Summary: Thyatira: The Dangers of Thriving but Tolerating
The Seven, part 10
Thyatira: The Dangers of Thriving but Tolerating
July 14, 2013
We have seen that the Revelation was written to address specific issues with seven churches in Asia Minor at the end of the first century yet they are as relevant to us today as they were to the church in the first century. The letters have a consistent pattern that we are using as our outline – an introduction, an evaluation, an exhortation, and a benediction. We looked at Ephesus, which was theologically astute but had lost their devotion for Christ. Smyrna was enduring persecution so Jesus exhorted them to persevere. Pergamum was persevering under persecution but in their striving to be faithful they were tolerating and compromising with the enemy. Today we see that Thyatira was a thriving church but had tolerated Satan in their midst.
Jesus commands John to write to the 'angel of the church.' These seven letters are prophetic letters. In the Old Testament, the prophets spoke the very words of God to the people of God. Their words were accepted as inspired by God so were written down as Old Testament scripture. In the New Testament, the apostles replaced the Old Testament prophets as those who spoke the very words of God to the people of God. Their words were accepted as inspired by God so were written as New Testament scripture. But there is also prophecy in the New Testament where men and women spoke merely human words to describe something God brought to their mind to build up the church but because this form of prophecy is fallible we are told to “test everything, hold fast what is good.”
Thyatira was 30 miles southeast of Pergamum. It was union town, filled with all kinds of tradesmen and craftsmen. Every trade had its own guild with a patron god that protected and blessed the trade of each member. These guilds were a combination of trade union, lobbyist, and fraternity. The guild set the quality standards, trading practices, and even set prices. Membership in the guild was a prerequisite to engage in that trade. Each guild held regular banquets in which attendance was mandatory. At these banquets food was dedicated to their god and they were expected to engage in sex with the priest or priestess associated with that god. To quit the guild was economic suicide. What was a Christ follower to do? How does one engage in the world yet remain faithful to God?
Jesus describes himself to this church three ways. He is the son of God, he has eyes like a flame of fire, and he has feet like burnished or glowing bronze. The eyes flame of fire point to Christ's penetrating vision that sees through any deception. Feet like burnished or glowing bronze crush and destroy every enemy in their path. This description points to coming judgement as we will see this later.
“I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance.” Works in the lives of Christ followers are the fruit of faith. Their works are described as love, loving God which overflows in service toward others. Faith also is the work of God in our hearts which overflows in patient endurance. Perseverance is necessary because only those who persevere to the end will be saved. He goes on to commend the church because their 'latter works exceed the first.' Their faith was alive and vibrant, they were growing in their love, serving others and persevering. This church had thriving ministries, giving was good, and they were reaching out to community. But Jesus also had something against them. In their thriving they gave up all discernment and crawled into bed with the devil. He criticizes them because they were tolerating a false prophet sent from Satan. The first clue was that she calls herself a prophet. It is the church who identifies and affirms gifts and callings in the church not the individual. She was gifted so she had a following. The issue was not that she was a woman as the early church allowed women to prophesy. The issue was that she was a wolf in sheep’s clothing whose teaching was leading others astray. Jezebel was the strong willed wife of the weak willed king Ahab who him as well as the nation of Israel into idolatry; she also persecuted and murdered the prophets of Israel. This prophet in Thyatira was just like the Jezebel of old. Why were they tolerating her? Maybe they did not want to offend anyone; maybe they did not want the conflict; maybe they were afraid of what people would think. We have we have no idea why they tolerated her but we do know that their inaction was leading people astray. It was by her teaching that she was seducing people away from Christ. She said I have a word from God, you can follow Christ and fully participate in the trade guilds. Jesus describes it as seducing because it led God's people away from covenantal faithfulness to God, which is spiritual adultery. Here is the enemy of God inside God's camp destroying God's servants one by one; seducing them to the enemies side. God gave her time to repent but she refused so he is going to throw her onto a sick bed, bringing sickness upon her. In the Revelation, God's judgement inflicted before the final judgment is meant to bring people to repentance. Those who are following her teaching will be thrown into great tribulation unless they repent. He is going to bring great suffering on them for their spiritual adultery if they do not repent. And to her children, those who embraced her and her teaching, he is going to kill. This seems so harsh and violent. This is why Jesus described himself as the Son of God with eyes like a flame of fire and feet like burnished bronze. He is the king who is coming to judge his enemies. He sees through all the deception and with heavy feet that are glowing with the fire of judgment he will crush all his enemies. He is bringing judgement to show all the churches that God is 'the I am who searches mind and heart, the intentions and motivations of the heart, and give to each according to their works.' He is coming in judgement to purge and protect his church.