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.
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?
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.
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.
Though they were pressed, this church did not deny Jesus when it mattered most. One faithful follower, Antipas, is mentioned by name. 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.
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, twenty-four thousand 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.
What’s interesting about this is that Jesus Himself could have destroyed all of these false believers. He could have destroyed Caesar. His choice for His beloved church was not an easy deliverance but a fiery refinement. He simply instructed them on what to do next. Where is He doing the same with you today? What is your response to the compromise that the Holy Spirit has revealed in your own life?
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.”
This congregation was diligent and busy. Their works came out of faith and love instead of dead religion. Jesus praises their sacrificial ministry for the sake of others. But, yet again, we read of correction that was needed. And this church really needed it.
They tolerated a woman named Jezebel who was most likely seducing them with 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.
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.
Not everyone in Thyatira had fallen to the seductive teachings of Jezebel. Jesus commends those who separated themselves from her and places no other burden on them. He simply encourages them to persevere until He comes.
Revelation 2:25 NASB ‘Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.
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!”