Summary: This was a loving church, serving, faithful, growing church; yet their toleration of false teaching was displeasing to Christ and harmful to people who were deceived by it. Change was needed and Jesus requires it if this church is to be overcomers.
The Good, the Bad, and the Overcomers
Revelation 2:18-29 18 "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. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. 20 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. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 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. 23 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. 24 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): 25 Only hold on to what you have until I come. 26 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations-- 27 '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. 28 I will also give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
THE CITY OF THYATIRA
Before having a look at what Christ is saying to the church in Thyatira, let’s take a quick tour of the city itself. Thyatira was located in a valley that connected two other valleys. It had no natural fortification at all. A Roman garrison was stationed there, but their aim was not to defend Thyatira, only to delay the invaders long enough for Pergamum, the capital up the road to be prepared for the coming attack. Thyatira was dispensable in the economy of the day.
Though not easily fortified, Thyatira was on a major trade route and was well known for its trade guilds - there were carpenters, dyers, sellers of goods, tanners, weavers, tent makers, etc all making a living from their trade. Lydia in Philippi was a trader of fine cloth and came from Thyatira. She was one of Paul’s first converts when he visited Thyatira on his second missionary journey (Acts 16).
Now these guilds were somewhat similar to our trade unions in years past. It was very difficult for the blue collar tradesmen and women to make a living unless they were a part of one of these guilds. They differed from trade unions, however, in that they were linked with the worship of other gods. Each guild had its particular guardian god and as a member, you would be expected to attend all its functions and participate in its activities which included offerings, feasts and often immoral behaviour. The members of the church in Thyatira weres torn between making a living on the one hand which meant having to be part of the guilds and on the other hand staying faithful to Christ and his standards.