Sunday, January 27, 2013

Revelation - Lesson 9

I'm Going to take care of my Friends

Prayer: God as we study today about Philadelphia help us to learn from their example of devotion.  Help us to be the approachable believers, believers that those in the world are able to seek out to have their honest questions answered.   Help us to do this as individuals, as a church body, and in the true Church - the body of believers in the world.  Amen!

Today we will be studying the 6th church of the 7 who were specific recipients of letters in the book of Revelation, the church at Philadelphia.

City is located on a main artery, on the imperial post road from Rome & Troas to Pergamos, Sardis & Phrygia - so thus in a prosperous location.  It is the youngest of our 7 cities, established in 189 BC.  The area was known then & is still known know as being favorable for wine production.  Its location is a virtual gateway to the high central plateau of Asia Minor, so it was tasked by Rome to promote Greek culture into that area (a missionary location).

The region in which it is located is called Katakekaumene ("the burned land") and is a heavy volcanic region.  A violent earthquake occurred in 17 AD that impacted heavily on several cities in the area (see Sardis), tremors occurred for years afterward, causing economic & civil disruption for several decades.  

Because of financial relief from Tiberius the citizens renamed the city Neo-Caesarea ("new city of Caesar").  Later in the time of Vaspasian, the name was changed to his family name of Flavia.  These names didn't stick, after a short time the name changed back to Philadelphia.  Today the city is named Alasheihir (Allah-Shehu): which means "city of God" in Arabic.  Naming or name changes are going to be a theme in this letter.

I was unable to find information about the population in the 1st century, but the city today has a population of around 41,000 people.  I don't believe it was a large city, in part because it had not been around very long & also due to the devastation caused by the earthquake in AD 17.  Though conquered at one point, the city has been continuously inhabited to this day.

The area is hilly & picturesque, with a river running through, and with very fertile soil resulting in a proliferation of beautiful trees & flowers.

  • Most of the architecture of the region dates from the 2nd century and following, again leading me to believe that the population in the 1st century was rather small.
  • Dionysius - principal deity - god of wine.

The Letter to Philadelphia: read Revelation 3:7-13

Name of the city: Philadelphia - some say this means City of Brotherly Love, this isn't a bad translation but not necessarily accurate.  Phila: friendly toward + Delphia: city = Friendly City.  It may be that it became known as the city of brotherly love because of the King (Eumenes) and his younger brother (& successor Attalus) who liked each other very much & were intensely loyal to each other - so much so that they had coins minted with both of their heads on them, with the heads being equally represented.

Title of Christ: "him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David.  What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open."

Holy - an attribute of God that should inspire fear/reverence - linked strongly to His justice & judgement.

True - real, genuine - in contrast to falsehood.  This is the defining character of Jesus.  This links strongly to the faithfulness of this Philadelphia church.

Holds the key of David - what is this "key of David"?  Isaiah 22:20-25. The wording here is remarkably similar the wording in Revelation, historically this is occurring when Eliakim is replacing Shebna (unfaithful servant) as the king's treasurer.  The message is immediate for Eliakim's sake, but is also prophetic of the Messiah (acknowledged messianic prophecy).  The "peg" or "nail" is another messianic title, notice what is prophesied in verse 25 - the peg will be "sheared off", a description of the death & removal of Messiah from the earth - one of the few places in the Old Testament that foretells Jesus death.  For Eliakim the "key of David" was a literal key, a heavy key on a loop slung over his shoulder, indicating his power to grant or deny access to the presence of the king.  This key also gave Eliakim access to all the treasures of the king - here Christ is indicating that He has access to all the treasures of God & they are at His disposal.

Open Door - a door that only Christ can open, a door to Christian service & ministry in His name.

Commendation: "I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.  I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.  I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars - I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.  Since you have kept my command to endure patiently I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth."

I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut - "open door" is used symbolically of a couple different things in scripture: as a mission field, as a door of deliverance.  Either of these would be good interpretations in this case.

You have little strength and have kept my word and not denied my name - this is a strong commendation of their pure witness of Christ - keeping His word & not denying His name before the world.  It's important for us to remember that their culture was hostile toward believers.

Those of the synagogue of Satan will fall at your feet & acknowledge that I love you - who are the synagogue of Satan?  When we studied Smyrna we looked at this,  these are false Jews - perhaps those who hold to the idea of replacement theology, i.e. those that teach that Christians have replaced the Jews as far as the promises of the Old Testament are concerned - these don't see the Jews as still a part of God's plan.  Replacement Theology is a strong bitter root of Anti-Semitism.  Notice by what is being said "they will fall at your feet and acknowledge that I love you", this is a worshipful & humble act - it is possible that these are believers, but believers that have fallen into error.

Since you have kept my command to endure patiently I will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth - Jesus asks us to be patient as God works out His will in His world, their patience is rewarded by being kept from the trial that is coming on the whole world (all mankind).  Notice they are kept from (in Greek "out of") "the hour" or "the time" of the trial (tribulation), not preserved during the time of trouble, but removed from the time of trouble.  The term for "those who live on the earth" or "earth dwellers", in the Greek means those who have identified themselves as belonging to the world, whereas believers are citizens of Heaven.  This is a passage that strongly speaks to the pre-tribulation rapture of the Church.

Concerns: (none)

Exhortation: "I am coming soon.  Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown."

Coming soon - better translated "coming quickly", not quickly in days/years, but when He does come it will be a quick event - it will catch people by surprise & they won't have the chance to respond before they are overtaken by it.

Hold on to what you have so that no one will take your crown - like Smyrna (the other church with no Concerns) they have a crown.  They already have their crown, the blessings that they have because of their relationship to and faithfulness in Christ.

In history, during the 14th century the city of Philadelphia stood alone against the entire Turkish empire as a free self-governing Christian city, all the other areas around them were conquered.  They continued to hold fast through being besieged & such until the end of the 14th century when they were finally overthrown by the combined Turkish & Byzantine forces - they held fast to the end.

Promise to the Overcomer: "I will make a pillar in the temple of my God.  Never again will he leave it.  I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name."

I will make a pillar in the temple of my God - a pillar meant "solidity" especially to those who live in an earthquake prone area.

I will write on him: name of God, name of city of God, my new name - the people of this city that had been renamed would be given permanent & significant names.  Where Sardis (last lesson) had a meaningless name, the overcomer of Philadelphia is given numerous significantly meaningful names.

Closing Statement: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches"

Historical Church - the Missionary Church or Missionary Age (1800 - 1900 or today): 

Early 1800s in the Evangelical church there was  a renewal of teaching of Christ's second coming, for many centuries that had not been taught in the church at large.  This was a time of doors opening, the rise of Missionary outreach all over the world, this work continues even to this day.  

One commentator I read believes that this age is still continuing among evangelical churches & lasts until the 2nd coming when the Church is raptured - he modifies  the name of this era to the era of the Revived Church or Bible-Believing Church.  I find this a reasonable and agreeable viewpoint, especially in light of the fracturing of the church into so many varied denominations with varying degrees of faithfulness to the pure truths of God, and also with individuals within some of the most unfaithful denominations seeking out truth from the source - the Word (BSF).

How is your life like the life of the church of Philadelphia?  Are you holding fast to the word of God?  Are you loyal to Christ, faithfully witnessing & declaring Him to the world?

How is our church like the church of Philadelphia?  Are we holding fast to the word of God & not allowing the world to influence the teachings in our church?  Are we, as a church, being a faithful witness of Christ to the world?

Prayer:  God, help us hold fast to your Word, to hold it as a precious treasure.  Help us to be faithfully devoted to you, holding fast to the end.  Help us to do this as individual believers and as a local body of believers, so that we also may hold onto our crowns of blessings.  Amen!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Revelation - Lesson 8

What Was Your Name Again?

Prayer: God as we study today about Sardis help us to learn the critical need for faithfulness and devotion.  Help us to do this as individuals, as a church body, and in the true Church - the body of believers in the world.  Amen!

Today we will be studying the 5th church of the 7 who were specific recipients of letters in the book of Revelation, the church at Sardis.

Established prior to 2000 BC, one of the oldest cities on the planet (or at least it was).  A number of Greek writers mention it as a city of renown.  During the time of the Lydian kingdom, established in the 7th century BC, Sardis was the capital.

Strategic location between Pergamum, Smyrna, Ephesus, Philadelphia & Phrygia; therefor it had favorable commerce & was a very wealthy city. Was located by the river Pactolus, in which Gold was discovered in the sand.  Gold & Silver "Lydian Staters" are considered the 1st coins in the world, and had their origin there.

The city itself was considered impregnable, it sat up high, with cliffs on 3 sides (each about 1000-1500 feet high), so only the Southern side (where access was available) needed to be guarded.  The river at the base of the mountain forms a type of moat.  However,  the cliffs were made of clay which caused problems with erosion, and the clay occasionally left cracks which could be exploited by enemies.

In 549 BC the city was taken by the Persians under Cyrus, the soldiers climbed one of the unguarded cliffs at night & snuck into the city and overtook it - it is said by historians that it was taken "like a thief in the night".  In 214 BC the city was taken by the Seleucid Empire under Antiochus in the same manner, again taken "like a thief in the night".  Sardis becomes a "proverb" of sorts, they appear secure, but aren't really so.  The city was defeated at least 3 more times in history, and became known as a city characterized by: Promise without Performance, Appearance without Reality, False confidence that brought Ruin.  Historically it is a city without Watchfulness or Diligence.  We're going to see, as we read the letter, that this also is reflected in the behavior of the Sardis church.

By New Testament times the earlier dignity and splendor of Sardis was gone, in 17 AD (before the writing of this letter) a severe earthquake caused major damage.  In the first century the population was estimated to be about 120,000.  The town ceased to exist in 1402 AD when conquered by the Turks.  Archaeological excavations were begun at the site in 1910, but the city wasn't uncovered until 1958.  The little town of Sart now in that location only has a few Greek pillars dating back to 1st century Sardis.

  • Not much left today, at one time a famous, strong, wealthy city.
  • Some ancient architecture remains is from the 2nd & 3rd centuries (after the time of this letter)
  • Patron deity - Cybele: goddess of the moon.  In Greek legend Cybele's son was said to be Midas the wealthy king of Phrygia (Midas touch), he may or may not have been a real person.
  • Apollo - god of the sun (brother to Cybele) was worshiped alongside Cybele - both were nature religions.
  • Artemis - a nature cult that built on the idea of death & rebirth.

The Letter to Sardis: read Revelation 3:1-6

Name of the city: Sardis - some believe the name may mean "Remnant" but there is no linguistic link for that, the link comes from the content of this letter.  Nobody really knows what the name means anymore, you'll sense this theme in this letter.  There was a stone called Sardis that was a precious stone, one of the stones of the breastplate of the high priest, believed to be a red stone - it was precious but became common.  No one can be sure what the Sardis Stone actually is, it is not identifiable. Both the City and the Stone have a name but no significance, an empty name, that theme runs through this letter.

Title of Christ: "him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars"

Seven Spirits / Seven-Fold Spirit - Holy Spirit (reference lessons on chapter 1).  That Jesus holds the seven-fold Spirit would indicate that He is the one that sends the Spirit to enliven.  Only the Holy Spirit can make spiritually live what was spiritually dead.

Seven Stars - Angels to the Seven Churches

Commendation:  (none)

Concerns: "you have a reputation of being alive but you are dead"

There are works, they carry a label, but they are dead!  They are what I call "Garage Christians" - sitting in a church doesn't make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.  I'm going to take it even further by saying that your involvement, your actions / works, though they may cause you to "look like" a Christian have nothing to do with you "being" a Christian.  Matthew 13:24-30; Hebrews 11:6.

My personal opinion is that those who have "grown up" in the church are at greatest risk.  They have always considered themselves Christians, and may never have had any inkling that they are Christian in label only - I know many people like this & that is a sad state of affairs, they're also the hardest to witness to because they think they're "ok", they're "in", they've got this "figured out".  I used to be one of those, and I was zealous for my beliefs, when I became a true believer my friends were puzzled because they already thought I was a believer!  This was 30 years ago, and some still don't get it.

Exhortation: "Wake up!  Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent.  But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you."

Watch out, strengthen what you have - the church is in danger of spiritually eroding away, just like the city was in danger from physical erosion.

What does it mean to be Watchful?
  • to be vigilant - Matthew 25: 1-13; Romans 13:11-14; 1 Corinthians 16:13.
What should we be Watchful of?
  • the wiles of the devil - 1 Peter 5:8.
  • temptation - Matthew 26:41.
  • Jesus coming - Matthew 24:42-43; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6.
  • false teachers - Acts 20:29-31.  
    • don't believe in justification by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).
    • don't believe in the inerrancy of the scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16).
    • don't believe in the depravity of man (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23)
    • don't teach redemption by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:22)

Your deeds are not complete - incompletion due to the lack of underlying belief.  Just as faith without works is dead, works without faith are of no value.  Matthew 7:21-23.

Remember what you have seen and heard & hold fast - they had been given the truths of Christ, had witnessed the works of the Holy Spirit, but many who had joined the ranks had not repented and become obedient to Christ - it had become a "nice social club" as many churches were in the late stages of the Reformation & as some are today.

Those who repent will not be caught by surprise, those who don't will be surprised when Jesus "comes like a thief".  This threat that Jesus will "come as a thief" at a time they're not expecting fits the history of the city of Sardis, and it should have been a clear warning to the church there.

Promise to the Overcomer: for the few true believers "who have not soiled their clothes (pooped their pants) & for those who repent: "he walk with me, dressed in white... I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels."

Those who are true believers not only are clean in God's sight while in this world, but will be clothed in white garments (purity, free from corruption) in the next. 1 Corinthians 15:50-54.

Name will not be blotted out of the book of life - in ancient times when your name was blotted out of the city ledgers you lost your citizenship.  Don't get me wrong, I don't believe that this it speaking of people loosing their salvation (that's a subject we won't cover here) because I don't believe you can loose your salvation, but I think there's the implication that Jesus has extended His invitation to all mankind - but there are those who refuse the invitation & thus have their names removed from the guest list.

Acknowledge name before the Father and his angels - Jesus will bear witness of His faithful, being their advocate. 1 John 2:1-2 speaks of Jesus as our advocate, verse 2 is one of those passages that points to the invitation to faith & thus forgiveness being available to all.  We will be acknowledged before the Father and his angels.
Matthew 10:32-33; Luke 12:8-9.

Closing Statement: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches"

Historical Church - the Reformation / Protestant Church (1400-1800): 

Early roots of the Reformation were in the 1200s due to the problems with the papacy & church officials - greed, immorality, corruption of all kinds.  The church at the time owned 1/5 - 1/3 of the lands of Europe, tax free, which brought envy and resentment by the peasantry - who were starving.  

In the 1300s John Wycliffe attacked the papacy regarding: sale of indulgences, excessive veneration of the saints, moral and intellectual standards of ordained priests.  To reach the common people he translated the Bible into English, prior to that it had been available only in Latin.  It had been in Latin in order to control access to the scriptures - there are "churches" today that also control access, some forbid reading of materials outside what they publish or unless accompanied by what they publish, some take away the Old Testament.

Wycliffe's teachings spread to Bohemia where John Huss became a powerful advocate.  John Huss was executed in 1415 for his teachings, leading to the Hussite wars.

The Gutenberg Press was invented, with the 1st print book (Bible) being printed in 1455.  Efficiency in printing resulted in a more literate population, fueling the spread of ideas and thus the 16th century Reformation in Germany.

Martin Luther was born in 1483, he originally planned to be a lawyer (he was a scholar) but in 1504 had a life changing event that came in the form of a violent storm, this cause him to pursue a doctorate of Theology.  He visits Rome and is disillusioned by the state of the church, on October 31st 1517 he nails 95 theses to the door at Wittenburg College - calling for reform in the church, in 1520 he's excommunicated and became a leader in the reformation.  Luther's life verse was Habbakuk 2:4.

Reformation claimed that the Bible was the authority, not the church & its traditions, and taught that salvation came by faith rather than works.  Since the Bible was available in printed form in common language, and since the common people were becoming more literate, the reformation was able to take place & gain ground.  There was much political & religious upheaval, more than we have time to go into here.

The Reformation brought about the rise of many varied Protestant denominations, each with their unique flavor & opinions, but most (over time) marked by: increased softness in interpretation of scripture (belief that the Bible contains the word of God rather than is the word of God) - so not taken literally in many cases, denial of the literal Millennial Reign of Christ depicted in Isaiah & Revelation, denial of Israel's prophetic destiny (replacement theology & such), absence of a Biblical devotional life, de-emphasis on the Gospel of Christ, ordination of Homosexuals (and similar offenses to the pure teachings of scripture).

How is your life like the life of the church of Sardis?  Are you coming in, being active, but not really having a heart & life change that comes from complete whole-hearted devotion to Christ? Is Jesus your Lord & Savior, have you voluntarily laid your whole life down before Him in sacrifice?

How is our church like the church of Sardis?  Are we just being a friendly place for people to come or are we having a real impact for the Lord on people & our culture?  Has our church become so large that there are birds in our branches (Luke 13:18-19)?

Prayer:  God, help us to be faithful followers and not just pretenders, help us to work with seekers to bring them to true faith - to disciple them.  Help us to do this as individual believers and as a local body of believers, so that as many as possible may have their names written in the Lord's book of life.  Help us Lord to be a people and a church of devotion & faithfulness.  Help our church and our homes be places where people are growing in faith and devotion to you, where the only thing we boast in is Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Revelation - Lesson 7

Give your Daughter an Inch & She'll take a Mile

Prayer: God as we study today about Thyatira help us to learn about the danger of allowing false doctrines to be adopted by the church, to be watchful as compromise tries to work its way in, to remember to keep our worship pure & based on the truth in Your Word alone.  Help us to do this as individuals, as a church body, and in the true Church - the body of believers in the world.  Amen!

Today we will be studying the 4rd church of the 7 who were specific recipients of letters in the book of Revelation, the church at Thyatira.

Prior to the 3rd century BC the city had been named Semiramis (after the consort of Nimrod - think Tower of Babel).  Semiramis, along with Nimrod & their son Tammuz, are the 3 people on which the Babylonian legends are based - paganism finds its roots in these legends.  It is not surprising that the city had been named after a woman, since Thyatira had been part of a Lydian society which was known to have a matriarchal nature.

An inland city, in the 1st century it stood at the juncture of 3 roads leading to Pergamus, Sardis, and Smyrna - it was considered a frontier fortress (or garrison town) to guard those 3 critical roads which were main lines of communication and trade.  Of the seven cities of Revelation it's the least important politically; however, it was a thriving and prosperous manufacturing and marketing center, home to numerous trade guilds including coppersmiths, tanners, dyers, leatherworkers, woolworkers, linenworkers, etc.  

Thyatira was famous for its high quality dyes & dyed goods, and was the center of the dyeing industry: Lydia, a believer and "seller of purple" was from Thyatira - reference Acts 16:14; she later moved to Philippi and her home was the meeting place of the church there.  A "seller of purple" would have been wealthy & powerful, so from this we again see Thyatira's acceptance of women in powerful positions.

More guilds were found in Thyatira than any other city at its time in the province of Asia.  These guilds were problematic for Christians as many were tied into the worship of pagan deities.  Each guild owned property, made contracts, and wielded wide influence in political, economic, social, and religious life.  Each provided benefits and took action to protect its interests - kinda sounds like some of the Unions we have today, and is believed by some to be where our modern-day unions got their start.  Each guild had a patron deity, they held festivities at which wild orgies ensued and banquets featuring food sacrificed to idols took place.  Guild membership was compulsory for anyone who wanted to pursue a trade - needless to say this caused problems for Christian craftsmen.

One source mentioned that church at Thyatira ceased to exist when the city itself was defeated, I believe the reference is to a battle that occurred in 366 AD but I'm not certain.

Today the city in the location of ancient Thyatira is named Akhisar (or Ashisar) and is home to about 80,000 people; the city and its region produce olives, cotton, tobacco, graphite, wool, raisins, and dyes. 

  • Temples to pagan deities
  • No major fortifications & not much else known about its architecture.

  • Worship of Apollo (sun god) which was mixed together with Emperor worship.
  • Worship of Sambeth (goddess).  This particular form of paganism had Sibyls (oracles / prophetesses) who claimed to speak for Apollo.  At the time of the 1st century there was a powerful Sibyl presiding over this temple.  It is believed that at times the presiding Sibyl was a proclaimed Jewess or Christian, and was attempting to influence her culture by imitating pagan oracles in order to attempt to win converts.

Before reading I want to point out that this letter has a tone of impressive might and irresistible will, and in places it expresses the fury of a holy God who has been offended.  The Letter to Thyatira: read Revelation 2:18-29 (18-19, 20-21, 22-23, 24-25, 26-29)

Name of the city: Thyatira - Daughter, named around 301 BC by Nicator (nick-A-tor) after he'd defeated the city, because he had just been informed that a daughter had been born to him.

Title of Christ: "the Son of God whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze"

Son of God: this title may have been chosen in order to be in stark contrast to the "Jezebel" mentioned in later verses.  Jezebel was a powerful queen in the history of Israel, if you don't know who Jezebel is from the Old Testament scriptures just hold on, you will before we're done.

Eyes like blazing fire - these are eyes of inspection, eyes of judgement - nothing is hidden from Jesus vision.  Blazing fire would have been a powerful & easily understood symbol due to the foundries of the city.

Feet like burnished bronze - Feet speak of the walk, brass (burnished bronze) being able to withstand fire (judgement).  The word translated brass or burnished bronze is "chalkolibanos" and isn't used in any other book of the Bible.  It is believed that this may have been a specialized product of one of Thyatira's trade guilds - perhaps a particularly bright or golden-hued bronze.

I get an overall sense from the title chosen that we are seeing Jesus here as furious, outraged by the hideous practices occurring within this body of believers.

Commendation:  "I know your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first."

Their walk is not only good, its improving!  They are even more active in their faith than they were initially.  Wow, if this is as far as we went they sound like they're in great shape... but this isn't all that is needed, sound doctrine & godly living are also needed.

Concerns: "You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess.  By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. " with verse 24 indicating that some had been involved with Satanic practices.

Who is Jezebel in the Old Testament?
Jezebel is the daughter of Eth-Baal, King of Sidon & Preist of Astarte (a.k.a. Asherah) - he murdered his predecessor in order to seize the throne.  She was married to King Ahab, one of the kings of the Northern kingdom of Israel (during the time of the divided kingdom) - their marriage was arranged for political & financial reasons.  Jezebel was a worshipper of Baal & Astarte, pagan deities with roots in the Babylonian legend, she also actively sought to exterminate the prophets of God.  Jezebel & Ahab ushered in the worst period of Old Testament History.

A short historical excursion - you really should know who Jezebel is as a reference:
Our first passage is when Elijah confronts King Ahab - this is after Jezebel has been trying to kill off all of the prophets of God.  1 Kings 18:16-40 (16-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-35, 36-40).  Our second passage is when Jezebel hears about what Elijah has done to the prophets of Baal.  1 Kings 19:1-2.  Our third passage is what happens when Ahab doesn't get what he wants so Jezebel takes it for him. 1 Kings 21:1-16 (1-4, 5-10, 11-14, 15-16) - the study notes on verse 13 indicate that not only was Naboth killed, his sons were also killed, resulting in him having no heirs.  Finally we get to Jezebel's death.  2 Kings 9:22, 30-37 - her death was as prophesied in 1 Kings 21.

Who is "Jezebel" in Thyatira?
Jezebel calls herself a prophetess, the wording here indicates that she's a false teacher or a teacher bringing in idolatry.  I believe this was a specific person, a woman, leading a movement within the church that was causing issues; however, it is also possible that "Jezebel" is used to indicate those acting in the manner and/or spirit of the Old Testament Jezebel.

Jezebel is misleading Jesus servants into adultery.  The NIV translates the Greek word for adultery into "sexual immorality", but as a literary term adultery could imply either sexual immorality or paganism or both.  It's likely that it's both, since most pagan practices included sexual immorality, and since it specifically mentions leading people to "eat food sacrificed to idols".  It is possible that Jezebel was one who advocated tolerance for the guild festivities & practices, arguing that these guild deities need not be taken seriously - a tempting compromise for believers struggling to earn a living.  Keep in mind, however, that guild festivities would have included orgies & feasts in honor of their deities.

It's also implied that Jezebel is bringing Satanic mysteries into the church.   Consider this, it's possible that a Sybil has entered into the fellowship of this body of believers and is trying to exercise influence within the church.  If this is the case then the tone of fury & might of this letter is easier to understand.

We're told in the passage that Jezebel is given the opportunity to repent, but does not; however, the problem isn't just Jezebel, the problem is that the church is tolerating & condoning Jezebel!!  They were allowing Jezebel's teachings, even giving her a leadership roll, some were embracing her heretical teachings & those who didn't embrace her teachings weren't doing anything to stop her.

Those who are "in bed" with Jezebel will, like her, be forced to suffer - to suffer intensely unless they repent of her ways.  Those who continue to follow her (called her children) will be stricken dead so that all the churches will know that Jesus is the one who searches hearts and minds, and He will repay us according to what we have done.

Thyatira has been titled by some "the adulterous church", indicating problems worse than those in Pergamum where the world's influences had been felt, and going so far as having pagan influences accepted within the church.

Exhortation: Generally to all: to get away from / keep away from Jezebel and her ways.  Specifically, to those who have not followed Jezebel or learned Satan's so-called deep secrets: "hold on to what you have until I come."

Despite this church being troubled there is a faithful remnant within the church, there are those who haven't gone along with Jezebel's teachings or practices.  Here we also get an explicit reference to the 2nd coming of Christ.

Satan's so-called deep secrets - esoteric mysteries of the Babylonian cults.  It's interesting that in 378 A.D. the Bishop of Rome took on the title & office of Pontifex Maximus - the title belonging to the high priest of the Babylonian religion - thus combining the Christian church in Rome with paganism.  The fallout from this in the history of the Roman Catholic church is incredible, as it went through centuries of evil & corruption, but that's way too big a topic to cover here.

Promise to the Overcomer: "authority over the nations.  He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery... I will give him the morning star"

The ambition of Jezebel in the Old Testament was to have power, there may have been a false promise being given by this "Jezebel" regarding power that would come from following in her ways.

Iron scepter (rod of iron) - expressive of might arising from innate strength rather than coming from formal authority.

Dash to pieces like pottery - a greater, more irresistible strength than even that of the mighty Roman empire with all its legions.

The morning star being given - implies that Jesus presence will be given as a gift to the overcomer.

Who has the authority & does the ruling & dashing to pieces? Jesus, yet He shares this authority with His true church, His people.  Keep in mind that we belong to another, we belong to the King of Kings, we are not of this world, our authority is other-worldly & above any human government or authority.  The more defeated Christians may appear in this world the stronger we become, where Christians are persecuted faith is purified and strengthened, where killed for our faith we gain eternal life - we are powerful & cannot be defeated because we have the living God living in us!

This promise to the overcomer has a millennial aspect to it as well, as believers will rule and reign with Christ in the millennium.

Closing Statement: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches"

Thyatira in church history represents the Medieval Church or the church of the Dark Ages, approximately A.D. 590-1350.  During this time idolatry was mixed with Christian works, the papacy gained secular power, worship of the Virgin became part of the church service, Mass was said for the dead, and the Inquisition took place.  Many of the popes during this period bought their office, abused their power, many had residences that were nothing more than brothels, appointed friends/family to church offices or sold the offices to those with money.  Some declared war against & killed off any Christian groups that held to the pure teachings of the scriptures rather than the rule of the Roman church.

How is your life like the life of the church of Thyatira?  Where have you let idolatry or compromise sneak in?  What practices are you involved in or approving of that are offensive to Christ?  Where have you strayed from the pure truths of God's Word?

How is our church like the church of Thyatira?  Where has our church allowed compromise in?  What practices are in our church that are offensive to Christ?

Prayer:  God, show us our errant ways, help us to humble ourselves to your holy will as individual believers and as a local body of believers.  Help us Lord to be a people and a church that seeks to be doctrinally pure.  Help us Lord to resist outside pressures that might tempt us to compromise.