The Message to Thyatira
To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: "This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes blaze like fire; whose feet shine like polished brass:
I know what you do. I know your love, your faithfulness, your service, and your patience. I know that you are doing more now than you did at first.
But there is what I have against you; you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a messenger of God. She teaches and misleads my servants into committing immorality and eating food that has been offered to idols.
I have given her time to turn from her sins, but she does not wish to turn from her immorality.
And so I will throw her on a bed where she and those who committed adultary with her will suffer terribly. I will do this now, unless they repent from the wicked things they did with her.
I will also kill her followers, and all the churches will know that I am. He who knows men's thoughts and wishes. I will repay each one of you according to what you have done.
But the rest of you in Thyatira have not followed this evil teaching; you have not learned what the other call "the deep secrets of Satan". I will say to you that I will not put any other burden on you.
But you must hold firmly to what you have until I come.
To those who win the victory, who continue to do what I want until the very end, I will give the same authority that I received from my Father.
I will give them authority over the nations to rule them with an iron rod and to break them to pieces like clay pots. I will also give them the morning star.
If you have ears, then, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches!"
Rev. 2, 18-29
Thyatira (present Akhisar) is 95 kms from ?zmir. Former Thyatira was probebly founded in the Lydian Period. Later it was captured by Selencus, diadoch King of Syria and Mesopotamia after the death of Alexander the Great. In the third century B.C. after the defeat of Antiochus II in the Battle of Magnesia against the Romans in 190, the town became part of the Kingdom of Pergamum, and later a Roman possession in 133. Later on, Christianity spread here very rapidly and the town is mentioned amongst the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation).
Emperor Caracalla stayed here for some time. In the Byzantine period the town flourished, but no historical particulars are known about it. But the wars that broke out towards the end of Byzantine times caused the downfall of the town. In about 1313 A.D. it was occupied by Saruhan, the Seljuk Emir of Manisa. And in 1425 The Plain of Akhisar became the scene of a battle against the Turkish adven turer Cunait. After his defeat, Thyatira, now named Akhisar, was occupied by the Ottomans who made it part of their Empire. Today despite of its long past, Akhisar is a prosperous modern city and an important commercial center of the Aegean Region. But in present Akhisar there are only a very few remains left from the Hellenistic, Romand and Byzantine times.
Akhisar, former Thyatira, lies in the long valley through which leads a highway to the West, to Pergamum and far beyond to the Aegean Sea. Westwards, this main road leads to ancient Philadelphia, Sardis and Laodicea, where it links up with the roads both to Smyrna and Ephesus in the West, and with Byzantium and Nicea in the North. So the town was on the gateway from the East to Pergamum, the capital of the province, so it was on the road upon which the imperial post travelled. The town was also crowded with the trade and commerce from Asia-Minor to the East. So, first and foremost, Thyatira was a great commercial center. It lay in an open valley; this situation made the town strategically a most important frontier town and a center of missonary activities to build the fourth church here.
Thyatira had no special religious significance. The town was not a center of early Ceasar worship or that of Greek or Anatolian deities. The local hero-God was called Tyrimus; he appears on the local coins sitting on horseback and armed with a battle axe and a club. The only thing worth notifying about this town from the regilious point of view was a fortune-telling shrine; a female oracle called the Sambathe. It is certain that no threat of prosecution hung over the church in Thyatira.
But what was the problem and danger for the faithful here? We know less about this town than about any other of the seven. We only know that it was an important commercial center in the trade of woollen goods and in purple dying. It was in Thyatira and the surrounding area of Lydia that here existed the well organized guilds of craftsmen and workers in wool, linen fabric, leather and bronze. But here also lay the major problem for the church in this town. To refuse to joint one of these guilds meant the same as not to join a worker's trade union. The Christians could, by their consciences, not join one of these guilds, because they were distinguished by two important characteristics:
First, the members held common parties and meals; these were often held in a temple, being also a social center. These meals started as usual with a dedication and a formal sacrifice to the gods. Part of the meat to be served was offered to the idols. So it was impossible for a Christian to participate in guild-meals like these. Secondly the communal meals were sometimes occasions which revealed open and public drunkenness and a sunken and slackened morality. So, once more, it was impossible for a Christian to participate and to enter into a social occasion like this.
This shows that the Christians should not be a member of a trade guild. They were defended only by the Holy Spirit and the presence of Jesus Christ. We may also suppose that, in the Church in Thyatira, there was a strong movement led by a woman addressed in the letter as "Jezebel". The source of this trouble in Thyatira was centered around a woman, who considered herself to be a special messenger of God, or a prophetess. She is compared with the seductive queen of the old Kingdom of Israel in Old Testament times. The original Jezebel from the Book of Kings in the Old Testament was the wife of King Ahab of the "Kingdom of Ten Tribes" in Israel. The capital of this state was Samaria. Jezebel was the daughter of Baal, King of the big commercial city of Tyre and also the High Priest of the local god of the city, Baal-Melkart. The cult of this Baal worship, being a fertility rite, was called in the Bible "an abomination". One may imagine, that the "abominations" lay on the level of morality. The great opponent of Ahab and Jezebel in the respective Bible passages is Eliah the Prophet. He considers the grave sin of both the king and his wife Jezebel as being the fact that they had made the people of Israel go astray from the true worship of the One God. In this process the queen was the leading person, more than her husband, King Ahab, who, in this matter, followed his wife.
Historically seen it is a fact that, beside the worship of the God of Israel, the queen Jezebel introduced in her new country her ancestral gods, and many Israelites accepted this new religion, being more attractive to them by giving them more personal freedom to commit sexual aberrations. So it was a matter of mutual tolerance between both religions, but the newly introduced one being more attractive and agreeable to practise.
There are experts who see in the Sambathe oracle the evil influence that was threatening the Church in Thyatira. It is quite well possible that an oracle like this was able to use her influence at a purpose to injure the church. But this opinion must be rejected. The Biblical texts make it quite clear that "Jezebel" was a member her of the congregation and that her evil influence was being exerted from within.
This means that the Jezebel of Thyatira can be considered to be a woman with an evil and seductive influence on the purity of life and worship in the Christian Church. It must be perfectly clear that, for herself, she was not willings is destroy the Church, but she wanted to bring into it some new teachings and practises that were, in fact, destructive to the church and to the faith. She called herself a "prophetess", or a messenger from God. Jezebel was one of these people who wish to alter Christianity to suit themselves and who are thinking that they are entitled to add and to improve upon the original teachings of Jesus Christ.
There is a real point that the Church in Thyatira was believed to be, for the first time, a Church surging with life and energy, being fertile and fruitful in every type of good work. Only Jezebel and her followers are warned. Undoubtly, the woman Jezebel must have shown to many people a fine character. She must have had a good command of speech and a fair presentation to be regarded as a prophetess. But the Risen Christ can see beyond these outward features.
The promise of Christ to the faithful believers is the gift of authority (the rule with an iron rod, as displayed by the Hero on the local coins of the town); and the morning star. This star rises in the early morning twilight before sunrise and is a symbol of the rising sun. So the Christian will rise after the night of death and will be united with Christ. This is the spiritual meaning of the Church in Thyatira.