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 will strike her children dead." (Revelation 2.18-20)

Food Sacrificed to Idols

Thyatira RuinsThe Revelation city of Thyatira was 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 meat was often offered to idols there. Then the flesh that wasn't used was sold to shoppers in the temple marketplace. 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 in itself, but it could upset sensitive weaker Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus in the Book of Revelation reminds the people of "Thyatira" and that he is "the true Son of God" rather than the god Apollo or even the Emperor. Idols are called "sons of God" and the Emperor a "god" himself but only Jesus can hold the supreme title of "The Son of God."

That Woman Jezebel

Cloth Dyeing

"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.'" (Revelation 2.18-20)

Revelation immoral Jezebel forced her influence on the Thyatira Church. She may have been a person with the same cruel and evil personality as the historical Jezebel. "That woman Jezebel" lived in Thyatira which was a city with many trade guilds in some respects like unions. These were very powerful and controlled those who worked and those who didn't in the cloth-making, dyeing, pottery industries and other trades there. Lydia, Paul's first convert in Philippi was mentioned in Acts 16.14, "One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira 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 was a cloth merchant or trader from Thyatira.

Bowl from Thyatira

Thyatira Bowl"Thyatira" was an ancient Greek city in Asia Minor which now lies in the far western end of Turkey. 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" but 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 literally, "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 worship of Yahweh whose leaders she endeavored to kill. She, however, met a final gruesome death being thrown out of a window by her servants and her flesh was eaten by wild dogs!

Thyatira Christian Community

Queen Jezebel

"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.'" (Revelation 2.20-22)

The 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 also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him. Jezebel is the wife of King Ahab between BC c871-c852 and is considered to be one of the evilest women who ever lived. To be called "a Jezebel" was an extremely 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 about the needs, concerns and spiritual purity of people in Thyatira not least the Christian believers there.

Praise for Growth

ThyatiraThe letter to Thyatira however also praises the virtuous growth of this small Christian community but admonished them for tolerating this false prophetess. Even though her fate is sealed, there is however hope of repentance for her followers. They are warned against involvement in Satanic power or knowledge. The images in these verses convey a sense of Almighty God's anger with sexual immorality and the Good Shepherd's providential care over all his church. Jezebel is unwilling to repent but in his mercy, God allows us to repent and to follow him. Only our stubbornness stands in our path!✞

"Thyatira Idols"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

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