In this article we will look at the church at Thyatira as one of seven church ages.
THE CITY OF THYATIRA
The city of Thyatira was a wealthy city in Macedonia. Paul’s first convert in Philippi was a woman named Lydia was as a seller of purple cloth. (Acts16:14) She was from Thyatira. Alexander the great founding this city about 300 years before Christ.
THE CHURCH THAT BROUGHT THE DARK AGES
The church that brought horrendous darkness to God’s work followed in the footsteps of the church at Pergamum. This church age continued to mingle with paganism and brought into the church many pagan practices. The last church age began down a road of adopting parts of pagan ideas and practices into the church. The church is supposed to be a light to the world. The light of the gospel almost flickered out during the dark ages. It really wasn’t rekindled until the Reformation took place with Martin Luther.
This age is one of the saddest and most horrific church ages because so many ideas were introduced into the church that have absolutely nothing to do with the revealed will of God in His word. We begin this church age around 606 or 607 A.D. when the Boniface was made the first pope. This church still exists in our world today and as we will see it will continue to exist and will take on even more prominence as the Tribulation Period comes to pass.
I am not going to go into and explore all of the doctrinal errors of this church age, but they were vast. Tim LaHaye in his book Revelation Unveiled lists the following changes and doctrines added to the church having their source in paganism:
A.D. 607 Boniface III made first Pope
A.D. 709 Kissing the Pope’s foot
A.D. 789 Worshipping of Holy Images and Relics
A.D. 850 Use of “Holy Water” begun
A.D. 995 Canonization of Dead Saints
A.D. 998 Fasting on Fridays and during lent
A.D. 1079 Celibacy of the Priesthood
A.D. 1090 Prayer Beads
A.D. 1184 The Inquisition
A.D. 1190 Sale of Indulgences
A.D. 1215 Transubstantiation
A.D. 1220 Adoration of the Host (wafer)
A.D. 1229 Bible Forbidden for laypeople
A.D. 1414 Cup forbidden to people at Communion
A.D. 1439 Doctrine of Purgatory decreed
A.D. 1439 Doctrine of seven sacraments affirmed
A.D. 1508 The Ave Maria Approved
A.D. 1534 Jesuit order founded
A.D. 1545 Tradition granted equal authority with the Bible
A.D. 1546 Apocryphal books put into the Bible
A.D. 1854 Immaculate conception of Mary
A.D. 1864 Syllabus of Errors proclaimed
A.D. 1870 Infallibility of the Pope declared
A.D. 1930 Public Schools condemned
A.D. 1950 Assumption of the Virgin Mary
A.D. 1965 Mary proclaimed Mother of the Church
ROME’S GREATEST HERESY
The name Thyatira comes from two words meaning continual and sacrifice. This church age denies the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. I contend that this church is predominately the church at Rome. Roman Catholicism denies the finished work of Christ. It is interesting that Jesus said, “It is finished.” Yet the church of this age believes that there must be continual sacrifices made. This really introduces the error of the church of that day that produced so many false doctrines. The church of Rome or what we would call the Roman Catholic Church is more Babylonian in their practices than they are Christian.
The idea that there must be continual sacrifices produces such things as praying for the dead, burning candles, crawling on one’s knees, lighting candles, having to do penance. I was a missionary for several years in Latin America and I have seen people crawling on their knees until their knees bleed. Why? Because the church has taught the Jesus sacrifice was not enough.
This idea of continual sacrifice produces doctrines that cause people to feel like they have to earn their salvation by works or even more damnable thoughts like they actually buy their Salvation through the purchases of what was called an indulgence. This was a method of exploitation in the Middle Ages of exploiting the people by charging them a monetary payment of penalty which, supposedly, absolved one of past sins and/or released one from purgatory after death. These things are lies. There are many other so called satanically conceived ideas found in this church and church age. How interesting that our Lord called them in Revelation 2:24 “Satan’s so called deep secrets.” While the church didn’t deny who Jesus was, they certainly denied the efficacy of His work.
Today, Mary has been given a status just short of Deity. She is referred to as the “Mother of God” and also the “Queen of Heaven”. She is prayed to like she is God. She is sometimes even appearing as being able to dispense salvation. To even suggest that anyone, even Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a dispenser of eternal life is blasphemous. Acts 4:12 “there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” In many instances, her image is given a higher place in the church even over the image of Jesus Christ.
WHAT THE CHURCH AT THYATIRA (ROME) IS LIKE TODAY
I know that this church has many pagan customs even to this day. The church Jesus wrote to in Revelation 2:18-29 is very much alive. Why would we ask anyone to crawl on their knees for miles in order to do penance? This is in violation to the Word of God in Ephesians 2:8-9 that says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” Having lived in Latin America for four years and visiting Catholic Churches in India and Israel. So may times the church is very dark. Things are so – so dark and gloomy that you can hardly take a picture.
And things are shrouded in mystery. The mass is given in in Latin. I have seen people sending mindlessly listening to words they can’t even understand. And then they participate in pagan things that are not biblical. I recall one church I visited where you could see the literal skull and bones of a little girl who was supposedly a saint. The parents come to the glass case where she was, they would rub it, put in an offering in the little box, and then rub a blessing on children’s forehead. How sad it is for the millions of believers that go to church and sit and listen to something they can’t understand, then practice a ritual that serves no other purpose other than to get a little bit of money from an already poor person. Matthew 13:23 “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces…”
I have been to many Catholic churches and every single one of those churches had statues that are actually worshiped or prayed to. This is idolatry. Exodus 20:4 says “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;” Why would you pray to some other mediator or go between when God’s word declares that there is only one mediator between God and man.
In many segments of the Catholic church there is a lot of chanting that goes on. There is the repetition of prayers that are said over and over. Often times they have beads to be able to remember how many times they said the prayer. How interesting that even Jesus commented on this in Matthew 6:7 “ And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”
I have been in some of these church as I mentioned ago where Mary is often the highest image or painting in the sanctuary. Colossians 1:18 “…that in everything he (Christ) might have the supremacy.” Yet millions today blindly follow these things.
Sadly, the tradition of wearing a crucifix or hanging a crucifix on your wall at the house is still happening all over the world. The crucifix always depicts Christ as dying. It seems Jesus is still continually suffering and sacrificing himself for our sins. Jesus is not on the cross. He is not suffering today. He is not in a grave. That is why Protestants always have an empty cross.
HOW DOES JESUS FEEL ABOUT THIS CHURCH:
We have to remember that in every letter there is a reference back to the vision and encounter that John had with the resurrected Christ. This letter is no different. Revelation 2:19 says, “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.”
Many in the church of Rome are more likely to focus on Jesus as the Son of Mary. In fact, many can be seen of baby Jesus in the arms of his mother. We must remember who he said he was and is. He is the Son of God. This title for Jesus is a reference to His deity. He is indeed God. No one should be above Him. There is no one else but Him who can save us. In Revelation 1:13 he chooses the title to describe himself as the “Son of man”. That is a reference to His humanity. But it seems that this church needs to be remind of his deity.
The scripture goes on to describe that his eyes are like blazing fire. His feet are like burnished bronze. This is about judgment. The angry fiery eyes of Jesus look at this church and see that they have allowed all of these false doctrines and teachings into the church, and the bronze speaks that his feet will bring judgement. It was at the brazen altar of the tabernacle where sin was judged.
JESUS DOES SEE THE GOOD THIS CHURCH HAS DONE
While the church at Thyatira and this pagan church age have done much damage to practice and theology. This church age also did some good things. Revelation 2:19 says, “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” It seems this church and this church age is commended for the following six things by Jesus:
The church of Rome has done many good deeds in His name. The church has done things like give money to the poor. I have personally visited food banks here in Houston that are run by the Catholic church. Every good deed done by anyone in this church age is seen by Jesus.
The church age has shown love for humankind in the opening of hospitals and sanitariums and orphanages. In fact during the dark age, these types of endeavors were almost exclusively the work of the church. The nuns and the priest who gave themselves in service to others are seen by Jesus
Jesus commends them for their faith. One must never conclude that saving faith is not found in this church. And faith is seen as people turn to God during times of difficulty.
This speaks of ministry done in Jesus name across hundreds of years to millions of people.
This church obviously has a really long history and they have endured for more than a millennium.
The church had some terrible seasons such as during the inquisition where they literally tortured and murdered thousands but what they do on their good days is commendable.
While I teach against the teachings and especially some of the practices of the Catholic church we have to remember that we are not the judge. Many of the members of this church have been held in ignorance and in darkness. It is not our job to judge them, that is for God and God alone. We can say that there have been many people within this church that have been born again. Others from this church took a stand for truth and were martyred for Christ. People like Wycliffe and Hus and so be careful and don’t get caught up in judging the salvation of people because we simply don’t know. God is good and His judgments are just.
CHRIST SERIOUS CONDEMNATION
Jesus soundly condemned the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2:20 . “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.”
When he says, nevertheless, he is letting go of his commendations and saying, I am not going to let you off of the hook for what you have done. And the Lord reaches back to Old Testament with the name Jezebel. He says, “that woman Jezebel”. In the Old Testament this was the wife of one of the kings, a king named Ahab. She brought Baal worship into Israel and perverted Israel. Jesus is using her name symbolically, because this church age did the exact same thing by allowing evil teachings into the church that have led millions astray.
When a woman is used symbolically to convey a religious teaching, she always represents a false religion. Matthew 13:33 “He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Yeast is symbolic of the spread of false doctrine. Claiming to speak for God the leaders of the church age took on the role of a false prophetess pushing teachings and doctrines that caused people to sin.
The reference to sexual immorality is I believe kind of a duel reference. It refers to the idolatry that was brought into the church. The church is the bride of Christ, and to worship at the feet of an idol is to betray the one to whom we are espoused.
Beyond that, these teachings led to actual sexual immorality. Imagine a man who fully believes that after he has paid the church for an indulgence all of his sins are going to be forgiven. He is going to heaven no matter what. That man could give himself to whoremongering and drunkenness. In the same way many said to themselves, okay, I know if I commit the sin of sleeping with a prostitute, I will have to spend more time in purgatory, but that is okay, I will go ahead and sin and pay for it later.
How did the church of this period cause the eating of food sacrificed to idols? The false doctrine of transubstantiation in which the wafer that represents the blood becomes the actual body of Jesus. The wafer is the host of the body of Jesus. It is then set up in display and the congregation encouraged to worship it, only then to later consume that very host.
It is those teachings that are in this church that cause the church to be sinful in heart and mind. The idea that one can always do penance, or say, “hail Mary’s” in order to be forgiven, goes against the teaching of God’s word. Just like Jezebel corrupted Israel, these false teachings corrupted the church.
Jesus went on in Revelation 2:21 “ I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.” Over 1000 years has been given for the church to repent of these false teachings and immorality and she hasn’t. The Catholic has done precious little to return to the true teachings of the New Testament.
THE FUTURE JUDGMENT OF THIS CHURCH
The one with eyes of fire and feet of bronze will surely judge His church. Revelation 2:22-23 “So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead.” Many who believe in the seven church ages see being cast upon a bed of suffering as a veiled reference to the Tribulation. The bible teaches that there is a period of seven years of Tribulation (a time of horrible suffering) that will come upon the earth following the rapture of the church. Those who are unrepentant and caught up in all of these false teachings will go into the Tribulation. They will miss the rapture. They will have to face this period of Tribulation.
As we get further into our studies in the book of Revelation (especially Revelation 17) we will discover that during this period of Tribulation there will be a false religious system led by the False Prophet that will deceive many in bringing lots of religions underneath the same umbrella. There is currently a movement called the Ecumenical Movement that seeks to bring religions together. Jesus said clearly “…I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.” We should not have anything to do with this movement. The Catholic church has allowed the visits of false religions and their emissaries to the Vatican and has elevated their prayers and allowed their prayers there. This is something serious as it says, “I will strike her children dead.” The reference to death is a reference to the second death (Revelation 20:15). The second death is when people are cast into the lake of Fire.
Jesus declares himself to be the one who will judge. Revelation 2:23 says, “Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” This is a reference to the Great White Throne Judgment when all of those who do not believe will be judged. Revelation 20:12c “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”
While the Catholic church has don’t many things that are not good at one point we did have good news. Pope John XXIII issued an encyclical that encouraged Catholic Followers to read the scriptures. In reading the scriptures, many have become born again. According to the website below: “In 2008, the share of Catholics who said that they were “born-again or evangelical” was at 8.9%. “However, from there we see a steady and unbroken rise, when it reaches its apex in 2016 at 16.4%,” Burge rerouted, basing his study on the Cooperative Congressional Election Study. “That’s an 85% increase in the number of born-again Catholics.” https://aleteia.org/2020/01/28/more-and-more-catholics-identifying-as-born-again/
WHAT CHRIST TELLS THEM TO DO:
His counsel is apparently speaking to the people within this church or church age that rejected the false teachings. Revelation 2:24-25 “Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): 25 Only hold on to what you have until I come.” I believe that millions of people during the Tribulation Period will stand firm and refuse to knuckle under to the false religious system that is called the “prostitute” in Revelation 17.
To these overcomers there will be great reward. Revelation 2:26-27 “To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations — ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father.” This is a wonderful promise to all who are believers and in particular to those who stand firm within this wicked system. We will reign with Christ during the Millennium. 2 Timothy 2:21 “if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us;” When Christ returns at the glorious appearing at the end of the Tribulation, He will set up a kingdom and in that kingdom he will give positions of leadership and authority during the Millennial age.
THE MORNING STAR IS JESUS
Revelation 2:28 “I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
The morning star is Jesus himself. Revelation 22:16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”