We move on to the fourth of the seven letters in Revelation. This time, the Letter to the corrupt Church in Thyatira. Jesus has good things to say about the church in Thyatira. Some bad things as well. So once again, part of the examination will be about the relationship, if any, between the good and bad statements.
Once again, the title comes from the section title in the NKJV. As with most of the churches, the title refers to the content of the letter, rather than how Jesus referred to Himself as the author of this letter. Therefore, looking at the corruption – how it came to be, who is following and / or supporting it, Etc. – will be high on our list of things to check out.
First – Blessings in the Seven Letters
If you’re going through the series, you’ve seen this portion before. I’m including it for each letter for those who may only be checking out one of the seven letters.
The Book of Revelation starts with these verses:
Rev 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
We learn something of the importance of each of the letters from this passage. Of course, we get a modern-day evidence chain of sorts, to let us know this is from God. And while John is the recipient of the vision, we saw:
3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it …
Just like when Jesus spoke of things like love and believe, He was also saying that the love and belief should be so strong as to bring about action on our part. Not our action alone – and not action to gain love or to have stronger belief. No – it’s about faith and love that are stronger than anything we could ever have ourselves, because it’s God’s meaning of faith and love that we can only achieve with the Holy Spirit.
Then the action follows from having the Holy Spirit. And with the Holy Spirit working through us, the actions that we carry out will come from God and be effective the way He intends them to be. In short – it’s not about us. It’s about God.
When we see Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, all of that involves action as a result of having read or heard the prophecy. It takes the Holy Spirit to understand the words, to take them to heart. And once we do that – we should have a desire, also coming from the Holy Spirit, to act on the words. Both for ourselves and for others.
It’s a message that God wants us to hear/read – and then do something with it. As we’ll see, each letter speaks to what Jesus has for and against each of the churches. He lets us know very clearly where we stand in relation to what He wants. To what He taught. Our goal is to be more Christ-like, and when we read this, we can look for ourselves in the letters and know just where we are.
Praying about the Seven Letters and ourselves
We’ll start with praying portions of Psalm 139. Remember that these letters are for us today, as much as for those at the time John put pen to scroll and everyone in between. One really good way for us to ask God to let us know which parts of these letters apply to us as individuals, families, small groups, churches, Etc. is to literally ask Him! And to listen for a response.
As such, let’s begin by praying the verses below, from David to God.
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
Ps 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
Ps 139:2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
Ps 139:3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Ps 139:22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
Ps 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Ps 139:24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
This Psalm is something we should incorporate into our prayer life. Sometimes maybe we feel like we don’t really want to know what God knows about us. But hey – He already knows, and He still loves us. So why not ask, and then also ask for His help to grow in our journey through this life in faith and the power of the Holy Spirit?
The letter to the church in Thyatira
To the Church in Thyatira
Rev 2:18 “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. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
Rev 2:20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 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. 23 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. 24 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): 25 Only hold on to what you have until I come.
Rev 2:26 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—
Rev 2:27 ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter;
he will dash them to pieces like pottery’—
just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
You may have noticed this letter is rather long. In fact, it’s the longest of the seven. It appears that a lot of the length is regarding things Jesus has against this church. Are things really that bad in Thyatira?
Cultural and historical factors in Thyatira
Because of its strategic, but vulnerable location, it was the site of many battles.
The city was a Lydian fortress later refounded by the Macedonians as a military colony in the third century BC.
Thyatira was situated at a major intersection with intraprovincial and interregional connections.
Trade guilds played a major role in civic life. There was a lot of pollution because of the dye industries – both water and air (from the odor).
Eating food sacrificed to idols at pagan temples was a major issue in its Christian community. Food sacrificed at these temples was often eaten at trade guild meetings, along with a lot of liquor.
It is known that the city had many trade guilds, and it would have been difficult to make a living without participating in one of them. Yet the guilds practiced idolatrous rites at their gatherings, which Christians could not countenance. Therefore, the Christians in Thyatira may have been hard pressed to support themselves and their families without resorting to some measure of compromise with idolatry. 1
People worshipped both Greek and Roman gods. There was also some Emperor worship, but no temples. The relative closeness of Pergamum, about an easy two day walk of about 40 miles, was a factor in the Emperor worship.
While the Nicolaitans weren’t mentioned in the letter, there is evidence that they did practice their ways in Thyatira.
Lydia, whom Paul met in Philippi (Acts 16:14), had probably become a God-Fearer through this Jewish community; however, no remains of a synagogue have been found.
One of the earliest Christian inscriptions yet found (early third century) came from nearby Chorianos (modern Akselendi). Aurelius Gaios openly identifies himself as a Christian along with his wife Aurelia Stratoneikiane. It is remarkable that a century before Christianity is legalized, Christians around Thyatira are publicly declaring their faith.
Breakdown of the letter to the church in Thyatira
Here’s usual breakdown of the letter to the church in Thyatira.
So – let’s break down the letter to the church in Thyatira. Please note, there’s an interesting difference in the: So” portion of this letter. There’s a message to “the rest of you“. But is it good or bad news?
The strength of the wording in the letter also contrasts with the apparent historical evidence that Christians around Thyatira are publicly declaring their faith. This is also worth examining more closely.
Before we begin with the letter to the church in Thyatira, here’s the breakdown for this particular letter.
|To||the angel of the church in Thyatira|
|From||the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.|
|Divine Knowledge||I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.|
|But -||Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. 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 -||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):
Only hold on to what you have until I come.
|To those who overcome||To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—
just as I have received authority from my Father.
I will also give him the morning star
|Hear||He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."|
The traditional To and From headings are present.
Obviously, it’s to the church in Thyatira. As we saw in the letter to the Ephesian church, it’s most likely not to an actual Heavenly angel. Rather it’s probably to someone, probably of a high position, within the church. To that end, Young’s Literal Translation says:
‘to the messenger of the assembly of Thyatira write: 2
This letter is from the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
It’s the only one of the 7 letters that immediately and directly says who it’s from – the Son of God. All the others say something about Jesus that leads to His identity. There’s nothing like that here. Jesus identifies Himself very clearly, and then states two characteristics that He wants the church in Thyatira to be aware of.
The first instance of eyes are like blazing fire
Since Jesus started with eyes are like blazing fire, we’ll do the same.
There are three references to Jesus with eyes are like blazing fire in the New Testament. Obviously, one is this verse.
The second instance of eyes are like blazing fire
As we’ve seen in others of the 7 letters, it’s also in the first chapter of Revelation. Some portion of the description of Jesus from each of the letters is in the passage below.
One Like a Son of Man
Rev 1:9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
Rev 1:12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
Rev 1:17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
Rev 1:19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”
No surprise to see it in that passage. Also, no real cause for concern. Yet.
The third instance of eyes are like blazing fire
What we are about to read is John, telling this portion of His revelation from the angel. It’s about the defeat of “Babylon”, the false church. We’ll see some of the various descriptions of Jesus throughout this passage, including eyes (that) are like blazing fire from the letter to the church in Thyatira. Notice the reference to His feet as well.
The heavenly warrior defeats the beast
The Rider on the White Horse
Rev 19:11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Rev 19:17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.”
Rev 19:19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
Earlier I said there were no real surprises and no great cause for concern with the reference to Jesus having eyes like blazing fire.
But now – now there’s cause for great concern! And part of that concern should be for which side of that double-edged sword is coming towards us. But what of our friends in the church? Shouldn’t we also be concerned about which side of the double-edged sword is going towards them? We absolutely should be concerned. We should be concerned for all Christians. And yet, it seems that in this church, that wasn’t happening. Maybe not even by the leaders in the church.
Before we move on
Note that in one of the above passages, John describes Jesus as being someone like a son of man. However, in the letter to the Thyatira church, Jesus calls Himself the Son of God. We’ll find out why as we move along.
feet are like burnished bronze
A search for feet are like burnished bronze leads to the passage below, in Daniel. Many believe the imagery below points to Jesus. However, there are reasons to think it’s not Jesus, but the archangel Gabriel. Let’s look at that. If it’s Jesus, then the passage is very relevant to the church in Thyatira and its description. If not, well, then it’s about something else.
Daniel’s Vision of a Man
Da 10:1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision.
Da 10:2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.
Da 10:4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. 6 His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.
So there’s the description. It certainly has the reference to legs like burnished bronze. And, the eyes like flaming torches is very close – nearly identical.
There is one thing it doesn’t have though. In Daniel 7, he had a vision that included the following verses.
Da 7:13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
So Daniel had previously seen Jesus in a vision. And, as often happens, Jesus is described as one like a son of man. There’s no such description in the Daniel 10 passage. No apparent recognition at all that the man here in chapter 10 was the same one Daniel saw in chapter 7.
Furthermore, the message given to Daniel doesn’t sound like it’s Jesus speaking. Pay attention to what’s said below.
Da 10:7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.
Da 10:10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.”
I have now been sent to you. Angels were sent to Daniel. Jesus talks about being sent by the Father in the Gospels. But in Daniel’s visions, Jesus just appeared in them. A small item, but it sets the tone.
And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.
Da 10:12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.
The reference to the prince of the Persian kingdom is believed to be one of Satan’s fallen angels – not to Satan himself. Did Jesus need help from the archangel Michael to resist one of Satan’s fallen angels?
14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”
Da 10:15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I am helpless.
Some people point to the words “my lord” as evidence that Daniel thought he was speaking to God. However, the NIV translators apparently didn’t think this was the case, since the word “lord” isn’t capitalized.
Furthermore, the Hebrew word Daniel spoke (which we read as lord) doesn’t require that it be a reference to God.
113 אָדֹון [ʾadown, or (shortened), ʾadon /aw·done/] n m. From an unused root (meaning to rule); TWOT 27b; GK 123; 335 occurrences; AV translates as “lord” 197 times, “master(s)” 105 times, “Lord” 31 times, “owner” once, and “sir” once. 1 firm, strong, lord, master. 1A lord, master. 1A1 reference to men. 1A1A superintendent of household, of affairs. 1A1B master. 1A1C king. 1A2 reference to God. 1A2A the Lord God. 1A2B Lord of the whole earth. 1B lords, kings. 1B1 reference to men. 1B1A proprietor of hill of Samaria. 1B1B master. 1B1C husband. 1B1D prophet. 1B1E governor. 1B1F prince. 1B1G king. 1B2 reference to God. 1B2A Lord of lords (probably = “thy husband, Yahweh”). 1C my lord, my master. 1C1 reference to men. 1C1A master. 1C1B husband. 1C1C prophet. 1C1D prince. 1C1E king. 1C1F father. 1C1G Moses. 1C1H priest. 1C1I theophanic angel. 1C1J captain. 1C1K general recognition of superiority. 1C2 reference to God. 1C2A my Lord, my Lord and my God. 1C2B Adonai (parallel with Yahweh). 3
17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”
Da 10:18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 “Do not be afraid, O man highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”
Again, Daniel says “man”. There’s no reference to looking like a son of man.
When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”
Da 10:20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince. 11:1 And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.)
Again, there are references, not to Satan, but to some of his fallen angels.
This may seem like a lot to go over for something that I believe doesn’t apply. But then, there are disagreements over whether it does or not. I present it to allow you to decide for yourself. It’s that “own your own faith” thing I like to bring up. No one alive and walking the earth right now knows for sure. Scholars don’t either. The only thing left is for us to examine, pray and decide.
Where does that leave us with the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze?
Well, the most obvious thing left is that it means what it appears to mean from a Biblical point of view. Not to anything specific about the blazing fire or the burnished bronze. Rather, to what those images represent. So let’s go through them again, but this time from a more general view of what we know about God.
eyes are like blazing fire
Question – when it’s dark, what do we do when we want to see? Today, we most likely turn on a light. But back then, there were no light switches. No electric power. No batteries. Only fire.
As with lights today, a small fire gave a small amount of illumination. It didn’t help to see very well, or very far. The bigger the fire, the more light was shed. An intense fire lights up further distances and brings brighter light to things close to the fire.
Think of that in terms of Jesus. Here in Revelation, we’re on the fourth letter to the churches. We’ve read “I know” four times. That’s four times where Jesus tells the church He knows about them. Things they didn’t necessarily even know about themselves. More correctly, maybe that they chose to not know about themselves. Spoiler alert – Jesus is going to say the same thing, “I know” to each of the three remaining churches as well.
That Jesus knows shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, consider just the few passages below.
Jesus Heals a Paralytic – Matthew
9:2-8 pp — Mk 2:3-12; Lk 5:18-26
Mt 9:1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
Mt 9:3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
Mt 9:4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . .” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7 And the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.
With those “eyes like blazing fire”, Jesus can even “see” our thoughts. We think we can get away with things, but how, when Jesus knows before we do something.
Lk 11:37 When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. 38 But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised.
Sure, we can often tell when someone looks surprised. But would we know to respond in such detail as we read below? Jesus surely knew what was in the Pharisee’s heart, and responded to that.
Lk 11:39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
Lk 11:42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
Lk 11:43 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.
Lk 11:44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it.”
Not being appropriately aware of what just happened, an expert in the law decides to step in.
Lk 11:45 One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.”
Yes, these were incredible insults. Probably much more than most people are aware of today, unless we’ve really paid attention to the Old Testament. For a deeper look at the meaning behind Jesus’ words, I invite you to check out This then is how you should not pray…. It goes over the Seven Woes in Matthew, but you’ll see the point. Why it was so insulting.
Lk 11:46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.
Lk 11:47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. 48 So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ 50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.
Lk 11:52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”
Still not learning from what they just experienced, the Pharisees and teachers of the law looked for opportunities to try again.
Lk 11:53 When Jesus left there, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, 54 waiting to catch him in something he might say.
A Sabbath-Rest for the People of God
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
We looked at this passage when studying the letter to the Pergamum church. At that time, I wrote:
Remember, this isn’t a physical sword, so we can’t take the dividing portions of this passage to mean anything physical. Rather, it means that God can see everything – even things that are unseeable to us.
So in this passage, God looks behind our words. Even behind our deeds. He looks into our hearts and knows the reasons why we say what we say and do what we do. Even the times we manage to convince ourselves of something other than the truth.
By now, we should be able to see that there’s absolutely nothing we can hide from Jesus. He sees everything that can be seen – and everything that cannot be seen. He sees the things we don’t see, whether our inability to see them is unintentional or entirely on purpose.
This is something every Christian should be aware of. Every one of us. The fact that this church needed to be reminded of Jesus’ ability to see everything is not a good thing. That it came with the image of someone whose eyes are like blazing fire makes the message that much worse.
feet are like burnished bronze
Based on what we’ve seen so far, there’s no reason to think that feet like burnished bronze is going to be any better. Putting the descriptions of the eyes and feet together, we get something like this:
Christ reveals himself to this church as the Son of God and informs them that His eyes are like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass (v. 18). Both of these characteristics suggest impending judgment. His piercing vision sees all and can therefore not fail to judge rightly, whereas His feet, with which He will tread upon the wicked in the winepress of God’s wrath (14:19f; Isa. 63:1–4), are of irresistible strength, like brass. Jesus will judge the wicked in the church (vv. 22f) with a judgment none can thwart or resist. 4
We’ll see about the judgment of this church, the reference to vv. 22f, shortly. The bottom line here is that in spite of Jesus saying, I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first, this church appears to be headed for big trouble. Really, it shouldn’t be that surprising, since they are referred to in the title, from the KJV, as the corrupt church.
It’s amazing. And sad. We’ve just finished the “From” portion of the letter where Jesus identifies Himself. And already, the outlook for the future is dark.
Let’s maybe take a break from all this darkness and look at the, hopefully, good news.
That will be coming, in the Divine Knowledge section of the letter to this church.
Divine Knowledge in the letter to the church in Thyatira
Next, we’ll look at the Divine Knowledge. The things Jesus knows about the church. Usually, this is good news for the receiving church. However, that’s not always the case. Jesus had some good news for this church. And yet, there was also a very large run of verses after the word “nevertheless”. We’ll find out more about what that means.
It’s very short. But seems to contain a lot. Deeds. Love. Faith. Service. Perseverance. And they’re doing more than they were previously. And yet, there’s the warning of the eyes and feet of Jesus hanging over them. Having noted that, there’s really not much to say about it.
Much which is seen in this church is praiseworthy. Works, love, faith, ministry, and patience are given special notice. The activity of the members was prompted by their love and faith—two prime Christian virtues—and manifested itself in ministry and patience. Ministry (diakonia) suggests the giving of oneself in service to others, in things both spiritual and material. Patience (hupomonē) speaks of persistent endurance in the face of hardship and opposition. These deeds of Christian service had shown an increase with the passing of the years.
It is noteworthy that in these addresses praise is more liberally given, if it can be given with justice, when blame is to follow; more is said of the good deeds of Ephesus and Thyatira than of those of the Smyrnaeans and Philadelphians, with whom no fault is found. 5
Even here though, the presence of this good news may very well mean the bad news is that much worse. Sometimes good things come in small packages. And this is certainly a small “package” of words.
We’ll find out in the “But…” section if this small package to the letter to the church in Thyatira really is a good thing.
The “but” section is where we read the things Jesus knows about the church. But unlike the Divine Knowledge of the previous section, this is not good news. In this case, it starts off with Jesus saying, Nevertheless, I have this against you. Is that as bad as it sounds? Let’s find out!
In spite of the list of things Jesus said they were doing, He still says:
Rev 2:20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.
The church in Thyatira is tolerating a false prophetess. Someone who, as Jesus warns during His time of earth, will mislead followers. Jesus says He has given her time to repent, but she is unwilling to do so.
What does all that mean? To find out, let’s go back to the Old Testament to learn about Jezebel and what she could represent in the Thyatira church.
Jezebel – the Old Testament
Let’s start with a summary of Jezebel of the Old Testament. If you don’t remember, she was in 1 & 2 Kings. Since she was involved in so many things, we’ll look at her from three different sources. Each focuses on different aspects of her life and treachery. I think it’s good to check out all three of them to get some better views of what kind of influence Jezebel in Thyatira might have been wielding.
Jezebel – from Easton’s Bible Dictionary
… the daughter of Ethbaal, the king of the Zidonians, and the wife of Ahab, the king of Israel (1 Kings 16:31). This was the “first time that a king of Israel had allied himself by marriage with a heathen princess; and the alliance was in this case of a peculiarly disastrous kind.
A new low for the Israelite Kings. Ahab was the eighth king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
While it’s tempting to think this was a surprise to the Israelites, it really should not have been unexpected. Just think back to when the Israelites first wanted a human king, rather than God. They were warned. Big time. But they wanted a human king anyway. What follows is a classic case of “be careful what you ask for”. Especially when we should know better.
Israel Asks for a King
The people wanted a human king because that’s what everyone else had. They didn’t appreciate the special relationship they had with the Creator of everything. God warned them what would happen, as we read below.
1Sa 8:10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day. ”
1Sa 8:19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
1Sa 8:21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. 22 The LORD answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”
Then Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Everyone go back to his town.”
The people got what God warned them they’d get.
This should remind us, before we get to Jezebel herself, we need to be careful of people who even want to be involved with her (or someone like her). Yes, we are to be in the world. But then, we’re not supposed to be of the world. That can be a pretty fine line. We’ve already seen what happens when false teaching is tolerated in the church in Pergamum, as opposed to Ephesus where the false teaching did not lead them astray.
So let’s keep going here to see about the church in Thyatira.
Jezebel has stamped her name on history as the representative of all that is designing, crafty, malicious, revengeful, and cruel.
This is the second time in the seven letters that we’ve seen someone who’s essentially the dictionary definition of something bad.
She is the first great instigator of persecution against the saints of God. Guided by no principle, restrained by no fear of either God or man, passionate in her attachment to her heathen worship, she spared no pains to maintain idolatry around her in all its splendour.
And the king of Israel married her. What was he thinking? For that matter, we should sometimes ask ourselves, what are we thinking – before acting.
Four hundred and fifty prophets ministered under her care to Baal, besides four hundred prophets of the groves [R.V., ‘prophets of the Asherah’], which ate at her table (1 Kings 18:19).
I think a lot of us know about Baal, but I’ve never really checked out Asherah very much. Since it may have a bearing on the church in Thyatira – and on us specifically – I thought I’d do that. In case you’re not familiar with Baal, here’s a summary for both of them.
Baal. Name of the most prominent
This post first appeared on God Versus Religion, please read the originial post: here