Summary: The fourth in a series of seven. This is an expository, alliterated sermon with practical application based on the letter to Thyatira in Revelation. PowerPoint is avialable if you e-mail me.
You’ve Got Mail: Thyatira
Scott Bayles, preacher
First Christian Church, Rosiclare, IL
Sometimes, the contents of a single letter can change a person’s life forever. Whether it’s the college applicant hopefully opening an envelope from a prestigious school wondering whether it’s a letter of rejection or acceptance, or a defendant standing trial, waiting with baited breath for the judge to open the verdict and read it aloud—guilty or not guilty. Other envelopes may not promise such significant stuffing; after all, we throw thousands of them away every year. But occasionally we get one that makes us stop and stare. Maybe it’s a letter from an old high-school buddy, or a job offer from some esteemed employer, a package we’ve been waiting for, or maybe just a note from a friend, family member or a spouse whose been away a while. We open those letters with anticipation and, sometimes, excitement.
I can only imagine the anticipation and excitement coursing through the believers in Thyatira, when a letter carrier dropped of an envelope singed and seal by Jesus Christ. Upon leaving Pergamum, this first-century mail-man would have followed a Roman road traveling southeast through rolling hills and lush plains for about forty miles before finally arriving at the military and manufacturing metropolis known as Thyatira. I use the term “metropolis” lightly, as Thyatira was actually the smallest of the seven cities to which Jesus sent letters. But despite its petite population, Jesus sent the longest letter to the church in Thyatira. Let’s see what he had to say to them:
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze: I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.
“But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality. Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.
“But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come.
“To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, to them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 2:18-29 NLT)
As I said last week, although these seven letters weren’t addressed to us, they do address the cares, concerns, and crises faced by ours and countless other churches throughout the centuries. The letter to Thyatira is no exception. As always, before addressing the cares of the church, Jesus begins by giving his credentials.
Jesus refers to himself in this letter as “the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze” (vs. 18 NLT). It might surprise you that this is the only place in the book of Revelation where the term “Son of God” is used. I think there’s a reason for that. In John’s vision in the first chapter of Revelation, John refers to Jesus as the Son of Man, but here Jesus changes that designation to the Son of God. Why is that?
Well, I believe it is because Thyatira was home to a special temple in honor of Apollo. Apollo was known as the Sun god and he was supposedly the son of the primary god of Greek myth, Zeus. By using the title, Son of God, Jesus was setting himself against Apollo as the only rightful Son of the true and living God.
Many Christians today are aware that December 25th, the day we celebrate as Jesus’ birthday, was originally a pagan festival. What you may not know is that it was a celebration of the birthday of the Sun god, Apollo. And what is often overlooked is that the early church chose that day intentionally. Rather than Christianizing a pagan celebration, they established a rival celebration of the birth of Jesus—the true Son of God. “While the world has all but forgotten the Greco-Roman gods of antiquity, they are annually reminded that two thousand years ago Christ invaded time and space.”