INTRODUCTION:  The book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John in 95 AD, on the Island of Patmos, a bare rocky Greek island in the Aegean Sea, located off the western coast of Turkey.   

All the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2-3 were all located in Asia Minor, Modern day Turkey.  The Apostle was banished to the Island because of his Christian faith. There the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him in a vision and dictated to him the seven letters to the seven churches.  These were not John’s letters but Christ’s letters to His churches. 

The Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church, which he purchased by His precious blood walks in and among His churches (Rev. 2:1).  He knows their works, love, faith, labour, troubles, heart etc.  These letters to the seven churches are just as relevant to each individual Christian, each local assembly, and all church ages, since the Lord Himself says repeatedly: “He who has an   ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”  And  “To him who overcomes.”  May all followers of Christ and all local assemblies heed His word, more so, as His coming is at the very door.

The corrupt church (Rev. 2:18-29)

Thyatira when the letter was written.

Thyatira was a small wealthy commercial town in the Roman province of Asia Minor – now a city in modern day Turkey called Akhisar.  The city was situated in a vast open valley located along a major trade route.  Although the city was considered to be of no major importance it had a small military garrison to protect the well-known capital city of Pergamum.  This was because every invading army from the east will have to pass through the city; the military garrison was there only to slow the enemy down, giving the capital city enough time to fortify itself against enemy’s attack.

The city of Thyatira was about 45 miles southeast of Pergamum.  It was a small thriving agricultural town, popular for its wool and purple dye industries.  Acts 16:14-15 mentions a Christian woman called Lydia who was from the city of Thyatira and was a seller of expensive purple cloth. This woman and her household were baptized by the apostle Paul and his team, who also stayed in her house for a while.

Thyatira (as well as Philadelphia) was the smallest and least important of the seven cities mentioned in Revelation 2 -3.  This small city though neither a political capital nor a religious centre was well known for its strong trade guilds being a prosperous commercial and industrial centre for many industries.

Guilds are like the trade unions we have today. And this small city had more guilds than any other city of its size.  They had guilds for all types of trades: clothing manufacturers, wool-workers, leather-workers, linen-workers, bronze-workers, dyers, potters, bakers, weavers, slave dealers, tanners, cobblers, agriculture etc. The citizens joined guilds of their own trade.

Each trade guild had a patron god over it and meetings and ceremonies were held regularly, in which a common meal was prepared for the members.  

The church: economic risk, consequences and persecutions.

Though Thyatira was the least significant of Revelation’s seven cities, the letter addressed to the church is the longest and most detailed of them all. 

Even though it was a small city of little importance the church of Jesus Christ grew in this place. The city is said to have had more Christians than many in all of Asia despite its small size.

Unlike the other churches we‘ve studied who faced dreadful persecutions from the Roman authorities the main persecution the believers in Thyatira were faced with was that of economic sanctions. 

Not joining the trade guilds spelt economic ruin for Christians: bankruptcy, joblessness, and poverty.  Every trader was expected to join the trade guild of his or her trade.  These guilds held meetings and ceremonies regularly.  The ceremonies always began by a sacrifice to the patron god and the meats were used to cook the meals eaten at the guilds meetings.  At these meetings and feasts one was expected to pay homage to the god of his or her trade and to the emperor.  These lavish feasts always degenerated into drunkenness and all sorts of sexual immorality.

Christians couldn’t do this, and if they didn’t, they couldn’t join the trade guild.  And that meant they couldn’t work or trade and many will not patronize them even if they did.   Because the city of Thyatira had the strongest trade guilds this made it very difficult for any Christian to earn his living without belonging to one.  One had to belong to a guild to be successful and make good money.

The Commendation

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things say 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. – vs. 18-19.

This was an evangelizing church.  Their impact in their society was great.  It is said that the church in Thyatira was one of the largest in Asia and Greece.  This was a church which walked in love.  The Lord mentioned their love; they loved the Lord dearly and one another.  Unlike the Ephesian church who did almost everything right, but left this virtue of utmost importance, the Thyatiran church didn’t, and this didn’t escape the notice of the Lord, whose eyes were like a fiery flame of fire. 

This was also a serving church.  They served the Lord and one another.  I think servant-hood must have been one of their watch words.  Anyway you cannot walk in love and not have a servant’s heart.  They were true servants of Jesus Christ

They were also a people of tremendous faith; serving, loving and worshipping God faithfully.

They were equally patient in their faith, love and service; patiently enduring oppositions for the Lord’s sake.  Oppositions they faced daily because they lived in an environment in which paganism prevailed; every area of civic life was deeply rooted in idolatry.  This didn’t go unnoticed by their Lord as well.

This church not only laboured for the Lord whole-heartedly, sincerely and passionately, but it was an ever increasing wholehearted, sincere and passionate labour of love.  Their love and labour never grew cold.  Thus the Lord commends them: “and as for your works, the last are more than the first.”

The reproof

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. –vs. 20.

A woman the Lord referred to as Jezebel was being allowed to corrupt the church without confrontation.  Some said this woman was a wife of one of the prominent church elders. Some said she was Lydia herself who had returned to Thyatira from Phillip, started the church and became domineering.  Some said she was a hostess of the house church in Thyatira.

The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about this woman’s background or who she was except that she was a bad, wicked, and corrupting influence in the church.  This woman had prominence in the church for whatever reason we weren’t told.  

Jezebel may not have been her real name.  The Lord called her Jezebel in order for us to know what type of a character she was.  Exactly like the Jezebel character in the Old Testament – a Phoenician princess, the wife of King Ahab, who ruled her weak and sin inclined husband, leading him and the whole nation of Israel into idolatry and sexual immorality.  She was a manipulative, calculating, domineering, brutal and bloodthirsty woman.  Her story is well detailed in several chapters of first and second kings in the Bible. In other words, the Lord saw this particular woman in the New Testament church as God saw the Old Testament character.

This woman who professed to be a Christian was corrupting the church through her false teachings.  And she was being tolerated.  She was teaching that it was alright for them to attend the pagan feasts of their particular guilds and participate in eating things sacrificed to idols in order to keep their trades so as to avoid bankruptcy, poverty and to be successful at their trades.  While they profess to be Christians they were compromising the faith – Christians in name only.  Not only were they corrupting the church, but they were also giving the church of Christ a very bad reputation in the city.  This woman was doing exactly the same thing the Balaamites and Nicolaitans were doing in the church at Pergamum.  And she was succeeding.

Some Christians in Thyatira – even though they were not faced with dreadful persecutions like some of the churches in other cities – accepted her heretical doctrines to avoid bankruptcy, poverty and to have economic respite. 

Isn’t this like many today, who will compromise the faith in order to get that promotion at the office, get that contract, marry that person, become successful in their career, have a bigger church, live a more comfortable live etc.

 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. – vs.21.

Remember that in Scripture sexual immorality not only refers to sexual acts but also to the sin of idolatry.  In this case it involves both because the pagan ceremonies always degenerated into drunkenness and sexual orgies.  

The Lord showed this corrupt and wicked woman mercy by giving her enough time to repent of her sins, but she wouldn’t.  This He does to all. The Lord is long suffering; He does not wish that any should perish but that all may come to repentance and be saved (Num.4:18; 2pet.2:9).  He not only calls us to repentance but He also gives us enough time to repent before He pronounces judgements.  


Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. – vs. 22-23a.

Because the Lord had given this woman enough time to repent and she didn’t, God’s jugement was coming upon her and her adherents.  The Lord was going to cast her into a sickbed, in other words, she was going to become so sick that she would become bedridden.  He will also kill her children with death.  The Lord will also cast those who committed adultery with her into tribulation unless they repent.  This refers to those whom she had corrupted through her teachings and participated in idolatrous guilds, eating things sacrificed to idols.

And all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. – vs. 23b.

God does not judge by looking at the outside appearance (1 Sam. 16:7; Prov.21:2-3).  He goes deep into the heart of each and every one of us.  There is no hiding from His blazing, fiery eyes.  He not only knows what we are going to do before we do it, He knows and sees the motives as well.

He will reward everyone according to his or her works.  Some think that our works do not matter much, but these are Christ’s own words.  Even though we are not saved by our good deeds we will be judged and rewarded for them.  I believe our good deeds also show the extent of our love for Him.

“Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden.  But hold fast what you have till I come. –vs. 24-25.

Though this woman had gotten a large following in the church, there were still many who were not following her evil doctrines.  To these ones the Lord says He will put no other burden.  They were simply to hold fast to the sound doctrine they have received and keep walking in obedience till His return.

‘Who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say’ may refer perhaps to a popular saying in the church about a deeper doctrine or revelation being propagated by this woman and her followership.  Perhaps they claimed to have received deeper revelations others were not privileged to receive.  Revelations, contrary to sound Bible doctrines, claiming them to be of God.

This should speak to us too as Christians in this last hour, to be careful of new and strange doctrines going on all over the place.  Many are departing from the sound and simple message of Christ and adding newer things to it.  The letters to Pergamum and Thyatira show that our doctrinal belief is important to the Lord.

Rewards and promises

And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. –vs. 26-28.

The overcomer is the one who will reign with Christ, not the compromiser.  As believers we will need to overcome many difficulties in this life.  The overcomer will be given power to rule over the nations in the new world; they will have and enjoy the presence of Jesus – “the bright morning star”(Rev. 22:16) for all eternity.  

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’ Vs.29.

Now to us who have ears to hear, let us pay attention to what we‘ve heard the Spirit say to the churches.  This includes you and me – all living, modern day followers of Christ.

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