2A. “THE THINGS WHICH ARE” - The Churches In The World, (2)
If Revelation 1 fulfills the command of Jesus Christ in Revelation 1.19 to “Write the things which thou hast seen,” and if Revelation chapters 4 through 22 fulfills the command of Jesus Christ in Revelation 1.19 to write also “the things which shall be hereafter,” then it is reasonable to expect Revelation chapters 2 and 3 to fulfill the command of Jesus Christ in Revelation 1.19 to write “the things which are.”
It is only fair that I inform you that in these two chapters I will depart from the views and opinions of most commentators to some degree, in the following way: Though each of the seven letters in Revelation 2 and 3 are addressed “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus,” “And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna,” “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos,” “And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira,” “And unto the angel of the church in Sardis,” “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia,” “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans,” the vast majority of conservative commentators assume that these seven letters, which are specifically addressed to the angels of the Churches, are not intended for the angels of the Churches, but are intended for the Churches themselves. I disagree. I am in general agreement with Adam Clarke’s comment on these two chapters, except as I shall point out at the end of his statement that I will now quote: “I must here advertise my readers, 1. That I do not perceive any metaphorical or allegorical meaning in the epistles to these Churches. 2. I consider the Churches as real; and that their spiritual state is here really and literally pointed out; and that they have no reference to the state of the Church of Christ in all ages of the world, as has been imagined; and that the notion of what has been termed the Ephesian state, the Smyrnian state, the Pergamenian state, the Thyatirian state, &c., &c., is unfounded, absurd, and dangerous; and such expositions should not be entertained by any who wish to arrive at a sober and rational knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. 3. I consider the angel of the Church as signifying the messenger, the pastor, sent by Christ and his apostles to teach and edify that Church. 4. I consider what is spoken to this angel as spoken to the whole Church; and that it is not his particular state that is described, but the states of the people in general under his care.”
Where I would disagree with Adam Clarke is in his fourth comment. I believe the Lord Jesus Christ is speaking to the angels of each of the churches, and that it is his particular state that is described, and that the states of the people in general are not in view. Why do I believe this? I believe this because the New Testament has nine letters written directly to congregations. If the Lord Jesus had wanted to communicate directly to the congregations these seven men pastored He was perfectly capable of speaking more directly than He apparently does. I am convinced that He speaks to the angels of the churches because He is speaking to the angels of the churches, who have already figured prominently in Revelation 1.16 and 20. I also believe that the spiritual condition of the angels will eventually be reflected in their congregations, so that if a pastor leaves his first love his congregation will follow down that same pathway. Thus, strong application can be and should be made to congregations from the seven letters to the angels, while recognizing the original intent of the letters. Jesus is dealing with the seven men He symbolically holds in His right hand.
The Lord follows a well defined and definite format in addressing each angel:
(1) Some feature of the glorified Christ from the vision in chapter one is emphasized in addressing each angel.
(2) The letters are addressed to the angel of each church.
(3) He begins by stating to each, “I know thy works.”
(4) He first gives a commendation, then a condemnation. The exceptions should be noted: there is no word of condemnation to the angel in Smyrna or the angel in Philadelphia; there is no word of commendation to the angel in Laodicea.
(5) Each letter concludes with the warning, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith. . . .”
Now, before we begin to examine the first letter, the letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus, let me read a comment written by John Walvoord that I agree with, by and large:
Ecclesiology. A major section and contribution to ecclesiology is found in the opening chapters of Revelation with the incisive letters to the seven churches. Here the emphasis is on practical truth and holy living, in keeping with their relationship to the head of the church, Jesus Christ. Reference to the New Testament church as the ekklesia is found in chapters 4 through 18, but the church as the wife of the Lamb reappears in 19:7-8 and is included in the mention of the apostles in the description of the new Jerusalem, which the church shares with saints of other ages. As in other books of the New Testament, ekklesia, used in a religious sense referring to saints in the Body of Christ, is nowhere found in Revelation from 3:14 to 22:16; rather, the general word hagios (“saint”) is used to include the saved of all ages. This tends to support the concept that the church as the Body of Christ is raptured before events pictured in the book of Revelation beginning in chapter 4. The true church is in contrast to the harlot of chapter 17, and it is to be distinguished from the saints described as Jews or Gentiles. The peculiar hope of the church, in contrast to that of other saints, is alluded to only obliquely and is not the main substance of the revelations in chapters 4 through 19.
My disagreement with Walvoord’s comments would have to do with his concept of the doctrine of the church. It is one thing to learn prophecy from a Protestant, but you want to learn your ecclesiology, your doctrine of the church, from a Baptist, and the comment of B. H. Carroll that I now read to you reflects the mainstream Baptist position of his day, as well as my own long held position:
My third general observation is based upon Christ’s own uses of the word “church” as found in Matthew and Revelation. There are twenty-three instances of Christ’s using the Greek word ecclesia—church. In Matthew 24:18, he says, “I will build my church.” In Matthew 18:17, he says, “Tell it to the church.” The references in Revelation where he uses the term church or churches are the following: 1:4, 11, 20, and again 20; 2:1, 7-8, 11-12, 17-18, 23, 29; 3:1, 6-7, 13-14, 22; 22:16.
Now here are twenty-three examples of the use of the word ecclesia—church—as spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ himself; and it is evident from a study of these twenty-three instances of the use of the word, that Christ never said anything about an invisible or universal church. His teaching is to the contrary; he does not say the church in Asia, but “the churches in Asia.” He does not use the word church in any provincial sense, or state sense, or national sense, or denominational sense. This is a very convincing exhibit of the uses of the word, as coming from the lips of our Lord, rebuking the contention of many people of the present day who talk about a universal church here on earth, whether visible or invisible.— the New Testament does not know anything about either one. It is true that in 12:1 under the symbol of a woman, also in 17:3, under the symbol of another woman, he presents first the church as an institution and then the apostate church as an institution, and it is equally true that in 19:7-8 he presents the church in glory, under the symbol of a bride, and in 21:9, under the symbol of the heavenly Jerusalem, a city. So that we may say that Christ used the word to describe the time church as an institution, and to name the concrete example of this institution particular churches, and to foreshadow the coming glory church—something which does not yet exist.
1B. Letter To The Angel Of The Church In Ephesus (2.1-7)
(2.1-7) 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;
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:
3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
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.
(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;
1. Notice the first phrase of verse 1 again. “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write.”
a. Folks, we have already shown, and quite conclusively, I might add, that the angels of these 7 churches are human messengers. In all reasonable likelihood, such a man would be described these days as the senior-pastor of the congregation.
b. Will you notice something else? Who is this letter actually addressed to? Who is John asked to write the message to? We read this message and basically apply it to the congregation, according to Revelation 2.7, but this communication is specifically addressed to the angel. Who is sending the letter through John? From what we learned in Revelation 1.12 and 20, the Lord Jesus Christ is sending the message.
c. Let us now learn some things about the city of Ephesus:
1) “It was an inland city 3 mi. from the sea, but the broad mouth of the Cayster River allowed access and provided the greatest harbor in Asia Minor. Four great trade routes went through Ephesus; therefore, it became known as the gateway to Asia. It was the center of the worship of Artemis (Greek), or Diana (Roman), whose temple was one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.”
2) Ephesus was the chief city of the province of Asia. . . Pliny called it “the Light of Asia.” It was both the religious and commercial center of that entire area which influenced both east and west—Europe and Asia. The temple of Diana was there which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, being the largest Greek temple ever constructed (418 feet, 1 inch by 239 feet, 4 inches). There were over 100 external columns about 56 feet in height of which 36 were hand carved. It was built over a marsh on an artificial foundation of skins and charcoal so that it was not affected by earthquakes. The doors were of cypress wood; columns and walls were of Parian marble; the staircase was carved out of one vine from Cyprus.
The temple served as the bank of Asia and was the depository of vast sums of money. It was an art gallery displaying the masterpieces of Praxiteles, Phidias, Scopas, and Polycletus. Apelles’ famous painting of Alexander was there. Behind a purple curtain was the lewd and crude image of Diana, the goddess of fertility. She was many breasted, carried a club in one hand and a trident in the other.
2. John was directed to write, “These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand.”
a. Notice the word “holdeth.” It is an interesting word, from the Greek word “kratwn,” that conveys the idea of someone holding on to something with great authority, to hold fast, or to have power over. Our Lord Jesus Christ has such authority, does He not? And what does He hold in His right hand as He walks in the midst of the seven candlesticks? The seven stars.
b. Let us refresh our memories. What are the candlesticks? The candlesticks are the churches. What, then, are the seven stars? The stars are the angels of the churches. Both of these conclusions can be drawn from Revelation 1.20. And what, did we agree, were the angels, supernatural messengers or human beings? Human beings. Pastors.
c. So, Jesus here claims to wield great authority over the lives of those pastors. His great authority was pictured and symbolized by means of a picture in which the pastors were stars that Jesus held in His right hand. Question. What, then, would you say about someone who claimed to be called of God to preach God’s Word and lead God’s people, but who did not appear to have his life held sway over by the Lord Jesus Christ, whose life did not seem to be as one who was held in the Savior’s right hand?
d. We have serious problems in Christendom these days, people. One of two possible reasons are back of the problems, in my estimation. Either the stars have fallen out of Christ’s omnipotent grasp and are no longer controlled by Him, or those guys were never stars in the Master’s right hand in the first place. What do you think the problem is?
7. Concluding, “who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.”
a. Owing to the highly symbolic nature of much of the book of the Revelation, we must take care to discern what is being taught. Mark 16.19, and more than 20 other New Testament passages, indicates that Jesus, after His ascension, sat at the right hand of God the Father on high. Are we to take it from this verse, then, that Jesus is no longer at the Father’s right hand, but is instead moving invisibly among the Churches? I do not think so.
b. I think we can all be agreed that the picture here being painted is not an attempt to show the physical location of the Lord Jesus Christ, but to show Him symbolically as the head over all things to these churches, exercising great control over their human leadership, and strongly influencing their ministries. This, in fact, is precisely what the Lord Jesus does.
(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:
1. Let me begin by pointing out something that verifies my conviction that the Lord Jesus Christ’s remarks are addressed to an individual. Do you see the three words “thy” here in verse 2? All three English words translate the Greek word sou, which is found three times in this verse, and which is the second person singular pronoun. This is proof that Jesus was directing His comments to an individual. Had He been speaking to the congregation He would have used the word umwn instead of sou. Now that we have reinforced in our thinking that the Lord Jesus Christ’s remarks are directed to the angel of the church, the pastor of the church, and not the congregation as a whole, we can more easily grasp His message.
2. Notice what the Lord Jesus Christ tells that preacher. He begins with a single word; “I know.” There are two Greek words which are most commonly translated into our English phrase “I know.” The word ginwskw seems most frequently to refer to knowledge that is gained from learning or by observation. But we have here another word, oida, which commonly overlaps in meaning with ginwskw, but which tends toward referring to just knowing, to just understanding, to just having information about something or someone. This is no surprise to us who are already convinced that Jesus is the All-knowing Lord, Who sees all. Turn to John 2.23-25, where we see evidence of the Lord Jesus Christ’s omniscience:
23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.
24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,
25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.
We pastors need to remember that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd, Whose flock it is we tend, sees and knows the works of His men, knows the labors of His men, and knows the patience of His men.
3. “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience”
a. Have you noticed that what the Lord Jesus commends in this pastor’s life is what ought to be in every Christian’s life, according to Paul? You see, it is the work of faith, the labor of love and the patience of hope our Lord is referring to here, that Paul first makes reference to in his writings in First Thessalonians 1.3-10:
3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:
7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.
8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.
9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
b. My friends, the Christian life is all about relationships and effort. From Revelation 2.2, and from First Thessalonians 1.3-10, it is easy to see that the apostle Paul reflected in his desires for those Christians in Thessalonica the Lord Jesus Christ’s desires for His servant in the Ephesian congregation. Three kinds of relationships drive the Christian’s life, and dominate the preacher’s life. There is my relationship with the nameless and faceless lost, characterized by the work of faith to get them under the sound of the gospel. There is my relationship with those whose faces you now recognize and whose names you now know, because they have come under the sound of the gospel, characterized by the labor of love. Then there is my waiting for the Lord Jesus Christ, characterized by patience, performing my duties but waiting, until He comes again.
4. “and how thou canst not bear them which are evil”
a. Now, notice something about this Ephesian pastor which I think is lacking in the hearts and lives of most pastors today. My friends, we live in a very civil society, in which it is thought that we must never think or speak ill of anyone. Oh, we must never saying anything that smacks of disapproval. That would be judging, and we must never make value judgments.
b. This sentiment seems especially prevalent among those who are “ministers.” One must not ever criticize Billy Graham or Franklin Graham or Jerry Falwell or Benny Hinn, according to most. But friends, the Lord Jesus Christ is not only commending this Ephesian pastor for the positive aspects of his ministry, his work, his labor and his patience, He is also complimenting His man for what some would perceive to be the negative aspects of his ministry. His confrontation of and opposition to evil men, both those in and those not in the ministry, is actually commended by the Lord Jesus Christ. Everyone nowadays seems to think it is always and in every case wrong to criticize a preacher. Folks, it is never wrong to criticize wrongdoing.
c. Do you know what the word “Ephesus” means? It means desirable. Do you think it is an accident that the pastor of the “desirable” church is a pastor who hates what Christ hates, and who works, labors and is patient, even when no one else is aware that he is? I do not. The reason so many churches are pastored by mealy mouth sissy boys is because so many church members want no other kind of preacher. That is why I thank God you folks are made of better stuff than most church members I know.
4. “and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars”
a. I think the Lord Jesus Christ is here referring to a problem this pastor faced, which will be more explicitly named in verse 6. What is important for us to see at this point is the approach this pastor took with respect those who said that they were apostles.
b. Notice that he did not treat them according to what they said they were. They said they were apostles. But regardless of what they said, this pastor is commended. “. . . thou hast tried them which say they are apostles.” What did he do? He examined them, scrutinized them, evaluated them, tested them.
c. What did he find? He found that those so-called apostles were liars. I wonder what would happen these days if pastors started “trying” those who say they are missionaries, who say they are preachers, who say they are God-called men? Do you think there would be some open range liars caught? I think so.
5. So, in light of what we have seen in this verse, please recognize something that is very important to me. I urge you, and I say this with much love, to back me up all the way when I move against sin. Help me to be a good pastor by standing with me as I, by the grace of God, “not bear them which are evil.” Amen? The Lord Jesus commended the Ephesian pastor for so doing.
(2.3) And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
1. You can read, in Acts chapter 19, about the tremendous upheaval that took place in the city of Ephesus as the Gospel spread throughout the city. So, the things mentioned here in Revelation 2.3 should be considered in that light.
2. Persecution fell upon every Christian, but the focus of the attack undoubtedly fell upon those in positions of spiritual leadership. So, Christ is again commending this man of God for sticking with it, for His name’s sake. When the pressure to quit came, this man, and others as well, no doubt, did not quit. Why? Because they were doing what they were doing for Christ’s sake. And because, unlike so many today who are quitters, who cut and run, they were real Christians, they were real men, they were real servants of God.
3. “And hast borne” has reference, not to evil men, but to burdens, circumstances. This is the run of the mill persecution that every Christian of that era and location had to put up with.
4. “and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.” I think the word “fainted” has reference to what you can be tempted to do when you work. If that is true then we have in this verse the same three components that are found in verse 2, only in reverse order. Thus, we see that this pastor is being commended again by the Lord Jesus, for the same efforts.
5. By God’s grace, that pastor must have been quite a fellow. And the quality of his ministry was reflected in the quality of the Ephesian congregation’s ministry and reputation.
(2.4) Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
1. Again, we have the Greek second person singular pronoun used, sou, translated in this verse by the words “thee” and “thou.” There is just no evidence whatsoever to support the notion that the Lord Jesus is addressing the congregation as a whole. He can only be addressing the angel of the church, the pastor.
2. With so many things going in this pastor’s favor, intolerance for sin, hatred of the lies of false apostles, endurance in the face of withering persecution, and continually serving Christ without fainting, there is still a heart problem that the Lord Jesus wants to address in this man’s life. Should not the Lord have given this man a break after all the commendable things he had done for Jesus? No. The closer someone walks to the Lord the greater will be the Lord’s scrutiny of his life. Thus has it always been. Thus will it always be.
3. Notice, no man could have seen this problem. From the outside looking in, this man has all of the evidences of spiritual greatness. But the Lord Jesus Christ looks with eyes which see far deeper than men can see. The Lord is looking into the man’s heart. And He sees that the pastor has left his first love.
4. Who do you suppose was this preacher’s first love? The Lord Jesus. The Savior. And is it not interesting that although the Lord Jesus Christ is glad the man of God is working and laboring and persevering and fighting evil, what He really wants most of all is His man’s love? When He has your heart He has the rest of you. But there are times when it appears that He has all of you, but He only has everything but your heart. And your heart is the main thing.
5. Thirty years earlier the apostle Paul had written to the entire congregation and told them that he was praying that they would be “rooted and grounded in love,” Ephesians 3.17, and that that they would come “to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God,” Ephesians 3.19. To love the Lord Jesus Christ was Paul’s strong desire for them all.
6. What the Lord Jesus said to Peter really summed it up. “Lovest thou me more than these?” “Do you love me more than you love other people, Peter? Do you love me more than you love the things you are doing for me?” How sad it must have been for the seven churches in Asia to realize, upon reading this letter, that the most prominent of the pastors had given up his first love, had forsaken Christ as his true love, for something less.
7. Another contribution from Paul is found in Second Corinthians 8.1-5:
1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;
2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;
4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
5 And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.
It just seems to bear out, does it not, that when the Lord Jesus has your heart he has everything else as well? So, concentrate on your heart relationship to Jesus Christ, my friend. Concentrate on giving to Him your heart.
8. So, what did this Ephesian pastor actually do? He left his first love. He did not fall from his first love. He did not lose his first love. He left his first love. The Greek word is afhkas. He left, he forsook, his first love. Each of us should be sobered by the realization that we can become so committed to the ministry that we lose sight of Who it is we are supposed to be serving.
9. By making bad choices, this Ephesian pastor was slipping from being like Mary to being like Martha, in Luke 10.38-42:
38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
(2.5) Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
1. “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works”
a. There are two things the Lord Jesus Christ warned this man about. There are two things the Lord Jesus Christ demanded from His man, and from you and me; that we “remember,” and that we “repent, and do the first works.”
b. What he was to “remember” was where he had fallen from. Anyone who has left his first love has taken a spiritual fall. Do you remember the sweet joy and love for the Lord you used to have? Let that be your motivation for repenting. But remember that repenting is not crying at the “altar,” though folks often do cry when they repent. “Repent,” translating the Greek word metanoew, means to change your mind, to change your thinking, to have an entirely different attitude toward sin.
c. By the way, you are responsible for your own repentance. Notice what happens in a believer’s life when he repents, Second Corinthians 7.8-11:
8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.
9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
Real repentance results in a changed attitude toward sins. As well, real repentance results in changed actions toward sins. The man who committed certain sins has not repented of those sins until he begins to exhibit the attitudes and actions toward those sins that are found in Second Corinthians 7.11. The Lord Jesus Christ expects this pastor to fix the problem, fix it immediately, and fix it decisively. Thus, repenting must necessarily result in loving the Lord Jesus as he had at first, as a Christian ought to.
d. What would be involved after repenting, in doing “the first works?” Of course, works could refer to the miracles of Jesus Christ, works of righteousness that the lost do to try and merit salvation, or good works in general that are performed by a Christian. But my opinion tends toward thinking that this refers to those works that are related to evangelism that a new believer engages in when he is first converted, when his love for Jesus Christ is new and burns hot, and he tries to get people to church so they can experience what he has experienced. I think the Savior is telling His man that He wants a change in this man’s priorities, with evangelism being returned to the main focus of his ministry. I think “the first works” refers to the “work of faith,” such as we find in First Thessalonians chapter 1.
2. “or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent”
a. I do not believe this warning about coming quickly refers to the second coming of Christ, in power and great glory, but a coming in judgment should the pastor fail to repent. By the way, the tense of the verb “repent” shows that what Jesus expected was that this pastor would make a decisive break with his current conduct to return to his former conduct and affections.
b. If God’s man would not repent as a result of remembering his former conduct and affections, the Lord gives him warning to repent. Perhaps he would only repent as a result of a warning. And the warning? The removal of the candlestick. But what is the candlestick? The candlestick is the congregation, Revelation 1.20. My friends, the Lord Jesus Christ actually warned that preacher that if he did not repent the Lord would actually remove the church, which is the candlestick, from the spiritual scene. I think there are a number of us here tonight who have seen what is probably this very thing happen.
c. It is quite obvious that most so-called churches in Monrovia are not now and may have never been genuine New Testament churches. Why? Because they have never been candlesticks from which the genuine gospel of Jesus Christ has ever been preached. But of those so-called churches that used to be candlesticks, there is not a single gospel preaching church within the city limits of Monrovia that I am personally acquainted with. Likely as not, the blessing of God, if any congregation here ever did enjoy it, was removed because of a pastor’s sins.
d. Pastors are ordinary and normal men. But the position they have in the church and in the lives of other Christians is critical. Dr. Lee Roberson has said for many years that “it rises and falls on leadership.” He is right. Pastors must be right with God for God to bless the congregations they pastor. Further, they must also be men called of God. Most pastors, tragically, are neither, but are really entertainers and organizers. They are better suited to be cruise ship captains or carnival barkers, since they are not right with God and not called of God. Pray for those who are called of God.
(2.6) But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
1. Notice the sandwich psychology of the Lord Jesus. There is praise of this pastor, then rebuke, then praise. Not everything is wrong with this man’s life. He, at least, hates the deeds of the Nicolaitans. But, my friends, what is wrong with the man will bring him down, unless it is dealt with.
2. So, with commendation, rebuke, and then commendation, the Lord is making sure this man of God does not become discouraged, thinking the Lord does not appreciate his ministry. But at the same time, he now knows that there is a critical problem that must be taken care of . . . quickly.
3. What are these deeds of the Nicolaitans, which are so hated by the Lord and by God’s man? There is no consensus among scholars, but the word is compounded from two Greek words. One word, the word laos, means “people.” The other word, nikaw, means “prevail, overcome, conquer.” If we are to guess what Nicolaitanism was from the construction of the word, then it was either the people ruling the congregation or the people of the assembly being ruled in an autocratic manner. Actually, both practices are condemned in God’s Word. In some assemblies God’s flock is lorded over, in violation of First Peter 5.3, while in other congregations the people run everything, in violation of First Timothy 5.17 and Hebrews 13.7 and 17. God wants His leaders to lead, not lord, and not be afraid to lead.
4. The Roman Catholic Church is probably the greatest example of lording it over people, though it cannot be said that Catholics are the Lord’s people. But Catholics have no real say and no real Scriptural recourse against the wickedness of the priests. At the other end of the spectrum would be Southern Baptist and GARBC Churches, with their wicked and perverse system of deacon rule. Self-important deacons hamstring more good men of God than anyone realizes. So long as the Southern Baptist Convention sticks to an unscriptural form of Church government that allows men not called by God to effectively occupy positions of spiritual leadership in bad Churches they don’t have a chance of surviving their slide toward apostasy.
5. But what if the meaning of the term Nicolaitans cannot be properly derived from an analysis of the two words that combine to give us the term? Remember, “. . . there is no inherent meaning in a word. As Ullman has noted, dictionaries give us the impression that words carry abstract content by their very nature (1964:39). Yet in reality words are arbitrary symbols that have meaning only in a context.”
6. With this in mind, it might be more fruitful for us to take note that whatever the Nicolaitans were, their deeds were acts which the pastor of the Ephesian assembly hated. More important to discovering what kinds of deeds they were guilty of may be the Lord’s words concluding this verse: “which I also hate.”
7. Referring to the Hebrew Scriptures, what do we find that God hated?
Isaiah 61.8: “For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.”
Jeremiah 44.4: “Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.”
Amos 5.21: “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.”
Zechariah 8.17: “And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.”
8. It is likely, then, that what the Lord Jesus Christ hates, if the Hebrew Scriptures are to be any guide to us, are deeds of abomination and impurity. After all, He is holy, is He not? And He shed His blood to wash away sins, did He not?
Psalm 139.21-22: “Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.”
9. After due consideration of this verse, though I am strongly opposed to deacons running a congregation, and am convinced that God is not pleased with such a congregational organization, that is not what is referred to in Revelation 2.6. Neither do I favor pastoral leadership by lordship. Either extreme is unscriptural. But the issue in this verse, in my opinion, does not directly bear on church polity.
10. I think this issue of Nicolaitanism had to do with a group who followed a man named Nicolas, which is how they got their name. “Clement of Alexander says, ‘They abandoned themselves to pleasure like goats, leading a life of self-indulgence.’ Their teaching perverted grace and replaced liberty with license.” Thus, what the Ephesian pastor hated, and what the Lord Jesus Christ also despised, was moral laxity and self-indulgence.
(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.
1. Though this letter was written to an individual, the plea is for the entire membership of the congregation to respond. If you overcome, the reward will be yours. But how do you know if you are an overcomer? In Christ, you are already an overcomer. What this verse is doing is pointing out the reality of unsaved members in the assembly.
2. Turn to First John 5.4-5:
4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
Are you born of God? Then, according to God’s Word, you are an overcomer. Having received Christ, you have also received the victory that He won when He conquered sin, death, Hell and the grave, not to mention Satan.
3. If you are not an overcomer you are lost. Sadly, there are so many congregations whose entire memberships are folks who are not overcomers that a completely defeated person fits right in. But God’s plan is not for defeated people to fit right in. He wants defeated people to stick out like sore thumbs. Not to stick out as someone to be despised, but to stick out as a precious soul in need of genuine salvation in Jesus Christ.
4. Let us pray that God will continue to move in our midst and demonstrate His great power in our lives in such a way that lost people will be dealt with by the Holy Spirit, using our testimonies and our soul winning efforts, and come to know Christ.
5. In closing this letter to the angel of the church of Ephesus, consider again the last statement: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”
a. There are times when passages in John’s Revelation are obviously symbolic in nature. There are other times in which what may seem to be symbolic is not symbolic at all. Such is the case here.
b. My friends, there is nothing symbolic about “the tree of life.” Neither is there anything symbolic about “the paradise of God.” Both are absolutely and positively real.
c. “The tree of life” is referred to three different times in Genesis chapters two and three as a real tree in the midst of the Garden of Eden. “The tree of life” is also mentioned three times in the book of the Revelation, chapters two and twenty-two. And in none of those six places is there any indication that “the tree of life” is not a real tree that bears real fruit.
d. In like manner, “paradise” is referred to three times in the New Testament, in Luke, in Second Corinthians, and in the Revelation. In none of those places is “paradise” purported to be anything other than a literal place, the place where the redeemed of God go after they die.
e. What are we to make of these non-symbolical references? We are to understand that when real believers overcome, when they persevere to the end, they really will be allowed to “eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” That will be real eating of real fruit in the real heaven.
2B. Letter To The Angel Of The Church In Smyrna (2.8-11)
(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;
1. Again, we see that the Lord Jesus Christ’s comments are addressed specifically to the angel of the church in Smyrna, though we realize that all in that church were to read, to take heed, and to respond to what the Lord Jesus said.
2. The church in Smyrna, history records, was one of the most persecuted churches of its day, and its name gives a clue regarding that persecution. The word “Smyrna” corresponds to the word “myrrh,” which was the name of a commercial product of that city. “Myrrh” is a fragrant resin that comes from a small, spiny tree. In ancient times, it was used to make perfume and aromatic oils. Interesting to me is the fact that myrrh’s fragrant odor came out only as a result of the tree it comes from being crushed. In addition, the taste of myrrh is said to be extremely bitter. Do you see the spiritual parallels?
3. It is to the persecuted pastor of a persecuted church that the Lord Jesus Christ reveals Himself in a special way, as the first and the last, which was dead and is alive. He is the Meeter of all needs. To those persecuted ones He is that One Who voluntarily became a man and suffered unmatched brutality at the hands of His enemies. Therefore, He understands what the pastor and the people in Smyrna are going through.
4. How sweet a smell it is to the Lord Jesus when one of His Own faithfully endures the fiery trials of persecution for Him and for His cause. Though the taste of tribulation is bitter to the Christian who endures it, it smells very sweet to the Savior, Who endured such for us.
(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.
1. Once again, He claims to be knowledgeable concerning things going on in the life of His man. The construction of the words shows clearly that these words are being addressed to one man. Remember, the Lord Jesus made the same claim to the Ephesian pastor. He knew his tribulation and his poverty. This word “poverty” does not imply that he had to do without a few things for the cause of Christ. This word is used to indicate that someone is utterly destitute. In the way of material things, this man of God had absolutely nothing. Nevertheless, he still worked. He still served God.
2. He had nothing, that is, except great spiritual wealth. Is it not amazing how little an indication our material well-being is of our spiritual well-being? In the next chapter of the Revelation, we will examine Christ’s words to the Laodicean pastor. That man had great material wealth, but the Lord described him as poor and naked. All children of God are spiritually rich, no matter what kind of material situation they are in on this old earth.
3. How different are the opinions of men today, who claim that God wants all of His children to be rich and to prosper materially. How out of touch such prosperity proponents are with the Word of God and the will of God.
4. The opposition to the cause of Christ was, no doubt, great in the city of Smyrna. The Jewish people who lived there led the opposition. The Lord Jesus indicates that they are Jews, but that they really are not. This might serve as a reminder of what Paul wrote in Romans 2.17-29:
17 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,
18 And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;
19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,
20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.
21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?
22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?
23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?
24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?
28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
While being very religious, these physical descendants of Abraham were actually serving Satan in his opposition to God, and God’s man, and God’s children.
(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.
1. The Lord is simply telling His man to fear none of the things which are about to happen to him. He, and some others, would be cast into prison. Prisons in those days were places where someone was incarcerated until he was either executed or banished to exile, rather than places where long sentences were served. Further, this preacher is told who is behind it all; the devil, and that it will only last ten days before he dies. If he is faithful unto death he is promised the Lord will give him a crown of life.
2. Is that not amazing? “Son, I know it’s very hard being in your situation, and it is going to get harder. My plan for you and some of your brothers in Christ includes ten days of horrible torture that will end in death. My child, be faithful unto death and I will handsomely reward you.” My friends, this should not be difficult for any Christian to accept because Paul wrote, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,” Second Timothy 3.12.
3. Do such things as this horrify you? They should not. Jesus said, in Matthew 10.28, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” That means, do not fear mere men. And do not fear the devil, mentioned here for the first time in the Revelation, or his minions. Instead, fear God.
4. This man was promised tribulation. However, notice that there is a difference in God’s Word between tribulation and “The Tribulation.” All Christians endure, to varying degrees, tribulation. “The Tribulation,” however, that seven-year period of time in which the wrath of God is poured out on a Christ-rejecting world, is something which is yet future and which Church Age Christians will not suffer through.
5. If he was faithful unto death, this pastor was promised a crown of life. “This is one of two places where a martyr’s crown is mentioned as a special reward in eternity for those who sacrifice their lives for the gospel (James 1:12). Most martyrs were killed either by false religious leaders or by pagan governments that opposed their message.” More about these crowns in later chapters.
(2.11) 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.
1. Again, we see that the Lord Jesus spoke to an individual within the church. However, others were to read and take note and respond. Overcome and you will have nothing to fear of the second death. What did we learn back in First John 5.4-5 concerning a Christian being an overcomer? Every genuine Christian is an overcomer, is he not?
2. That means that no genuine Christian need fear being hurt by the second death. But, what is the second death? Turn with me to Revelation 20.11-15 to see what the second death is:
11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
3. The first death, and these are spiritual separations we are talking about, not physical deaths, took place when Adam sinned against God. In the day he ate, he died . . . spiritually, and was physically removed from God’s presence because of that.
4. But here in Revelation 20.11-15, unsaved men are brought into Christ’s presence one last time for judgment. It is when they are separated from Him this second time, which is described as the second death, that they are cast into the lake of fire.
5. Do Christians need to worry about such a fate as this? Never. At the time that this second death takes place Christians are already with the Lord in heaven.
3B. Letter To The Angel Of The Church In Pergamos (2.12-17)
(2.12) And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
1. Previously, we studied the letter written to the angel of the church of Smyrna. You will remember that man and that church in Smyrna underwent terrible persecution. Was there any doubt that the author of the persecution was Satan, the enemy of God and God’s people?
2. Now, in the third of the seven letters, we come to Pergamos. The word Pergamos literally means both “marriage” and “elevation,” and is the word from which we get parchment – a writing material developed from animal skin, which apparently was first developed in the area.
3. Who is this that speaks in this verse? Who has the sharp two-edged sword? If we remember the description John gave of the Lord Jesus Christ in Revelation 1.16, we can be sure that this is that same Lord Jesus.
4. For some of you who may not have been here during our study of chapter 1, let me mention some things about this same type of sword that is mentioned there:
a) The sword mentioned refers to a large double-edged sword used by a group of people back then known as Thracians, who were an intense, war-like people.
b) The fact that the sword is double-edged clues us to the purpose of the Word of God being likened to such a weapon as this. One cutting edge is beneficial and the other cutting edge is judgmental.
c) This description can be supported from Hebrews 4.12, where God’s Word is described as sharper than any two-edged sword.
5. Once again, the Lord Jesus Christ is showing Himself to be the Judge of His Own. What a shock this is to many people. They forget that judgment must begin first in the house of God, First Peter 4.17.
(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.
1. The reference to “Satan’s seat” is very interesting in view of the fact that the Greek word translated seat is pronounced “qronos.” Not just an ordinary seat is referred to here. The Lord Jesus is referring to Satan’s throne.
2. Some background history. Several centuries before this portion of Scripture was written, a cult of Satan-worshipping Magi was ejected from their point of origin in Babylon by the advancing armies of the Medo-Persian Empire. Do you know where the archaeologists tell us these Magi settled after they had been evicted from Babylon? Pergamos.
3. History tells us that Pergamos was known everywhere, not as a commercial center, or a center for learning, but as a residence of kings prior to coming under Roman rule, and as a major religious center for the entire Middle East.
4. It was here that the cult leader known as a “bridge builder,” or as one who bridged the gap between mortal man and Satan conducted his nefarious business. The Latin title of this satanic cult leader was “Pontifus Maximus.”
5. By the time Julius Caesar had assumed power in Rome the cult had spread to Rome. What few people today are aware of is the fact that one of the major reasons the Caesar known as Augustus was able to consolidate power into the office of Emperor was because he, for the first time in Roman history, combined both religious and political and military power by successfully assuming the title of Pontifus Maximus and becoming the cult’s religious leader.
6. Pergamos, then, was the throne of Satan. We must never forget that Satan is not the ruler of Hell. He is the god of this world, according to the testimony of Scripture, Second Corinthians 4.4. Satan literally runs this planet, First John 5.19. At the time this portion of Scripture was written the central place from which Satan exerted his ungodly influence upon the world was the city of Pergamos.
7. Obviously, therefore, Satan would oppose the church in that city, and would be extremely energetic in fighting against the ministry of God’s man. One particular man of God, Antipas, resisted Satan unto death. Little is known of Antipas in history. But the Lord Jesus Christ never forgets the man who serves Him well. We can be sure that someday the man named Antipas will receive the crown given for dying the martyr’s death at the judgment seat of Christ.
(2.14) But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
1. Though the man of God was commended by his Lord on one hand, he was rebuked on the other hand. Why? Because there were some members of that church who held to the doctrine, or the teaching, of Balaam. You might remember Balaam from Numbers chapter 22. He was the prophet who was hired to curse the people of Israel. However, each time he tried to curse them he was prevented from doing so by God. Though he was unable to curse the Israelites, he was able to greatly harm them by encouraging their opponent, Balak, to send heathen women among the Jewish men, who then coaxed those men into committing fornication and idolatry with them.
2. The doctrine of Balaam, then, is the teaching that you cannot defeat God’s people by an outright attack on them, for they have too much spiritual might and power available to them to defend against such attacks. However, if you can gradually influence them to compromise and to mix with false religious systems, then you will have thereby succeeded in leading them into spiritual fornication and idolatry.
3. This is what was happening to that local congregation. That church was influenced by some of her members into hobnobbing with the false religious systems of the day. They were also intertwined with the government. An unholy marriage existed. But who does the Lord Jesus rebuke for this problem in the assembly? The angel of the church, the pastor.
4. This pastor was rebuked by the Lord Jesus Christ because he did not get tough on the church members who wanted to go to “Christian” dances, who allowed their kids to go to “Christian” nightclubs, who decided it would not be a real problem to go to the Promise Keepers rally, who did not think social drinking was so bad as long as you do not get drunk, and such the like. Some church members think committing sin is not really that big a deal, but who does the Lord Jesus deal with about such sinning by church members, you or me? So, before you get so upset at how I deal with sin in the congregation, keep in mind that when spiritual compromise and wickedness is brought into this congregation, the first person who begins the feel the hammer blows of judgment in the form of a rebuke from the Savior is me. Not you, me.
5. Let us consider something else. Most commentaries dealing with the Revelation take the position that these seven letters to the seven angels of the seven churches in Asia represent seven distinct time periods in church history. There is no real evidence that these passages are to be so interpreted, but theologians work hard to do so anyway. If Christ’s letter to the angel of this church does correspond to a distinct period of church history, which it does not really appear to do, then this letter might correspond to that period of time when Rome became a so-called “Christian” empire, when emperor Constantine became a “Christian” and also assumed the title of Pontifus Maximus.
6. Remember where that title came from? When Constantine became a “Christian,” there was an immediate influx of hundreds of thousands of unsaved folks into churches throughout the empire, because it was now the popular thing to do. On one occasion, Constantine marched an army through a river and decreed them officially baptized Christians by so doing. So, when these unsaved Romans entered the churches they brought their false beliefs with them. Thus was formed, on the foundation of the Babylonian cult worship of the Magi, and through the office of the Pontifus Maximus, what is now termed the Roman Catholic Church.
7. And this is not just ancient history. Even today, the doctrine of Balaam is being encouraged in churches all over America. It is called the ecumenical movement in some circles, and in other circles it is the charismatic movement or neo-evangelicalism. But the direction is the same in any case. It is so-called “Christians” who are advocating an interplay between nominally Christian groups and the Roman Church, which is Christian in name only, as you who know your Bible realize.
8. Let me tell you something about Baptists, as an aside. Baptists have historically been separatists. We do not think we are better than anyone else, but we do, by choice, refrain from fellowshipping with groups who compromise on key Bible doctrines. Why? Because we think we are superior? No. Because we are of the firm conviction that most Protestants are, however slowly, headed back to Rome, from whence they originally came.
9. Though you might think you are being very magnanimous and broad minded, I advise you, as the under-shepherd responsible for watching over your soul, to be very cautious of anyone who indiscriminately associates with different religious groups, without regard to what those groups believe. Do not think that spreaders of good cheer and smiles cannot also be spiritually dangerous, ‘cause they can be. They are dangerous because they teach, by example, that it does not matter what you believe as long as you label yourself properly. No matter what some people may think or say, it does matter what you believe.
(2.15) So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
1. The pastor also allowed to remain in the church those who held to the doctrine, or the teaching, of the Nicolaitans. Remember, the Lord commended the Ephesian pastor for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans. Jesus, you will remember, also hates their teachings. But the Pergamos pastor tolerated such heresy and practice in his midst.
2. Remember what Nicolaitanism is? Our study convinced us that Nicolaitanism refers to deeds of abomination and impurity. Does this not tie in with the previous verse and the association with Balaam’s enticement to abominable and impure behavior? Spiritual compromise typically results in a lower of personal standards related to modesty, attire, and personal holiness.
3. This pastor in Pergamos is noted for something which no pastor should be noted for; compromise. He tolerated things that Christ found intolerable. And the Lord Jesus Christ was holding him responsible for it all, as we shall see in the next verse.
(2.16) Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
1. If that pastor does not repent, does not turn from his compromise and willingness to overlook that sin, the Lord Jesus Christ is promising to come in judgment. This is not His second coming. However, it is a warning that He will somehow come in judgment.
2. My friends, this pastor is being warned. If he does not lead the church he pastors to hate what Christ hates and to be intolerant of false teachings, the Lord Jesus Christ will take matters into His Own hands. The Lord is promising to use the other cutting edge of His Word if things are not dealt with properly.
3. Do we want the Lord Jesus Christ to chastise our church, which is to say to chastise us? Of course not. Then we had better get used to the fact that internal discipline is a way of life in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that a toleration of that which is wrong is no virtue to be lauded. Furthermore, although you ought to be willing to address and deal with sin when and where you see it, you must recognize that dealing with sin is a major responsible of anyone in pastoral ministry.
(2.17) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
1. Manna is angel food. Just as God gave manna to the children of Israel in days gone by, so a hidden manna is promise to the overcomer of this world. And who are the overcomers? Right. Christians, according to First John 5.4-5.
2. “Black and white stones were used in the Jewish Sanhedrin to describe respectively the guilt or innocence of and the displeasure or favour to those who were brought before it. It was also a method of justice in the days of long ago. We understand that many secret societies use it to-day. This symbol is a well-known one. Therefore to be given a white stone by the Lord indicates His warmest approval and favour because of one’s faithfulness on earth.”
3. That same kind of intimacy will exist in heaven. Jesus will give a white stone to the believer. What is the new name written on it? I do not know. But I am looking forward to receiving my own private love note from the Savior. Aren’t you?
4. Listen up, church, to this message the Head of the church has given that He wants every member to pay attention to.
4B. Letter To The Angel Of The Church In Thyatira (2.18-29)
This is the longest of the seven letters to the angels of the churches in Asia, with the city of Thyatira being located about 40 miles east of Pergamos. The handout (#5) I have prepared for you should help you to locate the seven cities in Asia.
(2.18) And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
1. Lydia, Paul’s first convert in Europe, came from this city, according to Acts 16.14. To the angel of the church in Thyatira, the Lord Jesus Christ describes Himself as “the Son of God,” the One who “hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire,” and the one whose “feet are like fine brass.”
2. There is no Biblical record of evangelistic activity in Thyatira, so it may be that the gospel was introduced there by means of Lydia’s witness.
3. It should also be noticed that though the Lord’s description of Himself here is similar to what we read in Revelation 1.14-15, He here describes Himself as “the Son of God” instead of “the Son of man,” as in Revelation 1.13. Are these two phrases synonymous, as J. Vernon McGee suggests? Or, are we to believe, as both John Walvoord and Lehman Strauss assert, that His title of “the Son of God” bears directly on His dealings with the sins found in this church?
4 I am of the opinion that the later is the case. There is compromise in this congregation and the Lord Jesus Christ issues serious warnings. Therefore, He describes Himself as the judge.
(2.19) I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
1. Twice in this verse the Lord Jesus refers to this man’s works. Apparently, works were predominant features in his life and ministry, among other very commendable qualities. This fellow is also the first of the pastors to be commended for his love. The progression from works, to charity (which is love), to service, and on until we get to works again, shows a development and growth in this man’s life. The Lord Jesus knows everything about this man. He whose eyes are as a “flame of fire” misses nothing.
2. It seems that this man has it all. Faith, love, patience, works. It seems as though he is just about perfect. He must be a tremendous servant of God. He seems to exhibit the personality and ethical characteristics that would make an ideal servant of God. And until we read what verse 20 has to say we would be correct in so presuming.
(2.20) Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
1. After the commendation the Lord comes back with a severe condemnation of this man’s life and ministry. Notice that the condemnation stems, not from what he did, but from what he did not do, as he stood by and watched someone else do wrong without stepping in to put a stop to it.
2. You see, he tolerated a woman named Jezebel. Now, I do not know if this was her real name, or if the Lord Jesus was likening her to the Jezebel in the Old Testament, who opposed the ministry of Elijah. I rather think it was the later case.
3. You may remember that Jezebel was the wife of wicked king Ahab, king of the northern kingdom of Israel. In addition, old Ahab is a beautiful example of a spineless jellyfish type of a husband who is ruled over and patronized by a wicked and loud-mouthed wife. Amazing, is it not, how frequently such a woman is a big-mouthed heifer? That observation aside, it was Ahab’s Jezebel who was responsible for the wholesale idolatry that swept across Israel while her pathetic husband quietly occupied the throne.
4. As for the woman the Lord Jesus is referring to in Thyatira, I really do doubt that her given name was Jezebel. But, she does seem to be the spiritual twin of the queen of Israel who lived some 550 years before Christ.
5. This woman the Lord Jesus refers to called herself a prophetess. Apparently, she set herself up as some kind of authority. That is the chief characteristic of a Jezebel, since there is no evidence that the Jezebel of Old Testament times was ever unfaithful to her husband. What we do know about her is that she dominated and manipulated the man she was supposed to submit to. Therefore, a Jezebel is a manipulative wife who speaks out as an authority and who runs her husband.
6. A number of scholars, because of the wording of this verse, are of the opinion that this woman in Thyatira is none other than the wife of the angel of the church in Thyatira. That would mean that this preacher is being harshly rebuked by the Lord Jesus Christ for not refusing to allow his wife to pretend like she was a God-called spiritual leader. Imagine that. A preacher being called down by the Lord Jesus Christ for not keeping his wife in line, and for allowing her to pawn herself off as being an anointed leader of the congregation, just like he was supposed to be.
7. I wonder what modern-day women preachers, the so-called co-pastor wives that are found in so many Pentecostal churches, and the female pastors in liberal mainline denominational churches say about this passage. I wonder how a man who is married to this kind of woman, who rolls over and allows her to trample him by her words and deeds, can live with himself. I know men whose wives are Jezebels, and I have no respect for them. They are pathetic and despicable excuses for manhood. I am in no way advocating abuse by any husband. I am, however, advocating real manhood in a man, and not wimpy simpering passivity because the pansy is afraid to make his contentious wife angry with him for daring to stand up to her.
8. Whoever this Jezebel actually was, she taught and seduced Christ’s servants to commit fornication and to eat things offered to idols. Now, in order to do this, she must have set herself up as an authority over the plain teachings of God’s Word. But, is that not what bossy wives and women preachers do today? Sure they do. What does First Timothy 2.11-12 and 3.1-7 say?
11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
9. This Jezebel apparently taught believers that they did not really need to separate themselves from their past pagan practices. Though it may be difficult and trying for you to cut the ties to your pagan religious past, you must. Amen? Cut yourself off from Roman Catholicism, from Mormonism, from Pentecostalism, from Buddhism, and from your secret societies like Masons and Shriners and Easter Star and Job’s daughters and DeMolay.
10. The fornication here could refer to either literal fornication or spiritual fornication. She may have led them into sexual sin, especially if she indulged in paganism, which was oftentimes nothing more than religious harlotry. Greek temples, those beautiful ones whose remnants are seen in National Geographic Magazine? They were nothing more than brothels, where religious prostitution and sanctioned sodomy took place under the guise of worship. I speak the truth. If this woman did not lead people into committing physical fornication, it could be that what is meant here is that she led them into idolatry, which is spiritual fornication.
11. My friend, when a person is being dealt with by the Holy Spirit, if he wants to get saved he must sever all religious ties to any false religious system to which he once belonged. To continue ties with the past is to commit spiritual fornication and adultery. This is why I am a separatist. We at Calvary Road Baptist Church do not mix and mingle with false religion.
(2.21) And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
1. The Lord gave her opportunity to turn from her sins and be saved, and she repented not. This shows both the long-suffering mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as the stubbornness of this wicked Jezebel.
2. But we see something else here. The word “space” translates the Greek word “cronos,” which means “time.” In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ gave to this woman Jezebel time to turn from her sins and get saved before He moved in judgment against her. This shows us that she could not just decide to get saved anytime she wanted to. Such a notion that a sinner chooses the time and place to come to Christ is unscriptural. It is akin to the heresy of Pelagianism.
3. Here is a simple test of Christian orthodoxy. Ask a fellow, ask a preacher, “Who decides when a sinner gets saved, the sinner or God?” If the person you ask says “the sinner,” you know you are dealing with a fellow who is not an orthodox Christian, because Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.”
4. When you go on vacation this summer, remember to go to church on Sunday wherever you are. Before the service begins, ask the preacher, “Pastor, who decides when a sinner gets saved, the sinner or God?” It will help you to gage the sermon you are about to listen to.
5. Back to our text. What kind of judgment awaits this Jezebel? We see the specifics in the next verse, but the judgment will necessarily be God’s wrath against this unsaved woman. How do I know she was an unsaved woman? Because fornication and idolatry are sins committed by unsaved people, unless you or one of your loved ones commit them. Then you can be saved and commit such sins.
6. Wake up, people! I am being sarcastic. Fornicators and idolaters are unsaved people! If you are having sex with someone you are not married to, even if you are in love, then you are not a Christian. If you are engaged in idolatrous practices you are not a Christian. First Corinthians 6.9-10:
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
7. Therefore, since this Jezebel would not come down off her high horse, since she would not disavow herself of her fraudulent claim of spiritual authority, since she would not abandon her fornication once and for all, she is doomed.
(2.22) Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
1. Jezebel will be cast into a bed of fornication, and her followers will be severely punished, if they do not turn from their sins and get saved. By the way, this particular word translated “bed” does not refer to either a funeral bier or a dining couch. This is a bed of sickness and pain. The immediate judgment of Christ for her may very well have been in the form of some type of venereal disease, with all its associated ills and agonies.
2. Please note that there is no definite article before the word “great.” That means that Christ is not referring to the Great Tribulation, but simply great tribulation. Life will be tough on those who followed this woman unless they respond to the Gospel right now and get saved.
(2.23) And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
1. Is it extreme severity for the Lord Jesus Christ to kill this woman’s children? Remember that what is punishment to her may be mercy for her children. God does take children home to be with Him as a way of dealing with parents’ sins and showing mercy to the children at the same time. Had this woman’s children been raised under her ungodliness, what likelihood would they ever have of hearing and believing the true Gospel?
2. On the other hand, “her children” could be those who supposedly were converted because of her influence, her spiritual offspring, who are not really converted. They would then be professing Christians who are fornicators and adulterers within the church. Jesus tells us that He is going to kill them with death.
3. We must remember that whenever we shake our fist at the Savior for His righteous actions, thinking Him to be unfair or unloving or unmerciful, we are calling His character into question. We have no right to do such things. Whatever the Lord Jesus does, to whomsoever He does it, is the right thing to do. Amen?
4. Be mindful that when Jesus says that He searcheth the reins and hearts He is claiming the godly attribute of omniscience, which is the knowledge of all things. Since only God can know all things, this is the second clear reminder of deity that the Lord makes to this church leader.
5. This all-knowing is the basis upon which Jesus rewards His faithful followers. We need never worry that something we do for Him will go unnoticed. It may go unnoticed here on earth, but at the Judgment Seat of Christ, believers will be bountifully rewarded for service rendered to the cause of Jesus Christ. His omniscience is also a warning to believers. There is nothing done or thought that He is unaware of.
(2.24-25) 24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. 25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
1. The Lord now turns His remarks back to the angel of the church and to the genuinely saved folks in the congregation. He will not deal with the truly converted in the same fashioned as He will those who are deeply involved with sin and who have known “the depths of Satan.”
2. “It is worthy of remark that the Gnostics called their doctrine the depths of God, and the depths of Bythos, intimating that they contained the most profound secrets of Divine wisdom. Christ here calls them the depths of Satan, being master pieces of his subtlety. Perhaps they thought them to be of God, while all the time they were deceived by the devil.”
3. Do you see what these folks have escaped because of their ignorance of sin and their unwillingness to follow that Jezebel? It was because they had not done certain things and seen certain things, that resulted in them not even knowing certain things, that spared them a harsh warning from Christ and from judgment.
4. So many people feel that they need to have “fun” and then they can settle down to being a “Christian” after they have had their chance at real fun. I think this false notion is reinforced by the tendency of some lost people who claim to be Christians who reminisce about the good old days while wallowing in their memories of sin.
5. My friends, it is not very smart to dwell on the sins of the past. It just lures others to commit sin. God has called us to holy living and we need to avoid the slime pit of sin. When you have opportunity to give testimony about your past, be careful. Do not let yourself get caught up reliving your sinfulness as if it was a good thing. As well, do not ever give anyone the impression that you are glad you did wrong because the Lord Jesus was merciful and brought good out of it. He does not have to bring good out of sin, and He may not do for one who follows your example what He in mercy did for you.
6. As with these in verses 24 & 25, the Lord will be pleased if we will avoid sin and hold fast to the faith until He comes again.
(2.26) And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
1. This verse gives us a hint of the millennium. Jesus is going to rule over this old earth for 1000 years. He will at that time sit on the throne of His father David, the king of Israel. Revelation 20.4, in the last phrase, says, “and they lived and reined with Christ a thousand years.”
2. What a glorious future to look forward to. This is the future of every child of God. We studied, several weeks ago, that the overcomer is the genuine believer. If you are saved then you, too, are destined to be a ruler over some portion of God’s creation in the ages to come.
3. But what will be the criterion that determines the extent of your rewards and the greatness of your personal rule? Matthew 25.14-23 gives us a clue:
14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
But First Corinthians 3.9-16 is more specific:
9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
Your future rewards will be determined by your faithfulness to build on the foundation of verse 11. But what kind of structure is built with the materials mentioned in verse 12? A temple. But what temple is Paul referring to here? Your congregation, verse 16.
4. Think about it. You will be judged by the Lord Jesus Christ and will be given opportunity to rule. But what you will rule over is determined by your faithfulness to construct the temple of God, that church that you are a part of.
(2.27) And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
1. Notice the method of Christ’s rule over the nations here. The type of government will be a dictatorship. Actually, it is a theocracy, which is a government in which Christ directly rules the people. But His rule will be “with a rod of iron.” And “as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers.” Does that not evoke images in your mind?
2. Rebellion fomented by unbelievers during that period will be broken by Christ. He will not tolerate it! As a matter of fact, one characteristic of the millennium will be the complete intolerance of sin and the instantaneous response of Christ to punish or chastise the person who commits sin.
3. Rather different than the years it takes to punish serious crimes nowadays. Amen? These days, it is not unusual for sins to go entire lifetimes without punishment. All that will change in the millennium.
4. Before we move on to the next verse, allow me to point out something that is quite interesting. Do you see the verb “rule” in Revelation 2.27? It is the word poimanei, which has to do with tending the sheep, or when referring to people, to that activity of protecting, ruling, and governing them. In Ephesians 4.11 the word is translated “pastor.” Jesus, our Chief Shepherd, will pastor His flock during the millennium. Until then, He works through angels of the churches, pastors, to guide His flocks.
(2.28) And I will give him the morning star.
1. Some have indicated that the morning star is a reference to the Rapture of the church age believer. But would it not be wonderful if the Lord was speaking literally here?
2. What if this is a promise of galaxies to rule? He did say that if we would be faithful over a few things He would make us to rule over many things, did He not?
3. Another thought runs along this line. Since Jesus calls Himself “the bright and morning star” in Revelation 22.16, this may be a reference to the Rapture that precedes the full light of day brought by His second coming. What He is saying, according to this view, is that at the Rapture I give the morning star; which is to be giving Himself to the faithful Christian, as was not entirely possible while we are in the flesh.
(2.29) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
1. This is just the Lord’s way of saying, “Listen to what I have to say.”
2. Additionally, it is clear indication that what the Lord has said to one man, and what He has said to just a few people, He wants everyone in the churches to hear and profit from.
 Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), firstname.lastname@example.org
 John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), pages 32-33.
 B. H. Carroll, An Interpretation Of The English Bible, Volume 6, (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2001), vol 17, pages 40-41.
 See footnote for Revelation 2.1, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), pages 1993-4.
 J. Vernon McGee, Reveling Through Revelation, Part I, (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Books, 1979), page 19.
 Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 815.
 Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 199-200.
 Ibid., pages 693-694.
 L. Sale-Harrison, The Remarkable Revelation, (New York: Sale-Harrison Publications, 1930), page 41.
 Rienecker, page 815.
 Rienecker, page 815.
 John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), page 57.
 Rienecker, pages 815-16.
 Bauer, pages 586-587.
 Ibid., page 673.
 Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1991), page 75.
 See footnote for Revelation 2.6, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1994.
 Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1272.
 See footnote for Revelation 2.8, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1994.
 Rienecker, page 816.
 Rienecker, page 816.
 See footnote for Revelation 2.10, Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, (AMG Publishers, 2000), page 1366.
 L. Sale-Harrison, The Remarkable Revelation, (New York: Sale-Harrison Publications, 1930), pages 42-43.
 See footnote for Revelation 2.12, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1995.
 L. Sale-Harrison, The Remarkable Revelation, (New York: Sale-Harrison Publications, 1930), page 45.
 See footnote for Revelation 2.12, Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, (AMG Publishers, 2000), page 1367.
 John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), page 72.
 J. Vernon McGee, Reveling Through Revelation, Part I, (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Books, 1979), page 25.
 John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), page 72.
 Lehman Strauss, The Book Of The Revelation, (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1963), page 59.
 See note on First and Second Kings, Author and Date, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 467.
 Walvoord, page 73.
 John 6.44
 Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 818.
 Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), email@example.com
 Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 842.