Newell: Romans, Revelation
Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;Chapter 2: The Seven Letters- Revelation 2:1-29; Revelation 3:1-22
About one-eighth of the book of Revelation is taken up with these seven messages. The true student of God’s word learns to give most attention to what God most emphasizes. Therefore we beg the reader not to pass lightly over these seven solemn messages from the Lord Himself concerning our own days, nor to be in undue haste to get over into the distinctly prophetic and more spectacular part of The Revelation, beginning at chapter four.
Some one truly says, “There is always a tendency in the human heart to become occupied with the dispensation in which we are not.”
The things that are, the messages to the churches, search us out in a most peculiar way. “Most interpreters pass over this portion of the book slightly.” (Alford)
“In his latter days, Bengel strongly recommended to those about him careful meditation in these messages to the churches. He said, ‘Scarcely anything is so fitted to affect and purify us.’” (Hengstenberg)
I. Ephesus-First Love Left
THE ADDRESS: These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, he that walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.
This address is general, including all churches: for it was at Ephesus that believers were by Paul entirely separated from connection with Judaism (Acts 19:8; Acts 19:10). Moreover, Christ is seen judicially walking about (Greek, peripateo) among them.
Ephesus had a great beginning! (Read Acts 19:1-41.) Paul, and Timothy, and all truth (Acts 20:20; 1 Timothy 1:3).
But now the Lord must declare to her, her present state in His eyes.
CONDITION KNOWN: I know thy works. This word, “I know” is repeated seven times, once to each church. It is inexpressibly solemn, and we cannot avoid the truth that the Lord is directly cognizant of every detail about every assembly of His on earth.
COMMENDATION: Now, there was much to commend in Ephesus. It would be a flawless church in the eyes of many! Thy toil and patience. They were a working church, and they went steadily on. Patience is mentioned twice: in connection, first, with service; and second, with suffering. Thou canst not bear evil men. There was holiness there-a precious character! To permit men known to be bad to be in fellowship or even in office, is common today, but is treachery to Christ-whom the Church represents. Further, it is deadly wrong instead of kindness, to the unsaved and evil, to have them in “fellowship.” Some day they will curse you for such unfaithfulness!
Didst try them that call themselves apostles, and they are not, and didst find them false. “Ministerial courtesy” had no place at Ephesus! Plain scripture tests are given. The saints have “an anointing from the Holy One.” They may know, if they will, false teachers, those who are “abiding not in the teaching of Christ.” We are not to receive them into our house, and we are to give them no greeting (2 John 1:10); much less are we to suffer them to preach and teach in our assemblies. Ephesus had both the discernment and the spiritual energy to reject those whom she “found false.”
Thou hast patience and didst bear for My name’s sake, and hast not grown weary. To suffer steadily is harder than to serve sturdily. Not growing weary was certainly a mark of vigorous life.
CONDEMNATION: But I have against thee, that thou didst leave thy first love. Note, the word is “leave” not “lose.” To love lies in the power of the will, otherwise it would not be commanded. Now the love of Christ and the Church is that of bridegroom and bride. You cannot judge by what you see in the lukewarm churches today of the intense devotion to Christ’s Person into which such assemblies as Ephesus were brought by the Holy Ghost. You may see it in the martyr days, sometimes today on the mission field, and in supremely devoted souls like Samuel Rutherford, Fletcher of Madeley, Madame Guyon, Brainerd, Payson, McCheyne, and Cookman. We regard such cases of devotion as unusual; no, we should say they are normal. Christ has immeasurable love, and that continually, for every redeemed one; and love yearns for love.
Consider newly-married people. Their life is one continuous story of affection-delight in one another. Service is not service, but gladness, for such a bride. Two New England girls worked in a textile factory. Mary went away on a visit of several months. Returning, and meeting her friend on the street, she asked her,
“Maggie, are you working at the same old factory?” “I’m not working at all,” burst out Maggie: “I’m married!”
Doubtless such a one was busier with her housework than ever she had been at the factory! But she toiled unconscious of the work as such-it was for him. She parted from him with an embrace as he went to work in the morning, and she prepared the evening meal ever looking out at door or window for his coming. As he neared home, she went to meet him. All her labor was a mere circumstance, swallowed up in her devotion to her husband.
But days, weeks, months pass, and she becomes occupied with the details of her housekeeping, of her own life. She prepares just as good meals, keeps the house in as good, perhaps even better, order; but she has gradually changed her habit of watching for her husband at night, or going eagerly to meet him. She calls, “Goodbye” from somewhere upstairs in the morning, instead of holding him fast every moment she can.
Now this was Ephesus; and this was the departure from first love: while Christ, the Bridegroom, has love in all its freshness, and will evermore have, for the Church. It was Ephesus, leaving that devoted pouring out of response to His love that grieved His very heart!
This is the beginning of that decline which ends in Laodicea, and Laodicea’s awful state: “I have need of nothing,” yet loathsome, in poverty, wretchedness, misery, blindness, nakedness! Men that question the very virgin birth, and the deity of Christ, and His physical resurrection, are suffered today! The “Christian religion” has taken the place of personal devotion to the Bridegroom.
LOVING COUNSEL: Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, and repent.
“Fallen”! With all their earnestness and activity, the leaving of their first intense love made them a fallen assembly! “Remember-repent-do first works!” Recalling, even with severe effort and anguish, our moments of greatest devotion to our Lord, the hours when we felt most deeply His tender love, and our own response-to remember such times-this is our first task. Thus His love, His goodness, will lead us to repentance. Repentance is not mere sorrow (though godly sorrow works repentance- 2 Corinthians 7:10); but repentance is a changed state of soul. It is “the judgment we have passed, in God’s presence, under grace, upon ourselves and all we have done and have been.” In this case especially it will be “the goodness of God that leadeth us to repentance.” Christ’s unvarying, undiminished affection for us, even through our coldness and neglect, will break us up. If not, nothing will!
And do the first works. Instantly let us say, this is not a call to “Christian service” or “renewed activity.” Ephesus had toil, patience, intolerance toward evil, patience in suffering,-everything. But the “first works” are the goings forth of affection to Christ, freely, devotedly, as in our first love. It is the story of the bride of the Song of Solomon (Song of Solomon 5:2-16). Her slowness caused His withdrawal, and it caused her much trouble; but it brought her at last to cry, “My beloved is the chiefest among ten thousand; he is altogether lovely!” “First works” with her, were, finding again Him whom her soul loved! Most Christians-yes, real Christians-let Christ go, when He “makes as if He would go further.” This, those walking to Emmaus did not: “They constrained him, saying, Abide with us.” And He went in with them. In Laodicea we shall find Him standing without. Astonishing! Outside of the Church when His place is in their midst!
PROPHESIED ACTION: I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent. The words “I come to thee,” correspond to the judicial, personal visit of the Lord to Sodom ere its destruction (Genesis 18:1-33). These words do not signify operations by the Spirit, but an act of Christ, who is head over all things to the Church, and who is judging over each assembly. The fatal visit would not be recognized by the church, but it would definitely occur. After the Judge’s visit there would be no more assembly there in Christ’s eyes. The Spirit would be withdrawn, and darkness and desolation follow. So it happened at Ephesus, and, alas, to how many thousands of other careless “Christian” assemblies in the centuries since! No longer a lampstand!
This “coming” is not His coming again at the rapture, to receive His own; but His special, necessary, judicial action toward an assembly persisting, after much light, and blessing, in neglect of Himself. Alas, the lampstand removed! The priceless privilege of setting forth such a Christ before a dying world, gone forever. I have before me a picture of the Ephesus of today-a ruined archway, a Moslem dwelling, and a forbidding castle, ‘midst desolate hills. No lampstand for Christ where once Paul labored three years, night and day with tears!
But this thou hast, that thou hatest the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. What Nicolaitanism was, let us consider under Pergamum, the third church. We only stop to note the tender consideration of Christ: He cannot refrain from noting Ephesus’ common feeling with Him in the matter of a certain terrible evil. “This thou hast”: if we have the least jealousy of love for our blessed Lord, He notes it. Let this comfort us.
CALL TO HEAR: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. This is most solemn. Evidently not all the Ephesus assembly is meant; but only those who had gotten life by hearing-hearing the voice of the Son of God (John 5:25); for “belief (faith) cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). [One of the most solemn studies in. the whole Bible is that concerning the hearing ear. At the end of the forty years in the wilderness Moses tells Israel that although they had seen all the mighty miracles, Jehovah had not given them, as a nation, eyes to see and ears to hear! (Deuteronomy 29:4.) Neither did they hearken in the land to God’s messengers, the prophets; and Isaiah was commanded judicially to “make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see … hear … understand … turn … and be healed” (6:10). Jeremiah cries, “O foolish people, and without understanding; that have eyes, and see not: that have ears, and hear not.” The Lord Jesus preached openly at first, (Matthew 4:17, with Matthew 13:3): then He turned to parables, “because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand … for this people’s heart is waxed gross (literally, ‘grown fat’, from prosperity), and their ears are dull of hearing (literally, ‘hearing heavily,’ that is, sluggishly and imperfectly),and their eyes they have closed” (Hebrew, “smeared over”). “This citation (from Isaiah) gives no countenance to the fatalist view of the passage, but rests the whole blame on the hard-heartedness and unreadiness of the hearers, which is of itself the cause why the very preaching of the word is a means of further darkening and condemning them” (Alford).
Jehovah said to Ezekiel (12:2), “Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of the rebellious house, that have eyes to see, and see not, that have ears to hear, and hear not.” There is nothing more awful than to be hearkening to God’s words with an unopened or uncircumcised ear! Hearing without response brings the fatal delusion-the ability to forget, of Jam 1:22; Jam 1:24. “They would not give ear” is God’s continual complaint through the prophets.
Our Lord even says to the disciples in the boat (Mark 8:17-18), “Do ye not yet perceive, neither understand? have ye your heart hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?” Divine truth enters by the ear: and that act of the will which receives it, is called hearkening, which sometimes involves inclining the ear (from all else).
Now, seven times in the gospels, and eight times in The Revelation-seven times to these churches!-comes this eternally vital, open, yet private call to any opened ear: “He that hath an ear let him hear.”
Know you not that the most of the readers and hearers of the book of the Revelation will not really HEAR, in the sense in which the Lord means-a personal, separating word to “sink down into their ears”?
Seiss remarks, “Fishermen and taxgatherers, by listening to Jesus, presently find themselves in apostolic thrones, and ministering as priests, and rulers of the dispensation, wide as the world and lasting as time.”]
Moreover, those who can discern when the Spirit is speaking-being born of the Spirit and led by the Spirit (all God’s real saints being “not in the flesh but in the Spirit,” though they do not always walk by the Spirit, sad to say)-know the Spirit’s voice in the Scriptures. They are not Sadducees,-“Modernists.” To such, even Christ’s servants, are the messages of The Revelation really addressed. These only have “an ear.”[I have again and again looked the New Testament through for it, but I can find no Sadducee saved! Can you?]
In emphasizing this, let us note how to Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum, “he that hath an ear” is addressed to the whole assembly; while after Jezebel is admitted as a prophetess (Thyatira), “he that hath an ear” comes still more privately, at the very end of the letter.
PROMISE TO OVERCOMER: To him that over-cometh, to him will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God. There are those who overcome, and there are those who are overcome. These latter are lost (2 Peter 2:20). They give up Christ’s words (1 Corinthians 15:2, Colossians 1:23, Mark 8:38). We note two classes-and only two-in Revelation 21:7-8. The tree of life (not a symbol, but a reality) is seen in Revelation 22:2. When the first Adam sinned, we were shut out from the Garden (Genesis 3:22-24) lest we should “live forever” in this sinful state. This tree, under divine wisdom, sustained humanity in physical immortality, i.e., invulnerability to bodily dissolution. Now, in the last Adam, we already have eternal life as to our spirits (John 3:6); but we look forward to bodily immortality and incorruptibility; for redemption of the body is part of our salvation in Christ: 1 Corinthians 1:30 [One of the great proofs of the pagan ignorance of the Word of God that obtains everywhere in so-called Christendom, is the readiness of tens of thousands to listen to Eddyism, talking of “mortal mind”! The Bible never applies the word “mortal” to either spirit or soul, but to the body only. See for yourself. The Greek thneetos, mortal (liable to death), is used six times,- Romans 6:12; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:53-54; 2 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 5:4; and the word for immortality (not liable to death,-Greek, athanasia), three times,- 1 Corinthians 15:53-54, and 1 Timothy 6:16; and incorruptibility-Greek, aphtharsia (not possible of corruption), eight times,- Romans 2:7; 1 Corinthians 15:42; 1 Corinthians 15:50; 1 Corinthians 15:53-54; Ephesians 6:24; 2 Timothy 1:10; and Titus 2:7.]
I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;II. Smyrna-The Church in Suffering
ADDRESS: These things saith the first and the last, who became dead, and lived (literal translation). How fitting a title! The church at Smyrna was troubled, poor, and blasphemed by false Jews, and some were to be martyred. But Christ speaks as having endured the same thing and risen triumphant over all, even death itself!
CONDITION KNOWN: I know thy tribulation, and thy poverty. How blessed that Christ keeps saying, “I know”; no matter what the troubles and the poverty. He had no place to lay His head. But thou art rich-spiritual riches: they had the “gold refined by fire” which wretched Laodicea so woefully lacked. Riches in grace come when patience has its “perfect work” in trial (Jam 1:2; Jam 1:4).
And the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews, and they are not, but are a synagogue [Contrast “synagogue,”-a gathering together, the Jewish thing-with “ecclesia,” the called-out-from, away-from, which is God’s word for the Church: “called out” from Judaism and all earthly religion, as well as from the world.] of Satan. Terrible words! Satan early entrenched himself against Christ and His gospel in Judaism,-”those who pretended to have the legitimate, hereditary claim to be God’s people.” They were the not Jews who were Jews “outwardly” (Romans 2:28, Matthew 3:9). In John 8:44, our Lord said to the Messiah-rejectors of His day, “Ye are of your father the devil.” Believers today need to be faithfully warned regarding their attitude to the Jews: (a) not to join at all in that Gentile envy and hate lying at the root of “anti-semitism”; and (b) not to give special place to Jews, even Jewish believers, as such; but (c) to glorify God for the “remnant according to the election of grace,” among them, now being saved; and (d) to remember that the most of the nation is to be cut off as apostate before the Millennium sets in; (e) to believe that God’s words in Romans 3:22-23; Romans 10:12 are true today: “There is no distinction … for all have sinned”; and, “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all … that call upon him.” Jewish sinners, Irish sinners, American sinners, Hottentot sinners, Hindu sinners, English sinners, Scotch sinners: no difference at all! Just sinners, all!
But alas, the early Church speedily became Judaized. There is great appeal in a visible temple, gorgeous ritual, an accredited priesthood ready to assume responsibility for you in divine things. And when all this was yoked to such a mighty past history as had the Jewish nation; and,-most potent of all, the possession of the Old Testament oracles, which all Christians accepted as inspired of God,-the influence of these lying Jews may easily be imagined! Especially so (and alas!), because of the wealth Judaism could, and did display, to make contemptible the “little flock” of Christ!
These false Jews are called liars twice by the Lord,-once as to their claims, and once as to their character (Romans 2:9; Romans 3:9). They were liars because they denied the truth of the absolute deity of Christ; because they perpetuated the lie that Christ did not rise, but that His disciples stole His body away; because, further, they said that His miracles had been wrought by Satanic agency; because also they rejected all the mighty works wrought after Pentecost in the Name, Jesus of Nazareth. The Lord stamps their very claim to be Jews as a lie. He only is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is inward, not outward in the flesh (Romans 2:28-29). There are not many Jews in God’s sight. You have seen very few! Most of the so-called Jews are “chaff and dross,” and the “liberal” Jew is worst of all. The fact that some preachers make up so easily with liberal Rabbis labels both!
Yes, Judaism is more acceptable to the flesh than faith in an unseen Lord; an earthly “religion” is more attractive to a carnal heart than a heavenly walk!
Christ, whom these Jews at Smyrna had rejected, calls their opposition to His Church, also their daring to substitute their synagogue for the assembly that owned His Name, one simple, awful word-blasphemy. And so it is today! [The ancient account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, in A.D. 168, eighty-six years after his conversion, is very definite, that the Jews “joined the heathen in clamoring for his being cast to the lions; and, when there was an obstacle to this, for his being burned alive; and with their own hands they carried logs to the pile: the Jews being most desperately forward, as is their custom, to render this service.”]
Having lost earthly power under Nebuchadnezzar, the Jews felt nothing was left them but their religious preeminence, which meant their self-righteousness. Now, religious righteousness will do anything, as history fully reveals. For this, “the Jews … killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove out us (the apostles) … and are contrary to all men; … forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved; to fill up their sins always” (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). The Jews are unchanged-except the “remnant according to the election of grace” (Romans 11:5). If missionaries to the Jews would pursue Paul’s method of “provoking them to jealousy” by boasting of a Savior they had nationally rejected, instead of offering them the “Messiah” (which God is now not doing!) they would quickly find the same deadly enmity and persecution and violence which Paul suffered. When the opportunity offers, the majority of the Jews will go over openly to Antichrist, as we well know from Daniel 9:27, Isaiah 28:14-15, and many other plain prophecies. We do well to have “great sorrow” for them as did Paul in Romans 9:1-33; to remember that nationally they are “beloved for the fathers’ sake”; and to labor to reach them. But it is folly to close our eyes to their blinded, deadly state! The nation that crucified Christ, stoned Stephen, and most bitterly hated and opposed the gospel of grace preached by Paul, remains unchanged. The fountain for sin and for uncleanness is not yet open for them nationally, nor will it be until “that day” of Zechariah 12:10-14; Zechariah 13:1, when, beleaguered by all the hostile nations of earth, and in despair, they at last “look upon him whom they pierced,” and fall into such mourning as has never been known! They will not believe until they see.
Today Laodicean lukewarmness admits Rabbis, Swamis, Unitarians, and “modern” Bible disbelievers-infidels-to its “religious platforms.” Nevertheless, “synagogue of Satan,” our Lord’s awful name for the Jews that opposed the gospel (that is, the deity, virgin birth, blood atonement and the physical resurrection of our Lord), still remains.
LOVING COUNSEL: Fear not the things which thou art about to suffer. Count up Christ’s “fear nots”: they include everything. The world is always in fear-of disease, of disaster, of death. God’s saints should not be so. The Captain suffered: so shall the soldiers; but (unlike Mohammed’s deluded followers) fullness of joy awaits them.
“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take!
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessing on your head.”
Therefore fear not! Remember Hebrews 2:14-15. The devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried. But, “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:20). The binder shall be bound (Revelation 20:1-3). Do not stumble because the adversary is still permitted to oppose you. He opposed your Lord, but only brought out your Lord’s supreme choice of holiness and His Father’s will. “The trial of your faith worketh patience.”
Ye shall have a tribulation of ten days. Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee the crown of life. How good it is to know that “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.” Every trial is measured by the heart of infinite love in a hand of infinite care!
The early Church did indeed have just ten great persecutions under the Roman emperors, beginning with Nero and ending with Diocletian, whose last persecution, and probably the most terrible of all, was just ten years long! Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Severus, Maximum, Decius, Valerian, Aurelian, and Diocletian, were the ten principal Pagan persecutors. However, there was constant, though not always general, trouble until Constantine’s edict of toleration.
“Faithful unto death.” This means to the point of martyrdom: It does not mean “holding out to the end” of our lives, according to the old expression. In that sense, many who have failed have been saved- 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Corinthians 11:32. The crown of life is “the special prize promised to the faithful.” Jam 1:12 shows this crown of life to be a special mark of approval after a saint’s enduring the Lord’s prescribed trials through love to Him.
CALL TO HEAR: He that hath an ear. Not all would hear in the days of terrible trial, so they needed the words of their loving Lord. Like Israel, “they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.” It is our profound conviction that not only in Russia and Germany but in other countries there are terrible days of trial directly ahead for the Church of God. It is our proper portion-all the day (of grace) long are we to be killed, counted as sheep for slaughter. There- fore, remember the exhortation of Peter (who at the first, fled and denied, but later was crucified for his Lord): “Forasmuch then as Christ suffered in the flesh, arm ye yourselves also with the same mind,” or “thought,” “intent,” “resolution” (1 Peter 4:1), that is, with the same “expectation,” when necessary.
He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. There is a double negative in the Greek-“not at all be injured.” The saints may have to bow their heads to those who execute the first death-who “kill the body”; but over these, we read, “the second death hath no authority” (Revelation 20:6). No real believer is coming into judgment. See John 5:24, R. V. Believers’ works will be examined, but not as sin: that is gone forever, borne on the cross! Hebrews 9:28 : “so Christ … shall appear … apart from sin.”
It is striking to notice that the name Smyrna is simply the Ionic Greek for myrrh, a fragrant gum in common use. So, “perfumed with myrrh.” Note Song of Solomon 3:6; Song of Solomon 1:13 with Matthew 2:11; Psalm 45:8; and, especially myrrh as used at our Lord’s burial- John 19:39. The Smyrnan church represents the martyrs, and the fragrance of their affection fills the whole house of God, even today! Have you read, “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs”? The Bible and Foxe’s book were all John Bunyan had! I beg you, read the story of the martyrs. You will need it.
I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
III. Pergamum-Idolatry and Clerisy Arising
ADDRESS: He that hath the sharp two-edged sword. The sword is Christ’s word in its stern, judging character. Therefore in Pergamum let us expect evil to be dealt with. In Ephesus, first love was left; in Smyrna came chastening-the fires of Satan’s opposition: if perchance there might be recovery; but it proved unavailing. The Pergamum period may well be looked upon as beginning with Constantine’s “embracing Christianity” [That this Roman Emperor was ever truly a believer one doubts. Fisher (History of the Christian Church) says: “He was never fully weaned from the cultus of Apollo. There were occasions on which he ordered the Pagan soothsayers to be consulted. That he did not receive baptism until the day before his death, was not due, however, to a lack of faith (1) but to the current belief, in which he shared, that the holy laver washed out the guilt of all previous sins.” (Faith in a “holy” vessel, and “water” is not trust in Christ’s blood.)] in 313 A.D., when the Church settled down in the world. The enemy’s plan now was to favor the faith he had fought and defile what he could not destroy. The Christian “religion” became that of the Empire that had slain the Lord!
CONDITION KNOWN: I know where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s throne is. The Devil is not yet “in hell,” nor even shut up in the abyss (Revelation 20:1-3); but he is the prince of this world, the god of this age. He walks up and down in the earth (Job 1:7), where he yet has his capital and also his throne [Observe carefully that the true reading is thronos, “throne,” not “seat.”] whence he directs the principalities, the powers, the world rulers of this darkness, the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies. (Compare Ephesians 6:12.) When Israel was owned of God, when the Jerusalem temple stood, Satan’s great opposing city was Babylon, on the Euphrates. See notes on Revelation 17:1-18; Revelation 18:1-24. “Pergamos (properly called Pergamum), was a sort of a union of a pagan cathedral city, a university town, and a royal residence,” says Blakesley. The title, “chief temple-keepers of Asia” was held by its inhabitants, showing “the supreme importance of Pergamos to heathendom.” When the Babylonian cult of the Magians was driven out of Babylon, they found a haven at Pergamum, and Pergamum’s king, Attalus III (B.C. 133), willed his kingdom and title into the hands of the Romans (Justin p. 364, Strabo). The title of the Magian high priest was, “Chief Bridge Builder,” meaning the one who spans the gap between mortals and Satan and his hosts. In Latin, this title was written, Pontifex Maximus. [In the bloody conflict for the bishopric of Rome, Damasus, one of the Babylonian priests or Magians, in 366 A.D., secured the office, and finally was conceded from the emperor, the title Pontifex Maximus. According to Zosimus, Constantine had assumed the title in 325, as the heathen emperors before him had appropriated it, “because it contributed to exalt at once the imperial and the episcopal dignity, and served to justify the interference of the emperor in ecclesiastical counsels and in the nomination of bishops.” Gratian was the last emperor to whom the title was applied. The medals of Constantine and his successors, down to Gratian, and the inscriptions relating to them, gave them the title of Pontifex Maximus. Thus was Babylonianism, begun by Nimrod, perpetuated in that which had the name of the Church!]
COMMENDATION: And thou holdest fast my name, and didst not deny my faith, even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwelleth. Five of these seven cities “contended for the privilege of worshipping the emperor,” and that Pergamum was the most prominent in this; yet the church there as a whole held fast Christ’s name as the deity, and His work alone as the object of faith, and that even amid most terrible persecution. Antipas’ name was dear to Christ, as is the name of each who suffers for His sake. Let us see in this scene anew the absolute present enmity of this world toward Christ!
CONDEMNATION: I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there some that hold the teaching of Balaam … idols … fornication. So hast thou also some that hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans in like manner. [A good deal turns on the position of the last word homoids in the original. It seems to me that the peculiar emphasis in the first part of the sentence on Pergamum’s having, that is, permitting, these Nicolaitans, might be strong enough to attach this last adverb to the fact that she suffered them, rather than to what they taught. Otherwise, we must conclude that the Balaamites and the Nicolaitans taught and practiced the same things: viz. idolatry and license. Whereas, it seems probable that the name Nicolaitans, as we say elsewhere, holds its own interpretation:-laity-bossing clerisy.] Over against the faithfulness of the martyrs of Smyrna and Pergamum, stands the beginning of actual tolerated evil. “Thou canst not bear evil men” was written of Ephesus, but of no other church. You know the history of Balaam, the mysterious prophet of Numbers 22:1-41; Numbers 23:1-30; Numbers 24:1-25, who, prevented from cursing God’s nation Israel, counseled the king of Moab to entice Israel into Moab’s heathen idolatry, with its obscenities and abominations (Numbers 25:1-18), bringing death by plague on twenty-four thousand Israelites! Satan, failing to overthrow the church by persecution in Smyrna days, snares the Pergamum church into idolatry and fornication. To “eat things sacrificed to idols,” in the sense of Revelation 2:14, is to engage in idolatrous worship, feasting in the idol’s temple. Outside, “in the shambles,” saints could buy whatever they pleased, even though it had been previously offered to idols (1 Corinthians 10:25). In Pergamum, however, they sought to “drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons,” and thus “provoke the Lord to jealousy” (Revelation 2:21-22). “Idolatry” is here to be taken literally, as is “fornication.” It is astounding how early was the invasion of idolatry into the Church, and the defense of it, even by some so-called “church fathers”!
Idolatry was always accompanied with utter fleshly license and often nameless abominations, just as with Israel at Sinai and in Canaan,-just as is religious idolatry today, both Romish and that of heathen countries.
Those who would make the idolatry and fornication of this “teaching of Balaam” mere worldliness should be more careful in their study of church history, and more observant of what idolatry has brought to every nation (see notes on chapter 13).
2 Peter 2:10-15; 2 Peter 2:18-19, and Judges 1:4-11, show how literal is to be our interpretation of our Lord’s words to Pergamum concerning the teaching of Balaam! All through the Church centuries, we find such as the Mormons of today, or the “House of David” associating with Christ’s Name the very abominations He denounces.
Now, as to the Nicolaitans, their works Ephesus had, but hated; Pergamum had not their works only, but also their teaching. Moral energy is waning. “Ye that love Jehovah, hate evil.” Literally, in Revelation 2:15, it reads, “Thus you are having-you!” The emphatic expression indicates the astonished, indignant, grief of the Lord.
Again, regarding the Nicolaitans: who were they?
1. The old writers tried to connect them with Nicolas of Antioch,-but unsuccessfully.
2. There is really no known record, except in The Revelation, of any sect by this name in the early Church.
3. It is not the manner of Scripture to compel its readers to obtain wisdom for its interpretation from outside history. Therefore, if we do not find a direct Bible allusion, as in the case of Balaam, we may look for the meaning in the structure of the word, as, for instance, in the name Melchizedek, “king of righteousness,” from the meaning of his name; and “king of peace,” from the city (Salem) he rules.
4. We would in this way find “Nicolaitan” derived from nikao, to conquer; and laos, people; and the meaning, rulers of the laity, indicating that dire clerisy which very early sprang up. A priestly caste was formed, corresponding to the priests and Levites in Judaism.
5. That no notice should be taken by the Lord of this particular evil, which, beginning in Ephesus, ripens so fully in Thyatira, the next church, would be almost inconceivable. It is not the Lord’s manner to denounce evil fruits without having remarked upon the tree.
6. Inasmuch, also, as the Lord selected these seven churches to represent all the assemblies of the church dispensation, He would scarcely choose an assembly in which two “teachings” of practically the same moral corruption, existed.
LOVING COUNSEL: Repent therefore. This call is directed to the whole assembly, as if recovery were yet possible for the whole. The deeper the evil, however, the more difficult the self-judgment!
PREDICTED ACTION: Or else I come to thee quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth. This “coming,” like that of Revelation 2:5, is not our Lord’s second advent, but His entering personally and that quickly, upon their affairs judicially: affairs which otherwise would continue unchanged under the ever-present, although grieved and vexed, Spirit. “War … with the sword of my mouth,” brings to mind at once the angel of the Lord standing with his sword drawn against the mad prophet, Balaam, in Israel’s days! The targets of Christ’s sword would be chiefly those practicing these evils,-“against them.” The exact way, in which Christ would use the sword of His Word against these corrupters, He does not explain. However, we know Christ’s words to the Jews, “if I had not come and spoken unto them … but now they have no excuse for their sin.” And we know that Paul and his company were “a sweet savor of Christ unto God … in them that perish … a savor from the death unto death” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16), as well as the opposite to those being saved. Doubtless faithful preachers minister death to as many as they save-perhaps many more.
CALL TO HEAR: The Spirit is still speaking, and “to the churches,” that is, to all of them throughout this church age: let him hear!
PROMISE TO OVERCOMERS: The hidden manna. “Hidden” is a reference, perhaps, to the wilderness manna preserved for a memorial in the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 16:32; Exodus 16:34; Hebrews 9:4). There was an especial reason for the Lord’s setting before the mind of these Pergamean believers that secret and blessed relationship into which the heavenly saints are brought by the Spirit while on earth, and, more wondrously, at Christ’s coming; because of the hidden things taught and gloried in by the Babylonian system of idolatry, and the “mysteries”[ See the subject of “mysteries” in Hislop’s “Two Babylons,” or Pember’s “Church Churches, and Mysteries.” (The latter securable second-hand only.)] taught its initiates, there at Pergamum, “where Satan’s throne was.”
A white stone and upon the stone a new name written, which no one knoweth but he that receiveth it, was promised. Christ is infinite in His excellences; and each member of His Body sets forth what no other member could. Also there is a personal character in all trials, through which the overcomer (that is, the true believer), will be brought to know the Lord in a peculiar way shared by no other. Dean Alford beautifully comments:
“These very terms (a new name written) seem to require that it should be the recipient’s own name,-a new name, however; a revelation of his everlasting title, as a son of God, to glory in Christ, but consisting of, and revealed in, those personal marks and signs of God’s peculiar adoption of himself, which he and none else is acquainted with. If the heart ‘knoweth its own bitter- ness, and a stranger intermeddleth not with its joy,’ (Proverbs 14:10), then the deep, secret dealings of God with each of us during those times by which our sonship is assured and our spiritual strife carried on to victory, can, when revealed to us in the other blessed state, be known thoroughly to ourselves only.”
I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;IV. Thyatira-The Papacy in Power
ADDRESS: These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like a flame of fire. Here we have Christ in the most searching and terrible aspect of any He assumes toward the churches. He is “the Son of God,” the Deity. He is also the Son of man, but His eyes as “a flame of fire” search this church-the holy jealousy of infinite love. We remember the words of the Song (Revelation 8:6):
“Love is strong as death; Jealousy is hard as Sheol; The flashes thereof are flashes of fire, A very flame of Jah.”
And his feet are like unto burnished brass. They stand to judge in Thyatira according to His own glorious holiness. For there sin is tolerated. And not only so; but an authority permitted that supplants Christ!
CONDITION AND COMMENDATION: I know thy works, and thy love and faith and ministry and patience, and that thy last works are more than the first. We have come with Thyatira to the papal period of church history, and before our Lord brings this hateful system before us, mark how He cherishes such devotion (and it was, here and there, very great), as marked this dark time. Notice that “love” here comes before “faith,” as if it were only those in whom intense love for the Saviour burned, who had faith to outlast those days. Then “ministry,”-and we remember with tender hearts the amazing, self-denying lives of many who, having not much light, yet loved: i.e., Bernard of Clairveaux, Mechtilde of Helffde. How well the reader of church history remembers their patient endurance and increasing works!
CONDEMNATION: I have against thee that thou sufferest the woman Jezebel (literally, “thy wife,” as Jezebel to Ahab). This reference in the local assembly, was undoubtedly to a literal woman whom the Lord calls by the hated name of the seducing queen of Israel of long ago. [This name “Jezebel,” applied to this Thyatiran, is proof again that God expects us to read from Scripture the deep meanings of the names He uses.
“Jehu answered, “What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?” (2 Kings 9:22).
So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name … saying, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people … and stone him to death.” (1 Kings 21:5-10; 1 Kings 18:4; 1 Kings 18:13).
Whoredom, witchcraft, religious fasts,-and murdering God’s prophets,-this was Jezebel. Is not this also Rome! Jezebel also supported a horde of idolatrous priests of her own-Babylonians all. See Baal in “The Two Babylons,” Hislop, and “Great Prophecies,” Pember, pp. 138-139.]
Who calleth herself a prophetess. Now to do this was to take the place of the Spirit, who indeed spake “not from Himself,” but “what He heard” from the Lord in glory. This is exactly Romanism. The Word of God teaches that “pastors and teachers” are given to the Church: that is, she must herself BE taught! Rome’s doctrine is that the Church is the teacher. “The Church is your mother,” “You must hearken to her,” “She alone knows the voice of God,” etc., etc. THIS IS NOT TRUE. It is the denial of all divine truth. Rome holds no doctrine unleavened with error.
The same rebuke Christ gives Thyatira applies to all who turn to human authority, rather than opening the ear to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. You may be thinking of “Christian Scientists,” and their “Mother Church”; of the Mormons, with Joseph Smith and Brig-ham Young. But the Lord may be thinking of you, devoted as you are to “Doctor So-and-So,” or to “my church.” An old Puritan preacher used to say, “I want to hear but two things: First, does God speak? Second, what does God say?” Unless we have this attitude, we place ourselves in Thyatira.
“Thou sufferest the woman Jezebel”: here was the cause of blame. Whether from sympathy with the evil, or lack of moral fibre to resist it, it is all the same: they suffered it. Today the so-called Protestant is as weak as, weaker often, than the Romanist, because he suffers some “great” denomination to hold him in its clutches, though he knows sects are directly contrary to the Word of God (1 Corinthians 1:11-13). “Be loyal to your denomination” is mere whip-cracking over you. Their shallow pretentious “educational” systems; vast anti-Scriptural debt-incurring “church” building plans; their huge, bossed organizations, and ecclesiastical wire-pulling, keep their votaries in spiritual babyhood. “Our standards” are more to them than direct Bible study. The “Federation of Churches” (??) conceived and controlled by “modernism,” (which is Tom Paine infidelity in a pulpit coat [See “The Deadly Parallel,” G. W. Dowkontt, where Fosdick’s and Paine’s beliefs and teachings are compared, column by column, with Paine preferable!]), is “suffered,” despite the methods by which it procures godly but simple-hearted speakers to place on its platforms beside its trusted “modernist” deceivers. (Thank God, some have revolted from this self-appointed “Federation.” If you would know the real “Federation,” read Col. Sanctuary’s “Tainted Contacts.”)
Now you may say that in speaking thus we are departing from exposing the direct evils the woman Jezebel brought into Thyatira-idolatry and fornication. True: and we shall note those evils; but we have spoken as we have lest any one might think that in escaping these particular sins he had not suffered any “Jezebel” system.
And she teacheth and seduceth my servants to commit fornication! This, of course, in Thyatira’s case, was literal, and in Rome’s case is literal. The confessional teaches children to discover and speak of the lowest abominations of the human heart; the result of which is to familiarize them with such things, stifle conscience, and finally open the flood gates to indulgence of the flesh, especially with Rome’s Babylonian priests, with whom to sin, is, by their teaching, no sin. [I defy any sincere one to read McGavin’s “Protestant,” or “Fifty Years in the Church of Rome,” by Father Chiniquy (F. H. Revell & Co., New York), or the writings of Liguori, the Roman Catholic “theologian,” and deny that Rome teaches, as well as seduces, to fornication and immorality, in the confessional.
Hear the testimony of an earnest lad:
“When I had confessed all the sins I could remember, the priest began to ask me the strangest questions on matters about which my pen must be silent. I replied, ‘Father, I do not understand what you ask me.’
‘I question you on the sixth commandment’ (in the Bible, the seventh).
Thereupon he dragged my thoughts to regions which, thank God, had hitherto been unknown to me.
I answered him, ‘I do not understand you,’ or, ‘I have never done these things.’
Then skillfully shifting to some secondary matter, he would soon slyly and cunningly come back to his favorite subject, namely, sins of licentiousness.
His questions were so unclean that I blushed and felt sick with disgust and shame. I was so filled with indignation that, speaking loud enough to be heard by many, I told him: ‘Sir I am very wicked; I have seen, heard, and done many things which I regret; but I never was guilty of what you mention to me. My ears have never heard anything so wicked as what they have heard from your lips. Please do not ask me any more of these questions; do not teach me any evil that I do not already know.’”-“Fifty Years in the Church of Rome,” pp. 26-27.]
In the face of the revealed corruptness of the history of the confessional, and its results in Catholic lands, the Vatican’s plea against the terrible evil of divorce, is seen to be a “play to the galleries.” The papal decree “Ne Temere” (warning against adultery!) of Pope Pius Tenth, in which honest marriages, blessed by God and by years of marital uprightness, happiness, and fruitful-ness, are declared to be nothing more than adultery because between a Catholic and a Protestant, shows up real Jezebel deceitfulness.
Next, as to idolatry: note the order is changed from Balaam’s teaching, Revelation 2:14, where entering upon the idol worship was first, and the licentiousness followed. In Thyatira, fornication is first, then idolatry. I quote from McClintock and Strong’s Encyclopedia:
“Images were unknown in the worship of primitive Christians, who abstained from worship of images because they thought it unlawful in itself to make any images of deity. By the steady pressure of the heathen ideas and habits upon Christianity, emblems such as the dove, the fish, the anchor, vine, lamb, etc., formed the first step; then, paintings representing great Biblical events, saints, martyrs, which were placed in the vestibule of the church. Yet this practice was unfavorably regarded by the synods of the fourth century. When, however, in the same century, Christianity was proclaimed (by Constantine) the religion of the state, the use of painting, sculpture and jewelry became general for the decoration of the churches, resulting in the adoption of a regular system of symbolic religious images. The teachers of the church became gradually more accommodating in their relations with the heathen, allowing them to retain their old usages, while conforming to the outward forms of Christianity. Thus the worship of images became so general that it had to be repeatedly checked by laws. In the sixth century, it had grown into a great abuse, especially in the East, where images were made the object of a special adoration: they were kissed, lamps were burned before them, incense was offered to them,-in short, they were treated in every respect as the heathen were wont to treat the images of their gods. The same arguments now used by the Romanists to defend image worship were rejected by Christians of the first three centuries when used in defense of image worship. The heathen said. We do not worship the images themselves, but those whom they represent. To this Lactantius (third century A.D.) answers, ‘You worship them; for, if you believe them to be in heaven; why do you not raise your eyes up to heaven? Why do you look at the images, and not up where you believe them to be?’ Thomas Aquinas, a Roman Catholic (13th century), declared, ‘A picture, considered in itself, is worthy of no veneration, but if we consider it as an image of Christ, it may be allowable to make an internal distinction between the image and its subject, and adoration and service are as well due to it as to Christ.’ Bonaventura the Franciscan, said, ‘Since all veneration shown to the image of Christ is shown to Christ himself, then the image of Christ is also entitled to be prayed to.’ Bellarmine: Rome’s principal authority in dogmatic theology (1542-1621), writes, ‘The images of Christ and the saints are to be adored, not only in a figurative manner, but quite positively, so that the prayers are directly addressed to them, and not merely as representatives of the original.’” De Imaginibus.
Idolatry, the worship of images, is a primary teaching of Romanism. “Jezebel” then, which truth-enlightened men acknowledge to stand for Romanism, introduces un-cleanness through the confessional first; then the adoration of images, and thus a proceeding ever deeper into idolatrous superstition; for idol-worship ever degrades its devotees (see Revelation 13:1-18; Revelation 17:1-18).
I gave her time that she should repent; and she will-eth not to repent of (literally, out of) her fornication. The chief hold, after all, of false religion, is the liberty it gives to the lusts which the heart loves. Repentance, which is God’s way out, the human heart hates. [Mr. H. A. Ironside well says, “Romanism is Christianity, Judaism, and Heathenism joined together; and the Lord abhors the vile combination. God gave her (Rome) space to repent, and she repented not. Go back to the days of Savanarola in Italy, Wickliffe and Cranmer in England, John Knox in Scotland, Martin Luther in Germany, Zwingle in Switzerland, Calvin in France-all those mighty reformers whom God raised up throughout the world to call Rome to repent of her iniquity, but she repented not. If she had had any desire to get right with Him, she would have repented in the 16th century.” Lectures on The Revelation.]
Behold, I cast her into a bed. “Will change her bed of whoredom into a bed of anguish: so most commentators.” (Alford) The Lord often deals thus with wicked leaders; He was even more abrupt and condign with Ahab’s wife (2 Kings 9:30-37). (He will yet deal effectually with the female leaders “suffered” in our own day, who center attention upon themselves, and pose more and more as prophetesses, using all sorts of meretricious showmanship to hold the poor people spellbound.)
And them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of her works. Here is a most terrible threat! We know of The Great Tribulation; and I cannot avoid the conclusion that this warning points to it. For we read in Revelation 17:1-18 that the Babylonian harlot is to be hated and made desolate by the Beast and his ten kings (Revelation 17:16).
Please note at once that these last four churches look toward the end-that is, to the closing of church testimony to give way to the kingdom. Thyatira, impenitent, is threatened with the tribulation; Sardis, with Christ’s coming as a thief-that is, (after the true Church has been raptured) they will be “caught” like the world- 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3; Philadelphia, faithful though weak, has the promise of the Rapture, to escape all the trouble of the awful “hour” that is coming; while Laodicea is spued out as lukewarm, irrecoverable-ending the history of the Church as Christ’s earthly witness. [Seiss well calls the attention of those who question whether the seven churches of The Revelation stand for the entire Church in its whole history, to the words of Victorinus, bishop of Petavium, martyred in 303 A. D., and the first church commentator on The Revelation known to us: “Paul first taught as that there are seven churches in the whole world, and that the seven churches are the one entire Church. Paul wrote ‘Ad Romanos, ad Corinthios, ad Galatas, ad Ephesios, ad Thessalonicenses, ad Phillipenses, ad Colossenses’; and John, obeying the same method, has not exceeded the number seven.”]
And I will kill her children with death. Jezebel’s punishment is distinct from that of her proper adherents (not those who suffer her, but those who are begotten of her). “There is a transition from literal to spiritual fornication, as appears in these verses” (Fausset). Some commentators believe that the whole passage refers to “spiritual fornication,” that is, union with the world. Others, and I can but agree with them, insist that a prominent, gifted, strong-willed, evil woman was permitted in Thyatira (as such are often today “suffered”). Her “children” are evidently those whom she seduced subtly into the wickedness described, and who clung to her. These the Lord threatens to kill with death, which seems to me spiritual, eternal-“except they repent of her works.” The “death” was to be so evident that all the churches shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins and hearts. [Grotius well says, “Through the reins (Latin, renes) the desires become known; through the heart, the thoughts.”]
Note, “all the churches,” not these seven representative ones merely. How dull our spiritual perception, not to understand why candlesticks have been removed, and personal judgment executed, before our very eyes! David’s child by Uriah’s wife was publicly smitten and slain by Jehovah (2 Samuel 12:1-31). The “angel” of the Thyatiran church was good, personally; but he “suffered” his wife to teach and practice fornication,-even to bearing adulterous seed. These would be slain by the Lord: and the woman herself be fittingly dealt with. And she would become a warning, as did both Lot’s wife and Jezebel. But the evil would go on into a system, to be judged finally (Revelation 17:1-18) as a great whore that corrupted the earth!
And I will give unto each one of you according to your works. Here is judgment, certainly-whether to Jezebel herself, to her children, or to those real servants of the Lord who suffered her either in Thyatira, or now, as a system: to each, a just dealing. None of Christ’s own will be lost; but responsibility in church life on earth is solemn: for the Church represents Christ.
To you I say (the godly ones who will really hear) 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. The Magians from Babylon continually spoke of their “deep things,” their “inner knowledge,” just as the Theosophists, Christian Scientists, Spiritualists, and “Unity” devotees do today (simply ancient Gnosticism revived!). The Lord sees through all the enemy’s delusions and “mysteries”; they are not “deep” to Him. His real saints are simple-hearted (blessed simpleness!). It is no sign of spirituality to be familiar with Satanic psychic or demonic “depths.”
I cast upon you none other burden,-quoted from the decision of the council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:28-29). “This act of simple obedience (keeping from idolatry and fornication) and no deep matters beyond their reach, was what the Lord required of them.”
LOVING COUNSEL: Nevertheless that which ye have, hold fast [“‘Hold fast’-aorist: more vivid and imperative than would be the present, setting forth the renewed, determined grasp of every intervening moment of the space prescribed until the time when ‘I shall come’: the aorist gives an uncertainty as to when the time shall be, which we cannot convey in our language.” (Alford)] till I come. How easy to let truth and devotion slip in Jezebel surroundings! Christ’s sure and imminent personal coming again is the tonic for faith! “Hold the fort, for I am coming!” We shall see that from Thyatira on, our Lord’s return, and not the recovery of the Church to her first estate, much less the conversion of the world, is the only object of hope.
PROMISE TO OVERCOMERS: And he that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end. “It is not enough to deny Jezebel in doctrine and works, but ‘he that keepeth unto the end my works’ is crowned at the end: ‘my works,’ evidently in contrast to the works of Jezebel, verse 23. Her works were unholy; His works, holy.”-Scott. To him will I give authority over the nations; 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. Here is the first definite view in The Revelation of the coming millennial kingdom to be established by the Lord at His return to the earth (Revelation 19:15; Revelation 20:4-6). The papacy has ever grasped at “temporal power.” She wants to rule the world now, before Christ comes-thus proving herself false; not a church, but Babylon. God’s saints, with their Lord, await expectantly the Father’s time (Hebrews 10:13, Psalm 2:7-8). Those who learn Christ’s patience become trained and fit to rule. Recall, “He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city” (Proverbs 16:32); although man despises this path (Luke 22:25; Luke 22:30).
And I will give him the morning star. When the Millennium comes, it will be broad day-the Sun will have risen, with healing in His wings (Malachi 4:2-3)-but now it is night. And, although we know “neither the day nor the hour” of our Lord’s coming, yet into the heart of the faithful believer comes that wondrous expectancy of His coming, which John elsewhere describes as having our “hope set on him” (1 John 3:3). This is the experience of the believer who awakes out of sleep (Romans 13:11), who by the grace of God hears His voice when He says, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from among the dead (ones), and Christ shall shine upon thee” (Ephesians 5:13). To such, Christ becomes indeed the Morning Star, the harbinger of the glorious coming day, though the night be yet all around us. Just as the multitude lie physically asleep, while here and there one, watching all night, or risen very early, sees the blazing beauty of the morning star, so these spiritually awakened or aroused find Christ’s coming arising as the day-star in their hearts (2 Peter 1:19).
Nowhere in church history appears so intense a devotion to the person of Christ in a time of great deprivation of a free Bible and preaching, and the so-called “means of grace,” as in the dark ages Thyatira stands for. All around was night, in the world and in the Church; the threat of death was over all, but Christ was known, loved, served and sung. He was the only light; but He was enough![ Concerning this De Wette says, “Arriving at full conviction of the certainty of the coming of Christ.”
Luther: “Two degrees of the Christian life: in the first, faith rests upon outward evidences; in the second, on inward revelations of the Spirit.”
Jonathan Edwards: “When Christ was going to heaven, He comforted His disciples with the thought that after awhile He would come again and take them to Himself, that they might be with Him.”
And again: “I have sometimes a sense of the excellent fullness of Christ whereby He has appeared to me far above all, the chief of ten thousands. Once, as I rode out into the woods I had a view that for me was extraordinary of the glory of the Son of God. The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought or conception-which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears and weeping aloud.” And his seraphic wife thus testifies: “Mr. Sheldon came into the house about ten o’clock and said to me as he came in, ‘The Sun of Righteousness arose on my soul this morning before day’; upon which I said to him in reply, ‘That Sun has not set upon my soul all this night: I have dwelt with Him in heavenly mansions; the light of divine love has surrounded me; my soul has been lost in God and has almost left the body.’” (See Memoirs of Edwards, in his Complete Works.)
See Samuel Rutherford’s Letters, Finney’s Autobiography, especially his last meetings in Boston. See also the hymns that came out of the darkest papal times. These all had The Morning Star! (Appendix I.)]
CALL TO HEAR: He that hath an ear, let him hear. Note the change in place now! Jezebel and her “children” will go on as they are (Rome’s motto is Semper Idem-”Always the Same”), but “the rest,” the remnant, will hear.
I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
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.
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.
But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
And I will give him the morning star.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.