To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
Nevertheless, I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, “I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.”
To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – that one ‘will rule them with an iron sceptre and will dash them to pieces like pottery’ – just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 2:18-29 (NIV)
Thyatira (modern Akhisar, Turkey) is the fourth church to receive a message from the risen Jesus. In the greeting Jesus declares himself to be the Son of God.
Thyatira was the smallest city/town to receive a letter and it is probable that the church there was also quite small in number. Despite this, Thyatira receives the longest of the seven letters. The commendation given to the church recognises their deeds, love, faith, service and perseverance. Additionally, it is stated that they are doing more now than at first. This would indicate that while they may not be large numerically, they are growing spiritually. Their ‘doing’ involved their faith and love leading to service and deeds.
As with the other churches there is a problem with false teaching and this led to eating food sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality. The tone used when speaking of Jezebel would tend to lead to the conclusion that she was a real person who was actively promoting herself as a prophet and using this to lead others away from sound teaching. There is the possibility that Jezebel refers to the person identified in 1 and 2 Kings, who killed the true prophets of God and practised idolatry. Whether real or allegorical, the key message is that false teaching was not only being practised, it was being tolerated. The use of the word ‘tolerated’ would give the impression that the church knew the teaching was wrong, but still allowed it to be taught. Jesus warns the church that punishment will come and that it will be a witness to all the churches that he searches the hearts and minds of those who profess his name. The warning is clear – Jesus sees beyond the outward appearance and understands the inner thoughts.
The ‘… rest of you in Thyatira …’ refers to those who have not accepted (learned) the false teaching promoted by Jezebel. The term ‘Satan’s so-called deep secrets …’ may refer to secret knowledge the false teachers claimed to know and understand, or it could simply be indicating that the true believers had kept themselves pure by avoiding being enticed by this kind of secret or deep knowledge.
The church is encouraged to ‘… hold on to what you have …’. The word used for ‘hold’ here conveys the meaning of ‘hold fast’ or ‘take a firm grip on’. This indicates that effort is required in the Christian life to maintain a true witness. It also reminds us of the opening of the letter where the church’s perseverance is commended.
The promise held out to the church at Thyatira for those who are victorious is to be given authority over the nations. The idea being conveyed here includes shepherding, as well as ruling. However, the use of the phrase ‘… will rule them with an iron sceptre and will dash them to pieces like pottery’ reminds us of Jesus and his authority. The ‘morning star’ probably refers to Jesus himself and may indicate that the ultimate reward for the Christian is to be with Jesus.
The warning for us as Christians is again to resist false teaching, whatever its source. Teaching that appeals to the senses, sounds good but yet draws us away from the focus of our faith (Jesus), requires us to persevere no matter what other people are doing, or what is considered acceptable by the world.
Spiritual growth should be the primary goal we aim for both for ourselves and for the churches to which we belong. Concentrating on numbers is no indication of where people are spiritually. While non-attendance at church meetings by those who profess Christ may indicate a falling away, attendance in itself is no indication of spiritual growth. We should be looking for spiritual growth based on faith and love, and leading to service and expression in actions and deeds.
As with Jesus we need to look beyond the outward appearance, to what is in a person’s heart. Of course this is difficult as we can sometimes be fooled by people. The thing to remember is that God is not fooled.
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