Grace For The Journey
We continue our study through the Book of Revelation, going verse-by-verse through this final book of the Bible in which God brings to completion His great plan and program for mankind. You will remember the three-fold outline derived from chapter 1, verse 19. Jesus gives to John a three-point outline of the book. He says, “Write down the things which you have seen (chapter 1), the things which are (chapters 2 and 3), and the things which will take place after this (chapters 4 and following). So in chapter 2 we continue to look at “the things which are.” We are looking at the seven churches in Asia Minor during John’s day. Thus far we have looked at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum. This morning, we look at the church at Thyatira. And as we read about the church at Thyatira, we see once again that Jesus also has a word for the church that we are a member of.
Jesus is doing the speaking here. He is going over the X-Ray report of the health of the church. He sees beyond the superficial. He sees directly inside the church and reports about the church’s health and gives the church’s prognosis. Remember the pattern as we study . . .
- Jesus identifies Himself in a way that speaks to the particular need of each individual church;
- Then He provides a word of commendation – something good the church is doing;
- This is followed by a word of condemnation – something bad the church is doing.
- This is followed by a word of correction and exhortation – something for the church to do that will lead to reward.
Recently I was reminded of some famous words spoken by former tennis pro John McEnroe. They are the words, “You cannot be serious.” John McEnroe was known for saying that phrase an awful lot on the tennis court, so much so that he even titled his recent memoir, You Cannot Be Serious. McEnroe would hit a ball he thought was inside the court and the judge would call it out, or his opponent would hit a ball back to him that McEnroe thought was outside and the judge would call it in. And McEnroe would frequently take issue with the judge by saying, “You Cannot Be Serious!”
As I read the X-Ray reports of the health of these churches, I wonder whether our Lord Jesus may have just as easily said a time or two, “You cannot be serious.” The most helpful exercise for us as a church body is to consider what our Lord Jesus would say to us if He were going over our own X-Ray report. What we learn as we read about the church in Thyatira is that there are some things we should be taking very seriously. I want you to see them with me . . .
I. We Must Take Seriously The Christian’s Maturity: Verses 18-19.
Verse 18 states, “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass.” Jesus is described as the One who has “eyes like a flame of fire” and “feet like fine brass.” These two descriptions refer to the omniscience and omnipotence of Jesus Christ. The phrase, “Feet like fine brass” refers to our exalted Lord’s strength and power. He is all-powerful: omnipotent. The phrase “Eyes like a flame of fire” refers to our Lord’s burning, piercing, and penetrating eyes of judgment. He is all-knowing: omniscient. His eyes can see right through our superficial selves; He can hear the thoughts and see intents of our hearts. Someone has said, “There is the person you think you are; there is the person others think you are; but then there is the person the Lord knows you are.” You and I may cover up who we really are when we are around others, but the Lord knows. He knows all things. He has “eyes like a flame of fire.”
In verse 19 Jesus says, “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.” These are good works: love, service, faith, and patience (actually the correct order in the Greek text is love and faith, service, and patience (or endurance). The phrase I want you to underline there is where Jesus says, “as for your works, the last are more than the first.” That is Jesus’ way of saying, “You are growing spiritually; you are maturing in spiritual faith.” We must take seriously the Christian’s maturity. Jesus expects Christians to grow in the faith. He expects us to “grow up” in our faith.
It is a shame that some Christians seem to never grow up, they just grow older in their faith.
A person can be in his 80s, a member of a church all his or her life, and still be a “babe in Christ.” When we receive Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ expects us to grow spiritually. We should be reading our Bibles regularly, learning more and more and more about Jesus. As an old song tells us, “More about Jesus would I know; More of His grace to others show.” The church in Thyatira took this seriously. They were known as a church that was growing spiritually.
Jesus says, “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you.” Or we could say, “these good works notwithstanding.” I like that word, “notwithstanding.” I read about a little boy who was told to use the word “notwithstanding” in a sentence. He said, “I wore-out the seat of my trousers, but notwithstanding!” Well . . . nevertheless . . . notwithstanding these good works, Jesus says, “I have few things against you.” This statement takes us to our next action point.
Secondly . . .
II. We Must Take Seriously the Christian’s Theology: Verses 20-25.
Christian theology is studying what the Bible teaches about the things of God. We learn about these things so that we may live-out these things where God has placed us.
Theology helps us live
According to God’s Word
As we live in this world.
The Christians in Thyatira lived in a city well-known for its trade guilds or labor unions. Thyatira was a bustling business city of commerce. People who lived in Thyatira were members of special guilds in accordance to their trades. For example, there were bakers, potters, shoemakers, bronze smiths, leatherworkers, and makers of wool, linen, and those who dyed garments. There were a number of people who were employed in the work of purple dye. You remember reading in Acts 16 about Lydia of Thyatira. Lydia is described there as “a seller of purple.” This dye was very costly. The dye was obtained by catching a shellfish and slitting its throat. The drops of purple from that shellfish were used to dye garments. It was very expensive – a pound of purple dye costing somewhere around 3-year’s wages of the average working man.
Each of these trades had a particular guild, a special kind of labor union, in accordance to each trade. If you were going to be successful in Thyatira, you belonged to one of these guilds. These guilds were the center of social life as well as business life. That may not sound too bad, but . . .
What made belonging to these guilds bad
Was what its members were expected to do.
Remember that the Greek and Roman culture in John’s day was a culture saturated with the worship of false gods and goddesses. History tells us that each of these labor guilds had its own particular god or goddess. Members of the guilds would frequently participate in certain feasts and festivals wherein the gods and goddesses were worshiped as part of the feasts. If you did not participate in these feasts it was bad for business. How would you like to try to earn a living as a Christian in Thyatira?
If you were going to “make it” in the business world in Thyatira, you were under a lot of pressure to compromise some of your beliefs. There arose within the church a teacher who began to teach that it was okay to do this. She taught that participating in these worship feasts of false gods and goddesses was really no big deal. The church sinned by allowing her to teach this false doctrine. Jesus identifies this false teacher by the symbolic name, Jezebel:
Verse 20 says, “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.” Jezebel is a symbolic name, symbolic of the Jezebel of the Old Testament. You can read of her in 1 Kings 16 and 2 Kings 9. Jezebel is the wicked Phoenician wife of Ahab who led the Northern Kingdom of Israel into idolatry and immorality. Jesus refers here to a woman in the church who “calls herself a prophetess.” In other words, “I have not called her into the ministry. She has called herself. She is a false teacher, teaching a false theology. She is seducing My servants to commit sexual immorality and things sacrificed to idols.
Members of these guilds participated in feasts that centered upon the worship of false gods or goddesses. The false teaching of “Jezebel” was a teaching that approved of this practice. In essence, Jezebel said, “Hey, it is okay to participate in these feasts. Remember, it is good for business. So just do it. God knows your heart. It is okay. God will understand.” Well, it is not okay.
Jesus states in verse 21, “And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.” God’s judgment is not immediate. As the Bible says in 2 Peter 3:9, “God is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” But this false teacher did not repent.
Jesus then declares in verse 22, “Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. God says, “I will punish this false teacher by casting her into a sickbed.” That is, “I will send an illness to her and to those who follow her teaching.” They will suffer “great tribulation.” This is not THE “Great Tribulation” of Revelation chapters 6-16, but rather a general, but serious time of affliction. God sends affliction to His people in order to bring about repentance. The Bible asks in Hebrews 12:8, “What son is there whom a father does not discipline?” God disciplines us because He loves us.
Jesus goes on to say in verse 23, “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.” This is a strong Hebraism. God says, “I will strike her children dead.” There is a sin unto physical death for the unrepentant Christian. We are reminded of 1 Corinthians 11 that the Bible says that God brought about an early death to those who were flippantly participating in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). God takes seriously the false teacher and so should we.
False teachers and teachings have plagued the Christian church for over 2,000 years. Like Jezebel in Thyatira, other false teachers have been women. Ellen White “called herself a prophetess” and perverted Christianity in forming the Seventh Day Adventists. Mary Baker Eddy “called herself a prophetess” and perverted Christianity by forming the Church of Christian Science. But men have also “called themselves prophets” and perverted Christianity such as, Joseph Smith of Mormonism, and Charles Russell of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The church at Thyatira sinned by allowing this false teacher to teach. Our Lord Jesus Christ will be just as angry with us if we allow just anyone to teach here at our church family at First Baptist. We must take seriously the Christian’s theology. Paul did. That is why he said in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”
I’m glad that our Minister of Bible Study, Discipleship, and Missions, has renewed our teacher’s covenant, asking each Sunday School teacher to take seriously the sacred task of teaching Christian theology through our Bible Study Ministry and agree to teach in agreement with our church’s doctrinal statement. Our Bible Study teachers are expected to teach in accordance to the Baptist Faith and Message and they are expected to live godly lives of superior moral conduct. We must take seriously the Christian’s theology.
Christians today are equally tempted to set aside their convictions in the interest of business. It is tempting to seek the approval and acclaim of the secular world. We are tempted to engage in behavior that we are told is “good for business.” An employer invites employees to participate in certain “office parties” where highly questionable conduct is on the agenda. Whether you really follow the Lord Jesus Christ or whether you just use the language of Christianity will be determined by whether, or how, you conduct yourself at those functions.
The people of Thyatira were members of special guilds and worshiped the false gods in their feasts. You and I are members of a special guild called “the Body of Christ.” We are instructed in Scripture to partake of the Lord’s Supper wherein we will worship and declare our gratitude and allegiance to the One True Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
III. We Must Take Seriously the Christian’s Eternity – Verses 26-29.
Jesus says in verses 24 and 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.” They were to stick with it . . . Keep on keepin’ on. I do not know who said it first, but it is a good statement: “The faith that finally fizzles at the finish was faulty from the first.” Hold fast what you have.
Jesus declares in verses 26 and 27, “And 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.” Christians will rule with the Lord Jesus Christ during the spectacular time of the Millennium (Revelation 20:1-6).
Then Jesus says in verse 28, “And I will give him the morning star.” What is the “morning star?” The better question is, “Who is the Morning Star?” In Revelation 22:16, our Lord Jesus identifies Himself as, “The Root and Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
In Revelation 22:16, we have one of the most interesting names as Jesus calls Himself, “the bight “and morning star.” This was to fulfil a prophecy, given all the way back in the Old Testament by the prophet Balaam, who said in Numbers 24:17, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel.” Jesus does not refer to Himself as a “star.” He is not just a star among many stars …He is unique and there is no one else like Him! Instead, He called Himself, “The Bright Morning Star!” The wise men used a star as a point of reference. They were trying to find a certain place and a certain person! For thousands of years, mariners and travelers have used the stars as a guide and as a point of reference. By using this title, Jesus wanted us to understand that He is our point of reference and sure guide!
In Biblical times and in early astronomy the “Morning Star” was the brightest star a person saw in the sky – just before daylight . . . but today we know that this “bright morning star” is actually not a star at all. Instead, it is the planet Venus as it appears before sunrise in the western sky. Many still refer to it as “the morning star!” We have already said that the morning star is unique in that it is not a star at all but the planet Venus. Some say that Venus is unique among the planets of our solar system. It is not the closest planet to our sun, yet it is the hottest. But there is something even more unique about this planet! If we could somehow look down on all of the planets in our solar system from above, they would all be turning in a counter-clockwise direction . . . that is all of them except Venus which turns in a clock wise position.
Jesus is unique! There is no one else like Him. He is the only one who can be our true point of reference. What does the “morning star” do day after day? We know that as Venus arises in the western sky around 4:00 am . . .
- Soon the birds will begin to sing.
- Shortly after that, in the eastern sky, the sun will begin to rise.
The bright morning star
Represents the promise
Of a new day and it
Indicates that something
Better is coming!
Today as we live in a dangerous, dark world, and many have lost hope, but, on the horizon we see “the bright morning star.” It tells us that something better is coming; that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ will come again!
We must take seriously the Christian’s eternity. We live not for this life only, but for eternity.
Verse 29 concludes this letter to Thyatira with, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Adrian Rogers tells about a wealthy Roman man who had a lavish estate and he had a servant named Marcellus. The Roman man also had a son, but for some reason or other he had come into disagreement with his son. When the wealthy Roman wrote his will, he wrote in his will that he would leave everything to his slave, Marcellus. When the time came that the wealthy Roman man died, his will was read. And they read where the Roman man said, “I leave my entire estate—everything I own—I leave to my slave, Marcellus. To my son, I leave him only one thing. He can choose any one thing he wants from my estate, but just one thing.” The son said, “Very well. I choose Marcellus.”
The Bible says in John 1:12, “As many as received Jesus (as many as choose Him), to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” When you choose Jesus, you receive all the blessings the Father gives in Him and through Him. When the end comes, you will meet Jesus face-to-face and it will be a glorious meeting when you are greeted by the “Bright and Morning Star.”
Will you think of that this morning? Ask God to open your spiritual eyes and ears to hear and receive God’s gift of abundant life and eternal life that comes through Jesus.
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!