Revelation 2:20

The world today uses names to minimize and mask sin. They use euphemisms to make sin more palatable to society. There are numerous examples of this.

If you're in favor of allowing abortions, you're not 'pro-abortion', you're 'pro-choice'. Many people today will get upset with you if you refer to them as pro-abortion even when they are pro-abortion. They much prefer to be called pro-choice. They will get upset with you if you refer to an abortionist as a 'baby killer'. They don't like that term. It's not politically correct. They say we shouldn't talk that way. They will tell us that every child should be a wanted child and every woman should have a right to choose. They will tell you that, "Abortion is a private matter" or "Abortion is between a woman and her God."

Notice how that mixes truth and error. It's true, every child should be a wanted child. But the rest is not true. Dr. George Tiller was an abortion doctor who was murdered in 2009. After his murder, employees said Dr. Tiller did not have moral qualms about his work, in part because he defined it as '
saving women's lives and giving them freedom to determine their futures'. In a speech, Dr. Tiller described his work this way, (NYT. JULY 26, 2009)

"We have made higher education possible. We have helped correct some of the results of rape and incest. We have helped battered women escape to a safer life. We have made recovery from chemical dependency possible. We have helped women and families struggle to save their unwell, unborn child a lifetime of pain."

Wow. That's not calling abortion, 'baby killing' but something entirely different. But as William Shakespeare said,

"A rose is a rose by any other name."

The reality of abortion is horrible. It's not about higher education. It's not about giving freedom to women. It's about babies being killed.

When I was young if two people who were not married were living together it was commonly referred to as,

'living in sin'.

You don't hear that much anymore and you'll probably get rebuked if you call it that. Today's society wants us to say that, 'they're in a relationship', or that they're 'partners'. The Bible's word for such activity is 'sexual immorality' or to use the language of the KJV, 'fornication'.

Adultery is often referred to as, 'having an affair'. Leaving your husband or wife, and abandoning your children, and running off with someone else is called not called 'adultery', but 'finding your soul mate'. Pornography? That's referred to as "adult" entertainment. Strip clubs are now called 'Gentleman's Clubs'. Strippers are called exotic dancers. Prostitutes are called 'escorts'. Homosexuality is euphemistically referred to as being 'gay'. Same sex marriages are being referred to as part of the 'Christian ideal'. Euthanasia is called, 'mercy killing'. Unbridled lust and is referred to as 'sexual liberation'. Swearing and using profanity is called, 'colorful language'.

In opposition to all this, Jesus teaches us an important lesson in Revelation 2:20. He said to the church in Thyatira,

"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."

One of the things this passage teaches us is that

we are to label sin as sin.

We must not buy into the world's euphemisms that mask and minimize sin.

Human beings have the ability to judge something by it's name and not the underlying reality.
Sugar coating a great evil with a innocent sounding name is effective. It lessens our sensitivity to evil. It blinds our eyes to the despicableness of sin and allows us to be comfortable with it. Euphemisms allow ourselves to distance ourselves from horror that sin is.

But Jesus here tells us not to allow that.
Jesus calls the woman who was leading the Christians into sin in Thyatira is called, 'Jezebel'. We're certain that that wasn't her real name. Rather, Jesus gives her the name of one of the most wicked queen's in Israel's history—Jezebel wife of King Ahab. She as a princess of Sidon and was exceedingly wicked. She used her influence to take the people of Israel away from the true God and to have them serve Baal. She killed as many of the Lord's prophets as she could and even tried to kill the prophet Elijah. She had Naboth murdered so that her husband might take his vineyard. She led Israel into idolatry and witchcraft. (2 Kings 9:22)

One of the reasons Jesus gave this so called prophetess the name Jezebel was to show the Christians at Thyatira the true nature of this woman and her teaching—that it was evil. Giving her the name Jezebel made this very clear.

I love the special effects that they use today in movies and TV shows. It's amazing what they can do. Some of the plots of science fiction shows have aliens taking human form. But there comes a point in the movie or show where their true form is revealed. It was have what seems to be a beautiful woman transformed into some hideous reptilian or devilish character. The true identity of the character is revealed as something that disgusts and repels. You can't believe how loathsome it is.

This is significant and should be a great lesson to us. Names are significant and it's important how we use them.

I've heard some Christians say that we shouldn't call things what they really are because that's inflammatory language. But shouldn't we be biblical in our language? Should we really take our cues for our language from a sinful society that is trying to mask their sin? Of course not. We need to take our cues from the Bible.

One of the things the Bible teaches us is that it calls sin, sin. In doing so it sometimes uses very graphic language. For example, I've already mentioned how it's sugar coated by being called, 'gay'. I read this morning that the Presbyterian Church USA this past week ordained its first gay clergyman. One of the things Scott Anderson, the person ordained said was,

"And I give thanks for those who disagree with what we're doing today yet who know that we are one in Jesus Christ."

No. That's not true.

The Bible never refers to it as anything like that. In the Bible homosexuality is called a 'perversion'. In Romans 1:27 we read,

"In the same way the men also
abandoned natural relations with women
and were inflamed
with lust for one another.
Men committed indecent acts
with other men, and received in themselves
the due penalty for their perversion."

We see the same thing in the Old Testament. Leviticus 18:22 says,

"Do not lie with a man
as one lies with a woman; that is detestable."

It's detestable. The underlying Hebrew word means just that. It could also be translated as an 'abomination', or an 'abhorrence'. It's something that should make us shudder. It's something that detestable in God's eyes and should be detestable in our eyes. It's one of the things that will keep people from God's kingdom. We're not one in Jesus. Remember what God told us in Hebrews 12:14

"without holiness no one will see the Lord."

Consider as well the language that Jesus used about lying. Many people today consider it okay to lie in certain circumstances. They call it stretching the truth, exaggerating. We hear of things called, 'white lies'. Yet in John 8:43–44 Jesus said,

"Why is my language not clear to you?
Because you are unable to hear what I say.
You belong to your father, the devil,
and you want to carry out your father's desire.
He was a murderer from the beginning,
not holding to the truth,
for there is no truth in him.
When he lies,
he speaks his native language,
for he is a liar and the father of lies."

Lying, not being truthful, in not a little sin, but it's a horrendous sin. If we lie, we aren't being conformed to the glorious image of our Savior, Jesus, we are being conformed to the image of the devil. Leon Morris (NICNT) writes,

"Truth is associated with God and with Christ. Satan has no interest in them or in truth. His habitat is falsehood. When he speaks a lie (NIV, "lies"), he is at home. That is what we expect from him. Basically he is a liar and the father of lying. Therefore those who live in a false way, as Jesus' opponents were doing, do but reflect their kinship with the devil."

Thus lying is not a little defect, it's allying yourself with the devil and his ways. Colossians 3:5f tells us that it's because of sins such as lying that the wrath of God is coming.

So I suggest that we should refer to sin in terms that reveal it's horribleness. We should use biblical terms. Don't sugar coat sin. The names you use for it should be biblical and should show the detestable nature of such sin.
You need to be seeing sin as it really is. See that it is ugly, that it is deadly. Sin is not like normal mole on your arm that is never going to cause you any trouble. It's like a horrible disfiguring cancer.

Now I'm not saying that we should go out of our way in being offensive in the way that we present the gospel. We are to love sinners, all types of sinners. We are to present the gospel to them with gentleness and respect. All people are made in the image of God and we need to recognize that.

when people deny that sinful behavior is sin and they are deceiving themselves about it, it is appropriate to point out to them the way that Scripture refer to their sin, as a perversion, as an abhorrence, as idolatry. They will say that that's using inflammatory language, but that's the way that Scripture refers to sin and that's the reality. If they are going to be brought to repentance, they need to be shown what their behavior is like in God's eyes. If they don't see their sin for the vileness that it really is—they're not going to turn from it.

When God really wanted to show Israel and Judah how bad they were, He referred to them in terms of like He used in Isaiah 1:10. He said to the people of Israel,

"Hear the word of the LORD,
you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the law of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!"

In other places He called them prostitutes and harlots. He referred to their shame in ways that I'm not going to use here—because it's so graphic and horrible.

The second lesson we should draw from Jesus calling the false prophetess 'Jezebel' is that

you are not to take religious teachers at face value.

Jezebel called herself a 'prophetess'. She claimed to have messages from God for the church at Thyatira. The Christians at Thyatira seemed to accept her claim at face value.

One wonders, how could the Christians at Thyatira allow such open sin in their midst? I mean, if there was sexual immorality or open idolatry in our midst, I think we'd all be upset and would want it stopped right away. How could the church at Thyatira allow it to arise in the first place, and then to continue?

They obviously didn't test this Jezebel. She called herself a 'prophetess' and that seemed to be good enough for them. They didn't examine her claim but naively accepted it. They looked to her for messages from God.

Perhaps it had something to do with the
deep secrets that she claimed to know. In verse 24 Jesus said,

"Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira,
to you who do not hold to her teaching
and have not learned Satan's
so-called deep secrets."

Jesus calls them 'Satan's so called deep secrets'. This Jezebel almost certainly didn't refer to these secrets as being from Satan. She probably told the people at Thyatira that they were from God. Dennis Johnson, (The Triumph of the Lamb, p. 80)

"Perhaps among the deep things disseminated by the prophetess was the insight that bodily behavior is spiritually insignificant, so that those in the know could participate in idolatrous guild feasts, and even sexual excesses, with spiritual impunity."

A lot of people like knowing secrets. They like being special, having special insight, special knowledge. Perhaps if someone told us that they had a deep secret from God, we might be intrigued.

But we shouldn't be. There are essentially no secrets in true Christianity. As Dennis Johnson, (p. 80) writes,

"Despising the gospel of Christ because it is so simple and so public, leaving no secrets hidden from the uninitiated, the prophetess promised insight into 'deep things' which Jesus labels as Satan's deep things."

The gospel is simple and public. Test the spirits. Test your teachers. Test those who claim to be from God.

Now to bring all this together, I think one of the main things to say is that you Christians are to always be evaluating your teachers. Know your Bible. Be able to pick out biblical teaching from non-biblical teaching.

You are to think biblically.

By that I mean we need to have our minds so filled with the Word of God so that we evaluate and judge everything by what the Word says, not by how the world judges things. As the apostle Paul told us in Romans 12:2,

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern
of this world, but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve
what God's will is—his good,
pleasing and perfect will."

Our society doesn't think biblically. It's warped in most of its thinking. For example, it basically believes in justification by death. All you have to do to get to heaven is die. I remember a song form the 70's (I think) that was about all the rock stars that had died of drug overdoes as the like. One of the main lines of the song was,

"If there's a rock and roll heaven…"

No. There's no rock and roll heaven. Yet people like to think that everyone is going to be okay, that just about everyone will get into heaven.

Most of you know that Steve Jobs of Apple Computer died last week. It's really sad news. Yet since then I've heard two or three jokes about Steve Jobs in heaven. Now don't misunderstand me. I hope Steve Jobs is in heaven. I hope near the end of his life someone witnessed to him and he accepted Jesus as his personal Savior. But he lived as a Buddhist. Unless he came to know Jesus at the very end of his life, he's lost. Yet this cartoon has him being at the Pearly Gates and Peter is looking for his name among many papers. Steve says to Peter,

"I have an app for that."

That's funny but if it lulls us into thinking that just about everyone is going to get into heaven, and has us thinking that hell is not real and that we don't have to be aggressive in our evangelism for the world—it's corrosive.

Christians, see things as they are. That so called prophetess in Thyatira was not a Christian leader. She was a monster who was leading people into great sin. Sexual immorality, lust, greed, impurity, lying, filthy language—because of these the wrath of God is coming. (Colossians 3:6) These things are not okay. We are to call the world to repentance, to Christ, to holiness. It's their only hope.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians.

Be careful who you believe.

The world is telling you that you're going to be okay. Some religious teachers today, like that ancient Jezebel in Thyatira, will tell you that it's okay for you to indulge in sin. They will use all kinds of words to sugar coat sin. But know that sin is deadly. Unless you go to Jesus your sin will destroy you and put you in everlasting hell. Don't believe the great lies of the world. Go to Jesus and find life in Him.