Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
THINGS WHICH JOHN SAW:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants --- things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,
2 who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, and to all things that he saw.
The opening verses clearly show us that the Revelation is of Jesus Christ, not John. It also teaches us the process by which it is communicated. I believe it is critical for us to not overlook this important point.
God, the Father, passed the unveiling to His Son, Jesus Christ, so that He could reveal it to His servants, believing Christians. Jesus committed it to His Angel with the expressed instruction to reveal it to John.
John’s task was to bare witness to the word sent from God through Jesus and to reveal all things that he saw[/html. John was not an interpreter but a revealer of the vision given to him. The subject of the unveiling is “[html]things which shortly take place”.
As we begin this study we must remember 2 Peter 3:8, “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” We are on God’s time and schedule not one made of man. A thousand years is but a blink of the eye to an eternal God. The same Greek words used to convey “shortly” appear in Luke 18:7-8 (Gr en tachei), where the action is clearly one that takes place in a prolonged period of time.
I can imagine the faithful and now aged apostle remembering the scene there on the Jordan River those many years before. The words and sights of that day still fresh in his memory. The sight of the heavens opening and the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Jesus, followed by the unforgettable sound of a voice from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”.
How humble John must have felt to be honored with this last mission, to share God’s promise of victory for the faithful believers, and how troubled he must have felt with the final judgment of sin and unrepentant sinners.
3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it, for the time is near.
Isn’t good to know that you are blessed! This is the only book in the Bible that pronounces a blessing on he who reads it. But it is also a call to have it read in the churches and a challenge to remain true to the things written in it. Like all of Scripture, it has purpose. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable, for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).
4 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia; Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,
5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of earth, To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,
6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen.
John directs the book to seven churches. These churches are located in the Province of Asia within the Roman Empire and are not to be confused with the continent of Asia. The seven churches of Asia Minor are in an area known today as Turkey.
Asia Minor was an area described as were “east meets west”. It was the major conduit between Europe and the Near East. Paul too used this area in his missionary outreach. It was a center of trade and traffic. Thus, a center of communication. The cities there were connected by major roads in New Testament times. As we proceed with our study you will find that John addresses the churches in an exact order from Ephesus north to Pergamos, then south all the way to Laodicea in a somewhat circular pattern. Some scholars believe Revelation was a circular letter that would have been read first by the Ephesian church, then passed on to the next church on the route.
I find it interesting that John use both a Greek and Hebrew word in his greeting. Grace from the Greek, and peace from the Hebrew. Grace being the unmerited favor or God and Peace being the calm that God give to us even in the darkest of times.
In verse 4 and 5 John quickly identifies from whom the book comes; the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Seven Spirits is a representation of the Holy Spirit in His prefect number of completeness.
In verses 5 and 6 John also proclaims a tribute to Jesus Christ for who He is and what He has done for us. Notice the order in which Jesus is described. “Faithful witnesss” speaks to His life and ministry, “the first born of the dead” speaks of His resurrection, and “ruler over kings of the earth” declares His authority. I also love that John speaks of the love Jesus had for us prior to us being washed by His blood.
The result of His cleansing blood is that He “has made us kings and priests to His God and Father”.
John closes his prayerful greeting by giving glory to God the Father.
7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, and they also who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Daniel 7:13 declares, “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven!” (Also see Ex 19:9; 19:16; 24:15; 34:5; 40:34; Numbers 11:25; 12:5; De 4:11; 5:22; Job 26:9; Ps 18:11; 97:2; Eze 1:4; 10:4; Mt 17:5)
Matthew 24: 30 declares, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
Praise the Lord, Jesus is coming back! John statement is both a declaration of joy and of warning. Ready or not, here I am, is the message. The tribes will mourn because they though it would never happen. But they will come to understand that when it happens the judgment comes. So ready or not, “even so”, He is coming.
John concludes with “Amen”, which is often translated “so be it”. Amen is a transliteration of a Hebrew word signifying something as certain, sure and valid, truthful and faithful.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
In verse 7 John declares His coming and in verse 8 we have a change in speakers. The Lord now speaks! He proclaims who He is and His timelessness. He also makes known His authority.
His speaking places His seal or warranty of the vision to come.
9 I, John, both your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Once again John speaks and identifies himself and his location. John includes himself with the readers as brother and companion in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ. The tribulation used here is not the tribulation we will study later in Revelation. Scholars agree it is the tribulation that is common to all believers as discussed in Acts 14:22. This was also a time of widespread persecutions of the Roman Empire.
Because of his faithful witness and preaching the word of God, John was imprisoned of the Island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. His captures could not diminish his witness. God can use us wherever we are and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves if we stay faithful to His calling.
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet
John’s state of mind was one of focus on God. He was near to God in heart, mind and spirit. I once heard someone say that we have to be “near to hear” when referring to our walk with the Lord. Sometimes we can’t hear what God has to say to us because we have closed our hearts and mind to Him. For our spirit to be what it should be, we must yield totally to God. John was in complete harmony with God in every part of himself.
The Lord’s Day is the first day of the week. What we refer to as Sunday. Several important New Testament events took place on the Lord’s Day. It was the day of Christ resurrection, of two subsequent appearances to the disciples, of the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost. The disciples gathered together to break bread on this day of the week.
John heard a loud voice as of a trumpet. It was clear and carried force with it, thereby making it clearly understood that an important proclamation was about to take place.
11 saying,“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia; to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”
As we discussed early, Jesus gives detail instructions to John. After Jesus identifies Himself, He instructs John to write what he is about to see in a book and to distribute that book to seven specific churches. As note before, these churches are located along trade routes that connect east to west. See map at top for locations.
12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands,
13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.
14 His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;
16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.
17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.
18 “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore, Amen. And I have the keys to Hades and of Death.
19 “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this”.
20 “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands; The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.”
To clearly understand these last verses of Chapter 1, we must look at them together. Jesus, Himself, gives us an explanation so that we can understand His purposes.
Jesus was standing “in the midst of” the churches, indicating that they were dispersed and not all in a common place.
For me, this gives understanding to the need for seven letters. Each church was autonomous, with its own customs and problems. One corporate letter would not serve the purpose of Jesus.
This is important for us today because while churches are similar, our needs vary. We do share common challenges but each church has its own individual pluses and minuses. And, we are not all at the same level of spirituality. Additionally, churches are fluid. Over time our needs change and even the character of the church ebbs and flows with the ever changing nature of our membership. Sometime an individual church could be the church at Ephesus and at others the church at Thyatira.
As Jesus stood “in the midst” of the seven churches there is no mention of anything or anyone between Jesus and the churches. There was no priest, hierarchy, or organization to stand between them.
The seven stars are held in His right hand, symbolizing His control of and power over them. The seven stars represent the seven angels of the church. These are not literal angels. Angel can be interpreted as “messenger”. The general agreement is that Chapters 2 & 3 demonstrate clearly that these are pastors, or ministers of the local church who are in places of authority and responsibility.
Jesus stands in the midst of the seven churches in the robes of a judge. The band around His chest symbolizes the righteousness and faithfulness with which He judges. Isaiah 11:5 declares, “Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist”.
Daniel 7: 9, 13, 14 give us some insight into the scene that John now sees.
“9 I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, Its wheels a burning fire”
“13 I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. 14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him, His dominion is a everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”
In addition to Jesus’ garments, John’s vision hears a voice with much power in it, “His voice as the sound of many waters”. And “out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword”, the power and authority of the Word of God.
I particular like what the vision says about the countenance of Jesus, it “was like the sun shinning in its strength”. Overpowering brightness comes to mind. Definitely the Man in charge!
If there was even any doubt about whom it was that John saw, verse 18 settles that question.
“I am He who lives and was dead”, the risen Lord, Jesus Christ. When John saw his old friend, He saw Him first as Lord and the Son of God. John dropped as if he had suddenly been struck dead! How many of us see Jesus so clearly? Even in our worship we fail to understand just who Jesus is and the complete authority He has over us. Praise the Lord for mercy and grace!
THINGS THAT ARE
Seven is a number of completion in the Bible. In these seven letters Jesus will relay moral truths of the church that transcend time. The truths are as applicable today as they were then.
Chapters 2 and 3 deal with the timeless issues of the Church Age that began at Pentecost and carry forward to the Rapture. Each letter has common elements.
1. Jesus introduces Himself in such a way to leave no doubt about whom He is. If you look closely you will find that the words used to describe Jesus in Chapter 1 are once again used here.
2. In each letter Jesus gives a commendation or condemnation
3. He promises reward to the faithful
4. He exhorts the church to hear His words
Also, in each letter Jesus proclaim, [html]“I know your works”, and in each letter He makes the promise,“I will”.
We can not hide from God. He knows our works and he will act. I encourage you to underline Jesus’ words “I will” in your Bible for these are indeed promises made by our Lord. Some of them hold great promise but unfortunately others judgment. God keeps His promises.
I agree with the idea that each of the letters fulfill a threefold purpose. First, each letter describes the conditions present in that church at the time of writing. Second, they present conditions we will find in the church at any time in history. And thirdly, the letters reveal a consecutive history of the church. This third point can best be explained as follows;
Ephesus; (the loveless church) the early church that had already began to leave its first love.
Smyrna: (the persecuted church) the church suffered persecution from the first to the fourth century under Roman emperors.
Pergamos: (the over-tolerant church) Christianity was recognized as an official religion during the fourth and fifth centuries but began to lose or modify some of its doctrine.
Thyatira; (the compromising church) From the sixth to the fifteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church largely dominated Christianity until the Reformation except in the east where the Orthodox Church was dominating. Morals within the church began to decay. Politics played an increasing role in the church.
Sardis; (the sleeping church) The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were the Post-Reformation period. The churches when on cruise control.
Philadelphia: (the church with opportunity) Revivals and great missionary movements began in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Laodicea: (the complacent church) During the last days the church will began to fall away and become lukewarm and liberal in its doctrine and practice.
As Chapter 2 opens Jesus is continuing to speak and begins His letters to the churches.
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,
These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands;”
Jesus once again identifies Himself as the One who holds authority over the pastors and leaders of the church. He also speaks of the seven lampstands (churches) to whom He will speak.
“2 I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;
“3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary”.
Jesus commends the church for their works for His name sake and patient endurance, and notes the churches efforts to abstain for evil. He congratulates them for their spiritual discernment of those who claim to be apostles but were not.
“4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love”
The church had begun to lose its excitement for the Lord’s work. They still practiced sound doctrine and were working for the Lord, BUT the flame was going out.
Many times have I been with brother pastors who would share this statement, “I often wish I had a camera hidden in the pulpit facing the congregation so they could see how cold the look is upon their face during worship.”
Complacency and apathy are diseases that rob us of our excitement and joy in serving the Lord. Little by little we drift farther and farther away until our light no longer shines and the embers of our fire dim until they are gone.
“5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent.”
How seriously does Jesus take the loss of excitement, the loss of their first love in the church? Jesus said unless they repent He will come and remove their lampstand from its place. When a church loses its love relationship with the Lord its testimony begins to die.
Let’s look at an example. A visitor comes to your church. The church is friendly and the music and the message are the type that is appealing to the visitor. BUT, the church is cold and routine in its worship and singing. There are no smiles on the faces of its members and you see no joy in their countenance. Not only does the visitor not return but spreads the word that your church is cold, without joy. Forgive us Father!
If we cannot be excited about the Lord, what will excite us? Do we not love God with all our heart, mind and strength?
The church at Ephesus had taken the first step away from their first love.
“6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate”
Jesus once again commends the church. This time for their hate for the deeds of the Nicolaitans. They are mentioned here and again in verse 15. Apparently both the church at Ephesus and Pergamos suffered from the deeds of this group. This is no solid evidence to identify this group. When you compare verse 6, 14 and 15 it is possible to conclude that they had at least some practices in common with the followers of Balaam.
Some believe that the name means, “rule over the laity” and see this as a reference to the rise of the clerical system.
A more likely case can be made for the viewpoint that this was a sect that was sheltering itself under the name of Christianity in order to gain access to the Christian church. When in fact it was more closely related to the sexually immoral acts of the followers of Balaam.
It is also suggested that they derived their origin from Nicolas, one of the seven deacons mentioned Acts 6:5. The Nicolaitans taught its wives, that adultery and fornication were things of no importance, that eating meats offered to idols was quite lawful; and mixed several pagan rites with the Christian ceremonies. Augustine, Irenaeus, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Tertullian, have spoken largely concerning them.
Some have said that the deacon of Acts 6:5, Nicolas, had fallen away and was the leader of the sect that bore his name. However I can find no evidence to support the falling away of Nicolas.
If indeed the group was attempting to hide themselves under the name of Christianity, it would not be unreasonable to think they would borrow the name of well known Christian leader.
We might question how a church could be drawn into allowing such groups into their presence. Thank God that the church at Ephesus had not. But there was an obvious concern.
As outlandish as it may sound, we are being less successful today. Groups and individuals hide themselves under the name of Christianity, when their practices and doctrine reveal something else. For example homosexuality in the church is becoming a reality in more and more churches. The practice of and ordination of homosexuals is something God hates! Romans 1:26 uses the term “vile passion” and Romans 1:27 says this, “Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”
Leviticus 20:13 say, “If a man lies with a man as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.”
As we progress in our study we will see continued references made to sexual misconduct. Survey after survey shows that sexual misconduct is becoming more and more common in the church today. As a church we become more and more concerned with social acceptance instead of strict doctrinal practices.
It all starts when the churches lose their first love and step by step are drawn away.
“7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
Jesus calls to the church to pay attention to what He has told them. The “I will” or promise of verse 7 is directed to the “him who overcomes”, to eat from the tree of life in the Paradise of Heaven with God.
The person who overcomes is not a person who successful deals with problems, but is the overcomer that John talks about in 1 John Chapter 5. For me Chapter 5 of 1 John speaks directly to the issues of first love and continuing in it.
“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this way we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world --- our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes the Jesus is the Son of God?”
For our love-life with Christ to be what it should be keeping His commandments should not be a burden for us. It should be our hearts desire to be pleasing to Him above everything else in life.
“8 And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write,
“These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life;
Again Jesus clearly identifies Himself. Smyrna means myrrh or bitterness. The description of “who was dead and came to life” must have been comforting to those who were facing a daily death threat.
“9 I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan”
Who better to understand suffering at the hands of others than the One who died on the cross! Humiliation and physical pain were not strangers to our Lord. He understands our needs, then and now.
We can’t know totally the depth of their persecution, but during the Roman Empire’s rule, persecution often included confiscation of goods. For whatever reason the church found itself in poverty. Jesus wants to reassure them that they were rich in treasures laid up in heaven.
As a missionary, time and time again I have had the great privilege to work with God’s people living in worldly poverty only to find a people rich in faith, people whose great joy in life is serving God with a deep abiding love.
Some Jews had come to hate the Christians and saw them as traitors to their nation. They began to carry out blasphemous acts against them. For instance, historians tell of the eagerness with which the Jews aided in the martyrdom of Polycarp.
We know from Paul’s letters there were attempts to bring Judaic practices into the church, to move the church from grace to legalism.
Whatever was happening, Jesus was clear that He did not consider them to be part of His Chosen People and called them the church of Satan.
“10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
“Be faithful until death” was Jesus’ call to the Smyrnans. Not only were they suffering but their suffering was going to increase. Unlike Old Testament saints who were delivered from death, these New Testament saints were to be triumph over it and be given the crown of life.
Prison during the rule of the Roman Empire was not like a prison of today. The government was not willing to support a large number of prisoners. A person in prison was either awaiting trial or death. Christians were tortured, thrown to wild bulls and lions that tore them to pieces.
There are different possibilities as to the meaning of the ten days.
1. If could have been 10 literal days
2. There were 10 periods of persecutions from Nero to Diocletian. (Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Antoninus, Severus, Maximian, Decius, Valerian, Aurelian, and Diocletian)
3. Diocletian’s persecution lasted ten years.
“11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches, He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”
Jesus is speaking to all “churches” both past, present and future. The promise of victory over death for true believers is at the cornerstone of our faith. Paul speaks of us running the race until we cross the finish line. To be an overcomer we must continue even to death in our faith. (See notes for verse 7)
The “I will” of this second letter is Jesus’ promise to give “the crown of life”.
“12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write,
“These things says He who has the sharp two-edge sword;
Pergamos was a not a city know for is trade but for its science, learning, medicine and culture. Its famous library, second only to Alexandria, consisted of 200,000 books. Ephesus and Smyrna were evil cities, but Pergamos was especially into idolatry. It was Asian headquarters for a cult of emperor-worshipers.
Pergamos was the home of the temple of Aesculapius in which the most highly regarded object was the wreathed serpent. Their early science of medicine was closely connected to the worship of Satan, and their referred to Aesculapius as the Preserver and Saviour.
Pergamos means “thoroughly marriage” or “high tower”. Pergamos represents the era when the church join with the state under the reign of Constantine (A.D. 313). The church began to tolerate unsound doctrine and practices and was in need of correction from the Word of God.
“13 I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.”
Twice Jesus refers to Pergamos as the dwelling place of Satan, but he commends the church for “holding fast to My name”. The challenge then and now for the church is to hold fast and not be allow outside influences dilute the Scriptures. Regardless of what is deemed politically correct or socially acceptable, the Scriptures are unchanging and always the correct answer to life’s questions. The standards and promises of God should never be compromised.
Some Bible scholars believe that Antipas was the first known Asian to be martyred for the name of Christ.
“14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.”
“15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.”
Jesus was condemning the church for allowing those who held to the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans to continue in the fellowship of Christians. The doctrine of Balaam sanctioned eating things sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality. (See notes of verse 6 for discussion of the Nicolaitans)
The Book of James teaches us that we are drawn into sin by our own desires. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15)[html] By allowing false doctrine to enter the church, it creates a stumbling block and opportunity for us to be drawn away.
[html]“16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
In His opening of His letter to the church at Pergamos, Jesus described Himself as “He who has the sharp two-edged sword”. In His called to repent, He reminds them that “the sword of My mouth” will be used against them. The Word of God is powerful and ultimately carries with it glory or judgment.
If the church repented it would expel those whom followed the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans, if it did not God Word would judge them all. The “I will” of verse 16 is a promise of judgment.
“17 He who has an ear, let him hear, what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
Once again Jesus makes a wonderful promise to those who overcome. The overcomer of the church of Pergamos is one who refuses to be part of the evil of false doctrine and teaching.
Manna is a type of Christ Himself. I see the “hidden manna” as manna not common to the world, but manna reserved for those bound for glory.
The white stone is symbolic of several things. It was given as a symbol of victory in athletic competition. It was also an expression of welcome given guest in one’s home and a token of acquittal in a legal case.
God gives to the overcomer that sweet sweet manna, nourishment, of Jesus Himself and the white stone of victory, welcome and forgiven sin. And, on it He writes a new name, new beginning for all eternity.
“18 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:”
Thyatira is southeast of Smyrna and while less important that the previous cities, in time it would become a military post and a garrisoned city. It is the city of one of Paul’s early converts, Lydia, a seller of purple.
Thyatira means “continual sacrifice”. Remember that from the perspective of the history of the church, Thyatira was reflective of the compromising church that existed from the sixth to the fifteenth century, when the Roman Catholic Church largely dominated Christianity until the Reformation except in the east where the Orthodox Church was dominating.
The eyes of Jesus are piercing eyes that see through to the heart of the matter and His feet like fine brass are the feet of judgment.
This is the only place where the title of “Son of God” is used in Revelation. Apparently there had begun a shift in the church for Jesus the Son of God to Jesus the son of Mary.
It is the longest of the seven letters.
“19 I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.”
Jesus commends them for their past works and for their increasing work for Him. Even though the church has evil within it, Jesus first speaks of the positive. What a great example for us! Jesus congratulates the faithful remnant.
“20 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 to eat things sacrificed to idols.”
“21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent”
“22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.”
“23 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.”
The Jezebel of the Old Testament was the wife of Ahab (1 Kings 19-20). She was the source of idolatry in Israel. Balaam attach from the outside while she corrupted from the inside.
The church had allow Jezebel to introduce false teaching and practices into the church. She was a self proclaimed prophetess. Some believe that she may have encouraged members of the church to join local trade guilds that honored various gods for the sake of commerce. These guilds practice eating things sacrificed to idols and committed sexually immoral acts.
Jesus said He gave her time to repent, but she did not. Because of her un-repentant attitude, He was going to cast her into a sickbed and those who had chosen to follow her would face great tribulation. Jesus would act so that all the churches would know this was not permissible in God’s church.
Many scholars believe from the historic viewpoint this is representative of the rise of a false church system with its adoration of images, sale of indulgences, and priestly absolution from such sins as fornication.
Jesus’ three “I will” promise of these verses are; 1) I will cast her into a sickbed, 2) I will kill her children, 3) I will give to each according to their works.
“24 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”
Because the faithful remnant had suffer much, Jesus would not place any additional burdens upon them. When we stand up for Jesus, He will stand up for us.
“25 But hold fast what you have till I come,”
“26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations”
“27 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;”
“28 and I will give him the morning star.”
Jesus is coming. He tells us over and over that He will come again. He urges the faithful to “hold on”, to continue to fight the good fight, to hold on the sound doctrine.
To the overcomers is great reward. We will reign with Him for His gift, the Morning Star, is Himself. Christ will appear as the Morning Star to rapture His church to heaven and Righteousness will reign over all the earth.
All sin and rebellion will be punished severely in the end.
“29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”
In this and the three that follow, “He who has an ear, let him hear” follows the promise to the overcomer rather than preceding it. This may be a call to the individual overcomers to hear what is said to the churches.