Posted by: Brad Beaman | April 10, 2008

Standing for Christ in a fallen World

                                                           

Message to the Church in Pergamum, Revelation 2:12-17

Pergamum is the third church of the seven churches in Christ’s messages to the churches that John saw in his revelation while on the Island of Patmos.

We find that Jesus Christ walks among the churches. He observes and evaluates the churches. Each church is different. Jesus commends the churches for their strengths and He calls them to repentance in their failures. He also calls every church to be overcomers.

John’s Vision of the Risen Christ, it is hardly like the pictures we normally see of Jesus. In Revelation Chapter 1 there is a dramatic description of Jesus. In the message to each church a different aspect of Jesus is depicted. Here to the church of Pergamum there is a two edge sword protruding from the mouth of Jesus.

Pergamum was a great city and served as a political capital of the Greek empire and it was a center of learning. It was also the headquarters of the Roman proconsul who yielded the authority to administer the death penalty. The power of the death penalty was symbolically represented by the sword.

Jesus is portrayed to the Church at Pergamum as the one with the sharp double-edge sword.

Revelation 1:16
In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

Revelations 2:12
“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
  These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.

Jesus possesses the ultimate power over death.Now, at these words of Jesus spoken to John in his vision all the believers in Pergamum who have been wounded by the Roman sword and by their power to pronounce the death sentence (as they did to Antipus) know this.

Standing against the Outside pressures

Jesus speaks some words of tribute for the church in Pergamum.

Revelations 2:13
I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.

Like the church in Smyrna this band of believers at Pergamum faced tremendous pressure from those outside the church. Intimidation was used to hinder these Christians. Yet they remained true they did not renounce their faith in Jesus.

Ultimately Satan is behind the persecution in the form of the Roman sword, the death penalty and the martyrdom of Antipas. Satan can use the evil forces of the world to intimidate and persecute the church. The threat of the sword did not derail the church at Pergamum.

Antipas was Martyred. The name Antipas means against all.

Anti – against
Pas- all

Living is a corrupt society you might feel like an Antipas. Everything seems to be contrary to the way of following Christ. Television is offensive. People at work act immorally. Community leaders bend to pressure. You may even find yourself opposing some Christians living in the world’s system.

Antipus was standing where Satan has his throne and he was opposing everybody. The story surrounding Antipas says that he was the Pastor at Pergamum. One day he was brought before an image of Caesar and told to confess that Caesar was God. When he refused, the Roman official said, “Antipas, don’t you know that the whole world is against you?” He replied, “Then Antipas is against the whole world!”

Jesus commends this church. They honored the Lord even when the pressure came on them. Antipas died for his faith.

Temptation to compromise from within

We do not have the luxury of fighting spiritual warfare on just one front. The believers at Pergamum withstood persecution. Then they got blind sided by compromise from within.

Revelation 2:14-15
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

What Satan could not accomplish at Pergamum through outward pressure and intimidation on the outside he achieved from within. False teaching infiltrated their ranks from within. The Christians at the church at Pergamum compromised.

There is al Old Testament story that that explains what happened at the church at Pergamum. It is the story of Balaam found in Numbers chapters 22-25.

The Israelites had just destroyed the Amorites. Balak the King of Moab feared Israel and entices Balaam to curse the Israelites. Balaam is a religious man. At night God sploke to Balaam and said do not curse these people because they are blessed so Balaam refused. But again Balak sent a delegation this time more numerous and more distinguished to convince Balaam to curse Israel. This time Balaam went with them.

So Balaam is going with them and on the way his donkey sees the “Angel of the Lord with a drawn Sword.” The donkey keeps going off the road and then the donkey starts talking. Balaam does not know what is going on.

Then Balaam sees the angel of the Lord with Sword, refuses to curse Israel. He knows no curse should come on these people, they are blessed. But Balak came to Balaam time after time trying to get Balaam to do what he knew was not right.

With Balak’s persistence to pressure Balaam to do the wrong thing Balaam eventually caved in. Numbers 31:16 Balaam taught Balak how to lure them to sin, allow the Israelites to destroy themselves. In the end Balaam loved the wages of wickedness and acted wrongly. Balaam talked righteous talk but he did not stay the course.

2 Peter 2:15
They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness.

Jude 11
Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

Revelations 2:14
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.

Revelations 2:15
Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

These Christians at Pergamum were enticed from within to accept standards that contradicted the Gospel. These were worldly standards in their midst that urged them to follow their sinful desires of the flesh.

Do you see the irony? The World was trying to put outside pressure on them to compromise their faith. They stood and even were martyred. Then they compromise from within.

We have the difficult task to love the lost with their unholy moral standards. We love and accept those who fall yet at the same time we are to stand firm for moral purity. To keep pure the church that Jesus died for!

The believers at the first century church of Pergamum failed at this. They allowed heretics to infiltrate their church. They compromised from within.

A call to Repent

Revelations 2:16
Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

The world’s practices crept in among them and Jesus calls them to serious action. Jesus calls the whole church to repent. Those heretical members who were enticing the church to sin must repent, but not just them. The whole church is called to repent for allowing God’s holy place to become a house of compromise

What is the alternative to repenting? Yes, there is an alternative. Here is the imagery of the Sword again. Jesus says, I will soon come against you and fight you with the Sword of my mouth.

The Sword of the Spirit will set you free when the truth transforms your life. This same sword will fight against you when you choose the worlds standards. The sword of the truth becomes a sword of judgment to the immoral. God’s Word will judge the disobedient Christian.

Reward for the Overcomer

There is a promised blessing for the church or the individual that can withstand both the inward and the outward pressure.

Revelations 2:17
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. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

For those who refused to eat the choice food of the pagan banquets, there was something better, hidden manna of God. It is a reminder of God’s grace. It is a reminder of Gods faithfulness. Jesus food was to do the will of the Father.

The white stone with new name represents Spiritual triumph. The new name is associated with character. Saul’s name was changed to Paul. Simon’s name was changed to Peter.

One summer during college I worked at King’s Dominion amusement park. It was a theme park and I was assigned to the “lost world”. When I told someone how I spent my summer I told them I spent it working in the lost world. Their response was, “don’t we all?”
There is a sense we are all like the Church at Pergamum living where Satan has his throne. We are all in this fallen world where Satan has his throne. Where you are Jesus might say is where Satan has his throne. We can shine, overcome. You must Stand for Christ in this fallen world.

Resist the outward pressures without compromise from within. Jesus promises wonderful blessing for faithful overcomers.

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Responses

  1. Wow – – great thoughts!

    Thanks for sharing –

    -cs
    http://chrisschellenberg.com/

  2. prav for me


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