And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things said the Son of God, who has his eyes like to a flame of fire…
And unto the angel of the Church in Thyatira, etc. Thyatira was situated between Pergamos and Sardis, a little off the main road which connected these two cities. It was a Macedonian colony, founded by Alexander the Great (or whom I should rather designate "Alexander the Contemptible") after the overthrow of the Persian empire. The Macedonian colonists appear to have introduced the worship of Apollo, honoured as the sun god, under the name of Tyrumnas. It has been thought by some that the description here given of Christ - "the eyes of flame" - was selected in allusion to this worship of the sun god, under the form of some dazzlingly ornamented image. Certainly close commercial intercourse connected the daughter colony with its mother city. There seem to have been various mercantile guilds in the colony - bakers, potters, tanners, weavers, and dyers. The dye trade was, perhaps, the most important. Lydia, the seller of purple, was in all likelihood connected with the guild of dyers; and her appearance in Philippi is an illustration of the trade relations of Macedonia and Thyatira. To her the Christian community of Thyatira may have owed its beginning. "She who had gone forth for a while to buy and sell and get again, when she returned home may have brought home with her richer merchandise than any she had looked to obtain" (Trench). The population was of a mixed character, and included besides Asiatics, Macedonians, Italians, and Chaldaeans. Of all the homiletic sketches on this epistle, I know of no sketch so clear and comprehensive, so philosophic and suggestive, as that of the late Caleb Morris - one of the greatest, if not the greatest preacher that has appeared in London during the century. Those whom the popular sentiment designates "princes of preachers" seem to me to shrink into contempt in his presence. "There are," he says, "four things in this epistle to which we shall call attention - the commendable in character, the reprehensible in doctrine, the indispensable in duty, and the blessed in destiny." How forcibly every item in this epistle is brought out by these four general divisions! To attempt a plan equal to this in all points of excellence would be presumption. Albeit, as it would be supererogatory and useless to repeat what others have said, I shall endeavour to bring all the important elements of the chapter under one general heading - the moral character of mankind; and here we have it in three aspects.
I. AS THAT IN WHICH CHRIST FEELS THE PROFOUNDEST INTEREST. He who is here called the "Son of God," no doubt feels an interest in every part of the great universe. But material worlds and systems, methinks, concern him not so much as the moral character of God's spiritual offspring. In souls his interest is profound, practical, and permanent. Two remarks are suggested.
1. His interest springs from an absolute knowledge of the primary elements of character. "I know thy works;" and again he says, "I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts." He peers into those spheres of mind into which the vulture's eye cannot pierce, no, nor the keenest eye of angelic intelligence; the sphere where character is generated, where its elements float in invisible germs; the arena where the moral battles are fought, where victories are won and defeats endured. Our interest in objects is often blind, and so it often happens that we are entranced with admiration for objects which we learn from sad experience to be worthless, base, and abhorrent. Not so with Christ. He knows what character really is, its elements whether good or bad.
2. His interest fills him with the deepest concern for the progress of the good. "I know thy works, and charity [thy love], and service, and faith [and ministry], and thy patience." "Charity" and "service" - love and its administrations; "faith" and "patience" - faith in its practical endurance; and all these in their progressive development, and "the last to be more than the first." Moral goodness wherever it exists is progressive. Unlike all other life, the more it grows the more the craving and the more the capability for growth. "From glory to glory," etc.
II. AS THAT WHICH IS TRANSMITTED FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION. In the long black roll of human infamy there is not a blacker name than that of Jezebel, the wife of Ahab. She was "the great seducer to idolatry in the later history of Israel, and as the worship of the Phoenician Astarte, or Venus, was accompanied with the grossest impurity, her name became the synonym of all that was debasing and profligate." Some suppose that this Jezebel in Thyatira, who embodied the character of the old Israelitish, fiendish idolatress, was the wife of the bishop of the congregation at Thyatira. It might be so, for many a worthy bishop has been matrimonially linked to a Jezebelitish woman. Ay, what is worse, many a Jezebelitish woman, married, has entrapped young unmarried bishops to their disgrace and ruin. But I am disposed to regard the name here as symbolical of some proud, persecuting, self-constituted authority on religion, haughtily vaunting claims of superior religious piety and theological intelligence. Now, centuries had passed away since Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, ended her execrable history and passed into the retributive future; yet her character appears in Thyatira, breathing the same passions and repeating the same conduct as of yore. Thus moral character is transmitted. I inquire not into the philosophy of this patent and awful fact in human history, nor into its moral propriety; certain it is that in the present generation the same characters appear as in the generation that lived before the Flood. We offer three remarks on the transmission of moral character, as suggested by the letter before us.
1. The transmitted character does not free the possessor from its responsibility. The party here addressed, whether an individual, a faction, or a community, is spoken of as responsible; ay, and it would seem that even the bishop of the Church had not a little responsibility for the existence of this Jezebelitish character - a character that used its influence on the side of ungodliness, licentiousness, and adultery. The grand mission of Christly men is to expel evil from the community, to crush the wrong, not by force and persecution, but by Divine moral suasion and high Christian example. The work of a Christly man is to slay with the sword of the Spirit all the moral Jezebels within his reach. But whilst the disciples of Christ are held to some extent responsible for the existence of bad characters in their midst, the characters themselves are conscious of their responsibility. The fact that they inherit the bad temper and principles of their ancestors, however near or distant, does not relieve them from the remorseful consciousness that they are the authors of their own character. Every pang of remorse, every tear of compunction, every sigh of moral regret, demonstrate to the greatest sinner that he is the author of his own vile character, and no other.
2. The transmitted character might be got rid of by its possessor. "I gave her space [time that she should] to repent of her fornication; and she repented not [willeth not to repent of her fornication]." Even the wickedest person, man or woman, has time given him for repentance. God hates nothing that he has made. He wills not the death of any sinner, but rather that he should turn and he saved - should repent and live. It was so even with the immoral person here spoken of; time was given her; but she would not use it. There was no will to repent. Therefore, for the sake of others, the time must now be shortened, and after one more trial judgment must follow. Repentance is the method of ridding one's self of a bad character, and this repentance every man can and ought to accomplish. Men are not machines or automatons, but free agents. The will is the rudder of the soul; it either steers the ship into the wished for haven, or drives it on to shoals and quicksands.
3. The transmitted character might entail enormous evils on others. In truth all evil characters must do so. "And I will kill her children with death." All have their moral offspring, children like unto themselves. The evil propagates the evil, as the good the good. "No man liveth unto himself." Our moral children do our work, and that work is like that of Jezebel. Who knows the injury that the moral children of Jezebel did to the bishop and the Christian community of Thyatira? They encouraged licentiousness and idolatry, and committed fornication, and ate things "sacrificed unto idols."
III. AS THAT WHICH DETERMINES THE DESTINY OF MANKIND. Here mark two things.
1. The outcome of the bad. "Behold, I will [do] cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds [her works]." The chamber of voluptuousness shall become the chamber of torture. "And I will kill her children with death." Those in whom she has propagated her foul character, under the cover of higher piety and deeper intelligence, shall meet with destruction. Death shall be their fate - the death of all that makes life worth having. "The wages of sin is death." "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." "I will give unto every one of you according to your works;" your works shall determine your doom.
2. The outcome of the good. Three great blessings are here stated as coming to such.
(1) Freedom from future suffering. "But unto [to] you I say, and unto [to] the rest in [that are in] Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine [teaching], and which have not known [know not] the depths [deep things] of Satan, as they speak [say.];! will put [cast] upon you none other burden." Whilst those whose impious Gnosticism, intolerant spirit and gross sensuality would meet with anguish and death, all who were free from these abominations would be secure from future evil. "I will put [cast] upon you none other burden." You need not apprehend any future evil. Elsewhere we are told that "he will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on him." Another blessing is:
(2) Elevation to true royalty. "But [howbeit] that which ye have already hold fast till I come." Those who hold fast with an unrelaxing grasp all the good they had, triumphed over evil, and held on loyally to the end, shall have "power over the nations." What power? Moral power - power over the minds and hearts of nations. lie only is the true sovereign who governs minds and hearts. All other sovereignties are shams. The morally right has in it the highest elements of might. Right is might, and there is none other. "He shall rule them with a rod of iron." Right is a rod of iron unbreakable and all crushing, dashing to pieces, shivering into atoms all the kingdoms of error and wrong. He is the greatest king of his age who has the most truth and goodness in his soul; hence the "saints one day shall judge the world." Hail the period! merciful Heaven, hasten it! Another blessing is:
(3) Inheritance of the highest possession. "I will give him the morning star." "Morning star" - bright harbinger of a day whose skies shall have no cloud, whose atmosphere no storm, whose sun shall rise and set no more. Christ himself is the "Morning Star." This is the title he gives himself: "I Jesus am the Root and Offspring of David, and the Bright and Morning Star." The good man shall have Christ, and, possessing him, shall have more than the universe itself. "All things are yours," etc. So that out of the moral character of mankind will bloom their Paradise or flame their hell. Therefore what we have good in us let us not only "hold fast," but nourish into higher developments. Let us so cultivate the" Divine tree" that its roots shall deepen, its fibres strengthen, its branches multiply, its foliage become more magnificent, and its fruits more abundant every day. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
WEB: "To the angel of the assembly in Thyatira write: "The Son of God, who has his eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet are like burnished brass, says these things: