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FEARING THE CHASTISEMENT OF JESUS
THYATIRA: Secret Sins are Costly
Something was going on in Thyatira.
Jesus shows up with blazing eyes and brazen feet.
He walks around the homes of His children who are part of His family – the church looking back and forth, breathing warnings of coming judgment and potential loss.
What was it? Why would the Savior show up as a Judge, declaring such strong warning and meting out such painful disciplines as sickness and death to His own children?
The problem was and always is – sin.
Jesus asks for and expects holy living.
Grace teaches and leads us to holy living.
The church is nourished and sustained by the Lord to be a spotless and chaste virgin bride.
How had they gotten in such trouble?
To find out — turn back with me to the 6th Book of the Bible – Joshua 6.
One of the climactic moments in history is the Battle of Jericho.
The impregnable fortress of the Canaanites fell to the consecrated, renewed, and obedient children of Israel by their obedience to God.
Joshua 3 reports that they crossed the Jordan, supernaturally divided by God, upon dry land.
Joshua 4 reports they make a reminder that God keeps His Word.
Joshua 5 records that they renew their consecration to God by circumcision.
Joshua 6 reports the great victory over Jericho.
Joshua 7 reports the terrible defeat at Ai.
What is the lesson of Joshua 7?
- Sin invites DEFEAT (v. 1-5) James 4:4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
- Sin invites DISCOURAGEMENT (v. 6-9) Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.
- Sin invites DISCOVERY (v. 10-18) Revelation 2:23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
- Sin invites DESTRUCTION (v. 19-26) Galatians 6:6-7 Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
They had a problem with sin
Of all the churches Christ Jesus wrote to – the least known is Thyatira. So if we are to understand what Jesus is warning about we first must see what He has revealed. Thyatira is only mentioned 4 times in God’s Word — once in Acts and three times in Revelation 1-2. God has given us the clue I believe in Acts 16.14. What do we know from Acts? It was from Thyatira that Lydia, the seller or purple, came. That may not seem like much until we examine what the archaeologists have uncovered in Thyatira. Listen to a summary of their findings:
From inscriptions discovered we learn that it had an extraordinary number of trade guilds. These were associations for mutual profit and pleasure of people employed in certain trades. There were guilds of workers in wool, leather, linen and bronze, makers of outer garments, dyers, potters, bakers and slave-dealers.
Here, we think, was the problem of the Church in Thyatira. To refuse to join one of these guilds would be much the same as to refuse to join a trade union today. It would mean to give up all prospect of commercial existence. Why should a Christian not join one of these guilds? They held common meals. These would very often be held in a temple and even if not, they would begin and end with a formal sacrifice to the gods, and the meat eaten would be meat which had already been offered to idols. Further, it often happened that these communal meals were occasions of drunken revelry and slack morality. Was it possible for a Christian to be part of such occasions?
Here was the problem at Thyatira; the threat came from inside the Church. There was a strong movement, led by the woman addressed as Jezebel, which pled for compromise with the world’s standards in the interests of business and commercial prosperity, maintaining, no doubt, that the Holy Spirit could preserve them from any harm. The answer of the Risen Christ is unequivocal. With such things the Christian must have nothing to do.
One of the great problems of the Christian Church was that of meat offered to idols and it was one which met the Christian every day. When a man made a sacrifice in a Greek temple, very little of the meat was burned on the altar. Sometimes all that was actually burned was a few hairs cut from the forehead of the animal. The priests received a share of the meat of the animal as their perquisite; and the worshipper received the rest. With it he did one of two things. He might hold a feast of his friends within the temple precincts. A common form of invitation to a festal meal ran: “I invite you to dine with me at the table of our Lord Serapis.” Or he might take the meat home and hold a feast in his own house. Here was the Christian problem. Could a Christian, in a temple or anywhere else, eat meat which had been consecrated to idols? Paul discusses this very problem in 1 Corinthians 8–10.
The problem was complicated by the fact that even the meat in butchers’ shops might well have been offered to idols previously. The priests in the temples could not possibly consume all the meat which fell to them and therefore, sold much of their share to the butchers’ shops. Such meat was the best meat. What was a Christian going to do about that? The Church had no doubt as to where a Christian’s duty lay. Abstention from things offered to idols was one of the conditions on which the Gentiles received the right of entry into the Christian Church (Acts 15:29).
The prohibition of meat offered to idols had one far-reaching consequence. It came near to cutting off a Christian from all social fellowship with non-Christians; there were few social occasions, and almost no banquets, which he could share with the heathen world. This had another consequence which, as we have already said, we think was at the back of the situation in Thyatira. It meant that the Christian could not join any trade guild for all the guilds had a common meal as a central part of their practice which might well be held in a heathen temple and would largely consist of meat offered to idols. His abstention from guild membership was equivalent to commercial suicide.
Here is where Jezebel came in. She urged upon the Christians that there was no need to cut themselves off from society or abstain from the guilds. When she did so, she was not proceeding on grounds of principle but was simply trying to protect her business interests. Jezebel is to be counted amongst those to whom the claims of commercial success speak more loudly than the claims of Christ.
They had lowered Christ’s Standards
Thyatira was renowned for it’s’ trade guilds. Much like our unions today. They set prices for labor and sales areas and so on: Potters, dyers, tanners, bakers, metal workers, textile makers, bronze smiths, slave dealers, leather workers and the rest had their guilds in this town. Let’s note three things.
- Trade guilds were compulsory. To be employed in a trade was only via the guild. It was a closed shop.
- Every guild in Thyatira had a patron God or Goddess. Thus, every guild function began with paying homage to that deity by offering–this was the obligatory opening to all meetings which were required to be an artisan/craftsman. Business followed and then the customary banquets known for their sexual freedom. The cost for the Christian was unmistakable. Ramsay the famed 19th century archaeologist, writes: “revelry, license and intoxication marked these pagan religious societies (trade guilds) lounging on dining couches, surrounded by troupes of dancing, singing and slaves…would be fatal to all self-restraining spirits”. In short, a guild was no place for Christians quitting the union was economic suicide.
They needed to See Jesus
The letter opens with a description of the Risen Christ which has a threat in it. His eyes are like a flame of fire and his feet like burnished bronze. The description is taken from that of the angelic messenger in Daniel 10:6: “His face was like the appearance of lightning, and his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze.”
- The flaming eyes must stand for two things, blazing anger against sin and the awful penetration of that gaze which strips the disguises away and sees into a man’s inmost heart.
- The brazen feet must stand for the immovable power of the Risen Christ. A message which begins like that will certainly be no soothing tranquillizer.
They needed to HATE SIN
2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
SECRET SINS DESTROY USEFULNESS: 2 Timothy 2:20-21 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
SECRET SINS MUST BE FLED: 2 Timothy 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
SECRET SINS MUST BE RENOUNCED: 2 Corinthians 4:2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (NIV)
SECRET SINS MUST BE PURGED: 2 Corinthians 7:1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
SECRET SINS MUST BE EXPOSED: Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
SECRET SINS INVITE GOD’S DISPLEASURE: James 4:4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Jonathan Edwards, one of the great preachers of early American history, once made this resolution: “Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.”
 Barclay, William, Daily Study Bible Series: The Revelation of John – Volume 1 Chapters 1-5 (Revised Edition), (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press) 2000, c1976.