Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 15 What will Jesus say about our church? . Pergamum - The compromising church

. Pergamum - The compromising church

WHAT WILL JESUS SAY ABOUT OUR CHURCH?

PERGAMUM - THE COMPROMISING CHURCH

Introduction

We are busy with an exciting series where we see Christ revealed in all His glory in chapter 1 of Revelation, then we see Him applied in chapter 2 & 3 to the 7 churches of Asia. After that it is our joy to see His glory, and the revelation of Him applied to the churches of all ages.

To Ephesus He was the one walking amongst His golden lampstands and who holds the stars in His right hand. He knows their deeds. He knows that they have departed from their first love. To the church in Smyrna He is the First and the Last who knows their suffering and He is there for them.

Today we march on and we look at the church of Pergamum. Like Ephesus this church is commended, but also condemned. Let’s read all about it:

Revelation 2:12-17 (ESV) 12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. 13 “ ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war 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 the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’


Introduction.


Pergamum is located 96 km north of Smyrna and 16 km inland from the Aegean Sea. The modern city is called Bergama. It was by far the most distinguished city in Asia. Politically it served as the proconsular capital of Asia. It housed a 200,000-volume library. So, it was a city of great intellect.  The great altar of Zeus was in Pergamum which gave it religious importance. It was also the centre of the God of healing called Asclepios.

We will now see Revelation 1:16 (ESV) 16 … from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword…” applied to this church.  The mouth of Christ is the final authority for this church, as the church does not belong to it’s leaders who are only His messengers, and it also does not belong to it’s members. The double-edged sword comes from the mouth of Christ, but we also know it is the sword of the Spirit according to Ephesians 6:17. We also read about it in Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Fitting with our theme: “what will Jesus say about our church?” brings us then to what Christ will say about Pergamum.

 

1. We see His commendation.


Remember to Ephesus He said that He knows their deeds, to Smyrna He said He knows their suffering and now He says that He knows where they live. 13 “ ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is.”

Now we know from the book of John that Satan is the prince of this world. And then we also know from 2 Corinthians 4:4 (ESV) that he is the god of this world who keeps the minds of unbelievers blinded 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” In Asia we see the synagogue of Satan in Smyrna and Philadelphia, in Thyatira we see a school of Satan, but symbolically His throne is in Pergamum. Pagan idolatry was high on the list in Pergamum with the worship of Caesar, Zeus and Asclepios.

Christ knows the temptation they faced, He knows the peer pressure they were under, He knows the Satanic influence in society. But He commends this church by saying: “Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.”

They held to their faith in Christ no matter the cost. Antipas died for his faith. All because he would not acknowledge that Caesar is Lord He was slowly roasted to death in a brazen bull. Satan is a murderer, and whatever he offers man, is always towards ultimate destruction. Remember that Satan always tempts us through our senses based on our desires, and he tempts us where we are weak. Now, notice what Antipas is called. He is called ‘my faithful witness’.  Who else is called the Faithful witness? Look at Revelation 1:5 (ESV)5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness.” Oh, that we will be identified with Christ as faithful witnesses, no matter the peer pressure at school, varsity or work, no matter the social influences of society, no matter the indoctrination of social media, TV and secular thought, no matter the pressure of government and commissions to be politically correct. Christ seeks a church of faithful witnesses who will be faithful whatever the cost.

 

2. We see His condemnation.


14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.


2.1 They followed the error of Balaam.


If you want to know all about Balaam, you simply need to read Numbers 22-25. Balaam had a problem. Balaam wanted to be true to God’s Word, but he wanted to be popular amongst man at the same time. On a few occasions he tried to curse Israel on behalf of King Balak, but even Balak had a good understanding of Balaam’s problem. Numbers 24:11 (ESV) 11 Therefore now flee to your own place. I said, ‘I will certainly honour you,’ but the Lord has held you back from honour.” Although Balaam was true to delivering God’s message personally, he was guilty of instructing King Balak on how to cause the Jews to bring a curse upon themselves. Numbers 31:16 (ESV) 16 Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord.”

Let me share some texts that helps us understand the Balaam error better. By the way, the inclusion of the word “sexual immorality” in verse 14 is not beneficial because it is spiritual harlotry with foreign gods that is in mind here. Most translations simply use the word “immorality”. The Greek word is porneu/sai which is to practice prostitution or in this case spiritual prostitution which I will show you soon.

 

Jude refers to Balaam’s error in Jude 10-11 (ESV) 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion.”

 

Peter refers to Balaam’s error in 2 Peter 2:15-16 (ESV) 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.”

Let’s go back to Numbers and see His sin highlighted. We see it in Numbers 25:1-5 (ESV) 1 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore (prostituted themselves or committed harlotry) with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. 4 And the Lord said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them in the sun before the Lord, that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.” 5 And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.

What Balaam caused was for Israel to become an adulteress nation who yoked themselves to foreign gods. They no longer loved God but bowed to Baal.

Most probably what is in mind in Revelation with the church of Pergamum is that those who followed the error of Baal were preaching God’s word on the one side but on the other side for popularity sake, or for financial gain were against the body of believers they were associated with and told the Romans how to break down the Christian resistance to emperor worship. People like this still exists today who on the one hand speak for God, but inwardly selfishness draws them away from God towards the fleeting honour and pleasure promised by the world, and they encourage the church to follow suite.

 

2.2  They followed the ways of the Nicolaitans.

 

15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.


We saw this with the church of Ephesus, where I mentioned that the basic error of the Nicolaitans was that they taught the human body was evil and that only the spirit was good. Therefore, if you came to Christ, nothing in the flesh changed. A Christian could therefore do just what he wanted to do. This is contrary to the teaching of 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Together with the Balaamites (to coin a new word), they corrupted the church.

 

3. Three-fold survival plan.

3.1 Repent


16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.

Christ will confront the ways of Balaam and the ways of the Nicolaitans. But He does not write His church or His people off. He simply says: “repent”. The Greek word is  metanoeo {met-an-o-eh'-o} which is to change one's mind, or to turn away. And this case it is to turn away from ungodly living and ungodly worship. James summarizes it well in James 4:4 (ESV) 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James uses the term adulterous metaphorically in a way that his Jewish readers would understand. He is not talking about sexual but spiritual infidelity. In the same way God does time and again with Israel in the Old Testament. James is talking about those who have attached themselves to the church, but their primarily love is not God, but the world.

And this is what some people in the church in Pergamum have to repent of, otherwise Christ will come with the sword in His mouth to deal with them. They had to decide whether their personal intimacy lies with God or the world, otherwise Christ will use His Word like a giant scalpel to cut out the spiritual cancer in the church.  But listen, God’s mercy prevails when we fail, and God’s righteousness prevails when we disobey.

 

3.2 Listen carefully.


17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.


They have the joy of responding freely at this moment to the Word of God, before His Word become a sword of destruction.

 

3.3 Conquer or overcome.


Christian, there is victory if we so choose it, and that victory is in Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57 (ESV) 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is a recurring theme to the 7 churches; ‘overcome, overcome and overcome’.  Why should they? Well there is a reward.

 

Firstly, there is the gift of hidden manna.

 

“To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna,”


God promised Israel manna in the wilderness, but due to the scheming of Balaam, they preferred food sacrificed to idols. That error is avoided in the church when we realise that we feed on the Word of God alone, and we preach the whole Word, and nothing but the Word. Hidden manna refers to God’s presently hidden provision for all our needs in eternity come.

 

Secondly, conquerors will receive a white stone with a new name.

 

“…and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’”


White seems to be heaven’s colour denoted after the righteousness of Christ. We see in heaven white garments, white robes, white linen and the great white throne.

This is symbolism and most probably refers to a new name unique to the redeemed person. The term new here in the Greek means new in quality. It refers to the unique, new character of the one belonging to heaven. On earth we are a new creation as the old things have passed away, no matter what the Nicolaitans say. And in spite of what the Balaamites say there is a reward for being faithful to God’s Word, and to abstain from spiritual harlotry, as the true bride of Christ, the ones who Loved Him will in eternity have all things made new. They will have a new name, they will sing a new song and they will live in the New Jerusalem.

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church – 17 June 2018