Chapter 2: The Spirit Speaks to the Church: Overcome!

David Chilton

Narrated By: Daniel Sorenson
Book: The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of The Book of Revelation


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Chapter Text

Ephesus: Judgment on the False Apostles (2:1-7)

  1. To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks in the middle of the seven golden lampstands, says this:
  2. I know your deeds and your toil and your perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men – that you have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not, and have found them to be false.
  3. And you have perseverance, and have endured hardships for My name, and have not grown weary.
  4. But I have this against you: You have left your first love.
  5. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you quickly, and will remove your lampstand out of its place – unless you repent.
  6. Yet this you do have: You hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
  7. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the Paradise of My God.

1          The city of Ephesus was the most important city in Asia Minor, both in politics and trade. It was an important cultural center as well, boasting such attractions as art, science, witchcraft, idolatry, gladiators, and persecution. Main Street ran from the harbor to the theater, and on the way the visitor would pass the gymnasium and public baths, the public library, and the public brothel. Its temple to Artemis (or Diana – the goddess of fertility and “nature in the wild”) was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. St. Luke tells us another interesting fact about the city, one that has important bearing on the Seven Messages as a whole: Ephesus was a hotbed of Jewish occultism and magical arts (Acts 19:13-15, 18-19). Throughout the world of the first century, apostate Judaism was accommodating itself to numerous pagan ideologies and heathen practices, developing early strains of what later came to be known as Gnosticism – various hybrids of occult wisdom, rabbinical lore, mystery religion, and either asceticism or licentiousness (or both), all stirred up together with a few bits and pieces of Christian doctrine.[1] This mongrelized religious quackery was undoubtedly a primary spawning ground for the heresies that afflicted the churches of Asia Minor.

Yet, despite all the multiform depravity within Ephesus (cf. Eph. 4:17-19; 5:3-12) the Lord Jesus Christ had established His Church there (Acts 19); and in this message He assures the angel of the congregation that He holds the seven stars in His right hand, upholding and protecting the rulers whom He has ordained: “He fills them with light and influence,” says Matthew Henry’s Commentary; “He supports them, or else they would soon be falling stars.”[2] He also walks in the middle of the lampstands, the churches, guarding and examining them, and connecting them to one another through their unity in Him. “I will put My dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people” (Lev. 26:11-12).

2-3      The church in Ephesus was well known for its toil and hard work for the faith, and its perseverance in the face of opposition and apostasy, having endured hardships for the name of Christ. This was a church that did not know the meaning of compromise, willing to take a strong stand for orthodoxy, regardless of the cost. (It is noteworthy that, of all Paul’s letters to the churches, Ephesians alone does not mention a single doctrinal issue that needed apostolic correction.) The rulers of the church were not afraid to discipline evil men. They knew the importance of heresy trials and excommunications, and it seems that this church had had a good share of both: Its rulers had tested the false “apostles,” and had convicted them. The elders of Ephesus heeded well the exhortation Paul had given them (Acts 20:28-30: “Guard yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the Church of God, which He bought with His own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!”

Forty years later, this church was still renowned for its orthodoxy, as St. Ignatius (martyred A.D. 107) observed in his letter to the Ephesians: “You all live according to truth, and no heresy has a home among you: indeed, you do not so much as listen to anyone, if he speaks of anything except concerning Jesus Christ in truth…. I have learned that certain persons passed through you bringing evil doctrine; and you did not allow them to sow seeds among you, for you stopped up your ears, so that you might not receive the seed sown by them…. You are arrayed from head to foot in the commandments of Jesus Christ.”[3]

There are several striking parallels in these verses: Christ tells the church, “I know…. your toil [literally, weariness] and your perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men…. And you have perseverance and have endured for My sake, and have not grown weary.”

4-6      Yet the Lord rebukes the angel: I have this against you: You have left your first love. The church’s desire for sound doctrine had become perverted into a hardening-up against their brothers in Christ, so that they lacked love. It is important to note that even the most rigorous concern for orthodoxy does not automatically mean an absence of love. It is only a perversion of orthodoxy that results in hardness toward brethren. Christ does not criticize the Ephesians for being “too orthodox,” but for leaving, forsaking the love which they had at first. The question of “doctrine versus love” is, Biblically speaking, a non-issue. In fact, it is a specifically pagan issue, seeking to put asunder what God has joined together. Christians are required to be both orthodox and loving, and a lack of either will eventually result in the judgment of God.

Remember therefore from where you have fallen: The Ephesians had once had a harmonious combination of love and doctrinal orthodoxy, and Christ calls them to repent, to change their minds about their actions and do the deeds you did at first. Love is not simply a state of mind or an attitude; love is action in terms of God’s law: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3; cf. Rom. 13:8-10). Christ’s antidote for the Bride’s spiritual malaise is not simply an exhortation to change her attitude as such. Instead, He commands her to change her actions, to perform the works that had characterized her romance with the Bridegroom at the beginning. Repentant actions will nourish and cultivate a repentant attitude.

If they do not repent, however, Christ warns: I am coming to you in judgment – a warning stated three more times in these letters (2:16; 3:3, 11). As we have seen before (1:7), the Coming of Christ does not simply refer to a cataclysm at the end of history, but rather refers to His comings in history. In fact, He warns, He will come quickly, a term emphasized by its seven occurrences in Revelation (2:5, 16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:7, 12, 20). The Lord is not threatening the church at Ephesus with His Second Coming; He is saying that He will come against them: I will remove your lampstand out of its place. Their influence will be taken away, and, indeed, they will cease to be a church at all. For lack of love, the entire congregation is in danger of excommunication. If the elders of a church fail to discipline and disciple the church toward love as well as doctrinal orthodoxy, Jesus Christ Himself will step in and administer judgment – and at that point it may very well be too late for repentance.

It is likely that St. John was using an important “current event” in the life of Ephesus as a partial basis for this imagery. The coastline was continually changing because of the sediment brought down by the nearby river Cayster; sand and pebbles progressively filled up the harbor, threatening to turn it into a marsh. The city was in danger of being, in effect, moved out of its place, completely cut off from the sea. Two centuries before, a massive engineering project had dredged the harbor, at the cost of much toil, perseverance, and hardship. By the middle of the first century, however, the harbor was again filling with silt. It became apparent that if Ephesus was to retain her influence as a seaport, the citizens would have to repent of their negligence and do the first works again. In A.D. 64, the city finally began dredging the harbor, and Ephesus remained in its place for years to come. (Over later centuries, the silting was allowed to go on unimpeded. Now, the sea is six miles away from the ruins of Ephesus, and what was once the harbor of Ephesus is now a grassy, windswept plain.)[4]

But a return to love does not imply any lessening of theological standards (in a real sense, it means a heightening and enforcing of a full-orbed theological standard). True love for Christ and His people requires the hatred of evil, and the Lord commends them for their steadfastness in this: Yet this you do have: You hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. According to the second-century bishop St. Irenaeus, “the Nicolaitans are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles [Acts 6:5]. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence… teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.”[5] If St. Irenaeus is correct here – his viewpoint is certainly debatable[6] – the deacon Nicolas (in Greek, Nikolaos) had apostatized and become a “false apostle,” seeking to lead others into heresy and compromise with paganism.

One thing is obvious: St. John is calling the heretical faction in Ephesus after someone named Nikolaos (even if we allow that St. Irenaeus was confused about his identity). His reason appears to be based on linguistic considerations, for in Greek Nikolaos means Conqueror of the people. Interestingly, in the third of the seven messages St. John mentions a group of heretics in Pergamum, whom he calls followers of “Balaam” (2:14). In Hebrew, Balaam means Conqueror of the people. St. John is making a play on words, linking the “Nicolaitans” of Ephesus with the “Balaamites” of Pergamum; in fact, he clearly tells us in 2:14-15 that their doctrines are the same. Just as Nikolaos and Balaam are linguistic equivalents of one another (cf. the same technique in 9:11), they are theological equivalents as well. The “Nicolaitans” and the “Balaamites” are participants in the same heretical cult.

This conclusion is strengthened by a further connection. When we compare the actual teachings of the Nicolaitan/Balaamite heresy with those of the “Jezebel” faction in the church of Thyatira, mentioned in the fourth message (2:20), we find that their doctrines are identical to each other. There thus seems to be one particular heresy that is the focus of these messages to the churches during the Last Days, a heresy seeking to seduce God’s people into idolatry and fornication. As St. Paul had foretold, wolves had arisen from within the Christian community attempting to devour the sheep, and it was the duty of the pastors/angels to be on guard against them, and to put them out of the Church. Jesus Christ declares that He hates the deeds of the Nicolaitans; His people are to show forth His image in loving what He loves and hating what He hates (cf. Ps. 139:19-22).

7          As in each of these messages, the letter to the church at Ephesus concludes by exhorting them to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Although the messages are different, in terms of the needs of each congregation, the Spirit is really issuing one basic command: Overcome! The Greek verb is nikao, the same as the root of Nicolaitan; Christ is charging His church with the responsibility of overcoming those who seek to overcome her. One side or the other will be the victor in this battle. Satan’s opposition to the churches will appear in various forms, and different churches (and different ages of the Church) will have different issues to face, different enemies to overcome. But no matter what are the particular problems facing it, each church is under divine mandate to conquer and completely overwhelm its opposition. The duty of overcoming is not something reserved for a select few “super-Christians” who have “dedicated” themselves to God over and above the usual requirements for Christians. All Christians are overcomers: Whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith (1 John 5:4). The Christians spoken of in Revelation overcame the devil “because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the Word of their testimony” (12:11). The question is not one of victory or defeat. The question is victory or treason.

The Christian overcomes; and to him Christ grants the privilege to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the Paradise of My God. This is not only an otherworldly hope. Although the full consummation of this promise is brought in at the end of history, it is a present and increasing possession of the people of God, as they obey their Lord and take dominion over the earth. For the Tree of Life is Jesus Christ Himself, and to partake of the Tree is to possess the blessings and benefits of salvation.[7] In Christ, the overcoming Christian has Paradise Restored, in this life and forever.

Smyrna: Judgment on the False Israel (2:8-11)

  1. And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The First and the Last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:
  2. I know your works and your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
  3. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
  4. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.

8          There were two characteristics of Smyrna that meant severe problems for the church there. First, the people of the city were strongly devoted to the Emperor cult; and, second, Smyrna had a large population of Jews who were hostile to the Christian faith. To this faithful church, suffering mightily under the persecutions of these unbelievers, Jesus Christ announces Himself as the First and the Last, a name for God taken from Isaiah 44:6 and 48:12. It is obvious from the contexts of those verses that the expression identifies God as the supreme Lord and Determiner of history, the Planner and Controller of all reality. The Biblical doctrine of predestination, when rightly understood, should not be a source of fear for the Christian; rather, it is a source of comfort and assurance.

The opposite of the doctrine of predestination is not freedom, but meaninglessness; if the smallest details of our lives are not part of the Plan of God, if they are not created facts with a divinely determined significance, then they can have no meaning at all. They cannot be “working together for good.” But the Christian who understands the truth of God’s sovereignty is assured thereby that nothing in his life is without meaning and purpose – that God has ordained all things for His glory and for our ultimate good. This means that even our sufferings are part of a consistent Plan; that when we are opposed, we need not fear that God has abandoned us. We can be secure in the knowledge that, since we have been “called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28), all things in our life are a necessary aspect of that purpose. Martin Luther said: “It is, then, fundamentally necessary and wholesome for Christians to know that God foreknows nothing contingently, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His own immutable, eternal and infallible will…. For the Christian’s chief and only comfort in adversity lies in knowing that God does not lie, but brings all things to pass immutably, and that His will cannot be resisted, altered or impeded.”[8]

Not only is Christ the First and the Last, but He was dead, and has come to life: He is completely victorious over death and the grave as the “first fruits” of all those who die in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:20-22), guaranteeing our resurrection as well, so that even “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). Regardless of the force and cruelty of their persecutors, the Christians in Smyrna cannot be defeated, either in this life or the next.

9-10    But it was not easy to be a Christian in Smyrna. Certainly, they didn’t get “raptured” out of their tribulation; and this often meant poverty as well, because of their stand for the faith. Perhaps they were subjected to confiscation of their property (cf. Heb. 10:34) or vandalism; it is also likely that they were the objects of an economic boycott on account of their refusal to align themselves with either the pagan State-worshipers or the apostate Jews (d. 13:16-17). Yet in their poverty, they were rich in the most basic and ultimate sense: regarded by the world “as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things” (2 Cor. 6:10). I know all about what you are enduring, their Lord assures them; He identifies with them in their sufferings, so much so that “in all their afflictions He is afflicted” (Isa. 63:9; cf. v. 2-3). As the Puritan theologian John Owen observed, all our persecutions “are His in the first place, ours only by participation” (cf. Col. 1:24).[9]

And he knows all about the blasphemy of their persecutors as well – those who say they are Jews and are not. Here the Lord is explicit about the identity of the opposition faced by the early Church: Those who are otherwise known as Nicolaitans, the followers of the false apostles Balaam and Jezebel, are defined here as those who claim to be Jews, children of Abraham, but in reality are children of the devil. These are the Israelites who have rejected Christ and thus rejected the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. A popular myth holds that non-Christian Jews are true believers in the God of the Old Testament, and that they only need to “add” the New Testament to their otherwise adequate religion. But the New Testament itself is adamant on this point: Non-Christian Jews are not believers in God, but are covenant-breaking apostates. As Jesus said to those Jews who rejected Him: “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me…. You are doing the deeds of your father…. If God were your Father, you would love Me…. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the deeds of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks the Lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:39-44). The truth is that there is no such thing as an “orthodox” Jew, unless he is a Christian; for if Jews believed the Old Testament, they would believe in Christ. If a man does not believe in Christ, he does not believe Moses either (John 5:46).

St. Paul wrote: “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Rom. 2:28-29). For this reason, St. Paul was bold enough to use this language in warning the churches against the seductions of the apostate Jews: “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:2-3). The expression translated true circumcision is, in the Greek, simply circumcision, meaning a cutting around; the false circumcision is literally concision, meaning a cutting in pieces. The Jews’ circumcision, the covenant sign in which they trusted, was in reality an emblem of their own spiritual mutilation and destruction, the sign that through their own rebellion they had inherited the covenant curses. The cutting away of the foreskin was always a mark of damnation. To the righteous, the ritual application of God’s wrath signified that they would not undergo its terrible reality; to the disobedient, however, it was a foretaste of things to come, a certain sign of the utter destruction that lay ahead.

Who then is the true Jew? Who belongs to the true Israel? According to the clear teaching of the New Testament, the person (regardless of his ethnic heritage) who has been clothed with Jesus Christ is the inheritor of the promises to Abraham, and possesses the blessings of the Covenant (Rom. 11:11-24; Gal. 3:7-9, 26-29). But a congregation of apostates and persecutors is nothing more, our Lord says, than a synagogue of Satan. Satan means Accuser, and early Christian history is rife with examples of Satanic false witness by the Jews against the Christian Church (Acts 6:9-15; 13:10; 14:2-5; 17:5-8; 18:6, 12-13; 19:9; 21:27-36; 24:1-9; 25:2-3, 7). This point is underscored by the statement that some of them would be cast into prison by the devil (meaning the Slanderer).

Because the One who knows their sufferings is also the First and the Last, the All-Controller, He can give authoritative comfort: Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Some of the Smyrnaean Christians would soon be cast into prison at the instigation of the Jews; but Christ assures them that this too is a part of the great cosmic conflict between Christ and Satan. The persecutions inflicted upon them by the Jews allied with the Roman Empire have their origin in the devil, in his hostility to the followers of Jesus Christ, in his frantic attempts to retain the shreds of his tattered kingdom. He is desperately waging a losing battle against the relentlessly marching hordes of a nation of kings and priests who are predestined to victory.

And thus behind even the devil’s attempts to overthrow us is the absolute decree of God. Satan inspired the Chaldeans to steal Job’s flocks, and yet Job’s righteous response was: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).[10] So the divinely ordained purpose for the devil’s wicked activity is that you may be tested: as Samuel Rutherford wrote, “the devil is but God’s master fencer, to teach us to handle our weapons.”[11] The trials of Christians are not ordained ultimately by Satan, but by God; and the outcome is not destruction, but purity (cf. Job 23:10; 1 Pet. 4:12-19). The tribulation of the church at Smyrna would be fierce, but relatively short in duration: ten days. Daniel and his three friends had been tested for ten days, but they passed the test, and were promoted to high privilege (Dan. 1:11-21). Similarly, the Jewish persecution of the church in Smyrna would be allowed to continue for only a short while longer, and then the church would be free: Ten days of tribulation in exchange for one thousand years of victory (20:4-6). Even so, the time of testing was to cost the lives of many in the church, and they are exhorted to be faithful until death, in order to win the crown of life. This is not a blessing reserved for some unusually consecrated class of Christians, for all Christians are to be faithful until death. The Bible simply does not know of any other kind of Christian. “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12). “You will be hated by all on account of My name,” Jesus said; “but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” (Matt. 10:22). The crown of life is salvation itself.

11       The faithful Christian who overcomes opposition and temptation shall not be hurt by the Second Death. The fact that this was originally said to a first-century church helps us understand the meaning of another passage in this book. Revelation 20:6 states that those who are not hurt by the “Second Death” are the same as those who partake of “the First Resurrection,” and that they are priests and kings with Christ – a blessing St. John has already affirmed to be a present reality (1:6). Necessarily, therefore, the First Resurrection cannot refer to the physical resurrection at the end of the world (1 Cor. 15:22-28). Rather, it must refer to what St. Paul clearly taught in his epistle to the Ephesians: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…. But God, being rich in mercy, … even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him” (Eph. 2:1,4-6). The Christian, in every age, is a partaker in the First Resurrection to new life in Christ, having been cleansed from his (first) death in Adam.[12] He “has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).

Pergamum: Judgment on the False

Prophet and Godless King (2:12·17)

  1. And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:
  2. I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith, even in the days of Antipas, My faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
  3. But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.
  4. Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
  5. Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.
  6. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give 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.

12       Pergamum was another important Asian city, and played host to a number of popular false cults, the most prominent being those of Zeus, Dionysos, Asklepios (the serpent-god who was officially designated Savior), and, most importantly, Caesar-worship. Pergamum boasted magnificent temples to the Caesars and to Rome, and “of all the seven cities, Pergamum was the one in which the church was most liable to clash with the imperial cult.”[13]

To this major center of deified statism, Christ announces Himself as the One who has the sharp two-edged sword. Rome claimed for itself the position of Creator and Definer of all: The Empire’s power over life and death was absolute and final. But, whereas Rome asserted that its right of execution was original, the message of Christianity was that all power and authority outside the triune God was derivative – the various rulers and authorities are created, and receive their dominion from God (Rom. 13:1-4). It is Jesus Christ who wields all power in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18), and the ultimate power of the sword belongs to Him. As the Sovereign Lord and Ruler of the kings of earth (1:5), He has laid down the law to the nations. If the rulers do not apply and enforce His commands throughout their divinely-ordained jurisdiction, He will bring his sharp sword down upon their necks.[14]

13       The believers of Pergamum are living where Satan’s throne is (cf. comments at 1:4 on the centrality of the throne-theme in Revelation). Robert H. Mounce notes several of the suggestions as to the meaning of this expression (none of which must necessarily exclude the others): “Frequent mention is made of the great throne-like altar to Zeus which overlooked the city from the citadel…. Others take the phrase in reference to the cult of Asklepios, who was designated Savior and whose symbol was the serpent (this would obviously remind Christians of Satan; cf. 12:9; 20:2)…. As the traveler approached Pergamum by the ancient road from the south, the actual shape of the city-hill would appear as a giant throne towering above the plain. The expression is best understood, however, in connection with the prominence of Pergamum as the official cult center of emperor worship in Asia…. It was here that Satan had established his official seat or chair of state. As Rome had become the center of Satan’s activity in the West (cf. 13:2; 16:10), so Pergamum had become his ‘throne’ in the East.”[15]

While this last designation – the throne as the seat of emperor-worship and deified statism – is a central aspect of the text’s meaning, there is a much more basic dimension that is generally overlooked. Satan has already been identified in these messages as united to the synagogue, the unbelieving Jewish community that has abandoned the covenant in favor of a mythical religion. The foremost enemy of the Church, throughout the New Testament, is apostate Judaism, whose representatives were continually haling Christians before the Roman magistrate (Acts 4:24-28; 12:1-3; 13:8; 14:5; 17:5-8; 18:12-13; 21:11; 24:1-9; 25:2-3, 9, 24). As St. John will reveal in Chapters 12-13, Satan is the moving force behind the Jewish/Roman attempt to destroy the Church.

The close relationship in Pergamum between organized Judaism and the imperial officials, combined with Christianity’s opposition to statism and the worship of the creature, made it only natural that persecution and martyrdom would begin here, if anywhere in Asia. And on this account, Christ regards the church at Pergamum as faithful: They hold fast to His name – confessing Him alone as Savior, Mediator and Lord, proclaiming that His identity as the link between heaven and earth was absolutely unique. They did not deny the faith, even when bitter persecution came in the days of Antipas… who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. No one now knows who this Antipas was, but it is enough that Christ singles him out for special acknowledgment: My faithful witness, He calls him. By his very name – Against All – Antipas personifies the steadfastness of the Pergamene church in resisting persecution.

14-16 Yet not all in the church were of the faithful character of Antipas; moreover, a threat that posed a danger to the integrity of the faith, even greater than the danger of persecution, is the sly, insidious working of heresy. St. John draws on the history of the Church in the wilderness to illustrate his point: You have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, whose name means, like Nikolaos, Conqueror (or Destroyer) of the people. When it was discovered that the people of God could not be defeated in open warfare (see Num. 22-24), the false prophet Balaam suggested another plan to Balak, the evil King of Moab. The only way to destroy Israel was through corruption. Thus Balaam kept teaching Balak (cf. Num. 31:16) to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication (cf. Num. 25).[16] Thus you also have some who in the same way – i.e., in imitation of Balaam – hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans: In other words, those who hold the teaching of Balaam and those who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans (cf. 2:6) comprise the same group. The church in Pergamum was standing steadfastly for the faith when it came to outright persecution by an ungodly state – yet they were falling prey to other forms of compromise with Satan.

What exactly was the Nicolaitan doctrine? St. John describes it in terms of the doctrine of Balaam, using his ancient error as a symbol of the contemporary heresy. Like Balaam, the false apostles attempt to destroy Christians by corrupting them, by enticing them to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication. Both of these practices were commonplace in the pagan religious atmosphere of the day, and St. John’s language seems to be drawn from the Jerusalem Council’s instructions to Gentile converts:

For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well (Acts 15:28-29).[17]

In disobedience to the true apostolic Council, the false Nicolaitan apostles advocated antinomianism – the teaching that, perhaps through the sacrifice of Christ, Christians were “freed from the law,” in a sense completely opposed to the Biblical teaching of sanctification. It was no longer a sin, in their account, to commit idolatry and fornication; the believer was not under obligation to obey the law, but can live as he pleases (although they probably claimed, as antinomians do today, the “leading of the Spirit” as justification for their abominable practices).

There is, however, an important aspect of the imagery involved here that we should not overlook: The false apostles are seeking to seduce the Christians into idolatrous eating and fornication, and this is analogous to the serpent’s seduction of Eve. Her eating of the forbidden tree was, in essence, idolatry; it is also spoken of by St. Paul in terms of fornication (2 Cor. 11:2-3). But those who overcome the Nicolaitan enticements, St. John says, will be granted access to the Tree of Life (2:7). Those who refuse to eat Balaam’s food will eat manna from heaven, and will be included in the number of those whose names are written on the stone (2:17).

If the church is to be blessed, however, the false teaching must not be permitted. Christ, speaking to the rulers of the church, orders them to repent. The offenders must be recognized in their true character as heretical apostates, who will cause the downfall of the church if they are not excommunicated. The church that fails to discipline its members will be destroyed – even an otherwise faithful and exemplary church such as that at Pergamum. The Lord threatens that if they do not repent, I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth; the Angel of the Lord had met Balaam with a drawn sword (Num. 22:31), and a sword was used to kill him (Num. 31:8). As we have observed already (see on 1:7 and 2:5), this warning of Christ’s Coming is not a statement about the Second Coming of Christ at the end of history, but rather refers to a judgment within history. It is a judgment that was imminent to the church in Pergamum, especially in light of the fact that judgment was about to be unleashed upon the whole world (3:10). The same principle has been repeated again and again throughout the history of Christianity. Wherever heretics are indulged by the people or by the leadership, the church is on the verge of being destroyed by the jealous wrath of Christ.

17       The overcomer is promised three things. First, Christ will give him of the hidden manna (i.e., the manna hidden in the Ark, which is Christ: Ex. 16:33-34; Heb. 9:4) – a symbol taken from the supernatural gift of “angels’ food” (Ps. 78:25), giving daily strength and sustenance to the people of God during the Exodus from Egypt. In essence, that is what Christ communicates to His Church at every moment. Definitively, we have been restored to Edenic provision for our needs, and that will be progressively realized in history until the final consummation and fulfillment of all of God’s plans and promises for His people.

Second, the Christian is promised a white stone. This has been seen variously as referring to a ticket to a feast, a token of acquittal (i.e., justification), or some such reflection of a common practice of John’s day. While these interpretations do not need to be excluded, of course, there is a much more satisfactory way to look at this stone in terms of Biblical revelation. There is a white stone connected in the Bible with manna, and it is called bdellium (cf. Ex. 16:31 with Num. 11:7).[18] Moreover, this stone is connected with the Garden of Eden, and is intended to be a reminder of it (Gen. 2:12): Salvation is a New Creation, and restores God’s people to Paradise.

Third, the Christian is granted a new name, speaking of the new character and identity of those who belong to Christ. As always, God the Lord is the Definer, who has called us into being and wholly interpreted us in terms of his predetermined plan:

The nations will see your righteousness,
And all kings your glory;
And you will be called by a new name,
Which the mouth of the LORD will bestow. (Isa. 62:2)

The fact that the name is written on the stone would seem to argue against the interpretation of the white stone given above, for we are never told in Scripture of any writing of names on the bdellium. Yet this only serves to confirm the interpretation. The stone which was marked with a name in the Old Testament was the onyx stone. Two onyx stones were placed on the shoulders of the High Priest, and on them were engraved the names of the tribes of Israel (Ex. 28:9-12). Yet the onyx stone was not a white stone – it was black. The explanation for this seems to be that the bdellium and onyx are simply combined in this imagery (a common device in Scripture) to create a new image that still retains the older associations. The connecting link here is the bdellium: it is associated in Genesis 2:12 with onyx, and in Numbers 11:7 with manna. Together, they speak of the restoration of Eden in the blessings of salvation.

One further point about this promise should be explained. No one knows the new name, Christ says, but he who receives it. The meaning of this expression, rooted in a Hebrew idiom, is that the name is “known” by the receiver in the sense of owning it. In other words, the point is not that the new name is secret, but that it is exclusive: Only the overcomer possesses the name, the divinely-ordained definition of himself as belonging to the covenant of the Lord Jesus Christ; no one else has the right to it.[19] In its particular application to the situation at Pergamum, the Nicolaitan heretic, who by his doctrine or life is a traitor to the cause of Christ, does not truly own the designation Christian. The name belongs only to the overcomers. They, and they alone, are granted readmittance to the Garden. They gain entrance through the sacrifice of Christ, in whom they have been redefined and renamed.

Thyatira: Judgment on the Royal Harlot (2:18-29)

  1. And to the angel of the church of Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:
  2. I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.
  3. But I have this against you, that you tolerate your wife, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads my servants astray, so that they commit fornication and eat things sacrificed to idols.
  4. And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her fornication.
  5. Behold, I will cast her upon a bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.
  6. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
  7. But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them-I place no other burden on you.
  8. Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.
  9. And he who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until 
the end, to him I will give authority over the nations.
  10. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; like the vessels of a potter they shall be broken to pieces, as I also have received 
from My Father.
  11. And I will give him the morning star.
  12. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the 

18       One of the most significant things about the city of Thyatira was the dominance of trade guilds over the local economy. Every imaginable manufacturing industry was strictly controlled by the guilds: In order to work in a trade, you had to belong to the appropriate guild. And to be a member of a guild meant also to worship pagan gods; heathen worship was integrally connected with the guilds, which held their meetings and common meals in pagan temples. Two central aspects of the required pagan worship were the eating of meat sacrificed to idols, and illicit sexual relations. Any Christian who worked in a craft or trade was thus presented with severe problems: his faithfulness to Christ would affect his calling, his livelihood, and his ability to feed his family.

The local god, the guardian of the city, was Tyrimnos, the son of Zeus; and Tyrimnos-worship was mixed in Thyatira with the worship of Caesar, who was also proclaimed the incarnate Son of God. The conflict of Christianity and paganism in Thyatira was immediate and central – and so the first word of Christ to this church is the proclamation that He alone is the Son of God (the only place in the Revelation where this specific designation of Christ is used). The letter to this church begins with an uncompromising challenge to paganism and statism, affirming the definitive, absolute uniqueness of Jesus Christ.

19-20 There was much that could be commended in the church at Thyatira. It was active in love and faith and service and perseverance – in fact, its activity was increasing: Your deeds of late are greater than at first. But, in spite of all good works of the church, its great defect in the eyes of Christ was its doctrinal and moral laxity (the Thyatirans were thus the opposite number of the doctrinally correct Ephesians). The elders were allowing false doctrine to have a place in the church. Christ again calls the heresy by a symbolic name, as He had before (Nikolaos and Balaam); this time, the cult is identified with Jezebel, the wicked queen of Israel during the ninth century B.C., who led the covenant people into the idolatrous and adulterous worship of pagan gods (1 Kings 21:25-26; cf. 2 Kings 9:22, where her actions are specifically called “harlotries” and “witchcrafts”). The “Jezebel” of the Thyatiran church similarly advocated compromise with paganism. Of course, very pious-sounding terminology would have accompanied this – perhaps to the effect that, after all, there is only one God, so any worship rendered to false gods is “really” offered to the true God; or, that by joining pagans in their religious services one might be able to witness for Christianity; or, that going along with the heathen will enable Christians to survive rather than be wiped out by persecution; or perhaps that all religions have something to teach each other, and that we Christians should abandon our arrogant absolutism and seek to combine the best of our traditions with the best in the heathen traditions, thus creating a truly universal faith, one

which answers the needs of all people and all cultures.

Regardless of the rationale involved, the doctrine was heresy, and was not to be tolerated. That is the precise term used here: You tolerate this woman, the Lord accuses them. And by tolerating her, the elders were placing the entire church in jeopardy, for she teaches and leads My servants astray, so that they commit fornication and eat things sacrificed to idols. This must be clearly understood: Orthodox, Biblical Christianity is intolerant. A church that tolerates evil and false doctrine is a church under judgment; God will not long tolerate her. This is not to say that Christians should be intolerant of each other’s mistakes, idiosyncrasies, and differences over nonessentials. But when it comes to clear violations of Biblical law and orthodox doctrine, the government of the church is required by Scripture

to put a stop to it before it destroys the church.

“Jezebel” was, figuratively if not literally, leading Christians into fornication and idolatrous communion, the effective abandonment of the Christian faith for paganism and state-worship. Was there literally a woman leading the Judaizers in this local area? The possibility is at least indicated by the specific accusation against the angel/bishop of Thyatira: “You tolerate your wife, Jezebel.” It may be that the arch-heretic of Thyatira was the leading pastor’s wife! On the other hand, Christ may be pointing in a more general way to the angel’s failure, like Adam, properly to guard the Bride – a central function of the priestly calling. Because he had failed, she had become a Harlot.[20]

21-23 Christ had given Jezebel time to repent… of her fornication, and she had refused. We must emphasize again that this term is used in both a literal and a symbolic sense in Scripture. Apparently, Jezebel had actually encouraged God’s people to commit physical fornication in connection with the religious rites of the trade guilds; on the other hand, the use of the word fornication has a long Biblical history as a symbol of rebellion against the true God by those who belong to him (see, e.g., Ezek. 16 and 23). We have already noted the symbolic aspects of idolatrous eating and fornication; it is important to recognize also that St. John describes the Great Harlot of Babylon, identified with apostate Judaism, with very clear references to the Biblical story of Jezebel, the Harlot Queen (17:5, 16; 19:2). This again confirms the interpretation that the doctrines of the Nicolaitans, the Balaamites, and the Jezebelites were identical, and were connected with the false Israel, the “synagogue of Satan.”

“Jezebel” had to be punished, and in a play on words the Lord declares: Behold, I will cast her into a bed! As many of the modern translations point out, this is a sickbed, explained by the next clause: and those who commit adultery with her into Great Tribulation. With grim humor, Jesus is saying: Do you want to “get in bed” (i.e., commit fornication)? Very well – here’s a deathbed for you! Let us note carefully too that this first-century judgment against the followers of Jezebel is spoken of in terms of the Great Tribulation. Every Biblical indication regarding the Great Tribulation leads to the plain conclusion that it took place during the generation after Christ’s death and resurrection – just as He said it would (Matt. 24:21, 34).[21] And I will kill her children (her followers; cf. Isa. 57:3) with death is, to our ears, a strange way of putting it. But this is a common Hebrew means of emphasis known as a pleonasm, a linguistic “double witness” to the certainty of its fulfillment (cf. Gen. 2:17, “Dying thou shalt die”).[22]

What happens when apostates are disciplined and judged? All the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. God’s character as the holy and omniscient Judge is vindicated in the churches (and in the world as well, Isa. 26:9) when He punishes those who rebel against Him. Those who truly love the Lord will heed the judgment and be spurred on to renewed obedience when they are reminded again that He renders to each of us according to our deeds.

24-25 Apparently, a central part of Jezebel’s heresy involved a search into the deep things of Satan, as they call them. Connecting this with what we already know of her teaching, it seems that her doctrine was a proto-Gnostic teaching that Christians would attain new and greater levels of sanctification by immersion into the depths of Satanism: worshiping idols, committing fornication, entering to the fullest extent into the depravities of the heathen around them – sinning that grace might abound. The fact that such activity could be both sensually satisfying and economically profitable would not, of course, have been overlooked; but there was more to it than this. Jezebel’s doctrine of sanctification through idolatry and fornication was simply a slightly Christianized version of the most ancient heresy in the world, and one which has been manifested in every culture from the beginning: salvation through chaos. Eve saw chaos, anarchy and revolution as the key to wisdom and the attainment of divine status; and the original Adulteress has had many followers, as R. J. Rushdoony points out: “Chaos as revitalization has a long and continuing history in Western civilization, and, with the French Revolution, it gained a new vitality as revolution and sexual chaos became the means to social regeneration. In the world of art, the creative artist came to be identified as of necessity with a social and sexual anarchist, and in popular thinking, order and morality came to mean monotony and devitalizing, enervating palls, whereas lawlessness means liberty and power. The middle-aged ‘fling’ and sexual license came into being as a grasping after renewal, and Negress prostitutes came to be used as a ‘change of luck’ device, an especial sin against order as a means of a recharging of luck and power. Basic to all these manifestations, from ancient Egypt through Caesar to modern man, is one common hope: destroy order to create order afresh, or, even more bluntly, destroy order to create order.”[23]

But, Christ says, there are faithful Christians in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not sought after forbidden knowledge in Satanic practices, despite the economic and social consequences of their refusal to compromise; I place no other burden on you. Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come. This, again, reflects the language of the Jerusalem Council’s letter to the Gentile converts: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols… and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well” (Acts 15:28-29). The faithful are to continue practicing the essentials of the faith, holding to orthodox standards of doctrine and life, until Christ comes with tribulation to judge the heretics and apostates who are illegally remaining in the Church.

26-29 The faithful Christians in Thyatira were suffering from both the heathen world outside and the compromising heretics within the church. They probably were tempted to doubt whether they would ever win in this struggle. The most prosperous and successful Christians were the ones who were the most faithless to Christ; it looked as if the orthodox were fighting a losing battle. They were so powerless by now that they were unable even to oust the apostates from the church. Yet Christ promises the angel/bishop: He who overcomes, 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 a potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received from My Father. This is a reference to the Father’s promise to the Son, as recorded in Psalm 2:8-9:

Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Thy possession.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron,
Thou shalt shatter them like earthenware.

God the Son has been granted the rule of all the world, and all nations will come under His messianic kingship (see also Ps. 22:27-31; 46:4, 10; 65:2; 66:4; 68:31-32; 72; 86:9; 102:15-22; 138:4-5; 145:10-11). Whatever opposition is offered against His Kingdom will be crushed absolutely. And the installation of Christ as universal King, prophesied in this passage, clearly took place at Christ’s First Coming, through His birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension to glory (this can be confirmed by simply looking up the numerous New Testament quotations of Psalms 2 and 110, both of which are about Christ’s kingship[24]).

The point of the quotation here is that the Christian overcomers, in this age, are promised a share in the messianic reign of Jesus Christ, in time and on earth. In spite of all opposition, God has set up His King over the nations (cf. Ps. 2:1-6). Those who are obedient to His commands will rule the world, reconstructing it for His glory in terms of His laws. Psalm 2 shows God laughing and sneering at the pitiful attempts of the wicked to fight against and overthrow His Kingdom. He has already given His Son “all authority in heaven and earth,” and the King is with His Church until the end of the age (Matt. 28:18-20)! Is it possible that the King will be defeated? He has, in fact, warned all earthly rulers to submit to His government, or perish (Ps. 2:10-12). And the same is true of His Church. The nation that will not serve us will perish (Isa. 60:12); all the peoples of the earth will be subdued under our feet (Ps. 47:1-3)-promises made originally to Israel, but now to be fulfilled in the New Israel, the Church.

For the persecuted and seemingly weak church in Thyatira, this was good news. At the time, they were at the mercy of a powerful economic and political power; statism and state-worship were increasing; even their fellow Christians were being seduced by false prophets and heretics. To be a faithful Christian in Thyatira meant hardship and suffering, and not necessarily a very glorious, headline-making sort of suffering, either. Just the day-to-day grind of faithfulness to Christ’s Word; just the fact of being unemployed and unemployable in the midst of a booming economy, when everyone around them could get work for the mere price of burning a little incense, eating a little meat from a pagan altar, and engaging in a little “harmless” sex between consenting adults. There was no opportunity for a great moral crusade; everyone just thought you were weird. And night after night your children would cry for food. No, this kind of martyrdom was not very glamorous at all. But those who remained faithful were promised that they would overcome, that they would rule with Christ. The situation would be reversed, the tables were about to be turned. Christ was coming, to save and to judge.

The sufferings of these Christians did not mean the end of the world, but rather the beginning. What may have seemed like the approach of a long, dark night was really the herald of Christ’s triumph over the nations. The conflicts they experienced were not a sign of Christ’s defeat by the world, but simply the assurance that the battle had finally been joined; and the inspired prophecy of Psalm 2 guaranteed that their Lord would be victorious, and they with Him. It was paganism, statism, and Judaism which were about to enter the darkness, as Christ turned the lights out all across apostate Israel and the Roman Empire. But for Christians the night was just ending; the redeemed and liberated universe was rushing headlong into a bright Day. Christ was about to give these overcomers the Morning Star.

[1] See Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgment (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), pp. 114-32. For an example of the sort of insane literature this movement produced, see James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1977).

[2] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., n.d,), vol. VI, p. 1123.

[3] St. Ignatius, Ephesians vi, ix.

[4] William J. McKnight, The Apocalypse: A Reappearance, Vol. I: John to the Seven Churches (Boston: Hamilton Brothers, Publishers, 1927), pp. 81ff.; C. J. Hemer, “Seven Cities of Asia Minor,” in R. K. Harrison, ed., Major Cities of the Biblical World (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985), p. 236.

[5] St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, i.xxvi.3; in Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, [1885], 1973), p. 352.

[6] It is debatable on two counts: first, the question of whether the “Nicolas” of Ephesus was really the deacon of Jerusalem; second, whether the “fornication” and idolatrous feasting (v. 14, 20) are to be taken literally.

[7] The Cross has long been used in Christian art as a symbol for the Tree of Life. There is strong evidence, however, that Christ was actually crucified on a living tree (with his wrists nailed to the crosspiece he carried and his feet nailed to the trunk; cf. Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:24). The symbol of the Cross is simply a stylized tree, and was often pictured in ancient churches and tombs with branches and leaves growing out of it. See Ernest L. Martin’s fascinating and informative work, The Place of Christ’s Crucifixion: Its Discovery and Significance (Pasadena: Foundation for Biblical Res earch, 1984), pp. 75-94.

[8] Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, trans. (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1957), pp. 80, 84.

[9] John Owen, Works, 16 vols., William H. Goold, ed. (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, [1850-53] 1965-68), Vol. 2, p. 145.

[10] See John Calvin’s comments on this passage in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, ii.iv.2.

[11] The Letters of Samuel Rutherford, Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. (Chicago: Moody Press. 1951), p. 219.

[12] Of course, there will also be a second resurrection (a physical one) at the end of history, but that is not mentioned in Rev. 20:6. See John 5:24-29, where Christ discusses both resurrections.

[13] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), p. 96.

[14] That this is true for all nations, and not just Old Testament Israel, can be seen by reading (for example) Psalm 2 and Daniel 4. Comprehensive discussions of God’s law as it relates to nations and rulers are contained in James B. Jordan, The Law of the Covenant: An Exposition of Exodus 21-23 (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1984); Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1973); and Greg L. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., second ed., 1984).

[15] Mounce, pp. 96f.

[16] Josephus provides an expanded version of the story in his Antiquities of the Jews,

[17] “Writing to Corinth some fifteen years after the council St. Paul had occasion to argue with Christians who regarded the eating of things sacrificed to idols as a thing indifferent; and though he does not take his stand on the Jerusalem decree, he opposes the practice on the ground that it gave offense to weak brethren (1 Cor. 8:4, 9-10), and also because of the connection which he regarded as existing between idol-worship and unclean spirits (1 Cor. 10:20: The things that the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons); to partake of the ‘table of unclean spirits’ (1 Cor. 10:21) was inconsistent with participation in the Eucharist.” Henry Barclay Swete, Commentary on Revelation (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, (1911) 1977), pp. 37f.

[18] See Chilton, Paradise Restored, pp. 33f.; cf. Ruth V. Wright and Robert L. Chadbourne, Gems and Minerals of the Bible (New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing, 1970), pp. 16f.

[19] This passage should be compared to 19:12-13 and 15-16. In the chiastic arrangement given there, v. 15 explains the meaning of v. 13 (how the blood came to be on the robe); and v. 16 explains v. 12 (the name written on the Lord). There, too, the point is not that no one knows what His name is – for the text itself tells us His name! – but, rather, that He is the only One who knows it in the sense of possessing it as His own. (See Kline’s discussion of this point in Images of the Spirit, p. 130.)

[20] This is a major theme in the Book of Judges. See James B. Jordan, Judges: God’s War Against Humanism (Tyler, TX: Geneva Ministries, 1985).

[21] See Chilton, Paradise Restored, pp. 85ff.

[22] This underscores the fact that the human author of the Revelation was expressing his thoughts in Hebraic modes of speech. On the use of the pleonasm, see Jordan, The Law of the Covenant, pp. 96, 106.

[23] R. J. Rushdoony, The One and the Many: Studies in the Philosophy of Order and Ultimacy (Tyler, TX: Thoburn Press, [1971] 1978), p. 105.

[24] Psalms 2 and 110 are the two most quoted Psalms in the New Testament. For Psalm 2, see Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35; John 1:49; Acts 4:25-26; 13:33; Phil. 2:12; Heb.l:2, 5; 5:5; Rev. 2:26-27; 11:18; 12:5; 19:15, 19. For Psalm 110, see Matt. 22:44; 26:64; Mark 12:36; 14:62; 16:19; Luke 20:42-43; 22:69; John 12:34; Acts 2:34-35; Rom. 8:34; 1 Cor. 15:25; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 13; 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:3, 17, 21; 8:1; 10:12-13; 12:2.