“And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; 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. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.”
In Revelation 2, Jesus Christ is speaking to the Church at Thyatira. He commends this church on her good deeds and rebukes her for tolerating the false teachings of a woman named as Jezebel. Whether this is her real name or not, we do not know. It is most likely that this woman who calls herself a “prophetess” is referred to as “Jezebel” here because she had the spirit of the Old Testament queen of Israel who opposed God’s true prophets and dragged the nation deep into idolatry. Jesus Christ says that He gave this “Jezebel” “space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.” He goes on to describe the punishment that she and those who follow her will receive if they do not turn away from their evil deeds.
The idea that God gives His children “space to repent” of their sins is shown throughout Scripture. Numerous passages in the Bible speak of God’s longsuffering toward His people, and how He “is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (Psalm 103:8). When we have sinned against God, what does it mean to be given space to repent?
1. The sin that God wants us to repent of does not wipe out the good things that we have done by the grace of God. When Jesus speaks to the church at Thyatira, He does not discount the good that they have done as a body of believers. He says, “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience.” They were not a perfect church, but they had some commendable qualities, and Jesus does not see them as a lost cause because of the sin that they have not yet repented of. We see this played out consistently throughout biblical history. David is still “a man after God’s own heart” (in God’s eyes and in our eyes) even though he committed adultery and orchestrated a cover-up about it. Samson is still a hero of the faith even though he was a self-willed womanizer. We still read the writings of Peter even though he denied that he knew Jesus Christ when Jesus needed him most.
2. God shows His mercy to us by the space He gives us to repent of our sins. When we sin, God gives us a chance to get things right on our own. He wants us to love Him enough and respect His word enough to change our ways without Him having to bring his judgment down on us. During this time of “space to repent,” our true selves begin to show. Do we take advantage of God’s mercy in a positive sense and hurry up and confess our sins and change our ways? Or do we take advantage of God’s mercy in a negative sense and persist in our sins thinking that we are getting away with it? What we do during the “space to repent” often shows us the spiritual condition of our hearts.
3. God shows us that He will eventually chastise us if we do not repent. If we persist in sin, there will come a time when God will let us know that our time has run out and we must suffer His chastisement. Jesus tells the church at Thyatira, “I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation.” Just because God is slow in chastising His children, that does not mean that He will not chastise them. If we do not repent in the time of mercy that God gives to us, we, too, will face God’s rebuke, chastisement, and exposure. Remember, the Bible says, “if we judge ourselves we will not be judged.”
This passage serves as a warning to every church and every Christian today — to repent of our sins on our own so that we can avoid the chastisement of God.