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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA

Rev 2:18-21 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. (Also See Rev. 2:22-29)

Located northeast of Smyrna, Thyatira was situated on the road from Pergamos to Sardis. Although it was a small city, it gained much fame for its skilled tradesmen, which led to a thriving manufacturing industry. One of the skills that gained much notoriety was the dying of costly, and extremely desirable, purple cloth. And we know this city as the original home of a Christian woman named Lydia, whom we are introduced to, in the city of Philippi, as a seller of purple (Acts 16:14). It is very likely that, after she returned to her home town, she had much influence on the establishment of the church of Christ in the city of Thyatira..

In His message to this church, Jesus introduced Himself as the Son of God, who hath His eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass. Different from His earthy title of the Son of man, here He assumes the spiritual title of the "Son of God," which firmly established His authority to severely admonish this church for its unrighteous practices. The phrase, His eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass, is the same words He used (Rev. 1:14-15) to describe His omniscient, infinite knowledge, and His powerful majesty as the ruler of His kingdom.

With His regal authority to command, and enforce, God's will upon the members of His church, Jesus begins His message to this body of Christ with His usual commendation. He knew all of their works, both good and bad. Their good works included their charity - their devoted love and honor for God, and their love and compassion for the wellbeing of all mankind. This love resulted in a faith, which led them to a dedicated service, and, with patience,they endured, and overcame the trials and tribulations they faced, continuing to perform virtuous works, the last of which were more numerous than when they first began.

What a great tribute to this body of Christ. Unlike the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia that Jesus did not blame, the other five, including the church here in Thyatira, received Jesus' rebuke for the sinfulness that pervaded their membership. After giving them a commendation, Jesus said, Notwithstanding, I have a few things against thee. For the elders of a congregation, as well as other individual members this body of Christ, to "suffer" another member to commit the sin of teaching false doctrine, which means that they allowed them to do so without reprimand, or disassociation from that member. When no attempt is made to censure a false teacher within the church of Christ, elders have the authority, and responsibility, to do so. This seems to be the case when they allowed 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. We know not whether this woman's name was actually "Jezebel," or whether the name was used to typify the evil, conniving wife of Ahab, who worshipped the idol god, Baal, and led Israel into this same paganistic ritual. We have no other scriptures to further identify this woman, other that what is found here.

Regardless, this woman Jezebel, claiming to possess the gift of prophecy, commanded the position of a teacher within the body of Christ in Thyatira, and led some members of that congregation to commit the same sinful acts, known as the doctrine of Balaam, that were committed in the church in Pergamos. To commit fornication, and to lead others astray by eating things sacrificed unto idols, is specifically condemned by our Savior. However, by His mercy toward her, Jesus extended sufficient time for her to repent, and turn from her sinful ways. Instead of immediate punishment for our sins, Jesus extends this same mercy universally to all people. Some repent, and turn to Him for salvation, but most refuse to do so, and are condemned to eternal punishment. Jezebel was found in the latter group and repented not.

In the next eight verses following the lesson text, John continues to write Jesus' message that was to be sent to the church of Christ in Thyatira. In verse 22, Jesus revealed His judgment against the unrepentant member of this congregation named Jezebel. For her sinful ways, He says, Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. The punishment threatened by Jesus seems appropriate to her sin. Unless they repented of their sins, the bed, in which she committed fornication, and led others to do the same, would become the bed of their just punishment. That great tribulation would include the slaying of her children. Whether this meant her literal children or those that she had misled, who unrepentantly followed her pernicious ways, is not known. In either instance, without repentance of these sins, physical death may result, but spiritual death is certain.

The reason for the punishment of personal sins, as well as leading others into such sins, is given in Jesus' message to this congregation, and by inference, is given to all churches of Christ. To allow sins such as these to go unimpeded, and unpunished, is to condone them. Jesus tells all of His followers that just punishment is rendered so that 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 (Vs. 23). Verse 24 tells us that not all members of the church in Thyatira believed, and followed, the Satan-inspired false doctrinal teachings of the woman Jezebel. Jesus assured these faithful members that they would not be burdened with further reprimands and punishments. However, it must be understood that this church still needed to cleanse itself of all the influences this evil woman, and her followers, had brought into this congregation. Such actions must be disallowed and sternly dealt with by this congregation's elders, in order to eliminate them from this body of Christ. And when that was done, Jesus exhorts them to remain pure and holy, and tohold fast till I come. And when He comes again, all evil desires and temptations will cease, all trials and tribulations will be no more, and all pain and anguish will be cured and comforted, for the faithful members of the church of Christ that endure until that day - the end of time on earth.

Verses 25 and 26 have given rise to considerable debate, and especially to the false belief, that Christians will hold offices of authority under Jesus when He, as King, has a thousand year reign on earth. No where in the New Testament can a scripture be found telling us that faithful followers of Christ will have any judgmental jurisdiction over sinners of the world, when our Savior comes to gather His own into heaven. It is very possible that saved saints will be at Jesus side as He pronounces eternal damnation on unbelieving sinners who, during their lives on earth, followed the evil, pernicious ways of Satan. Also, the only way that the unrighteous will be condemned by the righteous, is by the comparison of an unholy manner of life of the sinner to the loving, obedient life of the saint. That being the case, one could very well say, nothing more, or nothing less, than the saints shall judge the world (See 1 Cor. 6:2-3).

To all faithful Christians, Jesus says that I will give him the morning star (Vs. 28). That is, the saved will be given an everlasting fellowship with Christ Jesus in heaven. The gift is Jesus, Himself. Indeed, Jesus is the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star (Rev. 22:16). Jesus closes His message to the church of Christ in Thyatira with an admonition similarly given to all seven churches of Asia: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches (Vs. 29).