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March 31, 2019 The Judgment Seat of Christ Part 4

 

 

[Opening Illus] Hope Phillips, a 38-year-old woman, was sitting in her car with her husband and son on a Sunday afternoon near Memphis, Tennessee when she saw a man driving down Riverside drive into Wolf River Harbor in a suicide attempt.

 

She saw the man climb on top of the sinking car. She said: “His face was like: ‘I’m so desperate. Please help me.’ All I could do was run into the water.”

 

She swam towards the man, who was about 25 feet off the bank and used a tree branch to pull him toward the bank. Her husband helped drag him out of the water. As he came out of the water, he kept saying, “I am not worth anything.” She kept telling him, “You are worth something because you are here.”

 

Then he asked her name. She said, “Hope.” He asked again, “What's your name?” She said, “Hope.” Then a smile came across his face because he recognized the great irony of the situation. He was taken to the medical center and released.

 

People are looking for hope and the lack of it leads people to despair. Christians are no different. We have a far off hope that we will be with Jesus and God the father someday. But, often, it is not only a distant promise but a hazy one. There is no clarity to our hope. Sometimes an unclear hope is not too much better than no hope at all.

 

But God has revealed in his word a fair amount about what awaits those who are faithful. If we have a clear vision of these rewards it will not only inspire us to live for him now instead of the ever-present beckoning call to serve self, but a clear vision will fill us with hope and hope fills us with joy.

 

We are in the midst of a study on the judgment seat of Christ. This is a judgment specifically for believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who have not bowed their knee to Jesus Christ in this life do not have a part in this judgment but must await another judgment after the millennial age.

 

This judgment will take place on Jesus's return to the earth and will be based upon our works. It is important to emphasize that this judgment is not for the purpose of determining who has eternal life. Eternal life is a gift of God that is given to those who simply believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and what he accomplished for them in his sacrificial death on the cross, taking away the sins of those who believe, believing in his resurrection, and repenting of their sin (turning away from all their sin and committing to follow Christ the rest of their days.) Everything I just said about receiving eternal life can be summed up in one word: faith.

 

Faith is simply trust. Trust in Christ. That includes all that he is; he is both Lord and Savior. When we trust him as both Lord and Savior we have eternal life. No works are involved.

 

Our Scripture reading this morning is Revelation 2:18-29. READ. PRAY.

 

As in the letters to the other churches, we again see in verse 18 that it is the son of God who is speaking. He has eyes like a flame of fire. Fire was the only form of illumination when these letters were written. There were no incandescent flashlights, no LEDs. This is another way of saying that nothing is hidden, even in darkness, from his penetrating gaze. He sees all that happens and he knows all that happens.

 

His feet are like burnished bronze. This signifies his ability to tread upon those who need treading upon and it will not be a pleasant experience if Jesus must tread upon you.

 

[Illus] When my boys were smaller I used to lay on the floor and have them walk on my back. Sometimes two or three would be on my back at the same time, treading with their little feet. It was better than a real massage because it was free! Soon, they were too big and heavy to make that a pleasant experience. So now it is just Genevieve who does the walking. Her tiny feet of flesh are fit for feeling fine.

 

But if someone treads up on you with feet of bronze that heavy-metal will not feel fine! It will feel formidable and frightening. That is the picture. Rewards are revealed for buoyant hope. Recompense is revealed for healthy fear. The fear of the Lord is a good thing, a healthy thing, for we need both hope and fear to keep us on the path. Otherwise, we're prone to wander.

 

The church at Thyatira was one in which there was much to commend. The Lord commends six things. He says,

  • “I know your works.” The context makes clear that these are good works. We were created for good works. And, as we saw last time, these good works are not a drudgery but a joyful experience. This is why it is important to know what our gifts are. When we function in the gifts that the Lord has inscribed into us then our labor on His behalf becomes a natural outworking of what is already upon our hearts.
  • He says he knows their love. This means that he recognized that they loved him and they loved each other. They had the very thing the Ephesian church lacked. They had the greatest gift of all!
  • They had faith. Faith pleases God! Never underestimate the blessedness of faith. It was because their faith was strong that they could do the works.
  • He knows their service. This word usually means serving the physical needs of others. People who have a servants heart almost always have humility accompanying it. They were a serving church.
  • He knows their patient endurance. This shows that they were a suffering church but were holding up under their trials.
  • Finally, he says that he knows that their latter works exceed their former works. It is not just that they had good works. What usually happens is that churches will be on fire for a while and do many good things, like preaching the gospel, but then the fire begins to wane and fewer things then get done. This happens with us as individuals as well, does it not? Most of us can remember a time when we were more active in the Lord's service than we are now. Not so, with Thyatira! They were more active when this letter goes out to them than they were beforehand.

 

Much to commend! Then comes a warning: “but I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice fornication and to eat food sacrificed idols.”(Vs. 20) There was a woman in this church whose real name was not Jezebel but the Lord calls her Jezebel because she had the same spirit as the Jezebel of the OT, the wife of Ahab, king of Israel. Ahab was a wicked king but the Bible says that Jezebel was the one who incited him to do the things that he did. The Jezebel Spirit is not only one of idolatry, but one which looks to its own comforts and pleasures above that of the Lord.

 

A woman in the church at Thyatira both taught that fornication was not wrong and engaged in it herself. She even seduced some of the Lord’s servants.

 

The Lord would not judge her immediately but gave her time to repent. But she spurned the call to repentance. So the bronze feet are coming to her! The Lord promises that she will become ill and those who committed adultery would enter into a time of great personal trouble. Even her children would die!

 

This is the evil of sin. It usually does not just affect just the sinner but those around them, too. It adversely affects family members and friends. It adversely affects the church.

 

When judgment comes in this life it is a severe mercy. For whatever befalls us now, if we heed, it is less than what can befall us later if we do not heed. The mercy is this: the trouble that we experience because of our sin shows us that the Lord is the One who searches the mind and heart! He is real. Our faith is real. And we better get about the business of sanctification. The mercy is the Lord saying: “Arise from your slumber and move toward glory!”

 

Look what the Lord says in the last part of verse 23: “I will give to each of you as your works deserve.” Here, it is clear that he is referring to works of sin. If we do not deal with it now then the Lord will deal with it Himself.

 

The Lord's judgment of his church begins in this life. Those who live in on-going sin and find that there are no adverse consequences display evidence that they do not really belong to Christ, for he disciplines those who belong to him. The worst judgment of the Lord is for him to let us go our own way without any consequences. The reason that is true is that when we disobey him it is always better to experience the consequences of that disobedience now, before the next age, than later. Whatever negative consequences there are for unrepentant sin in the next age will be characterized by greater grief and sting than any now. Further, it will be of longer duration than any discipline now.

 

Let me clarify, I am not speaking of the lake of fire for believers. I am speaking of divine discipline for the children of God - for us! Some Thyatirans would experience the Lord's discipline on earth and those who do not repent would experience it in the next age.

 

But to the rest, to those “who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan,” He says something else. What are the deep things of Satan? It is not some cultic teaching or some conspiracy theory like the Illuminati or the Masons. In context, it is the teaching that idolatry and fornication are not detestable to God, that, in certain circumstances, they may be engaged. One wonders how Jezebel in Thyatira justified these practices. Did she say that it was only a Jewish regulation, not for Gentiles? Did she say that our physical acts are unimportant, only what we feel in our hearts counts? Did she say that as long as we love one another it is all okay? We don't know what she said, but the “deep things of Satan” are still around today: deception that allows for sin in our lives. We saw the same error in the church at Pergamum. It appears again.

 

So, to the rest, those who did not engage in fornication and idolatry, he lays no other burden upon them. He commands them to hold fast until he comes. Hold fast to what? Hold fast to what he commended them for at the beginning: their works, their love, their service to one another, their endurance under persecution.

 

For Jesus to command the Thyatirans to “hold fast”  implies something. What does it It imply? It implies that what they have can slip away. Their works may cease. Their love may wane. Their service may diminish. Is it not an easy thing for this to happen? The Thyatirans were faced with many worldly pursuits, some necessary, some not. Food had to be placed on the table for their families. Clothes had to be washed. Opportunities for monetary profit existed. Entertainment existed.

 

We are faced with even more worldly pursuits now than then. Some are necessary, some are not, but they draw us. They captivate us. They demand our attention. They consume our time. Therefore, our work on behalf of God's kingdom (which we are all called to do, not just those on salary at the church) can slip away. Jesus is telling you to hold fast! Deny yourself those worldly things! It is not just the evil things like idolatry or fornication that can overcome you! It is the good things. Someone once said the greatest enemy of the work of Christ is not the evil things but the good things, because those who love the Lord are resistant to the evil but succumb to the good. The good is there, but the better is waiting!

 

But the son of God makes this promise in verse 26: “The one who overcomes and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations.”

 

Note that there are two matters the Lord is looking toward. One is overcoming. Overcoming what? We asked this same question pertaining to the church and Pergamum. The context here in Thyatira is the same. Overcoming sin, specifically the sins of idolatry and fornication. Then the second thing the Lord requires is keeping his works. Are you keeping his works? Are you doing the works you did at first?

 

An even more important question is: have you ever done the works of Christ? If your answer is no then this letter to Thyatira should be of particular import to you. You would do well to meditate upon it, Pray about it, seek the Lord's face about it, and consider the Lord’s call to repent. If you are breathing it is not too late to repent, regardless of your age.

 

What is the Lord's promise? He will give the Overcomers authority over the nations and he (the overcomer) will rule them with a rod of iron. These two verses, 26 and 27, are proof that there is an age between the one we are in and the eternal state when sin and death are finally eliminated from God's universe. The phrase “rod of iron” indicates that there is some kind of punishment for disobedience (the rod) and it will be severe ( the iron). Sin will still be a possibility in the next age, otherwise, there would be no need for a rod. (Remember that the “nations” are not geopolitical governmental institutions, But people groups, tribes, the meaning is all kinds of people besides Jews.”)

 

The rod symbolizes authority. Christ is going to give his authority to the Overcomers! Hallelujah! This is the first reward mentioned in this letter: authority from Christ to rule!

 

The second reward is in verse 28: “And I will give him the Morning Star.” What is the morning star? The morning star can mean either of two things. It could mean Christ himself for this is one of his titles. Or, it could mean what the title ”morning star” actually symbolizes.

 

It is doubtful that it means Christ himself because he is the one speaking and if it meant himself then he would be talking about himself in the third person and referring to himself by a rare title. None of that is impossible, simply highly unusual.

 

When we understand what the morning star symbolizes then it becomes more obvious that it does not mean Christ, for the symbolism is related to ruling over the nations.

 

Turn with me to 2 Peter 1:16-19. READ. (Comment on the"more sure" character of the prophetic word.) It is as a lamp shining in a dark place. The "dark place" is the current age. Why is it dark? It is dark both because of its moral corruption and its ignorance. Ephesians 4:18, in speaking of the Gentiles, says: "They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them…" The current age is an age that is characterized by ignorance, ignorance about the ways and life of God.

 

So, Peter says that God's word is like a lamp shining in a world of ignorant darkness. We should pay attention to it “until the day dawns." That day is the day when darkness, that is ignorance, will be done away. Notice what else he says, “… and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

 

Just before the sun rises, the morning star can be seen. Two objects in the sky were called morning star. Most commonly, it is the planet Venus which is the brightest object in the sky. For Peter to say that we must pay attention to scripture until the morning star rises in our hearts makes it plain that he is referring to the time when Jesus returns and we will have a knowledge in our hearts that we did not have before: the clarity of thought and perception that will function to guide us in the same way that scripture guides us now.

 

Therefore, when Christ promises the overcomer the morning star he is promising a knowledge and understanding that others do not have. This knowledge and perception will be for ruling the nations.

 

[Conclusion] The Lord has granted a good and encouraging hope for those who overcome. It is a hope that is clear. The idea that we will be sitting on a cloud and playing a harp is so far from the reality that is coming. Our short time in this life is but preparing us for the next. Therefore, we would expect that there will be many similarities between this life and the next age. The Bible reveals that this is indeed what we find.

 

  • We have bodies now. We will have bodies then, although then they will be without corruption.
  • There is work to do now. There will be work to do then. Now it is toilsome due to the curse. Then, the curse will be lifted and work will not seem toilsome at all, but a joy. But there will be duties to administer.
  • There is joy in relationship now. There will be joy in relationship then. But the depth and peace in those relationships will be better and more meaningful than now - both with the Lord and with one another.
  • There is help and guidance that people need now. There will be help and guidance that people need in the next age and the overcomers will have the privilege of participating in that.

 

The hope that the Lord holds out in the present are rewards. Some of those rewards are:

 

  • The tree of life,
  • The crown of life,
  • The hidden manna,
  • A white stone with a new name given to you,
  • And the morning star

 

Seek them with all diligence and you will discover that the rewards are not just for the next age but that they overflow into your present life. They do and they will.