Agonizomai: Rev 2:21-23 - Thyatira the Doctrinally Compromised Church<br>Patience and Punishment in Due Course

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rev 2:21-23 - Thyatira the Doctrinally Compromised Church
Patience and Punishment in Due Course

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Rev 2:21-23 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.

Notwithstanding the fact that this woman - this Jezebel - is perpetrating evil upon Christ’s church, leading many astray, teaching another gospel - one of libertinism, contrary to the instructions of the Apostles - notwithstanding all this, now see the mercy and patience of God. He gave this Jezebel time to repent. One is reminded of God’s dealings with Pharaoh in the time of Moses. God raised Pharaoh up in order to show His power to deliver His people, yet afforded every opportunity for Pharaoh to repent. Though God did indeed harden Pharaoh’s heart, it was only after Pharaoh had 5 times hardened his own heart in the face of God’s commands. Though God destroyed two of Egypt’s main crops, He left the other two untouched.

Such is the nature of God. Though He abhors sin, He is often longsuffering with the sinner. He is patient, gentle and merciful as He was with Jonah and with Nineveh in Jonah’s time. Yet again, Nineveh was nevertheless raised up for the purpose of chastising Israel - as they most certainly did in 722BC. God is able to multitask in ways that we cannot, which is why He is Almighty God and we are creatures under His omnipotent will. Without being the cause of evil, God can use our own evil ways to achieve His righteous purposes - all the while displaying that righteousness through forbearing patience, love and goodness towards the undeserving.

This is the history of God’s dealings with the world. It always has been. It is the situation today. God delays and forbears while men rebel and sin. God calls and commands all men everywhere to repentance and men, unless they are moved by God Himself, universally ignore God’s call - preferring to fritter away their lives eating corn husks in a foreign land, when they could dine sumptuously at their Father’s table.

But there is a time in the life of every sinner, which only God knows - a time when divine patience and forbearance is exhausted. This is why God says that, "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion..." {Heb 3:7-9,15} We must watch and wait. We must not be found asleep when the Master comes, or without lamp oil when the Bridegroom arrives. The door is open today, but God may close it at any time. For some - for most - He waits a lifetime. For many the door closes unexpectedly. They refuse to hear the admonition to the man who was enlarging his barn to make more room for his worldly treasure, when God said to Him, "Thou fool! Tonight thy life is required of thee."

Therefore all Christians absolutely must include in the gospel witness the admonition to believe while there is yet time - and to overlay the loving grace and forbearance of God with warnings regarding the impending judgment, and its uncertain (to mere humans) time of arrival. God can, will and does shut the door on individuals as He sees fit. And once the door is closed in death the judgment is sealed and there will never ever be any going back throughout all eternity. Preaching judgment, hell and (eternal) death is, seen in this light, the most loving thing that can be done. Regrettably, in many modern churches and in much post-modern witness God’s love is the only thing put forward - and it is put forward outside of the context of His sovereign, holy Being which demands justice for all sinners.

Nothing serves the enemy of God so well as a church that ignores, minimizes or even denies the horrors of the end of unrepentant sinners. By these wicked devices, and by co-opting many in the church to follow them, Satan and his minions bring shame upon the cross of Christ and bring upon their human cooperators the blood of untold numbers of the lost.

Towards this Jezebel at Thyatira God displays both aspects of the gospel of grace. He gives her time to repent, but when repentance is not forthcoming there is the terrible anger of God to contend with. She will become sick and her children will be struck dead. Can you preach such a message? Do you believe in such a God? Do you fear Him? Can you tell sinners that God will by no means justify the guilty, which all are unless they are trusting in Christ as their substitute? It may be that, in the preaching of this warning, she will be granted repentance. Who can know what God will do? Even the direst warnings and threats, coming from a God of love, spring from a heart that takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and would that they would turn and be healed. They can be the very means He uses to turn the wicked from his way.

Sickness, tribulation and the loss of dear ones can be signs of God’s judgment on specific sins. Or they can be the effect of untold sin in the world, which God allows to touch us. But however terrible such temporal losses and setbacks can be, they themselves serve as a mere shadowy warning of the unspeakable terrors of hell. While there is yet breath on this side of the grave there is hope that all tribulation rained down under the watchful and kind forbearance of God (He would be just in consuming sinners immediately) will actually lead to repentance. They are a loving call to repentance.

In the final analysis, God sometimes visits dreadful temporal judgment on people so that they will serve as an example to others. We spoke of Pharaoh. Verse 23 threatens to make a similar example of this Jezebel and all who unrepentantly side with her. Whatever befalls her at God’s hand, we are told, will serve as a testimony to all the churches of God’s piercing, all-knowing, searching eye that beholds perfectly the hearts of all His creatures. He knows how to reward every one’s deeds. Those who live rightly will receive commendation from God and those who, in wicked rebellion and despite all God’s forbearance and warnings continue in evil will be rewarded with everlasting death in the lake of fire - a conscious and unending suffering that will be both just and without mercy.


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