corrupt period of Christian history. It foreshadows the time from the sixth century to the sixteenth century a thousand-year period that has been variously called "The Dark Ages," "The Middle Ages," and even "The Devil's Millennium."

It was a time when the institutional church had become very powerful and very corrupt. It defiled itself by combining pagan rites and magical practices with watered-down Christian teaching. Believers were taught to venerate and pray to images. The church was organized into a massive, intricate multi-level structure which more closely resembled worldly government than the simple servant-leadership we see exercised in the New Testament. The elite hierarchy of the church introduced practices which were unknown in Scripture or the early church. Religious authorities sought to dominate the political sphere of power.

During the sixth century the Bishop of Rome became accepted as the dominant figure in the church, and the office of pope came into being. For centuries the pope was more powerful than emperors and kings. On one occasion the pope summoned a German emperor to Rome and then forced him to stand barefoot in the snow for several hours before he would receive him. When the king was finally permitted to enter the presence of the pope, he was required to crawl on his hands and knees. Such was the power, arrogance, and corruption of the church during "The Devil's Millennium."

Yet, just as there were many within the corrupt church at Thyatira who loved God, who served His people, who had faith in His word, and who persevered, there were many Christians during "The Devil's Millennium" of church history who were equally faithful. The monasteries which flourished during this time served as hospitals and refuges for the sick, the poor, and the oppressed. Some of the most beautiful and enduring hymns and literature of our faith were written by devoted Christians of those days Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Meister Eckhart, Jan van Ruysbroeck, Catherine of Siena, and Thomas Kempis, to name a few.

Yet these devoted, compassionate, faithful people were just islands of light in a sea of religious darkness. The "Thyatira stage" of church history could only be characterized as a period of incalculable oppression, corruption, and depravity. The evil influence of that period of history continues to reverberate in our own time, and it will culminate in a future time that is described for us in Revelation 17 and 18. There we will see the great harlot who rides the beast and who has assumed dominion over the kings of the earth.

It is a common notion among Bible commentators to identify the "harlot" only with the Roman Catholic Church, but I am convinced that this is a serious mistake. Although many of the doctrines, practices, and structures of the Roman Catholic Church are rooted in the "Thyatira stage" of church history, it is not the only branch of Christendom that suffers from these errors.

For centuries we Protestants have strongly differed with Rome over a number of issues, especially the "Three M's" Mary, the Mass, and the Magisterium (that is, the form of government of the church). But you will find many of these errors also in the great Orthodox churches of the East, the Coptic church in Egypt, the Anglican and Lutheran churches of northern Europe, and many of the great Protestant denominations in America and around the world. In fact, the seeds of Thyatiran error are everywhere you look.

Wherever there are domineering, power-seeking "church bosses" like Thyatira's Jezebel; wherever Christians begin to accommodate themselves to the moral laxity and impurity of the surrounding society; wherever Christians slip into the idolatrous mindset of allowing ambition, self-gratification, and pride to remove God from the throne of their lives; wherever church structure becomes more important than Christian love, service, faith, and perseverance at that point, that church, regardless of its denomination or its history, has become Thyatiran in character. The Lord will repay that church according to its deeds.

Now comes a sensitive and encouraging word, straight from the heart of the Lord to the hearts of those who remain faithful amid the corruption of the Thyatiran church.

2:24-25 "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): Only hold on to what you have until I come."

Here, for the first time in Revelation, our Lord lays special emphasis on His coming. Notice, too, the phrase "Satan's so-called deep secrets." This indicates that when a church drifts away from its moral purity, it invariably drifts toward the things of Satan, toward mystical rites and occultic rituals.

People love to feel they are a part of something special and secret. They love to feel that they are the initiated, the knowledgeable, the ones who know what the "truth" is. As a result we are seeing a proliferation of mystical cults and movements arising across our society. The New Age movement seduces people by the thousands with its promise of "so-called deep secrets" revelations from powerful spirit beings who can impart information that ordinary folk on the outside just don't have.

Notice how the Lord's reference to the deep secrets of Satan parallels Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 2:10: "The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God." It seems that whenever God has something good, Satan imitates it. The dark and hidden matters of Satan are his twisted imitation of the wonderfully deep truths in the Word of God.

The Lord's message of encouragement to the faithful in Thyatira is Hold on! "Only hold on to what you have until I come." He says in effect, "Do not let go of the truth. Do not let go of your moral standards. It may be difficult to live for Christ in a worldly and corrupt church, but remain faithful until I come."

To those who hold fast until His return, the Lord gives an inspiring word of promise.

2:26-27 "To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations
'He will rule them with an iron scepter;
he will dash them to pieces like pottery'

just as I have received authority from my Father."

The Old Testament quotation in these verses is from Psalms 2, and it is a reference to the rule of the Messiah in the earthly kingdom called the Millennium.

Psalms 2

2:1 WHY DO the nations assemble with commotion [uproar and confusion of voices], and why do the people imagine (meditate upon and devise) an empty scheme?

2 The kings of the earth take their places; the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and His Anointed One (the Messiah, the Christ). They say, [Acts 4:25-27.]

3 Let us break Their bands [of restraint] asunder and cast Their cords [of control] from us.

4 He Who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision [and in supreme contempt He mocks them].

5 He speaks to them in His deep anger and troubles (terrifies and confounds) them in His displeasure and fury, saying,

6 Yet have I anointed (installed and placed) My King [firmly] on My holy hill of Zion.

7 I will declare the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, You are My Son; this day [I declare] I have begotten You. [Hebrews 1:5; 3:5,6; 2 Peter 1:17,18.]

8 Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations as Your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth as Your possession.

9 You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them in pieces like potters' ware. [Revelation 12:5; 19:15.]

10 Now therefore, O you kings, act wisely; be instructed and warned, O you rulers of the earth.

11 Serve the Lord with reverent awe and worshipful fear; rejoice and be in high spirits with trembling [lest you displease Him].

12 Kiss the Son [pay homage to Him in purity], lest He be angry and you perish in the way, for soon shall His wrath be kindled. O blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) are all those who seek refuge and put their trust in Him! AMP

There is an important distinction here. The "rule" of the Messiah during the Millennium should not be confused with His ultimate rule over the new heaven and new earth which follows the Millennium. Notice that the passage Jesus quotes says, "He will rule them with an iron scepter." Clearly, this is a description of a stern and authoritarian mastery. Then, "He will dash them to pieces like pottery," speaks of judgment and the breaking up of evil strongholds.

In the new heaven and new earth evil will be a thing of the past. There will be no rebellious subjects to rule with an iron scepter, no evil strongholds to be broken into pieces like pottery. As we shall see in later chapters, only
righteousness dwells in the new heaven and new earth, and there will be nothing there except that which is pure and good.

Clearly, then, these verses refer to the earthly kingdom of the Millennium, in which the saints will share ruling authority with Christ. The Millennium will be a time when righteousness reigns, but it will also be a time when judgment must occur, for both sin and death will still exist.

Finally, the Lord gives a beautiful symbol to the faithful believers in Thyatira.