“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze:
I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things. But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality. Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.
But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, To them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!
Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”Revelation 2:18-29
Warning: You read this Gem at your own risk. It is likely to change your perspective on End Times and your relationship with God and help you become one who endures to the end.
Some of you apparently can see what has been in my mind as I have developed this series related to The Letter To The Seven Churches. I have been struck by the focus of holding on, staying true to Christ’s call and enduring to the end. A few of you picked up on my question, “So when is the end?” Some of you have been perceptive enough to see where I have been heading with this series. Especially when I gave you the background to each city and the church in the city. One reader even sensed why I included Thessalonica – very perceptive. I take my hat off to you. Read Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians again in one sitting and you will pick up on the commendations he gives them and their obvious concern over the Coming of the LORD and their specific questions: Living to please Him unlike the pagans, the Day of the LORD, the coming judgement, the man of lawlessness, standing firm and staying true. As I read those two letters again I was struck by the connections to the Letter to the Seven Churches.
Look again at Revelation 1:19. The letter was written to address ‘the things happening now’ and ‘the things that are yet to come’. Jesus is encouraging us ALL to endure to the end. Yes, the initial challenge to the Church was to survive the era of the Roman Empire. Yet with the fall of the Roman Empire the threat didn’t end. Just look at the historical record. With the fall of Rome, other nations and tribes were emboldened to expand their territory. Besides ‘the end comes’ with the end of life for every one of us. We are not all going to be living when the Lord comes back. But irrespective, you will still have to hold on and persevere until the end of your life. All face death as Christians – compromise or stand firm. Threats from other religions, wars, rumours of wars, invaders, persecution and martyrdom are all ongoing threats for everyone who trusts in Christ to save them. A cursory read through the rest of the Letter to the Seven Churches (i.e. the Book of Revelation) will tell you it is not going to get any easier.
As I have been writing this series I have also been taking in other historical perspectives. Not intentionally, it ‘just happened’. In this same time frame I have watched two movies on ‘The Killing Fields’ and Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia and a series on Hitler and the Nazis. In addition to that I was asked by a mate to read the book ‘Huia Come Home’ related to atrocities committed against the Maori people by the government in England, Governor Grey and Edward Gibbon Wakefield. My mate wanted me to check the book out to see if what was written by J Ruka was accurate. Yes indeed it was. What Ruka wrote gave telling insights to where the original intentions went wrong for a new benign approach to the indigenous population here in my own country. In one sense I was reading a different take on the same story over and over again in each of these different situations.
With all of the above as background, let’s put Thyatira into the picture as I explain why I think Jesus highlighted Thyatira as the central Church of the Seven. Seeing the positioning and the structure of the Seven Churches, I asked myself the question – Why make Thyatira such a focus? Why the chiastic structure and such a strong focus on this church in the centre of the chiastic structure? Take particular note of the two repeated elements for each church.
- Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.
- To everyone who is victorious I will . . .
which are then reversed for Thyatira and the remaining three churches:
- To everyone who is victorious I will . . .
- Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.
The added portion in the extended introduction for Thyatira reads:
Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.
The two repeated elements were given to every church. Let anyone who has ears to hear let them hear and understand what the spirit is saying to the Churches plural. Every church and therefore every Christian was warned to listen and learn to the point of understanding Christ knows the thoughts and intentions of each heart. Then we are all given the warning to persevere to the end. No turning back, no compromise, no denying Christ no matter how severe the threat.
Here is my final summary table.
|City / Church
|Ears to Hear?
|Victorious at the end?
|In decline after 615 AD
|Famous for Ruins
|Lost first love
If you don’t repent
I will remove your lampstand
|Nothing left but ruins
|Survived through 13th C as Greek Orthodox
Struggled, often reduced to rubble
Many martyred, massacred
Last martyr in 1922
St John’s Cathedral rebuilt
with Turkish & Lyon help
Many martyred in 17 and 18th C
Facing suffering & death
Challenged to remain faithful
|Katedrali Aziz Yuhana
still exists in Izmir
|Attacked in 12th C and made part of the Ottoman empire
|Few believers in Bergama
|Repent of your sin
or I will fight against you
|No sign of repentance
|Remained firm until 1922
Greek Orthodox deported to UK1951
|Metropolisan of Thyateira & Britain. Existing churches: St Max Church, Tiatira Church
|Jezabel + followers – Repent and turn
Others – Hold fast till I come
|No sign of repentance
Faithful and held fast
|Impregnable for 3,500 years
Overrun and conquered in 615 AD
|Ruins, nothing remains
Repent and turn
Hold firmly to what you heard
Those who are worthy, walk worthy
|Dead church didn’t last
Nothing more heard of ‘the worthy’
|St John’s Basilica 600AD
City called Little Athens
(number of Churches)
Given Grk Orthodox bishopric in 14th C
1890 burnt by Turks, 3,000 dead
|New Philadelphia developed in 1923 as suburb of Athens Refugees from Alaşehir.
4 churches: 2 Orthodox,
1 Evangelical and 1 Bulgarian
|You have obeyed My Word not denied Me.
They will acknowledge I love you
|Three churches remain for the Greek descendants of New Philadelphia
Some still evangelicals
Christ has opened doors
| Last had a Catholic Church in 1450
Since given titular see.
|Church of Laodicea prone to worship angels from 1st Century.
Known as an ancient-tourist-attraction-church (atac).
|Luke warm, indifferent
Seemingly no change
|Little evidence of being either on fire or cold. Likely to still make Jesus sick.
I m happy to be corrected if required.
|Berea had an intermittent series of bishops until 1933.
Diocese of Berea restored.
Called ‘Little Jerusalem’ due to the number of churches.
|20th C – 72 churches
21st C – 48 churches
35 are atac churches
|There are 7 ‘alive churches’ now.
With the possibility of more.
|The Bereans were indeed more honourable than most other First Century churches.
They have been faithful and persevered. Only short periods w/o a church.
|Invaded many times.
Didn’t fight, surrendered. So were treated well and often helped to rebuild churches.
|Paul commended them strongly for their walk, faith and help for others.
13 churches in city
5 are atac churches
7 active churches
|Christ made no comments to church in Thessalonica
Known as the ‘Orthodox City’ for their role defending the faith and spreading the Gospel.
Paul gave them a good report.
|Faith & example 1 Thess 1:2-7
Looking forward to His coming 1 Thess 1:8-10.
Suffered persecution 2:14-16.
Many references to 2nd Coming: 1 Thess 4:13-18, 5:1-11: 2 Thess 2:1-12,
I have coloured the churches above with the colours I used for the disappointing and positive reports in Gem 2215. Only this time I added red for those who failed and who didn’t hear, understand and / or persevere until the end. As my friend Kevin wrote “not many succeeded”. I believe the purpose of switching the repeated sayings for Thyatira and the remaining three churches is to highlight the warning for all to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches – every church and every Christian. The final reminder has been moved to the final emphatic position beginning with Thyatira and the three remaining churches. The last thing that rings in your ears.
Primarily the red and orange churches didn’t heed the warning. Their complacency and indifference led to them losing their reward and their place in eternal life. It was a reminder for me of the Gem Series I wrote on Running the Race of Life. [To access any Gem series simply copy or type the title into the Gem Series into the Search Button and hit Go]. What is your attitude or motivation toward eternal life – trite, dismissive or do you regard it as something to strive for with all your being to your very last breath? Are you willing to aim to run the race of life for a wreath of perishable leaves or to have your name carved on a pillar in the ruins of Philadelphia? Or are you intent on gaining any or all of the promises Christ makes to those who persevere to the end, no matter whether you face death or martyrdom? That is what lies behind Tertullian’s response to the people of Thyatira when they said ‘But we have to live’ and Tertullian replied ‘Why do you have to live’? What telling words, poignant with meaning! Reminiscent of Paul’s words to the Philippian church.
For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.Philippians 1:21-24
Notice it is not for Paul’s sake but for the sake of the Christians in Philippi that he was willing to carry on living rather than losing his life for Christ and the Gospel. Why do you have to live? What is your ultimate motivation? Have you noticed the difference with the church in Thyatira compared with the other churches in the summary table above? Thyatira represents those who have still to make the decision. They were split, some holding to Christ while others were following the woman Jezebel whom they allowed to teach heresy in the midst of their church. You can’t get more compromised than that. Is that not the point of it all? That’s the message from Christ not only to those struggling under Roman rule but under every empire that followed them? Who will you allow the ultimate decision making power in your life? Careful, the answer to that question will determine your eternal state!
Do you want eternal life in the New Jerusalem or are you willing to settle for leaves [read the Running the Race of Life series] and your name on a ruined pillar?
I have two more challenges for you in this Letter to the Seven Churches series. Following which I will leave you with a reward I received from one reader who has been following the Gems closely. Which I will share at the end. For now I want to add two pairs of Hebrew words which form two hugely significant contrasts for life.
The first pair are [Halal] and [Chalal]. Halal I am sure you know already. It is the Hebrew verb for praise from which we get the universal word around the world, Hallelujah, ‘Praise the LORD’. The second is the word for ‘treating the things of God commonly or tritely’, as though God’s precious instructions are of no worth at all.
The second contrastive pairing is seen clearly in the following verse.
I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you I will curse. Genesis 12:3
There are two different words for ‘curse’ in this verse which sum up what I have been saying. The first is the Hebrew word [mekalelcha] which means ‘to make light of something heavy or serious’. (Similar to the second word [chalal] in the first contrastive pair above.) The second ‘curse’ is the word [aor] which means [to utterly destroy]. I am sure you can see they are very similar pairings. We can’t disdain or treat as nothing God’s warnings when we are allowing our complacency and indifference to blind us to the truth God is shouting at us over and over again. Just look back again at the nature of these Seven Churches. Remember they have been carefully chosen to encapsulate the message for all churches in all time periods. Not just those churches faced with the challenge of the Roman Empire. But all empires and all threats that will come at us until Christ returns.
Christ’s Word to our hearts and our heads is of utmost importance. Don’t neglect the warning as the Ephesians, Pergamumites, Sardisians and Laodiceans did. Realise you are in a battle for your soul and your eternal state. Don’t be happy and content living where satan has his throne. Get out of the city and re-establish your values and priorities again. Don’t be conformed to the world around you. Your eternal salvation is at stake.
Doing this study at the depth I have gone to has reinforced my thinking on once saved always saved and the foolishness of thinking that as things hot up towards End Times everything will be alright because Christians will be raptured before the great tribulation. I have always thought that is a foolish way to think. Far better to consider I may well have to face being martyred or killed for my faith than to live in the false assurance that I will be snatched up and escape the challenge. Your trust in Christ to save you comes into focus when you are faced with compromise or your own indifference toward the things that really matter?
- Don’t think you can rest assured that you are safe in your impregnable city of Sardis and will never have to face the threat.
- Don’t think you can feel safe in Ephesus not realising you have lost your first love and are desperately unsafe in eternal terms.
- Don’t think you can feel you have everything you need in Laodicea and not realise you are desperate, wretched, poor, blind and naked.
- Don’t think you can tolerate the enemy among you allowing them to lead others astray like those in Thyatira.
In Gem 2217 I wrote that it was the combination of personal testimony and the willingness of Christians to submit to the point of martyrdom that captured the attention of other Roman citizens. I quoted Eusebius who wrote that he had ‘seen wild beasts leave unharmed Christians among whom they had been turned loose only to turn upon those who were goading the beasts to attack the Christians.‘ There is something extraordinarily powerful when people are willing to die for what they believe in rather than compromise those beliefs. That kind of response has a positive effect on our fellow believers inspiring them to do the same. After all we are all in this battle together for the sake of the body of Christ as a whole. That willingness captured the attention of the Romans and made them realise Christianity was a threat to Pax Romana. These Christians knew a different kind of peace. Muslims too respect such faith willing to go to the point of martyrdom. One verse comes to my mind from Scripture, God’s Word in Revelation.
And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony for they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.Revelation 12:11
It is a matter of being convince that God’s Word is true and being willing to share in the collective testimony of the Church worldwide which gives us the inspiration to endure unimaginable things in the name of Christ. Martyrdom inspires others to be willing to die as well. For me personally there are two testimonies which have held my attention for a number of years that I have shared with you before in these Gems. Here they are:
I have many more examples which inspire me to be willing to die for my faith. As I have told participants in Deeper Bible, I am not afraid to die for my faith. The worst they can do to me is the best they can do for me, send me into the arms of Jesus in martyrdom. One day I would love Dominggus Kenjam to tour New Zealand telling his testimony.
I am going to close this Gem series with something Chris, a follower of Gems, sent me which I feel sums it up well. She spotted the direction I was heading in and sent the link that follows. “I have just listened to a sermon of John Bevere which fitted into what you have been saying on the letters in Revelation and weightily underlined what it means to be lukewarm by tolerating that which God does not. You probably don’t need any more extra material but this is a short listen that you [and your readers] might enjoy.
(Start at minute 33.30): https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PnAorhWCcLQ
I agree, it is a powerful way to finish off this series. There are many things I haven’t commented on. If you still have questions or comments then feel free to send them to me. I will move on from this point to Chapter 4 of Revelation.
“Don’t fear,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!”Exodus 20:20
Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.Matthew 10:32-33
To tremble at God’s Word is to obey God . . .
- even if it doesn’t make sense.
- even if it hurts.
- even if we don’t see a benefit.
- all the way to completion.
Pastor of a Chinese House Church