Jesus was not concerned that Jezebel was a woman overseer in the church. Jesus was concerned that Jezebel was a bad leader, one who falsely claimed God’s anointing, and led God’s own astray.
Bad Leaders are bad leaders, whether male or female.
Now there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of services but the same Lord, and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in -everyone.-
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
– To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom
– and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,
– to another faith by the same Spirit,
– to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
– to another the working of powerful deeds,
– to another prophecy,
– to another the discernment of spirits,
– to another various kinds of tongues,
– to another the interpretation of tongues.
All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the SPIRIT chooses.1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (NRSV)
It is the first thing Jesus spoke about. Jezebel was not a prophet by the Spirit’s anointing and appointment.
She was a prophet by her own choosing and pronouncement.
Credentials are only valuable when God gives them. Credentials from human institutions do not necessarily carry God’s divine anointing, God’s approval, God’s authority, and God’s supernatural empowering.
Jezebel claimed credentials that were, in God’s eyes, false.
False Preaching and Practice
What Jezebel taught, evidently, felt right to this otherwise faithful church. The two issues had to do with eating food sacrificed to idols and engaging in illicit sext. A number of scholars think this might have been in conjunction with the guilds. Thyatira was known for their guilds, and guilds were always associated with a Greek or Roman god, usually Minerva.
Christians were struggling under mounting persecution from those of Jewish faith as well as government officials. Finding work, navigating buying food and other necessities, dealing with emperor worship, and the laws concerning public honoring of patron gods, all made simply trying to live harder and harder.
Now, as a self-proclaimed prophet, Jezebel was teaching God’s easing of boundaries.
You can see how at least some believed this was possible.
Much had changed, and rapidly, in how the scriptures were understood concerning the Law. The Council of Jerusalem established that Christians were no longer bound by Torah Commandments concerning circumcision, the inclusion of non-Jewish persons, and the restrictive food laws. Jesus had drawn disciples from all walks of life, and had included women. Men no longer covered their heads in prayer. Women as well as men, Jews as well as Gentiles, enslaved persons as well as highborn persons taught, led, and prophesied.
The issue of eating food sacrificed to idols had been discussed at length. Paul cautioned believers to do what was gracious, what was Spirit-led, what was good for the community.
I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who considers it unclean.Romans 14:14 (NRSV)
whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.1 Corinthians 10:31 (NRSV)
Nevertheless, Paul warned believers about abusing their freedom in Christ.
Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become enslaved to one another.Galatians 5:13 (NRSV)
Throughout the Greek scriptures, intimate union with Jesus, and with other believers through the indwelling Holy Spirit, was the guiding principle for understanding how to live. Because of this, Paul warned,
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.”
But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
Shun sexual immorality!
Every sin that a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against the body itself.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.1 Corinthians 6:15-20 (NRSV)
Jezebel’s false teaching pushed freedom to the point of transgressing this intimate union.
Apparently, this situation had been going on for some time. Jesus had already been at work, providing one opportunity after another for Jezebel to repent. Considering the patience and love Jesus extended towards Judas Iscariot, for the three years of Judas’s tenure with the disciples, I imagine Jezebel had many, many chances to return to God.
But, Jesus said, she is unwilling.
Think about that.
Jezebel was unwilling. Not unknowing of her wrong. Not unable or too weak. Not unsure how to repent.
Jezebel simply did not want to.
Deep Things of Satan
What Jezebel had been teaching must have sounded wise, sounded like superior spiritual enlightenment. Paul spoke of the deep things of God when he began his first letter to the believers in Corinth. He wanted them to be able to see the difference between the true wisdom of God and the counterfeit experience of spiritual depths that were really not that at all.
Now, Jesus was saying, Jezebel’s teaching was not reaching deep into the well of God’s wisdom, it was reaching deep into the well of God’s adversary, Satan.
But I speak to the rest of you in Thyatira, however many who are not holding onto her teaching, however many who do not experientially realize and know the depths of the Accuser (Satan)Revelation 2:24
No Other Burden
Jezebel, like Judas Iscariot, had gone beyond the point of no return. She freely chose God’s wrath, being unwilling to remove herself from those things God intended to cleanse the universe of.
But for her adherents, and for the church in Thyatira, there was still hope. Those who followed Jezebel were to turn away from the preaching and practices of Jezebel and return to Jesus.
And for the rest, I will not beset you with another burden, Jesus told them. Except, take hold of what you have until whenever I may come.
Those who heeded Jesus’s words would be considered conquerors, and would receive jurisdiction over the nations. Theologians have offered some ideas about what that might mean.
- To reign with Christ over the whole earth during the millennium, with particular interest in unsaved nations.
- To be part of the saints who will reign in heaven with Christ.
- To reign over other Christians of lower rank or status in the new earth.
This thinking comes largely from the reference Jesus made to Psalm 2
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritageJesus paraphrased YHWH’s words in Psalm 2:8 and quoted YHWH’s words in Psalm 2:9 (NRSV)
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
In Psalm 2, it is Messiah who has the staff, and the authority. Because of believers’ intimate union with Christ, because we are in Him and He in us, we share in that authority,
Finally, Jesus promised to give each faithful believer the Morning Star, just as the assemblies in Pergamos were promised the Hidden Manna, both emblems of Jesus Himself. Those who shine with the light of Christ will one day see how they are part of the Morning Star that lights the entire cosmos.
Many who read Revelation from a futurist or historicist point of view feel Thyatira represents the church from 606-1517 CE, when Catholicism in the west was the entirety of the western church. Those from a spiritual approach see universal truths applicable to every age (I lean more towards this view). And, along with preterists, I think it is safe to assume there really was a woman named Jezebel who led believers astray in Thyatira.