Word of Encouragement- The Church of Thyatira: “Perseverance and Purity”

 

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”- Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22

 

“…We make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God…”- 2 Corinthians 5:9b-11a

 

Dear Beloved of the LORD at KCPC: I am writing short messages on the seven churches for our Word of Encouragement so that we might better assess where we are spiritually as a congregation, show us areas that need to be realigned with God’s Word, and how we might more effectively and sincerely make it our aim to please the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

If you would like to read the introduction to this short series, you may read here: Word of Encouragement

 

What are our strengths and weaknesses as a congregation? How can we ask God to better search and know us corporately? How are we doing at KCPC as a visible manifestation of Christ’s Kingdom on earth? Are we loving God and others as we did when we were first saved and gathered as Christ’s flock?

 

We will focus today on Jesus’ message to the Church at Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29):

ESV Revelation 2:18-29: “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. 19 “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20 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. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 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, 23 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 as your works deserve. 24 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. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 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. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

 

As we learned in our introduction to this series, it is important to remind ourselves that these seven congregations of the Revelation were real historical churches at the time that John the Apostle wrote his Revelation of Jesus Christ.  However, we want to understand that they are also symbolic of the entire church age between Jesus’ first and second coming.

 

This means that what Jesus says to the churches, we need to consider soberly for ourselves.  Jesus is still speaking to us (Hebrews 12:25).  Jesus is particularly speaking to His people in these letters as a corporate body and congregation of confessional Christians, and not merely as individuals. This is why it is good to use these letters to be assessed by Christ as we seek to grow in him as a body.

 

Dear Ketoctin Covenant Presbyterian Church…Dear Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ, in Purcellville, Virginia: We are called as Christ’s bride to PERSEVERANCE AND PURITY.

 

Dear Thyatira”: Jesus’ primary message to the congregation at Thyatira is: Congregations who profess the Name of Christ cannot tolerate heresy and false teaching of any kind lest the entire body be contaminated. Thyatira was a faithful congregation and growing in grace (2:19), but were being tempted to compromise and tolerate sin. Christ Jesus commends the congregation to persevere in good works, and to purify the heresy and sinfulness from within.

 

How is Christ revealed as the Lord of Glory to this church? The Risen-Ascended Jesus is described as “The words of the Son of God who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze” (2:18; cf. 1:14-15). Jesus is being revealed here to Thyatira in the way that the Prophet Daniel saw in a vision:

 

ESV Daniel 10:6 His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude.

 

Jesus’ eyes like a “flame of fire” or “flaming torches” shows forth the purity by which Christ sees all things.  With pure eyes Christ sees clearly the human heart and condition before him at all times (John 2:24-25). Jesus is the gracious, yet pure Searcher of our hearts.

 

Jesus is He who searches mind and heart. “…I am He who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve” (2:23).

 

ESV Jeremiah 17:9-10: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind,to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

 

What does Jesus see in our hearts when we gather for worship at KCPC? Do we seek to constantly self-evaluate our own hearts in light of His pure gaze and holy vision? What does Christ see in our hearts (in ‘my’ heart; it so much easier trying to judge others’ hearts, isn’t it?)? It is important to consider constantly our hearts before God, trusting in Christ’s righteousness alone to save, and his shed blood to cleanse us from sinfulness.

 

Do we seek to confess our sins to Him knowing He will forgive us and cleanse us and make us pure? (1 John 1:8ff; 3:1-3). We are taught to purify ourselves as He is pure because we have been made the children of God by grace.

 

What do the feet of bronze symbolize? This instructs us that we can be secure in Jesus’ presence because He is All-Powerful.   All power is under Jesus’ feet and all kingdoms and peoples who oppose him will one day be destroyed. Jesus is not only All-Pure, but All-Powerful and in this we can hope and trust. We have one who can see our hearts and the needs of our hearts, and one who is All-Powerful and able to change us by His grace, through His Spirit and word.

 

Jesus says: “I know your works…” (2:19a). Our works for Christ reveal what is truly in our hearts, both good things and bad things.  Our works are not meritorious, but they reveal our true condition before God.  What comes out, must be in (cf. Matt. 15:18-20).

It is important to note particularly in the Book of Revelation that the Book is written to the saints who profess faith in Christ alone for salvation, and that it often speaks of our works as how we will be judged. This is not to say that salvation is by works because Revelation is written to recipients of God’s grace found in Christ alone. But it is to say that our works show that we are truly those who are believers (see Revelation Rev. 2:2; 2:5-6; 3:1-2; 3:15; 9:20; 18:6; 19:8).

 

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”– Revelation 14:13

“Our deeds follow us” (cf. Rev. 2:23). This means that it is vitally important to remember that Christ is the one who has pure eyes of fire and sees our hearts, and to seek Him for grace now for our needs, so that we can produce the works and deeds from pure hearts that have been strengthened by His grace!

 

What are our works like at KCPC? At Thyatira, the works were good. But there was much more that they needed to consider that was in their hearts. Jesus wants to get at some of their works and deeds that were inconsistent with their profession, and to bring them to repentance! How grace Jesus is in His ministry to His congregations!

 

The congregation at Thyatira is a congregation that had a good reputation as a Church; the congregation’s works/deeds were overall commendable, and they were persevering, but there was need of repentance.

 

Thyatira was a congregation of saints that we would think highly of today. The congregation is described as loving, have strong faith, practice service to each other, and endure patiently.  They are extremely commendable as a congregation of saints.

 

“I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that you’re growing (your latter works exceed your first)…” (2:19), they are nevertheless compromising and tolerating sin and were not honestly seeking to remove the heretical error that was deceiving and misleading some of the members.

 

This error was leading to impurity in the congregation.

 

The congregation was showing forth the love of Jesus from their hearts that had been blessed by God’s grace and love.  But they should have searched their hearts a bit more.  In their loving acts, their hearts were mixed with sinful motives.  These sinful and impure motives desired to be loving, but they are also were unfortunately tolerant of error.

 

Perhaps they believed that being loving meant one can overlook certain sins. Perhaps grace/love has been emphasized over truth (while the congregation at Ephesus emphasized truth over grace/love if you remember in our previous study).

 

How might we at KCPC be duped into thinking that grace and love overlooks sin? It is important to realize that the grace and love of God seeks to purify and never to compromise with false teaching and practices that can not only harm an individual, but can deceive an entire congregation.

 

Perhaps Thyatira thinks that to love means to overlook and tolerate sin?! While the congregation at Ephesus had sinfully emphasized truth over grace/love, Thyatira was guilty of the sin of emphasizing grace/love over truth (both must be kept in balance by Jesus who is full of both grace and truth, John 1:17).

 

Thyatira had somewhat of a liberal-minded tolerance for sin in its midst. Why?

In order to understand why the congregation was tolerating sin, and compromising the truth, we should seek to better understand the historical background of this congregation: Thyatira was a trading city that was made up of trade guilds.  A trade guild was an association of craftsmen who worked in trades such as wool workers, linen-workers, makers of garments, tanners, leather-workers, potters, those who made dye for clothing (like Lydia in Acts 16:14).

 

Each guild had a “guardian god”. If you were a business person you would also be a trade guild member. Because there was an association with each trade guild with a deity or “guardian god” then you would be required to be involved in guild festivals which included idolatrous feasting and sexual immorality.

 

If you refused these idolatrous activities there would be a loss of real money for you as a Christian.  A commitment to Christ and truth meant a loss of social standing, income, your job. This would affect the welfare of your family. One would have said: “I have to eat!” “Didn’t God call me to this trade?!” “What about the importance of my job and what would happen if I lost my job and that led to hunger, suffering, and persecution?”

 

One could not be a part of a trade guild and **NOT** sacrifice to the deity of that guild. One could not come to the festivals and leave after the feast; they were required to be involved fully in the idolatry and immorality.

 

To continue in the business or trade, one must essentially deny the Lordship of Jesus Christ because of involvement in idolatry.  However, a Christian cannot serve both God and Mammon. The temptation of Thyatira was to be considered significant in worldly power, beauty and wealth? They were being tempted to follow Christ and also hold to the important things of this world such as worldly power, beauty, wealth, and success as the world defines it.

 

If the congregation was to persevere in faithfulness, and to be pure in the sight of God, they would have to choose the Lord Christ as Lord alone, and this would be sacrificial and costly to many within the congregation. There is always a real cost that must be considered when following Jesus in this present evil world system (Luke 14:28).

 

Jesus says: “I have this against you…” (2:20a). This brings us to the problem. In what way specifically was the congregation compromising?  The congregation was tolerating a woman like Jezebel who was not only teaching compromise, but seducing the saints, the very slaves of Christ (2:20). Because they were tolerating this teaching, many in the congregation had become trapped in sexual sins and idolatry because of their trade associations.  This is never loving!

 

Jezebel is probably symbolic or a real woman prophetess or teacher who was leading the people astray.  The name and woman “Jezebel” is biblically symbolic for both idolatry and immorality (1 Kings 16:31).  In the Old Covenant, Jezebel led the Israelites into spiritual adultery and idolatry:

 

ESV 1 Kings 16:31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him.

 

The Prophetess Jezebel (or who she represented) might have said to those within the congregation, involved in the trade guilds something like this:

“If we are going to be witnesses for Jesus, shouldn’t we ‘know our enemy’ and remain in our vocations, not being afraid to go to these festivals?” Her temptation was seductive, and since she was calling herself a prophetess, her words were claimed to be coming “from God” (see Rev. 2:20, 24).

She was apparently teaching others in the congregation that if these Christians were to really engage the enemy then they would need to know the “deep things of Satan”; they would need to know their enemy:

 

ESV Revelation 2:24 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…

This compromise with the world and evil may fool some, but not Christ who “searches mind and heart” (2:23).

 

Jesus tells Thyatira that they must show love by disciplining the offenders, and ridding the church of this compromising heresy and sin against Holy Jesus (Rev. 2:21-23).  The peace and purity of the Church is being threatened.  There has been an appropriate time given for repentance where the prophetess has been given a chance to repent. Again, as before in Pergamum, we see that Jesus has already brought some kind of judgment upon this sinful, seductive teacher and plans to escalate the judgment against her and others if this is not dealt with quickly:

 

ESV Revelation 2:21-23: 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 as your works deserve.

 

This reminds us that we can never participate in evil without becoming evil, and withouttaking part of the temporal judgment upon the evil. We must remove the evil and sin from our midst as a congregation. We must trust God and His purity and power to take care of us in whatever tempting situation we may find ourselves as a congregation and we must never compromise.

In Christ, by His grace and power, we must be loving, gracious and speak the truth against evil, false teaching and seductive sins as a congregation. We must seek to be faithful at all costs.

The Lord Jesus has shown mercy that should have led to repentance: “I gave her time to repent, but she refuses…” (2:21; 2 Peter 3:9). The searcher of minds and hearts knows why discipline has not occurred- -he has read their true motives of their hearts and minds.

 

It seems that the real reason why the Thyatira congregation has overlooked this heinous sin is due to toleration, so that the congregation may avoid unpopularity in the culture that would lead to persecution. This is probably why Jesus threatens to throw her into “great tribulation” (2:22b) reminding the congregation that He is All-Powerful with feet of bronze to rule and reign Sovereignly over His congregations.

 

Thyatira doesn’t want to be unpopular and take a stand for Christ that might lead to persecution.

 

“We wouldn’t do that today!” you might say. But how about our modern idols of power, success, wealth and money? The same sinful hearts that threatened Thyatira’s hearts, still threaten ours. We too, desire to be seen as powerful, successful, and wealthy in the eyes of the world. We rightly want to make a difference in our world, and we often think that it is unloving to speak against evil. We are quick to tolerate sin at times, and we compromise because we think sometimes (wrongfully and sinfully) that it is not loving and gracious; things have not changed a whole lot (and thus why the 7 churches of Revelation are very relevant for us to consider for ourselves).

 

Let’s stop to ponder this for a moment. How might we be tempted as a congregation to do the very same things? Here’s an example: If a famous and powerful politician or a beautiful celebrity and/or a wealthy billionaire of some repute became a member of KCPC we could be tempted in the same way to toleration.

If a politician was a member of KCPC for instance, and had given his testimony and it gave a worldly kind of legitimacy to our congregation, and there was great “success in numbers” and yet was then later caught practicing sexual sin and committing adultery against his wife, it might, it could be a temptation to toleration because we would not want to be unpopular and lose our “spotlight”. We might be tempted to make excuses.

What if the church, fearing bad publicity and detrimental media coverage because of a discipline case against this particular imaginary politician, chose to overlook the sin because we might say “Well, the person is powerful…or a beautiful celebrity…or an extremely wealthy billionaire!”

Would the church be willing to do the truth according to Jesus and discipline them formally in love and according to grace in order to keep the congregation pure? What if the congregation had grown in numbers because of this powerful politician, beautiful celebrity, and/or wealthy man had made the congregation “acceptable” in the eyes of the world (had “put the congregation on the map” as it were).

 

We must remember that God is no respecter of persons; we are to show no partiality (James 2:1-5).  We, too, can easily fall into this temptation, especially in places where idols of power, success, beauty, and wealth are acceptable and enviable by even church folks.  What would happen if we “did the right thing” and disciplined as members a former president of the United States for immorality or a famous celebrity who had recently “come out of the closet” admitting they had a strange sexual orientation?!

 

Would we love truth over tolerance- -no matter how it might affected us? Would we love truth over tolerance no matter what the consequences and persecution that might come from it?

 

Would we at KCPC do the works that Jesus had commanded us to do to uphold the congregation’s purity and holiness before God? 

Not unless we realized that Jesus Christ was our only Lord and King.  We would only do this if we were to recall that Jesus Christ is our only Lord and King and that we were to repent of our sins of loving worldly idols and cultural influence too much!

 

We must confess before Christ, our Lord and King, our desire for too much power, success, beauty and wealth. We must resist this temptation to idolatry even today: Placing the love for something other than Christ first in our lives (this is ultimately what the congregation at Thyatira was doing- -even in the midst of all their other good works!).

 

As Christians in general, and at KCPC in particular, although **now** we are perceived by the culture as weak, insignificant, sometimes poor, and often persecuted, we will reign with Christ! This is our hope! We at KCPC are to live keeping our eyes on Jesus the one whose pure eyes are kept on us! We are to seek to be like Him, and to become like He is, because He has shown mercy, love and grace to us. Our mission is not to be popular, but to be holy- -to be like Jesus!

 

Jesus promises:

ESV Revelation 2:26-28: 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.

 

Jesus is telling us to put our hope in Him alone! Let us trust in His promises because He is Pure, and All-Powerful to do what He said He would do!  When we reign with him for eternity His power, His success, His glorious beauty and wealth will be ours- -and the whole world will realize it!

 

Christ and His Church will rule eternity with a rod of iron with our King (Psa. 2:8-9). The merely worldly “earthen pots” will be broken into pieces as Psalm 2 says (an image that potters at Thyatira would have pictured from their guild). The world is passing away, let us not be tripped up by compromise to sin and devoted to a world under judgment. Rather, let us serve Christ and look forward to the reconciliation of heaven and earth, and the transforming, purifying judgment of fire that will remove all sin from this world and let us dwell with God for all eternity! (Revelation 21:1ff; 2 Peter 3:13-16).

 

If we have Christ who is the Morning Star, and the One who gives himself fully to us, what more could we desire?  We would a congregation, why would we, individually and/or corporately ever seek significance in worldly power, beauty and wealth?

 

Christ gives himself to us now- -He is our significance and the reason why we live each day.  What more could we want? What more could we ever need that we don’t already have in the Lord Jesus Christ?

 

Where are we at KCPC as a congregation apt to be tempted to tolerate sin? Even in the midst of our faithfulness as a congregation, where might we be tempted to tolerate sin without discipline?

 

Jesus say to the congregation: “Focus!”- Get focused on this particular problem. “Hold fast” –seize- take hold of- get a grip on) what you have until I come- -be not deceived by this error.  Jesus focus’ them:

“…To you I say (who has not been deceived), I do not lay on you any other burden…only hold fast…what you have until I come” (2:24b-25).

 

Jesus’ promise to the faithful: He calls His people “Conquerors” (2:26).  The true and faithful of the congregation will be manifested by continuing in God’s truth revealed in Christ (orthodoxy) with grace and love in Jesus (2:26b- “…who keeps my works until the end”).

 

At KCPC, let us live and serve to please Jesus alone. We must remember that to align ourselves with false teachers and false teaching (2:20-23) is to align oneself with the evil and heinous Beast of Revelation (read Revelation 13:11; 16:11; 19:20)- The Beast is the Counterfeit Christ or “Anti-christ”. To engage in immorality and idolatry to power, success, beauty, and/or wealth is to live as a citizen of “Babylon the Great” rather than the “New Jerusalem” (Revelation 18:4-14).

 

The purity of the church is important and although there can be truth without love (Ephesus), there is also a danger in “love” without truth, manifested in compromise, and a worldly tolerance of sin.

 

We may suffer the loss of all things: power, success, beauty, wealth, our social standing, but we can never lose Christ! At His full revelation when he returns, we will gain it all- -inherit the earth!—and we shall rule and reign with him.

 

May these devotional studies of assessment from Jesus using the letters to the seven churches of the Revelation cause us to better align ourselves with His truth, and encourage us all to make it our aim to please Jesus who died for us while we were yet sinners (Rom. 5:6-8).

 

May we live daily as a congregation before the face of Christ and so before the Judgment Seat of Christ. When we all arrive at our destination and we stand as the congregation KCPC before Christ’s Judgment, may these short devotions have better prepared us, so that we can stand confident and encouraged in the Lord Jesus’ presence.

 

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”- Jesus Christ

 

In Jesus’ love,

 

Pastor Charles

 

11/02/11

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