THE CHURCH THAT COMPROMISED WITH THE WORLD Revelation 2:18-29
The city of Thyatira was the smallest of the seven cities mentioned in the letters to the churches. It is also the city about which the least is known. Yet, it is to this little known church in a little known city that Christ addresses His longest letter.
Thyatira “Pelopia” was probably founded by Alexander the Great some 300 years before Christ.
The name Thyatira means “Unceasing Sacrifice”. It probably received this name because it was a military buffer city. It was located some 40 miles south east of Pergamos, the capital city of that province. When enemies invaded, they would naturally come to Thyatira first. While its location did not allow it to defend itself very well, its mission was to hold the enemy just long enough for Pergamos to prepare itself for battle. As a result, Thyatira was destroyed and rebuilt many times during its history.
It was somewhat famous in its day for commerce. There was main trade route that went through the city. Thus, tradesmen from around the world bought and sold there.
Thyatira was known for its woolen industry, especially for the dyes produced there. They manufactured a very expensive purple dye that was valued by royalty and the wealthy of that era. This industry is mentioned in the Bible.
A woman named Lydia who is called “a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira…”, Acts 16:14.
Thyatira was also known for its trade guilds. These were like the ancient unions of the day. Workers from the various industries of the city, bakers, wool worker, dyers, bronze workers, potters, and others, all banded together to set prices, guarantee work. To refuse to join a guild was to give up all prospects of work. This little fact will become important as we move through these verses. Thyatira was also a center of occult worship. There was a temple in the city dedicated to fortune-telling. It was presided over by a female oracle named Sambathe´. There were serious problems in the church of Thyatira and the Lord comes with a word tailored just for them and their need.
Jesus presents Himself in three ways to this church in verse 18 and. He comes as:
1. The Saving One – “The Son Of God” – He reminds these people that He is the Savior and alone is worthy of worship.
2. The Searching One – “eyes like unto a flame of fire” – He comes as one Who sees all. He sees the works of the hands and the motives and thoughts of the heart. He comes seeing all. He comes, not as the meek and lowly Jesus, but with His eyes ablaze with anger over sin.
3. The Sovereign One – “feet like fine brass” – Brass, or bronze, in the Bible is symbolic of judgment. Jesus not only comes as One able to see all; He also comes as One able to judge all.
If there is one word that describes the situation we find at Thyatira it is the word “compromise”. This is a church that has left its founding principles and has gone off into compromise and apostasy.
Remember, these letters can be views three ways: Practically – They are literal letters to real churches with real issues. Prophetically – They speak to the church in different periods of church history. The church of Thyatira speaks of the period between 600 AD to 1500 AD. The time known as the Dark Ages. Many practices here similar to Roman Catholicism. Personally – These letters have a message for every church and every believer who will hear and heed. Christians, just like every one of these seven churches can still be found in the world today.
I. v. 19 HE COMMENDS THE SERVICE OF THE CHURCH
A. He Commends Their Ministries – This was an active church. They were working within their own number and within the community around them. Their ministry is noted by the words Jesus uses.
1. They Are Busy – Works – This word means “deeds”. It speaks of them as being active in good deeds and benevolent outreach.
2. They Are Burdened – Service – This word means “ministry”. It is the same work translated “Deacon” throughout the New Testament. The word carries the idea of “those who kick up dust”. In other words, they were so busy that they kicked up a cloud of dust as they went from task to task.
B. He Commends Their Motives – What was behind these works? What motivated them to do the things they were doing?
1. They Are Motivated By Their Charity – Love – This is the word “agape”. It refers to an “unconditional, unceasing love that knows no boundaries and that is not influenced by the worth of the object being loved.” It is God’s kind of love. The only real motive for good works is love. Everything we do is to be done out of a heart of love or it is worthless, 1 Cor. 13:1-3. And, a love that won’t act is not genuine love at all, 1 John 3:18. It is good that this church had love, but we are not told what they loved. Did their works arise out of genuine love for the Lord? Or, did they simply love their fellow man? As the verses unfold, I think we will see that their love was centered on man and not on God. Godly works always arise out of a heart aflame with love for God almighty. That was Paul’s motive, 2 Cor. 5:14. It must be ours too!
2. They Are Motivated By Their Consecration – Faith – This word refers to “faithfulness”. These were folks that could be counted on to get the job done. They were faithful and not fickle.
Too many times there is work to be done around the church and no one who wants to do that work. That was not a problem in Thyatira. There was work to do and plenty of people willing to do the work. That is a good situation.
C. He Commends Their Maturity – Works; and the last to be more than the first – When I say maturity, I am not talking about spiritual growth. I am talking about growth in the level of their works. They were developing and progressing on their works. Their outreach and ministry to their fellow man was ever on the increase.
I. He Commends The Service Of The Church
II. v. 20-23 HE CONFRONTS THE SIN IN THE CHURCH
While this church appeared to be everything a church ought to be on the surface, but at its heart there was a festering sore. The church looked good on the outside, but it was corrupt at its core. Jesus comes to confront their sin.
A. v. 20-23 He Confronts The Teacher Of This Church – The church in Thyatira was being led away from the Lord by the teachings of an influential woman in their congregation. Jesus exposes her, her teachings and her judgment in these verses. This woman is called “Jezebel”. She is called by the name of one of the most infamous women in the entire Bible.
When the pagans in Thyatira were saved, they were faced with a problem. Did they refuse to join the guilds and be unemployed; or did they participate in the pagan rituals and compromise their testimonies? The mind of God in this matter is found in Acts 15:29. There, newly converted Gentiles are commanded to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, among other things. For more information concerning eating meat sacrificed to idols you can read 1 Corinthians 8-10.
So, the teaching at Thyatira may have been the same teaching that was rampant in that era. It may have been the idea that an individual could be saved by grace and indulge the fleshly appetite for sin. Some people held the view that the soul and the flesh were not connected. In other words, they taught that what a person did in their body had not effect on their spiritual life and vice versa. This teaching is addressed and countered in the Epistle of First John.
This woman preacher may have been telling the people in this church that they could hold onto their pagan beliefs and practices and still serve the Lord; that they could sin and still be saved; that one thing had nothing to do with the other. This may have been the tool that church was using to get the pagans of Thyatira to come to their church. They were compromising their standards to attract the world. They were saying, “Oh, come as you are! Don’t change a thing. Keep living like you have always lived. We’ll accept you just like you are. God loves you and we do too. Neither He nor us expects you to change one thing.”
Whatever she was doing, she was leading the people of God astray. The word “seduce” means “to lead out of the right path”. She was leading them into immorality. The word “fornication” comes from the word “pornia”. We get the word “pornography” from it. It refers “to any sexual sin”. The word literally means “to prostitute one’s body to the lusts of another.” It can refer to sexual sin, or it can be used as a metaphor for idol worship. Regardless of what they were doing, the Lord calls it “the depths of Satan”, v. 24.
v. 21 Her Stubbornness Is Denounced – The Lord had given this woman and her followers time to turn from their sins, but they refused to do so. Now, His patience has run out and she is slated for judgment.
(Note: Our God is a patient, loving God! He gives lost sinners and wayward believers opportunity on top of opportunity to get right with Him. When they refuse, they can expect nothing less that His judgment, Pro. 29:1.)
v. 22-23 Her Sentence Is Declared – Because of what she has done, she and all her followers will face God’s wrath. By using the phrase “cast…her into great tribulation”, He is telling us that these people are not saved. But, notice the grace in His judgment: He is still giving them space to repent! If they refuse, they will be judged “according to your works”. Salvation is always based on God’s grace; judgment comes based on man’s works.
B. v. 20 He Confronts The Tolerance Of This Church – Jesus expresses displeasure with this church because they allowed this woman to be in a position of leadership and because they tolerated the lies she was teaching for truth. The word “sufferest” means “to tolerate, to permit, to allow”. God is displeased that they would allow things of that nature to go on there.
They were probably like many in our day. They might have said, “Well, I don’t agree with it, but we shouldn’t say anything because we might hurt their feelings.” Some folks need their feelings hurt! When false doctrine is being preached in the church, those who know the truth have a duty to stand up and do something about it! When we sit back and allow that kind of wickedness to go unchecked, we invite the anger and judgment of God!
C. v. 23b He Confronts The Testimony Of This Church – The Lord tells this church that He would use them as an example to teach other churches what happens when truth is compromised. The church in Thyatira had been established to bring the word of God to a pagan city. They had functioned well for a while; then they had abandoned the right path. They are going to pay a heavy price for their sin.
I. He Commends The Service Of The Church
II. He Confronts The Sin In The Church
III. v. 24-29 HE COMFORTS THE SAINTS IN THE CHURCH
Not everyone in Thyatira had walked away from the Lord. Even in that tolerant, compromising, sinful church there was a faithful remnant. The Lord has a few words of hope and comfort for them as they struggled to walk holy in an unholy congregation.
A. v. 24-25 He Comforts Them Concerning Their Duty – He tells them that all He expects from them is that they stay the course. He wants them to avoid being sucked into the vortex of evil that is swirling there in Thyatira.
That is His will for us in these confusing days as well. He wants us to stay the course for the glory of God. Just because everyone around us is taking a new path does not mean that we have to. We can stand our ground and be faithful until death or the rapture takes us away, Ill. Eph. 6:11-18 – We are told to “stand” three times!
B. v. 26-27 He Comforts Them Concerning Their Destiny – The Lord Jesus promises them that if they will remain faithful to Him, they will rule with Him when He comes in His kingdom. He seems to be saying, “You folks are powerless to change your situation now, but the day is coming when I will put My power into your hands. You will reign with Me and your struggle for holiness will be worth it all in the end.”
If you are going to be a holy, godly Christian in these days, you might as well get ready to be hated, misunderstood and persecuted. But, this is not the end of the matter! One day, the King is coming! When He does, He is going to let His faithful servants reign with Him. We might be weak today. The worldly, compromising churches might be the ones with all the people, all the power and all the prestige. But, when the King comes, those who have served Him faithfully now will reign with Him then! It will be worth it all when that day comes!
C. v. 28 He Comforts Them Concerning Their Deliverance – Jesus promises these faithful believers “the morning star”. There is much debate among biblical scholars as to what He is talking about here. Some believe that He is promising them Himself. After all, He is the “bright and morning star”, Rev. 22:16. Some think this refers to Satan, Luke 10:18; that Jesus will let the church see Satan get what’s coming to him someday. We will see that, Rev. 20:10.
Victory Baptist Church 10 April 2019 victorypalmetto.com