Thyatira, the Idolatrous Church Revelation 2:18–29
Church discipline is almost unknown in our day. If and when a church does decide to exercise discipline over backsliding members, the individuals involved often leave the church and go to another one nearby. There they are warmly welcomed, and the sin is overlooked and usually forgotten. Sometimes the original church is even criticized for trying to do what was correct according to the Word of God.
The Thyatiran church needed to be judged and disciplined because it had not exercised self-discipline. Therefore, our Lord made some very stern statements concerning it.
The Son Of Man Stands in Discipline (v. 18)
“And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine bronze.” The imagery is of judgment. Bronze is often used in Scripture to speak of judgment (cp. Num. 21:5–9; Jn. 3:14). The ever-searching, always-piercing, flaming eyes of Jesus looked into the very heart of the Thyatiran church. Judgment was about to be pronounced by the Lord Himself. It is apparent that Jesus was disturbed with this church. Thyatira was a small, insignificant city between Pergamum and Sardis, yet of all the messages given to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, Thyatira received the longest. It was disciplined by the Lord.
The Commendation (v. 19)
In verse 19, the Lord commended this church for its works, charity, service, faith, and patience. But it seems that He was commending only a small segment of the congregation because verse 24 mentions those who remained faithful in the midst of the wickedness enveloping this church. He challenged the faithful to hold fast to that which they had until He comes. To the remainder of the church he promised nothing but discipline. The faithful few were separated from the large body of wicked ones.
The Conflict (vv. 20–21)
There was a battle raging in this church. On one side were the few who had remained true to the Lord, while on the other side was a great majority of people who had allowed the doctrine of Jezebel to come in, leaving the church (which was possibly started by Lydia) open for the discipline prescribed by Christ.
What was the problem? Why did Christ harshly judge this church? “Because thou allowest that woman, Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols” (v. 20).
The name of Jezebel sweeps across the pages of the Bible. In 1 Kings 16:30–32, King Ahab married this idolatrous woman, who introduced a host of heathen gods to the children of Israel. She was such a powerful queen that even Elijah fled to Beer-sheba to escape her threat (1 Ki. 19:1–3). The very mention of her name brings to mind wicked idolatry. The idolatrous system that Ahab’s wicked wife brought to the ancient people of God was as wicked as any the world has ever known. Although Elijah stood against the wicked priests of Baal, he feared the woman who brought in the system. A second characteristic linked to this godless woman is sexual sin and perversion.
The Consuming Passion (v. 20)
The system that Jezebel introduced to Israel had moved into the church at Thyatira, and the church plunged itself into idolatry. They allowed the heathen practices of the world to come into the midst of God’s people as part of their services. Sexual sins and licentiousness were practiced as well. This church was in a poor state.
These conditions are not foreign to our churches today. In recent years we have witnessed the disclosure of much sexual sin among so-called religious leaders. God alone knows what it is like among the rest of the citizenry. Idolatrous practices have also pervaded church ritual and worship services. Our churches need cleansing; the conduct of many people is not consistent with their Sunday testimonies.
The Condemnation of a Sinning Church (vv. 21–23)
Jesus severely reprimanded this adulterous church. But first He gave them the opportunity to repent, which they refused to do (v. 21). Grace came before judgment, as it always has and always will.
“Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds” (v. 22). The Lord promised severe torment for those who followed the wicked leadership of this church. Trials, tribulation, and death would come upon them, and those remaining would know that the Lord was still in charge.
There are great lessons to be learned from the message of Jesus to this church. Sin is heinous in the sight of God, and sooner or later He will deal with it. Although many churches today do not discipline members when they sin, God will not allow sin to go unpunished. The challenge is for Christians to keep short accounts in their walk with the Lord.
The Consideration of the Godly Remnant (vv. 24–29)
This church, which was full of immorality and idol worship, still had a godly remnant that had not fallen prey to these sins. Our Lord placed no further afflictions on them but told them to hold fast to that which they had. They were true believers with many burdens to bear, so the Lord did not load them down with more. “Hold fast till I come” (v. 25b), He encouraged them, uplifting them with the promise of His Second Coming.
The Lord promised this select group of faithful believers, surrounded by idolatry and sin, that they would assist Him in His millennial rule. Jesus will give them the privilege of ruling or shepherding people at that time. What an encouragement to us to remain faithful no matter how many people turn against us. The Lord will reward His faithful servants. He keeps His promises.