We all have heard the saying, “You never get a second change to make a first impression.” And the research shows that a large enough amount of the time, our first impressions of people are wrong. Wouldn’t you like it if every one gave you a second chance? If they didn’t judge you on first meeting but rather took the time to get to know you better before making a judgment about you? Some people will. We as Christians, if we know that first impressions are wrong more than just a handful of times, should most certainly be this way. But the fleshly, sinful side of us more often than not wins out and we put a lot of weight on first impressions. Thankfully, our Lord does not:
And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:
‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them–I place no other burden on you. Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.
– Revelation 2:18-25, NASB
Notice what Christ says about the church in Thyatira. Their deeds were greater more recently than earlier. They had gotten stronger. He hadn’t written them off for their beginning. Rather, He was praising them for getting better. Think about the implications of that for a minute. It goes back to the saying, “God accepts you just as you are. He just doesn’t expect you to stay that way.” That goes right along with:
For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” – Romans 10:11-13, NASB
It’s a loving reminder that our past isn’t too bad for God. He can forgive us, no matter what. There is nothing we’ve done that will keep us separated from Him if we accept His Son. And when we tell people about Christ, especially folks who have had it rough, folks who have made major mistakes in their lives, we need to emphasize God can forgive them right where they stand. And He desires to do so.
But the message to Thyatira is like the others in that God has some bad news as well. In this case, the believers in Thyatira were being warned against their tolerance against Jezebel, who was a false prophetess. Not only was she not bringing the word from God, but she was leading believers astray. She was leading them to participate in the pagan acts around them. God had given her fair opportunity to turn from her ways, but she had not. As a result, He was going to bring punishment upon her. Note, though, that even with this warning there is a measure of mercy. For those who had joined with her in following after idols, God gave the opportunity to repent. However, for those who stayed with her, for those who were her “children” in practice and belief, they were warned that they would receive punishment according to their deeds.
God doesn’t stop there, though. He gives a word of encouragement. He informs those believers who have not followed after this false prophetess to hold on to their faith. He wasn’t going to bring more for them to deal with. He wanted them to hold on. They just had to hold on. Doesn’t that sound familiar?
There’s quite a bit to apply for us as modern day believers. Going back to the message to the church in Ephesus, we must remember our first love: Jesus. And as we become more and more like Him, God is pleased with us. It’s not just how we were, it’s also about how we grow and progress. We must continue moving forward, striving to be more like Him. When we make mistakes, when we sin, we must acknowedge them and repent of them. But we cannot let those failures hold us back. Instead, we need to pick ourselves back up, hold on to our faith, and keep pressing on. When there are those who come teaching false doctrine and leading the flock astray, we must identify them for what they are and call them out. We cannot permit such activity to remain within our fellowship because ultimately it will cause other believers to fall away. Remember Christ. Push forward to be more like Him. And reject false doctrine and those who preach it. That was the message to the church in Thyatira and that is the same message for His church today.