These seven churches symbolize the history of the church from the days of the early church all the way to the end of the world. There were far more churches in Asia Minor, which is the present-day Turkey, when John wrote Revelation, but only these seven were chosen by the Lord, and there is a good reason for that, which we will see later. The letters tell us about the condition of the church at all times through all ages, and what is their duty. The seven letters give a literal message to the seven churches, and they give a spiritual message to all people through all times. There is a double fulfilment of these letters, as there is also in Matthew 24, a contemporary fulfilment, and an eschatological fulfilment – an end-time fulfilment.
These letters also refer to two named persons with a rather dubious reputation, Balaam in Revelation 2,14, and Jezebel in Revelation 2,20. In the letter to Pergamon we are warned against Balaam’s teachings. There is probably no new Balaam in Pergamon, so the reference is made to Balaam in Numbers chapter 22 who was commissioned by Balak, the son of the king of Moab, to curse the people of Israel. In the letter to Tyatira, it is Jezebel who we are warned against. Nor is this Jezebel any new Jezebel, so this Jezebel is the same Jezebel that we find in 1 Kings 18,4. It was she who exterminated almost all the prophets of the Lord in the time of Obadiah. Jezebel was a Phoenician princess, and was the daughter of Etbaal, king of Sidon/Phenicia. She was married to the Israeli king Ahab of Samaria.
Nor is the order of the churches chosen at random, because although this is not just a linear story with a specific beginning and a specific end, where the events come one after the other in a literal sense, they also run parallel to each other and overlap. The letters are addressed to the individual churches and were probably relevant to the individual church´s current situation, but nevertheless these seven letters are also relevant to every Christian through all time, and we will probably find each of the seven churches represented in our day. Another important point should be that the cities lies in a circle. The messages start in Ephesus, and follow the clock around to Smyrna, then to Pergamon and then on to Tyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and finally to Laodicea. We therefore have both a rectilinear history that addresses the history of the church in different epochs, and a circular history that is general and where all churches are in one or another of the states that the letters initiate.
The seven cities were and are real cities in Asia, present-day Turkey. Whether one wants to interpret it to mean that the seven cities represent the church history from the days of the early church to the end times, or in other ways, the main point should be that Jesus Christ is particularly interested in the church. We understand this when we see Him walking among the candlesticks (Revelation 1,12-13), which here symbolizes the seven churches (Revelation 1,20), and that He holds up the stars for the churches in His hand, (Revelation 1,16 ). The stars are a picture of the leaders of the churches.
The message in the letters also has a personal application: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith … This call is repeated in each of the seven letters, 2,7; 2,11; 2,17; 2,29; 3,6; 3,13; 3,22.
Another thing that Christ repeats in each of the seven letters is … … to him that overcomes … and follows up by saying to the church in … …
Ephesus: … will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God (2,7).
Smyrna: … shall not be hurt of the second death (2,11).
Pergamos: …will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it (2,17).
Tyatira: … and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: 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. And I will give him the morning star. (2,26-28).
Sardis: … the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels (3,5).
Philadelphia: …will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down from heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. (3,12).
Laodicea:… will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (3,21).
If we really listen to what Jesus has to say to us through the Book of Revelation (and of course the rest of the Bible), He will make sure that we come victorious through the battle. How wonderful are the promises God gives us!
The letters are addressed to the angels of the churches, and the term the angel of the church has long been understood as the pastor or leader of the church. The Greek angelos or aggelos (G0032a) is the same as the Hebrew malak and is used as a term for prophets. In Matthew 11,10, a´ngelon is used about John the Baptist.
Fra Strong´s Exhaustive Concordance: G0032 aggelos, ang’-el-os; from aggellô (G0031-a) [probably derived from agô (G0071); compare agelê (G0034)] (to bring news); a messenger; especially an angel; implicitly a pastor: – angel, messenger.
In the seven letters that now follow in chapters 2 and 3, we find a progressive development of history, which shows us that Christ comes closer and closer for each letter, which reinforces the view that the seven churches are the history of the church from Jesus’ time to His second coming. There is admittedly a small exception here: we do not find such a statement in the letter to Smyrna
To Ephesus, Jesus says in Revelation 2,5: … or else I will come unto thee quickly
To Smyrna we do not find such a statement.
To Pergamos, Jesus says in Revelation 2,16: … or else I will come unto thee quickly
To Tyatira, Jesus says in Revelation 2,25: … till I come
To Sardis, Jesus says in Revelation 3,3: … I will come on thee as a thief
To Philadelphia, Jesus says in Revelation 3,11: … I come quickly
To Laodicea, Jesus says in Revelation 3,20: … I stand at the door
These letters also have three dimensions, a historical, a spiritual and a prophetic dimension.
The historical dimension: The letters were given for use in John’s day.
The spiritual dimension: The letters have spiritual and pastoral advice to God’s people up through all time.
The Prophetic Dimension: Provides God’s people with a prophetic panorama of the Christian Church history
The first letter. The Epistle to Ephesus, Revelation 2,1-7:
This is the church’s 1st period where the church in Ephesus represents the first decades of the Christian church from the day of Pentecost in the year 31 until the middle of the second century, more specifically until the year 155 AD. Or from the stoning of Stephen in the year 34. This letter tells that the church in Ephesus was persecuted and about the trials they had and is at the same time an image of how the church in general will be persecuted throughout all times. The church hated false teachers (the Nicolaitans).
Ephesus was the most important of the seven cities mentioned in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Here were the natural crossroads for most roads between the major trade routes in Asia Minor, and between Rome and the East. Here was the largest theatre of that time, and the city had a famous library with nearly 15,000 volumes, which contained the legendary books on magic; Ephesia grammata, which emphasizes the importance of idolatry in Ephesus. The temple of the goddess Artemis, or Diana in Latin, was the largest building in antiquity which among other things contained a statue of this goddess, and was considered one of the seven wonders of the world. It was Paul who travelled to Ephesus and preached the gospel, and he did so in such a powerful and effective way that there was a revolt in the city.
Verse 1. The first letter is naturally addressed to the church at Ephesus, which also was one of the most important Roman cities in Asia Minor at the time. The city was probably the headquarters of the Christian church from the year 68. Ephesus was called the gate to Asia and was largest of the Asian cities in John’s time, with approx. 250,000 inhabitants. Both Paul and John worked in the city during their respective periods.
Verse 2. The believers in Ephesus had stopped worshiping Artemis, or Diana as the fertility goddess was called. That is the reason why there was a revolt in the city after Paul preached the gospel there because they stopped worshiping Diana and thus Diana’s priesthood lost a lot of money. It was precisely the temple of the goddess Diana that was one of the things that Ephesus was famous for.
Ephesus was a healthy church in many ways as long as the apostles were still alive. But here Jesus also mentions those who are evil. Eventually, the church in Ephesus became well acquainted with tribulation and adversity, and had internal difficulties due to false prophets, but these were revealed. These must be the false apostles who appeared in the primeval church already while the apostles were alive, and who called themselves apostles. These posed the most serious threat to the primitive church towards the end of the first century. These advocated Docetism, an important Gnostic doctrine, which states that the body of Christ was not human but was either spiritual or consisted of a heavenly substance, and that his sufferings therefore just were apparently.
Verse 3. In the first century, the church in Ephesus worked with great fervour and zeal, and Ephesus eventually became the starting point for most missionary journeys in Asia Minor, in the first two centuries.
Verse 4. At the beginning of the second century, the church gradually became an unloving church. It is true that they adhered to the pure doctrine, but faithfulness cannot replace loving Jesus and brotherly love. It is no help in keeping all of God’s commandments if charity is gone (see Mark 10,17-21). According to tradition, it was in Ephesus that John lived both before and after he was imprisoned on Patmos.
Verse 5. Here is a clear call to repent and be as before, when they had a faith that was active in love. A church does not necessarily cease to be a church even if it falls from the doctrine. It continues to be a church, but it then becomes a place without a candlestick, or in other words: it is no longer a light for the world that lies in a spiritual darkness. Jesus’ warning to remove the candlestick from Ephesus came true in the 13th century when Christianity was supplanted in favour of Islam. Today, Islam prevails where Christianity once enlightened.
Verse 6. Some Christians have fallen for the works of the Nicolaitans, which is false doctrines, but the believers in Ephesus did not. The Nicolaitans’ deeds are about a way of life, with i.e. fornication and participation in idolatry, in fact a way of life unworthy of a Christian. The Nicolaitans were disciples of a proselyte from Antioch named Nicholas. The word Nicolaitans can also be understood symbolically and means victory over the laity. This sect claimed a superiority that allowed them to worship idols and practice paganism. There are also similarities between the teachings of the Nicolaitans and the teachings of Balaam, which we will discuss in more detail under Pergamon. Irenaeus identified the Nicolaitans as a Gnostic sect, a sect that sought to link Greek philosophy and the Christian faith to a higher realization. The Nicolaitans have also become a symbolic expression of the Gnostics, and they plagued the churches at that time, especially in Ephesus and Pergamon (verse 15).
Verse 7. If the church hears Jesus’ admonition and repents, they will receive eternal life through the risen Jesus Christ, and walk with him in God´s paradise where they can eat of the tree of life. This verse confirms that the messages of the seven churches are valid for the whole Church throughout all ages.
Ephesus means Attractive and is called the Church that lost its passion.
If we look at the church in general today, we find this characteristic. We have denominations that once took God’s word seriously, but today have liberalized much of what they once held dear. They have left their first love.
The angel: In addition to what we understand by an angel, angel means a messenger and in this case the leader of the congregation or church.
He that holdeth the seven stars: He in this context is Jesus, it is He who walks among the seven candlesticks and holds the seven stars in his hand, the stars are the same as an angel (see Revelation 1,20)
He who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks: The golden candlesticks are the churches (see Revelation 1,20), and the fact that they are of gold means that they are valuable to God.
Remember therefore whence thou art fallen: The original church was clean as long as one or more of the apostles lived. After John died around the year 105, the apostasy accelerated. That the apostasy had begun early in the church history we find told by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2,3-7: 3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there comes a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way.
2 Thessalonians 2,7 refers to the relationship between the Roman military-political authorities (the emperor) and the religious leader of Rome, the bishop (later the pope), who was already in business. When the military-political authority, the emperor, who is what Paul now calls he who now letteth, moved to Constantinople (Istanbul), Rome’s religious leader became more apparent, gradually seizing political power in the political vacuum created when the emperor left Rome.
Criticism, praise, command and promise to the church.
Criticism: thou hast left thy first love.
Praise: canst not bear them which are evil and has patience.
Command: do the first works.
Promise: he that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life.
In six of the seven letters we find a special statement that can be linked to the time of Jesus second coming, and we will see that His second coming comes closer as we move through the letters.
The first letter says: … I will come unto thee quickly … a warning that we must be awake.
The second letter. The Epistle to Smyrna, Revelation 2,8-11:
This is the church’s 2nd period. The inhabitants of Smyrna should understand the allegory in the expression, which was dead, and is alive all the time the city was destroyed in 545 BC. and later rebuilt. In Smyrna, the non-Christians go much further in their persecution of the Christians, and in the year 155 Polycarp suffered martyrdom when he was burned at the stake. This happened according to tradition at 2 PM, Saturday 23rd February 155. Later, approx. 1500 Christians were killed in the same city. This church represents the period between 155 and 313 AD. It is Polycarp’s martyrdom that begins this period.
The town of Smyrna, today called Izmir, was probably founded about 4000 years ago, and is one of the oldest settlements on the Mediterranean. Around 1500 BC the entire region ended up under the Hittite Empire. Later, approx. 610 – 600 BC Smyrna became subject to the Lydian Empire. The Persian king Cyrus the Great conquered the Lydian Empire and destroyed Smyrna in the year 545 BC. Alexander the Great rebuilt the city around the year 335 BC. and Lysimachus expanded and fortified the city between 301 and 281 BC.
Verse 8. The city of Smyrna was destroyed or died in 545 BC. and lay desolate and uninhabited for 210 years until it became alive again approx. year 335 BC when the city was rebuilt by Alexander the Great, and later expanded by two of his generals. This is a clear parallel to Jesus, which was dead, and is alive. Here Polycarp, who was bishop of Smyrna, suffered martyrdom on 23 February 155 AD.
Verse 9. The church in Smyrna was poor when it came to earthly riches, but Jesus still says that this church is rich, and then in the sense of both having faith and preserving the faith despite outside attacks. The church in Smyrna was persecuted. Jews here, therefore, are in the sense of Christians, not literal Jews, (Romans 2,29-28; 9,6-7; Galatians 3,28-29; 1 Peter 2-4). It was the Gentile Christians which say they are Jews, and are not, who did not take the word of God very seriously and who mixed Christianity and paganism. This is historically founded as the Acts of the Apostles refer to many of the problems the primitive church had, and which came as a result of false accusations directed at them among Jews, who really were Jews, (Acts 13,45; 14,2.19; 17,5.17; 18,5-6.12; 21,27).
The phrase synagogue of Satan must be read in the same way as the phrase in Matthew 3,7: generation of vipers which was said to the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees and Sadducees poisoned the word of God with their human traditions. The religious centre of the Jews was the synagogue, and no doubt a place where many of the plots against Jesus and his disciples were hatched. Satan means accuser or adversary (Zechariah 3,1; Revelation 12,10). The Jewish synagogues literally became synagogues for the accuser, or Satan’s synagogue.
Verse 10. Many Christians were persecuted for their faith, yet they remained faithful until the end. That Smyrna is called a synagogue of Satan must be understood in terms of what the word devil really means. The word means, as mentioned above, accuser, and here the Christians were accused of everything. The time aspect of the tribulation in this verse is interpreted in at least two ways. a) Ten days must be understood as ten years according to the year/day principle where a prophetic day is a literal year. The worst persecution the Christians in Smyrna experienced was the last ten years of this period from 303 to 313, first under Diocletian and then under his successor Galerius. The persecution ceased in 313 when Emperor Constantine made Christianity a state religion of the Roman Empire. b) The second interpretation is that ten days is a pictorial number. The number ten in Hebrew thought was a minimum of something – and this we can often find in the scripture.
In any case, it will be more consistent and in harmony with sound biblical principles of interpretation that the ten days have a literal connection with the current events in Smyrna, and a pictorial application to history represented by the congregation in Smyrna.
Verse 11. If the people of Smyrna are faithful to God, they have a promise from the Lord that they will not see the other dead. This means that they are part of the first resurrection that gives right to eternal life. This verse also confirms that the messages of the seven churches are valid for the whole church throughout all ages.
Smyrna means myrrh and was the Church that was persecuted.
Believers have been persecuted for their faith throughout history, and this will continue until Jesus returns. According to Daniel 12,1, we have the worst in front of us. Like Philadelphia, Smyrna does not receive criticism.
I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty – but thou art rich: Smyrna was a city poor in earthly wealth, but this church was rich in the biblical sense. They suffered persecution and were killed because they believed in Jesus Christ.
The blasphemy of them which say they are Jews: The true believers also suffered mockery and ridicule from pagan Christians who did not take Christianity very seriously and who mixed paganism and religion.
The synagogue of Satan: These Gentile Christians also reported other Christians / Jewish Christians to the military authorities so that they could be removed. The allegory is that the Pharisees and the scribes laid their plans in the synagogues around Judea.
Ye shall have tribulation for ten days: This church would suffer a violent persecution, a ten years tribulation. This happened in Smyrna when Emperor Diocletian started a great persecution of Christians in 303 AD. which Galerius continued when he became emperor in the year 305 and kept going until his death in 311. Constantine the Great ended this persecution in 313 by making Christianity one of the many state religions in the Roman Empire. The persecution stopped after ten years, exactly as the prophecy had said.
Criticism, praise, command and promise to the church.
Criticism: No criticism.
Praise: Endures suffering with dignity.
Commandment: be thou faithful until death.
Promise: He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
The third letter. The Epistle to Pergamos, Revelation 2,12-17:
Covers the period between 313 and 538 AD. and is the third period in the history of the Church. Pergamon is known for its 12 meter high altar in honour of the god Zeus. However, Pergamon’s god was Asclepios, also known as the god of medicine, symbolized by a serpent. The city was a centre of occultism and Eastern mysticism and oriental religions. Under Emperor Constantine much changed, especially after his conversion. The persecution stopped for a time, but now pagan customs were mixed into Christianity. Worship of pagan idols was replaced by worship of martyrs (the saints), and emperorship was replaced by kneeling for the bishop (pope) of Rome. The decree of Emperor Constantine about making Christianity an official state religion in the Roman Empire through the Milan Edict of February 313 begins this period.
Pergamon, which history dates back to the 8th century BC, became the capital of the kingdom of Pergamon which in time became a significant kingdom during the Hellenistic period of the Attalid dynasty, 281–133 BC. Pergamon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. King Attalos III gave the kingdom to the Roman Republic in the year 133 BC. Pergamon had the second largest library in the ancient world with around 200,000 scrolls. Only the library in Alexandria was larger. When the Ptolemaic dynasty, the king of the south, stopped exporting papyrus, they invented in Pergamon a new material to write on – parchment – which was later developed into parchment paper.
Verse 12. Pergamon was the capital of Asia Minor in Roman times, and a centre of occult currents, and here, in addition to Zeus and Asclepios, there were temples to Athena, Dionysus, and to the Egyptian gods Isis and Serapis. During the Attalid dynasty, the city became one of the most important cultural centres in the entire Greek world.
Verse 13. Where Satan’s seat is refers to this that the city was a centre of the occult and that there were several pagan temples in the city. As capital, the city became a centre and hub in Asia Minor. Here Antipas suffered martyrdom around the years 90 – 92 when he was burned on an ox-shaped brass altar because he had driven out evil spirits out of the church, spirits which the locals worshiped. It was the apostle John who ordained Antipas bishop of Pergamon.
Verse 14. Here the teachings of Balaam reappear as in verse 6 where Balaam’s teachings and the Nicolaitans are equated. Balaam was a soothsayer and a sorcerer and there were several of these types of soothsayers and sorcerers in the city which is called Satan’s dwelling place and throne. The analogy with Balaam indicates that someone in Pergamon intended to destroy the church by splitting it up, and then saw paganism into the pure church. Balaam, as we can read about in Numbers chapters 22-24, put his own interests ahead of God’s people. Christians were influenced by this mixture of paganism and Christianity, and little by little, religious costumes and rituals from the pagan religions began to be used, such as the crosier (in the 4th century), holy water, prayer for the dead, and the worship of images and saints. In that way paganism gained more and more place in the church.
Verse 15. Also in this verse there is a parallel to verse 6. Although some external conditions improved under Emperor Constantine, other conditions got worse. The great persecution stopped, at least for a certain period, but the decay within the church began with the adoption of pagan customs and the worship of martyrs. It was not just the teachings of the Nicolaitans that penetrated Christianity. Babylonian mystery religions also gained ground, along with mother/child religions such as:
Semiramis and Tammuz, Isis and Horus, Venus and Jupiter, Cyblee and Deoius and of course the worship of the sun – Sol Invictus.
Verse 16. Here Jesus comes with a clear warning to the church. Repent! or he will come and fight against them, the fallen church, with the double-edged sword.
Verse 17. If the church of Pergamon repents and are faithful, they shall not be struck with death, but shall be given a white stone, which here symbolizes eternal life.
Pergamon means the Exalted and is called the Tolerant Church.
Although there has almost always been some form of occultism in the church, in our time we see more and more of the occult where the church flirts with dangerous spirits, the Wicca culture, New Age and an extensive idolatry along with a mixture of Christianity and Eastern mysticism and religions, and pagan customs within the church.
Where Satan’s seat is: Pergamon was a centre of the occult, and there were, as we see above, several pagan temples in the city. Pergamon became a place where African (Egyptian), Oriental, and almost all types of religions and the mysticism of the East met. Pergamon’s god was Asclepios, the god of medical art – which interestingly is symbolized by a snake.
The doctrine of Balaam: Balaam was a soothsayer and a sorcerer, and we can read his story in Numbers 22, where Balak, the son of the king of Moab, wants Balaam to curse God’s people.
Balac: A pagan prince who wanted to destroy God’s people.
I will fight against them with the sword of My mouth: Fighting with the sword from my mouth is something Jesus says, and by that he means the Word of God.
Criticism, praise, command and promise to the congregation.
Criticism: Tolerates immorality, idolatry, and heresy.
Praise: There are many who maintain faith in Christ.
Promise: He that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna and a stone with a new name.
The third letter says: … or else I will come unto thee quickly … and there is still a call to return to God before it is too late.
The fourth letter. The Epistle to Tyatira, Revelation 2,18-29:
Tyatira was the least important city of the seven cities. Tyatira represents the fourth and longest period in the history of the church, from 538 to 1517 AD. I think God wants to tell how important this period is to His people by placing this letter in the middle of the line of letters, and that this is the longest message. The bishop of Rome took political power after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and in 538 the papacy was established as we know it today. This begins the fourth period. The whole letter says that something will happen, which will have major consequences for the church. During this period we find the greatest abominations that have happened in the church. We also learn that there are people who keep the commandments of God, such as the Waldenses, Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin, to name a few. Pope Gregory VIII proclaims the pope as the sole leader of both the church and the world, and Innocent III calls himself and the papacy vicar of Christ on earth. Verse 19 tells of the coming Reformation: I know your works, your love, your ministry, your faith, and your patience. And as for thy works, the latter are more than the former. The church is rebuked for tolerating the woman Jezebel, which symbolizes history’s greatest spiritual fornication, which is a mixture of Christianity and paganism.
Tyatira is the ancient name of the city today called Akhisar. The city was first called Pelopia but was named Tyatira by King Seleukes I Nicator in 290 BC. In ancient times, Tyatira was on the border between Lydia and Mysia. The city was known to dye clothes and was a centre for indigo trade. The city was a centre of Christianity from the time of the apostles until 1922, when the Greek Orthodox population was deported. This is the longest letter, but to the least important city. During this period, a new era in the history of the church begins. At the beginning of the period, the papacy is established as we find it today. Pope Gregory VII announces that he will be sole ruler both in the church and in the world and Pope Innocent III proclaims the pope to be the vicar of Jesus Christ on earth.
Verse 18. According to Stephen of Byzantium, it was Seleukes I Nicator who gave Tyatira his name, thuateira, which in Greek is written θυγατήρ thugater, which means daughter. Actually quite interesting all the time the Roman church calls itself the mother church.
Verse 19. This verse refers to the groups that throughout history, among other things, have fought to get the Bible in a readable language such as the Valdes, and the love they had for the truth. These can in a way be called the forerunners of the Reformation. The last works refer to the forerunners of the Reformation which attacked what they called false teachings in the Roman Church. During this period, 538 – 1517, darkness became more and more dense over the church, and the church moved further and further away from the Bible. During this milleniun the Church implemented several unbiblical doctrines, such as infant baptism, the doctrine of the eternal torment of hell, purgatory, the last oil, celibacy for priests, rosary prayers, sale of indulgences, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, penance tariff, worship of the host (communion bread) and the immortality of the soul, just to name a few. In 1179, the Roman Church established the Inquisition, and Pope Innocent IV followed up on 15 May 1252 with the papal bull Ad Extirpanda, which defends both the Inquisition and limited use of torture. The name inquisition is older, and refers to a Roman court procedure, inquisitio. The Inquisition was established for the fight against division, heresy, and false teachings, as well as for the universality of the Church and its dogmas, (to combat religious dissent, particularly among the Cathars and the Waldensians). Today the Inquisition is called: The Congregation for the doctrine of the faith! (often only called the Congregation for the Faith). By the way, this is not the first time that the Inquisition has changed its name. In 1908, Pope Pius X changed its name to the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holly Office. The current name was introduced in 1965 by Pope Paul VI. The current scope of the Congregation for the Faith is particularly defined through the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus, promulgated, by Pope John Paul II on June 28, 1988. Promulgated means the same as an ex cathedra statement by the pope. An ex cathedra statement is said to be protected by the Holy Spirit from all kinds of errors. In addition to this, the Catholic Church introduced a ban on reading the Bible in 1229, a ban that was repeated several times until the Reformation.
Verse 20. The name Jezebel is used here to describe a diabolical power, which with a woman’s charming and cunning qualities seduces Christianity into an almost impenetrable darkness. The greatest spiritual infidelity in history, we find in this period which involves a systematic mixture of religions, syncretism, implemented by the leadership of the vhurch. In the Old Testament, Jezebel is used as a pseudonym for a false prophet. The Gods people was enticed to commit adultery and eat idol sacrifices.
The historical Jezebel was a Phoenician princess who married the Israeli king Ahab (1 Kings 16,31; 18,13). As high priestess, Jezebel introduced worship of the sun-god Baal and the mother-goddess Astarte in Israel.
In the same way, the church in the Middle Ages introduced non-biblical teachings such as worship of the god mother (Mary), as well as the introduction of other customs from the sun cults. In the same way that the historical Jezebel made Gods people worship idols, and the false prophets in John’s time made Gods people worship idols, so do also our time Jezebel. She leads Gods peole astray.
Verse 21. During this period God has given the church many opportunities for repentance from her fornication, through groups such as the Waldenses, Albigensians, Huguenots, and individuals such as Wyclif, Hus, and others. Around the time when the first groups rose up against the papacy, Pope Benifaz VIII, who was pope between 1294 and 1303, wrote the document Corpus juris canonici, Extravag in which he says that the apostates can not only be excluded from the church community, but also legally executed. The phrase she repented not means that Jezebel in verse 20 refused to repent. In other words, it does not mean that she, Jesabel, had not been made aware of this, nor was it because she was deliberately ignorant, but solely because she chose to lead an ongoing and defiant rebellion against God.
Verse 22. Here it is said that this Jezebel is to be thrown into a bed. A clear warning is also given to those who engage in committing adultery with her.
Verse 23. Her children in this verse are all the denominations that today still seduce the people who sincerely seek God, (verse 20). This must be seen in the context of verse 22. Both those who adhere to this false prophet Jezebel and do as she does will one day be judged by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 24. The phrase have not known the depths of Satan refers to the leaders of this church who invoked a deeper knowledge about good and evil. The Christians who did not follow their leaders in this have suffered persecution, and many have been killed for their faith. Those who have been killed for their faith will not be affected by the judgment that comes upon Jezebel.
Verses 25, 26, 27 and 28. These verses deal with the same thing and constitute an urgent prayer to keep the faith and do the will of Jesus and endure to the very end. Whoever does so will receive a share in the morning star. The morning star is one of the Lord’s names. He in verse 27 refers to he that overcometh in verse 26. In the same way that God the Father says in Psalm 2,7-9 that Christ will rule over the nations with his rod of iron, so Christ says to the him that overcome that he also will rule over the nations with an iron rod.
Verse 29. This admonition: hear what the Spirit saith concludes each of the seven letters to the seven churches.
Tyatira means perfume and is called The Compromising Church.
The general decay of the church, and constant attempts at reformation of the church are reflected in the fact that one tolerates idols and accepts immorality.
I know thy… faith and thy patience: Even though the church itself had fallen from the pure faith, there were still many who adhered to the pure doctrine, hence the faith and patience
That woman Jesabel: The name Jesabel is used here to describe a diabolical power, which with a woman’s charming and cunning qualities leads Christianity into an almost impenetrable darkness.
I will kill her children at death: This also points back to Jezebel, and it is her children those who engage in the same occult acts, who are to be killed at death. This is a special expression, and I think we can look at this as eternal death. See also Revelation 6,8 where it says: And I looked and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
There is another essential difference between one who is killed with the sword for God’s sake, and one who is killed with death. The godly one who dies, killed with the sword, will live again, but he who practices sorcery and occultism, like Jezebel, will eventually die the second death. This is how we must understand the phrase kill her children with death.
There are two verses in Thyatira’s message that I think we should dwell on a bit. These are verses 21 and 22:
21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. 22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
God allowed this church to continue as it did for 1260 years, and many attempts were made by God to change Jesabel. Even the Reformation God chose to use to make this power to turn away from its iniquities and return to Him. This shows us a patient God who wants to save all people in the whole world.
Criticism, praise, command and promise to the congregation.
Criticism: Tolerates idolatry and immorality.
Praise: Love, service, faith, and patience are greater at the end of the period than at the beginning.
Commandment: Judgment is coming, keep the faith.
Promise: He that overcometh will I give the power over the nations.
The fourth letter says: … till I come … and yet we are urged to return to God before it is too late.