Blaine Robison, M.A.
An Exegetical Commentary
Published 17 April 2011; Revised 8 August 2021
Scripture: The Scripture text of Revelation used below is prepared by Blaine Robison with consideration given to the American Standard Version (which is in the public domain) and the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. Other Bible versions are also quoted. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Most versions can be accessed on the Internet. Messianic Jewish versions are CJB, DHE, GNC, HNV, MW, OJB, & TLV.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Works by early church fathers may be found at Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the definitions of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. Definitions of Hebrew words are from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981). The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Vocabulary: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Torah (Law), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
In this chapter Yeshua dictates letters that John is to write to the overseers of congregations in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum and Thyatira. Each of the letters is structured similarly with a greeting, identification of the sender, a description of what the sender knows about the overseer and in three of the letters description of a serious shortcoming that requires repentance. Each letter closes with an exhortation to the entire congregation to heed the message of the Spirit with a promise of what awaits faithful followers of Yeshua.
Letter to the Messenger in Ephesus, 2:1-7
Letter to the Messenger in Smyrna, 2:8-11
Letter to the Messenger in Pergamum, 2:12-17
Letter to the Messenger in Thyatira, 2:18-29
1ó To the messenger of the congregation in Ephesus write: The One holding the seven stars in his right hand, walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands, says these things:
To the messenger: Grk. angelos means messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In the LXX angelos renders the Heb. malak (SH-4397), 'messenger," which occurs 213 times, almost half of which refers to humans. Angelos is typically translated here as "angel" in Bible versions, no doubt because angelos occurs 176 times in the Besekh, but outside Revelation is used only six times of men (Matt 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:24, 27; 9:52; Jas 2:25). The use of angelos in John's letters is obviously of human beings since angels do not pastor congregations and if God wanted to say something to any of His angels He would do so directly. In my view angelos should be translated "messenger," as likely intended in the original Hebrew text, and consequently refers to the Lordís overseer and principal minister of the Body of the Messiah in Ephesus.
Some versions do translate angelos as messenger (GW, ISV, NOG, REV, VOICE, YLT, and the Aramaic translation of Bauscher). Weymouth has "minister." Congregations of the apostolic era (having a largely Jewish constituency) mirrored the synagogue in organization, which included a panel of seven rulers (=presbuteroi, elders, Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5), the nasi (President=episkopos, overseer, Php 1:1) with two assistants, chazan (pulpit minister=angelos), and three parnasin (receivers of alms=deacons) (Moseley 9-10). Yeshua could have used poimēn, (pastor, shepherd, guardian), but the decision to use angelos emphasizes that regardless of the level of administrative or supervisory duties this person's most important responsibility is speaking for the Lord as the Messiahís duly appointed representative.
A common characteristic of all the letters is that Yeshua consistently uses second person singular masculine pronouns in addressing the recipient of the letter and most of the verbs and adverbs describing the conduct and character of the recipient are also second person singular. In some letters Yeshua addresses certain members of the congregation, which reinforces the overseer as the primary addressee. Commentators generally treat the singular nature of pronouns and verbs in a collective sense as indicative of the congregation as a whole. However, by recognizing "messenger" as the proper translation, then the straightforward meaning would be that the Lordís criticism or commendation is directed primarily at the congregational leader. Of course, a general phenomenon of human nature is that as the leader goes so goes the people and in Israelís history God held the people accountable for the actions of the leaders.
of the congregation: Grk. ekklēsia means assembly, gathering, meeting, or congregation. In the LXX ekklēsia renders the Heb. qahal (DNTT 1:292-295), which means assembly, convocation, or congregation (SH-6951; BDB 874). In the Tanakh qahal denotes the people of God in a corporate sense, often in the context of being gathered for worship or learning (Deut 31:30; Ps 35:18). Thus, the "assembly" means a group of Jews and Gentiles who professed trust in the Lord Yeshua, met together for worship and learning, and sought to enlist others to become disciples of Yeshua. In the first century there was only one "congregation," or "assembly" in any city no matter how many disciples there were or how many meeting places might be used for gathering on the Sabbath or the first day of the week. For more information on ekklēsia see the note on 1:4.
in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within." Ephesus: In the first century, Ephesus with a population of about 300,000 was the largest and most important city in the Asia province, now Turkey. Ephesus was a free city having been granted the right to self-government by Rome. Ephesus was sixty miles from Patmos situated at the mouth of the Cayster River and had the most favorable seaport in the province, serving as a center of commerce. The business prosperity of the city was rivaled by its cultural attractions, including a 25,000-seat stadium, baths, gymnasiums and impressive buildings. The principal attraction of Ephesus was the Temple of Artemis (or Diana, the Roman name), which was ranked as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The history of the congregation in Ephesus probably began with the efforts of Priscilla and Aquila who accompanied Paul (Acts 18:18-19). Paul returned to Ephesus (ca. 53) and remained two years teaching in the lecture hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9). Paulís ministry was so successful that the name of the Lord Yeshua became great and the sin business of idolatry suffered (Acts 19:27). After Paul left, Timothy apparently remained as overseer (1Tim 1:3). Church tradition testifies that after Johnís release from Patmos toward the end of the first century he lived in Ephesus, served as its bishop and later died there at the beginning of the reign of Trajan (e.g., Irenaeus, Book III, 1:1, 3:4; Eusebius, III, 23:1, 5; 31:2; Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men, 9).
Hippolytus identified the bishop of Ephesus as Phygellus. However, as one of those Jewish disciples Yeshua selected to participate in the mission of the seventy (Luke 10:1) his tenure likely predated that of the messenger addressed here at the end of the first century.
write: Grk. graphō, aor. imp., 2p-sing., refers to the physical act of inscribing or writing on a surface suitable for the purpose. John is not to simply remember Yeshua's words but to make a permanent record of them. This specific command implements the instruction of 1:11 where he is told to write to seven assemblies and then in 1:19 where he told the general content of the work to be published. The One holding: Grk. krateō, pres. part., means to take into oneís possession or custody, to hold in the hand or to hold fast to something or someone. the seven: Grk. hepta, the cardinal number seven, used here of quantity. stars: pl. of Grk. astēr, a luminous heavenly body other than the sun. In Scripture the term may refer to any object in the heavens, whether planets, asteroids, meteors or stars. in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within."
his right hand: Grk. dexios, right, often used of bodily limbs, but also of location. The translation is reasonable since it alludes to 1:16, which uses the actual word for "hand." God's right hand is often spoken of figuratively of Godís strength, sovereignty, security and salvation (Ps 16:8; 18:35; 89:13; Acts 5:31). The idiom even expresses the omnipresence of God which embraces men everywhere (Ps 139:10). The place at a man's right hand is important as a place of honor (1Kgs 2:19; Ps 45:9; Zech 3:1), which is illustrated by Yeshua being seated on the right of the Father in heaven (Ps 110:1; Mark 16:19; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3; 1Pet 3:22; Rev 5:7). According to Solomon "the right" is indicative of good and "the left" is indicative of bad (Eccl 10:2).
walking: Grk. peripateō, pres. part., to engage in pedestrian activity; go about; walk about, walk around, walk. In the LXX peripateō is found in only 33 passages, of which more than half come from Wisdom literature, and renders Heb. halak (SH-1980) to go, come or walk (DNTT 3:943). Both Greek and Hebrew verbs are used literally, as well as fig. of how one conducts oneself in life (Deut 30:16; 1Kgs 11:38; Ps 1:1; 15:2). In the vision of 1:12 Yeshua was standing, but the verb "walking" hints at a figurative use of divine visitation, similar to the heavenly emissaries in Zechariah who patrol the earth for ADONAI (Zech 1:8-11; 6:1-7). in: Grk. en, prep. the midst: Grk. mesos, adj., at a point near the center, midst, middle, in the midst of, among.
of the seven: Grk. hepta, the cardinal number seven. golden: Grk. chrusous, adj., made of or adorned with gold; golden. Gold was the metal of choice in temple vessels and adornments. lampstands: Grk. luchnia refers to the stand upon which a luchnos, or lamp, was placed or hung. John saw Yeshua in the center of the circle of lampstands "walkingĒ around the circle examining each lampstand. The walking denotes personal involvement in these seven congregations and inspection of the character of their leaders and individual members. Yeshua as King of the Commonwealth of Israel and Head of the Body of the Messiah does not rely strictly on field reports. Seeing each lampstand Yeshua sees each congregation as it is and He knows the quality and strength of its light. Yeshua is intimately aware of whatís going on in every community of believers in every city.
says: Grk. legō, pres., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form; say, tell, declare. The Greek verb "say" functions as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. these things: pl. of Grk. tode, neut. demonstrative pronoun, this, that, referring to what is present. The plural pronoun directs attention to the following content of the letter.
2ó I know your works and your toil and perseverance, and that you are not able to bear evil ones, and you tested those claiming to be apostles, and are not, and you found them false;
I know: Grk. oida, perf., to know in an objective sense with a focus on close relationship or interest in another. The verb can also have to meaning of to have discernment about (Danker). your: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the second person. The pronouns of "you" and "your" are all singular, which emphasize the communication to the messenger. Because of long-standing first hand knowledge and walking among the lampstands Yeshua can declare to each of the seven messengers and their congregations, "I know." And, he knows the true state of his representatives, indeed all his disciples, not from promises made, but from deeds performed. Wesley comments,
"Jesus knows all the good and all the evil, which his servants and his enemies suffer and do. Weighty word, 'I know,' how dreadful will it one day sound to the wicked, how sweet to the righteous!"
works: pl. of Grk. ergon, generally means a tangible deed, action or accomplishment that may be observed. The description is lit. "works of you." and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative Ė and, also, even; (2) adversative Ė and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive Ė certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions and beginning verses with a conjunction is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. In contrast to most Bible versions I translate all the instances of kai (and all the other conjunctions) as a reminder of John's Hebraic writing style.
your: Grk. su. toil: Grk. kopos, engagement in fatiguing activity; labor, hard work, toil. The description is lit. "toil of you." and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative Ė and, also, even; (2) adversative Ė and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive Ė certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions and beginning verses with a conjunction is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. In contrast to most Bible versions I translate all the instances of kai (and all the other conjunctions) as a reminder of John's Hebraic writing style.
your: Grk. su. perseverance: Grk. hupomonē may mean either (1) capacity for resolute continuance in a course of action; endurance, perseverance, steadfastness; or (2) persistence in awaiting realization of something; expectation. This is a virtue particularly demonstrated in the face of toil and suffering. Yeshua commends the perseverance of his messenger and that he had not become so sick and tired of toiling and living for the Lord as to give up persevering. Sometimes a pastor may feel that the burden carried for the congregation is not understood or appreciated. A believer may wonder, too, whether fellow disciples notice oneís personal struggles and service for the Lord, but it is a certainty that the Lord has seen all that His faithful disciples have endured and accomplished for Him. The description is lit. "perseverance of you."
and: Grk. kai, conj. that: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, here indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, that, inasmuch as. you are not: Grk. ouk, adv., the inflected form of ou, a particle used in denial or strong negation; not. able: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid., 2p-sing., to be capable for doing or achieving something as qualified in the context. to bear: Grk. bastazō, aor. inf., sustain a burden, bear, carry. evil ones: pl. of Grk. kakos, adj., morally or socially reprehensible; bad, evil, corrupt, depraved. and: Grk. kai, conj. you tested: Grk. peirazō, aor., 2p-sing., to try, make trial of, put to the test in order to prove someone, or to tempt someone. those calling: Grk. legō, pres. part. with the definite article, used here to mean 'call by a name.' themselves: pl. of Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun, himself, herself.
apostles: pl. of Grk. apostolos, a delegate, ambassador, envoy, messenger, emissary or official representative. In Greek culture it was used of an envoy representing a king and a commander of a naval expedition. In the LXX apostolos translated shalach (1Kgs 14:6), "one being sent." In the apostolic era there were many itinerant teachers who claimed spiritual authority. In the apostolic writings the term "apostle" is first applied to the original Twelve (Matt 10:2), then Mattathias (Acts 1:25-26), Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:4) and Jacob (the brother of Yeshua, Gal 1:19), because they too had "seen the Lord" and had been approved to speak on His behalf (Acts 9:27; 1Cor 9:1; 15:6; 1Jn 1:1). In Romans 16:7 Paul mentions Andronicus and Junia as apostles.
All true apostles had the authority to proclaim the Good News, determine orthodox doctrine, impose requirements ("bind and loose," Matt 16:19; 18:18), and shepherd the congregations they founded (cf. Acts 9:27; 1Cor 14:37; 15:6; 2Cor 13:10; 1Jn 1:1). While the gift of apostleship (e.g., serving as a missionary), continued beyond the first century (1Cor 12:28), the unique authority of the apostolic office ended with the original apostles and the publication of their sacred writings. However, Satan attempted to sow seeds of discord by introducing false apostles (2Cor 11:5, 13, 12:11). Indeed, every generation of believers has had to contend with false prophets and false apostles claiming special authority and advocating unbiblical teachings. The messenger is commended here because he did not just take someoneís word, but subjected these false apostles to biblical tests (1Cor 14:29; 1Jn 4:1).
and: Grk. kai, conj. are: Grk. eimi, pres., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). not: Grk. ouk. and: Grk. kai, conj. you found: Grk. heuriskō, aor., 2p-sing., to come upon by seeking, to find, discover. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. false: Grk. pseudēs, contrary to the truth; false, lying. The messenger of the Ephesian congregation especially excelled in orthodoxy and rigorously examined anyone claiming to be an apostle, probably with the assistance of the elders, perhaps stemming from Paulís warning that after he left Ephesus false apostles would come and attempt to lead them astray (Acts 20:29). The congregation has a responsibility to test every person who claims to have special authority and a message from God (Matt 7:20; 1Cor 14:29; 1Th 5:21; 1Jn 4:1).
The issue of who is an apostle is important because the temple of God is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20). Many believers today reject the authority of the original apostles, particularly the Apostle Paul, by claiming that apostolic pronouncements were culturally influenced and therefore invalid for enforcing obedience today. Conversely, there are people in congregations today who claim direct revelations that others should obey. Such are false apostles and liars. As Jeremiah said, "They speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord" (Jer 23:16). The writings of the Israelite prophets (Tanakh) and the apostles together comprise the total canon of Scripture. The Bible is complete and the only authority to determine doctrine and personal conduct.
In AD 107 Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, while on his way to Rome under a sentence of death, wrote (or dictated) seven letters to congregations in Asia, including one to Ephesus. His letter exhorts the Ephesians in godly virtues and, likewise, commends them by saying,
"I did hear of a visit paid to you by certain men from another place, whose teaching was pernicious. However, you refused to allow its dissemination among you, and stopped your ears against the seed they were sowing." (The Epistle to the Ephesians, 9)
3ó and you have perseverance and have endured for the sake of my name, and have not grown weary.
and: Grk. kai, conj. you have: Grk. echō, pres., 2p-sing., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application, including (1) to possess with the implication of something being under one's control or at one's disposal; (2) to bear on one's person; (3) be in a position to do something; (4) view something in a particular way; or (5) experience a condition or situation. The last meaning applies here. perseverance: Grk. hupomonē. See the previous verse. and: Grk. kai, conj. have endured: Grk. bastazō, aor., 2p-sing., See the previous verse. for the sake of: Grk. dia, prep. The root meaning of dia is two, but in composition it normally means through or between (DM 101). With the accusative case of the noun following the meaning is "for the sake of" signifying purpose.
my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. name: Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone with a proper name. In Hebrew literature it also carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. Yeshua repeats his commendation of the messengerís perseverance and adds two points of additional praise. Endurance for his name's sake implies sensitivity to the reputation of Yeshua in the community (cf. Acts 19:17) and being associated with his name the messenger, as well as the congregation, did not want to disappoint the Lord. and: Grk. kai, conj. have not: Grk. ouk, adv. grown weary: Grk. kopiaō, perf., 2p-sing., means to be weary, to work and labor to the point of weariness. The word implies strenuous and exhausting labor (Rienecker).
Yeshua implies that the messenger has exercised great effort to balance all the responsibilities of shepherding the sheep of God. While superintending the congregation may not always involve physical work, exhaustion can occur in the soul and spirit. and lead to serious physical maladies. Unrelenting ministry with its burdens for the care of souls can bring discouragement and defeat. There is a patristic tradition about the apostle John that bears on this subject. One day a philosopher dressed for hunting and carrying a bow encountered the elderly John holding and stroking a partridge. The philosopher was astonished that the great apostle would occupy himself with such an amusement and disparaged John for his activity.
John pointed out that a responsible hunter does not keep his bow bent and said, "do not let this slight and short relaxation of my mind disturb you, as unless it sometimes relieved and relaxed the rigour of its purpose by some recreation, the spirit would lose its spring owing to the unbroken strain, and would be unable when need required, implicitly to follow what was right" (John Cassian, d. 435, The Conference of Abbot Abraham, Chapter XXI). The point of the compliment is that the messenger, and by extension his congregation, had been faithful in service but had not allowed spiritual work to become wearisome. The good works had continued for many years and constituted a legacy that made the Lord proud.
4ó But I have against you, that you have left your first love.
But: Grk. alla, conj. with a strong and emphatic adversative meaning, and used to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand. I have: Grk. echō, pres., 1p-sing. See the previous verse. The KJV inserts "somewhat" (not found in the Greek text), which seems to minimize the seriousness of the charge (Earle). against: Grk. kata, prep., the root meaning is "down," but with the genitive case of the pronoun following it is translated as "against" (DM 107). you: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the second person. Yeshua does not allow His commendation to mask the disappointment He has in His messenger and proceeds to levy a significant criticism against him.
that: Grk. hoti, conj. you have left: Grk. aphiēmi, aor., 2p-sing., to release or let go with several applications: (1) to release from one's presence; send away, divorce; (2) release from an obligation; cancel, forgive; (3) let remain behind; leave; (4) leave standing or lying; or (5) permissive sense of let, let go, allow or tolerate. The third meaning has application here. While the "leaving" may have occurred over time and certainly involved many specific actions or failures, the aorist tense is used to view the condition as a single event. "Left" is a particularly strong word picture intended to convey the Lordís feeling as an abandoned husband (Jer 31:32; Ezek 16:32).
your: Grk. su. first: Grk. prōtos, adj. The basic idea has to do with 'beforeness.' The term is used in two ways: (1) having primary position in a temporal sequence; first, earlier, earliest; and (2) standing out in significance or importance; first, most prominent, most important, first of all. The second meaning has application here. love: Grk. agapē, a relatively high level of interest in the well-being of another, affection, esteem, love. The noun is one of the four Greek words for "love" and the one that occurs most frequently in the Besekh. In the LXX agapē renders Heb. ahavah (SH-160, BDB 12), which is used of both human and divine love. The Jewish translators of the LXX apparently coined the noun agapē, since there is no Greek literature earlier than the LXX that uses the noun (DNTT 2:539).
love: Grk. agapē, a relatively high level of interest in the well-being of another, affection, esteem, love. The noun is one of the four Greek words for "love" and the one that occurs most frequently in the Besekh. In the LXX agapē renders Heb. ahavah (SH-160, BDB 12), which is used of both human and divine love. Ahavah is used of the love of husband toward wife (Gen 29:20; SS 2:4-5; 5:8; 8:6-7), and God's love for His people Israel (Deut 7:8; 2Chr 2:11; Isa 63:9; Jer 31:3; Hos 11:4; Zeph 3:17). Ahava occurs frequently In the wisdom literature in a more abstract form, such as "love covers all sins (Prov 10:12). The Jewish translators of the LXX apparently coined the noun agapē, since there is no Greek literature earlier than the LXX that uses the noun (DNTT 2:539).
Agapē, unlike the verb agapaō, is never used in a negative sense (cf. Luke 6:32). God's nature and actions are the epitome of agapē (John 3:16; 1Jn 4:8) and the preeminent virtue (1Cor 13:1-13). The essential factor in every passage employing the agapē is the willingness to sacrifice for an object, which sets it apart from the affection of phileō, the family loyalty of storgē and the passion of eros. Of particular relevance to this passage is Matthew 24:12 where Yeshua says the "love" (agapē) of most will grow cold in the last days; Luke 11:43 where the Pharisees "love" (agapaō) the front seats; John 3:19 where men "loved" (agapaō) darkness rather than light; and 2Timothy 4:10 where Demas left Paul, having "loved" (agapaō) this present world. The one thing common in all these negative situations is the willingness to sacrifice a relationship with God for temporal interests.
The Lordís indictment charges that the congregation leader was so busy protecting his flock and caring for their needs that he forgot his most important duty Ė his first love, that is, his own personal relationship with God. The "first" love is that devotion of "heart, soul, mind and strength" that God expects to receive from the sons of Israel (Deut 6:5) and the New Covenant promises the ability to fulfill the command. Such heart commitment yields an unwavering loyalty to the Lord who has provided so great a salvation. Radical love for God and His Son is the key preparation for the last days (Juster). "First love" also manifests an empathy for others caught in the bondage of sin and fuels zeal for the Great Commission.
The discipleís "first love" can only be patterned after the Father who "first loved us" (1Jn 4:19) and gave His Son (John 3:16), and Yeshua who so loved Israel that He sacrificed His life (Eph 5:25), thus making the reference a personification of God. If God does not receive the total love demanded by the first commandment, then no one is likely to benefit from the second commandment. History has confirmed that leaving the first love is an unfortunate pattern in individual believers, Christian movements and individual congregations. The ministry begins with a passion for the Lord and a dream or a vision of outreach, which requires a willingness to sacrifice personal time and resources.
Then the ministry experiences excitement and growth, perhaps even sustained growth. But then, at some point the ministry tends to level out and people settle down to maintaining the organization. Finally, the vision gradually fades and the congregation eventually dies spiritually and perhaps even dissolves organizationally. For the individual disciple the initial excitement and passion of coming to know the Lord and sharing Him with others must still confront the routine of life and diligence is required to avoid settling into accepted orthodoxy and eventual spiritual stagnation. Fortunately, losing the first love is preventable, and the remedy lies in obeying the commandments to love in their proper order.
5ó Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works; but if not I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its placeóif you should repent not.
Therefore: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which may (1) indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding, 'so, therefore, consequently, then;' (2) indicate that one takes account of something in the narrative immediately preceding, 'then;' or (3) simply indicate a stage in the narrative, 'so, then.' The first application fits here. remember: Grk. mnēmoneuō, pres. imp., 2p-sing., to recall, with the focus on thoughtful recollection. The present tense exhorts a continuing attitude in contrast to the aorist imperative of "repent," which indicates a decisive event (Rienecker). The challenge to "remember" points the messenger back to when he experienced the first love in order to comprehend how far he has moved away from that initial commitment.
from where: Grk. pothen, adv., whence, from where, from what place. you have fallen: Grk. piptō, perf., 2p-sing., sing. in number, speaks of having attained a spiritual height. The perfect tense of "fallen" indicates that this condition had existed for some time. A parallel expression for "fallen" is backslidden. Throughout Israelís history various leaders had begun well and ended badly and like the prophets of old the Lord warns the messenger to take immediate decisive action to remedy his shortcoming. Paul similarly warned Messianic Jews:
"For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. Ö For I know Him who said, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.' And again, 'The Lord will judge His people.'" (Heb 10:26f, 30 NASB)
Praise the Lord that He always offers a way out of sin! Note that the "first love" is restored by returning to the first works associated with that love. Yeshua offers a solution, an easy-to-remember process: remember-repent-do. To "remember," while done in the present, is past oriented, taking careful consideration of where you were with the Lord. The prophets frequently admonished Israel to "remember" (e.g., Isa 44:21; 46:8f; Jer 51:50; Ezek 20:43; 36:31; Mic 6:5; and Zech 10:9). Remember what the Lord has revealed of himself and His ways. Remember the salvation He has wrought. Remember the grace, mercy and blessings that the covenant-keeping God has provided. The messenger is likewise is called to keep faith with his Messiah and Lord by remembering how he had begun with the Lord. Proper remembering should then lead to considering carefully the current and future status of his relationship with Him.
and: Grk. kai, conj. repent: Grk. metanoeō, aor. imp., 2p-sing., to have a serious change of mind and heart about a previous point of view or course of behavior, generally translated as "repent." In the LXX metanoeō almost always renders Heb. nacham (SH-5162), to be sorry, change one's mind or repent, sometimes used of God (1Sam 15:29; Jer 4:28; 18:8; Amos 7:3, 6; Jon 3:9, 10; 4:2; Zech 8:14) and other times of humans (Jer 8:6, 10; 31:19; Joel 2:13, 14). In Greek culture metanoeō did not fully convey the intent of the biblical concept. In the Tanakh repentance is best represented by the word shuv (SH-7725), bring back to mind, to return, turn back, turn around. When used for repentance shuv means to turn away from evil in the sense of renouncing and disowning sin, and to turn toward the good or becoming obedient to Godís will as expressed in the commandments (TWOT 2:909, e.g., 1Kgs 8:33, 35, 48; 2Chr 7:14; Isa 30:15).
Jewish translators generally used epistrephō (SG-1994) or strephō (SH-4762), to translate shuv as repentance. These Greek verbs mean to turn, turn around, turn back or be transformed (DNTT 1:354). However, the use of metanoeō by Yeshua and the apostles is obviously meant to express the force of shuv (DNTT 1:357). In the LXX metanoeō is used one time to render Heb. shuv: "Remember this, and show yourselves men; bring again [Heb. shuv] to mind, you transgressors." (Isa 46:8 mine). God goes on to say, "I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion and my glory for Israel" (46:13). The use of metanoeō may reflect a desire to emphasize the beginning point of change with a decision of the will to receive the salvation being offered.
Proper remembering will lead to repentance (cf. Ezek 20:43; 36:31). To "repent" means to make an immediate decision to change direction. The Hebrew concept of repentance is not just thinking differently, feeling sorry over being caught or apologizing, but humbling oneself before God and taking active steps to turn away from evil and turn or return to doing Godís will (cf. 2Chr 7:14). Repentance, then, is a personal responsibility, yet it requires Godís grace to do it, as Jeremiah says, "ADONAI, turn us to you, and we will come back" (Lam 5:21 CJB) (Stern 16). Repentance is always urgent on the lips of the prophets (Cf. Deut 30:10; Isa 45:22; 59:20; Jer 25:5; 35:15; Ezek 14:6; 18:30, 32; 33:11; Zech 1:3-6).
After Malachi four centuries passed with no voice, vision or answer from God, but when the silence was broken, the message from Yochanan the Immerser was "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt 3:2) (Baron 14). When the One who was to inaugurate the kingdom began his public ministry, his first sermon was "Repent" (Mark 1:14). As Paul pleads, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked me" (Heb 3:15). Paul also reminded the Corinthian believers, "Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation" (2Cor 6:2). Stern shares the exhortation found in the Talmud:
The Talmud records the words of Rabbi Eliezer (A.D. 80-120), "Repent one day before your death." His disciples asked him, "But can a man know on what day he will die? He said, "So much the more must he repent today. Perhaps he will die tomorrow. It follows that a man should repent every day" (Shab. 153a).
and: Grk. kai, conj. do: Grk. poieō, aor. imp., 2p-sing., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition; do, act, perform, work. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX poieō renders chiefly Heb. asah (SH-6213), accomplish, do, make, work (first in Gen 1:7), and used of a wide range of human and divine activity. Poieō also renders the special word bara (SH-1254), 'shape, fashion, create,' used of God's creative deeds (first in Gen 1:1). the first: Grk. prōtos. See the previous verse. works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 2 above. Yeshua commands his messenger to "do," which completes the repentance by taking immediate action to stop unacceptable behavior and setting goals to do new works pleasing to the Lord.
but: Grk. de, conj., conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also" (BAG). The first meaning applies here. if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker used here to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation, generally subjective in nature; not. I am coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid., 1p-sing., 'to come or arrive' with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place. In the LXX erchomai renders Heb. bo (SH-935), to come in, come, go in, go, generally in a physical sense (first in Gen 10:19), but also a fig. in a temporal sense (1Sam 2:31; 2Kgs 20:17) (DNTT 1:320).
The announcement "I am coming" occurs seven times in Revelation (2:5, 16; 3:11; 16:15; 22:7, 12, 20). Such repetition serves as a solemn warning and promise that the Lord keeps His Word and the event will happen. The concept of the Lord "coming" can refer (1) to the presence of Yeshua in a spiritual sense (3:20; cf. John 14:16-18; 23), (2) to temporal judgment on His people or the world, a concept well established in Scripture (Gen 11:5, 7; Ex 33:5; Isa 35:4; Jer 8:7; and Mic 1:3) or (3) to the Second Coming of Yeshua. The intention of the word must be determined from the context. The strong admonition likely contained both spiritual and temporal elements. The well-being of a congregation begins with its leader.
to you: Grk. su, sing. pron. of the second person. and: Grk. kai, conj. will remove: Grk. kineō, fut., 1p-sing., means to move, move away, remove or set in motion. The word was also used for shaking the head. your: Grk. su, sing. pers. pron. lampstand: Grk. luchnia. See verse 1 above. out of: Grk. ek, prep. its: Grk. autos. place: Grk. topos means place, position or region. Topos refers primarily to an inhabited place, such as a city, village, space, room, building, region or district. if: Grk. ei, conj. you should repent: Grk. metanoeō, aor. subj., 2p-sing. The subjunctive mood is used for a potential situation. Yeshua warns that if repentance is not forthcoming he would come to enforce discipline against the messenger and the congregation would certainly suffer for the messengerís failure to repent. The word "place" refers to a physical location and the concept of having a place determined by God is as old as Adam who was "placed" in the Garden of Eden after he was created (Gen 2:8). And, like Adam, God has determined where every ethnic group will live on the face of the earth (Acts 17:26f).
In addition, the Torah asserts many times that God set aside the land of Canaan for Israel and designated the location for His tabernacle and later the temple. Before the birth of Yeshua God placed the Jews throughout Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece and Italy to be "a light for the Gentiles" (Acts 13:47) and in order to prepare the way for the Good News of the Messiah. So, too, the Lordís disciples are a "light to the world" (Matt 5:14; cf. Php 2:15). If the light goes out, then the lampstand will be removed. The verb "remove" literally means "to move," so the warning could imply Godís judgment in the form of earthquakes, which in the fourth and seventh centuries destroyed the city of Ephesus (ABFL, 22:4, 105). The Lordís final appeal reminds the messenger of how to prevent the judgment Ė just repent. God is ready to show mercy when the leader admits his failure and turns away from error.
History records that the Lordís admonition reaped a positive result. In his letter to the Ephesians, Ignatius complimented the congregation by saying, "The warm affection your name inspires is yours by right of nature, as well as by virtue of your faith and love for our Savior Jesus Christ" (Ignatius, The Epistle to the Ephesians, 1). The letter continues with many commendations, so the chastisement of the Lord through John was, at least for a while, apparently taken to heart. Unfortunately, after the 11th century the line of Ephesian bishops seems to have become extinct, and in 1308 the city was surrendered to the Turks, and no church, or even much of any town, exists there today (Payne 604).
6ó But this you have, that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
But: Grk. alla, conj. this: Grk. toũto, neut. demonstrative pronoun. you have: Grk. echō, pres., 2p-sing. See verse 3 above. In spite of being fallen, Yeshua returns to commendation before concluding His letter. that: Grk. hoti, conj. you hate: Grk. miseō, pres., 2p-sing., means to hate, detest or abhor, including to the extent of persecuting in hatred. The present tense indicates the current and active nature of the attitude. The second mention of "hate" in the verse referring to the attitude of Yeshua is also present tense. the works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 2 above. of the Nicolaitans: Grk. Nikolaitēs, follower of the sectarian Nicolaus. Barclay defines the term as "those who overcome people." Unlike the toleration of the Nicolaitan sect in Pergamum (2:15), the Ephesian messenger hated their teaching and behavior.
The Nicolaitans apparently advocated compromise with their culture by permitting sacrifice to idols and immorality, similar to the teaching of Balaam (2:14). Some early Christian writers identify this sect as followers of Nicolas of Antioch, one of the original seven deacons (Acts 6:5), who is said to have fallen away from the faith (Robertson). Irenaeus (2nd century) said,
"The Nicolaitanes are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the deaconate by the apostles. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, [when they are represented] as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols" (Irenaeus, I.26.3).
Hippolytus referred to the Nicolaitans as "disciples of Nicolas," apparently pointing to Nicolas, the early deacon, as the one who originated the sect or espoused a philosophy upon which the sect based its teachings and practices (The Refutation of All Heresies, VII, 24). However, Tertullian mentions the Nicolaitans in a neutral fashion without indicating their origin (Against Marcion, I, 29; The Prescription Against Heretics, 33). Most other early Christian theologians disagreed that the heresy originated with Nicolas, but rather the Nicolaitans distorted an obscure saying attributed to Nicolas. Ignatius (30-107), writing shortly after John the apostle, referred to the Nicolaitans as "falsely so-called" (Epistle to the Trallians, XI). Clement of Alexandria (153-220) said, "Such also are those who say that they follow Nicolaus, quoting an adage of the man, which they pervert" (Stromata, II, 20).
Victorinus also dissented from Irenaeus and in the first Latin commentary on Revelation (ca. 300) wrote that the heretics spoke "in the name of Nicolaus" (ad loc.) to give authority to their teaching. F.F. Bruce in commenting on Acts 6:5 notes that Victorinus probably based his opinion on Papias and Papias must have known what he was talking about (The Book of the Acts, 1979, p. 131). Finally, Nicolas was first a proselyte to Judaism before he became a disciple of Yeshua and if he departed from the truth it would more likely be in the direction of the Judaizers than to paganism. Without further corroboration from the Besekh the good name of Nicolas should be left unsullied.
which: Grk. ho, neut. relative pronoun; what, which, that. I also: Grk. kagō, conj., 1p-sing., serves to link in parallel or contrasting fashion a personal affirmation by way of addition to or confirmation of a preceding statement; 'and I.' hate: Grk. miseō, pres., 1p-sing. People often only associate God with the virtue and attitude of love. After all "God is love" (1Jn 4:8). Yet, Yeshua declares forthrightly that he hates and in particular the works or deeds of the Nicolaitans, that is, what the teaching produces. This verse is not a precedent, because Scripture affirms the God does indeed hate every kind of sin (Deut 12:31; 16:22; Ps 45:7; Prov 6:16; Isa 1:14; 61:8; Jer 44:4; Mal 2:16; Zech 8:17). Yet, Godís hatred may become personal since those who hate God, demonstrated by rebellion against standards of holiness and righteousness, inevitably become objects of Godís judgment (Ex 20:5; Deut 7:10; 32:41; Ps 5:5; 11:5; Mal 1:3). The Lord also expects that his children will hate evil as well (Ps 97:10; Prov 8:13; 13:5; Amos 5:15). And, if Yeshua hated the foul practice of the Nicolaitans in the first century, do you not suppose he would hate similar behavior in modern congregations?
7ó The one having an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the congregations. To one overcoming, I will give to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.
The Lord ends his letter with an exhortation and a promise. The one having: Grk. echō, pres. part., with the definite article. See verse 3 above. an ear: Grk. ous, the organ of hearing, the ear, as well as the faculty of understanding or perception relative to divine communication. It is striking that the word is singular when generally in the Besekh the word appears in the plural. The singular essentially means "if you have the ability to comprehend my words."
hear: Grk. akouō, aor. imp., 3p-sing., has a range of meaning, including to hear as a sense perception, to learn, to listen, to follow, or to understand. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). The command "to hear" occurs eight times in Revelation and eight times in the apostolic narratives, always on the lips of Yeshua (Matt 11:15; 13:9; 13:43; Mark 4:9, 23; 7:16; Luke 8:8; 14:35). In the apostolic narratives the command is always a present imperative (start and keep on doing) whereas in Revelation the command is an aorist imperative ("do it now").
The exhortation "he that has an ear, let him hear" (rather than "read") is a Hebrew idiom that reflects the typical manner of first century learning. Scrolls were rare and knowledge of Godís Word came from hearing the Scriptures read aloud and memorizing them (cf. Rom. 2:13). "Hear" is not a permissive directive, but a strong exclamation as if the Lord is yelling to a deaf person. Moses used a similar command to Israel in reiterating the Torah before their entry into Canaan, "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully" (Deut 5:1). The same admonition to hear occurs in the apostolic narratives, though in every case there Yeshua enjoins those with "ears," not merely "an ear." Yeshua likewise used the exclamatory imperative "Hear!" on several occasions to introduce important teachings (Matt 13:18; 15:10; 21:33; Mark 4:3; 7:14; Luke 18:6), though the word is usually translated in modern versions with the softer request to "listen."
In Hebrew writing parts of the human body were often used as allusions to behavior, both positive and negative (cf. Matt 5:29f; Rom 6:13; Heb 12:13). Here the Lord makes a reference to the "ear" in order to make a point. The human ear is a beautifully designed organ to receive sound. The ear, of course, does not pick and choose the sounds it will accept. By turning the physical function of the ear into a metaphor, the Lord could address the root issue in obedience. The metaphor of having "an ear" points to the willingness to learn or to be open to the truth.
The call to hear may also be an allusion to a Hebrew practice. The Torah provided that if a man or woman was sold into service as a slave, the owner would set the slave free after six years. However, the slave had the option of remaining in the service of his employer rather than accepting freedom. In that event the owner was to take an awl and pierce the slaveís ear as a sign of permanent ownership (Ex 21:5f). Piercing the ear was a visible sign that the slave lived to hear and obey his masterís voice. Thus, David said to God, "My ears You have opened. ... I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart" (Ps 40:6, 8). Likewise, true disciples delight to do Godís will and are ready to respond to the Spiritís voice.
The Lord does not assume that everyone in the congregation will understand and appreciate the rebuke and admonition of his messenger. Some members are tares, some are wheat; some are sheep, some are goats. Yeshua summed up the reality succinctly in his dialog with the Pharisees Ė "He who is of God hears the words of God" (John 8:47 NASB) and "My sheep hear My voice" (John 10:3). The Body of the Messiah at the end of the first century was facing a spiritual crisis not unlike Ezekielís time Ė "Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house" (Ezek 12:2). It is interesting that only two out of Paulís seven letters contain rebukes for serious sin, both Corinth and Galatia having fallen prey to leaders advocating heretical teaching. But over forty years later five out of the seven congregations to whom John writes have the same problems.
what: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. the Spirit: Grk. pneuma (for Heb. ruach), wind, breath or spirit as the animating force for bodily movement (Luke 8:55). Pneuma is used frequently for transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Holy Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10). says: Grk. legō, pres., 3p-sing. See verse 1 above. In the Tanakh when God spoke to an individual or His people the speaker is almost always identified as YHVH, the personal name of the God of Israel (Ex 3:15; 2Chr 14:11; Isa 42:8), and none other than Yeshua (John 8:58). Only on a few occasions did the Spirit speak and then it was either speaking to a prophet (Ezek 3:24) or through a prophet to address Israel (2Chr 24:20; Ezek 11:5).
Since Yeshua ascended to heaven and God gave spiritual anointing at Pentecost the Holy Spirit has become Godís megaphone to his disciples. Yeshua taught his disciples about the important role of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 26; 16:7-15). The Spirit never engages in idle conversation with people, but speaks when God has something important to say. The Spiritís role is to remind disciples of the Lordís words, to convict of sin (Heb 3:7), to convince people of Yeshuaí divinity and righteousness and to convince all of the reality of the final judgment. Perhaps the key role of the Spirit is to lead all to the truth and provide insight to understand it. Many unbelievers make a pretense of seeking truth and yet recoil at accepting The Truth revealed by the Spirit.
The apostolic writings describe other aspects of the Spirit's speaking ministry. He intercedes in our prayers (Rom 8:26f), He helps disciples to testify for Yeshua (Matt 10:20), He inspires prophesying (Acts 2:18), He gives direction for evangelism (Acts 8:29; 10:19; 11:12), He speaks to the congregation about its ministry and character (Acts 13:2; 15:28), and He testifies of oneís suffering or death (Acts 20:23). There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit still speaks to God's people. Describing how the Spirit speaks, though, is difficult. People may refer to the Spiritís voice as the still small voice, an inner voice or inner impression. There are anecdotes in Acts in which the "Spirit said" (Acts 8:29; 10:19; 11:12, 28; 13:2, 4; 15:28; 16:6f; 21:11), but no further description is offered as to the means of communication or just how people knew it was the Holy Spirit.
There are three tests that may be applied to any perceived message from the Spirit. First, a message from the Spirit will be consistent with Godís will revealed in Scripture (John 16:13). Second, a message from the Spirit can be confirmed by its acceptance by other believers (Acts 13:1-3; 15:28; 20:23). Ask yourself: "if I were to post my message from the Spirit on the congregation's bulletin board how would people react?" Third, a message from the Holy Spirit has the purpose of fulfilling a spiritual goal or advancing the work of God's kingdom.
to the congregations: pl. of Grk. ekklēsia. See verse 1 above. In this case the command to hear asserts that all these letters contain important truth for all the congregations, and those hearing it are expected to give immediate attention and make personal application as instructed. Even in congregations today disciples of Yeshua hear about as much from the Spirit as they want to hear. Paul warned Timothy,
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths" (2Tim 4:2-3).
The message of the Spirit means that the congregational members cannot gloat over the criticism of the messenger, but they should conduct a serious evaluation of their own lives and the character of their congregations. Individual disciples and congregations must continually re-focus on the passion of the original experience with God to allow the Spirit to do His work through them to reach their communities for Yeshua. The Spirit also has a message about loving and hating. The saints are encouraged to maintain the "first love" or to restore it if lost. Conversely, Yeshuaí disciples are called to hate the ideas and deeds of godless people (without hating the sinner). Loving God should provide the motivation to do certain things. Hating sin should provide the motivation to refrain from certain things. The use of time, talent and treasure all reflect how the right love and the right hatred are manifested. The admonition of the Ephesian letter should be carefully considered by all congregation leaders and members and conduct amended where necessary to conform to the image of Yeshua.
To the one overcoming: Grk. nikaō, pres. part., means to be a victor, to prevail, to conquer, to overcome or to vanquish, whether in a military battle, athletic contest, or a legal action. Nikaō occurs 28 times in the Besekh, over half of which occur in Revelation, often in a spiritual sense of overcoming evil. In the letters the allusion belongs first to the messenger, but then in its general application emphasizes the continued faithfulness of the individual believer. The verb "overcomes" points to the reality of spiritual warfare. The word refers to victory over the believerís two chief enemies in this life Ė Satan (1Jn 2:13) and the world (1Jn 5:4). John defines the world as consisting of the desires of the flesh, the desire of the eyes and the boastful pride of life (1Jn 2:16). To win against the enemies of every believer requires courage, an uncompromising loyalty to Yeshua, even in the face of death, and a willingness to put God first in every area of life.
I will give: Grk. didōmi, fut., 1p-sing., means to give something to someone or to give in the sense of grant, bestow or impart, often with the focus on generosity. In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan, to give, used in one of three settings (1) by men one to another; (2) by men to God; and (3) by God to men (DNTT 2:41). to eat: Grk. phagō, aor. inf., to consume food, used as an alternative to esthiō, to eat. of the tree: Grk. xulon may mean (1) product of a fibrous plant, wood; or (2) a sturdy fibrous plant, tree. The second meaning applies here. Xulon is used of the cross on which Yeshua was hanged (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Gal 3:13; 1Pet 2:24) and of wood in Revelation 18:12. The Greeks had a word for tree, dendron, but it is not used in Revelation in reference to the Tree of Life. The use of xulon may indicate an intentional parallel to the cross of Yeshua on which the shed blood of the Lamb became the true source of eternal life.
of life: Grk. zōē, the state of being alive in the physical sense in contrast to being dead; life. The Besekh not only uses zōē in its normal meaning of physical existence in the present age, but over forty times for life that continues into the next age and eternity, half of which are in the writings of John. In the LXX zōē renders Heb. chay (SH-2416, alive, living) with both literal and figurative uses. In Scripture only animals and humans are described as "living" in the literal sense. God (the Father) has life in Himself (John 5:26) and is the source of life (Gen 1:20-25). which: Grk. ho, neut. relative pronoun. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. in: Grk. en, prep.
the Paradise: Grk. paradeios is a Persian word referring to a park or enclosed garden (Rienecker). In the LXX paradeios translates Heb. Gan-Eden in Genesis 2:8, which also means an enclosure, preserve, garden, park, or citrus orchard (Stern 149). of God: Grk. theos. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24). In the LXX theos primarily renders the general names of God: El, Eloah and Elohim, but also YHVH (DNTT 2:67-70). As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos. The only God in existence is the God who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth (Isa 44:6; 45:5-6, 14, 18, 21; 46:9).
Frankfurter suggests that the tree of life in the paradise of God may be an allusion to the description of the tree in Enoch 24:3-11 (468). This promise is the first of over twenty promises in Revelation to "the one overcoming" (2:10f, 17, 26, 28; 3:5, 9f, 12, 3:20f; 7:15f; 14:13; 20:4, 6; 21:3f, 7; 22:14). While the overcomers in Revelation are generally seen as martyrs who suffer death at the hands of the beast, the Paradise of God is promised to all who overcome Satan and the world. To the followers of Yeshua who overcome the Lord offers access to the eternal tree of life in paradise. The first tree of life was in the Garden of Eden and its benefit was lost because of the sin of the first Adam; but access was restored by the last Adam.
The word "paradise" has the ring of glorious beauty and restfulness. Considering the promise of Yeshua to the thief on the cross of being in paradise that very day (Luke 23:43), paradise is a definite place to which one may go after death. It is not an intermediate state or an intermediate place somewhere between heaven and hell. Paul reported that he was taken to paradise (2Cor 12:4), and it was such an extraordinary experience that he did not know whether he was in the body (alive) or out of the body (dead). Paul identified paradise as the third heaven, but since he was forbidden to report what he heard there he provides no other details of his experience. The first heaven would be the earthís atmosphere, the second heaven, often rendered "heavens," would be outer space and the third heaven would be the abode of God. In Revelation paradise is synonymous with the New Jerusalem since the tree of life lies in the heart of the city (Rev 22:2, 14, 19).
8ó And to the messenger of the congregation in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who became dead, and lived, says these things:
And: Grk. kai, conj. to the messenger of the congregation: See verse 1 above. in Smyrna: Grk. Smurna, an Ionian city, on the Aegean Sea, about 40 miles north of Ephesus and a neighbor to Pergamum. A natural harbor made the city a commercial competitor of Ephesus. Smyrna possessed a famous stadium, library and public theater (the largest in Asia) and claimed to be the birthplace of the epic poet Homer. Smyrna had a long history of idolatry, having built its first temple for pagan Roman worship in 195 BC and in 23 BC became the center for cult worship of the Roman emperor. Smyrna, or Izmir, is still a thriving city today. There is no record of the founding of the congregation in Smyrna, but most likely disciples from Paulís ministry carried the Good News of the kingdom there (Acts 19:1, 10).
write: Grk. graphō, aor. imp., 2p-sing. See verse 1 above. Yeshua then repeats the command to John and employs the imagery of 1:17. the first: Grk. prōtos, adj. The basic idea has to do with 'beforeness.' The term is used in two ways: (1) having primary position in a temporal sequence; first, earlier, earliest; and (2) standing out in significance or importance; first, most prominent, most important, first of all. Both meanings can have application here. and: Grk. kai, conj. the last: Grk. eschatos, adj., coming at the end or after all others; last. The phrase "the first and last" is an allusion to Godís self-revelation as the God of Israel,
"Thus says ADONAI, Israelís King and his Redeemer, ADONAI-Tzvaíot: 'I am the first, and the last, and there is no God beside Me.'" (Isa 44:6 TLV; cf. Isa 41:4).
who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. became: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., to transfer from one state to another, with the following applications: (1) come into being by birth or natural process; (2) exist through will or effort; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. In the LXX ginomai renders Heb. hayah (SH-1961), to fall out, to come into being, become, come to pass, to be (DNTT 1:181). The verb greatly understates the manner in which Yeshua died. Of interest is that the verb stauroō ('crucified') occurs only once in Revelation (11:8).
dead: Grk. nekros, without life in the physical sense; dead. Yeshua emphasizes again his physical death while on earth, the third mention of the historical fact in Revelation. Unfortunately, attacks on the humanity of Yeshua had begun during the time of the apostles and there were those who contended that Yeshua only appeared to die. Not only did Yeshua die, but He also died by one of the most cruel and painful methods ever devised by man. Numerous witnesses saw Yeshua die. The soldiers who nailed the spikes and thrust the spear into His side knew He was dead. The friends of Yeshua, who placed Him in the tomb, anointed His scarred and bloodless body with spices and wrapped Him in a burial cloth, knew He was dead. The good news is that far from being a meaningless death among so many crucifixions of that period, the death of Yeshua served as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (1Jn 2:2). Yet, this necessary and gracious act of God would not possess its power to redeem if Yeshua had remained in the grave.
and: Grk. kai, conj. lived: Grk. zaō, aor., be in the state of being alive. The fact of Yeshua living again gives him inherent authority over his messengers and their congregations. says: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 1 above. these things: pl. of Grk. tode, neut. demonstrative pronoun.
I know: Grk. oida, perf., 1p-sing. See verse 2 above. The perfect tense stresses knowledge that began in the past and is still current. your: Grk. su, sing. personal pronoun of the second person. tribulation: Grk. thlipsis (derived from thlibō, to press, squeeze or crush) means oppression, distress, or affliction. In the LXX thlipsis rendered a number of Hebrew terms, especially tsarah (straits, distress, affliction, trouble, BDB 865). The terms all denote need, distress, and various afflictions depending on the context, e.g. war, exile and personal hostility (DNTT 2:807). Thlipsis is a word picture of being crushed under a weight. Throughout the apostolic writings tribulation is treated as a normal and expected experience for the God's people (Acts 7:11; 14:22; John 16:33; Rom 5:3; 8:35; 12:12; Eph 3:13; Php 1:17; Col 1:24; 1Th 1:6; 3:3-4; 2Th 1:4; 2Tim 3:12; Heb 10:33).
Yeshua warned his disciples that as they served Godís purposes they would suffer persecutions, tribulations, privations, family desertions, hatred from adversaries and finally death by cruel hands. Likewise, Paul promised that all who are godly would suffer persecution (2Tim 3:12). Yeshua reemphasizes that the letter is coming from one who has all knowledge, and who, for the sake of all, became poor and suffered the indignities of being rejected and nailed to a cross. He not only has the capacity to understand the suffering of His disciples, but the right to challenge His messenger as well as the congregation to rise above it. As the song says, "Yeshua knows all about our struggles."
and: Grk. kai, conj. poverty: Grk. ptocheia refers to extreme poverty or beggarliness. but: Grk. alla, conj. you are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. The verb is singular. rich: Grk. plousios refers to being rich or wealthy, whether literally or figuratively. The Lord knows about the bleakness of the messenger's financial condition, in contrast to the wealth touted by the leader at Laodicea (3:17), but, unlike Laodicea, the Smyrna messenger was really rich. The tribulation experienced at Smyrna may have included having property looted or destroyed by opposing residents, making the messengerís poverty worse (cf. Heb 10:34) (Robertson).
and: Grk. kai, conj. the slander: Grk. blasphēmia means slander, defamation, blasphemy or abusive speech, and in the Besekh is sometimes directed at men and sometimes at God. Barclay comments that blasphēmia refers to an insult, and as sin, it represents a person flouting Godís commandments by putting self in the place that God should occupy and above all, by grieving His love with harsh rhetoric (NTW 122). The word "blasphemy" provides a contrast to the meaning of Yíhudi, the Heb. word for Jew, which is related to the word hodayah ("praise") (Stern).
Not only did the messenger suffer tribulation and poverty, but he also had to endure the indignity of personal attacks. When done publicly slander would correspond to the modern legal concept of defamation. The exact nature of the slander is not explained, but given the experience of poverty and suffering, the verbal abuse could have been similar to the misguided rhetoric of Jobís friends who compounded his suffering with false accusations. For example, these detractors may have alleged that if the messenger were living in obedience to God, then God would ensure prosperity, good health and social acceptance. But the Lordís lack of criticism, commendation of the messenger, understanding of his difficulties and assurance of the crown of life effectively rebut the negative aspersions.
of the ones declaring: Grk. legō, pres. part. with the definite article. See verse 1 above. The verb is used here in the sense of calling by a name. The present participle indicates an on-going practice. themselves: pl. of Grk. heautou, masc. reflexive pronoun, himself. The plural pronoun alludes to a particular group. to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. Jews: Grk. Ioudaioi, pl. of Ioudaios, which means Judean, Jew, Jewish or Jewess with respect to birth heritage (BAG). In the LXX Ioudaios translates the Heb. term Yehudi (pl Yehudim), which first appears in 2Kings 16:6 to refer to Judeans. Yehudi was derived from Yehudah, the name given to Jacobís son (Gen 29:35) and thereafter his tribal descendants (Ex 31:2).
The plural Yehudim first appears in 2Kings 16:6; 25:25 and Jeremiah 34:9 for citizens of the Kingdom of Judah. The southern kingdom also included the tribes of Benjamin and Simeon, so Mordecai of the tribe of Benjamin is identified as a Yehudi (Esth 2:5; 6:10). The meaning of Yehudim expanded during the exile to refer to all those taken in captivity from the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah living throughout the Persian empire (Esth 8:9, 11, and 17). This same usage is found in the writings of Josephus, the Jewish historian, in which he distinguishes Jews from other people groups (e.g., Apion 1:1, 5, 8, 13, 19, 22, 26-27, 32-35).
Stern contends that in apostolic usage Ioudaioi ("Jews") has one of three meanings: (1) members of the tribe of Judah; (2) followers of the Jewish religion; or (3) people living in or originating from Judea, however politically defined (160). To the first meaning I would add "members of the tribes belonging to the Kingdom of Judah" as defined in the Tanakh. In addition, I would clarify the second meaning to be "followers of the Judean religion." Paul identifies himself as a Ioudaios (Acts 21:39; 23:3), as well as an Israelite, a Hebrew, and a member of the tribe of Benjamin (Rom 11:1; Php 3:5). Nobody was more Jewish than him.
The Ioudaioi as represented in the apostolic narratives and epistles were observant traditional Jews. The Ioudaioi revered Moses, faithfully observed the Sabbath, kept God's prescribed festivals, circumcised their children and regarded the Temple in Jerusalem as the only place to worship the God of Israel with sacrifices (John 2:13; 4:20; 5:1, 16; 6:4; 7:2; 11:55; 19:31; Acts 2:5; 16:3; 21:21; 22:3; 24:14; Rom 2:17). Generally speaking the Ioudaioi followed the traditions of the Pharisees (Mark 7:3; Acts 10:28). The same devotion could not be said of other Israelite descendants who were scattered throughout the world.
By the first century A.D. there were numerous Jewish settlements in Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece, Italy and the islands of the Aegean, that had resulted from emigration (sometimes voluntary and sometimes forced) from Babylon (Tarn & Griffith 219; Schurer 2:223). Josephus reported that "the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers" (Ant. XI, 5:2). All of these settlements became the starting point for the apostles to proclaim the fulfillment of prophetic promises, since the gospel was for the Judean Jew first (Acts 1:8; Rom 1:16). In obedience to Yeshua's instruction whenever Paul went to a city he first spoke in synagogues of the Ioudaioi to present the good news of the Messiah (Acts 9:20; 13:5, 14; 14:1; 17:1, 17; 18:4, 19, 26; 19:8). For more discussion on the categories of Jews see my web article The Apostolic Community.
The identified source of the slander presents a difficulty in interpretation. For a group to "say they are Jews" alludes to the fact that there are people who would be correct in saying they are Jews. The Hebrew people used the name "Jew" with pride to connote their distinction from the idolatrous Gentiles, whereas down through history Gentiles have invested the name with considerable prejudice and malice. Jewishness has normally been traced through the mother (cf. Acts 16:1-3), even though inheritance and the family name passes through the father as evidenced by the genealogies in the Bible. In addition, among the Judean Jews no male could be considered part of the covenant people without being circumcised. A brief survey of the word "Jew" in the Besekh reveals that the word was applied only to biological descendants of Jacob (Matt 27:11; Mark 7:3; Luke 23:51; John 4:9; Acts 22:3; Rom 3:1; Gal 3:28).
While some Gentile Christians might view themselves as spiritual Jews by virtue of being grafted into Israel and possessing circumcision of the heart, the apostles never made such an application. Not even Gentiles who embraced Judaism were ever called Jews, probably because of the distinctive promise of the land of Israel to the Jews in perpetuity and the special relationship of the Jews to the Torah (Stern 339; cf. Gal 5:3). At the time of this letter there was a well-established Jewish population in Smyrna.
and: Grk. kai, conj. they are: Grk. eimi, pres., 3p-pl. not: Grk. ouk, particle of strong negation. Stern cannot believe that the Jews referred to in the letters of Revelation (also at 3:9) are ethnic Jews. He appeals to the hermeneutic that when the literal sense makes good sense, then seek no other sense. Yeshua clearly says "they are not," which implies these slanderers are actually Gentiles claiming to be Jews. Henry Morris, standing apart from other Christian commentators, concurs and suggests these "Jews" must have been Gentile converts of the Judaizers (which included both Messianic Pharisees and Gentile proselytes), who had tried to impose the requirements of Judaism, principally circumcision, a generation earlier (Acts 15:1-6; Gal 2:12; Eph 2:11; Php 3:2).
These Judaizers may have been a splinter group from the Smyrna congregation, but in any event adopted a legalistic perversion of Torah and formed a pseudo-Messianic synagogue. After all, ethnic Jews do not have to "say" they are Jews and the Lord makes a similar distinction in his letter to Ephesus regarding those who claim to be apostles but are not (verse 2 above). Some interpreters (as Moffatt 464) suggest that Yeshua speaks of unbelieving Jews. In spite of Paulís spiritual definition, the Besekh never refers to unbelieving Jews as non-Jews, including the context of Romans 2:28. Therefore, Paulís exhortation uttered 40 years earlier should not be used to interpret this passage.
In the first century many Gentiles expressed a deep interest in learning about Judaism, which is remarkable considering that Jews were regarded everywhere with disfavor and Judaism was sneered at as a barbaric superstition (Schurer 2:291f, 312). Wherever there was a Jewish synagogue there was also a devoted body of Gentiles attached to it (Ibid., 308, 312), which was a testament to the effectiveness of Jewish missionary activity, especially by the Pharisees (cf. Matt 23:15).
The Besekh uses a variety of terms to identify Gentiles that demonstrated some level of commitment: proselytes (Matt 23:15; Acts 2:10; 6:5), Israel-lovers (Grk. agapaō, Luke 7:4-5), God-fearers (Grk. phobeomai, Acts 10:2, 22, 35; 13:16, 26), and God-worshipers (Grk. sebō, John 9:31; Acts 17:17; Lydia, Acts 16:14; 18:7). Although the proselyte had undergone circumcision and immersion, the distinction between the God-fearer and God-worshipper is not clear. They all loved the Jewish people, believed in and prayed to the God of Israel, attended synagogue worship, kept the Torah moral code, participated in Jewish feasts and other traditions in varying degrees, and gave alms and other financial support to the Jews (Stern 257).
However, in some areas Gentile groups not only kept some Jewish customs, but also formed themselves into gatherings after the pattern of the synagogue. In particular, there was a Gentile group known as Sabbatistai in Cilicia that kept the Sabbath and worshipped the God of Israel and there were also Greek associations in Egypt and Chios (an island in the Aegean Sea) that adopted Jewish customs (Tarn & Griffith 224). Josephus confirms that a great number of Gentiles in Egypt and Cyrene imitated the Jewish way of life and lived by Jewish laws (Ant. XIV, 7:2). Gentile God-fearers, worshippers and proselytes who so strongly identified with Judaism could hardly be blamed if they thought of themselves as Jewish and a movement may have easily developed in Smyrna similar to modern Sabbatarian groups.
Of some relevance to Sternís comment that Jews donít have to "say" they are Jews is the fact that in the first century they did have to identify themselves as Jews when the census was taken by Roman authorities for the purpose of assessing taxes (cf. Luke 2:1ff; Rom 13:6). In the time of Domitian when John wrote Revelation the Romans levied a two drachma tax on each Jew for permission to practice their religion (Wars, VII, 6:6). The Roman historian Suetonius noted,
"Domitianís agents collected the tax on Jews with a peculiar lack of mercy; and took proceedings not only against those who kept their Jewish origins a secret, but against those who lived as Jews without professing Judaism." (XII, 12)
"Those who lived as Jews without professing Judaism" probably refers to the ethnicity claimed in the census. The distinguishing characteristic to be considered Jewish was circumcision and Suetonius adds this eye-witness anecdote of Roman cruelty: "As a boy, I remember once attending a crowded Court where the Procurator had a ninety-year-old man stripped to establish whether or not he had been circumcised." Gentile God-fearers and worshippers, adopting a Jewish lifestyle but remaining uncircumcised, were not subject to the tax. So, a Gentile could call himself a Jew in a religious sense and not be concerned about the tax on Jews.
Yeshua states simply but categorically that these slanderers were not Jews in any sense of the term and everywhere else in the Besekh the term "Jews" refers only to ethnic Jews. Yeshua will not tolerate any ambiguity over true Jewish identity. The doctrines of self-proclaimed-Jews are not harmless and invariably lead to other unorthodox beliefs and practices, making them unacceptable to either genuine Judaism or the Christian faith. Unbiblical doctrines are always "of Satan" (cf. 1Tim 3:1ff) and invariably constitute a clear and present danger to immature believers.
but: Grk. alla, conj. are a synagogue: Grk. sunagōgē means a gathering-place or place of assembly and in the rest of the Besekh refers to the place at which Jews gathered for worship and learning as well as the congregation that met (Acts 6:9; 9:2), including that of Messianic Jews (Jas 2:2). Sunagōgē occurs 56 times in the Besekh, only twice in Revelation (the other at 2:9), but not at all in the writings of Paul. While Gentiles today only associate "synagogue" with Judaism, the Jews did not invent the term. The origin of sunagōgē dates back to the 5th century B.C. and in ancient times was used to refer to any collection of things or people. Sunagōgē had a particular usage by Gentile trade guilds to refer to both their business meetings and religious feasts.
In the LXX sunagōgē is used to translate the Heb. words qahal (a summons to an assembly) and edah (the assembly or congregation of Israel). (DNTT 1:292ff). The earliest archaeological evidence for the synagogue, found in Egypt, is dated to the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC (OCB 722). The origin of the synagogue is not known for certain, but scholars generally date its beginning during the Babylonian exile. Pious Jews, far from their native land, without the ministry of the Temple, no doubt felt the necessity to gather on the Sabbath in order to listen to the word of God and engage in prayer (cf. Ps 137; Jer 29:7; Ezek 14:1; 20:1; Acts 16:13). Eventually meetings came also to be held on other days, and at the same hours as the morning and evening services in the Temple. According to the Jewish philosopher Philo (20 B.C. - A.D. 50) synagogues were houses of prayer and schools of wisdom (On the Life of Moses , 39).
As Jews emigrated west synagogues followed. In any community where at least ten Jewish men lived, the Jews would meet together for study and prayer and eventually build a sanctuary (Heb. shul) for their meetings. In Israel where the Sadducees exercised supervision over the temple, Pharisees supervised the learning of Torah in the synagogue. By the first century, synagogues, especially in the Diaspora, emerged as the central institution of Jewish life as a place where study, worship, exhortation, celebration, and various other kinds of meetings take place. Ceremonies were conducted in full view of the participants, with the masses of people no longer being relegated to outer courtyards, as was the case in the Jerusalem Temple (OCB 722).
Most mentions of "synagogue" in the Besekh occur as the location in which Yeshua and the apostles introduced the Good News to the Jewish people. In first century Greek and Roman culture sunagōgē had a general non-Jewish meaning, so its presence in this verse does not automatically connote a meeting-place for ethnic Jews. Moreover, the leader of the Greek associations in Egypt and Chios that adopted Jewish practices was called archisynagogus, "ruler of the synagogue" (Tarn & Griffith 224), which indicates that Gentile Sabbatarian groups used the term "synagogue" to identify their meeting places.
of the Adversary: Grk. satanas, adversary, the chief enemy of God and all who belong to God. Satanas may be a name, but functions more as a descriptive title of his function as heavenly prosecutor. In both the Besekh and the LXX satanas transliterates the Heb. satan (pronounced "sah-tahn"), which means accuser or adversary (BDB 966). He is also called "devil" (Grk. diabolos, slanderer, accuser) many times. In the Tanakh the Heb. satan refers to a person, whether human (1Sam 29:4; 1Kgs 11:14, 24, 25; Ps 109:6) or heavenly being (Num 22:22, 32; 1Sam 29:4; 1Chr 21:1; Job 2:1; Zech 3:1), who opposes other humans. Satan is a created being and not equal to God in power or knowledge.
Many commentators believe that the taunt against the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14:11-15 and the lament for the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28:11-19 depict the original perfection and downfall of the leading cherub. Exactly when this evil character was created or became evil is not disclosed in Scripture. The angels were most likely created on the second day (cf. Job 38:4-7). In contrast to the common depiction of angels the cherubim and seraphim are the only heavenly beings described as having wings. All the other heavenly messengers, translated as "angels," appeared as ordinary men. Of importance is that the Adversary is not an angel, and is sometimes contrasted with angels (here; Zech 3:1; 2Cor 11:14; Rev 12:9).
In the Tanakh the Adversary is most frequently mentioned in the story of Job in which the prince of cherubs is an adversary of man. There is no question that the serpent in Genesis 3 who tempts the first couple is this person (Rev 12:9). Why the good and loving God permits the existence of this liar and murderer (John 8:44) is also not explained. In the Besekh satanas is never used to describe a human. In the apostolic histories Satan is depicted as an opponent of Yeshua and the good news (Mark 4:15), as a tempter (Mark 1:13) and as the head of a demonic empire (Mark 3:23-26). In contrast with the "God of peace" Satanís character and life goals are summed up in John 10:10, ďThe thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.Ē
The phrase "synagogue of Satan" is a powerful indictment and only in Revelation is the word "synagogue" invested with any derogatory connotation. Yeshua warned his disciples that they would suffer persecution in synagogues (Matt 23:34) and Saul (Paul) was the first to fulfill this prophecy by his pursuit and punishment of disciples in the synagogues (Acts 9:2; 22:19; 26:11). To call this group a synagogue of Satan is a very serious charge and may on the one hand denote a capitulation to the adversary of God. "For our struggle isÖagainst the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:12 NASB).
Coincidentally Jewish leaders in the first century often hurled epithets against those who did not live what they taught. It was common for the School of Hillel to refer to the School of Shammai as "the synagogue of Satan" (Moseley 96). Frankfurter mentions that it was possible for Jews to criticize other Jews as demonically inspired (cf. 1QH 2:22), calling apostate Jews (from the Essene perspective) a "congregation of Belial" (469). As the Body of the Messiah expanded there were eventually members that caused division, rebelled against apostolic oversight and attempted to introduce false doctrines. Paul warned Timothy, who pastored in Ephesus, that more of such dangers would come (1Tim 3:1-3; 2Tim 3:1-9). In Smyrna the opposition came from a group that had a "form of godliness" but lacked soundness of biblical doctrine and respect for the true people of God.
Tragically the label "synagogue of Satan" convinced many Church leaders in the patristic era (2nd-5th cent.) that God had cut off all Jewish people from favor and as a result became a common epithet. Condescending attitudes, inflammatory rhetoric and prejudicial pronouncements against Jews, beginning early in the second century, were used by the Church to justify and then enforce institutional discrimination and even persecution of Jews. See Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham, Chapter Seven, for the sordid history of anti-Judaism.
10ó Fear nothing what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into confinement, that you might be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give to you the crown of life.
Fear: Grk. phobeō, pres. mid. imp., 2p-sing., to be afraid. The present tense would be tantamount to saying "do not keep on making yourself afraid." nothing: Grk. mēden, neut. adj., 'not,' but used here as a noun, nothing. what: Grk. ho, neut. relative pronoun. you are about to: Grk. mellō, pres., 2p-sing., a future oriented verb with a pending aspect, being in the offing, be about to, be going to. to suffer: Grk. paschō, pres. inf., to experience something in a positive, negative, or neutral sense, but often in the negative sense of painful experience; suffer. Behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. of eidon, 2p-sing., the inflected aorist form of horaō ("to see"). The verb functions as a demonstrative particle to focus attention of the audience.
the devil: Grk. diabolos means slanderer, accuser. Diabolos occurs 21 times in the LXX to translate the Heb. word satan, "adversary," mostly of the angelic adversary (13 times in Job alone), but also a wicked human opponent (e.g. 1Kgs 11:14, 23, 25). The words "devil" and "satan" are not personal names, but descriptive titles. Diabolos occurs 37 times in the Besekh, primarily in reference to Satan (DNTT 3:468f). The term is also used of human adversaries, such as Judas (John 6:70) and Elymas the magician (Acts 13:10). Paul also used the plural form of diabolos to mean slanderers (1Tim 3:11; 2Tim 3:3; Titus 2:3).
The devil (aka "Satan") was created by God in the beginning with all the other angels. Scripture gives no information about the creation of angels, although they must have been created very early in the creation week. Precisely when and how Satan became evil remains a mystery. Hints as to his origin are found in two passages directed initially to the kings of Babylon and Tyre and (Isa 14:12-15; Ezek 28:11-17). These passages indicate that Satan was not created to be an adversary or a deceiver. His sin was pride and in his arrogance he believed he could overthrow God and reign over creation. In the Tanakh Satan appears most frequently in the book of Job.
God's repeated emphasis in Job on His creation of the space-time-matter universe hints that Satan may have come to consciousness in the waters that were formed on the second day. Henry Morris suggests that "Even though they [the angels] had later observed God create the earth, stars, and living beings [Job 38:4-7], they had not seen Him create the universe itself. Thus, Satan may have persuaded himself that God, like the angels, must have simply 'evolved' somehow, out of the eternal primordial chaos" (The Remarkable Record of Job, Baker Book House, 1988; p. 52). Thus, Satan inspired the original evolutionary mythology and its modern "scientific" incarnation that pervades human institutions.
is about to: Grk. mellō, pres., 3p-sing. cast: Grk. ballō, pres. inf., may be used of a vigorous action and be translated as "cast, throw or hurl," or of a more subdued action and be translated as "put, place, lay or bring" (BAG). The first meaning applies here. some of: Grk. ex, prep. lit. 'from, out from among,' suggesting from the interior outwards. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. into: Grk. eis, prep. that emphasizes the direction of movement. confinement: Grk. phulakē, a place for detaining a law-breaker, not a prison for carrying out a specified period of detention, but a place in which one is confined until disposition if made of the detainee's case. Prisons in the ancient world were primarily used to hold prisoners awaiting the sentence of death or banishment (Mounce).
that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed; in order that. you might be tested: Grk. peirazō, aor. subj., 2p-pl., can mean either to put to the test or to tempt. The word "tested" probably contains the technical meaning of putting on trial for the purpose of obtaining incriminating evidence, as Yeshua was treated by his opponents (Matt 16:1; 19:3; 22:18). Yeshua warned His disciples that they would be treated similarly (Matt 10:16-20). What may seem like bad news in an already bad situation the Lord informs the messenger that a brief and more intense period of tribulation is coming that will affect not only him but also some members of his congregation. The Lord encourages the congregation not to lose its focus on Him and think too much about the potential suffering to come.
The future must be left with the Lord who always gives grace when it is needed. In the present, unnecessary fear and anxiety could cripple the congregation in fulfilling its mission. Of course, the devil can only operate by Godís permission, and testing has an important purpose in Godís plan, as God revealed to Moses.
"You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not." (Deut 8:2)
and: Grk. kai, conj. you will have: Grk. echō, fut., 2p-pl. See verse 3 above. tribulation: Grk. thlipsis. See the previous verse. ten: Grk. deka, adj., the cardinal number ten. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The second meaning is likely intended here. The Lord speaks with certainty that the persecution would last "ten days." Gregg points out that history has not recorded any period of ten days that was endured by the Smyrna congregation, though surviving records are sketchy at best.
Some commentators, beginning with Paulus Orosius in the fifth century, have suggested that the "ten days" referred to ten periods of persecution by Roman emperors. The following emperors initiated persecution against Christians, with the severity increasing with each one: Nero (64), Domitian (95), Trajan (112), Marcus Aurelius (177), Septimus Severus (late second century), Maximinus (235), Decius (250), Valerian (257), Aurelian, and Diocletian (303) (Ladd 9). Schaff notes that Augustine claims there were ten persecutions, but he mentions Antoninus for Marcus Aurelius. The church father Lactantius counts six and Sulpitius Severus nine persecutions (Schaff II.2, ß13).
The causes of Roman persecution had its foundation in the basic war between evil and good and the inherent corruption of the pagan religious system:
"The policy of the Roman government, the fanaticism of the superstitious people, and the self-interest of the pagan priests conspired for the persecution of a religion which threatened to demolish the tottering fabric of idolatry; and they left no expedients of legislation, of violence, of craft, and of wickedness untried, to blot it from the earth." (Schaff II.2, ß15)
Ladd thinks the "ten days" is in contrast to the longer period of persecution prophesied in Revelation and so the tribulation for this congregation would be of a short duration. However, the reference of "ten days" occurs only seven other times in the entire Bible and every usage is of a literal period of time. There is no evidence to assume the "ten days" is symbolic, either of a "short" period or ten periods of persecution. Also, it is not likely that a prophecy of ten future persecution events would include a completed event (Neroís persecution) as part of the prophecy. Wesley, taking the time reference as literal, says it occurred at the end of Domitianís persecution, which was stopped by the edict of Emperor Nerva. Note that the Lord does not say when the persecution would start, only how long it would last, and that it would only affect "some" of the congregation. In reality the persecution of Smyrna congregational members may have had nothing to do with an edict from Caesar, but was a purely local matter.
Be: Grk. ginomai, pres. mid. imp., 2p-sing. See verse 8 above. faithful: Grk. pistos, adj., characterized by constancy and therefore worthy of trust; faithful, reliable or trustworthy. The call to faithfulness is directed to the messenger, but would also apply to all those being tested. until: Grk. achri, adv., as far as, up to, until. death: Grk. thanatos, not alive in a physical sense. This exhortation may seem like a severe dose of reality. What about praying for deliverance? What about the protection from evil that God supposedly provides for all His children? The flesh will naturally object Ė "why me?" One only needs to go to the Garden of Gethsemane to understand that Godís Kingdom is not about personal comfort and in the war against evil there will always be casualties. and: Grk. kai, conj.
I will give: Grk. didōmi, fut., 1p-sing. See verse 7 above. to you: Grk. su, sing. pron. of the second person. Yeshua personalizes the promise to the messenger, but those being tested can receive the promise on the same basis as the messenger. the crown: Grk. stephanos referred to a wreath or crown, often made from palm branches. In the Besekh the term is (1) used of a literal crown, e.g., the crown of thorns (Matt 27:29), a winning athleteís wreath (1Cor 9:25). In Revelation this crown is worn by the elders (4:4), pit locusts (9:7), the woman (12:1) and the Son of Man (14:14); (2) used figuratively of a spiritual prize or reward (Php 4:1; 1Th 2:19; 2Tim 4:8; 1Pet 5:4; Jas 1:12); (3) the name of Stephen, the first martyr (Acts 6:5). In the LXX stephanos translates the Heb. atarah, the royal crown and corresponding figurative uses (e.g., 2Sam 12:30; 1Chr 20:2; SS 3:11) (DNTT 1:405).
To those who suffer the Lord promises compensation. Smyrna was famous for its athletic games and the word "crown" refers to the garland awarded to the winner of an athletic event. Paul used the same word in 1Corinthians 9:25 to contrast the perishable wreath or crown received by athletic champions with the imperishable one received by believers in the resurrection. of life: Grk. zōē. See verse 7 above. There is no reason why "crown" cannot refer to something actually worn by God's people, but as a metaphor a "crown of life" speaks of eternal life as the highest honor God can bestow upon His children. The crown of life is not only the reward of martyrs but also all believers who persevere (Jas 1:12).
11ó The one having an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the congregations. The one overcoming will not be harmed by the second death.í
The one having an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the congregations: The opening clause is repeated exactly as in verse 7 above. Through the Spirit the Lord called the messenger and the members of the Smyrna congregation to be ready to lay down their lives for Yeshua. When the prophesied adverse circumstances happened they were to put their entire trust in the Lord, instead of blaming the Lord. The expectation of being put on trial should actually be anticipated as an opportunity for demonstrating faithfulness to Yeshua by testifying to the gospel of God (Matt 10:19f). The admonition of the Spirit to the congregation in Smyrna should be carefully considered by all congregations and believers and conduct amended where necessary to conform to the will of God.
The one overcoming: Grk. nikaō, pres. part. See verse 7 above. God has a promise for those who can answer "yes" to the Spiritís questions and gain the victory over Satan. will not: Grk. ouk, adv. of strong negation. be harmed: Grk. adikeō, aor. pass. subj., 3p-sing., doing wrong or doing harm to others as defined by Torah, here in the sense of punishment. by: Grk. ek, prep. the second: Grk. deuteros, second, again, the second time, another time. death: Grk. thanatos. See the previous verse. This is the first mention of the second death, defined later as the lake of fire (20:6, 14; 21:8). The first death is certain (Heb 9:27), because all descendants of Adam die due to his sin (1Cor 15:22).
However, no one needs to suffer the second death. Yeshua warned His disciples of the reality and torment of eternal punishment (Matt 10:28; cf. Dan 12:2), and the promise of the Lord here contains the implication that failure to overcome could result in something worse happening than tribulation. Overcomers will not receive any harm or injury from the second death because they will not experience it.
12ó "And to the messenger of the congregation in Pergamum write: The One holding the sharp two-edged sword says these things:
And: Grk. kai, conj. to the messenger of the congregation: See verse 1 above. in: Grk. en, prep. Pergamum: Grk. Pergamum was the chief city of Mysia, near the Caicus River in northwest Asia Minor, present-day Turkey, about 15 miles from the Aegean Sea. Pergamum once boasted a library of over 200,000 items, but they were lost to Alexandria, Egypt, when Mark Antony confiscated them and presented as a gift to Cleopatra. Besides being a government center, Pergamum was known for several cults to the Greek gods and three imperial cults devoted to emperor worship. Pergamum is only mentioned in Revelation so when and how the message of the Messiah came there is unknown, although like Smyrna it was likely an outgrowth of Paul's ministry. NOTE: in some Greek literature the name is spelled Pergamos, which is the spelling in the KJV.
write: Grk. graphō, aor. imp., 2p-sing. See verse 1 above. Yeshua then repeats the command to John and employs the imagery of 1:16. The One holding: Grk. echō, pres. part. See verse 3 above. the sharp: Grk. oxus, having a keen edge or point, sharp. two-edged: Grk. distomos, double-edged and is used only three times in the Besekh, all in reference to a sword. sword: Grk. rhomphaia refers to a long-bladed and heavy broadsword used by Thracians and other barbarous nations (Rienecker). Outside of Revelation rhomphaia is only used for the sword that would pierce Miriamís heart (Luke 2:35). The "sharp two-edged sword" is a powerful weapon, but it is not the double-edged sword of Hebrews 4:12.
For a sword to be "two-edged" meant greater sharpness. Yeshua begins in an unusual manner by asserting that He has a sharp sword. This is the sword with which He will slay the wicked and the anti-messiah when he comes to establish His own government in Jerusalem. Only the Lord has the authority to wield the sword against the kingdoms of this world (cf. John 18:36). However, the sword in the hand also serves as a warning of Godís judgment against evil in his own assembly, and the Lord is prepared to act with decisive warfare when his own messengers tolerate evil. says: Grk. legō, pres., 3p-sing. See verse 1 above. these things: pl. of Grk. tode, neut. dem. pron. See verse 1 above.
13ó I know where you dwell, where is the throne of Satan: and you hold fast my name, and denied not my faithfulness, even in the days of Antipas, my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
Yeshua begins with a preemptive statement to nullify the messengerís expected objection to the condemnation in the next verse. I know: Grk. oida, perf., 1p-sing. See verse 2 above. The perfect tense likely points back to the messenger's appointment. where: Grk. pou, interrogative adv., here of place; where (?), at which place (?). The use of an adverb normally associated with asking a question seems strange in this straightforward statement, but the adverb may imply this kind of question from Yeshua: "You think I don't know where you live and what you have to put up with?" you dwell: Grk. katoikeō, pres., 2p-sing., means to live, dwell, settle down or inhabit. The opening phrase emphasizes intimate knowledge that Pergamum was a very difficult assignment.
where is: Grk. hopou, adv., in what place. the throne: Grk. thronos. of Satan: Grk. satanas. See verse 9 above. Idolatrous cults may have dominated religious life because the "throne," or headquarters of Satanís kingdom, was in Pergamum. Godís throne is in heaven, but since Satan is the god of this world, then his seat of power must be located somewhere on the earth. At Johnís writing the Satanic "throne" was in Pergamum. Satanís realm and demonic organization extends to the atmosphere surrounding the earth. Paul refers to Satan as the "prince of the power of the air" (Eph 2:2) and to the evil angelic hosts as occupying the "heavenly places" (Eph 6:12). Yeshua implies that the quarters or house in which the messenger resided was near a pagan shrine. Pergamum was a prime location for Satan to work. Paganism and idolatry flourished with a cult devoted to the worship of Zeus, another cult that engaged in snake worship and still another cult that was the official center of emperor worship in Asia (Mounce).
and: Grk. kai, conj. you hold fast: Grk. krateō, pres., 2p-sing., have a firm hold of, to hold fast to. My Name: Grk. onoma in its central sense is used to identify someone. In Hebrew literature it also carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. The Lord has only one commendation. The messenger was holding fast his profession of faith as a disciple of Yeshua, which may offer a hint of the intensity of local opposition from pagans and unbelieving Jews. "Holding fast" would take on even greater significance as the demands of accommodation increased during the second and third centuries when citizens were required to sacrifice to the imperial gods. Faithful Christians declined to participate in the idolatry but instead asserted that their loyalty belonged to Yeshua and his kingdom. There is no more precious and holy name than "Yeshua" and to that name the believer clings, for only in that name is true blessedness here and hereafter.
and: Grk. kai, conj. denied: Grk. arneomai, aor. mid., 2p-sing., "deny," literally means "to say no" (Rienecker). The messenger demonstrated the virtue of holding fast by refusing to deny the faith of Yeshua, an unusual way of expressing the messengerís action. The word "deny" brings to mind the words of Peter in the courtyard "I know not the man" (Matt 26:74). not: Grk. ouk, particle of strong negation. my faithfulness: Grk. pistis means belief, trust, firm reliance, firm conviction, faith, and corresponds to the Heb. emunah (Stern 229). The use of pistis does not imply a doctrine or a creed. The Jewish Messiah and the Jewish apostles communicated in Hebrew idioms in which "faith" had a very different meaning. Scripture offers three elements of true faith. The first element of faith is conviction: "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb 11:1). Having faith is being convinced.
The second element of faith is confidence or trust: "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb 11:6; cf. Heb 4:2). Truth faith leads one to seek God and then trust Him to respond with His good gifts. The third element of true faith involves commitment or faithfulness, which included following Godís direction for life and producing works of righteousness (cf. Eph 2:8ff; James 2:17f). There is no essential difference between the faith of the Hebrew patriarchs and the saints of the apostolic era. As David Stern says, faith is "acknowledging who God is and what He has done, believing His promises, relying on Him for power to live a holy life, and then living that life" (229). "My faithfulness," then, is a direct reference to the trusting faithfulness of Yeshua who obeyed the Father and served as the model for the trusting faithfulness of all disciples.
even: Grk. kai, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. the days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 10 above. of Antipas: Grk. Antipas, a proper name that appears only here in the Bible. Nothing more is known of him. The name of Antipas is found in a third-century inscription of Pergamum and is mentioned by Tertullian, but there is no other record of his faith or life (Mounce). my witness: Grk. martus, one who attests the fact or truth of something, often in a legal context. When used of Yeshua's followers the term emphasizes corroborating personal experience of trust in Yeshua and doing so even at the cost of life. my faithful one: Grk. pistos, adj., characterized by constancy and therefore worthy of trust; faithful, reliable or trustworthy. who: Grk. hos, personal pronoun.
was killed: Grk. apokteinō, aor. pass., 3p-sing., put an end by force to existence of someone, kill. Relevant to the verb choice is that both Greek and Hebrew have two words for taking a human life. The word for intentional murder or assassination in Hebrew is ratzach (BDB 953) and in Greek phoneuō. For accidental killing, manslaughter, killing in war or court-ordered execution the Hebrew word is harag (BDB 246) and the Greek word is apokteinō. Antipas may have been killed by mob violence or by local authorities for speaking against or refusing to participate in idolatrous worship (cf. Acts 19:23-29).
among: Grk. para, prep. of close association or connection, in the presence of, among. you: pl. of Grk. su, pron. of the second person. where: Grk. hopou, adv. Satan: Grk. satanas. dwells: Grk. katoikeō, pres., to inhabit, to have an abode. Yeshua honored the memory of Antipas by giving him a high accolade, so perhaps Antipas had once been the overseer of the congregation and the present messenger his assistant. The Lord compliments the current messenger with possessing the same courage during those difficult days as Antipas, although apparently only Antipas was called upon to make the supreme sacrifice.
14ó But I have a few things against you, because you have there ones holding the teaching of Balaam, who instructed Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat meat offered to idols and to commit harlotry.
But: Grk. alla, conj. I have: Grk. echō, pres., 1p-sing. See verse 3 above. a few things: pl. of Grk. oligos, adj., little, small, whether in extent or quantity. Whatever personal courage and testimony the messenger may have exhibited Yeshua employs understatement to accuse the messenger of tolerating a heretical group in the congregation. Satan must have realized that the messenger was strong in the public square, but weak as a leader within his own congregation. against: Grk. kata, prep. you: Grk. su, sing. pron. of the second person. because: Grk. hoti, conj. indicating causality. you have: Grk. echō, pres., 2p-sing. Yeshua engages in a play on words contrasting what he "has" and what the messenger "has." there: Grk. ekei, adv., in that place. ones holding: Grk. krateō, pres. part. See the previous verse.
the teaching: Grk. didachē, derived from the verb didaskō ("teach"), means instruction or doctrine imparted by teaching. The term occurs 30 times in the Besekh, usually in the sense of the content of teaching by Yeshua and the apostles. Such didachē is often the exposition and application of Torah, which came originally from the Father. In the LXX didachē is found only in the superscription of Psalm 60:1 to render the Piel inf. of Heb. lamad, "to exercise in, to learn" (BDB 540), an action attributed to David (DNTT 3:767). According to Klaus Wegenast the Hebrew equivalent of didachē would in fact be talmud (which is derived from lamad), as found in Avot 6:2, "you find no free man but he that occupies himself with the study of Torah" (DNTT 3:769).
The term "teaching" does not refer simply to education in various areas of knowledge as might be obtained in a formal school or college. The word translated "teaching" is often associated in the Besekh with a particular source, in this verse Balaam in this verse and the Nicolaitans in the next verse. The "teaching" has a narrative or message with a coherent outline and is designed to persuade hearers to a particular point of view. The Lord is vitally concerned that "the teaching" in the congregation be consistent with the truth He has revealed to His prophets and apostles in Scripture.
of Balaam: Grk. Balaam, a transliteration of Heb. Bil'am, proper name. Gesenius says that the name is a compilation of bal, "not" (of the) am, "people" i.e., a foreigner (124). Balaam is described as a diviner (Heb. qasam, SH-7080, "one who practices divination." He was the son of Beor at Pethor (Num 22:5). Pethor was a town located on the west bank of the upper Euphrates in Mesopotamia. Balaam was hired to curse Israel but ended up giving a significant prophecy of the Jewish Messiah (Num 24:17). The name of Balaam appears 56 times in the Tanakh and 3 times in the Besekh (also 2Pet 2:15; Jude 1:11), and outside of Numbers always as an object lesson. Balaam was killed by the Israelites when they made war on the Midianites (Num 31:8).
who: Grk. hos, pers. pron. instructed: Grk. didaskō, impf., 3p-sing., to teach or instruct. MDNT adds to speak in a public assembly. Balak: Grk. Balak, proper name of a king of Moab who hired Balaam to curse Israel (Num 22:4-5). The story of Balak and Balaam is narrated in Numbers 22―24. to put: Grk. ballō, aor. inf. See verse 10 above. a stumbling block: Grk. skandalon, may mean either (1) something that impedes movement, a trap-spring; (2) temptation, enticement to sin or (3) a cause of ruin, destruction or misery. In the LXX skandalon renders Heb. mikshol (SH-4383), a stumbling, means or occasion of stumbling, a stumbling block. The term has its origin in the Torah prohibition, "You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind" (Lev 19:14). A stumbling block represented the height of cruelty. Yeshua sternly warned against causing any child, whether physical or spiritual, to stumble in his trust of the Lord (Matt 18:6).
before: Grk. enōpion, prep. from a word meaning "facing" with the basic idea of being 'in sight of' or 'in the presence of.' the sons: pl. of Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben (ďson,Ē ďson ofĒ), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity, as the son of his father (Gen 5). (2) to mean not the actual father but a more distant ancestor (e.g., Gen 32:32); or (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of (e.g., Ps 89:22; Dan 3:25; cf. 2Th 2:3).
of Israel: Grk. Israēl, a transliteration of the Heb. Yisrael, which means ďGod prevailsĒ (BDB 975). The noun refers to both the covenant name of the chosen people and a corporate reference to the biological descendants of Jacob through the twelve tribes (Gen 32:28). The name first appears in Genesis 32:28 where the heavenly being with whom Jacob struggled said, "From now on, you will no longer be called Ya'akov, but Isra'el; because you have shown your strength to both God and men and have prevailed" (CJB). The announcement, occurring before Jacob's reconciliation with his brother Esau, was prophetic, because not until chapter 35 do we read that the name change was made permanent. Then God spoke to Jacob,
"Your name is Ya'akov, but you will be called Ya'akov no longer; your name will be Isra'el." Thus he named him Isra'el." God further said to him, "I am El Shaddai. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation, indeed a group of nations, will come from you; kings will be descended from you. Moreover, the land which I gave to Avraham and Yitz'chak I will give to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you." (Gen 35:9-12 CJB)
The name of Israel was then given to the land God bequeathed to the descendants of Jacob (Gen 49:7) and used of the whole people regarded as one person (Num 24:5). The reader should note that Yeshua said "Israel" and not "Palestine." Contrary to the erroneous labeling on Christian Bible maps and usage by Christian commentators there was no Palestine in Bible times. There is no Palestine now and to use the term in any biblical context can only be described as antisemitic. (See my web article The Land is NOT Palestine.) Regardless of what names governments have placed on the land, to God the land was and is "Israel" (cf. Matt 2:20-21; 10:23; Luke 4:27; 7:9). Yeshua also does not say "New Israel," a title that the Church later claimed for itself when it decided that God had rejected Israel. (See my article The Lie of Replacement Theology.)
to eat: Grk. esthiō, aor. inf. See verse 7 above. meat offered to idols: Grk. eidōlothutos, offering to a pagan image or idol, used of the meat of sacrificial animals. After Balakís plan failed, Balaam apparently suggested another approach that did meet with some temporary success. The sociable Moabites invited the Israelites to their feasts, which turned out to be occasions for paying homage to idols and engaging in sexual orgies. The Israelites were easily seduced, but subsequently severely punished for their folly. By apostolic rule (enforcing the Torah standard) disciples were forbidden to have anything to do with things offered to idols (Acts 15:29). Paul reinforced the rule in his letter to Corinth. Dining at a pagan temple or participating in their feasts was absolutely off-limits (1Cor 8:10-12, 10:20-22). Paul clarified the rule by exempting meat bought at a market where the supplier of the meat might not be known (1Cor 10:25).
The essence of Balaamís teaching was to sanction compromise. Perhaps false teachers used Paulís own words that pagan deities do not really exist (1Cor 8:4), so there cannot be any harm in eating at the pagan temple. The compromise ignored Paulís explanation that pagan worship is really directed to demons (1Cor 10:20) and that to participate in pagan feasts made one a sharer in demons. Fortunately, only "some" of the congregation was infected with this heretical and sinful practice, but the otherwise faithful messenger had apparently been too tolerant of the sin. The reference to creating a stumbling-block relates to food. Paul warned disciples not to cause a fellow believer to stumble through putting an obstacle before his customary practice (Rom 14:13), not unlike the dictum of Gamaliel, "no person may be fed with what is forbidden to him" (Nedarim 81b).
and: Grk. kai, conj. to commit harlotry: Grk. porneuō means principally to prostitute, practice prostitution or unlawful sexual immorality generally (BAG). The verb occurs only eight times in the Besekh (1Cor 6:9; 10:18; Rev 2:20; 17:2; 18:3, 9). Most versions translate the verb as "commit sexual immorality," but some versions have "commit fornication (ASV, DRA, JUB, KJ21, KJV, NRSV). In the English vernacular fornication is defined as sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons or between two persons not married to each other. However, the English word "fornication" does not accurately represent the meaning of the Greek word. In the LXX porneuō renders Heb. qadesh (SH-6945), a male temple prostitute (Deut 23:17), but primarily Heb. zanah (SH-2181), be a harlot or engage in sexual intercourse with a harlot (1Chr 5:25; Ps 73:27; 106:39; Jer 3:6-8).
A pornē (probably derived from pernēmi, "export for sale") was a woman who sold her body, a prostitute or a courtesan (1Cor 6:15-16). A pornos referred to a male prostitute, a man who frequented prostitutes or an habitually immoral man (1Cor 5:11) (DNTT 1:497). Zanah particularly stood for the wicked practices of idolatry, pagan religion, occultism, child sacrifice, and intermarriage with forbidden tribes (Ex 34:15-16; Lev 20:5-6; Num 25:1-2; Deut 31:16). Zanah is rebellion against God. Zanah also has a religious sense of worshipping other gods (Ex 34:16; 2Chr 21: 11, 13; Hos 4:15-18). In Scripture porneuō is distinguished from moicheuō, "commit adultery," because by cultural definition and Scriptural usage adultery involved a married woman (Lev 20:10; Prov 6:24-32; Jer 29:23; Hos 4:13f) (DNTT 2:582ff).
Harlotry was pervasive in the ancient world and the direct result of pagan religion (Ex 34:15f; Lev 19:29). Pagan temples included brothels that hosted every manner of sexual conduct the mind of man could conceive. It is ironic that Greek and Roman men viewed marriage as only a social contract to produce legitimate children, but pleasure was to be found with mistresses and prostitutes. A married woman could be accused of harlotry if she behaved in the customary manner of prostitutes or had many lovers (cf. Gen 38:15-26; Jdg 19:2; 2Kgs 9:22; Prov 6:24-32). In contrast it should be noted that in Scripture a wife or concubine in a plural marriage was never considered a prostitute or an adulteress.
The Besekh echoes Torah standards of morality and the sanctity of the marriage covenant as summarized in Hebrews 13:4. Of the three categories of sexual sin harlotry receives the most references in the Besekh. The apostle Paul most likely had harlotry in mind when he referred to women giving up the natural function (Rom 1:26), meaning the natural function of being wives and mothers. Harlotry strikes at the very heart of Godís design for marriage as the only context for intimate relations. Thus, Paul warns believers to flee such immorality, not only because of its association with pagan religion but because by it a man sins against his own body (1Cor 6:16-20).
Due to the association of these offenses with pagan religion, the Jerusalem Council had ruled that all disciples were to abstain from harlotry (Acts 15:20, 29). The messenger at Pergamum could not have been ignorant of the Torah standard and the apostolic mandate.
15ó In this way also you have ones holding likewise the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
In this way: Grk. houtōs, adv., particle serving as introduction to manner or way in which something has been done, is expressed, or to be done; in this manner/way/fashion. also: Grk. kai, conj. you have: Grk. echō, pres., 2p-sing. See verse 3 above. ones holding: Grk. krateō, pres. part. See verse 13 above. likewise: Grk. homoiōs, adv., likewise, in similar manner, similarly. the teaching: Grk. didachē. See the previous verse. of the Nicolaitans: pl. of Grk. Nikolaitēs. See verse 6 above. The reference to the Nicolaitans is not to a separate group from verse 14, but the very group holding and advocating Balaamís teaching. The participle "holding" implies an organized group that saw themselves as the guardians of this false belief system.
The Nicolaitans likely claimed a special revelation from God for their heresy, but in reality their doctrine was older than Balaam. The same pattern of deception has occurred down through history with the rise of every new cult that has masqueraded as being of God. Likewise many believers are snared by persuasive teachers and media preachers, as Paul warned, "For among men are those who enter households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2Tim 3:6-7 NASB). Studying and applying the Word of God is the best defense against deception.
16ó Therefore repent! Moreover, if not, I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth.
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. repent: Grk. metanoeō, aor. imp., 2p-sing. See verse 5 above. Yeshua calls upon the messenger to repent of his toleration of the Nicolaitans. Toleration of sinning members is not a virtue, as Paul pointed out to the Corinthian congregation (1Cor 5). A little leaven leavens the whole loaf and sin allowed to go unchecked will soon infect and destroy the entire group. Repentance by the messenger should also lead him to follow the biblical mandates to confront factious members for repentance and expel them if they refuse (1Cor 5:13; 1Tim 5:20; Titus 3:10; 2Jn 1:10f). As a method of persuasion, threats do not usually bring the desired results, but Yeshua makes a solemn and frightening promise.
Moreover: Grk. de, conj. if: Grk. ei, conj. not: Grk. mē, particle of qualified negation. In other words, "if you don't repent." I am coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid., 1p-sing. See verse 5 above. The present tense is intended to convey an action intended. to you: Grk. su, sing. pron. of the second person. The prophecy does not refer to the Second Advent, which cannot be forestalled by repentance, but some historical visitation that will bring judgment (Ladd). Similar uses of the Lordís "coming" occur in Tanakh passages that describe judgments either on Israel or her enemies (e.g., Ps 96:13; 98:9; Isa 19:1; 26:21; Mic 1:3). In addition, the coming is to an individual, although the congregation may well share in the experience.
quickly: Grk. tachus, adj., quick, swift, or speedy. The word is also used adverbially to mean quickly, at a rapid rate or without delay, quickly, at once (BAG). BAG acknowledges that it is not always easy to make a clear distinction between these meanings. The adverb occurs a total of five times in Revelation referring to Messiahís "coming" (3:11; 11:14; 22:7, 12, 20) and Danker assigns the adverbial meaning of "within a short time, soon" to these occurrences. Many versions also translate tachus here as "soon," which has a tendency to obscure its meaning in context. In Greek literature tachus referred to physical motion and meant swift or fleet of foot when used of humans and animals, the opposite of bradus, slow (LSJ). Even when used adverbially the word has the sense of the motion being hasty (DNTT 3:1169).
In the LXX tachus renders the Heb. verb mahar (SH-4116; BDB 554), to hasten (Gen 27:20; Isa 32:4; 49:17; Jer 48:16; Mal 3:5); its derivative adj. maher (SH-4118; BDB 555), hastening, speedy, swift (Ex 32:8; Deut 9:12, 16; Jdg 2:17; Ps 69:17; 79:8; 102:2; 143:7; Zeph 1:14); the noun mahera (SH-4120; BDB 555), haste, speed (2Sam 17:16; Ps 37:2; Eccl 8:11; Isa 5:26; 58:8) and the adj. mahir (SH-4106; BDB 5550, quick, prompt, ready, skilled (Ezra 7:6); and uts (SH-213; BDB 21), make haste (Prov 29:20); and qarob (SH-7138; BDB 898), near (of time, Isa 51:5). Throughout the Tanakh these terms denote swiftness of action and even in passages of prophesied blessing (Isa 49:17; 51:5; 58:8) and prophesied judgment (Jer 48:16; 49:19; Nah 1:14; Zeph 1:14; Mal 3:5), tachus does not indicate how soon it will be until the action commences.
and: Grk. kai, conj. I will make war: Grk. polemeō, fut., 1p-sing., to wage war. While the noun polemos in Greek literature may refer to strife, conflict or quarrels, in Scripture the term refers generally to armed conflict and hostilities between nations or kingdoms. When used of armed conflict, the term may indicate a single battle or a war of some duration consisting of many battles. Polemos also occurs in the LXX of Daniel 7:21 to refer to the beastís war against the saints (Johnson). with: Grk. en, prep. the sword: Grk. rhomphaia. See verse 12 above. of my mouth: Grk. stoma, the bodily organ of the mouth. The sword is one of the Lordís chief weapons with which He will slay the beast and nations gathered at Armageddon to oppose His rule (19:15).
Yeshua warns that if the messenger fails to act he will make a personal visitation to Pergamum to wage war against this heretical sect with the "sword" of judgment. In this context the "sword" may refer to persecution by Roman authorities or invasion by warring neighbors. The Lord established the precedent in earlier times of using pagan nations to punish His backslidden people. The last thing any disciple should want is for the Lord to count him an enemy subject to judgment as the wicked.
17ó The one having an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the congregations. The one overcoming, I will give to him the manna having been hidden, and I will give to him a white stone, and on the stone a new name having been written, which no one has known but the one receiving it.
The one having an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the congregations: The opening clause repeats exactly the appeal in verse 7 above. For the third time listeners are enjoined to hear what the Spirit is saying. Through the Spirit the Lord has made it clear that He cannot and will not tolerate immorality and idolatry. Moreover, Yeshua deplores ignorance of His Word. In a place renowned for its learning the messenger of the Pergamum congregation had fallen prey to tolerating false teaching. The Lord wants the Scriptures to be the believerís sole rule of faith and practice and allow His Word to transform life and values. The admonition of the Spirit should be carefully considered by all pastors, congregation lay leaders and members and their conduct amended where necessary to become pleasing to God.
The one overcoming: Grk. nikaō, pres. part. See verse 7 above. I will give: Grk. didōmi, fut., 1p-sing. See verse 7 above. to him: Grk. autos, pers. pron. the hidden: Grk. kruptō, perf. pass. part., to keep from view, to conceal or hide. manna: Grk. manna, which transliterates the Heb. man (SH-4478), 'manna,' a special food associated with Israel's experience in the wilderness (Ex 16:15). God fed Israel in the wilderness with "bread from heaven" (Ex 16:4, 35), also called manna (Ex 16:31), and a jar of it was preserved in the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 16:33). However, when Israel entered the land of Canaan the manna ceased, and they never ate manna again (Josh 5:12). It was Jewish teaching, though, that in the future age, manna will be the food of the righteous (Rienecker).
When Yeshua came, he not only affirmed this teaching but also declared that He was the true manna and He would sustain His people for eternity (John 6:48-51). The promise of the "hidden manna" goes to the heart of the human longing for security, a desire that will be more than satisfied by all the resources of the eternal kingdom. and: Grk. kai, conj. I will give: Grk. didōmi, fut., 1p-sing. to him: Grk. autos. In typical Hebraic fashion Yeshua uses repetition to give greater emphasis and certainty to what he is about to say. a white: Grk. leukos, adj., of quality expressing impressive brightness, bright, gleaming, shining or of a color shade ranging from white to grey. In the LXX leukos translates Heb. laban, white, though white in the Tanakh may include half-yellow (DNTT 1:204) (e.g., Gen 30:37; 31:8; 49:12).
stone: Grk. psēphos, stone of relatively small size; stone or pebble. The only other Besekh usage of psēphos occurs in Acts 26:10 where Paul speaks of "depositing his pebble" or casting his vote (Robertson). In Johnís day people gave judgment in court cases by means of small stones, black if condemned or white if acquitted (Wesley). In the Greek world a white stone was used as a token that served for admission to a banquet (Rienecker). Mounce also notes that white stones were given to victors at games and to gladiators who had won the admiration of the public and had been allowed to retire from further combat. In rabbinic tradition precious stones fell along with the manna (Earle). Yeshua is described as a stone that builders rejected (Acts 4:11) and the rock that followed Israel in the wilderness (1Cor 10:4). While the reference to the white stone could be taken metaphorically as receiving Yeshua, the gift is probably meant to be taken literally, especially in view of the third blessing.
and: Grk. kai, conj. on: Grk. epi, prep. the stone: Grk. psēphos. new: Grk. kainos has three applications in the Besekh: (1) of recent origin or unused, such as wineskins (Matt 9:17); (2) different and superior in quality relative to something old with no criticism of the old, such as the New Covenant; or (3) different in reaction generated for something not previously present, such as the authority exerted by Yeshua (Mark 1:27). Danker assigns the third meaning to this verse. Of the two Greek words for "new," (the other neos), only kainos is used in Revelation and it occurs nine times in seven verses (here; 3:12; 5:9; 14:3; 21:1, 2, 5). The promised third blessing is an allusion to a prophecy concerning Israel:
"The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; and you will be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will designate. Ö And they will call them, "The holy people, the redeemed of the Lord "; and you will be called, "Sought out, a city not forsaken" (Isa 62:2, 12 NASB)
name: Grk. onoma. See verse 13 above. While the prophecy was for the nation of Israel, God applies the promise to each individual overcomer. A name represents identity. Every person born receives a name, but names have been duplicated many times in human history. In Bible times parents took the naming of a child very seriously and names often reflected some wish of the parent. God Himself provided instructions in naming specific children, e.g., Isaiahís son (Isa 8:3), Hoseaís children (Hos 1:4, 6, 9), John the Immerser (Luke 1:13, 63) and Yeshua (Luke 2:21). In such cases the names were already determined in heaven, as is the new name of every believer. Only God has the knowledge to give each of the millions of saints a distinctive name that conveys special meaning to God and the recipient (cf. 3:12).
A new name for the myriad of resident in the future kingdom is not impossible, since God named every star (Ps 147:4). Astronomers have statistically estimated that there are about 1025 stars (that is, 10 million billion billion) in the known universe. To give each one a distinctive name is a testament to the awesome omniscience of God (BBMS 156). Like everything else of this present age, oneís current name will become obsolete and in the newness of the next life the provision of a new name signals a qualitative change in the believerís relationship with God.
having been written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass. part. See verse 1 above. The problem with considering cultural sources of the "white stone" and the name written on it is that the interpreter immediately thinks of a stone that is carried in the hand, and many commentators prefer to consider only the symbolic value of these blessings. However, it may well be that Yeshua is talking about an engraved stone built into the New Jerusalem in similar fashion as the names of the sons of Israel and the apostles are engraved in the city gates and foundations (21:12, 14).
which: Grk. ho, relative pron. no one: Grk. oudeis, adj., a noun marker used to indicate negation of a person or thing as actually existing at a given place or moment; no one, nobody. has known: Grk. oida, perf., 3p-sing. but: Grk. ei mē, lit. "if not." the one receiving it: Grk. lambanō, pres. part. The verb marks the transit of something from a position to another person who is the agent with the latter being also the receptor; to take or receive. There is a mystery in the closing phrase. The lack of knowledge may relate to a lack of understanding the significance of the chosen name, which will only be explained to the recipient. Regardless of the kind of stone, the gift will be treated as a great honor.
18ó And to the messenger of the congregation in Thyatira write: The Son of God, the One having the eyes of him as a flame of fire, and the feet of him as burnished bronze, says these things:
And: Grk. kai, conj. to the messenger of the congregation: See verse 1 above. in: Grk. en, prep. Thyatira: Grk. Thuateira was located on the road from Pergamum to Sardis and situated on the south bank of the Lycus River. The city was a thriving manufacturing and commercial center in the first century. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of many trade guilds and unions. Thyatira was known as much for its pagan feasts as for its commercial goods. Lydia, the seller of purple cloth, came from Thyatira (Acts 16:14). Frankfurter comments that the Acts reference indicates the Jewish population of Thyatira welcomed God-fearers (470). write: Grk. graphō, aor. imp., 2p-sing. See verse 1 above. Yeshua repeats the command to John.
The Son: Grk. huios. See verse 14 above. of God: Grk. theos. See verse 7 above. In chapter one Yeshua was introduced as the Son of Man, the title from Daniel 7:13. Now he is identified as the Son of God. The title "Son of God" occurs 43 times in the Besekh and all but one refer to Yeshua. "Son of the Father" appears in 2John 1:3 and eight times Yeshua is referred to as the only Son of the Father. Indeed, he is the "unique one of God" (John 1:18). Yeshua constantly referred to God as his Father. There is no equivocation in Paul's writings that Yeshua is the image of the invisible God (2Cor 4:4; Php 2:5-7; Col 2:9; Heb 1:2-3). Therefore, Christianity has traditionally restricted the meaning of the title "Son of God" to deity, the second person of the triune Godhead.
Unbelieving Jews typically object to the concept of God having a divine son and can rightly claim that originally "Son of God' had a very human meaning. Adam was the first son of God (Luke 3:38). Then God declared that the nation of Israel was His son (Ex 4:22; Isa 63:16; 64:8; Jer 31:9; Hos 11:1; 18:13) and by extension applied to all righteous Israelites (Ps 82:6; Sir. 4:10; Wsd. 2:13; Pss. Sol. 13:9; Jub. 1:24-25; Rom 9:4; 2Cor 6:18). The disciples of Yeshua would later be described as "sons of God" (Matt 5:9, 45; Rom 8:14-15, 19, 23; 9:26; Gal 3:26; 4:6-7; Eph 1:5; Heb 12:7-8). Yet, there are verses in the Tanakh that mention God having a unique Son in a very personal sense:
ē "I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me." (2Sam 7:12-14 NASB)
ē "But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain." 7 "I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, `You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ö 11 Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. 12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!" (Ps 2:6-7, 11-12 NASB)
ē "Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son's name? Surely you know!" (Prov 30:4 NASB)
ē "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." (Isa 9:6 NASB)
For Jews during this time "Son of God" was used as a title for a human descendant of King David, the Messiah, who would establish the promised Kingdom (Luke 1:31-32, 68-69; John 1:17, 34, 41, 49; 11:27), and confirmed by the religious leaders at Yeshua's trial (Matt 26:63; Mark 14:61; Luke 22:67, 70). "Son of God" was a title of the Davidic king inasmuch as the king functioned as God's regent on earth and was vested with God's authority (Leman 95). "Son of God" was a title of the Davidic king inasmuch as the king functioned as God's regent on earth and was vested with God's authority. Robert Alter in his commentary The Book of Psalms (W.W. Norton & Co., 2007) says that it was commonplace in the ancient Near East to consider the king as God's son (6).
Yeshua then reminds John of his majesty by repeating the features in 1:14-15 that had scared John to death upon first seeing Him. The One: Grk. ho, definite article used here as a demonstrative pronoun. Most versions translate the pronoun simply as "who," "whose," or "the one who," but a few versions render it literally as "The One" (HCSB, NIRV, OJB, VOICE). Among Jews "The One" was a circumlocution for God (cf. Ps 3:3; 37:24; Isa 40:26; 45:7; 49:7; Amos 9:5-6; John 1:33; 6:46; 7:18; 11:27; 12:45; 15:21; Acts 10:42; Rom 5:17; 2Cor 4:6). The pronoun links the imagery that follows with the revelation in 1:14 of the Son of Man, the heavenly divine judge and ruler.
having: Grk. echō, pres. part. See verse 3 above. the eyes: pl. of Grk. ophthalmos, the physical organ of sight. of him: Grk. autos, pers. pron., an allusion to the Son of Man. as: Grk. hōs, adv., like, as, similar to, in the manner of. a flame: Grk. phlox, a flame, from phlegō, to burn or be aflame. of fire: Grk. pur, fire, as a physical state of burning. Daniel described a heavenly visitor similarly as having eyes as "flaming torches" (Dan 10:6). This description may be intended as a comparison to the color of fire, or may indicate the intensity of purpose, attitude and emotion. and: Grk. kai, conj. the feet: pl. of Grk. pous, which referred to a foot of man or animal.
of him: Grk autos. as: Grk. hōs, adv. fine metal: Grk. chalkolibanon, the precise meaning is undetermined but probably brass or bronze of high quality. Daniel described a heavenly visitor similarly as having legs as "polished bronze" (Dan 10:6), and John will later see an angel with similar appearance (Rev 10:1). The word is found no other ancient literature, so John may have coined the term, perhaps conflating chalkos (brass, bronze, copper) and stibō (shine, be radiant), since these words occur in the LXX of Daniel 10:6. NASBEC suggests that chalkolibanon is derived from chalkos and libanos ("frankincense") (1577), and if so the choice of libanos would be of its color, yellow with a slight greenish tint.
Robertson says the metal may have been a compound of copper, gold and silver. This is not a meek and mild Yeshua seen in murals walking across a verdant valley holding a lamb in His arms. The glorious title used in this verse speaks of the exalted Almighty Messiah whose eyes see everything and whose feet will crush His enemies. Moreover, the flaming eyes and the burnished bronze speak of His intolerance for alloys. The Lord desires to refine the impurities from His people. says: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 1 above. these things: pl. of Grk. tode, neut. demonstrative pronoun.
19ó I know your works, and the love and the faithfulness and the service and the perseverance of you, and the works of you, the latter are greater than the first.
I know: Grk. oida, perf., 1p-sing. See verse 2 above. The perfect tense means "I have always known. your works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 2 above. Yeshua knows more about his disciples than they realize. He first says that he knows five positive characteristics of the overseer. Yeshua knows the messengerís "works," which refer in general to good deeds done in public that conform to the standards of the Torah and please God. and: Grk. kai, conj. the love: Grk. agapē. See verse 4 above. Yeshua knows about the messenger's "love," but since sacrificial "love" is to be directed toward God, brothers, neighbors, enemies and wives, it is difficult to know specifically what the Lord had in mind.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 13 above. Yeshua knows his "faith," which in the Hebrew sense would mean faithfulness. and: Grk. kai, conj. the service: Grk. diakonia, service or ministration, especially in meeting the needs of others. Sometimes the term is used in the apostolic writings of dedication to a specific divine assignment, such as prayer and preaching. Other examples include special ministrations like that of Martha (Luke 10:40) and the collection for famine relief (1Cor 16:15; 2Cor 8:4). In addition, service was likely of the practical sort, such as the feeding of the widows in Acts 6:1, where the word is first mentioned in the Besekh. In any case, the messenger had a generous spirit and was willing to help others.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the perseverance: Grk. hupomonē. See verse 2 above. of you: Grk. su, sing. second-pers. pron. The syntax sets "you" apart from those violating God's standards. Earle suggests that the recognition of love, faith, service and perseverance comprises the list of good deeds. and: Grk. kai, conj. the works: pl. of Grk. ergon. of you: Grk. su, sing. second-pers. pron. the latter: Grk. eschatos. See verse 8 above. The noun refers to current efforts. are greater: Grk. pleiōn, extensive in scope. than the first: Grk. prōtos. See verse 4 above. The noun alludes to when the messenger first began his ministry in Thyatira. Yet, Yeshua does not go beyond giving very general commendations, perhaps because of the severe criticism that follows.
20ó But I have against you that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, the one calling herself a prophetess, and teaching and misleading my servants to commit acts of harlotry and to eat meat sacrificed to idols.
But: Grk. alla, conj. I have: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 3 above. against: Grk. kata, prep. you: Grk. su, sing. second-pers. pron. As in the letter to Pergamum, Yeshua condemns the Thyatira messenger for failing to confront sinful conduct and heretical teaching. that: Grk. hoti, conj. you tolerate: Grk. aphiēmi, pres., 2p-sing. See verse 4 above. The verb is used here in the permissive sense of let, let go, allow or tolerate. the woman: Grk. gunē may mean any adult female, without regard to marital status, although often used to mean wife or bride. Four church fathers, including Cyprian in the 3rd century, along with a dozen other MSS, include the word sou, "your," after "woman" (GNT 841).
Johnson suggests that this reading probably arose through scribal confusion with other frequent references to sou in the letters. If genuine, the reading would imply that Jezebel was the overseerís wife. Even so, the evidence is insufficient for such an interpretation. Jezebel: Grk. Iezabel, which transliterates Heb. Izevel. HBD suggests the name was derived from a Phoenician name meaning "Baal is the prince." the one calling: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 1 above. herself: Grk. heautou, fem. reflexive pronoun. a prophetess: Grk. prophētis, the feminine counterpart to prophētēs, prophet. Prophets were highly regarded among the people of God and in the Body of Messiah held the second position of honor after the apostles (1Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11).
Women, too, could be prophetesses and serve as Godís messengers. Miriam (Ex 15:20), Deborah (Jdg 4:4), Huldah (2Kgs 22:14), Noadiah (Neh 6:14), Isaiahís wife (Isa 8:3), Anna, who greeted Joseph and Miriam (Luke 2:36), and the four daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9) are classified as prophetesses. In 1Corinthians 11:5 Paul alludes to the practice of women prophesying in congregational gatherings and he clearly regarded women as equal partners in ministry (Rom 16:1-3; Php 4:3) as long as they showed respect for those in authority over them (1Cor 11:10; 1Tim 2:11; 1Pet 1-5). Paulís restriction in 1Corinthians 14:34-35 is not applied to women prophetesses, but to wives who were acting in shameful way disrespectful of their husbands.
The messenger is criticized for tolerating this self-styled prophetess. God had not called her to a prophetic ministry nor had this office been confirmed by the Spirit and congregation (cf. Acts 13:1-3). Jezebel likely used her social (and perhaps marital) position and forceful manipulative powers to gain a hearing before the elders or even congregational meetings. Commentators generally consider "Jezebel" to be a pseudonym instead of being the offenderís actual name, an allusion to the wicked wife of King Ahab (1Kgs 1631). Nevertheless, there is no reason why Jezebel could not be her real name. If there can be more than one good person in biblical history with the same name so there can be more than one bad person with the same name.
and: Grk. kai, conj. teaching: Grk. didaskō, pres., 3p-sing. See verse 14 above. Teaching in this context probably refers to offering persuasive advocacy and argumentation to justify the position. and: Grk. kai, conj. misleading: Grk. planaō, pres., 3p-sing., may mean (1) in the active voice to cause to go astray, in the sense of leading one from a standard of truth or conduct, mislead, deceive; or (2) in the passive voice of a physical departure from a customary course, stray or wander about; or (3) in a metaphoric extension of the idea of physical departure, go astray, be mistaken. The verb means to deceive or to cause someone to wander from the right way. my servants: pl. of Grk. doulos can mean either slave or servant. In the LXX doulos translates the Heb. word ebed, which similarly described someone enslaved after being captured in war or in order to pay a debt, whether voluntarily or involuntarily (cf. Ex 21:7; Lev 25:39, 44, 47). In addition, ebed identified those who served God, especially service in the temple (DNTT 3:593ff).
Tragically this Jezebel had the same reputation as the first Jezebel mentioned in Scripture who used her position for personal gain and to destroy authentic religion. King Jehu of Judah declared that her sins included many harlotries and many witchcrafts (2Kgs 9:22). Jezebel of Thyatira must have been from a wealthy family, perhaps one that provided patronage to the overseer and was influential in the community, as well as being a persuasive person, for the congregation to ignore her moral defects. Mounce suggests that the Jezebel of Thyatira advocated accommodation with the world to avoid social isolation and economic hardship. A major problem with local trade guilds, in which membership was necessary for business, was their pagan feasts.
to commit acts of harlotry: Grk. porneuō, aor. inf. See verse 14 above. The principal charges against Jezebel included advocating syncretism with pagan religion and beguiling weak male leadership to accept sexual immorality as legitimate, not unlike the influence of secular feminism and the gay rights movement in modern churches. This "Jezebelian" heresy invariably produces spiritual impotence in the men of a congregation and diminishes the work of the Holy Spirit among the people (Juster 8).
and: Grk. kai, conj. eat: Grk. phagō, aor. inf. See verse 7 above. meat offered to idols: pl. of Grk. eidōlothutos. See verse 14 above. Since Yeshua says nothing about the local situation, it could be that the heretical teaching began as a reaction against the Jerusalem Councilís directive that disciples abstain from idolatry and immorality (Acts 15:20, 28f) (Stern). The residents of Thyatira had engaged in these activities all their lives and Jezebel might claim that no one had been harmed. Besides, pagan deities donít really exist so activities associated with pagan temples canít be sinful (cf. 1Cor 8:4). Moreover, if the Gentiles donít have to be circumcised, then the rest of the commandments God gave to the Jews cannot be binding on Gentiles. Jezebelís contempt and rebellion against the apostolic edict failed to recognize the divine authority behind the Councilís decision.
21ó And I gave her time that she might repent, and she is not willing to repent of her harlotry.
And: Grk. kai, conj. I gave: Grk. didōmi, aor., 1p-sing. See verse 7 above. her: Grk. autē, sing. fem. pers. pron. time: Grk. chronos may mean (1) a span or period of time or (2) a point or definite moment in time. In the LXX chronos occurs about 100 times (DNTT 3:841) and primarily renders Heb. yōm (SH-3117), "day, days," (Gen 26:1; Deut 12:19; Josh 4:14; Jer 38:28). The Hebrews did not conceive of time in the abstract, but used yom overwhelmingly in the sense of ordinary measurable time. Chronos also translated several other Hebrew words for time: Heb. olam (SH-5769), long duration, antiquity, futurity (Ex 14:13; Isa 14:20; 34:10); acharith (SH-319), the after-part, end (Deut 32:29); eth (SH-6256), 'time, times' (Neh 10:34; 13:31; Eccl 3:1; Jer 30:7; 31:1; Dan 9:25); dor (SH-1755), 'generation' (Esth 9:28); and pa'am (SH-6471), 'times, now' (Prov 7:22); and Aram. zeman (SH-2166), time (Dan 2:16), and Aram. iddan (SH-5732), 'time' (Dan 2:21; 7:12).
God's time of grace can be quite lengthy, since He gave the antediluvian generation 120 years to repent (Gen 6:3). Yeshua declares that Jezebel was given sufficient time. that: Grk. hina, conj. she might repent: Grk. metanoeō, aor. subj., 3p-sing. The tragedy of Jezebel of Thyatira was that she felt no shame over her sin. The Lordís statement that he gave her time to repent may refer to a special visitation from the Lord or a prophetic message of warning (Robertson). Perhaps she was haughty about her status in the community and felt above scrutiny by others, even using religious arguments to justify breaking Godís commandments. God demonstrated His grace, even to a heretic, by giving her time to change her ways.
and: Grk. kai, conj. she is not: Grk. ou, adv. willing: Grk. thelō, pres., 3p-sing., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. to repent: Grk. metanoeō, aor. inf. See verse 5 above. The fact that the Lord states that she was unwilling to repent indicates a deliberate decision on her part. The pleasures of the flesh won out over a desire for Godís approval. of her harlotry: Grk. porneia, sexual immorality, as defined in Scripture. The word-group originally referred to the practice of prostitution (LSJ). A pornē (probably derived from pernēmi, "export for sale") was a woman who sold her body, a prostitute or a courtesan (1Cor 6:15-16). A pornos referred to a male prostitute, a man who frequented prostitutes or an habitually immoral man (1Cor 5:11) (DNTT 1:497). In the LXX porneia translates Heb. zenunim (SH-2183; masc.) harlotry, and zenuth (SH-2184; fem.), fornication, harlotry (BDB 276), which are derived from the verb zanah (SH-2181), to whore, be a harlot. The Tanakh usage of harlotry included both the practice of prostitution (Gen 38:24; Lev 21:9, 14; Deut 22:21; Isa 57:9), but also wives having multiple lovers (Prov 6:24-32; Hos 1:2; 2:2), as well.
Intertestamental Jewish writings also included incest and the sin of Sodom in porneia (Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs: Ruben 1:6; Judah 13:6; Benjamin 9:1), as Paul does (1Cor 5:1; 6:9, 18). Porneia particularly stood for the wicked practices associated with idolatry (Jer 2:20; 3:9; Ezek 16:15; Hos 4:11-12), of which the first Jezebel was notorious (2Kgs 9:22). Porneia-zenuth is rebellion and unfaithfulness against God (Num 14:33; Isa 47:10; Ezek 16:15; 23:7; 43:7; Hos 5:11). The mention of the specific word for sexual sin implies that Jezebel lived what she preached and used seduction to gain influence over men.
22ó Behold, I am casting her into a sickbed, and those committing adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they should repent of her works.
Behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp., 2p-sing. See verse 10 above. The particle "behold," which begins the verse, may indicate that the Lord actually showed John a vision of what the judgment would look like. I am casting: Grk. ballō, pres., 1p-sing. See verse 10 above. The present tense may express an anticipated future event or an action purposed. her: Grk. autē, sing. fem. pers. pron. into: Grk. eis, prep. a sickbed: Grk. klinē, a structure used for lying down, with formal characteristics ranging from stretcher to a more fixed surface, depending on text. The expression "cast her on a bed" reflects a Hebrew idiom that means to fall sick or become ill (cf. Ex 21:18) (Ladd). For her guilt Jezebel could suffer a sexually transmitted disease like syphilis or gonorrhea or some other infectious disease, as hepatitis, associated with the uncleanness resulting from orgies and frequent promiscuous behavior.
and: Grk. kai, conj. those: Grk. tous, pl. definite article and dem. pron., lit. "the ones." committing adultery: Grk. moicheuō, pres. part., to engage in unlawful sexual relations between a married woman and a man not her husband in violation of the seventh commandment (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22-24; Prov 6:32; Jer 29:23; Hos 2:2; Rom 7:3). Adultery was an offense long before Moses (Gen 20:3; 26:10). Everyone knew the seriousness of adultery since the Torah prescribed death for the offenders (Lev 20:10) and any children born of an adulterous union were considered mamzer or illegitimate (cf. Deut 23:2; Isa 57:3). Adultery could also be spiritual. God accused Israel of adultery because of idolatry (Jer 3:9; Ezek 23:37). In the Sermon on the Mount Yeshua defined lust, that is, covetousness of a married woman, as adultery (Matt 5:28).
with: Grk. meta, prep. used to mark association or accompaniment; with, amid, among. her: Grk. autē. Yeshua may intend the verbal phrase to describe carnal knowledge with multiple lovers or seduction into idolatry or both. Just as Elijah was demoralized by Queen Jezebel (1Kgs 19:2f) so the elders at Thyatira may have felt powerless to confront the evil in their midst. Jezebelís tolerance and advocacy of harlotry may have partly served to justify her own adultery, which indicates her marital status. into: Grk. eis, prep. great: Grk. megas, adj., exceeding a standard and therefore impressive; great. In the LXX megas, which occurs about 820 times, is used to translate several Heb. words, but by far the most numerous is gadŰl (SH-1419), 'great' (first in Gen 1:14). Here the word "great" functions as a superlative and may denote either length or intensity or both.
tribulation: Grk. thlipsis. See verse 9 above. unless: Grk. ean mē, lit. "if not." they should repent: Grk. metanoeō, aor. subj., 3p-pl. See verse 5 above. of her works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 2 above. Yeshua announces that he will impose judgment on Jezebel and her paramours. Some Christians cannot accept such temporal punishment as coming from God, but the Lordís actions are not determined by manís sentimentalism. The warning here of great tribulation is not a reference to the great tribulation (Matt 24:21; Rev 7:14), since the trial at the end of the present age cannot be prevented by the repentance of backsliders. The Lord still holds open the door of reconciliation to both Jezebel and those who have shared her immoral life and belief. God is more interested in relationships than retribution.
23ó And I will kill her children with Death, and all the congregations will know that I AM The One searching affections and hearts; and I will give to each of you according to your works.
And: Grk. kai, conj. I will kill: Grk. apokteinō, fut., 1p-sing. See verse 13 above. her children: pl. of Grk. teknon, child of undetermined age, and in Jewish culture one who has yet to attain bar or bat mitzvah (13 and 12 respectively). The noun is also used fig. of being associated with God (John 1:12; Php 2:15), and in some spiritual contrasts: 'bondwoman vs. freewoman' (Gal 4:31), and 'darkness vs. light' (Eph 5:8). In the case of Jezebel "children" probably means her biological offspring, since in verse 22 Jezebel and those with whom she has committed adultery are not symbolic figures. Some interpreters prefer to associate "children" with disciples (cf. 1Cor 4:4; 1Pet 1:14; 1Jn 2:1). The latter alternative seems preferable because it makes God less of an ogre, but the parallel to the judgment on Queen Jezebel seems obvious. When Queen Jezebel enticed Ahab to do evil, the Lord decreed destruction of his household and it came to pass that Ahabís seventy sons were executed (2Kgs 10:6-7).
Two facts may be noted from the biblical record: First, God did order the execution of specific persons, including the golden calf idolatry offenders (Ex 32:27), a man who broke the Sabbath (Num 15:32-36), idolatrous Israelites at Peor (Num 25:4), the seven tribes indigenous to Canaan (Ex 33:1-3; Deut 7:1-2), and Achan (Josh 7:10-15, 24-26). Second, God personally killed many people because of wickedness, including the unnamed millions, perhaps billions, destroyed by the global flood in Noahís day (Gen 6:11-13), the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:20; 19:24-25), Er and Onan (Gen 38:7-10), all the firstborn of all ages in Egypt when Pharaoh refused to repent (Ex 11:4-5), Korah and his followers (Num 16:31-49), and Ahaziah (2Kgs 1:16-17). In apostolic times God put to death Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5-10), Herod (Acts 12:23) and certain people at Corinth for dishonoring the Lordís Supper (1Cor 11:27-30).
with: Grk. en, prep. Death: Grk. thanatos. See verse 10 above. The phrase "kill with death," a Hebrew idiom, has four possible applications. The first might be as a parallel description of the "bed of sickness," with death referring to a terminal infectious disease. A few versions opt for wording to this effect (CEB, HCSB, LEB, MRINT, NET, TLV). A number of epidemic diseases, especially the bubonic plague, ravaged countries over the centuries before the discovery of modern medicine and public health safeguards. Second, another possible interpretation is that God might "strike her children dead" in a dramatic incident as Ananias and Sapphira. A number of versions adopt this wording (CJB, ESV, NIRV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV, TLB).
Third, the literal translation might refer to the second death. This phrase is a strong rebuke to those who do not believe Yeshua will send anyone to hell. Yeshua had warned His disciples, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the bodyÖ. Fear the one who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell" (Luke 12:4, 5). There is no security for anyone who perverts the faith. Lastly, thanatos might be intended as a personification of Death, an allusion to the demonic agent of destruction in Revelation (6:8; 20:13-14). Paul also used Death in this sense in his teaching on the resurrection, "The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Ö 55 Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?Ē (1Cor 15:26, 55 TLV). A few versions capitalize Death to make this point (MW, HNV, OJB, WEB).
and: Grk. kai, conj. all: pl. of Grk. pas, all or every. the congregations: pl. of Grk. ekklēsia. See verse 1 above. will know: Grk. ginōskō, fut. mid., 3p-pl., to be in receipt of information with the focus on awareness; know, learn, find out; or to form a judgment or draw a conclusion; think, understand, comprehend. In the LXX ginōskō renders Heb. yada, which has a similar wide range of meaning, but in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning from a teacher (DNTT 2:395). that: Grk. hoti, conj. I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. AM: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. The pronoun-verb expression occurs 47 times in the Besekh, 34 times on the lips of Yeshua. Many of these expressions, as the one here, are too similar to the God of Israel's self-revelation in the Tanakh to be accidental. In the LXX egō eimi is predominately spoken by the God of Israel in reference to Himself, first in the name "I am who I am" (Ex 3:14). More commonly God says egō eimi kurios, for Heb. ani YHVH, "I am YHVH" 48 times (e.g., Ex 7:5; Lev 11:44; 26:1; Deut 5:6; Isa 45:8; Jer 24:7; Ezek 28:22).
The One: Grk. ho, demonstrative pronoun and definite article. Among Jews "The One" was a circumlocution for God (cf. Ps 3:3; 37:24; Isa 40:26; 45:7; 49:7; Amos 9:5-6; John 1:33; 6:46; 7:18; 11:27; 12:45; 15:21; Acts 10:42; Rom 5:17; 2Cor 4:6). searching: Grk. eraunaō, pres. part., 1p-sing., to search, probe, examine or investigate. the minds: pl. of Grk. nephros, kidney. Kidneys were regarded as the seat of the emotions, just as the heart was the seat of the intelligence or will (Rienecker). and: Grk. kai, conj. hearts: pl. of Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, here used metaphorically as the center for personhood, character, cognition, emotion and volition. It is important to remember that Yeshua spoke in the language of the culture, which had limited knowledge of human anatomy.
However, in our modern sophisticated time, we still use "heart" in a symbolic sense even though we know that both emotions and intelligence have their activity in the brain. The expression "I am He who searches the minds and hearts" occurs often in the Scriptures and here may echo Jeremiah, "I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give each man according to his ways" (Jer 17:10 NASB; cf. 1Sam 16:7; Ps 139:1; Prov 20:27; Jer 11:20; 20:12). Since God searches all minds, He knows full well each personís motives and interests. He knows how much deliberation is involved in sinning. The fact that all the congregations "will know" may mean that "Jezebel" was widely known in the province. No doubt Godís judgment would have a deep impact on the Asia congregations, just as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:11; cf. Deut 21:21).
and: Grk. kai, conj. I will give: Grk. didōmi, fut., 1p-sing. See verse 7 above. to each: Grk. hekastos, in reference to an individual person or thing; each, every, every one. of you: Grk. humeis, pl. second-pers. pron. according to: Grk. kata, prep. your: Grk. humeis. works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 2 above. To punish "according to your works" is an allusion to the Torah proportional punishment standard, which required fitting the judicial sentence to the crime (Lev 24:17-22). The eye-for-eye rule is not an authorization for personal revenge (such as head-for-eye), but a righteous standard for duly appointed authority to assure equity of treatment. However, Jezebelís claim to be a prophetess required special accountability, as the Scripture says, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment" (Jas 3:1).
God mandated in His Torah that any prophet who counseled rebellion against Him be put to death (Deut 13:5). Yeshua did not give His followers the authority of the State, so He will execute justice in accordance with His Law and in Jezebelís case the punishment would not be mercifully quick. A complicating factor for Jezebel is that God is both the injured party and the judge. The warning of Israelís high priest Eli, who rebuked his priestly sons for similar behavior, seems apt for Jezebel, "If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?" (1Sam 2:25 NASB)
24ó But I say to you, the rest in Thyatira, as many as hold not this teaching, those who have known not the depths of the Satan, as they call them; I place not any other burden on you.
But: Grk. de, conj. I say: Grk. legō, pres., 1p-sing. See verse 1 above. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pron. of the second person. the rest: Grk. loipos, the remaining or what's left of a group. in: Grk. en, prep. Thyatira: See verse 18 above. as many as: pl. of Grk. hosos, correlative pron. denoting maximum inclusion; as much as, whatever. hold: Grk. echō, pres., 3p-pl. See verse 3 above. The verb is used here in the sense of viewing something a particular way. not: Grk. ou, adv. this: Grk. touto, neut. dem. pron. teaching: Grk. didachē. See verse 14 above. In spite of Jezebelís power and influence there were still faithful believers in the congregation who had not been seduced by Jezebelís enticing doctrine.
those who: pl. of Grk. hostis, pron with a qualitative connotation; namely one who. have known: Grk. ginōskō, aor., 3p-pl. See the previous verse. not: Grk. ou, adv. the depths: pl. of Grk. bathus, reaching to a point relatively far down from the top, deep. The noun occurs only 4 times in the Besekh and is used of a water well (John 4:11), morning (Luke 24:1), sleep (Acts 20:9) and here of occult knowledge. of the Satan: Grk. Satanas. See verse 9 above. as: hōs, adv. See verse 18 above. they call them: Grk. legō, pres., 3p-pl., used here in the sense of giving a name to something. The "depths of Satan" not only include religious heresy (cf. 1Tim 4:3), but also the symbols and practices associated with the cults and the occult.
In the first century astrology, demonology and magic were widespread among Gentiles and Jews. The apostles had to contend frequently with occult practitioners (magicians) who either sought to pervert or to hinder the apostolic message (Acts 8:9, 18-24; 13:8-11; 16:16-19; 19:19; Gal 5:20). There is sarcasm in referring to the things of Satan as "deep." Those in the occult and cults claim special knowledge and powers. Unfortunately, their knowledge is blindness and their powers are bondage. In truth, the secret things belong to God (Deut 29:29).
I place: Grk. ballō, pres., 1p-sing. See verse 10 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. any other: Grk. allos, adj. used to distinguish from one or more other entities; other. burden: Grk. baros, weight, burden, something material or non-material; here of special obligation. on: Grk. epi, prep. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pron. of the second person. The Lordís assurance to the faithful members of the congregation of "no other burden" reflects and reinforces the decision of the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15:28-29 to limit expectations of new disciples while affirming Godís standards of holiness. Jezebel apparently felt the essentials emphasized by the Council and the Holy Spirit were too much of a burden to her life and so rebelled, as described in verse 20 above.
25ó Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.
Nevertheless: Grk. plēn, adv. introducing a modifying or incremental clause, functioning here as a conjunction; rather, except, however, nevertheless. what: Grk. hos, rel. pron. you have: Grk. echō, pres., 2p-pl. See verse 3 above. hold fast: Grk. krateō, aor. imp., 2p-pl. See verse 13 above. The Lord encourages the messenger and the faithful members to "hold fast." This begs the question - what did they have, the ones who did not hold Jezebelís teaching? They had their integrity, their clean conscience, their sense of decency and the approval of their Lord. These things can keep the disciple of Yeshua unmoved by the pressure of those in the world who insist on accommodation in exchange for acceptance and advancement (1Tim 1:5).
until: Grk. achri, prep. See verse 10 above. I come: Grk. hēkō, aor. subj., means to have come or be present. The verb occurs three times in Revelation (cf. 3:3; 15:4). This phrase probably does not refer to the Second Coming, but the judgment on Jezebel mentioned in verse 23 (cf. 3:3 which uses the same verb). In other words, the situation has deteriorated beyond the possibility of normal congregational discipline resolving the problem (cf. Matt 18:15-20; 1Cor 5:4-5; Titus 3:10-11), so Yeshua cautions the loyal members not to take drastic action (cf. Matt 13:27-29), but to wait and rely on the Lord to handle the problem.
26ó And the one overcoming, and the one keeping the works of me until the end, to him I will give to him authority over the nations;
And: Grk. kai, conj. the one overcoming: Grk. nikaō, pres. part. See verse 7 above. Overcoming always relates to victory over Satan and the trials of life and maintaining trusting faithfulness to the Lord. and: Grk. kai, conj. the one keeping: Grk. tēreō, pres. part., may mean (1) to maintain in a secure state with a focus on personal interest or obligation; keep; or (2) to be in compliance in regard to instruction; keep, observe. The second meaning applies here. the works: pl. of ergon. See verse 2 above. me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun, referring to Yeshua. The genitive case of the pronoun is subjective meaning works performed by Yeshua. The expression holds up Yeshua as the model to emulate.
until: Grk. achri, prep. See verse 10 above. the end: Grk. telos, a point in time that marks culmination (Danker). BAG defines this point of time in the sense of either (1) termination or cessation of something; (2) the last part or conclusion of something; or (3) the goal toward which a movement is directed. In Classical Greek telos is derived from a root tel-, which means to turn around. Originally it referred to the turning point, hinge, the culminating point at which one stage ends and another begins; later the goal, the end. Telos occurs 150 times in the LXX, chiefly in adverbial combinations and often to translate the Heb. qets, "end" (DNTT 2:60). The Hebrew word qets is most often used of time, especially in phrases that speak of the end of a definite time period (e.g., Gen 8:6; 2Sam 15:7; 2Kgs 18:3) or indefinitely of the passing of a time (e.g., Gen 4:3; 1Kgs 17:7) (BDB 893).
The mention of "until the end" may intend the end of one's life (Matt 10:22; John 13:1), the end of a period of trial (cf. Matt 24:13; Mark 13:7, 13) or the end of the present age (Dan 12:4, 9; Matt 24:3; 28:20) and the great events that mark its close. Yeshua promises two important blessings to those who overcome. Moreover, the overcoming must last "until the end" if salvation is to be realized. Yeshua had already made this stipulation, "But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved" (Matt 24:13). Just as an athlete wins the prize by finishing the race, so the disciple of Yeshua must persevere in his faith to the very end of life or the resurrection in order to gain all the blessings promised in these letters to those who overcome (cf. Ezek 18:21-24; John 8:31; Acts 14:22; Rom 11:22; Col 1:23; 1Tim 2:15; 4:16; Heb 8:9; Jas 1:12). No one may slouch his way into heaven.
to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. I will give: Grk. didōmi, fut. See verse 7 above. authority: Grk. exousia has four basic meanings: (1) freedom of choice, the right (often in a legal sense) to act, decide or dispose of oneís property as one wishes (e.g. 13:5; 22:14); (2) the ability to do something, capability, might, power (e.g. 9:10; 11:6; 16:9); (3) authority, absolute power, warrant (e.g. 11:6; 14:18); and (4) ruling or official power as exercised by kings and officials (e.g. 13:7; 17:12) (BAG). In the LXX exousia translates Heb. mimshal (SH-4474), authority, dominion, ruler (2Kgs 20:13; 2Chr 8:6; Isa 39:2; Dan 11:3, 5), Heb. memshalah (SH-4475), rule, dominion, realm (Ps 114:2; 136:7; Dan 11:5), and Aram. sholtan (SH-7985), dominion (Dan 4:3, 34; 7:6, 14, 27). Stern suggests that the Heb. word s'mikhah stands behind exousia in this verse, which means "leaning" or "laying" on of hands in the ordination ceremony for a judge, elder or rabbi (64), but that kind of authority is too limiting for the context here.
over: Grk. epi, prep. the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group. In the LXX ethnos appears about 1000 times and generally renders Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), "nation, people" (DNTT 2:790). The term is first used in Genesis 10 to describe the list of seventy nations, then of descendants of Abraham (Gen 12:2) and then even more specifically of Israel (Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1). The term is used often in the Besekh for "Gentiles" in contradistinction to Jews and Israel (e.g., Matt 5:47; Acts 2:27; 21:21; 26:17; Rom 3:29; 9:24; 11:25; 1Cor 1:23; Gal 2:14-15), but is also used of the Samaritan Jews (Acts 8:9) and Israel (Matt 21:43; John 18:35; Acts 24:10, 17; 26:4; 1Cor 10:18). Often ethnos is used in a geographical sense with a diverse population that would include Jews as residents or citizens (Matt 12:21; 24:14; Acts 17:26; Rom 1:5; 16:26; Gal 2:9; 1Tim 3:16), so the context must be examined to determine the meaning of the ethnos. The word does not have a particular religious meaning.
Yeshua promises the blessing of authority. The obvious meaning of this promise is a little obscured in the NASB by its uppercase format to indicate a quotation from Psalm 2:8, "Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession." However, the natural meaning of this verse is that "him" agrees grammatically with the participles "the one overcoming" and "the one keeping the works of me," and thus refers not to the Son of God, but to the faithful disciple. Yeshua had already promised that His apostles will possess authority to rule over twelve tribes of Israel (Matt 19:28) and that the saints will share in the future reign of Yeshua (cf. Rom 5:17; 1Cor 6:2; 2Tim 2:12; Rev 5:10; 20:4).
The concept of shared authority may be traced back to Moses' commissioning of Joshua and of the seventy elders by divine command (Num 11:16f, 24f; 27:18-23; Deut 34:9; cf. Acts 8:17; 9:17; 13:3; 28:8; 1Tim 4:4; 5:22; 2Tim 1:6). The allusion to Psalm 2:8 means, then, that just as the Son was promised the nations as an inheritance to rule, the Son in turn grants the overcomer specific powers in his reign (Rom 8:17; Gal 3:29; Eph 3:6; Titus 3:7).
27ó And he will shepherd them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of clay are being broken, even as I also have received from my Father;
And: Grk. kai, conj. he will shepherd: Grk. poimainō, fut., which indicates a close association of tending and ruling; serve as tender of a flock, tend, shepherd. In the LXX poimainō renders Heb. ra'ah (SH-7462), to pasture, tend, shepherd, graze (Gen 30:31), and is fig. of ruler and teacher (2Sam 5:2; Ps 78:72) and the nation of Israel (Isa 14:30) (DNTT 3:564). The verb occurs in Psalm 2:9, to which Yeshua quotes. Neil points out that without the vowel pointing that was added to Hebrew MSS, the word could be translated as either "to break" or "to shepherd" (274). The Jewish translators of the LXX believed that the Psalmist intended the word to mean "shepherd." While poimainō can be a euphemism for governing (e.g. Acts 20:28; 1Pet 5:2), the word carries the sense of protective administration, not oppressive dictatorship.
them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. with: Grk. en, prep. a rod: Grk. rhabdos refers to any rod, stick or staff. Rabdos also referred to the rulerís staff or scepter, which is probably the intent here (cf. Heb 1:8). of iron: Grk. sidērous, made of iron. Mounce comments that the use of the rod of iron could be taken in the sense of wielding the shepherdís staff or club to ward off attacks of marauding beasts. This verse continues the thought of verse 26 with the allusion to Psalm 2:9, but presents something of a dilemma. In the Hebrew text of the Psalm the Son will set aside human government, destroy His enemies and establish a theocracy, but here the saying is included in a promise of future blessing to overcomers.
Obviously, Scripture does not say that overcomers are going to destroy their enemies at the end of history. God has reserved to Himself the right to execute vengeance and He will do justice for His people in the Day of the Lord. Next, as a metaphor the "rod of iron" or "rulerís scepter" implies not an oppressive dictatorial rule but the might of God which cannot be defeated or overthrown by any internal or external enemy. Only the Son can possess the scepter, but the overcomer will receive the benefit of the Sonís power in a stable and beneficent government.
as: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 18 above. the vessels: pl. of Grk. skeuos, something that is serviceable in carrying out a function; thing, object, vessel, container. of clay: Grk. keramikos, made of clay. MDNT and Thayer add 'earthen, made by a potter." are being broken: Grk. suntribō, pres. pass., means to crush together or to smash (Rienecker). The allusion to the pottery being broken seems out of place, which appears to be happening at the same time as the ruling. Marshallís literal rendering of the Greek is helpful: "and he will shepherd them with an iron staff as the vessels of clay are [being] broken." There are two significant uses of pottery as a metaphor in the Scriptures. First, Israel was viewed as clay in the Lordís hands, as the Scripture says, "We are the clay, and You our potter" (Isa 64:8) and again, "Behold, like the clay in the potterís hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel" (Jer 18:6). With this metaphor Jeremiah prophesied Jerusalemís fall to the Babylonians, "Just so will I break this people and this city, even as one breaks a potterís vessel" (Jer 19:11).
Second, Nebuchadnezzar was given a vision of future earthly kingdoms, the last one of which had feet composed partially of pottery (cf. Dan 2:41f). Yeshua may be alluding to the breaking of Jerusalem by the invading armies of the beast (Zech 12), but He promises His shepherding care through that terrible ordeal. Yeshua may also mean that as the vessels of clay (the armies of the beast) are broken at Armageddon, the Lord with the help of His angels will be gathering the overcomers for their reward (Matt 24:31; 25:31ff; 1Pet 5:4).
even as: Grk. hōs, adv. I also: Grk. kagō, conj. See verse 6 above. have received: Grk. lambanō, perf. See verse 17 above. A few versions insert "authority" following the verb (ESV, GNB, NASB, NIRV, NIV, TLB), connecting the thought with the previous verse. Yeshua often spoke of his authority, both authority to forgive (Matt 9:6) and authority to judge (John 5:27). His adversaries commented that Yeshua taught "as one having authority, and not as their scribes" (Matt 7:29). Rabbinic debates were commonplace in that time and Yeshua's disciples well knew the truth of the saying that where you have two Rabbis you have three opinions. Yeshua didn't offer opinions. His teaching on any subject is the final unalterable Word of God.
from: Grk. para, prep. See verse 13 above. my Father: Grk. patēr, normally of a male biological parent or ancestor, but frequently in reference to God, which emphasizes both his activity as creator and sustainer. In the LXX patēr renders ab ("av"), which generally occurs in the human sense, but also of God as father in relation to Israel (Ex 4:22) (DNTT 1:616f). In the Besekh the capitalized "Father" is a circumlocution for the God of Israel, not a Christian trinitarian personality as expressed in familiar creeds. Some dilute the biblical message to assert God as father to all mankind based on Paul's quotation of a Greek philosopher, "we also are His children" (Acts 17:28). While God gave physical life to mankind, he is only Father in a spiritual and covenantal sense in relation to Israel.
God's paternal relationship to Israel is affirmed many times in the Tanakh (e.g., Ex 4:22; Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6; Isa 43:6; 63:16; 64:8; Jer 3:19; 31:9; Hos 1:10: Mal 1:6; cf. 2Cor 6:18). In the Sermon on the Mount Yeshua speaks to his Jewish disciples a few times of "your heavenly Father" (Matt 5:48; 6:14, 26, 32), but many more times simply as "your Father" (e.g., Matt 5:45; Mark 7:11; Luke 6:36; John 20:17). Gentiles can claim God as Father by virtue of being adopted into the family of Israel (cf. Rom 8:15; 9:4; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5) and then He becomes "our Father" (Matt 6:9; Rom 1:7; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Php 1:2; Col 1:2). However, in the Besekh only Yeshua speaks of God as "my Father."
28ó and I will give to him the morning star.
and: Grk. kai, conj. I will give: Grk. didōmi, fut. See verse 7 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. the morning: Grk. prōinos, pertaining to early morning. The word occurs only in Revelation (also 22:16). star: Grk. astēr. See verse 1 above. Yeshua makes an unusual promise. The solar system is not mentioned in Scripture, although there are references to the "sun, moon and stars." Until the invention of the telescope the planets appeared to the naked eye as stars (BBMS 162). In ancient times only five planets could be seen Ė Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Unfortunately, these visible planets were associated with pagan deities.
The actual morning star would be Venus, the brightest object in the sky after the sun and the moon (Stern). This bright planet or star is referred to three times in the Besekh as a symbol of Yeshua. Yeshua is called the (bright) "morning star" in 22:16 and the "Day Star" in 2Peter 1:19. The angels before the fall were known as morning stars (Job 38:7), but Yeshua outshines them all. God promised Daniel that the righteous would shine as the stars (Dan 12:3) and the humble would be exalted (Matt 23:12), just as Yeshua was exalted to the right hand of the Father. Since Yeshua is the morning star, then the victor will have Yeshua as his beacon of light forever.
29ó The one having an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the congregations.
For the fourth time, the listener is commanded to hear what the Spirit is saying. See verse 7 above on this exhortation. As with the letter to Pergamum, the Lord has made it clear through the Spirit that he cannot and will not tolerate immorality and idolatry. The Lord also expects that congregational leaders will be subject to the discipline guidelines of Matthew 18:15-19. If a sinning leader does not repent, then that person, even if wealthy or esteemed in the community, must be treated as an unbeliever. The Lord expects that believers will submit to the authority of Scripture as their sole rule of faith and practice. The only personality that should dominate the congregation is Yeshua the Messiah. All communities of believers should carefully consider the admonition of the Spirit to the congregation in Thyatira and amend conduct where necessary to conform to the holy standards of the Lord God of Israel.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Barclay: William Barclay, The Revelation of John. 2 Vols. The Westminster Press, 1976.
Baron: David Baron, Zechariah: A Commentary on His Vision and Prophecies. Kregel Publications, 1918.
BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online.
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Earle: Ralph Earle, The Book of The Revelation. Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. X. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1967.
Frankfurter: David Frankfurter, Annotations on "The Book of Revelation," Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Gesenius: Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius (1786-1842), Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament. Trans. Samuel P. Tregelles (1846). Baker Book House, 1979. Online.
GNT: The Greek New Testament. eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, Allen Wikgren. American Bible Society, 1966. (NA25)
Henry: Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible (1710). Unabridged Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1991. Online.
Hippolytus: Hippolytus of Rome (AD 170-236), On the Seventy Apostles, Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
Johnson: Alan F. Johnson, Revelation. Expositorís Bible Commentary. Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. (Zondervan CD-ROM Version 2.6, 1989-1998)
Juster: Daniel Juster, Revelation: The Passover Key. Destiny Image Publishers, 1991.
Ladd: George E. Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972.
LSJ: Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon. Revised and augmented by Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online.
MDNT: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
Morris: Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record. Tyndale House Publishers, 1987.
Mounce: Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation. rev. ed. New International Commentary on the New Testament. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998.
Neil: James Neil, Palestine Explored. James Nisbet & Co., 1882.Rienecker
OCB: The Oxford Companion to the Bible. ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. Oxford University Press, 1993.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. 2 Vols. The Zondervan Corporation, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament. 6 Vols. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997) Online.
Schaff: Philip Schaff, The History of the Christian Church. 8 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910. Online.
Schurer: Emil Schurer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ. 4 vols. trans. Peter Christie. T&T Clark, 1885.
Stern: David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. 5th ed. Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1996.
Tarn & Griffith: Sir William Tarn & G.T. Griffith, Hellenistic Civilization. 3rd Edition. Edward Arnold Publishers, Ltd., 1952.
TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 Vols. ed. R. Laird Harris. Moody Bible Institute, 1980.
Wesley: John Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament: Revelation. 2 Vols. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1981. Online.
Wilson: Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989.
© 2011-2021 Richard Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.