“But 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. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart” Revelation 2:20-23
Writing to the Church of Thyatira, John presents a monstrous problem and how God will deal with it. What is the problem – Jezebel and the church’s toleration of her teaching. The whole concept is rooted in false teaching. False teaching that invites sexual immortality and idolatry. The people are eating (taking into their soul) food sacrificed to idols. This means that the false teaching is pointing the way toward idolatry.
Now that we have identified the problem, what is God’s solution?
1) He first gives this Jezebel time to repent (although she refuses)
- I will throw her on a sickbed
- Those who enter into spiritual fornication with her will have great tribulation. Notice the text says UNLESS they repent of her works. The works are not theirs, but they are in bed with her so they must repent of these works because they have so entwined themselves to idolatry. Repentance is again called for to avoid the coming judgment.
3) Strike her children dead
- These are spiritual children Jezebel is influencing
- She is producing more “children” like her, but God will strike them down
Once God does his work of destroying Jezebel (usually using his servants, like with Elijah and Jehu), what are the results? The results are stated in verse 23, that all the churches will know that God searches the mind and heart. In other places of scripture it might be termed, that all will know that I am the Lord God. The plural form of the word church (es) shows that God is not just solving a problem for Thyatira. He is showing all churches (all his people) who he is and what will be.
In thinking about all of this, I believe it is important to define what a Jezebel is. This is not a comprehensive list but some main points pertaining to the problem.
1) Jezebels promote idolatry (I Kings 16:31) – Gross idolatry is easy to detect; it is the subtlety of selfishness (promoting self over God) that is hard to detect.
2) Persecute and kill God’s prophets (I Kings 18:4) – undermining and persecuting the righteous.
3) Lying, deceiving, and usurping authority with the intent to control (I Kings 21) – Jezebels will continually lie and deceive and use authority that is not theirs (or the appearance of authority) to manipulate and control situations and circumstances.
God tells us how he deals with Jezebel, but we should be aware God uses his people as the vehicle to achieve his goals. He used Elijah to oppose the house of Ahab and Jezebel. He used Jehu to destroy it. Whether we are a prophet, a king, or God’s humble subject, we should be willing to forcefully oppose the false teaching of Jezebel.