Blog for October 5, 2015

 

TO THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA

 

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. 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. But 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. 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. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:18-29 ESV)

We could be forgiven if we are not aware that in His letter to the Thyatira church Jesus identifies Himself as the Son of God. This is the only time in Revelation He identifies Himself as such. But it denounces the scoffers which sadly include some Christians and denominations/sects/cults who claim He is not. Here Jesus clearly says He is, which also speaks of His deity.

Remains of Thyatira

Remains of Thyatira

When researching the subject of today’s blog I was forced to go deep into several books and writings in order to back up some of the things I mention here. The church in Thyatira appears to have been a small one. While Paul may have visited this church there is no record to say that he did. However, Acts 16:14 records a woman named Lydia who was from the city of Thyatira and who listened to Paul preaching. It mentions her heart was opened by the Lord and it tells us also that she was a seller of purple goods. The Greek word used for purple in this Scripture describes the color as bluish red. In ancient Thyatira there were many guilds. These were associations of artisans or merchants who controlled the practice of their craft. They were organized in a manner something between a professional association, trade union or a cartel. Coins that have been discovered from the Biblical period show such guilds in proving their existence. Lydia may have been a member of such a guild and possibly learned her craft in dying fabrics by use of the madder root which colored the fabric red. The point of this historical information is that the implication that Thyatira was known to have, what we would term today as trade unions, meant that if you were not a member you could not work, if you could not work then food, water, money became difficult to obtain.

Coins from Thyatira (2nd-1st C BC) with head of Zeus and winged thunderbolt within a wreath

Coins from Thyatira (2nd-1st C BC) with head of Zeus and winged thunderbolt within a wreath

In the passage under discussion we are told that there was a prophetess teaching and seducing members of the church to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. This prophetess is identified as a person named Jezebel. Don’t be confused that this refers to the Jezebel named in the Old Testament in the 1st and 2nd book of Kings. While it is not the same person, the results of this false prophetess in Thyatira was the same. Many of the members of the church were evidently seduced by her teachings.

Jesus again noted that He knew members were working in faith, love and ministry with continual endurance. But the thing He pointed out as to what He held against them was that they were tolerating the teachings of this prophetess.

Going back to being a member of a guild in Thyatira, it likely meant you had to agree to the requirements of membership of such a guild. Did that perhaps include members of the church who had to agree to things that would compromise their position or allegiance to God? If they tolerated the teachings of Jezebel then why not what their trade union expected of them?

My point here is that today there are many people who profess to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. For the most part this is via a particular theology, denomination or leader of a local church. Does that mean, however, that these avenues speak the truth of God’s Word? No, it does not. When we hear of churches accepting modern day culture in defiance of God’s Laws and Command in Scripture then we should remind ourselves that it happened in Thyatira. This was both a physical manifestation of what actually happened to this church in its day and it is a symbolic warning of what was/has and is happening today in many churches across the globe. It is always amazing to hear a Christian say the Bible states that many false teachings will rise up. But hardly ever, if at all, will you hear them question the teaching of their own denomination or local church leadership. The Bereans did. Paul preached and they went off to see what the Scriptures had to say about his teaching to see if he was speaking the truth. All too often in the modern day church we listen to a sermon and just accept it as ‘gospel’, not even checking and researching. After all, the pastor must be right, agreed? While I am NOT suggesting you should question a church leader on everything they say, I do suggest you follow up in their teaching to see the Bible’s view. And if it doesn’t confirm God’s Word you may need to consider who you may be following.

jezebel

Jezebel (on her sickbed)

Clearly, in the church of Thyatira many members tolerated the false teachings of this Jezebel and they also indulged in such idolatry. Can we see the same thing happening today? Indeed we can and there are differing levels of tolerating such sin. For example, the modern day church is split on the subject of homosexuality. Some ‘so-called’ leaders are either homosexual themselves or accept them with the idea of “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Those who claim to be against such deviant practices even suggest that the church needs to adapt to the present culture in order to somehow attract people to the church. Such one’s are deluded and are deluding not only themselves but those who follow their teaching or stance. The reference to throwing this Jezebel on to her sickbed and her children will be struck dead is a clear reference to condemnation and the resulting eternal death. For those of you who may think my comments are too harsh or unloving, notice what Jesus says to those who have no part in such falsehood. He holds no other burden. He also says He will give them the Morning Star. Jesus IS the Morning Star as His brightness will illuminate all of the false and evil as well as shine on the righteous.

He finishes His comment with those who have an ear let them hear what the spirit says to the churches. There are four messages here in that sentence which are:

  1. The letter to the church is Thyatira reveals the seriousness of practicing and tolerating sin.
  2. A pattern of obedience identifies a true church and a true believer.
  3. God warns those churches or individuals who are like Thyatira and refuse to repent will receive Divine judgment.
  4. Those who heed the message to the Thyatira church will receive Divine blessing and be members of Christ’s millennial kingdom and will rule with Him.

 

When faithfully following Christ we may feel despised, downtrodden or even ridiculed. But Jesus promises that we will reflect His Glory like the Morning Star.