Church discipline is never a pleasant thing. It weighs heavily on the hearts of church leadership and it is uncomfortable for a church body to endure. That’s by design. It isn’t meant to be pleasant. It is corrective (Proverbs 22:10) and instructive (Proverbs 21:11). Unpleasant as it is, when it is not carried out, the church and its power in the community both suffer.
When Jesus introduced Himself to the church at Thyatira, He described Himself as “the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass” (v. 18). With His eyes of fire, the Lord can see into the very depths of our soul. There is no false front, no compromise on our dedication to Him that will escape His notice.
Jesus can judge us in the way that He does, not just because He is the Son of God, but also because His authority is absolutely pure and incorruptible.
The kings of ancient times always sat on elevated thrones, so those who came before him to be judged would always be beneath the king’s feet. The feet of a king thus eventually came to symbolize his authority. When He introduces Himself to the church at Thyatira, Jesus reminds them that His feet are “like fine brass.” Human leadership is frail and prone to corruption. Jesus’s leadership is everlasting and without impurity. He forgives sin, but He will not tolerate it. The church at Thyatira had committed spiritual adultery by allowing false doctrine into the church and letting it go completely unchallenged.
To its praise, this church still had growing Christians in it. “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first” (v. 2:18), but these were flowers growing amongst weeds. The hard task of pulling the weeds had been neglected. It is the duty not just of the pastoral staff but of the whole congregation to keep the church doctrinally and morally right.
In His rebuke, Jesus likens the false teachers in the church to Jezebel. In the Old Testament, Jezebel was the pagan wife of King Ahab of Northern Israel. His union with her was unlawful according to Old Testament law and she proved to be a corrupting influence on him and on his nation. Through his marriage to Jezebel, Northern Israel was drawn deeper and deeper into idol worship. The same thing was happening in the church at Thyatira.
In His rebuke of these false teachers, Jesus does not offer a remedy to their situation, only condemnation. That’s because they had already been offered the chance for repentance and they refused it (v. 21), so He confirmed them in their way and promised to reward them according to their works (vv. 22-23). When He tells them “And I will kill her children with death” He is not being redundant. He is specifying the kind of death her followers will face: eternal death and damnation, not just physical death.
To those who were enduring in the truth, He says: “I will put upon you none other burden…but that which ye have already hold fast till I come” (vv. 24b – 25). Sometimes in dire situations where the corruption is so heavily intertwined the temptation is to give up and give in. Jesus reminds His followers that He is aware of their plight, that He is with them, and that they must remain faithful. In His promise to these believers, He reminds them of another aspect of the promise that awaits all believers:
(26) And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
(27) And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
(28) And I will give him the morning star.
(29) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Where they might feel powerless now, Jesus promises there is coming a day when He and His people will have the upper hand and they will rule in righteousness – His righteousness. For believers in this world and in these times, it is only going to get worse, but hold fast. Because it will get better!