Question: Is there a significance in Revelation 2 and 3 for verses to speak of “an ear to hear” versus the plural “ears to hear”?
Response: Though some translations render the passages in Revelation as “ears to hear” (plural), some render each instance as “an ear to hear” (singular). In the Gospels, however, (Mt 11:15, Mk 4:9, etc.) the phrase is most often plural (“he that has ears to hear”). Jesus often used physical examples when discussing spiritual principles. He used bread and wine to convey truth about His sacrifice on our behalf. He spoke of Himself as a “door” to show that He was the way to salvation. When He spoke of ears and hearing, He meant much more than just hearing sounds and words that had meaning. Many people “listened” and “heard” the words that Jesus spoke but didn’t respond in a way that indicated that they fully understood and were obedient to what He had said.
If there is a specific distinction to be seen, the Scriptures often speak of our focus, i.e., for the person to be listening to what they are hearing with both ears, or seeing with both eyes. In Matthew:6:22, the Lord states, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”
For the eye to be “single” (we have two eyes), they need to be focused on the same thing. Consequently, whether it says “ear” or “ears,” the distinction is on the focus. In fact, ears or eyes, both are the “gateway” to the heart. According to Psalm:86:11, “ Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.” To “unite” is to remove division and to “focus” the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb:4:12) on serving the Lord. Our eyes must “be single” and our “ears” must “hear.” In other words, don’t be distracted! The message given by the Lord in Revelation is of extreme importance, and both “ears” must clearly hear that the mind may understand.