The city of Thyatira was not known as a political or military centre due to its location in a valley. While many felt that it couldn’t be breached, time demonstrated that it was vulnerable to attacks and it eventually suffered military defeats in several instances throughout its history. The city was well known for its diverse occupations and strong economy which meant, much like Pergamos, it was subject to trade guilds however unlike the other cities mentioned it was the least known, least important, and least remarkable of the cities.[i] If you wanted a place to find work, Thyratira was the place to go! It was a city of incredible wealth and prosperity. We are told that Lydia was from Thyratira and a seller of purple fabrics (Acts 16:14) which, along with metal manufacturing, were the two main trades in this city.The situation with the trade guilds wasn’t a lighter burden in Thyratira:
If you wish to get ahead in this world, you must belong to a trade guild; if you belong to a guild, you r very membership implies that you worship its god. You will be expected to attend the guild festivals and to eat food part of which is offered to the tutelary deity and which you receive on your table as a gift from a god. And then, when the feast ends, and the real- grossly immoral- fun begins, you must not walk out unless you desire to become the object of ridicule and persecution.[ii]
There was an incredible dilemma placed before these Christians living in this city. If they didn’t follow the rules of the trade guild, they would be cast out without any chance of earning a living which led to eventual hunger and persecution for yourself and your family. The other side was to continue participating in the trade guild which led to idolatry and a denial of the Lord. Christians were faced with unquestionable decisions which would affect all those they held dear.
This letter to the church in Thyratira is the longest of the seven individual messages. The Lord has much to say to them in regards to commendations and rebuke.
The term “Son of God” is not found in the first chapter of the letter which is unlike most other descriptive statements of the Lord Jesus Christ. There certainly could be a parallel in mind here with the title Son of Man and it would fit quite well with the themes presented to us of judgment and protection found in Daniel. (10:6; 3:24-25) The Lord Jesus is also referred to as the one whose eyes are as a flaming fire and also whose feet are as burnished bronze. The “feet” in scripture generally refer to trampling down one’s enemy in judgment. These folks in Thyatira would have known too well the significance of heavy bronze feet trampling over the church as a symbol of great judgment. These symbols would have communicated the seriousness of the words of the One speaking to them.
The church is firstly commended for its love, faith, service and perseverance. Beale argues that when love, faith and endurance are used elsewhere in this book that they generally refer to a persevering witness. This church was commended for what its sister church in Ephesus lacked. This church was remembered their first love and exceed it as we can see in the phrase “last works are greater than the first”. The problem with the church in Thyatira was the polar opposite to Ephesus in that the church lacked the ability to discern false teaching something that Ephesus excelled in.
The solution to the problem of fidelity to the Lord or to the trade guild was found by one who claimed to speak for God. This “teacher” called herself a prophetess while the Lord calls her Jezebel. This was probably not her real name but to communicate that her actions were of the same spirit as the original Jezebel. The Lord’s evaluation of Thyatira is really not much different than what we saw in Pergamos. Much like the teaching of Balaam (v.14) was an OT reference indicating similarities to what was happening in Pergamos, the mention of “Jezebel” is used in the same manner.[iii] Jezebel led King Ahab and Israel into Baal worship (1 Kings 21:25-26) due to her husband’s compromising (1 Kings 16:31). One must wonder if the phrase the deep things of Satan doesn’t give us a clue into her mindset. Johnson writes: Perhaps among the deep things disseminated by the prophetess was the insight that bodily behaviour is spiritually insignificant, so that those in the know could participate in idolatrous feasts, and even their sensual excesses, with spiritual impunity.[iv] There is certainly a lesson for us today in this message seeing that we as believers can be prone to being deceived into committing adultery. It is usually far more subtle in our day and age. It is not always easy not participating in certain work functions or social gatherings due to the fact that we are viewed as outcasts. It is not out of the norm also to see Christians lose promotions for not being a part of the team? The danger of idolatry in our age is still alive and well. Anything that has won our love and in which we place out trust in that is not God becomes to us an idol.
This Jezebel was given time to repent from her idolatrous teaching by the Lord but to no avail yet she is still given some time to repent. (22b) her lack of repentance will lead her to be thrown on a bed of sickness. The bed of sickness was an expression synonymous with suffering. Those who follow her will go through a similar suffering referred to as a “great tribulation”. Much like the sons of Jezebel died due to her sin against Naboth (1 Kings 21:17-29; 2 Kings 9:30-37), so will the children of this false teacher. This judgment could have waited till the final judgment however the Lord seems to be pointing to more immediate judgment. The reason for this is so the churches will know that the Lord, whose eyes are like a flaming fire, searches the hearts & minds. The text is probably referring back to Jeremiah 17:10 “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds. This text in Jeremiah speaks of Israel being led astray to worship other gods due to financial prosperity.
The Lord still has a faithful people who have not experienced the “deep things of Satan” and the Lord places no other burden upon these faithful men.
The Lord of the churches’ commands them, like their sister churches, to overcome to which brings the promise of reigning with the Messiah. Those who conquer will share in the promises of Psalm 2:8-9.[v]
[i] Triumph of the Lamb, D. Johnson, Page 79
[ii] More than Conquerers, W. Hendricksen, Bakerbooks, Page 79
[iii] Notice the paralell usage of “to fornicate and to eat meats sacrificed to idols” (v14 & 20).
[iv] Johnson Page 80
[v] There is some sense where this rule has already been inaugurated (Acts. 13:33; Romans 1:4; Hebrews 1:2-5; 5:5; 7:28) and that we are a kingdom today. (Rev. 1:6)