"And to the angel of the church in Thyati'ra write: 'The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. "'I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jez'ebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her doings; and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches shall know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve. But to the rest of you in Thyati'ra, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay upon you any other burden; only hold fast what you have, until I come." (Rev 2:16-25)Thyatira was the name of a city in Asia Minor (it is currently called Akhisar and located in modern-day Turkey). The local diocese in Thyatira was one of the seven churches addressed by Christ in the first three chapters of the Apocalypse (or Book of Revelation). The full seven (in order) are: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
Some Evangelicals believe that Apocalypse 1-3 is more than just Jesus' words to a few churches back then, many of them now long gone. They claim that these seven churches actually represent, and prophetically describe, different phases of Church history over the past two thousand years.
Ephesus is said to signify the Church during Apostolic times, faithful yet starting to "lose its first love". Smyrna represents the faithful Church under Roman persecution, and Pergamum the Church of Constantine's time, when Christianity began (they say) to compromise with the world.
Thyatira supposedly symbolizes the Church from 6th to 16th century, a full thousand years! They claim Thyatira represents the Catholic Church adding pagan elements to Christianity. More on this below.
Sardis supposedly signifies Protestantism, beginning with the fervor of the Reformation and ending sometime in the 1700's with the laxity of the Enlightenment period. Philadelphia is said to signify the various Protestant "revivals" of the 18th and 19th centuries, which set the stage for modern Evangelicalism. Finally, Laodicea is the lax, lukewarm Protestantism of the twentieth century, assumed to be the end times and thus the final age of the Church.
(A variant interpretation claims that Philadelphia and Laodicea represent two aspects of the end-times church, one faithful and the other lukewarm. Thus these two phases are arbitrarily said to "coexist", while the previous five each come after the one before.)
There are many problems with this interpretation of the first three chapters of the Apocalypse. First, it is a very modern one with no basis in the book itself. Nowhere does the inspired text indicate that these seven churches represent seven future periods of Church history. Anti-Catholics often accuse us of twisting and adding to Scripture, yet they do the same themselves quite freely when it suits them.
Second, this is a rather arbitrary division of Church history, carfully tailored (fabricated?) to "fit" a private interpretation of these chapters. Church history could be divided many other ways, taking into account many more elements and movements than the limited ones presented here.
Third, it is based on the common Evangelical belief that we live in the last days (since the last church, Laodicea, supposedly signifies our own era). This is questionable. We have no idea exactly when Our Lord will return; God did not reveal it to us because it is not for us to know (Matthew 24:36; Acts 1:7)! But we do know that Christians in every age since the time of Christ have thought their era to be end times, and they were obviously wrong. So how can modern Evangelicals be so sure they are right?
Fourth, notice how, from the "Sardis era" on, this alleged prophetic "history" of Christianity simply drops Catholicism! This reveals a strong anti-Catholic bias; once the Reformation occurs, Catholicism is out of the picture, as though it ceased to be Christian or to have any role in Church history from then on! This is simply not true theologically (see the article Is the Catholic Church Christian?) or historically (what about the Catholic "Counter"-Reformation? the Oxford Movement? etc.).
Fifth, Christ's statement that the false prophetess Jezebel told people to "practice immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols" is said to signify the introduction of pagan practices into Christianity, a charge many Evangelicals bring against the Catholic Church. This false charge is also addressed in the article Is the Catholic Church Christian?, where the reader will find links to articles on this website which disprove the charge that Catholicism is "pagan".
No, the Church in Thyatira does not represent an imagined "apostate" medieval Catholicism. In fact, all seven churches of Asia Minor were Catholic churches, since she was the only Church in existence at the time!
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