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Lesson Five • The Church at Thyatira

Dr. Randy T. Johnson

The fourth church addressed is Thyatira. It is the church in the smallest city listed, but it is given the longest message. Alan Johnson points out, “Although not a great city, it was nevertheless important through commerce in wool, linen, apparel, dyed stuffs, leatherwork, tanning, and excellent bronze work. Associated with its commerce was an extensive trade guild or labor union network which must have played a prominent role in the social, political, economic, and religious life of the city.”

Acts 16:14-15 says, “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.”

1. What is said about Lydia? Is this consistent with the cultural description of Thyatira?

In Revelation 2:18, John writes, “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.’”

2. How is the Son of God described here? What thoughts come to mind?

The expression “Son of God” appears only here in the book of Revelation. It is a designation for the Messiah.

In Revelation 1:14-15, John gives a similar description, “The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.”

The reference to His eyes being “like a flame fire” and the brilliant reflections of His feet emphasize the indignation and righteous judgment of Christ (John Walvoord, “The Bible Knowledge Commentary”). Matthew Henry explains the description as follows, “That his eyes are like a flame of fire, signifying his piercing, penetrating, perfect knowledge, a thorough insight into all persons and all things.” Henry goes on to say, “That his feet are like fine brass, that the outgoings of his providence are steady, awful, and all pure and holy. As he judges with perfect wisdom, so he acts with perfect strength and steadiness.”

Revelation 2:19 records the compliments given to the church at Thyatira, “I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.”

3. What compliments are stated concerning the church at Thyatira?

I appreciate how Warren Wiersbe describes these believers, “The believers in Thyatira were a busy lot! They were involved in sacrificial ministry for the sake of others. What’s more, their works were increasing and characterized by faith, love, and patience; so the church was not guilty of mere ‘religious activity.’”

4. What does “your latter works exceed the first” mean?

5. How can this be a good reminder and challenge to us?

Revelation 2:20-23 records the criticism that was directed to the church at Thyatira, “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. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 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, 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.”

6. From 1 Kings chapter 16, who was Jezebel?

The problem at this church was that they tolerated evil.

The woman at Thyatira was probably not named Jezebel, but resembled her. Alan Johnson notes, “As this wicked and deceptive woman in the OT led Israel astray and persecuted the true prophets of God, so this woman at Thyatira was enticing the servants of God to abandon their exclusive loyalty to Christ.” Being called a “Jezebel” is still a negative connotation even today.

The sin of this Jezebel included teachings that led others into engaging in sexual immorality and idolatry. However, it does not stop there. She refused to repent. The believers were known for their growth (“your latter works exceed the first”) which would imply repentance, yet they tolerated one who led some astray.

James Hamilton boldly states, “Those who belong to Jesus repent of sin. The refusal to repent of sin identifies someone as unregenerate.”

7. What does “I am he who searches mind and heart” mean?

In Revelation 2:24-29, John records the command from the Lord, “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. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 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. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

8. What images come to mind when you hear the command to “hold fast”?

They had the Gospel. To “hold fast” means to live it out.

9. How do we live out the Gospel?

Warren Wiersbe wrote, “It is interesting to contrast the churches at Ephesus and Thyatira. The Ephesian church was weakening in its love, yet faithful to judge false teachers; while the people in the assembly at Thyatira were growing in their love, but too tolerant of false doctrine. Both extremes must be avoided in the church. ‘Speaking the truth in love’ is the biblical balance (Ephesians 4:15).”

10. What promise was given to the believers who “hold fast”?

Paige Patterson in “The New American Commentary” writes, “The promise is then that the church at Thyatira, faithful to the calling of God, will eventually receive the morning star that is the abiding, close, imminent, and eternal fellowship with the Lord himself.” Heaven is beautiful because that is where the Lord will be!

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9