The Church at Thyatira
The Roman Catholic Church
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. (Revelation 2:18-21)
seen how the church had its primitive roots in an apostolic era, which
ended in a general, systematic persecution of believers by the world system of
the day. That persecution came to an abrupt end when the church suddenly found
itself befriended by a pagan Roman emperor, bringing the church under the
protection of and into cooperation with the political power of that time.
Although Constantine maintained control over both east and
west divisions of the empire, he moved the political seat of government to
Constantinople. By AD 475 the Roman Empire had ceased to exist, and the Western
empire, or Europe, eventually fell into disarray—until AD 590. That year
Gregory I, or Gregory the Great, was named supreme
pontiff in Rome. He quickly consolidated power and revamped the papal
government. He asserted direct control over the papal estates from France to
According to the Encyclopedia
of Religion, “Gregory’s pontificate is the first and best example of
ecclesiastical authority replacing, throughout the machinery of government, the
political power of a declining state” (Macmillan Publishers, 1987).
Gregory’s reign marks the beginning of the modern papacy,
and coincidentally, the beginning of the “Dark Ages,” the term used to
describe that period of Western history when the church ruled over vassals and
kings alike. All were required to bow to the pope, “venerate” Mary and the
saints, cherish the icons of the church, and express unconditional faith in
all of the doctrines of the church, regardless of how unscriptural or
antithetical to the true practice of New Testament Christianity they may be.
Dissenters were dealt with quickly and brutally. Anyone found with so much as a
single page of scripture in their possession stood in peril of torture or death.
Whenever scripture was confiscated, it was burned.
The scriptures were deemed to be the possession of the church and were to be “handled” only by the
bishops and priests (the Nicolaitans). The church officially recognized only
Jerome’s Latin translation of a text produced by Eusebius for Constantine as
divine scripture, and all other texts were considered “heretical.” They were
not to be preserved, but destroyed. This policy would have grave implications
for future generations as men began to sift through the extant exemplars, or
manuscripts, on which our Bibles are based in an effort to determine the
“original text.” Even with full knowledge that entire libraries of Greek
Bible documents had been destroyed by papal authorities, and countless New
Testament manuscripts burned over a period of 1,000 years, modern “textual
critics” continue to insist that the only versions of the New Testament in
circulation during this period were those that agree with the Roman Catholic
versions—which of course, the church did not
But that, as they say, is another subject.
Nevertheless, with all of this background in mind, let us
look at the letter the Lord Jesus asked John to deliver to the angel of the
church of Thyatira. After assuring them that His eyes see all and His judgment
is true, He commends them for the good work they have done.
It is true that the Catholic church, since before the time
of Gregory and up to the present, has done much good, charitable work from a
human point of view. James tells us true
religion is to take care of widows and orphans. During the Dark Ages, there
would have been no schools, orphanages, or hospitals were it not for the
Catholic church of that era. The popes have, from the beginning,
had the “religion” thing down pat.
Having said that, the Lord goes on to rebuke this church for
allowing the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach the
Lord’s people a false system of worship. This worship entails worshiping
idols, and eating things sacrificed to idols.
It is interesting to note here the derivation of the word
“Thyratira.” It comes from two Greek terms that basically mean “continual
burning” in the sense of burning incense or sacrifice. The Catholic system of
worship revolves around the eucharist.
This is not “the Lord’s table” that non-Catholics know. In the performing
of the eucharistic rite, the Lord Jesus is offered up to God by the officiating
priest and suffers anew, just as He did on Calvary, so that His Blood is shed
again—a continual sacrifice. That Blood mystically fills the cup of the
eucharist, just as the Lord’s Body is mystically broken again and offered to
the penitent in the form of the blessed bread, or host. It is through receiving this “host” that sins are forgiven
in the Catholic church.
Just as Jezebel in the Old Testament introduced the priests
of Baal and false worship to the northern Kingdom of Israel, so the papacy has
instituted idolatry and false worship in the
The Lord says, “I have given her plenty of time to repent,
but she hasn’t done it yet.” It has been more than 1,400 years since Gregory I
established the modern-day papacy, and there is no sign that the Catholic church
is about to renounce any of its unscriptural practices any
Behold, I will cast her into a
bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they
repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the
churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I
will give unto every one of you according to your works. But unto you I say, and
unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not
known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. (Revelation 2:22-25)
So then, because this church continues in these practices,
the Lord promises she will be cast into great tribulation, or the Great
Tribulation—a period soon coming upon the earth, which will be a time of
greater suffering and sorrow for the inhabitants of the earth than has ever been
known before. This will be a time when a Holy God will pour out punishment after
punishment upon an unbelieving world that has refused to turn to Him that they
might be saved.
And he that overcometh, and
keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he
shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be
broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the
morning star. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the
churches. (Revelation 2:26-28)
Those who have been able to maintain true faith under such
despotic spiritual tyranny are promised that they will one day be the rulers.
What a comforting message for the countless faithful martyrs who died at the
hands of the inquisitors for the crime of believing the Bible and nothing else.
And now we note something rather unusual. In each of three
previous letters, the exhortation to “hear what the spirit saith unto the
churches” has been issued first, followed by the promise to the overcomers. In
this case, and in each of the following letters, however, we see this pattern
reversed, as if to signal that the first three churches have something in common
with each other and the last four have something in common between them. It’s
as if a line of demarcation is placed between the first three churches and the
We know that chapter and verse divisions were not included
in the original Bible manuscripts. It’s almost as if the Lord wanted to be
sure we knew where to divide the letters to these seven churches!
Therefore, it’s interesting to note as we look at the
timeline of church history that each of the first three churches came into
existence and then ceased to exist, being replaced by the next era. The church
represented by Thyatira, however, came into existence at a point in history and
has continued to exist to the present day, and is promised that it will continue
to exist following the rapture of all true believers from the earth, and
continue on into the Tribulation, which God will send to punish all those who
have rejected His Son and the Truth.
From this point on, future church ages will come up
alongside and coexist with the church represented by the church
in Thyatira. Perhaps it is due to the fact that there will now be a plurality
of churches existing coterminously that the Lord sends His message first
directly to the individual overcomers and then to the church. Or, is it because
the institutionalized church has now become incapable of passing on the Truth to
its members that the Lord speaks first to individuals? Or is it a combination of
both of these factors?
Whatever the reason, from now on the Lord will primarily
address the overcomers in every age, and entrust His message for the churches to
them. In this regard, we cannot state enough times that we by no means mean to
imply that there are no true believers in the Roman Catholic Church, or that
“all Catholics are going to hell,” or any such thing.
What is under discussion here is an ecclesiastical system
and a political system that has played a major role in Western history for
nearly 1,500 years. No one can read its history and not weep, not even its
staunchest defenders and allies. Neither can one read its history and find anything anywhere in the New Testament
that even remotely resembles this horribly dark, corrupt, vicious system of raw
spiritual and political power—nothing except this extremely succinct
description of the woman Jezebel, whom later in the book of Revelation is seen
riding the Devil himself as the two accomplish world dominion.
In the meantime, however, the first church to share the
stage with Thyatria is the church at Sardis.