2:21-23 JEZEBEL’S SICKBED
In the meantime another aspect of the prophecy of Jezebel was being fulfilled-- “I gave her space to repent of her sexual fornication, and she did not repent. Indeed, I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to every one of you according to your works” (Revelation 2:21,22).
The “sickbed” of the eastern church followed their acceptance of image worship in the iconoclastic controversy. The official acceptance of idolatry (the "triumph of Orhtodoxy) marked the end of universal church councils and was followed by five centuries of decline and defeat at the hands of the Turks and even by the "Christian" crusaders. Estranged from the western church and the European powers, Constantinople and the Byzantine empire finally fell in 1453 ("kill her children with death") and the eastern Orthodox Church was oppressed and subjugated by the Muslim Ottoman Empire.
In the West the papacy reached the pinnacle of power in the thirteenth century and then began a long and steady decline (her “sickbed”). Corruption and power struggles weakened the authority of the Church, but particularly damaging were the increasing financial demands to pay for grandiose projects such as the building of St. Peter’s Cathedral in
One of the favorite means of raising money was through the sale of indulgences. According to Catholic teaching, sins committed after baptism had to be paid for by good deeds. Christ and the saints, with their sin-free lives, had a large oversupply of good deeds, which they did not need personally since they had lived holy lives. The average sinner either had to perform his own good deeds (which never seemed to be enough), or he would have to pay for his sins in purgatory (a place where the souls of those who have died are tortured until they are pure enough for heaven). However, by benefiting the church with a donation he could have access to the good deeds of Christ and the saints, either for his own sins, or for those of a loved one who would need them to shorten his time in purgatory. This system obviously led to much abuse, and Martin Luther’s protest against it proved to be a precipitating factor in the Protestant Reformation.
Luther grew up thoroughly immersed in the Catholic system, and with a strong sense of his own personal sin, entered a monastery to try to escape feelings of condemnation. He attempted to appease God through fastings, vigils and scourgings, but with no relief. Finally a wise abbot of the monastery taught him that true repentance does not involve self-inflicted penances and punishments but rather a change of heart. Thus began a long journey of spiritual growth, including a disillusioning visit to Rome, culminating in his appointment as a professor of theology at the
This new revelation was in striking contrast to the selling of indulgences, and as the Papal representative approached Wittenburg in 1517, Luther reacted by posting his famous Ninety-five Theses which exposed the fallacies of the Catholic system of salvation. These proved to be a spark that touched off a massive wave of protest and reform throughout
 In 1378 the College of Cardinals elected a new Pope, only to find in a few months that he was unacceptable, so they elected a second Pope, causing “the Great Schism”—two rival Popes, each condemning the other. The schism continued for nearly forty years with a series of Popes and anti-popes.
 Besides the loss of territory, prestige, and subjects to the reformation, the Roman Catholic empire also suffered massive loss of life in the religious wars of that period (eg the Thirty Years' War).