FALSE PROPHETS SEDUCE THE SAINTS TO IDOLATROUS COMPROMISE BUT THE CHURCH MUST PERSEVERE IN FAITH, LOVE AND GOOD WORKS
William Barclay: What, then, was the problem in Thyatira? We know less about Thyatira than about any other of the seven cities and are, therefore, seriously handicapped in trying to reconstruct the situation. The one thing we do know is that it was a great commercial centre, especially of the dyeing industry and of the trade in woollen goods. It was from Thyatira that Lydia, the seller of purple, came (Acts 16:14). From inscriptions discovered, we learn that it had an extraordinary number of trade guilds. These were associations for mutual profit and pleasure of people employed in certain trades. There were guilds of workers in wool, leather, linen and bronze, makers of outer garments, dyers, potters, bakers and slave-dealers.
Here, we think, was the problem of the church in Thyatira. To refuse to join one of these guilds would mean to give up all prospect of commercial existence. Why should a Christian not join one of these guilds? They held common meals. These would very often be held in a temple; and, even if not, they would begin and end with a formal sacrifice to the gods, and the meat eaten would be meat which had already been offered to idols. Further, it often happened that these communal meals were occasions of drunken revelry and slack morality. Was it possible for a Christian to be part of such occasions?
Here was the problem at Thyatira: the threat came from inside the church. There was a strong movement, led by the woman referred to as Jezebel, which pleaded for compromise with the world’s standards in the interests of business and commercial prosperity, maintaining, no doubt, that the Holy Spirit could preserve them from any harm. The answer of the risen Christ is uncompromising. Christians must have nothing to do with such things.
Richard Phillips: Here, Jesus displays himself in a way that many professing Christians will be challenged to accept but that should inspire us to holy, faithful lives. He describes himself as “the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze” (Rev. 2:18). He is the Lord who knows our works, who hates all sin, who judges the unrepentant in his church, and who bestows glory on those who conquer in his name.
Craig Keener: Babylon the prostitute later in this book is probably modeled partly on “Jezebel,” Thyatira’s local embodiment of the larger system of “Babylon,” because she advocated participation in local civic and commercial life even where they demanded compromise with paganism.
G.K. Beale: Christ commends the church of Thyatira for its Christian works of witness, condemns it for its permissive spirit of idolatrous compromise, and exhorts it to overcome this in order not to be judged but to inherit end-time rule together with Christ.
Daniel Akin: The church that tolerates false teaching and corrupt morality will receive judgment, while those who hold fast to the true gospel will receive the ultimate reward.
Kendell Easley: A false teacher was leading many Christians of Thyatira to embrace open immorality, but an all-knowing, all-powerful Lord will punish her followers severely.
Buist Fanning: Jesus commends the church in Thyatira for their growth in Christian character and exhorts them to hold fast, but he rebukes their toleration of idolatrous teaching and warns them of judgment for any who follow it.
(:18) PROLOGUE – JUDGMENT BEGINS AT THE HOUSE OF GOD
A. Command to Write to the Church at Thyatira
“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write:”
Craig Koester: The issue of assimilation continues in the message to Christians in Thyatira, a town located in a broad valley southeast of Pergamum. Here, too, Christians would have faced pressures to accommodate Greco-Roman religious practices. There were associations of linen workers, dyers, wool merchants, leather cutters, and other professions. Christians who practiced those trades would have found it good business to join such a group, even though the trade associations often included Greco-Roman religious rites at their gatherings. The principal deities worshiped at Thyatira were Apollo and Artemis. Moreover, townspeople were grateful that the Romans maintained the roads, which facilitated commerce, and they dedicated a colonnade to Caesar Augustus as “son of god.”
Buist Fanning: Thyatira was a medium-sized city located further inland in a wide valley on the main road going southeast from Pergamum to Sardis. Its location made it an important commercial center with a thriving textile industry (wool trade, weaving, dyeing). Lydia as mentioned in Acts 16:14 was a merchant from Thyatira who sold purple cloth. Inscriptions give evidence of various other trades that flourished in the city (coppersmiths, tanners and leather workers, potters, slave traders).
Grant Osborne: Each guild had its own patron god or goddess, and the frequent feasts of the guilds were religious in character. The pressure on Christians to participate in the idolatrous life of the people was probably linked to the guilds, for their feasts were the heart of the social (and commercial) life of the city. To refuse to participate meant the loss of both goodwill and business.
David Thompson: Thyatira was the smallest of the seven cities, but it had the longest message given by Jesus Christ. . . Dr. Alan Johnson said that each union had three main features:
1) Its own deity – each guild had its own “guardian god”
2) Its own feasts
3) Its own seasonal festivals which were wild parties with immoral revelry
B. Characterization of the Son of God as Penetrating and Powerful Judge
“The Son of God,”
Van Parunak: This is the only instance of this title in the Revelation. The scarcity of the title in the Revelation is remarkable, since John’s epistles and gospel account for nearly half of the instances of this title in the NT. In 1 John (where the title is densest), the point is that “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2, 3), that the man Jesus is the divine Son. The title thus emphasizes the incarnation, in direct contradiction to the gnostic claim of the Nicolaitans that our physical life and conduct is irrelevant to our spiritual condition.
- Judgment of Christ is Perceptive
“who has eyes like a flame of fire,”
Robert Mounce: The blazing eyes suggest the penetrating power of Christ’s ability to see through the seductive arguments of Jezebel and those who were being led astray by her pernicious teaching. Feet (or legs; cf. on 1:15) like burnished bronze convey the idea of strength and splendor.
- Judgment of Christ is Powerful
“and His feet are like burnished bronze,”
William Barclay: The description is taken from that of the angelic messenger in Daniel 10:6: ‘His face [was] like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze.’ The flaming eyes must stand for two things – blazing anger against sin and the awful penetration of that gaze which strips the disguises away and sees into the depths of a person’s heart. The bronze feet must stand for the immovable power of the risen Christ.
Buist Fanning: reinforcing his resplendent, heavenly glory (see Rev 1:15), but also perhaps indirectly making a connection to the well-known metalworking trade of Thyatira. The word rendered “gleaming bronze” (χαλκολίβανον; found only here and in Rev 1:15 in all of extant Greek literature) seems to refer to a type of fine brass or bronze, and it could be a specialized term familiar in the local area. In any case it also serves to connect the glorious vision of Christ (1:15) with his appearance in judgment, perhaps alluding in this case to his future coming in irresistible power as Lord of all (19:11–16).
John MacArthur: That Christ’s feet glowed brilliantly like burnished bronze depicts His purity and holiness as He tramples out impurity.
David Thompson: Christ wants the people in this church to realize that the One addressing them had better be taken seriously. All churches need to realize that Jesus Christ sees all sin in a church and He does have the ability as God to judge it and stamp it out. He will not tolerate idolatrous and immoral things forever in His church and sooner or later, He will get rid of it.
C. Communication from the Sovereign Head of the Church
I. (:19-) COMMENDATION FOR FAITH, LOVE AND GOOD WORKS
A. Praiseworthy Past Performance
“I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance,”
Sola Scriptura: The deeds of the Thyatirans are described by four nouns:
1) Love = mental attitude.
2) Faith = dependability or faithfulness.
3) Service = attending someone for the purpose of performing a task.
4) Perseverance = the correct way to respond to suffering by the overcomer.
John MacArthur: Out of faith and love grow service and perseverance. Those who love will express that love through meeting the needs of others. Those who are faithful will steadfastly persevere in the faith (cf. Matt. 16:24–26; 24:13).
Robert Thomas: Love and faith are abstract qualities or motive forces for Christian activity, and service and endurance are outward fruit or the results that flow from these motive forces (Charles; Mounce). This arrangement, in agreement with the frequent ascensive use of kai in this book, takes the last two words to be in apposition with the first two (Beckwith). In other words, love is demonstrated in service to others and faith is shown through endurance of hardship imposed through persecution.
Grant Osborne: Love is indeed a primary characteristic of those who would call themselves the chidren of God. “Faith” (πίστιν, pistin) is even more central to this book (see on 2:13), describing not only trust in God rather than in this world but even more a faithful perseverance in the midst of oppression and pressure from the pagans. While Sweet (1979: 94) argues for “faithfulness” here and Thomas (1992: 212) for “faith/belief,” it is more likely that the two aspects shade into one another. In the parallel 2:13, both terms are found and clarify each other. “Service” (διακονίαν, diakonian) occurs only here in the book and refers to an active life of care and help, to charitable service and ministry to others. As Weiser (EDNT 1:302) points out, the διακονέω (diakoneō, serve) word group differs from the δουλεύω (douleuō, serve) word group in that the former connotes “service” on behalf of someone while the latter speaks of “service” under or subordinate to someone (the “lord” or “master”). “Endurance” (ὑπομονήν, hypomonēn) is another major term in the book (see on 1:9; 2:2, 3), referring to an active perseverance in the midst of pressure and hard times. It is the key characteristic of the “overcomer” who remains true to God even if it means martyrdom. These four describe a life of Christian caring for others and faithfulness to God.
B. Positive Progressive Growth
“and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.”
Warren Wiersbe: The believers in Thyatira were a busy lot! They were involved in sacrificial ministry for the sake of others. What’s more, their works were increasing and characterized by faith, love, and patience; so the church was not guilty of mere “religious activity.”
Daniel Akin: Jesus likes these characteristics of His church. He also loves that “your last works are greater than the first.” They are not stagnant or satisfied in their service to their King. They had gotten better! They were doing more than ever! “Do good things and grow in good things” is a wonderful goal for any church of Christ, and that goal had been met in the church at Thyatira
Buist Fanning: In deliberate contrast to what was said to the Ephesian church, where some of these same commendations occur (2:2–3), Christ does not need to rebuke them for spiritual regression (2:4–5: “You abandoned the love you had at first. . . . Do the works you did at first”). Instead they are moving forward in Christian conduct (v. 19c): “Your last works are greater than the first,” undeterred by adverse circumstances (cf. 2 Cor 10:15; Eph 4:15–16; Phil 1:25; Col 1:6, 10; 1 Tim 4:15; 2 Pet 3:18).
Richard Phillips: What particularly stands out in Thyatira is that the church was continuing to grow spiritually and in good works: Jesus says, “Your latter works exceed the first” (Rev. 2:19). These believers set a good example for us today. Part of what makes Christianity so exciting is that we are called to continually grow in terms of our knowledge of God’s grace (2 Peter 3:18), our personal holiness (Eph. 4:24), our love for others, and our good works. John Stott writes: “The church of Thyatira understood that the Christian life is a life of growth, of progress, of development.” Knowing this, each of us should pray that our “latter works” will “exceed the first.”
David Thompson: What I understand Christ to mean is that this church was better developed and far more mature when Christ made His assessment than when it first began. Both in numbers . of works and in quality of work, this church was much more developed than when it first began. This church did not rely on its past laurels and the people were always seeking to serve and do more for God.
II. (:20-23) CRITICISM FOR TOLERATING THE INFLUENCE OF JEZEBEL
A. (:20) Seduction of Jezebel Demands Confrontation, Not Toleration
“But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel,”
Richard Phillips: In the ninth century B.C., Jezebel was an unbelieving princess from Sidon whom Israel’s King Ahab married for political reasons. Jezebel brought her false gods with her, and soon her legions of pagan priests had spread the worship of Baal and Asherah throughout the land. The Israelites were seduced with the idea that these Sidonian gods, male and female, would bring economic prosperity in the form of fertile lands and wombs. Jezebel’s idolatry, which involved ritual prostitution at the pagan shrines, swept through God’s people. . .
Jesus’ response to this Jezebel’s seductive ministry reminds us of two things concerning sexual purity. First, the Bible associates sexual sin with idolatry. The Old Testament often compared idolatry to sexual infidelity. Hosea condemned Israel, saying that “the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD” (Hos. 1:2). Jeremiah complained that by worshiping at Baal altars and Asherah poles, Jews “polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree” (Jer. 3:9). Sex is God’s gift to be blessed within marriage and for the procreation of holy children. Those who engage in sexual sin divorce God’s gift from God’s holy purpose and thus make a god of their desires. This is why Paul wrote: “Flee from sexual immorality. . . . Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:18–20).
Second, Jesus’ emphasis highlights the importance of sexual purity to the Christian life. In general, the idea that believers in Christ may continue to live like the world is false. James wrote: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). This principle is especially true when it comes to the Christian calling to sexual purity, through abstinence outside marriage and fidelity within marriage. The Bible teaches that “this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thess. 4:3). Jesus therefore rebuked the church in Thyatira: “I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who . . . [is] seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality” (Rev. 2:20).
J. Hampton Keathley, III: Thyatira had a definite and even greater ministry of service and endurance, one that seemed to be motivated by faith and love (cf. vs. 19), but Thyatira lacked on the side of zeal for sound doctrine, moral purity, holiness of life, and zeal against false teaching and practice. Obviously, the church needs to have both, it needs a balance or it must eventually lose its testimony and capacity for ministry.
Daniel Akin: Guard Against a Personality Cult
Jesus has something against this church: “You tolerate the woman Jezebel.” This is most certainly a descriptive title and not the woman’s actual name. It would conjure up images of the evil and vile queen of Israel. However, I do believe our Lord is talking about an actual person. This woman was a powerful personality who had built her own following and kingdom in our Lord’s church. She was smart, influential in personality, and powerful in speech. It was easy to join her because she made so much sense. However, like Jezebel of old, she was evil and deceptive, domineering and scheming, idolatrous and sexually immoral. The liberty she promised would actually lead them into slavery and away from God and the lordship of Jesus.
There is such a valuable lesson here, one we must never forget. Anything or anyone that gets your eyes off of Jesus is not of God. Anything or anyone that minimizes or adds to the gospel is not of God. Anything or anyone that compromises on biblical truth is not of God. The impressiveness of their abilities, gifts, and visions makes no difference. Indeed, the greater the gifts, the greater the dangers.
Robert Mounce: The Thyatiran Jezebel is probably some prominent woman within the church who, like her OT counterpart, was influencing the people of God to forsake loyalty to God by promoting a tolerance toward and involvement in pagan practices. This extended to sexual immorality and participation in the religious feasts connected with membership in trade guilds. Jezebel “symbolizes the corrosive powers of false religion among the people of God.”
- False Prophetess
“who calls herself a prophetess,
and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray,”
Robert Thomas: In the first-century church a prophet was an inspired messenger of God who ranked high, just behind the apostles, in the capability of edifying the church (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28). But the early church also had false prophets. In her own eyes, Jezebel’s alleged special revelations from God qualified her as an authoritative teacher in the church. Some others agreed and she became a recognized leader, the critical problem being that she was leading people astray.
Grant Osborne: This is the only place in the book where Christians are “deceived”; elsewhere it is always unbelievers. It is possible that those who fall into this “error” are considered thereby to be unbelievers, but the use of “my slaves” makes that unlikely. The verb means to “seduce” a person into sin by leading that one into error. Braun (TDNT 6:238–49) notes three characteristics in Jewish and Christian apocalyptic passages: seduction by evil powers (e.g., the angel of darkness), dualism (light vs. darkness, truth vs. error), and eschatology (the false prophets claim to be the deliverers of the last day). There is a close connection between Revelation and the Olivet discourse in this, as Jesus prophesied of “false prophets” and “false messiahs” who would “deceive” many in the church (Mark 13:5–6, 22; Matt. 24:4–5, 11, 24). Jezebel is seen as asatanic force (this is the only place in the book a person wields this terrible power) claiming the Spirit’s authority (as a prophetess) but leading many of God’s “slaves” astray into heresy.
David Thompson: God did not call her a prophetess; she called herself one. The Greek means she continually went around telling people she was a prophetess. She told people she received direct messages from God that she was supposed to share with the people. We have already pointed out that at the time John wrote Revelation, God was stressing that He revealed Himself through the written Word (1:3, 11, 19; 2:1, 8, 12,18; 3:1, 7, 14; 22:18-19). This woman was luring people to believe that she was a spokesperson for God
- Faithlessness of Idolatrous Immorality
“so that they commit acts of immorality
and eat things sacrificed to idols.”
Key Question: Do the “acts of immorality” refer just to spiritual adultery or extend to sexual immorality? It would seem to me that the impurity of sexual sin is included here.
Alan Johnson: Each guild had its own patron deity, feasts, and seasonal festivities that included sexual revelries.
J. Hampton Keathley, III: The adultery mentioned here includes both spiritual adultery (idolatry), and physical adultery (fornication in cultic prostitution). This is the only place adultery is indicated. The fact adultery constitutes a violation of the marriage vow could indicate that some of those who had been seduced by this Jezebel’s teaching were believers, those who had been betrothed to Christ as His bride (cf. 2 Cor. 11:2; Jam. 4:4). . .
First, there were those who tolerated her (verse 20). In other words, they rejected her teaching, refused to follow her, and refused to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols. But, contrary to the believers in Ephesus, they refused to deal with her through church discipline. What she was teaching was clearly license versus true Christian liberty. This teaching was contrary to Scripture, but they tolerated her presence rather than deal with the problem.
Second, there were those who were her children—her spiritual progeny. These are referred to in verses 20b-23. Evidently, these were those who accepted her teaching and, like Ahab who was influenced by Jezebel of old, followed her example by participating in the activities of the labor guilds which meant involvement in eating things sacrificed to idols and fornication. Some of these could have been true believers who were judged and died the sin unto physical death (1 Cor. 11:28-32; 1 John 5:16-17).
Buist Fanning: Her influence on Christians in Thyatira is probably not toward physical fornication but spiritual infidelity: both phrases, “to commit sexual immorality and eat meat offered to idols” (v. 20d), seem to describe entanglement with idolatrous worship that constitutes disloyalty to the true God (see v. 21, which seems to summarize both as “her sexual immorality,” τῆς πορνείας αὐτῆς). The same two items appear in vv. 14–15, but as argued there the Nicolaitans of Pergamum likewise advocated not sexual sin but spiritual disloyalty disguised as participation in certain rituals of their pagan culture.
B. (:21) Stubborn Rebellion Must Be Stamped Out
“And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality.”
Daniel Akin: Jesus gave the Jezebel “time to repent.” However, “she does not want to repent of her sexual immorality.” Our Lord gave her time to change her evil ways. She said no.
Buist Fanning: The way Christ’s intervention is described in vv. 21–23 (giving “time to repent” and pledging disciplinary judgment on her and others when there is no repentance) echoes the process of church discipline touched on in other parts of the New Testament. Action is taken in a step-by-step way, hopeful of and allowing time for a repentant response, but involving the wider congregation and escalating the consequences if sinful action persists (Matt 18:15–17). The goal of such action is the purity of the church as well as the restoration of the sinful church member (1 Cor 5:1–5, 11–13; Gal 6:1–2). The sinful person is treated as no longer part of the community, while still being appealed to as a brother or sister (2 Thess 3:6, 11–15). God’s judgment on grave sin can extend to physical sickness or even death (Acts 5:1–11; 1 Cor 5:5; 11:31–34; see vv. 22–23 below).
Richard Phillips: This indicates that church leaders had previously confronted her for her false teaching and wicked behavior. Here we see the importance of loving and faithful church discipline. Jesus reminds Christians to take biblical reproofs seriously, especially when coming from faithful pastors or church elders. “But she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality,” Jesus goes on, and therefore his judgment was the only recourse.
C. (:22-23a) Severe Judgment Oracle
- (:22) Misery of Great Catastrophes
“Behold, I will cast her upon a bed of sickness,
and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation,
unless they repent of her deeds.”
William Barclay: There is every likelihood that Jezebel was teaching that Christians ought to accommodate themselves to the world; in other words, she was urging on the Church a spiritual infidelity which was bound to result in physical adultery.
Gordon Fee: Very likely the phrase “cast her on a bed” is intended as irony: her “bed” as the place of harlotry is now a place of illness, since she is playing the role of a harlot with regard to the truth.
John MacArthur: The Lord threatens to cast them into great tribulation–not the eschatological tribulation described in Revelation 4–19, but distress or trouble. Since these were the sinning Christians who had believed her lies, the Lord does not threaten to send them to hell as He did the false prophetess. He promises to bring them severe chastening–possibly even physical death (cf. 1 Cor. 11:30; 1 John 5:16)–unless they repent of her deeds.
David Thompson: The words “great tribulation” are anarthrous (without article) which means this is not speaking of “The Great Tribulation” (i.e. Rev. 7:14) described in Revelation 6-19, it is a reference to the fact that Jesus Christ would see to it that all who were connected to this woman would be hit with a string of great affliction, trial and suffering. I would understand this to mean that all kinds of catastrophes would begin to hit those who were connected to this woman. This would be a time of unprecedented and unparalleled misery for those who are intimately connected to this woman.
- (:23a) Morbid Attack against Her Loyal Followers
“And I will kill her children with pestilence;”
Robert Thomas: “Children” is a customary way of referring to one’s spiritual progeny. These people had embraced the antinomian doctrines of their spiritual mother and are properly referred to as her spiritual offspring. No distinction between these and her associates in v. 22 is intended (Mounce).
G.K. Beale: Note also how the judgment on Jezebel foreshadows the judgment on the harlot Babylon in ch. 18. In both cases, people fornicate with a harlot (see 17:1, 2 and 18:3, 8-9), who deceives them (see 18:23), and sexual immorality is a picture of participation in shadowy forms of commerce (see 18:3, 11-22 and note that many of these forms of commerce, such as trade in linen, purple, bronze, and slaves, were present in Thyatira). In both cases God’s people are commanded not to participate in her sins lest they be judged by being put to death (see 18:4, 8), and in both cases God judges everyone according to their deeds (see 18:6). The extraordinary similarities are not coincidental and show how to some degree the visions portray present realities in society and even in the church.
Grant Osborne: There is a debate as to whether there are one or two other groups in her entourage. Some (e.g., Beasley-Murray 1978: 91; Thomas 1992: 222) believe that the “adulterers” of Rev. 2:22 and the “children” of 2:23 are the same group, looked at in terms of participation in her sins (adulterers) and acceptance of her teachings (children). This is certainly viable, but it is better to take them as separate groups. At the end of 2:22 there is a further chance for repentance for the adulterers: “unless they repent of her ways.” However, there does not seem to be that chance for the others: “I will strike her children dead.” Therefore, “those who commit adultery with her” (τοὺς μοιχεύοντας μετ’ αὐτῆς, tous moicheuontas met’ autēs) are those church members who have been drawn into her syncretistic teaching and practices but have not yet gone as far as she, that is, they have not as yet been “unwilling” to repent and so here are being given the same chance she had. It is possible (so Beckwith, Alford, Thomas) that “with her” refers more to their indirect tolerance of her teaching or their following her example than to their direct participation with her in those sins (direct participation often has the object in the accusative case). In other words, these people were being drawn into her circle but had not yet become full members.
D. (:23b) Standard of Judgment a Warning to All Churches
- Fairly Evaluated by the All-Knowing and All-Seeing Sovereign
“and all the churches will know that I am He
who searches the minds and hearts;”
- Fairly Administered on the Basis of Works
“and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.”
John MacArthur: Works have always been the basis for divine judgment. That does not mean, however, that salvation is by works (cf. Eph. 2:8–9; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5). People’s deeds reveal their spiritual condition. That is what James meant when he said, “I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). Saving faith will inevitably express itself in good works, causing James to declare that “faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:17, cf. v. 26). Christians are new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17), “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them”(Eph. 2:10). Works cannot save, but they do damn.
Judgment must begin with the household of God (1 Pet. 4:17). But Christ’s judgment will fairly reflect each person’s deeds–a reality that should bring fear to those who teach and practice false doctrine, but comfort and hope to those whose faith is genuine.
III. (:24-25) CAVEAT – REMAIN FAITHFUL
A. (:24) Exhortation to Faithful Remnant
“But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching,
who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—
I place no other burden on you.”
John MacArthur: There is a progressive worsening in the character of these seven churches, as they depict becoming more and more influenced by evil. That downward spiral reached its lowest point at Laodicea.
The phrase “the deep things of Satan” (2:24) reveals how far the Thyatira church had slipped in relation to those in Smyrna and Pergamum. The Smyrna church faced hostility from the “synagogue of Satan,” that is, from unbelieving Jews (2:9). The Pergamum church existed at the site of Satan’s throne (2:13), symbolizing Gentile false religion (particularly the cult of emperor worship). But the church at Thyatira had plunged headlong into the very depths of satanic deception.
G.K. Beale: But the rest who are in Thyatira have not known the deep things of Satan and have not been led astray by the false teachers. The latter is possibly Christ’s description of what Jezebel and her followers may have called the “deep things of God.” This expression implies the erroneous view that it was possible for Christians to participate worshipfully to some degree in idolatrous situations and thus to have experience with the demonic-satanic realm, and yet not be harmed spiritually by such participation. Jezebel’s “revelation” was similar to that of the Israelites who created the golden calf (Exod. 32:1-6) or that of the Corinthians who frequented the idol temples (1 Cor. 10:14-24). Possibly the false teachers were misapplying Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 8:4 by saying that if, indeed, an idol has no real existence in the world, then participation at a feast honoring an idol could not harm one spiritually. This teaching may also have emphasized the spiritual dimension to such a degree that the physical world was considered unimportant, so that one’s presence in an idolatrous temple or at an idol’s feast table had no effect on one’s faith. Christians must always beware of those who lay claim to new revelations or deeper truths that have never before been discerned or widely practiced in the body of Christ.
B. (:25) Endurance until Christ Returns Is the Key
“Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.”
J. Hampton Keathley, III: In verse 25 the words, “what you have, hold fast until I come,” warns against the universal principle that things always tend to degenerate rather regenerate. It’s much like the second law of thermodynamics which simply put says, life goes from order to disorder and not vice versa. Things naturally go downhill unless there is great effort against those forces that, like gravity, tend to pull us downward. So there is always the need to cling to the Lord and hold tightly through a close walk with Him in the Word, regardless of the many blessing we possess in Christ and where we are in our spiritual journey, babe in Christ or mature (cf. 1 Cor. 10:1-13; Phil. 3:12-14).
(:26-29) EPILOGUE – BLESSING FOR THOSE WHO OVERCOME
A. (:26-28) Persevere to Receive the Blessing
- (:26a) Condition of Overcoming and Faithfulness
“And he who overcomes,”
“and he who keeps My deeds until the end,”
- (:26b-28) Blessing of Reigning with Christ
a. (:26b) Authority over the Nations
“to him I will give authority over the nations;”
Buist Fanning: The derived authority Christ will grant to the overcomer is associated with the supreme authority granted to Christ already: “Just as I received authority from my Father.” In his resurrection and exaltation, Christ has already been installed in the position of greatest authority in God’s presence in heaven, now awaiting the full establishment of that authority on earth at his second coming (Rev 19:11–21). The governing role that the saints will exercise in that future realm will take place only because of their relationship to Christ who will wield his scepter as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (19:15–19).
b. (:27) Administration of Strength
“and he shall rule them with a rod of iron,
as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces,
as I also have received authority from My Father;”
Warren Wiersbe: The believers in Thyatira are promised authority over the nations, which probably refers to the fact that God’s people will live and reign with Christ (see Rev. 20:4). When the Lord sets up His kingdom on earth, it will be a righteous kingdom with perfect justice. He will rule with a rod of iron (Ps. 2:8–9). Rebellious men will be like clay pots, easily broken to pieces!
John Walvoord: The word for “rule” (Gr., poimanei) means literally “to shepherd.” The rule of Christ’s faithful ones in the millennium will not be simply that of executing judgment, but also that of administering mercy and direction to those who are the sheep as contrasted to the goats (Matt. 25:31–46). The power to rule in this way was given to Christ by His heavenly Father (John 5:22).
c. (:28) Access to Christ’s Glory
“and I will give him the morning star.”
Gordon Fee: The term first occurs in an especially obscure passage in Isaiah 14:12, where it most likely refers to the fallen king of Babylon, and thus has a negative referent. But the present usage is altogether positive, and in 22:16 below Christ himself is called “the bright Morning Star.” Thus perhaps what John understood this to mean was that the victors will be given eschatological glory, which they will share with Christ himself. Or perhaps this is a somewhat obtuse way of indicating that they will receive Christ himself (= be eternally in his presence) as the ultimate prize of their victory.
Craig Keener: Although Psalm 2 addressed God’s messianic viceroy alone (see also Ps. Sol. 17:23–25), Jesus shares his rule with his people, for God has delegated rule over the earth to humanity (Gen. 1:26–27; Ps. 8:6; cf. Dan. 7:14, 22). Jesus will also give those who overcome the morning star (Rev. 2:28). Ancients emphasized the glory of the planet Venus, the “morning star” (Sir. 50:6–7), and could apply the image to magnificent rulers (Isa. 14:12). Romans associated Venus with triumph and reign, hence praised this goddess for their conquests. In Revelation, however—although one might not catch this until one’s second time through the book—Jesus is himself the morning star (Rev. 22:16), probably alluding to the promised star of Numbers 24:17, which many ancient Jews understood messianically.
In other words, Jesus’ promise to the church in Thyatira suggests that he will share not only victory in an abstract sense (2:26) but himself as the morning star with his people (2:28). He is greater than the stars, who are angels of the churches (1:20).
J. Hampton Keathley, III: The Lord is promising the overcomer that he will share His royalty and splendor as the morning star.
B. (:29) Pay Attention
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Robert Mounce: Once again the exhortation to hear what the Spirit says to the churches is repeated (cf. 2:7, 11, 17). This same emphasis on hearing and doing also marks the conclusion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The wise build against the coming storm of judgment by hearing and doing (Matt 7:24–25).