Summary: Avoid the pollution of the world--strive for a Christian worldview and lifestyle
"Thyatira-spiritual purity and adultery" Rev 2:18-29 The Letters to the 7 Churches
Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
Located 40 miles southeast of Pergamum, Thyatira started out as a Greek outpost, founded by a General of Alexander the Great, in order to form a barrier against aggression from the east. The city possessed no natural fortifications. Alexander put battle-tested veterans in place, ready to slow down hostile forces while an in-depth defense could be organized behind the front lines. Thyatira was a small city, and someone remarked that "the longest letter is addressed to the least significant city." In spite of well-planned defensive efforts, the force of Rome gradually brought the region into submission around 190 BC.
Because of its location along trade routes, Thyatira became a prosperous commercial center. Archeological inscriptions reveal that there were numerous trade guilds; these were organized unions of weavers, tanners, cobblers, bronze and pottery workers. Thyatira’s most well-known Christian convert was Lydia (mentioned in Acts 16), a merchant who exported clothing colored with Thyatira’s unique purple dye.
Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth indicates that the trade guilds were presenting a serious ethical challenge for Christians seeking to avoid entanglement with unholy practices. The demanding social obligations of the guilds included participation in pagan rituals and ceremonial banquets, which were often drunken orgies. In Army slang, these were "command performances." To get ahead, one needed to participate. To abstain from guild functions could result in a loss of business and social acceptance. Being a Christian in these days wasn’t career-enhancing.
The "guardian" of Thyatira was the pagan deity Tyrimnos, a warrior regarded as the patron of the guilds, and who was honored at their social gatherings. Both Tyrimnos and the Emperor were considered sons of Zeus, the chief deity…and so it is fitting that Christ identifies Himself in His greeting as the "Son of God" (vs 18); He also describes Himself as a warrior with eyes "like blazing fire" and feet "like burnished bronze." By the way, the Greek word for brass used here is very obscure-scholars think it may have been the commercial trade name of the brass guild.
Christ’s eyes of flame are able to penetrate the darkness of sin and expose all falsehood, such as the seductive teachings of Jezebel. Vs 23 shows the depth of Christ’s scrutiny-He "searches hearts and minds." There are no secrets hidden from our Lord.
This reminds me of a problem a farmer was having with couples who were using his secluded, private property to "park". All efforts to keep these romantic couples off his land were unsuccessful until he put up an illuminated sign. There was a picture of an eye, and underneath was written, "God-You see all that I do." From that point on, his land was left alone!
In vs 19 we see that the church at Thyatira was moving forward, making progress. Their faith, service, and perseverance are commended. Comparing Thyatira with Ephesus, we see that they are opposites: Ephesus opposed evil, but lacked love. Thyatira had love, but tolerated evil. The church at Thyatira permitted one of its members to teach error and made no effort to restrain her. This we see in verse 20.
The actual name of Thyatira’s false teacher isn’t mentioned; instead, Jesus gives her the symbolic title "Jezebel", who appears in I & II Kings. She was the pagan wife of King Ahab. This unequal yoke led to Ahab’s ruin and infected the spiritual life of Israel. Jezebel was responsible for killing scores of prophets and attempted to have Elijah murdered. Her greatest evil was in persuading Ahab to provide places for idol worship. She was the epitome of wickedness and immorality.
This New Testament Jezebel of Thyatira was a clever, persuasive woman who claimed to understand the will of God. Many accepted her as a prophetess. Like her Old Testament counterpart, she enticed believers to lower their standards and, in so doing, to forsake loyalty to God. She may have been a pawn of the trade guilds to persuade Christians to accommodate and participate in idolatry.
Whether it’s our school, civic organization, or place of employment, we may find ourselves in a compromising position, with pressure to conform to non-Biblical standards. We may have to choose between being accepted and maintaining our moral values. It’s not always popular to uphold the truth.
There are many approaches to success-some people say they’ll do whatever it takes to get ahead, and if that means violating basic ethical principles, it doesn’t matter; so long as it works, they’ll do it. Some companies operate by the motto, "Business is war", for which there are no absolute "rules of engagement." Anything goes-but not for God’s people.
Do we allow ourselves to be enticed by secular influences? God expects us to reject and resist the junk-values of the world. Martin Luther once wrote: "If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest teaching every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ."