Revelation gives us a unique view of Jesus. In the last book of Scripture, Jesus basks in the full manifestation of his authority. This Jesus is going to set things right. Tim warns us about the dangers of being seduced into corruption, and missing out on the fullness of Christ. We explore the stories of Elijah and Jezebel as an example of a warrior against a seductress. God wants us to be warriors and to resist the temptation towards corruption so that we might share in the fullness of His Kingdom.
Revelation is a very simple book. Jesus has a message to his servants, and he asks us to read, understand, and do. What he wants us to read and understand is this message that takes what was and what is and what is to come and gives us a lesson. And the lesson is how to be a great martyreo, witness, or martyr.
Jesus wants us to serve others. Jesus wants us to serve others and set self aside. In doing so, he wants us to follow the path that he’s blazed for us and gain part of his own reward which is to be a king and a priest in the universe. We do that now by serving, by following his commands, by being a good servant.
We’ve been talking about the seven churches in the Roman province of Asia, and we’ve seen what was and what is at that time. He’s also telling us something about what is to come because these churches probably represent ages. We’ve seen the apostolic age represented in the church of Ephesus as a great church with truth. But to be God’s witness, truth alone isn’t enough, even though God really emphasizes the importance of truth. We’ll see more about that here.
We also need love. Without love we’re a clanging gong, even if we give ourselves to be killed. If we have not love, it’s not worth anything, 1 Corinthians tells us.
And then the early church, the church that brought down Rome with the blood of the martyrs which included not just people who died but people who were unafraid of death, which is the key thing about being a witness. Unafraid of rejection from the world.
The Smyrna church; Jesus says I’m the one who died and now is living, and I want you to not fear death. Stand in the face of death. And if you do, you have life. If you’ll take refining now and stand in faith against this persecution, then when the consuming fire of God comes, it will not hurt you because you’ve already been refined.
We saw Pergamos last time. Pergamos was the capital of the Roman province of Asia. And he said, this is where Satan’s throne is. But the church, at this point in time, is starting to get syncretized, where it wants it both ways. All this and Jesus too. What Jesus says is you’ve got a lot of great things going on but you’ve got this spirit of Balaam, and you’re allowing it to corrupt your church.
Balaam was a true prophet but really wanted the things of the world as well, and part of the message is you can’t have it both ways. Reject the world! If you want intimacy with the world, you’ll get it; but it will bring you death just like Balaam died. But if you will reject the world, I’ll give you intimacy beyond anything you can imagine: the hidden manna, the white stone, a special invitation just between you and me.
In this episode, instead of Balaam, we have another amazing Old Testament character which is Jezebel.
So let’s look at Revelation 2:18. And to the angel—or messenger—of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels—as I have also received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Jesus with eyes of fire
The first thing we see here is that the Son of God is pictured in this particular letter as one who has eyes like a flame of fire and feet like fine brass. This is not the very approachable Jesus that we tend to see in the paintings. This is Jesus in a different role.
Let’s look at Revelation 19 where we see another incidence where Jesus is depicted as having eyes of fire. And we can see where we’re headed with Revelation. Sometimes people are prone to say that the God of the Old Testament moderated in the New Testament. That the God of the Old Testament was a vengeful God, and the God of the New Testament….But the Bible is very clear. God never changes. Jesus is the first and the last, he tells us here, the beginning and the end.
And in Revelation 19:11 we read, Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire—See, same picture. And on his head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress with the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
And skip down to verse 19. And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.
Here’s Jesus, the one who has the eyes of fire, coming to set things right on earth.
You know, we had a day a few years ago where all of America celebrated. I was watching during my exercise time, a little documentary on the day that Osama Bin Laden was killed. And there was a baseball game, and suddenly chants of “USA! USA!” broke out in the whole stadium, and the players were talking in this documentary saying, “we were wondering what in the world was going on. We knew something special was happening, but what happened? The Olympics isn’t going on. Did somebody win a soccer game? What’s happening?”
Well, there was a national celebration that broke out because a person had died. That’s because we as a people, when we know someone is evil, when we know someone has done injustice, we want to see justice done. We want to see things put right.
And, from our perspective, we think that that was the right thing to do. But we didn’t know Osama Bin Laden’s heart. We didn’t know where his heart was at that particular point in time. We just knew he was the mastermind behind this terrible thing that happened to America.
But God knows the hearts, and he knows how to set things right for sure, one hundred percent.
We will see as we get into the and-things-that-are-to-come section of the book that there will be people under the altar saying, “God, how long are you going to wait until you avenge our deaths?” And God says, “I’m getting there, I’m getting there.”
He does get there. And he comes with flames of fire on a white horse and a sword coming out of his mouth. And he is the one that rules with a rod of iron. And what he’s asking us to do is to stand with him. And if we do stand with him, he’s going to share his reign with us. He’s going to share his kingship with us. He’s going to rule with a rod of iron, and he’s going to share that with us because that’s what he’s asking us to do. By being great witnesses, he’s asking us to qualify for that reward.
I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
Now again, this book is written to Jesus’ servants. These are believers, and believers can have rewards and they can lose rewards. This is all about deeds and works. It’s not about whether we had saving faith or not.
As you can see here, servants can be seduced. Servants can fall into sin because we still have a free will. It’s just that if we do, there’s very severe negative consequences. This book is asking us to eschew these negative consequences that come with the world and follow what Jesus is offering us.
Jezebel is a very interesting Old Testament character. It’s not for sure who she represents, but what’s interesting here is the fundamental problem that Jesus has with Jezebel is that they allow her to teach and seduce. They allow.
Let’s look at this word allow in 1 Corinthians 10:13. It says, No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow—who will not permit, will not tolerate—you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
So God will not allow that.
Resist wrong authorities
Here’s Jezebel who’s a prophetess—self proclaimed—in a position of authority. And what God is saying is there’s an authority figure that is doing wrong and foul things, and you’re not resisting sufficiently. Isn’t that interesting?
When there’s an authority that is wrong and we have the ability to resist, then that’s something that we need to do.
Clearly Jezebel is somebody that God is giving time to repent to. So no matter how warped or how destructive someone is, God is not willing that any should perish. He wants everyone to come to him. He wants everyone to have time.
But for us, it’s our job to resist.
Now sexual immorality and “eat things sacrificed to idols,” Balaam had a different motivation. Balaam was a true prophet, and he wanted to have his prophet office intact but also have the things of the world. He wanted both. All this and Jesus too.
Jezebel, on the one hand, appears to just care about worldly power and wants to use the office in the church, or use religious position to gain advantage from the world.
So who does Jezebel represent? It’s not clear. It’s obviously representative because the actual Jezebel’s been dead many years at the time this is written.
The period of the Catholic church
But thinking about the historical era, there’s something that certainly fits from my standpoint, because the institutional part of the church had, during this era from 500 to 1517 AD, this middle-age church became an incredibly powerful political organization. In fact, it was so political and so oriented towards control that not only did it corrupt the ordinances, it also withheld from people the scripture. In saying, “We will tell you what the scripture says; it’s too complex for you. It’s too hard for you.”
We know that there were some great Christians during this time period, and we call this the period of the Catholic church because catholic just means universal, and there were no denominations at this point in time, the way we think of them today.
But the church still had great people in it. We saw that. I know your works, love, service, faith, your patience, and it’s getting better now. In fact, towards the end of this era is when you had Wycliff, and he said, let’s put the Bible in people’s common tongue.
And you had Tyndale, who said, not only let’s put it in the common tongue, let’s go back to the original manuscripts and make it as accurate as possible. And Tyndale lost his life for that testimony.
So there’s great things going on. It’s not the institution that we’re in that matters. It’s our heart that matters.
Organic Christianity vs. Institutional Christianity
You have “organic Christianity,” let’s call it and “institutional Christianity.” In the sense of institution as organization, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m going to use it as a negative term to mean we’re focusing on benefiting the leadership in the organization over the people.
In the “organic church,” what the leaders are supposed to do is serve the people.
During this era, you had a lot of abuse. People became princes and bishops, basically because they bought the position or because they were really good politicians, not because they were servants. Not because they were investing in the people.
Tyndale, said that he wanted in England the plowboys to know more about the scripture than the bishops; and, it took place. It happened.
Corruption in the church
So you have this time period where the churches become very corrupt.
There’s a couple of incidences I can mention. The Knights Templar, 1100-1300s, became a powerful, multinational corporation. In fact, they became so rich and so powerful that the king of France disbanded them, essentially, in order to take their money and power.
Another example would be the Papal states. Italy as a country as we know it didn’t really form until the 1860s. And until then it was multiple states like the Kingdom of Sicily or the Kingdom of Venice. The Papal States were also one of the kingdoms, and they were run from Rome.
And when it was disbanded, it went all the way down to the Vatican. And if you go to the Vatican today, it’s full of amazing treasures. Again, because that’s a vestige of this organization becoming so rich and so powerful. The problem wasn’t the riches and the power. There’s nothing wrong with riches. The problem was that in many cases that became the priority over the people.
And, again, not always. Because otherwise God wouldn’t say I know your works, love, service, faith, and patience, and things are getting better.
Resist evil in authority
The problem was you had this happening, and God was not satisfied with the amount of resistance that was given to it.
I would say that this would apply to any authority at any place in any time. When there’s someone claiming moral authority, when there’s someone in a position of authority that’s abusing that authority, and they’re claiming a moral right to do so, it’s our job to resist that. And if we don’t, we’re not really doing God’s bidding of being the kind of witnesses, the kind of martyreo that God wants us to be.
Let’s look at this character Jezebel, and we can see some of the things she did, and maybe we can recognize this in things we’ve seen in our lives.
We first meet Jezebel in 1 Kings 16:29. In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel; and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. Now Ahabe the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbalal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him.
Jezebel is from Sidon. And Tyre and Sidon are two Phoenician cities that God left remaining as some of the cities that were supposed to be dispossessed, but since Israel didn’t do as they were told, God left some of the cities; and these were two of them that he left to say, this is going to be a thorn in your side. In fact, God says—this is in Judges 3—I’m going to leave these here so that you will learn war, which is very interesting.
God left Sidon so they would learn war. And we’re going to see some of that that Jezebel’s going to bring.
God wants us to be warriors
Isn’t it interesting that God wants us not only to resist moral authorities that are off base, he wants us to be warriors. Isn’t that why in Ephesians 6 it says put on the whole armor of God, and it goes through and dresses us up like a Centurion soldier but with spiritual weapons?
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers. We’re in a fight. We’re in a battle. And we’re supposed to be fighting every day.
Jezebel is an earthly version of Satan’s way of fighting.
Elijah and the drought
1 Kings 17:1. And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”
So there’s a long drought, and it goes right back to Ahab and his disobedience. And during this drought, Elijah hid out. And then, finally, the word of the Lord comes to Elijah and says, OK, I’m going to end the drought.
Let’s look at Elijah reengaging with Ahab in 18:5. And Ahab had said to Obadiah, “Go into the land to all the springs of water and to all the brooks; perhaps we may find grass to keep the horses and mules alive—
Obadiah encounters Elijah
Now in verse 7. Now as Obadiah was on his way, suddenly Elijah met him; and he recognized him, and fell on his face, and said, “Is that you, my lord Elijah?” And he answered him, “It is I. Go, tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”
So Obadiah says, “How have I sinned, that you are delivering your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me? As the Lord your God lives, there is not nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to hunt for you; and when they said, ‘He is not here,’ he took an oath from the kingdom or nation that they could not find you. And now you say, ‘Go, tell your master, ‘Elijah is here”! And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from you, that the Spirit of the Lord will carry you to a place I do not know; so when I go and tell Ahab, and he cannot find you, he will kill me. But I your servant have feared the Lord from my youth. Was it not reported to my lord what I did when Jezebel—here she is again—killed the prophets of the Lord?”
So Jezebel went through and killed the prophets of God, but Obadiah hid one hundred men of the Lord’s prophets, fifty to a cave, and fed them with bread and water? And now you say, ‘Go, tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ He will kill me!” Then Elijah said, “AS the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely present myself to him today.” So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah. Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?”
Verse 18. And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals. Now, therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
The people go to the Baal prophets because Jezebel has killed the prophets of God
Here’s the first strategy we see of Jezebel: She comes in, she’s a Sidonian, she’s one of Ahab’s wives, and she brings in the Baal worship. But it’s not just competition, it’s a monopoly. She goes and kills the prophets of God.
So now, when people need something—because in this culture, they expect that there’s a spiritual force behind everything. So if they don’t have God to appeal to, where are they going to go? Well, they’re going to go to Baal prophets. Don’t believe for a minute that this wasn’t an immensely profitable venture.
So they go, and they pay the money to the Baal priest, and the Baal priest probably includes some kind of gross immorality, some kind of pornography. That sells too, right? So you’ve got this big—think brothel, bordello. And you’ve got also fortune telling and kind of pay to play. What do you want? We’ll get it for you.
So you get what you want and you have your sensual pleasures met all in one stop.
Jezebel now has this racket where not only is she influencing people, she’s got a big cash position going on; she’s not going to wait and have that taken over. She eliminates the competition coming in.
Elijah and the burning altar
You know this story. Elijah goes, and he says, hey, you prophets, whoever answers with fire wins. He gets the Baal prophets over there, and they’re cutting themselves and yelling and everything. And Elijah spends the day taunting them. So nothing happens.
He waits until he gets the evening sacrifice. Has them douse the altar with water. Fire comes down, licks up the water, takes the sacrifice. And then the people, of course, say, OK we get it. The Lord he is God.
The Baal prophets killed
So Elijah says, well, get those false prophets and bring them down here and slay them. And they do.
An amazing victory. One against several hundred.
In verse 19, you’d think Jezebel is going to go back to Sidon, right? Nope. Not Jezebel.
1 Kings 19:1. And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba.
Elijah fears Jezebel
Carmel is up in the north of Israel. Beersheba, near the south. And he left his servant there. And he went and sat down under a tree and said, “Man, I might as well die now.”
Jezebel obviously understands something about people. What she’s doing is making use of the fear that he has. And it works. It’s amazing.
Here’s this guy who’s done the most amazing thing ever, and, boom; Jezebel found a weakness, exploited it, and he’s run away.
You know, many times when God asks us to stand up to a corrupt authority, and we have a great victory, we’re prone to relax and say, “Well, it’s over,” and actually, it’s just a prelude to a bigger fight. We have to be prepared for that.