Summary: Unlike the three cities we have already looked at Thyatira was a pretty nondescript sort of place.
Letter to the Church in Thyatira
Reading Rev 1:9-11 & 2:18-29
Unlike the three cities we have already looked at Thyatira was a pretty nondescript sort of place. It was a lot smaller and a lot more insignificant than the others. All it really had in it's favour was that it prospered as a trading centre. It had no fantastic buildings, no huge temples to the gods and no real political status.
It was an army town with a Roman garrison stationed there and was on the main road through that part of Asia, which we now know as modern Turkey.
There was one thing which the city of Thyatira was particularly well known for, and that was the manufacture and sale of purple cloth.
Purple dye was very expensive and normally only royalty and the very wealthy would be able to afford to buy cloth dyed with it. The dye came from a tiny snail like creature called a murex which was only found along this part of the coast and was quite rare.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote that each snail was worth twenty times its weight in gold.
We have no idea at all how the Church in this town came into being.
There is a story which we can read in Acts 16 about a woman called Lydia.
She came from the city of Thyatira and was a seller of purple cloth. She was one of the first converts when the apostle Paul founded the Church in Philippi. A suggestion is that after her conversion, Lydia decided to go back to her home town to tell the people the good news and so started the Church. We do know that by the time the book of Revelation was written, Thyatira had a large and prosperous congregation..
In this letter in verse 19 Jesus speaks of it in the warmest terms
"I know your deeds, your love and faith your service and perseverance"
He also goes on to say that the Church is now doing more in the way of service and deeds than they had ever done before. The Church in Thyatira seems to have been blessed with a humble ministry that showed faith, hope and love.
The Church at Thyatira seemed to have understood that the Christian life is a life of continuing growth. Christian growth is seen in many different ways in the Bible. Sometimes it is seen as the gradual maturing of a human being from infancy to adulthood.
At other times it is seen as the increasing fruitfulness of a grape vine. I liken it to riding a bike. As long as you keep moving forward you are OK. If you slow down you start to wobble and if you stop you fall off.
All of these things show us that it is vital for our Christian lives that we keep moving forward, that we keep growing.
Is our Christian life really like that?
Most of us will remember that we began well but we started to slow down a little at some point. Some of us will even remember times that we have stopped moving forward completely and started moving backwards, backsliding as it's commonly known.
The New Testament speaks to us today about growth in faith and love, in knowledge and holiness. The Christians in Thyatira were also growing, growing in love and faith and in service and perseverance.
But in verse 20 Jesus says to them
"despite all of these good things that you are doing I have this against you.
You tolerate that woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of foods sacrificed to idols.
In that healthy church a disease had been allowed to spread without being stopped.
The Church at Thyatira had been commended by Jesus for it's love and faith, service and endurance, but holiness is not included among it's qualities. It had allowed one of its female members to preach an outrageous message and it seems that they had made no attempt to stop her.
Her name probably wasn’t Jezebel but reflected back to the story in 1 Kings where king Ahab of Israel married Jezebel who was the daughter of the king of the Sidonians. As a result of this Ahab started to worship Ba’al and Jezebel started to kill off the prophets of God.
There were temple prostitutes, both male and female, associated with the worship of Baal. It was Jezebel who spread that degraded worship among the ten tribes of Israel until it became one of the popular religions of the day.
This type of immorality is what was being encouraged by this prophetess in Thyatira. They did nothing to try to stop her and many in the church were following her teachings.