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Jesus Addresses Thyatira, the Idolatrous Church
The Book of Revelation includes seven letters Jesus instructed the Apostle John to address to seven separate churches which were in existence at the time John was given this Vision.
In this article we will look at the fourth of these seven letters written to the congregation at Thyatira (Chapter 2, verses 18-29).
We will begin with an overview, then the actual verses taken from the Book (with my commentary added), concluded by an historical summary about the city of Thyatira.
May you be edified by the stern words Jesus imparts to the congregation in Thyatira, "the idolatrous church".
The Letter to Thyatira
In this letter, Jesus takes all the symbols of judgment and issues a strong rebuke against those in the church who corrupt true religion and seduce others from the truth.
2:18-19 "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, 'These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.
This is the first and only time in Revelation that Jesus calls Himself the Son of God; His supreme title as Deity.
Seemingly, Jesus had purposed it especially for Thyatira because it is the only church given to idolatry. The disdain of which is clearly evidenced by the two strong symbols Jesus associates with His name. "Eyes like a flame of fire" and "feet like fine brass" both speak of judgment.
As always, our Lord Jesus first acknowledges the good works of the congregation. That they had grown, and were more impressive than works accomplished earlier, when the church was first established.
And herein is a lesson for us, considering the strong rebuke about to come. That works alone are not a guarantee that we are in a right relationship with Almighty God.
2:20 "Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and beguile My servants to commit sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
The exact identity of this beguiling prophetess called "that woman Jezebel" is not known.
In fact, Jezebel might not have been her surname. According to Scripture the name Jezebel virtually became a by-word for all that was abominable following the ancient Queens' corruption of Israel with idols and pagan practices (2 Kings 9:22; 1 Kings 16:31; 21:25,26). It's quite possible that Jesus was merely pin pointing a particular female member of the congregation who had been corrupting the church in the manner of Jezebel, and not necessarily identifying her by name.
Nonetheless, she's a corrupt and dangerous figure who had slithered into the church disguised as a prophetess in order to beguile the congregation into committing themselves to idolatry and sexual immorality (probably according to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans).
2:21-23 'And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation unless they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death. And all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
We might conclude that this woman was no newcomer to the church for she had "time to repent". Seemingly, she had been around for a while under the watchful eye of Jesus, and could have turned away from her evil practice. Because she didn't, Jesus issues this decree:
"Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed."
Although speculative, this might allude to an untimely death. Perhaps, because of her unrepentant sin, God made a determination to strike this woman down and kill her as He did the ancient Jezebel (1 Kings 21:23; 2 Kings 9:30-37); which is also consistent with New Testament teaching (see-I Cor.11:27-30).
"And those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation unless they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death."
This somewhat different admonition to the converts of Jezebel (taken to mean "her children") has led some commentators to see this judgment finding its ultimate fulfillment in the future. Whereas, Jezebel is cast into a sickbed, which might be an untimely death, her converts are first cast into great tribulation, and without repentance then to certain death.
Let's consider it.
The phrase "into great tribulation" might refer to the period Jesus spoke of as a time of "great tribulation" (Matt.24:21), or the second half of what we commonly call the Tribulation. If so, then it would suggest that a line of converts dating back to Jezebel do exist in our day, will not be raptured, and will enter the Tribulation; ultimately to endure its suffering, and finally death unless they repent.
I personally agree with this idea because I believe all seven of the congregations addressed by Jesus in this Book are representative of the Church today, and thus are recipients of His admonition. In other words, as surely as we have congregations that have left their first love not unlike Ephesus; congregations that are being persecuted not unlike Smyrna; congregations that are carnally minded not unlike Pergamos; there are congregations with idols not unlike Thyatira.
Okay, but who are these children of Jezebel?
I see it as the Roman Catholic Church. It has idols, teaches unsound doctrine, and yet consists of born again believers, as there were in Thyatira (note the next verse).I am not suggesting that a Catholic is evil. "For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13), regardless of church affiliation.
But I do believe that Catholicism, in practice, beguiles members with its idols, rituals, and false doctrines, and thereby harbors "children of Jezebel" trusting in those things as God's revelation without knowledge that "unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).
2:24-25 'But to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, and who have not known the depths of Satan, as they call them, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come.
Any doctrine that perverts the gospel of Christ is an abominable doctrine from "the depths of Satan." For it's the desire of Satan to subvert truth.
Jesus lays no further burden those in the congregation not corrupted by Jezebel, but a command to "hold fast." Theirs is not a sentence of tribulation and death, but cautionary warning not to let others wrest the truth away from them.
2:26-29 'And he who overcomes and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations--'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the potter's vessels shall be broken to pieces'--as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." '
"...to him I will give power over the nations--'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the potter's vessels shall be broken to pieces'-as I have also received from My Father."
This could refer to the future power and dominion we share with Christ during the millennium, when His kingdom is established on earth, and He triumphantly reigns over the nations; or perhaps to a heavenly position, when we sit down with Christ on His throne of judgment and join with Him in condemning the ungodly (1Cor.6:2). Either way, the Father has given the Son the nations as an "inheritance," and the ends of the earth as a "possession," and He will rule with a scepter of iron, and break the ungodly nations into pieces like a potter's vessel (Ps.2:7-9).
"And I will give him the morning star."
At the very least we can take this to mean that Christ, Who is "the bright and morning star" (Rev.22:16), will one day present Himself to us, and we shall behold His face (Rev.22:4). Interestingly, however, it might also indicate that we will one day be given full knowledge concerning God. That at the appearance of Christ darkness will fade, and we will see all things in the light of His glory; and as we behold Jesus all of the mysteries of God will be revealed to us, and all of our questions will be answered (check-2 Peter 1:19).
Though never a large city of any political importance, Thyatira did thrive as a manufacturing and commercial center during New Testament times. Lydia (the first convert of Paul at Philippi) is mentioned as "a seller of purple fabrics" from Thyatira. Nothing of the ancient city can be seen today, but the modern city of Akhisar in Turkey marks its ancient site.
About the Author
James Kobzeff is an evangelical born-again Christian who has long had a passion for the Church to know the Revelation. His commentary is the result of having studied and taught the Book many times over the past thirty years and is considered a continual work-in-process.
You can read more at his blog Learn the Revelation
Other Church Letters
- Revelation 2 (1-7): The Letter to Ephesus, the Insincere Church
The letter Jesus addresses to the church at Ephesus is a grieving lament. See why, and what did He mean they left their first love, they could have their lampstand removed, they resisted the Nacolaitans?
- Revelation 2 (8-11): The Letter to Smyrna, the Suffering Church
The letter Jesus addresses to the church at Smyrna is one of comfort. See why, and what He meant by the synagogue of satan, tribulation ten days, and the second death.
- Revelation 2 (12-17): The Letter to Pergamos, the Carnal Church
The letter Jesus addresses to the church at Pergamos is one of rebuke. See why, and what He meant by where satan's throne is and where he dwells, Balak's stumbling block, the Nicolaitans, a white stone.
- Revelation 3 (1-6): The Letter to Sardis, the Spiritually Dead Church
This letter Jesus addresses to the church at Sardis is a call for them to wake up. See why, and what did He mean they were alive but dead, that He would come as a thief, that names will not be blotted out of the Book of Life?
- Revelation 3 (7-13): The Letter to Philadelphia, the Faithful Church
The letter Jesus addresses to the church at Philadelphia contains no rebuke. See why, and what He mean by the synagogue of Satan, hour of trial, and does Jesus suggest the rapture?
- Revelation 3 (14-22): The Letter to Laodicea, the Lukewarm Church
The letter Jesus addresses to the church at Laodicea contains a strong rebuke. See why, and what He mean I wish you were cold or hot, I will spew you out of my mouth, I stand at the door and knock?