Sunday Worship Service
The Tragedy of Tolerance
Revelation 2:18 – 29
…Still Concealed Though Ever Revealed…
Proposition: The church in Thyatira teaches us how to avoid the tragic outcome that occurs when Christians tolerate falsehood.
Application: If we are holding on to a teaching that we know is wrong, we need to repent. If falsehood is an issue in the church, then follow the steps in Matthew 18. Prevent falsehood from gaining a foothold in the church by being fervent in our love for the Lord and zealous for His truth.
You may recall on November 5, 2009, the mass shooting by an Islamic terrorist army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan. Tragically he killed 14 people and injured 30 at Fort Hood. The signs were present but political correctness kept authorities from taking pre-emptive action. Often the greatest dangers we face come from within. Ariel Durant, the wife of the great historian Will Durant once said: “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”
How do we avoid the tragic outcome that occurs when a church tolerates falsehood? The answer is found in the example of the church of Thyatira.
- Recognition (2:18, 19)
The City of Thyatira (2:18): Thyatira is the smallest of the seven cities but the longest of the seven messages. Thyatira had a thriving textile industry. The first person to become a Christian in Europe, in Philippi, was a woman from Thyatira. Her name was Lydia. She was a wealthy woman who made her living in the textile business.
Read Acts 16:14
To work in any trade a citizen of Thyatira had to become a member of a guild, akin to a union. Guild members were expected to attend feasts.
Illustration: When I was a teacher in the Middle East the school leadership would often arrange parties. It was expected teachers would attend. If I abstained my colleagues would look at me as a prude and shun me.
At these feasts, guild members would offer food sacrificed to the gods. The sacrifices were often followed by immoral acts. Abstaining from these feasts was to risk being treated as an outcast.
Jesus made Himself known to the Christians in Thyatira as the Son of God. This is the only time the term is used in the Book of Revelation. The title Son of God conveys power and authority.
As the Son of God, Jesus has blazing eyes. This speaks to the piercing insight of His omniscience. Nothing escapes His notice. He discerns the motives of our hearts and rewards our service. He discerns deceptive doctrines and warns those who spread them.
Transition: Before the Lord exposed what was wrong in this church, He declared what was right.
The Church Recognized (2:19): Thyatira is the only church among the seven commended for love and service. With respect to love the church in Ephesus was condemned. Love in Ephesus was on the decline.
Love and faith are motive forces. Love is the motivation for service. Faith is the motivation for perseverance. We serve out of love for the Lord. We persevere because of our faith in the Lord.
Even in the face of growing opposition, their later deeds excelled their former deeds.
There is no greater feeling than to hear that what you are doing now is better than anything you have done before.
Application: Soon PBC will celebrate 50 years of Christian ministry. Imagine if the next 50 years of ministry exceeds the quality of the first 50 years of service. This will be the case if our love for the Lord grows ever stronger. Love for the Lord is always the motive for effective service. As our love for the Lord grows, our service for Him excels.
Read 2 Pet 1:5 – 8
Transition: Jesus now highlights a toxic flaw in the church. The shift from recognition to rebuke is sudden.
- Rebuke (2:20 – 23)
The Church Rebuked (2:20): Christians in Thyatira tolerated a harmful influence in their midst. They let this influence persist freely. They failed to do what the church in Ephesus did. The Ephesian Christians had a zeal for truth and opposed false teaching. Although the church in Ephesus lacked love, they were zealous for truth.
For the Christians in Thyatira, it was the reverse. They were fervent in love but lacked zeal for truth. We often go to extremes. We either major on love and minor on truth. Or we major on truth and minor on love.
Jesus is our example. He was full of love and zealous for truth.
If falsehood is not addressed, it spreads like cancer and ruins the well being of the church.
The Character of Jezebel: Who was this prophetess? Jezebel was a symbolic name for a well-known woman in the church. Her influence was like that of Jezebel in the OT. She had the same effect in the church in Thyatira as the woman Jezebel had on the nation of Israel. In the OT Jezebel was the Canaanite wife of the wicked king Ahab. Through Ahab, Jezebel brought apostacy in Israel.
Read 1 Kings 21:25
The best account regarding the nature of Jezebel’s heresy is found in 2 Kings 9:22 (Read it). Jezebel was ideologically attached to idolatry and through Ahab influenced Israel toward apostacy.
This woman called herself a prophetess. A prophet who is called by God can claim inerrancy. They have the authority to declare new revelation from God. Because Scripture was not yet complete, God gave certain Christians the power to declare new revelation that had not yet been recorded in Scripture.
Read Acts 21:9
We now have a sufficient revelation in the Word of God. Now the canon of Scripture is closed. So the gift of prophecy functions in a more limited way today.
Prophecy was a highly esteemed gift in the early church. Because of this, Jezebel was advanced to a position of leadership. But this woman was a self-acclaimed prophet. God did not give her authority to prophecy.
Just as Jezebel of the OT influenced Israel through her king husband Ahab, this false prophetess influenced the saints through her position of leadership. She enticed those loyal to the Lord to go against the few requirements established by the Jerusalem council.
Read Acts 15:28, 29
As mentioned, one could not work in a trade if they were not members of a guild. Guild members were expected to engage in idolatrous feasts followed by sexual acts. As members of guilds, the Christians faced the problem of compromise
Perhaps this prophetess taught, as Paul did, that an idol is nothing at all.
Read 1 Cor 8:4
An idol itself is lifeless. But demonic powers use idols to deceive people. Did this false prophetess encourage the saints to engage in idolatry so they could keep their jobs?
The Lord gave her ample time to repent which suggests this prophetess had been about her business for some time.
Confront Jezebel (2:21): The mercy and patience of the Lord Jesus allowed falsehood to spread in the church to give this prophetess time to repent. The Lord always extends mercy before judgement. But in due time if repentance is rebuffed God’s mercy reaches its limit. Then He acts in judgement.
Likely, the leaders of the church called her to repent. Even after the matter was made public she still refused to repent. At this point the church should have disciplined her.
Read Matt 18:15 – 17
The strongest claim aimed at this false prophetess was not her deceptive teaching, but her refusal to repent.
As a follower of Jesus, if you believe you have embraced a false teaching, there is a way out. The way of escape is to repent of your commitment to this false teaching.
Application: The goal of correcting false teachers is always restoration of the offender and purity of the church. But churches often refuse to confront false teachers. Why? Let me suggest a few reasons.
A church may fail to confront a false teacher because he or she may be big tither. A church may fail to confront false teachers because the teacher is well liked, a great communicator and has a unique take on the Scriptures. A church may fail to confront false teachers because their teaching makes newcomers feel comfortable and the church grows in numbers.
No matter how popular and interesting false teaching may be, if it is not opposed, it will destroy the well being of a church.
Read 1 John 4:1
The false prophetess and those who followed her did not respond to the Lord’s call to repent. So, judgement loomed.
Condemnation of Jezebel and Her Cohorts (2:22, 23): Sometimes judgement for unrepentant sin results in sickness. This false prophetess was punished in the same place where she sinned. She sinned on a bed. On a bed she will suffer. A bed of immorality became a bed of illness. Even that misfortune should have compelled her and her followers to repent.
The term commit adultery can also refer to spiritual unfaithfulness. When we are joined to the Lord in faith, worshipping other gods is spiritual adultery. If we split our worship between God and other things, we are spiritually unfaithful.
Read Jer 3:9
The Lord knows the thoughts and motives of our heart. Nothing His hidden from Him. He sees it all. He will deal justly according to what He discerns.
Read Jer 17:10
Our only safety from God’s judgement is to repent of our sin and believe in the Saviour.
Transition: There were some in the church who did not follow the false teaching.
- Reward (2:24 – 29)
Until I Come (2:24, 25): Those who followed her teaching believed that to know the full extent of God’s grace, they had to plunge into the depths of sin.
The reasoning went like this: “the only way to confront satan is to enter his strongholds. Only by experiencing sin can we appreciate the grace of God.”
Read Rom 6:1
It is in dying to sin that we know the grace of God.
Believers in Thyatira were already suffering for truth. So, the Lord did not lay any further burden on them. This echoes what the apostles said at the Jerusalem Council.
Read Acts 15:28, 29
There was no need to strive for greater love, faith, service or perseverance. Instead of adding to the list of demands all that the Lord required was for them to continue in love and faith; to continue to serve and persevere.
Walking with the Lord is a marathon. There may be times we feel we can no longer run the race. We feel that we are no longer motivated by love. We feel we have no energy to serve. We feel we can no longer believe or persevere. During such times all that is needful is to hold on to what we have already attained. There is no need to strive for greater progress.
Transition: Even though most in the church tolerated the woman Jezebel, even though they failed to discipline her, there was still a promise for the church. And that promise is for us as well.
Co-Reign with Christ (2:26 – 29): This quote is taken from Psalm 2. This Psalm refers to the Messiah ruling over the nations. Just as the Lord Jesus received power and authority from the Father, He shares that same authority with us.
This verse points to the 1000-year messianic reign. As His followers we will receive positions of power and authority among the nations. Before we reign with Him in peace and prosperity, we will wage war with Him against all hostile nations.
Read Rev 19:8, 11 – 14
How do we keep falsehood from harming the church?
- It starts by not putting up with falsehood in our own lives. If we are holding on to a
teaching that we know is wrong, we need to repent.
- Should falsehood become an issue in our midst then we need to follow the steps in
Matthew 18. First, we deal with the matter one on one. If the person is not willing to repent, then have two or three address the issue. If still no repentance, then bring the matter before the congregation. If still there is no repentance, then person must be removed from spreading their false teaching until they repent.
- We prevent falsehood from gaining a foothold in our midst as we are fervent in our
love for the Lord and zealous for His truth.
You can download the sermon notes here.
The Tragedy of Tolerance
Threats from Without, Dangers from Within
Revelation 2:8 – 17
A Revelation Salutation
The Voice and the Vision
Maintaining The Fire