The Times of the Gentiles
The Things Which Are—Thyatira
“And unto the angel of the church of Thyatira write: these things saith the Son of God. Who hath His eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet like unto fine brass” (Rev. 2:18).
We have now reached the climax of the departure from the Lord, noted first in Ephesus, stopped temporarily in Smyrna, but developing again in Pergamos, until in Thyatira it reaches maturity. The introduction the Lord gives Himself in this letter should warn us of conditions existing of a reprehensible character. When His eyes are blazing like fire, it means anger, and when He speaks of His feet as being like fine brass, we can think of nothing but judgment according to the scriptural symbol.
But why does He introduce Himself as son of God here? If Thyatira be as we believe it is, a picture of full-blown Popery, the reason is obvious. One of the developments of the mystery of iniquity in the church was the gradual abandonment of the faith once delivered to the saints, and in nothing was this so marked as in the growth of what is termed mariolatry, that is the worship of the virgin Mary. When one turns to the Word of God, especially to that portion of it which gives the special truth for this dispensation, we find nothing to justify the homage paid to the mother of the Lord. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, our Apostle, never mentions her name, and neither Peter nor John nor any others of the New Testament writers make any allusion to her after the first chapter of the Acts. In all of the instructions for the Church of God, there is not a hint of any deference of any kind to be shown her. But in contrast with this, all these writers take the utmost pains to maintain the true Deity of the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now let us turn to the teaching of the woman Jezebel. We shall quote from a book of devotion issued with the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and it would be well to set these quotations along side of the Word of God. Here is a prayer they are taught to use, “Blessed Virgin Mary, after God my only hope.” Again in a form of confession, the language put into the lips of the penitent is, “I confess to Almighty God, to Blessed Mary, ever Virgin.” Listen further:
“Mother of mercy, hail O gentle queen,
Our life, our sweetness, and our hope, all hail!
Children of Eve, to thee we cry from our sad banishment,
To thee we send our sighs, weeping and mourning in this tearful vale:
Come then, our Advocate, O turn on us those pitying eyes of thine,
And our long exile past,
Show us at last
Jesus, of thy pure womb, the fruit Divine.”
“Holy Mary, mother of mercy, and refuge of poor sinners,” is another expression in this profane system. One more quotation we make, although we might make many more. This one, however, is a form of prayer to be addressed to the Virgin on visiting her altar in the church: “Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin, my mother Mary, to thee, the Mother of my God, the Queen of the World, the Advocate, the Hope and the Refuge of sinners, I have recourse today, I who am the most miserable of all. I render thee my humble homage, O great Queen, and I thank thee for all the graces which Thou hast bestowed upon me until now, particularly for having delivered me from hell, which I have so often deserved.”
All these quotations are from a book of devotion published for the use of Catholics. We do not care to defile our pages with more for they are indeed shocking in the way they set aside the Lord and substitute for Him His human mother, a sinner like ourselves. And our object in quoting these we have reproduced here is to show the force and meaning of the Lord asserting His dignity as Son of God. True, to His humanity this woman had the high honour of conceiving Him in her womb and bringing Him into being in this world, and that is honor enough. All that is added to this is blasphemy and idolatry, and a mere effort of Satan to dishonuor the Lord and obscure His Divine glory by exalting the mother to an equality with Deity. It is not merely unscriptural, it is a positive system of deadly poison, calculated to cast Him down from His excellency and destroy souls. The dogma of her being an Immaculate Women is on a par with this and one of the supports for the amazing system. Some may not understand this, at least we have found some who supposed that it meant that the Lord was born without sin, which of course all true believers in Him gladly acknowledge. The dogma is that Mary herself was without stain of sin. But listen to the statement from the Pope who first defined it as an article of faith. It isn’t so long ago, only in 1854, and by Pope Pius IX. Here is what he says: “The doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first instant of her conception, was, by a most singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the human race, preserved from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God, and therefore to be firmly and steadfastly believed by the faithful.” One might well demand in answer to this declaration, “Where is this revealed by God?” It is nothing but an impudent lie foisted on a gullible people by Satan himself through his willing instrument. Small wonder then that the Lord’s eyes blaze and His feet burn as He views this shameful perversion of the truth of God.
But all is not condemned. He does not fail to see the love and service and faith and patience and these increasing, for the last are more than the first. For we must not forget that under the surface of utter departure from God in the hierarchy of the church there was a large element of devoted souls, men and women who knew the Lord and served Him with more or less faithfulness. Hospitals and all kinds of homes for the poor and aged were founded and multiplied even when apostasy was developing in doctrine and this is what the Lord sees and owns as being in this system, bad as it is in other ways. But this does not cover from Him the rise of a notorious woman in their midst, Jezebel by name. It is possible but not likely, that there was an individual in the town of Thyatira who was so named, but the introduction of this person as a representative of apostasy is only a further confirmation of the prophetic character of these letters. Jezebel is a well known and infamous character in Old Testament history and stands here as a symbol of matured Popery. If we turn back to what is related of her in the Books of Kings, we find that she was the founder of a system of religion in Israel, which was pronounced apostasy from that which Jehovah their God set up. In her day iniquity rose to an unparalleled height, we are told, and her husband Ahab, stirred up by her, “did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (1 Kings 32:33).
She had a system of religion of her own and supported several hundred priests to maintain and practise it. A prophet of God, the God of Israel, she hated and threatened with death. Other true prophets shrank in dread of her and hid in caves, maintained on bread and water by a faithful but timid Obadiah. To all appearance the whole land was given up to idolatry under the spell of this terrible woman. Her religion prevailed seemingly over all opposition and everything else was banished from the realm.
Now for a moment let us turn to the corresponding parable. In it we find a woman mixing leaven with a meal until the whole is leavened. Meal is food and leaven is in the Word of God symbolic of evil. One has only to look up the references in Scripture to see this. “Beware,” said the Lord, “of the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1). In another place He speaks of the leaven of Herod, and in 1 Corinthians 5, saints are commanded to purge out the old leaven — in fact, in every occurrence of the word it has but one meaning and that is a sinister one. So what is here suggested is that the kingdom of heaven in one phase of its history will be like false and corrupting doctrines mixed with the truth of God, and the one doing this is a woman. Thus the parable of the kingdom and this letter to Thyatira dovetail perfectly.