"The Day of the Lord"
We now come to the last four of these seven Epistles. In the first three the Old Testament references are to the period of the Wilderness. In these last four the references are to the period of the Land: and Israel and Judah are placed alternately.
Israel comes first; for, idolatry commenced in the Ten Tribes, and these were first removed from the Land. Judah followed, and was afterwards removed. The first of these four Epistles, therefore, gives the illustration from the great apostasy of Israel under Ahab and Jezebel.
Few of us can realize what that apostasy was; or what was its character and extent. Jeroboam was the first who made Israel thus to sin, but it culminated under Ahab and Jezebel. Under these two, organized idolatry of the grossest kind became the religion of the State, as opposed to the true religion established in Jerusalem. It had its own priesthood, so numerous and powerful that the prophet Elijah was specially raised up by God to do battle against them, and warn the people against the enormity of the evil. Yet again will Elijah perform a similar duty under more awful circumstances.
The structure of this Epistle is elaborate, as were the workings of that apostasy. But it is also very clear and unmistakable.
2:18. And unto the angel of the Assembly in Thyatira, write; These things saith the Son of God] Here, for the first time, the speaker is directly named; as well as distinguished by an attribute. Both speak of Divine judgment, and of the Divine power which is necessary to execute that judgment, and to perform the promises given in this Epistle.
who hath His eyes like a flame of fire] To detect all evil and alarm the evil-doers. This is the attribute of 1:14, 15; repeated in 19:12.
and His feet like unto polished brass] This tells of coming judgment, when He will tread the wicked under his feet. Isa. 63:1-6; 41:25; 14:25. See also Mal.4:3; Dan. 8:7, 10; and compare Micah iv 13. Dan. 7:19. Deut. 33:25. Job 40:18. The fulfilment of all this is seen in chap. 19:13-15.
19. I know thy works, and thy love, and thy service, and thy faith,* and thy patient-endurance, and thy last works to be more than the first] It is a question of "works" here, as in all these Epistles; and also of patient endurance in the Tribulation.
20. Nevertheless I have this against thee,* that thou lettest alone** the*** woman Jezebel, she herself a prophetess, and she teacheth and deceiveth my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols] The reference here is to 1 Kings 16:30-34. All the evil is traced up to Jezebel (1 Kings 21:25). The teaching is the same as that of Balaam, and of the Nicolaitanesonly it is more organized, and in the name of religion, and under the direct auspices of the State. Balaam was outside Israel; Jezebel is within. This is what it will be in the days of the Beast: and this is why these exhortations, teachings, and warnings are written in these Epistles. We do not comprehend them, because we are not living in those days; therefore, we cannot even apply them to ourselves. Three of the Assemblies are warned with regard to this evil. Ephesus (2:6); Pergamos (2:14, 15); and Thyatira (2:20). And there is everything in the Apocalypse to show that that will be the special form of evil in the coming days of Antichrist on earth. See also 2 Kings 9:22, 30; Jer. 4:30; Nah. 3:4.
21. And I gave her space in order that she might repent* and she willeth not to repent of her fornication] We must read the history in the book of Kings in order to understand this; and see and note how it is connected with persecution. See I Kings 18:13, 14. It may have reference to the woman of Rev. 17:1-4, and to the scenes then going on in the earth. Compare chap. 18:3 and 8-l0). Also 9:20, 21.
22. Lo! I cast her into a bed, and those who are committing adultery with her (18:8-10) into great tribulation (Rom. 2:8, 9, 16), except they repent of her* works] The casting into a bed, here, is in contrast with Jezebel's being cast out of a window. And it refers to a bed of anguish and of judgment. To reward and punish "according to works" is God's principle of dealing with Israel and the world (18:6); but not with the Church.
23. and her children (Ps. 137:9) will I kill with death (i.e., with pestilence); and all the assemblies shall know (or, get to know) that I am He that searcheth reins and hearts.] Compare Jer. 11:20; 16:10; 20:12. I Kings 8:59; and I Sam. 16:7; and see Rev. 11:18 and 22:12. This is the work of "the Son of God" (5:18). The word "death" here means pestilence, as in chap. 6:8; 18:8; 2 Sam. 24:13.
and will give unto you, each one, according to your works] See Jer. 11:20; 17:10. Ps. 7:9; 62:12.
24. But, unto you, I say,the rest* that are in Thyatira, as many as hold not this doctrine, who have not known (or, come to know) the depths of Satan, (as they say)] God has His Divine depths, I Cor. 2:10. Rom. 11:33. But here we have the "depths of Satan." We see some of them in Rev. 13., but the real "depths" are in turning the basest profligacy into religion; and, under the pretence of worshipping idols (which is awful enough), to legalize and patronise the lowest of vices. Read Isa. 28:14-18.
I do not* lay upon you any other burden] or prophetic message of judgment. See 2 Kings 9:25, 26, and Isa. 13:1.
25. Nevertheless, what ye have hold fast till I come (lit., shall have come). 26. And he that overcometh and keepeth my works] i.e., keepeth in mind, as to ponder over, and understand my judgments. See on the word "keep" chap. 1:3, and references there given.
unto the end,I will give him authority over the nations; 27. and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: as vessels of pottery are dashed in pieces: even as I also have received of my Father] This is an unmistakable reference to such Old Testament prophecies as Ps. 2:7-9, and to the scenes that will be then current on the earth mentioned in chaps. 12:10, and 19:15-21.
To such straits are interpreters driven, who spiritualize the prophecies of the Old Testament, and thus rob them from those to whom they belong, that they hesitate not on most missionary platforms to quote Ps. 2:7-9 of the spread of the gospel. But there is some inconsistency in this robbery, for while they quote and claim the words of verse 8, "Ask of me and I will give the heathen for thine inheritance," they always stop short, and do not go on to quote the words that follow"Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron: and shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." Here is the asking and the giving spoken of in Ps. 2:8, and in the verse before us: only here, the promise is to the Assembly in Thyatira. If this is the Church of God then here we have its mission. But though most commentators hold that Thyatira is a "church," they do not press this as the Church's mission, or "claim" this as its promise. This fact manifests the inconsistency of the popular principle of interpretation.
28. And I will give unto him the morning star] The promise is fulfilled in Rev. 22:16. But the prophecy is in Numbers 24:17, which connects it with Israel and with the day of the Lord's judgment, "there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth."
29. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the Assemblies] See above.