I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols … But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching … to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. – Revelation 2:20, Revelation 2:24-26
The longest of Jesus’ letters to the churches in Revelation 2 – 3 was to the least politically influential city of the group. Thyatira was commercial rather than political—a bustling, thriving community populated with many tradespeople, a great place to go shopping. Unlike some of the other churches to whom Jesus addressed messages, the believers there had gotten off to a great start and continued with clear progress.
Yet among the church’s many positive traits of “love and faith and service and patient endurance” (Revelation 2:19), a poisonous weed had been allowed to establish itself. Jesus refers to the leader of this clan as “Jezebel,” comparing her activity to that of the queen of Israel almost a thousand years earlier. Queen Jezebel had contaminated Israel with a system of thought that divorced religion from morality, suggesting to the people of her time that it was good to live with that dichotomy. In Thyatira, it seems, the same was happening. This woman, a self-described “prophetess,” claimed to speak with inspired authority and told believers that they could indulge in idolatry and immorality while still remaining followers of Jesus.
Thankfully, though, not everyone in Thyatira had gone down Jezebel’s road. For those who had resisted the temptation, Jesus’ encouragement was to cling to what they had: life that was “truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19). He ended with a simple promise: “The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations” (Revelation 2:26; see Psalm 2:8).
Imagine that being read out in the congregation in Thyatira. Picture the wool merchants and leather workers, their fingers full of needle pricks and big lumps, standing there, concerned, wondering if they could continue to function despite the challenges of immorality and idolatry—and then Christ Himself offers this simple exhortation: “Hold fast.”
The promise and exhortation are for you as well. Though you may feel beleaguered, hopeless, and helpless in the face of the immorality and idolatry around you, in Christ you can cling to life that is truly life. He is coming, and He will welcome you to rule the world with Him. As you “hold fast” and continue on toward eternity, remember that the perseverance of the saints is really the perseverance of God Himself: He can keep you till that glorious day.