To Compromise or Not to Compromise
To Compromise or Not to Compromise Revelation 2:12-17 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 do 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 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." I would like to start out with a quote from Amir Tsarfati found in his book The Last Hour. "Bible prophecy is not written to scare us. It is written to prepare us. God's Word reveals these future events to assure us that He is in control even when the world appears to be out of control." As you ready yourself through studying God's Word in anticipation of Christ's return to take us home with Him, you will soon discover the joy and wonderful peace that come from trusting completely in a God who loves you and who is going to accomplish His perfect will in your life and in this world. This letter to the church of Pergamos is the third of seven to the churches. This particular letter to Pergamos is dealing with an issue that is rampant in the church even today, so we must take heed. In reality, each of the seven letters deals with issues that churches face currently; therefore, we are no different than the churches of that era. Just a little history about Pergamos. It had been the capital city of the region for more than 300 years, and was noted for its culture and education while hosting one of the greatest libraries of the ancient world, with more than 200,000 volumes. Pergamos was also a very religious city, hosting temples to the Roman gods of Dionysus, Athena, Demeter, and Zeus. It also had three temples which were dedicated to the worship of the Roman Emperor. Pergamos was also known as a center for the worship of a deity known as Asclepios. This deity was represented by a serpent who supposedly had healing and knowledge; so, there was a medical school in that particular temple. People from all over the Roman Empire would flock to Pergamos just to go to that temple seeking relief. (V. 12) Jesus begins His letter to Pergamos by stating that "He has a sharp two-edged sword: meaning He would be confronting this church with His word and that they would be feeling the sharp edges of it. We must remember that God's word is powerful, Hebrews 4:12. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. This very same word that was given to Pergamos is needed for the church today. Which is why I have titled this message "To Compromise or not to Compromise." Before I continue, we must come to an understanding of what is the church. Many have a misconception that the church is some physical structure that one can go to and enter in. As believers, because of Christ's atoning sacrifice through His death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, we have all received the gift of the Holy Spirit who has come to reside in each one of us. This makes each believer an individual temple of God. Therefore, we are part of His body and church, we are the church, not some building. This letter to Pergamos should be taken to heart by each believing individual as well as the corporate body of Christ. (V. 13) Jesus praised the church in Pergamos for holding fast to His name not denying their faith even as one of their own, Antipas, was martyred. He also points out that He is well aware of Satan's throne there in their city. Because of all the temples dedicated to the different Roman deities, Satan had a stronghold there. For those of us living here in Reno Nevada there are many similarities to Pergamos. However, in reality, regardless of where one might reside, it's a challenge to live for Christ and hold fast to faith in Him because of the pressing world-view. Yet, it can be done! However, it's important to make sure that the faith which we hold on to is indeed a faith that is in Christ alone! Who was this Antipas that Jesus mentions? He is not found anywhere else in the Word of God, just here. In the worlds eye he was a nobody, yet in the eye of Christ this man who was insignificant in the world held a special place, so much so that Jesus called him "A faithful martyr". You see nobody who does the work of Christ is insignificant. Antipas was one who would not compromise his calling in Christ and so he stood up against all that Pergamos represented in the world and paid for it with his life. He would not and did not deny his faith, can the same be said of us? (V. 14-15) Jesus informs the church of Pergamos what He has against them. Who was this Balaam that Jesus referred to in regards to stumbling blocks? We need to go back into the Old Testament book of Numbers 22-24 and 31 to refresh ourselves on who and what Balaam did that did not please God, and affected the people of Israel. Balaam was the son of Beor and not an Israelite, however, he was a prophet, and not a false one. Balaam was known for his gift of prophecy and was often asked by kings of that time to pronounce maledictions upon their foes, this is why Balak the king of Moab reached out to Balaam to put a curse on the people of Israel. So, Balaam was sort of a hired gun as a prophet. To give Balaam credit he did not immediately agree to doing this without seeking God first, which he did and was told by God not to curse Israel. Eventually Balaam relented to go and meet with Balak. He did not curse the children of Israel. Instead, he taught Balak how-to put-up stumbling blocks that would cause them to compromise their walk with God. These stumbling blocks were connected with idolatry (to eat things sacrificed to idols) and sexual immorality. The church in Pergamos had people in it who had tendencies toward both idolatry and sexual immorality, all this led to compromise. At that time the Roman Empire culture was saturated with sexual immorality, it was very common place so much so that any who lived by Biblical standards was considered very strange. This is what the Roman statesman Cicero had to say regarding the Roman lifestyle (paraphrased); "If there is anyone who thinks that young men should not be allowed the love of many women, he is extremely severe. I am not able to deny the principle he stands on. But he contradicts, not only with the freedom our age allows, but also with the customs and allowances of our ancestors. When indeed was this not done? When did anyone find fault with it? When was such permission denied? When was it that what is now allowed was not allowed?" So, to keep from sexual immorality in that culture, you really had to swim against the current. Doesn't that sound so much like how we are during this current age? Jesus also mentioned that they were holding to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. Their doctrine has the idea of a proud authority and a hierarchical separatism. The name Nikao-laos literally means to "conquer the people", this is certainly not a teaching of Jesus and yet it pervaded the church. Jesus' rebuke was not only to those who held to the above-mentioned practices, it was also given to those who may not have practiced it but tolerated it in the church. As the church we cannot and should not turn a blind eye to anything that is not of God especially within the church (the body of Christ). Yes, there were those who were holding fast to the faith, not compromising their own walk, yet turning a blind eye to those who were and allowing it into the church. Doing this will allow Satan a foot-hold. Satan couldn't accomplish much in the church there through persecution so he tried to accomplish it through using deception; and that deception was having an alliance with the world-view at that time. Church, this ought not to be the case! We are not to align ourselves with the world-view regardless of the situation. We are to stand on God's Word alone! (V.16) Jesus instructs the church what needs to be done; repent! This single command stands out in 5 of the seven letters to the churches. However, we must bear this in mind; repentance applies to all Christians, not only for those who have just come to a relationship with Jesus. The unrepentant will have to face Jesus wielding the two-edged sword. 1 Peter 4:17, "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (V.17) The general exhortation is given to all who will hear. As believers in the church today we must understand that the danger of false teaching and immoral conduct is still alive and rampant today as it was when John penned his seven letters. That means we today face the same danger of allowing false teaching and immorality to creep into the church as Pergamos did. We need to be alert and diligent to not allow this to happen. We need to be overcomers to this spirit of the accommodation of false teaching, and as we are we will be given the hidden manna promised by Jesus. This is God's perfect provision, the true bread from heaven as revealed in John 6:41. The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." That manna is spiritual food given directly to us from our Father in heaven. We will also be given a white stone. In the ancient world the white stone had many associations. It could be used to allow entry into a banquet, like a ticket. It was used as a sign of friendship, evidence of having been counted, or as a sign of being acquitted in a court of law. Any one of these or all of them could be what Jesus was referring to when promising the white stone, but at the very least we know that it gives us the assurance of His blessing. The third thing promised is a new name written on the stone; a name that would be known only to the one it was given. This implies a close personal intimate relationship that one would have with God. And, it also assures believers of their heavenly destination. Our new name is there, waiting for us. It's like as if your "reservation" in heaven is made.