Thyatira (The church
that condoned sin)
exists today as the Turkish city of
Akhisar, meaning "white castle". It
lies in the far west of Turkey,
south of Istanbul and almost due
east of Athens. Although it is about
50 miles from the Mediterranean, it
would have been closer in ancient
times, as the sea has retreated
some. In the Roman Empire, Thyatira
stood on the border between Lydia
and Mysia. It was famous for its
dyeing and was a center of the
indigo trade. Among the ancient
ruins of the city, inscriptions have
been found relating to the guild of
dyers in the city. More guilds were
present in Thyatira than any other
contemporary city in the Roman
province of Asia. Inscriptions
mention the following: wool-workers,
linen-workers, makers of outer
garments, dyers, leather-workers,
tanners, potters, bakers,
slave-dealers and bronze-smiths.
never an important political city.
It was located on a trade route
between Pergamum and Sardis and
never reached the prominence that
some of the other cities in Asia
achieved. Today Thyatira has a
population of about 50,000 people.
The name "Thyatira" means "the
castle of Thya." Other names which
it was known by are Pelopia and
Semiramis. Before the time of
Nicator the place was regarded as a
holy city because of the temple of
the ancient Lydian sun-god, Tyrimnos
who was identified with the Greek
God Apollo. Near this temple games
were held in his honor. Upon the
early coins of Thyatira this Asiatic
god is represented as a horseman,
bearing a double-headed battle-ax.
A pagan goddess associated with him
was Boreatene. Other pagan gods were
worshipped here as well such as
Asklepios, Baachus, Artemis.
another temple at Thyatira which was
dedicated to the worship of the
Chaldean Goddess, Sambethe. At this
temple was a prophetess who was well
known in the city and who claimed to
receive knowledge directly from the
pagan god. She then imparted this
information to the worshippers who
came to the temple. It is quite
possible this well known prophetess
was represented as the Jezebel Jesus
mentioned in his message to the
Lydia the seller
of purple was from this city, "And
a certain woman named Lydia, a
seller of purple , of the city of
Thyatira, which worshipped God,
heard us: whose heart the Lord
opened, that she attended unto the
things which were spoken of Paul.
And when she was baptized, and her
household, she besought us, saying,
If ye have judged me to be faithful
to the Lord, come into my house, and
abide there. And she constrained us"
(Acts 16:14-15). Lydia's
conversion happened when Paul was in
Philippi. It is possible the Lydia
and her household started the church
in Thyatira upon her return.
However if this is not the case,
Paul spent 2 years in Ephesus
preaching the gospel, "And this
continued by the space of two years;
so that all they which dwelt in Asia
heard the word of the Lord Jesus,
both Jews and Greeks" (Acts
19:10). It is obvious that Paul was
instrumental in starting this
congregation of the Lord's church in
"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira
write: These things saith the Son of God, who hath
his eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet are like
unto burnished brass:"
doubt here who is doing the talking. He identifies
Himself as the Son of God. Any Christian on earth
would know who this is referring to instantly. His
eyes are described as being like a flame of fire,
piercing, illuminating and consuming. The
illuminating piercing eyes of the Son of God see
everything; the good and the bad, the just and the
unjust. Nothing escapes his notice. His feet are
like burnished brass, which is a repeat of the
imagery of Jesus in Revelation 1:15. Daniel used
this imagery as well in Daniel 10:6, "his body
also was like the beryl, and his face as the
appearance of lightning, and his eyes as flaming
torches, and his arms and his feet like unto
burnished brass, and the voice of his words like the
voice of a multitude." Burnished brass was
purified in a heated furnace. The imagery here is
of feet, firm, strong and pure, that can stamp one's
enemies out in fiery judgment, which is exactly what
is going to happen in the end to all the enemies of
God (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
"I know thy works, and thy love and faith and
ministry and patience, and that thy last works are
more than the first."
As with the
other churches, Jesus is well aware of their good
qualities and they are commended for them. Their
good qualities are very similar to the Thessalonians
whom Paul praised as well; "remembering without
ceasing your work of faith and labor of love and
patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, before
our God and Father" (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
Christians in Thyatira had "agape" love which is
translated as "charity" in the
KJV. Agape love is the one that will compel
others to give of themselves to others. It is a
self sacrificing love that expresses itself in the
interest of the well being of others.
Christians in Thyatira were commended for their
faith, that by which we are to walk and work.
Hebrews 11 lists a whole roll of Biblical people who
lived and walked by faith. There are two faiths
spoken of in the Bible. There is the faith that
saves which is characterized as faith in action.
Faith is absolutely necessary for our salvation,
(Hebrews 11:6). But, it is a comprehensive term
which includes many things. Belief is faith
assenting; repentance is faith turning; Confession
is faith speaking; baptism is faith submitting; the
Christian life is faith serving and rejoicing.
faith spoken of in scripture is a dead faith which
is devoid of works. James wrote of this faith; "What
doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he
hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?"
(James 2:14). It is certain that the faith Jesus
was commending the Christians at Thyatira for was
not a workless, lifeless, dead faith.
Christians at Thyatira were commended for their "ministry",
or "service" in the KJV.
Our service to God includes our worship. However
this is not where it ends. Christians are commanded
to "serve one another" (Galatians 5:13), "from
the heart" (Ephesians 6:6). Jesus taught in
Matthew 25:31-46 that when we serve one another, we
are in fact serving God. And in contrast, Jesus
also taught that when we do not serve one another,
we are withholding our service to God. So we know
from the praise of Jesus that the Christians in
Thyatira were serving God and serving one another
faithfully and acceptably in the eyes of God.
Christians at Thyatira were commended for their
patience. They were being steadfast under all
circumstances. While they did not live in the
religious and political centers of Asia, there were
still plenty of pagan worship all about them. There
was persecution, there was need, there was hunger.
Faithful Christians were required to abstain from
the worldly pagan practices in all forms. The
riotous public feasts where the meat from the
animals sacrificed to pagan gods were present here
as well as in Pergamos and Ephesus and we will see
later on that Jesus addresses this specifically.
Christians in Thyatira were commended for all their
works. Their works were increasing as they matured
and grew. They were doing more and more as
opportunities presented themselves. The
application we can make from this for today is that
God is pleased when we serve Him faithfully and grow
in works which is commanded in scripture elsewhere
(2 Peter 1:5-7). We will see in the next letter
to Sardis what Jesus' evaluation is for a church
who's works are not acceptable. The Christian today
must add the good qualities that the Christians in
Thyatira were exhibiting and grow in our works in
order to be assured of living the faith of God
faithfully. Our works and faith are the totality of
our Christian walk.
"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."
as evidenced in previous letters to other
congregations, good works do not justify
disobedience. While the Christians in Thyatira were
rich in good works and diligently serving God and
growing, they had something wrong that threatened
their standing with God. There was the presence of
a woman who called herself a prophetess. She was
guilty of teaching and or seducing God's faithful
servants to commit fornication and to eat things
sacrificed to idols. This is the second time eating
things sacrificed to idols has been directly
mentioned by Jesus and it was referred to as the
deeds of the Nicolaitans in letter to Ephesus.
Jesus made a direct connection between the doctrine
of the Nicolaitans and eating things sacrificed to
idols in his letter to Pergamos. While the
Nicolaitans were not specifically mentioned, there
is no doubting the presence of their doctrine which
suggests that the eating of things sacrificed to
idols was something not confined just to the
worship was prevalent everywhere in the Roman
Empire. There were all kinds of Gods one could
worship and then there were the Emperors everyone
was forced to worship. Many of these pagan worships
included animal sacrifices. With the sheer volume
of pagan gods, it is easy to see that there is going
to be an abundance of meat which unless consumed
would otherwise be thrown away. So the question
then arises, what to do with all this meat? The
Roman citizens held public feasts where it was
available to the general population. This seemed
like a logical and efficient way to dispose of the
slain animals and help to feed the poor citizenry.
The problem here is that God forbad the Christians
to partake in these feasts. Here was food aplenty
for anyone who wished to eat their fill and the
Christians could not eat of it. The Christian
population of these cities were not the rich and
powerful. They were poor, they were persecuted,
distrusted and rejected. It was difficult for
Christians to find paying jobs in order to feed
their families. Hunger is a powerful temptation and
it would be very difficult for the parents of
anybody to watch their children go hungry while the
rest of the population ate their fill at these
Christians of the first century were living under
some extremely difficult circumstances. One of the
applications we can make for ourselves today is that
our circumstances have nothing whatsoever to do with
whether we must obey God or not. If the first
century Christians had to remain faithful no matter
what their circumstances were, then we can be
assured today that we can be no less if we are to be
faithful as well.
Christians in Thyatira permitted this prophetess to
teach error. She seduced them to commit fornication
and to eat things sacrificed to idols. We should
keep in mind that idol worship is spiritual
fornication. This woman either taught or enticed
people to worship her god, or to directly
participate in physical fornication, both of which
is condemned by God. We don't know which
specifically is in view here. It is likely that
this is inclusive of both. It's certain she was not
seducing the Christians to worship the one true and
living God, else Jesus would have not condemned
chastised the church at Thyatira for allowing this
woman to do this. They either did not speak out
against her, or they allowed her to directly
influence those within the church in some fashion
without any kind of restraint. The application for
us today is that when one tolerates error, he
endorses it. Even silence can be an endorsement of
error. The church at Thyatira was doing everything
right except they were not speaking out against
error when it came to their doorstep.
called her Jezebel. In old testament history
Jezebel was the wife of Ahab, the 7th king over the
northern kingdom of Israel. she was the daughter of
Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians. Of particular
interest to us is the similarity between Jezebel and
the prophetess Jesus mentioned who was teaching the
people in the church at Thyatira it was ok to eat
meat sacrificed to idols. The story of Elijah
challenging the prophets of Baal to a confrontation
is a well known story from the Old Testament. Four
hundred and fifty prophets of Baal sacrificed a
bullock on an alter and called on their god to
answer them. When Baal failed to answer, Elijah
sacrificed a bullock to God and his sacrifice was
answered by fire from heaven. Of interest to us in
this study is that these four hundred and fifty
false prophets of Baal ate at Jezebel's table (1
Kings 18:19). The original Jezebel worshipped a
false god and ate with his prophets. The false
prophetess in Thyatira, represented as Jezebel,
worshipped a false god and taught the Christians it
was ok to eat meat sacrificed to idols with the
people who were doing so.
"And I gave her time that she should repent; and
she willeth not to repent of her fornication."
Later in the Revelation chapter 9
and chapter 16 we read of God sending plagues and
pouring bowls of wrath out on the Roman Empire. The
purpose for this was to try and get the persecutors
to repent and turn to God (Revelation 9:20-21;
16:9-11). God did not want to destroy the Roman
Empire, rather He wanted them to repent and even
though they were killing His people, He gave them
warning after warning and chance after chance to
turn from their wickedness and be spared.
ever wondered about the Canaanites that Israel
displaced when they took the promised land? Why
were the Canaanites removed from their
homeland? Was it fair that they lost the land
and Israel received it? God's longsuffering is
the answer to those questions.
when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell
upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness
fell upon him. And he said unto Abram, Know of a
surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a
land that is not theirs, and shall serve them;
and they shall afflict them four hundred years;
And also that nation, whom they shall serve,
will I judge: and afterward shall they come out
with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy
fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good
old age. But in the fourth generation they shall
come hither again: for the iniquity of the
Amorites is not yet full" (Genesis
iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full. The
Amorites are, in this context, the Canaanites.
Historically, the Amorites inhabited a larger
region, but at this time they dominated the land
of Canaan. A few chapters later, we learn that
God would have spared Sodom if there had been as
few as 10 righteous people in it. God does not
immediately and swiftly destroy entire cities or
nations, because of the evil of the majority.
He is longsuffering and gives everybody a chance
to repent and be saved. Thus it was with the
Roman Empire. They, just like the prophetess
represented figuratively as Jezebel, were given
time and incentive to repent. "The Lord is
not slack concerning his promise, as some count
slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not
wishing that any should perish, but that all
should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
"Behold, I cast her into a bed, and them that
commit adultery with her into great tribulation,
except they repent of her works."
patience is running out with this woman. She
obviously likes to spend time in a bed, so God
is going to put her in one, but the bed He is
going to throw her into is one of eternal
punishment. There are only two options, repent
or be punished. The penalty for sin is
tribulation and it carries eternal consequences
as we will see in verse 23. But even now, with
God's patience nearly gone, He still gives the
exception that can save her soul and the souls
of those who company with her. They must
repent. What a message of hope, not only for
the church of Thyatira, but for those not within
the church. It is never too late to repent as
long as one is alive in the flesh.
"And I will kill her children with death; and
all the churches shall know that I am he that
searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give
unto each one of you according to your works."
"The wages of sin is death" (Romans
6:23). God wasn't going to allow the churches
in Ephesus and Pergamos to get away with sin, He
sure isn't going to allow Jezebel and her
consorts off either. Jesus referred to those
who company with her as her "children".
Followers of Christ are called the "children
of God" (Galatians 3:26). Those who follow
after people like Jezebel and do not pursue
righteousness are the "children of the devil"
(1 John 3:10).
all the churches shall know"
Jezebel and her children are going to be made an
example of to the other churches if they do not
says here that He searches the reins and the
hearts of men. Elsewhere in the New Testament
"Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all
men" (Acts 1:24). "Neither is there any
creature that is not manifest in his sight: but
all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of
him with whom we have to do." (Hebrews
4:13). There is no mistaking in the eyes of the
first century Christians who this is referring
I will give unto each one of you according to
Jesus says that He will give unto each one of
them according to their works. Jesus is
speaking here to each individual in the church
at Thyatira. The application for us here today
is that we cannot take refuge in the collective
works of a congregation. We are each going to
be rewarded according to our works. "Be not
deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a
man soweth, that shall he also reap"
(2 Corinthians 5:10). "For we must all
appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that
every one may receive the things done in his
body, according to that he hath done, whether it
be good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10).
"But to you I say,
to the rest that are in Thyatira, as many as have
not this teaching, who know not the deep things of
Satan, as they are wont to say; I cast upon you none
Not everybody in the church at
Thyatira endorsed the teachings of this false
prophetess. To those who did not, Jesus said he
would not burden them any further. In other words,
there were some in the church at Thyatira that Jesus
found acceptable. The application for us today is
that the membership of a congregation is not finally
judged collectively, but individually. Just being
in association with a congregation of the Lord's
people is not enough to please Jesus. The world had
penetrated the church at Thyatira. They were guilty
of allowing it. Not all of the membership were
guilty and to them no other burden but rejecting
false teaching was given to them.
"Nevertheless that which ye have, hold fast till
Jesus is speaking to the faithful in the church
at Thyatira. Don't give up what you do have. Don't
let the world come into the church any further.
Don't give in; hold fast; hold solid; be steadfast
and don't give up.
"And he that overcometh, and he that keepeth my
works unto the end, to him will I give authority
over the nations"
Notice here that we have a definition of what it
means to overcome and how to do it. Those who
overcome are the ones who keep the works of Jesus
Christ unto the end. That means following and
obeying His commandments to the end. This means
every end; the end of difficulties; the end of life
and the end of the ages. Victory comes to those
individuals who overcome all opposition no matter
whether it comes from without, or from within the
body of Christ.
The power over the nations means
they will prevail as the Lord's church over the
nations. Rome is going to fall, but Christianity
will prevail and history has shown this to be true.
Many many nations have come and gone since the first
century, but Christianity has emerged victorious no
matter what has happened. Isaiah prophesied in
chapter 9 verse 7 that of His kingdom there shall "be
no end". Daniel prophesied that the kingdom of
Christ would "never be destroyed" (Daniel
2:44). As long as the earth stands, there will be
The application for us today is
that the world gains a foothold in the church and it
widens and eventually becomes a breach. Slowly,
insidiously, the desires of men work their way in
and corrupt the purity of the church. God is
warning us against the world creeping into His
church. God has left the responsibility of the
preservation of His kingdom in the hands of
mankind. We are the watchmen and the soldiers. He
is counting on us to carry the torch. The church
was purchased by the blood of Jesus and since then
has been upheld by the blood of the martyrs of
centuries of persecution. Were it not for their
staunch faithfulness and loyalty, the true New
Testament church would not be what it is today.
There would not be any hope for us or for the
for the church to be victorious over the nations in
the future, we need to keep the church strong and
pure for our children and their children. If they
are to have the hope tomorrow that we have today, we
must make sure the church is today what it was in
the first century. We are told in scripture to
watch and live as if Jesus' return is upon us now,
but we must plan for the existence of the Lord's
church beyond. If the church is to be tomorrow what
it was in the first century, then it must be the
church of tomorrow, today.
"and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as
the vessels of the potter are broken to shivers; as
I also have received of my Father"
Here is another example of old testament language
helping to shed light on the meaning of something in
Revelation: "Ask of me, and I will give (thee)
the nations for thine inheritance, and the uttermost
parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt
break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them
in pieces like a potter's vessel" (Psalms
2:8-9). Jesus is drawing on the imagery of familiar
language in the minds of the Christians to paint the
picture of what he means while leaving those outside
Christianity in the dark. This is a continuation of
the thought introduced in verse 26.
Just as Christ received victory
over the enemy by the Father, even so, shall
Christians who overcome have victory over their
enemies through Jesus Christ. They will destroy
their enemies with rods of iron and dash them to
pieces like a shattered piece of pottery. And this
is accomplished with the only weapons available to
the Christian. "For though we walk in the flesh,
we do not war according to the flesh (for the
weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but
mighty before God to the casting down of
strongholds)," (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).
"And I will give him the morning star."
This is the reward for those who overcome and
persevere to the end. To those who have seen the
last star shining at daybreak, this is what
signifies the coming of light on the earth and the
end of darkness. The literal morning star in the
skies precedes the coming of the sun just like the
morning star of Revelation precedes the coming of
the brightest of all the stars. This is the light
after dark affliction. This is the light shining on
a world lost in the darkness of sin.
In Revelation 22:16, Jesus
describes Himself as the bright and morning star.
How glorious it will be for those who overcame in
Thyatira and remained faithful till the end to be
given the morning star. The application for us
today is no different. We can receive the morning
star just like they did by living like they lived.
"He that hath an ear, let
him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."
The Spirit was speaking to the church at
Thyatira through the written words of the inspired
apostle John. They were told to "hear" what the
Spirit said through this medium. The word "hear"
comes from the Greek word
"akouo (ak-oo'-o)"; which carries the meaning
of to "give audience to" or to "listen".
They were to heed what was being written by
inspiration. The Holy Spirit did not go to the
individual churches or their members and reveal
God's message to them directly. God speaks to us
today through His Son (Hebrews 1:2) and this is
accomplished through inspiration of the Holy Spirit
by the hands of inspired men.
The Holy Spirit does not
operate in conversion separate and apart from the
word of God.
Today, we "hear" or "listen"
to what the Spirit said in the same way they did at
Thyatira. Through the inspired word of God,
recorded for us in the holy scriptures. We are
commanded to be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14).
This is accomplished today when let the word of God,
revealed by inspiration through scripture, be our
authority and lead us in all things.