The Corrupted Church at Thyatira
INTRODUCTION: Someone has well said,
“Men have no fault to find with religion so long as it confers benefits, and demands only outward forms of worship. But when they discover that it cuts into their personal habits, demands a morality, affects their ways of doing business, and thus alters the whole aspect of their lives then they are not enthusiastic about it.”
That is a perfect description of the church at Thyatira, the fourth church in Asia Minor that is mentioned in Revelation 2:18-29. It contains not only the longest message sent to the church in the smallest city, but also the most severe condemnation by our Lord.
Here is a church that was enthusiastic about religious exercises, but tolerated sin in its midst. In this letter there is a warning – a church which may be crowded with people and is a dynamo of activity is not automatically a true church.
How many churches do you know that are crowded because people come to be ENTERTAINED instead of INSTRUCTED and CHALLENGED by the Word of God? These churches speak of righteousness, but sin is tolerated in the church, as well as in the lives of the believers.
The city of Thyatira is located about 40 miles southeast of Pergamos on the road from Pergamos to Sardis.
Thyatira was a center of trade; especially in purple dye. Lydia, a seller of purple at Philippi, came from Thyatira.
Thyatira was noted for its trade guilds. These guilds were closely connected with the heathen religions and pagan feasts which were so immoral that no Christian could afford to compromise his testimony by mixing with them.
Christ opens His letter to the church at Thyatira by identifying Himself in 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 pagan citizens of Thyatira worshiped the sun god Tyrimnas.
But this church needed to learn that the glory of the Son of God would always be far greater than the glory of any pagan sun god.
In this letter, Christ presents Himself as the "Son of God" to restate His position as the exalted, true Head of the church. He addresses an error prevalent during the Thyatira period of church history which is the exaltation of Mary, the mother of Jesus, above our Savior.
When the church embraced the world, Christ became known as the "Son of Mary" rather than the "Son of God."
The Thyatira church exalted the bishop of Rome above all other bishops, making him the head of the church, which is the position held only by Christ.
Now again, we are going to focus on the three parts of the Lord’s message to this church:
NUMBER 1: In verse 19 Christ COMMENDS the Church. “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.”
Our Lord begins His message to the church in Thyatira as He did with Ephesus. And again we feel like saying, "What a church!" Instead of shriveled love, it had growing love. The people worked hard, faithfully, and patiently. However, beneath the healthy surface was a cesspool.
A young man received a memo on his desk, requesting his appearance at two o'clock in the boss's office. At 1:59 he walked in, wiping his sweaty palms on his sides. After a pleasant greeting, the boss said, "Sit down, I want to tell you some positive things I've observed about your work."
The fellow eased himself into the chair in front of the executive desk and the knot in his stomach began to dissolve. Maybe he'd get a raise. "You're a good worker, and you seem to believe strongly in what you're doing." "Nevertheless," the boss continued, "I have evidence that you are frequently seen with a woman who is not your wife."
The man behind the desk seemed to have eyes that could look right through the accused employee. Adultery may not be an indictment in many companies, but in this case the worker was the youth pastor in a large church.
When Jesus wrote the letter to the pastor of the church in Thyatira He said, "I know your deeds…” Now the tone changed as He said, “Nevertheless I have this against you…" Outward conduct may be exemplary, but we can't fool Him. His burning eyes pierce the darkness and flash with the flame of moral anger. Someone wrote:
"There is nothing more piercing than flaming fire. Everything yields and melts before it. It penetrates all things, consumes every opposition, sweeps down all obstructions, and presses its way with invincible power. And of this sort are the eyes of Jesus. They look through everything; they pierce through all masks and coverings; they search the remotest recesses; they behold the most hidden things of the soul; and there is no escape from them."
In many ways, the ministry of Thyatira was better than that of the previous churches. Thyatira had the love that Ephesus had abandoned. The believers there preserved the faith that was in jeopardy in Pergamos and shared with Smyrna the patience needed to endure suffering. However, in this church, a cancer was allowed to grow.
Again someone has reminded us: "If the devil cannot conquer the church by the application of political pressure or the propagation of intellectual heresy, he will try the insinuation of moral evil. This was the dragon's strategy in Thyatira."
NUMBER 2: In verses 20-23 Christ CONDEMNS the Church.
“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. (21) And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. (22) Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. (23) 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.”
What was wrong at this church? Our Lord does not generalize, He particularizes: “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.” The word “sufferest” means “to allow.” The church allowed SIN to creep in. The church allowed doctrinal error to come in.
The church did not judge sin and condemn it; they tolerated it.
The church did not rebuke and eradicate doctrinal error or pagan worship; they allowed it to come into their midst.
Who was this Jezebel? Our Lord used an Old Testament character to describe the troublemaker in Thyatira. Jezebel’s story is found in I Kings chapters 16-19
Of course, the Old Testament Jezebel was the notorious wife of Ahab, king of Israel. She was a Baal-worshipper. After she married Ahab she set up the worship of Baal in Israel and later her daughter, Athaliah married King Jehoram and corrupted Judah in the same way.
Jezebel was one of the cleverest and most dangerous women in history.
Jezebel supported over 800 prophets of her immoral cult and killed all the prophets of Jehovah that she could find. Weak-kneed Ahab didn't have the courage to stop his wicked wife. Jezebel's character was so evil that Elijah the prophet prophesied she would come to a sudden end and her body would be eaten by dogs.
Jezebel was the epitome of immorality and idolatry. A good woman is the best thing on earth. But an evil woman is the most dangerous thing on earth.
Thyatira tolerated a satanic woman in its midst and refused to censor her. The Christians in Thyatira had either a poor conscience or very weak courage. Their refusal to rebuke their Jezebel was like Ahab's refusal to deal with his.
Whoever this Jezebel of Thyatira was, our Lord says that she was a prophetess. She claimed inspiration and some new revelation. She "taught and seduced" Christians to commit fornication and eat things sacrificed unto idols. She dealt in some highbrow philosophy from the world of darkness, some "ism" of the devil.
The seductive teaching of Jezebel was similar to the "doctrine of Balaam" that the Lord condemned in the church of Pergamos There was something mysterious and high-sounding about it, and it appealed to some of the believers in Thyatira just as some present-day “isms” attract some church members.
We have a lot of people who will not believe the plain Word of God, but who will fall for any “ism” or religious philosophy.
She taught believers how to compromise with the Roman religion and the practices of the guilds, so that Christians would not lose their jobs or their lives.
It is interesting to contrast the churches at Ephesus and Thyatira. Both extremes must be avoided in the church.
The Ephesian church was weakening in its love, yet faithful to judge false teachers; while the people in the assembly at Thyatira were growing in their love, but too tolerant of false doctrine.
There is nothing new about Jezebelism. It has been with us from the beginning, and is responsible for all the mixture of paganism with Christianity in Romanism.
Historically the Roman Catholic Church had its beginning during the Pergamos church period from 300 to 500 AD. Though the armies of Rome no longer ruled the political world, Rome, through religious power, ruled the Christian world for the next one-thousand years, A.D. 500 to 1500, which is often called the Dark Ages.
Prophetically and Historically this is the period of the Thyatira church. This period we called the Middle Ages or the medieval period of history. The church of this period was known for its immoral church leaders, its religious idolatry, and superstitious religious ceremonies.
As Jezebel brought idolatry into Israel, the Thyatira church brought Idolatry into Christianity. Reverence and the worship of religious images and relics became commonplace during this period. Superstition was as strong in the Roman Church as it was in the heathen lands.
Many of the great and important doctrines of Christianity were lost to the people during the Dark Ages, the most important being salvation by grace through faith. In its place was substituted a system of works through the Roman church.
Wrong doctrines easily went unchecked, since common people were unable to read and were taught that only priests could properly interpret Scripture. This left the people not knowing that Roman teachings were un-Biblical.
Without the Word of God to teach them the truth about God, about themselves, and about the world, people were fearful, superstitious, and dependent upon the priests. By discouraging reading among the common people, the Roman church greatly contributed to the regression of learning in all areas during the Dark Ages.
The Roman church of the Dark Ages with its numerous religious dogmas with no Biblical support is foreshadowed in the Scriptures. In I Timothy 4:1-6 we read,
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shall be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.”
The Catholic church claimed for centuries that its beginning dated back to the apostle Peter and that it is the unchanging possessor of truth; however, the chart below shows when many of its religious beliefs were added, long after the New Testament was written.
The following chart reveals the evolving history of pagan dogmas introduced into Roman Catholicism:
Prayers for the dead A.D. 330
The sign of the cross A.D. 330
Worship of Mary and use of the title "Mother of God" A.D. 431
Latin language used exclusively in worship A.D. 600
Title "pope" officially given to the Bishop of Rome A.D. 610
Kissing of pope's feet A.D. 709
Pagans by custom kissed the emperor's feet. The Bible
forbids this (Acts 10:25-26; Rev. 19:10; 22:9).
Temporal power of popes A.D. 750
When Pepin, the usurper of the throne of France
invaded Italy and conquered the Lombards, he gave the city of Rome
and the surrounding territory to the Pope. Jesus forbids such a thing
and refused worldly kingship (Matt. 4:8-9; 20:25-26; and John 18:38).
Adoration of saints A.D. 788
Adoration of the cross, images, and relics A.D. 788
Blessing of bells A.D. 965
Fasting: Lent, Advent, and Fridays A.D. 998
Fabrication of holy water A.D. 1009
Marriage of priests forbidden A.D. 1070
Rosary beads invented A.D. 1090
Sale of Indulgences A.D. 1190
Sacrifice of Mass officially recognized A.D. 1215
Transubstantiation of bread A.D. 1215
Articular confession of sins to a priest A.D. 1215
Adoration of the water A.D. 1220
People forbidden to take cup of Communion wine A.D. 1414
Purgatory proclaimed A.D. 1438
Tradition held equal with the Bible A.D. 1545
By tradition is meant human teachings. The Pharisees believed the
same way, and Jesus condemned them, for by human tradition, they
annulled the commandments of God (Mark 7:1-13; Col. 2:8; Rev. 22:18).
Apocryphal books added to the Bible A.D. 1546
Immaculate conception of Mary made official A.D. 1845
Jezebelism is very popular these days. Jezebel is often very charming, for even Satan is disguised as an angel of light. She may sound very intellectual and cultured and refined and it may seem most unchristian to oppose her. But she mixes the altar of Baal with the worship of Jehovah, the mystery of iniquity with the mystery of godliness. She believes, for instance, that a "converted" night-club singer can keep on singing in night clubs if she will end each program with ''I'd Rather Have Jesus.''
It is significant that the situation in Thyatira was the very opposite of that in Ephesus.
In Ephesus they were very orthodox and on their guard against false doctrine, but they left their first love. Fundamental Ephesus became belligerent instead of militant and loses her love of contending for the faith.
In Thyatira they had love. There was plenty of Agape among them, but they were so sweet and pleasant that they tolerated everything, including Jezebel. Thyatira, for all her love, develops a pleasant amiability and wants to get along with everything and everybody including the devil himself.
Beware today of any teaching that makes God's people unfaithful to Him. He is a jealous God. James puts it bluntly in James 4:4:
"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God"
When we marry, we take vows and assume responsibilities and make promises. When we confess Christ as Saviour we do the same thing. There are church members a plenty who would not think of being untrue to their marriage vows, but who have no conscience about their relationship to Christ. They would have all the privileges of the gospel with none of the responsibilities.
The trouble with the Christians in Thyatira – they tolerated Balaamism instead of standing with the Lord in direct opposition.
In the religious world, the same delusion prevails. Christians cannot peacefully coexist with the world, the flesh, and the devil with Balaam, and Jezebel with worldliness and false doctrine. We cannot tolerate what our Lord condemned. Somehow the idea has gotten around that it is unchristian to take a stand against heresy.
Paul wrote "…If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." What he is really saving is "Let him he damned!"
The church of Thyatira tried to adjust to the situation, instead of adjusting the situation. We follow in their footsteps today. The voice of the prophet is silenced. Elijah no longer stands on Carmel saying, "How long halt ye between two opinions?"
As someone said, “We have become thermometers merely registering the prevailing temperature of the times instead of thermostats in touch with a greater power by which we change the temperature of the times!”
The Lord of the Candlesticks threatened Jezebel and her crowd with severe judgment: "Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds." If He takes that attitude toward such evils, how can we be tolerant of them?
NUMBER 3: In verses 24-28 Christ CHALLENGES the Church:
“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. (25) But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.”
Not everyone in the church was unfaithful to the Lord. Some had separated themselves from the false doctrine and compromising practices of Jezebel and her followers. To all Christians today these are our orders.
Do not be led astray by modern voices, new “isms” and "revelations." Beware of people who think they have seen visions when they have only had nightmares.
Do not be taken for a ride and sold down the river by new "trends" and approaches of Christianity streamlined to suit a generation that cannot endure sound doctrine.
We have but one responsibility “none other burden” but to hold fast the old faith till Jesus comes. We have but one responsibility of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church of Rome found in Romans 1:15-17
“I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. (15) So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. (16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (17) For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Ponder these words, “I am debtor.” Someone wrote: We owe the Gospel to the world. We owe it to the Lamb of God to share His message. We owe it to the world to make the glory of Christ known to “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” May God help us to be reminded that we are debtors!
This is Jezebel's day but our day is coming: Again in verses 26-28 we read,
“And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: (27) 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. (28) And I will give him the morning star.”
The Morning Star is the Lord Himself. Fix your eyes upon the Morning Star and seek to turn many to Him that you may shine as the stars forever and ever. We have a Star, a finished work and a finished revelation. Let us hold them fast and hold them forth till Jesus comes.
Until Jesus comes in the rapture we have a Book. When everything- else fails and we cannot see our way, we can still mount up with wings as eagles and fly by the instrument of the Word of God.
Long ago my Godly parents placed in my boyish hands the Word of God. They assured me that it would be “The lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Over these years there has been no need for me to experiment with the world’s philosophies, for I have long realized that the “Grace of God and the Word of God would not only see me through, but it would see me home.” Therefore I am resolved to hold it fast till Jesus comes.
Now in conclusion: As you review these first four messages to the churches, you can see the dangers that still exist for the people of God.
Like Ephesus, we can be zealous and orthodox, but at the same time lose our devotion to Christ.
Or, like Thyatira, our love can be increasing yet lacking in the kind of discernment that is necessary to keep the church pure.
Like Pergamos and Thyatira, we may be so tolerant of evil that we grieve the Lord and invite His judgment.
Would we have selected Smyrna as the most spiritual church of the four? Probably not, yet the Lord did! We need to remind ourselves not to judge God's people by wrong standards, because only the Lord can see the heart.
God's exhortation to these churches (except Smyrna) is, "Repent! Change your minds!" It is not only lost sinners who need to repent, but also disobedient Christians. If we do not repent and deal with sin in our lives and in our assemblies, the Lord may judge us and remove our candlestick – our life or even our church.
How tragic it is when a local church gradually abandons the faith and loses its witness for Christ! "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches!"
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon “The Corrupted Church at Thyatira” right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, please let me know. Please send an e-mail to pdmikBBM@aol.com and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
Copy write permission: Because the “Weekly SERMON” will be reproduced into other formats, PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THE FOLLOWING: The “Weekly SERMON” in its original form, without any changes, may be copied and re-transmitted by electronic mail, and copies may be printed for individual or ministry purposes, provided that such copying, re-transmission, printing, or other use is not for profit or other commercial purpose. Any copying, re-transmission, distribution, printing, or other use of the “Weekly SERMON” must set forth in full the heading that is given before each “Weekly SERMON.” Any other request for use, please contact Bible Baptist Ministries at pdmikBBM@aol.com or by phone at 570.829.5216.
PS: In order to access the Weekly SERMON, in various FORMATS please SUBSCRIBE to our weekly email list at http://theweeklysermon.com/subscribe-or-unsubscribe/ where SUBSCRIBERS ONLY have access to the link to Weekly Sermon Library, SUBSCRIBERS can choose: Plain Text (TXT), Microsoft Word document (DOC), Rich Text (RTF), Web Page (HTML) or PDF (Portable Document Format), any of the format(s) you desire. After you decide on the appropriate format(s) you may then print a copy of the Weekly SERMON, save it to a file on your computer, or download it and save it to a disk for future use. SUBSCRIBERS use of this material is meant to be flexible: UNSUBSCRIBING is easy, just follow the same link above..