160710 Revelation 2:18-29

Last Updated on Sunday, 10 July 2016 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Revelation 2:18-29
Theme: From The Savior With Love: Thyatira

As we come to the halfway point of our sermon series on the letters to the churches in Revelation, it becomes apparent that these seven congregations had much in common. They were connected geographically, sometimes separated by less than a good day's walk. They were connected politically as subjects of the emperor in Rome. Most importantly they were connected spiritually. No matter what their places of worship looked like on the outside, they were all built on the same solid foundation of faith in Jesus Christ.

But even with all these similarities, each congregation had its unique blessings and challenges. Jesus praised the Ephesians as champions of orthodox Christian teaching, but to their dishonor they had forsaken their first love. The church at Smyrna was about to come under attack and needed the encouragement to remain faithful even if it meant dying for what they believed. The Christians in Pergamum had already passed through the fires of persecution, but the flames of false teaching continued to burn in their midst.

Today we travel to Thyatira, a city about twenty miles southeast of Pergamum, a city that was known for its trade guilds (today we might call them unions). The church in Thyatira was unique, but it was not radically different from any gathering of believers that worships God and battles Satan, any congregation that is made up of less than perfect people, any group of sinner/saints like you and me. And so it is in our best interests as twenty first century Christians to listen carefully and learn from this first century letter...

FROM THE SAVIOR WITH LOVE: THYATIRA

"To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): Only hold on to what you have until I come.  To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—'He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery'—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:18-29).

Jesus identified himself as the author of the first three letters in Revelation, but not directly. Instead he described himself as the one who "holds the seven stars in his right hand" (2:1), as "the First and the Last, who died and came to life again" (2:8), as the one "who has the sharp, double-edged sword" (2:12).

Jesus forgoes the symbolic language and gets right to the point in his letter to the church in Thyatira. He says: "These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze (2:18)" This is the only place in Revelation where Jesus refers to himself as the Son of God. His fiery eyes bring to mind his omniscience. Only God can see our deepest, darkest secrets. His feet of burnished bronze signify his omnipotence. Only God can destroy anyone or anything that stands in his way. With an introduction like this Jesus wants everyone who reads this letter to know that it comes from the almighty, all-knowing Son of God.

And what did he know about the Christians in Thyatira? "I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first" (2:19) This was a congregation that was moving forward. They had the right motivation. They had a clear vision. And they were not afraid to put their faith into action. For the many things that were going well in Thyatira, the Lord gave them high praise.

All of the qualities Jesus mentions here (faith, love, service, perseverance) were modeled by a native of Thyatira, a woman by the name of Lydia. She was the dealer in purple cloth Paul met by the river outside of Philippi (in Acts 16). Luke tells us that the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message, and she in turn opened her home to Paul and his companions.

I wonder if Lydia ever made it back home. I wonder if the believers in Thyatira looked forward to her visits, if they gathered around to hear her words of encouragement, if they fed off of her gracious spirit. The congregation could have benefited from the presence of a strong Christian woman because another woman had become the source of all kinds of problems.

Her name was Jezebel (at least that is how Jesus refers to her), and she was a self-appointed prophetess. There is a reason why moms and dads don't name their baby girls "Jezebel" any more. Its one of those names in the Bible (like Judas) that we automatically associate with evil.

The original Jezebel was the wicked wife of King Ahab. She was the one who encouraged her husband to set up altars to Baal in Israel (1 Kings 16). She was the one who murdered Naboth so Ahab could take his vineyard (1 Kings 21). And she was the one who met her demise when she was thrown from a window and then dogs came and ate her flesh (2 Kings 9).

The sins of the "Jezebel" in Thyatira were more subtle, but they were just as despicable: "By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols" (20). The false teaching of Jezebel in Thyatira was related to the false teaching of Balaam in Pergamum. She compromised the truth in order to accommodate evil. She put some wrapping paper and a shiny bow on something detestable and then tried to pass it off as something acceptable. And what is worse is that she was taking many good, God-fearing people down with her.

But even that was not her greatest sin. Jesus continues: "I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling" (21). The Lord gave Jezebel a chance to repent, but she refused. The Lord wanted her to come back, but she was already too far gone. She enjoyed the sex, the sacrifices, the status, but at what cost? According to Jesus, the price of apostasy is divine judgment:

"So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds" (22, 23). The bed that gave Jezebel temporary gratification would become the instrument of her eternal condemnation. And everyone who followed her was destined to perish with her because there is no escape from the One who knows and sees all.

As bad as the situation was in Thyatira, there were some who had not fallen into Jezebel's trap. Maybe it was a silent majority, and maybe they were experiencing major feelings of guilt. Maybe they felt ashamed because they didn't try to stop her. Maybe they were beating themselves up because they had failed to confront her. And maybe you have found yourself in a similar situation. Can you remember a time in your life when you could have (and should have) called a sin a sin, but instead your silence was deafening? Can you remember how you felt that day? Does the guilt still linger today?

We can use our personal experiences to make some educated guesses about what emotions these Christians were feeling, but only Jesus knew how they really felt. And Jesus knew exactly what to say: "Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): Only hold on to what you have until I come" (24, 25).

Was Jesus being too easy on them? Were you expecting some stronger language from him? Are you still listening for the "R" word Jesus uses so often in these letters? Where is the call to repent? If you are surprised by its absence, if Jesus' words don't seem to make sense, perhaps these words from Isaiah 42 can help: "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out" (3).

There were plenty of bruised reeds in Thyatira. They had faith, but that faith was fragile. They had problems, and at times those problems seemed overwhelming. Jesus didn't want to discourage them. Jesus didn't want their faith to be snuffed out. So he pleaded with them: "Hold on. Hold on to what you have. Hold on to me and I will get you through this. I promise."

What a great comfort for Christians! What a comfort for any weary and burdened soul! The Lord composed this letter to call sinners to repentance, but he didn't stop there. Just like his forerunner John the Baptist Jesus proclaimed: "Repent...and believe the good news" (Mark 1:15)!

The good news is that Jesus did come...to take our place. The good news is that Jesus did come...to cleanse us from our sins and take away our guilt. The good news is that Jesus will come...to put a permanent end to all of our suffering. The good news is that Jesus will come...to take us to home to heaven.

How do we know that? How can we be sure of that? Because we have God's promise: "To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—'He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery'—just as I have received authority from my Father" (26, 27).

"Through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever." Those words provide a fitting conclusion to many of our Sunday morning prayers. And those words are very true. Our God reigns! Right now the triune God is ruling over all things on his heavenly throne. But our God is not a ruthless dictator. He doesn't want to keep all the power for himself. Jesus has promised to give us the same authority his Father has given him. Not only does he want us to live with him in heaven. He wants us to reign with him in heaven.

And as if that isn't enough, Jesus makes one more promise to the one who overcomes: "I will also give him the morning star" (28). Did you know that there is an internet company that is in the business of selling stars? For the low, low price of $54 (plus shipping and handling) you can purchase an official certificate, date of dedication and the telescopic coordinates of your own personal heavenly body. For more information, go to www.starregistry.com.

But if you are on a budget, or if you are somewhat skeptical, I have a better idea, and its free. Open up your Bible. There you will find hope. There you will find peace. In God's inspired Word you will find Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of Man, our Savior, our Brother and our bright morning star (Revelation 22:16).

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (2:29). Amen.

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