And to the angel of the church in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29)

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze:

“I know your works– your love, faith, service, and patient endurance. I know that your last works are greater than the first.

But I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her fornication. Beware, I am throwing her on a bed, and those who commit adultery with her I am throwing into great distress, unless they repent of her doings; and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.

But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call ‘the deep things of Satan,’ to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden; only hold fast to what you have until I come.

To everyone who conquers and continues to do my works to the end, I will give authority over the nations; to rule them with an iron rod, as when clay pots are shattered — even as I also received authority from my Father. To the one who conquers I will also give the morning star. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

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5 responses

  1. I apologize for my long absence, too much else on my plate right now, but I do want to participate.Ellie and I have to ‘teach’ Revelations to the Bible Study group at the meeting. To date I have always avoided the book– and wished that it had been left out of the canon. However, turning to my fount of wisdom, Wesley I learned that the middle part is “hard to understand”. He thought reading the beginning and the last two chapters were well worth the time.The letter to Thyatira has many colorful images, like flames of fire.Someone referred to Rev. as a dense mosaic of O.T. figures. John also wrote under the burden of using a code that would be (perhaps) clear to his readers, but not to the Roman authorities.

  2. The assumption that this is meaningless or worthless is not the best beginning, if you want to find whatever could be worthwhile in it.One odd detail: “Son of God” here is “the only occurrence of this term in Revelation.” This is not an accident (but enough on this for now…)Now I’m burrowing in JPM Sweet’s commentary, which says that Thyatira was “a commercial city” where the guilds had considerable influence, and where it could be difficult to get work without joining in their pagan feasts and ceremonies. A prophetess who encouraged church members to accommodate to such practices could thus make things much more convenient for her adherents, with good “practical” reasons for following her into idolatrous and “adulterous” (a common metaphor here for messing around with ‘other gods’) practices.Her “children” here are not her biological children, suffering unjustly to punish her, but her converts and followers. Perhaps this is talking about them suffering literal death, or more likely saying that they will fall away from the movement, die to the group. To say kaddish for such a former member is customary in some Jewish groups, quite possibly in this church.Some readers emphasize the fact that “Jezabel” is said to “claim to be a prophet.”This commentary quotes the Didache (one of the earliest Christian works): “Any prophet speaking in the Spirit you shall not test nor evaluate–‘Every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin [ie blasphemy against the Holy Spirit] shall not be forgiven’–but not everyone who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet, only if he has the ways of the Lord.”This is particularly relevant to Quakers, not because we claim to “be” “prophets” but because we might be called on to prophesy. While the only gift and duty available to us, sometimes, may be simply that we tell the truth, as best we know it.Gnostics claimed to know “the deep things of God,” and “deep things of Satan” is no doubt a sarcastic reference to this. If “I do not lay on you any other burden but to hold fast to what you have,” then those addressed do not need to seek out spiritual powers, the title of ‘prophet,’ or doctrines promising to make one more “spiritual,” but the law of Noah applying to pagans who converted to any branch of Judaism: some basic ethical commands plus the demand that they not eat meat sacrificed to idols. (So here we are, back at the problem of any poor member, wanting to make a living and forbidden to go along with the pagan rituals normally required for that. Like a technically trained Quaker trying to find a research job that doesn’t involve “Defense.”)And then “ruling the nations with an iron rod.” My Jungian has several interesting points. First, “This is a direct quotation from the Psalm 2, generally recognized by Christian and Jewish scholars to be a Messianic [coronation] psalm…. ‘He said to me, “You are my son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations as your birthright, the whole world as your possession. With an iron rod you shall break them, shatter them like so many pots.” [But the Hebrew for ‘break’ and ‘shepherd’ are very close. This reminds me of a scholar who wanted to know why “Thy rod” should “comfort me.” He asked a shepherd. While the crook is for gently guiding the sheep, the “rod” is quite another implement, literally a club, used to thump incoming predators, thereby protecting the sheep. (Forrest)]… Understood psychologically, I think those scriptures refer to the subtle yet powerful psychic effectiveness that a highly conscious individuated person has… If one has insight into one’s own actions and has found access to the unconscious, then those psychological facts will manifest themselves… not to serve ego purposes, you understand, since they are not under the control of the ego. But to the extent that the individual has a connection to the Self, the efficacy of the Self becomes operative in the human realm. That is how we can understand psychologically the promise of ‘authority over the nations.’ ….[ several pages later] What is one’s authority? By what particular authority does one live one’s life; by whom or what is one commanded?.. When I state that the image of the “king” is a symbol of the Self, that means one’s ultimate authority (if one reaches conscious awareness of it) is internal. And to the extent that this is consciously realized, one achieves a standpoint… which can stand over and against the world… Christ could identify himself as ‘a king not of this world’ because that is individuation symbolism, relevant to anyone who strikes deeply enough. It means that any person who has a conscious relation to the Self is in a certain sense ‘a king.’ Yet one has to say in the same breath that it also means to be ‘a servant’–because ultimately it is not the ego that is the king.”On the related issues of Christ’s authority, and whether to temporize with the world–the evident themes of this letter–all this seems to hang together much more tightly than appears at first.

  3. I don’t know about you folks — but I’m sensing a theme here. You can have strong faith, love for one another, service — and yet — if you tolerate plurality of beliefs — yer up the proverbial crik.Like Forrest I agree, “fornication” isn’ts exual per se — its toleration of pagan worship. And in two of the four churches the problem has been eating meet scarificed to idols, in one it has been Judaizers, and in one fasle teachers/apostles of unspecified teaching.Purity of the faith is the ongoing call. Not exactyly high on the Quake agenda these days.

  4. “Purity of the faith” aka “belief system”?I think the issue is one of practice: Is members’ faith placed in God, or is it placed in the powers that claim to rule the so-called real world?Do members “have to” eat a little pork at the friendly Cluthu-Loving Plumbers’ Association Barbecue to “make a living”?–or do they need instead to maintain their dedication to God?The “doctrinal” issue is, roughly: “Is it okay to drop by for just a little bite if you badly need a job and you cross your fingers and don’t really swallow any?”There were similar problems in the days of (fairly) early Friends, where some leaders felt that paying tithes ~”wasn’t really that important~”and Fox was vehemently determined that the whole movement needed to maintain solidarity on this issue.It isn’t about the members’ personal spiritual liability if they “tolerate plurality of beliefs”, but about maintaining the church’s spiritual usefulness as a church when members are claiming unwarranted spiritual authority and teaching things, under the church’s auspices, which dilute its witness against the beliefs and practices of the larger society.

  5. Hey! Cthulhu and Yogsothoth are me best buds!

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