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The Church of Thyatira, Part 1



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. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. (Revelation 2:18–20).


We come now to the letter to the Church in Thyatira. This is the longest of the letters to the churches and it is most weighty in what it has to say. In this letter we see the deepest degree of apostasy experienced by any of the seven churches. Again, we must understand that this was an actual church that really existed as were all seven of the churches of the Revelation.

In Ephesus, we saw the church leave its love for Christ for the love of the theological argument, thinking they were one and the same. In Smyrna we saw the existence of a synagogue of Satan, hypocrites that were undermining the influence of God’s people in the church: the beginnings of apostasy. In Pergamos we saw more than a synagogue of Satan, here we find the seat or throne of Satan that killed the influence of godly ministers and quenched the desire of God’s people to read and know the Word of God. Here we see apostasy leaving its faithful people defenseless against its workings. Now, in Thyatira, we see the worst of the worst; the church had become the depths of Satan. Here is apostasy at its worst, effectively inventing a new religion and calling it Christianity.


About Thyatira


Thyatira was located on the Hermus River about 50 miles S and E from Pergamos. Today it is known by the name Akhisar. It was one of the many Greek colonies established in Asia in 290 b.c. after the destruction of the Persian empire by Alexander the Great.

Thyatira was famous for its water that was exceptionally well suited to dyeing the scarlet cloth out of which fezzes are made. A fez is a felt cap, usually red in color, having the shape of a truncated cone and ornamented with a long black tassel. The city is mentioned in Acts 16:14 as the source of the purple cloth sold by the woman named Lydia who opened her home to the gospel when Paul came to Philippi.

Thyatira was devoted to the Greek deity Apollo and worshipped him as the sun god under the name Tyrimnas.


Outline of the letter.


In verse 18 the Glorified Christ reveals Himself as the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire and feet like fine brass.

In verse 20 He makes His charge against the church, which is that they allow Jezebel to teach and seduce His servants. You will notice that the doctrinal issues she teaches are the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitans that were creeping into or taking over the previously mentioned churches.

Verses 21–23 are descriptive of the judgment the Glorified Christ pronounces against this Jezebel and her followers.

Verse 24 is a promise to those that do not follow this Jezebel.

Verse 25–29 contains a promise for those that overcome and hear what the Spirit says to the churches.


The appearance of Christ to this Church


In verse 18 Christ introduces Himself under three powerful terms, two of which appear in His description in Chapter 1. The problem at Thyatira was so serious that these aspects of the Glorified Christ are the only powers that can face and overcome what has happened to the church.

His first claim, which does not appear in Chapter 1, and in fact is found nowhere else in the Book of Revelation, is that He the Son of God. While on earth, Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man, and in so doing identified with the human race as its only Savior from sin. In coming to Thyatira as the Son of God He invokes His true deity and authority as the One that judges and must be heard.

His eyes are like a flame of fire. The Greek words flame of fire mean what is translated in our English Bibles but there is an implication in the words of a flash of lightning. It is sudden, blinding, penetrating, and destructive. Marvin Vincent in his Word Studies in the New Testament helps us to understand this aspect of the eyes of the Son of God:


Fire, in Scripture, is the expression of divine anger. The figure may include the thought of the clear and penetrating insight of the Son of Man; but it also expresses His indignation at the sin which His divine insight directs.[1]


His feet are like fine brass. Fine brass is an alloy of copper (or gold) and silver, giving a white or brilliant sheen to the feet. Matthew Henry comments on Christ’s feet,


That his feet are like fine brass, that the outgoings of his providence are steady, awful, and all pure and holy. As he judges with perfect wisdom, so he acts with perfect strength and steadiness.


This symbol shows us that as the Christ walks in the midst of the church the tread of His feet tramples all sin, corruption, and heresy under the weight of His divine glory.

His appearances to the Churches of Ephesus and Smyrna were as the divine guide and keeper. These churches were true to Christ notwithstanding the trials they were facing. His grace was there to correct and sustain them in their conflict with evil. His appearance to the Church of Pergamos was with the sharp two-edged sword doing battle against false doctrine that was destroying the church. For Thyatira, Christ appears to this church that has been destroyed by false doctrine and ungodly leadership with His divine power, crushing and destroying the evil and offering strength and deliverance to those that want to be delivered from the religious corruption around them.


A compliment


Christ’s compliment to the church in verse 19 almost appears to contradict the severity of the judgment He pronounces on the church. “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.”

I know your works: in other words, I know all you have done. This statement looks back to the founding of the church and the work they did proclaiming the gospel of salvation from sin in the city of Thyatira. This did not forestall His judgment, but it recognizes the fact that in the midst of the deep apostasy of the church, there remained a few that were true to Christ.

Your love, agape: that is, their disposition to do good to all men. Certainly, the church of God is determined to do good to all men by both teaching the word of God and ministering to temporal needs where possible. While this is a trait of God’s church, it is true that an apostate church can emulate such love by doing good deeds to mankind. Good deeds to not presuppose the presence of God, but where God is good deeds will be done.

Your service: this service pertains primarily to the ministry of the church; those that have labored in the word and teaching. Even though the church was now apostate and its leadership corrupt, in its earlier life if had been faithful in presenting the gospel that delivered people from sin and established them in lives of holiness. Some of those people still remained in the church even in its apostate state.

Their faith: not the faith of the apostates, but he faith of those that remained true to God in the midst of the corruption that surrounded them.

Their patience: The patient endurance of the sorrows of life and the spiritual battles they faced that tested the reality of their experience with God.

And their recent works: Dr. Albert Barnes comments on this trait within this church:


This is a most honourable commendation, and one which every Christian, and every church, should seek. Religion in the soul, and in a community, is designed to be progressive; and, while we should seek to live in such a manner always that we may have the commendation of the Saviour, we should regard it as a thing to be greatly desired that we may be approved as making advances in knowledge and holiness.


While the apostate church was active in doing good works, those works were deceptive and covered the actual spiritual condition of the church; nevertheless, there were still some saints of God that reached out to the community with works that proved the truth of the Scriptures and the reality of salvation from sin.


Spiritual prosperity and apostasy


Throughout the history of the Christian church, there have been times of general spiritual prosperity and times of general apostasy. From the letter to Thyatira, we see that it is possible for the people of God to exist under the devastating conditions of apostasy and not deny the faith or the life God would have them live. Adam Clarke comments on this condition:


They not only retained what they had received at first, but grew in grace, and in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. This is a rare thing in most Christian Churches: they generally lose the power of religion, and rest in the forms of worship; and it requires a powerful revival to bring them to such a state that their last works shall be more than their first.


Here is a lesson for churches and Christians that stand on high moral and religious standards. Nowadays we see a host of churches and denominations that have fallen from their original positions and are walking in locked step with Jezebel. They think they are right because they are in tune with the corrupt but politically correct culture.

We might think “How can a real Christian stay in a church that ordains homosexual ministers; performs same-sex weddings; and tolerates abortion?” Many people have fled those churches, and in some cases, new denominations have been formed or independent churches established in the hope and intent of preserving their traditional beliefs and practices.

We tend to look upon those that stay in apostate churches as apostate and unsaved. Perhaps many, if not most are; but Jesus looked into the spiritual rubble of Thyatira and found some that “do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan”. (Verse 24).

Why do they stay? We cannot say. God has called His people out of Babylon, but these people have not come out; are they still God’s people in the midst of that corruption? If there is one thing we can learn from Thyatira is that Christ pronounces His judgment on the apostate, but He still has grace for those who are faithful to Him but are trapped in such a church. They need our prayers, not our criticism. Some may come out, but remember, those that are faithful to Christ and keep His word to the end will have power over the nations. (Verse 26).

I know we like nice, neat answers; we want for things to be black and white. We see the truth of the Bible so clearly and have become blinded to the fact that not all God’s people have our experience. We see the biblical Babylon and automatically brand everyone that falls under its dominion as eternally lost and hopeless. But we do not have eyes like a flame of fire. Only the Son of God can look into the hearts of people, through the religious rubble that surrounds them, and see the true condition of their hearts.

[1] Vincent, Marvin R.,  Word Studies in the New Testament, Volume II.  MacDonald Publishing Company: McLean, VA, pg 428