Revelation 2:18-29 Part 1

18) And write the message for the Church in Thyatira:   The Son of God Who has eyes as flames of fire, and Whose feet are burnished bronze, says these things.

19) I know your works and the love and the faithfulness and the service and your perseverance, and the last works greater than the first.

20) But I have against you that you suffer the woman Jezabel who calls herself a prophetess and teaches and deceives My servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols;

21) and I gave her time that she might repent, and she is not willing to repent from her fornication.

22) Lo!  I cast her into bed and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation unless they repent from her works,

23) and I will destroy her children in death, and all the Churches will know that I Am He Who searches reins and hearts, and I will give to each of you according to your works.

24) But to the rest of you in Thyatira, in as much as you have not this teaching, who do not know Satan’s depths (as they say), I lay on you no other charge.

25) However, hold fast what you have until I come.

26) And he who overcomes and keeps My works throughout [until the consummation] I will give to him authority over the nations,

27) and he shall tend them with a scepter of iron, dashing them in pieces as the potters’ vessels as I also have received of My Father.

28) And I will give to him the morning star.

29) He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.


Although there is a Thyatira Presbyterian Church in eastern North Carolina, I only know of one town presently named Thyatira.  It’s in Mississippi… up around Sardis Dam, close to Oxford.

Thyatira (in western Turkey) will forever retain its name due to the message from Jesus in Revelation of Jesus Christ, but its name now (and for the last 600 years) is Akhisar.

As it was in Izmir (Smyrna), so it is in Akhisar (Thyatira).  The ancient city of Thyatira is beneath the Turkish city.  I have pictures for you of the small archaeological site right in the middle of Akhisar.  The city was most certainly larger than the present archeological site, but it would be most difficult to tear down the present city of Akhisar in order to get to it.  There at the site are ruins, almost identical to that in Izmir, of the agora of the Roman city of Thyatira, built after the Roman conquest of the world.  The ruins uncovered in Akhisar are Roman (dating back to 133BC), but artifacts are plentiful (especially coins) dating much further back than that.

I wouldn’t go back in history as far as I’m going to, except there is a reason for it, which I’ll get to in a couple of minutes.  But a Lydian dynasty was in place in western Asia for at least six hundred years before the Persian conquest of the known world (which occurred in about 546 BC).  Six hundred years before that! 

Lydians are mentioned in Jeremiah chapter forty six as expert archers in Jeremiah’s prophecy against the nations of the earth.  That prophecy was probably received by Jeremiah from Jahve sometime between six hundred and six fifty BC.

Thyatira was an important city in the Lydian dynasty because it was situated on a major trade route east and west.  It was probably the first city in the world to coin money, and the original money was stamped out of gold and silver. 

Located about 40 miles inland of the Aegean Sea, and southeast of Pergamum, the city became a hotspot for manufacturing and trade.  Known world-wide for its textiles and dyeing, many of the world’s leaders bought their clothes from wool and linen workers in Thyatira.  The “purple” dye (or indigo) from Thyatira was desired above all others.

And here’s the reason for this morning’s history of the “Lydia dynasty”.  Listen to Luke’s account from Acts chapter sixteen:


9) And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: There was a man of Macedonia standing, beseeching him, and saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.

10) And when he had seen the vision, straightway we sought to go forth into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

11) Setting sail therefore from Troas, we made a straight course to Samothrace, and the day following to Neapolis;

12) and from thence to Philippi, which is a city of Macedonia, the first of the district, a Roman colony: and we were in this city tarrying certain days.

13) And on the sabbath day we went forth without the gate by a river side, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down, and spake unto the women that were come together.

14) And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple of the city of Thyatira, one that worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened to give heed unto the things which were spoken by Paul.

15) And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.


Now, there are a number of important things in this passage, most of which we can’t address here.  But it is valid to note that here was a merchant whose ancient heritage was the Lydian dynasty (she was named after that heritage), and she was marketing the famous wares from her home town to the rich, Greek market in Macedonia, which was right across the Aegean Sea from western Asia and the Church at Thyatira.

Luke’s text makes it clear that she was Jewish (and, by the way, it’s important to note that there was a substantial Jewish contingent within the population in Thyatira – as there was in other cities of western Asia at the time), but Lydia was Jewish, and Luke’s text makes it clear that she was one of God’s elect, since Holy Spirit opened her heart, in advance, to apostolic Gospel.

And, from that text, I don’t think that there’s any doubt that a Christian Church in Philippi was started in her home there – her entire household having been baptized into Christ.  And, later, one of the greatest Theological letters of the thirteen written by the apostle Paul was sent to the Philippian Church.

But as mentioned, the Lydian dynasty (what is now known as northwestern Turkey) was the first to introduce gold and silver coinage; and the Lydians were also among the first (in about 600 to 650BC) to establish permanent wholesale and retail establishments for the marketing of products manufactured in the area – especially in Thyatira.  Lydia was rich in natural resources – including gold, silver and mineral dyes.  The plains were loaded with water and rich fodder for animals, which were used for the manufacture of wool, linens, weaving devices, and tanning and other leather products.  In addition there were manufacturers of bronze products, pottery, bakery products… and even some slave dealers.

Businesses, both local and international, were fruitful – especially in and around Thyatira, which was at the crossroads of several major arteries, some of which lead travelers into the interior of Asia.

Throughout recorded history the whole area once claimed by the Lydian dynasty, and renowned for its defense by its famous archers, fell to invading armies.  First by the Chaldeans, then by Persians, followed by Greeks under Alexander the Great, and then by Rome… the city of Thyatira retained through it all its world-wide manufacturing and marketing fame.  Lydia of Philippi was probably one of many around the world marketing products from Thyatira.

When Roman troops entered ancient Lydia in 133BC it had already been subjected to three world-wide dominions; and it was no longer “Lydian” (except in its history).  The dynasty had been eliminated, and it had incorporated the ancient cultures of the Chaldeans, the Persians and the Greeks – along with all of their ancient gods and goddesses and mythologies.

But Thyatira never relinquished its world-wide fame and its manufacturing and marketing framework.  In fact, some of the major difficulties faced by the Church in Thyatira had to do with commerce, because the manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers of the various branches, or categories, of Thyatiran commerce had developed what were called “guilds”.  Guilds in Thyatira were what came to be known in our time as unions.

There would be a guild for gold and silver miners; a guild for leather workers; a guild for dye producers, one for coin design, and so on down the line.  And if one didn’t belong to the guild that controlled a certain segment of commerce, then it was made to be very difficult for one to do business in Thyatira.

And what made that so problematic for the newborn babes in Christ was the fact that faithfulness to the enthroned Jesus obviated their membership in the guilds.  Whenever a Christian tried to support his family and his Church in a business venture, without being a part of the guild, the least of his worries was being shunned!

The question then becomes, “why did the Christians not support and frequent the guilds”?  Well, it was because each guild was accompanied by its own patron god or goddess (or maybe a number of them); and there was not only sacrifice to the gods and the feasting on the sacrifices, but a good deal of evidence is still there that the guilds participated in many immoral pagan practices with the other guild members!

So each industry had its specific guild and it was these that would have been connected with the idolatrous practices outlined in John's letter to the city. Their formation would be closely paralleled today by the distinctly different trade unions (and, maybe, through the mystical secret organizations), though what they did when they met would be somewhat different.

In the guilds’ fellowship meals, food was first sacrificed to idols and, after the meals, orgies were a frequent occurrence. It was through participation in the “lusty fellowship” of these events that commercial and financial security was assured.

There have been more trade guilds identified as existing in Thyatira than in any other Asian city of its time. The dilemma that faced Christian craftsmen and business people must have been a simple but extremely difficult one – being reborn into Christ meant the loss of their livelihood, and the loss of financial resources for the Church, if they abstained from the communal feasts and the following orgies; but, for Christians, participation would be to renounce the faith that they had come to receive, and to deny the One who, for them, had suffered and bled and died.

Now, in addition to these bizarre eccentricities of Thyatiran society, let’s also note that all the gods and goddesses common to the entire area of the seven Churches were also revered and venerated in Thyatira, including zeus and apollo and diana (whose world famous temple, you remember, was in Ephesus).

But the city also had sacrificial altars and temples to gods and goddesses that were distinctly and undoubtedly Thyatiran.  And what I mean by that is they were not Thyatiran alone – as distinct from other parts of the world – but that they were different from the ones that were favored in the other six cities.  And surely these were the man-conceived deities to which the business and networking guilds were so attached.

They included the ancient Lydian sun god – tyrimnos – which, stamped onto the coins minted in Thyatira, depict a horseman bearing a double-sided battle ax.  That battle ax appears on a number of other coins from the city, and it is peculiar to Thyatira.  Tyrimnos is an Asian deity that probably originated in the middle east – Persia or the Chaldees.  But worship of the sun was almost world-wide in the ancient pagan world order, and many names were given to the deity, according to which civilization one might be investigating.

Another beautiful temple in Thyatira was dedicated to the Persian goddess sambethe.  In Babylon, this female deity was known as sibyl, which means “prophetess”.  The Persian goddess – sambethe – was the prophet-priestess which, according to mythology, was the daughter of Noah.  And she went about, after the flood, prophesying for nine hundred years.  She was probably a favorite among the guilds of Thyatira, since she presented a “feminized” side to the lewd orgies that issued from her worship.

There were others, of course; and many (especially the goddesses) would have represented fertility.  Goddesses of fertility were especially venerated in Babylonian, Persian and Greek mythology – all of which were represented in Lydia and its famed merchant city of Thyatira.

Then came the Romans.  And of course they brought their own brands of gods and goddesses with them.  And, as explained as we were dealing with the city of Pergamum, caesar Augustus proclaimed himself Roman emperor and the “son of god”, and the link between heaven and earth.  And it was required in the entire Roman empire that he be revered and worshipped.  Temples were erected in major cities so the people could worship and offer sacrifices to him.

The authorities in all the jurisdictions of the empire were instructed to be lenient with all local religious customs and activities as long as caesar was worshipped as the son of god on earth, and as the channel, or link, between the earth and the heavens.

The “leniency” from Rome toward the religious customs of the provinces was for the purpose of inhibiting or circumventing rebellion and uprisings due to discontent from religious fanatics.  So, rather than forbidding the worship of any other god except Rome and its caesars, Rome’s policy was to just superimpose one more layer of idolatry on top of the pantheon of gods and goddesses peculiar to the locals.

So, to Rome, they didn’t care what else the locals did, as long as they bowed west to Rome and gave obeisance to Augustus caesar (or, as in 65AD Nero caesar), and as long as everything stayed quiet.

And to the locals, it didn’t matter much to them either, since one more god in a long list of gods and goddesses gave little offense.  And in most instances the arrangement was a win – win compromise.

But, as we’ve said previously (and which we’ll probably say again), all of this wasn’t the worst of the problems for the Church at Thyatira.  And I want, because the text of the message to this Church requires it – I want to recap for you the primary issue facing the Thyatiran Christians.  And that issue had to do with satanic activity through the idolatrous religion of judaism.

First let me call to your attention that it is Jesus Christ (The Cornerstone) and His apostles (the remainder of the foundation) that form the bed-rock of the new temple made without hands.  It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, through His apostles, that constitutes the Rock upon which the Church is built, each of His “little ones” precious stones in the structure of the temple.  It is apostolic doctrine – preaching and teaching – that is the very voice of the Christ… Living Water flowing into the arid wastelands of pagan nations, causing many all over the fallen and cursed earth to sink their roots deeply into the river of living water.  We have the preaching and teaching of His apostles; and we have all been warned that anything other than apostolic doctrine is anathema.  They, the apostles of Jesus, are the “scribes” of the new Israel, the inspired authors of The Gospel of God, which is the power of God into salvation to those who are faithing.

Jesus’ last word to them before His ascension was that they disciple the nations, putting His covenant “mark” of baptism on them, and teaching them to obey the One Who has been given all authority in the heavens and upon the earth (Matthew 28).

Secondly, Jesus had told His disciples to continue to scour the countryside for every last one from the tribes of Israel who God had kept for Himself.  He gave them specific instructions about how to find them and recognize them.  Then he told His disciples what to do with them when they found them.

Having given them the signs of coming destruction of Jerusalem and all of Israel, the apostles of Jesus were to rescue and extricate, in this generation, all His people from the danger to come, a danger which is Scripturally described as “desolation”.

The massive job of doing that was hampered by the fact that most of these who God had kept for Himself were the poor and the sick and the dispossessed and the lame and the blind and the deaf… all afflictions which had been brought about by Israel’s false shepherds, often called ravenous wolves, feeding on the helpless for their own benefits.  But Jesus had come to find His Father’s elect (the lost sheep of the house of Israel); and the apostles were to continue to hunt for them after the resurrection!  All of them had to be found, and all of them had to be moved from harm’s way before the abomination of desolation.

So the apostles, along with newly elected deacons, prepared (as the first chapters of The Acts of the Apostles indicates) the diaspora – the extrication from Israel of all of those who God had kept for Himself from the twelve tribes of Israel.

Those with wealth in property and other valuables sold everything (it would soon be worthless anyway, since the desolation to come would leave nothing of value).  And, in a similar manner as when Israel was freed from captivity and left Egypt with much of their gold and silver, those with properties sold soon-to-be worthless land, homes and other valuables.  They took Israel’s money, pooling it, and giving it to the apostles for the sick and destitute who couldn’t move themselves out of Israel and into the nations.  Scripture says there were 144,000 of them, 12,000 from each tribe, who were to escape the coming conflagration.

Many of these were the ones who had been actually following Jesus, hundreds of them having been healed by Him of their leprosy, their blindness, their deafness, their demon possession, their brokenness, their destitution – all as a result of the savage godlessness of judaistic leadership (and all of this prophesied by the prophet Isaiah).

Having questioned Jesus about what was going to happen (Matthew 24), the apostles knew, from His answer, that this was all going down in their lifetimes; so they had a very short time to get all these thousands of people out of harm’s way.  And just as it was from Egypt, every single one of them got out.   How do we know?  Because that was what was promised.

The entirety of the New Testament was written during this period – thirty five to forty years.  The apostles and their helpers continued, after the resurrection, to travel the whole of Israel, every village and every town and every city, finding the lost sheep of the house of Israel; the Church in Jerusalem continued to feed the sheep with the Gospel, with needed provisions, and with relocation assistance; some of the apostles were preaching the Gospel in the nations and helping the Churches that were receiving all these people, and helping the new Churches being newly established by the relocating Jewish Christians; the letters to the Churches by Paul and James and Peter and Jude and John were letters of correction as well as  letters of comfort to all the “little ones” in very perilous and distressing times.

And let’s not forget the love that all these people had for the homeland that God had given them, and for the “system”, and for their eschatological expectations.  Getting them all out amidst their “hope” for Israel and its Messiah, and for Israel’s re-emergence in the world, would have left them torn between the deep affection for their thousand-year-old nation and their love for Jesus and His apostles.

Thirdly, Jesus had warned His apostles that they, and the Churches, would suffer many things.  And, certainly, the satanic world order and the persecution of the Roman emperors, during a time of turmoil and upheaval in the empire, was a major factor in those perilous times for the Church.

But, as I said, by no means was that the only factor; and neither was it the most malignant.  There was something that caused even more suffering than did the pagan world order and the Roman empire!

Jesus, in Matthew chapter 23, in excoriating the judaists, told them that they had, all through their history, humiliated, maimed and killed the prophets that God had sent to them (even to John the baptizer).  And now Jesus was going to send the apostles to preach the Gospel to all the nations.  And that the judaizers were going to pursue them from city to city, and try them, and persecute them, and crucify them and scourge them!  And, for that persecution of His apostles and His Church, all of them members of His resurrected and ascended body, all the righteous blood shed upon the earth from Able to Zechariah would come upon them.  And it would come in this generation!

So, you see, the Church of Jesus Christ was going to suffer at the hands of Rome and especially at the hands of judaizers.  But, having persecuted God’s prophets, and then having crucified the Son of God, the ultimate culpability (the blood of all the righteous and all the prophets) would come upon judaists because of their persecution of the Lord’s people – the Church!  They were The Father’s elect people from the foundation, given to Jesus Christ, and they were united to Christ in His body!  And there would be no mercy to those who persecuted the ones united to Him.

Once again, the terminal point of this culpability was to occur during this generation – a generation during which many of the Lord’s apostles, helpers and deacons, and the lost sheep of the house of Israel would still be alive to see it.  And, as Jesus told His apostles, they would be recipients of that persecution – especially from judaists!

So, not only did the new Churches in the nations need correction from Paul and the others, but they needed much comfort.  These who God had held for Himself (the lost sheep of the house of Israel) had to leave their homeland of a thousand years, they had to establish new homelands, new jobs, new households, new everything!  All this amongst Gentiles!  The beloved nation of King David and King Solomon, according to Jesus and his apostles, was about to experience great tribulation at Jesus’ Parousia.  Daniel’s “abomination of desolation” was about to come upon them (according to Luke it was the Roman armies – the immediate “means” of that desolation).  The temple and the ceremonial system and the sacrificial system and the priesthood and everything else about the promised land was about to be crushed, dissolved and discontinued; for God was adjudicating, by King Jesus, the covenantal sanctions against adulterous and idolatrous Israel.

Thus the letters of comfort from the apostles – including this letter from John.  Surely there is correction for the Churches, and exhortation for perseverance; but the letter is primarily a letter of comfort and preparation for that which was shortly to come.  For, as Jesus told His apostles in Matthew 24, nothing like it had ever occurred, nor would it.  People all over the world would be shocked and grieved, especially these expatriated Jewish Christians.  They were going to suspect that the end of the world had come upon them.  Everything that they had loved, from Moses to the present, was about to be terminated – disestablished – de-created - in the fiery justice of Jesus Christ.

But John lays it all out there for them exactly what to expect at His Parousia, while warning them about the greatest present threat to the Churches – Judaists.  For they would pursue the worshippers of God’s Messiah, and they would accuse and slander them to the Roman authorities in the same way that they had accused and slandered Jesus; and, while commanding repentance and perseverance from them, he comforts them in the terror that is about to befall them and their nation.  Persevere, be faithful, and don’t faint!  Persevere!  Overcome!  Be victorious!  God the Son (that’s the way He announces Himself to this Thyatiran Church – verse 18), The Son of God, the bodily resurrected ascended and enthroned Savior of the world, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is doing this, and glory be to His holy Name.  Come quickly Lord Jesus.