Time or Eternity? ™

The church in Thyatira

In Revelation, The church in Thyatira on March 9, 2011 at 8:00 am

With the fourth epistle we enter upon the second group of epistles, where the Church is brought before us less as she is in herself, than as she fails to maintain her true position in the world, and as that separation between a faithful remnant and the whole body which meets us at every step of her history, throughout both the Old Testament and the New, begins to show itself. Now therefore there is a change of tone. The first of the four, the fourth in the series of seven, is that to Thyatira; and to the church there the Lord presents Himself in all the penetrating power of those eyes that as a flame of fire search the inmost recesses of the heart, and in all the resistless might of those feet that are as “pillars of fire :”These things saith the Son of God, who hath His eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like unto burnished brass. The commendation of the church follows, what is good being noted before defects are spoken of: I know thy works, and thy love and faith and ministry and patience, and that thy last works are more than the first. The commendation is great. There was not only grace, but growth in grace, not only work, but work in Christ’s cause abounding more and more. Yet there was also failure. To understand this it is necessary, as already noticed, to adopt the translation of the Revised Version, founded on the more correct reading of the later critical editions of the Greek. Even in that version, too, the translation, given in the margin, of one important expression has to be substituted for that of the text. Keeping this in view, the Saviour thus addresses Thyatira: But I have this against thee, that thou sufferest (that thou toleratest, that thou lettesl alone) thy wife Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess; and she teacheth and seduceth My servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time that she should repent; and she willcth not to repent of her fornication. Behold, I do cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of her works. 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 each one of you according to your works. In these words “Jezebel” is clearly a symbolical name. It is impossible to think that the “angel” of the church was the chief pastor, and that the woman named Jezebel, spoken of as she is, was his wife. We have before us the notorious Jezebel of Old Testament history. Her story is so familiar to every one that it is unnecessary to dwell on it; and we need only further call attention to the fact that the sentence in which her name is mentioned is complete in itself. The sin of the church at Thyatira was that she “suffered” her. In other words, the church tolerated in her midst the evil of which Ahab’s wife was so striking a representative. She knew the world to be what it was; but, instead of making a determined effort to resist it, she yielded to its influences. She repeated the sin of the Corinthian Church: “It is actually reported that there is fornication among you. . . . And ye are puffed up, and did not rather mourn, that he that had done this deed might be taken away from among you.” The world, in short, was in the church, and was tolerated there. Of the threatened punishment, the “bed ” of tribulation and sorrow instead of that of guilty pleasure, nothing need be said. It is of more consequence to observe the change in the manner of address which meets us after that punishment has been described: But to you I say, to the rest that are in Thyatira, as many as have not this teaching, which know not the deep things of Satan, as they say; I cast upon you none other burden. Howbeit that which ye have, hold fast till I come. For the first time in these epistles we meet with those who are spoken of as “the rest,” the remnant, who are to be carefully distinguished from the great body of the Church’s professing members. The world has penetrated into the Church; the Church has become conformed to the world: and the hour is rapidly approaching when the true disciples of Jesus will no longer find within her the shelter which she has hitherto afforded them, and when they will have to “come forth out of her” in her degenerate condition. It is a striking feature of these apocalyptic visions, which has been too much missed by commentators. We shall meet it again and again as we proceed. In the meantime it is enough to say that the moment of withdrawal has not yet come. The faithful “rest,” who had rejected the false teaching and shunned the sinful life, are to continue where they were; and the Lord will cast upon them none other burden. Well for them that they had such a promise.  Their burden of suffering was heavy enough already. Hard to contend with under any circumstances, suffering rises nearer to the height of the sufferings of Christ when the Christian is “wounded,” not by open foes, but “in the house of his friends.” It was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: but it was thou, a man mine equal, my companion, and my familiar friend. We took sweet counsel together; we walked in the house of God with the throne.” The trial was great; so also is the consolation: And he that overcometh, and he that keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations: and as a shepherd he shall tend them with a sceptre of iron, as the vessels of the potter are they broken to shivers; as I also have received of My Father: and I will give him the morning star. It was a heathen element that clouded the sky of the church at Thyatira. That element, nay the nations out of which it springs, shall be crushed beneath the iron sceptre of the King who shall “reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously.” The clouds shall disappear; and Jesus, “the bright, the morning star,” having given Himself to His people, He and they together shall shine with its clear but peaceful light when it appears in the heavens, the harbinger of day.

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