But the *church tested what they said. If anything did not agree with the word of God, the *church refused it. The *church at Ephesus believed that the word of God is the truth. The *church at Ephesus refused those who proved to be false.
Verse 3 This verse repeats that the *church at Ephesus had been patient. They had suffered much trouble. They were patient as they suffered for Jesus. They had troubles because they lived for Jesus. Through all the problems, they remained true to Jesus. They did not turn away from him.
Verse 4 This *church did what was right. They were careful to teach the truth. They would not believe what was wrong or false. All this was good but it was not enough. They had lost the most important thing.
These Christians did not love as they used to. They did not love God as much as when they first became Christians. Their love for each other was not as strong as it had been. But a hot object becomes cool. And their love for God and for other people had become less.
Verse 5 The *Greek says, ‘You have fallen.’ The first love was like a high place. They had fallen from that high place. Their love was not now as strong as it was then. The *Lord says to them, ‘remember.’ At that time, their love for God was so strong. Also, they loved each other. And they worked for each other. Now it was not the same. They had lost something of that first love.
They must turn again. They must do as they used to. Love must again be very important in their lives. Love for God must be the reason for their actions. Their actions must show love for each other. Actions without love have no worth at all.
The *Lord warns them to *repent. If they do not *repent, that *church will end. Jesus will come and remove the lamp holder.
All the other things that the *church in Ephesus did were good. But the most important thing was their love. Love is more important than good actions. But love will always produce good actions.
Verse 6 There was a group of people called the Nicolaitans. We do not know much about this group. But they did things that were not right for the Christians. They ate the food that people gave to false gods. And their ideas about sex were not what Christians should believe.
The *Lord was pleased that the Christians at Ephesus hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans. He also hated what they did. There are many such strange groups. Christians must be careful to obey what the Bible teaches. They must refuse the actions of those who teach against the truth. They should hate all that is false.
Verse 7 ‘If you have an ear, listen!’ Anyone who is able to hear should listen. The *Lord calls all of us to listen. We all need to hear what the Spirit says to the *churches. It was not just for the *church in Ephesus.
The Spirit of Christ gives a promise to those who overcome. They are those who obey God. They do what the *Lord has said to the *church in Ephesus.
Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden. In that garden, there was the tree of life. When Adam and Eve *sinned, God stopped them from going to the tree of life. He put a guard there so that they could not eat the fruit of it (Genesis 3:24). If they ate of it, they would always be *sinners. Then they would not be able to live with God.
Those who overcome will be free from *sin. They can eat the fruit of the tree of life. And they will always be with the *Lord. They will have *eternal life with God.
To the *church in Smyrna – Revelation 2:8-11
v8 ‘Write to the *angel of the *church in Smyrna. I am the first and the last. I was dead. I came to life again. This is what I say to you. v9 I know the troubles that you suffer. I know that you are poor. However, you are rich. And I know the evil things that some people say about you. They call themselves *Jews but they are not. They belong to the *synagogue of *Satan.
v10 Do not be afraid of the troubles that you will suffer soon. I tell you, the devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. And you will suffer much trouble for ten days. However, be strong in your *faith even if you have to die for it. And I will give you life as a crown. v11 If you have an ear, listen! Hear what the Spirit says to the *churches. The second death will not hurt those who overcome.’
Verse 8 On the route north from Ephesus, the next city was Smyrna. Its modern name is Izmir. It is about 35 miles from Ephesus. It is on the sea and it had a good, safe harbour. In trade, it was second only to Ephesus.
Jesus writes to Smyrna as the first and the last. He defeated death. He was now alive (1:17). He writes to a *church that suffered much from the local people. Jesus suffered much. He knows what it is to suffer.
Jesus died and came to life again. So, they too can be brave even to die. They can be sure of the life beyond death.
Verse 9 The *Lord knew all about the problems in Smyrna. He saw all the troubles that they had. They were very poor and they struggled to live. Life was very hard for these Christians.
They were poor. But Jesus said that they were rich. They did not have much of this world’s wealth. But they were rich toward God. They knew the *Lord and he appreciated them.
There was a large number of *Jews in Smyrna. These hated the *church. They caused a lot of trouble. They spoke lies and said evil things about the Christians. They turned the rulers of the city against the *church.
Jesus said that these *Jews were not real *Jews. A real *Jew is not just one who has *Jewish parents. A real *Jew is one who trusts God. A real *Jew would not be against Christ or his *church. These *Jews served *Satan and not God. Perhaps they thought that they were serving God. But by their actions, they were against God. They caused trouble for God’s people.
Verse 10 The *church in Smyrna would soon have a terrible time. They would suffer much. The *Lord says that these troubles would last for ten (10) days. Ten is a whole number. ‘Ten days’ probably means a period of years but with a definite end.
The *Roman rulers would put many of them in prison. Some would die because of their trust in Jesus. In all of this, they must remain strong. They must continue to trust in Jesus through it all. They must not deny Jesus. The *Lord allowed such troubles in order to test them, to prove their trust.
People will do these evil things but the real cause is the devil. He uses people to do his work. So, the devil will put them in prison.
However, the *Lord says, ‘Do not be afraid.’ Jesus told his friends not to be afraid of those who could kill the body. They cannot kill the person’s spirit, which lives in the body. Rather we should be afraid of God who can punish the whole person, both body and spirit (Matthew 10:28).
To those who overcome, Jesus will give life as a crown. The reward, like a crown, is life itself. This crown is the sort that the winner in a race receives. They had races in Smyrna. This life is like a race. Those who win the race will receive the prize. All who trust Jesus to the end will win the prize. The prize is *eternal life with the *Lord Jesus.
Verse 11 The *Lord calls all of us to listen. We all need to hear what the Spirit says to the *churches.
There is a second death. We all live and die. The *Lord will raise all people from that death (John 5:28-29). Then he will be the judge of all people. He will decide their fate by what they have done. The second death is the punishment for all who do not trust in the *Lord (20:13-15). But those who overcome will not die a second time.
To the *church in Pergamum – Revelation 2:12-17
v12 ‘Write to the *angel of the *church in Pergamum. I have the sharp sword. It cuts with both edges. This is what I say to you. v13 I know where you live. *Satan has his *throne there. But you remain true to my name. You did not deny your *faith in me, even in the days of Antipas. He was my loyal servant. He spoke the truth about me. The people in your city killed him. That is where *Satan lives.
v14 However, I have a few things against you. Some among you follow what Balaam taught Balak. Balak learned from Balaam how to tempt the *Israelites. He caused them to *sin. He tempted them to eat food from the table of false gods. He tempted them to have wrong sex. v15 Also, some among you follow what the Nicolaitans teach. v16 You must *repent. If you do not *repent, I will come quickly. I will fight against them with the sword that comes out of my mouth.
v17 If you have an ear, listen! Hear what the Spirit says to the *churches. To those who overcome, I will give some of the secret *manna. I will also give to each person who overcomes a white stone with a new name on it. Nobody knows this new name except the person who receives it.’
Verse 12 The road north from Smyrna follows the coast for about 40 miles. Then it turns away from the sea up a river valley. Ten miles from the sea is the capital city, called Pergamum. Here they had a large and famous library.
The city was on a hill. At the top, there was a special place for the *worship of Zeus. Zeus was their chief god. The people in Pergamum had four main gods that they served. These were Zeus, Athene (a special female god), Dionysos and Asklepios. There was also a *temple in Pergamum for the *worship of the king of Rome.
The local rulers had the power of life and death. They could arrest and kill any person. But Jesus has the sharp sword. His sword cuts with both edges (1:16). The power of life and death belongs to Jesus and not to the rulers. They can only kill the body. But Jesus has the power of life and death of the whole person.
Verse 13 Jesus spoke to them. ‘I know where you live.’ He called Pergamum the place where *Satan rules. There were so many false gods. People did so many evil things in that town. It was very hard to be a Christian there. The Christians lived in constant danger. However, the *church there remained true to Jesus. They refused to *worship the king or the gods of the people.
Antipas had been loyal to the *Lord. He had refused to *worship the king or the false gods. But he had spoken to the people about the *Lord. They killed Antipas because he trusted in Jesus. Even then, the *church did not deny Jesus. They were brave. They were even willing to die for Jesus.
Verses 14-15 This was a very good *church. The *Lord was happy with them. But there was something wrong in the *church. Some members did not live as they should.
Some people there did what Balaam taught Balak. The story of Balaam and Balak is in Numbers chapters 22 to 24. To make the *Israelites weak, Balaam told Balak to tempt them with women (Numbers 31:16). The women would attract the men of *Israel to *worship their own false gods. This is how Balak tried to tempt the people of *Israel.
These members did not want to be different from the other people in Pergamum. They were happy to eat the food of false gods. Perhaps they went to the *temples of the false gods to eat. They did the same things as other people. They even had sex with those who did not trust in Jesus. They may have had sex with more than one partner. This is against what Jesus taught. It is *sin.
Some also followed what the Nicolaitans taught. Perhaps they belonged to the same group because they did the same things.
Christians ought to be different from those who do not trust in Jesus. They should live for the *Lord. They should do what he taught. They should not live to the standards of the world.
Verse 16 The whole *church should *repent. They ought not to have members like these. The *church should take action to change the situation. If they do not then Jesus will come. He will fight against those who do not *repent.
Verse 17 What other people do tempts us. We may want to live as they do. But God calls us to live for him. Jesus taught us how we should live. So, the *Lord tells us to listen to the Spirit. We all need to hear what he says to the *churches.
The *Lord will give some secret *manna to those who overcome. *Manna was that bread which God gave to the *Israelites. They were in the desert and he gave them this for food (Exodus chapter 16). So, *manna is food from heaven. Those who overcome will have the food of heaven to eat. This may mean food for the spirit while on earth. It may be a promise of heaven. There they will dine with the *Lord in heaven.
The *Lord also promises them a white stone. On that stone, there is a name. It is a new name and nobody else knows it.
In the law courts, a white stone meant a ‘not guilty’ decision. Jesus died for all people. He *forgives all those who trust him. God is the judge and he will declare them ‘not guilty’.
In the races at Pergamum, those who win receive a white stone. Those who overcome have won the race of life. They have the white stone of success from the *Lord.
The new name on the stone may be the name of the person who overcomes. The *Lord gives that person a new name. That new name is a prize and an honour. This will be the name of that person in the new age.
It may be that the new name is a name of the *Lord Jesus. In chapter 19:12, Jesus has a name on him, but nobody except Jesus himself knows it. He gives his name to his own people. Those who know the name will be close friends of Jesus.
To the *church in Thyatira – Revelation 2:18-29
v18 ‘Write to the *angel of the *church in Thyatira. I am the Son of God. My eyes are like a flame of fire. My feet are like bright shining *bronze that has gone through a hot fire. This is what I say to you. v19 I know what you do. I know your love, your *faith, your service, and your patience. You are doing more now than you did at the start.
v20 But I have this against you. You let that woman called Jezebel remain among you. She calls herself a *prophet. She teaches and leads my servants into *sin. She encourages them to have wrong sex. She causes them to eat food from the table of false gods. v21 I gave her time to *repent and to turn away from her *sins and wrong sex. However, she does not want to change. v22 So, I will throw her on a bed where she will suffer. And whoever has sex with her will suffer greatly. I will do this unless they *repent. They must turn from the wicked things that they did with her. v23 I will kill her children so that they are dead. Then all the *churches will know that I examine minds and hearts. And I will give to each of you whatever your works deserve. v24 Now to the rest of you in Thyatira, I say this. You have not believed what Jezebel taught. You have not learned what some call the secret things of *Satan. So, I will not make life any more difficult for you. v25 Only hold on to what you have. Hold on to it until I come.
v26 Those who overcome must do my deeds until the end. To them, I will give power. They shall rule the nations. v27 They shall be strict and rule the nations as with an iron bar. And they will break the nations as if they were dried mud. This is what I also have received from my Father. v28 To those who overcome, I will also give the morning star. v29 If you have an ear, listen! Hear what the Spirit says to the *churches.’
Verse 18 This is the longest letter and it is the most difficult. We know less about Thyatira than the other cities. It is south and east of Pergamum at a distance of 40 miles. It was famous for its trade. There were many trade unions in Thyatira. Each one of these was for a particular trade. These trade unions had a relationship with the *worship of the gods. This caused real problems for the Christians. They had to belong to the union in order to get work in their trade.
Jesus describes himself as the Son of God. This is very different from the local god. His name was Apollo Tyrimnos. He was both the *Roman king and the god of Thyatira. People thought that he was the son of a god called Zeus. But Jesus really is the Son of the real God.
The eyes of Jesus were like a flame of fire. He could see all the problems of the Christians. He could see through all that Jezebel taught. Nobody can hide from the eyes of the *Lord. He sees all things. So, he knows all that happens in the *church in Thyatira.
The feet of *bronze show that the *Lord is powerful. He is able to deal with all the problems. *Bronze seems to shine as it reflects the light. This shows that Jesus is more magnificent than any false gods, or even the king of Rome. So, the church in Thyatira should give honour to Jesus and not to these false gods.
Verse 19 The *Lord Jesus is aware of all that his people do. He knew all about the Christians in Thyatira. He liked so many of the things that he saw.
They had not lost their love. It had not grown weak as it had in Ephesus. Their love for the *Lord Jesus seems to have grown. They believed in him. They trusted him completely. They served God and not the local gods. There was progress in this *church. They were doing more now than they did before.
Life in Thyatira was difficult for them. But they accepted all the problems and they did not turn from the *Lord.
What we do for each other shows our love. When we love the *Lord, we work for him. As the love of the Christians in Thyatira increased, they did more.
Verse 20 In the *church, there was a woman who called herself a *prophet. The *Lord calls her Jezebel. And the *church allowed her to stay and teach.
There had been a queen, also called Jezebel. She was the wife of king Ahab. She was a wicked woman. Because of her, king Ahab of *Israel turned from God. He then *worshipped and served the false god called Baal (1 Kings 16:31). Jezebel encouraged Ahab to do all kinds of wicked deeds (1 Kings 21:25). She even tried to murder Elijah, who was the *prophet of God (1 Kings 19:2). She was responsible for the deaths of many people in *Israel (2 Kings 9:7).
The *Lord uses the name Jezebel for this wicked woman in Thyatira too. This woman was probably very clever. She was able to convince people that she was right. She said that she had special knowledge from God. She taught the Christians to live as the people in Thyatira did. She said that it was right to join the trade unions. This meant that Christians would join the *worship of the false gods. They would eat meals in the *temples. They would even think that it was not wrong to have sex with different partners.
This is an important question for Christians of all times. They have to decide how much they can join in with the local activities. They must not deny what the Bible teaches. But they are members of the society in which they live.
Verse 21 In some way, the *Lord had shown Jezebel that she was wrong. What she was doing was evil. She knew it. The *Lord had been kind to her. He had warned her and he had given her time to change. He desired her to *repent of all the wicked things that she had done. But she would not *repent.
Verse 22 The *Lord would soon punish her. The bed here is a place of illness and pain. She will suffer much for the evil things that she had done.
All those who have *sinned with her will suffer with her. They too will suffer illness and pain. But they still have the chance to avoid the punishment. If they *repent, the *Lord will *forgive them. They must not do those things that they knew to be wrong.
Verse 23 These are not her children by natural birth. These ‘children’ mean those who accepted Jezebel as their leader. She was like a mother to them. They did not just *sin as she *sinned. They believed all that she taught. The *Lord will cause these people to die.
The *Lord searches the hearts and minds of all people. He sees all that we do. He knows all about us. He will be the judge of every person. He will punish or reward them. They will get what they deserve. We know that none of us deserves a reward. We all deserve death. But those who trust in the *Lord will have life. However, he will be the judge of what Christians do. And he will give rewards to some Christians.
Verses 24-25 Jezebel argued that Christians should join in the things of the false gods. She probably said that the false gods were not really bad. Therefore, there would be no problem for the Christians. They would know the secret things of *Satan. What she taught was false.
Most Christians in Thyatira did not follow Jezebel. The *Lord adds no extra tasks on them. They must continue in love and service to God. They must trust the *Lord completely.
The *Lord will come. His people must continue to love him and to trust him. And they must continue until he comes.
Verses 26-27 The rewards of the *Lord are for those who overcome. They continue to the end. They serve the *Lord until death or until Jesus comes.
Jesus will give power to his people when he comes to rule on earth. They will share with Jesus as he rules. They will lead the nations as those who lead sheep. They will be able to encourage the people.
A man who makes pots uses an iron bar to break any bad pots. So, the *Lord’s people will destroy the bad nations.
Jesus has this power which God the Father gave to him. Jesus will share this power with his people.
Verse 28 We do not know what the morning star means. But this is a description of Jesus. He is like the bright morning star (22:16). The *Lord will be with those who overcome.
Verse 29 The *Lord tells us to listen to the Spirit. We need to hear what he says to the *churches. What he wrote to Thyatira is also for the whole *church, and for us now.