The message to the church at Pergamum. Revn 2:12-17
WBC am 29 June 2003
Satan’s throne- the roaring lion
These are scary words! “I know where you live. Where Satan has his throne”
Ancient Pergamum (modern Bergama) is located in western Turkey 16.5 mi. [26.5 km.] inland (as the crow flies) from the Aegean Sea.
It was founded as a major city in the third century B.C. and served as the capital of the Attalid Empire until 133 B.C. At that time Attalus III bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans and in 129 B.C. this kingdom formed the core of the newly–created Roman province of Asia — with, initially at least, Pergamum as its capital.
This was a huge city with an acropolis (a hilltop socio-religious centre) and a lower city. (160,000+)
. Pergamum was the cultural, religious and intellectual centre of the region with a university that had a library of about 200,000 handwritten volumes.
But what about it being where Satan had his throne? (don’t go on holiday, there!)
Right on top of the hill, the acropolis, a temple was built for Emperor worship. Pergamum was the first to do this, in 29BC… a place for worshipping Caesar Augustus.
The Remains of the temple to the Emperor Trajan (AD 98ff) still remain, there.
Before this- the Temple of the Gk god Zeus (father of the ‘gods’) was established.
And besides this Temples of Athena, Dionysus, Serapis, Demeter and Asclepius have been found
Here’s the remains of the temple of Asclepius- looking up the acropolis and the Emperor and Zeus temples. Asclepius was the ‘god’ of healing (stick and snake) and so this became a ‘healing’ centre
Imagine being a Christian, there (or even a Jew!)- one who believed there was only One God to be worshipped, who you should make no image of
The opposition was fierce. The attack obvious. Satan stalked the streets like a roaring lion. Very little stealth or subtlety.
- stand up for Jesus and you could lose your life
- Just like N Nigeria, Indonesia and large parts of the Muslim world, today
o The body of Christ is still persecuted in this way
Antipas had stood up and out for Jesus. Had not compromised his faith… sprinkled some incense on the altar of Caesar
- and it had cost him his life
- the others had ‘remained true to Jesus’ name’, as well
- … and had not renounced Jesus (v13)
I want to say a few things about Satan, now
I believe very much in a personal and active evil force.
- to me, it is not only Biblically necessary, but theologically necessary
- it is the ONLY way of explaining the evils of this world, that are beyond man
- okay: man doesn’t often need the Evil one’s help. He’s able to do most of it himself in the most horrible way
- but… cutting a long story extremely short… belief in an adversary/enemy is essential
- unless you’re going to land some of the suffering at God’s feet… and ‘charge Him with evil’
- which is something we mustn’t do (Cf Job)
- you could summarise that Satan’s whole strategy is encapsulated in ‘trying to get us to believe that God IS the source of evil’
- ‘did God REALLY say?!’. ‘He must hate you. Be very sadistic. N Nasty’
… and sometimes it is ALL our faith is about to cling onto… and (in faith!) proclaim:
‘God is good. Oh give thanks to the Lord for His love endures’
Yes- I know: God can use evil… allows it… man is the cause of 90% of it… but (in the end… after MUCH theological musing), I believe
- God is good
- The devil is very real. AND theologically essential
- Man and the world is fallen
And (surprise, surprise- that’s the message of the Bible…. And Jesus’ whole ministry)
- He most certainly saw two kingdoms in conflict
The Bible summarises it best (and frustratingly adequately in Mt 13:28 ‘an enemy did this’
And there are times… places… when he fights so mean and dirty! It’s SO real
- ‘pastorally’ I believe in him as well
- SO often, when there is something significant in the offing, people come under tremendous attack from the lion
o All at once! Worst timing possible
I know this is true for some of you
Will be for all of us at some time/place
To me- this doesn’t negate God- it affirms the story that we believe in
- God is good. Satan is a destroyer of ALL that is good… and we are in a battle
o And it’s fierce at times. And there ARE casualties and real scars
But the WAR is won. Foregone conclusion
• In one sense it seems Satan knows all about this (as he fights harder and dirtier)
• In another sense- he seems dull to the ‘ending’. Maybe that’s because he’s not omnipotent or omniscient
He is described as the ‘god of this age 2 Cor 4:4. And THIS is his territory, where he’s been cast down. And the Lord is redeeming it… taking it back (through us. One life at a time)
I do believe there are geographical influences, too. I don’t spend my time bothering about them or trying to work out who’s where
- I just think we pray and share the faith and that uproots these fellas
- but there ARE areas of blessing… opposition
- call it sociological or cultural or whatever- but I think it is only adequately explained by ALL aspects.
- Winchester is quite a stronghold for Jesus, actually!
So- my friends. Don’t be surprised about seasons or cities of attack. Be prepared.
And what’s the application about such thoughts from this passage
- don’t blame God. (see it as opposition)
- don’t deny the Lord. (Sure we DOUBT, but denying is different)
- stand firm… and having done all to stand
Satan’s subtlety- the Trojan Horse
But he doesn’t just show up as a roaring lion, you know. Sometimes another approach is more affective
- the approach he’s taken in our culture
The church, here, had resisted Satan’s roaring. It was clearly identifiable… and something distinct they could stand against
- but he’d got them another way. Through Balaam’s and the Nicolatians ways.
o Through the back door. Through subtlety, stealth and sneakiness. Through a Trojan Horse
You’ll find the story of Balaam and Balak in Numbers 22.
- Balaam had a genuine prophetic gift from God
o Would use it for his own means!
- Balak, King of Moab, hires him to curse Israel
o Who were a great power, having just come out of Egypt
- Balaam says ‘I can’t, God won’t let me’. Bu then the inference in the story (and clarified here) is that he said to Balak
o “Just befriend them! Particularly get your girlies to be very friendly with the men”
and they did. And the girlies got them to sprinkle a little bit of ‘harmless’ incense on the altar of their gods (or eat food sacrificed to them)
o and the whole nation of Israel was in danger of ‘losing it’
Nobody knows who the Nicolatians were. Early conjecture was that they were followers of Nicolas, one of the 7 in Acts 6:5 who went off the rails and practiced ‘free love’ (to use the vernacular)
You can understand how that approach worked in those days
- “surely God’s not fussed much about what I do with my body… girlfriend… husband.. mind’ ‘It’s a pretty small issue when we face DEATH!” (‘and He doesn’t seem to mind about THAT!)
o and it IS a small issue compared to some bigger issues of justice, life death, fairness
… but it matters to God
- and All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. ….1CO 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality.
And you can destroy yourself… God’s temple… but what you watch, think and do
- and, by the way, it DOES matter to God
That’s the real kind of attack in OUR culture… on OUR churches… faith
And what’s the application of this bit of this passage: keep yourself pure, uncompromised… and watch out for the subtle attack
The Saviour’s Sword- it starts with the church
My goodness- God’s words go straight to the heart of the issue, don’t they. Like a double edged sword
- that’s how Hebrews 4 describes THIS stuff (Bible)
o it judges the attitudes of our hearts and minds. Exposes those hidden things
because God sees them all, anyway
What does the Lord say to this church? “repent- otherwise I will soon come to YOU and fight against THEM with this sword”
- who is THEM? Surely it’s the idolaters, Caesar worshippers, Lord?
- > nope. It’s THOSE in the church who are immoral
God’s, surprisingly, not so concerned about those who don’t own His name who are polluting their bodies, souls, minds
- but His won children? Those who claim to be His
o they’re in for a spanking
o > because judgement starts with the house of God
God expects better standards from us. And the power is there, too.
- “ I won’t let you get away with it because I love you to much”
But if you struggle THROUGH these things
- Satan’s attack
- Satan’s snaky sneaky subtlety
- The sexual temptations of our culture
You’ll have the reward of ‘the food that no one else knows about’ (Jn 4:32). The hidden manna
- because you’re doing the Father’s will. You’ll get the reward
You’ll have a white stone… just with your name on it
- yes- symbolises the forgiveness that is ours for our mistakes… when we repent
o would be how the judge/jury would cast an ‘innocent’ vote at court
- but also: these were admissions (‘tickets’) for feasts/parties!
Wow- there’s NOTHING like the joy of putting God first! Though it’s a battle… obeying Him, FIRST, is the key to… invitation to… life, the party within. The victory that overcomes the world
JN 4:32 But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about."
JN 4:33 Then his disciples said to each other, "Could someone have brought him food?"
JN 4:34 "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
Songs: purify my heart. Soldiers of Christ, arise.