Message to Ephesus
2 “To the angel (divine messenger) of the church in [a]Ephesus write:
“These are the words of the One who holds [firmly] the seven stars [which are the angels or messengers of the seven churches] in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands (the seven churches):
2 ‘I know [b]your deeds and your toil, and your patient endurance, and that you cannot tolerate those who are evil, and have tested and critically appraised those who call themselves apostles (special messengers, personally chosen representatives, of Christ), and [in fact] are not, and have found them to be liars and impostors; 3 and [I know that] you [who believe] are enduring patiently and are bearing up for My name’s sake, and that you have not grown weary [of being faithful to the truth]. 4 But I have this [charge] against you, that you have left your first love [you have lost the depth of love that you first had for Me]. 5 So remember the heights from which you have fallen, and repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, your sinful behavior—seek God’s will] and do the works you did at first [when you first knew Me]; otherwise, I will visit you and remove your lampstand (the church, its impact) from its place—unless you repent. 6 Yet you have this [to your credit], that you hate the works and corrupt teachings of the [c]Nicolaitans [that mislead and delude the people], which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear and heed what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who [d]overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God], I will grant [the privilege] to eat [the fruit] from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.’(A)
Message to Smyrna
8 “And to the angel (divine messenger) of the church in [e]Smyrna write:
“These are the words of the First and the Last [absolute Deity, the Son of God] who died and came to life [again]:(B)
9 ‘I know your suffering and your poverty (but you are rich), and how you are blasphemed and slandered by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan [they are Jews only by blood, and do not believe and truly honor the God whom they claim to worship]. 10 Fear nothing that you are about to suffer. Be aware that the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested [in your faith], and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful to the point of death [if you must die for your faith], and I will give you the crown [consisting] of life.(C) 11 He who has an ear, let him hear and heed what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God] will not be hurt by the second death ([f]the lake of fire).’(D)
Message to Pergamum
12 “And to the angel (divine messenger) of the church in [g]Pergamum write:
“These are the words of Him who has and wields the sharp two-edged sword [in judgment]:
13 ‘I know where you dwell, [a place] where Satan sits enthroned. Yet you are holding fast to My name, and you did not deny [h]My faith even in the days of [i]Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed (martyred) among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there some [among you] who are holding to the [corrupt] teaching of Balaam, who taught [j]Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, [enticing them] to eat things that had been sacrificed to idols and to commit [acts of sexual] [k]immorality.(E) 15 You also have some who in the same way are holding to the teaching of the [l]Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, your sinful behavior—seek God’s will]; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war and fight against them with the sword of My mouth [in judgment]. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear and heed what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God], to him I will give [the privilege of eating] some of the [m]hidden manna, and I will give him a [n]white stone with a new name engraved on the stone which no one knows except the one who receives it.’(F)
Message to Thyatira
18 “And to the angel (divine messenger) of the church in [o]Thyatira write:
“These are the words of the Son of God, who has eyes [that flash] like a flame of fire [in righteous judgment], and whose feet are like burnished [white-hot] bronze:(G)
19 ‘I know your deeds, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your last deeds are more numerous and greater than the first. 20 But I have this [charge] against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess [claiming to be inspired], and she teaches and misleads My bond-servants so that they commit [acts of sexual] immorality and eat food sacrificed to idols.(H) 21 I gave her time to repent [to change her inner self and her sinful way of thinking], but she has no desire to repent of her immorality and refuses to do so. 22 [p]Listen carefully, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her [I will bring] into great anguish, unless they repent of her deeds. 23 And I will kill her children (followers) with [q]pestilence [thoroughly annihilating them], and all the churches will know [without any doubt] that I am He who searches the [r]minds and hearts [the innermost thoughts, purposes]; and I will give to each one of you [a reward or punishment] according to your deeds.(I) 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not explored and known the [s]depths of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you, 25 except to hold tightly to what you have until I come. 26 And he who overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God] and he who keeps My deeds [doing things that please Me] until the [very] end, to him I will give authority and power over the nations;(J) 27 and he shall shepherd and rule them with a rod of iron, as the earthen pots are broken in pieces, as I also have received authority [and power to rule them] from My Father;(K) 28 and I will give him the [t]Morning Star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear and heed what the Spirit says to the churches.’
- Revelation 2:1 Ephesus, the largest city in Roman-controlled Asia Minor, developed into a major trade center because of its access to the Aegean Sea. It was the primary center for the worship of the goddess Artemis (Diana). The Temple of Artemis, the largest building in ancient times, was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The open-air theatre in Ephesus could accommodate 25,000 spectators and was used for both drama and gladiatorial combat.
- Revelation 2:2 Here through 3:18, “your” and “you” are in the singular, referring to the angel of each church. Much of what is said is rebuke and admonishment, so if the angels are heavenly beings, they may serve in some way as representatives of the sinful people in their churches. Jewish tradition maintained that every nation and individual has a guardian angel, and that when God is about to punish a nation, He first punishes its angel. There is even a story of Michael, the guardian angel of Israel, being rebuked by God for the sins committed in the time of Ezekiel. So the original readers of Revelation might have assumed that the angels here are the guardian angels of the individual churches, sharing responsibility for the actions of the members.
- Revelation 2:6 There is scant information about the cult of the Nicolaitans, but it appears they adopted a syncretistic worship, combining Christianity and idolatry. They may have held heretical views similar to those mentioned in vv 14 and 20.
- Revelation 2:7 The definition of one who overcomes is recorded in 1 John 5:5.
- Revelation 2:8 In ancient times Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey) was a beautiful, cosmopolitan city. Located on the Aegean coast, it vied with Ephesus and Pergamum in importance in Asia Minor. It was closely identified with Rome and the cult of emperor worship. Smyrna was later the home of Polycarp, the great Christian church leader who, at the age of eighty-six, was burned at the stake for his refusal to worship the Roman emperor.
- Revelation 2:11 The Valley of Hinnom located south of Jerusalem was the place where garbage burned continuously. Often regarded in ancient times as symbolic of hell (the lake of fire), reserved for the wicked. Paradise or Abraham’s bosom (cf Luke 16:22) was the place reserved for the good in anticipation of heaven. Mentioned in Matt 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6.
- Revelation 2:12 Pergamum (modern Bergama, Turkey) was built on a promontory about sixteen miles from the Aegean Sea. It was famous as a worship center for many pagan gods including Zeus (Jupiter, king of gods), Dionysus (Bacchus, god of wine and intoxication), and Asklepios (god of healing). The enormous altar dedicated to Zeus is on display in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Pergamum also had an important temple dedicated to the worship of Caesar. Refusal to take part in the imperial cult was considered treason. A culturally sophisticated city as well as a center for pagan worship, Pergamum’s library, believed to contain over 200,000 volumes, was second only to the Library of Alexandria.
- Revelation 2:13 I.e. your faith in Me.
- Revelation 2:13 Antipas was a pastor or leader of the church at Pergamum.
- Revelation 2:14 The king of Moab in the time of the exodus, who hired Balaam to curse Israel.
- Revelation 2:14 Pagan worship often included the use of temple prostitutes who served as “priestesses.”
- Revelation 2:15 See note v 6.
- Revelation 2:17 This probably refers to the pot of manna placed in the Ark of the Covenant by Moses (Ex 16:33; Heb 9:4). Manna was a food supernaturally provided to Israel by God during their wanderings in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt.
- Revelation 2:17 White stones were sometimes used as tickets of admission to public assemblies. Here the white stone may symbolize admission to the Messiah’s banquet.
- Revelation 2:18 Thyatira (modern Akhisar, Turkey) was famous for its dyeing and indigo trade. It was the home of Lydia, the seller of purple fabrics, who was converted under the ministry of Paul (Acts 16:14). Located in a valley, midway between Pergamum and Sardis, it was originally established as a military base by one of the generals in the army of Alexander the Great.
- Revelation 2:22 Lit Behold.
- Revelation 2:23 Lit death.
- Revelation 2:23 Lit kidneys, i.e. inner man. In Jewish thought, the kidneys were considered a source of wisdom (cf Ps 16:7).
- Revelation 2:24 I.e. participated in and experienced evil.
- Revelation 2:28 In 22:16 this expression designates Christ as the true Messiah, the root and the descendant of David. Here, the gift probably is the privilege of knowing Christ at a much higher level (see Phil 3:8).