JUST SAY “NO”!
Learning from the Church at Thyatira
Philippe R. Sterling
The world is ready to snuff out our spiritual fire with sexual distractions. This message will help us consider how sexual sin pulls people away from following Jesus, and help us arm ourselves against sexual temptation.
A word about our title: “Just say no” is appropriate because it takes discipline to remain holy in a sex-crazed world. But too often, Christian teaching about sex has stopped with, “Say no!” The fact is that we say yes to holiness, to fully committed love, to humanity as it was meant to be, when we say no to casual sex.
What could happen to a believer who absorbed the world’s view of sex and started acting on it? What effect could it have on his or her fellowship with Christ?
Let’s look at an example in the Book of Revelation. Welcome to Thyatira, the sleazy city. The longest of the seven letters was written to Thyatira, the smallest of the seven cities.
Thyatira was about forty miles inland from Pergamum. It was not a major city, not nearly as large as the three we’ve looked at already. But it was a center for labor guilds and craftspeople.
We know of one biblical character who came from Thyatira. Lydia was a businesswoman from this city (see Acts 16:13-14). It’s not surprising that she sold purple cloth, since Thyatira was known for its weaving, dyeing, and sewing, among other trades.
The trade unions and guilds would have had patron gods they worshiped. They would have had regular feast days for these gods. These holidays would have involved sexual escapades.
Portrayal of Jesus: The Lord presents Himself to this church as the divine One who is the Executor of searching judgment.
How did Jesus describe Himself? Why does He use these terms? What would they have meant to the craftspeople of Thyatira? The terms would probably have gotten the attention of the smiths who worked with iron and bronze, and with fire.
Son of God: This identifies Jesus as the divine Messiah (see Psalm 2:8-9 which is referred to in verses 26-27).
Eyes of blazing fire: This depicts His piercing appraisal. This description of Christ first appeared in 1:14 and reappears in His climactic return in 19:12. He searches the minds and hearts (v. 23).
Feet of burnished bronze: This symbolizes the judgment that was going to fall on those who did not repent. He purges out all impurities.
Praise for the Church
What does Jesus “know”? What’s good about the Thyatira church? Their deeds, their love and faith, their service and perseverance, and the increase in their faithfulness since the beginning. Jesus knows whether we have been good or bad.
How may the people in the church have felt after hearing that? Pretty good.
What kind of deeds might they have been doing? What kind of service were they involved in? Perhaps acts of caring for the poor, worshiping God, sharing their faith.
Why did they have to persevere? As with other churches, there was persecution
Criticism of the Church
So what’s the problem in Thyatira? Jezebel.
A powerful woman, symbolically called Jezebel (see 1 Kings 16:31), had influence so great that she encouraged the believers to participate in the guild festivals – committing fornication and eating things sacrificed to idols (verse 20). Just as the Old Testament Jezebel, the pagan wife of King Ahab, led the Israelites astray, so this New Testament “Jezebel” was doing the same. Jesus describes her compromise with the socially acceptable immorality and idolatry of the times as plunging into the “depths of Satan.”
The believers at Thyatira tolerated sin in the name of cultural accommodation. Their guilt was greater than that of their neighbors in Pergamum. Pergamum “had” some people who held to the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. Thyatira “tolerated” the woman “Jezebel.”
Jesus had issued a call for repentance (verse 21), but the door of opportunity was about to close. The toleration of error must have had a long history. “Jezebel” had no disposition to change. She will continue her course of action. Jesus would soon afflict this woman and those influenced by her with severe pestilence (verses 22-23).
Penalty or Reward
How did the punishment fit the crime? Jezebel had sinned on a bed of adultery; she would be punished on a sickbed.
The initial tribulation for her followers is meant to elicit their repentance (v. 22). A lack of repentance will lead to death (v. 23). This is meant as a warning to all the churches. Jesus gives to each one according to their deeds (see Gal 6:7-8).
Jesus encouraged those who had not compromised to remain faithful (verses 24-25). We live in a sex-crazed world – media, myth of safe sex, affairs, prostitution, pornography, cybersex. Hold on to what you have in Christ. What we have as Christians is better than what others are promising. Guard your purity. “Just say no!”
“I place no other burden on you.” This recalls the words of the letter to the Gentiles in Acts 15:28-29.
“What you have, hold fast until I come.” Hold on to your love, faith, service, perseverance, and ever-increasing works. Hold on to these until Jesus returns. This could apply to the Rapture.
What are the so called deep things of Satan? Jezebel may have been promising a fuller experience of spirituality through the “deep secrets” of God – gnostic like teachings. But Jesus says here that they’re not God’s deep secrets, but Satan’s.
Promise to Overcomers
Authority Over the Nations
Believers who hear and obey God’s Word will be given the right to rule over the nations along with Christ. One day the Lord Jesus is going to rule the entire world from the capital in Jerusalem. Some believers of the church age will rule with Him. In the life to come, not all believers will have this opportunity. Only those who have earned that right will be in positions of authority. Jesus will reward the faithful by making them rulers in the kingdom with Him. This requires that they keep His deeds to the end.
According to the Department of Labor, the United States has over 5,000,000 local government employees, 2,500,000 state government employees, and 4,500,000 federal government employees. There will be many governmental positions in the millennial kingdom.
The Morning Star
The Morning Star in its fullness is Jesus Himself. He says in Revelation 22:16 “I am the Morning Star.” Overcomers will enjoy special intimacy with the Morning Star Himself, Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Pet 1:19).
The order of the promise to the overcomer and the general admonition to hear what the Spirit says to the churches is reversed in this and the remaining three messages as compared with the first three. The reason for this might be that the rewards are closely connected with the commendable response to Christ.
Conclusion: “Just Say No!”
WWJS to the church tolerating immoral behavior: “Just say no!” The Thyatiran church, like the other six churches and the churches of today, must pay special head to the analysis of Christ through the Holy Spirit regarding itself and those of the other churches also.