Thyatira: The Church Judged (Rev. 2:18-29)

Publié le 7 août 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon preached by Aurelien Duperchy, apprentice pastor, on 1st Aug 2021

Let’s read Revelation chapter 2 verses 18 to 29. « And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and feet like burnished bronze, says this:

‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith, and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. 23 And I will kill her children with plague, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the [p]minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. 24 But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you. 25 Nevertheless what you have, hold firmly until I come. 26 The one who overcomes, and the one who keeps My deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the [q]nations; 27 and he shall [r]rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are shattered, as I also have received authority from My Father; 28 and I will give him the morning star. 29 The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ « 

Introduction:

Two weeks ago we said that the church at Pergamum was full of compromises, and that compromise was over-abundant in the church at Thyatira. When we live a life full of compromises, we will reap what we sow sooner or later.

Thyatira is the logical continuation of Pergamum regarding Paul’s criticisms.

I remember, when I was a teenager, the countless times my mother would say to me, « Empty the dishwasher, » and I would not do it until hours later… when I did it… The family context I was in was not stimulating for a « healthy » upbringing, and it was an opportunity for my evil heart to try my mother’s patience.

When you try someone’s patience, their patience will ultimately run out. And guess what? I was surprised that my mother got angry at one point.

This text shows that Jesus is the great Judge who forgives, but also condemns. Quite the opposite of the “Care Bears” image we’re used to: a Jesus who hugs everyone, and takes everyone to heaven, even those who have not repented. So, we may end up thinking that this Jesus is unjust, and that he is a false deity, that he is not the real Jesus.

Conversely, the text shows who Jesus really is, just like all the rest of the Bible.

Here, Jesus outlines that he wants to rebuke those who try his patience, but he does it with tact. In this letter, just as in the other ones, Jesus uses a sandwich method; he starts by pointing to the positive aspects, then he mentions the negative ones, and ends with the positive ones.

This is exactly what we’re going to do now: outline three points in the text.

1- The Judge (v18-19)

2- Charges (v20-23)

3- Acquittal and rewards for overcomers (v24-29)

This letter is the fourth of seven letters, wich means it’s in the middle of the book. In ancient oriental literature, it has a strong meaning, as we could see it at the beginning of the year in the book of Leviticus.

The letter to Thyatira is a pivotal letter, it is the longest one, and it is THE letter showing that Jesus is THE supreme Judge who rewards the faithful, but punishes those who persevere in evil.

Scripture reading – Revelation 2:18-29

1- The Judge (v18-19)

v18, Jesus introduces himself as the Son of God, the one with “eyes like a flame of fire and feet like burnished bronze,” a direct reference to Jesus’ appearance to Daniel (Daniel 10:6) causing such great fright that even Daniel’s friends who did not see the appearance were frightened too: “His body also was like topaz, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great fear fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves.”

A bit later in chapter 10, Jesus appears as the one who judges the Gentile nations (in Daniel, we know that it is Jesus because of the letter to Thyatira). The letter to Thyatira actually is like a remake of Daniel 10, adapted to a church, something quite common in biblical literature.

Here Jesus introduces himself as the Son of God, and so as God himself, who has the power to make someone tremble in fear (something that has already occurred).

By referring to Daniel, Jesus puts Babylon and Thyatira side by side; he wants to show that he is powerful and sovereign even over the pagan cults of Thyatira and that his judgment will fall on the idolaters. He wants to show that the judgment of Babylon is not just ancient history, but that the judgment is set against the sinners regarding the sins committed at all times.

Here Jesus speaks to the angel of the church in Thyatira. Is it an angel in the heavenly sense of a creature or in the human sense of a church leader? In my opinion, it’s in the human sense of church leaders, but that’s not the point here anyway.

v19; Jesus says, « I know your deeds ».

The Judge outlines the positive things in the church.

Jesus knows all the good things the church is doing for his glory. He wants to reassure them; he knows that they have love, faith, perserverance, and that they serve.

The church perseveres despite persecution.

Jesus encourages them, as thoug saying, « you are on the right track! » It is an encouragement to make further progress in church life.

As human beings, we all have room for improvement, even improving our strengths.

Rev 14:12 says about persecution, « Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. »

Even so, Jesus accuses the church, at least one part of the church

2- Charges (v20-23)

In v20, Jesus says, « But. »

« But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. »

Thyatira was a city, and more particularly, an economic center with a great number of businesses. Unfortunately, these businesses forced the employees to participate in idolatry to keep their jobs. Those people knew how to use their social rights, even if that meant disobeying God’s will. They were willing to make compromises to keep their social comfort even if that eventually led them to hell.

But despite their poor spiritual condition, the good news is that Jesus wants to bring them to repentance!

In Revelation, 278 verses out of 405 refer to the Old Testament. In other words, it’s necessary to understand the Old Testament to fully grasp what Jesus means.

Jesus outlines the charges: there’s someone in the church, or perhaps a group of people inciting to engage in debauchery… He calls them « Jezebel » as a reference to the book of Kings. Jezebel was the pagan wife of King Ahab of the northern kingdom of Israel. Ahab was driven by his wife to participate in rituals associated with the god Baal, which required human sacrifices.

Nevertheless, that Jesus quotes this violent story dating back from the 9th century BC, with all the weight it carries for believers, highlights that the church at Thyatira has really gone too far…

There are many other events in the Bible, much less violent, that Jesus could have quoted, but he purposefully chooses the historical account of Jezebel to target a specific problem. He wants to reproach the believers so as to sanctify them and purify the church, just as he did with the church at Pergamum.

Today, we often believe that false prophets are a modern plague in the church, but in fact they have always existed, and the doctrines they have been preaching for more than 2000 years are still the same ones; yet they are presented in a different packaging.

Instead of making progress to obey Jesus, the church at Thyatira compromised, throwing itself into sin and spoiling everything. Jesus is reaching out to it to lead it to repentance. Likewise, he reaches out to us so that we won’t let ourselves be corrupted by idols.

Jesus also reaches out to us to repent of our evil tendencies. We need to be in a constant process of repentance in Christian life.

We must work on all aspects of our lives, our strengths and our weaknesses alike, and not just our weaknesses.

Sanctification must be a constant state of mind. What I mean by « state of mind » is that we must be in line with the Holy Spirit!

Such consistency in sanctification is radically opposed to abusing God’s patience for our sins.

In v21, Jesus gives them the opportunity to repent; yet, they do not want to give up their sins…

We read here a lamentation of Jesus…

Jesus died and bore the condemnation in our place, and he suffered the weight of our sins, and endured judgment. Considering what Jesus did on the cross, let us obey him because he did everything for us; let’s not try his patience.

Love is one of the strong points of this church. Yet, it is imperfect since it does not reject the false doctrine of Jezebel for the sake of the sound doctrine of the Gospel.

Jesus aligns love and judgment. The church should have condemned the false doctrine, but didn’t do it. So, it receives judgement and condemnation from Jesus. In fact, Jesus is doing what the church should have done. We have the responsibility to condemn false doctrines for the sake of God’s love, but if we don’t take on this responsibility, and fail to put our faith into practice in our Christian life, Jesus will shed his light on this.

For example, if you hear that you have to follow the teachings of the churches promoting same-sex marriages or abortion, it is your responsibility, as a member of the church, to denounce and fight such teachings so as to purify the church.

And for those who would embrace such doctrines, this text tells us that it is better to repent as soon as possible.