Rev 2:20-23                                   A Church Overrun by Mysticism             3/26/2017      ßà   

 

 

 

 

#1.      I Know Thy Works (Rev 2:19, Rom 5:3)

 

 

 

#2.      Yet I Have a Few Things Against Thee (Rev 2:20, Gal 2:4, Rom 6:14,18, 8:2,4)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3.      Hold Fast Till I Come (Rev 2:24-25, Eph 2:9)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Rev 2:18 (2X). Here is the letter of the Lord Jesus Christ to the church at Thyatira. You have heard of Thyatira before. When we read of the second missionary journey of the Apostle Paul in Acts 16, when he was in the province of Macedonia in the city of Philippi, he met there a woman from Thyatira named Lydia. Thyatira was a city in the province of Asia, now called Asia Minor. We have already seen three other cities in Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, and now Thyatira. The Lord Jesus dictated to John the Apostle this letter:

Re 2:18 ¶  And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;

Re 2:19  I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.

Re 2:20  Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

Re 2:21  And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.

Re 2:22  Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

Re 2:23  And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

Re 2:24  But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.

Re 2:25  But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.

Re 2:26-27  And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:                      And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.

Re 2:28  And I will give him the morning star.

Re 2:29  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

To the Pastor of the church at Thyatira, and to the entire church at Thyatira, the Lord Jesus introduces Himself as “the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass”. This is the first time Christ introduces Himself as the Son of God in these letters. In fact He is not just the Son of God, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, but He is God Himself. The Lord Jesus said of Himself in John 10:30, “I and the Father are One”, and He said in John 14:9, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father”, and we read in 1Tim 3:16, “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles”. Therefore, since Christ is God He comes with great authority. “His eyes are like unto a flame of fire” means that He sees all sins, and He will judge all those who sinned. Every sin must be avenged in the Lake of Fire. That is right: every sin, including the sins of His people. That is why the reference to His feet should be compared with Rev 1:15. Please turn one page to your left, to Rev 1:15, where we read, “And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace”. This points to the fact that Christ had to suffer the wrath of God for our sins in order to satisfy God’s perfect justice. If the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had to suffer for the sins that were imputed to Him, then certainly all those who die unsaved must expect to endure the wrath of God on their sins on Judgment Day. The Lord Jesus says to this church:

#1.      I Know Thy Works (Rev 2:19, Rom 5:3)

Re 2:19  I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.

The Lord first commended them for the good things they were doing. This church at Thyatira has some of the most excellent qualities a church may possibly possess. Look at verse 19. Did you notice that the word “works” occurs twice in this verse. It is obvious then that the first time “works” is listed it refers to “good works in general”, which are specified by the words that follow. Those works are their love for Christ and for one another, and their service for the work of the ministry, and their faith in Christ and in the Gospel, and their patience with one another and with the work for the ministry of the Kingdom. We see that love is mentioned first; not that love must be first, because faith must be first. Love is not the root of our spiritual life, but faith is. It is by faith that we are grafted into Christ. It is by faith that we draw from Him the treasure of our salvation. It is by faith that we “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”. Love is not the root of faith, but faith is the root of love. And love grows and flourishes only if there is the root of faith. But in this letter love is listed first, because in the church at Thyatira love was the most apparent, and the most prominent quality of that church. It was a congregation overflowing with real, warm, and spiritual love of the Lord. This was exactly opposite to the situation in the church at Ephesus. God said to the church at Ephesus that they had left their first love. In Ephesus love could be found only with difficulty whereas in Thyatira love was abundant. In Ephesus the hearts were cold, whereas in Thyatira the hearts were glowing with love for the Lord and for one another. Of course there was also faith, for how else could there be love without the presence of faith? But in the church at Thyatira faith was not their strongest asset. In fact, before the Lord mentioned faith He first mentioned their service, or their work for the ministry. It was again their love for the Lord that revealed itself in willing to work for the Lord and for His Kingdom. This love again appeared on the foreground, and this love motivated them to dedicate themselves, and to apply themselves to all kinds of service in the Kingdom. And almost all the members in Thyatira were involved in service for the ministry, including the service of evangelism, and including the work to support the poor in Thyatira. And they did this patiently, every day, because the Lord also mentioned that they had patience. This was a church that was spiritually growing, increasing in their love, and faith, and service, and patience for the work of the ministry. For the Lord testifies of them that “their last works were more than the first”. And how did they become so patient? We read in Rom 5:3, “We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience”. Those who are most diligent in the things of God are likely to be the most tried. In their trials they display patience, and that is how their patience grows. It cannot be learned any other way. This was a nice and beautiful commendation of the Lord. This was not a church that impresses its visitors with its strength in doctrine, but a church that was attractive by its sweetness and beauty of the love that was so abundant in that church. How could it be that such a beautiful church would be reprimanded for anything? But the Lord Jesus says to the Pastor of this church, and He says to the whole church:

#2.      Yet I Have a Few Things Against Thee (Rev 2:20, Gal 2:4, Rom 6:14,18, 8:2,4)

You see, there was another side to this picture of the church, a side which is as repulsive as the former which was so beautiful and attractive. The Lord says in verse 20,

Re 2:20  Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants, to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

What was going on? These words reveal that there was heresy going on in the church at Thyatira. And it was heresy of the worst sort, leading people to give in to fornication and adultery and idolatry, both in the literal sense and in the spiritual sense. There is no reason to assume that this verse refers only to spiritual fornication and spiritual idolatry. People assume that because they cannot imagine that such things would occur in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. But when we start out with one error, then the next error and the next even greater error are at the door. Here at Thyatira we meet with one of the worst forms of degeneration conceivable in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. How could that have happened? But when we study the geography of those days we see that Thyatira was on the road from Pergamos to Sardis. The city of Thyatira was not far from Pergamos. Remember that the Nicolaitans were active in the church at Pergamos, and the Nicolaitans were tolerated there in the church at Pergamos. It is evident that once more we meet the Nicolaitans here at Thyatira. If a woman like Jezebel was allowed to be a member of this church, then certainly the Nicolaitans would be allowed to be members of this church. You remember that the Nicolaitans were people who boasted that it mattered not at all how a Christian lives here on earth. Let us sin, in order that grace may abound more and more. The old Adamic body was doomed to destruction anyway. If Christ has fulfilled the Law, and there is nothing we can do to make us lose our salvation, then every sin a believer commits was already taken care of in the atonement of the Lord Jesus. And so, we can experiment with alternative lifestyles and see what benefits they bring. We can experiment with the very depths of Satan, according to verse 24, so that we may appreciate the glory of Christ’s gracious deliverance all the more. Is it not so that the Christian possesses a “liberty which we have in Christ Jesus”? (Gal 2:4) Put a sticker here in Rev 2 and please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Rom 6:14 (2X). And so we see that the Nicolaitans, which were in reality antinomians, made their so called “Christian liberty” a pretext for the flesh. What about our Christian liberty? What does it mean exactly? It means that Christ set us free from bondage to Sin and Satan. It means that we are no longer under the dominion of sin; we are now able to resist sin. God says in Rom 6:14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace”. We have been set free from being servants to Satan, and now we are able to be servants of righteousness. God says in Rom 6:18, “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness”. Christ also has made us free from the bondage to the Law, because He fulfilled the requirement of the Law. The Law demands that we must go to Hell for our sins, but Christ has done that for us, in our place. That is why God says in Rom 8:2, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death”. And thus, when we have become saved we no longer desire to walk as we did before we were saved. God says in Rom 8:4, “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”. This is the character of a Christian. This is the character of a saved soul. This is “the liberty which we have in Christ Jesus”. What about that woman named:

Please turn again to Rev 2:20, and let us see what this woman is doing in the church at Thyatira.

Re 2:20  Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants (lit: cause my servants to err, or to stray), to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

Re 2:21  And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.

In Thyatira the one who propagated the seed of this Nicolaitan heresy was a woman, whom the Lord named Jezebel. This may not be her real name, but the Lord Jesus compared her to the original Jezebel, the wife of one of the kings of Israel, Ahab by name. After Jezebel married king Ahab one of the first things she did was to seek out and kill the prophets of Jehovah. She also caused Ahab to worship other gods and commit many terrible sins. In God’s eyes Jezebel was the very essence of wickedness. Not only was she rebellious against Jehovah, but she also stirred up Ahab to worship other gods. Here in Thyatira the woman whom the Lord named Jezebel was stirring up members of this church to worship other gods through the eating of things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication as demanded in the ceremonies for the worship of those idols. In these two verses the Lord Jesus pointed out six things concerning this woman: 1, she calls herself a prophetess; 2, she is allowed to teach; 3, she causes the servants of God to err in doctrine; 4, she causes the servants of God to commit fornication; 5, she causes the servants of God to eat things sacrificed unto idols; 6, she repents not of her sins. She calls herself a prophetess, but the Lord Jesus declared here, “She lies, I did not send her”. This church at Thyatira, weak in the faith, allowed her to teach. But God says in 1Cor 14:34, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law”. And God says also in 1Tim 2:12, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence”. And thus the Bible is very clear that when the church comes together as a congregation a woman should not teach or have authority over men. In addition, this woman called Jezebel causes members of this church to err in doctrine so that their daily walk of life is altogether sinful. How did she do that? We do not know exactly, but from the few words in verses 22 and 24 we can surmise how it went. Imagine a midweek prayer meeting at her house. It would not be a midweek Bible study, because that church did not know how to study doctrine. They were completely given over to love and to intuition and to experiences. Some of the members stood up and offered fervent prayers, glowing with love in their heart toward the Lord Jesus. And then some speak of how in the past few days they realized their utterly sinful condition, but also how clearly they had experienced the all-sufficiency of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Finally this woman stands up. She is beautiful to look at, an appearance and a voice like an angel of light, and she claims to be a prophetess. She also claims that the Lord appeared to her in a dream, and that the Lord showed to her the horrible depths of Satan, the abyss of sin and iniquity. And then the Lord said unto her, “If anyone would truly taste my grace and infinite mercy, he must actually descend into these depths, and learn to know them by experience. For the more he is able to realize the depths of Satan by actual experience, the more he will be in a condition to appreciate my salvation”. And then she continues to explain that she has personally obeyed, and that she did descend into those depths of Satan. She feasted with the heathen in their sacrificial meals, and she committed fornication. And she concludes testifying what great blessing that was to her. Now she realized more fully the wonders of His mercy, and she could much more gratefully appreciate the grace and the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now she backs this up with some of the Nicolaitan teaching, and in this way she is able to draw several members of the church into the sinful lifestyle with her. Why did the church allow her to continue this way, week after week? You see, this sweet and lovable little church had forgotten to apply the objective standard of the Word of God, and had allowed personal experience to be the chief criterion of the truth. This church was inclined to believe this false mysticism. What is mysticism? According to Webster’s Dictionary, “Mysticism is the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experiences”. Of course this is altogether false. Knowledge of God  cannot be attained through experiences, but can only be attained through the Word of God if it is enlightened by God the Holy Spirit. Why would God hold out this church to us today? Would you believe that most churches around us in California have allowed personal experience to be the chief criterion to judge which doctrine they will believe? Unbelievable as it sounds, it is true. Many churches around us have been sold into studying two books titled: The Purpose Driven Church, and The Purpose Driven Life, both by the same author. These are nice sounding titles, but the content is far from nice. Allow me to give just two quotations from the Purpose Driven Life. On page 34 the author says, “God won’t ask about your religious background or doctrinal views. The only thing that will matter is, did you accept what Jesus did for you and did you learn to love and trust him?” And then on page 231 the author says, “The last thing many believers need today is to go to another Bible Study.” Having been in Bible studies of all sorts already for many years I have heard people from other churches ask, “But what does it mean to you, personally?” Or they ask, “What are your feelings about this?” Instead, if we apply the objective standard of the Word of God, we should ask: “What did God say here exactly?” Or, “What does God think about this?” Our feelings do not enter into interpretation of the Bible. We must focus on what God said, and what He said was for our benefit. And today, as the Charismatic Movement is sweeping through the churches of the world, everything in the Gospel is watered down to personal feelings, and personal experiences, and personal health and wealth. The precious Word of God is set aside, or it is modified, so that all the offense of the Gospel is removed.

Re 2:22  Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation (lit: affliction), except they repent of their deeds.

Re 2:23  And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

Can you see that the customary admonition to repent is missing in this message of the Lord Jesus to the church at Thyatira? Also, the church is not asked to discipline the woman Jezebel and her followers. You see, discipline can only be exercised on the basis of the objective Word of God; and the church of Thyatira was weak in regard to the knowledge and application of this Word. They were not able to distinguish the true from the false. They did not have the discernment to test the spirits. Therefore the Lord Himself will mark the evil doers in the congregation. In person He will exercise discipline Himself. He identified Himself as such in verse 18, as the Son of God, with eyes as a flame of fire. He is the Omniscient One, before whose eyes nothing is concealed. By His own judgments He intends to expose the evil doers. This judgment on Jezebel is not some vague spiritual judgment, but physical and visible. The Lord says, “Behold”. Look and see that I am doing it. The Lord wants to draw the attention of the church. “Behold, I will cast her into a bed”. This is not a bed to commit more fornication. This is a bed of affliction. God did not specify with what illness He would strike her down. We can just surmise that it would be some horrible venereal disease. And all those who commit adultery with her would be likewise punished. For in this way the Lord would reveal by His judgment that He is highly offended by the actions of this woman and by her followers. But also the sin of the mother would be visited upon her children. Perhaps you remember that God says in Ex 20:5, “for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me”. How does God visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children? Through imitation. The children observe the evil their father or mother do, and they will generally make it a little worse. And so the sin is passed on from father to son and from mother to daughter. The purpose of these judgments is that the churches may know that the Lord is He who searches the reins and hearts, and that He will give to each one according to his works. This is a great warning to us here in Bellflower. Even today the Devil goeth about as a roaring lion. God says in 1Pet 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”. The Devil will always try to make us doubt the Word of God, like he did to Eve in the garden, when he said, “Yea, hath God said this?” His object is always to separate the church from the basis of the Word of God. It is in this sense that the letter to the church of Thyatira is a warning to us and to our church. Then the Lord comforts all the churches in the world:

#3.      Hold Fast Till I Come (Rev 2:24-25, Eph 2:9)

Re 2:24  But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.

Re 2:25  But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.

First of all there seem to be more Christians in Thyatira than there are in the church. When the Lord says, “and unto the rest in Thyatira” He is not referring to all the heathen in Thyatira, but to other Christians in that city. To all those Christians in Thyatira, and to all Christians in the world, the Lord says, “I will put upon you none other burden”. This does not refer to a burden of judgment, but to a burden of Law and precepts. God will not put on us another burden of obeying the Law and precepts of a new ceremonial law. As I said before, none of those actions can save a person, and none of those actions can keep us in the arms of Jesus. The reason for that is that “Christ came to save His people from their sins”, and His people are all those whom God intended to save, His elect. God imputed the sins of all His elect on the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christ endured the penalty for the guilt of all those sins, which is the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. If all my sins were paid in 33 AD, what good work could I commit to make me deserve to be saved? None! If all my sins were paid in 33 AD, what sin could I commit that makes me lose my salvation? None! And so I see that my debt to the Law was paid in full by Christ, and thus the Law has no more claims on me. Some people call the Lord’s Supper and Water Baptism the ceremonial laws of the NT. But that is not true. The ceremonial laws of the OT were required activities for the OT saints. But for NT saints Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not required for our salvation. They cannot possibly be required, because our salvation is “Not of works, lest any man should boast”, (Eph 2:9). “But that which ye have, hold fast till I come”. This is very important. In other words, the Lord Jesus says, “Your present faith, and hope, and love for Christ and for one another, and your present service work for the church, including Water Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, hold it fast till I come. Do not let someone rob you of these treasures that I have given you. If I intended to take these back, then wait until I indeed take these back, but be not afraid of false prophets who desire to take these things away from you. Just keep what you have till I come”. To these faithful, then, to those who keep what they have and are pure from the defilement of Jezebel’s teaching, the Lord comes with a most beautiful promise:

Re 2:26-27  And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:                      And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.

The plain words of Scripture are that this is a promise of final victory in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. And look at that promise. The Lord Jesus will give to the faithful the same power He has received from His Father. In the Day of His coming they shall share in His power and glory of victory. The Lord is referring here to Psalm 2. Put a sticker here in Rev 2:26 and please turn in your Bibles to Psalm 2:8 (2X). The picture here is that all the powers and the might of the world are raging and striving to obtain the sovereignty of the world as their dominion. But this dominion properly belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. The Father gave Him this dominion. He has been anointed king over God’s holy hill, over Zion. And here we read in Psalm 2:8, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.         Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel”. The dominant thought in this Psalm is that the powers of the world strive to break the dominion of Christ and rebel against the Most High, but that the Son shall have the ultimate victory in the day of His coming and shall execute vengeance upon all His enemies. This is the power which He has received of His Father. And this power He will share with all the faithful in the day of His coming again. This is a glorious promise, and this promise will be literally fulfilled. The enemies which rise against the Kingdom of God also oppose the servants of the Kingdom of God. But even as we share in the reproach of Christ, so shall we also participate in the glory of His victory in the day when He shall have the final victory over all His enemies. We shall come with Him. With Him we shall judge the nations. And with Him we shall enter into His dominion when the nations are broken to shivers like a potter’s vessel. And all the powers of opposition shall have their determined end. But this is not the last word of the promise to “him that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end”. Please turn again to Rev 2:28 (2X). The Lord Jesus says here,

Re 2:28  And I will give him the morning star.

Re 2:29  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

We already know that we shall shine with radiant glory like the stars of heaven. We read in Dan 12:3, “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever”. They that be wise are those who have obtained wisdom, which is the wisdom unto salvation. The saints will shine like stars. That is a promise. But who is “the morning star”? The Lord Jesus still speaking in Rev 22:16 says, “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star”. The Lord Jesus Christ says here that He is the root of David as well as the offspring of David. It points to the attribute of His being from everlasting. He is also called “the bright and morning star”. And thus when the Lord says in Rev 2:28, “And I will give him the morning star”, He promises us that He will give Himself to us. Similarly we read in Gen 15:1 the same promise. The Lord appeared unto Abram in a vision, and said to him, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward”. The gift of eternal life that we receive is the gift of being with God all the time. And likewise when the Lord Jesus says to us that He will give us the morning star, it means that He will give Himself to us, not to be dissipated among us, but that He will be in us and we will be in Him forever. As the morning star he will be among us who are represented by other stars.

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches”. And what does the Spirit say? Do not drift away in subjective experiences and feelings, and do not ignore the objective principle of the Word of God. Cling to the Word! For only that Word is our safe guide and firm basis in the midst of strong currents of human theories, like the Purpose Driven Church, or like the Charismatic Movement, or like the New Age Movement. And if false prophets arise who want to lead you astray with their own imaginations, test the spirits, and reject them without hesitation. Cling to the Word of God! Keep yourself pure from  the wicked Jezebel. For the faithful to the end shall receive the same power as Christ has received from His Father. And they shall shine as stars, together with the morning star, in the Kingdom of Heaven.                  AMEN.

Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.