7 Churches – Thyatira

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Welcome to the fifth week of this 10 year series we are calling the End of the World as We Know It. Actually, over the weekend I was able to finally map it out and it is going to last for 34 weeks with the final message being on Mother’s Day next year. And during those 34 weeks, now down to 30 including today, we will be covering large parts of the whole bible – not just Revelation. That’s why it’s going to take so long. And that’s also why, by the time we are done, you will be one of the most biblically knowledgable congregations around.
But be sure not to miss a single message. Watch it online or listen to the podcast if you need to. You don’t want to get left behind.
Now, with that said, we are now about halfway through the seven letters that Jesus is writing to in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation. So far, we’ve covered Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum. Which, according to the historical-prophetical theory are the church periods that span from the beginning of the church at Pentecost until the fall of Rome around 600 AD, which brings us to the fourth church: Thyatira. Which we will be spending all of our time on today.
I’ll warn you right now, what I’m teaching today is probably going to offend most of you in one way or another – especially if you are catholic, or just a human being. But before you shut me out or get angry, I’ll ask you to consider something. First, I didn’t make this stuff up – so being mad at me won’t change the information or the facts. Second, even the Roman Catholic church of today recognizes there were some serious problems with the church during the middle ages.
So, I ask you to bear with me and let’s look at the facts together before making any conclusions that lead to anger. Deal?
Let’s talk about Thyatira.
Revelation 2
18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.’
26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star. 29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
This is so far the harshest of the letters. Jesus is not happy with this church, though he does have some good to say about it. When we get to Sardis and Laodicea, he will have nothing good to say.
THE CITY
Thyatira was the smallest of the seven cities and really had nothing special to boast about. But one thing it did have a lot of were trade/craft guilds. Basically the unions of the ancient world. And to be a part of a guild, you would have to also be a part of the pagan idol worshipping that was prevalent in the Roman culture.
Their primary god was Apollo, the sun god, though they still worshiped all the others including the Emperor.
And the typical worship practices included sacrificing animals, eating the meat, and having sexual orgies. Basically, it all amounted to having large feasts, alcohol, entertainment, and as much uninhibited sex as you could want on a weekly or even daily basis.
 
Sound familiar?
And in this rotten culture was a church that we know nothing about except what this letter says. So, let’s take a closer look.
THE AUTHOR
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
The eyes blazing and the feet like burnished bronze show Jesus as the righteous judge who sees everything and will test all their works through fire.
Also, calling himself the Son of God was a dig at their false god, Apollo, who was the son of Zeus – the head of all the gods. Jesus is saying, no – I AM the real and only Son of the one true and living God. Not your stone statue.
From this intro, you can tell he’s going to have some fiery words for this church.
But he does begin with a compliment…
THE COMMENDATION
19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
Rather short and sweet. He says they have love and faith (better said, faithfulness) and service and perseverance – even more than they did at first. They are doing the things of spiritual growth. And unlike Ephesus, they have not forsaken their first love but grown in that respect. 
But with that said, Jesus has some serious problems with this church.
THE CONDEMNATION
20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 
There it is again, sexual immorality. You just can’t get away from it if you actually read your bible.
 
God does not tolerate sexual immorality of any kind. There’s a reason why the sexual sins were punishable by death in the Old Covenant, why they were described as detestable to God and an abomination.
And as I said, it was rampant in the Roman culture. It was almost required. And sadly, we today are doing our best to catch up to their standard – even in the church.
Now, here, Jesus mentions Jezebel.  He says that they tolerate that woman Jezebel. It’s most likely that Jesus is not referring to a person actually named Jezebel, but a person who is acting as the infamous Jezebel from Israel’s history.   
This takes us back to 1 Kings 16 and the evil King Ahab. Ahab was the 8th king of Israel after King David, and he was a bad, bad man.
1 Kings 16
29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. 30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.
So, Ahab was the most evil of all the kings of Israel, and on top of that he married the very, very evil Jezebel. Her father, Ethbaal was a priest to the false god Baal (it’s even in his name), and as the Scripture says – she brought the worship of Baal and Ashteroth to Israel. Baal worship consisted of extreme sexual immorality, self mutilation, and even human/child sacrifice. Jezebel also did some other rather nasty things that I won’t get into here. You should read your bible!
So, Jesus calls this person Jezebel to indicate just how evil she is, and more importantly just how detestable and evil the practices are that she is bringing to this church. Specifically sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols.
Sexual immorality we know all too well, but just to be clear –
 
sexual immorality, which is detestable to God and brought up multiple times in the rebukes of Jesus Christ the fiery eyed judging King, is any kind of sexual activity outside of the biblical marriage between a man and a woman.
And to be even more specific, since it is necessary in our culture now, that is referring to a man and a woman as God made them, not as we change them. 
And to be even more specific, since we live in such a sexualized society and all the lines are so blurred they practically don’t exist anymore – the line between what is ok and not ok between a man and a woman who are not married is this: Any person who is not your wife or your husband is potentially someone else’s future wife or husband. And you should not do anything physical with them that you would not want another man doing with your wife, or another woman doing with your husband.
And of course, there is NO LEVEL OF OK sexually between a man and a man or a woman and a woman, married or not.  That is not my opinion. The God who made us makes that very clear many places in His word. It doesn’t matter what our government or popular culture says.
And if those restrictions were not counter-cultural enough...Jesus took it even further when he said that just thinking about it is as bad as doing it. (Matthew 5)  And if you don’t think he’s serious about it, just wait until a little later in this talk.
Trust me, I don’t like this any more than you do. But Jesus is my Lord and my King who died for me and will also hold me accountable for my actions, so how I feel about it is a moot point.

Now that we are all thoroughly uncomfortable, let’s move on to the other thing Jesus accuses this Jezebel of causing…
Eating food sacrificed to idols is something rather foreign to us today. Basically, in that culture, where everything was about the gods – one of the great social activities was to sacrifice an animal to some god, then roast it up and have a feast. In fact, most of the meat you could buy or eat was probably dedicated to some god, making it nearly impossible to eat meat that was not.
But it is not the eating of the meat that is really the problem here. Paul makes it very clear in 1 Corinthians 8 that eating food sacrificed to a piece of wood or stone really means nothing because it’s not a real god.
But he points out that not everyone in the faith fully understands that and thus, when they see you – a pillar of faith – indulging in what their conscience says is wrong – it causes them problems – and it may cause them to stumble in their faith, meaning start to doubt. And Paul is clear that this is not good.
1 Corinthians 8
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.
So, that is one problem with eating food sacrificed to idols – it’s unloving of other believers who are not as strong in the faith as yourself. It’s selfish. A modern equivalent is the drinking alcohol. But I’m not going to get into that right now.
The other problem with eating food sacrificed to idols is simply the fact that if you’re there to eat the food, then you are probably there to enjoy in the other false-god festivities as well. In other words, eating the food and engaging in sexual immorality were simply part of the whole cultic false-god worship practices, and we as Christ Followers are not to see just how close we can get to fire without getting burned, we are to stay as far away from it as possible.
But this Jezebel woman was deceiving these Christians into thinking that it’s ok to do all these things, and the leader of this church (angel or pastor) who Jesus is addressing this letter to is tolerating it – allowing it to happen.
 Something Jesus is NOT OK with…
THE WARNING
21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
This is clearly more than a slap on the wrist. Jesus, the righteous judge, is NOT OK with HIS BRIDE fooling around on him!!
When he refers to them committing adultery with her, this is both a physical and a spiritual statement. Obviously sexual immorality was as rampant as it is today, but even more so – these Christians were in-effect worshipping other gods. They were committing spiritual adultery, and Jesus says that they will suffer along with her if they do not repent – change their mind and their ways.
Of Jezebel herself, he says he gave her time to repent but she would not, so he is going to cast her on a bed of suffering. The literal Greek is “cast her on a bed” which is a phrase implying sickness, a bed of sickness, disease, and suffering because of it. Then he says he will strike her children dead. In the Greek he actually says He will kill her children with death. Not just kill them, but kill them with death. It’s very strong language that means utterly destroy.
Pretty harsh consequences wouldn’t you say?
 
How do you think Jesus sees our modern obsession with tolerance of all things and practices and beliefs that are against His word? In His church!?!
And why are these consequences so harsh?
 
So that all will know that Jesus is the one who searches hearts and minds and he WILL repay each of us according to our deeds. 
It’s not enough just to believe in your head and profess it with your mouth. James is clear: faith without obedience is dead and no faith at all. To claim Christ as your king but act as if He is your slave is not something He will tolerate.
THE ENCOURAGEMENT
24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.’
What a relief that must have been for the faithful. Surrounded by evil and deceit it must have been quite difficult, hazardous even, for them to hold the line. To keep the faith. To not compromise for the sake of tolerance. Jesus places no further burden on them tells them to just hold on to what they have until he comes.
As for the “so-called deep secrets of Satan”, this is likely referring to one of the early heresies that suggested that our body and soul are completely separate. It taught that while our soul can be saved and forgiven, our human bodies are still inherently evil, and the two are not connected.
And based on that false dichotomy, the heresy says that once the soul is saved, anything done in the body can’t change that so you might as well live it up with your body and explore all the evils that your soul is saved from.
Clearly, from what Jesus is saying here – he does not agree. We will be judged on what we do with and to our bodies.
Basically, you can be certain of this. The Father of Lies – Satan – will always try to make you believe that you will not be held accountable for what you do in this life.
If you are not a Christian, he will make you believe in relative morality – no such thing as objective right and wrong, therefore you can never be wrong.
If you are a Christ Follower, he will make you believe salvation is a get-out-of-hell-free ticket and obedience is optional.
Every lie of the enemy can be boiled down to the notion that there is no such thing as sin, or at the very least there are no consequences for ittherefore you can get saved if you feel you need to, but you certainly don’t need to worry about obedience or making Christ your king. 
Because after all, doesn’t LOVE WIN? 
Don’t believe it.
THE REWARD
26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star. 29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Notice Jesus doesn’t just say victorious – he includes the requirement to “do my will to the end.” As I’ve said of the other letters – the term “victorious” or “overcomer” in some translations, is describing those who are true Christians, followers of the Son of God as 1 John 5 tells us. And just as John tells us in that letter, Jesus tells us in this letter that the mark of a true follower is obedience, and obedience to the end.
And Jesus says the reward for that is that we will rule over the nations with the same authority Jesus got from His Father. He’s talking about ruling during the millennial kingdom, which we will talk about much later. 
He also says he will give that one the morning star – which is actually Jesus himself. He is referred to as such later in this book.
Again the overcomer will receive heaven and all that goes with it. But to be an overcomer, to be victorious, one must obey and endure until the end. 

Now let’s talk some history because this is where this letter is going to come home to us in the here and now.
As I mentioned at the beginning today, according to the Historical-Prophetical theory, Thyatira represents the period in church history that began with the fall of Rome as the dominant political world power around 600-ish AD. It was really more of a fade than a fall that spanned a couple centuries, which is why it’s hard to put a hard date on the fall of Rome.
If you remember, the previous church period – Pergamum – began when Constantine, the Roman Emperor, became a Christian and effectively took over the church and caused it to be infiltrated with all the practices of the Romans. And for the next few hundred years, that’s how the church existed. It was controlled by the Roman emperor, who appointed most of its leaders and also set a lot of its policies.
Well, as the Roman Empire faded, the church actually remained strong and by the time the Empire had disappeared, the catholic church was now the one entity with power that crossed national borders.
Now, at the beginning of this period there was still technically only one church – the catholic church. That’s what catholic means – universal. Before the protestant reformation, there really was no concept of different flavors of Christianity. But in the political world – which controlled the religious world – there was beginning to be a serious split between the east and the west. The East was centered in Constantinople (in Turkey) and the West was centered in Rome. It basically was the beginnings of what we see today except back then the East was not Islamic. Islam didn’t begin until the 600’s, but it’s spread into Europe a few hundred years later spawned the Crusades. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Now, up until 600 AD, there was no pope – although modern catholics would argue about that. What I mean by no pope is that there was no one person or office that was designated as over the entire catholic church. There were bishops that had oversight over certain cities and the Bishops of Rome and Constantinople were generally considered the major leaders within the church. Rome, because they considered themselves as holding the office first given to the Apostle Peter, and Constantinople because that is where the Roman Emperor lived most of the time since Constantine was Emperor (hence the city’s name). 
Well, these two powers went back and forth arguing for their own primacy, and emperors got involved, but it finally solidified mostly around 606 AD when Emperor Phocas decreed that the Bishop of Rome was the “Universal Bishop” – that “the See of Blessed Peter the Apostle should be the head of all the Churches” This, of course, stemming from the belief that the Apostle Peter was the first Bishop of Rome and that Jesus had made him the leader of the whole church. Obviously, we protestants do not believe this, and neither did the church in Constantinople.
 
They fought some more over it for the next few hundred years until the east finally split off into what is now the Eastern Orthodox Church (orthodox means right teaching), with the church headed out of Rome being the Roman Catholic Church that we know today. 
I just painted a very complex time in history with very broad strokes, but that was all to give you at least an idea of the background that birthed this period in church history. I don’t have time this morning to cover the reasons why we do not agree with the catholic church on Peter and Rome and Apostolic Succession and such, but I would be happy to let you take me to lunch after service if you’d like to sit and have a conversation with me.
All of that to say that Thyatira is believed to be representative of the Roman Catholic Church which effectively rose to power in the 600’s. It fits the timeline and as you will see, it also fits the descriptions in the letter.

First, the name Thyatira among other things means “sacrifice” or “perpetual sacrifice.” Which is something that is fundamental to Roman Catholic doctrine in how they understand the Eucharist or what we protestants usually call Communion.
According to official church doctrine (meaning teaching) they believe that when you eat the bread and drink the wine, that they miraculously turn into the literal flesh and blood of Jesus Christ somewhere between your mouth and your stomach. It’s called transubstantiation. Now, I’m not saying all modern day practicing catholics believe this, but this is what is in their official statement of beliefs, and it began to be understood this way in the middle ages.
I took a class on the history of the church though the middle ages and I learned that the idea behind this is that the sacrifice of Christ is re-presented (not represented like a symbol) but re-presented as if for the first time each time we take of the Eucharist. As if Christ is being sacrificed over and over again. I won’t get into all of the theological arguments for and against this belief, but it’s not something we protestants hold to. Add to that the preponderance of crucifixes (Jesus still on the cross) it would be easy to argue that the Roman Catholic Church is a church of the perpetual sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 
Not that it’s wrong to remember what he did. That’s what communion is about, but it’s a remembering – not a redoing. And he’s not on the cross anymore!
Hebrews 10
12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Jesus died once, and that was all that was needed. And the best part about it – he didn’t stay dead. He conquered death, once and for all!  Amen!

Aside from the sacrifice thing, what Jesus says is good about Thyatira was also good about the church during this period. They were a church of great love, faith, and works of service.
It was the church that invented hospitals and universities.
It was the church that did a lot to help the poor and the needy.
It was the church that came to the aid of people dying of the greatest plague in the history of mankind -the black plague, which I’ll talk more about in a minute.
So, a lot of good things happened in the middle ages because of the Roman Catholic church. There is no denying that, and Jesus does not fail to recognize it in this letter.
But like I said last week, and we will continue to see in these letters – good deeds do not outweigh the apparently egregious crime of spiritual adultery.
Jesus says to this church that despite their many good deeds, they have allowed that woman Jezebel to make them an adulterous bride engaging in the practices of idolatry and the worship of false gods.
One easy example of this in the catholic church of the time is the growing worship of Mary, the human mother of Jesus, who now has effectively god-like status. 
Another is the effective worship of Saints which was a large part of the church’s practices, resulting in statues and pictures of them being prayed to and kissed. Notice that Peter’s toe is actually gone now from all the kissing.
While it is not wrong to see some human individuals as good examples to live up to, it IS WRONG to elevate normal human beings to god-like status by praying to them and practically bowing at their feet via statues and paintings and such. It’s no different than what the Romans did with all of their false-gods and their worship of the Emperor. It’s basically the same thing that the people of Lystra tried to do to Paul and Barnabas back in Acts 14: (Just listen)
Acts 14
Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, 10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking.11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God… 18 Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.
Notice that the Apostle Paul or “Saint” Paul made it clear that he did not deserve any praise or adoration, but to give all praise to the living God. And yet, the church began worshiping him anyway a few centuries later.
Giving anything or anyone the adoration and glory that only belongs to God is idolatry, plain and simple. And the Roman Catholic church of the middle ages did just that with Mary and the Saints.

Other departures from Scripture include the doctrines of
Confession to Priests
The whole point of the veil being torn and Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father is that we no longer have to go through a human mediator to talk with God. Pretty much the whole book of Hebrews was written to convince the Jews of this:
Hebrews 4:14-16
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
If we have direct access to his throne, why do I need to confess my sins to a human priest?
Answer: I don’t.
And the Apostle Paul made it clear there is no need for a human mediator:
1 Timothy 2:5-6
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.
Direct access. No buffer required nor desired.
Penance
The false belief that any sins you commit after baptism have to be absolved through specific acts such as confession and follow-on activities as prescribed by a priest.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 
The blood of Jesus is the only thing that cleanses us of sin. Nothing we can do has any effect – except perhaps piling on more sin for our attempts to earn what is a gift.
But if we confess our sins – which means we own up to them, admit them, and realize we can’t pay for them ourselves – and he doesn’t mean confess them to a human person, but confess them directly to GodHe is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness – no further action necessary.
Purgatory
While a reasonable biblical argument could be made for the practice of confession and even penance, the doctrine of purgatory has zero biblical basis. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Purgatory is “a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.”
In other words, what we just read in 1 John 1:9 is not true, and Christ’s blood was not enough.
I’m sorry, but that’s just plain wrong.
Not only does it deny the power of Christ’s blood to cover ALL sins, and make the free gift of grace something you have to pay for, it also denies Scripture that clearly tells us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. (2 Cor 5:8).
Ultimately, what all of these practices and beliefs did was put all of the power in the hands of the priests and leadership. Not just political power, but the power to forgive sins and allow people into heaven or not.
And while many were well meaning though misguided people, the temptation for abuse was just too great and it lead to a practice that even the modern catholic church is ashamed of:
Indulgences
While not practiced anymore, one of the great black marks of the church during this time was indulgences – which were effectively selling forgiveness and salvation for money in order to fund the building of St. Peter’s Basilica. It was this that caused Martin Luther to start the protest.
There is so much more I could talk about, but I don’t have time today and I think you get the gist.
 
The Roman Catholic Church of the middle ages went from being married to the state to misleading many into idolatrous and spiritually adulterous practices. 
It was this man-made religious system that Jesus called “that woman, Jezebel.”
It’s actually common in Scripture for a religious system to be referred to symbolically as a woman.
  • Israel was constantly referred to in terms as a woman, and usually an adulterous one at that.
  • We as the church are called the bride of Christ.
  • And later in Revelation we will see the one-world false religious system symbolized as a harlot. 
So, it’s not a stretch to call the religious system of this time the Jezebel Jesus speaks of that is misleading many in the church toward all these non-biblical doctrines and practices which ultimately amount to spiritual adultery and idolatry.
And while that, to me is a compelling parallel, the thing that made me a believer in this theory is the connection between the black plague and the punishment Jesus decrees for this Jezebel. 
In the letter, Jesus says that he will cast her on a bed (of sickness) causing much suffering, and that he will kill her children with death.
Her “children” is clearly referring to her followers, not her biological children. Another common use of language in the bible.
And what event in all of history – that especially effected the church and its followers – was a huge bed of sickness and death? 
The Black Plague, also known as the Black Death.
It began in the 13th century – remember Jesus said he gave her time to repent – that’s 700 years, so far the longest of the church periods.
But instead of repenting, things got worse: Mary worship, indulgences, the crusades (which began when the then-pope promised all who would go fight would immediately go to heaven if they died in the fighting), and more.
So, God inflicted the people with a sickness so great and so deadly that it claimed the lives of 75 to 200 million people in less than ten years. Nearly a third of the population of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa – the areas of the world where the Catholic Church existed and ruled at the time. People living during that time thought the world was coming to an end as thousands died by the day.
 
It still stands as the worst plague the world has ever seen.
Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
Let that sink in for a minute..
Think about it. Why would Jesus say in a letter to a little church in a small city in Asia minor that an action he takes on one person and her kids will cause ALL of the churches to know he means business? We don’t even have record of something like this happening in that church, so how could it be a testament to us?
But, perhaps Jesus wasn’t just talking to that one little church.
Perhaps he was talking to us who have the benefit of 2,000 years of history since this letter was penned so that we could see the pattern and see that what he was really talking about was a bed of sickness and a death so great that indeed ALL of the churches cannot help but see it if they have eyes to see.
Because if you believe in the God of the Bible you will know that things like that don’t just happen,
but that the God who destroyed the entire world with a flood,
the God who destroyed Egypt with 10 devastating plagues,
the God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire from the sky
not to mention, the God who wrecked havoc on the adulterous nation of Israel over and over for their disobedience
is the same God who walks among the lamp stands of his church with eyes of fire peering into our hearts and feet of burnished bronze ready to judge us according to our deeds.
This event in history has convinced me personally that this letter was indeed to Christ’s church as it existed during the middle ages and they got the punishment he promised and it stands as a testament for all time, to all who are willing to see it, that Jesus was not playing around with what he was telling his church,
his bride,
US,
YOU AND ME,
in these letters.
And I hope this realization does for you what it has done for me. I used to see these letters as not that important, just a warmup to the juicy stuff about the tribulation and stuff. But now I see them in a whole new light. Now I see that these are the last words of encouragement and warning from Jesus Christ, our Lord and King, to his beloved, yet wayward church, before the end comes. These letters, though harsh at times, are love letters from our Savior. He loves us enough to tell us the truth, to warn us of what will destroy us. 
And what a gift to us in our time to be able to see for certain that we worship a God who keeps his promises. Even the ones we don’t like. 

This has been a heavy teaching. My prayer is that it cuts you to the heart as it has me.  I will close now with the encouragement and promise that Jesus gave to this church and to ours.
24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.’
The language here – “until I come” – in my opinion speaks to the fact that this church is still around. The Roman Catholic church is still around. It’s not gone like the apostolic church or the married to the roman government church. And it will continue to be around until Jesus comes. And for those who are within that church who do not hold to the non-scriptural teachings, the false doctrines of this Jezebel, he tells them to just hold on to what they have – their faith, love, service, and perseverance.
26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star. 
29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.