What Do We Do with Jezebel?

14 Apr

from Google Images

It doesn’t seem that expelling false teachers was an option in the church of God during the first century AD. The Jewish authorities considered Jesus a false teacher, but he wasn’t expelled from the synagogues until late in his public ministry. The threat against folks who confessed Jesus as the Messiah in John 12:42 seems to indicate that Jesus must have been excommunicated late in his ministry. Luke 13:14 is the last time Jesus is mentioned teaching in a synagogue, and this occurred sometime in the third year of his ministry. The fact that the ruler of the synagogue didn’t rebuke Jesus, but did rebuke the people, seems to indicate that Jesus was being shunned by the authorities, except when it was absolutely necessary to speak to him.

It took more than a difference of opinion about the Scriptures in the first century AD to be labeled a heretic and disfellowshiped from the religious community. The Scripture that seems to be in play in Revelation 2:20 is Jeremiah 23:26-27, paraphrasing: “How long will the prophets prophesy lies and think to cause my people to forget my name?” The Lord’s reply is to permit the false prophet to speak, because Jesus is not afraid of men’s lies (Jeremiah 23:28), but it is implied that the false teacher should be publicly rebuked. Allow him to speak, but publicly show his error. This is what the Jewish authorities tried to do with Jesus, but they failed, because they were the one’s teaching error. It was, rather, Jesus who exposed them.

Jesus expected the church authorities in Thyatira, as well as in the other churches, to challenge the false teachers, or at least teach the people that what these teachers claimed was wrong. Notice:

The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, **but** let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?” declares the LORD. “Is not My word like fire?” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock? Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” declares the LORD, “who steal My words from each other. Behold, I am against the prophets,” declares the LORD, “who use their tongues and declare, ‘The Lord declares.’ Behold, I am against those who have prophesied false dreams,” declares the LORD, “and related them and led My people astray by their falsehoods and reckless boasting; yet I did not send them or command them, nor do they furnish this people the slightest benefit,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:28-32; emphasis mine)

It seems Jesus’ rebuke against the leader(s) at Thyatira may imply the legitimate authorities were intimidated by the false teachers. Perhaps the pretenders’ education or charisma made them appear superior. Nevertheless, the leaders of Jesus’ assemblies were not to tolerate them. In other words, pretenders were not to be permitted to teach without rebuke. However, it seems to me that in Thyatira these false teachers were not only permitted to speak openly, but they did so without a challenge from church leadership. Therefore, Jesus’ disciples, who were looking to be taught, couldn’t compare truth with error, because error was preached without rebuke. Therefore, newer believers were being led away from Jesus by default (Revelation 2:20).

This Jezebel, i.e. the false teachers at Thyatira, claimed to be sent and inspired by God, but she (Jezebel) taught believers to eat things sacrificed to idols. It is not clearly revealed in the text what her doctrine (cf. Revelation 2:24) may have been, but the Jezebel of Israel’s history set up many prophets of Baal who taught the people had to **do** something in order to be accepted by God. However, the thing that was to be done was something not mentioned in the covenant God made with Moses. Similarly, the New Covenant Jezebel was teaching Jesus’ disciples, without rebuke, things not mentioned in the covenant Jesus made with them.

The fact that the word works (G2041) is mentioned in Jesus’ letter to Thyatira more often (five times) than in any of the other churches implies works may have had something to do with Jesus’ rebuke against them. If this logic is valid, Jezebel’s doctrine (Revelation 2:24) was one of works, and this implies the false teachers were Jews, perhaps high ranking Jews in Asia or Jews sent from Jerusalem. In this context, the charge of fornication (verse-20) seems to indicate the church was then being seduced into having a relationship (a spiritual bond) with a stranger—someone other than Jesus. Therefore, these false teachers were hoping (and the text implies they enjoyed some success) to bring the church at Thyatira under the power of the Jerusalem authorities.

Jesus taught that, unless his disciples ate his flesh and drank his blood, they had no life in them (John 6:50-58), implying they needed to live off Jesus—i.e. they needed to have a spiritual relationship with him, knowing him, believing him, devoted to him alone. Eating other things implies some competition with Jesus or a conflict of interests. Jesus claimed one cannot serve two masters. One would have to choose one over the other, because service in a first century AD context was a 24/7 deal (Luke 16:13). Whomsoever the false teachers represented (Jezebel and works [G2041] seem to point to Jerusalem authorities and the Law of Moses), to embrace their teaching, i.e. eat what was sacrificed to idols (i.e. the Jerusalem authorities), would result in rejecting Jesus (Mark 7:13).


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Posted by on April 14, 2019 in Apocalypse, Book of Revelation


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