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Friday, March 23 2012
Last week, we focused on the message of the Lord to the Church in Pergamos. We also discovered that the Church was located in a City where Satan had his throne yet they remained loyal to the Lord even unto death.Despite their great sacrifices, the Lord called this Church a compromising Church. I pray that every one of us will take correction from the Lord through these studies in Jesus' name. Today, we shall look at the message of the Lord to the Church in Thyatira.
Thyatira - the City
During Apostle Paul's lifetime, there existed a nondescript city called Thyatira (Act 16:14). Located within the modern-day city of Akhisar, Turkey, about 50 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. It was one of the many smaller cities that sprang up in Asia Minor after Alexander the Great destroyed the Persian Empire. In 190 BC, Thyatira fell to the Romans and finally gave itself completely to the Roman Empire in 133 BC. During this time, it became a communication center due to its location.
The letter to the church in Thyatira is the longest of the seven letters. It may have been the lengthiest letter because Thyatira was the most corrupt of the churches. The title, "Son of God" declares Christ's absolute deity. He is equal with God the Father. He is the eternally existent One who has been designated to rule. Jesus then refers to His eyes and His feet (head to toes). He says His eyes are like a "flame of fire," indicating that He is able to see into the secret places of our hearts. The word "fire" also suggests discerning and severe judgment ( Rev 1:14). Everything yields to fire. Fire consumes all that it touches. Nothing escapes. Jesus moves from his head to his toes and says that His feet are like "burnished bronze," meaning that He will pursue evil and stamp it out.
These are the strongest words of commendation given to any of the churches. But before He confronted her weakness He affirmed her strengths. First affirm the positive and then rebuke the negative, this is the Kingdom style. Jesus begins His commendation with the phrase "I know your deeds" (Rev 2:2; 3:1, 8). He then affirms the church in four ways.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (with ten being the highest), how would you evaluate yourself in the areas of love, faith, service, and perseverance?
After giving out four straight A+ grades, Jesus includes a progress report that reads: "your deeds of late are greater than at first." The church had been growing in her strengths. However, some of us need to recognize that God is not asking us to take on more works for Him. Instead, He is calling us to do the works that we are currently doing, with greater excellence.
Unfortunately, the church at Thyatira was not an honour roll church. In fact, Jesus is about to flunk a number of people in this church.
Jesus begins His scathing rebuke with the familiar words, "But I have this against you." Jesus spoke these very same words to the church in Ephesus (.Rev 2:4). Ephesus was strong in doctrine but weak in love. Thyatira was strong in love but weak in doctrine. It's common for churches to be polarized in one of these two extremes. Either they will have full heads and empty hearts, or full hearts and empty minds. Either polarization is deadly. Balance is the key in any church. God demands both love and sound doctrine (1 Tim 1:5).
Doctrine and love are like the two chemical ingredients of salt. Interestingly, salt is composed of two poisons: sodium and chloride. If we ingest one without the other we would die. But if we combine them together properly we have sodium chloride which is common table salt. It gives flavor to food and life and health to our bodies. So too, doctrine and love must be bound together. One without the other leads to a deadly imbalance. Separately they can be deadly. But combined they provide health to the body of Christ. The church at Thyatira had gotten out of balance. They had all love but no doctrine. The result was devastating; Jezebel with her evil teaching ministry.
The initial charge against Thyatira is: "You tolerate the woman Jezebel." There is our word "tolerate "once again. Notice that Jesus' rebuke is directed against the church of Thyatira, not Jezebel. Jesus was angry that these believers tolerated false teaching and sinful behavior rather than confronting and condemning it.
I think Jesus refers to this prophetess in Thyatira as "Jezebel" because that name had become synonymous with wickedness. This Jezebel called herself a prophetess but she did not serve the Lord. Instead, she misled believers?not by seducing them herself but "by her teaching". This could mean that she openly taught that free sex and idolatry was okay, but I doubt it. Even most nominal Christians wouldn't tolerate that. It is more likely that her teaching was imbalanced and distorted to the point that her listeners were subtly enticed to engage in such behavior. This Jezebelian woman must have been persuasive, charismatic, and maybe even attractive because she was able to lead Jesus' own "bond-servants" into a religion that was essentially a combination of idol worship and orgies. Most of us can hardly imagine worship and open sexual perversion together. Generally speaking, in our society nearly all religions make at least a pretense of teaching the values of marriage, family, and faithfulness. But that is changing. What God has called an abomination in His Word, many, even in the religious community, are now calling normal and holy. That was apparently happening in the church at Thyatira as well.
It goes without saying that Jesus didn't appreciate this. So He declared, "I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality" (2:21). We must note that Jesus "gave her time to repent."It's not clear how or when this opportunity for repentance came, but it indicates an important biblical principle: the Lord's judgments are not hasty?He gives time for repentance. But that time is limited. Unfortunately in this case, this woman refused to repent. She hardened her heart.
Jesus' warning is powerful: "Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence. Three times in these two verses, the phrase "I will" appears. It is Jesus Himself who brings God's discipline. He says that Jezebel will end up on a bed of suffering since her influence has led to the violation of the marriage bed. But she is not the only one who will suffer?so will those who commit adultery with her. This could refer to literal sexual immorality, but it is more likely a reference to the spiritual adultery that her followers engage in when they accept her false teaching. Note the change from "they" to "her." This stresses that their deeds of immorality were really the product of her teaching, example, and error. Teaching is a very strong medium. We must never underestimate how a teacher can subtly influence his/her listeners. This should remind us of what a great responsibility those in places of leadership have (Luke 6:40; Jas 3:1), but also of how we need to be sure that the lives and teaching of our leaders truly line up with the Word of God.
Jesus goes on to say, "I will kill her children (i.e., disciples) with pestilence." The result of this looming judgment is then "all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts." Discipline in the church has several purposes: one is correction in the sinning person's life. Another purpose is restoration?always the goal of biblical discipline is to bring the person back to the Lord. But discipline also has the purpose of instilling a healthy respect for the Lord in the people of God.
It would be easy for us to think that we are far from the church at Thyatira. We don't have any female heretics that I am aware of; much less one that might be called a Jezebel. We don't take a casual corporate attitude toward sexual immorality, and we certainly don't promote idolatry. But I think we might be congratulating ourselves too soon. One of the things you discover readily when you read the Old Testament is that adultery and fornication are often used as symbols of spiritual unfaithfulness. Israel is often accused of adultery even when no sexual immorality is involved. When God's people put other things ahead of Him?whether it be success, prosperity, materialism, sports, fitness, financial security, or even ministry?he becomes jealous because we are being unfaithful to Him, the One who created us, loved us, died for us, and is one day coming again for us. He will tolerate no other lovers. The seductive teaching of Jezebel is a real danger in our church and every church today.
Every generation of Christians must face the question, "How far should I go in accepting and adopting the cultural standards and behaviors of my day?" .The problem is that we Christians are caught between two world
Apparently this woman claimed that her teaching (that Christians can indulge the flesh with impunity) was deeper than the apostles' teaching, but it was of course the depths of satanic doctrine. Jezebel claimed to introduce her followers into the deep things of God (1 Cor 2:10), but in reality she was introducing them to the deep things of Satan. The faithful in Thyatira had dared to stand against the pressure exerted by Jezebel and her group. In return, Jesus promised not to add a further burden to the faithful beyond that of putting up with further ridicule and social ostracism brought on by their daring to label fornication and eating meat sacrificed to idols as sinful activities in which Christians should have no part (2:24). This group of loyal Christians valued their relationship to God more than their jobs, their families, and their very lives.
To these faithful believers, Jesus says, "Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come" (2:25).Jesus again returns to the faithful remnant and concludes with a call to "hold fast what you have" until He returns. He doesn't say leave the church; He says, "hold fast" (krateo) your integrity and your works. This is no minor warning. The tendency of believers is to lose ground rather than hold fast and move ahead. Things naturally go downhill unless there is great effort against those forces that, like gravity, tend to pull us downward. So there is always the need to cling to the Lord and hold tightly through a close walk with Him in the Word.
This verse also provides an important answer for some Christians who seem to have the notion that God is impossible to please. Some get this from parents or teachers or preachers or from books, not from God Himself. Here, Jesus says to those who have resisted this false prophetess, simply "hold on." He's not asking for anything else from us and He promises things won't get any worse. Just hold on. There may be some us that are almost to the end of our rope. You're discouraged, you're depressed, you're feeling like a failure, and life seems ready to crush you. Just hold on to what you have. Yes, holding on until Jesus comes may seem like a long time, for we don't know when that will be. One thing is certain?it can't be any further away than our own death because to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (Phil 1:21-23; 2 Cor 5:6-9).
After a sobering wake-up call the church at Thyatira is ready for some hope. In 2:26, Jesus gives the clearest definition of an overcomer in these seven letters: "To him who overcomes and does my will to the end." Most anyone can run, walk, or crawl a 100-yard dash. It doesn't matter how much you weigh or how slow you are, you can travel 300 feet down a track. Obviously, not everyone will set a world record?at least not for speed. But most will eventually cross the line. But a marathon is another story. Here Jesus calls us to a marathon. This requires a determination to persevere and to finish well.
The reward for such faithfulness was the privilege of reigning with Christ in His earthly kingdom. The Lord intended the prospect of this blessing to motivate the unfaithful in the church to return to God's will for them and to encourage the faithful to persevere. Believers who are faithful will receive authority in heaven from Jesus Christ and will "rule" during the millennium. It will be run like our world today, with prime ministers, governors, and mayors who will rule for and with Christ. Where you sit then depends on how you live now. You may not live in a position of power now, but if you serve the Lord faithfully, God will give you a position of power and prestige in His kingdom.
Jesus also says that He will give the overcomer the "morning star" (2:28). Jesus is promising all overcomers His own eternal presence,for at the end of Revelation He says, "I am.the bright morning star" (Rev 22:16). The overcomer will experience great intimacy with His Lord.
But there also seems to be another emphasis. The text literally says, "the star, the morning one." This means the brilliant or bright one, the brightest of all the stars. The star of the morning may be considered the brightest, and the symbolism here indicates the glory that the righteous will experience in the coming kingdom. Daniel the prophet says it best: "the righteous will shine like the stars forever and ever" (Dan 12:3).
Contributor: Alex Alajiki
Friday, March 09 2012
The message to the Church in Smyrna was studied in details with lessons which are applicable to our generation and thoroughly examined. The History of Smyrna was briefly examined and the critical appraisal of the church was also studied. Unlike the church in Ephesus, and Pergamos which we will study today, the Lord had nothing against the church in Smyrna. I pray that will be our story on the last day in Jesus name. The bible says that all these things happen to them as examples, and they are written for our admonition. I pray that none of the things we learn will count against us in the day of reckoning in Jesus Name, Amen.
Pergamos - A City of Great Wealth and Culture
Pergamos was the capital city of the province of Asia, about 60 miles north of Smyrna. Pergamos was the famous site of the Greek god of healing, supposed to be the founder of medical science. The city became the seat of Babylonian sun worship, a noble centre of idolatry and demon controlled religions with splendid temples to Nature. People from all over the Roman empire came to seek healing in this pagan temple and the shrine area was inhabited by thousands of harmless snakes. Medicine and science was worshiped here and the symbol of their worship was the serpent. The serpent was the symbol of Aslepius. This was why God referred to Pergamos as the seat of Satan. The snake was carried down into our own day with a staff entwined with serpents, still using the snake as a symbol for the medical arts. This sign is very apparent in the medical councils till this day. Noticed for its great wealth and culture, Pergamos boasted of an immense library of 200,000 volumes.
1) Power to Convict and Correct - The Sharp Two-Edged Sword [Rev. 2:12]
"Write this letter to the angel of the church in Pergamum. This is the message from the one with the sharp two-edged sword:"[NLT]
The Lord is described to Pargamos as having a two-edged sword. The sword is the word of God and by cutting both ways (i.e. Two-Edged), has the power to convict and correct as well as to convert, distinguishing between soul and spirit (Heb. 4:12). The church in Pargamos were not told to get out of the city but rather to repent of the false doctrine, so the sword here is especially for those who will not repent.
2) The Omniscience God - The All-Knowing [Rev. 2:13]
"I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan's city."[Emphasis Mine]
a) Just as we learnt in the past teachings, God has the capacity to know everything infinitely, He knows everything that can be known about a character including thoughts, feelings, life and the universe, etc.
"He opens up the depths, tells secrets, sees in the dark?light spills out of him!"[Daniel 2:22 MSG]
God is All-Knowing. One of the lessons we must take with us this season as we study the book of Revelation is that God's knowledge of us far supersedes man's. He will reward and judge us based on both our actions and motives. (Discuss).
b) Jesus said they sat on the seat of Satan. The province of Pergamos was like modern city of this day, alive with atrocious activities. Prostitution, crime of all magnitude was the order of the day. It must have been quite a very tempting period for the Christians of that era, yet there were still some who refused to compromise. Can you and I be counted among the faithful (sincerely) by our Maker in this day and age? Also, children of God are not supposed to run from the forces of darkness. The Almighty God does not expect us to run from battles. We are to stand (Ephesians 6: 10-18).
c) God said Antipas was His faithful martyr. The Greek word for martyr is matheus. It means, to witness. In other words, in those days, to witness Christ meant to be ready to die for Christ, no matter the circumstances. Nowadays, people are afraid of ordinary ridicule, talk less of dying for the Master .
"Stand up for me against world opinion and I'll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I'll cover for you?"[Matt. 10: 32-33 MSG]
3) God had a few complaints against these saints [Rev. 2: 14-15]
"But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching".
a) Balaam - Loving the reward of unrighteousness: I believe there must have been some traces of the inkling to compromise in the life of Balaam for Balak to have considered and invited him to come and curse the children of Israel (...because your way is perverse before me Num.22:32). We should take heed to the prophesies concerning the last days in 2 Tim. 3: 1-9 (Read). There are devils in the church today, parading themselves as saints of God. Men that "will act as if they serve God but will not have power"
Charisma can take a man to the top, but Character will keep him there!
b) Take Heed! Teachings like that of Balaam are all around! Avoid the Nicolaitian plague also: There were some people in the church of Pergamos who were teaching exactly the same thing that Balaam taught Balak. They teach that once you are saved, you have liberty to do anything you like. This is contrary to the word in Galatians 5:13. See also 2 Peter 2:1-3. These are following the ways of Balaam (2 Peter 2:15). We must be very vigilant and studious in the things of God so we are not blown about by strange doctrines.
"Do not let all kinds of strange teachings lead you into the wrong way. Your hearts should be strengthened by God's grace..." [Hebrews 13:9 NCV]
The doctrine of the Nicolaitans is based upon the recognition of the mercy of God as the ground of salvation, but it makes the fatal mistake that men can freely partake in sin because the law of God is no longer binding! The Lord specifically mentioned in the NKJV of verse 15 "....which thing I hate". We must hate what He hates!
4) God is a Rewarder and NOT a Slave master - [Rev. 2: 16-17]
"Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth. "Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it."
a) God (as usual) offers an opportunity for a complete change of mind (according to His everlasting mercies). The choice is ours. God said He was coming to fight against those who follow wrong doctrines. He knows how to seperate between those doing His will and those who are not. This is the case in every church in the world. There will always be those who will hear the word of God and do it wholeheartedly and those who care less. We either repent or face the full wrath of His anger. I pray that will not be our portion in Jesus Name.
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." [2 Peter 3:9NKJV]
b) God said that he that overcomes would get three (3) things. One, the overcomer will be given to eat of the hidden manna (Psalm 78:24-25). Manna is the food of angels and overcomers will eat this food. However, there is a special hidden manna that we will eat on our wedding day with Jesus. Two, the overcomer will be given a white stone. White is the colour of heaven (Rev 3:5; 19:8). Three, on the white stone will be written new Names. No matter what we have been tagged or named with here on earth, there is a new name awaiting us in heaven where everything is new, halleluyah.
Our rewards will be commensurate with our level of committment and loyalty to our Lord and savior. How sweet will it be to hear our Lord say unto us;
"His lord said to him, ?Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'" [Matthew 25:21 NKJV]