Impact

Seven Church Conditions during the Times of the Gentiles – The Licentious Congregation

As we study the prophetic messages to the seven congregations in this series, we will quickly see that they follow the same well-defined structure. The Lord begins each message with a greeting that relates back to John’s vision of Jesus, the Son of Man, in the heavenly scene in the first chapter of the Revelation. In other words, Jesus greets each congregation with an aspect of His person or His title that relates who He is to their particular circumstance. Jesus then commends the congregation for the good things He can say to them. Jesus then exhorted the congregations to take the appropriate action with a promise of blessings for obedience. The believers were to overcome must be understood within the context of the struggles and temptations each congregation faced. Furthermore, the Lord connects the congregation’s spiritual condition with the city’s character and reputation in each letter. (2)

Because the believers were being persecuted, the Lord wanted to encourage them as well as challenge them in areas where they were failing to live up to their high calling. He introduced Himself as the exalted Son of Man in a way that related to their individual situations, both physically and spiritually. He gave each congregation a word of promise to the overcomers and a warning of consequences if they did not obey His instructions. It is most important that we realize His words of promise were not to those who failed to repent. The Lord only had harsh words to those who were carnal and lukewarm in their commitment. The Lord did not give any of these congregations a watered-down, seeker-friendly, entertaining message. The very survival of the Lord’s work in the city depended on the believers responding positively to what the Lord told them. He promised blessings to the overcomers but chastening to those who did not heed His message. (2)

Thyatira Ruines Aerial View
Ruins of Thyatira

The Congregation at Thyatira

With this introduction, let’s get some background information about Thyatira that will help us understand why the Lord said what He did to the believers in this strategic city. Then we will study this prophetic message with a view of its practical application to our world and lives today. (2)

Paul, Silas, and Timothy met Lydia of Thyatira at Philippi

We learn in the Bible that Lydia was a seller of purple from Thyatira. She was living in Philippi when she heard Paul preach the Gospel. Lydia was a worshiper of the One True God. When she heard Paul’s message, she became a believer, was baptized in the river on the Sabbath (Shabbat) and gave hospitality to Paul and Silas. She was apparently Paul’s first convert in what would be considered Europe, and the congregation of new believers met in her home. (2)

We put out to sea from Troas and sailed a straight course to Samothrace, the next day to Neapolis,and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of that district of Macedonia, a Roman colony. We stayed in this city for some days. On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate to the side of the river, where we thought there would be a place of prayer, and we sat down and began to speak to the women who had assembled there. A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, a God-fearing woman, listened to us. The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying. After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me to be a believer in the Lord, come and stay in my house.” And she persuaded us. (Acts 16:11–15 NET)

Paul probably taught believers from Thyatira while at Ephesus

We do not know who first shared the Gospel in Thyatira or when the first congregation was established. But we do know that Christianity took root in the city. The growth and influence of the congregation were such that they had a bishop who attended the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325 and the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431. (2)

So Paul entered the synagogue and spoke out fearlessly for three months, addressing and convincing them about the kingdom of God. But when some were stubborn and refused to believe, reviling the Way before the congregation, he left them and took the disciples with him, addressing them every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all who lived in the province of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord. (Acts 19:8–10 NET)
Therefore be alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears. And now I entrust you to God and to the message of his grace. This message is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:31–32 NET)

Background

After delivering the Lord’s prophetic letter to the believers at Pergamos, the courier traveled about 40 miles southeast to Thyatira. Thyatira was located about 42 miles inland from the Aegean Sea. As with other towns and cities in Asia Minor, when Alexander defeated the Persian Empire, one of his successors, Seleucus, rebuilt Thyatira. It originally served as a military outpost from which it got its name, which meant the “citadel, castle or stronghold of Thya.” (2)

When Rome established its authority in the region, Thyatira became part of the Roman province of Asia Minor. The modern Turkish city of Akhisar is located at the site of the ruins of Thyatira. The main archaeological sites are fourth- through sixth-century public buildings. (2)

Thyatira was located on the main Roman postal route, as were each of the other seven cities with a community of believers. Historically, Thyatira was not a large, influential city. However, the city became an important commercial center because it had the natural resources and skilled craftsmen to make the much sought-after purple dye. The color was probably scarlet, but in ancient times, people used the word purple to refer to various color shades of red. Unlike the purple dye made from snails, the dye of Thyatira was made from a madder-root plant, and is now called “Turkey red.” (2)

Thyatira was known for its many trade guilds. Today we might think of Thyatira as a factory, blue-collar, union town. Archaeologists have discovered many coins and inscriptions mentioning different trade guilds, such as dyers, wool, linen, leather and bronze, potters, tanners, and bakers. Each industry had its own trade guild. (2)

The norm in ancient times was that the trade guilds acknowledged a certain deity. The gods and goddesses had their origins in Babylon. When Babylon was conquered by the Medo-Persians, the conquerors embraced the old Babylonian deities and simply changed their names to be part of the pantheon of the gods and goddesses worshiped by the conquerors. When Alexander conquered the Persians, the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology became the primary deities worshiped by the pagan world. They would later be “made over” as Roman deities when Rome became the new world power. This was the situation in Thyatira and with the entire Mediterranean world when John sent his prophetic messages to the seven congregations. (2)

Like a “closed shop” union town of today, people had to join the guilds in order to get a job and advance socially or any other way in Thyatira. When the guild members assembled, the normal order of business was to worship their particular deity and seek its blessings. The way they did this was to sacrifice to the deity and then eat the remainder of the sacrifice. The reason for doing this was not only to have the food to eat; eating the sacrificial offering was part of the worship. It showed their covenant union with the gods and goddesses they worshiped. It was the guild’s communal feast (communion meal) to their patron deity. As with all idol worship, drunkenness, licentiousness (6), and other immorality often accompanied the worship. (2)

Due to the trade guilds, believers had to choose between having a job by participating in the worship, eating the sacrifices, and joining in the unholy revelry or not having a job and depending on God for provision. Someone in the congregation at Thyatira taught that it was acceptable for the believers to participate so they would have a job. This was the situation facing the believers that prompted the Son of Man to send them a prophetic letter. (2)

Ancient Thyatira / Modern Akhisar, Turkey

Select one of the Seven Cities in the Google Map (below), then select “View in Google Maps” on the left to explore each of the Seven Congregations of The Revelation.

Seven Churches of Revelation

The Greeting

“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the Son of God, the one who has eyes like a fiery flame and whose feet are like polished bronze: (Revelation 2:18 NET)

The Son of Man identifies Himself also as the Son of God. Some scholars say that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God, but that His followers made this claim later in order to present Jesus as more than just a human being, prophet, teacher, and healer. In other words, they invented this teaching, but Jesus never claimed this for Himself. (2)

It is important that we study the Bible for ourselves and not accept what people say because every teacher has his or her own agenda. They will interpret the Bible in ways to support their agendas and then teach and write books to promote their views. So what does the Bible say? Is Jesus just a remarkable prophet and great teacher? Or does the New Testament present Jesus as the Son of God? The answer is clearly yes! (2)

In reference to Jesus, the phrase “Son of God” or “Son” used alone but in relationship to God is found about 95 times in the New Testament. You can count them yourself. That should be enough to clarify the issue. But just in case one still thinks this phrase was an invention of His followers, Jesus Himself greets the congregation in Thyatira as the Son of God. People may not believe Jesus is the Son of God, but they cannot claim that He did not call Himself by this phrase. Furthermore, during the time of Jesus, mystical rabbis who were considered close to God were often referred to as “sons of God.” So this was not a new and strange idea for John’s readers. The difference is that Jesus is the unique, one-of-a-kind, Son of God in that He was God in human flesh. (2)

For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. (John 3:16–18 NET)

We have learned that Jesus identified Himself differently to each congregation based on the particular problems and issues facing the community. This is the only time the phrase “Son of God” is found in the Book of Revelation. So what was going on at Thyatira that prompted Jesus to identify Himself in this way? (2)

As with the other congregations to whom Jesus is writing, the citizens of Thyatira worshiped a number of different deities, but their chief god was Apollo. In Greek mythology, Apollo was a son of Zeus, who was the supreme god and father of gods. Apollo was worshiped throughout the ancient world as a “son of god,” meaning “son of Zeus.” Among other attributes, Apollo was identified as the “sun god” and was called the radiant, shining one. He had an oracle (priest or priestess) who spoke on his behalf to his worshipers. The Roman emperors took this title on themselves and claimed to be the human incarnation of Zeus. When the trade guilds met, they worshiped Apollo. If his local oracle spoke, they believed they were hearing the voice of the son of god speaking to them. (2)

With this knowledge, it should be obvious why Jesus identified Himself as the Son of God. Zeus was not the supreme god and deity. Apollo was not the son of god and certainly not the radiant, shining, sun god. Jesus is the Sun of righteousness (as vindicated, justification, salvation, etc.) (2)

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness? shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. (Malachi 4:1–2 ESV)

Yahweh (YHVH), the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the one and only true God, and Jesus is His Son. As the Son of God, Jesus was the oracle who spoke for God. Whoever heard His voice, heard the voice of the Son of God.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the One True God spoke to His people and told them to listen to His voice. The most important statement of faith for the Jewish people is:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4 NET)

As time passed, God spoke to His people through His oracles, the prophets. But 2,000 years ago, God began to speak to His people through His perfect oracle, His Son, who would be God’s Word in human flesh. The writer of Hebrews explains:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:1–3 NET)

As the glorified and exalted Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus is described in the way John saw Him in Revelation 1:14-15. His eyes are like a flame of fire and His feet are like fine bronze (1). This is symbolic apocalyptic language and is not to be understood literally.

The Hebrew Bible tells us that God sees everything, good and evil, rewards the good, and judges the evil. Of the many verses, we could quote, consider the following: (2)

Certainly the LORD watches the whole earth carefully and is ready to strengthen those who are devoted to him...” (2 Chronicles 16:9 a NET)
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on those who are evil and those who are good. (Proverbs 15:3 NET)
For I see everything they do. Their wicked ways are not hidden from me. Their sin is not hidden away where I cannot see it.
(Jeremiah 16:17 NET)

As God’s Son, the divine DNA of His Father is in Jesus, enabling Him to have the same nature, characteristics, and abilities as His Father. As the Son of God, with eyes like a flame of fire, Jesus is able to see past the outward facades and pretenses of people and look right into their hearts. Like natural fire, the fire of God in His Son is able to purify and cleanse the motives of His people while burning up the evil works and intentions of those who oppose Him. (2)

While God is a God of mercy, He is also a God who judges sin and, in His own time, crushes evil people under His feet. His judgments are not a reaction out of emotional fits of anger but are a response of righteous judgments based on His moral character. (2)

Moses wrote of God,

As for the Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are just. He is a reliable God who is never unjust, he is fair and upright.  (Deuteronomy 32:4 NET)

Soloman wrote of God,

For God will evaluate every deed, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:14 NET)

King David spoke these words about the righteous judgments of God:

The godly will rejoice when they see vengeance carried out; they will bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked. Then observers will say, “Yes indeed, the godly are rewarded! Yes indeed, there is a God who judges in the earth!” (Psalm 58:10–11 NET)

As the Son of God, Jesus executes the judgments of God on the earth. In the Bible, bronze (1) is a symbol of God’s righteous judgment due as a result of sin. The altar where sacrifices were made at the Tabernacle, a type of the cross of Jesus the Messiah, was made of bronze. John sees the Son of Man with feet of fine bronze that have been refined in a furnace. That is, Jesus has passed through judgment for our sin (1), but He had no sin (1) as indicated by the refined (i.e., containing no impurities) polished bronze. Therefore He can administer a pure, righteous judgment.

His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. (Revelation 1:15 NET) 

Jesus is warning His people that He will judge (put under His feet) the evil in the congregation at Thyatira. (2)

The Commendation

‘I know your deeds: your love, faith, service, and steadfast endurance. In fact, your more recent deeds are greater than your earlier ones. (Revelation 2:19 NET)

Because the Lord is gracious, He takes every opportunity to speak a positive word of encouragement for His people before pointing out their failures. He wants them to realize that He knows (is aware of) and is pleased with the good He sees in them. To the believers at Thyatira, He commends them for the following praiseworthy aspects of their congregational life:

1. Works, and their spiritual progress resulting in increasingly greater works

2. Love

3. Faith

4. Service

5. Steadfast endurance

This is quite a commendation. This is a very active, loving congregation that is full of faith, as evidenced by their works of loving-kindness, their patience to endure difficult circumstances and their physical and spiritual growth. The congregation at Thyatira had a lot going for it! There was a lot of spiritual life and vitality. In modern words, we might say this was a growing congregation with a place for everyone to get involved in the various ministries of the congregation. Most of us would be blessed to be part of this congregation. We would probably also be blessed if the Lord commended us personally the way He did the believers at Thyatira. (2)

Yet, in spite of all the good things, the Lord sees a problem that is threatening the life and witness of the congregation. What was it that troubled the Lord about this otherwise healthy congregation? (2)

The Rebuke and Exortation

But I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and by her teaching deceives my servants to commit sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent, but she is not willing to repent of her sexual immorality. Look! I am throwing her onto a bed of violent illness, and those who commit adultery with her into terrible suffering, unless they repent of her deeds. Furthermore, I will strike her followers with a deadly disease, and then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts. I will repay each one of you what your deeds deserve. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, all who do not hold to this teaching (who have not learned the so-called “deep secrets of Satan”), to you I say: I do not put any additional burden on you. However, hold on to what you have until I come. (Revelation 2:20–25 NET)

The Lord chastises them because they allowed a false prophetess identified as Jezebel to teach that it was acceptable for them to compromise and corrupt themselves by participating in idolatry and licentiousness (6) at the meetings of the guild. This was a common problem throughout the Mediterranean world facing the believers in the first few centuries. It was the same issue the Lord had with the congregation at Pergamos.

The woman’s name was not literally Jezebel. The Lord names people based on their character. The Lord called her Jezebel because she did what the infamous Jezebel did as recorded in the Hebrew Bible. (1 Kings 16:31-21:25; 2 Kings 9:30-37.) She is considered to be the evilest woman who ever lived. Even in our modern world, names are still powerful. For example, who names their daughter Jezebel? So what was so terrible about Jezebel that her name would be associated with evil throughout history? A little background is necessary to understand the seriousness of God’s concern. (2)

Before God allowed the Hebrews to enter the Land of Promise, He gave them a stern warning not to intermarry with the pagans, nor participate in any of their worship.

We read in Exodus:

“Obey what I am commanding you this day. I am going to drive out before you the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Be careful not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it become a snare among you. Rather you must destroy their altars, smash their images, and cut down their Asherah poles. For you must not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Be careful not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone invites you, you will eat from his sacrifice; and you then take his daughters for your sons, and when his daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will make your sons prostitute themselves to their gods as well. (Exodus 34:11–16 NET)

We see that God considers idolatry and immorality as spiritual adultery and unfaithfulness to Him. As a husband is jealous for his wife to be faithful to her marriage vows, how much more the Lord desires the same of His people. Yet, for political and economic reasons, King Ahab married a daughter of Ethbaal, the king of Sidon which was forbidden.

When the Lord your God brings you to the land that you are going to occupy and forces out many nations before you—Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and powerful than you—and he delivers them over to you and you attack them, you must utterly annihilate them. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy! You must not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from me to worship other gods. Then the anger of the Lord will erupt against you and he will quickly destroy you. Instead, this is what you must do to them: You must tear down their altars, shatter their sacred pillars, cut down their sacred Asherah poles, and burn up their idols. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. He has chosen you to be his people, prized above all others on the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 7:1–6 NET)

The Sidonians worshiped and served Ba’al (meaning lord). Ba’al was a rival to the One True God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As it was with all pagan deities, Ba’al worship was accompanied by sacrifices and immoral behavior. (2)

Jezebel of the Old Covenant

When Ahab married Jezebel, she persuaded Ahab to join her in Ba’al worship and to impose Ba’al worship on the people in the northern kingdom of Israel. (1 Kings 16:31-33) They were so successful, the people were forsaking the One True God for Ba’al. Jezebel was very persuasive and seductive. It all seemed innocent to the naïve and undiscerning. Just add a little Ba’al worship along with your worship of Yahweh. But it wasn’t long before the people preferred the carnal, sensual worship of Ba’al. (2)

To please Jezebel, Ahab built a temple and altar to Ba’al in Samaria. She invited the 450 prophets of Ba’al, plus the 400 prophets of Asherah (Ba’al’s female consort) to feast with her at her table. To make matters worse, Jezebel killed as many of God’s prophets as she could find. The worship of Ba’al was spreading so fast that it was threatening to supplant worship of the God of Israel. (2)

Finally, there was a showdown between the God of Israel and Ba’al when Elijah challenged the prophets of Ba’al on Mt. Carmel. When the God of Israel showed Himself as the One True God, Elijah had all of Ba’al’s prophets executed (1 Kings 18:1-40). When this news reached Jezebel, she put out a “hit” on Elijah, who fled for his life. (1 Kings 19:1-4) (2)

God promised to destroy Ahab’s family as judgment for his allowing his wife to kill God’s prophets. It was Jezebel who had Naboth murdered in order to take his vineyard for Ahab. When Elijah heard about this heinous act, he prophesied to Ahab that God would judge him as a result and that dogs would eat Jezebel’s body at the wall of Jezreel. This prophecy was fulfilled 11 years after the death of Ahab through Jehu who became the King of Israel.

Jehu approached Jezreel. When Jezebel heard the news, she put on some eye liner, fixed up her hair, and leaned out the window. When Jehu came through the gate, she said, “Is everything all right, Zimri, murderer of his master?”He looked up at the window and said, “Who is on my side? Who?” Two or three eunuchs looked down at him. He said, “Throw her down!” So they threw her down, and when she hit the ground, her blood splattered against the wall and the horses, and Jehu drove his chariot over her.He went inside and had a meal. Then he said, “Dispose of this accursed woman’s corpse. Bury her, for after all, she was a king’s daughter.”But when they went to bury her, they found nothing left but the skull, feet, and palms of the hands. When they went back and told him, he said, “The LORD’s word through his servant, Elijah the Tishbite, has come to pass. He warned, ‘In the plot of land at Jezreel, dogs will devour Jezebel’s flesh. Jezebel’s corpse will be like manure on the surface of the ground in the plot of land at Jezreel. People will not be able to even recognize her.’ ” (2 Kings 9:30–37 NET)

The only thing the dogs left was Jezebel’s skull, feet, and the palms of her hands. Later apostate Jerusalem (Zion) is compared to Jezebel.

And you, Zion, city doomed to destruction, you accomplish nothing by wearing a beautiful dress, decking yourself out in jewels of gold, and putting on eye shadow! You are making yourself beautiful for nothing. Your lovers spurn you. They want to kill you. (Jeremiah 4:30 NET)

When we read the story of Ahab and Jezebel, we realize that Ahab was a weak-willed man, leader, and king. Jezebel was a much stronger personality and the real power behind the throne. Ahab was not able or willing to exercise his authority over Jezebel. (2)

(There had never been anyone like Ahab, who was firmly committed to doing evil in the sight of the Lord, urged on by his wife Jezebel. He was so wicked he worshiped the disgusting idols, just like the Amorites whom the Lord had driven out from before the Israelites.) (1 Kings 21:25–26 NET)

In spite of his evil ways, when Elijah confronted Ahab, he humbled himself and repented. As a result, God had mercy on Ahab and delayed His judgment on the Ahab dynasty to his children’s generation. (1 Kings 21:27-29)

Later during a battle, Ahab was struck by an arrow between the joints of his armor, dying by the end of the day (1 Kings 22:34–36; 2 Chronicles 18:32–34). Ahab’s blood was licked from the chariot by dogs near the pool of Samaria, and his body was buried in Samaria (1 Kings 22:34–38). That is, both Ahab and Jezebel were disgraced in death by dogs feeding on their remains. (5)

Jezebel of Thyatira

The Jezebel of Thyatira was having a similar influence on the congregation as the real Jezebel was on the children of Israel. The Jezebel of Thyatira was a self-proclaimed prophetess. She presented herself as an oracle of God. But she was really an oracle for Satan. (2)

She was teaching the believers that it was acceptable for them to participate in the idolatry and immorality that was part of the trade guild ceremonies. If they participated, the Lord considered their involvement to be spiritual adultery. If they refused to participate, they might lose their jobs and would certainly be shunned socially. (2)

What is the believer to do? To solve their dilemma, the false prophetess claimed to have a “word from God.” She said that they could have the best of both worlds. They could worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob while at the same time taking part in the religious ceremonies of their guild. Perhaps her persuasive reasoning was that God’s grace would allow for such a compromise. Also, since the believers knew that Apollo was not really a god, there was no harm in participating. Furthermore, how else would they “witness” to their lost friends in the guild? (2)

What to the Lord was a clear black and white issue, the false prophetess made a grey issue that appealed to the material and economic needs of the people. Some in the congregation were persuaded by her “prophetic anointing,” and it was leading them astray. (2)

The issue was not eating meat offered to idols (1). This meat was readily available in the marketplace and at discounted prices. Paul said that purchasing meat in the marketplace that had been offered to idols was an individual matter of choice. (2)

But participating in eating meat offered to idols at a religious ceremony was a different issue. That was a form of worship that showed communion and fellowship with the deity. It often led to debauchery and sexual immorality as part of the worship. This is what James instructed the new Gentile converts to avoid. Paul also strongly spoke against this issue. (2)

The Son of Man is gracious and merciful toward His people. He always gives us time to repent and judge ourselves. But if we fail to do so, He will judge us. For believers, His judgment and chastening are corrective for our own good and have redeeming value for us. (2)

For unbelievers, His judgment is separation from Him.

At Thyatira, the Lord had given the false prophetess time to repent, but she refused, and the leadership of the congregation refused to judge her words. Like Ahab, they were too weak to use their spiritual authority to cast her out of the congregation. They did not test nor challenge the “prophetic word.” Neither did the congregants who were following her. Like the city itself, the congregation was in danger of becoming a citadel or stronghold of idolatry and immorality. Yet, even now, if they humble themselves and repent, the Lord is ready to forgive. (2)

However, if the false prophetess and those who are following her do not repent, He will judge them Himself. His strongly worded warning is very graphic. The Lord will remove His hedge of protection and mercy and give them over to their own sins. Sin carries within it its own seeds of destruction. God will give them up to their own lusts, which will destroy them. (2)

Paul gave this warning to the believers in Galatia:

Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows, because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. (Galatians 6:7–8 NET)

Biblical Warnings about Licentiousness

The Bible is replete with warnings for those that chose to ignore God’s command to only have sex (1) within God’s definition of marriage and behave licentiously:

You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14 NET)
You must not commit adultery. (Deuteronomy 5:18 NET)
And the eye of the adulterer watches for the twilight, thinking, ‘No eye can see me,’ and covers his face with a mask. (Job 24:15 NET)
God says this to the evildoer: “How can you declare my commands, and talk about my covenant? For you hate instruction and reject my words. When you see a thief, you join him; you associate with men who are unfaithful to their wives. (Psalm 50:16–18 NET)
For wisdom will enter your heart, and moral knowledge will be attractive to you. Discretion will protect you, understanding will guard you, to deliver you from the way of the wicked, from those speaking perversity, who leave the upright paths to walk on the dark ways, who delight in doing evil, they rejoice in perverse evil; whose paths are morally crooked, and who are devious in their ways; to deliver you from the adulteress, from the sexually loose woman who speaks flattering words; who leaves the husband from her younger days, and forgets her marriage covenant made before God. For her house sinks down to death, and her paths lead to the place of the departed spirits. None who go in to her will return, nor will they reach the paths of life. (Proverbs 2:10–19 NET)
My child, be attentive to my wisdom, pay close attention to my understanding, in order to safeguard discretion, and that your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her seductive words are smoother than olive oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. Lest she should make level the path leading to life, her paths are unstable but she does not know it. So now, children, listen to me; do not turn aside from the words I speak. (Proverbs 5:1–7 NET)
For the commandments are like a lamp, instruction is like a light, and rebukes of discipline are like the road leading to life, by keeping you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the loose woman. Do not lust in your heart for her beauty, and do not let her captivate you with her alluring eyes; for on account of a prostitute one is brought down to a loaf of bread, but the wife of another man preys on your precious life. Can a man hold fire against his chest without burning his clothes? Can a man walk on hot coals without scorching his feet? So it is with the one who has sex with his neighbor’s wife; no one who touches her will escape punishment. People do not despise a thief when he steals to fulfill his need when he is hungry. Yet if he is caught he must repay seven times over, he might even have to give all the wealth of his house. A man who commits adultery with a woman lacks wisdom, whoever does it destroys his own life. He will be beaten and despised, and his reproach will not be wiped away; for jealousy kindles a husband’s rage, and he will not show mercy when he takes revenge. He will not consider any compensation; he will not be willing, even if you multiply the compensation. (Proverbs 6:23–35 NET)
My child, keep my words and treasure up my commands in your own keeping. Keep my commands so that you may live, and obey my instruction as your most prized possession. Bind them on your forearm; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call understanding a close relative, so that they may keep you from the adulterous woman, from the loose woman who flatters you with her words. For at the window of my house through my window lattice I looked out and I saw among the naive— I discerned among the youths— a young man who lacked wisdom. He was passing by the street near her corner, making his way along the road to her house in the twilight, the evening, in the dark of the night. Suddenly a woman came out to meet him! She was dressed like a prostitute and with secret intent. (She is loud and rebellious, she does not remain at home— at one time outside, at another in the wide plazas, and by every corner she lies in wait.) So she grabbed him and kissed him, and with a bold expression she said to him, “I have fresh meat at home; today I have fulfilled my vows! That is why I came out to meet you, to look for you, and I found you! I have spread my bed with elegant coverings, with richly colored fabric from Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let’s drink deeply of lovemaking until morning, let’s delight ourselves with sexual intercourse. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a journey of some distance. He has taken a bag of money with him; he will not return until the end of the month.” She persuaded him with persuasive words; with her smooth talk she compelled him. Suddenly he went after her like an ox that goes to the slaughter, like a stag prancing into a trapper’s snare till an arrow pierces his liver— like a bird hurrying into a trap, and he does not know that it will cost him his life. So now, sons, listen to me, and pay attention to the words I speak. Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways— do not wander into her pathways; for she has brought down many fatally wounded, and all those she has slain are many. Her house is the way to the grave, going down to the chambers of death. (Proverbs 7:1–27 NET)
The woman called Folly is brash, she is naive and does not know anything. So she sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling out to those who are passing by her in the way, who go straight on their way. “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here,” she says to those who lack understanding. “Stolen waters are sweet, and food obtained in secret is pleasant!” But they do not realize that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave. (Proverbs 9:13–18 NET)
The mouth of an adulteress is like a deep pit; the one against whom the Lord is angry will fall into it. (Proverbs 22:14 NET)
This is the way of an adulterous woman: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have not done wrong.” (Proverbs 30:20 NET)
The words of King Lemuel, an oracle that his mother taught him: O my son, O son of my womb, O son of my vows, Do not give your strength to women, nor your ways to that which ruins kings.
(Proverbs 31:3 NET)
I discovered this: More bitter than death is the kind of woman who is like a hunter’s snare; her heart is like a hunter’s net and her hands are like prison chains. The man who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is captured by her. (Ecclesiastes 7:26 NET)
You also do this: You cover the altar of the Lord with tears as you weep and groan, because he no longer pays any attention to the offering nor accepts it favorably from you. Yet you ask, “Why?” The Lord is testifying against you on behalf of the wife you married when you were young, to whom you have become unfaithful even though she is your companion and wife by law. No one who has even a small portion of the Spirit in him does this. What did our ancestor do when seeking a child from God? Be attentive, then, to your own spirit, for one should not be disloyal to the wife he took in his youth.“I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel, “and the one who is guilty of violence,” says the Lord who rules over all. “Pay attention to your conscience, and do not be unfaithful.” (Malachi 2:13–16 NET)
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9–11 NET)
“Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both.” The body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. Now God indeed raised the Lord and he will raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that anyone who is united with a prostitute is one body with her? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”But the one united with the Lord is one spirit with him. Flee sexual immorality! “Every sin a person commits is outside of the body”—but the immoral person sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:13–18 NET)
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God! (Galatians 5:19–21 NET)
For you can be confident of this one thing: that no person who is immoral, impure, or greedy (such a person is an idolater) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let nobody deceive you with empty words, for because of these things God’s wrath comes on the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:5–6 NET)
So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience. (Colossians 3:5–6 NET)
Marriage must be honored among all and the marriage bed kept undefiled, for God will judge sexually immoral people and adulterers. (Hebrews 13:4 NET)
So also Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring towns, since they indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire in a way similar to these angels, are now displayed as an example by suffering the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:7 NET)
For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones,and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless. Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:26–32 NET)
But to the cowards, unbelievers, detestable persons, murderers, the sexually immoral, and those who practice magic spells, idol worshipers, and all those who lie, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. That is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8 NET)

Well, you say that you have never done those things? Have you ever fantasized (1) about having sex with someone perhaps while performing self-sex?  Then you are still guilty (Matthew 5:27,28Job 31:1). If You Can’t Say “Amen”, Say “Oh Me!” (1)

Because the false prophetess sowed spiritual and physical adultery, she and her followers will reap the judgment of such sins in their own bodies. The Lord says He will “cast her into a sickbed” (Revelation 2:22), which is a Jewish idiom that means she will be afflicted with an illness caused by her own immorality. When God’s people see His judgment on her and her followers, they will see firsthand that He who has eyes of fire searches their minds and hearts and rewards them according to their righteous deeds. (2)

Whereas the false prophetess claimed to be speaking for God, the Son of Man says she is teaching the doctrines of Satan. He then reminds those who have not followed this woman to hold on to what they know to be true from God’s Holy Word. While God has His true prophets, their words will always be in agreement with the Scriptures. The leaders at Thyatira should stop seeking a “prophetic word” from someone who claims to speak for God and start obeying what God has already told them to do in His Word. (2)

The Promise

And to the one who conquers and who continues in my deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the nations— he will rule them with an iron rod and like clay jars he will break them to pieces, just as I have received the right to rule from my Father—and I will give him the morning star. The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ Revelation 2:26–29 NET)

To those who overcome the temptation at Thyatira and remain faithful, the Lord makes them a wonderful promise. He says they will rule with Him over the nations. Jesus refers to the promise His Father made to Him in Psalm 2:

The king says, “I will announce the Lord’s decree. He said to me: ‘You are my son! This very day I have become your father! Ask me, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the ends of the earth as your personal property. You will break them with an iron scepter; you will smash them like a potter’s jar!’ ” (Psalm 2:7–9 NET)

Furthermore, Jesus promises to give them the morning star. Literally, the morning star is actually not a star but the planet Venus, which is the brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon. It is the “star” that appears just before sunrise and signals the end of the night and the beginning of a new day. Because of its brightness and time of appearing, ancient people worshiped Venus as a goddess. (2)

The name morning star was also given to Lucifer since he was the most beautiful angel in Heaven (Isaiah 14:12). But when he sinned, his name was changed to Satan, the adversary of God and God’s people. The appearance of the morning star every day just before sunlight is a message from Heaven that God judged Lucifer because of his pride by casting him away from His presence.

Because He radiates the glory of God, Jesus is the true morning star who leads us out of darkness into the new day of His marvelous light. His face is described,

He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp double-edged sword extended out of his mouth. His face shone like the sun shining at full strength. (Revelation 1:16 NET)

Jesus said about Himself,

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star!” (Revelation 22:16 NET)

Peter adds,

Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. You do well if you pay attention to this as you would to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19 NET)

The Lord ends His message as He does all the others, by exhorting the receivers of His message to hear what God’s Spirit is saying to them. Those who hear and overcome will rule and reign with the Son of Man and live with Him in His glory for eternity.

If the Lord’s message to Thyatira applies to your organization, your ministry, or your life, let us repent and do what He says so we can be overcomers. Let us heed the words of Paul who wrote,

But examine all things; hold fast to what is good. Stay away from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:21–22 NET)

The Invitation

When we learn the circumstances the believers were experiencing in these seven congregations, it is only by the mercy of God that any of them survived. Thyatira was no exception. Living in a trade guild union town, the believers were constantly faced with the issue of idol worship. Since each trade guild was devoted to a particular god or goddess, the members of that union were expected to participate in the sacrifices made to their deity. The pagans did not give this a second thought. This was not an issue to them. But for the believers, it was an issue. (2)

Put yourself in the shoes (sandals) of a believer when he or she arrives at the union hall. The leader calls the meeting to order, at which time prayers and sacrifices are made to the patron deity. Then, to show union with the deity, you are required to eat the remainder of the sacrifice. When appropriate, this “worship service” is accompanied by unholy revelry, the likes of which depend on the nature of the deity. Do you think you could do this? If you don’t, it could cost you your job or even your life. Perhaps you have a wife and kids. You have a family to feed, bills to pay, etc. What are you going to do? (2)

The Lord saw their situation and sent the congregation at Thyatira a letter of encouragement. In spite of their challenges, He praised them for their works, their love, their service, their faith, their patience, and their spiritual progress. Now, I don’t know about you, but I would be thrilled if the Lord spoke these words to me. (2)

However, there was a woman in the congregation who was telling the people that it was acceptable for them to participate in the pagan worship services. The Lord called her Jezebel after the infamous Jezebel in the Hebrew Bible. This woman claimed to speak for God. We modern believers should know better than to fall for this lying deception. (2)

But how about the believers at Thyatira? Christianity was a new faith and they were new believers. The supposed prophetic word from God could all be very confusing, particularly when it was what they wanted to hear. Even today, I marvel at what some Christians will accept and believe to be God’s prophetic word speaking to them. While the Lord gave some wonderful promises to the overcomers, He only had harsh words to those who did not repent. (2)

The Lord’s message to the believers at Thyatira is so relevant to us today. As our world becomes more and more anti-God, we too will have to make hard choices. We too will be faced with situations that we never dreamed would happen and decisions that we have never before had to make. As this conflict and tension increases, many Jezebels will arise who claim to speak for God. May we test the spirits and have the spiritual wisdom, strength, and courage to live holy lives. (2)

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star!” And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say: “Come!” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take the water of life free of charge. (Revelation 22:16–17 NET)
Feasts, Festivals, and Important Occasions of the Biblical Covenants Series:
– The Spring Festivals:
– Seven Church Conditions during the Times of the Gentiles:
– The Fall Festivals:
Biblical Typologies, Metaphors, & Similes Series:


Shalom
(Protection, Wholeness, Success)
Peace

Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. 
(3 John 1:2 NET)


(1) Select the link to open another article in a new tab with additional information.

(2) Booker, R. (2011). The overcomers: series- understanding the book of Revelation. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image.

(3) Renner, R. (2019). Companion study guide: Christ’s message to Thyatira Rick Renner Ministries. www.renner.org

(4) Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press. (Malachi 4:2, Note 4)

“righteousness” (so KJV, NIV, NRSV, NLT; cf. NAB “justice”), has been rendered as “vindication” because it is the vindication of God’s people that is in view in the context. Cf. BDB 842 s.v. צְדָקָה 6; “righteousness as vindicated, justification, salvation, etc.”

(5) Thornhill, A. C. (2016). Ahab, King of Israel. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, L. Wentz, E. Ritzema, & W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Lexham Press.

(6) Opperwall, N. J. (1979–1988). Licentious; Licentiousness. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 3, p. 128). Wm. B. Eerdmans.

Licentious; Licentiousness [Gk asélgeia]; AV LASCIVIOUSNESS, WANTONNESS (Romans 13:13; 2 Peter 2:18), PERNICIOUS (2:2), FILTHY (2:7); NEB also VICE, DEBAUCHERY, DISSOLUTE PRACTICES, SENSUALITY, INDECENCY, etc. Extreme indulgence in sensuality without regard for moral restraints.

The single Gospel occurrence of asélgeia is in Mark 7:22, where Jesus lists it among the vices that come from the heart and defile a person. It occurs nine times in the NT Epistles, usually in the specific sense of sexual excess. Paul listed it among the “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19; cf. Romans 13:13 f; see Flesh III.B). This vice was characteristic of pagans (Ephesians 4:17–19; 1 Peter 4:3); but the Epistles repeatedly warned that there was no place for such behavior in the Christian community (e.g., 2 Corinthians 12:21; cf. Ephesians 4:20–24)—a warning that was particularly urgent because “false prophets” (2 Peter 2:1) were teaching that Christians were exempt from the demands of the moral law (cf. vv 2, 7, 18 f; Jude 1:4)

 

Hal has been teaching the Bible for over three decades. Presently, He desires to honor Jesus Christ through this Internet teaching ministry, thereby glorifying the Heavenly Father in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. He believes, second to cultivating his relationship with God that raising his family unto the Lord is the most significant task for him while on Earth. Furthermore, Hal believes that being a successful leader in the church or workplace is no substitute for failing to be a successful leader at home.

Doulos Hal's Topical Index

Leave a Reply