We have talked about…
– Ephesus the letter to relationship over religion, devotion over doctrine (you need both but one is not good without the other)
– Sardis the persecuted church who is overcoming always and doesn’t always realize it, who stood against Satan and now on to Pergamum.
Sit and talk….
We need to realize each of these letters was written to a real church that Jesus loved….who knew the battle they were in and knew the way out…he had to speak what seems like harshly at times because he loves much like a mother yelling at a child grabbing for a steaming hot pot….he always gives a word of encouragement in one way or another…we need to realize the church in America is in a bad place, in many ways we don’t even know it but until we see the sick instantly healed, the demonized immediately delivered, the ungodly and godly in awe of what the Lord is doing we aren’t there yet but he will not return until we get our act together because he is coming for a spotless bride
On to the teaching
Years ago people wore WWJD wrist bands, people had bumper stickers on their cars. It was a reminder that at times we are needing to reflect Jesus even more…Pergamum needed that reminder
The name of the city is interesting and ties in very well with the theme of the letter “Per” – means mixed or impure, as in something perverted and “gamum” means marriage. This is the city of the mixed, impure, perverted marriage.
When the city of Babylon was overrun the priest of Babylon who worshipped a snake god, escaped to the city of Pergamum. They established a temple there to the worship of this god and adapted for the Greeks called “Asclepius,” the god of healing. You have seen his symbol on a lot of hospitals and EMS facilities and doctors offices Asclepius, was symbolized by a snake on a pole. (I have a slide)
Does that sound familiar? It should if you have been reading through the Bible with me. It is taken from Numbers 21: 4-9 fiery serpents…Moses told by God to create a bronze snake then place it on a pole…it was still around in Hezekiah’s time and became an idol so he destroyed it. Jesus explained it’s purpose in his discussion with Nicodemus (John 3) saying like the pole I will be lifted up…snake representing sin, Jesus became sin for us on the cross.
Pergamum, also aligned itself with Rome early on when it saw the Greek empire collapsing, so it became a city famous for Caesar worship having three temples dedicated to Caesar, and it was also know as the birth place of Zeus and had one of the largest temples to Zeus in the world it was on a plateau 800 feet above sea level and was roughly 100’ x 100’. All of this is important in understanding this letter to Pergamum
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
We talked about this when we saw the description of Jesus in chapter one. Jesus is saying he is the one bringing the word and he is bringing it to Pergamum. It is what they need to overcome.
Remember Jesus is always about bring hope, love and His word divides the garbage we get hit with every day and the truth
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.
Notice Pergamum held fast His name, they maintained a visible ambassadorship of Christ, living Him before the people…Is this where Satan literally lived? Could be, remember Satan is not omnipresent like God. He is limited to one location at a time, that being said do you remember in the temptation of Jesus…
Luke 4: 5-8
Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. 7 I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” 8 Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say,‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”
WE know Satan to be the accuser of the Body, the deceiver, liar from the beginning, but he also had authority of certain areas Daniel 10, mentions of the demonic and the river Euprates. What we have just read would not have been a temptation for Jesus to bow and worship Satan had not Satan been given the authority, but this is part of what Jesus was purchasing on the cross…Pergamum had three altars to Caesar, the altar to Zeus, as well as the worship of Asclepius which came directly from Babylon, was here. These are demonic strongholds and very well could have been places where Satan literally lived
Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you
In part of that worship they had a bull made of bronze and sacrifices were made to it….they would place people bound inside the bull so their heads fit securely in the head of the bull then a fire was built around it and as the person slowly roasted to death their moans would echo through the Bull making it sound alive….Antipas was the bishop of Pergamum and was so sacrificed, but instead of moaning he prayed and praised God as he was being roasted
“Hold fast my name”
Jesus also declares that we hold fast to the name of the Lord…the third commandment is this Exodus 20:7
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
This commandment is not really about verbiage as much as it is ambassadorship…in other words taking the Lord’s name in vain is about not living a life that reflects Christ in all things or living it, your speech will reflect it but it is more about your actions and the church of Pergamum stood firm as excellent examples of Christ but they had some struggles
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.
We have talked about the Nicolaitans in Ephesus but what about this guy Balaam and Balak….Numbers 22,23 tells us the story. Balaam was originally from modern Iraq area, he was a prophet who heard from God but sold his gift for profit. An interesting point about this prophet is Balak the king of the Moabites requested him come a couple of times and each time Balaam went to the Lord and said, “what do I do” God said don’t go, but then finally after him badgering God, God said “go”….we need to understand there is often a difference between God’s perfect will and his permissive one, just because God permits something doesn’t mean he blesses it.
Should I buy…the house, the car, should I take this job, that promotion, should I do this or do that…we can as we see with Balaam, badger God into letting us do something because he will use it as a lesson rather than an immediate blessing…but that is not the stumbling block.
The teaching of Balaam was this, he was unable to curse Israel because the Lord would not allow him but what he did do was told Balak how to demoralize the Israelites…He said get your young beautiful Moabite and Midianite women and have them entice the young men of Israel what happen was they were seduced and they were then wanting to satisfy this women, began to worship their gods turning their backs on the God who has delivered them, rather than reflecting God they became like the Canaanites. Compromising their walk of faith to please others and becoming just like the Canaanites around them
This is our challenge in the church today….how many of your co-workers, neighbors, family members see a difference in us than the world. When people are upset, angry, frustrated, fearful are we married to the world and act just like them or are we committed to Christ and represent Him in all things not taking the Lord’s name in vain. Do we stand out because of our great faith, grace, and love. Or does the world control how we feel. See when you are committed to Christ you are ambassadors of Him, you carry His name and people see it in you always. The places we go, the things we do, our habits all reflect our relationship with Jesus….OR like the teaching of Balaam they are compromised so we look, talk, act, and respond with no difference than the way those who have no relationship with Christ act.
I know it can be difficult at times with all the pressures of life but we can stand on God’s word to overcome in every situation. There is a promise for every need and God is faithful to His word. Jesus challenged Pergamum to know His word and they would be set free, strong, overcome and win
Every day we need to challenge ourselves to act like Christ, speak like Him respond like him…we might need to revisit the idea of WWJD so we remember who we represent.
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.’
For those who don’t marry the world, compromise but they live and act like Jesus the best they can they will be given the hidden manna…we know from exodus that the manna was the bread of heaven given by God to sustain Israel in the wilderness. In John 6: 32-35
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”
35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again.
In other words, if you don’t compromise with the world’s system, if people see Jesus in you even when it is not convenient or easy to do so you will have all that he has. He is the hidden manna
The white stone is only conjectured by many, no one knows for sure but the one conjecture that makes sense to me is in Rome if you knew the right people you were given a pass to the games and a meal with that pass. Your name would be written on a white stone and when shown to the authorities you were given permission to enter and fed as well….It was not earn but a grace gift..to me this makes the most sense for John and the church of Pergamum and us to understand right now…If you stay true to relationship with Christ, when you blow it coming to him and continually growing in your faith, relationship with Christ and your brothers and sisters in Christ, then you will always be an overcomer.
Where are you today with Christ? – do people know you are a Christian?
Does your day-to-day life reflect your being a Christ-Follower?
Are you being defeated and frustrated in many areas of your life? It could be because God wants control over those areas rather than you or the world being in control
Come to get prayer to renew your commitment to him today