Christadelphians - Bible Believing People

home | what christadelphians believe | bible study | daily readings | christadelphian webring


by James Ayres


Of all the books of the Bible, Revelation, or 'The Apocalypse', is considered by many to be the most difficult and demanding. Also though, the most fascinating. Of all the writings within Revelation, the letters to the seven churches are also difficult, demanding and fascinating. Indeed the first place I looked for information was a bible dictionary which states '…the letter addressed to the church at Thyatira is the most obscure and difficult of all the seven…' However, on finishing my research, it was a case of what to leave out, rather than what to put in.

So what did my research reveal?

Seven Churches

The first thing to note is that there are 7 churches written to in Revelation, seven being the number of divine completion. I think we should read all of these letters as current and topical - we can find the problems spoken of, in any of our churches today. The messages are directly relevant to all of us. We should avoid reading them in purely historic narrative. Just a note on Thyatira, judging from the words used, it seems that Thyatira was the most corrupt of the seven.

City detail

Thyatira was the least notable of the seven written to, historians record very little about it, so some of the inferences may be lost to us in these days, however, there is a lot of archeological evidence available from which we can draw information. Thyatira is a city in Turkey. It's still there, it's modern name is Akhissar which means 'white castle'. It was a city in the Roman province of Asia, in the west of what is now Asiatic Turkey. It occupied an important position in a low-lying `corridor' connecting the Hermus and Caicus valleys. It was a frontier garrison, first on the western frontier of the territory of Seleucus I of Syria, and later, after changing hands, on the eastern frontier of the kingdom of Pergamum. With that kingdom, it passed under Roman rule in 133 BC. But it remained an important point on the Roman road-system, for it lay on the road from Pergamum to Laodicea, and thence to the eastern provinces. It was actually founded as a military garrison, not because of it's own importance but because of it's strategic position. After it was taken over by the Romans, the city prospered by reason both of the constant passing trade and the fact that it's found in a very rich and fertile valley. So it had both primary and tertiary production, ideal to support a flourishing city. It was an important centre of manufacture; dyeing, garment-making, pottery and brass-working are amongst the trades known to have existed there. Thus it had at various times both trading and strategic significance.

How come it had a Church?

It was so well placed on the Roman road system that travelling missionaries, perhaps Paul among them, would have had to spend time there. We know also that there were Jews there - Seleucus I encouraged Jews to trade in his territories. But also Thyatira was a city of travelling salesmen to put it in modern language. In Acts 16:14

  1. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

Here we have the first mention of Thyatira. Lydia is mentioned as a seller of purple whom Paul met whilst at Philippi. The evidence that she was Jewish, or at least a proselyte, is indicated by the words 'which worshipped God'. We know that she was a faithful servant who asked Paul to accept her hospitality, which he did (we're told in Acts 16:15).

  1. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us. Or as the NIV puts it, she persuaded us.

And in verse 40, this is after Paul and Silas were imprisoned

  1. And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.

It is likely that Lydia and people like her would also spread the gospel once back in Thyatira.

A point about purple here

We are told Lydia was a seller of Purple - this is a dye that was used to dye luxurious cloths. I think here we can draw some inference as to this colour. In scripture, Purple refers to the priestly colour. However, we know that purple is a mix of blue and red, red in scripture is the colour of the flesh and sin. Blue is the colour of the word of truth - hence the only way to overcome the flesh is by appropriate use of the word - it can make us wise unto salvation, so the blue and red mixed gives us purple. The reason why I refer to this is that the dye is still used today, except that in this ungodly age it's simply called 'red' -Turkey red to be exact - referring to it's country of origin.

The description of Christ

Reading from Revelation 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. (NIV) Before referring to the features of Christ, I just want to make reference to the word 'angel'. The Greek word 'angellos' in the NT also means 'pastor' or 'messenger' so it's most likely to be referring to a person, the Elder or Bishop of the church.

There are several ways of looking at the features of Christ , these features are recorded elsewhere and can be taken to be referring to the perception and judgement of the multitudinous Christ. The blazing eyes could be an allusion to flaming torches giving light, in that, none of the evil deeds of Thyatira can be hidden from him - or the eyes could be blazing in fury at the ongoing wickedness. The feet of bronze (not brass as in AV) have significance as bronze was produced in abundance in Thyatira and was an important trading commodity. In fact - Introduction of bronze to Israel is demonstrated by a dramatic increase in the presence of bronze implements dating from 2000 BC. After this time, bronze was the preferred metal even well into the Iron Age. (1000-1500 BC) Typical finds that are mentioned in scripture include jewelry, spear heads (2 Sam. 21:16), daggers, axes, and depictions of gods - idols. Armour was often made of bronze (1 Sam. 17:5-6; 17:38; 1 Kings 14:27) and bows also (2 Sam. 22:35). It is a tough metal and as the feet were bronze it could be a warning that the evil was going to be crushed to pieces. We can link it to v27 'And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers' - more of this later.

Fourth city mentioned

Is there any significance that Thyatira is the fourth ecclesia? Well let's think about the number four in scripture. Four was often used as a sacred number. Significant biblical references to four include the four corners of the earth (Isa. 11:12), the four winds (Jer. 49:36), four rivers which flowed out of Eden to water the world (Gen. 2:10-14), and four living creatures surrounding the throne (Rev. 4:6-7). Four Gospels, four Major Prophets. God sent forth the four horsemen of the Apocalypse (Rev. 6:1-8) to bring devastation to the earth.

Revelation 6:7 "And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.

  1. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth."

So I think there is some inference to be drawn, it's seldom that detail like this occurs in scripture for no reason.

So, let us look at the verses dealing with the letter to Thyatira one by one.

Thy Good Works

Revelation 2:19

  1. "I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. - or, as the NIV has it "that you are now doing more than you did at first."

'thy works' is mentioned twice here - sandwiching service, faith and patience. It's also relevant that the good works are mentioned before the condemnation of the later verses. This I think shows a more balanced way of looking at the works of a church. It's obvious from the words that they were doing more than they were at first - that the ecclesia was increasingly active in the name of Christ, unlike Ephesus which was mentioned as having left its first love, Sardis, whose works were not perfect (not complete as the NIV has it), and Laodicea whose members were lukewarm and not doing anything.

You see this is what I mentioned earlier - all the churches today fall into, to a lesser or greater degree, one or more of these areas. Think about your own church, can it be compared to the one at Laodicea?


Revelation 2:20

  1. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

It's from this verse that the condemnation starts. We have the first mention of Jezebel, which, as most scholars say, was most likely not her real name. Ironically, the word Jezebel can also be used as a collective noun to describe both her and the people within the church who chose to follow, or tolerate, her. The tenses of the verbs "teach" and "seduce" show that the false teacher was keeping on seducing and teaching the Thyatirans to error. In other words it was an ongoing practice.

The obvious reference is to King Ahab's wife, 1Kings 21v25-26

  1. But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.
  2. And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.

This was a woman who built temples to the prophets of Baal and assembled the prophets of Baal and tried to destroy all the prophets of the LORD. She caused Israel to sin - but her husband - who should have known better - allowed her to do it, just as the ecclesia at Thyatira allowed their own 'Jezebel' to carry on doing what she was doing. Also worth mentioning here is the obvious fact that the marriage of Ahab and Jezebel was a mixed marriage, he married an 'alien' who was intent on corrupting the household of faith - parallel the Jezebel in Revelation trying to corrupt the bride who was waiting for the advent of the bridegroom. But we have the admonition of Elijah in 1 Kings 18:21 when he "came unto all the people, and said, how long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word." The people said nothing - is there perhaps a similarity to Thyatira, did they perhaps say nothing? Verse 19 tells us that they have good works and those works are getting better, but, verse 20 "because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel," that word sufferest is also translated 'tolerate' the Greek word means to 'permit' or to 'leave alone'. Did the people say nothing?

Special note should also be taken of the words (back in v20 of Revelation 2) - "to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols." These seem like things obviously totally incompatible with a Christian life. But look at the reality of it. Thyatira was a city of craftsmen and merchants - their problem was that craftsmen and merchants needed to be members of the many trade guilds or unions in the city. Guilds had a 'patron god' and the local god of Thyatira was probably Apollo. Indeed on the coins they used, Apollo is portrayed as holding the Emperor's hand - a reminder here for us to 'render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's'. The meetings of the Guilds were akin to religious ceremonies, they involved food sacrificed to idols and to Apollo - and we know from history that these meetings often ended up in debauchery and immorality. So the Christians there had a dilemma! They probably needed membership of the Guilds but they didn't want to participate in the idolatry. A parallel for us perhaps? We have to work in the world to 'earn our daily bread', but we constantly come into contact with behaviour contrary to our beliefs.

A couple of points to note though:

It was not the eating of food offered to idols, per se, that was necessarily a problem. As Paul says in (1 Corinthians 8:4)

  1. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

So it's the participation in the whole event which is condemned in the letter to Thyatira.

The second point to note is that Lydia was a successful business woman. She had, we're told, a house that was big enough to entertain guests - and she had servants. She was a tradeswoman who obviously succeeded in her trade and is mentioned as being one who 'worshipped God'. She had obviously avoided these inappropriate occasions. The clear warning here is that we can convince ourselves of anything (in this case, needing to participate in activities connected with 'work', which we shouldn't be participating in). Although, could it be, as Lydia was living in Phillipi, that she left Thyatira to avoid having to attend and participate in such events? That's just a thought.

Another problem that could be mentioned, as I've previously mentioned in my article on John, is the influence of the Gnostics, who believed that by being 'in Christ' they were beyond morality. Were they an influence in this church? "should we continue in sin that grace may abound, God forbid" writes Paul in Romans.

Just before we look at v 21 of Revelation 2, I want to consider how the Thyatirans allowed these things to happen and to continue unchecked. I have a feeling that these things happened slowly - there's that story about the frog who was placed in a pan of cold water and placed over a low flame, the same frog if dropped into hot water would simply leap out in shock, but placed into cold water on a low flame he is content to be gradually boiled to death.

One thing worthy of note here is that in the letters to the church at Pergamum and to the church at Thyatira the Lord links sexual immorality with idolatry. We may find that strange, but actually one inevitably leads to the other. The reason is this. Fornication and adultery are both clear-cut violations of specific and explicit statements in the Word of God. Anyone who reads the Bible can see very clearly that God forbids these activities. It is wrong for believers to indulge in sexual immorality of any sort. When one does, he or she has deliberately violated the authority of God, therefore, in practice, if not in profession, our heavenly Father is no longer their God. Indeed, we shouldn't think that because we don't participate in sexual immorality or fornication that this message to Thyatira is not applicable to us - because any blatant transgression of God's laws is idolatry.


Revelation 2:21 "And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not."

We don't know from the record how she was given space (time) to repent - but we know that she was. Just as we all are - we constantly sin, but are given the opportunity to repent, and we know that often the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

In this case, however, neither the spirit, nor the flesh was willing. And just like Jezebel of 1 Kings, who was determined to bring down Israel and advance the cause of false gods, so the 'Jezebel' in Thyatira wanted to corrupt the church of Christ.

And that brings us on to verse 22…

Punishment warning

Revelation 2:22

  1. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

How patient is our God? Despite already allowing space for repentance, here is a final warning (and therefore an opportunity to 'turn again'). The use of the word 'bed' is interesting here - a parallel can be drawn between her bed of fornication and the bed of tribulation which is promised.

Revelation 2:23

  1. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

A point before we look at the verse in detail the words 'reins and hearts' which in modern translations is 'hearts and minds' which is a fair translation. And which literally means 'kidneys and hearts' because in biblical times the kidneys were meant to be the source of our feelings, and the heart the source of our choices, our decisions - so the Lord fully understands our feelings and our choices. Heb 2:18 says 'For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted'. Our saviour fully understands our feelings and our choices, our decisions.


The verse reads 'And I will kill her children with death'

Here the church is referred back to the Old Testament and the destruction of all the children of Jezebel (except Athaliah - to continue the lineage of David - God is faithful in all His promises, isn't He?).

The brethren and sisters at Thyatira could see that God had been faithful in His promise to destroy in the past - and so he would in the future. They could read for themselves their own end if they failed to repent. The Thyatiran 'children' may not, of course, refer to her literal children - but her followers (her 'Jezebels' as referred to earlier) Just as Elijah had called down fire from heaven causing the people to repent, he then slaughtered the prophets of Baal in the brook Kishon (1 Kings 18:40) and later in Kings we have Jezebel falling to her death and being eaten by dogs…

We see Christ giving Jezebel 'space for repentance' (v21) - now he was giving the same to the whole church.

To those not involved

Revelation 2:24

  1. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak (or 'who have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets' as the NIV puts it) I will put upon you none other burden.

The so-called 'deep secrets' could again refer to Gnosticism - because the Gnostics tried to overcomplicate everything, and they said that the teaching of Christ and repentance and salvation was overly simplistic. Even if it wasn't Gnosticism these people had introduced to the gospel other philosophies and religion of their world, for Thyatira would have been a hotbed of worldly wisdom, they could have been trying to make the gospel more sophisticated, hence it being called the depths of Satan - the depths of the adversary.

For those members of the ecclesia not involved in the doctrine and activities of the adversary, it could become burdensome in the face of the adversaries 'deep secrets' and the behaviour of the 'Jezebel' - the Satan/adversary - so read the next verse:

  1. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
  2. Therefore, 'the burden' I contend, is remaining firm in this most precious faith - as it can sometimes become burdensome for us all to remain firm in this most precious faith - it would be easier for us to go the way of the world. We know that some of our brethren and sisters have gone the way of the world, they choose not to hold fast till he comes. We know also that some people attend church for years and yet never make the right decision - they know the truth and yet they continue in the way of the world, why? Because it's easier. It is, at least metaphorically, and sometimes practically, burdensome to 'put on' Christ.

Isn't that why the letters are there for us in the first place? Our human nature dictates that we need sticks as well as carrots! God lays out for us in His Word the wonderful blessings that will follow if we try to please Him. But here in these letters to the churches, Christ warns us (us as well as the brethren and sisters in the first century churches) of the condemnation and destruction that will follow if we turn away. We must 'hold fast till he comes'.

The promise…

Revelation 2 vv 26-27

  1. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
  2. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.

The wonderful promise to those that remain firm to the end is to form part of the heavenly host - which is manifest in the multitudinous Christ. The Christ that will rule the nations with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potters vessel (Psalm 2 v 9)

Revelation 2:28

  1. And I will give him the morning star.

Many and multitudinous can be the definitions of this verse! However, it would be appropriate to consider it in the way we've just looked at the two preceding verses. Jesus describes himself in Revelation 22 v 16 as "the bright and morning star".

As is promised in the final epistle (the letter to the Laodiceans), the hope for the followers of Christ is that they will sit down with the Lamb in his throne - and will be associated with him in the rulership of the nations in the age to come. What a wonderful promise that is - to be a part of the bright and morning star which is Christ.

The exhortation

Revelation 2:29

  1. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

We all have an ear! - so on one level there is no excuse for not listening to the message. But this verse says 'he that hath an ear' - implying that some do not. We must have a 'spiritual' ear to hear what the 'Spirit' says unto the churches. And we can only get a spiritual ear if we get 'tuned in' - by reading and studying His Word.

Closing comment

So overall, if there is one comment, one verse that we can say paraphrases the saving message contained within this letter to the Thyatirans, it is verse 25:

  1. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.

We must in these latter days hold fast to the doctrine of salvation, for the Lord, surely, is at hand.

Contact us