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Living in the Last Days (5)

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“When to be Intolerant of Sin”

Revelation 2:18-29

I. Intro

If there is one word that describes our “politically correct” culture today, it is the word ‘tolerance.’ In this message, we will learn when to be intolerant of sin. We are continuing our study of the seven churches in Revelation who represent the various spiritual conditions of all the churches until Jesus returns. They also represent seven types of Christians, one of which is much like you and I. Therefore, you need to find yourself in the seven churches. We first visited the church at Ephesus who had left her first love. Then we visited Smyrna, the suffering church for whom our Lord only had words of comfort and commendation. Last week, we visited the church at Pergamos, who allowed worldliness into the church. Now we come to Christ’s letter to the church in Thyatira. It is significant that the longest letter is written to a church located in the smallest city, Thyatira. This city is located about 35 miles southeast of Perganum. Lydia was from Thyatira. We see that Lydia of Thyatira was a seller of purple in Acts 16:14 “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” Thyatira was famous for its expensive purple dye made from the madder root that grew around the city. Today, Thyatira is the modern city of Akhisar (ak-hee-sahr) which had a population of about 100,000. Thyatira was a military town as well as a commercial center with many trade guilds. Wherever guilds were found, idolatry and immorality-the two great enemies of the early church-were almost always present too. The city boasted a special temple to Apollo, the “sun god,” which explains why the Lord introduced Himself as ‘the Son of God’ (the only time in Revelation this title is used.) John had to deliver a message of severe warning and judgment to this congregation, which explains the description of the Lord’s eyes and feet. Jesus describes Himself as the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire in verse 18. This refers to the penetrating power of His sight, from which nothing can hide, and His ability to see the secret places in our hearts. His feet being like fine brass, refers to strength for executing judgment. This description reminds us of the words of Jesus in Luke 8:17 “For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.” This message helps us to know when to be intolerant of sin. First.......

II. Review Biblical Precepts

This is the only church our Lord commends for her charity, or love. Next, He commends her for her service, faith, and patience. He then praises the church’s works that the last was more than the first, which means there is constant improvement in all these things. However, our Lord also has a complaint against this church. They are tolerating a woman Jesus refers to as Jezebel, which calls herself a prophetess. No amount of loving and sacrifical works can compensate for tolerance of evil. The church was permitting a false prophetess to influence the people and lead them into compromise. It is not likely that this woman’s name was actually Jezebel since such an infamous name would not be given to a child. The name is symbolic: Jezebel was the idolotrous queen who enticed Israel to add Baal worship to their religious ceremonies. It is interesting to contrast the churches at Ephesus and Thyatira. The Ephesian church was weakening in its love, yet faithful to judge false teachers; while the people in the assembly of Thyatira were growing in their love, but too tolerant of false doctrine. Both extremes must be avoided in the church. The balance for this is found in Ephesians 4:15 “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” Unloving orthodoxy and loving compromise are both hateful to God. The church at Thyatira, like many churches today, thinks if they are loving, anything goes. This woman at Thyatira was leading an entire church astray with the sins of sexual immorality and idolatry. In His Holy Word, God has given us all we need to know about when to be intolerant of those to tolerate sin. To recognize when to be intolerant of sin, review Biblical precepts, and......

III. Remember the Divine Penalty

What is the penalty for tolerating sin? About this woman, our Lord says, “And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.” Because of her refusal to repent, our Lord says, “Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.” This could refer to sexually-transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea and syphilis, which were common in the ancient world. When sin is so hellish it can cause serious harm to the Gospel, God’s judgment can be severe, even in this life. The church at Corinth was making a drunken party out of the Lord’s Supper. 1 Corinthians 11:29-30 “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” When sin begins to do serious harm to the Lord’s church, He judges accordingly. Therefore, Jesus says to the church at Thyatira, “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.” Her children refer to her spiritual children-those who follow her teachings. Our Lord makes it clear when a church tolerates teachings that pervert the clear teaching of Scripture, especially in the area of sexual immorality, the Divine penalty is severe. In Numbers 25 when Israelite men engaged in sexual immorality with Moabite women, it resulted in 20,000 deaths. When His people are being corrupted, especially by sexual immorality, God takes drastic action. For example, the only sin for which God destroyed cities with fire and brimstone were those guilty of sexual immorality. In fact, the Lord threatened to use this assembly as a solemn example to ‘all the churches’ not to tolerate evil. Jezebel and her followers would be sentenced to tribulation and death. Idolatry and compromise are, in the Bible, pictured as fornication and unfaithfulness to the marriage vows between the church and Christ. Jezebel’s bed of sin would become a bed of sickness. To kill with death means ‘to kill with pestilence (NASB).’ God would judge the false prophetess and her followers once and for all.

IV. Reflect on the Promise

Not everyone in the church at Thyatira was following the teachings of Jezebel. Therefore, our Lord says, “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.” The depths may refer to claims of deeper insights into the spiritual life. However, Christ calls them teachings of Satan. To the faithful believers, Christ says, “But that which ye have already hold fast til I come again.” The faithful members in Thyatira would probably be tempted to leave the church, but Christ tells them to hold fast. He could be referring to His coming in the person of a true teacher or preacher, rather than His Second Coming. To encourage believers to hold fast, our Lord says, “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 into shivers: even as I received of my Father.” This promise refers to a messianic psalm describing Christ’s rule during the Millennium. Christ’s rule will be shared with those who remain faithful til the end. This refers to those who have part in the first resurrection and over whom the second death will have no power. Revelation 20:6 “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” To His faithful, Christ will give the morning star, which is Himself. As with all the letters to the churches, this letter ends, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” This means to pay very close attention to what Jesus says to this church through the Spirit. The church at Thyatira represents the church or Christian who thinks as long as you love, false doctrine and sexual immorality can be tolerated. There are many modern day ‘Jezebels’ who are trying to persuade believers to be tolerant of sexual immorality. They accuse those who are intolerant of sin of being too narrow-minded. True followers of Jesus Christ will always be in the minority. The majority will be tolerant of at least some form of sexual immorality.

V. Conclusion

As you review these first four messages to the churches, you can see the dangers that still exist for the people of God. Like Ephesus, we can be zealous and orthodox, but at the same time, lose our devotion to Christ. Or, like Thyatira, our love can be increasing, yet lacking in the kind of discernment that is necessary to keep the church pure. Like Pergamos and Thyatira, we may be so tolerant of evil that we greive the Lord and invite His judgment. Would we have selected Smyrna as the most spiritual church of the four? Probably not, yet the Lord did! We need to remind ourselves not to judge God’s people by wrong standards, because only the Lord can see the heart. God’s exhortation to these churches (except Symrna) is, “Repent!” It is not only lost sinners who need to repent, but also disobedient Christians. If we do not repent and deal with sin in our lives and in our assemblies, the Lord may judge us and remove our lampstand. How tragic it is when a local church gradually abandons the faith and loses its witness to Christ! “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches!” To know when to be intolerant of sin, Review Biblical Precepts, Remember the Divine Penalty, and Reflect on the Promise!
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