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Pergamum & Compromise

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Rev 2: 12-17 Pergamum and Compromise

Maranatha Baptist Church. July 31, 2005

What exactly is this weekend. On your calendars, Monday is most commonly declared as a civil holiday. The more commonly-understood definition is that the civic holiday is an annual holiday, celebrated on the first Monday of August in most Canadian provinces.

However, its legal status and name is far from uniform nationwide. Two provinces and one territory do not recognize it at all, and five other provinces do not oblige employers to offer holiday pay on this day. This leaves only three provinces and two territories where the first Monday in August is a full statutory holiday and employers are obliged to pay their employees holiday pay.

Jurisdictions which have a statutory holiday on the first Monday of August

British Columbia (British Columbia Day) New Brunswick (New Brunswick Day) Northwest Territories (Civic Holiday) Nunavut (Civic Holiday) Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan Day)

Jurisdictions which have a civic holiday on the first Monday of August

Alberta (Heritage Day) Manitoba (Civic Holiday) Nova Scotia (Natal Day) Prince Edward Island (Natal Day) Ontario (Simcoe Day)

Some Ontarian municipalities have a different name for the holiday. From a legal standpoint, a civic holiday is usually defined as any holiday which is legally recognized but where the employer is not obliged to offer holiday pay.

1982 - The City of Brantford adopted a policy that stated that the civic holiday be named "Founders' Day". Each year, the Brantford Heritage Committee submits a report to City Council with the name or organization that is to be recognized on that day.

Jurisdictions which have no holiday on the first Monday of August

Newfoundland and Labrador (celebrates Discovery Day on June 24) Quebec (celebrates St. Jean Baptiste Day on June 24) Yukon (celebrates Discovery Day later in August).

Regardless of what this weekend is called, for many it is a time of excess, and the pressesure is on people to indulge likewise.

This entire month does have a special meaning. The Term “August” means Regal, majestic, imposing, grandiose, and is named after the Roman leadership.

In Rev. 2, the Church at Pergamum was dealing with the August Roman leadership. The problem of the Roman Empire was the problem of unification. The empire stretched from the river Euphrates to the shores of the Irish sea: from Germany to North Africa, from Spain to Egypt. Here were all kinds of peoples, and languages, and faiths, and traditions. How could they be welded into a unity? How could the consciousness of one empire be brought into the lives of such diverse peoples?

There is no unifying force like the force of a common religion; and Caesar worship lay ready at hand

On a certain day in the year every Roman citizen had to come to the Temple of Caesar and had to burn a pinch of incense there, and say: “Caesar is Lord.” When he had done that, he was given a certificate to guarantee that he had done so. After a man had burned his pinch of incense and had acknowledged Caesar as Lord, he could go away and worship any god he liked, so long as the worship did not affect public decency and order.

 This of course was a great problem for the Christians, who believed that only Jesus is Lord. It lead to great pressure to compromise.

For us here today the pressure is great as well. Society tells us that we must live in harmony with other faiths and any exclusive claim to absolute truth is arrogant. People are allowed to have private beliefs and as in Pergamum we can go away and worship any god we like, so long as the worship did not affect public decency and order.

 

The message to the Church at Pergamum and the message to us is that Jesus knows our situation and gives us guidance in the Comment about the Church 2: 12, Commendation of the church. 2:13, Complaint of the Church 2:14, Call to repentance. 2:16,The command to hear and the promise to the overcomer. 2:17.

 

1)     Comment about the Church 2: 12

Rev 2:12  "And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: 'The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.

 

the angels. The word lit. means “messenger.” Although it can mean angel—and does throughout the book—it cannot refer to angels here because angels are never leaders in the church. Most likely, these messengers are the 7 key elders representing each of those churches

 

Pergamos (means high tower or thoroughly married.) was the church of worldly alliance.

(modern Bergama), the capital city of the province of Asia

  • It was located about 55 miles northeast of Ephesus.

The Kingdom of Pergamum became a Roman province b.c. 130.

  • It was at Pergamos that parchment was first used as a writing material and here that the Attalid kings built a magnificent library of 200,000 volumes.
    • The word parchment, made from the hides of sheep, derived its name from Pergamos.

·        remarkable for its learning, refinement, and science, especially medicine

It was a rival of Ephesus in the temples to Zeus, Athena, Dionysos, in the great grove Nicephorium (the glory of the city).

Next to this was the grove and temple of Asklepios, the god of healing, called the god of Pergamum, with a university for medical study.

·        Thousands of harmless snakes inhabited the area around the temple. From the ends of the empire, people came to seek healing in this temple.

o       The caduceus, the twisted serpent symbol that represents the medical profession, comes from Greek mythology and represents the god Asclepius. In a temple dedicated to him, there was a school of medicine where nonpoisonous snakes crawled all over the floor. The ill would lay on the floor so the snakes could crawl on them. Wherever the snakes touched them, they would supposedly be healed.

 

Application:

  • Where is it in Canada that we put or faith. How may see Faith in Medicine as the saviour and god of this country. It is the aspect of healing that most false teachers appeal to the inner idolatry of people.

The message to Pergamum and the message to us is from Him who has:

 

The sharp two- edged sword:

 

Please turn back to Hebrews 4:12

 

The imagery depicted here is important. This is a royal contrast from the Roman worship. Specifically we see it starting in Heb. 4:12 with the word of God. Bear in Mind that from John 1, Christ is described as the Logos or word.

 

Heb 4:12  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. Heb 4:13  And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Heb 4:14  Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Heb 4:15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Heb 4:16  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

(1.) The word of God is a sword; it is a weapon both offensive and defensive, it is, in the hand of God, able to slay both sin and sinners.

(2.) It is a sharp sword. No heart is so hard but it is able to cut it;

(3.) It is a sword with two edges; it turns and cuts every way. There is the edge of the law against the transgressors of that dispensation, and the edge of the gospel against the despisers of that dispensation; there is an edge to make a wound, and an edge to open a festered wound in order to its healing.

 

    • It has a penetrating power to convince and convert some (2:13, 17) and to convict and condemn others (2:14-16). The description recalls 1:16 and anticipates 2:16.

1)     Comment about the Church 2: 12

2)    Commendation of the church. 2:13.

Rev 2:13  "'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.

Keep your finger in Rev. 2 and please turn to Ps 139

He who yields the two-edged sword “knows”:

  • He knows: your problems with your spouse, kids, boss, co-workers, family and you life situation. Psa 139:1  To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. O LORD, you have searched me and known me! Psa 139:2  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. Psa 139:3  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Psa 139:4  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. Psa 139:5  You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Psa 139:6  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Psa 139:7  Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? Psa 139:8  If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! Psa 139:9  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Psa 139:10  even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. Psa 139:11  If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," Psa 139:12  even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.

In Rev. 2

He knows the situation is where Satan’s throne is

In an impious mimicry of God’s heavenly throne (4:2), Satan set up an earthly throne. Various gods were worshiped in Pergamos, such as Zeus and Asclepius; and emperor-worship was also prevalent.

 

Pergamum was the first city in Asia (a.d. 29) with a temple for the worship of Augustus (Octavius Caesar).

 

 

Yet

Yet” to indicate the contrast between their location and their faithful behavior.

Please turn to 1 Cor 12:3

Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith

present indicative verb: They hold fast to all that is

  • Hold: been still, and refrained
  • This church refused to say Kurios Kaisar (Martyrd. Polyarp. 8f.) and continued to say Kurios Iēsous (1Co_12:3). They stood true against the emperor-worship.

 1Co 12:3  Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit.

Back in Rev. 2:

Rev 2:13b you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

  • Do you see the reference to whom faith belongs:. It is His faith. He is the author and finisher of faith.
  • How many times have you heard some generic concept of faith, or faith being a personal matter? It is indeed exclusively personal, in that it belongs to Christ.

Antipas was my faithful witness/martyr—According to the context, Antipas (meaning “against all”) was martyred through the instigation of Satan. He may have been martyred for his refusal to say “Lord Caesar” instead of “Lord Christ,” as the citizens of Roman lands were required to do.

Right now around the world over 200 million are suffering for their faith in Jesus Christ. In Countries like, Vietnam, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, and countless other regions, Christians remain faithful witnesses for Christ. ON Sunday November 20th, the IDOP, we will examine the faithful witness of those in Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Somalia.

In Rev. 2 we have seen the: Comment about the Church 2: 122) Commendation of the church. 2:13.

 

3)      Complaint on the Church 2:14

Rev 2:14  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.

Please turn to Numbers 22:2

Although they were orthodox in their doctrine and faithful in their proclamation of the faith they were failing in their lifestyle

 

 

Num 22:2  And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.

Num 22:3  And Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were many. Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel. Num 22:4  And Moab said to the elders of Midian, "This horde will now lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field." So Balak the son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, Num 22:5  sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the people of Amaw, to call him, saying, "Behold, a people has come out of Egypt. They cover the face of the earth, and they are dwelling opposite me. Num 22:6  Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed."

Now over to Chapter 25

  • Balaam taught Balak (king of Moab) how to draw Israel away from their position of separation

Num 25:1  While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. Num 25:2  These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. Num 25:3  So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. Num 25:4  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." Num 25:5  And Moses said to the judges of Israel, "Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor."

Num 25:9  Nevertheless, those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand.

Finally,over to Chapter 31

This gives a summary of Balaam’s action:

Num 31:16  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.

 

  • Balaam’s counsel to Balak was to employ Moabite women to seduce the men of Israel culminated in disaster for God’s people. A sinister philosophy of sensuality and antinomianism (opposition to all law) was being propagated and tolerated at Pergamos.

 

Such is also the warning to us:

The doctrine of Balaam,” was to persuade God’s people that it was all right for them also to compromise Godly standards, even “to commit fornication” (Revelation 2:14) with their idol-worshipping enemies.

Rev. 2 also links the teaching of Balaam and that of the Nicolatanes. They are distinct, but they have the same disastrous results.

Rev 2:15  So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

Nicolaitans. Nicolas means “one who conquers the people.”

The word is formed from two Greek words, niko, conqueror or overcomer, and laos, the people

The Nicolaitans were a sect (sometimes associated with Nicolaus, one of the seven original deacons in the church in Jerusalem according to Acts 6:5) that apparently taught that Christians could engage in immoral behavior with impunity.

    • Irenaeus writes that Nicolas, who was made a deacon in Acts 6, was a false believer who later became apostate; but because of his credentials he was able to lead the church astray. And, like Balaam, he led the people into immorality and wickedness. The Nicolaitans, followers of Nicolas, were involved in immorality and assaulted the church with sensual temptations.
    • Clement of Alexander says, “They abandoned themselves to pleasure like goats, leading a life of self-indulgence.” Their teaching perverted grace and replaced liberty with license.

Therefore, Balaam showed the Midianite women how to lead the Israelites into sin by getting them to eat meat sacrificed to Baal-peor and engage in fornication associated with the worship of Baal-peor. Some of the Christians at Pergamos held to the doctrine of Balaam. They, like the Nicolaitans, adhered to a liberal interpretation of grace. They participated in the practices of the pagans with whom they lived—and subverted by that culture, they succumbed to worldliness.

Worldliness is not only doing what is forbidden but also wishing it were possible to do it. One of its distinctives is mental slavery to illegitimate pleasure. Worldliness twists values by rearranging their price tags. Erwin W. Lutzer (1941– )

Farewell, vain world;

My soul bids you adieu;

My Savior taught me

To abandon you.

Your charms may gratify

A sensual mind,

But cannot please

A soul for God designed.

David Brainerd (1718–1747)

How does this speak to us Today, what is reflected in the nature of our life:

  • If there is one thing that characterizes modern life it is one of sexuality. It is reflected in marketing, media and even common speech. It seems to be central to our culture. God is Jealous: he wants our thoughts, actions and affections*.
  • The message Balaam and that of the Nicolatanes speaks to where our idolatry is today.
  • In a like manner there is pressure to compromise and moderate our holiness. The most common slur against such is being puritanical. But it was the puritans who prized sole devotion to God and purity in worship and lifestyle.

 

In Rev. 2 we have seen the: Comment about the Church 2: 12 2) Commendation of the church. 2:13.3)Complaint on the Church 2:14

 

4) Call to repentance. 2:16.

Rev 2:16  Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.

One again: Although they were orthodox in their doctrine and faithful in their proclamation of the faith they were failing in their lifestyle

It was the lifestyle of only some, yet the whole church is called to repent.

  • Not only the followers of Balaam and the Nicolaitans, but all the church members are called on to change their ways because they did not hate such teaching and practices.
  • The church was called upon to exercise its discipline. The coming mentioned is a judicial visitation in speedy judgment according to the Word of God.
  •  

In Rev. 2 we have seen the: Comment about the Church 2: 12 2) Commendation of the church. 2:13.3)Complaint on the Church 2:14 4) Call to repentance. 2:16.and finally:

5) The command to hear and the promise to the overcomer. 2:17.

Rev 2:17  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.'

Please turn to John 6

17. Manna (lit., What is it?) in the Old Testament was not hidden. For 12,500 mornings the Lord rained this bread from heaven for His people. It was later preserved (cf. Ex 16:33; Heb 9:4).

Joh 6:44  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. Joh 6:45  It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me-- Joh 6:46  not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Joh 6:47  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. Joh 6:48  I am the bread of life. Joh 6:49  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. . Joh 6:50  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. Joh 6:51  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."

This is how the manna is hidden in Rev. 2

Notice Jn 6:44 (Explain highlighted concepts)

Concluding the second half of Rev. 2:17

·       The white stone speaks of the custom of casting such a stone into a voter’s urn with the name of a candidate, indicating the approval of the one who cast it. Special divine approval will be the portion of the godly nucleus in Pergamos.

·       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. This white stone is absolution from the guilt of sin, alluding to the ancient custom of giving a white stone to those acquitted on trial and a black stone to those condemned.

Rev 19:9  And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are the true words of God."

If we are not nourished by the Bread from heaven, we will satiate ourselves with crumbs from the world. Erwin W. Lutzer (1941– )

·       The new name is the name of adoption: adopted persons took the name of the family into which they were adopted.

Isa 56:5  I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

Those who enjoy eternal life are those who recognize that the way of Balaam and that of the Nicolatanes is death and futility, acknowledge that this is offensive to the creator of the universe and desire him above all else.

  • Those who do so are no longer under the grip of selfish destruction and can be assured of the adoption into the heavenly family.

Compromise on the eternal is death, but for those who overcome, we have God’s assurance and grace.

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