In this series, we will take a closer look at sayings and things that are common place in streams of the church and talk about the truth and error of these sayings and things.
I have grown up my whole life in the Charismatic/Pentecostal stream of Christianity. I admire Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, and others but I was never immersed in their culture or beliefs like I was with the Charismatic/Pentecostal stream.
If you go into a Family Christian Bookstore, they have a section called “Charismatic Interest”. When you look at the book titles and subjects, you will notice (rightly) that Charismatic/Pentecostal stream have had a focused interest on the supernatural, particularly on spiritual warfare and angels/demons. There are some good and true things in these books and there are some unfortunate errors.
One of the more popular claims is that people have (and are being controlled by) a spirit of Jezebel. Now I believe in evil spirits influencing decisions and lives, spirits like greed, lust, deception, etc. But Jezebel was a person. Most of the “Jezebel spirit” thinking tends to imply that Jezebel was a real person and this spirit took on her character traits after she died. We find Jezebel’s story in throughout 1 & 2 Kings. She was the main antagonist to Elijah’s ministry. Finally she was put to death.
So where in the Bible does it talk about this dead evil woman’s spirit being at work in the local church? The only verse quoted in answer to this question is Revelation 2:20-23. Here is what that portion of scripture (in context) says:
“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: “The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come.” (Revelation 2:18-25 ESV)
Most Charismatic writers link this Jezebel to the one in the Old Testament. But there is a problem. The Old Testament Jezebel never called herself a prophetess. In fact, she was quite against them. She was more known for killing the people of God than deceiving the people into sexual immorality and eating wrong food.
I love what John Bevere says in his book on prophecy “Thus Saith The Lord“. He read this passage and immediately started turning to 1 & 2 Kings to research this Jezebel that Jesus was (supposedly) talking about in Revelation 2. As he was turning in his Bible, the Lord asked him “would you look for Joseph, the father of Jesus, in the book of Genesis (where Joseph, the son of Jacob, is found)?” This showed him, and should show us, that these two Jezebels are two different people — one being a evil queen, and one being a false prophetess in the church.
Why does this matter?
While there are multiple benefits for seeing rightly on this issue, I bring it up for one main reason: it is easier to say people are being controlled by evil spirits than to say the truth, that they are simply being led away by their own sin. Here is what James says:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:13-15 ESV)
James says that we aren’t being tempted and moved to sin by God, a point that all Christians agree with. But neither does James say we are tempted and controlled by the devil. Rather, he says we are temped when we are lured/enticed by our own desires. It’s not evil spirits that are the problem, we are.
When we mention a “Jezebel spirit”, we are typically giving a blanket name to a person who is incredibly selfish, controlling, domineering, manipulative, and overly-ambitious. There are a few problems though that occur because of this:
- We tend to see the person involved as a evil spirit.
Instead of seeing someone as deceived and led astray in their own sin, we may see them as an evil force unable to be redeemed. If we see someone as bound in their own hunger to be exalted, it produces a cry of mercy in us that asks God to intervene and rescue them from themselves. Rather, if we view them as an evil spirit, our prayers may align more with judgment and asking God to uproot them. Matthew 5:7 encourages us to always default to being merciful and seeing people with merciful eyes, cause however we deal with them, we will get dealt with accordingly.
- We fail to see the same sins in us.
If we think that people who are selfish are being controlled by a spirit rather than by their own evil desires, rarely will we look at ourselves to see if we are struggling with the same thing. Since James says these evil traits come from our own evilness, looking at the issue this way helps us search our own lives for the same desires.
- We tend to look for a deliverer instead of a savior.
Jesus heals, delivers, restores, but most importantly, He saves and forgives. Many times we attribute a war-like attitude to deliverance. We want to wage war on the person (or “spirit”) struggling and causing problems in the church. More than deliverance, people manifesting these type of character traits (selfishness, control, domineering, manipulation, and overly-ambitious) need a savior. The gospel will set these people free just like it sets us free of other (yet alike) issues. We don’t do anything to deserve it or earn it. All that is required is that we ask for it and draw near to God.
So in summary, Christians in our churches are not bound by evil spirits that are causing them to distress your local church. Rather, they are sinners, like you and me, who need a Savior. They need people who will pray mercifully for them in secret. We don’t tell them that they are being controlled by an external force, but rather by an internal one: their own evil desires. This causes them to become poor in spirit and long for God to save them from their sinful ways. (Matthew 5:3-8)