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7 Letters – 4 – Thyatira

In case you are starting in the middle of this series of essays on the 7 Letters, be aware that both the first 7 Letters essay and the Kingdom of Heaven essay provide important concepts.

Revelation 2:18-29 “Write to the angel of the church in Thyatira:
“The Son of God, the One whose eyes are like a fiery flame and whose feet are like fine bronze, says: I know your works — your love, faithfulness, service, and endurance. Your last works are greater than the first. But I have this against you: You tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and teaches and deceives My slaves to commit sexual immorality and to eat meat sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to repent of her sexual immorality. Look! I will throw her into a sickbed and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her practices. I will kill her children with the plague. Then all the churches will know that I am the One who examines minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you according to your works. I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who haven’t known the deep things of Satan — as they say — I do not put any other burden on you. But hold on to what you have until I come. The one who is victorious and keeps My works to the end: I will give him authority over the nations —and he will shepherd them with an iron scepter; he will shatter them like pottery — just as I have received this from My Father. I will also give him the morning star.”
“Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.”

This letter to the church of Thyatira opens with a continuing description of the author – the Glorified Jesus. His description is very similar to the description of the heavenly being visiting Daniel in the book of Daniel.

It is of interest to note that the visitation to Daniel by the heavenly being was in the context of intense warfare in the spiritual realms. This appears to have strong bearing on this letter as we examine further.

Recall that Thyatira carries the inference to “continuous sacrifice or offerings”. And could be related to the praise that Jesus has for this group.

As before, Jesus first praises the group for love, faithfulness, service and endurance. At the end of the letter, after addressing the issue that needs correction, he says that he has “no burden” to place on the rest of them – those not involved in the correctional issue. That he has no more to add, brings more focus on these 4 qualities listed here. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul tells us that these 3 remain: Faith Hope and Love. And the greatest of these is Love. Here in this letter to Thyatira, we see those three listed again. With a fourth quality that is really an extension of Love. So this is high praise indeed. Especially when Jesus adds that these accomplishments are increasing (your last accomplishments are greater than the first).

But Jesus does have an issue to raise with them. These loving people tolerate “the woman Jezebel”. Without losing sight of the high praise given to this group, let us examine “the woman Jezebel”. It is possible that Jezebel was the actual name of someone in the group, and that all the next three sentences are completely literal. Which then would include that Jesus is going to kill the children – a difficult pronouncement to understand.

Jesus was very compassionate to all people he met, except the religious leaders. If you are inclined to believe that this same Jesus is here saying that he is going to kill children (with death, the passage adds), then I suggest that you do a study of all the statements of God related to punishing offspring for the sins of the parents. It is truly a complex subject, but I trust it will lead you to some deeper insights into the governance of the spiritual realms. Which then leads back the strong possibility that this reference to Jezebel is intended as just that: a reference to the nature of the historic Jezebel, queen of the dark realms, who had a secondary role as the ruler of Israel during the life of Elijah.

I will proceed holding the assumption that we need to understand Jezebel to understand this passage.

Jezebel

She appears in the history of Israel, the northern kingdom of the divided tribes of the sons of Jacob, She is introduced in a way that makes us have no doubt that she is very significant.

The king of Israel, Ahab, marries her. Ahab is described with this phrase: “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.

Omri, his predecessor, was described in the same way, having done more evil that any before him.

And so the line of kings of Israel (the northern) extends back from Ahab to Jeroboam. And most being described as being very evil. The specifically mentioned evil is leading the people into worship of the other gods. This work, this activity, is the primary recurring identified cause of separation throughout the scriptures.

Against this account of almost continuous spiritual perversion, Ahab is described as the worst so far. Then Jezebel is introduced with this phrase: “Then, as if following the sin of Jeroboam son of Nebat were a trivial matter, he married Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians”

Sidonians: At this point in history, it appears that the city-state of Sidon was part of the Phoenician empire, a trade empire. It is one of the oldest cities remaining extant to this day. The Phoenician empire was a surviving remnant of the Canaanite empire.

Here is where the assumable back-story gets interesting.

There is not conclusive evidence on anything, but rather we are always led to a situation where our ability to know is exhausted and we must choose to believe one thing or another. So it is with these things.

Noah and his family survived the Flood (the greatest storm of history) where God Most High had to stop the spread of demon worship. (I did a more extensive look at these things in an article on Sodom and Gomorrah.)

One of the sons of Noah that survived the Flood was named Ham. One of Ham’s sons was Caanan. Canaan was the father of a man named Sidon.

It is very significant to note that Sidon is a 1st cousin of Nimrod, the “first powerful man on the earth” who organized the events at Babel. Again, there is a more exhaustive review of these subjects in the Sodom and Gomorrah article. To summarize, once you abandon your early childhood images of the Genesis stories and began to take the spiritual world as deadly serious, it is easy to see that Nimrod was re-introducing the worship of other gods – the angel leaders under Lucifer/Satan – and then God Most High once again intervened and scattered the people with the clever technique of language.

So it may be reasonable to assume that Sidon was part of the Tower of Babel experience, and it would not be surprising to find the descendants of Canaan (the Canaanites) worshipping one of the original “other gods”.

Which is what we do find in our Jezebel story. Her father had a not too unusual name for those days: Ethbaal, which means simply “Man of Baal”. And we see Ahab involved in the worship of Baal. And we see very dramatic events with Jezebel and the worship of Baal. Reading the events in 1 and 2 Kings is important, and leads to some other reasonable assumptions. One assumption in which I have confidence is that Jezebel was powerful in the heavenly realms, just like her great-great-…-great-Uncle Nimrod, a “powerful ensnarer before God Most High” as the scriptures describe him. One can see clear evidence of this: the actions of Elijah show great power. God Most High invalidates the sacrifices of the 400 priests of Baal. God Most High empowers Elijah to destroy the destroyers sent by Jezebel, and by merely speaking a sarcastic sentence. Yet Jezebel is not impressed. Just like Pharoah was not impressed, while he had the pupils of Balaam at his side (Jannes and Jambres).

Satan is very powerful. Jesus himself says that false prophets will appear doing great signs to deceive. And Satan lies. Note that one of the main gods of the Canaanites and the Phoenicians is the Storm God, whose worship must have started around the time of Babel, while all the survivors of the Flood were likely still living. Ever wonder how the people could turn away from God Most High while the Flood is still fresh? Satan subverts the acts of God as his own.

So the woman ruling Israel is a powerful spiritual person, ruling Israel with a focus on eliminating the worship of God Most High, not as an invalid belief, but as an inferior weak belief. Love and Mercy appear weak in the balance of Justice.

Throughout the history of the scriptures we see God calling people to believe in his Mercy and Love. We see throughout the prophets regular references to Israel (the greater, inclusive) referred to in terms of intimacy. Some reference are extremely sexual, although clearly allegorical. The virgin bride of God Most High is seduced and commits adultery with the other gods. Jezebel the queen of darkness is clearly seducing Israel to the worship of other gods, specifically Baal and his consort Asherah.

Having built this concept in our minds, we can turn back to the Letter to Thyatira.

the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and teaches and deceives My slaves to commit sexual immorality and to eat meat sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to repent of her sexual immorality. Look! I will throw her into a sickbed and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her practices. I will kill her children with the plague.

Taking this as a reference to the concepts we just built, we can see that there is a person or group of people exerting influence inside the group of Jesus followers. A brief study of the history of the region of Thyatira shows extensive worship of other gods, so the existence of those that believe like the more ancient queen Jezebel must be expected. These people would not have any hesitation associating with a group of Jesus followers, but, like the queen Jezebel, they would perceive the power of the other gods as greater and more dreadful. Nice gods look weak. Once again, the virgin bride is being lured away into adultery with the other gods.

Note that Jesus still acts like Jesus: he isn’t going to kill them and throw them into hell immediately. No he is going to cause them to suffer so that they can see. But only after he gives them yet more time to repent (change their mind).

If we have built a reasonable case for the reference back to queen Jezebel and her adulterous relationship with Israel, then we can still hold that analogy when we read that Jesus is going to kill the children. In this concept, these are the offspring of the adulterous spiritual relationship with other gods.

The Bible version copied in above uses the word “plague” in a clear attempt to make the sentence grammatically correct. Most versions use the word “death”, which is the primary definition of the Greek word. Which makes an odd sentence “will kill them with death”. The Greek word often translated as “with” in this verse, is a general usage conjunction. It can be translated as several English conjunctions: in, with, and several others. Of course, the various English conjunctions convey nuance of meaning. Given that the Greek word is exactly the same for all of the English conjunctions associated, we can substitute a different conjunction as indicated by the assumed meaning of the context. Some English Bible versions use the word “in” – as in “will kill them IN death”. Given that death is a spiritual location in addition to a state of being, it could be that Jesus is reinforcing the spiritual conceptualization of this by noting that these spiritual offspring of demon worship exist in the state or kingdom of death. Observe that when Jesus began giving this vision to John, Jesus told John that he, Jesus, holds the “keys to death and Hades”. This is the same Greek word for death, possibly establishing it as a location.

Then Jesus again reinforces this view when he returns to speaking about his church at Thyatira and noting that the rest of them have not been seduced by Satan’s deep secrets. Sex and eating food sacrificed to idols are not deep secrets when taken at the literal level. Giving your spirit to other gods (spiritual sex), while fully aware of what you do, requires embracing the deeper secrets. They are “So called secrets” – they are lies in reality.

Now that we can understand what Jesus is referring to with Jezebel and sexual immorality, let’s go back to looking at the Letter in its context of being about the people whose deeds of Faith, Hope and Love are increasing.

Jesus next says that all will know that Jesus see the heart and he rewards the works of the heart.

And Then Also

The text in Greek uses another one of the general purpose conjunctions, this time one that can be any of several connecting words in English, including and, even, also, and numerous others including then.

It is always helpful to remember that the written Greek in the 1st century did not have punctuation marks. So the writers often used a connecting word like this one to separate thoughts which are what we would refer to as sentences in English. Something like this if I were to write sentences without punctuation it may be helpful to add connecting words which I will start doing now and I switch to telling a story and I went to write this and I wrote part now and I write more and I want you to determine the relationships between the thoughts and I return to using punctuation.

In this Letter to Thyatira, Jesus makes several statements in a row. Some translators (versions) choose to leave the Greek conjunction as the most common English “and”. Some translators (versions) choose to use “then”. Some leave it out, viewing the Greek conjunction like the English punctuation, the period.

I bring all this to your attention as the reader of Jesus’ Letter must choose how to assign belief about “All the churches will know that I am He that examines affections and hearts”. Some versions translate the conjunction as “then”, which then assigns the meaning of the sentence as logically resulting from the actions of the previous sentence. So a simple reading with the “then” would be: “I will kill the children with death then everyone will know that I examine your thoughts”. Or we if we take the concept previously proposed that Jesus is talking about the spiritual realm and use the Greek “and” as a sentence separator the sentence sequence would be “I will eliminate the effects of the spiritual adultery that exist in the realm of death. Everyone will know that I know your Love.” This seems more consistent with what Jesus has already said to this church. The word that some versions translate to “mind” is actually appears to be a Greek idiom as the Greek word is more directly translated to “kidneys” which is a cultural reference similar to the modern use of the word “heart”. The accepted understanding was that emotions that drive our decision making exude from the abdomen. We can see that the word “mind” could be used here, but the choice some translators make is to use the word “affections”. These could be synonyms from some perspectives. The point is that Jesus knows our hearts.

I will give to each of you according to your works.

Again, we have the Greek connecting word issue. If we take one point of view and tie the “examining of the affections and heart” to the “kill the children” thought, then this sentence makes sense that Jesus will kill the children causing all to know that he is watching everything and he will kill you next when you sin.

For me that way of reading this is in direct contradiction to Jesus words of mercy. Especially the Unforgivable sin passage where Jesus says all sin will be forgiven except rejecting him. So the God that shows mercy over and over throughout history, who came and walked the earth as a man, healing broken lives and forgiving sin, reconciling the dead human race to the living God, is now stating that he will give you what you deserve: death. You do deserve it. I deserve it more than you.

No Jesus is not saying that.

Learning from our language analysis, we see that it is the concepts of the translators that dictate what thoughts communicated in Greek are associated with the previous thoughts. Meaning that it is reasonable to decide that after Jesus made his statement about eliminating the spiritual problems from spiritual adultery, he was finished with that subject and finished with his allegorical reference to queen Jezebel. Now he had returned to discussing the church. This view is supported as he shifted from using the third person when referring to the Jezebelish group. After the Jezebel section he goes back to using second person “you”, meaning his people, his church, at Thyatira.

Also, consider what Jesus is saying if Jesus is talking about searching the affections and hearts of the Jezebelish group. Searching affections and hearts implies looking deep under the outward actions of the individual to the core level of their being. Now consider that the Jezebelish group is apparently down at the Artemis temple offering sacrifices to that demon and participating in the various powerful activities that surrounded such worship. Nobody needs to search the deep core of their being to see that they are flirting with demons. It does not seem that the searching of the affections and hearts is related to the Jezebelish group.

In case the concept has been dislodged from your awareness by all the intervening discussion, recall that Jesus has already discussed the works of his church at Thyatira. They are the ever-present sweet offering of Faith Hope and Love. When the other churches read this Letter, they will know that Jesus knows and loves the Affections and Heart of Thyatira and he will reward this Kingdom work (Faith, Hope, and Love). The other churches of course will also see that Jesus defends his virgin bride from the seductive ways of the other gods, the legions of Satan that seek to lead people to being spiritually intimate with Satan’s kingdom.

And then Jesus goes on to say that he has no other issue for his church to address. Just address the tolerance. In the previous Letter to Pergamum Jesus says that He will come and deal with those who do not change their mind about pursuing other gods. Here in this Letter to Thyatira, Jesus again is the one that will take action against the spiritual deceivers. All he has asked his bride to do is to stop being so accepting.

In much of the writings of the New Testament, we see some dominant themes in the wisdom of the writers being sent to the various parts of the church. We see the writers addressing issues like gossip, slander, swindling, drunkenness, factions, sex, etc. From this we can deduce that these problems were fairly widespread, as they have been throughout the intervening eons. Note that there does not appear to be widespread murder in the church. It is enlightening to note that, here in these Revelation Letters, Jesus praises the groups that have Love, but has to remind some to not be so tolerant. As in this Letter to Thyatira. If you imagine a group of people that live as close as they can by 1 Corinthians 13, you see a people that are accepting of people with their faults, just as Jesus was with the sinners. But, as we should know by now in our journey as followers of Jesus, nobody is perfect, all struggle with one thing or another. In an environment of Love, the problems we see being mentioned often in the various New Testament writings are problems one would expect to be prevalent in an environment where people are living by 1 Corinthians 13.

So it is with Thyatira. They are loving the people who are flirting with Satan. Thyatira is doing what is good. But a follower of Jesus must be very clear with everyone that there are 2 Kingdoms and they are at war with each other. One must choose that Jesus is Lord (supreme in authority). Several of Jesus’ parables illustrate that the battle is between the 2 Kingdoms, not the individual people. Jesus says Thyatira must continue on the path of Love, but be clear about the nature of the war. Those who play spiritual sex games with Satan’s realm are at great risk of dying in the Unforgivable Sin.

Then Jesus completes the Letter with promises of what is to come. This time with the promise that the one who holds to Love until the end will “rule the nations with an iron scepter and will dash them into pieces like pottery”. Doesn’t sound like love until you realize that the “nations” are introduced in Genesis when God divided humanity into separate groups who have been ruled by warlords ever since. The followers of Jesus, who walk in Faith, Hope, and Love will rule over the “nations” for a brief instant before destroying the faction system and uniting all once again in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is wise of God Most High to not give that scepter yet.

Jesus restates the key to understanding, as he did throughout his 3 years before the Cross: He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Just as in his teachings during that time, you can hear this Letter with Kingdom of Heaven ears, or it can make sense as Kingdom of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, your choice.

To refresh the concepts in our minds: Jesus tells the group at Thyatira that their works of Faith, Hope, and Love are excellent and increasing. But they are tolerating someone who is pulling people away from correct understanding of the nature of Jesus. Jesus makes it clear that he, Jesus, will deal with the Jezebel group while waiting for them to repent. Jesus will deal with the results of the problem the Jezebel group has spawned. The result of the interaction of Jesus with Thyatira will be that all the followers of Jesus will be reminded that Jesus knows your heart and works of Love and will reward according to those works (not law). Continue in Faith, Hope, and Love. The end will come, and with it, freedom. Listen to Jesus.

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