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. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. 20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. ~ Revelation 2:18-23
As we look at these seven letters in the book of Revelation, it is helpful to remember they are a picture of seven kinds of churches that we will find in any age, in any period of history. Every church in the world today will fall into one or more of these categories of churches.
Today, we come to the fourth of these seven churches, the church at Thyatira, which was located about 35 miles southeast of Pergamum. It was a very small city, but a busy commercial center. It was on a major road of the Roman Empire, and, because of this, many trade unions had settled in this city. Everyone who worked there was a member of one or more trades. Lydia, found in Acts 16, was the lady who sold purple. She hailed from Thyatira.
In v.18 we read, "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."
Thyatira was the most corrupt of the seven churches that are presented here. This is the longest of the seven messages, even though written to the smallest church. For the first and only time in the book of Revelation, the title the "Son of God" is used in this verse. As the Son of God His "eyes are like blazing fire." His, are the eyes that pierce our disguises and addresses our hearts. He has feet "like burnished bronze" which reveal that He is a God of judgement and discipline. He judged the sin of all who have trusted in the Lord Jesus, yet He disciplines us when we willfully live outside His will for our lives.
In v.19 we read, "I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first."
With a profile like that, how is it possible that they would be guilty of the charges He's about to bring against them? The church at Thyatira was active in works, but it was not defined by the Word of God. They were interested in social action, but to them social action superseded discernment. There was corruption without discernment. As we see in the next verse, they tolerated certain false teachings.
In v.20 we read, "Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols."
This Jezebel in Thyatira called herself a "prophet," but she was a false prophet. She taught that it was all right for Christians to indulge in sexual immorality and in idolatry. Here we are introduced to the link with the trade unions of Thyatira. In order to work in these unions, which constituted the entire business of the city, Christians had to join a union. At the meetings of these unions they worshipped the gods and the Christians were pressured accordingly. The meal served at these meetings would consist of meat offered to idols.
This presented a problem for these Thyatiran Christians. In order to make a living they had to belong to a union, but to attend these meetings, the Christians would be expected to worship the gods by getting involved sexually with others in attendance. And, Jezebel had begun to teach that it was all right for them to go along with the requirements of the union, that they needed to submit to the pressures of the world around them in order to make a living, and that God would understand and overlook this.
Notice that in the messages to the churches at Pergamum and Thyatira, the Lord links sexual immorality with idolatry. The one inevitably leads to the other because fornication and adultery are both clear-cut violations of specific statements in the Word of God.
In v.21 we read, "I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling."
The patience of God is a wonderful thing, yet, as indicated here, time runs out eventually on it when we ignore His promptings to turn away from that which destroys us. The Lord Jesus doesn't like to judge. The Bible says God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. That's what He wanted them to do. But that's not what she wanted them to do.
In v.22 we read, "So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways."
There is a note of irony here: Since Jezebel likes beds. The Lord decides to give her one, but it will prove to be a bed of suffering. Those who commit adultery with her will suffer some disease. The word "intensely" indicates that this is some form of a sexually transmitted disease.
In v.23 we read, "I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds."
God's judgment is good because it can lead to us to take note of evil and its detrimental consequences in our lives. Those rare times when we have had to have been disciplined of God, the result was always purifying if we were willing to let Him do His work in our lives. It is then that we see that His discipline is good because it puts us back on the right track once again.
Finally, there are those who teach this verse teaches that through our good works we are made right with God. Oh, to the contrary. It is only through the Lord Jesus' perfect life and death and resurrection are any of us made right with God. You see, even after we have failed, the work of His cross still covers our sins. And, having trusted solely in His finished work on that cross, we will be rewarded, as if we had been as perfect as He because God has applied His performance to our ledger.