Thirty kilometers west of Pergamos on the imperial Roman road lay Thyatira, where the town of Akhisar lies today. Apollo, the sun god, was the chief deity of the city. The city was also noted for its industries, the most notable being the dying of cloth—particularly in the colors purple and crimson.
The church of Thyatira represents the Church of the Middle Ages. Thyatira received the longest of the letters, containing grave information about the conditions that would prevail. The Church would be inundated with false doctrines and persecuted for faithfulness to God and His Word.
The spirit of compromise that started with Pergamos would reach its zenith in the time of Thyatira. As the name “sweet savour of labor” implies, works as a means to obtaining grace would become a prominent feature of the time. The introductory statement in the letter to Thyatira highlights this point: I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first (Revelation 2:19 NKJV).
In this time of spiritual darkness, the truth was abandoned and Christianity was replaced by the old pagan form of sun worship dressed in a garb of Christianity. Forms, rituals, objects, and works replaced the elevating truths of the Gospel. Pagan deities masquerading under Gospel titles replaced Jesus, and the ancient Babylonian mysteries were reintroduced.
Even the pagan vestments with their prominent purple and crimson colors were introduced as the vestments of the priesthood. The symbols of Dagon, the fish god, became symbols of the so-called “shepherds of the flock.”
The promise of the ultimate victory of Christ stands as a rebuke to the Church of the Middle Ages: And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron (Revelation 2:26-27).
The letter to Thyatira contains a strong rebuke: Notwithstanding, I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. (Revelation 2:20)
Ahab, king of Israel, had married Jezebel, a Phonecian Baal worshiper, although God had expressly forbidden intermarriage with heathens. This marriage led to Baal worship being introduced into Israel, even though it was supposedly done in the name of Jehovah.
So it was in the prophetic time of Thyatira. Pagan temples, symbols, and festivals were converted into Christian temples, symbols, and religious festivals. All this was done in the name of true worship of the divine God.
The long association between pagans and Christians and the rapid incorporation of new converts into the ranks of the Church (after Constantine’s “conversion”), exercised a profound influence upon Christian beliefs and practices. Pagan belief in magic contributed largely to the Christian belief in miracles; and the development of the cult of the saints was stimulated by pagan concepts of inferior divinities, demigods and demons. Many pagan festivals were transferred into the festivals of the Church.
And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.