To Ephesus. 1* “To the angel of the church* in Ephesus,* write this:
“‘The one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks in the midst of the seven gold lampstands says this: 2“I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked; you have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not, and discovered that they are impostors.* 3Moreover, you have endurance and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary. 4Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. 5Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6But you have this in your favor: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans,* which I also hate.
7“‘“Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the victor* I will give the right to eat from the tree of life that is in the garden of God.”’a
To Smyrna.* 8“To the angel of the church in Smyrna,* write this:
“‘The first and the last, who once died but came to life, says this: 9“I know your tribulation and poverty, but you are rich.* I know the slander of those who claim to be Jews and are not, but rather are members of the assembly of Satan.b 10Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Indeed, the devil will throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will face an ordeal for ten days. Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
11“‘“Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.c The victor shall not be harmed by the second death.”’*
To Pergamum.* 12“To the angel of the church in Pergamum,* write this:
“‘The one with the sharp two-edged sword says this: 13“I know that you live where Satan’s throne* is, and yet you hold fast to my name and have not denied your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was martyred among you, where Satan lives. 14* Yet I have a few things against you. You have some people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who instructed Balak to put a stumbling block before the Israelites: to eat food sacrificed to idols and to play the harlot.d 15Likewise, you also have some people who hold to the teaching of [the] Nicolaitans. 16Therefore, repent. Otherwise, I will come to you quickly and wage war against them with the sword of my mouth.
17“‘“Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the victor I shall give some of the hidden manna;* I shall also give a white amulet upon which is inscribed a new name, which no one knows except the one who receives it.”’e
To Thyatira.* 18“To the angel of the church in Thyatira,* write this:
“‘The Son of God, whose eyes are like a fiery flame and whose feet are like polished brass, says this: 19“I know your works, your love, faith, service, and endurance, and that your last works are greater than the first. 20Yet I hold this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, who teaches and misleads my servants to play the harlot and to eat food sacrificed to idols.* 21I have given her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her harlotry. 22So I will cast her on a sickbed and plunge those who commit adultery with her into intense suffering unless they repent of her works. 23I will also put her children* to death. Thus shall all the churches come to know that I am the searcher of hearts and minds and that I will give each of you what your works deserve.f 24But I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not uphold this teaching and know nothing of the so-called deep secrets of Satan:* on you I will place no further burden, 25except that you must hold fast to what you have until I come.
26“‘“To the victor,* who keeps to my ways* until the end,
I will give authority over the nations.g
27He will rule them with an iron rod.
Like clay vessels will they be smashed,
28just as I received authority from my Father. And to him I will give the morning star.
29“‘“Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
* [2:1–3:22] Each of the seven letters follows the same pattern: address; description of the exalted Christ; blame and/or praise for the church addressed; threat and/or admonition; final exhortation and promise to all Christians.
* [2:1–7] The letter to Ephesus praises the members of the church there for their works and virtues, including discerning false teachers (Rev 2:2–3), but admonishes them to repent and return to their former devotion (Rev 2:4–5). It concludes with a reference to the Nicolaitans (see note on Rev 2:6) and a promise that the victor will have access to eternal life (Rev 2:7).
* [2:1] Ephesus: this great ancient city had a population of ca. 250,000; it was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and the commercial, cultural, and religious center of Asia. The other six churches were located in the same province, situated roughly in a circle; they were selected for geographical reasons rather than for the size of their Christian communities. Walks in the midst of the seven gold lampstands: this signifies that Christ is always present in the church; see note on Rev 1:4.
* [2:2] Who call themselves,impostors: this refers to unauthorized and perverse missionaries; cf. Acts 20:29–30.
* [2:6] Nicolaitans: these are perhaps the impostors of Rev 2:2; see note on Rev 2:14–15. There is little evidence for connecting this group with Nicolaus, the proselyte from Antioch, mentioned in Acts 6:5.
* [2:7] Victor: referring to any Christian individual who holds fast to the faith and does God’s will in the face of persecution. The tree of life that is in the garden of God: this is a reference to the tree in the primeval paradise (Gn 2:9); cf. Rev 22:2, 14, 19. The decree excluding humanity from the tree of life has been revoked by Christ.
* [2:8–11] The letter to Smyrna encourages the Christians in this important commercial center by telling them that although they are impoverished, they are nevertheless rich, and calls those Jews who are slandering them members of the assembly of Satan (Rev 2:9). There is no admonition; rather, the Christians are told that they will suffer much, even death, but the time of tribulation will be short compared to their eternal reward (Rev 2:10), and they will thus escape final damnation (Rev 2:11).
* [2:8] Smyrna: modern Izmir, ca. thirty miles north of Ephesus, and the chief city of Lydia, with a temple to the goddess Roma. It was renowned for its loyalty to Rome, and it also had a large Jewish community very hostile toward Christians.
* [2:9–10] The church in Smyrna was materially poor but spiritually rich. Accusations made by Jewish brethren there occasioned the persecution of Christians; cf. Acts 14:2, 19; 17:5, 13.
* [2:11] The second death: this refers to the eternal death, when sinners will receive their final punishment; cf. Rev 20:6, 14–15; 21:8.
* [2:12–17] The letter to Pergamum praises the members of the church for persevering in their faith in Christ even in the midst of a pagan setting and in face of persecution and martyrdom (Rev 2:13). But it admonishes them about members who advocate an unprincipled morality (Rev 2:14; cf. 2 Pt 2:15; Jude 11) and others who follow the teaching of the Nicolaitans (Rev 2:15; see note there). It urges them to repent (Rev 2:16) and promises them the hidden manna and Christ’s amulet (Rev 2:17).
* [2:12] Pergamum: modern Bergama, ca. forty-five miles northeast of Smyrna, a center for various kinds of pagan worship. It also had an outstanding library (the word parchment is derived from its name).
* [2:13] Satan’s throne: the reference is to emperor worship and other pagan practices that flourished in Pergamum, perhaps specifically to the white marble altar erected and dedicated to Zeus by Eumenes II (197–160 B.C.).
* [2:14–15] Like Balaam, the biblical prototype of the religious compromiser (cf. Nm 25:1–3; 31:16; 2 Pt 2:15; Jude 11), the Nicolaitans in Pergamum and Ephesus (Rev 2:6) accommodated their Christian faith to paganism. They abused the principle of liberty enunciated by Paul (1 Cor 9:19–23).
* [2:17] The hidden manna: this is the food of life; cf. Ps 78:24–25. White amulet: literally, “white stone,” on which was written a magical name, whose power could be tapped by one who knew the secret name. It is used here as a symbol of victory and joy; cf. Rev 3:4–5. New name: this is a reference to the Christian’s rebirth in Christ; cf. Rev 3:12; 19:12; Is 62:2; 65:15.
* [2:18–29] The letter to Thyatira praises the progress in virtue of this small Christian community (Rev 2:19) but admonishes them for tolerating a false prophet who leads them astray (Rev 2:20). Her fate is sealed, but there is hope of repentance for her followers (Rev 2:21–22). Otherwise, they too shall die (Rev 2:23). They are warned against Satanic power or knowledge (Rev 2:24–25). Those who remain faithful will share in the messianic reign, having authority over nations (Rev 2:26–27), and will in fact possess Christ himself (Rev 2:28).
* [2:18] Thyatira: modern Akhisar, ca. forty miles southeast of Pergamum, a frontier town famous for its workers’ guilds (cf. Acts 16:14), membership in which may have involved festal meals in pagan temples.
* [2:20] The scheming and treacherous Jezebel of old (cf. 1 Kgs 19:1–2; 21:1–14; 2 Kgs 9:22, 30–34) introduced pagan customs into the religion of Israel; this new Jezebel was doing the same to Christianity.
* [2:23] Children: spiritual descendants.
* [2:24] The so-called deep secrets of Satan: literally, “the deep things of Satan,” a scathing reference to the perverse teaching of the Nicolaitans (Rev 2:15).
* [2:26–28] The Christian who perseveres in faith will share in Christ’s messianic authority (cf. Ps 2:8–9) and resurrection victory over death, symbolized by the morning star; cf. Rev 22:16.
* [2:26] Who keeps to my ways: literally, “who keeps my works.”
a. [2:7] 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 13:9; Mt 11:15.
d. [2:14] Nm 22–24; 25:1–3; 31:16; 2 Pt 2:15; Jude 11.
f. [2:23] 1 Sm 16:7; Jer 11:20; 17:10.