Purpose: To show the disaster that compromise with sin brings.
Aim: I want the listener to avoid the allurements of sin.
INTRODUCTION: In 1871, an American named Heinrich Schliemann began excavating an ancient city in Turkey. This retired businessman discovered the lost city of Troy. Troy was an ancient city with towers and walls that were 16 feet thick.
According to the Homer’s Illiad, the Greeks besieged Troy for ten years without success.
After the death of Achilles, many wanted to give up. But the king of Ithaca, Odysseus, came up with a plan to get the Greek army into Troy. He built an immense wooden horse. He and many of his soldiers hid inside it.
After leaving the horse at the gates of Troy, the Greek army sailed away. The Trojans thought that the Greeks had given up and had left the horse as a gift, so they brought it inside the city. That night, while the Trojans were sleeping, the Greek ships quietly slipped back into the harbor. The soldiers in the horse quietly slipped out of the wooden horse through a trap door and opened the city gates.
The Greek army quietly entered Troy and set the city on fire. The Trojans awoke to find their city in flames. As they tried to run away, they were killed by the Greeks waiting outside the city walls.
Troy could not be defeated from without, but they were defeated when they unwittingly let the enemy inside the city. This is the same tactic that Satan was using to defeat the church in Pergamum. If we are not careful, Bethel Chapel Church could be made useless in much the same way.
1:1-20 I. John’s Vision of the Past “the things which you have seen”
2:1-5:14 II. Christ’s Vision of the Present “the things which are”
2:1-3:22 A. The testimony of the church on earth
Vs.1-7 1. Ephesus: the loveless church
Vs.8-11 2. Smyrna: the hurting church
➽Vs.12-17 3. Pergamum: the worldly church
Pergamos lit. means “citadel” [or fortress] and is the word from which we get parchment—a writing material developed from animal skin, which apparently was first developed in that area. Pergamos (modern Bergama) was built on a 1,000-foot hill in a broad, fertile plain about 20 mi. inland from the Aegean Sea. It had served as the capital of the Roman province of Asia Minor for over 250 years. It was an important religious center for the pagan cults of Athena, Asklepios, Dionysius (or Bacchus, the god of drunkenness), and Zeus. It was the first city in Asia to build a temple to Caesar (29 B.C.) and became the capital of the cult of Caesar worship. [MacArthur, J. J. (1997, c1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (Re 2:12). Nashville: Word Pub.]
➽Vs.12 a. Christ’s purity “One who has the sharp two edged sword”
Literally the Greek reads: "These are the words of the One having the sword, the two-edged, the sharp." Jesus was reminding the Christians of Pergamum that the Roman governor is not the only one with a sword. This refers back to what we read in Revelation 1:16 In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. (NAU)
Whose sword should we fear? Should we fear societies’ sword of ridicule, intimidation, persecution or even death? Or should we fear God’s judgment?
➽Vs.13 b. Christ’s praise “I know where you dwell”
The phrase “I know” is used of all 7 churches. God knows everything.
[Pergamum was]The headquarters of satanic opposition and a Gentile base for false religions. On the Pergamos acropolis [the ancient citadel of Athens in Greece that was the religious focus of the city. It contains the remains of several classical temples, including the Parthenon] 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. The famous medical school connected to his temple 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. [MacArthur, J. J. (1997, c1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (Re 2:12). Nashville: Word Pub.]
The symbol of Asklepios is a serpent and was to be found throughout the city. This symbolized healing to the pagans. However, for Christians, since the time of the Garden of Eden, the snake or serpent was a symbol representing Satan.
Jesus knew what opportunities this church had. He knew what obstacles they had to overcome in the culture and what false religions were doing. He knew the kind of opposition they faced.
“WHERE SATAN’S THRONE IS” is probably a reference to the giant altar to Zeus which was on a hill 800 feet high and could be seen for miles. The citizens of Pergamum offered their sacrifices to Zeus and referred to him as "Zeus the Savior." For the Christian, however, Jesus is the only Savior!
These believers lived in a dangerous place. What a joy to know that Jesus said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18).
➽Christ praised this church for 2 things:
➽(1) They lifted up Christ “you hold fast My name”
They knew that to deny Christ would mean to deny their only means for forgiveness. Matthew 10:32-33 32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. (NAU)
Our culture today worships the “god of tolerance.” There were many different pagan gods in Pergamum and the people were probably willing to add the Christian “god” to their list of gods. The problem is that Christ taught that He is the ONLY way to have forgiveness and that He is the one true God. As Peter said, Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (NAU)
➽(2) They trusted Christ “did not deny my faith”
Tradition says Antipas [a pastor in Pergamum] was burned to death inside a brass bull. “Martyr,” a transliteration of the Gr. word, means witness. Because so many of the witnesses faithful to Christ were put to death, the word “martyr” developed its current definition. [MacArthur, J. J. (1997, c1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (Re 2:12). Nashville: Word Pub.]
They did not bow to Caesar. They knew what they believed and they refused to change it even in the face of death.
Philadelphia is filled with thousands of churches. I wonder what would happen to church attendance in Philadelphia if just one pastor was dragged out of his pulpit by government authorities and beaten to death.
➽Vs.14-15 c. Christ’s protest “a few things against you”
When Jesus wrote to the church at Ephesus He said, ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (Revelation 2:4 NAU) Sadly, here Jesus says that He has “a few things against you” Here He has a list. How sad!
Linus of PEANUTS fame had his security blanket in place and his thumb in his mouth but he was still troubled. Turning to Lucy, who was sitting next to him, he asked, "Why are you always so anxious to criticize me?" Her response was typical Lucy: "I just think I have the knack for seeing other people’s faults." Exasperated, Linus threw his hands up and asked, "What about your own faults?" Without hesitation, Lucy answered, "I have the knack for overlooking them."
So do Christians!
➽Vs.14 (1) They compromised with sin “teaching of Balaam”
Balaam was a false prophet that the king of Moab bribed to put a curse on the Jews. (See Numbers 22). He refused to curse the Jews, but he did give the king of Moab a way to defeat the Jews.
“Before leaving Balak, Balaam apparently told the Moabite leader that Israel could be defeated if its people were seduced to worship Baal, “to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality” (Rev. 2:14). Indeed, this was exactly what happened: ‘The people [of Israel] began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifice of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel’ (Num. 25:1–3).” [Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Rev. ed. of: Nelson’s illustrated Bible dictionary.; Includes index. Nashville: T. Nelson.]
Balaam held fast to the Name of the Lord. He would not deny the Word of God. But he showed the King of Moab how to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel.
To keep from losing the money that Balak offered to pay him, Balaam counseled Balak to send his women to seduce the men of Israel so they would marry them and blend in with them. It was a teaching that attacked the separation and holiness that God expects His people to maintain.
The Jews were invited to attend the Moabite feasts. It didn’t start out as worship, it started out as fellowship. It’s as if they said, “Come on down and have a steak dinner with us. You don’t have to worship our gods. Just come and observe our worship.”
The problem was that immorality was part of their worship. Things haven’t really changed that much have they? The world doesn’t tell us to stop coming to church. They have just invited us to fellowship with them in their amusements. Isn’t that what we are doing when we sit down and watch TV that involves immoral behavior? The shows may be entertaining, but there is blatant immorality. We watch attractive heroes commit fornication again and again and just sit there and watch. We will even spend hours watching women in our living rooms who are wearing less clothes than the hookers on the streets of Philadelphia.
We then find ourselves worshipping the god of immorality. Is it any wonder we are so weak spiritually?
Deuteronomy 23:9 “When you go out as an army against your enemies, you shall keep yourself from every evil thing. (NAU)
Psalm 101:3 I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me. (NAU)
➽Vs.15 (2) They created levels of spirituality “the Nicolaitans”
Nicolaitans literally means, “Rulers of the laity” and were probably the beginning of the heresy called Gnosticism.
GNOSTICISM [NOS tuh siz em] — a system of false teachings that existed during the early centuries of Christianity. Its name came from gnosis, the Greek word for knowledge. The Gnostics believed that knowledge was the way to salvation. For this reason, Gnosticism was condemned as false and heretical by several writers of the New Testament.
Many Gnostic teachings were condemned by the writers of the New Testament. Paul emphasized a wisdom and knowledge that comes from God and does not concern itself with idle speculations, fables, and moral laxity (Col. 2:8–23; 1 Tim. 1:4; 2 Tim. 2:16–19; Titus 1:10–16). John, both in his gospel and in the epistles, countered heretical teaching that, in a broad sense, can be considered Gnostic.
Teachings of the Gnostics. The Gnostics accepted the Greek idea of a radical dualism between God (spirit) and the world (matter). According to their world view, the created order was evil, inferior, and opposed to the good. God may have created the first order, but each successive order was the work of anti-gods, archons, or a demiurge (a subordinate deity).
The Gnostics believed that the earth is surrounded by a number of cosmic spheres (usually seven) that separate human beings from God. These spheres are ruled by archons (spiritual principalities and powers) who guard their spheres by barring the souls who are seeking to ascend from the realm of darkness and captivity that is below to the realm of light that is above.
According to the Gnostics, the aim of salvation is for the spirit to be awakened by knowledge so the inner person can be released from the earthly dungeon and return to the realm of light where the soul becomes reunited with God. As the soul ascends, however, it needs to penetrate the cosmic spheres that separate it from its heavenly destiny. This, too, is accomplished by knowledge. One must understand certain formulas that are revealed only to the initiated.
These Gnostic teachings also had a disruptive effect on fellowship in the church. Those who were “enlightened” thought of themselves as being superior to those who did not have such knowledge. Divisions arose between the spiritual and the fleshly. This attitude of superiority is severely condemned in the New Testament. Christians are “one body” (1 Cor. 12) who should love one another (1 Cor. 13; 1 John). Spiritual gifts are for the Christian community rather than individual use; they should promote humility rather than pride (1 Cor. 12–14; Eph. 4:11–16). [Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Rev. ed. of: Nelson’s illustrated Bible dictionary.; Includes index. Nashville: T. Nelson.]
As a result of this false teaching some believed that certain Christians were more holy than other Christians. From this came the modern idea priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes. The Bible only has two offices in the church: pastors and deacons, and both are described as servants, not “super-spiritual” beings. 1 Peter 5:2-3 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. (NAU)
➽Vs.16 d. Christ’s plea for purity
➽ (1) Remove sin “repent”
Some needed to repent of sin, others needed to repent of ignoring sin in the church. Vance Havner reminds us, “We can’t sing ‘My Jesus I Love Thee’ until we sing ‘all the follies of sin I resign.’”
The Ephesian church HATED the deeds of the Nicolaitans, the church in Pergamum HELD to teaching of the Nicolaitans. There is no middle ground! You will HATE sin or you will HOLD on to sin.
➽ (2) Fear God “or else”
Do you ever remember a parent telling you to clean up your room “or else”? If you feared your parent you didn’t ask, “Or else, what?”
Jesus is telling the church, “Either you clean up the church, or I will.” They needed to start fearing Christ’s sword more than their neighbors ridicule.
1 Peter 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (NAU)
Do we fear God’s discipline enough to clean up our lives? If we do then we can rejoice in,
➽Vs.17 e. Christ’s promise to the pure
The OVERCOMERS here are not the super-spiritual Christians. OVERCOMERS are the real Christians. 1 John 5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (NAU) It is our faith in Christ that makes us overcomers, not our hard work.
If you are really trusting Christ you are forever changed. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (NAU)
Revelation 21:7 “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. (NAU)
➽OVERCOMERS receive two things:
➽ (1) Supernatural life “hidden manna”
Physical food sustains the life of our bodies. Christ is the only spiritual food that can sustain eternal life.
Christ’s spiritual food is hidden from the world. They cannot see it. Although it is hidden, it is not a secret.
Jesus openly said, 51 “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” 52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. (John 6:51-56 NAU)
➽ (2) Intimate fellowship “white stone”
“When the Roman Empire gave free doles of bread and free admission to entertainments, the tickets were often in the form of a white stone with a person’s name on it. It was a well-established practice to reward the victors at the games with such a ticket to a special feast.” [“The Coming World Ruler” by David Hocking, P. 66]
These two references to HIDDEN and WHICH NO ONE KNOWS is probably a slap at those who were teaching that there is secret knowledge. Jesus is not talking about secret knowledge, but He is saying that there IS supposed to be a secret, or intimate, relationship with Him.
If they quit eating from the world’s table they could come and be fed with hidden manna. God would satisfy them in ways that the world never could. If they broke off their relationship with the world, God would give them a close relationship with Him, signified by a white stone engraved with a new name.
“Also it was first-century practice that after a serious illness a patient who recovered would often take a new name to signify his or her complete recovery.” [Palmer, E. F., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1982). Vol. 35: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 35 : 1, 2 & 3 John / Revelation. Formerly The Communicator’s Commentary. The Preacher’s Commentary series (133). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.]
“What does the new name means? Even as God gave "Abram" the new name of "Abraham," even as "Simon" was given the new name of "Peter," so God gives a new and fitting name to those who overcome. To be named by someone is a sign that they are your superior, that you are under their care and protection. The prophet Isaiah speaks of this: (Is 62:2) The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. (Cf Is 65:15)[Online sermon by Charles Scott: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon.asp?SermonID=118081]
“Those who are faithful to Christ are given a white stone with a new name for admission to the heavenly wedding banquet. Revelation 19 says, "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb" (Rev 19:9b).”
CONCLUSION: Skeptics often use the question of evil to ridicule Christianity. “If God is good,” they say, “then why is there so much evil in the world? Why are there Hitler’s and Sadam Husain’s who murder the innocent?” There is an important irony in their argument. They claim to be very concerned about evil in the world, and yet they ignore the factories of evil that resides inside of them.
Skeptics point to the evil outside of them, but they ignore the evil inside of them.
Churches, like the church in Pergamum, are also guilty of the same thing. Many Christians like to hear preaching against worldly evils like abortion, gambling, murder, or political corruption—any sin that applies to others. But, those same Christians make no effort to carefully examine their own heart for any evil. They seldom if ever pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23 NAU)
American churches are full of people who hold the values of the world, find their pleasure in the world, and take their priorities from the world.
“Are we true to Christ’s name like the church of Pergamum? Have we withstood the pressures of America’s false religions and pagan gods? Do we conduct all of life under the awareness of Christ’s Lordship or have we let the secular spirit of our day hold sway so that Jesus is left with only Sunday morning worship and meal-time devotions? Is our goal in life the Kingdom of God and its righteousness in all aspects of life?” [Online sermon by Charles Scott: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon.asp?SermonID=118081]
How often do you feast on the HIDDEN MANNA of Christ? Are you sure that Christ has given you a WHITE STONE with your name on it?
➽Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you. John Owen