Tour for Thyatira
Key Scripture: Revelation 2:18-29
“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.
Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
“Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations— ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’— I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’
Ancient Thyatira ‘s modern name is “Akhisar,” means white-colored castle. It has a population of slightly over a hundred thousand, and has maintained its importance as a world-wide trade centre throughout centuries of the Ottoman Turkish Empire.
Ancient Thyatira was located in Northern Lydia, and was once home to a few small settlements. It was then founded by Alexander the Great after that. .
After the death of Alexander the Great, his empire was divided and one of his generals – Seleucus I Nicator – took over as King.
During the time of the New Testaments, Thyatira was considered the least politically influential among the seven cities of the churches in Asia. It was a small, insignificant town. There wasn’t any Greek trade routes and was situated on the lesser road between Pergamos and Sardis. Although it wasn’t known city, it was still able to become a commercial center as it grew in wealth due to the Lycus valley.
During the period while King Seleucus was designing the city, his daughter was born. As such, he named the city “Thyatira”, with “Thygater” being the Greek word for daughter. Back to Thyatira, the people during that time did engage in idol worship. They primarily worshipped solar deities, or sun gods, such as Tyrimnos and the more well-known – Apollo. They also worshipped various other Greek gods. As part of their religious practices, the people of Thyatira had a prophetess or oracles known as a Sibyl, whom they believed could reveal divinations from the gods. Sibyls and oracles would claim to hold divine secrets or prophecies, and people would obey them as they believed that it would help them receive blessings and avoid misfortunes.
Thyatira derived its main source of prosperity from its commodities, especially its textile trade. Ladies would love this – fabric and clothes shopping. Fun fact! The purple dye used in Thyatira was made from roots of the madder plant. The dye in the madder plant was easy to obtain, and therefore, much cheaper than the traditional way of extracting purple from the rare murex snail found on the Mediterranean coast. In addition, the water source in Thyatira was also very rich in minerals. It was said that this water was able to make the colour of the fabrics more brilliant and bolder than those from anywhere else in the world.
Thyatira used to produce some of the best silver pieces in the world, which include their coins. These coins and other inscriptions found in the ancient city showed that it was famous for bronze smiths, silversmiths, and pottery.
In fact, the message to Thyatira in Revelation about fire, fine bronze, a rod of iron, and broken pottery are all professional terms used amongst the blacksmiths, potters and artisans. This makes the letter to Thyatira much more personal to them, as the terms used were very familiar to them. Speaking of coins, several coins issued by Thyatira depict Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire and metalworking, blacksmith of the gods, using a hammer and tongs to craft a helmet. Another coin depicted the Greek goddess of agriculture, Demeter holding a fiery torch. As with every opening salutation of Jesus to each of the seven churches, Jesus in addressing the Church in Thyatira in Revelation 2:18, reminded them that He, Jesus, is the Son of God who humbly chose to come to the earth to save man from sin. Jesus also declared that He has eyes like the flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass; perhaps an encouragement and reminder to the Church in Thyatira that He is the all-powerful God who has the power over everything, greater than the sun gods and gods of fire worshipped in Thyatira.
Did you also know Thyatira was also well known for guilds? Thyatira had trade guilds that incorporated organizations. This allowed the organizations to own properties in their own names and enter into contracts for construction projects. As such, they wielded a significant amount of influence and could affect the social, industrial, and religious structure of the city. Artisans like those for textiles, metalsmiths and potters were part of guilds too? Trade guilds in Thyatira were more organized and in far greater numbers than any other ancient cities in Asia Minor. Two of the most powerful trade guilds were the coppersmiths and the fabric dyers. In addition, periodically, the guilds would hold great social events for their members. It sounds like some kind of labor union.
They hold guild festivals in the pagan temples and it was a problem for the Christians back then. In such events, it would mean trade guild members would eat food sacrificed to idols and involve themselves in sexual immorality. If a member refused to attend such events, the guild would often expel them believing that it would upset their gods and risk the success of the guild. The Christians in Thyatira would have been pressured to make a choice between following Jesus or following the guild – to keep their faith or to lose their livelihoods.
During Paul’s second missionary journey as recorded in Acts 16, Paul had a vision of a man who pleaded with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” and so he travelled across the Aegean Sea to Philippi in the Province of Macedonia and met Lydia.
She was a seller of purple – which could have been either the dye or purple cloth. It was thought that she likely exported this to different parts of the world as part of her family business back in her hometown. When she met Paul, everything changed. She listened to Paul’s preaching and became so convicted in God’s way of life that she, along with her entire household, were baptized. It was also likely that Lydia played a major role in helping spread the gospel throughout the city after her return to Thyatira.
With the spread of the gospel, the church of Thyatira would have grown.
They were in fact commended by Jesus, but they did have one problem – their tolerance of the teachings of Jezebel. The wife of King Ahab. She was considered to be one of the most evil kings of ancient Israel. She was the daughter of Ethbaal, who was king of the Phoenician city-state of Tyre, and a descendant of the Canaanites, also known as Sidonians. It was because of Jezebel that Ahab erected an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built for her in Samaria, as recorded in 1st Kings 16:32. She brought in the worship of Baal and Baal’s consort Asherah to Israel, offered food to idols, and led people to commit sexual immorality, massacred the prophets of God, and their perverted worship went to the extent that the Israelites were sacrificing their children to Baal. On top of that, she also brought with her 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Ashtoreth from Phoenicia and housed them in the palace. They were to promote the worship of Baal and Ashtoreth throughout Israel. Jezebel was ruthless, willing to go all the way to get what she wanted as seen in her dealings with Naboth in 1st Kings 21 where she suggested to King Ahab to falsely accuse and execute Naboth – just to steal his vineyards. She also sought to get rid of all the worshippers of Yahweh, killing many of Yahweh’s prophets. Her domineering and intimidating spirit was more than obvious in her battle with Prophet Elijah in 1st Kings 18.
It was recorded in the Bible that King Ahab, incited by Jezebel, did more evil in God’s sight than all who were before him (1 Kings 16:30). Years after Ahab’s death, Jezebel was killed by being tossed out of a window under the order of King Jehu (2 Kings 9)!
Now fast forward to the time of the New Testaments. Scholars believe that there were false teachers in Thyatira who encouraged people to go to the festivities of Apollo, eat meat sacrificed to idols and engage in sexual immorality with temple prostitutes which had been the common method of pagan rites and celebration. There were also religious practices which were considered “secret” which only special initiates were allowed to participate in. It is likely that the Jezebel mentioned refers to the prophetess or oracle in Thyatira, who through her false teaching led the people in these religious practices. With the practice of these pagan rites and rituals, it was believed that the prophetess would be able to reveal various secrets of the universe. These things were described in the letter to Thyatira as the deep things of Satan. This shows parallels to when God instructed Adam and Eve not to partake of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, and the devil Satan came and tempted them with knowledge and insight to disobey God’s direct command. Similarly, in the Church of Thyatira, the people were deceived and enticed by knowledge of these secrets to believe in doctrines contrary to God’s, and resulting in them partaking in the pagan, idolatrous and adulterous practices. These secrets seemed to promise the people of Thyatira supernatural knowledge of their future, how to gain blessings and avoid misfortune but underneath it was leading the people including believers to sin.
In Jesus’ commendations and rebuke of the church of Thyatira in Revelation 2:19, it was obvious that He will never oppose us in showing more love, more grace and even more tolerance. However, all these works of love, service, faith and patience, must be operated under the foundations and constraints of God’s word. Even today there are many false teachings in the modern church that preach tolerance of things that are contrary to the Word of God. There are even occultic and apostatic teachings being labelled as “Progressive teaching” that twist God’s word to allow for acceptance and tolerance of sinful living in believers in the name of love and grace. As believers and servants of God, we must not let ourselves tolerate teachings that will lead to sin and rebellion against God. As God said in His message to Thyatira, “I am He who searches hearts and minds.” Our hearts and minds must be aligned to the Word of God.Thanks be to God that despite Jezebel’s influence during that time, there were faithful believers in the Church of Thyatira who were not swayed, and they were given no other burden but to hold fast till the return of Christ.
The Word of God in Revelation 2:18 begins by saying: “to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.”
From this letter to Thyatira, the key message for us today is this: Love Requires Corrections and there are three folds to how and why we must do so:
- First, Correct to Save Them (and by them I mean those who requires corrections)
- Second, Correct to Save Ourselves (so that we will not be led astray by others)
- Finally, Correct to Save the Rest (which are those who have not been influenced)
- Correct to Save Them
So first, correct to save them. By them, we are referring to the people who need to be corrected and be saved. In the case of Thyatira, it was those who were deceived, who followed the false teachings, and were influenced by the Jezebel spirit. We must know that Thyatira was actually a city of good and diligent workers, we read today that the believers were commended for their good deeds. This was a church heavily involved in ministry and in serving others. In the Letter to the church of Thyatira, the commendations from Jesus include improvements in terms of work, love, service, faith, and patience. What’s more, Jesus said that the works they now have are more than what they had at first. That’s to say, it’s a very good church in terms of their deeds. Their love could be seen as they were kind and patient with one another, and their latter works exceeded their first. But then comes the words that can make the church tremble: Jesus said “Nevertheless, I have this against you, you allowed that woman Jezebel to teach and seduce my people”. The problem with this church is that even though they had love, they had allowed false doctrines in their church. In contrast to this, what does it remind you of? Yes, Ephesus. The church at Thyatira, in contrast to Ephesus, actually had love for people. In fact, among the seven letters, Thyatira was the only church that Jesus commended for having love. But this became a downfall as they love in the human way where emotions took over and they ended up tolerating evil.
You see, it is possible for churches to fall in one of two extreme conditions. Either they are too tolerating, like Thyatira who was commended for love but had allowed false teachings, or they could be loveless, like Ephesus who was commending for rebuking false doctrines, but has left their first love. But God demands both love and sound doctrine and it must never be separated. Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, charged him to ensure that the people in churches must not be legalistic – arguing about fables and genealogy, but to be filled with love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, but later he also reminded us that law is good if one uses it lawfully. As a church, we must know two things: first, laws and regulations are good if we are filled with love from a pure heart, and second, love does not tolerate, love requires corrections.
Many times, being humans, we might find it easier to love without corrections. If we do not speak up to rebuke, then there will never be uncomfortable confrontations, if we just kept quiet, nobody with get upset at us, if we just tolerate, more people will love us, but it is not the kind of love that Jesus has taught us, His divine love is great yet He never tolerates evil. But our human nature is weak, and we might be in danger of tolerating evil today: Tolerating because we are too scared, or we want to look “loving” instead of speaking the truth. We might be too afraid to lose our friendships over arguments, sometimes the devil might just use that to whisper into our ears, telling us to “just agree and walk away, don’t let it ruin your relationship”. The devil will tell us that in today’s society, we need to make compromises to survive. To do business, we need to compromise, to make friends, we need to compromise, to maintain our relationships we need to compromise. Else, we won’t survive. No, those are lies! In fact, the Bible tells us that it is the complete opposite from the truth. To survive, we don’t need compromises. To survive, we need Jesus – and Jesus tells us to love one another, and correct in gentleness. You see how the devil can steer us away from the truth? The enemies are sneaky, but let us stand firm. Love is not avoidance, and love is not tolerance, rather, true love requires correction. So let us choose the right kind of love, the kind of love that is grounded with sound doctrines.
Unfortunately, in Thyatira, many have reached a stage that they can no longer be saved, Jesus said He had given them time to repent, and they did not, and now His judgment will come upon them. But on the other hand, this is what Jesus said to those who have held on in the second half of the letter in Revelation 2:24: “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast to what you have till I come”. That brings me to my second point for today, we must correct any false doctrines in order to also save ourselves, so that we can live by the truth and remain blameless on the day of judgment.
- Correct to Save Ourselves
The church of Thyatira had similar struggles as the church of Pergamum, which was also related to false doctrines, and this was not surprising, given that Thyatira was the closest to Pergamum, and thus also close to the throne of Satan. And specifically in this letter, Jesus described the false teachings in Thyatira as “Depths of Satan”. Other translations describe it as “deeper truth” (NLT), and “deep things of Satan” (ESV). So, what is this so-called “deeper truth”? Apparently, biblical scholars believe that the church of Thyatira had false teachings that try to go beyond the simple gospel, thus claiming itself to be a “deeper truth”, but in fact those are all lies or apostasies. These “deeper” things often appeal strongly to those who seek wisdom, those who like to think that they are very clever. And this can be dangerous because pride can creep in, and when these people start to add on to the word of God to make them sound wise or clever, we must be careful to discern what are such deeper truths that these people are claiming as truth. The bible itself is a completed production, it is already done and no additional content should be added on top of the truth. Unfortunately, it can be easy for people to add on to the truth to make things look more sophisticated and appealing.
Here’s one possible example of what a false teaching could sound like: “Jesus has died for us and His blood has made us clean, so that whatever we do to our body has no effect on our salvation, because God has already saved us. He also wants us to be happy and successful, these temple activities bring good business. Don’t be like the ‘foolish’ and ‘shallow’ people who got kicked out of the guilds, they don’t know what life is really about.” I hope that at this point you have sensed that something is very wrong. Because these kinds of teachings often begin with a truth, but are followed by blatant lies that are appealing to people. Now this a just an example to give you a feel of what it could be like, but it is possible that there were similar false teachings that Satan was spreading in the church of Thyatira, where believers were deceived and led to submit under the pressure of the guilds, to eat food offered to idols and engage in sexual immorality.
Today, some of the false teachings can be deceivingly subtle. Sometimes, we might hear people saying that ‘the secret to a happy marriage is to know that your wife is always right’. Or ‘if you want some peaceful moments, get your children iPads’, which may sound logically wise on the surface, but if you really think about it, those ideas are from the devil. Just look at what happened to king Ahab who did everything his wife Jezebel asked. Those things are not secrets to happiness; those ideas will wreck people’s lives. And this kind of worldly ideology can easily slip into our mind subconsciously. So Jesus has warned us that we must hold fast to the truth that we have from the Word of God. A lifeboat can save lives when the lifeboat is in the sea, but when the sea goes into the lifeboat, then it can no longer save. So likewise, if our doctrines are strayed away from the truth, then we would only lead people astray. So let us empty ourselves today, and be used as the vessel of God for His kingdom. Here’s what the scripture tells us about false teachings.
1 Tim 4:7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be Godly. 1 Tim 6:20: Guard what has been entrusted to your care, turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge. Titus 1:10: There are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, they must be silenced… rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith.
So let us turn away from false teachings, resist them, silence them, rebuke them, and avoid their teaching. These are the opposite of what the word “tolerate”, and let us be sure to practice them, so that when Jesus looks into our lives, He will not have this against us, but He shall see a pure heart filled with love. But remember, love requires correction. And here comes the incredibly good news from Jesus, He said to those who have resisted the false teaching, those who have not known the “Depths of Satan”, I will put on you no other burden. He does not need to keep putting them through unnecessary trials. And I would also like to bring us back to the key message in the very first sermon in this series, that to those who are faithful, Jesus will carry you through all your trials. Finally, we come to the last point of the roadmap, which is our responsibility to correct in order to save the rest who are more vulnerable and susceptible to dangerous ideologies.
- Correct to Save the Rest
To hold fast to what we have is only the first part of Jesus’ counsel for us, and the second part is this: Revelation 2:26 “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations— ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star”. We must correct in order to overcome and keep His works until the end, so that we will all remain strong in faith as a body of Christ, and nobody will be left behind and be influenced by the Jezebel spirit.
The spirit of Jezebel as seen in the Old Testament is a demonic spirit that is domineering, manipulative, intimidating, controlling and will go all the way out to destroy God’s people to fulfill Satan’s plan. So, with it comes all kinds of evils, immoralities and false doctrines including the deeper things of Satan. It covers all the things in our life that lead to pride, idolatry, and things that draw us away from God’s truth.
On a personal level, it could easily be gossip, slanders, manipulations, desire for control, or competitions within a church. These are very harmful. It is not uncommon today to see politics and conflicts that can crumble churches from within. So, we have to carefully examine our actions and the words that come out from our mouths, and reject the actions or words that are not edifying in the body of Christ. And if we see others are doing things that may stumble young believers, let us remember, love requires corrections. On a regional level, it could also be certain movements from the liberal parts of the world that spread dangerous ideologies, we see that all over the news today, where some of these ideas are just getting more and more dangerous, many are outright rebellion against God, and we must not let those things sneak into the church. We are told that in the end times, evil will be rampant, but Jesus’ counsel for the church is to hold fast till He comes, overcome and keep His works until the end. Jesus says that He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches, so let us today hear His words and take heed, overcome and spur one another to keep up the good works, and on the day our Lord Jesus returns, we will be victorious in Christ Jesus. What’s more, Jesus promised that those who have held onto the truth, those who have overcome, and those who have kept His works until the end, will be given power over nations to rule with a rod of iron.
Here’s an interesting note. We have seen before how Jesus used the language of the people that he was addressing. Earlier we also discovered that pottery was one of the major trades in Thyatira. And the phrase “rules with a rod of iron” might have come from the professional language in pottery. In Thyatira, every established potter would usually have a potter’s assistant, and the assistant’s role is to smash any defective product with an iron rod, so that these flawed products would not accidentally be sold to the public resulting in the ruin of their reputation as artisans. That is the simplest meaning of ruling with a rod of iron, which is to break every piece that is not right, so that they will not lead His sheep astray, and Jesus said that they ‘shall be dashed into pieces’ like the potter’s vessels. So, who has the responsibility to rule with the iron rod? We know from scripture that Jesus is the one who rules, but here in Revelation it also says that those who overcome, will also be given power to join Him to reign. That is the promise from Jesus.
Let us recap, the key message that we can learn from Jesus’ letter to Thyatira is to know that Love requires corrections, and it has a three-fold implication. The first reason why we would want to correct people is to save them, and we need to do so with love and sound doctrine. Second, we correct in order to save ourselves, and we need to hold fast to the Truth in a world filled with deceptions, and finally, we correct in order to save the rest who are more vulnerable or susceptible, so that we may all overcome and keep His works until the end.
For this week’s application, let us all pray for counsel, either individually, as a discipleship group, or as a family, and write down a list of key things that we will not compromise in our lives, which could include gossips, competitions, politics, dangerous ideologies, or any form of idolatry, and hold fast onto the truth, examining our own actions and words, correcting others with love when it’s appropriate, and spur one another to keep up the good works until He comes. Let those who have ears listen to what the Spirit has to say to the churches: To those who have held fast to the truth, overcome, and kept God’s works, they will receive the morning star from Jesus, and be exhorted to rule the nations with a rod of iron. God bless you