My Notes on Revelation 2:18-29, Letter to Thyatira
Worship before the Throne of God
Revelation 2:18, Eyes Like Fire
Jesus instructs John to address his fourth letter, or message, to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This angel (like the angels of the other churches) is not an angelic being, but a human who read the Bible to the congregation and occupied a leadership position in the church (see Colossians 4:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:27, and 1 Timothy 4:13). Thus, the message is not really addressed to the angel of the church, but to the whole church.
To this church, Jesus identifies himself as (a) The Son of God, (b) he who has eyes like a flame of fire, and (c) he who has feet like fine brass. These three attributes are all found in the book of Daniel: one whose form was like the Son of God accompanied Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah in the fire (Daniel 3:25), and a man with eyes like lamps of fire and with feet like polished brass appeared to Daniel by the river Hidekkel (Daniel 10:6). John may be telling us that the Son of God in Daniel 3:25 and the man in Daniel 10:5-6 were Christophanies, appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ.
Revelation 2:19, Jesus Knows
Jesus tells the church that he knows their (1) works, (2) love, (3) service, (4) faith, (5) patience, and (6) works; and that he knows the last works (number 6) to be more than the first (number 1).
Jesus knows everything about the church. He knows how much they work for him, how much they love him, how much they serve him, how much they trust him, how much patience they show for his sake, and how much they continue to work for him.
The Lord acknowledges that they have grown: their last works are more than their first works.
Revelation 2:20-23, Jezebel
The Lord, however, rebuked this church because they had allowed Jezebel to teach and seduce the Lord's servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
According to the Old Testament (the Tanach, the Hebrew Bible), Jezebel was the daughter of the Zidonian king Ethbaal, and the wife of the wicked Jewish king Ahab (1 Kings 16:30-32). Not only did she influence Ahab to worship Baal (1 Kings 21:25), but she killed the prophets of God (1 Kings 18:4, 13) and supported the prophets of Baal and the grove in Israel (1 Kings 18:19). Jezebel also persecuted the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:2).
Here in Revelation, Jezebel is a symbol. Like the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6 and 2:15) and the followers of Balaam (Revelation 2:14), Jezebel is also associated with fornication (sexual immorality) and with eating food sacrificed to idols (most likely as an act of worship). However, the degree of her sin seems to be greater.
The Nicolaitans seem to have been the mere practitioners of fornication and eating of food sacrificed to idols due to doctrinal error (see my notes verse 6), and the followers of Balaam seem to have been people who infiltrated the church to promote pagan practices for profit (see my notes on verse 14).
But Jezebel in Revelation calls herself a prophetess, and she is teaching in the church. She represents evil teachers who teach heresy (1 Corinthians 12:3, 2 Timothy 4:3, 2 Peter 2:1, 1 John 2:18).
The Lord states that he gave Jezebel (the false teachers) time to repent, but she did not repent. Therefore, the Lord will cast her and her followers on a bed (the idea is that the Lord will bring a sickness on them). The Lord also adds that unless Jezebel and her followers repent, he will bring on them a great tribulation. Finally, on verse 22, the Lord states that he will kill Jezebel's children with death.
The Lord clearly states that death will be the punishment of Jezebel and her children (her followers). By inflicting death on them, all the churches will know that he is the one who judges our minds and our hearts (Hebrews 4:12, 1 Corinthians 11:30).
Finally, the Lord adds that he will give "to everyone of you" according to your works. It seems the Lord is still speaking to the false teachers and their followers: he is letting them know he will judge them.
Revelation 2:24-25, Keep What You Have
Having warned the church of the coming judgment against Jezebel and her followers, the Lord now speaks to the angel of the church and the rest of the church. They have not followed Jezebel, and they have not known what some call the depths of Satan.
The Lord imposes on them no other burden, but to hold fast what they already have until he comes. The wording is similar to Acts 15:28, where the Apostles and the elders of the church in Jerusalem decided, by revelation of the Holy Spirit, not to impose circumcision and the Law of Moses on gentile believers, but instructed them to avoid eating food sacrificed to idols, food from animals that were strangled, and food with blood, along with engaging in fornication.
Thus, the Lord appears to be telling the church of Thyatira that the commandment for them remains the same as the one issued in Acts 15:28. He is not asking of them anything that is new: He is asking of them to keep those instructions that they already have until he returns.
Revelation 2:24, The Depths of Satan
The Lord is also pleased with the angel and the rest of the believers in the church at Thyatira because they have not known what some were calling the depths of Satan.
A similar issue seems to have been a problem in some other churches. The Apostle Peter condemned false prophets and teachers who blasphemed angelic beings (2 Peter 2:10), and so did Jude (Jude 1:8). In fact, in both cases, fallen angels seem to be the object of their teaching (2 Peter 2:11, Judge 1:9).
Apparently, this form of error led its practitioners to believe that they had authority over Satan and over demons, and it also led them to commit sexual sins, among other sins (2 Peter 2:14, Jude 1:4).
Revelation 2:26-28, The Morning Star
In the conclusion of his message to Thyatira, the Lord promises power over the nations to those who overcome and keep his works until the end.
Those who overcome are those who believe in Jesus Christ (1 John 5:4-5), and those who keep the Lord's works until the end are those who do not turn away from the Lord to follow the heresies discussed above (2 Peter 2:20-22).
Jesus promises to everyone who overcomes authority to rule the nations with a rod of iron so he can dash them in pieces like pottery. This is clearly a reference to Psalm 2:9, a Scripture concerning the Messiah, who is Christ. For this reason, Jesus states that he has received this same authority from the Father.
Finally, the Lord Jesus promises to those who overcome the morning star. This is most likely a title for the Lord himself, since the Lord identifies himself as the bright and morning star in Revelation 22:16.
It is interesting to note that the title of Morning Star in Revelation 22:26 is found next to the messianic title The Root and The Offspring of David; and that here in Revelation 2:27 it also follows a reference to Psalm 2:9 concerning the Messiah's rule. Because of its relationship with Scriptures that refer to the Messiah, Morning Star is likely a reference to the Star that would rise out of Jacob, which in Numbers 24:17 is also in proximity to the title Scepter, of which it is said that it would rise out of Israel (thus, this is another reference to the king Messiah).
Moreover, Revelation tells us of a Bright and Morning Star (Revelation 22:26). This can also be a reference to 2 Samuel 23:4, where David compares the Lord's ideal ruler as the light of the morning and the Sun in the morning in a clear sky. David acknowledges that he and his family are not the ideal ruler before the Lord, nevertheless he recalls that God made a covenant with him to give him and his family an everlasting kingdom.
It is likely, then, that the titles Morning Star and Bright and Morning Star are a reference to all these Messianic Scriptures, Numbers 24:17 and 2 Samuel 23:4.
Why then does the Lord promise messianic authority and himself to the one who overcomes and keeps his works until the end? These promises probably represent a close fellowship with the Lord, and also the participation of these believers in the millennial reign (Revelation 20:4, 6).
Revelation 2:29, The Spirit Speaks
The message to Thyatira concludes with a call for everyone who has ears to hear what the Spirit says unto the churches. This is a reference to one of the Lord's favorite expressions (Matthew 11:15, Mark 4:9, Luke 8:8, Luke 14:35). The expression simply means that the message is for everyone.
Although the Lord promises rulership and himself as a reward for those who overcome, the promise is not only for believers in Thyatira, but for all believers of all times. The seven churches represent the totality of the Lord's church, and the Spirit is speaking to everyone who has ears (that's everyone!).
The promise, then, is for you and for me. It is for all of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and who persevere in the faith unto the end.
Questions for Reflection
- What heresies is the church facing today?
- What forms of idolatry is the church facing?
- How widespread is the sexual immorality in the church?
- Are there occult teachings creeping in the church?
- How can we repent from these sins?
- How can we keep the works of Christ?
- Are we motivated to follow Christ since reigning with him and having a close fellowship with him forever will be our reward?
Lord, forgive our sins. We turn to you so we can follow you wherever you go, and so we can walk after you, leaving behind idols, occult practices, and sexual immorality. Forgive our failures, and help us to keep your works until you return: help us to keep ourselves clean, unspotted by the world. Help us to put purity into practice. I look forward, Lord, to the time when I can see you in your kingdom, and be with you for ever and ever. Amen.
Invitation to the Reader
I would like to invite you to share your questions, insights, and opinions on the comments section below. Also, I would like to invite you to read the other devotionals I have published on the book of Revelation.
© 2018 Marcelo Carcach