The Message to the Church in Thyatira
18 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze:
19 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.
20 “But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.
22 “Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.
24 “But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you 25 except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. 26 To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end,
To them I will give authority over all the nations.
27 They will rule the nations with an iron rod
and smash them like clay pots.
28 They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!
29 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.
A few things about Thyatira are very important. First, it was the headquarters for many ancient guilds: the potters, tanners, weavers, robe makers and dyers guilds. It was actually the center of the dyeing industry (no pun intended). Remember Lydia, the seller of purple, in Philippi? She became Paul’s first convert in Europe. Acts 16:14 tells us that Lydia was from Thyatira. Apollo, the sun god, was primarily worshiped here.
It sounds pretty significant, but actually, it was the smallest and most unimportant city Jesus spoke to. The elder Pliny dismissed Thyatira with the almost contemptuous phrase, “Thyatira and other unimportant cities.” It is interesting that this is seemingly the most insignificant church of all the seven churches, but Jesus had the most to say to them.
It’s very clear what issue Jesus had with this church. They were “permitting” (some versions say “tolerating”) very immoral, sinful teaching to take place within the church. This is very similar to the church of Pergamum, where they tolerated others to follow and practice false teaching, where as here they took it one step further and allowing these false teaching to be taught and letting people get led astray within the church body.
As with many of the churches there are things that the church at Thyatira is doing well, but serious issues about which it needs to repent. What’s going well is their faith, love, their service, and perseverance. That’s a pretty good list for any church! What’s more, they are now doing more than they did at first – that is, they are also growing spiritually too. All sounds pretty good, you would think. But, no, there is a major issue, and it shows how it is possible for Christians (and churches) to lead a life of good intentions, and on the other hand, to be led in a dangerous direction. There was a false teaching at Thyatira (“that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet”) and for some reason the Christians were putting up with the false teaching. What is more – as so often – the false teaching was leading to false living. Sexual immorality was rife within the church. Lest we think the combination of the two (false teaching and sexual immorality) is unimaginable in the contemporary church, you only need to look around at the wider cultural scene and observe how a false teaching about sexuality is impregnating the church and giving birth to all sorts of ungodly ideas and behavior.
The consequence of following this false teaching and false living will be terrible: you reap what you sow. For those who reject “Jezebel” – Jesus simply says to “hold on to what you have until I come.” There is no other burden laid upon the faithful other than to remain faithful until Christ returns. That is our great charge and our great responsibility. And to those who are faithful, we will inherit a portion of Christ’s authority over even the nations. Let’s keep looking up and focused on Christ!
Lord help us to stay strong and focused on you, even when the world is pressuring us all to turn in the wrong direction. amen.