Revelation of John 2

CHAPTER II.

The epistle to the Church of Ephesus, commending their labour

and patience, 1-3.

And, reprehending their having left their first love, exhorting

them to repent, with the promise of the tree of life, 4-7.

The epistle to the Church of Smyrna, commending their piety,

and promising them support in their tribulation, 8-11.

The epistle to the Church of Pergamos, commending their

steadfastness in the heavenly doctrine, 12, 13.

And reprehending their laxity in ecclesiastical discipline, in

tolerating heretical teachers in the Church, 14, 15.

The apostle exhorts them to repent, with the promise of the

white stone and a new name, 16, 17.

The epistle to the Church of Thyatira, with a commendation of

their charity, faith, and patience, 18, 19.

Reprehending their toleration of Jezebel, the false prophetess,

who is threatened with grievous punishment, 20-23.

Particular exhortations and promises to this Church, 24-29.

NOTES ON CHAP. II.

I must here advertise my readers, 1. That I do not perceive any

metaphorical or allegorical meaning in the epistles to these

Churches. 2. I consider the Churches as real; and that their

spiritual state is here really and literally pointed out; and that

they have no reference to the state of the Church of Christ in all

ages of the world, as has been imagined; and that the notion of

what has been termed the Ephesian state, the Smyrnian state, the

Pergamenian state, the Thyatirian state, &c., &c., is unfounded,

absurd, and dangerous; and such expositions should not be

entertained by any who wish to arrive at a sober and rational

knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. 3. I consider the angel of the

Church as signifying the messenger, the pastor, sent by Christ and

his apostles to teach and edify that Church. 4. I consider what is

spoken to this angel as spoken to the whole Church; and that it is

not his particular state that is described, but the states of the

people in general under his care.

The epistle to the Church at Ephesus.

Verse 1. Unto the angel of the Church of Ephesus] By αγγελος,

angel, we are to understand the messenger or person sent by God

to preside over this Church; and to him the epistle is directed,

not as pointing out his state, but the state of the Church under

his care. Angel of the Church here answers exactly to that officer

of the synagogue among the Jews called sheliach

tsibbur, the messenger of the Church, whose business it was to

read, pray, and teach in the synagogue. The Church at Ephesus is

first addressed, as being the place where John chiefly resided;

and the city itself was the metropolis of that part of Asia. The

angel or bishop at this time was most probably Timothy, who

presided over that Church before St. John took up his residence

there, and who is supposed to have continued in that office till

A.D. 97, and to have been martyred a short time before St. John's

return from Patmos.

Holdeth the seven stars] Who particularly preserves, and guides,

and upholds, not only the ministers of those seven Churches, but

all the genuine ministers of his Gospel, in all ages and places.

Walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks] Is the

supreme Bishop and Head, not only of those Churches, but of all

the Churches or congregations of his people throughout the world.

Verse 2. I know thy works] For the eyes of the Lord are

throughout the earth, beholding the evil and the good; and, being

omnipresent, all things are continually open and naked before him.

It is worthy of remark, that whatsoever is praiseworthy in any of

these Churches is first mentioned; thereby intimating that God is

more intent on finding out the good than the evil in any person or

Church; and that those who wish to reform such as have fallen or

are not making sufficient advances in the Divine life, should take

occasion, from the good which yet remains, to encourage them to

set out afresh for the kingdom of heaven. The fallen or

backsliding who have any tenderness of conscience left are easily

discouraged, and are apt to think that there is no seed left from

which any harvest can be reasonably expected. Let such be told

that there is still a seed of godliness remaining, and that it

requires only watching and strengthening the things which remain,

by prompt application to God through Christ, in order to bring

them back to the full enjoyment of all they have lost, and to

renew them in the spirit of their mind. Ministers continually

harping on Ye are dead, ye are dead; there is little or no

Christianity among you, &c., &c., are a contagion in a Church, and

spread desolation and death wheresoever they go. It is far better

to say, in such cases, "Ye have lost ground, but ye have not lost

all your ground; ye might have been much farther advanced, but

through mercy ye are still in the way. The Spirit of God is

grieved by you, but it is evident he has not forsaken you. Ye have

not walked in the light as ye should, but your candlestick is not

yet removed, and still the light shines. Ye have not much zeal,

but ye have a little. In short, God still strives with you, still

loves you, still waits to be gracious to you; take courage, set

out afresh, come to God through Christ; believe, love, obey, and

you will soon find days more blessed than you have ever yet

experienced." Exhortations and encouragements of this kind are

sure to produce the most blessed effects; and under such the work

of God infallibly revives.

And thy labour] He knew their works in general. Though they had

left their first love, yet still they had so much love as excited

them to labour, and enabled them to bear persecution patiently,

and to keep the faith; for they could not tolerate evil men, and

they had put fictitious apostles to the test, and had found them

to be liars, pretending a Divine commission while they had none,

and teaching false doctrines as if they were the truths of God.

Verse 3. And hast borne] The same things mentioned in the

preceding verse, but in an inverted order, the particular reason

of which does not appear; perhaps it was intended to show more

forcibly to this Church that there was no good which they had

done, nor evil which they had suffered, that was forgotten before

God.

And hast not fainted.] They must therefore have had a

considerable portion of this love remaining, else they could not

have thus acted.

Verse 4. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee] The clause

should be read, according to the Greek, thus: But I have against

thee that thou hast left thy first love. They did not retain that

strong and ardent affection for God and sacred things which they

had when first brought to the knowledge of the truth, and

justified by faith in Christ.

Verse 5. Remember] Consider the state of grace in which you once

stood; the happiness, love, and joy which you felt when ye

received remission of sins; the zeal ye had for God's glory and

the salvation of mankind; your willing, obedient spirit, your

cheerful self-denial, your fervour in private prayer, your

detachment from the world, and your heavenly-mindedness.

Remember-consider, all these.

Whence thou art fallen] Fallen from all those blessed

dispositions and gracious feelings already mentioned. Or, remember

what a loss you have sustained; for so εκπιπτειν is frequently

used by the best Greek writers.

Repent] Be deeply humbled before God for having so carelessly

guarded the Divine treasure.

Do the first works] Resume your former zeal and diligence;

watch, fast, pray, reprove sin, carefully attend all the

ordinances of God, walk as in his sight, and rest not till you

have recovered all your lost ground, and got back the evidence of

your acceptance with your Maker.

I will come unto thee quickly] In the way of judgment.

And will remove thy candlestick] Take away my ordinances, remove

your ministers, and send you a famine of the word. As there is

here an allusion to the candlestick in the tabernacle and temple,

which could not be removed without suspending the whole Levitical

service, so the threatening here intimates that, if they did not

repent, &c., he would unchurch them; they should no longer have a

pastor, no longer have the word and sacraments, and no longer have

the presence of the Lord Jesus.

Verse 6. The deeds of the Nicolaitanes] These were, as is

commonly supposed, a sect of the Gnostics, who taught the most

impure doctrines, and followed the most impure practices. They

are also supposed to have derived their origin from Nicolas, one

of the seven deacons mentioned Ac 6:5, where see the note. The

Nicolaitanes taught the community of wives, that adultery and

fornication were things indifferent, that eating meats offered to

idols was quite lawful; and mixed several pagan rites with the

Christian ceremonies. Augustine, Irenaeus, Clemens Alexandrinus,

and Tertullian, have spoken largely concerning them. See more in

my preface to 2d Peter, where are several particulars concerning

these heretics.

Verse 7. He that hath an ear] Let every intelligent person, and

every Christian man, attend carefully to what the Holy Spirit, in

this and the following epistles, says to the Churches.

See Clarke on Mt 11:15, where the same form of speech occurs.

To him that overcometh] To him who continues steadfast in the

faith, and uncorrupt in his life; who faithfully confesses Jesus,

and neither imbibes the doctrines nor is led away by the error of

the wicked; will I give to eat of the tree of life. As he who

conquered his enemies had, generally, not only great honour, but

also a reward; so here a great reward is promised τωςικωντι, to

the conqueror: and as in the Grecian games, to which there may be

an allusion, the conqueror was crowned with the leaves of some

tree; here it is promised that they should eat of the fruit of

the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God;

that is, that they should have a happy and glorious immortality.

There is also here an allusion to Ge 2:9, where it is said,

God made the tree of life to grow out of the midst of the

garden; and it is very likely that by eating the fruit of this

tree the immortality of Adam was secured, and on this it was made

dependent. When Adam transgressed, he was expelled from this

garden, and no more permitted to eat of the tree of life; hence he

became necessarily mortal. This tree, in all its sacramental

effects, is secured and restored to man by the incarnation, death,

and resurrection of Christ. The tree of life is frequently spoken

of by the rabbins; and by it they generally mean the immortality

of the soul, and a final state of blessedness. See many examples

in Schoettgen. They talk also of a celestial and terrestrial

paradise. The former, they say, "is for the reception of the souls

of the just perfect; and differs as much from the earthly paradise

as light from darkness."

The Epistle to the Church at Smyrna.

Verse 8. Unto the angel] This was probably the famous Polycarp.

See below.

These things saith the first and the last] He who is eternal;

from whom all things come, and to whom all things must return.

Which was dead, for the redemption of the world; and is alive to

die no more for ever, his glorified humanity being enthroned at

the Father's right hand.

Verse 9. I know thy works] As he had spoken to the preceding

Church, so he speaks to this: I know all that ye have done, and

all that ye have suffered. The tribulation here mentioned must

mean persecution, either from the Jews, the heathens, or from the

heretics, who, because of their flesh-pampering doctrines might

have had many partisans at Smyrna.

And poverty] Stripped probably of all their temporal

possessions, because of their attachment to the Gospel.

But thou art rich] Rich in faith, and heir of the kingdom of

Christ.

The blasphemy of them which say they are Jews] There were

persons there who professed Judaism, and had a synagogue in the

place, and professed to worship the true God; but they had no

genuine religion, and they served the devil rather than God. They

applied a sacred name to an unholy thing: and this is one meaning

of the word blasphemy in this book.

Verse 10. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer]

This may be addressed particularly to Polycarp, if he was at that

time the bishop of this Church. He had much to suffer; and was at

last burnt alive at Smyrna, about the year of our Lord 166. We

have a very ancient account of his martyrdom, which has been

translated by Cave, and is worthy of the reader's perusal. That

account states that the Jews were particularly active in this

martyrdom, and brought the fagots, &c., by which he was consumed.

Such persons must indeed have been of the synagogue of Satan.

Ten days] As the days in this book are what is commonly called

prophetic days, each answering to a year, the ten years of

tribulation may denote ten years of persecution; and this was

precisely the duration of the persecution under Diocletian, during

which all the Asiatic Churches were grievously afflicted. Others

understand the expression as implying frequency and abundance, as

it does in other parts of Scripture. Ge 31:7, 41:

Thou hast changed my wages TEN TIMES; i.e. thou hast frequently

changed my wages Nu 14:22:

Those men have tempted me now these TEN TIMES; i.e. they have

frequently and grievously tempted and sinned against me. Ne 4:12:

The Jews that dwelt by them came and said unto us TEN TIMES,

i.e. they were frequently coming and informing us, that our

adversaries intended to attack us, Job 19:3;

These TEN TIMES have ye reproached me; i.e. ye have loaded me

with continual reproaches. Da 1:20:

In all matters of wisdom, he found them TEN TIMES better than

all the magicians; i.e. the king frequently consulted Daniel and

his companions, and found them more abundantly informed and wise

than all his counsellors.

Some think the shortness of the affliction is here intended, and

that the ten days are to be understood as in Terence, Heaut., Act

v., scen. 1, ver. 36, Decem dierum vis mi est familia. "I have

enjoyed my family but a short time."

Be thou faithful unto death] Be firm, hold fast the faith,

confess Christ to the last, and at all hazards, and thou shalt

have a crown of life-thou shalt be crowned with life, have an

eternal happy existence, though thou suffer a temporal death. It

is said of Polycarp that when brought before the judge, and

commanded to abjure and blaspheme Christ, he firmly answered,

"Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never did me

wrong, how then can I blaspheme my king who hath saved me?" He was

then adjudged to the flames, and suffered cheerfully for Christ

his Lord and Master.

Verse 11. He that overcometh] The conqueror who has stood firm

in every trial, and vanquished all his adversaries.

Shall not be hurt of the second death.] That is, an eternal

separation from God and the glory of his power; as what we

commonly mean by final perdition. This is another rabbinical mode

of speech in very frequent use, and by it they understand the

punishment of hell in a future life.

The Epistle to the Church at Pergamos.

Verse 12. The angel of the Church in Pergamos] See the

description of this place, Re 1:11.

Which hath the sharp sword] See Clarke on Re 1:16. The

sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, cuts every way;

it convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment; pierces between

the joints and the marrow, divides between the soul and spirit,

dissects the whole mind, and exhibits a regular anatomy of the

soul. It not only reproves and exposes sin, but it slays the

ungodly, pointing out and determining the punishment they shall

endure. Jesus has the sword with the two edges, because he is the

Saviour of sinners, and the Judge of quick and dead.

Verse 13. Where Satan's seat is] οπουοθρονοςτουσατανα

Where Satan has his throne-where he reigns as king, and is

universally obeyed. It was a maxim among the Jews, that where the

law of God was not studied, there Satan dwelt; but he was obliged

to leave the place where a synagogue or academy was established.

Thou holdest fast my name] Notwithstanding that the profession

of Christianity exposed this Church to the bitterest persecution,

they held fast the name of Christian, which they had received from

Jesus Christ, and did not deny his faith; for when brought to the

trial they openly professed themselves disciples and followers of

their Lord and Master.

Antipas was my faithful martyr] Who this Antipas was we cannot

tell. We only know that he was a Christian, and probably bore some

office in the Church, and became illustrious by his martyrdom in

the cause of Christ. There is a work extant called The Acts of

Antipas, which makes him bishop of Pergamos, and states that he

was put to death by being enclosed in a burning brazen bull. But

this story confutes itself, as the Romans, under whose government

Pergamos then was, never put any person to death in this way. It

is supposed that he was murdered by some mob, who chose this way

to vindicate the honour of their god AEsculapius, in opposition to

the claims of our Lord Jesus.

Verse 14. I have a few things against thee] Their good deeds are

first carefully sought out and commended; what was wrong in them

is touched with a gentle but effectual hand.

The followers of Balaam, the Nicolaitanes, and the Gnostics,

were probably all the same kind of persons; but See Clarke on Re 2:6.

What the doctrine of Balaam was, see the notes on

Nu 24:1-25:18; 31:1-54. It appears that there were some then in

the Church at Pergamos who held eating things offered to idols in

honour of those idols, and fornication, indifferent things. They

associated with idolaters in the heathen temples, and partook with

them in their religious festivals.

Verse 15. The doctrine of the Nicolaitanes] See Clarke on Re 2:6.

Verse 16. Will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.]

See Clarke on Re 2:12. He now speaks for their edification and

salvation; but if they do not repent, he will shortly declare

those judgments which shall unavoidably fall upon them.

Verse 17. The hidden manna] It was a constant tradition of the

Jews that the ark of the covenant, the tables of stone, Aaron's

rod, the holy anointing oil, and the pot of manna, were hidden by

King Josiah when Jerusalem was taken by the Chaldeans; and that

these shall all be restored in the days of the Messiah. This manna

was hidden, but Christ promises to give it to him that is

conqueror. Jesus is the ark, the oil, the rod, the testimony, and

the manna. He who is partaker of his grace has all those things in

their spiritual meaning and perfection.

And will give him a white stone] I. It is supposed that by the

white stone is meant pardon or acquittance, and the evidence of

it; and that there is an allusion here to the custom observed by

judges in ancient times, who were accustomed to give their

suffrages by white and black pebbles; those who gave the former

were for absolving the culprit, those who gave the latter were for

his condemnation. This is mentioned by Ovid, Metam. lib. xv., ver.

41:

Mos erat antiquus, niveis atrisque lapillis,

His damnare reos, illis absolvere culpa.

Nunc quoque sic lata est sententia tristis.

"A custom was of old, and still remains,

Which life or death by suffrages ordains:

White stones and black within an urn are cast,

The first absolve, but fate is in the last."

DRYDEN.

II. Others suppose there is an allusion here to conquerors in

the public games, who were not only conducted with great pomp into

the city to which they belonged, but had a white stone given to

them, with their name inscribed on it; which badge entitled them,

during their whole life, to be maintained at the public expense.

See Pind., Olymp. vii. 159, and the Scholia there; and see the

collections in Wetstein, and Rosenmuller's note. These were called

tesserae among the Romans, and of these there were several kinds.

1. Tesserae conviviales, which answered exactly to our cards of

invitation, or tickets of admission to a public feast or banquet;

when the person invited produced his tessera he was admitted. The

mention of the hidden manna here may seem to intimate that there

is a reference to these convivial tesserae, whether given to the

victor in the public games, entitling him to be fed at the public

expense, or to a particular friend, inviting him to a family meal

or to a public banquet.

2. There were tesserae inscribed with different kinds of things,

such as provisions, garments, gold or silver vessels, horses,

mares, slaves, &c. These were sometimes thrown by the Roman

emperors among the crowd in the theatres, and he that could

snatched one; and on producing it he received that, the name of

which was inscribed on it. But from Dio Cassius it appears that

those tesserae were small wooden balls, whereas the tesserae in

general were square, whence they had their name, as having four

sides, angles, or corners. Illi τεσσαρην, vel τεσσαραν

vocabant figuram quamvis quadratam, quae quatuor angulos haberet;

and these were made of stone, marble, bone, or ivory, lead, brass,

or other metal. See Pitiscus.

3. Tesserae frumentariae, or tickets to receive grain in the

public distributions of corn; the name of the person who was to

receive, and the quantum of grain; being both inscribed on this

badge or ticket. Those who did not need this public provision for

themselves were permitted to sell their ticket, and the bearer was

entitled to the quantum of grain mentioned on it.

4. But the most remarkable of these instruments were the

tesserae hospitales, which were given as badges of friendship

and alliance, and on which some device was engraved, as a

testimony that a contract of friendship had been made between the

parties. A small oblong square piece of wood, bone, stone, or

ivory, was taken and divided into two equal parts, on which each

of the parties wrote his own name, and then interchanged it with

the other. This was carefully preserved, and handed down even to

posterity in the same family; and by producing this when they

travelled, it gave a mutual claim to the bearers of kind reception

and hospitable entertainment at each other's houses.

It is to this custom that Plautus refers in his POENULUS, act.

v., scen. 2, ver. 80, in the interview between Agorastocles, and

his unknown uncle Hanno.

HANNO.-O mi popularis, salve!

AGORASTOCLES.-Et tu edepol, quisquis es.

Et si quid opus est, quaeso, die atque impera,

Popularitatis caussa.

HAN.-Habeo gratiam.

Verum ego hic hospitium habeo: Antidamae filium

Quaero; commonstra, si novisti, Agorastoclem.

Ecquem adolescentem tu hic novisti Agorastoclem?

AGOR.-Siquidem tu Antidamarchi quaeris adoptatitium,

Ego sum ipsus, quem tu quaeris.

HAN.---Hem! quid ego audio?

AGOR.-Antidamae gnatum me esse.

HAN.-----si ita est, tesseram

Conferre si vis hospitalem, eccam adtuli.

AGOR.-Agedum huc ostende; est par probe: nam habeo domi.

HAN.-O mi hospes, salve multum! nam mihi tuus pater,

Pater tuus ergo, hospes Antidamas fuit.

Haec mihi hospitalis tessera cum illo fuit.

AGOR.-Ergo hic apud me hospitium tibi praebebitur.

Nam haud repudio hospitium, neque Carthaginem:

Inde sum oriundus.

HAN.--- Di dent tibi omnes quae velis.

HANNO.-Hail, my countryman!

AGORASTOCLES.-I hail thee also, in the name of Pollux,

whosoever thou art. And if thou have need of any thing, speak, I

beseech thee; and thou shalt obtain what thou askest, for

civility's sake.

HANNO.-I thank thee, but I have a lodging here; I seek the son

of Antidamas. Tell me if thou knowest Agorastocles. Dost thou know

in this place the young Agorastocles?

AGORASTOCLES.-If thou seek the adopted son of Antidamarchus, I

am the person whom thou seekest.

HANNO.-Ha! What do I hear?

AGORASTOCLES.-Thou hearest that I am the son of Antidamas.

HANNO.-If it be so, compare, if thou pleasest, the hospitable

tessera; here it is, I have brought it with me.

AGORASTOCLES.-Come then, reach it hither: it is the exact

counterpart; I have the other at home.

HANNO.-O my friend, I am very glad to see thee, for thy father

was my friend; therefore Antidamas thy father was my guest. I

divided this hospitable tessera with him.

AGORASTOCLES.-Therefore, a lodging shall be provided for thee

with me; I reverence hospitality, and I love Carthage, where I was

born.

HANNO.-May all the gods grant thee whatsoever thou wishest!

The tessera taken in this sense, seems to have been a kind of

tally; and the two parts were compared together to ascertain the

truth. Now it is very probable that St. John may allude to this;

for on this mode of interpretation every part of the verse is

consistent. 1. The word ψηφος does not necessarily signify a stone

of any kind, but a suffrage, sentence, decisive vote; and in this

place seems answerable to the tessera. The tessera which Hanno

had, he tells us in his Punic language, was inscribed with the

image or name of his god. "Sigillum hospitii mei est tabula

sculpta, conjus sculptura est Deus meus. This is the

interpretation of the Punic words at the beginning of the above

5th act of the Poenulus, as given by Bochart. 2. The person who

held it had a right to entertainment in the house of him who

originally gave it; for it was in reference to this that the

friendly contract was made. 3. The names of the contracting

persons, or some device, were written on the tessera, which

commemorated the friendly contract; and as the parts were

interchanged, none could know that name or device, or the

reason of the contract, but he who received it. 4. This, when

produced, gave the bearer a right to the offices of hospitality;

he was accommodated with food, lodging, &c., as far as these were

necessary; and to this the eating of the hidden manna may refer.

But what does this mean in the language of Christ? 1. That the

person is taken into an intimate state of friendship with him. 2.

That this contract is witnessed to the party by some especial

token, sign, or seal, to which he may have recourse to support his

claim, and identify his person. This is probably what is elsewhere

called the earnest of the Spirit; See Clarke on Eph 1:14,

and the places there referred to. He then who has received and retains

the witness of the Spirit that he is adopted into the heavenly

family, may humbly claim, in virtue of it, his support of the

bread and water of life; the hidden manna-every grace of the

Spirit of God; and the tree of life-immortality, or the final

glorification of his body and soul throughout eternity. 3. By this

state of grace into which he is brought he acquires a new name,

the name of child of God; the earnest of the Spirit, the tessera,

which he has received, shows him this new name. 4. And this name

of child of God no man can know or understand, but he who has

received the tessera or Divine witness. 5. As his Friend and

Redeemer may be found everywhere, because he fills the heavens and

the earth, everywhere he may, on retaining this tessera, claim

direction, succour, support, grace, and glory; and therefore the

privileges of him who overcometh are the greatest and most

glorious that can be imagined.

For a farther account of the tessera of the ancients, as well as

for engravings of several, see Graevii Thesaur.; Pitisci Lexic.;

and Poleni Supplement; and the authors to whom these writers

refer.

The Epistle to the Church at Thyatira.

Verse 18. These things saith the Son of God] See the notes on

Re 1:14, 15.

Verse 19. I know thy works] And of these he first sets forth

their charity, τηναγαπην, their love to God and each other; and

particularly to the poor and distressed: and hence followed their

faith, τηνπιστιν, their fidelity, to the grace they had

received; and service, τηνδιακονιαν, and ministration; properly

pious and benevolent service to widows, orphans, and the poor in

general.

And thy patience] τηνυπομονηνσου Thy perseverance under

afflictions and persecutions, and thy continuance in well-doing.

I put faith before service according to the general consent of the

best MSS. and versions.

Thy works] The continued labour of love, and thorough obedience.

The last to be more than the first.] They not only retained

what they had received at first, but grew in grace, and in the

knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. This is a rare thing in most

Christian Churches: they generally lose the power of religion, and

rest in the forms of worship; and it requires a powerful revival

to bring them to such a state that their last works shall be more

than their first.

Verse 20. That woman Jezebel] There is an allusion here to the

history of Ahab and Jezebel, as given in 2Ki 9:1-10:36; and

although we do not know who this Jezebel was, yet from the

allusion we may take it for granted she was a woman of power and

influence in Thyatira, who corrupted the true religion, and

harassed the followers of God in that city, as Jezebel did in

Israel. Instead of that woman Jezebel, τηνγυναικαιεζαβηλ, many

excellent MSS., and almost all the ancient versions, read την

γυναικασουιεζαβηλ, THY WIFE Jezebel; which intimates, indeed

asserts, that this bad woman was the wife of the bishop of the

Church, and his criminality in suffering her was therefore the

greater. This reading Griesbach has received into the text. She

called herself a prophetess, i.e., set up for a teacher; taught

the Christians that fornication, and eating things offered to

idols, were matters of indifference, and thus they were seduced

from the truth. But it is probable that by fornication here is

meant idolatry merely, which is often its meaning in the

Scriptures. It is too gross to suppose that the wife of the bishop

of this Church could teach fornication literally. The messenger or

bishop of this Church, probably her husband, suffered this: he had

power to have cast her and her party out of the Church, or, as his

wife, to have restrained her; but he did not do it, and thus she

had every opportunity of seducing the faithful. This is what

Christ had against the messenger of this Church.

Verse 21. I gave her space to repent] "This alludes to the

history of Jezebel. God first sent Elijah to Ahab to pronounce a

severe judgment upon him; upon which Ahab showed tokens of

repentance, and so God put off his punishment. By these means the

like punishment pronounced against Jezebel was also put off. Thus

God gave her time to repent, which she did not, but instead of

that seduced her sons to the same sins. See 1Ki 21:1-29.

According to the Mosaical law, the punishment of idolatrous

seducers was not to be delayed at all, but God sometimes showed

mercy; and now much more under the Christian dispensation, though

that mercy is often abused, and thus produces the contrary effect,

as in the case of this Jezebel. See Ec 8:11.

Verse 22. Behold, I will cast her into a bed] "This again

alludes to the same history. Ahaziah, son of Ahab and Jezebel, by

his mother's ill instruction and example, followed her ways. God

punished him by making him fall down, as is supposed, from the top

of the terrace over his house, and so to be bedridden for a long

time under great anguish, designing thereby to give him time to

repent; but when, instead of that, he sent to consult Baalzebub,

Elijah was sent to pronounce a final doom against his impenitence.

Thus the son of Jezebel, who had committed idolatry with and by

her advice, was long cast into the bed of affliction, and not

repenting, died: in the same manner his brother Jehoram succeeded

likewise. All this while Jezebel had time and warning enough to

repent; and though she did not prevail with Jehoram to continue

in the idolatrous worship of Baal, yet she persisted in her own

way, notwithstanding God's warnings. The sacred writer, therefore,

here threatens the Gnostic Jezebel to make that wherein she

delighteth, as adulterers in the bed of lust, to be the very

place, occasion, and instrument, of her greatest torment. So in

Isaiah, the bed is made a symbol of tribulation, and anguish of

body and mind. See Isa 28:20; Job 33:19.

Verse 23. And I will kill her children with death] "That is, I

will certainly destroy her offspring and memory, and thereby ruin

her designs. Jezebel's two sons, being both kings were both slain;

and after that, all the seventy sons of Ahab; (2Ki 10:1;) in all

which the hand of God was very visible. In the same manner God

predicts the destruction of the heretics and heresies referred to;

see Re 2:16. It should seem by the expression,

I am he which searcheth the reins and the hearts, that these

heretics lurked about, and sowed their pernicious doctrines

secretly. But our Saviour tells them that it was in vain, for he

had power to bring their deeds to light, having that Divine power

of searching into the Evilly and affections of men; and hereby he

would show both them and us that he is, according to his title,

The Son of God; and hath such eyes to pry into their actions,

that, like a fire, they will search into every thing, and burn up

the chaff which cannot stand his trial; so that the depths of

Satan, mentioned in the next verse, to which this alludes, (Christ

assuming here this title purposely) shall avail nothing to those

who think by their secret craft to undermine the Christian

religion; he will not only bring to light, but baffle all their

evil intentions. See Re 17:9.

Verse 24. But unto you I say, and unto the rest] "But unto the

rest, &c. This is the reading of the Complutensian, and seems

preferable to the common one, as it evidently shows that the rest

of the epistle wholly concerns the faithful, who have not received

the former doctrine of error. I will put upon you none other

burden is a commendation of the sound part of the Church, that

they have no need of any new exhortation or charge to be given

them, no new advice but to persevere as usual. See Ro 15:14, 15.

The expression of burden is taken from the history of Ahab,

2Ki 9:25:

The Lord laid this burden on him; a word often used by the

prophets to signify a prophecy threatening heavy things to be

suffered. See Clarke on Isa 13:1, and "Nu 4:19"." See Dodd's

Notes.

It is worthy of remark that the Gnostics called their doctrine

the depths of God, and the depths of Bythos, intimating that

they contained the most profound secrets of Divine wisdom. Christ

here calls them the depths of Satan, being master pieces of his

subtlety. Perhaps they thought them to be of God, while all the

time they were deceived by the devil.

Verse 25. That which ye have] That is, the pure doctrine of the

Gospel, hold fast till I come-till I come to execute the judgments

which I have threatened.

Verse 26. Power over the nations] Every witness of Christ has

power to confute and confound all the false doctrines and maxims

of the nations of the world, for Christianity shall at last rule

over all; the kingdom of Christ will come, and the kingdoms of

this world become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ.

Verse 27. He shall rule them with a rod of iron] He shall

restrain vice by the strictest administration of justice; and

those who finally despise the word and rebel shall be broken and

destroyed, so as never more to be able to make head against the

truth. This seems to refer to the heathen world; and perhaps

Constantine the Great may be intended, who, when he overcame

Licinius, became the instrument in God's hand of destroying

idolatry over the whole Roman empire; and it was so effectually

broken as to be ever after like the fragments of an earthen

vessel, of no use in themselves, and incapable of being ever

united to any good purpose.

Verse 28. And I will give him the morning star.] He shall have

the brightest and most glorious empire, next to that of Christ

himself. And it is certain that the Roman empire under Constantine

the Great was the brightest emblem of the latter day glory which

has ever yet been exhibited to the world. It is well known that

sun, moon, and stars are emblems, in prophetic language, of

empires, kingdoms, and states. And as the morning star is that

which immediately precedes the rising of the sun, it probably here

intends an empire which should usher in the universal sway of the

kingdom of Christ.

Ever since the time of Constantine the light of true religion

has been increasingly diffused, and is shining more and more unto

the perfect day.

Verse 29. He that hath an ear] Let every Christian pay the

strictest regard to these predictions of Christ; and let them have

a suitable influence on his heart and life.

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