Christ’s Message to the Seven Churches: To the Church in Thyatira
September 13, 2020 (Sunday AM)
Bible Text: Revelation 2:18-29 |
INTRO: Although Thyatira was the smallest of the seven cities, the church received the longest letter from Jesus. Thyatira was a commercial center and one of the greatest trade routes in all of Asia Minor, and Europe. In fact, the location of Thyatira had a road going through it that connected Europe to Asia. So, all goods and commercial traffic went through there, and this made it a significant city. Thyatira was famous for its textiles, especially the production of purple dye and its trade guilds. A Guild is an association of craftsmen or merchants formed to protect the interests of its members. Guilds were an important part of the economic and social fabric of a city. They believed that the way any of these guilds would flourish was by worshipping a patron deity (god). The most famous deity that was worshipped in all of Thyatira was the Greek god, Apollo. Apollo was known as, "the son of Zeus." His nickname was, "the son of god."
The way the citizens of the city would invoke the blessing of the gods upon their trade or vocation was to participate in these parties called, "guild feasts." These guild feasts were sinful parties. Their worship of Apollo included taking an animal (with their guild) and go down to the temple of Apollo and kill that animal as a sacrifice and offer it up as an act of worship. After this, their entire guild would take the flesh of the animal and eat it as another act of worship by eating the food offered up as a sacrifice to Apollo.
When they finished eating the meal they would go to the living room of someone's house to sit in various couch-beds that they'd recline in. As they were reclining the servants came in and served them wine until they got drunk, and then they participated in all kinds of sexual experiences as an act to Apollo. Sick!
If you didn't participate in these deviant guild feasts you ran the risk of offending the gods. If you offended the gods they might not pour out their blessing on your guild, which means that your trade wouldn't flourish and you wouldn't make any money. And if you didn't have any money, how would you provide your family? So, as you can imagine, the pressure was heavy on them to participate- and also tolerate those in this sinful lifestyle. This is exactly where the church of Thyatira finds themselves in this strong temptation and struggle. I share this with you because it helps you to understand how difficult it must have been to be a Christian living in that city. As we'll see, the church of Thyatira becomes a church that tolerates idolatry and immorality. It's not only a tolerant church, but a church of compromise.
I. Commendation (v.19) "I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in these things."
Notice that Jesus gives four areas of commendation (praise) to the church. He says "I know your... Deeds, Love, Faith, Service, and Perseverance. These are great qualities! What Christian wouldn't want these qualities operating in their life... in our churches? Jesus commends them in all five of these qualities and then tells them that the deeds they're doing now are even better and greater than the deeds they did at the beginning. He says, you're growing in these qualities. So, what's the problem? They become tolerant in the things that Jesus is not tolerant of.
II. Criticism (v.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."
The church in Thyatira had the tendency to tolerate sin, unrighteousness, and unbiblical teaching. They may have accepted false teachers because they claimed to "speak for God."
Who is Jezebel, and why does Jesus bring up her name in v. 20? Jezebel is referred to in the books of I & II Kings. She was an evil woman who was very manipulative and persuasive. Jesus is most likely using her name here symbolically for a false prophetess who led people into both literal and spiritual adultery and also persecution. Jezebel tries to convince the church to basically sell out to the world and participate in these immoral acts. She's trying to convince them she is a prophetess speaking on behalf of God, and says it's okay to worship Yahweh and Baal. "It's okay to worship Jesus and Apollo." "After all, aren't we supposed to be a 'tolerant' church that embraces everything and everyone?" Unfortunately, today tolerance means that "you cannot say that anybody is wrong." "Everyone's beliefs are equal." "All truth is relative." And that means "tolerant" people are intolerant of Christians. Boy, have things changed!
III. Instruction (v. 21-25)
The church that refuses to repent of this kind of tolerant compromise of embracing immorality in the name of "tolerance" and "love" will suffer the consequences of doing so. They'll experience a season of suffering and pain because they will not repent. Jesus said, "I will repay each of you according to your deeds" (v.23).
IV. Promise (v. 25) Jesus tells those who don't hold to Jezebel's teaching or follow her ways, "... hold tightly to what you have until I come." Jesus is saying, no matter what happens, hold fast to the end. Don't tolerate what Jesus wouldn't tolerate. And the thing that will help carry us to the end is Jesus' promise (v.26, Amplified version)- "And he who overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God] and who keeps My deeds [doing the things that please Me] until the [very] end, to him I will give authority and power over the nations." Jesus is quoting from Psalm 2. He's basically saying, "those of you who lost everything I'm going to give you Myself." Jesus is the greatest gift!
(v.28) "They will have the same authority I received from My Father, and I will also give them the morning star." This is referring to the presence of Jesus. Jesus is referred to as the morning star in (Numbers 24; 2 Peter 1; Revelation 22). The greatest gift that the church receives that lost everything through persecution is that we get Jesus Himself. We get the presence of Jesus with us forever! This is our ultimate reward.
CONCLUSION: The Church today needs to walk in truth and discernment. Without truth and discernment we can be lured away and become corrupt. Let's not disregard the truth of God's Word and do whatever we want to do. Compromise and tolerance are two buzz words today. Sadly, they've been redefined and as a result we begin to tolerate what Jesus doesn't tolerate and compromise with the world by embracing its standards. The church of Thyatira was dealing with this. Let's not be a church of all love and no truth. Let's hold fast to the love of God, but also hold fast to the truth of God. What is the Holy Spirit saying to you? "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."