Thyatira (529-1517 A.D.)
In Rev. 2:18 Christ introduces Himself to the church of Thyatira:
18 And to the angel of the church in Thyatira, write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:
Once again Christ is pictured in a unique way that is appropriate to deal with the problems in this church. We have already seen in Rev. 1:14 and 15 that “His eyes were like a flame of fire, and His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been caused to glow in a furnace.” He is like a furnace, where we can see His inner fire through His eyes and see His glowing feet.
The fire indicates His character or nature (Deut. 4:24), and His bronze feet indicate divine judgment by means of that fire. The messages to Pergamum and Thyatira are given by a Judge, whereas the other messages focus upon His features, or attributes. Therefore, it is clear that Pergamum and Thyatira are singled out for divine judgment. We do not know the particular circumstances in those literal churches of the first century, but history tells us the nature and actions of the church as a whole during the eras that they represent.
Rev. 2:19 begins the actual message to the church:
19 I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.
The focus on the church’s “deeds” (works, actions) seems to suggest that works somehow have overshadowed faith. Obviously, there were two kinds of people in the church, good and bad. The good deeds of the one group are not the problem, but the deeds of the others are exposed as the message continues.
The Meaning of Thyatira
Thyatira was located on the road from Pergamum to Sardis. The experts are uncertain as to the meaning of Thyatira. Many believe, however, that it is a compound word that is derived from thya, “a female deity, goddess,” and tyrannos, “a tyrant or ruler.” Others say that the name comes from thuo, “to sacrifice” and therefore means “continual sacrifice.”
Once again, it is likely that both of these meanings are true and prophetic, even as Pergamum (or Pergamos) and Antipas had double meanings. In Rev. 2:20 the meaning of Thyatira was no doubt being used to support the prophecy about “Jezebel.” The Old Testament Jezebel not only asserted herself as a tyrant goddess, but she also killed the prophets, offering them up, as it were, as a continual sacrifice.
Furthermore, Thyatira was the New Covenant church that ran parallel to the Jezebel church under the Old Covenant. For this reason, of course, the message to Thyatira references its Jezebel problem. The New Covenant church was troubled by the spirit of Jezebel, who came from Tyre. Thyatira was the New Tyre, built after the original city of Tyre was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.
Ethbaal, King-Priest of Tyre
In studying the Old Testament Balaam Church, which parallels the New Testament Church of Pergamos, we see that it involved the doctrine of Balaam who taught the king of Moab how to induce Israel to sin through intermarriage with the idolatrous Moabites. The intermarriage problem in Israel continued throughout their history in Canaan until it finally reached its apex in the days of king Ahab of Israel. King Ahab married Jezebel, who was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians (1 Kings16:31). He ruled as a king-priest from the city of Tyre.
According to historians, Ethbaal was the high priest of Baal who had overthrown king Pheles of Tyre and replaced him as king-priest. Thus, Ethbaal was more than a mere follower of Baal. As high priest of the religion, he represented Baal on earth. As king, he ruled with temporal power as well. Hence, his name was actually a title: Eth-baal, one who rules with Baal, or by his authority, or in place of Baal. The name Ethbaal means “with, near, or together with Baal.”
In Roman terminology, he would be the Vicar of Baal. The kingdom of Tyre in the days of Jezebel was a religious kingdom of Baal on earth, and its high priest ruled supreme as king. This sheds much light on Ezekiel 28, which compares the beautiful city of Tyre to the Garden of Eden and compares Ethbaal, the prince of Tyre, to the tempter in Eden. In effect, in those days Tyre served as the anti-kingdom of God, ruled by Ethbaal, an antichrist type.
The prefix “anti-” means “in place of.” For example, Matt. 2:22tells us that Archelaus reigned in Judea anti, or in place of, his father Herod. In like manner, Ethbaal ruled Tyre in place of Baal himself. Likewise, because Ahab had married Jezebel, Ethbaal’s laws governed Israel in place of the laws of God. Even as the serpent in Eden successfully tempted Adam to sin, so also did Ethbaal tempt Ahab to sin in marrying Jezebel.
In the New Testament message to the Churches, we find that Pergamos, “married to power,” represents the unlawful marriage between the Church and paganism, or Ahab and Jezebel. The next Church era, that of Thyatira, gives us the results of that marriage. In the Church’s rise to power on a temporal plane over the kings of the earth, it formed an antichrist system. That is, the popes claimed to rule in place of Christ, calling themselves the Vicars of Christ. There is a direct parallel in this to King Ahab ruling Israel in place of Ethbaal, even as Ethbaal ruled in place of Baal as his vicar.
The name of Jezebel’s father prophesies to us of the underlying problem in the Thyatira Church era from 529 to 1517 A.D. King Ahab of Israel married Jezebel, and in so doing, he joined himself with her god, Baal. Thus, he placed Israel under the power of the kingdom of Baal on earth.
This set the stage for an era in which Ethbaal—through his daughter Jezebel—was the real power behind Israel’s monarchy. Ahab was a mere king; Ethbaal was a king of kings to all who worshipped Baal. In Israel, the laws of Baal replaced the laws of God as given by Moses, and it became unlawful to think differently. Jezebel then persecuted the true prophets of God and the Remnant of Grace during the days of Elijah (1 Kings18:13).
The History of Tyre
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered the city of Tyre in 572 B.C., shortly after he conquered Jerusalem. This was no easy task, for Tyre had a wall that was 150 feet high. In fact, it took thirteen years for Babylon to subdue the city. The Hebrew name for Tyre is Tsur, which literally means rock or castle, no doubt referring to its great strength as a fortified city.
The city of Tyre was a seaport divided into two parts. The main part of the city was built along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in what is now Lebanon. The second section of the city was built upon a small island just offshore. When Nebuchadnezzar conquered the main part of Tyre, the people escaped to the island and remained free, for the sea itself provided a natural barrier against the Babylonian army, who did not have a navy to lay siege to the island.
Nearly three centuries later, Alexander the Great ran into the same problem. However, he decided to use the ruins of the old city to connect the island with the mainland. They hauled the rocks and columns from all the destroyed buildings and threw them into the sea. So much material was required that they literally scraped the dust from the bedrock of the old city and threw it into the sea. Only then were they able to conquer the island city of Tyre.
In this conquest, Alexander the Great fulfilled the prophecy of Ezekiel 26:4, 5.
4 And they will destroy the walls of Tyre, and break down her towers; and I will scrape her debris from her and make her a bare rock. 5 She will be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken, declares the Lord God, and she will become spoil for the nations.
Today this causeway is used by fishermen to dry or repair their nets, as the prophet said.
One of Alexander’s four generals, Seleucus, took part in the conquest of Tyre in 332 B.C. After Alexander died in 323 B.C., the empire was divided among the four generals. Seleucus took control of Asia Minor and Babylon. In 312 B.C. he established the so-called Seleucid (Greek) calendar which later was used in dating events in the books of the Maccabees. Shortly before he died in 280 B.C., he founded the city of Thyatira—New Tyre.
As we said earlier, the name Tyre is, in Hebrew, the word Tsur, which means “rock” and refers to its strength as a fortress. According to The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, the name Thyatira means “the castle of Thya.” In other words, they take tira to mean “castle”—no doubt based upon its literal meaning as a rock or stronghold. This is supported by the fact that in later times it was renamed Ak-Hissar, which in Turkish means “white castle.”
Hissar is the Turkish equivalent to the Hebrew name Hazor found in Joshua 11. Hazor was the leading city of the northern part of Canaan. There is some debate as to whether Joshua conquered the city of Hazor, or if, in fact, he conquered Tyre. Hazor may be Ha-Tsur, “the rock.” At any rate, Strong’s concordance tells us that the name Hazor comes from the Hebrew word chatsar, which means “to surround with a stockade.” (See Strong’s #2690.) In other words, it is a castle, a walled fortress.
Thus, the Turkish word for castle (Hissar) is the same as the Hebrew word for castle (Hazor). Both are closely related to Ha-Tsur, “the rock,” and Tsur is the city of Tyre. And yet Hassar is the modern name for the city of Thyatira as well. The connections are obvious.
Putting all these facts together, we can say that there is a spiritual connection and very possibly a physical connection between the city of Tyre and the city of Thya-TIRA. Both names incorporate the concept of a rock, fortress, or castle. Yet there are other striking similarities. Both cities worshipped the sun-god and a female counterpart. Both cities were famous for their purple dye and had trade unions, or guilds, to protect themselves from competitors.
Tyre and Thyatira Known for Purple Dye
In comparing Tyre with the city of Thyatira, it is evident that Seleucus intended Thyatira to be like a second Tyre. Like Tyre, Thyatira was noted for its production of purple dye. We see this in Acts 16, where Lydia, one of Paul’s converts in Philippi, was in that city on business selling purple dye, cloth, or robes from her home town of Thyatira (Acts 16:14). So their main commercial activity was still the same.
Lydia’s conversion perhaps foreshadows prophetically the Thyatira Church, which would be in need of a fresh conversion. Previous to meeting Paul, Lydia apparently had been a convert to Judaism, for it is said that she “worshipped God.” Nonetheless, she was in need of baptism into Christ (Acts16:15) in order to give her a full revelation of the Truth.
So also with the Church of Thyatira from 529 to 1517 A.D. While many of the people certainly attempted to worship God in the best way they knew, it is plain that their religious experience was in need of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The right to know Him personally had been taken from them in the rush to establish unity and single-mindedness in submission to “orthodox” Christian doctrine.
Tyre and Thyatira Had Similar Religions
We also can compare the religions of Tyre and Thyatira. The city of Tyre worshipped Baal, which was the name of their sun-god. The city of Thyatira in ancient times had a temple to the ancient Lydian sun-god named Tyrimnos. The first part of his name seems to connect him with the city of Tyre, as well as with the Greek word Tyrannos, “tyrant, or sovereign ruler.”
Ashtoreth was the goddess of the Zidonians (1 Kings11:33). She was the female consort for Baal and represented the earth, even as Baal was the sun-god. So also we find that the city of Thyatira had a goddess to go with their sun-god. According to The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,
“Another temple at Thyatira was dedicated to Sambethe, and at this shrine was a prophetess, by some supposed to represent the Jezebel of Rev. 2:20, who uttered the sayings which this deity would impart to the worshippers.”
In Rev. 2:20 the Church of Thyatira is condemned for allowing…
20 . . . the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
Thus, we see that there was both a male figure, the sun-god named Tyrimnos, and a goddess named Sambethe in the city of Thyatira. It would appear that Sambethe is the “Thya-,” while Tyrimnos is the “Tyra.” Putting them together, as if to manifest the marriage of the god and goddess, they form the name of Thyatira.
As the Pergamum era closed, a new emperor arose in the Christian Roman Empire. It may surprise many to learn that since the time of Constantine, the capital of the empire was in Constantinople, which they often called “New Rome.” Today it is known as Istanbul.
The new emperor was Justinian. He had been legally adopted by the previous emperor, Justin, and was made co-emperor on April 4, 527 A.D. When Justin died on the first of August of that year, Justinian became sole emperor.
Justinian’s wife was Theodora, an actress, exotic dancer (“stripper”), and prostitute in her early years, having had at least one child out of wedlock. She soon became Justinian’s mistress. Later, she was converted to a non-Orthodox sect known as the Monophysites. This super-spiritual sect believed that Jesus had only a divine nature and no human nature at all. She married Justinian in 525, and two years later, when Justinian became the sole emperor (Augustus), she became the empress (Augusta). The Britannica says of her,
“Theodora exercised considerable influence, and though she was never coregent, her superior intelligence and deft handling of political affairs caused many to think that it was she, rather than Justinian, who ruled Byzantium. Her name is mentioned in nearly all the laws passed during that period. She received foreign envoys and corresponded with foreign rulers, functions usually reserved for the emperor.”
On page 62 of A Short History of Byzantium, we read further,
“At Justinian’s insistence she was to reign at his side, taking decisions and giving him the benefit of her counsel in all the highest affairs of state.”
Hence, the Thyatira era began with Justinian and Theodora, who together provided the link to the Old Covenant church, which I call the Jezebel church. Perhaps more properly it should be called the church of Ahab and Jezebel, except that Rev. 2:20 mentions only Jezebel.
Whether or not we are to consider Theodora’s adherence to Monophysitism to be the equivalent to Jezebel’s adherence to the religion of Baal is not clear. The message to the church of Thyatira focuses upon the subject of immorality. This seems to point out Theodora’s immorality, at least in her early life.
Procopius, the historian of the day, was commissioned to write a book about Justinian and Theodora called Buildings of Justinian, in which the two were presented in a flattering manner as a pious couple. This was written while Justinian was yet alive. After Justinian had died, he wrote another book called Secret History, in which he presented them in a more negative light. The Wikipedia’s article on Theodora tells us of this book,
“Justinian is depicted as cruel, venal, prodigal and incompetent; as for Theodora, the reader is treated to a detailed and titillating portrayal of vulgarity and insatiable lust, combined with shrewish and calculating mean-spiritedness…”
It is probable that Procopius’ first book was designed to flatter the couple, while the second, written in secret, was closer to the truth. If so, the two come closer to King Ahab and Jezebel. This book, however, was not published for another thousand years.
Changing the Calendar and the Roman Legal System
When Justinian became co-regent in 525, his first major project was to change the calendar, which had been devised by Dionysius Exiguus. Up to this time, the Roman calendar’s reference point (Year One) was the date of the founding of Rome (753 B.C.). Hence, Justinian became co-regent in the Roman year 1278 A.U.C. (ab urbe condita), but he changed the calendar so that it began with the birth of Christ. By the new calendar, then, he became emperor in 527 A.D. (anno domini, “in the year of our Lord”).
Justinian’s second great project was to streamline and change the laws of the empire to reflect the values of the church. Roman laws had been accumulating for more than 1200 years. They were often contradictory or antiquated. Something needed to be done, and Justinian wanted to take the best of the old Roman laws, retaining those that reflected the values of the church and eliminate those that reflected pagan values. Will Durant tells us in his book, The Age of Faith, p. 111,
“the whole vast body of Roman law had become an empirical accumulation, rather than a logical code.”
According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, under the heading, “Justinian I,”
“The most enduring work of Justinian was his codification of the laws.”
The Codex Constitutionum, as it was called, was produced in 529 A.D. The Pandectae, or Digest, was produced in 530 along with the Institutes (i.e., student manuals). The final revisions were published in 534, known as the Corpus Juris Civilis with additions called Authentic. The new laws came into effect on December 30, 534 A.D.
The new Codex merged civil law with religious law. Will Durant tells us,
“This Code…enacted orthodox Christianity into law….All ecclesiastical, like all civil, law was to emanate from the throne.” (The Age of Faith, p. 112)
The Catholic Encyclopedia says of these new laws:
“It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of this ‘Corpus.’ It is the basis of all canon law (ecclesia vivet romana) and the basis of civil law in every civilized country.”
In other words, Justinian’s Corpus is to this day the basis of law in Europe and the western “Christian” nations. Dan. 7:25 tells us the importance of Justinian’s calendar and alteration of Roman law. The prophet identifies Justinian’s actions as the start of the “little horn” era, when Religious Rome essentially replaced Imperial Rome. The prophet says, “he will intend to make alterations in times and in law.” The “alteration in times” was Justinian’s change in the Roman calendar. The alteration “in law” was his Corpus Juris Civilis.
The prophet also tells us that the “little horn” was to flourish for “a time, times, and half a time” (Dan. 7:25). A prophetic “time” is 360 days in short-term prophecy and 360 years in long-term prophecy. In this case, it prophesies long-term, and 3½ “times” is therefore a period of 1,260 years. The time frame in question is from 529-534 A.D. to 1789-1794 A.D., ending with the French Revolution.
The time of the “little horn” takes us past the church era of Thyatira, which ends in 1517. It is therefore beyond our current scope of interest. Nonetheless, it is important to realize that the start of the Thyatira era coincides with the “little horn” of Dan. 7:25. The little horn of Daniel 7 arose during the Thyatira era of the Jezebel church.
Jezebel Persecutes the Prophets
As we have already shown, the name Thyatira suggests the church’s rise in temporal power and is connected to the city of Tyre as well. Tyre was the home town of Jezebel before she married King Ahab of Israel. Jezebel hated the prophets and all true believers in the God of Scripture. She persecuted them mercilessly in order to turn Israel into a nation of Baal worshipers.
During that persecution, King Ahab’s Chief of Staff, who was the head steward over the king’s household (1 Kings 18:3) was a believer in Yahweh who helped to support the underground church in his day. We read in 1 Kings 18:3, 4,
3 And Ahab called Obadiah who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly; 4 for it came about, when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the Lord, that Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water.)
Later, the prophet Elijah had a showdown with Jezebel’s prophets of Baal. Her prophets were killed, and Jezebel then went on a rampage, vowing to execute Elijah himself. He fled to Mount Horeb and sat in the cave where Moses had first received the law (1 Kings 19:8, 9). Elijah was discouraged, complaining that he seemed to be the only believer left in Israel, even after his great victory at the showdown on Mount Carmel. Perhaps he thought that Obadiah had been found out and executed, along with the hundred prophets who had been hidden up to that point.
In his conversation with God, the prophet was told that there yet remained a remnant of 7,000 in Israel (1 Kings 19:18). Later, the Apostle Paul commented on this, relating those 7,000 to the remnant of grace under the New Covenant (Rom. 11:4, 5). It is this same remnant of grace that are the overcomers in the messages to the seven churches.
The distinction between the church and the overcomers is clear. Even as Jezebel had pressured the Israelites to commit spiritual fornication with other gods, so also was there the same problem in the church of Thyatira, seducing the people to commit spiritual fornication and leading God’s bond-servants astray (Rev. 2:20).
The leadership in the Thyatira era followed the lead of the Jezebel spirit, but the remnant of grace—the overcomers—remained true to God. Nonetheless, most of these true believers were hidden from view. It is not likely that many of them were church leaders.
Time to Repent
Revelation 2:21 says of Jezebel,
21 And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality.
Seldom does God judge without first giving a grace period in which to repent. In this case no specific length of time is specified, nor again with Queen Jezebel in Israel. Before studying the judgment upon Jezebel in the Thyatira church, let us look at her judgment in the Old Testament. In fact, to get the full impact of divine judgment, we must view Ahab and Jezebel together.
Usurping the Kingdom and its Fruit
The main sin of Ahab was that he stole the vineyard next door to his house. 1 Kings 21:1 says,
1 Now it came about after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard which was in Jezreel beside the palace of Ahab king of Israel.
This property had been owned by Naboth, “fruits,” located in Jezreel, “God scatters; God sows.” Jezreel (Yezreel) is also a homonym of the name Israel (Yisrael). Isaiah 5:7 tells us, “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,” so this, then, is a historical allegory of a wicked king stealing the vineyard and the fruits of the Kingdom.
Both Isaiah 5 and 1 Kings 21 are Scriptures that Jesus used as the basis of His parable in Matt. 21:33-41. Jesus (Joshua) had planted a vineyard in Canaan, but those entrusted with working the land usurped it for themselves and refused to bring forth the fruits of the Kingdom.
Hence, the story in 1 Kings 21 tells how King Ahab, with the prodding of Jezebel, usurped Naboth’s vineyard and the fruits of the Kingdom. For this he was judged, for God sent Elijah to tell him in 1 Kings 21:21-24,
21 Behold, I will bring evil upon you, and will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, both bond and free in Israel; 22 and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and because you have made Israel sin. 23 And of Jezebel also has the Lord spoken, saying, “The dogs shall eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel. 24 The one belonging to Ahab, who dies in the city, the dogs shall eat, and the one who dies in the field the birds shall eat.”
The judgment upon Ahab correlates with the judgment that Jesus pronounced upon those who usurped the fruits of the Kingdom in His day. Matt. 21:40, 41 says,
40 Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers? 41 They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”
The “wretched end” describes Elijah’s judgment upon Ahab, where God vowed to utterly sweep him away. Elijah also said that the house of Ahab would be swept away even as what happened with two of his predecessors, Jeroboam and Baasha (1 Kings 16:3, 4, 11, 12, 13). When the Pharisees judged themselves in Matt. 21:41, they did not realize that they were pronouncing the same judgment upon themselves that Elijah had pronounced against Ahab and Jezebel.
Furthermore, this judgment was decreed for the same reason—usurping the fruits of the Kingdom and denying these fruits to the Owner of the vineyard.
All of this implies that Jezebel in the Thyatira church had usurped the fruits of the Kingdom as well. The fruit God desires is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23). The problem is that the flesh constantly wars against the Spirit, as described in Gal. 5:17,
17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
In other words, the “old man” of flesh desires to usurp authority and replace the fruit of the Spirit with the fruit of the flesh—that is, “the deeds of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19).
Judgment upon Jezebel
Revelation 2:22 says,
22 Behold, I will cast her upon a bed [klena] of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 And I will kill her children with pestilence; and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
The word for “bed” is klena, which means a bed (for sleeping) or a couch (for eating) or even a bier (to carry the dead). The Hebrew word mittah carries the same range of meaning. The NASB above adds the phrase “of sickness” to imply that the judgment of God was to afflict Jezebel with sickness so that she would be bed-ridden. That is the dominant meaning of the metaphor in the passage above, because Jezebel is portrayed as committing fornication on a bed, while her children will be killed by pestilence, or sickness.
However, the Spirit also uses this word to suggest eating a meal while reclining on a couch (Ezekiel 23:41; John 21:20). Once we begin to relate this Jezebel with the wife of Ahab by the same name, we may see the klena or mittah in terms of reclining at a meal. 1 Kings 21:24 says,
24 The one belonging to Ahab, who dies in the city, the dogs shall eat, and the one who dies in the field the birds shall eat.”
This literally happened to Jezebel after she was killed. 2 Kings 9:35, 36 says of her,
35 And they went to bury her, but they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. 36 Therefore they returned and told him. And he said, “This is the word of the Lord, which He spoke by His servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “In the property of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel.”
The full prophecy shows that she was eaten by dogs and birds (vultures?). This event was a prophetic type that applied to all usurpers of the Kingdom, as well as a specific metaphor for the New Testament Jezebel.
The “Jezebel” of Rev. 2:20 was a prophetic type of the greater “Jezebel” which emerges as the great harlot in Rev. 17:1. She is the pretender bride, clothed in royal garb and riding a beast with seven heads and ten horns. Eventually, the beast turns on her in Rev. 17:16,
16 And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire.
The next verse tells us that “God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose,” that is, for the beast to eat the harlot, even as Jezebel was eaten by the dogs at the end of her rule.
The message to the church of Thyatira draws upon the Old Testament story of Ahab and Jezebel in order to prophesy the state of the church during the Thyatira era (529-1517 A.D.). It shows that the church—like the Jewish leaders before it—would usurp the “vineyard” and replace the fruit of the Spirit with the deeds of the flesh.
For this reason, both were to receive similar judgments. What literally happened to Jezebel would be repeated on a symbolic level. Hence, in the end, at the second coming of Christ, we read in Rev. 19:17, 18, and 21,
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God; 18 in order that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great…” 21 … and all the birds were filled with their flesh.
Here we find no mention of dogs, but only the birds eating the flesh. Whether there might be occasions where this is fulfilled literally or not, we cannot say. We do know, however, that it is a metaphor for the destruction of “the flesh,” so that all that remains is the fruit of the Spirit. The meal consumes the flesh.
In the metaphor, a “dog” can represent two opposite things: faithfulness and carnality. In the good sense, Caleb means “dog” in the sense of being a loyal, faithful friend. Caleb and Joshua were the two overcomers in their day, who had faith when the spies gave their report. In the evil sense, Deut. 23:18 says,
18 You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the wages of a dog into the house of the Lord your God for any votive offering, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.
This refers to Canaanite worship in the groves, where prostitution was a religious act of purification before marriage. Some came to have sexual relations with a harlot of the opposite sex—and paid for the services as a donation to the pagan temple. Others came to have relations with the same sex as “dogs.” Homosexual behavior was considered to be the most depraved expression of carnality in biblical law. Hence, God’s sanctuary was to not to adopt the carnal practices of Canaanite religion, nor was it even to accept donations earned by such behavior.
Jezebel brought Baal worship into Israel when Ahab married her. Hence, the land was defiled and the fruit of the Kingdom was withheld from God.
Ruling by Immorality
The church during the Thyatira era gradually degenerated, morally speaking, under its carnal leadership. Many church historians (cardinals, archbishops, etc.) wrote about this, so it is not a secret, though it is no longer widely known. By the tenth century the church had degenerated so badly that the time was known as the Golden Age of Pornocracy (i.e., Ruled by Immorality). Many people, especially those living in Rome (who saw the corruption first-hand), became very cynical. They believed that the church had been established by Christ through Peter. They believed that it was the True Church, but they regretted that it was so.
All of this corruption was pictured in the prophetic message to the church of Thyatira, which had tolerated “Jezebel.” The church was not exempt from the judgment of God. A religious veneer on the outside could not hide their deeds from “He who searches the minds and hearts” (Rev. 2:23).
Nonetheless, God always left a remnant of grace, not only in Israel during the time of Elijah, but also in the literal church of Thyatira and the prophetic Thyatira church era.
The word “heretic” comes from a Greek word, hireses, meaning to make a choice. The word is translated “sect” five times. The Sadducees were a sect, hireses (Acts 5:17), as were the Pharisees (Acts 15:5). Whether or not they were “heretics” was, of course, a matter of opinion.
When men choose their own beliefs instead of believing Scripture, it is true heresy. However, in later history the Popes claimed that the decisions of Church Councils were the truth. Thus, a heretic came to be defined as anyone who disagreed with the creeds of a recognized Church Council, rather than Scripture itself. This was the problem in Jesus’ day in Judaism when the priests could not distinguish between the word of God and their “traditions of men.”
H. Grattan Guinness tells us on page 31 of his book, Romanism and the Reformation, that in the sixth century, Pope Pelagius said,
“Schism is an evil. Whoever is separated from the apostolic see is doubtless in schism. Do then what we often exhort. Take pains that they who presume to commit this sin be brought into custody. . . Do not hesitate to compress men of this kind, and if he despise this, let him be crushed by the public powers.”
Guinness does not tell us if this was Pelagius I (557-560) or Pelagius II (577-590). Both were embroiled in schismatic times, so I have been unable to discover which Pope said these things. Again, Guinness says of Pope Damasus, who was an earlier pontiff from 366-384 A.D.,
“Pope Damasus, whose election to the pontificate was secured by a hundred and thirty-seven murders, authorizes persecution of those who speak against any of the holy canons, and adds, ‘It is permitted neither to think nor to speak differently from the Roman Church”... Whatever is short of absolute, unconditional surrender of all freedom of act or word, or even of thought and conscience, is heresy. Every evangelical Christian in the world is therefore, according to Roman canons, a heretic, and as such liable to ‘punishment’.” (pages 31, 32)
The Beginnings of Persecution
In the fourth century, when the Church first began coming to power, they normally broke fellowship with heretics and expelled them from the Church. Memories of torture and death were still too fresh from the Empire’s holocaust for the Church to adopt the same policy of persecution. But Cormenin tells us in his History of the Popes, Vol. 1, p. 105,
“After the death of [Pope] Felix, the intrigues for a successor were renewed. At this period the ambition of the priests had grown to be very great; liberty began to be banished from the elections, and those who had riches or powerful friends alone could hope to aspire to the episcopate.”
Pope Felix died in 529, just as the Thyatira Church era began. Within a few years, Pope Pelagius I [557-560] said,
“ ‘Do not listen,’ said he, ‘to the idle talk of timid men, who blame the church when it commands a persecution for the purpose of repressing error, in order to save souls. Schisms are violent evils, which must be cured by strong and terrible remedies; and Scripture and the canon authorize us to call in the aid of magistrates to compel schismatics to re-enter into the bosom of the church. Do, then, that which we have frequently asked from you; send to the emperor, well guarded, those who have separated themselves from the apostolic see. Have no fears for your eternal safety; the examples of the great saints will teach you that princes ought to punish heretics, not only by exile, but also by the confiscation of property, by severe imprisonment, and even by torture’.” (Cormenin, History of the Popes, Vol. I, page 118)
In the 12th century the Church became alarmed by the resurgence of heresy among the Albigenses in southern France. This eventually led to the establishment of the Inquisition by Pope Gregory IX in 1231 A.D. It was not long before torture became the most popular method of the Inquisitors in stamping out heresy.
The Albigenses were dualists who believed that everything was a struggle between two gods: one good, the other evil. The good God was Jesus Christ, the God of light, goodness, and spirit; while the evil god, Satan, was the god of darkness, evil, and matter. They believed that Satan is the god of the Old Testament; while Jesus Christ is the God of the New Testament.
This belief had flourished for centuries along the Mediterranean ever since the Manicheans had preached it in the third century. It still has influence in various groups today, manifested primarily by men’s abhorrence of the Law or of Yahweh Himself. It is also seen in the way the concept of resurrection from the dead has been undermined. (See our booklet, The Purpose of Resurrection.)
And so, we agree that the Albigenses were wrong in their doctrines and concepts of God. However, we believe that the torture and murder sanctioned by the Inquisition was not the answer to the problem. If they had been left alone to suffer under the injustices of their own antinomian society, they would have either learned by themselves that imperfect men need laws for their protection (1 Tim. 1:9), or else they would have lost their members as the group self-destructed in anarchy.
The Inquisition was carried out directly under papal direction. Its scope went far beyond rooting out the dualistic views of the Albigenses. It sought to destroy all heresy—all views that ran contrary to established Church doctrine or which threatened the absolute authority of the pope over the minds of men. In 1252 A.D. pope Innocent IV officially sanctioned the use of torture to force confessions and make heretics recant their views. For the next 250 years Europe was drenched with the blood of those guilty of thinking or speaking “differently from the Roman Church.” It was so bad that even the Catholic professor Rossetti wrote:
“It makes the heart of a true Christian bleed to think of this fatal error of the Latin Church, which by persecuting others laid the foundation of her own irreparable ruin. That the opinions held by these so-called heretics were most injurious to the Church of Rome cannot be denied, but the means taken to destroy them were, of all others, the most likely to strengthen them, and render them more deeply rooted. Daniel and St. John foretold that Satan’s delegate would use horrid cruelties and inundate Babylon with the blood of Christ’s martyrs; and the pope, to prove that he was not that delegate, did use horrid cruelties and cause Rome to overflow with the purest of Christian blood” (Guinness, p. 34).
Literally millions of Christians were put to death, either directly or indirectly by the Church in the war against thinking differently. Finally, at the fifth Lateran Church Council (1512-1517), A. Pucci, a Cardinal of the Church, told the pope,
“The whole body of Christendom is now subject to one head, even to thee; no one now opposes, no one now objects.” (Guinness, p. 37)
Perhaps he meant that by this that they had finally succeeded in killing all the heretics. Yet we can only imagine how God must have laughed at his statement. That Council ended in 1517, and later that same year Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation by nailing his famous “95 Theses” on the Church door at Wittenberg, Bavaria onOct. 31, 1517.
Just when the Church thought it had stamped out all its opposition and put all things under the feet of the Roman Church, their power began to fall. They had to relearn the lesson of Imperial Rome, that the more one persecutes Christians, the more they multiply, as others see the true character of both sides and ask themselves, which is more Christ-like?
The Protestant Reformation put the first cracks in the Roman Church that could not be repaired. Thus, 1517 marks the end of the Thyatira Church and the beginning of the era of Sardis, the precious stone, the remnant Church that God began to draw out of the Jezebel Church. The overcomers had been refined in Jezebel’s fire, along with the genuine heretics, for thinking differently and for desiring to obey God rather than men.
The Protestant Reformation signaled the time when papal power began to decline. Just as A. Pucci declared that all the world had finally submitted to Rome, either by force or by death, God said, “It is enough.” Rome’s spiritual power had peaked, and the judgment of God had begun.
Rising Power to Judge Heretics
The messages to the seven churches is really an overview of church history, where God points out the strengths and weaknesses of each church in the eras that they represent. As we will see later, the latter portion of the book of Revelation, beginning in chapter six, gives us the history of the iron beast of Rome and the little horn (church) that arose from that final beast empire.
The secular and religious histories are each covered in this way, although in reality they cannot be separated, for the church rose gradually to a position of secular as well as religious power. In fact, as we will see, the church competed with many kings for power, and the church sought many alliances with other kings in order to obtain protection and thereby increase its own power.
At the beginning, the church normally brought heretics to the secular authorities, headed by the emperor in Constantinople, for judgment. But by the thirteenth century the church had taken upon itself the full authority to judge heretics by its own assumed power. Hence, Pope Gregory IX was able to institute the Inquisition by his own power, rather than by receiving such authorization from any secular kings.
The Rise of Islam
When the church reached a certain level of corruption and violent behavior in the early seventh century, God brought judgment upon the church in the form of Islam. This event is more fully described by symbols in Revelation 9, as we will see. By the principle of “eye for eye” (Exodus 21:24), God raised up Islam to judge the church by the same violent means as the church had judged heretics.
To Islam, the church was the heretic, and its followers treated the Christians in the same way that the Church had treated its own heretics. Most Christians view Islam as “the enemy,” rather than as God’s agent of judgment, and so their hearts are hardened instead of being repentant. We find this prophesied in Rev. 9:20, 21,
20 And the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see or hear nor walk; 21 and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.
This speaks of the Christian West in general, and it prophesies that the people would fail to repent, even in the face of divine judgment. The church did not see itself as God saw it, for only the overcomers had the mind of Christ during this time period. The vast majority were religious, but carnal, and their view of Islam was much the same as the people of Judah after God had raised up Babylon to judge Jerusalem for its sin. This lack of insight is the bane of virtually all religion.
Immediately after the Roman church claimed the exclusive right to the title, “Universal Bishop,” God raised up Mohammed to bring judgment upon the church.
Pope Victor had first made this claim in 192 A.D., but he was forced to recant after Bishop Irenaeus opposed him. However, Victor had set a precedent that was to be used 414 years later in the year 606 A.D. Pope Boniface III then claimed to be the Universal Bishop, having sovereignty over all the other Catholic bishops, even though his predecessor, Gregory I (590-604) had written, “Whosoever calls himself universal priest or desires to be called so, was the forerunner of Antichrist.”
Gregory I proved to be the last Roman bishop to resist this title. Philip Schaff writes in his History of the Christian Church, Vol. IV, p. 220,
“Boniface III (606-607) did not scruple to assume the title of ‘universal bishop,’ against which Gregory, in proud humility, had so indignantly protested as a blasphemous antichristian assumption.”
Because it was precisely 414 years from Victor’s attempt in 192 until Boniface’s assumption in 606, we can see that God had given the church a grace period of 414 years in which to repent of its usurpation of authority.
The number 414 is a period of “cursed time,” which I explained fully in my book, Secrets of Time. It is actually a grace period that God gives nations after judgment is pronounced. God, in His mercy, gives men and nations opportunity to repent before divine judgment is actually executed. If men repent, the judgment is cancelled. If they do not, then judgment proceeds.
In this case, the Roman church usurped the place of Christ, thinking that it had the power to rule the people by its own will, rather than seeing itself as the enforcer of God’s law and a steward of the throne.
After Pope Boniface III assumed the title of Universal Bishop, Mohammed received his “revelation” and began to preach publicly in 612 A.D. We are feeling the effects of divine judgment by the hand of Islam to this day. It will continue until the people repent. Yet most of the Thyatira church era was taken up by the church’s war with Islam, believing that Islam was the problem and its destruction the solution.
The Church Disqualified
There is much more that could be written about the Thyatira church era, since it covers a period of nearly a thousand years. This present study, however, must focus upon the main issue raised in the message to the church, where Jezebel is singled out for condemnation. Even as she killed the prophets, so also did the church kill the overcomers, along with genuine heretics, by the spirit of Jezebel.
The other issue put forth in Rev. 2:21 was Jezebel’s “immorality” (porneuo). This word describes the actions of church leadership as well as the spiritual adultery of the bride of Christ. Any time people are led to worship a god or anyone other than Jesus Christ Himself, or to prefer the laws of men, it is spiritual adultery.
Keep in mind that the church in the Pentecostal age was a manifestation of King Saul, who was made king because the people had rejected God (1 Sam. 8:7). It should also be noted that the people themselves did not know that they had rejected God. From their perspective, they just wanted a leader like the nations. The problem was that they lacked true knowledge of the situation, because they did not have the mind of God.
The Spirit of Knowledge (Isaiah 11:2) was their greatest need at that moment. The same was true of the church of Thyatira. True knowledge is to know Christ, His mind, His purpose, His goals, and His will. True knowledge is to see things through the eyes of Christ, rather than to lean upon one’s own understanding. This was the great lack in the Thyatira age, and its main symptom was the lack of education.
Most of that era is now called The Dark Ages, although from the church perspective, the Dark Ages (saeculum obscurum) lasted just sixty years from the election of Pope Sergius III in 904 until the death of Pope John XII in 964.
Cardinal Baronius (1538-1607) wrote a history of the popes in a book called Annales Ecclesiastici. He tells us of Theodora, wife of Theophylact, the senator of Rome, and their daughter Marozia, who, as a young girl, gave birth to the son of Pope Sergius, who ruled as pontiff from 904-911 A.D. The young boy grew up to become Pope John XI (931-935), becoming Pope at the age of twenty. His appointment was ensured by his mother, who was the de facto ruler of Rome at the time.
The Wikipedia tells us,
The period was first identified and named by the Italian Cardinal and ecclesiastical historian Caesar Baronius in his Annales Ecclesiastici in the sixteenth century. Baronius' primary source for his history of this period was Liutprand of Cremona. Other scholars have dated the period more broadly or narrowly, and other terms, such as the Pornocracy (German: Pornokratie, from Greek pornokratia, “prostitute rule”)…
The term Pornocracy was coined by Liutprand, who lived during that time (920-972 A.D.), and Baronius used the term as well 600 years later in writing his book on papal history. It is clear that the church historians saw the tenth century as the low point in church morality, as well as in civil power. One might say the church was ruled by Pornocrats, who had mistresses and orgies that would make modern teens envious. These practices, however, disturbed many sincere church men, and they wrote about these things with sorrow or disdain.
There is far too much sordid history for us to include here. It is readily available in many sources where church history is discussed. Our purpose is to present a general history of time, along with some understanding of its prophetic meaning.
The most important feature of the saeculum obscurum was the fact that it began toward the end of the eighteenth Jubilee of the church, dating from 33 A.D. (18 x 49 = 882, which, added to 33 A.D. brings us to 915 A.D.). Each jubilee cycle of church history fulfills a year in the reign of King Saul. In other words, Saul’s forty-year reign prophesied of the forty-Jubilee reign of the church in the Pentecostal Age.
King Saul was disqualified (1 Sam. 15:26) in his eighteenth year during his war against the Amalekites. Saul had been called to bring judgment upon the Amalekites after their grace period of 414 years was completed, dating from their attack upon Israel as they came out of Egypt (Exodus 17:14-16).
Saul, being king at the time, was God’s appointed judge to execute the sentence (curse of the law) upon Amalek. Saul, however, spared the Amalekite king (Agag) and thereby took Amalek’s curse upon himself. In biblical law, a judge can only forgive sin if he is willing to pay its penalty. Jesus did this on the cross, being willing to pay the penalty for the sin of the world. When Saul forgave Agag, he took the curse upon himself and was then disqualified as king of Israel.
Since Saul was a type of the church, his disqualification in his eighteenth year prophesied of the church’s disqualification toward the end of its eighteenth Jubilee (866-915 A.D.). This was the time in church history where the divine decree ensured that the church’s anointing as king would not last forever. The church would be replaced ultimately by the overcomers in the Tabernacles Age. For further study of the prophecies of Saul, see my book, Secrets of Time, chapter 6.
The Deep Things of Satan
Revelation 2:24 continues,
24 But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you. 25 Nevertheless, what you have, hold fast until I come.
What the glorified Christ calls “the deep things of Satan” is related to the teachings of Jezebel in the local church of Thyatira, as well as the spirit of Jezebel in the Thyatira church era. As we have seen, the spirit of Jezebel involves persecution of the prophets and the remnant of grace, as well as her “acts of immorality.” The spirit of Jezebel teaches that it is good and righteous to set aside the love of God toward those believed to be heretics. The church attempted to eradicate “heresy” and to bring all men into unity and conformity to the beliefs of the hierarchy. Hence, love was sacrificed on the altar of unity.
The two largest issues that dominated the previous church era were (1) the nature of Christ, i.e., the Trinity, and (2) Universal Reconciliation and the ultimate destiny of unbelievers. After these church councils had done their work, it was as if a declaration of war had been issued. The simple apostolic formula of faith in Christ that formerly defined a believer was discarded in favor of faith in the church’s ever-growing creed. It was as if Paul’s statement in Eph. 2:8 now was to read, “For by grace you have been saved through faith and belief in the Trinity and in eternal punishment.”
Hence, I have heard it said: “If you do not believe in eternal hell, then you will go there”—as if one’s belief in hell were a prerequisite to salvation. The fact is, even Paul recognized that there were differences of opinion among believers, but never did he complicate his simple message of salvation by adding creeds to faith in Christ. The “core” of faith that is essential is to believe that Jesus died as the sacrifice for sin, rose again for our justification, and ascended to the throne on high. Anything beyond that is cause for an honest, sincere, and loving discussion, so that all may see truth in a clearer way.
Personally, I view as believers those who teach the “heresy” of eternal torment, and I hope that they will reciprocate by viewing as believers those who teach the “heresy” of Universal Reconciliation. After all, both sides (generally speaking) believe in the “essentials” of the faith. We only disagree on the extent to which Christ’s sacrifice will be effective. In the end, the overcomers ought to treat the church as David treated Saul, even if the church persecutes them.
I have seen by personal experience how the charge of “heresy” can suddenly call forth the spirit of Jezebel upon otherwise loving Christians. Christians can love any “lost” soul, but a “heretic” is treated as an enemy. It is comparable to the more secular spirit of war, where a declaration of war justifies all hatred and unlawful behavior. So also the spirit of war from Jezebel comes upon many believers, and they treat “heretics” as enemies. This is one of the “deep things of Satan” that the glorified Christ held against the church of Thyatira.
Authority over the Nations
There are two blessings given to the overcomers. Rev. 2:26, 27 records the first blessing:
26 And he who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; 27 and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father.
Here we see that only the overcomers will be given authority over the nations. No such reward is given to those influenced by Jezebel in the church. This is a veiled reference to the church’s disqualification during the Thyatira era, even as Saul was disqualified earlier.
Psalm 2:8, 9 is applied to the overcomers:
8 Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession. 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, thou shalt shatter them like earthenware.
Under the Old Covenant, men used physical swords to kill and to destroy. The spirit of Jezebel employed such methods as well, having an Old Covenant mindset. But the remnant of grace knows that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Cor. 10:4). The overcomers use “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). The Jezebel spirit, however, disagrees, for “the flesh is hostile toward God” and “does not subject itself to the law of God” (Rom. 8:7).
Those who choose the New Covenant sword and who conquer the world through love are those who will be given authority in the age to come. Those incapable of love will not rule the nations.
The Morning Star
The second blessing is seen in Rev. 2:28,
28 and I will give him the morning star.
Toward the end of the book of Revelation, Jesus says in Rev. 22:16, “I am the root and offspring of David, the bright morning star.” It is the same “star” prophesied in the oracle of Balaam in Num. 24:17, saying,
17 I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; a star shall come forth from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel, and shall crush through the forehead of Moab, and tear down all the sons of Sheth.
Balaam was a prophet with wrong motives. He prophesied things that are part of Scripture. His problem was not false prophecy, but a carnal heart that was “false” to Christ. His prophecy identifies the “star” with the “scepter.” Hence, it goes with the previous blessing about authority being given to the overcomers. The “star” is Christ, but the overcomers are His body. Therefore, the authority given to Christ is given to the overcomers who are “in Him.”
Paul says in Eph. 1:18-23,
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all.
Paul tells us that the “saints” are “His inheritance,” which He received when He was seated at the right hand of God in heaven. Further, Christ, “as head over all things,” was given to the church as well. Unfortunately, the church as a whole did not qualify as overcomers, even as Israel as a whole did not qualify as the remnant of grace (Rom. 11:7). In the days of Ahab and Jezebel, there was only a remnant of 7,000 in all of Israel. In the parallel church of Thyatira there was also a small remnant of grace within the church.
In either case, the overcoming remnant are the ones who will be given the morning star and the scepter that goes with it. By the sword of the Spirit, they will shatter all resistance to the rule of Christ until all things are subjected under His feet.