No Compromise (Rev. 2:12-29)
Pergamum and Thyatira were two very different cities. Pergamum was the capitol city of the Roman province of Asia, whereas Thyatira was comparatively unimportant among the seven cities addressed in Rev. 1-3. The former was known as the center of the Roman cult, being the first city to have a temple built for a living Roman emperor, Augustus, in 29 B.C. Other temples to Rome were built there later, and it is probably for this reason that Pergamum is described as the place “were Satan’s seat is” (Rev. 2:13), or more literally, “Satan’s throne.” It was also a religious center for other deities, being a center for the worship of Zeus. In fact, some think that the giant altar to Zeus on the hill that dominated the city was the object behind the designation of Pergamum as Satan’s throne. Additionally, it was the center for the worship of the serpent-god Asclepios. However, it is still most probable that the reference to Satan’s throne is a pointer to the fact that the power of Rome was worshiped here, because it was through the power of Rome that the church was persecuted. In fact, we are told of the “days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth” (13). Here is the first instance, apparently, where the Greek word martus, which literally means “witness,” was first used for someone who sealed their witness for Christ by their death.
Thyatira, on the other hand, was no great religious or political center. Trade thrived here, however, and Thyatira was home to many trade guilds, among which were those devoted to “wool-workers, linen-workers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave-dealers and bronzesmiths” (Sir William Ramsay). It might be that Lydia, who was one of the founding members of the church in Philippi, and who is described in the book of Acts as “a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira” (Acts 16:14), was a representative of one of these trade guilds. The notable thing about these guilds is that membership almost certainly involved participation in idolatry. G. E. Ladd explains, “These trade guilds enjoyed common meals which were probably dedicated to some pagan deity.” He goes on to say that “such social meals would often end in unbridled licentiousness.” Unfortunately for Christians, “It would be nearly impossible for a citizen to participate in trade and industry without membership in the appropriate guild.”
You can see how that in these cities, as indeed in all pagan cities of the time, the pressure to participate in idolatry, whether of Zeus or of Rome, and the pressure to join in with others in moral debauchery, would have been very strong. Idolatry and immorality were not just features of pagan society; they were part of the warp and woof of the way of life. The apostle Peter gives us some insight on how non-Christians would have viewed Christians when they refused to join them in their way of life: “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Pet. 4:3-5, ESV).
There were several options offered to Christians living in this environment. One was to refuse to participate in pagan society in terms of its worship and lifestyle. The Smyrnaean Christians did this and as a result were brutally persecuted and utterly impoverished. Seeking to avoid this, others advised that it was okay to participate in pagan worship and that it was also okay to adopt their lifestyle and still be called a Christian. This, it seems, was openly permitted to be taught and embraced by some in both the churches of Pergamum and Thyatira.
That is why we are dealing with both churches at once. There is little doubt that though their places were different, their problem was the same: worldly compromise. This is the “a few things against thee” (2:14, 20) that our Lord holds against both these churches. What we see is that in both churches there was a mixture of good and bad. It appears that not everyone in either church followed the path of compromise, but it was significant enough in both that our Lord threatens terrible things if they will not repent.
In the church of Pergamum, the compromise group is called “them that hold the doctrine of Balaam” (14). In verse 15, we are told, “So [or, in the same way] hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.” It appears that the Nicolaitans were those who held to the doctrine of Balaam.
To help them understand what he means by this, our Lord goes on to say of Balaam, that he “taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication” (14). This is a reference to events recorded in the book of Numbers, especially chapter 25. Balaam is the quintessential false prophet, described by the apostle Peter was one “who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Pet. 2:15). He was hired by the king of the Moabites (Balak) to curse Israel so that they would not be able to defeat his people in battle (Num. 22-24). God turned Balaam’s curse into a blessing and defeated his purpose. Unfortunately, after this the children of Israel “began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods, and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel” (Num. 25:1-3). Though Balaam is not mentioned there, we are told later that the Moabites seduced Israel to join them in idolatry and immorality through the advice of Balaam (Num. 31:16). Balaam was the one who was the principal means by which the Israelites compromised their integrity with the Moabites and Midianites, particularly through participation in idolatry and immorality.
“Those who hold the doctrine of Balaam,” then, were those who wanted to remain Christian and yet who also wanted to join in with their neighbors in their idolatry and immorality. We don’t know exactly how they justified this. But the fact is that they did. Perhaps they argued that since idols are nothing, it didn’t matter whether they participated in a meal in honor of one of the local gods (cf. 1 Cor. 8:4-6). It could also be that this was an early form of Gnosticism which taught that matter was evil and that it didn’t matter what you did with your physical body as long as your doctrine was correct. This was the problem in the church of Pergamum.
But it wasn’t just there. In Thyatira, a city halfway on the road between Pergamum and Sardis, this kind of compromise was occurring because of a false prophetess: “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols” (20). Exactly the same problem, but from a different source.
Her name almost certainly wasn’t literally Jezebel. Our Lord gives her that name to call our attention to another infamous Old Testament personality. Jezebel was the wife of King Ahab who ruled the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the ninth century B.C. We are told that, “And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (1 Kings 16:30-33). Jezebel was Ahab’s inspiration to do evil, and specifically to abandon all pretense in serving the Lord for the worship of Baal.
Jezebel then, like Balaam, was a person who caused God’s people to sin through idolatry. In the church of Thyatira, the woman our Lord calls Jezebel functioned as a prophetess and identified as a Christian. But she also encouraged Christians to lay aside any scruples they would have had when it came to the worship of idols and the immoral lifestyle that inevitably followed.
Our Lord addresses himself to these problems. The way he does this shows us that he means business. This is no light matter. To the church of Pergamum, he comes as the one who has “the sharp sword with two edges” (12), to protect his church by judging his enemies. Thus, he warns them, “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them [those who hold the doctrine of Balaam] with the sword of my mouth” (16). To the church of Thyatira, he comes as the one “who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet like fine brass” – eyes to see their sins, and feet of burnished bronze to crush his enemies (18). Indeed, he has already given them time to repent (21) and now threatens to cast Jezebel and her followers into a sick bed (pestilence) and “into great tribulation except they repent of their deeds” (22). More than this, he says, “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” (23).
This is serious business. Our Lord will not go half measures against this kind of evil. Which means that this is something we need to take seriously. Let the one who has ears to hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying even today to the churches.
The doctrine these verses teach is that the Son of God demands that his church be separate from the world in its beliefs and behaviors. It is not possible to remain a church with his blessing while wallowing in the sins of the culture. That will inevitably bring judgment upon the church if it refuses to repent. This is what I want to try to unpack for us in this message. In doing so, I would like to consider three things. First, what this means; second, the seriousness of this; third, the encouragement given in the promises to stay faithful in a world that wants you to compromise.
What it means to be separate from the world
Before we look at what this means positively, I think it is necessary to point out what this does not mean. This also is necessary because it is easy to think that you are not compromising in this area, that you are avoiding the sin of worldliness, when in reality you are still worldly but in a less obvious way.
It does not mean retreat from society. It doesn’t mean that you don’t engage with non-believers and pagans. How do I know this? Because to the church in Pergamum, our Lord says this: “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth” (Rev. 2:13). Our Lord is commending the church here, and one of the things they are commended for was the fact that they lived where Satan lived. Where did they dwell? They dwelt in the place where Satan had his throne! Our Lord didn’t say, “Look guys, you’re in a real bad place. You need to change your address. You need to move to a safer place, a place where the devil’s activity is not so prominent.” Rather, they are commended for being faithful in a place where the very adversary of the church set up court. Our Lord will not cede one inch of this world to Satan. The gates of hell will not prevail against his church. No, the fight against worldliness does not mean moving to safe places. It doesn’t mean moving into the wilderness and away from your lost neighbors. (Although sometimes they have been forced to do so. But that is different from making that your first inclination.) Rather, it means being a light in the world full of darkness.
It also doesn’t mean being different for the sake of being different. Another way to put this is that we should not confuse being old-fashioned with a stand against worldliness. Leon Morris wisely states that Christians “must not deny their membership in society. The cause of Christ is not served if Christians appear as a group of old-fashioned people always trying to retreat from the world.” This is a subtle error. Old does not mean better. (Though new doesn’t necessarily mean better, either.) For the world has always been bad, whether the world a thousand years ago or the world a hundred years ago or the world ten years ago. The point is that we don’t guard against worldliness by just appearing to adopt customs from a by-gone age in our dress or habits or even in our worship, especially if those things prevent our witness to the world. The point is faithfulness to Jesus and his word no matter when or where we live.
Nor does it mean that we don’t adopt new technologies. Worldliness is not the cause of technological advancement, though sin always warps new things and misuses them. We want to avoid the sinful use of technology, not technology altogether. Though it may be wise at times to fast from certain gadgets, requiring this of everyone at all times is just another form of legalism, not the holiness God demands.
At the same time, we need to understand that the call to be separate from the world is unmistakably clear in the New Testament. Christ is calling these churches to be separate and to discipline those members who are compromising with the world. But this is a call throughout the NT. So, for example, the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:14-18). Notice that Paul is saying that a Christian cannot participate in idolatry and immorality, as was being advocated by some in both Pergamum and Thyatira. We cannot serve Christ and idols; light cannot have fellowship with darkness.
But how does this work? What does this look like? Well, I think our Lord’s words in his high priestly prayer in John 17 help us here. Listen to the way he puts it: “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world” (Jn. 17:14-18). You will notice that our Lord is saying that believers “are not of the world.” But that does not mean that they are to be taken “out of the world.” On the contrary, our Lord sends us into the world, even as the Father sent him into the world.
Hence, the fight against worldliness is a fight for obedience to all of God’s word in all of life. It is a fight to be molded, not by the thoughts and practices of the world, but by God’s word: “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). It means adopting the patterns of behavior taught in Scripture and rejecting the patterns of behavior taught by a corrupt culture. Or, as the apostle puts it to the Ephesians, to put on the new man and to put off the old (Eph. 4:22-24). It means to not be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind that we may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:1-2). It means, in terms of the ways the churches in Pergamum and Thyatira were praised: holding fast the name of Christ and not denying his faith (13). It means to have love and service and faith and endurance and to be growing in these things (19).
In what ways is the church today particularly susceptible to the danger of compromising with the world, with worldliness? There are two ways in which I think the church today (especially the evangelical church in the West) is particularly susceptible to this evil. The thing is that we aren’t particularly in danger of falling in with overtly pagan practices. But I think the essential evil into which these churches fell is the same thing into which we are in danger today, and that is the attempt to retain Christian orthodoxy while adopting worldly patterns of behavior.
Let me illustrate how this works. It happens when churches are happy to retain perfectly orthodox statements of faith and yet go soft on and even quietly encourage immoral and unbiblical behavior. It happens when churches adopt lifestyles and structures of authority in the church that are alien to the express commands of Scripture, often in the name of addressing abuses in the church.
People will say, “I may have a different view on sex that you do, but hey, I embrace the Nicene Creed.” Or, “I may have a different view on the role of men and women in the family and in the church, but hey, I believe in the authority of Scripture.” They may even claim to be Calvinistic! It is becoming easier and easier to claim orthodoxy on certain matters of historic doctrine all the while untethering from the clear and unmistakable teaching of the Bible on other matters, especially those in the areas of marriage and sexuality. What I am saying is that you can’t have it both ways. You can’t take Christ’s word on his divinity and then reject his word on sexuality. But that’s exactly what people are trying to do today, and it’s what was happening in Pergamum and Thyatira. This is still a very relevant word to the church.
I think the word that our generation needs to hear above all else is this from our Lord: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46). You can’t pick and choose from the words of Christ. You can’t choose which of his apostles to follow, either. You can’t say, “Well, I’ll take the words of Jesus in the gospels, but I don’t like the apostle Paul.” John put it this way: “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1 Jn. 4:6). If you don’t hear the apostles, you aren’t of God. The words of all Scripture are the words of the Spirit of God; to obey God is to obey all his word – the ones that are easy and the ones that are hard.
Another way we are susceptible to the spirit of worldliness is in the attempt to retain Christian orthodoxy while embracing the attitudes of secularism, even if we don’t overtly embrace its assumptions. You see, the idolatry of the first century expressed itself in pagan temples and polytheism. That is still the problem in some parts of the world. But the problem in our part of the word is not polytheism but secularism. That is the idolatry of the modern West. It expresses itself primarily in an attitude of godlessness, in a life that is void of God. It seeks to banish God from life and from public spaces. And my point is that the Christian can fall into step with that, sometimes without even realizing it. You can tell it when you become embarrassed by the claims of Scripture, either in terms of its supernaturalism or in terms of its ethical requirements. It happens when we try to make our Christianity a private thing, and to hide it away as much as possible.
I’ve quoted him before, but I think David Well’s definition of worldliness is worth repeating. He writes, “For worldliness is that system of values and beliefs, behaviors and expectations, in any culture that have at their center the fallen human being and that relegate to their periphery any thought about God. Worldliness is what makes sin look normal in any age and righteousness seem odd.” Secularism is the form of worldliness in our day that makes sin look normal and righteousness seem odd. And I think we are very much in danger of that.
What this means, at the bottom, is that worldliness is fundamentally defined by patterns of thought and emotion before it is defined by patters of behavior. This is a matter of the heart. We always set up the idol first in the mind before we begin building temples in the world. It is a matter, in other words, of worship. What do you worship? What has your heart? What captivates your thought life? It is godless or godly? Is God at the center or is something else? You will notice that our Lord says in verse 23 of Rev. 2, that when he judges the sin of worldly compromise in the church, “all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts.” “Reins” is the old word for “kidneys.” In the ancient world, the kidneys were viewed as the source of one’s emotions. The “heart” on the other hand, was the center of the mind and of the inner man. Our Lord doesn’t just look at our behavior. He looks at our minds and our affections. Our Lord knows that long before idolatrous and immoral behavior happens, the heart has already been captivated by sinful and worldly attractions.
This is why the apostle John says that the battle against worldliness is primarily about what you love: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17).
The fight against worldly compromise, then, is the fight against the love of this present world and its values that are contrary to the love of God and the values of his word.
The seriousness of worldly compromise
Just how seriously should we take this? Well, I think these letters were written to people who had failed to take this seriously and to wake them up. Perhaps we need to be awakened from our sinful slumbers as well.
For one thing, we can tend to write this off as needlessly pessimistic if we don’t think we ourselves are vulnerable to this problem. In other words, we need to beware of the sin of presumption. If we find ourselves inclined to think that this sort of thing could never happen to us, that we would never be seduced by a false prophetess like this Jezebel, think again. Who was it that Jezebel deceived? Listen carefully! “Thou sufferest that woman Jezebel . . . to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed unto idols” (20).
Beware lest you think you are immune. We are susceptible because the devil is crafty: “But I fear,” Paul writes, “lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. . .. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:3, 13-15). He didn’t come to these Christians in the form of a pagan priest, but in the form of a prophetess who claimed to speak for Jesus. I’m sure she claimed to love Jesus. I’m even sure she really thought that. She was so sincere! I’m sure she gave folks many reasons to think she was an authentic spokesperson for the Lord. Perhaps those who judged her were silenced with accusations of theological snobbery.
The problem at Thyatira, and perhaps at Pergamum as well, was the opposite problem than existed at Ephesus. There, the angel of the church was commended because, “thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Rev. 2:2). At Thyatira, they apparently failed to carefully examine the credentials of this so-called prophetess. Whereas the Ephesian church was too unloving, these two churches were too accepting. They weren’t discerning. They were too eager to embrace people who claimed to love Jesus and to speak for Jesus. Just because we avoid one ditch doesn’t mean we won’t end up in the other.
Brothers and sisters, look, we need to be aware that the same thing can happen today. Just because people put on a big show for Jesus doesn’t mean they speak for him. There have always been false prophets. They were present then, and they’re here today. In churches, no less. Do you think the devil is less busy today than he was then?
But second, we will fail to take this seriously if we don’t take seriously the warnings to these two churches. To the church at Pergamum, our Lord wields his sword, not to protect but to slay those who corrupt the church. Do you want Jesus to say about you, “I will come . . .and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (16)? I want the Lord to fight for me, not against me!
Or consider the terrible threats against the followers of Jezebel. He says, “I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not” (21). Our Lord is gracious. He calls us to repentance, even when grievous sin has been committed. He does not so easily write us off, like people are wont to do. But there is a limit to our Lord’s longsuffering. He will not allow his church to be corrupted indefinitely. If the church does not discipline itself, the Lord will come and discipline the church himself.
He goes on: “Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. 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” (22-23). It has been argued that “those who commit adultery with her” is a reference to idolatry more than to actual immortality; the reason for this is that in the OT, idolatry is often spoken of in terms of adultery. This could be the case. But I do not think you have to pick here; for idolatry almost always and invariably involves sexual immorality.
However, I don’t think “her children” is a reference to physical offspring; more likely, it is another way of referring to her disciples. If this is the case, “those who commit adultery with her” and “her children” are probably referring to the same group of people. Our Lord threatens first to cast them into a sick bed (22), and if they persist in their sins, to kill them (23). If you don’t think this is serious, think again!
And to really underscore just how serious the sin of false teachers like Jezebel is, remember the words of our Lord: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven” (Mt. 18:6-10). To cause just one of Christ’s servants to stumble into sin is a crime so heinous that a swim in the ocean with a cement block about the neck is too good for such folks.
Brothers and sisters, our Lord does not issue idle threats. Beware of falling into the trap of false teaching and false teachers. Evaluate them by the word of God, not by their claims to love Jesus and do things for him.
The encouragement given in the promises
I love these promises. They’re here to encourage us to uncompromising faithfulness. It can be hard. And the promises don’t say that if you just keep a positive attitude that you’re going to have a better year than ever before. What they tell us is that for the Christian who endures to the end, the future so great and so sweet that any suffering we do while getting there will have been worth it. As the hymn puts it: “It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus.”
What are the promises? To the church of Pergamum, our Lord writes, “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it” (Rev. 2:17). It was a tradition among the Jews that before Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 B.C., the prophet Jeremiah took the ark of the covenant and the manna that was in it and hid it, and that it would stay hidden until the days of the Messiah and the kingdom. It is perhaps this tradition that is behind the term “hidden manna” of verse 17. It is, then, a reference to the blessings of participation in the future kingdom when it comes in all its fulness.
The “white stone,” on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to pin down in terms of its significance. At least a dozen different interpretations have been offered, and I’m not going to bore you with them all. Two of the most likely are the white stone as a ticket of admission to a banquet, or as a token of a not-guilty verdict in a court of law (white stones were used for both in the first century). The fact that a new name is written on it which is unknown to any except the Lord and the one who has it seems to indicate that this is a token of acceptance into the banquet supper of the marriage of the Lamb in the last day, and the new name given by the Lord is a pointer to the fact that each person who is invited has received a personal invitation from the Lord himself.
On the other hand, the promises to the church in Thyatira are not less significant. Our Lord promises: “But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star” (2:24-28).
This is the promise given to the Messiah in Psalm 2: “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel” (Ps. 2:7-9). This shows that our Lord plans to share his Messianic rule with his people. Truly, the meek shall inherit the earth (Mt. 5:5)!
The last promise is this: “And I will give him the morning star” (Rev. 2:28). Beasley-Murray writes: “The morning star is Venus. Lohmeyer has shown that from Babylonian times Venus was the symbol of sovereignty. In Roman times it was more specifically the symbol of victory and sovereignty, for which reason Roman generals owned their loyalty to Venus by erecting temples in her honour (e.g., Sulla, Pompey, Caesar), and Caesar's legions carried her sign on their standards. If then the morning star was the sign of conquest and rule over the nations, this element in the promise to the conqueror strengthens the statement that has gone before. It embodies in symbol the prophecy already cited from the psalmist. The conqueror is therefore doubly assured of his participation with Christ in the glory of his kingdom.” Pagan generals cannot give the ultimate victory. Worldly powers cannot make one ultimately triumphant. Only Christ can do that, and he will do that for all who belong to him.
The question this puts before us is this: what banquet do we desire? What victory will we settle for? Will we prioritize the bread that perishes over the bread of life? Will we settle for earthly security that only lasts until we die at best over eternal security in Jesus?
Brothers and sisters, let us not compromise with the world. Let us steadfastly resist the love of the world, the standards of the world and the philosophies of the world. Let us stay faithful to Jesus. Let us take to hear the exhortation of our Lord and follow him in it: “But that which he have already host fast until I come” (25).