Bible Passage: Revelation 2:18-29
Big Idea: Thyatira is too Tolerant of Sexual Immorality & Apostasy
Intro: Good morning, friends, visitors and those online. My name is Pastor Matt Johnson and today we are looking at church 4 in the 7 churches of Revelation. Satan is dimming the gospel light in Thyatira by bringing about ungodly compromise that is leading to apostasy…
PRAYER: Well friends, today we see the church in Thyatira is rebuked for being too tolerant of the woman Jezebel”. The point is – there are some things Christians should NOT tolerate. So I want to talk about the recent split in the Anglican church of Australia. And I am going to talk a little bit about LGBTIQA ideology. But that’s not the real problem. The real problem in the Anglican church is all the Jezebel’s.
Pretty much since the early 1900’s the Christian church has become more and more compromised by what is called liberal theology. In the C20th some “Christian” scholars started to dismiss all the supernatural things in the Bible, like miracles, or Jesus’ resurrection or even heaven and hell. But nonetheless, they still claimed to be Christians while denying that Jesus was God in the flesh. By John’s definition in 1 John 4 – that makes them an antichrist figure or a Jezebel. But we didn’t remove them from the church.
Then, in the 1960’s and 1970’s the western world went through the sexual revolution and the start of feminism. These ideologies disagreed with the Bible. But the liberal scholars took another step and started to say the bits in the Bible about 1) ONLY men teaching in church, or 2) passages upholding marriage (and denying divorce) or 3) the bits condemning heterosexual immorality – were all wrong. Now as this happened the worldwide Anglican church started to split into A) those who believe the Bible and B) those who don’t believe the Bible. Truth is – most Christian denominations have gone through this problem in one way or another. But the structures of the Anglican church means that we had no way of getting rid of these false teachers or Jezebels…
Then LGBTIQA ideology and especially gender fluidity pushed the church even further. So some Christian churches are saying; “no we can’t agree with everything LGBTIQA ideology says, because the Bible disagrees.” But some Anglican churches – (that don’t really believe the Bible) are now more or less blessing LGBTIQA ideology completely.
So two weeks ago this broke the Anglican church of Australia. The news media said it was because of homophobia. But the real issue is the authority of the Bible. Christianity has always been about trusting and obeying the Bible. So, a new Anglican Diocese was formed, called the DIOCESE OF THE SOUTHERN CROSS – for Anglicans who want to continue believing and obeying the Bible. Now I understand and support this move. But it’s probably still too little, too late…
This past week an Anglican leader identified some of the pressures we’ll face in the next 2-3 years. (Notice I didn’t name them, for a reason).
- The Anglican church MUST now allow EUTHANASIA in their nursing homes or face legal action. So do we accept pharmakeia killing people on Anglican premises or do we close all the nursing homes?
- Next year Alex Greenwich will introduce to NSW parliament a “Change and Suppression law,” effectively making it illegal for us to share Jesus with the LGBTIQA community. It is expected to pass. In Victoria, breaking this law carries up to 10 years in prison.
- Anglican schools now face pressure to support LGBTIQA ideology, or lose government funding. However, the State is nervous about poking the bear on this one – because they already have a lack of schools. So, we may be able to stare them down. But…
- EMPLOYMENT LAW means we may soon be unable to dismiss pastors or youth workers, or teachers for sexual immorality, unless their conduct is clearly criminal. What happens to holiness if we have to put up with pastors who are being sexually immoral?
Friends, the Diocese of the Southern Cross, is simply about churches trying to preserve their holiness and faithfulness to Jesus.
Point 1: The Church in Thyatira is Authentic, but in Danger of Compromise
Show: Rev.2:18-20a (READ – Slide 2)
Explain: Well friends, (Slide 3) if you look at this map – you’ll see Thyatira. It was founded around 260BC by the Greek Seleucid empire as a military outpost. Later under the Romans it started to become an important center for textiles, wool, garments and leather workers. You may recall that in Acts 16 – a woman named LYDIA became a Christian – and it says she specialised in purple cloth and came from Thyatira. Thytira was becoming a center for material making and fashion.
Now what we do know is that the different linen makers and leather workers were forming into guilds – that were beginning to look a bit like the freemasons. The masons began as a guild or union for stone masons. So being in the mason’s gave you an official license and opened you up to more work opportunites. It was like a nurse’s union or railworkers union. But over time the masons developed more and more of a demonic spiritual edge.
So if you were a stone mason by trade and you chose to join the freemasons to get more work – you had to compromise your Christian faith. In the Freemasons you’re allowed to talk about God but not Jesus. Its one of the rules. But, if you’re desperate for work, you make this small compromise. However, after you join the Masons, you discover – you have to deny Jesus more and more – in order to get more work. So much so, that in the higher levels of the freemasons – people report that it is blatant and open worship of Satan.
Now this is what seems to be happening in Thyatira. If you joined a textile or leather guild in Thyatira (perhaps encouraged by this Jezebel woman) it gave you economic opportunities, but also involved participation in some idolatry and pagan fertility rites. So if you wanted to get ahead in Thyatira – you were kind of forced to join a guild. But joining a guild meant not really being faithful to Jesus and hopping on a path that had a clear arrow pointing towards apostasy.
Now against this backdrop – Jesus commends the church in Thyatira. In verse 23 – Jesus says; “I am he who searches hearts and minds”. The word SEARCHES has to do with seeing. JESUS’ EYES like blazing fire look straight into their hearts and minds. This is how Jesus’ penetrating eyes will evaluate us on judgment day. Youmay be able to hide things from your pastor. But nothing is hidden from Jesus. Yet, seeing everything, Jesus still commends the church in Thytira.
The other thing – we’re told is Jesus has feet like burnished bronze which has to do with holiness. In the Old Testament – all the utensils in the temple were made of burnished bronze (1Kings 7:45). The angels who carry God’s throne in EZEKIEL 1 also have feet that gleam like burnished bronze. So it seems that Jesus is looking into the church at Thyatira with his pentrating eyes to examine their holiness. Look at verse 19 (Slide READ). Now this is a high commendation. This kind of shows the church in Thyatira really has responded the good news of Jesus’ gospel. They are real Christians.
(GOSPEL) The Bible is clear we have all done sinful, evil things that deserve God’s condemnation. In other words we deserve to be punished by God for our sin. But when Jesus died on the cross, he was taking the punishment for our sins. JESUS HAD NO SIN. He didn’t deserve punishment. So when he was punished like a sinner (on the cross) – he was taking the punishment for all his followers. He was doing it so we could be saved. The Bible says that when you believe Jesus died for you and you start to love Jesus for saving you – God forgives you and promises you eternal life. This is the good news of Christianity. Believe in Jesus and love Jesus and you will be saved. Now If you don’t know or you don’t understand, what I’m talking about – FILL OUT A CARD in the front of the Bibles and sign up for Christianity Explored. Then put the card with your details in the offertory bag (a bit later in the service) and we’ll be in touch – because it’s our job to help you understand what Jesus has done for you. Whether you accept it or not is up to you. But it’s our job to help you understand…
Apply: Anyway, Jesus looks at the church in Thyatira – and he sees real Christian FAITH and real Christian LOVE. He also sees genuine Christian SERVICE. Christians are meant to be people who serve others. Whats more, despite the persecution of Nero (or Domitian) they are still persevering AND growing as Christians. And yet, there is some sort of unhealthy compromise taking place. Given Jesus’ high praise – I suspect the compromise is not actually in the church, but in their workplaces – and this Jezebel is saying “it’s ok, its just work.”
Friends, we’re beginning to face this sort of pressure to compromise in our workplaces too. So, I want you to know that if you ever have a difficult situation to navigate at work (or simply not sure what to do) – I’m happy to discuss it with you and I’m sure the elders – Robert, Geoff and George would also make themselves available to listen and pray with you. For instance, I heard this week that a company in Sydney – has just demanded that every employee have a footer on their emails that says; “I am a proud supporter of the LGBTIQA community and my preferred pronouns are… Every time you send a work email – “I am a proud supporter of the LGBTIQA community and my preferred pronouns are…”. Should Christians sign off with that sort of compromise?
Remember in the Old Testament – (long before it got to actual apostasy) Daniel and the other young men wouldn’t even compromise on kosher food. They didn’t compromise – even on the small things. The difficulty, is that like them, weare now in Babylon, facing more and more pressure to bow down to false idols. And soon we may actually need to support one another – if Christians start losing their jobs because of faithfulness to Jesus…
Point 2: The Church in Thyatira should not Tolerate Jezebel
Show: Rev.2:20-23 (READ)
Explain: Well friends, there is some sort of dangerous woman in Thyatira who is either 1) named Jezebel, or 2) is like Jezebel in the Old Testament. Most Christian scholars think John is attacking this woman because she is like Jezebel. Let me show you what New Testament scholar FF Bruce says (Slide 6).
So let me explain the Old Testament JEZEBEL. Around 850BC – the northern tribes of Israel were blatantly disobeying God’s word (like most of Sydney today). Prophets, like Elijah and Obadiah and Hosea, kept telling the Jews – “you will soon reap what you sow.” You are about to reap God’s wrath. But the Jews ignored the prophets. Then along came a King named Ahab, who the Bible says was worse than all the kings before him. He started worshiping the Canaanite god – Baal. And he married a woman named JEZEBEL who worshiped “a fertility, mother-earth sort of god” – named Asherah. It was pretty “NEW AGE” in flavor. Now fertility cults, like Asherah, usually involved sexual immorality and temple prostitution. These sacred sexual fertility rituals were meant to increase your harvest in farming. However, when people moved from farming into business and manufacture – fertility cults – were still linked with ECONOMIC PROSPERITY. So many scholars believe the guilds in Thyatira – are probably engaged in a fertility cult – in pursuit of better business returns.
So King Ahab worships Baal and JEZEBEL worships Asherah and they don’t want anyone pointing out their immorality. So they are quite openly trying to kill all the prophets of God. At this point Obadiah who works for Ahab – actually has 50 prophets hidden in one cave and 50 prophets hidden in another cave – and each day he was smuggling food to them. Obadiah was quietly and secretly doing his bit to make sure the Menorah light didn’t go out in the days of Ahab. Obeying God was more important than obeying Ahab.
Meanwhile, the famous prophet Elijah is running for his life. Elijah has just made 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah – look IMPOTENT – which is not a good look – for leaders of a fertility cult. Elijah called on the name of God and made fire come down from heaven, burning up a sacrifice, in front of everyone. But despite their best efforts the prophets of Baal and Asherah couldn’t do it. So Ahab and Jezebel are angry and they’ve just promised they are going to kill Elijah – if it’s the last thing they do. So Elijah is on the run and he thinks he’s the ONLY TRUE ISRAELITE left in the whole, wide world. You ever feel like you’re the only faithful one?
Well, its not true. Elijah is told there’s 7000 others as well. But when the church is under attack it is easy to feel alone and get discouraged like Elijah. I mean it currently feels like the Anglican church (around the world) is falling apart. But I heard a stat this week that more people in Africa and Asia – have become Anglican Christians in the last 40 years, than all the Anglicans in the world – in the previous 400 years. So the Anglican church is still growing worldwide – even exponentially. Yes, Satan may be pushing back against us in the West. But the Christian gospel is smashing his kingdom in the East. So things may not be as dire as we think. We have to guard against Elijah’s sin of despair – and keep acting in faith, hope and love.
What’s more, when Elijah thought he was the only one – the prophet OBADIAH was still quietly working behind the scenes in Ahab and Jezebels royal palace. Now how Obadiah managed to do this without committing apostasy is hard to fathom. But by staying in that royal position, it enabled Obadiah to protect 100 of God’s prophets. 1) Elijah decided to run and 2) Obadiah decided to stay and they were both true prophets of God – trying to be faithful in difficult circumstances. My point is – we are going to need to be careful about judging one another – as things get more and more grey. Of course, no true Christian can blatantly commit apostasy and no true Christian should blatantly disobey God’s Word.
But as things get messy – some Christians may make quite different decisions in faith (to other Christians). A good example is the recent vaccines. Some Christians decided to get the vaccine in faith and some Christians decided not to get them in faith. Who did the right thing? CAREFUL. Watch out for pride and self-righteousness as things get more-messy. You may choose to leave your job on some moral issue and another Christian (in the exact same circumstances) may decide they should stay a little longer. Who’s right? I’d say each one of us has to be true to how we understand Scripture and what we believe the Holy Spirit is convicting us to do. A very important and old Christian principle – is never go against your Christian conscience. Don’t go against conscience. Now of course, if your conscience is ok with blatant sin or apostasy – you are probably not a Spirit-filled Christian. But as we face lots of what I would call “grey decisions” I think we’re going to need show one another a lot of grace…
Apply: This woman Jezebel – in Thyatira is probably encouraging people in the church to join the guilds in order to have better business opportunities, just as the OT Jezebel was encouraging people in the temple – to also worship Asherah for better agricultural fertility. But truly going to these guilds looking for business prosperity, is as dangerous as going to Ascelpius temple in Pergamum looking for healing. Or for that matter – joining the freemasons. I think many of the biggest IT companies – are fast becoming as bad as the freemasons. They lead Christians into compromise by dangling big bucks that quickly becomes promoting a false gospel.
So Jesus is a bit angry – because the church (or the church leaders) are being way too tolerant. Even though this woman may have good intentions – wanting to see her fellow Christians have more business opportunities she needs to be told to sit down and shut up. People – who encourage Christians into contexts of sin, idolatry, sexual immorality and apostasy, should not be tolerated. Jesus says – because the church has failed to take her out – he will now do it.
Jesus is going to make Jezebel and those playing with sin suffer literally “great tribulation.”. Basically, their judgment day has just come early. Now I think this is a huge warning for some church leaders – like 1) Archbishop JUSTIN WELBY of Canterbury or 2) Archbishop PHILLIP ASPINALL of Brisbane. Or even political leaders like DANIEL ANDREWS and ALEX GREENWICH who are waging war on the church.
These men are now all enemies of Jesus. And Jesus has a special place of suffering reserved for people who act like Jezebels. What’s more, if Jesus can take out Jezebel (like that) – some of these men need to reconsider what they are doing. They have no fear of God left. They are insane. When Ahab and Jezebel led Israel into apostasy – Elijah told them – that dogs would soon feast on their bodies. Soon afterwards they both died in different circumstances and in both cases dogs chewed on their bodies. This denied them a proper Jewish burial, which in turn took away any Jewish hope for them in the afterlife. Jesus has no time for those who lead the church into apostasy and neither should we. Whether conscious or not, such people are agents for Satan.
Point 3: The Church in Thyatira is promised Reward if they Overcome
Show: Rev.2:24-29 (READ)
Explain: Now friends, there are some difficulties in these final verses. The words Satan’s so called deep secrets” may be referring a heresy in the early church called gnosticism – which was based on secret knowledge. But whether it’s GNOSTICISM or some other false teaching – we know it’s coming from Satan. Satan is trying to deceive the church – so he can lead us into compromise, compromise, compromise and then apostasy. But Jesus says to those who overcome – he will 1) share his authority and 2) give us the morning star. Again, exactly what this means – is hard to tell. Perhaps those who overcome will help Jesus in the final judgment and perhaps receiving the morning star is saying we will get an early foretaste of heavenly glory. But what the church has to be careful of is falling into compromise and apostasy.
Verse 25 – “only hold on to what you have – until I come.” Now you may notice Jesus doesn’t say “hold on to what you have – until you’re raptured.” No! Jesus says; “hold on to the truth until I come.” But when does Jesus come again in Revelation – with eyes like blazing torches and as the one who rules with an iron sceptre – before or after the great tribulation? (PAUSE). That’s right, after the great tribulation. And Jesus says we’ve got to hold on until he comes again.
Again, in verse 26 – Jesus says – “to him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations”. It doesn’t say – does my will until the beginning of the tribulation or half way through the tribulation. The end means end. It is the same word used to describe God as the beginning and the END. The church needs to “hold on” and not commit apostasy until Satan is thrown A) into the Abyss or B) the lake of burning fire. That’s the end…
Apply: But remember how ELIJAH made fire come down from heaven in front of Israel to prove Yahweh is the true God? Well in Revelation 13 – the Antichrist makes fire come down from heaven in order to trick the whole world into apostasy. (Satan may not have had that trick sorted out in the days of Elijah, Ahab and Jezebel). But God warns us that Satan is going to pull off that level of deception in the last days. Satan is going to try to make himself look like the real god. I believe he will appear Trinitarian, he will work false miracles and (as an angel of light) he will even offer us a salvation of sorts – if we worship him.
And as that begins to happen there are going to be lots of well-meaning Jezebel’s – telling us that a little bit of compromise doesn’t matter. Just do this for better prosperity or better health or better environment. Just go with the flow. You can still worship Jesus in private if that’s what you want to do. The problem is – it never stops with some small compromise. So to the church in Thyatira – Jesus says watch out for Jezebels and deal with them quickly and decisively – if they are leading Christians towards apostasy.