Revelation 2:19-29: It takes more than busyness.
“19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So 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. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, “I will not impose any other burden on you,25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.”26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – 27 that one “will rule them with an iron sceptre and will dash them to pieces like pottery” – just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star. 29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” NIV
Recently, I had to proof read an article about our church, written for the Annual Parish Magazine. As I read, even though I am immersed in the church’s life, I was tempted to feel amazed at how much is going on in our little congregation. But that rosy emotion was tempered by reading these letters (good timing!). Busyness is not everything (19; see verse 9). We once again find ourselves looking at a morally compromised church – compromised through false teaching (20). ‘’Jezebel’’ may have been the actual name of the self-proclaimed ‘’prophetess’’ who wielded a malign influence, or it may be symbolic. It’s a name, like ‘’Balaam’’ (14), resonant with Old Testament meaning (1 Kings 16:31; 21:25; 2 Kings 9:22).
Thyatira was not as well known as some of the other towns where we find the seven churches, but it was a thriving commercial centre (Acts 16:14). In those times, each business had its own god, and in order to be successful in that business you had to worship that god. So the Christian business-men of Thyatira were under great pressure to conform, because their livelihoods were at stake. Taking part in idol worship tended to also involve immorality. Having sex with temple prostitutes was part and parcel of the ‘worship’ offered in such places. Perhaps ‘’Jezebel’’ was saying that as idols are nothing, it’s okay to get involved with this stuff.
But it wasn’t; it isn’t! Jesus, with His ‘x-ray vision’, sees everything, and we must not think we can sin high-handedly and get away with it (18, 22,23). (By the way, Thyatira was noted for its smelting work in copper and ‘’bronze’’. The local god in the area was the patron deity of the bronze trade, and he appeared on the local coinage, together with the emperor).
Once again though, there are promises to the overcomers: that they will share in Christ’s reign (27; see Psalm 2:9), and be given ‘’the morning star’’ (28). According to chapter 22:16 this is Christ Himself. So this seems to be a promise of greater intimacy with Jesus.