Hold Fast Revelation 2:18–29
All eyes were riveted on the television monitor in the lobby as a second plane slammed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The previous night, a guest speaker at Friends of Israel’s Willow Valley Prophecy Conference had described the threat posed by terrorist sleeper cells in North America. Although members operate within the parameters of normal society and appear no different from those around them, their goal is destruction.
In the Lord’s letter to the congregation at Thyatira, Christ exposed a spiritual sleeper cell operating inside the church. A seemingly harmless clique, it was actually a threat with devastating consequences.
Although implied in His other letters, in this message Christ declared His deity explicitly: “These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass” (Rev. 2:18). This was a personal message from the very One to whom this church was ultimately accountable. With eyes of fire search-ing their works and feet of brass ready to crush all contrary to His Word, He declared, “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience” (v. 19). He had witnessed their faith and perseverance, and knew their latest works were more impressive than their first. The church of Thyatira demonstrated much that was praiseworthy; nevertheless, it had a problem of flagrant apostasy:
I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols (v. 20).
Christ referred here to a literal woman in the church. Whether or not her name was actually Jezebel, He referred to her by it, using the odious name of the seducing queen of Israel who introduced the worst era of idolatry and apostasy in the nation’s history. Thyatira’s Jezebel, like her Old Testament counterpart, was not merely a sincere but misguided individual. She was adept at distorting the truth to condone and encourage immorality and idolatry. A self-proclaimed prophetess, she may have insisted she possessed a higher level of spirituality. But Christ exposed her as a fraud.
Many have speculated about her identity, some even claiming she was the pastor’s wife. Regardless, the church had failed to deal decisively with her and her erroneous teaching. Since Lydia was instrumental in founding the work, it is possible that believers had chosen to ignore Paul’s instruction that forbade women to teach in a way that exercised authority over men.
The church leadership apparently did not espouse this woman’s teachings but over time simply allowed her activities to go unchecked. This error in judgment compromised the integrity of the church’s testimony. Because it failed to eradicate her heresy, Christ took it on Himself to deal with her, promising, “I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds” (v. 22). Not only would she and her followers be punished, the second generation of those who dabbled in the supposed deep secrets she taught would be as well:
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 (v. 23).
To those who did not embrace “Jezebel’s” false teachings, the Lord gave a single charge:
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. But hold fast what you have till I come (vv. 24–25).
Interestingly, Christ did not counsel people to leave the church but rather to hold fast to those qualities for which He had already commended them; namely, their charity, service to Him, and patience. Those who heeded the challenge could look forward to the fulfillment of two promises:
And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations…and I will give him the morning star (vv. 26, 28).
Overcomers who hold fast can look forward to a place of authority in the Messianic Kingdom: “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Tim. 2:12).
Christ referred to Himself as the Morning Star, assuring believers of His presence throughout eternity: “‘I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the church-es. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star’” (Rev. 22:16). This is the hope of all who suffer the cost of contending for the faith in an environment where false teaching thrives.
The letter closes with an admonition: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (2:29). The message to the church at Thyatira required decisive action. Christ will not tolerate false teaching. It not only offends Him personally, it destroys the life and vitality of His church. Those who take the words of this letter to heart will recognize the dire consequences of “sleeper cells” and will actively engage in removing false teaching. Their stand may not be popular, but they will enjoy the reward for faithful service to Christ.