Revelation 2 and 3
Part Two: Thyatira
In Revelation 2-3, John is taking dictation from Jesus Himself to be given to the seven churches in Asia. These letters are very revealing to us about the churches, but they provide great benefit for us as well. In these seven letters, Jesus is giving us some insight as to what He values and what He is upset with. We are made aware in a dramatic fashion that Jesus views us not only individually, but collectively.
We have already seen in our study of three of the seven churches that Jesus corrects the whole church when some of its members aren't doing so well. In other words, He makes us responsible for each other. On the other hand, if He sees an individual or a group of people doing well in a local church, He will affirm them too. In cases where either affirming and correcting words are being given, the individuals may not even be aware that their actions are being scrutinized.
But now there should be no question about whether we can hide in a group, or whether we can operate by ourselves. We are in this together, so we had better help each other to succeed at walking in a way that pleases God. With that background in mind, a number of key questions need to be asked and answered.
The Church in Thyatira—Rev. 2:18-29 (read).
Description of Thyatira
Thyatira is located approximately 30 miles from both Sardis and Pergamus. The city still exists today. During John's day, it had one purpose: to keep any armies from approaching Pergamus, the capital city of Asia Minor. Thyatira did not have any temples of worship to pagan gods; it simply worshipped the same gods as the rest of Asia Minor did in those days. It was as immoral as any other city.
Let's notice the positive qualities that Jesus mentions here and then once again take a test as to whether these are seen in our lives individually and corporately.
The Qualities to pray for
Jesus noticed the following positive qualities. v. 19—I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. If we were to put these in a list of positive qualities, if would be as follows: So take the test. Do they describe you?
It is interesting that the Ephesian church lost its love and devotion to Christ, but here in Thyatira the Lord commended them for their love. (This is significant; we will come back to it in a moment.)
Other qualities Jesus commended them for were:
Again we see the process that Jesus goes through when dealing with a church or a person. He begins with the affirmation of good points, i.e., the places He caught them doing something right. This is a wonderful model for us and should remind us that believers need to be encouraged as much as they need a rebuke. Both are necessary.
Some people feel they are called only to be sin spotters in the kingdom of God. They are doctrinal perfectionists who may become loveless and even ruthless when standing for the truth, but they are hard to get along with. They have the doctrine down, as the Ephesians did, and they can spot an error a mile away. But there is little or no love. On the other hand...
Others feel they are called to only spread love. They spread a meaningless, tolerant kind of sentimentalism and call it love. They want to always soothe and never speak the truth. Jesus, on the other hand, models the need to speak the truth in love. The essence of His message is a balance between love and sound doctrine.
When we read its list of positive qualities, we could think that Thyatira was a church that would have few problems, but that was not the case.
The Sins to Repent Of
Jesus noticed the following sins in the life of the church at Thyatira.
Would you like to be singled out by Christ by name as Jezebel was? It sure would have been quite the church service when this letter was read. Can you imagine the reaction of the people, especially Jezebel, and those who followed her teaching?
We are not sure if this in fact was her real name. Expositors argue a great deal about who this woman was. Whatever the case, this was a real woman who claimed to have a gift of prophecy. And like Jezebel of the Old Testament, wife of King Ahab, she was leading these people to serve another god through her false teaching. (See 1 Kings 16:31-33; 2 Kings 9:22.) From this passage, we can see she was cleverly misleading, immoral, and influential. Apparently all this led many in the church to involve themselves in pagan feasts, e.g., eating food sacrificed to idols, and to sexual immorality.
Today we often see this kind of behavior in two settings:
If either of the sins mentioned in this passage—tolerating false teaching and sinful behavior rather than confronting it, or enticing others away from their commitment to Christ and His Word—describes you, Jesus tells you what to do.
v. 21b—"I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling."
The solution is simple to the one who is willfully living in sin and teaching others to do the same. Be willing to repent now, before your time is up. God has been showing mercy by giving you time to repent, but if you are unwilling to do so, terrible consequences will follow. These are the logical consequences of sin upon anyone who knows the right way to walk and refuses to obey it. Often this person mistakenly uses the lack of immediate consequences as encouragement to continue rather than repent.
We should not take for granted the time between the sin being committed and the time that the logical consequences take place. Just because it seems that you/someone is initially getting away with sin, doesn't mean that is the end of the story. This section gives us a terrible example of what might happen.
v. 22—So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23] I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
Just as there are examples of obedience in our lives , it is helpful to heed the example of disobedience as well. In case that isn't enough (I can't understand why it wouldn't be), take a look at:
The Cause For Praise: Jesus
As we saw last week, this describes the qualities of Jesus that are mentioned in relationship to each church. If we would take this first column all at once, it would give us a wonderful list of qualities for which we should praise God. I encourage you again to use the list that way.
I also want you to remember that Jesus highlights a specific quality(s) for each church. It is a side of/a glance at Him that will be helpful to that church in its circumstances, to help bring correction or encouragement, or both. We see Jesus described in relationship to Thyatira. Rev. 2:18—"To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze."
In other words, Jesus has eyes like a flame of fire. He sees through seductive arguments. His feet are like burnished bronze; i.e., He has strength and splendor; He rules with authority—v. 27. If we listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches, and we are willing to speak the truth in love and not be entangled with immorality or spiritual manipulation, then Jesus has some encouraging words to say to us.
v. 24—Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you):
v. 25—Only hold on to what you have until I come. 26] To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—27] 'He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery'— just as I have received authority from my Father. 28] I will also give him the morning star.
What a series of promises this is. It almost takes our breath away. These words are very close to what we find in Matt. 25:14-23 and Rev. 24. Here we see we will be given authority with Him in His millenial kingdom. Again Jesus shows us an excellent parenting technique, for when He says "no," He also says "yes." He has just said no to sexual immorality and manipulative spiritual means, but if we will heed that call, He promises a whale of a yes in its place—ruling and reigning with Him for eternity.
In case that isn't enough, Jesus has one more benefit (v. 28—I will also give him the morning star).
What is a morning star? Revelation 22:16 tells us Jesus is the morning star. Someday the morning star will be mine and yours, and we will be His. You and I belong to Jesus now, but one day when we see Him we will experience all that He is.
Is there any comparison between what we say no to and He says yes to? I can almost hear Jesus shout in v. 29—("Hey, church in Thyatira...") 29] He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Two things are very clear in this passage.
First, unrepentant sin, especially sexual sin, can be devastating to a local church. I have seen entire churches become immoral, and the results have been horrendous. We know now what God thinks about this sin in individual lives, as well as throughout the church. We also know He does not want us to tolerate any foolishness, any personality or prophetic gibberish if it—or they—do not stand the test of Scripture.
Second, I am so impressed in this passage by how Christ portrays Himself as someone who will exact fierce and penetrating judgment on the person who refuses to repent when they know better. Yes, He gives time for repentance. What a gift of mercy that is. Yes, He will allow the teaching of the Scripture to speak to the issue (e.g., the letters to these churches in Revelation 2-3). What a wonderful gift of grace that is as well. If, however, we refuse to heed the call after His careful and loving wait, we will suffer the consequences with full force.
Today the focus of the message is not on those outside the church, but to those who call themselves Christians. If you are living in sin, this is your time to repent. Don't be misled by these grace moments. Your Lord and Savior walks among the people of His church, and He is extending His hand to you. Don't refuse His invitation to repent and turn.
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