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Letter to Thyatira 2

Revelation 2:20-23
Nevertheless, I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (NIVUK)

Jezebel was a wicked woman in the Old Testament. The daughter of the king of the Sidonians, she became the wife of the young king Ahab of Israel. It was a marriage of political convenience to prevent war between Israel and the Phoenicians, sponsor trade and have a military alliance against the Assyrians. But Jezebel’s father was a committed Baal worshipper from birth, and she also hated the God of Israel. When she married, she brought her idols with her (1 Kings 16:29-33). Soon, Ahab built a temple to Baal in Samaria, Israel’s capital, and weakly allowed his wife to pervert true worship and slaughter the Lord’s prophets (1 Kings 18:4). Instead of worshipping the only true God, Jezebel demanded that the people worshipped Baal as the source of power and fertility – with ritual prostitution and infant sacrifice.

Jezebel's powerful personality exercised evil control over the king and the country: she was the model for another woman in Thyatira, whose name we do not know but whose character matched Jezebel's. That woman claimed to be a prophetess, speaking the words of God; she may even have been the wife of one of the church leaders. She had actively encouraged immorality and eating food offered to idols in the pagan temples, presumably in order to get more profitable business. Like Jezebel, she was driven by internal evil, an agent of Satan, and she was tolerated in the church. Someone had rebuked her, but she still persisted because she believed she was right in satisfying her own lust and encouraging others to do the same.

So, Jesus gave one last warning. If 'Jezebel' refused to repent, her punishment, and that of those who followed her, would come through sickness and death (Numbers 16:49). As with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), all the churches would understand that God's people must be holy, and false prophets must repent or be judged. Although society tolerates all kinds of evil which offend God, the church must not.

This is relevant to today's church where false prophets pull believers away from God's Word. The circumstances may be different but the questions remain the same. Does a loving church accept error and evil, or reject it? Should strong personalities with an evil agenda be welcomed or sent away? Should leaders' spouses have immunity from church discipline? When a person is warned twice and then persists in wrong behaviour and teaching, should they be allowed to have any public ministry (Titus 3:10-11)? Believers should be people of peace, but that does not include accepting what Jesus says He hates? (Matthew 23:13, 15, 23, 27, 29). The answers are best framed by the words of Jesus in today's verses. Perhaps we forget that He has the right to say what is right, and demand it in His church.

Holy God. Thank You that You cannot tolerate sin, and yet want to save sinners. Forgive me for not taking Your Word seriously, and for tolerating false teachers who encourage people to believe and do what You say is wrong. Please help me to discern who I should listen to, and who I should not. Please help church leaders to be wise and strong in challenging wrong teaching. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams