“Nevertheless, I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet.” Revelation 2:20a
Thyatira was a city about forty miles southeast of Pergamum and was a city of little significance except for its trade guilds. Being a center of trade and commerce because of its location, the trade guilds, mainly metal-work and linen dye, held the power in the community.
To be part of the trade guilds meant financial security and comfort, but the guilds were dedicated to the pagan gods and goddesses and worship of these false gods was a requirement for membership. A false prophetess arose in the church, calling the Christians to indulge in the cultic practices and exercise their freedom in Christ to do shameful things which were displeasing to the Jesus. Jesus promises great things to those who do His will til the end.
“The Asian churches may well hear in Jesus’ biblical title ‘Son of God’ (2:18) a direct challenge to the imperial cult. Emperors claimed to be deities and saviors in Asia; some commentators have further suggested a specific contrast with Zeus’s son Apollo, a patron deity of Thyatira, with whom the deified emperors were linked. Apollo’s link with Helios, the sun god, also could amplify the contrast implicit in Jesus’ fiery features here, though these would be relevant to any readers familiar with the biblical prophets. Although the matter is uncertain, it may be more than coincidence that Jesus reminds hearers of his feet like bronze (1:15) specifically in a city where metal-working was a prominent industry.”32
“The presence of this false teaching in the church at Thyatira is the Lord’s only criticism here, but this challenge alone is substantial enough to require warning that the believers must hold firm their faith until Jesus comes (Rev. 2:24). As searcher of hearts and minds – that is, as God – Jesus knows what is in their hearts. By ‘deep secrets’ (lit., ‘deep things’) Jezebel and her followers undoubtedly mean ‘profound things’ likely obtained by revelation. But as the true searcher of hearts, Jesus notes the source of their revelations: Satan (2:24), who has also authored opposition from the synagogue community (2:9; 3:9).”33
“The flaw in the Thyatirans’ growing faith and love was naïveté, a lack of discernment that took place at face value rather than putting them to the test of truth. Jesus says to the church at Thyatira, ‘I love your love, but I hate your tolerance.’ The target of their tolerance and Jesus’ disapproval is a woman whom Jesus calls Jezebel. This is not her real name, any more than Balaam had taught the Nicolaitans or the harlot of Revelation 17 is Babylon, the Chaldean capital on the Euphrates. The Thyatiran prophetess, however, is working the same mischief in the first-century church that Jezebel, princess of Sidon and wife of Ahab, had worked in Israel centuries earlier.”34
“This church, commended for love, had failed to speak the hard truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Church discipline and Jesus’ demand for exclusive loyalty looked narrow to the pluralistic culture of the Hellenistic world, as it does in our tolerant and relativistic day; but church discipline, when pursued with biblical motives and methods, expresses Jesus’ love for His bride.”35
“Jesus addresses three groups in this message: (1) he encourages the faithful Christians who have rejected Jezebel’s teachings (2:24-28), (2) he pronounces judgment upon Jezebel and her dedicated followers (2:23a: ‘her children’), and (3) he warns those who claim to be Christian but are currently being deceived by Jezebel (2:22b). God’s judgment of Jezebel and her children (group 2) will likely involve physical sickness and even death. Those who are currently committing adultery with her (group 3) still have a chance to repent. If they refuse, however, they will ‘suffer intensely.’”36
- What does Jesus have against the church at Thyatira and how is Jesus’ call to be intolerant of false teaching countercultural?
- Do you see any area in your life where you may be dishonoring Christ in your business practices, taxes, or anywhere else in an attempt to secure financial security?
- Given the context, what is the difference between real love and tolerance? Why is important for us as Christians to understand this?
- Jesus promised the Thyatirans that they would be given authority to rule over the nations if they are victorious. How does this promise correspond to the Thyatiran’s fear that they would suffer economically and financially if they didn’t compromise?
Ask the Lord in prayer to show you areas in your life where you are tolerating evil and dishonesty in order to secure your comfort and security.
Repent of these things and ask the Lord to give you a deeper faith in His promises to provide for you regardless of the threats of the world.
Commit to wholehearted devotion to Jesus alone, regardless of the consequences from the world.
32, 33 Keener, Craig S. Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.
34, 35 Johnson, Dennis E. Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub., 2001.
36 Duvall, J. Scott. Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014.