Whenever we face problems in our marriage, how do we approach them? Blame our circumstances? Our spouse? God? Do we ever stop to think maybe sin in our own lives may be the cause?
So far in this series, we have seen what God teaches us from His message to the churches at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum. This week we will look at what God has to teach us from His message to the church at Thyatira.
We think we live in a very tolerant society, and we do.
My wife and I sometimes watch TV shows like Dateline or 20/20. Often they have stories about horrific crimes–usually murders. But no matter what the crime, you never hear the word “sin” mentioned.
What you do hear are words like “mistake” or “error in judgment.” They give all types of “reasons” for these “mistakes” such as family background, the victim’s actions, or (my favorite) mental illness. The perpetrators either “didn’t do it” or there was some “legitimate” reason they did it.
Well, Jesus has something to say to the Christians in Thyatira and to us about our “mistakes.” And His words also speak loudly to our marriage relationships. So let’s read Jesus’ letter from Revelation to the church at Thyatira. We find it in Revelation 2:18-29:
A Little Background
This the longest message from Jesus to the churches in Asia. Thyatira is the city about which we know the least. But we do know that it was a city where trade guilds–or what we might call unions today–were prominent.
Many scholars believe that Lydia–who is mentioned in the book of Acts–was a member of such a guild. She was from Thyatira. We read in Acts 16:14: “One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”
While Lydia was a “worshiper of God,” most guild members worshiped the god who represented their specific trade. So it stands to reason idolatry was rampant in Thyatira.
At the beginning of this letter, John tells us: “These are the words of the Son of God” (Revelation 2:18). This is a clear reference to Jesus. He is the one speaking to the church.
And then we see Jesus pictured in a way we rarely think about Him.
His eyes are “like blazing fire” (Revelation 2:18). This indicates that Jesus sees and knows everything. And His feet “like burnished bronze” (v.18) speak to His strength.
God is omnipotent…all-powerful. Jesus Christ is God, and so He also is omnipotent.
We find this same reference to Christ in Daniel 10:6: “His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.”
This description shows His power and authority. Whatever Christ says, He will accomplish. And we must listen to what He says.
Words of Encouragement
Jesus’ initial words to this church are complementary and encouraging. He commends these believers for their love, faith, service, and perseverance (Revelation 2:19). These are traits that all of us as believers want to embody.
And these are also characteristics we should desire in our marriage. When love, faith, service, and perseverance are a part of our lives, they will help assure a strong and growing walk with Christ and each other. Therefore, these are things we should pray for together as a couple.
The believers in Thyatira are growing in their relationship with Christ because of their faithfulness to His teachings. And Jesus acknowledges that they “are now doing more than [they] did at first” (Revelation 2:19).
Yet even while they are increasing in their knowledge and faith in the Lord, they still have much room for improvement. And this is true of us all.
Even Paul wrote in Philippians 3:12: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
As we strive to follow Jesus’ teachings more each day, we will continue to become more like Christ. And in doing so we will be able to have the marriage that God wants for us.
Jesus then addresses something He has against the church. This is the only thing He rebukes them for, but it is a major issue. He says they “tolerate that woman Jezebel” (Revelation 2: 20). This sin is being tolerated within the church.
Tolerating sin in our lives and marriages may seem a strange thing to condemn in our modern culture. It seems like today the only thing people are unwilling to tolerate is intolerance (even in some churches). Nobody dares say, “That is a sin.” This is never heard in our society today.
But God is not tolerant when it comes to sin. God is holy. And every sin of every kind that is perpetrated on this earth will be punished by God.
Proverbs 11:21 says: “Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free.”
Every sin that we commit will be punished by God. Either we will pay the price and spend eternity in hell, or our sins will be forgiven because of Christ paying the price for our sins on the cross.
(If you want to learn more about what Christ Jesus did and how to be forgiven of your sins, please read Meet Jesus.)
You cannot have the marriage God wants for you until your sins are forgiven by giving your life to Christ. But even if you have given your life to Christ, if there is unconfessed sin in your life, the joyful marriage God wants for you will still be out of reach.
God promises in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
When we confess our sins, God forgives us and we are then able to have the personal relationship with Him that He desires–one of love, joy, and peace. And this right relationship with God then allows us to have the marriage relationship He desires for every husband and wife. One that is a reflection of our relationship with Him–with that same love, joy, and peace.
David wrote about this beautifully in Psalm 32:3-5: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”
We read the result of David confessing his sin in Psalm 32:10-11: “Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. 11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!”
God is completely just and cannot tolerate sin. He lives in a spotless, pure, and holy heaven. Sin is simply not allowed there. And, therefore, we must not tolerate it here.
Tolerance is only a virtue in a completely immoral society.
The church at Thyatira was tolerating “that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet” (Revelation 2:20). This certainly did not mean that Jezebel–evil wife of the Israelite king Ahab of the Old Testament (1 Kings 16:31; 18:4-19; 19:1-2; 21:5-25; 2 Kings 9)–had come back to life. But it refers to someone similarly evil in the church trying to lead its members away from God’s truth.
This “Jezebel” even claimed to be a prophet–to speak for God. But she obviously was not a prophet. Her teaching led people to acts directly against God’s teachings, such as “the eating of food sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:20).
Of specific reference to marriage, she led church members “into sexual immorality” (Revelation 2:20).
Heterosexual sexual relations within the bounds of a marriage vow as created and taught by God is a beautiful thing. But outside those boundaries it is sin. (See the teaching from God’s Word on this under Our Beliefs About Marriage.)
We must faithfully follow only God’s teaching in our marriage and in every area of our life. We must not even listen to anyone who teaches anything but the truth of God’s Word.
If we follow anything but God’s truth we can expect the same results given in Revelation 2:22-23. The outcome will be the same judgment that befalls this prophetess Jezebel. While we cannot be certain of the exact meaning of the phrase “I will cast her on a bed of suffering” (v. 22), it certainly means there will be strong negative consequences.
In my counseling ministry, I have seen the devastating results of sexual sin in the lives of those who have committed adultery. There is often great pain, divorce, children living with only one parent, and much more on this “bed of suffering.” Those who have sinned in their marriage this way have indeed suffered intensely.
I have never observed their children stricken dead physically, as is stated in Revelation 2:23. But I have painfully watched marriages and families destroyed. The results were no less devastating than if there had been a death.
Not only do those who sin reap the harvest of negative consequences, but so do those around them.
Twice in this letter, we see what comes if we follow a path other than the one on which God leads us. In Revelation 2:21 we read: “I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.” And in Revelation 2:22: “I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.”
When we sin, we must repent (confess it and turn away from it). It may be hard, but it is the first step in returning to God’s ways and not the world’s ways—those of “Jezebel.” This is the only hope for us, our marriage, and our family.
A Great Reward
God will bring judgment on our unconfessed sin because He is holy. But He also does it for the good of His people–the Church. He says in Revelation 2:23: “I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”
These words are encouraging to us. If we are faithful to God and His Word, He promises a tremendous reward.
What the Lord asks us to do in order to receive the rich reward is “to hold on to what you have until I come” (Revelation 2:25). He calls us to do “my will to the end” (Revelation 2:26). In other words, Christ asks us to learn and live out the truth found in His Word in our lives and marriages until He returns or calls us home to heaven.
What is this reward we will receive for faithfully following Christ? Revelation 2:28 says: “I will also give that one the morning star.”
What is the “morning star?”
It’s not a “what.” It is a “who.” That “who” is found in Revelation 22:16: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.’”
So as we turn from sin and faithfully follow Christ, we will receive the greatest reward of all–an abiding, close, eternal fellowship with Jesus Himself! This is the greatest reward!
And as we live close to Him and live like Him, our marriage will grow stronger and more beautiful every day!
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss what God has taught you through it. What has He specifically taught you that will help your marriage be what He desires for it?
♦ What is the difference between tolerating a person and tolerating sin? To help with that question, think about this one: What is the difference between loving a person and loving a sin that person may be involved in? How does this apply to your marriage?
♦ Is there sin in your life or lives that you need to confess to God and to one another? Remember, there is no sin so small that it will not hurt you, your relationship with God, and your relationship with each other. We must not tolerate any sin in our lives and marriage. There is also no sin that God will not forgive us of.
♦ Close your time together by praying for God to help you encourage each other stand firmly by His Word. Ask Him to convict you of any sin you need to repent of and to help you to do so.
Next week Sabra and I will be on vacation. So we’ll continue our study in a couple of weeks with what God has to say to our marriages through Jesus’ message to the church at Sardis.
Until then, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
Other posts in the WISDOM FOR MARRIAGE FROM THE BOOK OF REVELATION series:
Part 1: Can This Book Really Teach Us About Marriage?
Part 2: Lessons from the Letter to the Ephesus Church
Part 3: Lessons from the Letter to the Smyrna Church
Part 4: Lessons from the Letter to the Pergamum Church
Part 6: Lessons from the Letter to the Sardis Church
Part 7: Lessons from the Letter to the Philadelphia Church
Part 8: Lessons from the Letter to the Laodicea Church
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Header photo by SW Austin Dixon via Snapwire (CC0 1.0), cropped/text added.
Scripture photo by Adrianna Calvo via pixabay (CC0), cropped/text added.