Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Revelation 2: Worship God or Die

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To the Church in Ephesus (v. 1-7)

The angel instructs John to write a letter to the angel of the church of Ephesus about what Jesus has to say to them. He focused on the stars and lampstands.

I find it strange that the letter starts off this way. Maybe it just wants to remind us that the words are from Jesus and not from John himself. The letter is also addressed to the angel of the church of Ephesus, not to the church leadership or the people themselves. I have no idea what the significance of this is (maybe it doesn't matter at all), but it seemed like it might be important.

Jesus likes that the Ephesians
  • toil with patient endurance
  • can't bear with evil people
  • have tested false apostles
  • have no grown weary
  • hate the works of the Nicolaitans
Jesus doesn't like that they
  • have abandoned love they had at first
  • have abandoned the works they did at first
He instructs them to remember from whey the have fallen and repent. He then says that anyone who can hear should listen to the spirit of the churches, and promises the tree of life to the one who conquers.

From Guzik's commentary: "The church today, like the Ephesian church then, must vigorously test those who claim to be messengers from God". Sounds like a good idea, I'd love to know how such tests would done.

If we first focus on the things that Jesus likes, it seems pretty good. Removing evil seems like a worthy goal. Patience is also good. If we assume that the Nicolaitans do evil works, then this all seems fine. 

The things Jesus doesn't like are harder to analyze as it is pretty vague, what does it mean that they have abandoned love? And what works did they abandon? My best guess at this message is that they are doing good getting rid of evil, but they are focused too much on it and completely ignoring the good things. If that is the case, the message here is to work against the bad things in life, but don't focus so much of your attention on it that you lose track of the good things. If this interpretation is correct, then I would argue that this message is good. I'm curious to see what the Christian commentaries have to say about this.

According to Guzik  the whole 'first love' thing is about a love for Jesus or God. As far as I can tell, he writes a lot but doesn't say much. And apparently the first works were spending time in his word, praying, getting together with other Christians, and telling people about Jesus. So the message of this chapter is basically that they are doing a good job attacking evil people, but not spending enough time worshiping God. I'm unimpressed.

If there are any Christians reading this, I hope it is clear that I am trying my best to put as good of a spin on this reading as I can. I'm trying to find a good message buried in here and give the writing the benefit of the doubt as much as I can. Here I tried to interpret this as nicely as possible and tried to find a message of balance between attacking enemies of god and loving your neighbors, but no, the message is to love God...awesome.

Oh yeah, there is that whole "tree of life to the one who conquers" thing. What is that about? I guess it is running on the assumption that the one who listens to God will be the conqueror and therefore the correct person will win and get the eternal life. But it does read as if you gain life for conquering, not for being good or following Jesus or something.

To the Church in Smyrna (v. 8-11)

To the angel in Smyrna, write the words "of the first and last, who died and came to life"

Okay, so the point is that he is focusing on different aspects of the vision from chapter 1 I guess.

I know you have dealt with much tribulation, and you are in poverty (although you are rich). And there are blasphemers around you who claim to be Jews but are really working for Satan. They are about to throw you in jail and you will be tested. Be faithful until death and you will receive the crown of life. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.

This one pretty much reads all bad to me. It actually is a great example of what is wrong with pascal's wager. One of the premises of that particular apologetic is that there is no cost to accepting the faith, and potentially infinite reward. What are the believers being asked of here? To give up their life for Jesus. Hold fast even until death, don't worry you will get a good afterlife for it. Of course, if there is no afterlife you have just wasted the one life you get.

I don't know what the second death is supposed to mean.

To the Church in Pergamum (v. 12-17)

This time we are focusing on the two-edged sword coming out of Jesus' mouth. Jesus is happy that even though they dwell near Satan's throne, they hold fast to the name of Jesus. But some hold to the teachings of Balaam and Balak which is a stumbling block for my followers, who might be tricked into eating sacrificed food or engaging in sexual immorality. If you follow the teachings of the Nicolaitans, repent or I will war against you with the sword from my mouth.

So basically, the message is "follow me or I will kill you", great loving God you got there.

Guzik argues that the message here is "A difficult environment never justifies compromise. It is easy for a church in such difficulty to justify this compromise in the name of “we need all the help we can get.” But no church needs that kind of help." 

Ruling out compromise certainly seems like a dangerous thing to do, although I suppose there are certain issues that I wouldn't budge on. Still, there is a difference between "don't compromise with those people" and "don't compromise with those people, don't worry about it though, I'll kill them"

It ends by saying if you conquer then you will get some hidden manna, and a white stone with a new name written on it so that no one knows except the one who receives it.


Guzik explains the white stone: "In the ancient world, the use of a white stone had many associations. A white stone could be a ticket to a banquet, a sign of friendship, evidence of having been counted, or as a sign of acquittal in a court of law. Jesus may have any one of these meanings in mind, but at the very least we know that it has the assurance of blessing."

To the Church in Thyatira (v. 18-29)

This time we are focusing on the fire eyes and bronze feet of Jesus. Their love, faith, service and patient endurance are good.

love, service, patience, and endurance are applauded here which is good, but of course so is faith.

But the tolerate the woman Jezebel, who teaches my servants to practice sexual immorality and eat sacrificed food. I gave her a chance to repent, but she wouldn't, so I will throw her onto a sickbed, throw anyone who has sex with her into great tribulation unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead.

So basically, sex is bad, awesome. Also, what is the deal with killing her children? What did they do wrong?

Apparently throwing her onto a sickbed probably means that he made her sick. (Guzik)

As to the striking her children dead, apparently in the other translation used by Guzik it says "I will kill her children with death", and so the gives the following quote “All men die, but all are not killed with death . . . Oh, it is a woeful thing to be killed with death.” (Trapp). This reads like a bad joke to me, am I missing something here, or did Guzik? 

I will give to each of you according to your works.

Unless your mom is a prostitute, then you will die.

If you don't know the ways of the devil and come out a conqueror I will give you authority over nations.

What do we Learn in Today's Reading?


Revelation 2:2 Avoid or expose evil

" you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false."


Revelation 2:19 Faith is a virtue


Revelation 2:19 Love is a virtue


Revelation 2:5 Worship God or else

"But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first [for God]. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first [worshipping God]. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent."

Revelation 2:10 Die for me and be rewarded

"Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life."

--Patience and Endurance--

Revelation 2:2,3,19 Patience and endurance are virtues


Revelation 2:14,20-22 Sex is bad

"But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality."

"But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works"

Revelation 2:23 God will kill you if your mother is a prostitute

"and I will strike her children dead..."


Revelation 2:15-16 Worship God or he will kill you

"So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth."

Revelation 2:23 God will kill you if your mother is a prostitute

"and I will strike her children dead..."


  1. Hausdorff, I'm not sure, but I think that name on the white rock is actually supposed to be the real name of God. There is some historical thought/superstition that names had power, so if you knew someone's name, you had (at least some) power over them, like you could properly curse them. ;-) God had several names in the Bible, but, if I am not mistaken, His true, true name was never given, but those who were saved would be able to call God by that real name. That is going off some very fuzzy memory, so take it as such.

    As for the killing of Jezebel's children, I think this is meant to be her "spiritual" children, not her literal ones; essentially those who follow her. In fact, the name Jezebel is likely a metaphor for someone else, and that metaphor is based off of 1 King 18.

    And, yeah, being killed with death is horrible. I prefer to be killed with chocolate. :-)

    1. now that you mention it, I remember hearing a long time ago that God's real name wasn't in the bible. Interesting.

      So killing her children is actually talking about killing her followers? Well at least if that is the case, it is for something they actually did instead of something their parents did.

      It's definitely hard to read this book when nothing means what it says :)

    2. You think it's hard now? You ain't seen nothin' yet! ;-) It's so esoteric that I am not surprised most Christians avoid reading it, or simply skim it over as a completionist's task. Some of the visual metaphor is relatively easy to understand, but much of it is quite an enigma to know with any kind of certainty. There are many diverse interpretations out there because of that.

    3. Oh, one more thing... sexual amorality.

      In many of the books of the prophets, the Jewish nation is metaphorically portrayed as a promiscuous woman who whores herself out. In some cases the illicit affair is seeking support from other nations as opposed to from God. In others, it represents idolatry. So while the Epistles were literally speaking of sins of sexuality, don't be surprised if Revelation intends a more metaphorical sense of the vernacular.

    4. TWF, it is true that most Christians skip over Revelation, but the Left Behind series did ignite some interest again in the fundamentalist world about it.

      Prophecy related Bible studies and interpretations of Revelation, have become a sport among some fundamentalist circles, but the majority of them usually try to leave it alone.

    5. That's a good point, Sheldon. Thanks to that popular series, there are probably more Christians familiar with Revelation than what I was thinking.

    6. With how often apologists dishonestly take old testament prrophecies out of context to fit the new testament, its hard to take any interpretation seriously with something so obtuse. That's my opinion anyway.

    7. "You ain't seen nothin' yet!"

      Should be fun :) Ideally I will be looking at more than just 1 Christian commentary for this book, I've been focusing on just one due to time reasons, but when things get really bizarre I will branch out as much as I can.

      Regarding the sexuality stuff, it represents seeking godless nations or idolatry at times? Are there hints in the text that it means that? If so what kinds of things, if not how do you know that?

      The other thing with these types of things is JKerber's point. I'm not sure I would be able to tell the difference between an honest interpretation of what the original authors potentially really meant, and an interpretation invented by an apologist for their own convenience.

    8. In reference to Revelation, it's been too long since I have looked it over to say for sure that "this" or "that" is a reference to idolatry and other sins. Although, I may be able to point it out a little as I read your posts. :-)

      However, in the OT, it's fairly explicit. Check out some of these references:
      Psalm 106:34-38
      Isaiah 1:21
      *Isaiah 57:3-13
      Jeremiah 2:18-20
      *Jeremiah 3:1-6

      There are many, many more. Check out just the *'ed ones if you are short on time.

  2. The Bible is kind of split personality like this.

    First you have the vengeful god of the Old Testament, then Jesus tries to portray a loving, and somewhat sensible god in the Gospels, then you come back to the vengeful god again in Revelation, in John's portrayal of God.

    Many people only read the Gospels, and think that the New Testament portrays a loving merciful god, apparently most of those people haven't read Revelation at all.

    1. Yeah, I think very few people have read much of the bible at all.


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