Commentary on Revelation (covers all chapters from 1 thru 22, including Introduction)
Copyright © 2019 by Steve Sewell, Theology First. All Rights Reserved
All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
Barnes Notes: (bold print mine)
Thyatira was a city of Asia Minor, on the northern border of Lydia, and commonly reckoned as belonging to Lydia. It was about twenty-seven miles from Sardis; about a day‘s journey from Pergamos, and about the same distance from the seacoast. Its modern name is Ak-hissar, or the white castle. According to Pliny, it was known in earlier times by the name of Pelopia (Hist. Nat. v. 29). Strabo (xiii. p. 928) says that it was a Macedonian colony. The Roman road from Pergames to Sardis passed through it. It was noted for the art of dyeing Acts 16:14, and Luke‘s account in the Acts has been confirmed by the discovery of an inscription in honor of Antonius Claudius Alphenus, which concludes with the words οἱ βαφεῖς hoibafeis- the dyers.
Pliny Fisk, the American missionary, who visited the city, thus describes it: “Thyatira is situated near a small river, a branch of the Caicus, in the center of an extensive plain. At the distance of three or four miles it is almost completely surrounded by mountains. The houses are low; many of them made of mud or earth. Excepting the motsellim‘s palace, there is scarcely a decent house in the place. The streets are narrow and dirty, and everything indicates poverty and degradation. We had a letter of introduction to Economo, the bishop‘s procurator, and a principal man among the Greeks of this town … He says the Turks have destroyed all remnants of the ancient church; and even the place where it stood is now unknown. At present there are in the town one thousand houses, for which taxes are paid to the government” (Memoir of P. Fisk; Boston, Mass., 1828).
The following description, by Mr. Schneider, missionary of the American Board, will give a correct view of Thyatira, as it existed in 1848: “From Magnesia we proceeded to Thyatira, the site of one of the Apocalyptic churches, now called Ak-hissar. The population consists of about 700 Mussulman houses, 250 Greek houses, and 50 Armenian houses (circa 1850‘s). The town is located in a plain of considerable size, and is hardly visible on being approached, by reason of the profusion of foliage. The plain itself is bounded on all sides by mountains, and cotton and a kind of reddish root (madder), used for dyeing red, are raised abundantly. I observed that this root is extensively cultivated in all that region, and forms an important article of export to England, where it is used for dyeing purposes. In Acts 16:14 we read of Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira. May not this root be the very article with which her purple was colored, which she was selling at Philippi, when the Lord opened her heart to attend to the things spoken by Paul? It seems to me probable. But, if it was so, this art of coloring appears to have been lost, for I could not find that it is now at all practiced in that place or that region.
“The Christian traveler and missionary naturally looks for something interesting in a place where once existed a true church of Christ. But, alas! how sadly is he disappointed! The place presents an appearance in nothing different from other Turkish towns. Everything wears a Mussulman aspect. The houses, streets, dress, occupation, and language of the inhabitants all indicate a predominating Turkish influence. Christianity exists there in name, but it is the bare name. Its spirit has long since fled. The Greeks, especially, seem to be especially superstitious. I visited their church, and found it full of pictures and other marks of degenerate Christianity. A long string of these images, extending from one side of the church to the other, was suspended so low as to permit the worshipper to approach and kiss them; and so frequently had this adoration been bestowed on them, that all appeared soiled from the frequent contact of the lips. Over the entrance of the church I observed a representation of a grave old man, with a silvery beard, surrounded by angels. Suspecting the object designed to be shadowed forth, I inquired of a lad standing by what that figure meant. He instantly replied, ‹It is God.‘ I observed two similar representations of the Deity in the interior of the church. The churchyard is used as a burying-place; but only those whose friends are able to pay for the privilege of entombing their dead can enjoy it. Candles are lighted at the heads of the graves in the night, and incense is often burned. When the process of decay has proceeded so far as to leave nothing but the bones, these are taken up and thrown into a sealed vault, over which a chapel is suited up, in which mass is said over these relics of the dead for the benefit of their souls! A feeling of abhorrence came over me as I stood in the place where such abominations are committed.
“The Armenians are far less superstitious. Comparatively only a few pictures are to be seen in their church, and three or four individuals are more or less enlightened, and in an inquiring state of mind. We had a long interview with one of them, the teacher, and left some books with him. I am not without hopes that a little gospel leaven has been deposited here, the effects of which will appear at some future day” (Miss. Herald, Feb. 1848). The engraving in this volume will give a representation of this city as it now exists.
It was famous for its dyeing and was a center of the indigotrade. Among the ancient ruins of the city, inscriptions have been found relating to the guild of dyers in the city. Indeed, more guilds are known in Thyatira than any other contemporary city in the Roman province of Asia (inscriptions mention the following: wool-workers, linen-workers, makers of outer garments, dyers, leather-workers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave-dealers, and bronze-smiths).
Book of Acts Account: All of chapter 16 (Acts 16:1-40)
- Characterized by works, love, faith, ministry, patience
- Last works greater than the first
- Not all follow the teachings of Jezebel, nor know the deep things of Satan.
- They allow Jezebel to teach and seduce the servants of Christ to commit fornication and eat things sacrificed to idols.
- Repent of the works of Jezebel
- The faithful were to hold fast what they had till Jesus came
- Great tribulation for those who follow the works of Jezebel, unless they repent.
- They will be judged according to their works.
- Those who overcome and keep the works of Christ to the end, would be given authority over the nations.
- Jesus will rule the nations.
- They will be given the morning star.
Revelation 2:18-29 — (Thyatira)
(Rev 2:18) – 18 And to 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 unto burnished brass:
“to the angel”
(See commentary Rev 1:20 and Rev 2:1 – Ephesus)
“saith the Son of God”
Jesus is the unique Son of God, the Second Person of the Triune God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit — One God, yet exists as three Persons. It’s biblical error to describe God as revealing Himself in three different ways or modes. That view of God is known as modalism. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. It teaches that God is literally three Persons, not just three different modes through which He reveals Himself.
“eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet are like unto burnished brass”
(See commentary Rev 1:14-15)
(Rev 2:19) – 19 I know thy works, and thy love and faith and ministry and patience, and that thy last works are more than the first.
With “eyes” that sees all, Jesus sees the positives and the negatives of their assembly. Here He mentions the positives first. That’s a good example for us to follow. Whenever we find it necessary to confront someone for the sins or foolishness in their lives, it’s important that we first talk about the positives that we see. Doing so presents a balanced viewpoint of what we see in a person’s life, and that our meeting with this person is not about condemnation, but gracious warning. Furthermore, approaching someone like that immediately causes him or her to relax and not be put on the defensive right away. It makes them more open to hear what we have to say. If we approach people with all our guns blazing, it’s not likely to go very well.
“Works” refers to the things that we do. The church in Thyatira was a church that performed a lot of good things for the cause of Christ. In fact, their current works were “more than the first.” It’s one thing to talk about what we believe about Jesus, it’s another to put feet to what we profess. Works of the Christian faith will follow the profession of the Christian faith. In the book of Titus, Paul spoke much about good works.
Our love as Christians begins with our love for God. Those who know Jesus will show unmistakable love for Jesus. A genuine love for the Lord is a mark of genuine conversion. The Apostle John, in all of his books (to a lesser degree in Revelation), speaks much about love, especially 1 John. Quoting Jesus, John wrote the following:
(John 14:21) – 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him.
I love this verse. It happens to be one of my “life verses.” So much meaning here. The Lord reveals that it’s not enough to say, “I love Jesus.” Those who truly love Him, will walk in obedience to Him. Their lives will be characterized by a sincere devotion to Him. Those who profess a love for Christ, but are not seeking to live according to His will, are deceiving themselves. It reveals a false conversion.
I love the promise of this statement. Jesus said that He would reveal Himself to those who love Him (truly love Him). He does that through His Spirit and His Word and answered prayer and through the empowerment of the gifts He’s given to us. He may also reveal Himself in miraculous ways. Furthermore, I believe the degree to which Jesus reveals Himself, depends on the degree to which we love Him. God is found at the level in which we seek Him. Those who seek Him little, will find Him in like manner. Those who seek Him much, will find Him in like manner. Seeking Him little is equivalent to loving Him little. Seeking Him much is equivalent to loving Him much.
The Christians in the church in Thyatira, loved Jesus, but as a whole, it does not appear that they loved Him “much.” This is evident by what they allowed to go on in their church. Love means purity in all things. In the matter of doctrine, they did not keep their church pure of false teachers and false teaching. This is something we must guard against at all times. We will cover this more later.
Love begins with a love for the Lord, but loving the Lord means loving others. We can’t genuinely love Jesus while not loving others. This is especially true as it relates to fellow believers. John talks much about this in his epistle, 1 John. Here is a sample of what he says in that book:
(1 John 3:14) – 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death.
(1 John 4:7) – 7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God.
Those who claim to be Christians, but don’t enjoy being around other Christians, are fooling themselves. Like begets like. If we belong to Christ, then we will love others who belong to Him. We will enjoy fellowshipping with other Christians. If we’re more comfortable around unbelievers, then something is very wrong. Our love for Jesus and for other Christians will match our profession.
The Christians in Thyatira, as a group, loved Jesus and they loved their fellow believer. Jesus did commend them for it. However, their love was not where He wanted it. It lacked. It was not an entirely pure love.
As a church, they had faith, and Jesus commended them for it. They were a church who professed Christ and depended on Him. He was central to their lives. Faith is something that pleases the Lord greatly. He honors faith. He honors the prayer of faith. When you think about it, being able to trust God should be the easiest thing in the world for us to do, for God is absolutely trustworthy. He’s perfect in love, and absolutely faithful to provide and protect and care for His children. He’s faithful to His promises. There’s nothing that He cannot do. What is there not to trust? Again, this should be the easiest thing for us to do. When we consider God and who He is and His faithfulness and power, it’s makes no sense that we are unable to trust Him with our lives or trust Him to provide and answer our prayers. When God considers our lack of faith in Him, it must grieve His heart, when He knows His desire and faithfulness to fulfill His promises to us.
As Jesus stated, to some degree, this church in Thyatira was marked by faith in God. They believed in Christ as Lord and Savior, and demonstrated that faith through love and good works and service and patience in the midst of difficulties.
This is another word for service. They were faithful in serving the Lord and serving one another. They did the work of Christian ministry. Every Christian church should be characterized by the type of ministry that reflects the Christian faith. One of the wonderful things about Christian churches today is that they’re very busy doing the work of ministry, of serving one another. There is no lack of ministries in most churches today. And that’s a good thing. However, just as with the church in Thyatira, many churches today are busy doing the work of ministry at the expense of doctrine — which we’ll see in the very next verse.
Being patient in the midst of trials and persecution is a demonstration of true faith in Christ. Being patient demonstrates an ability to trust Him not just when things are going good, but during hard times as well. If one gives up when things become difficult – or even overwhelming – it means that we’ve taken our eyes off Jesus and are no longer living with eternity in view. We must be patient when things get tough, realizing that we have a wonderful end, a wonderful eternity in the presence of God to look forward to when all of the difficulties of this life will be forever behind us (Rev 22:1-7). There is great reward for the patience of faith.
(Rev 2:20) – 20 But I have this against thee, that thou sufferest the woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophetess; and she teacheth and seduceth my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
“that thou sufferest the woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophetess”
This woman referred to as “Jezebel,” probably refers to her character and ways, rather than her actual name. To be called a Jezebel – even today – is not a name most women want to be called, for it describes someone who is utterly evil, conniving, ruthless, domineering, power-hungry, and scheming in her ways. No doubt Jesus is referring to the Jezebel of the Old Testament, the wife of King Ahab (1 Kings 18,19,21; 2 Kings 9).
There is a difference between the two women, however: the woman spoken of here by Jesus was a teacher. She was someone that was allowed by the leadership of this church to teach false doctrine and to lead the people into sin. It’s difficult to understand how a church that had so much going for it, could have allowed such a thing to go on. It’s inconceivable, really. Even today where many Christian churches are characterized by worldliness, they would never allow such a woman to teach and lead others into such blatant sin. Thankfully, such a person would be removed quickly from most churches.
I’m guessing that this woman was allowed to continue as she did, because she was extremely intimidating and domineering — and perhaps of high stature among the people in their city. Obviously, the leaders of this church were very weak and allowed her to exert her will over them. She likely had a large following that made it difficult to remove her from the church. These leaders exhibited a lack of faith and a sense of duty before Christ to keep His church pure. As soon as this woman began to teach against the truth, the leaders should have acted swiftly and thrown her out by her ears.
While the situation with this Jezebel may have been an extreme case by today’s standards, false teaching still exists today, and it needs to be dealt with swiftly by church leaders. It needs to be stopped before it takes root among the people. I want to add that I think the shallow teaching and worldly ways of many churches today, tend to lead one into the same kind of “Christian” lifestyle — shallow and worldly, to the point where sex outside of marriage is commonly practiced among professing Christians, just as with the people who followed this false teacher, Jezebel.
False teaching and leading people into sexual sin may not be as blatant today as it was in Thyatira, but it still exists in many of today’s churches to some degree. This subtle form that exists today may be even more dangerous than it was in the church of Thyatira. That’s one of the schemes of Satan, to lure people into his traps in a manner that is so gradual and subtle that it eventually becomes commonly viewed as acceptable, and even regarded as “Christian.”
Church leaders need to be bold and fearless and responsible in dealing with false teaching and sin — fully trusting the Lord to work on their behalf.
“she teacheth and seduceth my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols”
(See commentary on Revelation 2:14-15 – Pergamum)
It’s not known what it was, exactly, what that this woman was teaching, but it may have been similar to what is described in Rev 2:14-15 in the church of Pergamum. Whatever it was, it was associated with sexual sin and eating things that were sacrificed to idols – and was, therefore – leading Christ’s “servants” away from the truth and a life of purity. Make no mistake, included among those who were being led astray into this false teaching and sin were true believers, as Jesus makes very clear here.
“calleth herself a prophetess”
Notice that this woman called herself a prophetess. She was not a true prophetess, and was condemned by Jesus. Whether she really believed she was a prophetess or simply called herself one in order to deceive the people, it’s not clear. The important thing to be aware of is that she was a false teacher, and there were true Christians from this assembly who believed her lies.
(Rev 2:21) – 21 And I gave her time that she should repent; and she willeth not to repent of her fornication.
“I gave her time that she should repent”
I love this. As wicked as this woman was, as much damage as she was doing to this assembly of His followers, Jesus gave her time to turn away from her sins. Our God is a loving and merciful and patient God. This woman was obviously a false believer, yet, God was patient with her. How much more with His own children!
“and she willeth not to repent of her fornication”
This Jezebel was not willing to turn away from her sinful ways. She refused the love and forgiveness of God through the Christ that this church represented and taught. Her “will” was hardened to the truth. She was totally immersed in her sinful pride. Apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, that’s where we all are.
(Rev 2:22) – 22 Behold, I cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of her works.
“bed of sickness” (NASB)
Mention of a “bed,” of course, is an allusion to the beds in which the sexual sin she and her followers were committing, because a bed is where sex normally occurs. Accordingly, instead of a bed of sinful pleasure, Jesus would cast them into a bed of judgment. While this would be a true judgment against this false prophet, Jezebel (and others who may have been false believers), we don’t normally view God judging us who are true born-again Christians. But rather, He “disciplines” us or “chastens” us. As our Father, He disciplines His children for the purpose of bringing us back into fellowship with Him (Hebrews 12:4-13).
Therefore, this would be a bed of judgment for Jezebel and for the false believers who followed her teaching, but it would be a bed of discipline for true believers who were following the ways of this evil woman. Again, for them, it would be for the purpose of turning these believers away from their sins and back into a right relationship with Christ.
To keep ourselves from drifting into false teaching and sin, we must keep ourselves under the influence of the Holy Spirit through the true teachings of the Christian faith, and to continually nurture our relationship with the Lord.
I believe this mention of “adultery,” refers to both the sexual activity they were engaged in, and also to the false teaching they were following. To turn away from the truth to that which is false, is unfaithfulness. It’s not being true to Christ or to the Christian faith.
It’s not known what this “great tribulation” referred to. According to the NASB translation, it would be a “bed of sickness.” So at least in part, there apparently was some sort of sickness involved. But there may have been more to it than that.
When God judges or disciplines, it comes in all different forms as He sees fit. But what we must be clear about is that God never does so unjustly. His judgments and forms of discipline are always just. Saved or unsaved, none of us ever experience anything by the hand of God that we don’t deserve. God is just in all His ways. And again, to be clear, when God disciplines His children, it’s not for the purpose of punishment, but a means of correction, to turn us from our sins and back to living a life of holiness (Hebrew 12:4-13).
(Rev 2:23) – 23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto each one of you according to your works.
Should be understood as referring to those who followed her teachings. Her teachings, in effect, gave “birth” to others who “embraced” her and her ways. They engaged her in a manner that resulted in “like children.”
ASV — “I will kill her children with death”
NASB — “I will kill her children with pestilence”
NET — “I will strike her followers with a deadly disease,
According to the Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible: “kill with death, is a Hebraism for slay with most sure and awful death.”
Unless these disciples of hers (children), repented of her ways, Jesus would judge them with death — perhaps by way of “sickness” (pestilence or disease). In whatever form it came in, it would surely be an “awful death.” The likely meaning is that this death would be accompanied by a lot of pain and suffering. The idea that this would be an agonizing death is confirmed by what Jesus says next:
“and all the churches shall know”
This judgment (or discipline) would be of such a nature that all would see and “know” that it came from Jesus. It would be so obvious that there would be no doubt who it came from or why. The reason for this judgment or discipline would be clear to everyone because of the severity of it and because of whom it came from.
ASV — “that I am he that searcheth the reins and hearts”
NASB — “I am He who searches the minds and hearts;
On the word “reigns,” Albert Barnes:
The word “reins” – νεφροὺς nephrous- means, literally, “the kidney,” and is commonly used in the plural to denote the kidneys, or the loins. In the Scriptures it is used to denote the inmost mind, the secrets of the soul; probably because the parts referred to by the word are as hidden as any other part of the frame, and would seem to be the repository of the more secret affections of the mind. It is not to be supposed that it is taught in the Scriptures that the reins are the real seat of any of the affections or passions; but there is no more impropriety in using the term in a popular signification than there is in using the word “heart,” which all continue to use, to denote the seat of love.
Jesus refers to His omniscience, for He God. He, who is all-knowing, knows every thought of our minds and every corner of our hearts. There are some who may try to convince themselves that they’re true followers of Christ, but He knows our hearts. We may fool ourselves, but He knows the truth. No one will ever be able to stand before Christ at the Judgment and claim something with their tongue, but that their heart can’t hide.
“and I will give unto each one of you according to your works”
This refers to both judgment (or discipline) in this life, as well as at the final Judgment before Christ, when we all stand before Him (Ro 14:10-12). The reason Jesus says “works” is because it’s our works that reveal the true nature of our hearts. A true heart of faith will be characterized by a life of faithfulness. Likewise, the absence of true faith will be characterized by a life of self-will and disobedience to Christ.
Furthermore, the degree of punishment for unbelievers will be according to their works and the kind of life they lived. Likewise, for believers, we will be rewarded according to our works and the kind of life we lived. God is just, He’s fair, and people will be either judged or rewarded accordingly.
In regard to the disciplining (“chastening”) of God’s children as described in Hebrews 12:4-13, I want to talk a little more about this, as this is such a serious subject. In Hebrews 12:10-11 the author says:
(Hebrews 12:10-11) – 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed good to them; but he for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness. 11 All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness.
As I’ve already touched on, the disciplining of God’s children is for the purpose leading us to repentance, that “we may be partakers of his holiness,” that it might result in the “fruit of righteousness.” Accordingly, discipline for Christians is not for punishment (punishment is the end, not a means), but a means by which God brings us back to “holiness” when we get off track. In other words, it’s meant to purify our lives, to get our life back into harmony with the Lord and our profession of faith.
I used to believe that once the disciplining work of God had done its work, and we’re back in fellowship with God, then the experience of discipline would cease — whatever the nature of that discipline happens to be. However, I’ve come to believe that, while God may withdraw His hand of discipline from our lives, the Hebrews text does not say that He necessarily will. It may be that even after we’ve repented of our sins and we’re walking with Jesus again, we may have to endure the consequences of our sins for the rest of our lives. In other words, God may see fit not to “fix” or “restore” what we had before we began experiencing the discipline.
God is sovereign, and He will do as He sees fit in the lives of His children. Jesus said that “to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required” (Luke 12:48). Therefore, those who understand much and have been walking with the Lord for a long time, He will require and expect more from those individuals. Therefore, those who fit that description, knowing what they do, and still choose a course of sin, I believe God will deal with them more severely than He does others who don’t have the same understanding that they have. It may be God’s will for some that they remain in the situation (discipline) that He used to bring them to repentance.
It’s never wise to take sin lightly. It’s always foolish to think that we can get away with sin, especially for those who understand full well the sinfulness of what they’re choosing to do. We may have to deal with the consequences of those choices for the rest of our lives, even though we may now be walking in faithfulness to the Lord.
(Rev 2:24) – 24 But to you I say, to the rest that are in Thyatira, as many as have not this teaching, who know not the deep things of Satan, as they are wont to say; I cast upon you none other burden.
NET — 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, all who do not hold to this teaching (who have not learned the so-called “deep secrets of Satan”), to you I say: I do not put any additional burden on you.
Now Jesus addresses those who had remained faithful to Him, who were not deceived by this woman Jezebel. They recognized her for the false prophet that she was. They knew the truth, and thus, were able to identify her teaching and ways as being “the deep things of Satan,” or the “so-called deep secrets of Satan.”
There’s inaccurate teaching, and then there’s false teaching. It’s important that we make a distinction between the two. All of us as Bible teachers and pastors will teach things that are not quite accurate. This can be attributed mostly to a lack of familiarity with God’s Word, lack of diligent study, positional bias, or pride. In regard to false teaching, this is a form of teaching that has its roots in Satan (“deep things of Satan”), or originates with Satan. That primarily refers to all the false religions and cults of the world — that is, any form of teaching that is anti-Christian or out of harmony with the Christian faith. However, false teaching can also be found in the Church (as in our text). Since there are differences of opinion about what constitutes inaccurate teaching and false teaching in the Church, I will withhold my own opinion about this. Too much ground to cover in a commentary anyway.
As it relates to this church in Thyatira, the teachings of Jezebel led to sexual sin and participation in pagan celebrations. However, I don’t believe that the “deep things of Satan,” should be limited to teaching that is characterized by gross sin. Satan hates God, and you can be sure that he does whatever he can to promote a distorted or blatantly false view of God or of the truth of God — for he is the “father of lies” (John 8:44).
To protect ourselves from false teaching or inaccurate teaching of any kind, we must learn to be diligent students of the Word of God. We must be continuously reading it and absorbing it into our hearts and minds. We must learn to view God’s Word without positional bias, to be honest about the passages we happen to be studying. Pastors, especially, need to practice these disciplines in order to guard against leading their people astray. Thankfully, with the internet we have a lot of wonderful Bible study resources that can aid in our learning.
“I cast upon you no other burden”
Those believers who were faithful and had a good grasp of the truth, were “burdened” by the false teaching and sin that was running rampant in their assembly. They were like King Josiah who was deeply affected by what was being read to him from the Book of the Law (2 Kings 22:8-20), and by the sins and evil that he saw among the people of Israel. These faithful Thyatira believers were like “righteous Lot” who was “sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked (for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds)” (2 Peter 2:7-8). They were like those spoken of in Malachi 3:16-18, whom the LORD recognized for their righteousness, for fearing Him and honoring His name as they did.
Therefore, already being heavily burdened by the false teaching and evil among them, Jesus told His faithful ones that He would lay no other burden upon them, but to “hold fast” till He came:
(Rev 2:25) – 25 Nevertheless that which ye have, hold fast till I come.
In other words, it was enough that they had to endure the false teaching and evil that was going on in their midst. It was enough that they had to witness the judgment and discipline that would befall those involved in such, including loved ones, perhaps. Jesus simply instructs them to remain faithful to the truth they were taught. Today, with so many churches, we have the option of leaving a church that is involved in such wickedness, and to simply go find another. The faithful believers in Thyatira likely had no other such option.
“till I come”
This could refer to either when Jesus came in judgment against this church (particularly to the unfaithful), or to our resurrection at the time of Christ’s return (John 14:3; Phil 3:10-14, 20-21). It applies either way, because we’re to be faithful throughout our lives. However, it’s also applicable to the faithful followers of Christ who are alive at the time of His return at the end of the age (Rev 19:11-21).
(Rev 2:26) – 26 And he that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations:
“he that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works”
Means to endure in faith and faithfulness and trials and persecutions — to endure all things while faithfully serving Christ, carrying out what He has commissioned us to (Matt 28:18-20).
“unto the end”
This refers to remaining faithful to the end of their trials and persecutions, and ultimately, to the end of their lives. True faith in Christ is an enduring faith, one that is characterized by faithfulness throughout our lives. Although, as this passage reveals, we can get off track at times. However, since this is a book that includes end time prophecy, it would also apply to those who are alive when Christ returns. Those who remain true to the Lord will be rewarded:
“to him will I give authority over the nations”
This is not a reference to an earthly kingdom (Phil 3:19-20), where Jesus rules for a thousand years — as Premillennialism teaches. That’s an interpretation that must be read into the New Testament according to a positional bias.
Since Jesus is God, He reigns over the nations as the Sovereign Ruler of the universe (Col 1:18; 1 Ti 6:15; Rev 1:5; 17:14; 19:16). However, I believe what is in view here is the Kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13; Acts 2:22-36; 1 Cor 15:22-26; He 10:12-13), where Jesus presently rules over and through His Church.
While the final form of Christ’s rule still awaits fulfillment in the Eternal Kingdom of Revelation 21 & 22, we must not miss the reality that we as Christians rule “over the nations” with Christ (Rev 1:6; 5:10; 20:4-6) with the “authority” that He’s given us. We rule with respect to the truth that we have in Christ. Truth reigns over the false teachings of this world. So in that sense, as those who have the truth of Christ, we reign over the false belief system of this world. We represent the true God, therefore the Church rules over the false religions of the world. Individually, as long as we are faithful – as the text indicates – we walk with the authority of Christ. If we’re not living as faithful followers of Christ, we do not accurately represent Him. The truth is seen in us and proclaimed through us as we walk in the truth.
There is no teaching in the NT that allows for a millennial earthly kingdom that is sandwiched between the return of Christ and the Eternal Kingdom of the “new heaven and new Earth” (Rev 21:1-2). There are no passages that make room for that. That teaching has to be forced into certain texts of the NT in order to make it work for proponents of Premillennialism. In other words, it’s a position that is based on assumption and on an understanding of OT scriptures that they use to interpret the NT. Sound theology begins with an understanding of the NT, and then interprets the OT according to that understanding. Misinterpretation results when one tries to understand the NT according to one’s understanding of the OT. We must get things in proper order if we’re to have a correct understanding of Scripture.
(Rev 2:27) – 27 and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to shivers; as I also have received of my Father:
“he shall rule them with a rod of iron”
(see also Rev 12:5; Rev 19:15)
Probably an allusion to Psalm 2:7-9. Speaks of power and authority, which we have as Christ’s representatives.
“as I also have received of my Father”
Our reign (“rule”) is given by the Father, as was given to His Son. We reign with Christ (Rev 5:10; Rev 20:4-6).
The rule of Christ is now, and we share in that rule as His representatives (ambassadors – 2 Cor 5:20). We are the servants of the Lord. Everything we do is in His name and with the authority that He gives to us to carry out His will in the world. The ultimate and final form of rule will come when Jesus has judged the people of this world, and He is reigning with His Father in the Eternal Kingdom (Rev 22:1-5; 1 Cor 15:22-26). Our reign ends at that time. Our reign with Christ occurs only during the Church age, when we “reign with Christ for a thousand years” (Rev 20:4-6) — which refers to the Church age.
Christ’s rule (and our co-rule) is likened to a rod of iron that easily breaks vessels of clay (Ps 7:9). It’s a picture of total power and authority and dominance.
(Rev 2:28) – 28 and I will give him the morning star.
And I will give him the morning star – The “morning star” is that bright planet – Venus – which at some seasons of the year appears so beautifully in the east, leading on the morning – the harbinger of the day. It is one of the most beautiful objects in nature, and is susceptible of a great variety of uses for illustration. It appears as the darkness passes away; it is an indication that the morning comes;
According to earthsky.org, Venus is the brightest planet in the east before sunrise. I believe this is what Jesus is alluding to, that it speaks of Christ as the “light of the world” that shines brightly over the darkness of this world (John 1:4-9; 3:19-21; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36,46).
When we come to faith in Christ, we are transferred out of the realm of darkness and into the glorious kingdom of Christ, which is a kingdom of light (Col 1:13; Acts 26:18).
As Christians, we dwell in the light of Christ, who is Himself the “bright morning star” (Rev 22:16). We dwell in His kingdom now, which is a kingdom of light. When we pass from this life into the next, we will never have to see or deal with the darkness of this world ever again. When God creates the new Heaven and new Earth (2 Pe 3:13; Rev 21:1-2;), darkness will be gone forever (Rev 21:23-25; Rev 22:5).
Therefore, I think it’s clear that what Jesus is referring to is the eternal light and salvation that we have in Him, a light that overcomes all darkness. That fact that He uses the “morning star” to describe it is significant, because just as Venus is seen when the darkness of night turns to the light of day, so do we go from the darkness of sin and death to the light of life in Christ. Those who “overcome” through an enduring faith, have the light of Christ to enjoy forever and ever.
(Rev 2:29) – 29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.
(See commentary on Rev 2:7 – Ephesus)