Abhorring the “Deep Things of Satan”
1. How was Thyatira situated in relation to other congregations, and in what kind of religious environment?
ABOUT 40 miles southeast of Bergama (Pergamum) is the thriving Turkish town of Akhisar. Some 1,900 years ago, this town was the site of Thyatira. A traveling overseer could readily reach Thyatira by an inland road from Pergamum and then move in a circuit to the remaining congregations of Revelation chapter 3—Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Unlike Pergamum, Thyatira does not seem to have been an important center of emperor worship, but it did have shrines and temples dedicated to pagan gods. Thyatira was noteworthy as a commercial trading center.
2, 3. (a) What was recorded earlier about a Thyatiran who became a Christian? (b) Of what significance is it to the Christians in Thyatira that Jesus is “the Son of God” and that he has “eyes like a fiery flame”?
2 When Paul was preaching in Macedonia, he met up with a Thyatiran woman named Lydia, a seller of purple. Lydia and all her household gladly accepted the message Paul was preaching and showed extraordinary hospitality. (Acts 16:14, 15) She became the first Thyatiran on record to accept Christianity. In course of time, the city itself came to have a congregation of Christians. Jesus directs his longest message there: “And to the angel of the congregation in Thyatira write: These are the things that the Son of God says, he who has his eyes like a fiery flame, and his feet are like fine copper.”—Revelation 2:18.
3 This is the only time the expression “Son of God” appears in Revelation, although in other places Jesus does refer to Jehovah as “my Father.” (Revelation 2:27; 3:5, 21) The use of the title here likely reminds the Thyatiran Christians of Jesus’ intimacy with Jehovah. This Son “has his eyes like a fiery flame”—a warning to the Christians in Thyatira that his judgment will blaze against anything that he sees to be defiling in the congregation. By referring for a second time to his glowing, copperlike feet, he emphasizes his own shining example of faithfulness while walking this earth. The Christians in Thyatira no doubt heeded his counsel, and so must we today!—1 Peter 2:21.
4, 5. (a) Why could Jesus commend the Christians in Thyatira? (b) How is the congregation in Thyatira typical of the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses today?
4 Happily, Jesus can commend those in Thyatira. He says: “I know your deeds, and your love and faith and ministry and endurance, and that your deeds of late are more than those formerly.” (Revelation 2:19) Unlike the Ephesians, the anointed Christians there have not lost their first love for Jehovah. Their faith is strong. Furthermore, their deeds are more than those formerly, and like the three preceding congregations, the Christians in Thyatira are enduring. How typical of the almost 100,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the earth today! Love for Jehovah shines through, as a spirit of zeal in the ministry permeates the organization, stimulating young and old. An increasing number expend themselves as pioneers, thus using wisely the yet remaining time to proclaim the glorious hope of God’s incoming Kingdom!—Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10.
5 For decades, many faithful ones, both of the anointed remnant and of the great crowd, have been showing exemplary endurance in God’s service, while the world around them has been plunging deeper and deeper into a hopeless gloom. But let us be of good courage! Revelation confirms the testimony of God’s earlier prophets. “The great day of Jehovah is near. It is near, and there is a hurrying of it very much.”—Zephaniah 1:14; Joel 2:1; Habakkuk 2:3; Revelation 7:9; 22:12, 13.
“That Woman Jezebel”
6. (a) Despite praiseworthy features, what problem does Jesus note in the congregation in Thyatira that needs immediate attention? (b) Who was Jezebel, and did she have a valid claim to being a prophetess?
6 Jesus’ fiery eyes have pierced further. He notes something that needs immediate attention. “Nevertheless,” he tells the Christians in Thyatira, “I do hold this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and misleads my slaves to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols.” (Revelation 2:20) In the tenth century B.C.E., Queen Jezebel, the Baal-worshipping wife of King Ahab of Israel, had become notorious for her murderous, adulterous, dominating ways. Jehu, as Jehovah’s anointed one, had her executed. (1 Kings 16:31; 18:4; 21:1-16; 2 Kings 9:1-7, 22, 30, 33) The idolatrous Jezebel had no claim to being a prophetess. She was not like Miriam and Deborah, who served as faithful prophetesses in Israel. (Exodus 15:20, 21; Judges 4:4; 5:1-31) And Jehovah’s spirit did not move her to prophesy as it moved the aged Anna and the four daughters of Philip the evangelizer.—Luke 2:36-38; Acts 21:9.
7. (a) By mentioning “that woman Jezebel,” Jesus is evidently referring to what influence? (b) How may some associated women have justified their self-willed course?
7 Plainly, then, “that woman Jezebel” who claims to be a prophetess in Thyatira is a sham. She has no backing of God’s spirit. Who is she? Likely, she is a woman or group of women acting as a shameless corrupting influence in the congregation. Some associated women may have been involving congregation members in immorality, while brazenly justifying their self-willed course by misapplying scriptures. False prophesying indeed! They would influence others to fall into their own ways of “fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5) They would have those in the congregation indulge in an immoral, self-seeking lifestyle of the kind that is now countenanced, or winked at, in most of Christendom’s religions.
8. (a) What is Jesus’ pronouncement about the “Jezebel” in Thyatira? (b) How has improper female influence been felt in modern times?
8 Jesus goes on to tell the elders in Thyatira: “And I gave her time to repent, but she is not willing to repent of her fornication. Look! I am about to throw her into a sickbed, and those committing adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.” (Revelation 2:21, 22) Just as the original Jezebel apparently dominated Ahab and then defied God’s executioner, Jehu, so this female influence may be trying to manipulate husbands and elders. It seems that the elders in Thyatira are tolerating this immodest Jezebel influence. Jesus here sounds a strong warning for them, as well as for the global congregation of Jehovah’s people today. In modern times, some such strong-willed women have induced their husbands to become apostates and have even instigated court action against Jehovah’s faithful servants.—Compare Jude 5-8.
9. (a) Why do Jesus’ words about Jezebel not reflect unfavorably on all women in the congregation? (b) When only is it that a Jezebel influence arises?
9 This in no way reflects unfavorably on faithful women in the Christian congregation. Nowadays, a great part of the witness work is being accomplished by faithful sisters; through the home Bible studies that they conduct, they are bringing throngs of new ones into the congregation. God himself blesses this arrangement, as is indicated by Psalm 68:11: “Jehovah himself gives the saying; the women telling the good news are a large army.” Husbands may be influenced for good by the mild, respectful conduct of their wives, which “is of great value in the eyes of God.” (1 Peter 3:1-4) The capable, industrious wife is praised by King Lemuel. (Proverbs 31:10-31) It is only when women step out of line by seducing men or by challenging or ignoring headship that a Jezebel influence arises.—Ephesians 5:22, 23; 1 Corinthians 11:3.
10. (a) Why do Jezebel and her children receive judgment? (b) In what dangerous condition are those who become children of Jezebel, and what should such ones do?
10 Referring to “that woman Jezebel,” Jesus continues: “And her children I will kill with deadly plague, so that all the congregations will know that I am he who searches the kidneys and hearts, and I will give to you individually according to your deeds.” (Revelation 2:23) Jesus has allowed Jezebel and her children time to repent, but they persist in their immoral ways and hence must receive judgment. There is a powerful message here for Christians today. Those who imitate Jezebel, whether men or women, and thus become her children by violating Bible principles on headship and morality or by being headstrong so as to ignore theocratic order, are spiritually in a dangerously sick condition. True, if such a one calls upon the elders in the congregation to pray over him, “the prayer of faith will make the indisposed one well, and Jehovah will raise him up”—provided he humbly acts in harmony with those prayers. But let no one think that he (or she) can fool God or Christ by attempting to conceal immoral acts or by putting on an outward show of zealous service.—James 5:14, 15.
11. How are congregations today helped to be awake to intrusion of unlawful female influence?
11 Happily, most congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses today are awake to this danger. Elders are watchful of trends toward untheocratic attitudes and wrongdoing. They try to help both males and females who are in danger’s way so that these may build spirituality and be readjusted before it is too late. (Galatians 5:16; 6:1) Lovingly and firmly, these Christian overseers restrain any female effort to form cliques for promoting moves similar to women’s liberation. Moreover, timely counsel is periodically given in the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses.a
12. In what way does the John class today demonstrate a zeal similar to that of Jehu?
12 However, where there has been gross immorality, and especially where this becomes a practice, unrepentant sinners must be disfellowshipped. We recall Jehu’s zeal in getting rid of all traces of Jezebel’s influence in Israel. Likewise, the John class today take firm action, setting an example for their “Jehonadab” companions and showing themselves to be far different from Christendom’s permissive ministers.—2 Kings 9:22, 30-37; 10:12-17.
13. What will happen to those who succumb to wrongful female influence?
13 As Jehovah’s Messenger and Judge, the Son of God acts rightly in identifying the modern Jezebel and throwing her into a sickbed, for her spiritual sickness is indeed a chronic one. (Malachi 3:1, 5) Those who have succumbed to this wrongful female influence will also suffer great tribulation—the sorrow of being disfellowshipped, cut off from the Christian congregation as though dead. Unless these repent, turn around, and are accepted back into the congregation, they also face physical death by “deadly plague”—at the latest, in the great tribulation. Meanwhile, restoration is possible if they fully repent of their wrong deeds.—Matthew 24:21, 22; 2 Corinthians 7:10.
14. (a) How does Jesus use the elders in handling certain problems, such as any Jezebel influence? (b) How should the congregation support the elders who handle such problems?
14 “All the congregations” must come to know that Jesus searches “the kidneys,” the deepest emotions, and the ‘heart,’ the innermost person, including the underlying motives. To this end, he uses trusted stars, or elders, in handling certain problems, such as any Jezebel influence that appears. (Revelation 1:20) After these elders have fully examined a matter of this kind and judgment has been rendered, it is not for individuals to probe into the whys and wherefores of the action taken. All should humbly accept the elders’ disposal of matters and continue to be supportive of these congregation stars. Loyalty to Jehovah and his organizational arrangements will be rewarded. (Psalm 37:27-29; Hebrews 13:7, 17) For your own part, may your share be a blessing when Jesus gives to each one individually according to his deeds.—Galatians 5:19-24; 6:7-9.
“Hold Fast What You Have”
15. (a) What did Jesus have to say to those who had not been corrupted by Jezebel? (b) What shows that not all who claimed to be Christians back in 1918 had been corrupted by apostate Christendom?
15 Jesus’ next words bring comfort: “However, I say to the rest of you who are in Thyatira, all those who do not have this teaching, the very ones who did not get to know the ‘deep things of Satan,’ as they say: I am not putting upon you any other burden. Just the same, hold fast what you have until I come.” (Revelation 2:24, 25) There are faithful souls in Thyatira who have not been influenced by Jezebel. Similarly, for 40 years prior to 1918 and since then, not all professing Christians have tolerated the immoral, corrupt ways that are so rampant in Christendom. The small band of Bible Students, now known as Jehovah’s Witnesses, that tried to help church members see the un-Christian origin of many of Christendom’s doctrines, has moved to rid itself of all Babylonish beliefs and practices received through apostate Christendom. This includes the permissive teaching of “that woman Jezebel.”
16. Though Jesus and the first-century Christian governing body did not add any further burden, what things must be avoided?
16 The John class today have also encouraged their companions, the great crowd, to beware of immoral influences, such as those in the debased world of entertainment. There is no need to view or experience corruption out of curiosity or in order to learn what to avoid. It is the course of wisdom to keep far away from the “deep things of Satan.” As Jesus says: “I am not putting upon you any other burden.” This reminds us of the decree of the Christian governing body of the first century: “The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper.” (Acts 15:28, 29) For spiritual prosperity, avoid false religion, misuse of blood (as in blood transfusions), and immorality! And your physical health will likely be protected too.
17. (a) How has Satan tempted people today with “deep things”? (b) What should be our attitude toward the “deep things” of Satan’s sophisticated world?
17 Satan has other “deep things” today, such as complicated speculations and philosophies that flatter the intellect. In addition to permissive, immoral reasonings, these include spiritism and the theory of evolution. How does the all-wise Creator regard these “deep things”? The apostle Paul quotes him as saying: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise ones.” In contrast thereto, “the deep things of God” are simple, lucid, and heartwarming. Wise Christians shun the “deep things” of Satan’s sophisticated world. Remember, “the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 Corinthians 1:19, Kingdom Interlinear; 2:10; 1 John 2:17.
18. What blessings did Jesus promise anointed Christians who remain faithful down to the end, and what privilege will these resurrected ones have at Armageddon?
18 To those Christians in Thyatira, Jesus now speaks heartwarming words. They also encourage anointed Christians today: “And to him that conquers and observes my deeds down to the end I will give authority over the nations, and he shall shepherd the people with an iron rod so that they will be broken to pieces like clay vessels, the same as I have received from my Father.” (Revelation 2:26, 27) Indeed a wonderful privilege! This authority that anointed conquerors receive at their resurrection is a sharing with Jesus in wielding the “iron rod” of destruction against the rebellious nations at Armageddon. At best, the nuclear firepower of those nations will sputter like a wet firecracker when Christ dashes his enemies to pieces as he would vessels of clay.—Psalm 2:8, 9; Revelation 16:14, 16; 19:11-13, 15.
19. (a) Who is “the morning star,” and how will he be given to those who conquer? (b) What encouragement is offered to the great crowd?
19 Jesus adds: “And I will give him the morning star.” (Revelation 2:28) Jesus himself later explains what this “star” is, saying: “I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright morning star.” (Revelation 22:16) Yes, it is Jesus who fulfills the prophecy that Jehovah forced from the unwilling lips of Balaam: “A star will certainly step forth out of Jacob, and a scepter will indeed rise out of Israel.” (Numbers 24:17) How will Jesus give “the morning star” to those who conquer? Evidently, by giving himself to them, by taking them into the closest, most intimate relationship with him. (John 14:2, 3) Surely a powerful inducement to endure! Stimulating it is, too, for the great crowd to know that “the bright morning star” will soon exercise his Kingdom authority in restoring Paradise here on earth!
20. What developments in Christendom remind us of some of the weaknesses in the congregation in Thyatira?
20 This message must have encouraged the Christians in Thyatira greatly. Just imagine—the glorified Son of God in heaven had personally spoken to the Christians in Thyatira about some of their problems! Surely, at least some in the congregation responded to such loving shepherding. This longest of the seven messages also helps us to identify the true Christian congregation today. In 1918 when Jesus came to Jehovah’s temple for judgment, the vast majority of organizations claiming to be Christian were sullied by idolatry and spiritual immorality. (James 4:4) Some based their beliefs on the teachings of strong-minded women of the 19th century, such as Ellen White of the Seventh-Day Adventists and Mary Baker Eddy of the Christian Scientists, and more recently many women have been preaching from the pulpit. (Contrast 1 Timothy 2:11, 12.) Among the different forms of Catholicism, Mary is often honored ahead of God and Christ. Jesus did not so honor her. (John 2:4; 19:26) Could organizations that admit such unlawful female influence really be accepted as Christian?
21. What lessons are there for individuals in Jesus’ message to Thyatira?
21 Individual Christians, whether of the John class or of the other sheep, do well to consider this message. (John 10:16) Some may find it tempting to follow an easy course, as those disciples of the Thyatiran Jezebel did. There is also the temptation to compromise. Today, issues such as eating blood products or accepting blood transfusions have to be faced. Some may feel that zeal in field service or giving talks entitles them to be less strict in other areas, such as in watching violent and immoral movies and video tapes, or overindulging in alcohol. Jesus’ warning to the Christians in Thyatira tells us we must not take such liberties. Jehovah wants us to be clean, whole-souled, not divided, as many Christians were in Thyatira.
22. How does Jesus stress the importance of having a hearing ear?
22 Finally, Jesus declares: “Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations.” (Revelation 2:29) For the fourth time, Jesus here repeats this rousing refrain, and it will conclude all three messages yet to come. Do you have that responsive ear? Then keep listening intently as God, by his spirit, continues to provide counsel through his channel.
a See, for example, the article “Faithful Christian Women—Precious Worshipers of God” in the November 1, 2003, issue of The Watchtower.
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Today, a great part of the witness work is accomplished by faithful sisters as they modestly support theocratic authority