The Tolerating Church
To the Church in Thyatira
“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent 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. I will strike her children dead. Then 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. Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’ To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 2:18-29 NIV
Thyatira was the smallest of the seven Churches Jesus speaks to in the book of Revelation. However, while the smallest it receives the longest letter from Him. This blue collar, factory working town was a hard working tradesman town.
However, like many of the cities of its day, it worshipped false gods. If you had shown up in Thyatira in the first and second century you would have been faced with the pressure that many Christians in that time period were faced with. Adapt to the culture or you will find yourself on the outside of any sense of security and comfort. This city would in modern terms be like a union town. Follow certain expectation and you have the comfort and assurances of being part of the union. You will have work, your life will go well. Step outside of the expectations and you are on your own.
Many Christians in this time were found mixing their faith with the practices of the culture.
Jesus speaks to this Church, telling them He knows what they have done. He knows their works, their love, their service, faith, and their perseverance. If you looked only at this part it would seem like they were doing pretty good. They seemed to be doing it right. Not only were they doing all these things….they were doing more and what they were doing now was greater than in the past. But He makes it clear that all of that is not enough.
He was saying, “I know you are growing but you aren’t healthy.” We think growth means health but one only has to look around to see many things in our culture growing that are not healthy.
Jesus calls them to look at themselves and what they have allowed into their hearts in order to be considered acceptable in their culture. They had learned to tolerate and live with sin as if it was accepted by God as just fine. Sin is never fine with God.
He calls them to repent and follow Him fully. I believe His word remains true to the Church and for our hearts today. What are we excusing in our lives in order to maintain our comforts? What have we mixed of the world into our faith and thereby leaving us powerless to influence our culture?
We must desire to please God and not fit into our culture around us. While trying to reach people we cannot become like them.
We must rightly define sin and not pretend that it can be tolerated in our lives.
We must take a stand for truth.
There is a lot more in this passage but I will conclude with this, while not everyone was tolerating Jesus was clear about what He would do with those who were. He also encouraged those who did not give place to this tolerating Jezebel spirit in their lives or in their Church. He told them to continue to hold on. He was for them. He also let them know He Himself would be their reward. What encouragement from Jesus Himself. When we believe He is enough and we hold onto Him. We get Him. What Great News in a troubled world, in a culture that is upside-down that Jesus is worth any discomfort we will ever be called to face.
Let’s face Him with joy knowing He is our reward.
Sue Holmes says:March 28, 2020 at 12:55 am
Thyatira … a few thoughts …
“The smallest of the 7 churches.”
Doesn’t God seem to have a special place in His heart for the small things in life? The Tribe of Benjamin, the little town of Bethlehem, a tiny baby born to bring freedom to the world, the widow’s mite, etc. …
To mention a couple …
Benjamin was the youngest son of Jacob but also the smallest (in number) of the 12 tribes. Benjamin’s line gave way to Israel’s first king (Saul) as well the one who helped establish the New Testament church (Saul/Paul of Tarsus) & penned most of the New Testament.
And that little town of Bethlehem. What God had in store for her … “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” (Micah 5:2)
What mankind looks at and often disregards as insignificant, God sees as an opportunity for His glory to show. Our God values the small things in life.
“If you had showed up in the first & second century”
The writer of Ecclesiastes had it right when he said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
• That same pressure to adapt/conform is presenting itself today in 2020. Mention someone’s step of faith to an unbeliever & that step is referred to as ‘foolish’.
• Stick to the foundations of the faith has held you firm and you are likely labeled by the church as ‘religious’, legalistic or ‘out of date’.
I’ve done both & can affirm both. 🙂
As God spoke through Isaiah, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)
“They had learned to tolerate and live with sin as if it was accepted by God as just fine.”
The interesting thing is that this letter was written a couple millenniums ago but it is still so relevant in 2020. It is so easy for the enemy to slip in unnoticed if we do not stay in a close committed relationship with Christ and adhere to His truth – the only Truth. It can be so easy for culture to slip in. Pure worship can be so easily replaced with popular worship. We become complacent & comfortable.
Recently I watched a movie in which the main character (a believer who had gone through some dramatic experiences) was drifting in her faith, in her studies & in her choices. One bad choice made under duress from her ‘friends’ lead to a series of choices that soon lead this one down a path nearly to her end if not for God still chasing after her. The enemy took on human flesh in her journey. It all looked innocent at first. When first asked how he got inside where she lived, the answer was “You left the door open”. Repeatedly, the enemy (appearing as a friend) gave her the same response … “You left the door open.” What a powerful lesson.
How often do I leave the door open? How often do I, just as the church-goers at Thyatira, bow down to the pressures around me? (I am afraid sometimes more than I would like to admit.)
We make concessions to the god of culture, the god of public opinion, the god of comfort, etc. and then we wonder why the path we are on isn’t the one we expected.
The letter to this church leaves me with a ton of gratitude that our God is a compassionate God. When He sees us struggling & stumbling He doesn’t put a load of rules & extra assignments on us. He simply says “I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.”
Our God sees the broken/messed up and He gives hope & encouragement. He tells us to hold on to what we have until He comes. He knows our ‘little’ will not only grow, but it will lift up & encourage others … if we only will hold on.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed,which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31 – 32)
What a magnificent God!
Sandy says:March 29, 2020 at 7:41 am
Tracy says:March 29, 2020 at 10:07 am
Yes, Susan! I love this!
Karen Elaine Fuller says:March 28, 2020 at 9:47 am
I picked up on the line “I know you are growing but you aren’t healthy” Freda.
These three are necessary in both the physical and spiritual realities of my life.
According to this passage, in Thyatira the community of believers were doing many things in line with the Gospel of Christ but they added some “cultural flare” in the form of tolerating sin and the TEACHING of sin (v20) inside their fellowship without demanding repentance (v21).
The sin would have naturally and organically come through the doors as new believers were added to the community, this is normal. What became the issue was that these new believers were not lead to repentance (NOT taught to repent) and eventually the sin penetrates the community as a whole.
You could say…….Christ was not ENOUGH.
In Like 22:35 we read about the hours leading up to Christ’s betrayal and the disciples are asked: “When I sent you without purse and bag and shoes, DID YOU LACK FOR ANYTHING?” …..they answered “No”.
Today this passage in Revelations and the one in Luke have lead me to repentance for the part of Karen that does not live like Jesus is ENOUGH.
That part of me that consumes the physical FOOD, assuming it is ENOUGH to sustain me.
That part of me that ACTS like I am the god of my life and that is ENOUGH.
That part of me that spends more time/energy working on my temporary RELATIONSHIPS like they will be ENOUGH.
My desire is that Christ Jesus will be more than just my Savior but that He will be ENOUGH: enough for me to fast from physical food, enough for me to act when I don’t want to or when it is awkward, enough for me to seek out time with Him.
And when I do overcome myself I will actually be given Christ Jesus himself (Rev. 2:28).
Sandy says:March 29, 2020 at 7:33 am
Wonderful, Karen. Thank you and may God continue to bless you.
Tracy says:March 29, 2020 at 10:15 am
Karen, this is what I have been wrestling with! Do I truly believe that Christ is enough! Sadly, I have to admit that He hasn’t been. Let me rephrase that: I have not LET Him be enough. Because the truth is He IS enough. I have had to come to a place of repentance; to let go, and let Him truly be ALL that I need.
Ron Ford says:March 28, 2020 at 10:43 am
I regularly pray that God will encourage, strengthen and keep using you to speak to your people and our communities. He has gifted you in unique ways.
Freda says:March 28, 2020 at 2:29 pm
Thanks Ron! May God continue to use you as well to build His Kingdom in this area 🙂