A Bit of Background Concerning the Church at Thyatira
- Although we’re uncertain how the church came to be in Thyatira, Acts 16.14-15 mentions the conversion of Lydia who was from the area.
12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
- A small city, but important for trade. The major road that led to Pergamum ran though Thyatira.
18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
- “Son of God” – infallible and divine, this is the only reference to Jesus as the Son of God within Revelation. He is called the Son of Man in 1.13.
- “eyes like a flame of fire” – omniscient/all-knowing (1.14).
- “feet are like burnished bronze” – strong (1.15).
- Because of this self description, Jesus’ voice should be obeyed, He is aware and has authority over the church.
19 “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.
- Several accolades are listed within this verse praising them for their spiritual growth.
- Part of the issue Jesus has against the church may stem from the fact that the church prioritized works, but was guilty of neglecting other disciplines such as worship and theology – “works”, “service”, “works”.
20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.
- “that you tolerate” – to leave it to someone else to do something; it carries the implication that they are distancing themselves from the situation.
- If we learn but one lesson from the church at Thyatira, it is that sin is serious.
- “Jezebel” – not the nickname you’d like to receive from the Son of God, that’s for sure. No doubt a reference to Jezebel’s deceiving of the nation of Israel to worship Baal.
- “calls herself a prophetess” – although she deemed herself a prophet, she was not given that title by the Lord.
- “teaching” – apparently, this woman was given a public platform where she was able to lead the congregation astray.
- “teaching and seducing” – If there were ever two verbs that shouldn’t be used in the same sentence, it would be these. We can assume from the context that her teaching emphasized the aspects of living a life of love and service, while ignoring the need to walk in holiness. For her, love, faith, and service were what was important and there was no need to form any hostilities against the church regarding the local pagan religious practices. Thus, compromise for the sake of getting along was elevated above the biblical ethic of scripture.
- “to practice sexual immorality” – open sexual immorality in the name of “being tolerant” (Easley).
21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.
- “I gave her time to repent” – evidently, she was made aware of the unbiblical nature of her attitudes, actions, and teaching but persisted in them regardless.
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. – Rom. 2.4-5
- QUES: Is there a time in which the patience of God expires upon the life of a rebellious individual?
6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” – Ex. 34.6,7
- Thus the colloqialism, “He who has an ear, let him hear” becomes crucial for all who follow Christ.
22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works,
- In this verse we see both judgment and discipline.
- For Thyatira, physical adultery was spiritual adultery. For Jezebel, her bed which has been used for fornication, will now be used for hospitalization.
- “great tribulation” – not The Great Tribulation; tribulation literally means “crushing” or “suffering”.
23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.
- “strike her children dead” – maybe a reference to her illegitimate children, but more likely a reference to her followers. This is a better contextual fit when you consider, “But to the rest of you…” in v. 24.
- “he who searches mind and heart” – with his eyes of fire (v. 18).
24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden.
- “deep things of Satan” – instead, believers are to seek out the depths of God.
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. – 1 Cor. 2.10
- APP: Chase after the joy found in Christ, not the temporary pleasures of sin.
- “do not lay on you any other burden” –
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matt. 11.28-30
25 Only hold fast what you have until I come.
- “hold fast” – This is the mission of the believer, to remain faithful to the truths and ethics of the Bible.
- “until I come” – the first reference to the return of Christ in the 7 letters.
26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations,
- “keeps my works until the end” – Christian victory is found only in persevering faith.
- “I will give authority over the nations” – to some extent, the exact nature is unknown, but Christians will aid Christ in his rule over the earth
27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.
- “rule them” – to shepherd; ruling with direct personal involvement.
28 And I will give him the morning star.29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
- “morning star” – The morning star could vaguely be interpreted as “a new day”, but…“The key for interpreting this is Revelation 22:16, where Christ is called the bright Morning Star. The reward is Christ himself, who will end the long night of sin’s rule in the universe.” (Easley)Others interpret the phrase as…
“the morning star is probably the planet Venus, a symbol of victory and domination. Victorious Roman generals built temples in honor of Venus, and the sign of Venus was on the standards of Caesar’s legions. In 22:16 Christ himself is the morning star, but it is hardly likely that the meaning here is that Christ will give himself to those who conquer. A translation of “the morning star” may be “the star that appears (or, shines) at sunrise.” And in order to make some sense of this statement, a cultural footnote may be necessary, or else a note in a word list, or the translator may include the meaning here, as follows: “and to show that they are victorious, I will give them the morning star.” (Bratcher)