"To the Angel of the church in Thyatira
Thyatira is known today as the modern city of Akhisar, a city in the province of Asia on the boundary of Lydia and Mysia. It apparently had no illustrious history, but coinage suggests that it was a garrison town for many centuries. The city, situated on a great highway linking two river valleys, became a center of commerce with more trade guilds than any other Asian city. Lydia, the seller of purple who Paul met in Philippi, was a Thyatiran seller.
It was necessary for merchants and craftsmen to belong to one of the many trade guilds. Refusal to do so risked loss of income. However the meetings of these guilds often included common meals dedicated to the idols of the region. Also, aspects of emperor worship apparently affected nearly every guild.*
"These are the words of the son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze."
It is with the eyes that we see, and Jesus wants us to understand that He sees all of our dark, hidden secrets. Legs and feet like bronze, or brass, are symbols used elsewhere in the Bible to denote strength, stability, and firmness (See Dan. 10:6). We also know that when an Old Testament warrior put his foot on the neck of an enemy, he was declaring his supremacy. So in essence, Jesus is saying that He is the One who sees everything, and that He has subdued our enemies.
"I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first." (Rev. 2:19)
This church was commended for its love and faith, its perseverance, despite persecution, and its service, that has grown. But there is a problem:
"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." (Rev. 2:20); "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..." (Rev. 2:24)
Jezebel, in Bible history, was the princess who, by marriage to Ahab, sealed his trade partnership with the Phoenicians.*
Thus, in Thyatira, a town where membership to trade guilds could mean the difference between prosperity and poverty, it is believed that a woman, nicknamed Jezebel, encouraged Christians to compromise by joining and participating in the trade guilds and their idolatrous customs.
This Jezebel calls herself a prophetess, claiming to offer "deep secrets" (vs. 24). In a later age, a sect called "Gnosticism" grew popular in the Christian church. This sect taught that in order to defeat Satan, one had to enter his stronghold and deeply and personally experiencing evil.* This "Jezebel" may have been teaching that in order to overcome temptation, the people of the day needed to immerse themselves in evil so that they would know "Satan's deep secrets" (Rev. 2:24).
And what does Jesus say will become of her? "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. 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." (Rev. 2:22,23)
This is serious, folks! Punishment was not only for this "Jezebel", but for any "who commit adultery with her..."—who choose her ways! Theirs will be a path of suffering, and any spiritual children that are produced will not prosper!
But there is a promise, to anyone who repents, to any who do not hold to her teachings:
"Only hold on to what you have until I come..." (Rev. 2:25).
And if they did, "I will give authority over the nations—'He will rule them with an iron sceptre; he will dash them to pieces like pottery'—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star." (Rev. 2:26-28)
In a city where standing firm against compromise meant that you would not be a successful tradesman or craftsman, God is saying, "Don't worry about not being able to succeed in your craft because of Me! When I come, you will have authority over nations!"
That's better than success in the moment, isn't it?
But the promise goes even deeper: "I will also give him the morning star." (Rev. 2:28)
And what is this "Morning Star"?
"I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star." (Rev. 22:16)
Those who stand firm, those who don't compromise will receive Christ Himself! Now isn't that a prize worth fighting for?
So what does all of this mean to us today?
It is a warning against compromise, friends! Even for the reason of being able to support our families. No matter what the circumstance, compromise will lead us astray! It will always result in suffering, and maybe even in death. We must stand firm! For though we may suffer for our choices, in the end, our prize will be Jesus Himself, and He will give us authority over nations!
Join us next week for Studies on the Seven Churches of Revelation, Part 6: To the Church in Sardis.
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries.
* Taken from commentary given in The Archaeological Study Bible, New International Version, Copyright 2005 by the Zondervan Corporation, pages 2049, 2050.
(To access the entire "Studies on the Seven Churches of Revelation" mini-series, please click here.)