More Churches – Thyatira

Photo by Michelle Pearson

More Churches – Thyatira

Thyatira was an interesting choice for Jesus to send a letter to in the Revelation. You see, Thyatira was a very insignificant city, in fact, according to Barclay, “The elder Pliny dismissed Thyatira with the almost contemptuous phrase ‘Thyatira and other unimportant cities.’” The only thing Thyatira had going for it was its trade guilds, it had more trade guilds than any two cities of its size, and it was known for making purple dye and purple fabric…the fabric of royalty.

This time, when Christ describes Himself, He comes right out and says, “This is the message from the Son of God” in Revelation 2:18. Then He goes on to describe Himself even further when he says, “whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze.” Again, He takes this from John’s description of Him in Revelation 1:14-15. So, what did He mean by eyes like flames? Fire often represents the Holy Spirit, as we see in Acts 2:2-4, another sign pointing to the triune nature of God. Fire can also represent refinement, as with metals, or judgment. The feet like polished bronze is referring to His steadfastness. Bronze was the hardest metal known at that time and the bronze feet represent that Christ is immovable. So, this description of Him is demonstrating His steadfast, immovable judgment on the people.

He goes on in verse 19 to say, “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.” So, as with the church at Ephesus, He starts out by complimenting them on what they are doing right. But, notice that He begins by saying, “I know all the things you do.” He’s about to compliment them, but lets them know up front that He knows it all…the good, the bad, and the ugly. Then He goes on to talk about their love, their faith, their service, and their patience. Do you recognize these? You should, because they are some of the fruits of the Spirit seen in Galatians 5:22-23, 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

It’s looking pretty good for the church at Thyatira, but then He hits them with, “But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols”, in verse 20. So, there was a woman in the church leading them astray. She was obviously a woman of authority, some believe she could have been the pastor’s wife, but she was a self-proclaimed prophet. Now, this is where many churches are divided, and is where we need to take the Bible literally and in context. The Bible never says that a woman can’t be a prophet. In fact, if you look at the accounts of the birth of Christ, it talks about Anna who was a prophet, and there were many other examples. But, the problem here is that they didn’t do what they were taught. John says in 1 John 4:1, “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.” So, the problem wasn’t that she was a woman, the problem was that she was a false prophet and the church didn’t test what she said against scripture, they just believed her. Jesus goes on to call her Jezebel. It is possible that her name was actually Jezebel, but it is more likely that Christ is using that name to describe what she was. So, let’s think about who Jezebel was in the Old Testament. She was found in 1 Kings 16-21, and in 2 Kings 9:30-37, and she was one of the evilest people mentioned in the Old Testament. She was the wife of King Ahab and tried to use her place of power to combine Israel’s worship with the worship of Baal, which included sexual sin and pagan practices.

In verse 21 Christ says, “I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.” Even this horrible, evil woman who was trying to lead the Christ followers astray, Christ gave time to repent. You see that? He didn’t just give her a chance, He gave her time, but she wouldn’t turn from her immorality.

In verses 22 and 23, Jesus tells them what He will do to her, and them, if they don’t repent and turn from their evil ways, He says, 22Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.” There are those who say that a loving God wouldn’t punish us. The problems with that school of thought are that, as we just saw, He always gives us a choice. He won’t make us do right, He wants us to choose Him, to choose to do right. And, secondly, He is a loving Father, and a truly loving father will discipline his children. First, to try to correct them and turn them back to the right path, and second to demonstrate to His other children that there are consequences to doing wrong, Proverbs 13:24.

He goes on, in verses 24 through 27, commending those who are victorious, and tells them that He will give them the authority to rule nations. Then in verse 28 He repeats that promise and tells them that He will give them the same authority His Father gave to Him. He ends verse 28 by saying, “and I will also give them the morning star!” So, what does He mean by this? If we look at the end of the book of the Revelation, we see in Revelation 22:16, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.” This is truly awesome! What Jesus is saying here is that if we are victorious, He will give us the greatest gift of all…He will give us Himself!

Of course, like in all the other letters, Christ ended this one in verse 29 by saying, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” He wants us to hear the warning to this church, and He wants us to be victorious and claim the ultimate prize…Him!

More Churches – Pergamum

Photo by Michelle Pearson

More Churches – Pergamum

I love how, in each of these seven letters, Christ gives His credentials in a different way. He tailors His introductions to His audience. In His letter to the Church at Pergamum, in Revelation 2:12-17, He introduces Himself this way: verse 12, “This is the message from the one with the sharp two-edged sword:” Here, He is referring to John’s description of Him in Revelation 1:12-16, where in verse 16 he says, “He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance.” And, Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” So, this two-edged sword that comes out of His mouth will expose our innermost thoughts and desires.

And, what does He say next? Revelation 2:13, “I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city.” So, why does Jesus call Pergamum the city where Satan has his throne? There were several temples to many Greek and Roman gods in Pergamum, but the main one was the temple of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods. And, in that temple was the throne of Zeus, which is believed to be what Christ is referring to in this book. Pergamum was a very wicked city, full of pagan gods and rituals. He also mentions Antipas in this verse. Antipas was faithful to Christ and the leader of the Christian church there. He was being so effective for Christ there, casting out demons and leading people to a relationship with Christ that the pagan priests went to the Rome governor to complain that Antipas’ prayers were driving their spirits out of the city and hindering the worship of their gods. He was martyred by being roasted alive in a bronze bull. This is the type of city these believers were in.

Verse 14 starts out by saying, “But I have a few complaints against you.” Even though they were enduring all of this, Christ still had to set them straight in a few areas. He goes on to say, “You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin.” Do you remember the story of Balaam? You know, the guy whose donkey had to set him straight. Balaam tried to sell his gift of prophecy for financial gain, but when he realized that he couldn’t prophesy against God’s people, he helped Balak by selling out Israel. He told Balak that all he had to do to weaken Israel was to seduce the men into sexual sin and pagan rituals. This brought the judgment of God on the men who participated. 2 Peter 2:15 talks about Balaam when he says, “They have wandered off the right road and followed the footsteps of Balaam son of Beor, who loved to earn money by doing wrong.” So, Peter is saying that the way of Balaam is to choose to do wrong for personal gain. We also hear about Balaam in the book of Jude verse 11 where he says, “What sorrow awaits them! For they follow in the footsteps of Cain, who killed his brother. Like Balaam, they deceive people for money. And like Korah, they perish in their rebellion.” Jude’s account of Balaam is that he deceived people for money. So, the first thing Christ has against the church at Pergamum is that some of them were following in the footsteps of Balaam.

The next thing He says in verse 15 is, “In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching.” Remember in Christ’s letter to the church at Ephesus, in Revelation 2:6, He said, “But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.” So, He praised the church at Ephesus for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans and warned the church at Pergamum about some of them who were following their deeds. I know you are probably wondering what these Nicolaitans were doing. David Guzik says this about the Nicolaitans, “The title Nico-laitans has the idea of a proud authority and a hierarchical separatism. The name Nikao-laos literally means “to conquer the people.” According to ancient commentators, the Nicolaitans also approved of immorality.” So, these were immoral people trying to conquer everyone around them. But here’s the thing, God wasn’t just condemning the ones who were following the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans, He was condemning the ones who were allowing it to go on among their church.

So, what does Christ tell them to do? In verse 16 He says, “Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” He tells them that they must repent. The word repent literally means to turn around, go the other direction, do a 180. He is telling them to turn away from those beliefs, and from allowing those beliefs in their church, and turn back to Him. If they don’t do this, He says that He will fight against them with the sword of His mouth. As we saw at the beginning of this passage, that sword is the word of God, and it cuts to the joints and marrow and exposes their innermost thoughts and desires. So, if they don’t repent, God will strike them down with His word.

He ends in verse 17, as with all the others, by telling them, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” But, He goes further with this one. He goes on to say, “To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone, will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” He’s not just telling them what he will do if they don’t repent, He also tells them what He will do if they do repent. He will give them some of the manna that is hidden in heaven. So, He won’t just feed them, He’ll give them the best. Then He goes on to tell thPergamum-inscription-on-white-stone-tb010901781-bibleplacesem about these white stones.  We’re not sure what the white stones were for, but the people of Pergamum knew what Christ was talking about. Throughout the ruins of ancient Pergamum there are white stones with names inscribed on them, so they understood whatever significance they had. But, look at what He says. He tells them that he will engrave a new name on the stone that’s just between you and God. It demonstrated the intimate relationship that Christ wants to have with us.

I love how, in the end of this passage, after Christ has warned the church about following these false doctrines, after He has told them what He will do if they don’t obey, He tells them that, if they repent, he will forgive them and restore that intimate relationship that He wants to have with us. Isn’t it awesome to have a God that is so forgiving? But, never forget that He loves us so much that He will punish us if we are doing wrong, so let’s live to please the one we love…the one who first loved us.

Fruit Inspector

"Ooo ... Oooo ... Ooo! Pick Me, Mr. Kotter!"
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Fruit Inspector

The New Testament often refers to Jesus as a vine, us as His branches, and what we do for Him as our fruit. But, one passage, in particular, is often misinterpreted, which is a good example of why we shouldn’t try to interpret the word of God at all. The passage is Matthew 7:16, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” I have heard so many pastors say that we shouldn’t judge others, we should just be “fruit Inspectors”. That, if they are a true believer, their fruit will show. While it is a true statement that our fruit will show if we are a true believer, that is not what this passage is talking about, and we aren’t here to judge anyone else’s salvation.

If we take this passage in context, we see that, in this passage, Christ is giving a lot of instructions. In fact, the first six verses of this passage are telling us not to judge others, Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” In verses 7 – 11 Christ is teaching us about effective prayer, telling us to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking…be persistent in your prayers. Verse 12 is what we call “The Golden Rule”, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Verses 13 – 14 are talking about the narrow gate that leads to everlasting life and the broad gate that leads to destruction.

Then we come to verses 15 – 20 where Christ is telling them, verse 15, “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.” Then he goes on in verse 16, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” You see, he isn’t saying that we’ll know if they are Christians or not by their fruit, he says we can tell false prophets by their fruit. There’s a big difference. Now, there are several verses that tell us how the world will know we are Christians, John 13:35 says, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” I believe this is the message we need to hear. There is so much fighting and feuding among people that claim the name of Christ, but the Bible tells us that the fighting and feuding proves that they are not of God.

Most of the book of 1 John is dedicated to love. He starts talking about it in 1 John 2:7 where he says, “Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before.” Next, he goes on to tell us not to love the world and then tells us how to identify an antichrist. Then he goes right back to love. He talks about living as a child of God, in chapter 3, verse 1 he says, “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” In chapter 3, verse 11 he starts talking about loving each other again, “This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” In chapter 4 he takes a minute to tell us how to discern a false prophet, then he goes right back to loving one another. In verses 7 – 8 of chapter 4 he says, Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” The Greek word used for love in verse 7 is agapao, which means “to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly”. So, he is saying that we need to dearly love each other, is that what your church looks like? Does your local body love each other dearly? I hope so, but if not, we need to pull together to help them get back to their first love, Christ.

But, did you catch what is said in verse 8? Anyone who does not love does not know God! And, why is that? Because God Is Love! We could add that to the names of God, God Is Love. Friends, as I said earlier, we are not here to judge people. I’ve mentioned in previous blogs the parable of the Great Feast. When the master told his servants to go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in, he didn’t say to clean them up first, he said to beg them to come! It’s His job to judge their hearts. We must discern false teachers, but our job as Christ followers is to love each other and glorify our Father.

So, what is our fruit as believers? Galatians 5:22 – 23, 22But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” What was the first fruit that Paul lists here? Love!

You see, the point all of this is getting at is that the only one we need to judge is ourselves. In fact, going back to Matthew 7 where Christ is saying not to judge others, He says in verse 2, “For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” Let’s start inspecting our own fruit. Let’s look at our own lives and ask ourselves; is there love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in my life? If I’m being honest with you, and with myself, I fall short in many of these areas. If we all inspect our own fruit and start changing our own lives, then the world will see our lives and glorify our Father in Heaven. Earnest Humphries, the pastor I grew up under, used to say, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people ever open.” So, inspect your fruit, and let your light shine!

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