on Revelation 2 :7
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
on Revelation 2 :7
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 nikōnti. This 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 pardēc, and Greek παράδεισος paradeisos, it 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.
on Revelation 2 :7
2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear - Every man, whoever can hear at all, ought carefully to hear this. What the Spirit saith - In these great and precious promises. To the churches - And in them to every one that overcometh; that goeth on from faith and by faith to full victory over the world, and the flesh, and the devil. In these seven letters twelve promises are contained, which are an extract of all the promises of God. Some of them are not expressly mentioned again in this book, as the hidden manna, the inscription of the name of the new Jerusalem, the sitting upon the throne. Some resemble what is afterwards mentioned, as the hidden name, Rev 19:12; the ruling the nations, Rev 19:15; the morning star, Rev 22:16. And some are expressly mentioned, as the tree of life, Rev 22:2; freedom from the second death, Rev 20:6; the name in the book of life, Rev 20:12; 21:27; the remaining in the temple of God, Rev 7:15; the inscription of the name of God and of the Lamb, Rev 14:1; 22:4. In these promises sometimes the enjoyment of the highest goods, sometimes deliverance from the greatest evils, is mentioned. And each implies the other, so that where either part is expressed, the whole is to be understood. That part is expressed which has most resemblance to the virtues or works of him that was spoken to in the letter preceding. To eat of the tree of life - The first thing promised in these letters is the last and highest in the accomplishment, Rev 22:2,14,19. The tree of life and the water of life go together, Rev 22:1,2; both implying the living with God eternally. In the paradise of my God - The word paradise means a garden of pleasure. In the earthly paradise there was one tree of life: there are no other trees in the paradise of God.