Thyatira – The Corrupt Church
The date is approximately 95 A.D. and Jesus appears in a vision to John the apostle and gives him letters or messages to seven of the Christian churches in Asia Minor. (Revelations 1:9-20) Jesus’ messages were written in love. But also, messages with concerns and warnings. And messages of hope and comfort. Today we will go over what Jesus has to say to one of these churches - the church in Thyatira.
Thyatira was a small industrial city in 95 A.D. with many trade unions or guilds. There were trade guilds for textile workers and tanners, potters, bakers and bronze-smiths. Each trade guild (or labor union) would adopt an idol or god to bless their business and the all the workers in the trade guild were expected to worship their patron god.
Many of the Christians who belonged to the church in Thyatira also belonged to one of the cities’ trade guilds where they worked. If a Christian member of the trade guild refused to go along with the others when they worshipped the trade guild’s idol god, then that Christian could be blamed when something went wrong at work. Or blamed when the trade guild didn’t sell as many of their items as they thought they should. Perhaps the god was angry because everyone in the guild wasn’t worshipping him. The Christian could lose his or her job if he didn’t bow down to the idol god who was supposed to bless their work. There was a price for following Jesus!
The temple to the sun god Apollo stood in the center of Thyatira, and the town sponsored many frequent idolatrous feasts and sexual orgies around the altar. Everyone was expected to be there. Of course, this caused a problem for all the Christians in Thyatira since God calls us to worship only Him and no other. (Exodus 20:3-6) And, God also calls Christians to “flee sexual immorality.” (1 Corinthians 6:18)
Thyatira is still around today! It is a small modern city in Turkey. But the stones and pillars from the ruins of that ancient city of Thyatira, can still be seen today. If we travel there today we can walk where those early Christians walked – the Christians in the church of Thyatira who received Jesus’ message. And the messages and warnings Jesus had for these Christians in Thyatira so long ago are for us too. We too will not always fit in with the crowd. We too will have to set ourselves apart and not worship the idols that our modern culture worships. Or indulge in any type of porn or sexual immorality that is all around us.
Here is the message recorded in Revelations 2:18-29 that Jesus sent to the church in Thyatira so long ago. “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 sick bed, 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 deep things of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast to what you have until 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 vessel. As I also have received from My Father, I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelations 2:18-29)
Jesus begins His letter by describing Himself as “the Son of God, with eyes like a flame of fire and feet like brass”. Jesus is not only our humble suffering Savior, but His eyes are like a flame of fire as He will judge the world as the almighty Son of God. Jesus praises the Christians in the church of Thyatira for their love, service, works, faith and patience. He sees everything they (and you) do for Him.
But Jesus also calls the church of Thyatira out for tolerating the cult of idolatry and immorality. Christians are not to be tolerant of false teachers! A teacher Jesus calls “Jezebel” has been allowed to teach in this Christian church in Thyatira and Jesus is angry. Christians are to reject any false teaching or any practice that allows worshipping other gods or any practice allowing sexual immorality among God’s people. And evidently “Jezebel” has been allowed to teach these evil heresies in the church in Thyatira. And the Christians tolerated it!! Christians are required to be faithful to Christ, never putting anything before Him, as well as being faithful to their spouse and their marriage vows. Jesus was angry.
Purity and restraint are underrated! Sexual immorality and pornography bring a burden, but faithfulness and purity bring a blessing. God gives us the gift of sex to bond us together in marriage and family. But sexual immorality drains our ability to connect and destroys our family relationships.
Jesus says in His letter to the church in Thyatira that those who follow Jezebel’s teachings will suffer. Instead of romance, true love and couples faithfully and joyfully sharing their lives together, there will be broken families, poverty, disease, loneliness, jealousy, and isolation. Parents abandoning their children.
Jesus says that sexual immorality will bring sickness to those who practice it and death to their innocent little children. (Revelation 2:22-23) It seems the children always suffer most for their parent’s sins. No wonder Jesus is so angry. He calls His followers to turn around – to repent. Jesus speaks to the rest of the Christians in Thyatira- all those who do not follow Jezebel’s teachings of unfaithfulness to God and to one another. Jesus calls those who are listening to Him to “Hold Fast”. To Hold Fast until He comes. (Revelations 2:25)
Jesus gives promises too wonderful to completely comprehend to those who “Hold Fast’ and stay faithful to the Christian faith. He says: ” To him who overcomes, and keep My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.” (Revelations 2: 26) The overcomer – the one who “holds fast” – that one will share in Christ’s triumph over evil and will share in His messianic rule. (Psalm 2:8-9)
Jesus also promises to give the “Morning Star” to those who “Hold Fast.” And He ends his letter to the church of Thyatira with:” He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelations 2:29) Let’s hear what the Spirit is saying to us today. Like the Christians in Thyatira we live in a time where the temptations of sexual immorality are all around us and where the world calls us to put other things before God. Let’s listen to the Spirit and stay pure and faithful to God and to our marriages. And “Hold Fast” until He comes.