To the Church in Thyatira
18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. 24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): 25 Only hold on to what you have until I come.
26 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 ‘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. 28 I will also give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:18-29).
As Jesus is speaking his message to the church in Thyatira he reveals something new about himself. He describes himself as one, “whose eyes are like blazing fire and feet are like burnished bronze”. Blazing fire and bronze always speak of judgment in the Bible. Jesus was preparing to judge Thyatira. Jesus, however, is always merciful. So, this message to the church in Thyatira was a warning! They were given time to repent and even given this final warning before the judgment of God would fall. Even Jezebel was given time to repent.
Thyatira was a very small community, no more than 5,000 people. There is nothing significant historically about Thyatira like in Pergamum, Sardis or Ephesus. Yes, Jesus affirms them by saying, “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first” (Revelation 2:19). Jesus is affirming good behavior a true Christian character. Often, we tend to think that Jesus is more impressed with our gifts: How well we evangelize, how well we preaching, how we speak for God, or how long and hard we pray. Yet, why would he affirm something which he has given as gifts to us. Why would he praise evangelism, when he is the one who draws people to himself? Why would he affirm a spiritual gift, when he is the one that gives them to us? However, what he does affirm is: good deeds, love, faith, service, perseverance and the fact that they are growing (improving). In these things which Jesus has affirmed, Jesus is also glorified. This behavior and character which he affirms modeling Christ to others.
Nevertheless, Jesus has to confront the church as well for their sin. He confronts them to refine them, though if they do not repent, he has to judge them. The issue is that they are “tolerating that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess.” I would like to point out that Jesus confronts many, many men in the Bible for their sin. Rarely, does he confront women. Jezebel is an exception. However, many have taking this as a mantra for oppressing and complaining about women in the church today. This is very unfortunate. Jezebel does not represent sin of all women, but she represents a church which has become so tolerant that they have allowed sin to live among them. She claimed to be a “prophetess”, but clearly the Lord of All is saying she is not. Clearly, no one in the church was willing to challenge her though I am sure that the people knew she was not a prophetess speaking the words of God.
What was her sin, “By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling” (Revelation 2:20-21). Jesus reveals that she misleads believers into sexual immorality and also eating of food sacrificed to idols. These two things seem to be a direct reference to the Jerusalem declaration from the Apostles in the first century. Paul records, “As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality” (Acts 21:25).
Idols of multiple gods surround the believers at all times in the days of the first and second century church. Christians were only a small minority in the region. One of the most common things to sacrifice to idols is food. Obviously stone cannot digest the food, so at the end of the day, they simply eat the food themselves. Maybe in Thyatira they would even sell the food in the market as well. This we don’t know, but we do know that much food was sacrificed to idols. Jezebel was making a unilateral declaration that it was alright to eat food sacrificed to idols. John, the one giving the message from Jesus, was one of the apostles who sat in the meeting in Jerusalem to give Paul the message to the churches. Jezebel was in direct violation of what the Apostles had said. Jezebel was making her own rules, and likely using a charisma, speaking ability, reason and assertiveness to assert her way.
Jesus said to them, “24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): 25 Only hold on to what you have until I come” (Revelation 2:24-25). This is a warning against the people who think that the Christian life is confusing and full of secret truths. Unfortunately many secret societies have formed inside the churches today. Even so-called “clergy” keep information and knowledge from the congregations as if they held onto some secret information which is the key to heaven. There is no secret to the Christian life. We are called to follow Jesus and live the life that he affirmed the Thyatira church which is:
- Do good to others
- Love others
- Have faith in Jesus
- Serve everyone
- Persevere in following Christ
- Continually grow to become more like Christ
It is no secret. It is not complicated. There are no “deeper secrets” of the faith. It is all very simple. Jesus is pleading with the church to continue in the simple faith.
Sadly in Thyatira today there are no believers. There are ruins of a church which was build hundreds of years after this prophecy at a time when the entire area had become followers of “Christianity”. Their form of Christianity was very perverse and corrupted, not centered on love, faith and good deeds that Jesus had affirmed them for. They did not survive. The judgment of God fell on this group of believers.
The final prophecy gives a promise saying, “25 Only hold on to what you have until I come. 26 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 ‘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. 28 I will also give him the morning star” (Revelation 2:25-28).
Jesus promises this small insignificant city of Thyatira that if they overcome and do his will to the end, Jesus will “give authority over nations”. What an amazing prospect. Jesus can take a small insignificant place such as Thyatira and give them international influence. Enemies of God will be judged and destroyed.
Verse 28 speaks of giving them “the morning star.” This is not to be confused with Jesus who is called the morning star, and probably does not refer to Lucifer, who is also referred to the morning star. However, it is likely referring to a new day, but a day when Christians will not have to live in fear and under persecution, but a day when they will be rulers of a global church. The “morning star” represents “the dawn of a new day.” This was the promise that Jesus gave to the church in Thyatira.
I believe this is a strong warning for the church today. There are people among us who give themselves fancy titles, but are clearly leading the church astray. What do we do? We keep quiet. God is waiting for a time of repentance, but his judgment is not far away. We must get back to the simple faith which he has called us to: Service of others, love and simple faith; as well as persisting in our faith, no matter the persecution or how unpopular the teachings of Jesus are. If we are faithful, Jesus will reward our persistence. If not, he has no choice but to judge.