“How long will you falter between two opinions?” asked Elijah of the people of Israel gathered on the Mount Carmel. “If the Lord is God then follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”But the people answered him not a word.
The prophet of God proposed a challenge to the prophets’ of Baal that they should each build an altar and prepare a sacrifice, and the God who answers by fire is the True and Living God to be worshiped.
The sun was hot that day even with the cool breeze coming in from the bay at Haifa. Four hundred of Jezebel’s priests gathered around their altar chanting while hastily preparing the sacrifice for Baal. Soon they were ready and began to chant and dance around the altar. Minutes went by and then hours passed as they began cutting themselves as a way to provoke their god to action but nothing happened.
“Maybe your god is using the restroom, away on vacation, sleeping or otherwise busy?” taunted Elijah.
Now it was the man of God’s turn. Humbly the prophet prayed “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel and I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.”
Suddenly fire fell from heaven consuming the burnt offering, wood, stones, dust and licked up the water in the trench. When the people saw this they fell on their faces saying “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” and so they killed all the prophets of Jezebel with the sword.
King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, had brought polytheistic religion (worship of many gods) of the Sidonians into the monotheistic relationship (worship of the One, True and Living God) of Israel. Two distinct theologies, polytheism and monotheism, were not capable being joined together but created a separation between the two as oil floats upon water.
In Revelation chapter two, the letter to the corrupt church at Thyatira, Jesus says that they had allowed this seduction of Jezebel, the mixing of religions, in the church there. While there was still a remnant that remained faithful they were tolerating this apostasy.
We know, in retrospect, that the seven letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor had a manifold-threefold prophetic purpose; Information to the churches of John’s day, a distinct church age from Pentecost to present and correction for individuals throughout history.
The church age represented by the church at Thyatira is a period from 590 A.D. to 1000 A.D., the dark ages of history when some would say that the corruption of the church was at its pinnacle. It was a time when the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which Jesus said He hates, was being organized, added to and in full swing. It was an age when pagan practices, idolatry were being mingled with Christian works and worship.
The original command-vision of Jesus to His ecclesia had been perverted with lust for power, greed, schisms and the idea of supreme papal authority was growing out of control like a cancer. It was a duality that was in direct conflict with the simple message Jesus imparted us with which is “to love God with all your heart, mind and soul and to love one another.”
During this period of church history the Church of Rome instituted the Inquisition in much the same way Jezebel persecuted and killed the prophets of God, killed Naboth and confiscated his vineyard property. The universal church was growing both in power and centralized authority.
Jesus warned this faction at the church at Thyatira to repent, turn away from following idolatry and begin living a life that is separated (holy) unto God or else they would go through great tribulation. Although this is a picture of the future apostate church it also can apply to us. Jesus ends the letter to the church at Thyatira encouraging the faithful remnant to hold onto truth until He returns for them.
Our Lord also had six good things to say about the faithful remnant that was there. “I know your works, love, service, faith and patients; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.”
What is interesting about all six of these commendations is that they are all spiritual gifts or fruit from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26). As we begin to mature in our Christian walk we realize the depth of our depravity which compels us to surrender to the Holy Spirit. As we repent and give more and more of our inward territory to Him, He bestows these spiritual gifts upon us.