‘And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze: ‘I know your works—your love, faith, service, and patient endurance. I know that your last works are greater than the first. But I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practise fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her fornication. Beware, I am throwing her on a bed, and those who commit adultery with her I am throwing into great distress, unless they repent of her doings; and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call “the deep things of Satan”, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden; only hold fast to what you have until I come. To everyone who conquers and continues to do my works to the end,
I will give authority over the nations; to rule them with an iron rod, as when clay pots are shattered—
even as I also received authority from my Father. To the one who conquers I will also give the morning star. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
Revelation used to scare me. On the rare occasions that I heard it read in church growing up, it evoked images of terrifying creatures, a ruthless God and the dark depths of Hell, leaving me feeling quite alienated. But as my faith and experience of God has grown, my interpretation of this book has completely flipped. The message to Thyatira, and to the other churches, play a profound part in this. Each message roots our understanding of the later visions within a specific context, (some or all of which we might recognise within our own contexts) affirming and acknowledging the lives and struggles of all of us; whatever our circumstances, we are noticed by God.
In what ways might God affirm the work of your church?
Following on from the affirmation that believers in Thyatira have pleased God, the message continues into chastisement. The fornication and idol worship we hear of is still happening around those who do not indulge and this is problematic. But why? After all, there is also the promise of resurrection for all those that have been and remain faithful – surely it is a mission accomplished?
But once we start to unpack what those actions might be, questions about who is being exploited, who is losing, who is suffering, arise. There is no need for any exploitation or oppression within God’s abundant creation – no one needs to wait until death to be with God in God’s realm. We are invited right now to join in the dance of the kingdom – at times gruelling to dance, but powerful and beautiful, bringing change right now.
How well do you know your context? What does your church tolerate in the local community and further afield that enables exploitation and oppression? How will you respond?
Faithful God who loves and delights in us, Thank you that you see and know us. Challenge and guide us, if only we have ears to hear. Make us intolerant of all that exploits and oppresses. In the certain knowledge of your love, empower us to respond, revealing to us the threads that bind your kingdom, and showing us how to contribute. May your kingdom come on earth, just as it is in heaven, Amen.