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The Church at Thyatira

The Roman Catholic Church
(AD 600~Tribulation)

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)

We have 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 North Africa.

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 burn.

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 church!

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 time soon.

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 last four.

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.

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