Lesson 6 - The Church at Thyatira

Lesson 6 - The Church at Thyatira

(Revelation 2:18-29)

Thyatira was a city of trade with numerous trade guilds (unions).  There were guilds for wool workers, linen workers, outer garment workers, dyers, leather workers, tanners, potters, bakers, bronze smiths and the list goes on.  The largest industries were woolen goods and dyeing.  (Acts 16:14)  This was a very prosperous city in Asia.  The population of the city was predominantly Gentile with a mixture of nationalities from many countries.  They also practiced pagan worship with Apollo being their chief deity, but there were temples to several deities within the city.  Emperor worship in this city seemed to be minimal.   

One area of potential compromise for believers in Thyatira was the expectation of the local trade guilds for all members to attend their festivals.  These festivals were filled with drunken debauchery, immorality, meat offered to the pagan gods and other questionable activities.

Jesus began His message to this church with the description of Himself as the One Who has the eyes like a flame of fire and feet like fine brass.  We saw this same description in Revelation 1:14-15.  The eyes of fire symbolize His omniscience in knowing all and therefore being a perfect Judge.  His feet of brass symbolize the purifying nature of His judgment (perfect justice).  Jesus also called Himself the Son of God, a reference to His deity.  In chapter one He was called the Son of Man, a reference to His humanity.   Since Jesus was using terms referring to His attributes, omniscience and justice, His deity (Son of God) was in view in this verse.

Christ’s knowledge of the believers in Thyatira begins with five nouns: works, love, faith, service and endurance.  The Greek construction of these words seems to lend itself to the following translation.  “I know thy works, even your love, faith, service and endurance.”  In other words the works were love, faith, service and endurance.  The Greek word for works is “erga” meaning to toil or to do labor.  Love and faith are more mental attitudes or motivational and service and endurance are more outward results.  In other words, love motivates service and faith motivates endurance. 

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” (I John 4:11)

Divine agape expresses the deep, constant love and interest of a perfect God towards imperfect, and therefore unworthy, objects (unbelieving mankind).  Upon faith in Christ, this love and interest has the potential of producing in these now perfect and worthy (positional sanctification) objects (believers), a love towards God.  In turn, God’s love is able to produce in the life of the believer virtue-love towards others.  Virtue-love is a synonym for divine agape love.  Virtue-love is love based on the virtue of the one doing the loving.  This virtue-love (impersonal love) desires to see others come to know the source of this love. (I John 4:18-21)

Under the control of the Holy Spirit, this divine agape love can be reproduced in the life of the believer.  This is unconditional love, whether exercised towards believer or unbeliever and is NOT emotional; rather it is a matter of the right mental attitude.  It does not depend on the “love-ability” or compatibility of the object.  This love seeks the welfare of others.  True Christian service is serving others motivated by the believer’s love for Jesus Christ.  (Romans 13:8-14; II Corinthians 5:14-20; Galatians 6:10; Colossians 3:12-13)

The Greek word for service in this passage is “diakonia” meaning a voluntary service as opposed to an obligation in which slave (“doulas” in Greek) would have been used.  This was a ministry to the needs of others as in Acts 11:29 and I Corinthians 16:15.  

“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”  (I John 5:4)

Faith in its verb form is “to believe” and must have a subject and an object. In salvation, the subject is whosoever and the object is Jesus Christ. (John 3:16)  In the Christian life, the subject is the believer and the object is the Word of God. (II Timothy 2:15)  Faith is effective in the believer’s life only if faith has the right object.  Faith is thinking.  The content of what you’re thinking is what determines faith’s effectiveness in your life.  There is no limit to the amount of faith that a believer can have, but doctrinal content in the soul is what determines the strength of your faith.  Faith is like eating, it is non-meritorious.  Anyone can eat, rich or poor, moral or immoral. (Luke 17:5-6; John 14:20; II Corinthians 10:15)

Faith is developed by the study and application of God’s Word under the control of God the Holy Spirit.  Faith is developed by means of growth when Bible doctrine is properly applied.  Faith can also be developed through suffering, as in the case of the believers in Thyatira.   Because of their developed faith they were able to withstand the suffering and persecution from the pagans.  (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 4:1-3, 12:2; Galatians 5:22-23; I Peter 1:7-9; I John 5:1-5)

The works of this church had increased and were now more in number and most likely in quality than when they first began to be servants and to endure persecution.  There was obviously spiritual growth that had taken place among these believers with the result of increased service to the Lord.

As faithful as the believers seemed to be, Jesus did have a criticism against them.  They were allowing false doctrine to be taught by a woman in the congregation.  This woman was called Jezebel by Christ.  This could have been her actual name, but may have referred symbolically to a woman in the church who was teaching the “way of Jezebel”, who was an Old Testament figure.  (I Kings 16:31-33, 21:25)  Jezebel of I Kings was a pagan woman who was married to the king of Israel and influenced him to worship pagan gods. God had continually warned Israel against intermarriage with pagan nations.  The woman in Revelation had appointed herself as a prophetess and was being allowed to teach false doctrine in a public forum as see in the Greek word for teach, which is “didaskei.”  Didaskei normally refers to a person’s leadership role as a teacher. (Passages where the same Greek word is used: Matthew 4:1, 6:2; Luke 11:1; Acts 1:1; I Corinthians 4:17; I Timothy 4:11; II Timothy 2:2)

There were two specific false doctrines being taught by this woman, which were connected to pagan worship of their gods.  Their worship of these gods involved sexual immorality and meat sacrificed to the pagan gods.  For a believer to participate would have meant violating God’s law.  This woman apparently was teaching that it was okay for believers to participate in these activities.  On an even larger scale, she was teaching believers to worship false gods and not the true God.  For doing this she is referred to as a prostitute.

Separation from the thinking and subsequent participation in sinful practices of the world is taught throughout the Word of God.  This World System has a way of thinking that, generally speaking, does not line up with the thinking of God.  We call this Human Viewpoint Thinking.  Christians and non-Christians alike think human viewpoint on a regular basis.  God’s thinking is found in God’s book, the Bible.  The Bible is more reliable than anything we see, hear, smell, taste, or feel.  It is the Word of God the Father, the mind of Jesus Christ and the voice of the Holy Spirit.  We call God’s thinking Divine Viewpoint Thinking. (I Corinthians 2:16; Hebrews 3:7, 4:12; II Peter 1:12-21)

In order to have Divine Viewpoint Thinking, you must know the doctrine taught in the Bible.  The more Bible doctrine you know and apply, the more Divine Viewpoint Thinking you will be able to exhibit.  The less Bible doctrine you know and apply, the more Human Viewpoint Thinking you will exhibit.  The more Human Viewpoint Thinking you exhibit, the more insecure and unstable you are going to be.  Daily study of God’s Word keeps Divine Viewpoint Thinking fresh in the mind and helps counteract Human Viewpoint Thinking. (Psalm 119:129-135)  Thinking your way through life with Divine Viewpoint Thinking will bring victory, peace, power and stability. (Isaiah 26:3-4, 33:6)  However, vacillating between Divine Viewpoint Thinking and Human Viewpoint Thinking makes a believer unstable according to James 1:8.  An unstable believer is an unhappy believer.

Jesus stated that He had given this woman (Jezebel) ample time to change her mind and stop teaching false doctrine, but she had refused.  He then issued a warning to all who followed her false doctrinal teachings.  He said that He would come to them and destroy them unless they changed their minds and stopped following her.  The statement “I will kill her children” refers to the ones who are her followers.

What this woman was teaching sounds much like the ecumenical movement of today, which states that you can believe anything you want because we are all children of God.  They claim that there are many ways to God, so we should all be tolerate of everyone’s belief and “get along.”  The danger in this kind of thinking is seen in the church at Thyatira and Christ’s warning to them. 

Jesus also reminded this church that He is the One Who knows the mind of man and sees into the depths of his inner most being.  God knows us better than we know ourselves and will evaluate us on that knowledge. 

Jesus then told them that He would not put any further burden on them than that which they already had, except to hold fast until He returns.  The burden was dealing with this woman and her followers. Hold fast in context means to remain faithful to sound Bible doctrine and not be influenced by this false teacher and her doctrine. 

The promise for those who overcome and continue to produce divine good is power over the nations, rulership over them and the morning star.  These are obviously future rewards for faithfulness to the Lord.  We are told in several passages that the faithful believers will rule over nations.  Rulership over cities is see in Luke 19:17; II Timothy 2:12; Revelation 5:10.  The morning star is a reference to Jesus Christ Himself as seen in Revelation 22:16.  The faithful believer will shine as the Morning Star (a reflection of Jesus Christ) for all eternity.  (Daniel 12:3; Matthew 2:2, 13:43; II Peter 1:19)