Thyatira - The City
We know very little about the city of Thyatira. What we do know is that it was not very large and it was a city of little importance. Thyatira had no natural defenses so they were subject to repeated invasions over time. Despite these invasions it was a resilient city that kept rebuilding and became a thriving commercial and business center. The city was known for its trade guilds (Fraternal associations of artisans in a particular town). There were more trade guilds in Thyatira than any other Roman province. It was common that if you were to sell your product that you would have to belong to a guild. Guilds had patron gods and Apollos was Thyatira’s. Guilds would hold feasts in pagan temples and eat food sacrificed to gods and it would not be uncommon for the meals to end in sexual debauchery. Some of the trades this city was most known for were its dyeing, indigo and bronze. One of Paul’s first converts in Europe was Lydia who was a seller of purple. She was from Thyatira and it is believed she was a very successful and wealthy businesswoman (Acts 16:14).
Thyatira – The Letter
This is the fourth letter of the Apocalypse written by the Apostle John and spoken by Jesus. It is believed to be the most difficult passage to interpret and it is also the longest letter of the seven churches. Thyatira has both a commendation and rebuke from Jesus.
Verse 18: Eyes of Flame & Feet of Bronze – Both point to impending judgment. His eyes pierce through the exterior of our person and see the heart of the individuals in the Church.
Eyes of fire – Eyes that penetrate and burn to the heart and Jesus is the one who judges our hearts and actions. In his earthly ministry Jesus spoke about how sin was not just an outward physical act of rebellion. Sin is a matter of the heart. His penetrating eyes see the true nature of who we are and is able to judge our hearts as well as our actions. He says that committing sin is not just in the physical act but also in harboring evil in our hearts.
The feet of bronze – Represent strength and stability. Jesus is our fortress and our solid foundation that will not be moved. This would also indicate strength of Jesus in his judgment which will be swift and He will tread upon the wicked with God’s wrath.
Verse 19: Commendation – “I know your works…” Jesus acknowledges how the Thyatiran church practices love, faithfulness, service to one another and patiently enduring trials. Unlike the church of Ephesus they were not lacking in love; in fact their love was great and growing in strength.
Verse 20: However unlike the Ephesians, the church of Thyatira did tolerate false teachings and teachers. There is one false teacher in particular who was leading people astray and causing others to commit spiritual adultery with her.
Jezebel – There was a prophetess in the midst of this church who was practicing and teaching dangerous blasphemous deeds. She was encouraging people to partake in immoral practices that were specifically forbidden by Jesus and the Church. She is represented by the name Jezebel.
O.T. background: In order to fully understand the spirit of this false prophetess we need to first go back and look at the person Jezebel. For the full story of Jezebel you can read about her in I Kings 16:31 – 19:18 and 2 Kings 9:30. Jezebel was a Phoenician princess who was the wife of the King of Israel Ahab. She was a very influential woman over her husband as she convinced him to his heart from the true God of Israel to Baal worship. She was a wicked woman who practiced pagan idolatry and welcomed and protected pagan priests. At one point she persecuted the prophets of Israel (her nemesis was Elijah) and had 150 them killed at one time. Scholars speculate that her name means “Baal exalts” or “Baal is husband to” or “unchaste”. She has become the symbol of false teachers and ones who seduce and entice people sexually to turn from God.
It is generally agreed that the person spoken of in Thyatira was probably not a woman named Jezebel but she instead was a type of Jezebel. The name symbolized a woman who was a false prophetess who taught antinomianism (The rejection of the authority of the Mosaic Law on the grounds that it has been superseded by Christian grace and freedom, based partially on Romans 3:8. Some Gnostic sects, such as the Carpocratians, interpreted this freedom as a license to sin because only the spirit, and not the body, mattered. ). According to Stephen Smalley, “In early Christianity women prophesied freely; in contemporary Roman and Oriental cults in Asia Minor women often played the major roles as priestesses.” So it was not uncommon for such a person to rise up in the church. She apparently taught that idolatry was ok, sexual immorality was permissible and she openly engaged in these activities with some of the members of this church. It was probably taught that since individuals were saved by grace that Jesus was ok with his people following the ways of the world because the moral Law of Moses was no longer valid. We can deduce that she was probably instructing people to commit acts of immorality. It was even speculated that she was falsely teaching that these acts were acts that led to deeper insights and that they were actually practicing the deeper things of God.
Verse 21 - 23: Jesus mentions through John that He gave this woman time to repent of her evil ways her time was up. Her refusal to repent had some major consequences.
- I will throw her onto a sickbed – It is uncertain if this is a literal (sickness) or Figurative (a bed of fornication). Sickness was believed to be a form of punishment in the first century.
- Those committing adultery with her will be brought into great tribulation or pain. These individuals will most likely experience physical pain and suffering.
- Unless they repent of her works – Her time is up but apparently those in adultery with her have the opportunity and invitation to repent. If they do not repent then judgment is certain.
- The end result of this judgment will be that all the Churches who have been lax in their morals will know that Jesus is the one who searches the heart and mind and is sovereign over all.
Church of Thyatira Today
So what does all of this have to do with us today?
The spirit of Jezebel is alive and well in the Church today. There are men and women who are leading God’s people astray by teaching false doctrines and hereies. It has been said that we are living in a biblically and theologically illiterate culture today. Christians do not have a firm grasp on the teachings of the Bible and many have little concern or care over true theological doctrines and teachings. It seems that anyone who parades around as a spiritual person is automatically welcomed as a true teacher of Jesus. The reality is that we have just as many false teachers in the world/church (if not more) today as we did in the first century. There are men and women falsely teaching from the pulpits a prosperity Gospel (If you are rich you are blessed; if you are poor you are in sin), a consumerist Gospel (God is at your beckon call. He is here to serve all your needs. McJEsus over 100 Billions served). A works Gospel (saved by grace; kept by works). A moralistic Gospel (Just say no to sin and live an upright life and keep the rules). A Universalist Gospel (Jesus is cool with whatever religion you want to hold on to. He wants to be your friend and hang out with you; he would never ever send someone to hell). A Gospel of toleration (Sin is a four letter word. Jesus understands you have struggles and he is ok with your sin. In fact don’t worry about your sin because times are changing and God understands that the Church needs to be relevant and appeal to the masses. Thus if you are unhappy in life then by golly you need to pursue happiness regardless of who you hurt and regardless of pursuit of holiness).
In this letter to the Church in Thyatira we see that Jesus does not tolerate false teachers and false teachings. He calls his people to hold fast until the day He comes and to keep the Gospel of Jesus before us and let the word of God and His Spirit be our guide for living our lives for His glory. Contrary to what many are teaching today He does require his people to pursue lives of holiness… not because it is our ticket to heaven but because it is an outward sign of the inner change that has happened in us. When we are truly devoted to Jesus we will pursue holiness because this is his desire for his people. He desires that we know and stay true to the Gospel and protect this message because it is his great news given for all to hear.
As a body of Christ may we be diligent in pursuing God and his Word? This church must remain grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to expose false teaching and not allow dissenters to come in and cause us to take our eyes off of Jesus and take us down a road that leads to straying and tolerating open sin and rebellion. May we hold fast to the Gospel until Jesus does in fact come back for his bride?
 Kurian, G. T. (2001). Nelson’s new Christian dictionary: The authoritative resource on the Christian world. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 Smalley, Stephen S. (2005). The Revelation To John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse. Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. P. 73