The city rebuilt early in the third century B.C.E. by the former general of Alexander the Great, Seleucus Nicator. It was situated some forty miles (64 kilometers) inland from the Aegean Sea along a tributary of the Hermus River in western Asia Minor. Thyatira’s Christian congregation received a message written by the hand of the apostle John at the dictation of the Lord Jesus Christ.—Rev. 1:11.
Thyatira today is called Akhisar and is located about 157 air miles (253 kilometers) S-SW of Constantinople and some 230 miles (370 kilometers) E of Athens. In the days of the Roman Empire it was an important city about halfway along the road between Pergamum and Sardis in the region of Lydia, within the Roman province of Asia.
This city was never a great metropolis or a center of special political significance or importance; but it was a wealthy industrial center, noted for its numerous crafts, including weaving, dyeing, brass-working, tanning and pottery making. Its dye business is frequently mentioned in inscriptions. Dyemakers of Thyatira used madder root as a source for their celebrated scarlet or purple color, known in later times as “Turkey Red.”
The polytheistic religion of the Thyatirans was just another variety of the more ancient Babylonian cult. Thyatira was very near Pergamum, to which city Chaldean priests had emigrated and where they established a religious center. The local chief deity was Tyrimnos, who in time became identified with the sun-god Apollo, the brother of the goddess Diana or Artemis.
Lydia, converted to Christianity during Paul’s first visit to Philippi in Macedonia, was a “seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira.” She may have been an overseas representative of Thyatiran manufacturers, a businesswoman of some means who owned a house spacious enough to entertain Paul and his companions during their stay in Philippi.—Acts 16:12-15.
When and by whom Christianity was first introduced to the Thyatirans is not known. There is no record of Paul or other evangelists ever visiting the city, or of Lydia’s returning there. Possibly the message reached there during the two years (c. 53-55 C.E.) that Paul was active in Ephesus some seventy miles (113 kilometers) SW of Thyatira, for during that time “all those inhabiting the district of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 19:10) What is known is that some forty years later there was a rather vigorous congregation of Christians in Thyatira.—Rev. 1:10, 11.
JESUS CHRIST’S MESSAGE TO THE THYATIRA CONGREGATION
This congregation, the fourth of the seven to receive its message, was commended for the love, faith and endurance it had shown. Its ministry was also approved; its “deeds of late are more than those formerly.” But, though the congregation had these commendable qualities, a very bad condition had also been allowed to develop and remain within this congregation. In this regard the Lord’s condemnation declared: “You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and misleads my slaves to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols.” This “woman” was probably given the name Jezebel because her wicked conduct resembled that of Ahab’s wife, and because of her callous refusal to repent. It seems, however, that only a minority of the Thyatira congregation was approving of this Jezebel influence, since the message went on to speak “to the rest of you who are in Thyatira, all those who do not have this teaching, the very ones who did not get to know the ‘deep things of Satan.’”—Rev. 2:18-29.
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Modern Tiberias as seen from the Sea of Galilee