"The Day of the Lord"
Each Epistle, though the structure itself varies, is based upon the same general plan, viz.: The Introduction, consisting of Christ's command to John to write, with an appropriate attribute taken from the previous vision in chap. 1. The Conclusion, consisting of Christ's command to him that hath an ear, to hear; with His promise, fulfilled in the latter portion of the book. Between these we have the subject-matter of the Epistle proper. While this general arrangement is common to all these Epistles, yet each has its own peculiar exhibition of it.
The correspondences and contrasts between the Epistles are worthy of note, forming a useful guide to their inter-relation. They show us what are the important points which we should notice; and what are the matters on which we should place special emphasis.
In short, they give us the peculiar scope of and key to each Epistle respectively; and though not essential to the reader's studies, they are worthy of his close attention.
2:1. To the angel] As we have said above, this is the Shelach Tzibbur of the Synagogue, the presiding minister. A title well understood by Jewish readers, but quite foreign to Gentile ears.
of the Assembly] As in Acts 19:32, 39, 41. Or Synagogue. The A.V. renders the Greek Synagogue in Jas. 2:2 "Assembly" instead of Synagogue; and in Jas. 5:14 "Church" instead of Assembly. The former passage (2:2) shows what the nature of the Assembly was in chap. 5:14. It was the congregation assembling in the Synagogue, and there is no reason why it should not be so taken in Rev. 2 and 3
in* Ephesus, write] No one can put this Epistle by the side of that of Paul to the Ephesians and think for a moment that it can be the same Assembly that is addressed. It is not a matter of argument or of opinion; it is a matter of fact. Read the two Epistles, one after the other, and note the standing of grace in the one, and the standing of works in the other. It is true John wrote some years later than Paul; but though this might affect the condition of the Assembly, it could not change the ground of God's dealings. His covenant had not changed. But here, everything is changed, as we shall see. In Paul's Epistle to the Church of God in Ephesus, God speaks to those who are all of them on the highest ground of privilege and of grace. Here, there is no blessing at all, except to the overcomers.
These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand (1:16), He that walketh in the midst of the seven lamp-stands of gold (1:13)] Here the reference is surely to Deut. 23:14, where this walking, and the object of it, are the same as in the Day of the Lord. "For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy; that He see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee." Here, Christ thus walks according to Lev. 26:12. And his eye sees and exposes the unclean things in the camp of these Assemblies.
2. I know thy works] This is the principle on which the Lord will deal with the Remnant of Israel in the Day of the Lord. See Isa. 66:18 "For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues, and they shall see My glory." The context in the previous verses (15-17) shows the nature of these "works" and the time of the Lord's dealing with them. Most of the seven Epistles begin with the statement of this fact, as to "works," from Isa. 66:18.
and* labour, and thy endurance] or patience (2:3). This is the patience referred to in 13:10: "Here is the patience and faith of the saints"; 14:12: "Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments (the 'works' spoken of) of God, and the faith of Jesus." The statement in this Epistle refers to the then condition of things in the Day when the things written in this Book shall be fulfilled.
and that thou canst not bear wicked (or, evil) men; and thou didst try those who call themselves apostles, and are not, and didst find them liars:
3. And thou hast endurance, and didst bear* for the sake of my name, and hast not wearied**
4. Nevertheless I have this against thee, that thou hast left thy first love] This is very emphatic. Lit., it is "thy lovethy first love." What have we here but a reference to Jer. 2:1, 2, where God commanded Jeremiah to commence his prophecy by calling this fact to their remembrance: "Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord: I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness." This was the day referred to in Ezek. 16:8-10, etc.: the day when Jehovah set His love upon them and chose them, not because of their number, "but because the LORD loved you" (Deut. 7:7-9). See above, under the expression in 1:5, "unto him who loveth us."
5. Remember therefore whence thou hast fallen, and repent] This is strange language if it be addressed to those who had been "blessed with all spiritual blessings, in the heavenlies, in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). Nothing could forfeit such blessings; because they are in the heavenlies, in Christ, whence none can touch them or pluck them. Nor can repentance procure them, for they are the gift of God to His church; and His gifts and calling are without repentance (Rom. 11:29). No; the Assembly to whom such words are addressed cannot be the Assembly addressed by the Holy Spirit through Paul.
and do the first works; otherwise (Lit., but if not) I am coming to thee,* and will remove thy lamp-stand out of its place, except thou repent] He had come before, at His first Advent, seeking fruit. But He found it not. Now He is coming again, and the cry goes forth once more, "Repent "; for, He who is coming is at hand. Repentance is 'the first work.' It is the one condition of national blessing for Israel. It is the essence of the proclamation of the King and the Kingdom. The ministries of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:2), of Christ Himself (Matt. 4:17), and also of Peter (Acts 2:38; 3:39), were all stamped with this one word "Repent." This is the "first work" to be done, the first step to be taken in view of national blessing. See Lev. 26:40-42; 1 Kings 8:33, 35, 37; Deut. 30:1-3; Dan. 9:3, 4; Zech 1:3; etc.
6. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate] The Nicolaitanes are mentioned again in verse 15. History knows nothing definite of any people bearing such a name during the primitive age of Christianity. Tradition has something to say; but this is so conflicting and so uncertain, that most commentators attempt to solve the difficulty by considering the name as being symbolical (as they do that of Balaam (2:14, 15), and Jezebel (2:20). They interpret it by its etymology (...) (nikos) conqueror and (...) (laos) people. If there be anything in this, it is better to leave it to "that day," when events will make its meaning manifest.
7. He that hath an ear, let him hear] None but the Lord Jesus ever used this formula. On fourteen occasions He used it. Always, when He was speaking of the great change in the Dispensation which was about to take place. It is connected therefore with Dispensational truth. S9 times (the number of man) in the Gospels He used it as the Son of Man; and eight times (the Dominical Number) in Revelation, as the risen Lord speaking from heaven: here, at the close of each of these seven Epistles, and once in chap. 13:9.*
what the Spirit saith (or is saying) to the Assemblies] In Rev. 19:10 we are told that "the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy"; i.e., it is the prophetic testimony spoken by Christ Himself; or the testimony spoken by His servant John, or by angelic messengers concerning Him who addresses these Assemblies in this Book.
To him that overcometh] This is language wholly foreign to the Epistles written to believers by Paul. The members of Christ's Body have already overcome all "in Him." They are already "more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom. 8:37). The same John speaks, in his Epistle, of those who belong to the Church of God as having already overcome (See I John 2:13; 4:4; 5:4, 5). Those who are addressed here will be living in the days of the Beast, in the midst of the great Tribulations and there will be those who will "endure unto the end." Of some we read "the Beast...shall make war against them, and shall overcome them and kill them" (11:7). Of others it is said is they overcame him (the accuser of their brethren) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (12:11). Of others again, "It was given unto him (the Beast) to make war with the saints and to overcome them" (13:7). Hence the reiteration of the final promise in 21:7, "he that overcometh shall inherit all things." The Revelation is full of overcoming. No less than sixteen times we have the verb (...) (nikao), to conquer, or overcome. The overcomers who are addressed at the close of each of these seven Epistles will be living in the days referred to in these passages. They will be special overcomers of a specific form of evil. They are thus prophesied of in Isa. 66:5: "Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word: Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name's sake, said Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed." They are spoken of in Dan. 11:32 as those who "do know their God, shall be strong and do exploits." In Matt. 24:13, as those who "shall endure unto the end." Compare Matt. 10:22.
will I give to eat of the tree of life which is in the* Paradise of God] For the promises of the seven Epistles as a whole, see [The Promises to the Seven Assemblies]. This first promise is fulfilled in 22:14, where the article "the tree of life" is used, and refers specially to the overcomers. The Tree mentioned in verse 2 and Ezek. 47:12 is another tree or trees (without the article) intended for the healing of the nations during the millennium.
The promise, here, refers to the New Earth, when the curse will be removed, and the whole Earth be restored as the Paradise of God. To this "Paradise" Paul was caught away (2 Cor. 12:4); and also to this "third Heaven" (and Earth).
To this third heaven and Paradise was Paul caught away in vision. These John also saw;
and was commissioned to write what Paul was unable to utter. This Paradise of the New
Earth, which will characterize the Kingdom, was referred to by the Lord Jesus in His
answer to the dying thief "Lord, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom."
"Verily, I say unto thee to-day, (i.e., on this day of shame and
death, beyond which thou seest by the eye of faith) thou shalt be with me in
Paradise." That promise will be fulfilled to him as an overcomer. His faith
overcame all his circumstances; and he marvellously believed, in spite of all the awful
scenes of that day, that Jesus was "Lord," and that He would yet come in his
Kingdom. To him, therefore, as an overcomer, was the promise of that future Paradise
given; as here it is given to all who shall overcome by the same faith.