Revelation 2:23
And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searches the reins and hearts: and I will give to every one of you according to your works.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Her children.—This is to be understood of her followers. The so-called prophetess led the way in looseness of morals, under the pretence of some deeper knowledge. She had her associates and their disciples; the evil and the evil consequences would grow; the disciples outrun their teachers, and more than tribulation—death—is their penalty.

2:18-29 Even when the Lord knows the works of his people to be wrought in love, faith, zeal, and patience; yet if his eyes, which are as a flame of fire, observe them committing or allowing what is evil, he will rebuke, correct, or punish them. Here is praise of the ministry and people of Thyatira, by One who knew the principles from which they acted. They grew wiser and better. All Christians should earnestly desire that their last works may be their best works. Yet this church connived at some wicked seducers. God is known by the judgments he executes; and by this upon seducers, he shows his certain knowledge of the hearts of men, of their principles, designs, frame, and temper. Encouragement is given to those who kept themselves pure and undefiled. It is dangerous to despise the mystery of God, and as dangerous to receive the mysteries of Satan. Let us beware of the depths of Satan, of which those who know the least are the most happy. How tender Christ is of his faithful servants! He lays nothing upon his servants but what is for their good. There is promise of an ample reward to the persevering, victorious believer; also knowledge and wisdom, suitable to their power and dominion. Christ brings day with him into the soul, the light of grace and of glory, in the presence and enjoyment of him their Lord and Saviour. After every victory let us follow up our advantage against the enemy, that we may overcome and keep the works of Christ to the end.And I will kill her children with death - A strong Hebraistic mode of expression, meaning that he would certainly destroy them. It has been made a question whether the word "children" here is to be taken literally or figuratively. The word itself would admit of either interpretation; and there is nothing in the connection by which its meaning here can be determined. If it is to be taken literally, it is in accordance with what is often threatened in the Scriptures, that children shall be visited with calamity for the sins of parents, and with what often occurs in fact, that they do thus suffer. For it is no uncommon thing that whole families are made desolate on account of the sin and folly of the parent. See the notes on Romans 5:19. If it is to be taken figuratively, then it refers to those who had imbibed her doctrines, and who, of course, would suffer in the punishment which would follow from the propagation of such doctrines. The reference in the word "death" here would seem to be to some heavy judgment, by plague, famine, or sword, by which they would be cut off.

And all the churches shall know, ... - That is, the design of this judgment will be so apparent that it will convince all that I know what is in the hearts of people, even the secret acts of wickedness that are concealed from human view.

I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts - This is clearly a claim to omniscience; and as it is the Lord Jesus who speaks in all these epistles, it is a full proof that he claims this for himself. There is nothing which more clearly pertains to God than the power of searching the heart, and nothing that is more constantly claimed by him as his special prerogative, 1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 7:9; Psalm 11:4; Psalm 44:21; Psalm 139:2; Proverbs 15:3; Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 20:12; Jeremiah 32:19; Hebrews 4:13. The word "reins" - νεφροὺς nephrous - means, literally, "the kidney," and is commonly used in the plural to denote the kidneys, or the loins. In the Scriptures it is used to denote the inmost mind, the secrets of the soul; probably because the parts referred to by the word are as hidden as any other part of the frame, and would seem to be the repository of the more secret affections of the mind. It is not to be supposed that it is taught in the Scriptures that the reins are the real seat of any of the affections or passions; but there is no more impropriety in using the term in a popular signification than there is in using the word "heart," which all continue to use, to denote the seat of love.

And I will give unto every one of you according to your works - To every one of you; not only to those who have embraced these opinions, but to all the church. This is the uniform rule laid down in the Bible by which God will judge people.

23. her children—(Isa 57:3; Eze 23:45, 47). Her proper adherents; not those who suffer her, but those who are begotten of her. A distinct class from the last in Re 2:22 (compare Note, see on [2678]Re 2:22), whose sin was less direct, being that only of connivance.

kill … with death—Compare the disaster that overtook the literal Jezebel's votaries of Baal, and Ahab's sons, 1Ki 18:40; 2Ki 10:6, 7, 24, 25. Kill with death is a Hebraism for slay with most sure and awful death; so "dying thou shalt die" (Ge 2:17). Not "die the common death of men" (Nu 16:29).

all the churches shall know—implying that these addresses are designed for the catholic Church of all ages and places. So palpably shall God's hand be seen in the judgment on Thyatira, that the whole Church shall recognize it as God's doing.

I am he—the "I" is strongly emphatical: "that it is I am He who," &c.

searcheth … hearts—God's peculiar attribute is given to Christ. The "reins" are the seat of the desires; the "heart," that of the thoughts. The Greek for "searcheth" expresses an accurate following up of all tracks and windings.

unto every one of you—literally, "unto you, to each."

according to your works—to be judged not according to the mere act as it appears to man, but with reference to the motive, faith and love being the only motives which God recognizes as sound.

And I will kill her children, those who are seduced by her,

with death; I will destroy them; unless some special death, such as the plague, be here threatened. So shall all the churches near Thyatira know, that I am a God who do not only take notice of overt, scandalous acts, but of the secret thoughts, motions, counsels, and designs of men’s hearts, Psalm 7:10 Jeremiah 11:20 17:10; and that I am a just God, who will deal with all according to their works. And I will kill her children with death,.... Her popes, cardinals, priests, Jesuits, monks, friars, and all that join in the Romish apostasy, they shall be killed with death; there shall be an utter extirpation of them in God's own time; or they shall be killed with the second death: when used alone, or as distinct from any other kind of death, signifies the plague; compare with this 2 Kings 9:24,

and all the churches: that shall be in being at the time of Rome's destruction:

shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins and heart; or am the omniscient God; which will be known by inflicting punishment on the followers of antichrist; when their hidden things of darkness will be brought to light, and exposed by him; and they shall receive the righteous reward of their evil practices, which they have coloured over, and glossed with specious pretences of religion and holiness, and a zeal for God and his glory, when they only meant themselves, the gratifying their carnal lusts, and securing their worldly interests, and amassing riches and honours to themselves:

and I will give unto everyone of you according to your works; who have connived at, and joined with them in their evil deeds; as many as were seduced by the false prophetess to commit spiritual fornication with her: as Christ is omniscient, and does not judge according to the outward appearance of things, but knows the principles and ends of all actions, however covert they may be; so he is righteous in judging and in punishing, which will be according as men's works are; and not one shall escape his righteous judgment, nor the due desert of their sins, though the punishment of some may be greater than that of others.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 2:23. τέκνα, literally, perhaps with an indirect allusion to the killing of Ahab’s seventy sons. ἀποκτ. θ. (Hebraism), “I will utterly slay”; see on Revelation 6:8. If any particular form of death is meant, it may be pestilence (the inscriptions often mention fever), which represented to an Oriental mind the punishment of God on man’s unfaithfulness. The curious difference between the treatment of the μοιχ. and the τέκνα is due to the fact that (cf. Daniel 6:24), a parent’s sin was visited upon his family, both in Jewish and in contemporary pagan belief (cf. the Phrygian inscription, cited by Mayor on Jam 5:12, κατηράμενος ἤτω αὐτὸς καὶ τὰ τέκνα αὐτοῦ). Yet even when both classes are allegorised into active coadjutors and deluded victims, the relative punishment looks unequal. John, unlike Ezekiel (Revelation 13:17-18), holds that the victims of the false prophetess are willing and responsible for their position.—πᾶσαι αἱ ἐκκλ., the judgment was to be as notorious as evidently the scandal had been. The idea recalls one of Ezekiel’s favourite conceptions.—ἐγώ κ.τ.λ. “I know the abysses,” and “discerner of hearts and searcher of the reins “were old Egyptian titles for divine beings. This intimate knowledge of man (cf. 16 c) pierces below superficial appearances, e.g., connexion with the church, prophetic zeal, and plausible excuses. As in Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 20:12 (cf. Ps. Song of Solomon 8:8), the divine acquaintance with man’s real, secret life forms the basis of unerring and impartial judgment; while, as in Jeremiah 4:16-17 (cf. Acts 4:1 f., 1 Timothy 1:20, 1 Corinthians 5:4, etc.) the prophetic denunciation or imprecation has a direct effect upon the person denounced (cf. von Dobschütz, 270 f.). The former would be a fairly novel idea to most of those accustomed to the Roman religio, which was “one of observance, sacrifice, and outward act, that in no way searched the heart of the worshipper—a system of rules which covered the circumstances of Roman life” (H. O. Taylor, Ancient Ideals, i. 417, 418).23. all the churches shall know] cf. All flesh shall know, Isaiah 45:2-6; All flesh shall see, Isaiah 40:5; Ezekiel 20:48. ‘All the Churches’ though less extensive than ‘all flesh’ (cf. John 17:2; John 14:22) must still be taken as widely as possible, it means not merely all the seven Churches of Asia but ‘all the churches in the world,’ hardly as Alford adds ‘to the end of time.’ We know nothing (and have no reason to think St Irenæus knew more) of either the repentance or the punishment of the children of Jezebel.

that I am he which searcheth, &c.] Compare Psalm 7:9, [10], Psalm 26:2; Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 20:12; also 1 Chronicles 28:9; 1 Chronicles 29:17. But the closest parallel to this phrase is Romans 8:27, which suggests that this epithet was almost proverbial in the Apostolic age, whether applied to the Father as there or to the Son as here. It is hardly doubtful that the phrase is derived from David and Jeremiah ll. cc., but the verb used both here and in Rom. is different from any used by the LXX.Revelation 2:23. Ἀποκτενῶ ἐν θανάτῳ) Ezekiel 33:27, בדבר ימותו. The Septuagint has θανάτῳ ἀποκτενῶ.Verse 23. - And her children (placed first, in emphatic distinction from those who have been seduced into temporary connexion with her) I will kill with death. With ἀποκτενῶ ἐν θανάτῳ comp. LXX. in Ezekiel 33:27 and Leviticus 20:10; and θανάτῳ τελευτάτω, Matthew 15:4 and Mark 7:10; the phrase recurs in Revelation 6:8. Those who have not merely been beguiled into sin by her, but are united to her in a permanent moral relationship (John 8:44), shall perish in some signal manner by the visitation of God. Thus we have three parties marked off:

(1) Jezebel herself, the source of all the mischief;

(2) her children, who are even such as herself;

(3) her victims, who have been led astray by her.

She and her children are to be visited with sickness and death, because they will not repent, and the others with tribulation, if they do not repent. Her doom and that of her children is certain; that of her victims may yet be averted. Moreover, the one seems to be final, the other remedial. And all the Churches shall know; literally, shall come to know, shall learn by experience. This statement seems conclusive with regard to the purpose of these epistles. Although addressed to local Churches at a particular crisis, they are for the instruction of "all the Churches" throughout the world, and throughout all time. He which searcheth the reins and the heart (comp. Romans 8:27; Psalm 7:9; Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 20:12). But ἐρευνᾷν in this connexion is a New Testament word; the LXX. do not use it, but ἐτάζειν, a word which is not found in the New Testament, or δοκιμάζειν, etc. Αρευνᾷν occurs thrice in St. John's writings (John 5:39; John 7:52), and thrice elsewhere (Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10; 1 Peter 1:11). We need not attempt to make any sharp distinction between the reins, which were believed to be the seat of the desires, and the heart, which sometimes represents the affections and sometimes the conscience. Put together they are equivalent to "the devices and desires of our own hearts." And I will give to each of you. From the angel of the Church the Lord turns abruptly to the individuals in the Church (comp. Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6). Children (τέκνα)

Emphatic. Distinguished from the participators of Revelation 2:22, as her proper adherents, "who are begotten of her and go to constitute her." Others, however, deny any distinction (Milligan), and others (as Trench) explain as the less forward and prominent members of the wicked company, deceived where the others were the deceivers.

With death (ἐν θανάτῳ)

To kill with death is a very strong expression. Compare Leviticus 20:10, Sept., θανάτῳ θανατούσθωσαν shall be put to death (A. V. and Rev.). Lit., let them be put to death with death. The reference can hardly be to the slaughter of Ahab's seventy sons (2 Kings 10:6, 2 Kings 10:7) who were not Jezebel's children.

All the churches

Not merely the seven churches, but the churches throughout the world.

Shall know (γνώσονται)

See on John 2:24.

Searcheth (ἐρευνῶν)

See John 5:39; John 7:52; Romans 8:27. Compare Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 20:12; 1 Peter 1:11. Denoting a careful search, a following up or tracking. See Genesis 31:35; 1 Kings 20:6; Proverbs 20:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10.

Reins (νεφροὺς)

Only here in the New Testament. Strictly, kidneys. Used of the thoughts, feelings, and purposes of the soul. A similar use of the physical for the spiritual organ is σπλάγχνα bowels for heart. See pitiful, 1 Peter 3:8.

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