The Church of Thyatira

Revelation 2:18  

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;  
  2:19   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.  
  2:20   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.  
  2:21   And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.  
  2:22   Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.  
  2:23   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.  
  2:24   But 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.  
  2:25   But that which ye have [already] hold fast till I come.  
  2:26   And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:  
  2:27   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.  
  2:28   And I will give him the morning star.  
  2:29   He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. 

 

Thyatira was located about twenty-five miles southeast of Pergamos, the present population is about 12,000. The city was founded by Seleueus Nicator, one of the generals of Alexander. It was a garrison city built on the plains, with no natural fortifications, and was captured, destroyed, and rebuilt many times. On coins found in its ruins the city is represented by a horseman bearing a double-bladed battle-ax indicating that it was a cavalry post. The name is said to signify "sweet savor of labor," or "sacrifice of contrition." Sir William Ramsay says that the name indicates "weakness made strong" and other writers give the meaning as "never weary of sacrifice."

 

Thyatira at the time of this epistle was an important manufacturing city, its citizens being mostly poor and humble laborers, just the opposite of those in Pergamos. They were made contrite by sacrifices, and their lives were made fragrant by the blessings of labor. The workmen of Thyatira were organized into labor unions, or "guilds." The two leading industries were the manufacture of instruments of brass, bronze, and other metals, and the manufacture and dyeing of cloth, especially of the royal purple. Homer speaks of the dyeing of red and purple cloth as being characteristic of the city. Several inscriptions mentioning dyers and their guilds have been found. Agents traveled far distances selling Thyatiran cloth. Over in Philippi of Macedonia the apostle Paul brought the gospel to "a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira." Acts 16:12-14. It is believed that the local church of Thyatira owed its origin to the labors of Lydia after she returned home. Large quantities of purple and scarlet cloth are still shipped from Thyatira to Smyrna. It is significant that purple and scarlet are the chief colors worn by the popes and cardinals of the ruling church of the Middle Ages, the Thyatira period of the universal church. (Revelation 17:3-5.)

 

Christ introduced Himself to the church in Thyatira as "the Son of God, who hath His eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass." "Eyes like flaming fire" and "whose eyes flash like fire and whose feet glow like bronze," are other translations. This language was very familiar to a people who labored in foundries with their flaming furnaces, where fine brass, bronze, and other metals were manufactured into all sorts of articles for the market.

This is the only time the title "the Son of God" is used in the seven epistles. During this period the place and authority of the Son of God were usurped by symbolic Jezebel, representing an apostate religious system. The back sliding and apostatized church failed to recognize His priestly service and sovereign authority, and assumed prerogatives that belonged alone to the "Son of God." To Thyatyra was sent the longest of the seven letters, and it covers the longest of the seven periods of church history, a thousand years, or half of the Christian Era.

It is appropriate that the church in the middle of the seven should be symbolic of the church of the Middle Ages. The Thyatira period of the universal church covers the period of papal supremacy after the church was elevated to kingly power. McCarrell says this period began with the first pope in the sixth century. And Philip Mauro remarks, "Our view is that in this letter to Thyatira we are given to see the inception of that masterpiece of satanic deception, that monstrous heresy, whose fullest development has been manifested in Romanism."

Of this period Seiss says: "Then came the Thyatiran period-the age of purple and glory for the corrupt priesthood, and of darkness for truth. The age of effeminacy and clerical domination, when the Church usurped the place of Christ, and the witnesses of Jesus were given to dungeons, stakes and inquisitions; the age of the enthronement of the false prophetess, reaching to the days of Luther and the Reformation."  If an exact date were chosen for the beginning of the Thyatira period it would be AD 538, when the decree of Emperor Justinian and the arms of Belisarius elevated the Bishop of Rome to sovereign power.

The bitter controversy over the papal throne between Vigilius and Silverius, ended with the death of the latter and the enthronement of the former, in 538. Cardinal Baronius, a noted Catholic historian, declared that during the reign of Pope Vigilius an idol was erected in the temple of God, that the abomination of desolation stood in the holy place, that the son of perdition occupied the papal chair, not as the vicar of Christ, but as the predicted antichrist. He referred to the Papacy under this notorious pope as the imperial Jezebel of the Revelation.

B. Holzhauser, an eminent Catholic commentator on the Apocalypse, whose explanations are regarded by Roman Catholics as being almost divinely inspired, says: "Thyatira, the fourth age of the church, began when the downfall of pagan Rome was accomplished, and the devil was chained up for a thousand years. The body of the church, freed from the tonic of persecution, fell away from its high calling, and embraced luxury. This message reveals the interior condition of the church of the Middle Ages, which extended from the sixth to the sixteenth century. If we apply this letter to the fourth, it may be said to coincide with it from the historic point of view in a remarkable manner. For both the church and the world speak of this period as the ‘Middle Ages.’ In this it may be said that we built better than we knew: for Thyatira is the middle church of the seven, and consequently stands as the symbol of the church of the Middle Ages." Apocalypse, Volume 1, Page 155, 158.

It is interesting to note that the Reformation expositors were almost unanimous in their conclusions that imperial Rome fulfilled the prophecy of the fourth beast of Daniel 7, and that papal Rome met the specifications of the little horn of the same prophecy, the man of sin predicted by Paul, the beast of Revelation 13, the mystic Babylon of Revelation 17, and Jezebel the false prophetess of the Thyatiran letter.

         The  False  Prophetess
Some believe that Thyatira is equivalent to Thyatira, meaning "a daughter," and indicating feminine oppression; that the local church was led into apostasy by a woman who claimed to be a prophetess; and that this false prophetess was an adulteress. Of the Jezebel of this prophecy, A. T. Robertson says: "This woman was not a real prophetess, but a false one with loud claims and loose living. One is puzzled to know how such a woman had so much shrewdness and sex appeal as to lead astray the servants of God in that church. The, church tolerated the Nicolaitanes and this leader whose primary object was sexual immorality (Charles), and became too much involved with her to handle the heresy."

Spiritual Jezebel was the tempter to the church of Thyatira as was literal Jezebel to Ahab and Israel of old. Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon, who married Ahab, king of Israel. She brought with her the pagan religion of the Phoenicians and led all Israel into idolatry. We are told that as the result of his marriage with this heathen woman, Ahab "did sell himself to work wickedness" and "did very abominably in following idols." (1 Kings 21: 25, 26.) Ethbaal was not only king of Sidon but also priest of Astarte, and Jezebel was probably a priestess and prophetess of Baal worship.

Jezebel soon became the dominant power over the king and kingdom of Israel. Her will was supreme. She hated the prophets of God and persecuted them. To supplant the worship of Jehovah she imported 850 prophets of Baal, the Sun god and chief deity of the Phoenicians, and made that heathen system the supreme religion supported and enforced by the state. From the time of Jezebel’s marriage to Ahab the apostasy of Israel became general, and finally assumed such proportions that all but seven thousand of the millions of Israel were bowing their knees to Baal. Likewise from the time the church married the state, during the Pergamos period, the apostasy that began in the latter days of the apostles became so universal that the church and the world were led into the Dark Ages. In corruptness, Jezebel is compared to Semiramis and Cleopatra.

        The  Scarlet  Women

The symbolic woman of Revelation 17 is doubtless identical with the Jezebel of the Thyatiran letter. There she is pictured as being "arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication." She is said to be "drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." In her "forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth"

Purple and scarlet were the predominant colors manufactured in Thyatira. Both of these symbolic women are declared to be harlots, being guilty of spiritual fornication. Jehu told Joram, the son of Jezebel, that there could be no peace "so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many." (2 Kings 9:22.) Whether or not the local church was deceived by a literal woman who claimed the prophetic gift, Jezebel certainly is an appropriate symbol of the semi pagan religious system that dominated the world (luring the Middle Ages. "The deeper the church penetrated into paganism the more she herself became heathenish; this prepares us for the expressions ‘harlot’ and ‘Babylon,’ applied to her afterwards." (Auberlen.)  These Protestant expositors see the Papacy in the scarlet woman of Babylon, the Jezebel of Thyatira appears exactly at the right time, coincides with the Papacy at its height.

Spiritual Jezebel "calls herself a prophetess." This is the claim of the church of which she is symbolic. The office of it prophetess being a religious one proves that the Jezebel of our prophecy is symbolic of a religious system. It is a well known fact that the Papacy claims divine inspiration and guidance even to the extent of infallibility. She terms herself "the oracle of God." Catholics themselves symbolize their church by a woman, speaking of her as "Mother" or "Holy Mother." The Papacy designates herself "The Mother of Christendom."

Jezebel was swift to shed the blood of the prophets of God. During her relentless persecutions the seven thousand of Israel who did not worship Baal, had to flee to the mountains and hide in the caves of the earth. A price was set on the head of Elijah, the great reformer of ancient Israel. The period during which spiritual Jezebel dominated the earth was likewise a time of persecution for the people of God. During this period the following prophecies were fulfilled: Daniel 7:21, 25; 8:10-13, 24; 11:11; Matthew 24:21, 22; Revelation 12:6, 14; 13:5-9; 17:6.

The undisputed role of Jezebel continued three and a half years, which was a time of spiritual drought and darkness. It was the "Dark Ages" of Israel’s history. It ended in a reformation led by Elijah, Elisha, Jehu, and others. This reformation, however, came to a standstill and was not completed till apostolic times, when the church was brought all the way back to the faith of Abraham and Moses. Spiritual Jezebel ruled the world and persecuted the saints for three and a half prophetic years - a time of spiritual drought and darkness. During this time God’s loyal people had to flee to the mountains and remain in hiding. Millions suffered martyrdom because they refused to join the majority in doing obeisance to an apostate power.

Joseph A. Seiss says of spiritual Jezebel: "And in all history there is not another character which so completely represents the Papal system-its character, works and worship as the unclean wife of Ahab, the Jezebel of these Epistles. She was a heathen, married to a Jew; and such is the character of the Papal system in its main elements-Paganism joined to an obsolete Judaism. She is described as calling herself a prophetess, and as undertaking to be the teacher of God’s servants; and Popery claims and professes to be heaven’s only infallible teacher of God’s truth. She was a persecutor and murderess of God’s prophets and witnesses; and the Papacy is marked by nothing more than its severity towards such as stood out against its impious pretenses, and its public and secret tortures and butcheries of the saints." (Pages 194, 195.)

Unfaithfulness to God is called fornication because throughout the Scriptures the covenant relation between God and His people is represented by marriage. Christ represented Himself as the Bridegroom and His church as the Bride. Any transgression would therefore be a form of spiritual adultery, harlotry, or fornication. This would especially be true of any union between the church and the state or the world.

       Video about the Church at Thyatira  --  Kenneth Cox

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