Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Lessons from Jesus’ instructions to the Church in Thyatira


“The Church at Thyatira”

September 20, 2009

(Thanks to Denn Guphill for doing most of the work for this sermon)

"To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:

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.

Nevertheless, 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 food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.

So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead.

Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): Only hold on to what you have until I come. To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—

’He will rule them with an iron scepter;

he will dash them to pieces like pottery’— just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 2:18-29

In our series of “Revealing the Revelation” we come to the church at Thyatira. Thyatira is located about 37 miles southeast of Pergamum. There were no real distinguishing features about the city. It was not situated on a harbor like Ephesus or Smyrna. It wasn’t on at hill like Pergamum. It was in the middle of a valley. Even though it was situated well away from the Mediterranean Sea it was on the road which connected Pergamum and Sardis. This was the Imperial Post Road. The army and all those connected with it travelled on it - so while Thyatira may not have been a large city - it was a thriving city. It was a city of merchants and manufacturing. The city actually had a large number of trade guilds, which were the early equivalent of unions. So it could be said that Thyatira was a union town.

The city is first mentioned in the Bible in connection with Paul’s missionary work in Europe. His first convert on that continent was a woman of Thyatira, Lydia. Lydia was a seller of purple cloth – which was a rare item in that day.

Religiously, Thyatira had no special significance. It was not a centre of Caesar worship like Pergamum, or of Greek worship like Ephesus. Religious persecution was not an issue in Thyatira. It was very much “live and let live” when it came to religion. But there was a type of economic persecution that came as a result of the trade guilds we mentioned earlier. These guilds represented different trades in the city - but they were much more then that. The guilds operated much as service clubs do today - like Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions. So their influence in the community was pretty great if you were a businessman.

The problem was that these guilds often held banquets, which more often then not happened in the temple. They would begin and end with a formal sacrifice to the various gods. The meat served during the meals would have been meat offered to one god or another. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the meals often became an excuse for drinking and often degenerated into immorality.

And so the question was: Should the Christian be involved in the guilds when their involvement would include, at the very minimum, attendance at these events. The other option for the Christian of course was to not belong to a guild. However due to the influence of these organizations this option would virtually guarantee economic ruin.

Have you ever been in a position where you’ve had to decide between playing it safe at work or taking a stand for something you believe in? Isn’t easy is it.

So what then was the response of the Thyatira church? Jesus begins by introducing himself and this time there is no missing the description. He is pretty plain and simple. He says, in Revelation 2:18,

“This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are bright like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze”

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