Wednesday, 23 September 2020
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 2:22
Of the strumpet Jezebel who was given time to repent of her sexual immorality, but who failed to repent, Jesus now pronounces a sentence upon her, beginning with, “Indeed.” It is a note of absolute certainty that action is coming. That action is, “I will cast her into a sickbed.”
The Greek word merely signifies a bed. However, “sickbed,” or “bed of suffering,” is to be inferred. As Charles Ellicott rightly states, “The chamber of voluptuousness will become the chamber of sickness. The spot of the sin shall be the scene of punishment.” The harlot will go from the carnal delights of her fornication to the consequences of it. It is too late because she has failed to repent.
In this, one can see a parallel to what happened to Ahab, the king of Israel. He had committed a great sin, and the promise was made that, because of his sin, there would be consequent punishments laid upon him –
Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 18 “Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who lives in Samaria. There he is, in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone down to take possession of it. 19 You shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Have you murdered and also taken possession?”’ And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood, even yours.’” 1 Kings 21:17-19
Such things were promised to occur in the case of Jezebel so that those who saw it would know that the Lord’s hand was in the judgment. The word is spoken before the punishment so that, when it comes about, others could see and turn from their wicked ways. But just the promise of the punishment is hoped to be enough for some. In the case of those who joined in the sins of this Jezebel, a word of warning is given. Jesus next says, “and those who commit adultery with her.”
The verb is a present participle – “those committing adultery with her.” Jesus’ words to the church remind them that He is aware of all that is occurring there (“I know your works” of verse 2:19). By saying “those committing adultery with her,” He is letting them know that they are not exempt from what is promised to come upon the woman Jezebel. Rather, He will cast them “into great tribulation.”
It is the same word, thlipsis, used earlier in verses 2:9 and 2:10. It is variously translated as persecution, tribulation, affliction, distress, and so on. It signifies pressure. It is as if one is in a narrow place, hemmed in and feeling confined, and thus without options. One might say, “There is no way to escape.” However, added to it here is the adjective megas, or “great.” Those who are engaging in the sin with Jezebel will face the horrible consequences of their actions.
But, in this, they are given a note of grace. Jesus says, “unless they repent of their deeds.” Jezebel’s time was up. She was too far gone, and the disease that was promised would take hold of her. Jesus knew this and His words to her are not one of warning, but of judgment. However, the men of the church – being warned of her affliction – are given the chance to retreat from her, turn from the evil she had introduced, and not catch whatever STD she was surely carrying.
Those who failed to heed the word of the Lord would suffer the consequences of their actions. Those who heeded would be spared. They would learn the lesson vicariously through what they would see in the unrepentant.
In this presentation of Jezebel, one can see an equivalent in the spiritual adulteries of Israel and Judah. The people of Judah had an example of the consequence of what would occur because of their actions of going after other gods (spiritual adultery) in the northern kingdom of Israel. And yet, they went ahead and committed the same actions against the Lord. For example –
The Lord said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. 7 And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. 9 So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. 10 And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 3:6-10
The Lord notes this same type of thing elsewhere in the prophets, but even after having seen the adulteries of the northern tribes, and the consequences of their actions, Judah failed to repent. The Lord thus judged them for their failures, packing them off to Babylon in exile.
Life application: It is the Lord’s intention that people turn from their wickedness. However, there is a time when there is no longer a remedy for such aberrant behavior. Concerning the church at Thyatira, the means of such judgment isn’t hard to imagine. Sexual sins, throughout the ages, have led to the explosion of disease. Entire villages, cultures, and groups of people are destroyed through such diseases. For example, it occurred in Athens in 430BC. At that time, one-third of the people there died. AIDS is certainly such a punishment on sexual sin, as are syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases.
No matter how the sickbed of Jezebel came, it was the result of her sins, and through rejecting the truth and beauty of properly conducted life in Christ. Jesus asks us to turn from such things before they bring about unimaginable pain and agony.
In comparison to Jezebel of the Old Testament, Jesus promised that this New Testament Jezebel would be cast onto a sickbed. Such a violent casting is reminiscent of Jezebel’s final moments as she was hurled out of the window on a high wall – “…she put paint on her eyes and adorned her head, and looked through a window. …Then he said, ‘Throw her down.’ So they threw her down, and some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses; and he trampled her underfoot. … So they went to bury her, but they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands” (Portions of 1 Kings 9:30-35).
The casting of Jezebel in 1 Kings resulted in a gruesome end. The casting of the Jezebel in Revelation would be no less intense as she suffered the consequences of her actions. These examples are given to show us that we can all expect to face consequences for the things we do. Let us pay heed.
Lord God, we know that we have choices to make and that we must face the consequences of our own free-will. Our choice, as believers, is to follow you, and our will is to serve You with wholehearted devotion. Thank You for the release from sin and its consequences because of the New Covenant You have granted to us through the shed blood of Christ. We love You Lord God. Amen.