UNTO the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
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.
8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
28 And I will give him the morning star.
29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
At the beginning, the second chapter emphasizes again that Jesus walks in the midst of the churches (candlesticks) and that he holds the angels (stars) in his authority and his security symbolizing right hand. Strangely seems that the recipient of the first letter is an angel of the church of Ephesus. In the interpretation of scripture should first the easiest and most straightforward way be considered. The nearest port of the prison island of Patmos was Ephesus. John would have sent the prophetic letter by courier to the respective elders of the churches. The logical order of the addressed locations takes place after the clockwise walk through Asia Minor. The congregation met at that time in various private homes and not in a large sacral building. The naming of an elder could easily have let to his imprisonment due to the prevailing persecution. Each letter is referring to a specific local assembly of followers of Jesus at that time. For us today, the old words are just as lively and effective, as well as the angel messenger will not have died, since God’s spirit beings continue to perform their service (Hebrews 1, 14). Therefore, we should apply the praise of Jesus and his exhortation also in our church and in our personal lives.
A controversial, amazing, historical realisation about the seven churches is that each one characterized a period in the church age:
In the Bible and other historical documents is reported about the metropolis of Ephesus. The silversmith Demetrius rose an uproar against Paul in the 19th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles because Paul had spoken against the cult of the worship of Diana. Idolised ugly busts of the multi-breast Artemis statue as symbol of fertility can still be viewed in numerous museums. At former times the sex addicted adulterers and child molesters did not visit a swinger club or flat rate brothel, but they could unleash their fleshly desires in the biggest temple of ancient times, to allege as a pretext that they make a sacrifice to God. The sophisticated city was also famous for the Roman Emperor worship with its Domitian and Hadrian temples.
A religious counterpoint formed the hard working, uncomplaining Christians. They could not endure the evil, had identified the false apostles (like Paul in 2. Corinthians 11), and hated the false doctrine of the Nicolaitans. Nevertheless, they get the blame that they have left their first love for the Lord Jesus Christ, which reminds me strongly of the love chapter in 1. Corinthians 13 and of busy Martha in Luke 10, 40. Thus, any follower of Jesus should sit down at his feet to hear the voice of the master with the own ears. Thereby, the personal inspiration through reading his word and the detailed examination of the teachings of preachers on the basis of the scriptures is most reliable, as the noble people of Berea daily practised (Acts 17, 11). Instead of the unhealthy earthly zeal to lust after the immortality promising tree of knowledge of good and evil (eat, you shall surely not die), the true overcomers receive as final blessing to eat from the fruit of the tree of life in the paradise of God.
Smyrna, the port with the largest marketplace of antiquity, was like Ephesus a special place of idol worship. 195 BC, the now third largest city of Turkey, Izmir, got the dubious honour to build a temple for Roma, the protector of the world. Smyrna, which means myrrh in Greek, induced a great conflict in the conscience of the Christians, for it was a common custom to make once a year a sacrifice for the benediction of the Roman Emperor to get in return a certificate. I see the ten days of tribulation not literally but more symbolic for the observance of the law. In the same manner, a disciple of John, namely the 86-year-old Bishop Polycarp preferred it, as a powerful witness who does not deny his Lord Jesus Christ, to be burned at the stake (he refused instead to confess that Caesar is lord). A parallel can be found in the behaviour of the three friends of Daniel. In Babylonian captivity they were also tested in the fire because they did not bow in front of a ruler statue. And the ten-day long test took place at the beginning of the Book of Daniel, with the request to eat only vegetables instead of wine and meat that was offered to the idols of the king. Being faithful unto death, the church of Smyrna with the Jewish and Gentile population needed not to get a blame, since they were so strong in perseverance. The proud city considered oneself as a cultural rich place with its famous athletic contests and despised the real winners of the crown of life as poor. But they were the real overcomers who will be not hurt of the second death. This is reminiscent of the incredible story of life and death that happened in Bethany – the house of the poor – in John chapter 11. Lazarus died and was still four days in the grave. Difficult to understand the contradictory promise of Jesus was: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies (the first natural death). And whoever lives and believes in me will never die (the second death – eternal separation from God). Do you believe this?” Are we prepared to lay down our lives to death when our faith is questioned?
In Pergamon Antipas was such a faithful witness who has been murdered on the steps of the throne of Satan. Amazingly the Pergamon altar can be found today in Berlin:
Even if I would stand with my opinion against everyone, I would dump the Museum Island with its pagan monuments as soon as possible in the sea or anywhere else. Since the German engineer and archaeologist Carl Humann has relocated the white marble stones, two less humane world wars were provoked from the seat of German Government. The first temple at Pergamon served as an Emperor cult, where Augustus was worshipped, but also for other gods were dedicated ritual pillar monuments as for Zeus and Asklepion. Withal, the harmless snakes in the temple, which should be touched at night, would have carried out as little healing powers, as the universally known symbol of the wriggling rod of medical professions.
True authority exercises at the beginning of the section the Lord Jesus with his two-edged sword. As angel of the Lord he once before confronted the disobedient prophet Balaam with the sword, whose speaking donkey had more spirit discerning than himself (Numeri 22, 23). Later the prophets seductive advices helped King Balak to lay a snare before Israel and likewise the Nicolaitans attacked with their doctrine the people of God. There is also an amazing relationship in the roots of the words Balaam and Nikolaos, for both mean in Hebrew and in Greek to rule over the people or to subdue them. In my view, it is not difficult to identify these forces historically, as they act in direct opposition of the true teachings of Jesus, i.e. the greatest in the kingdom of God must be the servant and not the king of his equal brothers. Therefore we should examine our congregations if they are governed by arrogant, selfish pastors who rob their faithful flock from any independence. Being warned of the Nicolaitans for a second time, we never should believe that we can walk in desires of our sinful flesh without reaping the consequences. Instead, the gnostic teaching assumed that men’s spirit lives anyway forever. Thus, a voice sounded like in paradise that we will surely not die, also we act against God’s word. The sexual immorality in the early Christian cult, which was named after the apostate leader Nicholas, went way overboard in exchanging women to fornicate. “There’s nothing to it,” one or the other affair seeker will behave. Eventually, the spirit of the times brings an Anglican bishop who as the president advisory is remarried to another man, and preaches now in the schools that sexual intercourse is allowed for minor children if they use protectively a condom.
He, who is wise, is fed from the in the ark of the covenant hidden manna through his spiritual connection to Jesus and by meditating on his word. The largest libraries in the world, like in Pergamon, can not contain and provide the wisdom and treasure that is hidden in Christ. Instead of an inscribed, durable parchment made from an animal skin, the human conquerors once get from the Lord a white stone with a new name that only they know. The white colour symbolizes purity and in ancient times such a stone the accused received as a sign of acquittal in court.
The longest epistle was written to the smallest, least important church in Thyatira. Is it not true that the Lord says that he uses the weak and lowly to confound the strong and mighty (1 Corinthians 1, 27)? A comparison of the seven lights, in which the Son of God walks, with the Jewish menorah shows the fourth light built in the centre upon the long stand. In relation to church history, Thyatira who was as a military base located in a fertile plain, can be associated with the ancient work of the Catholic Church. The severe rebuke to the Christians, who were respected for their works and love, was that they tolerated the woman Jezebel. Who is this self-proclaimed prophetess who led to fornication and to the consumption of meat sacrificed to idols? The simplest interpretation is that she was the manipulative wife of a church leader. Her domineering regiment probably had the same impact as the same-named wife of Ahab, who imposed the stoning of righteous Naboth by false witnesses. The evil Sidonite princess Jezebel introduced the worship of the Queen of Heaven and of Asherah Baal idols by simply claiming that everything was allowed. Through her government the calling to repentance prophets of Israel were silenced. In the emerging trading city of Thyatira it was common in the numerous craft guilds to gather for consecrated meals. In the worship of protection and fortune gods the people were bound together. This was forbidden not only because of the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem (abstaining from things sacrificed to idols, fornication, things strangled, and blood in Acts 15, 29); despite, what does a Christian who is striving for business do to retain pagan customs? At the end, death is waiting for the depths of Satan knowing unrepentant adulterers, after being thrown into bed with Jezebel. It is foolish to believe that the good God is taking an impassive look on our earthly works and shows us mercy as the judge of mankind because of the prayers of deceased saints. No, he has eyes like flames of fire that put to acid test. Woe to all those who deny the Son of God and will experience firsthand his glowing feet of iron at his unexpected coming.
Lydia of Thyatira, the seller of purple, made the right decision for the king of kings at the riverbank meeting with Paul in front of the Roman colony of Philippi. The overcomer who kissed the son got according to the promise of the second Psalm power over nations, in order to rule them with a rod of iron, as when potter dishes were smashed. Nevertheless, her expensive royal robes carrying clients characteristically entered the stage of world history in taking their stand and counsel against the Lord and his anointed.
At the end of the night, the first star on the morning horizon in the morning appears for all those who hear what the spirit says to the churches. Therefore we should not get tired to furthermore study the revelation.