Paul taught Timothy how to present the Truth. We aim to present this study with that same attitude.
2 Timothy 2:24
And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient
Columba, the messenger to the fouth church age, died in 597 AD. But the fourth church age only started about 606 AD. How can he be the messenger to that future age?
There are 7 churches mentioned in Revelation chapters 1 – 3. If they only refer to those 7 local churches then they tell us about the good points and personal faults that those people had. Today we obviously have similar good and bad points. However, if these churches refer to 7 church ages then we gain not only an insight into peoples’ faults and good points but also gain an impressive panorama of an awe inspiring sweep of church history, told in advance. An insight into the growth of denominational church error as well as God’s plans to protect Biblical truth. Quite incredible.
The fourth church age, Thyatira (the name meaning “a dominating woman or church”) is the middle age of the seven ages. The middle ages are described by historians as being the Dark Ages. At this time the Roman Catholic church dominated Europe. This was the fourth church age during which the Light of the Gospel went out. Why?
God hates the doctrine of elevating up a holy man, however good he is, in order to for him to be the head of the church.
Thereby the people, the laity, become enslaved to the commandments of man. Jesus Christ alone is the Head of the church. As time moved on the church always fell into the trap of elevating a human leader between the people and God.
The following Scripture summarises the fourth church age.
And I find more bitter than death the woman, (a woman represents a church) whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands (the church promises freedom but forces us to conform to her man-made traditions and binds us to her religious opinions): whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her (Columba and his converts); but the sinner shall be taken by her (Pope Gregory the Great and his Roman Catholic followers).
The Roman Catholic church had a subtle plan to bring the world into subjection to her human traditions, which are man-made religious ideas. They were able to produce an inspiring leader, Pope Gregory I, who could command respect in a chaotic world ruined by endless warfare, plague and famine.
From 590 – 604 AD Pope Gregory the Great established the Roman Catholic church on a very firm base which enabled it to survive financially in those troubled times. He was an incredible man with great skills and tremendous energy and compassion for the poor and suffering. All the land which had been donated to the church by wealthy Romans (rather than have the Barbarians confiscate it) was welded together and controlled by him so that its income and agricultural produce was efficiently collected. This saved Rome and paid her debts. Friend and foe held him in high respect. He was a heroic figure who captured the imagination of the Romans as Europe slid into the turbulent dark ages. He died just as the fourth church age started. It was easy to follow such a great and selfless leader.
But, once you follow a man, however great he is, your worship is in vain. Why? Because you have taken your eyes off Jesus Christ and His Bible.
Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Our biggest mistake is when we take our eyes off Jesus. We do that when we elevate some great man so that we are sufficiently impressed with him, and then desire to follow him and obey him.
But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Harmless looking deeds in the first church age like looking up to the church leader and following his opinions became binding doctrines by the time of the third church age. By then people were too scared to argue with the leader of the church, and were also too terrified to leave his church. They trusted in the leader and the church for their salvation. So they preferred to simply remained submissive souls, enslaved in a system of man-made ideas.
Nico means to conquer. Conquer the laity. The people are brought into subjection to the preachers.
A human man claims to be the head of the church. Everyone must believe and obey his opinion. This is false.
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
The true church only has one Head, namely Jesus Christ. No man must stand between you and God. Only the Man Christ Jesus. A preacher claiming to be the head of any church is simply a mini-Pope.
This was Pope Gregory’s first big mistake. He insisted that he, a man, was the head of the church.
This mistake set the scene for the awful Dark Ages. Gregory was a brilliant and dedicated church leader, yet his ministry switched off the Gospel light and Europe plunged into darkness, because he established human leadership as the key to church growth. So the church did grow, but in the wrong way. Though its increase in numbers made it seem successful from a human point of view, its doctrines were not based on the Bible. So it was a spiritual disaster.
Competent though he was, his self-elevation to rule the church just because he was Pope, established a tradition which meant that after him would come many Popes who were far inferior to him in ability, integrity and morality. Some Popes were incompetent non-entities and others were extremely odious and corrupt. But they would all demand the right to rule the church like Pope Gregory I did. Darkness closed in after Gregory’s death, partly because of the declining caliber of the successor Popes.
From 590 to 604 AD this best of Popes, Gregory I, became a legend with his ingenious administrative skills and charitable kindness. But despite his impressive good works he effectively set up a system that switched off the Light because he insisted that the Roman Catholic church was the world’s most important institution, and the Pope was its supreme and absolute head. Human policies then guided the church into the cold and dirty Dark Ages.
The Gospel light was virtually extinguished as human leadership was exalted and enforced.
Nicholas I, a tough and competent man, was Pope from 858 – 867 AD. He was one of the first Popes to wear a crown to show that he was the equal of kings. This later became a triple crown in the early 1 300s to indicate that the Pope was now exalted to rule Heaven, Earth and Purgatory.
And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
The white horse represented the power of religious deception, because the bowman had no arrow (he was bluffing). His deeds began as a “harmless” elevation of the preachers above the church members or laity, and this antichrist spirit then grew into a dictatorial rule of the church by its leader, until finally the elevated leader received a crown to indicate the Pope’s pre-eminence.
III JOHN 1:9
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
Church leaders who love preeminence do not welcome the apostles or their teachings.
After all, which pastor wants to discover that the word “pastor” is only mentioned once in the New Testament? Thus a pastor has no Scriptural grounds for being the head of the church. There is also no Scripture that says a pastor is a shepherd. So our modern churches are not run on Scriptural grounds.
The preeminence of man impresses us humans, but does not serve God’s will.
III JOHN 1:10
Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
No wonder people are scared to disagree with the pastor. He simply kicks you out. The Catholic church calls this excommunication.
It seems that our churches have taken their example from the Catholic church in the Dark Ages. Does not the Scripture say that the Laodicean church is blind? Blind means we cannot see the Light of Scripture.
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write;
:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
Pope Gregory’s second big mistake was to grant salvation only to those loyal Catholic churches which were in subjection to him.
We humans always feel that “My church is right”. But since there are so many differences, not all the churches can be right.
Thanks to Gregory, people did not feel the need to be saved by faith in the Bible anymore, but found it easier to elevate up an important man like himself and then to be obedient to this leader. Then the important leader reassures them that as long as they are obedient to the leader, he will guide them into heaven. Just like today, where we do not argue with our home church leader. If we follow him, he will see us through. Our regular attendance at the “right” church becomes the key to our being “in the truth”. Salvation by such works is how we humans fool ourselves.
The philosophy of the Dark Ages was summarized as “No salvation outside the church of Rome.” Quite simply, this made spiritual slaves. People who did not know enough about the Bible to realise that their beliefs were actually unscriptural. The blind led the blind. No-one saw the ditch that the church world was falling into.
The Pope was the head of the church, taking Christ’s place. He was the final authority, taking the Bible’s place.
The Catholic church grew in the Dark Age because Pope Gregory I implemented a brilliantly effective, but totally wrong doctrine.
Jesus gave Peter the keys to open the door to the kingdom of heaven. Peter did this by telling people to repent and be baptised.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The Pope claimed that Peter could open the door to heaven and let in whoever Peter wanted to. Basically, Peter decides who goes to heaven. The Pope then made the false claim that Peter had lived in Rome and was the chief Apostle as well as being the Bishop of Rome. There is no history to prove this claim that Peter was ever in Rome. In addition, the Pope, as Bishop of Rome, was Peter’s successor and was thus the only man who could wield the power of Peter’s keys. If you followed the Pope and gave money or land or military protection to the Roman Catholic church, then Peter would open the door to Heaven for you. The barbarians fell for this belief – hook, line and sinker. This was the single major reason for the barbarians accepting submission to the Pope. So when this highly competent administrator, Pope Gregory I, died in 604 AD he left a legacy of pre-eminence which was based on his integrity and incredible organizational skills. But the Popes who followed him were far less competent and far less worthy than he was, and since they also claimed to be the supreme head of the church (so you can’t argue with them) these human leaders, corrupted by all this power, led the Roman Catholic church into the unbelievable sin and corruption of the Dark fourth church age that followed Gregory’s death.
Boniface III was elected Pope in 606 AD. He died in 607 AD. But in that short time, building on the reputation of Pope Gregory the Great, he got himself as Pope declared to be the “Universal Bishop”. One man now ruled the entire church. Nicolaitanism ( elevation of a holy man above others ) was now established. This signified the start of the fourth church age, the Dark Age.
But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
“The depths of Satan”– The Roman Catholic church left the Bible, followed human leaders and got into a real mess.
Pope Gregory I was the first monk to become Pope. This enabled him to develop an extremely efficient technique to keep the people away from the Light of the Bible. He encouraged the spread of monasteries. Rules for monasteries were organized by the monk Benedict around the years 530 to 543 AD. Monastries were to be a very useful means of spreading the teachings of the Catholic church through Northern Europe.
The vicious twenty year war from 535 – 554 AD in North Africa and Italy had ruined both countries. The soldiers from Constantinople destroyed the barbarian Vandal and Ostrogoth tribes. Plague and famine followed this brutal destruction and killed millions. One third of Europe died in the chaos as Europe began to slide into the Dark ages.
Then in 568 AD the destructive barbarian tribe called the Lombards invaded north Italy and caused even more havoc. Monastries became a safe haven where people could find some refuge from the panic and despair of everyday life. Monastries became a very effective way to control the spread of Catholicism because the monks alone had access to learning and the Bible. The people outside the monasteries were busy farmers who were largely illiterate, and were totally dependent on the monks for what they knew about God. The Catholic church provided a Latin version of the Bible which only the priests and monks could understand. The people were thus left Scripture-less. By controlling the monasteries, the Pope was able to control the religious beliefs of the people and make sure that they were taught Catholic doctrines and not Scripture. Accordingly, as far as the people were concerned, the Light of God’s Word was effectively switched off. Each Latin Bible had to be laboriously written out by hand by the monks. Thus few Bibles were in existence, and those few were mainly in monasteries. Even there they were hidden from the ordinary people because they were written in the unknown language of Latin. Ignorance of the Scripture caused the fourth church age to rapidly sink into a mire of superstition and myth.
Then even more darkness entered.
From about 632 AD onwards the Light of the Gospel went out in the middle East and North Africa ( Jerusalem, Antioch, Egypt etc ) as the Moslems swept through those areas. The Visigoths who occupied Spain converted to Roman Catholicism around 600 AD so all of Spain also fell under the darkness of the Pope and his Roman Catholic traditions.
So what was God doing as the Roman church led Europe into darkness?
From 563 – 597 AD the Irish missionary Columba established himself on the western Scottish island of Iona or Hy. He had an immensely powerful ministry and thus could not operate in the actual fourth age as his ministry was far too much of a bright and a shining light to the people. He founded 300 churches throughout Scotland where the people became distinguished for their love of God and purity of life.
No dark age would be very dark while this incredible man was preaching and spreading Bible truths. His preaching was like high powered floodlights that really illuminated the darkness. While he was preaching the darkness of the fourth church age was held back as the darkness could not start. Columba was switching on the Light of God’s Word.
A light cannot be on and off at the same time. Only when he died could the Catholic church begin to switch off the light.
His teachings spread over Scotland, Ireland, northern Europe and after his death into central England ( which was then called Mercia ). Small remnants of his followers struggled on through this awful fourth church age. Persecuted and oppressed, they valued the truth more than they valued their lives. But they hung on and laid the groundwork for that formidable and bravest of reformers, Martin Luther, who ignited the fifth church age fire that got people saved by faith and not by works. This one man took on the Roman Catholic church that ruled Europe in a grip of iron.
The fourth church age was a time of darkness, of the Light going out. Thus the fourth church age could obviously not start until the bright light with which Columba illuminated the Bible was finally put out by his death.
In 597 AD, the year Columba died, Pope Gregory I sent Catholic missionaries to England under the monk Augustine. They landed in Kent where queen Bertha, a Catholic princess of the Franks, persuaded her husband to give them Cantebury as a starting place. Then the Catholic monks spent 66 years trying to undermine the work of Columba. In 664 AD, at the council of Whitby which was run by a woman Abbess, called Hilda, they finally converted the king of Northumbria away from Columba’s influence because they told him that Saint Peter had the keys to heaven, not Columba. The English fell for this and over the next few decades the Roman church undid much of Columba’s good work. By 700 AD the Light in England was mainly out. England then sent Roman Catholic missionaries to Holland and Germany to establish monasteries, and thereby keep northern Europe in darkness and in subjection to the Pope.