Strike her children dead (Revelation 2:23)

hooded womanFive years ago I began Escape to Reality by looking at Jesus’ words to the churches of Revelation.

My question then was: How do we reconcile Jesus’ harsh words with his heart of grace?

And there are no harsher words than these:

Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. (Rev 2:20-23a)

Who is this woman Jezebel? What is she doing that has got Jesus so fired up? And is Jesus really threatening to kill her kids?

You need to have answers to these questions because if you don’t you may fall for the lie that says “God chastises his children with suffering and death.”

Who is Jezebel?

I have answered this question in another post, but the short version is she was Trouble. She was a wolf in sheep’s clothing leading the church in Thyatira into “fornication”. That may not mean what you think it means. Some commentators, including Adam Clarke (who thought Jezebel was the pastor’s wife), believe Jesus was speaking metaphorically and that she was promoting idolatry. By encouraging the eating of food sacrificed to idols, she was subsidizing the idolatry business and the worship of demons (see 1 Cor 10:14-23). She was pointing people to Satan (Rev 2:24).

Certainly, the name that Jesus gives to this lady is significant. Those familiar with Jewish history knew all about the wicked queen Jezebel whose name was synonymous with idolatry (2 Kings 9-10). Jezebel was a foreigner who married an Israelite king and corrupted him along with much of the nation. She encouraged the worship of Baal (think child sacrifices, murder, and bondage), massacred the Lord’s prophets, and intimidated Elijah. When her husband King Ahab died, Jezebel effectively ruled the country for ten years. It was bad, bad time for Israel.

Why is Jesus so hard on her?

Initially, Jesus is gracious to this woman in Thyatira. Under the Law of Moses, adulterers, fornicators and idol-worshippers were supposed to be put to death straight away (Deu 17:5). Yet Jesus says “I have given her time to repent.” That’s mercy. Unfortunately, she didn’t repent so now she will reap the consequences of her Satan-worship.

Why does Jesus speak so harshly to her? Because she’s a child-abuser. Just as the original Jezebel brought great suffering to Israel through her idolatry, this Thyatiran Jezebel was hurting the children of God. She was turning people away from Jesus and the grace that saves us.

Light and darkness cannot coexist. Nor can grace and ungrace. Jesus gets mad at grace-killers and we should be glad that he does! In Matthew 23 he unleashes his fury on those who bind people with heavy loads and dead works, and here in Revelation 2 he’s mad at a death-dealing idolater. Jesus is angry because he cares for us. He is the Good Shepherd who shoots the wolves but deals gently with his straying sheep (Heb 5:2).

What does it mean to be cast on a bed of suffering?

Those who reject grace, as this woman did (she was not willing to repent), suffer consequences. They reap what they sow instead of reaping what Christ has sown. God wants to bless us, but if you reject his blessings you’ll curse yourself.

“I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.”

When Jezebel’s in charge, everybody suffers. What happens to her happens to those who follow her. Again, this was one of the standout lessons of Israel’s history.

Under the original Jezebel, Israel was a place of murder and fear. Innocent people suffered for as long as she was in the palace (see 1 Kings 21), and those aligned with her – men like her husband Ahab, her son Ahaziah, and her daughter Athaliah – suffered especially. Ahab lost his life in battle; Ahaziah’s short reign was infamous for failure and soldiers getting fried by heavenly fire; and Athaliah was a ruthless queen who killed her grandsons and was then killed by her own guards. Jesus gives life but Jezebel gives death.

Who is going to be struck dead?

Some twist Jesus’ words into a perverse lesson on discipline, as though God could teach us things by killing us! But Jesus says her children are going to be struck down, meaning the offspring of Jezebel and not the children of God. Again, history illuminates the story. Queen Jezebel’s sons and daughter were both slain. Her husband Ahab had seventy sons and they were killed too. Jesus is saying, “The future belongs to me, not Jezebel.”

The battle between Queen Jezebel and King Jesus is no contest. She may impress folk with her knowledge of the demonic, but those who oppose the King of kings are always going to lose. This is good news for those who love life and the liberty that Jesus brings!

I will strike her children dead. 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. (Rev 2:23)

“Repaid according to your deeds” is a theme that comes up a lot with Jesus:

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. (Matt 16:27)

What is the deed that is repaid or rewarded? Jesus tells us three verses earlier when he says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:23). The one deed that counts with God is following Jesus to the cross. It’s being baptized into his death so that we might live by his Spirit.

Jezebel represents the very opposite of this way of life. The name Jesus gives her means “there is no prince” or “unhusbanded.” She’s the one who says “I have no King and no husband.” Jezebel thus represents the idol of independent and faithless living.  It’s the mindset that agrees with Satan, “I will be like God.”

Jesus is telling us that this faithless way of life is doomed. It has no future.

Jezebel has no children for she is the cursed and barren tree. Don’t listen to her. Don’t fall for her lie that says “I am sufficient and in need of nothing.” Listen to Jesus for better by far is the life he offers. It is the life we need and were made for.

UPDATE: This is an old article. An updated and expanded commentary on this passage can be found in Paul’s book Letters from Jesus.


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25 Comments on Strike her children dead (Revelation 2:23)

  1. Very interesting Paul! I have read through Revelation and it’s definitely packed full of in depth meaning that is sometimes hard to extract the “revelation.” I really enjoyed your extraction on this subject. God Bless!

  2. another good one Paul, after 40 yrs, I have discovered that God is faithful in teaching his children,one of my ongoing prayers has been, “Lord dont let me be deceived” and he has been faithful in that I believe that the truth has a certain ring to it,and you know it when you hear it,and I believe im hearing it

  3. Not an essential insight maybe – but nevertheless – the Jezebel was to be cast on a bed, period. Not sickbed, not bed of suffering, but just “bed” – Strong’s G2825 – κλίνη (kline). The word “suffering / sickness” isn’t even in the text.

    Here’s where this insight comes in. Those who were committing adultery with her -presumably, on that bed – would then suffer intensely, and any offspring resulting from that would be dead. So the warning is to avoid Jezebel’s bed, both for pleasure and for procreation.

    Concerning God’s role in the passage – considering that in God we all “live and move and have our being”, portraying God as always being in active agent is a typical Hebraism that’s true to that line of thinking. Ancient Middle Easterners didn’t have clear grammatical or logical cause-and-effect mindsets that characterize our 21st century line of thinking, so those texts are easy to misread for us. So this doesn’t mean that God laid out Jezebel on a bed in an inviting fashion, to trap and punish those seduced by that. God doesn’t lay out prostitutes ready for business. So we would simply say that Jezebel did that, and God didn’t interfere.

  4. Warren (South Carolina) // June 18, 2015 at 2:48 am // Reply

    Excellent post Paul.
    I really like how you tie the name of Jezebel to a life style of rejecting God “I am sufficient and in need of nothing” and how it agrees with Satan. Also, we will reap what we sow. . . .vs. God teaching us by killing us. It’s amazing that if we don’t get the “Hyper Grace” message we will blame God for most if not all of our troubles.
    Warren (South Carolina)

  5. Thank you for this Brother Ellis, sheds so much light on this verse and Our Saviors’ Goodness along with His Kingship! Confirmation.

  6. amandapride45 // June 18, 2015 at 2:59 am // Reply

    Thank you for this insight Brother Paul, it is really confirmation for me of some choices Ive made recently. “Light and darkness cannot coexist. Nor can grace and ungrace. Jesus gets mad at grace-killers and we should be glad that he does!” Neither could Isaac & Ishmael remain living under one roof. Praise Our King Jesus!

  7. And is it not interesting that the man given this revelation of Jesus , had withdrawn to an Island to write this last book. And we look to the original church as the example of what we should look like.

  8. Excellent lesson, Paul. I have often wondered about the literal meanings and the metaphors Jesus uses in his teachings. Your explanation about Jezebel makes perfect sense. Thank you for always pointing out God’s grace. I was left to my own understanding from a young age that resulted in being fearful of God’s wrath at every turn. I understand more of God’s grace now but the residual effects from my youth lingers still sometimes. ~ Dale


  10. Awesome site. I love it! Thank you.

  11. This one used to confuse me…the part about eating food sacrificed to idols.The apostle Paul had written that an idol was nothing at all,basically that it didn’t matter…but for stronger,more mature believers to be considerate of their weaker brothers to whom eating food sacrificed to idols bothered their conscience.(I don’t believe now that this should even be an issue as we have the completed Word,and many law minded folks misuse this to “not do all sorts of things”…out of a supposed concern for others,when it is really a glorying in their own flesh,robbing others of their freedom in Christ). I think here,Jezebel was encouraging believers to go against their conscience,what they felt was right.This, along with encouraging sexual immorality…one of the strongest “pulls” at our flesh,would be a hindrance to reliance on the Holy Spirit…how could Jesus not be angry? Sadly,today many “self proclaimed” folks are still misleading believers and we are tolerating them,rather than following our own conscience as we live by the Spirit.

  12. David Laier // June 18, 2015 at 9:45 am // Reply

    Hey Paul, Tuesday you put a post on Facebook about the will of God….

    • Hi David, I generally limit these discussion threads to the post under discussion. That post came from a section called “The paralysis of analysis” in ch.7 of GITW. Facebook could be a good place to have a discussion about the will of God. I’m sure E2R readers will have much to contribute. Thanks.

  13. Hello my dear brother God bless you. I would like to pose a question that a lot of people have been asking me lately…

  14. Thank God for this explanation. It’s wonderful that we can have insight to the scriptures at this side of eternity. God bless you brother Paul, may God continue to enlighten us all.

  15. Hi Paul, What is your take on other parts of revelation such as Rev13 and the mark and the anti-Christ. I am so confused with Revelations that I was tempted to think it was not even part of the Canon. Fred

  16. Light and darkness cannot coexist. Nor can grace or ungrace. So is the mass infantcide (I presume including the butchery of children too young to even talk) the darkness you refer to? The fact that Jesus gets ‘mad’ is that the ‘ungrace’? Is Jesus the dark you speak of, the person of such intolerance – which we should rally against?
    Or do you mean the opposite – that killing babies is ‘light and grace’, and that mass killing of those that do not follow the Christian concept of God is the Christian way, and to fail to do so means you also should be killed (yeah probably the second part – seems plain enough reading Deuteronomy 13 and 17). Whatever veneer you put on this – God/Jesus’s actions are barbaric.

    You call Jezebal a child abuser because her ‘immoral actions’ are being taught to her children and her subjects. “Perhaps Jezebel optimistically believes that she can encourage religious tolerance and give legitimacy to the worship habits of those Baalites who already reside in Israel.” i know who the murder in this situation is, Hint starts with J.

  17. Gary I am sorry you don’t know the Lord Jesus. He is Love, not a killer. You can accept Him. I think we need to see the Old testament through Jesus glasses. John 1:18 “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” To Know Jesus is to know the character of God and we saw Jesus never killed anyone. But people by the choice did run away and still do, then they get consequences (from Satan). A lot of the Old testament before the Cross was written with a limited view of God. The holy spirit was upon certain men at certain times but was not available as it was after it was sent to abide in us and reveal. Honestly I am not sure that John of Patmos was the same as the disciple John . I am in a debate whether the whole book is not a Jewish man that was exiled and did not have a personal relation with the Lord, and could very well be deluded. I do not think I will be damned if I do not believe the authority of Revelations at this time, I do see how the OT leads up to Christ and I believe the rest. We ought to know enough about Jesus and Grace when we reach “Revelation,” to realize it contradicts the rest of the New Testament. My opinion

  18. Paul, thank you for your commentary about this passage. I believe your use of the term “mindset” is key. The mind of sinful man is hostile to God, indeed it cannot submit. We all need our minds renewed about who God is and His ways. Most of the suffering in my life has been the result of my own thoughts, the lies I have believed, corresponding emotions and sinful actions or in-actions. As I believe and act on God’s Word I have experienced ongoing transformation and healing.

  19. Alexander // May 25, 2018 at 2:01 pm // Reply

    The concept of God is so complex and undefinable that any definition formed of it is, quite frankly, blasphemy. To understand God one needs to only observe the ENTIRETY of his creation. Fixing yourself to a narrow-minded belief that can neither be proven nor recreated will only hinder you from any form of understanding. The bible is a primitive text written in a time where illiteracy was prominent. Those who were literate used the text for nothing more than gaining power. The churches in those times were both murderous and corrupt as were all formations of power. Losing faith in the bible or Christianity itself does not mean you are losing faith in God. It means you understand the complexity of God and that such a text would actually hinder you from moral capabilities. I have faith in God. I have no faith in any of the “so called” holy members that preach their interpretations of what he/she/it is. This includes their text. These holy members have a definitive history of immorality. That is proof enough that they have no clue what is right or wrong.

  20. Thanks for the article. I do have some clarification questions regarding Jezebel’s offspring being struck dead, since The Grace Commentary and Letters from Jesus describe this scene as Jezebel not having a future. If the scene is an allusion, what exactly does that allusion mean in that church at that time?

    I know from Letters from Jesus that the active phrasing can denote letting Jezebel (and anyone who followers after her) suffer from their own consequences (LFJ, P69), and I know that phrasing style has been used elsewhere. I also know the Jezebel’s descendant’s death thing as described in the article and in the 1 Kings account. At the same time, since that happened long before the letters, Jezebel and her children have long been dead. So why does the phrasing of Rev 2:23 involve “will kill” as if it seems to be a future event (especially since Jezebel’s offspring were already dead)?

    • It means Jezebel (the false prophetess in Thyatira) will leave no legacy. At the time of the letter, this woman was actively seducing the saints. That was about to end.

      • Thanks for the response and I think I remember the “leave no legacy” being what “not having a future” meant. But I’m still trying to process and understand the analogy.

        So do the children of Jezebel refer to the ideals/calls to seduce saints? If so, then that may clear a lot up. But if it refers to OT Jezebel’s actual children, why is there a phrasing of “will kill” when they are already dead? I know their legacy of their teaching still appeared in that early church, though.

      • Jesus is not talking about the Old Testament Jezebel. He’s talking about an actual woman, a false prophetess, who was seducing his saints in Thyatira. “Her children” refers to her future or legacy. She won’t leave one.

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