Revelation 2:1
To the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things said he that holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the middle of the seven golden candlesticks;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
II.

(1) Unto the angel of the church of (literally, in) Ephesus.—On the word “angel,” see Note on Revelation 1:20, and Excursus A. Adopting the view that the angel represents the chief pastor or bishop of the Church, it would be interesting to know who was its presiding minister at this time; but this must be deternined by another question, viz., the date of the Apocalypse. Accepting the earlier date—i.e., the reign of Nero, or (with Gebhardt) of Galba—the angel is no other than Timothy. Some striking coincidences favour this view. Labour, work, endurance, are what St. Paul acknowledges in Timothy, and which he exhorts him to cultivate more and more (2Timothy 2:6; 2Timothy 2:15; 2Timothy 4:5). Again, against false teachers he warns him (1Timothy 1:7). Further, there is “a latent tone of anxiety” in the Epistles to Timothy. The nature with which he had to do was emotional even to tears, ascetic, devout; but there was in it a tendency to lack of energy and sustained enthusiasm. “He urges him to stand up, to rekindle the grace of God, just as here there is a hint of a first love left.” (See Prof. Plumptre, Ep. to Seven Churches.)

Ephesus.—The chief city of Ionia, and at this time the most important city in Asia. It possessed advantages commercial, geographical, and ecclesiastical, and, in addition, great Christian privileges. It was a wealthy focus for trade; it reached out one hand to the East, while with the other it grasped Greek culture. Its magnificent temple was one of the seven wonders of the world; the skill of Praxiteles had contributed to its beauty. The fragments of its richly-sculptured columns, now to be seen in the British Museum, will convey some idea of its gigantic proportions and splendid decorations. But the religious tone induced by its pagan worship was of the lowest order. Degrading superstitions were upheld by a mercenary priesthood; the commercial instinct and the fanatical spirit had joined hands in support of a soul-enslaving creed, and in defence of a sanctuary which none but those devoid of taste could contemplate without admiration. But its spiritual opportunities were proportioned to its needs. It had been the scene of three years’ labour of St. Paul (Acts 20:31), of the captivating and convincing eloquence of Apollos (Acts 18:24), of the persistent labours of Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:26); Tychicus, the beloved and faithful, had been minister there (Ephesians 6:21); Timothy was its chief pastor.

These things saith he. . . .—The titles by which Christ is described at the opening of the seven epistles are mainly drawn from Revelation 1. The vision is found to supply features appropriate to the needs of the several churches. The message comes in this epistle from One who “holdeth” firmly in His grasp (a stronger word than “He that hath” of Revelation 1:16), and walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. The Church at Ephesus needed to remember their Lord as such. The first love had gone out of their religion; there was a tendency to fall into a mechanical faith, strong against heresy, but tolerant of conventionalism. Their temptations did not arise from the prevalence of error, or the bitterness of persecution, but from a disposition to fall backward and again do the dead works of the past. There was not so much need to take heed unto their doctrine, but there was great need that they should take heed unto themselves (1Timothy 4:16). But when there is danger because earnestness in the holy cause is dying out, and the very decorum of religion has become a snare, what more fitting than to be reminded of Him whose hand can strengthen and uphold them, and who walks among the candlesticks, to supply them with the oil of fresh love? (Comp. Zechariah 4:2-3; Matthew 25:3-4.)

Revelation



THE SEVEN STARS AND THE SEVEN CANDLESTICKS


Revelation 2:1It is one of the obligations which we owe to hostile criticism that we have been forced to recognize with great clearness the wide difference between the representation of Christ in John’s Gospel and that in the Apocalypse. That there is such a contrast is unquestionable. The Prince of all the kings of the earth, going forth conquering and to conquer, strikes one at once as being unlike the Christ whom the Evangelist painted weeping at the grave of Lazarus. We can afford to recognize the fact, though we demur to the inference that both representations cannot have proceeded from one pen. Surely that is not a necessary conclusion unless the two pictures are contradictory. Does the variety amount to discordance? Unless it does, the variety casts no shadow of suspicion on the common authorship. I, for my part, see no inconsistency in them, and thankfully accept both as completing each other.

This grand vision, which forms the introduction to the whole Book of the Apocalypse, gives us indeed the Lord Jesus clothed with majesty and wielding supreme power, but it also shows us the old love and tenderness. It was the old voice which fell on John’s ear, in words heard from Him before, ‘Fear not.’ It was the same hand as he had often clasped that was lovingly laid upon him to strengthen him. The assurance which He gives His Apostle declares at once the change in the circumstances of His Being, and in the functions which He discharges, and the substantial identity of His Being through all the changes: ‘I am the first, and the last. ... I am the Living One, who was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore.’ This vision and the whole book calls to us, ‘ Behold the Lion of the Tribe of Judah’; and when we look, ‘Lo, in the midst of the throne, stands a Lamb as it had been slain’ ‘the well-known meek and patient Jesus, the suffering Redeemer ‘ the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.’

Still further, this vision is the natural introduction to all that follows, and indeed defines the main purpose of the whole book, inasmuch as it shows us Christ sustaining, directing, dwelling, in His Churches. We are thus led to expect that the remainder of the prophecy shall have the Church of Christ for its chief subject, and that the politics of the world, and the mutations of nations, shall come into view mainly in their bearing upon that.

The words of our text, then, which resumes the principal emblem of the preceding vision, are meant to set forth permanent truths in regard to Christ’s Churches, His relation to them, and theirs to the world, which I desire to bring to your thoughts now. They speak to us of the Churches and their servants, of the Churches and their work, of the Churches and their Lord.



I. We have in the symbol important truths concerning the Churches and their servants.


The seven stars are the angels of the seven Churches. Now I need not spend time in enumerating all the strange and mystical interpretations which have been given to these angels of the Churches. I see no need for taking them to have been anything but men; the recognized heads and representatives of the respective communities. The word ‘angel’ means messenger. Those superhuman beings who are usually designated by it are so called, not to describe their nature, but their function. They are ‘God’s messengers,’ and their name moans only that. Then the word is certainly used, both in its Hebrew and Greek forms, in reference to men. It is applied to priests, and even in one passage, as it would appear, to an officer of the synagogue. If here we find that each Church had its angel, who had a letter addressed to him, who is spoken to in words of rebuke and exhortation, who could sin and repent, who could be persecuted and die, who could fall into heresies and be perfected by suffering, it seems to me a violent and unnecessary hypothesis that a superhuman being is in question. And the name by which he is called need not imply more than his function, that of being the messenger and representative of the Church.

Believing this as the more probable meaning of the phrase, I see in the relations between these men and the little communities to which they belonged an example of what should be found existing between all congregations of faithful men and the officers whom they have chosen, be the form of their polity what it may. There are certain broad principles which must underlie all Christian organizations, and are incomparably more important than the details of Church government.

Note then, first, that the messengers are rulers. They are described in a double manner by a name which expresses subordination, and by a figure which expresses authority. I need not do more than remind you that throughout Scripture, from the time when Balaam beheld from afar the star that should come out of Jacob and the sceptre that should rise out of Israel, that has been the symbol for rulers. It is so notably in this Book of Revelation. Whatever other ideas, then, are connected with its use here, this leading one of authority must not be lost sight of.

But this double representation of these persons as being in one aspect servants and in another rulers, perfectly embodies the very essential characteristic of all office and power in Christ’s Church. It is a repetition in pictorial form of the great principle, so sadly forgotten, which He gave when He said, ‘He that is greatest among you, let him be your servant.’ The higher are exalted that they may serve the lower. Dignity and authority mean liberty for more and more self -forgetting work. Power binds its possessor to toil. Wisdom is stored in one, that from him it may flow to the foolish; strength is given that by its holder feeble hands may be stayed. Noblesse oblige. The King Himself has obeyed the law. ‘Jesus, knowing the Father had given all things into His hands, took a towel, and girded Himself.’ We are redeemed because He came to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many. He is among us ‘as He that serveth.’ God Himself has obeyed the law. He is above all that He may bless all. He, the highest, stoops the most deeply. His dominion is built on love, and stands in giving. And that law which makes the throne of God the refuge of all the weak, and the treasury of all the poor, is given for our guidance in our humble measure. Wheresoever Christian men think more of themselves and of their dignity than of their brethren and their work; wheresoever gifts are hoarded selfishly or selfishly squandered; wheresoever the accidents of authority, its baubles and signature, its worldly consequences, and its pride of place, bulk larger in its possessors’ eyes than its solemn obligations; there the law is broken, and the heathen devilish notion of rule lays waste the Church of God.

The true idea is not certain to be held, nor its tempting counterfeit to be avoided, by any specific form of organization. Wherever there are offices, there will be danger of officialism. Where there are none that will not drive out selfishness. Quakerism and Episcopacy, with every form of Church government that lies between, are in danger from the same source our forgetfulness that in Christ’s kingdom to rule is to serve. All Churches have shown that their messengers could become ‘lords over God’s heritage.’ The true spirit of Christ’s servants is not secured by any theory about the appointment or the duties of the servants, but only by fellowship and sympathy with the Master who helps us all, and cares nothing for any glory which He cannot share with His disciples.

But to be servant of all does not mean to do the bidding of all. The service which imitates Christ is helpfulness, not subjection. Neither the Church is to lord it over the messenger, nor the messenger over the Church. The true bond is broken by official claims of dominion; it is broken just as much by popular claims to control. All alike are to stand free from all men in independence of will, thought, and action; shaping their lives and moulding their beliefs, according to Christ’s will and Christ’s word; and repelling all coercion, from whatsoever quarter it comes. All alike are by love to serve one another; counting every possession, material, intellectual, and spiritual, as given for the general good. The one guiding principle is, ‘He that is chiefest among you, let him be your servant,’ and the other, which guards this from misconstruction and abuse from either side, ‘One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren.’

Another point to be observed in this symbol is that the messengers and the churches have at bottom the same work to do.

Stars shine, so do lamps. Light comes from both, in different fashion indeed, and of a different quality, but still both are lights. These are in the Savior’s hands, those are by His side; but each is meant to stream out rays of brightness over a dark night. So, essentially, all Christian men have the same work to do. The ways of doing it differ, but the thing done is one. Whatever be the difference between those who hold offices in God’s Church and the bulk of their brethren, there is no difference here. The loftiest gifts, the most conspicuous position, the closest approach to the central sun, have no other purpose than that which the lowliest powers, in the obscurest corner, are meant to subserve. The one distributing Spirit divides to each man severally as He will; and whether He endows him with star like gifts, which soar above and blaze over half the world with lustre that lives through the centuries, or whether He sets him in some cottage window to send out a tiny cone of light, that pierces a little way into the night for an hour or two, and then is quenched it is all one. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man for the same purpose to do good with. And we have all one office and function to be discharged by each in his own fashion namely, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus.

Again, observe, the Churches and their messengers are alike in their religious condition and character. The successive letters treat his strength or weakness, his fervor or coldness, his sin or victory over evil, as being theirs. He represents them completely. And that representative character seems to me to be the only reason worth considering for supposing that these angels are superhuman beings, inasmuch as it seems that the identification is almost too entire to be applicable to the relation of any man to the community. But, perhaps, if we think of the facts which every day’s experience shows us, we may see even in this solemn paralleling of the spiritual state of the Churches and of their servants, a strong reason for holding to our interpretation, as well as a very serious piece of warning and exhortation for us all.

For is it not true that the religious condition of a Church, and that of its leaders, teachers, pastors, ever tend to the same, as that of the level of water in two connected vessels? There is such a constant interaction and reciprocal influence that uniformity results. Either a living teacher will, by God’s grace, quicken a languid Church, or a languid Church will, with the devil’s help, stifle the life of the teacher. Take two balls of iron, one red hot, and one cold, and put them down beside each other. How many degrees of difference between them, after half an hour, will your thermometer show? Thank God for the many instances in which one glowing soul, all aflame with love of God, has sufficed to kindle a whole heap of dead matter, and send it leaping skyward in ruddy brightness! Alas! for the many instances in which the wet, green wood has been too strong for the little spark, and has not only obstinately resisted, but has ignominiously quenched its ineffectual fire 1 Thank God, that when His Church lives on a high level of devotion, it has never wanted for single souls who have towered even above that height, and have been elevated by it, as the snowy Alps spring not from the flats of Holland, but from the high central plateau of Europe. Alas! for the leaders who have rayed out formalism, and have chilled down the Church to their own coldness, and stiffened to their own deadness!

Let us, then, not bandy reproaches from pulpit to pew, and from pew to pulpit; but remembering that the spiritual character of each helps to determine the condition of the whole, and the general condition of the body determines the vigor of each part, let us go together to God with acknowledgments of common faithlessness, and of our individual share in it, and let us ask Him to quicken His Church, that it may yield messengers who in their turn shall be the helpers of His people and the glory of God.

II. The text brings before us the Churches and their work.

Of course, you understand that what the Apostle saw was not seven candlesticks, which are a modern piece of furniture, but seven lamps. There is a distinct reference in this, as in all the symbols of the Apocalypse, to the Old Testament. We know that in the Jewish Temple there stood, as an emblem of Israel’s work in the world, the great seven-branched candlestick, burning for ever before the veil and beyond the altar. The difference between the two symbols is as obvious as their resemblance. The ancient lamp had all the seven bowls springing from a single stem.

It was a formal unity. The New Testament seer saw not one lamp with seven arms rising from one pillar, but seven distinct lamps the emblems of a unity which was not formal, but real. They were one in their perfect manifoldness, because of Him who walked in the midst. In which difference lies a representation of one great element in the superiority of the Church over Israel, that for the hard material oneness of the separated nation there has come the true spiritual oneness of the Churches of the saints; one not because of any external connection, but by reason that Christ is in them. The seven-branched lamp lies at the bottom of the Tiber. There let it lie. "We have a better thing, in these manifold lights, which stand before the Throne of the New Temple, and blend into one, because lighted from one Source, fed by one Spirit, tended and watched by one Lord.

But looking a little more closely at this symbol, it suggests to us some needful thoughts as to the position and work of the Church, which is set forth as being light, derived light, clustered light.

The Church is to be light . That familiar image, which applies, as we have seen, to stars and lamps alike, lends itself naturally to point many an important lesson as to what we have to do, and how we ought to do it. Think, for instance, how spontaneously light streams forth. ‘Light is light, which circulates.’ The substance which is lit cannot but shine; and if we have any real possession of the truth, we cannot but impart it; and if we have any real illumination from the Lord, who is the light, we cannot but give it forth. There is much good done in the world by direct, conscious effort. There is perhaps more done by spontaneous, unconscious shining, by the involuntary influence of character, than by the lip or the pen. We need not balance the one form of usefulness against the other. We need both. But, Christian men and women, do you remember that from you a holy impression revealing Jesus ought to flow as constantly, as spontaneously, as light from the sun! Our lives should be like the costly box of fragrant ointment which that penitent, loving woman lavished on her Lord, the sweet, penetrating, subtle odour of which stole through all the air till the house was filled. So His name, the revelation of His love, the resemblance to His character, should breathe forth from our whole being; and whether we think of it or no, we should be unto God a sweet savour of Christ.

Then think again how silent and gentle, though so mighty, is the action of the light. Morning by morning God’s great mercy of sunrise steals upon a darkened world in still, slow, self-impartation; and the light which has a force that has carried it across gulfs of space that the imagination staggers in trying to conceive, yet falls so gently that it does not move the petals of the sleeping flowers, nor hurt the lids of an infant’s eyes, nor displace a grain of dust. Its work is mighty, and done without ‘speech or language.’ Its force is gigantic, but, like its Author, its gentleness makes its dependents great. So should we live and work, clothing all our power in tenderness, doing our work in quietness, disturbing nothing but the darkness, and with silent increase of beneficent power filling and flooding the dark earth with healing beams.

Then think again that heaven’s light is itself invisible, and, revealing all things, reveals not itself. The source you can see, but not the beams. So we are to shine, not showing ourselves but our Master not coveting fame or conspicuousness glad if, like one to whom He bore testimony that he was a light, it be said of us to all that ask who we are, ‘He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light,’ and rejoicing without stint or reservation that for us, as for John the Baptist, the necessity is, that we must decrease and Christ must increase.

We may gather from this emblem in the text the further lesson that the Church’s light is derived light. Two things are needed for the burning of a lamp: that it should be lit, and that it should be fed. In both respects the light with which we shine is derived. We are not suns, we are moons; reflected, not self-originated is all our radiance. That is true in all senses of the figure: it is truest in the highest. It is true about all in every man which is of the nature of light. Christ is the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. Whatsoever beam of wisdom, whatsoever ray of purity, whatsoever sunshine of gladness has ever been in any human spirit, from Him it came, who is the Light and Life of men: from Him it came, who brings to us in form fitted for our eyes, that otherwise inaccessible light of God in which alone we see light. And as for the more special work of the Church {which chiefly concerns us now}, the testimony of Christ to John, which I have just quoted in another connection, gives us the principle which is true about all. ‘He was not that light,’ the Evangelist said of John, denying that in him was original and native radiance. ‘He was a lamp burning ‘where the idea is possibly rather ‘lighted’ or made to burn and therefore shining, and in whose light men could rejoice for a little while. A derived and transient light is all that any man can be. In ourselves we are darkness, and only as we hold fellowship with Him do we become capable of giving forth any rays of light. The condition of all our brightness is that Christ shall give us light. He is the source, we are but reservoirs. He the fountain, we only cisterns. He must walk amidst the candlesticks, or they will never shine. He must hold the stars in His hand, or they will drop from their places and dwindle into darkness. Therefore our power for service lies in reception; and if we are to live for Christ, we must live in Christ.

But there is still another requisite for the shining of the light. The prophet Zechariah once saw in vision the great Temple lamp and by its side two olive trees from which golden oil flowed through golden pipes to the central light. And when he expressed his ignorance of the meaning of the vision, this was the interpretation by the angel who talked with him: ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.’ The lamp that burns must be kept fed with oil. Throughout the Old Testament the soft, gracious influences of God’s Spirit are symbolized by oil, with which therefore prophets, priests, and kings were designated to their office. Hence the Messiah in prophecy says, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me.’ Thus the lamp too must be fed, the soul which is to give forth the light of Christ must first of all have been kindled by Him, and then must constantly be supplied with the grace and gift of His Divine Spirit. Solemn lessons, my friends, gather round that thought. What became of those who had lamps without oil? Their lamps had gone out, and their end was darkness. Oh! let us beware lest by any sloth and sin we choke the golden pipes, through which there steals into our tiny lamps the soft flow of that Divine oil which alone can keep up the flame. The wick, untrimmed and unfed, may burn for a little while, but it soon chars, and smokes, and goes out at last in foul savour offensive to God and man. Take care lest you resist the Holy Spirit of God. Let your loins be girt and your lamps burning; and that they may be, give heed that the light caught from Jesus be fed by the pure oil which alone can save it from extinction.

Again, the text sets before us the Church’s light as blended or clustered light.

Each of these little communities is represented by one lamp. And that one light is composed of the united brightness of all the individuals who constitute the community. They are to have a character, an influence, a work as a society, not merely as individuals. There is to be co-operation in service, there is to be mingling of powers, there is to be subordination of individuals to the whole, and each separate man and his work is to be gladly merged in the radiance that issues from the community. A Church is not to be merely a multitude of separate points of brilliancy, but the separate points are to coalesce into one great orbed brightness. You know these lights which we have seen in public places, where you have a ring pierced with a hundred tiny holes, from each of which bursts a separate flame; but when all are lit, they run into one brilliant circle, and lose their separateness in the rounded completeness of the blended blaze. That is like what Christ’s Church ought to be. We each by our own personal contact with Him, by our individual communion with our Saviour, become light in the Lord, and yet we joyfully blend with our brethren, and, fused into one, give forth our mingled light. We unite our voices to theirs, knowing that all are needed to send out the Church’s choral witness and to hymn the Church’s full-toned praise. The lips of the multitude thunder out harmony, before which the melody of the richest and sweetest single voice is thin and poor.

Union of heart, union of effort is commended to us by this symbol of our text. The great law is, work together if you would work with strength. To separate ourselves from our brethren is to lose power. Why, half-dead brands heaped close will kindle one another, and flame will sparkle beneath the film of white ashes on their edges. Fling them apart and they go out. Rake them together and they glow. Let us try not to be little feeble tapers, stuck in separate sockets, and each twinkling struggling rays over some inch or so of space; but draw near to our brethren, and be workers together with them, that there may rise a glorious flame from our summed and collective brightness which shall be a guide and hospitable call to many a wandering and weary spirit.



III. Finally, the text shows us the Churches and their Lord.


He it is who holds the stars in His right hand, and walks among the candlesticks. That strong grasp of that mighty hand for the word in the original conveys more than ‘ holds,’ it implies a tight and powerful grip sustains and guards His servants, whose tasks need special grace, and whose position exposes them to special dangers. They may be of good cheer, for none shall pluck them out of His hand. That strengthening and watchful presence moves among His Churches, and is active on their behalf. The symbols are but the pictorial equivalent of His own parting promise, ‘Lo, I am with you always!’

That presence is a plain literal fact, however feebly we lay hold of it. It is not to be watered down into a strong expression for the abiding influence of Christ’s teaching or example, nor even to mean the constant benefits which flow to us from His work, nor the presence of His loving thoughts with us. All these things are true and blessed, but none of them, nor all of them taken together, reach to the height of this great promise. He is absent in body, He is present in person. Talk of a ‘real presence’! This is the real presence: ‘I will not leave you orphans, I will come unto you.’ Through all the ages, in every land wheresoever two or three are gathered in His name, there is He in the midst of them. The presence of Christ with His Church is analogous to the Divine presence in the material universe. As in it, the presence of God is the condition of all life; and if He were not here, there were no beings and no ‘here’: so in the Church, Christ’s presence constitutes and sustains it, and without Him it would cease. So St. Augustine says, ‘Where Christ, there the Church.’

I know what wild absurdities these statements appear to many men who have no faith in the true Divinity of our Lord. Of course the belief of His perpetual presence with His people implies the belief that He possesses Divine attributes. This mysterious Person, who lived among men the exemplar of all humility, departing, leaves a promise which is either the very acme of insane arrogance, or comes from the consciousness of indwelling Divinity. He declares that, from generation to generation. He will in very deed be with all who in every place call upon His name. Who does He thereby claim to be?

For what purpose is He there with His Churches?

The text assures us that it is to hold up and to bless. His unwearied hand sustains, His unceasing activity moves among them. But beyond these purposes, or rather included in them, the vision of which the text is the interpretation brings into great prominence the thought that He is with us to observe, to judge, and, if need be, to punish. Mark how almost all the attributes of that majestic figure suggest such thoughts. The eyes like a flame of fire, the feet glowing as if in a furnace, hot to burn, heavy to tread down all evil where He walks, from the lips a two-edged sword to smite, and, thank God, to heal, the countenance as the sun shineth in his strength this is the Lord of the Churches. Yes, and this is the same loving and forbearing Lord whom the Apostle had learned to trust on earth, and found again revealed from heaven.

Brethren! He dwells with us; He guards and protects His Churches to the end, else they perish. He rules all the commotions of earth, all the errors of His people, all the delusions of lies, and overrules them all for the strengthening and purifying of His Church. But He dwells with us likewise as the watchful observer, out of these eyes of flame, of all our faults; as the merciful destroyer, with the sword of His mouth, of every error and every sin. Thank God for the chastising presence of Christ. He loves us too well not to smite us when we need it. He will not be so cruelly kind, so foolishly fond, as in anywise to suffer Bin upon us. Better the eye of fire than the averted face. Better the sharp sword than His holding His peace as He did with Caiaphas and Herod. Better the Judge in our midst, though we should have to fall at His feet as dead, than that He should say, ‘I will go and return to My place.’ Pray Him not to depart, and submit to the merciful rebukes and effectual chastisement which prove that, for all our unworthiness, He loves us still, and has not cast us away from His presence.

Nor let us forget how much of hope and encouragement lies in the examples, which these seven Churches afford, of His long-suffering patience. That presence was granted to them all, the best and the worst the decaying love of Ephesus, the licentious heresies of Pergamos and Thyatira, the all but total deadness of Sardis, and the self-satisfied indifference of Laodicea, concerning which even He could say nothing that was good. All had Him with them as really as the faithful Smyrna and the steadfast Philadelphia. We have no right to say with how much of theoretical error and practical sin the lingering presence of that patient pitying Lord may consist. For others our duty is the widest charity for ourselves the most careful watchfulness.

For these seven Churches teach us another lesson the possibility of quenched lamps and ruined shrines. Ephesus and her sister communities, planted by Paul, taught by John, loved and upheld by the Lord, warned and scourged by Him where are they now ? Broken columns and roofless walls remain; and where Christ’s name was praised, now the minaret rises by the side of the mosque, and daily echoes the Christless proclamation, ‘There is no God but God, and Mahomet is His prophet.’ ‘The grace of God,’ says Luther somewhere, ‘is like a flying summer shower.’ It has fallen upon more than one land, and passed on. Judaea had it, and lies barren and dry. These Asiatic coasts had it and flung it away. Let us receive it, and hold it fast, lest our greater light should bring greater condemnation, and here, too, the candlestick should be removed out of its place.

Remember that solemn, strange legend which tells us that, on the night before Jerusalem fell, the guard of the Temple heard through the darkness a voice mighty and sad, saying, ‘Let us depart,’ and were aware as of the sound of many wings passing from out of the Holy Place; and on the morrow the iron heels of the Roman legionaries trod the marble pavement of the innermost shrine, and heathen eyes gazed upon the empty place where the glory of the God of Israel should have dwelt, and a torch, flung by an unknown hand, burned with fire the holy and beautiful house where He had promised to put His name for ever. And let us learn the lesson, and hold fast by that Lord whose blood has purchased, and whose presence preserves through all the unworthiness and the lapses of men, that Church against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. Revelation 2:1. Unto the angel — That is, to the pastor, presiding elder, or bishop, called an angel because he was God’s messenger (as the word angel signifies) to the people, or his minister appointed to serve them. “That there was one pastor,” says Doddridge, “who presided in each of these churches, is indeed evident from the expression here used; but that he was a diocesan bishop, or had several congregations of Christians under his care, can by no means be proved. Nor is there the least hint of it in any of these epistles.” Of the church of Ephesus — Concerning Ephesus, see note on Acts 19:1, and the preface of the epistle to the Ephesians. The first letter is addressed to the church in this city, as it was the metropolis of the Lydian Asia, and the place of St. John’s principal residence. According to Strabo, it was one of the best and most glorious cities, and the greatest emporium of the Proper Asia. It was called by Pliny one of the eyes of Asia, Smyrna being the other; but now, as eye-witnesses have related, it is venerable for nothing but the ruins of palaces, temples, and amphitheatres. It is called by the Turks Ajasaluk, or the temple of the moon, from the magnificent structure formerly dedicated to Diana. The church of St. Paul is wholly destroyed. The little which remains of that of St. Mark is nodding to ruin. The only church remaining is that dedicated to St. John, which is now converted into a Turkish mosque. The whole town is nothing but a habitation for herdsmen and farmers, living in low and humble cottages of mud, sheltered from the extremities of weather by mighty masses of ruinous walls, the pride and ostentation of former days, and the emblem in these of the frailty of the world, and the transient vanity of human glory. The Rev. H. Lindsay, Chaplain to the Embassy of Constantinople, in a letter to the British and Foreign Bible Society, relative to the present state of the Apocalyptic churches, dated Jan. 10, 1816, says, “The town consists of about fifteen poor cottages. I found there but three Christians, two brothers, who keep a small shop, and a gardener. They are all three Greeks, and their ignorance is lamentable indeed. In that place, which was blessed so long with an apostle’s labours, and those of his zealous assistants, are Christians who have not so much as heard of that apostle, or seem only to recognise the name of Paul as one in their calendar of saints. One of them I found able to read a little, and left with him the New Testament in ancient and modern Greek, which he expressed a strong desire to read, and promised me he would not only study it himself, but lend it to his friends in the neighbouring villages:” so strikingly hath the denunciation been fulfilled, that their candlestick should be removed out of its place. Write — So Christ dictated to him every word. These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand — To signify that he is the great support of his ministering servants, and directs their several situations and motions in the churches. Such is his favour to them, and care over them, that they may indeed shine as stars, both by purity of doctrine and holiness of life. Who walketh — According to his promise, I am with you always, even to the end of the world; in the midst of the golden candlesticks — Beholding all their works and thoughts, and ready to remove the candlestick out of its place, if any, being warned, will not repent. Perhaps here is likewise an allusion to the office of the priests in dressing the lamps, which was to keep them always burning before the Lord.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.The Epistle to the Church at Ephesus

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," Revelation 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, Revelation 2:2-3, Revelation 2:6.

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

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

(5) he threatens them that, if they do not repent, he will come and remove the candlestick out of its place, Revelation 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," Revelation 2:7.

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 the notes on Revelation 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 1 Corinthians 1 1 Corinthians 1:1; one church in Thessalonica 1 Thessalonians 1:1, etc.

Of Ephesus - On the situation of Ephesus, see the notes on Acts 18:19, and the introduction to the notes on the Epistle to the Ephesians, section 1, and the engraving there. 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 favor of its governors; for Lysimachus named the city Arsinoe, in honor 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 honorable 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 the notes on Revelation 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 the introduction to the Epistle to the Ephesians, section 2), labored there for about three years; that there was a body of "elders" who presided over the church there Acts 20:17; 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 the notes on Revelation 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 lampbearers - 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 Revelation 2:5, "that he would remove the candlestick representing their church out of its place." See the notes on Revelation 2:5.

Who walketh in the midst, ... - In Revelation 1:13 he is represented simply as being seen amidst the golden candlesticks. See the notes on that place. 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.

CHAPTER 2

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 2:1-7 What John was commanded to write in commendation or

reproof to the angels of the churches of Ephesus,

Revelation 2:8-11 Smyrna,

Revelation 2:12-17 Pergamos,

Revelation 2:18-29 Thyatira.

Chapter Introduction

Some things are to be observed of all the epistles, before we come to the particular epistles.

1. God’s writing in this form, (as a man to his friend), speaks Christ’s love to the church, his spouse.

2. There were not seven books written, but one book in which these seven epistles were, out of which each church, or the church in its several periods, might learn what concerned it.

3. These epistles concerning matters of faith and manners, are written plainly, not in mysterious expressions.

4. The scope of them all is to instruct, reprove, commend, and comfort.

5. They are all directed to the ministers of the churches, as their heads, but the matter concerns the whole church.

6. It is also observed, that Christ, in the beginning of every epistle, notifieth himself by some one of those things mentioned in the vision in the former chapter.

Revelation 2:1,

These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars, Revelation 1:16 Revelation 2:8, The first and the last, which was dead and is alive, Revelation 1:17,18 Re 2:12. These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges, Revelation 1:16 Revelation 2:18, The Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet like fine brass, Revelation 1:14,15 Re 3:1. He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, Revelation 1:4,16 Re 2:7, He that hath the key of David, that is holy and true, that openeth, & c., Revelation 1:5,18 Re 2:14, The faithful and true witness, Revelation 1:5.

Ephesus was the principal city of Asia the Less, it lay in the western parts of it, upon the Ionian Sea; a city of great riches and trade, but much given to idolatry and superstition, famous for the temple of Diana. Paul was there twice; at his second coming he stayed thereabouts three years, Acts 18:1-20:38. He was by a tumult driven thence into Macedonia, and left Timothy there, 1 Timothy 1:3. It appears from Acts 20:17, that there were more ministers there than one; but they were all angels, and from the oneness of their business are all called an angel.

These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand; that is, Christ, Revelation 1:16,20, who hath put an honour on his ministers, showeth special favour to them, and will protect them.

Who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; who hath a special eye to his church, being not an idle spectator, but present with his church, to observe how all in it walk and perform their several parts, and is at hand, either to reward or punish them.

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.

Unto {1} the angel of the church of Ephesus write; {2} These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;

(1) The former part of this book is comprised in a narration of those things which then were, as John taught us, in Re 1:19 it belongs wholly to instruction, and in these two next chapters, contains seven places, according to the number and condition of those churches which were named before in Re 1:11 shown in Re 1:12 and distributed most aptly into their pastors and flocks, Re 1:10 which verse of that chapter is a passage to the first part. Every one of these seven passages has three principal parts, an introduction taken from the person of the reprehension of that which is evil: an instruction, containing either an exhortation alone, or a dissuasion opposite to it, and a conclusion stirring to attention, by divine promises. This first passage is to the pastors of the church of Ephesus.

(2) The introduction in which are contained the special prayers of Christ Jesus the author of this prophecy out of Re 1:6,13.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 2:1. Ephesus, vying with Smyrna (Revelation 2:8) and Pergamos (Revelation 2:12) for the precedence in Asia, is called πρώτη μητρόπολις[906] (first metropolis). But neither does this political relation determine the precedency of the three churches, nor is Ephesus named at the head of them all as the proper residence of John, as Hengstenb. asserts under the presumption of the Apostolic-Johannean authenticity of the Apoc.: cf. on Revelation 1:11.

At Ephesus, which, in the times of the Apostle Paul, was the chief city of Ionia, lying on the Cayster and near the sea, known for its worship of Diana,[907] and especially distinguished for its trade and fine Grecian culture,[908] and at present in ruins, alongside of which is the village of Ajosoluk,[909] Paul had collected a congregation of Jews, and especially of heathen, and had cherished it with great love.[910] At his departure he spoke of the dangerous errors with which the churches would be visited,[911] of which there is still no trace in the Epistle to the Ephesians, not even in Ephesians 4:14; Ephesians 5:6. At the time of 1 Timothy 1:3, Timothy was superintending the church there: many expositors who regard the “angel” of the church as the bishop imagine, therefore, under a double error, that our Apocalyptic epistle is directed to Timothy.[912] Cf. also Introduction, sec. 3. The designation of the Lord, in whose name the prophet writes, is from Revelation 1:13; Revelation 1:16, only that instead of ἔχων we find now κρατῶν τ. ἑπτ. ἀστ., so that Christ is presented as though he held the stars fast,[913] protecting and supporting them, so that it depends only upon him,[914] if possibly by an act of judgment he cast them out of his hand.[915] So, also, is the περιπατῶυ, κ.τ.λ., in comparison with Revelation 1:13, where Christ appears altogether in the midst of the candlesticks. Yet even in the περιπατεῖν there does not lie so much the idea of walking to and fro, as rather that his presence is a living and actual one.[916]

The entire designation of Christ, which in general expresses his essential relation to the churches, occurs on that account fittingly in the first of the seven epistles, which, indeed, form not a mere aggregate of accidental individualities, but, as the number seven already shows, an important unity. Even in the manifestation of Christ, what first meets the eyes of the seer is how the Lord is in the midst of the candlesticks.[917] In no way, therefore, does “this item inwardly and strictly cohere with the metropolitan position of the Ephesian congregations as the universal type of the apostolical church.”[918]

[906] Cf. Wolf.

[907] Acts 19.

[908] In Plautus (Mil. Glor., iii. 1, 42 sqq.), a witty fellow (cavillus lepidus, facetus) excuses himself for having been born at Ephesus; and not without cause does the apostle warn the Ephesians (Revelation 5:4) of εὐτραπελία.

[909] Cf. Th. Smith, Septem Asiae Ecclesiarum Notitia, Oxon., 1672; Züllig, Beigabe, 2; Winer, Realwörterb., i. 389.

[910] Acts 18:19; Acts 19:1 sqq., Acts 20:17 sqq.

[911] Acts 20:22 sqq.

[912] So the expositors whom N. de Lyra mentions, but does not indorse (Viegas, Alcasar, C. a Lap, etc. Not so, Ribera, Stern).

[913] Revelation 2:25, Revelation 3:11.

[914] John 10:28.

[915] Cf. Revelation 2:5; Revelation 3:16.

[916] Cf. Leviticus 26:12; Sir 24:5.

[917] Revelation 1:13.

[918] Ebrard.

Revelation 2:1-7. The epistle to the church (the angel of the church, cf. Revelation 1:20) at Ephesus.Revelation 2:1-7, to Ephesus.1. the angel of the church of Ephesus] Some think that this would be St Timothy, and go so far as to find in St Paul’s Epistles traits of his character analogous to those here noted. But even if the “Angel” here be a bishop, it is likelier that he would be one appointed by St Timothy, if not by St John himself. 2 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 4:21, compared with Titus 3:12, seems to prove that permanent residence in one diocese was not implied by the apostolical commission which St Paul, toward the end of his life, gave to his disciples.

he that holdeth the seven stars] Ephesus being the chief city and, to some extent, the mother Church of the district, the Lord addresses the Church there in the character of Lord of all the Churches: as though (to illustrate by the later organization of the Church) he addressed all the Churches of the Province in the person of their Primate.

The Church in Ephesus. Chap. Revelation 2:1-7These seven Epistles are marked by certain features common to them all. (1) They are all dictated by the Lord Himself. (2) The command to write to the Angel of the particular Church. (3) One of the great titles of our Lord taken for the most part from the Vision in chap. 1. (4) An address to the Angel of the Church, always commencing with ‘I know,’ describing the circumstances of the Church, exhorting to repentance or to constancy, and ending with a prophetic announcement. (5) A promise to “him that overcometh” generally accompanied with a call to earnest attention, ‘he that hath ears, &c.’ (See Alford).Revelation 2:1. Τῷ ἀγγέλῳ, to the angel) There is a most weighty reason for these seven epistles. When the people were about to receive the law at Sinai, they were first purified: the same people, when the kingdom of God was now at hand, were prepared for it through repentance, by the ministry of John the Baptist; and now the Christian Church is furnished with these epistles, in order that they may worthily receive so great a Revelation (just as the writer himself had previously been prepared to receive it by his banishment and alarm). For the object of the writing is, that the Church, putting away from the midst of itself evil men, after due admonition, and evil things, may be prepared rightly to embrace and preserve this most precious deposit, this Revelation of such great moment, which the heavenly beings themselves honour with such profound adorations, and also to behold great events, to receive the most abundant enjoyments, and to avoid woes; the epistles themselves being interspersed with glowing sparks from the remaining part of the Revelation, and those most fitted to arouse the attention and prepare the way for the understanding of what is revealed; and the renovation of the Church by repentance, as is befitting, is placed before the sight of the rainbow, ch. Revelation 4:3. Whosoever therefore wishes to be a suitable hearer of the Apocalypse, he ought to observe the admonitions of these seven epistles;[23] for then he will learn, from the pattern which they afford, how the Apocalypse is to be applied to all men and all ages. Some have attempted to show that the seven epistles, comprised in ch. 2 and 3, refer to seven periods of the Church, their historical sense being either preserved, or (which is worse) set aside. The celebrated D. Lange, in Comm. Apoc. f. 34, seq., preserving the historical sense, extends the prophetical sense from the time of John as far as to the destruction of the whore and the beast. But we have shown that the applying of the seven epistles to seven periods is the work of human subtilty. See Erkl. Offenb. pp. 285–295. The epistles then plainly had reference to the seven churches in Asia, and especially to their angels: and whether at that time, when the book was sent from Patmos to Asia, other churches were to be compared with these seven, or not, the subordination of these churches under John is here considered; and from this all hearers, of all places and times, whether good, bad, or varying in character, ought to apply to themselves the things which equally concern them. Each address to the angel of the church is concluded with a promise, which is given to him that overcometh.—τῆς) The Cod. Alex. Τῷ,[24] and that not through carelessness. For it has it three times, Τῷ ἘΝ ἘΦΈΣῼ ἘΚΚΛΗΣΊΑς· Τῷ ἘΝ ΠΕΡΓΆΜῼ ἘΚΚΛΗΣΊΑς (in Latin you might say, angelo ecclesiastico, qui est Ephesi, Pergami: to the angel of the church, who is at Ephesus, and at Pergamos); and, τῷ ἐν Θυατίροις. These are the very three angels who are partly praised and partly blamed: and the language is more directly aimed at these in the epistles, than at the other two pairs, who are without exception either praised or blamed.—ἘΝ ἘΦΈΣῼ, at Ephesus) In that city Timothy both flourished for a long time, and died shortly after the giving of the Apocalypse. Polycrates, a bishop of Ephesus, described the martyrdom of Timothy: but this writing, as many others, has been interpolated by the diligence of the later Greeks, in such a manner, however, that the principal facts remained, and were preserved from interpolation in the more simple copies. This Polycrates therefore, in Ussher de Anno Solari, f. 96, says, that the festival of the Catagogia[25] celebrated by the unbelievers at Ephesus, took place on the 22d day of January; and that on the third day afterwards Timothy was put to death by them, while Nerva was Emperor, Nerva did not see the 22d and 24th of January, as Emperor, except in the year 97, when he reigned alone, and in the year 98, when he reigned together with Trajan; and died shortly afterwards, on the 27th of January. Therefore also the Apocalypse had been sent to Ephesus, a short time only before the death of Timothy. I do not, however, think that he is the person aimed at in the address of the Apocalypse. Timothy was an Evangelist, not an angel of one church; and he also, if at the close of his life he could have declined from his first love, he would assuredly have been admonished of his approaching death, as we may believe, no less than the angel of the church at Smyrna.

[23] I remember that, just at the last hours of his pilgrimage (upwards of twenty years ago), my sainted parent earnestly recommended to his family the frequent reading and study of the Epistles contained in the Apocalypse; adding, as the reason (of his advice):—es ist nicht leicht etwas, das einen so durchdringen und durchläutern könnte.—E. B.

[24] AC have τῷ: B, τῆς.—E.

[25] A festival in honour of Aphrodite. It was supposed that during the Anagogia the goddess went over to Africa. On her return, the feast of the Catagogia was kept with great rejoicing. See Athenæus, 394, f., also Abp Ussher’s Works, vol. vii. p. 360.—T.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. Ephesus

Ephesus was built near the sea, in the valley of the Cayster, under the shadows of Coressus and Prion. In the time of Paul it was the metropolis of the province of Asia. It was styled by Pliny the Light of Asia. Its harbor, though partly filled up, was crowded with vessels, and it lay at the junction of roads which gave it access to the whole interior continent. Its markets were the "Vanity Fair" of Asia. Herodotus says: "The Ionians of Asia have built their cities in a region where the air and climate are the most beautiful in the whole world; for no other region is equally blessed with Ionia. For in other countries, either the climate is over-cold and damp, or else the heat and drought are sorely oppressive" (i., 142).

In Paul's time it was the residence of the Roman proconsul; and the degenerate inhabitants descended to every species of flattery in order to maintain the favor of Rome. The civilization of the city was mingled Greek and Oriental. It was the head-quarters of the magical art, and various superstitions were represented by different priestly bodies. The great temple of Diana, the Oriental, not the Greek divinity, was ranked among the seven wonders of the world, and Ephesus called herself its sacristan (see on Acts 19:27). To it attached the right of asylum. Legend related that when the temple was finished, Mithridates stood on its summit and declared that the right of asylum should extend in a circle round it, as far as he could shoot an arrow; and the arrow miraculously flew a furlong. This fact encouraged moral contagion. The temple is thus described by Canon Farrar: "It had been built with ungrudging magnificence out of contributions furnished by all Asia - the very women contributing to it their jewels, as the Jewish women had done of old for the Tabernacle of the Wilderness. To avoid the danger of earthquakes, its foundations were built at vast cost on artificial foundations of skin and charcoal laid over the marsh. It gleamed far off with a star-like radiance. Its peristyle consisted of one hundred and twenty pillars of the Ionic order, hewn out of Parian marble. Its doors of carved cypress wood were surmounted by transoms so vast and solid that the aid of miracles was invoked to account for their elevation. The staircase, which led to the roof, was said to have been cut out of a single vine of Cyprus. Some of the pillars were carved with designs of exquisite beauty. Within were the masterpieces of Praxiteles and Phidias and Scopas and Polycletus. Paintings by the greatest of Greek artists, of which one - the likeness of Alexander the Great by Apelles - had been bought for a sum equal in value to 5,000 of modern money, adorned the inner walls. The roof of the temple itself was of cedar-wood, supported by columns of jasper on bases of Parian marble. On these pillars hung gifts of priceless value, the votive offerings of grateful superstition. At the end of it stood the great altar adorned by the bas-relief of Praxiteles, behind which fell the vast folds of a purple curtain. Behind this curtain was the dark and awful shrine in which stood the most sacred idol of classic heathendom; and again, behind the shrine, was the room which, inviolable under divine protection, was regarded as the wealthiest and securest bank in the ancient world "("Life and Work of St. Paul," ii., 12).

Next to Rome, Ephesus was the principal seat of Paul's labors. He devoted three years to that city. The commonly received tradition represents John as closing his apostolic career there. Nothing in early Church history is better attested than his residence and work in Ephesus, the center of the circle of churches established by Paul in Ionia and Phrygia.

Who walketh (ὁ περιπατῶν)

More than standeth. The word expresses Christ's activity on behalf of His Church.

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