Integrity Reigns (Revelation 2:18-29)

AUDIO

MOTIVATE

Watching of Netflix show “Turn: Washington’s Spies” drew my recent attention to the Revolutionary War. In research, there’s a story about the British attempting a major spy attack on the Hudson River at West Point. Benedict Arnold was in charge at the army training ground. However, he was also working secretly with Major John André. One author puts it like this: “By all accounts, André was a model British officer with impeccable manners, who had the misfortune to be caught doing his duty. Several members of Washington’s staff, including Hamilton, pleaded that André’s life be spared because of his exceptional character. Washington dismissed the requests as sentimental, pointing out that if André had succeeded in his mission, it might very well have turned the tide of the war. The staff then supported André’s gallant request that he be shot like an officer rather than hanged as a spy. Washington also rejected this request, explaining that André, regardless of his personal attractiveness, was no more and no less than a spy. He was hanged the next day.”[1]

In this example from history, we see that General George Washington was a man with a clear vision of right and wrong, and he acted in accord with what he thought to be right. The rightness or wrongness of the hanging of Major John André had nothing to do with his appearance, his polite manner, or any affection his character might generate. Simply put, Washington understood the nature of war and the mission of his army was not to tolerate the enemy on any level.

In today’s culture there is a great need for the church to not compromise its convictions or tolerate losing the truth of God’s Word. Christians must stand for truth, regardless if it is unpopular and even if it results in persecution.

Today’s passage will provide 3 truths for Christians to follow.

EXAMINE           Revelation 2:18-29

The love of Jesus does not lessen the lordship of Jesus.

Revelation 2:18-19
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.

Thyatira

  • Common city
    • Ephesus like Dallas with grandiose commerce and great church (Paul stayed for two years; leaders like Paul, Timothy, John). Yet, business and busyness caused them to leave their first love,
    • Smyrna like Cairo or Middle East with its prized region but filled with Christians suffering from persecution.
    • Pergamum like Washington D.C. with its external marble monuments but inward immorality ready to be judged by Jesus.
    • Thyatira like Flint, MI with its small stature but gritty, hard-work ethic.
  • Craft city: The city had prominent trade guild (like a labor union), including tanners, potters, linen and wool merchants, fabric dyers, copper smiths, shoemakers, and slave traders. If one wanted to work in industry they had to belong to the trade guilds of the Roman government, which also meant devotion to Caesar and the city gods. If one did not give allegiance to Caesar and idols, then they were forced unemployment and isolated; the entire community revolved around participating in the trade guilds.
    • Paul meets a woman named Lydia from Thyatira, a dealer in purple cloth. She undoubtedly belonged to one of the trade guilds but as she listened to Paul’s preaching of the gospel, her heart opened and responded with faith. She and her household were baptized because of their faith in Jesus (Acts 16:13-15).
      • We have no record of Paul or anyone else taking the gospel to Thyatira, so it’s likely it arrived through Lydia’s testimony. O ladies, follow the footsteps of Lydia to turn your work into a witness for God.
      • Side note… leave your purple clothing 😊.
  • Committed church: The church was faithful.
    • Works, faith, service: Thyatira was devoted to God and each other.
    • Love: Thyatira is first and only church commended for its love. Many of the Thyatira Christians were likely persecuted for their faith and unable to earn an income. It’s likely the church body worked together to feed and provide for one another, and perhaps others even in the outside community who were ostracized by the trade guilds. Their love was a witness to Jesus Christ (Jn13; Mt 25).
    • Patient endurance and latter works exceed first: Thyatira is a clear contrast from Ephesus. This small congregation pressed on with little attention from the outside, but God noticed. They grew spiritually and matured in faith, and likely multiplied new disciples of Jesus.
      • Though Thyatira was the smallest city and likely smallest church, it receives the longest letter from Jesus. Jesus cares for small churches.
      • Today: 58% of churches don’t reach triple digits.[2] Only 2% of churches reach four digits.[3] Small churches still matter to God and can make significant impact in God’s kingdom.

Jesus

  • Son of God. While the Caesars were titled “sons of god,” Jesus says He is the true Son of God who reigns over all and is more powerful than any government or army.
    • Satan tempted Jesus, “If you are the Son of God…” (Mat 4:6)
    • Demons feared Jesus “What have you to do with us Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?” (Mat 8:29)
    • Disciples called Jesus “Son of God” to affirm deity and power (Jn 1:49) – when he calmed storm (Mat 14:33) and at climax of ministry before martyrdom (Mt 16:16).
    • Jews sought to crucify Jesus bc he clamed he was the Son of God (Mt 26:63; 27:40, 43; Jn 10:36; 19:7).

Jesus revealing that He’s the Son of God reminds us of His authority and where our allegiance belongs. We should not put our hope in politics, our allegiance to govt, or our affections to entertainment escapes and worldly pleasures. Christians should not let donkeys or elephants make them forget the Lamb is our leader and loves us more.[4] Christians must remember to let God be our first place we turn for our problems, and ultimately remember Jesus is our Master to whom we must obey His way more than the world’s.

  • Eyes of fire and feet of bronze (Rev 1:14-15; 19:10; Dan 10:6) revealed consuming judgment and conquering wrath to come. Just as God cleansed Israel from Baal worship that Jezebel promoted, so Jesus will cleanse His church.
    • God of fire… unavoidable and unescapable.
      • Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire (Gen 19:23; Jude 1:7)
      • Lord appeared to Moses in flame of fire (Ex 3:2)
      • Lord led Israel pillar of cloud by day and night pillar of fire (Ex 13:21)
      • Lord descended on Mt Sinai in fire and smoke went up like of a kiln and whole mountain trembled greatly, and God answered Moses in thunder (Ex 19:18-19; Deut 5:22-25)
      • Lord commanded sacrifice and offerings by fire (Lev 2:13; 19:6)
      • Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deut 4:21)
      • God’s is surrounding with ministering angels as a flaming fire (Ps 50:1; 104:4)
      • The Son of God walks through fire and protects His children through fires (Dan 3:24)
      • The Lord’s judgments are like a refining fire (Mal 2:17; 1Cor 3:10; 1Pet 1:5-7)
      • Jesus warns us against the unquenchable fires of hell (Lk 3:8; Mk 9:43)
      • Fiery judgments will come during the tribulation and end time judgment (Rev 8:2; 14:7; 16:7; 17:16; 18:5; 21:7)
      • Christians are called to snatch unbelievers from the eternal fire of hell (Jude 1:23)
  • So, let the love and lordship of Jesus lead you to 3 actions
    1) Read His word. Have a daily devotional: Psalms, Gospels, other group but personal study.

2) Ready your work. As Thyatira worked, so all Christians are called to work for Jesus in His church. What’s your role of service and offering of love?
3) Ready your witness. Talk in prayer to God about them. Tell them about Jesus. Invite them to church.
#WhosYour1

 

Sin can slowly seduce or rapidly ruin.

Revelation 2:20-23

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.

While Jesus had high commendation for the church, He also had a harsh critique. The church was listening to a false prophet – a woman leading people into idolatry and immorality.

Jezebel was an OT woman

  • Daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon (enemy to Israel)
  • Wife of Ahab: “Ahab did what was evil in the Lord’s sight more than all who were before him… did more to anger the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel… He committed the most detestable acts by following idols” (1Kings 16:30, 33; 21:26)
  • Jezebel slaughtered the Lord’s prophets (1Ki 18:4)
  • Jezebel hosted hundreds of Baal prophets (1Ki 18:9)
  • Jezebel ruled with evil and greed, taking what did not belong to her (1Ki 21:7-16)
  • Jezebel was known for harlotry and witchcraft (2Ki 9:22)
  • The Lord judged Ahab saying, “I am about to bring disaster on you and will eradicate your descendants. I will wipe out all of Ahab’s males, both slave and free, in Israel.” (1Ki 21:21)
  • And to Jezebel, the Lord promised her death, recorded: “they threw her down from the window and some of her blood splattered on the wall and on the horses as Jehu rode over her… [Later] they went to bury her but they did not find anything but the skull, the feet, and the hands. This fulfills the Lord’s word that he spoke: ‘the dogs will eat Jezebel’s flesh. Jezebel’s corpse will be like manure on the surface of the ground in the plot of land so that no one will be able to say: ‘This is Jezebel’”” (2Ki 9:33-37)

Thyatira’s “Jezebel” (likely not literal name but symbolic) led the people to compromise and participate in the trade guilds. She diminished faith convictions and tolerated worship of government and patron gods. And Jesus promised severe judgment. In all, the problem of the Thyatira church was not external but internal.

Thyatira’s sin of tolerance sounds strange to modern culture which promotes tolerance. Intolerance is the popular recognized sin of our public. Even this week in political debate we heard candidates oppose Christian values and threaten their right to public existence if they do not tolerate non-religious values. Worldly tolerance means to tolerate everyone but those who oppose you, whereas biblical tolerance means to show kindness to all – even to enemies and overcome evil with good, just as our Savior did.

I shared this last week: If the devil cannot persecute the church, he will pervert it; if he cannot attack from the outside then he will corrupt the church from the inside. Jezebel may pack the pews with eager ears listening to a worldly message, but she can never satisfy your soul.

Jesus’s rebuke carries consequences of a sickbed – likely a play of phrase from an immoral pleasure bed leading to a death bed. Striking children dead did not necessarily imply biological – or innocent – children, but more like spiritual children, the followers of Jezebel. The reminder is we must grow godly generations: If we do not disciple our children, then the devil will. Who wants the next generation more?

  • Sin can slowly seduce or rapidly ruin. What is your plan to protect against sin?
    1) Protect with Scripture. When faced with temptation, Jesus quoted Scripture. The psalmist hid the word in his heart to not sin against God (119:9-11).
    2) Protect with saturation. You need to surround yourself with godly friends to set the right pattern and model for you to follow, and who will hold you accountable when you get off track.
    Prov 27:6 “wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses”
    Prov 29  “as iron sharpens iron, so does one person to another”
    Gal 6:1 “carry each other’s burdens”
    James 5:16 “confess your sins one to another and pray for one another”
    3) Protect with strategy. You need to be aware of your environment, and plan strategies for when attacked at your weakness. Sometimes the best way to fight is to flee: fleeing situations or finding safe haven means you live another day.
    Matt 5:29 “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better to lose one
    part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown in hell.”
    1 Tim 6:11/ 2Tim 2:22 “flee lust”

 

The Christian life is a long obedience in the same direction.

Revelation 2:24-29

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.’

While it seems a majority of Christians in Thyatira were compromising, not all of them did. Jesus says some are not tolerating Jezebel. They are holding fast and staying true to the words and works of Jesus. Part of the Great Commission of Jesus is to teach others to obey everything He commanded.

The church needs Christians to stand firm and faithful – not contemplating changing God’s commands, not entertaining or evolving on what God says is evil. We do not need blurred boundaries or mixed messages, but to draw a line in the sand and say, “God’s word is truth, and on this rock I will build my life.” We don’t change the Bible but we let it change us.

Those who stay faithful, Jesus promised to receive benefits.

  • Authority over the nations, and rule with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces.
    • We will become kings and queens with Christ as Sovereign (cf. Ps 2; Mt 25:21, 23; 1Cor 6:2-3; Rev 1:6; 5:10; 20:4). This is not clearly understood, but somehow, we have significant work to do in God’s new kingdom, and all you endure with integrity in this life will become realized in both the Millenial kingdom to reign over injustice and evil, and then as co-heirs and servants of Christ in eternity.
  • Morning star.
    • The god Apollo was known as the sun god, or of light, but here Jesus notes He is the first light – the morning star (cf. Num 24:17; Rev 22:16; 2Pet 1:19). The presence of Jesus will fulfill you.

 

APPLY/THINK

Worldly Tolerance.

  • Students who mention creation or Christ on you school campus, you may not get a good grade and you’ll likely not be very popular.
  • Blue collar workers who seek to share a Bible verse with a customer may lose their job.
  • White collar workers who have integrity when it comes to managing accounts and treating people ethically, or who don’t participate in the drinking scenes after hours – you may not get promoted or company could part with you regardless how many years you have.
  • Family members who don’t affirm certain behaviors or lifestyles, you may become the outcast.

Biblical Tolerance

  • Love neighbors and be kind to everyone, even those you disagree. Wd don’t impose the Christian faith but simply propose it, and trust God to guide and the person to respond as they may be open.

For whom are you living: JEZEBEL OR JESUS?!?

 

[1] Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation (New York: Vintage, 2002), p.132.

[2] https://factsandtrends.net/2016/02/24/majority-of-american-churches-fall-below-100-in-worship-attendance/

[3] https://www.barna.com/research/small-churches-struggle-to-grow-because-of-the-people-they-attract/

[4] Adapted from @DerwinLGray

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s