Summary: Although situated within the smallest of the seven cities, the church in Thyatira received the longest letter. They were faithful in their labor, but had compromised with false doctrine. Jesus challenged them regarding the toleration of false teaching.
Thyatira: Corrupted by Compromise
Revelation 2: 18-29
Our text deals with the fourth church that Christ addressed in Revelation. While the church in Thyatira was situated within the smallest of the cities the Lord would address, it is interesting that they received the largest letter. The name means “unceasing sacrifice.” It was a military buffer city located 40 miles southeast of Pergamos. When Asia Minor was invaded, Thyatira was usually the first to be attacked. Their primary concern was to hold the enemy until Pergamos had time to prepare for battle. They were constantly sacrificing for Pergamos.
"Because of the great business location, the trade guilds flourished there. The city was especially well known for its purple dye (Acts 16:14 refers to Lydia, a seller of purple cloth from Thyatira). The guilds served as the social and economic center of the city and also exercised a powerful religious influence. The guild feasts were often religious in nature, as the guilds worshiped their patron god(s). If Christians joined a guild, they would have been pressured to participate in the idolatrous feasts; if they refused to join, they would have suffered socially and financially. Emperor worship was not as prominent as in Pergamum, but the city offered other opportunities to worship pagan gods, especially Apollo, the sun god and son of Zeus. Syncretism (combining different beliefs and forms of religion) was the order of the day in Thyatira." (i)
Jesus commended the church for its love for God, faithfulness in serving others, and for persevering in the faith, but He warned of judgment to come for compromise among the pagans, while agreeing with their false doctrine, which led to immorality and idolatry. Considering Thyatira, we will discover they were very active, but they were filled with apostasy. Jesus reminds them of His position and power in V.18 – And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass. As we examine the certainties within the text, I want to consider: Thyatira – Corrupted by Compromise.
I. Jesus Confirmed their Service (19) – I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Our Lord always began with recognition of what the church was doing right. Thyatira was no different.
A. He Confirmed their Actions – Jesus knew their works and their service. They were busy doing good deeds to benefit those around them. The word service means “ministry.” This is the word “diakonia”, often translated deacon within the New Testament. It has the idea of “stirring up dust.” They were so busy that they stirred a cloud of dust as they worked.
B. He Confirmed their Attitude – Jesus also spoke of their charity, faith, and patience. Their love was agape love, God’s unconditional love. It knew no boundaries, not influenced by outside circumstances. They were also faithful; you could count on them to finish the task. They had an attitude of patience. They stood under the load they bore, committed to their work.
C. He Confirmed their Attendance (19b) – and the last to be more than the first. Jesus honored their commitment. Instead of slacking off or giving up, they were moving forward with the ministry. The works they were doing were greater than their works at the first. We need to continue to move forward as they did. We ought to be doing more now than we did when we were first saved. They were a people of good works, but spiritually they were lacking.
II. Jesus Chastised Their Sin (20-23) – Outwardly they looked like a solid church, but inwardly they were filled with corruption. Notice:
A. He Revealed a Warning (20) – Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. There was a particular problem at the center of their corruption. The word suffer means “to tolerate, permit, or allow.” Thyatira had begun tolerating false doctrine and allowing these heretics to defile their walk with God. This likely didn’t happen overnight, but through an attitude of compromise. This compromise affected:
1. Their Doctrine (20) – They had allowed a prophetess, referred to as Jezebel, to teach and seduce them. She carries the same name as one of the wickedest women in the Bible. Jezebel was married to King Ahab and was a key player in defiling Israel in Elijah’s day. She influenced the people to worship Baal and deny the true and living God. This Jezebel was just like her. She had defiled the church by influencing them to commit immorality and idolatry, (illus. their pagan feasts). She must have taught that they could engage in wickedness and sin, and still be right with God. The people were being led away from God.