In reading the letters to the churches in Revelation, I’ve focused on marks of a living and thriving church. Here’s the first three:
Love: See the letter to Ephesus
Suffering: See the letter to Smyrna
Orthodoxy: See the letter to Pergamum.
In this post we add another. Repentance: See the letter to Thyatira.
Repentance was the rally cry of the early church. In a technical sense, repentance is a translation of the Greek word metanoia, which means “a change of mind.” In the bigger picture, repentance involves a radical change in a person’s thinking, affections, and as a result, life direction. Prior to repentance one is oriented to self and sinful pursuits and desires. Repentance brings a dramatic shift towards God’s will, priorities, and character.
The church in Thyatira is commended for numerous things. They are praised for their deeds, love, faith, and spiritual growth. They are commended for their love, which is in opposition to the church in Ephesus which criticized for their lack of love. If only the letter stopped at verse 19. Things would be much better for the church in Thyatira and this post would be much easier to write.
In verse 20 we are introduced to the reason that the church in Thyatira is in need of repentance. The church has a false prophet in their midst. She was a real women but the name given to her in this letter is symbolic, as we’ve seen in other letters in Revelation. Queen Jezebel was the wife of the weak king, Ahab. She was a foreigner and imported her false religion into Israel. She persuaded king Ahab to build a temple to a false god. She supported false prophets and killed off prophets of the one true God. She encouraged sexual immorality.
The false prophet in the church in Thyatira was picking up where Jezebel left off. This new Jezebel drove her followers to sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols. These same issues were mentioned in the letter to the church in Pergamum. Here, however, the emphasis seems to be on the sin rather than the false teaching. The emphasis on sexual immorality.
Ephesus hated the practices of the Nicolaitans (Rev 2:2 and 6). Pergamum had some who held to the teaching Balaam and the Nicolaitans (Rev 2:14-15). But Thyatira actually tolerates Jezebel and her followers (see verse 20). Notice verse 20 goes on to say: She misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. Toleration for false prophets leads to sin and Jesus calls the church to repentance.
What happens if you fail to repent?
In verse 21 we see that Jesus has given Jezebel time to repent … but she is unwilling. In verse 22 we see that Jesus offers her followers a chance for repentance. Yet, without repentance their will be severe consequences.
For Jezebel her bed of sin will become a bed of suffering. She liked the bed so much that Christ will throw her onto it. But this bed is not one of sexual pleasures but one of pain and suffering. Jezebel’s followers are to be punished as well – to the point of suffering intensely or even facing death. This punishment brings to mind the punishment of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. These two fell dead after they lied and pretended to be living as part of the Christian community.
Difficult teaching indeed. I don’t want to soften it. Let it speak. Remember – you can suffer for faithful obedience. See Smyrna. You can suffer for sin. See Thyatira.
Those who have been misled are called to repent. Notice in v24-25: Those who have not been misled by this false teaching are called to hold fast to the truth until the return of Christ. Those who remain faithful, like in the other letters, are given promises. The faithful will play a role in judging the nations. They are also given the promise of the morning star, which in Revelation 22:16 is Jesus himself. The faithful are rewarded with Jesus himself.
The mark for today is repentance.
Keys to repentance:
Confession: You are God – I’m not. You are holy – I’m a sinner. You are powerful – I’m weak.
Repentance: A move from sinful desires to God’s will, priorities, and character.
Bearing the fruit of repentance: A life that resembles God’s will priorities, and character.
Repentance is not behavior modification! This is about a heart condition not merely a change of behavior. Jesus describes himself as one who “searches heart and minds” in verse 23. Behavior modification will not work. Jesus is not fooled by a person going through the motions.