Simply the Bible Blog

Daily Devotion and Podcast

The Gaze of Purging Love (Rev. 2.18-20)

“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…’” (Revelation 2.18, NKJV)

While driving the other day I passed a beautiful Catholic church. The landscaping was immaculate; the architecture aesthetic and functional. Maybe it’s because we have owned a piece of property for so long that we hope to develop, but I found myself admiring the structure.

As we come to the church of Thyatira, the name means “odor of affliction.” Not only was Thyatira a real church in the Roman province of Asia at the time John wrote Revelation, but also it is thought by many Bible commentators to represent the modern Catholic Church. The “odor of affliction” corresponds with the Catholic Mass that celebrates the sacrifice of Christ.

Let’s look at what Jesus had to say to this church. First, the characteristic from chapter 1 that Jesus points out concerning Himself is significant. He is “the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire” and “feet like fine brass.” This immediately speaks of His authority in judgment and gives a clue to the tenor of this letter. He begins by pointing out their strengths. “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience.” Concerning their works, Jesus says, “The last are more than the first.” Clearly, this is a church that is increasingly doing something. We think of the many works of charity done by the Catholic Church. We think of Mother Teresa and her tireless work among the poor of Calcutta. Jesus saw the sacrifices of the church of Thyatira in love, service, faith and patience and commended them for it.

“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.” (Revelation 2.20, NKJV)

Their problem was in what they tolerated.  Jesus speaks figuratively of a woman in the church who was a self-proclaimed prophetess, calling her “Jezebel.” Of course, this was not her real name, but linked her to that evil Sidonian woman from 1 Kings, who was the wife of King Ahab, and led the children of Israel into the worship of Baal. So many of the pagan religions and fertility cults incorporated illicit sex in the worship of their deities.  A person would pay the temple prostitute who would grant sexual favors as part of the “worship experience,” and the money would be used to provide for the temple. In a similar manner, this woman in Thyatira was using her “spiritual status” to teach and seduce the Lord’s servants to commit sexual immorality and eat food that had been offered to idols. In this manner the people partook of pagan worship and committed spiritual adultery against Christ. Immorality (whether physical, spiritual, or both) had taken this church captive. Everyone was “doing it” and those who weren’t were being silent, and by their passivity were rebuked for tolerating the intolerable.

Before we look at how this may apply to the Catholic Church, let’s first examine ourselves. We may be involved in good works–serving Christ and others with faith, patience and love. But are we tolerating things in our lives that are intolerable? Have we allowed the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life to run amuck, and somehow even incorporated it into our worship of God? Through our religious works we can give off the fragrance of sacrifice yet be far from God in our hearts. Jesus searches all things. He looks at us all with “eyes like a flame of fire.” He does not want to incinerate us but to burn off the sin in our lives so that we can truly and purely love Him. Are we open to His laser gaze? Are we desiring that we should be purged of illicit pleasures that make us unfaithful to Christ?

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