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Revelation 2:18–23

“I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead” (vv. 21–23).

Cyprian of Carthage was one of the most important leaders in the third-century church, well known for his stress on the importance of the church and his refusal to give any one bishop in the early church higher authority than others. In commenting on the letters to the seven churches of Revelation, Cyprian says this about our Lord’s call to repent: “The Lord certainly would not exhort to repentance if it were not because he promises to pardon the penitent.” This is an important principle to remember whenever we see a church or individual caught in sin. No matter how heinous the transgression, there is always hope for the repentant. Jesus will by no means refuse to forgive and restore anyone who comes to Him in faith, turning away from sin (see John 6:37).

God never promises that any one congregation or denomination is guaranteed to persevere in faith and orthodoxy unto the end. His promise that the church will prevail over the gates of hell is a promise that the church universal, consisting of all those with true faith, will never pass away and not a pledge that any single visible expression of the true church will persevere. Thus, any call to repent must be taken seriously. If we as individuals or any of our churches are guilty of the same sins identified in the seven churches of Revelation, we must repent or meet the same end that Jesus warns about.

In Revelation 2:18–29, Jesus speaks to the church at Thyatira. Today we will look at verses 18–23. A center of commerce in the first century, Thyatira had many trade guilds for textiles and other industries. Thus, most commentators believe that Jesus’ warning about sexual immorality and food sacrificed to idols is related to Christian participation in these guilds (v. 20). One had to be a member of one of these guilds to participate in commerce, and these guilds often held pagan sacrificial meals at their meetings. To not participate in these meals was to endanger one’s membership in the guild and thus one’s ability to make a living. In the church at Thyatira, a false prophetess was apparently encouraging such participation. Jesus calls her “Jezebel”—not her real name but a comparison with the famously wicked queen of ancient Israel (v. 20). The designation is apt given Jezebel’s well-known support of idolatry (e.g., 1 Kings 18:19).

Jesus warns that if this false teacher does not repent, He will strike her with illness and kill her children—her disciples (Rev. 2:21–23). Idolatry has deadly consequences.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

God does not strike every false teacher with illness or strike dead his or her disciples. Yet, the warning in today’s passage gives us reason not to deal lightly with error and false teachers in the church. There may be grave consequences if we do not put away false teaching. Let us take this warning to heart and be vigilant not to tolerate false teaching in the church.

For Further Study
  • 1 Kings 16:29–34
  • Jeremiah 28
  • Mark 13:22 1
  • Corinthians 11:27–32

To the Church in Pergamum

To The Church at Thyatira II

Keep Reading Covenant Theology

From the October 2020 Issue
Oct 2020 Issue