The Church at Thyatira, Part 1 of 6 (series: Lessons on Revelations)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

The Church at Thyatira

Book of Revelation
By: Tom Lowe Date: 5-24-2015

Lesson: II.D: The Church at Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29)

Revelation 2:18-29 (KJV)
18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
28 And I will give him the morning star.
29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

When you leave Pergamos, you begin to move inland. Thyatira and the remaining three churches are inland. Thyatira was located in a long vale (valley) or pass. Thyatira was a city built for defense. However, most cities built for defense were situated upon an acropolis1 or a promontory (outcrop, cliff) and walls were put around them. But Thyatira was different. It stood in the middle of that vale on a very slight rising ground. Its strength lay in the fact that Rome stationed the elite guard there. The name Thyatira means perpetual sacrifice or continual offering. Apollo, the sun god, was worshipped here as Tyrimnos.

This city became prosperous under the sponsorship of Vespasian, the Roman emperor. It was the headquarters for many ancient guilds: the potters’, weavers’, robe makers’, and dyers’ guilds (It was the center of the dyeing industry.); and each one had its own god, its own area of the city, and its own guild hall, which functioned as a center for the guild’s religious and civic activities. Usually, the guild would hold a banquet at the hall once a week and these banquets would often be focused on idolatry—featuring meat sacrificed to idols and, most likely, some form of sexual license as part of the reverie. Jezebel was probably encouraging the believers, mostly tradespeople themselves, to continue to take part in their guild’s activities as their civic duty. In order to do business in the city, a person had to go through a guild. Thus before business was transacted, one would have to perform the worship customs of the god of that particular guild. A refusal to join the guilds and take part in their activities would mean certain economic hardships. This is where the labor unions must have originated! Christ was pleased neither with this woman’s teaching nor with the fact that the church tolerated her.

Many speculate that the church at Thyatira was founded somehow through Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. At the time of the writing of Revelation, the city of Thyatira was in its greatest season of prosperity. As a Roman outpost city, it served the purpose of protecting the Roman Empire from invading forces from the north.

While the good works of the church at Thyatira are acknowledged, the church is also accused of tolerating Jezebel (2:19-20). This is probably an alias John uses for this troublesome woman, relating her to the wicked queen of the Old Testament by the same name (1 Kings 16:30-31). This woman’s teaching pulls people away from the Word of God to immorality and idolatry. On one hand, this church has people who are serving God in a strong fashion. On the other hand, they had allowed a false teacher in their midst to lead them astray (2:20).

Paul’s first convert in Europe was a woman who lived in “Thyatira”—Lydia, who was a merchant, dealing in purple and fine linen (Acts

16:142). It is, then, within the bounds of possibility that the church at Thyatira was founded through the testimony of a woman. At the time of her conversion, Lydia was living in Philippi, and was engaged in selling purple cloth. She came to Philippi on business, heard Paul preach the gospel there, and received the truth. Could it be that after her conversion she hurried home to Thyatira with the great news, or did she perhaps make converts of the dye salesmen who called on her? Or might she have written long letters home telling of the coming of Paul, of the demon-possessed girl, of the jailer, and of her own wholehearted conversion to Christ? We cannot say. But at least there is a possibility that the testimony of Lydia might have played a part in the founding of the church at Thyatira. Be that as it may, one thing is sure. A woman played a prominent part in the BREAKDOWN of the church at Thyatira. This church made shipwreck over the preaching, the precepts, and the practices of a woman. Some versions render the phrase “that woman Jezebel” as “thy woman Jezebel.” If this reading is correct then the inference would be that this woman was the wife of a presiding elder at Thyatira. Significantly, too, she was painted with a particularly unpleasant and dirty brush. She is called Jezebel after the wickedest woman in Old Testament times. For a woman to be called a Jezebel is every bit as bad as for a man to be called a Judas.

So there she stood. She was probably a very attractive woman, no doubt possessed of a charming personality, a most persuasive tongue, forceful ideas, and great leadership qualities. She was, it would seem, a woman who put most men in the shade. Her husband and the board of Elders ate out of her hand. “That woman Jezebel!” It may not have been her real name, but it fit her like a glove.

18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;

“Thyatira,” located halfway between Pergamos and Sardis, had been under Roman rule for nearly three centuries. In that day the city was famous for its “guild of dyer’s,” and the goods used in many cities were dyed in Thyatira and shipped out from there. The industry of dying goods was the number one industry in the city, and even until this day the brilliant scarlet cloth died in Thyatira is largely used throughout Asia and parts of Europe. Today, Thyatira is a flourishing little town with a population of about 20,000.

In chapter one of our study, in the vision of the Lord Jesus in all of His Glory, His eyes were described as “a flame of fire,” and “his feet” “as if they burned in a furnace.” Remember, John has been describing his vision of Jesus and reporting the words he heard. The Spirit assures the assembly at Thyatira that He is the “Son of God,” the head of the Church, the One who stands in the midst of the assemblies, who is speaking and directing this message to them. This is the only church of the seven where a woman is mentioned—Jezebel, the wicked wife of the apostate King Ahab, who was nothing more than a tool in her hands. The king was king in name only. The ungodly idolatress and murderess ran the kingdom. She was a very clever and determined woman. She is the prominent person named in the address to Thyatira (20). In Acts 16 we learned of Lydia, whom we have already mentioned as Paul’s first convert. After Paul preached the Gospel to Lydia she was converted and invited Paul into her home and became a faithful friend and supporter of the Gospel. She was the direct opposite of Jezebel, who sought to destroy God’s prophet, Elijah.

The message to the assembly at Thyatira presents the hopeless, helpless, corrupt condition of the local assembly, a condition out of which the local church CANNOT and WILL NOT emerge, a condition that is absolutely incapable of being improved. The message here is to be distinguished from the three previous messages in that here corrupt teachers are permitted to teach corruption, and children are born . . . “her children” . . . The children of wicked, adulterous, murderous Jezebel. What a terrible commentary on this local assembly! Christ is judging this church, and there is more than enough error in this church to make the Lord’s eyes blaze with indignation. No human has ever yet escaped His all-knowing gaze (Hebrews 4:13). Let us then learn to walk in His presence, the presence of the One who knows all.

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