During the period of the iconoclast controversy culminating in the reign of the iniquitous iconoclast emperor, Leo the Isaurian (717-741), Saint Theophilus openly revolted against the iconoclast folly. In accord with the emperor’s orders, the saint was subjected to beatings and led through the city tied up like a criminal. The emperor then gave Theophilus over into the charge of the official, Hypatius who tried repeatedly to compel the confessor to renounce holy icons. Theophilus remained steadfast. Instead, he succeeded in converting Hypatius.
As proof of the validity of icons, Theophilus cited the brass serpent set up by Moses (Num 21:9), the corroboration of the Cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant, and finally how the Savior Himself had given to Abgar, the Prince of Edessa, His Icon Not Made by Hands (August 16). Persuaded by this evidence, Hypatius gained the emperor’s permission to set the saint free. The confessor returned to his monastery. He lived only a short time longer, and in the year 716 Saint Theophilus fell asleep peacefully in the Lord.