There are three major points of distinction between the third church, Pergamos, and the fourth, Thyatira.
First of all, the Lord refers to His Coming again in the messages to each of the last four churches, beginning with Thyatira. The conditions found in them will persist to the end of the dispensation, when He comes again.
Secondly, in each of the last four churches, there is an identifiable remnant of individuals; each called an overcomer, true to God, amongst the main body of nominal adherents.
The third significant distinction is that to Ephesus, Smyrna and Pergamos, the call to hear what the Spirit says to the churches precedes the promise to the overcomer. To Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, the promise to the overcomer comes first. The implication seems to be that a point arrives in the history of the church when the true, faithful element in the professing church becomes a small minority of the total. The masses are now beyond the Spirit’s appeal. From this point on, only an overcomer will listen to His voice.
It is well to see these clear distinctions as we now look at the address to Thyatira.
Verse 18 "And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass."
Thyatira is about fifty miles south and east of Pergamos. It is situated on level ground in the centre of a broad vale. It is easily accessible from all directions. There might be a moral parallel there. The well-known saying "All roads lead to Rome" should be borne in mind in the light of remarks made later.
The letter was addressed to the "angel," the responsible element in the local assembly; those who both acted responsibly in the assembly and also were prepared to accept responsibility in assembly affairs.
The Son of God
In chapter 1, He is presented as Son of Man. To Thyatira, He is presented as Son of God. Necessarily so! This is to emphasize the supreme authority of the Son (Psalm2). His dignity, majesty, and authority must be stressed when His place of supremacy is challenged by another. At Thyatira, the supreme place due to Him was usurped by another (perhaps indicative of the Papacy).
Eyes like unto a flame of fire
He knew all that was going on in this the darkest period in the history of the church, well named "The Dark Ages." The system was enshrouded in moral and spiritual darkness, but nothing could be hidden from the searching scrutiny of His all-seeing eyes. He was fully aware of the terrible corruption which was coming into the church. The very name Thyatira means "cesspool." Who but the Son of God could assert the rights of God
Feet like fine brass
Fine brass, refined in the fire. This would be appreciated by the highly-skilled local coppersmiths, who produced just such an alloy of especially high quality. What is brought prominently before us here, as in chapter 1:15, is the judicial glory of Christ. His feet are shod for righteous judgment.
Verse 19 "I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first."I know He, the omniscient Son of God, knows all things (cf. John 21:17).
"I know thy works." These works, which the Lord Himself approves, can only be achieved where there are the underlying qualities of love, devoted service, faith, and patience in the hearts of the workers.
"I know…thy love." All else must spring from this. The law was well summed up, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind" (Luke10:27). Man, natural man, cannot achieve this himself. But love, divine love, expresses itself in the works of true believers.
"I know…thy service." The Son of God Himself was conscious of the detailed activities of each of the local workers.
"I know…thy faith." They had simple trust in the God they served.
"I know…thy patience" or endurance. The sense of the Lord’s approval when under pressure brings inner peace and contentment (2 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Timothy 6:6).
the last to be more than the first
Their activity did not wane or wither under the prevailing corruption, nor fade with the passage of time.
Verse 20 "Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols."
The name of Jezebel is used here characteristically rather than personally; not to identify by name any individual or group concerned, but to draw attention to the character of the corruption that was taking place. 1 Kings 16-21 details the sordid story of the original Jezebel. Not content with being the consort of the king of Israel, Jezebel, a Zidonian Baal-worshipper, led God’s earthly people into pagan idolatry. She actively opposed and killed the prophets of the Lord.
She claimed to bring God’s message, as a prophetess, but the hearers were encouraged to commit moral fornication, that is, to be unfaithful to God. The teaching is traced back to its satanic origin (v. 24, "the depths of Satan"). Satan will use every possible means to bring into the church whatever he can to create havoc, to reduce the church to the level of the world, to depose the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, and, where possible, to destroy the testimony to His Name. Let us be constantly aware of his "wiles."
The church at Thyatira was corrupted by illicit moral union with the world. Idolatry is not confined to literal worshipping of material images. It includes yielding to anything that replaces or challenges Christ as the supreme object of the heart.
Individuals are each responsible to God as such. Leaders who lead astray naïve individuals (whom the Lord is graciously pleased to call "My servants") and/or allow such to be led astray, have a greatly increased responsibility, and will be judged accordingly (cf. Matthew13:13; Revelation18:1-3).
Verse 21 "And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not."
Repentance is essential. The Lord says "I gave her space to repent…she repented not." Sadly, the call and opportunity for repentance went unheeded. "The woman" did not repent, but those caught up with her were also called upon to repent as individuals.
Verse 22 "Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
I will cast her into a bed
"She," who has seduced His servants, will meet "her" punishment in the midst of the very corruption which "she" has encouraged. Those who are "her children," following "her" lead, will also be subject to His holy judgment. Their end is death, not merely physical death of the body, but moral and spiritual death of the soul.
Verse 23 "And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works."
She is a mother of harlots (17:5). "Her children" here are the systems produced, not the individuals in the systems. Individual responsibility is not negated by being in a system. Thankfully, even in an evil system, and in the darkest days, God raises up individuals who will stand for Him in an evil day. At Thyatira, the general picture was very black, but there were those even there who were prepared to stand for God.
I am He that searcheth the reins and hearts (cf. Jeremiah17:10).
He sees, and knows, not only the deeds, but also the motives. This is why He alone can issue a righteous judgment. It is a fact of history that Rome was the imperial capital of the known world from about 750 B.C. to about 500 A.D. It is also a fact that Rome became the acknowledged ecclesiastical (and political) capital of the religious world in the so-called "dark ages" from about 500 A.D. to about 1500 A.D. Sadly, the description of Thyatira matches exactly the spiritual and moral conditions in that period. No sober, serious minded student of scripture and history can honestly avoid this realization. In particular, the terms used describe exactly the attitude and claims of the Roman Catholic Church. Recognition of the evils of the system does not diminish the need for Christian love for individuals beguiled by the system.
This section foretells the end result of man’s building, seen full-blown in chapters 17 and 18. We also see God’s judgment upon it, pronounced here and executed in chapter 18. Happily, this book also gives us the end product of God’s building in this world, in chapters 21 and 22.
Verse 24 "But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden."
There is always an element of innocent believers who are unaware of the implications of what they are involved in. Every allowance must be made for such, but they are exhorted to be true to the little they know.
Verse 25 "But that which ye have already hold fast till I come."
Hang on, go on, keep going, don’t give up.
Verse 26 "And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations."
The church of the living God is the pillar and ground of the truth (1Timothy 3:15). The privilege and responsibility of being an overcomer devolves on those who in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ as Lord (1Corinthians1:2). Note: The term overcomer is invariably used in the singular. It is the fruit of intensely personal individual exercise
These are works that please Him, as the works He did while He was on earth pleased the Father (John 8:29).
Power over the nations
The Pontiff claimed, and continues to claim, supreme authority on earth. He who resists the claims of the Pontiff gains what the Pontiff claims - power over the nations; not now, but in the world to come.
Verse 27 "And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father."
A rod of iron
Iron denotes disciplinary power, whereas brass denotes judicial power (Revelation1:15; 2:18). This power is acknowledged to be a delegated power and authority (John5:22, 27) in contrast to the Pope, who claims supreme, unchallengeable authority.
Verse 28 "And I will give him the morning star."
The morning star shines brightly, immediately before the dawn when the surrounding background is at its darkest. It is the herald of the coming day, depicting the light of His Coming. This is a moral picture. The overcomer is given the light in his soul of the coming of the Lord to end the system, by executing His judgment upon it. This light was given even in the Dark Ages. God preserved, even in the darkest days of the church’s history, a testimony unto Himself in those individuals who had right thoughts of the Coming of the Lord. The Pope insists on reigning now. The faithful individual who has the Morning Star given to him has no desire to reign now. He is prepared to wait for the Lord to reign (2 Th. 3:5; 2 Tim. 2:12). As always, God gives the faithful individual light as to the future to regulate his attitude and conduct at the present time.
Verse 29 "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."
The cry continues to go out. As part of the present testimony to His Name, what is my response to be