REVELATION STUDY (LESSON #5 – Letter to the church at Thyatira): Thyatira is the fourth church addressed in chapter two of Revelation. The name of Thyatira means ‘continual sacrifice’. The ancient city was located some thirty-five miles southeast of Pergamos. The city was built by Lysimachus and again by Seleucus I, the founder of the Seleucid dynasty, whose kingdom stretched from Lydian Empire to the Himalayas. Once a prosperous city under the rule of Emperor Vespasian, Thyatira was a center and home to many guilds ie. potters’ guild, tanners’, weavers’, robe makers’, and finally the dyers’ guild. Dyeing fabrics was the main craft in Thyatira. In fact, Lydia, the seller of purple who Paul first meets upon arriving in Philippi, came from here (see Acts 16:14). She was the first European Christian. The dye in Thyatira was produced from a plant that grows in that area.
Christ introduces Himself as “These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass” (2:18). This is the first time in these letters to the seven churches He mentions is name. Until now, He has only introduced Himself by describing one of His attributes. With respect to what Thyatira represents, He is reminding Rome that He is the Son of God, not merely the son of Mary. His description also includes one of judgment.
Thyatira represents the period of the Dark Ages when the Roman church was rising to what would be it’s zenith (590-1517 A.D.). But Christ commends them for five things:
(1) charity (love)
(2) service (faithfulness)
(5) good works (the last was better than the first; their works greater than their love) The Roman Church has been known for its many good works down through the ages. In the Middle Ages every hospital in Europe was a monastery or convent. Mother Theresa is probably one of the best know Catholic nuns due to her good works. They still had those that loved the Lord. There were some well-known saints of God during that period: Bernard of Clairvaux, Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe, John Huss, Savonarola, and Anselm were all men in the Roman church.
“Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee” (2:20). Notice first of all that back in Ephesus, Jesus had one thing against them. As time progressed through the church ages, the visible church of Christendom retained some of the bad traits of the previous age. God’s main objection with this church centered in the fact that they were allowing the ministry of a false prophetess Jesus calls Jezebel.
Her Old Testament counterpart: The original Jezebel of the Old Testament was the pagan murderous wife of King Ahab. She was a daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre and Sidon, and lived about 918 years before Christ. She was an idolater, and induced her weak husband not only to allow her introduce the worship of her native idols, but to become an idolater himself, and to use all the means in his power to establish the worship of idols instead of the worship of the true God. Ahab’s Jezebel introduced her Phoenician religion by slowly mixing in its rituals and rites with the Jewish worship of her husband.
Like the Jezebel of old, Jesus says this Jezebel was also causing the people to sin by teaching immorality and idolatry. According to scholars, the very powerful guilds or unions often met in the heathen temples. These meetings often began with a libation to the gods and included a meal offered to the gods. Thyatiran Christians had to join a union to make a living and joining such a guild often meant serious pressure to become involved with the pagan worship at the meetings which included debauchery and licentiousness.
So the Christian had to make a difficult choice to be different. The most used adjective in the New Testament for a Christian is the Greek word ‘hagios’ meaning holy, consecrated or, simply put, different and set apart. The prophetess here at Thyatira was apparently teaching, very similar to the Balaamites and Nicolaitans of Pergamos, that it was alright for the Christians to enjoin themselves with the practices of the guilds. In other words, go along with the world to get along.
She was totally unrepentant. It was Jude, among other apostles who warned of this enemy within. The Lord said He gave her time to repent but she repented not.
(a) Her followers will go through the great tribulation and become false churches in Revelation 17. It is very fitting after her fornications and idolatry that she be called by the names of ‘Babylon’ and ‘the great whore’ in chapter 17.
(b) Her children (followers) will suffer the second death at the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-13).
(c) She would serve as an example to other churches concerning the wrath of God. (See also Acts 5:11-13; 1 Tim. 5:22.)
To those who have not fallen under these doctrines of Satan Jesus says, “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. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come” (2:24, 25).
Note the phrase, “the depths of Satan.” The devil, like the Lord, has his systematic doctrinal textbooks. 1Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils…”
Christ promises the overcomer, or true believer, that He will make them rulers of nations and give them the morning star. I can’t wait to hear one day the wonderful words of Christ, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Praise the Lord.
Just as Ephesus represented the early Apostilic Age (Pentecost-100 A.D.), Smyrna the time of persecution (100 A.D.-313 A.D.), and Pergamos the time from 313 A.D at the signing by emperor Constantine of the Edict of Toleration (Edict of Milan) to about 590 A.D., Thyatira represents the Dark Ages or the time when the Roman Empire fell under the weight of decay and barbarian hordes in the west while the Roman church reached a pinnacle of its power. Just as Jezebel of old had mixed the pagan Baal worship in with the already idolatrous calf worship instituted by King Jeroboam as a form of worship to God (1Kings 12:28), the Roman Catholic church was also full of idolatrous mixing of secular and sacred, pagan, Jewish, and Christian.
In order to gain ‘converts’ from the pagan peoples the Church blended pagan rituals with its own. For example Christmas was chosen to be celebrated on December 25 because of the Roman pagan holiday Dies Natalis Solis Invicti which means “the birthday of the unconquered Sun.” It was a pagan holiday worshipping the winter solstice and sun god which at this time of year would reverse its retreat proving to be unconquered. One of the customs of this fifteen day festival was to exchange little gifts.
Eostur-monath was an Anglo-Saxon and Germanic celebration during the month of April to celebrate the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre. In Germanic feasts this worship festival included the customs of displaying rabbits and eggs. Again the Church invited such rituals to placate the world within its congregation, mixing secular and sacred.
As we have previously noted, the name “Thyatira” comes from a combination of two words, one meaning ‘a sacrifice, or perfume of sacrifice’ and the other meaning ‘that which goes on continually’. So we have in one word, “continual sacrifice”. The significance of this meaning, ‘continual sacrifice’, is found in the great fundamental error of the church of Rome, namely, the sacrifice of the Mass. The Roman Catholic priests declare that, in the Mass, they offer a continual sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead. It is why they believe in transubstantiation, the idea that the bread and wine of communion becomes the body and blood of Christ freshly sacrificed in the Eucharist. This is blasphemy as it is a denial of the finished work of our Lord Jesus on Calvary.
H.A. Ironside once asked a Catholic priest, “What is your function as a sacrificing priest?” The priest replied, “It is my privilege to offer up the Lord Jesus from time to time a continual sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead.” Ironside went on, “You claim, then, that every time you offer the sacrifice of the Mass, every time you pronounce the blessing, your are sacrificing Christ for the sins of the living and the dead?” The priest replied simply, “Yes.” “Well, then, you kill Christ afresh every time you offer that sacrifice!” (H.A. Ironside, ‘Revelation’) Hebrews chapter 10 tells us that “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” It is easy to see why the corrupt Vaticanus manuscript, from which is derived the Catholic Bible as well as many modern Protestant bible such as the NIV (Not the KJV though), stops at Hebrews chapter 9:14. By the way, it also omits the book of Revelation.
Leo I (440-461) was the forerunner of future popes, and bishop of Rome. He gained great popularity by twice saving the city, once from Atilla the Hun, and later from Geneseric the Vandal. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Leo I was the first to use the title of Pontifex Maximus which was originally used by pagan Roman Emperors and meant originally ‘high priest of the Ancient Roman College of Pontiffs’. The emperors were considered the high priest of the gods. This title still adorns buildings in the Vatican today as shown in the picture below.
I know a Christian who got saved during a time in his life in which he had been studying to be a Catholic, until he heard the truth of the gospel. He shared some of the information given to him while he was studying as a catechumen. In one of those ‘textbooks’, “Exploring our Catholic Faith, Basic Teachings and Practices” we find some of the incorrect doctrines of that church…
-In Chapter 6, pg. 32 the Roman church says “The Bible, however, is neither a neatly wrapped package of well defined doctrines nor a road map for Christian living. Biblical texts cannot be used to prove teachings, for many Church teachings are not rooted in the Scripture.”
-In Chapter 2 pg. 18 Regarding salvation; “Absolute assurance of personal salvation is not possible.”
-In Chapter 9 pg. 56 Concerning Heaven; “Heaven is not a place in the physical sense, but the fulfillment of who we are and who God has called us to become.”
The Lord said He gave her space to repent and she repented not. The Lord Jesus Christ has patiently dealt with this false system for over a thousand years, and there has been no real change down through the centuries in this system. In fact, the Roman Catholic church boasts that she never changes— “semper idem”, always the same.
To the Jews in captivity the Lord once declared, “Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean…” (Ezekiel 22:26) We must remember not to succumb to using the world’s methods to attract the world. Else, like the church at Thyatira, we will become like them.
“THINK ON THESE THINGS…”