"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
Picture of Pergamos ruins from Wikipedia
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Rebuke 14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.
Promise to overcomers To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it."
Revelation 2:12 - "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write..."
The name Pergamos means: "All-encompassing marriage" from the Greek roots, "peri" and "gamos." The Greek word for parchment is similar: "pergamene."Historical background of Pergamos:
Revelation 2:12 - These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword...
As determined in Revelation 1:16, the "sharp two-edged sword" is the word of God, which has the power to pierce the body, soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12). As we will see, the church of Pergamos allowed doctrinal errors to seep in. Correct doctrine comes through the reading of God's word:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 - All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Revelation 2:13 - "I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is."
We will cover the works of Pergamos in the next section. Based on research done by author Alexander Hislop, some believe that when Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon, the Babylonian priests fled to the area of Pergamos, effectively moving the center of pagan worship with them. Whether this is true or not, Roman polytheism is certainly rooted in Babylonian paganism, as are all polytheistic religions.
Interestingly, construction of the Pergamon Altar was in Pergamos, and dedicated to Zeus, the "father of all gods." Many believe the reference to "Satan's throne" in Pergamos is the Pergamon Altar. In addition, the temple to Asclepius, the serpent-god, stood in Pergamos. As we will see later, Satan, the dragon, that "serpent of old" (Revelation 20:2), will give this throne to the beast in the Tribulation:
Revelation 13:2 - Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.
Revelation 2:13 - And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith...
The Lord commended the church of Pergamos for their good works of being able to stay true to the Lord and His faith despite the fact they resided near Satan's throne, where polytheism was rampant. Like the church of Pergamos, the Lord rewards those who do good works in His name:
Mark 9:41 - For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
Revelation 2:13 - ...even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
There are no reliable historical records about Antipas. According to tradition, Antipas was a bishop of Pergamos, ordained by the apostle John. Many believe the pagans martyred Antipas, by burning him to death in a bull shaped bronze altar.
The name "Antipas" means "in place of all." Antipas did not live life for himself, but for Christ. He held fast to the name of Christ and did not deny the faith, because Jesus died for all, in our place:
2 Corinthians 5:15 - ...and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
Revelation 2:14 - But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.
Balak, the king of Moab, summoned a Midianite prophet by the name of Balaam to curse Israel. After God did not allow Balaam to curse Israel, he devised a plan to corrupt Israel, to try to get God to curse them instead. Balaam had Balak send Moabite women to seduce some of the men of Israel into sexual immorality and idol worship (Numbers 22-25 & 31). Israel compromised their morals, and joined the heathen world:
Psalms 106:28 - They joined themselves also to Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices made to the dead.
While the Church is not under the Mosaic Law (Romans 6:14), believers are not to use their liberty to make a "stumbling block" for others. That is why the early Church leaders warned the flock to stay away from having any part in these pagan practices:
Acts 15:28-29 - For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.
1 Corinthians 8:7-9 - However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.
In short, the doctrine of Balaam in the Church would be that of compromising morals and testimony after the ways of the world. Friendship with the world in God's eyes is a form of adultery:
James 4:4 - Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
2 Peter 2:14-15 - [The unjust] having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.
Revelation 2:15 - Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Recall from our study on Ephesus that the Nicolaitans are likely a movement that initiated the ecclesiastical hierarchy into the Church. This model has roots in the Babylonian pagan priesthood (Revelation 2:6). The Ephesians hated the "deeds of the Nicolaitans," who vied for positions as clergy for dishonest gain. However, the church of Pergamos apparently embraced this unscriptural doctrine, which Peter warned against:
1 Peter 5:2-3 - Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
Adopting the Babylonian priesthood model goes hand in hand with giving into the doctrine of Balaam; compromise with the ways of the world that lead to sin.
Revelation 2:16 - Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
Permitting the "doctrine of Balaam," and embracing the "doctrine of the Nicolaitans" within the Church, led to doctrinal errors. Jesus warned the church of Pergamos that if they did not turn away from their tolerance of such doctrines, that He would "fight against them with the sword of [His] mouth," which is the word of God. Incidentally, the prophet Balaam died by a physical sword (Joshua 13:22).
As discussed in Revelation 2:12, correct doctrine comes through the hearing or reading of the word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Believers should use God's word as an offensive weapon to prevent infiltration of false doctrine from the enemy:
Ephesians 6:12-17 - For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Those who embrace false doctrines can choose to reject true biblical doctrine, but the Lord will still hold them accountable to everything in His word:
Hebrews 4:12-13 - For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Revelation 2:17 - He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Spirit-led believers can understand the "mysteries of the kingdom of God" (Luke 8:8-10), some of which the Lord includes as promises to the "overcomers" in the letters to the churches in Revelation.
Click here for the full discussion on the "call to hear."
Revelation 2:17 - To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat.
Click here for the full discussion on the overcomer.
The Lord rebuked the church of Pergamos for tolerating the "doctrine of Balaam." This doctrine included eating of food sacrificed to idols, which spiritually compromised their Christian witness to the pagan society they lived in. Conversely, Christ offers manna, the heavenly food of angels (Psalm 78:24-25), to the overcomers. Manna was the bread from Heaven the Lord provided for Israel during their forty years, wandering in the wilderness:
Exodus 16:12, 14-15, 35 - "I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, 'At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the LORD your God.'"...And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, "This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat...." And the children of Israel ate manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.
When the miracle of manna ceased, as Israel entered the promised land, Moses commissioned Aaron to take some manna and place it in the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 16:33-34). There, the manna was "hidden" behind the veil, where the high priest entered only once a year:
Hebrews 9:3-4, 7 - ...and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna.... But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year....
The veil that hid the manna tore in two (Mark 15:38) when Jesus, the High Priest (Hebrews 2:17), died on the cross. Jesus has broken down this wall of separation between men and God (Ephesians 2:14-18). He has revealed Himself as the hidden manna, the "living bread" that is now available to everyone. Those who eat of the "bread of life" will never die:
John 6:48-51 - "I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."
Recall from Revelation 1:14 that the color white pictures the cleansing of sin:
Isaiah 1:18 - "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
Psalms 51:5-7 - Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
When the Israelites crossed over the Jordan into the Promised Land, they set up an altar of whitewashed stones, with the words of the Law written on them:
Deuteronomy 27:2-3 - And it shall be, on the day when you cross over the Jordan to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones, and whitewash them with lime. You shall write on them all the words of this law, when you have crossed over, that you may enter the land which the LORD your God is giving you, 'a land flowing with milk and honey,' just as the LORD God of your fathers promised you.
The Law written on whitewashed stone is the first covenant. Under the new covenant, God will write His Law on the hearts and minds of believers:
Hebrews 8:6-7, 10 & 9:15 - But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.... For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.... He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
The white stone then, symbolizes the promised inheritance of the overcomers, bought with the cleansing blood of Christ, who writes His Law on their hearts and minds.
Revelation 2:17 - ...and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.
Names in Scripture are rich with meaning, as discussed in the study: "What's in a Name?" Jerusalem will receive a new name that will describe How the Lord restores it, in contrast to when He had forsaken it and left it desolate:
Isaiah 62:2-4 - The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD will name. You shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.
Those who overcome, or believers in Christ, they are a "new creation":
2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Like Jerusalem, the Lord will make overcomers a new creation and they will each receive a new name. The new name will be a secret between the overcomer and God, alluding to the special intimate relationship the Lord has with each believer.
It is interesting to note that if the "doctrine of the Nicolaitans" has roots in the Babylonian priesthood, the reference to "hidden manna" and a "secret name" would be a counter to their hidden and secret practices. Part of the enticement behind the Babylonian priesthood was to learn what was "forbidden knowledge" to others. While history confirms these secret practices in Babylonian rooted pagan worship, Scripture hints at them in the following passages:
Deuteronomy 27:15 - 'Cursed is the one who makes a carved or molded image, an abomination to the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.' "And all the people shall answer and say, 'Amen!'."
2 Kings 17:9-12 - Also the children of Israel secretly did against the LORD their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities, from watchtower to fortified city. They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the LORD had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger, for they served idols, of which the LORD had said to them, "You shall not do this thing."
Over several centuries, people inked the word of God on the very parchment developed, and so named in Pergamos (Revelation 2:12). Ironically, the Lord had to rebuke the church in Pergamos because they started to tolerate false doctrine, straying from true doctrine. Jesus threatened to combat the perpetrators of this false doctrine with the "sword of His mouth," the word of God (Revelation 2:12 &16).
One cannot join themselves, or marry both Christ and the world. This compromise allows false doctrine and deception to seep in, which inevitably leads to sin, as demonstrated in the scheme of Balaam (Numbers 22-25 & 31):
Romans 16:17-18 - Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.
For those that overcome, God will not write His word on parchment or stone, but on their hearts and minds in His kingdom. By feeding on the word of God, personified in Christ, who is the "bread of life" or the "hidden manna" (Revelation 2:17), believers are "nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine." Good doctrine guards against deception:
1 Timothy 4:1,6 - Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.... If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.
After the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, he issued the "Edict of Milan" in 313 AD which declared tolerance to all religions. Eventually, Christianity became the official religion of Rome, forming a union between the Church and the worldly government, ironically molding to the meaning of Pergamos, as an "all encompassing marriage." Numerous pagan traditions and rituals became married into the Church to make it more palatable to pagan converts. This compromise led to false doctrines.
One of the false doctrines tolerated was that of an ecclesiastical hierarchy, rooted in the Babylonian priesthood, which many believe is the same doctrine of the Nicolaitans that the church of Pergamos held to. Is it a coincidence that Attalus III in 129BC willed the city of Pergamos, the location of the "throne of Satan" to Rome? Even more ominous, is that the Pergamon Altar was reconstructed in a museum in Berlin, just a few decades before the Nazi regime rose to power.
Rebuke 20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
Counsel 24 "Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. 25 But hold fast what you have till I come.
Promise to overcomers 26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations- 27 'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels'- as I also have received from My Father; 28 and I will give him the morning star.
Revelation 2:18 - "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write..."
The name Thyatira: The Greek root word "thuo" means sacrifice. A similar Greek word is "thymiaterion," which is a censor used to burn incense. Support for the name originating from "thymiaterion" comes from church tradition, which says that Thyatira means "odor of affliction." However, the name may have originated from "thygatera," which means "daughter," as King Seleucus Nicator so named the city after his daughter was born in 290BC.
Historical background of Thyatira:
Revelation 2:18 - These things says the Son of God...
In Revelation 1:13 Jesus appears to John as "One like the Son of Man," attesting to His humanity. To the church of Thyatira, the Lord presents Himself as the "Son of God," asserting His divine nature:
Luke 1:31-35 - And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end." Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God."
Isaiah 9:6 - For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil:
1 John 3:8 - He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
In a few verses, we will see that the church of Thyatira is under the burden of the "works of the devil," which Jesus as the "Son of God" deals with in this letter.
Recall from Revelation 1:14, the "eyes like a flame of fire" relate to judgment and displeasure with sin. In Revelation 1:15, we saw that bronze is also associated with judgment and purification from sin. The Lord was clearly not pleased with the congregation at Thyatira.
Revelation 2:19 - I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.
In Revelation 2:4-5, we discussed that the "first work" was to follow the first of the greatest commandments:
Mark 12:30-31 - '...and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these.
Apparently, the congregation at Thyatira had put more emphasis on their love and works toward others, allowing it to encroach on their devotion to the Lord. However, they were not rebuked for leaving their "first love" like the church of Ephesus (Revelation 2:4). It seems that the motives of the congregation at Thyatira were in the right place, but the love for the Lord was not as great as that for others. Since the Lord did not criticize their love, service, faith, or patience, Thyatira had presumably done well, yielding characteristics of the "fruit of the Spirit":
Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Revelation 2:20 - Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel...
Whether this woman's name was "Jezebel" or not, she was certainly working in the "spirit of Jezebel." It is perceivable then that we are to look to the Old Testament Jezebel, King Ahab's wife, to further understand the Lord's rebuke. Recall from Revelation 2:14, that Balaam enticed Israel to commit sexual immorality and idol worship, through compromise with the world. Hundreds of years later, Jezebel led the northern kingdom of Israel into the same sins through Baal worship, a cult involving sexual immorality and idol worship, described as harlotry and witchcraft:
2 Kings 9:22 - Now it happened, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, "Is it peace, Jehu?" So he answered, "What peace, as long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcraft are so many?"
Revelation 2:20 - ...who calls herself a prophetess to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
Those called a "prophetess" in Scripture were godly women (Exodus 15:20, Judges 4:4, 2 Chronicles 34:22, Nehemiah 6:14, Isaiah 8:3, Luke 2:36), who were given messages from the Lord in the same way as the men called prophets. The Old Testament Jezebel was famous for massacring the true prophets of God (1 Kings 18:4).
Ironically, the Jezebel at Thyatira called herself a "prophetess." It appears that this woman had come into the Church under the guise of a prophetess, but used witchcraft to lead astray some of the Lord's servants, or believers (Revelation 1:1), into sexual sin and idolatry, which was the "doctrine of Balaam" (Revelation 2:14). The sin of witchcraft is rebellion:
1 Samuel 15:23 - For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Not surprising, Jezebel from Thyatira not only seduced others to commit sexual immorality, she practiced it herself. Apparently, someone had previously called out Jezebel's sin, but rebellious in her witchcraft she refused to repent. Likewise, in the Old Testament Jezebel refused to repent. Strangely, Jezebel took the time to adorn herself as a harlot, and would not repent, even as she likely sensed that death was near at the hands of the anointed king of Israel, Jehu:
2 Kings 9:30 - Now when Jehu had come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she put paint on her eyes and adorned her head, and looked through a window.
After they left the Lord for idol worship, the two kingdoms: Israel and Judah, painted their eyes and adorned themselves like Jezebel, as was a custom of a harlot in those days:
Ezekiel 23:36-37, 40, 43-44 - The LORD also said to me: "Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Then declare to them their abominations. For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. They have committed adultery with their idols, and even sacrificed their sons whom they bore to Me, passing them through the fire, to devour them.... Furthermore you sent for men to come from afar, to whom a messenger was sent; and there they came. And you washed yourself for them, painted your eyes, and adorned yourself with ornaments.... Then I said concerning her who had grown old in adulteries, 'Will they commit harlotry with her now, and she with them?' Yet they went in to her, as men go in to a woman who plays the harlot; thus they went in to Oholah and Oholibah, the lewd women."
Both passages above show a physical manifestation of the spiritual harlotry and rebellion committed by Jezebel and Israel.
In a twist of irony, the Lord threatened to punish the Jezebel of Thyatira, who committed sin on a bed of harlotry, by being "cast into a sickbed." This phrase in the Greek was a figure of speech commonly used that meant "to make one sick." This same concept is in the Hebrew, in the following passage:
Psalms 41:3-4 - The LORD will strengthen him on his bed of illness; You will sustain him on his sickbed. I said, "LORD, be merciful to me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against You."
As we will see in the next section, punishment of sickness would be a time of "great tribulation" for Jezebel and those that committed adultery with her.
Like those in the church of Thyatira, who committed adultery with Jezebel, Israel had to go through a time of "tribulation," as punishment for their spiritual harlotry:
Ezekiel 23:17-18,28-30,33,35 - "Then the Babylonians came to her, into the bed of love, And they defiled her with their immorality; So she was defiled by them, and alienated herself from them. She revealed her harlotry and uncovered her nakedness. Then I alienated Myself from her, As I had alienated Myself from her sister.... "For thus says the Lord GOD: 'Surely I will deliver you into the hand of those you hate, into the hand of those from whom you alienated yourself. They will deal hatefully with you, take away all you have worked for, and leave you naked and bare. The nakedness of your harlotry shall be uncovered, both your lewdness and your harlotry. I will do these things to you because you have gone as a harlot after the Gentiles, because you have become defiled by their idols.... You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, The cup of horror and desolation, The cup of your sister Samaria.... "Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: 'Because you have forgotten Me and cast Me behind your back, Therefore you shall bear the penalty Of your lewdness and your harlotry.'"
There are only two other times that the phrase "great tribulation" is in Scripture:
Matthew 24:21 - For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Revelation 7:14 - And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
These verses speak of the future Tribulation period at the end of the age. This has led some to believe that sexually immoral Christians living at the end of the age will not go in the rapture with other believers and go through the Tribulation. However, a careful analysis of these verses shows this is not the case.
It is clear in Matthew 24:21 that there has been "great tribulation" in history. Otherwise, one cannot compare the coming time of tribulation as being the worst ever. Whereas, in Revelation 2:22 it is simply rendered a period of "great tribulation," with nothing to suggest that it is the worst ever or entitled as such, as in Matthew 24:21 and Revelation 7:14. This would be likened to the time of "tribulation," or punishment that Israel had to go through for their harlotry against God, described in Ezekiel 23 above.
While Jezebel was to suffer the consequences of her defiance, the Lord also warned those who partook in her sin of the same punishment. God deals with the unrepentant sin of believers through chastisement:
Hebrews 12:6-8 - "For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.
King Ahab repented of taking part in Jezebel's wickedness and humbled himself before the Lord. The Lord relented and promised Ahab that He would not bring "the evil" (KJV), or "the calamity" in his days:
1 Kings 21:25-29 - But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up. And he behaved very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. So it was, when Ahab heard those words, that he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning. And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, "See how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days. In the days of his son I will bring the calamity on his house."
The Hebrew word translated "evil" (KJV), or "calamity" (NKJV), also means affliction, distress, or tribulation. God spared Ahab "tribulation" because he repented. The sexual immoral believers at Thyatira could have avoided "great tribulation" and suffering if they had repented of their sin with Jezebel.
Any children conceived in sin by Jezebel at Thyatira, were going to die because of her sin. Sexual immorality is an abomination to the Lord, as described in Leviticus 18. The Lord abhors this type of sin so much that He even considers the land defiled for nations consumed by such perverseness. Consequences are most severe for these sexual sins:
Leviticus 18:27-29 - ...(for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people.
Though not every child born out of a sexually immoral relationship dies, God may not have mercy on them:
Hosea 2:4-5 - I will not have mercy on her children, for they are the children of harlotry. For their mother has played the harlot; she who conceived them has behaved shamefully....
God may choose to take the life of the child to punish the parent's sin. Even King David lost the child born out of his adulterous relationship. He also suffered further punishment at the hands of his enemies, as well as a great deal of family trouble:
2 Samuel 12:9-15 - Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' Thus says the LORD: 'Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.' " So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die." Then Nathan departed to his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and it became ill.
Revelation 2:23 - ...and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts.
Those who did not repent at Thyatira, the Lord said He would punish as an example and warning to all the churches of what would happen if they lived in unrepentant sin. Pual gives a similar admonition to the church of Corinth, based on the example of the Israelites:
1 Corinthians 10:6-11 - Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
Recall from Revelation 2:18, that the Lord addressed Himself to the church at Thyatira as "the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire." We determined in Revelation 1:14 that the "eyes like a flame of fire" relate to judgment and displeasure with sin. Nothing in the hearts and minds of man are "hidden from His sight":
Hebrews 4:13 - And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Searching the minds and hearts of men is to look at their motive:
Jeremiah 17:10 - I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.
God will judge the works of everyone, both good and bad:
Romans 2:4-11 - Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who "will render to each on according to his deeds": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness - indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.
Unbelievers will treasure up wrath, as they continue to defy repentance. The "day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" is also known as the "Great White Throne" judgment, where God will judge unbelievers on their works and send them to eternal punishment:
Revelation 20:11-13 - Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
After the rapture, all believers from the Church Age will stand before the "Judgment Seat of Christ." Believers will gain or lose rewards, based on their deeds, or works, done during their lifetime. Unrepentant sin, as in the case of Thyatira, would result in the loss of rewards. Christ will reward believers with crowns for their virtuous works:
1 Corinthians 3:8-15 - Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
When Jesus returns to set up His kingdom on the earth, He will reward those who become believers in the Tribulation for their works:
Matthew 16:24-27 - Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works."
Click here for more on the context of this passage.
Revelation 2:24 - Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira...
It is interesting to note, the Lord gives counsel to both the angel and "the rest" of the congregation in Thyatira. This may support the argument that the angels of the churches are men. For more on this discussion see Revelation 1:20.
Revelation 2:24 - ...as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan...
The opposite of the "depths of Satan" would be the "deep things of God":
1 Corinthians 2:7 - But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory.... But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
The Holy Spirit reveals the "deep things of God." Conversely, the "depths of Satan" would be revealed through his demonic devices, in the same way he gives "forbidden knowledge" to those in the Babylonian pagan worship (Revelation 2:17). Those who practice witchcraft, as did Jezebel the wife of Ahab, open themselves up to demonic activity, which leads to further depravity. The demonic power Jezebel obtained influenced several others to go down the same path of corruption.
In the case of Thyatira, Jezebel taught the false doctrine of Balaam (Revelation 2:14), which encouraged the sinful activities of sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols. Her rebellion and refusal to repent, was a form of witchcraft, powerful enough to entice believers at Thyatira to follow her false doctrine. Those who follow false doctrine can easily become ensnared in the trap of sin and be devoured by the devil:
2 Timothy 2:25 - ...if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
1 Peter 5:8 - Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
The only "burdens" that the Lord expected the church of Thyatira to deal with was sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols. A "burden" in this case, would be the expectation to follow certain items from the Law of Moses. It is interesting to note, that many of Jewish leaders that became believers felt it necessary to continue to follow the Law. They also believed that Gentile converts should follow the Law:
Acts 15:10-11 & 28-29 - Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.... For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.
The Law of Moses was a "burden" that was impossible to follow completely. However, that does not mean that there are not items from the Law that Christians would do well to take heed to, as indicated by the apostles (Acts 15:29). Keep in mind that idolatry and sexual immorality were abominable to God, even before the Law of Moses (Leviticus 18, Deuteronomy 12:31). In other words, these laws against sexual immorality and idolatry fall under the "natural laws" of creation, that God expects everyone to follow (Romans 1). Be that as it may, if believers follow the Lord's commandments to love Him and their neighbor (Mark 12:30-31), staying away from idolatry and sexual immorality is not a "burden" anyway:
1 John 5:1-3 - Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
While most of the letter to Thyatira was a rebuke from the Lord, Jesus did praise the church encouraging them to "hold fast," or work to maintain the positives things they had - their works, love, service, faith, and patience:
Revelation 2:19 - "I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first."
Revelation 2:26 - And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations...
Click here for the full discussion on the overcomer.
As the Lord is faithful in His promises, we should strive to be faithful and diligent in doing His works, until death, or the rapture:
Ephesians 2:10 - For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Revelation 2:27 - "'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels' - as I also have received from My Father..."
The Father bestowed power to the Son that He will share with the overcomers in the Millennium. Jesus introduced Himself as the "Son of God" to the church of Thyatira (Revelation 2:18) and told them that He would rule with a rod of iron, which is interesting in light of the parallel passage below:
Psalms 2:7-9 - "I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel.'"
The following are two more parallels:
Revelation 12:5 - She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.
Revelation 19:15 - Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron....
To rule with a rod of iron means that the Lord's rule will be just and punishment will be swift and harsh. Iron symbolizes strength that has the power to destroy:
Daniel 2:40 - And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything.
It is interesting that the Lord chose to use pottery as an example in the letter to Thyatira. Thyatira was known for many trades, including a purple dye (Acts 16:14). Archeology has shown us that a guild of potters also established a trade there.
The following example about Israel illustrates that a potter can mold a pot while it is still clay:
Jeremiah 18:1-6 - The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying: "Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause you to hear My words." Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?" says the LORD. "Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!"
However, when the clay has hardened, if the resulting pot does not turn out as the potter desires, he has the prerogative to destroy it:
Isaiah 45:9 - "Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' Or shall your handiwork say, 'He has no hands'?
Therefore, those who live in the Millennium will willingly allow the Lord to mold them, or be "dashed to pieces" if their hearts are against Him.
The morning star appears during the darkest hour of the night, before the day dawns:
2 Peter 1:17-19 - For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
Overcomers can have confidence in the promises given by the Lord. They are to watch for Him as they would the morning star in the dark of the night:
Psalms 130:6 - My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning - yes, more than those who watch for the morning.
It is fitting that Jesus is the "Bright and Morning Star":
Revelation 22:16 - "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star."
As the morning star appears in the darkest hour of the night, the Lord will return in the darkest moment of human history, at the end of the Tribulation:
Mark 13:24-26 - "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory."
With regard to the promises in the letter to Thyatira, it is interesting that the prophet Balaam, who enticed Israel with sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to animals (Revelation 2:20,24) actually prophesied of the coming Messiah, calling Him a "Star" (Revelation 2:28) and a "Scepter," which is a rod (Revelation 2:27):
Numbers 24:17 - "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel."
Revelation 2:29 - "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
Spirit-led believers can understand the "mysteries of the kingdom of God" (Luke 8:8-10), some of which the Lord includes as promises to the "overcomers" in the letters to the churches in Revelation.
Click here for the full discussion on the "call to hear."
Ultimately, the Lord desires everyone to love Him with all their heart, soul, and mind:
Matthew 22:37-40 - Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
Even the Law, which was a "yoke" that was impossible to bear for the Jews (Acts 15:10), rested on the commandments to love God and their neighbors with all their being. The Law was a burden, even in the best of circumstances. The good news is that believers after the cross are not subject to the burden of the Law:
Colossians 2:13-14 - And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
However, when believers fail to offer the sacrificial, "agape" love (Revelation 2:4) toward God and others, they break the two greatest commandments. Deficiency in these "first works" (Revelation 2:19), especially toward God, generally leads to other sin. Sin to the Church Age believer is when a believer does something against their conscience or what the Holy Spirit tells them:
James 4:17 - Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.
It seems that Thyatira had put more emphasis on their love and works toward others, than toward the Lord. This sin led some in the congregation to follow "Jezebel," who enticed them by the "doctrine of Balaam" (Revelation 2:24), where they engaged in sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols. In His rebuke the Lord laid on the church of Thyatira the same "burden" to abstain from these abhorrent practices, as exhorted by the apostles, just decades earlier, for the Church body at large. In other words, the church of Thyatira should have known better than to engage in these sinful practices.
The Lord searches the minds and hearts (Revelation 2:23), with His "eyes like a flame of fire" (Revelation 2:18), in displeasure toward sin. The Lord is long-suffering and desires all to come to repentance, but defiance will result in punishment. When the Lord returns as the "Morning Star" (Revelation 2:28) at the darkest hour of the Tribulation period, He will put an end to all rebellion.
In the Millennium, the Lord will "rule with a rod of iron" (Revelation 2:27); punishment will be immediate. Those who love the Lord with all their heart, soul and mind the Potter will mold into a vessel that will display His glory. Those who rebel against the Lord will be "dashed to pieces" (Revelation 2:27) by the Potter:
Romans 9:21-23 - Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory.
The Pagan Church - 606AD to the rapture
Beginning with this Church Age type, the characteristics of Thyatira and the following churches co-exist today, while the characteristics of Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamos are no longer present. While the basis for these Church Age types are from observations today and from history, it is interesting to note that these last four churches have direct references to the 2nd Coming of Jesus in their letters, while Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamos do not. This may suggest that all four Church Age types will continue to the rapture.
Just as the original Jezebel promoted false doctrines and Babylonian practices, as did the Jezebel at Thyatira (Revelation 2:20), the compromises allowed in the Church after Constantine, led to the marriage of many of these same practices into the Church. A combination of a hierarchical clergy, most people being illiterate, and the written word of God being widely unavailable, led to abuse among Church leaders and introduction of false doctrine. The true promises and doctrines of God's word would have been like a "morning star" (Revelation 2:28) appearing during the "Dark Ages" that birthed this Church Age type.
The Thyatira Church Age is known by their sacrificial love toward others, through the many services and charities they have provided throughout the world over the centuries. However, the ritualistic religious practices, which include idols, relics, the burning of incense (note the possible connection of "Thyatira" to the Greek word "thymiaterion," a censor used to burn incense), and other practices rooted in Babylonian paganism, have hindered their relationship with the Lord. Anything that takes away from a relationship with the Lord is an idol and a form of spiritual harlotry:
Ezekiel 6:9 - Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations.
Ezekiel 14:6-7 - "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations. For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity."'"
The Lord will chastise all true believers in the Thyatira Church Age with "great tribulation" (Revelation 2:22) for taking part in religious paganism that interferes with true fellowship and love for the Lord. At the end of the age, unbelievers will find themselves in the "Great Tribulation" (Matthew 24:21), and ultimately "dashed to pieces" (Revelation 2:27), if they refuse to repent and follow after the Lord.
Revelation Flow Chart:
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