Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Letter for Leaders: Thyatira (Rev. 2)

Let's keep moving through the letters to each of the churches with their application to church leaders in view.  We are in Revelation, chapter 2, verses 18-29.

“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. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.  20 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. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 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. 23 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.  24 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, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.’  26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 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. 28 I will also give that one the morning star. 29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

Once again, it is Christ Who is addressing His bride.  His eyes are as fire: a strong light, filled with heat to warm or heat to burn.  Fire provides comfort or terror; context is everything.  Jesus stands and addresses His church not as the humble carpenter from Galilee, but the Almighty God, Whose radiance is either reassuring or terrifying, depending on which side of the cross you stand.  

His feet are of burnished bronze--this relates to metal that has been heated to a high temperature.  Christ stood in the furnace with the three young men in the book of Daniel who refused to bow down to a pagan's king's image:  

"And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, 'Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?'  They answered and said unto the king, "True, O king."  25 He answered and said, 'Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.'  26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, 'Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.' (Daniel 3:23-26)

Christ stood in the midst of the fire then and here in Revelation, He stands not as an unknown figure seen by a pagan king and comforting three young men, but as the overcoming Son of God.  

If you know the Son of God, the Son of the Most High, then the fire and white-hot bronze is not terrifying.

He commends the church:  "I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first." (verse 19)

Wow!  They are aligned beautifully with the values of their King, and are doing more than what they did when they first started!  I hear cheers in heaven here.  What better way to show the love of Christ than to model it in a community where those values are not present and do even more as the needs of  the people become more and more apparent.

OK.  Score one for the home team.  But, and this is huge: the exhortation against them is very serious.  The Bride is being polluted.  It doesn't matter if her name is literally "Jezebel."  She is doing the very thing that Jezebel did in the Old Testament:  she is compromising the Word by Satanic practices.  Let's quickly review this woman:

"Jezebel was the daughter of the priest-king Ethbaal, ruler of the coastal Phoenician cities (now in Lebanon) of Tyre and Sidon (Arabic: Ṣaydā). When Jezebel married Ahab (ruled c. 874–c. 853 BCE), she persuaded him to introduce the worship of the Tyrian god Baal-Melkart, a nature god. A woman of fierce energy, she tried to destroy those who opposed her; most of the prophets of Yahweh were killed at her command. These cruel and despotic actions provoked the righteous wrath of Elijah; according to 1 Kings 17, he accurately prophesied the onset of a severe drought as divine retribution. Sometime later Elijah had the Baal priests slain, after they lost a contest with him to see which god would heed prayers to ignite a bull offering, Baal or Yahweh. When Jezebel heard of the slaughter, she angrily swore to have Elijah killed, forcing him to flee for his life (1 Kings 18:19–19:3)."

"A few years later Ahab perished in battle with the Syrians. Jezebel lived on for approximately another ten years. Elijah’s successor, Elisha the prophet, equally determined to end Baal worship, had a military commander named Jehu anointed to be king of Israel, an act that provoked civil war, for Jezebel’s son Jehoram (Joram) then ruled. Jehu killed Jehoram at the site of Naboth’s property and then went to Jezebel’s palace. Expecting him, she adorned herself for the occasion. Looking down from her window, she taunted him, and Jehu ordered her eunuchs to throw her out the window. Later, when he commanded that she be properly buried as a king’s daughter, it was discovered that dogs had eaten most of her body." (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jezebel-queen-of-Israel

Let's list the problems here:

1.  This historical Jezebel married a king of Israel!  That right there is violating the sanctity of the  God-ordained monarchy of Israel and God's chosen people.  
2.  Introduced a new god to be worshiped by the King and the people.  Again, the king is to honor God and lead the people as a role model of spiritual propriety.  
3.  God's spokesmen, the prophets, are killed at her command.  So, God's voice is largely silenced.  The king is accountable to God; if there are no prophets to come before him and remind him of that, he can delude himself of his right to rule, and go his own way. 
4.  Praise God for Elijah, but drought struck the land, displaying God's utter disgust at his king, for he is tolerating actions of his queen that are utterly against all Israel stands for and is in covenant with God to maintain.  If the king opts out of his obligations, God has every right tot withhold rain.
5.  Civil war comes to Israel; God's succession of kings is circumvented by the conniving Jezebel, who wanted this monstrosity of a monarchy to continue, and the practices that have dominated the land.
6.  Her sentence was to become dog food.  God will not allow His chosen to be endlessly violated, even if they are complicit in the compromise of the covenant and the Law.  

How does this relate to our current church and its leaders?  Jesus says:  "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." (verses 20-21)  

This Jezebel has taken on the role of prophet and her words are not of God.  She teaches false doctrine, and the church has been convinced that sexual immorality and food sacrificed to idols are not problematic.  

WHERE ARE THE LEADERS?  HELLO?  Why are they going along with this, given that they serve the community so well?  Jesus has even called her to repentance, and she refuses.  Why aren't the leaders doing something about this?

The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 makes it clear that sexual immorality and food sacrificed to idols were definitely not permitted as Gentiles entered the church.  The earliest meetings were held in synagogues, and Gentiles behaving this way would have alienated their Jewish brethren.  The Law did not save anyone; it is God's grace that saves, demonstrated by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and one's belief in it.  But, the law is a schoolmaster (Gal. 3:24) and it showed new Gentile believers how to behave as they followed Jesus.  

Did the leaders not want to offend those who still engaged in such practices?  Did this woman have some good teachings interlaced with ones that violated God's Word?  Did the leaders themselves lose sight of God's standards because, Hey, after all, we are in Gentile territory!  We gotta reach them!  We can't get too hung up on Gentile practices, or we'd have no one showing up!  The people get their meat from the pagan altars, but the gods don't exist; should we then make a big deal of that?  Sex stuff...well, we are working on that.  As long as its monogamous, let's not make too big a deal.  Otherwise, who'd come to church? 

Do we really honor God by diluting or recasting His Word, just to get people into the church, so they can hear the Word?  But if the Word they receive seems to be applied only when it's non-offensive, then the Word will be preached less and less, because it is God-centered.  The flesh, even Jesus-loving flesh, will want to compromise, and end up living a life that doesn't show victory over sin but a compromise with it.  

The power of God will not be demonstrated in the lives of believers, and many will begin to believe the Christian life and its victory over sin is a fiction.  

But, Jesus will reward those who hold fast to the truth.  Jesus wants us to be like Him, drawing us deeper into who He is, and conforming our newly born spirit more and more to His image.  

But how is compromising sin in His churches, ignoring God's Word and allowing those who preach effectively another Gospel (but you have to know the true one to see the counterfeit) going to help believers do that?  

Worse still, when we encourage the culturally correct, well-meaning, and diluted message-givers to lead our churches, other leaders will follow in their steps.  The sheep walk hand in hand with wolves.  

Such churches may gain approval from the world, but from God, His response is clearly stated in this letter.  

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