Spirit of Grace Ministries
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The Forgotten Words of Jesus

By Dennis Pollock



Buried in the second chapter of the Book of Revelation there is a fascinating rebuke by the Lord Jesus of the church located in Thyatira. Actually, Jesus begins with a strong commendation. He tells the believers at this church that He is aware of all they are doing in His service and praises them that their current works are "more than the first." They are doing more for Jesus now than when they were in their honeymoon phase as new believers. And that is a very good thing.


But something else is going on that Jesus is not at all pleased with. It is not what these church leaders are doing, but rather what they are allowing to go on among the believers. Jesus tells them:


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. (Revelation 2:20)


"Prophetess" of Sexual Immorality


I doubt that this lady's name was really Jezebel, since Jezebel was one of the most notorious women of the Old Testament, but Jesus refers to her as "Jezebel," indicating His supreme distaste for her behavior. He says of her "who calls herself a prophetess," clearly inferring that she was no prophetess in His eyes. But she passed herself off as a prophetess, a highly spiritual lady who heard directly from God. And then Jesus reveals what is angering Him – this "Jezebel" is encouraging the church members to commit sexual immorality.


We are not given the exact nature of her "teachings" but in some way she was encouraging the local believers to enjoy and engage in unlawful sex. Perhaps she was promoting a sort of Christian version of temple prostitution that was common among the pagans: “Go to the house of worship to offer your gifts to God and then enjoy a little carnal pleasure afterwards.” Whatever the case, Jesus summed it up by saying that this woman, this "Jezebel," was encouraging sexual immorality in the church.


Jesus goes on to say: "And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent" (Revelation 2:21). This is interesting, especially in these days when a sizeable number of Christians and churches don't at all like the idea of repentance. They are convinced that grace means simply believing without the need of changing one's behavior and turning away from sin. Therefore, in their view, repentance has no place in Christian doctrine.


New Testament Repentance


They have a problem, of course, because the word repentance is found throughout the New Testament. So if pressed about this, they will reply that repentance simply means to change your mind, and has nothing to do with behavior. Their idea is that you did not believe in Jesus, then you changed your mind and believed in Jesus, and therefore you repented. And this has nothing to do with turning away from sin. Liars can remain liars, thieves can keep on stealing, and fornicators can go right on fornicating day and night, with as many different partners as they can manage. Jesus does not care about our behavior, never gets upset with anything we may do, and in fact He never even sees our sins.


But in this little passage about the church in Thyatira, Jesus has surely seen something! He has dealt with the heart of this present-day Jezebel and given her an appropriate time to repent, not merely to change her mind about Himself, but about her sexual immorality. Jesus' words leave no wiggle room for the folks who teach that repentance has nothing to do with behavior. He says clearly: "I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality…" This was not a vague, generalized repentance. This was not a matter of deciding to change her attitude over who Jesus was; this was a command to change her mind about her sexual practices and teachings, and consequently turn away from these things.


It is true that the Greek word for repentance literally means to change one's mind. But implied within the changing of the mind is the idea of turning away from a wicked life and going a different direction. Jezebel is told not merely to repent, but to repent of her sexual immorality.


"I Will Kill Her Children…"

Jesus says further: "Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds" (Revelation 2:22). Jesus is making it plain that He is not at all happy, and that He is going to bring judgment and misery upon all who have been influenced by this prophetess of free sex. Sickness and "great tribulation" (extreme misery) will fall on the heads of those who have followed this false prophetess into a sexual free-for-all. This hardly sounds like the Jesus we hear preached in many of the churches these days. The Jesus we hear about so often today is the meek and mild Jesus, the One shown in paintings with a little lamb around His neck. But this Jesus speaking to the church of Thyatira is outraged – not just mildly annoyed, but so furious that He is going to rain down all kinds of misery upon all who have followed this prophetic pretender into a carnal lifestyle. And the only way to avoid this terrible judgment from Jesus is to "repent of their deeds," not just to change their mind on some theological issue, but to repent of their wicked behavior. In other words, stop doing what you're doing!


He takes things even further, saying: "I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts…" (Revelation 2:23). Some will die over this issue, and Jesus takes the credit for their death. He does not say, "The devil will kill them," or "They will move out from under the umbrella of My protection and will fade away and die." No, He says as plainly as it is possible to say: "I will kill her children with death." No talk about how He will help them to fulfill their destiny; no talk about helping them to achieve greatness," as so many believers today seem to assume is Jesus' primary responsibility toward His people. Just the terrible words: "I will kill her children"


In this single passage of Scripture, we have the death knell of the doctrine which says that since we are covered by the grace of Christ, God cannot even see our sins, and that how we act, how we behave, and what we do is totally irrelevant to Him. We are constantly hearing that if we have believed in Jesus our behavior means nothing, before or afterwards. Having believed, we are free to fornicate, commit adultery, lie, steal, cheat, get drunk, get high, and live any way we please. We also see the complete annihilation of the doctrine that repentance has nothing to do with sin, and simply means to change our minds about Jesus.


Bring Forth Fruits!


A long time ago a fiery preacher we know as John the Baptist thundered out: "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance" Later, the apostle Paul stated, "(I) declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:20). Both men, as different as they were, stated that repentance must be accompanied by "works befitting repentance." Just as faith without works is dead, repentance without turning away from sin is no repentance at all. And in this little passage where Jesus singled out a fake prophetess who promoted illicit sex among the believers, clearly Jesus' command to her was not to repent in some generic sense, not merely to take on a higher view of Himself, but to "repent of her sexual immorality," which unmistakably meant to stop doing it.


I believe in grace; I believe in faith. I believe that we are saved, not by doing good works, but by putting our faith in Jesus Christ, and His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. But prospective disciples need to know that accompanying our faith must come a transformed life. Someone much wiser than I once said, "Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:18-20).


Real faith, the faith that saves, the faith that makes us children of God, the faith in Jesus Christ that brings forgiveness and eternal life, will always be accompanied by repentance, and we can never remain the same.




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