Of the seven cities of Revelation 2 and 3, Thyatira was the least important. The city was known for its high-quality bronze used to produce weapons that, when properly polished, gleamed like gold. It was also known for producing cloth dyed red or purple. Acts 16:14 tells of Lydia, the dealer in purple cloth from Thyatira, who met Paul when he came to Philippi. Economically, the town was dominated by various trade guilds that mixed their trades with paganism and immorality.


The message begins with a description of Jesus Christ (Rev. 2:18). This is the only time in Revelation where Christ is called the “Son of God.” In our pluralistic society, this is the most divisive claim we can make. We believe that from all eternity, God has existed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To say Jesus is the “Son of God” means that when we worship Him, we are truly worshiping God Himself. So this is God speaking to the church at Thyatira.


But first, we get the good news. In many ways, Thyatira is the best of the four churches we have studied so far. Look at what Jesus says about it (verse 19). This church has the good works of Ephesus along with the love Ephesus lacked. It has the perseverance of Smyrna and the good theology of the majority of the church at Pergamum. Whatever else we can say about Thyatira, the Lord clearly says that it was still making progress spiritually. It’s wonderful to be part of a church that is growing in love and knowledge and zeal for Christ. So our Lord has high praise for this church that was advancing for the gospel in an unlikely place.


And it is that high praise that makes the rest of this passage so unsettling. Somehow, in the midst of their growth, the believers at Thyatira had allowed an ungodly woman to rise to a place of enormous spiritual influence (Rev. 2:20).

There are many mysteries here that the text does not explain. Who was this woman and how did she rise to prominence in an otherwise excellent congregation? Our Lord clearly refers to a real person even though the name Jezebel is likely not her real name but rather an allusion to the wicked wife of King Ahab (1 Kings 16:29- 33; 18:13; 19:1, 2; 21:5-16, 23-25; 2 Kings 9:30-37). The crafty Jezebel became a symbol for a seductive form of evil that not only allowed for idolatry but promoted it; not only allowed adultery but encouraged and rewarded it. The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary says, “It would appear that, as Jezebel sponsored the worship of Baal in Israel (1 Kings 21:25), so in John’s days some false prophetess was attempting to lead astray the church at Thyatira.”1

But how could such a woman come to power in the church at Thyatira? I think the answer is in the word “prophetess.” By claiming to speak for God, she gained credibility with gullible, untaught Christians. One could imagine that such a woman combined a powerful personality with persuasive speech, a seductive smile, and withering scorn for her critics. She was no doubt clever, quick on her feet, slick in her presentation, and extremely dangerous.

And she did it all under the guise of being a “good Christian.” No doubt her followers filled the pews at Thyatira. It worked for the first Jezebel in the Old Testament, and it worked for her namesake in Thyatira.


When Jesus says, “I gave her time to repent,” He perhaps means that the church leaders had confronted her about her sinful behavior, and she did not respond. While it is true that the patience of God is meant to lead us to repentance, it is also true that God’s patience has a limit.

In this case, the judgment is spelled out. First, there will be intense suffering (Rev 2:22). Second, her followers will die (verse 23a). Third, all the churches will know that God is serious about sin in the church (verse 23b).

Be sure your sin will find you out. What you do in secret will be shouted from the housetops. What you do in the darkness will be seen as if it had been done at midday.


The phrase “so-called deep secrets” gives us a clue about what was going on. Jezebel enticed her followers by promising them knowledge and experience that came through some combination of pagan ritual, Christian symbolism, and sexual experimentation, all under the banner of learning “deep secrets” that other people do not know. Note that in this case, Jesus doesn’t tell them to cast the woman out of the church. Evidently Jezebel was so deeply embedded in the life of the church that Christ dealt with her personally.


Here is the promise Christ makes to those who hold on in Thyatira (Rev. 2:26-28): Those who remain faithful will one day reign with Christ. If we are faithful, we will share in His victory.

• If you are willing, you can be changed.

• If you are willing, you can be made clean.

• If you are willing, you can have a new start.

• If you are willing, your sins can be washed away.

We are all saved in the same way: by the free grace of God. To those who are scarred by wrong choices in the past, you can be forgiven and made clean—if you are willing. You may still live with certain consequences of your past, but you can have the burden of guilt lifted from your heart.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17).


Think of it this way: You can have Jezebel or you can have Jesus, but you can’t have both. Which do you want? If you want Jesus, you must turn your back on Jezebel and turn your heart over to the Lord. Give to Him all that you are, including the sins that stain your past. Trust in Him as your Lord and Savior. Come to Christ just as you are, and He will never turn you away. He loves you. He came from heaven to save you. He died on the cross for you. He invites you to come to Him.

A new life awaits those who say “Yes” to Jesus, but you must come to Him to receive it.

1 Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, 7:751.