There once was a man who was in love with women who did not truly and fully love him back. She was a beautiful woman, but a woman with a nasty reputation, known among many as a whore and a prostitute. This man married her anyway and they had several children, but only a couple were actually his own kids, the others were children to other men. He remained her faithful and loving husband. One day, this man heard his wife was lying in another’s bed, whoring herself out to him. He went to this mans house and paid the pimp who owned his wife in order to buy her back for himself. He loved her, pursued her and bought her back from certain destruction.
This is in fact a true historical narrative: the prophet Hosea was the man and God allowed this scenario to happen to put on display for his people Israel (and us) how he loves and pursues them (as well as us). The story is shocking, scandalous and ridiculous. You may have thought, “I would never do such a thing, kick her out and let her be”. Yet, I am glad this story exists, because it is my story. I’ve replaced Christ from the throne in my life, selling him out for cheap thrills and stupid actions. It is also your story and the story of most of the people in the church in Thyatira. There was a woman in their midst who was drawing Christ off the throne of the lives of many. She was manipulating them, pretending to be a prophetess who spoke for God, but drawing people away from God and causing them to replace Him on the thrones of their hearts.
We are all tempted to dethrone Christ, to worship idols and to practice our own ideas of what is right. Yet, we work best as Christians if and only if Christ is on the throne. So then, How do we maintain Christ on the Throne of our lives?
As we’ve seen with most of these letters, Christ begins with a praise, goes into a rebuke then ends with a promise. Here, we see Christ praising the people for their love and deeds.
Love and Deeds (Vs. 19)
It appears that the church in Thyatira had opposite praises and problems than the church in Ephesus did. Here, we see that they have plenty of love and tons of great works among the people; Jesus goes as far as to say it is even better than before. They were loving one another, taking care of one another and being a great example through their love for one another and by their deeds. This here however is one of the shortest praises to the churches that receive a praise. They are loving God and one another as well as doing good deeds, but this is not enough. There must be a sense of discernment as well, a sense of active listening to the Spirit within them (us) telling them (us) what is right and what is wrong. This they are lacking because they are tolerating a heretic and she is leading the church towards destruction and idolatry. “Speaking the truth in love” is the biblical balance (Eph. 4:15). Unloving orthodoxy and loving compromise are both hateful to God”.
This then leads to the next point of how we maintain Christ on the throne. Next we see the need to resist idolatry
Resist Idolatry (vs. 20- 22)
To fully understand what was going on in this passage, we have to understand the context. Thyatira was a small city but it had many of the trade guilds, sort of like our union’s today. If you were tradesmen, you were in a guild and if you weren’t in a guild you had no social status and could hardly do any work. Sadly, part of the guild culture was a feast to the “guild god” where food would be sacrificed to the god of the guild and then a drunken feast would ensue where much illicit sex and other such typical party things would happen. Christians, due to their faith did not participate in the feasts, until Jezebel came along. She was a women in the church who claimed to speak for God, her seducing talk began to lead people to idolatry and sexual immorality. Jezebel was not her real name, but rather a pseudonym that caused the people reading to think back to the book of Kings where Jezebel sexually seduced Ahab to bring Baal worship into Israel and murdered several of God’s people in the process. She was evil and dark and used her body and wits to lure king Ahab into making stupid decisions. This woman in Thyatira was just the same as this old queen but yet she was “tolerated” by the church. Here “tolerate” means more than just letting her be around but also participating with her. Thyatira was much further down in the depths of compromise than any church we’ve read about so far and “Jezebel” was largely to blame for leading the people falsely down this path. You see, the idea of sacrificing to idols was a tense topic in the early church, one that was to be avoided because it would make it seem as if the Church approved of the gods that the food was sacrificed to, which they didn’t. Also, it could cause some with weaker abilities to stumble, or people who felt drawn to these gods. If they saw a brother eating the food, it would say to the weaker brother that it was OK and would cause him to stumble, even if it was not a temptation for the person eating. Also, as stated before these parties weren’t just about food, but about much more and so Christians avoided these. Jezebel said that God would never desire them to lose their social clout, God would never desire you to be poor, so don’t avoid them, actually JOIN in the revelry. Barclay says: “Jezebel is to be counted among those to whom the claims of commercial success speak more loudly than the claims of Christ” (Barclay, pg. 118).
This sounded good and if it was “from God” these church folks felt as if they could join in. You see for them, it wasn’t about the food but the idolatry of wealth and social status. They cared more about their popularity than they did God. They replaced Jesus from the throne and in his place put social status and wealth. Jesus rebukes the people in the church for tolerating this idolatry and not resisting it!
There are several things in this life that desire to take Christ’s place on the throne. In fact, our enemy loves to throw potential idols in our midst and many of us (including myself) yield and give into these tempting idols. Money, power, social status in our society are all very important idols. Getting ahead in school, in the work place can seem to be more important than honesty, integrity and the things Jesus calls us to. You see, on the outside, we can be loving and be doing great works, but on the inside the throne of our hearts is compromised. A guy named Osborne says that this church letter fits us even better than last weeks (Pergamum) because “…many Christians compromise their walk with Christ to enhance their profits or to keep their jobs” (Osborne, pg. 169)
This leads us to the next point that John is trying to display to the people here as well as to us. That we must recognize Christ sees deeper than the surface.
Recognize Christ Sees Deeper than the Surface (vs. 23)
Here, the picture of Christ’s eyes “whose eyes are like a burning fire” make sense. Christ sees the deeper levels of our hearts. He sees and knows our intentions, our desires and the motives behind every action; we may be able to fool men, but never Jesus, he sees it all. Christ gave even a heretical prophetess a chance to repent! He was pursuing her as Hosea pursued Gomer and how God pursues us all! Despite her sins, he was willing to forgive and forget her sins and move on. Yet she refuses to repent and so did many of the followers she had. Even if they tried to look good on the outside. They may have even said they were joining the guilds for missional reasons, to bring those involved in the sinfulness to repentance…but Christ knew the truth, they were replacing Him from the throne. I think too often, it is easy to play church and be “loving” and “do good things” all the while we are pretending and we know deeply inside that we have replaced Christ from the throne with something else. Barclay says it well: “The point here is that the risen Christ can see beyond the outward disguise; he will know whether or not the repentance is real” (Barclay, pg. 121).
Here we are forced to be real with ourselves as well as God. When we engage in certain things, what is our motive? Who is really on the throne? We tend to rarely check our hearts when it comes to certain things in life. We don’t stop and ask what we are truly trying to achieve with certain actions, we just do them.
Hold Fast (vs. 24-29)
In this congregation, there were those who were holding fast and were not engaging with the idolatry and sexual immorality that Jezebel was promoting. Here Jesus admonishes them to stay on that course and not give into the temptations that their brothers and sisters have been falling prey to. Here, Jesus issues his promise to those who hold fast to Him: He will make them rulers and give them the Morning Star, which is himself! When He is King on the throne to our hearts he gives over his very self. The power with which he yields is ours fully because we are allowing Him to lead us and guide us.
“God works as long as His people live daringly: He ceases when they no longer need His aid” A.W. Tozer
 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Re 2:18). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.