CHURCH AUTOPSY – BEDRIDDEN by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: Have you ever been bedridden? Have you known someone who was bedridden or maybe they still are. It’s very tough. I remember when I was a little boy my mom was bedridden. She had fluid in her lungs, and she was also pregnant about this time. I remember my dad stepping away from his preaching schedule to take care of her. I remember my grandmother doing all the cooking and taking care of the house. As a little kid, I remember living in a constant sense of apprehension, not sure what the day would bring. In today’s message, we are back in our series titled “Church Autopsy” and we are looking at a church that was warned by Jesus to either repent or be bedridden. Let me clarify: Being sick is part of life, just like my mom was. It has nothing to do with sin. Having said that, there are times when God himself will afflict people for certain sins. That is very different. Main point: God takes the sin of misleading and misguiding his people very seriously. Those who refuse to repent are warned of the punishment of sickness and even death. Those who hold fast to the truth are promised power over the nations and Christ himself.
Revelation 2:20 “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.”
Context: The ancient city of Thyatira is sitting at the site of the present-day city of Akhisar in modern day Turkey. Unfortunately, we were not able to go there because of time. Thyatira was an ancient Lydian town, sitting halfway on the Sardis-Pergamum highway. The Lydian kingdom grew after the decline of the Hittites. It was at its height in the 7th century BC. The prophets Isaiah (66:19), Jeremiah (46:9), and Ezekiel (27:10; 30:5) described them as very good warriors, especially with the bow and arrow. Later, they came under Persian rule, then Macedonian, and then Roman. Thyatira was a strategic military colony for the Macedonians. It was fought over by the Galatians, the Seleucids, and the Attalids. I can say much more about the history of Thyatira, but the most interesting fact regarding this city, and one that really sheds light on our message, is the unusually large number of trade guilds in the city. A trade guild was a free association of people practicing the same trade or profession. According to the historical evidence, Thyatira had trade guilds from “wool-workers, weavers, tailors, linen-makers, leather-workers, and shoe-makers. There were also potters, blacksmiths, and bronzesmiths. There were bakers, dyers, and slave merchants” (Roland H. Worth, Jr.). They even had a club for “men in the prime of life” (Hemer). One of the trade guilds you know from the book of Acts16:14 “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” [Turn to the screens.] Maybe Lydia may have been part of a guild. We don’t know for sure. In fact, her name may or may not have been Lydia. It is probably “the lady from Lydia.” All this will make sense later in the message.
Just like the Churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum, Jesus had to send a letter of warning to the church in Thyatira as well. There were things going on there that were not right. As I mentioned last week, all 7 letters have the same format. To keep in line with the medical imagery of the autopsy, each point has a medical reference, which will be in each message in this series.
Revelation 2:18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass’”
This is the only letter where Jesus refers to himself as the Son of God. It is a fulfillment of Psalm 2, a Messianic psalm: 1 Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. 5 Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: 6 “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.” 7 “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” The patron deity of Thyatira was Apollo Tyrimnos, the son of Zeus. This was a clear challenge to the local deity of who is the true son of God! Also, we can hear echoes of Daniel 10:6 “His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.” What exactly is going on here? Jesus is declaring himself as the true son of God who is about to judge the church of Thyatira. By the way, Thyatira was known for making brass, the alloy of copper and zinc. They even had an association of “chalkeis” = bronze workers. By claiming to have feet of fine brass “chalkolibanos,” Jesus was telling them that their finest production is at his feet!
Application: Sometimes we put so much more stock in associations and man-made organizations, accolades, and approvals. We fail to realize that Jesus is far more powerful than all of them. How do you see Jesus? Sometimes, it is not some association, but a friendship or group of friends. We’ll do anything to get their approval. Is that you?
Revelation 2 19 “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.” First, he gives them commendations, and then comes the diagnosis – 20 “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.
Who was Jezebel? Phoenician princess, wife of Israel’s King Ahab (9th century BC). He might have married her to build some alliances or networks to benefit both nations. She tried to kill all the prophets of God, supported 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah, tried to kill Elijah, and had Naboth killed for his vineyard. Worst of all, she had introduced Baal worship to Israel. She misled and misguided the people of God.
Remember all the trade guilds/associations. They had food offered to various idols and even sexual immorality as part of the club. It could very well be that this woman in the church at Thyatira was claiming equal authority over scriptures and giving people a way out of having to obey the word of God. Unfortunately, the church people were allowing her to teach and seduce them in this behavior. Afterall, it was giving them the stamp of approval to remain in their association and still be in the church. How to have the best of both worlds.
Listen carefully: If there’s anyone in your life who is giving you advice regarding marriage, children, church, and sin, but they are contradicting scripture, there’s your Jezebel. There’s no such thing as the best of both worlds when it comes to your walk with Jesus.
Application: Who is your Jezebel? The person doesn’t have to be a female. They don’t have to call themselves a prophetess. It could be a friend, a parent, or some church member. They are a Jezebel.
Revelation 2:21 “And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.” In other words, they are not planning on changing anytime soon.
Revelation 2:22 “Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.”
The church may tolerate this kind of a person, but God doesn’t. They are about to face some terrible sickness. Again, to clarify again, people get sick all the time. This does not mean that they have some sin in their lives. We should never go around thinking that just because someone is sick that they must be sinning. In fact, there were some evil people in our church when mom was sick, and they were saying that our family was paying for all the evil we had done. Sometimes, people can sound spiritual when they are covering up their sins. By the way, both the patriarch and the matriarch of that family died very horrible deaths. My dad did the funeral each time.
How did Jezebel die? God sent Elijah to King Ahab to warn him that judgment was coming – 1 Kings 21:19 And you shall speak to him, saying, “Thus says the LORD: ‘In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood, even yours.’” Ahab was feeling quite confident when Elijah came to him – 20 So Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” And he answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the LORD: 21 “Behold, I will bring calamity on you. I will take away your posterity, and will cut off from Ahab every male in Israel, both bond and free…23 And concerning Jezebel the LORD also spoke, saying, “The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’ 24 The dogs shall eat whoever belongs to Ahab and dies in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat whoever dies in the field.” What was his response? 27 So it was, when Ahab heard those words, that he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning. 28 And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 “See how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days. In the days of his son I will bring the calamity on his house.”
God spared Ahab, but, for Jezebel, the prophecy was fulfilled in 2 Kings 9:30-37.Unfortunately, Ahab’s children had to pay for his sins. So also, in Revelation 2:23 “I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.”
This happened also in the Corinthian church in the context of the Communion – 1 Corinthians 11 29 “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.”
In the west, we have this toothless and declawed Christianity, which is anything but biblical! Did you know that God does not deem death a high price for purifying his church?
There was another group there who were obeying God and walking in the way of truth – Revelation 2 24 “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. 25 But hold fast what you have till I come.
Application: Do you now understand that God takes the sin of misleading and misguiding his people very seriously? This is especially true when it comes to kids and the young.
Revelation 2 26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations— 27 “He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels…” This was a fulfillment of Psalm 2 8 Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ ” When we start trusting Jesus more than our associations, our business partners, our friends, our confidants, he gives us authority over the nations!
There’s more – Revelation 2 27 “…—as I also have received 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.” ’ This is a fulfillment of a prophecy in Numbers 24 where this pagan prophet Balaam who was called on to cursed God’s people ended up blessing them. Listen to Numbers 24 15 So he took up his oracle and said: “The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, And the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened; 16 The utterance of him who hears the words of God, And has the knowledge of the Most High, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Who falls down, with eyes wide open: 17 “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult.” In other words, God turns the enemy’s tactics to further build the kingdom of Christ.
Invitation: Who are your associations? Who do you listen to more than God? Do you know that God does not deem death a high price for purifying his church? Are you saved?