The Church at Thyatira, Part 2 of 6 (series: Lessons on Revelations)
by John Lowe
In the message to the first three churches, it is the church that is called to hear what the Spirit has to say; but in the last four churches, beginning with Thyatira, the message is in relation to individuals who hear the words and who overcome.
An outstanding feature of the message to the church at Thyatira is the introduction of the divine speaker by name—“The Son God.” This title of personal and divine relationship is used here for the first and last time in the book of Revelation. “These things saith the Son of God.” His deity and relationship to Almighty God are conveyed in the title “Son of God.”
In our present verse, the Spirit further identifies the Speaker by saying, “the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass.” This is part of the detailed description of the glorified Son of Man in chapter 1:14, 15. We should always bear in mind that He to whom all judgment is committed, He who will execute His own judgment, is not only man (John 5:22-27), but He is God as well. He who will judge the quick and the dead is divine as well as human. “His eyes like unto a flame of fire” symbolize His moral hatred and intolerance of evil. He will search out sin and discover all hidden iniquity. Who would even entertain the idea of attempting to escape those eyes . . . which are like “a flame of fire?” What his eyes discover, “His feet which are like fine Brass” (burnished bronze3, NIV) shall tread upon in judgment. Brass symbolizes judgment; judgement that will be strong and righteous. The serpent of Brass in Numbers 21:9 represented our Lord Jesus Christ who, under the divine judgment of Heaven, bore the penalty for our sins on the cross (John 3:14-15). As the Lord looks at Thyatira and sees what a harvest of wickedness will grow from this satanic seed being sown by the woman Jezebel, He shoes His feet with brass. Judgment must begin in the house of God. Every system of evil that bears the Christian name (22) must be utterly and totally destroyed. When the Lord Jesus comes in person to make good His sovereign right to the whole world, His feet are likened unto “pillars of fire” (Revelation 10:1-2). “Fire” is the symbol of judgment (Mark 9:434; Luke 16:24; 2 Thessalonians 1:8).
The rise of Romanism made Jesus popular as “the son of Mary,” a position that robs Him of His essential deity and thereby degrades Him. While it was truly prophesied that “a virgin shall conceive and bare a son” (Isaiah 7:14), it is equally true that the Son was given before He was born of Mary (Isaiah 9:6).
Romanism teaches those under its power that they must pray to Mary in order to get through to God. This fallacy is nowhere hinted at in the Holy Scriptures. On the contrary, our Lord taught that the Father was to be approached in the Son’s name (John 14:13-14; 16:23-24). In anticipation of the claims of Rome, our Lord plainly refers to Himself as “the Son of God.” He knew that the day would come when His true followers would be hated for His name’s sake (Matthew 19:29).
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.
The faithful are commended for their “love” (“charity”), their “service,” their “faith,” and their “patience.” The darker the night, the more devoted and zealous were the godly people; their “last works were more than the first”—more numerous, and more pure. Love is mentioned first (Galatians 5:22) because love is the first and greatest of all Christian graces (1 Corinthians 13:135) and the first manifestation of the ninefold fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
There were saints in Thyatira who were dwelling together in love because God was dwelling in them (1 John 4:16), and apparently, their love for each other was increasing (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
Christ has six words for the church at Thyatira in which were many true believers who had a personal love of Christ which was manifested in works. Notice the emphasis on works. “Works” are well and good in their proper place, but they become a deadly peril when they come between the soul and Christ. Worship, in scripture, always comes before “service.” The Lord says “Come,” before he says “Go.” Works are actually credentials of true believers. James says, “yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18). God was pursuing this amazing quest for works at
Thyatira, but in vain. All He could find was dead works.
The six words of commendation are:
• “Works” were the credentials of real believers. There were many who lived spotless lives and by their good works “adorned the doctrine”
• “Love” (charity). It was a church in which there was love, in spite of the fact that it had “gone all in” for ritualism. There were some wonderful saints of God during that period.
• “Faith.” Though it is placed after works and love in this instance, it is the mainspring that turns the hands of works and love. The word used here for “faith” is pistos, suggesting the idea of faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty. These saints were dependable and reliable. Fickle and faltering saints are not faithful, but occasional and spasmodic. Some Christians run well at the beginning of the race but, like the Galatians, they tire quickly and fall by the wayside or else are led astray (Galatians 5:7; 6:9). But the tender, loving care of the Christians in Thyatira for others was carried on faithfully.
• “Service” is “ministry”—love in action toward those in need.
• “Patience” is endurance in those days of darkness. Think of Christ’s patience with sinners; with His blundering disciples; with those who tormented and tried Him unjustly and then crucified Him! There was always that readiness to endure and suffer. The word for patient is hupomone. We are to abide in Christ under tribulation (Romans 12:12) for it is through trial that patience grows (James 1:3), and this is acceptable with God (1 Peter 2:20). Moreover, patience perfects Christian character (James 1:4), so let us run the race with patience (Hebrews 12:16
• “Thy last works are more than the first.” In this church, works increased rather than diminish, which is a highly commendable quality producing continued growth and development.
All six virtues are produced within the believer by the Holy Spirit.
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.
The Lord had a grave and serious indictment against the church at Thyatira. The church was permitting in its midst an evil more serious in character than any evil that had yet appeared in the local churches. There was, in this church, and indulgent permissiveness. He said, “Thou sufferest that woman Jezebel . . . to teach.” The church had in its midst a malignant heresy which struck at the vitals of all that was good and holy, yet indulgently tolerated it.
The general state and picture of the church in the middle ages is represented by Thyatira and the condoning of the evil that was present in the very assembly itself. Why do you suppose the Holy Spirit chose “Jezebel” to be used as an illustration concerning the doctrine that was being set up and taught in the church at Thyatira? The only way to know the right answer is to compare spiritual things with spiritual. Jezebel was a “woman,” Jezebel was a queen, Jezebel was an idolatress, Jezebel brought paganism into the northern kingdom of Israel, and she was considered the most evil woman who ever lived. She had led Israel’s king, Ahab, into Baal worship and eventually had spread that idolatry throughout all of Israel (see 1 Kings 16:31-33; 19:1-2; 21:1-15; 2 Kings 9:7-10, 30-37). She was a persecutor and she was the virtual ruler and director of the government of Israel. Her husband, King Ahab, was nothing more than a puppet in her hands. She was the notorious daughter of Ethball the pagan king of the Zidonians. She imported into Israel the very worst type of heathenism. The worship of God was swept aside and idolatry put in its place. Purity became a thing of the past, as every form of lasciviousness was exalted as a ritual of religion. Jezebel’s pagan priests were wicked sects pervert, and they came down on the land of Israel like a cloud of locusts. The saints were put to the sword. Read 1 Kings, chapters 18 through 21.
Evidently, there was in the local church at Thyatira a woman who had a reputation as a teacher and prophetess who was the counterpart of Jezebel, the wife of Ahab. All that is said of her, can also be said of the Jezebel of the Revelation; and much, much more. The Jezebel of the Old Testament had been dead for almost a millennium, but the demon that had possessed her was now controlling another woman of the same name in order to corrupt the church at Thyatira with ethical and doctrinal errors. In allowing this woman to assume the leadership in their church, the believers at Thyatira exposed themselves to a threefold error.