Summary: The Church of Pergamos teaches us how to stay true ot the Gospel in the midst of scandal and prevailing wickedness.
This morning we are making the third stop in our study of the seven churches of the book of Revelation. So turn with me please, in your Bibles, to Revelation chapter 2, and read with me starting at verse 12, as we pay a visit to the church of Pergamos (read vv. 12-17)….
If there was one word you would use this morning to describe the church at Pergamos, what would it be? Compromising! – a church that was compromising its stand in relation to the world. You know, I hear a lot of talk nowadays among believers about how the church of God is compromising its standards; of how the church is being soft on sin, allowing it to go unchecked among the people of God. People talk about this problem as though it is entirely new to the church – as though corruption and compromise in the church didn’t exist until just a few years ago. We talk about how as we get closer to the last days, there’s going to be compromise on the part of God’s people, and we act as though it’s all some new phenomenon – a sign of the end, as it were. And yet here we read, in the Word of God, a letter written to a church that existed nearly twenty centuries ago, where we find evidence of what – compromise between God’s people and the practices of the world – corruption in the church. And I say, “Praise God!”
I can see I got the attention of some of you just now. You’re thinking to yourselves, “Did the pastor just say ‘Praise God there was corruption in the church of Pergamos?’” No, I did NOT just say “Praise God there was corruption in the church of Pergamos.” I do not believe in compromise, I do not believe in the corruption of God’s church. But I do say “Praise God”, because we can find in His Word examples of situations that we may be dealing with now. I do say “Praise God”, because in His Word He has not neglected to tell us the whole story of what has happened to His church over time. And I do say “Praise God”, because in giving us the whole story – in giving us these examples from history – He has also given us the tools we need to avoid running into the same problems as the church of old. It has been said that those who fail to study history are… what? – they’re bound to repeat it. And so, church, would you agree that we can praise God, because He was gracious enough to let us know what we’re up against; and because in so doing He has shown us not only how we can overcome corruption in the church and compromise between the standard of God and the standards of the world, but how we can avoid it completely in the first place? Praise God.
Let’s go back to the beginning of the letter, and take a few moments this morning to see just what happened to this church, and what it means to us here today as we sit in this congregation.
One of the first things we notice in this letter is where Pergamos is located: verse 13 of Revelation 2 tells us that the church of Pergamos was located “where Satan’s seat is found.” In other words, they were at the epicentre of satanic activity. See, the city of Pergamos was a city steeped in the worship of the pagan deities and the Roman emperors. In fact, it was said that whenever a new religious craze came along – it didn’t matter how crazy or off-the-wall – even it if was rejected everywhere else, it would find a place among the religions of Pergamos. When it came to religion, anything and everything went. There were no absolutes; there was no eternal standard; it was every man and woman for themselves; and Satan was in his heyday; corruption and immorality abounded at every turn. Does this sound familiar to you? Are we not in the same condition today as they were then?
And yet, couched in the middle of this unstable mass of religious confusion, we find a group that’s different. We find a group that isn’t bowing down to the gods on every street corner; a group that isn’t perverting themselves with the sexual immorality that abounds; a group that is preaching about a God that is high above the earth; a God that is exalted far above all other gods. We find a group that we are told, going on in verse 13, has not denied the name of Jesus Christ, neither have they denied His faith.
I tell you, this is a rebuke to me. I don’t know about you, but there are times when I find myself in situations where the devil just seems to be running the show. Has anyone here ever found themselves in a situation like that before? Profane talk all the time, smoking, drinking, immorality – and nobody seems to care. And I’m not talking about finding yourself in a bar; I’m talking about your workplace, or even among your friends and family. What do we find ourselves doing in those situations? I know for myself, I try to stay as low-key as possible. You know, I’m ashamed to say it, but I don’t even know that a lot of my side of the family know that I’m a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, much less that I’m a pastor. And for years I’ve been going to family gatherings, and I see what’s going on; and it both disgusts and deeply saddens me at the same time. And I know I’m not alone in these feelings; but we don’t do much about it do we?