The Corrupt Church: Being Steadfast in Faith in a Corrupt World
Study Posted on October 25, 2023
Focus Scripture: Revelation 2:12-17
Key Verse: Revelation 2:14-15
Table of Contents
2. Coming Unto Judgment
3. Jesus Commends the Church in Thyatira
4. Jesus’ Rebuke for the Church in Thyatira
– Allowing Jezebel within the church
– Who was Jezebel? – Jezebel corrupts the church in Thyatira
5. Jesus’ Judgment of Corruption
6. Hold Fast to Faith
Watch & Listen
In our study this week, we will take a look at the church in Thyatira. In last week’s study, we saw the church in Pergamos beginning to compromise in their faith, but this week, we see a church that had fully corrupted itself. There is a message that Jesus shares with this church that should resonate with all of us today as we have to be on watch so as not to be seduced and corrupted in our hearts.
Coming Unto Judgment
Our study opens up with Jesus having John write a message to the angel of the church in Thyatira. The opening verse makes it very clear that the Son of God is the one behind this message. Even more, we see Jesus describe Himself as the one who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass – He rules over and all things come under His judgment (v.18).
This is a verse that should call to mind what Paul spoke of to the Corinthians in his first letter when he spoke about our works coming unto judgment. To be clear what I am speaking about, Paul reiterated to the Philippians what Isaiah prophesied about when he wrote that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess (Phil. 2:10-11).
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he wrote, “for we must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5:10).” What is it that Jesus is going to judge of all of those that go before the judgment seat of Christ?
Firstly, all of those that go before the judgment seat of Christ will only be the genuine believer. At the judgment seat of Christ, Jesus will judge our works. Paul wrote of this in his first letter when He said to them, “each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is (1 Cor. 3:13).”
Do you see the correlation between the fire Paul spoke of and the fact that Jesus described His eyes to those of the church in Thyatira as eyes like a flame? Paul wrote, “If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Cor. 3:14-15).”
Now, to be clear, when you are a child of God, whether your labor for Him is good or bad, you will not lose your salvation. Salvation is guaranteed! However, there are rewards that the believer can receive because of their labor for the Lord. So, let’s keep in mind that in all of our recent studies, Jesus has encouraged faith through actions so that one’s works aren’t “burned up” by His judgment.
Jesus Commends the Church in Thyatira
Again, in our study this week, we’ll see where Jesus tells those of another church that He was aware of their labor. As with the three churches we have studied about so far, we’ll see that Jesus commends for their works, love, service, faith, and patience (v.19). Now, let’s note that of their works, Jesus said, “for your works, the last are more than the first.” What do you think Jesus meant by this statement?
This is actually very high praise from Christ. You see, the works of those in this church had not waned (diminished) but kept growing. Honestly, this is a commendation that all believers should desire to receive from Christ. I say this because it can be very easy for our enthusiasm to do the works of God to wane especially when you consider how much we go through on a daily basis.
We saw where love had diminished in our study of the church of Ephesus, where those of that church were no longer moving with compassion. To those who were of Galatia, you will remember that Paul wrote, “let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart (Gal. 6:9).” So, if you feel you may be waning in doing the first works, just as those of the Church of Ephesus, repent; turn to the Lord and ask Him to uplift your heart and keep you encouraged.
Jesus’ Rebuke for the Church in Thyatira
Now, within the commending of this church, we’ll see a very concerning commendation from Christ. In the key verse of this study, we’ll see that Jesus said to those of this church, “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 (v.20).” Now, let’s really dive into this commendation from Jesus to this church so that we can understand why this commendation was so concerning.
Allowing Jezebel within the church
Now, what’s so odd about this commendation from Christ is the fact that this church had been praised for its works, its faith, and ministry (service). So, it wasn’t like those of this church were terrible, but sadly, they were letting something really bad happen within their church.
Since I just mentioned the church of Ephesus, I want to mention here how this church was essentially the opposite of the church of Ephesus when it came to dealing with false teachers. Let us remember, those who were of the church of Ephesus had no patience for those who were evil (sinful) and those that said they were apostle but were found to be liars (Rev. 2:2).
Now, you will remember that I said that the lesson we should learn from Jesus’ rebuke of those that were of the church of Ephesus was that of compassion. You see, someone may be sinful but may not be fully convicted of living a sinful life. So, in our compassion (our understanding) we must not move to condemn, but rather, we should offer rebuke (correction) to uplift others from sin. Those who were of the church of Ephesus did not bother to offer a rebuke as they simply condemned sinful people.
Now, for those of the church of Thyatira, they did not bother to offer a rebuke or condemn this certain woman who came into their church with her false doctrines. I would suggest to you that those who were of this church were too patient; they were even more patient than those in the church in Pergamos; those of that church, you should remember, came to a compromise with those that spread false doctrine in their church.
Who was Jezebel?
So, for those of you that may be wondering, let’s talk about Jezebel for a moment so that we can all understand who that was. Jezebel was the wife of Ahab, a king of the northern kingdom during the divided kingdom years of Israel. Jezebel was a gentile woman, the daughter of the king of the Sidonians (1 Kgs. 16:31).
Sidon was notable for its worship of Baal, which has also been confirmed through research and excavations. Religion played a major role in Jezebel’s life and she brought her religion into her marriage with Ahab. After marrying Jezebel, the king served Baal and worshiped him. Scripture tells us that Ahab set up an altar to Baal in a temple that he built in Samaria; he also made a wooden image in his worship of Baal which provoked God to anger (1 Kgs. 16:32-33).
It wasn’t enough that her husband served and worshiped Baal, Jezebel desired for all of Israel, the northern kingdom, to worship Baal as well. How badly did Jezebel desire this? Scripture tells us that Jezebel was responsible for the massacre of several prophets of the Lord (1 Kgs. 18:4). You see, Jezebel didn’t want the word of God to be spread as she desired for the people to worship Baal.
Jezebel had gathered together over 450 prophets to Baal and then another 400 prophets of Asherah, an idol that was often worshiped alongside of Baal. When Elijah challenged the 450 prophets on Mount Carmel and had them slain after the showdown, Jezebel desired to kill another prophet of God (1 Kgs. 19:2).
Now, prior to all of this, Israel already had a history in trying to serve Baal that the prophets of God preached against. Yet, Jezebel was truly responsible for getting the northern kingdom to indulge in the worship of the false god which eventually led to the downfall of the northern kingdom. Jezebel was incredibly wicked as she even had innocent people, like Naboth, killed all because the man would not give Ahab his vineyard (1 Kgs. 21:1-15).
Jezebel corrupts the church in Thyatira
So, the woman that was in the church in Thyatira was being likened to a woman of true wickedness. This so-called prophetess, since she was called Jezebel by Christ, was someone who was moving with wicked intent. She seduced the servants of Christ that were in this church to commit sexual immorality and to sin by eating things that were sacrificed to idols (v.20).
Now, you will notice that what she was doing was, again, very similar to what was happening in the church in Pergamos. There were those in that church, who the believers came to a compromise with, that taught within that church to indulge in sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols (Rev. 2:14).
As we know, fornication and adultery is forbidden in the law given by God to Israel and also within the age of the church as well. We also know that it is forbidden to eat things that are sacrificed to idols. Paul often encouraged people to abstain from eating things offered to idols and to also abstain from sexual immorality (Acts 15:28-29).
To the Corinthians, Paul wrote that evil company corrupts good habits (1 Cor. 15:33). So, what do you suppose that means for us when it comes to keeping company with those that are evil (fully convicted of living in disobedience)? As scripture often encourages, we should flee from wickedness. If we permit wickedness to always be in our presence, it can corrupt our soul.
So, for those in the church of Thyatira, it was downright awful for them to permit this Jezebel to spread such sinful doctrine in their church; she would corrupt all of those around her just as the real Jezebel had done in the northern kingdom. How do you suppose Christ would deal with such a corrupt church? How do you suppose Christ would deal with those who have a corrupt soul that indulges in sin?
Jesus’ Judgment of Corruption
Now, we will see within this scripture that Jesus actually showed mercy to this Jezebel. You will see Him say, “I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent (Rev. 2:21).” This is the same offer of mercy that Jesus has offered to the world.
Something that I have really tried to drive home recently is just how good God’s grace is and how we should not take his grace for granted. You see, God shows every single person walking in this world His grace through His mercy. Mercy, we should remember, is having another chance to improve and correct oneself. Without mercy, all of us would be lost in sin due to our transgressions against the Lord.
So, because the Lord has shown us mercy, we should do everything we can to get right in His eyes. How does one go about getting right in the eyes of God? By repentance; acknowledge the error of our ways – our disobedience to God’s instructions – and correcting those errors by being obedient to the instructions of God.
When Jesus states that He gave this so-called prophetess time to repent, but she chose not to repent, that tells us that she was fully convicted of living in disobedience to God’s instructions. Sadly, there are many people who choose to disregard the Lord’s mercy as they have a full desire to live against His instructions and the Lord will permit them to do so (Rom. 1:28-32). What do you suppose the Lord will do about such disobedience?
For the Jezebel of the church in Thyatira, Jesus said that she would be cast (thrown) into a sickbed and for those that committed adultery with her, they would be cast into great tribulation (Rev. 2:22). Now, to be clear, the adultery that is in mind within this statement is speaking about spiritual adultery. Now, I do believe that this woman did practice what she preached in that she was likely sexually immoral, and she most definitely ate things sacrificed to idols.
So, there is a warning to those that corrupt themselves, and this warning speaks to the Lord’s final judgment against sin. Now, this final judgment is shown to us in Revelation 20:11-15 where those that chose to indulge in sin will face the Lord’s judgment at the Great White Throne. The tribulation that those who stand before the Great White Throne will face will be them being cast away from God for everlasting life.
This, again, is made clear to us as Jesus said that He will kill her children – those born from her doctrine – with death (Rev. 2:23). The death that Jesus spoke of was not the physical death, but rather, the second death – the spiritual death. This fact is also confirmed to us when Jesus stated, “I will give to each one of you according to your works.” As I referenced at the start of this study, “every knee shall bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Hold Fast to Faith
Our study comes to a close with Jesus encouraging those who don’t hold to the false doctrine of the Jezebel of Thyatira to hold fast until the coming of Christ (Rev. 2:24-25). This is a call for those who are of faith to remain faithful rather than become corrupt in our hearts by giving in to the temptation of Jezebel.
So, how does one hold fast and remain faithful when Jezebel – Satan – tempts us? Just look back to how Jesus dealt with Satan tempting Him to sin (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). What did Jesus do to overcome Satan’s temptations? He remembered the word of God and held to it. When sin tempts us, we must remember the Lord, His word, and be guided by the Holy Spirit who leads us in the divine truth (John 16:13).
If we try to tackle temptation without depending on the Lord, we will fall into temptation. So, in order to hold fast to faith, one must simply be obedient. When we are obedient in heeding God’s instructions we will continuously overcome sin. As Paul encouraged, “do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts … For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace (Rom. 6:12,14).
You see, we have a heavenly reward promised to us if we continue in our faith. To those of the church in Thyatira, Christ said that He would give to them, those that remain faithful, “power over the nations” (Rev. 2:26). This speaks of the Millennial Kingdom where Christ speaks of how His followers will have rule. To the 11 disciples that remained with Him, Jesus told them that they would sit on twelve throne, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28).
To those of the church age, Paul asked, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters (1 Cor. 6:2)?” This, again, was Paul speaking to the role of the Church during the Millennial Kingdom where we will, at that time, be the bride of Christ.
To all of this, Jesus gave hope to those of the church in Thyatira by saying that He would also give them the “morning star”. You may wonder, what does this mean? The “morning stars” are heavenly beings who are believed to make up the heavenly choir (Job 38:7).
Is Jesus saying that He would give those that remain steadfast in faith a position in the heavenly choir? I do believe that we will be singing and rejoicing in the heavenly kingdom, but that’s not what Jesus was speaking of here. When we turn over to Revelation 22:16, we will see Jesus say of Himself, “I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
So, we will close out the study on this note: when you are steadfast in faith and overcome corruption – sin – Jesus says that He will give Himself to you. Again, all of us who are of sincere faith will become the bride of Christ. Jesus told them to hold fast until He comes, which speaks of the Rapture – when Jesus comes to retrieve His bride. Again, for all of us, though we may be surrounded by corruption, let us remain faithful because we will be rewarded with Christ should we not heed the doctrine of Jezebel.