The Passion Translation
Christ’s Letter to Ephesus
2 Write the following to[a] the messenger of the congregation in Ephesus.[b] For these are the words of the one who holds the seven stars firmly in his right hand,[c] who walks among the seven golden lampstands:
2 I know all that you’ve done for me—you have worked hard and persevered. I know that you don’t tolerate evil. You have tested those who claimed to be apostles and proved they are not, for they were imposters. 3 I also know how you have bravely endured trials and persecutions because of my name, yet you have not become discouraged.[d] 4 But I have this against you: you have abandoned the passionate love you had for me at the beginning.[e] 5 Think about how far you have fallen! Repent[f] and do the works of love you did at first.[g] I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place of influence if you do not repent. 6 Although, to your credit, you despise the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also despise.[h] 7 The one whose heart is open let him listen carefully to what the Spirit is saying now to all the churches.[i] To the one who overcomes[j] I will give access to feast on the fruit of the Tree of Life that is found in the paradise of God.[k]
Christ’s Letter to Smyrna
9 I am aware of all the painful difficulties you have passed through and your financial hardships, even though, in fact, you possess rich treasure.[n] And I am fully aware of the slander[o] that has come against you from those who claim to be Jews but are not, for they are a satanic congregation.[p] 10 Do not yield to fear in the face of the suffering to come but be aware of this: the devil[q] is about to have some of you thrown into prison[r] to test your faith. For ten days[s] you will have distress but remain faithful to the day you die, and I will give you the victor’s crown of life.[t] 11 The one whose heart is open let him listen carefully to what the Spirit is presently saying to all the churches. The one who conquers will not be harmed by the second death.[u]
Christ’s Letter to Pergamum
13 I know where you live—where Satan sits enthroned, yet you still cling faithfully to the power of my name. You did not deny your faith in me even in the days of my faithful martyr Antipas,[x] who was executed in your city, where Satan lives. 14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you. There are some among you who hold to the teachings of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to eat things that were sacrificed to idols[y] and to commit sexual immorality.[z] 15 Furthermore, you have some who hold to the doctrines of the Nicolaitans.[aa] 16 So repent, then, or I will come quickly to war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 But the one whose heart is open, let him listen carefully to what the Spirit is presently saying to all the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will let him feast on the hidden manna[ab] and give him a shining white stone.[ac] And written upon the white stone is inscribed his new name, known only to the one who receives it.[ad]
Christ’s Letter to Thyatira
19 I know all that you’ve done for me—your love and faith, your ministry and steadfast perseverance. In fact, you now excel in these virtues even more than at the first. 20 But I have this against you: you are forgiving that woman Jezebel,[ag] who calls herself a prophetess and is seducing my loving servants. She is teaching that it is permissible to indulge in sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.[ah] 21 I have waited for her to repent from her vile immorality, but she willingly refuses to do so. 22 Now I will lay her low[ai] with terrible distress[aj] along with all her adulterous partners if they do not repent.[ak] 23 And I will strike down her followers with a deadly plague.[al] Then all the congregations will realize that I am the one who thoroughly searches the most secret thought[am] and the innermost being.[an] I will give to each one what their works deserve. 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira who don’t adhere to the teachings of Jezebel and have not been initiated into deep satanic secrets,[ao] I say to you (without laying upon you any other burden): 25 Cling tightly[ap] to all that you have until I appear. 26 To everyone who is victorious and continues to do my works to the very end I will give you authority over the nations 27 to shepherd them with a royal scepter.[aq] And the rebellious will be shattered as clay pots—[ar] 28 even as I also received authority from the presence of my Father.[as] I will give the morning star[at] to the one who experiences victory. 29 So the one whose heart is open let him listen carefully to what the Spirit is presently saying to all the churches.
- 2:1 Or “by the messenger,” or “through the messenger.” The dative case in the Greek does not necessarily mean “to” or “for,” but “by, through, with, in.” The implication is that the angel sent to help John write the entire book now speaks the message of Jesus to John for the seven churches. It is John writing what the angel communicated (Rev. 1:1). See also Rev. 2:8, 2:12, 2:18, 3:1, 3:7, 3:14.
- 2:1 The meaning of Ephesus is “desirable” or “darling.” Every church and every believer is desirable to Jesus Christ, for we are his bride. This is the word a Greek bridegroom would use for the girl he desired to marry. See Song of Songs.
- 2:1 It is good to remember that church leaders are “stars” who are firmly held in the right hand (authority and power) of Jesus Christ. He cares for both his churches and his leaders.
- 2:3 The Aramaic can be translated “You endured suffering without complaining.” Every church should be known for these five qualities: (1) working for the kingdom, (2) persevering, (3) not being tolerant of sin, (4) examining the claims of ministries, and (5) enduring trials bravely. Yet doing all this without a passionate love for Jesus Christ weakens our power and witness in the world.
- 2:4 Or “you have abandoned your first love.” The Greek word for “first” (protos) means “foremost,” “best,” “paramount,” “supreme,” “crowning,” “number one.” Jesus is referring to exclusive love that has first place in our hearts above all else. Our first love is the love God has for us! We love God because he first loved us. Being loved deeply and eternally is the definition of our “first love.” It is a love that will be expressed by our passionate devotion to Jesus Christ, and seen in our relationships with others.
- 2:5 The Greek word for “repent” is metanoia and means more than simply changing one’s mind. It means “to take another mind.” Every believer needs to turn from his or her error and take “another mind,” the mind of Christ.
- 2:5 That is, “Return to your passion for me that motivated you at the first.”
- 2:6 The Greek meaning of “Nicolaitans” is “to rule [conquer] over people.” Many see in this term the beginning of the movement of every believer from being a priest to being part of a special class of clergy who ruled over the church. There is also a case to be made that the Aramaic word niaqleidto can be translated “the performing of rituals,” which would make the verse read “You despise the performing of rituals, which I also despise.”
- 2:7 This shows that the message to these seven churches is for everyone today, not just a specific church or for a specific period of church history.
- 2:7 Or “subdues,” “vanquishes,” “prevails,” “experiences victory.”
- 2:7 The paradise of God is now found within the hearts of Jesus’ loving followers. See Song. 4:11–15. The Tree of Life is Christ within us, the hope of glory. The fruit of that tree is reserved for those who overcome.
- 2:8 Smyrna (present-day Izmir, Turkey) means “sweet smelling” and comes from the word for “myrrh,” an embalming spice. It is seen throughout Scripture as an emblem for suffering. Like myrrh, the Smyrna church, known as the suffering church, was crushed by Roman persecution but gave off the most fragrant perfume.
- 2:8 Jesus writes to the church of Smyrna as the Overcomer who overcame death for us (Heb. 2:14).
- 2:9 See 2 Cor. 8:9.
- 2:9 Or “blasphemy.”
- 2:9 That is, they were serving Satan’s purposes. Satan means “adversary.” These people, known as Judaizers, attempted to impose Jewish rules upon new converts. See Acts 15; Rom. 2:28–29; Phil. 3:2–3.
- 2:10 Devil means “slanderer-accuser.”
- 2:10 The Aramaic can be translated “torture house.”
- 2:10 It is recorded that a tremendous persecution took place in Smyrna that eventually resulted in the death of Polycarp, one of the leading church fathers, whom Tertullian described as a disciple of John. Some view the ten days as ten time periods representing ten waves of identifiable persecutions under ten Roman emperors. See John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, 1966.
- 2:10 Or “the victor’s crown, which is life.” This is a symbol of ruling and reigning in the power and nature of divine life. See James 1:12.
- 2:11 See Rev. 21:8.
- 2:12 The word Pergamum means “married” or “elevation.” Pergamum was the center of Roman emperor worship, which demanded absolute allegiance to the god-like emperor. Additionally, it had, on a cliff overlooking the city, a throne-like altar to the Greek god Zeus. For these reasons it was described as the place of Satan’s throne. See Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1–7 Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992); Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, revised ed.; The New International Commentary on the New Testament, edited by F. F. Bruce and Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977); F. F. Bruce, The Revelation to John: A New Testament Commentary, edited by G. C. D. Howley (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969).
- 2:12 Or “the one who has the sharp, double-edged sword,” which is an emblem of the Word of God. This sword is not meant to destroy his beloved church, it is meant to pierce and circumcise our hearts. It has two edges, for it both blesses and corrects us.
- 2:13 Ancient church tradition states that Antipas was a disciple of John who was ordained by John to be the bishop of Pergamum during the reign of the emperor Domitian. He was believed to have been martyred in AD 92 after refusing to deny his faith and make a sacrifice to the gods. He was dragged to the temple of Diana and placed inside a bronze, bull-like altar and roasted alive. Eastern tradition states that Antipas was one of the seventy disciples whom Jesus sent out.
- 2:14 Balaam was a prophet who was hired by Balak the king to curse the Israelites. Later, Balaam taught the people to turn to idol worship and commit immorality. See Num. 22–24; Acts 15:20; 2 Peter 2:15; Judah 11.
- 2:14 See 1 Cor. 6:13.
- 2:15 See footnote on v. 6.
- 2:17 This refers to the glorious relationship we have with the mystery of Christ within, the hope of glory (Col. 1:26–27), which is in contrast to eating meat that was sacrificed to idols. There was manna hidden within the ark of the covenant, and there is now hidden manna within the heart of the overcomer. See also Ex. 16:4, 15, 31–34.
- 2:17 The Greek word leukos can be translated either “shining” or “bright [white].” It is possible that this stone shines brightly from within (i.e., a glowing stone). See G. H. R. Horsley and S. R. Llewelyn, New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity I–VI (North Ryde: Ancient History Documentary Research Centre, 1981–92). This would remind us of the stones on the ephod-breastplate of the high priest (Ex. 28:9–12) or the Urim and Thummim that glowed as God responded to the questions of his people. Jewish tradition has held that precious stones also fell from heaven with the manna (cf. Midrash Ps. 78:4). Some scholars see this white shining stone as a reference to a vote of acquittal in a court case (Acts 26:10). Others as the burning white coal from off the altar that purged Isaiah’s lips (Isa. 6:1–7). Whatever this “shining white stone” is, it is to be prized as the victor’s reward. Every believer is a “living stone” (1 Peter 2:5).
- 2:17 We see that there are personal mysteries imparted to God’s people; that is, secrets that are between the believer and Jesus. Only someone devoted to God is to know the meaning of the shining white stone and the name written upon it. In the first century AD, the white stone became an engagement stone. It later took on the form of an engagement ring with the white stone being represented as a diamond. A bridegroom would give his bride a white stone with a special name engraved upon it, a pet name of endearment as lovers for life. Such names could be embarrassing and thus were kept secret and used only between themselves. Only one person in the world could call a woman by that special name, and that would be her husband, her beloved.
- 2:18 Thyatira comes from two Greek words: “sacrifice” and “that which goes on continually.” Perhaps “a continual sacrifice” would be a good definition of Thyatira. Sadly, some Christians observe a continual sacrifice of Christ through communion rather than celebrating a “once for all” sacrifice that is sufficient to bring us to God. Other scholars have studied the etymology of the word thyatira and believe it means “the odor of affliction.”
- 2:18 Or “polished brass.” Brass, forged in flames, is an emblem of judgment.
- 2:20 Jezebel, King Ahab’s wicked queen, was immoral and practiced idolatry. She released into Israel a spirit of darkness that hindered God’s faithful ones by attempting to mix the worship of Baal with the worship of the true God. She becomes a symbol of a spirit of tolerance and compromise, which teaches that God’s loving servants can sin and not experience any consequence. See 1 Kings 16:29–31; 18:4.
- 2:20 See Acts 15:29.
- 2:22 This may be an idiom for a severe illness. The Aramaic can be translated “I will throw her down into a coffin.”
- 2:22 Or “great tribulation.”
- 2:22 Thyatira was known as the center of many guilds or trade societies that required their members to participate in idolatry (often involving sexual immorality). This would make it very difficult for the believers to remain morally pure in an immoral and idolatrous culture.
- 2:23 Or “I will strike dead her children.” Her “children” would be a metaphor for her followers. Although the Greek word thanatos means death, in some contexts it refers to deadly disease and is often translated “pestilence” in the Septuagint. See A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., 443.
- 2:23 Or “every emotion” (or “affection”).
- 2:23 The Aramaic can be translated “I am the guardian of hearts and souls.”
- 2:24 Or “have not known the deep things of Satan.”
- 2:25 Or “Take into your power what you have.”
- 2:27 Or “to govern them with a staff made of iron” or “a shepherd’s club” (capped with iron). See Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, revised ed.; The New International Commentary on the New Testament, edited by F. F. Bruce and Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977); Henry Barclay Swete, Commentary on Revelation (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1977); Leon Morris, The Book of Revelation, An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, revised Edition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987); Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1–7 Exegetical Commentary, vol. 1 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992).
- 2:27 See Ps. 2:9.
- 2:28 Christ shares with every conqueror his own rank before the Father, and we will participate in his eternal reign.
- 2:28 Or “the star of the dawn.” See Dan. 12:3; 2 Peter 1:19; Rev. 22:16.