The city of Ephesus – 250,000 population, surrounded by a wall 6 miles in length, located 3 miles inland from the Aegean Sea.
Ephesus means desirable. It was an endearing term a young Greek boy would use to refer to his bride-to-be.
It was a great religious center and was 45 miles south of the Izmir near the mouth of the Cayster River, with the Veander River farther south of it.
It was the most famous of the ancient metropolises of Asia Minor.
It had many pagan temples and flourished as the largest bank of the Roman Empire – known as the Bank of Asia.
Paul started the church at Ephesus and was there 3 years. Both Timothy and the apostle John pastored the church.
It was this city from which John was banished to the Isle of Patmos.
There are three important questions that must be asked: Who is doing the speaking? Who is being spoken to? and What is being spoken about?
Who is doing the speaking: the first verse of the letter gives the graphic description of the speaker, one who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands. Verse 8 also provides a description of the speaker. Other verses 2:12, 18 and 3:1, 7, 14 give a description of the speaker as well. We can determine from these descriptions that the speaker to the seven churches is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Whom is Jesus speaking to: Each letter is addressed to the angel of the church. This word in the greek (angelos) means messenger, the one to whom authority has been given over the local church…this is the pastor.
What is being spoken about: this brings us to the heart of these two chapters. John is told to write a letter to each of the seven churches. These were literally seven distinct churches which existed in western Asia Minor during the first century.
Why are these churches so special? The message to these local churches reaches beyond that time and place. We must remember that Christ sent his angel the message to John. He used present signs to show the meaning of future events.
The conditions of these local churches are typical of the stages that current churches will go through before the Rapture.
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;
The word Angelus means messenger and in James 2:25 is translated messenger.
The 7 stars refer to the pastors of the 7 churches of Asia.
Christ is in the midst of the church. He is here!
At the beginning of each of the 7 letters, Christ gives one characteristic of Himself.
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:
We have here the Lord’s appraisal of the church of Ephesus.
“I know thy works” – perfect tense and means He knows everything they have done, what they are thinking and what they are going to do.
“Thy patience” – walking as children of faith – hard workers
“How thou canst not bear them which are evil” – plural and means will not tolerate them that don’t believe true doctrine.
“Hast tried them which say they are apostles.” - This church knew what apostles were; some had come saying they were apostles.
This was an evangelistic church which had labored for the Master. It was a separated church for it would not endure false teachers. It was an orthodox church, trying false apostles and judging them as liars.
3. And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
“Borne” – a military term that means carry on under fire. It means you know doctrine.
“Hast patience” – means believed the promises – hath labored for me.
“Not fainted” – means didn’t quit.
4. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
He is referring to criticism of the church and that is what was wrong with the church.
They no longer exhibited the fervent evangelism they once had. They no longer spontaneously expressed their love and devotion to God as they once did.
“Thou hast left thy first love” – what is to be our first love? Jesus
Have we left our first love?
This church had left God out – Jesus was no longer the center of their living.
The thing that will make us alive is the Word of God.
a. We grow through the Word.
b. We glow through the Word
c. We go through the Word.
Their emotional fervor and depth of love for God had diminished. They no longer exhibited the passionate evangelism they once had.
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.
They had been in love and fellowship with Jesus, but they had left it.
He was calling on them today to remember this love.
“Fallen” – means they fell some time ago and are still falling, it has become a permanent state of fall.
“Do the first works” – get back in fellowship
“Or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick” – church power. How long will any church be here: as long as we keep Christ as our main purpose.
6. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
The church of Ephesus was a people’s church for they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes.
The Nicolaites were a group of people who argued that there ought to be two classes in the church, clergy and congregation. They wanted a hierarchy to rule the church.
Once faithful, but changed – the deeds referred to here are sex acts.
God hated them too.
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.
Spirit speaks – you hear – gave promise
Overcometh – means redeemed (1 John 5:4)
“Tree of life” – everlasting life if you believe in God you will have everlasting life.
“Paradise of God” – a Persian word which means beautiful garden.
CHURCH AT SMYRNA (verses 8-11)
Smyrna was a persecuted church. Located about 70 miles from the city of Ephesus and had a flourishing sea port because it was located at the head of a 30 mile long gulf.
Smyrna means myrrh, which is an aromatic substance that comes from a thorny tree but must be crushed to yield its perfume and fragrance.
Had a natural beauty, fertile soil and an excellent climate.
Had a very large Jewish population. Was a famous wine center. Had many Roman temples.
Polycarp, who was a disciple of the apostle John, was the pastor of the church there.
Was almost destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 179. It was rebuilt by the Romans.
The city was very brilliant with wide paved streets. One street was known as “Street of Gold”.
Had a school of science and medicine, beautiful buildings, and a theater that seated 20,000 people.
Two large temples called Zeus and Mother of goddess located at each end of Street of Gold.
The city had 7 squares and a large public library.
The people of this city were very faithful to Rome, and the word faithful in verse 10 would have had a very special appeal to them.
Even though there were many Roman temples here and was a concentrated center of heathen worship and a wine center, there is nothing said against the church.
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;
Angel is referring to the pastor/teacher.
“Write” – this is a command.
“First and last” – this speaks of the deity of Christ.
“Which was dead” – here again we have reference to the humanity and crucifixion of Christ.
“And is alive” – the resurrection
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.
“I know” – refers to the omniscience of God
“Thy works” – is their production
“And Tribulation” – serious trouble. They were strong because of the suffering they were going through. Such trouble was directed toward the church by the Roman emperors. Christians are not to think it strange when they encounter such tribulation but are to be happy when reproached for the name of Christ (1 Peter 4:12-19).
The persecution by the Roman government upon local churches was like the crushing of myrrh. At no time in the history of the church was such a fragrance of faithfulness and loyalty to Christ exhibited to the world as during those centuries.
Each crushing blow gave a “sweet-smelling savor unto God”.
“Poverty” – Smyrna was a wealthy city with many Christians. The Roman tax collectors could report these Christians and thereby collect 10% for reporting them. This way the Christians were reduced to poverty.
“I know the blasphemy of them …” – Some were posing to be religious Jews, much like Saul of Tarsus.
Three kinds of Jews:
d. True Jew is a regenerated Jew.
“Synagogue of Satan” – refers to the seat of Satan and his teachings.
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.
Christians are not to think it strange when they encounter such tribulation but are to be happy when reproached for the name of Christ. (1 Pet. 4:12-19)
The church of Smyrna had apparently endured just such a reproach and, as such, may speak of the church throughout the ages, especially during the second and third centuries.
“Fear none” – mental fear and they would be better off not to fear.
“Those things which thou shalt suffer” – refers to the days of persecution that will fall on them.
“Have tribulation ten days” – the suffering they would endure under the Roman emperors.
It came under Nero, Domition, Trajan, Auerlius, Severus, Masiminus, Delius, Valeriyus, Aurelian, and Diocletian. Diocletian was the worst of all.
They all tried to stamp out the church, but the church stayed faithful.
Constantine came along and brought the union of the church and state. The more persecution brought on, the more the churches multiplied.
At no time in the history of the church was such a fragrance of faithfulness and loyalty to Christ exhibited to the world as during those centuries.
Yet each crushing blows gave a “sweet-smelling savor unto God.”
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.
“He that hath an ear, let him hear” – be alert and listen.
“Spirit saith unto the churches” – Notice the letter is to be heeded by all the churches.
“He that overcometh” – this refers to salvation.
“Shall not be hurt in the second death” – no Christian will ever stand at the judgment and be condemned to hell. The Christian will have his works evaluated, but never judged.
CHURCH AT PERGAMOS (verses 12-17)
This city was an important religious center where the pagan cults of Athena, Zeus, Aslepius, and Dionysos were prominent.
There were a university and the large library of 200,000 volumes. Cleopatra persuaded Mark Anthony to have the library crated up and sent to Alexandria.
Also known to be a great political center. It was the capital of Mysia.
Babylon established their center or religion at Pergamos and infiltrated Christianity here.
The city is located 15 miles from the Aegean Sea and 50 miles from Smyrna in the Caicus Valley.
12. ¶ And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
The word Pergamos means marriage and signifies the spiritual adultery in which this local church engaged.
Pergamos is a picture of the church in compromise. What the devil could not do by Roman persecution, he tried to do by patronage. Outward assault made the church grow inwardly stronger. Satan changed his tactics from persecution to protection.
There was a time in the history of the church when it became an official institution of the state. State taxes supported it and paid the pastors. This was devastating for the church no longer was the salt in the world. It was not preaching the gospel that was a stumbling block.
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.
“and where [Satan] dwellest” – this had a special significance because they had many heathen temples and Pergamos was the center for religious cults.
Satan’s seat - literally Satan’s throne. This shows the influence Satan had in this city.
Satan’s seat refers to the great altar of Zeus which stood high on the Acropolis and dominated the city.
“Thou holdest fast my name” – refers to their faithfulness to put Christ first. They were keeping their eyes on Christ.
“Hast not denied my faith” – stability in the Word; learning and preserving the doctrines of Christ.
“Antipas was my faithful martyr” – In the middle of the city was a large metal bull. They heated it red hot and opened uo the heated bull and threw Antipas inside and he burned to death. This was done to intimidate the believers.
In spite of this, the church stayed true to Christ. The death of Antipas became an inspiration to the church.
“Where Satan dwelleth” – this refers to the city of pagan temples, altars and idols.
This church perfectly pictures the spiritual unfaithfulness of the church as a whole.
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.
Here is the condemnation of the church by Christ.
The doctrine of Balaam is given to us in Numbers 24, 25, and 31.
Balaam was a believer who was hindered from cursing the children of God. Of his own will, he cursed the people and things. Balaam had a lust for money and because of this found another way to the Jews in a jam. Every time Balaam would start to curse the Jews, he would end up prophesying their glorious future.
Balaam advised Balac to neutralize Israel by getting them out of fellowship with God.
The doctrine of Balaam is the principle of neutralizing believers by getting them out of fellowship with God by separating them from the source of divine power.
His works caused them to get out of fellowship and stay out of fellowship.
“to eat things sacrificed unto idols and to commit fornication” – refers to eating animals that were sacrificed to pagan gods, sex and immorality.
15. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
The doctrine was the exultation of the clergy over the worshippers; a dictatorship that allows little or no freedom.
“them that hold the doctrine of the Nicalaitans, which thing I hate” – This is the New Testament counterpart of the doctrine of Balaam. This involved immoral acts that was called worship, and emotionalism in their services.
God hates false doctrine.
16. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
“Repent; or else I will come” – Jesus will come with discipline.
The Lord will destroy the church that follows false doctrines.
Some of the worst sins in the Bible are mental attitude sins and sins of the tongue.
Be careful not to kill with your tongue.
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.
Listen, be alert and put into action. This is to every believer. Keep on hearing.
This is God’s assurance to the local church.
The hidden manna is fellowship with Christ forever.
Votes in those days…if a person placed a white stone into a jar, he voted for that person or position. If a black stone was cast, he voted against the person or position.
Christ cast a white stone for you and you have been elected. Because Christ has given us a white stone, we will have a new name, a heavenly name.
CHURCH AT THYATIRA (verses 18-29)
Thyatira was a city of Lydia and a trade center of the Lucas Valley. It was a center of commerce.
Thyatira means continual sacrifice. It was during this time that the papacy instituted the doctrine of transubstantiation, that each time the priest performed the mass, the wafer became the actual body of Christ and the wine became His literal blood.
This continual sacrifice of Christ is heresy which puts our Lord to shame (Hebrews 6:6)
Symbolic representation of this is made by the introduction of Jezebel in verse 20. This heathen princess endeavored to unite Judaism with her own pagan religion. Many ungodly practices and excesses in the church have tended to prostitute the teachings which the church inherited from Jesus Christ.
The weavers and potters had their headquarters there.
It served as a military town and guard post for the famous city of Pergamos.
The wealth of the city came from the dyeing industry. The purple dyes are what made this city famous.The dye was so precious that a pound of this dye sold for 1,000 denari (An ordinary man’s pay for one day’s work).
We are told that the water was so adapted to dying, that in no other place could the scarlet cloth be so permanently and perfectly dyed.
This city was probably the least in size and importance of the seven cities.
It was not a religious center, but those who dealt in brass, lead, and the dying industries enjoyed business here.
This letter is the longest of the seven letters of Revelation. The church of Thyatira represents the enlargement of the seeds of corruption which the devil earlier introduced into churches.
The church must be very cautious not to allow false teachers to introduce false doctrines into the purity of Christ’s teachings. To do so is to become the church of Thyatira.
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;
In every letter, he begins by giving us a description of Himself – “who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass.”
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.
We have His appraisal of the church.
Their production is growing and increasing.
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.
Now we have the criticism of the church.
“Jezebel” – female character in Thyatira who had both beauty and brains. Jezebel was probably not her name, but it is used for us to know the kind of person she was.
She was a leader in the church and was allowed to teach and deceive.
People were more interested in her delivery than the content of her message.
She persuaded this church to forget doctrine and do those things that had appeal.
She persuaded them to enter into idol worship and this led to fornication and immorality.
Religion had entered into this Christian church and she represented religion infiltrating Christianity.
She had beauty, brains, and talent, and this movement neutralized Christianity.
Churches owe a debt to godly women, but not to this type of woman.
21. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
“Space to repent” – a very great principle of doctrine.
God gives people an opportunity to repent before discipline comes.
Even though the grace of God held off the coming doom, she refused to repent.
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.
This is God’s promise of judgment.
The basis of this judgment is false doctrine.
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.
This is the sin unto death. (1 John 5:16)
Notice it is for believers.
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.
This verse is to the others who have not followed Jezebel “and have not followed the false doctrine”
25. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
This verse refers to believers with true doctrine.
“That which ye have” – you have it now and will keep on having it. This group was not influenced by Jezebel’s false doctrine.
“hold fast” – continue to hold until the end.
The power of the church is Bible doctrine. You must understand doctrine and live by doctrine if you expect to have real power in the church.
26. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
This is the assurance to this local church.
“He that overcometh” – believers. When you enter the plan of God, you are a victor immediately. The plan of God is, you are in Christ and He is the victor.
“Keepeth my works” – you keep something that belongs to you.
The old sin nature produces human good and the Holy Spirit produces divine good.
“To him will I give power over nations” – the power Christ will give to those who rule and reign with Him during the 1,000 year reign.
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.
Until Christ returns and a perfect environment and a perfect government is established; it is necessary for man to live by law and order.
“Rod of iron” – refers to capital punishment.
As long as the old sin nature abides, it will be necessary to have capital punishment.
If government outlaws guns, criminals will find other weapons.
“Shall be broken” – refers to those who step out of line.
28. And I will give him the morning star.
“The morning star” – refers to the occupation with Christ in eternity.
This is describing happiness for those who rule and reign with Christ for all eternity.
Jesus will provide a happiness not known to us today.
29. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Open your ears and let the spirit teach you.
“Let him hear” – this means every time a Bible class is taught, you should be there to hear, learn and apply the doctrine.
Clark, Neal. Survey of the Book of Revelation. Pensacola, Florida: Thee WFBI Press, 1999. Print.
Falwell, Jerry. Liberty Commentary on the New Testament. Lynchburg, VA: Liberty Press, 1978. Print.