Author: Ron Graham
The Revelation of Christ (Revelation 1-5) >Seven Churches >Fourth Message, Thyatira
We continue studying the messages to the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2-3. In this lesson we look at the message to Thyatira, the corrupt church (Revelation 2:18-29).
Thyatira A commercial centre on the road east. Nothing remains of the ancient city. Lydia was from Thyatira.
The Son of God Here Jesus calls himself "the Son of God..." . Yet in the vision he appeared as "a son of man" (Revelation 1:13). Jesus is both God and man. The Son of God became also a son of man. Although a human being, Jesus is, was, and always will be, God. He is the Word who was God and who became flesh (John 1:1,14 Acts 2:33). He is now exalted to his Father’s right hand.
Eyes like a flame Jesus sees all things, and the fire of his eyes (Revelation 1:14) signifies judgment. The woman Jezebel and her followers were under judgment and threat of punishment (verses 20-23).
I know your deeds... Jesus commends the deeds of, service, and perseverance by which the Thyatirans demonstrated their love and faith.
We should never be so in love with love, nor have so much faith in faith, that we forget God judges and values our deeds. They must be works of love and faith, certainly. They must be works of steadfast service to Christ. But they are works. They are deeds. If Christ wants them, who are we to say, "No, Lord, You have done all the deeds that are necessary. My deeds are worthless".
People say that we are like Isaiah’s people long ago: "all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). However, when Jesus Christ touches our deeds with the sceptre of his kingdom, then our deeds are made worthy and acceptable. Let us persevere and grow in the Lord's work, serving him as "priests to his God and Father" (Hebrews 1:8 Revelation 1:6) knowing that our labour in the Lord is not in vain.
In verse 23 Jesus says, "I will give to each one of you according to your deeds" —reward for righteousness, and punishment for evil.
That woman Jezebel In the Old Testament times there was a woman called Jezebel. She married Ahab a king of Israel and incited him to be even more wicked than he already was (1Kings 21:25). She died a horrible death just as the prophet predicted (2Kings 9:7-10, 30-37). The Jezebel at Thyatira was as bad as her name's sake, leading church members into idolatry and immorality. Her punishment was imminent too.
Calls herself... This Jezebel "calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads astray..." Jezebel was a false prophet, a pretender. She was the antichrist in the church at Thyatira. Antichrist is everywhere, and "many antichrists have arisen" (1John 2:18). They will even arise from within the church, but when they do they must not remain in the church, for they are "not of us" and that needs to be made manifest (1John 2:19).
You tolerate... Jesus said, "I have this against you that you tolerate that woman..." Jesus is not here suggesting that the Thyatirans should exhibit impatient intolerance. They were at fault in not warning Jezebel and her followers, and not exhorting them to repent. They were letting evil creep in by stages, and doing nothing about it.
Time to repent Christ himself is tolerant in the sense that he allows time to repent. During that time he does not overlook the error, however he gives a person time to consider his warnings and to change. Christ's whole purpose is that evil should be overcome (verse 26). He wastes no time in pursuing that purpose. The time to repent is time granted to overcome evil and escape judgment. If one is unwilling to do that, then the time to repent makes it manifest that the judgment is just.
Great tribulation There are two kinds of tribulation in the book of Revelation, tribulation as a punishment for evil, and tribulation as a test of faith. It is very easy to point the finger at those who suffer troubles. "What sin have you committed that this punishment should come upon you you?" However, John writes the book of Revelation as "your brother and companion in tribulation" (Revelation 1:9). Surely he was not saying that he was a Jezebel and they were Jezebels and they were all partaking together in punishment for their sins! No, this was "the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus". This tribulation is noble to suffer. Jezebel's tribulation, if she did not repent, would be ignominy.
Kill her children. The Lord is referring to Jezebel's spiritual children, not her children of the flesh. Paul shows that there is such a thing as a spiritual child. He asserts that the children of God are not the fleshly descendants of Abraham, but those who imitate Abraham's faith, these are Abraham's children (Romans 9:6-8, Galatians 3:7). This establishes the principle that "children" does not always mean biological offspring, but the followers of a person's doctrine and example are called the "children" of that person. Another example is Jesus saying that the Pharisees were sons of the devil (John 8:44-45). However, even if God were thinking of killing Jezebel's literal children, and these were innocent little ones (unlikely and impossible to prove), that would be no more of a problem to me than the death of many innocent children whom God has evidently caused to die. No doubt children were killed when God flooded the earth or fire bombed Sodom and Gomorrah. He did not do these things out of capriciousness or cruelty, nor punish infants for their parent's sin (Ezekiel 18:14-32 esp 20). God simply took these children out of the evil place and into his embrace, for which they will ever be grateful.
He who searches the hearts This repeats in explanatory words the imagery of verse 18, he "who has eyes like a flame of fire". The eyes of Jesus in the vision represent his perfect knowledge of our hearts, and his perfect judgment of our thoughts and intents.
The deep things of Satan Through false prophets like Jezebel "Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2Corinthians 11:13-15). So the deep things of Satan are disguised as "truth". The only "deep things" we should want to know about are "the deep things of God" (1Corinthians 2:10). Many today are turning back to the rituals and magic of pagan witchcraft and idolatry. In this "new age" of Aquarius we must be aware that ancient evils are making a comeback and the false religion of Satan is presenting itself as a religion of light.
What you have hold fast Jesus says (in the previous verse), "I place no other burden upon you". The gospel is what we have, and the gospel is sufficient. There are always those who want to add new requirements. Let us return to the gospel, take hold of it, and hold it fast, and take no other burden.
Until the end The phrase "until the end" echoes the phrase at the end of the previous verse, "until I come. It also echoes the phrase "until death" (verse 10). We are reminded that, to all intents and purposes, we may regard and expect the end, the coming of Christ, as "shortly to take place" (Revelation 1:1-3). We do not know when our death will occur and seal our eternal destiny. The end of the world at the second coming of Christ may be thousands of years away. But none of us individually has that much time. For each of us, "the time is near".
Authority over the nations This is the same promise as we will see in the message to Laodicea. "He who overcomes I will grant to him to sit down with me on my throne" (Revelation 3:21). The vision of the thousand year reign (Revelation 20:4) also expresses this promise.
Some people take this as a promise that they will reign on earth over the nations, and some have even chosen the nation over which they will reign! However the authority or "name" of Jesus as "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Revelation 19:16) does not mean that he will reign on earth or that we will be little kings under him. He reigns in heaven, and that is the point.
Heaven is higher than the earth, and a heavenly throne has greater authority than any earthly throne. Whatever power there may be on earth, we "have authority over" it, in the sense that "the Ruler of the kings of the earth... has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever." (Revelation 1:5-6).
This higher authority does not absolve us from obeying the powers that be here on earth (Romans 13:1-7). However, should these rulers persecute and even execute us, they will find that we are the ones who really had the power, not them.
Rule them with a rod of iron This verse expands upon the authority that we noticed in the previous verse. While it is the faithful follower of Christ who is exercising this rule, he does it just as Jesus does. The authority of Jesus is an extension of his Father's authority, and our authority is an extension of his. All authority comes from the Father and belongs to the Father. It is not our "own" rule or authority.
So the gospel is in view here, not some post-gospel millennium. On Judgment Day, the gospel will be the expression of divine authority, just as it is now. All who have not obeyed it, even though they be great rulers on earth, will "pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power, when he comes to be glorified in his saints on that day" (2Thessalonians 1:5-10).
Vessels of the potter The gospel is the message of salvation which we preach. To us, it is a treasure in earthern vessels (2Corinthians 4:7). To those who disobey the gospel, it is the rod of iron that will break them to pieces (Revelation 2:27).
I will give the morning star Jesus calls himself "the bright and morning star" (Revelation 22:16). This is his glory, which now we see like the morning star. Bright and beautiful though it be, we know our feeble distant eyes perceive but a small part of its true glory. One day we will see Jesus face to face in all his glory. Better still, we will share his glory being glorified as he is glorified. "We know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1John 3:2-3).