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Revelation 2

Chapter 2

v. 1: These epistles are to the angels[1] of the seven churches of Asia.  Practically speaking, the epistles are for the Christians in each church, but  I think the epistles are addressed to the angels of the churches for poetic effect since each angel is presumably charged with the well-being of his church.  (The angels are holy,[2] so it cannot be that they themselves are in need of rebuke; besides, they would have no literal need of the epistles of John to inform them of anything.)

The fact that Christ is walking among the lampstands is a bit of information we are not given in the initial description of the vision (1:13).  His walking among them like this means that he is always concerned about the health of the lampstands, making sure that the flames of each church do not go out.

Each time Christ speaks to a church, he follows the same pattern:

Address “To the angel of the church in…” a particular city.

Self-description “These are the words of…” followed by some description of himself taken from the vision John saw in 1:12-16, or from his words to John after the vision in 1:17-18.

Message Proper “I know…” something about the church being addressed.  This is the is heart of the message to each church.

Exhortation “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying.”

Promise “To everyone who conquerors [i.e., is faithful to Christ]…” he will give an eternal reward on “the great day of God the Almighty” (16:14).[3] This section always refers to something in that last day.  For instance, 2:11 says, “Whoever conquerors will not be harmed by the second death.”  The second death (since it is harmful) cannot be baptism; it must, therefore, be the death that a condemned person experiences after being resurrected and judged on the last day.[4]

Only the Exhortation is common to all.  The other parts, although they follow the same general pattern, differ in specifics from church to church, and I believe the differences are significant and appropriate to the message Christ has for each church.  For instance, in the Self-description of his address to the Ephesians, Christ focuses on the image of himself holding the seven stars in his right hand and walking among the seven golden lampstands.  I believe, therefore, that this aspect of the vision in 1:12-16 is especially significant for the Ephesians (see v. 5 below).  Following this same logic, I believe all of John’s experience in 1:12-20 contains the substance of Christ’s messages to the churches in chapters 2-3.  In other words, the vision of 1:12-20 symbolizes (or at the very least alludes to) a series of messages to the churches, and chapters 2-3 explain the messages contained within the vision.

Albrecht Dürer St. John’s Vision of Christ and the Seven Candelsticks

v. 5: Presumably, taking away the church’s lampstand would be denying its existence as a church.  The members of the church would, of course, have done this to themselves by allowing their love for God to die.  However, so long as they loved God or even wanted to love God (so that the warning of vs. 4-5 could still sting their hearts) they would still be a true church.  This talk of removing the lampstand is why, in the Self-description part of this message, Christ says he “walks among the seven golden lampstands” (2:1).

v. 8: I do not see as obvious a connection between this Self-description and the Message Proper to Smyrna as I do between the Self-description and Message Proper to Ephesus; nevertheless, I believe they are just as connected.  Perhaps the line “be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” loosely echoes the line “who was dead and came to life.”

v. 9: From Romans 2:28-29 we learn that being a true Jew now is a spiritual state, not a physical one.  Therefore, those who may be Jewish by race but whose spirits reject the King of the Jews are not really Jews.  They are cut off from membership in the spiritual kingdom of God and are, instead, working under the direction of Satan.  Thus, they are called the “synagogue of Satan.”  See also 3:9.

v. 11: “Whoever conquerors will not be harmed by the second death.”  The second death (since it is harmful) cannot be baptism; it must, therefore, be the death that a condemned person experiences after being resurrected and judged on the last day.[5]

v. 12: The connection here between the Self-description and the Message Proper is very clear:  “I will come to you soon and make war against them with the sword of my mouth[6] (2:16).

v. 13: Antipas was a martyr, so I suppose “the days of Antipas” were times of particularly harsh trial for the church in Pergamum, a church living in a region so evil that John calls it Satan’s throne.

v. 14: Balaam was a prophet, but not an Israelite prophet.  He was able to prophecy by the power of God, and apparently he charged for the service of cursing and blessing people.  But God would not allow him to curse the Israelites, as Balak wanted him to; therefore, Balaam showed Balak a way to curse them indirectly: tempt them away from their God by means of sex and idolatry (Numbers 22:5-24:25, 31:16).  Apparently, some people  in the church at Pergamum are tempting the faithful in the same way, whether consciously and maliciously (as did Balaam) or otherwise.  These may have been those “who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans” (2:15).

v. 16: For an explanation of when Christ comes with a sword in his mouth, see 19:15-21.

v. 17: The ancient Israelites ate the original manna as they journeyed through the wilderness to the promised land (Exodus 16:15).  That manna foreshadowed (was a type of) Christ himself (John 6:25-59), which we eat now.  The manna that we eat now is spiritual (although symbolized in the physical ritual of communion); similar to the original manna that nourished the body, the current manna (i.e., Christ’s force of life, his love, sacrifice, and teaching) nourishes our souls.  I believe the “hidden” manna here in v. 17 is yet another type of manna, one foreshadowed by the spiritual manna we partake of today.  Perhaps it is called “hidden” because we have not yet experienced it in its full sense, just as the manna we eat today (the manna of John 6) was hidden from those who lived in the time of Moses because Christ had not yet come to earth.  Or, perhaps it is called “hidden” because it has always been part of the nature of manna to be mysterious and difficult to understand.  The name itself is a transliteration of the Hebrew for “What is it?”  This is particularly ironic when you consider the fact that naming is an attempt to define something’s nature; hence the name “red-headed woodpecker” defines, in part at least, the nature of a wood pecking creature with a red head.  Here, the attempt to define the nature of manna paradoxically reflects the fact that its nature is, in some sense, unknown and thus (to the degree that it is unknown) indefinable and hidden.

New names commemorate defining moments in life and thus serve to define more clearly who the named person is.  Simon received a new name to commemorate a defining moment in his life (Matthew 16:18).  So too did Abram (Genesis 17:5) and Jacob (Genesis 32:28). I think the new name in this verse is quite interesting (although to say that it commemorates a significant event is a bit of an understatement).  Its most intriguing feature is the fact that only the person who owns the name knows what the name is.  I wonder if this is so that the name cannot be used in a prideful way to show off one’s relationship with God.  The name can only serve privately to give its owner pleasure in the knowledge of his or her relationship with God.  Another way of interpreting this name is to view it as Christ’s new name,[7] a name which only they who overcome can receive and know (i.e., only the saved).

v. 20: “Jezebel” may be either a real female teacher or the personification of an entire group that is misleading the Christians; in either case, her children are the individuals who follow this teacher or belong to this group.

v. 24: Just as the Jews in the Synagogue of Satan (2:9) would probably not describe themselves as Satanists, so too these teachers would probably not refer to what they consider the deep teachings of their theology as “the deep things of Satan;” Christ is simply supplying the name their teachings properly deserve (and perhaps mocking the pretentiousness of the teachers as well).  The teachings are Satanic, whether their teachers recognize that fact or not.

v. 27: As he said he would give the hidden manna, so he says here he will give the morning star (Revelation 22:16).  He means fellowship with himself and a share of his inheritance, part of which will be judging the world on “the great day of God the Almighty” (16:14).[8] The language (taken from Psalms 2:8-9) of smashing pottery describes the final destruction of the unfaithful nations.[9]

The image of the Morning Star (the sun) is one of regal authority.   Its ultimate manifestation is here in the King of Kings, but the image is also used in Isaiah 14:12.  There the image refers to the Babylonian king’s former royal glory, which contrasts sharply with his latter humiliation: the morning star, in that case, has fallen.  The Hebrew word for morning star is sometimes transliterated as Lucifer, and the Isaiah passage is sometimes applied to Satan since there are parallels between him and the Babylonian king, but the use of the term to designate the king of Babylon or Satan should not be confused with its use here to designate the Messiah.


[1] Since, in the Greek, the word translated as angel means “messenger” and is sometimes applied to humans who bear messages, Johnson believes these epistles are addressed to single evangelists who presided over each church, but this seems a stretch to me.  Angels (the supernatural kind) are all throughout the book of Revelation.  Why should “the angel of Ephesus” be anything other than a supernatural being like the rest?  No translation that I have seen renders them as humans.  See also note on 1:4.

[2] See note on 1:4.

[3] For a discussion of this day, see 20:4 notes.

[4] See Revelation 20:14.

[5] See 20:14.

[6] See 19:21.

[7] See 3:12.

[8] For a discussion of this day see notes at 20:4.

[9] A reference to the events of 19:19-21, and/or 20:7-9.

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7 Responses to “Revelation 2”

  1. […] v. 2:  For notes on new names see Revelation 2:17. […]

  2. […] v. 2:  For notes on new names see Revelation 2:17. […]

  3. […] 1: These epistles are to the angels[1] of the seven churches of Asia.  Practically speaking, the epistles are for the Christians in each […]

  4. […] 1: These epistles are to the angels[1] of the seven churches of Asia.  Practically speaking, the epistles are for the Christians in each […]

  5. […] relationship with God.  Another way of interpreting this name is to view it as Christ’s new name,[7] a name which only they who overcome can receive and know (i.e., only the […]

  6. […] 1: I do not really see the connection here between the Self-description and the Message Proper, but there may be a reference to the angels who are “the seven spirits of […]

  7. […] 1: I do not really see the connection here between the Self-description and the Message Proper, but there may be a reference to the angels who are “the seven spirits of […]

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