A Message to Thyatira, Revelation 2:18-29

May 23, 2006

A Message to Thyatira, Revelation 2:18-29

Text Reading

2:18 Kai. tw/| avgge,lw| th/j evn Quatei,roij evkklhsi,aj gra,yon\ Ta,de le,gei o` ui`o.j tou/ qeou/( o` e;cwn tou.j ovfqalmou.j auvtou/ w`j flo,ga puro.j kai. oi` po,dej auvtou/ o[moioi calkoliba,nw|\ 2:19 oi=da, sou ta. e;rga kai. th.n avga,phn kai. th.n pi,stin kai. th.n diakoni,an kai. th.n u`pomonh,n sou( kai. ta. e;rga sou ta. e;scata plei,ona tw/n prw,twnÅ 2:20 avlla. e;cw kata. sou/ o[ti avfei/j th.n gunai/ka VIeza,bel( h` le,gousa e`auth.n profh/tin kai. dida,skei kai. plana/| tou.j evmou.j dou,louj porneu/sai kai. fagei/n eivdwlo,qutaÅ 2:21 kai. e;dwka auvth/| cro,non i[na metanoh,sh|( kai. ouv qe,lei metanoh/sai evk th/j pornei,aj auvth/jÅ 2:22 ivdou. ba,llw auvth.n eivj kli,nhn kai. tou.j moiceu,ontaj metV auvth/j eivj qli/yin mega,lhn( eva.n mh. metanoh,swsin evk tw/n e;rgwn auvth/j( 2:23 kai. ta. te,kna auvth/j avpoktenw/ evn qana,tw|Å kai. gnw,sontai pa/sai ai` evkklhsi,ai o[ti evgw, eivmi o` evraunw/n nefrou.j kai. kardi,aj( kai. dw,sw u`mi/n e`ka,stw| kata. ta. e;rga u`mw/nÅ 2:24 u`mi/n de. le,gw toi/j loipoi/j toi/j evn Quatei,roij( o[soi ouvk e;cousin th.n didach.n tau,thn( oi[tinej ouvk e;gnwsan ta. baqe,a tou/ satana/ w`j le,gousin\ ouv ba,llw evfV u`ma/j a;llo ba,roj( 2:25 plh.n o] e;cete krath,sate a;criÎjÐ ou- a’n h[xwÅ 2:26 Kai. o` nikw/n kai. o` thrw/n a;cri te,louj ta. e;rga mou( dw,sw auvtw/| evxousi,an evpi. tw/n evqnw/n 2:27 kai. poimanei/ auvtou.j evn r`a,bdw| sidhra/| w`j ta. skeu,h ta. keramika. suntri,betai( 2:28 w`j kavgw. ei;lhfa para. tou/ patro,j mou( kai. dw,sw auvtw/| to.n avste,ra to.n prwi?no,nÅ 2:29 ~O e;cwn ou=j avkousa,tw ti, to. pneu/ma le,gei tai/j evkklhsi,aijÅ

Verse 18

Kai. tw/| avgge,lw| th/j evn Quatei,roij evkklhsi,aj gra,yon\ Ta,de le,gei o` ui`o.j tou/ qeou/( o` e;cwn tou.j ovfqalmou.j auvtou/ w`j flo,ga puro.j kai. oi` po,dej auvtou/ o[moioi calkoliba,nw|\

And to the messenger of the church in Thyatira urgently write: These things the Son of God, the one having his eyes as a flame of fire and his feet like polished brass, says;

Here we have in interesting introduction as the Lord introduces himself as the one with his eyes like a constant flame and his feet like polished brass. As a flame, the Son of God can illuminate the darkest desires of the heart just as easily as he can bring illumination to those in darkness. For those seeking to fool others with religous behavior, he will send them scurrying like cockroaches when one flicks the lights on. Unregenerate pastors and teachers especially despise biblical exegesis for this reason. It reveals the truth in their hearts and they cannot afford it. But Christ also relates his feet to that of polished brass. Just as we’ve seen before, he is sturdy for his people’s sake, even when our faith might waver.

Verse 19

oi=da, sou ta. e;rga kai. th.n avga,phn kai. th.n pi,stin kai. th.n diakoni,an kai. th.n u`pomonh,n sou( kai. ta. e;rga sou ta. e;scata plei,ona tw/n prw,twnÅ

I have known the work and the love and the faith and the service and the patience of you; and of your deeds, the later are greater than the first.

What a testimony of behavior! This church is known for its faith, patience, love and service. And this wasn’t a fading behavior. No. Their works were greater in these later days than when they first begun. This is a sign of maturing as Christians and is atypical for our day as it was in their’s. We should definitely take note of this and be encouraged to do likewise.

At this point, I’d like to dwell just a bit on faith and love. In our day there is little of either worthy of such comment as what Thyatira received. But this is nothing new. In Galatians, we see a church rebuked for departing the faith and doctrine that was originally delivered to them. In our day, there is much that presents itself as the gospel of Christ, but which isn’t at all. And I’m not speaking of what we normally deem the cults. I’m speaking of Baptist and protestant churches. I’m speaking of the Easy Believism crowd, and of the Fundamentalist crowd with their lists of “standards” and those who pollute the gospel in other fashions such as with success and purpose contrary to the scriptures.

And where is the love? This church was noted for it’s love. No doubt this was in the four-fold concept of scripture– love for God, love for their neigbor, love for their brothers in Christ and love for their enemies. I say this because of the all encompassing nature of the comment. They’re not called out with a deficiency. At least we don’t see a flaw until the next verse. But this stands in stark contrast to the common practice in even the best of our churches. It’s so easy to say we love God. But in practice, we deny God when lack all aspects of the love we’re called to exemplify. In the new birth, this behavior is a trait that is passed on to all of the children of God. It is a dominant trait. And each of us will be perfected in such practice as we continue to be conformed to the image of Christ. And for those who do not demonstrate the behavior– be wary. There is likely a good reason for it.

Verse 20

avlla. e;cw kata. sou/ o[ti avfei/j th.n gunai/ka VIeza,bel( h` le,gousa e`auth.n profh/tin kai. dida,skei kai. plana/| tou.j evmou.j dou,louj porneu/sai kai. fagei/n eivdwlo,qutaÅ

But I have against you that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, the one calling herself a prophetess and is teaching and is leading astray my willing bond-slaves to commit sexual immorality and to eat meat offered to idols.

While they were commended in the previous church, we see a fallout of their actions. And this fault is not charged to everyone in the church. But there were some among them who were tolerating behavior and seductions out of place for those professing Christ. Now, whether there was a literal woman leading some astray, I’m not sure. I do know that figuratively this is applicable to the church at Rome. However, I do also believe there was an application for these people in their day and age too.

Now, in Romans 14 we’re taught a little about liberties and how there really isn’t anything unclean except to those who esteem something as such. I may be off here, but it seems reasonable that these certain individuals were persuaded or reasoned against their normal convictions to partake of meat, which they might not normally partake of. So, something to consider is whether the fault is in eating the actual meat or is in being persuaded by this Jezebel. My take is that the eating of the meat wasn’t the crime. The fact that they were reasoned with by a false prophet to do so is the sin. It is one thing to reason from scriptures that something is not harmful. Likewise, we know there is only one God. There are no other gods. And in Romans, again, we know that there really isn’t anything unclean in and of itself. However, to yield our decisions and choices to the secular reasoning of the world is a sin in every manifestation. We’re never to succumb to such persuasions and logic.

With respect to sexual immorality, there is so much that can be said. Apparently there some among them who were persuaded that it was alright to participate in immorality– that there was a set of circumstances in which it was allowed. Oh the treachery in this day!

But before we puff with pride, there are those being likewise seduced by such a Jezebel today. And I’m not speaking so metaphorically as to be speaking of the Roman Catholic Church. I’m actually speaking of Oprah Winfrey. Here is a woman who appears to be establishing the moral pulse for America’s women. And these aren’t just heathen women, but professing Christians too. Oprah is idolized for her philanthropy and tear-jerking stories. As such she has established herself as an authority on multiple subjects. And lest you be fooled, when Oprah says something, there are many who believe without question. Well, one of her recurring topics is spousal abuse. But this is different than physical beating. We’re talking of mental abuse. Quite frankly, abuse is wrong in every manifestation and it should not be defended. However, is a husband correcting an unsubmissive wife truly abuse? Is it abuse if a husband sets a direction for his family that doesn’t find agreement with his wife’s opinion? While this may seem a touchy subject to some and crystal clear to others, it’s a problem nonetheless. And it’s coming into our churches and into our homes not just through the TV. You see, Oprah is popular programming for many pastors’ wives. And these wives typically teach and give bible studies and influence other women. And they also help to form the support network that women rely on when they struggle in certain areas of life.

So, beware of that woman Jezebel no matter who she might be.

Verse 21

kai. e;dwka auvth/| cro,non i[na metanoh,sh|( kai. ouv qe,lei metanoh/sai evk th/j pornei,aj auvth/jÅ

And I gave her time in order that she might repent and she does not want to repent of her pornography.

Now why would God give this woman time to repent, knowing the influence and heathen nature of her behavior? I can think of no other reason but that he might glorify himself. For those who might possibly think 2Peter 3:9 applies to all people, including the non-elect, here’s a good example to the contrary. God himself gave her time to repent with the only result that she utterly continues in her refusal to do so. This is consistent with those who are reprobate in their minds. They cannot possibly hear the call to repentance in order to correct their ways. Their nature is firm against God’s ways and they are stiff-necked as a result.

Some may question the use of pornography in the translation. The word used can be transliterated as “porneias”– basically, pornography. And I thought it to be stronger than immorality. After all, her tactic was to pollute the minds of those around her. Isn’t that exactly what pornography does?

Verse 22

ivdou. ba,llw auvth.n eivj kli,nhn kai. tou.j moiceu,ontaj metV auvth/j eivj qli/yin mega,lhn( eva.n mh. metanoh,swsin evk tw/n e;rgwn auvth/j(

Behold, I throw her into a bed, and the ones committing adultery with her into great affliction, if they may not repent away from their deeds,

There is judgement for her and for those who follow her seductions with a caveat of repentance. If they will only repent… Isn’t this the familiar ultimatum? Didn’t all of God’s prophets bring this message to Israel? And what was the response? Now, do a search for Christian churches in this region; and see how many mosques stand instead.

An often debated subject is man’s free will and the repentance of God against his own judgements. The general thought is that man’s volition can change the mind of God. Here God issues a decree. But he’ll withhold his judgement if they will only repent. The reality is his judgements do come, hence showing the lack of repentance. When do we see repentance? Romans makes it clear that it comes about when God brings it. “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? [Rom 2:4]”

How shall God’s creatures ever think to stand up to God and rail such accusations or display such defiance? He is the potter and we’re the clay. And he reserves some for destruction and some are spared. But all of this is to his glory for he is God.

Verse 23

kai. ta. te,kna auvth/j avpoktenw/ evn qana,tw|Å kai. gnw,sontai pa/sai ai` evkklhsi,ai o[ti evgw, eivmi o` evraunw/n nefrou.j kai. kardi,aj( kai. dw,sw u`mi/n e`ka,stw| kata. ta. e;rga u`mw/nÅ

and her children I will kill in death, and every church will know that I am the one searching the kidneys and the hearts; and will give to each of you according to your works.

God will kill the offspring of this Jezebel. This isn’t necessarily physical offspring as spe,rma is not used to denote physical seed. Rather te,kna is used instead. This distinction is used elsewhere to distinguish between the physical seed of Abraham and the spiritual children of him, who are heirs to Christ’s kingdom by faith. This particular verse is of course not dealing with the elect of God. It’s speaking of those who are persuaded to follow the lies and to be disciples of heresy. As such, the churches should not be concerned that God is in some way unfaithful. His destruction of these individuals who try to corrupt the church is sure. It’s only a matter of fulfillment in God’s time table.

Now, one should not be confused by this next phrase. God doesn’t actually search our internal organs. Well, as the great physician he might according to prayer search his children over, but that’s not really what’s being dicsussed here. Back in the day, this was the way of speaking concerning the inner mind and heart– the deepest, most intimate thoughts and desires. There are no secrets with God. We can only guess at motives; but God truly knows every motive. And he is always searching. This is the significance of the present participle versus the present tense. He is the “always searching one”. And just in case you think this is merely a coincidence of textual trickery, you should also note the emphatic use of the personal pronoun evgw,. This precedes the use of the first person singular form of the verb to be. Hence we really have “I, I am the always searching one”.

One of things that I find most concerning in today’s preaching is the false doctrine of an age of accountability. The scriptures make certain that each and every individual conceived is not only born a sinner, but conceived a sinner. There is no age at which one becomes a sinner then. However, here we see God rewarding each sinner according to his own work. Original sin is not one’s own work. These individuals are truly guilty of their crimes. So where does this leave small infants and unborn babes? I do not truly know as the scriptures are not blatant on the subject. Instead, we are left to infer from the few scriptures available. But I do not think it a stretch that such an infinite and sovereign God has named such children among his elect. Consider Israel in the wilderness. Because of their sin and unbelief they were left to die in the wilderness. But the curse of not entering the promised land did not pass on to Moses, Joshua and Caleb or to the children. There is a principle set here and I believe it’s two-fold:

  • Moses, Joshua and Caleb all demonstrated faith in God’s word. Though Moses did physically die in the wilderness, his body was carried into the promised land to connote his acceptance into the family of God and as an heir of Heaven. His brief sin was surely sin. But his temporary lack of faith was not the norm of his walk. It was in the context of 1John and only a brief act. God’s children will sin against God. But our sin is atypical and the deeds are mortified daily. The rest of the Israelites, on the other hand, were quite different. Unbelief was typical. The only time they really believed God was when they witnessed a manifestation of his power and judgement. They believed by sight, not by faith. As such they perished.
  • But notice the physical seed of these rebels were given a chance to still follow God. They did not perish in the wilderness as a result of their original sin or as a result of their parents’ sins. Instead, they were allowed to pass through. But I do not think the extended metaphor of heaven applies here. I do not think that all the children of the wilderness are also the children of God. In fact, the very fact that many would eventually grow up to rebel against God is indicative of this. Eventually, they too would be judged for their own works as is the case for these in Thyatira.

Now there are some who may find that it’s totally inappropriate for me to discuss this subject at this point of text. Well, that’s the beauty of doing this exercise. It affords me the luxury of inserting the thought that come to my mind. And I think it’s as fit a time as any to distinguish here.

Verse 24

u`mi/n de. le,gw toi/j loipoi/j toi/j evn Quatei,roij( o[soi ouvk e;cousin th.n didach.n tau,thn( oi[tinej ouvk e;gnwsan ta. baqe,a tou/ satana/ w`j le,gousin\ ouv ba,llw evfV u`ma/j a;llo ba,roj(

But to you I say, to the rest, the ones in Thyatira, as many as do not hold this teaching, who did not know the deep things of Satan, as they say; I throw not on you another burden.

Again we have a promise to those who overcome the temptation. Throughout scripture we have this device as a means of revealing our faith. According to 1Peter 1:7 “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” One of the dangers of dispensational teaching is that God’s people lack thankfulness for trials. They are under the belief that God has changed his modus operandi concerning the saints, that he will spare us such tribulation and rapture us out of here at the last minute. But trials always reveal whether we even have biblical faith. Consider also the parable of the sower:

“And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; 4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: 8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. 9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. 10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. 17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. 18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. 19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. 20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. 22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. [Matt 13:3-23]”

As keepers of God’s word, we must be faithful in all areas of doctrine and we must resist every temptation of following false doctrine.

Verse 25

plh.n o] e;cete krath,sate a;criÎjÐ ou- a’n h[xwÅ

Nevertheless, that which you have– seize till I may come.

Here we find the aorist imperative krath,sate, “with all urgency seize or arrest”. Bear in mind the chastening message to the Galatians who so quickly turned themselves over to false gospels from the true Gospel originally delivered to them. If there were ever a time for Christians to bear white knuckles, it’s when it comes to holding onto pure doctrine. I have reached a point where I bear no tolerance for those who are content to be tied up in pseudo-church cults. Their whines and complaints are beginning to fall onto deaf ears. They can always leave. They can always choose God’s ways. And I wish they would heed Christ’s own warning to such: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Matt 10:28]”.

Verse 26

Kai. o` nikw/n kai. o` thrw/n a;cri te,louj ta. e;rga mou( dw,sw auvtw/| evxousi,an evpi. tw/n evqnw/n

And the one who overcomes and the one who guards until the conclusion of my works, I will give to him authority over the nations,

Verses 27-28

kai. poimanei/ auvtou.j evn r`a,bdw| sidhra/| w`j ta. skeu,h ta. keramika. suntri,betai( 28 w`j kavgw. ei;lhfa para. tou/ patro,j mou( kai. dw,sw auvtw/| to.n avste,ra to.n prwi?no,nÅ

and he will rule them with an iron rod, as the Potter’s vessels they will be broken, as I also have received from my Father, and I will give to him the morning star.

Now there are some things to explain here. First of all, it was a little easier to lump comments for these three verses together rather than essentially repeat similar points. But the combination of verses 27 and 28 is due to the actual text. Depending on the text used and on the version consulted, these verses are divided a bit differently. But they also fit together to complete the thought.

For those who despise the Calvinistic doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, close your eyes. Quite regularly Christ discusses this in his epistles to the churches; and once again we have the address to the ones who overcomes. Take note that this isn’t just a passive response on the part of the Christian. In this case, Christ also clarifies that the Christian is the one who actively guards his faith until the very end– the conclusion of Christ’s work. This also doesn’t bode well for the fans of dispensationalism who believe they must simply persevere until the “pause”. I’m referring to the popular teaching of a pre-tribulation rapture. There really isn’t much room for this when dealing with text. We’re told the second coming of our Lord is our blessed hope. And here we’re told the Christian is the one who guards his heart and mind until the very conclusion of Christ’s work. This isn’t merely the penultimate climax– it’s the climax.

As Christians we’re considered to be victorious in the battle against Satan and his devious plans. And we find a reminder of this thought in verses 26 through 28. Christ will give the victorious Christian authority over the nations, a rod of iron to rule over them with and the morning star. In Revelation 22:16, we’re told that Christ is the morning star. Of all the gifts we could possibly receive, this is the choicest one. This alone is the reason for rejoicing.

With respect to ruling over Jezebel and her crowd, along with the nations, I am not persuaded that this is a literal ruling over them for several reasons. First of all, there are really little traces of Christianity in this region of Turkey. Islam is the dominant religion there, now. And there is nothing really to show they ever ruled over the gentiles in the region. However, these Christians, as with all before and since, are joint heirs with Christ. And as a result of their co-crucifiction with Christ, they share in Christ’s triumphant suppression of those who stand in opposition to him. Plus, we’re told they will be crushed as the Potter’s vessels. Well, who’s the Potter? It’s Christ. And in Romans we’re told “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction [Romans 9:22]”. This execution of judgement is clearly the work of Christ. Again, we share in it in many ways. But to think we’ll literally rule and execute such functions isn’t very realistic.

Verse 29

~O e;cwn ou=j avkousa,tw ti, to. pneu/ma le,gei tai/j evkklhsi,aijÅ

The one having an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the assemblies.

This familiar imperative needs to be adhered to today as in every age. If no one else will heed it, let us do so.

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