Yesterday my husband and I were discussing the various ways that a demon might act in order to lead people astray. We see in Scripture that there are demons who cause people to act irrationally and cause others to be mute, suffer from seizures, or roam around without cause. We also see that there are demons who enable people to see supernaturally and thus work as diviners and fortune tellers. I think, however, that one of Satan’s greatest tactics in hurting the Church and leading people astray is through false prophets and religious teaching that is so close but just not the complete Gospel: assuring someone of a false salvation so that they never encounter Jesus is the greatest deception.
The fourth Church that Jesus addressed in His revelation to John was the Church at Thyatira. In this warning, Jesus defined Himself as the one “who has eyes like a flame of fire” and “feet like burnished bronze”. Jesus not only sees everything, but He is jealous for His glory and will ultimately and eternally cast into judgment (the lake of fire) anyone who does not repent of their sins and come to Him for salvation. His feet are burnished bronze: they will trample all of His enemies. This self-description explains the wickedness that has infiltrated the Church:
“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. He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS; AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’.”
– Rev 2.18-29
The Church at Thyatira had excelled in acts of service. They met Jesus, they were transformed by His gospel, and they were growing in faith, love and persevering through life’s trials. And they were continually adding to their faith by greater deeds of service. In their determination to serve and in their hearts of love they chose, however, to tolerate a false prophet and not remove her from their midst. Church discipline and inter-personal accountability is extremely difficult and many who have the Spiritual gift of service and compassion struggle with the confrontation that is required to remove someone who is walking in sin or teaching a false truth. This is exactly what we see happening at Thyatira.
Jesus had no more patience for this false prophet. He says that He has given her time to repent – whenever we encounter someone in sin, we should be patient with them as we attempt to hold them accountable – but there will come a point when a person either chooses obedience or chooses sin. And once that decision is made, Jesus promises to destroy such a one. This false prophet had led many in the Church to immorality and to idol worship. While this might mean actually participating in worship of a foreign god or creating images of Jesus and offering sinful sacrifices to it, they had been led astray. Jesus promises to destroy her while she is alive and all of those whom she has led astray will suffer severe tribulation with her.
Jesus then says that others will see the judgment that has come upon this church and know that He sees the hearts and minds of people and judged accordingly: rendering to each one according to his deeds. They will be an example.
Jesus then proclaims to the rest, who have not bought into this false teaching, to keep on keeping on. He praises their perseverance and conviction and promises that if they continue until the end, they will be placed in a position of authority and saved on the day of judgment. Romans 9 teaches us that God has created some people as “vessels of wrath”, who were created for destruction. He uses the imagery of a potter creating some beautiful pots for honor and some worthless pots for destruction (picture a chamber pot), and the imagery is continued in this prophecy given to Thyatira,
“To him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces.”
Those who persevere will be welcomed into eternal rest, will rule (over the angels, Paul teaches us, 1 Cor 6.3), and will watch as God destroys and sends into an eternity separated from Him in Hell.
False prophets are wicked and have already infiltrated the Church, John says (1 John 4.1). That is why we must be a wise as serpents but as innocent as doves (Matt 10.16). We must hear teaching and immediately evaluate it against Scripture and test it to see if it is from God (Acts 17.11, 1 John 4.1). We must intentionally protect our churches, our families and our own hearts from false prophets who would lead us astray and into destruction by God’s righteous judgment. We should never be a passive listener. When you go to church, when you listen to podcasts, when you read devotional material, test it. No one is infallible and no one is guaranteed to always teach the truth. That is why we have the Holy Spirit residing in us to help us discern sin and righteousness (John 16.8).
We must be on guard because the devil is prowling around looking for those whom he can devour (1 Peter 5.8). He is actively against us, and he has sent out false prophets who will entice us and lead us astray with the smallest untruth which can lead to our destruction. Stand firm in the faith. Know the Word and know God, and rest in His perfect Truth.