"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: 'The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. -- Revelation 2: 18 (ESV)
As we continue through our series on the seven letters to the churches in Asia from Revelation, we come to the Church in Thyatira. Thyatira was a Macedonian colony founded as a result of the Persian overthrow by Alexander the Great. It was situated between Sardis and Pergamos. As we have seen, there are often some positive attributes which do not escape the gaze of our Lord and Savior but there are also areas that cause great distress. Areas that damage the witness of the church, the effectiveness of its message and the overall design of God. It is these positive and negative areas that we ought to learn from as lessons to the church today. As with all of the letters Jesus opens with a reminder of who He is, usually personalized to the church in question. In the key verse today Christ reminds the church in Thyatira and the church today that He is the one who has eyes like a flame of fire and feet like burnished bronze. The eyes like fire is an allusion to later in the letter when He declares that all the churches will know He is the one who searches the mind and the heart, giving to everyone according to their works. Fire is all consuming beloved. It is relentless. It does not miss anything. We would be wise to remember that as well today as so many Christians act and behave as if God cannot see them. Many international ministers, such as Joseph Prince, have been built their fortunes upon convincing people that sin no longer matters to God. His eyes are like fire for a reason beloved. Do not be fooled. Remember it is Christ who laments if there will be any faith on the earth when He returns. It is Christ that bemoans why people bother calling Him Lord if they will not do as He says. It is Christ who declares lawlessness as the reason why many who believed they were serving Him will be turned away with cries of "Lord Lord." Yet His feet are like burnished bronze. They are tested and strong. They are immovable. They represent the surety we have in placing our faith in the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. As we see later in this letter those who persevere will be given reign over the nations. The dichotomy of flaming eyes and burnished bronze feet is stark. To those who are right with Christ the fire in His eyes are a source of comfort but for those who are not, the strength and assurance of His steadfast feet is of no gain. Let us reason together now and see what Jesus says to the Church at Thyatira:
"'I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. -- Revelation 2: 19 (ESV)
Thyatira might have a resume familiar to many churches today. They had commendable works, displaying the outward love for the world that the Bible commands from us. Many churches today are of tremendous help to their communities and the world at large. Missionary trips to build playgrounds or assist orphanages are the norm in many Evangelical churches, even though the percentage of budget is usually embarrassingly low. The reality is more than 80% of revenue taken in by mega churches usually goes to the upkeep of the church itself, a constant eye to expand, and of course salaries for the staff. But good works are still inherently good and they do not escape the sight of our Lord and Savior. Our service matters. The world should see the church as that shining city on a hill, leading the way with compassion, love and most importantly, the Gospel. Thyatira also however had many things internally right as well. They had love, faith and endurance. All three things are requirements for the church today as well. Love is the new commandment given to us directly by Jesus in the Gospel accounts. Without faith it is impossible to please God and as we see in every letter to these churches, it is only those that endure who will see the reward. So many churches and ministries today simply do not finish the race strong. We cannot rest on our spiritual laurels from yesteryear. There is a reason why Paul declares that he has finished the race, fought the good fight and kept the faith. Because sadly, many do not.
And the final consideration for what the Church in Thyatira was doing well is their progress in these matters. Their latter works, love, faith, service, and patient endurance exceeds their first. This is always to be the state of the professing believer and of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Bible says in the end times one sign will be the love of most growing cold. Instead of progress we will see regression. We already have seen a wave of diminished faith, even within the church and the teaching it embraces. When someone like Andy Stanley teaches against the inerrancy of Scripture it is a picture of faith regressing. Thyatira however was progressing in the things the church is supposed to be about. So what was the problem? They were tolerant.
But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. -- Revelation 2: 20-21 (ESV)
This is the most important distinction here regarding this particular church. We saw in the Church in Ephesus that the Ephesians abandoned their first love. We saw in the Church in Pergamum that many were holding to the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. Included in the teachings of the Nicolaitans are the teachings of Jezebel. So what is the difference beloved? What we saw in Ephesus and Pergamum were willful partaking of the false teachings where as in Thyatira there was a tolerance of it. It is important to not miss this distinction. There were many in Thyatira who had not succumbed to the false teaching that was infiltrating their church but they turned a blind eye to it. They tolerated it.
First a word about tolerance in the culture today. We live in a country that fancies itself as tolerant except when it comes to Christianity. Much of that blame can be laid at the door of the church who have acted a political purveyor rather than an impartial representation of Christ. Instead of believing the Bible when it explains that the things of God are foolishness to those who are perishing, the church has become a master at being offended culturally. Instead of turning the other cheek they have filed lawsuits against the first strike. Instead of allowing our aggressor to take our cloak along with our tunic, we have sought legislative solutions to force people who do not know Jesus to pretend that they do. To the one who begs from us we have ridiculed as being lazy. To the one who would seek to borrow from us we have screamed for them to go get a job. All in the name of Jesus Christ.
The reality is that Satan has done a masterful job of convincing the church to hate the people who need the Gospel the most. Of looking at the world as our measurement of intolerance when we ought to be looking inward. It is not what the dying world tolerates that matters beloved -- they tolerate everything! What has the church tolerated though? What have we allowed inside of our walls that is damaging the cause of Jesus Christ? In these verses we see that the Church at Thyatira had been infiltrated by a false prophetess. Obviously it is not THE Jezebel but rather one who ascribed to her teachings or similar ways. She was obvious teaching lesser moral restrictions regarding sexuality as well as a loosening of the mores on idol worship. Some people were being seduced by these teachings as a result and the church did nothing about it. That is the charge leveled against them. In their tolerance, they were allowing the destruction of their own church from within.
As it was in Thyatira, so it still goes today in the church as well. Beloved the Bible says that in the end times there will be a great falling away. The Bible teaches us that narrow is the way that leads to eternal life and few are those who find it. Many will stand before Christ on the last day and say Lord Lord. These people fully believed they were serving God and His church only to finds out He never knew them. Like the five foolish virgins, they will be on the outside looking in when it is too late and the Bridegroom has arrived! Why? Because for many the church tolerated enough false teaching to kill them. Many look at the Purpose Driven Church model and see a harmless set of suggestions that can lead to bigger churches. They refuse to see what they are tolerating. Changing the role of the pastor to no longer be a shepherd. Allowing sheep to leave through blessed subtraction. Changing the focus from tending to the sheep to marketing to goats. Refusing to preach the full Gospel. Avoiding any serious discussion of sin and repentance. They tolerate it like the Church at Thyatira. The church today tolerates the worship of idols such as wealth, fame, the cult of personality, and prosperity. It tolerates the dumbing down of salvation to three sentences and a cloud of dust. Then we wonder how such apostate teachings like holy laughter, gold dust, and glory clouds are so easily accepted. When you tolerate the little things they eventually grow. The Bible says that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Heresy is a cancer and it spreads. So what is a minister of the Gospel to do?
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. -- Titus 1: 9 (ESV)
This is not a suggestion beloved. If you are called by God to represent His Word then you are commanded to rebuke those who teach falsely. This is the opposite of tolerance. The Bible say in the end days people will not tolerate sound teaching! How profoundly sad but true. Thyatira stood on the precipice beloved and Christ was trying to get them to back up and refuse to tolerate that which could eventually kill them. Another interesting parallel is we must realize that our works are not enough. I know so many churches locally that spend 5-10% of their operating budget to travel to an indigent country and build things. Yet at home they tolerate or even promote such bad theology and teaching that their own church is crumbing around their very eyes. Sheep are leaving left and right; bruised and bloodied. Many to never return to the church. The leadership, taught by the Purpose Driven Church, just seek out two goats to replace the sheep that leaves and consider it a gain. Let us return to the text:
Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. -- Revelation 2: 22-23 (ESV)
The bed for harlotry will now be a bed for sickness. Sin and judgment coming together to remind us that there is always a price to be paid. We may think a little leaven is not such a big deal. I have heard many defend the likes of Joel Osteen by pretending he doesn't do any harm. Just trying to make people feel better about themselves. To motivate them to improve their lives. Where is the harm in that? I will tell you where the harm is. The arm is in the people who think they are saved because they go to his church. People who listen to his ridiculously sugar coated "invite Jesus into my heart" nonsense after speaking to them for a half hour that had no mention of their sin! John the Baptist did not cry out -- "Feel better about yourself for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" Jesus did not preach, "Find the seven steps to a better you for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" The Bible teaches that only the real Gospel has the power of God unto the salvation of man. Look at what Jesus warns us here in this letter! Those that fall for the false teaching and get in bed with the spiritual prostitute will be thrown into the great tribulation! This is no small matter beloved! The eternal destination of the souls of man hangs in the balance and we need to stop tolerating false teaching within the church! He is the one with fire in His eyes as he searches the mind and the heart. This is no source of comfort but a stark reminder of the severity of the matters in which we are charged. He will give to all what they deserve. There are two choices beloved. Well done my good and faithful servant or away from me for I never knew thee. The letter now concludes:
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 on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself 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: 24-29 (ESV)
As always however we see a remnant. Within churches today there is always a remnant of true believers. I know someone who stays at a completely apostate church at the direction of the Spirit who revealed to him that only 2% remain that are faithful yet he is to stay there for those 2%. To those who refuse to tolerate false doctrine, God promises to not lay any other burden upon them. The burnished bronze feet will stand and carry the burdens. We are charged with holding fast to what we have in the Gospel until He comes again. Do not fall for the fancy marketing and convincing human wisdom. Do not fall for greasy grace and word faith little gods teachings. Do not fall for false signs and lying wonders that elevate man instead of God. Do not fall for earthly prosperity wrapped up in pious Christianese. We have a promise beloved of the morning star: