Summary: The church in Thyatira demonstrates the need to follow the ways of Jesus in order to prevent being deceived.
In our culture, I think there is sometimes a tendency for us to look around at all the mega churches, even some right around us, and to begin to think that a smaller church like TFC really isn’t all that significant to the kingdom of God. But Jesus’ message to the church in Thyatira certainly refutes that idea. Although it was the smallest of the seven churches in Asia Minor, Jesus’ message to that church is longer than any of the other six messages. If nothing else, that shows us that every single local body is equally important to Jesus and that He is concerned about the testimony of every single local body, regardless of its size.
So if you turn to Revelation 2, we’ll read the message to the church in Thyatira, beginning in verse 18:
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.’
Once again, this message follows the same outline that is common to all seven messages, so we’ll use it to examine this message.
1. Church - Thyatira
Due at least in part to the fact that it was the smallest of the seven cities, we have less historical and archaeological evidence about the city of Thyatira than for any of the other six cities in Revelation 2 and 3. The city was located about 40 miles southeast of Pergamum on the road from Laodicea to Pergamum. Since it was in the midst of a large valley with no natural fortifications, it was vulnerable to the attacks of the prevailing military power of the times and had been under Roman control since 190 BC.
During the late first century, Thyatira was a center of manufacturing and marketing. As a result one of the striking features of the city was its large number of trade guilds. According to Scottish archaeologist Sir William Ramsay, there were guilds for “wool workers, linen workers, makers of outer garments, dyers, leather workers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave dealers, bronzesmiths and shoemakers.” As a result, it would be nearly impossible for anyone to make it financially without participating in one of the guilds. As we’ll see, this presented quite a dilemma to the Christ followers there since these guilds all had their own pagan deities who were the focus of their fraternal activities.
As with several of the seven churches, we don’t have a lot of information about the history of the church in Thyatira, although there is an account in the Book of Acts which may give us some clues about the origin of the church.
One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household…
Acts 16:14, 15 (ESV)
Lydia was in Philippi to sell some of the famous purple cloth that was produced in Thyatira. She ended up among a group of women at a riverside, where she heard the preaching of Paul and she and her family committed their lives to Jesus and were baptized. It’s certainly possible that she returned to Thyatira and was instrumental in establishing the church there. It is also quite possible that the establishment of the church was aided by the missionary efforts of the church in Ephesus during Paul’s three year stay there.