2. “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience.”] In the first epistle He speaks thus: I know that thou sufferest and workest, I see that thou art patient; think not that I am staying long from thee.
“And that thou canst not bear them that are evil, and who say that they are Jews and are not, and thou has found them liars, and thou hast patience for My names sake.”] All these things tend to praise, and that no small praise; and it behoves such men, and such a class, and such elected persons, by all means to be admonished, that they may not be defrauded of such privileges granted to them of God. These few things He said that He had against them.
4, 5. “And thou hast left thy first love: remember whence thou hast fallen.”] He who falls, falls from a height: therefore He said whence: because, even to the very last, works of love must be practised; and this is the principal commandment. Finally, unless this is done, He threatened to remove their candlestick out of its place, that is, to disperse the congregation.
6. “This thou hast also, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes.”] But because thou thyself hatest those who hold the doctrines of the Nicolaitanes, thou expectest praise. Moreover, to hate the works of the Nicolaitanes, which He Himself also hated, this tends to praise. But the works of the Nicolaitanes were in that time false and troublesome men, who, as ministers under the name of Nicolaus, had made for themselves a heresy, to the effect that what had been offered to idols might be exorcised and eaten, and that whoever should have committed fornication might receive peace on the eighth day. Therefore He extols those to whom He is writing; and to these men, being such and so great, He promised the tree of life, which is in the paradise of His God.
The following epistle unfolds the mode of life and habit of another order which follows. He proceeds to say:—
9. “I know thy tribulation and thy poverty, but thou art rich.”] For He knows that with such men there are riches hidden with Him, and that they deny the blasphemy of the Jews, who say that they are Jews and are not; but they are the synagogue of Satan, since they are gathered together by Antichrist; and to them He says:—
10. “Be thou faithful unto death.”] That they should continue to be faithful even unto death.
11. “He that shall overcome, shall not be hurt by the second death.”] That is, he shall not be chastised in hell.
The third order of the saints shows that they are men who are strong in faith, and who are not afraid of persecution; but because even among them there are some who are inclined to unlawful associations, He says:—
14–16. “Thou hast there some who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught in the case of Balak that he should put a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat and to commit fornication. So also hast thou them who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes; but I will fight with them with the sword of my mouth.”] That is, I will say what I shall command, and I will tell you what you shall do. For Balaam, 2263 with his doctrine, taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the eyes of the children of Israel, to eat what was sacrificed to idols, and to p. 347 commit fornication,—a thing which is known to have happened of old. For he gave this advice to the king of the Moabites, and they caused stumbling to the people. Thus, says He, ye have among you those who hold such doctrine; and under the pretext of mercy, you would corrupt others.
17. “To him that overcometh I will give the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone.”] The hidden manna is immortality; the white gem is adoption to be the son of God; the new name written on the stone is “Christian.”
The fourth class intimates the nobility of the faithful, who labour daily, and do greater works. But even among them also He shows that there are men of an easy disposition to grant unlawful peace, and to listen to new forms of prophesying; and He reproves and warns the others to whom this is not pleasing, who know the wickedness opposed to them: for which evils He purposes to bring upon the head of the faithful both sorrows and dangers; and therefore He says:—
24. “I will not put upon you any other burden.”] That is, I have not given you laws, observances, and duties, which is another burden.
25, 26. “But that which ye have, hold fast until I come; and he that overcometh, to him will I give power over all peoples.”] That is, him I will appoint as judge among the rest of the saints.
28. “And I will give him the morning star.”] To wit, the first resurrection. He promised the morning star, which drives away the night, and announces the light, that is, the beginning of day.
Num. xxiii. [Wordsworth, ed. 1852, pp. 78–92.]