Revelation chapter 2

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What does Revelation chapter 2 mean?

In the first chapter of Revelation, John introduced his reason for writing: a direct command from Jesus Christ. He was instructed to record Jesus' words, aimed at each of seven churches in Asia Minor, and to faithfully record them. Each church is given a unique description of Jesus, a command, and a promise. Six of the churches are given specific praise—one is not. Five are given direct criticism—two are not. This chapter contains Christ's words to four of these seven: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Thyatira. Chapter 3 will complete this series of messages.

The church in Ephesus is commended for hard work, and for weeding out false prophets, despite persecution. They are also praised for opposing the teachings of a particular sect, the Nicolaitans. Not much is known about this group. Some scholars believe they held to a doctrine of amorality, others that they felt that church leaders ought to "rule" over the laity. At the same time, the Ephesian church is criticized for being loveless. Their efforts are good, but they are slipping into coldness and religiosity, rather than Christian love (Revelation 2:1–7).

Smyrna's church suffered under especially brutal persecution. According to Jesus' words in this message, that experience is going to become worse before it gets better. A significant challenge for this congregation is a group of hostile Jewish leaders, referred to here as a "synagogue of Satan." Smyrna is praised for holding fast, despite this hardship. This is one of only two churches which Jesus does not criticize in some way in His messages (Revelation 2:8–11).

The name of the city Pergamum is related to terms used for marriage. Coincidentally, Jesus' criticism of this church focuses on their inappropriate connections to false teachings, such as those of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. They are praised for resisting persecution, holding to their faith even when under threat. Their situation was certainly dire, as Jesus refers to their location as "where Satan dwells" (Revelation 2:12–17).

Thyatira was a city deeply involved in worship of Apollo, a pagan deity of the sun and a child of Zeus. In this passage, Jesus is described in terms deliberately overshadowing Apollo's status and glory. This church is commended for their ever-growing participation in good works. However, they are strongly rebuked for "tolerating" sexual temptations and idolatry as promoted by a particular woman. This person is identified as "Jezebel," which might be a reference to the Old Testament queen of the same name. Since she refused to repent of sin, Jesus promises to bring fierce judgment on her and her followers (Revelation 2:18–29).
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