The letter to the Church at Thyatira
(Click on this link to open the passage in a new window if you wish to read it now. I will cite the verses as I explain its meaning.)
Historical focus on the city of Thyatira vs. 18a
18 And to…the church in Thyatira… .
Thyatira was a manufacturing and marketing center. It also was the home of many professional trade guilds with all of their pagan practices. It was noted for its purple dye (known as “Turkey Red,” today). It was the home of Lydia (Acts 16:14ff), Paul’s first European convert in Philippi where she lived. It is both the longest letter of the seven churches and is addressed to the church we know the least about.
Christ commends us for the good we do as Christians vs. 19
19 I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.
The Risen Christ commends the church since their latter works exceed the first. This is the opposite from the church at Ephesus. They were doing less at the last than at first. The Thyatirans were doing more at last than at first.
We began well; but will we end well?
We as believers should aim to finish well. Our Archbishop once said to the congregation at Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity, “Will you be filled with the Holy Spirit at the end like you are now?”
Dr. Robertson McQuilken (pictured right; 1926-2016) wrote a poem that has been special to me since I heard him read it once. “Let me get home before dark.”
I give you a few lines.
It’s sundown, Lord.
The shadows of my life stretch back
into the dimness of the years long spent.
I fear not death, for that grim foe betrays himself at last,
thrusting me forever into life:
Life with You, unsoiled and free.
But I do fear.
I fear the Dark Spectre may come too soon
— or do I mean, too late?
That I should end before I finish or
finish, but not well.
That I should stain Your honor, shame Your name,
grieve Your loving heart.
Few, they tell me, finish well . . .
Lord, let me get home before dark.
Click on this link if you wish to read it in its entirety.
Christ disciplines his faithful children when they err vs. 20
20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.
Here again we meet with Jezebel “a clever woman with a gift of speech, who professed to interpret God’s will, offered prosperity at the price of compromise with heathendom.” (Blaiklock quoted in Mounce; p. 86, see below)
The background to this is probably I Kings 16:29 ff; II Kings 9:30 ff. This woman in Thyatira was most likely a prominent woman in the Church who, like Jezebel in the OT (pictured left), was leading God’s people astray by teaching them to compromise with the world around them to get ahead. The compromise was probably connected in some way to the trade guilds. Her “teaching” was probably limited to influence through informal conversation, rather than public teaching.
Jezebel is described as one who calls herself a prophetess. She was supposedly gifted by the Holy Spirit to receive special revelation from God for his people. She was wrong about her gifts.
Christ’s long suffering has limits vs. 21
21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.
Her teaching encouraged people to participate in the sexual immorality which was a part of the “worship” in the pagan temples. This included food sacrificed to idols in the pagan banquets held at temples.
More next time on Thyatira.
Mounce, R. H. (1979). The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament series). Grand Repids, MI: Eerdmans.
Nally, J. R. (2019). “The Already and the Not Yet,” III Millennium website. Accessed February 3, 2019 from http://reformedanswers.org/answer.asp/file/43089
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