“Searching the Seven Churches”
The Church in Thyatira – (Revelation Chapter 2 Verses 18-29)
These are the words of the sovereign, cosmic Christ and delivered to the church universal, the seven churches, the complete, the whole church. It is for the church throughout the ages from the ascension of Christ until his return in glory. Thyatira was a place of commercial enterprise which was governed by and large by guilds and societies. It was in modern terms what we would call a closed shop. If you didn’t belong to a bona fide guild or society you did not do business. But to join one of these you had to agree to its morals and practices. This presents the church with a problem, for those who remained faithful to Christ, they would not be able to join such guilds or societies. There are similarities with this situation and the last one at Pergamum, but there are differences. This is the city from which the businesswoman Lydia hailed from (Acts 16:14). The term “Son of God” (v18) is an allusion to the Old Testament (Psalm 2). The Son of God’s eyes and feet here match the description already given (1:14). He has eyes that penetrate the depth of the inner being of the church. We look at a church and perhaps we think there to be no problems, Jesus has the ability to see what we cannot. He is able to see a lot of good things going on in this church, “good works, love, faith, service and patient endurance” (v19). Nevertheless, there is a problem, a woman, Jezebel (v20). The name you may recall from the Old Testament, she was the wife of king Ahab who himself was very wicked. But the wickedness of his wife Jezebel surpassed even his. Well, her namesake in the church in Thyatira is not far behind her, she is leading God’s people into open idolatry and open enmity against the Lord Jesus. You can see how the mystery of iniquity moved rapidly in the early church, towards that full-blown papal system, the new idolatry. The old Baal worship with a Christian name. So what about this temptress?
The church in Thyatira excels in love, a service rooted in faith in Christ. There is life, love, grace, and salvation. And doubtless no shortage of folk who would testify to Jesus and his saving grace. And yet this church is on a collision course, with this woman Jezebel and Lord Jesus Christ. It is fearful but do remember these things are seen in the church today. There is ever a mystical element to the Christian faith, supernatural, we cannot and must not deny this. But it must always be subject to the word of God. We must guard against pure intellectualism, the purely cerebral. Here in Thyatira, it is the opposite. Is it the emphasis on love? Love is all that matters? We don’t wish to devalue the importance of love, for, without it, you are and have nothing (1Corinthians 13:1-3). But there is immorality and idolatry here. I recall an instance a lady confessed to me she had been shoplifting. She didn’t need to. She didn’t know why she did it. But she told me she had spoken to a leader in the church who told her, it didn’t matter. I confronted the said leader and was told it didn’t matter love covered it all. God loved the woman and that was all that mattered. Is this Thyatira, so busy with love, so sin that grace may abound (Romans 6:1)? Is their loving liberty a pretext to the flesh? In Pergamum, a lack of discipline was the issue, here in Thyatira it is non-existent. There is this woman who teaches contrary to the scriptures (1Timothy 2:11). There is a place for a woman to teach, but there is also a place for her not to teach. That is, in public ministry amongst a mixed congregation of male and female. Not only that but this woman is seducing the congregation to the “deep things of Satan” (v24). How? We’ll come to that next.
(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)