Week Commencing 25th February 2018   With a PDF found here

Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Revelation 2:18-29, “To the church in Thyatira.”

We grow closer to the Lord Jesus as we turn our hearts to learning from him regularly. These notes, then, are most useful for us in our personal devotions throughout the week and will prepare us for the upcoming sermon. Remember what we saw in week 1? That if we read this revelation and take it to heart, we will be blessed!

As we explore the seven letters, we see a predictable pattern and outline in the letters, with few exceptions. Our letter this week to the church in Pergamum reflects this in that there is initial encouragement but then another strong word of admonition or rebuke. As a reminder, here’s the typical pattern:

  1. Recap – picking up one of the descriptions of Jesus from ch 1
  2. Commendation – what the church is doing well (missing from Sardis and Laodicea)
  3. Admonishment – where the church is breaking God’s heart (missing from Smyrna and Philadelphia)
  4. Exhortation – how to put things right and get back on track (including a warning about implications if they don’t); and a repeated phrase “whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
  5. Promise – there is a specific promise pictured for the church who overcomes their trials and challenges – drawn from the imagery of chapters 21-22.

DAY 1: Read Revelation 2:18-29

This fourth letter is addressed to the angel of the church in Thyatira, a small town located about forty miles southeast of Pergamos and established by Alexander the Great as a Macedonian colony. Thyatira was the hometown of Lydia, “the seller of purple” (spoken of in Acts 16:14). She was in Philippi (in Macedonia) doing business when she heard the Gospel from Paul for the first time and some believe she was partially responsible for starting the church in Thyatira.

Business entrepreneurs like Lydia made up the city Thyatira, a prosperous town near numerous well-travelled roads in a fertile valley. It was a city full of trade-guilds, crafts and sports associations (think unions), many of which involved cultic activities directed to Greek and Roman deities. Citizens were expected to be members of such associations—no matter what—and so Christians faced inevitable pressure to join the blended worship of the economic evils with worship of these false gods.

Perhaps that’s why the message sent to the Christians in the church of Thyatira is from “the Son of God.” This is noteworthy when we remember how consistently the other term, “Son of Man,” is used throughout Revelation. Here only the phrase “Son of God” is used; but it suits, as does the whole description, the message, which breathes the language of sovereignty and righteous sternness. From the start of this letter, Jesus establishes his authority, one that exceeds that of any (false) “god” and who alone is worthy of the Christian’s worship. What might be some “false gods” competing for the attention of Christians in Noosa?

DAY 2: Read Revelation 2:18-29

Even though Jesus warmly acknowledges the Thyatirans’ love, faithfulness, service and perseverance and that they are doing more now than at first (v. 19), there is nonetheless a major problem in the church. They’ve compromised their devotion to Jesus by tolerating the ‘teaching of Balaam’ (which also had followers at the church of Pergamum). Actively practised by a number of Thyatiran church members, this teaching promoted eating food offered to idols and also included sexual immorality, both of which could have come directly from the immoral cultic worship in the local temples or from the trade-guilds.

But make no mistake—these false teachings didn’t just happen spontaneously within the church; they never do. They had an advocate, a persuasive and influential teacher among them known as the prophetess “Jezebel”. A reference to Ahab’s evil queen who tried to convince the Israelites to worship pagan deities (see 1Kings 16:31), Jezebel is likely a metaphorical reference to one who seduced those otherwise pure in heart, to “commit adultery with her and her children” (vs22, 23). In other words, she was hard at work promoting Satan’s deep secrets (v24) and in the process drawing Christians away from the One True Son of God. Her influence was problematic and dangerous for followers of Christ, and sadly, the church as a whole tolerated her evil schemes.

It is often the same today. Whenever we allow something else to distract us or when our priorities are dictated by the culture around us rather than by God’s Spirit and word within us, we compromise our mission, our credibility and our witness. As John wrote in another letter (in 1John 2:15-17): “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” With so much tempting us to “love the world”—to have this bigger house or take that cruise or live this super-funded lifestyle—we must guard our hearts and take care not to worship the things of this world! How? By looking instead to the Son of God and his work on the cross for us—nothing else compares to the riches of his sacrificial grace. Take time now to pray and let go of the false teachings of this material world, looking to Jesus as the only one who can fulfil us.

DAY 3: Read Revelation 2:18-29

Even as Jesus instructed John to write to the church of Thyatira about how the “Jezebels” of the world will mislead and distract us, he provided (as he always does) a way out. Repent! He gave Jezebel time to repent of her spiritual adultery and her immorality, but “she is unwilling” (v21). His grace invited her repentance but she refused. And woe to those who ignore his kindness! What’s in store is a “bed of suffering”, often of their own making, and not just hers—but those she influences as well. Even her children he “will strike dead” (v23 ). In the process, God will reveal his sovereign authority again when, “all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”

The Lord’s kindness turns the hearts of the Thyatiran Christians back to him through the gift of repentance, and as a result, he will not “impose any other burden” on them, except to say “hold on to what you have until I come”. Once again God reveals through Christ that he is a jealous God; he desires that we are captivated only for the truth of his grace, so that we are not deceived by the empty lies of this world.

How do we hold on to such hope? How do we stand firm in the Sacrificial Gospel in the midst of so much materialism, deception and injustice around us? By looking to the Morning Star, the Christ who has risen from the dead after dying an excruciating death on the cross . . . for you and me! Each day we must turn our hearts and minds to the Living Hope; as we do, we will receive far more than all we could ask or imagine or ever deserve. In fact, as we are drawn into the light of Christ’s presence more and more, we will gain victory over the false promises of this world and receive an authority that reflects the authority he received from his Father (v27). May we not tolerate any thing but the riches of his love and eternal life, as we serve God daily and sacrificially with our lives. May he alone receive our hearts, our devotion and our worship!

DAY 4: Read Psalm 1

The surest way to achieve discernment and to spot a counterfeit is to study the real thing: the truth of the Gospel! When you know the authentic love of God, everything else pales in comparison. Psalm 1 calls us blessed if we don’t walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the company of mockers. Surely our culture has plenty of “Jezebels” who try to sell us wickedness or sin or mockery. But what does the Psalmist offer as a practical solution to avoid such traps? “His delight is in the law of the Lord, who meditates on his law day AND night.” As we study scripture, quiet our hearts to hear from him, read other teachings or novels that reveal his truth, and think about the things of God, then we will not only be blessed. We will be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” The riches of the world will never satisfy, but the riches of God’s kindness and hope are all we—and those around us—will ever need.

References: Paul Barnett: “Apocalypse Now and Then: Reading Revelation Today”;

ESV Study Bible notes.