Summary: For some people today tolerance is the only real virtue and intolerance the only vice. The message to Thyatira goes against the grain of modernity by setting limits to tolerance.
Letter to the church in Thyatira
In the opening pages of Revelation, our Lord introduces Himself as heaven’s holy warrior (1:12–20) who would prepare His people to overcome their enemies (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21) by exhorting them to hear what the Spirit has to say in the letters He writes to seven churches. Strikingly, though He writes each letter to a particular church, Christ insists that each be heard by all (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22), effectively making each one an “open letter” for all believers to read. What, then, does Christ want us to learn from His letter to the church at Thyatira?
To hear that lesson we have to examine key particulars of the letter that Christ wrote to the Christians there.
Most importantly, Christ’s message to the Christians at Thyatira is a warning that they are in grave spiritual danger. But how can this be? This church, unlike the one at Ephesus, has not lost its first love (2:4–5) but has grown in love and faith with service and endurance (2:19). However, with those virtues, the church has a big problem. And the problem was not coming from outside the church: . Instead, the danger is coming from within. The church is tolerating the presence of a false prophetess and her disciples (2:20). We understand better the threat posed by these wolves when we analyze the background of Thyatira.
For some people today tolerance is the only real virtue and intolerance the only vice. The message to Thyatira goes against the grain of modernity by setting limits to tolerance. The main criticism of the angel of Thyatira is that the church has tolerated something--and someone--that should not be tolerated (v. 20).
On the surface the Church at Thyatira was strong and flourishing. If a stranger went into it, he would be impressed with its abounding energy and its generous liberality and its apparent steadfastness. For all that, there was something essential missing. Here is a warning. A church which is crowded with people and which is a hive of energy may not necessarily a growing Church. It is possible for a Church to be crowded because its people come to be entertained instead of being instructed, and to be soothed instead of confronted with the fact of sin and the offer of salvation; it maybe a highly successful Christian club rather than a real Christian congregation.
.Beginning in Verse 18 of Chapter 2, the Lord addresses the angel of the church. Thyatira was located about 35 miles southeast of Pergamum. It was a very small city, but a busy commercial center. It was on a major road of the Roman Empire, and, because of this, many guilds or trade unions had settled in this city. Everyone who worked there was a member of one or more trades and had to be a member of one or more guilds. There were carpenters, dyers, sellers of goods, tent makers, etc.
It was difficult to make a living as a Christian in Thyatira without belonging to the guild or union. This is a factor which will bear upon the interpretation of this letter.
Sometimes the pressure of “fitting in” with the world is overwhelming, but we are to stand firm in our faith, trusting God to provide and to take care of us. We are also to stand firm on the truth of God’s Word and not tolerate those who disregard and distort it. As you study this letter to the church at Thyatira, be open to what God wants to teach you through the message to this church.
If the church of Pergamum is an example of the compromising church that is taking the first kiss toward sin, then the church of Thyatira is the church that has completely gone to bed with idolatry and is suffering the life-threatening side effects of immorality. The longest letter written by Jesus to the seven churches was necessary to correct what could very well be the most corrupt of all the churches.
How did the church start? The founding of the church at Thyatira is not mentioned in the Bible. However, as a note of interest, according to Acts 16:14, in the church at Philippi, which the Apostle Paul began, there was a woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, who came from Thyatira.
Our Lord's first words to this church indicate both judgment and approval. He says:
"These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first." (Revelation 2:18b-19 NIV)
Notice that He uses, for the first and only time in the book of Revelation, the title the "Son of God." As the Son of God He has "eyes like blazing fire," eyes that can pierce the facades, the disguises, the postures and pretensions of His people and get right to the heart of what they are doing. He has feet "like burnished bronze" which can trample sin under foot and severely punish that which is wrong.. Both are needed in the church at Thyatira. It is the most corrupt of the seven churches that are presented here.