OTY The Revelation (2)c -John Gill

John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible.

OTY The Revelation (2)c -John Gill

Revelation 2:7

Ver. 7. He that hath an ear,.... Such who have new ears given them, as all have who are made new creatures; such who have their ears circumcised, and opened by the Spirit of God; who hear with understanding, affection, and faith; who try what they hear, and approve, embrace, and retain that which is good.

Let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; let such hearken, and listen with attention to what is said by the Spirit, in what goes before, and follows after, in this epistle, designed for the use of all the churches; from whence it appears, that this epistle was endited by the Spirit of God, and is of divine inspiration; that it was not intended for the single use of the church at Ephesus, but of all the churches; and not of the seven churches only, though the Alexandrian copy reads, "to the seven churches":

but of all the churches in that period of time, which the Ephesine church represents; and which may also be useful to the churches of Christ in all other ages and periods of time. And moreover, it may be concluded from hence, that there are in this epistle, and so in all the rest, for the same words are subjoined to them all, some things which are parabolical and prophetic, and not obvious to everyone's understanding and view; for a like expression is used by our Lord, when he had delivered anything in a parabolical way, or was obscure; see Mt 11:15.

To him that overcometh: the false apostles, false teachers, and their doctrines; coldness, lukewarmness, and remissness in love; the impure tenets and practices of the Nicolaitans:

will I give to eat of the tree of life; by which is meant Jesus Christ himself, in allusion to the tree of life in the garden of Eden; and is so called, because he is the author of life, natural, spiritual, and eternal; and because of his fruit, the blessings of life and grace, that are in him, of which believers may eat by faith, and which they find to be soul quickening, comforting, strengthening, and satisfying; and which are Christ's gift to them, even both the food they eat, and the faith by which they eat, are his gifts. So Christ, under the name of Wisdom, is called the Tree of life, in Pr 3:18; and this is a name which is sometimes given by the Jews to the Messiah {e}:

which is in the midst of the paradise of God; as the tree of life was in the garden of Eden, Ge 2:9. The Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions read, "the paradise of my God"; the God of Christ, as well as of his people; and by which may be meant, either the church on earth, which is as a paradise, So 4:12; in the midst of which Christ is, affording his gracious presence, and reaching forth his grace, and the benefits of it, to his people; or heaven,
See Gill on "2Co 12:4", said to be of God, because it is of his preparing, and where he dwells, and in the midst of which Christ, the Tree of life, is; and this shows, that he is to be come at by faith, and his fruit to be eaten, and lived upon; and he is to be beheld and enjoyed by all his saints, as he is now, and will be more perfectly hereafter.

{e} Zohar in Gen. fol. 33. 3.

Revelation 2:8

Ver. 8. And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write,.... Of the city of Smyrna, See Gill on "Re 1:11". That there was a church of Christ here is not to be doubted, though by whom it was founded is not certain; very likely by the Apostle Paul, who was in those parts, and by whose means all Asia heard the Gospel of Christ, Ac 19:10. Some think the present angel or pastor of this church, was Polycarp, the disciple of John. Irenaeus {f}, who knew him, says he was appointed bishop of Smyrna by the apostles. Here he suffered martyrdom, and was buried: the large amphitheatre, in which he was put to death, is still to be seen, and his sepulchre is yet preserved in this place {g}: a very famous epistle, sent by this church at Smyrna to the churches at Pontus, giving an account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, and others, is extant in Eusebius {h}.

According to the Apostolical Constitutions {i}, the first bishops of Smyrna were Aristo Strataeas and Aristo the second, and Apelles, of whom mention is made in Ro 16:10; and who is reckoned among the seventy disciples; See Gill on "Lu 10:1"; and is said to be bishop of Smyrna before Polycarp; who succeeded Polycarp, I do not find; but it is said there was a church at Smyrna in the "third" century; and so there was in the beginning of the "fourth", since there was a bishop from hence in the council at Nice: and in the "fifth" century, mention is made of several bishops of this place; as of Cyrus, a native of Constantinople; and Protherius, who, it is thought, succeeded him, and was present in the synod at Chalcedon; and Aethericus, who assisted at three synods in this century, at Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon: and in the "sixth" century, there was a bishop of Smyrna in the fifth synod held at Rome and Constantinople: and even in the "eighth" century, one Antony, a monk, supplied the place of the bishop of Smyrna in the Nicene synod {k}.

The Turks have in this place now thirteen mosques, the Jews two synagogues, and of the Christians there are two churches belonging to the Greeks, and one to the Armenians {l}. This church, and its pastor, represent the state of the church under the persecutions of the Roman emperors. Smyrna signifies "myrrh", which being bitter of taste, is expressive of the bitter afflictions, and persecutions, and deaths, the people of God in this interval endured; and yet, as myrrh is of a sweet smell, so were those saints, in their sufferings for Christ, exceeding grateful and well pleasing to him;

wherefore nothing is said by way of complaint to this church; not that she was without fault, but it was proper to use her tenderly in her afflicted state: and, as Dr. More observes, as myrrh was used in the embalming of dead bodies, it may point to the many deaths and martyrdoms of the saints in this period, whereby their names and memories are perpetuated and eternized.

These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive. Of these characters of Christ, See Gill on "Re 1:8",
See Gill on "Re 1:11",
See Gill on "Re 1:17",
See Gill on "Re 1:18"; and they are very appropriately mentioned, to encourage the saints under their sufferings of death; since Christ, who is the eternal God, had in human nature tasted of the bitterness of death for them, and was risen again; suggesting, that though they were called to undergo the bitterest deaths for his sake, they should be raised again as he was, and live with him for ever. The Ethiopic version reads, "thus saith the holy Spirit"; but it cannot be said of him that "he was dead".

{f} Adv. Haeres. l. 3. c. 3. {g} Vid. Smith. Notitia septem Eccles. Asiae, p. 164, 165. {h} Hist. Eccles. l. 4. c. 15. {i} L. 7. c. 46. {k} Hist. Eccles. Magdeburg. cent. 3. c. p. 2. cent. 4. c. 2. p. 3. cent. 5. c. 2. p. 3. c. 10. p. 595, 596. cent. 6. c. 2. p. 4. cent. 8. c. 2. p. 4. {l} Smith. Notitia, p. 167.

Revelation 2:9

Ver. 9. I know thy works,.... Good works, as before in Re 2:2;

and tribulation; this is Christ's legacy to his people, and which lies in their way to heaven; and never was the way of any to heaven more strewed with it than was the way of the saints in this period. But Christ took notice of it, and of them in it; he knew their souls in adversity, and remarked their patience under it, and their constancy, and close adherence to him:

and poverty; which was true in a literal sense, through the spoiling of their goods, to which they were exposed for the profession of Christ: nothing is more contemptible among men than poverty, yet Christ takes notice of it, and owns his people in it; for this poverty came not by sin, but by sufferings for his sake:

but thou art rich; they were rich, in faith, and heirs of a kingdom, though poor in this world; they were rich with the riches of Christ, with the blessings of the covenant, with the graces of the Spirit, and in good works; they were kings and priests unto God, had a kingdom of grace here, and a right to the kingdom of glory hereafter; and were heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.

And [I know] the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not; who asserted themselves to be the true Israel of God, Jews that were so inwardly, regenerate persons, or truly Christians; for the Christians, baptized persons {m}, were by the Heathens called Jews; but these were not, they professed Christianity in words, but in works denied it; they were men of bad principles and practices, and both blasphemed the ways and doctrines of Christ themselves, and caused them to be blasphemed by others also; they were false Christians, nominal professors, and shunned persecution for the Gospel;

who were not what they would be thought to be: these were the broachers of heresies in this period of time, in which there was a multitude of them, and which chiefly respected the doctrine of the Trinity, and the person of Christ; and they were introducers of Pagan and Jewish rites into the church, and were men of flagitious lives and conversations, and paved the way for the man of sin:

but [are] the synagogue of Satan: were the children of the devil, imitated him, and were influenced by him, and were the forerunners of antichrist, whose coming was after the working of Satan.

{m} Vid. Arrian. Epictet. l. 2. c. 9.

Revelation 2:10

Ver. 10. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer,.... God's people undergo sufferings of various sorts, as the Christians of those times did, scourgings, imprisonment, confiscation of goods, and death itself in various shapes; and these are certain, they shall suffer them; they are all known beforehand to Christ, and he sometimes gives his people previous notice of them, nor should they indulge a slavish fear about them.

It is reported of Polycarp, bishop of this church at Smyrna, in a letter written by the church itself {n} that three days before he suffered, he dreamed his pillow, on which he laid his head, was on fire; upon which, awaking, he said to those that were by him, that he should be burnt for Christ; and when he came to suffer, as he was led along, a voice was heard by the bystanders, Polycarp, be strong, and play the man.

Behold, the devil shall cast [some] of you into prison; which has been the lot of many of the saints, and was of some, even of the faithful ministers of the word in this interval; in which Satan had an hand, instigating their enemies to prevent and stop the progress of the Gospel, and deter others both from preaching and professing it: the end was in the permission of it,

that ye may be tried; that their graces might be tried, their faith, love, zeal, courage, faithfulness, and constancy. Suffering times are trying times, whether men are real Christians or not; whether they have the true grace of God or not; and whether the principles they hold are right and true, and are worth, and will bear suffering for:

and ye shall have tribulation ten days: meaning it may be the ten persecutions under the Roman emperors; the "first" was under Nero, in the year 64 or 66; the "second" was under Domitian, about the year 93; the "third" was under Trojan, in the year 104; the "fourth" was under Hadrian, in the year 125; the "fifth" was under Marcus Antoninus, in the year 151; the "sixth" was under Septimius Severus, in the year 197; the "seventh" was under Maximinus, in the years 235, 236, 237; the "eighth" was under Decius, in the year 250; the "ninth" was under Valerianus, in the year 257; and the "tenth" was under Dioclesian, in the year 303.

Austin {o} reckons the ten persecutions thus: the first by Nero, the second by Domitian, the third by Trojan, the fourth by Antoninus, the fifth by Severus, the sixth by Maximus, the seventh by Decius, the eighth by Valerianus, the ninth by Aurelianus, the tenth by Dioclesian and Maximianus. Others, inasmuch as Nero's persecution was before this vision, reckon the ten persecutions thus: Domitian, Trojan, M. Antoninus, Verus and Lucius, Severus, Maximinus, Decius, Valerianus, Aurelianus, Dioclesianus, Licinius: the Dioclesian persecution lasted ten years almost throughout: and some think that this last persecution, which held ten years, is here particularly meant, and not without some good reason; since it is usual in prophetic writings, and in this book of the Revelation, to put days for years; so that these ten days may be the ten years the last persecution held, and at which time the period of this church state ended, and that of Pergamos took place.

Be thou faithful unto death: which is an address to the ministers in this interval, to be faithful in preaching the pure and unmixed Gospel of Christ; in a constant administration of the ordinances, as they were delivered; in watching over the souls of men under their care, reproving, exhorting, &c. with all longsuffering; continuing in the discharge of duty, though in continual danger of death, and though it issued in it.

And also to the churches and the members of them, to continue believing in Christ, professing his name, striving for his Gospel, attending on his ordinances, and following him whithersoever he went; though this should expose them to sufferings, even unto death, which it became them cheerfully to undergo: and to which they are encouraged by what follows,

and I will give thee a crown of life; which may refer not only to eternal life, which is so called, Jas 1:12; because of the glory of that state, and its everlasting continuance, and is in the possession and gift of Christ; but to the deliverance of the Christians from persecution, by Constantine; who coming to the imperial crown, that became not only a crown of glory to him, but of life to the church, and was as life from the dead unto the saints: to dead men is promised a crown of life, in allusion to the Gentiles, who crowned their dead {p}.

{n} Apud Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 4. c. 15. {o} De Civitate Dei, l. 18. c. 52. {p} Vid. Minut. Felix, p. 42.

Revelation 2:11

Ver. 11. He that hath an ear, let him hear,....
See Gill on "Re 2:7";

he that overcometh; and is not intimidated by poverty, confiscation of goods, tribulation, persecution, and death itself, but through Christ is a conqueror, and more than a conqueror over all these things:

shall not be hurt of the second death; by which is meant eternal death, in distinction from a corporeal and temporal one; and lies in a destruction of both body and soul in hell, and in an everlasting separation from God, and a continual sense of divine wrath; but of this the saints shall never be hurt, they are ordained to eternal life; this is secured for them in Christ, and he has it in his hands for them, and will give it to them.

The phrase is Jewish, and is opposed to the first death, or the death of the body; which is the effect of sin, and is appointed of God, and which the people of God die as well as others; but the second death is peculiar to wicked men. So the Jerusalem Targum on De 33:6; paraphrases those words, "let Reuben live, and not die", thus;

"let Reuben live in this world, and not die anyynt atwmb, "by the second death", with which the wicked die in the world to come.''

Of which sense of the text and phrase Epiphanius makes mention {q}. See the same phrase in the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel, in
Isa 22:14; and in Jer 51:39; and in Philo the Jew {r}.

{q} Contr. Haeres. Haeres. 9. {r} De Praemiis & Poenis, p. 921.

Revelation 2:12

Ver. 12. And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write,.... Of the city of Pergamos, See Gill on "Re 1:11". In it was a church of Christ, but when it begun, and how long it lasted, is not certain. Antipas, who is mentioned, Re 2:13; is thought, by some, to have been the pastor of it. Though, according to the Apostolical Constitutions {s}, Caius was the first bishop of it; and it appears, that in the "second" century there were several in this place that suffered martyrdom for Christ, as Carpus, Papulus, and a woman whose name was Agathonice {t}. Attalus, the martyr, who suffered in the same century, was also a native of this place {u}.

In the "fifth" century there was a bishop of Pergamos in the council at Ephesus; and in the "sixth" century, there was one in the "fifth" synod at Constantinople; and in the "seventh" century, Theodorus, bishop of the church here, was in the sixth synod held at the same place; and in the "eighth" century one Pastilas was bishop of Pergamos; and in the same age, Basil, bishop of this place, was in the Nicene synod {w};

and the Christian name now is not wholly, though almost extinct; for when our countryman, Dr. Smith {x}, was there, there was a little church called St. Theodore's, whither a priest was frequently sent from Smyrna, to perform divine service, there being but a very few Christian families in it. This church represents the church from the time of Constantine, and onward, rising up to, and enjoying great power, riches, and honour Pergamos signifies high and lofty; things that were sublime and lofty, were, by the Greeks, called ta pergama, and also all high and lofty towers {y}.

It was built under a very high and steep mountain, upon the top of which a tower was erected, by the lords of the lesser Asia, which still continues {z}. The church it represents had its principal seat at Rome, where Satan dwelt, Re 2:13; which signifies exalted likewise; and it introduces the man of sin, antichrist, the popes of Rome, who exalted themselves above all that is called God, princes, kings, and emperors; whom they excommunicated, dethroned, trod upon their necks, kicked off their crowns, and obliged them to hold their stirrups while they mounted their horses, with other haughty action, too many to name.

These things, saith he, which hath the sharp sword with two edges: of which See Gill on "Re 1:16"; This title is used partly to show, that the only weapon this church, and the true ministers and members of it had, to defend themselves against the growing corruptions of antichrist, who in this interval rose up by degrees, and was revealed, and came to the height of his power, was the word of God, the Scriptures of truth; and partly to show, that in process of time, though not in this period, the man of sin should be destroyed, with the breath of Christ's mouth, and the brightness of his coming; of which his fighting against the Nicolaitans, with the sword of his mouth, Re 2:16; is an emblem.

{s} L. 7. c. 46. {t} Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 4. c. 15. {u} Ib. l. 5. c. 1. {w} Hist. Eccl. Magdeburgh. cent. 5. c. 2. p. 3. cent. 6. c. 2. p. 4. cent. 7. c. 2. p. 3. c. 10. p. 254. cent. 8. c. 2. p. 4. {x} Notitia, p. 120. {y} Servius in Virgil. Aeneid. l. 1. p. 403, & l. 2. p. 633. Ed Basil. 1586. {z} Smith. Notitia, p. 112.

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