Bible Study Series: Revealing Jesus in Revelation
Revelation Chapter 2:18-29 Thyatira: The church that was corrupted
by I Gordon
Let's start with a quick overview of this city, church and letter.
Located halfway between Pergamos and Sardis, this city had been under Roman rule for nearly three centuries (c.190 B.C.). Since the city was situated in a long valley that swept forty miles to Pergamos, it had no natural defenses and had a long history of being destroyed and rebuilt. Originally populated by soldiers of Alexander the Great, it was little more than a military outpost to guard Pergamos. Lydia came from this city on business and was converted under Paul's ministry (Act_16:14-15).
The MacArthur Bible Commentary
- Meaning of Thyatira: 'Perpetual sacrifice' - a pointer to the continual sacrifice and unceasing mass of the Roman Catholic church instead of Jesus' one sacrifice for all sins, for all time! (Heb 9:28, 10:10-14)
- Thyatira was the smallest and least important of the seven cities mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3
- The city was famous for its cloth dyeing processes and outside of Revelation the city is only mentioned in one other verse in the New Testament - in the book of Acts where Lydia, the seller of purple cloth, was from this city (Act 16:14) and along with her household believed the gospel and was saved
- Nothing is really known about the church here apart from this letter in Revelation
- The city is called Akhisar today with around 130,000 inhabitants
- Commendation - They had love, faith, service and perseverance - great attributes!
- Complaint - The allowed a false prophetess to teach and lead then into sexual immorality and idolatry
- Counsel - Repent!
- Warning - The followers of the woman will be thrown into Great Tribulation. A terrible warning!
- Challenge - Don't hold to her teaching. Hold fast the truth and you will be given authority over the nations in Jesus' rule!
Over-riding thought: For me this letter is a great warning to hold fast God's true way. It is a warning that judgement, and even the great tribulation, is coming for the corrupted false religion and churches. But it also holds great promise for those that hold the truth and place their faith solely in Jesus and His death for our sins. To them is given a veiled promise of the rapture and their reign with Jesus!
So lets be clear... God is love. We should always remember that and treat everyone with love and express His love to all. But He is also truth... and He also has eyes of blazing fire! Both love and truth go together and to separate them leads to either love or truth being denied. Ephesus lost it's love while maintaining truth. Thyatira lost the truth while maintaining love. Both churches were rebuked and corrected for both qualities are required. Now, to be sure, this is not an easy road to navigate at times. Jesus of course is our example so we need to look to His lead here! But also remember that it didn't stop those in the world hating Him and, well, putting Him on the 'cancel' list! But that didn't go exactly as planned. That cliff hanger came with a surprising twist three days later!
Now to get a bit more specific about the church of Thyatira and where it went wrong, they had a woman called Jezebel rise up who called herself a prophetess. She wasn't stopped and lead the church into sexual immorality and idolatry. This name Jezebel is obviously quite famous in the Bible. Well, 'infamous' is the right word.1 This is the only mention of Jezebel in the New Testament but she was certainly infamous in the Old Testament days of Elijah. Time for a refresher I think...
"Jez'ebel. (chaste). Wife of Ahab, king of Israel. (B.C. 883). She was a Phoenician princess, daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians. In her hands, her husband became a mere puppet. 1Ki_21:25. The first effect of her influence was the immediate establishment of the Phoenician worship, on a grand scale in the court of Ahab. At her table were supported no less than 450 prophets of Baal and 400 of Eastward. 1Ki_16:31; 1Ki_16:21; 1Ki_18:19. The prophets of Jehovah were attacked by her orders, and put to the sword. 1Ki_18:13; 2Ki_9:7."
Smiths Bible Dictionary
- Jezebel, a Phoenician princess, joined herself to Ahab, arguably Israel's wickedest king! (1 Kings 16:30-33)
Prophetically. this is a pointer to what the false religious system has done through history and will do in the last days. The Bible presents the image of a woman, a harlot, who 'with her the kings of the earth committed adultery' (Rev 17:2). She has been around for thousands of years, joined to the political power, and in the last days will be closely aligned, for a season, with the antichrist and the 10 kings.
- Jezebel held the power... While Ahab was the king, Jezebel was the power behind the throne. She essentially was the one who ruled! She was the voice in his ear controlling the king. 1Ki 21:25 states: '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.'
This pictures how the false religious system has often controlled the political system. Again, we see this down through the history of the Roman Catholic church and it is seen by the woman pictured in Revelation 17 who sits upon and rides the beast. (Rev 17:3) And in the last days this false religious system will control the political system and rule of the 10 kings - for a season!
- Jezebel promoted false religion, idolatry and the worship of Baal while persecuting and killing the true prophets of God. (1 Kings 18:13)
Both through church history and in the last days the false religious system will promote all types of idolatry while again persecuting and killing the true servants of God (Rev 17:2,6)
- Jezebel's power and hatred of frightened even Elijah - Such was Jezebel's power and control, that even Elijah became scared and ran for his life (1 Kings 19:1-3)
Again this pictures the persecution of believers that has occurred through the ages by the false religious system and will increase in the tribulation period. (Rev 12:17, 17:6)
- Jezebel and Ahab desired the vineyard - A very telling and pivotal moment in the life of Ahab and Jezebel comes when Ahab wanted Naboth's vineyard and Jezebel was willing to kill Naboth to get it. (1 Kings 21). Jezebel organized two men to lie and give false testimony about Naboth, leading to his death (1 Kings 21:7-10,13)
When used symbolically in the Bible, the vineyard points to Israel (Isaiah 5:1-7, Hos 10:1). Jesus used the same picture in His parable (Matt 21:33-46). So this is a pointer to the fact that in the last days the king will take the vineyard (nation of Israel) through murder and force. This is clear in Jesus' Olivet discourse, as well as in the book of Revelation itself, where in both cases the Jews have to flee their land to a place assigned for them (Matt 24:15-18, Rev 12:6,14-16). The two lying witnesses also pictures how false religion dealt with the Lord Jesus, the vineyard's owners son (Matt 21:37-39) who was also condemned to death on the false testimony of two lying witnesses (Matt 26:60-66)
- Jezebel's deeds were not forgotten by God! He didn't forget what Jezebel did. He didn't forget the blood of His prophets that was shed. 2Ki 9:7 'You shall strike the house of Ahab your master, that I may avenge the blood of My servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD, at the hand of Jezebel.
And the false religious system throughout the ages has shed the blood of many saints. The woman pictured in Rev 17 is said to be drunk on it (Rev 17:6). But God has not forgotten and will repay (Rev 18:20,24)
- Jezebel's end - God used a king, Jehu, to strike down this wicked woman! She was thrown down (literally!) from her high position and brought to an end (2 Kings 9:30-36)
In the last days God will use 10 kings to destroy this wicked woman, this false religious system (Rev 17:16-17)
“Romanism is Christianity, Judaism, and Heathenism joined together; and the Lord abhors the vile combination. God gave her (Rome) space to repent, and she repented not. Go back to the days of Savanarola in Italy, Wickliffe and Cranmer in England, John Knox in Scotland, Martin Luther in Germany, Zwingle in Switzerland, Calvin in France-all those mighty reformers whom God raised up throughout the world to call Rome to repent of her iniquity, but she repented not."
"And them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of her works. Here is a most terrible threat! We know of The Great Tribulation; and I cannot avoid the conclusion that this warning points to it. For we read in Rev 17:1-18 that the Babylonian harlot is to be hated and made desolate by the Beast and his ten kings (Rev 17:16). Please note at once that these last four churches look toward the end - that is, to the closing of church testimony to give way to the kingdom. Thyatira, impenitent, is threatened with the tribulation; Sardis, with Christ’s coming as a thief - that is, (after the true Church has been raptured) they will be “caught” like the world - 1Th_5:2-3; Philadelphia, faithful though weak, has the promise of the Rapture, to escape all the trouble of the awful “hour” that is coming; while Laodicea is spewed out as lukewarm, irrecoverable - ending the history of the Church as Christ’s earthly witness."3
William Newell, Revelation A complete commentary
I will strike her children dead. Remember, this is Jesus speaking. Taken literally it is obviously full on but we should should remember that this letter is prophetic. When it speaks of 'her children' it is speaking of this religious system's followers - her offspring if you like. The Lord is saying that all the followers of this false religious system who do not repent will die. They will be judged. He is the One who searches and knows the hearts and minds. He is the One with eyes of fire. He is the One who will repay according to their ways. He wants them to repent, He is giving them time to repent, but if they will not then judgement awaits. And the Great Tribulation awaits. In the last days followers of this type of church with it's false religion will go into the tribulation if they have not been born again. So the message to the Thyatiran type church is very serious... Repent! And come back to salvation in Christ alone, through faith alone, by grace alone.4 Jesus alone is your hope and do not follow any other false system!
- 607AD - Boniface III made the first Pope
- 786 AD - Worship of images and relics
- 850AD - Use of 'holy water' began
- 995 AD - Canonization of dead saints
- 1079 AD - Celibacy of the priesthood
- 1190 AD - Sale of Indulgences
- 1215 AD - Transubstantiation
- 1229 AD - Bible forbidden to laymen
- 1439 AD - Doctrine of purgatory decreed
- 1534 AD - Jesuit order founded
- 1545 AD - Tradition granted equal authority with Bible
- 1854 AD - Immaculate conception of Mary
- 1870 AD - Infallibility of Pope declared5
This church had some who were not following Jezebel or her teaching and they were commended by Jesus. And what they were told to do is what we are commanded to do... hold to the truth. Hold on to the true faith until Jesus comes. (See 1Th 5:21, 2Ti 1:13; 2Ti 1:14, Tit 1:9, Jud 1:3). This promise of His coming is now seen in the promise He gives. It is both a promise of rapture and reward!
And, when we are given the Morning Star, that’s the announcement of the dawn. That’s the proclamation of the new and the glorious day. And when we have Christ, caught away with Him, the Morning Star, we are with Him at the dawning. We are with Him at the great consummation of the age. We are with our Lord in the denouement of all time. The Morning Star is ours. Christ is ours. We with Him... in gladness, in glory, in joy, in victory, in triumph, in righteousness, in salvation, world without end.
Dr. W. A Criswell
Scholars are not sure if the woman's name in this church was actually Jezebel or if this name is being used figuratively to show the type of woman who was controlling this church. Probably the latter as I doubt that name was overly popular given its well known history! ↩
You might also remember the parable Jesus gave of a women who added leaven into the flour, resulting in the whole dough being leavened. This again is a picture of false religion and its influence with 'Christendom' in this Church age - Matt 13:33 He spoke another parable to them, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened."
This point about the the last four churches (Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea) is very important. It is what I tried to portray in an earlier diagram showing three of the four churches going on into the tribulation and one, the true church Philadelphia, going up in the rapture. We'll explore this more in the message to Philadelphia. ↩
At the heart of the Protestant faith is:
By Grace alone (Sola Gratia)
Through Faith alone (Sola Fide)
In Christ alone (Solus Christus)
According to Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura)
For God’s Glory alone (Soli Deo Gloria)
As Time LaHaye writes 'since the above changes and additions have been made, as substantiated by history, it seems quite ironic that the church of Rome today like to board that "Rome is always the same".