2021-1-31 “Don’t Tolerate That! (Redux)”

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          January 31, 2021

“Don’t Tolerate That! (Redux)”
Revelation 2:18-29

We go over the hump today with this fourth installment in our seven-part series from Revelation 2-3 entitled What the Spirit Says to the Church.  Let’s once again review what we have heard heretofore from the Lord in this series, to wit, “Recover your first love,” “Fear not; be faithful,” and, “Don’t tolerate that!”  With a slight twist, which we’ll unwind later, we hear again what we heard last week: “Don’t tolerate that!”  Let us once again today give ear to the written Word of God read and proclaimed in this text—which testifies everywhere within to the living Word, Jesus Christ.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

As in the previous three messages, so again in this message the risen, ascended, glorified Christ speaks to His people.  In Jesus’ declaration of Who He is to the church at Thyatira, we see His glory with special clarity.  We know that the Biblical words used for glory convey such things as weight, heaviness, gravitas (especially the Hebrew kabod), but today we see Jesus’ shining brilliance on full display.  He describes Himself to the church at Thyatira with eyes as flaming fire and feet as fine (or burnished) bronze.  This ends Jesus’ self-description to Thyatira.  Now let’s look at the church to which He speaks—the church at Thyatira.

Thyatira lies both southeast of Pergamum and inland from first three cities addressed in Revelation 2.  Lydia, who was the first convert to Christ in Europe (and that at Philippi, Acts 16:11 ff.), was a dealer in purple cloth from Thyatira.  This church is commendable in many ways, and Jesus omits nothing in His commendation.  He knows—and He knows both infinitely and infinitesimally—the church’s works: her love, faith, and service (Greek diakonia [diakonia]).  The church loves God, each other, and unbelievers in a sacrificial, other-centered way.  She trusts in Christ for salvation implicitly.  She also serves well, especially in service of a menial nature.  More than this, her more recent works exceed her earlier works. This appears, so far to our eyes, to be a quality church—and that it may well be, but ‘tis not perfect, and Jesus now reproves His beloved church for a serious defect.

The church—or at least some in the church—tolerates that woman Jezebel.  This woman carries the name of the wife of Ahab, an especially wicked king of Israel during the time of the divided kingdoms.  Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians to the northwest of Israel, and father and daughter both were devoted worshippers of Baal.  Baal was a Canaanite so-called god of fertility, and his worship involved idolatry, sexual misconduct, and the like.  Not only was Jezebel a devotee to this blasphemous so-called worship, but she entertained and expressed a virulent opponent of the true God, His saints, and His worship—especially in her reaction to Elijah’s victory of the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 19:1 ff.).  Hence, the temporal judgment of God fell upon her, and she died a gruesome death (2 Kings 9:30-37).  Now, with Canaanitish Jezebel thus introduced, let’s meet the Jezebel of Thyatira.

Jesus accuses, and convicts, her of teaching and seducing (Greek planao [planaw]: deceiving) God’s servants to sexual immorality (porneia [porneia]) and to food sacrificed to idols.  Hence, as in Pergamum, so in Thyatira we have wrong conduct pursuant to wrong thought.  This woman—along with her teaching and seduction—alas, is tolerated.  Thyatira errs, therefore, to more egregious degree than Pergamum, for, at Pergamum, the threat perhaps lay unknown until Jesus spoke concerning it, whereas at Thyatira the threat is known (perhaps well-known) and yet tolerated.  Even in the midst of such insufferable view and practice, Jesus yet gives space given for Jezebel to repent, yet she remains unwilling.

Hence, Jesus decrees temporal judgment, unless she repents.  He will strike Jezebel very sick—and this as a sign to Jezebel and others that this dire sickness is the direct act of God against her sin.  Moreover, those committing adultery with Jezebel shall undergo great trouble.  Even further, God will strike Jezebel’s children—that is, her proper adherents, dead.[1]  This death will be an emphatic, uncommon death—not unlike the death of Jezebel, the wife of Ahab.  All will know, in these judgments, that God both searches minds and hearts and requites according to works.  Thus ends the stern warning concerning Jezebel and her adherents.

To those ignorant of Satan’s deep secrets, who shun Jezebel’s teaching, Jesus adds no other burden.  He simply exhorts them to hold fast until He comes—which, as He declares elsewhere (Revelation 22:7), will be soon.  To the conquerors—to the ones shunning Jezebel’s thought and deeds, and to the ones repenting of same—Jesus promises two things.  First, He promises authority—authority given and directed by Jesus Himself for His holy aims.  Second, Jesus gives Himself.  Here, Jesus promises the morning star to the overcomer—but He Himself is the Morning Star (Revelation 22:16).  These are precious promises indeed—promises far greater than the comparative mess of pottage that Jezebel, incited by Satan, offers.

Remember that often when it pleases God to emphasize a thing, He repeats it.  We need emphasis upon, “Don’t tolerate that!” for Christ’s Church today—for, in too many places at too many times, it tolerates wrong doctrine and practice too easily.  We need be vigilant against such even here at our wonderful blue church on the hill.  Therefore, let us glorify God—and, secondarily, secure our highest good—by thinking and practicing that which Jesus commends in these messages—especially in today’s message.  Also, let us shun the thoughts and practices which Jesus reproves—especially in today’s message.   Let us once again, with Jesus’ first hearers of these words ca. A. D. 95, hear what the Spirit says to the churches—to the Church.  AMEN.

[1] For the equation of Jezebel’s children to her devotees, see Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871).