Click in the arrow to listen to the message (21 minutes). All the notes are below.
Thyatira: Introduction

  • 4th and middle letter to the 7 churches in Asia (the westernmost part of Asia Minor).
  • In the Greek world, Thyatira was an ancient and famous city, lying across the Aegean on what is now the mainland of Turkey.
  • Lydia was from this important manufacturing city (Acts 16:14).
  • This little letter was written 1920 years ago -- yet still it speaks to us!
  • For more on Thyatira, see the Wikipedia article.
  • In this podcast, I'm reading from the English Standard Version.
18 "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: 'The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 'I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first."

  • Jesus identifies himselfThey had the deeds, and were even growing (19).
    • He's the Son of God (v.18).
    • His eyes are like a fiery flame (seeing everything).
    • His feet are like polished brass (identifying him with the dazzling vision of 1:13ff).
    • Because he sees all, he knows all, both the good (v.19) and the bad (v.20).
  • Like the Ephesians, they've endured — and even improved in some ways (v.19). And yet they tolerate the false prophetess Jezebel (v.20).

20 'But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.'

  • Jezebel (1 Kings 16, 18, 19, 21; 2 Kings 9)Is “Jezebel” her actual name, or is she (more likely, in my view) symbolically called this, because like the Phoenician Jezebel, she was leading people into apostasy? Or is it a way of referring to a faction within the Thyatira church community?
    • Wife of Ahab.
    • Daughter of a pagan priest.
    • Clear from biblical account that she wore the pants in the family.
    • Had an agenda -- more on this in a moment.
    • The last thing she does, before her defenestration, is to paint her face....
    • (There's also a podcast on Ahab & Jezebel at this website -- for members.)
  • Tolerating Jezebel: tolerance not necessarily a virtue.
    • The pressure on students to conform, to accept everything.
    • Pressure in the arts and media.
    • The dishonest hypocrisy in "tolerance" (everyone has to "tolerate" everyone else -- except the one who has a strong view).
    • See tolerance newsletter article (and also the previous two bulletins, on "Judging").
  • Idol foods
    • Connection between idolatry and sexual sin, a common biblical subject. Pagan meals were often accompanied by inebriation and followed by fornication. Party life...
    • Social aspect: Christian dinner parties should be radically different from worldly ones.
    • Eating food sacrificed to idols was a recurrent problem in the early church. See Acts 7:41; 15:29; 1 Corinthians 8-10.
  • Sexual sin: twin theme of false prophets in Bible (e.g. Jude and 2 Peter):
    • rejection of authority
    • hedonism
  • Jezebel always had an agenda! God is fair: He's given the Jezebel faction the chance to repent, but in vain (v.21).
    • Seductress: in pleasing ourselves we are actually pleasing Jezebel, advancing her values.
    • Naturally, she stood against the true prophets.
    • She was strongly opposed to monotheism. She found Judaism insufferably narrow.
      • Jezebel had a broad and international perspective, but not in a good way.
      • She would have encouraged the Thyatirans to do whatever was in the interests of the state, even to engage in emperor worship!

22 'Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call "the deep things of Satan," to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come.'

  • God disciplines in love. There's nowhere we can hide for God's scrutiny. We might as well live in the open.
    • One last attempt to bring her to her senses (v.22).
    • The “children” (v.23) are probably her followers. (See discussion on 2 John for lady/children representing a group/members.)
    • The Lord’s discipline against Jezebel will bring a salutary lesson to all the churches. For a parallel, see Acts 5:11.
  • Jezebel also claimed esoteric knowledge (v.24). Persevere till the end!
    • This knowledge (perhaps Gnostic) was in fact diabolical.
    • "Deep things" - real faith, true religion, is not elitist.

26 'The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations,  27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'"

  • Eventually, Jesus will "come." God cares, and he will come to our rescue.
    • Yet things may get worse before they get better.
    • And divine protection doesn't mean exemption from persecution or even martyrdom. (>4000 executed for believing in Christ in 2014.)
    • The question is: Will we still be faithful even if God doesn't rescue us as we hope he will (Daniel 3)?
  • Ruling with Christ
    • Those who overcome will share with Jesus in the judgment of the nations (v.26). This is a true reversal of fortunes.
    • The iron rod alludes to Psalm 2:9, which smashes vessels of clay.
    • The nations (pagan Rome) rules now. Ultimately, however, the saints will rule and she will be judged!
    • See also Matthew 19:28; 1 Corinthians 6:3.
  • They will also receive the morning star (v.29) — Jesus himself (22:16)!Once again, the short letter concludes with an admonition to listen (v.29).
    • This is the planet Venus, often called the Day Star, or Morning Star, for its brightness and visibility even at certain times of the day.
    • This alludes to Numbers 24:17 and 2 Peter 1:19, indicating the Messiah Jesus himself.
    • In Job 38:4,7, “morning stars” are angels. The morning star isn't Satan, as in the allusion of Isaiah 14:12, which in context refers to the earthly king of Babylon.

Conclusion

  • It is interesting to compare the letter to Thyatira and the letter to Ephesus.
    • Thyatira had love, but was too tolerant.
    • Ephesus did not tolerate sin, but needed more love.
  • All true Christians are swimming against the current. As in all the 7 letters, this one addresses a particular situation -- and yet it applies to all of us. The Bible is relevant!
    • The world pressures us to accept everything: ideas, behaviors, values.
    • While remaining gracious (of course), we must resist this pressure to conform. We will only please God if we are willing to trust him to transform us (Romans 12:1-2).

Next lesson: Sardis (Sunday sermon at North River, 12 April 2015)