Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Revelations 2:18-19 Thyatira: Wheat and Weeds

KEY TEXT: Revelation 2:18-29 "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: 'The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 'I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.  But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.  I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.  Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works,  and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.  But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden.  Only hold fast what you have until I come.  The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations,  and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.  And I will give him the morning star.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.' 

KEY THOT: The church in Thyatira was commended for their "love and faith and service and patient endurance" (v.19). There was much that was going right in this church. But yet, in spite of these good works, there was this evil Jezebel in their midst sowing seeds of sexual immorality and idolatry. Immorality and idolatry are like twins: whenever there is idolatry, sexual immorality will always follow. Just as Balaam and Balak are familiar OT names pointing to the sins of sexual immorality and idolatry committed by Israel (Rev. 2:14), so is Jezebel wife of King Ahab (1 Kings 16:31) associated with these twin sins. Under her influence, Israel committed idolatry by serving and worshipping Baal, god of fertility. 

In the church of Thyatira, the wheat (good seeds) and the weeds (bad seeds) co-exist together. Such situation of godliness and corruption co-existing in the same church is common experience in most churches. It is a confirmation of Jesus' parable of the weeds (Mt 13:24-30), where the devil comes and sows evil seeds of spiritual and moral corruption among the good seeds of God's people. While we may wish that everyone who comes to church has a pure heart to seek God, the truth is that there will always be weeds among the wheat in any church. And such people are Jezebel's children who are compromised by similar false teaching that promotes idolatrous doctrines of God and sexual immorality.

It is no longer a shock to hear of stories of pastors and parishioners committing adultery in the same church. I have also come across stories of church members active in ministry who live a double life of promiscuous lifestyle, sometime involving other church members. Why does this happen so often? It starts with a corruption of biblical theology regarding God's holiness and wrath.

Jesus presented himself to the church at Thyatira as one with "has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze" (2:18). This picture of Christ with burning eyes and burnished feet suggests holiness and wrath against the sins of idolatry and sexual immorality. We very much prefer the exalted Christ to present himself as "gentle Jesus, meek and mild". But we need to also teach the Jesus with the piercing eyes and burning feet to stamp out evil and ungodliness in the church.

Such doctrines of Christ are unpopular because it challenges the self-indulgent spirit of our age. But without such biblical teaching, Jezebel's teaching will slip into the church to corrupt the godly seeds spiritually and morally.

But for those who are still holding on to the truth without compromise, Jesus' word is to "hold fast what you have until I come" (v.25). Again, the same exhortation closes this fourth letter: "The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations" (2:26). We cannot afford to relax like the five virgins who were not ready when Christ returns. We must be like the other five virgins who kept their lamps lighted up with oil to spare (Mt 25:1-13).

Abba-Father, may You grant us the discerning of spirit to sieve out truth from error, and to expose theological idolatry which leads to sexual immorality. Amen.

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