As we continue our study of the Book of Revelation and the church at Thyatira that prophesied the church in the Middle Ages, we must continually remind ourselves that this is “our” history, not just “their” history.
There had to be a falling away and a revelation of the “man of sin,” who represented the “sin of man.” This personifies who we all are without Christ. The church at that time may have taken on a nature opposite that of Christ, but how often have other churches, movements, and denominations done the same? How often do we personally fall to this?
Even if we fall into this pattern of behavior that is the opposite of Christlikeness, the grace of God convicts us. It brings us back to the redemption of the cross, the reconciliation and restoration we have through Christ Jesus. Even though the church sank into a terrible depravity for a time and the antichrist spirit prevailed, the grace of God came back to her.
Conviction was followed by repentance, reconciliation, and restoration in the form of the Reformation. This reformation of the church continues to this day, and it will until the end of the story — the revelation of Jesus in all of His glory in His temple, the church.
There can be good in the worst people and evil in the best. The church had some good during the time of its worst depravity, just as there is often some evil in the best of churches. Some of the greatest souls could be found in the institutional church during its darkest times, such as Francis of Assisi.
Francis of Assisi was devoted to obeying the beatitudes of Christ. It was said after his death that before he lived, the beatitudes were considered an unattainable ideal. Yet Francis proved they were not because he lived them. This high praise came from his enemies.
Just as remarkable is that Francis was a close friend to one of the evilest of all popes. To some this proved how naïve Francis was, but to others it revealed his belief that no one was beyond the power of the cross. Francis’ devotion to leading all to salvation extended even to this evil pope.
It was the papacy that rallied Europe to stand against and push back Islam, which at the time threatened to sweep over the continent. For all the evil perpetrated by the Crusades, they did help check the hordes of Islam and give birth to some of the most enduring charities that extended to Christians, Muslims, and Jews. We will briefly examine these in the next WFTW before continuing on with the seven churches of Revelation.
We also need to keep in mind that the Roman church had its own reformation and is still being reformed. It is not the same as it was in the Middle Ages. Today an estimated 130 million Roman Catholics are born again and Spirit baptized. The Roman Catholic church has also been on the forefront of some of the important social battles of our time, such as standing against abortion and same-sex marriage.
Just as it is hard to find even two Baptist churches that are alike, so it is with every denomination, including Roman Catholic churches. The Apostle Paul’s exhortation to know others after the Spirit and not the flesh also means knowing people by their character, not just their affiliation. I have known many people claiming to be “non-denominational” and “non-sectarian” who are more sectarian than many leaders of denominations that I know.
I have major doctrinal problems with the Roman Catholics, but I have a number of Roman Catholic friends who have such a close relationship to Jesus that I am challenged and convicted every time I see them. I have met quite a few people on my journey who have what I consider to be extremely flawed doctrines in certain areas, but they have more love of God and love for people than many I know with better doctrinal purity. As we’re told in I Corinthians 13, we can have all truth and the faith to move mountains, but if we don’t have love these won’t count.
I am not discounting the need for a devotion to sound biblical doctrine. If we really love God, we will love His truth and we will be devoted to it. However, the ones most devoted to biblical truth in Jesus’ time were the worst enemies of the Truth Himself. The demons were easy for Him to dispatch, but the religious conservatives had Him killed.
Because some of what we’re covering is so volatile, I must occasionally interject reminders that this is about “us,” not just “them.” It is not just a cliché that without the grace of God we would have all done the same things. So this is not to attack or blame anyone, but to expose in us the roots of what will lead to a terrible deception.
We will keep from this deception by keeping in mind that our main purpose in life is to love God and love one another. I think John’s understanding of this enabled him to be trusted with the Revelation, and this will enable us to be trusted with the understanding of it.
~ Pastor Rick Joyner