Letters to the seven churches
The letter to Ephesus
The risen Lord said:
1This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Ephesus:
I am the one who holds the seven stars in my right hand, and I walk among the seven gold lampstands. Listen to what I say.
2I know everything you have done, including your hard work and how you have endured. I know you won't put up with anyone who is evil. When some people pretended to be apostles, you tested them and found out that they were liars. 3You have endured and gone through hard times because of me, and you have not given up.
4But I do have something against you! And it is this: you don't have as much love as you used to. 5Think about where you have fallen from, and then turn back and do as you did at first. If you don't turn back, I will come and take away your lampstand. 6But there is one thing you are doing right. You hate what the Nicolaitans2.6 Nicolaitans: Nothing else is known about these people, though it is possible that they claimed to be followers of Nicolaus from Antioch (see Acts 6.5). are doing, and so do I.
7If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will let everyone who wins the victory eat from the life-giving tree in God's wonderful garden.2.7: a Gn 2.9; Rev 22.2; b Ez 28.13; 31.8 (LXX).
The letter to Smyrna
The risen Lord continued:
8This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Smyrna:2.8: Is 44.6; 48.12; Rev 1.17; 22.13.
I am the first and the last. I died, but now I am alive! Listen to what I say.
9I know how much you suffer and how poor you are, but you are rich. I also know the cruel things being said about you by people who claim to be Jews. But they are not really Jews. They are a group that belongs to Satan.
10Don't worry about what you will suffer. The devil will throw some of you into jail, and you will be tested and made to suffer for ten days. But if you are faithful until you die, I will reward you with a glorious life.2.10 a glorious life: The Greek text has “a crown of life”. In ancient times an athlete who had won a contest was rewarded with a crown of flowers as a sign of victory.
11If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. Whoever wins the victory will not be hurt by the second death.2.11 second death: The first death is physical death, and the “second death” is eternal death.2.11: Rev 20.14; 21.8.
The letter to Pergamum
The risen Lord continued:
12This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Pergamum:
I am the one who has the sharp double-edged sword! Listen to what I say.
13I know that you live where Satan has his throne.2.13 where Satan has his throne: The meaning is uncertain, but it may refer to the city as a centre of pagan worship or of Emperor worship. But you have kept true to my name. There where Satan lives, my faithful witness Antipas2.13 Antipas: Nothing else is known about this man, who is mentioned only here in the New Testament. was taken from you and put to death. Even then you did not give up your faith in me.
14I do have a few things against you. Some of you are following the teaching of Balaam.2.14 Balaam: According to Numbers 22—24, Balaam refused to disobey the Lord. But in other books of the Old Testament, he is spoken of as evil (see Deuteronomy 23.4,5; Joshua 13.22; 24.9,10; Nehemiah 13.2). Long ago he told Balak to teach the people of Israel to eat food that had been offered to idols and to be immoral.2.14: a Nu 22.5,7; 31.16; Dt 23.4; b Nu 25.1-3. 15Now some of you are following the teaching of the Nicolaitans.2.15 Nicolaitans: See the note at 2.6. 16Turn back! If you don't, I will come quickly and fight against these people. And my words will cut like a sword.
17If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. To everyone who wins the victory, I will give some of the hidden food.2.17 hidden food: When the people of Israel were going through the desert, the Lord provided a special food for them. Some of this was placed in a jar and stored in the sacred chest (see Exodus 16). According to later Jewish teaching, the prophet Jeremiah rescued the sacred chest when the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. He hid the chest in a cave, where it would stay until God came to save his people. I will also give each one a white stone2.17 white stone: The meaning of this is uncertain, though it may be the same as a ticket that lets a person into God's banquet where the “hidden food” is eaten. Or it may be a symbol of victory. with a new name2.17 a new name: Either the name of Christ or God or the name of the follower who is given the stone. written on it. No one will know that name except the one who is given the stone.2.17: a Ex 16.14,15; 16.33,34; Jn 6.48-50; b Is 62.2; 65.15.
The letter to Thyatira
The risen Lord continued:
18This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Thyatira:
I am the Son of God! My eyes are like flames of fire, and my feet are like bronze. Listen to what I say.
19I know everything about you, including your love, your faith, your service, and how you have endured. I know that you are doing more now than you have ever done before. 20But I still have something against you because of that woman Jezebel.2.20 Jezebel: Nothing else is known about her. This may have been her real name or a name that was given to her because she was like Queen Jezebel, who opposed the Lord (see 1 Kings 19.1,2; 21.1-26). She calls herself a prophet, and you let her teach and mislead my servants to do immoral things and to eat food offered to idols.2.20: 1 K 16.31; 2 K 9.22,30. 21I gave her a chance to turn from her sins, but she did not want to stop doing these immoral things.
22I am going to strike down Jezebel. Everyone who does these immoral things with her will also be punished, if they don't stop. 23I will even kill her followers.2.23 her followers: Or “her children”. Then all the churches will see that I know everyone's thoughts and feelings. I will treat each of you as you deserve.2.23: a Ps 7.9; Jr 17.10; b Ps 62.12.
24Some of you in Thyatira don't follow Jezebel's teaching. You don't know anything about what her followers call the “deep secrets of Satan”. So I won't burden you down with any other commands. 25But until I come, you must hold firmly to the teaching you have.
26I will give power over the nations to everyone who wins the victory and keeps on obeying me until the end.2.26,27: Ps 2.8,9 (LXX). 27-28I will give each of them the same power that my Father has given me. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash those nations to pieces like clay pots. I will also give them the morning star.2.27,28 the morning star: Probably thought of as the star that signals the end of night and the beginning of day. In 22.16 Christ is called the “morning star”.
29If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.
Contemporary English Version (CEV) is copyright © American Bible Society. Psalms and Proverbs © 1991, 1992; New Testament © 1991, 1992, 1995; Old Testament © 1995; translation notes, subject headings for text © 1995; Anglicisations © The British and Foreign Bible Society 1997, 2012.