Jesus addressed a church in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) that gave us one of the most memorable lines in the Bible: you tolerate that woman Jezebel.
Jezebel was the Old Testament wife of King Ahab, and famously caused the prophet Elijah to quake in his boots when she promised to get vengeance on him for killing a bunch of pagan prophets.
Obviously, then, Jesus wasn’t referring to Ahab’s wife when he addressed Thyatira.
At that time, those who were involved in a trade — which could have been every worker in a community — were required to be part of the trade guild in order to get work. Each guild had its patron deity, and members were required to take part in the guild’s celebrations, which involved sacrifices to the guild’s deity and participation in guild sex orgies.
Apparently, Jezebel was a teacher or group of them who attempted to gain power by telling people in the church that it was permissible to join the guilds — and to do guild things — because of the adverse economic consequences of refusing. This was considered special spiritual insight, new knowledge, and earned Jesus’ assessment as the “deep things of Satan.”
Jesus was not pleased.
We Must Recognize False Teachers
Jesus promised punishment on the impenitent Jezebel, but he also chastised the church for failing to deal with her, itself. The church has a responsibility to guard against false teachers, and it should have known that what Jezebel taught was not consistent with gospel holiness.
Churches today are filled not simply with poor and ineffective teachers, but those who teach doctrine contrary to Scripture. While we don’t label as heretical every teacher with a different opinion about the End Times, certain major doctrines are being compromised, and the church’s responsibility is to silence the teaching and expose the false teachers.
We Must Resist Fearful Tolerance
Pressure from the world — especially economic pressure — can be a powerful motivator to compromise our calling. But Jesus calls his church to resist this fearful tolerance of compromise.
When Christians are faced with the threat of sanctions from government agencies, lawsuits from protected classes, opprobrium in the media, insults from our neighbors, and a host of other forms of ridicule and persecution, the temptation is to hide our witness and obscure the message.
Remaining faithful to Jesus Christ and to his gospel might cost us friends, jobs, and even liberty, but Jesus expects us to follow him.
We Must Relish Faithful Testimony
Jesus told the church at Thyatira that when he dealt with Jezebel and those who consorted with her, “all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart.”
Remaining faithful to Jesus despite adverse circumstances provides a word of encouragement to other churches, and serves as witness to the world of the power of Jesus Christ to preserve his own.
Jesus’ words are also a warning to those of us who are tempted to compromise, thinking that no one will see, because Jesus knows all, and he searches the mind and heart of every man.
Theme: Because the church represents the riches of Christ, we must resist the riches of man.
- We Must Recognize False Teachers & Teaching
- We Must Resist Fearful Tolerance
- We Must Relish Faithful Testimony