The Church With A Mystic Tendency - Rev. Herman Hoeksema
18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who bath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
27 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.
28 And I will give him the morning star.
29 He that bath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
The Church At Thyatira
Thyatira was a city in Asia Minor southeast from Pergamos, on the road to Sardis. It was known for the art of dyeing. And, as we know, Lydia, the seller of purple, was from that city, Acts 16:14. It was not a large city, like Pergamos; and it was not exactly a place where Satan would naturally establish his throne and where he dwelt. For that reason the church in Thyatira might enjoy a comparatively peaceful existence; and although the letter of the Lord to this church suggests that there also the believers had suffered for Christ's sake, yet this congregation did not have to suffer tribulation and persecution as did the churches of Smyrna and Pergamos.
For the rest, at first glance the letter addressed to the church in Thyatira would leave the impression that her condition was almost identically the same as that of Pergamos. The resemblance is indeed striking. Also the church in Thyatira was faithful to the Lord, as the text plainly indicates. Her weakness, or defect, seems to be that she suffered evil men, - in this case, an evil woman with her following, - in her midst. And hence, we would be inclined to draw the conclusion that also in Thyatira we are presented with the picture of a church weak in discipline. Still more, even the nature of the heresies which were being propagated in the two churches appears to be the same: for also in Thyatira the Nicolaitanes had their influence.
However, there must have been a difference between the two churches. For if in the seven churches of Asia Minor we correctly discerned a picture of the church in its totality from seven different aspects, it is plain that the church of Thyatira and the church of Pergamos each presents a different aspect of the church as a whole; and each adds its own peculiar detail to the picture of the church in its totality. This distinctive feature we try to express in the subject of this chapter, "The Church With A Mystic Tendency."
It is undoubtedly not superfluous, first of all, to ask and answer the question: what is meant by this phrase, "the church with a mystic tendency?"
By mysticism, in the sense in which the term is employed by us now, sometimes designated as "false mysticism," we denote a condition or tendency in the church of Christ characterized by ardent and abundant spiritual life, rather of the experiential or emotional type, but more or less severed from the objective criterion and test of the Word of God. Perhaps you will be able to gain some conception of this condition if we say that it represents the direct opposite of the condition of the church of Ephesus. The latter was strong in respect to whatever is purely objective: strong in doctrine and the knowledge of the truth; faithful, too, in works; and strict in discipline. But she was weak in regard to the life of the Spirit and had lost her first love. She was poor in warm, inward, devotional spiritual life. With a church of mystic inclination it is exactly the reverse. She is generally rich in spiritual devotion, abundant in that part of our spiritual life which cannot be explained and expressed in words, and often claims a direct intercourse with the Spirit. But she most frequently manifests an accompanying tendency to separate herself from the objective standard of the Word. She is usually poor in knowledge and, in general, in regard to things which can be grasped and analysed by the intellect.
Or, to prevent any possible misunderstanding, it is perhaps expedient to call your attention to three possible conditions in the church of Christ on earth.
In the first place, we may mention the correct, the healthy and normal, the most perfect condition of the church on earth, namely, that condition which is characterized by a correct and constant equilibrium of the subjective and objective. It is the condition of the church which is both strong in knowledge and maintenance of the truth, emphasizing the necessity of the Word properly, but which at the same time is not devoid of true, devotional, ardent spiritual life, and in which the latter is continually guided and tested by the former. Of course, in any form of true Christian religion there is a mystic element, resulting from our spiritual communion with Christ our head. And any true child of God will be able to speak of the fact that he experiences moments of sweet communion with the Savior that transcend all analysis and expression in human language. To speak in terms often employed by children of God, there are moments when they have "good times" with the Lord, moments in which we experience the mystical feeling of the bride who is near the bridegroom. Such moments are perfectly normal, and they should constitute an element of our life with God. There is no danger in such mystical communion, if only it is continually subjected to the objective test of the Word of God. And if such a condition is peculiar of an entire church, that church enjoys what may be called a state of healthy mysticism.
A second condition, however, also met with in the church of Christ on earth, is that which results when the value of pure doctrine and the function of the intellect in religion is over-rated and exclusively emphasized, while the inward life of the Spirit is forgotten. Then all the emphasis is placed exclusively on cold doctrine. The congregation never receives a taste of sweet mystical communion of the Spirit, and religion becomes cold and dead intellectualism, - a body without a soul. Such a condition is, of course, to be condemned; indeed, it is very dangerous!
But there is still another form that reveals itself from time to time in the history of the church as the dominant form, a form, in fact, which never vanishes out of sight entirely. That is the condition of what we call false mysticism. If dead orthodoxy over-rates the value of doctrine, false mysticism undervalues sound knowledge of the truth altogether. If the intellectual church does not sufficiently emphasize the life of the Spirit and mystical communion, the church which is mystically inclined places all the emphasis on the subjective experience of the soul. The mystical element is there, exists, in fact, in an abundant measure; and many in the church can testify of the "good times" they experience with the Savior. But this mystic life is from the start not guided by the objective testimony of the Word. Such a congregation makes the experience of its members the test and guide of all spiritual life. She is in dancer of running wild with devotion. And if this mystical tendency continues and develops, she will attach significance to all kinds of feelings and sentiments, perhaps even to visions and dreams. And, finally, being cut loose from the Word of God, she becomes a fit object of Satan's seductive influence, exposed to any and every error of the kingdom of darkness.
There was, I think, a clear tendency towards this false and dangerous form of mysticism to be discovered in the church of Thyatira.
Commendable Features Of Thyatira
Let us notice, in the first place, that the Lord in His letter to the church of Thyatira first enumerates some of the most excellent qualities which a church may possibly possess. Writes He: "I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first." It is evident that the term "works" in the first part of this description must be taken in the general sense of the word, as referring not merely to external works of faith, but just as well to the internal, spiritual condition of the church, while this all-comprehensive term is further analysed and specified in the words "thy charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience." The meaning, therefore, is: I know thy works, namely, thy charity and service and faith and patience.
The church, according to this description, was in an enviable condition.
Notice, however, from the start, that love is mentioned first: not because love is first, for that is not the case. Love in the sense in which it evidently occurs in the text is not the root of our spiritual life, but faith is. It is by faith that we are grafted into Christ, by faith that we draw from Him the treasure of our salvation, by faith that we grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord. Not love is the root of faith, but faith is the root also of love. And the latter flourishes and blooms only on the root of faith. But in this letter love is mentioned first because it was the most apparent, the most eminent, the most prominent quality of the church in Thyatira. It was a congregation overflowing with real, warm, spiritual love of the Lord: exactly the opposite of the church in Ephesus. In Ephesus love was wanting to a large extent; in Thyatira it is abundant. In Ephesus, I think, one could be found only with difficulty who would consciously speak of the love of Jesus; here in Thyatira almost every member would be able to give a testimony in a prayer meeting. There, in Ephesus, the hearts were cold; here, in Thyatira, they were glowing with ardent love.
Surely, there was also faith. For how otherwise could love exist? But faith is mentioned in the second place. The congregation was characterized not so much by the firm strength of conscious faith as by the attractive warmth of true and ardent love. This also became manifest in their actual life. It was again love revealing itself in works which appeared on the foreground. For in the text their ministry, or service, is mentioned first of all. This term "ministry" may be taken in a general sense, as applied to all kinds of service in the kingdom. All the members in Thyatira exerted themselves to do something for the kingdom of God. I imagine that if anyone was taken sick in the church, the angel would have to be on the alert if he desired to be the first one who called on that sick person. If anyone was in suffering or want, the church was sure to know it; and all would help to alleviate the suffering or to provide in case of need. The ladies of the church perhaps often came together in the afternoon, not to gossip or to expose the sins and weaknesses of the brethren and sisters, but to work for the relief of the poor, - if not in their own church, then for the benefit of the poor in other parts of the church. All this they performed from the motive of love, not in order to be seen by men and to receive the praise of the world: for also they were subject to reproach and malevolent slander. But with patience they bore and labored and ministered in the kingdom of God. Nor were they in a condition of gradual degeneration. On the contrary, the congregation was spiritually growing, increasing in their love and faith and service and patience. For the Lord testifies of them that their last works were more than the first. Indeed, a beautiful picture this aspect of the congregation presents to our view. It is, perhaps, not a picture which necessarily impresses one by its strength of features or staunchness of expression, but one which is attractive because of its sweetness, which appeals because of its beauty.
Reproved For Tolerating Jezebel
But there is another side to this picture, a side which is as horrible and repulsive as the former was beautiful and attractive. The Lord turns this side to our view when He continues in His letter: "Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.-
These words reveal the existence in the church of Thyatira of a most horrible heresy which had already obtained a foothold and which was evidently gaining ground. There is no reason to conceive of this fornication and eating of things sacrificed to idols in any other than in the literal sense of the word, especially since it is a well-known fact that immoral practices, sometimes adultery of the worst sort, were intimately connected with idolatry in those times, especially in connection with the sacrificial feasts. Hence, in this congregation, so filled with love and so busy in the ministry of the kingdom, presenting such an attractive and sweet picture, we meet with one of the worst forms of degeneration conceivable in the church of Christ. The impression is, in fact, that at this time there were already a comparatively large number who lived in open adultery and who participated in the heathen sacrificial feasts. And, what is far worse, this departure from the way of sanctification was evidently defended by an appeal to principle. Clearly, in the church of Thyatira we meet once more with the Nicolaitanes, people who boasted in wanton profanity that it mattered not at all how the Christian lived here upon earth, Christians who sinned that grace might abound the more. The old Adam was doomed to destruction anyway; and Christ had fulfilled the law. The argument that was adduced to defend such a life in sin was, as we shall see presently, that a descent into the very depths of Satan caused the child of God to appreciate the glory of Christ's gracious deliverance all the more. But in reality the protagonists of this view made of their so-called Christian liberty a pretext for the flesh. And therefore, there is no question about it: the church of Thyatira, viewed from this angle, offered as horrible an aspect as the first view was sweet and attractive.
You remark, perhaps, that this recalls to our mind exactly the condition of the church in Pergamos. There also these evil Nicolaitanes were found. And there, as here, they were allowed to exert their evil influence upon the church without being disciplined. And in so far you are correct. But there was nevertheless an important difference between the two congregations with respect to the reason why these dangerous heretics were allowed in the church and were tolerated. In Pergamos it is a case of mere laxity in discipline. We are simply told that the Nicolaitanes existed in that church and that they had not been disturbed before the Lord addressed His letter to them. That they were allowed to teach and to seduce others we do not read. But this is entirely different in the church of Thyatira. Notice, in the first place, that in Thyatira the propagator who disseminated the seed of this horrible heresy was a woman, Jezebel. There is no reason to allegorize and make this woman a fictitious character, symbolizing something entirely different, though the name calls to our mind one of the most despicable female characters of the Old Testament. No, there was a real woman in the church of Thyatira. And we receive the impression that she was allowed to teach her contemptible doctrine regardless of the fact that the woman was not allowed to teach in the church, but was enjoined to be silent. Regardless of the further fact that this particular woman taught a most horrible doctrine, seduced many of the servants of God from the path of righteousness, this Jezebel was nevertheless allowed to teach. If we add to this the fact that her teaching is characterized as a sort of mystic gnosticism by the words which evidently designate the slogan of her and of all who followed after her, "who know the deep things of Satan," I can suggest but one possible explanation of this toleration on the part of the Thyatiran church: she was mystically inclined and was in danger of severing her beautiful spiritual life from the infallible Word of God.
If I may be allowed to cast a modern hue over the ancient church, and to present to you in a concrete picture my conception of the congregation in Thyatira, I would offer the following. It is Wednesday evening. The church holds a midweek prayer meeting. Let us attend one of these. The angel of the church opens with a fervent prayer and offers a few words of introduction glowing with the love of his heart toward the Lord Jesus. He speaks of it, how in the past few days he realized his sinful condition, but also how clearly he had experienced the all-sufficiency of the grace of Jesus Christ. Speaking evidently with all his heart in it and with tears of gratitude glistening in his eyes, he praises the Lord for the abundance of His grace. After him an old man arises who also testifies in the same manner. Of years ago he speaks, when first he became acquainted with the gospel of redemption. And he emphasizes that this gospel has been sweet unto his soul, a power of love ever since. A third, and a fourth, and a fifth give their testimonies; and all witness of their personal participation in the grace of Christ Jesus and of their love to Him. But finally a strange figure attracts our attention. It is a woman of a weird and repulsive appearance. Her large, protruding eyes, sensuous lips, and morbid complexion witness of a life of sin and dissipation. She also speaks. And with a voice which sounds as if it comes from the nether world, she tells the congregation of a vision which she had in a by-gone night, and how the Lord appeared to her to reveal His truth in a dream. For she claims to be a prophetess. In her dream, so she continues, the Lord showed unto her the horrible depths of Satan, the abyss of sin and iniquity. And as they both stood on the brink of that dark and horrible abyss, the Lord said unto her: "If anyone would truly taste my grace and infinite mercy, he must actually descend into these depths, and learn to know them by experience. For the more he is able to realize the depths of Satan by actual experience, the more he will be in a condition to appreciate my salvation." She still continues to explain that she has personally obeyed, that she did descend into those depths of Satan. She committed fornication. She feasted with the heathen in their sacrificial meals. She subjected her body to the vilest service of sin. And she concludes by testifying that to her there was a great blessing in this descent into the abyss of sin. For the more clearly she realized the awful depths from which the grace of Christ redeemed and delivered her, the more fully could she gratefully appreciate the wonders of His mercy. Thus this instrument of the devil speaks in the midst of the congregation.
But what now does the congregation do? Does she cast this vile woman out, admonishing her to repent of her horrible sin? On the contrary, she listens. She is silent. She admits the possibility that this woman is actually a prophetess, though her speech directly contradicts the objective revelation of the Word of God. And many even follow her, and in harmony with her teaching they descend into the depths of Satan. Many servants of the Lord are seduced by her teaching.
How must this be explained? How is it possible that this ardent little congregation of Thyatira listens patiently to the dark testimony of this instrument of hell? In but one way: this sweet and lovable little church had gradually forgotten to apply the objective standard of God's revelation and had allowed personal experience to be the chief criterion of the truth. If they had at all made an attempt to apply the test of the Word of God to the speech and life of this woman Jezebel, they would have detected her heresy immediately and would have cast her out if she did not repent. But they are inclined to false mysticism. And Satan, aware of this tendency in the congregation, employs a woman, who largely lives by intuition, is more easily inclined to drift away on subjective feeling and experience, and is of a stronger and more ardent emotional nature than man, to appeal to the mystic tendency in the church of Thyatira, in order to seduce her from the truth. For the same reason Scripture calls this woman Jezebel, which may be considered a symbolic name, to remind the church of her real nature. For even as Jezebel seduced the people of God of the old dispensation to the service of Baal, so does this woman lead the people of Thyatira astray in paths of fornication and vilest sin.
In short, we discover in the congregation of Thyatira a church with a tendency to false mysticism, a church which is strong in warm devotional life, but which has enthroned personal experience as the criterion for the truth.
Frequently this aspect of the church has become prominent in history. In the Middle Ages, when the death-chill of scholasticism and Roman Catholicism began to cause a reaction, this mystic tendency became manifest before long. At the time of the Reformation there was also a mystic strain mingled with the otherwise healthy movement of Protestantism. After exclusive stress had been laid on dead orthodoxy in the eighteenth century the same inclination became manifest. And every time, when the church has passed through a period of intellectualism, the right of the more emotional and mystic element of our religion to assert itself is maintained, and by reaction the church swings to the opposite extreme of false mysticism. Moreover, just as often this mystic strain became the occasion for the flesh and ended in sin and dissipation, simply because of its licentious separation from the objective testimony of the Word of God.
The church, therefore, should be on her guard against both extremes. She should watch against the danger of cold intellectualism, but at the same time refuse to enthrone subjective experience as supreme lord. Our personal experience must be subjected constantly to the test of the Word of God. And if anyone would experience anything not in harmony with that objective revelation, he should draw the conclusion that it is of the Evil One. And again, if on the basis of his experience any member would spread a doctrine not in harmony with the Scriptures, he should be corrected; and, if he will not repent, he should be excommunicated without improper delay.
The Lord's Judgment On Jezebel
It is only if we bear in mind this peculiar condition of the church in Thyatira that we will also be able to discern the reason for the particular message which is sent unto her through John. Notice that the customary admonition to repent is lacking in this message. The Lord does not enjoin on the church to discipline the wicked Jezebel and her followers and to excommunicate them if they do not repent. They would not be in a condition to obey this command. Discipline can only be exercised on the basis of the objective Word of God; and in regard to the knowledge and application of this Word the church of Thyatira was weak. They were not able to distinguish the true from the false. They lacked the power to discern and test the spirits. And for that reason the Lord Himself will mark the evil-doers in the congregation and clearly point them out as the objects of His sore displeasure. In person He will exercise discipline Himself.
He announced Himself in such terms as are suitable to reveal Himself as the One Who is able to search the hearts. He is the Son of God. And especially in connection with what follows, it is plain that this appellation must serve to bring Him before the consciousness of the congregation as the Omniscient One, before Whose eyes nothing is concealed. For He continues to announce Himself as the One Who has eyes like a flame of fire, Who possesses power to penetrate into the innermost parts of man and scrutinize the deepest depths of a man's heart. This woman Jezebel and her followers might hide a horrible nature of sin behind a mask of piety and devotion. To Him that mask does not conceal a thing. He is able to expose to view all the darkness of sin that is hidden behind this mask of godliness. Still more: not only does He possess the power to penetrate and to know the hearts of Jezebel and her followers, but He is also able to execute terrible judgment. For His feet are like unto burnished brass. If His eyes detect iniquity, with those feet He is able to tread down the enemy and consume him. In short, the Lord announces Himself to the congregation as the omniscient and omnipotent Judge of the evil-doers in His church.
In harmony with this Self-manifestation of the Lord is the message which He delivers to the congregation. He not only appears as Judge, but He will act as such in the midst of the church. By His own judgments He intends to expose the evil-doers. "Behold," thus He speaks, "I will cast her into a bed." Behold! The Lord wants to draw the attention of the church. For it is primarily for her sake that He will come with His judgments upon the wicked. They themselves were not able to exercise proper discipline, and they allowed the wicked Jezebel to teach and to seduce the church. They were not in a condition to discern the spirits and lacked the courage to assert that Jezebel was not a prophetess of the Lord, but an instrument of Satan. Now the Lord will plainly expose her and reveal that she is nothing but an agent of the devil to seduce the congregation of Jesus Christ. But then the church must pay attention. Hence, "Behold, I will cast her into a bed." The judgment of Christ will strike the woman, first of all. Her case is hopeless. She has descended into the depths of Satan voluntarily and consciously so often that she will come to repentance no more. And therefore, the measure of her iniquity is full, and the time for judgment is come. That the Lord will cast her into a bed must, of course, not be understood as if He would cause her to be an instrument of adultery still more. He will not cast her into the bed of prostitution. This she had been doing herself. But it is most natural to assume that the Lord would send unto her those horrible and repulsive diseases which are inevitably the result of a life of dissipation and prostitution. For in this way the Lord would reveal by His judgment most plainly that all impurity is despised by Him and that it is not His will that we descend into the depths of Satan that grace may abound.
But also upon her children the sin of the mother would be visited. Perhaps she had many children. Perhaps they were all children of adultery. However this may be, the sin of their mother will become manifest also in them. Not as if the children were considered guilty of the sins of their mother; but, in the first place, to reveal the effects of her sin also in her children, and, in the second place, to add to the severity of her own judgment. And for the children it may have been a blessing that they were killed with death.
Finally, also those who have been seduced by her and who will follow in her steps, who commit adultery with her, are mentioned in this message.
For them the time of repentance is not past; and therefore their judgment is presented as conditional upon their attitude to this message. If they do not repent, the Lord will send unto them great affliction. If they continue to follow in Jezebel's steps even though they behold how the Lord despises her works, the Lord will also visit them. And no doubt also their affliction will stand in close connection with the nature of their sin.
The purpose of these judgments is that the churches may know that the Lord is He Who searcheth the reins and hearts, and that He will give to each one according to his works. Again, this avowed purpose is clearly in full harmony with the condition of the church in Thyatira. She could not test the spirits and distinguish the true from the false and exercise discipline wherever necessary. The Lord, Who searches the hearts, would do it for them. Again, the church of Thyatira allowed a doctrine of licentiousness to be taught in her midst, a doctrine which boldly advocated a life of sin, a descent into the dark depths of Satan, in order that grace might be more abundant. Jesus will appear as the rewarder of each one according to his works, and thus expose the devilish nature of such a heresy. The church of Thyatira shall see the works of the Lord, and at the same time become a warning example to the churches round about, in as far as they also were endangered by the heresy of the Nicolaitanes.
And not only is the church of Thyatira a warning example to the churches of that time, but to those of all ages as well. The devil even in the present day goeth about like a roaring lion; and his object is always again to sever the church from the basis of the Word of God, and thus to set her adrift on the seductive current of human imagination. The church of Thyatira, therefore, may also be our warning example. For the Lord searches the reins and the hearts, and He will finish a just work upon the earth!
Exhortation And Promise
However, also the message to the church of Thyatira does not conclude with threats of judgment, but closes with most glorious promises to them that are faithful and overcome in the battle. In the first place, the Lord tenderly comforts them, and at the same time warns them against the danger of falling into an opposite extreme, when He says: "But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden." These last words are referred by some to a burden of judgment. The meaning then would be that the Lord would indeed visit the congregation with I-Us judgments by afflicting and punishing the evil-doers, but that outside of the culprits He would not afflict any other in the church. But this view appears less than probable. More natural, it would seem to be, that these words refer to a burden of law and precepts. As the undefiled would witness the judgments upon the wicked Jezebel and her following because of their fornication, they might be inclined to the opposite extreme and imagine that the complete fulfillment of the law was still incumbent upon them and necessary for their salvation. From antinomism they might swing to phariseeism and nomism. And against this the Lord warns them by saying that He will put upon them none other burden.
The latter interpretation would seem the more probable because there is an unmistakable reference in these words to the passage of Acts 15:28, 29. We remember that the question of circumcision and of the entire Mosaic law had been a burning one in the early churches, and that it had been discussed and settled by the "Synod" of Jerusalem in approximately 50 A.D. And the wellknown decision for that important gathering had been: "For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well." This, then, was the burden that had been laid upon them heretofore. And if they only had adhered to these precepts, they would undoubtedly have kept themselves undefiled from the vile sins of Jezebel and her wicked brood. But now the danger was more than imaginary that the faithful, at the sight of the judgments inflicted upon the wicked woman in their midst, would turn to the other extreme; and, not intimately acquainted with the doctrine of the church, they would timidly subject themselves once more to the bondage of fear. This must be prevented. Hence, the Lord comes with the definite message: "I will lay upon you none other burden. Just keep what you have till I come."
To these faithful, then, to those who keep what they have and are pure from the defilement of Jezebel's teaching, the Lord comes with a most beautiful promise. Says He: "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."
To see in these words anything but a promise of final victory in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ is to do violence to the plain words of Scripture. Plainly Jesus promises in this passage that He will give to the faithful the same power He has received from His Father. In the day of His coming they shall share in His power and glory of victory. Evidently the reference is to Psalm 2. There we are presented, first of all, with a picture of the powers and the might of the world raging and striving to obtain the world dominion which properly belongs to the kingdom of God's Anointed. This dominion the Father gave to His Son. He has been anointed King over God's holy hill, over Zion. And when that Son declares the decree of Jehovah, He says: "The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.---Evidently the dominant thought is that the powers of the world strive to break the dominion of Christ and rebel against the Most High, but that the Son shall have the ultimate victory in the day of His coming and shall execute vengeance upon all His enemies. This is the power which He has received of His Father. And in this power the faithful of the church of Thyatira shall share, according to this glorious promise. In a later connection we shall have occasion to explain this promise more definitely. Now it must suffice that we state as our conviction that this promise is to be literally fulfilled. Literally the enemies rage against the kingdom and dominion of the Son. Literally the Christ shall come to break the power of His enemies. But these enemies which rise against the kingdom of God also oppose the subjects of that kingdom while they are still on earth. They reproach and slander them. They persecute them and cause them to suffer for the sake of Christ. But even as they share in His reproach, so shall they also participate in the glory of His victory in the day when He shall have the final victory over all His enemies. They shall come with Him. With Him they shall judge the nations. And with Him they shall enter into His dominion when the nations are broken to shivers like a potter's vessel and when all the power of opposition shall have an end.
In the second place, the Lord gives to the faithful the beautiful and suggestive promise of the morning star. Mention of the fact that the righteous shall shine with radiant glory, as the bodies in the firmament, is not foreign to Scripture. In Daniel 12:4 we read: "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." And in Matthew 13:43 the Lord says: "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." All the righteous, therefore, shall shine. That is the glory of their perfected new being in Christ. Cleansed and purified in the blood of the Lamb, they shall forevermore reveal themselves in eternal luster and resplendent glory. To that eternal glory also the symbol of our text refers. But evidently there is this difference, that the morning star shines with greater splendor, is more obvious in brightness, than the other stars in the firmament. It is a star of special luster and glory. Thus also they who keep themselves pure in the midst of great temptation, who remain faithful in times of special stress and danger, shall shine forth with distinguished glory in the eternal kingdom of God. Even as the morning star shines with special glory in the firmament of heaven, so shall they that have kept themselves pure from the defilement of Jezebel, and who in the midst of great temptations have been faithful unto the end reveal themselves in the eternal kingdom with distinct glory and splendor.
He that hath an car, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches!
What doth the Spirit say?
Do not drift away on subjective experience, ignoring the objective principle of the Word of God. Cling to the Word. For only that Word is our safe guide and firm basis in the midst of strong currents of human theories. And if false prophets arise, who would lead you astray with their own imaginations, test the spirits, and reject them without hesitation. This false doctrine may sometimes appear under a very beautiful mask. In Thyatira it was a mask of super-piety. In our day it is the mask of service to humanity. Surely, service is good if it is service not merely of man, but, above all, service of God. Service is good if it is based not upon the vain theories of human philosophy, but on the eternal principle of the Word of God. Cling, then, to that Word. Keep yourselves pure from the wicked Jezebel.
For the faithful to the end shall receive the same power as Christ has received of His Father!
And they shall shine as the morning star in the kingdom of heaven!