Robert E. Surgenor
By now we are fairly well acquainted with the trade guild city, are we not? We have admired the energy of the populace, the skill of the tradesmen, the love of the saints, one to another. Yet, on the other hand, we have been shocked over the apparent lack of morals and the sensual indulgences considered normal to their lifestyle. Fellowshipping with the saints we are not just shocked, we are appalled! We wonder how an assembly could be so swayed by a single woman. At first we were impressed with her, but now we feel a chill in our bodies and a dread in our souls as we become more aware of her ideals. She seemingly is the master of the situation. The oversight has allowed it! The Lord speaks, manifesting His patience and grace.
"And I gave her time (space) to repent of her fornication; and she repented not" (or, "willeth not to repent") (Rev. 2:21).
Christ in His omniscience was reading her heart. No one but Christ could have known her refusal, but now He makes it known to the whole assembly. Immediately it is manifested that she is wrong and the Lord has been longsuffering with her. In the case of Ananias and Sapphira in the Jerusalem Assembly, the execution of judgment was immediate. In the case of Jezebel, for some divine reason, it lingered. How often one can grievously sin and the heavens remain silent. The godly in this assembly had given corrective teaching. During this time, God was giving Jezebel and her clan the opportunity to repent. However, they heeded not. Sinners seem to be under the impression that if punishment does not immediately overtake them that this is evidence that it never will be meted out. Solomon speaks of this, saying, "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecc. 8: 11). Peter takes up the same strain, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). However, Paul assures us, "Be not deceived,- God is not mocked: for whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7). Jezebel had abused divine forbearance and hardened her heart and now she is about to reap the dire consequences of her immoral sowing.
The Threatening of Christ
"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 who searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give to each one of you according to your works" (Rev. 2:22-23).
Jezebel sanctioned the reclining on a couch at the trade guild banquets to eat, drink, enjoy the dancers, and commit fornication. Christ now counteracts. He will cast her and her clan into a bed (a couch to recline on at meals), but it will be a bed of great tribulation ( affliction, distress)! She is about to find her destruction in the very acts of immorality that she has advocated. Her bed of sin was about to be exchanged for a bed of severe sickness, perhaps even disease. One is reminded of those in Corinth, not discerning the Lord's body in the emblems. "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (1 Cor. 11:30).
Her victims were those that committed adultery with her. They had been seduced into a temporary connection with her. Her children represent those who were united to her wholeheartedly in a permanent moral relationship. They manifested a complete licence to live as they pleased under the cloak of Christianity. Christ will deal more severely with them, he will kill them. As we sit in the gathering we look at poor souls that are about to become suddenly ill and others who are about to die. They are actually breaking bread with the freshly announced death penalty hanging over their heads! The reaction is traumatic. These letters, as they are being read, one by one, in the seven churches, are producing dramatic effects in the gatherings. Countenances are changing and the immediate presence of the Lord is being mightily felt! I often wonder, my brethren, do we feel the immediate presence of our Lord in our midst? Is He manifesting Himself to us in a mighty way? Or are we gathering weekly as a force of habit, with a "hohum' attitude. As the emblems are before our gaze, are we whispering, or writing notes and giggling to our neighbor? Where is our mind? What are our thoughts? May the Lord help us to solemnly search our hearts and consider the seriousness and the solemnity of the occasion. Remember, our service of worship is to be with reverence and godly fear.
Christ habitually searches the reins (kidneys), which were considered the seat of the emotions, and the heart - the center of the thoughts. Christ discerns all! His methodical investigation reveals the true character and brings all to light, whether good or evil. Let us ever be aware of this. He will cause every one of them (none excluded), to reap according to their works. All sowing brings a day of reaping. Theirs had come!
The Exhortations of Christ
"But to you I say, (and unto) the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and who have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak (say, or pretend); I will put upon you no other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come" (Rev. 2:24,25).
The words, and unto, are not in the critical text. Christ is not addressing Jezebel and her followers, but rather the faithful in the assembly. They who had the doctrine of Gnosticism professed to know the depths, a profound insight into the divine mysteries and the ability to unravel them. They thought that one must know the deep things of Satan by experience and by experiment, thus justifying their fornication. They taught that the only way to kill the flesh was by indulging in it and that by plunging into filth, one could prove that it didn't harm them. As Jezebel visited the homes of her followers she assured them that one cannot truly appreciate grace until they really experience sin. That one must plunge into the cesspool of iniquity to serve Christ better.
Christ exhorts the godly remnant to hold fast the Word of God that they already had. Jezebel claimed continual fresh revelations. Christ assures them that His Word is the complete divine revelation, nothing can be added to it nor taken from it. The burden was, that which they already had i.e. the Word of God. They were to hold it tenaciously against all wrong doctrine and evil practices and thus to overcome Satan. Hold it, Christ says, until My manifestation.
The Promise of the Lord
"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 to the churches" (Rev. 2:26-29).
The city had experienced the thrill of power over its enemies, but that belonged to past history. However their patron deity, Tyrimnas, the god who ruled by force, was a constant reminder to the populace of their victorious past over nations. Christ promises the overcomer an authority denied to the city and never achieved by its god. When Christ comes to rule and reign (Psa. 2), He will share this glory with His own (jn. 17:2 1) as Paul assures Timothy. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him' (2 Tim. 2:12).
He also promised them the Morning Star. Who is the morning star? The solution is simple. "I Jesus ... am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star" (Rev. 22:16). What a tremendous promise to those in this assembly who were remaining loyal to their Lord and to His divine precepts in the midst of a city that was constantly bombarding their flesh with Satanic temptations. He points them to the day of their rapture and to the day of His manifestation in power to the nations culminating in the establishment of His millennium reign as King of kings and Lord of Lords.
We bid the godly a final good-bye, having been inspired by their promise from the Lord. Others are now absent in the gathering for they are very ill. Funeral arrangements are being made for others as we leave the city and set our sights on Sardis, 33 miles to the south. join me there, if you will, next month D.V. I have learned lessons at Thyatira, have you?