Monday, 21 September 2020
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. Revelation 2:20
After providing words of encouragement to the church in Thyatira, the Lord now brings a rebuke against them. This is indicated by saying, “Nevertheless.” It is the simple Greek word alla, signifying but, however, except, and so on. It is now given to contrast His previous words. After this, He says, “I have a few things against you.”
Some manuscripts leave off “a few things,” and simply say, “I have this against you.” As He only addresses one main issue, this is probably correct. Despite consisting of several detailed verses concerning the matter, it is one main subject. That begins with, “because you allow that woman Jezebel…”
First, the term, “that woman,” can also be translated as “your wife.” Some translations will say this. The reason this would be appropriate is because Jezebel was a wife to King Ahab of Israel’s past. Thus, Jesus would be making a connection here in that manner. Either way, the reference is to the wicked Jezebel.
Of this name, Vincent’s Word Studies provides a lengthy and well-laid out synopsis of who the original Jezebel was, and why that name is now being used figuratively of someone in the church. For those who are unaware of her, his words are provided –
“Used symbolically, but with reference to the notorious historic Jezebel. She was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon (1 Kings 16:31), formerly a priest of Astarte, and who had made his way to the throne by the murder of his predecessor Pheles. Ahab’s marriage with her was the first instance of a marriage with a heathen princess of a king of the northern kingdom of Israel. This alliance was a turning-point in the moral history of the kingdom. From the times of David and Solomon many treaties had been concluded between Phoenicia and Israel; but it was at the same time the special business of the kingdom of the ten tribes to restore the ancient rigidness of the nationality of Israel. Jezebel looked down with perverse pride upon a people whose religion she neither understood nor respected. Though the ten tribes had yielded to idolatry in the worship of the calves, the true God was still worshipped and the law of Moses acknowledged. From the time of Ahab’s marriage the apostasy of Israel became more decided and deadly. She was ‘a woman in whom, with the reckless and licentious habits of an Oriental queen, were united the fiercest and sternest qualities inherent in the old Semitic race. Her husband, in whom generous and gentle feelings were not wanting, was yet of a weak and yielding character which soon made him a tool in her hands…. The wild license of her life and the magical fascination of her arts or her character became a proverb in the nation. Round her and from her, in different degrees of nearness, is evolved the awful drama of the most eventful crisis of this portion of the Israelite history’ (Stanley, ‘Jewish Church’). She sought to exterminate the prophets of Jehovah (1 Kings 18:13), and inaugurated the worship of Baal the Sun-God on a magnificent scale. Two sanctuaries were established, one for each of the great Phoenician deities, at each of the two new capitals of the kingdom, Samaria and Jezreel. The sanctuary of Astarte or Ashtaroth (the Phoenician Venus) at Jezreel was under Jezebel’s special sanction, and there is reason to suppose that she ministered as a priestess in that licentious worship. Four hundred priests or prophets were attached to this sanctuary and were supported at her table. The sanctuary to Baal at Samaria was large enough to contain all the worshippers of the northern kingdom. Its staff consisted of four hundred and fifty priests, and the interior contained representations of the Sun-God on small pillars, while a large statue of the same deity was set up in front. At these sanctuaries Ahab in person offered sacrifices.”
In using the term “Jezebel,” Jesus is calling to mind this atrocious figure from past redemptive history. In this, He is saying that her qualities and attributes are seen again in the church of Thyatira. It must be noted that it is not said that this woman is commended, but rather she is allowed. The word is aphiémi. It means to permit, allow, tolerate, and so on. They are tolerating that which should not be tolerated. However, tolerating evil cannot be condoned. Next, Jesus says, “who calls herself a prophetess.”
The words stand out as clearly meaning that this person is not a prophetess at all. Later in Revelation, it says, “Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (19:10). True prophecy comes from God. If Jesus is rebuking the church over this woman, it is obvious that her claims to being a “prophetess” are false.
But this is the claim of countless people throughout the church age. Many claim to be prophets or prophetesses even though the Bible is written and complete. There is no longer a need for prophecy because believers are now to live by faith and not by sight. If the words of these false prophets were true, then that would contradict the premise of living by faith.
Further, another abuse of this woman, called here Jezebel, is next seen in the words, “to teach.” Paul’s words, which are prescriptive for the church, state –
“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” 1 Timothy 2:11, 12
This Jezebel has no authority to teach men, and yet she does, as is evidenced by the use of the masculine word “servants.” She is a false prophetess and an unauthorized teacher. Further, what she is teaching is completely contradictory to what is morally acceptable, which is to “seduce my servants.”
The word translated as “seduce” is planaó. It signifies “to cause to wander.” Thus, one is led astray. It is the basis for our word “planet.” Even as the planets appear to wander in the night sky, so a person who is led astray will wander. They have no sure footing and are easily led down unhealthy paths of unrighteousness. Christ came to put us on the proper path. The apostolic writings are intended to keep us on that path, but false prophets and false teachers set about to cause people to stray from it. In the case of the vile Jezebel, her doctrine is to have the servants of the Lord “commit sexual immorality.”
The Greek word can be taken both literally and figuratively. In the case of it being figurative, it is used in leading people astray from Christ and into idolatry. In this case, it is certainly to be taken literally. The reason why is that she also is said to lead them into idolatry. Therefore, she is both physically immoral, and uses that to seduce people away from sound doctrine concerning moral purity (see 1 Corinthians 6:18 and 10:8 for examples). Also, she is spiritually immoral, leading people into idolatry as well.
The second thought, that of spiritual harlotry, is seen in the final words which say, “and eat things sacrificed to idols.” This must be understood from the allowances and prohibitions of Paul concerning the matter of acceptable food and the sake of conscience. To understand this, a detailed study of the subject from 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 and 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 must be conducted. That commentary is found at this link – http://superiorword.org/wp-content/uploads/study-pdfs/1-corinthians-commentary-rev1.pdf.
In the end, the matter comes down to conscience. What is obvious is that this revolting woman, Jezebel, was working in a manner contrary to what Paul had stated in those verses, causing the believers to violate the law of conscience. In this, they then violate the law of faith. As Paul says elsewhere, “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.”
Finally, whether Jezebel is an actual person – a single individual who was a member of the church at Thyatira – who conducted her affairs in this despicable manner, or whether she is used symbolically concerning a heretical doctrine that had arisen within the church (something that appears less likely, but is still possible), the doctrine was there, and it was left unchecked. Jesus is not pleased with this.
Life application: It is unfortunate that people have continued to call themselves prophets and prophetesses through the church age. Claiming such a title normally includes the perception that they receive revelation from God. This is certainly not the case. The Bible is the rule and guide for faith within the church, and claims of extra-biblical revelation are not to be accepted – ever.
The Bible is written, and it alone stands as our rule and guide for the conduct of our Christian lives. There is nothing such a person could “prophesy” that would have any use beyond what Scripture proclaims. Countless millions have been led astray by people who have claimed prophetic revelation. Anytime you accept such from someone, you are opening yourself up to manipulation by a false teacher. Stick to the word. What more could you possibly need for your Christian walk?
Lord, unless we are well versed in Your word, it is often hard to know when someone is presenting a truthful message, or when someone is simply taking verses out of context and applying them in a way that twists the truth. Please keep us from being manipulated by deceivers, and help us to more fully grasp the right and true doctrines of Your word. Give us the hunger and desire to want more of Your precious word day by day. Amen.