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blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication” (Acts xv. 29. See also Acts xxi. 25). These things were a serious menace to the first Church. The servants of God, who were born Hebrews, hated these things. The local Church at Ephesus, of Gentile birth, probably did not hate these things.
When S. Paul wrote to Ephesus, from his Roman prison, somewhere about the year 62 A.D., he thought it necessary to give the Ephesian Christians this solemn warning: “But fornication and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints: Or obscenity, or foolish talking, or scurrility, which is to no purpose; but rather giving of thanks. For know ye this, and understand, that no fornicator, or unclean, or covetous person, which is a serving of idols, hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words. For because of these things cometh the anger of God upon the children of unbelief.
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; but rather reprove them. For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of” (Eph. v. 3-13).
7. ο έχων ούς ακουσάτω τί το Πνεύμα λέγει ταϊς εκκλησίαις. Το νικώντι δώσω αυτώ φαγείν εκ του ξύλου της ζωής, ό έστιν εν τω παραδείσω του Θεού μου. .
7. He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith to the Churches. To him that overcometh I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of my God.
“ He that hath ears to hear let him hear” was an expression used by our Lord after relating the parable of the sower. And the Apostles asked Him the meaning of the parable, and He answered them, “Because to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matt. xiii. 9, 11, Mrk. iv. 9, 12). S. Luke adds, “that seeing they may not see and hearing they may not understand” (viii. 10), showing that “the letter” has an esoteric meaning and is not to be taken as a message to Ephesus. When the Apostles asked our Saviour about John the Baptist, He said, “And if you will receive it, he is Elias that is to come. He that hath ears to hear let him hear" (Matt. xi. 15). So also in connection with the parable of salt (Luke xiv. 35). See also Matt. xiii. 43. Some meaning deeper than the surface, requiring consideration is indicated. Here it applies to what the Spirit says to the Churches, Tacs ekranolais, plural--the Churches of the Apostolic age. The Spirit is the Holy Ghost, which our Saviour said the
Father would send in His name, to teach the Church all things (Jhn. xiv. 26) The same words are found at the end of each of the prophecies, indicating that the Letters are not to be taken literally. There is a mystery about them. Tò uvothplov tás ÉTTà Xuxvías, the mystery of the seven candlesticks (R. i. 20). “To him that overcometh "-vikti, is a word frequently used by S. John in his Epistles, gospel, and in the Apocalypse. In this context it relates to the victory of constancy, even unto death, over persecution. It connotes martyrdom at R. ii. II, iii. 21, xii. 11. This Book is written in view of persecution. The verb vikáw—“to conquer”—is used in connection with our Saviour's death upon the Cross. “'Eyà νενίκηκα τον κόσμον.' ” “I have overcome the world” (Jhn. xvi. 33). The reward is eternal happiness. “The tree of life” refers the reader to the end of the Book where “ the tree of life bearing twelve fruits” is seen in a vision of the new Jerusalem-"the paradise of my God” (R. xxii. 2). At the end of every one of these messages there is a promise" to him that overcometh,” and this promise is an allusion to some passage towards the close of the Book, showing the close relation existing between these warnings and the rest of Revelation. The tree of life is mentioned in Genesis (iii. 22). Adam is put out of paradise, “lest perhaps he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever." It is the symbol of heavenly immortality.
The ancient town and Church of Ephesus disappeared centuries ago. A village called Aya Solouk occupies its site. But the name remains in the Apocalypse as a symbol of the first or Nazarene age of the Church, and so has become immortal.
The last state of the Church is an index of the first state of that which follows it, as one merges into the other.
8. Και των αγγέλω της εν Σμύρνη εκκλησίας γράψον. . Τάδε λέγει ο πρώτος και ο έσχατος, δς εγένετο νεκρός και έζησεν. .
8. And to the angel of the church of Smyrna write: These things saith the First and the Last, who was dead and liveth.
(S = To ĉv Enúpvn.) Táde Néyec" these things saith "—is prophetic. Smyrna stands for the second or martyrs age of the Church,
which extended from Nero's persecution to the edict of Milan, A.D. 313. Smyrna is a Greek word meaning myrrh, a reddish aromatic gum resin, bitter to the taste, used for making incense, and for embalming the dead. It fitly symbolises the blood of the martyrs. The Bishop of Rome governed the Church in this age and is the angel addressed. Our Lord presents himself to this age as “ The first and the last,” “ And alive and was dead” (Ř. i. 17, 18), a very appropriate introduction to the martyrs' age. The Apostolic Church fell away from its first charity and was condemned to the removal of its candlestick." Its candlestick was removed to the catacombs in this Smyrnian or second age (R. ii. 5). Grace was recovered, and the candlestick restored to the Church, through persecution.
There was no Bishop, known to history, in the local Church of Smyrna, in the year 67.
9. οίδα σου την θλίψιν και την πτωχείαν, αλλά πλούσιος εί, και την βλασφημίαν εκ των λεγόντων Ιουδαίους είναι εαυτούς, και ουκ εισίν, αλλά συναγωγή του σατανά.
9. I know thy tribulation and thy poverty, but thou art rich; and thou art blasphemed by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are the Synagogue of Satan.
Instead of “I know thy works,” the opening sentence runs, “I know thy tribulation and thy poverty.” The work of the Church, in its second age, was to suffer and do penance and thereby regain the light. Its candlestick was hidden because it had fallen from grace. Referring to the martyrs of this age, an “Ancient " tells S. John: “These are they who have come out of great tribulation” (έκ της θλίψεως της μεγάλης R. vii. 14). A vision of the martyrs of this age is given in Chapter VI.
na was given the bitter medicine of persecution, symbolised by Myrrh. In this way it became rich spiritually. “ Blasphemed," i.e., persecuted " by those who say they are Jews." S. Paul uses the expression with reference to Jewish persecution (Acts xiii
. 45; xviii. 6; Rom. ii. 24). The Jews opposed the spread of Christianity in every way. They stirred up persecution, and when persecution arose they joined heartily in it. When S. Polycarp's life was threatened at Smyrna, the Jews furiously demanded his condemnation by the Proconsul; and when he was sentenced to death, they ran for fuel to burn him. They even tried to prevent his body from being given up to his followers (Euseb. H. E. iv. 15). Nero's persecution, with which the age of Smyrna opened, was in
stigated by the Jews. But these Jews who rejected and crucified their Messias were no longer true Jews; they were “the Synagogue of Satan” (see Rom. ii. 17, 28). S. John relates in his Gospel, that the Jews boasted to Christ that they were the seed of Abraham, and He answered them, “ If you be the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham.... You are of your father the devil. ... He was a murderer from the beginning ” (Jhn. viii. 39-44).
10. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. Behold the devil will cast some of you into prison that you may be tried, and you shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.
“Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer," is in itself a prediction. It leads up to a more definite one. “Behold the devil will cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried. And you shall have tribulation ten days.” Oriyus,“ tribulation” stands for bloody persecution (R. vii. 14), and ten days for ten periods. This warning was given to the Church of the second age to help it to bear with fortitude the sufferings which were in store for it. Sufferings foretold are easier to bear than those which come unexpectedly upon the weak. “The devil will cast some of you into prison” refers to the “great red dragon" at R. xii. 3. He is the power behind Cæsar, who instigated that “whoever will not adore the image of the beast should be slain " (R. xiii. 15). He joins with Cæsar in promoting Cæsar worship by persecution.
Prison stands for all manner of sufferings. Christians left prison to undergo exile, scourging, torture, exposure to wild beasts and death in other forms. “That you may be tried." This was done of God's set purpose that the Church might be purified.
Ten days or periods of persecution need not be strictly ten. Ten, in Scripture prophecy, is a round number denoting at least ten. It is a remarkable coincidence, however, that historians refer to the ten persecutions. Nero's persecution was in progress when the Revelation was written. At least nine others followed, attributed to Domitian, Trajan, M. Aurelius,
Severus, Maximin, Decius, Valerian, Aurelian, and Diocletian. There were other minor persecutions.
Be thou faithful unto death reveals the severity of the Origis." Christians of the second age must be ready to die for the faith. “And I will give thee the crown of life.” ETépavos, means the crown of laurels, the reward of victory in the contests of the arena. It is put in this book as the martyr's crown, perhaps, because they also gained it in the arena (1 Cor. ix. 24). S. James refers to "the crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love him” (Jas. i. 12)-Tîs Gwņs = eternal life (see R. iii. 11). There is no evidence that the local Church at Smyrna suffered ten persecutions. It escaped those of Nero and Domitian, and what persecutions it did suffer were common to all the Churches of the district.
ΙΙ. ο έχων ούς ακουσάτω τί το Πνεύμα λέγει ταϊς εκκλησίαις. Ο νικών ου μη αδικηθή εκ του θανάτου του δευτέρου.
II. He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith to the Churches. He that shall overcome shall not be hurt by the second death.
The Spirit is the teacher of the Church. “And the things that are to come he shall show you” (Jhn. xvi. 13).
Here the reader is referred to the end of the Book. We read at R. xxi. 8, “But to the fearful and unbelieving : : , their portion shall be in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death," where dellois stands for those who are afraid—“cowards." "He that shall overcome shall not be hurt by the second death." The passage at R. xxi. 8 refers to cowards who fall into idolatry, and worship Cæsar, through fear of death.
Smyrna was about thirty-five miles north of Ephesus. It was evangelised later than Ephesus and therefore was a younger Church. The city of Smyrna was one of the richest in Asia, and remains so still
. Owing to the silting up of the river Cayster, the trade of Asia Minor was diverted from Ephesus to Smyrna.
The interpretation of these messages requires that the special events predicted for each Church should be special to each and not common to all. No one supposes that Smyrna had a greater share of persecution than the neighbouring churches; or that the Synagogue of Satan troubled it more than Laodicea, for example, which had the largest Jewish population. There were 7,500 adult Jewish freemen in Laodicea, according to