The Church of Thyatira
In this Church era we move from the Balaam Church of Pergamos to the next stage of Church history—the Jezebel Church of Thyatira. During this time, the Church, like Jezebel, persecuted the prophets and overcomers, along with many who held incorrect views about God. Rev. 2:18-20 says,
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: 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. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate 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.
The story of Jezebel is found in the book of 1 Kings. She was best known for her persecution of the Remnant of Grace in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 18:4; 19:14). Jezebel was a pagan princess, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon. And so in the Thyatira Church era we see the results of the marriage of Church and paganism which took place in the previous era of Pergamos.
It is interesting that as the Pergamos era was closing, the Emperor Justinian was marrying Theodora, who was described by historians of the day in terms that remind us of Jezebel. The two were married on April 4, 527 A.D. Furthermore, Theodora was not merely the royal consort. She was an Empress. We read on page 62 of A Short History of Byzantium, by John Julius Norwich,
“Only two years later, on 4 April 527, they were crowned co-Emperor and Empress, and when on 1 August old Justin finally succumbed, they found themselves the sole and supreme rulers of the Byzantine Empire. The plural is important. Theodora was to be no Empress Consort. 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.”
Even as Jezebel appears to have been a co-regent with King Ahab of Israel, so also was Theodora an Empress a co-regent with Justinian. It is an interesting parallel, especially considering her depraved and immoral life style prior to her marriage to Justinian. However, we should add that after her conversion she seems to have become a changed person, morally speaking.
The era of the Church of Thyatira began in 529 A.D. shortly after their marriage.
The City of Thyatira
The city of Thyatira was located on the road from Pergamos to Sardis. The experts are uncertain as to the meaning of its name, and so Bible teachers are left to determine its prophetic meaning, based upon John's description and a knowledge of the era it describes (529-1517 A.D.).
Since the message to this Church includes a reference to “that woman, Jezebel ” (Rev. 2:20), many believe that the name Thyatira comes from the Greek words, thea, “a female deity, goddess,” and tyrannos, “a tyrant or ruler.” In this way they conclude that Thyatira means “ruled by a woman.” There are others who say the name comes from thuo, “to sacrifice” and means “continual sacrifice” and refers to the martyrdoms at the hand of the Roman Church.
The only way to really discover the meaning of Thyatira is to look at the history of the city and see how it was named at the beginning. In doing this, we find that Jezebel's home town of Tyre has much to do with the founding of the city of Thyatira. In fact, it would appear that Thyatira was meant to be a New Tyre after its destruction by Alexander the Great.
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 Kings 16:31). 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 the prince of Tyre (Ethbaal) to the tempter in Eden. In effect, in those days Tyre manifested the anti-kingdom of God, ruled by Ethbaal, an antichrist type.
The prefix “anti-” means “in place of.” For example, Matt. 2:22 tells 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 Kings 18:13).
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, 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 shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers; I will also scrape her dust from her and make her like the top of a rock. 5 It shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea; for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God; and it shall become a spoil to 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.
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 competition.
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. Thyatira was noted for its production of purple dye, as was Tyre. We see this in Acts 16, where Lydia, one of Paul's converts in Philippi, was in that city on business selling purple from her home town of Thyatira (Acts 16:14). So their main commercial activity was the same.
Her 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 (Acts 16:15) 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 Kings 11:33). 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... that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce My servants to commit fornication, and to 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.
The Church of Increased Temporal Power
This Thyatira Church era extends from 529 to 1517 A.D., where the State—like king Ahab—came under the authority of the one calling himself the “Vicar of Christ.” While the popes gave lip service to Christ, in reality they followed the precepts of another god. This era began with the Law Code of Justinian, the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire who ruled from Constantinople. 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.”
After the fall of Rome in 476 A.D., times had changed, and the Roman legal system was in need of revision. Justinian did this in 529 A.D., calling it the Codex Constitutionum. All Roman legislation and laws up to that time were nullified. There was to be only this new system of law. Norwich tells on page 63 of his book, A Short History of Byzantium,
“In 530 a second commission under Tribonian began a collection of the writings of all the ancient Roman jurists. Known as the Digest, or Pandects, it was the first attempt ever made to bring these also into the framework of a methodical system. Finally, in 533 there appeared the Institutes, a handbook of extracts from the two main books designed for use in the imperial law schools.”
So the full time during which the legal system of Rome was completely overhauled extended from 529-533 A.D. These dates are important, because, as we will show later, this marked the beginning of a 1,260-year period leading to the French Revolution from 1789-1793. The French Revolution began to destroy the power of the Church after Roman law was made to conform to Church law. As Will Durant informs us again on page 112,
“This Code... enacted orthodox Christianity into law.... All ecclesiastical, like all civil, law, was to emanate from the throne.”
More than anything else, this merged the ecclesiastical power with the civil insofar as the enforcement of laws and decrees are concerned. At first, the Roman pontiffs were subject to the emperor, and, after their elections, they had to be ratified by the emperor. However, as time passed, this was reversed. Ultimately, the kings had to be ratified by the pope, who claimed the title, “king of kings.”
A final date of 536 A.D. has also been cited by some as the date of the beginning of the Thyatira era. The Roman pontiff at that time was Agapetus (535-536 A.D.). He was one of the few fairly virtuous popes who did not purchase his position by bribes, nor did he seriously misuse his authority. He is known for establishing public schools in Rome, because education had largely ceased after the fall of Rome in 476. He was, however, subject to the emperor in Constantinople. When he was summoned before Justinian in 536 in a doctrinal dispute with the patriarch of Constantinople, Justinian demanded that he recognize his patriarch or face exile. Agapetus replied (Cormenin, History of the Popes, Vol. I, p. 109),
“I hoped to find a Christian emperor, and I have met with a new Diocletian. Well! Let Diocletian learn that the bishop of Rome does not fear his threats, and refuses to submit to his orders.”
The emperor backed down. Agapetus asked Justinian to call for Anthimus, the patriarch, so that he could question him in regard to the doctrine of the two natures of Christ. Cormenin records on page 109,
“Anthimus replied to the arguments of the pontiff, and concluded by declaring that Jesus Christ did not possess two natures. Agapetus, in a fury, hurled anathemas against Anthimus, Severus, Peter of Apama, Zora, and several other prelates, whose names would have rested in oblivion but for the excommunication. Then he obtained from the monarch an order for the deposition of Anthimus, and consecrated the new patriarch of Constantinople.”
In the power struggles between popes and monarchs that characterized Church history for centuries, this was the beginning of the shift in power from monarch to pope. This event has been cited by Church authorities in later years as proof of the Church's authority over monarchs. It set an important precedent, although it would be many years before such papal ambitions would become a reality.
The fact that this occurred in 536 A.D. is significant, because 1,260 years later marked the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Church power began to be seriously curtailed. Within a few years Napoleon had taken the Pope captive and had brought him into exile. For this reason, some find that 536 A.D. is a more significant date than either 529 or 533. In my view, all of these dates are important, because so many beginning points in long-term prophecy are marked by more than one date, as are their corresponding endpoints.
There are others who date the beginning of this Church era at 607 A.D., when emperor Phocas gave to Pope Boniface III headship over all the Churches of Christendom. This was, of course, another important step in the rise of papal power.
However, the consolidation of temporal power in the hand of the Roman popes was gradual. It was not until 1073 A.D. that Pope Gregory VII formally established a theocracy. He was the first to claim to be above all the kings in the world. Thus, we could set the time for the beginning of the age of Thyatira anywhere from 529 to 1073 A.D. We put it at 529, because we are interested in the beginning of the rise in temporal power, rather than its peak.
Jezebel's Persecution of “Heretics”
The word “heretic” comes from a Greek word meaning to make a choice. When men choose their own beliefs instead of believing Scripture, it is true heresy. However, in later history the Popes did not understand that the decisions of Church Councils were not infallible. Thus, heresy came to be defined as anyone who disagreed with the creeds of a recognized Church Council. Those who might exercise the right of “choice” (freedom of conscience) were said to be heretics and promoting division, or “schism.”
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.”
“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)
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.
The Inquisition of the Jezebel Church
In the fourth century, when the Church first began coming to power, they usually just 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 was 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 on Oct. 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.
During the eras of the remaining churches, the power of Rome continued to decline steadily. In the French Revolution of 1789-1793 the Church in France lost its power. The Pope was taken captive by Napoleon in 1798. The Church recovered for a time when Napoleon himself was defeated, but then in the 1860's Italy itself revolted from papal domination. The Pope lost his “Papal States,” and by 1870 papal territory had been reduced to a few acres of the Vatican City, when King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy unified Italy under a secular government.
Yet even as it lost political power, it increased its claim on spiritual power and “infallibility.” On July 16, 1870 the Church declared its doctrine of papal infallibility, justifying all the acts, doctrines, and decision of all the popes from the beginning of the Church. In effect, it declared that the murder of millions of “heretics” was fully justified in the eyes of God and carried out by an infallible move of the Holy Spirit. In declaring papal infallibility, the Roman Church essentially locked itself into a position where it became no longer possible to repent of its sins without destroying its own foundations.
Recently, as a concession to bring Protestant churches back under papal authority, the Roman Church has vaguely renounced the use of torture and execution as a means of securing Church unity. However, because of the doctrine of papal infallibility, Protestants reuniting with Rome would have to accept the deaths of millions of so-called heretics as being right and needful in those days —and perhaps also in the future, if the Church were to regain the power to do so.
The Nicolaitan doctrine that God says He hates is perhaps best defined by pope Boniface VIII, who became pope in 1294 AD. In his Unam Sanctum, he states:
“All the faithful of Christ by necessity of salvation are subject to the Roman pontiff, who judges all men, but is judged of no one. This authority is not human, but rather Divine... Therefore, we declare, assert, define, and pronounce, that to be subject to the Roman pontiff is to every human creature altogether necessary for salvation” ( Ibid., p. 29).
In other words, one must be a Roman Nicolaitan in order to be saved.
This is all foreshadowed in the story of David and Saul. Saul, too, was a Nicolaitan type of the Church. Saul persecuted David, who was the “overcomer” of his day. When David escaped and did not remain under Saul's authority where he would have been killed, Saul declared him an outlaw and put a price on his head. If anyone had murdered David in those years, he would have been rewarded, for the king had in effect declared his murder to be no murder at all.
We find the popes siding with Saul, declaring their right to change or violate the Law of God, the commands of Jesus Christ, and even the decrees of the apostles in the New Testament. Hear this from one of the “infallible” popes:
“All the earth is my diocese, and I am the ordinary [the one who ordains or gives authority] of all men, having the authority of the King of all kings upon subjects. I am all in all and above all, so that God Himself and I, the vicar of God, have but one consistory, and I am able to do almost all that God can do. In all that I list my will is to stand for reason, for I am able by the law to dispense above the law, and of wrong to make justice in correcting laws and changing them....
“Wherefore, if those things that I do be said not to be done of men, but of God, what can you make me but God? Again, if prelates of the Church be called and counted of Constantine [the pope, not the emperor by that name] for gods, I then, being above prelates, seem by this reason to be above all gods.
“Wherefore, no marvel if it be in my power to change times and times, to alter and abrogate laws, to dispense with all things, yea, with the precepts of Christ; for where Christ biddeth Peter put up his sword, and admonishes His disciples not to use any outward force in revenging themselves, do not I, Pope Nicolas [using another past pope's decree as a precedent to prove his authority] writing to the bishops of France, exhort them to draw out their material swords? And whereas Christ was present Himself at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, do not I, Pope Martin, in my distinction, inhibit the spiritual clergy to be present at marriage feasts, and also to marry? Moreover, where Christ biddeth us lend without hope of gain, do not I, Pope Martin, give dispensation to do the same? What should I speak of murder, making it to be no murder or homicide to slay them that be excommunicated?
“Likewise against the law of nature, item against the apostles, also against the canons of the apostles, I can and do dispense; for where they in their canon command a priest for fornication to be deposed, I through the authority of Sylvester, do alter the rigour of their constitution, considering the minds and bodies also of men to be weaker than they were then” ( Ibid., pp. 30, 31).
This pope is saying in his own “infallible” way that the priests today are morally weaker than they were in the days of the apostles, so we must allow for fornication among them, so long as they remain loyal to the pope. Schism or heresy is punishable by torture and death; but fornication among priests is understandable, since they are not allowed to marry.
He attempts to show by past precedent of other popes that it is a papal privilege to violate the Divine Law, for he is “ above the law. ” In order to “prove” his case he gave real examples where he said past popes had violated the precepts of Christ and of the apostles! Thus, it is clear he believed that being the “vicar of God” meant he had the right to alter the decrees of God Almighty—and he gives examples to prove his case!
If a king were to give his prime minister orders to do something, and the prime minister decided that the orders needed to be altered or abolished, what would this say about the prime minister? Is it his right to disobey the orders of the king? If he edits or abolishes the king's decrees, does it prove he has the authority to do so? Would not this be the height of rebellion and pride? Would he not be removed from office and perhaps prosecuted for treason?
The popes think more highly of themselves than they ought to think (Rom. 12:3). The vicar of God has overthrown God! The claim to be under the authority of God is belied by their words and deeds. In this, they have become fully like king Saul, who, contrary to the command of God, offered the sacrifice to God himself, rather than await arrival of the one who was called to make the offering (1 Sam. 13:9). That sin brought the judgment of God upon King Saul:
9 Thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which He commanded thee; for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue; the Lord hath sought Him a man after His own heart.
Even as this sin prevented Saul from having an enduring dynasty of kings, so also does this same sin prevent the Roman Church from ruling the earth for ever. Their kingdom will not continue indefinitely. It has already been curtailed in power. The papal throne will eventually come to a full end, because God is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. He will remove Saul and place David on the throne, for he is a man after God's own heart.
Daniel 7:18 and 27 makes it clear that after this Roman beast has prevailed over the saints for its allotted time, the kingdom and dominion would be taken from them and given to the people of the saints of the Most High. These are the ones who overcame, even while the seven Churches themselves were overcome by Saul's rebellion and pride.
King Saul's second major sin is recorded in 1 Sam. 15. In the war against Amalek, God gave him orders to destroy Amalek utterly (15:3). Saul chose to edit and change God's decree, for we read in 15:9,
9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them; but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.
Saul thought God did not know what He was doing. He and all the people with him saw an opportunity to increase their wealth by altering God's decrees to suit themselves. God says in verse 11:
11 It repenteth Me that I have set up Saul to be king; for he is turned back from following Me, and hath not performed My commandments.
When Saul tried to explain and justify his actions in sparing the best of the flocks and the king of Amalek, Samuel told him in verses 22 and 23:
22 Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king. ”
The same word applies to the Roman popes, who, by their own writings, claim to have the right to abolish or alter the word of God. Because they too have rejected the Word of the Lord, God has also rejected them from being king. Therefore, the Protestant Churches who think unity with Rome is the answer should hear the infallible Word of God, which was written for our learning.
It is not difficult to understand the Word of God to King Saul, nor is it difficult to see that Saul was a type of the Church. To study the life of Saul is to understand the history of the Church—primarily the Roman Church, but also to some extent the Protestant churches. Keep in mind that the Seven Churches include the entire Church during its 40 Jubilees of history.
May God give us the knowledge to know the difference between Saul and David, that we may be given the morning star (Rev. 2:28).
The Spirit of Knowledge
On page 9 we noted that the overcomers of the Church of Thyatira would have the Spirit of Knowledge. This was lacking in the Thyatira era, for the Church itself was obsessed with the teaching of Jezebel. Not only was knowledge of the word rare, but also education in general declined, producing the “Dark Ages.”
The true Spirit of Knowledge is not the knowledge of earthly things, but the knowledge of God. Yet to know God, one must be willing to break free of the Church constraints, which seeks to limit men to the knowledge of accepted Church creeds. Knowledge of the truth is obtained through knowing God, not by coercion, threats, and political machinations that have characterized Church Councils from the first. True knowledge comes by hearing God's voice and requires a personal and direct relationship with Him. The overcomers seek this, rather than the indirect relationship that the Church required.