VERSES TWENTY-FOUR TO TWENTY-FIVE
Verses 24-25: "But I say to you—the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they say—I put no other burden upon you; nevertheless what you have hold fast until I come."
Our hearts are truly comforted at hearing the Lord’s word to the faithful ones in such dark situations. The Lord is the Lord who searches all things. He knows the condition of the whole church in Thyatira. He also knows the condition of a small number of faithful ones in the church in Thyatira. Although the whole body has sinned, a few remain clean. We have to know that before the Lord, the whole church is not considered the church. The Lord only considers the remnant His church. What are the characteristics of this remnant? They rejected the fashionable teachings of the day. They did not tolerate the worldliness and corruption allowed by these teachings. Naturally, in opposing these teachings that the church at that time recognized, they were considered mad (Isa. 59:15). The sinning ones considered that those were the ones who knew "the deep things of Satan," which means that they were the ones who were deceived by Satan and who had fallen into Satan’s snares. Why were these slandered here? It is because they would not go along with the others but would have a clear separation from sin in the world and in the church. They were willing to follow the way of holiness and truth. It is for this reason that Jezebel and her accomplices with her children considered this minority to be those who had private fellowship with Satan! They considered these to be deceived by Satan to frustrate "the spirit of oneness in the church!" How history has repeated itself! Every time God’s children follow God’s word to leave the nominal churches and to cleanse themselves from being vessels of dishonor, they are met with misunderstanding and slander and are considered deceived. However, all those children of God who are like "the rest in Thyatira" should be at peace and should rejoice, for they have the Lord’s declaration with them: "who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they say." Everyone who would honor Christ should be satisfied with the Lord’s acknowledgment.
In mentioning the remnant, it shows that the Lord has here forsaken the whole group. This is a solemn matter. It seems to say that the Lord has removed the lampstand there already, yet the Lord acknowledged that they are precious in His eyes.
Here we must take note that the church in Thyatira is but a rudimentary form of the Roman Catholic Church. It has not yet been fully developed to the utterly corrupt and loathsome position in Revelation 17. Therefore, here the Lord did not call His faithful children to leave the church. Although Thyatira is a type of the Roman Catholic Church, at the same time it is also an actual church in the province of Asia Minor. Hence, in speaking to the faithful believers in the actual church of Thyatira, the Lord did not exhort them to leave their church. However, the Roman Catholic Church typified by Thyatira is different; in Revelation 18:4 men are exhorted to depart from her. One cannot confuse an actual church with the church that it typifies. The Lord only requires the remnant in Thyatira to hold fast to what they have. He did not ask them to depart from her. However, those in the Roman Catholic Church, which Thyatira typifies, He told to depart.
What is the reason for this? Although the actual church in Thyatira at that time was corrupt, it was still a meeting in the Lord’s name. It was the Lord’s only lampstand in Thyatira. To depart from this corrupted church was to depart from the church. Although as a whole they had tolerated Jezebel’s teaching, and although there were heresies among them, this church was the only church in Thyatira. It had not yet changed its name to a church named after a man. It is only when a church has changed its name and the Lord has lost His ground in it, as it was in the Roman Catholic Church, that the Lord calls His faithful ones to come out of her. What we were speaking about previously was the Roman Catholic Church typified by Thyatira, but we must never forget that on the one hand, Thyatira represents the Roman Catholic Church, and on the other hand, Thyatira itself was an actual church. In biblical exposition we have to differentiate between the part that applies to the type and the part that applies to the actual thing itself.
We must make the distinction here: it is those sects in which the Lord has lost all ground and the denominations which work under the principle of the Roman Catholic Church that we have to depart from. If there is a place in which a church is purely meeting in the Lord’s name, if that church (not denomination) is the only church in that locality, if that church is the church of God in that locality, and if that church has not acted contrary to the scriptural teaching of God but has acknowledged the freedom for the Holy Spirit to work among it, we cannot depart from it just because it is corrupt. It is forbidden that one should leave a church for reason of corruption. God wants us to leave the sects, not the church. Although a church that is not a sect may be corrupt, God does not want us to depart from it. Of course, we have to cleanse ourselves and should have nothing to do with the corruption. On the contrary, we should cast out from among us those who teach the corrupt teachings, or we should stop their teaching.
We know that teaching and work are closely related. It is when man believes in wrong teachings that the result is wrong works. We have to be responsible for the teachings we hold because the teachings we hold govern our lives. The Lord praised the rest in Thyatira based on the fact that they had not followed these teachings.
"Who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they say." We have said that this is a slander on the believers, but there can be another meaning to this expression. It may mean that those who follow the teaching of Jezebel base their work on a kind of deep teaching, and that God’s remnant is opposed to them because the remnant is too shallow and does not understand the deep teaching. However, the Lord considers their deep teachings to be the deep things of Satan.
Here the Lord acknowledged that these Christians are standing on a proper ground. Although the outward church has failed, the Lord fully approves those who are faithful to Him. Hence, He said, "I put no other burden upon you." What they have is indeed good and desirable, and He will not demand that they learn or do anything more. They only need to hold fast what they have. The Lord said, "What you have hold fast." Until when must they hold fast? It is not until Jezebel repents, for that will be too late. Nor is it until they die, for what they are waiting for is not death. They are those who have a living hope. "Hold fast until I come."
Now the Lord is not caring for the past but for the future. Beginning from the church in Thyatira, the Lord mentions His return. We have to see that in Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia, the Lord explicitly mentions His return. However, in the last church, Laodicea, the Lord mentions its total rejection. This shows us that these four churches will all remain until the Lord Jesus comes back again. Although Sardis comes after Thyatira, it does not mean that when Sardis comes, Thyatira is no more. Instead, both will exist until the Lord returns. After Sardis, there is Philadelphia, and after Philadelphia there is Laodicea. The principle there is the same.
Now the Lord is upholding His return as a hope for His faithful people. The Lord often draws His people’s attention to this matter. When man rejects Him, and when the church turns its heart to love the world, He mentions His return to those faithful to Him so that they would wait patiently for Him.
Our future is with hope, but what should we do now? Now we should hold fast to what we have. Although this is not a big thing, it is in no way insignificant for one to stand firm and unmoved and to hold fast to the truth acquired when everything around is in a corrupt condition and men oppose the faithful lovers of the Lord and exercise their full power to persecute, oppose, and entice those who would follow the truth. Many have drifted and have lost what they once had. Many were once zealous for the Lord’s truth, His place, and His glory, but the delay of the Lord has caused them to lose their testimony. The most crucial thing now is to hold to what we have until the Lord returns. Under what circumstances are we to hold fast? We are to hold fast not only in the midst of persecutions from the world, but in the midst of confusions in the church. Thank the Lord. This holding fast will not be for long because that day is coming soon.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 05: The Christian (3), Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)