Thyatira provides an interesting case, well worthy of our study. It was located in a valley that connected two other valleys, and because of its situation, it became a center of commerce and industry. There were weavers and tanners here processing raw materials that came into the city, making finished goods which were then shipped out, providing employment and prosperity for its citizens; so far so good. Yet for the Christian it also provided a special economic challenge: To work in these industries, a man would need to be a member of a guild, and each of the guilds had its very own god. They would have banquets and parties where worship of their god would take place, and sacrifices would be made to the god of the guild, and the meat from the sacrifice would be eaten in a banquet followed with a grand revelry which, to be quite delicate, tended to devolve in drunken orgies. If a Christians didn’t care to participate in all of this, he couldn’t belong to a guild, and if he didn’t belong to a guild, he couldn’t work, and if didn’t work he and his family would starve in a prosperous city.
What would you do?
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.
Notice how Jesus is described: with eyes “like blazing fire” that see into every hidden place, and feet ready to trample enemies under foot.
Historical Prologue (2:19-21)
I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
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. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.
These were mostly good folks, who sacrificed for their faith, and apparently most were growing in faith and service, but there was a certain element in the congregation led by this Jezebel character. Apparently, Jezebel was a Gnostic of sorts, who taught a form of “special enlightenment” that could only be gained through participation. To achieve enlightenment to overcome sin, one must indulge oneself in sin− so they can be saved from sin. You do realize I hope, that this kind of thinking is still with us in various forms. Consider the implications of this for the believers in Thyatira whose livelihoods depended on belonging to one of those guilds…
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. 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.
At its very core, the word adultery means to violate covenant. Of course, this particular word is usually associated with a particular type of covenant being violated in a particular manner. If Jesus is the Bridegroom, and we are His Bride, and we go out and worship other “gods” in any way, then what would you call it? One word that comes to my mind is “stupid” and another is “adultery”. Jesus has given all concerned more than ample opportunity to see their error and repent, for He wants none to perish; He loves them. Yet after a certain amount of time and many opportunities for change, it becomes obvious that judgment is the only way the story will end.
Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come’.
If you look at the entire situation, it is quite easy to see the love in this stipulation.
To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star.
The victorious will reign with Christ; the victorious will have a role in the final judgment, only the role of the victorious in the final judgment will be on the bench with Christ, not in the defendant’s box. (Note here the quotation from Psalm 2:9). The “morning star” is also found in Rev. 22:16, and it is Christ Himself. As you consider this, keep in mind that we are co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). For more on the morning star see Num. 24:17 cf. Matt. 2:2.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Note: I’ve decided to go ahead and write a Bonus Post, on the “hidden manna”, the white stone and the secret name; please look for it this afternoon!