THYATIRA: The Corrupt Church
You’re no doubt familiar with the proverbial “frog in the kettle”: If you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, the frog will immediately leap out of the water. But if you place the frog in a pot of water at room temperature and gradually turn up the heat, the frog will not notice the change until it is too late and will be cooked to death.
This may be what was occurring in the church of Thyatira. Jesus’ commendation to them included praise for their works: their service to others, their love, faith, and perseverance. Their “latter works exceed the first,” which indicates they were progressing spiritually. However, Jesus presents Himself to the church as One who “has eyes like a flame of fire and . . . feet . . . like burnished bronze” (Rev. 2:18). He presents an imposing picture of One who sees all and is able to bring holy judgment.
Thyatira was an important commercial city and although it was not known as a religious center, pagan practices were incorporated in the fabric of daily life through trade guilds. These trade guilds were similar to our “unions.” It was difficult to succeed in business unless one was faithful to participate in guild meetings and activities. The problem for the Christians in Thyatira was that each of these trade guilds had a patron god. This meant that guild members were expected to pay respect to their “trade god” through offering sacrifices and attending pagan temple services, which could include drunkenness, immorality, even sexual activity with temple prostitutes. What was a Christian to do?
Sadly, many Christians had chosen to compromise. Toleration began to take on a new meaning—it seemed the more reasonable option than confronting sin. But there is a point where toleration becomes a sin. The church in Thyatira stands in contrast to the sister church in Ephesus that held to sound doctrine but lacked love. In the name of “love,” the church in Thyatira refused to confront false teaching. Their lack of doctrinal soundness eventually led to justifying idolatry and immorality.
MAKING IT PERSONAL:
Read Revelation 2:18–29. Record the description of Christ on the chart in Appendix B. Consider why He used this description to introduce Himself to Thyatira as you read Revelation 1:14–15; 19:11–15; Hebrews 4:13.
What does Jesus commend this church for (Rev. 2:19)? Which of these characteristics do you think He would say are true of your local church? Of your life?
“Jezebel” was probably not a reference to an actual woman by this name. Likely, the name symbolizes the evil of false religion and is used to refer to a leading woman in the church who was perpetrating teaching contrary to Scripture. To give you a context for the use of this name, spend some time investigating the Old Testament character (1 Kings 16:31–33; 18:20–19:2, 21–26).
Although not everyone in the church in Thyatira followed the false teaching of “Jezebel,” the church tolerated this heretical teaching and influence. Two particularly dangerous doctrines that affected the early church were Antinomianism (“against” + “law”) which proposed the notion of grace providing a license to sin, and Gnosticism (gnosis = “knowledge”), a type of mysticism that claimed to offer “secret knowledge” or “deeper truths” to its followers. This teaching may be what is referred to in Revelation 2:24 as “the deep things of Satan.”
Where have you seen the influence of these two philosophies today?
Is your church intentional about equipping its members to discern doctrinal error? What could you do to be better prepared to recognize false teaching?
Notice the statement of God’s grace found in Revelation 2:21. Consider the mercy of God in sending warning before judgment (see Ezek. 33:7–11). How has God shown you mercy when you were deserving of His judgment?
What instruction did Jesus give to the believers in Thyatira who had not fallen for the teaching of “Jezebel” (Rev. 2:24–25)? Holding fast to God’s truth takes purposeful, intentional effort. Identify specific areas where you may have relaxed your hold on truth.
What two rewards are promised to the one who conquers or overcomes (Rev. 2:26–28)? (The first reward refers back to Psalm 2.) Also, see Revelation 5:9–10; 11:15; 12:5; 19:15. The second reward is Christ Himself (Num. 24:17; Isa. 60:1–2; Matt. 13:43; John 8:12; Luke 1:78–79).
Be mindful of the needs of the church today. Ask God to be at work in your local church. Pray for protection from false teaching and doctrinal error. Ask God to establish your church in the truth of His Word. Pray for the church at large. Ask God to mercifully grant revival to the church, that He might be magnified and His glorious gospel and grace might be displayed through us to our world.
Adapted from Learning From the Churches of Revelations Based on the Teachings of Nancy Leigh DeMoss
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