THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST

Previous: Revelation 2:20

20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. - Revelation 2:20

As we continue to study this verse, we will look at the progress of the Church in the Middle Ages. To do so we must give honest consideration to the mistakes that were made, one generation after another, that gradually corrupted Christianity. We want to enter this discussion prayerfully, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts.

There are two opposite ways of looking at things. We can always try to find the good in every situation. Or we can usually discover something that is bad. If one could know the whole truth, he could see an element of both good and evil in most events. God and Satan are engaged in spiritual warfare constantly (Ephesians 6:10-20), and there is no doubt that the Lord will win in the end (John 12:31; 16:8-11; Revelation 20:1-10). There are times when goodness obviously prevails, as in the era of the Great Awakening in America's early colonies. Sadly, there are times when malice rules the day, as at the height of the Holocaust during World War II. In that example, the prejudice and cruelty stand out as a horrific reminder of man's depravity, but at the same time, compassion and self-sacrifice emerge in stories of heroes like Corrie ten Boom and Oskar Schindler, who risked their own lives to save a few of God's Chosen People.

In His message to the Church at Thyatira, the Lord first mentioned their good works: their love, service, faith, and patience (v. 19 above). But then He exposes the serious mistakes they were making. The same thing could be said about the Church's history during Middle Ages, also known as the Medieval Period. This era covered nearly 1000 years, from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 to the beginning of the Reformation in 1517.

The Church's story during these centuries was full of errors, false teaching, and even immorality. But at the same time there are countless accounts of individuals and groups within the Church who were brilliant, incredibly devout, and true to the teaching of the Bible. Let us keep in mind that the long list of detours made during this time weakened, but did not destroy the True Church: the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-26 ; Colossians 1:17-20) because Jesus, the Head of the Church, controlled those who were faithful to Him. He had promised, "I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). Just as we have already seen in the Church at Thyatira, there is always a remnant of faithful believers. We study their writings, celebrate their evangelistic efforts, and applaud their charitable work. As the Original Church morphed into the "Roman Catholic Church" some of these heroes stayed behind in other branches of the Early Church, such as the Coptic Church or the Assyrian Church of the East. Others stayed in the Catholic tradition and did their best to remain faithful in spite of the changes. At the end of this era, reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin started new denominations to jettison some of the grievous concepts that had been adopted by the Catholics.

The shocking story of "Jezebel," the false prophetess at Thyatira, is a preview of the changes that would affect the Church during this fourth period of Church history. We will list the major issues here, but even in brief summaries, this will be a long section, and we will keep posting information on this subject for several days. It is all very important though, in terms of what happened to the Church during the Middle Ages and the Dark Ages, and what may happen to it during the Tribulation Period.

First, let's consider major changes in the Church even before the Middle Ages began.

Priesthood, Confessional, Calling Priests "Father"

During the 2nd Century some of the Early Church Fathers began to teach that bishops ("overseers" from the Greek episkopos) could function in a priestly role. They took upon themselves the authority to grant forgiveness of sins to those who repent and confess their failures. This is a clear example of the "doctrine of the Nicolaitans" that we studied above under the message to the Church at Pergamum. Those who wanted to ascend above the laity in the Church were beginning to add importance to their role by adopting priestly functions that were not meant to be a part of Christianity.

How do we know the Church did not need an ordained priesthood? Priests were a very important part of the Old Testament sacrificial system. And that system was always a preview of the complete sacrifice of the Lord Jesus for our sins.

Do you remember that, when Jesus died on the Cross, one of the amazing events that accompanied His death was the tearing of the curtain to the Holy of Holies in the Temple?

45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, "Father, 'into Your hands I commit My spirit.'" Having said this, He breathed His last. - Luke 23:45-46

This was proof that we would no longer need a priest to offer prayers or sacrifices for our sins. This was explained by the writer of the Book of Hebrews.

24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another- 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. - Hebrews 9:24-28

10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. - Hebrews 10:10-14

Another thing the Old Testament priests did was to offer prayers for the people. The priest was the mediator between the people and God. But that is no longer necessary, because, as Paul explained to Timothy,

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus. - 1 Timothy 2:5

Raymond E. Brown, a Roman Catholic scholar, admitted,

When we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament, it is striking that while there are pagan priests and Jewish priests on the scene, no individual Christian is ever specifically identified as a priest. The Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of the high priesthood of Jesus by comparing his death and entry into heaven with the actions of the Jewish high priest who went into the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle once a year with a offering for himself and for the sins of his people (Hebrews 9:6-7).

it is noteworthy that the author of Hebrews does not associate the priesthood of Jesus with the Eucharist or the Last Supper; neither does he suggest that other Christians are priests in the likeness of Jesus. In fact, the once-for-all atmosphere that surrounds the priesthood of Jesus in Hebrews 10:12-14, has been offered as an explanation of why there are no Christian priests in the New Testament period. (Raymond E. Brown, Priest and Bishop: Biblical Reflections (New York: Paulist Press, 1970 - see http://christiananswers.net/q-sum/sum-r005k.html)

Under Jesus' New Covenant every believer has the privilege of praying to the Father through the Son. That is why we are told that all Christians are part of a holy priesthood.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. - 1 Peter 2:9

"And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth." - Revelation 5:10

There is one more important consideration about a priesthood in the Church. It is normal for those who depend on priests to call them "Father." This is not right either. Jesus said,

Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. - Matthew 23:9

Infant baptism

In the Third Century some Church leaders started baptizing little children.

"And they shall baptize the little children first. And if they can answer for themselves, let them answer. But if they cannot, let their parents answer or someone from their family." (Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Tradition, p. 21 (c. A.D. 215))

There is no example in the Bible of an infant being baptized. Baptism was meant to be the sign of one's acceptance of Christ - a picture of being buried with Christ and raised again to newness of life (Acts 2:38, 41; Romans 6:1-14).

Infant baptism was undoubtedly done as a preventative measure in case a child might die before he had the opportunity to know Christ. However, King David was surely right when he assumed that God would receive an infant in heaven. When his own newborn boy died, he said,

But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. - 2 Samuel 12

Theologians often speak of an "age of accountability," This is not a biblical expression, but it is based on God's attributes. It is akin to Abraham's question, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" - Genesis 18:25

The biggest problem with infant baptism is that the child doesn't choose to believe, but he may assume that he is in a right relationship with God just because he was baptized, even if he never accepts Christ as his own personal Savior.

Later (in 418) infant baptism was normalized by the Council of Carthage.
(http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=2709).


...to be continued.


Next: Revelation 2:20 continued-2


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