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Revelation 2:7

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

He that hath an ear - Let every intelligent person, and every Christian man, attend carefully to what the Holy Spirit, in this and the following epistles, says to the Churches. See the note on Matthew 11:15, where the same form of speech occurs.

To him that overcometh - To him who continues steadfast in the faith, and uncorrupt in his life; who faithfully confesses Jesus, and neither imbibes the doctrines nor is led away by the error of the wicked; will I give to eat of the tree of life. As he who conquered his enemies had, generally, not only great honor, but also a reward; so here a great reward is promised τῳ νικωντι, to the conqueror: and as in the Grecian games, to which there may be an allusion, the conqueror was crowned with the leaves of some tree; here it is promised that they should eat of the fruit of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God; that is, that they should have a happy and glorious immortality. There is also here an allusion to Genesis 2:9, where it is said, God made the tree of life to grow out of the midst of the garden; and it is very likely that by eating the fruit of this tree the immortality of Adam was secured, and on this it was made dependent. When Adam transgressed, he was expelled from this garden, and no more permitted to eat of the tree of life; hence he became necessarily mortal. This tree, in all its sacramental effects, is secured and restored to man by the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. The tree of life is frequently spoken of by the rabbins; and by it they generally mean the immortality of the soul, and a final state of blessedness. See many examples in Schoettgen. They talk also of a celestial and terrestrial paradise. The former, they say, "is for the reception of the souls of the just perfect; and differs as much from the earthly paradise as light from darkness."

The Epistle to the Church at Smyrna

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

He that hath an ear, let him hear … - This expression occurs at the close of each of the epistles addressed to the seven churches, and is substantially a mode of address often employed by the Saviour in his personal ministry, and quite characteristic of him. See Matthew 11:15; Mark 4:23; Mark 7:16. It is a form of expression designed to arrest the attention, and to denote that what was said was of special importance.

What the Spirit saith unto the churches - Evidently what the Holy Spirit says - for he is regarded in the Scriptures as the Source of inspiration, and as appointed to disclose truth to man. The “Spirit” may be regarded either as speaking through the Saviour (compare John 3:34), or as imparted to John, through whom he addressed the churches. In either case it is the same Spirit of inspiration, and in either case there would be a claim that his voice should be heard. The language used here is of a general character - “He that hath an ear”; that is, what was spoken was worthy of the attention not only of the members of these churches, but of all others. The truths were of so general a character as to deserve the attention of mankind at large.

To him that overcometh - Greek, “To him that gains the victory, or is a conqueror” - τῷ νικῶντι tō nikōntiThis may refer to any victory of a moral character, and the expression used would be applicable to one who should triumph in any of these respects:

(a)over his own easily-besetting sins;

(b)over the world and its temptations;

(c)over prevalent error;

(d)over the ills and trials of life, so as, in all these respects, to show that his Christian principles are firm and unshaken.

Life, and the Christian life especially, may be regarded as a warfare. Thousands fall in the conflict with evil; but they who maintain a steady warfare, and who achieve a victory, shall be received as conquerors in the end.

Will I give to eat of the tree of life - As the reward of his victory. The meaning is, that he would admit him to heaven, represented as paradise, and permit him to enjoy its pleasures - represented by being permitted to partake of its fruits. The phrase “the tree of life” refers undoubtedly to the language used respecting the Garden of Eden, Genesis 2:9; Genesis 3:22 - where the “tree of life” is spoken of as what was adapted to make the life of man perpetual. Of the nature of that tree nothing is known, though it would seem probable that, like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it was a mere emblem of life - or a tree that was set before man in connection with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that his destiny turned on the question whether he partook of the one or the other. That God should make the question of life or death depend on that, is no more absurd or improbable than that he should make it depend on what man does now - it being a matter of fact that life and death, happiness and misery, joy and sorrow, are often made to depend on things quite as arbitrary apparently, and quite as unimportant as an act of obedience or disobedience in partaking of the fruit of a designated tree.

Does it not appear probable that in Eden there were two trees designated to be of an emblematic character, of life and death, and that as man partook of the one or the other he would live or die? Of all the others he might freely partake without their affecting his condition; of one of these - the tree of life - he might have partaken before the fall, and lived forever. One was forbidden on pain of death. When the law forbidding that was violated, it was I still possible that he might partake of the other; but, since the sentence of death had been passed upon him, that would not now be proper, and he was driven from the garden, and the way was guarded by the flaming sword of the cherubim. The reference in the passage before us is to the celestial paradise - to heaven - spoken of under the beautiful image of a garden; meaning that the condition of man, in regard to life, will still be the same as if he had partaken of the tree of life in Eden. Compare the notes on Revelation 22:2.

Which is in the midst of the paradise of God - Heaven, represented as paradise. To be permitted to eat of that tree, that is, of the fruit of that tree, is but another expression implying the promise of eternal life, and of being happy forever. The word “paradise” is of Oriental derivation, and is found in several of the Eastern languages. In the Sanskrit the word “paradesha” and “paradisha” is used to denote a land elevated and cultivated; in the Armenian the word “pardes” denotes a garden around the house planted with grass, herbs, trees for use and ornament; and in the Hebrew form פרדס pardēcand Greek παράδεισος paradeisosit is applied to the pleasure gardens and parks, with wild animals, around the country residences of the Persian monarchs and princes, Nehemiah 2:8. Compare Ecclesiastes 2:5; Ca. Ecclesiastes 4:13; Xen. Cyro. i. 3,14 (Robinson‘s Lexicon). Here it is used to denote heaven - a world compared in beauty with a richly cultivated park or garden. Compare 2 Corinthians 12:4. The meaning of the Saviour is, that he would receive him that overcame to a world of happiness; that he would permit him to taste of the fruit that grows there, imparting immortal life, and to rest in an abode suited up in a manner that would contribute in every way to enjoyment. Man, when he fell, was not permitted to reach forth his hand and pluck of the fruit of the tree of life in the first Eden, as he might have done if he had not fallen; but he is now permitted to reach forth his hand and partake of the tree of life in the paradise above. He is thus restored to what he might have been if he had not transgressed by eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and in the Paradise Regained, the blessings of the Paradise Lost will be more than recovered - for man may now live forever in a far higher and more blessed state than his would have been in Eden.

The Epistle to the Church at Smyrna

The contents of the epistle to the church at Smyrna are these:

(1) A statement, as in the address to the church at Ephesus, of some of the attributes of the Saviour, Revelation 2:8. The attributes here referred to are, that he was “the first and the last,” that “he had been dead, but was alive” - attributes suited to impress the mind deeply with reverence for him who addressed them, and to comfort them in the trials which they endured.

(2) astatement Revelation 2:9, as in the former epistle, that he well knew their works and all that pertained to them - their tribulation, their poverty, and the opposition which they met with from wicked people.

(3) an exhortation not to be afraid of any of those things that were to come upon them, for, although they were to be persecuted, and some of them were to be imprisoned, yet, if they were faithful, they should have a crown of life, Revelation 2:10.

(4) acommand to hear what the Spirit said to the churches, as containing matter of interest to all persons, with an assurance that any who would “overcome” in these trials would not be hurt by the second death, Revelation 2:11. The language addressed to the church of Smyrna is throughout that of commiseration and comfort. There is no intimation that the Saviour disapproved of what they had done; there is no threat that he would remove the candle-stick out of its place. Smyrna was a celebrated commercial town of Ionia (Ptolem. v. 2), situated near the bottom of that gulf of the Aegean Sea which received its name from it (Mela, Revelation 1:17, Revelation 1:3), at the mouth of the small river Meles, 320 stadia, or about forty miles north of Ephesus (Strabo, 15, p. 632). It was a very ancient city; but having been destroyed by the Lydians, it lay waste four hundred years to the time of Alexander the Great, or, according to Strabo, to that of Antigonus. It was rebuilt at the distance of twenty stadia from the ancient city, and in the time of the first Roman emperor it was one of the most flourishing cities of Asia. It was destroyed by an earthquake, 177 a.d., but the emperor Marcus Aurelius caused it to be rebuilt with more than its former splendor.

It afterward, however, suffered greatly from earthquakes and conflagrations, and has declined from these causes, though, from its commercial advantages, it has always been a city of importance as the central emporium of the Levantine trade, and its relative rank among the cities of Asia Minor is probably greater than it formerly bore. The engraving in this vol. will give a representation of Smyrna. The Turks now call it Izmir. It is better built than Constantinople, and its population is computed at about 130,000, of which the Franks compose a greater proportion than in any other town in Turkey, and they are generally in good circumstances. Next to the Turks, the Greeks form the most numerous portion of the inhabitants, and they have a bishop and two churches. The unusually large portion of Christians in the city renders it especially unclean in the eyes of strict Moslems, and they call it Giaour Izmir, or the Infidel Smyrna. There are in it about 20,000 Greeks, 8,000 Armenians, 1,000 Europeans, and 9,000 Jews. It is now the seat of important missionary operations in the East, and much has been done there to spread the gospel in modern times.

Its history during the long tract of time since John wrote is not indeed minutely known, but there is no reason to suppose that the light of Christianity there has ever been wholly extinct. Polycarp suffered martyrdom there, and the place where he is supposed to have died is still shown. The Christians of Smyrna hold his memory in great veneration, and go annually on a visit to his supposed tomb, which is at a short distance from the place of his martyrdom. See the article “Smyrna” in Kitto‘s Cyclopedia, and the authorities referred to there.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
These churches were in such different states as to purity of doctrine and the power of godliness, that the words of Christ to them will always suit the cases of other churches, and professors. Christ knows and observes their state; though in heaven, yet he walks in the midst of his churches on earth, observing what is wrong in them, and what they want. The church of Ephesus is commended for diligence in duty. Christ keeps an account of every hour's work his servants do for him, and their labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. But it is not enough that we are diligent; there must be bearing patience, and there must be waiting patience. And though we must show all meekness to all men, yet we must show just zeal against their sins. The sin Christ charged this church with, is, not the having left and forsaken the object of love, but having lost the fervent degree of it that at first appeared. Christ is displeased with his people, when he sees them grow remiss and cold toward him. Surely this mention in Scripture, of Christians forsaking their first love, reproves those who speak of it with carelessness, and thus try to excuse indifference and sloth in themselves and others; our Saviour considers this indifference as sinful. They must repent: they must be grieved and ashamed for their sinful declining, and humbly confess it in the sight of God. They must endeavour to recover their first zeal, tenderness, and seriousness, and must pray as earnestly, and watch as diligently, as when they first set out in the ways of God. If the presence of Christ's grace and Spirit is slighted, we may expect the presence of his displeasure. Encouraging mention is made of what was good among them. Indifference as to truth and error, good and evil, may be called charity and meekness, but it is not so; and it is displeasing to Christ. The Christian life is a warfare against sin, Satan, the world, and the flesh. We must never yield to our spiritual enemies, and then we shall have a glorious triumph and reward. All who persevere, shall derive from Christ, as the Tree of life, perfection and confirmation in holiness and happiness, not in the earthly paradise, but in the heavenly. This is a figurative expression, taken from the account of the garden of Eden, denoting the pure, satisfactory, and eternal joys of heaven; and the looking forward to them in this world, by faith, communion with Christ, and the consolations of the Holy Spirit. Believers, take your wrestling life here, and expect and look for a quiet life hereafter; but not till then: the word of God never promises quietness and complete freedom from conflict here.
Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7 (EGW), 957

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

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7 (EGW), 988-9

1 (Isaiah 33:21). No Engulfing Ocean—The sea divides friends. It is a barrier between us and those whom we love. Our associations are broken up by the broad, fathomless ocean. In the new earth there will be no more sea, and there shall pass there “no galley with oars.” In the past many who have loved and served God have been bound by chains to their seats in galleys, compelled to serve the purpose of cruel, hardhearted men. The Lord has looked upon their suffering in sympathy and compassion. Thank God, in the earth made new there will be no fierce torrents, no engulfing ocean, no restless, murmuring waves (Manuscript 33, 1911). 7BC 988.1

1-4 (Isaiah 30:26). God's Family United at Last—Now the church is militant, now we are confronted with a world in midnight darkness, almost wholly given over to idolatry. But the day is coming in which the battle will have been fought, the victory won. The will of God is to be done on earth, as it is done in heaven. Then the nations will own no other law than the law of heaven. All will be a happy, united family, clothed with the garments of praise and thanksgiving—the robe of Christ's righteousness. 7BC 988.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, 289

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!” 1 John 3:1. 8T 289.1

The knowledge of God as revealed in Christ is the knowledge that all who are saved must have. It is the knowledge that works transformation of character. This knowledge, received, will re-create the soul in the image of God. It will impart to the whole being a spiritual power that is divine. 8T 289.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 655

“In a second vision, which soon followed the first, I was shown the trials through which I must pass, and that it was my duty to go and relate to others what God had revealed to me. It was shown me that my labors would meet with great opposition and that my heart would be rent with anguish, but that the grace of God would be sufficient to sustain me through all. The teaching of this vision troubled me exceedingly, for it pointed out my duty to go out among the people and present the truth.” 5T 655.1

“One great fear that oppressed me was that if I obeyed the call of duty and went out declaring myself to be one favored of the Most High with visions and revelations for the people, I might yield to sinful exaltation and be lifted above the station that was right for me to occupy, bring upon myself the displeasure of God, and lose my own soul. I had before me several cases such as I have here described, and my heart shrank from the trying ordeal. 5T 655.2

“I now entreated that if I must go and relate what the Lord had shown me, I should be preserved from undue exaltation. Said the angel: ‘Your prayers are heard and shall be answered. If this evil that you dread threatens you, the hand of God will be stretched out to save you; by affliction He will draw you to Himself and preserve your humility. Deliver the message faithfully. Endure unto the end, and you shall eat the fruit of the tree of life and drink of the water of life.’” [Testimonies for the Church 1:62, 64, 65.] 5T 655.3

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