|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:1-7 These churches were in such different states as to purity of doctrine and the power of godliness, that the words of Christ to them will always suit the cases of other churches, and professors. Christ knows and observes their state; though in heaven, yet he walks in the midst of his churches on earth, observing what is wrong in them, and what they want. The church of Ephesus is commended for diligence in duty. Christ keeps an account of every hour's work his servants do for him, and their labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. But it is not enough that we are diligent; there must be bearing patience, and there must be waiting patience. And though we must show all meekness to all men, yet we must show just zeal against their sins. The sin Christ charged this church with, is, not the having left and forsaken the object of love, but having lost the fervent degree of it that at first appeared. Christ is displeased with his people, when he sees them grow remiss and cold toward him. Surely this mention in Scripture, of Christians forsaking their first love, reproves those who speak of it with carelessness, and thus try to excuse indifference and sloth in themselves and others; our Saviour considers this indifference as sinful. They must repent: they must be grieved and ashamed for their sinful declining, and humbly confess it in the sight of God. They must endeavour to recover their first zeal, tenderness, and seriousness, and must pray as earnestly, and watch as diligently, as when they first set out in the ways of God. If the presence of Christ's grace and Spirit is slighted, we may expect the presence of his displeasure. Encouraging mention is made of what was good among them. Indifference as to truth and error, good and evil, may be called charity and meekness, but it is not so; and it is displeasing to Christ. The Christian life is a warfare against sin, Satan, the world, and the flesh. We must never yield to our spiritual enemies, and then we shall have a glorious triumph and reward. All who persevere, shall derive from Christ, as the Tree of life, perfection and confirmation in holiness and happiness, not in the earthly paradise, but in the heavenly. This is a figurative expression, taken from the account of the garden of Eden, denoting the pure, satisfactory, and eternal joys of heaven; and the looking forward to them in this world, by faith, communion with Christ, and the consolations of the Holy Spirit. Believers, take your wrestling life here, and expect and look for a quiet life hereafter; but not till then: the word of God never promises quietness and complete freedom from conflict here.
Verse 1-3:22. - The epistles to the seven Churches. Once more we have to consider rival interpretations. Of these we may safely set aside all those which make the seven letters to be pictures of successive periods in the history of the Church. On the other hand, we may safely deny that the letters are purely typical, and relate to nothing definite in history. Rather they are both historical and typical. They refer primarily to the actual condition of the several Churches in St. John's own day, and then are intended for the instruction, encouragement, and warning of the Church and the Churches throughout all time. The Catholic Church, or any one of its branches, will at any period find itself reflected in one or other of the seven Churches. For two Churches, Smyrna and Philadelphia, there is nothing but praise; for two, Sardis and Laodicea, nothing but blame; for the majority, and among them the chief Church of all, Ephesus, with Pergamum and Thyatira, praise and blame in different degrees intermingled. The student will find it instructive to place the epistles side by side in seven parallel columns, and note the elements common to each and the order in which these elements appear. These common elements are:
(1) Christ's command to the seer to write;
(2) his title, which in most cases is taken from the descriptions in Revelation 1;
(3) the praise, or blame, or both, addressed to the angel, based in all cases on intimate personal knowledge - "I know thy works;"
(4) the charge or warning, generally in connexion with Christ's coming;
(5) the promise to the victor;
(6) the call to each individual to give ear. Verses 1-7. - The epistle to the Church at Ephesus. Verse 1. - Unto the angel (see on Revelation 1:20). "The angel" seems to be the spirit of the Church personified as its responsible guardian. The Church of Ephesus. "In Ephesus" is certainly the right reading; in all seven cases it is the angel of the Church in the place that is addressed. In St. Paul's:Epistles we have "in Rome," "in Corinth," "in Colossae," "in Ephesus," "of Galatia," "of the Thessalonians." Among all the cities of the Roman province of Asia, Ephesus ranked as "first of all and greatest." It was called "the metropolis of Asia." Romans visiting Asia commonly landed first at Ephesus. Its position as a centre of commerce was magnificent. Three rivers, the Maeander, the Cayster, and the Hermes, drain Western Asia Minor, and Ephesus stood on high ground near the mouth of the central river, the Cayster, which is connected by passes with the valleys of the other two. Strabo, writing of Ephesus about the time when St. John was born, says, "Owing to its favourable situation, the city is in all other respects increasing daily, for it is the greatest place of trade of all the cities of Asia west of the Taurus." Patmos was only a day's sail from Ephesus; and it is by no means improbable that the gorgeous description of the merchandise of "Babylon" (Revelation 18:12, 13) is derived from St. John's own recollections of Ephesus. The Church of Ephesus was founded by St. Paul, about A.D. , and his Epistle to that and other Churches, now called simply "to the Ephesians," was written about A.D. . When St. Paul went to Macedonia, Timothy was left at Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3) to check the wild speculations in which some Ephesian Christians had begun to indulge. Timothy probably followed St. Paul to Rome (2 Timothy 4:9, 21), and, after his master's death, returned to Ephesus, where he is said to have suffered martyrdom at a festival in honour of the great goddess Artemis." He may have been still at Ephesus at the time when this epistle was written; and Plumptre has traced coincidences between this epistle and those of St. Paul to Timothy. According to Dorotheus of Tyro (circ. A.D. 300), he was succeeded by Gaius (Romans 16:23). In the Ignatian epistles we have Onesimus (probably not the servant of Philemon), Bishop of Ephesus. Ignatius speaks of the Ephesian Church in terms of high praise, showing that it had profited by the exhortations in this epistle. It was free from heresy, though heresy hovered around it. It was spiritually minded, and took God as its rule of life (Ignatius, 'Ephes.,' 6-8.). Write (see on Revelation 1:11; and comp. Isaiah 8:1; Isaiah 30:8; Jeremiah 30:2; Jeremiah 36:2; Habakkuk 2:2). Holdeth (κρατῶν). Stronger than "had" (ἔχων) in Revelation 1:16. This word implies holding fast and having full control over. In ver. 25 we have both verbs, and again in Revelation 3:11. A Church that had fallen from its first love (vers. 4, 5) had need to be reminded of him who "holds fast" his own; and one whose candlestick was in danger of removal had need to turn to him who is ever active (not merely is, but "walketh") "in the midst of the candlesticks," to supply them with oil when they flicker, and rekindle them when they go out. It is he, and not the apostle, who addresses them.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write,.... Of the city of Ephesus; see Gill on Revelation 1:11 and see Gill on Acts 18:19. The church here seems to have been founded by the Apostle Paul, who continued here two years, by which means all Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, Acts 19:10; of this church; see Gill on Acts 20:17; it is named first, because it was the largest, most populous, and famous, and was nearest to Patmos, where John now was, and most known to him, it being the place where he had resided; and it was the place from whence the Gospel came to others, and spread itself in lesser Asia; but especially it is first written to, because it represented the church in the apostolic age; so that this letter contains the things which are, Revelation 1:19; and in its very name, to the state of this church in Ephesus, there may be an allusion; either to "ephesis", which signifies "desire", and may be expressive of the fervent love of that pure and apostolic church to Jesus Christ at the beginning of it; their eager desire after more knowledge of him, and communion with him; after his word and ordinances, and the maintaining of the purity of them; after the spread of his Gospel, and the enlargement of his kingdom in the world; as well as after fellowship with the saints, and the spiritual welfare of each other: the allusion may be also to "aphesis", which signifies "remission", or an abatement; and so may point out the remissness and decay of the first love of these primitive Christians, towards the close of this state; of the abatement of the fervency of it, of which complaint is made in this epistle, and not without cause. This epistle is inscribed to the angel of this church, or the pastor of it; why ministers are called angels; see Gill on Revelation 1:20; some think this was Timothy, whom the Apostle Paul sent thither, and desired him to continue there, 1 Timothy 1:3, there was one Onesimus bishop of Ephesus, when Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna, of whom he makes mention in his epistle (x) to the Ephesians, and bids fair to be this angel; though if any credit could be given to the Apostolic Constitutions (y) the bishop of this place was one John, who is said to be ordained by the Apostle John, and is thought to be the same with John the elder (z), the master of Papias; but though only one is mentioned, yet all the elders of this church, for there were more than one, see Acts 20:17; are included; and not they only, but the whole church over whom they presided; for what was written was ordered to be sent to the church, and was sent by John, see Revelation 1:4; the letter was sent to the pastor or pastors, to the whole body of ministers, by them to be communicated to the church; and not only to this particular church did this letter and the contents of it belong, but to all the churches of Christ within the period of the apostolic age, as may be concluded from Revelation 2:7.
These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand; the Syriac version reads, "that holds all things, and these seven stars in his right hand"; for the explanation of this character of Christ; see Gill on Revelation 1:16; only let it be observed how suitably this is prefixed to the church at Ephesus, and which represents the state of the churches in the times of the apostles; in which place, and during which interval, our Lord remarkably held his ministering: servants as stars in his right hand; he held and protected the Apostle Paul for two years in this place, and preserved him and his companions safe amidst the uproar raised by Demetrius the silversmith about them; here also he protected Timothy at a time when there were many adversaries, and kept the elders of this church pure, notwithstanding the erroneous persons that rose up among them; and last of all the Apostle John, who here resided, and died in peace, notwithstanding the rage and fury of his persecutors: likewise Christ in a very visible manner held all his faithful ministers during this period in his right hand, safe and secure, until they had done the work they were sent about, and preserved them in purity of doctrine and conversation; so that their light in both respects shone brightly before men. Moreover, as this title of Christ is prefixed to the epistle to the first of the churches, and its pastor or pastors, it may be considered as relating to, and holding good of all the ministers of the Gospel and pastors of the other churches; and likewise of all the churches in successive ages to the end of the world, as the following one also refers to all the churches themselves:
who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; see Gill on Revelation 1:12; see Gill on Revelation 1:13; Christ was not only present with, and took his walks in this church at Ephesus, but in all the churches of that period, comparable to candlesticks, which held forth the light of the Gospel, and that in order as the antitype of Aaron, to him these lamps, and likewise in all his churches to the end of the world; see Matthew 28:20.
(x) Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 3. c. 36. (y) L. vii. c. 46. (z) Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 3. c. 39.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Re 2:1-29. Epistles to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira.
Each of the seven epistles in this and the third chapter, commences with, "I know thy works." Each contains a promise from Christ, "To him that overcometh." Each ends with, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." The title of our Lord in each case accords with the nature of the address, and is mainly taken from the imagery of the vision, Re 1:12-16. Each address has a threat or a promise, and most of the addresses have both. Their order seems to be ecclesiastical, civil, and geographical: Ephesus first, as being the Asiatic metropolis (termed "the light of Asia," and "first city of Asia"), the nearest to Patmos, where John received the epistle to the seven churches, and also as being that Church with which John was especially connected; then the churches on the west coast of Asia; then those in the interior. Smyrna and Philadelphia alone receive unmixed praise. Sardis and Laodicea receive almost solely censure. In Ephesus, Pergamos, and Thyatira, there are some things to praise, others to condemn, the latter element preponderating in one case (Ephesus), the former in the two others (Pergamos and Thyatira). Thus the main characteristics of the different states of different churches, in all times and places, are portrayed, and they are suitably encouraged or warned.
1. Ephesus—famed for the temple of Diana, one of the seven wonders of the world. For three years Paul labored there. He subsequently ordained Timothy superintending overseer or bishop there: probably his charge was but of a temporary nature. John, towards the close of his life, took it as the center from which he superintended the province.
holdeth—Greek, "holdeth fast," as in Re 2:25; Re 3:11; compare Joh 10:28, 29. The title of Christ here as "holding fast the seven stars (from Re 1:16: only that, for having is substituted holding fast in His grasp), and walking in the midst of the seven candlesticks," accords with the beginning of His address to the seven churches representing the universal Church. Walking expresses His unwearied activity in the Church, guarding her from internal and external evils, as the high priest moved to and fro in the sanctuary.
Revelation 2:1 Parallel Commentaries
Revelation 2:1 NIV
Revelation 2:1 NLT
Revelation 2:1 ESV
Revelation 2:1 NASB
Revelation 2:1 KJV
Bible Hub: Online Parallel Bible