Page images
[blocks in formation]

8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write : These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive ;

9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich,) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days : be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

Ver. 8. Smyrna.] Smyrna is described by Pliny to have been the next city to Ephesus, as well in consequence as in vicinity, (Hist. Nat. v. c. 29.) There is no mention of it as a Church in other books of Scripture; yet a church was here established in the apostolic times, as appears from the epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnæan Christians, (Vitringa.) The renowned martyr Polycarp was one of its earliest bishops ; and Irenæus, who knew him, asserts, that he was known personally to St. John. But as he suffered in the reign of Verus, at the age of eightysix years, he must have been too young at the time of this Revelation, to have then exercised this important office, (Euseb. Eccl. Hist. lib. iv. c 15. lib. v. c. 20.) The Church of Smyrna sent her bishops to the Councils of the Christian Church for many centuries; but sunk under the common catastrophe of maritime Asia in the fourteenth century. Smyrna having continued a mart for European traffic, is yet a city of considerable population, and contains many professed Christians.

Thus saith the first and the last.] The title under which the supreme Head addresses this Church, is the same which he assumed on his first appearance to St. John, (ch. i. 17, 18.) The character of it agrees with the purport of the address, which is, to encourage the persecuted Smyrnæans, to meet confidently the fiery trial of persecution, even unto death, in sure reliance of triumphing finally over the enemy, as he their Lord had done.

Ver. 9. I knowthy poverty, but thou art rich.] In the 21st chapter and 7th verse of this prophecy, it is declared, by the same great authority, that “He that overcometh shall inherit all things.In this career of victory, the Smyrnæans were now seen to be advancing, by their omniscient Lord. Whatsoever therefore might be their poverty in the things of this world, they were “ rich in good works through faith, rich towards God.” They had “ laid up their treasure in heaven,” thus illustrating the seeming paradox, applied by St. Paul to the first preachers of the Gospel,“ having nothing, yet possessing all things.(2 Cor. vi. 10.)

Them which say they are Jews, and are not.] Our Saviour has described, in the good Nathanael, Israelite indeed," (John i. 48;) and St. Paul,

a Jew inwardly, in spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God,” (Rom. ii. 28, 29.) These Jews of Smyrna were not of this description: they were violent bigots to their fallen reli


gion, who blasphemed the name of Israelite by adopting it, and acted as emissaries of Satan in persecuting the rising Christian Church.

This was their practice," says the Smyrnæan account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, written in the succeeding century.

Ver. 10. Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison.] Here is a prophecy which looks beyond the things á eloi, to things which are to come. Yet it appears mainly connected with the scene of things then present, with the Smyrnæans then living, then commended; to whom it is foretold, that they shall suffer a persecution of ten days, and some of them until death, from “ the Jews, the synagogue of Satan,” above described. Ten days, in the language of scriptural prophecy, may be accounted ten years. (So Ezek. iv. 6, Numb. xiv. 34; Isaiah xx. 3; and thus the times in the sacred prophecies are generally understood.) But whether we are to use this computation in this passage, may be doubted; for we are defective in the history of its completion, which, as it related to persons then in existence, we must suppose to have taken place soon after the prediction.

We have indeed an account of a persecution undergone by the Church of Smyrna in the year 169, when, among others, their venerable bishop Polycarp suffered martyrdom.

But there is no proof that it continued either ten years, or ten days; and this happened more than seventy years after the delivery of the prophecy, extending also to other of the Asiatic Churches, which had no such warning. It may therefore seem most probable, that the persecution now foretold took place in that generation, during ten days, and among the Smyrnæans only, from the influence of the Jews described in the


phecy as then ready to excite and exercise it.' This prophecy, thus fulfilled, would serve a temporary purpose of great moment. It could not fail to convince the Christians of the seven Churches, that the revelation, which foretold it, was from God; and that therefore the remaining predictions, in the same book, would likewise receive their accomplishment. This book they would therefore revere, as sacred, and deliver down to posteșity, entire and uncontaminated; which they appear to have done.

A crown of life.] Tov otepavov ins Zwns, the crown of life. A crown denotes regal and triumphant power and glory. The Messiah, King of kings,” has many crowns, (ch. xix. 12,) and he awards them to his victorious followers. The crown of life is a triumphant_immortality. If we suffer with Christ, says St. Paul, “ we shall also reign with him ;” and the crown, thus obtained, he calls incorruptible.(1 Cor. ix. 25.)

Ver. 11. The second death.] This expression is peculiar to the Apocalypse, not being found in any other of the sacred writings. Irenæus, who, from his near approach to the times of St. John, we must esteem the best informed, in some respects, of the ancient commentators, explains the second death to mean the Gehenna, or eternal fire, the place of punishment for incorrigible sinners. This explanation is confirmed by comparing with this passage the same expression in Rev. xx. 14, and xxi. 8, where the second death seems plainly declared to be that lake of fire and place of extreme punishment. It is also to be observed, that in Luke xii. 4, 5, our Saviour

Some commentators have sought for the completion of this prediction at even a much later period, the Dioclesian persecution, in the third century. But this did not last ten years, and raged throughout the Christian world.

has exhorted us“ not to be afraid of them that kill the body, and, after that, have no more that they can do” against us, (that is, we are not to fear death in its first state,) but he calls upon us " to fear him who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell,Elç TNV yeyvav, which yeivva is explained (Mark ix, 43,) to be the “ fire that never shall be quenched.” Such is the second death, from the dreadful sufferings of which, the faithful follower of Christ is pronounced entirely secure.



Address to the Church in Pergamos.

Chap. ii. ver. 12-17. 12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos, write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges ;

13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is : and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain

among you, where Satan dwelleth. 14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.

16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of


mouth. 17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches ; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the bidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.


« PreviousContinue »