To the Church in Ephesus
2 “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.
“‘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. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 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. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 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.’
To the Church in Smyrna
“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
“‘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. 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. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’
To the Church in Pergamum
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
“‘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. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
To the Church in Thyatira
“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
“‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Revelation 2 Commentary
by Hank Workman
What if Jesus wrote your church a letter? What would He have to say? What if Jesus wrote you one? What would He speak of concerning your life, your ministry, walk, and devotion? Where would He be pleased and where would He cringe?
Revelation 2 and 3 are letters Jesus has dictated for 7 specific churches. He speaks of the good and the ugly and offers restoration and rebuke. They’re strong.
The Church at Ephesus
Ephesus was the hub of Asia and capital of the Roman province. A booming business center it was located directly on the main trade route to the east. The Temple Diana had helped this city make the list of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. As you can imagine it was deeply pagan.
The church established there is found in Acts 19. When Paul arrived in this city, the Holy Spirit unleashed upon the people and amazing things took place. Jaw dropping miracles, bold preaching on the forgiveness of sins through Jesus are part of the makeup of which Paul stayed with this congregation 2 years. The transformation in Ephesus was extraordinary. Acts 19:17 says that in Ephesus, “The name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored.”
Paul would later pen a letter to them. A decade after he left he wrote 2 letters to a man he left in charge – Timothy. Ultimately when Timothy left, it would be the beloved apostle John who would step into leadership. The big guns of the early faith have all had a part in the makeup and growing of this church but what the first letter of Jesus speaks there is something going on that will be the death of them.
Jesus starts off with “I know the things you do.” Not only does He have the stars, He holds them. Not only does He stand in the midst of the lampstands, He walks among them. Christ visits His people. He dwells with them. He walks among them. He inspects them. Jesus has complete knowledge of everything we’ve done – not just today, or this week, but within our lives.
His words begin with encouragement. They’re zealous on many fronts. They have patient endurance. They test the spirit of false prophets. They know their doctrine. They’ve contended with the Nicolaitans who were a sect of legalists at heart and misguided. These gave false teachings that robbed Believers of their freedom in Christ and the church stood up to them!
Yet, there’s a problem. They have forsaken their first love, being Him. They lost their passionate love for Him. They’re doing a lot, striving and contending with issues but where’s the love? His response is not a suggestion but a warning. If they don’t correct this issue of their love for Him, He will remove their lampstand. The light will go out. This is critical.
This is the point – God doesn’t want us to do just the right things. He says, I want that but I also want more than that. I want you to love me. It’s not about religion or checking the boxes and following a bunch of rules. He wants them. Jesus longs for all of us to love Him completely and wholeheartedly.
“Remember from where you have fallen.”
Was there a time in your life when you more passionately loved Him? Was there a time in your life when you recognized all He had done and were so unbelievably grateful? What really happened? Was there a time when you were more passionately in love with Him? What was it like? What’s different now? You see, the church in Ephesus had fallen from their heights of genuine devotion and landed in mediocrity. Oh, they were a busy church, an amazing church on the outside, sacrificing, laboring, suffering. But they had severe heart trouble. Their love had grown cold.
If this is the case for us, Jesus gives the antidote. Remember. Remember what has been lost and regain what is gone. this requires the Holy Spirit for only He can change and stir our hearts and desire. But we must remember where we were at one point.
Then repent. This means change our minds, confess our sins. Turn around. Whatever it takes to get back there we need to do the things we did at first. The church in Ephesus had abandoned their first love. They were an active, busy church but their love was gone.
Where do these words of Jesus speak to you concerning your own spiritual state?
The Church at Smyrna
Smyrna was a persecuted church. Jesus was pleased with how willing they were to suffer for Him. Unlike the other letters, this is one of the few that has straightforward encouragement and no warning.
Smyrna was located 35 miles up the coast from Ephesus. It was a splendid city that boasted being the pride of Asia and a big rivalry to Ephesus. It had a terrific harbor and flourished in trade. It was possibly one of the most prosperous cities in Asia Minor. We know nothing of who founded the church as it’s not mentioned in Acts or the various letters of the New Testament.
He knows of their suffering. Jesus was fully aware of all these people had gone through and were currently enduring. Smyrna was a suffering, poverty-stricken church. They had seen affliction on so many different levels. These people stood for their faith no matter what.
Persecution had strengthened them. It stripped them down to what they believed and why they believed it. It showed where their faith truly was. This is the same for us. Hardships, persecution, in the end, reveal where our faith really is.
The reality is when times are easy, we get lax in our faith. We gravitate toward a self-assurance and things this world offers. We trust outward things, our own wisdom and thinking and this weakens our spiritual character. It’s only under pressure that the real and genuine fragrance of Jesus seeps out.
And what is amazing is there is no rebuke found here. They’re not doing anything wrong. He never condemns them for their lack of faith in the middle of all that’s going on. It’s easy to love Jesus when all is going well, but when the difficult times come, will we still love Him?
Jesus was calling the people of Smyrna, and each of us, to be faithful to the end no matter what. The current testings that you’ve been under, how faithful have you been?
The letter to Smyrna cannot be ignored. The church was poor, persecuted and headed for more. It is one of the few churches Jesus doesn’t tell to repent. There’s no condemnation, just an encouragement to remain faithful.
What is Jesus saying to you?
Revelation 2 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Although these letters are addressed to specific congregations in the first century, I believe they are representative of all churches that will exist throughout history. No matter what church you attend, it is likely the spirit of your church falls into one of the seven.
The Church at Pergamum
Pergamum was the ancient capital of the province of Asia. It was located atop a high hill about 50 miles north of Smyrna. It was known as the place where Satan dwells. We don’t know exactly what this means but it’s likely that it had something to do with Caesar as Pergamum had the first temple dedicated to him. They were ferocious in promoting his agenda. But the city itself was also a destination for other false gods and temple worshipers. Many believed in Aesculapius, the god of healing, which was symbolized with a serpent on a staff.
‘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.Revelation 2:13 NASB
The man-made alters of false gods in Pergamum lined the streets like casinos on the Vegas strip. The Roman government had aligned themselves fully with these mythological gods and so to pledge your allegiance to Caesar meant you would also pledge your allegiance to the god of your choice… and vice versa. If you lived in Pergamum, it was nearly impossible to avoid the undertow of Roman and pagan allegiance.
Most likely the pastor or bishop of Pergamum, church legend states that he was yet another one of John’s disciples. The Roman government was hostile toward those refusing to burn incense and bow the knee to Caesar. Historical records indicate this is exactly what Antipas refused to do, and in response, he was placed inside of a bull-shaped altar and burned alive.
To say he was a martyr is accurate, but in John’s time, that word did not mean what it means today. In fact, the Greek word John uses is the word “pistis” which literally means “witness.”
Consider what we know about a witness. Well, in court, a witness is called to the stand and swears or affirms to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
In other words, Antipas refused to bow down to an imaginary god when He knew the One True God. He refused to burn incense and declare that Caeser was lord when he knew that Jesus was Lord. So is Jesus looking for faithful witnesses’ today? Are you one of them?
Are you speaking with others in a way that is true to the Name of Jesus? Are your relationships reflecting the character and love of Jesus? Can Jesus count on you when you are called to the witness stand? Look, every day we go to a “witness stand” of sorts. It is there with the way we live our lives and with the relationships that we hold. It shows up with our reputation and reactions to others. Our daily life is either a testimony to the truth of Jesus’ Name or it’s an outright lie.
There one more interesting detail to explore in these verses. Look at Jesus’ use of the word “My.”
‘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.Revelation 2:13 NASB
My Name. My Faith. My Witness. My Faithful One. What does this mean?
When you go to the witness stand, you’re there in the Name of Jesus. Antipas wasn’t there to make a name for himself. We don’t even know anything else about him! But that’s how Jesus wanted it because it wasn’t about Antipas. It was and always is all about the Name of Jesus Christ!
When you go to the witness stand, you’re not there relying on your own strength. You’re there standing on the Faith of Jesus.
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.Ephesians 6:16 NASB
Jesus’ faith is a mighty shield which extinguishes the lies of the enemy. The lie that the enemy wanted Antipas to believe is that his human life is more valuable than his eternal life. He fed him the bait that a little compromise won’t bother Jesus.
But because of Jesus’ faith (the shield of faith), Antipas knew that this certain and pending death was only a microscopic blip on the map compared to the eternal home that was prepared and waiting for him. The pain would only last a short moment. He was only a short step from seeing His Savior face to face!
So Jesus, owning these titles, rightly hands them to Antipas after he truthfully testified to the True Lord. He says, “Antipas is ‘My Witness,’ ‘My Faithful One.’” Those are titles that were given to Jesus by God! What this means is that when we walk the path of Jesus, we also reap the harvest of Jesus. When we suffer like He suffered, we walk in glory like He walked in glory. Jesus has literally paved the way to eternity. He made a way where there wasn’t a way. And now, when you and I walk in those footsteps, we get to share in the eternal promises that God handed to Jesus.
We don’t know much of anything about Antipas. Very few in history wasted any ink writing about this obscure man in Pergamum. He wasn’t a king. He wasn’t a man of power. He didn’t have money as far as we know. His human accomplishments were unmentionable. But the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, in front of the entire world for all generations permanently declares that this man is My Faithful Witness! Is that not the pinnacle of acknowledgements that anyone who has ever lived could ever be granted? If I can hear that at the end of my life, I will have everything I’ve ever wanted or needed!
So far, for the church at Pergamum, this is amazing stuff. Though they were pressed, this church did not deny Jesus when it mattered most. It’s a safe bet he was martyred for refusing to place incense on the altar and confess that “Caesar is lord.” However, this church was not without its flaws either. Remember, this was the home of Satan’s throne.
The word that best defines the struggles of Pergamum is compromise. They were tolerating the Nicolaitans along with false believers who were peddling a compromised message. The reason Balaam is mentioned is because back in Numbers 25, 24,000 people died because they were tricked into compromising. The problem with this, of course, is that sin begins as a very small choice and grows into an uncontrollable storm. Jesus knew that if His people let this go on it could infiltrate and destroy the church.
‘Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.Revelation 2:16 NASB
It’s interesting to note that Jesus is not going to war against the leader or leaders who are receiving this letter. He says I will make war with them. In other words, those people who are compromising. So, ultimately, this is a church discipline issue. Jesus is saying to his leaders at Pergamum, you need to step in and call the people to repent or I will come and make war against them with the sword of my mouth.
6 times in Revelation, this word ‘sword’ is used and in 5 of them John emphasizes that this sword comes out of Jesus’ mouth. The sixth reference is in Revelation 6 when the black horse of death rides out with all authority to kill with the sword, with famine, with pestilence, and with wild beasts. Where else is this word in Scripture?
There is only one other place where this word is used in the entire Bible.
And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— 35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”Luke 2:34-35 NASB (emphasis mine)
Thoughts from many hearts will be revealed. When Jesus comes with ultimate authority, His sharp two-sided sword will bring exposure to all that has been hidden. There will be discovery. Secret thoughts and secret lives will become completely visible. Those who had compromised will stand naked before Him with zero excuses because their true motives will be revealed. This is the picture we get from Scripture.
So, in the case of Pergamum, what this means for the leaders is that Jesus, in His grace, is giving them time to correct all of the compromising that is going on with His bride because Jesus knows they are flirting with other lovers right now. Some may desire such an act from Jesus today, but it is not God’s desire to make war with humanity.
The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins.2 Peter 3:9 GNB
I would wager that some of us (probably all of us) are compromising our relationship with Jesus in some way. Jesus is full of grace and He is full of love. He is a patient Savior. But, what we learn from this passage is that Jesus has a limit. There is a point in which He will say enough is enough and the exposure will come.
In other words, it is much better to repent and come clean now than to wait on Jesus to come with His two-edged sword which will cut deep into people’s lives exposing their true heart motives. The beauty of Jesus, as always, is that He gives the most unbelievable promises for those who decide to repent and obey.
The Church at Thyatira
Thyatira received the longest message but they were actually the smallest city among the seven. There were many trade guilds in the city which usually resulted in lots of idolatry. Interestingly, Thyatira was home to the sun god Apollo which may be why Jesus introduces Himself as “the Son of God” and as one who has “eyes like a flame of fire” and “feet like burnished bronze.”
In Ezekiel 1, the prophet Ezekiel was given a vision of God’s throne room. Here is what He wrote…
I looked up and saw a windstorm coming from the north. Lightning was flashing from a huge cloud, and the sky around it was glowing. Where the lightning was flashing, something shone like bronze. 5 At the center of the storm I saw what looked like four living creatures in human form, 6 but each of them had four faces and four wings. 7 Their legs were straight, and they had hoofs like those of a bull. They shone like polished bronze.Ezekiel 1:4-7 GNB
13 Among the creatures there was something that looked like a blazing torch, constantly moving. The fire would blaze up and shoot out flashes of lightning. 14 The creatures themselves darted back and forth with the speed of lightning.Ezekiel 1:13-14 GNB
In Daniel 6, the prophet Daniel was given a vision of Jesus Christ. Here is what he wrote…
His body shone like a jewel. His face was as bright as a flash of lightning, and his eyes blazed like fire. His arms and legs shone like polished bronze, and his voice sounded like the roar of a great crowd.Daniel 10:6 GNB
So what does this consistent description of eyes of fire and feet like polished brass actually mean?
Brass or bronze are perfectly refined in fire. At the time of John’s writing, brass was the pinnacle of strength. It was the strongest known metal of that time. So this description meshes together in beautiful harmony. Jesus’ eyes of fire are consuming, testing, and evaluating. His conclusions about what He sees can be trusted because he is pure, holy, refined in the fire, and absolutely steadfast in His strength and power over all things.
And so, what we learn from Jesus’ critical evaluation of Thyatira is that they are doing well on many levels. They were a church of love, faithfulness, service, and patience. And probably the highest compliment Jesus gives them is that they are growing in their faith. This congregation was diligent and busy. Their works came out of faith and love instead of dead religion. They are doing more now than what they did at first. This is all amazing stuff!
But, as we will learn here in a minute, Jesus’ fiery eyes have detected a fatal flaw in this congregation.
They tolerated a woman named Jezebel who was most likely seducing them with a teaching similar to the “doctrine of Balaam” at Pergamum. This could have been done in many ways. One likely scenario is that she taught them how to compromise with the Romans so that they would not lose their jobs or their lives and could continue to practice at the guilds.
So where do we see the spirit of Jezebel today? First, let me say that I’m not a fan of haphazardly assigning titles to individuals especially when they are based on a small sample size. For instance, some believers today might see you at a buffet and immediately peg you as someone with a “spirit of gluttony.” That’s reactionary, and unwise.
John, the author of Revelation, told us in another one of his writings, 1 John 4, that we are to test every spirit to see whether they are from God. That word ‘test’ means to analyze, examine, and prove. In order to do this, we must not jump quickly to conclusions but take time comparing whatever is in question to Jesus’ life and teachings to see if there is harmony or opposition. In some cases, that testing may take weeks, months, or years – but the fruit (either good or rotten) will eventually be revealed in due time, I can promise you that.
So, with all that being said, I personally believe that a Jezebel spirit is one of the most crafty and calculated types of evil I have ever encountered. It is simply pure distilled wickedness.
The spirit is fueled first and foremost by pride and arrogance. This persona thrives on acquired authority, self-appointed titles, self-promotion, using overly spiritual lingo, and claiming to have special or hidden knowledge. Pride is placing confidence in yourself instead of placing confidence in God. Once this kind of pride comes upon a person, it becomes difficult to break because a spirit of Jezebel will rarely accept constructive criticism.
A host with this spirit will function as king or queen of their dominion and they will always fight to be the center of attention. King Ahab had no voice and no power because Jezebel had overtaken him. These people will cut off all friends and family who disagree with them. The only way to have a relationship with a spirit of Jezebel is to bend the knee and follow their every opinion and order. They don’t have friends; they have followers. Remember when Elijah had a showdown with the prophets of Baal and destroyed them all? Jezebel went into a sensational rage and demanded Elijah’s head. This type of person operates with a “comply or die” mentality.
The Bible tells us that Jezebel was a seducer and manipulator. When she heard of Jehu riding furiously into the city to confront her, Scripture tells us she painted her eyes and arranged her hair before appearing in the window. A Jezebel spirit is one who will appeal to the natural senses and use it as a distraction to mislead in another direction. Whether that is seduction, giving gifts, or just flattery of words, they will use all of this to lure others in. They know enough Bible to impress others with their knowledge and they know when and how to twist it in their favor. This type of seductive manipulation is a gateway to all sorts of compromising behaviors.
Slowly but surely, Jesus is taken out of the equation. He is replaced by sensational signs and wonders, immorality, selfish prayers, “new” prophecies, and strange, distorted theology. A Jezebel spirit will find your weakness (which is usually some sort of idol) and encourage you to pursue it and replace Jesus with it.
In everything I am writing, it sounds like it would be easy and obvious to unmask a Jezebel spirit, but it’s not. These people have a specific type of charisma and energy about them. Initially, you feel yourself being attracted to them because they seem so confident, so knowledgeable, so powerful, and so accommodating. This is the web being set up in order to entangle others. The spirit of Jezebel has such a crafty, seductive nature that once you are in the web, it’s very difficult to get out. When you try and confront or challenge it, the storm will be unleashed.
The goal of a Jezebel spirit is the same as Satan’s goal – to steal, kill and destroy. It’s an inside job. That is why a host with the spirit of Jezebel will attempt to climb the ladder of a church, ministry, business, or nation. Once that person has a position of authority, everything will come crashing down. Elijah, one of the Bible’s strongest and most influential prophets, was driven to give up on his calling and purpose in the Lord. In fact, he wanted to die! That point alone should show us just how dangerous this type of spirit is to the body of Christ.
It’s important to consider that, as Jesus has stated here in Revelation, the person is separate from the demonic spirit. We must be careful not to demonize the person or host, but to attack the spirit itself using the full armor of God. Most people who operate with a Jezebel spirit are clueless they have it. In fact, many of them think they are doing what’s right and some even believe they are working for the Lord Himself.
The best way to identify a counterfeit is to know the real thing. A spirit of Jezebel will ultimately run against the grain of Jesus and the Word of God. If we do not know Jesus and His teachings, we put ourselves in a vulnerable state where we can be quickly and easily seduced. A Jezebel spirit will make you question everything you thought you knew about Jesus. If you are not diligent in sticking to the Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal truth, you will begin to unravel.
The second point here is that we must test the spirits to see where they lead. Are the words and actions of this person leading to division, fear, turmoil, and compromise or are they leading to the fruit of the Spirit? This is probably the most effective question you can ask yourself when testing a spirit. They may be quoting Scripture, doing great works of service, and even performing signs and wonders, but if those actions are leading to rotten fruit, we must draw some hard boundaries to protect ourselves as well as the body of Christ.
When you compare Thyatira to Ephesus, you see the wrestling match of grace and truth. Ephesus didn’t tolerate false teaching but lacked love. Thyatira was filled with gracious service but compromised on truth. Jesus commends those who separated themselves from her and places no other burden on them. He simply encourages them to persevere until He comes.
‘Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.’Revelation 2:25 NASB
For those today who are diligent in serving Christ and striving for a balance of grace and truth, Jesus says, “Hold fast! I am coming soon!”