As the Roman Empire grew in prominence, Rome
soon became the world’s center for the practices and traditions of
the Babylonian pagan religion. Pergamum slowly faded from the scene,
but the mixed marriage of Christianity and Paganism that originated
there has produced four offspring, Roman Catholics (Thyatira), Main
Line Protestants (Sardis), Evangelicals (Philadelphia) and the
Apostate Church (Laodicea). All are alive on Earth today.
To the Church in Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29)
“To the angel of the
church in Thyatira write:
Thyatira means continual sacrifice. (In the
Catholic Church, the Lord is still on the cross, and Catholics
believe that the communion wafer becomes His actual body and blood
as it’s consumed.) It’s the first letter with a future in view,
which led me to the conclusion that the earlier three churches are
gone. It’s also the first whose members are divided into two
categories, the saved and the unsaved.
These are the words of
the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are
like burnished bronze.
It couldn’t be clearer. While born of the
Virgin, the One speaking to them with fire in His eyes is to be
addressed as the Son of God, not the son of Mary.
I know your deeds, your
love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now
doing more than you did at first.
The Catholic Church is known for its efforts
in bringing mercy and compassion, as well as the Gospel, to God’s
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. I have given
her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.
The title “Queen of Heaven” by which many
Catholics refer to Mary, was first used of Semeramis, wife of Nimrod
the founder of Babylon, and mother of Tammuz. Semeramis declared
herself a goddess, claimed that Tammuz was born of a supernatural
conception involving the Sun god, and began the first counterfeit
religion, a mother-child cult.
According to legend, while out hunting one
day Tammuz was killed by a wild animal. Semeramis mourned for 40
days at the end of which Tammuz was raised from the dead. She
formed a celibate priesthood to commemorate this and named a chief
priest who she declared to be infallible. The 40 day mourning (now
called Lent), the Yule log, evergreen tree, mistletoe and hot cross
buns were all used in the rituals they instituted, and the
mother-child cult was born.
Later the Romans adapted these to the death
and re-birth of the Sun at the winter solstice, but in the 4th
century the traditions surrounding Semeramis and Tammuz were
attributed to Mary and Jesus and came almost unchanged into
Catholicism, where they remain to this day.
Semeramis is symbolically called Jezebel in
the letter, leading people away from the truth into idolatry. But
the real Jezebel is also in view here. She was a daughter of the
King of Phonecia, a pagan princess best known for her advice to her
Israelite husband King Ahab on how to obtain a vineyard he wanted.
She brought trumped up charges against the vineyard’s owner, hired
witnesses to bear false testimony, and had him convicted and
executed. Then she confiscated the vineyard in the name of the King
(1 Kings 21:1-16).
Centuries later the Catholic Church would obtain much of its wealth
in the same way. Fortunes beyond measure were gained during these
Jezebel was also the patron of the 450
prophets of Baal who Elijah slew on Mt. Carmel. The Lord views
idolatry as infidelity and Jezebel had encouraged the worship of
Baal, leading the people into spiritual adultery. The many saints to
whom some Catholics pray, and the sacramental works they must
perform to attain and keep their salvation are not scriptural and
deny the sufficiency of the cross. For these reasons the Catholic
Church is often called the “plus religion.” Jesus plus Mary. Grace
plus works. The Scripture plus tradition. This giving of credit for
the works of God to others is an example of spiritual adultery that
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. Then all the churches will know that I am he who
searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to
Those who insist upon being judged by their
works will be granted their wish. Sadly the emphasis on these
religious works has clouded the true message of the gospel to the
extent that some life-long Catholics never come to know the Lord on
a personal basis. He will judge them according to the motives
of their hearts. Are their good works performed out of gratitude for
the free gift of salvation He offers, or they done in a futile
effort to earn it on their own?
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): Only hold on to what you have until I come.
Others will have seen through the layers of
traditions and works and saints and rituals and found the face of
the Lord looking back at them. Those who do and cling tenaciously to
Him will have their reward.
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. I
will also give him the morning star.
They’ll join Him on His throne as co-regent
of the universe, the Bride of Christ, His beloved church.
We’re not in the Church because of the pew we
occupy, or the name over the door, or the good works we do. We’re in
the church because we’ve believed by faith that
Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised
on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1
He who has an ear, let
him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
There’s a little bit of Thyatira in all of
us. Even after we’re saved by Grace, we all have our lists of
do’s and don’ts. We derive our self- image as a believer from our
adherence to this list, often judging others by how well they
keep our commandments. When we fail, we fall back on God’s
grace, but we don’t really feel good about ourselves until we’re
obeying our list again. We forget that grace plus works equals
works. The two are like oil and water, they don’t mix.
To the man who does not
work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited
as righteousness. (Romans
The only negative experience we had in our
entire visit to the sites of the seven churches in Turkey took place
in Thyatira, called Akhisar today. After a friendly and helpful
guard opened the site where the church once stood for us and gave us
material that explained what we were looking at, we left to find
some lunch thinking how pleasant our time there had been. Down the
street, we spotted an open-air shop where a vendor was selling the
barbecued chicken sandwiches that are so popular in Turkey, and that
we had come to enjoy as well.
Waiting for our sandwiches, we were
approached by a man who appeared to hold some position of authority.
His manner was most unfriendly, and his questions conveyed an air of
suspicion. We left there quickly wondering if he was a policeman, a
government agent, or an official from a religion unfriendly to
Christians. Driving away we also discovered our food was not edible.
The chicken was bad, as if the innards hadn’t been removed before
cooking, and the bread was stale. Re-reading the letter to
Thyatira we were struck by the contrasts between good and evil, in
the letter and in our visit.
To the Church in Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6)
“To the angel of the
church in Sardis write:
Sardis means remnant. As He did in the Letter
to Thyatira, the Lord will distinguish between the lost and the
saved (the remnant) in Sardis. The church in Sardis represents the
Protestant Reformation. When Luther and others led the way out of
Catholicism, it was in search of truth. The Catholic leadership had
distorted God’s word into something it was never intended to be,
adding to the Scriptures and imposing heavy spiritual burdens on
The call of the reformation was “Sola fides
(only through faith), sola gratia (Only by grace), solus Christus
(only with Christ), and sola Scriptura (Only His Word).”
These are the words of
him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
The Lord reminds the Church in Sardis just
Who is writing to them. He is the Giver of the Holy Spirit, and the
Guardian of the angel who shepherds them.
I know your deeds; you
have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
Jesus told the woman at the well,
“God is spirit, and his
worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John
4:24) In their quest for the truth, the
Protestant reformers neglected the things of the Spirit and for
several hundred years almost never heard the rustlings of the Ruach
Elohim (Spirit of God) in their midst. When the Great Awakening of
the late 1800′s and early 1900′s brought the Gifts of the Spirit
into the open again main line protestants denied their legitimacy.
This caused many to leave the main line denominations, giving birth
first to the Pentecostal and then the Charismatic movements.
Wake up! Strengthen what
remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds
complete in the sight of my God.
When the German School of Higher Criticism
invaded protestant seminaries with its godless theories about the
“real” authorship of the Bible and the Modern Rationalists they
spawned explained away its miracles, there was no Spiritual
discernment to resist them. And so, having earlier rejected the
Spirit, they now lost the Truth as well.
Remember, therefore, what
you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not
wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what
time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who
have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in
white, for they are worthy.
As is the case in the Catholic church, there
remains but a remnant of denominational protestants who are saved.
The rest, having worked so hard to make God small enough to fit in
their minds, now find Him too small to meet their needs. They will
be among the most surprised to find themselves left behind as End
Times events unfold. (Notice, the Lord doesn’t promise to come for
them, as in the rapture, but to them.)
He who overcomes will,
like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from
the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and
But to the believing remnant He will give the
white robes of the righteousness that comes by faith, and will be
pleased to introduce them to His Father as members of God’s Forever
He who has an ear, let
him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
There are two extremes in Christianity today.
The dead orthodoxy of main line Protestantism, who can’t hear the
Spirit and whose watered down gospel is powerless to save, is on one
end of the spectrum. The “zeal without knowledge” of
Charismatics who all too often ignore the admonitions of His word
and permit the most outrageous excesses of spiritualism, is on the
other. We’re told to worship God in spirit and in truth, but too
great a focus on either can cause the loss of both.
The most significant site in Sardis today is
the huge abandoned synagogue and gymnasium (school). As I stood
there I was reminded how the protestant church has abandoned its
Jewish roots and ignores the Old Testament, even doubting its
veracity. Having learned what the Lord did from their New Testament
but not understanding why He did it because they’ve never read the
Old, they’ve lost the last of the meaning that once validated their
theology. It’s become form without substance.
These two children defined Christianity until
the 1800’s when the Lord again did a remarkable thing and the Church
was born again in the 3rd child of Pergamus. More next time.