Sermon: Thyatira – Growing in Love, But Inappropriately Tolerant: Revelation 2:18–29

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 2

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’ I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2, ESV).

New Testament Reading: 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 according to your works. 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’” (Revelation 2:18–29, ESV).


Thyatira was probably the least significant of the seven cities mentioned in chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation. It was neither politically nor religiously significant, but there were powerful trade guilds in that city, which is a fact that will become important as we progress though this letter.

Though Thyatira was the least significant city, the letter to the church in Thyatira is the longest. It is letter number 4 of 7. It is therefore at the point of the chiasm that I mentioned many weeks ago. Do you remember that? The letters to the seven churches form a chiasm, meaning that there is a literary structure to the letters to the seven churches. Each of the letters relate to one another in such a way that, if diagramed, they cross or come to a point. Churches 1 and 7 correspond to each other. These churches are in the worst shape. Christ threatens to remove them as churches. He threatens to remove their lampstand or to vomit them out of his mouth. Churches 2 and 6 correspond. They are sound. To them Christ has nothing negative to say. And churches 3, 4, and 5 are similar. These churches are mixed, being strong in some respects but compromised in others. Christ commends and rebukes these churches. Notice that the letter to Thyatira is positioned at the point of this chiasm – it holds the central place.

Chiasms are used in literature in order to make a point (pun intended). The churches that are doing the worst are emphasized in the structure being given positions 1 and 7. The churches that are doing the best are minimized, being tucked away in positions 2 and 6. And the mixed churches are placed at the heart of the thing, perhaps indicating that their experience and condition is most typical. Churches tend to be mixed – strong in some respects and weak in others. Perhaps Thyatira is most typical. They dwell in a typical city and their struggle is typical.

Notice three things that pertain to this: One, this is the longest of the seven letters. Two, notice that Thyatira is explicitly held up as an example to “all the churches”. In verse 23 we are told that if those who are rebuked do not repent Christ will judge them and “all the churches will know that [Christ is] he who searches mind and heart, and… [gives] to each… according to [their] works. Three, notice that it also here in the letter to Thyatira that encounter a change in the pattern that we have grown accustom to. The first three letters were concluded with, first of all, the words, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:17a, ESV),  followed by a promise of blessing to the one who overcomes. But in the letter to Thyatira that order is reversed. Here we have the blessing followed by the exhortation, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:29, ESV). A couple of months ago one of you asked me about the reason for the change in order. I gave a decent answer then saying, “I’m not sure, but it seems to have something to do with the literary structure or for the sake of variety.” I’m convinced now that the change in order is a marker to help us see that we have come to the point of the chiasm and are now about to descend the backside of it, looking now at the churches that correspond to those already mentioned.

I hope this is interesting to you. It is to me. But the point of it all seems to be that churches 3-5 are most typical. It is unusual for a church to be on the verge of loosing it’s status as a church in the eyes of God. Most are not that far gone. Others have already gone so far that they have lost the right to be called a church by Christ. Few are in the position of being on the verge. And it is unusual for a church to be above the reproach of Christ. Certainly, there is no such thing as a pure church – we all sin – we all stumble. But it would seem that there are some churches who, when Christ the Judge inspects them, he finds nothing worthy of rebuke. They are basically whole and sound. Sound in doctrine, faithful in their witness, loving towards one another, and striving against sin. These churches are somewhat unusual. But it is typical, I think, for churches to be both strong and weak. Christ commends them for their strengths and rebukes them for their weaknesses. Thyatira was one of these.

Where Was Thyatira Strong? They Were Growing in Love.

The strength of Thyatira was found in their enduring and increasing love. In verse 19 Christ says, “I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first” (Revelation 2:19, ESV). The Thyatira church knew how to love. They loved one another, and they demonstrated the love of Christ to the world. This they did through their works. They served of one another, being moved to do so by their faith in Christ. They endured in this patiently. And they were found to be increasing in it! Their “latter works exceed the first.”

Can you see that the church at Thyatira was strong where the church in Ephesus was weak? Ephesus had “abandoned the love [they] had at first” (Revelation 2:4, ESV) and were warned  to “do the works [they] did at first. If not, [Christ would] come to [them] and remove [their] lampstand from its place, unless [they] repent” (Revelation 2:5, ESV). Thyatira was strong where Ephesus was weak. They loved. And they demonstrated their love consistently by their works of service. They were even increasing in their love – their “latter works exceed the first.” May it be said of us, brothers and sisters.

But not all was well in Thyatira. They knew how to love – for that they were commended – but they were also naive; undiscerning; inappropriately tolerant. There is a time and place for tolerance. There is a good and true kind of tolerance. But the Thyatirans were tolerant in a bad way. They tolerated things within the church that should not be tolerated within the church. In verse 20 Christ spoke to them saying, “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” (Revelation 2:20, ESV).This, they should not have tolerated.

The situation is similar to the one in Pergamum. There it was the teaching of the Nicolaitans and the sexually immoral and idolatrous lifestyle that flowed from it that was tolerated. Here it is the teaching of a woman called “Jezebel”. That was not really her name, mind you. Christ is again using a well know figure from the Old Testament to signify something about the churches current situation.  This woman, whatever her name was, was to the church in Thyatira a modern reincarnation (excuse the term – you know what I mean) of that woman Jezebel, who is described to us in 1 Kings chapters 16-25.

I cannot take the time to read the Old Testament account of her. To summarize, she was the Queen of Israel in Israel’s darkest days. She was the wife of Ahab and daughter of the Sidonian (Phoenician) king Ethbaal. And she was notorious for waring against the true prophets of Yahweh, and her promotion of idol worship. Israel had been compromised by wicked leadership and had been lead away from the worship of the one true God into idolatry. Jezebel had a lot to do with that.

The message that Christ was sending to the Thyatiran church was clear: that is happening in your midst. You, the Israel of God, have allowed “Jezebel” to creep in. She is spreading her teaching and leading some into immorality and idolatry. Shame on you for tolerating it! Don’t you remember what happened to Israel, how they were carried away into captivity never to return (Judah would be carried into captivity later and would return – but to Israel, the northern kingdom, no such mercy was shown). Repent before the same happens to you, church of the living God. That was his message.

So what was this woman “Jezebel”, who called herself a prophetess, teaching? We are not told, but we know the result of it. Some within the church were being led astray into sexual immorality and idolatry. Sexual immorality is the improper uses of our sexuality for anything other than the sexual union that is to be enjoyed within the confines of the marriage bond. Idolatry is the act of giving worship to someone or something other than the Triune God. Whatever “Jezebel” was teaching, this was the result.

And it is possible, I think, to reconstruct the essence of her teaching given what we are told here in this text and also given what we know about the city of Thyatira. The city was not terribly significant politically or religiously, but it was filled with powerful trade guilds. Do you remember the woman named Lidia mentioned in Acts 16 who was “from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14, ESV)? Lidia was involved in trade, as many were in Thyatira. And things worked then as they do now. Do you want to succeed in trade? Then you need to know the right people, go to the right events, and play the social game. In the Roman culture that involved going to feasts and festivals hosted by the trade guilds, worshiping the Roman gods, and conforming to the Roman culture. There is a reason why the phrase “when in Rome do as the Romans do” has staying power. It is safe to assume that, whatever “Jezebel” was teaching it had to with justifying compromise in regard to one’s devotion to Christ. She peddled some form of antinomianism (lawlessness). Perhaps she reasoned that what you do in the flesh doesn’t really matter – it is the spiritual that matters. This was a false teaching prominent in the days of the early church and it remains to this day. Who cares what you do in the flesh, so long as you are spiritual, is the thought. Away with laws. Forget the rules and regulations. Let’s just connect to Jesus spiritually, and so it goes. And so you can imaging “Christians” going to the festivals and participating in the immorality there, bowing the knee to Roman god’s and enjoying the riches of the world that their compromise had made possible. All of it was justified by the false teaching of “Jezebel”, who called herself a prophetess. Her claim was that she possessed deep and secret knowledge not available to all. But what does Christ call it? He calls it for what it is. According to him she was peddling, not the deep things of God, but “the deep things of Satan” (Revelation 2:24, ESV).

Please take note of the pattern established in these letters. The churches are attacked and assaulted in a variety of ways, but who is behind it all? Satan. In Smyrna the Christians were being persecuted by the Jewish population; Christ called them, the “synagogue of Satan”. In Pergamum the Christians were persecuted by the Romans; Christ said, “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is” (Revelation 2:13, ESV). Here in Thyatira it is the teaching of “Jezebel” that threatens the church. The deep and secret mysteries that she utters are not of Christ, but are of Satan. This pattern is important to notice for we are already being exposed to the central message of the book of Revelation. The book reveals something of the cosmic and spiritual battle that rages between God, his Christ, and his people, on the one side, and the evil one, his emissaries, and people on the other. This cosmic and spiritual battle, though essentially invisible, manifests or shows itself in the happenings of human history. The dragon uses the beast, the false prophet, and the harlot to war against the God, his Christ, and his people. These three figures – the beast, the false prophet, and the harlot – will emerge as the drama unfolds in the book of Revelation. They represent persecuting political powers, false teachers, and the seduction of the world. Together they make up a kind of false trinity. And do you see that these powers, which will later be symbolized by these three figures, were already active among the seven churches to whom the book of Revelation was addressed. In other words, the beast, the false prophet, and the harlot are not figures that will arise in the future, but rather they represent powers and forces that have always been and will always be, until they are finally judged by Christ and thrown into the lake of fire along with the devil who inspires and empowers them. These churches, though they existed long ago, were already encountering local and specific manifestations of the beast, the false prophet, and the harlot. They were being persecuted by political powers – that is what the beast does. They were being threatened by false teaching – that is what the false prophet does. And they were being seduced to practice immorality – that it is what the harlot does. Do you see, then, how the letters to the seven churches correspond to the drama that will unfold later in the book of Revelation. A picture will painted from chapter 4 onward concerning how things will go for the people of God between Christ’s first and second coming – the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3 were already seeing specific manifestations of it in their, day just as you and I see specific manifestations of it in our day.

And you do see specific manifestations of the activity of the beast, the false prophet, and the harlot, don’t you? You do know that persecution of Christians goes on all around the world, don’t you? You do understand that false teachings are all around us? And you do understand the seductiveness of the world, don’t you? I pray that you can see it for what it is. I pray that you are able to identify it and see it’s power to keep the hearts of men and women from God and from his Christ. I hope that you are able to recognize how it is that the Satan uses these three to war against Christ and his church. Recognize it, friends, and prepare yourselves for battle.

All three were at work in Thyatira. False teaching, seduction towards immorality and idolatry, and pressure in the political realm, especially associated with economic sanctions.

Where Was Thyatira Weak? They Were Inappropriately Tolerant.

The problem with the church in Thyatira is that they were too tolerant.  Verse 20: “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” (Revelation 2:20, ESV). They were loving, yes. And that is very good. But they were naive, undiscerning, and inappropriately tolerant.

Tolerance is a buzz word today, isn’t it? Our society expects everyone to be tolerant. The word means to “show a willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.” There is a place for tolerance, friends, if this is what we mean by it. It is good for us not to mistreat others because they think differently that we think, and believe differently than we believe, and act differently than we act.

But notice a few things about tolerance: One, there are some behaviors that we do not tolerate even in society. It would be wrong for our society to tolerate murder, for example. Can you imagine saying to a murderer, well you just think and behave differently that I do, I suppose I must tolerate your opinion and your way. This would be absurd. All intuitively understand this (which I think is an evidence for an absolute and unchanging moral law, and the existence of a moral Law Giver, namely, God). Tolerance has it’s limitations, then. And what we tolerate differs depending upon our position and the situation we find ourselves in. Your kid might be out of control (I don’t have anyone in mind, I promise), but it is right for me to tolerate it, to a certain degree, whereas it would be wrong for you as the parent. Out in the public we might tolerate things that people think, say, and do that we would not tolerate in our home.

Here I am simply trying to make the point that tolerance, though very good when rightly applied, can also be very bad when wrongly applied. Christ’s critique of the Thyatiran church is that they were too tolerant. They had allowed certain teachings, beliefs, and behaviors to creep into the church that had no business being there.

Christians must be both wonderfully tolerant and dogmatically intolerant all at once. It is your position and the setting or situation that determines the appropriate response.

Treat your your neighbor who is a foul mouthed, fornicating, drunkard, well. You do not have authority over the man. You have no reason or grounds to attempt to hold him accountable. He needs the gospel, yes. He needs to hear God’s law and be told that he stand under God’s authority and will one day be judged by him. And this you would say to him if the Lord were to give the opportunity. But it would be inappropriate and, frankly, kind of strange, if you, as a Christian, try to, somehow, discipline or punish a man like this, expecting him to think as you think, and behave as you behave. He is in the world, living according to the way of the world. You’ll have to tolerate him.

But what if this man claimed to be a Christian? What if he were a member of your church? Should you tolerate his behavior then? No! It would wrong for you to tolerate him then. You would be in sin if you failed to rebuke him if that were the situation. The man names the name of Christ. He eats the supper with you each Lord’s Day. Here is the time for dogmatic intolerance.

Christ was calling Thyatira to do, what we call, church discipline. They were wrong to put up with “Jezebel” and her followers. They were wrong to tolerate the false teaching and the immorality in their midst. The church in Thyatira was weak where the Ephesians were strong, for the Ephesians were commended for the fact that they, “tested those who [called] themselves apostles and [were] not, and found them to be false” (Revelation 2:2, ESV). They were congratulated by Christ for the fact that they “[hated] the works of the Nicolaitans, which [Christ] also [hated]” (Revelation 2:6, ESV). It is at this point where the Thyatirans fell short.

Notice how, just like in the letter to Pergamum, Christ says to the Thyatirans, if you wont do it, I will! In verse 21 Christ says,

“I gave [Jezebel] 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 according to your works” (Revelation 2:21–23, ESV).

The language is strong, isn’t it? Christ vowed to come in judgment against this “Jezebel” and her “children”, which I take as a reference to all who have followed after her. By the way, I think this is meant to contrast with the way that John refers to the church 2 John 1, referring to her as “the elect lady and her children”, but I digress. The point is that if the church would not do the discipline – stop tolerating the false doctrine and the delinquent living – Christ himself would come in judgment and, to borrow the language from the letter to Pergamum, “war against them with the sword of [his] mouth” (Revelation 2:16, ESV).

This reminds me of Paul’s warning concerning partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy or improper manner. In 1 Corinthians 11:27 he says,

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:27–32, ESV).

It is better that we judge ourselves, friends. Otherwise the Lord himself will judge us.

It is important that we never tolerate false teaching nor immorality nor idolatry within Christ’s church. Expect in the world, but never in Christ’s church. We must be willing to put it out. But we must also be careful to do so according to the way of Christ.

Something can be observed concerning the way of Christ here in Revelation 2:22. Concerning this “Jezabel” character he says, “I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality” (Revelation 2:21, ESV).

Ordinarily when there is false teaching or immorality present with the church it should be confronted in such a way that time is given for repentance. Repentance and restoration is the goal of church discipline. The goal is not ultimately to punish, but to lead one to repentance. This usually takes time.

Christ himself has provided a pattern for us to follow when doing church discipline. Matthew 18:15-20 says,

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:15–20, ESV).

Notice a few things:

One, notice the motivation behind, what we call, church discipline. It is love for our brothers and sisters in Christ that compels us to do this difficult, tiresome, and sometimes discouraging work. Love.

Two, notice the goal. It is to bring the brother or sister who is in error to repentance. “If he listens to you, you have gained your brother”, the text says. Repentance is the goal, not punishment.

Three, notice the progression. There are typically four steps to the process of discipline. I say typically because situations do sometimes arise within the church that require an expedited process. I believe that 1 Corinthians 5 provides biblical warrant for this notion. The process can and should be expedited when the sin is particularly heinous, public, and threatening to the church of God. But typically there are four stages to church discipline.

Has a brother sinned against you? Then the first step is for you to go to him and tell him his fault. Don’t go to pastor first. Go to the one who has offended you. If you come to me to complain about someone else the first question I will ask you is, have you gone to them? If you been sinned against; if you have been wronged or offended by someone in the church – you have the responsibility to make it known to the offender. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Truth be told, sometime people don’t even realize that they have offended someone.

But what if they do not listen? Then you are to, secondly, bring another with you. Why? So that the “charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” Do you hear the legal language here? We now have a “charge” and “witnesses”. It is important that others look in upon the matter. Maybe you are wrong. Maybe you don’t have a reason to be offended. Maybe the brother has not sinned. But if the other is wrong – if they have indeed sinned, or fallen into some pattern of sin – it is only proper that it be confirmed by multiple witnesses. More than that, it is good for the sinning brother to hear more than one voice calling them to repent.

And what if they will not listen to the two or three? Then, thirdly, the matter is to be told to the church. The orderly way to do this would involve bringing the mater before the elders who have been entrusted with the responsibility to oversee and to lead the church. They should then investigate the matter and prepare to bring it before the members of the church.

The elders must be involved – their authority cannot be circumvented – but it is important to recognize that the elders are not the church. The third step in church discipline involves bringing the matter before the church, that is, all of the members of the congregation. That is what the text says. In other words, the elders do not have the authority to take church discipline to it’s final stage on their own, independent from the congregation, in a back room somewhere. The matter is to be brought before the church. And what is the purpose behind telling the matter to the church? It is still, even in this third stage of discipline, for the purpose of calling the brother or sister to repent – to confess their sin with a broken and contrite heart, to turn from their sin, and to begin walking according to the will of God again.

And what if they will not listen to the church? The forth step (God forbid we ever have to go this far) is to “let him be to [us] as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17, ESV). In other words, we are to put the unrepentant sinner out the church and view him as a non-believer if he does not respond to this third call to repent from the body of Christ at large. Paul puts it another when he says to the Corinthians, “you are to deliver this man [this unrepentant sinner who claims to be a Christian] to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:5, ESV). He was in the church, identifying himself with the kingdom of God – he is to be put out of the church, and delivered over to Satan to live in his realm. And notice the end goal: it is “for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”The hope of seeing the man come to repentance is still there even after the act of excommunication.

What Paul says 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 is also helpful in trying to understand what putting a person out of the church involves. Here he says,

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate [to involve yourself in a somewhat intimate and reciprocal kind of relationship] with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one” (1 Corinthians 5:9–11, ESV).

I take this phrase, “not even to eat with such a one”, not so much as prohibition against sharing a meal with someone (though it may involve that), but an absolute prohibition against eating the Lord’s Supper with the unrepentant sinner. Though the verse might imply more than this, it certainly forbids us from sharing communion with the one who is found to be unrepentant.

Another way to put it is to say that the forth and final step in church discipline is excommunication. It involves putting the rebellious one out of the church, considering him to be like a Gentile and a tax collector, handing him over to Satan for the destruction of the fleshing, not associating with such a one, and not eating with them, especially the Lord’s Supper, which symbolizes our union with Christ and with one another.

This is very different than the shunning practiced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is not shunning. You may talk with the one who has been excommunicated. You may continue to relate to him at work, if you work with him. You might sit down for coffee with them (and even share a bagel, who knows). It may be that you are married to the one under discipline, and therefore you must fulfill your marital obligations with him or her (assuming that the matter that lead to discipling does not involve the sin of infidelity – that would obviously effect the marriage). The excommunication, you see, pertains to the church, and not the family. The end stage of discipline does not forbid any and all contact with the individual- it does not require that we shun the person. Instead it means that the way we view and relate to the individual is to change. If you enjoyed sweet Christian fellowship with the man before, that is no longer. If you meet for coffee it should not be to shoot the breeze with the man as if all was well, but to again exhort the man to return to Christ before it is too late. The question conferring the obligations of a husband or wife to a spouse who has been excommunicate is the most complex, but I do not have time to say more.

Things can get rather complex, I will admit it. But do you see the wisdom in the process? Do you see the patience? Do you see how time is given for repentance? How much time is not specified. It could be that these four stages happen within a few day or a few months. I suppose it depends upon the situation, doesn’t it? But what is clear is that one man does not have the authority to cast another out of the church on his own apart from the involvement the church at large. The process is to be followed, ordinarily. The authority to excommunicate, which is the most powerful and potent weapon of the church in regard to it’s quest for purity, resides with the local church. It does not reside with the individual Christian, not the pastor alone, not the denomination or Presbytery – Jesus says the power to excommunicate resides within the local church.

This is the thing that the church at Thyatira was failing to do. They were too tolerant. They put up with false teaching and immorality within the congregation, and Christ said, “this I have against you.”

This is has been long sermon, I know. But it is a very important one. Let me say a quick word about the way that Christ is introduced to this church and the way that the letter is concluded before making a few quick points of application.

What Is The Remedy? Jesus, The Son of God.

Christ is introduced as the “Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.” This is the only time in the book of Revelation that the phrase “Son of God” appears. It is, without a doubt mean to take the readers mind to Psalm 2, which we read at the beginning of this sermon. He is said to have eyes like a “flame of fire”. He sees all. You might be able to hide your sin from others, but Christ sees all. And his gaze is likened to a consuming fire. His feet are like “like burnished bronze”. This, as I have said in past sermons, I take to be an allusion to the episode in Daniel 3 where Nebuchadnezzar has Shadrach, Mechack, and Abednego thrown into the fiery furnace, why? Because the would not commit idolatry, like some in Thyatira were. And who was seen walking in the midst of the furnace with the faithful witnesses? Nebuchadnezzar’s description of the figure was that he was “like a son of the gods”.

The saints in Thyatira were tempted by the teaching of Jezebel because they feared persecution and be cause they loved the world. The remedy to fear of persecution and love of the world is to set ones eyes upon the risen Lord, who is the Son of God, who sees all and will judge all with an all consuming fire, who is known to walk with his people through the fiery trials that they endure in this world. The remedy to fear of the world and our love affair with the things of this world is to fix ones eyes upon Jesus the Christ, who is the Son of God, who will judge the world on the last day. We are to live, therefore, being mindful of where all things are headed.

In Psalm 2 the one called the Son of God is given by God the “nations [as his] heritage, and the ends of the earth [as his]  possession. “ It is said that he will “break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” This is the authority that our Lord has now (Matthew 18:18). And what is our hope? Our hope is in him. We are to endure in him and remain faithful to him, for he promised to “the one who conquers and who keeps [his] works until the end, to him [he] 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 [he himself has] received authority from [his] Father. And [he] will give [the one who conquers] the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’” (Revelation 2:26–29, ESV).

Application and Conclusion 

Here are few very quick points of application:

One, continue to love one another, and increase in it, as the Thyatirans did.

Two, love one another enough that you be willing to call another to repentance when they be found in sin.

Three, understand that while tolerance is appropriate in some settings and situation, there is such thing as bad tolerance. Do not be surprised when this church refuses to tolerate unrepentant false teaching and immorality within our midst.

Four, understand why a well defined, thoughtful, and biblical membership process is essential of the establishment and maintenance of a healthy church. There must be a way for us to know who is with us, and who is not. Otherwise the things we have discussed this morning would be impossible to implement properly and consistently.

Five, understand how important the proper observance of the Lord’s Supper is in all of this. Everything eventually comes to focus on the Supper in church discipline. It is the eating of the Supper which signifies our union with Christ and our union with one another. Non-Believers are not permitted to the table, nor are those who have professed Christ but have been found living in unrepentant sin, being unwilling to listen even to the voice of the Church calling them to repentance. They are to be excommunicated – barred from the sacred meal, which symbolizes their being severed from Christ and from the church.

Six, flee from all forms of sexual immorality and idolatry. They will lead to your destruction.

Seven, do not put up with false doctrine, knowing that doctrine – what is taught in the church, and what we come to believe – will certainly lead to a particular way of life. Doctrine and life are tightly linked.

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"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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