Thyatira, A Corrupted Church Revelation 2d
Stephen Caswell © 2004
The Pope And The Angelic Doctor
The story is often told of how Thomas Aquinas the Angelic Doctor once visited Pope Innocent IV. The pope showed him the rich treasures of the Roman church and boasted that the time has gone when the church was saying, Silver and gold have I none. Yes, replied the saintly doctor, and the time has gone when the church could say to the lame man at the temple gate, Rise up and walk. The Church had become rich materially but poor spiritually. Riches led the Church into apostasy. No longer did they offer salvation through Jesus Christ. The Church had become corrupt.
Last week we saw Pergamos, a Compromising Church. This morning we will see the Church at Thyatira, a Corrupted Church. The compromise that started at Pergamos spread among the believers in the fellowship. Sin left unchecked has a way of spreading like yeast in a loaf of bread. Again we will see four things about this Church: The Correspondent, The Commendation, The Condemnation and The Counsel.
1. The Correspondent
Revelation 2:18: And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write.
a. The City
· Thyatira was located 40 miles inland and S.E. of Pergamos and 30 miles from Sardis.
· The city was recognized for its abundant agriculture, wool and dye industries.
· The city boasted an impressive temple to Apollo, the sun god.
· The name Thyatira, Θυάτειρα, means, a perpetual sacrifice or continual offering.
· It was well known as a commercial center with many trade guilds; like our unions.
· Wherever the trade guilds were found, idolatry and immorality were always present.
· A female oracle called Sambathēg presided over a lucrative fortune-telling business.
b. The Church
· The longest letter was sent to the church in the smallest city! A severe rebuke!
· The Church may have been started by Lyddia a woman Paul converted in Philippi.
· She and her whole family believed. They were from the city of Thyatira.
· The fault with this Church was similar to Pergamos, tolerance of evil in the Church.
· They allowed a false prophetess to seduce God’s people into idolatry and immorality.
· This describes the Church age known as the dark ages; from 606AD to 1520 AD.
· Attlus the III, Priest King of Babylon persuaded Constantine to unite Church and state.
· Constantine promoted Bishops over the Roman Church and gave them great power.
· These false teachers promoted Catholic doctrines that took presidence over the Bible.
· Catholic doctrines and teachings are known as Cannon Law and cannot be changed.
· Prayers for the dead, prayers to Mary and the saints, purgatory, indulgences, confessional, the Mass, the sacraments, papal infallibility were adopted by the Church.
· To accommodate all the pagans in the Church, pagan practices were introduced.
c. Jesus Christ
Revelation 2:18b: These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass:
Why does Jesus Christ introduce Himself as the Son of God here? It’s the only time this title is used in the book of Revelation. The Lord was reminding them of His deity and power. The pagans in Thyatira boasted a special temple to Apollo, the sun god whom they worshipped. The Lord Jesus Christ was setting the account straight. He is the True Son of God. There is a second reason. In chapter 1:13-15 Christ is described in similar terms except that He is called the Son of Man. That description emphasized His compassion, here His deity is emphasized. Unfortunately the Church tolerated sin.
Therefore, John had to deliver a message of severe warning and judgment, which explains the description of the Lord’s eyes and feet. This pictures the Son of God in judgment. His eyes are like a flame of fire, searching them out, and His feet are like burnished brass, which represents judgment. He is able to crush the wicked under His feet. The Lord is coming in power to bring judgment.
Jesus Christ sees our lives. All is laid bare before the One with Whom we have to account to! He knows our works. What does He see? Will He come to us in compassion as the Son of Man or in judgment as the Son of God?
2. The Commendation
Revelation 2:19: I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.
Works, ἔργον, are the credentials of real believers. There were many who lived spotless lives and by their good works adorned the Christian doctrine. Good works are the result of the new birth since faith without works is dead. Titus 3:8: This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
It was a church in which there was love, ἀγάπη, in spite of the fact that it had gone in for ritualism. There were some wonderful saints of God during that period: Bernard of Clairvaux, Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe, John Huss, Savonarola, and Anselm.
These men lived graciously before a corrupt Papal Church. John 13:34-35: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
Ministry, διακονία is service. It means to be a servant, a deacon, to help, to wait on tables. These believers were happy to serve one another. No doubt their love for Christ motivated this. Galatians 5:13: For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Though faith, πίστις, is placed after works and love in this instance, it is the source of their works and love. They took God at His word and lived accordingly. Their faith wasn’t dead but alive. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Faith And Works
A minister talked to a professing Christian. He asked if he was active in a local church. The man responded, No, but the dying thief wasn’t active in a church and yet he was still accepted. The minister then asked if he had been baptized. The man responded, the dying thief was not baptized and he still made it to heaven. The minister then asked if he had partaken of the Lord’s Table. The man responded, No, but the dying thief didn’t either, and Christ still received him. The minister then commented: The only difference between you and the dying thief is that he was dying in his belief and you are dead in yours.
Patience, ὑπομονή, is endurance under pressure in those days of darkness. The true saints didn’t give up even though corruption was all around them. Hebrews 10:36: For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
William Carey, overcame many set backs. At one point his printing shop, presses and all years of translation work was lost in a fire. When asked about his great accomplishments in his work of translating the Bible into Indian languages and dialects, said: I am not a genius, just a plodder. But what a plodder! In forty years of labor, he translated all or portions of the Bible into 45 of the languages and dialects of India. He persevered in his works and his service increased over the years of his life. Can this be said of us?
The believers in Thyatira were a busy lot! They were involved in sacrificial ministry for the sake of others. What’s more, their works were increasing and characterized by faith, love, and patience; so the church was not guilty of mere religious activity. All five virtues are produced within the believer by the Holy Spirit. Does Christ see these virtues in us?
3. The Condemnation
Revelation 2:20: Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
The Lord had similar complaints against Pergamos and Thyatira. They both tolerated evil people in their midst. But you say, shouldn’t we reach out to the lost? Yes. But we mustn’t imitate them or allow them to promote wickedness in the Church through their teaching. Christ identifies the leader of this as a self proclaimed prophetess named Jezebel. Remember Thyatira was well known for a female oracle called the Sambathēg who presided over a lucrative fortune-telling business. This preoccupation with female-centered religion may have led the church to accept the corrupt ministry of Jezebel.
It is interesting to contrast the churches at Ephesus and Thyatira. The Ephesian church was weakening in its love, yet faithful to judge false teachers; while the people in the assembly at Thyatira were growing in their love, but too tolerant of false doctrine. Both extremes must be avoided in the church. We are told to speak the truth in love.
Ahab King of Israel married Jezebel from Sidon. She in turn introduced Baal worship to Israel. Jezebel built temples to Baal and appointed 900 priests to teach the people and promote the religion. She also killed the Lord’s prophets. This self-proclaimed prophetess at Thyatira named Jezebel led God’s servants into sin. Seduce, πλανάω means, to err, to go astray, a fundamental departure from the truth. Just as Jezebel in the OT had corrupted God’s people through idolatry, this woman taught that Christians could engage in these practices without sinning. In verse 24 these teachings are called the depths of Satan. She taught that it was okay for Christians to participate in idolatry.
Perhaps Jezebel encouraged the believers to join the trade guilds of Thyatira. This made it easy for people to work and trade in the community. Thyatira was the headquarters for many ancient guilds: the potters’, tanners’, weavers’, robe makers’, and dyers’ guilds. It was the center of the dyeing industry. This is where the labor unions must have originated! Trade guilds were like unions and had considerable power. However joining these guilds involved honoring the guild god or goddess and participating in festivals where food was sacrificed to idols.
Members of the guilds worshipped and gave their allegiance to these false gods. Jezebel doubtless justified this compromise with the world on the ground that it would allegedly advance the cause of the church.
Samson was the strongest man to ever live. Yet he was easily overcome. Not by the enemy without but the enemy with in. Samson was conquered by his own passions and desires. Pagan festivals involved idol worship, eating food sacrificed to idols and immorality. Jezebel brought these things into the Church by promoting these feasts. She herself committed adultery with the members of the Church. Tragically God’s people didn’t judge this sin and it spread amongst the fellowship. God graciously gave this evil woman time to repent of her sin, but she wouldn’t. The Church at Thyatira had backslidden into apostasy. The Church was filled with a mixture of faithful saints, sinning saints and absolute pagans. Therefore, Christ had to judge this apostate Church.
The Roman Catholic Church
The church at Thyatira is representative of Romanism, which takes us into the Dark Ages from a.d. 590 to approximately a.d. 1520. Pagan practices and idolatry were mingled with Christian works and worship. Statues and pictures of Jesus Christ, Mary, Joseph, the apostles and saints were placed in the Church buildings. Soon, people prayed to them and worshipped them. The papacy was elevated to a place of secular power under Gregory. The enforced celibacy of priests and nuns led to immorality amongst the leadership. Idolatry and immorality are still prevalent in this apostate religion today.
The introduction of rituals, tradition and church law replaced personal faith in Jesus Christ. Church law was placed above the Bible. Worship of the Virgin and Child and the Mass were made a definite part of the church service. The participation in idolatrous feasts can illustrate the false teaching that the Lord’s Supper is another sacrifice of Christ every time it is celebrated. Remember Thyatira means continual sacrifice. Purgatory became a positive doctrine, and Mass was said for the dead. The spurious documents labeled Donation of Constantine and Decretals of Isidore were circulated to give power and rulership to the pope. As Jezebel killed Naboth and persecuted God’s prophets, so the Roman church instituted the Inquisition against true believers.
Beware of false doctrine. Jezebel brought immorality and idolatry into the Church through her teaching. The pope, bishops and priests in the Catholic Church have led it into apostasy. False prophets, teachers and false ministers abound today. O how we must be so careful.
Do you have any idols? The Catholic Church worship statues, pictures and relics. But anything that takes God’s place is an idol. Do you idolize celebrities like Footballers, Cricketers or Rock N Roll stars? Remember the TV show Australian Idol?
Our jobs, carreers or possessions can be idols. Homes, cars, boyfriends or girlfriends, bikes and boats can become idols. Anything that comes before God is an idol. It’s dangerous to measure ourselves with other believers. Does God have first place or not?
Beloved be careful concerning sexual immorality. Sexual immorality starts in the mind. A lustful look, an immoral desire, a suggestive remark can all lead to terrible sin. David King of Israel was a man after God’s own heart. Yet he fell this way. Ask yourself, would Christ approve of this thought, that TV show, rock ‘n’ roll song, or movie, that joke, that magazine or book, your internet sights? Let’s be careful with what we allow into our minds. Our thoughts will lead to deeds. Christ said to lust is to commit adultery.
4. The Counsel
Revelation 2:21-23: And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
Christ would judge them before others became infected by this sin. He had given Jezebel and her followers time to repent. They refused to, so judgment must come to these wicked people. Christ can’t allow this kind of sin to go unpunished because it brings His holy name into disrepute. When a Church goes into apostasy the only thing to be done for it is judgment. God punishes sin so that it won’t corrupt everyone else. The Lord said that He would put Jezebel and her adulterous partners into a sick bed. He would bring great tribulation upon them unless they repent. I believe that this refers to sexually transmitted diseases. Sin has tragic consequences. Repentance was their only hope.
Christ also warned that He would kill her children. This probably refers to all those who follow her teaching. The text literally says I will kill her children with death. This probably refers to the second death or hell. All the Churches would know that God had judged them like this and fear Him. All the churches refers to the church of all the ages. Christ searches the hearts and minds of people and rewards them according to their works. When He searches the reins and the hearts, it means He searches our entire beings.
The Catholic Church
The Lord Jesus Christ has patiently dealt with this false system for over a thousand years, and there has been no real change down through the centuries in this system. In fact, Rome boasts that she never changes — semper idem, always the same. In chapter 17 we see that she has become a harlot. The Roman Catholic Church have had a problem with immorality and idolatry through out the ages. They have also borne the consequences of such sin, diseases, unwanted pregnancies. This apostate church will go into the Great Tribulation.
Revelation 2:24-25: Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come.
From verse 24 on Christ addresses the pastor at Thyatira and the faithful saints who hadn’t been corrupted yet. They hadn’t known the depths of Satan. This refers to those who held out against Jezebel, not necessarily a minority. This group held on to the truth. They didn’t listen to this false prophetess. Therefore Jesus Christ didn’t burden them any further. They had kept themselves pure from these evils.
Christ told them they were on the right track. Christ simply wanted them to hold fast in their resistance to evil. It didn’t matter if others sinned they mustn’t. Like Shadrach, Meschack and Abednego they mustn’t bow down to idols. Judgment on Jezebel and her followers would come soon and would purge the church. Jesus Christ asked them to stand firm to the truth even though others were going astray. Tragically this number increased over time. It would cost many saints their life as the Church became even more corrupt.
The Carnage Went On
50 Million Christians were put to death in the Dark Ages by Rome in her effort to keep unity. In Spain, 1 ½ Million died in the Spanish Inquisition. And one does not have to go back to the Dark Ages to see a demonstration of this principle. In the 1940s and 1950s, hundreds of Christians died at the hands of Rome in Columbia, South America. Many of these were burnt as heretics and witches. All because they wouldn’t worship the host, the wafer that was supposedly changed into the body of Christ.
Revelation 26-29: He who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations, he shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels as I also have received 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.
Christ promises believers who are faithful that they will join Him in His millennial rule. The word in verse 27 translated rule, ποιμαίνω means to shepherd, indicating that they will not simply be administering justice but will also, like a shepherd using his rod, be dealing with his sheep and protecting them as well. Overcomers are promised that they will reign with Christ for a 1000 years. In addition, the faithful will receive the morning star, which appears just before the dawn. Jesus Christ is the Bright and Morning Star. Revelation 22:16. The promise in verse 28 suggests that God’s people shall be so closely identified with Christ that He will belong to them! This would be a great encouragement to people living in the Dark Ages.
This may refer to participation in the Rapture of the church before the dark hours preceding the dawn of the millennial kingdom. The Morning star appears shortly before dawn. This represents the rapture. The Sun of Righteousness appears at the beginning of a new day. This represents the Second Coming of Christ to reign. In between the two appearances of Christ the Great Tribulation takes place.
No one here attends pagan festivals. We don’t bow down to idols. But this doesn’t mean that we can’t succumb to idolatry. Anything that’s more important to us than God becomes an idol. The Lord won’t tolerate idolatry. If you have an idol in your life you need to repent of it. God also condemns all sexual immorality. He calls us to be pure and devoted to Him. This refers to our thought life as well as our deeds! If you have fallen into sexual sin you must repent of it and then live pure lives for Christ.
Rev 22:20-21: He who testifies to these things says, Surely I am coming quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.