Thyatira: Seek First the Kingdom of God

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Thyatira: Seek First the Kingdom of God

MP4 Video - 1080p (1.03 GB)
MP4 Video - 720p (636.34 MB)
MP3 Audio (19.44 MB)

Beware of contemporary idols. Don’t allow thoughts, desires, objects or people come between you and God.


[Darris McNeely] Idol worship is a front. He calls this the depths of Satan. It's the depth of Satanic worship. Whether you realize this or not, here Christ is saying to all of us who have ears to hear that when we worship anything before the true God, we are in danger of entering into what He calls here the depths of Satan.

Do you know how many girls are named Jezebel each year? Not too many. Not enough for most of us to even know someone by that name. I've never known anyone by that name. It is one of the least popular names of all time, Jezebel. Now, why is that? Well it's because one of the worst of all time bad girls was named Jezebel. She's a figure from the Bible in the Old Testament. She was a foreign-born wife of King Ahab of ancient Israel. This woman named Jezebel came into the land, promoted the cult of the pagan god Baal and corrupted further the religious worship of the people of Israel, and it was already a very bad situation to begin with.

Jezebel's story doesn't end too well. Her death came when she was thrown from an upper window of her home. Her servants were commanded to throw her down and so they threw her down out of the upper window, and her blood splattered on the wall and on the horses and she was trampled underfoot, the account tells us. Jezebel met a very grisly end. Jezebel's infamy was based on her cunning seductive promotion of false idolatrous worship into the life of the nation of Israel. She willfully worked to corrupt the morals and the life of the people who had once known the true God. A people who were to be a kingdom of priests before God, and who lost their vision of who they were and what they could be. And so God's judgment on the woman Jezebel was very violent and final.

We find that the story of Jezebel holds not only a lesson from that story in the Old Testament, but also a warning for us today. God's people, His Church, are called in Scripture a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, His own special people and the Church seeks the kingdom of God as it preaches the gospel of Christ and that coming kingdom. Members of the body of Christ cannot be distracted from the world. None of us can, when we really understand the message that comes to us throughout the Bible on this one particular point of Jezebel.

Now today it might seem irrelevant for us to talk about this idea of idolatry and paganism, which we read about a great deal in the Bible, don't we? Quite a bit. We might say, well, today we don't have these old temples to idols, Apollo or Zeus or Artemis. They all disappeared. But has it? Has idolatry disappeared? Look around. Maybe that it has just changed its forms. You see, in the churches, with the images and the statues that are a part of our culture and our religious landscape, we see a lot of statues representing Jesus Christ and other so-called saints. We see stained glass installations with images of angels and saints and devout worshipers pray and offer incense in some cases to these physical representations. Every year don't we see scenes of Jesus, Joseph, Mary, depicting the birth of Christ at Christmastime? And everywhere throughout Christendom we see the cross as a symbol of faith. People wear a cross around, as part of their ornaments. They pray to a crucified Christ hanging on a cross, and it's revered as an essential part of worship today.

So has Christianity merely adopted forms of ancient idols, calling it good? Does your worship include such idols? Have you accepted this as an appropriate and pleasing response to God? When we turn to the message in the Bible, the message to the church of God in the city of Thyatira, in Revelation chapter two we see the danger to the church, to any disciple when it allows itself to be corrupted from the simplicity of Christ and is seduced by false teaching. The church in the ancient city of Thyatira had their own Jezebel in their midst we read about.

Now, we're working through each of the messages to the seven churches in the book of Revelation, chapters two and three. We've come to the fourth message which was to the church in the city of Thyatira, and it's the longest of the seven distinct messages that we find in these two chapters of Revelation. And the message to this church contains a warning actually to all of the others and to the church today. It's a very stern warning from Christ the head of the church, not to compromise with idolatry and immorality, for doing so will bring severe judgment like we read in the Bible concerning Jezebel back in the time of ancient Israel.

In the ancient world of the New Testament, idolatrous pagan churches were as common as frankly all the churches that we will see today scattered throughout our modern cities, throughout the streets and on the corners. You would walk down the street of a major city, Corinth, Athens, and you would pass many temples to gods or goddesses in a very short distance. Shrines were on street corners. The public and the private life of the city revolved around the worship of idols such as you see right here.

Idolatry in the Bible violates the first and the second of the Ten Commandments that God gave to us. We should never confuse God's grace and God's beauty with any physical, filthy form of imagery that seeks to portray the unapproachable glory of the divine realm of the eternal Father and of His Son of righteousness. Now the church in Thyatira lost its focus on the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ, and their security for many of them became with what they had in the world. Now that world was and is designed to keep people from worshiping the true God, the God that they had come to know through the gospel. We face the same problem today, and so this message is very important and very relevant for us to look at and to understand.

Before we go into it in great detail, I want to talk to you about the Bible study guide that we are offering on this program today, "The Gospel of the Kingdom." It's a free study guide for this program, and it's at the heart of the message to Thyatira because the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the coming kingdom of God is what that message is about. Christ’s promises to those who would overcome the idolatry of their day and ours, the ability, the opportunity to rule with Him over all the nations. Understanding the true gospel is central to Christ's message to all of the churches of Revelation and for us today. And so if you've not been able to look at this copy and use it, it will be a very valuable study guide. You can get a free copy of it, of "The Gospel of the Kingdom," by calling the number on your screen or by going to to order or to download a free copy at this time.

Now let's look in Revelation, chapter two, and let's begin to look at what is contained in this message to this church in the city of Thyatira. Here's what it says. "To the angel of the church in Thyatira write, 'These things says the Son of God, who has the eyes like a flame of fire and His feet like fine brass.'" Now the image here, flame of fire, fine brass, is of Christ the Son of God. Here's a reference to His role as the ultimate judge of the kings and the rulers of the earth, those who plot against God. Christ's flaming eyes portray His ability to judge righteously and with finality. There's no thought, there's no action that escapes His gaze. Think about it. If we actually believed that, that our thoughts and our actions are known by God, what changes would we make in our lives?

Now the "feet like fine brass" that is mentioned here, that's also mentioned back in Revelation 1:14-15 where Christ is similarly shown in that way. We understand this points to His role as judge of those who oppose His rule and the work that He is doing with His chosen people. But there is a more pointed local connection for the members in Thyatira. You see, the image here of "feet like fine brass" refers to a type of brass. It was actually produced in Thyatira by a specialized trade guild and manufacturers. It was connected in that day to another pagan god named Apollo Tyrimnos. And actually the Roman emperor associated himself with that particular deity, both of whom claimed to be the son of Zeus, who was the chief Greek god. What you had really was just a counterfeit of Christ, who is the true Son of God. But the application was this. A member in Thyatira, hearing this association of this fine brass with Christ, he would be warned that Christ is showing Himself as the true Son of God, not some other pagan deity. Christ is not to be confused with any other association with a false pagan god or the cult of emperor worship, which was prevalent at the time. This description immediately got the attention of those who were guilty of idolatry in the church at that time. Christ saw what was happening and He's saying I'm going to severely judge accordingly.

Now let's talk for a minute about this city of Thyatira. It was in western Asia Minor along with the other six churches that we're talking about here in these churches of Revelation. But Thyatira was a little different than the others. It was a manufacturing center. It held factories that made textiles and dyes and clothing. They had extensive metalworking factories which made it a very natural place for, as an arsenal for military outposts for neighboring empires throughout its history. The city was located at a major trade route, which made it a center for the production of all kinds of goods and services. Now I mentioned the trade guilds. These were like unions that we have today, but there was a big difference. Every patron pagan deity was connected to these trade guilds. Leather workers had their own patron god. Metalworkers, they had theirs. Textile workers had theirs and so on. And if you worked in one of these fields for employment, part of your employment included the attendance at the temple of your patron god, to take part in a worship of a meal with food dedicated to that god and often forms of immoral sexual conduct were a part of that worship, as well. In other words, all parts of life in Thyatira were attached to pagan religion. And if you were a member of the church of God in that city, your success and your prosperity, your employment would depend on honoring those gods. To work, to buy or sell, depended on a connection to that system. So what would you do?

Well it appears that in Thyatira, members were all over the place with their conduct, and so Christ next says to them in verse 19, He says, "I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.'" The last are more than the first. Evidently, some members held the line against idolatry, didn't participate. They kept faith with God. They had true love for one another, serving hearts, right attitudes. Some modeled godly conduct among themselves just like the early church did. It says their last works are more than the first, indicating there was growth in all of these areas of those who managed to rise above the pagan culture and demonstrate a commitment to their calling as kings and priests in preparation for the coming kingdom. God blessed them in their efforts, and they were able to work around all of that. Yet some, perhaps many, did not. Those who compromised did not escape the fiery gaze of Jesus Christ in this message.

Does your behavior today compromise with the Word of God? It goes on in verse 20 and it says, "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 to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols." And we've already talked about the Jezebel of the Old Testament, remember. But who is this Jezebel in the church in Thyatira? Well, most commentators agree that it is referring to a literal woman who called herself a prophetess, a kind of an inspired teacher and she was using her influence to lead others into idolatry, and so she's called here by Christ, Jezebel. They knew what He was referring to. She was teaching compromise. Like Jezebel in the ancient Israel, her teaching encouraged compromise with pagan cults while remaining a part of the church. Now how she did this is not said in the Scripture. Some feel that her teaching could have persuaded a person that by attending a cult service with food sacrificed to the idol and the presence of this idol, and even engaging in sexual immorality was something that would be allowable.

There's another possibility put forth that the teaching was that it's only an idol and a false idol at that with no meaning, and what you did there didn't really affect your true worship. The net effect of it all was that the work of this woman was insidious, and its impact upon the church, she was destroying spiritual lives. And so the message from Christ continues. "And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed," it says, "I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds." This woman had opportunity to repent but did not. And so Christ's judgment, He says, will be swift, throwing all who follow her teachings into such trial that they will be forced to see their sin and to change. He goes on in verse 23 to say, "I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and the hearts. And I will give to each one according to your works."

Here we see that all the other churches in Asia, the other six in the list that we've covered and those that we will get to, need to read this message and apply it in their lives. The pressures of idolatry were everywhere. Members throughout the region grappled with this pervasive influence of the pagan temples and the worship that was connected with civic life. This deep message to Thyatira, coming in the middle of the other six, is the central theme that Christ gives to the church then and is coming down to us as a message today. He goes on in verse 24 to say, "Now I say to you and to the rest of Thyatira, as many as do not have the doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan," as they say, "I will put no other burden, but hold fast what you have till I come." Idol worship is a front. He calls this the depth of Satan. It's the depth of Satanic worship. Whether you realize this or not, here Christ is saying to all of us who have ears to hear, that when we worship anything before the true God, we are in danger of entering into what he calls here the depths of Satan. We're really at the core thought of all these messages to the seven churches. A disciple of Jesus is to seek first the kingdom of God, and the righteousness of God. He cannot allow any thought, any desire, any object or person to stand between us and the true God. It is the Kingdom of God first and last, now and forever. Christ moves to encourage us with that vision as He closes this letter.

Now, before we read that final statement, let me once again make you aware of the offer we are providing for our audience on this program, the study guide, "The Gospel of the Kingdom." Before we can seek first the kingdom of God, we must first understand how the gospel defines the coming rule of Christ on earth. If you want to understand the depth of these messages, all of these seven messages in Revelation, you must understand what the gospel of the kingdom is about. You can get your free copy of "The Gospel of the Kingdom" study guide by calling the number on your screen or go to beyondtoday.TV to order or to even download a copy right now and to begin to read this.

So here's a question. How do we resist idolatry today? In fact, how do we identify the modern Jezebels that seduce us? I said before that we can easily spot modern forms of religious idolatry. A statue, a painting, an image of some form and shape depicting God in an image or some holy relic. But modern forms of idolatry also can be deceptive for those of us that may not be doing that. Here's a guide to help us know when we might cross a line into idolatry. It's this. It is when we turn the good things God gives us into the priority. When we turn the good things God gives into priority. It is when the pursuit of God, in His righteousness and His kingdom is not our number one priority. Take work for instance. The Bible says work is honorable, necessary. It's what we do. Six days we are to labor and then on the seventh day we rest, the Sabbath day and on that day allow God to do His work within us in a spiritual way. But when work becomes all-consuming to the point of pushing out a relationship with God, our family and others, we're out of balance. If the job and the pursuit of what work gives us, money, status, identity, takes priority, then we're flirting close to making an idol out of work.

Consider something else. Sexuality. God created sex as a basic part of human life. Male and female are created in His image. And the sexual relationship is given to not only create another human life, but also to be the ultimate expression of love between a man and a woman in a covenant relationship before God. But just as we have seen with the promiscuity in Thyatira, sex has always been turned into something other than what God intended. Sex is a basic human drive, and it, however, has been perverted through so many parts of human culture. What God intended to be good has been a source of sorrow and corrupted lives when it's abused. When sex in the human form become the object rather than God the Creator, then we have sex becoming an idol, and God is no longer in the picture.

Think about this in any part of our life. God's the priority or something else. And if that's the case, then we are involved in something that's very close to idolatry and it blocks our view of God. Christ concludes His message to Thyatira and to us with this promise. He says, "He who overcomes and keeps My works until the end, to him will I give power over the nations. He shall rule them with a rod of iron. They shall be dashed to pieces like a potter's vessel, as I have also received from My Father, I will give him the morning star." Nothing less than rulership over the nations and the coming kingdom of God is what is promised. Christ is returning as King of Kings, and He will rule the nations from Jerusalem. The coming kingdom of God on earth, with Christ as king is that gospel, the true gospel. Christ tells the church to overcome this world and to prepare to rule with Him in that coming kingdom. That's what this life is about. That's why you and I should respond with all of our heart and might to the gospel. That's what the series of messages to the churches, the seven congregations in Asia Minor, recorded in Revelation, is telling us. Christ overcame, and because He overcame, we can too.

Christ is the morning star, as He says here. The morning star that shines bright just before the dawn of a new day. And when we see Christ in our life, then we are seeing the true path forward to all that is in front of us, and all of that glory, all of that promise, and all of that opportunity that God has given to us. Our world today is moving closer to the time when Christ will intervene to bring this kingdom to the earth. Your preparation to rule with Christ on His throne begins with your study of what that kingdom is about. It's important to make that a priority in your life. It is important to seek the kingdom of God.

The study guide that we're talking about making available in this program, "The Gospel of the Kingdom" shows from your Bible what the true gospel is all about, and how it is that we can put that first in our life and develop a relationship with God. You get your free copy by calling the number on your screen or going to beyondtoday.TV and downloading a copy or to begin to read it right now. As with all the other messages, this one ends by saying by saying, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." This message to Thyatira shows our destiny is to rule over the nations with Christ. Believe that and it will make the most important change in your life.

[Narrator] Call now to receive the free booklet offered on today's program, "The Gospel of the Kingdom." Many people are confused about this foundational Bible teaching. Some believe this kingdom only exists in the hearts and minds of believers today, but this is a different gospel than the one written in your Bible. Order now. Call toll-free, 1-888-886-8632, or write to the address shown on your screen. This booklet will open your eyes to the life-changing benefits of the true gospel of the kingdom. When you order this free study aid, we'll also send you a complimentary one-year subscription to "Beyond Today" magazine. Six times a year you'll read about current world events in light of Bible prophecy, as well as practical knowledge to improve your marriage and family. Call today to receive your free booklet, "The Gospel of the Kingdom," and your free one-year subscription to "Beyond Today" magazine. 1-888-886-8632 or go online to beyondtoday.TV.