Friday, January 09, 2009

Bible Study: Revelation - What Was, What Is, What Is To Come - Chapter 2

Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes. I felt a great sense of urgency to publish them rather than waiting until I had the time to pretty them up. Thank you and I pray that God blesses you through this material.


Take a few minutes to savor Revelation Chapter 2. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations.

2 – see Acts 19:1-9 — Describes Paul's preaching in Ephesus. During this trip, 12 men received the Holy Spirit. Paul spoke boldly there for three months. Could this be when he began building up the church in AD 52-55?

2:1 — Jesus signs this message "from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven golden lampstands" because He is confirming that the 7 stars (messengers) of the 7 churches are His tools, and that He is actively in the midst of the 7 churches.

What other reason might Jesus have for addressing the church in this way?

Here is some information about the city and church of Ephesus that may help to illuminate scripture:

Polytheistic Greek cults flourish in Ephesus. According to Beth Moore in her study “Beloved Disciple,” Ephesus was deluded by the importance of service. This city was technologically advanced, having one of the most sophisticated aqueduct systems in the ancient world, affording Ephesus several major bath houses and indoor toilets. Ephesus was home to the Temple of Artemis (7 Wonders of the World) and a gladiator graveyard unearthed in 2007. Timothy was this church’s pastor. This was the apostle, John's home church. Jesus' mother, Mary, was also a member of this church. In fact, there is a tourist attraction in that part of the world that is supposedly the house she lived in.

In the 6th century BC, Cyrus the Great (you may recall his name from the book of Daniel) defeated the Greek cities in Asia Minor. In the 5th century BC, Ephesus participated in the Ionian Revolt, a conflict that led to the Greco-Persian Wars. After the ancient city was destroyed by a flood, it was rebuilt by Lysimachus, one of Alexander the Great’s four generals written about symbolically in Daniel 7:6. From 100 BC to AD 100, Ephesus was the slave trade capital of the world.

The church at Ephesus was begun by Priscilla and Aquilla's initial efforts in about AD 50. This church was built up by Paul in about AD 52-55. In about AD 55, Paul wrote First Corinthians from Ephesus. In about AD 60, Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians from prison in Rome. This city was important because of its seaport. Ephesus was the largest city in this area with a population of about 300,000. The church was still present in the 6th century AD. Therefore, we may assume that they heeded the warning they received in this letter for a time, at least. After AD 716, the harbor filled with silt, causing the city to lose its trade route to the Aegean Sea. The majority of its citizens abandoned the city. Ephesus is located 60 miles northeast of the island of Patmos and 35 miles south of the modern city of Izmir, known to the ancient world as Smyrna.

2:2 — cannot bear those who are evil — the Ephesians resisted false teachers.

2:4 — first love — the love they had at first for one another and/or for Christ.

2:5 – remove your lampstand – this was serious punishment. The NIVSB says this is immediate judgment. Life App SB says this means the church would cease to be effective. It would no longer provide light.

2:6 — Nicolaitans — Heretical sect within the church that had worked out a compromise with the pagan society. They apparently taught that spiritual liberty gave them sufficient leeway to practice idolatry and immorality. They lived indulgent, unrestrained lives.

2:7 — see Genesis 2:9; 3:24 (AMP) — "And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."; "After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life."

2:8 — Jesus signs this letter "from the one who is the First and Last, who was dead but is now alive" perhaps because Smyrna called itself “the first city of Asia” and because they suffered greatly, but are a radiant church because of it. Also, because the city had been destroyed and then rebuilt.

What other reason might Jesus have for addressing the church in this way?

Smyrna had an openly hostile Jewish population, making it very difficult for Christians to live here. See verse 9.

See Isaiah 44:6 (AMP) — "This is what the LORD says-- Israel's King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God."

Smyrna, now known as Izmir, was located 35 miles north of Ephesus and was saturated in Roman emperor worship. In fact, Polycarp, the Bishop of the Church of Smyrna, was martyred there by being burned to death on February 23, 155 because he refused to call Caesar “Lord”. Smyrna was extremely advanced in science and medicine. However, there was a bad smell due to the sewage that ran down the streets of this otherwise beautiful city. Because of its beauty, Smyrna was called “the Crown of Asia”.

The Greek word smurna is translated as "myrrh." This was one of the gifts given to Jesus by the Magi symbolizing death. Myrrh is a plant that, when crushed, releases a sweet fragrance. In fact, the more it is crushed, the more fragrant it becomes. Since this is a symbolic reference to suffering, it is fitting that the church with this name would suffer. They were poverty-stricken, but rich in the things that mattered. Smyrna was even called "The Port of Fragrance." Isn’t that a rather significant play on words? The city may have smelled bad because of sewage, but this persecuted church released an incredible fragrance for Christ!

Smyrna was destroyed by the Lydians in 627 BC. The city was rebuilt by Lysimachus in 290 BC. It survived an earthquake in AD 178.

Take notice that this portion of the letter is pure encouragement.

2:9 — afflictions — tribulation in the NAS — thlipsis — pressure.

who say they are Jews — see Romans 2:28-29. These Jews who harass the church are not God's people. See John 8:39-44.

2:10 — suffer persecution — Polycarp martyred in AD 156. Pionius martyred in AD 250.

crown of life - see James 1:12. There was a circle of colonnaded buildings on Mount Pagos that overlooked the city. This architecture seems to be where the nickname 'the crown of Smyrna' originated.

See Revelation 3:10, 11 (AMP) — "Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown."

2:11 — second death — See 20:14-15 — "Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

2:12 - Jesus signs this letter "from the one with the sharp two-edged sword" for several possible reasons. One, because this was another city steeped in Roman Emperor worship. If you didn't burn incense and worship Caesar annually, you could be killed with a sword. Two, the sword also refers to the written Word of God because Pergamum was the inventor of parchment. In fact, this city was home to the largest library in the world at one time.

What other reason might Jesus have for addressing the church in this way?

sword — rhomphaia — a large sword; a long javelin. (See 1:16)

Pergamum was located 15 miles from the Aegean Coast and 70 miles north of Smyrna. It was the capital of Asia for about 400 years. It was a famous intellectual and cultural center. There was a huge altar to Zeus located at the city’s acropolis (high point). Because of its temple to Ascepulus, the god of medicine, Pergamum was a major medical center. His symbol was a serpent, still present in the caduceus, today. Galen, a physician to the gladiator school and later to Marcus Aurelius, was born here. Antipas (see 2:13) was thought to have been the first Christian martyr in Asia. He was killed by being roasted to death in a kettle.

2:13 — where Satan has his throne — Pergamum was the official center of emperor worship in Asia. The city was the center for FOUR idolatrous cults: Zeus, Dionysius, Asclepius and Athene. The acropolis, or higher part of the city, was 1000 feet above the plain. As a high place, this location may be what is referred to as `Satan's Throne'.

2:14 — Balak was a king who feared the large number of Israelites traveling through his country, so he hired Balaam to curse them. At first, he refused, but agreed because of money. (see Numbers 22-24) Later, Balaam led the Israelites to idol worship. (see Numbers 31:16, 2 Peter 2:15, Jude 11)

See Numbers 25:1-2; 31:16 (AMP) — "While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods."; "They were the ones who followed
Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD's people."

2:16 — sword — rhomphaia — a large sword; a long javelin. (See 1:16)

sword - God's judgment against rebellious nations and sin.

2:17 — white stone — the NIVSB say that in reference to the marriage supper of the Lamb, the white stone is probably for the believer to be allowed in.

In ancient times, it was believed that knowing a man's name gave you power over him. Not too different from today. Take a look at celebrities and their lifestyle and how they lose control over their privacy because so many know their name.
See Psalms 78:24; Isaiah 62:2 (AMP)

2:18 — Jesus signs this letter "from the one of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze" probably because this city was famous for its brass working industry and could therefore relate to this vision of fire and polished bronze.

What other reason might Jesus have for addressing the church in this way?

Thyatira, now called Akhisar, was founded by Seleucus I (another of Alexander the Great's four Generals mentioned symbolically in the book of Daniel) as a military outpost. Located in a valley near Pergamum, Thyatira couldn't win wars because of its location, but they could strategically delay an enemy as Pergamum prepared to fight. This city was a commercial town, filled with trade guilds for making and dyeing cloth and pottery. Thyatira produced the highly sought purple dye. Lydia (see Acts 16:14) was the first Christian convert in this area. Thyatira was an idolatrous city. Many trade guilds that would meet and dine together in the temple, eating the foods sacrificed to idols. There was also a fortune-telling shrine located here.

This is the longest of the seven letters to what was believed to be the least important of the seven cities.

See Daniel 10:10 (AMP)

2:17 – Hidden manna – is this what’s stored in the ark of the covenant?

2:18 — Fire — pyr — fire, flames (Strong's 4442/KWSB 4786). Describing Jesus' eyes.

What do you think the fire represents? Does this appear to represent judgment due to sin? Can you see the fire destroy what has been corrupted by sin?

2:20 — See I Kings 16:31; 2 Kings 9:22, 30 (AMP)

2:22 — bed of suffering — Disease was often considered a punishment for sin.

2:23 — See Psalms 62:12; Jeremiah 17:10 (AMP)

2:24 — will not impose any other burden — see Acts 15:28.

2:27 — rule with iron scepter — see Psalm 2:9.

  • Remember that the main message of the book of Revelation is the infinite love, power and justice of the Lord Jesus Christ. How is this evident in today’s text?
  • What attributes of God do you see in this chapter?
  • What scripture seemed to be God speaking directly to you? What is He teaching you in these verses? How does He want you to respond?

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