the Churches in Revelation, Thyatira the Corrupt Church

Revelation 2:18-29(HCSB)18 “Write to the angel of the church in Thyatira:

“The Son of God, the One whose eyes are like a fiery flame and whose feet are like fine bronze, says: 19 I know your works—your love, faithfulness, service, and endurance. Your last works are greater than the first. 20 But I have this against you: You tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and teaches and deceives My slaves to commit sexual immorality and to eat meat sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Look! I will throw her into a sickbed and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her practices. 23 I will kill her children with the plague. Then all the churches will know that I am the One who examines minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you according to your works. 24 I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who haven’t known the deep things of Satan—as they say—I do not put any other burden on you. 25 But hold on to what you have until I come. 26 The one who is victorious and keeps My works to the end: I will give him authority over the nations— 27 and he will shepherd them with an iron scepter; he will shatter them like pottery— just as I have received this from My Father. 28 I will also give him the morning star.29 “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. 

G. K. Chesterton said, “Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” Some would say Christians are intolerant, and some Christians would say that others are intolerant of us.

Tolerance is an assumed virtue. If you don’t hold to an open, tolerant view, where you agree with, and support, and embrace everyone and everything, then you’re bigoted. You’re narrow minded. You’re discriminatory. You’re prejudiced. You’re outdated. Tolerance is a cancer that enters a church and causes it then to be some a corrupt church. And this church was corrupted.

He says, “But this I have against you, you tolerate that woman Jezebel,” he says, “who calls herself a prophetess.” A spiritual leader that God didn’t appoint, but she appointed herself. “And is teaching and is seducing my servants to practice,” “Sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.”

Here’s the doctrinal correction. He says, “You tolerate that woman Jezebel.” Now, Jezebel is a type of person, like a Judas, a traitor. The actual woman Jezebel lived a long time prior to this in the Old Testament, in the days of Elijah. And she was a very powerful woman.

1 Kings 16:30-33(HCSB)30 But Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight more than all who were before him. 31 Then, as if following the sin of Jeroboam son of Nebat were a trivial matter, he married Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and then proceeded to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he had built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him. Ahab and Jezebel’s reign over Israel is one of the saddest chapters in the history of God’s people.

Jezebel rises when there is an Ahab, an Ahab is a man who is a weak leader, who has a laxed view on sin, seduced by women. Who gives in to sexual immorality, who is most often in sexual immorality himself.  Ahab’s lax view on sin in the people led to the rise of Jezebel. Biblically speaking, Jezebel would have had no influence on Israel without Ahab. Every ‘Jezebel’ needs an ‘Ahab’ both to establish credibility and to give in to their need to exercise dominion.

Jezebel’s story is found in 1 and 2 Kings. She was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre/Sidon and priest of the cult of Baal, a cruel, sensuous and revolting false god whose worship involved sexual degradation and lewdness. Ahab, king of Israel, married Jezebel and led the nation into Baal worship

So she starts the Baal worship, What it is, is it’s a compromised faith, it’s a hyphenated faith, it’s a diluted faith, it’s a compromised faith. It’s a “both/and,” when Jesus says, “Either/or.” See false religion always adds to the gospel, It says “Jesus is not enough, His work on the cross isn’t enough, His blood isn’t enough. I say Jesus + Nothing = Salvation.

False Religions/Demonations, (Not denominations) ALWAYS add to the saving work of Jesus. You need Jesus and works, Jesus and speaking in tongues, Jesus and baptism, Jesus and Penance, Jesus and Purgatory, Jesus and living Holy.

Now, there’s a woman like that in the church at Thyatira many years later. We don’t know if she started off as an official leader in the church, we don’t know if it just the spirit of Jezebel at work in the church. What we do know, she’s very influential, she’s very powerful. She is causing division. She’s becoming very powerful, very influential. Jesus was most likely referring to a woman in the church who influenced it the same way Jezebel influenced Israel into idolatry and sexual immorality, Jesus declares to the Thyatirans that she is not to be tolerated. Whoever this woman was, like Jezebel, she refused to repent of her immorality and her false teaching, and her fate was sealed. The Lord Jesus cast her onto a sick bed, along with those who committed idolatry with her. The end for those who succumb to a Jezebel spirit is always death and destruction, both in the physical and the spiritual sense.

The Greek word here for Jezebel is a synonym for a false teacher. She clearly represents false doctrines. Jesus clears it up by continuing, “…who do not hold this teaching…” Revelation 2:24(HCSB)24 I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who haven’t known the deep things of Satan—as they say—I do not put any other burden on you.

Here is a group of God’s people, full of good works and charity, having a form of faith and patience. With all that is good and commendable, there is something very dangerous going on, something so seductive that Christ warns He will send judgement and make them an example to all the churches. Certain members of the church were selling out to Satan. Their good works, charity, service, faith and patience were overshadowed by a seduction of false doctrine. They were under the spell of a false teaching, a teaching that came disguised as the true Word but was in fact evil.

We can call this a doctrine of demons. Jesus made Jezebel’s name synonymous with false doctrine. It is a doctrine which teaches that something evil can be good, that the profane can be pure. There are multitudes of pastors, teachers preachers and evangelists completely under the seductive spell of this Jezebel doctrine. These seduced teachers are in turn producing “children of seduction”. They teach fornication and the consumption of the food of idols – this is spiritual fornication. This is eating the demonic food of doctrines that excuse sin. It is dangerous to sit under the wrong teaching. False doctrine can damn you more easily than all the lusts and sins of the flesh. False preachers and teachers are sending more people to hell than any other thing on earth. Multitudes of blind, misled Christians are singing and praising the Lord in churches enslaved by false doctrine. Thousands are sitting under teachers who are pouring out the doctrine of demons – and they come away saying, “Wasn’t that wonderful”? Wasn’t that fantastic? I feel so encouraged and empowered, I don’t feel convicted at all!! Pastor so and so he never preaches a sermon that makes you feel convicted.

Christ does not take this matter lightly.He calls Pastors and Elders to warn, to expose and to save His people and His servants from this terrible seduction. We had better get serious about it. It is serious where you go to church. It is serious who you are listening to. The teaching that has your heart has your eternity.

God’s people are selling out to Satan on every side by giving themselves into the hands of false teachers and pushers of false doctrines. One of the main jobs of the Pastor is warn the sheep of wolves,of false teaching. Paul has a word to those who are pastors and who aspire to be a pastor. If you cannot or will not “refute those who contradict” then you should not be a pastor. God does not want shepherds to be belligerent and walking around all the time with a theological chip on their shoulder. But if you are the kind of person who always shrinks back from conflict—either because you’re afraid or because you don’t want to risk offending people or risk your chance at gathering a megachurch—if you always shrink back from the conflict that sound doctrine brings, then you are not qualified to be a pastor. As long as false teaching exists in the world, you must be willing to meet this challenge if you are to be a pastor.

Confronting false teachers is not the responsibility of the pastor alone.

Titus 1:9(HCSB) holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.

Titus 3:10-11(HCSB)10 Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a person is perverted and sins, being self-condemned.

What are churches to do when false teachers from outside a congregation exert an influence within the congregation? The apostle John addresses such a scenario in 2 John and 3 John. He says that 2 John 1:7-9(HCSB)7 Many deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves so you don’t lose what we have worked for, but that you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone who does not remain in Christ’s teaching but goes beyond it, does not have God. The one who remains in that teaching, this one has both the Father and the Son. John says that the congregation has a responsibility to refuse all support for such teachers. Moreover, the congregation must not behave in any way that might indicate endorsement of their false teaching. 2 John 1:10-11(HCSB)10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home, and don’t say, “Welcome,” to him; 11 for the one who says, “Welcome,” to him shares in his evil works. 

The only teachers whom the church supports are those whose teaching is in accordance with the standard of divine truth. For all others, we must be clear about our rejection of their dangerous teaching. This not only applies to those whom we give our money. It also applies to those Christians that we would be willing to extend the hand of fellowship to outside of our church. We must be careful not to imply through our associations with false denominations and religions affirmation of false teachers.

Is your teacher rebuking with authority, speaking and exhorting you to forsake sin and to lay down all idols as he is instructed in Titus 2? Are you learning to hate sin passionately? Or do you leave church, still not deeply convicted? Can you go out clinging to pet sins?

So many people are saying, “Our pastor says, “I’m not here to preach against sin; I’m here to lift up Jesus.” Or, “None of that condemnation preaching from this pulpit – I’m here to lift the fear and depression in my people.” Even with preachers there are two extremes. Some scream a hard legalistic gospel without love, one of works; while others preach against sin like cowards, taking it all back in the end of the same message.

The doctrine of Christ is a doctrine of godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 6:3-4(HCSB)3 If anyone teaches other doctrine and does not agree with the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the teaching that promotes godliness, 4 he is conceited, understanding nothing, but has a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words. From these come envy, quarreling, slander, evil suspicions. The preaching of Christ’s doctrine will bless, strengthen and encourage you, but it will also convict you so deeply you cannot sit under it and still cling to a secret lust.

The mark of a Christian seduced by Jezebel is that he is always seeking some new, different, strange teaching. The Bible warns, Hebrews 13:9(HCSB)9 Don’t be led astray by various kinds of strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be established by grace and not by foods, since those involved in them have not benefited. Do not be driven to this and that, taken from place to place. This is not speaking of those rare times a mature believer goes to hear a true man of God preach Christ and repentance. This speaks of running from place to place, seminar to convention, church to church, miracle meeting after healing meeting, having no roots. Their ears are always itching to hear something new, something sensational, something entertaining, something pleasing to their flesh. They are pleasure seekers riding the winds of doctrines. People like this usually do not stay at a church that refuses to scratch itching ears. They want to be stroked, not rebuked. So they run back to their teachers – the sooth-sayers, the happy positive-thinkers when they hear a message that convicts.

Jezebel represents false doctrine and Ahab is its victim. The Bible states that it was not enough that Ahab had a heart bent toward sin, idolatry and compromise. He brings into his life a satanic influence that will confirm him in his sin. 1 Kings 21:25(HCSB)25 Still, there was no one like Ahab, who devoted himself to do what was evil in the Lord’s sight, because his wife Jezebel incited him.

The message is that the tendency of Christians who hold to secret sin and lust is to embrace and become married to a false doctrine which will only excite and confirm them in their sins. The last thing Ahab needed was a Jezebel. She brought out the worst in him, magnified it and destroyed him. So it is with false doctrine. If there is any sin, lust or worldliness in you, the last thing you need is a doctrine that will bring out your worst. When David sinned with Bathsheba, he did not need a false prophet with a soothing message to tell him how much God loved him. He needed the uncompromising prophet Nathan, with a pointed finger, crying out, “You are the man”. Those who preach the doctrine of Christ show the people the difference between the evil and the good. There is no mixture from their lips. Ezekiel 44:23(HCSB)23 They must teach My people the difference between the holy and the common, and explain to them the difference between the clean and the unclean.

Ezekiel denounces these false prophets who enrich themselves by bringing a message excusing sin. Ezekiel 11:25-28(HCSB) The conspiracy of her prophets within her is like a roaring lion tearing its prey: they devour people, seize wealth and valuables, and multiply the widows within her. 26 Her priests do violence to My instruction and profane My holy things. They make no distinction between the holy and the common, and they do not explain the difference between the clean and the unclean. They disregard My Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.27 “Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey, shedding blood, and destroying lives in order to make profit dishonestly. 28 Her prophets plaster with whitewash for them by seeing false visions and lying divinations, and they say, ‘This is what the Lord God says,’ when the Lord has not spoken.

As a result, we have whole churches full of mixed up people who cannot even recognize evil when they see it. When the truth is told to them they call it a lie and believe the false prophets over the bible teaching prophets. False teaching are more popular than truth teachings now a days.

Here Jezebel is teaching things, but the reason that she’s popular is not because her teaching is so biblical, but because it allows sexual sin.

So this would be like in our day, someone becomes very popular because they say, “You could be a faithful Christian and a porn addict. You could be a faithful Christian and an adulterer. You could be a faithful Christian and a fornicator. And you can have both, and God doesn’t judge, and we shouldn’t judge, and we should be tolerant and diverse. And Jesus loves you, and we love you. And who are we to judge?” Jesus says, “This I have against you, you tolerate that.”

Let’s not change the Word of God, let’s allow the Word of God to change us.

There is a price to be paid for faithfulness to the God of the Bible. Back then their were these idol cults, these prestigious clubs that you paid a price to be part of.  So this woman comes along and says, “You can have both. You don’t need to pick and choose between faithfulness to Jesus, and comfort and convenience. You can have comfort and convenience and Christ.” And a lot of people raise their hand and say, “That sounds great. So I’ll worship Jesus and false demon gods. I’ll give money to my idols and the church. I’ll go to church and hear about sexual purity, but then if the idols has a crazy event, you know, nobody’s perfect.

It’s a sin for Christians to be more tolerant than Christ. He says, “But this I have against you, you tolerate.” Some of you are more tolerant than Jesus. Hey, bottom line, not everybody is going to heaven. Bottom line, not all religions lead to the same path. Bottom line, not all saviors can save. Bottom line, not all sacred books say the same thing or tell the truth.

Ok so how about legal tolerance in culture? Should we practice legal tolerance in culture? Meaning, we believe Muslims have the right to worship, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Buddhists, Baha’is, atheists, agnostics. It’s not that we agree with it, but that we’ll tolerate it.

Should we have legal tolerance of other views, other religions, other ideologies, other perspectives? Yes, we should, because Christianity is not a religion, not a belief system that is imposed. It’s about loving Jesus Christ. You can’t simply pass a law that says everybody love Jesus. It doesn’t work like that.

So, we don’t impose Christian faith, but we propose Christian faith. “We’d like to talk to you about Jesus. He loves you. We want you to love him.” So we don’t think that we can in any way impose faith by making Christianity the legal religion, and then making other beliefs illegal the way Muslim countries do it.

Number two, how about social tolerance in community? Meaning you have a family member that disagrees with you, you have a friend that disagrees with you, you have a coworker or a neighbor that disagrees with you. They hold to another religion, spirituality, ideology. They’re an atheist, they’re an agnostic, they’re something else. Should we tolerate them socially and personally? Totally.

Jesus tells us to love our neighbor. He doesn’t say agree with them. They don’t agree with us. They’re very intolerant of our intolerance. But yes, you should love, serve, be good friends with, neighbors to people of other beliefs, and ideologies, and religions, and perspectives. Absolutely, because Jesus says, “Love your neighbor.” So yes, we should practice social tolerance in our community.

Number three, how about theological tolerance in the church?In Church there are some who believe in a pre-trib rapture and some who don’t. Some who say you have to sing hymns and some who say you have to sing contemporary.  And there are all kinds of open handed, secondary issues, that, yeah, we just tolerate a little difference. We could talk about it, but we’re not going to declare war over it. These are distinctions, they’re not divisions.

We need to be that kind of community that loves, and serves, and tolerates, and brings along fellow brothers and sisters, and reconsiders ideas, and learns to live together peaceably.

How about beyond our local church partnering with other churches? Should we tolerate other churches? Yes. They may disagree with us on certain open handed issues. But they really do love Jesus, believe the Bible, they are family, we’ll be with them in the kingdom of God. So, yeah, we need to be friendly and, for the sake of evangelism, partner that people might meet Jesus. And lovingly have a discussion about some of the things we disagree about. But that’s not war. This is just dialogue between brothers and sisters. But we do not tolerate heretical beliefs and partner with those churches who teach them.

Number four, how about heretical tolerance in the church? See, there are certain beliefs that are national borders, others that are state borders. The Bible is God’s Word. Jesus is God’s Son. Jesus lived without sin, died on the cross in our place, rose as our Savior. The Bible is the Word of God. Those kinds of things are closed handed issues. Open Handed Issues: are you Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, Reformed? We should get along across the open handed issues, but we still have to protect the close handed issues.

Somebody comes along, and they’re teaching heresy. They’re claiming to be a Christian, we’re not talking about Christians, they’re claiming to be Christians, and they’re doing what this woman is doing. Teaching false doctrine, encouraging false thinking and behaving. “No, we don’t tolerate that.”

Because here’s what the Bible says, “Sheep, shepherds, wolves.” The people are like sheep. The pastors are to be shepherds. Jesus is the chief shepherd. And Satan sends in wolves. Spiritual leaders who are powerful, influential, winsome, and evil. It would be very unloving to the sheep to tolerate the wolves. And some will say, “Boy, man, he gets a little fired up when talking about wolves.” Yeah, shepherds tend to get fired up with wolves. Right, when there are wolves, shepherds shoot the wolves, they point out the wolves, they take their staff and hit the wolves because they love the sheep. “That teaching is not biblical. That’s not right. You are teaching heresy, you are taking scripture out of context,You can’t just use these people. You can’t just lead them astray.

Do we allow wolves? No. Again, non-Christians aren’t wolves. What we’re talking about is those who say they’re Christians, and then lead people away from Christianity. That’s exactly what’s going on at Thyatira. He says, “But this I hold against you. Not only are you good at loving and helping, but you’re good at loving and helping wolves. Keep loving and helping, but stop doing it to wolves.” Anytime a shepherd allows wolves, they really don’t love the sheep. They really don’t love the sheep.

Now, let me say this, Christianity begins with tolerance and moves to repentance. Meaning, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, what you’ve done, come to Jesus just like you are. And he’s going to change you. So it begins with tolerance and it moves to repentance. Jesus says, “Come to me. And you’re going to change.” So the issue is, can we welcome people? Absolutely, we welcome them to change.

Christianity starts with tolerance, come as you are, and then Jesus says, “I’m going to change you.” And if we never call people to repentance, if we never say, “The way you’re thinking is wrong, the way you’re acting is wrong, the lifestyle you’ve chosen, the identity you’ve embraced, the actions that you celebrate are ones you should be mourning,” then we’re no longer Christians. We’re no longer faithful. We’re cult leaders, we’re heretics, we’re apostate. Meanwhile, those in culture will cheer us, and Jesus would rebuke us and say, “But this I have against you, you tolerate.”

You can repent, and if you do, you’ll be rewarded. It’s not too late. You can say, “Yeah, I’m wrong. I got to change. Jesus help me. Forgive my sin. Change me from the inside out. You can repent right now. You could say, “I’m a sinner. I need Jesus. What I’m thinking is wrong. Who I’m listening to is wrong. The books I’m reading are wrong. The arguments I have are wrong. Because my heart is wrong. Because I want to do whatever I want to do. And Jesus loves me enough to tell me to stop.”

Or there could be justice in judgment. He talks about this. He talks about sexual sin leads to sickness. Spiritual adultery leads to death and war with God. That’s the language and imagery. In that day it was customary, when two nations would go to war, the king would assemble his people, he’d take a vase or a jar made out of, let’s say, clay. He would write the name of the opposing king and kingdom on it, and as an act, publicly, of a declaration of war, he would slam it on the ground and it would shatter into a million pieces. And that meant, we’re off to war. Sin is declaring war on God. And here Jesus is saying, “If you don’t repent, I’m writing your name, and we’re going to war.” This is very serious.


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