SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- In this chapter (and the next one) we read letters written to churches in different cities, some of which aren‘t around today. They’re written by Jesus to encourage his followers to remain faithful to him, or to repent (turn away) from their sin.
- The word angel literally means "messenger," and so when it says "Angel of the church in…" this may be referring to a messenger assigned to each church.
- The "Nicolatians," mentioned in verses 6 and 15, were apparently a group that followed a man named Nicolas (or his teachings) and probably advocated immorality (like the group, referred to in verse 14, who held to the teaching of Balaam).
- The "second death" (verse 11) refers to the final judgment of God. The word "death" literally means "to be separated." The Bible teaches that we die once on this earth when our soul is separated from our body, and then can die a second time when our soul is separated from God. This will only happen to people who choose it. Those who choose to have a relationship with God through putting their faith in Jesus will "not be hurt at all by the second death."
- The city of Pergamum served as headquarters for several pagan cults, and the practice of emperor worship spread from that city throughout the region. All this is possibly the meaning behind the phrase “where Satan has his throne.”
- In verse 20, John writes about "tolerating Jezebel." In the Old Testament, Jezebel was a queen who encouraged idol worship and sexual immorality and brutally killed those who opposed her. John is probably using this name symbolically.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- Did you notice that the church in Ephesus was doing good things for God, and they had good deeds, but they lacked love for God? God did not consider this acceptable. People today will say, "I'm a good person, so I'm sure God accepts me and that I'll get into Heaven." But God is not looking for good deeds, he wants a relationship with us. God wants your heart. Doing good deeds is good, but it's no substitute for a love relationship with God.
- One of the things the church in Pergemum gets commended for is hating sin, while the church in Thyatira is condemned for tolerating sin. God is a god of love, and we are to love all people, but at the same time we are to hate sin. Sin separates people from God and ruins their lives. We need to always be sure we're communicating that we love people, but we should never be ok with sin in our lives, or in the lives of others (because we love them).
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- When you think about what God's after in your life, do you think of "being a good person" or of your heart? Have you fallen into thinking that doing good can make up for a lack of love for God? What can you do to grow in your love for and relationship with God? Are there any "things you did at first" (Rev 3:5) in your relationship with God that you need to start doing again?