18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.
The Christmas story is the greatest story ever told. It is the story of what God did to save you and me. It started at the beginning of the human race. God created man in His image so that He can appreciate and enjoy His creation.
The moment Adam and Eve fell into sin, God put into motion His greatest work…His work of salvation. He carefully unfolded His plan through prophetic revelation. Specific predictions were given hundreds of years before their fulfillment. Then when the time arrived, He sent His only begotten Son into the world to deliver man, woman, child… from the prison of sin and death…and bring them into the kingdom of God.
God chose Mary to be a special vessel of honor. No one before her and no one after her would have this honor. She was chosen by God to be the earthly mother of His Son. She was chosen to be the vessel through whom the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, would be born into our world.
Was Mary chosen because she was pretty? No… Was she chosen because she was a princess? Absolutely not! Was she chosen because she was a celebrity? Was she chosen because of who she was or because of what she had done? NO!!! She was just a common woman. It was by God’s sovereign grace that she was chosen.
Thank God for sovereign grace. The Bible says that not many of us who were chosen are wise, educated, rich, and powerful. God chose us from among the millions regardless of who we are and what we have done. He chooses whoever He wants. And for you and me, that is sovereign grace.
If you could use one word to describe Christmas, what word would it be? Sadly…some would use words like headache, busyness, expensive, or even bothersome. To many people Christmas is just another day, only a little more expensive and a lot more trouble. I thank God that Christmas shopping is not as bad as “black Friday”, where many get hurt, just to get the good deal. You see… that is how the world has made Christmas to be. The truth of Christmas has been removed. Instead of joy and peace, it has become burdensome, busy, and comes with a price tag. How sad that an event that brought so much joy in Heaven should bring so little joy here on earth.
I would like to suggest to you… as we celebrate this Christmas season that it should be a time of joy, peace, love. and gratitude. You see, throughout the year, we have faced a lot of good times, troubled times, struggles, hurt and so on. But through all of that, “Immanuel”, which means, (God with us) has been with us from the beginning. Jesus Christ is the true reason for the season.
A Christmas TV special, Charlie Brown asks if anyone knows what Christmas is about, and Linus recites the story of Christ’s birth from Luke 2. Have we forgotten, that Christmas is not primarily about us, our family, friends, presents? But about Him. (Jesus)
Charlie Brown Pic:
(Don’t add To Powerpoint)
11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
One year a Christmas afternoon visitor asked five-year-old Ruth, "Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?" After a moment’s hesitation, she answered, "No, but then it’s not my birthday!"
Isn’t it easy to get so wrapped up in the celebration that we forget what it is we are supposed to be celebrating? The world does that. It has become politically incorrect to say Merry Christmas- they want is to say Happy Holidays or Merry X-mas. We have the Jewish day of Hannakuh, or the African celebration of Kwanzza, to compete for the place that belongs to the Son of God. But even without buying into the world’s ways, we can easily forget what Christmas is really all about… by forgetting Jesus.
If God has given you the Greatest Gift Ever, His Son… focusing on Jesus means that you not only remember the Savior in the manger…but remember the Savior in our heart. Remember that this baby grew up and went to the Cross to pay for our sins, that He rose again to give new life, and that He lives in our hearts today to give you joy peace and love.
This is our third Christmas, (Fil-Am Baptist Mission Church) although I do miss the first year when everybody was here, those who were with us when God made this church to be. They will always be in our hearts, and in our memories. Within the three Christmas that we have spent together, God has also added some new faces with whom we have grown to love and to be part of this church.
As we celebrate this Christmas season, let us not forget the real reason why we are celebrating.
Its all about the Baby in the manger, wrapped in swaddling cloths. God’s precious gift to the world.
The Dead Church (Sardis)
3 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write,
‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore, if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. 4 You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. 6 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Seven Churches of Revelation, we have examined the Church in Ephesus, the Church in Smyrna the Church in Pergamum and the Church in Thyatira. Today we will look at the Church in Sardis.
As with all letters Christ sends to His seven churches, this one begins with a description of the Author. In fact, as you may recall from previous sermons on these letters, the description Jesus Christ gives of Himself in the opening line of a given letter gives a critical message to the particular church addressed in that letter. So, there is need to understand Jesus’ description of Himself in our text. Here Christ describes himself as possessing or holding 2 things.
1: Seven Spirits of God:
2: Seven Stars:
3 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write,
‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.
First, there is something to be learned from the introduction to this message concerning the Lord and the church. The first question that might come to our mind is the seven Spirits of God.
(God has seven Spirits?) This statement of the seven Spirits were taken from the book of Isaiah…
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
We have here part of the prophecy of the Messiah and it lists seven spirits.
(1) The Spirit of the Lord
(2) The Spirit of Wisdom
(3) The Spirit of Understanding
(4) The Spirit of Counsel
(5) The Spirit of Might
(6) The Spirit of Knowledge
(7) The Spirit of Fear of the Lord
The letter to Sardis is unique, that there is nothing at all Christ commends them for. There is no positives here, only negatives.
“These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.
Totally different from all the other churches that we had covered so far. There is no mention, of love, faithfulness, service, faith…none of that. Instead, God directs them clearly, as a “dead church”. Scary right!!! For God to write this church a letter, a living thriving church, but inside the Lord declares it to be a “dead church”. Keep in mind when God passes judgement, there is time to repent.
Sardis had a great reputation as a church. They had a fantastic name and if we were church hopping in that day, we would have no doubt have ended up at Sardis. We are not told why they had a good name or how they got it. It may have been as a result of their lovely building, their numbers, their programs, their inspiring worship. We are not told and so we can assume that it doesn’t matter. What does matter though is that Christ said to Sardis, reputation means nothing. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past and it doesn’t matter what other people think about your congregation. What matters is what Christ thinks. They had a name all right, but they were dead.
“Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God”. You see…one thing stuck out in this letter. For a once dead believer to be made alive, God…by His power, needs to make one alive. And once God makes or gives a new/born again believer life. The fruits of the Spirit will start to show and become evident in the believer’s life. So… it is clear that, when God pronounced judgement, when He clearly said, “I have not found your works perfect before God”. God has to see His Son in every believer, if not…then the person is still dead.
So why was Sardis dead? Notice that we can’t find any reference to Sardis having problems with persecution of false teaching. Sardis was not aggressive in its witness to the city. There was no persecution because there was no invasion of the enemy’s territory. The city saw the church as a respectable group of people who were neither dangerous nor desirable. They were decent people with a dying witness and a decaying ministry. Satan didn’t need to send any attacks on the church or any false teachers there to lead them astray because the church just wasn’t a threat.
3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore, if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
If you did something to save my life, I would be indebted to you forever. Christ saved our life. Made us alive, when we were once dead. Are we indebted to Him? We should be! We should be doing everything that we can in serving Him, including serving in our Church and outside, in our everyday life. Sometimes we give others more respect and do more for them than we do for God. I believe this is what the Church in Sardis was doing. Let’s get it right. God needs to come first and everything else second. Wouldn’t you agree!!! Your answer should be a definite YES!!! We do not know when Christ will return, but I believe by the teaching of the signs in the Bible that it may be soon, even in our lifetime. If Christ would come tomorrow, what would He find you and I doing? Serving Him or serving the world? “I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you”. Will we be ready when the Lord comes? I sure hope so!
WAKE UP!!! God says…don’t forget you were saved, if you were saved? hold fast to what you have learned, and still learning until that day of His coming. “therefore, if you will not”. God has declared judgement. Again, just like all the letters to the churches that we had learned, God is fair/just in His judgement. He will always give time to repent. Simply because of His great mercy!
You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
So…it is clear, that there were a chosen few. Just like in every church, there will be the faithful/chosen ones. And there will be pretenders. (Wheat & Tares) all in one house!
The letters of Christ always end on a positive note with promises for those who overcome. For even though most in Sardis were dead, there were some who were alive.
For those who are found alive, who have not compromised their stand and are not stained by the things of this world. “they shall walk with Me in white”, These are ones who have received forgiveness, washed by the blood of the Lamb.
As chosen believers, we are to fight sin, overcome sin, since we bought by His blood. We are to repent of our sins as hard as we can, and not to live in it as we once did. That means that we are to ask forgiveness for our sins, but also it means that we will turn away from our sins. We are to live a righteous life. Jesus said that these few righteous people will walk with Him dressed in white for they are worthy! Don’t you want Christ to say that about you and I? Of course we do!
We…as Christians, have a very hard battle to win while we are still here. The battle to remain faithful in our walk with the Lord. Wearing that white garment, hoping and doing our best not to put any stain on it.
“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels”.
Christ is telling us if anyone overcomes their disbelief, and repent from their sins and accept that, Jesus is Lord and Savior, then they too will be dressed in white. Jesus has promised us that He will never blot out our names from the book of life if we have truly believed in Jesus.
Sitting in a church every Sunday and doing good deeds doesn’t get our name in the book of life. Walking the isle doesn’t get our name in the book of life either. Being baptized with water doesn’t get our name in the book of life. We may fool others by saying that we have professed Christ as our Savior, but God knows our hearts. He knows if we have truly received His Son Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. We can go through all the motions, but if our heart isn’t in the right place, our motions means nothing. “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead”. Scary right!!!
I am truly thankful for these messages. From these messages, God…by His great mercy, gives us time to repent and to learn from the mistakes from the past. You see…that is how much God love His creation.
1 Timothy 2:3-4
3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
This is our Great God. That is why we seat here every Sunday listening to His words. That is why we have Bible study every other week, so that we can know and learn from the truth.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
6 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
So…that our robes will remain white, because we have been “thoroughly equipped”. Names will remain in the “Lambs Book Of Life”.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Five churches so far, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, and today Sardis. Four condemned, one commended. (Smyrna) Two more to go.
Let us pray:
The Corrupt Church - Thyatira
18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write,
‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: 19 “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. 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. 21 And I gave her time to [g]repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 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 each one of you according to your works. 24 “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. 25 But hold fast what you have till I come. 26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.27 ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’ as I also have received from My Father; 28 and I will give him the morning star. 29 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
It’s a bit weird for a church to be called a “corrupt church”. Sadly, this was the title of this church in my Bible. While looking for a good title for this message, I came across one that said, “Jezebel church”. Ouch!!!
Basically, this church was contaminated from the inside. It was influenced to go against the teachings of God. So…just like the other churches that we have covered so far, this church received a letter from our Lord. Contamination or influence can be a part of our everyday life.
We can be influenced in a good way or we can be influenced in a bad way. So, we have to be really careful on the things that can influence us greatly. Like I had mentioned… we can be influenced in good way or a bad way.
Let’s visit this church of Thyatira and see what we can learn from them…
18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write,
‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass:
As always, Christ reveals himself in a special way to the church being addressed. We have seen in the past that the description used is always relevant to the situation they are in. In verse 18 he describes himself as the “Son of God.” This is the only place in Revelation that this title is given to Christ, though it is used often throughout the gospels. It comes straight out of
Psalm 2:7 I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father.
It is also mentioned that, “The Son”, (Jesus) “has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass”.
The images of flaming eyes also reminds us that God’s eyes are penetrating, seeing everything, knowing everything. Nothing can be hidden from His sight.
17 For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity hidden from My eyes.
And, also mentioned by the writer of the Book of Hebrew…
13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
So…it is very clear, that Christ can see everything. NOTHING, can ever be hidden. And His eyes are “flaming”!!! Flame can through the dark to see what needs to be seen or it can also mean that the Lord is in anger.
“His feet like fine brass”. Bronze was the hardest metal known of at that time and is often used of to speak of judgment. Christ was therefore angry… so angry that He was preparing for judgment. We’ll talk why the Lord is angry in a minute, but before we do, God recognize that there were some good things in this church. This church was well commended…
19 “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.
WOW!!! These are good qualities right!!! “love, service, faith, and patience”. If we were just to look at this church, with these qualities, we can say that this church was doing a very good job. Close to perfection. They were a growing church. “as for your works, the last are more than the first”. In the NIV translation, “and as for your works, the last are more than the first”. So, they were a faithful, loving, growing church.
Somewhere along the way, this church was contaminated from the inside. Even after all of Gods commendation to this church, God still judged it fairly. After all, our God is a JUST, God.
Even if they started out good, the rest of the way started to fail. Someone took over, and God is angry, “eyes like a flame of fire”. God tells them their offence…
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. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 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 each one of you according to your works.
Despite the growth and the apparent faithfulness, love and ministry seen in the church, they were being misled doctrinally and spiritually. There was a woman who Jesus called Jezebel who was calling herself a prophetess but was misleading the people.
What is a prophet? .... The simplest definition of a prophet is one who speaks for God. This can either be foretelling the future or forthtelling the Word of God. A true prophet has authority because their words come from God either through direct revelation or straight from the Word of God. A false prophet has mislaid authority which does not come from God. This so- called prophetess in Thyatira was not a prophet at all. Why? Because what she was proclaiming as coming from God, was contrary to God’s word.
Now…its never made clear that she was the pastor of this church. While working on this message, I started asking myself…where was the leaders of this church? Where’s the pastor, the deacons of this church? How did she get a way with such an influence to this church? How did this church allow it to go so far? We just read, that they were good at one point…faithful!
How did they get to this point, as to make God mad and to cast judgement upon this church.
However or whatever she did, she had a good influence to this church. Perfect example of women pastoring a church, again…its not clear that she was a pastor, but she had a very strong influence on this church. It also made me think, of how other churches around the world with women pastors missed to read this story.
Like an apple with a worm in it. This church looked good on the outside, but inside it was rotten. We often look at other churches and say - God is really doing something in their midst - they are loving. Look at all the people flocking to their services. They are reaching out to the community and really making an impact. People are changing. But you can’t judge a book by a cover.
We rush to hear speakers of big churches thinking that they must have it all together because their church is growing. We soak up everything they say and accept it because they must know what they are talking about. Thyatira, was a growing church, a thriving church, filled with love and faithfulness, but they were rotten on the inside because they were following wrong doctrine. “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence”. (1 Timothy 2:12) What happened to that command? Where was all the men of this church, that they allowed it to get this far?
Anyway…lets get in this deeper. Who is this Jezebel and what kind of power does she have over this once, faithful church. What was this wrong doctrine that this prophetess was teaching? We read in Vs 20 that it she led people to sexual immorality- fornication and eat food sacrificed to idols, both of which were clearly condemned in the Word of God.
It is likely that this prophetess was teaching that it was alright to be part of the world. No shocker there right! If it happened then it will…and is happening now. She has convinced them not to worry, “God has told me it was alright! (Prophetess) It is alright to go and be a part of the world and participate in the immoral and idolatrous worship that occurs, after all live by grace and are not under the law anymore.” OUCH!!! And who were the rest of the church to disagree with what she was saying? She did claim to be a prophet!
The name Jezebel conjures up thoughts of a very seductive women using her flair to entice men into her bed. The real Jezebel was nothing like this. She was a queen of Israel at the time when Elijah was a prophet. She was a wicked woman and was the pagan daughter of a pagan king and had no business being married to Ahab, the King of Israel. When she became queen, she turned the heart of her husband, then the hearts of Israel to the worship of Baal. Influence the king, then the people. She was smart, cunning, she knew what she wanted and she took it. Her first official act, as recorded in Scripture, was to kill the prophets of the Lord (1 Ki 17:4). She was no seductress… her ways were blatantly against God. She did away with God’s spiritual leaders and replaced them with the prophets of Baal. She was definitely not to be messed with.
Do you see the similarities here between the Jezebel of Old Testament times and the prophetess in Thyatira? Both tried to replace God’s authoritative word with a poor substitute. How often do we do a similar thing? And again…I am just blown away, shaking my head, as to how some present churches are allowing the same thing to happen to Gods church! Did they tear off this part of the Bible? Anyway, let’s continue…
“Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 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 each one of you according to your works”.
“Sickbed”, meaning death. A warning is given to her and to the church. You see…God is just, He is fair. He gives everyone a chance to repent. The Church of Thyatira was tolerating evil. Now, the Lord confronted them with this sin! Make no mistake, tolerating evil is sin—heinous sin! What is worse, when a congregation tolerates evil, it means that all within the assembly must share in the condemnation when it is pronounced.
The Lord seems to indicate that Jezebel was at least a superficial follower when He says, He gave her time to repent. However, whether she was a believer or merely or just a pretender that have always sought to invade the churches, this woman refused to repent. Specifically, this woman refused to repent of her sexual immorality.
The immorality of this woman had mentioned the birth of children. It is not possible to say with any degree of certainty that God is not speaking of physical children, however, I doubt that He is speaking of physical children. Because Jesus is addressing a spiritual entity, the Body of believers gathered in Thyatira, it seems apparent to me that the Jesus has in view spiritual children, (disciple) spawn that adopted Jezebel’s attitudes, spiritual seed that had embraced the rebellious evil she embodied.
Rather than policing their ranks, the congregation accepted the act of wickedness, thus diluting the righteousness that should have marked them. The Puritans were certain that one of the marks of a true New Testament church was discipline. They were undoubtedly correct in this assessment. One of the dark marks against the churches of this new age is that we are unwilling to discipline fellow believers. Consequently, we Christians at the end of this Church age love evil through our neglect. So…the result of that neglect, the whole church, this body of believers in Thyatira…ALL OF THEM, will face the same consequence…the same judgement!
Jezebel doctrines teach that something evil can be good. Homosexual marriages are okay as long as they are based on love. Same as being yoked to an unbeliever. Seeking after material possession is okay as this is a sign of God’s blessing. Doing away with the bible is okay as long as you are in communion with God. All these are evil but seem to be good.
24 “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. 25 But hold fast what you have till I come. 26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.27 ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’ as I also have received from My Father.
“to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden”. The letter is addressed to those within the congregation who refused to give approval of wickedness. It was not just that they were obstinate or that they did not long for church harmony, it is that they recognized error and their spirits in horror at the thought of participating with this evil. There were saints then, and there are saints now, who are unwilling to exchange truth for harmony. There are quite enough professed Christians who are willing to tolerate just a little bit of evil in order to avoid unpleasantness or division. Stand firm if you know that you are obedient to Gods commands.
The Helper “The Holy Spirit”, has come! He restrained Christ’s true followers who were found among the Congregation at Thyatira, He kept them from sin. He now works in your life in the same way. If we are faithful in Gods commands, His promise to the true believers of this church, and the true believers of this age is this, “I will put on you no other burden”. Remain faithful, stay in the path of Gods words and persevere. “But hold fast what you have till I come”.
This is all by Gods power that one can endure. Believe in Gods truth, believe in Gods faithfulness in your life, and you will learn to flee from a spirit of Jezebel, and flee from the traps of the enemy.
“And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations”. Christ promises that if the true believer perseveres, He will grant them a share in His messianic kingdom. Over which He has already received authority to rule. They will receive authority as He has received authority and will rule over nations. Those who remain faithful till the end will reign with Christ as promised.
Our last verse:
29 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
We heard it hear again church. 4 churches now. Three condemned, so far one faithful. (Smyrna)
Let us learn from our brothers and sisters of these churches that we have learned so far. Let’s learn from their mistakes and hopefully, never receive a message from the Lord that says… “But I have this against you”. Gods words are all we have in this fallen world. We cannot join them because the world says it ok. We still have a lot of work to do. Let us let God be our guide and finish this race!!!
Let Us Pray:
The Compromising Church (Pergamum)
12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write,
‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: 13 “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there, those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. 17 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
The city of Pergamum was located north of Ephesus and Smyrna and about 15 miles inland from the Aegean Sea. It has been estimated that Pergamum had a population of more than 160,000. Pergamum was cultural, religious and intellectual region. And again, this city is also filled with pagan religion. There were four major pagan temples located there, the temples to Athena (the goddess of wisdom and the arts), Asclepisis (the god of medicine, whose insignia was the entwined serpent on a staff, which is still the medical symbol today), Dionysus (the god of wine and immorality), and Zeus (ruler of the heavens and father of other gods).
Christ is representing Himself to the pastor of the church in Pergamum as one who has the authority to judge. “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword.” The writer of the book of Hebrews also mentions our Lord in the same matter, as the only One with authority to judge.
12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Christ is saying that He sees everything that we do. He knows our hearts and our thoughts. We will one day have to give account for our actions, attitudes and thoughts to the One who has the power to divide soul and spirit.
If we think that we can get away with anything without God knowing it, then we are deceiving ourselves. God is all knowing. He knows us better than we know ourselves. So…from the opening letter, Jesus makes it clear that He alone is the judge! Let us now dig into why this letter was, and what was the offence of this church.
“I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
The Lord says, “I know you’re serving me in the very place where Satan’s throne is located.” Satan operated his demonic, unseen underworld in the spirit realm from the city of Pergamos. Pergamos was Satan’s ancient headquarters…in other words, it was like the Washington D.C. of Asia Minor! Of course, I am not saying that Washington D.C. is corrupt, but It had a lot of political power. So…satan, being as cunning and deceiving as he is, who better to corrupt but those with high status.
The city of Pergamos was known for its political power, and for emperor worship. It was the first city ever to have a temple dedicated to Caesar. And once a year the residents of Pergamos were forced to enter the temple of Caesar...forced to burn incense upon the altar of Caesar, and to say out loud, “Caesar is god.”
Now, like their brothers and sisters in Smyrna, the Christians at the church in Pergamos were suffering terrible persecutions at the time of this letter. Some of them were dying for the cause of Christ, and Jesus calls one of them by name in v. 13…Antipas.
Secular history tells us more about this man Antipas, whose name, by the way, means “against all”. Antipas was brought to the temple of Caesar and commanded to swear out loud that Caesar is god. Antipas cried boldly, “Jesus alone is God!” A Roman official said, “Antipas, don’t you know that the whole world is against you?” He replied, “Then Antipas is against the whole world!” Antipas was put into a large, hollow, brass bull, and a fire was built under it, creating an oven where they roasted Antipas to death. (Pic 1) Again, like I had mentioned, secular history. Not much was ever mentioned about Antipas, except for this book.
From last Sunday’s message there was Pastor named Polycarp, who was commanded to deny Jesus or else be burned alive to the point of death. Now we have a martyr named Antipas, also had been given a command to proclaim Cesar as god. To his fate, he died in an oven shaped bull!
From last Sunday’s message on Smyrna, Satan attacked the early church like a roaring lion, but when he found that he could not destroy it, and could not get the people to curse God, he shifted his battle plan and attacked a different church.
Christ is commending the Christians of this church for not renouncing their faith, even though they lived in a city controlled by Satan. Sin abounds all around them. Some of them like Antipas even lost their lives, because they refused to renounce their faith in God. This is even happening today all over the world. Christians are being murdered because they will not give up their faith in God. This is happening in Pakistan, Sudan and most of the Arab and Islamic nations. And even today…not only with the church shootings, satan is also using all the churches…all the different denominations, who carry the name of Christ, against each other. Do you see that church? That is why we truly need the strength, the discernment of the Holy Spirit, to see right from wrong. If not…then we will fall into the hands…the traps of satan.
But I have a few things against you, because you have there, those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Are you all familiar with the story of Balaam and Balak? If not you can read more about this story in (Numbers 22-25) Balak was king of Moab and he was afraid that the Israelites, who had just came out of Egypt, and would attack and kill all of them. Balak sent for Balaam the prophet to place a curse upon the Israelites so that he could destroy the Israelites. God told Balaam not to curse the Israelites, but to say the words of blessings that God gave him. Since Balaam could not curse the Israelites, he taught Balak how to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. If you can’t outwardly defeat them, then inwardly deceive them and tear down their moral foundation.
Our Christian principles and morals are being attacked everyday, in this country. Will it be our downfall? The Moab women enticed the men of Israel to commit immoral (sexual) acts and to make sacrifices to their gods. The men of Israel ate and bowed down before these gods. God told Moses to kill all the leaders of Israel who have joined in worshipping Baal. As a result of this idolatry and fornication, which was caused by compromise, 24,000 Israelites died. Therefore, we find the doctrine of Balaam was a lowering of the standard of separation God expects from His people and a compromise with the world. Hence the title, “The Compromising Church”.
Christ also condemned the church for allowing some to hold to the teachings of the Nicolaitans. In the first sermon on the church of Ephesus we learned that the Nicolaitans were a sect of the Gnostic, who taught impure doctrines and followed impure practices. They were thought to have derived their origin from Nicolas, one of the seven deacons mentioned in Acts 6:5. The Nicolaitanes taught community of wives, that adultery and fornication were things that are indifferent, (meaning, its neither good nor bad) that eating meats offered to idols was quite lawful and mixed several pagan rites with the Christian ceremonies. Basically… they were twisting the truth of Gods commands. No shocker there…same tactic the serpent used on Eve in the garden. Satan twisted the truth.
Do we have the same problems in our churches today? Since September 11, I have heard and seen even religious leaders accept other religions as worshipping the same God that we worship. I have seen our government hold prayer services where religious leaders of other faiths were invited to pray to their gods as we prayed to our true God. I have read where the Catholic Pope called all the religious leaders together to pray for peace. The Pope commented that they were all praying to the same god. Well, we all don’t have the same god, their god isn’t the God that we worship.
Jesus tells us that no one comes unto the Father except through Him (Jesus Christ). This is the same thing that some of the Christians of the church of Pergamum were doing. They were participating in the religious ceremonies. We as Christians cannot compromise…Gods divine doctrine just to be politically correct and not to offend anyone.
Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
For us to accept the compromise…to serve God, but stay in the world, is to buy the lie…the devil’s lie and as we have learned, Satan mixes truth and error in his big bowl, and sadly many Christians will swallow it whole! This verse was a warning to this church. Its also a warning for you and me!
And then, we try to justify our failures be saying…see if this sounds familiar, “Im saved by grace, I can do whatever I want”. Or “im not perfect God will understand”. YES…church, you and I are saved by grace alone and not by works, and again YES…we will never be perfect as long as we are in the flesh. But shouldn’t stop us from fighting sin, right! Being saved by grace, and not being perfect shouldn’t stop us from hating sin, right!
The battle with sin is an everyday battle for as long as we are here, and it doesn’t mean that we compromise our faith in God and His commands. Do we just give up…give in to the enemy? Of course not! We fight on, we persevere, we don’t give up. As hard as the battle may be…WE DON’T GIVE UP, WE DON’T SURRENDER TO THE ENEMY!!! You want to know, we cannot? Because God will not let go of His own. Christians are Gods gift to His Son, and they are precious to Him.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
Jesus is warning us to listen to what He is saying to the churches, because it also applies to us today. If we overcome our transgressions, Christ will give us life. The manna that God gave to the Israelites while in the dessert sustained them. It provided the nourishment needed to sustain life. Some of that manna was placed in a golden pot and put into the Ark of the Covenant as a memorial of God’s gracious provisions for Israel in the wilderness. The hidden manna may be spiritual nourishment to keep us going on the straight and narrow until we eat of the bread of life.
57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
Jesus is promising eternal life to those who overcomes. Jesus will also give us a white stone with a new name written on it. White and black stones were used in ancient courts of justice when a vote was taken as to the quilt of an accused person. Satan is constantly accusing us to the Father of our sins, but Jesus has cast a white stone showing that we have been acquitted of all guilt of sin, by the blood of Jesus Christ.
If you have unconfessed sin in your life, then what is stopping you from confessing to the One who will forgive? If you don’t, then sadly you have not been free from sins chains. Confess it to our Lord…be forgiven and be saved! And if the battle with sin gets to be too big and overwhelming…lets fight it together. Better yet…lets fight it together…with the One who has conquered all.
1 John 4:4
4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”.
Let us pray…
Pastor Richard Santos
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