MOMENTS OF TRUTH
Letter to the Church at Thyatira
1 December 2019
After discussing the church at Smyrna last week we now go to congregation number eight in our study of churches found in the New Testament and that is the church at Thyatira. Let’s not forget the purpose of our study of all these churches is to aid us in our efforts to have congregations of the Lord’s people that that will shine forth in this world of sin and be pleasing to our Heavenly Father. That means, as we have seen, a local church must strive for purity in life. It must strive for strong convictions. It must be scriptural in worship, sound in doctrine and united. It must always remember its first Love, and never be lukewarm in its efforts. The Lord’s people who make up the church MUST distinguish doctrines taught by the devil from the doctrine of Christ, for the Lord insists upon obedience without alteration of His Will. We must also not forget that we must not run, but stay and fight, which means utilizing what little strength or talents we may have to teach the doctrine of Christ where we are. A congregation must “Be Watchful” and “Be Faithful” and “Fear None of those things which it will suffer.”
This week our study focuses on the church at Thyatira. The letter to the church at Thyatira is the longest of all the letters found in the book of Revelation to the churches. Thyatira, located about 40 miles southeast of Pergamos, was originally established as a military outpost. Most, who study their Bibles, are familiar with the name of this city because of the conversion of Lydia in Acts 16:11-15, “Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." So she persuaded us.”
Now, we know nothing about the beginning of the church in Thyatira, whether Lydia returned and helped teach others, or whether Paul helped in proclaiming the gospel while he lived at Ephesus. Let’s read what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ wrote to the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2:18-29, “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: 19 "I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. 20 "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. 21 "And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 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. 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. 24 "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. 25 "But hold fast what you have till I come. 26 "And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations-- 27 '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; 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.”
After Christ identifies himself in verse 18 He goes on to offer a commendation of the good the church at Thyatira had done in Revelation 2:19, “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.” This is an outstanding commendation for “love” is the essence of Christianity as Jesus told the lawyer in Matthew 22:37-40, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 "This is the first and great commandment. 39 "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." To love God means that one keeps His commandments. Loving our brethren also involves service and a willingness humbly to minister as an outflow of love and faith. Along with “Love” in this commendation we find Christ recognizing the “faith” of the brethren at Thyatira and “Faith” ties man to his Maker and is made perfect by obedience. Christ also recognizes their “patience” which described their constant and steadfast efforts in following the Lord, even through the midst of trials and disappointments. Even more so, the congregation at Thyatira was increasing in spiritual stature. They had not simply held their own. They had made progress because the Lord described their latter works as being more than the first.
When we come to Revelation 2:20-21 we learn of Jesus complaint against the church at Thyatira, “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. 21 "And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.” After reading the previous verse one would think the church at Thyatira was outstanding – that surely it would have no faults. But such was not the case. The church at Thyatira had problems because it tolerated that woman, Jezebel. Presumably this “Jezebel” was an influential woman, designated “Jezebel” reminiscent of the wife of King Ahab who stirred him to wickedness in 1 Kings 21:25, who taught that a Christian might participate in feasts offered to idols without compromising his or her faith. Therefore she taught and seduced Christians to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols. One difference between the church at Pergamos and the church at Thyatira seems to be that Thyatira “tolerated” Jezebel. They gave tacit approval of her and her doings. At Pergamos it was simply stated that some were there who “hold” to this teaching; perhaps the rest reproved their error. But at Thyatira there is no hint of inference that anyone might stand opposed. A faithful church will exercise discipline. Failure to reprove individuals who advocate false doctrine or who live in ungodly relationships is the same as “tolerating” them. Peace must never be sought at the expense of the “Truth.” Those who “love” will also “withdraw” from any brother who walks disorderly, that he might be brought to repentance. Now, with all of that in mind take note of what Christ says in verse 21 that He gave her time to repent, and she did not. We too are given time to repent as we read in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” It is sad when a congregation basis its doctrine on what the majority thinks. Worldly members among the churches need the constant presence of others who will do as Timothy was instructed to do by the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”
As we have discussed with all the other churches Christ has provided counsel through warning and exhortation. Revelation 2:22-25 provide the church at Thyatira with their counsel, “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. 24 "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. 25 "But hold fast what you have till I come.” Everyone reaps what he sows. Those who engage in fornication with “Jezebel” will also join with her in suffering punishment. Those who “commit adultery” with her is a reference to spiritual infidelity. Idolatry is spoken of as both whoredom and adultery. To join in with the sinful practices of the world is a violation of the spiritual tie between God and his faithful worshippers. We must always remember the Lord searches more than outward actions. He sees the motives of the mind and heart. He knows when our sin is committed through weakness of the flesh or is an act of rebellion against His will. He knows the degree of our responsibility based upon our opportunities and abilities. He knows when our excuses are feeble. He knows whether we are comparing ourselves by what others are doing or by the standard of His word. His judgment is just and certain. From verse 24 Christ recognizes the deep things of Satan, as the heretics called them, they seem to refer to the sins of Christians were encouraged to experience. These heretics looked down upon saints who refrained from fornication and eating at idol feasts, reasoning that the experience of indulging was a sign of spiritual strength. This tainted philosophy is advocated today by those who think that to know the world one must plunge into the world. The Lord knew the burden upon them to hold fast in righteous living, especially made so when others who professed to be Christians encouraged ungodliness. Now, from verse 25 Jesus reminds them that they already had the truth of the gospel and thus knew how to stand firm against Jezebel.
Again, as we have read all the letters so far to the churches found in the New Testament, Jesus has always concluded his letter with a promise of reward and an invitation to hear. This is what Jesus says in Revelation 2:26-29, “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations-- 27 '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; 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.” Through the blood of Christ men are forgiven of sin and reign in his kingdom on earth. They have power over the nations by the fact that nations cannot control their own destinies. Evil nation’s may kill a saint’s body, but they cannot kill his soul. This reward also looks into the final victory of Christ with his saints over all enemies of truth. Evil men are the ones who shall suffer the “Second death.” Those who “reign” are the ones who gain the victory, rising to live evermore with the Lord. Having received His authority from the Father, Christ will absolutely and invincibly conquer the wicked as one who rules with strength. The nations of men that resist the will of the Lord shall be dashed into pieces like a jar of clay which shatters when the potter strikes it with his rod. By contrast, Christ will shepherd those who faithfully serve in His kingdom. As the morning star signals the beginning of light as a new day dawns, so faithful saints are promised the morning of victory through Christ when the dark night of persecution and temptation is over.
Every congregation of the Lord’s people must always remember that without Christ and His word, we can do nothing. With Christ and his Word, we frame our own destiny. Recognizing both the admonishment and praises to the various churches in the Bible aid us in our endeavor to serve our various communities as the pillar and ground of the truth, as the Lord’s church is to be. And as we’ve learned so far from all the churches each local church must strive for purity in life. It must strive for strong convictions. It must be scriptural in worship sound in doctrine and united. It must always “remember” it’s first Love and it must not be lukewarm in its efforts but be zealous for good works. The local congregation must always distinguish doctrines taught by the devil from the doctrine of Christ. Let’s not forget the Lord insists upon obedience without alteration of his will. As well, the Lord’s people MUST take advantage of every opportunity afforded them to spread the Gospel of Christ no matter what “little strength” we have been given. The Lord “opens the door” for us to take advantage of, especially in this country. Local congregations of the Lord’s people are to “Be Watchful” And “Fear none of those things which you shall suffer.” Do not fear persecution, for if we endure a crown of life awaits us! With our new study of Thyatira, we know that we must “Hold fast to what we have and those who overcome and keep the works of the Lord are given a promise of triumph and reign and the suppression of all enemies.
In order for congregations of the Lord’s people to make up sound congregations it must start with every individual striving to imitate Christ in their walk in this life. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”
Each one of us needs to take the Word of God seriously and allow it to permeate our hearts in a way that we will make His Will our very own. Let us do as the apostle Paul explains in Philippians 2:12, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;”
All MUST believe Jesus Christ as the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Let everyone hear the Word of God and have the faith described by the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 11:1-6 which helps us see those who were given various levels of strength or talents and they chose to live and obey as God instructed them, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. 4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "and was not found, because God had taken him"; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
We all need to do as Peter told those to do on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:38, “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
We MUST all confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God as Jesus explains in Matthew 10:32, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him will I also confess before My Father who is in heaven.” The apostle Paul says in Romans 10:9-10, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Ask yourself if your obedience to Christ is or was like that of the wonderful example of obedience found in Acts 8:36-39 where Philip has been teaching the Ethiopian eunuch, “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" 37 Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.” The apostle Paul helps us see the importance of baptism in Romans 6:4, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” When one has been baptized, their sins are washed away and they rise a new child of God, a Christian. This is where the “walk in newness of life” begins. This new beginning requires a lifetime of service to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus says in Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you a crown of life.”
Now for those who have obeyed Christ through baptism and have fallen from grace, we urge you to do as the apostle Peter told Simon in Acts 8:22, “Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.”