The Church at Thyatira, Part 4 of 6 (series: Lessons on Revelations)
by John Lowe
22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
In verses 22 and 23, three parties are named who will be judged. The first: Jezebel. The second: those who commit fornication with her. Third: her children . . . the offspring as a result of fornication. Jezebel will not “repent,” her judgment is certain; and those who ally with her will be judged unless they repent of their wickedness committed with Jezebel. The judgment would be so dramatic that all the churches would know that Christ is the One who searches hearts and minds. Having given this woman time to repent, God was to judge her upon “a bed” (lit., “sickbed,” RSV; “bed of pain” (NEB) of tribulation in place of her bed of lust. Since she used a luxurious bed to commit her immorality, and the reclining couch at the idol feasts to eat things offered to false gods, He was to give her a bed in hell where she would live forever. Her children will be killed with death (23) . . . and frankly, I believe that goes further than physical death. I believe it means that they will be tormented forever and ever in the lake of fire, and will die eternally.
One of the last acts of the Old Testament Jezebel was to paint her face in an attempt to conceal her identity, but she died a horrible death nevertheless (2 Kings 9:30-37). Rome has been pretending for centuries to be something other than what she is, but the Lord knows her and will finally judge her.
“Great Tribulation” could mean the Great Tribulation into which the apostate church will go.
23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
“Children” are those who were brought up under this corrupt church system. The church was about 40 years old as John wrote, and her teaching had produced a second generation, advocating this same depravity.
“And I will kill her children with death” has been translated, “Let them be put to death with death,” and, “I will strike her children dead,” referring to the second death. This phrase, most likely, refers to Jezebel’s followers, her spiritual children, those whom she had convinced to compromise with the pagan world. God wanted the church to deal with Jezebel. This judgment would be an example so that all the churches would know that God can see the (with his “blazing eyes,” 2:18) the thoughts and intentions of every person. No matter how a person appears on the outside, God alone knows what is going on in that person’s heart. No one can hide from Christ; he knows what is in every person’s heart and mind. Those who work against Christ will be found out and will receive whatever they deserve.
“The reins” (mind) means literally the kidneys and refers to the total psychological makeup—the thoughts, the feelings, the purposes. The heart is the seat of the intellect. When He searches the reins and the hearts, it means that He searches our entire beings.
One day every knee will bow, and every tongue shall confess to God (Romans 14:11). In that day, the masses will learn who God’s Vicar is, and who the head of the Church is. They will learn who judges and who forgives. It is no secret that Rome claims to be the representative of God Almighty on this earth today. But friends, God has only one representative on earth today—the Holy Ghost—and He (the Holy Ghost) is in the world, calling out a people who will make up the Bride, the New Testament Church. We are convicted through the power of the Spirit (John 16:7-9). We are born of the Spirit (John 3:5-7). We are baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 12:12, 13). We are led by the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:14). We are assured by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16. He indwells every believer (Romans 8:9), and He seals every believer until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). God’s Vicar on earth today is the Holy Ghost—not the pope. No man or woman is God’s representative on earth in this glorious Dispensation of the Church.
In Scripture, salvation is always according to faith; judgment is always according to works. The classic passage on this is Romans 2:1-16. But we are saved by God’s grace, through faith. Salvation is the gift of God—but all believers will be rewarded according to their works (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). The same is true concerning the wicked who die in their sin and open their eyes in hell. They will be judged according to their works (Revelation 20:11-15). Human works are always the basis for future judgment (20:12, 13; Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6). Works do not save (Ephesians 2:8, 9), but they are evidence of salvation (James 2:14-26). Salvation depends upon whether or not we receive Jesus as Savior. If we receive Him
we are saved; if we reject Him we are lost. But our eternal reward, whether in Heaven or hell, will be determined by our labors. There will be degrees of rewards in Heaven. There will be degrees of torment in hell. Every person will be judged righteously—God cannot judge any other way.
24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
He called the remnant of true believers the “rest in Thyatira” . . . those who “have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan (“those who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets,” NIV).”
The church in Thyatira, we know from history, had a very brief existence because it went down with the city when it was captured by the enemy.
Some commentators have suggested that “the depths of Satan” perhaps refers to a Gnostic sect known as the Ophites who worshipped the serpent. They made a mockery of Paul’s words. All heresy boasts of superior spiritual perception, and that is what this group did. But let’s keep in mind who it is that Paul has been talking about; Jezebel. It is not likely that he would change his focus without revealing who it is that he is talking about. This teaching of “deep things” probably involve so-called sacred insights that were guaranteed to promote deeper spiritual life. If you want to get some idea of the “depths” of degradation to which Jezebel led the children of Israel, read 2 Kings 23.
Not all at “Thyatira,” however, were a party to the wicked precepts and practices of Jezebel. The Lord distinguishes between the false and the true, His sheep and the goats, and the remnant and those who do not believe.
Apparently, things at “Thyatira” were too far gone for the remnant to be able to cope with the matter. The Lord does not ask the impossible. He tells the faithful remnant to keep clear of the cult with its satanic doctrines and depths and to maintain their testimony until such time as He Himself steps in. Like righteous Lot in the midst of ancient Sodom, the faithful ones vexed their righteous souls from day to day because of the conduct and conversation of the wicked ones in their midst. They have not been able to stem the tide. Jezebel had been too cagey, too dynamic, and altogether too determined for them. But they had refused to follow the crowd. They held fast to the truth, although no doubt they were mocked, maligned, and misunderstood.
The Lord promised not to place upon them any other “burdens.” The additional burden that will not be added to them probably refers to anything further than the service they have already been called to as disciples of Jesus. You may rest assured that God will not permit more to come upon us than we are able to bear through His grace. He always furnishes sufficient grace for every trial.
Some compare Thyatira to believers in the Middle Ages when Protestantism separated from Roman Catholicism and attempted a return to purity in doctrine and life. The prominence of Jezebel as a woman prophetess is sometimes compared to the unscriptural exultation of Mary. The participation in idolatrous feasts can illustrate the false teaching that the Lord’s Supper is another sacrifice of Christ.
25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
These dear people were not to surrender what they had. They were to hang on regardless of the wickedness and immorality of all others. They were to stand fast, they were to refuse to compromise, resting assured that one day Jesus would deliver them from the trials and suffering through which they were passing. The admonition to all believers is to “hold fast till I come!” Always bear in mind, Christian, we are Pilgrims and strangers in a strange land. This world is not our home, and we cannot feel at home in this world. We are not of the world, as Jesus was not of the world. If they hated Him they will hate us. If they persecuted Him they will persecute us. If they crucified Him do not be surprised if they nailed us to a cross. But we have the promise that one day the moment of deliverance will come—He will come “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” We are to stand fast, occupy, and be faithful until He comes. This might seem to be a small thing, but in the midst of infidelity, it means much to Him. He reminds the true children of His Kingdom that He is coming. This is a strong incentive to carry on with courage until the end. Our Lord is coming back for His own, and nothing will please Him more than to find us loving His appearing and looking for Him (1 John 2:289
). Then we will receive a full reward for our faithful labor of love in the Lord.