Sunday, August 9, 2009

Revelation 2:18-29 Thyatira

The next church is the church at Thyatira. It was about forty miles east of Pergamos. It was a trade center with many trade guilds. Lydia, the seller of purple (Acts 16:14) resided there.

Verse 2:18 “And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass”

This time Christ actually calls Himself the Son of God. He again refers to a part of the description we found in chapter one. This time it is referring to his eyes and his feet. This is again speaking of judgment by the eyes which see everything and the feet which are going to trample the winepress of God's wrath.

Verse 2:19 “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.

This church was given a long list of commendations. Their works were so much that they are mentioned twice, with the last implying that they are growing in leaps and bounds. They were loving, they ministered to people, they had a strong faith, and they were patient in tribulation. One would think that this church could not go wrong, but that is not the case. This should be a real warning to Christians who are walking with the Lord in love, faith, works, and patience in tribulation, that even they can be guilty of some type of sin.

Verse 2:20 “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.”

Thyatira was not watching their doctrines. Not only were they tolerating false doctrines, but they were allowing a woman called Jezebel (who was a self-proclaimed prophetess) to teach these doctrines, seducing the congregation to commit fornication and eat things sacrificed to idols. First, allowing a woman to teach the church was strictly against scripture. In 1 Timothy 2:11,12 the church is specifically instructed that a woman is not supposed to be in authority over a man and teach. Whether her name was actually Jezebel or not, the name immediately brings to mind the story of Jezebel from the O.T. and makes a spiritual connection with that woman. The Jezebel of the O.T. was responsible for promoting whoredoms, witchcraft, and Baal worship in Israel during the time of Elijah. Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab, was not an Israelite but a princess of the Zidonians. Ahab, to strengthen the kingdom of Israel, married Jezebel, and she with Ahab’s willing help introduced the worship of Baal into Israel, and killed all the prophets of the Lord she could find.

This Jezebel, by virtue of calling herself a prophetess, was obviously introducing “new revelation” that she supposedly received as a prophetess. Those revelations apparently had to do with carnal living, participation in pagan rituals and the like. She most likely was stressing love and works, as this church was strong in those things, but the love was a little too loving in some cases. Other churches had people like this (the Nicolaitanes) but the difference was, these people were not only tolerating her, they were allowing her to teach this heresy. Another problem may have had something to do with the fact that this city was a trade city with trade guilds. You didn’t work unless you were a member of the guild. These guilds had certain requirements that involved their members participating in pagan practices and feasts. Think in terms of something similar to the masons of today. Jezebel was probably teaching that it was okay for people to participate so that they could continue to work.

In the churches today there are people who belong to the Masonic Lodge, which is a pagan organization, regardless of what some of their members may like to believe. They are actually pledging their allegiance to Satan when they join. At the lower ranks, the individuals are probably completely unaware of what they are doing, if they are not truly studying their Bibles and can see the truth. They think the words they are saying are harmless, but God is holding them accountable for the promises to which they are giving a vow, and what they are vowing to is blasphemous. Their symbols are occultic, but unless a person has studied the occult and recognizes the meanings, they would be meaningless to them. On another front, I have heard many older people complain about the new teachings that are coming in to the church, yet they stay there and tolerate it. It is the older congregants that keep the church’s works going, have the strong faith, the discernment, the ministries, and the like. It is the younger ones who are embracing the new teachings and ways. So the church still qualifies as a good church in the sense that overall they still have those things which are so important, but they are letting these new doctrines creep in. As the younger ones enjoy the new ways, the older ones, in the name of peace, remain silent in the face of the younger people‘s intolerance of their complaints. In time the ways of Jezebel finally take over the whole church and they become apostate. All of these things would qualify as the possible candidates for the sins in this church.

Verse 2:21 “And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.”

Apparently someone had confronted Jezebel with her sin, but she had refused to acknowledge that is was a sin, as is usually the case with a ringleader. She deliberately was rejecting God’s Word and His warning.

Verse 2:22 “Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.”

Judgment has been pronounced on Jezebel, as she has refused to repent. She will be cast into a bed of great tribulation. Although we do not know what happened to her, it is safe to assume that God did judge this woman. Her followers were still given time to repent. While at the time of this letter and down through the centuries, the tribulation that she and her followers were cast into may have been intense tribulation, the “great tribulation” is yet to come. This shows us that this letter is also for those that are alive at the time of the great tribulation during the 70th week as this phrase only applies to that particular time.

Verse 2:23 “And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.”

Jezebel’s children might include biological ones, but for certain it refers to spiritual ones, those who follow her. The phrase kill with death is an idiomatic expression that would mean they die from execution. They are killed by a means of death. This definitely points to the great tribulation when Christians will be executed for their faith. This is how God will refine and purge those who have not repented and cleaned up their act. God will punish according to their sins.

Verse 2:24-25 “But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come.”

We know that these letters were addressed to the angels specifically and to the members of the church as a whole. Now there is a change. From the context it can be seen that Christ is now speaking to the person to whom the letter is addressed (the angel) and “the rest.... as have not this doctrine.” What Christ is about to say is only to this group, the angel and the faithful remnant. This might seem like an odd thing, as an angel would not be guilty of any of these sins, but that is not what this is about. This is also addressed to the faithful remnant in this church that has not participated in any way in these sins that Jezebel has been promoting. What is said is that Christ will not put any other burden on them other than holding onto what they have. He is not going to chastise them for any other sin, nor expect anything more from them other than they just stay away from Jezebel and her teachings and stay faithful. The angel who is in charge is not going to be given any more demands other than just watching over and keeping these who will not participate in this heresy. It is not required for him to watch over the rest of the church as was required of the previous angels.

The remnant has been faithful in every other way, in love, faith, works, and ministry. Their only problem has been tolerating Jezebel. They may not have had any choice in the matter. Usually the faithful remnant is the minority in a church and their voices go unheeded and unnoticed. They are told to simply hold on to what they have been doing. And they are told to do this until the Lord returns. While this original church may have hoped that the Lord would return in their lifetimes, that was not the case. However, there will be Thyatira-like churches around at the Second Coming of the Lord who can and will be cast into the great tribulation, so Christ does expect Christians to be around at His Second Coming.

Verse 2:26 “And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.”

The overcomer who endures to the end (2nd coming) will be given rule over the nations. Rev. 20:4 “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them…..and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”

Verse 2:27 “And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.”

This verse is a reference to Psalm 2:7-9. “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” This imagery shows up in Revelation again in 12:5 “And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne”, and 19:15b “…and he shall rule them with a rod of iron:…” In these verses, it is speaking of Christ who will be the one to rule with a rod of iron. But in the above verse, the promise is that the overcomer will rule them with a rod of iron. The saints have been promised that they will judge the world. 1 Cor. 6:2 “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?…” This is also promised in Daniel 7:18, 27. “But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. ….And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” We have already seen the verse in Rev. 20:4 that the saints will judge the nations.

Verse 2:28 “And I will give him the morning star.”

Jesus is the bright and morning star. Rev. 22:16b “…I am the root and the offspring of David and the bright and morning star.” This is a promise of Christ’s eternal presence with His people.

Verse 2:29 “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

In the previous churches, this warning came before the promise to the overcomer. Now the positioning of it has been changed. It comes at the end. The Lord is making a change to give us a jolt to realize that something has changed from the previous churches to this one. In looking at the other churches, we see that the entire letter was addressed to the entire church. In this church, halfway through the letter, Christ quit addressing the entire church and addressed only the angel and the remnant. The reason for this becomes evident when one examines a little more closely the subject of doctrine. In the first three churches, the church still held to correct doctrine. They may have had people within the church who individually chose to believe in false doctrines (the Nicolaitanes and Balaam followers), but they did not tolerate this to be taught by the church. In Thyatira, they had embraced these false teachings as church doctrine. Therein lies the difference. Christ does warn the entire church that they should not tolerate false doctrine, but the corporate church had already forsaken Christ, and is already condemned to judgment. This explains Him presenting himself as the one with eyes that flame and feet that are like brass, signs of judgment. While in the other churches everyone was available to have an ear to hear and become an overcomer, this is not the case in this church. The promise to overcomers and to him who has an ear to hear comes after Christ stops addressing the corporate church and starts addressing the remnant. Had the order been reversed, it might have been assumed that this promise was to all the church, but the grammatical positioning of the promise indicates that it is not being given to the entire church, but to the remnant. They still are guilty of tolerating Jezebel (although they probably could do nothing about her) and stand in danger of judgment too, if they are not careful, therefore they need to have an ear to hear.

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