Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Jesus refers to Himself as the morning star. What does that mean? Here's Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: The morning star appears in the night sky just before the night turns to dawn. It introduces a new day. Christ overcame the darkness of the grave, and introduced a new day of eternal life.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Surrender: The Heart God Controls, for Tuesday, September 26, 2017.

Jesus dictated seven letters to John at the beginning of Revelation. These letters have provided great insight for us as women. Today we’ll wrap up our study of one of these letters in the series, "The Sin of Tolerance."

Nancy: We come today to the last portion of the letter to the church in Thyatira in Revelation chapter 2. We’ve spent over a week on this passage. It’s the longest of the letters. It’s also in some ways the most complex and difficult to understand, although each of the letters has its own interpretive issues. There have been some sober words, some serious words, and yet, today, I think we’re going to find some real words of encouragement for our hearts.

Let me back up and read the entire letter so we have this in context, and this will be by way of review of where we’ve been these last several days.

Revelation 2, beginning in verse 18:

And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: "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, and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.

I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead.

There will be serious consequences. In some cases there may be physical death. In some cases they will perish eternally because they proved themselves not to have been believers in Christ at all.

And all the churches will know that I am He who searches mind, and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.

Then He says, and we looked at this in the last session,

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 what you have until I come (2:18–25).

Before we look at he last few verses here, let me ask:

  • Do you ever find yourself getting tired of holding fast—holding fast to right doctrine, holding fast to truth, holding fast to right ways of thinking and living?
  • Do you ever get tired of always being on your guard, of going against the flow when so many, even within the church, are being seduced into wrong thinking and wrong living?

I find it’s not so hard for me to go against the flow in the world, but to be a salmon swimming upstream in the church, I confess, I get weary of that. When so many in the church are being drawn astray, and not just in the church, but leaders in churches, pastors, so-called Christian authors, teachers, those who are influential, who are leading people into unbiblical ways of thinking about truth, about holiness.

This kind of teaching today says you can live the way you want to live because you’re under grace. That has become main stream within the church. That has become, quote, “normal” within the church, and if you don’t go along with that way of thinking, you’re going to be considered strange.

We get letters and emails from women—you start to think, Am I crazy? Am I the only one who feels this way, who is holding fast to the truth?

We don’t want to get ornery; we don’t want to be contentious; we don’t want to be argumentative, but we’re called to hold fast, and that can be really difficult. It’s tempting, at times, to take the path of least resistance, to just live and let live, not be so diligent, so faithful in holding to the truth and urging others to hold to the truth. It certainly would be easier just to go with the flow.

So what makes it worth the effort? What makes it worth the battle? And it is a battle to resist the pull of these very strong forces within our churches and within our world.

Jesus knew it would be hard. I think that’s one of the reasons that in each of these letters He promises a reward to those who overcome. To the one who overcomes (or as some of your translations say, to the one who conquers—same word—overcome or conquer), to that one there will be a promised reward.

And notice in each case He says, “To the one.” Everybody else may go astray; everybody else may be seduced, but you can be one in that church, one in that family, one in that workplace who holds fast to the truth. And if you’re the only one, there will still be this reward.

So what is the reward? Verse 26:

The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.

Whoa! There’s a lot in that passage, and we need to just stop and take a look at what that’s saying. What’s all this stuff about being kings and rulers and ruling over nations, and where did all this come from?

Well, first of all, He says, “The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end,” a reminder that true saving faith conquers. It overcomes all these obstacles and these odds. The evidence that you’re a true child of God is that you persevere to the end, all the way to the finish line. The characteristic of a true child of God is faithfulness over the long haul.

Let me be quick to remind you, it’s not our faithfulness. It’s God's faithfulness, and He is the one who enables us, by His grace and the power of His Holy Spirit, to be faithful. We couldn't keep holding on to God and His Word and His truth if He weren’t holding on to us, but as He does hold on to us. We are enabled to hold fast.

We’re not talking about one-time acts of faithfulness or short-term conquering and holding fast. We’re talking about the long haul. The Christian’s life is not a 100-yard dash. As you’ve heard it said, it is a marathon.

For those who do hold fast and who keep His works until the end, there are two rewards promised.

The first: “You will have authority over the nations and rule them with a rod of iron.”

The second: “The morning star.”

Now what in the world do those things mean? Let’s look at them individually.

First Jesus says, “The one who conquers, who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron.” Authority over the nations—this is delegated authority, because who has all authority in heaven and on earth? Jesus does. Matthew chapter 28: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (v. 18).

Who gave it to Jesus? God the Father gave it to Jesus. He says, “As I myself have received authority from my Father.”

God delegated it to Jesus, who is God. He is the one who is to rule the nations. This passage refers back to a passage that you may be familiar with in Psalm 2, the second Psalm, which is a messianic prophecy where it says,

The Lord said to me, "You are my Son; Today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You [speaking of the coming King Christ Jesus, the Messiah] shall break them with the rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (vv. 7–9).

So Jesus is the one who has received from His Father all authority in heaven and on earth. He is the one to whom it has been promised, “You will rule over the nations.”

In the book of Revelation, throughout the book, we see the end of the story. We see the fulfillment of those wonderful promises made to and about Christ.

Revelation 12 says: “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with the rod of iron” (v. 5). This is what is promised to Christ.

Revelation 19: “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron” (v. 15).

You see as recurring reference throughout the Scripture, in Psalm 2, here in Revelation 2, and throughout the book of Revelation, to Christ ruling over the nations with authority, with power, with judgment, with righteousness, and with a rod of iron.

So where do we come into this? How is this a promise to us?

Well, the amazing thing, and you can trace this through the book of Revelation and other parts of the Scripture as well, is that saints in Christ have been promised that they will rule with Christ in His earthly millennial kingdom. The day is coming when we will be co-regents with Christ, reigning with Him, identified with Him. We are in Christ. So it says the Father has given Him authority to rule over the nations with a rod of iron, and the day will come when we are seated on that throne with Christ, ruling with Christ over the nations.

Revelation 5 tells us this.

They [the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders] sang a new song [to the Lamb], saying, "Worthy are you . . . for you were slain, and by your blood you’ve ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth (vv. 9–10).

That’s a promise that those who learn to rule their passions in this age will one day rule with Christ in the age to come. This false teaching in Thyatira and in our churches today says, "You can live life the way you want to do; you’re under grace; you’re not under the law. You can sin and get away with it. You can sin, and God will forgive you. You can sin and repent." But the emphasis seems to be on “you can sin.”

The call here is to hold fast, to exercise rule over your flesh that wants to do what it wants to do. And as we learn to rule over our flesh and our passions in this age, the promise is one day we will rule with Christ in that age to come.

It says, “He will rule them with a rod of iron as when earthen pots are broken in pieces.” You take a rod of iron and then take a clay pot; it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to dash that piece of pottery into pieces.

Listen, when Jesus comes to take His throne here on this earth, all the kings, the rulers, the powers, the authorities that seem so powerful, so vicious, that conquered the world with their rod of iron, they will be conquered and broken in a moment by the King of kings, the Lord of lords who will take that rod of iron and dash them to pieces. Those who rebel against His rule will be destroyed.

Now, if you put yourself in position of this little church in Thyatira in a town that was given over to feasts worshiping pagan gods and sexual immorality associated with that; how that had all crept into the church, and they’re living under the thumb of Rome. There’s persecution going on that was a hard, hard day in which to be a Christian.

When you think about these promises that we’ve just been reading here, these were amazing promises to that little Christian church that was under attack by the great, vast, powerful Roman Empire that could drag these Christians into the lions’ dens and could behead them and put them on posts and light fire to them. It had so much power. It seemed to be all powerful in that day. It takes faith when you’re living in a world where the powers of evil are so great. It takes faith to believe, to persevere, to hold on to Christ and His promise.

But that little church in that great big Roman Empire was promised that ultimately they would triumph. And we’re promised. We seem today to be on the losing end. The powers of wickedness and darkness in this world seem so powerful. They seem to engulf us. They threaten to swallow us up. Keep your eyes on the finish line. Remember what’s ahead.

The power of Rome is nothing, nothing, nothing compared to the power of Christ. And the power of all evil rulers, be they in this country or any other country . . . There’s so much corruption in governments today; there’s so much persecution. Hardly a day goes by, certainly not a week, where I don’t get a notice in my email about persecution going on of believers in other parts of the world. It seems so powerful, but the day is coming when all of that will be conquered by the power of Christ. Cling to your future hope, to the promises of Christ.

Well, that’s the first reward promised: authority to rule over the nations.

But there’s a second reward promised: “And I will give him the morning star.”

Now, the morning star, when astronomers talk about it, they’re usually referring to Venus, which is actually a planet. But it’s also called the morning star, and it’s called the evening star because it reaches its maximum brightness shortly before sunrise or shortly after sunset. It’s the brightest object in the sky except for the sun and the moon.

So what is this morning star that Jesus promises He will give to those who conquer? Well, clearly, in the Scripture, the morning star is Christ Himself.

In Revelation 22, the last chapter of this great book, Jesus says, “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (v. 16).

In John 8 He said to His followers, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (v. 12).

So for those who are faithful to the end, those who hold fast, Jesus Christ promises Himself in all his fullness. He is the supreme prize, the supreme reward, the supreme goal of our faith.

Not only does the morning star speak of Christ, but it’s a metaphor for Christ as King. In fact, Venus, the planet that is known as the morning star, in the Roman era was considered a symbol of sovereignty or victory, a symbol of conquest or rule over the nations.

Well, the picture here is that the Lord Jesus Christ, the morning star, is the true world sovereign. In contrast with the claim of evil world empires like Rome that claim to be sovereign, Christ is the sovereign King, the morning star.

So the morning star is a symbol that is associated in Scripture with the messianic reign of Christ. In fact, if you go back to Numbers chapter 24, which we looked at in the last letter, the letter to the church in Pergamum, where they had the teaching of Balaam (which was similar as we’ve seen to the teaching of Jezebel in this church of Thyatira). But in that passage in Numbers 24, there’s a wonderful prophecy about Christ which calls Him both the star and the scepter. It brings together these promises that we see in Revelation 2 where “He’ll rule with the rod of iron,” and “I’ll give Him the morning star.”

Listen to Numbers 24, verse 17: Out of the word of Balaam came these words—put there, I believe, by God, this prophecy of Christ.

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel [a verse that we hear a lot quoted during the Christmas season, and it’s an appropriate verse because it speaks of the coming of Christ]; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.

You see the power of Christ, the coming King, the ruling sovereign, the one who will have conquest and rule over all the nations of the earth. Jesus says, “I’m that King. I’m that sovereign one, and I will give Myself to you and together we will reign and rule.”

So Christ gives us Himself, the morning star.

I think also that morning star is a promise of resurrection. The morning star appears in the night sky just before the night turns to dawn. It introduces a new day. Christ overcame the darkness of the grave and introduced a new day of eternal life. He is the morning star, the light in our darkness, the promise that Christians will rise over the darkness of death and will be raised with Christ.

One commentator said it this way: “The Christian life, even at its hardest and its darkest, looks, not to the sunset, but to the dawn.”

“Lift up your eyes, your redemption draws nigh”—the promise of resurrection.

Then that morning star, I think, is also a promise that we as believers will reflect the glory of Christ.

Daniel 12:

Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness . . .

Notice, we’re the influencers. We’re supposed to be turning many to righteousness. We’re not supposed to be being turned by those who are unrighteous, being influenced by them. We’re to turn many to righteousness, and as we do, we will shine, "like the stars forever and ever” (v. 3).

He gives us Himself, and then we shine in this world as lights, as stars, forever and ever. It’s not our light; it’s not our brains; it’s not our righteousness; it’s not our holiness. It’s Christ.

The ministry of Revive Our Hearts is a mission of calling us as women to reflect the beauty of Christ, the morning star, to reflect His life, to reflect His light in the darkness of this world.

Arise, shine [the prophet Isaiah says in chapter 60], for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you (vv. 1–2).

Then Jesus says in Matthew 13:

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear (v. 43).

That’s where this letter to the church in Thyatira ends. Jesus says,

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev. 2:29).

The Spirit of Jesus is speaking to our churches today. You have ears to hear. Have you heard what He has said to this church, the church in Thyatira? Have you heard what He said about worldliness, about buying into the world’s system, about tolerating unbiblical teaching and unholy, ungodly lifestyles and practices in the church? Have you heard it?

Have you heard what He said in these letters to Pergamum and to Thyatira about the importance of church discipline, about dealing with these issues, about not tolerating that which is unholy and evil within the church? Have you heard it?

Have you heard His promises that if we hold fast to His Word and His truth, He will allow us one day to reign with Him, to rule with Him, not to be ruled over by this wicked world, but to rule with Christ over the nations? And He will give us the morning star and cause us to shine like the sun in the kingdom of our father.

Leslie: That message from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wraps up the series, "Letters to the Churches in Revelation, Part 5: The Sin of Tolerance." It’s one of many series we’re tackling this year on the letters to the churches found in Revelation chapters 1–3. In this series we’ve explored tolerance—when it’s okay, and when it is sin. We’ve explored how to engage in the world without being worldly. It’s been a rich series, and I hope you’ll hear all of it.

When you order this series on CD, you’ll hear additional material from Nancy that we didn’t have time to air. That CD is available at ReviveOurHearts.com.

One of our listeners came to ReviveOurHearts.com to give us some feedback about one of Nancy’s messages from the first three chapters of Revelation. She wrote:

Nancy, the opening line of this message was exactly the answer to an ache in my heart. Thank you. I always find on your shows the Lord glorified, and in that, joy for me in my heart in troubled times or good times.

The donations our listeners provide make it possible for us to connect with women in troubled times and in good times. Your gift is important as we evaluate our effectiveness in different areas. When we hear from you, it lets us know that the radio program is making a difference in your community, and it helps us stay on the air in your area.

When you donate any amount, we’d like to send you a gift. It’s a booklet inspired by the teaching in this series on the letters to the churches in Revelation. The booklet is called Ears to Hear. By getting the booklet, this just doesn’t have to just be a radio series that comes and goes. But you can explore this material for yourself using the booklet as a guide. Ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959, or donate and get the booklet at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Shannon Popkin bought her son a broken video game controller so he could pretend to play. And that showed her a lot of insight about her own heart. Hear the story when Shannon talks about giving up her need to control. Join us tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants the gospel to shine through you. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. 

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