget that the last word is still with the Risen Christ, who has the sharp two-edged sword. The power of Rome might be satanically powerful; the power of the Risen Lord is greater yet.

MacArthur points out that "It is the first negative introduction of Christ because the Pergamum church faced imminent judgment.”

Nothing but His truth can defeat error, and we have this divinely inspired weapon of victory.
--Lehman Strauss

Walvoord says this more literally reads "Christ is described as having the sword, the two-edged one, the sharp one." (Revelation 2: The Letters To Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, And Thyatira)

Barclay helps understand Jesus' self-designation as "the One Who has the sharp two-edged sword." -  Roman governors were divided into two classes—those who had the ius gladii, the right of the sword, and those who did not. Those who had the right of the sword had the power of life and death; on their word a person could be executed on the spot. In terms of worldly power, the proconsul, who had his headquarters at Pergamum, had the ius gladii, the right of the sword, and at any moment he might use it against any Christian; but the letter tells Christians not to forget that the last word is still with the risen Christ, who has the sharp two-edged sword. The power of Rome might be satanically powerful; but the power of the risen Lord is even greater." 

Mounce -  In the context of life in a provincial capital where the proconsul was granted the “right of the sword” (ius gladii), the power to execute at will, the sovereign Christ with the two-edged sword would remind the threatened congregation that ultimate power over life and death belongs to God. (See The Book of Revelation )

R L Thomas on two-edged sword - This description comes from Rev 1:16 where it was seen to denote the judicial authority of Christ, combining the force of a warrior defeating His enemies in battle and pronouncing judgment upon them. This connotation is continued in Rev. 2:16 and Rev 19:15, 21 where the principal thought is the punishing power of Christ’s word and the defeat of His enemies....The ultimate meaning of the sharp, two-edged sword goes far beyond just Pergamum in its significance. It denotes Christ’s ultimate conquest of all the world powers, not just Rome (cf. Rev. 19:15, 21). (See Revelation Exegetical Commentary)

Lenski - This “great sword” (see Rev 1:16) with its two edges (mouths) and its sharpness is the symbol of omnipotent power which will (in the imagery of the Greek “two-mouthed”) devour the Lord’s enemies when it descends in judgment.... This sword is to inspire courage in the hearts of the faithful confessors and to dispel all fear while at the same time it is to inspire fear and bring to repentance all who are unfaithful and have begun to deny when they should confess. So many see only the loving, compassionate Christ and forget that he is also the Christ “having the great sword, the double-edged, the sharp one.”

Given this background on the ius gladii, and more importantly the two descriptions in Rev 19:15, 21 what is the significance of Jesus' sharp two-edged sword? Clearly Jesus' description that He has sharp two-edged sword refers to the Lord’s authority and readiness to bring judgment which fits His warning in Rev 2:16! Note Jesus' sword is SHARP and NOT dull so it will not fail to "cut" what Jesus intends to "cut" (judge)!

Grant Osborne on the sword - This letter has the simplest description of Jesus of any of the letters. As the provincial capital, Pergamum was the residence of the Roman governor. Christ’s claim to wield “the sharp double-edged sword” is a reference to a Thracian broadsword often used in cavalry charges. It was the symbol of Roman authority and justice; the phrase for Roman might was ius gladii “the law of the sword.” By Christ’s opening words, therefore, the city stands corrected: it is not the Roman governor but Christ who actually carries out just judgments. It is Jesus’ authority as the true and final wielder of the sword that actually will bring justice to the world. It is the exalted Christ, not a Roman official, who has ultimate power. The Pax Romana (“Roman peace”) was a façade, because it was actually the Roman sword that ruled the land. Peace can only come through Jesus Christ.....(COMMENT ON Rev 1:16) The kind of sword here is the great sword, often used in cavalry charges like a scythe. Here it is the sword of judgment, which destroys the army of the beast in Rev 19:15, 21. The note that it comes out of his mouth stresses the proclamation of judgment, and the sword itself the carrying out of that judgment. (Pdf - Revelation Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)

Walvoord on the double edged sword - Its representation as a double-edged sword indicates on the one hand the sword as the Word of God which separates the ones who are the vessels of grace from condemnation with the world, and which by its promises and message of salvation cuts loose the chains of sin and condemnation which bind the helpless sinner. On the other hand, the same Word of God is the means of condemnation and rejection for those who refuse the message of grace. The Word of God is at once the instrument of salvation and the instrument of death. This twofold character is especially pertinent to the church at Pergamos, which needed to be reminded of the distinct position of those who are true Christians as opposed to those who reject the gospel. (Revelation 2: The Letters To Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, And Thyatira)  

Lehman Strauss on the sword - This sword is His Word, used sometimes as an analytical critic of the mind of man (Hebrews 4:12), and at other times as an instrument of war (Ephesians 6:17; Revelation 2:16; 19:15). Every believer knows that the Bible possesses swordlike qualities. It was this weapon that Christ used when He was tempted of Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10+). God's way to overcome satanic error and opposition is by the faithful setting forth of His Word. Nothing but His truth can defeat error, and we have this divinely inspired weapon of victory. Let us use it fearlessly. And when Christ comes to earth again He will use it to smite the nations and to deal with all the false teachers of Christendom. (Borrow The Book of the Revelation: Outlined Studies

  • For more discussion on the sword including related Scriptures see the following comments on Rev 2:16. 

Some have offered very fanciful interpretations regarding the two-edged sword, such as Augustine's imaginative interpretation of the two edged sword as both “the old and the new law.” This is an example of the absurd interpretations that can result when one begins to allegorize the text. Is it any wonder that so many saints have trouble understanding the Revelation if they resort to reading non-literal commentaries? 

Tony Garland helps us understand the meaning of the phrase "out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword" in Rev 1:16 - Is this a literal sword that John saw coming out of the glorified Christ's mouth?

The sword goes out of His mouth in agreement with all the creative acts of God which were spoken forth by the Word of God (Ge 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26; 2Pe. 3:5). It is for this reason that Jesus is the Word (logos). The speaking forth of God’s will can bring creation or destruction. Isaiah informs us that the mouth of the Messiah is “like (term of comparison) a sharp sword” (Isa. 49:2) and with His lips He will “slay the wicked” (Isa. 11:4+). The Word spoken through the prophets is a weapon in the hand of God (Hos. 6:5). It is the only offensive weapon of the Christian (Eph. 6:17+). Its power as a sword is seen in its ability to pierce “even to the division of soul and spirit” and discern “the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12+). The Word of God has already slain His enemies because it sets forth their impending doom in words “which cannot be broken” (John 10:35). That which is prophecy today, will be accomplished history tomorrow. It is in this sense that Jesus slays His enemies with the sword of His mouth (2Th 2:8; Rev. 2:12, 16; Rev 19:15). The sword signifies His judicial power which will be in accordance with His Word (Mt. 25:31-32; John 5:22; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Ro 2:16; 14:10; 2Cor. 5:10; 2Ti. 4:1; 1Pe. 4:5; Rev. 20:12).

Note - The interpretation of the meaning of the sword out of Christ's Mouth is an excellent example of the need to Compare Scripture with Scripture

As Pastor Adrian Rogers says "Now, don’t the idea—some grotesque idea—that when you see Jesus, He’s going to have a sword in His mouth. This is symbolism.".... John says, “There will be two words, and it’ll be over. Jesus will look and say, ‘Drop dead.’ ” He will slay them with a sword that goes out of His mouth (Revelation 19:21).... John says, “There will be two words, and it’ll be over. Jesus will look and say, ‘Drop dead.’ ” He will slay them with a sword that goes out of His mouth (Revelation 19:21).

Dr Howard Hendricks on the sword out of His mouth -  Use the figurative sense if a literal meaning is impossible or absurd. This is where we need some sanctified common sense. God does not shroud Himself in unknowable mysticism. When He wants to tell us something, He tells us. He doesn’t confound us with nonsense. However, He often uses symbolism to make His points. Yet He expects us to read them as symbols, not absurdities. Consider Revelation 1:16, where the Lord appears: “Out of His mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword.” What does this mean? Is it likely that our Lord would have a literal sword sticking out of His mouth? Hardly. The most likely explanation is a figurative one, so we need to search the text for what this picture represents (see following comments on Rev 2:16.) (Borrow Living by the Book)

Says this - See note on this phrase "tade legei" repeated by Christ in all seven letters and is accurately paraphrased in the NET Bible as "This is the solemn pronouncement."  (Rev 2:12NET).

Pastor Michael Andrus introduces his message on this letter with some pithy comments - Freedom is one of the greatest words in the English language. It’s also a great biblical term. Paul wrote in Galatians 5:13, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.” And one of my all-time favorite verses is this: “If the Son makes you free, you are free indeed.” I really believe in Christian freedom, which I would define as the liberty to make my own doctrinal decisions and lifestyle choices under the boundaries of Scripture and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Outside those parameters I react strongly when other people try to tell me what to believe or how to behave, and I don’t like to do that to them. Furthermore, I have been greatly blessed to be part of the Free Church for over 30 years now. That term got into our denominational name because our forefathers valued freedom in their churches. In Europe where they lived in the 1800's every country had a state church that owned the church buildings, paid the pastors’ salaries and, of course, exercised a good bit of political control over the churches. And if it wasn’t a government exercising that control, it was an ecclesiastical hierarchy–a bishop or a presbytery. The early Free Church founders valued the priesthood of the believer and local control over a church’s affairs; that’s why they called themselves “free.” I believe in that strongly myself. I am proud to be Free Church. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Can you remember a time when you ate too much candy, had too much fun in the sun, or maybe even enjoyed too much freedom so that you got into serious trouble? I can think of several such experiences as I was growing up, but I think I will spare you the gory details. Freedom, when taken too far, can actually become another kind of slavery. Let’s finish Paul’s thought in Galatians 5:13, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.” The church we are going to study about today in the third installment of our series on Letters from Jesus to Eight Churches, is the one located at Pergamum, the capital city of the province of Asia in the Roman empire. This was not the Free Church but “The Too Free Church,” because the believers there used their Christian liberty unwisely to the point of actually being threatened by Jesus with a sword. Frankly, there may be no greater danger for American Christianity today than what we read in this passage. (Sermon)

Sword (4501)(rhomphaia) is strictly, a long Thracian javelin; later a large and broad sword. Liddell-Scott has "scimitar." Most are metaphorical descriptions of a sword as representative of the Word of God and/or "the Lord's judicial utterances." (Vine). The only literal use of rhomphaia is at Revelation 6:8 where the fourth horse and rider were given the authority and power to kill one-fourth of the earth’s population with “sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” Even here sword is most likely symbolic of war. In most of the NT uses rhomphaia represents the authority and power of the Word of God (Rev. 1:16; Rev. 2:12; Rev. 2:16; Rev. 19:15; Rev. 19:21). In Lk 2:35+ rhomphaia is figurative and describes anguish of Mary's soul as if pierced by a broad sword (Simeon predicting Jesus' crucifixion)!. 

Trench says rhomphaia "is properly the long and heavy broadsword...which the Thracians and other barbarous nations used; and as such to be distinguished from the [machaira] , the sacrificial knife, or short stabbing sword."

Rhomphaia - 7x in 7v - Lk. 2:35; Rev. 1:16; Rev. 2:12; Rev. 2:16; Rev. 6:8; Rev. 19:15; Rev. 19:21

Rhomphaia over 250 times in the Septuagint (lots of warfare in the OT!) - Gen. 3:24; Exod. 5:21; Exod. 32:27; Num. 22:23; Num. 31:8; Jos. 5:13; Jos. 6:21; Jos. 8:24; Jos. 24:12; Jdg. 1:8; Jdg. 1:25; Jdg. 4:15; Jdg. 4:16; Jdg. 7:14; Jdg. 7:20; Jdg. 7:22; Jdg. 8:10; Jdg. 8:20; Jdg. 9:54; Jdg. 18:27; Jdg. 19:29; Jdg. 20:2; Jdg. 20:15; Jdg. 20:17; Jdg. 20:25; Jdg. 20:35; Jdg. 20:37; Jdg. 20:46; Jdg. 20:48; Jdg. 21:10; 1 Sam. 2:33; 1 Sam. 13:19; 1 Sam. 13:22; 1 Sam. 14:20; 1 Sam. 15:8; 1 Sam. 15:33; 1 Sam. 17:39; 1 Sam. 17:45; 1 Sam. 17:47; 1 Sam. 17:51; 1 Sam. 21:8; 1 Sam. 21:9; 1 Sam. 22:10; 1 Sam. 22:13; 1 Sam. 22:19; 1 Sam. 25:13; 1 Sam. 31:4; 1 Sam. 31:5; 2 Sam. 1:12; 2 Sam. 1:22; 2 Sam. 2:26; 2 Sam. 3:29; 2 Sam. 12:9; 2 Sam. 12:10; 2 Sam. 23:8; 2 Sam. 24:9; 1 Ki. 1:51; 1 Ki. 2:8; 1 Ki. 2:32; 1 Ki. 2:35; 1 Ki. 19:1; 1 Ki. 19:10; 1 Ki. 19:14; 1 Ki. 19:17; 2 Ki. 3:23; 2 Ki. 3:26; 2 Ki. 6:22; 2 Ki. 8:12; 2 Ki. 10:25; 2 Ki. 11:15; 2 Ki. 11:20; 2 Ki. 19:7; 1 Chr. 10:4; 1 Chr. 10:5; 1 Chr. 11:11; 1 Chr. 11:20; 1 Chr. 21:12; 1 Chr. 21:16; 1 Chr. 21:27; 1 Chr. 21:30; 2 Chr. 20:9; 2 Chr. 21:4; 2 Chr. 32:21; 2 Chr. 36:17; Ezr. 9:7; Neh. 4:13; Neh. 4:18; Ps. 7:12; Ps. 9:6; Ps. 17:13; Ps. 22:20; Ps. 35:3; Ps. 37:14; Ps. 37:15; Ps. 44:3; Ps. 44:6; Ps. 45:3; Ps. 59:7; Ps. 63:10; Ps. 64:3; Ps. 76:3; Ps. 78:62; Ps. 78:64; Ps. 89:43; Ps. 144:10; Ps. 149:6; Cant. 3:8; Isa. 66:16; Jer. 5:17; Jer. 6:25; Jer. 38:2; Jer. 39:18; Jer. 42:16; Jer. 42:17; Jer. 42:22; Jer. 43:11; Jer. 44:12; Jer. 44:13; Jer. 44:18; Jer. 44:27; Jer. 44:28; Lam. 2:21; Lam. 4:9; Lam. 5:9; Ezek. 5:1; Ezek. 5:2; Ezek. 5:12; Ezek. 5:17; Ezek. 6:3; Ezek. 6:8; Ezek. 6:11; Ezek. 6:12; Ezek. 7:15; Ezek. 11:8; Ezek. 11:10; Ezek. 12:14; Ezek. 12:16; Ezek. 14:17; Ezek. 14:21; Ezek. 17:21; Ezek. 21:9; Ezek. 21:11; Ezek. 21:12; Ezek. 21:14; Ezek. 21:15; Ezek. 21:19; Ezek. 21:20; Ezek. 21:28; Ezek. 23:10; Ezek. 23:25; Ezek. 24:21; Ezek. 25:13; Ezek. 29:8; Ezek. 29:10; Ezek. 30:24; Ezek. 30:25; Ezek. 32:10; Ezek. 32:11; Ezek. 33:2; Ezek. 33:3; Ezek. 33:4; Ezek. 33:6; Dan. 11:33; Dan. 11:44; Hos. 1:7; Hos. 2:18; Hos. 7:16; Hos. 11:6; Hos. 13:16; Joel 3:10; Amos 1:11; Amos 4:10; Amos 7:9; Amos 7:11; Amos 7:17; Amos 9:1; Amos 9:4; Amos 9:10; Mic. 4:3; Mic. 5:6; Mic. 6:14; Nah. 2:13; Nah. 3:3; Nah. 3:15; Zeph. 2:12; Hag. 1:11; Hag. 2:22; Zech. 9:13; Zech. 13:7; 


Ancient Pergamum - A City on a Hill (Acropolis)
(Click picture of ruins of the Acropolis)

As magnificent as ancient Pergamum was, believers are like a far more beautiful city called out of darkness (1 Peter 2:9+) to be "the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden." (Mt 5:14+)

Pergamum was the first city of Asia to openly support the Imperial cult with its worship of the Roman Emperor as the Most High God!

Pergamum (Pergamos) had a unique place in Asia. It was not on any of the great roads, as Ephesus and Smyrna were, but historically it was the greatest city in Asia. Strabo, the Greek geographer, called it an illustrious (epiphanēs) city, and Pliny, the Governor of Bithynia, called it ‘by far the most famous city in Asia’ (longe clarissimum Asiae). The reason was that, by the time John was writing, Pergamum had been a capital city for almost 400 years. Back in 282 BC, it was made the capital of the Seleucid kingdom, one of the sections into which the empire of Alexander the Great was broken up. It remained the capital until 133 BC. In that year, Attalus III died; and, before he died, he willed his dominions into the possession of Rome. Out of the dominions of Attalus, Rome formed the province of Asia, and Pergamum still remained its capital.

Its geographical position made Pergamum even more impressive. It was built on a tall conical hill which dominated the valley of the River Caicus, from the top of which the Mediterranean could be seen, fifteen miles away. The archaeologist Sir William Ramsay describes it thus: ‘Beyond all other cities in Asia Minor, it gives the traveller the impression of a royal city, the home of authority; the rocky hill on which it stands is so huge, and dominates the broad plain of the Caicus so proudly and so boldly.’ History and honour gathered around Pergamum. Let us then set down its outstanding characteristics.

On the steep slope to the west of the Temple of Athena in the Acropolis of Pergamum, there
is a theater seating approximately 10,000. Rising on a steep slope, the Pergamon Theater is
one of the most beautiful architectural works of the Hellenistic period.

(1) Pergamum could never achieve the commercial greatness of Ephesus or of Smyrna, but it was a centre of culture which surpassed both. It was famous for its library, which contained no fewer than 200,000 parchment rolls. It was second only to the unique library of Alexandria.

It is interesting to note that the word parchment is derived from Pergamum. In the ancient world, parchment was hē pergamēnē charta, the Pergamene sheet; and there is a story about this name. For many centuries, rolls were written on papyrus, a substance made of the pith of a very large bulrush which grows beside the Nile. The pith was extracted, cut into strips, pressed into sheets and smoothed. This process produced a substance not unlike brown paper, and this was universally used for writing. In the third century BC, a Pergamene king called Eumenēs was very anxious to make the library of the city supreme. In order to do so, he persuaded Aristophanes of Byzantium, the librarian at Alexandria, to agree to leave Alexandria and come to Pergamum. Ptolemy of Egypt, enraged at this seduction of his outstanding scholar, promptly imprisoned Aristophanes and by way of retaliation put an embargo on the export of papyrus to Pergamum. Faced with this situation, the scholars of Pergamum invented parchment or vellum, which is made of the skins of animals, smoothed and polished. In fact, parchment is a much superior substance on which to write; and, although it did not do so for many centuries, in the end it ousted papyrus altogether as a writing material.

(2) Pergamum was one of the great religious centres. In particular, it had two famous shrines. In the letter of the risen Christ, Pergamum is said to be the place where ‘Satan’s seat’ is. Obviously, this must refer to something which the Christian Church regarded as particularly evil. Some have found the reference explained in Pergamum’s religious splendour.

(a) Pergamum regarded itself as the custodian of the Greek way of life and of Greek worship. About 240 BC, it had won a great victory against the savage invading Galatae, or Gauls. In memory of that victory, a great altar to Zeus was built in front of the Temple of Athene which stood 800 feet up on Pergamum’s conical hill. Forty feet high, it stood on a projecting ledge of rock and looked exactly like a great throne on the hillside. All day, it smoked with the smoke of sacrifices offered to Zeus. Around its base was carved one of the greatest achievements in the world of sculpture, the frieze which showed the Battle of the Giants, in which the gods of Greece were victorious over the giants of the barbarians. It has been suggested that this great altar was Satan’s seat. But it is unlikely that a Christian writer would call that altar Satan’s seat, for even by this time the old Greek gods were anachronisms and it would have been a waste of breath for Christians to attack them.


(b) Pergamum was particularly connected with the worship of Asclepios, so much so that Asclepios was known as ‘the Pergamene god’. When Galen (born in Pergamum) was mentioning favourite oaths, he said that people commonly swore by Artemis of Ephesus, or Apollo of Delphi, or Asclepios of Pergamum. Asclepios was the god of healing, and his temples were the nearest thing to hospitals in the ancient world. From all over the world, people flocked to Pergamum for relief from their sicknesses. In his commentary, R. H. Charles has called Pergamum ‘the Lourdes of the ancient world’. The task of healing was partly the work of the priests, partly the work of doctors—Galen, second only to Hippocrates in the medical history of the ancient world, was born in Pergamum—and partly the work of Asclepios himself. Was there anything in that worship to move the Christians to call the Temple of Asclepios Satan’s seat? There may have been two things.

First, the most common and most famous title for Asclepios was Asclepios Soter, Asclepios the Saviour, "an evident effort of Satan to imitate Christ’s saviorhood." (Mounce) It might well be that the Christians felt a shudder of horror that the name Saviour should be given to anyone other than Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.

Henry Barclay Swete adds that "The fame of Pergamum rested chiefly on its religious preeminence. A tetrad of local deities, Zeus Soter, Athena Nicephoros, Dionysius Kathegemon (SEE RUINS AND ARTIST'S RENDERING), Asklepios Soter, presided over the city; the temple of Athena almost crowned the acropolis, and beneath it, on the slope of the hill and visible from the agora, stood a great al fresco altar of the Pergamene Zeus. Still more celebrated was the Pergamene cult of Asklepios, to whose temple there was attached a school of medicine which attracted sufferers from all quarters. . . . What Artemis was to Ephesus, such was Asklepios to Pergamum. (The Apocalypse of St John)

COMMENT - Note these two "false saviours" competed with the One True Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Soter (from sozo = rescue from peril > from saos = safe; delivered) is translated "savior" and refers to the agent of salvation or deliverance, the one who rescues, delivers, saves and preserves. Anyone who saves or delivers can be called a deliverer or rescuer or a soter, in the case of the idol worshipers at Pergamum Swete says this name was applied to Zeus and to Asklepios. Wikipedia adds that "The rod of Asclepius, a snake-entwined staff, (similar to the caduceus - see depiction above) remains a symbol of medicine today. Those physicians and attendants who served this god were known as the Therapeutae of Asclepius.

Henry Morris - Aesculapius (whence our word ‘scalpel’ - [ED: NOT ACCORDING TO ETYMOLOGY ONLINE]) being worshiped, commonly under the sign of a coiled snake on a pole (note Numbers 21:8-9+).

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” 9 And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived. (Nu 21:8-9+ - see Jn 3:15+)

Second, the emblem of Asclepios was the serpent, which still appears on the cap badge of the Royal Army Medical Corps (pix).

See Serpent on Coin on Right Side

Many of the coins of Pergamum have Asclepios’ serpent as part of their design. It might well be that Jews or Christians would regard a religion which took the serpent as its emblem as a satanic cult. Again, this explanation seems unlikely. As has been pointed out, the Christians would regard the place where people went to be healed—and often were—with sympathy rather than with indignation. The worship of Asclepios surely would not give adequate grounds for calling Pergamum Satan’s seat. It seems, then, that we must look elsewhere for the explanation of this phrase.

(Steve Lawson adds - Worshipers would come into the temple of Asclepias to be healed. Snakes roamed wild throughout the temple. Worshipers were encouraged to lay down on the floor and allows these snakes to crawl over their body. Healing power was believed to be in the touch of these vipers. - Final Call - page 114).

(R L Thomas adds "The shrine of Asklepios, who was noted as a “god of healing,” attracted people from all over the world. Feeding a living serpent in the temple was the manner of practicing this worship. The sick spent the night in the darkness of the temple where nonpoisonous snakes were allowed to roam. If a person was touched by one of these snakes (i.e., by the god himself), he was cured of his illness." - See Revelation Exegetical Commentary)

(3) Pergamum was the administrative centre of Asia. That meant that it was the centre of Caesar-worship for the province. We have already described Caesar-worship and the dire dilemma in which it placed Christians (pp. 17–22).

It was organized with a provincial centre and an administration like that of a presbytery or diocese. The point here is that Pergamum was the centre of that worship for the province of Asia. Undoubtedly, that is why Pergamum was Satan’s seat; it was the place where people were required on pain of death to take the name of Lord and give it to Caesar instead of to Christ; and to a Christian there could be nothing more satanic than that. (William Barclay's Daily Study Bible)

Artist Depiction of Temple of Athena

Swindoll - Built only a couple miles inland from the ancient location of the historical city of Troy, Pergamum became one of the great cities of Asia Minor. By the first century AD, it was the official center of the imperial cult, having built its first great temple in 29 BC in honor of the goddess Roma and the emperor Augustus. Besides being a major center for the worship of the gods Athena, Dionysus, and Asklepios, Pergamum’s acropolis was crowned by a forty-foot tall altar to Zeus, to which Christ may have referred when He spoke of “Satan’s throne” in Revelation 2:13. Though Pergamum had once been known for its immense library, which held nearly 200,000 volumes, in John’s day the city became famous for its medicine. Galen, one of the founders of ancient medicine, had lived in Pergamum. The city also boasted a large gymnasium as well as a grand theater. (See Insights on Revelation)

Walter Kaiser - see page 708 in Hard Sayings of the Bible - Rev 2:13  Where Does Satan Live?

This verse seems a little strange, for it mentions that Satan had his “throne” in the city of Pergamum in Asia Minor. We are accustomed to thinking about Satan as traveling everywhere in the world (Job 1:7; 2:2); is there really a locality in which Satan himself lives? Does he have an actual throne? And is it visible? Should this affect our own decisions on our place of residence? How did the church in Pergamum experience what John is writing about?

On the one hand, it is clear that Satan, as a finite being, must have a localized existence. Unlike God, he is not omnipresent, so he must be somewhere (and not be everywhere) at any given point in time. But Satan is also a spiritual being, probably the one identified in Ephesians 2:2 as the “ruler of the kingdom of the air.” This means that he does not appear to be physically localized in our material sense, but rather lives in the spiritual world (or heavenlies) through which he has access to the physical world. Although we do not fully understand the relationship of the spiritual to the physical, we would be surprised to discover that Satan had limited himself to a specific physical locality by setting up his throne in a given city. Indeed, what we find elsewhere in Revelation is that when he rules on earth he does so through a human being whom he controls (see Rev 13:2).

On the other hand, Pergamum is a place known to us from history. It was an independent city until 133 B.C., when its last king willed it to Rome. It thereafter became the capital city of Roman Asia, the seat of the proconsul who as the senatorial governor of the province had an almost unlimited power for the period of his office. By 29 B.C. the city had become the center of the imperial cult with a temple erected to “the divine Augustus and the goddess Roma.” The city also had a great temple to Zeus Soter (Savior Zeus), and its citizens worshiped the serpent god Asclepius, who was the god of healing. This history gives a rich background for identifying the city with Satan. (BORROW Light from the ancient east By: Adolf Deissmann)

Any of the images we have mentioned would have served Satan well. Asclepius as a serpent (found on the coat of arms of the city and used as a symbol of medicine today) would remind one of Satan as the serpent and dragon in Revelation. The altar of Zeus was said to have been thronelike, the temple dominating the city. He was, after all, the king of the Greek gods. But the central image in this passage appears to have been that of Roman rule.

The key to this identification is the reference to Antipas, a Christian martyr. Given that the proconsul did have the power to put people to death, this probably indicates official persecution (although it may have been localized). Where else but at the center of imperial rule would the church be more likely to come into direct conflict with Rome? Imperial rule was not separated from imperial cult. While educated people did not take the cult seriously—they looked on it as a patriotic ceremony, much as pledging allegiance to the flag is seen in the U.S.A. today—the church saw in it a clash between the call of Christians to worship God alone and the demand of the state to have one’s ultimate allegiance. What is more, the state always kept a watchful eye on unsanctioned societies. The growth of the Christian community and its influence in the lower classes, especially among slaves (who had been known to revolt in Rome itself), was threatening. Here was a group who called Jesus, not Caesar, Lord, a group that could not be controlled. The clash was inevitable. Antipas had been martyred. And in the aftermath of his martyrdom the church must have lived in fear, for they were located in the very seat of Roman power and could hardly escape the notice of Rome.

This throne of Caesar, then, is the throne of Satan. Satan is not identified with Rome totally; he is independent of all of his tools. But in Revelation 13 it is Roman rulers through whom Satan works, and Roman power is in this sense the throne of Satan. It is the means through which Satan rules and controls that area, in this case Asia Minor. It is therefore also the means through which he persecutes the church of God.

The relevance of this passage to Christians today is obvious. While there may not be any recent martyrs in some Christian localities, many, if not most, Christians live under governments that claim absolute allegiance (“My country, right or wrong”). John reminds us that all such claims fly in the face of absolute obedience to Christ. They are satanic in origin. To the extent that the country decides to enforce its claim, either ceremonially or in action, a clash with a faithful church is inevitable. The closer one is to the center of government, the more certain the clash and the more inescapable the consequences. As Satan’s throne appears behind whatever the architectural façade of our capital may be, the Christian will be forced to decide whom he or she serves. John lets us know that the decision is difficult, but he is encouraging us to be faithful, even if it means following in the footsteps of Antipas. (An encouragement in this direction is found in John White’s excellent Magnificent obsession : the joy of Christian commitment = BORROW (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1990).)

A secondary application is also probable. Paul speaks eight times of “principalities and powers,” which are part of the demonic hierarchy of Satan’s kingdom (see Eph 6:12). Some such forces are on occasion identified with a particular people or land (see Dan 10:13). Thus, some demonic spirits appear to be localized, an idea that is confirmed by the experience of many Christian workers.3 This means that some areas may be more directly under the control of such powerful beings than are others, or that the being that controls a given area may himself be more powerful than the one controlling another area. Paul lists various articles of armor with which Christians are armed for battle with such beings (Eph 6:13–18). He does not mention direct prayer against them (such as “binding them” or “casting them out”), but rather exemplary Christian faith and conduct, such as the conduct that probably got Antipas in trouble and the faith that sustained him through his martyrdom. (This does not imply that Christians are never called upon to pray directly against such beings, but that such activity is not their normal occupation; it should be engaged in only at the direct command of God.)

If this analysis is accurate, then some Christians should recognize that they live in very difficult territory. Such a recognition is not a call to move, but an acknowledgment that the situation they face is tougher than normal and therefore the virtues they must arm themselves with are more than normal. At the same time, this verse reminds us that Christ is in total control of these powers. Even our martyrdom is under his control. Although our area of the battle may be tough, there is no danger of losing. The important thing is that we, like the believers in Pergamum, hold out and remain faithful, even in the face of death itself.

ILLUSTRATION -  The classic story during Roman days of a group of wrestlers who were Christians. They would wrestle for Caesar. There 40 of them and they would stand before Caesar and say ''We are 40 wrestlers, wrestling for thee oh king and to thee belongs the glory and to thee the victor's crown. And as the persecutions began to intensify, these men because of there high positions were ordered to recant their faith in Christ and they opted not to and so were marched out to a great pond in the dead of winter. In the middle of this frozen pond they were stripped down, made to sit on the ice and the centurion built fires all around the lake. As these men began to go into hypothermia, they knew that if they would just recant they could come and sit by the fires, if they denied their faith. As the tale goes they began to cry out "We are 40 wrestlers wrestling for Thee, Oh Christ. And to Thee belongs the glory and to Thee the Victor's crown.'' As the hours passed their voices became a bit weaker and weaker. And that centurion sat watching them as they slowly but surely approached death's door. Their bodies became motionless until at dusk you could see one body begin to crawl from the circle of wrestlers and to lay by the fires. And you heard this weak voice from the group ''39 wrestlers wrestling for Thee Oh Christ, to Thee belongs the glory and to Thee the Victor's crown.'' And as that centurion watched the unchanging, unflinching, uncompromising devotion to a King in the light of death as the tale goes, the centurion stripped off his clothes and walked in the middle of the ice and set down and the cry arose with the strong voice of the centurion ''We 40 wrestlers, wrestling for Thee Oh Christ, to Thee belongs the glory, to Thee the Victor's crown.'' This story was held forth as to the act of nobility as to what a true Christian is: HE IS SOMEONE WHO WILL HOLD TO WHAT HE BELIEVES, TO WHAT IS RIGHT, TO WHAT IS TRUE, AND TO WHAT IS GOOD, WHO HAS DELIVERED HIS BODY A LIVING AND HOLY SACRIFICE ACCEPTABLE TO GOD AND HE IS NOT A PERSON WHO LIVES IN A FOG BUT WHO SAYS THIS IS TRUE, THIS IS GOOD, THIS IS RIGHT AND THIS IS HOLY AND I WILL HOLD TO THAT UNTIL I DIE! 

Robert E. Lee said that the greatest word in the English language is ''DUTY''. 

Related Resources:

Revelation 2:13  'I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

NET  Revelation 2:13 'I know where you live– where Satan's throne is. Yet you continue to cling to my name and you have not denied your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was killed in your city where Satan lives.

NLT  Revelation 2:13 "I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan's city.

ESV  Revelation 2:13 "'I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

NIV  Revelation 2:13 I know where you live--where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city--where Satan lives.

GNT  Revelation 2:13 Οἶδα ποῦ κατοικεῖς, ὅπου ὁ θρόνος τοῦ Σατανᾶ, καὶ κρατεῖς τὸ ὄνομά μου καὶ οὐκ ἠρνήσω τὴν πίστιν μου καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἀντιπᾶς ὁ μάρτυς μου ὁ πιστός μου, ὃς ἀπεκτάνθη παρ᾽ ὑμῖν, ὅπου ὁ Σατανᾶς κατοικεῖ.

KJV  Revelation 2:13 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.

ASV  Revelation 2:13 I know where thou dwellest, even where Satan's throne is; and thou holdest fast my name, and didst not deny my faith, even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwelleth.

CSB  Revelation 2:13 I know where you live-- where Satan's throne is! And you are holding on to My name and did not deny your faith in Me, even in the days of Antipas, My faithful witness who was killed among you, where Satan lives.

NKJ  Revelation 2:13 "I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

NRS  Revelation 2:13 "I know where you are living, where Satan's throne is. Yet you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan lives.

YLT  Revelation 2:13 I have known thy works, and where thou dost dwell -- where the throne of the Adversary is -- and thou dost hold fast my name, and thou didst not deny my faith, even in the days in which Antipas was my faithful witness, who was put to death beside you, where the Adversary doth dwell.

NAB  Revelation 2:13 "I know that you live where Satan's throne is, and yet you hold fast to my name and have not denied your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was martyred among you, where Satan lives.

NJB  Revelation 2:13 I know where you live, in the place where Satan is enthroned, and that you still hold firmly to my name, and did not disown your faith in me even when my faithful witness, Antipas, was killed among you, where Satan lives.

GWN  Revelation 2:13 I know where you live. Satan's throne is there. You hold on to my name and have not denied your belief in me, even in the days of Antipas. He was my faithful witness who was killed in your presence, where Satan lives.

BBE  Revelation 2:13 I have knowledge that your living-place is where Satan has his seat: and you are true to my name, and were not turned away from your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my true witness, who was put to death among you, where Satan has his place.

  • know: Rev 2:2,9 
  • Satan's: Rev 2:9,10,24 Rev 3:9 
  • you hold fast : Rev 2:25 Rev 3:3,11 1Th 5:21 2Ti 1:13 Heb 3:6 10:23 
  • My name: Rev 3:8 Mt 24:9 Lu 21:17 Ac 9:14 Jas 2:7 
  • did not deny: Mt 10:33 1Ti 5:8 2Ti 2:12 Jude 1:3,4 
  • was: Ac 22:20 
  • Revelation 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Related Passages:

Revelation 2:9;‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Revelation 2:24 ‘But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them–I place no other burden on you.

Revelation 3:9 ‘Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie–I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.

Revelation 2:25  ‘Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.

Revelation 3:11  ‘I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.

Throne of Zeus in Berlin

Throne of Zeus on Acropolis of Pergamum


I know  (eido) - Speaks of Christ's omniscience. How did John describe Jesus' vision? "His eyes were like a flame of fire." (Rev 1:14) Know is the verb eido which is used in the introductions to each of the 7 churches (Rev 2:2, 2:9, 13, 19; Rev 3:1, 8, 15) "speaks of absolute, beyond the peradventure (chance) of a doubt knowledge, a knowledge that is self-evident...a positive know absolutely and know absolutely...a sure knowledge, a positive absolute acquaintance with something." (Wuest) The use of this verb (eido) indicates that Jesus is intimately acquainted with every aspect of this church. He has perfect knowledge of this church. Nothing is hidden from Him. Notice that before He corrects, He commends, which is a good pattern for all of us in authority!  Someone has said this verb for know "emphasizes better the absolute clearness of mental vision which photographs all the facts of life as they pass"

The NET rendering has - 'I know where you live– where Satan's throne is. Yet (term of contrast) you continue to cling to My Name...." NET Note - “Yet” to indicate the contrast between their location and their faithful behavior.

Where you dwell (katoikeo) - Where you dwell means where you have your settled residence and speaks of permanence.  Jesus says I know the satanic, pagan environment where you have settled (see this unusual word of "dwell" = katoikeo). Christ has them right where He wants them, for in such darkness the true Gospel light shines forth all the more brightly. One recalls Paul's words in Phil 2:14-15+ "Do (present imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) all things without grumbling or disputing; so that (term of purpose - What purpose?) you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world." 

THOUGHT - It is becoming more and more difficult to be a Christ follower in America for we have become a very post-Christian nation and our government has begun to remove as many influences of Christianity as possible under the guise of the non-Biblical idea of separation of church and state. Today, profession of loyalty to Christ can cost you your job, your chance for a promotion, etc, etc. As the moral darkness continues to fall on America, the light of Christ in believers will become more and more obvious. But for believers, who like those at Pergamum,  choose to compromise with the godless world system ruled by Satan, their salt (Mt 5:13+) and light (Mt 5:14-16+) will dwindle and their power to influence the society for good will be greatly dissipated (Php 2:14,15+). So let me ask you, when was the last time it cost you to stand for Christ, in essence saying "Christ is Lord?" Or has your profession of Christ ever cost you? If you say never, then you seriously need to read and heed Paul's admonition in 2Co 13:5+

While R L Thomas discusses seven options for the meaning of Satan's throne (see Revelation Exegetical Commentary), R C H Lenski offers what seems to be as the most literal interpretation writing "Once more, “I know” (see Rev 2:2). Here the Lord knows “where thou art dwelling,” namely, “where the throne of Satan is,” and in the last clause, “where Satan is dwelling.” Both statements refer to the pagan city Pergamum as being a citadel (ED: PERGAMUM MEANS CITADEL) of Satan himself where he had established himself as a king on his throne." (See Interpretation of St. John's Revelation)

Lehman Strauss notes that Christ's desire is "that we remain in the world but not of the world (John 17:14-16; cf Ro 12:2; Jas 4:4; 1Jn 2:15-17). In no place did the Christians have a more difficult time than in Pergamos, the center of paganism in that day. In Smyrna it is a "synagogue of Satan" (Rev 2:9); in Pergamos it is the throne of Satan, his base of operations."  (Borrow The Book of the Revelation: Outlined Studies

Charles Swindoll on why use this unusual verb for dwell (katoikeo) - Even though Pergamum was characterized as the seat of Satan’s authority, the church didn’t try to escape the extreme pressures. Instead, the congregation chose to endure the hardship of their environment.  Let me illustrate this with a modern analogy. While everybody else was moving to the suburbs, the Christians in Pergamum were committed to remaining in the inner city. They decided to stay put in the midst of the noise, the violence, the corruption, and the temptations, to shine as a light in the darkness of the city. (See Insights on Revelation)

Where Satan's (satanas) throne (thronos) is - What a reputation for a city! The home of Satan's throne! Woe! Throne speaks of authority and power. And throughout the Revelation God's throne in heaven (Rev 4:2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10+) and Satan's throne on earth are set against one another. Note the phrase below "where Satan dwells," which would support the interpretation that he was actually in "residence" in Pergamum. After all it was a major center for the worship of Dionysus, Zeus, Asklepios whose traditional image portrayed the god holding a serpent (cf Rev 12:9+, Rev 20:2+) and other pagan gods as well as a major center of emperor worship. As an aside I examined multiple available pictures of the friezes on the sides of the "Throne of Zeus" in Berlin and many of them had large serpents in the background, one apparently even about to sink his fangs into the human-like figure. "On every hand, the serpent was visible because of the prominence of this cult." (Thomas) The phrase "where Satan dwells," raises the question Is Satan / the devil omnipresent? The short answer is NO (see Job 1:7 where Satan answers God's question where did he come from = “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”, cf  where he "prowls around" in 1 Pe 5:8+

THOUGHT - What would their Christian life be like - comfort or conflict? Was this an easy place to live? Do you sense an escalation in the spiritual battle in America in recent years? We do well to learn from our Lord's commendation and correction of our fellow believers in Pergamum.

Grant Osborne writes "Pergamum is Satan’s hometown, and Satan is the true source of the church’s troubles." (Pdf - Revelation Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)

Spurgeon on Satan's throne - We cannot at this distance of time exactly tell what it was; but the Lord regarded it as the citadel of Satan. There are places in the world at this day where sin has so much the upper hand, or where error and unbelief reign so supreme, that the devil would seem to have there taken up his residence, and to have made it his capital city. (From his sermon Holding Fast the Faith or listen to well done the audio version)

Henry Morris has in interesting note - Alexander Hislop, in his famous book Two Babylons, gave much documentation to show that Pergamos had inherited the religious mantle of ancient Babylon when Babylon fell in the days of Belshazzar. The priests, who had kept the secrets of the ancient mystery religious centered at Babylon ever since the days of Nimrod, were forced to migrate at that time, transferring what amounted to the headquarters of Satan’s religious system away from Babylon north and west to Pergamos.

J Vernon McGee - “Even where Satan’s seat [throne] is” reveals that religion was big business in Pergamum and that Satan’s headquarters were there. This ought to settle the question for those who think that Satan is in hell at the present time. He has never yet been in hell because hell hasn’t opened up for business yet. Satan will not be in hell until much later, as we shall see in chapter 20. At the present, Satan is loose and is the prince of this world, controlling kingdoms and going up and down the earth as a roaring lion, hunting for whom he may devour (see 1 Pet. 5:8). But he does have headquarters, and Christ said they were in Pergamum at that time. Since those days, I think that he has moved his headquarters around to different places. I used to get the impression that he had moved them to Los Angeles, and he may have done so because that is another great religious center of every kind of cult and “ism” and schism. (Revelation 2

Lehman Strauss points out that "Satan's throne is not in hell. This whole idea of Satan's headquarters being in hell is preposterous. Satan is "the prince of this world" (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). So said Christ Himself on at least three occasions. Paul and John taught likewise that Satan held leadership over this world system (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 4:3-4; 5:19). His rule extends to both the celestial and the terrestrial spheres.This religious city was an ideal place for Satan to establish his headquarters inasmuch as his most effective work is accomplished through religious organizations and institutions. While communism and atheism are avowed enemies of Jesus Christ, and therefore under Satan's control, Satan himself operates to his greatest advantage through his demons who pose as ministers of righteousness." (Borrow The Book of the Revelation: Outlined Studies)  (Bolding added)

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15+)

A T RobertsonSatan not simply resided in Pergamum, but his “throne” or seat of power of king or judge (Mt. 19:28; Lk 1:32, 52). The symbol of Asklepios was the serpent as it is of Satan (Rev 12:9; Rev 20:2, cf 2Co 11:3). There was, besides, a great throne altar to Zeus cut on the Acropolis rock, symbol of “rampant paganism” (Swete) and the new Caesar-worship with the recent martyrdom of Antipas made Pergamum indeed a very throne of Satan. 

Mounce - Zahn notes that under Diocletian, Christian stonecutters from Rome working in the quarries of Pannonia refused to carve an image of Aesculapius (Latin designation of Asklepios) and consequently were put to death for being followers of Antipas of Pergamum (Zahn, Introduction, 3.421).

Andrus - We like to name our cities: St Louis is The Gateway to the West; New York is The Big Apple; New Orleans, The Big Easy; Denver, The Mile High City. But for Jesus to call a place “the City of Satan” indicates the believers there must have faced tremendous opposition. (Sermon)

And you hold fast (krateo) My Name - Note that His Name is everything about Him, His attributes, His divinity, His sinlessness, His saving work for sinners. Hold fast is in the present tense indicating they are continuing to hold on! To Whose Name does this refer? Why would Jesus say that in this context? It would be easy to not hold fast Jesus' Name in a place where Satan is ruling. Holding fast Christ's Name speaks of the faithfulness of this church which is underscored by the next commendation that they did not deny Christ.  

Katoikeo in the letter to the church at Pergamum (3x - Rev. 2:13; Rev. 2:14; Rev. 2:15) Do you see any relationship between the three uses of in this letter? If you are holding fast to the teaching of Christ, you are unlikely to hold fast to false teachings (in this case teaching of Balaam and Nicolaitans. (See the related article Expulsive Power of a New Affection).

As Strauss points out "Holding fast His name is not the equivalent of carrying a card or wearing a medal to show that one belongs to some "holy name society." Rather, it is holding to the firm conviction that He is the Lord Jesus Christ—"Lord" [Master], "Jesus" [Mediator], "Christ" [Messiah]. His name suggests His honor, His glorious nature, His holy character, and His redeeming power."  (Borrow The Book of the Revelation: Outlined Studies

Walvoord says My Name "seems to embody a personal loyalty and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ with all that this represented." (Revelation 2: The Letters To Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, And Thyatira)

THOUGHT - "The faithfulness of the church at Pergamos is a challenge to Christians today to stand true when engulfed by the evil of this present world, the apostasy within the ranks of religion, and the temptation to compromise their stand for the truth." (Walvoord - Revelation 2)

A T Robertson on holding fast Christ's Name - This church refused to say Kurios Kaisar ("CAESAR [IS] LORD") (Martyrd. Polyc. 8f.) and continued to say  [Kurios Iēsous]. They stood true against the emperor-worship." As Paul wrote "no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit." (1 Cor. 12:3).

Related Resource:

Strauss observes that Christ praises "those, who were dwelling in the shadow of Satan's throne, for their faithfulness to His name. They might have saved themselves from persecution by merely whispering His name among themselves. Or they might have concluded that they must get along with Satan's crowd, and so, in order to maintain peaceful coexistence and satisfy the enemy, they wouldn't make a spectacle of themselves by identifying themselves publicly with Jesus Christ. But no, they maintained a love for, and loyalty to, Christ's name, and He appreciated their stand."  (Borrow The Book of the Revelation: Outlined Studies

Swindoll - Even today, certain places are especially tough for Christians to live. Yet those who remain steadfast are “faithful witnesses.” They refuse to deny Christ’s name, even when Satan moves in next door or sets up shop across the street. Instead, they dig in and hold their ground, regardless of the personal cost. That’s commendable faith! (See Insights on Revelation)

THOUGHT - Have you ever denied His Name? Most us of have at least in a tacit if not overt sense! We hear a group beginning to mock or denigrate the Great Name above all names and we begin to slink slowly and silently away (I will speak for myself at least - a few times for sure in 36 years!). 

Gotquestions observes that "The Pergamene believers lived in a difficult place, surrounded by pagan influences, yet they held fast to Christ’s name and did not deny Him during difficult times."

And did not deny (arneomai) My faith (pistis) - Not (ouk) is absolutely not. Why does Christ commend the church for not denying My faith? Given the major emphasis the city put on Emperor Worship and their worship of numerous so-called gods, the pressure must have been intense to deny Christ and His teachings. Now don't miss the historical context which helps accentuate their holding fast to Jesus and not denying His teachings, for one of their fellow-believers in Christ had given his life because of his faith. It stands to reason that there was the potential this could happen to any of the Christ proclaimers and "emperor as god" deniers! We are not there yet in America but other countries are (Africa, Middle East, China, etc). Hold on it's coming! Imagine the fearful thoughts that went through the minds of the believers at Pergamum and yet they did not renounce their faith! They buried their dead brother in Christ but did not bury their faith in the living Christ. (ponder Heb 6:12+).

What is the idea of "My faith?" Is it their personal faith in Christ (subjective)? Or is it the content of what is believed (objective), ultimately summed up in the Gospel? See faith used to signify the content of what is believer (objective) in Jude 1:3+ (cf Acts 6:7+). Thomas favors that faith here refers to the ACT of believing (their personal trust in Christ) more than to the CONTENT of what they believed. What fact makes it even more commendable that they did not deny the faith? 

What was Jesus' promise with a warning to His disciples? "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven." (Mt 10:32-33) Did any of His disciples deny Him? Judas denied Him and gained hell. Peter denied Him but repented and returned and became bold to proclaim Him when he was filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:1-3, 14+). 


Lehman Strauss - All we know about Antipas is that he was Christ's faithful martyr. And the Lord commends this assembly that even in the face of such persecution there were those who remained faithful. We shall meet Antipas, and a host of other martyrs, who, having been faithful unto death, will receive a crown of life. We shall witness their coronation when the Lord Jesus Christ shall say to them, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
If your Christian faith and mine were to be exposed to the supreme test, would we stand firm? Would we accept death rather than deny our Lord? Is the name of Jesus Christ more precious to us than life? No trial, however severe, justifies unfaithfulness. "It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2). (Borrow The Book of the Revelation: Outlined Studies

Even in the days of Antipas, My witness ("My martyr" - martus/martys), My faithful (pistos) one - Antipas is the first named martyr in Asia. Note Jesus use of "My," first person possessive pronoun. Antipas belonged to Jesus (He was Jesus' "possession") and proved it by being willing to die for Jesus (cf Mk 8:34-35+)! Antipas was faithful, trustworthy, reliable and thus surely heard those wonderful words from Jesus' lips "Well done, good and faithful (pistos) slave; you were faithful (pistos) with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master." (Mt 25:21) Some such as Strong's Dictionary suggest that the name Antipas derives from anti meaning against and pas meaning all indicates "against all” which he stood firm against the forces of evil even unto death. Zodhiates writes that Antipas "has been allegorized as antí against, and pás  all. The two words would mean against all." Some writes dismiss this possible derivation of his name and prefer that is a a shortened from of "Antipater." Either way, it would seem Antipas' fate would strongly support the premise that he stood against the false teaching in Pergamum, including the teaching of the Balaamites and the Nicolaitans. Such a stance for righteousness and truth cost him his life. 

Who was killed (apokteino) among ("by your side" - ATR) you - What is the point of describing this martyr's death among the saints at Pergamum? This would make it every more striking that the believers in Pergamum even when faced with the prospect of martyrdom, they might imitate Antipas and not flinch from the prospect of being martyred! Even Peter denied Christ 3 times when faced with the threat of punishment (or death).  

Where Satan (satanas) dwells (katoikeo) - Dwells is in present tense (active voice - speaks of choice) which speaks of Satan's continual presence in Pergamum. Recall that Satan in not omnipresent and can only be at one place at a time. However, we know from Job 1:7 that Satan was "roaming about on the earth and walking around on it." Presumably, his throne in Pergamum was his "home base" from which he orchestrated his nefarious operations.  

Notice that Christ uses  almost the identical description of Antipas as He did to describe Himself as "the faithful and true Witness" in Rev 3:14+!(cf Rev 1:5+ = "Jesus Christ, the faithful witness")

Gotquestions on the tradition surrounding Antipas - Church tradition says that Antipas was a physician suspected of secretly propagating Christianity. The Aesculapians (members of the medical guild) accused Antipas of disloyalty to Caesar. Upon being condemned to death, Antipas was placed inside a copper bull, which was then heated over a fire until it was red-hot.

Robertson on witness - “Witness” as Jesus had said they should be ("you shall be My witnesses" - Acts 1:8+) and Stephen was (Acts 22:20) and others were (Rev. 17:6). The word later (by third century) took on the modern meaning of martyr

What does Jesus call Antipas? MY witness. MY faithful one. If he was "My witness" of whom did he testify? Jesus of course. And why is he referred to as MY faithful one? What is pistos? In this context is speaks of the loyalty of Antipas to Jesus, even willing to die for Jesus. What had Jesus taught His disciples so that they might be better able to stand firm when persecution came?

"Do not fear (present imperative with a negative  see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Mt 10:28+)

“You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.  23“ But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. 24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. (Mt 10:22-24+). 

How sure is persecution to come to a believer? In 2 Ti 3:12+ Paul wrote "Indeed, all who desire (present tense = speaks of their lifestyle) to live godly in Christ Jesus (HOW? "IN" CHRIST) will be persecuted."  This is a conditional promise in a sense -- what is the condition? What his the promise? There are not many believers standing in line to claim this promise! Similarly Paul wrote to the saints at Philippi "For to you it has been granted (charizomai - speaks of a gift of God's grace) for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,." (Php 1:29+, cf Acts 14:22+

Dwight Edwards - The word for "desire" (thelo) in 2 Ti 3:12 can also be translated "wish" or "want'. The thought seems to be that any believer with the slightest inkling to break ranks with the world and walk in line behind Christ will feel the heat of this world's rage. If we find that we seldom, if ever, are being persecuted for our faith, then certainly we must question whether we genuinely are "living godly in Christ Jesus."

John MacArthur: Self-centered Christians who serve the Lord halfheartedly seldom have to pay a price for their faith. They are of little threat to Satan’s work because they are of little benefit to Christ’s. (I would dare take this thought a step further and say could it be that one who never ever has had to suffer for his faith in Messiah may not be a genuine partaker of Christ? Why would the Spirit teach in so many places it is he that holds fast to the end who is a partaker of Christ [Heb 3:14]...who is His house [Heb 3:6]?)

THOUGHT- If anyone proposes to introduce into his life a loyalty which surpasses all earthly loyalties, there are bound to be clashes. And that is precisely what Christianity demands that a man should do. 

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star:
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet, I was wounded by the archers, spent.
Leaned me against the tree to die, and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed me, I swooned:
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yes, as the master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole. Can he have followed far
Who has no wound? No scar?
            -- Amy Wilson Carmichael

ILLUSTRATION OF COUNTING THE COST - From the diary of John Wesley. . .

Sunday, A.M., May 5    Preached in St. Anne's. Was asked not to come back anymore.
Sunday, P.M., May 5     Preached in St. John's. Deacons said "Get out and stay out."
Sunday, A.M., May 12    Preached in St. Jude's. Can't go back there, either.
Sunday, A.M., May 19    Preached in St. Somebody Else's. Deacons called special meeting and said I couldn't return.
Sunday, P.M., May 19    Preached on street. Kicked off street.
Sunday, A.M., May 26    Preached in meadow. Chased out of meadow as bull was turned loose during service.
Sunday, A.M., June 2    Preached out at the edge of town. Kicked off the highway.
Sunday, P.M., June 2    Afternoon, preached in a pasture. Ten thousand people came out to hear me. 

Dwell (reside, settle) (2730)(katoikeo) means literally to settle down (be at home, dwell) in a place so to take up permanent abode or residence. This is an unusual verb to use of believers for it generally denotes permanent habitation as opposed to sojourning or an occasional visit. Most of the uses of this verb in the Revelation refer so called "earth dwellers" those who are firmly fixed on earth and have no desire for God or Jesus and who are the ones that take the mark of the Beast (e.g., see Rev 13:8). So you can see why it is a unusual to apply this verb to those who are believers in Pergamum. Notice the next use of katoikeo in the letter to the Church at Philadelphia - "Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world (THE TRIBULATION - Daniel's Seventieth Week), to test those who dwell (katoikeo) on the earth." See Tony Garland's explanation of the unique group of people known as the "earth dwellers" in the Revelation. 

Katoikeo is used in  Rev. 2:13; Rev. 3:10; Rev. 6:10; Rev. 8:13; Rev. 11:10; Rev. 13:8; Rev. 13:12; Rev. 13:14; Rev. 17:2; Rev. 17:8.

Throne (2362thronos (See Throne of God) describes a seat of authority as with the throne of God (Heb. 4:16, "the throne of grace," Heb 8:1; Heb 12:2; Rev 1:4; Rev 3:21; Rev. 4:2; Rev. 5:1 Rev. 20:12; Lxx - Ps 47:8, Ps 103:19), the throne of Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:8; Rev. 3:21; Rev. 22:3; in the Millennium = Mt 19:28), by metonymy (or figuratively) used for angelic powers (Col. 1:16), of the apostles (Mt 19:28, Lk 22:30), elders in heaven (Rev 4:4), of the throne of David (Lk 1:32, Acts 2:30), of the throne of Satan (Rev 2:13), of the throne of the beast, the antichrist (Rev 13:2, Rev 16:10).  Wikipedia = "Since the early advanced cultures, a throne has been known as a symbol of divine and secular rule and the establishment of a throne as a defining sign of the claim to power and authority."

Thronos in the Revelation -  Rev. 1:4; Rev. 2:13; Rev. 3:21; Rev. 4:2; Rev. 4:3; Rev. 4:4; Rev. 4:5; Rev. 4:6; Rev. 4:9; Rev. 4:10; Rev. 5:1; Rev. 5:6; Rev. 5:7; Rev. 5:11; Rev. 5:13; Rev. 6:16; Rev. 7:9; Rev. 7:10; Rev. 7:11; Rev. 7:15; Rev. 7:17; Rev. 8:3; Rev. 11:16; Rev. 12:5; Rev. 13:2; Rev. 14:3; Rev. 16:10; Rev. 16:17; Rev. 19:4; Rev. 19:5; Rev. 20:4; Rev. 20:11; Rev. 20:12; Rev. 21:3; Rev. 21:5; Rev. 22:1; Rev. 22:3

Faith (4102pistis is synonymous with trust or belief and is the conviction of the truth of anything, but in Scripture usually speaks of belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with it. I like the way Chuck Swindoll describes pistis - "The term implies both knowledge and action. One may receive knowledge of a certain truth and may even offer verbal agreement, but “trust” or “confidence” is not said to be present until one’s behavior reflects that truth." In Rev 2:13 the text literally reads "the faith" (See "the faith = pistis") which would speak of the object of their belief (which would be the Gospel of Jesus). 

Pistis in the Revelation - Rev 2:13, Rev 2:19, Rev 13:10, Rev 14:12. 

Deny (720arneomai from "a" = negation + rheo = say) literally means "to say no", to say one does not know about or is in any way related to some person or some thing. Webster says that to deny implies a firm refusal to accept as true, to grant or concede or to acknowledge the existence or claims of. The only other use of arneomai in the Revelation is Rev 3:8. 

Witness (3144)(martus/martys) basically describes one who remembers something and testifies concerning what they remember. Notice that martus has a two fold meaning of (1) describing one who has seen and/or experienced something or someone and (2) one who testifies to what he or she saw. The testimony could be in a legal setting (Mk 14:63; Acts 6:13; 7:58; Heb. 10:28) or in the general sense of recounting firsthand knowledge (Lk 11:48; 1Ti. 6:12; Heb 12:1; 1Pe 5:1). Barclay comments that "“Martus is a most interesting and suggestive word. In classical Greek martus never means a martyr in our sense of the term. It always means a witness. A martus was one who said: ‘This is true, and I know it.’ It is not until New Testament times that martus ever means martyr.” 

Martus in the Revelation - Rev. 1:5; Rev. 2:13; Rev. 3:14; Rev. 11:3; Rev. 17:6

Killed (put to death)(615)(apokteino from apó = intensifies meaning + kteíno = slay) means to kill outright or to put to death in any manner. To kill someone results in a state of separation.

Apokteino in Revelation - Rev. 2:13; Rev. 2:23; Rev. 6:8; Rev. 6:11; Rev. 9:5; Rev. 9:15; Rev. 9:18; Rev. 9:20; Rev. 11:5; Rev. 11:7; Rev. 11:13; Rev. 13:10; Rev. 13:15; Rev. 19:21

C H Spurgeon - Holding fast the faith (From his sermon Holding Fast the Faith preached Feb 5, 1888, which was a plea he made several weeks before the climax of the Downgrade Controversy on April 23,1888, when the Baptist Union overwhelmingly voted against the stand he had been taking! So sad. The "Spirit of Pergamos" had crept into the church of Jesus Christ!)

‘I know … where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith.’ Revelation 2:13

The faith I hold bears upon it marks of the blood of my ancestors. Shall I deny their faith, for which they left their native land to sojourn here? Shall we cast away the treasure which was handed to us through the bars of prisons, or came to us charred with the flames of Smithfield? When my bones have been tortured with rheumatism, I have remembered Job Spurgeon, who in Chelmsford Jail was allowed a chair because he could not lie down by reason of rheumatic pain. That Quaker’s broad-brim overshadows my brow. Perhaps I inherit his rheumatism, but that I do not regret if I have his stubborn faith, which will not let me yield a syllable of the truth of God. When I think of how others have suffered for the faith, a little scorn or unkindness seems a mere trifle. An ancestry of lovers of the faith ought to be a great plea with us to abide by the Lord God of our fathers and the faith in which they lived. I must hold the old gospel: I can do no other. God helping me, I will endure the consequences of what men think obstinacy. If the Lord does not speedily appear, there will come future generations, which will all be tainted and i