Let’s move forward in our study of Jesus’ messages to the seven churches in the book of Revelation to church number four: the church in Thyatira.
Before we move to Thyatira, here’s a look at the location of the seven churches. You can see those we have already talked about: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, and here: Thyatira.
Thyatira was located about 35 miles southeast of Pergamum. It was a very small city, but a busy commercial center. It was on a major road of the Roman Empire, and, because of this, many trade unions had settled in this city. Everyone who worked there was a member of one or more trades. There were carpenters, dyers, sellers of goods, tent makers, etc. In the church at Philippi, which the Apostle Paul began, there was a woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, who came from Thyatira. It was difficult to make a living as a Christian in Thyatira without belonging to the union. These guilds met frequently, and they met for a common meal. Such a meal was, at least in part, a religious ceremony. It would probably meet in a heathen temple, and it would certainly begin with a libation to the gods, and the meal itself would largely consist of meat offered to idols. Sexual acts with temple prostitutes were included in many of these meetings.
Jesus begins His message to the church in Thyatira by introducing the authority of the One who gives the message:
These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass:
To no other church does Jesus use the name “Son of God”. When taken along with the rest of His introduction, it appears as if He is enforcing His authority. As the Son of God he has “eyes like blazing fire,” eyes that can pierce the facades, the disguises, the postures and pretensions of his people and get right to the heart of what they are doing. He has feet “like burnished bronze” which can trample sin under foot and severely punish that which is wrong, if need be. Bronze became known as the Levitical symbol for judgment. Both are needed in the church at Thyatira.
Jesus begins His message by saying:
I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.
The church at Thyatira was a church that outwardly, appeared to be doing very well. As a matter of fact, they did have some good things happening. Their lives reflected the gospel. They loved biblically. Because of their love, they served. They exercised faith, which evidenced itself in their patience.
The ministry of the church was vibrant and growing. They were a church that manifested growth.
Yet, there was a significant problem among them. It is interesting to note that the “angel” of the church in Thyatira is not implicated to be involved in ungodliness. But, Jesus states that the angel is tolerating ungodliness.
Evidently there was in the church at Thyatira a woman who was a very influential leader. Jesus names her “Jezebel.” That was not her name, of course, but our Lord always names people according to their character. That is why he often renames people in the Gospels. Here he chooses the name of the most evil woman in the Old Testament.
This Jezebel in Thyatira called herself a “prophetess.” There is nothing wrong with that in itself. I want to make clear that it was not her sex that was wrong — it was her teaching. There were other women prophets in the Bible. The Old Testament lists a number of them who were well respected in Israel. In the book of Acts, in the New Testament, we are told that Philip, that wonderful, Spirit-filled evangelist who preached throughout the land of Palestine, had four daughters who were prophetesses and who had prophesied within the church. But the trouble with Jezebel is that she was a false prophet. Our Lord points out what her teaching was. She taught that it was all right for Christians to indulge in sexual immorality and in idolatry.
Remember the problems the unions in Thyatira created?
In order to make a living Christians had to belong to a union, but to attend the union was to become involved, or to be sorely pressured to become involved, with the worship of idols and debauchery. So they had to make a choice. It was difficult to live in Thyatira for this very reason. But apparently Jezebel had begun to teach that it was all right for them to go along with the requirements of the guild, that they needed to submit to the pressures of the world around in order to make a living, and that God would understand and overlook this. Her philosophy was what you often hear today: “Business is business.” If business practices collide with your Christian principles, then your principles have to go — because you have to make a living. Have you ever heard that argument?
Isn’t tolerance and morally relative behavior a problem among us today? It’s not just a problem of the culture but one in the church. Do biblical sexual standards apply today? Do biblical business practices apply today? Or do these things take a back seat to success, lust, and a lack of faith? Our society indentifies tolerance as being compassion. This is a teaching of Satan and it is not wisdom but is selfish and foolhardy.
If people deliberately reject the Lord’s authority, he is no longer their God.
Grace was shown to this “Jezebel” but she rejected the Lord’s kindness. Therefore, the Lord says this:
“I will cast her on a bed of suffering.” There is a note of irony or sarcasm there. He is saying, in effect, “She likes beds, so I will give her one, but it will prove to be a bed of agonizing pain and hurt.” It would constitute her only chance to realize what was happening to her, and lead her to change. Then there is the second group: “I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely [literally, “I will give them great affliction”] unless they repent of her ways.” Those who commit adultery with her are those who practice, as she did, immorality and the consequent idolatry.
There was still a third group. The Lord says, “I will strike her children with death.” Children represent those who not only practice immorality but who teach it as well, as Jezebel was doing. The “death,” I think, refers to spiritual death, i.e., what is called in the letter to the church at Pergamum “the second death,” the terrible destruction of the lake of fire described in Chapters 20 and 21 of this book.
Jesus searches the mind and heart. If His work of discipline must occur, then a desire for holiness will increase among those who observe.
To those who do not accept the doctrine know as “the depths of Satan” will not be burdened further. Everyone say, “Hold fast to what you have till I come.”
The real reward for those of the faithful church is given when Jesus comes.
“To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations —
‘He will rule them with an iron scepter;
he will dash them to pieces like pottery’ —
just as I have received authority from my Father. (Revelation 2:26-27 NIV)
That quotation from Psalm 2 is a reference to the rule of Christ in the earthly kingdom that we call “The Millennium.” It is a promise of reigning with Christ, not in the new heavens and the new earth, but in a period marked by the type of rule found in this quotation: Jesus says, “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” That means with some degree of stern judgment. “He will dash them to pieces like potter’s vessels” (Psalms 2:9 KJV), i.e., the combines of evil will be broken up in that day.
It is referring, therefore, not to the new heavens and the new earth (because nothing evil ever enters there), but to the millennial kingdom, the earthly kingdom over which the saints will share a reign with Christ. We need to understand that the Millennium is a time when righteousness reigns, i.e., it rules over the earth, it judges among people because sin is present and death as well. But the new heavens and the new earth reflect a condition where righteousness dwells. Nothing shall enter there except that which is righteous and pure and good. Now our Lord becomes even more specific.
“I will also give him the morning star.” (Revelation 2:28 NIV)
That is a beautiful symbol. I do not know how many of you have ever seen the morning star, but you have to get up while it is still dark to do so. In the book of Malachi, the closing book of the Old Testament, there is a great prediction by the prophet that the “Sun of Righteousness will arise with healing in his wings” (Malachi 4:2 KJV), i.e., the Lord Jesus will return in power and great glory. He will be like the sun appearing in the darkness of this world’s night. But before the sun rises, the morning star appears. In Revelation 22:16, Jesus says of himself: “I am the bright and morning star.” So what he is saying here is that there will be an appearing of himself for his own before he comes in power and glory, visible to the world.
Do you see Him? He is walking among the churches. He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what Jesus is saying!