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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