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The Church of Thyatira, Part 2



I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. (Revelation 2:19–22)


Thyatira, Then and Now


The church at Thyatira had a faithful past that was quite commendable. While there were some that remained true to Christ, this church had stirred the divine anger of the Son of God. He goes right to the point in verse 20, “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” The version called The Message renders this quite succinctly, “But why do you let that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet mislead my dear servants into Cross-denying, self-indulging religion?”

This church had descended into the depths of Satan, which most versions call sexual immorality (fornication) and eating things sacrificed to idols. You will recall the first church council in Acts 15 where a decision had to be made concerning certain standards for Gentile Christians to observe. Among these standards were abstaining from fornication and eating meat offered to idols. (Acts 15:24–29). These standards were set in 51 a.d. and now, in 96 a.d., a mere 45 years later, this church is teaching fornication and idol worship as legitimate Christian practices. This doctrine was being taught at Pergamos; but, here in Thyatira, these practices had become the standard.

In our time we see many churches tolerating fornication in many forms. Accepting fornication by tolerating a man and a woman living together without marriage—after all, it is only a piece of paper. No! Marriage is the will of God and cohabitation without marriage is sin. Endorsing or accepting habitual divorce and remarriage. Yes, divorce and remarriage happens and God can heal the issues behind this; but some people are chasing an unrealistic dream in gratification of self and trample God’s standard under their feet. Accepting homosexuality as normal, healthy and approved by God—if not created by God. We see the ordination of homosexual ministers and churches that willingly perform same-sex marriages.

As far as idolatry, perhaps people do not actually bow down to images and statues of saints or false deities, but the idolatry of self-preference is the practice of the vast majority of professing Christianity.

What we see around us is a professed form of Christianity that misleads people into Cross-denying and self-indulging religion. Sin has no real meaning, other than violating political correctness, and holiness is considered nothing more than self-esteem.


The Source of the Apostasy


The success of this apostasy in the church of Thyatira was due to what Jesus called “that woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess”. This Jezebel was probably not an actual person, but in all probability the name is used to represent an apostate ministry. Keep in mind, the angel of the church mentioned in verse 18 had allowed this influence into the church.

It is interesting that some good New Testament versions instead of reading “you allow that woman Jezebel” instead read “you allow your wife Jezebel”. If this woman was indeed the wife of the pastor, it puts all the greater judgment on him for allowing her to call herself a prophet and take on the position of a teacher teaching the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. We have no problem with women being pastors or teachers in the church; God has blessed many places where good, godly women have served congregations. But there is something about how insidious the influence of a pastor’s wife can be with a weak man in the pulpit. I have seen a few instances where this has taken a church into extremes of fanaticism or into abject worldliness.


About Jezebel


The name Jezebel is an allusion to the history of Ahab and Jezebel as recorded in 1 Kings chapters 16 through 22. Ahab first appears in 1 Kings 16:28 where he becomes king of Israel (the northern kingdom) after the death of his father, Omri. The Bible reports that Ahab did more evil than all who were before him and made things worse by marrying Jezebel, the daughter of the king of Sidon—a Gentile and idol worshipper. Along with her, he became an ardent worshipper of Baal. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom. He made a wooden image to the vile goddess Astarte, also known as Venus, and all the obscenity for which she stood. Verse 33 says “Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel before him.”

God arranged an interview between Ahab and the Prophet Elijah and in the exchange of few words, Elijah told him, “you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals”. This led to the incident between the prophets of Baal and Elijah where God sent fire to consume the offering on the altar Elijah built. Afterwards, Elijah prayed for rain to break the drought.

In chapter 19 we find Ahab telling Jezebel what Elijah had done. Apparently she thought Ahab had been too weak in dealing with Elijah and she decided to take matters into her own hands. Elijah felt threatened and quite alone, but during a private session of prayer, God assured him he was not alone—verse 18, “I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal.”

We find although Ahab was a weak king he was finally given a victory over the Syrians only by the goodness of God. After this, Ahab wanted a vineyard owned by a man named Naboth. He was so indecisive on how to get it that Jezebel arranged to have Naboth assassinated so that Ahab could just take the vineyard. Upon doing this, God sent Elijah with a message to Ahab:


Behold, I will bring calamity on you. I will take away your posterity, and will cut off from Ahab every male in Israel, both bond and free. I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and made Israel sin. (1 Kings 21:21–22).


And God had a message for Jezebel: “And concerning Jezebel the LORD also spoke, saying, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’” (Verse 23).


Verses 25–26 summarize the lives of Ahab and Jezebel:


But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up. And he behaved very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.


Ahab was the most apostate of the kings of Israel, and he was made worse through the influence of Jezebel as he descended deeper and deeper into idolatry.

The death of Jezebel is recorded in 2 Kings 9:30–37. By this time she was old and wrinkled, and in the last act of defiance “she put paint on her eyes and adorned her head”. No matter how people try to put rebellion and idolatry into a good light, the judgment of God is always against them and it will eventually destroy them. She was thrown out an upper story window, trampled by a horse, and eaten by dogs so that nothing was left of her but her skull, her feet, and the palms of her hands. There was nothing left to bury. According to verse 37 she was reduced to garbage.


What the Son of God says about apostasy


The lesson the Son of God teaches us about utter apostasy is that there is no remedy; destruction because of false doctrine and immoral practices in the name of religion is their ultimate end.

Christ deals sternly with those that promote apostasy—He sees through them and tramples them under the tread of His feet of fine brass. The gospel of Christ as the only Savior and Deliverer from sin will always trample error under its feet. Ephesians 6:15, “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Adam Clarke comments:


That the apostle has obedience to the Gospel in general in view, there can be no doubt; but he appears to have more than this, a readiness to publish the Gospel: for, How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth Peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!


Even in His anger and judgment, the Glorified Christ still shows mercy to the apostate—not so that they can continue in their apostasy, but He gives them an opportunity to repent. An apostate ministry had overtaken the Church of Thyatira, which was as repulsive to Christ and the true people of God as was this Jezebel of old.

The Glorified Christ gave the apostate people time to repent. In spite of their prostituting the true gospel by substituting a message of sensual affection and self-justification, the lives of those that had not known the depths of Satan also put a judgment of righteousness on them. But, being given over to materialism and religious sham, they did not repent, or as the Revised Standard Version says, “she refuses to repent of her immorality”. They loved error more than they wanted truth.

This apostate ministry not repenting inevitably resulted in their being thrown into a sickbed. Adam Clarke helps us to understand the allusion given here:


This again alludes to the same history. Ahaziah, son of Ahab and Jezebel, by his mother’s ill instruction and example, followed her ways. God punished him by making him fall down, as is supposed, from the top of the terrace over his house, and so to be bedridden for a long time under great anguish, designing thereby to give him time to repent; but when, instead of that, he sent to consult Baalzebub, Elijah was sent to pronounce a final doom against his impenitence. Thus the son of Jezebel, who had committed idolatry with and by her advice, was long cast into the bed of affliction, and not repenting, died: in the same manner his brother Jehoram succeeded likewise. All this while Jezebel had time and warning enough to repent; and though she did not prevail with Jehoram to continue in the idolatrous worship of Baal, yet she persisted in her own way, notwithstanding God’s warnings. The sacred writer, therefore, here threatens the Gnostic Jezebel to make that wherein she delighteth, as adulterers in the bed of lust, to be the very place, occasion, and instrument, of her greatest torment.


The problem with apostasy is that it changes the spiritual perceptions of people under its influence. How can modern professed Christian churches accept fornication, homosexuality and same-sex marriage in spite of the clear and unambiguous teachings of the Bible? It is not that they do not care about these issues; some have become quite active in promoting this kind of perversion. They have been seduced by Jezebel. Seduce: to lead astray or draw away as from principles and faith. Greek: to cause to roam from safety. Through constant teaching error, their personal example, ridicule of the truth and those that hold to it, eventually a Jezebel ministry wears down the moral perception of people so that the errors of Balaam and the Nicolaitans become the truth. The people under Jezebel’s seduction ultimately are unable to recognize God’s truth and error becomes their truth.

One tragedy of apostasy is that it becomes permanent. Verse 22 tells us Jezebel and her followers are thrown into a sickbed as was Ahaziah, from which they never recover because of the tribulation that falls on them. Apostasy is permanent; not only does it destroy those that give in to it,  verse 23 will show us that death also falls on her children—the following generations.