The Letter to the Church in Thyatira
Thyatira is an inland city some eighty kilometers southeast from Pergamos. To this city is the next letter Yeshua wrote: the letter to the church in Thyatira.
The warning in the letter to the church in Thyatira
And to the messenger of the assembly in Thyatira write, ‘This says the Son of Elohim, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like burnished bronze: (Rev 2:18) (see also Dan 10:5-6)
“Bronze” is used in the Scripture as the symbol of what is firm, stubborn, strong and enduring. But bronze also represents judgment. In showing His anger over a certain city the Lord would say that the “heavens over your head shall be bronze” as we find this in the series of curses to Israel, if they do not obey the voice of YHVH.
And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you iron. (Deu 28:23)
In a similar way we find the bronze as a symbol of judgment in Num 21:8 where the serpent was to be made of bronze, because the color of this metal, when the sun was shining on it, was most like the appearance of the fiery serpents; and thus the symbol would be more like the serpent itself.
So, when Israel looked upward and subjected their hearts to YHVH, they were healed; but if they did not, they pined away; hence the judgment.
While in exile on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, sitting at the great river, Daniel saw a certain man dressed in linen, whose loins were girded with gold (Dan 10:4-5).
And his body was like beryl, and his face like the appearance of lightning, and his eyes like torches of fire, and his arms and feet like polished bronze in appearance, and the sound of his words like the sound of a crowd. (Dan 10:6)
This heavenly form Daniel saw has the shining of the body, the brightness of the countenance, the eyes like a lamp of fire, arms and feet like glistering bronze, the sound of his speaking like the sound of a multitude. All these point to the revelation of יְהֹוָה כְּבֹוד, kevod Yehovah, the glory of YHVH in Eze 1:26-28, and teach us that the man Daniel saw was not some of the archangels, but the glorious manifestation of YHVH, the Word of YHVH that became flesh (see John 1).
This is placed beyond a doubt by a comparison with Rev_1:13-15, where the form of the Son of man whom Yochanan (John) saw walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks is described like the glorious appearance seen by Ezekiel and Daniel.
The combination of this angel with that in the form of a son of man appearing in the clouds (Dan_7:13) is not accidental and is placed beyond a doubt by the comparison with Rev_1:13, where Yochanan sees the glorified Messiah.
I know your works, and love, and service, and faith, and your endurance. And as for your works, the last are more than the first. But I hold against you that you allow that woman Iyzevel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and lead My servants astray to commit whoring and to eat food offered to idols. (Rev 2:19-20)
We should notice that from the very beginning of His letter to the church in Thyatira, Yeshua claimed the title the Son of Elohim. He recognizes the many good qualities of the assembly in Thyatira, that their works, love, service, and faith, and most importantly their endurance in the hardship thus producing fruits more than the first are all good qualities a Messianic congregation should possess.
But He accuses the church in Thyatira of having tolerated Jezebel, who says that she was a prophetess, and teaches and deceives His servants to commit sexual immorality, and to eat sacrifices of idols.
Jezebel: the stumbling-block before the church in Thyatira
But who was אִיזֶבֶל iyzevel (Jezebel)? Iyzevel (Jezebel) means “Zevul exalts” or “unchaste.” She was a queen of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, wife of King Ahav, and daughter of Ethba’al, the king of the Tsidonians.
King Ahav did evil in the eyes of YHVH, more than all those before him (1Ki 16:30). And as though that had been a light matter for him, he took as wife Iyzevel (Jezebel), and he served Ba’al the idol of her people the Tsidonians by having raised altars for Ba’al and bowed himself to it and led others astray (1Ki 16:31-32).
And King Ahav did evil in the eyes of YHVH, because of his wife Jezebel who was a tyrant and murderess of the prophets (see 1Ki_18:4, 1Ki_18:13, 1Ki_19:1-2), a worthy daughter of her father, the idolatrous priest.
It is not hard to see what the names “Bil’am” and “Jezebel” have in common (see Rev 2:14 in the letter to Pergamos). They are the two evil characters in the Bible most notorious for leading the Israelites into idolatry and whoring. We are coming to this conclusion from what we read in Num 31:16 and 1Ki 16:30-32.
Behold, They were the ones who caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Bil‛am, to revolt so as to break faith with Yehovah in the matter of Peor, and so the plague was among the congregation of Yehovah. (Num 31:16)
Thus, as Bil’am through Balak caused Israel to stumble through immorality and idolatry, so did Jezebel through her husband King Ahav.
And since we have been given to know that Bil’am was a stumbling-block before Israel, and his teaching for the assembly in Pergamos: to eat food offered to idols, and to commit whoring, so was Jezebel a stumbling-block before Israel and her teaching to the assembly in Thyatira: to teach and lead His servants astray to commit whoring and to eat food offered to idols.
Hence, we understand that as the assembly in Pergamos had two very serious issues: whoring and idolatry, so did the church in Thyatira.
But in Revelation “Jezebel” is also used to denote the result that the professing servants of the Messiah are led into whoring and corruption of the secular world. An evident attempt is being made in the letter to the church in Thyatira by associating her and King Ahav’s evil works, so that the account in 1Ki_21:25-26 containing a reflection concerning Ahav’s abominable conduct should say that “there has not been one like Ahav who sold himself,” to entice, to seduce, and lead astray the people of YHVH.
Indeed, there never was anyone like Ahav who sold himself to do evil, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up. And he acted very abominably in following idols, (1Ki 21:25-26)
Thus, by the same token we may say that there has not been one like the congregants in the church in Thyatira who sold themselves to do evil, because of Jezebel’s teaching in this congregation that stirred them up.
In the following verse 21 of the letter to the church in Thyatira we see that it was not just some teaching that stirred the congregation in Thyatira up, but there was a real person, someone like Jezebel for the Israelites, who was behind this teaching. We deduce this, as we read in Rev 2:21-22.
And I gave her time to repent of her whoring, and she did not repent. See, I am throwing her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great affliction, unless they repent of their works.
There was most definitely someone who brought this teaching of Jezebel in Thyatira, because Yeshua said He gave her time to repent of what he or she was doing. And since a repentance cannot be possibly required from a teaching, but from a person, we come to the conclusion that there was a real person who led the church in Thyatira astray.
The warning Yeshua gives in His letter to the church in Thyatira is that not only that person would be thrown into a sickbed, but also those who followed that teaching. The Aramaic phrase for “into a sickbed” is “into the coffin.” This Aramaic word is ambiguous and can mean either “bed” or “coffin” but here “coffin” is more appropriate for the context.
And I shall slay her children with death. And all the assemblies shall know that I am the One searching the kidneys and hearts. And I shall give to each one of you according to your works. (Rev 2:23) (see Jer_17:10)
Having said that, now we understand as to why Yeshua has begun His letter to the church in Thyatira with, ‘This says the Son of Elohim, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like burnished brass. Because, in the conclusion of His letter, He makes the association of fire and burnished brass (symbols of judgment) with sickbed or coffin (the judgment).
The message Yeshua delivers in the letter to the church in Thyatira is this: if the church in Thyatira does not repent of their works, His testimony before the Father will throw them out from the whole assembly of the Messiah. This warning is a similitude of the warning to the assembly of Ephesos in which the Messiah threatened them He would come speedily and remove their lampstand (assembly) from its place (Rev 2:4-5) and to the assembly of Pergamos that He would fight against them with the sword of His mouth, just like a two-edged sword would cut and divide them from His assembly (Rev 2:16).
What matters is how we finish the race
We should notice contrast in the letters to the assemblies in Ephesos and in Thyatire. In His letter to the church in Ephesos Yeshua warned the Ephesians that had left their first love (Rev 2:4-5), while in the letter to the church in Thyatira He encouraged them, as for your works, the last are more than the first.
In other words, the Ephesians started their walk in faith well, but their current condition was unacceptable. While in Thyatira, they brought forth more good works than at the beginning. From this we understand that for the Messiah how we finish the race is more important than how we have started, as the apostle did when he said,
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have guarded the faith. (2Ti 4:7)
…let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, (Heb 12:1)
However, not all in Thyatira have been found under the teaching of Jezebel, the stumbling-block before the church in Thyatira: to teach and lead His servants astray to commit whoring and to eat food offered to idols.
And to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not possess this teaching, and who have not known the depths of Satan, as they call them, I am not putting on you another burden. But hold fast what you have until I come. (Rev 2:24-25)
As we studied in the letter to the church in Pergamos, the word satan, especially when used with “the” i.e. hasatan, simply means the adversary, the opponent, not a personal name as it is often rendered in the Christian translation.
Another example is the Bil’am story in which the messenger of YHVH in Num 22:22 is described as an “adversary” or one who stand against, satan, to Bil’am (Balaam). As clearly seen from the context, this angel is not the chief fallen angel as understood in the Christianity, but he is the one who acted as an adversary to Bil’am.
But, for more understanding on the meaning of the Hebrew word satan, the reader is encouraged to refer to the article “Peter, called the satan.“
Therefore, when Yeshua said who have not known the depths of Satan, there is no reason to think that He is referring to the chief fallen angel only, but it is very possible that “an adversary” is meant, i.e. the false teacher “Jezebel.”
And he who overcomes, and guards My works until the end, to him I shall give authority over the nations, and he shall shepherd them with a rod of iron, as the potter’s vessels shall be broken to pieces, as I also have received from My Father. And I shall give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. (Rev 2:26-29)
As in all letters we studied so far, Yeshua concludes with a promise addressed to all assemblies. We should note, however, that the promise is addressed only to those of the assemblies who will overcome and guard His works to the end. Notice the contrast Yeshua has made in His letter to the church in Thyatira between their works (of Thyatira) in Rev_2:22 and My works in Rev_2:26.
In this article we studied the third of the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation. In the following articles we will continue to study the rest of them and we will conclude with the final article of the series The Seven Letters to the Seven Churches: the Time of Reckoning for the Church, in which we will seek to identify the seven types of the servants of Yeshua the Messiah.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.