He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Revelation 3:22. He that hath an ear, let him hear, &c. — This stands in the three former letters before the promise; in the four latter, after it; clearly dividing the seven into two parts; the first containing three, the last four letters. The titles given our Lord in the three former letters peculiarly respect his power after his resurrection and ascension, particularly over his church; those in the four latter, his divine glory and unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Again, this word being placed before the promises in the three former letters, excludes the false apostles at Ephesus, the false Jews at Smyrna, and the partakers with the heathen at Pergamos, from having any share therein. In the four latter being placed after them, it leaves the promises immediately joined with Christ’s address to the angel of the church, to show that the fulfilling of these was near: whereas the others reach beyond the end of the world. It should be observed, that the overcoming or victory (to which alone these peculiar promises are annexed) is not the ordinary victory obtained by every believer, but a special victory obtained over great and peculiar temptations by those that are strong in faith. “Such,” says Bishop Newton on the close of these chapters, “is the state and condition of these seven once glorious and flourishing churches; and there cannot be a stronger proof of the truth of prophecy, nor a more effectual warning to other Christians. ‘These objects,’ Wheeler justly observes, ‘ought to make us, who yet enjoy the divine mercies, to tremble, and earnestly contend to find out from whence we are fallen, and do daily fall from bad to worse; that God is a God of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; and seeing the axe is thus long since put to the root of the tree, should it not make us repent and turn to God, lest we likewise perish? We see here what destruction the Lord hath brought upon the earth. But it is the Lord’s doing: and thence we may reap no small advantage by considering how just he is in all his judgments, and faithful in all his promises.’ We may truly say, (1 Corinthians 10:11-12,) that all these things happened unto them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” Revelation 2:7.
This closes the epistolary part of this book, and the "visions" properly commence with the next chapter. Two remarks may be made in the conclusion of this exposition:
(1) The first relates to the truthfulness of the predictions in these epistles. is an illustration of that truthfulness, and of the present correspondence of the condition of those churches with what the Saviour said to John they would be, the following striking passage may be introduced from Mr. Gibbon. It occurs in his description of the conquests of the Turks ("Decline and Fall," iv. 260, 261). "Two Turkish chieftains, Sarukhan and Aidin left their names to their conquests, and their conquests to their posterity. The captivity or ruin of the seven churches of Asia was consummated; and the barbarous lords of Ionia and Lydia still trample on the monuments of classic and Christian antiquity. In the loss of Ephesus, the Christians deplored the fall of the first angel, the extinction of the first candlestick of the Revelations: the desolation is complete; and the temple of Diana, or the church of Mary, will equally elude the search of the curious traveler. The circus and three stately theaters of Laodicea are now populated with wolves and foxes; Sardis is reduced to a miserable village; the God of Muhammed, without a rival or a son, is invoked in the mosques of Thyatira and Pergamos; and the populousness of Smyrna is supported by the foreign trade of Franks and Armenians. Philadelphia alone has been saved by prophecy or courage. At a distance from the sea, forgotten by the emperors, encompassed on all sides by the Turks, her valiant citizens defended their religion and freedom above fourscore years, and at length capitulated with the proudest of the Ottomans. Among the Greek colonies and churches of Asia, Philadelphia is still erect, a column in a scene of ruins; a pleasing example that the paths of honor and safety may sometimes be the same."
(2) the second remark relates to the applicability of these important truths to us. There is perhaps no part of the New Testament more searching than these brief epistles to the seven churches; and though those to whom they were addressed have long since passed away, and the churches have long since become extinct; though darkness, error, and desolation have come over the places where these churches once stood, yet the principles laid down in these epistles still live, and they are full of admonition to Christians in all ages and all lands. It is a consideration of as much importance to us as it was to these churches, that the Saviour now knows our works; that he sees in the church, and in any individual, all that there is to commend and all that there is to reprove; that he has power to reward or punish now as he had then; that the same rules in apportioning rewards and punishments will still be acted on; that he who overcomes the temptations of the world will find an appropriate reward; that those who live in sin must meet with the proper recompense, and that those who are lukewarm in his service will be spurned with unutterable loathing. His rebukes are awful; but his promises are full of tenderness and kindness. While they who have embraced error, and they who are living in sin, have occasion to tremble before him, they who are endeavoring to perform their duty may find in these epistles enough to cheer their hearts, and to animate them with the hope of final victory, and of the most ample and glorious reward.
even as I also—Two thrones are here mentioned: (1) His Father's, upon which He now sits, and has sat since His ascension, after His victory over death, sin, the world; upon this none can sit save God, and the God-man Christ Jesus, for it is the incommunicable prerogative of God alone; (2) the throne which shall be peculiarly His as the once humbled and then glorified Son of man, to be set up over the whole earth (heretofore usurped by Satan) at His coming again; in this the victorious saints shall share (1Co 6:2). The transfigured elect Church shall with Christ judge and reign over the nations in the flesh, and Israel the foremost of them; ministering blessings to them as angels were the Lord's mediators of blessing and administrators of His government in setting up His throne in Israel at Sinai. This privilege of our high calling belongs exclusively to the present time while Satan reigns, when alone there is scope for conflict and for victory (2Ti 2:11, 12). When Satan shall be bound (Re 20:4), there shall be no longer scope for it, for all on earth shall know the Lord from the least to the greatest. This, the grandest and crowning promise, is placed at the end of all the seven addresses, to gather all in one. It also forms the link to the next part of the book, where the Lamb is introduced seated on His Father's throne (Re 4:2, 3; 5:5, 6). The Eastern throne is broad, admitting others besides him who, as chief, occupies the center. Trench notices; The order of the promises in the seven epistles corresponds to that of the unfolding of the kingdom of God its first beginnings on earth to its consummation in heaven. To the faithful at Ephesus: (1) The tree of life in the Paradise of God is promised (Re 2:7), answering to Ge 2:9. (2) Sin entered the world and death by sin; but to the faithful at Smyrna it is promised, they shall not be hurt by the second death (Re 2:11). (3) The promise of the hidden manna (Re 2:17) to Pergamos brings us to the Mosaic period, the Church in the wilderness. (4) That to Thyatira, namely, triumph over the nations (Re 2:26, 27), forms the consummation of the kingdom in prophetic type, the period of David and Solomon characterized by this power of the nations. Here there is a division, the seven falling into two groups, four and three, as often, for example, the Lord's Prayer, three and four. The scenery of the last three passes from earth to heaven, the Church contemplated as triumphant, with its steps from glory to glory. (5) Christ promises to the believer of Sardis not to blot his name out of the book of life but to confess him before His Father and the angels at the judgment-day, and clothe him with a glorified body of dazzling whiteness (Re 3:4, 5). (6) To the faithful at Philadelphia Christ promises they shall be citizens of the new Jerusalem, fixed as immovable pillars there, where city and temple are one (Re 3:12); here not only individual salvation is promised to the believer, as in the case of Sardis, but also privileges in the blessed communion of the Church triumphant. (7) Lastly, to the faithful of Laodicea is given the crowning promise, not only the two former blessings, but a seat with Christ on His throne, even as He has sat with His Father on His Father's throne (Re 3:21).Revelation 2:7,11,17,29, and in Revelation 3:6,13.
Those who make these churches typical of all Christian churches, from the time John had this Revelation, and prophetical of the complexion of the Christian churches in all ages, say, that the church of Laodicea typifieth the churches towards the end of the world till Christ cometh; but this necessitateth them to think there shall be no such pure and glorious state of the church just before the end of the world, as many believe there shall be, but that the state thereof shall grow yet worse and worse, of a Laodicean temper, so as when Christ cometh he shall hardly find faith on the earth.
For my part, I could allow the seven epistles to be typical and prophetical, but can by no means judge them to be purely prophetical; believing there were such churches when John wrote, and that their complexion is in the first place described in these epistles; though possibly, as face answers face in a glass, so succeeding churches have answered, and shall answer, the face of these churches, even to the last day.
This chapter concludes John’s first vision. In the following chapters we have a representation in visions of what was to happen in the world more remarkably, with reference to the church of God, from the year 95, to the end of the world.
There are very different opinions about the epocha, or the time, when the visions began to be fulfilled. My opinion is, it began soon after John had the vision; for it is twice said, Revelation 1:1 22:6, that the visions were to be about things that shall come to pass, (not that were come to pass), and that shortly; but we cannot fix the certain year, which maketh the interpretation difficult.
There are also divers opinions how far in this book the revelations go that concern the state of the church under Rome pagan, and where they begin that foretell the state of the church under antichrist. But of these we shall speak more particularly as we go along with the several chapters. Revelation 2:7. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Verse 22. - He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches. The seven messages were not merely separate admonitions addressed only to each particular Church, but all the epistles were meant for all the seven Churches, and, after them, for the universal Church. Each Church had an especial failing brought more emphatically before it; but still the seven warnings are one whole, for the edification of all. As it behoves the individual Christian to avoid and repent of all sin, and yet to fix his attention on the cure of some besetting sin to which he is peculiarly liable, so these messages, though intended to be read by all, and heeded by all, place vividly before each Church its besetting sin, which more particularly requires attention. And as the sins to be avoided are to be avoided by all, so the separate rewards arc promised to all who overcome. They are, therefore, not really distinct rewards, but rather different phases and views of one great whole, which shall be enjoyed in its entirety by those who have struggled victoriously with the trials and temptations of the world.
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