Understanding The Apocalypse

Revelation 2:18-29
Chapter 5

Galilei Galileo is universally recognized as one of the fathers of modern science. His research into motion and gravity revealed the basics upon which modern mechanics and physics rest. His thermometer, used daily by millions, stands as one of the greatest inventions of all time. In spite of his remarkable achievements, Galileo was not proclaimed a hero in his day, but was branded a heretic because he said the earth rotates around the sun.

In 1616, the Inquisition met at Rome and declared any teaching that said the earth was not the center of the universe was heresy. Subsequently, Pope Paul V ordered Galileo not to hold, teach, or defend the heretical teaching that the earth moves around the sun. Defying this edict, Galileo continued his research to prove the earth's relationship to the sun. Consequently, in 1633 he was again summoned before the Inquisition where he was forced to sign a statement recanting his views and placed under house arrest for the remainder of his life.

As Galileo's experience with the Inquisition demonstrates, the Church was no longer the persecuted minority, meekly committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Under the direction and influence of Rome the Church had become the persecutor.

In Smyrna, people were persecuted for their allegiance to the Church, but now the Church was persecuting people for any belief or viewpoint not sanctioned by the Church hierarchy. No wonder God said He hates both the doctrine and the deeds of the Nicolaitans.

The "doctrine of Balaam" had taught the Church to embrace the world system contrary to the teaching of Scripture that the world is the domain and throne of Satan. Following this mistake, the Nicolaitans or suppressers of the laity had instituted a papal system that not only controlled the Church, but now had countries and governments under its rule.

It took Satan 1600 years to institute a system that he could use to dominate and control humanity, and to ferret out true believers, removing them from influence in the Church. World history records this time as the Dark Ages.

In this message to Thyatira we see the Romanized Church at the zenith of its power. However, within this corrupt, political, religious system there is a remnant of true believers, to which this letter is initially addressed.

I. The Character of Christ

"And unto the angel of the Church in Thyatira write: These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine bronze" (Revelation 2:18)

Because idolatry and other heresies were being tolerated, Jesus is presented in full Deity as the Son of God, in His role as the Righteous Judge. The reference to His eyes, "like a flame of fire," has to do with Him seeing, discerning, knowing all that is happening in the Church. The "feet of fine bronze," speak of Him treading on or judging those who are against Him.

Taken together, we have a picture of the Almighty bringing righteous judgment, not to the believing remnant in the Church, but to those using the Church as a cover for their idolatries and lusts.

Understand, the Letter to Thyatira is a dual purpose letter in that it contains two messages written to two different groups. Notice Revelation 2:24 says, "But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira." Clearly, there are two groups being addressed. We can identify one of these groups as the true believers in the Church. The "rest" or the other group consists of the idolaters in the Church. There is a message in this letter for each group. However, the first message is for Believers in the Church, it is

II. A Commendation

"I know thy works, and love, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first" (Revelation 2:19).

Not only is this verse commendation for the Believers in the Church, but it is this verse that demonstrates true Believers were still in the Church. Love, service, faith, and patience are all evidences of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Believers. The mention of these qualities proves that Satan was not successful in eradicating the true Believers. In fact, during the dark ages that were the worst days of Romanism, many great men of God arose, as did Elijah in the days of Jezebel. William Tyndale was one of those men.

Tyndale was a Church of England scholar who had the great vision to translate the Bible into English, so that "every plowboy might have opportunity to read it." Sadly, when the Bishop of London discovered what Tyndale was doing, he persecuted him and forced him out of the country. Undaunted, Tyndale continued his work in Germany and soon copies of his New Testament translation were being smuggled into England.

Finally, however, he was betrayed by an informant, arrested by the Church, condemned for heresy and strangled. William Tyndale's last words were a prayer, "Lord, open the King of England's eyes."

As Jezebel had tried to kill all the prophets in Israel, the Roman Church tried to destroy the righteous people of God, all the while claiming for themselves the side of right. Just as they were not successful in destroying God's people, so it was in Thyatira where there was still a remnant of true believers.

There is also in the text, a clue to the problems that existed in the Church. Notice, the emphasis on works, in Revelation 2:19. "The last to be more than the first." This means as time went on, they were doing more and more. Certainly, works are important in the Church if kept in the proper context and coupled with a good teaching ministry.

However, when "works" become the all important motive in a church, be assured there is tough sledding ahead. Perhaps, it is this emphasis on works, rather than on doctrine that had allowed impurity to gain such a foothold in the Church and therefore bring,

III. A Rebuke

"Notwithstanding, I have a few things against thee, because thou allowest that woman, Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols" (Revelation 2:20).

This is one of the sternest warnings in Scripture, concerning heresy in the Church and it clearly lays the responsibility for allowing heresy in the Church, on the Believers. This simply means that if heresy finds a home in our church, we only have ourselves to blame, because we allow it.

Perhaps, you've heard about the ignorant guy who applied for a job as a javelin catcher. Too often, Christians become javelin catchers for Satan. True, we cannot stop Satan from hurling his fiery darts, but we are not required to catch them.

Jesus told Peter, on the occasion of Peter's great confession, that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church. That statement was true then and it is true today. All the power that Satan can bring to bear on the Church is futile, unless we, the Church, allow him to gain a foothold. The wounds a local church feels are always self-inflicted and make no mistake, if we are wounded the Lord has a few things against us as He did against those at Thyatira.

The evidence is clear, the Church at Thyatira shot itself in the foot. Notice first, in Revelation 2:20, this Jezebel called herself a prophetess. Next, this self-proclaimed prophetess was allowed to teach, and then she was given freedom to seduce God's servants to commit the sins of fornication and idolatry.

A brief history of Jezebel, from 1 Kings 16-22, will help to better understand what was being allowed in this Church.

Ahab became king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, with headquarters in Samaria. Interestingly, the first mention of Ahab in 1 Kings says that he did more evil than all the other kings before him. At the root of his evil ways was Jezebel, the daughter of the king of Sidon, whom Ahab took as his wife. Jezebel was a seductress, who used her charm to influence Ahab and lead Israel into idolatry.

First, Ahab was influenced to worship Baal. Next, he built a temple and an altar for Baal in Samaria. Eventually, he built an idol of Baal, and under his influence the nation of Israel began to worship idols.

After perverting the king, Jezebel then arranged for the execution of the true prophets of God, in Israel. After killing most of the true prophets of the Living God, Jezebel began to use the new religious system she helped establish to enrich herself and Ahab. For example, she had Naboth brought before the people where he was falsely accused of blasphemy and stoned, so she could take his vineyard as a present for Ahab.

In short, Jezebel used her powers to lead the people into idolatry and then she used the religious system to persecute the true saints of God, suppress the people, destroy her enemies, and enrich herself.

If you have studied church history you probably realize what Jezebel did sounds identical to the actions of the Roman Church during the dark ages. Therefore, the Jezebel in Revelation 2:20, seems to be symbolic of the organized religious system in the Roman Church.

It is this system that embraced the inherent idolatry of the world system, suppressed the people by establishing an hierarchy of priests, and enriched the papacy by taking money and possessions from the people.

Even today, these methods are among Satan's most used to discredit the work of the true Church and the cause of Christ.

Often, when we hear the word "idolatry" we think of bowing before graven images and certainly that is one meaning. But, another meaning for idolatry is, "Excessive devotion to, or reverence for, some person or thing."

Today, it seems that devotion to the world system has become paramount in people's lives as they seek financial rewards, power, popularity or as some would say, to find their own identities or make their own marks in the world.

This idolatry is openly promoted by those who tell us that God always heaps worldly blessing on those who have enough faith to receive it. These modern day health and wealth, name it and claim it preachers ignore that the Bible teaches in Luke 4:6, all the power and kingdoms of the world have been delivered unto Satan and are his to give to whom he will. Also, Luke 4:7 tells us the way to get these things is to worship Satan - this is idolatry.

The hierarchy of priests is alive and well also, and Satan uses the system to convince millions that certain people have an exclusive audience with God and whatever they say is as good as what God says.

Millions are being told, "Look at me!" By preachers who openly flaunt their excessive lifestyles, using them as proof of their claims that God has given them special insights that allow them to unlock the door of God's storehouse. They twist, distort and pervert the Holy Scriptures to their own purposes and if what they do is in direct conflict with the Word of God, they claim special revelation through visions and prophecies that only they can understand.

They suppress the people, using them to build their personal empires. They keep their followers in conformity by telling them to be patient, to wait for their measure of faith and then all the riches will be theirs. As the donkey that pulls the load trying to catch the ever-dangling carrot, the people plod along to destruction.

Contra to these self-servants who claim to preach the Scriptures, the Bible paints a picture of a true minister of God as exalting our Lord Jesus Christ, not self, and serving God's people, not suppressing them, and most importantly, as guarding the truth of the Scriptures, not the imaginations of men's minds.

Surely, no one would argue that personal enrichment has been a high priority in the ministries of many, throughout the history of the Church. Be aware, it continues. Today, the method for personal enrichment is not the inquisition, where property was seized as a supposed punishment of the accused. Today, the scam is promising favors or blessing from God. Consequently, Millions of dollars are given to preachers and organizations who claim that God will show special favor to anyone who will financially support them.

How sad that so many would make the same mistake Simon made in Acts 8:18, when he thought he could buy the gift of God. Also, Paul made it clear in 1 Timothy 6:3-6, that gain is not godliness, but rather godliness with contentment is great gain.

Through the same old mechanism of gradualism that Satan uses so effectively, the Church at Thyatira slipped to its lowest depths. Truly, there were those in Thyatira who loved the Lord and exercised faith, service and patience. However, they did not guard the truth of Scripture so they became more and more concerned with good works, while ignoring good doctrine. We know this because they allowed a Jezebel to teach false doctrine. They were tolerant of godlessness and immorality. They stood on the sidelines while perverted leaders oppressed and fleeced the people.

Christians were not extinct in Thyatira, but their candlestick was gone. Where there should be the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, there was darkness and God's people suffered. Such is the fate of any local church that does not guard its membership, its teaching and its purpose.

As the idolatries and unfaithfulness of the false teachers were tolerated in Thyatira, likewise they are too often tolerated in churches today. The Christians in Thyatira were guilty of allowing these things to happen and Christians today are also often guilty of allowing them.

As mentioned earlier, there were two different groups in the Church at Thyatira - Christians and idolaters. Thus far, the text has focused on the Believers and their responsibilities in the Church. Now, the attention is directed to the idolaters.

IV. I Gave Her Space To Repent

"And I gave her space to repent of her fornication, and she repented not" (Revelation 2:21).

In Exodus 20, God spoke the Ten Commandments. The first four Commandments deal with man's responsibilities to God and the last six deal with man's responsibilities to man. Because the Ten Commandments are a summation of the Laws of God, we can see that the whole focus of the law is on man's relationship to God and man's relationship to man. While keeping the commandments of the law is not required for justification by grace through faith in the Church Age, the commandments do reveal the will of God in these matters.

When Revelation 2:20, says that Jezebel was being allowed to teach fornication and idolatry, we can understand the basic tenants of the law were being violated. Fornication or immorality destroys man's relationship with man and idolatry destroys man's relationship with God. Therefore, we conclude that every good thing that God desires for people was set to naught in Thyatira, for mankind must have a relationship with God, as well as relationships with other people, for society to function as God intends.

However, in spite of Jezebel's actions, vile as they were, the Lord still says, "I gave her space to repent." One of the basics of God's Grace toward mankind is His long-suffering. Though people reject Him, God always desires that we repent and He gives us space to do so. To repent means to "turn about" or "change" and our God is a gracious God who is always willing to receive anyone who will turn to Him, in faith. No matter how wicked one may be, or how far one slides into the cesspool of sin, the solution is simply, to repent.

Notice, Revelation 2:21, says, "she repented not." Truly, God is gracious and offers ample space for a person to repent, but He will not force anyone to do so. Surely, this Jezebel, as well as anyone else who does not repent, had opportunity to repent but refused to change. The problem for anyone who continues in sin is not lack of opportunity to repent, but lack of desire to change. No one who faces God's judgment will ever be able to rightly say that God never gave opportunity to change.

Because this Jezebel did not repent, the Lord says,

V. I Will Cast Her Into A Bed

"Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds" (Revelation 2:22).

When I was a child, occasionally I would get myself into some sort of jam that I knew was not going to be pleasant. To head off the inevitable result of my own foolishness I would go to my parents to try to persuade them to help me.

Certainly, if I were in jeopardy they were always there to help me, but most often they knew it would be in my best interest to suffer the consequences of my actions. When they felt that way I could always count on hearing, "Sorry boy, you made your bed, you'll just have to lay in it" and I knew without a doubt that I would have to reap what I had sown.

While God is graciously allowing this Jezebel the space to repent, He is also allowing her to wallow in her sins. Also, notice that all who wallow with her will have great tribulation if they do not repent.

My friends, do not be deceived, "God is not mocked, whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap." There is always an accounting and great tribulation is just the beginning of sorrows for those who do not repent.

VI. "And I Will Kill Her Children With Death" (Revelation 2:23).

The children spoken of here are not youngsters but are those who subscribe to and take part in the heresies of this Jezebel, who is the mother of their foul deeds. Jesus said, in John 8, that men do the works of their father. The mother of these evil children is Jezebel but their father is Satan. There are only two options, if a person is not a child of God he is a child of Satan.

The word "kill" is from the Greek word, "apo" and is better rendered as "separate" in this sentence. Therefore, this sentence would read, "And I will separate her children with death." All that do not repent are children of Satan because of their unbelief and their fate is to be separated from God at death.

VII. "I Will Give Unto Every One Of You According To Your Works" (Revelation 2:23.

Too often, when people read this verse or others that talk about rewards for service, they think the Bible says we can be good enough to merit a righteous standing before God. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Righteousness before God is not based on what we have done or will do. It is based on what Christ has done.

The Bible says we are all sinners, unable to save ourselves. It also presents Christ as our Sacrifice, who died in our place, paid the penalty for our sins and has now become the righteousness of all who trust or believe in Him. Salvation is based solely on grace and is appropriated through expressed faith in Christ.

This verse does not say, or imply that a person can do enough good deeds to earn a righteous standing before God. On the contrary, this text is talking about the children of Jezebel who are to be destroyed and this recompense serves to prove the righteous judgment of God because He knows the hearts and minds of all people.

Those whose works stand against God deserve destruction and God will give them what they have earned because they have not repented and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. All who refuse to trust Christ will receive the just reward for their actions, which is separation from God for eternity in the lake of fire.

Again, the focus shifts from the condemned in Thyatira, to the redeemed, when the Lord says,

VIII. I Will Put On You No Other Burden

"But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and who have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak, I will put upon you no other burden. But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come" (Revelation 2:24-25).
The evidence, not the reason, they are redeemed is they do not hold heretical doctrine or teaching, and they do not know the depths of Satan. That is, they are not intimate with Satan.

Though the Believers in the Church were to be blamed according to Revelation 2:20, for allowing the heresies, they were not themselves partakers. However, by allowing the heresies they too, had made their bed and now they had to lay in it, but the burden of living among these things was enough and God says He will not burden them more. "I will put upon you no other burden, but that which ye have already."

Even though He must chastise their unfaithfulness, God demonstrates His grace and will not give them more than they can bear. Notice His words of encouragement, "hold fast till I come." He also says,

IX. I Will Give Power Over the Nations

"And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations; And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers, even as I received of my Father" (Revelation 2:26-27).
Again, in the text the subject of rewards comes up, but this time the rewards are for believers. Notice, in Revelatioon 2:26, there are two conditions for the receipt of rewards.
(1)"He who overcomes." 1 John 5:5 says, "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God."

The first condition for receiving this reward is to be born again, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. No matter how good a person is he can never be good enough to satisfy God's standard, which is perfection. Therefore, trying to be good enough apart from believing in Christ is an affront to God, because it rejects the sacrifice Christ made in our behalf.

However, once a person trusts Christ, he is declared righteous because of what Jesus did for us, and then the good deeds or works of that Believer become a sweet savor to our Father in heaven. The first condition for reward is to be born-again and after being born-again, one is eligible to keep the second requirement for rewards.

(2) "Keeps my works until the end." So often, Christians want to rest on their laurels, take some time off, let the young folks take over, make room for others, retire, or in short, just simply quit.

Notice, the second condition for reward is not just keeping the Lords works, but keeping them until the end. Or as Revelation 2:25 says it, "hold fast till I come."

A growing church is no place for a lazy Christian. Neither, is the Church a place for a retired Christian. The Christian's retirement begins when he is in the presence of his Lord, not before. We are citizens of heaven, residing in a foreign land, the world, which is the domain of Satan. Who in their right mind would want to retire in a hostile and foreign land, apart from family and friends, always subject to attack from the enemy?

So, to the Christian, Revelation 2:26 says, the second condition for reward is work to the end and for those who overcome and work until the end the reward is "power over the nations."

In Revelation 19 and 20, we read that Christ will come in glory to establish His Kingdom and will reign over the earth for a thousand years. During this Millennium, Satan will be bound and all the nations of the earth will be ruled in righteousness by the "King of kings and Lord of lords."

This reign is partly described in Revelation 2:27. Christ will rule, "with a rod of iron." This means that He will reign as Sovereign with the ability to enforce His Righteousness. "They shall be dashed to pieces" describes the fate of those who rebel against the Lord's reign.

It is during this Millennial Kingdom that all who have trusted Christ and have been faithful to serve Him will reign with Him. This is the reward promised for faithful service. If you want to rule and reign with Christ the formula is simple - trust and obey.

Next, Jesus says,

X. "And I Will Give Him The Morning Star" (Revelation 2:28).

There are two definitions for the "morning star" that bear on understanding this promise. In Revelation 22:16, Jesus is described as the Morning Star. The morning star is also the first light before the breaking day. In addition, we must also consider that the Coming of the Lord in Glory to establish His Kingdom is known as the Day of the Lord. This day is clearly the focus of Revelation 2:26, because it is the time when the rewards are given to those who work unto the end. However, preceding this great event is the coming of the Lord for His Church. We commonly call this event, the Rapture.

Taking all this together, we see in Revelation 2:28, the promise of the Rapture when Christ, the Morning Star, will come for His Church, which is composed of all who overcome through faith in Him. This is the breaking or beginning of the Day of the Lord, which will culminate with His return in Glory to establish His Kingdom and reward His faithful. To be given the "morniing star" is to be included in this great event, when the Morning Star opens the new day as a morning star.

XI. Conclusion

Thyatira was a church whose members became so involved in works that they forgot to uphold sound doctrine and consequently, false teaching found a foothold in their Church. The men in the Church apparently refused to take the leadership positions and a woman typified by Jezebel rose to prominence with a doctrine that encouraged idolatry and immorality. For those who subscribed to this false teaching, judgment was promised unless they repented.

For the true Believers in Christ, their lot was to have to live with the situation they allowed to develop in the Church. Even though they had to suffer the consequences of their unfaithfulness, they could still look forward to the coming of the Lord. However, life would have been more pleasant for the Saints at Thyatira were they careful to prevent heresies in their Church.

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches."

From "Understanding The Apocalypse"
A book of sermons by Pastor Jim McColloch, Th.M., Th.D.
© Copyright 1994, 1999, 2006