The Letter to the Church in Thyatira (Rev 2:18-29)

October 24, 2016 — Leave a comment

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Summary of Previous Lessons

B. Text of Rev 2:18-29

“18Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze:
19I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.
20But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. 21I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.

22Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. 23I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.

24But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you 25except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. 26To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, To them I will give authority over all the nations. 27They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. 28They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!

29Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 2:18–29, NLT)

The Letter to the Church in Thyatira (Rev 2:18-29)

“The City of Thyatira” by Robert Walsh (1772-1852) and Thomas Allom (1804-1972)

C. History and Background of the City of Thyatira

Thyatira was a small thriving agricultural town. It was known for its purple dye. No one knows exactly how the church began in Thyatira. However, in Acts 16 Paul shares the gospel with a woman named Lydia who was a merchant of “expensive purple cloth” and was from Thyatira (Acts 16:14). Lydia was in Philippi when she met Paul, and she might have returned to Thyatira and helped to start the church there (Walvoord, Revelation, 69-70).

N.T. Wright provides some helpful background information on the city of Thyatira. The trade unions were known for smelting copper and bronze (maybe where the description of Jesus is chosen in Rev 2:18). More importantly, the local patron deity of the area and of the bronze trade was “Apollo Tyrimnaeus” who appeared on local coins together with the “son of God”, who was the Roman emperor.

The local trade unions (woolworkers, linen workers, makers of outer garments, dyers, leatherworkers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave dealers, and bronze smiths) regularly held meetings and ceremonies that included idol worship as a way to invoke divine favor onto the trade work. This put Christians in a difficult place if they expected to find work (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 25; Metzger, Breaking the Code, 36).

II. JESUS ADDRESSES THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA (2:18)

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze:” (Rev 2:18, NLT)

The introduction to each church included a brief mention of the description of Jesus that was used in Rev 1 as well as many references that are again used later in the book to describe Jesus. To the church in Thyatira, Jesus’s eyes are flames of fire (as seen in Rev 1:14 and 19:12) and his feet are like polished bronze (as seen in Rev 1:15).

III. JESUS’S COMPLIMENT (2:19)

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.” (Rev 2:19, NLT)

A. Compliment and Commendation

The compliment that Jesus has for the believers in Thyatira is very short. It is only one verse while four verses outline Jesus’s complaints against the church in Thyatira.

B. Perseverance

Almost all of the churches that Jesus writes to includes a compliment of patience, endurance, steadfastness, and perseverance. These qualities are important because these churches live in a fallen and corrupt world. Likewise, believers in the twenty-first century also live in a fallen and corrupt world. We too need to be patient, persevere, and endure hardship.

IV. JESUS’S COMPLAINT (2:20-23)

In Jesus’s complaint against the believers in Thyatira he uses the evil queen—Jezebel—as a title for the woman who is causing issues in their city and their church. During some of the dark years of the nation of Israel (in the north) a man named Ahab became king (1 Kings 16:29). Ahab did many evil things and among those he married Jezebel, a daughter of the Sidonian king named Jezebel. When Ahab married Jezebel he began to bow down and worship Baal (1 Kings 16:31).

Jezebel was a wicked and evil woman. Here’s a brief list of the terrible things she did as written in 1 and 2 Kings:

  • led Ahab to bow down and worship Baal (1 Kings 16:31)
  • tried to kill all of the Lord’s prophets (1 Kings 18:4, 13)
  • supported 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah (1 Kings 18:19)
  • vowed to kill Elijah (1 Kings 19:2)
  • killed Naboth for his vineyard (1 Kings 21:7-16)
  • encouraged idolatry and witchcraft (2 Kings 9:22)

A. Jezebel Leads People Astray (v. 20)

“But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols.” (Rev 2:20, NLT)

It is not clear whether this woman was officially appointed as a leader over the church or whether she was self-proclaimed as a leader. Whatever the situation was, she had been able to influence the people’s religious practices. In that process she had declared herself a prophet.

B. Jezebel Will Not Repent (v. 21)

“I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.” (Rev 2:21, NLT)

Our merciful God always gives people time to repent. When they are doing wrong he provides many warnings for people to recognize their sin and turn back to God. For example, the nation of Israel was given about 340 years to turn from their sin back to God (1 Kings 12 through 2 Kings 25 which was 930-586 BC).

C. Jezebel Will Be Thrown on a Bed of Suffering (v. 22)

“Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds.” (Rev 2:22, NLT)

Adultery here might be the physical act of having sex with this woman. Or it can be more of a figurative use of adultery meaning that God says, “You have abandoned me and worshipped other gods, therefore committing adultery with me.” The figurative view is seen by N.T. Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 26.

D. Jezebel’s Children Will Be Struck Dead (v. 23)

“I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.” (Rev 2:23, NLT)

Jesus is clear that he does not want his followers to commit sexual and immoral acts with other pagan religions. God’s people are supposed to be set apart as sacred and holy, unique and distinct, separate and chosen (Exod 19:3-6).

V. THE PROMISE OF JESUS (2:24-29)

A. Jesus’s Message for Those Who Do Not Follow Jezebel (v. 24)

“But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you” (Rev 2:24, NLT)

Some people in Thyatira were doing well. They were following the correct biblical teachings and teachings of the early apostles. Jesus says that these people were on the right track and that he would ask “nothing more” of them.

B. Jesus Will Return (v. 25)

“except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come.” (Rev 2:25, NLT)

The promise is always that Jesus will come. His return to earth is never conditional.

C. A Promise to the Victorious (vv. 26-28)

“To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, to them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!” (Rev 2:26–28, NLT)

1. Obey till the End (v. 26a)

“To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end” (Rev 2:26a, NLT)

2. They Will Have Authority (v. 26b)

“To them I will give authority over all the nations.” (Rev 2:26b, NLT)

3. They Will Rule the Nations with an Iron Rod (v. 27a)

“They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots.” (Rev 2:27, NLT)

The English word, “rule” that is used here is the Greek word, ποιμαινω. According to BDAG, the word means to watch over other people, “to shepherd” (also see Rev 12:5; 19:15).

4. They Will Smash the Nations Like Clay Pots (v. 27b)

“They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots.” (Rev 2:27, NLT)

5. They Will Receive the Same Authority Jesus Received from the Father (v. 28a)

“They will have the same authority I received from my Father” (Revelation 2:28a, NLT)

The reference of Jesus here is to Psalm 2:

Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one. “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.” But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. Then in anger he rebukes them, terrifying them with his fierce fury. For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.” The king proclaims the LORD’s decree: “The LORD said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father. Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession. You will break them with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots.’ ” Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth! Serve the LORD with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling. Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities— for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him! (Psalm 2, NLT, emphasis added)

6. They Will Receive the Morning Star (v. 28b)

“I will also give them the morning star!” (Revelation 2:28b, NLT)

Jesus is the morning star (Rev 22:16). This is another reference to the promises given to Jesus which will also be given to those who follow Jesus.

VI. LISTEN TO JESUS (2:29)

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” (Rev 2:29, NLT)

VI. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION

Doctrine is important.

This message to the church in Smyrna reminds us that doctrine is important. What we believe about the Bible, God, salvation, sanctification, and end times is important. We need to stay focused on what the Bible teaches and what we believe are correct interpretations of the Bible. We will never be completely correct in our interpretation of the Bible, but we can agree on the major issues that are presented most clearly in the Bible.

 

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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