“The Compromised Church” – Revelation 2:12-17
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The letters to the seven churches would be carried by personal messengers, there was no postal service!
These letters were all "prophetic letters," similar to writings that appeared earlier in the Bible, given to God's prophets. (2 Chron. 21:12-15, Jer. 29.)
They resemble the edicts of emperors and kings.
In these letters from the King of kings, each letter has a prophetic message and command from Christ, (Rev. 2:1) through the Spirit (Rev. 2:7), who is inspiring John the apostle to write the letters. (Rev. 1:10)
Notice that each letter follows a similar pattern:
- "To the angel of the church in (the city) write..."
* This is the "addressee."
- Christ depicted in His glory from the Scripture passages in Revelation 1:13-18.
* This is His "calling card."
- "I know your works..."
* Containing both His "commendation," and "criticism" depending on the individual church.
- "He who has an ear to hear, let him hear..."
* Then follows His "counsel," either admonition or assurance.
- "To him who overcomes..."
* His promise and encouragement.
Let us now consider the third church:
Pergamos (Pergamum, NIV)
"And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write..."
* A city of 100,000 people.
* 100 miles north of Ephesus, 15 miles inland.
* A wealthy city with a large library of 200,000 volumes (“sheep skins”) that attracted scholars from the known world. Second only to Alexandria in Egypt.
* The medical center based on the Greek god Asklepius, where serpents were used for healing. Satan's corrupted copy of God's work from Numbers 21.
* A religious center for emperor worship, as well as the whole pantheon of Greek gods, but primarily Zeus. His temple was one of the "seven wonders of the world."
Christ's Calling Card
"...These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:"
"...He who has the sharp two-edged sword..."
* "Two-edged sword" - From Rev. 1:16.
* The "sword" was the picture of judgment and punishment in the Roman world, as well as the Bible:
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.
Christ used this word picture of having the two-edged sword to show His complete power and the immutable truth of His Word, the Scripture.
The Holy Bible is our standard for all doctrine (creed) and practice (deeds).
Anything in our lives that does not match His Word must be ruthlessly dealt with.
In Pergamos the church was compromising with the world, and becoming "unequally yoked."
2 Corinthians 6:14-18
The threat of "the sword" was their wake-up call.
"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."
"I know your works and where you dwell..."
* Where they dwelt and their works were directly related.
* Pergamos was a most difficult place to live for Christians; just surviving was commendable.
"...where Satan's throne is..."
* The temple and throne-like altar of Zeus, as well as the temple of Asklepius were the center of Satan's command and deception.
Satan is the "god of this world." (2 Cor. 4:4)
"...whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them." (2 Cor. 4:4)
Even Jesus did not dispute this on the Mount of Temptation when Satan offered to give Him "all the kingdoms of the world."
Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve."'
But Satan only has the power that God allows him, to God's purpose. (Job 1:6-12, 2:1-6)
Satan is not omnipotent, omnipresent or omniscient.
It seems that Satan always chooses places of great worldly influence as a base of operation.
Often places of higher education, like Pergamos, and our universities.
"...you hold fast to My name..."
* Christ's name - Who He is and what He does; His name is the glory of His Person:
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth...
"Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
To "hold fast" is to hang on for dear life. In times of trouble, tribulation, suffering and persecution, He is (His Name) all we have and all we need.
"Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."
We hold fast to Him, because He holds fast to us!
"...did not deny My faith..."
* Christ's "faith," and ours, is key to our salvation.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God...
His "faith" is the perfection of His plan in the Christian's life:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
The church in Pergamos is holding onto His "name" and "faith" even in the most difficult tribulation.
As demonstrated by Antipas:
"...Antipas, My faithful martyr was killed..."
* History records that Antipas was the Bishop of the church in Pergamos, and was martyred when the Emperor Domitian had him roasted to death inside a brass bull altar.
"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."
"...the doctrine of Balaam..."
* Balaam contrived to bring God's judgment against Israel by tempting the Israelite men with Moabite women, leading to sexual immorality and idol worship. (Numbers 22-25)
Unfortunately, it worked and God indeed judged Israel. (Num. 25:3-4, 9)
* The early church understood the threat of sexual immorality and idol worship. (Acts 15:28-29)
"Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate."
"Thus you also have...Nicolaitans..."
* From the sins of sexual immorality and idol worship, the doctrine of the Nicolaitans grew.
* The Nicolaitans taught that because we are saved by grace that only the spirit matters, and what you did with your body didn't matter to God.
The name "Balaam" means "against the people."
The name "Nicolaitan" means to "conquer the people."
Both of these groups were in the church at Pergamos causing them to compromise their spirituality and morality.
Satan knows the church can never be defeated from the outside because:
"...He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (1 Jn. 4:4)
But, beware because the church can be destroyed by compromise leading to corruption from the inside!
And the easiest way to compromise is by allowing false doctrine to lead you from “the Truth” into sin. Again, false “creed” leads to sinful “deeds.”
Both things Christ hates!
(Rev. 2:6 vs. Rev. 2:15)
"Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth."
* To repent is to change both your mind and direction, turn to Christ and from sin.
The church was compromised, but not yet corrupted. They were allowing false doctrine, but not yet adopting it.
Remember, spiritual and doctrinal compromise always leads to moral corruption and God's judgment.
But there is an antidote, God's inerrant Word and its application. The Apostle Paul knew:
Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.
“CHECK YOURSELF, BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF!”
"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."'
* God fed the Israelites in the wilderness with manna, "bread from heaven." (Ex. 16:4)
* Moses told Aaron to "hide" a jar of manna in the Ark of the Covenant signifying God's provision. (Ex. 16:33-34)
But now we have "the True Bread from heaven," (Jn. 6:32), "the Bread of Life." (Jn. 6:48)
The true "hidden manna" is Christ Jesus hidden in our hearts!
"...a white stone..."
* In ancient times, a judge or jurors would give a white stone to those found innocent or pardoned and a black stone to those convicted.
By rights we should all be given the black stone. But the Lord Jesus gives us the white stone because He paid our punishment and has the right as the Righteous Judge to pardon us.
"...a new name written..."
* Again, in ancient times, close friends would engrave each other’s names on a white marble stone, break it in two and trade names, signifying an eternal relationship.
Christ gives us a new name in Him, removing our shame and admitting us into His kingdom. Christ often renamed His disciples (Simon to Peter, Levi to Matthew).
"I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off."
"You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name."
Our relationship with Christ, and His revelation to us, leads us into the Father's love through obedience.
"If you love Me, keep My commandments....He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."
(Jn. 14:15, 21)
Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
(2 Tim. 2:19)
Relationship with Christ always involves obedience to Christ.
When we obey God's commandments without compromise, Christ is revealed to us in a way that the carnal Christian can never know.
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