Open your Bibles to the book of Revelation, we'll be studying one of the seven letters to the churches written by Christ to the church there at Thyatira, which we'll refer to as the Tolerant Church.
These seven letters give an overview of the condition of all churches. All churches today are in some way similar to these seven churches. Various aspects of each of these churches may apply to different congregations. There may be a mixture of different ones of the characteristics of these seven churches. But when you look at these seven churches in total, I think what you see is a picture of just about every state that a congregation can be in. Any combination of these characteristics can be found in almost any congregation.
These epistles serve as a guide to help us view our relationship with Christ and learn how we can be more pleasing to Him as individual Christians and collectively as a congregation of the Lord's church.
We think about the city of Thyatira. Thyatira was situated where several valleys came together. There were a lot of people that passed through the roads and went down through these valleys. Thyatira became a very important trade city. There were a lot of trades that were represented there in the city. You had woodworkers and tanners and you had people that made various fabrics. Some dyed fabrics. We read about a woman by the name of Lydia, in the city of Philippi in Acts chapter 14, she was from this city. She was in Philippi, but this was from, her home here in Thyatira. It was an important trade center.
Now, like all these other cities in Asia Thyatira was characterized by its rampant idolatry. They were certainly of the Greek culture.
This whole area had been subjugated by the Greeks under Alexander the Great, centuries before. They were thoroughly engrossed, or thoroughly involved, in the culture of the Greeks, along with their religion. They were very idolatrous, very much involved in the Greek, idolatrous worship. Just like all of this part of Asia.
A Christian in a place like this was always going to be in a hard situation no matter what. You put on top of that the persecution that they're facing makes it very difficult for them as each one of these churches. Think about the book of Revelation, it is written to give encouragement to Christians that were facing persecution in the first century.
People tend to run with that Revelation and think, well, we can make it apply to any time, talking about some future prophecy that has not yet taken place that this has to do with the United States of America. And you get all these wild ideas here and what good would any of that have done to know that? The enemies of God are gonna be destroyed 3,000 years from now when people are being persecuted right then and there.
This is given to these churches that were facing this persecution. That's really what the entire book of Revelation is written to do, is to show these people, to give them encouragement, and to us, by extension, to be able to see the ultimate victory that we have in Christ by being faithful.
Christ's Communication with The Church at Thyatira
He addresses this particular congregation and there are good and bad things about this congregation. He begins with, as we usually go through, His communication. In verse 18, it talks about how Jesus describes Himself as He addresses the church here.
- Revelation 2:18
He addresses them as the Son of God. We know this shows His relationship to God the Father and signifies that Jesus Himself is God. He is the gift of God.
- John 3:16
But also when you think about His relationship to us today, as He is God's spokesman.
- Hebrews 1:1-2
He is God's spokesman for this age. He introduced himself as the Son of God. And, as the Son of God, He is the only way to the Father.
- John 14:6
By His very name, He is the Savior of the world.
- Matthew 1:21
He introduced Himself as He who hath His eyes like a flame of fire. You think about the picture we're seeing, His eyes are like fire. His eyes glow, maybe, with fire. An expression found, in two places, both in Revelation, both of them referring to Christ.
- Revelation 1:14
- Revelation 19:11-13
I believe it suggests that He can see and penetrate everything and everywhere.
- Hebrews 4:13
I have these eyes like a flame of fire. He knows their works because He sees everything. There is nothing that the Lord does not see.
Also, speaks of having feet like fine brass. This phrase really is symbolic of strength.
- Revelation 1:15
We see that it symbolizes His strength, His power, and His enemies will be put under His feet.
- 1 Corinthians 15:25
- Revelation 19:15
He's gonna tread his wrath out upon those that are in opposition to God, those that are opposed to God, those that are separate from God.
We see Christ's communication with the church at Thyatira. He has eyes like a flame of fire and feet of brass, He is the Son of God.
Christ's Commendation of the Thyatiran Church
And as such, He says in verse 19, we see His commendation, He says, "I know thy works."
- Revelation 2:19
He said the same thing in every one of these letters. He wanted the Christians there to understand that He knew what was going on. He sees the good, He sees the bad, He feels their pain, He understands their sorrow. He's been through it all Himself. He says, "I know thy works." And He says, "I know thy charity." I know thy agape love. Agape love is the fountain from which all true religious acts flow.
- Galatians 5:6
It is faith from a heart of love. We know the characteristics of love or charity, agape.
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
He says, I know thy works, I know thy charity.
He says, I know thy faith. He knew that they were people of faith, without faith. Is our worship empty, and ritualistic, and our works are mere social service?
- Hebrews 11:1-3, 6
So faith without works is dead. Also, a dead faith will not save us He says, I know your works. I know your charity. I know your faith.
- James 2:17-18, 26
He knows their works. He knows their service, their ministry. He knows what they're doing. He knows the good things they do.
- James 1:27
- Romans 12:1
He says he knows about their patience or their steadfastness. He knows how they have endured great hardship, and they've endured great struggles.
- Romans 5:4-5
Hardships and trials that we overcome through our faith tend to strengthen us. They give us more patience. They give us more steadfastness. They build character and steadfastness. He says I know thy patience. I know thy steadfastness.
- Romans 15:4-6
- Hebrews 6:11-12
The things that the people endured and went through and how Christ, how God, was with them, how He delivered them when they were faithful. All of those things should give us hope; should give us that steadfastness and patience. Plus, the things that we've endured ourselves through our lives in order to be faithful.
There's a lot to be commended here. They were filled with faith, service, and patience. Notice, He says the last to be more than the first. They were growing, they were growing in their religion, they were growing in their works, they were growing in their service to God. Each one of us ought to be growing spiritually.
- 1 Peter 2:2
- 2 Corinthians 4:16
There are a lot of good things to be said about this church. They were involved in great works. They were spiritual. They were enduring in times of trial, and they were growing.
Christ's Condemnation to the Christians at Thyatira
But unfortunately, we come to verse 20.
- Revelation 2:20-24
He says, there's one thing that's going on is -- thou sufferest, you're putting up with, or you're allowing this woman Jezebel. Whether [or not] that is her name or that is just a reference because she's very much like King Ahab's wife, as we read in 1 Kings 26.
- 1 Kings 21:25
Maybe she was simply called this because of her similarity to the Old Testament, Jezebel. Maybe, it's just the mindset He's referring to, a personified as Jezebel. However, whatever He means by this, we see that this one was involved in idolatry, possibly someone who had been involved in these Greek idolatries; who had come out of that. And yet, maybe not all the way out.
When people come from one religion to another, they don't get rid of the old, and all the way, some of that baggage comes with them. And maybe this was the case with her.
It says, "She calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants, to commit fornication, to eat things sacrificed to idols"
Now you think about this angle of idolatry. Along with idolatry and these idolatrous practices, there was a lot of fornication that took place. That was also, even a form of worship for some of these Greek religions.
But you think about Thyatira itself, we talked about its importance as a trade city. And, in the Roman Empire, there were trade guilds. A guild is basically an association, maybe of all of the sellers of purple, [each trade] may have had their own association, their own guild; the dyers of wool; the woodworkers; the tanners, etc.
These trade guilds, one had to be in a trade guild in order to do business. If I wanted to be, if Paul wanted to be a tent maker in Thyatira, he probably would have had to join a trade guild. Now each of these guilds had its own guardian god. One was expected to attend the festivals, to eat the things which had been offered to their idol god. And at the end of the festivals, again, there were immoral acts as part of this pagan religion.
So in this difficult situation. What is a Christian to do? They're surrounded by all of this, and if they work in one of these trades that are so important, they've got to be a part of the guild. How do they stay in good standing with their guild and not participate in these things? I imagine it was a difficult choice to make. It's a hardship when you're caught between feeding your family and serving God.
What could you do? If you quit the guild, you don't have a job. You're going to suffer want and hunger. If he stayed in the guild and was involved in these immoral feasts, and was involved in eating these things, sacrifice to the idols, and the fornication, all this stuff, he would deny the Lord.
Maybe in this difficult situation, this idea, this person, this concept of Jezebel pretended to have the solution. Argued that one could not conquer sin unless he was thoroughly acquainted with its experiences. Notice if you go down to verse 24.
The idea was to know the depths of Satan to conquer Satan. Maybe that was the idea, that was the teaching. Some say you need to mingle with people of the world to convert them. But instead of converting anyone from the world, they are converted to the world. Because they're involved in the same things. They're involved in these idolatrous practices that the world is involved in, or whatever the sinful practice may be.
It's hard to convert someone out of something you're participating in them with. And that's the idea here. That's the condemnation that Jesus had for this congregation, this group of Christians.
Christ's Caution for the Thyatiran Christians
- Revelation 2:21-23
The Lord says I gave space to repent. God is always gracious. He's longsuffering to us.
- 2 Peter 3:9
He gave space for repentance. He's longsuffering, though, it's not forever. His longsuffering came to an end. Since she had not repented, he would bring a terrible judgment upon her and her followers. He would cast her into a bed, maybe stricken with sickness of some kind. He would bring great tribulation on those who followed her teaching and wickedness. And he says, I would kill her children, those that were her spiritual children, those that followed her, followed this concept of idolatry, of trying to live in the world and not be a part of the world and not be separate.
And so from seeing these punishments, then the churches would know that it was Jesus who knew not only the overt acts but the secret thoughts and counsels and designs of men's hearts.
- Jeremiah 17:10
The Lord sees, He knows. He sees into our hearts. He sees beyond the mere outward things. He knows the thoughts, He knows the intents, and He will reward us according to what He sees in our hearts and our lives.
So the Lord knows all. He cannot be deceived. He knows us and gives to every man according to His works.
- Ephesians 6:8
- Colossians 3:25
He's going to give us according to our works. If our works are the commendable works that we saw earlier, then we're going to receive the blessing of Heaven. We're going to receive that great statement there on the day of judgment; "Thou good and faithful servant enter thou into the joy of the Lord." (Matthew 25:21-23). But if we're not careful, we're going to receive the punishments that are given to those involved in idolatry.
Christ's Charge for the Church at Thyatira
He says, upon those that were faithful to Christ, and it's probably the vast majority of the congregation, He says, there's no other burden going to be placed upon you, other than, you know, what is going to be given to those that practice and do evil in the congregation.
- Revelation 2:214-25
- Acts 15:28-29
The Lord is not going to place an undue burden upon those in the congregation that were innocent, and that were not involved in these acts. Then he says, "But that which ye already have, hold fast till I come. Be faithful to the end."
- Revelation 3:11
- Hebrews 4:14
So the same charge is given to us today to be faithful, to hold fast to, that which we have.
Christ's Covenant with Christians
Then, we see Christ's covenant in verses 26 to verse 29,
- Revelation 2:26-29
There are two blessings that are promised to those who overcome. Power over the nations, not in a physical sense, not in a political sense. But they will share in Christ's dominion over the nations.
- Revelation 3:21
- Psalm 2:8-9
- 2 Peter 1:19
- Numbers 24:17
It is important that we recognize and heed His message, that we recognize through His communication, who He is what His power is, and how great and glorious our Lord is. We recognize and we see his commendation, and we try to emulate and grow in those things, and let our last be more than our first. Let us continue to grow. Avoid those things which He condemns. Heed his caution to be faithful unto the end, and then take His charge. Then, you can receive the great blessings of Heaven.
There are some things about the church at Thyatira that we need to imitate; their faith, their love, their service, their patience, and their growth in their works. Let us not ease up in our work and let us keep pressing forward.
But we must keep on guard against those that will lead us to sin.
We cannot allow or suffer false teachers among us. So let us all look to triumph over sin and false doctrine, to come out victorious, and to overcome the obstacles that so often arise before us. Because the Lord has given us His great promise and is faithful to fulfill it.
We know that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died upon the cross for our sins so that we can have the opportunity to go to Heaven and be with Him for eternity. If you're not a Christian, and you have not been baptized into Christ, we urge you to do so.
If you are like those inside the church in Revelation that had fallen away, we urge you to repent and to come back.
If we can help you to respond to the invitation of the Lord, please contact us so we can study with you and assist you in overcoming the things of the world.