We were in the process of lighting up church number four. This week we are talking about the fourth church of the seven churches of the book Revelation. Church number four is the one right in the middle, and so we're going to be talking about Thyatira.
Back when I was a student at Indiana Academy in Cicero. I noticed that the tiny town was shaped much like a cross. The little town had basically grown up along highway 19. There was one main cross road toward the middle of town. One day I was getting a hair cut at Purkies Barber shop when I heard a joke about our town. They said, "Cicero has two streets: Main Street and Plum Street. Turn off of Main and you are Plum out of town!" Well, you know, this was about the shape of the fourth church Jesus talks about in Revelation 2:18-29
Thyatira was positioned in a long open valley where a river flowed. I think there is a railroad track goes down that valley today. Like all the seven churches of Revelation, there really was an early Christian church in this town. We are talking about literal churches as Christianity got its start. Notice that the candlestick upon which it sit is the shortest. And, that's absolutely the truth in the Scriptures. This was the least important of all the churches, but I can tell you that major problems can happen in small churches.
Have you noticed that? The smaller they get, the matriarch, she's in charge. Or that patriarch, he's in charge. And big problems can happen in small churches. So, does Jesus make a mistake when he gives counsel to this church that is twice as long as it is to any other church? Did you notice that? It's twice as long, almost, as any other. And why does Jesus do this? I think it ought to tell us something about our Savior. We look at things opposite of what Jesus dos. Each of us sees things differently.
Each of the other six are connected with some other church on the candlestick but not so with Thyatira. It sits alone in the middle of the other churches. Historically Thyatira symbolizes the longest period of church history: almost a 1000 years from 538 to the sixteenth century reformation. No wonder Jesus' letter to this church is twice as long as any other. Jesus knew what He was doing, didn't He. It is the middle church of the seven. It is also the church of the Middle Ages. So, there's a lot of things in here that you can really study. (See Holzhauser, The Apocalypse, p. 158)
Let's look now at Revelation 2:18. "To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, (These are Jesus' words. Then he describes his eyes.) whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
It sounds like Daniel 10:6. ...his face was like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze. Now, Jesus describes his eyes. "His eyes like a shimmering flame of bright fire." This poor church existed during the dark ages. So, what does the church in the dark ages need? Jesus brought light for those in darkness. Here comes shining Jesus with the light emitting from His eyes, the source of intelligence. Jesus brought light to this church that was in the darkness. And I think that is significant.
And His feet are like burnished bronze. Thyatira was a great manufacturing center. They had many foundries in Thyatira. Have you ever been in a foundry? It gets pretty bright in there. The flames and all the molten metal and the big furnaces belching forth. And he says His feet were like red hot brass, shiny brass, molten bronze; like the reflection of the foundry fires in that city. Jesus' eyes flame like the foundry fires.
In Revelation 2:19 Jesus said, "I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. One of the other churches, you remember, was doing less. This church does more. They were full of good works of love, and continually improving. As we get older we ought to get riper and sweeter and not rotten. We ought to get better. They had:
I think you will realize that love produces service or works, and faith produces Perseverance or Endurance. So, it's interesting the parallels here.
Near the town of Thyatira was a church. How would you like to be a member of that church? Its a good church. It sounds pretty good on the surface doesn't it? This church was staunch and powerful. We would be inspired by their lay activities and growth. Each pew was probably packed. But are packed pews evidence of true religion? I don't think so.
I've seen some great churches where thousands attend. But commitment must accompany attendance. Otherwise, instead of God's house, you've got a club house . When the church draws a crowd because of the theatrics in its service it is committing spiritual adultery. You came here today to be introduced to Jesus. You came to be fed from the word of God. You came to be motivated for the service of God. If you find yourself coming because you enjoy being entertained you might as well attend the entertainment club downtown. Because we're not competing with them.
Have you ever heard of anyone who used to live in Thyatira? Yes! Sure you have. In Acts 16:14 a lady named Lydia lived there. She was a seller of purple, a purple cloth that was dyed a purple. Thyatira was the center of a dyeing industry. I think America has a lot of dying industry today, but not that type. A lot of industry is dying today in America but they actually dyed cloth. Many early Christians there were in the business of dyeing. And I think this could be true today also.
Near Thyatira the madder root could be dug in great quantities. It yielded a bright red dye that the ancients called purple. Actually, it was not purple. It was actually red, bright red. Commercial dyers of woolen goods in those days were members of trade guilds. This exposes a problem for the Christians of Thyatira much like it might be for Christians today who join some labor unions.
The early trade guilds in Thyatira held common meals in a heathen temple and ate food which had been offered to idols. Would you eat food that had been offered to idols? Not if you were a Christian, you wouldn't, because it's described in many places in the bible that we ought not to do that. At these great trade guilds there was gaiety and drunkenness and all sorts of things. A woman named Jezebel was encouraging Christians to go ahead and join these trade unions, these guilds, to go ahead and attend these parties. Because the Lord will protect you from spiritual damage anyway. So eat drink and be merry. You've got to make a living.
Jesus describes the Jezebel problem in Revelation 2:20. "Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.
Apparently most of the church tolerated or permitted Jezebel's heresies. By the way, what color does Jezebel wear? Red. It's interesting isn't it. The Thyatiran color. The attire of this apostate church.
Revelation 2:21,22. "I have given her time to repent (God is patient, isn't He.) of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.
The judgment comes to the leader, Jezebel, first and then to the followers. Her followers can still repent but her fate is sealed. Jezebel's punishment dovetails with her crime. Her bed was a place of immorality and she suffers befittingly. Sin repays according to our deeds. - Revelation 22:12.
Maybe Jezebel was a church member. Gifted leaders can still mislead. She called herself a prophetess. Can a woman be a prophet? Absolutely! The Bible describes eight different ladies who were true prophetesses of God. Exodus 15:20, Judges 4:4, II Kings 22:14, Luke 2:36, and Acts 21:9. But considering Jesus' condemnation of Jezebel we know that she was a false prophet.
How do you know if a prophet is true? Jesus said: Matthew 7:20 By their fruits ye shall know them. Isaiah 8:20 says: To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
And here was Jezebel encouraging church members to sin sexually and eat meat offered to idols. These were bad problems. Paul describes this in I Corinthians 8 through 10. Idol meat was everywhere. Do you know how it came to exist? William Barclay says: "When a man made a sacrifice in a Greek temple, very little of the meat was burned on the altar. Sometimes all that was actually burned was a few hairs cut from the forehead of the animal. The priests received a share...and the worshiper received the rest."
You go to the temple with your sacrifice and you come home loaded down with most of the meat for yourself. What a liberal gift you just gave! Many of the worshipers would then go down to the local butcher shop and sell the bulk of their "Offering." So when a Christian walked into the butcher shop maybe most of the meat had been offered to idols. How could a Christian avoid it? I guess you could be vegetarian. The Jerusalem council in Acts 15:29 commanded that all Christians not eat meat offered to idols.
In all practical purposes this quarantined all Christians from eating at festivals, banquets or other festive trade guild events of the world. By staying at home Christians were committing financial suicide. How can you make it if you can't associate with the people that are buying and selling your purple? So, it's not easy to stand or the right. Do we stand for the right? If your boss says to go and drive this truck on Sabbath, whether you want to or not, what do you do? Is it easy to stand for the right? Maybe we ought not to be at some of these drunken occasions anyway. Jezebel said: "What difference does a little contemporary compromise make? Not much. Just join in. If you don't, you will lose your job. So give in to the pressures of society and your boss. God will understand, He won't really care. No! That's what Jezebel says. That's not what Jesus says.
God does care. Absolutely He cares. Be true to God. Romans 12:2. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. What Jesus thinks of me on Judgement day is far more important than worldly rank or fortune.
So stand for the right! Is there such a thing as "right?" Absolutely! Did you know that fully three fourths of young Post Modern Americans do not believe that there is such thing as absolute truth, right or wrong? To them everything is relative. There is no absolute truth. But I will tell you that to God there is a right and a wrong.
It's interesting that Jezebel is from Thyatira where most of the folk worked at dying cloth. She was the woman who walked around all painted up like Jezebel and with her hair dyed purple perhaps? When Jezebel heard about it, she painted her eyes, II Kings 9:30. The Thyatira crowd were good at dyeing. And they were dying.
Jesus cautions the Thyatiran remnant to "Hold on to what you have until I come. - Revelation 2: 25.
Notice the Promises that Jesus gives to each church. Let's take a look at all the Seven churches for a moment. Notice that the promises get more numerous.
EPHESUS, the first Church gets one promise: the tree of life.
SMYRNA, the second Church gets two promises: the Crown of life, and not being hurt by the second death!
PERGAMUM, the third Church gets three promises: (Revelation 2:17) The hidden manna, the white stone, and a new name.
THYATIRA, the fourth Church, the church of our study today, gets four promises! (Revelation 2:26,27) "To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, (1) I will give authority over the nations (2) He will rule them with an iron scepter;(3) he will dash them to pieces like pottery' -- just as I have received authority from my Father. (4) I will also give him the morning star." - They get Authority over the nations, They will Rule over the nations, They will Dash the nations, and they get the morning star. Four promises for church number four!
SARDIS, the fifth Church gets five! Revelation 3:4 They will Walk with me, They will be dressed in White, Their name will not be blotted out, I will Acknowledge their names before the Father, and lastly I will Acknowledge their name before My angels. Five promises for church number five!
PHILADELPHIA, the sixth Church gets six promises! Revelation 3:10 - They will be Kept, Verse 12 they will be made a pillar in the temple of God, they will never leave it, they will have the name of God written on them, they will also have name of city of God, and sixth God's new name will be given to them. Six promises for church number six!
So we come to church number seven. LAODICEA. How many promises does it get? Revelation 3:21 - Only One! What happened? Why just one?
Well you will have to find out on May 24 when Dr. Steve Bauer preaches the sermon on Laodicea. But what is that one promise? To sit on throne with Jesus. When you sit on the throne with Jesus you have it all. (Thanks to Dr. John Pauline for these analogies.)
Almost every church has declined further than the last church but each church gets more promises than the church before. And that is how God works. The further you decline the more help heaven sends to support you. Paul says: But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. - Romans 5:20. The great God of Heaven reaches out to us. The deeper we are the further He extends His arm to save us.
Let's look in more detail at the Promises to the fourth church, the Thyatira church. Of all these twenty-two promises given to these seven churches, each one of them can be ours. If you go back here to Revelation 2:22,
The Morning Star (Venus?) appears near the end of the dark night. After the dark ages there will be light at the end of the tunnel. God raised up Wycliffe, John Huss and others to bring in the light of the Bible. In fact, Wycliffe is often called the Morning Star of the Reformation.
As the morning star rises after the long dark night, just so the Christian will rise on resurrection morning after sleeping during the night of death. If the truth were known, the Bright and Morning Star is really Jesus! Revelation 22:16. At the time Christians were passing through their darkest hour here comes Jesus Himself as the bright and Morning Star, the Light of the World!
Keep your eyes fixed on the Morning Star. Do not allow any other star to eclipse Jesus from your view, your horizon. The movie stars often steal our time from gazing at the Morning Star which is Jesus.
We are learning truly amazing things here about God's character from our study of these seven churches. No wonder Jesus says: Revelation 2:29 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
Next week we're going to talk about Sardis. I think you'll enjoy that.
Hymn of Praise: #21, Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise Scripture: Revelation 2:18-20 Hymn of Response: #240, Fairest Lord Jesus 030426#533
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