The corrupt church – Revelation 2:18-29

The church of Thyatira was located about forty miles southeast of Pergamos. The city was situated in a location that was known for its crops and purple dye. It was a small church that was singled out by Jesus for its great corruption. Jesus is described as the ‘Son of God who has eyes like a flame of fire and feet like fine brass.’ The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “The situation required reaffirmation of His deity and His righteous indignation at their sins. The words “burnished bronze,” which describe His feet, translate a rare Greek word chalkolibanō, also used in 1:15. It seems to have been an alloy of a number of metals characterized by brilliance when polished. The reference to His eyes being “like blazing fire” and the brilliant reflections of His feet emphasize the indignation and righteous judgment of Christ.”[1] This description of Jesus shows His fury against the sins that the church of Thyatira involved themselves in. There are four things we see here concerning the church of Thyatira.

Compliment: they increased in good works. Just as most of the seven churches of Asia, there were some positive aspects of the church of Thyatira; however, as we will see, the negative aspects overshadow the positive. Notice what the scriptures say in verse 19, “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.”[2] A listed is given of the good things that the church of Thyatira was known for. When He said that the ‘last are more than the first’, He was basically saying that their works has increased as time goes on. They were growing in their good works. It was a very busy church, faithfully serving and loving.

Criticism: tolerance of sin. Although the church of Thyatira was known for its good works, they were also known for their tolerance of sin. This is a temptation that the modern church often faces. The world criticizes us and claims that we are intolerant. Therefore, in our attempts to not be offensive, we allow ourselves to tolerant what we once found to be intolerable. Notice what the text says in verses 20-23, “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.”[3] The woman mentioned should be taken literally though her name may be symbolic. This was an actual woman that was allowed in the church who taught very destructive false doctrines. She was perhaps a self-claimed prophetess whose doctrine was similar to that of the Nicolaitans and Balaam. She taught that Christian liberty gave license to living above moral law. In other words, since we have freedom in Christ we can, therefore, tolerate certain forms of behavior. Her teaching was very seductive and tempting. Unfortunately, we see the same thing happening today. Many churches have allowed themselves to be sucked into a tolerance of sin all in the name of Christian liberty. There are those who will attempt to use scripture to justify their actions. We don’t want to offend anyone so we find a way to twist the scriptures in order to make their sinful lifestyles acceptable. No matter how you slice it, sin is not to be tolerated. That is not legalism, its Biblicalism. The Bible is very clear that sin has no business in the life of the believer and the church. We are either going to follow the Bible or not. Nowhere in God’s Word does it allow for the church to tolerate sinful practices. The problem with the church of Thyatira is that they did not have the boldness to confront the issue. They just simply looked the other way and allowed this false teacher to bring confusion and to lead people astray. Verse 21 tells us that this woman who brought such corruption into the church was given time to repent, but she would not. How merciful God is! He gives us chance after chance to get right with Him. He is patient with us and waits for us to repent. However, God will not wait forever. God will not allow sin to continue. As a church, we should repent of allowing and accepting false teaching in our midst before it is too late. In verse 22 we find that this Jezebel along with her followers will be given over to consequences of their sin. This reminds of what we see in the book of Romans where those who suppress the truth and do not repent are given over to their sin. There is a point to be made her concerning church disciplined. The one who is involved in these sins should be removed from the church. I am afraid that this is one of the greatest failures in the churches of America today. We have replaced discipline with tolerance. When one is found to be following after false doctrine and sin, if they do not repent, we still allow them to participate in the church. We have grown to having a tendency to look the other way, rather than dealing with the issue. As a result, we find churches in America in great decline. We allowed too much. We have tolerated too much. In verse 23 we see the ultimate consequences of sin. Sin leads to death, both spiritual death and physical death. The scriptures tell us that when sin is finished it brings forth the death. In other words, the end result of sin is death. A warning is given to all the churches here that God will not allow tolerance of sin continue. This warning applies not just to the seven churches of Asia but to every church of all time. If the local church where we attend tolerates sinful practices and false teaching, if we just look the other way, the light of the church will grow dim. God will remove His blessing on the church and the church will cease to be a true church and will just turn into another social club.

Command: hold fast to purity. All is not lost for the church of Thyatira. Notice what it says in verses 24-25, “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. 25 But hold fast what you have till I come.” [4] There were those in the church that did not fall prey to the false doctrines of Jezebel. He encourages them to hang in there and stay pure. “Perhaps because the church was small, Christ did not command them to leave it but to remain as a godly testimony. Judgment on Jezebel and her followers would come soon and would purge the church. In modern times Christians who find themselves in apostate local churches can usually leave and join another fellowship, but this was impractical under the circumstances in Thyatira.”[5] Sometimes we are called to stay faithful even in the midst of undesirable circumstances. Are the pressures of the world pulling you down? Are you discouraged over the state of the church in America today? Are you tired of the false doctrines that are rampant in our society? Let me encourage you to stay faithful. Don’t give up. Even if everyone else falls and you are the only one remaining who is following the truth, stay faithful.

Commitment: rule the nations and receive a star. Look at the final verses in this passage, “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—27‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I also have received from My Father; 28 and I will give him the morning star.29 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”[6]The Holmen New Testament Commentary states, “Christ includes a special word to the one who does my will to the end, another reference to the need to persevere in Christian morals until he comes. All the promises to the overcomers so far could be summarized as various metaphors for eternal life. To the Ephesian overcomers the symbol was eating from the tree of life (2:7); for the Smyrnans, it was receiving a crown of life (2:10); to the ones in Pergamum it was receiving hidden manna and a white stone (2:17). Now for the Thyatirans, there is some indication of what overcomers will be doing as they enjoy eternal life.”[7] Child of God, your faithfulness will be rewarded. There is coming a day when you will rule and reign with Christ. “A further reward of the overcomer is to receive the morning star. Morning stars appear only when night is over and a new day is at hand. The key for interpreting this is Revelation 22:16, where Christ is called the bright Morning Star. The reward is Christ himself, who will end the long night of sin’s rule in the universe.”[8]

So, as we continue to live in a corrupt and perverse world, may we be found faithful. Life on earth for the believer is hard. No one said it would be easy. Temptations abound and the pressures of sin and evil continue to close in on us. However, look up for your redemption is nigh. Jesus is coming soon. The day in which we will rule with Him is growing near. Press on. Keep the faith. It will all be over soon!

[1] Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Eds.)The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 2:19). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 2:23). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 2:24–25). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Eds.)The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[6] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 2:26–29). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 42). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[8] Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 42). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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