The fourth church named in the Book of Revelation was Thyatira, a city famous for the wool and dye trade. There are very few archeological remains at the former site of Thyatira, but existing inscriptions indicate a flourishing civic and social life from the Second Century BC to the Third Century AD. The reader may recall that Lydia of Phillipi came from Thyatira. She was a successful businesswoman who worked in the purple dye trade. Undoubtedly, although she was living in Phillipi during Paul’s ministry there, Lydia would have maintained important business relationships with her hometown of Thyatira. We learn in the Book of Acts that the Lord opened Lydia’s heart to listen to Paul, and thereafter, she welcomed Paul into her home.
The pastor at Thyatira was told that Jesus had “eyes like a flame of fire, and feet like burnished bronze” (Rev. 2:18). In other words, Jesus had an enlightened viewpoint. He knows the truth, and He sees the truth about all people and the world in which we live. As stated before, The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery is an excellent resource to probe the meaning of biblical imagery. Bronze is a combination of copper and lead. It was known for its strength and radiance. As a part of warfare, it was used in the manufacture of helmets, greaves, and armor. It could also be polished and used as a mirror, and it could shine. Ezekiel described a heavenly creature whose legs shined like burnished bronze (Ezek. 1:7). He also described a man whose face shined like polished bronze (Ezek. 40:3). These biblical images describe Jesus Christ, specifically the strength of His walk and the glory of His presence. Jesus’ spiritual life withstood the attacks of Satan, and He thereby endured the suffering of the cross and the animosity of sinful men, who were opposed to Him.
Because of His enlightened viewpoint, Jesus told the believers of Thyatira that, “I know your deeds [works], and your love and faith, and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first” (Rev. 2:19). Our works should be a byproduct of our faith. All Christians are commanded to love God and their neighbor. God gives us all gifts, which we should use to serve the body of Christ. After having believed, we should do the works that God directs us to do. We must continue to progress in our faith. If we fall away from our walk of faith, we will produce “dead works” (Heb. 6:11, 9:14). “Dead works” are works that are not a product of the Spirit. If we fail to produce Spirit-directed works, our faith is also dead (Jas. 2:17, 26). This does not mean that if we fall away, we are going to Sheol after death. It means that we are no longer living and progressing in the Spiritual Life. If we drift away from the Spiritual Life, we will miss out on many fantastic blessings in this life and the next. If we fall away, we will also bring unneeded suffering into our lives.
Fortunately, the believers of Thyatira were continuing to advance in the Spiritual Life (Rev. 2:19). They were persevering. But they received an important warning from Jesus Christ! Jesus said to them, “But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit sexual immorality and eat things offered to idols (Rev. 2:20). Similar to Christ’s message to Pergamum wherein He alluded to Balaam, Jesus Christ now referred to another famous archenemy of Israel — Jezebel. Jezebel was the foreign born (Sidonian) wife of King Ahab. She sponsored the worship of Baal and Asherah. In fact, she personally supported 400 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah (1 Kgs. 18:19). Like in regard to Balaam, Jesus Christ criticized the pagan influence of sexual immorality and the offering of sacrifices to pagan idols. This was clearly a surface condemnation. However, I believe that this is also an example of the literary device of “innuendo.” Below the surface, there was a veiled and harsher attack against the Advocates of the Old Covenant. From among these were those responsible for John’s exile to the Island of Patmos. From around AD 30 (the death of Christ) until AD 70 (the destruction of Jerusalem), there was near constant persecution of Christians by the Advocates of the Old Covenant.
The artwork attached to this blog captures another important aspect of Jezebel. She was the power behind the throne that manipulated and pressured her husband and King, Ahab. This was another important image of the Advocates of the Old Covenant, who pressured Rome to do their dirty work. This was first seen when the religious elites of Jerusalem manipulated Rome (Pontus Pilate) to crucify Christ. In a similar way, the Advocates of the Old Covenant would have manipulated the Roman authorities in Pergamum to banish John to the Island of Patmos.
With the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, animal sacrifices were no longer appropriate. In fact, the continued offering of sacrifices in light of Christ’s sacrifice was a demonstration of disrespect to the Son of God. By a harsh innuendo, Jesus Christ said that continued loyalty to the Old Covenant was disloyalty to Yahweh. It was an example of spiritual fornication. The continued offering of sacrifices was contrary to God’s will and was, in fact, sponsored by demons and false gods. Israel was given 40 years to repent (AD 30 to AD 70). In other words, the Israelites were given a period of time from the death of Jesus Christ until the destruction of Jerusalem to grasp this new reality. Jesus said, “I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great affliction, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with plague, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each of you according to your deeds” (Rev. 2:21-23).
The Advocates of the Old Covenant were personified as Jezebel, a historical archenemy of authentic Israel. Jezebel was headquartered in Jerusalem, but Rome’s war against the Jews, which was first initiated in Galilee, stretched across all of Palestine. The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was one of the most pivotal events in human history. As many as one million Israelites died. Tens of thousands were enslaved. Great wealth was transferred from Jerusalem to Rome. The Temple was destroyed, and all animal sacrifices ceased. The Jewish rebellion lasted from AD 66 – AD 70. Additionally, the Roman Empire was engulfed in a civil war that lasted from AD 68 (death of Nero) to AD 69 (Vespasian’s consolidation of power). With the destruction of Jerusalem, the Advocates of the Old Covenant were discredited and no longer the primary source and impetus of Christian persecution. Thereafter, Christian persecution was a sporadic reaction from Roman paganism.
Satan’s primary weapons have always been deception and distraction. During the First Century, he used loyalty to the Old Covenant as a weapon against the people of God. Listening to the Spirit and Word was the only escape. Even today, Christians can be entrapped and beguiled by the tradition of a particular denomination. Satan deploys such a strategy while simultaneously attacking the Church with things like Political Correctness, Marxism, licentiousness, and materialism.
The faithful of Thyatira were encouraged to hold on to their Spiritual Life (Rev. 2:25). In fact, they were promised that Jesus Christ was coming to their rescue (Rev. 2:25). It is true that we anticipate a Second Coming of Christ, but the immediate fulfillment of Revelation 2:25 occurred by means of Jesus Christ’s control of human history. To this day, He is seated at the right hand of the Father controlling human history. The war between the Jews and Rome, coupled with the Roman Civil War, brought immediate relief to the beleaguered First Century Christians. This was the answer to their prayers. This is the story of the Book of Revelation.
The victorious believers remained faithful. They were promised that faithful believers would rule with Christ. There was a “now and not yet” fulfillment. First, they ruled over history by the invisible impact of their prayers, which is a major theme of the Book of Revelation. The judgments of the Book of Revelation were God’s response to the prayers of faithful believers. Second, when believers live the New Covenant Spiritual Life, they are effectually ruling over the difficult and challenging circumstances of this life. Additionally, those who die as martyrs in this life are already ruling in Heaven with Christ. Finally, the faithful believers will rule with Christ for all of our future eternal existence.
To the church at Thyatira, Jesus said,
The one who overcomes, and the one who keeps my deeds until the end, I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are shattered, as I also have received authority from my Father, and I will give him the morning star. The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev. 2:26-29).
Notice that faithful believers will rule with Christ. This will have a literal and spiritual fulfillment. Between AD 66 to AD 70, the prayers of faithful believers shattered their enemies like pottery. The prayers of faithful believers have an incredible impact on history. The morning star (Venus) leads us to the bright and shining day. Typically, Venus is the brightest object in the sky before the sun rises. In a similar way, faithful believers lead humanity to the bright and shining day when Christ will return and visibly rule over Planet Earth and all of the universe for all eternity.
 “Thyatira.” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman, vol. 6, Si-Z, Doubleday, 1992.
 Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, edited by Leland Ryken, et al, InterVarsity Press, 1998.
 “Bronze.” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, edited by Leland Ryken, et al, InterVarsity Press, 1998.
 A reminder to the reader that the “Advocates of the Old Covenant” is the name that I apply to First Century Christians and Jews who put an undue emphasis on continuing the ritual practices of the Old Testament law. The Advocates of the Old Covenant included Jews that believed in Christ and Jews that did not accept Christ as the Messiah. Also included were Gentile believers who put an undue emphasis on the Old Covenant.