THE CHURCH THAT MARRIED THE WORLD Revelation 2:12-17
The city of Pergamos was the capital city of Asia Minor. It was renowned for its political power, its intellectual achievement and its pagan worship. It was a wealthy city given over to luxury and fashion. There are two special features that caused Pergamos to stand out in its time.
First, there was a 200,000 volume library there. That may not sound like many books to us, but when you consider that every page of every book was handwritten on papyrus and parchment, it was quite an achievement.
A second feature that marked ancient Pergamos was its pagan temples. There was a temple in Pergamos to Aesculapeus, the god of healing and medicine. His temple was filled with snakes and when a person needed healing, they would go into that temple, lie down on the floor and spend the night there. If a snake crawled across them during their stay, they considered themselves healed. There were three temples in Pergamos devoted to the emperor worship cult. Once each year, every Roman citizen was required to walk into one of these temples, place a pinch of incense on an altar and say “Ceasar is god.” Of course, when Christians refused to do that a severe persecution arose. On the hill outside the city there was a massive altar dedicated to Zeus, the supreme ruler of the gods. This altar was one hundred feet square and forty feet tall.
It is to the Christian congregation in this city that Jesus addresses this letter. As we study these verses, we are going to discover that this church was doctrinally pure; but morally impure; they had drifted into compromise. Jesus comes to call them back to the right path. In these verses, there is a word for our hearts today. There is always the danger that we too might drift of center. There is the danger that we might hold the right doctrines, but still drift into compromise with the world around us.
Remember that these letters can be viewed three different ways. Practically – These are real letters to real churches living in a real world. Prophetically – These letters picture the church during different eras of history. This particular church symbolize the church as it existed during the years 313-590 AD, when the church married the world. Personally – There is a word here for our church and for the individuals in our church today.
I. v. 13 WORDS OF COMMENDATION
“I know thy works” – Jesus knew all about this church, where it was, what it was doing and what it was facing. He knew them intimately. We need to remember that He knows this church intimately too. He knows everything there is to know about them and He begins by giving them words of commendation.
A. He Knows Their Situation – “where Satan’s seat is… where Satan dwelleth” – This church operated right in the middle of a city chosen by Satan as his headquarters on earth. Regardless of what some people think, some preachers preach and some songs say, Satan is not now, nor has he ever been in Hell. He dreads that place more than any lost man ever has. When he is sent to Hell, it will spell his eternal doom, and he knows it, Rev. 20:10.
In our day, Satan is free and he operates as the “god of this world”, 2 Cor. 4:4; and as “the prince and power of the air”, Eph. 2:2. In other words, Satan is active in our world and he has a seat of power somewhere. It might be New York, Las Vegas, Washington DC or any of a thousand other places.
These words are used to let these people know that Jesus knows they are living in a tough place. He knows where they are and He has a word just for them.
B. He Knows Their Steadfastness – We are told that they “dwelled” in Pergamos. There are two words translated “dwell” in the New Testament. One means “to take up a temporary dwelling”. The other one, the one used here, means “to settle down to stay; to take up a permanent residence”. These people had settled down in Pergamos and they were not running away from the trouble around them. They set a good example for churches existing in this day. Far too often, we allow the world to cause us to run and hide in fear. They are trying their best to drive the church away into oblivion. We must make our stand in this world and be willing to stand up and speak up against the evils and wickedness that mark our society, whatever the cost!
The church in Pergamos was doing a couple of things right and Jesus commends them for it. Let’s see what Jesus found to brag on as He looked at this church.
· First, they “held fast to His name.” This church was not ashamed of the name of Jesus. His name is the most divisive name in history, yet His name is the only name “whereby men must be saved”, Acts 4:12. We need to be in the business of lifting up the name of Jesus, John 12:32!
· Second, they are commended because they have “not denied the faith.” This church was doctrinally pure. They held on to the fundamentals of the faith, and Jesus praised them for it. There are some non-negotiable truths in Christianity. There is plenty of room for liberty in our service to the Lord. We don’t all have to live by the same opinions. If you have a problem with that, read Romans 14-15 sometime and it will settle that matter for you. However, there are some things that are non-negotiable. If you do not hold these certain things to be true, then you are not a Christian, no matter what you say! This ancient church held fast to “the faith”.
· The Verbal, Plenary Inspiration of the Scriptures · The Virgin Birth of the Savior
· The Vicarious Death of the Savior · The Victorious Resurrection of the Savior
We need to take our stand on these precious truths.
C. He Knows Their Sacrifices – Their stand for Jesus had been costly. Even when this church was undergoing severe persecution, they stood for the Lord and for His Word. Jesus mentions a man by the name of Antipas. He is called a “faithful martyr”. History tells us that Antipas refused to offer the pinch of incense and say “Caesar is god.” Because of his refusal to worship Caesar, Antipas was placed inside of a brass bull. A fire was built under the bull and Antipas was roasted to death. In spite of this, the Christians in Pergamos held fast to their witness. Jesus applauds them for their stand.
It is still costly to be a fundamental believer. If you hold to the right doctrine and live the right kind of life, you are going to offend some people and you are going to be persecuted, 2 Tim. 3:12. Be sure, when that happens, your Lord sees, knows and He will reward your faithful service in His time.
I. He Comes With Words Of Commendation
II. v. 14-16 WORDS OF CONFRONTATION
When the Savior looks at this church, He finds some things that please Him; but not everything is to His liking. Having offered them some Words of Commendation, He now gives them some Words of Confrontation.
A. v. 14-15 He Confronts The Compromise In The Church – The name Pergamos means “married”. As we look at what Jesus points out about this church we are given a glimpse of a church that has fallen into a state of compromise with the world. This church has held onto pure doctrine with one hand and with the other, they have embraced the world. They are literally in an unequal yoke with unbelievers and Jesus confronts them about it in these verses. Here is what He says is wrong with this church.
1. v. 14 There Is Corruption In The Membership – He tells them that some of their number “hold the doctrine of Balaam”. Balaam is one of the strangest characters on the pages of the Bible. He is an enigma, a real mystery. On the one hand, he was a man intimately acquainted with God. He knew about God, about God’s character and he even talked with God. On the other hand, he was motivated by greed and he was guilty of leading the people of God into immorality and idolatry. His story can be found in Numbers 22-25.
The church at Pergamos was tolerating people in their midst who claimed to be Christians, but who lived like the world around them. Some of their membership were living immoral lives and participating in pagan worship. Jesus is not at all pleased with these things.
2. v. 15 There Is Confusion In The Leadership – Others there held “the doctrine of the Nicolaitans”. As we discovered back in Rev. 2:6, the word “Nicolaitans” means “to conquer the people” and probably refers to a priestly class that had developed within the church. What was merely “deeds” in verse 6 has become a “doctrine” in verse 15. It had started out with the leadership in the church elevating themselves above everyone else and it has turned into a doctrine in that fellowship.
B. v. 16 He Confronts The Consequences For The Church – He tells them to “repent”. This word means “to change the mind.” Repentance is really “a change of mind that results in a change of direction.” If they refuse to repent and deal with the corruption and confusion in their midst, He is going to come to His church and fight against those who trouble it. Notice the change of pronouns in verse 16: “thee” to “them”. The Lord knows who belongs to Him and who doesn’t. He will come to His church and afflict those who are not really His people, but who would bring trouble into the church. Those who will not repent are going to have to face the Lord in judgment.
I. He Comes With Words Of Commendation
II. He Comes With Words Of Confrontation
III. v. 17 WORDS OF CONSOLATION
The Lord makes some precious promises to the overcomers in the church. Those who walk with Him in spite of the dangers and defections can expect some precious things from His hand.
A. He Promises Special Provisions – He promises them “hidden manna”. In the Old Testament, when the children of Israel wandered through the wilderness, God fed them by sending Manna down from Heaven. Some of this Manna was gathered and kept in a golden pot in the Ark of the Covenant. Ancient Jewish tradition says that when Israel was taken into captivity by the Babylonians Jeremiah hid this pot of Manna, and when Messiah returns, He will feed the people of Israel again. This Manna is a picture of God’s precious promise to feed His children. The world and those in it have to search for ever deepening experiences. They go to the table of sin and eat their fill. The true saint of God is content to be alone with His Lord in His tabernacle, feeding on His Word and His presence, Psa. 27:1-5. He promises His people a place of escape and refreshment, even during the most difficult of times.
B. He Promises Special Privileges – Not only will He provide for the overcomers, He will grant them some special privileges not enjoyed by others.
1. A New Degree – “a white stone” – The Lord promises to give His faithful ones a white stone. This does not mean much to us, but it held special meaning to the people of that day. There are several possible meanings attached to the white stone. I want to point out a few that speak to us.
· White and black stones were used to indicate judgment in ancient courts of law. When a judge rendered his verdict, he would place a stone in a container and at the appropriate time, he would roll the stone out, thus rendering his judgment. A black stone indicated a judgment of guilt, while a white stone indicated a judgment of innocence.
Jesus is telling these people that they might be blackballed by the world, but they were innocent in His eyes. He had taken all the black stones that were against them and He had washed them white in His blood.
· White stones were used to signify citizenship. A white stone was often given to people who had proven their allegiance to the city. Jesus honors those who live for Him.
· White stones were used as a symbol of victory. They were given to those who had won a victory in one of the ancient games. These white stones were called “tessera” and they allowed the owner free access to all public entertainment. Jesus allows His victors access to the glories of His heaven!
· A courageous gladiator would be given a white stone with the initials “S.P.” on it. This stood for “spectatus”, and meant that “his valor had been proven beyond all doubt.” So, Jesus promises to honor those who take a stand for Him!
· White stones were a symbol of friendship. Often two friends would take a white stone, break it in half and write the other friends name on their half. When they met, even after many years, they could place the halves of their stones together, signifying their lasting relationship.
· White stones were used to gain access. When a wealthy person would throw a party, they sometimes gave their invited guests a white stone. When it came time for the celebration, the person who presented a white stone was granted access to the banquet. Jesus allows His people access to the greatest banquet of all times: the marriage supper of the Lamb, Rev. 19!
2. A New Designation – Jesus promised His overcomers that their white stone would contain “a new name which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” This is a promise of intimacy. It was customary in that day for guests at a dinner to have a white stone placed at their seat. When they were seated, they could look at the stone and underneath would be a private message from the host. It was a way for the host to share an intimate thought with each guest. Jesus promises those who are faithful to Him that He will reveal Him self to them in a personal, intimate way.
Victory Baptist Church 03 April 2019 victorypalmetto.com