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Saturday, 25 June 2016 22:57

19. Church in Thyatira; fake is the new real * Revelation 2:18-29, Part 1 of 3

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18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things says the Son of God, who has his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine bronze;

19 I know your works, and love, and service, and faith, and your patience, and your works; and the last to be more than the first.

20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

21 And I gave her time to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.

22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say; I will put upon you no other burden.

25 But that which you have already hold fast till I come.

26 And he that overcomes, and keeps my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to pieces: even as I received of my Father.

28 And I will give him the morning star.

29 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.




*** Historical Setting ***: The city of Thyatira was about 40 miles southwest of Pergamum. Unlike the previous 3 cities, Thyatira was not an intellectual center, or a prominent metropolis of the elite. It was in essence, a city of workers. Its significance came from its commercial strength. More guilds of commerce were found in the city of Thyatira than in any other city of the Roman Province of Asia. Much of the power came from different industries: wool, linen, garment, dyes, leather, pottery, bakery, slave-dealer, and bronze-smith. In fact, one of the strongest industries there was the purple dye trade. The Bible mentions a woman from Thyatira named Lydia, who was a dealer of purple fabric (Acts 16:14). This was a very rare color, because it was very hard to produce. This dye was made from the plant Rubia tinctorum.

In order for people to become part of the trade guild, they had to participate in the trade’s pagan festivals, and eat from foods offered to their gods. These events would often end in drunkenness and immoral behaviors. Even though those refusing to participate would not necessarily be persecuted, they would suffer social isolation and hardship. To be able to find work, a person had to be part of a trade.

Archeology tells us that Thyatira dates back at least to 3000 BC, and that it was one of the first cities to use money. In 290 BC, Seleucus I Nicanor changed the name of the city from Pelopia to Thyatira. There are many opinions as to the exact meaning of the name Thyatira. Today, it is the modern city of Akhisar, which means “white castle”. Some writers suggest that Thyatira means “sweet savor of labor”, others suggest that it means “daughter”, since Seleucus’s daughter was born around the time he renamed the city. Seleucus was actually one of the generals of Alexander the Great, and after Alexander’s death, Seleucus dominated a large portion of what Alexander had conquered. Seleucus gained power over some interesting areas: Babylon, central Anatolia, Persia, Mesopotamia, and several others. After Alexander’s death in 323 BC, Seleucus took over the region of Phoenicia, including the cities Tyre and Sidon. These were sister cities that were consolidated into one kingdom by king mentioned in the Bible, king  Ethbaal. Some people speculate if the renaming of the city to Thyatira had something to do with the old Phoenician city of Tyre. When we compare the two cities we find much in common. One fact stands out when we look at the History of Tyre and the letter to Thyatira. King Ethbaal was the father of a woman who had the same name as the one mentioned in this letter to Thyatira. He was Jezebel’s father (1 Kings 16:31). This makes us think that there is a prophetic connection between the cities of Tyre and Thyatira.

The city of Tyre was a divided city. One part of it was on the mainland, and one on an island about 0.5 miles from the shore. Tyre was a daughter city of Sidon, but it surpassed Sidon at some point. Tyre, like Thyatira, was a commercial city (Ezekiel 27), and was also famous for the manufacturing and trade of purple dye (Ezekiel 27:16). Actually, the word Phoenician means “purple people”, from the Greek Phoinikes. They extracted their color purple from the Murex shellfish. This was a very rare dye, and was very valuable. That is why it became the color used by royalty.

Nebuchadnezzar II (the same one from the vision in Daniel chapter 2) seized Tyre from 586 to 573 BC, and when he finally captured it, he discovered that the majority of the people had moved to the island portion of the city. Tyre was a fortress, and had very tall walls. The name Tyre meant “the rock”. In 332 BC Alexander the Great conquered the island of Tyre, and in 323, after his death, Seleucus took control of Phoenicia. In 315, Tyre was destroyed once again by another of Alexander’s generals, Antigonus.

*** Biblical View ***: The city of Thyatira is mentioned only twice in the Bible. First, in the book of Acts, with the mention of Lydia, the seller of purple. And second, with the seven churches in Revelation. The city of Tyre, on the other hand, is mentioned several times. It was referred to as a fortified or fortress city (Joshua 19:29;  2 Samuel 24:7; Isaiah 23:4). We read several prophecies against Tyre, mostly about its destruction (Isaiah 23; Amos 1:9-10; Zechariah 9:3-4; Ezekiel 26:3-4; Ezekiel 26:7-9; Ezekiel 26:12; Ezekiel 27). The Bible also mentions Tyre and Sidon as a group (Matthew 11:21-22; Matthew 15:21; Joel 3:4). At one time, Jesus visited the region of Tyre and Sidon, and performed miracles there (Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:31). We also read a passage when Paul, Luke, and their companions stayed with the Christians in Tyre for seven days on their way to Jerusalem (Acts 21:2-6).

Many things connect Tyre and Thyatira. Both were commercial cities, main seller of the purple dye, and at some point they were both ruled by the same person. But, the strongest thing that connects Tyre and Thyatira is Jezebel. We read in the Bible how Jezebel divided the Old Testament church, and in Revelation we see how the Jezebel from Thyatira divided that church. In lesson #13, we learned about the different groups of false teachers that were spreading non-Christian philosophies from within the congregation. The Nicolaitans were present in the first and third churches, and the Balaamites were present in the third. In Thyatira, Jezebel is the one splitting the church, and she seems to have many followers. She is influencing the Christians to participate in the pagan customs, but most importantly, she is seducing the people with “foods” other than the Bread of Life, and with immoral worship that replaced the worship to the true God.

In order for us to even begin to understand the depth of the message Jesus is saying to the church in Thyatira, we need to understand the conflict that happened centuries earlier in the Old Testament. A conflict between the Truth of God, and the false doctrines of this pagan queen named Jezebel. The main theme back in Jezebel’s time and here in the letter to Thyatira is the same: truth and worship. We will discuss this more in detail in the study #20.

The truth was substituted with teachings belonging to the pagan culture. The false doctrines were being practiced and preached openly. As the majority of the congregation followed Jezebel from Thyatira, the church started to move in a different direction. The identity of the church changed as a consequence. It was no longer the original church founded on the principles established by Christ.

*** Overview ***: It is to the most politically, intellectually and culturally insignificant city that Jesus writes the longest of the seven letters. The church in Thyatira has a situation that makes them very different from the previous three churches. The majority of the church now follows the teachings of a false prophetess. Jezebel has become the face of the church. The new theology Jezebel and her children preach is a mix of some good works with the knowledge of "the deep things of Satan". This is such a dangerous and deadly combination that Jesus has to spell it out plainly: He will strike the counterfeit church so all the churches may know that He is the all-knowing God who brings on judgement upon everyone. Once again, Jesus reassures His faithful people, the minority on His side, that they will be victorious by keeping God's works and His truth. A crowd following Jesus one time asked Him: "[...] What must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'" (John 6:28-29).

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