ESV - 20 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.
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The verse cited in the question comes from God's message in the book of Revelation to the church at Thyatira. The woman mentioned in Revelation was most likely not actually named Jezebel, but the name was applied to her because of characteristics that she shared with Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, king of Israel, as related in various passages from 1 Kings 16 through 2 Kings 9 in the Old Testament. (There has apparently been no further specific historical identification of the actual name of the woman in the church at Thyatira.) Jezebel in the Old Testament is identified as the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon (in modern-day Lebanon). From the incorporation of the word "Baal" in her father's name, it can be seen that she came from a family of idol-worshippers. As the wife of King Ahab, the Bible narrative indicates that she dominated Ahab in many ways, committing sin in his name (such as her role in having Naboth murdered, so that Ahab could acquire Naboth's vineyard); leading Israel away from the worship of God and into idol worship; and actively persecuting and seeking to kill prophets of God such as Elijah. From this, as well as from the passage in Revelation that is being asked about, it may be inferred that the woman in the church at Thyatira was committing actions that were similarly designed to dominate the church's worship (in contrast to the role mentioned by Paul in passages such as 1 Corinthians 14:34-35); to lead the members of the church away from God; and to use what appeared to be prophetic gifts to actually introduce members of the church to Satanic rituals and practices, as well as the offering of sacrifices to idols. The message to the church at Thyatira indicates that God had given this woman an opportunity to repent of her practices, but she had not done so. Therefore, God's punishment was in store for both her and those who followed her, while those who had not followed her were warned to continue to shun her influence, and exhorted to remain faithful to God.
Rev 2:18-25 is a letter to the church of Thyatira, but it ends up being almost entirely devoted to warnings about Jezebel the false prophetess who has misled the people into fornication. The church of Thyatira is actually the 4th church in the letters to the 7 churches, representing the midway church in this journey if we assume that the 7 churches represent different prophetic periods of the church’s history. It would appear from this letter that the church is being accused by Jesus of accepting/ compromising/ tolerating/ agreeing with the teachings of Jezebel. What is this teaching and who is/ was Jezebel. The name Jezebel invokes the memories of Jezebel, Ahab’s wife. 1 King 16:31 tells us that Ahab being a morally weak king was enticed into idolatry by Ahab whose original family were idolaters. 2 King 9:22 (KJV) also tells us that she was a whore and a witch. You cannot discuss Ahab and Jezebel without discussing Elijah the mighty prophet of God. Elijah appears seemingly from nowhere, we are not told who his father was just that he was Tishbite and he ends his ministry in blazing glory, sweeping into heaven in chariots of fire. Therefore in discussing Jezebel in Rev 2:20 let us look back in order to look forward to the apocalyptic prophecies of Revelation. Jezebel, after becoming queen, introduced Baal worship and systematically killed the prophets of God. Those she did not kill must have agreed to compromise and incorporate her idolatry into their worship. Then she controlled the finances of the church and they did her bidding, 1 Kings 18:19. She also basically took over the running of the kingdom from the Ahab and used it to advance her interests. To make sure that Ahab had no choice but to follow, she killed Naboth on his behalf. She usurped the power of the state to advance her sinister motives. After that Baal worship flourished in Israel to the extent that Elijah thought he was the only prophet of God left, which is how bad it was. In the midst of all this, God sends Elijah and he wages a long war against this woman and her prophets. The war culminates in the final battle at Mount Carmel, which was a showdown between Baal and God, 1 King 18:21. In the end God is proven to be the Lord, and the prophets of Baal are all killed. Soon after, Jezebel herself is killed by falling down from a window. Rev 2:20 is telling us that a symbolic Jezebel in another form will arise and seek to infiltrate the church. In fact she is actually gaining more than a foothold and is being tolerated. Which in itself implies that prior to that she was not tolerated. I am learning here that through the life of the Christian Church over time the teachings of Jezebel will or already sought to influence the church, sadly these teachings were being tolerated or accepted. Those teachings are actually given as “sexual immorality”. Sexual immorality is mixing the pure teachings of the bible with Man’s ideas and idol worship. This becomes Babylon spoken about so many times in Revelation. As seen in the book of Kings, she eventually takes over the church of God. It is not surprising therefore that eventually we find Jesus knocking at the door from outside in Rev 3:20. There is good news however, just like the Jezebel of the OT, the Jezebel of the NT will have to contend with “Elijah”. This Elijah will call the people back to the pure and unadulterated Word of God. There will be revival and reformation as the people realise that the Lord is God indeed. There will be irrefutable evidence for all to see, and then they will turn against Jezebel and her prophets and “slaughter” them. Jezebel herself will “fall” as shown in Rev 18:2-24. Let us pray that the “Spirit of Elijah” can come and use us in this age and we fight this Jezebel, who will take over even the church of God, pushing Jesus outside the door. Let us heed Rev 3:20-21.
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