Is it possible to do good things outwardly without any recognition of Jesus inwardly? Can a church do marvelous things, but have little loyalty to her King? Can someone excel in love and faithful service and yet compromise God’s Word?
Ask the church at Thyatira.
From the outside, this church had a lot going for it! They were active. They were loving. They were constantly serving. Jesus commends them for these things (in addition to their sterling faith and enduring patience). But their visible activity didn’t match their invisible motives. In the case of the church at Thyatira, looks were incredibly deceiving.
The name of the city clues us into the condition of this particular church. Thyatira means “citadel of garbage.” From the outside, this place looked like a palace, but inside was nothing but filth. How? Why? What could this church have done that would cause Jesus to look at it with anger and severe judgement (Revelation 2:18)? Tolerance. But…can tolerance really be that bad?
Ask the church at Thyatira.
It was this church that tolerated a self-proclaimed prophetess to teach and seduce their own people to commit serious sins. This church allowed a false teacher access to its own members to get them to stumble and fall. And it was this church that received stern words from Jesus to bring them to repentance and to a renewed desire to hold fast to His Word.
Today, we find ourselves in a culture that champions tolerance of immorality as a virtue. Will you permit all sorts of immorality to continue in your heart? Will you remain silent when God’s people are being lead astray? Or will you hold to what the Bible says is true, no matter the cost?
God is calling us to courageous loyalty to Jesus. As you take a stand for what is true…in love…remember the words of Jesus: “But hold fast what you have till I come.” (Revelation 2:15)
What’s in a name? Plenty! Just ask anyone named Ichabod. There was a child in Israel’s history that was given this name. He was born right after the Ark was taken out of Israel by Israel’s enemies (1 Samuel 4:19-22). Which makes sense—Ichabod means “the glory of God has departed.”
This Sunday, we continued our study of the seven letters to seven churches in the book of Revelation. The next two churches were on the verge of being called Ichabod. Thyatira and Sardis were dying and almost dead. Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t rename them Ichabod—His glory hadn’t completely departed. However, He cries out to them to repent and fan into flame the smoldering spark of faith still found in their hearts.
Though it was the smallest of the seven churches, Thyatira received the longest letter—but not for the best of reasons. Listen to our study from Revelation 2: 18-29 as we considered how the letter applied to the church of Thyatira then…and how it applies to us now.
Satan’s strategy to discourage believers from following Jesus often starts with physical persecution—fighting the church physically from without. And we see that throughout church history—especially toward the end of the first century, during the second century, and into the third century.
But sometimes, physical persecution has the opposite effect. Persecution purified, strengthened, and even grew the early church. So Satan switched his strategy. If he couldn’t beat them by beating them physically without…he would corrupt them from within through compromise, cowardice, and diluted doctrine. The church at Pergamos, which means “mixed marriage,” was uniting spiritual authority with idolatry—an unholy infection from within that was sapping the church’s strength.
So what’s the solution? Jesus gives us the answer in His letter to Pergamos. Return to the simplicity, the purity, and the power of God’s Word—as God gave it.
The book of Revelation begins with seven letters to seven churches—letters that are applicable to every church and every individual in every age—but also specific to periods of church history.
The first letter, to Ephesus, speaks of the first century church. Followers of Jesus became so busy working for the King that they had no time to just be with the King—the very thing He saved them for.
The second letter, to Smyrna, speaks of the second chapter of church history. During this time, Satan tried to defeat the church with suffering and persecution.
This past Sunday, we studied the letter to Pergamos, the third age of church history. Suffering and persecution did not destroy the church, but instead helped it grow. In response, Satan switched his strategy and sought to destroy the church from within. For the church at Pergamos, this looked like combining spiritual authority with Roman and pagan idolatry.
Jesus had some straightforward words of correction (as well as some words of commendation) for this church that struggled with Satan’s strategy of corruption through an unholy union. Listen to our study from this past Sunday and learn the lessons, warnings, and applications from this important letter.
The church in the city of Smyrna was afraid. Under the thumb of a cruel and violent emperor, they faced persecution daily. Suffering surrounded them. Tribulation and affliction were the new norms. And the prospects for a peaceful life seemed like a distant hope.
Jesus knew how difficult life was and how difficult life would become for the believers in Smyrna. Which is why He wrote to them to tell them to stop fearing the things they were about to suffer. He wanted this church, struggling to stay loyal to Him, to anticipate difficult days ahead…and to know that through it all, He would be with them.
Suffering—no matter how severe in this life—is only for a finite amount of time. The One who defeated death is aware of all the difficulty, pain, and suffering that you endure. Jesus knows how you’ve been knocked around. Jesus knows what you’ve been through. And like the believers in Smyrna, Jesus knows what you are about to go through…and that He will be with you as you endure it.
Have you ever had a week that was stressful? Or maybe a day that was difficult? Or an hour that overwhelmed you? Life is hard, but God is good. Even through those difficult times, we can know that He is with us. That puts things into perspective.
We gained some of that perspective this past Sunday as we studied Jesus’ letter to the church in Smyrna. Jesus knew of their current affliction and of their coming persecution. His message to this fellowship is one that we can benefit from in our current suffering and suffering to come.
Listen to our study of Revelation 2:8-11 and learn what words of hope and encouragement Jesus gave to the church of this ancient city…and the words of hope and encouragement He speaks to us today.
Jesus had some really good things to say about the Ephesian church. He knew their works, their patient perseverance, and their labor for His name’s sake—without becoming weary. On the outside, this church looked wonderful!
But Jesus sees everything—outside & inside. He not only sees our deeds, but also our desires, our motives, our intents. To Jesus, these things are just as important—if not more important—than the deeds themselves.
Jesus saw that the church in Ephesus had left their first love. Outwardly, they looked very active for the Lord—but inwardly, their motivation had more to do with maintaining appearances than a genuine love for the Lord and others.
Heed the warning from Jesus’ message to the Ephesians: if your service is not first motivated and maintained by love, it profits nothing—no matter how much you get done for the Lord. He does not care how outwardly active you are. He knows your works and He sees what is underneath it all. Thankfully, Jesus gives us the same remedy that He gave the Ephesian church: Remember, repent, and return.
We know the first works of our first love are to talk to God through prayer, to give Him opportunity to talk to us through His Word, and to be part of an open and honest fellowship. Prayer, the Word, and fellowship—it’s the simple recipe for health and maturity for any believer in any situation at any time.
From Pastor Dom...
When I first gave my life to Jesus, there were friends in my life who helped me to grow in my understanding of God, through His word, and for those friends