Revelation Lesson 8: The Good, The Bad and The Very Ugly
Chapter 2: 18-29
“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: ‘I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.
“Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
“Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations— ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I also have received 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.”’
We explored the church at Smyrna last week. She was good church, one who had endured hardships, persecution, and even the death of a dear saint for the name and cause of Jesus. Jesus had nothing bad to say about this church. There are churches just like this today, and they are serving the Lord in the midst of some great trouble. They remain faithful to His name and His work. Oh, that we were all like the church at Smyrna.
Today we will venture to Thyatira. Thyatira was the smallest and most insignificant of the cities addressed by the Lord Jesus. What made them noticeable was that they were a center for the trades and as such had guilds for just about every trade known to man. It does not appear that the church here suffered any significant bouts with persecution and martyrdom.
As mentioned, this was a center for the trades; these each often came accompanied by their own gods. One of the things we will see all the way through history is that man needs something to worship. God built us that way. Most men and women need something or someone to worship and ‘look up’ to. If not the true God, then His creation, or maybe a self-made god like a statue or carving. Today we find the worship of self to be the thing that drives most people. But make no mistake; for the most part, most people will worship someone or something; we are simply built that way.
As we examine the church at Thyatira, Jesus will give an honest assessment of the good, the bad and the very ugly. But they were, at the time of this writing, still a church with all of the power due them as agents of the Highest King.
Eyes Like a Flame of Fire, verse 18
Jesus sees the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Sadly, many of us ‘can’t handle the truth.’ Jesus goes on in the next few verses to lay out the things that are going on in the church at Thyatira. Some things are good and He points these out, others not so good and He does not shy away from them. All too often we live in a world that does not want to point out the faults of others. This is not about speculation, but if you see a brother or sister in a fault, it is our duty to speak to them in love and in humility. They should feel the same duty towards us if we were in the wrong.
In addition to the eyes of fire, the Lord has feet like “fine brass.” Brass was a highly refined metal, and it was the purest and strongest of metals in the ancient world. Jesus here was showing His purity and steadfastness before the church here. His judgments are accurate and His word is sure and secure. It is unwavering and cannot be challenged. None of these churches here were going to mount a counter argument against Jesus’ observations. What He said was the absolute truth, and that truth simply had to be acted upon.
These two attributes lend credence to His claim that he is the Son of God in verse 18. The Jews believed that to be the ‘son’ of something meant that you had the nature of that thing. So, those who go about claiming that Jesus never said He was God simply do not read the Bible nor do they understand the Jewish culture of the time. In John 5:17-18, we find this account:
“But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.”
The Jews clearly understood that Jesus was claiming to be God when He called God his Father. We should not let other religions get away with their lies. Read the Bible and know how to deal with these heretics. Jesus is God.
The Good, verse 19
Jesus gets to it; He begins with the good. He does so with each church. He is aware of our lives and our behaviors both publicly and in private. He knows the deepest things of our minds and hearts; see verse 23, “He who searches the minds and hearts.” You and I will not hide anything from Jesus. This, as I have mentioned before, is a sobering reality. I cannot fool Jesus. You cannot fool Jesus. He will reveal all that is both good and bad in us from our very thoughts to our actions.
This church at Thyatira was a church that had good works; they loved Jesus, they were faithful, they were patient and they were servants; and, as Jesus points out, their works were growing. They were growing in these attributes, “the last are more than the first.” Some good things were happening here: a church that loves, one that has learned to wait on the Lord; they had learned to be servants, and they were faithful. Even though no persecution is recorded as happening to the church, it would appear that they had been through some hardships that had molded them and honed these attributes into their church life and actions.
These were seasoned servants of the Lord, and this is what makes the rest of the letter a harrowing read. There was danger in this church, the kind of danger that can cost a church its power and authority—proof that you cannot simply turn a blind eye to sin and error just by relying on the good or even great things that you are doing. Eventually, no matter how good you are, the bad will overtake it and choke it out.
The Bad, verses 20-21
There was a lady in this church, someone with great influence who was leading the church in the wrong direction. One of the commentaries that I researched made the observation that it could have been the wife of the pastor or an elder of the church here in Thyatira, but we have no concrete proof of this. This woman is called Jezebel by the Lord, surely not her name but a description of her actions in causing division and leading the people of the Lord to worship idols.
The Jezebel of the Old Testament was married to Ahab, a ruthless king. We find her story in 1 Kings 16–21, a gripping tale of evil and deliberate actions that defy understanding sometimes. Jezebel was ruthless, she was conniving, and she hated righteousness. She killed without feeling guilty and she fed about 900 prophets of Baal at her table.
This was the kind of woman that had gotten some degree of control in the church here in Thyatira. She was helping to bring in or condone idolatry, and she was leading them into sexual immorality. Sexual immorality is any sexual actions that are not in the context of marriage. Hebrews tells us that “the marriage bed is undefiled,” thus every other sexual bed is defiled. When we say marriage, we are using Jesus’ standard of marriage—one man and one woman—there are no other kinds of marriage.
As we mentioned before, this city had a lot of guilds for their various industries; and each one had a ‘god’ attached to it. The people of this church were eating meats offered to idols, meats that were defiled by the intent of their use. The sheer optics of this should have made this prohibitive, also the fact that some of these sacrifices may not have drained all the blood from the animals, as was the Jewish way of sacrifice.
The Jews were not allowed to consume blood at all. Blood was the source of life, and as such, God did not allow His people to eat blood. I honestly don’t know how to come to the conclusion here in our time. I know people who love their steaks rare, bleeding and barely warm, furthermore cooked. But these cows are not sacrificed to idols; they are just butchered for the meat.
Sexual immorality has caused a lot of division and difficulties in the Lord’s churches over the centuries. Many ‘religious’ organizations are really just excuses for men to abuse women and children sexually. We continue to hear the stories of what goes on in many jurisdictions in the RC church all over the world.
But we can see that the Lord’s churches can have some dirt in them as well. The most famous of these being Corinth, where one of the men was bedding his father’s wife. Wow, this is just bad. We need to be careful to fight for the purity of the Lord’s churches, and this may mean confronting some of the leading people at times.
The Ugly, verses 22-24
Jesus had been patiently trying to get this dear lady and those that followed her to repent. In verse 21 Jesus states, “I gave her time to repent…but she did not.” God is gracious and kind, slow to anger and full of mercy. Once again Jesus reminds them that He knows their “hearts and minds.” I learned that this was literally the ‘hearts and kidneys.’ One’s heart was the place of intellect and the kidneys the place of emotions.
Jesus knows them; He knew even their very thoughts. So, He knows if we really repent or not. He knows when we are faking it for the crowd to see. This woman and her adherents had thumbed their noses at God’ grace, His mercy and His kindness, and now the ‘ugly’ was about to happen.
Sin eventually brings death. Sometimes death can be swift and instant, but sometimes it comes slowly and painfully over long periods of time. We recall that the church at Corinth had some who were ‘sick’ and some had ‘fallen asleep (died)’ because they had perverted the Lord’s Supper. Well, Jesus was about to put people on a sick bed because of sin.
There is never an escape; be sure your sins will find you out. Jesus will graciously wait for you and me to repent, to turn and do what is right. But there will come a time when the judgment of God will fall on us sinners, and we must then deal with the consequences of sin.
In verse 23 Jesus promises death will also come on this church and her people. It would have been better for someone to stand up to this Jezebel and her cohorts before it got to this point.
The Discernment of Jesus, verses 24-28
Jesus knows how to judge and who to judge. Even in this little church in an insignificant town the character of Jesus is clearly displayed. He does not judge the righteous with the guilty. With the same breath that He warns evildoers, He comforts the ones who are obedient.
“Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.”
From the very days of Abraham in Genesis 19, it is clear that God does not judge the righteous with those that are not righteous. He knows how to target His wrath; this should comfort those of us that are awaiting His return. There are many who think that the Lord’s churches will go into the Tribulation, but it is clear that God does not judge His people that way.
He knows who belong to Him, and He protects them from His judgment. We need to hold fast, to stand our ground until Jesus comes to get us. Stand on the truth, stand for the truth, stand in the truth; and one day Jesus will return to reward us. May He find us faithful.
Sean Gooding Pastor Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church