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Letter to the Church of Thyatira

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are 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. ‘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 acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. ‘I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. ‘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. ‘And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. ‘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. ‘Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come. ‘He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:18-29)

Thirty kilometers west of Pergamum on the Imperial Roman road we come to the city of Thyatira. The meaning of the name Thyatira is “continual sacrifice.” Thyatira is known as a center for the industry of dying of cloth and in particularly in the colors of crimson and purple. In Acts 16:14-15 we read that Lydia, who was converted under the Apostle Paul’s ministry was from Thyatira and was a dealer in the dye for the color purple. Because there were not enough men to form a Church Lydia offered her home as a place for the believers to meet. Thyatira was also home to Apollo the sun god which was the pagan god of that area. It is also noted that in the Church of Thyatira the congregation was divided into two groups, notably the saved and the un-saved. This is not necessarily unique to this Church as most Churches have these two groups, the true believers and the tag-a-longs, the fans of Jesus and the followers of Jesus, and the Church visible and the Church invisible.

This letter, as the previous, is addressed to the angel of the Church either a literal angel or the pastor but most likely both.

Title

The letter is from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and He uses the title, “The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze.” It is clear that this is Jesus, not the son of the Virgin Mary, but the Son of God. It is He our Lord Jesus who has eyes like a flame of fire as we see from the first chapter in verse 14. “His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.” Perhaps the appearance is as two lasers which penetrate into the very depths of His Church. We must also remember that Jesus is the Word of God. (John 1:1) We know that the Word of God can discern the thoughts of the heart and divide the spirit and the soul of a man even to the joints and marrow of the body. (Hebrews 4:12) Also the image of feet of burnished bronze reminds us that the altar was covered in brass. When the sacrifices were made the bronze would glow from the fire of judgment upon the altar. Thus, Jesus with burnished bronze feet is moving through His Church to exercise chastening authority upon sin in His Church.

Commendation

“I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.” Jesus commended the Church at Thyatira for their work in edifying each other in the faith. A Church is supposed to support each other in the faith by building each other up. By bonding the membership in the love of Christ showing mercy and compassion towards their family members in the family of God.

Criticism

“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 acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. ‘I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.” We have to look a little deeper to understand the criticism of Jesus in regards to Jezebel. The Catholics gave the title “Queen of Heaven to Mary the mother of Jesus. The title originally came from Semeramis the wife of Nimrod who was the founder of Babylon. Semeramis gave birth to a son named Tammuz which she said was born by a supernatural conception involving the Sun god. As a result of this claim Semeramis began the first counterfeit pagan religion known as the mother-child cult. As mentioned before the Sun god Apollo was worshiped in Thyatira and perhaps part of that worshiped involved parts of the mother-child cult.

Semeramis here in this letter is symbolic for Jezebel. Jezebel represents a literal person or a group in the Church at Thyatira that led people away from the truth into idolatry. The real Jezebel comes into view here from the book of 1 Kings 21:1-16. Jezebel was the daughter of the king of Phoenicia and a pagan princes. She is most noted for her advice given to her husband king Ahab of the Israelite nation on how to obtain a vineyard that he wanted.

Jezebel did this by making false charges against the vineyard owner and made then factual by hiring false witnesses to testify against the vineyard owner. As a result the vineyard owner was executed. She then confiscated the vineyard and gave it to her husband king Ahab.

It was Jezebel who was in charge of the 450 prophets of Baal that Elijah slew on Mount Carmel. In the eyes of the Lord idolatry is adultery and Jezebel encourage the worship of Baal which lead the Israelite to spiritual adultery. As a result the Church in Thyatira and many Churches to day have a God plus religion. For the Catholic Church it is God plus Mary. For others it is God plus works, or Scripture plus tradition. Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) and any other way is idolatry.

Admonition

“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.’ And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” Man’s self-centered pride prohibits him to accept God’s provision. Man by his sin nature is incapable to work out his salvation from the wrath of God upon his disobedience to God’s Word. If man could work out his salvation by God plus tradition, then man would have never fallen in the Garden of Eden. Jesus would have never had to go to the cross and the narrow path to the gate of heaven would not have had room for even the prophets or the Apostles. Man cannot find salvation in the law of God.

Neither can man find salvation in God plus works. There is no good works that man can do to pay the price of his sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) God judges the heart of a man. Are their good works performed out of gratitude for the free gift of salvation He offers, or they done in a futile effort to earn it on their own? God has provided the way through the righteousness of His beloved Son Jesus Christ whose death and blood paid the price for the sin of the world. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) If man seeks any other way to subvert the plan and purpose of God that is sin and comes between him and God and is idolatry. It is not by our good works or by our attempts to live in the realm of legalism. It is by acceptance of God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ and our active faith in His Word.

Call

“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.’ Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.” The true follower of Jesus Christ will see through the folly of salvation by works or tradition but strive to demonstrate their love for Jesus in their obedience to His commandments. They have a personal relationship with their Lord and Savior, a relationship of love and a love for others. They who follow Him and cling tenaciously to Him will have their reward.

Promise

“He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.” The Church is the “Bride of Christ” and we will reign as co-regents with Him from His throne. We are the Church, you and I, not the building we occupy or the pew we sit in, neither is the name above the door of the Church. We are members of His Church because we believe by faith that Jesus Christ died to pay the wage of our sins. That He was buried and rose again on the third day that we too shall be resurrected as He to eternal life. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

Challenge

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” All of us have a bit of Thyatira in us. We are saved by grace and we know that, but it is not long until we develop our list of do’s and don’ts. Then the self-image we have of ourselves becomes dependent up how well we live up to our do and don’t list. We also find ourselves judging others based upon our own list. Of course we will fail to keep our list and then we realize we can’t and will fall back upon God’s grace. Still we really do not feel good about ourselves unless we keep to our do and don’t list. We forget that grace plus works equals salvation by works. Works cannot save us. It is our trust in God through Jesus Christ that justifies us and it is our faith that is credited as righteousness. “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5) We are saved by the grace of God and there is nothing else that we can do. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, December 7, 2014

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