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Chap 2 and Chap 3 Timelines

 

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Revelation: Chapter 2

Setting

This is the second of three sections that was first revealed to John in Revelation 1:19.  It is in that verse where John was first told to write the things he had seen, the things that are, and those things that shall be.

As seen in the chronology of Revelation, John is viewing these events of this chapter from the perspective of earth, and is receiving and writing the letters from Christ to the seven churches.  

Revelation 1, Revelation 2 and Revelation 3 form a group of chapters that relate to the Lord's relationship with the church and describe the church age before the rapture of the church.  The rapture is a future event at the time of this writing, but is an eminent event.  More information is available on this site concerning this subject, and is easily navigated to by clicking on the link, the rapture.  

Revelation 1 not only shows that the book of Revelation was addressed to the churches, it provides insight into the Lord's interactions with the churches throughout the church age. John's vision shows that the Lord is active among the churches.  Since the church still exists in the world today (the original seven are in ruins), the seven candle sticks represent the character and challenges faced by the churches from the day of Pentacost when the church began, until the rapture which marks the end of the church age.  Further, the characteristics of the church are given in the Lord’s parables with much detail, Matthew 13.  

The difference on how the Lord is worshiped between the churches with the Old Testament or the Millennial reign of Christ is exemplified by one thing the location of the worship.  In the Old Testament and during His millennial reign the Lord meets with the people through a deliberate process at one place, either the tabernacle or the temple in Jerusalem, John 4:21-24, Zechariah 14:16.  A person does not just approach the presence of God by their own way, they had to follow His law, which included the seven feasts and the roles and responsibilities of the priests.

In the New Testament the Spirit of the Lord indwells and seals the Saint of God upon profession of faith in the work of Christ based on His Gospel, Ephesians 3:14-19, 4:30, 1Corinthians 15:1-4, 2Corinthians 1:21-22.  The new believer then becomes part of the body of Christ, Ephesians 4:12-16, Colossians 1:15-20.  During the church age there is no centralized worship as was the case with the temple in Jerusalem.  Instead, the Lord said that where two or more are gathered together, there He was also, Matthew 18:20.  It was common to share letters/epistles with other churches, Colossians 4:16, which became part of the cannon of scriptures, 2Peter 3:15-16.  In them contained the mysteries that God revealed through the Apostle Paul in many of his epistles.  The other epistles were likewise important as they provided to the church the fullness of Christ in satisfying all aspects of the law, about His return, and many other great doctrines that reveal the fulfillment of all that was written in the Old Testament.  As seen in each of the letters to the churches, the Lord directs His attention to that person who has overcome.  The one who overcomes the world is the person born of God, who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, 1John 5:3-5.  

The following table summarizes all of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and Revelation 3.  A casual observation shows that all seven letters follow the same pattern and outline:

  • A description of the Lord from Revelation 1 is given to each church; each church is given a unique picture of the Lord (see the summary table on this site for Revelation 01)
  • Each of the churches except one, and maybe Sardis, are commended for the works they performed for the kingdom of God
  • The Lord also condemns the state of the churches except two, Smyrna and Philadelphia, or false teaching that had entered into the church
  • The Lord provides counsel to all of the churches
  • To those who overcomes, the Lord reveals the unique relationship the person in that church will enjoy for all eternity

The phrase “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” is the only statement by the Lord that is exactly the same to the all the churches, but varies in the order it appears in this otherwise constant structure; the first three churches the statement on “He who has an ear…” appears after the counsel to those churches.  The statement ends the letter to the remaining four churches.  This situation forces the need to take a closer examination of this text and understand why this variation exists.   

Scanning through each row, or category of the Lord’s statement to the churches, it is difficult to pull out an obvious change in the pattern of text because of the unique and personal nature of the letters to each church.  For example, in four of the seven churches, the Lord instructs them to repent of an issue He condemned them for; two have the “He who has an ear…” statement immediately following the counsel, the other two have the statement at the end of the letter.  However, what does stand out is that the last four churches the Lord counseled, the Lord told them to “hold fast… .”  The letter to Thyatira links this statement “until I come” to His coming for the church, to rapture it to Him.  Why then do the first three churches not have these statements of the last four churches?  Admittedly the answer is allusive.  The Lord does not arbitrarily change the order of things without a purpose.  As presented in the web site on Revelation 2 and 3 timelines, the characteristics of all seven churches are evidenced in the world today.  All seven churches are waiting on the Lord’s return.  So again, the change in order of the statement “he who has an ear…” is not necessarily tied to the rapture alone, there must be some other reason in addition to the doctrine of the rapture of the church.  

There are some final points to draw from the following table:

  • Each letter is directed to the church body, the individual believer and to the non-believer
  • Each has a personal and unique relationship with the Lord
  • The Lord does not compare one church with another
  • The Lord does not suggest that members of one church move to another church to flee persecution or attend a “better” church, though one church was within walking distance according to the order as they appear in these letters from the Lord (see a great article at the website by H.B. Charles Jr. on this subject)
  • The Lord does instruct the individual congregants to follow the Lord and His commandments; each individual is still responsible to the Lord

Churches
Ephesus
Smyrna
Pergamum
Thyatira
Sardis
Philadelphia
Laodicea
Christ’s description
The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lamp stands
The first and the last, who was dead and has come to life
The One who has the sharp two- edged sword
The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire and His feet are like burnished bronze
He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars
He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens
The Amen,the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God   
Commendation
Good works, labor, patience, hated Nicolaitans
Works, tribulation, poverty
Works, held fast my name, has not denied my faith
Good works, love, service, faith, patience
 Works, a name that you are alive?
Works, missions, little strength, kept my word, not denied my name

 

Condemnation
You have left your first love

 

You have false teachers of Balaam and the Nicolaitans
You allow Jezebel to teach idolatry and compromise
You are dead.  Works not complete

 

You are lukewarm, wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked
Counsel
Remember from where you are fallen and repent
Fear not, be faithful
Repent
Hold fast what you have until I come
Watch, strengthen the things that remain.  Remember, hold fast and repent
Hold fast what you love
Buy gold tried by fire and white raiment.  Anoint your eyes.  Be zealous and repent
He who has an ear...

X

X

X

       
He who
overcomes
… I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
… … shall not be hurt by the second death
… to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.
… and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My  Father; and I will give him the morning star.
… shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels
… I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God and he will not go out from it any more; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name
… I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
He who has an ear...      

X

X

X

X

The events in this chapter describe characteristics and activities of each of the seven churches in Asia.  There are notes of commendation to most of the churches, and a note of condemnation to some of them except two.  This chapter contains letters from the Lord to four of the seven churches.

Outline of this chapter

Verses Topic
1-6 The church of Ephesus
7-13 The church of Smyrna
14-22 The church of Pergamos
18-29 The church of Thyatira

The church of Ephesus     Chapter Outline     Top

Christ's description

In Revelation 2:1, the Lord reveals Himself to the congregation at Ephesus as the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, and the One who walks among the seven golden lamp stands. This represents comfort and involvement with the church, as evidenced by His presence among the churches, and holding the seven angels in His right hand, who provide the messages to the churches. Some think that the stars, or messengers, are representatives from each of the churches to whom John will deliver the letters. However, since the stars were identified as angels in chapter one, they may be indeed angels. This may be similar to the accounts of angelic activity in the book of Daniel, particularly in Daniel 9, Daniel 10, Daniel 11, and Daniel 12.  

The Lord's commendation

In Revelation 2:2-3 and 6, the Lord commends the church at Ephesus for:

  • Good works
  • Labor
  • Patience
  • Not tolerating evil (as did the other churches to be studied)
  • Testing those who came to them claiming to be apostles, 1John 4:1-4, Acts 20:17-38, focusing on Acts 20:28-31
  • Persevering
  • Not becoming weary

They were also commended for their hated of the deeds practiced by the Nicolaitans, which God also hated, Revelation 2:6. There is no solid understanding as to the identity or origin of this group, though some do tie this to a man identified by Luke in the book of Acts, Acts 6:5. Nicolas was one of seven men named by the apostles to oversee the daily serving of food during the early days in the church at Jerusalem. Though they are explicitly spoken of adversely by the Lord to the churches, the doctrines that they taught and held are not really known. Since this note about them is in affiliation to that of Balaam in the letter to the letter to the church of Pergamos, Revelation 2:15, there probably is a link between the two, certainly in the realm of seeking their own will and ways in difference to the word of God. Two possible views concerning this group have been forwarded. First is that the word Nicolaitans itself is a compound word that whose parts can be used to describe the character of this group: niko which means to conquer or to rule over, and laos which means the people or laity. The inference is that a group of people holding a senior position within a church body would lord over the congregation. A second possibility is that this was a group that brought error in the church which was similar to the doctrine of Balaam, concerning eating meat offered to idols and promoting sexual immorality. In either case, their practices were condemned by the Lord.

The Lord's condemnation

In Revelation 2:4, the Lord issues words of condemnation to the congregation at Ephesus. The church left its first love. There was much for which the Lord commended the church of Ephesus in the previous verses, but their love was running cold; their relationship to Christ was becoming common place and the love for Christ may no longer have been the center piece in their worship and fellowship. Christ said to His disciples that he gave them a new commandment, to love one another, and thereby would the world know that they were of Christ, John 13:34-35, and that if they love Christ then they were to obey His commandments, John 14:18-24. One can view the events recorded by Luke in Acts 20 as to the character of the elders of Ephesus at an earlier time to the date this letter was written, as they responded to the call of Paul on his final journey to return to Jerusalem. The depth of their love for God may also be inferred by Paul’s letter to them, where he compared the relationship between the church and Christ to that of a husband and wife.

The Lord's council

In Revelation 2:5-6, the Lord councils the church at Ephesus to repent. The church of Ephesus was well established and a great church in its day, as inferred by Revelation 2:5, indicating that they had fallen far from Christ.  Christ tells them that they must repent and return to where they were before. If they fail to return to their former love of Christ, they will suffer immediate judgment by the removal of their lamp stand and thereby lose their fellowship with Christ as a congregation. Again, the Lord does commend them further, as noted earlier, for their zeal in maintaining the fidelity of God’s word.

He who has an ear ...

Finally, in Revelation 2:7, the Lord writes to them who overcome the world, its temptations and tribulations through their faith and love in Jesus Christ, John 16:33, 1John 5:3-5, Revelation 21:6-8, that they will be able to partake of the tree of life. The tree will be placed over the river of life, and has many interesting qualities, Revelation 22:1-2.

A summary of the letter to the church of Ephesus

The Lord's statements

To the church of Ephesus

Christ's description

The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lamp stands

Commendation

Good works, labor, patience, hated Nicolaitans

Condemnation

You have left your first love

Council

Remember from where you are fallen and repent

"He who overcomes ..."

… I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God

The church of Smyrna     Chapter Outline     Top

Christ's description

In Revelation 2:8, the Lord is revealed to this church at Smyrna, as the one who is the first and the last, Revelation 1:17, and the one who died and came back to life, Revelation 1:18. The Lord is fully encompassing all the experiences of the church at Smyrna with all that He is and suffered, Hebrews 13:5-6. Through this identification with the church, the Lord is assuring them that He is in control, and that he has not abandoned them in their time of great suffering and tribulation. He will see them through this terrible time and give them the strength to hold firm in their faith. This same Jesus who came back from the dead is giving them that same assurance, John 11:25-26.

The Lord's commendation

In Revelation 2:9, the Lord commends the church at Smyrna for their afflictions and their poverty, though they are rich. He also acknowledges that He is aware of the slander against them by those who falsely call themselves Jews. Jesus, during His earthly ministry, told the Pharisees who were arguing with Him concerning His work that His father was God but their father was Satan because of their disobedience and deafness, John 8:39-47. Paul had written that a real Jew is one of the heart and not just physical in nature, Romans 2:28-29. The slander of the Jews, though not specified here, is most likely one against Christ Himself and His gospel, that He died, was buried, and on the third day rose from the dead according to scripture, Galatians 1:6-9, and Galatians 2:1-5.

The Lord's condemnation

There were no words of condemnation by the Lord to either this church or to the church at Philadelphia.  This church was suffering under great persecution from Satan through the Caesars in Rome, and they were commended by the Lord for remaining faithful.

The Lord's council

In Revelation 2:10, the Lord councils the church at Smyrna, and encourages them to not fear for what they were about to suffer, Philippians 4:19. The Lord then informs the congregation of things they will suffer:

  • Satan is behind the persecution, Ephesians 2:1-10
  • They will be imprisoned
  • They will be tested
  • They will suffer persecution for ten days (the meaning of this duration is not known)

In spite of all this, the Lord encourages them to be faithful, even unto death, John 15:18-25, Romans 5:1-5, 1Peter 4:1-2. The Lord has promised them that they will be given the crown of life, Revelation 4:9-11. It is intriguing to see from the map of all the churches, whose distance from one another may be about a day's walk, that the Lord did not direct or advise any of the congregations to move from one church to another. They are His witness where they are. Rather than moving to another church that was more spiritually alive, free from persecution, or some other reasons, they were encouraged to remain faithful to the Lord where they were. This was not just for the church at Smyrna, but to all of the churches. How relevant this is to today’s Christian in light of the ease of mobility within the western society, to remain with a church to grow and influence others within that congregation to remain strong in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, rather than moving about to be entertained.  Those Christians in other parts of the world suffering from cruel and horrible persecution who are fixed in their situations, the words of the Lord are for comfort and encouragement to them as they were for the believers at Smyrna.  He is faithful to see them through all their tribulation, and will not forsake or leave them, Hebrews 13:5-6

He who has an ear ...

In Revelation 2:11, the Lord directs Himself to those within the church of Smyrna, that to them who overcomes, John 16:33, 1John 5:3-5, Revelation 21:6-8, that they will not be hurt by the second death, Revelation 20:11-15.

A summary of the letter to the church of Smyrna

The Lord's statements

To the church of Smyrna

Christ's description

The first and the last, who was dead and has come to life

Commendation

Works, tribulation, poverty

Condemnation

None

Council

Fear not, be faithful

"He who overcomes ..."

… shall not be hurt by the second death

The church of Pergamos     Chapter Outline     Top

Christ's description

In Revelation 2:12, the words of the Lord are described as a sharp double-edged sword. Such a sword cuts both ways, both in judgment and in power and assurance to the Christian, Ephesians 6:12-18, which is part of the armor of God, Hebrews 4:12-13.

The Lord's commendation

In Revelation 2:13, the Lord commended the church at Pergamos for being true to the Lord despite being located where Satan has his throne. They were also commended for remaining faithful despite the martyrdom of Antipas, and the constant fiery darts of Satan, 2Timothy 2:8-13 (the suffering of Paul, and Christ’s faithfulness).

The Lord's condemnation

In Revelation 2:14-15, the Lord issues words of condemnation for some in the church at Pergamos for following the practices of two individuals, one from the Old Testament, Balaam, and one during the days that John was writing this book, the Nicolaitans. Those who followed the teaching of Balaam strove to achieve some goal or conclusion to satisfy their own will through the perversion of God’s word, Numbers 25:1-13, Acts 15:22-29. They were following the old adage; the ends justify the means, which is totally contrary to the word of God. It is His will and faith in him that is to be exercised, not the will of man. As a result, they enticed others to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols, Colossians 3:5 and they committed sexual immorality.

Others within that church held to the teaching of the Nicolaitans, whom the Ephesians had rejected. There is no solid understanding as to the identity or origin of this group, though some do tie this to a man identified by Luke in the book of Acts, Acts 6:5. Nicolas was one of seven men named by the apostles to oversee the daily serving of food during the early days in the church at Jerusalem. Though they are explicitly spoken of adversely by the Lord to the churches, the doctrines that they taught and held are not really known. Since this note about them is in affiliation to that of Balaam, there probably is a link between the two, certainly in the realm of seeking their own will and ways in difference to the word of God. Two possible views concerning this group have been forwarded. First is that the word Nicolaitans itself is a compound word that whose parts can be used to describe the character of this group: niko which means to conquer or to rule over, and laos which means the people or laity. The inference is that a group of people holding a senior position within a church body would lord over the congregation. A second possibility is that this was a group that brought error in the church which was similar to the doctrine of Balaam, concerning eating meat offered to idols and promoting sexual immorality. In either case, their practices were condemned by the Lord.

The Lord's council

In Revelation 2:16, the Lord instructs the church at Pergamos to repent. He reveals the dire consequences for not doing so. The Lord will come and fight against those who hold such perverted views. This is consistent with the beginning of the letter to this church, where the Lord was shown to be like a two-edged sword, which is equated to the sword of His mouth, 1Timothy 6:3-5, 2Timothy 4:1-5, 2Timothy 3:14-17, Revelation 19:11-16.

He who has an ear ...

In Revelation 2:17, the Lord addresses those who overcome, whom are those born again in Christ, John 16:33, 1John 5:3-5, Revelation 21:6-8. To them who overcome they will be given hidden manna, which was given to the children of Israel from God during their exodus, Exodus 16:14-18. Each person was to go out to receive their portion of the manna. Christ spoke in parables to the people during his first advent, Psalms 78:1-2, and reveals Himself to those to whom He chooses, Matthew 11:25-27. One such revelation is that Christ is the bread of life, John 6:43-51.

This same group will also receive a white stone with a new name written on it, known only by that person and the Lord (a very special relationship between the Lord and the believer). The allegory is not well understood outside the context of ancient trials where there was a white stone given by jurors to proclaim a person’s innocence. This is a very personal relationship since this rock has only one person’s name on it. A person is not saved because of his association within a church body; it is an individual decision. Not only is the person acquitted and accepted by Christ through the Lord's own work on the cross, but each person in Christ is given a new identity and an established relationship with Christ, Matthew 16:13-20.

A summary of the letter to the church of Pergamos

The Lord's statements

To the church of Pergamos

Christ's description

The One who has the sharp two-edged sword

Commendation

Works, held fast my name, has not denied my faith

Condemnation

You have false teachers of Balaam and the Nicolaitans

Council

Repent

"He who overcomes ..."

… to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it

The church of Thyatira     Chapter Outline     Top

Christ's description

In Revelation 2:18, the words to the church of Thyatira are identified as from the “Son of God”, which is unlike the description to the previous three church letters that refer to “Him,” and enforces Christ’s authority over the churches. He is also described as having eyes like blazing fire, which are penetrating in judgment and He has feet like burnished bronze, which is also symbolic of judgment.

The Lord's commendation

In Revelation 2:19, the Lord commends the church for:

  • Deeds
  • Love (Ephesus was condemned for leaving their first love) and faith
  • Service and perseverance
  • Doing more than at the beginning of their church

The Lord's condemnation

In Revelation 2:20-23, the Lord condemns those in the church at Thyatira who tolerate the woman Jezebel. The following are the characteristics attributed to Jezebel:

  • She called herself a prophetess (a false authority versus that of the Son of God), Revelation 2:18
  • Her teachings mislead God’s servants (same condemnation as with the church of Pergamum, who followed the teaching of Balaam. An important repetition with the additional emphasis of another Old Testament character. She institutionalized the worship of Baal in the northern tribes of Israel), such as:
    • Sexual immorality
    • Eating food sacrificed to idols

This sub-group within the church, represented as Jezebel, was given time to repent but did not. God’s judgment on this group and those who followed this false teaching will be sickness to the point of being bedridden, and their suffering will be intense.  The way out for them is repentance.  To end this part of the letter, the Lord reveals that the purpose of the judgment was for the other churches to know the character of the Lord that He searches the hearts and minds of men, and repays according an individual’s deeds.

There are other examples of perversions in worship, and the Lord’s response. Consider the example of those who still occupied Jerusalem after the two conquests by King Nebuchadnezzar, and their behavior toward God. In Ezekiel’s vision, Ezekiel 8:2-5, he was taken to observe the state of worship in the temple in Jerusalem, and the perversions that occurred:

  • Idol worship Ezekiel 8:3, 5
  • Pictographs along the inside wall of the outer court with the elders plus another waving burning incense to them in worship, Ezekiel 8:10-11
  • The elders of Israel were worshiping idols in their homes, thinking that God could not observe their sin, Ezekiel 8:12
  • Women were mourning for Tammuz at the north gate of the Lord's house, Ezekiel 8:14-15
  • Men at the entrance to the inner court were worshiping the sun, Ezekiel 8:16

The Lord’s response to these rebellious acts is judgment, Ezekiel 8:18. It is written in Exodus 20:2-7, where the Ten Commandments written, is that we shall not make any idol or bow down to worship them. God will punish those who do but show love to those who love Him and keep His commandments.  For the church today, we are to live holy and godly lives, 2Peter 3:10-15.

The Lord's council

In Revelation 2:24-25, the letter continues to those in the church who did not hold to the teaching of Jezebel, or have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets. To them the Lord promised that they will not be imposed with any other burden. They are to hold on to what they have until the return of Christ for the church, which is the rapture. There is an apparent division within the church, between those who believe and have the hope of the rapture before them, and those who do not love for the Lord, nor follow His commands. The latter, therefore, are not part of the body of Christ, and are merely participants and members of the church body at Thyatira, and all the churches that are similar in character to Thyatira.

He who has an ear ...

In Revelation 2:26-29, is the end of the letter to this church of Thyatira.  Here the Lord speaks to him who overcomes, John 16:33, 1John 5:3-5, Revelation 21:6-8. The promise to them will be authority over the nations during the millennial reign of Christ, Psalm 2:2-9. They will rule with an iron scepter and they will dash the rebellious into small pieces of pottery. They will also have the authority that originates with the Father and the Son delegates this authority to the church. This ending statement to this church and the others illustrates that the letters to each of the seven churches is to be heard by all in the church age, no matter what type of church they attend. The messages are relevant throughout the entire church age until the rapture.

A summary of the letter to the church of Thyatira

The Lord's statements

To the church of Thyatira

Christ's description

The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire and His feet are like burnished bronze

Commendation

Good works, love, service, faith, patience

Condemnation

You allow Jezebel to teach idolatry and compromise

Council

Hold fast what you have until I come

"He who overcomes ..."

… and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; …, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.


Copyright (c) 2001, 2005, 2008, 2014, J.E. Huntley.  All rights reserved.
last edited August 2014

thestoneofhelp@thesecondcomingofchrist.org