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Lowell Brueckner

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Revelation 2:18-29


The Church in Thyatira

18. And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
19. I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.
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.
21. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.
22. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works,
23. and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.
24. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call to deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden.
25. Only hold fast what you have until I come.
26. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations,
27. and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.
28. And I will give him the morning star.
29. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

A little history of Thyatira

The stones in the foreground are from the castle,
from which Akhisar was named
It is interesting to note that Homer ascribed Asia to a small portion of the territory of Lydia. Later, a large territory was given that name and today, it names the whole continent east of Europe. The Lord Jesus continues to send His messages to the churches in Asia Minor, moving clockwise and now pointing to Thyatira. Thyatira is 38 miles southeast of Pergamos and 32 miles north of Sardis. It is on the border of Lydia and Mysia, smaller territories within Asia Minor, and about 35 miles from the Aegean Sea. It it the smallest church of the seven-candlestick group.

We studied the Seleucid Empire, called the king of the north, in the book of Daniel. Their territory included Babylon and Syria, as well as other territories, reaching into Asia Minor. Seleucus I Nicator was one of Alexander the Great’s four generals, who succeeded him. Seleucus reconstructed Thyatira as a military post and the Romans captured the city in 132 B.C. 

A modern city of 25,000, Akhisar, meaning White Castle, is built over the ancient city. It is still a center of trade and business in the area, as it was in the time of John, because it was on the road leading to Pergamos, Smyrna and Ephesus. Thyatira was known for its production and trade of cloth, particularly purple cloth, which was costly and associated with the rich. There were no great temples to the gods or to Caesar in the city. Apollo was the principle god worshiped there, along with Artemis (Diana) and Asklepius (the healing god).

Thyatira was a Macedonian settlement and that leads us to an intriguing New Testament development. When Paul’s team was led by the Holy Spirit to Philippi, they found at the riverside a place where women met for prayer. Among those women was “a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay’” (Ac.16:14). Lydia probably learned her trade in her native city and was only a temporary resident in Philippi, which may have been the city of her Macedonian ancestors. Because Lydia was the name of the territory surrounding Thyatira, her name may have been popular. Her presence in Philippi could be one of several reasons that the Holy Spirit urged Paul and His team on to Macedonia. Afterwards Paul and Silas were imprisoned, but when they were released and before they left the city, they visited Lydia. 

Sometime later Paul settled in Ephesus and the gospel traveled throughout Asia Minor. It would be interesting speculation to ponder, whether perhaps Lydia returned to her native city and had something to do with the early founding of the church in Thyatira. However, there is no biblical record of it. If you are like me, you yearn for more detail in the lives of such people, and wonder also, if John was acquainted with Lydia.

Christ’s commendation and condemnation of Thyatira

A statue of the chief god, Apollos, was erected in burnished bronze in Thyatira. Jesus reminds His church that he is the unchallenged Lord of Lords, and His feet of burnished bronze are far above those of Apollos. This is the only place in Revelation, in which He calls Himself the Son of God (v.18). He is co-equal with the Father, and is, just as much as the Father, “he who is and who was and who is to come”. He is due the same recognition as “The Alpha and the Omega… the Almighty” (1:4, 8).

His message to this church is longer than any other written to the seven. Again, I offer my comments from chapter 1: The eyes of the One we study in the apocalyptic book are “like a flame of fire”. They pierce their way into the deep recesses of man’s being. They root out and uncover the secrets of men’s hearts. They are heaven’s detectors to keep from its gates all spiritual skyjackers... Christ brings sin to light—the devil hides it. Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin” (John 15:22).

Christ’s vision penetrates perfectly. Nothing happens behind the scenes without His knowledge. The flaming eyes of Christ even now burn through the superficial profession of Christianity and go straight to the thoughts, purposes and feelings of every individual. We will pay attention to his scorching look now or we will face it at the seat of judgment. Do not allow some demon to sidle up to you, look at you lovingly, and excuse your sin, selfishness or rebellion!

John saw in his vision that the feet of Jesus glowed with the fire of heaven’s refinery (v.15). All judgment was given over to Him. The nail prints on His feet are the marks of authority for treading on His enemies: “He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (19:15) The Lord Jesus will come to earth with His angels “inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:8).

It is far from the truth to assume that all calamities upon a believer’s life are judgments from God against him because of disobedience, rebellion or other sins. It is just as untrue to say that God is never the source of the troubles that befall His people. Paul informed the Corinthians that God was judging them, because they had failed to judge themselves: “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died…When we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” (1 Cor. 11:30-32)  “The Lord will judge His people,” the writer of Hebrews warns, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. 10:30-31)

One of the needs in the church today is a revival of godly fear. There is a good deal of writing for us in the New Testament designed to inspire and stir up fear. The devil’s sleep-inducing ether of false security must be shaken off! Many need a revelation of the glowing heat of God’s wrath in Jesus’ nail scarred feet, so that they may offer to God “an acceptable service, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29). 

Jesus sees one church in Thyatira, just as He sees only one in every locality today. Men may divide the church into many factions, but the only church that Christ recognizes, is the one that He established in the earth. Denominations were not founded by Him, there were none in the early church and therefore we have this wide range of believers in this place. There are those, who are loving, faithful servants, enduring patiently, while they grow in godliness and usefulness. The Lord Jesus first commends these wonderful children of God (v.19).

Then there is a woman teacher, who has a band of followers and her influence is being felt throughout the church. In my mind, there is no doubt that this is a literal woman, although I doubt her name literally is Jezebel. Christ called her by that name, because of the character of her ‘ministry’. Two ancient manuscripts present her as “your wife Jezebel” rather than “that woman Jezebel”, inferring that this could be the wife of the angel of the church. As such, she is in a place of influence, just as Ahab’s wife, Jezebel. Jezebel was the princess of Phoenicia, from a cruel ruling family and was a fanatical worshipper of Baal. Ahab gets a full thumbs-down in Scripture: “As if it had been a light thing for (Ahab) to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him” (1 K.16:31). Through her offspring, Baalism invaded the more conservative kingdom of Judah. (For the full history of Jezebel and her children, read 1 Kings chapters 18, 19, & 21 and 2 Kings, chapter 9; 2 Chronicles, chapters 21-23)

The New Testament Jezebel carries all of her infamous traits. She is a self-appointed prophetess and is teaching publicly. Her doctrine of compromise is opening the door to immorality and idolatry (v.20). It is the testimony of those freed from demonism that sexual promiscuity led them to Satan worship. The fault of the church in Thyatira, as with the church in Pergamos, is their tolerance of sin and evil. Those, who view tolerance as a mark of Christian maturity, had better revise their mentality!

A Lutheran pastor, David R. Barnhart writes: People who wanted to do business in Thyatira’s trades were required to belong to a trade guild. Guild meetings involved social and religious gatherings where meals were shared and formal sacrifices were offered to various gods. Meat sacrificed to the gods was consumed at these meals, and sexual immorality was commonplace. Because there was so little toleration for those who did not participate in the guild meetings this likely became a major issue for Christians, who needed to make a living through various trades, while wanting to remain faithful to the Lord.

It could have been that the woman referred to as ‘Jezebel’ in Jesus’ letter tried to persuade believers in Thyatira they could belong to the guilds and still remain loyal to Christ. She might have reasoned participation in the guilds’ idolatrous feasts was a necessary accommodation to the culture. In any event, a pragmatic theology of accommodation developed in the church in Thyatira that was reinforced by this false teacher and her followers.

Christians in Thyatira were without excuse. How much more will God hold present-day churches accountable when they endeavor to justify sin and sanction evil through official church policy? Denominations and congregations that establish their teachings and practices on majority opinion rather than of Scripture will answer to God. Of what value are position statements if they are not in agreement with the clear teachings of the Bible?

Do you see the danger in overemphasizing preparation and the successful practice of a career in our culture today? Christians should take notice of the ease of compromise, in order to rise to the top of a profession. Therefore from the very beginning of the gospel, Jesus taught that even the matter of the basic necessities of life must be placed in God’s hands. We are to seek His kingdom over all, even in the face of persecution or martyrdom: “Do not fear those who kill the body… fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell… Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you” (Lk.12:4, 5, 29-31).

There is a time element involved for repentance and, in the flaming eyes of the Lord, there is a fullness of iniquity (v.21). Concerning the Amorites in Abraham’s day, that time had not yet come: “The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Ge.15:16). Daniel said to Belshazzar, “You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting” (Dn.5:27). Jesus reprimanded the scribes and Pharisees, “Fill up, then the measure of your fathers… so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth” (Mt.23:32, 35). Before that time comes, there must be repentance or the consequences will be disastrous!

This proud woman teacher refuses to repent and the Lord is warning her disciples of tribulation and death from a plague (NASB, v.22). Her bed of sin will become a bed of sickness and death. When persecution come, not only true Christians, but even the nominal fall before it. Sometimes they are the sole cause and victims of it. Christ assures Thyatira that judgment is on the way against the house of God (1 P.4:17). Paul wrote to the Corinthians that it was already falling on them, because of their selfish attitude: “Many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep (have died). If we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged” (1 Co.11:30-31).  

As fear came upon the Jerusalem church, when judgment killed Ananias and Sapphira, so the Asian churches are going to learn a lesson from Thyatira. Their concept of Christ will be improved, as He demonstrates the depth of the penetration of His eyes of fire and the consequences of His burnished feet. They go deeper than the outward acts and explore the governing principles of each life; that is, the reins and the heart. The Lord is not to be taken lightly. I am afraid that our churches today have, in great measure, lost the fear of God. We are careless, because we do not consider the possibility of divine anger and the resulting discipline (v.23). May we not fall in step with the general trend and the concept of Christ, so widely held in our times. Let us learn the lesson of Thyatira.

We see in this church two distinct people… ‘Jezebel and her disciples’ and ‘the rest of you’ (v.24). There is a sharp division and that division is necessary. The great 19th Century leader in the Church of England, J. C. Ryle, wrote a book, Warnings to the Church. He maintained that truth was more important than unity or peace: “Peace without truth is a false peace; it is the very peace of the devil… False doctrine and heresy are even worse than schism. If people separate themselves from teaching which is positively false and unscriptural, they ought to be praised rather than reproved… Unity which is obtained by the sacrifice of truth is worth nothing… There is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine tolerated, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation.”  

Because the doctrine of Jezebel taught that Christians could take part in the world´s work guilds, it also may have included blending some of the Greek philosophies that surrounded them into the faith. Be alert against new doctrines that pretend to be mysteriously deeper and broader than Scripture. Perhaps, it was the remnant of true disciples, who called Jezebel’s teaching, ´the depths of Satan’.

In verse 25 and 26, Christ mentions His coming for the church in the rapture... “until I come… until the end”.  There is great value, as well as sufficient difficulty, in simply maintaining the original level of Christianity. Jude admonished, “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). God blesses those, who continue the race at a steady, faithful pace (3:11; He.10:23). To faithfully maintain the faith, truth and love of Christianity is to conquer (v.26). Be careful not to fall into the trap of exclusiveness and of striving for an exalted, false position of achievement. Prepare to run a marathon, not a fast sprint.

Jesus spoke to Jezebel and her band, to those who were tolerating her teaching (v.20-23), to the rest of the church (v.24), and finally to the individual (v.26-28). The faithfulness of the individual Christian will give him an authoritative position in the thousand-year reign of Christ upon the earth (20:4). That reign will be characterized by ‘a rod of iron’, which unfailingly breaks down every seed of rebellion that might spring up. The Millennial Reign will include people, who are not committed to Christ, but every deed of unrighteousness, which they do, will be judged without exception (v.27). The promise of authority is from the lips of Christ and is as sure as the Father’s promise to Him.

He saved the best for last! The highest blessing from heaven is that of the person of Christ Himself. Beyond any position of authority is the joy of basking in the light of the Morning Star (v.28; 22:16). A secular song that was popular a generation ago stated, “There goes my reason for living… there goes my greatest possession.” A Christian gave the tune these words: “He is my reason for living… He is my greatest possession.” The world’s citizen loses; the Christian gains! He is closely identified with Christ, so that He becomes his possession. He gives us the Morning Star.  

John Wesley said: “Thou, O Jesus, art the morning star! O give thyself to me! Then will I desire no sun, only thee, who art the sun. He whom this star enlightens has always morning and no evening.” Get the full and perfect effect of this message by hearing it in the Holy Spirit, the Teacher of heaven’s truth (v.29).


The church in Thyatira had gone a step beyond Pergamos in the progression of compromise and error. Jezebel and her followers, who should have no part in the church of Christ, have settled in anyway. The devil takes any territory that is left open. He does not knock at the door, he pushes it open and forces himself in. Let me assure you that Jezebel’s children may be born in any period of church history to the end of time and demand membership.

If we want to use exact dates for the period in church history, when the Thyatira-type church dominated, it would be from 607 A.D. – 1517 A.D… the Dark Ages. The compromise and tolerance of the Pergamos period led to the Thyatira period, where false doctrine, immorality and idolatry became prominent. Nominal Christians, who came to the church in great numbers through Constantine, were complacent and looking for a comfortable position in Christianity. They wanted no opposition from the world, but instead they sought to blend in and mix Christianity with the world’s system.

In the Bible, spiritual adultery is often pictured as a woman. Ezekiel displays both Israel and Judah in this light (Ezek.16:15-58; chap.23). Later in Revelation, we learn of the harlot Babylon, who lures and seduces (chap.17 & 18). Among the parables of Jesus in Matthew 13, is that of a woman, who inserts leaven into the loaf of the gospel, in my mind a depiction of Jezebel.

She was not only seductive, she was also manipulative and authoritarian. She combined the traits of Balaam (the doctrine of infiltration) and the Nicolaitans (the doctrine of authoritarianism). Enter here, the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church, fully established at the beginning of the seventh century, complete with its Mariology and the idolatrous cult of saint-worship, which is nothing less than the depths of Satan. It invented the ‘Sacrifice of the Mass’ and produced photos and images, before which its deluded people fell down in worship. It fought the wars of the Crusades and brought on the inquisition. It is a well-known fact that the Roman church combined the pagan traditions, throughout the world, with its tainted doctrines. Its immorality is notorious to this day, by the impregnation of countless woman and the abuse of numberless children, and often gets into the news

St. Peter´s Square, Vatican City
Jezebel was a self-proclaimed prophetess and the Roman Church boasts of great authority. It has great numbers and political power to support her claims, but heaven has given her absolutely nothing. Jezebel was cruel, as well as seductive. History teaches that the Roman Church has burned countless true Christians at the stake. She keeps the souls of the dead in purgatory, those of babies in limbo, in order to pick the pockets of their living relatives. She claims to hold the apostolic chain, possess Peter as her first pope, gives terrible powers to her priests, and denies salvation to anyone outside her Vatican hell-hole. As Leonard Ravenhill told me, “In the minority, she is a lamb, on equal ground, she is a fox, and in the majority, she is a wolf.”

Rome takes first place, over Jezebel, as an idolatress, climbing to the top of the heap of those, who break the first and second commandments. It has turned Mary into a goddess, a co-redeemer, and an intercessor. It has made sainthood something to be gained, rather than given, as a result of the work of Christ on the cross. In every way, the Roman Church has become the worthy child of Jezebel. This church has become totally apostate and should not be seen as a church. Another true church takes her place in history. At the end of the church age, Thyatira will not be raptured, but will enter the Great Tribulation.


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