Message to Thyatira

“But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. ‘I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. ‘Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. ‘And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. ‘But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them–I place no other burden on you.” (Revelation 2:20-24)

The city of Thyatira was known as Pelopia in its most early years but its name was changed by King Seleucus I Nicator in 290 BC. Thyatira stands on the border between Lydia and Mysia and is famous for its dyeing of cloth and was the center of the indigo trade. The city housed more guilds than any other in the Roman province of Asia. History mentions that the city was home to wool-workers, linen-workers, and makers of outer garments, dyers, leather-workers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave-dealers, and bronze-smiths.

The Apostle Paul and Silas might have visited Thyatira during Paul’s second or third journey, although the evidence is entirely circumstantial. They visited several small unnamed towns in the general vicinity during the second journey. While in Philippi, Paul and Silas stayed with a woman named Lydia from Thyatira, who continued to help them even after they were jailed and released. “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” (Acts 16:14)

Thyatira is the smallest of the seven cities that received letters from the Apostle John’s vision on Patmos in the Book of Revelation. Even as it was the smallest it received the longest letter. The Church at Thyatira was doing many things well but it had let in a false teacher whom Jesus referred to as Jezebel. This woman claimed to be a prophetess and was influencing the members to join the local trade guilds. The problem for the workers in that trade was that if they did not belong to a trade guild they would not be able to find employment. The trade guilds practiced immoral acts and the worship of idols and all their members had to participate.

The pressure of fitting in with the world can be overwhelming and if we give in to that pressure it will lead us down paths we know we should not follow. As Christians, follower of Jesus Christ, we are to stand firm in the faith but many of the Church members were being enticed by the false teaching of this false prophetess. Sometimes our vision becomes more worldly than divine and we become short sighted. We can at times see the present benefit with our senses and fail to see the eternal benefit through our faith. If we truly believe and trust in God, then we know that He is our provider and He will take care of all our needs. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) We live in a day when we are taught tolerance but who can stand firm upon a lie? The Christian member of the Church is to stand upon the truth of God’s Word. In doing so we cannot tolerate those who disregard and distort the truth.

Jesus in His letter to the Church at Thyatira has a problem with the Churches tolerance of the prophetess Jezebel. Some believe that Jezebel is a symbolic name representing evil as other woman in the Scriptures. It is also conceivable to believe that there was an actual prophetess in the Church maned Jezebel. Jezebel is a Phoenician name but by this time the Phoenicians had lost their ethnic identity. The City of Thyatira was not located near Phoenicia but in Asia Minor in modern turkey. Still it is possible that Jesus was referring to a real woman named Jezebel in the Church at Thyatira.

Many believe that the name Jezebel is symbolic of the Biblical Jezebel who was the wife of King Ahab. “It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him.” (1 Kings 16:31) We can read her story in the following passages and lean of the evil that she was. (1 Kings 18:13; 1 Kings 18:19; 1 Kings 18:21; II Kings 9:22)

Jezebel was the sort of a woman that no parent would want to name their daughter after. But the name Jezebel means “chaste” as the English name “Agnes.” The Scriptures do describe Jezebel as a harlot, adulterous, and immoral. “When Joram saw Jehu, he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” And he answered, “What peace, so long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?” (2 Kings 9:22)

The prophetess of the Church at Thyatira achieved that same result as her namesake Jezebel. “Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife incited him.” (1 Kings 21:25) The greater problem was that she used the platform of the trade guilds to pull many away hurting the whole Church body. Jesus had very strong words for this prophetess who was leading His children astray. This is the deception from the master of deception Satan. People can be deceived if they are not firmly grounded in the truth of God’s Word. People who are lead away chose to do so. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Jesus placed this condemnation upon the prophetess and her offspring. “And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” (Revelation 2:23) Is this death literal or symbolic? If physical it would be a clear sign to the people that this immoral behavior and pulling others towards it is very serious. That distorting the truth of God’s Word brings quick consequences to the offender. It would be beneficial to those who would learn by observance. On the other hand if it was symbolic of the second death, spiritual separation from God, it would be a tool of strengthening our faith. To stand firm on the rock of His truth in spite of the worlds pull would build our Christian character through perseverance that we would be stronger in the battles to come. “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4) There is victory in hope, as the hopeless are already defeated.

The similarity of Jezebel who was Ahab’s wife and Jezebel of Thyatira is that both lead the people of God in accommodating pagan practices resulting in immoral and adulterous behavior. As in the early Church the Church today must be on guard for we have been warned that teachers of false doctrine will slip in. “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)  Many Churches are in trouble today because they do not teach the truth of God’s Word. It is not only a pastoral responsibility but also of the laity to ground themselves in the Word of God. If we do not know the truth, then we cannot discern the lie. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” (1 John 4:1-3)

We cannot live our lives here in this world as babes in Christ, we must mature and grow into our spiritual adulthood. It is not going to become easier for the follower of Christ as we go nearer to the end of days. Our adversary knows his time is growing short and is working diligently as we also must, souls hang in the balance. “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 4:14-15)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, May 5, 2016

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