“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.’” Revelation 2:18 (ESV)

Thyatira was a market city situated on the main route between Pergamum and Sardis. Though it was not a significant city it was well known for its industry and numerous trade guilds. Inscriptions on the walls of the city’s ruins indicate the existence of such guilds as dyers, clothing workers, leather workers, potters, bakers, bronze smiths, wood workers, and slave traders among others. There were more guilds in Thyatira than in any other contemporary city in the Roman province. Each guild paid homage to a god, the chiefs of which were Apollo and Artemis. Festivals in honor of the gods were held in temples where meals were served accompanied with overt sexual immorality.

There was a Christian community in Thyatira and it could be that the apostle Paul along with Silas visited the city during their second missionary journey. We do know that when Paul and Silas visited the city of Philippi they lodged with a woman named Lydia who was from Thyatira. Lydia was a seller of purple; a trade for which Thyatira was well known. Luke writes that Lydia was a worshiper of God, yet as Paul spoke, God opened her heart and she was converted and baptized (Acts 16:11-15).

As with the other letters to the churches, Jesus encourages the believers in Thyatira by letting them know that he is intimately acquainted with their lives. He commends them for their works, love, faith, service and patient endurance (Revelation 2:19). Jesus also notes an exceptional quality in the church: their latter works exceeded the first.

Simon Kistemaker writes, “Christians who refused to honor pagan gods, eat meat sacrificed to an idol, and engage in sexual immorality jeopardized their material necessities. They were regarded as outcasts of society.” In the midst of the debauchery and idol worship going on around them, as well as the subsequent persecution, the Christians in Thyatira had not only continued to do good works, but had exceeded their first works. The same should be true for Christians today; always growing in grace for good works so that God might be glorified through us (Matthew 5:16; Galatians 6:9).

Jesus rebuked the church in Thyatira for tolerating “that woman Jezebel.” Whether or not this woman’s name was actually Jezebel is not certain. However, we can be fairly certain that it is a reference to Jezebel the pagan wife of Israel’s King Ahab. She brought her false god’s into Israel and led the people into idolatry by sitting up shrines where prostitution and sacrifices were performed in honor of the gods. The Jezebel of Revelation was guilty of the same evil. She taught the church that their Christian faith should not exclude them from mingling with the world in order to benefit from the essentials they needed to prosper. This Jezebel sought to corrupt the church by enticing them to commit idolatry with the world.

Christians are commanded to abstain from fellowship with the works of darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:11). We are told to neither love the world nor the things of the world (1John 2:15). If we are friends with the world we are enemies of God (James 4:4). Those who choose the world and do not repent will face a harsh judgment. Those who keep the works of Jesus until the end will receive authority to rule with him and will be given the “bright morning star”: Christ himself (Revelation 2:26-28, 22:16).

Are your friends with the world or are you growing in the works of Christ?

Scriptures for meditation:
Luke 16:13

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