THE BOOK OF REVELATION Rev.1:1-20
The Purpose of the Manual is to give the reader basic understanding of the meaning in the Book of revelation, Apostle John was on Patmos as a result of his witness. According to the writings of several early Church fathers (i.e., Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, and Victorinus),
The Romans sent John as a prisoner from Ephesus, where he pastored, to the island of Patmos in A.D. 95 where he worked in the mines (quarries). Patmos stood in the Aegean Sea just southwest of Ephesus.
It was 10 miles long and six miles wide at its widest (northern) end, and it served as a penal colony for political prisoners of Rome. It looks like John was there until shortly after the Emperor Domitian died in A.D. 96.
It is in Patmos where The Holy Spirit gives John the vision of Revelations, projecting him in His Spirit to a future time in a vision. Conservative interpreters date the writing of this book near A.D. 95 or 96.
The apocalyptic sections of certain books of the Old Testament—particularly Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Psalms—contain former revelation that God gave His prophets about the end times.
THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST: Rev.1:9-16
A trumpet-like voice instructed John to write down what he saw and
send it to seven churches in Asia Minor. The voice belonged to Jesus Christ (vv. 12, 17-18).
When John turned to see the person who spoke to him he saw a majestic figure clothed in a long garment, The Person was standing among seven lamp stands.
THE SEVEN LAMPSTANDS
The “Seven Lampstands” represented the Seven Churches. A “Lampstand” is simply what holds a light fed from a reservoir of oil, thus typifying the oil of the Holy Spirit. It seems Christ looks upon the church as the “Light Holder.
This person would have resembled a priest in Israel ministering in the tabernacle or temple. The seven Lampstands represent seven churches (1:13), the man looked like “a son of man.” This expression refers to the divine Messiah in Daniel,
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
John saw a person that looked like a human man. His clothing was that of a priest: a long robe with a golden sash around it. Jesus Christ’s present office is that of our high priest,
(Heb. 4:14). Says
Seeing then that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God; let us hold fast our profession.
JESUS IS GIRDED IN THE CHEST Rev 1:13
In Rev. 1:13, Christ is seen dressed girded, a girdle was ILLUSTRATIVE OF,
For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.
- Righteousness and Faithfulness
And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
“Girdle of his loins with the belt of truth”
The position of the girdle is what gives this away and what Jesus is executing. A priest would be girded about the waist, signifying service; for a girdle is a waist cloth.
But one that was girded about the shoulders signify a magisterial function, a girdle about the breasts indicates what a judge robed would wear. Christ, in this passage, is exercising a judicial rather than a priestly role. We know this because in
The seven angels that came out of the temple, having the seven plagues of judgment, were clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles.
And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.
The titles of Jesus Christ found in the introductions to six of the seven messages in chapters 2 and 3 are drawn largely from this vision of 1:12-20 and its descriptive phrases.
The appearance of Christ in this vision is designed to emphasize the aspects of His nature that are most relevant to the needs and circumstances of the seven churches.
JESUS HAS WHITE HAIR; EYES ARE OF FIRE Rev.1:14
His head, even His hair, was very white, as Daniel described the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:9 (i.e., God the Father). John, sometimes first stated a general term and then followed it up with a more specific one, as here, ie. head and hair).
In Daniel 7:9, for example, the person with the white hair is God, but the white hair symbolizes wisdom. White hair often represents wisdom and the dignity of age in scripture.
John referred the images of God the Father in the Old Testament to Jesus Christ thus granting to Jesus the attributes and titles previously reserved for the Father (cf. v. 18; 2:8; 5:12; 22:13).
This is one way of stressing the equality of Jesus with the Father, here specifically, His eternal pre-existence. His eyes were similar to blazing fire, evidently an allusion to His piercing judgment and omniscient understanding.
JESUS’ FEET ARE LIKE BRASS Rev.1:15
His feet looked like fine brass glowing in the reflection of a fire. Brass is ILLUSTRATIVE OF purification,
Jeremiah 6:28 says
They are all grievous revolters, walking with slanders: they are brass and iron; they are all corrupters,
But fine brass implies brass that has been put in the fire. In the tabernacle in the wilderness, the altar of brass was the place sacrifices were made, a place of purification. In Jer.15:20 it’s revealed to us that brass deals with deliverance and salvation, for it says,
“And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brazen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD”
Perhaps it also implies His purity as proved during His earthly walk that made Him a sympathetic high priest (Heb. 4:15; cf. 2:18).
His voice sounded like a sound of many waters: V. 15
namely, authoritative, powerful, and irresistible. Water refreshes, it purifies, it all comes from his mouth or word, “Perhaps two ideas are suggested here: (1) Christ gathers together all the ‘streams of revelation’ and is the Father’s ‘last Word’ to man (2) He speaks with power and authority and must be heard.”
A SHARP DOUBLE-EDGE SWORD Rev.1:16
(Greek word. HROMPHAIA), the type of sword used to kill, which you see this in (2:12, 16; 6:8; 19:15, 21), proceeded from His mouth. His word will judge His enemies,
But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me.
2nd The. 2:8 says
And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.
This sword was tongue-shaped. His face shone like the unclouded sun, a picture of pure holiness and righteousness. John saw Jesus at the Transfiguration with such a shining face in,
And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
Christ was presenting Himself to John in a character that would prepare the apostle for various aspects of the vision to follow.” “This first vision of John, then, included an indication of Jesus’ Messianic office with its associated functions:
Which are judgment of the unrighteous and comfort of the suffering righteous, His high rank that fits Him as an agent of imposing divine wrath.
His activity in imposing that wrath, His pre-existence along with God the Father, His penetrating intelligence that enables Him to perform righteous judgment, His movement among the churches to enforce standards of moral purity,
His identification with the Father in the power of His utterance, His authority over the seven messengers and the churches they represent, His power to overcome His enemies and pronounce judgment upon them, and His return to earth to implement judgment upon mankind.”
This revelation of Jesus Christ in His unveiled glory took all the strength out of John. He could not stand in the presence of such a One. Paul had a similar experience on the Damascus road,
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
However the glorified Christ laid His comforting, powerful hand on John and encouraged him to stop fearing (cf. Jesus’ action following the transfiguration, He introduced Himself as the self-existent, eternal One).
“I am” recalls Jesus’ claims in the Gospels and connects Him with Yehovah.
The title “the first and the last” is essentially the same as “the Alpha and the Omega” (v. 8). All three titles stress the eternal sovereignty of God. The consoling words, “Do not be afraid,” came from a sovereign being.
John, who had laid his head on His chest, now seeing Him in an entirely different light than he had seen Him before (aside from His transfiguration 1:19); to whom Jesus Christ repeated His instruction to write down the things God was revealing to him (v. 11).
(1:20) Jesus Christ then interpreted the meaning of some of the symbolic things John had seen. They were mysteries, revelations previously unclear until the Lord interpreted them for John.
THE SEVEN STARS IN JESUS RIGHT HAND Rev.1:16-20
The seven stars represented the messengers of the seven churches. The seven stars represents the seven human representatives or (messengers) of these churches. Though “angel” is a strange term to describe an elder. Greek word “AGGELOS” (“angels”) frequently refers to human messengers (e.g., Matt. 11:10; Luke 7:24; 9:52; 2 Cor. 8:23; James 2:25).
He held seven stars protectively, In His right hand, the symbol of official honor and sovereign control. (John 10:28) says, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand.” Angels is the word for messengers in the Bible. “In His right hand”, the hand that speaks of power, Jesus holds the seven stars.
These stars are identified in verse 20. They are the “angels of the seven churches”. Some people believe these stars refer to a guardian angel that is given charge over each church. Others feel that the stars refer to the pastors of these churches.
I personally lean toward the latter interpretation. Jesus is pictured as holding His servants in His hand, protecting them by His power. The people John was writing to were undergoing severe persecution.
They needed this reassurance as they struggled. Let this comfort your heart to know that those hands that touched John are the ones that formed man from the dust of the earth; touched the lepers; opened the blinded eyes; fed the multitudes and were eventually nailed to the cross. These are the same hands that hold you and me today!
When you are in His hand, you are in a place of absolute safety and protection!
John says that the face of The Lord of Glory was like considering the full force of the sun. When Jesus came to this earth and was born in Bethlehem, He concealed His glory beneath a robe of human flesh.
When He came the first time, He was approachable. Anyone who wished could enter His presence then, and many did. Little children, rich rulers, religious leaders, poor people, sick people, even social outcasts like lepers could approach Jesus whenever they desired.
But, when He comes again, sinful men will not even be able to look upon Him, much less approach Him. When Jesus came the first time, His face was that of a common man, Isa. 53:2.
But when he comes again it will be the face that caused Isaiah to cry out and say, “Woe is me!”, Isa. 6:5. It was that face that caused Job to say, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.”
Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes,” Job 42:5-6. One day wicked men will cry for the mountains to fall on them and hide them from His face, Rev. 6:16.
One day we will see that face! When we do, there will be no bruises, no spittle, and no blood. When we see that face, we will see Him in His glory and we will be able to behold His glory, because we will be like Him in that day, 1 John 3:2.
The letters to the seven churches. Rev. 2—3
It is worthy of note that the “Messages to the Seven Churches” are inserted between Two Visions, the “Vision of Christ” in the midst of the “Seven Lampstands” in chapter one, and the “Vision of the rapture” in chapter four.
Jesus began the Book of Revelation by dictating seven letters to seven churches. These were seven actual Churches in cities that existed in the Roman Province of Asia.
These Seven Churches were not the only churches in Asia, but these seven churches are chosen for “the certain characteristics which would be descriptive of THE SEVEN CHURCH PERIODS that Christians would go through.
Since chapter four is a vision of the rapture, then “the Things Which Are,” must be a description of the prophetic outline of the “Church Spiritual History”. After you see this prophetic outline of the “Spiritual History” of the Church then the rapture will take place.
When we enter the last church period we know it as the last age before the rapture. This interpretation of the “Messages to the Seven Churches” was hidden to the early Church, because time was required for Church History to develop and be written.
The churches are given in the order named, because the peculiar characteristic of that Church applied to the period of Church History to which it is assigned.
It is possible to discern when each Age began and ended through “marker events”, events that altered the course of Church and secular history.
The idea of “marker events” has Biblical precedent in Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, Daniel 9:25; 12:11-12,
“He that has an ear let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches”, this phrase alone causes us to understand that there are levels of application to this letter’s churches,
- They are Local they are real churches
- They are conveying a personal message to the churches
- They are Personal to the pastor or “angel of the church”
- They are Prophetic in nature
- They give a picture of the church as a whole there 7 Churches
THE 1ST LETTER TO THE CHURCH OF EPHESUS: Rev.2:1-7
(The Loveless church)
Jesus Christ told John to write the letter to the church in Ephesus to commend the Ephesian Christians for their labors and perseverance in God’s truth. He also wanted to exhort them to rekindle their former love for the Savior.
DESCRIPTION OF CHRIST Rev.2:1
The speaker in this vision in 2:1-7, of course, is Christ, described by John as walking in the midst of the seven golden Lampstands. This indicates that Christ and His power have always been available to the Church.
Ephesus was a leading seaport and the capital of the Roman province of Asia. Paul had evangelized it and used it as a base of operations for at least three years (Acts 18:19-21;19; 1 Cor. 16:8). Timothy had labored there (1 Tim. 1:3) as had the Apostle John.
It was the largest city in Asia Minor and was “the Vanity Fair of the Ancient World.” Ephesus was definitely the first recipient of four New Testament books (Ephesians, 1 and 2Timothy, and Revelation) and possibly four more (John’s Gospel and his three epistles).
Paul also wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus. It was a very important city in the early history of the church. By the end of the first century there were probably many house churches that composed the body of Christ in Ephesus (“the church in Ephesus”).
The messenger would have made the letter known to the congregation when he read it publicly. The word translated “angel” usually refers to a heavenly messenger in the New Testament, but it describes human messengers as well (cf. Matt. 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:24, 27; 9:52).
John described Jesus Christ figuratively as the One in authority over the churches’ leaders and One who knew their situations. He was watching over them (cf. 1:13, 16).
2. Commendation 2:2-3 (cf. v. 6)
The Greek word oida, translated “know” (v. 2), reflects full and exact knowledge from absolute clearness of vision and is always the word used to describe Christ’s knowledge in Revelation. The other Greek word for knowledge, ginosko, speaks of progress of knowledge in Revelation. This church had remained faithful to Jesus Christ for over 40 years.
He approved of the good works of these believers—their toil in His service, patient endurance of circumstances (Gr. hypomone) under affliction, and discipline of evil men and false teachers.
The false teachers probably claimed to be functional apostles (cf. 2 Cor. 11:13) rather than official apostles (Acts 1:15-26). “The false teachers claimed to be [apostles] in the wider sense, itinerant teachers with a mission which placed them on a higher level than the local elders.”
As to whether the authoritative function of apostles continued after the first century, the apostolic fathers are instructive. The Fathers apparently understood the special apostolic function to have ceased with the end of the apostolic era. Particularly commendable was the faithful perseverance of this church (v. 3).
3. Rebuke 2:4
The Ephesians, however, were serving Jesus Christ and maintaining orthodoxy as a habit rather than out of fervent love for their Savior (cf. Eph. 1:15-16). Yet the emphasis in all these letters on the congregations’ allegiance to Jesus Christ seems to favor the view that love for Him is in view here, genuine believers are in view.
They did what was correct but for the wrong reason. Service is important, but Jesus Christ wants our love too. “It is only as we love Christ fervently that we can serve Him faithfully.”
4. Exhortation 2:5-6
The correction for a cold heart that the Lord prescribed was a three-step process. They needed to remember how they used to feel about Him, to repent (change their attitude), and return to the love that formerly motivated them. The “deeds” they used to do probably refer to the activities that fanned the flame of their love (e.g., the Lord’s Supper perhaps) as well as their service for Him (v. 2).
To rekindle first love there needs to be a return to first works because there is an intimate relationship between love and good works (1 John 5:2). Memory can be a powerful force in effecting a change (cf. the prodigal son in Lk 15:17-18).
Eventually the Ephesians church passed out of existence, but that did not occur until the eleventh century. The recipients of this letter seem to have responded positively to this exhortation. “The church that loses its love will soon lose its light, no matter how doctrinally sound it may be.” Here Apostle Paul’s wolves are called Nicolaitans;
Deeds of the Nicolaitans:
We know little of who were evidently followers of someone named Nicolas, they were not a sect but a party in the church who were trying to establish a priestly order and probably trying to model the church after the old testament order of Priests, Levites.
The word “Nicolaitans” is a transliteration of two Greek words that mean Niko which means “to conqueror, to overthrow” and Laos which means “people” or “laity”. So the word Nicolaitans, means to conquer or overthrow the people,
So when Jesus speaks he is saying, “I hate those that overthrow the people”. The Nicolaitans were trying to establish a Holy order of men, and place them to dominate people, which was foreign to the new testament plan of the five fold ministry, which purpose is to lead by example.
This new order of men would not be called apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastors or teachers, but rather they would be called: Clergy, Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals, popes, etc., here we have the origin of the separation of the clergy from the people, the thing THAT GOD HATES!
The church of Ephesus was not deceived, but recognized them as false apostles and liars. Consequently Nicolaitans has come down through history as typifying any system that seeks to dominate rather than serve people.
The deeds or work of the Nicolaitans was an exaggeration of the doctrine of Christian liberty which attempted an ethical compromise with heathenism. Though they had left their first love, they had not left their former hatred for evil. The character of the church of Ephesus is a fair outline of this church period, where the deeds of the Nicolaitans tried to spread throughout the age and churches.
5. Promise 2:7
An invitation preceded the promise, as in all the letters to follow (cf. 1:3). Jesus was the only person to issue this invitation in Scripture. The Gospels also record Him doing so seven times (Matt. 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 8:8; 14:35).
This invitation always occurs where Jesus appealed to His hearers to make a significant change. In addition to the implied promise of the whole church’s continuance if obedient (v. 5), Jesus Christ gave a promise to the individuals in the church. “Him who overcomes” probably refers to all Christians (cf. vv. 2-3, 10c, 13, 19, 25; 3:3, 8, 10; 1 John 5:4-5).
The promises given to overcomers in all seven letters and in 21:7 bear this interpretation out. However, in 1 John 2:13 and 4:4 John said his readers had overcome the world, not that all Christians are overcomers. In 1 John 5:4-5 he wrote that only believers in Christ can overcome the world.
Not that every believer in Christ does overcome the world, some students of Revelation have concluded that the overcomers are not all Christians but only faithful Christians.
The Promise is THE TREE OF LIFE
The tree of life is not simply a symbol for eternal life alone but also represents the cosmic center of reality where eternal life is present and available, and where God dwells. “One tradition often used in apocalyptic literature originated in Gen 2:9; 3:23-24 and involved eschatological access to the tree of life in the heavenly paradise, clearly a metaphor for the enjoyment of eternal life.”
Paradise is a Persian loan word meaning a walling around, hence a walled park or garden (cf. Gen. 2:8-10; Rev. 22:1-4, 14). To eat of the Tree is to enjoy all that the life of the world to come has in store for redeemed humanity. The tree of life appears four times in the Book of Proverbs and its use there help us understand its presence in Genesis and Revelation.
The Church must first be brought into judgment, and then overcoming Christians will realize that which has been promised. The promise itself seems to be that those who remember, repent, and repeat the first works (v. 5) will partake of the tree of life. There is a connection between the tree of life and man’s rule over the earth.
Adam in his unfallen state had access to this tree, but when he fell God kept him from it (Gen. 1:26-28; 3:22). In the future, believers will have access to it again (cf. 22:14).
The fruits of the tree of life are compared to this things in scripture:
The tree of life is referred to wisdom (Prov. 3:18),
The tree of life is referred to righteousness (Prov. 11:30),
The tree of life is referred to satisfied hope (Prov. 13:12),
The tree of life is referred to controlled speech (Prov. 15:4)
These are all the fruits that would have provided Adam and will provide the overcomers with what they will need to flourish in the millennial kingdom and beyond.
Christ’s Condemnation to those that lose their first Love:
The speaker in this vision in 2:1-7 of course, is Christ, described by John as walking in the midst of the seven golden Lampstands. This indicates that Christ and His power have always been available to the Church. He is thus fulfilling His words to the apostles in Matthew 28:20, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age”.
“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance”. Christ commended this early church for its faithful works of Christian service. Service for Jesus Christ is work. It is a joyous labour of love for the child of GOD who is “abiding in Christ”, but it is nonetheless a labour.
Christ knows and records all faithful service. he said in Matthew 10:42, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward”.
“I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men”. The word for “church” in the Greek is ecclesia, literally meaning “called-out ones”. A true church is a church in the world but not of the world. One of the things that characterized the early church, but not some of the other churches, was the refusal to fraternize with loose Christians.
The early church heeded the injunctions of the Holy Spirit to “watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them” (Rom. 16:17). Church discipline is almost unheard of today.
The early church practiced it, and the truly separated church that is filled with the Spirit today will still practice it. A Pure Church: “I know…you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.” Satan sowed weeds in the LORD’s wheat field immediately after the day of Pentecost.
Some of these weeds disguised themselves as apostles and went about deceiving some of the early churches in their innocence, for they had no written copy of the Scriptures.
Of course, GOD is faithful, and those churches that truly looked to Him and tried the spirits, “to see if they are of GOD”, were not deceived. The church at Ephesus was one of these and would not be taken in by false apostles.
The current Church of Jesus Christ needs to heed this message, for there are many false apostles going about disguised as servants of Jesus Christ but who are really enemies of the cross, seeking their own personal gain.
The ecclesiastical sickness of “ECUMANIA” (a one-world church regardless of one’s faith), which has caught the fancy of many church leaders, has a deadening effect on the true Church wherever it is found. We can expect this trend to continue with increasing ferocity until the LORD comes.
We have every right today to test people to see if they are of GOD. If their teachings are not consistent with and faithful to the Word of GOD, they should be rejected. Because of the devil’s use of semantics, we have to examine what people mean by the words they employ, as well as the words themselves.
An Enduring Church: “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary”. The structure of these words clearly indicates that the church at Ephesus was a consistent church, enduring through its entire history in faithful propagation of the gospel message, not being fainthearted, but courageously presenting the gospel of Christ.
The entire commendation is a tribute to the faithfulness of this godly church. An Autonomous Church:” You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate”. The word “Nicolaitans” comes from two Greek words: (NIKO), meaning “to conquer, overthrow”, and (LAOS), meaning “the people, laity”. It seems that in the early days of the church the followers of Nicolai held two serious heretical views:
They practiced sensuality by completely separating one’s spiritual and physical nature, thus giving themselves license to sin. And they tried to establish an ecclesiastical order. This latter heresy is known as “Nicolaitanism”.
Evidently an effort was made to set up bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and popes. This is an unscriptural idea, which causes the local church to become enslaved by one man or a small group of men whose spiritual life can determine the spiritual success of the church.
This is a most dangerous principle indeed, since every human being is dependent on an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ to maintain spiritual vitality. “Holy men” may cease “abiding” after taking office, to the great detriment of the church.
Another evil of this practice is that it causes the local church to look to human beings for the solution to their problems rather than to the Holy Spirit. The LORD Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit, who “will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
Nicolaitans, which is synonymous with modern day ecclesiasticism, is a concept about which Jesus Christ said, “I also hate”. The Church of Jesus Christ could learn the valuable lesson that it is not by ecclesiasticism or organization or promotion or administration, but “by my Spirit, says the LORD”.
The greatest single curse in modern Christendom is ecclesiasticism. When human beings get control of the spiritual training of other people and are in a position to dominate the church, their theological position will eventually dominate that church.
The history of the Church of Jesus Christ is a continuous cycle of autonomous churches amalgamating into great conventions or denominations of ecclesiastical hierarchies that eventually become apostate.
This in turn causes a breaking away on the part of the minority group that seeks to be faithful to the Scripture and to be autonomous, depending only on the Holy Spirit
“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love”. There was only one condemnation against this early church – but a serious one indeed. Although basically faithful, it had unconsciously succumbed to the natural tendency of letting even the most wonderful experience become commonplace.
The generation of the apostles had passed from the scene, except for the Apostle John, and their children had taken their places by the time this message was given. Although the Ephesians loved the LORD, they had lost the spontaneous sparkle of their love for Him.
This has been illustrated many times in human experience by marriages that fall onto dangerous ground when the husband and wife begin taking each other for granted. Honeymoon love erodes and becomes just routine married life. As devastating as this is in marriage, it is many times worse in the relationship of an individual or a church with Christ.
The thrilling flush of new-found conversion and experience with Jesus Christ must be guarded by submission to the Holy Spirit all during one’s Christian experience.
Most Christians’ loves consist of a “first love experience”, which develops into a routine walk of having “forsaken your first love”. The Counsel of Christ: The Christ of the churches counsels the church of Ephesus to do three things:
1. “Remember the height from which you have fallen”. Christ sternly admonishes the believers at Ephesus to recall their faithfulness of earlier years and to take inventory of their spiritual life. This is also a need of the twentieth-century church.
2. “Repent”. They are to turn back from their coldness and indifference to a vital relationship with Christ.
3. “Do the things you did at first”. This completes Christ’s counsel and stands as a test of their love. The LORD Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matt. 7:16); so it is today that by a church’s or an individual’s “works” He will know them.
Those that truly love Jesus Christ with all their heart obey Him. The Saviour Himself said, “If you love me, you will obey what I Command” (John 14:15). The children of GOD who excuse their indulgence and lack of consecration only prove by their conduct that they do not love the LORD Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ said Ephesus “Hear what the Spirit says” and “to him who conquers…” Hear What the Spirit Says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”.
This was an expression of the LORD which implied different kinds of individuals: Those spiritually minded Christians who are willing to hear what the Spirit says to the churches and those who are not.
The test of this hearer is seen in his conduct, for the Scripture teaches that we should be “doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22, KJV).
Those without ears. This, of course, could not refer to physical ears, for everyone is equipped with them. This is obviously referring to those who are not attuned to the Holy Spirit by the new birth – Consequently, they cannot hear the voice of GOD when He speaks.
Not all born-again Christians are willing to hear the Spirit of GOD when He speaks. The Holy Spirit upbraided the Hebrew Christians for being “slow to learn” (Heb. 5:11).
This is in reference to those Christians who are in rebellion against the Spirit of GOD and His mastery over their lives – a most dangerous condition in which to live.
THE 2ND LETTER TO THE CHURCH IN SMYRNA: Rev.2:8-11
(The persecuted church)
DESCRIPTION OF CHRIST Rev.2:8
Christ, describes himself as the first and the last, which was dead and is alive.
This indicates that Christ has power over the grave, death, etc.
Smyrna was also a seaport on the Aegean Sea about 40 miles north of Ephesus. Late in the first century it was a large, wealthy city with a population of about 100,000. It still thrives today as Izmir with a population of about 200,000.
Jesus Christ described Himself to this church as the eternal One who died and experienced resurrection. “Smyrna” means “bitter.” The Greek word translates the Hebrew word, myrrh, a fragrant perfume used in embalming dead bodies (cf. Matt. 2:11; John 19:39). It becomes very fragrant when someone crushes it.
These believers would have found encouragement that even though the prospect of death threatened them, resurrection and eternal life with Christ were certain. Smyrna had died as a city on several occasions because of invasions and earthquakes, but it had risen again to new life because the residents had rebuilt it.
In Smyrna many residents worshipped a goddess named Cybele whom they regarded as the personification of the yearly rejuvenation of nature. Her devotees claimed that she arose from the dead every spring.
2. Commendation 2:9
Jesus Christ knew their tribulation, tribulation is the Greek word (thlipsis) which means a pressing, pressing together and a pressure. It’s a metaphor for oppression, affliction and distress. Christians in this church were experiencing this, including poverty, because of their faith.
The imperial cult permeated virtually every aspect of city and often even village life in Asia Minor, so that individuals could aspire to economic prosperity and greater social standing only by participating to some degree in the Roman cult.”
Jesus Christ had no rebuke for these saints, this would mark the outline of what Christians in that age would go through, notwithstanding their physical poverty, the Christians in Smyrna were rich spiritually.
Evidently some of the persecutors were Jews who slandered the Christians (cf. Acts 18:12-17) and cursed Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 26:11). They apparently claimed to be committed to God but were not. They came from Satan’s camp (cf. Acts 14:19; 17:5-8, 13).
At the martyrdom of Polycarp who was the pastor of the church at Smyrna in A.D 168, these Jews eagerly assisted by gathering on the Sabbath wood for the fire in which he was burned.
All he had to do was say Cesar was lord, he would not. They tried to burn him but the flames did an arch around him of silver and gold and when they had stabbed him with a sword, his blood hit the flames and they were extinguished.
Evidently in their trials they had remained pure in belief and behavior. In the first century the enemies of Christians leveled six slanderous accusations against them:
(1) Cannibalism, “eating the body of Christ”
(2) Immorality, “will not value morals from other cultures”
(3) Breaking up homes, “separation from light and darkness”
(4) Atheism, “don’t believe in any other gods”
(5) Political disloyalty, “will not bow to Caesar”
(6) Being incendiaries “because they taught that the world would burn up”
3. Exhortation 2:10a
These persecuted Christians did not need to fear their adversaries or death since they would live forever with Jesus Christ. “Behold” signals an oracular declaration (cf. 2:22; 3:8, 9, 20). The devil would incite their foes to imprison some of them shortly, having received permission from God to do so (cf. Job 1).
This would be a trial (Gr. peirasthete) that Satan would use to try to entice them to depart from the Lord. Under the Roman legal system imprisonment was usually not a punishment in itself; rather it was used as a means of correction to compel obedience to an order issued by a magistrate or to place one temporarily in restraint before execution.
Jesus tells the original recipients of this letter, that they will have ten days of tribulation, meaning these Christians were about to go through oppression, affliction, tribulation, and distress for their faith for 10 days. It was viewed as a period of testing.
This was done to see if they would give up on their faith. The citizens of Smyrna had a reputation for being faithful to the emperor because of their previous acts of fidelity to him.
4. 2:10b-11; The Promise is THE CROWN OF LIFE
The crown of life is probably the fullness of eternal life as a reward (cf. 1 Cor. 9:25; 1 Thess. 2:19; 2 Tim. 4:6-8; Heb. 2:9; James 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 4:4). This appears to be a victor’s crown (Gr. STEPHANOS) given for enduring the trials and tests of life, even to the point of death without denying Christ.
The person who endures these trials will receive the crown of life after Jesus Christ has approved him or her. This approval will take place when the Lord evaluates that believer’s works at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:13). He will award the crown at this judgment (1 Cor. 3:14).
Four reasons the righteous suffers:
(1) They make Poor choices.
De 30:19 –
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life that both thou and thy seed may live.
(2) They are in Ignorance
Ho 4:6 –
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
(3) They live in a wicked and corrupted world
1Jo 3:12 –
Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.
by one man sin enter in the world and death by sin;
So when you see natural disasters, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, fires etc. these are all consequences of the fall of man; so the earth was thrown into corruption, this earth is corrupted.
(4) They are in the Sovereign purpose of God (Water walkers)
And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,
Godly is an interesting Greek word it’s (EUSEBOS), and it means one who is devout to God; devotion is passionate or burning for God.
If you have devotion you will experience persecution,
1Pe 3:17 –
For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
1Pe 4:19 –
Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
Ro 8:17 –
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
2Ti 2:12 –
If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.
Christ speaking to the church Smyrna;
Prophetically speaking “The “ten days” of trouble looks to be a parallel of the period of persecution under 10 Roman emperors there are ten primitive persecutions mentioned in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.
THE 3RD LETTER TO THE CHURCH IN PERGAMOS: Rev.2:12-17
(The Worldly church)
The purpose of this letter was to encourage the Christians in Pergamos for their faithfulness to Christ and to urge them to reject the false teaching in their midst. In this message the Lord reveals to us where Satan’s throne is.
Yet God decides to put a church in the place where Satan’s throne is, why? To show the rest of the church age, that it does not matter if the devil is your neighbor, He still expect you to keep His standard.
Pergamos was the seat of the Roman government in Asia it was the place were the tentacles of the roman religion reach out. God is saying to us, I know where you dwell, I know the temptations you face, I know the difficulties you face.
Jesus said I know where you dwell, but listen to this statement, Jesus knew this was the city where Satan’s throne was, it was a tough city, yet God did not lower his expectation of those that followed him. Jesus gives them no excuses, there is no excuses with Jesus, you can’t say my surroundings have influenced me or mommy did not hug me enough.
Nor can you say I did not have a Daddy or I don’t have time to pray. Not all that are fatherless are bad people, not all that had their family treat them bad, treat other people bad. Not all that were hurt by people turn around and hurt other people, not all that saw abuse abused others.
People do bad things not because they did not know any better or their environment, but they do bad things because they choose to. Apostle Paul wrote most of the New Testament in Jail, Martin Luther translated the bible while he was in house arrest, your environment should never dictate what you do.
No, here Jesus says I still expect you to be light in the midst of darkness where you are; God puts a church in Satan’s capital to tell the church today you may live in the worst of moral conditions, but good things can come out of bad environments.
God puts a church where Satan’s seat was, to show us “I do what I want, when I want and the devil can’t do anything about it.”
DESCRIPTION OF CHRIST Rev.2:12
Christ, describes himself as the one which has the sharp sword with two edges, this indicates that Christ as power to judge the church. He is the discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart Heb.4:12.
Pergamum or Pergamos was the capital city of the province of Asia. It was a celebrated city 15 miles from the Aegean Sea about 60 miles north of Smyrna. The river Selinus flowed through it and the river Caicus ran just south of it.
It was judged the most brilliant city in Asia by some. The meaning of the name “Pergamos” is “height or elevation”, the town was noteworthy for three reasons.
First it was the center for many pagan religious cults, and emperor worship was more intense there than in any other surrounding city.
Second, it boasted a university with a large library.
Third, it was the leader and center of the production of parchment. Pergamos was chiefly a religious center of the province. A title which it bore was “Thrice Neokoros,” meaning that in the city 3 temples had been built to the Roman emperors, in which the emperors were worshipped as gods.
Smyrna, a rival city, was a commercial center and as it increased in wealth, it gradually became the political center. Later, when it became the capital, Pergamos remained the religious center.
Many of the Jews were more or less assimilated with the Greeks, even to the extent of bearing Greek names. Roman officials who had the right to carry this sword (Gr. hromphaia, cf. 1:16; 2:16) had the power of life and death in cases of capital offences.
It is interesting that Pergamos was a city to which Rome had given the rare power of capital punishment (ius gladii), which was symbolized by the sword. The Christians in Pergamos were thus reminded that though they lived under the rule of an almost unlimited power, they were citizens of another kingdom—that of him who needs no other sword than that of his mouth.
2. Commendation 2:13
The Pergamos Christians had held firmly to their commitment to Jesus Christ and their witness for Him even though they lived where Satan had his throne.
Antipas is said to have been a dentist and a physician, but he was suspected of propagating Christianity secretly and they accused him of disloyalty to Caesar. He was condemned to death and was shut up in a brazen (or copper) bull, which was then heated until it was red-hot.
Babel was built by Nimrod Gen.10:8-10. It was the origins of nations, but the nations were not scattered until Satan planted in them the “Virus” of a doctrine that has been the source of every false religion the world has ever known.
This was the first seat of the great apostasy, it was here that the Babylonian cult was invented, a system claiming to possess the highest wisdom, but before one could be initiated to become a member he had to confess to a priest.
Once admitted into this order, men became members of a Mystical brotherhood, over whom was placed a Pontiff or high priest whose word was law. During the era of the Medo-Persia Empire, Satan permits the Chaldean (Babylonian) priesthood to migrate to the city of Pergamos, so it would become their new religious power center located on the peninsula of Italia.
In 133 BCE Attalus, the Pontiff King of Pergamos bequeathed the headship of the Babylonian Priesthood to Rome; making the Roman Empire his heir and successor to the Babylonian Priesthood. By order of his will paved the way for a man called
Emperor Julius Caesar, who in B.C.63 was made “Supreme Pontiff” of the Babylonian order and becoming heir to the rights and titles of King Attalus Pontiff of Pergamos.
Thus the First Roman Emperor became the head of the Babylonian priesthood making Rome the successor of Babylon. In the days of John the Revelator, Pergamos was still recognized as the power center for the Babylonian priesthood. For over three hundred years the Chaldean (Babylonian) priesthood made their religious home in Pergamos.
Pergamos was dedicated to the worship of Marduk the chief god of the Babylonians. Pergamos was the site of the first temple of the Caesar cult, dedicated to the goddess Roma and the emperor Augustus in 29 BC. Pergamos, since 29 BC, had been active in the promotion of the imperial religion and became the provincial center of the Roman state religion.
Altar of Zeus “The altar of Satan”
Pergamos was the famous site of the Altar of Zeus king of the gods who Romans believe was the Greek name for their Roman god Jupiter who was also the king of the Roman gods. In Pergamos there was the Altar of Zeus the savior, the king of the gods, who again the Romans knew him as Jupiter.
This Altar The structure was 35.64 meters wide and 33.4 meters deep; the front stairway alone is almost 20 meters wide.
The Roman Lucius Ampelius recorded in his liber memorialis (“Notebook”), in Chapter VIII that also at Pergamos the great marble altar was 40 feet (12 m) high. The base is decorated with a battle between the Giants and the Olympian gods known as the Gigantomachy.
It also depicts, in a series of consecutive scenes, events from the life of Telephus, legendary founder of the city of Pergamos who was supposed to be the son of the hero Hercules and Auge, a daughter of the Tegean king Aleus. So the founder of this city is said to be a son of a Nephilim.
Citizens all over the world would come to Pergamos also because Asklepios, the Greek God of healing, did all healing under the authority of Zeus the king of the gods. Asklepios was said to be the supposed founder of medical science. People from all parts of the Roman empire and world would come to seek healing in this pagan temple and the shrine area that was inhabited by thousands of harmless snakes.
While people were sleeping in the court, the god revealed to the priests and physicians by means of dreams the remedies which were necessary to heal their sickness. Thus opportunities of deception were numerous. There was a school of medicine in connection with the temple.
Medicine and science was worshipped here and as the symbol of their worship was the serpent. The snake was carried down into our own day with a staff entwined with serpents called the caduceus, still using the snake as a symbol for the medical arts. Asklepios is depicted holding the caduceus in his hand, who did all under the authority of Zeus (the saviour).
3. Rebuke 2:14-15
The Doctrine of Balaam
Two doctrines were infiltrating the church, the doctrine of Balaam and of the Nicolaitans. The story of Balaam is of a prophet of God, who started to corrupt his way because of money; King Balak hired him to curse Israel,
The doctrine of Balaam involved idolatry and sexual immorality. It’s found in Numbers chapters 22-24. To make a long story short, Balak hired Balaam (a prophet) to curse Israel. After numerous attempts at bribing him by Balak, Balaam not being able to, comes up with a strategy.
This strategy is later revealed in Numbers 31:8,16. What becomes obvious is that Balaam’s strategy included getting the children of Israel to commit sexual immorality with the Midianite women.
In committing this trespass, the men of Israel were also mingling with the pagan gods worshipped by these women. This is a perfect example of religious syncretism.
That’s a big theological word, but it basically means a “mixture” of different belief systems. This would render Israel unfaithful to God and consequently subject to His discipline.
The pagans in Pergamos were evidently encouraging the Christians the same way to join in their pagan feast and the sexual immorality that accompanied this feast also. By participating, some in the church had given approval to Balaam’s teaching.
Balaam told Balak that he could overcome the Israelites if he could make Israel believe God would keep them, not only if they obey him but also if they rebel against him.
Meaning to make them believe that God’s promises are unconditional or that God will fulfill his word in your life whether you obey him or disobey him. What’s this teaching?
It is the message of hyper grace; that if you sin it’s ok because you’re covered by grace, so there is no problem. God will forgive and God will still fulfill His promises. We must understand that there are four things Grace cannot do:
- Grace cannot excuse man for not meeting Gods condition for salvation:
If you live your life and do not confess your sin before God and accept Jesus as savior you will lose your soul.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God”.
If you don’t have faith in Jesus, you are condemned already. Now faith comes by hearing and hearing the word of God, so if a person has not been convicted of his sin by Holy Spirit through the word, how can they believe in Jesus?
That if you shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, you shalt be saved. If you confess and if you believe you are saved, if you don’t you are not.
(2) Grace cannot keep a man saved if they are willfully sinning against God:
Gal.5:19 to 21 says
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envying, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God”.
“Which do” is the Greek word: “PRASSO”, this means to practice. So a Christian will stumble with the flesh from time to time and God will forgive them, but those that practice these things will not make it into the kingdom of God.
(Greek word MOICHEIA) To be an adulterer, to have unlawful intercourse with another’s wife, or to be, debauched- to be corrupted morally.
A Hebrew idiom, the word is used of those who at a woman’s solicitation are drawn away to idolatry, i.e. to the eating of things sacrificed to idols.
(Greek word PORNIA) Illicit = illegal sexual intercourse. Also used for the worship of idols, of the defilement of idolatry, as incurred by eating the sacrifices offered to idols.
(Greek word AKATHARSIA) Impurity, filthy motives of character and behaviour.
(Greek word ASELGEIA) Unbridled lust, unrestrained sexual craving.
(Greek word EIDOLOLATRIA) A Blind and excessive devotion to something, false gods.
(Greek word PHARMAKEIA) Drugs.
(Greek word ECHTHRA) “This means Enmity”, deep-seated ill will- very unfriendly.
(Greek word ERIS) Bitter conflict; contentions.
(Greek word ZELOS) To strive, to match or excel through misdirected zeal, fervour of spirit for embracing, pursuing, defending anything incorrectly.
(Greek word THUMOS) Intense anger that boils quickly, Forceful.
(Greek word ERITHEIA) A Desire to put one’s self forward, self seeking.
(Greek word DICHOSTASIA) Conduct or language inciting rebellion against authority.
(Greek word HAIRESIS) Men separating themselves from others, following their will,
also creating their own view outside of scripture, or grabbing scripture out of context.
(Greek word PHTHONOS) Resentment with desire for the possessions or qualities of another.
(Greek word PHONOS) To kill intentionally and with premeditation.
(Greek word METHE) Habitual intoxication, to lose control.
(Greek word KOMOS) Unrestrained noise, lacking discipline.
Now God’s grace will forgive the sinner, but those that teach that God will forgive sin without teaching repentance are in false doctrine. Forgiveness demands change.
In the story of the woman caught in adultery, John 8:1-11, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them.
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do you say?”
They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them,
“He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her. Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.”
What did he write on the ground? It’s found in Jeremiah 17:13, it says, “All who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the LORD.”
Learn this lesson, those that condemn are usually those that have a life that have turned away and forsaken the LORD. These people that condemned her had forsaken the LORD with their actions. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”
She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” Jesus said to the woman, “I don’t condemn you”; that’s grace, then he said, “go and sin no more”, Jesus expected her to change.
(3) Grace does not cancel the death penalty:
When saved men break the law of God, if you with premeditation take a man’s life and are convicted and sentenced by a jury of your peers, you owe a debt to society and you must die. If one kills a man, and then converts to Christianity, that doesn’t excuse him from being punished for breaking the law. It is clear that in Romans Paul is speaking of authorities in the world that God allowed to come to power.
28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers is not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing
(4) Grace does not guarantee men will always be saved:
He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels;
If your name is in the Book of Life and Jesus says, “I will not blot it out”, this implies your name can be erased from the Book of Life. The main facet of the doctrine of Balaam which is being promulgated in Churches today is the Christian’s positional standing ‘in Christ.’
The Israelites did not sin with immunity, and neither can Christians. Sin in the camp of Israel resulted in the Israelites being overthrown in the wilderness, short of the goal of their calling.
And it will be no different for Christians. Look at Gods grace, the transgressions which we committed, they shall not be mentioned unto us, if we repent, there is grace, and if we repent He will forgive.
1st John 3:8-9 “If we sin we are of the Devil”
2nd Peter 2:14 “Why full of sin”
1st Cor.15:34 “Awake to righteousness”
Rom.8:4 “We fulfill righteousness when we walk after the Spirit”
Ezekiel 18:21-23 –
21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. 22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? Saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?
Ezekiel 18:24 -25
24 But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die 25 But when the righteous turns away from his righteousness, and commits iniquity, All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his sin shall he die
The Doctrine of Nicolaitans
The doctrine of the Nicolaitans is a symbolic name of a party that represents the hierarchy of a ruling class over the rest of the people, developing a pecking order of fleshly leadership. Jesus hates this and warns the people to repent or else “I will come upon you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”
The Early church father Iranaeus, identified the Nicolaitans in his treatise “Against Heresies” in the second century as they who are an “offshoot of the knowledge which is falsely so-called,” mentioning that they “lead lives of unrestrained indulgence.”
The root of the word Nicolaitans comes from Greek (NIKAO) to conquer or overcome, and (LAOS), which means people and which the word laity comes from. This refers to the earliest form of what we call a priestly order or clergy which later on in church history divided people and allowed for leadership other than those led by the spirit of the risen Lord.
A good translation of Nicolaitan would be “those who prevail or conquer over the people.” This clerical system is the teaching that developed into the papal hierarchy of priests and clergy lording over the flock. The Council of Trent stated,
“If anyone shall say that there is not in the Catholic Church a hierarchy established by the divine ordination, consisting of bishops, presbyters and ministers, let him be anathema.” It is not the question of the ministries but rather in the separation of them into a hierarchy over the people.
The wrong separation of the clergy from the laity is a great evil in God’s sight and He hates the lust for religious power over others. This Nicolaitans were accepted and were teaching in Pergamos the system that seeks to dominate rather than serve people.
These two but different teachings of the doctrine Balaam and doctrine of Nicolaitans in this church had disobeyed the decision of the Jerusalem council in regard to idolatrous practices and fornication (cf. Acts 15:20,29).
4. Exhortation 2:16
If the erring believers would not judge themselves and repent, they could anticipate God’s judgment (cf. 1 Cor. 11:31). “Unwillingness to repent shows that a person is not a faithful believer.” They would die by the sword proceeding from Christ’s mouth. Balaam had died, ironically, by the Israelites’ sword (Num. 31:8).
THE PROMISE OF THE HIDDEN MANNA Rev.2:17
The “hidden manna” seems to be a reference to the manna that sustained the lives of the Israelites in the wilderness that lay “hidden” in the holy of holies. The Christians in Pergamos did not need the food of pagan festivals since they already had much better food.
Christians feed spiritually on Jesus Christ, the bread of life (John 6:48-51), who is the real manna hidden from sight now.
THE PROMISE OF THE WHITE STONE
A white stone was given to the victors in contests or battles. Perhaps God will elevate the overcomers to the position of ruler over the earth and will give him or her a new name, as He did Joseph (cf. Gen. 41:39-45).