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Friday, March 23 2012

Introduction

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.

             

  1. The Character (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".

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.

  1. The Commendation  (2:19). "I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first".

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.

  • "Love" (agapen). Love is a sacrificial commitment to God and others. Of the seven churches, Thyatira is the only one singled out for their love.
  • "Faith" (pistin). Faith is a conviction or persuasion based upon hearing.
  • "Service" (diakonia). Service is a voluntary ministering to others. Service is exhausting, and it's very easy to become weary and even resentful because others may seem like they aren't pulling their weight. Are you a servant? In what ministry context do you consistently serve? Whom do you sacrificially serve?
  • "Perseverance" (hupomonen): Perseverance is the ability to persist in doing well through time ( Rev 2:2). It is refusing to throw in the towel when things get tough. This requires fortitude and tenacity. Perseverance has to do with our understanding of God's sovereignty. If we know that God is in control of our circumstances, then we keep at it for we know that God is working out the situation according to an eternal plan.

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.

  1. The Condemnation   (2:20-23). "Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 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. 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".

 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

  1. The Challenge  (2:24-25). "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): Only hold on to what you have until I come".

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).

  1. The Call  (2:26-29). ", I will give authority over the nations. 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. I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches".

 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

Posted by: Isekhua Evborokhai AT 05:19 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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