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Back To The Future

Sermon #9


Revelation 2:18-29


Intro:  The city of Thyatira was the smallest of the seven cities mentioned in the letters to the churches.  It is also the city about which the least is known. Yet, it is to this little known church in a little known city that Christ addresses His longest letter.

      While not a lot is known about ancient Thyatira, some things are known and they are worthy of mention.

·         Thyatira was probably founded by Alexander the Great some 300 years before Christ.

·         The name Thyatira means “Unceasing Sacrifice”.  It probably received this name because it was a military buffer city.  It was located some 40 miles south east of Pergamos, the capital city of that province.  When enemies invaded, they would naturally come to Thyatira first.  While its location did not allow it to defend itself very well, its mission was to hold the enemy just long enough for Pergamos to prepare itself for battle.  As a result, Thyatira was destroyed and rebuilt many times during its history.

·         It was somewhat famous in its day for commerce.  There was main trade route that went through the city.  Thus, tradesmen from around the world bought and sold there.

·         Thyatira was known for its woolen industry, especially for the dyes produced there.  They manufactured a very expensive purple dye that was valued by royalty and the wealthy of that era.  This dye was obtained from a certain shellfish.  This little creature was brought up by divers; its throat was slit open; and a single drop of this dye was obtained.  That dye, coupled with the chemical composition of the water of Thyatira, made colors possible there that could not be reproduced anywhere else on earth.  This industry is mentioned in the Bible.  We are told about a woman named Lydia who is called “a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira…”, Acts 16:14.

·         Thyatira was also known for its trade guilds.  These were like the ancient unions of the day.  Workers from the various industries of the city, bakers, wool worker, dyers, bronze workers, potters, and others, all banded together to set prices, guarantee work.  To refuse to join a guild was to give up all prospects of work.  This little fact will become important as we move through these verses.

·         Thyatira was also a center of occult worship.  There was a temple in the city dedicated to fortune-telling.  It was presided over by a female oracle named Sambathe΄.

      It was to the church operating in this city that Jesus sends this letter.  We do not know who founded this church.  It is possible that the Gospel was brought to Thyatira was by Lydia who was saved in Philippi, Acts 16:12-15.  Or, as some think, it might have been evangelized by believers from Ephesus.  There is one thing we know for sure.  While the church in Thyatira might have been founded by a woman, it was certainly being confounded by a woman!  There were serious problems in the church of Thyatira and the Lord comes with a word tailored just for them and their need.

      Jesus comes to this church in verse 18 and presents Himself in three ways.  He comes as:

1.      The Saving One – “The Son Of God” – He reminds these people that He is the Savior and that He alone is worthy of worship.

2.      The Searching One – “eyes like unto a flame of fire” – He comes as one Who sees all.  He sees the works of the hands and the motives and thoughts of the heart.  He comes seeing all. He comes, not as the meek and lowly Jesus, but with His eyes ablaze with anger over sin.

3.      The Sovereign One – “feet like fine brass” – Brass, or bronze, in the Bible is symbolic of judgment.  Jesus not only comes as One able to see all; He also comes as One able to judge all.

      If there is one word that describes the situation we find at Thyatira it is the word “compromise”.  This is a church that has left its founding principles and has gone off into compromise and apostasy. Let’s examine these verses and consider The Church That Compromised With The World.

      Remember, these letters can be views three ways: Practically – They are literal letters to real churches with real issues.  Prophetically – They speak to the church in different periods of church history.  The church of Thyatira speaks of the period between 600 AD to 1500 AD.  The time known as the Dark Ages.  Many practices here similar to Roman Catholicism.  Personally – These letters have a message for every church and every believer who will hear and heed.  A church just like every one of these seven churches can still be found in the world today.  Folks, there is a word here for us if we will receive it today.

      With all this in mind, let’s turn our attention to these verses and consider The Church That Compromised With The World.


  I. v. 19                             HE COMMENDS THE SERVICE OF THE CHURCH

A.  He Commends Their Ministries – This was an active church.  They were working within their own number and within the community around them.  Their ministry is noted by the words Jesus uses.

1.  They Are Busy – Works – This word means “deeds”. It speaks of them as being active in good deeds and benevolent outreach.

2.  They Are Burdened – Service – This word means “ministry”.  It is the same work translated “Deacon” throughout the New Testament.  The word carries the idea of “those who kick up dust”.  In other words, they were so busy that they kicked up a cloud of dust as they went from task to task.

B.  He Commends Their Motives – What was behind these works?  What motivated them to do the things they were doing?

1.  They Are Motivated By Their Charity – Love – This is the word “agape”.  It refers to an “unconditional, unceasing love that knows no boundaries and that is not influenced by the worth of the object being loved.” It is God’s kind of love.

            Now, let’s face it, the only real motive for good works is love.  Everything we do is to be done out of a heart of love or it is worthless, 1 Cor. 13:1-3.  And, a love that won’t act is not genuine love at all, 1 John 3:18. It is good that this church had love, but we are not told what they loved.  Did their works arise out of genuine love for the Lord?  Or, did they simply love their fellow man?  As the verses unfold, I think we will see that their love was centered on man and not on God.

            Godly works always arise out of a heart aflame with love for God almighty.  That was Paul’s motive, 2 Cor. 5:14.  It must be ours too!

2.  They Are Motivated By Their Consecration – Faith – This word refers to “faithfulness”.  These were folks that could be counted on to get the job done.  They were faithful and not fickle. 

            Too many times there is work to be done around the church and no one who wants to do that work.  That was not a problem in Thyatira.  There was work to do and plenty of people willing to do the work.  That is a good situation.

C.  He Commends Their Maturity – Works; and the last to be more than the first – When I say maturity, I am not talking about spiritual growth.  I am talking about growth in the level of their works.  They were developing and progressing on their works.  Their outreach and ministry to their fellow man was ever on the increase.


(Note: What Jesus says about the church of Thyatira should be true of our church as well.  We should be a church that is busy for the glory of God.  Not just having activities for the sake of doing something.  One preacher said it this way, “We (can) Bowl for Blessings on Monday night, Jog for Jesus on Tuesday night, eat in the kitchenette and endure a sermonette on Wednesday night. We have Home runs for Heaven on Thursday night, Golf for Glory on Friday, and spread the table to stay able on Saturday.”[1]

      We should be active in the Lord’s work; but, we should see that everything we do is motivated by either Edifying the Saints; Evangelizing the Sinner; and/or Exalting the Savior.  Those three tasks comprise the whole of our business and we should be actively engaged in them for the glory of God.

      I would just remind you that God knows our works too.  He did not save us to be lazy Christians, but to be busy in His Kingdom work, Eph. 2:10; James 2:18.  There is not room for laziness and slothfulness in God’s business!

      I heard about these two men who were walking down the street when they saw these three bums lying in the gutter.  One said to the other, “Which of those three bums do you think is the laziest?” 

      “I don’t know” said his friend, “but I’ll find out.”  So, he walked over to those three bums and said, “Hey there, I’ll give this twenty dollar bill to the one of you that is the laziest.”

      One of them jumped right up and said, “I’m your man!  Give it to me.”

      The man with the money said, “You’re not the laziest.”

      The second bum just kind of rolled over a little, reached up his hand and said, “Hand it here. I reckon I’m the laziest man I know.”

      The fellow with the money said, “I don’t think you’re the laziest either.”

      The third bum just laid where he was and said, “Just put that twenty in my pocket if you will.”

      Now, that’s lazy!  That’s not how the Lord wants His children to be.  Sadly, that’s just the way many are!)


  I.  He Commends The Service Of The Church


 II.  v. 20-23                          HE CONFRONTS THE SIN IN THE CHURCH

(Ill. While this church appeared to be everything a church ought to be on the surface, at its heart there was a festering sore.  The church at Thyatira looked good on the outside, but it was corrupt at its core.  Jesus comes to confront their sin.)

A.  v. 20-23  He Confronts The Teacher Of This Church – The church in Thyatira was being led away from the Lord by the teachings of an influential woman in their congregation.  Jesus exposes her, her teachings and her judgment in these verses.


(Note: This woman is called “Jezebel”.  She is called by the name of one of the most infamous women in the entire Bible.  A little background on the biblical Jezebel will help us to understand what this woman was doing in this church.

      Jezebel was the wife of wicked king Ahab, 1 Kings 16:31.  Her name means “chaste” but she was anything but that.  She was the wicked daughter of a Gentile king.  She was a devoted worshiper of the god Baal and she kept up some 850 prophets of that wicked, sensual religion, 1 Kings 18:19.  Baal was a fertility god and his prophets and priests were no more than temple prostitutes.  Baal was worshiped through vile sexual acts and gross wickedness.

      When Jezebel came to Israel, she brought her perverted religion with her.  She led her weak-kneed husband to follow her gods and thus influenced Israel to seek Baal instead of Jehovah, 1 Kings 21:25.  She even did her best to kill every true man of God she could get her hands on.  She threatened old Elijah one time and he ran away in fear, 1 Kings 19:1-3.

            You might remember the story of Ahab and his desire for Naboth’s vineyard, 1 Kings 21:1-29.  It was Jezebel that arranged for the murder of Naboth so that Ahab could have the vineyard.  This act prompted Elijah to pronounce God’s sentence upon Ahab and Jezebel, 1 Kings 21:17-24.  He told Ahab that Jezebel would be eaten by the dogs, 1 Kings 21:23.  This was literally fulfilled years later when Jehu commanded Jezebel’s servants to throw her down from a second floor window.  They did and Jehu drove his chariot over her body.  He went into the house, had a meal and commanded the servants to bury her.  When they went out to retrieve her body, all that was left was her skull, her feet and the palms of her hands.  The dogs had eaten the rest, 2 Kings 9:1-37.

            Jezebel came to be identified with wickedness and idol worship.)

1.  v. 20  Her Sin Is Described – This self-appointed prophetess, whoever she was, was guilty of leading the people away from the true worship of God.  No one is quite sure what was actually going on, but here is my theory.

            Remember when I mentioned the trade guilds earlier?  These guilds would often have meetings in the pagan temples around town.  Such meetings were often immoral affairs involving drunkenness, drug abuse and sexual immorality.  These meetings would also involve a meal and would either begin or end with a sacrifice to a pagan god. 

            When an animal was sacrificed in a pagan temple, often only a small portion was actually sacrificed.  Sometimes, just some hair clipped from the head of the animal might be all that was used.  The rest of the animal was then divided between the pagan priest and the worshiper.  That worshiper could either sell his portion of the meat in the marketplace, or he could throw a feast for his friends and they would eat the sacrifice.

            When the pagans in Thyatira were saved, they were faced with a problem.  Did they refuse to join the guilds and be unemployed; or did they participate in the pagan rituals and compromise their testimonies?  The mind of God in this matter is found in Acts 15:29.  There, newly converted Gentiles are commanded to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, among other things.  For more information concerning eating meat sacrificed to idols you can read 1 Corinthians 8-10.

            So, the teaching at Thyatira may have been the same teaching that was rampant in that era.  It may have been the idea that an individual could be saved by grace and indulge the fleshly appetite for sin.  Some people held the view that the soul and the flesh were not connected.  In other words, they taught that what a person did in their body had not effect on their spiritual life and vice versa.  This teaching is addressed and countered in the Epistle of First John.

            This woman preacher may have been telling the people in this church that they could hold onto their pagan beliefs and practices and still serve the Lord; that they could sin and still be saved; that one thing had nothing to do with the other.  This may have been the tool that church was using to get the pagans of Thyatira to come to their church.  They were compromising their standards to attract the world.  They were saying, “Oh, come as you are!  Don’t change a thing.  Keep living like you have always lived.  We’ll accept you just like you are.  God loves you and we do too.  Neither He nor us expects you to change one thing.”

            Whatever she was doing, she was leading the people of God astray.  The word “seduce” means “to lead out of the right path”.  She was leading them into immorality.  The word “fornication” comes from the word “pornia”.  We get the word “pornography” from it.  It refers “to any sexual sin”.  The word literally means “to prostitute one’s body to the lusts of another.”  It can refer to sexual sin, or it can be used as a metaphor for idol worship.  Regardless of what they were doing, the Lord calls it “the depths of Satan”, v. 24.


(Note: The same teaching abounds in the modern era.  Everywhere people who call themselves Christians claim that they can have a relationship with the Lord on the one hand and live lives of open sin on the other.  Homosexuals, pornographers, drug abusers, drunkards, adherents to false religions, etc. all claim to be saved and still able to so as they please. 

      Somebody is a liar!  The Lord told His people to separate from that kind of lifestyle, 2 Cor. 6:17.  He told us that His people received a new birth, John 3:3.  And, that they became new creatures, 2 Cor. 5:17.  The Bible tells us that anyone who lives a lifestyle of committed, continual, unrepentant sin is lost, 1 John 2:9-10.  We have liberty as Christians, but our liberty is not a license to sin!)


2.  v. 21  Her Stubbornness Is Denounced – The Lord had given this woman and her followers time to turn from their sins, but they refused to do so.  Now, His patience has run out and she is slated for judgment.


(Note: Our God is a patient, loving God!  He gives lost sinners and wayward believers opportunity on top of opportunity to get right with Him.  When they refuse, they can expect nothing less that His judgment, Pro. 29:1.)


3.  v. 22-23  Her Sentence Is Declared –  Because of what she has done, she and all her followers will face God’s wrath.  By using the phrase “cast…her into great tribulation”, He is telling us that these people are not saved.  But, notice the grace in His judgment: He is still giving them space to repent!  If they refuse, they will be judged “according to your works”.  Salvation is always based on God’s grace; judgment comes based on man’s works.


(Note: Let us not deceive ourselves.  People who will not bow to the Lord Jesus Christ, trust Him for salvation and demonstrate that salvation through a changed, dedicated life are people who have never been saved!  They abide under the wrath of God and will be judged by Him according to their works, Rev. 20:11-15.

      If you have never rusted Jesus as your personal Savior, let me challenge you to come to God while there is still time.  One day, the patience of God will reach an end and nothing will remain but death, judgment and Hell!

      Did you notice the reference to “her children” in verse 23?  The young people are the ones who suffer the most when there is compromise and hypocrisy in the church.  They see the inconsistency and they turn their backs on God and stumble off blindly toward Hell.)


B.  v. 20  He Confronts The Tolerance Of This Church – Jesus expresses displeasure with this church because they allowed this woman to be in a position of leadership and because they tolerated the lies she was teaching for truth.  The word “sufferest” means “to tolerate, to permit, to allow”.  God is displeased that they would allow things of that nature to go on there. 

            They were probably like many in our day.  They might have said, “Well, I don’t agree with it, but we shouldn’t say anything because we might hurt their feelings.”  Some folks need their feelings hurt!  When false doctrine is being preached in the church, those who know the truth have a duty to stand up and do something about it!  When we sit back and allow that kind of wickedness to go unchecked, we invite the anger and judgment of God!


(Note: Some people look at our church and they disapprove of our standards.  They don’t understand why our women wear dresses to church.  They don’t understand why we refuse to allow certain kinds of music in.  They don’t understand our stand on the King James Version.  They don’t understand why we won’t line up with them and participate in the things they are doing.  But, let me tell you this: We have standards and we stand by them for a simple reason.  That reason is this: if you give the devil an inch, he’ll take a mile!  (Ill. Eph. 4:27)

      Pants on the ladies today will turn into shorts on men tomorrow.  A little contemporary music today will turn into services that resemble rock concerts.  One new version today will turn into a confusion of verses tomorrow.  If we let down the wall just a little and compromise with the world, the world will not stop until it has everything we value.  And, we will be left with nothing but the anger of a holy God!  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be misunderstood, called old-fashioned and ridiculed than I had to forfeit the power and presence of Almighty God!

      Some churches pride themselves on their tolerance.  I think God still expects His people to be different from the world around them.  When we do like Thyatira and compromise our standards to appeal to the world, we are turning our backs on truth.  When we open the door to let the world come in, do not be surprised if the Lord walks out!)


C.  v. 23b  He Confronts The Testimony Of This Church – The Lord tells this church that He would use them as an example to teach other churches what happens when truth is compromised.  The church in Thyatira had been established to bring the word of God to a pagan city.  They had functioned well for a while; then they had abandoned the right path.  They are going to pay a heavy price for their sin.


(Note: The Lord will not tolerate sin in the church when it is allowed to flourish. 1 Pet. 4:17 reminds us that judgment must begin at the house of God.  In other words, when there is sin in the camp, the Lord will deal with it.  He will remove His presence, His power and His touch off the wayward congregation.  He will write Ichabod over the door and watch us dwindle away to nothing.  That is the price for compromise.)


  I.  He Commends The Service Of The Church

 II.  He Confronts The Sin In The Church


III.  v. 24-29                          HE COMFORTS THE SAINTS IN THE CHURCH

(Ill. Not everyone in Thyatira had walked away from the Lord.  Even in that tolerant, compromising, sinful church there was a faithful remnant.  The Lord has a few words of hope and comfort for them as they struggled to walk holy in an unholy congregation.)

A.  v. 24-25  He Comforts Them Concerning Their Duty – He tells them that all He expects from them is that they stay the course.  He wants them to avoid being sucked into the vortex of evil that is swirling there in Thyatira.


(Note: That is His will for us in these confusing days as well.  He wants us to stay the course for the glory of God.  Just because everyone around us is taking a new path does not mean that we have to.  We can stand our ground and be faithful until death or the rapture takes us away, Ill. Eph. 6:11-18 – We are told to “stand” three times!)


B.  v. 26-27  He Comforts Them Concerning Their Destiny – The Lord Jesus promises them that if they will remain faithful to Him, they will rule with Him when He comes in His kingdom.  He seems to be saying, “You folks are powerless to change your situation now, but the day is coming when I will put My power into your hands.  You will reign with Me and your struggle for holiness will be worth it all in the end.”


(Note:  If you are going to be a holy, godly Christian in these days, you might as well get ready to be hated, misunderstood and persecuted.  But, this is not the end of the matter!  One day, the King is coming!  When He does, He is going to let His faithful servants reign with Him.  We might be weak today.  The worldly, compromising churches might be the ones with all the people, all the power and all the prestige.  But, when the King comes, those who have served Him faithfully now will reign with Him then!  It will be worth it all when that day comes!)


C.  v. 28  He Comforts Them Concerning Their Deliverance – Jesus promises these faithful believers “the morning star”.  There is much debate among biblical scholars as to what He is talking about here.  Some believe that He is promising them Himself. After all, He is the “bright and morning star”, Rev. 22:16.  Some think this refers to Satan, Luke 10:18; that Jesus will let the church see Satan get what’s coming to him someday.  We will see that, Rev. 20:10.

            I think He is talking about the Rapture.  You see, when the night grows the darkest, the morning star, or the planet Venus, becomes visible.  When that heavenly body appears you know that daybreak is not far behind.  I think the Lord is telling these folks to just hold on for a little while longer.  He seems to be saying, “It’s mighty dark now, but there is a glimmer of hope in the heavens.  Hang on; I’m coming to get you!”

            Folks, that is His promise to us as well!  This dark night we are in right now will not last forever.  The Lord is coming!  The signs are visible all around us.  Symbolically, the morning star has appeared, and it signals the approach of a new day.  He is coming and we are going!  So, hang on a just little longer!


Conc:  I don’t think Calvary Baptist Church is anything like the church in Thyatira.  However, I do think that Satan would love nothing better than to slither his way into our fellowship and cause us to abandon the Lord’s truth.  We must be vigilant, 1 Pet. 5:8.  We must watch and work against his tactics at every turn.  We must look not only at the church as a whole, but at our own individual hearts.

      Is it not true that sin comes in not in great numbers, but when we as individual believer allow Satan a stronghold in our lives?  Has the Lord touched your heart through this message? 

      If He has called you to come before Him to deal with your sins, you come.  If He impresses you to pray for this church and other churches that are holding out against the rising tide of compromise, you come.  Will you obey His voice as He speaks to your heart?

[1] http://www.thelivingwordtbc.com/rev9.htm

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