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The Church of Thyatira

09 Apr
Thyatira-Ruins

from Google Images

The fourth church in Jesus’ exhortation to the churches of Asia was located in Thyatira, a city located about 40 miles southeast of Pergamum on the ancient Roman mail route. We first learn of this city in Acts 16:14 when Lydia, a woman from Thyatira, believed Paul’s Gospel and offered her home as a base for his operations in Philippi. Thyatira is situated in the district of Lydia near the border of Mysia and is famous for its purple and scarlet dyes. It was the smallest of the seven churches, but it received the largest letter from Jesus. It had a large number of trade guilds in the city, which may indicate social and economic pressures to conform to local religious and political celebrations, if one hoped to gain employment or survive in business.

As in the cases of the previous three churches, Jesus addressed his letter to the angel or the messenger, i.e. the leader of the church, which in the case of Revelation 2:18 is at Thyatira. In this letter, Jesus introduced or described himself as the Son of God, whose eyes are as a flame of fire and whose legs are as fine brass.

Not only is this the only place in his letters to the seven churches that Jesus describes himself as the Son of God, but it is also the only place in the entire Apocalypse that he is referred to by this title. It may be that Jesus wanted to create a contrast between himself and Apollo, the son of Zeus, the main deity of the Greeks. The patron god in Thyatira was Tyrumnas or Tyrimnas, who was often pictured riding a horse with a raised battleaxe in his hand (cp. Jesus in Revelation 19:11-15). This patron god seems to have been morphed into Apollo, perhaps due to a great Macedonian influence in Thyatira. Hellenism was the cultural rule of the day, so there was tremendous pressure to identify with or merge one’s beliefs with that of others. It was the “political correctness” of the first century AD. So, Jesus may have been pointing out, especially if one considers the reference to the work of Jezebel in Revelation 2:20-23, that he alone is God, and beside him there is no other, including Apollo or Tyrumnas.

This contrast may have more to do with gentile believers than Jewish believers, because in the Jewish faith there is but one God. Reverence to his son (Psalm 2) concerns the Messiah, but was also a designation for all Jewish kings. Psalm 2 was sung at their coronations. Although the Emperor considered himself to be the son of god, still the Jew understood God to be One, and only he is God. On the other hand, the pagan gentiles had many gods and many sons of gods in their myths. So, gentile believers might be more susceptible to compromise on this issue.

One of the suggested meanings of the name, Thyatira, is sweat savor of labor or sacrifice of labor, which seems to point to the many trade guilds that rose up there to protect and advance their industry.[1] The manufacture of metals like brass require fire to purify the metal by causing the impurities attached to it to rise to the top of the molten metal, whereupon they can be removed by the smith. Pointing to Jesus’ eyes of fire seems to indicate his ability to find and remove impurities from his disciples. This picture suggests that nothing could go unnoticed by him, whether his gaze is upon a believer or an unbeliever, Therefore, this scripture suggests both judgment upon the Lord’s enemies, separating them from the believer at the end of the age (cp. Matthew 13:37-42) and purification of the believer with respect to his sins.

One cannot help but contrast the image of Jesus with legs of brass with the image of the gentile kingdoms, as seen by Nebuchadnezzar in Daniels 2. There the image of the feet had legs of iron, but the feet were composed of iron and clay, and therein lay the weakness of the whole. A Stone (Christ) was cut out of the mountain (Judah) without hands (i.e. a work of God), and it was cast at the feet of iron mixed with clay by means of the Gospel (Daniel 2:44-45).

Brass is an alloy made up mostly of zinc and copper, two metals that combine very well, resulting in a very strong metal, brass, unlike the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar, which had feet of iron mixed with clay in Daniel 2. The image of Jesus’ feet in the Apocalypse, no doubt, reminds the church at Thyatira that they are destined, through the work of God, to break the nations is pieces (Daniel 2:44, Revelation 2:26-27). They were destined, as we are today, to conquer and impose their will upon the nations, not through worldly weapons but by means of the Gospel (cp. 2Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:17).

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[1] Consider the riot stirred up by Demetrius, the silversmith, at Ephesus in Acts 20:23-41

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Posted by on April 9, 2019 in Apocalypse, Book of Revelation

 

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