By Jeri Young
This is not going to be an easy church to read about but I hope that you see the Lord’s love even in the harshest of circumstances. Again, let’s remind ourselves, especially before we jump into the study of the Church of Thyatira that the Lord always starts first with recognizing and commending the good that the church has done; then the Lord points out the faults and concerns of the church; then the Lord always ends with exhortation. Is this not the way of a loving Father? Yes, it is!
But with the church of Thyatira, the Lord said that it had“known the depths of satan.” The Lord is going to have what we today would call a (no disrespect meant) “COME TO JESUS” meeting....very appropriately named.....or a “LAYING DOWN THE LAW meeting .” It’s going to be specific and it’s going to be harsh.
God is our Father and the church is HIS.
This would be like one of us coming home unexpectedly and finding one of our kids doing drugs in our house or one of our kids being in OUR bedroom with a “friend” doing what they shouldn’t be doing!
This is where you don’t mince words....you LAY DOWN THE LAW!!! The behavior was abhorrent. This is a situation where there is NO DEBATE and you LAY DOWN THE LAW.....and the CONSEQUENCES if the behavior happens again or continues.
The city of Pergamos and Church of Pergamum that Susan spoke about last week was only 38 miles from the church of Thyatira. So the two churches were close in proximity and had a lot in common but the church of Thyatira seems to have been a step ahead and further down than where Pergamum was headed.
The Church at Thyatira had sunk to the deepest depths in its compromise with the world. How did it get there??? How could that happen in such a short time? John wrote the book of Revelation, somewhere between 94-96AD, only about 60 years after the death and resurrection Jesus. The Book of Jude gives us the why and the how and we will touch on it further down. We will also be doing some back tracking thru the history of the Kings and the history of the church.
As we’ve mentioned before, the church today is comprised of parts of all seven churches in Chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation. Some people think the Book of Revelation is a dreaded book to read because there is a lot horrible happenings in it.....but it’s also a book of HOPE. God is wrapping up history and He is keeping His promises. In each one of these churches, God shows His infinite mercy and willingness to forgive.
In John 15:15, Jesus said to His apostles, “15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Jesus is telling the seven churches what He is going to do. Abraham is called “God’s friend” in scripture. Christ, as a theophany, while talking to Abraham in Genesis 18 said, “Shall I not tell Abraham what I am about to do to Sodom and Gomorrah?” Then he tells Abraham: “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me.” God is faithful! He has always been faithful. He will always be FAITHFUL!!!
Here in the church of Thyatira, when we learned what happened within this church and read the title that most of our Bibles give it, “T HE CORRUPT CHURCH,” - it’s hard to even comprehend God’s mercy on it. But wait.....
The Corrupt Church
18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write,
‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: (NOTE THE WORD “LIKE.” JESUS’ eyes are NOT an actual FLAMES. It is metaphor.)
Pastor Chuck explains: “Whenever you come across brass in the scriptures, you are coming across a metal that is a symbol of JUDGMENT. The laver in which the priests would wash was made of brass. Moses made a serpent of brass and lifted it up in the wilderness. It is a metal that is symbolic of God's judgment.
So, eyes like a flame of fire. And fire is always looked at in the terms of judgment in purifying, the refining of the fire”
First, we see Jesus’ commendation for the church: 19 “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last (are more) than the first.
20 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 [ n ] 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 [ o ] their deeds. 23 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.
24 “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 [ r ] will put on you no other burden. 25 But hold fast what you have till I come. 26 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.”
So, let’s jump into who is this woman Jezebel? Is she a real person? Is she a simile to Jezebel in the Old Testament in 1 Kings? Is her real name even really Jezebel? Personally, I think the Lord called her that name because of the simile to the famous Jezebel married to King Ahab and her history of idolatry. The people reading this would know immediately and exactly what the name Jezebel stood for.
When I read the verses about Jezebel in the church of Thyatira for this study, four different Jezebel’s came to mind.
1. Jezebel, a pseudonym for an actual woman in the church of Thyatira
2. Jezebel as a false doctrine that had creeped into the church
3. Jezebel in the Old Testament married to King Ahab,
4. Jezebel personally as in how it applies to each of us personally.
Actually, I think it could be considered from all four aspects. But first let’s quickly look at the Jezebel from the Old Testament. You can read the story in 1Kings (chapters 16-21) and 2Kings 9.....too long to read here.
Here is her background...Jezebel was the daughter of Eth-Baal, King of Sidon, PRIEST of of the pagan god, Astarte. Eth-Baal, her father, murdered his predecesor to seize the throne. Jezebel married Ahab to seal a profitable trade alliance between Israel and Phoenicia. She sought to exterminate all prophets of Yaweh because she worshipped Baal and Astarte (which originated in Babylon.) She and King Ahab of Israel ushered in the worst period for Israel,(Israel at that time was the northern kingdom consisting of 10 of the 12 Jewish tribes of Israel). This politically brought about marriage between Jezebel and King Ahab was the beginning of the end for the northern Kingdom. This is what you might call the epitome of an unequally yoked marriage.
But how did a Jewish King slip this far away from God’s covenant law? You can trace it all the way back to 1 Kings 11 where Solomon is carried away by his lusts for foreign women. He started out strong but later he gave into his love of women. He actually married 700 wives and had 300 concubines. 1 Kings 11:3-7 says, “and his wives turned away Solomon’s heart from God. For it was so when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord....” verse 7, “Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem and for Molech, the abomination of the people of Ammon. And he did likewise for ALL his foreign wives who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.” The specific evil of Solomon was his tolerance to and his personal practice of IDOLATRY. Solomon, because of his weakness for women and putting them before God, set the stage for the downfall of ALL of Israel. It is written that every descendent king in the Northern Kingdom after Solomon died did evil in the Lord’s eyes. Judah to the south, comprised of the two remaining tribes of Judah and Benjamin, did have a couple of good kings but the northern kingdom had none. How many children did Solomon have from all of those wives? I don’t think it is documented anywhere how many children he fathered but it had to be hundreds if not thousands! Solomon, who started out so strong with a heart for God, fell so far that he was directly responsible for the fall of Israel because of idol worship. He worshipped and gave into his love of women and his women worshipped idols. It is so sad because God chose him, of all of David’s sons, to inherit the kingdom of Israel. When he inherited the kingdom, it was an amazing kingdom. David sinned....but he repented. Solomon sought wisdom and God gave him more wisdom than any man before him, but he fell to his lusts and gave in to idolatry. David only sought fellowship with God as was shown when he wrote in Psalm 23:6, “and surely I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Scripture says that David was called “ a man after God’s own heart.”
How often do we hear (particularly about sexual sin) if it’s not hurting someone else, then it’s not wrong? I’m sure Solomon took really great care of his harem but at what price? What is the GREATEST commandment that Jesus stated in Matt. 22:37 when the young lawyer was trying to test him? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment.”
....and in Exodus 34, it is the most clear: “ 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God).... WHY is He a jealous God? The scripture goes on to say: “15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods.”
I’m positive that Solomon read and recited scripture BUT he didn’t heed scripture. He didn’t apply it to his life or he never would have ended his life in the way he did. He was only 60 when he died. I personally think he would have lived much longer had he longed for fellowship with God as his father, David, did.
In the church of Thyatira, evidently there was a woman who called herself a prophetess. It doesn’t say what she supposedly prophesied and it doesn’t make any difference because God, by saying “she calls herself,” is saying she was a fake. She did this most likely to give herself stature and obviously had a great deal of influence in...and on the church. I would imagine that she was probably really nice looking, perhaps even beautiful, wealthy, entertained a lot, was charming and said all the right things at the right time acting like she was truly concerned for every need....she was a “socialite.” Do we have any of those in our world today???
They didn’t have movies back then so her stage was the church at Thyatira! She was very good at twisting what scripture really meant and getting people to believe her “knowledge and expertise.” She was probably a soothsayer who could read people really well which helped her with being a “prophetess.” We would call her a “fortune teller” today. The church was her stage and more of a social club for her.
Have you ever heard someone say, “Well I know he or she has their shortcomings but you just can’t help but like them?” I think that the believers in this church probably felt that way about this woman Jezebel......but with her, it was much more serious than a “short coming.” This Jezebel was inviting church members to the feasts of other gods where sexual immorality prevailed - literally orgies - the food sacrificed to other gods was the food served at these orgies.
So after we’ve heard about the perversion of Jezebel, let us consider this question: was the problem Jezebel or was the problem the church? In another Biblical example, we can ask the same question.....in Sodom and Gomorrah, was the problem the idolatry and sexual perversion or the town that allowed it? Where does the weight fall more heavily......on the parent who allows continued bad behavior or the errant child? The weight falls on both but at least as heavily on those who ignore the problem. I am reminded of the quote by Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” And from Titus 3:10, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”
Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” (Jezebel was leading and teaching people in the church) “You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13-14)
As Christians we are called to be welcoming and loving but Jesus, when sending the apostles out for the first time alone, told them in Matthew 10:16,17, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmlessas doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will deliver you ......” So while we are to be welcoming and loving, we MUST ALSO be wise and discerning.
I know most pastors, including Steve, have had to make some really tough calls when someone comes into the church, makes friends with everyone and then starts teaching a false doctrine. Usually the person is called aside and the doctrine is discussed and if the person continues to cause division against sound doctrine, then after much prayer, the pastor and the elders are required, for the good of the church, to ask the person to attend elsewhere.
In the church of Thyatira, this woman, Jezebel, was teaching idol worship and sexual freedom which went right back to the teachings o f Baal. In scripture, sexual freedom or fornication is almost always connected first to idol worship. They are often used interchangeably.
Jude warned of this happening. In the book of Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, Jude was already dealing with apostasy and gnosticism in the church just a mere two years before Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD. He writes: “I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend or defend earnestly the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turned the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus.” This is what the Nicolaitans practiced. The Nicolaitans were mentioned last week. In the scripture, God stated “Thus you also hold to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans which thing I hate.”
Pergamos was only 38 miles from Thyatira. For all we know Jezebel could have moved to Thyatira from Pergamos. The Nicolaitans were not a people. They were thought to be self appointed leaders who had made themselves into sort of a ruling class within the church (as in clergy over laity). This is distinctly against scriptural teaching. Jesus, through His own example, taught us to have a servant’s heart. Everyone is equal at the foot of the cross.
Gnosticism had two very different branches of teachings but the one that apparently this Jezebel was practicing...not only practicing but also teaching.... in this church was complete moral freedom. It was a horrible twisting of the meaning of grace. It was basically, that since Christ paid the debt once and for all for our sins, and because their salvation was sealed, they were free to do anything and everything they wanted.
There are many wonderful churches today that are on both sides of the aisle as to whether you can walk away from your salvation or whether once you are saved, you are always a saved child of God. Regardless of what you believe, the beloved gift of grace should never be a license to sin. That is a lie straight from Satan, himself. Paul is very clear about the Christian who insists on continuing with carnal sin. In 1 Corinthian 5:5, Paul states: “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (death), that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” ....and that is exactly what Jesus says He will do here to the followers of Jezebel.
Most of us have made bread or know how it’s made. You use yeast or what the Bible calls leaven. It only takes a small amount to make the dough rise. But what if you accidentally put a small amount of leaven in your recipe and then remembered you were making something that required that NO LEAVEN be in the dough.....something like crackers? Once in, there is no way that you can get the leaven out of the dough. You have to start all over. The leaven has to be completely removed! That is why God does not want even the slightest bit of perversion to enter the church. That is the difference between sinning and practicing sin. When a true child of God sins, the Holy Spirit through your conscience, will let you know when you have sinned. Go immediately to God and ask forgiveness and try to avoid that sin in the future. Jezebel was teaching that not only was this not necessary but that they should revel in the sexual perversion and idolatry because they were so blessed to have the liberty of doing anything they wanted without consequence because of Christ’s death on the cross and payment of our sin. I’m sure she twisted Paul’s words in the scripture, “Now the Lord is Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Cor 3:17) ...but that is NOT what that scripture means at all! Paul was speaking of the liberty and freedom to speak boldly of Christ Jesus.
Jezebel was encouraging them to come to the “party” ....to attend feasts put on by pagans who worshipped other gods. The invitation would seem to be not such a bad thing. She probably said, “just come.....it’s no big deal!” But it is a “big deal” for believers. Satan, through Jezebel, was enticing them back into bondage! Yes, as Christians, we are free but we are free to be bondservants of Christ Jesus.
Christ, in His mercy gave this Jezebel, time to repent of her idol worship and sexual immorality but sadly she did not. So because she refused, the Lord states He will cast her into a sick bed and those who commit adultery with her into the GREAT TRIBULATION. This is the first time in the book of Revelation that the words “the great tribulation” are used. That is because this church has reached, the “depths of satan.” And yet even STILL our precious Lord adds “unless she repents.” God is telling the church of Thyatira if you don’t fix what is wrong with the church, I WILL!
So will there be churches left behind when the rapture takes place??? Sadly, yes...... absolutely!
In these last days, we have so many perversions of the scripture that I honestly don’t blame people for not wanting to listen to anything having to do with Christianity. Below is a little history on the church - as brief as I can make it...to show you what happens when a church compromises on scripture.
After the early persecution of the church, Roman Emperor Constantine in early 300 A.D. decreed “tolerance” towards the Christians. That was a welcomed relief from the persecution! Then Emperor Theodosius (who immediately followed Constantine) took it further and in 378 ADdeclared Christianity to be the “national religion” where everyone was required to be Christians. Constantine passed laws favoring Christians but Emperor Theodosius REQUIRED Christianity. This sounds good but it was terrible! Here is WHERE the “leaven” entered the church and began to completely saturate it. Basically it became a marriage of the church with the rest of the civilized world and corruption became rampant. Unbelieving people began calling themselves Christians who were not Christians in any way. Heathenism was literally Christianized; pagan temples became Christian churches and heathen festivals were converted into Christian ones. Ishtar, the Babylonian celebration of sex and fertility, became our Easter. The celebration of Saturn and the winter solstice called Saturnalia, became our Christmas. Pagan priests slipped into offices as Christian priests. When that happened, it became difficult to distinguish the government from the church and all sorts of atrocities took place in the church from harlotry in the papacy to the position of pope being literally bought by wealthy men. Debauchery was common in the church to the point of even once having a pope that was only 12 years old to the Crusades against the Moores to the Inquisitions in Spain. The Inquisitions in Spain coordinated by both the church and the government were solely for material acquisition and for the purposes of evicting Jews and Protestants. After the Martin Luther reformation, the church had split from Rome and were then called Protestants. The Inquisitions allowed the citizens to be interrogated for any reason, usually heresy, without knowing their accuser or even their crime and if found guilty, could have all of their property conveniently cconfiscated and divided by the church and the state. The Jewish and Protestant citizens would be forced out of Spain penniless or worse tortured to death....all in the name of Christianity. Many Jews understandably still to this day do not trust Christians.
The Lord told Moses what would happen to the Israelites if they failed to drive out the pagans from the promise land: “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell. Moreover it shall be that I will do to you as I thought to do to them . (Numbers 34:55) God’s punishment would be the same to the followers of Jezebel who refused to repent as it was for Jezebel ….and, again in 2 Cor 6:17, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean and I will receive you.”
Back to the Church of Thyatira. In Verse 23, the Lord goes on to state that He will “kill her children with death!” What does THAT mean? Does that mean that God kills the children for the sins of the parents! NO! Absolutely not. Scripture is abundantly clear when it states in Ezekiel 18:20: “The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son.” So what does this scripture mean, “I will kill her children with death?”
Yes! It means that what we practice...not what we preach....but what we PRACTICE, our children are more than likely to pick up and then those children will literally follow their parents’ example or in this case, one of the leaders in this church literally to the pit of hell. Again, remember what Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13-14)
But our God is so faithful because in the same verse, he also states , “I am He who searches the minds and hearts and I will give to each one of you according to your works.” Our God is just, merciful and fair. He doesn’t just look at the outward works, He looks into the heart. EXAMPLE: What if you’ve found yourself in a situation where you really didn’t want to be but haven’t figured out how to get out of it? In your heart you truly want out but because of your limited knowledge, you haven’t yet figured out how to escape your situation. God looks into your heart and knows that you don’t want to be there and He will make a way for you to escape if you just turn to Him, and trust and obey.
In even the worst churches who call themselves Christian churches, there will hopefully be a remnant. God said this church of Thyatira had sunk to the “depths of satan,” but there were still some who had not followed the doctrine of Baal....the doctrine that believed in unfathomable reprobate behavior where one could freely engage and explore the sphere of satan, doing anything they wanted with their body BUT without harming the spirit.
Thankfully, for those in the Church of Thyatira that had stood firm, God said He would “put no other burden on them.” The Church of Thyatira was probably the only “Christian” church in Thyatira. (A NOTE:) They didn’t have printed Bibles like we have. They didn’t have a car to drive 30 miles to the next church. That church was probably the only church where they could hear the word of God read. They wanted to stay with their Christian brethren even if they didn’t like what some were doing. In that surrounding, they were probably doing all they could to just stand.
The Lord told them to “hold fast what you have till I come.” THOSE WORDS ARE THE VERY MEANING OF “HOPE.” Aren’t we today begging for the same hope when we say, “Come, Lord, Jesus come.” God will never ask us for more than we can give.
Verse 26 & 27: “And he who overcomes and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.” Then the Lord quotes Psalm 2:8,9
“Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
9 You shall [ h ]break them with a rod of iron;
You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’
AS I have received from My Father.”
Notice the word AS....Just “AS” He has received this from His Father. It’s at the end but if this were written in today’s grammatical fashion, it would read like this:
“As My My Father told me, ‘ASK OF ME, and I will give you the nations for Your inheritance and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel....’ ) Jesus quotes Psalms 2: 8,9 what the Father has promised Him and THEN He states, “to him (who holds fast) I will give the Morning Star.” Jesus tells us in Revelation 22:16 that He is the Morning Star. .....In other words to the believers in the Church of Thyatira that stand firm, He is going to let them rule and reign with Him over the nations! Can we even begin to imagine???? I can’t!
Do you see the AMAZING LOVE that God has even for this church that has sunk to the “depths of Satan?” AMAZING LOVE!!! AMAZING GRACE!!! AMAZING MERCY!!! Aren’t we thankful that God is giving us WARNING or a HEADS UP??? Church - PAY ATTENTION!!!
....and then the final verse, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The Lord is saying, “MAKE NO MISTAKE, THIS WILL TAKE PLACE JUST AS I SAID IT WOULD.”
....and ending I hope we all say, as John said in Revelation 22:20, “ EVEN SO, COME, LORD JESUS!”