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Previous: Revelation 2:20 continued-4

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 consider the many unfortunate changes in the Church during the Middle Ages we realize that we have been "stuck" on Revelation 2:20 for a couple of weeks, and still have lots more to say about this. As we mentioned at the beginning of this letter, the message to Thyatira was the longest of the seven epistles. Jesus' words were appropriate for them, but it was also a prophetic message for the Middle Ages of the Church. This era lasted more than 1000 years, and deserves our careful attention. In addition, I have taken the extra time during this phase to do much time-consuming fact-checking of historical sources and even the writings of Catholic experts so that the information is accurate.

Use of Images in Worship

It was natural that artists would depict Bible characters in paintings and other forms of art, but with the passage of time people began to venerate some of these images by bowing to them or kissing them. For some people this might have been a carry-over from their former pagan practices that involved idolatry. For others it was just a way of showing respect to the memory of Jesus, Mary, or other biblical heroes.

In the Eastern portion of the Church (Byzantine), which would eventually split off from the Western portion (Roman), intense campaigns were conducted by religious and governmental authorities from AD 726 to 842 to stop the use of images because they considered the practice idolatrous. This period was called the "Byzantine Iconoclasm" (meaning "icon-breaking") because numerous statues and other works of art were destroyed.

During this same time the Western (Roman) Church defended the practice at the Council of Nicaea II in AD 787. They pointed to the fact that the Bible prescribed sculptured cherubim to decorate the Ark of the Covenant (Deuteronomy 25:19) and the walls of the future millennial Temple (Ezekiel 41:18-21). They concluded that,

"As the sacred and life-giving cross is everywhere set up as a symbol, so also should the images of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the holy angels, as well as those of the saints and other pious and holy men be embodied in the manufacture of sacred vessels, tapestries, vestments, etc., and exhibited on the walls of churches, in the homes, and in all conspicuous places, by the roadside and everywhere, to be revered by all who might see them. For the more they are contemplated, the more they move to fervent memory of their prototypes. Therefore, it is proper to accord to them a fervent and reverent adoration, not, however, the veritable worship which, according to our faith, belongs to the Divine Being alone." (

They therefore claimed that this practice is not idolatry, However it is at least confusing to those who have come from any idolatrous belief system, and it violates clear biblical warnings, starting with the Second Commandment.

4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image-any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. - Exodus 20:4-6

'You shall not make idols for yourselves; neither a carved image nor a sacred pillar shall you rear up for yourselves; nor shall you set up an engraved stone in your land, to bow down to it; for I am the LORD your God. 2 You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the LORD. - Leviticus 26:1-2

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. - 1 John 5:21

The Holy Roman Empire

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476, Europe was ruled by various invaders such as the Visigoths, Vandals, Angles, Saxons, Franks, etc.

On Christmas day in AD 800 Charlemagne ("Charles the Great"), who had been King of the Franks, then King of Italy, was crowned as the first Emperor over part of the old domain. His coronation was held in Old St. Peter's Basicila, and it carried with it the endorsement of the Catholic Church. He restored the unity of most of Europe. He was also a great champion of the Church. The official name "Holy Roman Empire" was not adopted until 1254. The beginning of this new Empire brought a unification of Church and state that still persists in European thinking, and which has been the cause of many problems. The Apostle Paul would not have condoned this development. He warned,

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you[b] are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
"I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people."

17 Therefore
"Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord." - 1 Corinthians 6:14-17

Sainthood/ Prayer through the Saints

In the 900's the Church began the process called "canonization" to identify saints. We explained earlier (in our discussion of the veneration of Mary) that the Bible calls all true believers saints. After the first three centuries of the Church the martyrs were declared official saints by public acclaim. Later this process was formalized by the bishops and finally given over to the Vatican.

Church members were encouraged to ask these saints to pray on their behalf. Catholic theologians will say that it is no different to ask a departed believer to pray for them than it is to ask a Christian friend here on earth to do the same.

There are no examples in the Bible of asking the dead to pray for us. On the contrary, Paul instructed Timothy,

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

Also Deuteronomy 18:10-11 prohibits communication with the dead.

10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.

Another related issue is a vision of the future in Revelation 5:8.

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

We will explore this verse more when we get to chapter 5, but for now, just notice that this symbolic offering is an act of praise on behalf of all the believers. They are "saints" in the biblical meaning of the word, not the later concept of canonized saints. It is not intercession for them. It is described as "the prayers of the saints," not "prayer for the saints."

Next: Revelation 2:20 - Continued 6


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