SBTS chapel live blog: Albert Mohler – Revelation 2:18-29

Communications Staff — September 24, 2009

Preacher: R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary.

Text/title: Revelation 2:18-29 – “Tolerating Jezebel: The Letter to the Church at Thyatira and the Crisis of Our Age.”

Jezebel … just saying the name sends shivers down the spine. We are first introduced to her in 1 Kings 16. We meet her when we are introduced to Ahab, king of Israel. In 1 Kings 16:29-30, we learn that Ahab did more evil than all who were before him. And that is no small feat.

Jezebel is heated in her hatred of the prophet Elijah. Jezebel did great in the sight of the Lord as well. When Jehu killed Jezebel and told his men to bury her, there was nothing left but a skull, two feet and the palms of her hands. Dogs had eaten the rest of her body. Jehu said that this fulfilled Elijah’s prophecy that this would take place.

The story of Jezebel is an important one in the story of Israel. Her name became shorthand for theological accomodationism, for syncretism. She is the personification of iniquity for every child of the covenant in Israel. She is a marker of divided devotion. Then we arrive at the letter to Thyatira in Revelation.

The commendation to the church at Thyatira (2:18-19)

Jesus tells the church at Thyatira that He knows what is going on in their church. He tells them, “I know your deeds.” Very interesting language. He knows their deeds and that their deeds of late are greater than at first. Deeds are good. This is an incredible word of commendation.

Jesus also said that He knows this church’s love. Love is not a substance that you come in and set on the altar. Love must be manifested. Love is a deed. Faith can also be a deed. Faith must be demonstrated through works. Jesus goes on to mention service and perseverance as well.

And their deeds were greater of late than they were at first. This is remarkable. In our experience, the reverse is often true. Things often begin with a bang, but then fizzle out. There are many things to be commended in the church at Thyatira.

But I have this against you (2:20-23)

We should be reminded that what we see in a church is only a hint of what Christ sees.

What Christ sees, in addition to the church at Thyatira’s deeds, is that this church tolerates the woman Jezebel, who leads His bond-servants astray. She is back. And she is deadly.

We haven’t heard about Jezebel since her death in 2 Kings. Jezebel is back: she is an agent of accommodation. She is an agent of idols. She brings a guild of idols.

There were trade guilds in that time and the trade guilds held meetings where they worshipped their own idols in their own way. If you didn’t come to these meetings, you could not be a part of the guild. These guilds were like fraternities. And they all had their own idols. Each guild had an annual feast and a part of the annual feast included sexual immorality as part of the idol worship.

Jezebel is probably a woman of that age, but her name certainly represents more than that. Jezebel, like the Jezebel of old, is in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ and is making the argument that you can maintain your allegiance to Christ and be a part of the guild. The argument probably went something like this:

“You can be a part of the guild. You know that the idol is empty. You know that it is but a created thing. You have to feed your family. Just go to the annual feast. Do what is done there. Get your stamp on your union card. Then you will be good for another year.”

In such an argument, the spirit of Jezebel in the Old Testament lives on. The spirit of Jezebel is a threat to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The argument of the spirit Jezebel is: you can make peace with the world. You can participate in the world’s idolatrous practices and be a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Once again, the issue of toleration comes to the forefront. The one who would be a follower of Jesus must love what Jesus loves and hate what Jesus hates.

Jezebel would no doubt have several best-selling books. Boy is she powerful. Boy is she persuasive. We can picture Jezebel saying if you come to my seminar, then you will be successful. You will have health and wealth. And her claim is: you can have Jesus and the world, too. Jezebel teaches … and she leads the bond-servants of Christ astray.

Jezebel is not merely back in Thyatira. She is back wherever we live. And her argument and allure is just as clear as it was in 1 and 2 Kings.

The temptation of Jezebel is always here. The idolatry of Jezebel is often connected to sexual immorality. Sex is often the pathway that leads to rampant idolatry. Sometimes it itself is the idolatrous pursuit.

The people in the church at Thyatira, instead of falling on their knees and asking God for strength to resist temptation, believed that they could have it all. They thought they could have the world and God. And Jesus thunders and says: no.

Jesus called the church at Thyatira to repentance, but she did not want to repent. Jesus says that He will kill Jezebel’s children with pestilence. The Lord Jesus Christ will kill those who follow Jezebel’s teaching, for He will give to each one according to His deeds.

To those in the church at Thyatira who rejected Jezebel’s teaching, Jesus says: hold fast. When Jesus returns He will both judge and rescue. Those who hold fast will be rescued when He returns. And those who hold fast will reign with Christ when He returns (Rev 2:24-25).

To follow Christ in Thyatira usually meant using your guild card. And Jesus says: follow me.

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