Thyatira Idols
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16. Thyatira Idols
Revelation 2.18-23a

"To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching, she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead." (Revelation 2.18-23a)✞

Food Sacrificed to Idols

Thyatira RuinsThe Revelation city of Thyatira is a frontier town about forty miles southeast of Pergamum, which was famous in its day for its trade guilds. Its members may have been involved in the Saturnalia festival meals worshipping Saturn and the Thyatira idols in the pagan temples. The priests often offered the meat to idols there. The temple marketplace then sold on the remaining flesh. Thus arose the criticism of eating "food sacrificed to idols" in Revelation 2.20 and elsewhere. Eating food bought from the temple market may not have been wrong, but it could upset sensitive weaker Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus reminds the people of "Thyatira" that he is "the true Son of God" rather than Apollo or the Emperor. "Sons of God" are called Idols and the Emperor a "god," but only Jesus can hold the supreme title of "The Son of God."

That Woman Jezebel

Cloth DyeingRevelation's immoral Jezebel forces her influence on the Thyatira Church. She may be the person with the same cruel and evil personality as the historical Jezebel. "That woman Jezebel" lives in Thyatira, which is a city with many trade guilds, in some respects, like unions. These were powerful and controlled those who worked in the cloth-making, dyeing, pottery industries, and other trades there. Lydia, Paul's first convert in Philippi, is mentioned in Acts 16.14, "One of those listening was a woman from Thyatira city named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message." Lydia is a cloth merchant or trader from Thyatira.


Thyatira Bowl"Thyatira" is an ancient Greek city in Asia Minor, which now lies in Turkey's far western end. It was a secular city, with no focus on any particular religion. The woman mentioned in the church in "Thyatira" who was teaching and actively encouraging sexual immorality may have been named "Jezebel." On the other hand, John of Patmos may have used her name to symbolize the kind of evil she was promoting, which was typical of the historical "Jezebel." The original Jezebel was the wife of the wicked King Ahab (BC c871-c852) in Israel. Her name meant, "Where is the prince," referring to a "ritual summoning of the god Baal." She came from Sidon and encouraged the worship of the pagan deities Baal and Asherah over the traditional religion of Yahweh, whose leaders she endeavored to kill. However, she met a final gruesome death being thrown out of a window by her servants, and wild dogs ate her flesh!

Thyatira Christian Community

Queen JezebelThe Thyatira Christian community is called upon to repent for tolerating and being led astray by Jezebel, the false prophetess. "That woman Jezebel" is the title of a historical person and a pagan queen of Israel. She was the daughter of Ithobaal I of Sidon and the wife of Ahab, King of Israel. In 1 Kings 16.31, we read, "He (King Ahab) not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab made an Asherah pole and aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, more than did all the kings of Israel before him. Jezebel was one of the evilest women who ever lived. To be called "a Jezebel" was an incredibly offensive thing for any woman. The scheming and treacherous Jezebel introduced pagan customs into the pure religion of Israel. This new Jezebel in Revelation is doing the same thing to the Thyatira Christian Community. Jezebel is more concerned about her selfish pleasures than Thyatira's needs, concerns, and spiritual purity than for the Christian believers.

Praise for Growth

ThyatiraHowever, Thyatira's letter praises this small Christian community's virtuous growth but admonishes them for accepting this false prophetess. Even though she seals her fate, there is the hope of repentance for her followers. The church does not tolerate involvement in Satanic power or knowledge. The images in these verses convey Almighty God's anger with sexual immorality and the Good Shepherd's loving care over all his church. Jezebel is unwilling to repent, but God allows us to repent and follow him in his mercy. Only our stubbornness stands in our path!✞

"Thyatira Idols"
by Ron Meacock © 2020

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