Just so you know, I’m using commentaries written by Ladd, Beasley-Murray, Chilton, and sermon notes by Wilkins for these notes. I’m also rarely giving them any special recognition when I borrow their stuff. So, if you want to know where I’m using their information, you’ll have to buy their books and read them yourself.
You should know too that Ladd and Beasley-Murray are futurists and Chilton and Wilkins are Preterists. I’m in the later camp myself.
Historical Background for Ephesus 2:1-7
1. Most important city in Asia Minor
a. Politics & Trade
b. Art, science, witchcraft, idolatry, gladiators, and persecution
c. Now located 8 miles from the gulf or Ephesus, then a major sea port.
2. Main street ran from harbor to theater, passing brothel, public baths, gymnasium, library.
3. Temple to Artemis (Diana—goddess of fertility and wild nature) was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.
a. Acts 19:13-15; 18-19; 39
b. Ephesus was center for Jewish occultism.
c. Undoubtedly a center for heresies that would plague the church for years to come.
4. Eph. 4:17-19; 5:3-12 The Lord Jesus had established his church there. Acts 18:18
5. Paul was there early on Acts 19 and Timothy was a leader there years later 1 Tim. 1:3. According to Irenaeus the Apostle John ministered there after that.
v. 1—What is John to do to the angel?
What is an angel in this context?
What other word can ‘angel’ be?
Who is John representing in the letter?
How is he characterized?
What were the stars? The lampstands?
v. 2—What does Jesus know?
What works does he know?
What kind of toil are they being commended for?
Patience with what?
What does it mean to bear with those who are evil?
What have they done with those who have called themselves apostles? Warning from Paul to the Ephesian elders Acts 20:28-31
How did they test them?
Why did they test them?
Who did they find out that they were false?
What did they do with them when they found that they were false?
v. 3—Why have the Ephesians put up with so much for so long?
What does it mean to do something for Jesus’ Name’s sake?
What have they not grown?
Why would they have grown weary?
v. 4—What does Jesus have against the Ephesians?
Why is he so upset with them when he likes so much of what they are doing right?
What love did they have at first?
What did they do with it?
How did they get it in the first place?
How did they go about abandoning it?
Can a person, or church, be too loving and not orthodox enough?
v.5—What should they do now?
What are they to remember?
From where did they fall?
How does remembering something like this help?
What should they do when they remember from where they fell? 1 John 5:2-3; Rom. 13:8-10
What works/deeds were these? The deeds of love are what is important, change thinking to God’s way and then change action.
What if the people should continue to neglect the warning?
What will Jesus do? Not second coming, but comings in judgment 2:16; 3:3, 11
Notice translations for this question: When will he do it? Quickly 2:5, 16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:7, 12, 20
What will he do to them?
How will he remove the lampstand (from its place)? This may be an illusion to the way the sea was constantly working to remove the city of Ephesus from the ocean by bringing rocks, sediment, and dirt down the streams and thereby moving the city further and further from the coast. 200 years before a massive project removed the sediment from the harbor at much toil, perseverance, and hardship. By the middle of the first century the harbor was again filling with mud and sediment. If Ephesus was going to maintain their place in the empire, they would need to do some serious rethinking about what was important to them. Eventually, the city did dredge the harbor, but eventually they just let it go and today the old city is over 6 miles from the sea.
What does the lampstand represent?
What would happen if Jesus removed the lampstand?
What should they, therefore, do?
What does repent mean?
v. 6—What do they have?
Why did Jesus say “yet”?
What is a Nicolaitan? CF. 2:14 the Baalamites were the same group of people. In Greek Nikolaos means Conqueror of the people and in Hebrew Baalam means Conqueror of the people. And compared to the teaching of Jezebel in 2:20 we see that they are all members of the same group, all called different things in different cities.
What is God’s view of these Nicolaitans? Psa. 139:19-22
How can God hate anything, isn’t God love?
What should our attitudes be with regard to how God thinks about things?
How do we act toward them?
v. 7—What does someone have to have in order to hear?
Who doesn’t have ears?
What does “he who has ears” mean?
What is someone with ears supposed to do?
I thought Jesus was speaking, what is this “Spirit says to the churches” thing?
What will someone have to do to receive the tree of life?
What does it mean to conquer? Conquer what? What kind of language is the word conquer? 1 John 5:4; Rev. 12:11
Where is the Tree of Life?
Where is the paradise of God?
Notice in this letter to the Ephesians the language of paradise: Gen 3:8 Jesus holds all things together, he walks in immeasurable light, he is the creator. Gen 2:15 the angel is commanded to guard the church the same way Adam was commanded to guard his garden. But Adam failed and the angel at Ephesus had failed and Adam was tossed out and the Angel at Ephesus is in danger of being tossed out Gen 3:24. In the end the man who overcomes through Christ will once again be admitted to the tree of life, which was taken away from Adam. In Christ all is restored.
What did the Ephesians hear here?
What were they to do?
What is the difference between living a godly life on paper and living a godly life in your heart?
What happened to the church at Ephesus?
What is going to happen to us if we live like the Ephesians?
Why does it seem like God is never satisfied with his people?
What is God really calling the Ephesians to? Works or Faith? Works done in the strength of men. Or Works done in faith, by faith, for faith.
Historical Background for Smyrna 2:8-11
Smyrna is located about 35 miles north of Ephesus. It was a Roman city even before Rome was Rome. They were so patriotic toward Rome that they were allowed to build temples to the goddess of Rome in 128 BC and to Tiberius, Livinia, and the Roman Senate in 26 BC. Because of this they were constantly vying for the award as the central of Asia Minor with Ephesus.
We don’t know who founded the church in Smyrna, but it was probably during the missionary journey when Paul founded the church at Ephesus (Acts 19:10).
Besides being a center for Emperor worship we also know that there was a large contingent of Jewish folks. These Jews probably moved here during one of the many Jewish revolts and maybe even during the dispersion and turmoil that occurred after Pentecost. However they got to Smyrna, it is clear that they did not like Christians very much and were at the center of much if not all of the persecution meted out during this period.
Smyrna is where Polycarp was ministering and where he died in the early 2nd century. Rachel has a small report to give about Polycarp.
v. 8—Who is the next recipient of a letter?
Who is dictating the letter?
How do you know?
What does it signify that he is the first and the last? Quoting Is. 44:6 and 48:12, this title means that Jesus is claiming that he has complete control over everything in time and history. It is all under his control and command. Nothing happens in anyone’s life that is not directly tied to Jesus’ controlling sway.
Opposition to this view of sovereignty is not freedom, but meaninglessness. Think about it; if your suffering is not because a loving God commanded it to be so, what are you left with? Either God is impotent or he doesn’t care or he is deranged and evil. There isn’t anything left. But the Bible teaches that we don’t have to make that kind of choice. God is all and in all; in charge of every detail of our lives. “Suffering is part of his loving [and consistent] plan” for us. The choice is: are we going to trust him in this, or are we going to abandon him and try to go it alone in our own strength and power? It’s really a funny choice because there is no where to go, except to him for comfort.
What does it signify that he died and came to life? He is the only one who has ever, really gone from life to death to life again. No one except him can tell us what it is really like on the other side, from an experience point of view. Prophets have glimpsed glory, but only Jesus has been a member, a citizen of the “other” life. When he tells us that he is in control of the keys of life and death, it means that he can be trusted to take care of us when life gets so tough that life in this earth ceases. Even though we die, we know that that is okay because the one who lives has gone before us and everything is okay.
v. 9—What does he know (3 things)?
What is tribulation?
Who is going through tribulation?
What else does Jesus know about the Smyrna angel?
What kind of poverty is he talking about? Heb. 10:34
How do you know?
Who is providing the slander? Blasphemy can be against people as well as God. In this case, since the Christian church is the body of Christ, it may well be that slander against the church is slander against Christ—we are one. E.g. Acts 17:6, 7
Why are they saying they are Jews?
What are they really? Jews are by definition the people of God. When the people of God ignore God, they cease to be the people of God and hens also cease to be Jews. They should be the synagogue of God, Num. 16:3, but instead of God they are serving their father the devil, John 8:42-45. Instead of being servants of the living God, Gal. 6:16, they have degenerated to being servants of Satan instead. You will always serve someone.
Non-Christian Jews are not believers in God at all. An orthodox Jew would believe the Old Testament and since it speaks, no screams of Jesus as the Messiah, they would embrace the Messiah of God and submit to Jesus. A Jew is not one who is a Jew outwardly, but who is one who worships God in the inward parts of his heart Phil. 3:3; Rom. 2:28, 29
Circumcision was the same. It was always a bloody reminder of death and destruction. It pointed either to a poor lamb or bull, or to the death of the unfaithful Israelite.
Baptism is actually a symbol of death, which is why I prefer dunking to sprinkling. You are acknowledging in baptism that you deserve death, but have been saved by faith in the righteous act of the Son of God on the cross. If you have been baptized and fail to remain faithful the baptism points to your condemnation. If you remain faithful, it points to your salvation because of the death of Jesus.
What is a synagogue? James 2:2
What is a synagogue of Satan?
Who is Satan? Accuser Bible is full of examples where the Jews falsely accused the Christians of various things Acts 6:9-15; 13:10; 14:2-5; 17:5-8; 18:6, 12-13; 19:9
v. 10—What are they not to fear?
Why would they fear suffering?
What is coming?
Where is it coming from?
What is the point of the angel being thrown into prison?
What will the test be testing?
How long will he be tested? Job 1:21
What should the response be?
Faithful to what/whom?
What will the outcome of faithful persistence be? 2 Tim. 2:12; Matt. 10:22
Since he is all powerful, and omniscient, and all, why didn’t Jesus stop the persecution, poverty, and slanderous lies? Mk. 8:34-38; 13:9ff.; Jn. 15:20-27; 16:1ff; 2 Cor. 1:3-10; 4:7-18; Col. 1:24ff.; 1 Pet. 2-4
Samuel Rutherford—the Devil is but God’s master fencer, to teach us to handle our weapons.” The trials of Christians are not ordained ultimately by Satan, but by God; and the outcome is not destruction, but purity[Chilton, p. 103], 1 Pet. 4:12-19.
v. 11—What do we need to have in order to understand what is being said?
What will the angel receive if he maintains to the end?
What is a crown? Either a crown of royalty, more likely the victors crown like in athletics 1 Cor. 9:25
What will he be doing if he maintains faithfulness?
What kind of word is “conquer”?
What is the first death?
What is the second death? Mt. 10:28
Literary connection between Revelation and the Israel’s history: Smyrna
As was mentioned a couple of weeks ago the 7 churches look an awful lot like the history of the OT. We mentioned that Ephesus looks a lot like the antediluvian days and now we come to Smyrna which looks a lot like the situation the patriarchs and the Israelites in Egypt found themselves. For example, Jesus says he is the one who was dead but now has come to life.” This looks like an anti-type of Isaac when he was offered up as a sacrifice (Gen. 22:1-14; Heb 11:17-19) and the life of Joseph in Egypt (Gen. 37:18-36; 39:20-41:45; 45:4-8; 50:20) as well as Israel when they were lost in bondage in Egypt and saved by God through the sea. The Smyrnians were living in poverty even though they were rich just like the patriarchs (Heb. 11:9). Jews who really weren’t Jews were persecuting them just like Ishmael persecuted Isaac (Gen. 21:9; Gal. 4:22-31). The Smyrians were in danger of being thrown into prison because of slanderers just like Joseph even though he was living a faithful life (Gen. 39:13-20). Also, those who persevere will be given a crown of glory and exalted to the highest place, like Joseph (Gen. 41:40-44). The tribulation period of 10 days lines up nicely with the suffering the Israelites did through the 10 plagues in Egypt before salvation came to them by the hand of God.
Historical Background for Pergamum 2:12-17
Pergamum, another very famous city in Asia Minor, boasted their paganess and built temples to all the most popular gods and goddesses of the day. They had a very famous temple dedicated to Caesar and Roma worship (the first in Asia Minor) and “of all the seven cities, Pergamum was the one in which the church was most liable to clash with the imperial cult” (Mounce in Chilton). While Pergamum was not the kind of commercial city Ephesus and Smyrna were, it was much higher in the scale of idol worship and political high jinks.
“Observance of this worship [worship of the emperor] became a test of loyalty to Rome, for the imperial cult was the keystone of the imperial policy, and refusal to take part in the official cult was considered high treason” (Ladd, p. 45).
Pergamum had an acropolis 800 feet high and it had a cluster of many temples dedicated to the various gods and goddesses.
Into this context the Church of Christ was dropped.
v. 12—Which angel gets the next letter?
Who is dictating this letter?
What is a 2 edged sword?
Where else in the Bible have you seen the phrase?
What is the significance to the two edged sword? Think about the context of the church in their city? Rome thought they controlled the power to who should live and who should die. But God is the supreme commander and states only have power as God grants it (Rom. 13:1-4). Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth (Mt. 28:18), not Rome. The power of the sword belongs to Jesus, not Rome.
v. 13—What does Jesus know?
Where does he dwell?
Where is Satan’s throne? When a visitor came to Pergamum and saw the great hill where all the temples stood, it apparently looked like a great huge throne. But the city itself was a throne because it was the seat of political power in the region the hill only illustrated this fact. Rome was the seat of Satan in the west, Pergamum was the throne of Satan in the east. It must not be forgotten, however, that the false Jews played a prominent role in being Satan and behind, at this point in history, the persecution of the church by the Romans.
What is Satan’s throne?
How does the angel of Pergamum react to living where Satan’s throne is located?
What does “hold fast my name” mean?
Why might they not “hold fast” to Jesus’ name?
What does it mean to “deny my faith”?
When did they deny Christ’s faith?
How might one deny Jesus’ faith?
Why “my faith”?
What does he mean by “even in the days of Antipas”?
Who was Antipas?
What does it mean that he was a faithful witness?
What happened to Antipas?
Why does he mention that they live where Satan dwells again?
What does Jesus have against the angel?
What kind of people are living among them?
What did Balaam teach?
Where can we read about this event in the OT? Num. 22-24; 31:16
What was the end result of Balaam’s over all teaching? Acts 15:28-29. The teaching seemed to be that since Christ had freed us from the law we are free from any restraints at all –Antinomianism—Which is totally counter to the idea of holiness and sanctification taught all through the Bible.
v. 15—What other kinds of teaching does the church in Pergamum have?
Who were the Nicholaitans? The followers of Balaam and the Nicholaitans were the same group. The folks in Pergamum were hanging in their with regard to the basics of the faith, even to death, but they were falling in another area—the living out of the faith in daily life.
v. 16—What should the angel do about this teaching going on in his church?
Why should the angel repent if it is someone else in the church who is doing this teaching?
What would his repentance look like? The false teachers and those who continue to entertain the false teachings should be asked to leave. Perhaps the folks were thinking they were being magnanimous to accept teaching that was different. Similar to 1 Cor. 5:1-6.
What does repent mean?
What will happen to him if he doesn’t repent?
Where will Jesus come? To you?
Who will Jesus war against if he doesn’t repent?
What will he war against them with?
What sword? What did Balaam see in Jesus’ hand on the road? Num. 22:31
How did Balaam die? Num. 31:8
“Wherever heretics are indulged by the people of by the leadership, the church is on the verge of being destroyed by the jealous wrath of Christ” (Chilton, p. 109
v. 17—What are those with ears to hear to do?
What does it mean to have an ear to hear?
How can one get ears to hear?
Why would you want ears that hear?
Who is speaking to the churches?
I thought it was Jesus?
What would conquering look like?
What does conquer mean in this context?
What happens if someone were to conquer?
What will Jesus give to the one who conquers?
What is manna?
What is hidden manna? The manna hidden in the ark, which is Christ the bread of life John 6:33-51; Ex. 16:33-34; Heb. 9:4
What else will the conqueror receive?
What is a white stone? Ex. 16:31; Num. 11:7; Gen 2:12
What does it mean that new name is written on the stone? Ex. 28:9-12 Onyx is a black stone.
What is a new name? Isa. 62:2; Jas. 2:7; Acts 15:7
What is the new name?
Who knows what the new name is?
What does it mean to “know” something in the Bible? To own it, to rule over it. The “new name is not a secret, it is exclusive: Only the overcomer possesses the name, the divinely-ordained definition of himself as belonging to the covenant of the Lord Jesus Christ; no one else has the right to it” (Chilton, p. 111).
Why does everything work this way?
What does it mean to receive it?
What is “it”?
Setting in History:
Imagery in this section comes from Israel wandering in the dessert. (1) The abode of demons—Lev. 16:10; 17:7; Deut. 8:15; Matt. 4:1; 12:43. (2) just like during part of their wanderings Balaam and Balak are described as being enemies of God’s people and tempting Israel to fornication and idolatry—Num. 25:1-3; 31:16. (3) Like Phineas the priest, Christ promises to fight with the Balaamites if they don’t repent—Num. 22:31; 24:7-8. And (4) the overcomers receive the promised land and a place in glory with the Lord—a new name, new abode, new clothes, etc.
Literary connection between Revelation and the Israel’s history: Pergamum
1. Ephesus appeared to fit with the pre fall section of church history.
2. Smyrna seemed to fit well with the period of the patriarchs
3. Pergamum seems to fit well with time period of “sojourn” of Israel. The saints of the O’T lived for that period in what could be called a land of demons (Lev. 16:10; 17:7; Deut. 8:15; Matt 4:1; 12:43). The saints in Pergamum also lived in a land where Satan dwelt. The enemies of the church are the same folks who were enemies of the Israelites during their time of wandering: Balaam and Balaak, an evil king who tempted them to idolatry and fornication (Num. 25:1-3; 31:16). Phineas the priest threatens war against Balaam with the sword (Num. 22:31; 24:7-8). And to him who over comes to him is given a white stone with a new name inscribed on it. The same thing the high priest wore (Ex. 28:9-12.
Historical Background for Thyatira 2:18-29
Thyatira was famous for its trade. Militarily it was not much and it wasn’t a great civic center for the Roman empire, like the others so far. It was a town of merchants and craftsmen. Lydia (Acts 16:14 came from Thyatira and dealt in purple cloth. Consequently, the problems related to Thyatira came from their attitudes toward money, trade guilds, and the like.
The guilds were related to the various crafts and to do business in Thyatira one had to be a member of the guild to which is trade was part. The guilds, however, were not just clubs for the plumbers or electricians, they were organized around the religious cult related to the gods of their various guilds. They included meals dedicated to the gods, all sorts of debauchery and licentiousness and to be a Christian in this context was very difficult. The Nicolaitans, somehow came up with an answer to their problem—just go with the flow.
V. 18—Who is the letter being written to?
Who is doing the writing to the angel at the church at Thyatira?
Where is Thyatira?
Who is the Son of God? Only reference to Jesus as the Son of God in Revelation. it is all about authority, who has it really and where does it come from. Who do your worship and what does that mean?
What does the Son of God look like? How is he described?
Where else in the Bible do we see “eyes like a flame of fire” and “feet like burnished bronze”? (Eze. 1:1-7; Dan. 10:1-6; Rev. 19:11-13)
V. 19—What five things does Jesus know about the angel?
Works, love, faith, service, patient endurance.
What does it mean that the latter works exceed the first?
How does this compare with the church at Ephesus?
V. 20—Who does the angel tolerate?
Who was Jezabel and why does Jesus refer to Jezabel as the one who is leading the church astray? 1 Kings 21:25,26; 2 Kings 9:22
What does she practice?
What does Jesus think about this toleration? “We just need to get along”
Is it automatically good to be tolerant?
1. Only one God, we’re all worshipping the same God. So even though the folks are mistaken about what his name is, everything offered in true worship is really true worship and the real God gets the glory ultimately anyway.
2. By joining with them we can better witness to them. If they can’t see that we’re real folks, just like them, we can’t win them to Christ.
3. Going along will save lives and jobs.
4. We all learn things from one another. It’s good to learn new things isn’t it?
5. Its good to combine the best of Christianity with the best of other religions so that everyone can worship in a way that best fits the situation and is the best of all worlds.
v. 21—What did Jesus give her?
Who did he give it to?
What did she do with it?
What does it mean that he gave her time to repent?
v. 22—What is Jesus going to do because she didn’t repent in time? Sent her to bed…but she’d already been in bed.
What will he do to those who follow her in her sin?
What was her sin?
Are they talking about literal adultery or something else? Ez. 16 & 23
What will cause Jesus to stay his hand?
v.23—What will he do to her children? Isa. 57:3ff.
Who are her children?
What will all the churches know about God after she is punished?
What does it mean that Jesus searches minds and hearts?
What will Jesus give to folks according to their works?
I thought we were a grace based group, what’s all this works stuff?
v. 24—Who did Jesus’ focus shift to?
What have they not held to?
What have they not learned?
What are the deep things of Satan?
1. Christians could attain higher understandings of God if they would worship these false idols, commit fornication, eat tainted food, and enter into the other vile practices of those around them.
2. But the real sin is, ultimately, all about chaos and destruction
3. Everything that sets itself up against God, tries to tear everything else down instead. The world can never create anything, it can only destroy things and eventually it creates chaos and anarchy.
What did Jesus not lay on them?
v. 25—What did Jesus tell them to do next?
What does it mean to hold fast?
When can they let go what they have held fast to?
What does it mean that Jesus is going to come? When?
v. 26—To whom will Jesus give authority over the nations?
What does it mean to conquer? They were suffering both from the world outside (work, life, freedom, etc.) but also in their church (Jezabel and her followers).
How long must they conquer and keep his works?
v.27—What will the conquerors rule the Thyatirians with?
What does the rod of iron do?
What’s the significance of breaking pots?
Where does this verse come from in the OT? Ps. 2:8-9
By what authority will the Thyatirians rule?
Where will the Thyatirians get this authority?
Where did Jesus get this authority?
v. 28—What will Jesus give the conqueror?
What is the morning star? 2 Pet 1:19
v. 29—What is the one criterion for hearing?
What is the person with the ear supposed to hear?
Who is speaking?
Conflict is not a sign of defeat for the Christian. It is the sign that Jesus is indeed Lord and the battle has been engaged. It is through suffering that the Kingdom of Heaven advances. It is through death that resurrection is applied. The world is dying and the Kingdom is coming. The Morning Star was shining on the earth and the new day is dawning.
Literary connection between Revelation and the Israel’s history: Pergamum
1. Ephesus appeared to fit with the pre fall section of church history.
2. Smyrna seemed to fit well with the period of the patriarchs
3. Pergamum seems to fit well with time period of “sojourn” of Israel.
4. Thyatira looks like it fits well into the period of the Israelite monarch and the Davidic covenant. Christ announces himself to be the son of God, the greater David (cf. Ps. 2:7; 89:19-37; Ez. 34:23-24; 37:24-28; Hos. 3:5; Acts 2:24-36; 13:22-23). He rebukes Jezabel who is leading his people into bondage and adultery (1 Kns. 16:29-34; 21:25-26). Israel is threatened with tribulation because of their embrace of her te4achings (1 Kns. 17:1; James 5:17). She and her offspring will be killed (2 Kings 9:22-37). He who overcomes will be granted authority over the nations (2 Sam. 7-19; 8:1-14; Psa 18:37-50; 89:27-29). The concluding promise comes directly out of Psalm 2:9.