THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST
Lesson Number 6
THE MESSAGE TO THYATIRA
"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, 'These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations; He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels'; as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Rev 2:18-29, NKJV)
The book of the Revelation is addressed to the churches those who have been "joined to the Lord" (1 Cor 6:17). Here we are exposed to the heart of Christ Jesus, and His deep concern and desire for His people. Forever remove from your mind any notion that our relationship to the King is a static one, entailing neither unusual danger nor blessing. Those who teach believers can never fall away, or incur the judgment of Jesus, will do well to digest the words of this book. With great power, it devastates the imagination of a Lord that lovingly overlooks departures from Himself and His will.
Here we are exposed to the current reign of Jesus a reign that has been set in motion for the people of God. As it is written, "and He (God the Father) has put all things under His (the Lord Jesus) feet and has made Him the Head over all things for the church" (Eph 1:22). Jesus reigns over everything and everyone in order to the salvation of "the elect." His reign, however, involves the participation of the redeemed. The reign itself is not conditioned upon that participation, but the benefits of it are. The Lord Jesus reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords, whether we are in fellowship with Him or not. However, the benefits of that reign will not accrue to the individual or church that is not maintaining a lively association with the King.
Any approach to the Christian life that focuses upon the people, thrusts them into jeopardy. Satan and all his emissaries appeal to individual, rather than Divine, interests. Our introduction to Satan's work in Eden confirms this to be the case (Gen 3:1-6). The concentration of the heavenly Kingdom is the Lord Jesus Himself. His accomplishments are the primary achievements, and His activity is the central consideration. There are no exceptions to this. All who are in harmony with Jesus are approved, and all out of accord with Him are rebuked. In this book, the Lord Jesus evaluates the churches from this perspective. The works of the churches are assessed from an eternal viewpoint, without regard to their outward appearance. We here behold how Jesus thinks about His people, and it is arresting. You will find His words conducive to the greatest degree of sobriety, a condition corely needed in our time.
THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA
There is only one other mention of this city in Scripture, and it is a significant one. Perhaps you will remember it. "And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul." And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, 'If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.' So she persuaded us" (Acts 16:13-15). Our acquaintance with this city begins with an introduction to a godly women. It concludes with an introduction to an evil one. + This is the longest of the seven letters, and we will soon see why. Thyatira and Pergamum were the only churches of the seven that were corrupted with the Nicolaitan teaching. In both letters, the Lord Jesus expresses an utter hatred for that teaching. Men may be indifferent concerning the teaching of corrupt leaders, but the Lord is not.
Whereas Ephesus and Smyrna were cities of commerce, and Pergamum one of culture and politics, Thyatira was a military city. Before going further, it is good to note how the Gospel penetrated all levels of society. This is a powerful testimony to its relevance and efficacy for all people. The glorious Gospel of the blessed God provides a "common salvation" (Jude 3) for the universal dilemma of sin. The great salvation of God is for all people and all time, and needs to be proclaimed in power.
WHO IS SPEAKING
"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this" (NASB). The Lord continues to reveal Himself in the capacity that is most appropriate for the situation. The Ephesians had left their "first love," pushing Christ, as it were, into the background. Therefore Christ revealed Himself to them as "He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, Who walks in themidst of the seven golden lampstands" (2:1). The Ephesian church had forgotten this, and therefore neglected and left their tender and sensitive preference for the Son of God. The church in Smyrna was a suffering church, battling to keep the faith and cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart. Therefore, the Lord revealed Himself to them as "the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life" (2:8). Because He Himself had went down into the shadow of death, He was able to succour and strengthen those in trial. The church in Pergamum had endured some opposition, and at least one of their number was even martyred. Notwithstanding, they had were tolerating the dissemination of false doctrine, and some of their people held to false and damaging teachings. Therefore, Christ revealed Himself to them as "He who has the sharp two-edged sword," cutting to the quick, and ready to fight against those who will not hear Him (2:12).
This characteristic of our Lord is what makes Him and His Word relevant. To the spiritually uncultured mind, relevancy has more to do with carnal likes and dislikes than the human condition, as perceived by the Lord Jesus. Kingdom relevancy, however, has to do with bringing us into accord with God. It deals with what is required to stand or recover whichever is appropriate. Neither God nor Jesus ever depart from their objectives to deal with us from a purely worldly point of view. If this perception was embraced by the contemporary church, it would so radically alter its manners that one would scarcely be able to recognize it. At the point a church any church is out of synch with the heavenly agenda, it is in serious jeopardy. Conversely, whenever the church is in accord with the Divine objective, it will always be commended. There are no exceptions to this rule.
The church at Thyatira is seriously deficient. Although it has increased in the area of deeds, it has allowed a wretched teacher to flourish in its presence. Therefore, the Lord speaks to this church in the capacity of "the Son of God, Who hath His eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass"
The Son of God
This is the first church to which Jesus reveals Himself as "the Son of God." In fact, in every major translation, this is the ONLY time the phrase "Son of God" is mentioned in this book! Yet, in this term we find the premier revelation of the Person of Jesus Christ! This is what the Father revealed to Peter in "the coasts of Caesarea Philippi" (Matt 16:15-17). It is how the Father wants Jesus to be seen! On the threshold of Christ's ministry, when Satan was allowed to tempt Him, this is the truth he chose to challenge: i.e., that Jesus is the Son of God (Matt 4:3,6). When Jesus came into "the country of the Gergesenes" he faced a legion of demons housed in a single depraved wild man. The one thing the demons recognized was that they were facing "the Son of God" (Matt 8:29). When He rose from the dead, Jesus was "declared to be the Son of God with power" (Rom 1:4). The perception and embrace of this truth namely, that "Jesus is the Son of God"--makes a person an overcomer (1 John 5:5). When, therefore, Jesus addresses the church in Thyatira as the Son of God, He speaks in His loftiest and most powerful capacity. He will show them they have failed to consider Him in this station, and have thus fallen into contemptible toleration. They were His church, but the knowledge of this was quickly slipping from them.
"The Son of God" is Jesus in His commissioned capacity. It declares Him as fulfilling the purpose of God the Father. The objective of all spiritual gifts is to bring believers "to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God" (Eph 4:13). He comes as "the Son of God" to give us an understanding of God, inducting us into an experience of Divine familiarity that strengthens the soul, equipping us to be spiritual in an unspiritual world (1 John 5:20). The Lord addresses the church at Thyatira as the One Whom they have contradicted, and whose purposeful ministry they have ignored.
Eyes Like Unto A Flame of Fire
John had seen the glorified Christ, and "His eyes were like a flame of fire" 1:14) piercing and revealing. One man has said of these eyes, "seeing into, discovering, and exposing the horrid actions and wickednesses of men done in the dark." Later, near the close of this book, the Lord Jesus is again seen in this manner: "His eyes were like a flame of fire" (19:12). This view is shown to be a militant one, where the Lord is set against something or someone, and comes to make war. As it is written, "Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire . . . " (19:1-2a, NKJV).
The church at Thyatira does not receive a message from One conceived to be loving and tender. They have countenanced conditions that are deplorable to their Savior, and He comes to them as warrior with an unsheathed sword. It is a frightening picture, calculated to awaken lethargic souls to the jeopardy in which they have been found.
Feet Like Burnished Bronze
" . . . and His feet are like burnished bronze . . . " This speaks of firmness, and a total lack of vacillation. In the capacity of a man, Jesus has passed through the Refiners fire, and has exited without flaw. He maintained His commitment to Divine purpose when among us, and He does so now. Here is Strength that will trample down all opponents, bringing them into subjection. As it is written, "then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet" (1 Cor 15:24-25). Satan has deluded many a church into associating this revelation only with those who are avowed enemies of Jesus- -those who obviously are set against Him. The church in Thyatira, however, will find it applies to anyone and everyone who is operating in contradiction of the Divine program. This includes all who, for whatever reason, are competing with Jesus by perpetrating, or allowing to be perpetrated things conflicting with the salvation of God. Make no mistake about this, those who are at variance with Jesus will be trampled under His feet! Jesus said it this way: "Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed" (Luke 20:18, NIV).Whether individuals or churches, those who insist on remaining at variance with the King of kings will be crushed beneath His feet.
In one of his great songs to the Lord, David mentioned the role of His feet in overcoming his enemies. "They looked, but there was none to save; Even to the LORD, but He did not answer them. Then I beat them as fine as the dust of the earth; I trod them like dirt in the streets, And I spread them out" (2 Sam 22:42-43). Here Jesus is revealed as a righteous Judge, trampling His foes uprightly and justly. He does so as One Who strictly seeks the will of the Father. We will now be given a view of the wrath of the Lamb, and its threatening consequences to those who obstinately continue in a displeasing state. Suffice it to say, when a church confronts the Savior in this capacity, it is time to take a serious look at what it is doing.
The Lord Jesus Christ is both meek and mild, but that is not all He is! Behold how He speaks to scribes and Pharisees (Matt 23:13-29), as well as Sadducees and lawyers (Luke 11:46-52). The most fearful utterances in the Bible came from the Savior Himself. A single example will suffice to confirm this to be the case. "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched; where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.' And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched; where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.' And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire; where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.' For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt" (Mark 9:42-49).
Those who insist upon remaining in sin will eventually face a fierce and merciless King. When He returns, those who have lived contrary to His Person and purpose will behold "the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev 6:16). While we do not enjoy dwelling upon such things, it is essential that we consider Him in this capacity. Far better for sinners to ponder the indignation of Jesus now, and find incentive to turn from their sin, than to face an angry Christ! Remember, this is a message the Spirit is speaking to the churches. Additionally, the individual who "has an ear" is to give heed to what the Spirit is saying.
The searching eyes of the Lord will first find something commendable. This approach is designed to awaken their slumbering spirits. It is an appeal to the new creation, which is about to be smothered by a goodwill towards wickedness. "I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first" (NASB). The churches must maintain a lively awareness that Jesus knows what they are doing. That precious knowledge will prove a deterrent to involvement in prideful pursuits that are at variance with God's "eternal purpose."
Your love and faith and service and perseverance
Here is quite a commendable list of spiritual qualities! Love and faith are often coupled in Apostolic accolades, and rank high in the Divine agenda. Philemon was commended for a faith and love that focused on Christ and benefitted believers. "I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints" (Philemon 4-5). The Galatians were told of faith working through love. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love" Gal 5:6). Both the Ephesians and Colossians were commended for their faith in Christ and love for all saints. "Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints" (Eph 1:15; Col 1:4). The Thessalonians were commended for their work of faith and arduous labor of love. " . . . remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father" (1 Thess 1:3). They were also urged to protect themselves with faith and love. "But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love . . . " (1 Thess 1:5).
Both of these indispensable virtues come from God. Neither are originated in human energy or summoned into the heart by mortal wisdom. "Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph 6:23). "And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 1:14). What comely qualities these are! Love and faith produce considerate ministry, or "service." Perseverance, or patience, endures tribulation and hardship. On the surface, it is difficult to conceive of a more commendable condition. Surely, there will be no fault with a church that had faith and love, exhibiting it in service to both God and man, and continuance in the faith in the face of opposition! But there is more!
As For Your Works . . .
A most unusual condition existed in the church at Thyatira. They were increasing in their works: "And as for your works, the last are more than the first." The NIV reads, "you are now doing more than you did at first." This church would have been in the top ten, and probably written up in religious journals. This church retained what it had received at the first, holding it fast. But that is not all. In an exceedingly rare display of fortitude, they increased in their works. This is most unusual in the churches with which I am familiar. It is not uncommon for congregations to retrogress in their works to a point where strong stimuli is required to awaken them to activity. But it was not so with the church in Thyatira.
Actually, increase is the manner of the Kingdom. The productive seed, Jesus said, is seen in the growth of the individual "who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (Matt 13:23). Observe that fruitfulness started with "A hundredfold," and went down to "thirty times what was sown" (NIV). Mark reverses the order, saying, "It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times" (Mark 4:8). While fruitfulness of this magnitude is surprising to the contemporary believer, it is not amazing to heavenly hosts. Scripture speaks of the righteous going from "strength to strength" (Psa 84:7), being changed "from one degree of glory to another" (2 Cor 3:18, RSV), and the righteousness of God being revealed "from faith to faith" (Rom 1:17). Increase is the manner of the Kingdom!
If the church is commended for their works being greater now than they were in the beginning, you can be sure an absence of this characteristic makes one subject to Divine judgment. It is of great concern that all too often spiritual stagnation is present in the churches. There is no acceptable excuse for this condition. Nothing about salvation will contribute to that state. Fellowship with the Father and the Son (1 John 1:3) will not yield such a condition. Thus, the Lord Jesus commends this church for its increase of "the fruits of righteousness" (Phil 1:11).
Yet, we will find this condition is not sufficient to gain the total approval of the Lord Jesus. He did not die and rise from the dead to merely thrust us into activity. The church at Ephesus was threatened with removal because they had "left" their "first love," even though intensely active. The church at Pergamum was told Jesus would fight against them if they did not repent of their godless toleration, even though they too were holding fast and active. It is wonderful, and absolutely essential, that Jesus commend us. His approbation, however, must not be mixed with disapproval--a condition that appears contradictory and impossible. Yet, this is precisely what we see in five of the seven churches: a Jesus that commends, yet has something against the churches. Among other things, this reveals the impartiality of Jesus, and His lack of respect for persons.
THE DREADFUL FAULT
"But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols" (NASB). Jesus refers to the prophetess in question according to her character--"Jezebel." You will doubtless recall this wicked woman, wife of contemptible Ahab. She vigorously opposed Elijah after he had killed 450 prophets of Baal, following a contest of gods (1 Kgs 19:1-2). Jezebel was "the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians," and was married by Ahab as he walked in the sins of Jeroboam (1 Kgs 16:31). This wicked woman instigated a slaughter of the "prophets of the Lord," during which Obadiah hid one hundred prophets in two caves, taking it upon himself to sustain them (1 Kgs 18:4). The unusual wickedness of this woman is seen in the Divine commentary on her husband, Ahab. "Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife incited him. And he acted very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the LORD cast out before the sons of Israel" (1 Kgs 21:25-26, NASB).
Jezebel, then, provides us an example of someone dwelling in the presence of the people of God, teaching, and even urging, conduct that was reprehensible to God. It all happened because Ahab, king over Israel, added to his unspeakable iniquity by marrying this wicked woman. He attempted an alliance with those God hates! He did it within a nation that had been separated unto the Living God, and in flagrant contradiction of His revealed will.
Now Jesus upbraids the church in Thyatira for allowing the same condition to arise in it. An enemy had penetrated their ranks, and was exercising an unholy influence among the people whom Jesus had separated unto holiness (Tit 2:14). No church of any age can allow itself to think it is beyond such a thing as this! We face an adversary that is fierce and cunning. In the case before us, he managed to find an open door into which he aggressively entered. There, he positioned a teacher who influenced those in the church to be immoral and idolatrous! As if that were not enough, those not caught up in the rebellion allowed it to continue without rebuke or opposition. Of the condition, Jesus says, "I have a few things AGAINST you."
Jesus does not say they encouraged this false prophetess, or gave her any sympathy. They just left her alone, leaving her iniquity unchecked. This reminds me of incident for which Eli was rebuked. His sons were committing despicable iniquity before the "temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was." God rebuked him "because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them" (1 Sam 3:13). Solemnly the people of God are told, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Eph 5:11). Other versions translate the verse "expose them," rather than "reprove them." The exposure, however, is to come through reproof, not merely by a contrast with the a righteous life. Iniquity unrestrained will increase!
Notice, the wicked teaching had not caused any diminishment of their good deeds. We must see that good deeds, however beneficial, are not viewed as a substitute for the proclamation of the truth. Nor, indeed, can they avert the judgment of Christ against those who dare to tolerate what He hates. It is possible to imagine that legitimately good deeds can outweigh bad ones--that men are evaluated on a plus-minus basis, so to speak. If they have more good deeds than bad deeds, some are deceived into thinking they are approved by God. But this is not at all the case. The church in Ephesus were punctilious in their quest for proper teaching. They were persevering, and had an appropriate hatred for the perpetrators of immorality and idolatry. But all of that did not outweigh the fact they had "left" their "first love." Now Thyatira is told their faith, love, service, perseverance, and increasing works have not outweighed their toleration of a false prophetess. When propagated or embraced, a lie neutralizes the goodness of our works. The incident of Ananias and Sapphira proves this to be the case (Acts 5:1-10). It was good to give to the work of the Lord. However, when that giving was built upon a lie, it became a curse to Ananias and Sapphira, not a blessing. This was the experience of the church in Thyatira. It was not only involved in works, but had increased in this aspect of Kingdom life. Notwithstanding, its toleration of this wicked woman had incurred the indignation of the Master. We all do well to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches!
It may come as a surprise that such contradicting manners could be found simultaneously. It must be remembered that we have the "treasure" of salvation in an "earthen vessel" (2 Cor 4:7). The "law of sin" still remains in our flesh, ever present, even when we desire to do good. As it is written, "I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good" (Rom 7:21). While it is true, we have been liberated from enslavement to this depraved principle (Rom 8:2), we still have to contend with it. If we do not aggressively "crucify the flesh," denying it prominence, it will soon lead us into bondage to sin. The church in Thyatira had not developed a sufficient hatred for the deeds of the Nicolaitans, and thus tolerated that wicked prophetess to continue to teach among them. Too, because of the presence of "another law" within every believer, this teacher was able to seduce some of them, appealing strongly to that old nature.
Those imagining we are locked into salvation, with no danger of being drawn into the flesh, must take a second look at Thyatira. Jesus said this wicked women seduced HIS servants to commit fornication, and eat meats in honor of idols--HIS SERVANTS! As if that were not enough, the church, by not stopping it, consented to the continuance of the practice. They probably did not make this a tenet of their faith, so to speak, or that such conduct was officially condoned by them. They did not, however, oppose it with godly zeal, forbidding it to continue. Jesus said this was something He had "against" them: "You TOLERATE the woman . . . " Once again, those who imagine doctrine is of no consequence, or that doctrinal correctness is an unworthy objective, need to consider this church. Teaching error is never right, even when it is done with a supposedly excellent spirit, or when it is tolerated in purported love.
There is another thing about this incident that is worthy of comment. Jesus does not rebuke this church for allowing a woman to teach, but for allowing her to teach His servants to commit fornication and eat meat offered to idols. Those who choose to believe women are strictly forbidden to teach in the church, according to 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34, must reckon with this text. Had this rebuke been delivered by many self-appointed interpreters of the Word, the church at Thyatira would have been rebuked for allowing a woman to teach, regardless of what she taught. The fact that Jesus did not speak in this manner should constrain men to re-evaluate their interpretations. Some, seeking to preserve their exegesis, have suggested this has no reference to a woman at all that it is a figure of speech. If this is the case, it is an example of Jesus referring to a false prophet as a "woman" and a "prophetess." It requires an extraordinary imagination, in my judgment, to take such a position. It is enough to say, our views of Scripture are always to be found in strict harmony with the statements of our Lord. They are never to be found in conflict with His words.
She Misrepresented Herself
Of this spiritual intruder Jesus said, "who calls herself a prophetess." But, she was no prophetess, unless speaking for the devil so qualifies a person. Many souls have been deluded because the person teaching them claimed to be something they were not: a prophet, preacher, Apostle, elder, etc. Remember, the church in Ephesus excelled in this regard: "you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false" (2:2). But the church in Thyatira was not as noble. It tolerated falseness rather than putting it to the test! It makes no difference who proclaims himself to be from God, we are to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1, NASB). This activity distinguished the Bereans as being "more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:1, NASB). O, that there was a revival of this type of spirit in the churches!It would soon produce a great deal of spiritual traffic between heaven and earth!
WHEN JESUS GIVES SPACE
"And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not." "And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality" (NASB). Again, note Jesus did not give her time to repent of teaching, but of her immorality, or fornication (KJV). Here is a token of the graciousness of our Lord: He gave the one perpetrating fornication and idolatry "time (or space) to repent." In the words of Ezra, this was "a little space" in which grace was shown to this false prophetess (Ezra 9:8) a time when recovery was possible. This surely confirms the Lord "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet 3:9). Nineveh was given "40 days" to repent of its sin, even AFTER its wickedness had come up before God's face (Jonah 1:2; 3:4). When the whole earth was filled with violence and abomination, the longsuffering of God "waited" in the days of Noah (1 Pet 3:20). It is God's nature to provide ample time to recover from sin, although men dare not exploit such Divine consideration. Scripture affirms, and experience confirms, that "the sentence against an evil work" is not always "executed speedily." For this reason, "the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Eccl 8:11). One man has said, God does not always punish summer sins in the next winter. Indeed, the longsuffering of God, although designed to lead us to repentance, becomes the occasion for continuance in sin when the heart is calloused. Notwithstanding, "space to repent" is a genuine provision for the wicked to turn from their ways. Divine extension is not to be taken for granted, exploited, or ignored. Rather, it is to acted upon quickly. Those so responding will be faced with a gracious God Who is ready to forgive.
We are not told how much time was given for this teacher to repent, but it was an adequate amount of time for her to turn from her wicked ways. It was longer than a convicted soul thinks himself worthy, and shorter than the hard heart supposes is deserved. But make no mistake about this, when the Lord Jesus gives "space to repent," it is always adequate for repentance to take place.
Jezebel Does Not Want to Repent
Even though the Lord was considerate of this woman, she was not considerate of Him. As it is written, "she does not want to repent of her immorality" (NASB). The NIV reads, "I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling." Jezebel despised the riches of Christ's forbearance, refusing to respond to the gracious space given her to repent. As it is written, "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Rom 2:4). It is a dangerous thing to spurn the overtures of the Lord, particularly when they are wrapped in time allotted for repentance. Yet, this evil teacher took no advantage of the Lord's grace, lightly esteeming it in preference for her wicked ways.
Sin has an anaesthetizing quality about it, desensitizing the soul to the Lord. Eventually, those willingly souls, who choose to live within sin's grip, become hardened and calloused. Little wonder the Scripture reads, "A man who hardens his neck after much reproof Will suddenly be broken beyond remedy" (Prov 29:1, NASB). Iniquity, particularly that which is of a religious sort, lulls the sinner into foolish thinking. "He says to himself, I shall not be moved; Throughout all generations I shall not be in adversity" (Psalm 10:6).As we shall soon see, nothing could be further from the truth.
One other consideration is necessary. This woman subverted the servants of Christ with words-- teaching. She did not make His servants commit fornication and eat meat in honor of idols. Rather, she "taught" them to do so. Never underestimate the power of words! As it is written, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Prov 18:21). The false prophetess of Thyatira was promoting spiritual death by what she taught.
Time Does Not Equal Recovery
In the flesh, time is against us, not for us! Sinners do not recover by outgrowing their love for sin. Wicked tendencies do not go away with the passage of time. Here was a Divinely allotted period of time wherein full recovery could be realized--yet it was not. If the heart is not tender toward the Lord, taking advantage of "space" to repent and draw near to the Lord, it will become hardened "through the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb 3:13). Many a soul has drifted into a state from which recovery was not possible simply because they, like this Jezebel, were unwilling to repent. In matters pertaining to the soul, procrastination is lethal!
THE LOOMING JUDGMENT
The warning issued to this church is one of the most stern in all Scripture. The language jars upon the soul, and reveals an aspect of Christ with which we do well to become familiar. There is a harshness here that is conducive to great sobriety. "Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. 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" (NKJV). When the Master warns of casting people "into a bed," "into great tribulation," and killing "her children with death," the soul must awaken from slumber, and rise to a condition of sobriety and alertness! Mind you, these are words written to the church. They are not addressed to the corrupt politicians in Thyatira, or to the idolaters and whoremongers within the heathen community. These are words for Christ's church, into which intolerable corruption had crept. He had been forbearing with the situation, but the forbearance now comes to a grinding halt. He will not allow the condition to continue!
The language of this text reminds us of the ancient Jezebel, and the effectiveness and result of her teaching. Jezebel so effectively taught her son Ahaziah that he trusted more in idols than in the living God. Toward the end of his life, he fell through a lattice in his upper chamber, and became confined to a bed of sickness. Because of the instruction of his wicked mother, he sought counsel of "Baalzebub, the god of Ekron," as to whether he would recover from the sickness. God sent word to king Ahaziah through his prophet Elijah, "You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!" (2 Kgs 1:1-4). This incident provides the language now used by Jesus against the church in Thyatira. Once again, we behold the Divine manner, a manner that is consistent throughout Scripture. In preference to contemporary occurrences, Scriptural incidents are nearly always used to buttress sound teaching. Now, in our text, Jesus will hurl the false prophetess of Thyatira and her followers into a bed of affliction, even as Ahaziah fell from a lattice, and eventually died in a bed of sickness.
Both the teacher, and those receiving her teaching would be judged together. They had committed fornication against the Lord. Now He will hurl them into a bed together--but it will not be for the satiation of sinful lusts. No pleasure will come from this circumstance. Because forbearance failed to awaken this false prophetess, she will now experience the "severity of God" (Rom 11:22). As Robertson says, the word "severity" means "to cut off, properly denotes excision, cutting off, as the gardener cuts off, with a pruning knife, dead boughs, or luxuriant stems." We are not talking about mere chastening here. This activity will result in the removal of this blight from Christ's church! As those seduced were joined together with the seductress in unholy departure from the Lord, so together they will be cut off from the body of Christ. As Jesus said elsewhere, "If the blind lead the blind, they shall both fall into the ditch" (Matt 55:14).
If Jesus was "put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit, that He might BRING US TO GOD" (1 Pet 3:18), how serious is it for people to be led AWAY from God? There is no earthly language capable of adequately describing the seriousness of such a situation. That is why the Lord Jesus speaks so harshly of the condition. His opposition will be direct, unmitigated, and effective. One has well said, "the chamber of voluptuousness shall become the chamber of torture" (D. Thomas, 1950).
The occasion is strikingly like that associated with Phineas, a righteous man of old who stayed a corrupting and spreading plague from consuming Israel. It is said of him, "he turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel, in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy," and was therefore granted God's "covenant of peace" (Num 25:11,12). The manner in which this man turned away God's wrath is arresting. On one occasion, Israel began to mingle with the cursed Moabites, bowing down to their gods, and committing fornication with their women. God's anger rose up, and He commanded those who had joined themselves to Baal to be slain. Phineas, in his zeal for the Lord, arose to do His bidding. Here is what is written of his deed. "He arose from the midst of the congregation, and took a spear in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked" (Num 25:7-8, NASB). Of this event, Psalm 106:29-31 says, "Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds; And the plague broke out among them. Then Phinehas stood up and interposed; And so the plague was stayed. And it was reckoned to him for righteousness, To all generations forever" (NASB). Sin, like a cancerous growth, must sometimes be cut out of the people of God. Here was such an occasion.
Once again, the bed of sin becomes the bed of suffering. This is Divine retribution, and it is sure for those who refuse to repent. The language is also similar to that spoken against wicked Ahab, who had Naboth killed so he could take his vineyard. "In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth the dogs shall lick up your blood, even yours" (1 Kgs 21:19).
The harsh judgment of God is also seen in His dealings with the Corinthians. Scripture apprizes us this church was inconsiderate of the Lord Jesus at the Lord's table. Rather that focusing their attention upon Him, and declaring His death until He come, they used the occasion to satisfy their own fleshly appetites, even practicing inconsideration of their brethren. For this, they were chastened severely by the Lord, some of them even dying at His hand. The solemn judgment is reflected in these words, "For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world" (1 Cor 11:30-32). Our conduct in Christ's Kingdom is to be attended with the greatest sobriety, lest we are led astray by, or become tolerate of, the communication of things He hates.
Another observation is necessary. Those who partook of the sins of this false teacher, forsook the works and word of God to do so. You must relinquish your hold upon the truth to take hold of a lie. You cannot respond to Satan without ceasing to respond to God. It is not possible to give allegiance to a false god without abandoning the true God. This is involved in our Lord's words, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other" (Matt 6:24). Competing spiritual influences cannot be heeded simultaneously. We do have two ears, but can only concentrate on one directing voice at a time.
Kill Her Children with Death
What a stern and awakening word! Here again we recall God's judgment against Jezebel and Ahab. It was swift and thorough, as will be the case with the wicked clan of Thyatira. Jezebel's two sons were killed, as well as the seventy sons of Ahab (2 Kgs 10:1-7). The language of our text indicates that the perpetrator and recipients of the false doctrine lurked in the shadows, so to speak, spreading their venom to the hurt of Christ's servants. But Jesus, with eyes as a flame of fire, will pry into their wickedness, and find them out. He will obliterate their name, cutting them out as God did "memory of Amalek" (Ex 17:14).
The text proclaims that Jesus was going to visit the teacher, those who had joined in her teaching, and those who were deceived by her teaching, with sickness and death. To be more precise, they would die of sickness, like King Asa, who died of a disease in his feet, because he sought the physicians and not God (2 Chron 16:12-13). John would call their sin, "sin leading to death" (1 John 5:16-17). Judas committed such a sin--one that led to his own death (Acts 1:17-20,25). In the siege of Jericho, Achan also committed a sin which resulted in his death (Josh 7:1-24). Those who imagine no sickness or death can come from God do well to consider this solemn text.
The sternness of Christ's language is mandated by the severity of the transgression. He will not allow those embracing the very thing that required His death to go unpunished. Those who sow to their flesh will, of the flesh, reap corruption (Gal 6:8). The person who seeks to gain the world, whether by the satiation of base appetite, or committing to false gods, will do so at the expense of their own soul. Jesus asks this poignant question, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36-37).
The Outcome of the Judgment
" . . . all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds." It is obvious that knowing this aspect of our Lord is essential to living acceptably before Him. And why is this so? It is more than a mere matter of Law. Spiritual life requires an awareness of and sensitivity to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not possible to live with our heads bent toward the earth and, at the same time, receive the blessing of the Lord. The less our consciousness is of Christ, the least capable we become of pleasing Him or receiving good things from Him. His Divine power will NOT sustain the one who chooses to live in without considering the Son of God--and there are no exceptions to this rule. The churches need to know this! Legion is the name of supposed Christian people who are really not hearing or following Christ. They have been subverted by erroneous teaching, into doing and believing things that are offensive to the Savior. They will not go undetected!
If we are sensitive to the Lord, we can learn from the experience of others. The churches could benefit from the awful judgment about to be exacted upon some in the church in Thyatira. Their view of Christ could become more precise, and their persuasion of His nature more discerning. In my judgment, we are living in a time when the real Christ is little known. Corrupted views of Him have been so effectively spread throughout the professed church that people appear incapable of discerning Divine judgment. These are truly "perilous times, requiring a clear presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
TO THE FAITHFUL
"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 . . . " (NASB). The Lord Jesus does not fail to speak to the faithful! Regardless of the spiritual tumult and abuse that is around them, He breaks through the chaos to strengthen His people. It is something you can count on. The term "the rest" equates with the word "remnant," elsewhere used to identify those who keep the faith under difficult circumstances and Satanic attack (Gen 45:7; 2 Kgs 19:30-31; 2 Chron 34:21; Ezra 9:8; Jer 50:20; Rom 9:25; 11:5). These are those who, like the three Hebrew children, do not bow the knee to false Christ's and gods. Such "do not hold" to the false teaching of Satan's ministers. They are bold to "hold fast" when it is not fashionable to do so. Jesus now recognizes them, and speaks comfortably to them.
First, he recognizes their refusal to embrace the lies that have been taught by Jezebel. Because of that refusal, they have not "known the depths of Satan." These were teachings presented as "depths," a claim to superior knowledge and experience. That is why the text reads, "the depths of Satan, as they call them" (NASB). The ASV reads, "as they are wont to say." The NIV reads, "Satan's so-called deep secrets." Jesus relates the condemned teaching to Satan. That was not, of course, the way the false prophets represented it. The Gnostics called their teaching "the depths of God," and "the depths of Bythos." But this teaching came from the depths of hell, and was truly of Satan. Other similar doctrines are appropriated called "doctrines of demons"--master pieces of Satan's craftiness and subtlety. (1 Tim 4:1). This is an aspect of Satan's activity of which we must be aware. The devil is a prodigious teacher, but it is always for evil. He endeavors to make sin reasonable and attractive, often in the name of scholarship as well as license. His teachings, however, anchor people to the cursed order, and incite the anger of the Lord against those who embrace them. Thank God for the remnant that refused to take hold on such doctrines! Jesus will always find and console the remnant!
No Greater Burden
"-- I place no other burden on you." There are times when holding your ground takes all of your spiritual energy. Forging forward into new Kingdom ground is not common during such seasons. Jesus does not tell "the rest," who have not given heed to the false prophetess to get out and "win others." Nor, indeed, does He urge them to engage in some new Kingdom initiative. They are being assaulted by enemies forces, and therefore He will "place no greater burden" upon them. That is a comforting word to the oppressed!
This is the same word given to early Gentile believers. Having newly escaped from the pollution of the world, they were told, "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell" (Acts 15:28-29). The Apostles and elders did not burden those early Gentile believers with distracting requirements. The Lawyers, professed experts on the Law of Moses, on the other hand, were masters at laying burdens on people. .Jesus said of them, "Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers" (Luke 11:46, NASB). By contrast, the Lord Jesus is especially mindful of the burdens of His people. He will not put upon them something that will deter their progress to glory, or make it more difficult for them to stand against the wiles of the devil.
This is a consideration Law does not give--it is a concession of grace! Those who insist on being justified by works lose the capability (if ever they had it) of hearing these compassionate words. We are saved "by grace through faith," and that not of ourselves, "it is the gift of God" from beginning to end (Eph 2:8-10). Never is this more evident than when we are under great trial.
Also, refusing to imbibe the elixir of the devil takes more effort than you may be disposed to think-- particularly when the offer is made by a false prophetess in the assembly, as was the case at Thyatira! It is a welcome sound to hear the Savior say He will not add to the already-heavy burden.
"Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come" (NASB). It will require all of their effort to do this, but it must be done. This solemn word would not be necessary were it impossible to lose the good things we have from Christ. To be sure, they cannot be lost inadvertently, nor snatched from our hands by the enemy while we retain a preference for them. Notwithstanding, we must remain resolute in our determination to maintain our grasp upon them. It is possible for believers to be lulled into complacency by the enemy, allowing them to lose their crown (Rev 3:11).
The requirement is to maintain a firm grip on what we have from Christ until He comes. At that time, the warfare will cease. Until then, we are in the war zone. A similar word was given to Timothy: "Keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Tim 6:14, NASB). Christ's appearing is the ultimate line between time and eternity. Until then, and as long as we are in the world, we must extend ourselves to maintain our stewardship and keep in conscious possession what Christ has given to us. Anything threatening that relation is our enemy!
A STAGGERING PROMISE
"And he who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him will I give authority over the nations; 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; and I will give him the morning star" (NASB). Here is one of the most awesome promises in Scripture--and it is for EVERYONE who overcomes and keeps Christ's deeds, or works, until "the end." Our hearts must be stretched and enlarged to embrace this promise, for it is by no means an ordinary one. The Psalmist said, "I shall run the way of Thy commandments, For Thou wilt enlarge my heart" (Psalm 119:32, NASB). If this heart enlargement was required to live in synch with the commandments, how much more is it necessary to live in harmony with, and anticipation of, the promises, by which we become "partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4).
As reprehensible as the sin of the church in Thyatira was, it did not shut the mouth of promise! In fact, an extraordinary promise is given to enable the church to overcome extraordinary sin. This is a consistent factor in Christ's appeal to the churches for recovery and establishment in the faith. We must not shrink back from strong and effective references to the promises of God. Jesus sandwiched His exhortation between an awesome threat and a staggering promise. May He give us the ability to be experts in the use of these two means for recovery and advance.
He Who Overcomes
Consistently, the fulfillment of the promises are held out to those who overcome (2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21). In his first epistle, John specifically identifies the overcomer. "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world-- our faith. And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 4:4-5). It is the peculiar prerogative of faith to save the soul. This is accomplished in a two-fold sense. First, faith apprehends the Person of Christ in all His saving efficacy. Second, He dwells in our hearts by faith (Eph 3:17), and we have peace with God by faith and through Christ Jesus. Learning Christ (Eph 4:20-21), or assimilating His Person into the fabric of our being (eating His flesh and drinking His blood, John 5:54-60) insulates the soul. Satan is not able to penetrate the walls of salvation that surround the individual in Christ!
Overcoming has to do with maintaining our proximity to, and affiliation with, the Lord Jesus Christ. Victory is more related to keeping the faith, cleaving to the Lord with purpose of heart, and resisting the devil. We actually overcome the devil, the world, and the flesh, indirectly. By focusing upon the Lord Jesus, sin loses its attractiveness, and Satan loses his effectiveness. Just as God is repulsed by the lie, so Satan is driven back by the truth.
The church at Thyatira, by allowing the perpetration of "damnable heresies" (2 Pet 2:1) were rupturing their association with Christ. They willingly remained in the presence of something intolerable to their Lord. As it is written, "what harmony has Christ with Belial" (2 Cor 6:15). The closer we are to error, the further we are from the truth. The less distance there is between the believer and the devil, the more distance there is between him and Christ Jesus. The more tolerant we become of sin, the less tolerant Jesus becomes of us! Overcoming involves keeping a distance between our hearts and the delusions of our adversary. When our "affection" is set "on things above, not on things on the earth" (Col 3:2), sin and its perpetrators become offensive to us. That is the posture that enables us to be overcomers.
The promise that follows is only for those who successfully resist the encroachments of the devil overcomers! It is designed to strengthen the determination of the believer to continue in the faith. It is also calculated to awaken the spiritually lethargic, and engage them once again in the good fight of faith.
Keeps My Deeds
"And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end" (NKJV). Note this expression: "keeps My works . . . " The NIV and NRSV take unusual liberty in translating the text. "To him who overcomes and does my will to the end" (NIV). "To everyone who conquers and continues to do my works to the end" (NRSV). For those who are interested, the Greek phrase translated "keeps my works until the end" is. Literally, it would read, he that keeps until the end my works. Obedience and doing what Christ desires are surely involved in this expression, but they are not the kernel or whole of it.
First, these "works" are in stark contrast to the deeds of Jezebel. It is said of her, "she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray . . . her immorality" (v 20-21, NASB). Her doings were extended in those who embraced her wicked ways. When her followers chose to be identified with her, they began to do her works, carrying our her will and ceasing to do Jesus' will. The Lord is speaking primarily of identity, not merely a classification of deeds. It was their identity with this spiritual imposter that made the deeds reprehensible. In this phrase, the emphasis is placed upon what the leader does, not what the followers do. At least two times, Jesus referred to His enemies as engaged in the doing the works of the devil. "I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father . . . You do the deeds of your father . . . You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do" (John 8:38,41,44, NKJV).
When Jesus says, "he who . . . keeps My works until the end," He refers to maintaining fellowship with Himself. The works that are "kept" are primarily His redemptive works, and secondarily those relating to sanctification, or participation in His present reign. After all, this is why He has cleansed us from all iniquity to engage us in His work. As it is written, "Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father" (Rev 1:5-6, NKJV). The designation "kings and priests" has to do with Kingdom ACTIVITY "works," or "deeds."
Jesus referred to His own works as being those of His Father. "But I have a greater witness than John's; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish; the very works that I do; bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me" (John 5:36). "Many good works have I showed you from my Father" (John 10:32). "If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him" (John 10:37-38). In the language of our text, Jesus "kept" the works of His Father by keeping in accord with Him. He maintained His fellowship with the Father, thereby enabling His (the Father's)"works" to be exhibited through Himself.
In the same way, keeping Christ's works involves Him "dwelling in our hearts by faith" (Eph 3:17), dining with us (Rev 3:20), and manifesting Himself to us (John 14:21). By allowing a false prophetess to promote sin in their presence, the church at Thyatira was pushing Christ out of their presence. Light and darkness cannot mingle, nor will Christ remain where the devil is prominent. It simply will not happen. With strong and compelling words, therefore, Jesus pleads for a return to accord with Himself. He calls them to intimacy with Himself, where His vicarious work is kept in continual memory, and accord with Himself is maintained at all cost. This must be done "until the end," or the consummation of all things. From the perspective of our natural environment, "the end" is when the heavens and earth are burned up (2 Pet 3:10- 12). From the outlook of our life in Christ, "the end" is the return of the Lord (Col 3:4). If we consider "the end" from the stance of our warfare, it is when we have finished our course, and are freed at last from all contradiction (2 Tim 4:7; Heb 12:1-2). The promise that follows is ONLY for those who finish the race, who maintain fellowship with Christ, remaining suitable vehicles for the fulfillment of God's will.
Give Authority Over the Nations
The very statement assumes a fundamental variance between "the nations" and those in Christ Jesus. "The nations" represent competing bodies of people, organized and functioning with their own interests being dominant. Although political power is ordained of God (Rom 13:1-3), it is not intended to be lasting, nor is it holy, in the strictest sense of the word. This is not an area that is to occupy the preeminence in our thought or devotion.
Nine times "the nations" are mentioned in Revelation. At the beginning of the book, they are consistently viewed as our enemies. We will, as here promised, be given authority over them (2:26). They are depicted as being "angry" at the favor given to the righteous by God (11:18). "The nations" are said to "fall" in the wake of God's wrath (16:19), and to eventually be "smitten" by the conquering Jesus (19:15). The devil is said to have "deceived the nations" (20:3,8).
Over and above these are "the nations of those who are saved" (21:24), to whom the dominion will be given. These shall bring all honor to the Lord, in contrast with the nations of the world, who sought to rob Him of His glory (21:26). For them "the nations of those who are saved" complete recovery will be realized (22:2). But until then, "nations" are a repository of people in which saints are found, but who actually oppose the saints now (7:9; 10:11; 11:9).
There may be an allusion to the political situation at Thyatira. This city had a hero named Tyrimnos, who represented their conception of the city's function in the world. An image of this hero was found on one of their coins, pictured in this section. He rode on a horse, carrying a battle-axe, and was perceived as dashing his enemies to pieces. All of that, of course, was merely the imagination of the political entities in Thyatira. What Jesus has to say is absolute truth! He is the real conqueror, and has no real competitors (Rev 6:2).
The extent of our involvement in the reign of King Jesus is far larger than ordinarily conceived. The saints are told, "If we endure, We shall also reign with Him" (2 Tim 2:12, NKJV). This is an aspect of being "joint heirs with Christ" (Rom 8:17), and is precisely what is here promised. Having "authority," or "power" (KJV), over the nations equates with being made "the head, and not the tail" (Deut 28:13). It is the opposite of having "tribulation" in the world, the current experience of believers (John 16:33). It is true that we "enter" the Kingdom "through much tribulation" (Acts 14:22), but that condition will be brought to a swift conclusion in the fulness of time! Currently, a sharp conflict exists between "the nations" and the people of God. Because we are yet "in the body" (Heb 13:3), we often appear to be inferior in this war. But that is only because our day has not yet come.
The outcome of the conflict between "the nations" and the people of God is vividly depicted by Daniel. He foretold what is here promised by Jesus. "But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever . . . and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom . . . Then the kingdom and dominion, And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall serve and obey Him" (Dan 7:18,22,27, NKJV). The language is so lofty, it requires strong faith to embrace it. Those who envision the next world as being relatively inactive, must adjust their thinking. In Christ, we are being cultured for an eternal reign of staggering proportions. When the Spirit says, "the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One," it is meant to challenge our hearts, thrusting us into more consistent involvement with "the Highest One" now!
This promise, then, speaks of a complete cessation of opposition from the world from its "nations" in whom the saints were dispersed. Even more, it declares the superiority of the saints will become evident in dominion and rule. We will not longer be subject to the laws of men, but adversarial men will, in a decisive way, be subject to the saints of God. We must be willing to wait for this dominion, and not attempt to seize it prematurely. Remember, that was a temptation Satan leveled at Jesus (Matt 4:8; Lk 4:5-7). Life in this world, therefore, can never be given preeminence in the hearts of God's people, regardless of the form it takes. Our lives are "hid with Christ in God," and our "citizenship is in heaven" (Col 3:3; Phil 3:20). That condition does not allow us to be dominated by the world in any form!
He Shall Rule Them
The "kingdoms of this world," which govern "the nations" will eventually be swallowed up by the "Kingdom of our Lord and His Christ." Later, this is announced with power in this book. "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" (Rev 11:15). It is edifying to note that the same language used of Christ Himself, is also used of His people in the promise to the faithful of Thyatira. "She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne" (12:5) . . . "Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron" (19:15). The promise, therefore, again confirms we are "joint heirs with Christ," and shall "reign with Him." This is all according to the Psalmic promise which foretold Christ's ultimate and apparent dominion. "Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel" (Psa 2:8-9).
The rule is to be a forceful one "He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels." It is also to be a strict accord with the rule of Jesus "as I also have received from My Father." As Christ triumphed over His enemies, so will we triumph over ours! Our triumph will be an obvious one a public one, if you please. While the particulars of this reign are not provided, we do have some key information about it. It is apparent that the judgment of the world is included in this reign, and perhaps is even the whole of it. Here is fulfilled the affirmation of the Spirit, "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? . . . Do you not know that we shall judge angels?" (1 Cor 6:2-3). The conflicts of "the nations" with "God's elect" (Rom 8:33) have not yet been finalized. While the "spirits of just men made perfect" have been removed from the arena of conflict, they have not yet been vindicated. Later in Revelation, we will confront "the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held" (6:9). They are seen as crying out for vindication: "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" (6:10). They are not told such recrimination will never take place, but that they must wait for it (6:11). The promise before us is the time when what they requested will be fulfilled and it will come through the saints themselves.
The judgment of the world will be accomplished by God Himself this is the declaration of Scripture (Rom 3:6; Heb 12:23; 13:4). That judgment, however, will be executed "through" Christ Jesus the Lord, Whom God has appointed for that purpose (Acts 17:30-31; Rom 2:16; 2 Tim 4:1). Now, it is proclaimed that Jesus will accomplish the judgment through His saints, who, in salvation, were effectively joined to Him! Imagine the trials of earth being resumed, with the saints presiding: Stephen and the rulers of the people, Peter and John before the counsel, Paul before Felix and Agrippa . . . etc. In that climactic hour, the saints shall prevail! They shall strike down every argument, misrepresentation, and excuse. Truth shall triumph through them, to the praise and honor of the Lord and His Christ. But only the overcomers will participate in this grand judgment. All who have themselves been overcome, will be struck down as with a rod of iron.
Ultimately, this speaks of our triumph over the wicked one himself, the devil. It is written, "And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly" (Rom 16:20). That glorious victory will be carried out to the finest detail! All who have lived under the dominion and influence of Satan will be included in the crushing! All iniquity shall be judged together, as it were. Whether it be the devil himself, his angels, or "the nations" who submitted to his rule, the saints shall play a determined role in their demise! Praise be to the Lord for a promise so great! The hosts wickedness shall be completely disassembled by means of the saints judgment. When it is through, they will be "broken to shivers." Neither cause nor unity will be left! Every vestige of opposition will be shattered to pieces. There will be no more amalgamation of wickedness none at all. As Solomon said, "Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished" (Prov 11:21).
The Morning Star
The greatest of all promises, indeed "THE MORNING STAR." At the conclusion of this book, Jesus identifies Himself as this Star. "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star" (22:16). Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, spoke of Jesus as "the Dayspring from on high" (Luke 1:78), or the "Sunrise," or "Dawning of the day" the Source of all illumination and refreshment. Malachi referred to Him as "the Sun of righteousness" with total healing efficacy (Mal 4:2). Peter called Him "the Day Star" (2 Pet 1:19).
The "Morning Star" is Jesus Himself, in all of His effulgence. The overcomer will be given the Son of God Himself in a personal and effective way transcendent to anything previously experienced. Now, Jesus "dwells in our hearts by faith" (Eph 3:17). Then, He will give Himself to us in His fulness. This is described in breathtaking language by the Lord Himself. "Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them" (Luke 12:37). We are not presently capable of discerning the fulness of this promise. The Lord Jesus will not serve us as His superiors, but as those being rewarded for their faithfulness. He will not "serve" us in the sense of giving us our whims, but granting us the "desires of our heart" (Psa 37:4). There, in the glory, we will be satiated with Christ Himself, with nothing between. There will be no second-hand knowledge, or sense of deficiency. His service will result in our joy and His praise. Since He is the "heir of all things" (Heb 1:3), to have Jesus is to have everything!
He is called the "Morning Star" because of the nature of us spending eternity with Him. The fresh rush of joy and satisfaction will never be lost! There will never be a sense of depletion or dissipation. Eternity with Jesus will be like an ever increasing morning, growing brighter and brighter. New vistas will be beheld, new works enjoyed, new aspects of His Person perceived. For those willing to "hold fast," and "keep" Christ's "works" until the end, there will be no disappointment. There, amidst an incalculable gathering of perfected personalities, you will enjoy a personal union with Jesus that you can scarce imagine. There will never be a sense of aloofness or distance experienced! No darkness in any form, or inadequacy will ever again be experienced. God be praised for the coming Gift of "the Morning Star!"
IS ANYONE LISTENING?
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (NASB). This is no mere history book, nor is it a lifeless forth telling of events to come! This book is personal, and its promises for the individual are real. Again, this is a message to the churches, but the individuals are to hear it personally. That is because the warnings are really on a personal level. If any individual is tolerating things Jesus hates, they are to hear the words the Spirit says. If there is one who longs for a personal word from Jesus, there is one in what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
We have heard Jesus say to a congregation, "Nevertheless I have a few things against you." To Ephesus Jesus said, "I have this against you" (2:4), but to Pergamum and Thyatira He said, "But I have a few things against you" (2:14,20). His judgment is thorough, and is executed strict accord with His nature and purpose. It is our business to make sure Jesus does not have anything against us or the church with which we are identified. Now, may you be given grace to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches!