Some problems in the church are new, but many have been around for a long time. The problems may appear to be different, but in reality they are the same. For example, believers throughout history have been tempted to compromise with the world.
Christ deals with this problem in His message to the church in Thyatira. A large number of trade guilds flourished in Thyatira. The trade guilds were inseparable from the religious life of the city. Usually, the guilds had a patron god. Communal meetings in the temples began and ended with sacrifices to this god. Along with the festivities at the temples, there was drinking and sexual immorality. As the guilds prospered, the church was tempted to compromise.
One, even when we are growing, we must be on guard!
Christ begins His message with commendation for the church at Thyatira. Unlike the saints at Ephesus, their love has not grown cold. Jesus says, "'your deeds of late are greater than at first.'" They experienced growing devotion to their faith and to service.
However, danger lurked in the midst of prosperity. The Christians were adversely affected by the guilds and their religious practices. Those who did not join the guilds were ostracized and boycotted. Faced with economic hardship, some were tempted to compromise their faith.
This letter is especially relevant to the modern world. In many countries economies are flourishing and wealth abounds. Previously poor countries are becoming prosperous. Along with the prosperity comes the temptation to assimilate the values of the world. Believers must be on guard against compromise.
Two, those who have compromised must repent!
At Thyatira some of the believers had compromised. A woman had arisen in the church who might be compared to Jezebel. As Jezebel, Ahab's queen, had supported idolatry (I Kings 16:31), so this woman was leading some away from the faith.
Jesus holds against the church the fact that they were tolerating Jezebel. It appears that some of the believers joined in the meals dedicated to some deity. How far these believers went in their compromise probably varied considerably among the offenders.
Christ's strongest words to the offenders were not about their sins but about their lack of repentance. The unrepentant faced judgment and death. God is very gracious to all who repent, but those who do not repent will suffer His righteous judgment.
Three, we must hold fast until Christ comes!
Clearly, not all the saints had been led astray. They had not held to the teachings of Jezebel. They had not compromised their testimony. Jesus does not increase their burden. He simply challenges them to continue to be faithful to their faith and to avoid the pagan feasts and immorality.
Although many have compromised, millions of people remain faithful to Christ. They will not trade apparent benefits for their faith. They do not yield to the fascinations of the world nor the world's offer of abundance if only they will cool their ardor for Christ.
Four, those who overcome temptation will be rewarded.
Jesus promises an outstanding reward to all who overcome, to all who do not compromise. Those who truly overcome will have authority over the nations. Along with Christ, they will rule with a rod of iron. And Christ will give them the morning star.
When will this authority be established? When Christ returns, He will be established as the ruler of the earth. The kingdom of God in this form will last until the new earth displaces the old order. The reign of Christ, however, will continue.
We must always keep in focus the return of Christ. The Savior who bled and died for us, who rose again in victory, will reign over the earth. And we will reign with Him. What an incredible future we have! Let us remain faithful and overcome all temptation.
The church today, like the church in ancient times, is in a battle against compromise. As in other letters, Jesus says, "'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'" NAU Compare 2:7, 11, and 17. The Spirit is always with us to guide us in all things. As the Spirit leads, we will avoid and evil and will remain faithful.