RPM, Volume 19, Number 12, March 19 to March 25, 2017

Barnes' New Testament Notes

Notes on the New Testament
Explanatory and Practical
Part 98

By Albert Barnes


Note: Due to the length of Introductory Material, please find it starting in See Barnes "Mal 2:1"

Also, See an Outline of the Entire Book See Barnes "Mal 2:6"




THIS chapter contains a general introduction to the whole book, and comprises the following parts:—

I. The announcement that the object of the book is to record a revelation which the Lord Jesus Christ had made of important events which were shortly to occur, and which were signified by an angel to the author, John, Re 1:1-3. A blessing is pronounced on him who should read and understand the book, and special attention is directed to it because the time was st hand when the predicted events would occur.

II. Salutation to the seven churches of Asia, Re 1:4-8. To those churches, it. would seem from this, the book was originally dedicated or addressed, and two of the chapters (2 and 3) refer exclusively to them. Among them evidently the author had resided, (Re 1:9,) and the whole book was doubtless sent to them, and committed to their keeping. In this salutation, the author wishes for them grace, mercy, and peace from "him which is, and which was, and which is to come"—the original fountain of all light and truth—referring to more sublime.

Verse 1. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. This is evidently a title or caption of the whole book, and is designed to comprise the substance of the whole; for all that the book contains would be embraced in the general declaration that it is a Revelation of Jesus Christ. The word rendered Revelation —apokaluptw, whence we have derived our word Apocalypse —means properly an uncovering; that is, nakedness —from apokaluptw—to uncover. It would apply to anything which had been covered up so as to be hidden from the view—as by a veil; by darkness; in an ark or chest—and then made manifest by removing the covering. It comes then to be used in the sense of disclosing or revealing by removing the veil of darkness or ignorance. "There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed." It may be applied to the disclosing or manifesting of anything which was before obscure or unknown. This may be done:

(a) by instruction in regard to that which was before obscure—that is, by statements of what was unknown before the statements were made; as in Lu 2:32, where it is said that Christ would be "a light to lighten the Gentiles"—fwv eiv apokaluqin eynwn—or when it is applied to the Divine mysteries, purposes, or doctrines, before obscure or unknown, but made clear by light revealed in the gospel, Ro 16:25; 1 Co 2:10; 14:6; Eph 3:5

(b) By the event itself; as the manifestation of the wrath of God at the day of judgment will disclose the true nature of his wrath. "After thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God," Ro 2:5 "For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation (Gr., revelation) of the sons of God," Ro 8:19; that is, till it shall be manifest by the event what they who are the children of God are to be. In this sense the word is frequently applied to the second advent or appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, as disclosing him in his glory, or showing what he truly is: 2 Th 1:7, "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed"— en th apokaluqei —in the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Co 1:7, "Waiting for the coming" (the revelation—thn apokaluqin) of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Pe 1:7, "At the appearing" (Gr., revelation) "of Jesus Christ." See also 1 Pe 4:13, "When his glory shall be revealed."

(c) It is used in the sense of making known what is to come—whether by words, signs, or symbols—as if a veil were lifted from that which is hidden from human vision, or which is covered by the darkness of the unknown future. This is called a revelation, because the knowledge of the event is in fact made known to the world by Him who alone can see it, and in such a manner as he pleases to employ, though many of the terms or the symbols may be, from the necessity of the case, obscure; and though their full meaning may be disclosed only by the event. It is in this sense, evidently, that the word is used here; and in this sense that it is more commonly employed when we speak of a revelation. Thus the word ,( HEBREW) (gala) is used in Am 3:7: "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants." So Job 33:16, "Then he openeth (marg., revealeth or uncovereth, HEBREW the ears of men;" that is, in a dream, he discloses to their ears his truth before concealed or unknown.) Compare Da 2:22,28-29; 10:1De 29:29; These ideas enter into the word as used in the passage before us. The idea is that of a disclosure of an extraordinary character, beyond the mere ability of man, by a special communication from heaven. This is manifest, not only from the usual meaning of this word, but by the word prophecy, in Re 1:3, and by all the arrangements by which these things, were made known. The ideas which would be naturally conveyed by the use of this word in this connexion are two:

(1) that there was something which was before hidden, obscure, or unknown, and

(2) that this was so disclosed by these communications as to be seen or known.

The things hidden or unknown were those which pertained to the future; the method of disclosing them was mainly by symbols. In the Greek, in this passage, the article is wanting—apokaluqiv—a Revelation, not h, the Revelation. This is omitted because it is the title of a book, and because the use of the article might imply that this was the only revelation, excluding other books claiming to be a revelation; or it might imply some previous mention of the book, or knowledge of it in the reader. The simple meaning is, that this was "a Revelation;" it was only a part of the Revelation which God has given to mankind. The phrase, "the Revelation of Jesus Christ," might, so far as the construction of the language is concerned, refer either to Christ as the subject or object . It might either mean that Christ is the object revealed in this book, and that its great purpose is to make him known—and so the phrase is understood in the commentary called Hyponoia, (New York, 1844;) or it may mean that this is a revelation which Christ makes to mankind—that is, it is his in the sense that he communicates it to the world. That this latter is the meaning here is clear,

(1) because it is expressly said in this verse that it was a revelation which God gave to him;

(2) because it is said that it pertains to things which must shortly come to pass; and

(3) because, in fact, the revelation is a disclosure of events which were to happen, and not of the person or work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Which God gave unto him. Which God imparted or communicated to Jesus Christ. This is in accordance with the representations everywhere made in the Scriptures, that God is the original fountain of truth and knowledge, and that, whatever was the original dignity of the Son of God, there was a mediatorial dependence on the Father. See Joh 5:19-20: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for whatsoever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him (deiknusin autw) all things that himself doeth." Joh 7:16 "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me." Joh 8:28: "As my Father hath taught me, (edidaxe me) I speak these things." Joh 12:49: "For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak." See also Joh 14:10; 17:7-8; Mt 11:27; Mr 13:32.

The same mediatorial dependence the apostle teaches us still subsists in heaven in his glorified state, and will continue until he has subdued all things, (1 Co 15:24-28;) and hence, even in that state, he is represented as receiving the Revelation from the Father to communicate it to men.

To show unto his servants. That is, to his people; to Christians, often represented as the servants of God or of Christ, 1 Pe 2:16; Re 2:20; 7:3; 19:2; 22:3.

It is true that the word is sometimes applied by way of eminence to the prophets, (1 Ch 6:49; Da 6:20) and to the apostles, Ro 1:1; Ga 1:10; Php 1:1

Tit 1:1; Jas 1:1 but it is also applied to the mass of Christians, and there is no reason why it should not be so understood here. The book was sent to the churches of Asia, and was clearly designed for general use; and the contents of the book were evidently intended for the churches of the Redeemer in all ages and lands. Compare Re 1:3. The word rendered to show—deixai—commonly denotes to point out; to cause to see; to present to the sight; and is a word eminently appropriate here, as what was to be revealed was, in general, to be presented to the sight by sensible tokens or symbols.

Things which must shortly come to pass. Not all the things that will occur, but such as it was deemed of importance for his people to be made acquainted with. Nor is it certainly implied that all the things that are communicated would shortly come to pass, or would soon occur. Some of them might perhaps lie in the distant future, and still it might be true that there were those which were revealed in connexion with them, which soon would occur. The word rendered "things "—a—is a pronoun, and might be rendered what: "he showed to his servants what things were about to occur;" not implying that he showed all the things that would happen, but such as he judged to be needful that his people should know. The word would naturally embrace those things which, in the circumstances, were most desirable to be known. The phrase rendered "must come to pass"—dei genesyai—would imply more than mere futurity. The word used (dei) means it needs, there is need of, and implies that there is some kind of necessity that the event should occur. That necessity may either arise from the felt want of anything, as where it is absent or wanting, Xen. Cyr. 4, 10, ib. 7, 5, 9; or from the nature of the case, or from a sense of duty—as Mt 16:21, "Jesus began to show to his disciples that he must go (dei apelyein) to Jerusalem," Compare Mt 26:35; Mr 14:31 Lu 2:49 or the necessity may exist, because a thing is right and just, meaning that it ought to be done—as Lu 13:14, "There are six days in which men ought to work"—dei ergazesyai; Lu 13:16, "And ought not this woman (ouk edei) whom Satan hath bound, etc., be loosed from this bond;" compare Mr 13:14 Joh 4:20; Ac 5:11,29; 2 Ti 2:6; Mt 18:33; 25:27 or the necessity may be that it is conformable to the Divine arrangement, or is made necessary by Divine appointment— as in Joh 3:14, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must (dei) the Son of man be lifted up;" Joh 20:9, "For as yet they knew not the Scriptures, that he must (dei) rise again from the dead." Compare Ac 4:12; 14:22 et al . In the passage before us, it is implied that there was some necessity that the things referred to should occur. They were not the result of chance; they were not fortuitous. It is not, however, stated what was the ground of the necessity—whether because there was a want of something to complete a great arrangement; or because it was right and proper in existing circumstances; or because such was the Divine appointment.

They were events which, on some account, must certainly occur, and which therefore it was important should be made known. The real ground of the necessity probably was founded in the design of God in redemption. He intended to carry out his great plans in reference to his church, and the things revealed here must necessarily occur in the completion of that design. The phrase rendered shortly— en tacei —is one whose meaning has been much controverted, and on which much has been made to depend in the interpretation of the whole book. The question has been whether the phrase necessarily implies that the events referred to were soon to occur, or whether it may have such an extent of meaning as to admit the supposition that the events referred to, though beginning soon, would embrace in their development far distant years, and would reach the end of all things. Those who maintain (as Professor Stuart) that the book was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and that the portion in chapters 4-11, has special reference to Jerusalem and Judaea, and the portion in chapters 12-19, to persecuting and heathen Rome, maintain the former opinion; those who suppose that chapters 4-11, refers to the irruption of Northern barbarians in the Roman empire, and chapter 12 seq. to the rise and the persecutions of the Papal power, embrace the latter opinion. All that is proper in this place is, without reference to any theory of interpretation, to inquire into the proper meaning of the language; or to ascertain what idea it would naturally convey.

(a) The phrase properly and literally means, with quickness, swiftness, speed; that is, speedily, quickly, shortly .—Rob. Lex.; Stuart in loc. It is the same in meaning as tacewv. Compare 1 Co 4:19, "But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will." Lu 14:21, "Go out quickly into the streets." Lu 16:6, "Sit down quickly, and write fifty." Joh 11:31, "She rose up hastily (tacewv) and went out." Ga 1:6, "That ye are so soon removed (tacewv) from him that called you." 1 Ti 5:22, "Lay hands suddenly on no man." See also Php 2:19,24; 2 Th 2:2; 2 Ti 4:9.

The phrase used here —en tacei— occurs in Lu 18:8, "he will avenge them speedily," (literally with speed;) Ac 12:7, "arise up quickly;" Ac 22:18, "get thee quickly out of Jerusalem;" Ac 25:4, "would depart shortly;" Ro 16:20, "bruise Satan under your feet shortly;" and Re 1:1; 22:6. The essential idea is, that the thing which is spoken of was soon to occur, or it was not a remote and distant event. There is the notion of rapidity, of haste, of suddenness. It is such a phrase as is used when the thing is on the point of happening, and could not be applied to an event which was in the remote future, considered as an independent event standing by itself. The same idea is expressed, in regard to the same thing, in Re 1:3: "the time is at hand" —o gar kairov egguv; that is, it is near; it is soon to occur. Yet

(b) it is not necessary to suppose that the meaning is that all that there is in the book was soon to happen. It may mean that the series of events which were to follow on in their proper order was soon to commence, though it might be that the sequel would be remote. The first in the series of events was soon to begin, and the others would follow on in their train, though a portion of them, in the regular order, might be in a remote futurity. If we suppose that there was such an order; that a series of transactions was about to commence involving a long train of momentous developments, and that the beginning of this was to occur soon, the language used by John would be that which would be naturally employed to express it. Thus, in case of a revolution in a government, when a reigning prince should be driven from his kingdom, to be succeeded by a new dynasty which would long occupy the throne, and involving as the consequence of the revolution important events extending far into the future, we would naturally say that these things were shortly to occur, or that the time was near. It is customary to speak of a succession of events or periods as near, however vast or interminable the series may be, when the commencement is at hand. Thus we say, that the great events of the eternal world are near; that is, the beginning of them is soon to occur. So Christians now speak often of the millennium as near, or as about to occur, though it is the belief of many that it will be protracted for many ages.

(c) That this is the true idea here is clear, whatever general view of interpretation in regard to the book is adopted. Even Professor Stuart, who contends that the greater portion of the book refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the persecutions of heathen Rome, admits that "the closing part of the Revelation relates beyond all doubt to a distant period, and some of it to a future eternity," (II.p.5;) and if this be so then there is no impropriety in supposing that a part of the series of predictions preceding this may lie also in a somewhat remote futurity. The true idea seems to be that the writer contemplated a series of events that were to occur; and that this series was about to commence. How far into the future it was to extend is to be learned by the proper interpretation of all the parts of the series.

And he sent. Gr., "Sending by his angel, signified it to his servant John." The idea is not precisely that he sent his angel to communicate the message, but that he sent by him, or employed him as an agent in doing it. The thing sent was rather the message than the angel.

And signified it. Eshmanen. He indicated it by signs and symbols. The word occurs in the New Testament only in Joh 12:33 Joh 18:32; 21:19; Ac 11:28; 25:27 and in the passage before us, in all which places it rendered signify, signifying or signified. It properly refers to some sign, signal, or token by which anything is made known, (compare Mt 26:28; Ro 4:11; Ge 9:12-13; 17:11Lu 2:12; 2 Co 12:12; 1 Co 14:22) and is a word most happily chosen to denote the manner in which the events referred to were to by communicated to John—for nearly the whole book is made up of signs and symbols. If it be asked what was signified to John, it may be replied that either the word "it" may be understood, as in our translation, to refer to the Apocalypse or Revelation, or what he saw—osa eide— as Professor Stuart supposes; or it may be absolute, without any object following, as Professor Robinson (Lex.) supposes. The general sense is that, sending by his angel, he made to John a communication by expressive signs or symbols.

By his angel. That is, an angel was employed to cause these scenic representations to pass before the mind of the apostle. The communication was not made directly to him but was through the medium of a heavenly messenger employed for this purpose. Thus in Re 22:6, it is said, "And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to show unto his servants the things which must shortly be done." Compare Re 22:8-9.

There is frequent allusion in the Scriptures to the fact that angels have been employed as agents in making known the Divine will, or in the revelations which have been made to men. Thus in Ac 7:53, it is said, "Who have received the law by the disposition of angels." Heb 2:2, "For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast," etc. Ga 3:19, "And it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator."

Compare See Barnes "Ac 7:38, See Barnes "Ac 7:53".

There is almost no further reference to the agency of the angel employed for this service, in the book, and there is no distinct specifications of what he did, or of his great agency in the case. John is everywhere represented as seeing the symbols himself, and it would seem that the agency of the angel was, either to cause those symbols to pass before the apostle, or to convey their meaning to his mind. How far John himself understood the meaning of these symbols we have not the means of knowing with certainty. The most probable supposition is, that the angel was employed to cause these vision or symbols to pass before his mind, rather than to interpret them. If an interpretation had been given, it is inconceivable that it should not have been recorded, and there is no more probability that their meaning should have been disclosed to John himself for his private use, than that it should have been disclosed and recorded for the use of others. It would seem probable, therefore, that John had only that view of the meaning of what he saw which any one else might obtain from the record of the visions. Compare See Barnes "1 Pe 1:10-12".

Unto his servant John. Nothing could be learned from this expression as to what John was the author of the book, whether the apostle of that name or some other. It cannot be inferred from the use of the word servant, rather than apostle, that the apostle John was not the author, for it was not uncommon for the apostles to designate themselves merely by the words servants, or servants of God. Compare See Barnes "Ro 1:1".

{a} "blessed" Lu 11:28"

{b} "time" Jas 5:8,9; 1 Pe 4:7


Verse 2. Who bare record of the word of God. Who bore witness to, or testified of (emarturhse) the word of God. He regarded himself merely as a witness of what he had seen, and claimed only to make a fair and faithful record of it. Joh 21:24: "This is the disciple which testifieth (o marturwn) of these things, and wrote these things." Joh 19:35: "And he that saw it bare record"—memarturhke. Compare also the following places, where the apostle uses the same word of himself: 1 Jo 1:2; 4:14. The expression here, "the word of God," is one the meaning of which has been much controverted, and is important in its bearing on the question who was the author of the book of Revelation. The main inquiry is, whether the writer refers to the "testimony" which he bears in this book respecting the "word of God;" or whether he refers to some testimony on that subject in some other book with which those to whom he wrote were so familiar that they would at once recognize him as the author; or whether he refers to the fact that he had borne his testimony to the great truths of religion, and especially respecting Jesus Christ, as a preacher who was well known, and who would be characterized by this expression. The phrase "the word of God"—ton logon tou yeou,—occurs frequently in the New Testament, (compare Joh 10:35; Ac 4:31; 6:2,7; 11:1; 12:24) and may either mean the word or doctrine respecting God —that which teaches what God is—or that which he speaks or teaches. It is more commonly used in the latter sense, compare the passages referred to above, and especially refers to what God speaks or commands in the gospel. The fair meaning of this expression would be, that John had borne faithful witness to, or testimony of, the truth which God had spoken to man in the gospel of Christ. So far as the language here used is concerned, this might apply either to a written or an oral testimony; either to a treatise like that of his gospel, to his preaching, or to the record which he was then making. Vitringa and others suppose that the reference here is to the gospel which he had published, and which now bears his name; Lucke and others, to the revelation made to him in Patmos, the record of which he now makes in this book; Professor Stuart and others, to the fact that he was a teacher or preacher of the gospel, and that (compare Re 1:9) the allusion is to the testimony which he had borne to the gospel, and for which he was an exile in Patmos. Is it not possible that these conflicting opinions may be to some extent harmonized, by supposing that in the use of the aorist tense—emarturhse—the writer meant to refer to a characteristic of himself, to wit, that he was a faithful witness of the word of God and of Jesus Christ, whenever and however made known to him ? With an eye, perhaps, to the record which he was about to make in this book, and intending to include that, may he not also refer to what had been and was his well-known character as a witness of what God communicated to him? He had always borne this testimony. He always regarded himself as such a witness. He had been an eye-witness of what had occurred in the life and at the death of the Saviour, (see Barnes "2 Pe 1:17-18") and had, in all his writings and public administrations, borne witness to what he had seen and heard; for that, (Re 1:9)he had been banished to Patmos; and he was now about to carry out the same characteristic of himself by bearing witness to what he saw in these new revelations. This would be much in the manner of John, who often refers to this characteristic of himself, (compare Joh 19:35; 21:24; 1 Jo 1:2) as well as harmonize the different opinions. The meaning then of the expression "who bare record of the word of God," as I understand it, is, that it was a characteristic of the writer to bear simple but faithful testimony to the truth which God communicated to men in the gospel. If this be the correct interpretation, it may be remarked

(a) that this is such language as John the apostle would be likely to use, and yet

(b) that it is not such language as an author would he likely to adopt if there was an attempt to forge a book in his name.

The artifice would be too refined to occur probably to any one, for although perfectly natural for John, it would not be so natural for a forger of a book to select this circumstance and weave it thus unostentatiously into his narrative.

And of the testimony of Jesus Christ. That is, in accordance with the interpretation above, of the testimony which Jesus Christ bore for the truth; not of a testimony respecting Jesus Christ. The idea is, that Jesus Christ was himself a witness to the truth, and that the writer of this book was a witness merely of the testimony which Christ had borne. Whether the testimony of Jesus Christ was borne in his preaching when in the flesh, or whether made known to the writer by him at any subsequent period, it was his office to make a faithful record of that testimony. As he had always before done that, so he was about to do it now in the new revelation made to him in Patmos, which he regarded as a new testimony of Jesus Christ to the truth, Re 1:1. It is remarkable that, in confirmation of this view, John so often describes the Lord Jesus as a witness, or represents him as having come to bear his faithful testimony to the truth. Thus in Re 1:5: "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful and true witness." Joh 8:18: "I am one that bear witness—o marturwn—of myself." Joh 18:37: "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness—ina marturhsw—to the truth." Re 3:14: "These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness"— o martuv o pistov k.t.l.. Of this testimony which the Lord Jesus came to bring to man respecting eternal realities, the writer of this book says that he regarded himself as a witness. To the office of bearing such testimony he had been dedicated; that testimony he was now to bear, as he had always done.

And of all things that he saw . osa te eide. This is the common reading in the Greek, and according to this reading it would properly mean, "and whatsoever he saw;" that is, it would imply that he bore witness to "the word of God," and to "the testimony of Jesus Christ," and to "whatever he saw"—meaning that the things which he saw, and to which he refers, were things additional to those to which he had referred by "the word of God," and the "testimony of Christ." From this it has been supposed that in the former part of the verse he refers to some testimony which he had formerly borne, as in his gospel or in his preaching, and that here he refers to what he "saw" in the visions of the Revelation as something additional to the former. But it should be remembered that the word rendered and—te—is wanting in a large number of manuscripts, (see Wetstein,) and that it is now omitted in the best editions of the Greek Testament—as by Griesbach, Tittmann, and Hahn. The evidence is clear that it should be omitted; and if so omitted, the reference is to whatever he had at any time borne his testimony to, and not particularly to what passed before him in the visions of this book. It is a general affirmation that he had always borne a faithful testimony to whatever he had seen respecting the word of God and the testimony of Christ. The correct rendering of the whole passage then would be, "And sending by his angel, he signifies it to his servant John, who bare record of" [i.e. whose character and office it was to bear his testimony to] "the word of God," [the message which God has sent to me,] "and the testimony of Jesus Christ," [the testimony which Christ bore to the truth,] "whatsoever he saw." He concealed nothing; he held nothing back; he made it known precisely as it was seen by him. Thus interpreted, the passage refers to what was a general characteristic of the writer, and is designed to embrace all that was made known to him, and to affirm that he was a faithful witness to it. There were doubtless special reasons why John was employed as the medium through which this communication was to be made to the church and the world. Among these reasons may have been the following:

(a) That he was the "beloved disciple."

(b) That he was the only surviving apostle.

(c) That his character, was such that his statements would be readily received. Compare Joh 19:35; 21:24; 3 Jo 1:12.

(d) It may be that his mind was better fitted to be the medium of these communications than that of any other of the apostles—even if they had been then alive. There is almost no one whose mental characteristics are less correctly understood than those of the apostle John. Among the most gentle and amiable of men—with a heart so fitted for love as to be known as "the beloved disciple"—he yet had mental characteristics which made it proper that he should be called "a son of thunder," (Mr 3:17) a mind fitted to preserve and record the profound thoughts in his gospel; a mind of high poetic order, fitted for the magnificent conceptions in this book.


Verse 3. Blessed is he that readeth. That is, it is to be regarded as a privilege attended with many blessings, to be permitted to mark the disclosures to be made in this book; the important revelations respecting future times. Professor Stuart supposes that this refers to a public reading, and that the phrase "those who hear the words of this prophecy" refers to those who listened to the public reader, and that both the reader and hearer should regard themselves as highly favoured. It is, however, more in accordance with the usual meaning of the word rendered "read," to suppose that it refers to the act of one's reading for himself; to learn by reading. So Robinson (Lex.) understands it. The Greek word, indeed, would bear the other interpretation, (see Lu 4:16; Ac 13:27; 15:21; 2 Co 3:15) but as this book was sent abroad to be read by Christians, and not merely to be in the hands of the ministers of religion to be read by them to others, it is more natural to interpret the word in the usual sense.

And hear the words of this prophecy. As they shall be declared or repeated by others; or perhaps the word hear is used in a sense that is not uncommon, that of giving attention to; taking heed to. The general sense is, that they were to be regarded as highly favoured who became acquainted in any way with what is here communicated. The writer does not say that they were blessed who understood it, or that they who read or heard it would fully understand it; but it is clearly implied, that there would be so far an understanding of its meaning as to make it a felicitous condition to have been made acquainted with it. An author could not be supposed to say that one should regard his condition as a favoured one who merely heard words that he could not understand, or who had placed before him magnificent symbols that had to him no meaning. The word prophecy is used here in its more strict sense as denoting the disclosure of future events—a large portion of the book being of this nature. It is here synonymous with Revelation in Re 1:1.

And keep those things which are written therein. Keep in mind those things which relate to the future; and obey those things which are required as truth and duty. The blessing which results from having in possession the revealed truth of God is not merely in reading it, or in hearing it: it results from the fact that the truth is properly regarded, and exerts a suitable influence over our lives. Compare Ps 19:11: "And in keeping of them there is great reward."

For the time is at hand. See Re 1:1. The word here used—egguv— has the same signification substantially as the word "shortly" in Re 1:1 It would apply to any event whose beginning was soon to occur, though the end might be remote, for the series of events might stretch far into the future. It cannot be doubted, however, that the writer meant to press upon them the importance of attending to these things, from the fact that either entirely or in part these things were soon to happen. It may be inferred from this verse, that it is possible so to understand this book, as that it may convey useful instruction. This is the only book in the Bible of which a special blessing is pronounced on him who reads it; but assuredly a blessing would not be pronounced on the perusal of a book which is entirely unintelligible. While, therefore, there may be many obscurities in this book, it is also to be assumed that it may be so far understood as to be useful to Christians, in supporting their faith, and giving them elevated views of the final triumph of religion, and of the glory of the world to come. Anything is a blessing which enables us with well-founded hope and joy to look forward to the heavenly world.


Verse 4. John to the seven churches which are in Asia. The word Asia is used in quite different senses, by different writers. It is used

(1) as referring to the whole eastern continent now known by that name;

(2) Either Asia, or Asia Minor;

(3) that part of Asia which Attlus III., king of Pergamos, gave to the Romans, viz., Mysia, Phrygia, Lycaonia, Lydia, Carla, Pisidia, and the southern coast—that is, all in the western, south-western, and southern parts of Asia Minor; and

(4) in the New Testament, usually, the south-western part of Asia Minor, of which Ephesus was the capital. See Barnes "Ac 2:9".

The word Asia is not found in the Hebrew Scriptures, but it occurs often in the books of Maccabees, and in the New Testament. In the New Testament it is not used in the large sense in which it is now as applied to the whole continent, but in its largest signification it would include only Asia Minor. It is also used, especially by Luke; as denoting the country that was called Ionia, or that which embraced the provinces of Carla and Lydia. Of this region Ephesus was the principal city, and it was in this region that the "seven churches" were situated. Whether there were more than seven churches in this region is not intimated by the writer of this book, and on that point we have no certain knowledge. It is evident that these seven were the principal churches, even if there were more, and that there was some reason why they should be particularly addressed. There is mention of some other churches in the neighbourhood of these. Colosse was near to Laodicea; and from Col 4:13, it would seem not improbable that there was a church also at Hierapolis. But there may have been nothing in their circumstances that demanded particular instruction or admonition, and they may have been on that account omitted. There is also some reason to suppose, that, though there had been other churches in that vicinity besides the seven mentioned by John, they had become extinct at the time when he wrote the book of Revelation. It appears from Tacitus, (Annal. xiv. 27; compare also Pliny, N.H. v. 29,) that in the time of Nero, A. D, 61, the city of Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake, in which earthquake, according to Eusebius, the adjacent cities of Colosse and Hierapolis were involved. Laodicea was, indeed, immediately rebuilt, but there is no evidence of the re-establishment of the church there before the time when John wrote this book. The earliest mention we have of a church there, after the one referred to in the New Testament by Paul, (Col 2:1; 4:13,15-16) is in the time of Trajan, when Papias was bishop there, sometime between A.D. 98 and 117. It would appear, then, to be not improbable that at the time when the Apocalypse was written, there were in fact but seven churches in the vicinity. Professor Stuart (i. 219) supposes that "seven, and only so many, may have been named, because the sevenfold divisions and groups of various objects constitute a conspicuous feature in the Apocalypse throughout." But this reason seems too artificial; and it can hardly be supposed that it would influence the mind of John, in the specification by name of the churches to which the book was sent. If no names had been mentioned, and if the statement had occurred in glowing poetic description, it is not inconceivable that the number seven might have been selected for some such purpose.

Grace be unto you and peace. The usual form of salutation in addressing a church. See Barnes Notes on Ro 1:7.

From him which is, and which was, and which is to come. From him who is everlasting—embracing all duration, past, present, and to come. No expression could more strikingly denote eternity than this. He now exists; he has existed in the past; he will exist in the future. There is an evident allusion here to the name JEHOVAH, the name by which the true God is appropriately designated in the Scriptures. That name— HEBREW from

HEBREW to be, to exist—seems to have been adopted because it denotes existence, or being, and as denoting simply one who exists; and has reference merely to the fact of existence. The word has no variation of form, and has no reference to time, and would embrace all time: that is, it is as true at one time as another that he exists. Such a word would not be inappropriately paraphrased by the phrase "who is, and who was, and who is to come," or who is to be; and there can be no doubt that John referred to him here as being himself the eternal and uncreated existence, and as the great and original fountain of all being. They who desire to find a full discussion in regard to the origin of the name JEHOVAH, may consult an article by Professor Tholuck, in the Biblical Repository, vol. iv. pp. 89—108. It is remarkable that there are some passages in heathen inscriptions and writings which bear a very strong resemblance to the language here used by John respecting God. Thus Plutarch, (De Is. et Osir. p. 354,) speaking of a temple of Isis, at Sais, in Egypt, says, "It bore this inscription 'I am all that was, and is, and shall be, and my vail no mortal can remove'"— egw eimi pan to gegonov, kai on, kai esomenon kai ton emon peplon oudeiv tw ynhtov anekaluqen. So Orpheus, (in Auctor. Lib. de Mundo,) "Jupiter is the head, Jupiter is the middle, and all things are made by Jupiter." So in Pausanias, (Phocic. 12,) "Jupiter was; Jupiter is; Jupiter shall be." The reference in the phrase before us is to God as such, or to God considered as the Father.

And from the seven spirits which are before his throne. After all that has been written on this very difficult expression, it is still impossible to determine with certainty its meaning. The principal opinions which have been held in regard to it are the following:

I. That it refers to God, as such. This opinion is held by Eichhorn, and is favoured by Ewald. No arguments derived from any parallel passages are urged for this opinion, nor can any such be found, where God is himself spoken of under the representation of a sevenfold Spirit. But the objections to this view are so obvious as to be insuperable.

(1.) If it refers to God as such, then it would be mere tautology, for the writer had just referred to him in the phrase "from him who was," etc.

(2.) It is difficult to perceive in what sense "seven spirits" could be ascribed to God, or how he could be described as a being of "Seven Spirits." At least, if he could be spoken of as such, there would be no objection to applying the phrase to the Holy Spirit.

(3.) How could it be said of God himself that he was "before the throne?" He is everywhere represented as sitting on the throne, not as before it. It is easy to conceive of angels as standing before the throne; and of the Holy Spirit it is more easy to conceive as being represented thus as ready to go forth and convey a heavenly influence from that throne, but it is impossible to conceive in what sense this could be applied to God as such.

II. The opinion held by Grotius and by John Henry Heinrichs that it refers to "the multiform providence of God," or to God considered as operating in seven or many different ways. In support of this, Grotius appeals to Re 5:12; 7:12. But this opinion is so far-fetched, and it is so destitute of support, as to have found, it is believed, no other advocates, and to need no further notice. It cannot be supposed that John meant to personify the attributes of the Deity, and then to unite them with God himself, and with the Lord Jesus Christ, and to represent them as real subsistences from which important blessings descend to men. It is clear that as by the phrase "who is, and who was, and who is to come," and by "Jesus Christ, the faithful and true witness," he refers to real subsistences, so he must here. Besides, if the attributes of God, or the modes of Divine operation, are denoted, why is the number seven chosen? And why are they represented as standing before the throne?

III. A third opinion is, that the reference is to seven attending and ministering presence-angels; angels represented as standing before the throne of God, or in his presence. This opinion was adopted among the ancients by Clemens of Alexandria; Andreas of Cesarea, and others; among the moderns by Beza, Drusius, Hammond, Wetstein, Rosenmuller, Clarke, Professor Stuart, and others. This opinion, however, has been held in somewhat different forms; some maintaining that the seven angels are referred to because it was a received opinion among the Hebrews that there were seven angels standing in the presence of God, as seven princes stood in the Persian court before the king; others, that the angels of the seven churches are particularly referred to, represented now as standing in the presence of God; others, that seven angels, represented as the principal angels employed in the government of the world, are referred to; and others, that seven archangels are particularly designated. Compare Poole, Synop. in loc. The arguments which are relied on by those who suppose that seven angels are here referred to are briefly these:

(1.) The nature of the expression here used. The expression, it is said, is such as would naturally denote beings who were before his throne—beings who were different from him who was on the throne— and beings more than one in number. That it could not refer to one on the throne, but must mean those distinct and separate from one on the throne, is argued from the use of the phrases "before the throne," and "before God,"in Re 4:5; 7:9,15; 8:2; 11:4,16; 12:10; 14:3; 20:12: in all which places the representation denotes those who were in the presence of God, and standing before him.

(2.) It is argued from other passages in the book of Revelation which, it is said, (Professor Stuart,) go directly to confirm this opinion. Thus in Re 8:2: "And I saw the seven angels which stood before God." So Re 4:5: the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, are said to be "the seven Spirits of God." In these passages, it is alleged that the article "the" designates the well-known angels; or those which had been before specified, and that this is the first mention of any such angels after the designation in the passage before us.

(3.) It is said that this is in accordance with what was usual among the Hebrews, who were accustomed to speak of seven presence-angels, or angels standing in the presence of Jehovah. Thus in the book of Tobit, (xii. 15,) Raphael is introduced as using this language, "I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One." The apocryphal book of Enoch (chapter 20) gives the names of the seven angels who watch; that is, of the watchers (compare Barnes Notes on Da 4:13,17)who stand in the presence of God waiting for the Divine commands, or who watch over the affairs of men. So in the Zendavesta of Zoroaster, seven amshaspends, or archangels, are mentioned. See Professor Stuart, in loc.

To these views, however, there are objections of great weight, if they are not in fact quite insuperable. They are such as the following:

(1.) That the same rank should be given to them as to God, as the source of blessings. According to the view which represents this expression as referring to angels, they are placed on the same level, so far as the matter before us is concerned with "him who was, and is, and is to come," and with the Lord Jesus Christ—a doctrine which does not elsewhere occur in the Scriptures, and which we cannot suppose the writer designed to teach.

(2.) That blessings should be invoked from angels—as if they could impart "grace and peace." It is evident that, whoever is referred to here by the phrase "the seven spirits," he is placed on the same level with the others mentioned as the source of "grace and peace." But it cannot be supposed that an inspired writer would invoke that grace and peace from any but a Divine being.

(3.) That as two persons of the Trinity are here mentioned, it is to be presumed that the third would not be omitted; or to put this argument in a stronger form. it cannot be supposed that an inspired writer would mention two of the persons of the Trinity in this connexion, and then not only not mention the third, but refer to angels—to creatures—as bestowing that which would be appropriately sought from the Holy Spirit. The incongruity would be not merely in omitting all reference to tile Spirit—which might indeed occur, as it often does in the Scriptures—but in putting in the place which that Spirit would naturally occupy an allusion to angels as conferring blessings.

(4.) If this refer to angels, it is impossible to avoid the inference that angel-worship, or invocation of angels, is proper. To all intents and purposes, this is an act of worship; for it is an act of solemn invocation. It is an acknowledgment of the "seven spirits," as the source of "grace and peace." It would be impossible to resist this impression on the popular mind; it would not be possible to meet it if urged as an argument in favour of the propriety of angel-invocation, or angel-worship. And yet, if there is anything clear in the Scriptures, it is that God alone is to be worshipped. For these reasons, it seems to me that this interpretation cannot be well founded.

IV. There remains a fourth opinion, that it refers to the Holy Spirit, and in favour of that opinion it may be urged,

(1.) that it is most natural to suppose that the Holy Spirit would be invoked on such an occasion, in connexion with him "who was, and is, and is to come," and with "Jesus Christ." If two of the persons of the Trinity were addressed on such an occasion, it would be properly supposed that the Holy Spirit would not be omitted, as one of the persons from whom the blessing was to descend. Compare 2 Co 13:14: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all."

(2.) It would be unnatural and improper, in such an invocation, to unite angels with God as imparting blessings, or as participating with God and with Christ, in communicating blessings to man. An invocation to God to send his angels, or to impart grace and favour through angelic help, would be in entire accordance with the usage in Scripture, but it is not in accordance with such usage to invoke such blessings from angels.

(3.) It cannot be denied that an invocation of grace from "him who is, and was, and is to come," is of the nature of worship. The address to him is as God, and the attitude of the mind in such an address is that of one who is engaged in an act of devotion. The effect of uniting any other being with him in such a case, would be to lead to the worship of one thus associated with him. In regard to the Lord Jesus, "the faithful and true witness," it is from such expressions as these that we are led to the belief that he is Divine, and that it is proper to worship him as such. The same effect must be produced in reference to what is here called "the seven spirits before the throne." We cannot well resist the impression that some one with Divine attributes is intended; or, if it refer to angels, we cannot easily show that it is not proper to render Divine worship to them. If they were thus invoked by an apostle, can it be improper to worship them now?

(4.) The word used here is not angels, but spirits; and though it is true that angels are spirits, and that the word spirit is applied to them, (Heb 1:7) yet it is also true that is not a word which would be understood to refer to them without designating that angels were meant. If angels had been intended here, that word would naturally have been used, as is the case elsewhere in this book.

(5.) In Re 4:5, where there is a reference to "the seven lamps before the throne," it is said of them that they "are," that is, they represent "the seven spirits of God." This passage may be understood as referring to the same thing as that before us, but it cannot be well understood of angels, for

(a.) if it did, it would have been natural to use that language for the reason above mentioned;

(b.) the angels are nowhere called "the spirits of God," nor would such language be proper. The phrase "Spirit of God" naturally implies divinity, and could not be applied to a creature. For these reasons, it seems to me that the interpretation which applies the phrase to the Holy Spirit is to be preferred; and though that interpretation is not free from difficulties, yet there are fewer difficulties in that than in either of the others proposed. Though it may not be possible wholly to remove the difficulties involved in that interpretation, yet perhaps something may be done to diminish their force.

(1.) First, as to the reason why the number seven should be applied to the Holy Spirit.

(a.) There would be as much propriety certainly in applying it to the Holy Spirit as to God as such. And yet Grotius, Eichhorn, Ewald, and others saw no difficulty in such an application considered as representing a sevenfold mode of operation of God, or a manifold Divine agency.

(b.) The word seven often denotes a full or complete number, and may be used to denote that which is full, complete, or manifold; and might thus be used in reference to an all-perfect Spirit, or to a spirit which was manifold in its operations.

(c.) The number seven is evidently a favourite number in the book of Revelation, and it might be used by the author in places, and in a sense, such as it would not be likely to be used by another writer. Thus there are seven epistles to the seven churches; there are seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials of the wrath of God, seven last plagues; there are seven lamps, and seven Spirits of God; the Lamb has seven horns and seven eyes. In Re 1:16, seven stars are mentioned; in Re 5:12, seven attributes of God; Re 12:3, the dragon has seven heads; Re 13:1, the beast has seven heads.

(d.) The number seven, therefore, may have been given to the Holy Spirit with reference to the diversity or the fulness of his operations on the souls of men, and to his manifold agency on the affairs of the world, as further developed in this book.

(2.) As to his being represented as "before the throne," this may be intended to designate the fact that the Divine Spirit was, as it were, prepared to go forth, or to be sent forth, in accordance with a common representation in the Scriptures, to accomplish important purposes on human affairs. The posture does not necessarily imply inferiority of nature, any more than the language does respecting the Son of God, when he is represented as being sent into the world to execute an important commission from the Father.

{c} "seven" Re 1:11

{d} "him" Re 1:8

{e} "seven" Re 3:1; 4:5


Verse 5. And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness. See Barnes on "Re 1:2".

He is faithful in the sense that he is one on whose testimony there may be entire reliance, or who is entirely worthy to be believed. From him "grace and peace" are appropriately sought, as one who bears such a testimony, and as the first-begotten from the dead, and as reigning over the kings of the earth. Thus grace and peace are invoked from the infinite God in all his relations and operations :—as the Father, the Source of all existence; as the Sacred Spirit, going forth in manifold operations upon the hearts of men; and as the Son of God, the one appointed to bear faithful testimony to the truth respecting God and future events.

And the first-begotten of the dead. The same Greek expression— prwtotokov—occurs in Col 1:18. See Barnes on "Col 1:18".

Compare Barnes on "1 Co 15:20".

And the prince of the kings of the earth. Who has over all the kings of the earth the pre-eminence which kings have over their subjects. He is the Ruler of rulers; King of kings. In Re 17:14; 19:16 the same thought is expressed by saying that he is the "King of kings." No language could more sublimely denote his exalted character, or his supremacy. Kings and princes sway a sceptre over the millions of the earth, and the exaltation of the Saviour is here expressed by supposing that all those kings and princes constitute a community over which he is the head. The exaltation of the Redeemer is elsewhere expressed in different language, but the idea is one that everywhere prevails in regard to him in the Scriptures. Compare Mt 28:18; 11:27; Joh 17:2; Eph 1:20-22; Php 2:9-11; Col 1:15-18

The word prince —o arcwn—means properly ruler, leader, the first in rank. We often apply the word prince to an heir to a throne who is not invested with absolute sovereignty. The word here, however, denotes that he actually exercises dominion over the rulers of the earth. As this is an authority which is claimed by God, compare Isa 10:5 seq. Isa 45:1 seq. Ps 47:2; 99:1; 103:19

Da 4:34 and which can only appertain to God, it is clear that in ascribing this to the Lord Jesus it is implied that he is possessed of Divine attributes. As much of the revelations of this book pertained to the assertion of power over the princes and rulers of this world, there was a propriety that, in the commencement, it should be asserted that he who was to exert that power was invested with the prerogative of a ruler of the nations, and that he had this right of control.

Unto him that loved us. This refers undoubtedly to the Lord Jesus, whose love for men was so strong that nothing more was necessary to characterize him than to speak of him as the one "who loved us." It is manifest that the division in the verses should have been made here, for this commences a new subject, not having any special connexion with that which precedes. In Re 1:4, and the first part of this verse, the writer had invoked grace from the Father, the Spirit, and the Saviour. In the latter clause of the verse there commences an ascription of praise to the Redeemer; an ascription to him particularly, because the whole book is regarded as a revelation from him, (Re 1:1) because he was the one who especially appeared to John in the visions of Patmos; and because he was to be the great agent in carrying into execution the purposes revealed in this book.

And washed us from our sins in his own blood. He has removed the pollution of sin from our souls by his blood; that is, his blood has been applied to cleanse us from sin. Blood can be represented as having a cleansing power only as it makes an expiation for sin, for considered literally its effect would be the reverse. The language is such as would be used only on the supposition that he had made an atonement, and that it was by the atonement that we are cleansed; for in what sense could it be said of a martyr that he "had washed us from our sins in his blood?" How could this language be used of Paul or Polycarp; of Ridley or Cranmer? The doctrine that the blood of Christ cleanses us from sin, or purifies us, is one that is common in the Scriptures. Compare 1 Jo 1:7; Heb 9:14. The specific idea of washing, however—representing that blood as washing sin away— is one which does not elsewhere occur. It is evidently used in the sense of cleansing or purifying, as we do this by washing, and, as the blood of Christ accomplishes in respect to our souls, what washing with water does in respect to the body.

{a} "witness" Joh 8:14

{b} "first-begotten" Col 1:18

{c} "loved" Joh 13:1

{d} "washed" Heb 9:14


Verse 6. And hath made us kings and priests unto God. In 1 Pe 2:9 the same idea is expressed by saying of Christians that they are "a royal priesthood." See Barnes on "1 Pe 2:9".

The quotation in both places is from Ex 19:6: "And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests." This idea is expressed here by saying that Christ had made us in fact kings and priests; that is, Christians are exalted to the dignity, and are invested with the office, implied in these words. The word kings, as applied to them, refers to the exalted rank and dignity which they will have; to the fact that they, in common with their Saviour, will reign triumphant over all enemies; and that, having gained a victory over sin and death and hell, they may be represented as reigning together. The word priests refers to the fact that they are engaged in the holy service of God, or that they offer to him acceptable worship. See Barnes on "1 Pe 2:5".

And his Father. Even his Father; that is, the Saviour has redeemed them, and elevated them to this exalted rank, in order that they may thus be engaged in the service of his Father.

To him be glory. To the Redeemer; for so the construction (Re 1:5) demands. The word "glory" here means praise, or honour, implying a wish that all honour should be shown him.

And dominion. This word means literally strength—kratov; but it here means the strength, power, or authority which is exercised over others, and the expression is equivalent to a wish that he may reign.

{a} "kings" Ex 19:6; 1 Pe 2:5-9

{b} "be glory" Heb 13:21


Verse 7. Behold, he cometh with clouds. That is, the Lord Jesus when he returns will come accompanied with clouds. This is in accordance with the uniform representation respecting the return of the Saviour. See Barnes on "Mt 24:30".

Compare Mt 26:64; Mr 13:26 Mr 14:62; Ac 1:9,11.

Clouds are appropriate symbols of majesty, and God is often represented as appearing in that manner. See Ex 19:18 Ps 18:11; Isa 19:1. So, among the heathen, it was common to represent their divinities as appearing clothed with a cloud:

tandem venias, precamur,
Nube candentes humeros amictus
Augur Apollo

The design of introducing this representation of the Saviour, and of the manner in which he would appear, seems to be to impress the mind with a sense of the majesty and glory of that being from whom John received his revelations. His rank, his character, his glory were such as to demand respect; all should reverence him, and all should feel that his communications about the future were important to them, for they must soon appear before him.

And every eye shall see him. He will be made visible in his glory to all that dwell upon the earth; to all the children of men. Every one, therefore, has an interest in what he says; every one has this in certain prospect, that he shall see the Son of God coming as a Judge.

And they also which pierced him. When he died; that is, they who pierced his hands, his feet, and his side. There is probably an allusion here to Zec 12:10: "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn." The language here is so general that it may refer to any act of looking upon the pierced Saviour, and might be applied to those who would see him on the cross and to their compunctions visiting then; or to their subsequent reflections, as they might look by faith on him whom they had crucified; or to the feeling of any sinners who should reflect that their sins had been the cause of the death of the Lord Jesus; or it might be applied, as it is here, more specifically to the feelings which his murderers will have when they shall see him coming in his glory. All sinners who have pierced his heart by their crimes will then behold him, and will mourn over their treatment of him; they, in a special manner, who imbrued their hands in his blood will then remember their crime, and be overwhelmed with alarm. The design of what is here said seems to be, to show that the coming of the Saviour will be an event of great interest to all mankind. None can be indifferent to it, for all will see him. His friends will hail his advent, (compare Re 22:20) but all who were engaged in putting him to death, and all who in any manner have pierced his heart by sin and ingratitude, unless they shall have repented, will have occasion of bitter lamentation when he shall come. There are none who have a more fearful doom to anticipate than the murderers of the Son of God, including those who actually put him to death, and those who would have engaged in such an act had they been present, and those who, by their conduct, have done all they could to pierce and wound him by their ingratitude.

And all kindreds of the earth. Gr., "All the tribes—fulai—of the earth." This language is the same which the Saviour uses in Mt 24:30. See Barnes "Mt 24:30".

The word tribes is that which is commonly applied to the twelve tribes of Israel, and thus used, it would describe the inhabitants of the holy land; but it may be used to denote nations and people in general, as descended from a common ancestor, and the connexion requires that it should be understood in this sense here, since it is said that "every eve shall see him;" that is, all that dwell on the face of the earth.

Shall wail because of him. On account of him; on account of their treatment of him. The word rendered wail—koptw—means properly to beat, to cut; then to beat or cut one's self in the breast as an expression of sorrow; and then to lament, to cry aloud in intense grief. The coming of the Saviour will be an occasion of this,

(a) because it will be an event which will call the sins of men to remembrance, and

(b) because they will be overwhelmed with the apprehension of the wrath to come. Nothing would fill the earth with greater consternation than the coming of the Son of God in the clouds of heaven; nothing could produce so deep and universal alarm. This fact, which no one can doubt, is proof that men feel that they are guilty, since, if they were innocent, they would have nothing to dread by his appearing. It is also a proof that they believe in the doctrine of future punishment, since, if they do not, there is no reason why they should be alarmed at his coming. Surely men would not dread his appearing if they really believed that all will be saved. Who dreads the coming of a benefactor to bestow favours on him? Who dreads the appearing of a jailer to deliver him from prison; of a physician to raise him up from a bed of pain; of a deliverer to knock off the fetters of slavery? And how can it be that men should be alarmed at the coming of the Saviour unless their consciences tell them that they have much to fear in the future? The presence of the Redeemer in the clouds of heaven would destroy all the hopes of those who believe in the doctrine of universal salvation—as the approach of death now often does. Men believe that there is much to be dreaded in the future world, or they would not fear the coming of Him who shall wind up the affairs of the human race.

Even so, Amen—nai, amhn. "A double expression of so be it, assuredly, certainly, one in Greek and the other in Hebrew."—Professor Stuart. Compare Ro 8:16, "Abba, Father"— abba, o pathr. The idea which John seems to intend to convey is, that the coming of the Lord Jesus, and the consequences which he says will follow, are events which are altogether certain. This is not the expression of a wish that it may be so, as our common translation would seem to imply, but a strong affirmation that it will be so. In some passages, however, the word (nai) expresses assent to what is said, implying approbation of it as true, or as desirable. Mt 11:26, "Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight." Lu 10:21. So in Re 16:7, "Even so, (nai) Lord God Almighty." So in Re 22:20, "Even so, (nai) come, Lord Jesus." The word Amen here seems to determine the meaning of the phrase, and to make it the affirmation of a certainty, rather than the expression of a wish.

{c} "clouds" Da 7:13; Mt 26:64

{d} "they Zec 12:10

{e} "wail" Mt 24:30

{f} "even so" Re 22:20


Verse 8. I am Alpha and Omega. These are the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet, and denote properly the first and the last. So in Re 22:13, when the two expressions are united, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." So in Re 1:17, the speaker says of himself, "I am the first and the last." Among the Jewish Rabbins, it was common to use the first and the last letters of the Hebrew alphabet to denote the whole of anything, from beginning to end. Thus it is said, "Adam transgressed the whole law from HEBREW to


"—from Aleph to Tav. "Abraham kept the whole law from

" The language here is that which would properly denote eternity in the being to whom it is applied, and could be used in reference to no one but the true God. It means that he is the beginning and the end of all things; that he was at the commencement, and will be at the close; and it is thus equivalent to saying that he has always existed, and that he will always exist. Compare Isa 41:4, "I the Lord, the first, and with the last;'— Isa 44:6, "I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God;"—Isa 48:12, "I am he; I am the first, I also am the last." There can be no doubt that the language here would be naturally understood as implying divinity, and it could be properly applied to no one but the true God. The obvious interpretation here would be to apply this to the Lord Jesus; for

(a) it is he who is spoken of in the verses preceding, and

(b) there can be no doubt that the same language is applied to him in Re 1:11. As there is, however, a difference of reading in this place in the Greek text, and as it cannot be absolutely certain that the writer meant to refer to the Lord Jesus specifically here, this cannot be adduced with propriety as a proof-text to demonstrate his divinity. Many MSS., instead of "Lord," kuriov, read "God," yeov; and this reading is adopted by Griesbach, Tittman, and Hahn, and is now regarded as the correct reading. There is no real incongruity in supposing, also, that the writer here meant to refer to God as such, since the introduction of a reference to him would not be inappropriate to his manifest design. Besides, a portion of the language here used, "which is, and was, and is to come," is that which would more naturally suggest a reference to God as such, than to the Lord Jesus Christ. See Re 1:4. The object for which this passage referring to the "first and the last—to him who was, and is, and is to come," is introduced here evidently is, to show that as he was clothed with omnipotence, and would continue to exist through all ages to come as he had existed in all ages past, there could be no doubt about his ability to execute all which it is said he would execute.

Saith the Lord. Or, saith God, according to what is now regarded as the correct reading.

Which is, and which was, etc. See Barnes on "Re 1:4".

The Almighty. An appellation often applied to God, meaning that he has all power, and used here to denote that he is able to accomplish what is disclosed in this book.

{g} "I am" Isa 12:4

{h} "Almighty" Isa 9:6


Verse 9. I John, who also am your brother. Your Christian brother; who am a fellow-Christian with you. The reference here is doubtless to the members of the seven churches in Asia, to whom the epistles in the following chapters were addressed, and to whom the whole book seems to have been sent. In the previous verse, the writer had closed the salutation, and he here commences a description of the Circumstances under which the vision appeared to him. He was in a lonely island, to which he had been banished on account of his attachment to religion; he was in a state of high spiritual enjoyment on the day devoted to the sacred remembrance of the Redeemer; he suddenly heard a voice behind him, and turning saw the Son of man himself in glorious form in the midst of seven golden lamps, and fell at his feet as dead.

And companion in tribulation. Your partner in affliction. That is, he and they were suffering substantially the same kind of trials on account of their religion. It is evident from this, that some form of persecution was then raging in which they were also sufferers, though in their case it did not lead to banishment. The leader, the apostle, the aged and influential preacher, was banished; but there were many other forms of trial which they might be called to endure who remained at home. What they were we have not the means of knowing with certainty.

And in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ. The meaning of this passage is, that he, and those whom he addressed, were not only companions in affliction, but were fellow partners in the kingdom of the Redeemer—that is, they shared the honour and the privileges pertaining to that kingdom; and that they were fellow-partners in the patience of Jesus Christ—that is, in enduring with patience whatever might follow from their being his friends and followers. The general idea is, that alike in privileges and sufferings they were united. They shared alike in the results of their attachment to the Saviour.

Was in the isle that is called Patmos. Patmos is one of the cluster of islands in the Aegean Sea, anciently called the Sporades. It lies between the island of Icaria and the promontory of Miletus. It is merely mentioned by the ancient geographers, Plin. His. Nat. 4, 23; Strabo, 10, 488. It is now called Patino, or Patmosa. It is some six or eight miles in length, and not more than a mile in breadth, being about fifteen miles in circumference. It has neither trees nor rivers; nor has it any land for cultivation, except some little nooks among the ledges of rocks. On approaching the island, the coast is high, and consists of a succession of capes, which form so many ports, some of which are excellent. The only one in use, however, is a deep bay, sheltered by high mountains on every side but one, where it is protected by a projecting cape. The town attached to this port is situated upon a high rocky mountain, rising immediately from the sea, and this with the Scala below upon the shore, consisting of some ships and houses, forms the only inhabited site of the island. Though Patmos is deficient in trees, it abounds in flowery plants and shrubs. Walnuts and other fruit trees are raised in the orchards, and the wine of Patmos is the strongest and the best favoured in the Greek islands. Maize and barley are cultivated, but not in a quantity sufficient for the use of the inhabitants, and for a supply of their own vessels, and others which often put into their good harbour for provisions. The inhabitants now do not exceed four or five thousand, many of whom are emigrants from the neighbouring continent. About half-way up the mountain, there is shown a natural grotto in a rock, where John is said to have seen his visions, and to have written this book. Near this is a small church, connected with which is a school or college, where the Greek language is taught; and on the top of the hill, and in the centre of the island, is a monastery, which from its situation has a very majestic appearance. —Kitto's Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature. It is commonly supposed that John was banished to this island by Domitian, about A.D. 94. No place could have been selected for banishment which would accord better with such a design than this. Lonely, desolate, barren, uninhabited, seldom visited, it had all the requisites which could be desired for a place of punishment, and banishment to that place would accomplish all that a persecutor could wish in silencing an apostle, without putting him to death. It was no uncommon thing in ancient times to banish men from their country; either sending them forth at large, or specifying some particular place to which they were to go. The whole narrative leads us to suppose that this place was designated as that to which John was to be sent. Banishment to an island was a common mode of punishment; and there was a distinction made by this act in favour of those who were thus banished. The more base, low, and vile of criminals were commonly condemned to work in the mines; the more decent and respectable were banished to some lonely island. See the authorities quoted in Wetstein, in loc. For the word of God. On account of the word of God; that is, for holding and preaching the gospel. See Barnes "Re 1:2".

It cannot mean that he was sent there with a view to his preaching the word of God; for it is inconceivable that he should have been sent from Ephesus to preach in such a little, lonely, desolate place, where indeed there is no evidence that there were any inhabitants; nor can it mean that he was sent there by the Spirit of God to receive and record this revelation, for it is clear that the revelation could have been made elsewhere, and such a place afforded no peculiar advantages for this. The fair interpretation is, in accordance with all the testimony of antiquity, that he was sent there in a time of persecution as a punishment for preaching the gospel.

And for the testimony of Jesus Christ. See Barnes on"Re 1:2, He did not go there to bear testimony to Jesus Christ on that island, either by preaching or recording the visions in this book, but he went because he had preached the doctrines which testified of Christ.


Verse 10. I was in the Spirit. This cannot refer to his own spirit—for such an expression would be unintelligible. The language then must refer to some unusual state, or to some influence that had been brought to bear upon him from without, that was appropriate to such a day. The word Spirit may refer either to the Holy Spirit, or to some state of mind such as the Holy Spirit produces—a spirit of elevated devotion; a state of high and uncommon religious enjoyment. It is clear that John does not mean here to say that he was under the influence of the Holy Spirit in such a sense as that he was inspired, for the command to make a record, as well as the visions, came subsequently to the time referred to. The fair meaning of the passage is, that he was at that time favoured in a large measure with the influences of the Holy Spirit—the spirit of true devotion; that he had a high state of religious enjoyment, and was in a condition not inappropriate to the remarkable communications which were made to him on that day. The state of mind in which he was at the time here referred to, is not such as the prophets are often represented to have been in when under the prophetic inspiration, compare Eze 1:1; 8:3 Eze 40:2; Jer 24:1 and which was often accompanied with an entire prostration of bodily strength, compare Nu 24:4; Eze 1:28; Da 10:8-10

1 Sa 19:24; Re 1:17 but such as any Christian may experience when in a high state of religious enjoyment. He was not yet under the prophetic ecstacy, (compare Ac 10:10; 11:5; 22:17) but was, though in a lonely and barren island, and far away from the privileges of the sanctuary, permitted to enjoy in a high degree the consolations of religion: an illustration of the great truth that God can meet his people anywhere; that, when in solitude and in circumstances of outward affliction, when persecuted and cast out, when deprived of the public means of grace and the society of religious friends, he can meet them with the abundant consolations of his grace, and pour joy and peace into their souls. This state was not inappropriate to the revelations which were about to be made to John, but this itself was not that state. It was a state which seems to have resulted from the fact, that on that desert island he devoted the day to the worship of God, and by honouring the day dedicated to the memory of the risen Saviour, found, what all will find, that it was attended with rich spiritual influences on his soul.

On the Lord's day. The word here rendered Lord's—kuriakh— occurs only in this place and in 1 Co 11:20, where it is applied to the Lord's Supper. It properly means pertaining to the Lord; and, so far as this word is concerned, it might mean a day pertaining to the Lord, in any sense, or for any reason—either because he claimed it as his own and had set it apart for his own service; or because it was designed to commemorate some important event pertaining to him; or because it was observed in honour of him. It is clear

(1) that this refers to some day which was distinguished from all other days of the week, and which would be sufficiently designated by the use of this term.

(2.) That it was a day which was for some reason regarded as peculiarly a day of the Lord, or peculiarly devoted to him.

(3.) It would further appear that this was a day particularly devoted to the Lord Jesus, for

(a) that is the natural meaning of the word Lord as used in the New Testament, (compare Barnes on "Ac 1:24") and

(b) if the Jewish Sabbath were intended to be designated, the word Sabbath would have been used. The term was used generally by the early Christians to denote the first day of the week. It occurs twice in the Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, (about A.D. 101,) who calls the Lord's day "the queen and prince of all days." Chrysostom (on Psalms 119) says, "It was called the Lord's day because the Lord rose from the dead on that day." Later fathers make a marked distinction between the Sabbath and the Lord's day; meaning by the former, the Jewish Sabbath, or the seventh day of the week, and by the latter, the first day of the week kept holy by Christians. So Theodoret, (Fab. Haeret. ii. 1,) speaking of the Ebionites, says, "They keep the Sabbath according to the Jewish law, and sanctify the Lord's day in like manner as we do."—Professor Stuart. The strong probability is, that the name was given to this day in honour of the Lord Jesus, and because he rose on that day from the dead. No one can doubt that it was an appellation given to the first day of the week, and the passage therefore proves

(1) that that day was thus early distinguished in some peculiar manner, so that the mere mention of it would be sufficient to identify it in the minds of those to whom the apostle wrote;

(2) that it was in some sense regarded as devoted to the Lord Jesus, or was designed in some way to commemorate what he had done; and

(3) that if this book were written by the apostle John, the observance of that day has the apostolic sanction. He had manifestly, in accordance with a prevailing custom, set apart this day in honour of the Lord Jesus. Though alone, he was engaged on that day in acts of devotion. Though far away from the sanctuary, he enjoyed what all Christians hope to enjoy on such a day of rest, and what not a few do in fact enjoy in its observance. We may remark in view of this statement,

(a) that when away from the sanctuary, and deprived of its privileges, we should nevertheless not fail to observe the Christian Sabbath. If on a bed of sickness; if in a land of strangers; if on the deep; if in a foreign clime; if on a lonely island as John was, where we have none of the advantages of public worship, we should yet honour the Sabbath. We Should worship God alone if we have none to unite with us; we should show to those around us, if we are with strangers, by our dress and our conversation, by a serious and devout manner, by abstinence from labour, and by a resting from travel, that we devoutly regard this day as set apart for God.

(b) We may expect, in such circumstances, and with such a devout observance of the day, that God will meet with us and bless us. It was on a lonely island, far away from the sanctuary and from the society of Christian friends, that the Saviour met "the beloved disciple," and we may trust it will be so with us. For on such a desert island; in a lonely forest; on the deep, or amid strangers in a foreign land, he can as easily meet us as in the sanctuary where we have been accustomed to worship, and when surrounded by all the privileges of a Christian land. No man—at home or abroad; among friends or strangers; enjoying the privileges of the sanctuary, or deprived of those privileges—ever kept the Christian Sabbath in a devout manner without profit to his own soul; and when deprived of the privileges of public worship, the visitations of the Saviour to the soul may be more than a compensation for all our privations. Who would not be willing to be banished to a lonely island like Patmos, if he might enjoy such a glorious vision of the Redeemer as John was favoured with there?

And heard behind me a great voice. A loud voice. This was of course sudden, and took him by surprise.

As of a trumpet. Loud as a trumpet. This is evidently the only point in the comparison. It does not mean that the tones of the voice resembled a trumpet, but only that it was clear, loud, and distinct like a trumpet. A trumpet is a well-known wind instrument distinguished for the clearness of its sounds, and was used for calling assemblies together, for marshalling hosts for battle, etc. The Hebrew word employed commonly to denote a trumpet—

HEBREW shophar—means bright and clear, and is supposed to have been given to the instrument on account of its clear and shrill sound, as we now give the name "clarion" to a certain wind instrument. The Hebrew trumpet is often referred to as employed, on account of its clearness, to summon people together, Ex 19:13; Nu 10:10; Jud 7:18; 1 Sa 13:3; 2 Sa 15:10.

{a} "Spirit" 2 Co 12:2

{b} "Lord's" Joh 20:26; Ac 20:7; 1 Co 16:2


Verse 11. Saying. That is, literally, "the trumpet saying." It was, however, manifestly the voice that addressed these words to John, though they seemed to come through a trumpet, and hence the trumpet is represented as uttering them.

I am Alpha and Omega. See Barnes "Re 1:8".

The first and the last. An explanation of the terms Alpha and Omega. See Barnes "Re 1:8".

And, What thou seest. The voice, in addition to the declaration "I am Alpha and Omegas" gave this direction that he should record what he saw. The phrase "what thou seest" refers to what would pass before him in vision; what he there saw, and what he would see in the extraordinary manifestations which were to be made to him.

Write in a book. Make a fair record of it all—evidently meaning that he should describe things as they occurred, and implying that the vision would be held so long before the eye of his mind that he would be able to transfer it to the "book." The fair and obvious interpretation of this is, that he was to make the record in the island of Patmos, and then send it to the churches. Though Patmos was a lonely and barren place, and though probably there were few or no inhabitants there, yet there is no improbability in supposing that John could have found writing materials there, nor even that he may have been permitted to take such materials with him. He seems to have been banished for preaching, not for writing; and there is no evidence that the materials for writing would be withheld from him. John Bunyan in Bedford jail found materials for writing the Pilgrim's Progress; and there is no evidence that the apostle John was denied the means of recording his thoughts when in the island of Patmos. The word book here—biblion—would more properly mean a roll or scroll, that being the form in which books were anciently made. See Barnes on "Lu 4:17".

And send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia. The churches which are immediately designated, not implying that there were no other churches in Asia, but that there were particular reasons for sending it to these. He was to send all that he should "see;" to wit, all that is recorded in this volume or book of "Revelation." Part of this (chapters 2-3) would appertain particularly to them; the remainder (chapters 4-22) would appertain to them no more than to others, but still they would have the common interest in it which all the church would have, and, in their circumstances of trial, there might be important reasons why they should see the assurance that the church would ultimately triumph over all its enemies. They were to derive from it themselves the consolation which it was fitted to impart in time of trial, and to transmit it to future times for the welfare of the church at large.

Unto Ephesus. Perhaps mentioned first as being the capital of that portion of Asia Minor; the most important city of the seven; the place where John had preached, and whence he had been banished. For a particular description of these seven churches, see Barnes Notes on the epistles addressed to them in chapters 2-3.

{a} "Ephesus" Re 2:1

{b} "Smyrna" Re 2:8

{c} "Pergamos" Re 2:12

{d} "Thyatira" Re 2:18

{e} "Sardis" Re 3:1

{f} "Philadelphia" Re 3:7

{g} "Laodicea" Re 3:14


Verse 12. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. He naturally turned round to see who it was that spake to him in this solitary and desolate place, where he thought himself to be alone. To see the voice here means to see the person who spake.

And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks. These were the first things that met his eye. This must have been in vision, of course; and the meaning is, that there seemed to be there seven such lamps or candelabras. The word rendered candlesticks —lucnia—means properly a light-stand; lamp-stand;—something to bear up a light. It would be applied to anything that was used for this purpose; and nothing is intimated, in the use of the word, in regard to the form or dimensions of the light-bearers. Lamps were more commonly used at that time than candles, and it is rather to be supposed that these were designed to be lamp-bearers, or lamp-sustainers, than candlesticks. They were seven in number; not one branching into seven, but seven standing apart, and so far from each other that he who appeared to John could stand among them. The lamp-bearers evidently sustained each a light, and these gave a peculiar brilliancy to the scene. It is not improbable that, as they were designed to represent the seven churches of Asia, they were arranged in an order resembling these churches. The scene is not laid in the temple, as many suppose, for there is nothing that resembles the arrangements in the temple except the mere fact of the lights. The scene as yet is in Patmos, and there is no evidence that John did not regard himself as there, or that he fancied for a moment that he was translated to the temple in Jerusalem. There can be no doubt as to the design of this representation, for it is expressly declared (Re 1:20) that the seven lamp-bearers were intended to represent the seven churches. Light is often used in the Scriptures as an emblem of true religion; Christians are represented as "the light of the world," (Mt 5:14) compare (Php 2:15; Joh 8:12) and a Christian church may be represented as a light standing in the midst of surrounding darkness.

{h} "seven" Ex 25:37


Verse 13. And in the midst of the seven candlesticks. Standing among them, so as to be encircled within them. This shows that the representation could not have been like that of the vision of Zechariah, (Zec 4:2) where the prophet sees "a candlestick all of gold with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon." In the vision as it appeared to John, there was not one lamp-bearer with seven lamps or branches, but there were seven lamp-bearers so arranged that one in the likeness of the Son of man could stand in the midst of them.

One like unto the Son of man. This was evidently the Lord Jesus Christ himself, elsewhere so often called "the Son of man." That it was the Saviour himself is apparent from Re 1:18. The expression rendered "like unto the Son of man," should have been "like unto a son of man;" that is, like a man—a human being, or in a human form. The reasons for so interpreting it are

(a) that the Greek is without the article; and

(b) that, as it is rendered in our version, it seems to make the writer say that he was like himself—since the expression "the Son of man" is in the New Testament but another name for the Lord Jesus. The phrase is often applied to him in the New Testament, and always, except in three instances, (Ac 7:56; Re 1:13; 14:14) by the Saviour himself, evidently to denote his warm interest in man, or his relationship to man; to signify that he was a man, and wished to designate himself eminently as such. See Barnes on "Mt 8:20".

In the use of this phrase in the New Testament, there is probably an allusion to Da 7:13. The idea would seem to be, that he whom he saw resembled "the Son of man"—the Lord Jesus as he had seen him in the days of his flesh—though it would appear that he did not know that it was he until he was informed of it, Re 1:18. Indeed, the costume in which he appeared was so unlike that in which John had been accustomed to see the Lord Jesus in the days of his flesh, that it cannot be well supposed that he would at once recognise him as the same.

Clothed with a garment down to the foot. A robe reaching down to the feet, or to the ankles, yet so as to leave the feet themselves visible. The allusion here, doubtless, is to a long, loose, flowing robe, such as was worn by kings. Compare Barnes Notes on Isa 6:1.

And girt about the paps. About the breast. It was common, and is still in the East, to wear a girdle to confine the robe, as well as to form a beautiful ornament. This was commonly worn about the middle of the person, or "the loins;" but it would seem also that it was sometimes worn around the breast. See Barnes "Mt 5:38-41".

With a golden girdle. Either wholly made of gold, or more probably richly ornamented with gold. This would naturally suggest the idea of one of rank—probably one of princely rank. The raiment here assumed was not that of a priest, but that of a king. It was very far from being that in which the Redeemer appeared when he dwelt upon the earth, and was rather designed to denote his royal state as he is exalted in heaven. He is not indeed represented with a crown and sceptre here, and perhaps the leading idea is that of one of exalted rank; of unusual dignity; of one fitted to inspire awe and respect. In other circumstances, in this book, this same Redeemer is represented as wearing a crown, and going forth to conquest. See Re 19:12-16. Here the representation seems to have been designed to impress the mind with a sense of the greatness and glory of the personage who thus suddenly made his appearance.

{i} "one like" Eze 1:26-28; Da 7:9,13; 10:5,6


Verse 14. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow. Exceedingly or perfectly white—the first suggestion to the mind of the apostle being that of wool, and then the thought occurring of its extreme whiteness resembling snow—the purest white of which the mind conceives. The comparison with wool and snow to denote anything peculiarly white is not uncommon. See Isa 1:18. Professor Stuart supposes that this means, not that his hairs were literally white, as if with age, which he says would be incongruous to one just risen from the dead, clothed with immortal youth and rigour, but that it means radiant, bright, resplendent—similar to what occurred on the transfiguration of the Saviour, Mt 17:2. But to this it may be replied

(a) that this would not accord well with that with which his hair is compared—snow and wool, particularly the latter.

(b) The usual meaning of the word is more obvious here, and not at all inappropriate. The representation was fitted to signify majesty and authority; and this would be best accomplished by the image of one who was venerable in years. Thus in the vision that appeared to Daniel, (Da 7:9) it is said of him who is there called the "Ancient of Days," that his "garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool." It is not improbable that John had that representation in his eye, and that therefore he would be impressed with the conviction that this was a manifestation of a Divine person. We are not necessarily to suppose that this is the form in which the Saviour always appears now in heaven, any more than we are to suppose that God appears always in the form in which he was manifested to Isaiah, (Isa 6:1) to Daniel, (Da 7:9) or to Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu in the mount, Ex 24:10-11. The representation is, that this form was assumed for the purpose of impressing the mind of the apostle with a sense of his majesty and glory.

And his eyes were as a flame of fire. Bright, sharp, penetrating; as if everything was light before them, or they would penetrate into the thoughts of men. Such a representation is not uncommon. We speak of a lightning glance, a fiery look, etc. In Da 10:6, it is said of the man who appeared to the prophet on the banks of the river Hiddekel, that his eyes were "as lamps of fire." Numerous instances of this comparison from the Greek and Latin classics may be seen in Wetstein, in loc.

{k} "eyes" Re 2:18; 19:12


Verse 15. And his feet like unto fine brass. Compare Da 10:6, "And his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass." See also Eze 1:7, "And they" [the feet of the living creatures] "sparkled like the colour of burnished brass." The word here used—calkolibanw— occurs in the New Testament only here and in Re 2:18. It is not found in the Septuagint. The word properly means white brass, (probably compounded of calkov, brass, and libanov, whiteness, from the HEBREW to be white.) Others regard it as from calkov, brass, and liparon, clear. The metal referred to was undoubtedly a species of brass distinguished for its clearness or whiteness. Brass is a compound metal, composed of copper and zinc. The colour varies much according to the different proportions of the various ingredients. The Vulgate here renders the word aurichalcum, a mixture of gold and of brass—perhaps the same as the hlektron—the electrum of the ancients, composed of gold and of silver, usually in the proportion of four parts gold and one part silver, and distinguished for its brilliancy. See Robinson, Lex., and Wetstein, in loc. The kind of metal here referred to, however, would seem to be some compound of brass—of a whitish and brilliant colour. The exact proportion of the ingredients in the metal here referred to cannot now be determined.

As if they burned in a furnace. That is, his feet were so bright that they seemed to be like a beautiful metal glowing intensely in the midst of a furnace. Any one who has looked upon the dazzling and almost insupportable brilliancy of metal in a furnace, can form an idea of the image here presented.

And his voice as the sound of many waters. As the roar of the ocean, or of a cataract. Nothing could be a more sublime description of majesty and authority than to compare the voice of a speaker with the roar of the ocean. This comparison often occurs in the Scriptures. See Eze 43:2, "And behold the glory of the God of Israel came from the east: and his voice was like the sound of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory." So Re 14:2; 19:6. Compare Eze 1:24 Da 10:6.

{a} "feet" Eze 1:7

{b} "voice" Eze 43:2

{c} "sharp" Isa 49:2; Heb 4:12

{d} "sun" Re 10:1; Ac 26:13


Verse 16. And he had in his right hand seven stars. Emblematic of the angels of the seven churches. How he held them is not said. It may be that they seemed to rest on his open palm; or it may be that he seemed to hold them as if they were arranged in a certain order, and with some sort of attachment, so that they could be grasped. It is not improbable that, as in the case of the seven lamp-bearers, (See Barnes "Re 1:13") they were so arranged as to represent the relative position of the seven churches.

And out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword. On the form of the ancient two-edged sword, see Barnes on "Eph 6:17".

The two edges were designed to cut both ways; and such a sword is a striking emblem of the penetrating power of truth, or of words that proceed from the mouth; and this is designed undoubtedly to be the representation here-that there was some symbol which showed that his words, or his truth, had the power of cutting deep, or penetrating the soul. So in Isa 49:2 it is said of the same personage, "And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword." See Barnes on "Isa 49:2".

So in Heb 4:12, "The word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword," etc. So it is said of Pericles by Aristophanes—

"His powerful speech
Pierced the hearer's soul, and left behind
Deep in his bosom its keen point infixt."

A similar figure often occurs in Arabic poetry. "As arrows his words enter into the heart." See Gesenius, Comm. zu Isaiah 49:2. The only difficulty here is in regard to the apparently incongruous representation of a sword seeming to proceed from the mouth; but it is not, perhaps, necessary to suppose that John means to say that he saw such an image. He heard him speak; he felt the penetrating power of his words; and they were as if a sharp sword proceeded from his mouth. They penetrated deep into the soul, and as he looked on him it seemed as if a sword came from his mouth. Perhaps it is not necessary to suppose that there was even any visible representation of this—either of a sword or of the breath proceeding from his mouth appearing to take this form, as Professor Stuart supposes. It may be wholly a figurative representation, as Henrichs and Ewald suppose. Though there were visible and impressive symbols of his majesty and glory presented to the eyes, it is not necessary to suppose that there were visible symbols of his words.

And his countenance. His face. There had been before particular descriptions of some parts of his face—as of his eyes—but this is a representation of his whole aspect; of the general splendour and brightness of his countenance.

Was as the sun shineth in his strength. In his full splendour when unobscured by clouds; where his rays are in no way intercepted. Compare Jud 5:31: "But let them that love him [the Lord] be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might." 2 Sa 23:4, "And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun ariseth, even a morning without clouds." Ps 19:5, "Which [the sun] is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race." There could be no more striking description of the majesty and glory of the countenance than to compare it with the overpowering splendour of the sun.—This closes the description of the personage that appeared to John. The design was evidently to impress him with a sense of his majesty and glory, and to prepare the way for the authoritative nature of the communications which he was to make. It is obvious that this appearance must have been assumed. The representation is not that of the Redeemer as he rose from the dead—a middle-aged man; nor is it clear that it was the same as on the mount of transfiguration—where, for anything that appears, he retained his usual aspect and form though temporarily invested with extraordinary brilliancy; nor is it the form in which we may suppose he ascended to heaven—for there is no evidence that he was thus transformed when he ascended; nor is it that of a priest —for all the peculiar habiliments of a Jewish priest are wanting in this description. The appearance assumed is, evidently, in accordance with various representations of God as he appeared to Ezekiel, to Isaiah, and to Daniel—that which was a suitable manifestation of a Divine being—of one clothed in the majesty and power of God. We are not to infer from this, that this is in fact the appearance of the Redeemer now in heaven, or that this is the form in which he will appear when he comes to judge the world. Of his appearance in heaven we have no knowledge; of the aspect which he will assume when he comes to judge men we have no certain information. We are necessarily quite as ignorant of this as we are of what will be our own form and appearance after the resurrection from the dead.


Verse 17. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. As if I were dead; deprived of sense and consciousness. He was overwhelmed with the suddenness of the vision; he saw that this was a Divine being; but he did not as yet know that it was the Saviour. It is not probable that in this vision he would immediately recognise any of the familiar features of the Lord Jesus as he had been accustomed to see him some sixty years before; and if he did, the effect would have been quite as overpowering as is here described. But the subsequent revelations of this Divine personage would rather seem to imply that John did not at once recognise him as the Lord Jesus. The effect here described is one that often occurred to those who had a vision of God. See Da 8:18, "Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright." Da 8:27, "And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king's business." Compare Ex 33:20; Isa 6:5; Eze 1:28; 43:3; Da 10:7-9,17.

And he laid his right hand upon me. For the purpose of raising him up. Compare Da 8:18, "He touched me, and set me upright." We usually stretch out the right hand to raise up one who is fallen.

Saying unto me, Fear not. Compare Mt 14:27, "It is I; be not afraid." The fact that it was the Saviour, though he appeared in this form of overpowering majesty, was a reason why John should not be afraid. Why that was a reason, he immediately adds—that he was the first and the last; that though he had been dead he was now alive, and would continue ever to live, and that he had the keys of hell and of death. It is evident that John was overpowered with that awful emotion which the human mind must feel at the evidence of the presence of God. Thus men feel when God seems to come near them by the impressive symbols of his majesty—as in the thunder, the earthquake, and the tempest. Compare Heb 12:21; Lu 9:34. Yet, amidst the most awful manifestations of Divine power, the simple assurance that our Redeemer is near us is enough to allay our fears, and diffuse calmness through the soul.

I am the first and the last. See Barnes on "Re 1:8".

This is stated to be one of the reasons why he should not fear—that he was eternal: "I always live—have lived through all the past, and will live through all which is to come—and therefore I can accomplish all my promises, and execute all my purposes."


Verse 18. I am he that liveth, and was dead. I was indeed once dead, but now I live, and shall continue to live for ever. This would at once identify him who thus appeared as the Lord Jesus Christ, for to no one else could this apply. He had been put to death; but he had risen from the grave. This also is given as a reason why John should not fear; and nothing would allay his fears more than this. He now saw that he was in the presence of that Saviour whom more than half a century before he had so tenderly loved when in the flesh, and whom, though now long absent, he had faithfully served, and for whose cause he was now in this lonely island. His faith in his resurrection had not been a delusion; he saw the very Redeemer before him who had once been laid in the tomb.

Behold, I am alive for evermore. I am to live for ever. Death is no more to cut me down, and I am never again to slumber in the grave. As he was always to live, he could accomplish all his promises, and fulfil all his purposes. The Saviour is never to die again. He can, therefore, always sustain us in our troubles; he can be with us in our death. Whoever of our friends die, he will not die; when we die, he will still be on the throne.

Amen. A word here of strong affirmation—as if he had said, it is truly, or certainly so. See Barnes on "Re 1:7".

This expression is one that the Saviour often used when he wished to give emphasis, or to express anything strongly. Compare Joh 3:3; 5:25.

And have the keys of hell and of death. The word rendered hell— adhv, hades—refers properly to the under world; the abode of departed spirits; the region of the dead. This was represented as dull and gloomy; as enclosed with walls; as entered through gates which were fastened with bolts and bars. For a description of the views which prevailed among the ancients on this subject, see Barnes "Lu 16:23, See Barnes "Job 10:21, See Barnes "Job 10:22".

To hold the key of this, was to hold the power over the invisible world. It was the more appropriate that the Saviour should represent himself as having this authority, as he had himself been raised from the dead by his own power, (compare Joh 10:18) thus showing that the dominion over this dark world was entrusted to him.

And of death. A personification. Death reigns in that world. But to his wide-extended realms the Saviour holds the key, and can have access to his empire when he pleases, releasing all whom he chooses, and confining there still such as he shall please. It is probably in part from such hints as these that Milton drew his sublime description of the gates of hell in the Paradise Lost. As Christ always lives; as he always retains this power over the regions of the dead, and the whole world of spirits, it may be further remarked that we have nothing to dread if we put our trust in him. We need not fear to enter a world which he has entered and from which he has emerged, achieving a glorious triumph; we need not fear what the dread king that reigns there can do to us, for his power extends not beyond the permission of the Saviour, and in his own time that Saviour will call us forth to life to die no more.

{a} "liveth" Ro 6:9

{b} "keys" Re 20:1,2; Ps 68:20

{c} "seven stars" Re 1:16

{d} "candlesticks" Mt 5:15,16


Verse 19. Write the things which thou hast seen. An account of the vision which thou hast had, Re 1:10-18.

And the things which are. Give an account of those things which thou hast seen as designed to represent the condition of the seven churches. He had seen not only the Saviour, but he had seen seven lamp-stands, and seven stars in the hand of the Saviour, and he is now commanded to record the meaning of these symbols as referring to things then actually existing in the seven churches. This interpretation is demanded by Re 1:20.

And the things which shall be hereafter. The Greek phrase rendered hereafter—meta tauta—means "after these things;" that is, he was to make a correct representation of the things which then were, and then to record what would occur "after these things:" to wit, of the images, symbols, and truths, which would be disclosed to him after what he had already seen. The expression refers to future times. He does not say for how long a time; but the revelations which were to be made referred to events which were to occur beyond those which were then taking place. Nothing can be argued from the use of this language in regard to the length of time embraced in the revelation—whether it extended only for a few years, or whether it embraced all coming time. The more natural interpretation, how- ever, would seem to be, that it would stretch far into future years, and that it was designed to give at least an outline of what would be the character of the future in general.


Verse 20. The mystery of the seven stars. On the word mystery, see Barnes on "Eph 1:9".

The word means, properly, that which is hidden, obscure, unknown—until it is disclosed by one having the ability to do it, or by the course of events. When disclosed it may be as clear, and as capable of comprehension, as any other truth. The meaning here, as applied to the seven stars, is, that they were symbols, and that their meaning as symbols, without a suitable explanation, would remain hidden or unknown. They were designed to represent important truths, and John was directed to write down what they were intended in the circumstances to signify, and to send the explanation to the churches. It is evidently implied that the meaning of these symbols would be beyond the ordinary powers of the human mind to arrive at with certainty, and hence John was directed to explain the symbol. The general and obvious truths which they would serve to convey would be that the ministers of the churches, and the churches themselves, were designed to be lights in the world, and should burn clearly and steadily. Much important truth would be couched under these symbols, indeed, if nothing had been added in regard to their signification as employed here by the Saviour; but there were particular truths of great importance in reference to each of these "stars" and "lamp-bearers," which John was more fully to explain.

Which thou sawest in my right hand. Gr., "upon my right hand"— epi thv dexiav mou: giving some support to the opinion that the stars, as they were seen, appeared to be placed on his hand—that is, on the palm of his hand as he stretched it out. The expression in Re 1:16 is, that they were "in (en) his right hand;" but the language here used is not decisive as to the position of the stars. They may have been held in some way by the hand, or represented as scattered on the open hand.

The seven golden candlesticks. The truth which these emblematic representations are designed to convey.

The seven stars are. That is, they represent, or they denote— in accordance with a common usage in the Scriptures. See Barnes "Mt 26:26".

The angels of the seven churches. Gr., "Angels of the seven churches:" the article being wanting. This does not refer to them as a collective or associated body, for the addresses are made to them as individuals— an epistle being directed to "the angel" of each particular church, Re 2:1,12, etc. The evident meaning, however, is, that what was recorded should be directed to them not as pertaining to them exclusively as individuals, but as presiding over, or representing the churches, for what is recorded pertains to the churches, and was evidently designed to be laid before them. It was for the churches, but was committed to the "angel" as representing the church, and to be communicated to the church under his care. There has been much diversity of opinion in regard to the meaning of the word angels here. By the advocates of episcopacy, it has been argued that the use of this term proves that there was a presiding bishop over a circle or group of churches in Ephesus, in Smyrna, etc., since it is said that it cannot be supposed that there was but a single church in a city so large as Ephesus, or in the other cities mentioned. A full examination of this argument may be seen in my work on the "Apostolic Church," [pp. 191-199, London ed.] The word angel properly means a messenger, and is thus applied to celestial beings as messengers sent forth from God to convey or to do his will. This being the common meaning of the word, it may be employed to denote any one who is a messenger, and hence, with propriety, any one who is employed to communicate the will of another; to transact his business, or, more remotely, to act in his place—to be a representative. In order to ascertain the meaning of the word as used in this place, and in reference to these churches, it may be remarked,

(1.) that it cannot mean literally an angel, as referring to a heavenly being, for no one can suppose that such a being presided over these churches.

(2.) It cannot be shown to mean, as Lord (in loc.) supposes, messengers that the churches had sent to John, and that these letters were given to them to be returned by them to the churches, for

(a) there is no evidence that any such messengers had been sent to John;

(b) there is no probability that while he was a banished exile in Patmos such a thing would be permitted;

(c) the message was not sent by them, it was sent to them—"Unto the angel of the church in Ephesus write," etc.

(3.) It cannot be proved that the reference is to a prelatical bishop presiding over a group or circle of churches, called a diocese, for

(a) there is nothing in the word angel, as used in this connexion, which would be peculiarly applicable to such a personage—it belong as applicable to a pastor of a single church as to a bishop of many churches.

(b) There is no evidence that there were any such groups of churches then as constitute an episcopal diocese.

(c) The use of the word "church" in the singular, as applied to Ephesus, Smyrna, etc., rather implies that there was but a single church in each of those cities. Compare Re 2:1,8,12,18; see also similar language in regard to the church in Corinth, 1 Co 1:2; in Antioch, Ac 13:1; at Laodicea, Col 4:16; and at Ephesus, Ac 20:28.

(d) There is no evidence, as Episcopalians must suppose, that a successor to John had been appointed at Ephesus, if, as they suppose, he was "bishop" of Ephesus; and there is no probability that they would so soon after his banishment show him such a want of respect as to regard the see as vacant, and appoint a successor.

(e) There is no improbability in supposing that there was a single church in each of these cities—as at Antioch, Corinth, Rome.

(f) If John was a prelatical "bishop," it is probable that he was "bishop" of the whole group of churches embracing the seven: yet here, if the word "angel" means "bishop," we have no less than seven such bishops immediately appointed to succeed him. And

(g) the supposition that this refers to prelatical bishops is so forced and unnatural that many Episcopalians are compelled to abandon it. Thus Stillingfleet, than whom an abler man, or one whose praise is higher in episcopal churches, as an advocate of prelacy, is not to be found, says of these angels: "If many things in the epistles be directed to the angels, but yet so as to concern the whole body, then, of necessity, the angel must be taken as a representative of the whole body; and then why may not the angel be taken by way of representation of the body itself, either of the whole church, or, which is far more probable, of the concessors, or order of presbyters in this church?"

(4.) If the word does not mean literally an angel; if it does not refer to messengers sent to John in Patmos by the churches; and if it does not refer to a prelatical bishop, then it follows that it must refer to some one who presided over the church as its pastor, and through whom a message might be properly sent to the church. Thus understood, the pastor or "angel" would be regarded as the representative of the church; that is, as delegated by the church to manage its affairs, and as the authorized person to whom communications should be made in matters pertaining to it— as pastors are now. A few considerations will further confirm this interpretation, and throw additional light on the meaning of the word.

(a) The word angel is employed in the Old Testament to denote a prophet; that is, a minister of religion as sent by God to communicate his will. Thus in Haggai (Hag 1:13) it is said, "Then spoke Haggai, the Lord's messenger, [Heb. angel, HEBREW—Septuagint aggelov kuriou] in the Lord's message unto the people," etc.

(b) It is applied to a priest, as one sent by God to execute the functions of that office, or to act in the name of the Lord. Mal 2:7, "For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts"— HEBREW—that is, "angel of the Lord of hosts."

(c) The name prophet is often given in the New Testament to the ministers of religion, as being appointed by God to proclaim or communicate his will to his people, and as occupying a place resembling, in some respects, that of the prophets in the Old Testament.

(d) There was no reason why the word might not be thus employed to designate a pastor of a Christian church, as well as to designate a prophet or a priest under the Old Testament dispensation.

(e) The supposition that a pastor of a church is intended will meet all the circumstances of the case: for,

(1) it is an appropriate appellation;

(2) there is no reason to suppose that there was more than one church in each of the cities referred to;

(3) it is a term which would designate the respect in which the office was held;

(4) it would impress upon those to whom it was applied a solemn sense of their responsibility. Further, it would be more appropriately applied to a pastor of a single church than to a prelatical bishop; to the tender, intimate, and endearing relation sustained by a pastor to his people, to the blending of sympathy, interest, and affection, where he is with them continually, meets them frequently in the sanctuary, administers to them the bread of life, goes into their abodes when they are afflicted, and attends their kindred to the grave, than to the union subsisting between the people of an extended diocese and a prelate—the formal, unfrequent, and, in many instances, stately and pompous visitations of a diocesan bishop—to the unsympathising relation between him and a people scattered in many churches, who are visited at distant intervals by one claiming a "superiority in ministerial rights and powers," and who must be a stranger to the ten thousand ties of endearment which bind the hearts of a pastor and people together. The conclusion, then, to which we have come is, that the "angel of the church" was the pastor, or the presiding presbyter in the church; the minister who had the pastoral charge of it, and who was therefore a proper representative of it. He was a man who, in some respects, performed the functions which the angels of God do; that is, who was appointed to execute his will, to communicate his message, and to convey important intimations of his purposes to his people. To no one could the communications in this book, intended for the churches, be more properly entrusted than to such an one; for to no one now would a communication be more properly entrusted than to a pastor.

Such is the sublime vision under which this book opens; such the solemn commission which the penman of the book received. No more appropriate introduction to what is contained in the book could be imagined; no more appropriate circumstances for making such a sublime revelation could have existed. To the most beloved of the apostles—now the only surviving one of the number; to him who had been a faithful labourer for a period not far from sixty years after the death of the Lord Jesus, who had been the bosom friend of the Saviour when in the flesh, who had seen him in the mount of transfiguration, who had seen him die, and who had seen him ascend into heaven; to him who had lived while the church was founded, and while it had spread into all lands; and to him who was now suffering persecution on account of the Saviour and his cause, it was appropriate that such communications should be made. In a lonely island; far away from the abodes of men; surrounded by the ocean, and amid barren rocks; on the day consecrated to the purposes of sacred repose and the holy duties of religion—the day observed in commemoration of the resurrection of his Lord, it was most fit that the Redeemer should appear to the "beloved disciple" in the last Revelation which he was ever to make to mankind. No more appropriate time or circumstance could be conceived for disclosing, by a series of sublime visions, what would occur in future times; for sketching out the history of the church to the consummation of all things.




This chapter comprises four of the seven epistles addressed to the seven churches: those addressed to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, and Thyatira. A particular view of the contents of the epistles will be more appropriate as they come separately to be considered, than in this place. There are some general remarks in regard to their structure, however, which may be properly made here.

(1.) They all begin with a reference to some of the attributes of the Saviour, in general some attribute that had been noted in the first chapter; and while they are all adapted to make a deep impression on the mind, perhaps each one was selected in such a way as to have a special propriety in reference to each particular church. Thus in the address to the church at Ephesus (Re 2:1) the allusion is to the fact that he who speaks to them "holds the seven stars in his right hand, and walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;" in the epistle to the church at Smyrna, (Re 2:8,) it is he who "is the first and the last, who was dead and is alive;" in the epistle to the church at Pergamos, (Re 2:12,) it is he "which hath the sharp sword with the two edges;" in the epistle to the church at Thyatira, (Re 2:18,) it is "the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet like fine brass;" in the epistle to the church at Sardis, (Re 3:1,) it is he who "hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars;" in the epistle to the church at Philadelphia, (Re 3:7,) it is "he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth;" in the epistle to the church at Laodicea, (Re 3:14,) it is he who is the "Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God."

(2.) These introductions are followed with the formula, "I know thy works." The peculiar characteristics then of each church are referred to, with a sentiment of approbation or disapprobation expressed in regard to their conduct. Of two of the churches, that at Smyrna, (Re 2:9,) and that at Philadelphia, (Re 3:10,) he expresses his enure approbation; to the churches of Sardis, (Re 3:3,) and Laodicea, (Re 3:15-18,) he administers a decided rebuke; to the churches of Ephesus, (Re 2:3-6,) Pergamos, (Re 2:13-16,) and Thyatira, (Re 2:19,20,24,25, ) he intermingles praise and rebuke, for he saw much to commend, but at the same time not a little that was reprehensible. In all cases, however, the approbation precedes the blame: showing that he was more disposed to find that which was good than that which was evil.

(3.) After the statement of their characteristics, there follows in each case, counsel, advice, admonition, or promises, such as their circumstances demanded—encouragement in trial, and injunctions to put away their sins. The admonitions are addressed to the churches as if Christ were at hand, and would ere long come and sit in judgment on them and their deeds.

(4.) There is a solemn admonition to hear what the Spirit has to say to the churches. This is in each case expressed in the same manner, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches," Re 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22.

These admonitions were designed to call the attention of the churches to these things, and at the same time they seem designed to show that they were not intended for them alone. They are addressed to any one who "has an ear," and therefore had some principles of general application to others, and to which all should attend who were disposed to learn the will of the Redeemer. What was addressed to one church, at any time, would be equally applicable to all churches in the same circumstances; what was adapted to rebuke, elevate, or comfort Christians in any one age or land, would be adapted to be useful to Christians of all ages and lands.

(5.) There then is, either following or preceding that call on all the churches to hear, some promise or assurance designed to encourage the church, and urge it forward in the discharge of duty, or in enduring trial. This is found in each one of the epistles, though not always in the same relative position.


The contents of the epistle to the church at Ephesus—the first addressed—are these:

(1.) The attribute of the Saviour referred to is, that he "holds the stars in his right hand, and walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks," Re 2:1.

(2.) He commends them for their patience, and for their opposition to those who are evil, and for their zeal and fidelity in carefully examining into the character of some who claimed to be apostles, but who were in fact impostors; for their perseverance in bearing up under trial, and not fainting in his cause, and for their opposition to the Nicolaitanes, whom he says he hates, Re 2:2,3,6.

(3.) He reproves them for having left their first love to him, Re 2:4.

(4.) He admonishes them to remember whence they had fallen, to repent, and to do their first works, Re 2:5.

(5.) He threatens them that if they do not repent he will come and remove the candlestick out of its place, Re 2:5; and

(6.) he assures them and all others that whosoever overcomes, he will "give him to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God," Re 2:7.

Verse 1. Unto the angel. The minister; the presiding presbyter; the bishop—in the primitive sense of the word bishop—denoting one who had the spiritual charge of a congregation. See Barnes on "Re 1:20".

Of the church. Not of the churches of Ephesus, but of the one church of that city. There is no evidence that the word is used in a collective sense to denote a group of churches, like a diocese; nor is there any evidence that there was such a group of churches in Ephesus, or that there was more than one church in that city. It is probable that all who were Christians there were regarded as members of one church—though for convenience they may have met for worship in different places. Thus there was one church in Corinth, (1 Co 1:1) one church in Thessalonica, (1 Th 1:1,) etc.

Of Ephesus. On the situation of Ephesus, see Barnes "Ac 18:19, and the Introduction to the Notes on the Epistle to the Ephesians. It was the capital of Ionia; was one of the twelve Ionian cities of Asia Minor in the Mythic times, and was said to have been founded by the Amazons. It was situated on the river Cayster, not far from the Icarian Sea, between Smyrna and Miletus. It was one of the most considerable cities of Asia Minor, and while, about the epoch when Christianity was introduced, other cities declined, Ephesus rose more and more. It owed its prosperity, in part, to the favour of its governors, for Lysimachus named the city Arsinbe, in honour of his second wife, and Attalus Philadelphus furnished it with splendid wharves and docks. Under the Romans it was the capital not only of Ionia, but of the entire province of Asia, and bore the honourable title of the first and greatest metropolis of Asia. John is supposed to have resided in this city, and to have preached the gospel there for many years; and on this account perhaps it was, as well as on account of the relative importance of the city, that the first epistle of the seven was addressed to that church. On the present condition of the ruins of Ephesus, see Barnes on "Re 2:5".

We have no means whatever of ascertaining the size of the church when John wrote the book of Revelation. From the fact, however, that Paul, as is supposed, (see Introduction to the Epistle to the Ephesians,) laboured there for about three years; that there was a body of "elders" who presided over the church there, (Ac 20:1) and that the apostle John seems to have spent a considerable part of his life there in preaching the gospel, it may be presumed that there was a large and flourishing church in that city. The epistle before us shows also that it was characterized by distinguished piety.

These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand. See Barnes "Re 1:16".

The object here seems to be to turn the attention of the church in Ephesus to some attribute of the Saviour which deserved their special regard, or which constituted a special reason for attending to what he said. To do this, the attention is directed in this case to the fact that he held the seven stars—emblematic of the ministers of the churches—in his hand, and that he walked in the midst of the lamp-bearers—representing the churches themselves, intimating that they were dependent on him; that he had power to continue or remove the ministry, and that it was by his presence only that those lamp-bearers would continue to give light. The absolute control over the ministry, and the fact that he walked amidst the churches, and that his presence was necessary to their perpetuity and their welfare, seem to be the principal ideas implied in this representation. These truths he would impress on their minds in order that they might feel how easy it would be for him to punish any disobedience, and in order that they might do what was necessary to secure his continual presence among them. These views seem to be sanctioned by the character of the punishment threatened, (Re 2:5,) "that he would remove the candlestick representing their church out of its place." See Barnes "Re 2:5".

Who walketh in the midst, etc. In chapter Re 1:13, he is represented simply as being seen amidst the golden candlesticks, See Barnes on "Re 1:13".

Here there is the additional idea of his "walking" in the midst of them, implying perhaps constant and vigilant supervision. He went from one to another, as one who inspects and surveys what is under his care; perhaps also with the idea that he went among them as a friend to bless them.

{a} "that holdeth" Re 1:16,20


Verse 2. I know thy works. The common formula with which all the epistles to the seven churches are introduced. It is designed to impress upon them deeply the conviction that he was intimately acquainted with all that they did, good and bad, and that therefore he was abundantly qualified to dispense rewards or administer punishments according to truth and justice. It may be observed, that as many of the things referred to in these epistles were things pertaining to the heart—the feelings, the state of the mind—it is implied that he who speaks here has an intimate acquaintance with the heart of man —a prerogative which is always attributed to the Saviour. See Joh 2:25. But no one can do this who is not Divine; and this declaration, therefore, furnishes a strong proof of the divinity of Christ. See Ps 7:9; Jer 11:20; 17:10; 1 Sa 16:7; 1 Ki 8:39.

And thy labour. The word here used—kopov—means properly a beating, hence wailing, grief, with beating the breast; and then it means excessive labour or toil adapted to produce grief or sadness, and is commonly employed in the New Testament in the latter sense. It is used in the sense of trouble in Mt 26:10—"Why trouble ye [literally, why give ye trouble to] the woman?" (compare also Mr 14:6; Lu 11:7; 18:5; Ga 6:17) and in the sense of labour, or wearisome toil, in Joh 4:38; 1 Co 3:8; 15:58; 2 Co 6:5 2 Co 10:15; 2 Co 11:23,27

et al. The connexion here would admit of either sense. It is commonly understood, as in our translation, in the sense of labour, though it would seem that the other signification— that of trouble—would not be inappropriate. If it means labour, it refers to their faithful service in his cause, and especially in opposing error. It seems to me, however, that the word trouble would better suit the connexion.

And thy patience. Under these trials; to wit, in relation to the efforts which had been made by the advocates of error to corrupt them, and to turn them away from the truth. They had patiently borne the opposition made to the truth; they had manifested a spirit of firm endurance amidst many arts of those opposed to them to draw them off from simple faith in Christ.

And how thou canst not bear them which are evil. Canst not endure or tolerate them. Compare Barnes on "2 Jo 1:10,11".

That is, they had no sympathy with their doctrines or their practices; they were utterly opposed to them. They had lent them no countenance, but had in every way shown that they had no fellowship with them. The evil persons here referred to were doubtless those mentioned in this verse as claiming that "they were apostles," and those mentioned in Re 2:6 as the Nicolaitanes.

And thou hast tried them which say they are apostles. Thou hast thoroughly examined their claims. It is not said in what way they had done this, but it was probably by considering attentively and candidly the evidence on which they relied, whatever that may have been. Nor is it certainly known who these persons were, or on what grounds they advanced their pretensions to the apostolic office. It cannot be supposed that they claimed to have been of the number of apostles selected by the Saviour, for that would have been too absurd; and the only solution would seem to be that they claimed either

(1) that they had been called to that office after the Saviour ascended, as Paul was; or

(2) that they claimed the honour due to this name or office in virtue of some election to it; or

(3) that they claimed to be the successors of the apostles, and to possess and transmit their authority. If the first of these, it would seem that the only ground of claim would be that they had been called in some miraculous way to the rank of apostles, and, of course, an examination of their claims would be an examination of the alleged miraculous call, and of the evidence on which they would rely that they had such a call. If the second, then the claim must have been founded on some such plea as that the apostolic office was designed to be elective, as in the case of Matthias, (Ac 1:23-26,) and that they maintained that this arrangement was to be continued in the church; and then an examination of their claims would involve an investigation of the question whether it was contemplated that the apostolic office was designed to be perpetuated in that manner, or whether the election of Matthias was only a temporary arrangement, designed to answer a particular purpose. If the third, then the claim must have been founded on the plea that the apostolic office was designed to be perpetuated by a regular succession, and that they, by ordination, were in a line of that succession; and then the examination and refutation of the claim must have consisted in showing, from the nature of the office, and the necessary qualifications for the office of apostle, that it was designed to be temporary, and that there could be properly no successors of the apostles as such. On either of these suppositions such a line of argument would be fatal to all claims to any succession in the apostolic office now. If each of these points should fail, of course their claims to the rank of apostles would cease—just as all claims to the dignity and rank of the apostles must fail now. The passage becomes thus a strong argument against the claims of any persons to be "apostles," or to be the "successors" of the apostles in the peculiarity of their office.

And are not. There were never any apostles of Jesus Christ but the original twelve whom he chose; Matthias, who was chosen in the place of Judas, (Ac 1:26;) and Paul, who was specially called to the office by the Saviour after his resurrection. On this point, see my work on the "Apostolic Church," [pp. 49-57, London ed.]

And hast found them liars. Hast discovered their pretensions to be unfounded and false. In 2 Co 11:13, "false apostles" are mentioned; and in an office of so much honour as this, it is probable that there would be not a few claimants to it in the world. To set up a claim to what they knew they were not entitled to would be a falsehood; and as this seems to have been the character of these men, the Saviour in the passage before us does not hesitate to designate them by an appropriate term, and to call them liars. The point here commended in the Ephesian church is, that they had sought to have a pure ministry—a ministry whose claims were well founded. They had felt the importance of this; had carefully examined the claims of pretenders; and had refused to recognise those who could not show in a proper manner that they had been designated to their work by the Lord Jesus. The same zeal in the same cause would be commended by the Saviour now.

{b} "know thy works" Re 2:4,13,19; 3:1,8,15; Ps 1:6

{c} "tried" 1 Jo 4:1

{d} "are not" 2 Co 11:13


Verse 3. And hast borne. Hast borne up under trials; or hast borne with, the evils with which you have been assailed. That is, you have not given way to murmuring or complaints in trial; you have not abandoned the principles of truth and yielded to the prevalence of error.

And hast patience. That is, in this connexion, hast shown that thou canst bear up under these things with patience. This is a repetition of what is said in Re 2:2, but in a somewhat different connexion. There it rather refers to the trouble which they had experienced on account of the pretensions of false apostles, and the patient, persevering, and enduring spirit which they had shown in that form of trial; here the expression is more general, denoting a patient spirit in regard to all forms of trial.

And for my name's sake hast laboured. On account of me, and in my cause. That is, the labour here referred to, whatever it was, was to advance the cause of the Redeemer. In the word rendered "hast laboured" —ekopiasav—there is a reference to the word used in the previous verse— "thy labour"—kopon sou; and the design is to show that the "labour," or trouble there referred to, was on account of him.

And hast not fainted. Hast not become exhausted, or wearied out, so as to give over. The word here used (kamnw) occurs in only three places in the New Testament: Heb 12:3, "Lest ye be wearied, and faint; Jas 5:15, "the prayer of faith shall save the sick;" and in the passage before us. It means properly to become weary and faint from toil, etc.; and the idea here is, that they had not become so wearied out as to give over from exhaustion. The sense of the whole passage is thus rendered by Professor Stuart: "Thou canst not bear with false teachers, but thou canst bear with troubles and perplexities on account of me; thou hast undergone wearisome toil, but thou art not wearied out thereby." The state of mind, considered as the state of mind appropriate to a Christian, here represented, is, that we should not tolerate error and sin, but that we should bear up under the trials which they may incidentally occasion us; that we should have such a repugnance to evil that we cannot endure it, as evil, but that we should have such love to the Saviour and his cause as to be willing to bear anything, even in relation to that, or springing from that, that we may be called to suffer in that cause; that while we may be weary in his work—for our bodily strength may become exhausted (compare Mt 26:41) —we should not be weary of it; and that though we may have many perplexities, and may meet with much opposition, yet we should not relax our zeal, but should persevere with an ardour that never faints, until our Saviour calls us to our reward.

{a} "fainted" Ga 6:9


Verse 4. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee. Notwithstanding this general commendation, there are things which I cannot approve.

Because thou hast left thy first love. Thou hast remitted— afhkav—or let down thy early love; that is, it is less glowing and ardent than it was at first. The love here referred to is evidently love to the Saviour; and the idea is, that, as a church, they had less of this than formerly characterized them. In this respect they were in a state of declension; and though they still maintained the doctrines of his religion, and opposed the advocates of error, they showed less ardour of affection towards him directly than they had formerly done. In regard to this, we may remark,

(1.) that what is here stated of the church at Ephesus is not uncommon.

(a) Individual Christians often lose much of their first love. It is true, indeed, that there is often an appearance of this which does not exist in reality. Not a little of the ardour of young converts is often nothing more than the excitement of animal feeling, which will soon die away of course, though their real love may not be diminished, or may be constantly growing stronger. When a son returns home after a long absence, and meets his parents and brothers and sisters, there is a glow, a warmth of feeling, a joyousness of emotion, which cannot be expected to continue always, and which he may never be able to recall again, though he may be ever growing in real attachment to his friends and to his home.

(b) Churches remit the ardour of their first love. They are often formed under the reviving influences of the Holy Spirit when many are converted, and are warm-hearted and zealous young converts. Or they are formed from other churches that have become cold and dead, from which the new organization, embodying the life of the church, was constrained to separate. Or they are formed under the influence of some strong and mighty truth that has taken possession of the mind, and that gives a peculiar character to the church at first. Or they are formed with a distinct reference to promoting some one great object in the cause of the Redeemer. So the early Christian churches were formed. So the church in Germany, France, Switzerland, and England, came out from the Roman communion under the influence of the doctrine of justification by faith. So the Nestorians in former ages, and the Moravians in modern times, were characterized by warm zeal in the cause of missions. So the Puritans came out from the established church of England at one time, and the Methodists at another, warmed with a holier love to the cause of evangelical religion than existed in the body from which they separated. So many a church is formed now amidst the exciting scenes of a revival of religion, and in the early days of its history puts to shame the older and the slumbering churches around them. But it need scarcely be said that this early zeal may die away, and that the church, once so full of life and love, may become as cold as those that went before it, or as those from which it separated, and that there may be a necessity for the formation of new organizations that shall be fired with ardour and zeal. One has only to look at Germany, at Switzerland, at various portions of the reformed churches elsewhere; at the Nestorinns, whose zeal for missions long since departed, or even at the Moravians, among whom it has so much declined; at various portions of the Puritan churches; and at many an individual church formed under the warm and exciting feelings of a revival of religion, to see that what occurred at Ephesus may occur elsewhere.

(2.) The same thing that occurred there may be expected to follow in all similar cases. The Saviour governs the church always on essentially the same principles; and it is no uncommon thing that when a church has lost the ardour of its first love, it is suffered more and more to decline, until "the candlestick is removed"—until either the church becomes wholly extinct, or until vital piety is wholly gone, and all that remains is the religion of forms.


Verse 5. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen. The eminence which you once occupied. Call to remembrance the state in which you once were. The duty here enjoined is, when religion has declined in our hearts, or in the church, to call to distinct recollection the former state—the ardour, the zeal, the warmth of love which once characterized us. The reason for this is, that such a recalling of the former state will be likely to produce a happy influence on the heart. Nothing is better adapted to affect a backsliding Christian, or a backsliding church, than to call to distinct recollection the former condition—the happier days of piety. The joy then experienced; the good done; the honour reflected on the cause of religion; the peace of mind of that period, will contrast strongly with the present, and nothing will be better fitted to recall an erring church or an erring individual from their wanderings than such a reminiscence of the past. The advantages of thus "remembering" their former condition would be many—for some of the most valuable impressions which are made on the mind, and some of the most important lessons learned, are from the recollections of a former state. Among those advantages, in this case, would be such as the following:

(a) It would show how much they might have enjoyed if they had continued as they began—how much more real happiness they would have had than they actually have enjoyed.

(b) How much good they might have done, if they had only persevered in the zeal with which they commenced the Christian life. How much more good might most Christians do than they actually accomplish, if they would barely, even without increasing it, continue with the degree of zeal with which they begin their course.

(c) How much greater attainments they might have made in the Divine life, and in the knowledge of religion, than they have made: that is, how much more elevated and enlarged might have been their views of religion, and their knowledge of the word of God. And

(d) such a recollection of their past state, as contrasted with what they now are, would exert a powerful influence in producing true repentance—for there is nothing better adapted to do this than a just view of what we might have been, as compared with what we now are. If a man has become cold towards his wife, nothing is better fitted to reclaim him than to recall to his recollection the time when he led her to the altar; the solemn vow then made; and the rapture of his heart when he pressed her to his bosom and called her his own.

And repent. The word here used means to change one's mind and purposes, and, along with that, the conduct or demeanour. The duty of repentance here urged would extend to all the points in which they had erred.

And do the first works. The works which Were done when the church was first established. That is, manifest the zeal and love which were formerly evinced in opposing error, and in doing good. This is the true counsel to be given to those who have backslidden, and have "left their first love," now. Often such persons, sensible that they have erred, and that they have not the enjoyment in religion which they once had, profess to be willing and desirous to return, but they know not how to do it—how to revive their ardour—how to rekindle in their bosom the flame of extinguished love. They suppose it must be by silent meditation, or by some supernatural influence, and they wait for some visitation from above to call them back, and to restore to them their former joy. The counsel of the Saviour to all such, however, is to do their first works. It is to engage at once in doing what they did in the first and best days of their piety—the days of their: espousals (Jer 2:2) to God. Let them read the Bible as they did then; let them pray as they did then; let them go forth in the duties of active benevolence as they did then; let them engage in teaching a Sabbath school as they did then; let them relieve the distressed, instruct the ignorant, raise up the fallen, as they did then; let them open their heart, their purse, and their hand to bless a dying world. As it was in this way that they manifested their love then, so this would be better fitted than all other things to rekindle the flame of love when it is almost extinguished. The weapon that is used keeps bright; that which has become rusty will become bright again if it is used.

Or else I will come unto thee quickly. On the word rendered quickly— tacei—see Barnes on "Re 1:1".

The meaning is, that he would come as a Judge, at no distant period, to inflict punishment in the manner specified—by removing the candlestick out of its place. He does not say in what way it would be done—whether by some sudden judgment, by a direct act of power, or by a gradual process that would certainly lead to that result.

And will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. On the meaning of the word candlestick, see Barnes "Re 1:12".

The meaning is, that the church gave light in Ephesus; and that what he would do in regard to that place would be like removing a lamp, and leaving a place in darkness. The expression is equivalent to saying that the church there would cease to exist. The proper idea of the passage is, that the church would be wholly extinct, and it is observable that this is a judgment more distinctly disclosed in reference to this church than to any other of the seven churches. There is not the least evidence that the church at Ephesus did repent, and the threatening has been most signally fulfilled. Long since the church has become utterly extinct, and for ages there was not a single professing Christian there. Every memorial of there having been a church there has departed, and there are nowhere, not even in Nineveh, Babylon, or Tyre, more affecting demonstrations of the fulfilment of ancient prophecy than in the present state of the ruins of Ephesus. A remark of Mr. Gibbon (Dec. and Fall, iv. 260) will show with what exactness the prediction in regard to this church has been accomplished. He is speaking of the conquests of the Turks. "In the loss of Ephesus, the Christians deplored the fall of the first angel, the extinction of the first candlestick of the Revelations; the desolation is complete; and the Temple of Diana, or the Church of Mercy, will equally elude the search of the curious traveller." Thus the city, with the splendid Temple of Diana, and the church that existed there in the time of John, has disappeared, and nothing remains but unsightly ruins. These ruins lie about ten days' journey from Smyrna, and consist of shattered walls, and remains of columns and temples. The soil on which a large part of the city is supposed to have stood, naturally rich, is covered with a rank, burnt up vegetation, and is everywhere deserted and solitary, though bordered by picturesque mountains. A few corn-fields are scattered along the site of the ancient city. Towards the sea extends the ancient port, a pestilential marsh. Along the slope of the mountain, and over the plain, are scattered fragments of masonry and detached ruins, but nothing can now be fixed on as the great Temple of Diana. There are ruins of a theatre; there is a circus, or stadium, nearly entire; there are fragments of temples and palaces scattered around; but there is nothing that marks the site of a church in the time of John; there is nothing to indicate even that such a church then existed there. About a mile and a half from the principal ruins of Ephesus, there is indeed now a small village called Asalook—a Turkish word, which is associated with the same idea as Ephesus, meaning, The City of the Moon. A church, dedicated to John, is supposed to have stood near, if not on the site of, the present Mosque. Dr. Chandler (p. 150, 4to) gives us a striking description of Ephesus as he found it in 1764: "Its population consisted of a few Greek peasants, living in extreme wretchedness, dependence, and insensibility, the representatives of an illustrious people, and inhabiting the wreck of their greatness. Some reside in the substructure of the glorious edifices which they raised; some beneath the vaults of the stadium, and the crowded scenes of these diversions; and some in the abrupt precipice, in the sepulchres which received their ashes. Its streets are obscured and overgrown. A herd of goats was driven to it for shelter from the sun at noon, and a noisy flight of crows from the quarries seemed to insult its silence. We heard the partridge call in the area of the theatre and of the stadium ....Its fate is that of the entire country—a garden has become a desert. Busy centres of civilization, spots where the refinements and delights of the age were collected, are now a prey to silence, destruction, and death. Consecrated first of all to the purposes of idolatry, Ephesus next had Christian temples almost rivalling the Pagan in splendour, wherein the image of the great Diana lay prostrate before the cross; after the lapse of some centuries, Jesus gives way to Mohammed, and the crescent glittered on the dome of the recently Christian church. A few more scores of years, and Ephesus has neither temple, cross, crescent, nor city, but is desolation, a dry land, and a wilderness." See the article Ephesus in Kitto's Cyclo., and the authorities there referred to. What is affirmed here of Ephesus has often been illustrated in the history of the world, that when a church has declined in piety and love, and has been called by faithful ministers to repent, and has not done it, it has been abandoned more and more until the last appearance of truth and piety has departed, and it has been given up to error and to ruin. And the same principle is as applicable to individuals—for they have as much reason to dread the frowns of the Saviour as churches have. If they who have "left their first love" will not repent at the call of the Saviour, they have every reason to apprehend some fearful judgment—some awful visitation of his Providence that shall overwhelm them in sorrow, as a proof of his displeasure. Even though they should finally be saved, their days may be without comfort, and perhaps their last moments without a ray of conscious hope. The engraving on the previous page, representing the present situation of Ephesus, will bring before the eye a striking illustration of the fulfilment of this prophecy that the candlestick of Ephesus would be removed from its place.

{a} "first works" Jer 2:2,3

{b} "remove" Mt 21:41,43


Verse 6. But this thou hast. This thou hast that I approve of, or that I can commend.

That thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes. Gr., works—-ta erga. The word Nicolaitanes occurs only in this place, and in Re 2:15. From the reference in the latter place, it is clear that the doctrines which they held prevailed at Pergamos as well as at Ephesus; but from neither place can anything now be inferred in regard to the nature of their doctrines or their practices, unless it be supposed that they held the same doctrine that was taught by Balaam. See Barnes "Re 2:15".

From the two passages, compared with each other, it would seem that they were alike corrupt in doctrine and in practice, for in the passage before us their deeds are mentioned, and in Re 2:15 their doctrine. Various conjectures, however, have been formed respecting this class of people, and the reasons why the name was given to them.

I. In regard to the origin of the name, there have been three opinions:

(1.) That mentioned by Irenoeus, and by some of the other fathers, that the name was derived from Nicolas, one of the deacons ordained at Antioch, Ac 6:5. Of those who have held this opinion, some have supposed that it was given to them because he became apostate and was the founder of the sect, and others because they assumed his name in order to give the greater credit to their doctrine. But neither of these suppositions rests on any certain evidence, and both are destitute of probability. There is no proof whatever that Nicolas the deacon ever apostatized from the faith and became the founder of a sect; and if a name had been assumed in order to give credit to a sect and extend its influence, it is much more probable that the name of an apostle would have been chosen, or of some other prominent man, than the name of an obscure deacon of Antioch.

(2.) Vitringa, and most commentators since his time, have supposed that the name Nicolaitanes was intended to be symbolical, and was not designed to designate any sect of people, but to denote those who resembled Balaam, and that this word is used in the same manner as the word Jezebel in Re 2:20, which is supposed to be symbolical there. Vitringa supposes that the word is derived from nikov, victory, and laov, people, and that thus it corresponds with the name Balaam, as meaning either HEBREW lord of the people,

he destroyed the people; and that, as the same effect was produced by their doctrines a by those of Balaam, that the people were led to commit fornication and to join in idolatrous worship, they might be called Balaamites or Nicolaitanes—that is, corrupters of the people. But to this it may be replied,

(a) that it is far-fetched, and is adopted only to remove a difficulty;

(b) that there is every reason to suppose that the word here used refers to a class of people who bore that name, and who were well known in the two churches specified;

(c) that, in Re 2:15, they are expressly distinguished from those who held the doctrine of Balaam, Re 2:14—"So hast thou also (kai) those that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes."

(3.) It has been supposed that some person now unknown, probably of the name Nicolas, or Nicolaus, was their leader, and laid the foundation of the sect. This is by far the most probable opinion, and to this there can be no objection. It is in accordance with what usually occurs in regard to sects, orthodox or heretical, that they derive their origin from some person whose name they continue to bear; and as there is no evidence that this sect prevailed extensively, or was indeed known beyond the limits of these churches, and as it soon disappeared, it is easily accounted for that the character and history of the founder were so soon forgotten.

II. In regard to the opinions which they held, there is as little certainty. Irenaeus (Adv. Haeres. i. 26) says that their characteristic tenets were the lawfulness of promiscuous intercourse with women, and of eating things offered to idols. Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 3:29) states substantially the same thing, and refers to a tradition respecting Nicolaus, that he had a beautiful wife, and was jealous of her, and being reproached with this, renounced all intercourse with her, and made use of an expression which was misunderstood, as implying that illicit pleasure was proper. Tertullian speaks of the Nicolaitanes as a branch of the Gnostic family, and as, in his time, extinct. Mosheim (De Rebus Christian. Ante Con. 69) says that "the questions about the Nicolaitanes have difficulties which cannot be solved." Neander (History of the Christian Religion, as translated by Torrey, i. pp. 452, 453) numbers them with Antinomians; though he expresses some doubt whether the actual existence of such a sect can be proved, and rather inclines to an opinion noticed above, that the name is symbolical, and that it is used in a mystical sense, according to the usual style of the book of Revelation, to denote corrupters or seducers of the people, like Balaam. He supposes that the passage relates simply to a class of persons who were in the practice of seducing Christians to participate in the sacrificial feasts of the heathens, and in the excesses which attended them—just as the Jews were led astray of old by the Moabites, Numbers 25. What was the origin of the name, however, Neander does not profess to be able to determine, but suggests that it was the custom of such sects to attach themselves to some celebrated name of antiquity, in the choice of which they were often determined by circumstances quite accidental. He supposes also that the sect may have possessed a life of Nicolas of Antioch, drawn up by themselves or others from fabulous accounts and traditions, in which what had been imputed to Nicolas was embodied. Everything, however, in regard to the origin of this sect, and the reason of the name given to it, and the opinions which they held, is involved in great obscurity, and there is no hope of throwing light on the subject. It is generally agreed, among the writers of antiquity who have mentioned them, that they were distinguished for holding opinions which countenanced gross social indulgences. This is all that is really necessary to be known in regard to the passage before us, for this will explain the strong language of aversion and condemnation used by the Saviour respecting the sect in the epistles to the churches of Ephesus and Pergamos.

Which I also hate. If the view above taken of the opinions and practices of this people is correct, the reasons why he hated them are obvious. Nothing can be more opposed to the personal character of the Saviour, or to his religion, than such doctrines and deeds.

{a} "Nicolaitines" Re 2:15


Verse 7. He that hath an ear, let him hear, etc. This expression occurs at the close of each of the epistles addressed to the seven churches, and is substantially a mode of address often employed by the Saviour in his personal ministry, and quite characteristic of him. See Mt 11:15; Mr 4:23; 7:16. It is a form of expression designed to arrest the attention, and to denote that what was said was of special importance.

What the Spirit saith unto the churches. Evidently what the Holy Spirit says—for he is regarded in the Scriptures as the Source of inspiration, and as appointed to disclose truth to man. The "Spirit" may be regarded either as speaking through the Saviour, (compare Joh 3:34;) or as imparted to John, through whom he addressed the churches. In either case it is the same Spirit of inspiration, and in either case there would be a claim that his voice should be heard. The language here used is of a general character" He that hath an ear;" that is, what was spoken was worthy of the attention not only of the members of these churches, but of all others. The truths were of so general a character as to deserve the attention of mankind at large.

To him that overcometh. Gr., "To him that gains the victory, or is a conqueror"—tw nikwnti. This may refer to any victory of a moral character, and the expression used would be applicable to one who should triumph in any of these respects:—

(a) over his own easily-besetting sins;

(b) over the world and its temptations;

(c) over prevalent error;

(d) over the ills and trials of life, so as, in all these respects, to show that his Christian principles are firm and unshaken. Life, and the Christian life especially, may be regarded as a warfare. Thousands fall in the conflict with evil; but they who maintain a steady warfare, and who achieve a victory, shall be received as conquerors in the end.

Will I give to eat of the tree of life. As the reward of his victory. The meaning is, that he would admit him to heaven, represented as paradise, and permit him to enjoy its pleasures—represented by being permitted to partake of its fruits. The phrase "of the tree of life" refers undoubtedly to the language used respecting the Garden of Eden, Ge 2:9; 3:22—where the "tree of life" is spoken of as that which was adapted to make the life of man perpetual. Of the nature of that tree nothing is known, though it would seem probable that, like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it was a mere emblem of life—or a tree that was set before man in connexion with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that his destiny turned on the question whether he partook of the one or the other. That God should make the question of life or death depend on that, is no more absurd or improbable than that he should make it depend on what man does now—it being a matter of fact that life and death, happiness and misery, joy and sorrow, are often made to depend on things quite as arbitrary apparently, and quite as unimportant, as an act of obedience or disobedience in partaking of the fruit of a designated tree. Does it not appear probable that in Eden there were two trees designated to be of an emblematic character, of life and death, and that as man partook of the one or the other he would live or die? Of all the others he might freely partake without their affecting his condition; of one of these—the tree of life—he might have partaken before the fall, and lived for ever. One was forbidden on pain of death. When the law forbidding that was violated, it was still possible that he might partake of the other—but, since the sentence of death had been passed upon him, that would not now be proper, and he was driven from the garden, and the way was guarded by the flaming sword of the Cherubim. The reference in the passage before us is to the celestial paradise—to heaven—spoken of under the beautiful image of a garden; meaning that the condition of man, in regard to life, will still be the same as if he had partaken of the tree of life in Eden. Compare See Barnes "Re 22:2".

Which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Heaven, represented as paradise. To be permitted to eat of that tree, that is, of the fruit of that tree, is but another expression implying the promise of eternal life, and of being happy for ever. The word paradise is of Oriental derivation, and is found in several of the Eastern languages. In the Sanscrit the word paradesha and paradisha is used to denote a land elevated and cultivated; in the Armenian the word pardes denotes a garden around the house planted with grass, herbs, trees for use and ornament; and in the Hebrew form

HEBREW, and Greek paradeisov, it is applied to the pleasure gardens and parks, with wild animals, around the country residences of the Persian monarchs and princes, Ne 2:8. Compare Ec 2:5; So 4:13; Xen. Cyro. i. 3, 14.—Rob. Lex. Here it is used to denote heaven—a world compared in beauty with a richly cultivated park or garden. Compare 2 Co 12:4. The meaning of the Saviour is, that he would receive him that overcame to a world of happiness; that he would permit him to taste of the fruit that grows there imparting immortal life, and to rest in an abode fitted up in a manner that would contribute in every way to enjoyment. Man, when he fell, was not permitted to reach forth his hand and pluck of the fruit of the tree of life in the first Eden, as he might have done if he had not fallen; but he is now permitted to reach forth his hand and partake of the tree of life in the paradise above. He is thus restored to what he might have been if he had not transgressed by eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and in the Paradise Regained, the blessings of the Paradise Lost will be more than recovered—for man may now live for ever in a far higher and more blessed state than his would have been in Eden.

{b} "he that hath" Re 2:11,17,29; Mt 11:15

{c} "tree of life" Re 22:2; Ge 2:9


Verse 8. And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write. On the meaning of the word angel, see Barnes "Re 1:20".

These things saith the first and the last. See Barnes "Re 1:8, See Barnes "Re 1:17".

Which was dead, and is alive. See Barnes "Re 1:18".

The idea is, that he is a living Saviour; and there was a propriety in referring to that fact here from the nature of the promise which he was about to make to the church at Smyrna: "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death," Re 2:11. As he had himself triumphed over death in all its forms, and was now alive for ever, it was appropriate that he should promise to his true friends the same protection from the second death. He who was wholly beyond the reach of death could give the assurance that they who put their trust in him should come off victorious.

{a} "the first" Re 1:8,17


Verse 9. I know thy works. The uniform method of introducing these epistles, implying a most intimate acquaintance with all that pertained to the church. See Barnes on "Re 2:2.

And tribulation. This word is of a general signification, and probably includes all that they suffered in any form, whether from persecution, poverty, or the blasphemy of opposers.

And poverty. It would seem that this church, at that time, was eminently poor, for this is not specified in regard to any one of the others. No reason is suggested why they were particularly poor. It was not, indeed, an uncommon characteristic of early Christians, (compare 1 Co 1:26-28,) but there might have been some special reasons why that church was eminently so. It is, however, the only church of the seven which has survived, and perhaps in the end its poverty was no disadvantage.

But thou art rich. Not in this world's goods, but in a more important respect—in the grace and favour of God. These things are not unfrequently united. Poverty is no hindrance to the favour of God, and there are some things in it favourable to the promotion of a right spirit towards God which are not found where there is abundant wealth. The Saviour was eminently poor, and not a few of his most devoted and useful followers have had as little of this world's goods as he had. The poor should always be cheerful and happy, if they can hear their Saviour saying unto them, "I know thy poverty—but thou art rich." However keen the feeling arising from the reflection "I am a poor man," the edge of the sorrow is taken off if the mind can be turned to a brighter image—"but thou art rich."

And I know the blasphemy. The reproaches; the harsh and bitter revilings. On the word blasphemy, see Barnes "Mt 9:3; 26:65".

The word here does not seem to refer to blasphemy against God, but to bitter reproaches against themselves. The reason of these reproaches is not stated, but it was doubtless on account of their religion.

Of them which say they are Jews. Who profess to be Jews. The idea seems to be, that though they were of Jewish extraction, and professed to be Jews, they were not true Jews; they indulged in a bitterness of reproach, and a severity of language, which showed that they had not the spirit of the Jewish religion; they had nothing which became those who were under the guidance of the spirit of their own Scriptures. That would have inculcated and fostered a milder temper; and the meaning here is, that although they were of Jewish origin, they were not worthy of the name. That spirit of bitter opposition was indeed often manifested in their treatment of Christians, as it had been of the Saviour, but still it was foreign to the true nature of their religion. There were Jews in all parts of Asia Minor, and the apostles often encountered them in their journeyings, but it would seem that there was something which had particularly embittered those of Smyrna against Christianity. What this was is now unknown. It may throw some light on the passage, however, to remark, that at a somewhat later period—in the time of the martyrdom of Polycarp—the Jews of Smyrna were among the most bitter of the enemies of Christians, and among the most violent in demanding the death of Polycarp. Eusebius (Eccl. Hist. iv. 15) says, that when Polycarp was apprehended, and brought before the proconsul at Smyrna, the Jews were the most furious of all in demanding his condemnation. When the mob, after his condemnation to death, set about gathering fuel to burn him, "the Jews," says he, "being especially zealous, as was their custom—malista proyumwv, wv eyov autoiv—ran to procure fuel." And when, as the burning failed, the martyr was transfixed with weapons, the Jews urged and besought the magistrate that his body might not be given up to Christians. Possibly at the time when this epistle was directed to be sent to Smyrna, there were Jews there who manifested the same spirit which those of their countrymen did afterwards, who urged on the death of Polycarp.

But are the synagogue of Satan. Deserve rather to be called the synagogue of Satan. The synagogue was a Jewish place of worship, (compare See Barnes "Mt 4:23,) but the word originally denoted the assembly or congregation. The meaning here is plain, that though they worshipped in a synagogue, and professed to be the worshippers of God, yet they were not worthy of the name, and deserved rather to be regarded as in the service of Satan. Satan is the word that is properly applied to the great evil spirit, elsewhere called the devil. See Barnes "Lu 22:3" See Barnes "Job 1:6".

{b} "rich" 1 Ti 6:18

{c} "Jews" Ro 2:28,29

{a} "synagogue" Re 3:9


Verse 10. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. He did not promise them exemption from suffering. He saw that they were about to suffer, and he specifies the manner in which their affliction would occur. But he entreats and commands them not to be afraid. They were to look to the "crown of life," and to be comforted with the assurance that if they were faithful unto death, that would be theirs. We need not dread suffering if we can hear the voice of the Redeemer encouraging us, and if he assures us that in a little while we shall have the crown of life.

Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison. Or, shall cause some of you to be cast into prison. He had just said that their persecutors were of the "synagogue of Satan." He here represents Satan, or the devil—another name of the same being—as about to throw them into prison. This would be done undoubtedly by the hands of men, but still Satan was the prime mover, or the instigator in doing it. It was common to cast those who were persecuted into prison. See Ac 12:3-4; 16:23. It is not said on what pretence, or by what authority, this would be done; but, as John had been banished to Patmos from Ephesus, it is probable that this persecution was raging in the adjacent places, and there is no improbability in supposing that many might be thrown into prison.

That ye may be tried. That the reality of your faith may be subjected to a test to show whether it is genuine. The design in the case is that of the Saviour, though Satan is allowed to do it. It was common in the early periods of the church to suffer religion to be subjected to trial amidst persecutions, in order to show that it was of heavenly origin, and to demonstrate its value in view of the world. This is, indeed, one of the designs of trial at all times, but this seemed eminently desirable when a new system of religion was about to be given to mankind. Compare Barnes on "1 Pe 1:6-7".

And ye shall have tribulation ten days. A short time; a brief period; a few days. It is possible, indeed, that this might have meant literally ten days, but it is much more in accordance with the general character of this book, in regard to numbers, to suppose that the word ten here is used to denote a few. Compare Ge 24:55; 1 Sa 25:38; Da 1:12,14.

We are wholly ignorant how long the trial actually lasted; but the assurance was that it would not be long, and they were to allow this thought to cheer and sustain them in their sorrows. Why should not the same thought encourage us now? Affliction in this life, however severe, can be but brief; and in the hope that it will soon end, why should we not bear it without murmuring or repining?

Be thou faithful unto death. Implying, perhaps, that though, in regard to the church, the affliction would be brief, yet that it might be fatal to some of them, and they who were thus about to die should remain faithful to their Saviour until the hour of death. In relation to all, whether they were to suffer a violent death or not, the same injunction and the same promise was applicable. It is true of every one who is a Christian, in whatever manner he is to die, that if he is faithful unto death, a crown of life awaits him. Compare See Barnes "2 Ti 4:8".

And I will give thee a crown of life. See Barnes "Jas 1:12".

Compare 1 Pe 5:4; 1 Co 9:24-27. The promise here is somewhat different from that which was made to the faithful in Ephesus, (Re 2:7,) but the same thing substantially is promised theme happiness hereafter, or an admission into heaven. In the former case it is the peaceful image of those admitted into the scenes of paradise; here it is the triumph of the crowned martyr.

{b} "faithful" Mt 10:22

{c} "crown" Jas 1:12


Verse 11. He that hath an ear, etc. See Barnes on "Re 2:7".

He that overcometh. See Barnes on "Re 2:7".

The particular promise here is made to him that should "overcome;" that is, that would gain the victory in the persecutions which were to come upon them. The reference is to him who would show the sustaining power of religion in times of persecution; who would not yield his principles when opposed and persecuted; who would be triumphant when so many efforts were made to induce him to apostatize and abandon the cause.

Shall not be hurt of the second death. By a second death. That is, he will have nothing to fear in the future world. The punishment of hell is often called death, not in the sense that the soul will cease to exist, but

(a) because death is the most fearful thing of which we have any knowledge, and

(b) because there is a striking similarity, in many respects, between death and future punishment. Death cuts off from life—and so the second death cuts off from eternal life; death puts an end to all our hopes here, and the second death to all our hopes for ever; death is attended with terrors and alarms—the faint and feeble emblem of the terrors and alarms in the world of woe. The phrase, "the second death," is three times used elsewhere by John in this book, (Re 20:6,14; 21:8) but does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The words death and to die, however, are not unfrequently used to denote the future punishment of the wicked.

The promise here made would be all that was necessary to sustain them in their trials. Nothing more is requisite to make the burdens of life tolerable than an assurance that, when we reach the end of our earthly journey, we have arrived at the close of suffering, and that beyond the grave there is no power that can harm us. Religion, indeed, does not promise to its friends exemption from death in one form. To none of the race has such a promise ever been made, and to but two has the favour been granted to pass to heaven without tasting death. It could have been granted to all the redeemed, but there were good reasons why it should not be; that is, why it would be better that even they who are to dwell in heaven should return to the dust, and sleep in the tomb, than that they should be removed by perpetual miracle, translating them to heaven. Religion, therefore, does not come to us with any promise that we shall not die. But it comes with the assurance that we shall be sustained in the dying hour; that the Redeemer will accompany us through the dark valley; that death to us will be a calm and quiet slumber, in the hope of awaking in the morning of the resurrection; that we shall be raised up again with bodies incorruptible and undecaying; and that beyond the grave we shall never fear death in any form. What more is needful to enable us to bear with patience the trials of this life, and to look upon death when it does come, disarmed as it is of its sting, (1 Co 15:55-57) with calmness and peace?

{d} "second death" Re 20:14


Verse 12. And to the angel of the church in Pergamos. See Barnes on "Re 1:20".

These things saith he which hath the sharp sword etc. See Barnes on "Re 1:16".

Compare Heb 4:12; Ec 12:11; Isa 49:2.

Professor Stuart suggests that when the Saviour, as represented in the vision, "uttered words, as they proceeded from his mouth, the halitus which accompanied them assumed, in the view of John, the form of an igneous two-edged sword." It is more probable, however, that the words which proceeded from his mouth did not assume anything like a form or substance, but John means to represent them as if they were a sharp sword. His words cut and penetrate deep, and it was easy to picture him as having a sword proceeding from his mouth; that is, his words were as piercing as a sharp sword. As he was about to reprove the church at Pergamos, there was a propriety in referring to this power of the Saviour. Reproof cuts deep; and this is the idea represented here.

{a} "saith he" Re 1:16


Verse 13. I know thy works. The uniform mode of addressing the seven churches in these epistles. See Barnes on "Re 2:2".

And where thou dwellest. That is, I know all the temptations to which you are exposed; all the allurements to sin by which you are surrounded; all the apologies which might be made for what has occurred arising from those circumstances; and all that could be said in commendation of you for having been as faithful as you have been. The sense of the passage is, that it does much to enable us to judge of character to know where men live. It is much more easy to be virtuous and pious in some circumstances than in others; and in order to determine how much credit is due to a man for his virtues, it is necessary to understand how much he has been called to resist, how many temptations he has encountered, what easily-besetting sins he may have, or what allurements may have been presented to his mind to draw him from the path of virtue and religion. In like manner, in order to judge correctly of those who have embraced error, or have been led into sin, it is necessary to understand what there may have been in their circumstances that gave to error what was plausible, and to sin what was attractive; what there was in their situation in life that exposed them to these influences, and what arguments may have been employed by the learned, the talented, and the plausible advocates of error, to lead them astray. We often judge harshly where the Saviour would be far less severe in his judgments; we often commend much where in fact there has been little to commend. It is possible to conceive that in the strugglings against evil of those who have ultimately fallen, there may be more to commend than in cases where the path of virtue has been pursued as the mere result of circumstances, and where there never has been a conflict with temptation. The adjudications of the great day will do much to reverse the judgments of mankind.

Even where Satan's seat is. A place of peculiar wickedness, as if Satan dwelt there. Satan is, as it were, enthroned there. The influence of Satan in producing persecution is that which is particularly alluded to, as is apparent from the reference which is immediately made to the case of Antipas, the "faithful martyr."

And thou holdest fast my name. They had professed the name of Christ; that is, they had professed to be his followers, and they had steadfastly adhered to him and his cause in all the opposition made to him. The name Christian, given in honour of Christ, and indicating that they were his disciples, they had not been ashamed of or denied. It was this name that subjected the early Christians to reproach. See 1 Pe 4:14.

And hast not denied my faith. That is, hast not denied my religion. The great essential element in the Christian religion is faith, and this, since it is so important, is often put for the whole of religion.

Even in those days wherein Antipus was my faithful martyr. Of Antipas we know nothing more than is here stated. "In the Acta Sanctorum (ii. pp. 3, 4) is a martyrology of Antipas from a Greek MS.; but it is full of fable and fiction, which a later age had added to the original story."—Professor Stuart, in loc.

Who was slain among you. It would seem from this, that, though the persecution had raged there, but one person had been put to death, It would appear also that the persecution was of a local character, since Pergamos is described as "Satan's seat;" and the death of Antipus is mentioned in immediate connexion with that fact. All the circumstances referred to would lead us to suppose that this was a popular outbreak, and not a persecution carried on under the authority of government, and that Antipas was put to death in a popular excitement. So Stephen (Acts 7) was put to death, and so Paul at Lystra was stoned until it was supposed he was dead, Ac 14:19.

Where Satan dwelleth. The repetition of this idea—very much in the manner of John—showed how intensely the mind was fixed on the thought, and how much alive the feelings were to the malice of Satan as exhibited at Pergamos.

{b} "know thy" Re 2:9

{c} "denied" 2 Ti 2:12


Verse 14. But I have a few things against thee. As against the church at Ephesus, Re 2:4. The charge against this church, however, is somewhat different from that against the church at Ephesus. The charge there was, that they had "left their first love;" but it is spoken in commendation of them that they "hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes," Re 2:6. Here the charge is, that they tolerated that sect among them, and that they had among them also those who held the doctrine of Balaam. Their general Course had been such that the Saviour could approve it; he did not approve, however, of their tolerating those who held to pernicious practical error—error that tended to sap the very foundation of morals.

Because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Baalam. It is not necessary to suppose that they professedly held to the same opinion as Balaam, or openly taught the same doctrines. The meaning is, that they taught substantially the same doctrine which Balaam did, and deserved to be classed with him. What that doctrine was is stated in the subsequent part of the verse.

Who taught Balac to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel. The word stumbling-block properly means anything over which one falls or stumbles, and then anything over which any one may or fall into sin, which becomes the occasion of one's falling into sin. The meaning here is, that it was through the instructions of Balaam that Balak learned the way by which the Israelites might be led into sin, and might thus bring upon themselves the Divine malediction. The main circumstances in the case were these:

(1.)-Balak, king of Moab, when the children of Israel approached his borders, felt that he could not contend successfully against so great a host, for his people were dispirited and disheartened at their numbers, Nu 22:3-4.

(2.) In these circumstances he resolved to send for one who had a might distinguished reputation as a prophet, that he "curse" that people, or might utter a malediction over them, in order at the same time to ensure their destruction, and to inspirit his own people in making war on them: in accordance with a prevalent opinion of ancient times, that prophets had the power of blighting anything by their curse. See Barnes "Job 3:8".

For this purpose, he sent messengers to Balaam to invite him to come and perform this service, Nu 22:5-6.

(3.) Balaam professed to be a prophet of the Lord, and it was obviously proper that he should inquire of the Lord whether he should comply with this request. He did so, and was positively forbidden to go, Nu 22:12.

(4.) When the answer of Balaam was reported to Balak, he supposed that he might be prevailed to come by the offer of rewards, and he sent more distinguished messengers, with an offer of ample honour if he would come, Nu 22:15-17.

(5.) Balaam was evidently strongly inclined to go, but, in accordance with his character as a prophet, he said that if Balak would give him his house full of silver and gold he could do no more, and say no more, than the Lord permitted, and he proposed again to consult the Lord, to see if he could obtain permission to go with the messengers of Balak. He obtained permission, but with the express injunction that he was only to utter what God should say; and when he came to Balak, notwithstanding his own manifest desire to comply with the wish of Balak, and notwithstanding all the offers which Balak made to him to induce him to do the contrary, he only continued to bless the Hebrew people, until, in disgust and indignation, Balak sent him away again to his own land, Numbers chapters 22-23 and Nu 24:10 seq.

(6.) Balaam returned to his own house, but evidently with a desire still to gratify Balak. Being forbidden to curse the people of Israel; having been overruled in all his purposes to do it; having been, contrary to his own desires, constrained to bless them when he was himself more than willing to curse them; and having still a desire to comply with the wishes of the king of Moab, he cast about for some way in which the object might yet be accomplished—that is, in which the curse of God might in fact rest upon the Hebrew people, and they might become exposed to the Divine displeasure. To do this, no way occurred so plausible, and that had such probability of success, as to lead them into idolatry, and into the sinful and corrupt practices connected with idolatry. It was, therefore, resolved to make use of the charms of the females of Moab, that through their influence the Hebrews might be drawn into licentiousness. This was done. The abominations of idolatry spread through the camp of Israel; licentiousness everywhere prevailed, and God sent a plague upon them to punish them, Nu 25:1. That also this was planned and instigated by Balaam is apparent from Nu 31:16: "Behold these [women] caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord, in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord." The attitude of Balaam's mind in the matter was this:

I. He had a strong desire to do that which he knew was wrong, and which was forbidden expressly by God.

II. He was restrained by internal checks and remonstrances, and prevented from doing what he wished to do.

III. He cast about for some way in which he might do it, notwithstanding these internal checks and remonstrances, and finally accomplished the same thing in fact, though in form different from that which he had first prepared. This is not an unfair description of what often occurs in the plans and purposes of a wicked man. The meaning in the passage before us is, that in the church at Pergamos there were those who taught, substantially, the same thing that Balaam did; that is, the tendency of whose teaching was to lead men into idolatry, and the ordinary accompaniment of idolatry—licentiousness.

To eat things sacrificed unto idols. Balaam taught the Hebrews to do this—perhaps in some way securing their attendance on the riotous and gluttonous feasts of idolatry celebrated among the people among whom they sojourned. Such feasts were commonly held in idol temples, and they usually led to scenes of dissipation and corruption. By plausibly teaching that there could be no harm in eating what had been offered in sacrifice—since an idol was nothing, and the flesh of animals offered in sacrifice was the same as if slaughtered for some other purpose—it would seem that these teachers at Pergamos had induced professing Christians to attend on those feasts—thus lending their countenance to idolatry, and exposing themselves to all the corruption and licentiousness that commonly attended such celebrations. See the banefulness of thus eating the meat offered in sacrifice to idols. See Barnes on "1 Co 8:1".

And to commit fornication. Balaam taught this; and that was the tendency of the doctrines inculcated at Pergamos. On what pretence this was done is not said; but it is clear that the church had regarded this in a lenient manner. So accustomed had the heathen world been to this vice, that many who had been converted from idolatry might be disposed to look on it with less severity than we do now, and there was a necessity of incessant watchfulness lest the members of the church should fall into it. See Barnes on "Ac 15:20".

{a} "who taught" Nu 31:16

{b} "eat" Ac 15:29

{c} "fornication" 1 Co 6:13,18


Verse 15. So hast thou also them, etc. That is, there are those among you who hold those doctrines. The meaning here may be, either that, in addition to those who held the doctrine of Balaam, they had also another class who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes; or that the Nicolaitanes held the same doctrine, and taught the same thing as Balaam. If but one class is referred to, and it is meant that the Nicolaitanes held the doctrines of Balaam, then we know what constituted their teaching; if two classes of false teachers are referred to, then we have no means of knowing what was the peculiarity of the teaching of the Nicolaitanes. The more natural and obvious construction, it seems to me, is to suppose that the speaker means to say that the Nicolaitanes taught the same things which Balaam did—to wit, that they led the people into corrupt and licentious practices. This interpretation seems to be demanded by the proper use of the word so"—outwv—meaning, in this manner, on this wise, thus; and usually referring to what pr cedes. If this be the correct interpretation, then we have, in fact, a description of what the Nicolaitanes held, agreeing with all the accounts given of them by the ancient fathers. See Barnes "Re 2:6".

If this is so, also, then it is clear that the same kind of doctrines was held at Smyrna, at Pergamos, and at Thyatira, (Re 2:20) though mentioned in somewhat different forms. It is not quite certain, however, that this is the correct interpretation, or that the writer does not mean to say that in addition to those who held the doctrine of Balaam, they had also another class of errorists who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes.

Which thing I hate. So the common Greek text— o misw. But the best supported reading, and the one adapted by Griesbach, Tittmann, and Hahn, is omoiwv—in, like manner; that is, "as Balak retained a false prophet who misled the Hebrews, so thou retainest those who teach things like to those which Balaam taught."


Verse 16.Repent. Re 2:5.

Or else I will come unto thee quickly. On the word quickly, See Barnes on "Re 1:1".

The meaning here is, that he would come against them in judgment, or to punish them.

And will fight against them. Against the Nicolaitanes. He would come against the church for tolerating them, but his opposition would be principally directed against the Nicolaitanes themselves. The church would excite his displeasure by retaining them in its bosom, but it was in its power to save them from destruction. If the church would repent, or if it would separate itself from the evil, then the Saviour would not come against them. If this were not done, they would feel the vengeance of his sword, and be subjected to punishment. The church always suffers when it has offenders in its bosom; it has the power of saving them if it will repent of its own unfaithfulness, and will strive for their conversion.

With the sword of my mouth. See Barnes on "Re 1:16; 2:12".

That is, he would give the order, and they would be cut as if by a sword. Precisely in what way it would be done he does not say; but it might be by persecution, or by heavy judgments. To see the force of this, we are to remember the power which Christ has to punish the wicked by a word of his mouth. By a word in the last day he will turn all the wicked into hell.

{a} "and will fight" Isa 11:4


Verse 17. He that hath an ear, etc. See Barnes on "Re 2:17".

To him that overcometh. See Barnes on "Re 2:7".

Will I give to eat of the hidden manna. The true spiritual food; the food that nourishes the soul. The idea is, that the souls of those who "overcame," or who gained the victory in their conflict with sin, and in the persecutions and trials of the world, would be permitted to partake of that spiritual food which is laid up for the people of God, and by which they will be nourished for ever. The Hebrews were supported by manna in the desert, (Ex 16:16-35) a pot of that manna was laid up in the most holy place to be preserved as a memorial, (Ex 16:32-34) it is called "angel's food," (Ps 78:25) and "corn of heaven," (Ps 78:24) and it would seem to have been emblematical of that spiritual food by which the people of God are to be fed from heaven, in their journey through this world. By the word "hidden," there would seem to be an allusion to that which was laid up in the pot before the ark of the testimony, and the blessing which is promised here is that they would be nourished as if they were sustained by that manna thus laid up before the ark: by food from the immediate presence of God. The language thus explained would mean that they who overcome will be nourished through this life as if by that "hidden manna;" that is, that they will be supplied all along through the "wilderness of this world" by that food from the immediate presence of God which their souls require. As the parallel places in the epistles to the churches, however, refer rather to the heavenly world, and to the rewards which they who are victors shall have there, it seems probable that this has immediate reference to that world also, and that the meaning is, that, as the most holy place was a type of heaven, they will be admitted into the immediate presence of God, and nourished for ever by the food of heaven—that which the angels have; that which the soul will need to sustain it there. Even in this world their souls may be nourished with this "hidden manna;" in heaven it will be their constant food for ever.

And will give him a white stone. There has been a great variety of opinion in regard to the meaning of this expression, and almost no two expositors agree. Illustrations of its meaning have been sought from Grecian, Hebrew, and Roman customs, but none of these have removed all difficulty from the expression. The general sense of the language seems plain, even though the allusion on which it is founded is obscure or even unknown. It is, that the Saviour would give him who overcame, a token of his favour which would have some word or name inscribed on it, and which would be of use to him alone, or intelligible to him only: that is, some secret token which would make him sure of the favour of his Redeemer, and which would be unknown to other men. The idea here would find a correspondence in the evidences of his favour granted to the soul of the Christian himself; in the pledge of heaven thus made to him, and which he would understand, but which no one else would understand. The things, then, which we are to look for in the explanation of the emblem are two—that which would thus be a token of his favour, and that which would explain the fact that it would be intelligible to no one else. The question is, whether there is any known thing pertaining to ancient customs which would convey these ideas. The word rendered stone—qhfon—means properly a small stone, as worn smooth by water—a gravel-stone, a pebble; then any polished stone, the stone of a gem, or ring.- Rob. Lex. Such a stone was used among the Greeks for various purposes, and the word came to have a signification corresponding to these uses. The following uses are enumerated by Dr. Robinson, Lex.: the stones or counters for reckoning; dice, lots, used in a kind of magic; a vote, spoken of the black and white stones or pebbles anciently used in voting—that is, the white for approval, and the black for condemning. In regard to the use of the word here, some have supposed that the reference is to a custom of the Roman emperors, who, in the games and spectacles which they gave to the people in imitation of the Greeks, are said to have thrown among the populace dice or tokens inscribed with the words, "Frumentum, vestes," etc.; that is, "corn, clothing," etc.; and whosoever obtained one of these received from the emperor whatever was marked upon it. Others suppose that allusion is made to the mode of casting lots, in which sometimes dice or tokens were used with names inscribed on them, and the lot fell to him whose name first came out. The "white stone" was a symbol of good-fortune and prosperity; and it is a remarkable circumstance that, among the Greeks, persons of distinguished virtue were said to receive a qhfon— stone —from the gods, i.e. as an approving testimonial of their virtue. See Robinson's Lex., and the authorities there referred to; Wetstein, N. T., in loc., and Stuart, in loc. Professor Stuart supposes that the allusion is to the fact that Christians are said to be kings and priests to God, and that as the Jewish high priest had a mitre or turban, on the front of which was a plate of gold inscribed "Holiness to the Lord," so they who were kings and priests under the Christian dispensation would have that by which they would be known, but that, instead of a plate of gold, they would have a pellucid stone, on which the name of the Saviour would be engraved as a token of his favour. It is possible, in regard to the explanation of this phrase, that there has been too much effort to find all the circumstances alluded to in some ancient custom. Some well-understood fact or custom may have suggested the general thought, and then the filling up may have been applicable to this case alone. It is quite clear, I think, that none of the customs to which it has been supposed there is reference correspond fully with what is stated here, and that though there may have been a general allusion of that kind, yet something of the particularity in the circumstances maybe regarded as peculiar to this alone. In accordance with this view, perhaps the following points will embody all that need be said:

(1.) A white stone was regarded as a token of favour, prosperity, or success everywhere—whether considered as a vote, or as given to a victor, etc. As such, it would denote that the Christian to whom it is said to be given would meet with the favour of the Redeemer, and would have a token of his approval.

(2.) The name written on this stone would be designed also as a token or pledge of his favour—as a name engraved on a signet or seal would be a pledge to him who received it of friendship. It would be not merely a white stone—emblematic of favour and approval—but would be so marked as to indicate its origin, with the name of the giver on it. This would appropriately denote, when explained, that the victor Christian would receive a token of the Redeemer's favour, as if his name were engraven on a stone, and given to him as a pledge of his friendship; that is, that he would be as certain of his favour as if he had such a stone. In other words, the victor would be assured from the Redeemer, who distributes rewards, that his welfare would be secure.

(3.) This would be to him as if he should receive a stone so marked that its letters were invisible to all others, but apparent to him who received it. It is not needful to suppose that in the Olympic games, or in the prizes distributed by Roman emperors, or in any other custom, such a case had actually occurred, but it is conceivable that a name might be so engraved—with characters so small, or in letters so unknown to all others, or with marks so unintelligible to others—that no other one into whose hands it might fall would understand it. The meaning then probably is, that to the true Christian—the victor over sin—there is given some pledge of the Divine favour which has to him all the effect of assurance, and which others do not perceive or understand. This consists of favours shown directly to the soul—the evidence of pardoned sin; joy in the Holy Ghost; peace with God; clear views of the Saviour; the possession of a spirit which is properly that of Christ, and which is the gift of God to the soul. The true Christian understands this; the world perceives it not. The Christian receives it as a pledge of the Divine favour, and as an evidence that he will be saved; to the world, that on which he relies seems to be enthusiasm, fanaticism, or delusion. The Christian bears it about with him as he would a precious stone given to him by his Redeemer, and on which the name of his Redeemer is engraved, as a pledge that he is accepted of God, and that the rewards of heaven shall be his; the world does not understand it, or attaches no value to it.

And in the stone a new name written. A name indicating a new relation, new hopes and triumphs. Probably the name here referred to is the name of the Redeemer, or the name Christian, or some such appellation. It would be some name which he would understand and appreciate, and which would be a pledge of acceptance. Which no man knoweth, etc. That is, no one would understand its import, as no one but the Christian estimates the value of that on which he relies as the pledge of his Redeemer's love.

{b} "he that hath" Re 2:7; 3:6,13,22

{c} "hidden manna" Ps 25:14

{d} "new name" Re 3:12; 19:12,13; Isa 55:4,5; 65:15


Verse 18. And unto the angel of the church. See Barnes "Re 1:20".

These things saith the Son of God. This is the first time, in these epistles, that the name of the speaker is referred to. In each other instance, there is merely some attribute of the Saviour mentioned. Perhaps the severity of the rebuke contemplated here made it proper that there should be a more impressive reference to the authority of the speaker; and hence he is introduced as the "Son of God." It is not a reference to him as the "Son of man"—the common appellation which he gave to himself when on earth—for that might have suggested his humanity only, and would not have conveyed the same impression in regard to his authority; but it is to himself as sustaining the rank, and having the authority of the Son of God—one who, therefore, has a right to speak, and a right to demand that what he says shall be heard.

Who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire. See Barnes "Re 1:14".

Before the glance of his eye all is light, and nothing can be concealed from his view. Nothing would be better fitted to inspire awe then, as nothing should be now, than such a reference to the Son of God as being able to penetrate the secret recesses of the heart.

And his feet are like fine brass. See Barnes "Re 1:15".

Perhaps indicative of majesty and glory as he walked in the midst of the churches.

{a} "eyes" Re 1:14,15


Verse 19. I know thy works. See Barnes on "Re 2:2".

He knew all they had done, good and bad.

And charity. Love: love to God, and love to man. There is no reason for restricting this word here to the comparatively narrow sense which it now bears. See Barnes on "1 Co 13:1"

And service. Gr., ministry—diakonian. The word would seem to include all the service which the church had rendered in the cause of religion; all which was the proper fruit of love, or which would be a carrying out of the principles of love to God and man.

And faith. Or, fidelity in the cause of the Redeemer. The word here would include not only trust in Christ for salvation, but that which is the proper result of such trust—fidelity in his service.

And thy patience. Patient endurance of the sorrows of life—of all that God brought upon them in any way, to test the reality of their religion.

And thy works. Thy works as the fruit of the virtues just mentioned. The word is repeated here, from the first part of the verse, perhaps, to specify more particularly that their works had been recently more numerous and praiseworthy even than they had formerly been. In the beginning of the verse, as in the commencement of each of the epistles, the word is used, in the most general sense, to denote all that they had done; meaning that he had so thorough an acquaintance with them in all respects, that he could judge of their character. In the latter part of the verse, the word seems to be used in a more specific sense, as referring to good works, and with a view to say that they had latterly abounded in these more than they had formerly.

And the last to be more than the first. Those which had been recently performed were more numerous, and more commendable, than those which had been rendered formerly. That is, they were making progress; they had been acting more and more in accordance with the nature and claims of the Christian profession. This is a most honourable commendation, and one which every Christian, and every church, should seek. Religion in the soul, and in a community, is designed to be progressive; and, while we should seek to live in such a manner always that we may have the commendation of the Saviour, we should regard it as a thing to be greatly desired that we may be approved as making advances in knowledge and holiness; that as we grow in years we may grow alike in the disposition to do good, and in the ability to do it; that as we gain in experience, we may also gain in a readiness to apply the results of our experience in promoting the cause of religion, lie would deserve little commendation in religion who should be merely stationary; he alone properly developes the nature of true piety, and shows that it has set up its reign in the soul, who is constantly making advances.

{b} "know" Re 2:2


Verse 20. Notwithstanding, I have a few things against thee. See Barnes on "Re 2:4".

Because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel. Thou dost tolerate, or countenance her. See Barnes on "Re 2:14".

Who the individual here referred to by the name Jezebel was, is not known. It is by no means probable that this was her real name, but seems to have been given to her as expressive of her character and influence. Jezebel was the wife of Ahab; a woman of vast influence over her husband—an influence which was uniformly exerted for evil. She was a daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre and Sidon, and lived about 918 years before Christ. She was an idolater, and induced her weak husband not only to connive at her introducing the worship of her native idols, but to become an idolater himself, and to use all the means in his power to establish the worship of idols instead of the worship of the true God. She was highly gifted, persuasive, and artful; was resolute in the accomplishment of her purposes; ambitious of extending and perpetuating her power, and unscrupulous in the means which she employed to execute her designs. See 1 Ki 16:31. The kind of character, therefore, which would be designated by the term as used here, would be that of a woman who was artful and persuasive in her manner; who was capable of exerting a wide influence over others; who had talents of a high order; who was a thorough advocate of error; who was unscrupulous in the means which she employed for accomplishing her ends, and the tendency of whose influence was to lead the people into the abominable practices of idolatry. The opinions which she held, and the practices into which she led others, appear to have been the same which are referred to in Re 2:6, and Re 2:14-15. The difference was, that the teacher in this case was a woman—a circumstance which by no means lessened the enormity of the offence; for, besides the fact that it was contrary to the whole genius of Christianity that a woman should be a public teacher, there was a special incongruity that she should be an advocate of such abominable opinions and practices. Every sentiment of our nature makes us feel that it is right to expect that if a woman teaches at all in a public manner, she should inculcate only that which is true and holy—she should be an advocate of a pure life. We are shocked; we feel that there is a violation of every principle of our nature, and an insult done to our common humanity, if it is otherwise. We have in a manner become accustomed to the fact that man should be a teacher of pollution and error, so that we do not shrink from it with horror; we never can be reconciled to the fact that a woman should.

Which calleth herself a prophetess. Many persons set up the claim to be prophets in the times when the gospel was first preached, and it is not improbable that many females would lay claim to such a character, after the example of Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, etc.

To teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication. Compare Re 2:14 Whether she herself practised what she taught is not expressly affirmed, but seems to be implied in Re 2:22. It is not often that persons teach these doctrines without practising what they teach; and the fact that they desire and design to live in this manner will commonly account for the fact that they inculcate such views.

And to eat things sacrificed unto idols. See Barnes on "Re 2:14"

The custom of attending on the festivals of idols led commonly to licentiousness, and they who were gross and sensual in their lives were fit subjects to be persuaded to attend on idol feasts—for nowhere else would they find more unlimited toleration for the indulgence of their passions.

{c} "Jezebel" 1 Ki 16:31

{d} "eat things" Ex 34:14; 1 Co 10:10,28


Verse 21. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication. Probably after some direct and solemn warning of the evil of her course. The error and sin had been of long standing, but he now resolved to bear with it no longer. It is true of almost every great sinner, that sufficient time is given for repentance, and that vengeance is delayed after crime is committed. But it cannot always be deferred, for the period must arrive when no reason shall exist for longer delay, and when punishment must come upon the offender.

And she repented not. As she did not do it; as she showed no disposition to abandon her course; as all plea of having had no time to repent would now be taken away, it was proper that he should rise in his anger and cut her down.

{e} "space" Ro 2:14

{f} "repented not" Re 9:20


Verse 22. Behold, I will cast her into a bed. Not into a bed of ease, but a bed of pain. There is evidently a purpose to contrast this with her former condition. The harlot's bed and a sick bed are thus brought together, as they are often, in fact, in the dispensations of Providence and the righteous judgment of God. One cannot be indulged without leading on, sooner or later, to the horrid sufferings of the other: and how soon no one knows.

And them that commit adultery with her. Those who are seduced by her doctrines into this sin; either they who commit it with her literally, or who are led into the same kind of life.

Into great tribulation. Great suffering; disease of body or tortures of the soul. How often—how almost uniformly is this the case with those who thus live! Sooner or later, sorrow always comes upon the licentious; and God has evinced by some of his severest judgments, in forms of frightful disease, his displeasure at the violation of the laws of purity. There is no sin that produces a more withering and desicating effect upon the soul than that which is here referred to; none which is more certain to be followed with sorrow.

Except they repent of their deeds. It is only by repentance that we can avoid the consequences of sin. The word repent here evidently includes both sorrow for the past, and abandonment of the evil course of life.

{g} "I will cast" Eze 16:37; 23:29


Verse 23. And I will kill her children with death. A strong Hebraistic mode of expression, meaning that he would certainly destroy It them. has been made a question whether the word children here is to be taken literally or figuratively. The word itself would admit of either interpretation; and there is nothing in the connexion by which its meaning here can be determined. If it is to be taken literally, it is in accordance with what is often threatened in the Scriptures, that children shall be visited with calamity for the sins of parents, and with what often occurs in fact that they do thus suffer. For, it is no uncommon thing that whole families are made desolate on account of the sin and folly of the parent. See Barnes "Ro 5:19".

If it is to be taken figuratively, then it refers to those who had imbibed her doctrines, and who, of course, would suffer in the punishment which would follow from the propagation of such doctrines. The reference in the word death here would seem to be to some heavy judgment, by plague, famine, or sword, by which they would be cut off. And all the churches shall know, etc. That is, the design of this judgment will be so apparent, that it will convince all that I know what is in the hearts of men, even the secret acts of wickedness that are concealed from human view.

I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts. This is clearly a claim to omniscience; and as it is the Lord Jesus who speaks in all these epistles, it is a full proof that he claims this for himself. There is nothing which more clearly appertains to God than the power of searching the heart, and nothing that is more constantly claimed by him as his peculiar prerogative, 1 Ch 28:19; Ps 7:9; 11:4; 44:21

Ps 139:2; Pr 15:3; Jer 11:20; 17:10; 20:12; 32:19; Heb 4:13.

The word reins—nefrouv—means, literally, the kidney, and is commonly used in the plural to denote the kidneys, or the loins. In the Scriptures, it is used to denote the inmost mind, the secrets of the soul; probably because the parts referred to by the word are as hidden as any other part of the frame, and would seem to be the repository of the more secret affections of the mind. It is not to be supposed that it is taught in the Scriptures that the reins are the real seat of any of the affections or passions; but there is no more impropriety in using the term in a popular signification than there is in using the word heart, which all continue to use, to denote the seat of love.

And I will give unto every one of you according to your works. To every one of you; not only to those who have embraced these opinions, but to all the church. This is the uniform rule laid down in the Bible by which God will judge men.

{a} "kill" Re 6:8

{b} "churches" Zep 1:11

{c} "I am" 1 Ch 28:9; 2 Ch 6:30; Ps 7:9; Jer 17:10


Verse 24. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira. The word "and"—kai—is omitted in many MSS. and versions, and in the critical editions of Griesbach, Tittmann, and Hahn, and the connexion demands that it should be omitted. As it stands in the received text, it would seem that what he here says was addressed to those who had received that doctrine, and to all others as well as to them; whereas the declaration here made pertains manifestly to those who had not received the doctrine. With that particle omitted, the passage will read, as rendered by Professor Stuart, "But I say unto you, the remainder in Thyatira, so many as hold not this doctrine," etc. That is, he addresses now all the members of the church who were not involved in the charges already made. He does not say how large a portion of the church had escaped the contaminating influence of those opinions, but to that portion, whether great or small, he addresses only words of exhortation and comfort.

As many as have not this doctrine. To all who have not embraced it, or been contaminated with it. It may be presumed that there was a considerable portion of the church which had not.

And which have not known the depths of Satan. The deep art and designs of Satan. Deep things are those which are hidden from view—as of things which are far under-ground; and hence the word is used to denote mysteries, or profound designs and purposes. The allusion here is not to any trials or sufferings that Satan might bring upon any one, or to any temptations of which he might be the author, but to his profound art in inculcating error and leading men astray. There are doctrines of error, and arguments for sin, to originate which seems to lie beyond the power of men, and which would appear almost to have exhausted the talent of Satan himself. They evince such a profound knowledge of man; of the Divine government; of the course of events on earth; and of what our race needs; and they are defended with so much eloquence, skill, learning, and subtilty of argumentation, that they appear to lie beyond the compass of the human powers.

As they speak. This cannot mean that the defenders of these errors themselves called their doctrines "the depths of Satan," for no teachers would choose so to designate their opinions; but it must mean, either that they who were opposed to those errors characterized them as "the depths of Satan," or that they who opposed them said that they had not known "the depths of Satan." Professor Stuart understands it in the latter sense. A somewhat more natural interpretation, it seems to me, however, is to refer it to what the opposers of these heretics said of these errors. They called them "the depths of Satan," and they professed not to have known anything of them. The meaning perhaps would be expressed by the familiar words, "as they say," or "as they call them," in the following manner: "As many as have not known the depths of Satan, as they say," or, "to use their own language." Doddridge paraphrases it, "as they proverbially speak." Tyndale encloses it in a parenthesis.

I will put upon you none other burden. That is, no other than that which you now experience from having these persons with you, and that which must attend the effort to purify the church. He had not approved their conduct for suffering these persons to remain in the church, and he threatens to punish all those who had become contaminated with these pernicious doctrines. He evidently designed to say that there was some token of his displeasure proper in the case, but he was not disposed to bring upon them any other expression of his displeasure than that which grew naturally and necessarily out of the fact that they had been tolerated among them, and those troubles and toils which must attend the effort to deliver the church from these errors. Under any circumstances the church must suffer. It would suffer in reputation. It would suffer in respect to its internal tranquillity. Perhaps, also, there were those who were implicated in these errors, and who would be implicated in the punishment, who had friends and kindred in the church; and the judgments which were to come upon the advocates of these errors must, therefore, come in a measure upon the church. A kind Saviour says, that he would bring upon them no other, and no weightier burden, than must arise from his purpose to inflict appropriate vengeance on the guilty themselves. The trouble which would grow out of that would be a sufficient expression of his displeasure. This is, in fact, often now all that is necessary as a punishment on a church for harbouring the advocates of error and of sin. The church has trouble enough ultimately in getting rid of them; and the injury which such persons do to its piety, peace, and reputation, and the disorders of which they are the cause, constitute a sufficient punishment for having tolerated them in its bosom. Often the most severe punishment that God can bring upon men is to "lay upon them no other burden" than to leave them to the inevitable consequences of their own folly, or to the trouble and vexation incident to the effort to free themselves from what they had for a long time tolerated or practised.

{e} "depths" 2 Th 2:9-12


Verse 25. But that which ye have, etc. All that there is of truth and purity remaining among you, retain faithfully. See Re 3:11.

Till I come. To receive you to myself, Joh 14:3.

{f} "that which" Re 3:11


Verse 26. And he that overcometh. See Barnes on "Re 2:7".

And keepeth my works unto the end. The works that I command and that I require, to the end of his life. See Joh 13:1.

To him will I give power over the nations. The evident meaning of what is said here, and in the next verse, is, that in accordance with the uniform promise made to the redeemed in the New Testament, they would partake of the final triumph and glory of the Saviour, and be associated with him. It is not said that they would have exclusive power over the nations, or that they would hold offices of trust under him during a personal reign on the earth; but the meaning is, that they would be associated with him in his future glory. See Barnes "Ro 8:17; 1 Co 6:2-3".

{g} "overcometh" Re 2:7,11,17; 3:5,12,21; 21:7

{h} "works" Joh 6:29; Jas 2:20


Verse 27. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron. There is an allusion here to Ps 2:9: "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." There is a slight change in the passage, "he shall rule," instead of "thou shalt break," in order to adapt the language to the purpose of the speaker here. The allusion in the Psalm is to the Messiah as reigning triumphant over the nations, or subduing them under him, and the idea here, as in the previous verse, is, that his redeemed people will be associated with him in this dominion. To rule with a sceptre of iron, is not to rule with a harsh and tyrannical sway, but with power that is firm and invincible. It denotes a government of strength, or one that cannot be successfully opposed; one in which the subjects are effectually subdued.

As the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers. The image here is that of the vessel of a potter—a fragile vessel of clay —struck with a rod of iron, and broken into fragments. That is, as applied to the nations, there would be no power to oppose his rule; the enemies of his government would be destroyed. Instead of remaining firm and compacted together, they would be broken like the clay vessel of a potter when struck with a rod of iron. The speaker does not intimate when this would be; but all that is said here would be applicable to that time when the Son of God will come to judge the world, and when his saints will be associated with him in his triumphs. As, in respect to all the others of the seven epistles to the churches, the rewards promised refer to heaven, and to the happy state of that blessed world, it would seem also that this should have a similar reference, for there is no reason why "to him that overcame" in Thyatira a temporal reward and triumph should be promised more than in the cases of the others. If so, then this passage should not be adduced as having any reference to an imaginary personal reign of the Saviour and of the saints on the earth.

Even as I received of my Father. As he has appointed me, Ps 2:6-9.

{a} "And he shall" Ps 49:14; 149:1-5

{b} "shivers" Ps 2:9


Verse 28. And I will give him the morning star. The "morning star" is that bright planet—Venus—which at some seasons of the year appears so beautifully in the east, leading on the morning—the harbinger of the day. It is one of the most beautiful objects in nature, and is susceptible of a great variety of uses for illustration. It appears as the darkness passes away; it is an indication that the morning comes; it is intermingled with the first rays of the light of the sun; it seems to be a herald to announce the coming of that glorious luminary; it is a pledge of the faithfulness of God. In which of these senses, if any, it is referred to here, is not stated; nor is it said what is used implied by its being given to him that overcomes. It would seem to be here to denote a bright and brilliant ornament; something with which he who "overcame" would be adorned, resembling the bright star of the morning. It is observable that it is not said that he would make him like the morning star, as in Da 12:3; nor that he would be compared with the morning star, like the king of Babylon, Isa 14:12; nor that he would resemble a star which Balaam says he saw in the distant future, Nu 24:17. The idea seems to be, that the Saviour would give him something that would resemble that morning planet in beauty and splendour—perhaps meaning that it would be placed as a gem in his diadem, and would sparkle on his brow—bearing some such relation to him who is called "the Sun of Righteousness," as the morning star does to the glorious sun on his rising. If so, the meaning would be, that he would receive a beautiful ornament, bearing a near relation to the Redeemer himself as a bright sun—a pledge that the darkness was past—but one whose beams would melt away into the superior light of the Redeemer himself, as the beams of the morning star are lost in the superior glory of the sun.

{c} "star" Re 22:16


Verse 29. He that hath an ear, etc. See Barnes "Re 2:7".

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