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Thyatira… The Spineless

Notes & Transcripts

Revelation 2:18-29

What a fascinating tour we have been on in the last few weeks.  We have now visited -- up to this point three churches  that all surround the Island of Patmos in Asia Minor.  We have seen the loveless church of Ephesus (the church who lost her first love), a persecuted church in the city of Smyrna, and last week we visited with Pergamum which was the compromising church. 

This morning we are going to move on to another church.  We’re going to examine a church with still another personality and problem.  The church is in Thyatira:  Revelation 2:18-29  records the longest letter of the seven, to the least important of the seven cities.  Nevertheless the problem that faced this community of faith still threatens God’s people today! Let’s take a look at

1.  THE CITY OF THYATIRA

“Thyatira was to Ephesus what La Center, WA  are to Seattle or … what Cut-‘n-Shoot, Texas is to Chicago, IL.  It couldn’t compare with the size, beauty, and importance of the other cities.  Militarily, it was totally expendable, founded as a buffer zone designed to slow down advancing armies.  Politically and culturally, the city was nothing special.  It seems that its only claim to fame was a, (small but prosperous) manufacturing and marketing center.  It had several highly organized trade guilds concerned with the making and selling of wool, linen, dyed material, clothing, leather-works, baked goods, pottery, bronze work and slaves”

The city of Thyatira was founded by Seleucus I as a frontier post to guard the western approach to his straggling empire.  It lay in an open valley.  There was no height that could be fortified.  All that Thyatira could ever hope to do was to fight a delaying action until Pergamum, the capital of the province, could come and help!  The main importance of this small village town was trade!  Thyatira is in fact only mentioned one other time in Scripture in Acts 16:14;

Acts 16:14 (NIV) 14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.[1]  Religiously speaking, this city had no real significance.  It was not a center of either Caesar or Greek worship.  It did have a local god named Tyrimnos, which was identified with the Greek sun-god, Apollo.  Tyrimnos appeared on the city’s coins grasping the hand of the Roman emperor.

This is the location to which the letter from Jesus is addressed—this out of the way territory—this place with no significant temples—this city designed to be captured by an enemy and to delay the battle of a more strategic city.  Yet it is to the believers of Jesus Christ in this small , tiny town, nearly insignificant little hole-in-the –wall location that we find this very important letter.  Let’s turn to the letter itself and see what  God has to say to this congregation. (Revelation 2:18-29 (NIV)

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.  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. 20 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. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 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. 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): 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. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. [2]

As you remember, most every church had a commendation and a condemnation addressed to it.

2 THE CHURCH:  IT’S COMMENDATION!

A simple rapid reading of the letter reveals that this congregation had some serious problems.  Yet once again Jesus began his letter not with criticism, but with commendation.  We seldom think of commendation and criticism being used to complement each other, but Christ used both appropriately and effectively. Normally, in a small village like Thyatira you’d expect what you read in this citation.  “I know your deed…love…faith…service…perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.”

Note the first words of Christ’s statement:  “I KNOW.”  These words appear in each of the seven letters to the New Testament Churches.  His assessment of each church was not made casually—it was based upon an intimate observation.  Each congregation came under His scrutiny.  This description of the Thyatira church appears beautifully balanced and sound, especially considering the recognition given its growth with the passing of time.  Jesus knew what was going on there because he was intimately involved with that congregation.  And Friends, Jesus knows what is going on at the Castle Rock Christian Church, too—He knows what we teach in Sunday school He knows what I preach each week—  In fact, he knows what I will be preaching this week 10 years from now… if I am still preaching.  Even more eerie…

He knows where your mind really is during each sermon and lesson—He knows where your heart is and if your life backs up what your lips sing each week—He knows the size of your paycheck or your pension check and the size of your offering—He knows the attitude you have concerning those you worship with—He knows, He knows, He knows…Overall, the church in Thyatira had many positive qualities.  It was moving in the right direction.  It was not enslaved by limitations.  It produced the service of love! 

The opposite of Ephesus, the loveless congregation, THYATIRA WAS LOVING!  The letter provides the terms of highest praise.  The love and loyalty and the service and endurance of the Church at Thyatira are matters of congratulation.  Notice how the qualities of this congregation go in pairs:  Service is the outcome of love and patient endurance is the product of loyalty. Notice the complement in verse 19 Jesus says: “I know that lately you have done better than at first.”  Wow!  Thyatira, please stand up and come up to the podium to receive your Most Improved Player award….You are moving in the right direction.  Your faith and love are stronger than ever before!  But then comes the condemnation:

3.  THE CHURCH:  CONDEMBATION (vs. 20, 21 . . .)

There was a problem with a woman called Jezebel.  Who was she?  The commentators have many different opinions.  Some say, “she is a “PW” (Preacher’s Wife”) or elder’s wife,” because the word in the Greek for “woman” can also mean “wife”.  Others say, “she represents a type of spiritual condition.”  And still others say, (and this is the wildest view of all), that Jezebel is Lydia, who had fallen into sin and had become an evil influence in the church.  (I hardly think that one is true… Some people will come up with all kinds of theories just to get their name in print in some book)  There is not one shred of evidence to support that view.  Each of these opinions seem a bit forced and unnatural.  Most likely, the reference is to an actual woman with a “Jezebel-like” personality and character. 

So… Who then is Jezebel? To find out we need to take a little side trip … Let’s take a little trip back in time if you would and turn in your Bibles to the Old Testament and let’s examine for a moment this original Jezebel.  Turn to I Kings 16 [Let’s listen to the mighty rustling of Bible Pages whirling in the room.]  (I Kings 16:31; 18:4, 19; 19:1, 2; 21:5-7, 15)  and let’s examine a few verses at random.  1 Kings 16:31; 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him.[3]   1 Kings 18:4, 4 While Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah (you remember him?  He was one of the Minor Prophets)  had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, 50 in each, and had supplied them with food and water.) [4]

In 1 Kings 18:19; Elijah finally puts up a challenge to this witch of a woman… 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” [5]

1 Kings 19:1, 2; Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” [6]  In other words… if you are not dead by tomorrow..

1 Kings 21:5-7, 5 His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?” 6 He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’ ” 7 Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”  [7]

1 Kings 21:15  15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite hat he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” [8]

This woman was famous for her clever deception…manipulative dominance…vicious schemes…influential wickedness.  Her name is synonymous,  a byword for evil and wickedness.  Friends, she has to be related to our modern day.  Gabriel in Desperate Housewives / Erica Cane on All My Children!

This original Jezebel earned the hatred of Elijah solely for attempting to seduce Israel from the worship of YAHWEH to that of Baal—in trying to combine the two religions into one.  She was the daughter of Ethball, King of Sidon, and the wife of Ahab.  When she came from Sidon she brought with her, her own gods and caused Ahab and his people to worship Baal.  She murdered the prophets of the Lord and at her own table supported 450 prophets of Baal.  She was Ahab’s evil genius!  In other words, Florence Nightingale she was not!

Now, the woman in the church in Thyatira was being compared to this wicked O.T. woman.  Look at verse 20 again…20 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. She called herself a prophetess.  Now that is not so unusual.  Both the Old Testament and the New Testament includes stories of female prophets:  Miriam in Exodus 15:20; Deborah in Judges 4:4; Huldah; 2 Kings 22:14.  In the New Testament we find Anna in Luke 2:36 and the four daughters of Phillip in Acts 21:9.The unusual part was not that she was a prophetess, but what she was doing---- as a prophetess.  She was using that role to lead people astray—specifically to engage in sexual compromise and to eat foods sacrificed to idols.

You see, you must remember the trade situation here.   The main business of the city.  These trade-guilds were associated with the worship of tutelary-deities:  which are Guardian deities [gods] who are supposed to watch over the city.  Each guild had its guardian god.  The situation was somewhat like this.  If you wish to get ahead in this world, you must belong to a guild; if you belong to guild, your very membership implies that you worship its god.  You will be expected to attend the guild-festivals and to eat guild food… part of which is offered to the god of the guild, and is given to you on your table as a gift from that god. 

And then, when the feast ends, and the real gross immoral “games” begins, you must not walk out unless you desire to become the object of ridicule and persecution!    Now in this situation, what is a Christian to do?  If he quits the union, he loses his position and his standing in society.  He may have to suffer poverty, hunger, and persecution.  On the other hand, if he stays in the guild and attends the immoral feasts, eating meat sacrificed to  idols and committing immoral acts, he denies the Lord-Jesus Christ.. We face similar choices today.  Our youth must make a decision to go to a party that they know will have alcohol or harder drugs and immorality, or not go and may be rejected by their friends? 

Should you take that drink and blend in for business sake or refuse and stand out as being different?  The choices of Thyatira still exist.  Here is where Jezebel comes in—she pretends to know the real solution to the problem.  She apparently argued like this:  “In order to conquer Satan, you must know him.  You will never be able to conquer sin unless you have become thoroughly acquainted with it by experience.  In short, she was saying, (what I have heard from so many people before…How can you counsel someone who is an alcoholic unless you have been an alcoholic yourself and really know and understand the trauma that comes with that disease?  How can you counsel someone who has been on drugs unless you have taken drugs and know the grip that it has on your life?

How can you possibly know and understand the pain of the Homosexual lifestyle if you have not participated in it?  So simply become tolerant of me. Accept me and my issues because we are one in the same.  In essence:

I am my addiction… If you love me, you must love my lifestyle as well.  And better yet, you must participate in my lifestyle so that you can totally identify with me.  And then you must support me by promoting my addictions, by legislating and encouraging others to support me and participate with me as well.  That is crazy talk. That is 4 year old talk…

Play my game my way or I will take my marbles and go home…. But better yet.  If you don’t agree with me, I will find ways to get you in trouble with the teacher… And further more… I will grow up to make laws so that you will suffer for not agreeing with me.  How can you understand the pain of (whatever, if you haven’t been involved in it and have lived under its controlling grip)?

Jezebel’s philosophy and these people’s philosophy is that a Christian should learn to know “the deep things of Satan.”  So in Thyatira it was like this…By all means, attend the guild-feasts and commit fornication… Participate in temple Prostitution games, The games of bestiality, The immoral acts that go along with the gods of that city…and still remain a Christian; in fact you will become a better Christian because you can now totally relate and understand!  That second Jezebel wanted to marry the ways of the world and Christianity when the two are diametrically opposed to each other.  When that marriage happens …Christianity must give everything away and become ABSOLUTLY nothing!   IT MUST DIE! 

Verse 24 says experience the “depths of Satan”.  (Doesn’t she give you the chills?)  You say that’s terrible!  How could they do such a thing!  My friends, the church TOLERATED it!  Verse 20a

20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel… The believers weren’t ignorant regarding the activities of the assembly.  They knew wrong was going on, but failed to confront and deal with it!!!  Now listen up…Are we not just as guilty today when those in our midst are willfully compromising the Faith and we don’t Confront it? I am not saying we should become the Christian police, spying on each other.  No at all!  But friend, the Bible is clear about our responsibility. 

Galatians 6:1 (NIV)1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. [9]

James says it this way:  19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back,20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. [10]   Whether we like it or not, whether we are comfortable with it or not—Confrontation is part of ministry!!!  Confrontation is a Biblical mandate that we must not ignore for the sake of the church, for the sake of the sinner and, for the sake of the kingdom of God! 

Jesus is condemning Thyatira because of their lack of confrontation, their lack of tough ministry, and because of their tolerance!

4. THE CHURCH: ITS WARNING vs. 24-29…

Christ announced a severe future not only for the Jezebel-look-a-like woman, but also for those who patterned their thinking and behavior after her:

5.  THE CHURCH:  ITS ENCOURAGEMNT vs. 24-29…

This section is addressed to the faithful ones in the church not swept up in this woman’s influence.  Upon these ---  Jesus would “place no other burden.”  Instead, he promised two things:

                a.  authority (vs. 26)

                b.  morning star (vs. 28)

Jesus is saying, some day the tables will be turned!  Now the world oppresses the church-member who desires to be faithful but by and by the church member who has remained loyal to his Lord is going to rule over the world with the bright and morning star!  Who is the Bright and Morning Star? (Rev. 22:16 It is Jesus Himself!)

CONCLUSION:

Just as the Elijah of old --made God’s people choose between God Almighty…YHWH or the false gods of Jezebel, so here also Jesus wants these Christians to choose between this modern Jezebel or the bright and morning star.  The point is this:  The essence of the church goes far beyond the time we are in this building.  It MUST be,  in effect and extend into our whole lives, all week long, or it is absolutely worthless!  My dear friend, brother, and sister.  When we walk out of this building today the church of CRCC goes away.  And it goes where ever you go.  If you go home to have dinner today after church, that’s where CRCC goes. If you go out to dinner-- to a restaurant, Guess what?  CRCC just goes to dinner.  If you go to a Movie that contains filth, lewd language, nudity and promotes an satanic agendas… Unfortunately, CRCC just went in there  with you.  It isn’t just with me…. The Preacher. It isn’t just the Elders, where they go and what they do.  It isn’t just where our Deacons go. Or our Sunday School teachers, Or our other Pastors… Yes, they represent CRCC. But so do you. What you say at work… The words you use at work.  The language you speak. The attitudes you display All represent CRCC but more importantly they represent Jesus Christ.  If someone you know professes to be a Christian, but lives the life of compromise all week long, lets be instrumental in restoring such a person in the spirit of gentleness, as Paul commands. 

Let’s not be a tolerant church, tolerance in the bad sense.  Let’s be an accountable and faithful Church for all seven days of our week all 52 weeks of the year all the rest of our years we have left. So that when Jesus calls up CRCC and you step up with the rest of us he will call all of us… You and me and each one of us to be true and faithful.


----

[1]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984.

[2]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984.

[3]The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), 1 Ki 16:30-31.

[4]The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), 1 Ki 18:4.

[5]The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), 1 Ki 18:19.

[6]The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), 1 Ki 19:1-2.

[7]The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), 1 Ki 21:5-7.

[8]The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), 1 Ki 21:14-15.

[9]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984.

[10]The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), Jas 5:19-20.

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