[Dec 20]--To the Church in Thyatira

            Today we’ll examine Jesus’ short letter to the fourth church, the one in Thyatira. Here’s some background from MacArthur: “Located halfway between Pergamos and Sardis, this city had been under Roman rule for nearly 3 centuries (ca. 190 B.C.). Since the city was situated in a long valley that swept 40 miles to Pergamos, it had no natural defenses and had a long history of being destroyed and rebuilt. Originally populated by soldiers of Alexander the Great, it was little more than a military outpost to guard Pergamos. Lydia came from this city on business and was converted under Paul's ministry (Ac 16:14,15).” He also notes that the church had been in existence for about 40 years, the importance of which we’ll see in a moment.
            All of the descriptions of Jesus in each letter harkens back to the original vision of him given to John in the first chapter. Here the Lord emphasizes that he’s the Son of God, who has eyes like blazing fire and feet like burnished bronze. The second image speaks to his utter holiness, the first reminds us of his laser-like piercing of our souls, bypassing our deceit, excuses, and secrets: “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
            He knows everything about every church, along with everything about every member of that church. He saw some good: Most of them were working for the Kingdom, showing love to himself and to others, demonstrating faith, service, and perseverance. And perhaps best of all, they were improving. One of the surest signs that you’re saved is not that you never sin, but that you’re getting better: more holy, more personally righteous,  and becoming more like Christ in thought, word, and deed.
            However. . . there was a major problem in the church. There was a very influential woman in the congregation, to whom he gives the pseudonym “Jezebel,” who was causing all sorts of problems. For those not familiar with this woman’s namesake, Jezebel was a very evil woman married to Ahab, King of Israel. Her main nemesis was the prophet Elijah. Through her malign influence on her husband and the nation, she led God’s people astray into blatant idolatry and immorality.
            This woman in the church at Thyatira was a spiritual heir of Jezebel, leading the people there into sexual immorality and “eating food sacrificed to idols.” Not there was anything innately sinful about eating meat that had been offered to idols, but apparently she was somehow leading them into idolatry itself with her teachings. Apparently it was the age-old seduction into the antinomian lie: God doesn’t really care about your sin. Sin isn’t that big a deal. He’s forgiven you, so do whatever you feel like doing.
            And our compassionate and gracious Lord, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness, had had enough. He’d given her more than enough time to repent, and she hadn’t. She’d been leading people into her “bed” of adultery, both physical and spiritual (which is what idolatry is), and in his justice he was casting her onto a “bed” of his own, a bed of suffering, probably ending in death and eternal punishment.
            The worst thing about false teachers, however, is that they don’t just lead themselves into destruction. As the term “teacher” implies, they lead others into condemnation as well. Evil doesn’t keep to itself and is never content with just being left alone. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and Evil has to metastasize and replicate. For forty years the church had been in Thyatira, and so apparently "Jezebel" had lots of spiritual “children,” people who’d fallen into her trap and were under her influence. Apparently her time was up, and the Lord wasn’t giving her any more chances. Not so with all of her followers, however. Please keep in mind what we said regarding the prophets: Behind every announcement of judgment is a loving God who’s reaching out to sinful people. As harsh as the Lord might sound in this passage, his warnings should remind us that he’s not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance. As surely as he lives, he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his ways and live.
            But we need to take note of something here. This seems to be a pattern in his letters to the churches: Toleration of evil—especially false teaching--is not a virtue. Of course, in the fight against Satan’s lies, we use the weapons the Lord’s given us (prayer, the word, church discipline), not the weapons of the world. But the Lord Jesus severely castigated his church for tolerating false teachers in her midst. We need to be careful of this, especially in this day when information can be passed along so quickly.
            He knows. He knows what they’ve been doing, both good and bad. He knows the work they’ve been doing in his name, and he’s well aware of  what “Jezebel’s” been doing there. He knows the degree to which, if any, each one has bought into this self-serving lie. He searches out each and every person’s heart and mind, and every person—whether they’re a believer or not—is going to regret his sin, either now in repentance or later when meeting him face to face
            There’s a good point to consider in vs. 24: Just like with our first parents, Satan offers “knowledge” and “secrets” that God is supposedly holding back from us. He offers deeper understanding of grand mysteries than what the na├»ve Bible presents. It’s a lie. It’s always been a lie, and it always will be. Probe his “secrets” and “knowledge” for more than a moment, and you’ll see that it’s the inch-deep same old lies he’s always been peddling. If we don’t listen to him, the Lord promises to lighten our burden. The Lord is holding back from us nothing but unnecessary pain, suffering, loss and regret.
            I just want to remind you, the promises in vss. 26-28 apply to every believer. He’s coming back to reign in power and glory, and all of us will share in that inheritance. Most importantly, to every believer he’ll give the “Morning Star.” What, or who, is this “Morning Star”? If you’ve been paying attention, you should be able to guess: It’s the Lord Jesus himself. He’s our Morning Star and our Secret Manna. He’s more than our wildest dreams realized. He’s more than enough.

Lord Jesus, I know that we can’t tolerate the Enemy’s lies in the church, but all too often I let his lies into my own heart. Search out my heart, pull out any lies you find by its roots, and replant your truth wherever it’s needed. Please. 

No comments:

Post a Comment