Revelation 2:7
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.
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(7) He that hath an ear . . .—Or. Let him that hath an ear, hear. These words—an echo from the Gospels—recur in all the seven epistles. In the first three, however, they are placed before the promise; in the remaining four they follow it. The heart which is hardened is the precursor of the ear that is deaf (Jeremiah 6:10, and John 12:37-40). The “spiritual truth” needs a spiritual organ for its discernment. These are truths, then, only heard

“When the soul seeks to hear; when all is hushed,

And the heart listens.”—Coleridge, Reflection.

To him that overcometh (or, conquereth) will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.—The reference to conquering is a prominent feature of St. John’s other writings. The word—used but once in the three Gospels (Luke 11:22), and but once by St. Paul (Romans 12:21)—is found in John 16:33; 1John 2:13-14; 1John 5:4-5; and occurs in all these epistles to the churches. The promise of the tree of life is appropriate (1) to the virtue commended: those who had not indulged in the license of Nicolaitanes shall eat of the tree of life; (2) to the special weakness of the Ephesians: to those who had fallen, and lost the paradise of first loving communion and fellowship with God (comp. Genesis 3:8, and 1John 1:3), is held out the promise of a restored paradise and participation in the tree of life. (Comp. Revelation 22:2; Revelation 22:14; Genesis 3:22.) This boon of immortality is the gift of Christ—I will give. It is tasted in knowledge of God and of His Son (John 17:3); it is enjoyed in their presence (Revelation 22:3-4).



Revelation 2:7The sevenfold promises which conclude the seven letters to the Asiatic Churches, of which this is the first, are in substance one. We may, indeed, say that the inmost moaning of them all is the gift of Christ Himself. But the diamond flashes variously coloured lights according to the angle at which it is held, and breaks into red and green and white. The one great thought may be looked at from different points of view, and sparkle into diversely splendid rays. The reality is single and simple, but so great that our best way of approximating to the apprehension of that which we shall never comprehend till we possess it is to blend various conceptions and metaphors drawn from different sources,

I have a strong conviction that the Christianity of this day suffers, intellectually and practically, from its comparative neglect of the teaching of the New Testament as to the future life. We hear and think a great deal less about it than was once the case and we are thereby deprived of a strong motive for action, and a sure comfort in sorrow. Some of us may, perhaps, be disposed to look with a little sense of lofty pity at the simple people who let the hope of heaven spur, or restrain, or console. But if there is a future life at all, and if the characteristic of it which most concerns us is that it is the reaping, in consequences, of the acts of the present, surely it cannot be such superior wisdom, as it sometimes pretends to be, to ignore it altogether; and perhaps the simplicity of the said people is more in accordance with the highest reason than is our attitude.

Be that as it may, believing, as I do, that the hope of immortality is meant to fill a very large place in the Christian life, and fearing, as I do, that it actually does fill but a very small one with many of us, I have thought that it might do us all good to turn to this wealth of linked promises and to consider them in succession, so as to bring our hearts for a little while into contact with the motive for brave fighting which does occupy so large a space in the New Testament, however it may fail to do so in our lives.

I. I ask you to look first at the Gift.

Now, of course, I need scarcely remind you that this first promise, in the last book of Scripture, goes back to the beginning, to the old story in Genesis about Paradise and the Tree of Life. We may distinguish between the substance of the promise and the highly metaphorical form into which it is here cast. The substance of the promise is the communication of life; the form is a poetic and imaginative and pregnant allusion to the story on the earliest pages of Revelation.

Let me deal first with the substance. Now it seems to me that if we are to pare down this word ‘ life ‘ to its merely physical sense of continuous existence, this is not a promise that a man’s heart leaps up at the hearing of. To anybody that will honestly think, and try to realize, in the imperfect fashion in which alone it is possible for us to realize it, that notion of an absolutely interminable continuance of being, its awfulness is far more than its blessedness, and it overwhelms a man. It seems to me that the ‘crown of life,’ if life only means conscious existence, would be a crown of thorns indeed.

No, brethren, what our hearts crave, and what Christ’s heart gives, is not the mere bare, bald, continuance of conscious being. It is something far deeper than that. That is the substratum, of course; but it is only the substratum, and not until we let in upon this word, which is one of the key-words of Scripture, the full flood of light that comes to it from John’s Gospel, and its use on the Master’s lips there, do we begin to understand the meaning of this great promise. Just as we say of men who are sunk in gross animalism, or whose lives are devoted to trivial and transient aims, that theirs is not worth calling life, so we say that the only thing that deserves, and that in Scripture gets, the august name of ‘life,’ is a condition of existence in conscious union with, and possession of, God, who is manifested and communicated to mortals through Jesus Christ His Son. ‘In Him was life, and the life was manifested.’ Was that bare existence? And the life was not only manifested but communicated, and the essence of it is fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. The possession of ‘ the Spirit of life which was in Christ,’ and which in heaven will be perfectly communicated, will make men ‘free,’ as they never can be upon earth whilst implicated in the bodily life of this material world, ‘from the law of sin and death.’ The gift that Christ bestows on him that ‘overcometh’ is not only conscious existence, but existence derived from, and, so to speak, embraided with the life of God Himself, and therefore blessed.

For such a life, in union with God in Christ, is the only condition in which all a man’s capacities find their fitting objects, and all his activity finds its appropriate sphere, and in which, therefore, to live is to be blessed, because the heart is united with the source and fountain of all blessedness. Here is the deepest depth of that promise of future blessedness. It is not mainly because of any changes, glorious as these must necessarily be, which follow upon the dropping away of flesh, and the transportation into the light that is above, that heaven is a place of blessedness, but it is because the saints that are there are joined to God, and into their recipient hearts there pours for ever the fullness of the Divine life. That makes the glory and the blessedness.

But let us remember that all which can come hereafter of that full and perfect life is but the continuance, the development, the increase, of that which already is possessed. Here it falls in drops; there in floods. Here it is filtered; there poured. Here, the plant, taken from its native climate and soil, puts forth some pale blossoms, and grows but to a stunted height; there, set in their deep native soil, and shone upon by a more fervent sun, and watered by more abundant warm rains and dews, ‘they that ‘on earth’ were planted in the house of the Lord shall, transplanted, ‘flourish in the courts of our God.’ The life of the Christian soul on earth and of the Christian soul in heaven is continuous, and though there is a break to our consciousness looking from this side the break of death the reality is that without interruption, and without a turn, the road runs on in the same direction. We begin to live the life of heaven here, and they who can say, ‘I was dead in trespasses and sins, but the life which I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,’ have already the germs of the furthest development in the heavens in their hearts.

Notice, for a moment, the form that this great promise assumes here. That is a very pregnant and significant reference to the Tree of Life in the paradise of God, The old story tells how the cherub with the flaming sword was set to guard the way to it. And that paradise upon earth faded and disappeared. But it reappears. ‘ Then comes a statelier Eden back to man,’ for Jesus Christ is the restorer of all lost blessings; and the Divine purpose and ideal has not faded away amidst the clouds of the stormy day of earth’s history, like the flush of morning from off the plains. Christ brings back the Eden, and quenches the flame of the fiery sword; and instead of the repellent cherub, there stands Himself with the merciful invitation upon His lips: ‘Come! Eat; and live for ever.’

There never was one lost good; what was shall live as before.

On the earth the broken arcs; in heaven the perfect round.’

Eden shall come back; and the paradise into which the victors go is richer and fuller, by all their conflict and their wounds, than ever could have been the simpler paradise of which souls innocent, because untried, could have been capable. So much for the gift of life.

II. Notice, secondly, the Giver.

This is a majestic utterance; worthy of coming from the majestic Figure portrayed in the first chapter of this book. In it Jesus Christ claims to be the Arbiter of men’s deserts and Giver of their rewards. That involves His judicial function, and therefore His Divine as well as human nature. I accept these words as truly His words. Of course, if you do not, my present remarks have no force for you; but if you do not, you ought to be very sure of your reasons for not doing so; and if you do, then I see not how any man who believes that Jesus Christ has said that He will give to all the multitude of faithful fighters, who have brought their shields out of the battle, and their swords undinted, the gift of life eternal, can be vindicated from the charge of taking too much upon him, except on the belief of His Divine nature.

But I observe, still further, that this great utterance of the Lord’s, paralleled in all the other six promises, in all of which He is represented as the bestower of the reward, whatever it may be, involves another thing, viz., the eternal continuance of Christ’s relation to men as the Revealer and Mediator of God. ‘I will give’ and that not only when the victor crosses the threshold and enters the Capitol of the heavens, but all through its ceaseless ages Christ is the Medium by which the Divine life passes into men. True, there is a sense in which He shall deliver up the kingdom to His Father, when the partial end of the present dispensation has come. But He is the Priest of mankind for ever; and for ever is His kingdom enduring. And through all the endless ages, which we have a right to hope we shall see, there will never come a point in which it will not remain as true as it is at this moment: ‘No man hath seen God at any time, nor can see Him; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.’ Christ is for ever the Giver of life in the heavens as on earth.

Another thing is involved which I think also is often lost sight of. The Bible does not know anything about what people call ‘natural immortality. ‘Life here is not given to the infant once for all, and then expended through the years, but it is continually being bestowed. My belief is that no worm that creeps, nor angel that soars, nor any of the beings between, is alive for one instant except for the continual communication from the fountain of life, of the life that they live. And still more certainly is it true about the. future, that there all the blessedness and the existence, which is the substratum and condition of the blessedness, are only ours because, wavelet by wavelet, throbbing out as from a central fountain, there flows into the Redeemed a life communicated by Christ Himself. If I might so say were that continual bestowment to cease, then heaven, like the vision of a fairy tale, would fade away; and there would be nothing left where the glory had shone. ‘I will give’ through eternity.

III. Lastly, note the Recipients.

‘To him that overcometh.’ Now I need not say, in more than a sentence, that it seems to me that the fair interpretation of this promise, as of all the other references in Scripture to the future life, is that the reward is immediately consequent upon the cessation of the struggle. ‘To depart ‘ is ‘to be with Christ,’ and to be with Christ, in regard of a spirit which has passed from the bodily environment, is to be conscious of His presence, and lapt in His robe, feeling the warmth and the pressure of His heart. So I believe that Scripture teaches us that at one moment there may be the clash of battle, and the whiz of the arrows round one’s head, and next moment there may be the laurel-crowned quiet of the victor.

But that does not enter so much into our consideration now. We have, rather, here to think of just this one thing, that the gift is given to the victor because only the victor is capable of receiving it; that future life, interpreted as I have ventured to interpret it in this sermon, is no arbitrary bestowment that could be dealt all round miscellaneously to everybody, if the Giver chose so to give. Here on earth many gifts are bestowed upon men, and are neglected by them, and wasted like water spilled upon the ground; but this elixir of life is not poured out so. It is only poured into vessels that can take it in and hold it.

Our present struggle is meant to make us capable of the heavenly life. And that is I was going to say the only, but at all events incomparably the chiefest, of the thoughts which make life not only worth living, but great and solemn. Go into a mill, and in a quiet room, often detached from the main building, you will find the engine working, and seeming to do nothing but go up and down. But there is a shaft which goes through the wall and takes the power to the looms.

We are working here, and we are making the cloth that we shall have to own and say, ‘Yes, it is my manufacture!’ when we get yonder. According to our life to-day will be our destiny in the great tomorrow. Life is given to the victor, because the victor only is capable of possessing it.

But the victor can only conquer in one way. ‘This,’ said John, when he was not an apocalyptic seer, but a Christian teacher to the Churches of Asia, ‘this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.’ If we trust in Christ we shall get His power into our hearts, and if we get His power into our hearts, then ‘we shall be more than conquerors through Him that loved us.’ Christ gives life eternal, gives it here in germ and yonder in fullness. In its fullness only those who overcome are capable of receiving it. Those only who fight the good fight by His help overcome. Those only who trust in Him fight the good fight by His help. He gives to eat of the Tree of Life; He gives it to faith, but faith must be militant. He gives it to the conqueror, but the conqueror must win by faith in Him who overcame the world for us, who will help us to overcome the world by Him.

Help us, O our God, we beseech Thee; ‘teach our hands to war, and our fingers to fight.’ Give us grace to hold fast by the life which is in Jesus Christ; and living by Him the lives which we live in the flesh, may we be capable, by the discipline of earth’s sorrows, of that rest and fuller ‘life which remaineth for the people of God.’

Revelation 2:7. He that hath an ear, let him hear — Every man, whoever can hear at all, ought carefully to hear this; what the Spirit saith — In these great and awful threatenings, and in these encouraging and precious promises; to the churches — And in them to all in a similar state, in every age and nation. To him that overcometh — His spiritual enemies, visible and invisible, that resists the devil, overcomes the world, crucifies the flesh, and conquers every besetting sin, and the fear of death; that goes on from faith to faith, and by faith to full victory over all opposing power; will I give to eat of the tree of life — This first thing promised in these letters is the last and highest in the accomplishment, Revelation 22:2; Revelation 22:14; Revelation 22:19; which is in the midst of the paradise of God — Namely, the paradise above, and the fruit of which tree gives immortality; so that he who resides within its reach, is possessed of such felicities and delights as are far superior to those which Adam enjoyed in an earthly paradise, though in a state of uncorrupted and perfect innocence. The tree of life and water of life go together, Revelation 22:1-2, both implying the living with God eternally. In these seven letters twelve promises are contained, which are an extract of all the promises of God. Some of them are expressly mentioned again in this book, as the hidden manna, the inscription of the name of the New Jerusalem, the sitting upon the throne. Some resemble what is afterward mentioned, as the hidden name, (Revelation 19:12,) the ruling the nations, (Revelation 19:15,) the morning star, Revelation 22:16. And some are expressly mentioned, as the tree of life, (Revelation 22:2,) freedom from the second death, (Revelation 20:6,) the name in the book of life, (Revelation 20:12; Revelation 21:27,) the remaining in the temple of God, (Revelation 7:15,) the inscription of the name of God and of the Lamb, Revelation 14:1; Revelation 22:4. In these promises, sometimes the enjoyment of the highest good, sometimes deliverance from the greatest evils, is intended. And each implies the other, so that where either part is expressed, the whole is to be understood. That part is expressed which has most resemblance to the virtues or works of him that was spoken to in the letter preceding.

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

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

To him that overcometh - Greek, "To him that gains the victory, or is a conqueror" - τῷ νικῶντι tō nikōnti. This may refer to any victory of a moral character, and the expression used would be applicable to one who should triumph in any of these respects:

(a) over his own easily-besetting sins;

(b) over the world and its temptations;

(c) over prevalent error;

(d) over the ills and trials of life, so as, in all these respects, to show that his Christian principles are firm and unshaken.

Life, and the Christian life especially, may be regarded as a warfare. Thousands fall in the conflict with evil; but they who maintain a steady warfare, and who achieve a victory, shall be received as conquerors in the end.

Will I give to eat of the tree of life - As the reward of his victory. The meaning is, that he would admit him to heaven, represented as paradise, and permit him to enjoy its pleasures - represented by being permitted to partake of its fruits. The phrase "the tree of life" refers undoubtedly to the language used respecting the Garden of Eden, Genesis 2:9; Genesis 3:22 - where the "tree of life" is spoken of as what was adapted to make the life of man perpetual. Of the nature of that tree nothing is known, though it would seem probable that, like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it was a mere emblem of life - or a tree that was set before man in connection with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that his destiny turned on the question whether he partook of the one or the other. That God should make the question of life or death depend on that, is no more absurd or improbable than that he should make it depend on what man does now - it being a matter of fact that life and death, happiness and misery, joy and sorrow, are often made to depend on things quite as arbitrary apparently, and quite as unimportant as an act of obedience or disobedience in partaking of the fruit of a designated tree.

Does it not appear probable that in Eden there were two trees designated to be of an emblematic character, of life and death, and that as man partook of the one or the other he would live or die? Of all the others he might freely partake without their affecting his condition; of one of these - the tree of life - he might have partaken before the fall, and lived forever. One was forbidden on pain of death. When the law forbidding that was violated, it was I still possible that he might partake of the other; but, since the sentence of death had been passed upon him, that would not now be proper, and he was driven from the garden, and the way was guarded by the flaming sword of the cherubim. The reference in the passage before us is to the celestial paradise - to heaven - spoken of under the beautiful image of a garden; meaning that the condition of man, in regard to life, will still be the same as if he had partaken of the tree of life in Eden. Compare the notes on Revelation 22:2.

Which is in the midst of the paradise of God - Heaven, represented as paradise. To be permitted to eat of that tree, that is, of the fruit of that tree, is but another expression implying the promise of eternal life, and of being happy forever. The word "paradise" is of Oriental derivation, and is found in several of the Eastern languages. In the Sanskrit the word "paradesha" and "paradisha" is used to denote a land elevated and cultivated; in the Armenian the word "pardes" denotes a garden around the house planted with grass, herbs, trees for use and ornament; and in the Hebrew form פרדס pardēc, and Greek παράδεισος paradeisos, it is applied to the pleasure gardens and parks, with wild animals, around the country residences of the Persian monarchs and princes, Nehemiah 2:8. Compare Ecclesiastes 2:5; Ca. Ecclesiastes 4:13; Xen. Cyro. i. 3, 14 (Robinson's Lexicon). Here it is used to denote heaven - a world compared in beauty with a richly cultivated park or garden. Compare 2 Corinthians 12:4. The meaning of the Saviour is, that he would receive him that overcame to a world of happiness; that he would permit him to taste of the fruit that grows there, imparting immortal life, and to rest in an abode suited up in a manner that would contribute in every way to enjoyment. Man, when he fell, was not permitted to reach forth his hand and pluck of the fruit of the tree of life in the first Eden, as he might have done if he had not fallen; but he is now permitted to reach forth his hand and partake of the tree of life in the paradise above. He is thus restored to what he might have been if he had not transgressed by eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and in the Paradise Regained, the blessings of the Paradise Lost will be more than recovered - for man may now live forever in a far higher and more blessed state than his would have been in Eden.

The Epistle to the Church at Smyrna

The contents of the epistle to the church at Smyrna are these:

(1) A statement, as in the address to the church at Ephesus, of some of the attributes of the Saviour, Revelation 2:8. The attributes here referred to are, that he was "the first and the last," that "he had been dead, but was alive" - attributes suited to impress the mind deeply with reverence for him who addressed them, and to comfort them in the trials which they endured.


7. He that hath an ear—This clause precedes the promise in the first three addresses, succeeds it in the last four. Thus the promises are enclosed on both sides with the precept urging the deepest attention as to the most momentous truths. Every man "hath an ear" naturally, but he alone will be able to hear spiritually to whom God has given "the hearing ear"; whose "ear God hath wakened" and "opened." Compare "Faith, the ears of the soul" [Clement of Alexandria].

the Spirit saith—What Christ saith, the Spirit saith; so one are the Second and Third Persons.

unto the churches—not merely to the particular, but to the universal Church.

overcometh—In John's Gospel (Joh 16:33) and First Epistle (1Jo 2:13, 14; 5:4, 5) an object follows, namely, "the world," "the wicked one." Here, where the final issue is spoken of, the conqueror is named absolutely. Paul uses a similar image (1Co 9:24, 25; 2Ti 2:5; but not the same as John's phrase, except Ro 12:21).

will I give—as the Judge. The tree of life in Paradise, lost by the fall, is restored by the Redeemer. Allusions to it occur in Pr 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4, and prophetically, Re 22:2, 14; Eze 47:12; compare Joh 6:51. It is interesting to note how closely these introductory addresses are linked to the body of Revelation. Thus, the tree of life here, with Re 22:1; deliverance from the second death (Re 2:11), with Re 20:14; 21:8; the new name (Re 2:17), with Re 14:1; power over the nations, with Re 20:4; the morning star (Re 2:28), with Re 22:16; the white raiment (Re 3:5), with Re 4:4; 16:15; the name in the book of life (Re 3:5), with Re 13:8; 20:15; the new Jerusalem and its citizenship (Re 3:12), with Re 21:10.

give … tree of life—The thing promised corresponds to the kind of faithfulness manifested. They who refrain from Nicolaitane indulgences (Re 2:6) and idol-meats (Re 2:14, 15), shall eat of meat infinitely superior, namely, the fruit of the tree of life, and the hidden manna (Re 2:17).

in the midst of the paradise—The oldest manuscripts omit "the midst of." In Ge 2:9 these words are appropriate, for there were other trees in the garden, but not in the midst of it. Here the tree of life is simply in the paradise, for no other tree is mentioned in it; in Re 22:2 the tree of life is "in the midst of the street of Jerusalem"; from this the clause was inserted here. Paradise (a Persian, or else Semitic word), originally used of any garden of delight; then specially of Eden; then the temporary abode of separate souls in bliss; then "the Paradise of God," the third heaven, the immediate presence of God.

of God—(Eze 28:13). One oldest manuscript, with Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic, and Cyprian, read, "MY God," as in Re 3:12. So Christ calls God, "My God and your God" (Joh 20:17; compare Eph 1:17). God is our God, in virtue of being peculiarly Christ's God. The main bliss of Paradise is that it is the Paradise of God; God Himself dwelling there (Re 21:3).

He that hath an ear, let him hear; to whom God hath given an ability and power to understand what I say. It is a form of speech which Christ often used, when he would quicken up people’s attention, Matthew 11:15 13:9,43 Mr 4:9,23 7:16: we shall find it again in these two chapters six times; from which some would conclude, that in these epistles there is something mysterious, parabolical, and prophetical, it being a form of speech prefixed to many parables.

What the Spirit saith; the Holy Spirit of God, from whose inspiration all Scripture is.

Unto the churches; not only at Ephesus, but elsewhere in Asia, or any other part of the world.

To him that overcometh; that is, a conqueror in fighting the good fight of faith, against the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Will I give to eat of the tree of life; I will give him a share in my merits, and eternal life; which blessed enjoyments are set out unto us under the notion of eating, Luke 12:37 22:28, &c.; John 10:28.

This is the promise that he hath promised us, 1Jo 2:25. Heaven is expressed to us under this notion, with reference to the tree of life, mentioned Genesis 2:9, which was in the old Paradise; for it is added,

which is in the midst of the paradise of God; or, which is the same, Christ himself is here intended, who is the free of life, mentioned Revelation 22:2; and the happiness of heaven is thus expressed, 1 Thessalonians 4:17, We shall be ever with the Lord. This is the sum of the epistle to the first mentioned church, by which those that judge these epistles prophetical, understand all the primitive churches during the apostles’ age, or the most of their ages, for John himself lived under the second persecution.

He that hath an ear,.... Such who have new ears given them, as all have who are made new creatures; such who have their ears circumcised, and opened by the Spirit of God; who hear with understanding, affection, and faith; who try what they hear, and approve, embrace, and retain that which is good,

Let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; let such hearken, and listen with attention to what is said by the Spirit, in what goes before, and follows after, in this epistle, designed for the use of all the churches; from whence it appears, that this epistle was endited by the Spirit of God, and is of divine inspiration; that it was not intended for the single use of the church at Ephesus, but of all the churches; and not of the seven churches only, though the Alexandrian copy reads, "to the seven churches": but of all the churches in that period of time, which the Ephesine church represents; and which may also be useful to the churches of Christ in all other ages and periods of time. And moreover, it may be concluded from hence, that there are in this epistle, and so in all the rest, for the same words are subjoined to them all, some things which are parabolical and prophetic, and not obvious to everyone's understanding and view; for a like expression is used by our Lord, when he had delivered anything in a parabolical way, or was obscure; see Matthew 11:15.

To him that overcometh: the false apostles, false teachers, and their doctrines; coldness, lukewarmness, and remissness in love; the impure tenets and practices of the Nicolaitans:

will I give to eat of the tree of life; by which is meant Jesus Christ himself, in allusion to the tree of life in the garden of Eden; and is so called, because he is the author of life, natural, spiritual, and eternal; and because of his fruit, the blessings of life and grace, that are in him, of which believers may eat by faith, and which they find to be soul quickening, comforting, strengthening, and satisfying; and which are Christ's gift to them, even both the food they eat, and the faith by which they eat, are his gifts. So Christ, under the name of Wisdom, is called the Tree of life, in Proverbs 3:18; and this is a name which is sometimes given by the Jews to the Messiah (e):

which is in the midst of the paradise of God; as the tree of life was in the garden of Eden, Genesis 2:9. The Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions read, "the paradise of my God"; the God of Christ, as well as of his people; and by which may be meant, either the church on earth, which is as a paradise, Sol 4:12; in the midst of which Christ is, affording his gracious presence, and reaching forth his grace, and the benefits of it, to his people; or heaven; see Gill on 2 Corinthians 12:4, said to be of God, because it is of his preparing, and where he dwells, and in the midst of which Christ, the Tree of life, is; and this shows, that he is to be come at by faith, and his fruit to be eaten, and lived upon; and he is to be beheld and enjoyed by all his saints, as he is now, and will be more perfectly hereafter,

(e) Zohar in Gen. fol. 33. 3.

{4} 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 {5} the midst of the {b} paradise of God.

(4) The conclusion containing a commandment of attention, and a promise of everlasting life, shown in a figure; Ge 2:9.

(5) That is, in paradise after the manner of the Hebrew phrase.

(b) Thus Christ speaks as he is mediator.

Revelation 2:7. ὁ ἕχων οὐς ἀκουσάτω, κ.τ.λ. Formula for exciting attention.[1000] The singular Οὐς by no means points, in distinction from the plural,[1001] to “the spiritual sense of understanding,”[1002] but designates with entire simplicity the organ of hearing without respect to its being double. In like manner, in Luke 11:34. The reference made in the summons is altogether general;[1003] even to those who still are outside the churches, belongs what is said to the churches, because the entire book of Revelation, no less than the seven epistles which form an entire part thereof, proclaims the coming of the Lord as something final to the whole world. John himself, as a true prophet, makes prominent the universal reference of his prophecy.[1004]

ΤῸ ΠΝΕῦΜΑ is neither this “divine vision,”[1005] nor Christ who has the Spirit,[1006] but the Holy Ghost,[1007] who inspires John, and thus makes him a prophet.[1008] The revelation of Christ[1009] can therefore be designated also as an address of the Spirit, because the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ,[1010] and speaks in Christ’s name.[1011] Yet this is conceivable only if we regard[1012] neither the seven epistles as merely a dictation of Christ, which John had only to write down, nor the entire book of Revelation as a mere report prepared by John of a series of pictures represented to him; but rather recognize the specific prophetic activity whereby he, as a man taught of Christ himself through his Spirit, thought and wrote not under a suppression, but a glorification, of his entire moral individuality.

The promise belongs, in its universality, to the victors; as the preceding summons to hear, to every one who has an ear. The hearer is through the prophecy to learn to be victor, and thus to be saved.[1013] νικῶν,[1014] as well as δίκαιος,[1015] is impossible. According to Revelation 3:21[1016] and Revelation 12:11,[1017] the νικᾶν at the close of all seven epistles[1018] designates nothing else than the faithful perseverance of believers, as maintained in the struggle with all godless and antichristian powers. So, also, the sacred reward of blessedness is promised the “victor,” who is represented in many forms, abiding faithful to him patiently and to the end, maintaining and adhering to the words and commands of the Lord, etc. Cf. especially the concluding promises of the epistles, with the descriptions in chs. 19, 21, 22

The δώσω αὐτῳ with the inf. φαγεὶν has a somewhat different meaning from when (as, e.g., Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:28) a definite object follows: it means, “I will grant him to eat;”[1019] not, “I will give him to eat.”

The ξύλον τῆς ζωῆς, κ.τ.λ., is not the gospel whose fruit is blessedness,[1020] nor the Holy Ghost who assures of eternal life,[1021] nor Christ himself whose fruits are all spiritual blessings,[1022] and who in the holy supper gives his flesh to be eaten;[1023] but the antitype of the tree of life that was in the midst of the original earthly paradise,[1024] the tree of life which is to refresh the blessed citizens of the new Jerusalem.[1025] In accordance with Genesis 2:3, as also this passage, the place of blessedness where the tree of life is to be found is called paradise.[1026] The addition ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ ΜΟΥ is not without meaning, since God is the Lord of paradise, the one from whom the new Jerusalem descends, who will dwell with men, from whose throne and that of the Lamb proceeds life,[1027] upon communion with whom, therefore, the future blessedness and glory of believers depend. Besides, the mediatorship of Christ is intimated by Τ. Θ. ΜΟΥ, since Christ who himself rewards the victor (ΔΏΣΩ), and himself sits with God upon the throne, in whom is the source of life, nevertheless speaks of his God and the God of believers;[1028] both being in accordance with the indivisible fundamental view of the entire N. T., that Christ through his obedience is exalted, through his conflict has conquered, and through his sufferings has entered into the glory which was his own from eternity, and whereof he now makes his believers partakers, since he as Priest, King, and Victor makes them priests, kings, and victors.[1029] As to the Apocalyptic statement of the thought, Revelation 2:7 b, cf. the Book of Enoch, xxxi. 1–5, xxiv. 1–11; Text. XII. Patr., p. 586; Schöttgen on this passage.

[1000] Grotius.

[1001] Cf. Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:29; Revelation 3:6; Revelation 3:13; Revelation 3:22; Revelation 13:9.

[1002] Hengstenb.

[1003] Cf. Revelation 22:17.

[1004] Cf. Revelation 1:3.

[1005] Grot.

[1006] Eichh. Cf. also Heinr.

[1007] Cf. Revelation 1:4.

[1008] Revelation 1:10, Revelation 19:10.

[1009] Revelation 2:1-6. Cf., likewise, σώσω.

[1010] Romans 8:9-10.

[1011] John 16:13 sqq.

[1012] Cf. Intr., sec. 2.

[1013] Revelation 1:3, Revelation 22:14.

[1014] It should properly he explained, “He who gains his case in court.”

[1015] Eichh. Cf. also Heinr.

[1016] Where it is also absolutely said of Christ as the head of believers.

[1017] Where an object is mentioned, as in 1 John 2:13; 1 John 5:4-5; John 16:33.

[1018] Cf. Revelation 21:7.

[1019] Cf. Revelation 3:21; John 5:26. De Wette.

[1020] Aret.

[1021] Grot.

[1022] Calov., Ebrard. Cf. Victorin, Beda, Lyra.

[1023] John 6:54. Alcasar.

[1024] Cf. Revelation 2:7. A stringent demand for attention (πίστις, ὦτα ψυχῆς: Clem. Alex.) to the utterances of prophets who were inspired by the Spirit (of prophecy, cf. on Revelation 19:10). These as usual are ejaculatory, positive and brief—ἐκκλ. scattered local communities, and not a Catholic organisation, being the conception of the Apocalypse, it is for use in their public worship that this book is written (Revelation 1:3). It is a subordinate and literary question whether the seer means in such phrases as this to designate himself (Weinel, 84 f.) liturgically as the speaker, or whether (as the synoptic parallels suggest) they form an integral part of the whole menage. In any case the prophet represents himself simply as the medium for receiving and recording (cf. Revelation 1:19) these oracles of the Spirit (cf. Revelation 14:13, Revelation 19:9, Rev 20:17). Unlike other writers such as Paul and the authors of Hebrew and 1 John, he occupies a passive rôle, throwing his personal rebuke and counsels into the form Thus saith the Spirit: but this really denotes the confidence felt by the prophet in his own inspiration and authority. The Spirit here, though less definitely than in Hermas, is identified with Jesus speaking through his prophets: it represents sudden counsels and semi-oracular utterances (cf. on Revelation 1:10), not a continuous power in the normal moral life of the saints in general. The seven promises denote security of immortal life (positively as here and Revelation 2:28 or negatively as Revelation 2:11), privilege (personal, Revelation 2:17, or official, Revelation 2:27), honour (Revelation 3:5; Revelation 3:21), or increased intimacy (Revelation 3:12). As usual, (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9 f.), the higher Christian γνῶσις is connected with eschatology.

Observe the singling out for encouragement and praise of each soldier in the host of the loyal. The effect resembles that produced by Pericles in his panegyric over the Athenians who had fallen in the Peloponnesian war: “together they gave up their lives, yet individually they won this deathless praise” (Thuc. ii. 43, 2). νικῶν (a quasi-perfect), in Herm. Mand. Revelation 12:2; Revelation 12:4 f., Revelation 5:2; Revelation 5:4, Revelation 6:2; Revelation 6:4 (over sin and devil), might have its usual Johannine sense, the struggle being obedience in face of the seductions and hardships which beset people aiming to keep the divine commandments (cf. on John 16:33). For a special application of the term, see Revelation 15:2. But behind the general usage lies the combination of “to be pure or just” and “to conquer or triumph” in the Hebrew ṣédeḳ and the Syriac zedhâ. Furthermore, νικῶν throughout is equivalent to the Egyptian eschatological term “victorious,” applied to those who passed successfully through life’s temptations and the judgment after death. Its generic sense is illustrated by 4 Ezra 7 :[128]: “here is the intent of the battle to be fought by man born upon earth: if he be overcome, he shall suffer as thou hast said; but if he conquer, he shall receive the thing of which I speak” (i.e., paradise and its glories). The Essenes according to Josephus (Ant. xviii. 1, 5), held the soul was immortal, περιμάχητον ἡγούμενοι τοῦ δικαίου τὴν πρόσοδον—eternal life the reward of an untiring, unsoiled fight against evil. The imagery of the metaphor is drawn from Jewish eschatology which anticipated the reversal of the doom incurred in Eden; cf. Test. Levi, 18, καὶ δώσει τοῖς ἁγίοις φαγεῖν ἐκ τοῦ ξύλου τῆς ζωῆς, also En. xxiv. 1–11, 25., xxxi. 1–3, etc., and (for Egyptian ideas) below on Revelation 3:21. The garden-park of God (π. = a garden with fruit-trees, Wilcken’s Griech. Ostraka, i. 157) is one of the intermediate abodes, possibly (as in Slav. En. viii. 1, and Paul) the third heaven where the favoured saints live after death in seclusion and bliss, So Iren. ver 5. 1 (abode of translated) and ver 36, 1–2, where heaven is for the Christians of the hundredfold fruit, paradise for the sixty-fold, and the heavenly city for the thirty-fold (a very ancient Christian tradition). The tree of life blooms in most of the apocalypses (cf. on Revelation 22:2). Philo had already allegorised it into θεοσέβεια ὁ τῆς τελείας ἀρετῆς χαρακτήρ. But the allusion corresponds to the general eschatological principle (borrowed from Babylonia, where cosmological myths passed into eschatological) that the end was to be a transcendently fine renovation of the original state (Barn. vi. 8). μου a deliberate addition to the O.T. phrase; Christ’s relation to God guarantees his promise of such a privilege (Revelation 3:12). God’s gift (Romans 6:23) is Christ’s gift. He is no fair promiser like Antigonus II., whom men dubbed δώσων for his large and unfulfilled undertakings (Plut. Coriol. xi.).

7. He that hath an ear] A repetition, with a merely verbal alteration, of one of our Lord’s characteristic phrases in His teaching while on earth: St Matthew 11:15, &c.

what the Spirit saith] Speaking through the Risen Christ to John who was “in the Spirit.”

To him that overcometh] A promise thus expressed, and an invitation to attention like that preceding it, are found at the end of each of these seven Epistles—the invitation standing first in the three first, and the promise in the four last. From this change in the order, it appears that attention is invited, not to the final promise only, but to the whole Epistle to each Church, as the Spirit’s message.

the tree of life] Cf. Genesis 2:9, as well as Revelation 22:2; Revelation 22:14; Revelation 22:19. The Tree of Life appears, though not under that name, in Enoch xxiv., where we are told that there shall be no power to touch it until the period of the great judgement.

in the midst of the paradise] Read simply in the Paradise: the insertion is no doubt from Genesis 2:9. “Paradise,” a Persian word adopted in both Greek and Hebrew, means simply a park or pleasure-ground, and hence is used in the LXX. (not the Hebrew) of the garden of Eden: in 2 Corinthians 12:4; Luke 23:43, we have it used of a region of the spiritual world, inhabited by the blessed dead. Whether the Paradise of God, where the Tree of Life is now, is identical either with the earthly Paradise where it grew of old, or with the New Jerusalem where it shall grow in the new earth under the new heaven, it would be rash to speculate.

of God] So “the garden of God” in Ezekiel 28:13; Ezekiel 31:8-9, and “the garden of the Lord” in Genesis 13:10; Isaiah 51:3. Some read “of My God,” as in Revelation 3:12, but on the whole the omission has more authority, and the exact O. T. phrase seems likelier.

Revelation 2:7. Οὖς) The singular is the more to be remarked, because the plural is more usual. Πίστις, ὦτα ψυχῆς, says Clement of Alexandria, Stromb. v. at the beginning; although in the Hebrew the [singular] ear is often used.—ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις) The Ablative case: as ch. Revelation 22:16 [“saith to him by the churches:” not as Engl. “unto the churches”]. In like manner there is said, ταῖς προσευχαῖς, ch. Revelation 8:3-4. Compare the passages which Heupel has collected in his Notes on Mark 5:2.—τῷ νικῶντι) The seven promises have a variety of construction.

I.  Τῷ νικῶντι δώσω αὐτῷ, κ.τ.λ.

II.  Ὁ νικῶν οὐ μὴ ἀδιχηθῇ, κ.τ.λ.

III.  Τῷ νικῶντι δώσω αὐτῷ, κ.τ.λ.

IV.  Καὶ ὁ νικῶν,—δώσω αὐτῷ, κ.τ.λ.

V.  Ὁ νικῶν, οὗτος περιβαλεῖται, κ.τ.λ.

VI.  Ὁ νικῶν, ποιήσω αὐτὸν, κ.τ.λ.

VII.  Ὁ νικῶν, δώσω αὐτῷ, κ.τ.λ.

In the four latter, ὁ νικῶν is marked with greater emphasis, as though it had the distinctive Hebrew accent: in the three former, there is a closer connection between τῷ νικῶντι (to which ὁ νικῶν, without οὗτος, in the second is equivalent) and the following verb.—ἐκ τοῦ ξύλου τῆς ζωῆς, ὅ ἐστιν ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ τοῦ Θεοῦ μου) The Septuagint, Genesis 2:9, has τὸ ξύλον τῆς ζωῆς ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ παραδείσου· where comp. Genesis 3:3. The ἐν μέσῳ is used with great propriety, because the rest of the trees were in the garden, but not in the midst of the garden. In this passage, according to the better copies,[30] the tree of life is simply said to be in the paradise of God: nor is mention made of any other tree, except the tree of life. The tree of life, indeed, is in the midst of the street of Jerusalem: ch. Revelation 22:2. From that passage, or from Genesis, some have here written, ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ παραδείσου.

[30] ABCh Vulg. Syr. Cypr. read ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ: but Rec. Text, without good authority, ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ παραδείσου.—E.

Verse 7. - He that hath an ear, let him hear. These solemn conclusions of these epistles remind us of the conclusion of many of Christ's parables (Matthew 11:15; Matthew 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23, [7:16]; Luke 8:8; Luke 14:35; not in St. John's Gospel, in which there are no parables). It is very noteworthy that, although the epistle is addressed in each case to a Church in the person of its angel, yet the concluding exhortation and promise are always addressed to the individual Christian. Each must hear for himself. His Church may perish, yet, if he overcomes, he shall live. His Church may be crowned with eternal life, yet, if he is overcome, he will lose the reward. What the Spirit saith to the Churches; not "what he saith to this Church." The contents of each epistle are for all; for each individual Christian and for the Church at large, as well as for the particular Church addressed in the epistle. The epistle in each case is not from John, who is only the instrument, but from the Son of God and from the Spirit of God (Revelation 1:4). In the first three epistles the exhortation to hearken precedes the promise to the victor; in the four last it follows the promise, and closes the epistle. Is this change of arrangement accidental or deliberate? There should be a full stop at "Churches." In the Authorized Version it looks as if "what the Spirit saith" were confined to the promise in the second half of the verse. This error was avoided by Tyndale and Cranmer. It comes from the Genevan and the Rhemish Versions. The verb to "overcome" or "conquer" (νικᾷν) is strongly characteristic of St. John. It occurs seven times in the Gospel and the First Epistle, and sixteen times in the Revelation; elsewhere only in Luke 11:22; Romans 3:4 (quotation from Psalm 51:6) and Romans 12:21; comp. especially Revelation 21:7, where, as in these epistles, it is not stated what is to be overcome. We might render, "to the victor," or "to the conqueror." The expression, "tree of life," of course comes from Genesis; we have it again in Revelation 22:2, 14. It means the tree which gives life. So also "the water of life" (Revelation 21:6) and "the bread of life" (John 6:35). In all these cases "life" is ζώη, the vital principle which man shares with God, not βίος, the life which he shares with his fellow men. The latter word occurs less than a dozen times in the New Testament; the former, which sums up the New Testament, occurs more than a hundred times. The Paradise of God. The word "Paradise" occurs only thrice in the New Testament (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4). It is of Persian origin, and signified a park or pleasure ground. In the New Testament it seems to mean the resting place of departed saints. There is strong evidence (B, versions, Cyprian, Origen) in favour of reading, "the Paradise of my God" (see notes on Revelation 3:2, 12). In considering this passage, Genesis 3:22 should be carefully compared with John 6:51. "For him who conquers" the curse which barred Adam from the tree of life will be revoked by Christ. Revelation 2:7He that hath an ear, etc.

Compare Matthew 11:15; Mark 4:9. The phrase is not found in John's Gospel. It is used always of radical truths, great principles and promises.

To him that overcometh (τῷ νικῶντι)

A formula common to all these Epistles. The verb is used absolutely without any object expressed. It is characteristic of John, occurring once in the Gospel, six times in the First Epistle, sixteen times in Revelation, and elsewhere only Luke 11:22; Romans 3:4; Romans 12:21.

Will Igive

This phrase has a place in every one of these Epistles. The verb is John's habitual word for the privileges and functions of the Son, whether as bestowed upon Him by the Father, or dispensed by Him to His followers. See John 3:35; John 5:22, John 5:27, John 5:36; John 6:65; John 13:3; John 17:6. Compare Revelation 2:23; Revelation 3:8; Revelation 6:4; Revelation 11:3.

Of the tree (ἐκ ξύλου)

The preposition ἐκ out of occurs one hundred and twenty-seven times in Revelation, and its proper signification is almost universally out of; but this rendering in many of the passages would be so strange and unidiomatic, that the New Testament Revisers have felt themselves able to adopt it only forty-one times out of all that number, and employ of, from, by, with, on, at, because of, by reason of, from among. See, for instance, Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:21, Revelation 2:22; Revelation 6:4, Revelation 6:10; Revelation 8:11; Revelation 9:18; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 15:2; Revelation 16:21. Compare John 3:31; John 4:13, John 6:13, John 6:39, John 6:51; John 8:23, John 8:44; John 9:6; John 11:1; John 12:3, John 12:27, John 12:32; John 17:5.

Tree, lit., wood. See on Luke 23:31; see on 1 Peter 2:24. Dean Plumptre notes the fact that, prominent as this symbol had been in the primeval history, it had remained unnoticed in the teaching where we should most have looked for its presence - in that of the Psalmist and Prophets of the Old Testament. Only in the Proverbs of Solomon had it been used, in a sense half allegorical and half mystical (Proverbs 3:18; Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 15:4). The revival of the symbol in Revelation is in accordance with the theme of the restitution of all things. "The tree which disappeared with the disappearance of the earthly Paradise, reappears with the reappearance of the heavenly." To eat of the tree of life expresses participation in the life eternal. The figure of the tree of life appears in all mythologies from India to Scandinavia. The Rabbins and Mohammedans called the vine the probation tree. The Zend Avesta has its tree of life called the Death-Destroyer. It grows by the waters of life, and the drinking of its sap confers immortality. The Hindu tree of life is pictured as growing out of a great seed in the midst of an expanse of water. It has three branches, each crowned with a sun, denoting the three powers of creation, preservation, and renovation after destruction. In another representation Budha sits in meditation under a tree with three branches, each branch having three stems. One of the Babylonian cylinders discovered by Layard, represents three priestesses gathering the fruit of what seems to be a palm-tree with three branches on each side. Athor, the Venus of the Egyptians, appears half-concealed in the branches of the sacred peach-tree, giving to the departed soul the fruit, and the drink of heaven from a vial from which the streams of life descend upon the spirit, a figure at the foot of the tree, like a hawk, with a human head and with hands outstretched.

In the Norse mythology a prominent figure is Igdrasil, the Ash-tree of Existence; its roots in the kingdom of Eels or Death, its trunk reaching to heaven, and its boughs spread over the whole universe. At its foot, in the kingdom of Death, sit three Nornas or Fates, the Past, the Present, and the Future, watering its roots from the sacred well. Compare Revelation 22:2, Revelation 22:14, Revelation 22:19. Virgil, addressing Dante at the completion of the ascent of the Purgatorial Mount, says:

"That apple sweet, which through so many branches

The care of mortals goeth in pursuit of,

Today shall put in peace thy hungerings."


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