Thyatira – Revelation 2:18-29

And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write:

These things says the Son of God, the one having the his eyes like a flame of fire, and the his feet like burnished bronze, “I know your works and love and faith and service and your perseverance, and that your latter works are greater than the first. But I have against you that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, the one calling herself a prophetess, and is teaching and misleading my servants to commit sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols. And I have given her time that she might repent, and she is not willing to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold I will cast her into a sickbed, and those committing adultery with her into great tribulation, if they will not repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with death. And all will know the churches that I am the one searching affections and hearts, and I will give to each of you according to your works. To you, moreover, I say, to the rest who are in Thyatira, as many as have not this teaching, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will not cast upon you any other burden. But hold fast what you have until when I might come. And the one overcoming and keeping my works until the end, I will give to him authority over the nations, and he will shepherd them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken in pieces, even as I also have received from my Father, and I will give to him the morning star. The one having an earl let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

This is the longest of the letters to the seven churches. What is spoken about in Thyatira is equally as baffling as it is disturbing. Is there a common link between the Son of God, whose eyes are blazing fire and feet are burnished bronze, the prophetess Jezebel, the sickbed, the depths of Satan, and the ruling over nations?

Most likely the “Son of God” comes out of Psalm 2:7, and not simply from a theological point. It is obvious when we read the Gospel of John that Jesus is called the “Son of God”, but in the context of the “ruling over nations”, it seems like this would be pointing us to Psalm 2:7 immediately. God is only called the “Father” of men in Revelation 21:7. The eyes of blazing fire goes back to 1:14. The question then comes to this part about Jezebel and Satan’s depths, and how does this fit into Psalm 2?

Let us first progress through the passage by itself. In verse 19, we read that, unlike Ephesus, Thyatira has progressed in their love, faith, service, and perseverance. In 20-23, we can compare Proverbs 5:1-6. “My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.”

In Proverbs 5 and 7, we read of the adulteress woman. In both instances there is the obvious and immediate wisdom. Yet, there is also a spiritual application. Idolatry is likened to spiritual adultery. This would help explain the connection between sexual immorality and idolatry in verse 20. I do wonder if John is using Jezebel as this prophetess – whoever she might be – to liken the church to Ahab…

We find Jezebel in 1 Kings 16:31 through 2 Kings 9:22. The sickbed comes from Exodus 21:18, where a person is confined to bed due to suffering injury. In this prophecy concerning her being cast onto a bed of sickness, and her children being thrown into great tribulation, eventually being killed, there could be a reference to Ahab’s fate (1 Kings 22, 2 Kings 10:7), but it seems much more plausible to connect it to Hosea 2:2-4, “Rebuke your mother, rebuke her, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband. Let her remove her adulterous look from her face and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts. Otherwise I will strip her naked and make her as bare as on the day she was born; I will make her like a desert, turn her into a parched land, and slay her with thirst. I will not show my love to her children, because they are the children of adultery.” The children are they who have wholly surrendered over to the prophetess.

Compare αποκτενω εν θανατω with Ezekiel 33:27 (θανατω αποκτενω), where θανατω = pestilence as in Revelation 6:8. The churches “knowing” (γνοσονται οτι) is an Old Testament expression of experiential knowledge (Exodus 7:5, 16:12, 29:46, etc). The testing of the heart and mind is a direct translation from Jeremiah 11:20. The same phrase, though word order switched, is found in Psalm 7:10. The heart in Hebrew is also the mind, and the kidneys (νεφρους) are the seat of emotion or affection.

Compare the depths of Satan (some have translated it “wisdom of Satan” or “secrets of Satan) with 1 Corinthians 2:10. Is it possible that these “deep teachings” are the same as the wisdom of Satan (1 Corinthians 2:6-8)? If so, the “burden” would be the burden of the law, as Paul speaks of it in Galatians. To walk according to the law is to say that God has given us His ‘manual’ and we only need to live in accordance to it. This is taking the holy things of God in a carnal manner – walking out our faith by our own strength and power – and thus utilizing the wisdom of demons to achieve a preconceived notion of righteousness. The wisdom of the serpent is found in Genesis 3, to question the integrity and character of God Himself. Compare this to the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet in the book of Revelation. There is a false Christ established with a false prophet (Revelation 13), claiming the righteousness and purity of God, but altogether evil and blaspheming God. The burden is found when we try to achieve righteousness out of our own strength and power, as if we have enough moral grit in self to do so.

I think this is the point at which we find the answer to our question: How does the prophetess and Satan’s depths relate to ruling over nations and Psalm 2? There is a contrast through the whole book of Revelations between the New Jerusalem and Babylon, the Bride and the Harlot, those who dwell in heaven and the inhabitants of the earth. Psalm 2 begins, “Why do the nations rage and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.”

There is a real sense in which the prophetess leading these people into sexual immorality and idolatry is taking a stand against the Lord and against His Anointed One. There has been a false Gospel erected, and through it people are being deceived. They are following after a righteousness apart from God, as if righteousness can be attained apart from faith. In this, the danger isn’t simply that you have Christians believing lies. The danger is that they simply aren’t Christian at all, and if this has deceived them, then they will be deceived by the Antichrist. This explains to us why Jesus says that He will cause those who commit adultery with her to suffer “great tribulation”.

In verse 26, the overcoming and the keeping seem to be on the same par. “He who overcomes – even he who keeps my will – until the end… The last part is a free rendering of Psalm 2:8. Verse 29 is a free rendering of Psalm 2:9. The Greek word ποιμαινειν is from the Hebrew that means “shepherd”, but in Micah 5:5, Jeremiah 6:3, Psalm 80:14, etc it means “destroy”. Which exactly John intends for cannot be 100% certain. If we go with destroy, verses like Isaiah 30:14 or Jeremiah 19:11 come into play. If we say that the Greek word means what the Greek word means, then we have verses like Isaiah 66:18 or Zechariah 14:16.

The morning star in the New Testament is strictly Jesus (2 Peter 1:19, Revelation 22:16). In the Old Testament, there is a verse in Isaiah 14 that calls what appears to be Satan “the bright and morning star”. In the context of the book of Revelations, stars are specifically righteous angels or saints (see 1:19-20, 12:1, 4). Most likely this is a poetic way of saying, “The firstborn from the dead” – the first star to rise. This promise, then, is a promise to rule and reign with Christ. Let he who has an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

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