Week - 6 "When Tolerance is No Longer a Virtue" Part 2 Revelation 2:18-29
Updated: Dec 15, 2021
Authored by Jerry Marshall
The letters from the exalted Lord to the church of Pergamum and the church in Thyatira, serve to remind the church of our day that there is a real and continuous danger of assimilating the beliefs and practices of our culture into the church. This would in turn, greatly harm the doctrinal and moral purity of the body of Christ. The vehicle for the intrusion of this pollution is a mindset of tolerance over Biblical discernment.
In the previous class time, I mentioned that a new concept of tolerance is being used in our day against those churches and denominations that adhere to Biblical truth and Biblical standards of right and wrong.
For example, several years ago, the Southern Baptist Convention drew a whole lot of criticism and a strong accusation of being intolerant because they essentially challenged the members of their convention to share and demonstrate the love of Christ in certain cities such as Chicago, by participating in some social projects and evangelism.
The S.B.C. simply confirmed the Great Commission and challenged its members to fulfill this significant mandate of the Lord.
In preparation, the S.B.C. printed three prayer guides educating and encouraging members on how to pray for Hindus, Muslims and Jews.
They were accused of proselytizing (used as a term of derision in order to vilify those who evangelize), especially by Jewish leaders, who stated in a formal letter to the press that, “The Jewish community is deeply offended that the S.B.C. has formally embraced a strategy that attempts to deceive Jews into believing that one can be both a Jew and a Christian.”
Congressman Jim McDermott (D) sent a letter to all members of the House, criticizing the prayer guide as “an aggressive, intolerant approach to evangelism.” He and six other congressmen sent a letter to the S.B.C., reproving them for the Chicago plan of evangelism –with frequent use of the term intolerant.
It’s important that we understand that our moral relativistic and pluralistic culture has given a new definition to the word tolerance. It is on the basis of this new understanding of this word that they measure some as being intolerant.
According to the Webster’s dictionary, tolerance is to recognize and respect others’ beliefs and practices without sharing them. This understanding of tolerance is based upon mutual respect without compromising one’s beliefs and core values.
In the classic understanding of tolerance, you willingly respect others and their right to hold beliefs, values and priorities different then your own, without being required to accept and celebrate them; nor are they required to accept and celebrate yours in order to be considered tolerant.
But the new understanding of tolerance has led to a new ethic which requires the approval and endorsement of all truth claims, lifestyles and beliefs. You must acquiesce to this new tolerance in order to avoid being labeled “agents of intolerance.”
Thomas Helmbrook’s definition of this new tolerance is that “every individual’s beliefs, values, lifestyle and perception of truth are equal, and all truth is relative.” (Difference from person to person).
Our culture has made this new tolerance and unimpeachable virtue.
But a major lesson that emerges from the text that we will study today is that the Lord of the church will not tolerate in His church those practices and beliefs that pollute the body of Christ doctrinally and morally. What a culture may celebrate and accept is often DESTABLE to our Holy Lord. The Letter to the church in Thyatira can be divided into five parts.
I. His Compliment of this Church (2:18-19)
This is the longest of the seven letters but is written to the smallest of the seven cities. This was the home of Lydia, the seller of purple fabrics whose conversion is recorded in Acts 16:11-15.
This city was known for its manufacturing of purple dye which became the color which was symbolic of royalty. This city was located about 40 miles southwest of Pergamum in fertile valley area thus, it as an area noted for its abundant crops.
A. From the Exalted Lord
The words of this letter come from the Son of God. This is the only time that this title of our risen and exalted Lord is used in this book. It is a title that captures the deity of Christ as well as His equality with the Father.
Once again, our Lord references that aspect of the vision given to John in chapter one that best correlates to the particular issues in that church that the Lord of the church is addressing. These are words of the Son of God; whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are burnished bronze.
This self-description of the Lord calls our attention back to the vision of the Lord recorded in Revelation 1:12-15.
Eyes are like blazing fire; this refers to his laser-like omniscient vision of the Lord from which nothing can be hidden from Him in terms of what goes on in the church.
A church may appear to be flourishing and successful as the world measures success and building ever larger facilities. But, if there is a corrupting and sinful influence in the heart of that church, it will not escape the penetrating eyes of the Lord of the church.
“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and lay bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
The Lord’s feet are like burnished bronze. Burnished bronze would be a reference to highly polished bronze that is glowing with its brilliance. Now there have been all kinds of suggestions offered by Biblical scholars about what this might symbolize. I believe that the best understanding of it is a reference to the glory of the ascended Lord emanating from His feet. It is a symbol of His present glorified state.
Those feet that at one time were covered in the dust and dirt of roads He traveled in Israel. Those feet were once anointed with an alabaster flask of fragrant oil and washed by the tears of a repenting sinful woman who wiped them dry with her hair. Those feet that were pierced through with nails at the time of His crucifixion are now reflecting the brilliance of His ascended and exalted state.
B. From the Omniscient Lord
This all-seeing Lord is also the all-knowing Lord.
18.“I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.”
Oida, the word that is translated “know,” essentially means to perceive with the eyes and it refers to a knowledge, insight and perception that is acquired by observation. The omniscient Lord is well aware of their righteous deeds which he divides into four categories:
- Their Love, unlike the church in Ephesus.
-Their Faith best understood as a reference to their faithfulness.
Love and faith seem to be speaking of the motive for their deeds; and service and perseverance speak of the fruit of their motive.
-Their Service they ministered to the needs of others.
-Their perseverance (Hupomone), which refers to steadfast endurance, especially when your principles are under attack or when your loyalty to the Lord is tested by trials and sufferings.
And the interesting thing is that this church was progressing and advancing in these righteous virtues ever since its beginnings about forty years ago.
And yet there was a fatal flaw in this church. Perhaps their growing love crossed the line from genuine love to misguided sentimentality which leads to the next segment of this letter.
II. His Condemnation of this Church (2:20-23)
The word tolerate in the original language of the Bible means to allow one to do as they wish without restraint or restriction; to lack the will to reign in. It shows that the corruption of this church was not from external persecution, but internal compromise. It’s not from a pagan deity, but from a false prophet.
The name Jezebel is used as a symbolic name for a prominent woman in the church of Thyatira who called herself a prophetess. She is a self-proclaimed prophetess that is in contrast to those women in the O.T. and New Testament, who were true prophetess called and commissioned by God. She lacked such a calling, but she bore the title.
The Jezebel of the O.T. was the Phoenician wife of King Ahab who was one of the most vile and sinful kings of the Northern Kingdom. She was the driving dynamic behind the horrible and evil things done by her husband as well as the one who introduced Baal worship into the Northern Kingdom. She was also the deadly enemy of the prophet Elijah.
The Jezebel mentioned here, like her prototype, introduced destructive heresy and sexual immorality into the church of Thyatira, corrupting the people of God morally and doctrinally by promoting the notion that the pagan doctrines and practices of that culture were compatible with Biblical faith.
Louis Brighton, in his commentary of Revelation said of her:
“Jezebel stands for and represents the sin of syncretism, a universalistic belief all religions are equal value and are able to be of benefit before God.”
A. Her Perversion (2:20)
By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrifice to idols.
It was tolerated by the leaders of this church to allow this woman to function in the teaching office of the church which is prohibited by the Word of God; an office that is to be occupied by the elders as those who are to communicate the faith to the believers as well as to protect them from false teaching.
1 Timothy 2:11-14
11.“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who as deceived and became a sinner.”
Through the vehicle of her teaching, she misled ([planao -to cause to stay, to lead astray from the right way), the servants of the Lord into sexual immorality and the eating of foods sacrificed to idols.
Obviously, the content of her false doctrine promoted the idea that such pagan practices such as sexual immorality, as a form of worship, and eating foods sacrificed to idols, (a prohibition instituted by the first church counsel in the city of Jerusalem – Acts 15), was compatible and acceptable with Biblical Christianity, and should be celebrated in the church.
Although that sort of thing was accepted and practiced by the culture in that city it was nefarious to the Lord of the church and revolting to Him when found in His church.
B. Her Punishment (2:21-23)
The Lord had graciously provided time for this woman to repent of her immorality – but she was not willing; she lacked the disposition to change her mind or her conduct. So, the gracious provision of the Lord for an opportunity to repent had come to an end. Judgment was now at hand.
22 “I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.” (NIV)
The idea here is that she will be punished in the same place she sinned, in the bed. It is a bed of suffering or of sickness.
Such a description of this bed is not found in the original. It has come about by the conjecture of the translators. But it is a reasonable one since sickness and even death have been used by the Lord to purify His church in terms of their beliefs and practices (Acts 5; 1 Corinthians 11:29-30).
Casting her down to a bed of suffering is referring to a debilitating illness that leaves someone confined to their bed.
(23) The false prophetess would not be the only one whom the Lord would punish so severely – her followers who committed immorality with her would also suffer great tribulation. This could be a sickness that is the product of the sexual immorality that was exercised in pagan worship of their false gods. The immorality mentioned here is probably spiritual and actual.
The children mentioned here are not references to this woman’s biological children but rather her spiritual children. As a result of this severe judgment, all the churches would know that the powerful and penetrating omniscient reach of the Lord, is able to search the innermost being of people knowing fully their motives and the fruit of their motives and judging each individual in accordance with their deeds.
Everyone in the church would know that what may be tolerated in the society at large is not to be tolerated in the church of the living Lord.
III. His Command to This Church (2:24-25)
Still in this church, there were those who remained faithful to the Lord and had not succumbed to Jezebel and her false teaching. The command that the Lord gives to these who have not bought into the teaching of this Jezebel of Thyatira is to hold fast, or hold on to what you have, and keep holding on until the Second Coming of Christ. This is the first mention in Revelation of the Lord’s coming for the church.
The church in Smyrna faced hostility from the synagogue of Satan – that is from unbelieving Jews. The Pergamum church existed at the site of Satan’s throne (2:13), which is a reference to the cult of emperor worship; and the church in Thyatira had to contend with the promotions of the “deep things of Satan.” No doubt this is a sarcastic reference to the primary premises of the particular teaching of the Jezebel of Thyatira.
I say that because I don’t believe she would have gotten much of a hearing from professing believers in the church if she labeled what she taught as the “deep things of Satan.”
Whatever the content of those so-called deep secrets there was one thing we know for sure, is the fruit of this teaching which resulted in professing believers compromising with the culture of their time, engaging in sexual immorality and eating meat sacrificed to idols thinking that such activity was compatible with the Christian morals.
Jezebel of Thyatira may have labeled her teaching the deep secrets of God – but the exalted Lord called what she taught, the deep secrets of Satan.
IV. His Commitment to the Overcomers (2:26-29)
A. Participation in Millennial Rule (2:26-27)
The believers in Thyatira are promised authority over the nations. This probably refers to the fact that God’s people will live and reign with Christ (see Revelation 20:4). When the Lord sets up His kingdom on earth, it will be a righteous kingdom with perfect justice. He will rule with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:8–9). Rebellious men will be like clay pots, easily broken to pieces!
B. Possession of the Morning Star (2:28)
1Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Re 2:18
Some see this promise as a gift of Christ Himself since He is referred to as the bright morning star later in this book.
16.“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
This may be a reference to the Second Coming of Christ as the primary means of providing escape from this fallen palace.
V. His Counsel to the Churches (2:29)
The letter to Thyatira closes with the familiar exhortation to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Unlike the earlier letters, this exhortation follows rather than precedes the promise to overcomers, and this order is followed in the letters to the last three churches.
1. The severity of the judgment of the Lord on this false prophetess and her spiritual children serves as a testimony of the passion of the Lord for the doctrinal purity and the righteous conduct of the church.
2. Those who seek to teach in the church must understand the heavy accountability that comes with such a great privilege.
“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
2 Timothy 2:15
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
3. The Lord’s judgment is not limited to the false teacher. Those who would follow such teaching are held accountable by Him and subject to His judgment.
2Walvoord, John F.; Zuck, Roy B.; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 2:938
“Tolerance” must never be valued over truth.