Background

  • Thyatira was founded as a garrison city in the time of Seleucus I, mainly because it stood in the important Lycus valley and was designed to impede the flow of enemy forces up and down the valley.
  • When the Roman Empire took over, it ceased to be merely a military city, though its military character still persisted. The city grew large and became wealthy due to its being a centre of communication with vast numbers of people passing through it (St Paul the Traveller and Roman Citizen, Sir W Ramsay, p324).
  • It was noted for its numerous trade-guilds: wool-workers, linen-workers, garment manufacturers, dyers, leather-workers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave-dealers and bronze-smiths. Lydia (a seller of purple from Thyatira – Acts 16:14) doubtless belonged to one of these guilds.
  • Doubtless the conversion of the Jewish proselyte Lydia in Philippi resulted in the later establishment of an ecclesia in her home town (Acts 16:14-15,40).
  • This ecclesia received the longest letter from the Lord and there are a number of similarities between this letter and that sent to the ecclesia at Pergamum.
  • Thyatira soon became a centre for Montanism in the mid-2nd century. Montanus was an obscure man who claimed to be the Comforter promised by Christ. He stressed austerity at the expense of knowledge (An Ecclesiastical History, Mosheim 1:118-119). Though Montanists believed in a millennial kingdom at the second coming of Christ and strenuously upheld strict discipline in the church, Montanism was a reaction against clerical authority and laid great emphasis on the spirit gifts. Hence the rise of many prophets and prophetesses among them (History of the Christian Church, Fisher, pp59,85). This may have stemmed from the rise of a Jezebel class who considered that they were inspired as prophets (v20).

Exposition

2:18 – These things saith the Son of God,

– only occurrence in Revelation; it is a title of authority of Christ as a king/priest ( John 1:49, 5:25; Heb 4:14; 1 John 3:8)

who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire

– eyes: symbol of understanding and awareness (Eph 1:18; Psa 139:16) (Note: 2 King 10:30 regarding Jehu)

– flame of fire = judgment of wicked (Isa 66:15) and preservation of the righteous (Exod 3:2; Dan 3:22) hence eyes of fire = seeing and judging righteously (Rev 19:11-12)

and his feet are like fine brass

– based on Dan 10:6; Ezek 1:7 and Hab 3:5

– Gk chalkalibanon = lit. white brass; it is white hot, i.e. incandescent!

– he is ready to trample and burn the enemy; confronting military terms (Note: 2 King 9:33 where Jehu trod Jezebel under foot)

– Thyatira was famous for local bronze-work and hence this symbol would have been readily recognised

2:19 – I know thy works, and charity,

– they were full of love for others (1 John 3:16-18)

and service,

– they were generous and unselfish in serving others (Gal 5:13)

and faith,

– they were keen and faithful in their commitment (Rom 10:17)

and thy patience,

– they had enduring patience under trial ( James 1:3-4)

and thy works;

– they were active and busy

and the last to be more than the first.

– they were gaining in zealous works (contrast to Ephesus who lost their first love – v4); this ecclesia is warm and vibrant and increasing in fervour! – but they lacked discernment on the doctrinal threats in their midst

2:20 – Notwithstanding

– despite all this wonderful service and attitude, they fell down in one area

I have a few things

– (not in the original) their failings were not trivial

against thee,

– Diag = I have this against thee (cp also v4, v14)

because thou sufferest

–Gk eao = to allow one to do as he wishes, to leave alone, permit; they were tolerating a group within the ecclesia and this was proving to be very dangerous from a spiritual point of view

that woman

– a woman = religious community (2 Cor 11:2); styled ‘they’ in v24 = plurality of people

– her doctrine = depths of Satan (v24), hence associated with mystery of iniquity of 2 Thess 2:7-9 as well as the synagogue of Satan in v9, 3:9

Jezebel,

= she dwells not (i.e. unsettled and not at home – Prov 7:11-12); she dwells not with God

– prototype of the harlot woman of Rev 17:3-6

– Jezebel was of high social standing, an ardent idolater, a dominating wife, a cunning schemer, proud, a lover of personal adornment and ruthless to the end – this was typical of the evil in the midst of Thyatira

which calleth herself a prophetess,

– Jezebel supervised the prophets of Baal (1 King 16:31-33, 18:19)

– she was not appointed by the spirit-gifted elders (she appointed herself !); these false teachers claimed to have apostolic authority, speaking under Spirit- gifted inspiration

– false prophets predicted (Matt 24:24; 2 Pet 2:1; 1 John 4:1)

to teach

– Gk didasko = to give instruction – they claimed to be effective teachers and educators; these evil brethren had an influential voice in the meeting (Tit 1:11)

and to seduce

– the OT Jezebel seduced many into idolatry

my servants

– these were the ordinary brethren and sisters who needed guidance and care

to commit fornication,

– spiritually represents unfaithfulness to God by serving idols; in the first century the idols of Rome were prevalent in emperor worship

– same strategy as the Balaamites (v14)

– based on 2 King 9:22 – whoredoms and witch- craft (immorality and superstition)

and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

– destroying the principal part of the recommen- dations of the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15:29) and ignoring Paul’s warning to forsake the idol’s temple (1 Cor 10:15-22)