About Jesus Steve Sweetman
This Section - Chapters 2
To The Seven Churches
I comment on the next two chapters I need to point out a few things about
the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3.
of all, within Evangelical circles the most common understanding of these
seven letters is that they are directed to seven specific churches in
John's day. Besides that, many
Prophetic Futurists believe that these seven churches represent seven
stages in church history since the Day of Pentecost right up to the last
day of this age. Although I
understand how this secondary interpretation is derived, I've never fully
adopted it, mainly because the text does not specifically state this
interpretation, and also because these letters sound more Old Testament
Jewish in nature than New Testament Christian in nature.
is another less taught view of these seven letters that I am beginning to
support. This view teaches
that these seven letters, although addressed to seven assemblies in cities
in John's day, are directed to Jewish communities at the end of the age.
They say this because of the total Jewish Old Testament style they
are written in. Those holding to this view suggest that if you study
these assemblies carefully they parallel one of seven periods in Old
Testament Jewish history. .
my following commentary I will attempt to point out some main points to
each view. Beyond these two
views, there are some real lessons to be learned, whether you are a Jew or
a Christian. There's much we
can learn from what Jesus says in these letters, both as individual
Christians and the church.
letters are directed to angels as most English texts state.
The word "angel" is translated from the Greek word "aggelos"
which simply means a "messenger".
So, if we should understand angel as a heavenly being, we must
understand those to whom these letters were written had angels over them
or associated with them. If we
are to understand the word to be messenger, as some do, then we're talking
about a human, possibly a pastor, as some believe who hold to the view
that Jesus is speaking to churches. Those
who believe He is speaking to Jewish communities say that the angels are
spokesmen for the priests, since priest had a person speaking on his
behalf in Old Testament times.
Greek word "ekklesia" is translated as "church" in
most English translations. I
see church as being a poor word in this case, especially in light of the
fact that the modern church resembles the first or second generation
church in very little ways. Ekklesia
simply means an assembly or community of people set apart for a specific
purpose, and in this case, the ekklesia is the community of the people of
I've pointed out, the most common view among Prophetic Futurists
concerning these seven letters is that they were written to seven specific
churches that existed when John penned this book.
Beyond this, many, not all, Prophetic Futurists, believe that these
seven churches represent seven different eras in church history.
reason for this thinking is because of the word "church" in our
English Bibles. Because
"ekklesia" is translated ass "church" we think the
church is what is being talked about here.
The problem is that "ekklesia" doesn't have to be
translated as "church". It
could be translated as "assembly", or, as I prefer,
"ekklesia" as assembly or community puts a whole different slant
on one's interpretation of these letters.
You may not think in terms of the New Testament church.
problems that I see in thinking that these seven churches represent seven
eras of church history are as follows.
One problem is that the text does not say this.
This is pure interpretation, as I've said.
The second problem as I see it is that for the most part, those
holding to this view only speak of the western church in their
interpretation, as if the eastern church has never existed.
That's not the case. The
third problem as I see it is that all that is said in these letters is
purely Jewish Old Testament in nature and because of that is hard to apply
to the church.
other less known view that I've pointed out is that the assemblies, or,
the community of God's people spoken of in these letters are Jewish
communities that exist at the end of this age.
This could easily be understood if you don't translate
"ekklesia" as church, but as assembly or community of God's
bottom line for me at the present time is that I prefer not to translate
"ekklesia" as church in Revelation 2 and 3.
As a matter of fact, I prefer to translate "ekklesia" as
"community of God's people" throughout the New Testament, even
when it is in reference to church. I
say this because our modern idea of church is not what the New Testament
thing to note concerns the people of God in Thyatira.
Some early Christian writers of the second century say that at the
time John wrote Revelation there was no church at Thyatira.
If this is so, then those holding to the view that these seven
letters are directed to seven specific churches might be mistaken.
The view that these seven
letters are written to and about the church is well written about.
The view that these letters are written to and about the Jewish
community is less written about. For
this reason, I suggest you read E. W. Bullinger's book entitled "The
Apocalypse". It was
published in 1909. He is a
scholar when it comes to theology, history, and the original languages of
What I will attempt to do
in my commentary is to briefly state some main points of each view as we
as suggest lessons to be learned for both the individual Christian and the
begin, those who believe this letter is written to a church that
represents a particular church era in history say it represents the Apostolic
from Acts 2 to about 100 A D. They
call it the "Apostolic
Note in verse 1 the
words; "to the angel of the church at …"
You will note that each subsequent letter begins this way.
Our English Bibles give us the impression that Jesus was talking to
certain angels who were over these seven churches.
The question should be asked; "Does the word 'angel' mean
angel as we know it"? It's
important to note that both the Greek and Hebrew word translated as angel
in the Bible simply means a messenger.
Therefore, it is possible that these angels were human messengers,
were human leaders sent and appointed by God to the people of God.
At the moment I'm not really sure if these messengers are men or
angels. I've traditionally
understood them to be angels but I now have doubts about that.
was a thriving sea port
metropolis. The goddess Diana
or Artemis was the goddess these people worshiped.
There was a huge temple built for her which was one of the wonders
of the world at that time. It was said that Diana fell from the sky and
thus was also known as the “moon god”.
She was the god that protected animals and the various statues made
of her often had a deer besides her symbolizing this. She was also known
as the “mother god’ symbolizing fertility. Statues of her ranged from
being young with a short tunic or dress to more mature wearing no top to
cover her multiple breasts, symbolizing her nurturing aspect.
The constant reminder and worship of Diana might have been part of
the reason why
The community of
believers at Ephesus
was established by Paul as seen in Acts 20, and the Christians there came
to love him, yet when the book of Revelation was distributed to these
seven communities Paul was long gone.
The next generation of believers was now the ones this prophecy was
directed to, that is, assuming you believe these letters were written to
churches and not Jewish assemblies. Christian tradition states that the
Apostle John was the leader of the church at Ephesus. This is interesting in light
of the fact that Jesus has some very stern warnings about this church.
Just why or how this church good lose its first love, as we will
see, and, just why and how it could tolerate sin, when John was its leader
is hard to know.
disciple of John name Papias, who wrote five books that we don't have,
says that there were actually two Johns.
One John who wrote the gospel, that is, John the apostle, and,
another called John the elder. He
says that John the elder wrote the book of Revelation.
We don't have a record of him saying this.
However, we do have a couple of second century writers who quote
him as saying this. If this is
true, this might well solve the problem that I pointed out in the last
paragraph of the
Jesus introduces Himself as
“the One who holds the seven stars in His hands and walks among the
seven lampstands”. Whether
the stars are real angels or some other kind of messenger, Jesus holds
them. He protects, cares for,
and has authority over them.
Jesus also walks among
the lampstands. Jesus walks
among these seven churches, or, community of God's people. My
thinking is that if He walked among these particular communities, I'm sure
He walked among other communities of believers as well.
Jesus says that He knows
certain things about these community of believers at Ephesus
which He speaks well of. He
says that He knows their deeds, hard work and perseverance. Jesus
acknowledges that these Christians are a very hard working group of people
that don’t give up.
Also, Jesus acknowledges
the fact that this church does “not tolerate wicked men”. He also
knows that they “have tested those who claim to be apostles and are not,
and have found them to be false”. This
is a church not only that has much good works but an emphases on truth and
right teaching, and why not, having one of its leaders being John.
This is the only church
of the seven churches in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3 that mention
apostles. This is one reason
why many believe it to represent the first century church.
Note that Jesus Himself
calls false teachers wicked men. We
should do the same.
In verse 3 we see that
this church had endured much hardship and had not given up or “grown
weary”, such a very good quality to have.
You’d think that Jesus
would be very happy with this church but He isn’t totally happy.
After building these people up and acknowledging some of their good
points, He then says in verse 4, “yet, I hold this against you”.
This must have been a little bit of a shock to these guys.
After hearing the good words they might have been feeling pretty
good about themselves. Now Jesus says that He holds something against
The NIV uses the word
“yet”. Some use the word
word pretty well balances all of the good things that Jesus just said
about these people with the bad things He is about to say.
What Jesus had against
them was the fact “they forsook their first love”.
These people didn’t lose their first love, they left it, that
means they walked away, whether knowingly or unknowingly they left their
affectionate relationship they once had with Jesus.
They probably left it on an individual bases and a collective basis
as well. Remember, Jesus is
talking to the whole church here. He's
saying that the church as a whole has lost its collective love and
affection that they once had. The
fact of the matter is that a whole church cannot lose its first love
without the individuals losing their first love first.
Yes, doctrinally speaking
they were doing well. They
were working hard, but their love for Jesus was lost.
This is often the case. The Christian life for both the individual
and the church becomes routine as we go about the business of church.
This is one of our main problems today.
We’re about the business of church and we’ve lost the love and
affection that we had at the beginning, much like husbands and wives cool
down in their relationship after a few years of marriage.
In verse 5 Jesus says,
“Remember the height from which you have fallen”.
This fall evidently wasn’t just a little drop.
It sounds like a major fall from a high cliff.
Jesus wants them to think about what He is saying by using the word
“remember”. These people
needed to be made aware that they’ve fallen out of love to a major
By the time these words
would have been spoken to this church it would have been the second
generation of Christians. Many,
if not most, of the first Christians would have died off by now.
One of the hardest things for the church to do it seems is to
maintain its fervor for Jesus from one generation to the next.
So what was Jesus’
advice to these people, or should I use the word command?
He first told them to “remember”. They were to “remember”
how it used to be. Once
remembering, Jesus told them to "repent”, that is change your ways.
Then He says to “do the things you did at first”.
There’s three things
Jesus says here - remember,
repent, and do the things you once did, but how could they do that?
This is Jesus’ advice concerning renewing the spark that has been
lost. Once you remember how it
used to be and turn back towards that direction and then start doing the
things you once did, then the spark returns.
The same can be said of
husbands and wives. As time
goes on, things cool down, and the spark in their hearts is lost.
Jesus would tell this couple to remember how things used to be and
turn your attention to returning to those days, and do some of the things
you once did. The doing of
these things will create an affectionate spark in the heart once again.
It is important to know that everything is new only once.
There is some excitement that comes with newness.
I’m not speaking of a return to great excitement.
I’m speaking of an affectionate spark in the heart of men and
women in their marriage relationship.
The same is also true for the believer.
By doing the things you
did when you first became a Christian, the spark can return as well.
Maybe it was reading your Bible.
Maybe it was witnessing. Maybe
it was praying. There are all
sorts of things we once did. Start
doing them again and see the spark return. This is Jesus’ advice to
The last part of verse 5
sounds devastating to me. Jesus
says that if the Ephesian church do not repent, He will come and take
away their lampstand. This
means that Jesus will depart from them, and He will no longer have them as
one of His churches. Yes, they
may continue to exist organizationally, but as a false church.
He will take away their lampstand.
Jesus will take away His Holy Spirit from their midst.
If the Christian tradition is correct that John was the leader of
this church, he must have been devastated by these words.
To think that Jesus would forsake the church that he cared for must
have been hard for him to take. Of
course, this would only be true if the John who wrote Revelation is the
same John who wrote the gospel account.
Many churches today exist
in name only. They are self
propitiating. They can exist
on their own effort, but Jesus has long since left them.
This was what Jesus was warning this church about.
The very crux and intent
of the New Testament is for God to live among His people through His
Spirit. These people were
losing God’s intent for them. If
they were going to continue on this path, then God Himself would remove
Himself from this church.
Verse 5 is a devastating
thought so Jesus had to pick these people up a bit and so He told them
that they had one thing in their favour and that was they hated the
practice of the Nicolaitans as He did too.
The Nicolaitans were a
heretical group with their false apostles and teachers.
They were quite immoral and engaged in sexual orgies.
This group of people adopted the Greco/Roman thinking that separate
soul from body. They believed
the soul was holy and the body was so evil that it was beyond repair.
Therefore, since the body could not be fixed, they gave into its
sinfulness as seen in sexual sins. Adopting a worldly philosophy like this
has hindered the church throughout the ages, right up to this very day.
Note that Jesus hates the
practice of these people. He
doesn’t say that He hates the people.
So we see that Jesus does hate the sin but not the sinner. This
does not suggest that the sinner will be saved in the long run.
Another thing to note is that Jesus “does hate”. He still has
the capacity to hate. Such
hatred is clearly a righteous hatred.
In verse 7 we read, “He
that has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”.
We see a couple of things here.
One thing we see is that the Holy Spirit is speaking.
But I thought that Jesus was speaking?
It is the Spirit of Christ speaking.
Another thing to note is
that “he that has an ear let him hear”.
Who might “he” be referring to?
Is it only “he” who is a part of this Ephesian church?
I don’t think so. Jesus
didn’t say, “He that has an ear from
Jesus closes by saying
that “he that overcomes” will be able to eat from the “tree of life
in the paradise of God”. This
suggests that there is an overcoming process.
We just don’t slide through the Christian life.
It’s not all over as soon as we get saved.
We’ve got things to overcome.
We see this tree of life
in the Garden of Eden and we also see it in the New Jerusalem at the end
of the book of Revelation. That
which was not permitted for Adam will be permitted for those who overcome.
John, in his first letter, (1 John 5:4) tells us who one who
overcomes is. He is one who is
truly born of God. Therefore,
I believe I can safely say that if you see one giving himself to the
world, he is not a real Christian. He
is not one who has been born of God, as in, being born again as John also
says in John 3:1 - 6.
Besides the fact that the
wording in this passage is very Jewish, those holding to the view that
this letter is written to Jewish communities at the end of this age point
to the fact that Jesus', or, Yahweh's, intention for the Jews was to walk
among them. That was the very
purpose of the tabernacle of Moses and later the temple.
The emphases on works and
not grace here is another thing to note.
Jews in Old Testament times were all about works.
It is an interesting project to compare Paul's letter to the
Ephesians with this letter. The
content of each letter almost seems to be written to two different groups.
Either those in
The very mention of
lampstands is a reference to the lampstand in the tabernacle, or, later on
in the temple.
The idea that idolatry is
mentioned here is something to consider when it comes to the Jewish nature
of this letter. Idolatry has
been a constant problem with the Jews throughout history.
This was not so much the case in the church when John penned
For more specific and
technical understanding of this view I refer you again to E. W.
Bullinger's book entitled "The Apocalypse".
There are number of
things that both individual Christians and the church can learn from this
letter. I've already talked
about losing our first love, so I will leave that one.
Another point to be made here is how Jesus hates false doctrine and
false teaching, both of which are becoming more evident in our modern
church. If Jesus hates it, so
should we. Sad to say, the
predominant thinking of much of modern Christianity has little regard for
Jesus commends these
people for their good works. Evangelicals
emphasize good works, especially in light of Ephesians 2:8 - 10 which
states that we are not saved by works but by grace.
There is no doubt about that. That
being said, the same passage states that we as Christians are called to do
good works. Evangelicals must
never forget this fact.
This section ends with
the admonition to overcome. Much
of Christianity today is suffering for the sake of Christ.
The western world Christian has not experienced as much suffering
as other Christians in the past, but, because the west is forsaking its
Judeo/Christian past, we can expect severe persecution in the days ahead.
It's already beginning to happen.
This admonition to overcome speaks to us today.
We can't overlook it.
who believe that the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2 and 3
represent seven different church ages in church history call this church
the Persecuted church. It
existed from about 100 A D to about 312 A D.
They call this age the Persecuted church because during this time
period the whole church had been persecuted more than any other whole
church in history. It's not
that parts of the church haven't experienced such persecution in other
eras of history because parts have. We're
talking about the whole church here. Every
part of the church experienced persecution and poverty during this time
period. It has been said
that there might have been at least five million Christians killed during
this time period.
who believe these letters are written to Jewish communities at the end of
this age parallel this Jewish assembley to Israel's wandering in the
desert because what is stated seems to portray
Israel's wandering in the wilderness.
For my comment on the
word "angel" and the word "church" in this section I
refer you back to my introduction to Revelation 2 and 3.
Jesus addresses this
assembly by saying He is the First and Last,
The acknowledgements that
Jesus made to these people
“Yet you are rich”,
Jesus says. It is clear that
the richness that Jesus is referring to here is rich in the Spirit, rich
in faith. Even though these
people were materially poor, Jesus saw them as rich.
This tells you something about Jesus’ view of richness.
This should also tell you about the false teaching of the
Prosperity Gospel that is being taught these days.
It's simply false doctrine.
Verrse 9 is both interesting and controversial.
The verse speaks of
who believe Jesus is speaking to a New Testament church here in chapter 2
will remind us what Jesus said about the Jews while on earth. He said
that the father of the Jews was really the devil and not God. See
John 8:44. The point to be made here is that the synagogue was
really the synagogue of satan as stated by Jesus here in Revelation 2.
Concerning the Jews in
holding to the view that these seven letters are written to Jewish
communities at the end of this age point out that it makes no sense,
especially in John's day that Christians would want to portray themselves
as Jews. If this letter is
written to Jews during the tribulation, then the Jews of the synagogue of
satan are of the same apostate Jewish stream that Jesus said belonged to
satan in John 8.
Jesus tells these people not to fear what they will soon experience in the way of
persecution. They will be put
into prison and some may even die. Yet
all this will be “a test”. If
they pass the test, even though they die, they will receive a “crown of
life”. Jesus will reward
them in Heaven.
The NIV says that these
people will suffer persecution for 10 days.
Some scholars say that these words can also be interpreted
“within 10 days”, meaning, “Within 10 days” persecution will
begin. Whether these people
experience persecution for ten days, or it will come in 10 days, Jesus
wants them to remain faithful, and even more than that.
The Greek verb tense suggest that they actually become more
faithful in these times of tribulation, not merely keeping the faith they
Some try to make something out of these ten days. The 10 days are either ten literal days or a short time. Some Greek scholars say that this is actually a first century Greek idiom, meaning a short time. Some suggest that during this particular church age that there was ten distinct periods of tribulation. Others suggest that the ten are ten years just prior to 312 A D which was the worst era of persecution in this time period. Still others feel that these ten days represent ten distinct and historic times within this time period when persecution of Christians were at its worst.
am taking numbers in the book of Revelation
to be literal, I tend to believe these ten days are ten literal days, and,
if you believe this letter is written to a Jewish community during the
tribulation, you would tend to believe they are ten literal days as well.
This passage reminds me of Matthew 10:22 where Jesus tells his Jewish followers that they will be hated by all men for His name sake, but they must endure unto the very end.
tells these people to be faithful to the point of death. If they are
faithful they will receive a crown of life. Whether you believe
these words were directed to Christians in the first century or Jewish
believers in the tribulation, both will receive a crown of life.
Christians were imprisoned and killed in the first century. The same
is true for believers during the tribulation period. The crown of
life speaks of the resurrected life we have in Jesus and all that goes
along with it.
again the admonition is given to those who hear what is said.
He that has an ear to hear let him hear.
We all have ears. We
need to first hear the Word of the Lord and then we need to take it to
heart in order to understand it.
that Jesus says that the devil will put these people in prison.
The text states that this is a test.
Jesus then says to remain faithful.
God allows the devil to imprison these people in order to test
their faith. Whether
Christians or Jews, tests are always meant to be a test of our trust in
For those who overcome
the tribulation, they will not experience the second death.
The second death is the Lake of Fire, which I believe is eternal
judgment where people are always in the process of dying, and even wanting
to die, but can’t.
We should note that Jesus had nothing bad to say about these poeple. They were faithful to Him despite all of the persecution it went through and all the poverty it had to endure. This tells us something about persecution. It tells us that persecution is part of being Christian. It is a tool in the hand of the Lord to strengthen His people. The simple fact is that if Christians are living godly lives in an ungodly world, they will suffer persecution to one extent or another.
The western church hasn't suffered such persecution much because of
its Christian influence, but, as this influence disappears, which it is
now doing, we can expect persecution.
It's beginning to happen at this very moment.
This also tells us something about poverty.
Poverty doesn't mean one is out of the will of God.
It often means just the opposite.
The Prosperity Gospel that is popular in today's church is a false
and damaging doctrine. Poverty
pushes people into Jesus, or at least it should.
If poverty is a sign that one is out of God's will then the Apostle
Paul was never in God's will, and I don't believe that to be true.
Those who believe that
this letter was written to Jewish communities living at the end of this
age point out in verse 8 that Jesus tells these people that He died and
rose from the dead. This is
the admonition that Jesus would have to tell these people at the end of
this age. The one that they
have claimed not to be their Messiah for so long is their Messiah.
This is the very message that the 144,000 Jewish evangelists of
Revelation 7 will preach.
For those who hold to the
thinking that this letter also represents the Jews wandering in the
wilderness point out the poverty and slanders mentioned in verse 9.
The Jews in the wilderness were poor and looked down upon as they
Lessons for us to learn
from this church are many. As
I've said earlier, poverty does not mean you are out of God's will.
Poverty doesn't mean you are not blessed by God.
If this were so much of the first generation church would be out of
God's will and that would include the Apostle Paul, who clearly was not
out of God's will.
Overcoming persecution is
a theme in most all of these seven letters.
There is much for Christians to overcome in ordinary daily life but
as we approach the end of this age all Christians everywhere will suffer
for the sake of Christ. Even
those in the western world who have not suffered so will suffer.
We must overcome.
For those who see these
churches as various periods of time throughout church history, this church
is often called "the Indulged Church" that existed between 312 to 606 A D. During this
time, beginning with the Roman Emperor Constantine, the church adopted all
sorts of pagan ways in an attempt to make pagans feel at ease in church.
The church did this because
Those who hold to the
view that these letters are addressed to Jewish communities at the end of
this age parallel this Jewish assembly to the last part of Israel's wandering in the wilderness.
Jesus introduces Himself
as the “one who has the sharp double-edged sword”.
If you remember in the description of Jesus in chapter 1, He had
such a sword coming out of His mouth.
It represents His Word, and the power of His Word.
Jesus says in verse 13,
“I know where you live – where satan has his throne”.
The symbol for the god Asklepois was a snake, just like satan’s
symbol. There was lots of
ungodly worship here. Satan
seemed to live here in a special way.
The Greek word for the
English word "throne" simply means "a seat", usually
associated with the seat, or chair, of the head of the house.
This suggests that satan was in fact the head of this city.
It is understood by many, if not most Bible teachers, that the
reference to "satan's throne" is in reference to the temple
dedicated to Zeus. Of course, this is only if you believe this
letter was addressed to a church and not a Jewish community during the
Jesus speaks of a man
named Antipas, who was killed for his faith in Jesus.
Jesus acknowledged that the church did not give up on its faith
even when Antipas was killed. Many
might forsake their faith if a friend gets killed for his faith.
The name Antipas means “against all”.
No one really knows who this man was.
If this letter was specifically directed to the
church in Pergamaum then Antipas would have been
executed at the
It is interesting to note
that during the last half of the 19th century much of the
who believe this letter is written to a Jewish community prior to the
return of Christ will tell you that Antipas will be a real man in history.
The Bible does prophesy about specific men prior to them being
alive. King Cyrus of
Verse 14 says,
“Nevertheless, I have a few things against you…”
Jesus says that within the church there are people like Balaam in
the Old Testament. Balaam tried to walk both sides of the fence, that is,
try to follow God and the Gentile king Balak. That’s impossible and in
the long run Balaam led
the tribulation, the anti-Christ will do exactly as Balaam did.
He will unite the religions of the world, fuse it with sensuality
and sexuality, as was the case back the both the Greek and Roman culture.
This could well be an allusion to the anti-Christ's religion.
We will talk more about this in later chapters.
Jesus also told these
people that some followed the Nicolatian cult, as we saw the Ephesus
church successfully fight against. This
cult believed that the soul was sacred while the body was sinful and
corrupt, with no way to be saved or helped.
Therefore, the cult gave themselves to the sins of the flesh
because there was no way to overcome these sins.
These people also gave themselves to a highly structured
authoritarian structure that Jesus did not appear to approve of.
In verse 16 Jesus tells
these people to “repent” or else He’d soon come and “fight against
them with the sword of His mouth”. These
are strong words. Jesus
Himself in one sense of the word would become the enemy of these people.
Jesus would fight these people.
Jesus would fight against His apostate people, whether they be the
church or Israel.
I’m not clear what this would look like, but it does not sound
Note in verse 16 that Jesus says that He would come to those people this letter is addressed to. Then He says that He would "fight against them". The word "them" must be in reference to those holding to the false doctrine. Again, we see that Jesus detests false doctrine. Right teaching is important to Him.
Note that Jesus would fight those who hold to
this false doctrine of with the sword of His mouth. Balaam was
actually killed by the sword as seen in Numbers 31
Verse 17 gives the
admonition to those who can hear as He does in the other letters.
Again, if you have ears, you must listen, take
note, and understand what Jesus is saying.
Again, if you have ears, you must listen, take note, and understand what Jesus is saying.
For those who can
overcome these things, Jesus says that He will give them hidden manna and
a white stone with a new name written on it.
Both of these signify better things to come in the next life.
There are a number of
possibilities of what the white stones might be.
In Roman courts, those who were acquitted were given a white stone,
and those who were condemned were given a black stone.
Jesus has acquitted us. White
stones were also often used as an invitation card to a special event.
Manna is in reference to
the manna that Israelis ate while escaping from
As I will say in all of
these letters, those holding to the view that these letters are directed
to Jewish communities point out the Jewish nature of this letter to back
Balaam is seen in
began to be tempted by other religions while wandering in the wilderness.
Although there is no
specific reference in the first five books of the Old Testament that satan
was behind Israel's problems, as we see in this letter, he certainly was.
Satan opposes all that God does and he certainly opposed God's
attempt to get
that those who overcome will receive a new name on this stone. We
see in Isaiah 65:15 that the remnant of
Besides what I've already
mention, we can learn much from this letter.
As in most of these seven letters, the fight against false teaching
and false doctrine among Christians and the church is always something to
stand against. It seems to me
that in today's church, more than in recent times, we have false teaching
inflicting the church. The
most predominant one I see today is the push to unite Christianity with
all other world religions. We
see this in the movement known as Chrislam that attempts to unite
Christianity with Islam. This
is like mixing oil with water. It
can't work. These two
religions are so far removed from each other at the core that it makes
such union impossible. The
only way to unite these two religions is to change the core values and
teachings of both religions, and by doing that, you no longer have the
pure religion you started with, but this is what the anti-Christ will do as he
comes onto the world scene. Then, half way through the seven
year tribulation he will turn his religion around. It will no longer
be a united religion, but a religion that worships him and satan.
those who believe this church represents a church age, this church would
correspond to what would be called the "Pagan Church" of the
dark ages, from 606 A D to the end of this age.
Simply put, this is the Catholic Church which is a product of the
paganization that took place after 312 A D.
I would also include the eastern churches which came about as a
split from the Roman church.
those who believe these letters are written to and about Jewish assemblies
at the end of this age parallel this to the time of
was the least important and smallest of the seven cities that are
addressed in these letters. One
important thing in Thyatira was the importance of trade unions, which was
important if you were in business. Each
one of these trade unions had a god in charge, and union meetings had the
worship of this god involved. Meet
offered to idols were eaten in these meetings.
Sexual immorality was part of the meetings, because sexual
immorality was part of all god worship.
addresses Himself to these people as the one with the “eyes of fire and
the feet of bronze”. Jesus
sees through everything that is going on in this church and his feet that
have been tried in the fire will move swiftly in judgment. Eyes of fire
suggest judgment of ungodliness. The
feet of brass suggest strength and the refined by fire process that bronze
needs to go through to be strong. Jesus
went through this process and thus has the authority to judge.
acknowledges the good He sees in these people.
In verse 19 He says, “I know your deeds, love and faith, and your
perseverance”. Like with
these He addressed in the other letters, persecution was ramped.
Many of the believers endured with great love and faith.
Jesus even says that their works are more than they were at the
first. These people were
growing in good works despite all that was happening to them.
the growth in good works it is interesting that Jesus points this out.
He must think it is important for us to grow in doing good works,
yet way to often our good works become stagnant and don’t increase.
Evangelicals stress that we aren't saved by good works as seen in
Ephesians 2:8 to 10, but sometimes they forget that this passage also
states that we are called to good works.
Good works must imamate from faith, not from legalism.
scholars suggest that this Jezebel seen in verse 20 is a reminder of the Jezebel of the Old
Testament. She was the King
Ahab's wife who led the nation away into idolatry; Baal worship to
This Jezebel is doing the same. See 1 Kings 16:30 and following, 1 Kings 19:2,and, 1 Kings 21:25.
See 1 Kings 16:30 and following, 1 Kings 19:2,and, 1 Kings 21:25.
this letter is directed to the chruch at Thyatira then what
most likely happened was that Jezebel encouraged the men to go to the
union meetings where the god worship took place, along with ceremonial
feasts, with the eating of meat. Also
sexual immorality took place at these meetings and Jezebel encouraged
this. Men would most likely
justify this by saying it was part of their business, and if they didn’t
attend the meetings, they would suffer financially.
We might note here that what Jesus is talking about is the spirit of Jezebel and not Jezebel herself since she lived in Old Testament times.
Those who hold to the thinking that this letter is
directed to Jews in the tribulation will point out to you that Jesus
mentions Jezebel, a lady well known to Jews in their history.
They will also point out the emphasis on works, something Israelis
would also be familiar with.
Jesus dislikes about these people is that they “tolerate” this woman
and her teaching. This tells
you something about the word “tolerate” that is so often used in
society and the church today, and how Jesus feels about the concept of
toleration. Jesus does not
tolerate any kind of sin or false teaching and neither should we. In
the name of tolerance, love, and unity, we tolerate way too much, or so I
believe. I believe this is
what Jesus is getting at here.
need to note one thing about the eating of food offered to idols. Paul, in
1 Corinthians 10 and 11 speaks to this issue.
He says that he has no problem eating food offered to idols,
especially if he doesn’t know it has been offered to an idol, so for
that reason, he doesn’t ask any questions about the food he eats.
Paul would eat food offered to idols, but he would not eat it in
the context of idol worship.
my thinking is that Jesus, when speaking of food offered to idols, must be
thinking in the same context as Paul.
This woman was most likely mixing Christian thinking with idol
worship and allowing idol worship into Christian gatherings.
Jesus does not like such a mixture.
He didn’t then, and He doesn’t now.
All that being said, for those who believe Jesus is speaking to Jewish communities at the end of this age, eating of food is not appropriate. You might ask why this would be the case in New Testament times. Those who believe that these letters are written to Jewish communities at the end of this age will tell you that the church has already been raptured. The age of grace is over, Jews are the center of attention, and God will hold them to their promise to obey the Law of Moses, which includes the dietary laws that they promised to keep.
The point to be made here is that Jesus will hold the
Jews to their promise to keep the Law of Moses. The reason for the
time of Jacob's trouble that is seen in Revelation is due to the fact that
says that Jezebel is “misleading His servants”.
It is one thing for a person to participate in sin, but it is
another thing for him to mislead another person in the same sin. I
think this is a very strong warning to those false teachers today who are
misleading God's people, whether Christians or Jews.
verses 21 and 22 Jesus tells these people that He has given her time to
repent but she “is unwilling”. Jesus
gave this sinful woman time to repent. That’s important.
He did not throw her out right away.
As a result of her not repenting He will “cast her on a bed of
suffering”. The bed is in
reference to the bed of immorality. Jezebel
will suffer for her actions. Jesus
always gives us time to repent.
doesn’t stop there. For
those who follow her He will cause them “to suffer intensely”.
This is Jesus speaking here. This
should end any discussion concerning Jesus not being just, or not being
angry at any of us for the sin we commit.
then says that He “will strike her children dead”.
I’m assuming this is literal children.
Some might suggest that it is her spiritual children.
If it were her physical children, you might wonder if they’ve
followed her teaching, if not, why would Jesus kill them.
This does show you the degree to which Jesus will go in judgment
and it seems this judgment is not for the future but for the present day
in which this woman lived.
That's assuming you believe this letter was
specifically directed to a community of Christ in this city.
That's assuming you believe this letter was
specifically directed to a community of Christ in this city.
verse 23 Jesus gives the results of His actions of judgment.
He says that all of God's people will then know that it is He that
searches the hearts and minds and will repay evil with His judgment.
The Greek literally says, “heart and kidney”.
In Greek culture the heart was the place of intellect, while the
kidney was the place of emotion. The NIV uses “heart and mind” because
it is an idiom that best fits our cultural idiom.
This is a scary and awesome thought.
Jesus does not judge according to our outward works alone.
He judges on the basis of what we think in our minds and how we
feel in our hearts. Both heart
and mind must be given to Jesus.
learn here that an outward sign of God's judgment tells those who see the
judgment that He is Lord over all. Judgment
plays a very important part in the plan of God for both the individual and
for His people, whether Christian or Jew.
is Jesus that will repay evil done in this world.
We don't have to worry about that.
We should not be making any attempts to do God's work in this
respect, but, throughout history we have certainly tried.
Whether we like that idea or not, Scripture clearly teaches that
God’s wrath will be poured out on the wicked.
verses 24 and 25 Jesus tells those who have not followed Jezebel in her
evil teaching that He would not put any other burden on these people,
except to encourage them to keep up the good works they are doing. There
does come a time when God won't place more on us than what we can bear.
This is what we see here.
calls Jezebel’s teaching “satan’s so-called deep secrets”.
Satan has no deep secrets. He
has no truth that should be taught. He’s
been a liar and always will be. This
does tell us that satan is behind all false teaching that inflicts God's
closes this letter by saying that to him that overcomes and does His will
to the very end, He will give authority over nations.
We must overcome and we must continue in God’s will to the end.
Too many don’t make it to the end.
But for those who do, Jesus will give them authority over nations,
whatever that means.
the end of this age there will be lots for people to overcome in the era
of the anti-Christ. The big
thing to overcome is their fear of death and the love of their lives.
Many of God's people will be executed during the tribulation, but
some day they will rule with Jesus. That
some day will be during the thousand year rule of Jesus on earth as seen
later on in Revelation.
those who believe these letters are written to Jewish communities at the
end of this age make comment on the fact that the immoral people's
children will be put to death as seen in verse 23.
Zechariah 13:8 tells us that two thirds of Israelis will be killed
in judgment at the end of this age. Verse
23 might well be in reference to that.
this letter is full of Old Testament illusions and language that is quite
unfamiliar with the New Testament church. It is hard to imagine that Jesus
is talking about New Testament Christians who are saved by grace and not
Verse 27 states that Jesus will rule with a rod of iron. This is in reference to the thousand year rule of Christ on earth. The very fact that Jesus will have to rule with a rod of iron tells me that there are some who survive the tribulation who are not believers. They live on into the thousand years and do have the opportunity to not obey Jesus. I won't expand on this thought because I've done that elsewhere. The point I make here is that the thousand year rule of Christ looks more like this present age than the new earth we see at the end of Revelation. Yes, there will be peace on earth but it is relative peace, not perfect peace. If you read the last chapter of the book of Zechariah, you'll note that there is the possibility of nations not responding to the rule of Christ in a positive way.
should comment on the word "rule" here.
It is translated from the Greek word "poimano" which
means to tend or care for as a shepherd cares for his sheep.
This word is used in the New Testament to denote pastors or
shepherds of God's people. In
our western world we tend to view a ruler as a king, president, or a prime
minister. Jesus is all of
those and more, but, as King He cares for people as a father would care
for his children. His caring
is balanced between loving support and discipline.
The rod spoken of here is used for both discipline and direction,
not discipline only.
is much to be learned here. One
thing is that God hates and despises false teaching, false teachers, and
those who lead His people astray. His
judgment is severe. I don't
believe our modern day church really understands this.
In many parts of the church today, and that includes the
Evangelical church, this is seldom taught.
fast to our faith as seen in verse 25 is something else that isn't thought
much of today. It's my
thinking that Christians today don't think in terms of holding fast
because we are overly preoccupied with the joys of this present life.
I would suggest that in the process of enjoying this present age
more than we should, our faith is weakening.
We are not holding fast to our faith.
Instead we are letting our faith slip.
For those believers who live in and live through the
tribulation there will be great need to hold fast.
It will not be easy for them.