The Messages to the Churches – When you read Revelation chapters 2 and 3, it’s important to see there are four applications to the messages.
Each message was given to the seven churches as originally addressed. And these churches were in existence in Asia at the time of the revelation. Many other churches existed in Asia at the same time, but the churches selected were representative of the spiritual conditions which existed at that time.
The message can also be applied historically. According to history, the Church has passed through eras similar to that which is described in each of the seven churches.
These messages can be applied to current churches of today. These special messages were written to the specific churches in Asia but the same strengths and weaknesses can be found in today’s Body of Christ. (Today’s Church)
The messages can be applied to each of us on an individual basis. Look at the messages for each church during that time and ask yourself how you measure up personally today.
These messages were written by John in 95 AD when the Church of Jesus Christ was about 66 years old. The church had experienced tremendous growth despite intense persecution. Under the rule of Rome, records show over 45,000 Christians were slain by crucifixion, burned to death and thrown to wild animals. In addition, corruption was springing up in the Church. When John wrote the messages to the seven churches, many believers were afraid about the unsure future. They were afraid of being strong enough to stand up to adversities that they would be facing and if they could endure the persecution.
To these early Christians Jesus gave his end time plan through these messages.
John was told to write what he saw in a book and send that book to the 7 churches in Asia. (Rev. 1 v.11) The entire Book of Revelation which includes the special messages to those 7 churches, was sent to those churches and a blessing was pronounced upon all who would read, hear and keep the words contained in this prophecy. Jesus wanted believers to know that He knew exactly where they were. He saw their good works, faithfulness and patience in the face of persecution. He also saw the bad which included their compromise, apostasy, indifference, and lukewarmness. Apostasy He wanted them to know that despite persecution from without and corruption from within, He stood in their midst as a mighty conqueror and that through Him they too could overcome.
Christ’s purpose in sending those messages to the seven churches was to empower believers to overcome the enemy. His purpose was to rise up His people in victory, to make them strong. When we take the mask off, we see that today’s Church in its present condition is not ready for Christ’s return. That’s why Christ is again walking in the midst of His people preparing His Bride for His coming. By His Spirit, He is stirring us out of our complacency. He is revealing and reproving sin, calling us to repentance, bringing us to a new, stronger position of dedication and commitment, and releasing a fresh anointing of His Spirit upon us.
As Jesus walks in our midst, He knows our individual and corporate strengths and weaknesses. His message to us today is the same as it was to the seven churches in Asia. “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
As we study the messages given to each of these churches, open your spirit to hear what the Spirit of God is saying to you. Ask God to reveal any problems that need to be dealt within your life. Yield yourself fully to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to purge anything from your life that is displeasing to Him.
2:1-3 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks” “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:” “And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.”
There are many things that we must note about these verses.
First, they are in red, so this is the Lord Jesus speaking. Literally there was just such a church sixty miles north east of the isle of Patmos. So there was a literal church of Ephesus. Many believe that this particular church was symbolic of the apostolic age from about 30 to 100 AD – It is called the Apostolic Church. I believe after viewing it carefully, we can see some of the churches in our own day falling into just this category. Here again, this message is sent to the ministering spirit of this church.
Second, we are reminded again here that Jesus holds these stars in His right hand. Jesus walks in the midst of this church; so we know quickly, it falls into the category of Christianity.
Notice Jesus always starts off by telling something good. Here He commends them for their hard work, and patience. To be patient is certainly a virtue, and one that most of us do not possess. This leader of this church and the people, seem to be working for the Lord.
This spiritual leader hates evil. Note that this leader seems to do as the Scripture suggests, and tries the spirits to see whether they are of God or not. This church does not just accept everyone who says he is an apostle. They judge the message before they accept the apostle. It seems that this church is well grounded in the Word. This church (the physical church) was one of the older churches founded by Paul and nurtured by Timothy. This physical church of Ephesus was located in a busy city.
From the spiritual standpoint of churches today, we would see this church located in the midst of a very worldly surrounding but being a church holding up a standard against the evil surroundings. This church would be a spiritual church guided and taught through the Holy Spirit of God. This church will be found working when the Lord comes back. They have been full of the power and presence of God. Jesus first tells them the good, then tells them of their weakness, as we see in the next verse. Even though this church has worked hard and not given up, we will see here that they have a few short-comings.
2:4 Nevertheless I have [somewhat] against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Our first love, if we are believers, is putting Jesus ahead of everything else. This church’s problems spiritually, can be seen in most of our churches today. God will not allow compromise, but on every hand we see just that.
In II Timothy 3:5: It says, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” Probably this church has gotten too sophisticated for healing and deliverance. Perhaps some of the world’s music has crept in unaware. Perhaps this church has begun to entertain more than teach. This church is more appealing to the world than to God.
As we look at all of these churches, we must examine ourselves and our church and see just what category we fall into.
Our first love, if we are believers, is putting Jesus ahead of everything else. This church’s problems, spiritually, can be seen in most of our churches today. God will not allow compromise, but on every hand we see just that.
2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
There is no substitute for undivided, fervent, undying love for Jesus Christ. Jesus warned the church at Ephesus to “repent, and do the first works; or else, I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove the candlestick, out of his place, except thou repent” He warned that if they
did not repent, judgment would fall. They would no longer be a true light and witness to the world.
How many of our churches today are lifeless, dull, and mechanical? How many lack the light and witness of Christ and His power? The condition in this church, and in our churches and individual lives, did not happen overnight. It was a gradual process whereby believers left their “first” love, their passionate “bridal” love for Christ. The “first love” to which Christ called the church in Ephesus to return can be with the “bridal” love in a marriage relationship.
A new bride is so in love with her husband that he is the central focus of her life. When she takes her wedding vows, she promises to forsake all others and give herself solely to him. She eagerly anticipates his desires and lovingly tries to meet all his needs. She spends every possible moment with him. In this “bridal love” relationship, there is a special intimacy that develops between the bride and her bridegroom. She longs to know everything possible about him. She opens her heart to him, revealing her innermost secrets and desires. While they are apart from one another, she longs for him and eagerly anticipates when she will be with him once again. Because of her love, the bride puts her bridegroom first, before all else, including her own needs, desires, and ambitions.
It is this type of pure, fervent, self sacrificing “bridal love” for Christ that made the disciples willing to give themselves 100% for the cause of Christ. It was this type of love that burned up their own selfish desires, motivated them to serve Christ with single hearted devotion, and made them willing to lay down their lives for the cause of Christ. It is this type of love that we must have burning within us to enable us to fulfill the purposes of God in these final moments of time before Christ’s return. Just as Christ called the church in Ephesus to return to their first love, He is walking among us today, calling us to repent and return to our first love.
Here are seven warning signs that signal that a church or individual has left their first love.
Christ is no longer the central focus in your life.
You neglect your relationship with the Lord and spend less time in prayer, worship and the Word.
You allow family, friends, job and your own desires to come between you and your relationship with God.
There is a loss of intimacy in your relationship with God.
You are caught in a cycle of dead works
You are more tolerant of sin
You will no longer have a burning passion for the lost
Your works were motivated by intense love and devotion to the Lord. Compare your love for the Lord today with what it was then. Has your love grown deeper or has it lost its fervency? Are your works motivated by a passionate love for God or are you doing them merely out of a sense of duty? Ask the Lord to forgive you for leaving your first love. Begin to do your first works again. Make a new commitment to the basics of prayer, worship, and the Word. Fan the flame of the dying embers of your first love through renewed communion with the Lord. This fervent love is required of all those who belong to the Lord. Jesus called this the first and great commandment:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Mat. 22 v.37-38)
2:6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Notice here that Jesus, as this church, hates the sin and not the sinner. The deeds are hated, not the doer. There seems to be no record of the Nicolaitans except for this mention here. It is possible to hate evil and still not be living a pleasing life in God’s sight. Worldliness is something we must avoid entirely.
Nicaulous and Baalam are in the same category. Probably evil with no certain root. The doctrine of Baalam, Nicaulous, and the Jezebel church thought that being Christians freed them from the moral law. They believed that idolatry and fleshly things would not be held against them, because they had been set free by Christ. Some of the liberalism we see in the churches today stem from this very belief.
So many are trying to bring Jesus down to our level or to elevate us up to His level. This is a very dangerous doctrine to make ourselves into gods. That is why Lucifer was thrown out of heaven. Worldliness must not be mingled in with worship of God. We must not only not participate in this, but actually hate this practice.
2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
We all have ears, but this is speaking of that inner ear of the heart that receives the truth. Note here that Spirit is capitalized meaning God’s Spirit. This is not just any spirit, but the Holy Spirit of God. We also see here, that He is speaking to the churches, and suddenly jumps to individuals in the church when He says, “to him that overcometh”.
We are not saved collectively but as individuals. We as individuals must decide who we will follow. We notice here also that there is something to overcome. We must overcome lustful temptations of the flesh.
All believers in Jesus will eat of the tree of life. Jesus is the Tree of Life. Paradise is heaven, not hell, as many believe today. When Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43. Many tried to make it fit in with Jesus’ body being in the grave. Jesus’ Spirit went to heaven directly from the cross, as our spirit will leave our body the instant we die.
Jesus said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit:” Luke 23:46. The Spirit of Jesus went to God immediately. His Spirit rejoined His body three days later. Forty days later Jesus’ body and Spirit were taken to heaven on a cloud.
God is a Spirit; Jesus is a Spirit who was housed in a body for His stay on earth. We are a spirit, as well, housed in a body. If we are a believer, our spirit will immediately go to heaven when it leaves our body. The body will rise at resurrection and rejoin our spirit. Jesus’ Spirit and the spirit of the thief on the cross were in heaven immediately. The tree of life is in heaven. Paradise is the garden in heaven. This is a heavenly restoration of the Garden of Eden. The heavenly, being even more wonderful.
2:8-9 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;” “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and [I know] the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but [are] the synagogue of Satan.”
100 to 313 AD – The Persecuted Church
Located about 35 miles north of Ephesus, Smyrna was a rich and beautiful commercial city in Asia Minor and was recognized by Rome as its loyal ally and a center of emperor worship. In His message to this church, the Lord again commended their good works, “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty”. These believers were persecuted and often lost their means of livelihood as a result of their commitment to the Lord.
Making a public confession of their faith meant poverty, hunger, imprisonment, and sometimes death. The word “tribulation” used here paints a picture of a huge rock crushing whatever lies beneath it. The word conveys intense and constant pressure. Can you identify with that? Many of you are experiencing “intense and constant pressure”. You aren’t forgotten! Jesus sees and knows.
It is interesting to me that Jesus calls Himself differently here than at the church of Ephesus. In the Ephesus letter He says, “he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks” Here at Smyrna He calls Himself, “the first and last, which was dead, and is alive”
< br />The designation here is that this message is not from the Father or the Holy Spirit, but from God the Son, Jesus as we know Him. We see from this that God does not deal exactly the same with everyone. He deals with us at the level of our understanding.
You see in the synagogue in Jerusalem, when Jesus called them “whited walls” Matthew 23:27, clean on the outside and filthy on the inside. Jesus said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Jesus called them a generation of vipers, Matthew 23:33.
You see not all those who claim to be Christians are actually Christians. If we are not careful, we will be like these Jews. We may say we are a Christian, and the world might actually believe that we are because of our outward appearance. Jesus looks at the heart. We read in Matthew 7:22 “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” Matthew 7:23 “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Their Christianity was a front for some selfish motive.
The repentance and salvation that really counts is what goes on in the heart. It is like having a new regenerated heart placed inside of you, washed in the Blood of the Lamb. Being born again is having a brand new heart, having no desire to sin. The heart is either desperately wicked or clean in Jesus. Some call it a change of heart. Whatever commitment is made must be made in the heart.
When Jesus speaks of His being “the first and last”, He is speaking of His eternal Spirit.
When He speaks of “which was dead, and is alive”, He is speaking of His body which resurrected from the grave.
Jesus knows all; He was walking, and is walking amidst the churches. These eyes of fire see everything, even in our hearts. He has nothing but good things to say about this church in Smyrna. To know them is to love them. Jesus knows how hard they have worked for the kingdom. He knows that they are rich in service to Him. They are rich in knowledge of His Word. They have diligently sought Him in His Word. They are rich in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They have been through great tribulation. Tribulation comes to make you strong. They are strong, because they have been tried and they have not failed God.
Perhaps, their poverty spoken of here indicates that they are not obsessed about having worldly wealth. They are not rich in things the world would class as wealth. Their wealth is of spiritual things. The treasure that we should all be seeking is the treasure stored up in heaven.
If there is a church in this group that we should all want to be like, it would be this church at Smyrna.
This “synagogue of Satan” that comes against them is what we were discussing before. These are religious people with an outward appearance of belief but with no inward conviction. This literal church at Smyrna had many martyrs who stood against the evil, idolatrous people around them even unto the death.
In our day it is the same situation. If we are in God’s army, we must be willing to stand for what is right even unto death. The Spirit and the flesh (world) will be locked in battle until the return of Jesus. The world and its system, and even the idolatrous church is opposed to true righteousness and holiness. Jesus is coming back for a church that is without spot or wrinkle.
2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast [some] of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
He said they would suffer. He is letting them know that He and the Father know all about their suffering. They must stay faithful unto the end, and great rewards will be theirs in heaven. Jesus warns them they will be thrown into prison. We know from history that these believers, in the literal church of Smyrna, were thrown into prison. Many in our day are being thrown into prison for their faith. It is becoming harder and harder to be a Christian, and even more difficult to be a minister. The church is under attack of the devil.
The meaning of Christ’s words to this church, that they would have tribulation for “ten days”, may refer to the fact that the Early Church suffered ten major persecutions under Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Severus, Maximum, Decius, Valerian, Aurelian, and Diocletian. There were also some notable persecutions in the local Smyrna Church which lasted “ten days” (One day often is reckoned as one year in biblical prophecy).
It is very easy to follow Jesus when everything is going good. The true test is, will you stay when all odds are against you? When your friends and relatives have given up, will you stand? If we are faithful and stand, there is a crown of life awaiting us. The crown of life is the one the Lord Himself prepares for us. Crown of life means; “ruling over death”. There will be no more death, neither shall there be sorrow. “neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” “Behold, I make all things new” Revelation 21:4-5. Many shall be martyred before the return of Christ.
Christ’s message to you today, in the midst of your pain, suffering, persecution, and testing is “Fear Not!” No matter what you are facing, sickness, disease, family problems, or even the possibility of death, do not fear because “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1 v.7)
2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
We hear again, take out the stoppers in your inner man and receive from God His truths. There is a great promise to the overcomers. The death associated with hell, will not happen to them. They have been crowned with everlasting life.
The greatest gift that we could ever receive is the gift of eternal life with Jesus. To know we would be separated from Jesus for all of eternity would be more hell than I would care to bear. The only life worth having is with Him. I cannot say enough good about this church at Smyrna. There are only two in the seven that God has no reprimand for. Smyrna is one of them. Under great persecution this church stands, and having even faced death, still stands. If you were to describe this church in modern English, you would just say that the pure Word of God is preached to people who will accept the Truth.
The minister feeds the flock the Word several times a week. The congregation studies the Scriptures, ever eager to learn more so they can be more and more in the will of God. They are not shaken by winds of false doctrine, for they test everything and everyone against the Scriptures. They have on the whole armor of God. They are filled with the Holy Spirit and operate in the gifts of the Spirit. They realize there is a battle going on for the souls of men, and they have enlisted in God’s army to fight evil at every hand. They are willing to give up homes, family, whatever it takes to serve God. They count the everlasting life more than the short life here. Just as many were martyred
2:12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
313 to 590 AD – The State Church. Here we have THE DANGER OF DOCTRINAL COMPROMISE
Located about sixty miles north of Smyrna is Pergamos, which at one time was the official Asian center for the imperial cult. It was also the center of worship for four of the most important pagan cults of the day: Zeus, Athene, Dionysos and Asklepios
Jesus, again, calls Himself by a different name. Here He is said to have “the sharp sword with the two edges” The sword with two edges is, of course, the Bible with the Old and New Testament.
They were not forgotten. J
esus recognized their faithfulness despite the satanic environment in which they lived. In the original Greek, the words, “holdest fast” means “to hold onto desperately with all of one’s power.” These Christians were holding onto their faith with everything they had and Jesus commended them for their faithfulness.
There are so many ways to view these, as I have said before. For our study, we will attempt to use the problems of this church to tell us what not to do in our church today.
God never changes. The things He was opposed to thousands of years ago are the very things He is opposed to today. God never changes; we change. If we are not careful, these changes will make us complacent about the sin in our life.
2:13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, [even] where Satan’s seat [is]: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas [was] my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
Jesus not only knows their works, He knows everything about them. Judgment begins at the house of God, because Jesus walks to and fro checking them out continually.
Jesus says that He knows where they dwell. He is referring to the very evil surroundings. This was an educational center. There were great libraries and places of worldly education.
This church is committing sin; compromising with the heathen around them. Many times worldly wisdom and faithfulness to God are not cohesive. The Bible says that “The carnal mind is enmity against God” Romans 8:7.
Faith is not fact. The educated mind wants to prove by facts. Faith, I say again, is not fact; Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:2: “For by it the elders obtained a good report.”
The mind and heart, even though physically a few inches apart, are miles apart in the Spirit.
Jesus knew this church in Pergamos would have a very hard time. The evil outside the church and the compromise in the church tries to draw more of these people out of the church. Maybe they had very good intentions, but they got very bad results. Jesus goes so far as to call this evil city, “Satan’s seat”. We know by this that evil prevailed.
Jesus says to this church, you have My name on your church and I also am aware you have not denied Me. Jesus even reminds them that He is aware that Antipas was martyred because of his great faith in Jesus. This Satanic influence had come against Antipas and killed him. We must realize that we must not fellowship with those of unbelief. We must witness to them, and then go home. Fellowshipping with the world brings compromise. The shame is that some of this has crept into this church as we see in V-14.
2:14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
But the Lord also reproved them for allowing members who practiced the “doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans” to remain within their congregation.
In his message to Pergamos, Jesus compares the conduct of some of these believers with the actions of the Israelites who compromised with the Moabites. He also condemned them for allowing the doctrine of the Nicolaitans to remain in their midst.
The word “Nicoliatane” comes from two Greek words, one meaning “to conquer” and the other meaning “the laity.” It is symbolic of the development of a priestly order which ruled over the laity in contrast to Christ’s command regarding serving one another given in Mat. 23 v.8-9: The headship of Christ had been set aside in favor of an ecclesiastical hierarchy.
2:15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
II Peter 2:1 “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” II Peter 2:2 “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.”
Although they were victorious in keeping their faith during persecution, they opened the door to spiritual destruction when they compromised with the world. Apostasy – Various Religions, Cults Compromise is blending two ideas together. The dictionary says it is “to lay open to danger.” In spiritual matters, any position of compromise opens you up to danger and corruption.
Compromise is rampant throughout the Body of Christ and the Spirit of God is calling us to allow the “sword of the Spirit”, the Word of God, to expose and remove compromise just as a surgeon removes a cancerous growth. God cannot tolerate compromise! He hates it.
Even the smallest compromise opens the doors to additional compromise, which leads to even greater compromise and eventually, spiritual death. If you have compromised in any area of your life, you must do what Jesus told believers at Pergamos:
2:16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Repent means to be truly sorry and turn away from evil. Go a new direction. Walk in right standing with the Lord. The sword that Jesus fights with is His Word. There is nothing more powerful than the Word of God. Jesus has not given up on them. He just wants them to change their ways.
Jesus issued a stern warning to the church at Pergamos: “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” Although the majority of the church at Pergamos were not deceived and were not following the doctrine of the Balaamites and the Nicolaitans, they were guilty of indifference toward the sin within their church.
But there were some who slipped in unnoticed, and brought false teaching. If you want to know more about all of this false teaching, just read all of chapter two of Second Peter.
2:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth [it].
As we said before, hear with our inner man. There is a battle, and we are God’s soldiers. The Spirit and the flesh are locked in battle. When we allow the Spirit of God to control our flesh, then we are His. He is our God, and we are His people.
The stone mentioned in V-17, most think was a diamond. It was probably the stone worn by the high priest that had God’s name on it. It was hidden from view next to the heart behind the Urim and the Thummim. The others’ stones were symbolic for the Tribes of Israel, and all 12 of them were on the breastplate of the high priest.
We have received the name of Jesus Christ if we are truly His. We are Christians. Whatever the stone is, I am happy to know that our name will be on it.
Jesus will feed us His hidden manna. Manna fell from heaven miraculously and fed the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land in Exodus 16:14-15. This manna was symbolic of Jesus who is the Bread of Life. We will eat of the Tree of Life (Jesus) and live forever.
Whether this is spiritual or physical, I do not really care. It will be all we need to sustain us. The original Ark of the Covenant, which the earthly Ark was patterned by, has always been in heaven, hidden to earthly eyes.
The mystery Jesus is revealing is Himself in His fullness.
He is the Tree,
He is the Bread,
He is the Manna,
He is LIFE.
We, too, like Pergamos must repent and come to Jesus with all that we are or ever hope to be. We are nothing until He fills us with Himself.
2:18-19 “And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira wr
ite; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet [are] like fine brass;” “2:19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last [to be] more than the first”
590 to 1517 AD – The Papal Church – THE DANGER OF MORAL COMPROMISE
The city of Thyatira was a vital commerce and trade center located about 40 miles southeast of Pergamos. Jesus commended the church here at Thyatira for its good works.
Many Christians are not aware that they are worshiping idols. Some are so full of pride and self deception that their spiritual eyes are blinded from seeing the areas of their lives where they have refused to let Jesus reign as Lord. Many believers today have made moral compromises. They no longer hold high standards of integrity. If you are guilty of moral compromise, spiritual adultery, then you must do what Jesus told these believers to do: Repent and then hold fast! Hold on to your integrity. Guard your Godly standards. Don’t fall prey to moral compromise.
Speaking of idols, what could some of these be? Material possessions, various lusts, recreation, entertainment, career and selfish ambition. (dwell carefully as you think about the answer)
He said: “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first”. (Rev. 2 v.19) But once again, Jesus sees beyond this outward display of good works and exposes a stronghold of Satan right in the midst of the church. The church of Pergamos was allowing a woman who called herself a prophetess to teach others that it was all right to mix pagan religions with Christianity. She was teaching and seducing people to commit fornication and compromise morally.
The church at Thyatira, many believe, is representative of the Roman Catholic Church and the period of that churches’ prominence. I would not belabor that point.
We are looking at the spiritual and trying to see all of the seven churches in our modern churches today. Wherever possible, not pointing fingers or calling names. We must examine ourselves before we start pointing fingers.
Jesus shows this church His penetrating eyes which can even discern the intents of the heart. With His feet of fine brass, He shows them that He truly is the final Judge.
It seems that this church here in Thyatira has great love and compassion and is a working church trying to improve the condition of the less fortunate around them. This church is patient, which is gained by much tribulation. This is not a stiff cold church, as some of the other churches are, but is a loving caring church. It seems that the works of this church improve as they go along, because the last is more than the first. This is really a very nice statement that Jesus made about them.
2:20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
Throughout the Old Testament, this union of that which is holy with that which is impure is considered by God as spiritual adultery. It was an abomination in His sight!
This false teacher is referred to as “Jezebel,” which may or may not have actually been her name, but certainly refers to her spirit. It references Jezebel in the Old Testament, who was the wife of King Ahab. She was an idolatrous woman with unscrupulous methods, to perpetuate her power. Jesus warned the church of Thyatira of coming judgment to this false teacher and all those who commit spiritual adultery by moral compromise. This “Jezebel” was given time to repent, but refused. (Rev. 2 v.21)
Now, those who had been deceived by her teaching were given the choice to repent or face severe judgment. In the Church today, most believers are not tempted to worship pagan idols of wood or stone, but they do worship other idols!
This is one of the scriptures that is often used by certain denominations to say that women should not teach and preach. If we carefully look at this, we will realize that Jezebel here is not a woman actually, but a system of evil, whether taught by men or women. Fornication is the issue here, not that there is a woman in the church. Just as the Nicolaitans were not really a particular country and Baal was a symbol of evil and not a specific place and person.
We need to look at fornication and see what it is. Fornication is incest or adultery of either sex that are indulging in unlawful lust. Everyone would agree that any minister of God who promoted any of these sins would be a Jezebel to Jesus.
Men and women who are believers in Christ are all the Bride of Christ. I do not believe that this Jezebel is all women who minister the Word of God, but just those who teach evil lust.
In Galatians 3:28, we read that with God there is no male and female. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” The same Paul that wrote for women to be silent in church, in I Corinthians 14:34, wrote this in Galatians.
We also need to look at Acts 2:17-18. Acts 2:17 “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:” Acts 2:18 “And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:”
There is something we are not understanding, or else the Bible contradicts itself. We know the Bible does not contradict itself. We must look more carefully at what the Scriptures mean. The error comes in evil messages that some women or men bring. The Jezebel here could be a woman, but if she is, it is not the fact that she is a woman that is wrong, it is an evil message that is wrong. Let’s look at one more Scripture in Acts.
Acts 21:8 “And the next [day] we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was [one] of the seven; and abode with him.” Acts 21:9 “And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.” There are many examples just like this of Philip’s daughters.
We must all be careful about criticizing others in their ministry. Look carefully at the context it is written in, before speaking out against others.
Jezebel calls herself a prophetess. It appears whoever this is or whatever group this represents, they are promoting feelings of the flesh not the Spirit.
Throughout the Bible we are warned not to eat things sacrificed to idols knowingly.
2:21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
We must carefully look at what must be repented of. The sin here is fornication. She was not to repent of preaching, but repent of fornication. In the days that John wrote this, there were evil churches that even had harlots working in the church for the convenience of the members.
In our day the satanic churches promote sex. Some churches teach that homosexuality and lesbianism are alternate life styles. My Bible says they are an abomination to God, Leviticus 18:22. You can easily see spiritually this church in Thyatira in these churches. Not only did Thyatira need to repent, but modern churches who teach this abomination.
2:22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
Here this could be both physical and spiritual adultery. The people who get involved in these sex sins are guilty, also. It is no excuse to sin just because your minister tells you that you are not guilty. Try every message you hear by what the Bible teaches. Do not be deceived by any false prophet, male
or female. Their repentance is of their deeds, not whether they were male or female.
2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
The word translated reins means “the inner most mind”, perhaps the subconscious mind. The heart will be judged. The motive behind our deeds is just as important as the deed.
In the Scripture above, we see that God will not always overlook sin in the church. When His judgment falls, it will begin in the church. Punishment will be swift and so severe that other churches will look and tremble at the punishment.
The works spoken of here are the works of the heart and mind which come to maturity in actual deeds. Good or evil actually begins in the mind and heart. Just as beautiful words cannot come from an evil heart, beautiful deeds cannot either. What we are inside will show in what we do for God.
2:24-25 “But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.” “But that which ye have [already] hold fast till I come.”
What doctrine is spoken of here? The doctrine of fleshly lust and fornication. The doctrine that says you can do what you please as long as you are baptized. Jesus wants a chaste virgin for a bride. Jesus wants us to be holy as He is holy. Sin must not be practiced, if we are Christians.
Jesus will forgive us of our sins if we ask Him, but we must not go back into that sin over and over. Our heart must desire to live above sin.
Notice here, also, that even though this particular church spoken of is promoting sin, an individual can repent and be saved even in this situation. God does not judge groups. Jesus judges us one at a time. It would be a terrible burden to have no other church to go to than one that taught fornication. He tells them to hold fast to sound doctrine until He comes.
2:26-27 “And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:” “And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.”
You see here that Jesus specifies His works are what is to be done. It also means that we should not just do a little and get self satisfied, but stay with the Lord’s work to the very end. Just as Jesus told the parable of the good servant in Luke chapter 19, we must be a good servant and bring the fruits of our labor to Jesus.
Jesus says, the servant, in Luke, was to rule over ten cities. In V-27 He also promises that His faithful will rule. Remember the power is Jesus’. He gives us our power. This power is to do His will as we rule. We are working under Jesus’ direction. He is our leader. The “rod of iron” means the rule will be strong, unbending.
The rule will be as a shepherd leads if they follow Jesus, but if not, they shall be broken to pieces. This rod spoken of could be a shepherd’s or a king’s. Whichever it is, the rod of correction will be used in love. Jesus was given all power on earth, under the earth, and in heaven by the Father.
2:28 And I will give him the morning star.
Jesus is the Bright and Morning Star. He promises to give Himself to those who will follow Him.
2:29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Notice again this message is not just given to this one church of Thyatira, but to churches, plural. We must take heed to the warnings. Open the ears of our heart and receive Jesus in His fullness.