Bread – Thyatira

January 9, 2009


Readings for Thursday, January 9

            from the Book of Common Prayer:

            Isa. 63:1-5; Rev. 2:18-29; John 5:1-15

            Psalms 121, 122, 123, 131, 132

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I have always had a fascination with discovering, through research of history and archeology, what happened to the Christian churches specifically mentioned in the New Testament.  Today, in Revelation Christ speaks to the church in Thyatira.  It obviously had a church and people in the congregation who followed Christ because Christ addresses them, but the church there was apparently also contaminated with worship of economic gods, sexual immorality, and desire for the “deep secrets” (of Satan).  Hmm … sounds like some other places I am familiar with!

 

The gods are economic-based gods because Thyatira was comprised of guilds who worked in metal and cloth (for example, see the reference to Lydia, the woman merchant of purple cloth, in Acts 16:14).  Guilds at this time (and, really, for most of history) have patron “gods” to whom they offer worship and sacrifice in order to have success.  Of course, this is not only foolish but deadly.  Jesus uses the prophetess Jezebel as an example of a promoter of worship of leser gods and detestable practices, and just says really simply “I will strike her children dead.” (Rev. 2:23)

 

The church in Thyatira was contaminated with the worship of economic gods, not because the church necessarily preached worship of these gods, but because it “tolerated” them.  Christ’s charge against Thyatira was that “You tolerate that woman Jezebel…” Rev. 2:20.  Because it tolerated non-Christian practice and teaching, it also was contaminated by sexual immorality.

 

Those members of the congregation of Thyatira who tolerated this “Jezebel,” who listened to her teachings, or who engaged in detestable practices (sexual immorality) were characterized by Christ as having “adultery” with Jezebel.  The reason it was adultery was that these are the very same people who had pledged belief in Jesus Christ and betrothal to Him.  The church is the bride of Christ and to the extent the church (and its people) are tolerant of other gods, follow detestable practices, or attempt to discover the “deep secrets” (of Satan), the church (and its participating members) is (are) adulterous.

 

With respect to the “deep secrets” or “deep things” (depending upon translation) of “Satan,” one is left to speculate as to exactly what is being talked about.  The Greek word for “Satan” being used means the “opposer, the adversary” (Strongs #4567), so one reasonable conclusion could be that the “deep things of the opposer” mean that alleged worldly knowledge which sets itself up in opposition to the Word of God.  For example, scientism could be such a “deep thing.”  Another reasonable conclusion is it refers specifically to sorcery and divination.  Another reasonable conclusion is that, since Christ’s comment is that these secrets are “so called” (in the NIV translation), “as they call them” (in the NASB), and “what some call” (in the ESV), they are not “deep” or mysterious at all, but only thought to be by those people who believe in such knowledge as opposed to God’s Word.  In any event, regardless of the conclusion, the complaint is that the church-goers have not learned the gospel, but have learned something else which opposes the gospel and is adversarial to it — i.e., false doctrine.

 

So, what is the point?  To go back to the beginning, the difficulties in the church in Thyatira seem very real today.  Let’s see how many social groups we can identify which today show signs of tolerance of (a) a focus on economic gods, (b) sexual immorality, and (c) a reliance upon “knowledge” which is adverse to God and the gospel — the world?  the United States?  Texas?  Plano? A church?  A house?  A family?  You?  Me?

 

To these people, Christ has a message — He will strike you dead … unless you (a) repent, (b) do not rely upon the teachings of the adversary, (c) do not “hold onto her teaching” [a reference to sexual immorality], and (d) “hold on to what you have” (namely, hold on to the gospel).  Rev. 2:22-25.

 

“He who has an ear, let him hear …”  Rev. 2:29.

 

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Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture.  Help us Lord to come to you and to bring others to you.  Help us know that you are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be both willing and obedient.  It is only through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ that we are empowered to even make this prayer.  And so we thank you and praise you!  Amen.

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