Teaching the Seven Letters of Revelation, Part 4c: The Reward for the Conquerors in the Thyatira Letter
Those who have rejected Jezebel’s teaching deserve no other “burden” (2:24). However, Jesus does exhort them to persevere until his coming and places before them an interesting double promise for the conquerors. Jesus says, “Nevertheless hold on to what you have until I come. And the one who conquers and keeps my works until the end, I will give to him authority over the nations and he will shepherd them with a rod of iron as when clay pots are broken to pieces, just as I also have received this from my Father, and I will give him the morning star. The one who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (2:25-29). Revelation 2:26 draws the closest connection between conquering and obedience that one finds anywhere in the seven letters. The one who conquers is also the one who “keeps my works until the end,” that is, the one who obediently does the works that Jesus commands rather than doing the works of Jezebel (2:22). While Jesus’ two promises do not appear to be as mysterious as the promises in the Pergamum letter, they have been challenging for interpreters.
Authority over the Nations
The first part of the promise uses harsh language of judgment, which should not be toned down. It should not be surprising that harsh judgment language would occur at the end of the Thyatira letter. What does the language mean? Jesus promises to give “authority over the nations” (2:26). He then develops what authority over the nations means with a long allusion to Psalm 2:9, that is, “he will shepherd them with a rod of iron as when clay pots are broken to pieces” (Rev. 2:27). The allusion is interesting for a couple of reasons. In Psalm 2, these words are one of God’s promises to his king, who is also his son and his “anointed one” (or Messiah) (Ps. 2:2; see “Son of God” in Rev. 2:18). In Revelation 19, Jesus is the Son and Messiah who will ultimately fulfill Psalm 2:9, when he comes to judge the nations. At this point, he “will shepherd them with a rod of iron,” which turns out to mean that he will conquer the nations with the sword, “which comes out of his mouth” (19:15, 21). He has an army (19:14), but they do not fight in Revelation 19. Therefore, Jesus’ promise to the conquerors does not appear to mean that they will fight the nations with him in the last battle. What can it mean then? It appears to mean that the conquerors will be recipients, along with Jesus, of victory over the nations. Jesus does the conquering, but, as his people, they are on the winning side. Their kingdom is the kingdom that will conquer the nations. In contrast, the way of Jezebel may make it easier to live in the midst of the nations and to avoid persecution, but those who follow it will experience God’s judgment, much like the nations will at the time of the end. What good is it to escape the persecution of the nations, if that places you under the judgment of God?
The Morning Star
In the second part of Jesus’ promise to the conquerors, he promises to give them “the morning star” (Rev. 2:27). It seems best to interpret this promise with the help of Revelation 22:16. Jesus calls himself “the bright morning star” (Rev. 22:16), which is an allusion to a prediction of Balaam in Numbers 24:17. As seen above, Balaam and Numbers 25 are important aspects of the Pergamum letter (2:14). In Numbers 24:17, Balaam predicts, “A star will come out of Jacob, and a scepter will arise from Israel.” The parallel between the star and the scepter makes star a title for God’s king. According to the end of Numbers 24:17, God’s king will be victorious over Moab, who are the enemies of God’s people in Numbers 24-25. Therefore, Jesus’ promise of “the morning star” (2:27) means that he will reveal himself to the nations as God’s anointed king, his Messiah, when he comes to deliver his people from the Beast and the nations (Rev. 19:11-21).
These paragraphs are slightly edited portions of my book:
Paul Hoskins, The Book of Revelation: A Theological and Exegetical Commentary, pp. 99-101 (those pages provide further sources and footnotes that I have omitted above).