Thyatira, Part 3
Dec 19, 2015
Revelation 2:21 says of Jezebel,
21 And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality.
Seldom does God judge without first giving a grace period in which to repent. In this case no specific length of time is specified, nor again with Queen Jezebel in Israel. Before studying the judgment upon Jezebel in the Thyatira church, let us look at her judgment in the Old Testament. In fact, to get the full impact of divine judgment, we must view Ahab and Jezebel together.
Usurping the Kingdom and its Fruit
The main sin of Ahab was that he stole the vineyard next door to his house. 1 Kings 21:1 says,
1 Now it came about after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard which was in Jezreel beside the palace of Ahab king of Israel.
This property had been owned by Naboth, “fruits,” located in Jezreel, “God scatters; God sows.” Jezreel (Yezreel) is also a homonym of the name Israel (Yisrael). Isaiah 5:7 tells us, “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,” so this, then, is a historical allegory of a wicked king stealing the fruits of the Kingdom.
Both Isaiah 5 and 1 Kings 21 are Scriptures that Jesus used as the basis of His parable in Matthew 21:33-41. Jesus (Joshua) had planted a vineyard in Canaan, but those entrusted with working the land usurped it for themselves and refused to bring forth the fruits of the Kingdom.
Hence, the story in 1 Kings 21 tells how King Ahab, with the prodding of Jezebel, usurped Naboth’s vineyard, the fruits of the Kingdom. For this he was judged, for God sent Elijah to tell him in 1 Kings 21:21-24,
21 Behold, I will bring evil upon you, and will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, both bond and free in Israel; 22 and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and because you have made Israel sin. 23 And of Jezebel also has the Lord spoken, saying, “The dogs shall eat Jezebel in the district of Jezebel. 24 The one belonging to Ahab, who dies in the city, the dogs shall eat, and the one who dies in the field the birds shall eat.”
The judgment upon Ahab correlates with the judgment that Jesus pronounced upon those who usurped the fruits of the Kingdom in His day. Matthew 21:40, 41 says,
40 Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers? 41 They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”
The “wretched end” describes Elijah’s judgment upon Ahab, where God vowed to utterly sweep him away. Elijah also said that the house of Ahab would be swept away even as what happened with two of his predecessors, Jeroboam and Baasha (1 Kings 16:3, 4, 11, 12, 13). When the Pharisees judged themselves in Matthew 21:41, they did not realize that they were pronouncing the same judgment upon themselves that Elijah had pronounced against Ahab and Jezebel.
Furthermore, this judgment was decreed for the same reason—usurping the fruits of the Kingdom and denying these fruits to the Owner of the vineyard.
All of this implies that Jezebel in the Thyatira church had usurped the fruits of the Kingdom as well. The fruit God desires is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23). The problem is that the flesh constantly wars against the Spirit, as described in Galatians 5:17,
17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
In other words, the “old man” of flesh desires to usurp authority and replace the fruit of the Spirit with the fruit of the flesh—that is, “the deeds of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19).
Judgment upon Jezebel
Revelation 2:22 says,
22 Behold, I will cast her upon a bed [klena] of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 And I will kill her children with pestilence; and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
The word for “bed” is klena, which means a bed (for sleeping) or a couch (for eating) or even a bier (to carry the dead). The Hebrew word mittah carries the same range of meaning. The NASB above adds the phrase “of sickness” to imply that the judgment of God was to afflict Jezebel with sickness so that she would be bed-ridden. That is the dominant meaning of the metaphor in the passage above, because Jezebel is portrayed as committing fornication on a bed, while her children will be killed by pestilence, or sickness.
However, the Spirit also uses this word to suggest eating a meal while reclining on a couch (Ezekiel 23:41; John 21:20). Once we begin to relate this Jezebel with the wife of Ahab by the same name, we may see the klena or mittah in terms of reclining at a meal. 1 Kings 21:24 says,
24 The one belonging to Ahab, who dies in the city, the dogs shall eat, and the one who dies in the field the birds shall eat.”
This literally happened to Jezebel after she was killed. 2 Kings 9:35, 36 says of her,
35 And they went to bury her, but they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. 36 Therefore they returned and told him. And he said, “This is the word of the Lord, which He spoke by His servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “In the property of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel.”
The full prophecy shows that she was eaten by dogs and birds (vultures?). This event was a prophetic type that applied to all usurpers of the Kingdom, as well as a specific metaphor for the New Testament Jezebel. The message to the church of Thyatira draws upon the Old Testament story of Ahab and Jezebel in order to prophesy the state of the church during the Thyatira era (529-1517 A.D.). It shows that the church, like the Jewish leaders before it, would usurp the “vineyard” and replace the fruit of the Spirit with the deeds of the flesh.
For this reason, both were to receive similar judgments. What literally happened to Jezebel would be repeated on a symbolic level. Hence, in the end, at the second coming of Christ, we read in Revelation 19:17, 18, and 21,
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God; 18 in order that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great…” 21 … and all the birds were filled with their flesh.
Here we find no mention of dogs, but only the birds eating the flesh. Whether there might be occasions where this is fulfilled literally or not, we cannot say. We do know, however, that it is a metaphor for the destruction of “the flesh,” so that all that remains is the fruit of the Spirit. The meal consumes the flesh.
In the metaphor, a “dog” can represent two opposite things: faithfulness and carnality. In the good sense, Caleb means “dog” in the sense of being a loyal, faithful friend. Caleb and Joshua were the two overcomers in their day, who had faith when the spies gave their report. In the evil sense, Deuteronomy 23:18 says,
18 You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the wages of a dog into the house of the Lord your God for any votive offering, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.
This refers to Canaanite worship in the groves, where prostitution was a religious act of purification before marriage. Some came to have sexual relations with a harlot of the opposite sex—and paid for the services as a donation to the pagan temple. Others came to have relations with the same sex as “dogs.” Homosexual behavior was considered to be the most depraved expression of carnality in biblical law. Hence, God’s sanctuary was to not to adopt the carnal practices of Canaanite religion, nor was it even to accept donations earned by such behavior.
Jezebel brought Baal worship into Israel when Ahab married her. Hence, the land was defiled and the fruit of the Kingdom was withheld from God.
Ruling by Immorality
The church during the Thyatira era gradually degenerated, morally speaking, under its carnal leadership. Many church historians (cardinals, archbishops, etc.) wrote about this. By the tenth century the church had degenerated so badly that the time was known as the Golden Age of Pornocracy (i.e., Ruled by Immorality). Many people, especially those living in Rome (who saw the corruption first-hand), became very cynical. They believed that the church had been established by Christ through Peter. They believed that it was the True Church. But they regretted that it was so.
All of this corruption was pictured in the prophetic message to the church of Thyatira, which had tolerated “Jezebel.” The church was not exempt from the judgment of God. A religious veneer on the outside could not hide their deeds from “He who searches the minds and hearts” (Revelation 2:23).
Nonetheless, God always left a remnant of grace, not only in Israel during the time of Elijah, but also in the literal church of Thyatira and the prophetic Thyatira church era.
This is part 25 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.