The Deep Things of Satan . . . in the Church of Thyatira


Christians in Thyatira felt pressure from the trade guilds. We would call them Unions.

Imagine yourself living in Chicago as an electrician. If you are willing to join a Union and vote for the local politicians then you’re fine.

But let’s say you’re a Tea Party radical and a conservative political activist. Could you get employment as an electrician in Chicago?

The Unions in Thyatira were teaching immoral and corrupting values. Each guild worshipped a deity who promised financial success and good health.

Worship was like a Mardi Gras Party. The guilds sponsored immoral festivals like what you might see in Rio de Janeiro. Union members were expected to participate or possibly lose their benefits.

Christians faced a huge dilemma. They could attend these festivals and eat the meat offered to the idols, or boycott the festivals and damage their careers. Some Christians did speak out and call the society to repentance. Others, within the church, argued that participation was fine. Jesus calls these church people Jezebels.

(Thanks for sharing this sermon on Facebook over a 450 times!)

by Reverend Anthony R. Locke
Sermon Series in Revelation # 06

Revelation 2:18-29
English Standard Version

18 “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.

19 “ ‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.

20 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.

21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.

22 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,

23 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.

24 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.

25 Only hold fast what you have until I come.

26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations,

27 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.

28 And I will give him the morning star.

29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’[1]
 


 

This church in Thyatira is about the size of most ARP Churches: very small.


While Thyatira is the smallest church and the one we know the least about, Jesus sends them the longest letter. It’s a good reminder that small churches deserve your best service. It makes no difference to Jesus if the church is large or small. Worship and the mission are the same.

There is a reoccurring outline that Jesus uses for the letters. Jesus starts with a

  • Relevant Introduction
  • Critical Evaluation
  • Urgent Exhortation
  • Motivating Benediction.

Let’s recap. The Church at Ephesus was known for their theological precision, yet a lack of love for God. Loveless orthodoxy is a real danger for the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches.

The Smyrna Church was known for their white hot Gospel witness regardless of the consequences, which was often death. Jesus knows how much selflessness and kingdom focus is required of the persecuted. No one is perfect, but those who suffer for Jesus are not criticized.

Opposite of the Smyrna Church, the Church at Pergamum endured a little martyrdom and sued for peace. They went silent. They stopped calling the world to repentance. They abandoned their witness, lost their saltiness, put their light under a bushel and worked toward peaceful coexistence with the world. This compromise eventually led them to corruption and godlessness.

The Church of Thyatira struggles with compromise too, but of a different kind. They are not struggling with pressures from outside, by the world, but from false teachings within the church.

They have, as Jesus says, a Jezebel.

We need to remember that Jesus likes speaking in metaphor. Parables are elaborate metaphors. They make you think, compare and contrast, question and study. There’s enough plain speech for children to get a blessing, but enough hidden metaphor to force adults to study the whole Bible to get the fuller meaning.

There isn’t a woman at Thyatira actually named Jezebel. There is a woman asserting a corrupting influence like Jezebel did. Are you feeling the need to study? To understand this passage we will need to understand some Old Testament passages.

This dynamic is more true than you might realize. The book of Revelation has 404 verses, but quotes or references over 500 verses from the Old Testament. Jesus likes to send us searching the scriptures to understand His words.

Jesus begins this letter with a Relevant Introduction which highlights something of Himself out of Chapter One that is pertinent to the city.

Verse 18 The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

Unlike Pergamum or Smyrna, Thyatira was not an important religious center. Things were made at Thyatira. Today our stuff is stamped with MADE IN CHINA. Same idea. Fires burnt at every corner for purifying, boiling and smelting. But the real fire was in the eyes and feet of Jesus.

Christians felt the heat and pressure from the trade guilds. We would call them Unions.

Imagine yourself living in Detroit or Chicago as an electrician or as a plumber. If you are willing to join a Union and vote for the local politicians then you’re fine.

But let’s say you’re a Tea Party radical, and a conservative political activist. Could you get employment as an electrician or as a plumber in the city of Chicago?

Could you get work as a contractor in the Deep South without joining the Masons? The Masons might be a better example because they mix religion with apprenticeship learning. Masons look out for each other’s career path while teaching moral and spiritual principles.

The Unions in Thyatira were teaching immoral and corrupting values. Each guild worshipped a deity who promised financial success and good health if you worshipped.

Worship was like a Mardi Gras Party. The guilds sponsored immoral festivals like what you might see in Rio de Janeiro. Union members were expected to participate or lose their benefits.

Christians faced a huge dilemma. They could attend these festivals and eat the meat offered to the idols, or boycott the festivals and lose their jobs. Some Christians did speak out and call the groups to repentance. Others within the church argued participation was fine. Jezebels.

Jesus comes with this intense fire in His eyes and with feet that are white hot. Jesus sees our corruption. He is ready to trample out His vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.

You have a choice. You can align yourself with the world in hope of gaining worldly benefits, or you can align yourself with the Son of God and gain the benefits of His Union. Jesus offers a better retirement package.

Jesus isn’t just another man with a sales pitch for why you should join His labor union. Jesus is the Son of GOD. Jesus will win in the end. It’s “Checkmate” for all of us when we see Him face to face. We had better side with Jesus and suffer with Him that we might reign with Him for all eternity.

What words of consolation does Jesus offer the Church of Thyatira? Verse 19 I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.

What pleases God the most about this small church? What gives Him the most pleasure?

Jesus says, “I really enjoy your love for Me and one another.”

You are faithful. You are loyal. You are not growing weary in well doing. You are increasing in your service for the cause of Christ. All commendable goals for every church.

20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel.

The Bible says that marrying Jezebel was the most evil thing wicked King Ahab ever did.

who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.

What made this woman and her followers a Jezebel? Like a false prophetess, she tried to convince God’s people to sin claiming that the sin only affected their body, not their soul.

She might have quoted Jesus who said, “It isn’t what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out of his heart.” She would then argue that you can go to these parties and commit immorality without fear of it hurting your soul. It doesn’t matter what you do with your body.

To this Jezebel it did not matter if Christians committed acts of immorality or ate things sacrificed to idols. It was just a thing you did to get by. It was harmless. It produced no eternal consequences. You were just acting as part of the group.

Jesus labeled these doctrines the deep things of Satan.

Jesus says, 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.

I sent my Spirit to convict her and teach her otherwise. She hardened her heart to my convincing. She is not willing to chose differently. So Jesus is going to exercise church discipline on her like He did on Jezebel. The real Jezebel was eaten by dogs.

Sound harsh? On the Day of Pentecost Jesus killed Ananias and Sapphira for lying Acts 5:1–11. Paul himself put two unrepentant leaders out of the Ephesian church: “Hymenaeus and Alexander … I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme1 Timothy 1:20.

Jesus has great plans for His Church. It does not include being in league with the world and paying homage to the false promises of Satan. We cannot seek our blessings from the world.

Jesus has a different plan for us. Ephesians 5:25–27Christ … loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

Those unwilling to be cleansed will be verse 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed.

God is not going to be patient with people in the church who lead others into a union with the world. The followers, or children, will also face the same judgment as their community organizer. We cannot participate in the public display of immoral behavior and think we are a member in good standing with Jesus and His Church.

We must be being sanctified. We must be making at least baby steps toward holiness. We must be working to lay down the weights and the sins which do so easily beset us Heb 12:1.

Jesus warned in Matthew 16:27 that the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds

This is both a warning and a promise of blessing. Our eternal reward is connected to our deeds done in the body. We are not redeemed to stay in bondage to sin. Christians are new creatures created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them Ephesians 2:10. If we are not walking in newness of life then we are not bearing the fruit of repentance or the fruit of righteousness.

24 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. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come.

Jesus isn’t going to burden this church with any other message except to separate themselves from this immoral woman. That will be difficult enough.

We too must separate from the Jezebel in our midst. We must stop participating in the public displays of immoral behavior celebrated within our culture. We must not seek our blessings from the world, but from Christ. And, we must purify ourselves even as Jesus is pure if we are to be ready for His Second Coming.

Finally, a Motivating Benediction. Jesus promises two things.

First, Christ will give His people authority over the nations and they shall rule with a rod of iron. That promise was given to the Messiah in Psalm 2:7–9. Jesus now extends that promise to us. How will we rule? Heaven holds that secret. I am not sure. Let your imagination run wild on that one. The Book of Revelation is meant to spark our sanctified imagination.

Second, Christ promises to give us the Morning Star. This is a title for Jesus in Revelation 22:1. What is the best promise the world has to offer? Independence from the tyrannical laws of God? Jesus promises God Himself. Eternal fellowship with the light.

We quite literally wake up in the New Heavens to the light of the Morning Star our blessed Lord Jesus. His face is upon us. His favor and blessing warms our soul and lights our path forever.

So stop seeking the blessing by joining in with the world’s debauchery. The blessing isn’t there. Jesus is the fire to purify our life and make us ready to dwell in heaven forever.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.


[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


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One thought on “The Deep Things of Satan . . . in the Church of Thyatira”

  1. many thanks and God bless you. indeed as a church we have to be careful not to blend with the ways of the world but to but to be purified and holy by living a Christ like life. many things today as you correctly put it makes partakers into the things of the world-which are of the devil. as a church if we could strive for holiness.

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