The Letter to Thyratira

Reading    Rev. 2:18-29

Here we go again,  stepping into the letters written to the seven churches of Asia, this morning we turn our attention to number 4, Thyatira.  Every now and then it hits home to me that these letters were written almost  2000 years ago, the bibles we hold may be new but the words in them are ancient. There are moments when that really hits home and my thoughts race is several directions – the awe of the antiquity of it, the wonder of the many thousands of eyes that have read it and hearts that have believed and been changed by, and the fact that even today millions scattered over the face of the globe, different nations, different cultures, different languages are still reading it – 2000 years!

But what strikes home greater than all this is the witness to my own heart and experience that the truth it tells is still relevant for us to day. That what is written could have been written today!

The opposition and hated and persecution of God’s people is still alive ad well,  And God’s people are still under pressure, still failing to grasp the glorious greatness of their calling, still making the same mistakes, still allowing the same sins to flourish – still needing to read these words and be challenged and encouraged.

Thinks about what we have read thus far in our series of sermons – we are the ones who have lost our first love and have allowed our service of the Lord to become a duty rather than a deed of love. We are the ones allowed ourselves to tolerate sin in our lives and the lives of the assembly of God’s people, we are the ones who are called upon to stand for the Saviour of our souls in a world that would have us ashamed of him.

Many years ago I read a short story in a Christian leaflet, a story constructed to show how unworthy our attitude to Jesus really is.  It told of a respectable man who while walking along a harbour wall tripped and fell into the sea, now the man couldn’t swim and he began to drown and panic gripped him and cried out for help. No one was near to hear him except an old tramp. The tramp immediately threw himself into the water and rescued the drowning man. The man, of course, was profoundly thankful and promised the tramp his undying gratitude.

Several days later as the man walked down the street of the town with some of his respectable friends he saw the tramp coming towards them, embarrassed in case the tramp should speak to him in front of his friends, he crossed the road and ignored the man who had saved him. Some of his friends noticed the shabby condition of the tramp and made some insulting comments and the man just smiled with the rest of them.

Let’s see what we find out about ourselves in the letter to Thyatira

A busy little city on a busy trade route and was well known for its trade guilds – there were carpenters, dyers, sellers of goods, tanners, weavers, tent makers, etc all making a living from their trade. From this little city Lydia came, the Lydia that Paul met in Philippi –  She was a trader of fine cloth was one of Paul’s first converts when he visited Thyatira on his second missionary journey (Acts 16).

It was difficult, if not impossible to make a living if you weren’t a member of one of these guilds. This put the Christian in great difficulty as guilds had their own gods that had to be worshipped. Worship which included offerings, feasts and often immoral behaviour.

Can you see the difficulty the Christians in Thyatira had? Torn between making a living on the one hand which meant having to be part of the guilds and on the other hand staying faithful to Christ and his standards.

Can you see how that impacts today on the lives of many faithful, we have heard of men and women being taken to the courts for holding true to the teaching of scripture, perhaps even in your own lives there is trial going on, at work, in the family, with a neighbour – you find yourself being pressurised  to conform to their way of doing things at the expense of your calling as a Christian.

Now hear again how the Lord begins His letter to these struggling Christians  –  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: v18

See Him!
Only here in Revelation is this title used. It reminds these pressurised believers the Lord Jesus Christ, is the supreme authority in the world, a world that was hostile to Him. And still is.

See Him Eyes like flame and feet like fine brass – a picture taken from the book of Daniel – 10:6 His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in colour, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude..

Daniel is given a vision of a man who tells him of kings and nations that would terrorise and persecute the people of God. But Daniel was not to fear – why? Because although kings and people of the earth are hostile to God and his church, Christ is sovereign – even over the hostile rulers.

Flaming eyes reminds us that God’s eyes are penetrating, seeing everything, knowing everything.  He is angry with what he sees.

feet are also of brass.  – judgement. preparing for judgement?

What a glorious picture – one that we need to see – this is our God, our Saviour, we are not the scourings of the world – we are the children of the omnipotent King!

Hear Him!
 I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. For they were a loving church,  a serving church, a faithful church, a growing church.

Sounds good doesn’t it. If only the Lord could say that of us.  yet all is not well. What’s wrong?

v20 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.

Ah dear brothers and sisters – is this not how it is with you – you serve the Lord in part but also in part you engage in what is not right.

Heed Him
There was compromise within the church –inside the family of God’s people error walked unchallenged. There was tolerance of a woman who Jesus called Jezebel, she called herself a prophetess, but the words she spoke didn’t come from God, wasn’t founded on God’s word.

There was a canker growing inside.

v20 to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.  – Things condemned. It is likely that this prophetess was teaching that it was alright to be part of the trade guilds – “After all,” she’d say “you need to make a living and God doesn’t expect you to starve. Don’t be worried, – God has told me its alright – It is alright to go and be a part of the guilds and participate in the immoral and idolatrous worship that occurs in their meetings – after all we live by grace and are not under the law any more.”

The name given her, Jezebel,  speaks to the  nature of this woman. Jezebel was a queen of Israel at the time Elijah. A wicked woman, the daughter of a pagan king and who Ahab had no business being married to. When she became queen, she turned first the heart of her husband, then the hearts of Israel, to the worship of Baal. Her first official act, as recorded in Scripture, was to kill the prophets of the Lord (1 Kings 17:4). She was blatantly against God. She did away with God’s spiritual leaders and replaced them with the prophets of Baal.

She replaced God’s word as given through his appointed prophets with a counterfeit one given by the prophets of Baal and Asherah. She sought to replace the worship of God completely with the worship of other gods and introduced idolatry once again to the people of Israel.

Do you see the similarities here between the Jezebel of Old Testament times and the prophetess in Thyatira? Both tried to replace God’s authoritative word with a poor substitute. How often do we do a similar thing?

Both of these ladies were given opportunity to repent. Jezebel had Elijah proclaiming the truth about God, but she refused to listen. The prophetess of Thyatira also was given the chance to repent, but she refused. God is a gracious God, even when it comes to such wicked offenders who do so much damage.

Jezebel of the Old Testament was condemned by God – 1 Kings 21:23-24  And concerning Jezebel the LORD also spoke, saying, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’ The dogs shall eat whoever belongs to Ahab and dies in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat whoever dies in the field.”

She was sentenced to death and those who followed her and her husband were also condemned to die. Compare the judgements pronounced on the Jezebel of Thyatira (Rev 2:22-23) .   Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 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.

The prophetess is condemned to sickness – some interpret this as death. Her children – those who grew up following this doctrine would eventually find punishment and death because they were following a false gospel.

It raises the question – How can we tell whether a teaching or a doctrine is from God or from a Jezebel? Here are some things we can look for …

Firstly Jezebel doctrines teach that something evil can be good. i.e.  Homosexual marriages are okay as long as they are based on love.  Doing away with the bible is okay as long as you are in communion with God and relying on his spirit’s revelation. All these are evil, but seem to be good.!

Secondly, the doctrine of Jezebel relegates God’s Word.  It minimizes the place of the Bible in the life of the Christian – it maximises the ‘experiencing’ of God over His revealed teaching.  It gives birth to Christians who would rather worship God or fellowship with other believers than sit under biblical teaching..

How can we tell whether a teaching or a doctrine is from God or from a Jezebel?  The answer is in the bible  no other special revelation is needed. No other insight or special word from God is required. We’ve got all we need in this book right here. It is God’s word – complete and finished. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, (2 Tim 3:16)

In the midst of the pressures of the world  we see the Lord, we must hear his word, we must heed his word, we must

Grasp Tightly to Him  
To the overcomer, those who don’t get misled by false teaching, God promises two things ..
1) He says that he will give authority over the nations. What is the foundation of this authority – the Son of God!
2) He says that he will give them the Morning Star. The Morning Star is Venus, the brightest star in the sky and the precursor to the new day. In Rev 22:16, the morning star is identified as Christ himself. The overcomers are therefore promised Christ himself. This will be the greatest reward of all.

So where are we, will we be overcomers or are we part of Jezebel’s following.  God expects us to be students of the word. That is the only way we will not be deceived by false teaching.

Some years ago, musicians noted that errand boys in a certain part of London all whistled out of tune as they went about their work. It was talked about and someone suggested that it was because the bells of Westminster were slightly out of tune. Something had gone wrong with the chimes and they were discordant. The boys did not know there was anything wrong with the peals, and quite unconsciously they had copied their pitch.

We tend to copy the people with whom we associate; we borrow thoughts from the books we read and the programs to which we listen, almost without knowing it. God has given us His Word which is the absolute pitch of life and living. If we learn to sing by it, we shall easily detect the false in all of the music of the world.

In reality Jesus was asking Thyatira a question and this morning He asks us. It’s a simple question, a straight forward question “Who do you belong to?”

You see you either belong to Him or you don’t. Your loyalty can’t be split.
And the only way you can keep your loyalty to him is if you keep him before you. The only way we can remain loyal is by looking into his blazing eyes.
Eyes ablaze because he is just – he knows where our loyalty lies. But also ablaze because if we let him he will purify us in our weakness.

The morning star is that star that comes out in the middle of the night  when it is darkest. And in the middle of that darkness this star tells the world that morning is coming and will break through the darkness.   The morning star pulls the morning in behind it just as certainly as Jesus pulls the Kingdom in behind him. Do you feel in the dark? Jesus promises the morning star to those who remain loyal to him. Hang in there. He promises the night will only last so long… the morning will come.