From Fire To Fire: Thyatira

From our earliest days of life, we desire exaltation. We want more; more responsibility, more freedom, more position, more possessions. More. A toddler doesn’t want mom to feed him. He can do it himself. A little girl wants to use the sharp knives and stove that mom uses. A little boy wants to use the use the saw that dad uses. A teenager wants a car in order to go and come as he pleases. A man wants to be promoted and be able to provide better for his family. We want more.

Though this desire can be, and often is, twisted by sin, the fundamental desire in and of itself is God-given. God created us in his image to mature in his likeness. That is, we are created to grow up and be more like God. That means greater responsibility, higher position, more possessions, and more.

God created us to aspire to and grow into being rulers of his creation. However, if we are not faithful in the small things ... the first things ... then we can’t be trusted with the greater things. If your son is careless with the handsaw, you can’t trust him with the much more dangerous table saw. If your daughter has shown irresponsibility with forks, then you don’t put sharp knives into her hands. Faithfulness in the first things is rewarded with greater position and responsibility later.

Jesus desires to give the angel (pastor) and the faithful members of the church in Thyatira greater position. He promises them that he will grant them the authority that he himself has over the nations to shepherd them with a rod of iron (Rev 2.26-27). But anyone who is exalted to this position must have demonstrated that he is able to handle the responsibility. That means that there are some fundamentals that they need to be getting right. The angel, though commended for many good qualities, does have a flaw that he needs to correct so that he and the church can mature to this rule. The angel must cease tolerating the prophetess Jezebel, a woman who was leading people in the church into false worship.

Getting worship right is a fundamental. Who or what you worship reveals your greatest love. To put it another way, what you love is revealed by who or what you worship; what is central to your life, what determines the decisions you make. The angel in Thyatira is tolerating this woman Jezebel. In doing so, whatever else he is getting right, he is not handling this basic responsibility as he ought. Jesus reveals himself as the Son of God who has eyes of flaming fire and burnished bronze feet in order to instruct the angel in what needs to be done.

“Son of God” is a title that is given to David’s son, the king (2Sam 7.14). He is the one to whom the Father has committed authority over the nations (Ps 2). But to be exalted to this position, he had to humble himself and become obedient to death, even the death of the cross (Phil 2.6-11). He had to lay down his life in an act of worship. Now, he is the one in whom we offer ourselves in sacrifice in order that we might be exalted to rule with him.

The image of Jesus reveals this to all the churches in general in Revelation 1.14-15 and in particular to the angel of the church in Thyatira (Rev 2.18). Jesus’s feet of burnished bronze, as if they burned in a fire (Rev 1.15), is where faithful worship begins. His feet are the bronze altar in the courtyard of the Temple, the first step up God’s holy mountain into his presence. John fell at these feet as dead at first sight of the glorified Jesus (Rev 1.17). This is the beginning of exaltation. We must die at the fiery altar of Jesus’s feet.

But death is only the beginning. In the fire we ascend up through the body of Christ to be incorporated into the head of Christ. His head is presented as having white hair with fiery eyes in the midst of this cloud-like hair (Rev 1.14). His head is the glory cloud that has a constant fire that burns in it warming and guiding the faithful, discerning between good and evil, and purifying his people while consuming his enemies. His eyes are instruments of judgment, the means by which Jesus rules. This is where Jesus wants his faithful ones to be with him; he wants them to share his eyes.

In order to ascend to his eyes, we must begin at his feet. Before we can rule with him, we must worship with and in him. There are some things in us and the church as a whole that must be purified. Anytime something is purified there are elements that are consumed completely, elements that cannot ascend but must be discarded. For the church to ascend to rule with Christ, Jezebel and her children must be consumed at Jesus’s feet. Continued toleration corrupts the fundamentals of the church’s existence. If they can’t get this right, how then can they handle more responsibility?

It’s either Jezebel or Jesus. We can’t embrace both. Jezebel manifests herself in many ways, but she is after your heart no matter how she appears. She wants to capture your affections, your love, so that she can determine what is central to your life, how you make decisions; what you worship. Jezebel is whoever or whatever allures you away from ultimate allegiance to Christ. You know you are following her when what she wants you to do is more important than what Christ commands you to do. It may be that the world has promised you prestige, pleasure, and possessions in the present, but you must not have Christ and his church as central in your life. It’s okay to continue to go to worship, for example, when it doesn’t interfere with what Jezebel wants you to do, but Jezebel must be your primary love. She must have your affections. You must know that if you follow this Harlot Folly, Jezebel, you are going as an ox to the slaughter (Prov 7).

Jesus promises you, on the other hand, that if you reject Jezebel because he alone has your affections, though everything may not be pleasant in the present, you will eventually reign with him. You will have everything and more than you can imagine.