Last post we saw that the church at Thyatira was tolerating false teachings by the prophetess Jezebel. These teachings were closely associated with the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans that plagued the church at Pergamum.
Though the church at Pergamum hated these teachings, the church of Thyatira turned a blind eye to the vile practices of the Jezebel party within their midst. It is possible that the church as a whole was unaware of what was going on behind closed doors, but God knew. It is no wonder He introduces Himself to the church as, “The Son of God who has eyes like a flame of fire.” (Revelation 2:18)
In verse 23 Jesus describes Himself as, “He who searches mind and heart.” We try to fool ourselves that our sins are unknown to Jesus and we can slip a few small sins by Him when He isn’t looking, but according to the message regarding the church of Thyatira He is ever looking and never misses knowing our hearts and inner most thoughts. When we realize that God knows all our actions and all our thoughts it leads us into watching our relationship with Him much more carefully than we might otherwise.
Jesus calls out to these followers of Jezebel to repent, “I gave her time to repent but she refuses to repent of her immorality.” (Revelation 2:21) Jesus never forces us to repent but always holds out the call to turn our back on sin and come follow Him. It always amazes me how patient God is with us, how much foolishness on our part He puts up with and how readily He is prepared to forgive us when we turn to Him.
No matter how much God pleaded with Jezebel and her followers they refused to repent and accept the grace of God. They liked their sinful, rebellious lifestyle and no warnings or pleadings of God were going to change their minds.
The result of their sin was disaster for these people. “Behold I will throw her on a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of their doings, and I will strike her children dead.” (Revelation 2:22-23)
The bed that symbolized her debauchery and pleasure would become the place of her sickness and tribulation. Her spiritual offspring so infected with gross immorality to ever desire to be cleansed would die.
If we think about this for a moment it should bring us to a quick halt. This was the time of Ananias and Sapphira who died for lying to the Holy Spirit and some of the Corinthians also died for defiling the Lord’s Supper with their greed and selfishness. (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 11:17-32) Jezebel and her followers could possibly have died immediately upon the church receiving Jesus’ pronouncement.
Though speedy judgment fell upon Jezebel and her followers, Jesus has advice for the rest of the church that would do us good to comprehend as well. “But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay upon you any other burden, hold fast what you have, until I come.” (Revelation 2:24-25)
When Jesus says, “I do not lay upon you any other burden,” He is referring to the Jerusalem council recorded in Acts 15 where the issue of law keeping for gentiles was hammered out. The conference stated that the gentiles didn’t need to be circumcised thus freeing them from the power of the Mosaic laws. Only four considerations were given to the gentiles, they must abstain from immorality, foods sacrificed to idols, blood, and things strangled. (Acts 15:28-29)
It is very interesting that Jesus refers to the immorality of Jezebel and the fact she was encouraging the people to eat food sacrificed to idols, but there is no mention of the two ceremonial prohibitions, blood and things strangled. Jesus may not have mentioned these last two prohibitions because they were transitioning rules for new gentile converts and now were no longer enforced or needed in the church.
What are we to make from this letter? First of all God is patient and works with us, but there comes a time when our rebellion is so open and determined that God can no longer reach our heart. Secondly, for such people eternal destruction is their reward and all who follow such ungodly practices will die with them. Thirdly, we learn that the church must not tolerate such devious and arrogant rebellions against Jesus, but God is patient with the church and continues to direct her in righteousness.
For us personally, I believe the letter is a call to keeping Jesus first in our lives, and keep our eyes focused on the God who watches over us with such love. God does not lay heavy burdens upon us, but expects us to live in harmony with what He does ask of us. So far we have seen those include love, suffering, and the love of truth.
To those who fight the good fight, keep their faith in the redeeming power of Jesus and allow His works to define us instead of Jezebel’s works He tells us, “I will give Him power over the nations, and He shall rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received power from my Father; and I will give him the morning star.” (Revelation 2: 26-28, see Psalm 2:8-9)
I wish we had space to unwrap these wonderful promises for God’s people, but we don’t. Let me just say, these blessings are all good and totally undeserved but given to us by the wonder of God’s never ending goodness and grace. Amen
* Please remember to pray for the Christians who are suffering at the hands of evil for their faith in many countries around the world. Some of their stories can be found at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/