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THE FOURTH CHURCH -- THYATIRA
“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: 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.” Revelation 2:18-28.
Review and Herald, vol 8, October 16, 1856, #24, p 188-189
Thyatira signifies, "sweet savor of labor, or sacrifice and contrition;" and is a description of the church during the 1260 years of Papal supremacy. This age of dreadful cruelty, and martyrdom of the true church, improved her real condition. "I know thy works, and charity, and patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first." How necessary to the purity and prosperity of the church, has been persecution and affliction; how corrupting and destructive to holiness has been worldly prosperity!
Verse 20 is strong testimony that we have correctly applied these churches. Jezebel is a figurative name, alluding to Ahab's wife, who slew the prophets of the Lord, led her husband into idolatry, and fed the prophets of Baal at her own table. A more striking figure could not have been used to denote the Papal abominations. See 1Kings xviii, xix, xxi. It is very evident from history, as well as from this verse, that the church of Christ did suffer some of the Papal monks to preach and teach among them. In verse 25 is the charge, "Hold fast till I come." Here is evidence that some who lived near the close of this age of the church would live until the Lord should come. The signs in the sun and moon were fulfilled in 1780, very near the close of this period; and in reference to these signs the Saviour said, "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth near." Luke xxi,28. The time had come for the church to look up and expect her coming Lord in the clouds of heaven; hence it is said to some in Thyatira, "Hold fast till I come;" to the church in Sardis, "If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee;" and to the church in Philadelphia, "Behold I come quickly." The coming of the Lord is not named in the testimony to the churches before this; but, "be thou faithful unto death," is the charge to them. They could not scripturally look for Christ's second coming in their day. Says Paul, "Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed." Here the church is carried down past the apostasy, and the revelation of the Papacy - down to the period of the special signs of the second advent before she can scripturally expect Christ's second coming. These facts are overwhelming evidence that the seven churches denote seven periods of the entire Christian church from the first advent down to the second advent of Christ.
Uriah Smith, Daniel and Revelation, p 387-391
If the period covered by the Pergamos church has been correctly located, terminating with the setting up of the papacy, A.D. 538, the most natural division to be assigned to the church of Thyatira would be the time of the continuance of this blasphemous power through the 1260 years of its supremacy, or from A.D.538 to A.D.1798.
Thyatira signifies "sweet savor of labor," or "sacrifice of contrition." This would well describe the state of the church of Jesus Christ during the long period of papal triumph and persecution. This age of such dreadful tribulation upon the church as never was (Matt.24:21), improved the religious conditions of believers. Hence they receive for their works, charity, service, faith, and patience, the commendation of Him whose eyes are as a flame of fire. And works are then again mentioned, as if worthy of double commendation. And the last were more than the first. There had been an improvement in their condition, a growth of grace, an increase in all these elements of Christianity. This church is the only one that is commended for an improvement in spiritual things. But as in the church of Pergamos unfavorable circumstances were no apology for false doctrines in the church, so in this church, no amount of labor, charity, service, faith, or patience could compensate for a like sin. A rebuke is therefore given them for suffering in their midst -
That Woman Jezebel. - As in the preceding church Antipas denoted, not an individual, but a class of persons, so, doubtless, Jezebel is here to be understood in the same sense. Watson's Bible Dictionary says, "The name of Jezebel is used proverbially. Rev.2:20." William Miller, Lectures, p.142, speaks as follows:-
"Jezebel is a figurative name, alluding to Ahab's wife, who slew the prophets of the Lord, led her husband into idolatry, and fed the prophets of Baal at her own table. A more striking figure could not have been used do denote the papal abominations. (See 1 Kings, chapters 18, 19, and 21). It is very evident from history, as well as from this verse, that the church of Christ did suffer some of the papal monks to preach and teach among them. (See the 'History of the Waldenses.')"
The Comprehensive Commentary has the following remark upon verse 23: "Children are spoken of, which confirms the idea that a sect and its proselytes are meant." The judgments here threatened against this woman are in harmony with the threatenings in other parts of this book against the Romish Church under the symbol of a corrupt woman, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth. (See chapters 17-19.)
The death which is threatened is doubtless the second death, at the end of the one thousand years of Revelation 20, when the righteous retribution from the Searcher of "the reins and hearts" of all men will be given. And further, the declaration, "I will give unto every one of you according to your works," is proof that the address to this church looks forward prophetically to the final reward or punishment of all accountable beings.
And All the Churches Shall Know, etc. - It has been argued from this expression that these churches could not denote seven successive periods of the gospel age, but must exist contemporaneously, as otherwise all the churches could not know that Christ was the searcher of the reins and hearts from seeing his judgments upon Jezebel and her children. But when is it that all the churches are to know this? - It is when these children are punished with death. And if this is at the time when the second death is inflicted upon all the wicked, then indeed will "all the churches," as they behold the infliction of the judgment, know that no secret thing, no evil thought or purpose of the heart, has escaped the knowledge of Him, who, with eyes like flames of fire, searches the hearts and reins of men.
I Will Lay upon You None Other Burden. - A respite promised the church, if we rightly apprehend, from the burden, so long her portion, - the weight of papal oppression. It cannot be applied to the reception of new truths; for truth is not a burden to any accountable being. But the days of tribulation that came upon that church were to be shortened for the elect's sake. Matt.24:22. "They shall be holpen," says the prophet, "with a little help." Dan.11:34. "And the earth helped the woman," says John. Rev.12:16.
Hold Fast till I Come. - These are the words of the "Son of God," and bring to our view an unconditional coming. To the churches of Ephesus and Pergamos, certain comings were threatened on conditions: "Repent, or else I will come unto thee," etc., implying visitations of judgment. But here a coming of a different nature altogether is brought to view. It is not a threatening of punishment. It is suspended upon no conditions. It is set before the believer as a matter of hope, and can refer to no other event but the future second advent of the Lord in glory, when the Christian's trials will cease, and his efforts in the race for life, and his warfare for a crown of righteousness, will be rewarded with everlasting success.
This church brings us down to the time when the more immediate signs of the soon-coming advent began to be fulfilled. In 1780, eighteen years before the close of this period, the predicted signs in the sun and moon were fulfilled. (See chapter 6:12.) And in reference to these signs the Saviour said: "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." In the history of this church we reach a point when the end is drawing so near that the attention of the people could properly be called more particularly to that event. All along Christ has said to his followers, "Occupy till I come." Luke19:13. Now he says, "Hold fast till I come."
Till the End. - The end of the Christian age. "He that shall endure unto the end," says Christ, "the same shall be saved." Matt.24:13. Is not here a like promise to those who keep Christ's works, do the things he has enjoined, keep the faith of Jesus? Chapter 14:12.
Power over the Nations. - In this world the wicked bear rule, and the servants of Christ are of no esteem. But the time is coming when righteousness will be in the ascendancy; when all ungodliness will be seen in its true light, and be at a heavy discount; and when the scepter of power will be in the hands of the people of God. This promise will be explained by the following facts and scriptures: (1) The nations are to be given by the Father into the hands of Christ, to be ruled with a rod of iron, and dashed in pieces like a potter's vessel (Ps.2:8,9); (2) Associated with Christ when he thus enters upon his own work of power and judgment, are to be his saints (Rev.3:21); (3) They are to reign with him in this capacity for one thousand years (chapter 20:4); (4) During this period, the degree of judgment upon wicked men and evil angels is determined (1Cor.6:2,3): (5) At the end of the one thousand years, they have the honor of sharing with Christ in the execution of the sentence written. Ps.149:9.
The Morning Star. - Christ says, in chapter 22:16, that he is himself the morning star. The morning star is the immediate forerunner of the day. What is here called the morning star, is called the day star in 2Pet.1:19, where it is associated with the dawn of the day: "Until the day dawn, and the day star arise." During the saints' weary night of watching, they have the word of God to shed its needful light upon their path. But when the day star shall arise in their hearts, or the morning star be given to the overcomers, they will be taken into so close a relationship to Christ that their hearts will be fully illuminated with his Spirit, and they will walk in his light. Then they will no longer need the sure word of prophecy, which now shines as a light in a dark place. Hasten on, O glorious hour, when the light of heaven's bright day shall rise upon the pathway of the little flock, and beams of glory from the eternal world shall gild their banners!