Rev 2:18-29 – To the Church in Thyatira

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Rev 2:18

  1. Thyatira was the smallest of the cities in Revelation, but received the longest greeting from Jesus. Thyatira was a relatively small but prosperous trading town in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Thyatira had a great deal of trading of various kinds, including purple tea, which Lydia of Thyatira, the first person to be saved in Europe, traded (Acts 16:14).
  2. Jesus’ presentation to the church in Thyatira is very similar to his presentation in Revelation 1:13-15, except that in chapter 1 he presents himself as the “Son of Man” instead of the “Son of God”. Both of these aspects of Jesus are equally true, since he is 100% God and 100% man.
    1. The resurrected Jesus presents himself to the church at Thyatira as “the Son of God”, a description for which he was also known during his three active years on earth (Matthew 14:33). So even after his resurrection and ascension, Jesus is the Son of God, not just something he was for a brief period on earth. Since Hebrews 13:8 describes Jesus as “the same yesterday and today and forever”, we see that Jesus was also the Son of God before he came to earth (John 17:5) and that he will always and forever be the Son of God.
    2. When Jesus presents himself as “Son of God”, it is a divine title he uses. In biblical times, being someone’s son meant having the same nature as your father. For example, the expression “child of an adulterer” (Isa 57:3) meant that one was considered an adulterer. So when Jesus presents himself as the “Son of God” it implies nothing less than that he himself has the same nature as his Father, i.e. that he is God.
  3. The expression “eyes like flames of fire” means that Jesus sees what is going on in the church and is also the one who judges the church.
    1. Judgment, trial and fire often go together because fire removes what is undesirable and keeps what is pure. Compare, for example, the production of pure gold (1 Corinthians 3:10-15, 1 Peter 1:7).
  4. “Shining ore” was the strongest metal known in New Testament times, and it had been made by refining and refining it by fire.
  5. In sum, then, we see that Jesus is the one who stands firm and strong because he has been tested in fire, and he is the one who judges and tests the church because he is the divine Son of God.

Rev 2:19

  1. Even though the church and the city of Thyatira were small, Jesus says he “knows your works”. This is a message that small churches should take to heart! Even if you think you are small and cannot do anything special compared to large congregations, Jesus sees your situation and is ready to bless, support, help and test.
  2. Jesus praises the church for showing love to one another, for having a strong faith, for not being late to help with what needs to be done, and for being persistent in what they do. Each of these four aspects is important and if the church were to be without one of them it would dramatically affect the church negatively.
    1. What if the church had a lot of work and mission, but no love, what would it look like?
    2. What if the church showed a lot of love to each other, but did not believe in God’s word, what would it look like?
    3. What if the congregation was pure in everything, but no one in the congregation wanted to help with the common practical work?
    4. What if the church had a strong belief in God’s miracles, but gave up as soon as something didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to?
  3. Not only does the church receive praise for these four aspects, but Jesus praises them for growing in love, faith, service and perseverance.
    1. Both as a congregation and as an individual believer, it is important to continually develop in faith and discipleship. If one stands still in one’s development, there is a risk of taking things for granted or becoming apathetic.

Rev 2:20

  1. Although there was much to praise in the church, there were some negative things that Jesus needs to address.
    1. The problems of the congregation are summed up in a woman called “Jezebel”. It is not certain that she calls herself by this name, but Jesus describes her that way to indicate that she is a false prophetess in the style of Jezebel of Kings (1 Kings 16:31-33, 2 Kings 9:30-37).
      1. Just as the name “Judas” is synonymous with “traitor” today, the name “Jezebel” in biblical times was synonymous with “wicked sinner”.
      2. Jezebel the King tried to persuade Israel to combine worship of God with worship of Baal and got the prophets Elijah and Elisha against her.
      3. There is always a risk that someone who is not a prophet at all will start calling himself a prophet and deceive believing disciples with his false message and drag people down to destruction. The problem in Thyatira was that the church leadership had tolerated her teaching and allowed her to be kept. This sin is first and foremost the responsibility of the church leadership and they should never have allowed her to continue teaching the church when they heard what she was teaching. It is the responsibility of a congregational leadership to respond when a congregant teaches unhealthily while gaining more and more power in the congregation.
        1. To avoid this, it is important that everyone knows their Bible and dares to oppose what is unbiblical or an abuse of spiritual power.
  2. Jesus does not specify exactly how Jezebel has led the believers to commit fornication and eat the flesh of idol sacrifices, but possibly it was linked to the professional life. Perhaps one could not pursue one’s profession without participating in meals where idol sacrifices were going on. Perhaps Jezebel falsely “prophesied” that this was okay, even though God’s word says it is not.
    1. Probably there were behaviors in the city of Thyatira that the locals considered “normal”, but that are impossible for a Christian to deal with. Perhaps this led the Christians to believe that they too must do this or they would be excluded from society and lose jobs and income. Standing up for one’s faith is especially difficult when one is financially strapped and has to support one’s family. But Jesus’ message to the church is not to engage in fornication and idolatry under any circumstances.
      1. We Christians can always trust that God will give us what we need (Matthew 6:24-34).

Rev 2:21

  1. When God gives a judgment, it always means that there is time for repentance before the judgment is carried out. We see an example of this in the book of the prophet Jonah. Jonah is commissioned by God to preach God’s judgment on the city of Nineveh (Jon 1:1), but because Nineveh listens to God’s word and repents (Jon 3:5), God does not execute the judgment that Nineveh should have received (Jon 3:10).
  2. Somehow Jesus has warned Jezebel and urged her to repent, but apparently she hasn’t listened to God because she doesn’t want to.
    1. In the same way, we should also deal with people who treat us wrongly in some way; we should give them time to repent rather than rejecting them outright. God is merciful to all people and so we should be too.

Rev 2:22

  1. Both of the sins into which Jezebel lured the church, fornication and idol sacrifice, are essentially “unfaithfulness”, either sexual unfaithfulness or spiritual unfaithfulness to God. Sexual unfaithfulness is usually committed in a bed, and so it is not entirely illogical that Jesus uses a bed to condemn Jezebel’s sin. Consequently, those who want to continue to share a bed with Jezebel, i.e. to engage in sexual or spiritual unfaithfulness, will also share in her judgment.
  2. The goal of this punishment was that those who sinned would repent. Because they have not heeded Jesus’ call to repentance in the past, Jesus is now forced to take such drastic measures.

Rev 2:23

  1. In the basic text it says “I will kill her child with “death””. My interpretation is that Jesus will simply consider these Christian sinners as “unsaved”. For the gift they have received with salvation is “eternal life” (John 3:16) and being saved from “the second death” (Revelation 2:11), but if these individuals continue in this way, they will no longer have their names written in the “book of life” (Philippians 4:3).
  2. The expression “hearts and kidneys” is synonymous with “hearts and minds” or “the interior”. The point is that Jesus is the one who sees our innermost thoughts and intentions.
    1. Even if on the surface you appear to be a pious and loving disciple of Jesus, there can be a lot of falsehood under the surface and you should be aware that Jesus sees this.
    2. In the same way, we should be aware that Jesus sees all the positive things we think, our prayers and our desire to draw closer to God.

Rev 2:24-25

  1. It seems that the doctrine taught by Jezebel was called “the depths of Satan”. It was not uncommon in some Gnostic contexts to explore the depths of Satan and strive to experience the spirit powers of darkness. That this had crept into the church at Thyatira was abominable and it is no wonder that Jesus reacts to it as strongly as he does.
    1. Compared to the other churches in Revelation, Thyatira is the “tolerant church”. The church had tolerated the preaching and teaching of “the depths of Satan”.
  2. Fortunately, there were some in the congregation who had not taken to heart what Jezebel taught and prophesied. Sometimes there can be an unnecessary resignation to sin in a congregation, among Christian leaders or the like. In spite of the fact that there was so much sin in the church at Thyatira, Jesus urges faithful Christians to simply “hold on to what you have”. God continues to bless and work with the faithful even when sin is all around.

Rev 2:26-28

  1. Those who hold fast to the works of Jesus, as opposed to the works of Jezebel, are on the winning side, and Jesus promises that they will reign with him in his kingdom.
    1. Even if a devout believer may be perceived as a sissy loser here on earth today, one can safely trust that the “sacrifices” one may make in renouncing sexual impurity or idolatry will pay off in the future. Jesus sees how we live and will reward us accordingly.
  2. When Jesus returns, his disciples will reign with him (Matthew 19:28, 1 Corinthians 6:2, Revelation 19:15).
  3. The morning star is normally the planet Venus, the brightest source of light after the Sun and the Moon. The morning star is particularly visible in the morning and heralds the start of a new day. In Revelation 22:16, Jesus says that he is the morning star. With Jesus, a new time has begun.

Rev 2:29

  1. This greeting is addressed by Jesus to all the seven churches, but in the first three letters this greeting is placed before the promise, while in the last four letters the greeting is placed last.
  2. This call is addressed to all believers of all times. If you read this text and feel the Spirit of God speaking, you should listen.
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