prove to be a bed of pain, not pleasure." The "bed of suffering" is an inducement for Jezebel to recognize her sin — and to repent of it.
Second, there is a group of people around Jezebel who will also be subject to punishment. The Lord says, "I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways." This is a reference to those who practice immorality and idolatry after the corrupt example of Jezebel.
The suffering Jesus refers to may well be a reference to sexually transmitted diseases. Gonorrhea and syphilis were common in the ancient world and are still with us today. In our own century, such sexually transmitted diseases as chlamydia, type II herpes simplex, and AIDS have been identified as the causes behind untold human suffering, from disfigurement, blindness, birth defects, and sterility to the most horrible, wasting form of death imaginable. I have known people dying of AIDS, and words are completely inadequate to express how horrifying and excruciating this disease is, both physically and emotionally.
Third, the Lord says, "I will strike her children dead." This is a reference not to physical children but to those who are spiritually the children of Jezebel — that is, those who have absorbed her teaching, who have lived their own lives by it, and who now teach others to do the same. The death Jesus refers to is, I believe, spiritual death, what He calls "the second death" in His letter to the church at Smyrna. The second death is the terrible destruction of the lake of fire. This extreme form of punishment is merited by the "children" of Jezebel because their commitment to a lifestyle of evil, along with their corrupt teaching, makes repentance difficult and unlikely.
Does this mean that the Thyatira Jezebel and those around her are doomed? Is there still hope that they might repent and be spared from the judgment of God?
Yes. The Lord is gracious and always leaves the door of repentance and forgiveness open. The key phrase He uses in this passage is "unless they repent of her ways." As John recorded the Lord's words to the believers in Thyatira, there was still time for them to change their ways. But would they?
When people go through times of affliction or have a close brush with death as a result of sickness, accident, natural catastrophe, or war, they often come through such times with a new recognition of their own powerlessness and mortality. At such times people have an opportunity to think hard about their way of life — and about whether they should change their way of life. Such events may seem harrowing, frightening, or even punishing, yet God can use these events to shake us, rouse us, and shout "Wake up!" to us. He wants to use all the circumstances of our lives, both our pain and our joy, to draw us closer to Him.
God has attempted to reach the Jezebel in the church at Thyatira, giving her time to repent of her immorality. Jesus ultimately concludes, however, that she is unwilling to repent. She has hardened her heart. As a result, judgment must come. In verse 23, Jesus says, "Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds."
The purpose of judgment and discipline within the church is purification. A pure church is a strong church. The more aware we are of our weaknesses and hidden areas of sin, the more alert we become to sin's destructive power in our lives. We are better able to arm ourselves against temptation and to guard ourselves against becoming conformed to the dying world around us. We can stand against the tide and swim against the current.
The church at Thyatira needed this kind of purification. So do many churches in our time. Tragically, there are all too few churches in our time that have the courage, conviction, and obedience to Scripture to undertake the purifying process of church discipline.
The process of church discipline derives from such passages as 1 Corinthians 5 and Matthew 18:15-17. It is used on those rare occasions when a church member is engaged in a pattern of behavior that is destructive to himself and to the purity of the church. At the top of the list of such behavior in 1 Corinthians 5 is sexual immorality, but the apostle Paul also includes unethical business practices, idolatry, slander, substance abuse, and thievery as causes for church discipline. The motive for biblical church discipline is always two-fold: (1) love for the sinner himself, a desire to call him to repentance for his own spiritual welfare, and (2) love for the church, a desire to keep it pure, undefiled, and distinct from the sinful world around it.
1 Corinthians 5
5:1 IT IS actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, impurity of a sort that is condemned and does not occur even among the heathen; for a man has [his own] father's wife. [Deuteronomy 22:30; 27:20.]
2 And you are proud and arrogant! And you ought rather to mourn (bow in sorrow and in shame) until the person who has done this [shameful] thing is removed from your fellowship and your midst!
3 As for my attitude, though I am absent [from you] in body, I am present in spirit, and I have already decided and passed judgment, as if actually present,
4 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, on the man who has committed such a deed. When you and my own spirit are met together with the power of our Lord Jesus,
5 You are to deliver this man over to Satan for physical discipline [to destroy carnal lusts which prompted him to incest], that [his] spirit may [yet] be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
6[About the condition of your church] your boasting is not good [indeed, it is most unseemly and entirely out of place]. Do you not know that [just] a little leaven will ferment the whole lump [of dough]?
7 Purge (clean out) the old leaven that you may be fresh (new) dough, still uncontaminated [as you are], for Christ, our Passover [Lamb], has been sacrificed.
8 Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with leaven of vice and malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened [bread] of purity (nobility, honor) and sincerity and [unadulterated] truth. [Exodus 12:19; 13:7; Deuteronomy 16:3.]
9 I wrote you in my [previous] letter not to associate [closely and habitually] with unchaste (impure) people —
10 Not [meaning of course that you must] altogether shun the immoral people of this world, or the greedy graspers and cheats and thieves or idolaters, since otherwise you would need to get out of the world and human society altogether!
11 But now I write to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of [Christian] brother if he is known to be guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater [whose soul is devoted to any object that usurps the place of God], or is a person with a foul tongue [railing, abusing, reviling, slandering], or is a drunkard or a swindler or a robber. [No] you must not so much as eat with such a person.
12 What [business] of mine is it and what right have I to judge outsiders? Is it not those inside [the church] upon whom you are to pass disciplinary judgment [passing censuring sentence on them as the facts require]?
13 God alone sits in judgment on those who are outside. Drive out that wicked one from among you [expel him from your church]. AMP
15 If your brother wrongs you, go and show him his fault, between you and him privately. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother.
16 But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two others, so that every word may be confirmed and upheld by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
17 If he pays no attention to them [refusing to listen and obey], tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a pagan and a tax collector. [Leviticus 19:17; Deuteronomy 19:15.] AMP