18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
19 “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.
20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.
24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star.
29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
The church at Thyatira was in the smallest and in the least important city of the seven written to in this section of Revelation. It was a city of business and trade (Acts 16.14-15), and there is no documented persecution of the Christians there.
Again, as with the other churches, they are doing some things well. We read, ‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.’ So, the church in Thyatira were loving, faithful, serving, and had patient endurance. Perhaps the best commendation is the last; that their latter works exceeded their first, so, basically, they were progressing down the discipleship path that we are all on.
Isn’t that the goal for us all? Don’t we all want a deeper, closer, more fruitful relationship with the Lord?
But, nevertheless, they had some things they needed to repent of and turn away from (the two go hand in hand really, don’t they). Jesus sees with a Divine clarity, so He knows their good works, but also perceives what is wrong without a shadow of a doubt, remember He has eyes like a flame of fire. Their problem was tolerating sexual immorality amongst themselves and engaging in idolatrous practices. This centres around a woman called Jezebel (1 Kings 16-21, 2 Kings 9.30-37). This may not have been her real name, but the title implies a self-styled prophetess and comes with a negative connotation, for sure. Just think if someone called you a Judas, or a Hitler…not a good title to have.
Thyatira was full of trade guilds, and, likely what happened was that this woman, Jezebel, lured believers to the social gatherings of the guilds whereat they fell into idolatrous practices and/or sexual immorality. Feeling compelled to attend to further their work lives, they fell.
The church suffered because they tolerated this corruption from within, Jezebel flat rejected God and His perfect ways (I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality), and what a warning this is to us! Maybe there were just one or two in the church that practiced this, but, as we know, a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Given a glass of water with 99% water and 1% poison, we simply would not drink it, would we?
The Christians in Thyatira are told to
‘…hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star.’
This is so applicable to us too, isn’t it, if we hold fast to the teachings of Jesus, resist the lure of ‘worldly wisdom’ (what some call the deep things of Satan), then we will have our share in the coming Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour. We read we will share in His authority to judge and rule (Psalm 2) and we will receive the best gift of all, the best gift ever, Jesus Himself (And I will give him the morning star. – Revelation 22.16)
Revelation is not some mystical, future-ish, science fiction, far off prophetical utterance for a special few at a special time…it is truly for all of us.
Here, it is for those who are like Jezebel, leading others to sin.
It is for those who are following the teachings of a Jezebel.
It is for those who permit a Jezebel to influence them or those around them.
It also applies to the faithful in Christ as an exhortation to hold fast to the pure Spiritual nutrition of the Word of God.