Revelation 2:18-29 – Thyatira

Thyatira ruins, with the city of Akhisar nearby

2:18  “To the angel of the assembly in Thyatira, which has been understood to mean “Daughter,” or possibly “Continuing Sacrifice,” both of which will be seen to be significant when the rest of the clues of her identity are uncovered.  It was famous in Biblical times for its purple dye, for its waters “are said to be so well adapted for dyeing that in no place can the scarlet cloth . . . be so brilliantly or so permanently dyed as here.”[1]  Thus, in Acts 16:14 we meet “a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira . . .”  The purple dye may hint of a connection between Thyatira and the woman who rides the Beast in Rev. 17:4, who is dressed “in purple and scarlet.”  This connection is probable for other reasons that we will see momentarily.

The chief god of Thyatira was Apollo, the sun god, surnamed Tyrimnas for a Macedonian king.[2]  It was also known for its worship of Artemis (the same as was worshipped in Ephesus), who “was undoubtedly a representative of the same power presiding over conception and birth that was adored in Palestine under the name Ashtoreth.”[3]  Though a goddess of fertility in Asia, in Greece she was believed to be a virgin and a protector of young maidens in addition to a goddess of childbirth.  Hislop also connects this goddess with the Babylonian Semiramis,[4] and through her, to a religion of Mother-goddess/Child-god worship that was almost universal throughout the ancient world, though known by many names and many differing traditions from culture to culture, or sometimes even within the same culture.

To this city, Yeshua says, write: “The Son of God, a title which unlike every other one used in the introduction to an assembly does not appear in Revelation’s first chapter.  It is clearly meant to leap out at us, and we will find momentarily just how important it is.  Yeshua continues, who has his eyes like a flame of fire, purer eyes than to look upon evil, and who cannot look on perversity.  Thus raising the question, why do you tolerate those who deal treacherously, and keep silent when the wicked swallows up the man who is more righteous than he? (Hab. 1:13).  The answer is found in the next description: and his feet are like burnished brass, chalkolibanu, a unique compound word meaning “precious metal and frankincense,” a metal of exceeding value, as the prophet wrote, How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isa. 52:7)  It is the Good News spreading throughout the world which forestalls judgment, for The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2Pe. 3:9).

The One who somehow combines infinite, perfect judgment and infinite, perfect mercy says these things:  2:19  “I know your works, your love, faith, service, patient endurance, and that your last works are more than the first.  Note that unlike most assemblies here, the Thyatirans are growing in their works, much to the pleasure of their King!  We must keep this firmly in mind as we continue.

2:20  But I have this against you, that you tolerate your[4] woman, Jezebel, whose name ironically means “Chaste One”, who calls herself a prophetess, claiming to speak for God with God’s authority behind her.  Whoever the “Jezebel” of Thyatira was when John penned these words, the historical allusion is clear:  The original Jezebel was the daughter of the king of Sidon who married King Ahab of Israel (1Ki. 16:31).  She enticed him to worship Baal, and through him, all of Israel.  Not content merely to spread idolatry in the land, she also massacred the true prophets of the Lord.   Among her more noteworthy sins, she had Naboth falsely accused of religious blasphemy and executed in order to obtain his property for Ahab (1Ki. 21:1-16).  She teaches and seduces my servants to commit sexual immorality, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.  She is not only a spiritual harlot herself, but the mother of spiritual harlots. Indeed, we see that this Jezebel and the Mystery Babylon of chapter 18 are one and the same:

Jezebel and Mystery Babylon

Jezebel (ch. 2)

Mystery Babylon (ch. 17)

A woman (v. 20) A woman (v. 3)
A queen who ruled over Ahab (1Ki. 16:31, et al.) Rules as a queen over the kings of the earth (vv. 2, 18)
Persecuted and killed the prophets of God (1 Ki. 18:4) Is drunk with the blood of the saints (v. 6)
Leads God’s people into adultery (v. 20) A Harlot (v. 1) who commits fornication with the kings of the earth (v. 2)
Teaches others to eat things sacrificed to idols, i.e. to participate in idolatry (v. 20, 1Ki. 16:31) Is the Mother of Abominations and has a golden cup filled with abominations and the filthiness of her fornication (vv. 4-5)
Teaches the “’deep things’ of the Adversary” as her doctrine (v. 24) Teaches “mystery” (v. 5)
Will be cast onto a sickbed, and those with her into Great Tribulation; her children will be “killed with Death” (vv. 22-23) The Beast and the ten kings will bring her to ruin, leave her naked, eat her flesh and consume her with fire (v. 16)
Is punished to show all the churches that Messiah is “He who searches minds and hearts” (v. 23) Is punished by the Beast according to God’s purpose (v. 17)
Messiah repays each according to their works (v. 23) Messiah renders to her as she rendered to His people (Rev. 18:6)

As we look at the evidence, the conclusion follows that Thyatira represents Roman Catholicism (though not solely Catholicism, as we will see):

  1. Catholicism is based out of the city on seven hills (cf. Rev. 17:9).
  2. Thyatira follows Pergamum, which represents the beginning of the Church-State union.
  3. Yeshua’s title, “Son of God,” counters the emphasis on Mary as the “Mother of God.”
  4. Mary, like Artemis, is presented as a perpetual virgin.
  5. For centuries, the popes ruled over the kings of Europe.
  6. Catholicism claims to uniquely speak for God; i.e., the status of a prophet.
  7. Catholicism endorses bowing down to images of its various saints.
  8. Catholicism puts a unique emphasis on taking part in its “mysteries,” such as the “mystery” of transubstantiation.  “[R]evealed truths that surpass the powers of natural reason. . .  In its strict sense a . . .  supernatural truth, one that of its very nature lies above the finite intelligence.”
    Catholic Encyclopedia, “Mystery”In contrast, the Biblical definition has always been something that was overlooked or hidden in the past which is now revealed, e.g., the mystery of Gentile inclusion in the Ekklesia.

And yet, while all that is true, we must also remember that Thyatira is still among the Seven Assemblies (though Yeshua considers the false prophetess in its midst to be outside of His fellowship) and moreover, that Yeshua commends His people there for their increasing works.  And while there will be a call one day, “Come out of her, my people, that you have no participation in her sins, and that you don’t receive of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4), that call is not for all Catholics for all time, as we will see.

Furthermore, Catholicism is not the only Thyatira.  There are many Protestant and Evangelical churches that are currently falling into the lap of the false prophetess.  In particular, we must call attention to the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).

The New Apostolic Reformation is an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit that is changing the shape of Christianity globally. It is truly a new day! The Church is changing. New names! New methods! New worship expressions! The Lord is establishing the foundations of the Church for the new millennium. This foundation is built upon apostles and prophets. Apostles execute and establish God’s plan on the earth. The time to convene a conference of the different apostolic prophetic streams across this nation is now! This conference will cause the Body to understand God’s ‘new’ order for this coming era. We look forward to having you with us in Brisbane in Feb 2000.”

– Brochure signed by Peter Wagner and Ben Gray

Interestingly, this “Apostolic” reformation boasts that it must seize control of seven spheres of influence:

  1. The home
  2. The church
  3. Schools
  4. Government and politics
  5. The media
  6. Arts, entertainment, and sports
  7. Commerce, science, and technology
Seriously, you'd think "seven mountains" would be a clue.

This would not be very remarkable except for the fact that the NAR specifically refers to these seven arenas as “mountains”:

“He [Wallnau] calls them the seven mountains. The warfare strategy is that ‘if the world is to be won, these are the mountains that mold the culture and the minds of men. Whoever controls these mountains controls the direction of the world and the harvest therein.’”

C. Peter Wagner, The Church in the Workplace, (Regal, 2006) p. 114, emphasis mine

One would think that anyone with any Biblical background at all would want to shy away from referring to their movement controlling (i.e., sitting upon) seven mountains:  Here is the mind that has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sits (Rev. 17:9).  That control, not just Godly influence, is clearly stated:

“Our theological bedrock is what has been known as Dominion Theology. This means that our divine mandate is to do whatever is necessary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to retake the dominion of God’s creation which Adam forfeited to Satan in the Garden of Eden. It is nothing less than seeing God’s kingdom coming and His will being done here on earth as it is in heaven.”
–C. Peter Wagner, letter, May 31, 2007

It is our belief that the final form of the Harlot of Babylon will not be Roman Catholicism only, but an apostate, false church embracing Catholic, Protestant, and possibly many non-Biblical faiths under the heading of the Ecumenical Movement.  We will explore this creature in far greater detail in chapter 18.

Late addition:  Those wanting to do some homework on the New Apostolic Reformation should check out the Herescope blog.

2:21  I gave her time to repent, as the Holy One graciously gives us all, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.  You said, ‘I shall be a mistress forever;’ so that you did not lay these things to your heart, nor did you remember the latter end of it.  Now therefore hear this, you who are given to pleasures, who sit securely, who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is none else besides me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children:’ (Isa. 47:7-8).

The Fall of Babylon

2:22  Behold, I will throw her into a bed for the ill, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever will be (Mat. 24:21, Dan. 12:1), unless they repent of her works.  This is not a promise of the Rapture before the Tribulation, but of protection for those who repent, as we will see in Philadelphia.  2:23  I will kill her children with Death, For you have trusted in your wickedness; you have said, No one sees me; your wisdom and your knowledge, it has perverted you, and you have said in your heart, I am, and there is none else besides me. Therefore evil will come on you; you won’t know when it dawns: and mischief will fall on you; you will not be able to put it away: and desolation shall come on you suddenly, which you don’t know (Isa. 47:10-11).  And all the assemblies will know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts, and understands all the imaginations of the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever (1Ch. 28:9).  For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life?  For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then (Mat. 16:26-27), I will give to each one of you according to your deeds and repay her double as she did, and according to her works. In the cup which she mixed, mix to her double (Rev. 18:6). 

2:24  But to you I say, to the rest who are in Thyatira, as many as don’t have this teaching, that is, the teaching of mingling pagan rites with Christian/Messianic truths, who don’t know what they call ‘the deep things of Satan,’ that is, the Thyatirans who recognize the depths, or “mysteries” of Satan hidden in Christian garb, and reject them, to you I say, I am not putting any other burden on you, not even yet to come out of Babylon.  For in many times and many places in the last two thousand years, Catholicism (and its close cousin, Eastern Orthodoxy) were the only sources of knowledge of the Messiah available.  I have had the pleasure of speaking with many Catholic brethren who elevate Messiah and the Word of God above Marian tradition, including many who would never have known Yeshua had they not been reached by Catholic missionaries.  Just as in Israel those who suffered under Jezebel were not called to come out of Israel—for where would they go?  To the pagan nations around them?—neither does Yeshua lay upon His true disciples in Thyatira any further burden but, 2:25  Nevertheless, hold that which you have firmly until I come. 

Now for the first time, we find the promise given before the call:  2:26  He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, the same authority that those joined with Jezebel and the Nicolaitans of Pergamum seek.  2:27  He, the overcomer, will rule them with a rod of iron, shattering them like clay pots; as I also have received of my Father: and they will Give sincere homage to the Son and His brethren, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way (Psa. 2:12).  Moreover, He promises, 2:28 and I will give him the morning star, another reference to Messiah Himself, for a star will come out of Jacob.  A scepter will rise out of Israel, and shall strike through the corners of Moab, and break down all the sons of Seth (Num. 24:17).

2:29  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.  Where formerly the call was given before the reward, now it comes at the very climax of the letter, perhaps portending the increasing failure to hear, heed, and obey in the latter days.


[1] Unger’s, “Thyatira,” p. 1279

[2] Smith’s, “Seven Churches,” p. 276

[3] Unger’s, “Gods, False:  Artemis,” p. 484

[4] Hislop, Babylons, p. 29

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4 Replies to “Revelation 2:18-29 – Thyatira”

  1. Very interesting. I have been reading a book on line called “Revelation of Jesus”. It shows the 7 churches as being not only for back then, but also a parallel for Christian church history. There comes a point where Jezebel is no longer mentioned. He says it is because at that point in history, they welcomed in the worship of idols with statues and icons and such, among other things. The true church broke off from the Catholic church/Jezebel, so only the true church is dealt with from that point in.

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