Jesus Christ dictates special messages to John the Apostle for the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Thyatira. [UPDATED]
VERSE 1. “To the angel of the assembly in Ephesus write: “He who holds the seven stars in his right hand, he who walks among the seven golden lamp stands says these things:
the angel of the assembly. What does this mean?
- Origen suggested that a guardian angel is given headship over an individual church.
- Augustine said the “angel” is the human leader of the church. However, that does not fit. Most church leaders do not behave like “angels.”
Ephesus. It was the largest city of the Roman province of Asia, the seat of the proconsul, and an important early Christian center. Paul had visited Ephesus at least twice:
- A short visit during his second missionary journey
- On his third missionary journey
seven. There are a lot of instances of the number “seven” in the Book of Revelation. Here is our list of all we have found.
right hand. The Bible often mentions “the right hand” of God. That is a position of power and honor. We believe it refers to Jesus Christ. More verses about the right hand.
VERSE 2. “I know your works, and your toil and perseverance, and that you can’t tolerate evil men, and have tested those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and found them false.
I know your works, and your toil and perseverance. These believers in Ehpesis were diligent in living out their faith.
you … have tested those who call themselves apostles. In our day, the word “apostle” means “church leader.”
There are many people who have jobs as church leaders, and yet they are only masquerading as apostles.
Some of them are easy to spot. Others are not.
It is incumbent upon us believers to evaluate the claims of those who claim they are apostles. What criteria will help evaluate whether a church leader is a false apostle?
VERSE 3. You have perseverance and have endured for my name’s sake, and have not grown weary.
you left your first love. Have you lost your “first love” for Jesus Christ? Is your love for him on the back burner instead of the front burner?
Many believers find themselves in this situation. Most just got sidetracked and fell away.
If you have lost your first love for Jesus Christ, what can you do about it?
Sirach 27:3. Unless a man hold on diligently in the fear of the Lord, His house will soon be overthrown.
Isaiah 5:12. The harp, lyre, tambourine, and flute, with wine, are at their feasts; but they don’t respect the work of the LORD, neither have they considered the operation of his hands.
Jeremiah 2:2. Go, cry out this message for Jerusalem to hear! I remember the devotion of your youth, how you loved me as a bride, Following me in the desert, in a land unknown (NAB translation)
Revelation 2:4. But I have this against you, that you left your first love.
VERSE 5. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I am coming to you swiftly, and will move your lamp stand out of its place, unless you repent.
Remember … from where you have fallen. The first step in recovering your love for Jesus Christ is to remember how good it used to be.
Can you remember when you used to be in love with Christ? What was it like?
repent. Often people equate the word “repent” with feeling sorry for sins. However, it means “change your behavior.”
and do the first works. That is, do the things you did at first. How do you get back in that wonderful relationship with Jesus Christ? You do the things you used to do. Bible reading and prayer are a great place to start.
I … will move your lamp stand out of its place. When some new insight comes into our awareness, we have a window of time. The clock starts ticking.
We need to act on this new insight. We need to put it into practice within a certain timeframe. Otherwise, it will disappear.
VERSE 6. But this you have, that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
VERSE 7. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of my God.
give ear to what the Spirit says. When we hear that wonderful voice of the Holy Spirit prompting us, it is vital that we pay attention to it and act.
Revelation 3:6. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
To him who overcomes. To “overcome” often has a simple meaning. It usually means to put the new insight into practice.
the fruit of the tree of life. When we step out by faith, when we act on the new insight … that’s when the fresh blessings will arrive.
VERSE 8. “To the angel of the assembly in Smyrna write: “The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life says these things:
who was dead, and has come to life. Jesus Christ truly died and truly resurrected.
VERSE 9. “I know your works, oppression, and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
those who say they are Jews, and they are not. Many people interpret this to mean professing Christians who are “false believers.”
VERSE 10. Don’t be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested; and you will have oppression for ten days. Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life.
you will have oppression for ten days. Does it mean a literal ten days? Or is it a metaphor for some other timeframe?
VERSE 11. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. He who overcomes won’t be harmed by the second death.
hear what the Spirit says. The Holy Spirit is speaking. But few of us are listening.
He who overcomes. This probably means “you who held fast to the name of Jesus Christ.” Also see verse 13.
VERSE 12. “To the angel of the assembly in Pergamum write: “He who has the sharp two-edged sword says these things:
sharp two-edged sword. That is, the Bible:
Wisdom 18:16. Bearing as a sharp sword your unfeigned commandment; And standing it filled all things with death; And while it touched the heaven it trode upon the earth.
Isaiah 34:5. For my sword has drunk its fill in the sky. Behold, it will come down on Edom, and on the people of my curse, for judgment.
Hosea 6:5. Therefore I have cut them to pieces with the prophets; I killed them with the words of my mouth. Your judgments are like a flash of lightning.
1 Thessalonians 2:13. For this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that when you received from us the word of the message of God, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works in you who believe.
Hebrews 4:12. For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Revelation 1:16. He had seven stars in his right hand. Out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining at its brightest.
Revelation 2:12. To the angel of the assembly in Pergamum write: “He who has the sharp two-edged sword says these things:
Revelation 19:15. Out of his mouth proceeds a sharp, double-edged sword, that with it he should strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He treads the wine press of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty.
VERSE 13. “I know your works and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. You hold firmly to my name, and didn’t deny my faith in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
You hold firmly to my name. Under persecution, they did not forsake their faith in Jesus Christ.
did not deny my faith. They did not deny their faith in Jesus Christ. Also see verse 11.
VERSE 14. But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to throw a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.
the teaching of Balaam. What are the teachings of Balaam? There are a lot of opinions. But none are convincing.
We first encountered Balaam back in Numbers chapter 22:
Numbers 22:5. He sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, to Pethor, which is by the River, to the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, “Behold, there is a people who came out of Egypt. Behold, they cover the surface of the earth, and they are staying opposite me.
hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Some of the believers had secret religious practices.
VERSE 16. Repent therefore, or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth.
make war against them with the sword of my mouth: What does this mean?
- Will Jesus Christ start a war against erring believers?
- Will biblical preaching cause erring believers to return to the faith?
VERSE 17. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him who overcomes, to him I will give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no one knows but he who receives it.
the hidden manna. What is this? Some people say it is Holy Communion. However, that is not a secret. It is likely something else.
VERSE 18. “To the angel of the assembly in Thyatira write: “The Son of God, who has his eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet are like burnished brass, says these things:
eyes like a flame of fire. Does this allude to the pillar of fire that guided the Israelites through the desert?
VERSE 19. “I know your works, your love, faith, service, patient endurance, and that your last works are more than the first.
your last works are more than the first. Over the years and decades, the fervency of the faith of many believers tends to fizzle. However, in Thyatira, their fervency was increasing.
VERSE 20. But I have this against you, that you tolerate your woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. She teaches and seduces my servants to commit sexual immorality, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
you tolerate your woman Jezebel. Some people see this as a command to forbid women from leadership over men. They say a woman will always lead a man astray.
However, the biblical condemnation of Jezebel is not a condemnation of all women.
To condemn all women is misogynism, dressed up in the fancy clothes of Bible jargon.
VERSE 21. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.
VERSE 22. Behold, I will throw her into a bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great oppression, unless they repent of her works.
VERSE 23. I will kill her children with Death, and all the assemblies will know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts. I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
according to your deeds. Even though “faith” is the essential thing, there are many Bible verses that say we will be judged by our works.
There is a law of “sowing and reaping” throughout the Bible. We don’t know how to fully reconcile it with grace and mercy. Here are the verses we’ve found »
VERSE 24. But to you I say, to the rest who are in Thyatira, as many as don’t have this teaching, who don’t know what some call ‘the deep things of Satan,’ to you I say, I am not putting any other burden on you.
VERSE 25. Nevertheless, hold that which you have firmly until I come.
VERSE 26. He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations.
He who overcomes. Here again is this idea of overcoming. By not forsaking Jesus Christ, we are overcomers.
VERSE 27. He will rule them with a rod of iron, shattering them like clay pots; as I also have received of my Father:
the morning star. What is this?
VERSE 29. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.