Revelation 2:18–29. Thyatira. An Epidemic of Asian &Quot;flu".
Key Notes: Immorality and food offered to idols. Dealing with a destructive leader. Adapting to the culture.
Thyatira was noted for its fabrics and clothing dyes. Lydia, who sold purple garments, and was the first convert in Macedonia, came from Thyatira. Acts16:14
The church at Thyatira is commended by the Lord of blazing eyes and bronzed feet for its love and faith, service and patient endurance, and for general improvement. Otherwise, the situation at Thyatira looks very similar to that of Pergamum. The problems in both cities were immorality and eating meat offered to idols. Some commentators find evidence that the teachings of the Nicolaitans of the church of Ephesus were similar to the teachings of "Balaam" (Pergamum) and "Jezebel" (Thyatira). The difference was that in Thyatira, a prophetess, a church leader, was advocating these evil practices. Since the church tolerated her, Christ will deal with her, and her circle of devotees Himself.
How should the church deal with a leader who becomes apostate? ITim.5:17–22 gives us advice.
"Never admit any charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses."
"As for those who persist in sin rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear."
"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without favor, doing nothing from partiality."
It appears then that the problems of Ephesus, Pergamum and Thyatira were similar. There was an epidemic of immorality affecting the churches of Asia, an "Asian Flu". That may explain in part why these churches died out.
The issue of immorality and food offered to idols was first addressed at the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. After Paul and Barnabas convinced the church leaders that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised and to keep the Law, a letter was sent to the churches:
"For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity." (Acts 15:28–29)
Aside from immorality and food offered to idols, the only other concern was eating meat that had not been bled out.
The next time that concern about immorality and eating meat offered to idols came up was in the church at Corinth. Paul devotes I Cor.5–7 to teaching and admonishing the church about sexual morality. Then he spends chapters 8–10 on the subject of meat offered to idols. The fact that he argues the idol question on rational rather than Scriptural grounds indicates that it is an area of doubtful practice.
"...an idol has no real existence". (ICor.8:4)
"...if anyone sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol's temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died?" (ICor.8:10–11)
"Though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more.
"...I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons." (ICor.10:20)
Paul give us three rules on how to think about doubtful practices:
•Chapter 8. Think first of your weak brother.
•Chapter 9. Think then of the unbeliever.
•Chapter 10.Think finally of yourself.
These rules apply equally to other areas of doubtful practice--those that Scripture does not expressly forbid, such as drinking alcohol, the tango, pot-smoking, gambling, pornography, glue-sniffing, etc.
2:24 mentions learning "what some call the deep things of Satan". There are several ways in which a Christian might become immersed in evil:
•by believing that there is nothing real in pagan ceremonies, and plunging down into the depths of evil with them. ICor.10:20
•by believing that the body and the spirit are separate, and whatever is done by the body is irrelevant, since the body is merely material. ICor.6:15–20
•by treating Christian liberty as permission to do anything. Rom.6:1
The problem of meat offered to idols crops up at least four times in NT writing. Further, an epidemic of immorality that affected the Corinthian church and 3 / 7 churches in Asia during the days of the Roman Empire shows how the Church was bent by the culture.
The Church today is also bent by the culture. Examples are not hard to find.
•If "Last Tango in Paris" needed to make its scandalous X-rated subject material socially acceptable, a religious person will be found who will say how important it is to express the deepest aspects of our being.
•If homosexuals are to be mainstreamed in American society, churches and pastors will be found to ordain them and hallow their unions.
•If God is thought of as feminine, Presbyterian women will gather in praise and worship of the goddess of wisdom--St. Sophia.
•If rock music is popular, the church will sing it and steel guitars and drums will be part of Sunday morning services.
•And if television is the medium, the church will produce its televangelists.
But some of these adaptations are good and some are bad. And it is not clear to all which are good. How are we to know? It is Christ who searches heart and mind and we must be subject to Him.
Those who overcome evil are given power over the nations. They are also given the Morning Star--Jesus Himself. Rev.22:16