Hold fast: Devotional Commentary for October 17-23
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us wisdom and insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
18"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:
19'I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.
The letter to Thyatira was the fourth of seven letters written to the churches in Asia Minor. Thyatira was located inland about forty miles east of Pergamum. The city was founded by Seleucus, one of the four Generals who succeeded Alexander the Great. It was built as a buffer to protect Pergamum against military incursions. Thyatira was best known probably for its thriving trade guilds of: bronze smiths, potters, bakers, tanners, and various garment workers. Lydia, a seller of purple-dyed garments and one of the first converts under Paul's ministry, was a Jewish citizen of Thyatira.
Jesus identified Himself with powerful expressions as the Writer of the letter to the church in Thyatira. He sent the letter in His Divinity as the Son of God, in His Omniscience as the All-Searching God, and in His Sovereignty as the All-Wise, Righteous, and Just Judge. His eyes are like flames of fire. There is no darkness before Him. His feet resemble a glowing brass. He judges in Righteousness. He is Jesus Christ God the Son.
- Pause here for a moment and reflect on Who the Speaker is! -
Jesus commended the church in Thyatira for their labor, love, faith, service, and perseverance. Their labor of love continued to advance in growth, reflecting maturity in faith and love. The labor of the faithful believers in Thyatira was praiseworthy. Their love for God and their service to Him were motivated by their abiding love for Jesus Christ. With much patience, they remained faithful to God the Almighty despite all the evil and ungodliness that surrounded them.
20'But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
21'I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.
22'Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.
23'And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
The faithful, loving, serving, and persevering saints at Thyatira were found guilty of supportive tolerance like their brethren in Pergamum. In no uncertain words, Jesus told the believers in Thyatira that their accommodative tolerance resulted in the proliferation of immorality and idol worship among them. He said that the woman Jezebel, who calls herself prophetess, taught and led believers and bond servants in their church to immorality and idol worship.
Jesus held the church accountable for its tolerance and indifference which afforded favorable occasions for the infiltration of immorality and idol worship into the church; not for the woman's behavior. He dealt with the woman from a different perspective. But the members of the church should have known better than tolerating the ungodly woman among them. Their faith, love, service, perseverance, and labor were commendable and maturing. Why then would they let immorality and idol worship infiltrate the church?
Most scholars suggest that the reference to the woman Jezebel is an allusion to the Old Testament recalcitrant heathen queen by that name. Be that as it may, the Lord exposed a woman who was not stopped from spreading her heretical teachings throughout the church. The irresolute indecision of the church gave her some level of prominence and strong influence which she used to entice the Lord's servants to engage in immorality and idolatry.
The Lord gave the woman gracious opportunities to repent of her adulterous and idolatrous ways, but she refused. Her obstinacy was consequential. So both the woman and her impenitent children and consorts would be thrown into a bed of sickness and would be ultimately consumed by a pernicious epidemic agonizing in intense misery. They would be deathly sick in the bed where they corrupted themselves in a depraved carnal pleasure.
Then the church shall witness and recognize that the Lord God the Almighty is Holy, Righteous, Just, and Gracious. His eyes are like a flame of fire. His search reaches deep into the heart and soul of men. It cannot be hindered. Christ alone possesses the power to search the minds and hearts of every individual and to know the motive behind every deed. Whereas the Lord addressed the entire church in Thyatira, He also offered assurance that every believer within that church would not be condemned for the exploits of a few, but each one will be held accountable for one's behaviors and actions.
24'But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them--I place no other burden on you.
25'Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.
The Son of God spoke more gently to those in Thyatira who have not welcomed or supported the doctrine of Jezebel. He promised that they would not be visited with the same judgment as Jezebel and her consorts. He would not place any more burden upon them. They would not share in the consequences of those who embraced the woman's depraved teachings.
The Lord Jesus Christ encouraged those believers who were not ensnared by the deep things of satan to persevere until His return. He assured those who were not enticed by satan's deceiving ways and remained firm in their faith that they are safe from the penalty determined upon immorality and idolatry. The Lord encouraged these believers to persist in faith, looking forward to their victory in Christ instead of slipping into discouragement because of Jezebel and her wicked influences in the church.
26'He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS;
27AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father;
28and I will give him the morning star.
29'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'
Quoting the Scriptures which describe His own Authority, Jesus promised His persevering faithful followers that they will rule over the nations with Him in His Authority. Like Jesus the victorious King, they will prevail in Him over the nations with the rod of iron. They will crush them into pieces like pottery. They will receive the morning star and shall have the nations as their inheritance in Christ and have the ends of the earth as their possession.
These are the ones who overcome in Christ, persevere in Christ, and persist in faith in Christ. Jesus imparts to them everything the Father has given to Him as the obedient servant, the conquering Victor, and His beloved Son in Whom the Father is pleased. Once again, the Lord Jesus strongly urges the persevering faithful believers in Thyatira and all the saints across the ages to heed and discern what the Spirit says to the churches, and to descry the significance of the commendations and reproofs in the letter to the church in Thyatira.
Jesus spoke well of the church in Thyatira regarding their deep and abiding love for the Lord. Their lives openly reflected a living testimony of the transforming power of Jesus Christ. They were loving, faithful, serving, and enduring. In fact, the Lord openly testified that the church portrayed a stronger Christian maturity during their latter years than at the beginning.
However, Jesus saw a terrible blight within this community of believers. There were chronic compromises in the church resulting in sexual immorality and pervasive debauchery. There was a woman of some prominence in the church who was leading some of the flock down the wrong pathway to open contempt. Much like the Jezebel of Israel during the reign of Ahab, the prominent woman in Thyatira, also identified as Jezebel, seduced members of the church to indulge in sexual immorality and idol worship.
Jesus indicted the church at Thyatira for tolerating such blatant corruption and for worshiping idols, forsaking God Who created them and redeemed them for Himself. Jesus dispensed His judgment, condemning the woman and her followers to a bed of sickness and death. Jesus' swift judgment confirms to all, especially believers, that sin cannot evade judgment because Jesus is the only One Who is able to search hearts and minds.
One wonders then, how such a growing, maturing, and faithful church could tolerate such blatant contempt toward God. However, we do not have to look very far to find the answer to this question. Even though the redeemed continue to live in the security of Gods saving grace, the battle between the dying sin nature and the growing new man continues to rage in the heart of God's children. The old Adamic nature, still functioning as a source of corruption and contempt in all mortals including believers, continues to exert its subtle influences to undermine the godly dispositions of the children of God.
Like all believers across the ages, the conduct and demeanor of the Christians in Thyatira were profoundly influenced by their sin nature. They failed to discern the error of their ways once they were overwhelmed by the ungodly behaviors of those who were divisive and those who were apathetic among them. Thus they conduct themselves more in their natural ways rather than as the transformed children of God.
Consequently, as Christians who are overwhelmed by a deep sense of responsibility, we often misstep and over-extend our ministry of Love and compassion beyond the godly range of godly care, seeking to do God's work in our own way rather than as guided by the Spirit. Our misunderstandings and misapplications of the mandate to love and to serve usually result in opening the door for indifference, supportive tolerance, corruption and unsolicited infiltration. But let us be of good cheer because Jesus is returning. Jesus is coming again to judge the wicked and to reward His saints. He sees everything, knows everything, and judges everything. His eyes are like flames of fire. Let us not fall prey to the seduction of Jezebel, or worship false gods, or tolerate those in our midst who do.
Let us draw closer to God and to one another in love, faith, service, and perseverance, but never leave ourselves unguarded against the subtle influences of well-delivered falsehoods. Our ways are cleansed by the Word of Truth, the Word of God. He Who has overcome has made us overcomers so that we might persevere in faith and live in obedience.