This sermon is number 7 in a series of 20
The Book Of The Revelation - Part 7
"Thyatira, The Corrupt Church"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2007 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now let's turn to the text of Scripture, Revelation chapter 2 and beginning to read at verse 18. This is the longest letter of the seven, to the church at Thyatira, which we have entitled this evening as: 'The Corrupt Church'.
Verse 18 of Revelation 2: "And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches".
Now we have noted in previous weeks that, with minor exceptions, the pattern of each of these seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor are the same. Each of them begins with a revelation of a characteristic, or characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ, as He had been revealed in the initial vision in chapter 1 of the book. The church at Thyatira receive a vision that is no exception to that rule. For, as you note in verse 18, the Lord Jesus is revealed as 'The Son of God, who has his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass'. If you were to turn to chapter 1, you would see that that description is derived from verse 14, the end of the verse, and the beginning of verse 15. It is very fitting for this particular church, as we shall see. If you cast your eye down to verse 23, you see that the Lord Jesus, with these flaming eyes of fire, is searching the reins - the kidneys, literally - the inward parts and the hearts of the people in the church: 'And I will give unto every one of you according to your works'. He is, in chapter 1, the Judge-Priest moving in the midst of the churches.
So that is how He is revealed, with the characteristic of these all-seeing eyes, and these judging feet of brass. Then secondly we have the commendation - now the only church that doesn't receive one is the seventh, that is Laodicea. In verse 19 the Lord commends them: 'I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last', the last works that you're doing, that is, 'is to be more than the first'. It's amazing, as we shall see in our study tonight, how the Lord Jesus Christ commends this church. We saw in our previous week that this follows the same pattern as Jehovah through the prophets and the Old Testament writers in the book of 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles, because there Jehovah commended even evil kings before He condemned them. It's an interesting thing when we see that the Lord Jesus, if He can find anything to commend us for, will do that first, before He condemns us. I wonder do we follow Him in that example?
Now from this commendation in verse 19 you would be forgiven for thinking that all was well in Thyatira - but, as we shall see very graphically, this church was corrupt in that it was tolerating grievous sin and error in its midst. We shall learn, I hope, a very valuable lesson tonight, and that is simply: much activity can often camouflage great iniquity. Activity in a local church can be hiding, covering up deep and grievous sin.
So we have the characteristics of the Lord Jesus, His commendation, then thirdly - according to the pattern of these letters - we have a criticism. The only two churches not to receive a critique from the Lord are Smyrna and Philadelphia, but Thyatira does. In verse 20 we see it: 'I have a few things against thee', and we shall look into those things in detail in a few moments.
Now in the other letters the fourth feature is often a corrective command, but here it is a bit stronger than a corrective command: Thyatira receives condemnation. It seems that for many in this church there was no return. In verses 21 to 23 we find that condemnation. He gave this church, and this woman in it, space to repent of her fornication, but she repented not. In verses 22 and 23 we find the outcome of that. Then the fifth feature is a commitment which we have in each of these letters. In verses 24 to 29, the end of the chapter, to the overcomers, to those faithful remnant, small they may have been, who were standing according to truth both in their profession and in their lives.
Now you will remember from chapter 1 and verse 19, from the divinely given inspired outline of this book of the Revelation, that what we're dealing with here in chapters 2 and 3 is not primarily what John has already seen in his vision, not what is yet to be from chapter 4 on - which is future, prophetically speaking - but the things that are: these seven churches that actually existed in the province of Asia Minor. There are seven of them, even though there were many more than seven churches in Asia Minor, seven being the number of completion and perfection. What we have here is a divine depiction concerning the church age - if you like, a complete picture of the moral and spiritual history of the church of Jesus Christ. So each of these seven churches have been hand-picked by the Lord Jesus because they are representative of prevailing circumstances that will be in the church of Jesus Christ throughout our history.
Now we noted, and I think it's worthy of note again, that these churches can be understood in three ways. First of all, literally: these were seven literal churches in these seven literal geographical cities. Secondly, these churches are also understood universally, in that they illustrate the good and the bad in churches everywhere in every age. Seven similarities can be found in the seven mystery kingdom parables in Matthew 13, which also show us characteristics that will be in the kingdom of God displayed in the external church during the church age - very similar characteristics to what we're seeing in these seven churches of Asia Minor. So there is that universal approach, but then thirdly there is the prophetic understanding of these seven churches.
Let me remind you of how we have witnessed this. First of all in the church at Ephesus, which of course was the loveless church, we saw that this represented the post-apostolic Church, the church as it was coming up to the end of the first century and entering the second, the church that was generally speaking sound in doctrine but was starting to depart in small ways, but had lost the things that they had loved in the beginning. They ceased doing the work they had done at first. Then we saw secondly the church at Smyrna, the persecuted church, and that represented prophetically the church from the first to the fourth century that underwent persecutions from various emperors. The third church we looked at was Pergamos, which was the compromising church, and you remember 'Pergamos' means 'married', and this was a church historically speaking that had lost its fidelity to Jesus Christ, and had become allied with the world. This is the church of the fourth and the fifth century. Through Constantine's spurious conversion, Christianity became the state religion - it was married to the state, and in AD 313 that took place and many adverse spiritual effects came with it.
Now Thyatira that we're looking at tonight is the corrupt church, and the word 'Thyatira' literally means 'a continual sacrifice'. So prophetic scholars have seen, I believe correctly, that in the prophetic approach to this church we can see the rise of what we know today as Roman Catholicism, around the sixth and seventh century right through to the Reformation around the 16th century. Now you will note, as I have already pointed out to you, that this church was commended for her devotion and her zeal, and it has to be said that - like many false cults and religions - Catholicism has indeed shown much devotion to their cause and zeal in the execution of it. There were many godly saints during the Middle Ages who faithfully followed the Lord and sought to serve in a continual sacrifice of service. Even those in error could teach us a thing or two regarding how they are serving their particular cause. Yet Roman Catholicism can be seen in Thyatira in the sense of a continual sacrifice through the abomination of the mass. Of course, this was an invention historically of the Roman Catholic Church, the teaching that in the sacrament of the mass, through the broken bread and the poured out wine, there is a perpetual sacrifice over and over again of the Lord Jesus Christ in His death. That is why a priest is necessary - and so they believe that, through this continual sacrifice, we in some way can merit some grace.
So you can see how you Thyatira, the name 'continuous sacrifice', is very apt if we are to liken this church historically and prophetically to the church of Rome. Jezebel could also picture the system, the whole Romish system that has called herself 'the mother and mistress of all churches'. Eventually we will see in the book of Revelation, near the end, about chapters 17 and 18, that eventually this church of Rome will embrace many other false religions and will be found in what is called there 'the great whore of Babylon' that God will judge. Now that might seem very harsh language to some of you, but it's in this book of Revelation, Jesus Christ has revealed it to us. As Jezebel was in Thyatira, Rome has accommodated many elements of paganism, just as this prophetess in Thyatira did. She was encouraging the believers there, as we shall see, to commit fornication and to eat meat offered to idols. When Constantine made Christianity the religion of the state, many pagans brought their heathen baggage along with them. Catholicism down through the years has been notorious for marrying pagan rituals and principles to what they have called Christianity.
Let me give you two examples of that. Idolatry: the second commandment says, 'You shall not bow down to an idol'. The church of Rome has enshrined idol worship as a part of their devotion, they have even omitted the second commandment in the Ten Commandments. How do they get ten then? They split number 10, coveting, into two. A second way they have adopted pagan practice is the worship of Mary. The worship of Mary as the mother of God, setting her up as a co-redemptress, and indeed a female deity almost, to be worshipped and revered. That type of practice can be seen down through history in many pagan religions, right back to Babylon itself. Incidentally, the Old Testament character of Jezebel that we will touch on a little bit later, she was guilty of combining the worship of Jehovah with the worship of the god Baal. God condemned her for it, and Ahab her husband and the whole nation for going after her ways, because God Jehovah will not share His glory with another. He will not be worshipped as a graven image.
Now we shall see that Thyatira and Jezebel herself were given a chance to repent, and the Roman Catholic Church during the 16th century, at the time of the Reformation through godly men like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, John Knox, Wycliffe - you know them as well as I do - they were given an opportunity to rediscover the truths of Holy Scripture: that salvation is through grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone; and the Bible alone, sola scriptura, should be our only rule of faith. Largely speaking they did not heed that clarion call, and that is why we are left with an apostate system in Roman Catholicism which is far removed from the simplicity of what we find biblical Christianity is within the scriptures.
A Roman Catholic once asked a bright little Christian schoolgirl: 'Where was your church before the days of Henry VIII?'. Catholicism would say that Protestant evangelical Christianity didn't exist before Henry VIII. The little girl was wiser than he thought: 'Why sir', she said, 'It was where yours never was - in the Bible'. That's not to be offensive, but it is to be real. We must judge everything by the word of God, and we see from this church at Thyatira that the Lord Jesus was going to judge it, and the Lord Jesus has judged and will judge its prophetic counterpart, the Roman Catholic system. Indeed, the Lord will judge her children, that's what the passage says, those who choose to come under her influence in ecumenism. The message is, and here I leave this prophetic approach: we as the church of Jesus Christ need to get back to the Bible.
I want to labour not the prophetic viewpoint, but the literal viewpoint, as in previous weeks, and the personal: 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the church'. Now let's look first of all, as we have done each week, first to the city in which this church is found, the city of Thyatira. It, as you can see from this map, is about 40 miles southeast of Pergamos. It is the modern day Turkish city of Akhisar, and it was relatively speaking an insignificant city to have the longest letter of these seven written to it. Incidentally, if I could just revisit the prophetic approach, that's an indicator to us that these messages reach far beyond the immediate circumstances of each of these churches. This was an unimportant city, and yet such a long letter is written to it.
It is first mentioned as a city in the Bible in connection with Paul's first conversion on the continent of Europe. When Paul was in Philippi preaching the gospel, the Bible says that a businesswoman from Thyatira, a seller of purple named Lydia, was born again by the Holy Spirit. The Lord opened her heart. She was a seller of purple, Thyatira her home town was famous for its trade in purple dye, and indeed the textile industry in general was well known. As you have already heard, there were more trade guilds in Thyatira than any other Asian city, and a trade guild is simply the equivalent of a trade union today. Now that is very important, and I want you to remember that because it is significant in our understanding of the predicament that the Christians in Thyatira faced. Now we do not know from the Scriptures how this church at Thyatira began, and it may well have begun by the witness of Lydia who was from Thyatira. It is possible that she went home to her town and shared her faith, and gossiped the gospel. Now if that were the case, that is very ironic, isn't it? This church may have begun through a godly woman, and it eventually is destroyed by an ungodly Jezebel.
That is the city of Thyatira, let us move on to the characteristics of the Lord as He is revealed in this vision to the church at Thyatira. Verse 18: 'These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass'. The only time the Lord Jesus is described as the Son of God in the book of Revelation is here to the church at Thyatira, that must be significant. Why only here? Well, can I remind you of the words of Hebrews chapter 1: 'God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son'. The means by which God has communicated His full and complete revelation of Himself is in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Now why is that significant? Well, Jezebel claimed to be a prophetess. This woman in Thyatira was claiming to have received revelations from God, and was teaching under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So Christ comes to the church of Thyatira and reveals Himself as the supreme source of all divine revelation, the Son of God by whom God has revealed Himself to this age.
His eyes are seen to be as flames of fire, piercing vision into the hearts of men, and into the bowels of this church. He sees all, He sees all as it is, the all-seeing, omniscient eyes of the Son of God. Now I don't know how you view things in your life, in the life of your church. Maybe you are satisfied with your view of your life, and your view of your church - I wonder how the Lord Jesus Christ views it all, how He sees your life and mine, how He views your church and mine? You see, these fiery eyes see through sham, hypocrisy, pretence, camouflage, playacting! How does He see you?
Then He is described as the Son of God having eyes of fire and feet of brass, and we saw in previous weeks that that speaks of judgement, brass refined in the fire. These feet are for walking, so He is walking in judgement in the church at Thyatira. So let's put it all together as He is revealed in His characteristics: this Son of God knows everything, this Son of God who knows everything sees with these eyes of flame and fire into the depths of truth, and this One is moving to judge the church at Thyatira. It's an awful picture, isn't it? It is the awfulness of Christ in the midst of the churches. Now listen: I don't think we really have a grasp of this. The Lord Jesus Christ is now in the midst of His church. This is how He moves in the midst of corruptness, as the Son of God who knows all things, with eyes of fire that see all things, with feet of bronze that judge all things. He came to Ephesus in this judging way, and said: 'I will remove your lampstand unless you repent!'. He came to Pergamos with a sword out of His mouth, and He says: 'Unless you deal with the false teachers teaching the teaching of Balaam, and the teaching of the Nicolaitanes, I will come and fight against them with the sword of my mouth'. This is the awfulness of Christ in the midst of the church.
Here we find the Lord Jesus Christ is coming, and He says in verses 22 and 23 that, according to how people have followed the teaching of this Jezebel, He will cast her into a bed, 'and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death'. Is this how we view the Lord Jesus? Maybe we need to refocus on how the Lord Jesus is operating within the church of Jesus Christ in our age, particularly among churches that are corrupt.
Those are the characteristics as He is revealed to Thyatira. Now come with me to verse 19 where we have the commendation: 'I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first'. Now Thyatira had much evil in it, and we shall see that in great detail in a few moments, but Christ looks first of all at what is to be commended! Now what would you think of a church that was doing the type of things that Thyatira was doing? A woman was teaching, taking a primary role, but she was teaching the Christians to commit fornication and to eat meat offered to idols. If I were to ask you now, after the meeting tonight: what do you think of a church like that? You would say, 'It's not a New Testament Church at all'. Well, can I ask you: did the Lord Jesus Christ get it wrong? For as He addresses this church here before us in verse 18, He addresses it to the church in Thyatira - the word is 'assembly' - of God's people. Now I grant that, as with the parables, the mystery parables of the kingdom in Matthew 13, there is a mixture of wheat and tare. Profession is not the standard by which Christ judges His church, but possession. I'm sure that many of these people were not genuinely converted - and yet the Lord Jesus addresses it as an assembly.
There's a lesson I think I taught you a couple of weeks ago, and it's simply this: none of us have a right to judge anyone or any church, none of us, because we are not omniscient, we don't know everything. Now, of course we must judge righteous judgement according to the word of God, but we have no reason nor right to condemn anyone - unless they have completely rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have no right to say that they're not an assembly; that's not given to us, that's given to Christ. The Lord didn't get it wrong, and His strongest commendation of all the seven churches, believe it or not, is given to this church. Now, I have got a bit of work in trying to work that out, and I think you will have too! But those are the facts, and we are the ones have to do the work.
He commends them for their work, they were a busy church - boy do we need that in these days! We need to be busy for the Master, work because the night is coming. There were no bystanders, there were no uncommitted persons, there were no hangers-on, there were no people sitting on their hands, resting on their lees, everyone was in it and at it - hard working! The Lord commends them for their love, their charity. They loved! Now we have to take this at face value, that this love was genuine, otherwise they wouldn't have been commended for it. We must therefore assume that they loved God, they loved Christ, they loved fellow believers, they were loving the lost, they were loving the truth of God in some capacity at least - and when you went into this meeting at Thyatira you would have felt that love, the affection would have been almost tangible. It was a nice place to be. Now we need that, we could learn a thing or two from Thyatira. The church should be a welcoming place where we love one another and are known by the world that we love one another.
They are commended also for their service and their faithfulness in service. That word 'faith' in the Authorised really is 'faithfulness', it means endurance, their stickability. We need this, in service for Christ we're not to be of a flash-in-the-pan mentality, that we start a work this day and then give it up the next because we haven't got what it takes to follow through. We are called to be faithful and endure, as soldiers of Jesus Christ, great hardship. We need that in these days. Now look at the end of verse 19, they are commended because their last works were greater than their first - now what does that mean? They are progressing, they are an advancing church, they are doing more now for Christ than they ever had - and we need that today because the church, in the West at least, largely speaking, is in decline.
So they have beaten us already on all those scores. They are, as far as we have gone in this passage, outstanding as a church. Now recall the church at Ephesus as the Lord writes to it, they have left their first love, they have ceased to do their first works - that can't be said at Thyatira! They are doing more than they have ever done, and they're still loving one another and God - that's something! Yet even though, through all their activity and all their charity, Thyatira appears to have the picture of ecclesiastical health, there are putrefying sores deep in the body of this assembly. There is a cancer that is eating this church's life from the inside out. In verse 20 at the beginning the Lord says: 'I have a few things against thee', and these x-ray eyes of Christ are seeing things that you or I could never see or uncover - what a lesson! What is the lesson? I believe it is this: few people realise how things really are in the churches. Now we might think, and even pastors and elders might think that they have got it sussed, and have weighed up circumstances very well; but let's face it: all of us can only see things on the surface. A church might seem to have an effective ministry, it might even be growing numerically, it might be filled with activity and charity, and it might be going from strength to strength - but it might be like Thyatira, corrupt to the core.
Can you just imagine, let's not forget - because we're in biblical exposition each Monday night, we could forget that these are letters. As this letter, if they had letter boxes, fell through the letterbox and onto the mat, so to speak, of the church in Thyatira; and it was opened by one of the overseers and taken - what do you think the shock would have been when it was read on the Lord's day? I tell you, if it had come to some of our churches, it would never have got a hearing! I don't think it would have been read! It was so far removed from what people thought was the reality, but it was inspired by the all-seeing Christ, and it was telling them that their great activity and charity was all a cover-up for a great deal of sin! Do you know that? That activity can cover a multitude of sins? You know, I have a conviction of my own, and I don't know whether you'll share it with me, but I think we're all too busy today - even too busy in the work of the Lord. Now I know some of you might think that's not possible, but sometimes our overactivity is hiding the fact that most of us are spiritually anaemic and biblically illiterate because we're not spending any time at the Master's feet. That great old hymn that we don't sing much these days:
'Take time to be holy,
Speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always,
And feed on His word'.
Listen to the second verse:
'Take time to be holy,
The world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret,
With Jesus alone'.
The third verse:
'Take time to be holy,
Let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him,
The last verse:
'Take time to be holy,
Be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive
Beneath His control'.
Activity can be a great camouflage for the way your spiritual life really is. The Lord Jesus didn't judge this church on their activity. Now come with me, for we must move on from the commendation to the criticism, for the greater amount is given to this. Verse 20 - now though love is vital, 1 Corinthians 13 teaches us that clearly, the Lord is saying that no amount of love, no amount of sacrificial work can compensate for the tolerance of evil. In verse 20 the Lord says: 'I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest', you tolerate, 'that woman Jezebel'. Now you remember that Ephesus was criticised by the Lord because she was weak in love, but strong in judging false teachers; whereas Thyatira is growing in love, but is too tolerant in judging false doctrine and immorality in her midst. Now there's a lesson for us all: both extremes are wrong, both extremes are wrong! We need a biblical balance: unloving orthodoxy, you know these cold, conservative, unkind, fundamental Christians, and there's not a look of love on their face, or a word of love on their tongue. We want to avoid that extreme, that's probably the extreme we are in danger of here. Then there's the opposite extreme to uncaring, unloving orthodoxy, and that is liberality of love, loving compromise that is so loving that it embraces everything, even error.
Listen to the balance of the Bible, it is found in Ephesians 4:15, we are to speak the truth in love. Wonderful, isn't it? Speak the truth in love. This church tolerated this woman Jezebel - and I don't believe her name literally was Jezebel, who would give that name to a child? It meant the same in those days as it does in ours, for this was a character from the Old Testament. The name, I believe, is signifying the character of this woman who was literally in this church. Her claim is seen in this verse, she says she is a prophetess - the Lord doesn't give her that title, she has given it self-appointed to herself. Now let me say the New Testament Church refers to prophetesses, but never are they teaching publicly in the local church. Yet this woman Jezebel, claiming to herself the prophetic gift, is actually teaching, functioning in the New Testament assembly, teaching the word of God. The result is given here: it's seduction, the Lord says 'She has seduced my servants'. Now seduction simply is being taken from something that is good to something that is evil, from something that is right to something that is wrong, from something that is true to something that is erroneous. This self appointed prophetess teaching in the assembly was doing this.
Now why was she given the name 'Jezebel'? Well, Jezebel in the Old Testament, as I've said, was a character who was a Zidonian princess that married Ahab, the king of Israel, the Northern ten tribes. It was through Ahab's wife, Jezebel, that idolatry was introduced to the Northern Kingdom. It was through Jezebel that the prophets of Jehovah were slain. Jezebel inhabited 850 prophets of Baal in her own home. She caused the murder of Naboth to get his vineyard. The Bible says she stirred Ahab to be one of the most wicked kings of all Israelite history. Listen to 1 Kings 16: 'Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him'; 1 Kings 21, 'There was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up'. Elijah prophesied concerning Jezebel that she would die in the portion of the field of Jezreel, and dogs would eat her flesh.
Why was this woman called Jezebel? For several reasons: one certainly is that it was Ahab's weak leadership as a man king that allowed the evil woman Jezebel to adulterate the nation. The weak leadership in the church at Thyatira among the male overseers was permitting this woman to do what apostolic teaching had forbidden her to do - what was that? One: to teach as a woman. Now I know that I'll get no awards from the politically correct movement for saying this tonight, but I'm standing on the Bible, not on what is popular. The Bible clearly teaches in 1 Timothy chapter 2 verse 12 that women are not to teach, in a public capacity, the whole assembly. Now let me clarify that: women missionaries are evangelising, women Sunday School teachers are not met in the assembly when they're doing it - an assembly is not a building. We've got to get away from this, this is not the house of God, you're the house of God! God's Spirit dwells in you, so when women are teaching women, that is not the assembly meeting. I'm sorry if that offends you, but that's the Bible. But when God's people are all met together as the assembly of God's people, that is forbidden, that women should teach.
So there was a transgression there, but secondly it was not only the fact she was teaching, but she was claiming in her teaching that she was inspired as a prophetess - and that was a big problem, why? Because Jude verse 3 tells us that the faith was once and for all delivered to the saints, that means that every revelation that we need has been given to us in the Lord Jesus and the Apostles, and we have the apostles' doctrine in our hands in the New Testament Scriptures. Yet here in Thyatira, only 30 years after the Apostles, this woman was claiming that her revelations superseded the apostolic authority of the word of God - that was the problem. Now, what relevance has that today? It has an awful lot of relevance, because Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, wrote a book called 'Science and Health with a Key to the Scriptures', and she said that she had the key to understanding the Bible as it never had been understood before, and it was in her book. She was a liar and a false prophetess, and she was inspired by the devil. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, claimed to receive tablets of gold that nobody could find, that were strangely taken back to heaven and nobody had seen, and he interpreted and translated it and it became the Book of Mormon, which incidentally has also a subtitle as 'Another Revelation of Jesus Christ' - there isn't another one! He was an impostor, and a liar, and a false prophet - just like this Jezebel!
Now how did she get away with it? Well, she got away with it the same way as Joseph Smith got away with it, Mary Baker Eddy, and false prophets and prophetesses today. She probably was beautiful, she most likely was very intelligent and articulate, she had a great personality as a gifted speaker I'm sure - and the people were gullible and swallowed it all. Now, you might think that is very condescending to many followers in cults and religions today, but that's the long and short of it. You hear people saying: 'Oh, but they're so kind, they're so charismatic, they're so attractive, they're so good, they're so gifted - they couldn't be wrong!' - don't be so gullible! God's word says that the angels of Satan, his emissaries and apostles, will come as angels of light. I remember studying in school at history that all the women in Germany loved Adolf Hitler - now that's a generalisation, I know, but he was a very charming man you know, very charming but very evil. Don't be gullible.
Isaiah chapter 8 verse 20 says: 'To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them'. This woman seduced these believers, what to do? To fornicate, to eat things sacrificed to idols, they were ignoring the apostolic decree in Acts chapter 15 not to do those two things, among other things. They were ignoring 1 Corinthians 6 to flee fornication, they were ignoring 1 Corinthians 10 to flee idolatry, and this woman was teaching that these Scriptures don't apply any more the way they used to. She is saying to these believers: 'You're too rigid! The Bible doesn't need to be taken so literally now'. Now listen to me tonight: you beware of anyone who tells you that the New Testament apostolic doctrine doesn't apply today!
That's how she seduced them - let me give you the prime example, I believe, of how she did it. These trade guilds, trade unions, and you had to be in them to make a living, to be in a job, to have a business - and now and again, from time to time you'd be invited to a social function, and usually that social function would be in the temple of a pagan deity. There would be a big slap up meal, the meat you would be eating at the table would have been offered to the idol, and then around were the vestal virgins - and once the drink got in, the wit went out, and before you knew it that gathering could become an orgy of immorality that would be interpreted as great worship to that pagan deity. These Christians were faced with commercial suicide: they either went to these social gatherings, or they lost their livelihood and became destitute. Builders, owners in the textile business, tradesmen - to refuse the social circuit was the end of their career!
Now, Jezebel comes in with the answer: 'You don't need to be so tight! You're so rigid and legalistic - be sensible! You have a wife, don't you? You have a couple of wee children, you have your family to think about. We're entering the second century now, we've moved on from all that stuff! Anyway, how do you expect to win these people for Christ if you're going to be all standoffish with that attitude?'. In a brilliant way she convinced many of these believers to separate in their mind the spiritual and the secular. Now you grasp that tonight: she convinced them to have one set of principles for church, and one set of principles for work; one for the assembly, one for the office. You can understand how that was successful! How people embraced it! But do you understand how dangerous it is? I'll tell you why: because it wasn't long until this error developed into what we know as Gnosticism, which was a dualism. Now let me not confuse you: a dualism was the separating of the spiritual and material, and these false teachers were saying that everything that is material is wicked, so go away and live immorally because your body is going to be destroyed, and the only good thing is the spirit - but even if you live an immoral life in the body, it cannot affect the good that is in your spirit.
That was beginning to be taught in the church, propagated: commit immorality of any kind, it will not affect your spirit nor your standing before God - that's what these Christian teachers were saying. Now, see the graciousness of our Lord in verse 21, He gave them space to repent - which she didn't. I wonder is the Lord speaking to someone in our meeting tonight, and He's giving you time to repent and you haven't done it yet. This is not, by the way, something just for unsaved people, this is something for Christians and the church of Jesus Christ. They would not repent, and so there was a condemnation in verses 21-23, and you will note there three 'I wills' that the Lord speaks. In other words, He is saying: 'If you don't deal with this woman, I will, I will, I will!'. He says: 'I'll give her a sickbed, a bed of tribulation in place of the her bed of lust. I'll limit her movements and her teachings, and those who have committed adultery with her, both literally and metaphorically in spiritual error, they will be thrown into that bed as well - a bed of great tribulation for people endorsing this falsehood'. 'I'll kill her children, adherents to this falsehood, with death', it says - and that word is 'pestilence', 'Unless they forsake her and escape from her deeds. I'm going to do this', look at the verse, 'I'm going to do this so that all the churches will know that the Lord is watching, and the Lord rewards and judges according to deeds'.
I'll tell you, this is serious stuff: this second generation of Christians in the church at Thyatira had fallen into what is called here 'the depths of Satan', verse 24. They should have been in what 1 Corinthians 2 verse 10 calls 'the deep things of God revealed by the Spirit'. Let us bring that into a modern comparison today: is it possible that Christians know more about the world than they do about the word? Possible? Is it possible that believers practise their freedom in Christ by their indulgence in all sorts of immorality? Is it possible that they express their liberty in the Spirit by licence in sin, and they say 'Well, I'm spiritual enough'? They don't say it openly of course, but: 'I should be spiritual enough to handle a wee glass of wine beside my dinner, it'll not corrupt me'. I'll tell you, this is a big problem in the Christian church - and I know I'll get shot down for saying this, but I don't care - because many middle-class Christians that grew up in Christian homes where there was no drink, have never ever seen what drink can do. They think, 'We can handle it. I can go to the clubs and be a Christian - it's a witness, even though I can't talk because nobody can hear. I'll not get tainted, I can go and watch a film, and watch things that are tantamount to the immorality of Jezebel - but I can discern, you know, that that's not the way to live. I could listen to music that talks about all sorts of immorality, and it doesn't affect me'. The Lord Jesus says it does! Stay away!
Jezebel's teaching is: 'You can live like the world and not be affected. You can have their social life, you can have their sex life, and still be in fellowship with the Lord Jesus and around the Lord's Table'. Horatius Bonar said: 'I looked for the church and I found it in the world. I looked for the world and I found it in the church' - that was Thyatira, the corrupt church, is that the church today?
A commitment is given finally in verse 24 and following to the end, to the overcomers, the rest: 'As many as have not this doctrine'. Praise God there's a faithful remnant, there was a faithful remnant in the church of Rome down through the years, there were faithful people that were outside the church of Rome in mountains in Italy and various parts of Europe, and they weren't tainted by the false doctrine. God has a faithful remnant, even in corrupt churches. Do you know something? Sometimes He needs the faithful remnant to turn to, and so that is tantamount to saying to you: the first thing to do is not run, the first thing to do is stand for truth. A lot of you are good at getting up and walking out when things don't suit - that's not the way it's done. If you've got a case on the authority of this book, you've got cause to stand, cause to stand.
This faithful remnant were told: 'I'm not going to put any other burden on you', look at the verses, 'than to hold fast what you already have been told until Christ comes'. Now what had they already been told? The apostles' doctrine, Acts chapter 15, listen: 'It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well'. They needed to get back to the book - boy, that's what we need today. The easy way was Jezebel's way, it's the same today - the easy way is the popular way, the trendy way, the neo-evangelical way, but it's the wrong way for it wasn't Christ's way!
Here we have to the overcomer the Lord Jesus saying, verse 25: 'Hold fast till I come'. He's going to reward the church, the faithful ones. Part of that reward will be reigning with Him in the millennium, verses 26 and 27, quoted from Psalm 2. The Lord Himself will come, who is described here as the Morning Star. In chapter 22 it shows us that that is the Lord Jesus - do you know this? The morning star, literally, in our skies appears three hours before the sun rises. Now the Jewish nation are waiting for the Sun of Righteousness, Jesus Christ their Messiah, to rise with healing in His wings - that's His coming in judgement to judge the Jewish enemies. But here we have the Morning Star rising three hours before the Sun rises in righteousness - this is the Lord Jesus Christ coming back for His people to reward them, and part of that reward will be reigning in the millennium. In verse 29 notice these words, 'He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches', are coming after the promise to the overcomer, and up to now in the other letters it has come before. The point is that it's as if the Lord only expects these overcomers to listen, things have got so bad in this church, that it's only going to be them that will heed.
Now can I ask you tonight as we close: could you have overcome in Thyatira? Could you? Let me ask you again: if the Lord Jesus Christ were to come tonight, would you be found to be faithful and true? I'm not asking you are you saved - now that's important, nothing is more important - but if you're a Christian, are you ready? If the Morning Star should rise tonight before we reach our homes: are you ready, are things right? What I mean is: would you be happy for the Lord Jesus to come now, right now? Would things be right in your business dealings? Would things be filled in right on your tax forms? Would money you owe be paid? Would things be right in your marriage? Would things be right with your children or your parents? What about your dealings in private? If you judged the way you have been living the last few months, the last few weeks or days, would you be happy if the Lord Jesus came?
I never cease to be astounded with the reply of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, when he was asked this question: if the Lord was to tell you you were going to die this time tomorrow night, what would you do? He said: 'I would do the same things I did today'. How many of us could say that? Or will it be: 'By and by, when I look on His face, I'll wish I had given Him more'.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventh recording in his 'The Book Of The Revelation' series, entitled "Thyatira, The Corrupt Church" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
All material by David Legge is copyrighted. However, these materials may be freely copied and distributed unaltered for the purpose of study and teaching, so long as they are made available to others free of charge, and this copyright is included. This does not include hosting or broadcasting the materials on another website, however linking to the resources on preachtheword.com is permitted. These materials may not, in any manner, be sold or used to solicit 'donations' from others, nor may they be included in anything you intend to copyright, sell, or offer for a fee. This copyright is exercised to keep these materials freely available to all. Any exceptions to these conditions must be explicitly approved by Preach The Word. [Read guidelines...]