4. Thyatira: The Corrupt Church
Revelation 2:18-29 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.Thyatira is a city “noted for its numerous trade guilds and for its wool and dyeing industry (see Acts 16:14). It was about 35 miles SE of Pergamum.” Thyatira’s church may have been founded by a woman, Lydia. The account of Paul’s meeting with Lydia is recorded in Acts chapter 16. Since there is no evangelic outreach recorded in the Bible it can be presumed that Lydia may have returned to her home town and started a church. The name Thyatira is made up of two words that imply “continual sacrifice.”
The church at Thyatira was commended for its works of charity, service, faith, and patience. Thyatira performed these good works from their founding and did even more as time went on. But, even though they were fervent in their works of good deeds they still found themselves with several problems that Jesus points out.
The corrective text in this passage is the longest found in the seven letters to the seven churches. This church is allowing a woman whom they call Jezebel to lead them astray and cause then to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols. These two things were forbidden in Acts 15. Jezebel claimed to be a prophetess and was teaching doctrine contrary to the authority of the teachings and Christ and the apostles.
The name Jezebel may or may not be her real name. This name may very well be a nick name for her; remembering back to the Old Testament figure of Jezebel from 1 Kings. One commentator wrote, “Whether Jezebel is an actual name or a nickname, this woman’s wicked actions parallel Queen Jezebel’s in 1 Kings 16:2; 2 Kings 9. Sexual immorality and things sacrificed to idols link the activities of Jezebel to the sins [found in this church].”  Queen Jezebel was the wife of Ahab who was the worst king of Israel at least up to that point. 1 Kings 16:29-31 gives the account of the beginning of his rule, his marriage to Jezebel and his fall to idols. It says, “And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years. And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him.” Jezebel brought in prophets of Baal and worked to lead many into Babylonian pagan worship that even included the worship of the “Queen of Heaven” which can be seen in Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17, 18, 19, 25.
There is an important account that explains the wickedness of queen Jezebel found in chapter 21 of 1 Kings. In this account the king covets a vineyard owned by a man named Naboth. Jezebel hires men to accuse Naboth of blasphemy in order to have him killed so that the king could have the vineyard. Jezebel gained this land by a false inquisition; causing the Lord to condemn Ahab.
Prophetically this church represents the church age of 590-1517 AD. Walvoord wrote, “The message to the assembly in Thyatira seems to foreshadow that period of church history known as the Middle Ages preceding the Protestant Reformation. In that period the church became corrupt as it sought to combine Christianity with pagan philosophy and heathen religious rites so that much of the ritual of the church of that period is directly traceable to comparable ceremonies in heathen religions. During this period also there began that exaltation of Mary the mother of our Lord which has tended to exalt her to the plane of a female deity … The prominence of a woman prophetess in the church at Thyatira anticipates the prominence of this unscriptural exaltation of Mary.”
The dark ages of the church is dominated with idol worship and the eating of things sacrificed to idols. The concept of the continual sacrifice was incorporated into the church which clearly departs from the doctrine of the “sufficiency” of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. And as Wallace notes, “[Just] as [Queen] Jezebel killed Naboth and persecuted God’s prophets, so the Roman Church instituted the Inquisition during this period.”
The dark ages have ended and some of the practices of those ages have ceased. Ye, this church, that will exist until the coming of Christ continues to walk in fornication. Continual sacrifice and the exaltation of Mary are still dominate views of Roman Catholicism. Stern warnings have been given to this church. The individuals within that church that have not defiled themselves with these false doctrines are told that they will not have any other burden except to hold fast until He returns.
Courson, Jon. Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament. Nashville. Thomas Nelson Publishing. 2003.
Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nashville TN. 1997.
Ryrie, Charles, Caldwell. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago IL. Moody Press. 1999.
Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978.
Showers, Renald Dr. Maranatha: Our Lord, Come! The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc. Bellmawr, NJ. 1995.
Strong’s Bible Dictionary. The Online Bible Millennium Edition Version 1.2. Winterbourne Ontario, Canada. 1999.
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Townsend, Jeffrey L. The Rapture in Revelation 3:10. Dallas Texas. Bibliotheca Sacra. July-Sept 1980.
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Walvoord, John F. The Rapture Question. Grand Rapids MI. Zondervan Publishing House. 1979.
Walvoord, John F. The Revelation of Jesus Christ: A Commentary By John F. Walvoord. Chicago. Moody Press. 1966.
 Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Pg 1898.
 Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible. Pg 2168.
 Walvoord, John F. The Revelation of Jesus Christ: A Commentary By John F. Walvoord. Pg 75.
 Wallace, Roy Dr. Studies from Revelation. Pg 34.