The Letters to the Seven Churches (Study # 2)
Study 2 -- The Letters to the Seven Churches
In Chapters Two and Three of Revelation we find the letters to the seven churches in the province of Asia (now) Turkey. There were churches that were much larger, such as in Alexandria and Rome, but the Apostle John had ministered among these seven churches. Also, the seven churches in Asia are representative of all classes of Christians and churches which have existed throughout Church history. We will see in this study that some of these Christians were genuine, some were fallen, and some were hypocrites.
In each local congregation there may be a variety of the seven classes of believers. The class of believer that predominates in any one congregation will determine the style of church it is -- like the church in Ephesus, or Sardis, or Philadelphia, or one of the other representative churches. In any denomination there can be all seven categories of congregations. According to the category that predominates, that religious entity will be similar to one of the seven churches of Asia.
We will also notice in these chapters that the Lord Jesus is among the lampstands; that is, He is among His churches, searching them out. In each one of the letters to the seven churches, the Savior introduces himself in a distinct manner, giving us some idea of the message He has for that church. The message is then given, followed by the Lord’s decision as Judge.
I. The Letter to the Church in Ephesus
The Church that Had Lost Its First Love
The first letter is sent to the church at Ephesus, which at that time was the most important city in Asia Minor. The great highway from Rome to the eastern portion of its empire passed directly through this city. Ephesus was the seat of worship in honor of the goddess Diana. Her great marble temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, the construction of which took 220 years. This temple measured some 450 feet by 220 feet, with a height of 65 feet. The temple and its system of worship were sustained by so-called “sacred prostitutes.”
Ephesus was a city full of vice, idolatry, and sorcery. Yet, it was there that Paul had the greatest success of all his illustrious ministry. Many people were converted and many sick folk were healed. There were times when cloths or aprons taken from Paul were placed upon the sick who were consequently healed (Acts 19:12). From Ephesus the Gospel was carried to the other cities of the Province of Asia. Later, the Apostle John became the Bishop of this city.
1 To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.
We saw in the previous study that the seven stars represent the pastors, while the seven lampstands represent the churches. Remember, John at this time was on Patmos. It was some other person who was pastoring the church in Ephesus. We have noted that the pastor of a local church should give forth the divine light. The believers who compose that congregation should reflect the light throughout their community. The emphasis that Jesus gives to the fact that He is in the midst of the lampstands and that He has the stars in His hand suggests that the church in Ephesus is in danger losing its position.
2 I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And
you tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;
3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not
In each of these letters, when it is possible, the Lord begins by taking note of the positive qualities of the church to which the letter is directed. The church in Ephesus had much in its favor. The brothers and sisters there were working with great fervor and patience. They did not tolerate false doctrine, nor did they tolerate false prophets. They had suffered for their faith and yet had remained faithful.
4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
In spite of all that which was positive, Jesus has a very severe criticism concerning the believers in Ephesus. They who had had so much love and enthusiasm for Jesus Christ in the beginning, had lost their fire. Their work had come to be a matter of routine. The same thing happens among many Christians and in many churches today. It is easy to put religious activity in place of an ardent love for Jesus. The devotion that one has for the Savior is worth much more than the quantity of work that one does in His name.
In my experience in the Lord’s service, I have known many Christian workers, pastors, missionaries, and laymen who have worked, and are working diligently, but they are not joyful. Rather, there is found among them a hard attitude, even bitterness. Their lack of love makes null and void any impact of their ministry. In First Corinthians 13, Paul tells us that one can give his goods to the poor and his body to be burned, but if he does not have love, everything he does is worth nothing. Jesus considers it a grave fault for a Christian to lose his first love. We must not permit church attendance, Bible reading, and prayer to become routine things. The Lord demands that we always maintain a fresh relationship with Him.
5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will
come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place -- unless you repent.
When mention is made of a fall and the necessity of repentance, it means that there has been sin. Losing one’s first love is a sin which easily leads to other sins. Jesus said that the church in Ephesus had fallen from its first love and was in danger of losing its relationship with Him; it was in danger of no longer being able to carry His light into the world.
It is a tragedy that many churches and persons bearing the name of the Lord Jesus in reality do not have anything of His love or His light. Thank the Lord for His great patience. Like the believers in Ephesus, He also gives us time to repent. But if one persists in spiritual coldness, there comes a moment when the holy Spirit leave him and that person no longer belongs to the Lord.
6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Bible scholars have had a lot of difficulty in explaining the word “Nicolaitans.” Usually they say that the Nicolaitans belonged to some false cult that came into existence at that time. But a Reverend Seiss, who more than a hundred years ago preached a series of sermons on Revelation, explained that the word “Nicolaitans” is a compound Greek word meaning “people conquerors” (The Apocalypse, by Seiss, p. 78). Already in the first century of the Christian era there had begun the ecclesiastical tyranny that has plagued the Christian Church throughout its history: men who wanted to introduce pagan philosophies and worldly customs into the church with the purpose of ruling for their own benefit. They were men who were more interested in position and in authority than in fulfilling their duty before God to take care of and nurture the believers. We still have Nicolaitans in the church today.
While living in South America, I talked with a lawyer who excused the evil life and intolerance of the clergy, saying that for them religion was a business like any other, and that they sometimes used force and violence against the evangelicals to defend their business. Such religious leaders are in reality “people conquerors.”
But, we do not need to look beyond the evangelical circles to encounter Nicolaitans. Consider, for example, the movement that was begun by the preaching of the great English evangelist, John Wesley, in the 18th century. Mr. Wesley graduated from the famous university of Oxford. He was ordained a priest in the Anglican church although he had not yet been born again. It was after having served as a missionary to the Indians in the New World for two years, and after having returned to England, that he had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
Full of enthusiasm and love, Mr. Wesley began to preach salvation and the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Immediately all the doors of the Anglican churches were closed against him. For that reason, Wesley and his companions in evangelism had to go out into the open air to preach. Multitudes flocked to hear them and thousands were transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. As a result of the spiritual liberation of so many people, there came about the social reforms that England so badly needed. Secular historians have said that it was due to the revival in England that that country was saved from a bloody revolution like that which later on took place in France.
Soon, Wesley’s new movement crossed the Atlantic to North America where, a short time after the American Revolution, it was officially organized as an evangelical denomination. In the fertile atmosphere of the New World, this church continued growing until it became the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. Then something happened. In this same movement, born of the Holy spirit, the politicians, that is the Nicolaitans, came to power and produced the very same ecclesiastical tyranny that had existed in the Anglican Church. During the first half of the 19th century, many of the leaders of the church to which we refer became rich. They even came to own slaves. Meanwhile, many of their pastors were active in the Abolitionist movement. Irritated and shamed by the activities of these pastors, the Nicolaitan leaders tried to shut them up. As a result, a group of pastors left and formed a new denomination faithful to the Word of God.
With the passing of the years, other pastors left and other denominations were formed in reaction to the tyranny that reigned in the mother church. But now, it is evident that the Nicolaitans, the people conquerors, have come to power in some of those denominations. I was a missionary for one of them. On one occasion, I made a protest to a high church official because of the lack of Biblical morals in one of the other leaders. The answer of that high ecclesiastical functionary was, “Don’t fight the system!”
What had happened in the Anglican church, in the movement of John Wesley, and in the churches that came out of that movement, also happened in other churches. The reason is that when carnal, religious leaders try to improve on the work of the Holy Spirit, they become Nicolaitans, guided by their pride, their love of money, and their desire for prestige. If there is any religious leader reading these lines, he should ask himself honestly, “Am I a servant of God, or am I a Nicolaitan? Am I a people conqueror. What is more important to me: love for Jesus Christ and faithfulness to His Word, or the prestige of my position and the rules of my church?” He that has the stars in His right hand and is in the midst of lampstands says that He hates the works of the Nicolaitans. We need to be very sure that Jesus Christ is the object of our loyalty, and not any organization of men.
7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I
will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.
This promise is given to him who overcomes and it speaks of eternal life. The first mention of the Tree of Life is found in the Book of Genesis, chapters Two and Three. When our first parents fell into sin, God placed cherubim at the entrance of the Garden of Eden so that they could not enter and partake of the Tree of Life and thus live forever (Genesis 3:23,24). Later, the Garden of Eden disappeared. It either dried up or perhaps was destroyed in the Flood. But in Revelation mention is made of the Tree of Life in heaven, where glorified believers have access to its fruit. In Chapter 22 of this Book, we shall see that the Tree of Life is actually a kind of tree that grows in the New Jerusalem on both sides of the river that flows from the throne of God.
Perhaps someone is asking themselves, “Could there literally be such a thing as a Tree of Life?” The Word of God says that there was one in the Garden of Eden, and John saw something like it in his vision. One of the rules which we need to use in order to interpret the Scriptures, especially the prophecies, is that they should be interpreted as literally as possible. If we are going to commit an error, we should commit it on the side of being literal rather than being allegorical. Almost always, when we have all the data at hand, we find that the Bible is far more literal than we had thought.
II. The Letter to the Church in Smyrna
The Suffering Church
8 And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, These things says the First and the Last, who
was dead, and came to life:
By saying that He is the First and the Last, Jesus proclaims again that He is Jehovah. Let us briefly review a Scripture we have already quoted: “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; besides me there is no God’” (Isaiah 44:6). A parallel Scripture is found in Isaiah 48:12: “Listen to Me, O Jacob, and Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last.” In Isaiah, Jehovah says He is the First and the Last. In Revelation, Jesus says He is the First and the Last. It is one and the same Person speaking.
9 I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of
those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
In some parts of the Roman Empire, slaves formed the larger part of the population. Probably the church in Smyrna was composed of slaves from the lowest classes of society, persons without influence, prestige, and very little education. As far as this world was concerned, they were worth nothing, but the Lord says that they were rich. Because of the purity of their faith and devotion, those poor brothers and sisters were a treasure in the eyes of the Lord.
Farther along, we will study the letter to the church in Laodicea. The members of that church boasted of their riches, but the Lord said that they were poor and miserable. The Lord Jesus has a very unique manner of looking at things. Often He sees things opposite to the way men look at them. On one occasion, I was talking with a man in Puerto Rico who said, with a lot of pride, that he attended a church with 1,500 members. I asked him, how many of those 1,500 members were truly serving the Lord seven days of the week; how many of them showed a true devotion to Jesus Christ beyond that of attending services once in a while. With much frankness, he answered, “Perhaps none,” and he was including himself! A small congregation of persons consecrated to the Lord will make much more impact for good in a community than a large church where the devotion of its members is something superficial.
Again, verse 9: I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
When Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna (Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John and was placed as Bishop by John), was accused and condemned to be burned, the Jews united with the Pagans in accusing him. Such was the hatred of the Jews for the Christians that they were the first to bring firewood for the fire. Jesus said that those who were considered to be His people were not, but were rather a synagogue of Satan.
The Jews were very strict as to the requirements of the Law of Moses, and their religion had a lot of rituals. They hated Christians for their devotion to the Lord Jesus and because they did not keep the rituals of the Law. At the present, there is a certain cult that condemns evangelicals because they worship the Holy Trinity. There is another cult which puts much emphasis on keeping the Sabbath, or Saturday. They condemn those who do not. Such cults are actually synagogues of Satan.
But even within the evangelical churches there exists a tendency to give emphasis to certain doctrines while the rest of the Word of God is ignored. The New Birth, water baptism, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are doctrines of great importance, but many believers and churches need to learn that the Bible is composed of much more that John 3:1-16; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:14-18; Acts 2; and I Corinthians 12 and 14!
What of the custom to judge the spirituality of the women by the length of their hair, their sleeves, and their skirts? It is scandalous how many so-called Christians tell little white lies, steal from their places of work, “borrow” from the funds of the church, and excuse infidelity in marriage and anti-Biblical romances with supposed revelations! As though God would reveal something contrary to what He has said in His Word! Such people make it more important that a woman dress correctly and that a man wear his tie and be “clean shaven,” while excusing adultery, thievery, witchcraft, lying, abusive family behavior, and vice of all kinds! Many Christians are guilty of hypocrisy, giving more importance to external things than to a holy life and a genuine love for Jesus. When a religious group concentrates on one sole doctrine, ignoring the complete counsel of God; when it gives greater importance to appearances than to honesty in word and action; it is in danger of becoming a synagogue of Satan.
10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw
some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be
faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
The church in Smyrna had already suffered persecution. Jesus told those believers that they were going to suffer more, but they were not to fear. The period mentioned of ten days indicates that their tribulation was for a determined time, a very brief time. The Crown of Life refers to the future life when victorious Christians will be kings, reigning with Jesus Christ in His eternal kingdom. In order to obtain the crown, one must be faithful to Christ -- not for a few months or a few years, but until death. In death itself there is triumph. The Apostle Paul, when he was facing martyrdom, wrote in II Timothy 4:7,8: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. Each person needs to ask himself the question, “Do I truly love the appearing, the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ?”
11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall
not be hurt by the second death.
The word “death” can be defined by one word -- separation. In the first death, that is, physical death, the spirit of the person is separated from the body, but it continues being conscious. In the second death, spiritual death, the spirit of a person is separated from God throughout eternity. It is a conscious existence of torment. The Christian who is in victory does not have to fear the first death because resurrection and glory await him. And, he has the certainty of being freed from the second death.
III. The Letter to the Church in Pergamos
The Church Corrupted by the Doctrine of Balaam
12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, These things says He who has the sharp two-
By the manner in which Jesus introduces Himself, we know that this will be a letter of warning. The Savior is angry and ready to do battle. He is the One with the sharp, two-edged sword.
13 I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My
name and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who
was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
Pergamos was the capital of the province of Asia Minor. It was the seat of emperor worship, in which it was obligatory to offer incense to the statue of the emperor as to a god. There was in Pergamos, as well, a great altar in honor of the god Jupiter. Also, there was a famous temple in honor of Esculapius, the god of healing, who was worshipped in the form of a serpent. Pergamos was a great center of idolatry, truly it was Satan’s throne. Antipas, possibly a leader of the church, had suffered martyrdom at Pergamos, but the other believers had remained firm in their faith. With all this in their favor, Jesus was yet ready to fight with the two-edged sword!
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.
The Savior was referring to a historical event found in the Old Testament. The Israelites had arrived in the land of Moab on their journey toward Canaan. They had recently conquered two powerful kings and devastated their territories (Numbers 21:21-35). Balak, the king of Moab, was frightened by the military threat presented by the Israelites. He invited the Prophet Balaam to come and curse them (Numbers 22:5,6). Balaam was restrained by Jehovah and instead of cursing Israel, three times he blessed the people of God (Numbers 22:41-24:25).
Balaam was in a quandary. He did not want to lose the gold and silver that Balak had promised. The prophet knew that the idolatry practiced in Moab was an abomination to the Lord, but he decided to foment friendship between the two peoples by means of religion. Taking into account the fact that immorality was practiced as an important ritual in the religion of Moab, Balaam gave Balak the idea of putting a stumbling block before the children of Israel by enticing them to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality. The Israelites fell into the trap, participating in those shameful rituals. God punished them with a plague in which 24,000 of them died (Numbers 25:1-9). The people of Israel repented of their wickedness and were reconciled to the Lord. Then the Lord sent them into battle against Moab. The evil counsel of Balaam brought upon him its due recompense: he was among those who fell dead in the battle (Numbers 25:16-18; 31:1-8).
Balaam was a materialistic prophet who believed that it was possible to serve God, money, and appetite at the same time. He tried to accommodate himself to the pagans in order to enjoy their friendship. He did not give any importance to the spiritual damage he was causing himself and the people of God. Jesus accuses the church in Pergamos of having among its members those who had the doctrine of Balaam -- those who were like him.
Today there are many supposed Christians, clergy and laity alike, who practice the doctrine of Balaam. They do not want to suffer any reproach for their faith in Jesus; they excuse the worldly customs of the impious and even participate in such things. These people speak of their faith in God but they live as though they were atheists. There is seen no actual difference between them and the people of the world. The Word of God strongly condemns the doctrine of Balaam. The Apostle John, before he received the prophecies of Revelation, had written in his first epistle: Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning (I John 3:7,8a).
15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My
Here again we encounter the plague of the people conquerors. Jesus gives them a severe warning. Judgment is surely coming for those who hold the doctrine of Balaam and rule in the church, motivated by their own egotism. The Apostle Paul gives this warning in the Epistle to the Hebrews (10:30,31): For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. 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.
In this passage Jesus is promising two things to the one who overcomes: hidden manna, and a white stone. We find the explanation of the hidden manna in these words of Jesus in John 6:32-35: Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
When Jesus promises the overcomer the hidden manna, he is promising to give him His own presence forever. We know that we sill be kings, but the most glorious thing in Heaven is that we will be in the presence of Jesus Christ who loved us and gave Himself for us on the cross of Calvary.
The overcomer will also receive a white stone with a new name that no one knows but he who receives it. In New Testament times, when someone was accused of a crime, the judges were accustomed to announce their decision by giving to the person a black stone, indicating that he was guilty, or a white stone, indicating that he was innocent. In this last case, the white stone served as evidence of his innocence. Also, a winner of the Olympic Games received as a prize a white stone with his name inscribed on it. With that white stone, he could enter any inn and receive free food and lodging. The possession of that stone gave him the privilege of being maintained at public expense for the rest of his life.
Thus we see the significance of the white stone. To the overcomer there is given a white stone as evidence that Jesus has blotted out his sins, that he has been justified, that he is innocent before God and that he is free of all condemnation. This person will be maintained by God himself; he will receive of His glory and his love throughout all eternity. And on the white stone there is engraved a new name. Members of a family and good friends often are used to calling each other by special names, names that are expressions of affection. In the same way, Jesus has a special name for each of us to express the love that He has for each one. In Heaven we will not be a great mass of people, but rather Jesus will know each of us personally. He will have an individual interest in each one. The personal relationship that we enjoy with Jesus now will continue in the New Jerusalem. The love between Jesus and the believer is personal and eternal. Praise the Lord!
IV. The Letter to the Church in Thyatira
The Church Corrupted by a False Prophetess
18 And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet like fine brass:
In this verse, Jesus introduces himself as One who has eyes like a flame of fire. Nothing can be hidden from His gaze. His feet, similar to fine brass, give us to understand that the Savior is in a standing position; He is standing very firmly. When he introduces himself in this way, we know that something is wrong in this church.
19 I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience, and as for your works, the last are
more than the first.
Jesus first mentions everything that was good about this church. It was an active church that had a certain love for Jesus, and it was growing in the arduous work that it undertook for Him.
20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls
herself a prophetess, to teach and beguile My servants to commit sexual immorality and to eat
things sacrificed to idols.
The “few things” He had against them were not of little importance. We find mention of a Jezebel in the Old Testament (I Kings 16,31; 19:1,2; 21:1-29; II Kings 9:30-37). She was a princess of a pagan people and had married King Ahab, the most impious of all the kings of Israel. When Jezebel came to live in Israel, she brought with her the religion of the god, Baal. This religion had its beginning with Nimrod, the first dictator on the earth after the Flood. The worship of Baal was barbarous in the extreme. In his honor were celebrated sexual orgies. Children were sacrificed in burnt offerings. Jezebel brought all of this to Israel. As a final insult to Jehovah, she caused nearly all the prophets of Jehovah to be killed.
The letter to the church in Thyatira was written some 950 years after that Jezebel had lived. Thyatira was a famous city in which there was a well known temple to the goddess Artemis. Artemis was another name for Diana, and was another form of Nimrod’s religion which had been established in Babylonia hundreds of years earlier. This woman in the church in Thyatira was not actually called Jezebel but the Lord gave her that name because she was causing scandal in the church similar to that which Queen Jezebel had caused in Israel. It is very probable that the Jezebel of Thyatira was a woman of prestige and influence in the city. She had evidently made a superficial profession of faith, but still continued in her immorality and idolatry. Worse yet, we know she was promoting these things in the church because the Lord accuses her of teaching and beguiling His servants to commit sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
It seems that not all the members of the church were practicing these evils. But, before the Lord, they shared the blame for Jezebel’s wickedness because they tolerated her. The situation has not changed since her day. There has always been a human tendency to excuse sin and pretend that it does not exist. But according to what Jesus says in this letter, if a congregation tolerates a scandal in its midst, the whole congregation shares in the guilt. The person who excuses sin makes himself equally guilty with him who commits it. The Lord demands holiness on the part of His Church and he calls those who are His to a life of purity.
The Apostle Peter writes in his first epistle: . . . as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy” (I Peter 1:14-16).
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.
The Lord is about to bring upon this Jezebel a very grave disease. He is also going to bring upon those who follow her some great disaster, perhaps physical, perhaps economical. Besides that, He will give her children over to death. The normal reaction of many people is, “God doesn’t do things like that now. He only acted like that in Old Testament times.” But God does not change, and Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
The following story happened in a congregation which I pastored for a number of years in Puerto Rico. On one occasion, a woman in great need came to us. She was the daughter of a very wealthy family. Where I to give her maiden name, most people would recognize it as one of the great banking houses in the United States. But because of her dissolute life, her own father had abandoned her. Many times this woman had gotten herself into trouble, even on the other side of the world. Her father had bailed her out again and again. Finally, sick of it all, he had cut her off completely. When she arrived at our church, she was sick and without shelter or food. A family in the church received her into their home. Funds from the congregation were used to pay her medical bills. We tried to show her the love of Christ, and for a time she seemed to show interest in the things of the Lord. But after she had recovered her health, she returned to her bitterness, her drunken binges, and her immoralities -- even trying to seduce the man in the home where she was staying. At the same time, she insisted that she was right with the Lord.
One Sunday after the evening service, some of the men in the church gathered in my home to consider the situation. After meditating and praying, the assistant pastor said, “The Lord has shown me that we should proceed according to I Corinthians 5:3-5.” In that portion of the Word, the Apostle Paul was dealing with a case of immorality in the church at Corinth, and he wrote concerning it: For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged, as though I were present, concerning him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
We followed Paul’s instructions. In the name of the Lord Jesus, we gave that woman over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh in the hope that she would repent of her evil. Exactly six months later, an aggressive, malignant tumor was found in her brain, while another cancer began to consume her lungs. In less that a year she died. She had been very proud of her beautiful figure and her long red hair. But in the final phase of her infirmity, she had dropped to 55 pounds and was totally bald. One of the elders of the church had taken a business trip to the States and had visited her in order to make one last appeal to her to repent of her sins. Sad to say, she remained hardened and obstinate in her rebellion against God -- even in the face of death. As far as we know, she died without God and without hope.
Are we to think that what happened to that woman was pure chance, without any relation to the decision taken in the name of Jesus? Are the warnings that our Savior makes in His Word empty and vain? No, the patience of God has a limit, and when He warns of pestilence, infirmity, and death, He means exactly that.
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.
As to those few who were innocent, who had no influence in the church and were trying to hold onto their faith in Christ, who had not excused or tolerated the sin of Jezebel, the Lord tells them to keep their faith, their holy doctrine, and their purity of life. We should notice particularly the term in verse 24 -- thedepths or, “the deep things of Satan.” That little phrase tells us that this woman and her followers were practicing spiritualism along with their idolatry and immorality. Satan has always tried to corrupt the church by means of these three evils.
In Acts 16:16-18, there is an account of how the Apostle Paul dealt with the problem of spiritualism in Philippi: Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour.
The girl in question was a spiritualist who practiced divination by means of a demon who controlled her. What she said concerning Paul and Silas was completely true. They were servants of the true God. They were proclaiming the way of salvation. But Paul did not need, nor did he desire, the help of a demon. The same apostle wrote in II Corinthians 6:14: Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? In reality, the church in Philippi was in greater danger from the smooth words of the demon than when, a little later, Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into jail because Paul had dared to command that marvelous deliverance in the name of Jesus.
The Jezebel in Thyatira was practicing idolatry and spiritualism These two abominations frequently are found together. Paul explains why in I Corinthians 10:19,20: What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. An image can bear the name of the Virgin May, the name of one of the apostles, or the name of Jesus, but neither the Virgin, nor the apostles, nor Jesus receives the worship that is given to that image. A demon receives it. For that reason, God, in the Second of the Ten Commandments, totally prohibits the use of images in worship: You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:3-6).
Though there are those who try to make a distinction between the “worship” of God and the “veneration” of images, the Word of God does not permit any such distinction. Instead, it strongly says, You shall not make for yourself any carved image . . . you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. What is more, those who persist in “venerating” images, in reality hate God. Exodus 20:5 says they bring Divine judgment not only upon themselves, but upon their families unto the third and fourth generations. Do we desire the blessing of God upon our families? Then we must repent of all use of images and give ourselves only to the worship of the living Christ of glory. He gives mercy to thousands of generations of those who love him and keep His commandments.
When you hear of a miracle attributed to some image, remember from whence the miracle comes! Not every supernatural demonstration comes from God. If it is not according to His Word and for the honor and the glory of Jesus Christ, it comes from Satan, with the purpose of deceiving and condemning people to perdition. One needs to be especially alert in these last days because there will be more and more demonic activity done in the name of the Lord. Paul warns us that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (II Corinthians 7:14). We have seen in this message to the church in Thyatira that the Lord does not tolerate spiritual corruption in His Church. He will not permit any mixture of holy doctrine with idolatry and spiritualism.
26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the
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;
In the Second Psalm there is presented a picture of humanity in rebellion against God. Then the three Persons of the Holy Trinity give their response to that rebellion. In verses 8 and 9 of this Psalm, the Son says that the Father has given Him the nations as His inheritance and that He will break their power as a potter’s vessel and will rule over them with a rod of iron. In the vision of John, Jesus says that He will share His kingdom and authority with the ones who overcome -- one more promise that faithful believers will be kings in the future world.
28 and I will give him the morning star.
Since the Bible interprets itself, we encounter the meaning of this verse in 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. Jesus is the only hope for humanity. He will bring a glorious tomorrow to this world. When He promises the triumphant believer to give him the Morning Star, He is promising him the glory of His presence forever. Praise the Lord!
29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.