He that overcometh - The conqueror who has stood firm in every trial, and vanquished all his adversaries.
Shall not be hurt of the second death - That is, an eternal separation from God and the glory of his power; as what we commonly mean by final perdition. This is another rabbinical mode of speech in very frequent use, and by it they understand the punishment of hell in a future life.
The Epistle to the Church at Pergamos
He that hath an ear - See the notes on Revelation 2:7.
He that overcometh - See the notes on Revelation 2:7. The particular promise here is made to him that should “overcome”; that is, that would gain the victory in the persecutions which were to come upon them. The reference is to him who would show the sustaining power of religion in times of persecution; who would not yield his principles when opposed and persecuted; who would be triumphant when so many efforts were made to induce him to apostatize and abandon the cause.
Shall not be hurt of the second death - By a second death. That is, he will have nothing to fear in the future world. The punishment of hell is often called death, not in the sense that the soul will cease to exist, but:
(a)because death is the most fearful thing of which we have any knowledge, and
(b)because there is a striking similarity, in many respects, between death and future punishment.
Death cuts off from life - and so the second death cuts off from eternal life; death puts an end to all our hopes here, and the second death to all our hopes forever; death is attended with terrors and alarms - the faint and feeble emblem of the terrors and alarms in the world of woe. The phrase, “the second death,” is three times used elsewhere by John in this book Revelation 20:6, Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:8, but does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The words “death” and “to die,” however, are not infrequently used to denote the future punishment of the wicked.
The promise here made would be all that was necessary to sustain them in their trials. Nothing more is requisite to make the burdens of life tolerable than an assurance that, when we reach the end of our earthly journey, we have arrived at the close of suffering, and that beyond the grave there is no power that can harm us. Religion, indeed, does not promise to its friends exemption from death in one form. To none of the race has such a promise ever been made, and to but two has the favor been granted to pass to heaven without tasting death. It could have been granted to all the redeemed, but there were good reasons why it should not be; that is, why it would be better that even they who are to dwell in heaven should return to the dust, and sleep in the tomb, than that they should be removed by perpetual miracle, translating them to heaven. Religion, therefore, does not come to us with any promise that we shall not die. But it comes with the assurance that we shall be sustained in the dying hour; that the Redeemer will accompany us through the dark valley; that death to us will be a calm and quiet slumber, in the hope of awakening in the morning of the resurrection; that we shall be raised up again with bodies incorruptible and undecaying; and that beyond the grave we shall never fear death in any form. What more is needful to enable us to bear with patience the trials of this life, and to look upon death when it does come, disarmed as it is of its sting 1 Corinthians 15:55-57, with calmness and peace?
The Epistle to the Church at Pergamos
The contents of the epistle Revelation 2:12-17 are as follows:
(1)A reference, as is usual in these epistles, to some attribute of Him who addressed them, suited to inspire respect, and adapted to a state of things existing in the church, Revelation 2:12. That to which the Saviour here directs their attention is, that he has “the sharp sword with two edges” - implying Revelation 2:16 that he had the power of punishing.
(2)astatement, in the usual form, that he was thoroughly acquainted with the state of the church; that he saw all their difficulties; all that there was to commend, and all that there was to reprove, Revelation 2:13.
(3)acommendation to the church for its fidelity, especially in a time of severe persecution, when one of her faithful friends was slain, Revelation 2:13.
(4)A reproof of the church for tolerating some who held false and pernicious doctrines - doctrines such as were taught by Balaam, and the doctrines of the Nicolaitanes, Revelation 2:14-15.
(5)asolemn threat that, unless they repented, he would come against them, and inflict summary punishment on them, Revelation 2:16.
(6)the usual call upon all to hear what the Spirit says to the churches, and a promise to those who should overcome, Revelation 2:17.
Pergamos was a city in the southern part of Mysia, the capital of a kingdom of that name, and afterward of the Roman province of Asia Propria. It was on the bank of the river Caicus, which is formed by the union of two branches meeting thirty or forty miles above its mouth, and watering a valley not exceeded in beauty and fertility by any in the world. The city of Pergamos stood about twenty miles from the sea. It was on the northern bank of the river, at the base and on the declivity of two high and steep mountains. About two centuries before the Christian era, Pergamos became the residence of the celebrated kings of the family of Attals, and a seat of literature and the arts. King Eumenes, the second of the name, greatly beautified the town, and so increased the number of volumes in the library that they amounted to 200,000. This library remained at Pergamos after the kingdom of the Artali had lost its independence, until Antony removed it to Egypt, and presented it to Queen Cleopatra (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 3:2). It is an old tradition, that, as the papyrus plant had not begun to be exported from Egypt (Kitto), or as Ptolemy refused to sell it to Eumenes (Prof. Stuart), sheep and goat skins, prepared for the purpose, were used for manuscripts; and as the art of preparing them was brought to perfection at Pergamos, they, from that circumstance, obtained the name of “pergamena” ( περγαμηνή pergamēnē) or “parchment.”
The last king of Pergamos bequeathed his treasures to the Romans, who took possession of the kingdom also, and created it into a province by the name of Asia Propria. Under the Romans, it retained that authority over the cities of Asia which it had acquired under the successors of Attalus. The present name of the place is Bergamos, and it is of considerable importance, containing a population of about 14,000, of whom about 3000 are Greeks, 300 Armenians, and the rest Turks. Macfarlane describes the approach to the town as very beautiful: “The approach to this ancient and decayed city was as impressive as well might be. After crossing the Caicus, I saw, looking over three vast tumuli, or sepulchral barrows, similar to those on the plains of Troy, the Turkish city of Pergamos, with its tall minarets, and its taller cypresses, situated on the lower declivities and at the foot of the Acropolis, whose bold gray brow was crowned by the rugged walls of a barbarous castle, the usurper of the site of a magnificent Greek temple. The town consists, for the most part, of small and mean wooden houses, among which appear the remains of early Christian churches. None of these churches have any scriptural or apocalyptic interest connected with them, having been erected several centuries after the ministry of the apostles, and when Christianity was not an humble and despised creed, but the adopted religion of a vast empire.
The pagan temples have fared worse than these Christian churches. The fanes of Jupiter and Diana, of Aesculapius and Venus, are prostrate in the dust; and where they have not been carried away by the Turks, to be cut up into tombstones or to pound into mortar, the Corinthian and Ionic columns, the splendid capitals, the cornices and the pediments, all in the highest ornament, are thrown into unsightly heaps” (“Visit to the Seven Apocalyptic Churches,” 1832. Compare “Missionary Herald” for 1839, pp. 228-230). The engraving represents the ruins of one of the ancient churches in Pergamos.
The wicked receive their recompense in the earth. Proverbs 11:31. They “shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 4:1. Some are destroyed as in a moment, while others suffer many days. All are punished “according to their deeds.” The sins of the righteous having been transferred to Satan, he is made to suffer not only for his own rebellion, but for all the sins which he has caused God's people to commit. His punishment is to be far greater than that of those whom he has deceived. After all have perished who fell by his deceptions, he is still to live and suffer on. In the cleansing flames the wicked are at last destroyed, root and branch—Satan the root, his followers the branches. The full penalty of the law has been visited; the demands of justice have been met; and heaven and earth, beholding, declare the righteousness of Jehovah. GC 673.1
Satan's work of ruin is forever ended. For six thousand years he has wrought his will, filling the earth with woe and causing grief throughout the universe. The whole creation has groaned and travailed together in pain. Now God's creatures are forever delivered from his presence and temptations. “The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they [the righteous] break forth into singing.” Isaiah 14:7. And a shout of praise and triumph ascends from the whole loyal universe. “The voice of a great multitude,” “as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings,” is heard, saying: “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Revelation 19:6. GC 673.2
While the earth was wrapped in the fire of destruction, the righteous abode safely in the Holy City. Upon those that had part in the first resurrection, the second death has no power. While God is to the wicked a consuming fire, He is to His people both a sun and a shield. Revelation 20:6; Psalm 84:11. GC 673.3Read in context »
Parents have a most solemn obligation resting upon them to conform to right habits of eating and drinking. Set before your children simple, wholesome food, avoiding everything of a stimulating nature. The effect which a meat diet has upon nervous children is not to make them sweet tempered and patient, but peevish, irritable, passionate, and impatient of restraint. Virtuous practices are lost, and corruption destroys mind, soul, and body.—Manuscript 47, 1896. 3SM 290.1Read in context »
It is our work to know our special failings and sins, which cause darkness and spiritual feebleness, and quenched our first love (The Review and Herald, June 7, 1887). 7BC 957.1
4, 5 (see EGW on ch. 3:14-18; 1 Kings 11:4). Spiritually Fallen, but Unaware of It—In view of the many virtues enumerated, how striking is the charge brought against the church at Ephesus: “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” This church had been highly favored. It was planted by the apostle Paul. In the same city was the temple of Diana, which, in point of grandeur, was one of the marvels of the world. The Ephesian church met with great opposition, and some of the early Christians suffered persecution; and yet some of these very ones turned from the truths that had united them with Christ's followers, and adopted, in their stead, the specious errors devised by Satan. 7BC 957.2
This change is represented as a spiritual fall. “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works”—as outlined in the preceding verses. The believers did not sense their spiritual fall. They knew not that a change had taken place in their hearts, and that they would have to repent because of the noncontinuance of their first works. But God in His mercy called for repentance, for a return to their first love and to the works that are always the result of true, Christlike love (Manuscript 11, 1906). 7BC 957.3
Loss of Love a Moral Fall—The losing of the first love is specified as a moral fall. The loss of this love is represented as something that will affect the entire religious life. Of those who have lost this love, God says that unless they repent, He will come to them, and remove their candlestick out of its place (Manuscript 1, 1906). 7BC 957.4
(Romans 3:31.) Doctrine of the Nicolaitans—The doctrine is now largely taught that the gospel of Christ has made the law of God of no effect; that by “believing” we are released from the necessity of being doers of the Word. But this is the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which Christ so unsparingly condemned (The Signs of the Times, January 2, 1912, reprinted from The Signs of the Times, February 25, 1897). 7BC 957.6
7 (ch. 22:2). The Leaves of the Tree of Life—[Revelation 2:7 quoted.] Must we wait until we are translated before we eat of the leaves of the tree of life? He who receives into his heart the words of Christ knows what it means to eat the leaves of the tree of life. [John 6:33-63 quoted.] 7BC 957.7
When the believer, in the fellowship of the Spirit, can lay his hand upon truth itself, and appropriate it, he eats the bread that comes down from heaven. He enters into the life of Christ, and appreciates the great sacrifice made in behalf of the sinful race. 7BC 957.8
The knowledge that comes from God is the bread of life. It is the leaves of the tree of life which are for the healing of the nations. The current of spiritual life thrills the soul as the words of Christ are believed and practiced. Thus it is that we are made one with Christ. The experience that was weak and feeble becomes strong. It is eternal life to us if we hold the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end. 7BC 957.9
All truth is to be received as the life of Jesus. Truth cleanses us from all impurity, and prepares the soul for Christ's presence. Christ is formed within, the hope of glory (Manuscript 103, 1902). 7BC 957.10
7, 11, 17, 29 (ch. 3:6, 13, 22). Ears Closed to Folly and Nonsense—“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” If you “hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches,” and meditate upon the instruction given to them, your ears will be closed to the folly and nonsense which surround you. You will neither hear and repeat these things, nor will you ever hanker after them. When Christ satisfies the soul hunger, these trivialities are to you distasteful and disgusting. You have no desire to feast upon them, but choose instead the bread of heaven (Manuscript 92, 1901). 7BC 957.11Read in context »
Christ has appointed to every man his work. The second death will be the portion of those who labor not, and the dreadful words will be heard, “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23). But the faithful servants will not lose their reward. They will gain eternal life, and the “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Chap. 25:23), will fall as sweetest music on their ears.—The Signs of the Times, July 28, 1887. TDG 218.5Read in context »