Seven Letters: Thyatira
Pr Edi Giudetti
A Little Leven
The Judge of Thyatira
18And 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 feetarelike fine brass;
This forth letter to the Church of Thyatira now begins as each of the others with an introduction of the author of the letter.
These things saith the Son of God
Other than those who are identified as being direct descendants, being referred to as “the Son of” or “the Child of” characteristically identifies that person in the likeness of who he is identified with.
The Jews knew this when they asked the Lord to identify himself saying;
…the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?
They knew that “the Christ” is the Saviour, coming from God as God, to save them who are separated from God by their sin. God is “The Blessed”, and they asked him a direct question, to which Jesus answers;
62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
Do not let Jesus secondary response confuse you, the high priest himself knew exactly the claim that Christ was making;
63 Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? 64 Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.
Those who foolishly claim Jesus never said he was God forget the very reason he was charged by the Jews and consequently set on the Cross.
These things saith the Son of God,
The letter to those in Thyatira was authored by God directly to them that they may hear, that they may know who it is that addresses them, that they may consider the words in which he writes them.
who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire,
A terrible sight is to consider the Son of God with flaming eyes. What we have here is a picture of righteous judgement; eyes as a furnace through which all the works done may be revealed by fire.
Consider 1 Cor 3:12-15
Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
These are the eyes that see the works of the Church and tries the motives of every man. These are those same eyes in which he, that walks among the seven Golden candlesticks, sees.
and his feet are like fine brass;
The term “Fine Brass”, denoting the nature of that upon which the Son of God stands, is unique in the scriptures. It only appears here and in chapter 1:15.
It is unique in the original language from which this is translated also. What makes it difficult is that the phrase also rarely appears in the contemporary language of the age in which it was written. But, it must have been understood by the original recipients of the letter addressed to them.
THE CITY OF THYATIRA
Little is known of the City of Thyatira, we are greatly limited in the knowledge of its history, unlike the history of Ephesus, Smyrna or Pergamos. The history of Thyatira is very limited.
George Barton, in his book, “Archeology and the Bible” simply wrote
And the question concerning the nature of Fine Brass is just as limited, but also enticing. Nothing Jesus says to any of these Churches is insignificant concerning them.
THYATIRA was originally built as a Garrison City to house Macedonian troops. Expanded further under the reign of, Seleucid 1st, the Head of the Seleucid Kingdom.
- It was not coastal
- It was not set up on a hill with an acropolis
- It was not significant
- It did become part of the trade route
- It was located on a plain about 70 km from Pergamos (See your Newsletter)
It essentially became a type of fort, not well defended but used to place many troops to help control the region in the hands of the ruling kings.
So, notice first, it was originally a Garrison City in the first few centuries before Christ.
During the time of the writing of this letter, it was a growing trade city. It was significant for having the largest number of trade Guilds in Asia. These are individual organisations created for the protection of and monopolising of individual trades within the City.
We remember that one of the converts of Paul from Phillipi was a woman named Lydia who was a seller of Purple from the City of Thyatira (Acts 16:14).
William Ramsay notes;
It is therefore not surprising that more trade-guilds are known in Thyatira than in any other Asian city.
The inscriptions, though not specially numerous, mention the following: wool-workers, linen-workers, makers of outer garments, dyers, leather-workers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave- dealers and bronze-smiths.
The god Apollo Tyrimnaeus was evidently conceived as, patron of the guilds. He is depicted as a warrior riding a horse with a double edged battle axeover his shoulder in the coins of the City.
The nature of the City as a Garrison city: The fact of the many Trade Guilds and associations within the City; Recalling the Patron God of the City as a type of warrior with a double edged battle axe;
It was believed that the Fine Brass spoken of in the text was a unique composite of metals that formed strong and light armor and weaponry. It was a picture of military authority and it is this authority that The Son of God wants to portray to the City of Thyatira.
We often forget the authority of the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. We often fail to consider Jesus Christ as “God manifest in the flesh”, mistaking his love for us in his death and resurrection as too nice and kind to judge us for our error.
But beloved, the passage Paul wrote in 1 Cor 3:12-15, is for you and I
Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Take great care that you don’t think of Christ any less than he is. He is the Saviour of all who call upon his name, but he is also judge of all.
Or are we happy to allow a LITTLE LEAVEN in our faith?
The Work of The Thyatira
19I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the lastto be more than the first.
Works they did in abundance, Charity, that is, Love one toward another also had in abundance, service, faith, patience and even more works.
It is certainly true that very little history can be gleaned about the City of Thyatira, but unlike George Barton who wrote and entire book on Archeology and the Bible, I think a lot of light can be thrown on the message to the church in Rev. 2:18–29with the little we have.
Only two important historical notes seem to come up clear in the City of Thyatira.
No, there did not seem to be many Jews living there. The ancient Historian Josephus does mention that Thyatira had a large population of Jews there in the second century BC, but by the time of Christ that number was relatively insignificant.
It was not a Royal or ruling City either, it had no bearing on the Politics of the day.
There is no indication that it competed for any of the Religious honors of Rome as is evident with Pergamos, Ephesus and Smyrna. The City seemed satisfied that the gods of the realm would be its godsand made no effort to exalt one above another.
What it did have that we know about well, is its historical purpose as a garrison City for the defense of whatever ruling empire dominated the land, and its trade Guilds.
Other than its location, only these two things stand out about the City.
A trade Guild was essentially an organization of people of like business who associated together for the protection of, propagation of and monopolizing of their craft. No person of like occupation would be permitted to exercise their business in this city unless they were a part of that specific trade Guild.
Trade Guilds were similar to the Trade Unions of Today.
For Example: Paul we know was a tent maker, we have no record of him visiting this city, but if he wanted to work his business he would first need to join the Guild, pay its dues and follow its customs. Unless he was joined to a Guild he could not practice his trade there.
Guilds are a form of protectionism and ONLY Benefitted the early members. For a Christian to be gainfully employed in his chosen trade, he would have been forced to join a Guild. If he did not, he could not earn a living in that City.
Professor William Barclay in his Commentary on Revelation said
“No merchant or trader could hope to prosper or make money unless he was a member of his trade guild.”
So, Christians joined the Guilds and they did so in large numbers.
In many ways they transformed the Guilds to be benevolent associations, similar to today’s Rotary Club which has grown to have 1.2 Million members.
“Rotary International is an international service organization whose stated purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance goodwill and peace around the world.”
The Problem however is, that the Trade Guilds was less like Rotary and much more like Free Masonry, with a strong Spiritual Idolatry associated. (Talk More Shortly)
19 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.
It seems that it was through these guilds that the Church developed a way of service and Charity. It patiently hoped that by extending its good works it might grow.
NB: The word Charity is a very distinct word in the New testament. Many Commentaries and all modern translations change this word simply to the word Love. Indeed in the original language it is the word for love, but everywhere the Word Charity is used in the NT it relates to Love among Brethren.
We need to take care we don’t assume this is Love toward the Son of God. The Context of their idolatry should make that clear.
It’s a horizontal and not a vertical love that this Church is being praised for.
and the last to be more than the first.
The effort of the Church of Thyatira would continue to grow as the City grew. It was a small City in the time of the Apostle John, it would grow much larger. The works of the Church would also be more than the first. The Church would be known for its works.
The Roman Catholic Church, who Thyatira represents historically, was known through history to set up the First Hospitals, Ambulances, Orphanages, Soup Kitchens and Charities, they spread their works through Missions that would eventually entice many into their fold.
Beloved, it is certainly good to do good to those around you. To bless the people of the world, to feed the poor, to comfort the broken-hearted, to bring medical treatment and education to those less privileged, to lend a helping hand in everything you do. This Jesus truly does commend, and it is the sure commendation given to the people of Thyatira.
The great danger is found in Ecumenical associations, A LITTLE LEAVEN for the sake of perceived Good Works. The Church of Thyatira’s joining to Trade Guilds became a much greater compromise than what was on the surface.
They readily began mixing truth with error for the sake of a good cause, out of convenience, but found themselves excusing far more than being unequally yoked.
When what is wrong is excused for what is right, all that is right goes wrong.
Think about yourself here for a minute, how many things have you found yourself excusing? What associations have you been pleased to yoke yourself to for the sake of a good cause?
Or are we happy to allow a LITTLE LEAVEN in our faith?
The Idolatry of Thyatira
20Notwithstanding 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. 21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. 22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. 23 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.
The Guilds were not just for trading.
Each guild had with it a Patron God to whom each member was to do honour. Some through rituals, some through feasts, some through offerings and some through a mixture of all these.
The Church of Thyatira fell perfectly into idolatry.
In joining yourself to that Guild you would need to compromise your faith; not only this, but you would be witnessed by those to whom you have professed your faith, that you have compromised it for the sake of making a living!
The beautiful Psalm of King David, all forgotten by the now Idolatrous Church of Thyatira.
25 I have been young, and now am old; Yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his seed begging bread.
The comforting words of Jesus all neglected by the now Idolatrous Church of Thyatira.
Turn to Luke 12:27-30
27Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much morewill he clotheyou, O ye of little faith? 29 And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. 30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
We are to trust those words are we not?
Do we not know who it is that is in control of all things? Is it not the one that holds the seven stars in his right hand?
The one that holds the keys of hell and death?
Do we need then to compromise with the world or are we confident in whom we say we trust? Remember that in Pergamos they mixed truth with error, they began the compromise. They hid leaven in their feasts. In Thyatira it became a normal state of being, the leaven, leavened the whole lump, so much so that idolatry was readily mixed and excused.
20…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.
Most often thought to be a specific person in Thyatira and yet we see a direct link the Idolatry of Thyatira and that of her so notorious in the Old Testament. All of this came through the Guilds, the association with and excusing of its idolatry.
Colin Hemer notes something of value here, he says;
The choice of the name ‘Jezebel’ in 2:20 is likely to be pointedlyapt, as was that of ‘Balaam’ (In the church of Pergamos).
The syncretism exemplified in the city is in point here, but the particular problem seems to have been the guild-feasts, as the occasions when the Christian may have been particularly pressed by the need to conform to his environment.
William Barclay again notes;
all the guilds had a common meal as a central part of their practice which might well be held in a heathen temple and would largely consist of meat offered to idols.
The one who calls herself a Prophetes, that is, directly sent from God; taught and seduced the Christians to enter into those things specifically spoken against by the true prophets, the Apostle’s of Christ.
BACKGROUND of Acts 15
During the early Church a great contention was brewing that those saved by Christ ought to be bound to keep the Law of Moses. The Church came together for the very purpose of answering this question.
Notice how it began, concern to keep the whole law. Notice where it went, to abandon any law. Toward the end of Chapter fifteen a letter was drafted with the answer to the question and put in the hands of Paul and Barnabus, Judas (Basabus) and Silas, to send to the Churches.
You can read the events of the meeting but the substance of the letter is found in Acts 15:28-29
28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
Jezebel in the Old Testament had 850 Prophets under her charge. 400 of them ate at her table. How on Earth was she able to put all these men (850) under her spell?
(1 Kings 18:19). In the Old Testament she was a prophet of the Prophets.
Her end was also prophesied. This woman of Sin, after painting her face and greeting Jehu, was thrown out her window where the Dogs left nothing of her except her hands, her feet and her painted, sinful head. (2 Kings 9:30-37)
SIDE NOTE: We have seen in Pergamos the Greek God Asclepius with his Serpent entwined Rod resembling Moses and the serpent raised on a pole in the wilderness.
It’s curious to me that the Medusa of Greek Mythology, is the painted head of a woman with small serpents for hair! She had the ability to put men into a trance as soon as they looked at her.
Idolatry was the order for each and every guild. You needed to obey each of the rites of the guild in order to have life. Tertullian, one of the strong Christian fathers, was the Bishop of Carthage and he heard that
“A painter might find work in pagan temples or a sculptor might be hired to make a statue of a pagan god. They would justify this by saying, “This is my living, and I must live.” Tertullian replied, Vivere ergo habes?“Must you live?”
21And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. 22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. 23 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.
We spoke of the individual churches representing Churches that dominated portions of history in this Church age.
The letter to the Church of Thyatira is the longest of all the letters and the Lord gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
The period represents the period of the Roman Catholic Church perfectly and understood to be from 606 AD to as late as 1520 AD which is the common believed beginning of the Reformation and the Protestant Church.
The Roman Catholic Church is an institution in which all must be members if heaven (Life) is to be attained. No man can enter heaven but through the Church and in the Church, there are both ritual and custom.
They must partake of the eating and drinking of food offered to an idol each and every Sunday, known as the idolatry of the Eucharist.
Æneas Sylvius gives of the Waldenses of Bohemia, in his history of that Kingdom.
They hold, says he, that the Pope of Rome is not superior to bishops, and that there is no difference (as to rank or dignity) among priests—That priesthood itself is not a dignity, for that grace and virtue only give the preference—That the souls of the deceased are either immediately plunged into hell, or advanced to eternal joys [in heaven.]—That there is no purgatory fire—that it is a vain thing to pray for the dead, and merely an invention of priestly covetousness—That the images of God and of the saints ought to be destroyed—That the blessing of water and palm branches is ridiculous—That the religion of the Mendicants [begging Friars] was invented by evil spirits—That priests ought to be poor, and content themselves with alms—That every one has liberty to preach [or instruct.]—No capital sin ought to be tolerated under pretence of avoiding a greater evil—That he who is guilty of mortal sin, ought not to enjoy any ecclesiastical dignity—That the confirmation which is celebrated with anointing and extreme unction, is none of the sacraments of the church of Christ—That auricular confession is a piece of foppery—that every one ought, in his closet, to confess his sins to God—That baptism ought to be administered without the addition of holy oil—That the use of church yards is vain, and nothing but a covetous invention, and that it signifies nothing in what ground the bodies of the dead are laid—That the temple of the great God is the universe, and that to build churches, monasteries, and oratories to him, under the supposition that the divine goodness could be more favourably found in them than in other places, is a limiting the divine majesty—That the priestly vestments, altar, ornaments, palls, corporals, chalices, patins, and other vessels, are of no efficacy—That it is vain to implore the suffrages of the saints reigning with Christ in heaven, because they cannot help us—That it is to no purpose to spend one’s time in singing and saying the canonical hours—That we are to cease from working on no day except the Lord’s day—That the holidays of saints are to be rejected, and that there is no merit in observing the fasts instituted by the church.*
The Offer To Thyatira
24But 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. 25 But that which ye havealreadyhold fast till I come. 26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: 27 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. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
The Roman Catholic Church has come to well know the deapths of Satan. The bloodlust of the Church against any who would have stood against them is a matter of history, Satan perfectly represented in the murder and torture of millions of souls who desired simply to worship Christ in accord with the Bible without admixture.
But to permit a belief against this fully leavened Guild for life was not permitted. Unless one retained its membership in this institution and did so faithfully, it would run the “eternal” risk of Excommunication,that is, removed from the Church and the perceived heavenly benefit, but also potentially removed from life itself.
To ensure all held to no other doctrine and prior to the formal beginning of the next Church period, all people under its dominion were to be subjects of inquiry. And found to be lacking would experience the depths of Satan.
AUTO DE Fe
They sing psalms, say mass, and butcher mankind. Were a native of Asia to come to Madrid upon a day of an execution of this sort, it would be impossible for him to tell whether it were a rejoicing, a religious feast, a sacrifice, or a massacre; and yet it is all this together! The kings, whose presence alone in other cases is the harbinger of mercy, assist at this spectacle uncovered, seated lower than the inquisitors, and are spectators of their subjects expiring in the flames. The Spaniards reproached Montezuma (Barbarian of the Aztec Empire)with immolating his captives to his gods; what would he have said, had he beheld an “Auto da Fe?”
as many as have not this doctrine…. hold fast till I come. 26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: 27 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. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
The government that will come will be that which will reign a thousand years. The doctrines we are to hold are those found in the Bible.
The works we are to work are the Works of Christ And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works, not our own works and not works of convenience not even if it is for the sake of our life.
The friends of Daniel were given such an opportunity, that the moment they heard the music, they would fall and worship the image Nebuchadnezzar set up. They were not full of care for the answer saying;
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Dan 3:17-18)
George A. Barton, Archaeology and the Bible. (Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1925).
Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.; Livonia, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Dove Booksellers, 2001), 109.
Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.; Livonia, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Dove Booksellers, 2001), 119–120.
William Jones, The History of the Christian Church, from the Birth of Christ to the Eighteenth Century, Including the Very Interesting Account of the Waldenses and Albigenses, (London: W. Myers, 1819), 2:45.
William Jones, The History of the Christian Church, from the Birth of Christ to the Eighteenth Century, Including the Very Interesting Account of the Waldenses and Albigenses, (London: W. Myers, 1819), 2:45–46.
William Jones, The History of the Christian Church, from the Birth of Christ to the Eighteenth Century, Including the Very Interesting Account of the Waldenses and Albigenses, (London: W. Myers, 1819), 2:117.