Revelation 2:18-29—Lesson 8
Let's open our Bibles to Revelation chapter 2. Verses 18-29 form the text
of the letter to the church in Thyatira.
It's a letter about a church that had many good points, but also was
engaged in compromising with error, compromising with sin, just like the church at Pergamum. Only what was beginning to happen in Pergamum had come to ful bloom in Thyatira.
If the church married the world in Pergamum, in Thyatira they were
celebrating anniversaries. If compromise had begun in Pergamum, it had taken over in Thyatira.
Churches differ. They wil differ in worship style. They wil differ in music.
They wil differ in liturgy. They wil differ in theological emphasis. They wil differ in doctrinal considerations, convictions. They wil differ in programs.
But most significantly and sadly, they wil differ in how they deal with sin.
The Lord Jesus Christ has clearly cal ed His church to be holy, to be pure and intolerant of sin.
The Lord says that if you know anyone in sin, go to your brother and tel
him about his sin and ask him to repent; yet stil churches through history and even today have defied the wil of the Lord of the church and tolerated sin in uncountable ways.
It is, in fact, typical of churches, by that I mean the majority of churches, to
tolerate sin to one degree or another. Such a church was Thyatira. And so the message of this church is a very relevant message to any church that tolerates any kind of sin.
It made it especial y difficult to be in that church if you were devoted to
holiness because it was the only church in town. It wasn't like it is today where there are a myriad of options for everyone to take.
But in that day if you were a serious Christian, and you were pursuing
holiness, and you believed the church should be pure, you were sort of stuck if you lived in Thyatira because that church was the only place to fel owship.
In the case of the church at Thyatira, they were tolerating false teaching.
They were tolerating a woman who had usurped a place of leadership in teaching, preaching, cal ing herself a prophetess.
They were tolerating the evils of idolatry. They were tolerating sexual sin.
Not only were they tolerating it in the church, but there were certain people in the church who were advocating it.
And thus the church had been significantly corrupted. It wasn't long until it
went out of existence. The seriousness of their involvement with their sin can be seen in verse 24 where you see the phrase, "Satan’s deep secrets."
And I want to note for you there can be a lot of good in a church like that.
But tolerance wil eventual y destroy the church.
Let’s begin by fol owing our usual outline. First of al , the introduction gives
us the correspondent, or the one who writes, [Read vs 18.]
It comes from the Lord. We see this imagery in chapter 1 in the vision of
Christ, in verses 14 and 15 where He is thus described. This is a picture of judgment.
His eyes like a flame of fire are like supernatural divine lasers that
penetrate to the depth of the church and see the fatal flaws. Nothing is hidden to the lasers of His vision. And His feet like burnished bronze are the feet that trample out judgment.
It is interesting to note that here He is referred to as the Son of God where
in the vision in chapter 1 He is cal ed the Son of Man. That is a significant change.
The "Son of Man" is a title that denotes His humility, His sympathy, His
tender-heartedness, His love, His care for the church.
The term "Son of God" sees Him rather in an unsympathetic way as the
one who as God must judge sin, not the one who as Man demonstrates compassion on the sinner. So here He comes writing to Thyatira in a rather terrifying and threatening imagery.
Secondly, we note the city. Thyatira was halfway between Pergamum and
Sardis. It had been Roman since 190 B.C. or going on 300 years.
For many centuries it was only an unprotected military outpost that
stopped the ongoing armies that were coming after Pergamum and fought them off for a little while so the Pergamese folks could get ready to fight.
And so it got destroyed and rebuilt over and over. Eventually when the
Romans took over and brought in the Roman peace, it had a period of peace and became a commercial center for crafts.
It became the city with more guilds, that would be like unions of craftsmen,
than any other city in Asia Minor. It became a center for wool and a center for developing a beautiful purple dye.
You wil remember a lady by the name of Lydia, the first convert in
Europe, who was from Thyatira who was a sel er of purple goods.
The people were very religious in the ancient world, and as you know, it
was a polytheistic world where there were many gods.
And each guild developed a god of its own, and they would not only do
their craft but they would worship their deity.
That would include feasts and festivals, that would include certain
sacrifices that were offered at whatever temple served to worship this god, and it also included certain sexual orgies.
And so the guilds were not simply labor unions or such, or amalgamations
of people in a certain craft who were doing their trade; they had become religious organizations as wel .
So here was a city with no dominant deity but with many deities sort of
fitting into al the various kinds of trades that were there.
It was not a large city and even today only has about 25,000 inhabitants. It
was the smal est of the seven cities that have the letters here.
Thirdly, we see the church. It just identifies the church in verse 18, but
doesn't tel us anything about it. As with the prior churches, it could have been started because of Paul’s 3-year ministry in Ephesus. (Acts 19:10)
There is also that other possibility with regard to the lady named Lydia.
She was from Thyatira. She went to Philippi. When she went to Philippi, according to Acts 16:15, she heard Paul, and Paul gave her the gospel, and she was saved.
It may be that having been converted under Paul, along with her traveling
companions and her household, that they went back to Thyatira and were, in fact, instrumental in starting the church. We don't know.
But this church was threatened not from the outside so much by
persecution, but from the inside by compromise. The disaster in this church was not some onslaught from false teachers on the outside, but an onslaught of false doctrine on the inside.
If you wanted your job, you stayed with the guild, and they would have a
pretty strong hold over you, and you would be forced to engage yourself in all of the functions of the guild, which meant the feasts and festivals and ceremonies and maybe even the sexual sin.
And if you didn't do that, it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume you might
lose your job. And so there was some pressure put upon these Christians in this regard.
Satan, wanting to see to it that the compromise was made, had a woman
in the church who is identified by the name Jezebel. This woman found a platform in the church and taught everybody that to commit sexual sins and to get involved in idol worship was okay.
And so the church actual y had an internal spokesman advocating this,
which took the monkey off of everybody's back and let them be free to engage in the guild idolatry and immorality.
At the same time they cal ed themselves Christians and attended the
church. So this church was real y struggling for survival because of the corruption on the inside.
Fourthly we look at the commendation in verse 19. It's quite remarkable.
He says, [Read vs 19.] He identifies those four things.
I know your love - that is you demonstrate sacrifice to one another out of
love. I know your fidelity, your faithfulness. You have not abandoned Christ.
I know your service, you're involved in activity, you're meeting needs,
you're doing ministry. You may even be operating spiritual gifts.
And I know your perseverance, or your endurance. You've hung in there.
You've been faithful when there has been some hostility and some persecution. This is al very commendable.
And then at the end of verse 19, even more remarkably He says, "And that
you are now doing more than you did at first." That probably means greater in number, not so much greater in kind.
This church may have had in the community a very good reputation. In
fact, it may wel have been a very popular church.
After al , if it tolerated people attending the feasts and orgies and festivals
of the guilds, it certainly wasn't cal ing for any dichotomy between the church and the world.
If they were busy meeting needs and doing deeds of sacrificial love and
enduring hostility, they must have had a reputation as a somewhat noble bunch. And so He says, for these things I commend you.
What is noticeably absent in the commendation is sound doctrine and holy
living. And here were the two fatal flaws. There was a lot of love and faithfulness to the gospel and to Christ in a personal way.
There was service and there was endurance of difficulty and trial, but
there is a clearly diminished interest and conviction about sound doctrine and holy living. And that's real y the key.
Now that brings us to the fifth point as we dissect our way through this
letter, and that is the condemnation. Verse 20, "But I have this against you," that in itself is a frightening statement, isn't it?
And here's why… [Read vs 20.] This is why I am against your church. You
have this woman, Jezebel, and you tolerate her.
I don't think her name was Jezebel. Nobody names their daughter
Jezebel. Jezebel was not her name; Jezebel was a way to identify her.
In one word it tel s us everything we need to know. Jezebel was a woman
in the Old Testament who led the people of Israel to commit sexual sin and worship idols. And this woman is identified as Jezebel because she did the same thing in the church.
She was very effective. You wil notice that phrase in verse 20, "misleads
my servants." I just need to note for you she was leading true Christians astray - that's a designation of believers.
And it does pose the question.can true Christians commit acts of
immorality? Of course they can. In fact, in 1 Cor 6 the apostle Paul says to Christians, "Do you not know," verse 15, "that your bodies are members of Christ?
Flee immorality. Every other sin a man commits is outside the body but
the immoral man sins against his own body." Probably a primary reference to venereal disease. He's tel ing Christians, “Don't commit fornication.” The assumption is it's very possible.
This woman had succeeded in leading true Christians to engage
themselves in idol feasts and sexual sin. This woman has committed a very serious sin.
To show you how serious, go back to Matthew 18, just to remind you of
the seriousness of leading Christians to commit sins. In Matt 18:6, our Lord is referring here to Christians, not to little babies, but "little ones" here refer to His children, so identified in verse 4.
Verse 6, [Read it.] You're better off dead. You'd be better off to die a
painful, horrible death than to cause another Christian to sin.
Verse 7, "Woe," or curse, damnation, judgment, that's what the word
means, "to the world because of the things that cause people to sin." Listen, whenever the world does something to make a Christian sin, woe to that person who does that.
This is serious. The world around us pumps out filth in music and in media
whether it's books or television or films or whatever it is.
And when it causes a Christian to stumble, God remembers who caused
that Christian to stumble. And He says, "Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come." If you are doing anything to make a Christian sin, woe to you. (1 Cor 8:13)
And then in verses 8 and 9 He says, "Before you do that, you better cut off
your hand, your foot, or take out your eye, because if those are the things effecting your sin, you'd be better off without them.”
What our Lord is saying there is it is a matter of grave seriousness to Him
when anybody causes a Christian to sin. Now go back to Rev 2.
Now we understand why He said, “I have this against you.” I am against
you because you are tolerating a woman who is causing My children to sin.
I just want to remind you who she was. She was a Baal worshiping harlot
who was a witch. She married a king of Israel and led the people into sin.
She was a vicious, wicked, perverted woman, and she brought in Baal
worship with al the accoutrements, feasts, idols, orgies. So this woman in the church being cal ed Jezebel is not getting a compliment.
She had successful y seduced some of the members of the church into
idolatry and immoral activity. And so she symbolical y is cal ed Jezebel.
The way she probably did this was to say, "Look, the pressure is on you
because of the guilds, they want you to be engaged in al the activities, including the ceremonies and the feasts and the festivals and the orgies, and you need to do that."
She probably took one of two tacks. She could have taken the dualistic
approach which says the spirit is the only thing God's concerned about. The flesh is flesh. It’s wicked anyway.
The spirit is good, the flesh is wicked. That’s philosophical dualism. And
you can just go with your flesh and do whatever you want, the flesh doesn't real y matter; just keep the spirit for God and you're fine.
Or she may have sort of embel ished that with the idea of grace. It real y
doesn't matter what you do, you're going to be forgiven anyway. God wil forgive it. God loves you. Your sins are al forgiven. You can't lose your salvation, so don't give it a thought.
And maybe learning al those deep things about Satan wil help you to
help somebody else sometime." Who knows what kind of concoction she came up with?
But she got a platform there, and she was teaching and leading people
astray. Now there was an obviously preliminary thing that the church never should have al owed.
They never should have al owed a woman to have that kind of a place to
begin with, even if she was tel ing them things that were right because very clearly in the Scripture it says that God does not al ow a woman to teach in the church, taking authority over the men.
To make matters worse it says she cal s herself a prophetess. She
claimed her message was from God. But it was not from God, it was from Satan.
It was doctrines of demons, and she was a hypocritical liar who was under
Amazingly in verse 21, (this is grace upon grace), "I gave her time to
repent." Is that not gracious? The Lord says “I gave her time to repent, and she doesn't want to repent of her immorality.”
When people are in sin and darkness, they love it, don't they? John 3
says, "Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil." Wickedness is its own prison.
So, verse 22, "So, I'l cast her upon a bed of suffering." It's as if the Lord
says, "She wants to go to bed, does she? I'l put her in bed.
I'l give her a bed, and the name of the bed is not just suffering, the name
of the bed is hel . It's a bed of death. There is a finality at the end of verse 21; she doesn't want to repent.
"And I wil make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely,
unless they repent of her ways." He can't say, "I'm going to send al the people who commit adultery with her to hel ," because some of them are.what?.are Christians.
So for those who have committed adultery with her, I'm going to throw
them in to severe trouble. This is God's chastening, isn't it? And some of them may even die unless they repent of her deeds.
And so, the promise here is a promise of severe judgment on the woman
and great chastening on those who fol owed her. But there's another group in verse 23, a completely different group.
"I wil strike her children dead." What does He mean? I don't think He
means His servants who were fol owing her. He means the second generation of her falsehood.
It tel s me that this thing had been around long enough that there is a
second generation of people propagating the same stuff.
That's her children. She has begotten a generation who are advocating
the same thing, offspring of her debauchery. And the Lord says I'l kil them. Very severe judgment.
I want My church pure. Your church isn't pure. You have a woman there
named Jezebel. She's leading My servants into sin. I'm going to give her a bed, al right, a bed of death and a bed of hel .
And I'm going to take al My servants who are fol owing her into that sin,
and if they don't repent immediately, I'm going to chasten them severely.
And then I'm going to take her children, the second generation of false
prophets and prophetess who are propagating the same stuff, and I'm going to kil them. Very serious. The message to us is powerful.
And then in verse 23 He says, "And when it happens, when she dies and
al her children are kil ed and the believers who fol owed her in sin are in deep trouble, then al the churches wil know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts." Everybody is going to know.
We don't have any record of when it happened, but we do know that it
wasn't very long until this church went out of existence. The Lord wanted everybody to know about it - al the churches wil know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts.
What does that mean? All the churches are going to know that if there's
any sin anywhere, I wil .what?.find it, right? He says when I move in, everybody is going to know that I can find the fatal flaw.
And then the warning is broadened at the end of verse 23, "And I will
repay each of you according to your deeds." And now He's talking to everybody in the church.
Why does He say that? Because I can only imagine that instant panic set
in because you're sitting in church while this guy reads this letter, right?
And you're feeling good about love and faithfulness and service and
perseverance and everything is fine. And then al of a sudden he reads "Jezebel" and everybody's ears perk up, and she knows who she is.
And then we hear about the second generation of her children propagating
the same stuff, and they know who they are. And then we hear about the people who are fol owing after her in that same sin, and they know who they are.
And there are some dear folks sitting there in fear because they think
they're going to get gobbled up in this tremendous judgment.
And so He qualifies it and says, "I'l give to each one of you according to
your deeds." You don't have to panic if your life is right. That's always the basis for future judgment – your deeds.
You say, "Wel now wait a minute, are we going to be judged on works?"
Absolutely right, we wil be judged on our works. That's in the New Testament.
You go back to Romans where you have the great teaching of salvation,
Rom 2:6, "Who wil render to every man according to his deeds." We wil be judged on the basis of our works.
Matthew 7, "You wil know them by their fruits." It's the same thing. Their
Matt 16:27, "For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with
His angels.listen to this.and then he wil reward every person according to what he has done." We're going to be judged by our deeds, folks.
Rev 22:12, same thing, "Behold, I am coming quickly. My reward is with
Me to render to every man according to what he has done."
You say, "Wel now wait a minute. Is that salvation by works?" No. The
principle is this: your deeds demonstrate your spiritual condition, right? God can look at your life and see your deeds and know whether you're His.
That's what James was talking about in James chapter 2. You have faith
and I have works, verse 18, "Show me your faith without the works, and I'l show you my faith by my works."
That's the only way you can show faith, is by works. He goes on to say,
"Faith without works is.what?.it's dead." How can you say you have faith if you don't produce anything?
Saving faith makes you a new creation. Being a new creation manifests
itself in some kind of works, deeds. So He says “I'm just looking at your life. You don't have anything to be afraid of if there are deeds of genuine conversion.”
He says “by your deeds I can tel your spiritual condition.” And so, you
have this broad sweeping warning. “I'm going to give you exactly what your deeds earn.”
But on the other hand it's a comforting thing for those people who may be
in a state of panic saying, "My life is right as far as I know, Lord. Are You going to come in here and blow me away with everybody else?"
Wel , He answers that in verse 24. Here is the command [Read it.] “I'm not
talking to you. Hey, you folks who haven't gone out there and engaged yourself in what they cal the deep things of Satan, I'm not putting another burden on you.”
What is meant by "I place no other burden on you?" No other burden than
just the burden of having to be in a church like that. That's a big enough pain.
He says you don't hold this teaching, the erroneous, debauching doctrine
of this woman. You have not known the deep things of Satan, as they cal them. It says it isn't the Lord's title; it’s Satan’s “so cal ed” deep secrets.
Nevertheless, verse 25 says, "Only hold on to what you have until I come."
Why does He say that? I'l tel you why He says it, because Paul made a very important observation in 1 Cor 10. It's this, "Let him who thinks he stands.what?.take heed lest he fal ."
You don't want to get too sure that you're invincible. I'm cal ing for some
spiritual integrity here. The idea is it won't be easy. You're going to have to hold on for dear life like a guy hanging over a precipice ful of fire.
Hold on because the blast of hel coming through this woman and her
second generation children is hard to fight off, and it keeps coming, and the church tolerates it. Hold on until I come.
Is that referring to the Second Coming? Wel , probably in the case of
Thyatira, it was referring to His arrival there, to wipe those sinners out.
But certainly in a generic sense, the Lord is saying to al of His church,
“There's always going to be sin around. Hold on and be faithful til I arrive.”
Then final y, the counsel. And now He turns to the good folks there. I
guess I kind of feel they must have been in the minority, or they would have overruled the rest.
[Read vs 26-28.] This is so wonderful. As in the other letters, John closes
with a word to the true Christians, and it's a word of promise.
"And to him who overcomes and does My will to the end,” that means to
him who obeys - He says, "I want to give you two things. First, I wil give you authority over the nations."
If you endure in constant faith and a pattern of obedience, to the end -
whatever end, the end of your life, or the time when Jesus comes, "I'l give you authority over the nations."
Wow, what does that mean? I believe that clearly can be understood one
way. You're going to reign with Christ in an earthly millennial kingdom.
If you don't believe in a thousand-year mil ennial kingdom, what in the
world is He talking about? This is Psalm 2. [Read vs 7-8.] You say, "Oh yeah, that's when we all get to heaven."
No it isn't. [Read vs 9.] And there isn't going to be any nation ful of people
getting bashed around with a rod of iron or broken like a pot in heaven. It's got to be on earth.
It has to be a mil ennial kingdom. There isn't any other explanation. And
the first thing He says to them is, "You've had a lot of problems here, and you've
been beaten up, but when you get to the Kingdom, you're going to get to do some of the beating."
That's what He's saying. You've been hammered, so get ready for your
time to take your own hammer and sit on a throne and rule with Me.
You say, "Who gets hit with the rod of iron during the mil ennial kingdom?"
The nations that fight against Christ, the rebel ious wicked nations, the ones that would attack the sheep.
You see that word there, "rule," it's the word “poimaino,” from “poimen”
which is a shepherd. And what He is saying is “I wil shepherd them with a rod of iron.”
A shepherd has a rod but it was always a wooden rod. Jesus says, “When
I get to My kingdom My rod is going to be made out of iron.” And what did the shepherd use the rod for?
Many times the sheep would be attacked by wolves or wild animals, and
he would use the rod to smash that animal or fight that animal off.
And He says “There's coming a time in the kingdom when the nations of
the world are going to move against Me and My people, and I'm going to wield a rod of iron.
I'm going to use that rod, and I'm going to smash them like clay pots, and
you're going to be there with Me. You're going to be ruling with Me, protecting My people in the kingdom, protecting holiness and righteousness.”
That's the first promise, mil ennial participation, in that great time when
peace fil s the earth and the wisdom and knowledge of Christ abounds.
And then He gives another promise in verse 28, "I wil also give him the
morning star." What is this? Listen to Rev 22:16. [Read it.] When He says in Rev 2 “I'l give him the morning star,” who do you think He's talking about?
“I'l give you Jesus Christ,” that's what He's talking about. Peter said in 2
Peter 1:19 if we're Christians, the morning star has already dawned in our hearts. And some day in the future we'l have Him in His ful ness.
So, for the true Christian even in the church that tolerates sin, he has the
promise of reigning with Christ in the mil ennium, the promise of the great reality that Jesus Christ becomes his own.
And then the final words, verse 29, "He who has an ear, let him hear what
the Spirit says to the churches." And that verse just means listen and pay attention.
Now listen careful y as I close. Three applicational things stand out. One,
the seriousness of sin in the church, and how God reacts to it. Did you get that message in verses 20 to 23? Think about the seriousness of past sin in your own life. Don’t do that again.
The second thing that stands out in this passage is the evidence of true
Christianity, verses 24-26. “I know who the rest of you are.
You don't hold false doctrine, you're not involved in these kinds of sins,
you're holding fast, your faith is consistent in overcoming, and your life has a pattern of obedience that shows up in the way you live. That's the evidence of true Christianity.” I hope that’s you.
The third thing I see here is the wonderful, gracious promise of God to His
own. He gives them the kingdom, and He gives them Christ.
What powerful instruction. That church must have been shaken to its
foundation. The tragedy is, we don't have any reason to believe that it repented.
May we today who read and hear this same message make the right
choices that we may know the blessing of God and not His judgment. Let's pray.
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