A Study In Revelation
Chapter Two - Part One
By Jonathan Mitchell
1. “To (or: By; For; In) the agent (or: messenger) of the called-out community within Ephesus, write: ‘The One continuously holding in His strength (or: the One being constantly strong in) the seven stars residing within His right hand, the One continuously walking about within the midst of the seven golden lampstands, continues saying these things:
2. I have seen, and thus know, your [note: the pronouns and verbs are singular] works (acts; deeds), and your exhausting labor, and your remaining under (patient endurance), and that you are not able (have no power) to bear up (lift up to carry) evil ones (worthless ones; those of bad quality), and you put to the proof those declaring themselves to be envoys (representatives; apostles) – and they are not – and you found them false (liars; deceivers);
3. and you constantly have patient endurance (habitually hold to remaining- under), and you bore up (lifted; carried-on) because of My Name, and are not wearied.
vs. 1 we see that the risen Lord both strengthens and continuously holds the agent of each community in His own strength. This is both a promise and a restraint. He also makes it clear that He has already come and in presently there in their midst, for He is "the One continuously walking about within the midst of [these communities]." In vs. 2 we see that He is quite aware of the community's activities, and what it is costing them – and what it is that they can't handle. He doesn't seem surprised that they can't carry the worthless, that they can't put up with those of bad quality, that they can't bear up under evil folks.
He commends them for checking out those who come claiming to be God's ministers, to see if they really are. Matt. 7:16, "You shall fully know and have insights into them by their fruits." In vs. 3 His commendations continue: He is please that they remained under the burdens, endured, carried the load because of His Name – and were not wearied in so doing. Obviously such character is still of value to Him. But now He lists some problems which they have:
4. But on the other hand, I hold (or: have) [this] down against you: you [note: still singular] sent away (or: left; abandoned) your first love.
5. You [assembly] must be remembering, then, whence you [as a single entity] have fallen, and you must change your way of thinking and feeling (change your frame of mind and your perceptions), and you [group] must do (perform; construct) the first works (deeds; actions). Yet if not, I am continuously (repeatedly; habitually) coming to you [as a group], and I will remove (or: move) your lampstand out of its place, if ever you [as a group] may not change your way of thinking (your mind set).
6. But still, this you do have, that you are constantly hating the works (acts; deeds) of the Nicolaitans, which I also continuously hate (detest; regard with ill-will).’
7. “Let the one having an ear hear what the Spirit is repeatedly (or: continuously) saying to the called-out communities: In (To; For) the one continuously overcoming (habitually conquering; normally victorious) I will give in him (to him; for him) to eat from out of the substance of the tree (wood; log; post) of Life which continuously is (exists being) within the midst of God’s paradise [note: same word in Gen. 2:8, LXX; Luke 23:43; a garden of fruit trees].”
In vs. 4 it would seem that this whole congregation sent the Lord (their first Love), away from their community life, or else they left Him and pursued another or something else. Now they were still doing the above for which they were commended – they were still a called-out community. They had works, toil, endurance, discernment, and were bearing up because of His name: yet they had sent Him away, or had abandoned Him! Why? May I suggest that it was through becoming religious or legalistic: forms, rituals, formulas, legalism, programs, works that seemed good to their own thinking, systems. Had they become satisfied with themselves? Become "Pharisaical"? The text does not elaborate, but vs. 5 says this: 1) they had fallen, 2) they needed to change their mind and way of thinking and return to the Lord (this latter being the central meaning for Israel "repenting"), and 3) they must do the first works, i.e., return to how they lived when they still had Him as their #1 love.
Perhaps another understanding of leaving their first love, was their lack of love for one another. Or, it may have been that they had become exclusive, and loved only their own, developing an "us and them" attitude. You find this today in churches who hold to "Reformed theology," some of whom even say that God only loves His "elect" and not all humanity. This I call "the Reformation heresy."
So they had fallen from living and thinking and being in union with their first love. In vs. 5 each verb is in the imperative, which I have indicated by the word "must." Their behavior was to line up with their changed thinking. This fall from love affected their thinking, their perceptions, and how they lived. This almost echoes the "fall" of humanity from Eden. So they are charged to return to the first position and thinking, and to perform the actions and deeds that would flow out of this love. The last part of the verse is a warning of impending judgment. Christ is continuously coming to the churches, moving among them, and He would remove their lampstand – their spiritual light and anointing which is given by the Holy Spirit. Their understanding would grow dark; they would be unable to see what to do. The manifest presence of God would depart from their midst and they would be just like the Jews who had lost the same.
Historically, the church at Ephesus did not survive as a vital, significant community of the body of Christ. The lampstand moved, or, was removed. He must have come to them in this judgment.
Vs. 6 returns to a commendation: they hate the works and actions of the Nicolaitans. This word comes from "nikao," which means "to conquer," and "laos," which means "the people." There is speculation as to whether this referred to the followers of an actual person, Nicholas, or that this term is symbolic. Those of the latter persuasion – and keep in mind that this is a book of symbols and figures – view this phrase as indicating the doctrine which instituted a separation within the body of Christ and created a hierarchy: the "rulers" were know as the clergy, while those of the church who were not professionals, or were persons who did not hold an office within this hierarchy, became know as the laity. Whether this is the meaning of the word, or not, this latter situation did in fact develop in the Catholic Church, and continues on in Protestantism. But if we look at the meaning from the Greek elements of the word, we see that the Lord hates a teaching which results in people being conquered. This can come without any formal hierarchy, but from peer pressure to do whatever a group leader, or their "prophet," tells them to do. Christ came to set us free from the rule of any priesthood or professional scholar (as the "scribes" among the Jews) or religious elite (as the Pharisees). He hates a teaching that establishes or supports such a system or arrangement.
In vs. 7, we see that the Spirit (Breath-effect) is continuously speaking to His called-out folks, and we are to listen and pay attention. From the phrase "the one having an ear" we can conclude that not all are given this "ear" (or, ability to hear), and thus cannot hear the effect of the Breath of God. Recall Heb. 5:14, "But solid food belongs to perfected (completed; fully-developed; matured) folks: those who because of HABIT [are] having the ORGANS of PERCEPTION trained... toward discerning..."
Rom. 10:17, "Then faith [comes] from out of hearing, but the hearing through a word spoken (something said) from God [or: which is Christ]."
Next we see a promise for the person that is progressively overcoming, habitually conquering or normally victorious: the opportunity and ability to eat from out of the substance of the tree of life. The word for tree is literally "wood," and can denote a tree, timber, a log or pole, a staff, or just the material "wood." Benjamin Wilson says, "May here denote an aggregation of dendra, or trees, commonly called a wood, or forest." This is the word used in the LXX version of Gen. 1:11, 29; 2:9, 19; 3:4, 9; 6:15; 22:3; Ex. 7:19; 15:25; 25:5; 26:15, etc.
This promise is given as a reward or pay for works, actions and deeds: the stipulation is continuous or habitual overcoming. How one is to overcome, or what is to be overcome is not here stated, but it ch. 12:11 we have, "... and they overcame him/it through the blood of the little Lamb and the word (expression; message) of their witness and testimony (or: evidence), and they loved not their soul (inner self; existential life) until death." Eph 6:10-18 tells us of the armour which is God, and of the sword which is His word.
From the location of this "tree," in the midst of God's paradise, it would seem that this reward also included access to the realm of the garden of Eden (in the Gen. account the word for "garden" in the LXX is "paradise"). But this figure has other uses. In Prov. 3:13-18 we see that, "Wisdom... is a tree of life to those laying hold on her... by Wisdom Yahweh founded the earth..." Prov. 11:30, "The fruit of justice (fairness; equity; rightwised relationship) is a tree of life;" 13:12, "But a tree of life is desire fulfilled;" 15:4, "Gentleness of the tongue is a tree of life."
Consider the description of a righteous person in Ps. 1:1-3, "... he shall exist as the tree (wood) planted by the brooks of waters which shall yield its fruits in its season, and its leaf shall not fall off..." Compare Rev. 22:2 where the tree of life is "on this side and on that side" of the river of life, and it produces "its fruit in accord with each month, and the leaves of the tree (or: wood) are for the healing of the multitudes (or: nations)." In vs. 14 of this chapter it says, "Blessed are those who wash their robes, to the end that their authority shall be upon the tree of life..."
In Rom. 11, Paul compares the life of Israel to an olive tree. Jer. 11:36 says, "a green olive tree, fair with goodly fruit, did Yahweh call your name.. and the branches thereof shall be broken." Ps. 128:3, "... your children [are] like plantings of olive trees..."
The point that I am making is that a tree can symbolize a person, or a people. He/Those who has/have life and bears the fruit of the Spirit will be a tree of life, or a branch of the Vine. The two witnesses in 11:4 "are the two olive trees..."
A Study In Revelation
Chapter Two - Part Two
8. “And in (to; by; for) the agent of (or: pertaining to) the called-out community within Smyrna, write: ‘The First and the Last, the One Who came to be (was birthed) a dead one and lives (or: lived), is presently saying these things:
9. I have seen, and thus know (am aware of) your works (deeds; acts) and pressure (squeezing; tribulation) and poverty – but rather, you are rich – and the blasphemy (slanderous speech) of those declaring themselves to be Jews – and yet they are not – but rather [are] a gathering-together (a synagogue) of the adversary (Greek: satan).
10. Do not be habitually fearing things which you are about to experience (or: to suffer; in which you are about to have sensible experience). Consider: the one who thrusts-through (the devil) is about to thrust some from among you into prison (or: jail), so that you may be tried (put to the proof), and you will have pressure (squeezing; tribulation) [for] ten days. Progressively come to be a faithful person (or: You must be being birthed a trusting one) until death, and I will give Life’s wreath to you (or: I will give to you the wreath of The Life; or: the victor’s symbol, which is life).’
11. “Let him who has an ear hear what the Spirit is presently saying to the called-out communities (the summoned forth assemblies): The one habitually overcoming (or: repeatedly victorious) may by no means be injured or harmed from the midst of the second death.”
Vs. 8 is quite similar to 1:17-18; the identity of the One speaking cannot be mistaken. Here the tense of the verb "live" is aorist, the fact tense indicating that He "lives," or, it can be used as a simple past, "lived," speaking in reference to His resurrection.
Vs. 9 declares His awareness of their activities, the tribulation and pressure which they are experiencing, and the fact of their poverty. Yet He declares that they are rich – quite the contrast to what He says of the 7th church. This paradox of being in poverty, yet being rich, should be understood to apply to two different realms: the first to the material realm; the second to the realm of spirit.
Now what about those who falsely claim to be Jews? Who, in the 1st century, would claim to be Jews but those who were actually Jews by natural birth – or perhaps converts to the Jewish religion? Yet the Lord either calls this claim blasphemy, or refers to some blasphemy or slanderous talk which this group speaks. Either way, the Lord says that THEY ARE NOT JEWS, and goes farther to say what they are: the congregation (a gathering-together; or: a synagogue) of satan (or: which is the adversary). What does this mean?
1) Consider the situation in John 8:37-47, Jesus said, "I am aware that you are Abraham's seed (vs. 37).... They answered and said to Him, 'Our father is Abraham' (vs. 39).... They said to Him, '...we have one Father: God!' (vs. 41). Jesus then said, '... You folks are of your father, the devil...' (vs. 44).
How did He mean that? Is this not a parallel passage? They claim to be Jews (i.e., descendants of Abraham); He said they were descendents of the devil – that the devil was their father! Here in vs. 9 He is saying that they are not Jews, but of the congregation of the adversary (or: satan). I think that in both cases they were literally Jews, in the flesh. I also think that the Lord in both cases is making a distinction between the flesh and the spirit; between a natural kingdom and a spiritual kingdom; between a natural people and a spiritual people.
2) Rom. 9:6-8, "... for all those who [are] from out of Israel, these [are] not Israel, neither that they are seed of Abraham [are they] all children; but in Isaac shall a seed be called to you. That is, the children of the flesh THESE [are] NOT the children of God, but THE CHILDREN of the PROMISE He is reckoning a seed." So it is those who are of the promise who are Israel, and Abraham's seed.
Gal. 3:29, "And if you [are] Christ's consequently you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to PROMISE." Gal. 3:7, "Know, consequently, that those out of FAITH, THESE are sons of Abraham." So it is of promise and of faith. It is not of flesh. Thus, those who are not of Christ's faith, and are not born of spiritual birth (i.e., of promise, as was Isaac; or as John 1:3 puts it, "Who were born not out of bloods [natural genealogy, like literal Jews in the flesh], nor out of flesh's will, nor out of a man's will, but rather, out of God") – are of their father, the devil, and belong to a congregation of satan. Obviously these would be religious people, but they are trying to be and claiming to be something that God says they are not.
Moving on to vs. 10, we have the admonition to fear nothing of our continual experiences. This applies to us all. He has not given us a spirit of fear, for, "perfect love thrusts fear outside" (1 John 4:18). "Since God is for us, who or what can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31). What we are not to fear involves all of our experiences – not just suffering.
A specific word of knowledge is given concerning certain folks of the called-out in Smyrna: their upcoming 10 days of pressure in the local prison, or jail. But for us, reading this later, we can see the kinds of thrusts we can expect to encounter: pressure and imprisonment – whether physical, emotional and/or spiritual.
"Progressively come to be a faithful person (or: You must be being birthed a trusting one) until death..." We are called to continuous transformation, which can often be compared to our original born-again experience. Here the Lord admonishes the called-out one to "come into existence to be" (proceed in being birthed) a trusting and faithful person. This comes from coming to really know our Father, and that experience makes us faithful and loyal. This is the work of His love in us. Faithfulness and loyalty are the equivalence of overcoming. It is the life of Christ living Himself in us. The result is "the crown of THE Life" – the life of the Christ. Life itself is a gift (Rom. 6:23) – not a prize. But this victor's symbol is THE Life of the Christ being lived out in us. This "crown" symbolizes the uppermost realm of "the LIFE" which all are destined to some time live, because of His overcoming in them.
Vs. 11 again call us to listen and to hear what the Spirit is presently saying. The one wearing the wreath of the life and being repeatedly victorious "may by no means be injured or harmed from the midst of the second death." In ch. 20:14 we find the definition of this symbol, "... the lake of the Fire, this is the second death." Also, ch. 21:8, "...the lake continuously burning with Fire and Deity (the Divine Nature – Greek 'theion,' neutral form of 'theios'), this is the second death."
Isa. 33:14-15 says, "... who among us can sojourn with a fire that devours? Who among us can sojourn with age-lasting (eonian; that which pertains to the Age) burning? He that walks righteously and speaks uprightly..." This last phrase describes the overcomer – this person can sojourn with that fire, for "our God is a consuming Fire" (Heb. 12:29). As a physical example of this spiritual experience, consider the three faithful Hebrews in the book of Daniel who were cast into the furnace. We see that "the Son on man" is there in that fire, and the fire burns up that which binds whoever is cast into it. From this example, we see that overcomers also pass through this "baptism (immersion) of the Holy Spirit" – as John the baptist put it.
12. “And in (to; for; by) the agent of the called-out community within Pergamos, write: ‘The One constantly holding (having) the sharp, two-mouthed broadsword is presently saying these things:
13. I have seen, and thus know (am aware of) where you are continually dwelling (settling down for an abode) – where satan’s throne [is]! – and yet you are constantly strong in (or: getting into your power) My Name, and did not deny (disown) My Faith in the days in which Antipas, My faithful witness (martyr), who was killed alongside you folks: where satan dwells (where the adversary continuously has his abode).
14. But still I am holding down a few things against you: you have there those continuously strong to be retaining the teaching of Balaam, who instructed Balak to thrust a snare in the sight of the sons of Israel to eat things offered to forms (or: sacrificed to idols) and to commit prostitution.
15. Thus, you also constantly have those being continuously strong in, and retaining, the teaching of the Nicolaitans, likewise.
16. You must change mind (your way of thinking), therefore! Yet if not, I am repeatedly (habitually) coming swiftly in you (to you; for you) [again: you, singular], and I will wage war (do battle) with them within the broadsword of My mouth.’
17. “Let the one having an ear hear what the Spirit is now saying to the called-out community: To the one habitually overcoming (repeatedly conquering), to him (in him; for him) I will give manna having been hidden, and I will give to him a white pebble, and upon the pebble a new name having been written which no one knows, except the one receiving it.”
That in vs. 12 he stresses that He is the one with the sharp sword would suggest His readiness to use it – to do battle, to slay the adversary, to cut off our flesh, to overcome on the community's behalf.
We see in vs. 13 that He is also aware of the company that they were keeping, i.e., where they were residing – living their lives – and it is a place, or realm, where satan's influence, or control/domination, is being exercised: "the authority of the Darkness" (Col. 1:13). Now that community in Pergamos had been transported out of that authority and into the reign/kingdom of the Son of His love, just as the community in Colosse had been: what had happened? Just as some of the company of Israel in the desert wished to return to Egypt, had Pergamos fulfilled that type and returned to dwell where satan's throne is – under the influence of the System of culture, religion, politics and government? Apparently so. This would no doubt be a place of bondage, as well.
But this vs. ends with His noting that "and yet you are constantly strong in (or: getting into your power) My Name, and did not deny (disown) My Faith." The adversary had slain at least one of their brothers there. The situation calls to mind Lot in Sodom (2 Pet. 2:7-8). This is a remarkable description of a church! It is satan's home and headquarters. Note that satan's work is normally in the realm of the religious. Even so, they had not denied His faith – which figures His work of faith in enduring His cross, or, His faithfulness. And let us remember, as we today look around at similar situations, that these folks were still His called-out community.
As we move to vs. 14 we can see why the adversary ruled and lived in their environment. Those holding Balaam's teachings would then be like Balak: enemies of God's people. Why else would they want to ensnare the believers to bring God's judgment upon them as in the days of Balaam? (see Num. 25:1-9; 31:15-16; 2 Pet. 2:15; Jude 11) The introduction of idolatry (as in the days of Balaam) was through the bringing into Christianity elements of pagan religions. This echoes Isa. 1:21, "How is the faithful city become a prostitute! It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers." God had termed Israel's turning to pagan idolatry as committing prostitution. This brings spiritual death – it murders the inner life of the people.
But what is today's counterpart? What are the forms or external appearances (which is the root meaning of the word for "idol") that the adversary holds out for the church to partake of, or to co-habit with, in place of the Holy Spirit? I suggest that they are the techniques of the entertainment industry and the media, which appeal to the flesh nature of humanity. The various forms of this high-tech world that conform the called-out community to the spirit of this age.
These folks also had the teachings of the Nicolaitans, as we saw in vs. 6. So of what are they to change their mind and way of thinking (vs. 16)? First it would be regarding where they were living their lives (or dwelling, vs. 13) – away from where satan is having influence over them. Perhaps this would mean leaving a particular congregation (or, perhaps it was in their day a synagogue). Second, it would be regarding having those in their fellowship who hold the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. Thus they should cease to have a tolerant attitude toward these teachings, and toward the fact that such teachings are being given out. We can see that the Lord came swiftly to the Jews in Jerusalem "with the broadsword of His mouth" directing the Romans to judge them. In our day, the life of the "church" is simply dried up, and sometimes that fellowship disappears.
In vs. 17 comes again the call to listen to the Spirit, Who is constantly speaking to the communities. Here the "hidden manna" is an allusion to the pot of manna which was laid up in the ark, in the holy of holies. The ark is a figure of both God's throne and also of the body of Christ. Thus we can see both God's provision in Christ, and the nourishment from the true bread from heaven – the Lord (John 6:31-35; 48-51). One must enter into the holy of holies (the real of heaven, of spirit) to have access to this. We must also be joined to Christ, "in Whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are concealed (hidden away; laid in store)" (Col. 2:3). "Now we have this treasure in earthen vessels" (2 Cor. 4:7) – the body of Christ.
"It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter" (Prov. 25:2). "For you died, and your life has been hidden together with Christ, within God" (Col. 3:3). "But we are speaking God's wisdom which has been hidden within a secret, which God previously marked out before the ages, unto our glory" (1 Cor. 2:7). "But decorate the hidden man of the heart with what is incorruptible: a meek and quiet spirit..." (1 Pet. 3:4).
Ray Prinzing, in "Revelation, A Positive Book," lists five things that a white stone signified: 1) acquittal, at a trial; 2) given to a winner of a race; 3) used in casting of lots in election for "yes;" 4) sometimes handed to a guest as a token of hospitality and a right to all that is in the house; 5) used in the allotting of and for inheritance.
In Scriptures a name signifies a person's character (e.g., Gen. 49, as Jacob blesses his sons; also recall the times God changed a person's name). Receiving a new name (e.g., Simon now being called Peter) would mean to receive a new character – either prophetically, as with Peter, or as the result of overcoming the old character/nature (recall Jacob wrestling with the agent, and the new name Israel). That no one else knows what the new name is, suggests that this is a personal thing between God and the overcomer, perhaps that this is an interior event, in one's spirit.
A Study In Revelation
Chapter Two - Part Three
18. “And to (by; in; for) the agent of the called-out community in Thyatira, write: ‘The Son of God, the One having His eyes as a flame of fire and His feet l like burnished (or: white) brass (bronze; fine copper), says these things:
19. I have seen, and thus know (am aware of) your [singular] acts (deeds; works), and love, and faith, and service, as well as persistent remaining-under for support (relentless, humble endurance); and your last acts (works) [are] more than the first ones,
20. but still, I continue holding (having) much down against you, because you are constantly letting-off (tolerating; allowing; pardoning) your wife [other MSS: the woman] Jezebel – she is habitually calling herself a prophetess – and she is continually teaching and deceiving (seducing) My slaves to practice prostitution (adultery; fornication) and to eat things sacrificed to idols (things offered to forms and outward appearances).
Again, it is obvious that it is Christ speaking here. But why these particular descriptions of Himself? Eyes like a flame of fire emphasize the purifying vision, intensity, and the seeing with the eyes of God. Feet – symbolizing His walk, His path, His way of moving among the called-out communities that have the character of God's judgment and corrective justice. Both of these elements would let this "church" know that the Speaker is serious, and is a person to be reckoned with. He walks in judgment, constantly evaluating, making separations and decisions.
Vs. 19 is similar to what He said to Ephesus in 2:2. He commends how they are living – His eyes have seen it all – and He acknowledges an improvement: more works now than at the beginning.
Yet there is a problem. Vs. 20 addresses the situation figured by Jezebel (1 Kings 18 & 19) of Israel's history. Ahab's marriage to her was the first instance of a marriage of a heathen princess with a king of the northern kingdom of Israel. Vincent points out that this alliance was a turning point in the moral history of Israel. She brought the worship of Baal from Sidon. She tried to destroy all God's prophets in Israel, while installing prophets of Baal and Asherah (the Phoenician Venus). Both her name and her activities in Thyatira speak of the introduction of idolatry and elements of pagan religion into the called-out community. The corruption of the message of goodness in Christ began with the called-out's very beginning. Paul fought the re-introduction of Judaism and legalism. Here John writes of Christ speaking out against paganism and idolatry in the "church."
Further, Jezebel of old exercised control over the weak leadership in Israel (i.e., Ahab, her husband). In 2 Kings 9:22 Jehu refers to her prostitutions and witch crafts as being "many." The most basic form of witchcraft is to exercise control by means of a wrong spirit – one that is not holy or that does not spring from love. A church, or a person, that gives in to a spirit of control, instead of being led by the Holy Spirit, is placing the influence of that spirit (which can come through an individual or an organization) above the leadership of God, and is thus practising both adultery (for God is our Husband- Lord) and idolatry. We must discern what spirit is trying to influence us – is it God, or that of another? "Beloved, do not believe [or, obey] every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are of God, for many false prophets have come (or: gone) out into the ordered system (of religion, culture and government)" (1 John 4:1).
The Jezebel spirit – which is manifested through either an individual or a group – is a false representative of God (she merely "calls herself" a prophetess) and is allowed (tolerated) to operate by the church (community). This need not be so: the prophetic ministry (figured by Elijah and Elisha) and the anointed leadership (figured by Jehu in 1 Kings 19:16 and 2 Kings 9) can put this to an end.
Thyatira is now the third called-out community to be infested with the spirits which lead to immorality, idolatry and false teaching: the Nicolaitans, the Balaamites, and those following Jezebel.
21. And I give time to her, to the intent that she may change her mind (way of thinking), and habitually she is not intending (or: willing) to change her thinking out of her prostitution.
22. Consider: I am presently casting her into a bed, and those habitually committing adultery with her into great pressure (tribulation; squeezing) if ever they may not change their minds out of her works (acts; deeds).
23. And I will kill her children within death, and all the called-out assemblies shall know that I am the One continuously searching the kidneys and hearts, and I will give to each one of you down from (in accord to) your [plural] acts (deeds; works).
Vs. 21 indicates that this spirit has no intention of leaving or changing, but must be destroyed from out of the midst. God gives individuals and groups time to change their thinking from this error. That Christ is "presently casting her into a bed" speaks in the metaphor of prostitution/adultery. In the very situation in which this error is operating is the situation in which His correction will come. All involved in this will experience His pressure and trouble – unless they change their thinking on this matter, and refuse to be influenced by the actions and works of this spirit.
Now the judgment given in vs. 23 is, like the rest, a figure. Her children may refer to those of John 1:13 who were born "out of the will of flesh," or "out of a human's desire or intent," and not "born out of God." Jesus said in Matt. 15:13, "Every plant which is not planted by My heavenly Father shall be uprooted." Those born of spiritual prostitution would be in this category. But what does this mean? It refers to the inner spiritual condition, for vs. 23 goes on to say that all the called-out groups would know that He Himself is carefully searching to see the condition of the hearts and the seats of folks emotions (the kidneys – a Hebrew figure of speech), and that He knows what kind of birth has taken place. Many folks are "birthed" via an "evangelistic crusade," but few of these were engrafted into the Vine. Many are persuaded by human reasoning and become members of some religious organization, but have not been born from Above. As to their acts, "... the person continuously sowing into his flesh, from out of the flesh he will harvest corruption; but the one continuously sowing in the spirit, from out of the spirit he will harvest a life having the quality of the Age (eonian life)" (Gal. 6:8).
24. Now I am saying to you, to the rest (the remaining) within Thyatira – whoever are not holding this teaching – who do not know “the depths of satan (the adversary)”, as they are saying, I will cast no other burden (weight) upon you.
25. Moreover, what you have (hold) you must get into your power (be strong in; lay hold of), until of which [time or situation] whenever I will (or: may) arrive.’
The remaining discourse to Thyatira is to those not involved with Jezebel, her idolatry, or her adultery, nor have they know by experience the depths of the adversary. To what does this last part refer? Vincent thought that this was a reference to the Gnostic sect of the Ophites (the word "ofis" means serpent; known in Hebrew as Naasenes, "serpent-worshipers"). Justinian passed laws against it as late as AD 530, so we can see that it was around for a long time. The serpent was thought to be an instrument of higher wisdom, thus the Gnostics would boast of their insights and knowledge of divine or spiritual things.
In contrast, Paul spoke of "the depth of the riches and of wisdom of intimate and experiential knowledge of God" (Rom. 11:33), and said that "... the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God" (1 Cor. 2:10). Matthew Henry compares the depths of satan and darkness to "the secret (mystery) of iniquity" in 2 Thes. 2:7. Mystery cults were common before, during and after the First century. Today satanism is common, and the New Age movement, with its many forms, introduces one to spirit guides and various forms of worship or employment of animistic influences (the "demons" of the NT).
Even in the called-out communities of our day (the churches or home groups) over- emphasis of satan or his "power" (which virtually is non-existent, since Christ has authority over it: all authority in heaven and on earth was given to Jesus – Matt. 28:18), or a focus on demonology and the operation of evil spirits can ensnare a person, taking them away from the focus on and praise of God, and away from His purposes.
The phrase "get into your power (be strong in; lay hold of)" calls to mind Eph. 6:13, "On account of this, you folks receive back again (or: at once take up) the full suit of armor (panoply; implements of war) which is God (or: which belongs to and has its source in God), to the end that you would have power (or: be able) to withstand and resist (to stand opposite, over against as facing an opponent; or: stand in [other folks'] place, instead of [them]) within the harmful day (the day of bad conditions), and accomplishing all (achieving and effecting everything [the whole]), to stand firm."
The last phrase of vs. 25 is awkward in the Greek. Vatican MS #1160, and others, read "until whither I shall open." Perhaps a good paraphrase would be, "hang in there until I change things for you."
26. “And [to] the one habitually conquering (repeatedly overcoming) and keeping watch over (guarding; maintaining observance of) My acts (works; deeds) until completion (down to a final act; as far as [the] goal; until an end), I will give to him authority upon the multitudes (the nations; the ethnic groups; the Gentiles).
27. “And he will shepherd (i.e., feed, tend and guard) them with a staff made of iron, as he is being continuously broken [like] pottery vessels, [Ps. 2:8-9] as I also have received from My Father.
28. “And I will give to him the morning star.
29. “Let the person having an ear at once hear (= pay attention and obey) what the Spirit is continuously saying to (or: in; for; among) the called-out communities!”
Once again, in vs. 26, a prize is offered to the victor: authority. The stipulation: a way of life; winning a contest or combat; maintaining, tending the vineyard (or: whatever His works produced). This can apply to the kingdom within and/or to the called-out community. "...those running in a racecourse indeed all run, but one receives the prize." Paul here (1 Cor. 9:24) was not referring to salvation, but to a goal to be attained, once the life of the "gift" is realized. The figure of "authority over the multitudes/nations" is echoed in ch. 3:21, "to sit down with Me in My throne."
Vs. 27 explains that this authority is given so that we can feed His sheep (John 21:15- 18). It shows His heart, and His purpose for us "ruling" or "judging the 12 tribes of Israel" (Matt. 19:28): to be shepherds; to feed, protect, guide and care for His sheep – even at the expense of the shepherd laying down his life (or, being broken) for his sheep (John 10:11). The staff made of iron symbolizes a strong defense for, or correction of, the sheep. The verb for "broken" is in the 3rd person, singular, present PASSIVE, with no pronoun – thus my translation, above.
The meaning of the symbol "the morning star" in vs. 28 is given in ch. 22:16, "I, Jesus, ... am the root and offspring of David: the light-giving (shining) Morning Star." Back in ch. 1:20 we saw that a star is a figure of a messenger or an agent: it gives light (a message; knowledge; understanding).
One thing that can be drawn from this is that the overcomer will be given the message, or knowledge, pertaining to the dawn of the New Day, the Age of Messiah. That Jesus identifies Himself as this light-giving morning star would mean that He Himself will be given to the victor – what more could be given, as a prize? In Dan. 12:3 it is said, "and those justifying many are as stars, for the eons and further" (CVOT). Rotherham renders it thus: "and they who make wise (the instructors) shall shine like the shining of the expanse (= atmosphere) – and they who bring the many to righteousness, like the stars, to times age-abiding and beyond." I also like NEB's phrase, "... and those who have guided the people in the true path shall be like the stars..."
In Gen. 37:9, in his dream, we see the sun, the moon and the eleven stars bowing themselves to Joseph. Vs. 10 reads, "... do WE certainly come – I and thy mother and thy brothers – to bow down to thee, to the earth?" (Young). So here are a couple examples of a star being a figure of a person.
In Job 38 Yahweh asked Job about the time "when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." Vincent comments that the star was the ancient emblem of sovereignty. Num. 24:17 says, "There has marched forth a star out of Jacob, and arisen a scepter out of Israel." Matt. 2:2 says of the baby Jesus, "we saw His star in the east..."
The woman in ch. 12:1 has a crown of 12 stars. Judges 5:20 says symbolically "the stars from their highways fought with Sisera." The figure seems to speak of ruling and of an exalted position.
Again, in vs. 29, we have the imperative to listen, hear, and thus obey what the Breath- effect (Spirit) continues saying to the called-out communities. It does not say, listen to the doctrines of the theologians, or to the traditions of your particular group. It speaks of a living relationship which acknowledges His authority and direction.