1Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches (Revelation 1:20). The word for angel, in the original Greek text, literally means “messenger”. We must use the context to determine if the messenger is heavenly or human. Throughout the New Testament, this word is usually translated as “angel” or “angels”. In this verse, also, most English translations use the word angel, but I see nothing to imply that they are heavenly messengers. Revelation 1:1 says that God gave the message to Jesus, who gave it to an angel, to give to John. I simply can’t see God sending a message to John to give to angels. Also, Daniel 12:3 refers to teachers of righteousness as stars, and Jude 13 refers to false teachers as wandering stars.
We should never think of God as being “up there” and us “down here”. This verse specifically says that Jesus walks among the churches, and holds the leaders in His right hand.
2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
In each message to the seven churches, Jesus says, “I know thy works”. Nothing we do, whether good or bad, is hidden from Jesus. Here, Jesus commends them for testing the teachers to see if they teach the truth (see- 1 John 4:1-3; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
We learned from Revelation 1:20 that the candlesticks symbolized the churches.
6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.
The Nicolaitanes were a religious group which departed from the truth of God (see- 2 John 1:9-10). Notice that Jesus did not hate the Nicolaitanes. He hated their deeds. Romans 5:8 says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
This is the first of eleven verses, in Revelation, that makes promises to the one who overcomes. That should explain to us the importance and need for perseverance. The letters to the seven churches also contain several warnings to the unfaithful believers who do not overcome.
Each of the letters ,to the seven churches, contains a promise along with the exhortation to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The first three letters give the promise after the exhortation, while the last four give the promise before the exhortation.
The tree of life is a reference to God’s eternal kingdom, in the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 22:2).
8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
Those which “say they are Jews” refers to their spiritual position, not their nationality (Romans 2:28-29).
10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
Whether the tribulation, spoken of here, is referring to the Great Tribulation or just to tribulation in general, it will end in death for the faithful. The crown of life will be given when Jesus returns (2 Timothy 4:7-8; 1 Peter 5:3-4). James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”
11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
The second death refers to God’s final judgment on unbelievers (Revelation 20:14; 21:8). Revelation 20:4-6 states that the second death has no power over those resurrected at the second coming of Christ. We should not fear the first death, but rather the second death. Matthew 10:28 says, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
Again, the sharp sword is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12).
13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
Balaam taught King Balak to overthrow the Israelites by leading them into sin, and away from God. The story of Balaam can be found in Numbers 22:1- 25:9 (see also- 2 Peter 2:15-16; Jude 1:8-16).
15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.
In verse 6, the church of Ephesus was commended for hating the teaching of the Nicolaitanes.
16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Note that they are not told to repent of their false doctrines. They are told to repent of the sin of allowing some of their members to follow false doctrines. In the story of Balaam, we see the anger of God turned away when the faithful punished those leading the people into sin (Numbers 25).
17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
Manna was the bread that God gave the Israelites to eat during the exodus (Exodus 16:4-35). Jesus referred to Himself as the bread from heaven (John 6:25-58).
A “name written which no man knoweth” will be discussed in Revelation 19:11-14, which speaks of the second coming of Christ.
18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
They are commended for their spiritual growth, and the service which accompanies it (see also- John 15:2).
20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
Jezebel was an Old Testament queen who led the people into idolatry (1 Kings 16:31; 18:4-46; 19:1-2; 21:5-25). This verse may be referring to a literal woman, or to a false doctrine. Her children, in verse 23, refers to the followers of her teaching.
21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into Great Tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
These verses are speaking of their spiritual attitude, rather than physical position (see Revelation 17:1-18:8).
23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
To be killed with death indicates an unnatural death. This could mean to die horribly, or it could be referring to the second death (verse 11).
The reins of our hearts are the moral boundaries we set to control our lives. Jesus knows our moral limits. Hebrews 4:13 says that we all, spiritually, stand naked before God.
24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
Notice that the entire church of Thyatira was not condemned like the church of Pergamos (verses 12-15), for some of its members practicing false doctrine. Apparently, Pergamos condoned its member’s actions, while Thyatira did not.
25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
“To him will I give power over the nations” refers to the millennial reign of Christ (Revelation 20:4; Daniel 7:17-27).
27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
This verse is from Psalm 2:9, which speaks of the reign of Jesus. In Revelation 12:5, we will discuss more fully the rod of iron.
28 And I will give him the morning star.
In Revelation 22:16, Jesus calls himself the morning star, so some suggest that this verse means that Jesus will give us himself. But Isaiah 14:12, in some translations, calls Lucifer the morning star, before his rebellion. Also, Job 38:7 speaks of the morning stars singing with the angels. I believe that the morning star is not a person, but a thing. I believe it is speaking here of the glory of God, which will be given to those who reign with Jesus.
29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.