Revelation 2:18-29 Living a Holy Life
If I am going to suffer for Christ’s sake, and keep God’s truth, then I am trying to live a holy life. Living a holy life is the test of obedience. Living a holy life means that I put God before other priorities. It is a test of obedience because other people are watching. Will I do what God tells me to do? Will I obey him or dismiss Him?1
SEVEN PARTS OF THE LETTER TO THE CHURCH OF THYATIRA
1. Address – to Thyatira (Revelation 2:18)
““Write to the angel of the church in Thyatira…” (Revelation 2:18, HCSB)
2. Depiction of Jesus – The Son of God with eyes of fire and feet like bronze (Revelation 2:18)
…“The Son of God, the One whose eyes are like a fiery flame and whose feet are like fine bronze, says:” (Revelation 2:18, HCSB)
This is the only time in the entire Book of Revelation that Jesus identifies Himself as the Son of God rather than as the Son of Man. He chooses this reference because fire and brass speak of judgment.2
The city boasted a special temple to Apollo, the “sun god,” which explains why the Lord introduced Himself as “the Son of God.” John had to deliver a message of severe warning and judgment to this congregation, which explains the description of the Lord’s eyes and feet.3 The Son of Man is Jesus’ description of Himself which refers to His humanity on Earth. He came to restore humanity to God. The Son of God is Jesus’ description of Himself which refers to His divine power. He will return to restore God’s kingdom with humanity.4 The eyes like blazing fire suggest Jesus’s penetrating insight and power to judge. The feet like burnished bronze emphasize Jesus’s strength, a noticeable quality in a city where the metal workers’ guild wielded enormous power.5 As the chosen King, Jesus speaks to this church with grand authority.
3. Commendation or Praise – The works of the church (Revelation 2:19)
“I know your works—your love, faithfulness, service, and endurance. Your last works are greater than the first.” (Revelation 2:19, HCSB)
This is similar to the church of Ephesus. Jesus commends them for their works. Numerous scholars note the contrast between the churches in Ephesus, where their first works were greater than their last works (Revelation 2:4–5), and Thyatira, where their last works are now greater than their first works.6
In this case, Jesus classifies these works into four categories:
CATEGORIES OF WORK THE CHURCH PERFORMS
Yet even before the rebuke, Jesus is warning the church that the works in the past are better than works done in the present. Then Jesus eludes to the reason why this has happened – false teaching.
4. Condemnation or Rebuke – Toleration of False Teaching (Revelation 2:20-23)
“But I have this against you: You tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and teaches and deceives My slaves to commit sexual immorality and to eat meat sacrificed to idols.” (Revelation 2:20, HCSB)
Ephesus and Pergamum had to deal with legalists on the inside, and persecution from the outside. Thyatira had to deal with false teaching from within the church. This false teaching caused the church move from the good works they had been doing. They started to drift into sinful activity.
The Ephesian church was weakening in its love, yet faithful to judge false teachers; while the people in the assembly at Thyatira were growing in their love, but too tolerant of false doctrine. Both extremes must be avoided in the church. “Speaking the truth in love” is the biblical balance (Ephesians 4:15). Unloving orthodoxy and loving compromise are both hateful to God.7
There are however differences between the two situations. Against beleaguered Christians like those at Pergamum, Satan uses the pressures of the world to ‘squeeze’ them ‘into its own mould’ (Romans 12:2); but where the church is noted for its growth and vigour (Revelation 2:19), he knows that he can do most damage not by pressure without but by poison within. So in Thyatira a particular woman takes on both the evil character of Jezebel and the prophetic role of Balaam, and begins to teach, as if from God, new ‘deep things’ which some members of this strong and lively church are only too willing to explore.8
Notice that the only one calling themselves a prophetess is the false prophetess Jezebel. She claims to be a prophetess of God, but does the works of the devil. Who was she? Some say that she was a local seer or oracle which people came to find out their future. Locally, her name was Sambathe.9 It is very possible that Jezebel was not her real name. Someone whom the city was legitimate was like a Jezebel to God. Her sex is not the basis for the judgment in this text, but solely her false teaching and her false way of life.10 Just as Jezebel incited Israel to commit spiritual adultery by claiming to be Jews, but continue to worship Baal. 11 The Jezebel of Revelation taught believers how to compromise with the Roman religion and the practices of the guilds, so that Christians would not lose their jobs or their lives.12
This brings up the question of spiritual compromise in my life. How do you and I commit spiritual sexual immorality? Do we stay faithful with God on this Sunday, but we worship something else on another Sunday? Where is our allegiance?
“I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to repent of her sexual immorality. Look! I will throw her into a sickbed and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her practices.” (Revelation 2:21–22, HCSB)
Some in the church of Thyatira compromised and received Jesus’ rebuke. Jesus warned the church that Jezebel and her followers were given time to repent, but they refused. As a result, Jesus would make them sick. In this case, illness is a direct result of disobedience to God and His Word. In the Gospels, Jesus healed people for illnesses. In Revelation, He causes illnesses. The reason that people would be getting sick is because of grave sin. Jesus warned them to repent. But they refused to repent, Jesus allowed the consequence of sickness specifically to Jezebel. Her followers (known as her “children” were going to encounter intense pressure. They may not receive sickness like she would. Yet, they would encounter tremendous difficulty in life. Life would stack up against them in a way to let be reminded that they need to return to Jesus.
Pressure and stress in life are also related to sin and lack of confession and repentance. You may not get sick, but your life will be difficult. If you choose to sin, or follow someone who leads you into sin, Jesus warns that you will encounter difficulties in life. These difficulties are different from persecution or the normal stresses of life.
5. Exhortation – Hold on! (Revelation 2:24-25)
“I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who haven’t known the deep things of Satan —as they say—I do not put any other burden on you. But hold on to what you have until I come.” (Revelation 2:24–25, HCSB)
There are two interpretations for the phrase “deep secrets of Satan.” The so-called “deep secrets” of Satan could be a mocking description of the true source of her teaching, meaning that her teaching really comes from Satan. The “deep secrets” could be about its content. In this case, what they thought were deep things of God that gave them freedom to sin were actually the deep things of Satan. This false teaching alleges that what we do with our bodies doesn’t matter since it will not affect our true spirituality. Against this false teaching, Jesus encourages the church to hold on. He tells the church that if they would continue to follow Jesus and His teaches, if they would continue to “abide” as Jesus would say in the Gospel of John, they will succeed. Sometimes, the ride in the Christian life is long and hard. At times like this, we have to just hang on. Living a holy life means that you don’t give up on Jesus when the going gets tough.
6. Promise to the overcoming Christian – Power over the nations (Revelation 2:26-29)
“The one who is victorious and keeps My works to the end: I will give him authority over the nations— and he will shepherd them with an iron scepter; he will shatter them like pottery — just as I have received this from My Father. I will also give him the morning star.” (Revelation 2:26–28, HCSB)
They will be given “authority over the nations,” to “rule” over them with an iron scepter and dash them like pottery (Psalm 2:8–9; Revelation 19:15).13 The nations are not looked upon positively in Revelation. As a result, Jesus is reminding the church that no matter who has the power over the nations today, Jesus will rule over them soon. The “Morning Star,” who is Jesus, delegates His authority to His children with power over other nations. The Scriptures do not explain this expression, but it may refer to participation in the Rapture of the church before the dark hours preceding the dawn of the millennial kingdom.14
7. Call to pay attention to the Holy Spirit (Revelation 2:29)
““Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:29, HCSB)
Again, we have this call to listen and pay attention to the Holy Spirit. Listening to the Spirit is essential to living a holy life. If I want to live for God, I need to pay attention to the Spirit, not a false spirit. Notice here that the order is reversed. The call to listen to the Spirit comes after the authority is given to the church. The Holy Spirit reminds us to live a holy life. This happens when we let Jesus lead our lives.
1 Jim Erwin, “Revelation 2:1-3:22 Seven Tests of a Healthy Church,” sermon, posted on http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2016/01/31/revelation-21-322-seven-tests-of-a-healthy-church/ on 31 January 2016, accessed on 03 February 2016.
2 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1675.
3 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 575.
4 David Seal, “Son of God,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015).
5 J. Scott Duvall, Revelation, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 59.
6 J. Scott Duvall, Revelation, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 59.
7 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 575.
8 Michael Wilcock, The Message of Revelation: I Saw Heaven Opened, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 50.
9 Paige Patterson, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 39, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012), 112.
10 Earl F. Palmer and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, 1, 2 & 3 John / Revelation, vol. 35, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1982), 135–136.
11 G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007), 1095.
12 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 575.
13 J. Scott Duvall, Revelation, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 60.
14 John F. Walvoord, “Revelation,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 938.