Revelation – Tolerating Tolerance – 7

Revelation 2:18-2918 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

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* A little bad spoils a whole lot of good analogy.

We’re going to see the danger of letting the bad into our lives and into the church. Each letter deals with particular issues within specific churches, and they all apply to us as well.

“Ephesus had abandoned their first love. Smyrna was not reproved, but they were facing tribulation. Pergamum had people holding the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Thyatira, the subject under consideration now, is tolerating Jezebel. We will see that Sardis seemed alive but was dead. Philadelphia had an open door. Laodicea was lukewarm.”[1]

Each letter, just like the whole book of Revelation, starts with a view of who Jesus is.

Jesus is the Davidic King. (18)

Several commentators say this introduction about Jesus alludes to him as the pure king in the line of king David. It seems like it is purposefully reminiscent of the covenant God made with David in 2 Samuel 7. Mounce says, “Since Psalm 2:9 is quoted later in the letter (v. 27), it may be that Psalm 2:7 (“the Lord…said to me, ‘You are my Son’”) suggested its use here.”[2]

The description of his blazing eyes here suggests the penetrating power of Christ’s ability to see through the seductive arguments of “Jezebel” and those who were being led astray by her teaching. Jesus knows what the truth is. Jesus knows our thoughts and our actions. He sees through every lie Satan and the culture seeks to ensnare you with. He is the definer of truth.

Jesus is announcing himself to this church as the Davidic King. We will see later why this is important. First, we need to see what this church did to require harsh words from Jesus.

The church failed to exclude sin. (19-25)

“Their sin – toleration – is the very thing commended in our culture as the greatest virtue.”[3]

Tolerating sin brings about a very slippery slope. John Wesley is quoted as famously saying, “What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.”

Why is this a bad thing? There are some things we need to tolerate and embrace, right? Yes, but content and truth matters.

If we lived in a world where smiling is frowned upon (pun intended), and I look around and realize the world needs some smiles, I’m going to slip a few smiles at people and tolerate it when it is done at me, in hopes that it is accepted down the road. On the other hand, if poking people with pencils becomes a fad, I’m not going to tolerate that. Even if people around me start to love it. And I don’t want people down the road to embrace it, and it will only lead to worse pokings.

Ok, I know these are silly examples, but I’m trying to make a point. What we tolerate and don’t tolerate matters. We don’t determine what is good and right. There is a standard of truth outside of us and whatever the current culture says is right right now.

“He expects for us to call sin what He calls sin.”[4]

When it refers to Jezebel in this passage, it’s referencing an Old Testament example.

“Jezebel was a foreigner who taught her idolatry to the Israelite king who married her. She was thus one who did not belong to the people of God, who infiltrated the people of God, and who led the people of God into idolatry. Jezebel married Ahab, king of the northern kingdom of Israel, the kingdom that broke away from the Davidic king in Jerusalem.”[5]

When you fail to exclude sin, you welcome it.

Now, we have to ask the question, “But doesn’t everybody sin? Just because I sin doesn’t mean I am not a Christian, right?” The answer is yes everybody sins, but there is one large difference. And this letter gets to the heart of it.

Christians repent. (21)

James Hamilton says of this, “Those who belong to Jesus repent of sin. The refusal to repent of sin identifies someone as unregenerate.”[6]

If you feel bad about your sin, it’s a good indicator that you are a Christian. If you don’t, it’s a scary sign that you are not.

Think about it practically with these questions:

How do you respond when you are confronted with your sin? Does it make you angry? Or does it humble you? Does it make you make excuses for your sin? Or does it make you more grateful for the penalty Jesus paid for your sin? Do you think about how not to get caught next time? Or does it make you more zealous to turn away from sin in the future?

King David, who we talked about at the beginning, is the perfect example for this. He sinned, and he made excuses for his sin. He was confronted by the prophet Nathan about his sin, but it was in story form and his name was not used, and it made David very angry that somebody would do such a thing (2 Samuel 12). Then Nathan turned it around on him. In 2 Samuel 12:7, Nathan said, “You are the man!” And David realized how grievously he had sinned. I want you to hear David’s response. He was the king. He could have kept on doing whatever he wanted. Except instead he humbled himself before the king of kings. First, he realized he had sinned (2 Samuel 12:13), then he repented.

Psalm 51

So, we see the importance of repentance and not letting false ways of living within the church. How do we live this out?

We should judge those within the church.

We should hold Christians accountable to act like Christians. Did you know the Bible does not actually say that Christians are not to judge? It does say Christians are not to judge those outside the church, but it says we are to judge those within. We can’t expect non-Christians to act like Christians. We should tell them the right way to live according to God’s design and for their flourishing, but we cannot expect them to act like Christians. We can tell them that if they don’t follow God’s ways and design there are severe consequences in this life and in the eternity to come, but we cannot expect them to act like Christians.

We should, however, expect Christians to act like Christians.

1 Corinthians 5:12 – For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?

One way we so often live like the Thyatirans is that we don’t confront our peers when they are in sin. Maybe we don’t know how. Maybe we’re scared they will think we are stuck up and holier than thou. They might and, to be honest, the way most people approach those situations is that exact way. But, if you approach them as a fellow sinner seeking to follow the Savior, it makes all the world of difference. If you are genuinely seeking that person’s good and seek to walk beside them through their repentance, it changes everything. When we seek to hold Christians accountable, we are seeking their good.

“God does not expect us to be perfect. He expects for us to be a community of repenting sinners.”[7]

If you live with unrepentance, you are inviting sin’s consequences into your life.

“It is not only lost sinners who need to repent, but also disobedient Christians.”[8]

There are earthly consequences to sin and there are eternal consequences to sin. Those who continue to live with unrepentance welcome God’s judgment and are asking for God to hand them over to their own desires, which is one of the scariest things that can happen to you in this life.

Matthew 7:13 – Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.

Those who enter by that narrow gate, though it is hard here on earth, have a great reward in heaven.

The reign of King David will be fulfilled. (26-29)

This final rule and reign that they longed for King David to bring about will forever be realized.

Psalm 2:9 – You shall [rule] them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

“If we want to rule with Jesus in the future, we have to be faithful to him in the present.”[9]

In heaven you will be rewarded for your faithfulness on earth. (25-26)

I’m willing to endure any hardship I have to face on earth because I know my reward awaits me in heaven. I am willing to withstand the temptations and insults of a sinful culture here on earth because I know that a city awaits me where there is no more sin. I’m willing to dwell amidst an evil government and wars because I know that a kingdom awaits me whose ruler is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. I’m willing to suffer because He suffered and there’s coming a day when there is no more suffering.

I have placed my faith in Christ here on earth, which is our only chance, because I am certain that one day my faith will become sight and I will see my Savior face to face.

Until that day, let us all resist temptation, stand firm for God and his ways, and repent every time we fall, trusting that his grace will catch us.

[1] James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 95.

[2] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1997), 85.

[3] G. K. Beale, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 2015), 72.

[4] Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 2016), 71.

[5] Hamilton, Jr, Revelation, 97.

[6] Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, 98.

[7] Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 71.

[8] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2007), 1044.

[9] Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, 101.


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