(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 4)
THE FOURTH LETTER – TO THE CHURCH AT THYATIRA (Revelations 2:18-29)
The Church at Thyatira was a Church that loved God and others, had faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and was serving him with patient endurance. These were traits that were good and highly commendable for any Church. However, the Church at Thyatira fell, when it came to sound doctrine.
Although not all, some of the persons within that Church had exposed themselves to a false doctrine being taught by a woman who Jesus referred to as Jezebel and were even duped into believing that it was true, to their own detriment.
This doctrine, which I will refer to as the doctrine of of Jezebel, appears to have been tantamount to the doctrine of Baalam which was a problem at the Church of Pergamos. Like this doctrine, the doctrine of Jezebel also led God’s children astray, by apparently causing them to believe that their new identity in Christ which was founded on grace, now enabled them to do as they pleased and in particular, to commit fornication (sexual immorality) and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
This false doctrine was only one of the problems that the Lord Jesus Christ seems to have been alluding to, in this Church though. For, although this doctrine seemed quite similar to the doctrine of Balaam (based on Revelations 2:14 and 20), he did not simply refer to the Church at Thyatira as holding to ‘the doctrine of Balaam’ as he did when he admonished the Church at Pergamos.
No. He went further. For, the problem at Thyatira appeared to be deeper than the fact that some were holding to a false doctrine that did not line up with the clear Word of God.
The deeper problem, based on the specific words used by the Lord, appeared to be that, some were not just duped into believing a false doctrine but it had happened because they had allowed what he had prohibited. That is, they had allowed a woman to take up a leadership position in the Church and therefore, they had enabled her to wield this ungodly influence, when this ought not to have been in the first place.
It is my view therefore, that Jesus was alluding to the fact that the authority that this woman had was not even legitimate in the first place because He and His Word did not sanction it. Since HE is the ultimate authority from whom delegated authority is derived, if He did not sanction it, then none other than the devil had.
Although that Church was clearly blinded to this truth based on how things appeared, He as Lord over all was able to discern the true motives behind this occurrence, which pointed to nothing other, than the promotion of the devil’s agenda.
In opening his letter therefore, he refers to his ability to see pass the exterior and how things appear on the surface, to the true intent and purpose of the enemy. It is my view that he also reminds them that, as the Son of God HE is the ultimate legitimate authority (having submitted to the will of the Father, dying for our sins and then being raised again from the dead and glorified). He therefore had the power to stamp out with his foot of authority, any and all forms of so-called authority in the Church, that he did not approve of.
This reminds me of Psalm 110:1 where David said prophetically of the glorified Lord Jesus: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”
In 1 Corinthians 15:24-25, it states of Jesus:
- “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.”
Jesus states in verse 18 of Revelations 2, as he opens his letter: “These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass…”
In highlighting the two-fold problem at the Church at Thyatira, he continues in verses 19-20:
- “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach AND to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.”
As stated before, the problem was two-fold, in that the Church at Thyatira was (1) allowing this woman to teach AND (2) allowing her to seduce Christians with her false doctrine, into disobeying God’s Word.
Although the Lord Jesus may have been referring to a specific woman in the Church at Thyatira, I do not believe that her name was Jezebel but that he was referring to the similarities in the agenda of the devil in using her as his instrument, even as he used Jezebel in the Old Testament. Unlike the Church that could not see this, as the Son of God with “…his eyes like unto a flame of fire…” he was able to discern it.
To better understand what Jesus was saying therefore, we need to study the life and character of Jezebel in the Old Testament. Who was she?
In the Old Testament, Jezebel was a woman who aligned herself to someone powerful and with influence over a people, through marriage. She got married to Ahab, who just so happened to be the king of Israel. This was an unholy alliance to begin with in God’s eyes, as the children of Israel had clearly been commanded by God not to have any form of alliance in marriage or otherwise, to people who were not Israelites.
In Exodus 34:11-17, God clearly instructed:
- “Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.”
In Deutoronomy 7:1-11, the Lord also instructed:
- “When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.
- But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.
- The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face. Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them.”
Despite God’s clear command of separation to the people of Israel however (which he likened unto a bride that he loved, chose for himself, entered into a marriage covenant with and was faithful to), Ahab still went ahead and entered into a marriage covenant with a woman called Jezebel, a Zidonian who was not an Israelite and whose people were steeped in the practice of idol worship.
God considers such treason to be spiritual adultery, as it was tantamount to an Israelite turning his back on God who loved him and giving his heart over to someone that was in clear breach of the love covenant he had with God. Part of the covenant that the Israelities had with God was that they would remain separate from those who did not serve him (other peoples). To join with such people therefore, in a marriage or otherwise was a breach of that love covenant.
1 Kings 16:31-33 states of Ahab:
- “And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.”
How Jezebel got to the heart of Ahab is not known. If he considered himself to be in love with her, as opposed to it being a business deal with the king of Zidonia, it is not farfetched to think that she may have had some part in manipulating him to that point and may have used sexual overtures that appealed to his flesh. It does not appear that she was forced into the marriage but voluntarily agreed to do so. She therefore aligned herself with Ahab who just so happened, to be the king of Israel.
Once properly aligned to this source of power, Jezebel then used the powerful position of her husband, to raise herself up and to give to herself power over the Israelites, so as to advance her own evil agenda.
This ought not to have been. Ahab was king and the one with the legitimate, God-given authority, not her. Yet he sat by and allowed her to usurp his God-given authority over the people.
When for example, Naboth refused to sell his vineyard to Ahab, Jezebel took control of the situation, told Ahab to sit back and relax, (so to speak) and that she would handle it. She then took it upon herself to write letters in Ahab’s name and to seal them with his seal, once again acting in an authority that was not her own but which her husband allowed her to have.
Given that she was not king, she had no legitimate authority in heaven or on earth, to be writing letters to give instructions to the people or to seal it with her husband’s seal. This was an unlawful exercise of authority, yet Ahab sat back and allowed it.
1 Kings 21:7-8 states:
- “And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel: arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite. So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth.”
The authority in which Jezebel acted was not just unlawful because she was not king and had no right to give instructions to the elders and nobles. It was also unlawful because she had no right to have been given the leeway to marry Ahab in the first place (as a non-Israelite) and to now be elevated to the level where she was elevated over the Israelites, due to that marriage.
She was not even an Israelite and the power she was given by marriage, only came about in the first place because of disobedience to the clear command of God.
Acting with illegal power, Jezebel used her marriage to gain more influence and control over all the Israelites. Such influence reached to the point where she set up altars unto her false gods openly, placed false prophets of her false god into positions, led the Israelites to worship her false god baal, brazenly ordered the deaths of the true Prophets of the Lord and sent a death threat to Elijah, a true Prophet who God preserved, that she was confident she would have him killed by a certain time the very next day.
All of this power which grew into one ugly monster, was enabled due to the initial act of disobedience to God’s clear command, NOT to marry someone that was not an Israelite. She, who had no right to have even stepped foot into Israel was now wielding more power than even her own husband, who sat back and allowed her to take over control.
When Ahab married her, blinded by her charisma, manipulation or whatever deception he was in, he elevated her to the position of wife of the king, which, in God’s eyes, from the very beginning was an unlawful power for her to have and beyond her jurisdiction. Him elevating her to wife through marriage was therefore at the root of ALL of the other problems that followed.
Due to disobedience, he had given her a foothold and once inside, she grew in power and took over because he also failed to exercise his authority as king.
This was also the case with the Church at THYATIRA and the case with many Churches today.
God has clearly commanded in his Word, that women are to be silent in the Church and are not to teach or usurp authority over a man. Yet, many Churches have chosen to disobey this clear command, to have women teachers and preachers in the Church and to elevate women they consider to be ‘gifted’, to positions of authority in the Church, clearly meant by God for men to occupy.
Notably, in his rebuke of the Church at THYATIRA, the glorified Lord Jesus stated, “Thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.”
This was a woman who called herself a prophetess. The Lord did not call her that. She gave herself the title and claimed falsely to have a gift that God did not give to her. In stating that she called herself a prophetess, the Lord was making it clear that the position she held and the gift she claimed to have were not ordained by God or from God but instead were the product of her own deluded or deceptive self-will, stubbornness and rebellion, against his clear Word. Given that he did not make her a prophetess, her so-called claim was false, rooted in lies and therefore, rooted in satan.
Both the Jezebel of the Old Testament and the woman in the Church of Thyatira, could have never had the power to wreak havoc on Israel and on the Church at Thyatira respectively, had it not been for the fact that someone gave each of them unlawful authority in the first place.
Anything that goes against God’s clear Word is unlawful and the same holds true for any Church that gives authority to a woman that goes beyond the command of God. It does not matter how ‘gifted’ we believe a sister is. God is the giver of all genuine spiritual gifts and he expects us to operate with what he has given us, within the boundaries that he has set up.
As we saw with Balaam, it is possible to be gifted and to abuse that gift or to use it unlawfully without God’s authorization, motivated by one’s own lust for power and advancement.
In 1 Corinthians 14:33-40, God’s command (which many Churches today probably wish they could take out of the Bible and which they pretend not to see or try uselessly to excuse away) clearly states:
- “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churchES of the saints. Let your women keep silence in the churchES: for it is not permitted unto them TO SPEAK; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women TO SPEAK in the church… If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the COMMANDMENTS of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant… Let all things be done decently and in order.”
This does not mean that a woman can’t do anything for the Lord, that she can’t pray for others or that she can’t prophesy if she is genuinely gifted with this gift. 1 Corinthians 11:5 makes it clear that women can pray and have a gift of prophecy. However, she is not to use what gifts she may have or thinks she has, to usurp authority over a man and to teach the Church when they assemble together.
Verse 3 of 1 Corinthians explains why. It states: “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”
I have heard people try to excuse God’s command away, by stating that it was a specific command to the Church of Corinth because it was particularly unruly and God was trying to establish order in it. This they state, in an attempt to justify their disobedience to the command given in it. Yet, it cannot be that God was just talking to the Church at Corinth back then but to ALL Churches (including those today), as to what he wanted.
This is the reason why in verse 33, Paul states “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churchES of the saints. Let your women keep silence in the churchES.”
ChurchES is clearly plural. The command was therefore not given to just one Church.
Additionally, the reason given for why women should be silent is not just applicable to the Church of Corinth. It is clearly a reason that is based on a universal truth and therefore, which God intended to be applied objectively across ALL Churches. The reason is this: God has an order and in that order, the man is to be the head of the woman. It is his will that this order be demonstrated, not just in the home but also in the Church, no matter which Church it is.
The argument that the command for women to be silent in the Churches was only meant for the Church at Corinth is a foolish argument, as it is further destroyed by the fact that God allowed the command to be given AGAIN in the book of Timothy and that book was not even to the Church at Corinth but to another Church!
Yes, it appears that the same command was given at yet another Church, at Ephesus. While many Churches today are busy trying to argue away the relevance of the command of God clearly given in the Church at Corinth therefore (because they don’t want to obey it), God allows the command to be given again, to another Church and he does it, I believe, for emphasis, to make it absolutely clear and to reinforce his position, that the command is intended to universally apply to ALL the Churches.
In Chapter 1:3 of 1 Timothy, Paul opens his letter by stating to Timothy:
- “As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightiest charge some that they teach NO OTHER DOCTRINE, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.”
He continues in Chapter 2:11-12 of that same book of Timothy, which is full of doctrinal instructions for the Church, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”
Paul therefore reasserts the order that God wants in his Churches when it comes to the teaching of the Word. As if God’s command is not enough, so as to convince Churches that are tempted to step outside of this God-given order, Paul goes further and gives yet another reason why women ought not to teach or to take up positions of authority over men, in any Church.
This reason is a universal truth and not limited to the Church at Corinth or the Church at Ephesus. It is a truth applicable to ALL of God’s creation.
He states in verses 13-15, “For Adam was first formed then Eve. And Adam was not deceived but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”
It is also important to note that in verse 12, it says “…usurp authority over the man” and not usurp authority over the leadership. I say this to say, that, in people looking for loopholes in the scripture so as to have their own rebellious way, some take it to mean that if those in official leadership are away or they give permission, that it is okay for a woman to teach God’s Church. Yet, the term used is “man” and therefore, I take it to mean, that even if the official leadership is away or the leadership consents to what God has not consented, a woman is still not to teach the flock of God once there are men (not children) sitting in that congregation.
Further, the leadership has no authority to delegate its authority to any woman to teach the Church, when the leadership does not have the permission from God in the first place, to do this. What God expressly prohibits, no man on earth or in any Church, has any valid authority to permit.
At the Church at Thyatira, it wasn’t just that a false doctrine was being taught therefore but to add insult to injury, it was a woman doing it, who had no place or God-given authority on the pulpit and was not supposed to be teaching the Church in the first place.
In the Article ‘Jezebel of Thyatira’, one commentator of the scripture notes:
- “Jezebel of Thyatira not only taught error, but exercised teaching authority over men in opposition to role distinctions set forth by Paul (1 Ti. 2:12). As Paul explains, such role distinctions are not cultural, but grounded in God’s created order (1 Ti. 2:13-14). The error of the Thyatiran church was not just that Jezebel was allowed to promote unbiblical concepts, but that she evidently held a position as a teacher over men. This is another point of identification with the strong-willed, domineering Jezebel of the OT. No doubt, both her position of influence and the content of her teaching were repugnant to God.”
It is important to remember, that the Lord Jesus could have simply referred to the problem at the Church at Thyatira, as ‘the doctrine of Baalam’, if he had simply had a problem with the false doctrine. After all, the nature of the false doctrine at the Church at Thyatira is described similarly to this previously mentioned false doctrine. However, I believe that the Lord Jesus deliberately chose to give to it a different name, a female name, to emphasize another deeper problem that the Church at Thyatira faced. The other Churches did not face this problem, neither did the Church at Pergamos, where some were holding on to the doctrine of Balaam.
At the Church at Thyatira there was a deeper problem, in that a woman had been elevated to a position of authority and control in the Church and was using that authority to teach some at the Church.
Somehow, she had reasoned within herself, much like what Eve had done, that maybe God got it wrong when he said for a woman to be silent in the Churches and for her not to teach or to usurp authority over a man. Satan was therefore at work because he had deceived a woman to take up authority over a man and to teach, which God clearly forbade, while the men of that Church sat idly by and allowed it. It was Eve and the serpent in the garden all over again.
Jezebel aligned herself with authority and then usurped it, leading to the destruction of many and with a power she was not even permitted by God in the first place to have, while Ahab just watched on.
Yet, even after the unholy alliance of a marriage had taken place, the question can be asked, how did she get to that high position of power and leadership in the first place, so as to dominate everyone else? The answer must be, that it was because of a weak man not taking up his God-given responsibility over the people.
This appeared to have also been the case in the Church of Thyatira and it is prevalent today. When weak men in the Church do not take up their God-given responsibility to lead the Church and to do what they are supposed to do, when they just sit idly back, they allow women to take over these positions of authority over the flock.
Another thing about Jezebel was that, given her ‘standing’ in society and among God’s people, as the wife of the king, due to this alignment and except for God’s true Prophets, it does not appear that anybody questioned her as she rose to power and then spread her contagion. It was just accepted.
This appears to have also been the case at Thyatira and it is the case in many Churches today. People in many congregations just go with the flow, when they see a woman heading a Church or occupying a leadership position that enables her to teach the body of Christ, when God clearly prohibits this in his Word.
This disobedience is growing like a contagion, to the point where it seems normal to see a woman on the pulpit or in an authoritative role. In 1 Timothy 3:12, the Bible talks clearly about men being deacons, yet, many Churches, in disobedience, have created the term ‘deaconesses’ so as to facilitate the taking up of this position of authority, by women.
The scripture clearly makes reference in Luke 2:36, to a woman by the name of Anna who was a Prophetess, while still operating under the Old Covenant when Jesus was a child and had not yet died or raised from the dead. The New Covenant which applies to all Churches was therefore not yet in effect at that time. It makes it clear in the New Testament though, that some women operating under the New Covenant, will have the gift of prophecy and should therefore not pray or prophesy with their heads uncovered. It does not advocate anywhere, however, in the New Testament and under the New Covenant, (as far as I am aware), that such women operating with that gift, should be called prophetesses.
Man likes to give out and receive titles but God is more interested in the work to be done with the gift he has given to us. Having a gift of prophecy and using it is different from giving yourself the title of Prophetess and occupying an authoritative role in the Church.
There are a list of leadership positions for which formal titles were specified in the scriptures for operation in the Church however, under the New Covenant, such as Apostles, Prophets (not Prophetesses) and Deacons. It specifically makes mention of the role of Deacon, strictly in relation to a man, stating that he is to be the husband of one wife. Therefore, this, along with other such defined leadership positions, women are not eligible to occupy. In fact, based on the scripture, only a man who was married and had children, whereby his conduct and character in relation to his family could be assessed, seems to be eligible for this role.
1 Timothy 3:8-13 states:
- “Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre…And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must THEIR WIVES be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the HUSBANDS of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.”
The Bible could not put this any more clearer. Yet, there are many grasping at straws, to justify their desire to disobey the Word of God.
Similar to the Old Testament Jezebel, the second problem with the woman in the Thyatira Church was that she gave herself a title, when in fact, she had not been gifted by God in that regard. She clearly did not have the gift of prophecy either, as the fruit she bore was a false doctrine. She claimed to be a Prophetess and therefore, to be hearing from God, when what she was hearing, if anything was really from the devil. In this regard, she was deceived, just like Eve was in the garden of Eden.
This takes us back to the reason that Paul gave in 1 Timothy 2:14, for why the woman should not be allowed to teach in the Church. It seems that women are more prone than men, maybe because of what transpired with Eve our ancestor, to be deceived. That is, to think that we are hearing from God, when in fact it is the devil filling our minds with his agenda.
The woman at Thyatira was also deceived. She deceived herself into thinking she was a Prophetess and therefore talking on behalf of God, when God had not ordained her to be such. Worse yet, she was contaminating others in the Church with her false teachings that came from her own deception. For, she was deluding people into thinking that she was hearing from God, maybe not because she had some clear diabolical plot to pretend to be what she was not but because she actually believed that she was hearing from God. She may have obviously been hearing something but God was not the source.
While she and those who were following her and her teachings were deceived therefore, Jesus was not. With “…his eyes like unto a flame of fire…” he clearly saw the disobedient, rebellious, non-submissive, destructive, prideful spirit behind it, that which he referred to in verse 24 as “…the depth of Satan, as THEY SPEAK.”
This was the same trick that Satan had used to wreak havoc in the garden of Eden. God had commanded “…thou shalt NOT… for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die“ but Satan, seeking to undermine God’s authority, began injecting doubt into Eve’s mind, questioning what God had said by asking her “…hath God said, Ye shall NOT…?” He then concluded (and Eve believed the devil’s lie over God’s Word), “Ye shall NOT surely die.” (Genesis 2:17;3:1,4)
Similarly, God’s Word has clearly stated of women in the Church, “…for it is NOT permitted unto them TO SPEAK; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law….for it is a shame for women TO SPEAK in the church” (1 Corinthians 14:33-40), yet the devil, asking the same question, “…hath God said, Ye shall NOT…?”, has convinced them and those who follow them, that women are authorized by God to speak in the Church and that this is not something shameful but honourable.
The Lord Jesus encouraged those at the Church at Thyatira who were not duped by the woman’s false doctrine but were still holding on to truth, to continue to hold on and not to give in. This speaks to the reality that there are differences of opinion when it comes to doctrine, even within one Church and this can make the stay of those who insist on holding on to truth, difficult.
To those within the Church at Thyatira who were holding on to the truth and had not been deceived by embracing (1) the false doctrine AND (2) the woman teacher at the Church, Jesus said in verse 24:
- “But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, AND which have not known the depths of Satan, AS THEY SPEAK; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.”
It is possible that the Lord referred to what was happening with the woman at the Church at Thyatira, as “the depths of Satan” not just because she had been deceived by the devil as Eve had been or that his operations are deeply subtle to the point where on the surface, nothing seems wrong with a practice but also because like the woman, Satan too, had attempted to usurp authority illegitimately, over God himself. It is therefore a devilish trait to have in the Churches, as it gives a foothold to the devil, to work his same plan of disobedience and non-submission to authority, through women as instruments.
Note though, that this issue of non-submission has wider application to people in general and not just women in the Church. It is also a devilish trait for any person to have, whether it be in a workplace with our bosses, in a marriage with our husbands or even with children in the home that refuse to submit to their parents.
In her deceived state, the woman at Thyatira used the fact that people believed that she was really a Prophetess and hearing from God, to occupy an authoritative position of leadership in the Church, whereby she was allowed to teach the flock. In so doing, some believed her folly and exposed themselves to the devil.
1 Timothy 1:4, which was written earlier on stated: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”
The false doctrine of Jezebel which the woman at Thyatira taught, appeared to be the same false doctrine as the doctrine of Baalam and was one example of a doctrine of devils . For, she appeared to be teaching that grace and the liberty that Christians now had through Jesus, enabled them to engage in any practice and in particular, in sexual immorality and eating things sacrificed unto idols.
Whether deliberately or otherwise, it is my view (although it is not mentioned in the letter to Thyatira), that the unauthorized power that such a woman yields and the manner in which she operates, may sometimes evoke feelings of fear and intimidation in others in the Church. This may be especially so for those that are not in agreement with her teaching in the Church and who oppose her occupying an authoritative position there. Jezebel in the Old Testament, certainly caused Elijah, who was a true Prophet of God and had defied Jezebel’s operations, to feel fearful, so much so, that he ran away when she promised to have him killed.
Like Jezebel, a woman operating like the woman in the Church at Thyatira, loves power, control and has a problem with God-ordained submission.
Additionally, where a woman’s influence is in such breach of God’s command, that it reaches even the point where she is in charge of an entire congregation (as is prevalent today), she is in fact saying from her actions (although she is clearly deceived by satan), “I have so much spiritual insight from the Lord that I need to be OVER a congregation to fully exercise them.”
Yet, it is perfectly possible to have much spiritual insight from the Lord and to have forums in which to share them, while remaining UNDER the authority of men, as God has commanded and within his appointed boundaries. There are women and children groups that she can reach out to and even informal settings, where she can make her contribution.
Yet, she has a problem with this because she has a problem with submission. She enjoys having control of a flock. She wants to be up on a pulpit or before a group of people that includes men because she considers herself to have been blessed by God with so much revelation and the ability to speak so well, that she views those opportunities I mentioned above, as too limited to fully impart all that she desires to impart. She wants TO SPEAK and in her pride, she considers herself to be as good as the men or even better than them in imparting the Word and therefore convinces herself that this justifies her teaching them. She therefore defies what God has commanded in his Word (which is rebellion) and steps outside of the boundary he has set, to satisfy her desire for control.
Alas, like king Uzziah foolishly did in 2 Chronicles 26:15-20, she deludes herself into thinking that her actions bring honour to God when in fact, she is transgressing against his rules and his order for the functioning of the Churches. He has given men certain responsibilities of leadership in the Church and under no circumstances should a woman usurp such God-given authority.
The story with what transpired with king Uzziah, demonstrates perfectly, in my view, the issue with women taking up leadership positions in the Church over men and teaching men and therefore going against and beyond God’s appointed order. That this sin is an issue seated deeply in pride is also clear in the story with king Uzziah.
The scripture reads of Uzziah, who, at one point was faithfully serving God:
- “…And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the Lord his God, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense. And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the Lord, that were valiant men:And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, IT APPERTAINETH NOT UNTO THEE, Uzziah, TO BURN INCENSE UNTO THE LORD, BUT TO THE PRIESTS THE SONS OF AARON, THAT ARE CONSECRATED TO BURN INCENSE: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the Lord God.
- Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord, from beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the Lord had smitten him.”
Similarly, it appertaineth not to a woman, irrespective of who she is and how highly she has esteemed herself or has been esteemed by man, to take up leadership positions in the Church over men and to teach men. For, it is clear in the Bible, that it is men that God has given this responsibility to.
As is typical when in disobedience to the clear Word of God, a woman who insists on teaching men and taking to the pulpit, excuses what she is doing with intellectual reasoning and twists the scripture (whether she recognizes it or not) to accommodate her agenda. So, whereas the authoritative Word of God is supposed to inform and change her behaviour (cause her to repent), she asserts the authority of what she claims to be ‘hearing’ from God, over what has already been written in God’s Word.
So for example, God says in his Word that he hates divorce (Malachi 2:16 KJV) and that if there has been putting away (divorce), that she should remain unmarried (1 Corinthians 7:11 KJV). Yet, she claims that she has ‘heard’ from God and that God instructed her to remarry and so she does. She consistently elevates what she is ‘hearing’, over the Word of God and she does this because she is genuinely deceived by the enemy, even as Eve elevated what she ‘heard’, over God’s clear command.
Nobody questions her because they are convinced (maybe because she is a powerful and persuasive speaker and a really nice and loving person), that she really has the gift she claims she has and is really hearing from God. Those that accept her teachings therefore are led away, without them even realizing it because they are paying heed to seducing spirits and giving what she says and who she is more prominence, than the written Word of God.
She may not even be aware that she is doing all this and motivated by all this. She may be someone who considers herself to be a nice person and may even be kind. She may not be deliberately trying to fight against Christ but yet, in her rebellion to his commands, she does because she herself is deceived by the enemy, similar to how Eve was deceived by the serpent. And even as Eve caused Adam to sin, those that go along with her, also sin against God.
She is also unapologetic of her wrongdoing, which points again to the depth to which she has been deceived by Satan.
Jesus states of the woman at the Church at Thyatira who he likens unto Jezebel in Revelations 2:21: “And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.”
Apart from the clear illegitimate authority with which a woman teacher operates in the Church, I don’t think that the doctrine of Jezebel is just limited to women who call themselves prophetesses. I believe that the principle (which is that God hates false doctrine which asserts itself over his Word), applies to all persons who claim to be ‘hearing ‘from God, in whatever leadership capacity and then use their position to introduce and spread a false doctrine, whether they recognize it or not. It is synonymous with the false doctrine of Baalam and the false doctrine of the Nicolaitans.
Thinking that one is hearing from God when what one hears goes against God’s Word, speaks to a heart condition, in that such persons are disconnected from God. For, if they started with the fact that God’s Word in its entirety IS the authority on ALL matters, then they would not have fallen into the devil’s trap and given themselves over to him as they have.
For, if they heard something contrary to God’s Word, no matter how persuasive the voice, instead of acting upon it and leading others to do the same, they would have caused what they heard to be measured by the yardstick of the Word of God, to determine, once and for all, whether what they heard was God speaking to them or the devil.
The enemy has the power to put thoughts and ideas into our minds and to try to deceive us into believing that what we heard is from God. Hence the reason why so many Christian women end up marrying the wrong man and even an unbeliever that they thought was a believer. They were deceived by the enemy.
He did it with David. He put it into David’s mind to carry out a census of the people, when God had clearly indicated that this was not to be done. 1 Chronicles 21:1 states: “And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.”
David was deluded into thinking that this was his own thought when in truth and in fact, it had been planted by the enemy. Instead of giving into it therefore, he ought to have lined the thought up with the yardstick of God’s command but he chose to act in accordance with the idea he had instead. For this, God punished both him and Israel grievously.
Many women take up positions of authority in the Church because they claim that God called them to do so. Some divorce their husbands and remarry, claiming that God told them to do so. But what does God’s Word say on these issues? Will God tell you to do something that is contrary to his Word? I do not believe that he will do so.
Instead of testing what they have heard by applying the Word of God to it, these people run ahead and do what they heard (because deep down, like Balaam, they want to), not realizing that what they heard did not come from God but the devil, under whose ‘spell’ they are operating, without even knowing it.
This is why the Word of God is so important. It is our guide. It is our yardstick.
In Psalm 119:9, it states: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.”
So important is the Word of God to keep us from going astray by our own lusts and the devil’s deception, that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 lets us know that:
- “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
This is why David said in Psalm 119:11: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”
To avoid deception, to which we are all prone and especially as women, we need to do two things:
(1) Fix our eyes firmly on the compass of God’s written Word
Know the Word of God and check everything we hear by THAT standard. If what we hear does not line up with the Word, we need to ignore, discard and reject what we have heard as a lie, not the Word. For, the Word of God which is tried, tested and pure, exposes the true nature of what we heard and guides us as to whether it came from God or the devil.
The Bible says in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all thine HEART; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy path.”
We cannot trust everything we hear or act in accordance with our own understanding. As hard as it may be to accept, the Bible tells us in Jeremiah 17:9 that our HEARTS are DECEITFUL and DESPERATELY WICKED above else, so to go based on how we feel and what our HEART is telling us to do is sure to lead us astray. We MUST consult God’s Word.
Acknowledging God includes acknowledging the authority of his Word, over how we feel, what we think and what we think we have heard. He has given us his Word on many issues that affect us, to direct us into the right path. We just need to obey.
Even if pride starts to well up (which it can) because God has gifted us and we can indeed impart the Word of God in a way that sounds better and deeper than the men in our congregation, the Word will temper us. The Word will bring us back from our prideful stupor. It will hammer sense into our heads and hearts. It will rein us in and keep us within the boundaries that God has set.
As the ultimate authority, it will remind us of our God-given place and will keep us from stepping beyond what is clearly prohibited. It will remind us that we are mere human beings and are therefore not wiser than God.
If we stick to the Word and resolve in our hearts to obey it, no matter what, it will remind us that God is the one that gave us gifts and talents and abilities as he saw fit and also the rules by which, as women, we are expected to abide. There is therefore no woman on earth or who has ever lived, that was so gifted and so bright and so talented and so full of God’s Spirit, that God did not take her into consideration when he gave the command in his Word that he “…SUFFER not a WOMAN to TEACH, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” (1 Timothy 2:12).
In Revelations 2:20, in conveying his displeasure with the woman teaching at the Church at Thyatira, Jesus deliberately chose to use similar words to those previously given by Paul on his behalf, in 1 Timothy 2:12. He stated: “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee because thou SUFFEREST that WOMAN Jezebel to TEACH…”
The glorified Jesus therefore, in my view, was reinforcing, A THIRD TIME, the teachings of Paul given on his behalf, in both Timothy and the book of Corinthians, so as to emphasize, that it is STILL a wrong and evil practice in his eyes and based on his clear command.
God’s Word is true and it is consistent. He never makes a mistake. When pride threatens to delude us therefore and we are tempted to go against the authority of God’s Word, we must look ourselves in the mirror and say emphatically because we know that in our flesh dwelleth no good thing “…let God be true, but every man a liar.” (Romans 3:4).
Finally, for those women who have not the Spirit of Christ and wish to jump on the bandwagon of the fact that the word ‘man’ was used above, to argue that it does not apply to women, it is important to note as is the norm in the scriptures, that the word ‘man’ was used above interchangeably to refer to MANkind or huMANs, which involves both men and women.
(2) We need to ask the Lord to deliver us from deception, even self-deception
In this age of deception and with the devil going around trying to see who he could devour, we need to always ask the Lord to deliver us from deception and that if there is any area in our lives where we are already deceived, to shed light on it, so that we could see it and repent. We ought not to think that we are so holy, that we are incapable of falling prey to doctrinal error. We need to ask God to allow us to always be saturated in his truth, to embrace in our spirit that which is true and to automatically reject that which is a lie.
SUMMARY OF THE PROBLEM AT THE CHURCH AT THYATIRA
The problem with the Church of Thyatira therefore was two-fold, in that it had allowed a WOMAN TO LEAD AND TEACH and secondly, SHE HAD BROUGHT A FALSE DOCTRINE in. Jesus wanted this Church to hold fast to truth and the Word of God and to not be deceived, to the point of accepting and approving of a woman taking up a position of influence as a teacher in the Church which was particularly offensive, as it went against God’s Word. To add insult to injury, using her unauthorized position of influence, this woman was teaching a false doctrine, that appeared to be the same as the doctrine of Balaam.
To the Church at Thyatira therefore, Jesus presents a two-fold challenge, not to allow women to be in leadership roles and to teach and also not to allow false doctrine to infiltrate the Church. For those who had not been seduced by or accepting of the doctrine of Jezebel and “…have not known the depths of Satan…”, he encouraged them to continue to hold fast to what they already had, which I believe is his Word, which is truth.
Surely, it would have been difficult and even painful for such persons to know what was truth and yet have to attend such a Church where a woman was given authority that she was not supposed to have and to make matters worse was spreading a false doctrine. Yet, God has commanded in Hebrews 10:25, that we do not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, so they could not just stay at home, as I believe that would have constituted disobedience and there may not have been other Churches in the area that they could have attended instead.
Interestingly, Jesus did not tell them (those who were holding fast to the truth), to pull back the woman’s power, to restrain her by force and to stop her from doing what she was doing. In my view, I think that he did not state this, as the problem had gotten so out of earthly control, that it had reached the point of no return. That is, it had gotten so out of hand and the devil had now such a foothold because of what that Church had initially allowed, that, unless that woman and her followers repented, those who were holding to truth, could not in their own strength, reverse it. All they could do was continue to hold on to the truth until Jesus set things right.
This may be why he said to them in verse 24, “…I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.”
This also points to the fact that it may be tempting for those who hold the truth and are not deceived, to just take the easy way out and give in to the wrong practice and doctrine, like everyone else is doing. This is in fact the case with some in the Churches today. Deep down, they are convicted that a woman ought not to teach in the Church or to be given authoritative roles of leadership over the Church. Yet because they see many other Churches doing it, so much so, that it is becoming the norm and because it may be easier to just use women which are in abundance in the pews, they are tempted to just give in and slowly, they start to slip. Yet Jesus commands: “HOLD FAST TILL I COME.”
Could it be, that one of the reasons why we have such an influx of women in the Church and hardly any men is because of disobedience to God’s clear command? Could it be that we attract far more women than men because we have placed women in positions of influence in the Church and therefore men can no longer identify? How would the woman to man ratio in the Churches have been, had we obeyed?
Some will be quick to counter, that this ratio is so because there are more women than men in the world. But why is this? Is it not because men have not been coming to Christ through the gospel, as much as women and have therefore, due to their exposure to the enemy, died through violence or been imprisoned for crimes committed or addicted to foolish pleasures of the world?
Maybe things would have been different if Churches had OBEYED. Maybe we are reaping what we have sown. Maybe we wouldn’t have had such a large incidence of single women in the Churches wondering where their husbands are or why they never came. Maybe because women are largely at the mantle of our Ministries, the Church no longer appeals to men, in general and they find the feminism that has taken the Church hostage (that is exactly what it is), to be unattractive.
The Lord knows what he was saying, when he referred to the ‘depths of Satan’ and his agenda, which he was able to see. Maybe he was referring to not just what was happening then but to all the negative repercussions that would flow, through time, as a result of the disobedience. In effect, we have created a feminism movement right in our Churches because in promoting women to leadership positions not sanctioned by God, we have MOVED AWAY from the clear command of God, so much so, that what is wrong, seems right and what I am writing here, based on God’s Word, seems wrong.
Secondly, Jesus states in verse 22, that unless those in the Church who he refers to as “…his servants…” in verse 20 and that have been seduced and deceived by this woman’s false doctrine and influence, repent, that he would “…cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.”
It is my belief that Jesus uses the term ‘adultery’ to refer not just to the sexual immorality that some may have been engaging in based on the woman’s teaching but to the fact that these people had turned away from him, his Words, his truth and his covenant with the Church, to follow after this woman who had no legitimate God-given jurisdiction of authority and her false teachings. It is therefore spiritual adultery.
In verse 23, as he gets ready to close his letter, he states of this woman and her deceived followers, based on what his eyes that are like a flaming fire have seen and discerned about the HEART of the problem:
- “And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which SEARCHETH the reins and HEARTS: and I will give unto everyone of you according to your works.”
Given that scripture tells us that Jesus is the Word, this verse brings to mind Hebrews 4:12, where it was recorded earlier on in the Bible:
- “For the WORD OF GOD is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a DISCERNER of the thoughts and intents of the HEART.”
I take it to mean therefore, that the Lord was stating that everything that they did was being measured against the standard of THE WORD and it was this WORD that exposed the ugliness and contrariness of the practice and the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of the HEART, no matter how good it looked on the surface. It was not how things appeared or the excuses given for doing what they were doing or the following they had, that was truth. God’s unchanging Word was.
In verse 23 of Revelations Chapter 2, it is my view, that the Lord Jesus was not referring to physical offspring of the woman at the Thyatira Church but of those who believe and are the bye-product of her lies. It is also possible, in my view, that the term ‘death’ may have been used not just to speak of physical death but of stagnancy, unprofitability, no real fruit for his Kingdom, no real spiritual life in her so-called ‘converts’ and no progress, despite the best of efforts.
The use of the term “…I will kill her children with death…” also reminds me of 1 Timothy 2:15. In the verses immediately preceding this, Paul instructed the Church at Ephesus, not to “…SUFFER a WOMAN to TEACH, nor to usurp authority over the man.”
In verse 15 of Timothy, Paul continues that women “…shall be saved in CHILDBEARING, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”
In other words, he appeared to be stating, that such a woman and her ‘CHILDREN’ would be saved from DEATH, only if she began to act in accordance with the command given, for her not to teach and not to usurp authority over a man in the Church.
It was clear back then, that if a woman died while trying to give birth to a child, then, unless the child was birthed before she died (like what happened with Rachel and her baby Benjamin), that her child would also die.
In similar language, Jesus, who is giving John the information to write in his letter to the Church at Thyatira, states that time had been given to this woman, for her to repent and act in accordance with his command but she had not repented. Her outcome was therefore dismal and for those who did not repent but continued to go along with her, he states, “…And I will kill her CHILDREN with DEATH.” This does not augur well for Churches that breach the clear command of the Lord and found their Ministry on disobedience.
These two references to ‘children’ and ‘childbearing’, tie back in my view, to the book of Genesis, where, due to Eve being deceived by the serpent and eating what was forbidden, God punished her by stating: “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth CHILDREN; and THY DESIRE SHALL BE TO THY HUSBAND, and he SHALL RULE OVER THEE.”
Similarly, the woman at Thyatira who was teaching in the Church was doing what was forbidden by God due to her being deceived by Satan and leading people astray with her false doctrine, even as Eve led Adam astray.
I believe that Jesus was saying that he was seeing exactly what was happening. Satan was up to his old tricks again, this time in the Church.
THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN A WOMAN’S DESIRE TO CONTROL AND THE MAN TO REASSERT HIS RIGHTFUL PLACE OF AUTHORITY
We know that the desire that God said that Eve would have to her husband was not a blessing but a curse. For, later on, after God had accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s and Cain was angry, God asked him for the reason for his anger and stated: “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee SHALL BE HIS DESIRE, and thou shalt RULE OVER HIM.”
Similar language was therefore used in relation to sin having a desire in relation to Cain and Cain ruling over it. In my view, given what we know of sin today, God was stating that sin, once unleashed, has a desire to control its subject and mankind would have to continuously struggle to assert its authority over it.
Following the same terminology used in the case of Eve, and given that both statements were used to Eve and Cain after they had given in to some wrongdoing at that point in time, to be consistent in interpretation, I take the statement made to Eve to mean, that, like sin, she would desire to control the man and he would have to continuously struggle to assert his authority over her.
This is very much the case today, both in relation to sin, which has spread like a contagion and fights against us daily for control and women in relation to the God-given authority of the man over her, which, with the growing feminine movement and even in the Church, women are fighting to take control.
God has stated in 1 Corinthians 11:3 (and women can do nothing to change this) that “…the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”
Yet, women are rebelliously trying more and more each day, in the marriage, in the Church, in the workplace, in the nation and in the world, to usurp the authority of the man and to take over his God-given leadership. Men, on the other hand and largely because they have shirked their leadership responsibility, have been struggling to assert their God-given authority, many times, going about it in wrong, forceful and unlawful ways.
(Written on 25th August, 2018, added to on 24th October, 2020)
Dear Reader, please see Part 3 where I share my views on the three remaining letters to the Churches at Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
You may also be interested in reading the following Note on my ‘SINGLE Daughters of God’ Page:
- Note 230 – ‘Women Teaching In The Church – What Does God Command?’
Additionally, under the ‘BIBLE-BELIEVING Daughters of God’ Page:
- Note 190 – ‘Offering Strange Fire Unto The Lord’