Revelation 2:9: Spiritual Riches

Updated: Mar 13

Verse 9:[1] (Rev. 2:2) I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art [Luke 12:21; 1 Tim. 6:18; Jam. 2:5] rich) and I know the blasphemy of (Rom. 2:17, 28, 29; 9:6) them which say they are Jews, and are not, (Rev. 3:9) but are the synagogue of Satan.


[I know, etc., Οἶδά, etc.] I have known thy works (that is, good works [Pareus], diligence in attending to duty [Grotius]: And He here notes His omniscience, and approbation [Durham]), and affliction (which thou sufferest from persecutors [Menochius, similarly Tirinus, Durham]: perpetual fears [Grotius], the most burdensome straits, as θλίψις signifies,[2] extending to body, name, wealth, etc. [Durham]), and poverty (Beza, Piscator), either, 1. in the opinion of others (Camerarius); [or, 2. in reality] on account of the plundering of their goods because of Christ, as in Hebrews 10:34 (Menochius out of Lapide, similarly Ribera, Pareus, Cluverus, Durham). That Bishop was scarcely having a little from which to live, because the Smyrneans that would be Christians were poor. See a similar thing in 1 Corinthians 1:20. Concerning the language πτωχῶν, we spoke on Matthew 5:3.[3] Our authors thus express the greatest poverty. Thus ἐπτώχευσε of Christ, 2 Corinthians 8:9,[4] and πτωχεία, 2 Corinthians 8:2[5] (Grotius).


I know thy works, and tribulation: though the term know doth not necessarily signify approbation, yet, both as to the church of Ephesus and Smyrna, the particular works mentioned assure us, that God approved their patient suffering affliction for his name. And poverty; and the poor condition (as to outward things) into which they had brought themselves, for their owning and profession of the gospel of Christ, having their estates rent from them, etc.



[But thou art rich] That is, in reality (Camerarius), and in my estimation (Durham); either, in God (Piscator, Cluverus), Luke 12:21 (Cluverus), in grace (Menochius, Tirinus), in spiritual goods and gifts (Menochius, Cluverus, Zegers, Durham, Ribera, Tirinus), in faith in God and His providence (Menochius); in piety and αὐταρκείᾳ/contentment, 1 Timothy 6:6,[6] 18; Matthew 6:20; James 2:6; a similar ἀντίθετον/antithesis, 2 Corinthians 6:10; 8:2 (Grotius). Now, this is to be read by way of parenthesis (Grotius, Ribera, Pareus), that is to say, nevertheless thou art rich (Grotius, Camerarius).


But thou art rich; but yet they were rich, both really in the love and favour of God, and also in the esteem of God, who accounteth them rich who abound in spiritual habits, and good works, the exercise of those habits.


[And, etc., καὶ τὴν βλασφημίαν, etc.] And (that is, I know [Durham]) the blasphemy (that is, most grievous insults, as βλασφημεῖν, to blaspheme, is taken in Matthew 27:39;[7] Mark 15:29;[8] Acts 13:45; 18:6; and elsewhere [Grotius]) of them (namely, of the Jews against Christ, whom they were denying and anathematizing, 1 Corinthians 12:3: See also Acts 26:11 and 1 Timothy 1:13 [Cluverus]; and against Christians, Hebrews 11:36 [Durham], whom by their calumny they made odious among the Gentiles [Cocceius]) who say that they are Jews (that is, who boast that they alone worship God rightly according to the institution of the Law [Brightman, thus Durham], so that Jew is taken metonymically for the one people of God: otherwise it was not blasphemy for a Jew to claim that he is a Jew [Brightman]), and are not (Beza, Piscator, etc.), that is, true Jews (Menochius), with respect to spirit (Tirinus). He calls them Jews in name, not in reality (Grotius, Ribera); for they were not confessing Christ to be God, whom the ancient Patriarchs and Prophets preached and worshipped (Ribera, Menochius). In this place, there is an allusion to the origin of the word, plainly as in Romans 2:28. But how were they Jews who did not confess that God was revealed in Christ (Grotius)? Others: Concerning the Gnostics it is here spoken, who, so that they might escape persecution by Jews, were circumcising themselves, and were feigning themselves to be Jews, although they were not. See Galatians 6:3, 12 (Hammond). Others: By Pseudo-Jews here are to be understood Pseudo-Christians (Mede’s Works 5:1111, similarly More’s Prophetical Exposition of the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia 4:4); who, while they call themselves Christians, with persecution pressing they were denying the faith, and thus were loading Christianity with the greatest abuse (More). It is certainly permitted to observe in the Apocalypse everywhere that the Jews, or the Israelitish Synagogue, sustain the person of the true Church of Christ replaced out of the Gentiles. Thus in Revelation 7 the Assembly of the Christian Church is exhibited by the type of the one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed out of all the tribes of Israel (Mede’s Works 5:1111); not improperly, for the Church, which after the rejection of the Jews is hitherto gathered out of the Gentiles, succeeded into the place of Israel, and is, as it were, the surrogate of Israel (Mede’s Works 3:563). Nations against the type of Idolaters and enemies of the same Church: evidently with the entire parable from the state of matters under the Old Testament changed, in which the worship of the true God thrived in the midst of one Israel; but the rest of the Nations served Idols (Mede’s Works 5:1112).


And I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not: God also knows the evil speeches of his church’s enemies, whether native Jews, glorying in circumcision and the law, and that they were descended from Abraham; or false Christians, who may be here meant (called Jews by a figure; the Jews being once the only church of God).


[But they are the synagogue (or, gathering, or, congregation [Vatalus]) of Satan] Because they imitate him, partly by falsely accusing good men, partly by lying in wait for their life; they are of their father, the Devil, as it is said for like cause in John 8:44 (Grotius): they are a congregation, wicked and obedient to Satan, at his instigation raging against Christians (Menochius, similarly Durham); and a reviling congregation, which Satan stirs and wastes (Pareus): they are the disciples of Satan, whom they hear teaching in their synagogues, and they receive, propagate, defend, and lustily actuate, his lies (Cluverus): they appear to have had a synagogue there, which, says He, appears to be dedicated to the Devil, rather than to the worship of God (Durham).


But are the synagogue of Satan; but are indeed a collection of devils, or the children of the devil, whose works they do, continually reviling true Christians, and murdering the saints, after the manner of their father, who was a murderer from the beginning.

[1] Greek: Οἶδά σου τὰ ἔργα καὶ τὴν θλίψιν καὶ τὴν πτωχείαν, ἀλλὰ πλούσιος εἶ· καὶ τὴν βλασφημίαν ἐκ τῶν λεγόντων Ἰουδαίους εἶναι ἑαυτούς, καὶ οὐκ εἰσίν, ἀλλὰ συναγωγὴ τοῦ Σατανᾶ.


[2] Revelation 2:9a: “I know thy works, and tribulation (τὴν θλίψιν), and poverty…”


[3] Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor (πτωχοὶ) in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”


[4] 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor (ἐπτώχευσε), that ye through his poverty (πτωχείᾳ) might be rich.”


[5] 2 Corinthians 8:2: “How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty (πτωχεία) abounded unto the riches of their liberality.”


[6] 1 Timothy 6:6: “But godliness with contentment (αὐταρκείας) is great gain.”


[7] Matthew 27:39: “And they that passed by reviled (ἐβλασφήμουν) him, wagging their heads…”


[8] Mark 15:29a: “And they that passed by railed (ἐβλασφήμουν) on him…”

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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