Allen Raynor Weblog: “Thyatira: The Corrupt Church” (Pt. 1)
(July 24, 2019)
Many problems get kicked down the road like the proverbial can because they are not easy to correct. Many of those same problems are destructive and cost more in the end when it is determined they must be fixed. The strange noise your car is making can be ignored, but it should not be. Evidence of termite infestation can be ignored but should not be. Dizzy spells and headaches can be ignored but should not be. The rising national debt can be ignored but should not be.
Sin is caustic and it eats away at people’s lives and it eats away at churches. Just like with many problems in our own lives, it never seems like the most urgent matter to deal with at the moment. We feel like we can always deal with it on another day; at another time. When it comes to compromising with sin, the devil will tell us anything we want to hear. This was exactly what was going on at the church at Thyatira. They had a long series of compromises that had ultimately led them to the place of corruption.
In Revelation 2:18-29 Jesus addresses the church of Thyatira. It is unknown when this church was founded, but many believe it was when Lydia was converted under Paul’s ministry (Acts 16) and went back to her home city. She may have spread the word and the church was somehow founded through her witness. From Pergamos, the northernmost of the 7 cities, the Roman Road curved east and then southeast in Thyatira, approximately 40 miles away. Thyatira was the most insignificant city among the 7 churches addressed by the Lord. It was basically a place of industry and production, mainly wool and dyed goods especially purple goods dyed with purple extracted from a certain type of root called “madder.”
In addressing the church at Thyatira, John writes, pointing them back to the vision of the Son of Man in Chapter 1. Jesus is described to them as having “eyes like a flame of fire” and “feet like fine brass.” This description is virtually word for word the description given in Daniel 10:6. The “eyes of fire” or “eyes aflame” referred to piercing, penetrating, and burning through everything and seeing with total clarity. “Feet like brass” refers to Jesus running through the church rapidly with judgment. God’s judgment is never a long, drawn out process like an earthly courtroom trial. It is swift, penetrating, accurate, and perfect!
Everyone appreciates a compliment and Jesus was always fair in His assessments of the churches. He gives credit where credit is due, but above all else, Jesus was honest and straightforward. I once had a man in my congregation tell me about how he liked his new doctor because he would “look him in the eye and tell him how it was.” No matter whether good news or bad news, many appreciate honesty. Jesus compliments works they have done which were done for all the right reasons. Those works were done because of love, a spirit of service, true faith, and patient expectations. In fact, Thyatira is the only one of the 7 churches to be complimented for its love. Not only did this church possess these qualities, but their “deeds of late” or “most recent works” were greater in number than what they were doing earlier on. In that sense, they seemed to be growing and moving in the right direction.
In verses 20-23 Jesus rebukes them for the sinfulness in their congregation. Despite the compliments given to the church by the Lord, things were far from being well. This church was guilty of serious compromise. So severe, in fact, they were corrupted! The indictment was, first of all, that they were “tolerating the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess.” She was teaching and seducing people. What was she teaching? Apparently she was teaching that engaging in sexual immorality was ok and eating things sacrificed to idols was fine also. “Jezebel” was probably not her real name, but the Lord referred to her as “Jezebel” because she brought to mind the Old Testament Jezebel, wo was a vile woman. She was so wicked, in fact, that 1 Kings 16:30-31 tells us that the most wicked thing Ahab ever did was marry her! This woman that Jesus calls “Jezebel” at Thyatira had self-proclaimed herself as a “prophetess.” Clearly Jesus is implying she is not a prophetess at all. Saddest of all is that the church was allowing it to go on!
The Bible teaches that true Christians can fall into sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:15-20) and idolatry (1 Cor. 10:21); but to lead other Christians into false doctrine or immoral living is a more serious sin which calls for the most severe punishment. God is a God of grace and vs. 21 says she was given time/opportunity to repent of her wickedness and immorality, but she refused. Her punishment was to be cast onto a “sickbed,” most likely referring to death and hell – the ultimate resting place for those who refuse to repent. Further, those who also commit adultery with her also will suffer great tribulation/pressure. This is unless they repent and turn from their wickedness.
The “children” mentioned in vs. 23 are not biological children, but spiritual children/descendants. The severe punishment promised to the false prophets and her followers reveals Christ’s passion for the doctrinal soundness of the church and the pure behavior of its members. In Acts 5 we have the account of Ananias and his wife Sapphira lying to the Holy Spirit and both being struck down dead. Sometimes judgment for sin comes swiftly. We can rest assured however, God is a righteous judge. God is never fooled about motives. His penetrating eyes see right into the heart of a person. Here it says “He searches the minds and hearts” and He will distribute justice fairly according to the deeds done in the flesh. Works cannot save a person but our works can certainly condemn us. Christ knows all our works!
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor