“Write to the angel of the church in Thyatira: Thus says the Son of God, the one whose eyes are like a fiery flame and whose feet are like fine bronze: ‘I know your works—your love, faithfulness, service, and endurance. I know that 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 servants 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 affliction. Unless they repent of her works, I will strike her children dead. 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 so-called secrets of Satan”—as they say—I am not putting any other burden on you. Only hold on to what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works to the end: I will give him authority over the nations—and he will rule 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. Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.’” — Revelation 2:18-29
According to Pliny the Younger, the Lydians founded Thyatira and called it Pelopia. Archeological evidence, however, points to settlements as far back as 3000 B.C.E. In 290 B.C.E. the Selucids took the city and settled Macedonian soldiers there, renaming it Thyatira. One hundred years later, Pergamum took control of Thyatira, and it became an interchange on the Roman road. Thruways led to Sardis, Smyrna, and Magnesia, and the city became an important midpoint between Pergamum and Laodicea. At different times, these bordering empires controlled the city, and Pergamum fortified it in 190 B.C. to protect against the Seleucids of Sardis and other invaders. Thyatira became an important defense outpost for Pergamum and Sardis. Even though enemy forces could easily penetrate its surrounding flatlands and small acropolis, Thyatira provided a necessary buffer for these cities known at different times as the world’s greatest capitals. Today Thyatira is known as Akhisar (Turkish for “white castle”).
Excavated coins offer greatest evidence of the city’s leading industries—bronzesmiths, wool workers, weavers, potters, and tanners—and its worship of Greek deities. Though among them were Dionysus and Artemis, coins with pictures of Apollo astride a horse ready for battle or with a battle-axe over his shoulder suggest that the people of Thyatira recognized the son of Zeus as chief deity. Though inconclusive, remains of a temple dedicated to Apollo also provide some evidence of this. Under the influence of Rome, beginning in the second century A.D., emperor worship replaced the worship of Apollo, but many Thyatirans simply identified the emperor as Apollo incarnate.
Thyatira in Christian History
The Apostle Paul probably visited Thyatira several times and established a strong Christian community through his ministry. Paul met Lydia of Thyatira while in Philippi where God “opened her heart” and she believed (Acts 16:13-15). Lydia sold purple goods and must have been a wealthy business woman. Evidently a Gentile who had been attracted to Judaism in Thyatira, Lydia worshipped God even before Paul shared the gospel with her.
The church at Thyatira was one of the Seven Churches named in Revelation (Rev. 2:18-29). The letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira refers to “the Son of God, whose eyes flame like fire and whose feet gleam like burnished brass.” (Rev. 2:18) This seems to be a deliberate contrast to Apollo, the god of the sun, especially considering that the Greek word translated “burnished brass” is used nowhere else in the New Testament. The term also would have been familiar to the guild of bronze workers in Thyatira. Since Apollo was the city’s most revered god, John’s prophecy boldly takes on the religious establishment.
Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Christ. — Colossians 2:8 (a warning from Paul for the churches in this region, but unheeded by the church in Thyatira)
The Revelation letter goes on to commend church members in Thyatira for growing in greater acts of love, faith, service, and perseverance (Rev. 2:19). However, their lack of effort to control the prophetess Jezebel—probably either a pseudonym or a general reference to sexual promiscuity—earned them a warning (Rev. 2:20). While not all the Thyatiran Christians had been deceived by this false teaching, they allowed it in their midst.
The Christian martyr Paprylus hailed from Thyatira. Killed in the year 250 A.D. in nearby Pergamum, Paprylus’ story gives credence to the intense opposition faced by the Christians in that city. According to a testimony given by St. Epiphanius at the beginning of the third century A.D, nearly all Thyatira had become Christianized. Remains of a large basilica from the fifth or sixth century A.D. support this claim of widespread Christianity in the city. Furthermore, the bishop of Thyatira attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 and the Council of Ephesus in 431. Thyatira still remains a Catholic see today and a bishopric for the Eastern Orthodox Church.
“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.” — Revelation 2:23