The Churches of Revelation
Thyatira - The Corrupt Church
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The Churches of Revelation: Thyatira - The Corrupt Church
This is the fifth part in the Bible study series: The Churches of Revelation. The letter to Thyatira is the longest letter to any of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation. Wonderful positive complements are paid to the members, yet they had a major problem. It was a difficult issue that threatened the health of the Church. It was a concern that endangered their relationships. It was the most dangerous of all doctrines that jeopardized their eternal life. Even today this same matter could keep us from the Kingdom. Join us as we study the church in Thyatira for insight into that dangerous doctrine.
[Steve Myers] Well, good evening everyone. Welcome to our biweekly Bible study. Welcome to all of you who are here in Cincinnati. Welcome to everyone visiting with us on the web and all those that view the archives later on. We are glad to have you with us. Thanks for coming. We are continuing our series on the churched of Revelation to night and so we are digging into the next church in line, which is Thyatira. So, we will be talking about Thyatira tonight and is significance for us. So, thanks for being with us. Let’s ask God’s blessing on our Bible study as we begin. So, if you will bow your heads.
Loving Heavenly Father, God Almighty, thank you so much for your wonderful ways. We love your truth. We pray that You inspire us and guide us and direct us by Your word that we may learn to apply the things that you have written for us today. So, we thank You for these things and we pray for Your guidance. We pray for Your direction. We pray for Your inspiration. So, Father, we put it all into Your hands and ask all this by the authority of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Well, Thyatira is an interesting section in the book Revelation. Revelation chapter 2 is going to be where we are going to pick it up tonight. Thyatira. This section in Revelation is the longest section of scripture of any of the letters to the seven churches. But it is a little bit of a paradox because Thyatira is the least known of the cities. We know less about Thyatira than any of the other cities because it was just such an insignificant kind of place. Wouldn’t you love to be from a place like that? Doesn’t matter where you are from, it is pretty insignificant. But that’s Thyatira. Thyatira was located on a Roman road and you can kind of see it here on the map. To the north was Pergmum and to the sound was Sardis, and then heading on to Philadelphia and Laodicia. Thyatira was a very interesting place because it was a place where the members were said to be very good at certain things. We find in Revelation that there are many compliments paid to the membership in Thyatira. Yet, at the same time, they had a difficult issue that was threatening the health of the church. That issue, in fact, was such a concern that it endangered their relationships. It was such a difficulty that it was one of the most dangerous of all doctrines, which ultimately jeopardized their eternal life. And as we think about Thyatira today and the letter that is found in Revelation, we can see that the same issue threatens us today as well. So, if you want to turn over to Revelation chapter 2 verse 18 we are going to go into just a little bit of background before we get into the letter itself. Of course, Thyatira is kind of in the middle of Asia. That is the area we are looking at on the map. One of the reasons that it was mentioned here, for one thing, is that it is located right along that highway that was a major highway of commerce. In fact, that is what Thyatira was known for; Commerce. If it hadn’t been on this road, it probably wouldn’t even have been written about here in the Bible. It wasn’t much of a place, as I said it was kind of insignificant. It starts out as a military outpost. Seems like it may have been there to protect Pergamum. That seems to be the reason for its existence, originally. And, as you consider why it was such an insignificant place, it was even an insignificant location. It is actually on a flat plain. You can’t tell by looking at this map, necessarily, but it was on a flat plain. And because it was on this flat plain, it is an open valley type situation, with no protection, no fortifications. It is not high up on a hill or anything like that. And so, not very strategic. This is not the sort of place you would choose to set up a military embattlement. It was just a little outpost.
One of the things that is interesting is that during this Roman period, these Biblical times that we are talking about, there was peace. And because of that peace, all of those military disadvantages became commercial advantages. It was advantageous to be on a plain because then people could come through the city that much easier because it wasn’t a difficult place to get to it could become a commercial center and that is basically what happened to Thyatira. It became a commercial center because people had to travel through it to get to these bigger more important places. And so beginning in the first records of history it was a military outpost. If you were to try to research Thyatira, you will find that it most often is mentioned in history as a city that was conquered. How would you like that to be your claim to fame? That someone else overran you and took over? That continues to happen to Thyatira over its history. And so by the time we get to this period the Romans have overtaken Thyatira. They are using it as kind of protection for Pergamum. And under this Roman peace, the Pax Romana, that is when Thyatira really began to flourish. It became that center for commerce as people would travel through they became known for the many different items that they produced as well as kind of imported and exported.
They were famous for what you could call trade guilds. Do you know what a trade guild is? I suppose if you were to compare it to something today it would be like a union. Where there are workers of the same trade that come together for advantages and so they had guilds of all sorts of different things in Thyatira. They have uncovered some of the ruins from Thyatira where there are inscriptions that list some of these trade guilds. So, there were leather workers in Thyatira. There were linen workers. There were tanners. There were potters. There were bakers. All these groups of people came together for the benefit of their trades. Today we might have carpenters and plumbers and masons and things like that coming together for their own trades. So, they had their guilds that came together for their own advantages. In fact THE guild that became most important in Thyatira is one that we find one mention of it in scripture. In fact if you look in scripture there are only two places where Thyatira is mentioned. One of them is right here and the other is in the book of Acts. And it references that guild that became probably the most important one in Thyatira. And that is dying. Not the death kind of dying by dying cloth. They became very famous for dying a particular color of cloth and I heard it mentioned right here. It was purple. Purple was the color. And Thyatira became known for its purple dye. And dying cloths, that particular color. And it was quite an intricate system of dying cloth back in the New Testament. They say that there were two ways they could have made this purple dye. Most think it was the first method where they had to take mollusks or some say slugs from the Mediterranean and they would take this slime that they produced and it would produce this purple dye. Now that had to have been quite a process in order to do that. There was a fellow a number of years ago from Germany, a chemist that tried to replicate what they thought to be this purple dye. So I think it was about 2008 or so he was trying to do this and he gathered up all these mollusks from the Mediterranean area and, of course, that is just south of here, and as he tried to do this do you know how many it took in order to produce any usable amount? He had to get 12.000 of these mollusk like slugs just to get enough dye to dye something the size of a handkerchief. Can you imagine that? And so they think that is where they produced this. So, no wonder it became very expensive. If you have to collect all those slimy little things, that would not be a whole lot of fun. So, it would cost a lot in order to do that. Now other people postulate that maybe they were able to produce that purple dye from some type of a plant root. If you look that up and try to find information on that it is really hard to try to find anything on that process of producing from plants. Now, some of the plants in that area possible would have done that, could have extracted that dye from the roots but it seems most often that this Tyranian purple, which is what they became known for, Tyranian purple dye, was probably produced from these mullosks. Which sounds kind of disgusting but turned out to be a very beautiful cloth.
And so, that is kind of a little bit of a background to Thyatira. There was not much. Right now there is a city that covers this particular area. They haven’t done that much excavating there. There is not much to see if you were to go to the ruins of ancient Thyatira. Nobody even started digging around there until like 1968. So, there is not much there and the city that now covers that area is Akhisar. That is the name of the city that is there now. If fact, if I showed you pictures of the city now, you could see some of the ruins, right over the top of the ruins you can see some of the buildings from the modern city that is there.
Now another aspect of Thyatira that kind of points to this idea that it wasn’t all that much of an important place is that it also wasn’t the religious center. It didn’t have one of the Seven Wonders of the World like Ephesus would have had the great temple there. It didn’t have anything like that. As far as worship, it wasn’t a religious center. In fact it had kind of a minor god that they worshipped. Like most cites of the day they had their patron god. They had their favorite god of local interest, their local hero. They had a god that they worshipped and his name was Tiramose. And we know this because of ancient coins where this Tiramose was riding a horse and he also carried an ax, a great big double edged ax. He was pictured on these coins. And so, he was the guy. He was their great god with this double edged battle ax. And this Tiramose, or sometimes Tiramoss, would be depicted that very way. In fact it seems that over the years, and you might not think this is very important but it is important so hang on and listen to this. It might not seem important but this worship of Tiramose kind of morphed into worshipping Apollos. Apollos was one of the pagan gods, as well, the god of light. Apollos was the son of Zeus and that comes into play. They kind of morphed in together as the years went on. And so, that will be something we will come back to in a little bit. And so, keep that in the back of your mind.
Now, the other aspect of this religious worship that would have been found in Thyatira was connected to the trade guilds. Because these people grouped together, whether they were sellers of purple or leather workers, whether they were tanners…however they were associated by their crafts, they were organized for their protection, benefit, and mutual financial benefits as well. And you might think, are there any Biblical references to this type of thing, to trade guilds. And the answer is yes. You know in Jerusalem in ancient times there was a Bakers street? It wasn’t just that they picked that name. It was a street of the bakers. So, if you go to Jeremiah 37 you can read about the king telling somebody to go down to Bakers Street and guess what they are going to get at Bakers Street? Going to get some bread. They could go down there and find that. It is also interesting that in Thyatira there were special worship practices by the guilds. These trade guilds would worship their own god that was maybe their particular patron god of leather working or patron god of dying cloth. So they would worship and they would honor their favorite god that would help them in their trade. In fact, it seems that might be part of the reference over in the book of I Corinthians. I Corinthians chapter 8, we are not going to turn there but I will try to refresh you memory and you can try to look it up later, because we may run out of time otherwise. But in I Corinthians 8 it talks about meat that is offered to idols in an idol’s temple. And that idol’s temple may have been connected with the trade guilds because the trade guilds would have had their own places where they worshipped. Which probably became known as temples. And so they had their own gods, their own pagan feasts, their festivals, their celebrations, their own rituals. We find a good example of this same concept in the book of Acts. There was a silversmith that sold little idols. And when the apostle Paul came along and got in the way a man named Demetrius did everything he could to get all the resources of his guild, the silversmiths, together to fight the apostle Paul and kick him out of town. And so that seems to be another reference in scripture to the power of these particular guilds. Now we will come back to that in just a little bit. But keep that in the back of your mind, as well. Keep Apollos, and the Tirimose, the pagan god, these trade guilds, and this whole concept of mutual benefit for this association.
There is also one weird little thing that has to do with religion in Thyatira. They also had someone that was called a Sybil that was there. A Sybil would have been a prophetess, a person who would make predictions and try to talk about the future, try to give your horoscope, as you might see today. There was a shrine that was outside the city that was called Sambate or sambath. But this particular shrine is where people would go and seek this oracle. If you have seen….what is the movie with all the fighting and that sort of thing? I can’t think of the movie where they look for the oracle. This oracle or this Sybil would be the one that…you know what it is and you are not telling me. What is the name of the movie? The guy fighting…what is it? THE MATRIX! YEAH! That is it. The Matrix. He was seeking the Sybil. He was seeking the oracle. Well, where does that stem from? That stems from paganism. That goes all the way back. And so here in Thyatira there was an oracle, someone that you would go to seek your fortune, a fortuneteller or soothsayer. They might call her a witch, as well. So this seems to be tied to the oriental eastern aspects of this thing. Some people may say that it was a person of Jewish background but that doesn’t seem as likely. We will come back to that idea in a minute, as well. So, many people would go to Thyatira in this area to consult the oracle which may have also been connected to these trade guilds, as well. And so, with that, that kind of sets the background to the city Thyatira and the people that live there.
Now I have mentioned that there are two places in scripture that reference Thyatira. One of them is here in Revelation 2. The other one is in Acts 16. So, if you will turn with me to Acts 16 I want to read this quickly because it is significant as it ties in to the Thyatira that is mentioned in Revelation.
So go to Acts 16:14-15 Here is where Paul, on one of his journeys, crosses over in Europe and comes to Philippi, the foremost city of Macedonia. “A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple of the city of Thyatira which worshipped God, heard us; whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” So Paul goes into the city on the Sabbath day. Verse 13 says they went to the riverside to pray. The women met there. In verse 14 there was a woman named Lydia that was listening to Paul. Well, what about this Lydia? Well, guess what, it says here she was a seller of purple. And where was she from? She was from the city of Thyatira. So, she is a seller of purple from Thyatira. “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized she begged us saying if you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and stay. So she persuaded us.” Very interesting. Who was Paul’s first convert as he gets to Philippi? It is Lydia from Thyatira. She was a seller of purple. Now here is where it gets kind of interesting. What is she doing in Philippi? Shouldn’t she be in Thyatira? What is she doing there? Well, we don’t know for sure. But could it possible that she is a representative that has traveled to Philippi, perhaps living in Philippi for the benefit of the guild that sells purple from Thyatira? Could she be here as a representative of the guild while she is living in Philippi? I think it is a distinct possibility that it could be case. Because, at this time Thyatira was probably at its peak, as far as properity. And of course, you would need emissaries, you would need people, you would need distributors out that so that your goods could be sold. So, was she someone like that, that was promoting the guild back home. It is very possible that could be the case. So, it is interesting, that connection to Revelation.
So, let’s go back to Revelation 2. Maybe we can get a little bit more of an idea about these guilds that perhaps Lydia could have been a representative for. Revelation 2:18 is where we are going to pick up the letter to those in Thyatira.
Revelation 2:18 let’s dig into this letter, the longest letter to these churches. And as it begins it begins like the others. It says “To the angel of the church of Thyatira write” So, here is a letter that is written by the angel, doesn’t seem to be just an angel but probably the pastor or minister, someone that is leading the congregation seems to be who that is referring to. An angel is a messenger, the messenger or leader possibly the pastor. And what is the letter saying. “These things say the son of God, who has his eyes like flame of fire, and his feet like fine brass.”
As this letter begins something that isn’t found anywhere else in the book of Revelation; Christ is referred to as the son of God. That doesn’t seem very important, does it? Because this is the only place. This is the only time this phrase is used in the book of Revelation. Why is that significant? Why do you think that would be important? Well, there is certainly a lot of symbolism that is going on here as we read through this letter to those in Thyatira. What is Jesus like? Is this the Jesus that walked the earth with the disciples? Is that who is being described here? Eyes like flame of fire and feet like fine brass. That is not the incarnate Christ, is it? That is the risen Lord, Master, High Priest. That is Jesus Christ in His glorified form. And He is the only one who ever was in incarnate, the only god who was ever in the flesh, then crucified and resurrected. And, as the risen Christ, here is what He is like. And he describes Him this way for a very distinct purpose. There is description that describes Him just the same in Daniel 10. A description is found there, as well. I think it is important, especially as you think about Thyatira. What was their god like? What was their patron saint, if you want to call it that? What was their patron saint like? Well, he was this god riding a horse with this battle axe. But, wait a second. Is that any comparison to THE God? To THE Savior? Tirimose, that morphed into Apollo, that kind of merged with emperor worship, you know worshipping the Caesar, all of that came together. And as Apollos, the son of Zeus, you see the Bible is telling us that is nothing compared to THE God. That is nothing compared to the son of God. It is nothing compared to the savior that we have. He is not just riding a horse with a battle ax. He is THE God with flame of fire in His eyes. He has burnished brass, fine brass, as His feet. And so we find this description of an all-powerful Jesus Christ. He has got eyes of flame that are piercing. Eyes that will pierce right into the very heart of people and circumstances and things. He knows our motives. He can penetrate right through our exterior, right down to the very heart and core of our thoughts. That is the kind of God that we have. Where is that passage about judging the thoughts and intentions of the heart? I think it is in Hebrews. That is the kind of God that we have. He is able to judge out thoughts. He knows our intentions. And a couple of chapters later here in the book of Revelation it talks about Him on a white horse. Well, maybe we should just go over there for a moment. I think it is in Revelation 19? Is that where it is? YEAH! Revelation 19:11 describes something that is so much greater, so much more powerful than any local little patron saint.
Revelation 19:11 “I say heaven open, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes were s a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no one knew, but he himself; And he was clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and his name is called the Word of God.”
That is the kind of God we have. That is the kind of piercing insight that Jesus Christ has. So much more superior of any god of a local insignificant town. And so, that is being pointed out very distinctly to those in Thyatira. In fact, it doesn’t stop there. It also describes His feet of fine brass. Well, why would that matter? Well, one of the guilds in Thyatira were also those that made bronze. In fact they were known for making the Roman helmets out of bronze. And so, it is not just any little craft that they are talking about. And instead of being on his head, it is on his feet. Which is also kind of turning everything upside down, sort of thing, because your feet have to be strong and you have to know where you are going. This major trade of bronze making is kind of cut right to the core because here is a savior who is totally permanent, totally stable. And this fine brass is glowing and radiating. In a way, what does that say? Don’t mess with Christ. You don’t mess with this god because he IS God and He judges, walks, carries Himself with righteousness. And His feet, with their burnished brass, can take Him wherever there is a need. So, in a way, this image of the risen Christ is kind of scary compared to what they are used to thinking of in terms of their little local patron god. And so no wonder this particular letter starts like this. Is that going to get your attention? I am going to recognize the difference between that risen Christ and this little got who is out little town favorite? Yeah, you are going to recognize that and you are going to say “whoa, there are some serious things that are going to be addressed here because this is critical. Of course, it is followed immediately after that, if we go back to Revelation 2. Notice where he goes with this initial description as he talks about His eyes like a flame of fire and His feet like fine brass.
He says in Verse 19: “I know your works,” A similar phrase to the one he says to every one of the churches. To all seven churches he says the same thing. He can see right through it. Of course he knows it. Of course he knows who we are, what we are, what we do. He knows everything. So to all seven, of course the implication is it is all encompassing. He knows what we do. But he also says in the rest of verse 19 that he knows your love, your service, your faith. He knows your patience. Those are all good things. Those aren’t pagan things, are they? Those are all good things. In fact it is interesting that these pairs of words kind of fit together. Have you ever noticed that before? That we have love and service. We have faith and patience. You see, it starts with love because love is what is on the inside. What comes out when you love? Helping others, serving, giving. Right? Without love is it genuine giving? Well not if you are doing things for selfish purposes. But he pairs those two things together, I think, to make that point. And the works…the patience is kind of stemming from faith. Faith in on the inside and the works, the actions are on the inside. And so we have these pairs of words here that are showing that much more how they are doing some very good things. It almost sounds surprising when you see this risen Christ picture at first and then we start out with some of the best compliments to any of the churches. He says “I know your works and love, and service, and faith, and your patience,: and then he says, not only that “and as for your works, the last are more than the first.” Literally meaning you are doing even better now than you were before. That is not like some of the others. Remember some of the others said get back your first love, you’ve lost it. Well this is not true in this sense in Thyatira. He says what you are doing now is that much better, you have actually improved. And so when you see what they are doing, you look at it like that and say WOW! This is a flourishing church, this is a strong congregation. Imagine walking into that congregation. What would that be like? Because we are talking about the church of God. We are talking about the church of God in Thyatira. We are talking about God’s people. We are not talking about some pagan congregation. This is God’s church. And so if you were to go into this congregation what would it be like. Okay, you are a stranger, you are from the 21st century, you appear in Thyatira, what would they think? Wow! You dress weird. They wouldn’t think that but what would you think? You would probably be impressed. They would probably be friendly. They were probably hospitable. You would probably be impressed with the things that they were doing, the energy that would be in that congregation. They would probably be pretty impressive. This points to the fact that they must have been very dedicated people. Yet, when you get to what is really going down in Thyatira something in missing. There is something amiss in Thyatira. And that is what Christ begins to address next. If you look back to verse 20.
Revelation 2:20-22, we are going to read right through this little section but we are going to tear it apart in just a moment. “Never the less, I have a few things against you because you allow that woman, Jezabel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit sexual immorality, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her 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.” Not only that but verse 23; “And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches that I know, 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.” Wow, that sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it? That sounds pretty harsh. But did you notice from where this whole problem stems? Back in verse 20 it makes it very clear. It says “I have a few things against you” Why? Because you allow it. You allow it. They are allowing these things to happen in God’s church. And this offsets all of these wonderful traits he just got done mentioning.
When you look at this critical problem that they have, if you look it up in various translations it says you allow it, you tolerate it, you permit it. Some say you are so permissive that you put up with these things. As God’s people they were putting up with what is described next as Jezebel. Now we are probably familiar with the story of Jezebel. If you go back to I Kings the story of the wife of king Ahab. Jezebel, probably one of the most infamous women in the Old Testament. Queen Jezebel was idolatrous. Right? She was just a vile person, just a disgusting personality. And we remember her story from the paganism that she engulfed Israel in. Remember the issues that she had. She had hundreds of priests and prophets to Baal. She hundreds of prophets to Astarte, you probably remember the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal and how they had their challenge there. And there was Jezebel. She was the one that promoted paganism right in the very court of the king.
And so, we are told here in Revelation 2:20 “you allow that woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess to teach, seduce my servants, to commit sexual immorality, and eat things sacrificed to idols.” So there is the issue. Who is this Jezebel? It is pointing back to somebody like Jezebel of the Old Testament. But who would it be in Thyatira. Some people think that it might be this Sybil, this oracle, this Sybil to Ambati. Well, would that be the most likely case? Well, she was kind of a prophetess in that way. Would someone like that have the power to infiltrate the church to a level of this type of seduction? It is possible. But it doesn’t seem like a soothsayer, witch, or a false prophetess like she was would have had that much influence. To me, personally, I think that is probably unlikely. There are interesting connections there but it doesn’t seem like that is the case when you look at the overall context of this letter. Now there are others that speculate that maybe the bad influence that Jezebel was Lydia. Now that is kind of weird that the Lydia, of the book of Acts that was the first convert at Philippi, would be the same. That is kind of strange. There is not really any proof. There is not really any evidence of that we can link but there are a couple of out there that speculate that maybe that was who it was since that was the only other time that Thyatira was mentioned. But that doesn’t seem very likely, either.
There is another theory that perhaps this Jezebel was an important woman in the congregation. There were prophets and prophetesses in the early church. Is it possible that this was just a prominent woman within the congregation that had this much negative impact that influenced the whole church? IT is possible. But is it the most likely explanation of who this Jezebel is? Maybe we should ask the question is she really a person? Is it even a person that we are talking about or is it symbolic of something else? You are right! IT seems like it points to the fact that it is representative of something that isn’t even a person. It seems this Jezebel that is mentioned here is a representation or a sense that this is a representation of the influence that is propagated on the church. You could say the personification of a teaching. Maybe a personification of …well what was Jezebel like in the old days? How would you describe Ahab’s wife? How would you describe Queen Jezebel? You would not be far off if you said she is the personification of evil. Well this doesn’t seem to be any different here. What does this personification of evil do? What is she like in Thyatira? Well, she encourages everyone to compromise their beliefs. That certainly ties into the Jezebel of the Old Testament as well. And what this seems to point to is encouraging the participation of the practices of the trade guilds. The pagan worship of the trade guilds. Because if you were to research what these trade guilds did in their practices you will see that there was definitely a religious aspect to what these trade guilds did. There was always at least three parts to their meetings. There were worship services because they had to worship the god of their trade, the god of their guild. And so they each had their own private little gods and they would always pour out a little drink to them. They would pour out some wine in honor of their patron god. And so they would do that and they would then have a meal, a sacrificial meal in honor of their patron god. Then guess what followed? There was the wine, the meal, and then what came next? Well, what does this Jezebel lead the people into? She was teaching compromise and allowing certain things and seducing servant to commit sexual immorality. So the meetings of the trade guilds in their worship at the end of the night ended with a big orgy…sex for everybody. And so illicit sex was part of the worship of their patron god of the guild. Often times these things were held in their own little meeting halls. It wasn’t the mason hall of the day or the anything like that but it was their hall where they would honor their patron god of their guild. And it always began with a formal observance honoring their particular saint or their god. They would eat meat offered to those gods, as well.
So what was going on? I think we can see everything described right here. Revelation 2:20 “teaching seduction, servants committing sexual immorality, eating things sacrificed to idols.” This was common. This was everyday kind of occurrences among the trade guilds. And, guess what? You are expected to participate. This is your group of people. You want to trade? You want to be able to have an income? You want a job? Then you had better be a part of the group. Because if you are not part of the group how are you going to make your living? How are you going to take care of your family? How are you going to have a livelihood? So it was pegged to that and the pressure that was put on the church in Thyatira. You want a job? Then you had better do what is expected. You had better participate in the guild practices. And so it is interesting because God continues to make this connection to ancient Jezebel and Thyatira because he says “I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality.” So, God is giving them time to repent. They should change. And so it is kind of eluding to the old Jezebel, to the ancient Jezebel. Was Jezebel of ancient times given time to repent? Absolutely she was! Did God just send down a lightening bold and Jezebel was gone? Nope! He sent Elijah. Elijah was to go to Jezebel. He was to go to the king and tell him what was going to happen if they don’t change. Elijah was sent and he prophesied to them. Did she change? No, in fact he predicted how she would meet her demise. It had to do with the dogs, didn’t it? In fact you can read about Ahab and how Ahab kind of changed a little bit. He kind of had a momentary repentance, I guess you could say. And God put off a little bit of the punishment for a while, gave him time to repent. But ultimately she didn’t. And so here it is interesting that the church is told to repent. And then he makes this interesting connection here. Since she didn’t repent.
Verse 22; “ I will cast her into a sickbed and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation unless they repent of their deeds.” And so, once again, time is given to change, to repent, to change the way you think, change your actions. Otherwise you are going to be cast into a sickbed. Kind of interesting. What kind of bed were they using before? Well, a bed of sexual immorality. Now we are looking at a bed of affliction. That also ties back to Jezebel. Think about Jezebel and especially those that commit adultery with her, this bed of affliction certainly fell upon her family, fell upon ancient Jezebel’s family. Her son had an interesting circumstance. Ahaziah was her son. He was walking on his balcony and, what happened to Ahaziah? He fell through the trellis right down to the ground. You can read that story in the beginning of II Kings. II Kings chapter 1 talks about Ahaziah falling. Guess where he ends up. You fall off the balcony down to the ground and you are going to be broken, you are going to be hurting. He had to have been in that bed of affliction for a long time. And, of course, did he repent? He bought into mom’s things. He bought into mom’s paganism. He didn’t trust the true God. He bought into everything his mom was teaching. He let his mother seduce him into false practices. He falls off the balcony and…BAM, broken up, bed of affliction! Does he repent? Does he turn to God? Does he change his thinking? NOPE. Read II Kings. It says he sought Baalzebub to find out if he was going to survive or not. Instead of turning to the true God, he turns to the Philistine god and seeks wisdom and insight from him. And so all this time, whether it is Ahaziah or Jezebel, it was time to repent and change. This was a warning, you better change now. But like Thyatira, as we find here, they did not repent. They wouldn’t repent. In fact in this little section of scripture this sickbed that is mentioned here, I don’t think it only eludes back to Jezebel and the connections to the trade guilds and the sexual immorality. There is also an alternate translation for that particular word for “sickbed” or “bed of tribulation”. It could also be called the “banqueting bed”, because they didn’t literally have a bed there. They would have had these couches, as we would call them today. They had big couches where they would lounge and eat because they wouldn’t sit around tables like we do in our dining rooms and eat from the dining room table, they would lounge as they were eating. And so their disgusting habits happened that way as well. But, whatever you call it, it is obviously a bed of immorality and that bed, then, turns into the punishment that is well deserved. And so, here, it is an interesting contrast, isn’t it? It is an interesting contrast from the lust and degradation of the trade guilds to turning into the pain and the torture and probably their greatest torment. It happened to Ahaziah. It happened here in Thyatira, it seems, as well.
Alright, down to verse 23 then. Revelation 2:23 “I will kill her children with death. And all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and the hearts.” So, once again, we have those piercing eyes of Christ seeing straight through into the heart and very thought. And it is kind of a scary thing that the children would also be killed. Why would that be included here. Well, these are not innocent children. These are children that have bought into the heresy, that have bought into the lies, that have bought into the whole perspective of immorality just like Jezebel and Ahab. You go back to Jezebel and Ahab and you will see what happened to all of Ahab’s sons. They were all killed. They are going to wipe out that evil influence, didn’t want any of that. And so that same type of destruction that would have certainly come to people’s minds as they read this letter, that is predicted for these who are heretical, those who are promoting these heresies, those who are allowing these things as well. And so here we begin to see that very thing. You may have the outward appearance of patience. You may have the outward appearance of being hospitable. You may have the outward appearance of love and good works. But, wait a second…we have a savior that pierces right through that and knows exactly who you are and you are not fooling anybody. That is exactly what Christ is saying here. He knows whether their repentance is real or not. It says it very clearly.
Verse 24, then. Revelation 2:24 “But to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put upon you no other burden. But hold fast what you have until I come.” And so here we have a remarkable statement. There are some there that are faithful, that are loyal. They haven’t fallen into this terrible heresy. He says that it is so bad that they have fallen to the depths of Satan. What are we supposed to know? What are we supposed to experience? What is God’s church supposed to have an understanding of? Well, in I Corinthians it tells us that we are to know the deep things of God. But here we have the contrast of that; people who are experiencing the depth of Satanism, the depth of satanic approach to Christianity. On the spiritual side of things we know that the spirit searches the deep things of God. I Corinthians 2:10 talks about that very thing. The issue here is that there is a major problem. This is not just a minor issue. Would it be possible that this could undermine the whole of Christianity? You see, that is how dangerous this doctrine it. That is how dangerous this seduction, the prophetess of allowance is, this prophetess of tolerance is. You see, that is another way of saying that is the good ole Roman approach. Just bring your god right on in here with the rest of the gods and Christ could be a part of all of this. Make him another one of our gods that would be good enough. Wouldn’t that be great? We are talking about undermining Christianity. In fact, did that happen? Other churches today claiming to be Christian but have very little connection to the Christianity of the Bible. You see, you don’t have to say that Caesar is lord. Just recognize that he is not really that bad, right? We can just add it to the rest of our Roman gods and that will be okay. You see, that was part of the issue with these people. The tolerated and allowed these false teachings and wrong actions that made, in a sense, brought an alliance with paganism. Didn’t it? Kind of brought it all together. So, by protecting their trade and their occupation it really made this whole teaching and their practice that much more insidious.
So, by the time we get down to verse 25, let’s notice here. Revelation 2:25 “Hold fast what you have til I come.” It is talking about those who have been doing what is right. “Hold fast til I come. And he who overcomes and keeps my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations;” So He will give power. “and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like potters’ vessels;” A reference to Revelation chapter 20 where Christ returns. You can find that in the Psalms, as well. He says “as I, also, have received from my Father. And I will give the morning star. He that has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says unto the churches.”
So, He says hold fast. Hold fast to righteousness. Hold fast to what is good. And if you hold fast what is true, right, and good what will be given to you? No, it is not that you will be able to get up early in the morning and see the stars. He is talking about THE morning star. The star that brings light. What is the morning star? It is talking about Christ Himself. You can look over at Revelation 22 where it specifically spells that out. We will be given Christ. That is the greatest promise of all, to rise and meet Christ in the air when He returns. To be His, to be a member of the God family. It is the greatest gift of all, certainly, to do that. And so we see that we will be able to rule with a rod of iron, with Christ. Literally that world “rule” means to shepherd. It doesn’t mean to beat somebody over the head, but to shepherd as a shepherd would have a staff. It can destroy sinners, as it talks about like potters vessels, but it can also guide, lead, help, and serve, as well.
And so here as this letter concludes to the church at Thyatira the advice is to overcome, persevere, and to keep doing what is right. So, as we think about this particular letter to the church in Thyatira can you see any connections to us today? Any lessons we can learn for today? I think so. I think there are many. It is very interesting, the connection we have to Thyatira today. Any persecution going on in the church today? Very little, if any, right? People being put to death? Anyone being thrown in jail? I don’t hear much of anything like that today. Not happening. Have there been any laws passed by any governments that say the church of God has been outlawed and you had better not be found keeping the Sabbath, better not be doing these things with the Holy Days, or we are going to force you to eat unclean things. Anything like that? Not much, especially not here in America. It is not happening at all here. We are like Thyatira. No persecution going on. And that is the difficulty. This infection came from within the church. They allowed these things. They allowed this kind of attitude. Join a trade guild or lose your job. Your job is at risk. Your choice is prosperity blended with society or loyalty to Christ. Do you think that is going on today? Every day. I have to keep the Sabbath? Well, I could lose my job! Really? How much are we like Thyatira? See, this dangerous doctrine is the doctrine of compromise, the doctrine of allowance. You have to make a choice and we are faced every single day with pressures to conform, pressures to fit in, pressures to not stick out, pressures to make wrong choices and judgements. We are faced with those things every single day and yet, as this letter says to Thyatira, we better hold back. How much religion is faced with “it doesn’t matter how much you believe”. It doesn’t matter what you believe today as long as you are a nice person. That is all that counts. Be nice to people and be a humanitarian because that is all that really counts. Bologna! That is pure garbage and heresy. You have to be a good person but you don’t do it to blend in. You don’t do it to compromise. You can’t do it to allow these things. It is unacceptable just to be a good person and that is enough, just to accept wrong behavior. It is unacceptable to allow that and say that this is a good thing. UNACCEPTABLE! Are there lifestyles that are wrong? That are unacceptable or not? God says yes there is. And there is not two bits about it. That is all there is. There ARE unacceptable lifestyles that we cannot allow because God doesn’t allow it. And to say anything else is being a true Thyatiran. And God says wow, that is not a place you want to be. And, you know what? They look like real Christians. They look like really good people. They were really nice people because they had good jobs and they were able to be prosperous they were able to be charitable. They were able to give money and they could help charities and fund things that were good things. They seemed to be of fine character. But it was all a façade. It was not true Christianity. They were infidels. They were faithless individuals. That is what an infidel is, a nonbeliever. And so when we are faced with these things we can’t just look like a Christian. We have to confront evil. We have to confront it and we have to confront error in our own lives first and foremost. Because Thyatira teaches us that we cannot mix the truth of God with the ways of this world. It is unacceptable. Can’t be done. You can’t synchronize those things, can’t mix them all together. And so we look out in that world today and Jezebelism is alive and well. But we have to make sure it is dead in the church. We have to make sure it is dead in our lives, as well.
So, this letter, just to sum it up…be careful what you tolerate. Be careful what you put up with. Be careful with what you compromise. Does your commitment to the Father and Christ come first or not? That is the letter to Thyatira. So, hold fast. Because there are those, as Thyatira shows, that are with the truth. Keep overcoming, keep striving, keep His works. Overcome to the very end and God says there is a reward, there is a blessing, we can be children of the family of God with all the wonderful blessings that it brings. So, let’s keep going. Let’s keep those works to the very end and we can be assured that we will be there at the return of Christ.
Alright, well that will do it for our study for tonight. In two weeks we will continue our series. We are going to be heading to Sardis nest. Mr. Gary Petty will be conducting the next study about the church in Sardis. So, we hope you will join us next time. Thanks for joining us tonight. Have a good evening and we will see you next time.