Holding Fast in Thyatira: The Seductress versus the Savior (Rev 2:18-29)

UPDATE: This is an old article. An updated and expanded commentary on this passage can be found in Paul’s book Letters from Jesus.

Can you imagine what it must be like to have God visit your church and His eyes are blazing like fire? Look at how Jesus described Himself to the church at Thyatira:

These are the words of the Son of God, who has eyes that flash like a flame of fire, and whose feet glow like bright and burnished and white-hot bronze. (Rev 2:18, AMP)

Before Thyatira got a message, they got a revelation of Jesus. It was a picture designed to awe saints and terrify sinners. And this was exactly what the folk in Thyatira needed to see.

The Problem

Thyatira is known to us as a church in compromise. The root of the problem was a Jezebel-like woman. This lady portrayed herself as a prophetess but she was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. She had seduced part of the church into committing adultery with her. She hadn’t done this through her good looks either, for Jesus says “by her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality” (v.20).

Jesus warned us about people like this. He said they can appear to be the genuine article but we will know them by their fruit. Jezebel’s teaching and prophesies may have sounded wise but the fruit of her sexual immorality was obvious. Jesus was not fooled. The one who searches hearts and minds knew that she was not doing the will of His Father. She was clearly an unregenerate sinner.

Thankfully there was another group in this church who did not hold to Jezebel’s teaching. This group ignored her but for some reason they didn’t kick her out. Jesus said they tolerated her. This was not good. The sinners of Thyatira were hearing the gospel, coming to church, and running into this seducer. It was like putting a baby-killer in the infirmary. We don’t know why they put up with her but their inaction prompted Jesus to act.

So Jesus shows up with His eyes on fire. Imagine how a husband might feel when he confronts someone trying to seduce his bride and that’s Jesus with Thyatira. This was not Jesus meek and mild. This was Jesus incandescent with righteous fury. Pity the wicked woman who tried to mess with His church!

Jesus brings three messages:

1.    The message for the false prophetess is “time’s up.” The verdict is in and you have been found guilty. You who have seduced with a bed of pleasure will be cast on a “bed of suffering” (v.22).

2.    The message for her “children” or followers is, “repent or there will be terrible consequences for you too.”

3.    The message for those who did not follow Jezebel is, “hold on to what you have until I come.”

Sin is destructive. Sin can hurt you in this life and the next. We don’t know exactly what Jezebel’s “bed of suffering” was but it may have been hell. Note that Jesus says she is both out of time and “unwilling” to repent. Every sinner is just one heart beat away from eternal condemnation. As long as life endures, every breath is a moment of mercy where one may repent and take hold of the grace of God. To delay, to be unwilling, is to risk everything.

Neither do we know exactly what happened to Jezebel’s followers other than it involved the possibility of intense suffering to the point of death. There is no doubt that some of those who followed Jezebel into sin were Christians, for Jesus said, “she misleads my servants.” Were these sinning Christians in danger of hell too? Jesus doesn’t say so, but He makes it clear that they were in mortal danger. Sin is never a good idea.

The Challenge

Okay, so here’s the leadership challenge. Imagine you’re running this church. What are you going to do to clean up Jezebel’s mess?

(Take a minute to think of something before reading on.)

I suspect many people would say, “what we need now are clear boundaries,” and this might lead to rules about who gets to preach and who gets to be alone with whom in counseling sessions. I’m a parent, so I think boundaries are good. And indeed, Jesus does provide boundaries to those who sinned. He says, “repent, or there will be consequences.”

But I suspect some leaders would go a lot further than Jesus on this issue. They might supplement repentance with “restoration.” Restoration is often just another word for punishment. It usually implies accountability rules, putting people on probation, and dictating the terms of what it means to live in Christ. Although well-intended, these rules may have the perverse consequence of driving people further into sin. We should not tolerate the Jezebels, but neither should we punish those who repent.

The solution to bad behavior is never rules dictating good behavior. Although rules and regulations have an appearance of wisdom, they “lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (Col 2:23). Indeed, law-like mandates will actually serve to empower sin (1 Cor 15:56).

Although Jesus is well aware of the bad deeds of the Thyatiran church, His response is to address their hearts and minds. To those who are running after sin He says, “turn around, change your way of thinking or there will be suffering.” This is not a burdensome rule. This is life-saving instruction!

To those who didn’t run after Jezebel he says:

I will not impose any other burden on you. Only hold on to what you have until I come. (v.24-5)

Again, no burdens. No rules. Jesus says they already have everything they need. They just need to hold on to it. So what do they possess that’s so precious? They have God-given faith in Jesus. They have the forgiveness of sins. They have the gift of no condemnation and the gift of Christ’s righteousness. They have the Holy Spirit. They have God’s precious promises. They have His seal of ownership guaranteeing what is to come. They have new life. Significantly, they have a new identity as sons of God (Gal 3:26).

People drift off course when they lose sight of who they are in God. Some, like the Galatians, may drift into legalism. Others, like the Thyatirans, may drift into licentiousness. The remedy in either case is to hold fast to the love and grace of our Father who has adopted us and who calls us his sons and heirs (Gal 4:6-7). When you appreciate the limitless riches of his mercy and love, the trinkets of earth will hold no appeal.

The Promise

Finally, Jesus leaves them a wonderful promise.

To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations… I will also give him the morning star. (v.26,28)

As we have seen elsewhere, those who believe Jesus is God’s Son have already overcome the world (1 Jn 5:5). Again, Jesus is not calling us to a life of dead religious works based on human definitions of overcoming. No, Jesus is calling us to believe in him to the point where heaven invades earth and the reality of his kingdom becomes our reality.

But who or what is this promised morning star?

It is Jesus.

He is our reward. He is our prize. We already have his Spirit within us, but one day we will have him in person. One day God will come to dwell with men and this will mark the beginning of Life as we can only dream of. On that day everything will be made new. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star… Yes, I am coming soon. (Rev 22:16,20)

This was good news for the Thyatirans and it’s still good news today.

17 Comments on Holding Fast in Thyatira: The Seductress versus the Savior (Rev 2:18-29)

  1. “by her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality” (v.20)

    some years ago, i received this teaching from Joseph Prince that sexual immorality to God is flirting between Grace and Law after we have been saved by Grace. looking @ v.20 does somehow confirm this? it is “by her teaching” and not a physical act. the “bed of suffering” could be linked to “partaking of Communion in an un-worthy manner? appreciate yout thoughts, shalom 🙂

    • Hi Clement – I hadn’t heard that before. I know Paul sort of describes going to the law as spiritual adultery in Romans 7 – that’s probably where JP got his idea from. I need to think about this some more.

    • I haven’t looked up the Gk word used here but another scripture uses the same description (sexual immorality) or fornication. One of the definitions of this in Strong’s is (figuratively, idolatry).

    • This may send you in the right direction for study into this I believe the woman riding the beast in revelation typifies this adulterous relationship JP refers to.
      I believe that the text regarding communion actually expresses that if you take part in communion with the belief that you are unworthy this belief makes you unworthy. it is again all just Faith no works.

      Chris van Rooyen.

  2. hi paul, so glad to hear from you! we have (my previous church) the same situation here in North Thailand; that is still ongoing – where the wife of the senior pastor, and her co-hort (another woman elected to be her proxy) are controlling and forcing others in the church to deadworks. an elder in the church was given a dream. in this dream she saw the brethrens carrying straw mats to sleep “bed of suffering” in an old shabby house (church under Law) they were all wounded and bleeding. also, the other proxy leader was shown in the dream as a Queen Ant, with her hair turning white and black at regular intervals – which speaks to me of someone with the knowledge of good and evil. several of us have approached the senior pastor with words of caution that was politely ignored cos he would like to walk the middle ground. finally i was invited to resign from his church 🙂

  3. Hi there, Paul, I just have a question that hopefully could get things in my mind clarified when it’s answered, “To him who overcomes and does my will to the end…” It is indeed clear that those who believe in Jesus as the Son, the Savior, are overcomers – but then Jesus adds the words ‘does my will to the end’.. that would also make it clear that it’s no longer ‘Jesus + nothing’ right? Because there’s a “doing” in our part, which would mean an action..an effort. I would love to hear clarifications, thanks! =)

    • “To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.” Looks like a huge invitation to me. What is the will of the Son? It is the same as the will of the Father – believe on the Son (John 6:40). There are more nations than people. Not everyone gets to rule a nation. Some are going to have to be content with cities and towns. Some might get to rule nothing. How does Jesus decide who gets what? He’s looking for those with radical trust in Him, those who aren’t trying to make things happen in the flesh but who know how to walk in the spirit.

      • creativegirl7 // June 22, 2016 at 3:32 am //


      • Hi Paul! Does this mean that you believe that this verse is indeed about future or current present rewards for believers? In that those who hold on to their faith “until the end” get more authority, nations, etc.? Or how do you interpret the “until the end” aspect? Of course doing His works is resting in faith but the part “until the end” seems to put a time condition on our faith.

      • I don’t have a different answer from the one I give in the article. If you would like to know more about the bad consequences of not keeping his deeds, this may help.

  4. John Christopher Dennard // May 11, 2012 at 8:53 am // Reply

    This is future tense though and I believe it does not involve those who are part of todays “Church” or “Body of Christ”, these are future jewish churchs as God picks up the last 7 years prophesied in Daniel “to finish the transgression” dealing with the nation of Israel. They are back under the Mosaic law as they “counted themselves unworthy of everlasting life”. Notice the “works mentality in the language of Jesus’ speech. This is far from Pauline vernacular.

  5. Just thinking on this and the question asked in light of the words ‘does my will to the end’. Seems one is looking at it from the right perspective of always believing in the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and from that belief then doing His will I would have to say the only conclusion I can draw is love. This is just my opinion but loving one another is not something we do necessarily but it is who or what we become. We glorify God when we love one another because he is love so when we express love we express the very essence of God. I think of this way in that I no many people who would not even begin to question Jesus as being the Son of God, and I must admit I am still growing in this later part, but I do not see the love of God in them at all. So quite possibly as we conform to the image of Christ, who I tend to think of as being the very embodiment of love, we can do his will in being love to the world. I hope this makes sense in I am trying to express what I fell sort of.

  6. Who is it that empowers us to do His Will… how will we endure to the end…. It is God thru and thru… in him we live and move and have our being. IF we are in Christ…. we have no worries for we WILL endure to the end, we will do his will… how can we not? We are in Christ and nothing we can do will change that fact.

  7. I’ve had some fresh thoughts on this. When Jesus says, “I will strike her children dead” (v.23), he is not saying, “I kill misguided Christians.” He’s saying the offspring of sin have no future. Like the original Jezebel and Ahab, they are cut off. He is not referring to early judgment either, but the second death (see v.11). It’s the same message Jesus preached when he walked the earth (see John 3:18, Matt 25:46, etc.).

    Although there is a discipline aspect to this passage (stop listening to Jezebel!), the striking her kids dead bit should not be read as anything to do with the discipline of the saints. When his sheep go astray, the Good Shepherd rescues them, he doesn’t kill them (Heb 5:2).

  8. The only complaint I have is I stay up to late reading your post. haha! i cant help it they are so good because I see the beauty of Christ in these posts. God bless bro. So good to be under grace. Under law I get tired reading the bible or some teaching. But now I have to make myself quite because I do not get tired reading the Bible and pure grace teachings. God bless.

  9. Striking her children dead must refer to those who like jezebel belong to the family of Adam, and by extension are children of the devil ( john 8). no Christian can rightly be called a child of anyone but there Heavenly Father ! really appreciate your stuff Paul hope you are well : )

  10. creativegirl7 // June 22, 2016 at 3:49 am // Reply

    Ironically, I was doing a personal study (by the power of the Holy Spirit) on Revelation 2 using rhe commentary of John Gill, on the Biblehub website. Jezebel seems to be the Church of Rome and the popery. A huge mixture of grace + works + idolotry mixture. It all made perfect sense to me – i believe you would find it fascinating, Paul.

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