Summary: There is no room for mixing other religions with Christianity.
Unto the Church in Thyatira, Write
Thyatira was the smallest of the seven cities which John addresses. Even though it was small in size, it did have a vibrant economy. It was known for its wool, bronze, and manufacture of a purple dye which was used in dyeing the garments of the very rich. Lydia, who Paul meets in Philippi in the books of Acts was originally from here and was a seller of this purple fabric. She was wealthy enough to own a house and have servants. To be able to work in these industries, one had to belong to a trade guild, something similar to our modern unions. These trade guilds each had a patron deity to which homage was paid at the meetings. Those who refused to go along could suffer expulsion from the guild. This may have involved attending the office party with its drinking and promiscuity.
The chief god of the city was Apollo Tyrimnaeus, who was pictured holding an ax in his hand. In the book of Revelation, many of the martyrs were recorded as having been beheaded with an axe, rather than a sword. Perhaps there is a connection here. Emperor worship of Caesar as the earthly manifestation of Apollo who was the mythological son of Zeus (god).
The letter to Thyatira is the longest of the seven letters and is the most personal. In particular, one woman is singled out for censure.
Exposition of the Text
The letter to Thyatira begins in the same manner as the others, but there is one significant deviation. Usually the introduction to the church refers back to the vision of Jesus which John saw. But Jesus introduces himself as “the Son of God” whereas the closest match in the vision is that John saw one like “the Son of Man”. It is Jesus who is the Son of God, not Apollos or the Emperor. The eyes like a flame of fire does refer back to that vision and probably refers to the searching gaze of Christ in which nothing remains hidden. The feet of bronze might refer to the bronze industry of Thyatira.
What we have seen is that part of the picture of Christ which John saw is related in some way to the individual churches. These seven churches make up the body of Christ.
The church at Thyatira appears at first glance to be the alter ego of Ephesus. It is commended for its works, its love and its faith and that these virtues were on the increase. They were involved as a church in all kinds of service work, even though the mention of having persevered indicates that they did this sacrificially under adverse circumstances. They had love, at least on the surface. This is compared to Ephesus who is reprimanded for its lack of sacrificial love.
In verse twenty, we come across the strong Greek word for “but”. This idea of replacement means that everything they were doing right was cancelled out by what they were doing wrong. They were allowing a woman to teach her Pagan doctrines in the church. This woman whom they were calling a prophetess is called “Jezebel” by Jesus. A good understanding of the Old Testament is necessary to understanding the book of Revelation as a whole, and this reference in particular. Jezebel was a daughter of a Canaanite king and a priestess of the gods Baal and Asherah, the Phoenician god and goddess of fertility. She married the Israelite King Ahab who was supposed to be the guardian of the worship of Yahweh, the true God. Not only did Ahab tolerate Baal worship with its promiscuous idolatry, he encouraged it and mixed it with the worship of Yahweh. This is the king that Elijah confronted at Mt Carmel. Instead of being struck down dead on the spot like the priests and priestesses of Baal and Asherah, they were given time to repent. Ahab and Jezebel refused to repent, and demonstrated it in the murder of Naboth. For this, they were both cursed to death as well as their children, who were executed by King Jehu.
The story of Ahab and Jezebel reveal what was going on in the church under the surface. The searching gaze of Jesus brings to light that the Church of Thyatira was guilty of mistaking tolerance for love. Bu tolerance is not love. To not tell someone the truth when someone’s eternal destiny is at stake because on does not want to offend someone is not love. They really lacked love as much as the Ephesian church did. At least the Ephesians tested their teachers and excommunicated those who taught heresy. This church did not even do that. Truthfulness and love are mutually dependent on one another. You cannot have one without the other.