The church at Thyatira had a serious problem. Review the words of Jesus and consider what He said:
"To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 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. 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. 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): Only hold on to what you have until I come. To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’ – just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."(Revelation 2:18-29)
Did Jesus Really Say That?
Jesus spoke to church members at Thyatira with words of comfort and condemnation – comfort for the believers who were doing right and the threat of death – that is right, death for those who were doing wrong. The BIG problem in Thyatira (as in Pergamum) was immoral leadership. Jesus was angry with church leaders at Thyatira because they tolerated a woman named Jezebel in their church! (See also 1 Corinthians 5:11.) The devil is particularly gratified when an immoral person holds a position of religious authority because they can do so much damage. The recent child abuse cases affecting Catholic priests have made this point painfully clear. In Thyratira’s case, a prominent woman named Jezebel* was leading the church into evil.
( * The Jezebel in Thyatira should not to be confused with Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab who lived about a thousand years earlier.)
Jezebel must have been a very bright and capable woman. She called herself a prophetess, but she was not a representative of Jesus. She prostituted Jesus’ teachings by leading others to do the very things that Jesus condemned! She justified sexual immorality through gnostic logic and philosophy. Jezebel taught that sex was not limited to the confines of marriage and she freely engaged in sexual activities. She also endorsed the popular belief that eating flesh offered to idols insured the blessings of the gods. The Bible does not reveal everything that Jezebel taught, but we can determine why Jezebel was successful in a Christian church! She promoted and endorsed ideas that gratified the sensual passions of carnal members. It is amazing what lay people will do (or will not do) when someone presuming to speak for God defines right and wrong! In many cases, it is as though the Bible does not exist. For example, after the founder of the Worldwide Church of God, Herbert W. Armstrong died in the 1990’s, his successor informed the church that several core doctrines of the church were wrong. In a few months, most of the lay members agreed and the church imploded. Today, Armstrong’s church has all but disappeared. How could this happen? Were the members of the Worldwide Church of God following a religious leader or the teachings of Jesus? Did the Bible suddenly change when Mr. Armstrong died? (Incidently, the implosion of the Worldwide Church of God parallels the coming experience of all religious systems during the Great Tribulation. God is about to separate people who love truth from those who play "follow the leader.")
Jezebel skillfully merged contemporary pagan practices with Christian ideals. This made the commitment threshold for Christian converts so low that pagans could join the church at Thyatira without having to give up their pagan ways! This is an area where Christians have particular vulnerability. In fact, many Christians today teach that Jesus will unconditionally accept any person who believes in Him. This understanding is false because it is not completely true. (Ezekiel 14:6-8) The Bible does teach that Jesus will unconditionally accept any repentant sinner that comes to Him seeking forgiveness. The key word is "repentance." The devil believes there is a God and he trembles, but he has not stopped or repented of his evil deeds. (James 2:19) Because Jezebel lowered the commitment threshold in the church of Thyatira, church members were not required to forsake their pagan ways. Thus, false teachings and lower standards allowed the church to grow and prosper. Membership swelled and the church was packed, but the church did not grow in sanctification. The members in Thyatira became more like the devil instead of becoming more like Jesus.
Jesus condemned Jezebel for using "the mysteries of religion" (Satan’s dark secrets or superstitions) to manipulate and control an uninformed laity. The "mysteries of religion" is a catchall phrase that describes many meaningless rituals and traditions. (I call it "religious bamboozle.") Religious leaders have used religious bamboozle for millenniums to sway and control the laity. Invariably, television documentaries about primitive tribes show a witch doctor conducting a meaningless, but grossly expensive ritual to invoke the blessings of the tribal gods. Do not laugh at the poor heathen; similar rituals occur in Christianity today. For varied reasons, lay people do not study their Bible to understand God’s truth for themselves and they end up playing "follow the leader." Since religious bamboozle does not make sense to the laity, somehow this lack of understanding makes the mysteries of religion sacred. It is so sad. Religious leaders have exerted authority and dominion over their subjects for thousands of years using religious bamboozle and Jezebel was no exception.
Jesus Exposed Jezebel’s Nakedness
Jesus condemned Jezebel for four reasons:
a) She led others to commit sexual immorality; b) She led others to eat food sacrificed to idols; c) She was defiant; and d) She used bamboozle or Satan’s "deep secrets" theology. Jezebel had been confronted with her errors, but she refused to repent and the religious leaders of the church were not willing to throw her out of the church. So, Jesus revealed Jezebel’s true condition to the church. Jesus said He would turn her bed of pleasure into a "bed of suffering." Jesus also promised to inflict great suffering on her followers who followed her example. In fact, Jesus promised to strike her children dead. Whether the children mentioned in verse 23 were biological offspring or spiritual offspring, the Bible does not say. In either case, Jesus left no wiggle room: Death to all who participate in sexual immorality. (See also Colossians 3:5,6 and Revelation 22:15.)
Another lesson in this series examined some of the devil’s lies. We learned how a person like Jezebel can rise to a position of authority in the Christian church. To review, briefly consider how the devil twists religion to corrupt God’s efforts to save humanity from harmful ways and religious bamboozle. When Jewish people converted to Christianity, they naturally carried much of their Jewish culture with them into Christianity. Before Jerusalem’s destruction in A.D. 70, this baggage was a never-ending source of problems for the early church. (Acts 15) Similarly, when Gentiles from various religions became converts to Christianity, they also carried their religious baggage into Christianity as well. (1 Corinthains 5, Galatians 5) The ultimate result was that the Christian Church became susceptible to corruption. Over time, each region of the world corrupted Jesus’ teachings with the religious baggage that crept into the church. (This corrupting process is what caused Jesus to speak to the seven churches in Asia Minor in A.D. 95.)
The devil is a master at gradualism. In fact, most people do not perceive his stealthy efforts. However, over time the separation between truth and tradition becomes great. For example, certain Christians in Rome and Alexandria adopted Sunday observance as the Lord’s day in the second century A.D. In both locations, the religious baggage that influenced this transition was the prevailing worship of a Sun god. Many Roman converts to Christianity worshiped Mirthra and many Egyptian converts to Christianity worshiped Ra. By the turn of the fourth century A.D., the effect of this phenomenon upon the Christian Church was amazing. One eyewitness wrote: "Such is the difference in the churches on the subject of fasts. Nor is there less variation in regard to religious assemblies. For although almost all churches through the world celebrate the sacred mysteries on the Sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Rome and Alexandria have ceased to do this." (Socrates, Ecclesiastical History , Book V, Chap. 22, Ante-Nicean Christian Library, Vol II, (Boston, 1887) p.132) This is another example of Christians playing "follow the leader" rather than obeying the teachings of Jesus. (For further study on this topic, see my book, Jesus, The Alpha and The Omega, chapters 9,10.)
Four Secrets of Sexuality
The churches at Pergamum and Thyatira were infected with the virus of sexual immorality and this greatly distressed Jesus. Jezebel was an agent of the devil and she did not know it. She was deceived. The devil promoted sexual immorality in Thyratira through her because he knew God would not bless the church if sexual immorality was present in it. In fact, God will not bless nations that give themselves over to sexual immorality! Powerful nations have been destroyed because they separated themselves from God’s grace through sexual immorality. (Leviticus 18) Consider the devil’s crafty process:
When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them a very powerful love for each other. In fact, Adam willfully sinned against God because of his love for Eve. (Romans 5:12) Love is like a prism that has several sides to it and one dimension of love is expressed through sexuality. God gave sexuality to human beings for the purpose of oneness (Genesis 2:24, 1 Corin-thians 6:16) and procreation (Genesis 9:1).
In the beginning, God designed that a man and woman should live together forever. Then sin occurred and human sexuality became distorted. Obviously, in a sinful world, a strong family unit has a better chance of producing a better society than a dysfunctional family. The devil has carefully studied the family structure that God created and has discovered four secrets about human sexuality that enable him to destroy (or severely injure) the family structure.
First, the devil understands that human sexuality is a very powerful force, both in a biological sense and in an emotional sense. Sex sells because sex is seducing. The devil knows that if no one teaches a child respect for authority, reverence, self-control, and self-respect before age seven, that child will be an easy target for sexual promiscuity during the adolescent years. The devil knows that if he can separate children from their parents at an early age, they will not receive the training they desperately need. The devil also knows that if he can cause a teenager to violate himself or herself in a sexual way, the damage can last a long time, even a lifetime, and the damage is not limited to that teenager. Sexual immorality can affect the teenager’s relationship with a spouse many years later. Every time a young person falls prey to the devil’s temptation, the devil triumphs by shouting, "Gottcha!"
Second, the devil understands that children involuntarily become young adults with sexual interest and curiosity when their bodies produce certain hormones. This means that every human being will eventually have some sexual interest during the early years of life, thus every human being is a potential target for sexual immorality. The devil and his demons have carefully studied the most attractive ways to lure an innocent teenager into his trap. Every time a young person falls into temptation, the devil shouts, "Gottcha!"
Third, the devil understands that promiscuity, pornography and premarital sex can produce an appetite for sex that cannot be satisfied in a monogamous marriage. When a person becomes dominated by sexual desires, often it is only a matter of time until passions for sex will create victims and the victims can be young or old. In most cases, the victim is unaware of the oncoming danger. In other words, sexual obsession produces innocent victims sooner or later and these victims will suffer for a very long time because of the offender’s dysfunction. Every time a sexual offender hurts a victim, the devil shouts, "Gottcha!"
Fourth, the devil clearly understands the ambience that promotes sexual promiscuity. In other words, the devil knows how to excite our sensual receptors, stimulate the hormones in our bodies, make the sexual experience appear to be a substitute for love, and apply tons of peer pressure. The devil also knows that once many young males are aroused, they cannot say "no" to sex and that many young females are too starved for acceptance, affection and love to say "no." So the devil has become the world’s greatest pimp and billions of young people have bought (and are buying) his pleasures at great price and every time someone enters into a sexually immoral act the devil shouts, "Gottcha!"
The devil uses many tools to create this hellish ambience and seductive music is one of his best tools for young people. The devil renews the sexually charged ambience of the world seven days a week through a flurry of movies, television programs and publications. He is ruining the world by corrupting God’s gift to man. What a devil. One day the Lord is going to put an end to evil caused by the devil and all the saints will shout, "Gottcha back!"
Don’t Give Up!
Jesus closed His remarks to the church at Thyatira saying, "To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’ – just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
Jesus encouraged the church at Thyatira with two wonderful promises for those who have ears for what the Spirit says. First, overcoming sin is possible through repentance and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 6) People who endure and fight the fight of faith will reign with Jesus! They will share in His awesome authority and at an appointed time, the redeemed will sit in judgment on those who harmed them. (1 Corinthians 6:1-3; Revelation 20:4) Second, Jesus says every overcomer will be given "The Morning Star." The Morning Star is Jesus Himself. (Revelation 22:16) Jesus offers every repentant and faithful sinner His perfect righteousness. (Romans 1:17) This is a gift that is beyond measure because His righteousness is our ticket to eternal life! I cannot think of any gift more wonderful than this. Can you?
1. Jesus condemned Jezebel on four points. What were they?
2. What is religious bamboozle? How is it harmful?
3. What is religious baggage? How is it harmful?
4. What four secrets of sexuality does the devil use?