Bible Passage: Revelation 2:18-29

18 'To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

 20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.

 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.

 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.

 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

 24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets, "I will not impose any other burden on you,

 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come."

 26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations-

 27 that one "will rule them with an iron sceptre and will dash them to pieces like pottery"- just as I have received authority from my Father.

 28 I will also give that one the morning star.

 29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev. 2:18-29 NIV)

 

Key OT/NT passages on how this passage fits within the Bible story as a whole

In Israel’s history, God’s people turned over and over again to idolatrous worship. The lowest and most seminal example of this was under King Ahab and his Queen, who become the low watermark for evil leadership (2 Kings 21:3). Over and against this leadership stands God’s king (Psalm 2), who will ultimately destroy the nations of the earth who rage against God’s rule. Ultimately, those who hold onto this king will escape judgement (Psalm 2:12). In the same way, although idolatrous worship is also a present reality for the new Testament church (1 Corinthians 8:1-13), those who hold to the divine Messiah and Son of God will one day reign with him (2 Timothy 2:12).

 

Brief note on context/key themes of book

The book of Revelation is written by John to the suffering church (Revelation 1:9) under the Roman Emperor Domitian (81-96AD). It is an epistle (Revelation 1:4), about the gospel of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:6), founded on the sovereignty of God (Revelation 1:7-8). Having presented us with a picture of Jesus in all his glory (Revelation chapters 1-3), it shows us a glimpse of heaven (Revelation chapters 4-5) and the way in which the lamb deals with God’s wrath. What follows is a series of overlapping picture that take us through from the present age to the return of Christ (chapters 6-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-16, 17-18, 19 and 20). The final vision shows the New Jerusalem – Eden exceeded, and the temple fulfilled (chapters 21-22). This glimpse of heaven (‘Revelation’ literally means ‘an unveiling’) has a pastoral purpose. It is to show the suffering church that whatever is going on, God is on the throne, and is bringing everything to an end – his people, cared for by the risen Lord Jesus, will be safe.

 

Structure of the passage

Jesus is the one who has eyes like blazing fire (compare 1:14), and whose feet are like burnished bronze (1:15) – he sees his people and will pursue those he judges. Ultimately, he is the Psalm 2 king (1:26-27), and he will share his kingdom rule with those who are faithful (compare Matthew 28:18). In-between that description, and that promise, and three important assessments of the local church. What is Jesus looking for? Three things…

A church which is growing in godliness (19)

The church in Thyatira shows love and faith, expressed in service and perseverance – they have understood the heart of the gospel, and are living it out humbly, and without giving up. Not only that, but in contrast to Ephesus (Revelation 2:4-5), they are increasing in godliness. This isn’t first-flush Christianity, but a growing commitment to sacrificial discipleship in a hostile environment. They are constantly asking themselves the question, “What more can I do for Christ?”

A church which repents of wrong religion (20-23)

What could have possibly gone wrong in such a healthy church? Jezebel was an Old testament figure who, along with her husband, introduced idolatry (1 Kings 16:31-32, 21:25-26). Here, Jezebel calls herself a prophet, and is once again leading people into false worship, probably taking part in the idol feast mentioned in 1 Cor 8:1-13. She is offering a deeper form of spirituality, which is exposed as a lie from Satan (Revelation 2:24). Jesus, though, is the one who searches hearts and minds and will bring judgement on idolatrous worshippers. Remarkably, repentance is all that he is looking for in order to save them from wrong worship (Revelation 2:22).

A church which holds onto what it has (24-25)

Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30). The heart of Christianity is simply holding onto what Christians have already been given in Christ (Revelation 2:25). Simple perseverance is all that is required. The reward, in this most Christ-centred letter, is detailed in verses 27-28. Not only will faithful people share Christ’s authority, but they will be given the morning star. That is to say, that they will be given Christ himself (22:16).

 

Suggestions for any tricky bits?

Is this talking about physical or spiritual ‘sexual immorality’?

Sometimes first century idol-feasts were accompanied by orgies and sexual immorality, and there were sometimes fertility cults where you were encouraged to sleep with ‘priests’ and ‘priestesses’ in order to encourage the gods to make your fields fertile. However, in the Bible adultery often refers to spiritual adultery (see, for instance, the book of Hosea), and what seems to be in view here is primarily wrong teaching and idolatrous worship (compare Revelation 2:24 – “to you who do not hold to her teaching”).

What is the judgement of verse 22 and 23?

The judgement of these verse, although severe, is with an eye to repentance (“unless they repent of their ways”). God’s discipline aims to bring people back to him, as a sign of love (Hebrews 12:1-11). Rarely, though, God’s judgement can even lead to someone’s death (see 1 Corinthians 11:29-30).

 

Summary of author’s main point

The church at Thyatira is increasing in godliness, but needs to repent of a false spirituality and hold tightly to Christ, the Son of God.

Aim/purpose for original audience

Be a lasting church that keeps growing in godliness, repents of false spirituality and holds tightly to Christ, the Son of God.

Aim/purpose for us today

Be a lasting church that keeps growing in godliness, repents of false spirituality and holds tightly to Christ, the Son of God.

 

Key area of application

Are you doing more than you did at first?

Looking back over the last year, to what extent have you kept holding to Christ until he comes?

How will you do so more in the year ahead?