The Church Ages - Thyatira, The Fourth Age, 606 AD-1520 AD
The first church age produced churches with a priest or other human leaders.
The second church age produced a bishop who was in charge of the priests or human leaders of the churches in a city. Each city now had its own bishop.
The third church age saw about 318 bishops uniting together under the emperor Constantine as head of the church. Constantine moved east to Constantinople and gave power and wealth to the bishop of Rome which set the Roman bishop on the path to being the main bishop in the western Roman empire.
By 400 AD he was calling himself Pope or Pappas which means Father.
MATTHEW 23:9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
With the Roman empire collapsing, the Pope by 450 AD called himself Pontiff or high priest of the Babylonian mysteries so that he could make inroads amongst the pagan barbarians that were invading the Roman empire.
The fourth church age, since the Roman empire collapsed in 476 AD, forced the Pope to turn to the barbarian tribes who had taken over the Roman empire. This fourth church age saw the Pope first rise to power in Europe and then begin to persecute all those who disagreed with him.
He rose to power by claiming the authority to crown the barbarian kings and convincing them that Peter had the keys to heaven. Since the Pope claimed to be Peter’s successor, it was essential for the barbarians to be subject to the Pope. If they disobeyed the Pope then Peter would not open Heaven’s door for them.
Having married into the political power of the Roman Empire at the Nicaean council in 325 AD to gain political power over her opponents, the Roman Catholic church never realized that the Western Roman Empire was actually crumbling and would disintegrate under the pressure of the barbarian invasions and the stresses of civil wars and the incompetence of weak but cruel emperors. Cast adrift in a chaotic sea of circumstances, the twenty years of fighting in Italy between Greek mercenaries and the Ostrogoth barbarians between 535 and 554 AD, settled nothing other than to devastate the country of Italy which caused famine, plague, and poverty that brought on the Dark Ages. Historians say that tens of millions died. But it did eliminate the non-Trinitarian Ostrogoths from Italy, leaving Roman Catholicism without any real doctrinal opposition in Italy.
The Roman church reacted to its new and unexpected circumstances by very surprisingly clawing its way to political and religious power over the barbarian tribes.
Between 634 – 720 AD the Moslem Arabs conquered Syria, Palestine, Egypt, North Africa, and Spain. This destroyed the Roman control of the Mediterranean sea where their cities had developed due to sea traders.
The Slavs then cut off the land trading routes to the east.
The purple parts on the next map indicate the Moslem conquests.
There was no option for western civilization other than to move north, into Europe. The barbarian tribes had their own laws so the Roman empire, which had one law for everyone, broke up and started to form a nation of states as each barbarian tribe had their own laws. When they lost control of the Mediterranean sea to the Moslem Arabs between 634 – 720 AD, the cities that relied on sea trading began to fade and agricultural land became the main source of wealth as civilization moved north away from the Mediterranean sea. Monasteries ( also called abbeys or priories or convents ) with their schools and hospices became centres for farming and villages grew up around them. The monks were usually scholars who were also trained in certain trades or medical skills. They cleared the forests and began farming so that they attracted many peasants who followed their example. The first Roman Catholic monastery was founded by Saint Benedict at Monte Cassino, Italy in 529 AD. The monastery way of life attracted many believers who were repelled by the sin and corruption of the official churches and the turbulent social turmoil of the barbarian takeover.
When a monastery was developed, some of its monks would move on and establish a new monastery. In 754 AD the Pope crowned the first barbarian king, Pepin of the Franks. This gave the Pope great prestige and the Anglo Saxon monasteries in north Europe that were under the Pope gained prestige in the eyes of the barbarian people.
The Anglo-Saxons from England provided a burst of missionary activity in northern Europe. They established monasteries and churches that were in submission to the Pope. Two Anglo-Saxon men, in particular, gave a big boost to the prestige of the Pope and the spread of Roman Catholicism in northern Europe.
Willibrord a missionary to Holland and then to the Danes between 690 – 739 AD spread Roman Catholicism with its submission to the distant Pope in Rome. Thus the Anglo-Saxon missionaries and monks played the major role in boosting the prestige of the Pope in northern Europe at this time.
Boniface a missionary in Germany from 710 – 754 AD established the first organised Christianity in many parts of Germany. The Pope made him archbishop of Mainz, in charge of the German bishops. The independent Frankish churches had become badly backslidden, and Boniface played a major role in reforming them and bringing them into submission to the Pope. Having the distant Pope as the authority figure really impressed the barbarian Franks and they then submitted to Boniface and his Catholic doctrines. The Franks appreciated the chain of command. They obeyed the monks who obeyed the bishops who obeyed archbishop Boniface who obeyed the Pope who obeyed Saint Peter who had the keys to open Heaven’s door. It was a nice snug system. This centralised authority was the key to the success of the monastery system of the Dark Ages. Orders were passed down, and everyone did what they were told.
Then in the territory taken over by the Burgundian tribe, from which the name Burgundy in France is derived, came the most famous monastery that was built at Cluny in 910 AD by Duke William in Burgundy.
The Cluny monastery ( picture from Wikipedia ) became acknowledged as the leader of western monasticism.
Responsible only to the papacy, which was in a state of weakness and disorder with rival popes supported by competing nobles, the monks from Cluny spread out north into the heartland of Europe from 950 – 1160 AD to build and control 1 200 new monasteries and Cluny became the most influential monastery in Europe. Their success was due to all these new monasteries being controlled by Cluny and Cluny being subject to the Pope of Rome. The distant Pope was highly regarded by the kings of the barbarians. The Pope claimed the power to anoint a man as king of a barbarian tribe. Thus they respected the monks and bishops who were obedient to the Pope. The Burgundian tribe, thanks to the influence of the monastery at Cluny, established Roman Catholic domination over a large portion of Europe.
The early Cluniac establishments had offered refuges from a disordered world, but by 1100 AD, Cluniac holiness permeated society. This is the period that achieved the final Christianisation of the heartland of Europe. The high standards of the monks impressed the barbarians at a time when the Popes were very depraved. The Cluny monastery in Burgundy saved the papacy by setting the standards while the Popes dropped their standards. The barbarians saw the monks from the monasteries that were started by Cluny. They were impressed with what they saw. Most barbarians never saw the Popes, so they were not switched off by the Pope’s immorality.
The messenger to the age was Columba who studied under some of Ireland's most prominent church figures and founded several monasteries in the country. Around 563 AD he and his twelve companions crossed to Scotland before settling on the island of Iona near Scotland. Most of his missionary work was amongst the pagan Scots. He set up independent monasteries where the people were encouraged to live as close to the New Testament teachings as possible.
The most famous monastery of his followers was set up on the island of Lindisfarne.
Columba was such a bright light for Bible truth that he had to die in 597 AD just before the fourth church age was starting in 606 AD because Thyatira was the church age where the Gospel light almost went out and this could not happen until his bright light had ended.
The third church age ended with a determined attempt by Pope Gregory, one of the strongest Popes, to eliminate Columba’s influence in England by sending Roman Catholic missionaries to Kent in England.
In 597 Augustine landed in Kent as a Roman Catholic archbishop. He converted Anglo-Saxons and appointed bishops over them. From Canterbury, he ruled over these bishops. This was the secret to Rome’s success in England. The archbishop of Canterbury was the head of the organised denomination and all the bishops that were trained up and sent out as missionaries were subject to Canterbury and the archbishop was very submissive to the Pope.
There was an obvious clash between Columba’s independent missionaries, with their big monastery on the island of Lindisfarne, and those of the Pope, especially in the kingdom of Northumbria.
This century ( 600 – 700 AD ) also saw the beginnings of Christian culture in England with its chief center in Northumbria, which was the leading English kingdom of the age, as shown on this map of England.
Here the Celtic missionaries of Columba from the north and west, ( Scotland and Ireland ) and the Roman missionaries from the south and east ( Kent )now met to decide the fate of the fourth church age.
So in England, Abbess Hilda organised a synod in 663 AD at her Whitby monastery so that King Oswiu of Northumbria could decide who was right. The Roman Catholic archbishop said that Peter had the keys to Heaven. So if you obeyed his representative on earth, the Pope, then when you died Peter would open the door to Heaven for you. Columba’s followers admitted that Columba had no such keys. Thus the king decided in favour of the Catholics because he wanted Peter to open the door for him. It was a very clever argument. Jesus was the Door to Heaven, but they claimed that Peter had the keys and could decide whether to open the Door or not for you. Peter only opened the Door for those who were in submission to the Pope. Peter being the doorkeeper who decided if you could go in became the Catholic’s single most powerful argument amongst the barbarian tribes. This lie brought them into submission to Peter’s representative on earth, the Pope. This doctrine of Peter enabled Catholicism to spread throughout Europe. But because Peter decided if you were saved or not, Jesus was effectively sidelined as Saviour, and Europe slid into a gross unsaved darkness. Wherever this doctrine was believed, the Light of the Gospel went out.
The monks from Lindisfarne, who would not accept this doctrine of Peter deciding who is saved, withdrew to the island of Iona, and later to Ireland. Columba’s followers, like Columbanus and Catald, went as missionaries and set up independent monasteries in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy during the early middle ages. Thus the Gospel light just flickered here and there amongst small groups that continued to be influenced by Columba’s missionary followers as they encouraged people to live Scriptural lives.
This is what the church lampstand looked like during the fourth church age. There was hardly any light left. The word “EVIL” indicates that the church had moved away from the simple doctrine of the apostles who wrote the New Testament. A huge Roman Catholic church organisation was rising to power. This was not God’s will.
This was the age for building monasteries. The Roman Catholics won over the barbarians using Peter’s keys by claiming the Popes were the successors of Peter, even though Peter had never been in Rome.
But if a lie is told often enough, it becomes the truth in people’s minds. So the Popes guided the world into the Dark Ages with their Anglo-Saxon missionaries to northern Europe. Then the Roman Catholic Burgundians, who were very subject to the Pope, spread 1 200 monasteries around Europe. The whole of Europe was now in the grip of the Pope.
With the Roman Catholic church ruling Europe, they stamped out the Light, and nine hundred years of Dark Ages engulfed Europe. Life was cold, dark, dirty, and superstitious. People did not even bath. Disease and famine were rife. The average lifespan was less than 45 years. Life was at its worst when the church was in charge of Europe. Politics and religion make a toxic brew.
Why was Rome the dominant church in Western Europe?
Initially, there were four major cities who claimed to have important churches, descended from the apostles. Constantinople was important because that was where emperor Constantine built his capital. Thus Rome was just one of five important churches.
Then the Moslem Arabs exploded out of the Arabian desert in 634 AD, two years after the death of Muhammad, and captured Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria by 641 AD. They moved across North Africa and captured Spain by 720 AD. The Moslem conquests are shown in red on the next map.
Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria were now Moslem cities. Only Rome and Constantinople remained. So Rome became the only important city church in the West. The Arab fleets then controlled the Mediterranean sea which destroyed Rome’s sea trade. Constantinople was threatened by the Arabs and could not afford to send soldiers to protect Rome.
With the sea trade gone, people began to look to the lands of North Europe to develop an agricultural economy. The Franks lay to the north of Italy and they would play a major role in elevating the Pope.
Civilization moved north away from the Mediterranean sea towards the Atlantic ocean. France, Holland, and Germany would grow to economic power when they learned to sail the Atlantic ocean in the 1500s.
Monasteries flourished as centres of agriculture and learning in northern Europe.
Then the Lombards in northern Italy ( today called Lombardy ) began to move down towards Rome. The Lombards had played a role in the breakup of the Roman empire. They occupied Lombardy in the north of Italy. But their main role, in God’s big picture, was when they moved south into Italy and began to threaten Rome.
This threat forced the Pope to look for help. Constantinople was pre-occupied trying to keep off the Moslem Arab threat. So the Lombard menace forced the Pope to decide to ask the barbarian Franks for help.
This was possibly the most significant change of policy that the Pope made in the Dark Ages.
He turned away from the emperor in Constantinople and turned to a barbarian for help. The timing was perfect. Pepin was the powerful mayor of the palace and Childeric III was the very weak king of the Franks.
An alliance developed between Pepin and the Pope. Pepin deposed the existing weak Frankish king and Pepin got Pope Zachary to agree to make him the new king in 751 AD. Then in 754 AD Pope Stephen II went to Paris to crown Pepin as king. For the first time a Pope had crowned a barbarian king. This made Pepin change from a usurper to a God-ordained king so that only his children could succeed him.
The Pope also took a forged letter which he claimed was from Saint Peter asking Pepin to defeat the Lombards who were threatening Rome and telling Pepin to give the Pope some territory. Because Peter held the keys to let people into Heaven, Pepin was obligated to help the Pope and the Franks went down to Italy and defeated the Lombards. He then gave some territory to the Pope which was called the Papal States.( Shown on the map in a light brown or beige colour ). Pepin’s son Charlemagne finally conquered the Lombards and enlarged the Papal States. Pope Leo III then crowned Charlemagne, the greatest barbarian king, as emperor in 800 AD, giving the Pope great prestige.
He was now, by far, the most important Christian.
Unfortunately, the East, which regarded the Emperor at Byzantium ( Constantinople ) as the sole Emperor, resented Charlemagne's assumption of the title of Holy Roman Emperor, and this hardened their opposition, thus contributing to the rift between East and West. Rome and Constantinople became rival churches, each trying to be top dog.
Roman Catholicism was becoming the dominant religion in Northern Europe where Constantinople had very little influence and then, sadly, Rome set out to eliminate all opposition.
But in order to kill people you needed to have kings with their armies who would obey the Pope and kill the Pope’s enemies. The Pope was the only man who claimed that he could crown kings and this gave him leverage over the barbarian tribes. The Pope developed a powerful weapon called excommunication. This banned a king from heaven because Peter would never open the door for an excommunicated king. Kings became scared of the Pope and were thus ready to obey him.
Tens of millions of people died in the Dark Ages during the Counter-Reformation that the Roman Catholics launched to stem the tide of Luther’s Reformation. Politics and religion combined to produce a bizarre dance of death. This study will just look briefly at two of the regions where religious massacres occurred.
The Waldenses, who started in the city of Lyons, loved their children too wisely to accustom them to self-indulgence. Before them was a life of trial and hardship, perhaps a martyr's death. They were educated from childhood to endure hardness, to submit to control, and yet to think and act for themselves
They were hunted to death, yet their blood watered the seed sown, and it failed not of yielding fruit. Thus the Waldenses witnessed for God centuries before the birth of Luther. Scattered over many lands, they planted the seeds of the Reformation that began in the time of Wycliffe, grew broad and deep in the days of Luther.
From A.D. 1173-1560 the Waldensians which dwelt in the Italian Alps were visited with 36 different fierce persecutions. They were almost completely destroyed as a people, and most of their literary record was erased from the face of the earth. To survive, they retreated far into the Italian Cottian Alps. Despite the constant fear of death, they sent missionaries into Europe. The map below shows the areas where they had spread to. They paid a great price as more than one million of them were killed.
Through ages of darkness and apostasy, there were Waldenses who denied the supremacy of Rome. In Turin in 2015, Pope Francis apologised for the inhuman treatment of the Waldensians.
A second tragic region where the Catholic crusades against the Albigenses in Southern France (from 1209-1229), under Popes Innocent III, Honorius III, and Gregory IX. This was one of the bloodiest tragedies in human history. The number of Albigenses that perished in the twenty years of war is estimated between one to two million. The prosperous and peaceful area that they lived in was totally devastated and ruined.
When Languedoc, the province in southern France, was invaded by these Catholic crusaders, one hundred thousand Albigenses fell in one day!
The Duke of Alva is said to have slain 100 000 heretics.
The 350 years of the Spanish Inquisition in Spain with its fire and tortures left a scar across history.
Martyrs died of the sword, at the stake, in dungeons, and of starvation because of the confiscation of their earthly possessions.
The record of Christianity from the days when it first obtained the power to persecute its opponents is one of the most ghastly in history.
During its rise to power, the Papacy also essentially exterminated the Heruli shortly after 493 A.D., the Vandals soon after 533 A.D., and the Ostrogoths in 554 A.D, all of whom were asserted to hold to the Arian non-Trinitarian belief. Having begun with religious violence the Gospel was further distorted until armed Crusaders thought that they could gain redemption from their sins by killing Moslems in Palestine. In 1099 AD they conquered Jerusalem and slaughtered the inhabitants who were Moslem, Jew, or Christian. The fourth Crusade, launched by Pope Innocent III, was a religiously distorted mockery. Cruel reality saw them sack the wealthy Christian city of Zara, which was under the Pope’s protection, out of "necessity" because they needed money. They then razed the city to the ground, only sparing the churches.
Then they sailed on and these ruthless "Christian warriors", claiming that they were representing the Pope, sacked the city of Constantinople with rape and murder in their bloodstained religious zeal ( and insatiable greed for wealth ), despite the fact that it was one of the main Christian cities and massacred their fellow Christian Greek inhabitants of the city.
The Crusades generally refers to the set of seven distinct campaigns over a 150 year period (A.D. 1099 to 1254) that were enacted to liberate the Holy Land from Muslim control.
Money. Murder. Power. This was a time of religious perversion, dominated by lust and greed. Yet all this was done in the Name of Jesus Christ. It was a complete mockery and merely indicated that the love of God had died out of their human hearts.
They painted a red cross on their shields but that did not hide the Devil in their hearts.
Thus far had the official church deviated from the original Gospel of the Prince of peace.
The following lampstand represents the condition of the church in these dismal Dark Ages.
EVIL means moving away from the simplicity of the New Testament teachings of the first church age.
The light of God was hardly visible anymore, but it never died out completely. There were always some survivors who refused to bow the knee to Rome. A spark carried on through the Dark Ages that would be blown into a larger flame in the next church age as the Reformation started.
Meanwhile great men like Wycliffe who died in 1384 and Jan Hus who was executed in 1415 AD kept alive the evangelical zeal of repentance and the fact that we are saved by grace, through faith in the atoning works of Jesus Christ, and not by our own works.
These men, and others like them laboured on through those endless years of the Dark Ages until it was God’s time for the glorious Reformation to remove the stranglehold of Catholicism from much of Europe.
The first four churches are covered in Chapter 2 of the Book of Revelation which deals with the falling away of the church from the original teachings of the apostles.
Chapter 3 deals with the last three church ages during which God laboured to restore the church back to the original faith of the apostles.
EVIL is just LIVE in the wrong direction, moving away from the first church rather than towards it.
REVELATION 2:18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
Thyatira means a dominating woman. A church represents a woman because Jesus calls His true church His Bride.
A dominating woman is the biggest curse on planet earth. When the church controlled and dominated Europe it was the time in church history when Christianity hit its lowest ebb. A dominating church is going to lead the world into the Great Tribulation and is thus the major cause of human damnation on the Day of Judgement. The Judge looks at her evil deeds with flaming eyes. Every horrible deed has been recorded and God will have His vengeance in due time.
Brass speaks of judgement. Fine brass means that not even the smallest error is overlooked. So if we are not repentant and washed in the Blood of Jesus, we are doomed.
LEVITICUS 26:14 But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments;
:19 And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:
The mistake of the Dark ages was churchianity, the doctrines of man.
These human traditions were spread by force. Iron was the strongest metal in Daniel’s Gentile image.
Iron is a symbol of brute force.
Iron was Daniel’s symbol for Rome. But force follows uncertain paths and produces unintended consequences.
When Satan used the Roman empire to savagely persecute the Christians of the second church age of Smyrna between 170 - 312 AD, he killed millions but produced a purged church that God never criticized in any way.
REVELATION 2:19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
In a brutal age where the Bible was suppressed and most people could not read, the good works of the true saints reflected the Word of God to the people. “Works” is followed by the word “charity” or “love”. Their works were based on loving God’s Word and wanting to serve Him by loving their fellow man. They did good works as a natural consequence of being saved. They did not, like the false vine, do good works in order to get saved nor in order to get men to admire them.
Their good works were based on charity, on giving.
The false vine was working to get rich and receive wealth and power. In 774 AD Pope Hadrian I presented the greatest barbarian king, Charlemagne, with a forged document called the “Donation of Constantine”. Constantine had been dead for more than 400 years but this document claimed that he had given the Roman Catholic church immense possessions and vast territories, in fact all the lands in the West. The wealth of the church really grew after that.
“Faith” was what God noticed, not the increasing wealth and possessions and political power of the church.
ROMANS 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
God is not focused on material benefits, He wants to see how closely people stick to Scripture. Poor believers, many of them hiding in remote valleys in the Alps where they were known as the Church in the Wilderness, stayed with God’s Word rather than Rome’s doctrines that were enforced by political power. This was the faith that God noticed.
ROMANS 5:3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience
They learned patience the hard way. So many of them were killed. Their earthly hopes were often shattered.
They did not know it, but the long night of the Dark Ages had to endure for about 900 years before things would change. They just had to endure and endure and trust God because their human wisdom could not grasp His Big Picture. The Dark Ages were the dirt that buried the true seed of the apostles’ first church. It takes time for a seed to germinate in darkness. But eventually the buried seed rots and a new life miraculously starts to emerge. The Roman Catholic church in the Dark Ages was the dirt that buried the true seed of the first church age so that it could germinate.
“and thy works; and the last to be more than the first”. The influence of Columba and his followers was destroyed over the centuries where ever possible but after 1300 AD new names emerged like Wycliffe and Jan Hus who attracted much attention. Their opposition to the Catholic church generated a strong movement amongst many people who resented the corruption and worldliness of the Roman church.
Then much later a Catholic monk Savonarola rose up in Florence who denounced the growing wealth and corruption of the clergy, their despotic rule and their exploitation of the poor. Revolt against the Roman church was gathering. Rome was very busy stamping out these fires of protest.
They executed Hus and Savonarola.
The church retained its brutal magnificence with an emphasis on spectacular cathedrals and elaborate ceremonies. Churches were smothered in gold and jewels, draped in lace, clouded with incense, ablaze with lighted candles, huge altars, splendid robes, large organs, beautifully painted walls and ceilings, and vast choirs.
But the winds of change were blowing. What Wycliffe and Hus lacked were the technological miracle of a printing press and cheap paper.
More and more people were listening to the idea of salvation through personal faith in Jesus Christ, rather than by achieving salvation through church membership and church rituals in what was a rough and pitiless world. The sale of indulgences to buy forgiveness for sin, the useless life of monks, the trade in relics from the past, and the corruption in Rome were causing more and more resentment.
Rome was suppressing all this protest, but there was also a growing love for God’s Word that was building up pressure like a volcano that was preparing to explode.
In 1455 Gutenberg in Germany produced the first printed Bible.
Printing underwent an industrial revolution as its use exploded over Europe. Printing spread extraordinarily rapidly throughout Europe.
After the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453 AD, scholars and refugees brought ancient Bible manuscripts to the west. Now the Bible could be put together from all these ancient documents. These Greek and Hebrew scholars gave a real boost to scholarship in the west.
These ancient texts could be translated into the common languages of the people, instead of always having to be in Latin which the common people did not understand. The development of printing was a key issue for the success of Luther’s Reformation.
But the Roman church was also increasing their works of killing opponents and gathering wealth.
Pope Innocent III ( 1198 – 1216 ) launched one of the biggest religious massacres in history when the Albigenses in southern France were wiped out. The fourth crusade in 1204 destroyed the city of Zara to raise funds and then sacked the Christian city of Constantinople.
Pope Gregory IX ( 1227 – 1241 ) began the Inquisition, a church Gestapo that could torture, mutilate, and kill by fire any suspected heretic.
Violence was just becoming part of religious life.
From 1200 – 1300 the Waldenses were eliminated or driven out of many regions. By 1400 they could only find safety deep inside the rugged mountains of the Cottian Alps where many died of cold and exposure.
Rome got her power from the god of force who is Satan.
People thought the world would end in the year 1000 AD and gave all their lands and possessions to the church. Rome grew considerably richer. Then the church made voluntary donations compulsory. In 1081 AD Pope Gregory VII made every house that had a baptized Catholic living in it pay an annual tribute to the Blessed Peter. Gregory, of course, collected on behalf of the long dead Peter. A 33 % death tax on a person’s estate went to the church. Wealthy people condemned for heresy had their estates confiscated and these were divided between the church and the state. The church’s immense wealth was an economic stranglehold on many countries. When king Francis I ruled France ( 1515 – 47 ) a group of 600 abbots, bishops, and archbishops controlled so much land throughout France that their income equalled all the taxes that the king was able to collect.
Then the Popes introduced indulgences. By paying money you could buy your forgiveness for sins.
They invented Purgatory which is where the dead went to suffer for their sins before going to Heaven. Then by paying money, you could get your dead relatives out of Purgatory with immediate effect. This was a great money spinner. The church was making money out of the living and the dead. Business was good.
But now an unintended effect was threatening Rome. Jealous eyes of the political leaders were looking at her vast wealth. When Hus opposed Rome he did not have enough support to break Rome’s stranglehold. When Luther opposed Rome, many powerful figures supported him because that would enable them to grab their share of the church’s wealth. Ironically, the wealth of the church thus played a big part in their downfall when the Reformation started.
PSALM 76:10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee:
Many who joined Luther’s reformation did it for the wrong motive, financial gain. But their support suited God as it enabled Luther to withstand the onslaughts of the Pope.
REVELATION 2:20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
Jezebel, the Roman Catholic church, started with Nicolaitanism, which means an elevated human leader. It began as a convenient idea or deed for growing a church and then became a doctrine that cannot be opposed. They embraced the power of the state and then introduced paganism. The Roman church in this age is a prophetess to tell people that she is predestined to rule the world because her leader, the Pope, is the earthly successor of Peter who alone decides who will enter Heaven as he has the keys to Heaven.
In 1302 the Pope issued a statement called “Unam Sanctam”.
It states that salvation is only possible if you submit to the Pope in order to belong to the Catholic church.
She was a false prophetess as she took people away from Scripture by her organisation that became a denomination which then relied on false teaching. Idols are lifeless statues. There is no life in the doctrines of man.
MATTHEW 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Jezebel got the political power of her husband Ahab behind her and then forced her pagan beliefs onto the Jews. In the Dark Ages Roman Catholicism was forced onto the people of Europe by sword and fire.
Fornication is linked to idol worship. The Catholic churches were filled with carved statues of Christ, Mary, the apostles, and numerous saints.
Pope John Paul II, a brave and great leader, was dedicated to praying to statues of the virgin Mary.
REVELATION 2:21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
This age lasted long, about 900 years. There were so many disgusting excesses committed by the Roman Catholic church that it was obvious that they needed to repent. But they hardened their hearts and did not. Even Pope Francis was disgusted with their inhuman treatment of the Waldenses and he publically apologised in Turin in 2015 AD. But the Pope’s of the Dark Ages never repented or apologised. Instead of repenting for all the Dark Ages murders, when the Reformation started they then turned their murder machine against the Protestants in Europe and the Indians in central and South America and if anything, they stepped up the murder rate.
REVELATION 2:22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed ( hell ), and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
The official Roman church, having lost her spiritual vision, would now focus on temporary wealth, political intrigues, and the comfort of worldliness. Luxury murdered her spiritual zeal but walked grinning in her funeral. But the great tribulation is the final end of the apostate church. Spiritual adultery is to receive a man-made doctrine into the womb of the mind where it grows from being the seed of an idea into a deed that dominates our actions and then hardens as a habit into a doctrine that dominates our thinking. The mark of the beast in the hand ( our works ) and in the forehead ( where our brain is that thinks ). Thus the mark of the beast is brainwashing or mind control. Believe anything that is not Scriptural. Just do as the church says, do not worry about what the Bible says.
But church leaders were too often chiefly interested in accumulating wealth, power, material possessions, and a privileged lifestyle.
REVELATION 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
Who are the children of the Roman Catholic church? The Protestant churches that would come out of her. Rome had built up such a strong denominational spirit based on human leadership that the Protestants would go down the same path. The only difference is that they would call their human church leaders “pastors” instead of “priests”. Then each Protestant movement would denominate around their man-made doctrines.
Spiritual death is separation from God. The Roman church had moved away from the New Testament teachings of the apostles, so now God moves His Spirit away from the church and as a result, there is no check on the disgraceful, self-enriching, and disgusting lifestyles that the church leaders sank into. They were still alive physically, claiming to be Christians but inwardly God had left them and they were spiritually dead.
Death is simply organised religion which is a substitute for a personal experience with Jesus Christ.
Organised religion is denominationalism. This thrives under human leadership which is Nicolaitanism.
A typical example was the Crusaders.
They claimed to kill in the name of Jesus, but also robbed, raped, and destroyed in their greed for land and loot. Their desire to kill was the evidence of the evil in their hearts. “Christian killers” are the warped fruit of the poisonous hybrid formed by mixing religion and politics. Just look at the track record of ISIS who are from the Moslem religion.
The above verse clearly speaks of different churches. One branch of these churches does not know the truth. This false vine is unaware of the personal relationship of the believer with Jesus. Jesus searches the “reins” and “hearts”. From the heart we express our innermost feelings and deepest love. The reins of a horse are used to guide the horse. So our reins are the motives that we use to guide our hearts’ deepest choices.
Men loved their church more than they loved the Bible.
Men were greedy for gain. They served God for personal benefit or to enrich themselves.
God knows our motives and rejects any desire for gain or reward. He wants us to serve Him purely out of love for His Word.
“and I will give unto every one of you according to your works”. This was a dark and ignorant age. Evil was rampant. Life was cheap. Yet there were those who tried to live by the Bible. Their good works reflected their inner faith. They were the minority and usually unnoticed. Yet their lives set a high standard that was a rebuke to the majority who lived in sin without any fear of God.
REVELATION 2:24 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 official Roman church in the Dark Ages sank to such depths that one hesitates to offend the eye by remembering all this evil. However hard you try, you would struggle to find a more depraved person than the Borgia Pope Alexander VI ( 1492 – 1503 ). He finally died at a meal by drinking an arsenic-laced drink with which he had hoped to kill his invited guest. His servants somehow had muddled up the glasses.
This age was such a long, horrid, and violent period. God was happy if Christians could just believe in Scripture and personal salvation through faith in Christ’s sacrifice for us, because very few believed that. They had stood the test of patience and endurance. They had kept the flame burning, even though it was small. They had played their part with longsuffering and dogged determination.
The harsh and hard work of breaking Rome’s stranglehold over Europe would be left to others in the next church age.
Revolt was simmering under the surface, especially in northern Europe. Thanks to the protests and martyrdom of Jan Hus the state of Bohemia, the region around the city of Prague in Czechoslovakia, was strongly anti-Catholic. By 1384 when he died, Wycliffe’s Bible translation into common English was starting to break the power of the use of the Latin Bible, which ordinary people did not understand.
In 1378 the cardinals, rather foolishly, chose two Popes. This two-Pope fiasco or “Great Schism” continued for forty years until 1417 and really weakened the prestige of the Pope.
The Waldenses, their numbers reduced by numerous crusades or murder campaigns against them, were still holding out against the Roman Catholic church in the Cottian Alps in southern France.
From 1450 onwards the different regions of Europe were swept by a rising feeling of nationalism. Instead of all of Europe being subject to the Pope, they had a growing feeling of wanting to be separate distinct nations especially in the mountainous Alpine regions of Switzerland where towns or cantons united because it was difficult for outsiders to attack them. This league of cantons actually became independent in 1499. Here the reformers Zwingli and Calvin would defy Rome. The Renaissance, which was a revival of learning and new ideas, started in Italy which made people begin to think for themselves and start to question all the traditions of the Roman church. New ideas were circulating, especially with the discovery of the whole new world of the Americas in 1492 by Columbus. The Roman church ruled Europe through the Latin language which ordinary people did not understand. Gutenberg’s printing press, invented around 1440 and spreading through Europe by 1500, enabled the rapid spread of religious literature in the common languages. No one would use this more effectively than Martin Luther. The map below shows some of the strongly anti-Catholic areas in Europe when Luther, as a single monk, stood up to defy the huge church system that owned about one-third of Europe and dominated the kings of Europe. A one-man David versus a colossus that was a Goliath-like church.
The stage was set for a spiritual seismic earthquake. All it needed was a rugged, rebellious, and fearless monk with a hammer, a church door in the German city of Wittenberg, and a document called the “95 Theses” which argued against Indulgences, the ability to buy forgiveness of sins from the Pope.
REVELATION 2:25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
The true church clung onto salvation by faith. They practised their good works though they saw little earthly rewards for this as they were usually hunted down and persecuted. But they never gave up. The long night of the Dark Ages never seemed to end. But they carried the baton of faith and handed it over to the reformers who would hit Rome like an earthquake.
REVELATION 2:26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
This age taught us one powerful lesson. Never give up. However hopeless it looked, however badly they were hammered, however many were killed they nevertheless never gave up. God had planted them there and they served him faithfully, even when they went to an early and painful death. These saints had something that can only be described as spiritual toughness. Like a boxer who had been knocked down, they just kept getting up and carrying on with the fight of faith, serving God despite their earthly hopes being shattered. Satan hit them with everything he had, but they kept on coming. Endurance was the Christian virtue that testified of their tremendously rugged faith. This was not an age for Christian sissies. They lived in an awful age but never gave up on doing good works. That was their strong point, they never gave up just because their circumstances were awful.
Character is formed by difficulty and defeat. Their harsh circumstances produced strong and fearless characters which makes them fit to rule in the Millennium. God was training His future rulers.
REVELATION 2:27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
The survivors of Armageddon and the heathen who never heard the Gospel will be the nations that are ruled in the Millennium. These unsaved people will be given an extended life of almost 1 000 years. But on condition that they behave themselves. Then they can decide if they want to accept Jesus. Their children will live in this “first Heaven” which is the first taste of Heaven on earth when Jesus rules over the Millennium for 1 000 years. Righteousness will flow from sea to sea. All will be peaceful. But despite living under these conditions for hundreds of years, when Satan is released they will rush to him like a flood. This will disprove the favourite argument of unbelievers, "If only I had lived in a Christian home or Christian community then I would have accepted Jesus". These people will live in peace and safety and see Jesus, yet will abandon Him as soon as they get the opportunity.
The saints of this fourth church age saw sin at its violent and degraded worst so when they are in charge they will tolerate no evil. The nations that they rule will toe the line or else! The Millennium will be a wonderful place for the righteous but any evil or error will be met with zero tolerance. Here the Bride will judge the nations and rule them justly but very firmly. The iron rod speaks of strict discipline, not the brutal and vicious iron force of Rome. But those who refuse to obey will be demolished.
REVELATION 2:28 And I will give him the morning star.
The morning star appears in the east, just before the sun rises, for nine months and then it changes to become the evening star for nine months. 900 years of Dark Ages had to pass before it was time for God to move. For true believers it was an endless night. But finally, the stars begin to fade as the sun moves up closer to the eastern horizon, just before it becomes visible. Eventually, only one star is left shining, the brightest star which is the morning star. Actually, this is the planet Venus which lies between the earth and the sun. It reflects the sunlight towards us and this is the last sign we get before it too fades and the sun rises over the horizon.
The morning star means that the sun is about to rise. It means that the light is going to get brighter and brighter as the sun takes over from the morning star that was faithfully reflecting the sunlight on a small scale.
True Christians, each reflecting a bit of God’s light had bravely held the fort and now God Himself was going to allow a glorious Reformation to burst on the scene and spread the dazzling light of salvation by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ, far and wide. Over the centuries, this basic Gospel truth of repenting and accepting Jesus as Saviour would spread around the world.
The morning star, because of its closeness to the sun, shines brightly only when the sun is about to rise. Then it fades as the sun rises in its full glory. So these saints, in the darkest night of the Dark Ages, by just being able to shine for the Gospel were proof that Satan could not ultimately win because they were reflecting the Light of the Bible. Jesus, just like the natural sun, would illuminate the world with the Light of “Justification by grace through faith” and disperse the darkness. Satan can only triumph for a season. Then he meets his match and licks his wounds.
REVELATION 2:29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
God repeats this to every age. God’s Spirit will only tell us what is written in the Bible. Man will always seek some substitute so that he can modify the Bible in order to try to cope with his changing circumstances. God keeps saying that we must not deviate from Scripture just because of the changing world we are in. Staying with the New Testament church teachings was what God wanted even though this had not made much of an impression in terms of big numbers of believers.
The big numbers and the important people were in the Roman Catholic church. But God was not impressed with them.
God would actually shake up this huge church organisation by using an obscure monk in the unimportant city of Wittenberg.