I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
We mentioned before that the book of Revelation is divided into three parts. This is seen in Revelation 1:19. John wrote as we was instructed by the Lord’s angel, Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. [Rev. 1:19 ] The first part of the book is in chapter 1, and concerned John’s vision of the resurrected Christ. The second part is in chapters 2and 3and concerns the letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor. This is the portion we are examining presently. Then, the largest portion of the book is found in chapters 4 – 22. It concerns the the things that will occur afterthe Church age. The largest part of the book is therefore yet future.
We have looked at the letter to the church at Ephesus, where even though the leadership was zealous for correct doctrine; they had left their first love. Jesus tells them to repentand do their first works. In other words, they were to return to that which had motivated them in the first place. Their love for the one who was the truth at one time motivated them to assemble a council to try those who claimed to be apostles, and were not. Now they had become the loveless church. It corresponds to the Apostolic church age; 30 – 100 A.D.
Secondly, we looked at the church in Smyrna, the persecuted church. Jesus had no words of correction or condemnation for this church that had already suffered so greatly. He only had words of comfort. He told them, Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.[Rev. 2:10NKJV] We looked last time at the ten periods of persecution that the first few centuries of believers faced. We know Christians in this present time continue to suffer and are being martyred for their faith. According to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith. David B. Barrett, Todd M. Johnson, and Peter F. Crossing in their 2009 report in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (Vol. 33, No. 1: 32) estimate that approximately 176,000 Christians will have been martyred from mid-2008 to mid-2009. We don’t often hear this, but it is the fact that multitudes of believers live with every day.
Today we turn to the church in Pergamos. To them John wrote, And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: 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. 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. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. 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.”
First, the time period of this church corresponds to the State Church period, approximately A.D. 300 – A.D. 500. This period in church history laid the groundwork for the Catholic system. The first clue as to the significance of this particular church and letter is in the meaning of the name. Pergamos means, “High tower, or thoroughly married.” This was a perverted marriage. A marriage between church and state, or the world system. To illustrate this perverted marriage in Pergamos, John refers to Baalam, the Old Testament prophet for hire. He had been hired by the enemy king to find a way to conquer Israel. Baalam advised the king that God would support Israel as long as they were faithful to Him. So to conquer them, he had to lead them to unfaithfulness and God would turn His hand against them. In other words, he instructed Balac to place a stumbling block before the children of Israel.
This Old Testament account was characteristic of what was going on in Pergamos: the Church was beginning to marry the world.The Church during this period of time began to act, think, and do business as the world. The period of A.D. 300 – A.D. 500 saw the birth of the hierarchical system in the Church, and the teaching of the separation between clergy and laity. During this period of time the Church began to hire clergy to do the “work of the ministry”, and the clergy eventually began to rule over the laity, which is where the second part of Jesus’ condemnation of this particular church comes in. He said, Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.We covered this with the church at Ephesus, but this was a sect that had arisen in the first century. The word Nicolaitians is a compound Greek word that basically means, “To conquer the people.” This time period again laid the groundwork for the Roman Catholic hierarchical system. The deeds of the Nicolaitians had become doctrine in this church.
Notice verse 13, I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. [Rev. 2:13 KJV] History records that the center for false religion was moved from Babylonia to Pergamos. In fact, on the Acropolis in Pergamos was a huge, throne-shaped altar to Zeus. In addition, Asklepios, the god of healing, was the god most associated with Pergamos. His snake-like form is still the medical symbol today. There was a famous medical school connected to his temple where they mingled medicine with superstition. One prescription called for the worshiper to sleep on the temple floor, allowing snakes to crawl over his body and infuse him with their healing power. In the spirit realm Satan himself had set up his throne there.
John mentions, “Antipas..my faithful martyr..”. Antipas is a pretty much unknown first century believer who became known for his martyrdom. There is a book known as, “The Acts of Antipas” which makes him the bishop of Pergamos and states that he was put to death by being enclosed in a burning brazen bull.
I want to back up just a moment and comment once again on the doctrinal pollution that had crept into this church, and apparently been allowed to remain. Our Lord expects us not to embrace false doctrine, but rather to expose and expunge it from our midst. What did Jesus prescribe as the remedy for this church that been so affected by the evil and error surrounding it? He said, Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. To “repent” is to remember, return, and reverse your course. If they failed to do this Jesus aid He would, fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
This speaks of the Word of God. The sword is the only offensive part of the armor of God as listed in Ephesians 6. It judges false doctrine. It is the only defense against it. The “sword” needs to wielded in the pulpit as it once was. It is the only thing that can deal with the invasion of erroneous teaching into the Church.
Look at the promise to the overcomers in this church. John writes, He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. This verse is pregnant with meaning that we dare not miss.
First, the promise once again to the “overcomer.” Who qualifies to be an, “overcomer”? The Word says, Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? [1 John 5:5 NKJV] Next John mentions the, “hidden manna.” Just as Israel received manna in the wilderness, God promises to give the true believer the spiritual bread the unbelieving world cannot see, Jesus Christ. [John 6:51]
What about the, “White stone?” When an athlete won in the games, he was often given, as part of his prize, a white stone which was an admission pass to the winner’s celebration afterwards. This may picture the moment when the overcomer will receive his ticket to the eternal victory celebration in heaven.
The “new name” is a personal message from Christ to the ones He loves, which serves as their admission pass into eternal glory. It is so personal that only the person who receives it knows what it is.
Again, the promise to the overcomer, glorious though it is, is an appendage after the closing catchphrase.
Next time, we will pick up with the letter to the church at Thyatira.
The Weekly Word is found in Revelation 2:18 – 29. Here the Bible says,
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: I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. 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. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 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. 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. But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations― 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; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. [Rev. 2:18 – 29 NKJV]
Until next time, this is the WEEKLY WORD.
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson