Thyatira - The Corrupt Church
We continue with our sermon series “Red Letters.”
This week we are looking at Thyatira: The Corrupt Church.
Revelation 2:18 (NKJV)
18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write,...
Thyatira was the smallest and least important of the seven cities.
Had a large number of trade guilds (unions) that each had their own patron deity.
Acts 16 mentions a woman by the name of Lydia who was a seller of purple cloth.
Revelation 2:18 (NKJV)
18 ...‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass:
Jesus introduces Himself as the Son of God.
“eyes like fire” speaks of His penetrating judgment.
“feet like brass” speaks of His purity and strength.
Revelation 2:19 (NKJV)
19 “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.
Even though the church in Thyatira was in the smallest and least significant of the seven cities, Jesus still saw their works.
In many ways Thyatira was a model church: they had four great qualities: love, service, faith, and patience.
The greatest compliment from Jesus was that they not only had these great qualities, but they were increasing in them.
Revelation 2:20 (NKJV)
20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
Let’s talk about three things: Defining Jezebel, Discerning Jezebel, and Defeating Jezebel.
This woman in the church of Thyatira was probably not really named Jezebel, Jesus called her this name because she acted like the evil queen from the Old Testament.
Jezebel means “Baal is husband to” or “unchaste.”
Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians.
She also married Ahab, king of Israel, so she was the queen of Israel.
She brought the worship of Baal to Israel.
She had the prophets of the Lord killed by the hundreds (1 Kings 18).
She was willing to steal, kill, and destroy to get Naboth’s vineyard for Ahab (1 Kings 21).
After Elijah destroyed 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah on Mt. Carmel, she sent word to Elijah that she was going to have him killed. Elijah got so fearful and discouraged he went out in the desert and prayed to God that he would die there.
She exercised her authority over her husband King Ahab, and did what she wanted to do, because Ahab was a gutless, spinless, weak leader.
Jezebel represents the epitome of evil, manipulation, seduction, idolatry, sexual immorality, and witchcraft.
Jezebel, queen of Israel, daughter of Ethbaal, no longer exists. But the spirit of Jezebel does.
And Jesus identified this woman in Thyatira by the name Jezebel because she was operating under the influence of the spirit of Jezebel.
The spirit of Jezebel can operate in a man or a woman.
Let’s look at 7 characteristics of the spirit of Jezebel.
The spirit of Jezebel wants to infiltrate and ultimately control a church. Ahab was just a figure head in Israel. Jezebel was really the one pulling the strings. And the spirit of Jezebel wants to do the same thing in the church. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control. The fruit of the spirit of Jezebel is people control.
Most people who are being manipulated by someone don’t recognize it, at least not at first. The spirit of Jezebel will move into a church and begin to sow seeds of discord through manipulation. They will tug on your emotions. They’ll intimidate you into going along with them. They’ll spread lies and rumors about people and will get you all upset with them about something they haven’t even done. And before long the one under the influence of the spirit of Jezebel will have you feeling sorry for them, apologizing for things you haven’t done to them, and blaming others who had no part in it to begin with. Can I tell you how it starts? Whispers in the Church House.
The spirit of Jezebel hates those who are in positions of authority in a church. And the spirit of Jezebel’s attacks on authority begin very subtle. They’ll say things like “we don’t have to listen to what the pastor says. The church elders are making the wrong decisions. Their actions are going to hurt the church.” Seeds of doubt. A group of followers are established. And then the spirit of Jezebel goes in for the kill. The ultimate goal of the spirit of Jezebel is to take out church leaders and those in authority.
The spirit of Jezebel is the most vile, evil, perverted, twisted, demented, and immoral spirit you will ever encounter. Jesus said the church in Thyatira was in error and about to receive judgment because they allowed that woman Jezebel to seduce the church into sexual immorality and idolatry. How did she infiltrate the church? Through seduction. Why do you think there have been so many pastors who have been disgraced and had to step down from the pulpit and walk away from their ministry because they had an affair? Got caught with the secretary or the worship leader. Why? Because the spirit of Jezebel was allowed to come in and setup her prostitution in house of God.
Notice Jesus says to the church in Thyatira that this woman Jezebel calls herself a prophetess. Let me stop right here and warn the church. Be careful with people who have to tell you who they are. If somebody has to tell you they are a prophet or a prophetess, chances are they are not. If somebody has to constantly tell you they are anointed, they are probably not. If someone goes around promoting themselves and trying to convince you they are some kind of apostolic superstar you better watch out. You might be dealing with the spirit of Jezebel. But if you let that person under the influence of the spirit of Jezebel take a little bit of control, they will use it as a opportunity to bring false doctrine into the church and deceive the people to follow them.
The spirit of Jezebel is attracted to those who are weak, especially weak leaders. Ahab was nothing more than a spineless jellyfish of a king. He had no backbone. Instead of standing up for what was right and being his own man, he cowered down to the wishes of a pagan witch. Ahab pouted and cried because he couldn’t have Naboth’s vineyard. Jezebel wrote a few letters and committed character assassination and literal murder to give a pouty king what he wanted. The spirit of Jezebel is out to steal, kill, and destroy. But for every Jezebel there is an Ahab. There is a weak, spineless, jellyfish of a leader who gives Jezebel a platform to cast her spells.
Revelation 2:21 (NKJV)
21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.
One clear sign that the spirit of Jezebel is operating in a person is their refusal to repent, even when they are caught and their evil deeds have been revealed. They will refuse to admit they are wrong. And they will try every trick in the book that we’ve already talked about to try to convince everyone they are right and everyone else is wrong. Control, manipulation, seduction, attacking authority, false doctrine, the spirit of Jezebel will use every tactic and every excuse to avoid repentance. Be careful with church people who never repent. Watch out for church people who say they don’t feel any remorse for wrongs they commit. You may be dealing with a spirit of Jezebel.
Jesus wasn’t playing around with the spirit of Jezebel in the church of Thyatira.
Revelation 2:22–23 (NKJV)
22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.
23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
Jehu defeated Jezebel.
How do we defeat the spirit of Jezebel.
Revelation 2:24–25 (NKJV)
24 “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. 25 But hold fast what you have till I come.
There is a clear warning here from Jesus against getting too close to the dark side. Maybe there were some who said, “in order to fight against the satanic forces of darkness, we need to study and find out everything we can about it.” Maybe they got too close to the darkness and got overtaken by it. Maybe they were seeking out these demonic doctrines at the suggestion of that woman Jezebel.
But Jesus’ command for Thyatira is clear as well. Hold fast what you have till I come. In other words, hold on to the truth. Stand for what’s right. Don’t give in to the deception. Don’t allow the spirit of Jezebel to have control.
Revelation 2:26–28 (NKJV)
26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations— 27 ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’— as I also have received from My Father; 28 and I will give him the morning star.
Jesus said, “He who overcomes.” That lets us know that we can be overcomers. We can overcome the spirit of Jezebel. We can be victorious over all the power of the enemy. What does Jesus promise the overcomers? He promises them:
Power over the nations, and
To give them the morning star.
What does it mean that we are going to be given power of nations? It means that one day we are going to rule and reign with Christ in an earthly millennial kingdom. Verse 27 is a quotation from Psalm 2, Verse 9, and speaks of the time when Jesus, the Messiah, will rule with a rod of iron from an earthly kingdom. This verse in Psalm 2 only makes sense if there is a literal millennial (1000 year) kingdom on earth. And this verse in Revelation 2 only makes sense if we, as glorified saints, are going to rule and reign with Christ during His millennial kingdom.
So we are going to participate in the millennial kingdom and rule and reign with Christ, but what is the morning star? Remember, Scripture interprets Scripture. Look at this verse at the end of the book of Revelation:
Revelation 22:16 (NKJV)
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.”
Jesus is saying that He will give us Himself. There is no greater gift.
Revelation 2:29 (NKJV)
29 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’
What is the Holy Spirit saying to us today through these verses?
Good works cannot be mixed with false doctrine and produce a healthy church.
Look out for the spirits of Jezebel that are going to come against the church.
Do not allow the spirits of Jezebel to stick around.
Hold fast to true doctrine.
Be encouraged by the promises that await us one day.