Summary: Sometimes toleration is good and sometimes it's bad. One thing Jesus will not tolerate: Toleration of sin in the life of the believer.
Sermon 3 in the Series “You’ve God Mail”
July 17, 2011
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TEXT: Revelation 2:12-17
Illus. – Sometimes toleration is a good thing.
* There are habits or quirks your spouse has that you don’t particularly like, but you can tolerate them because, after all, he or she is a good person who loves you and tolerates your own little list of annoying habits.
* At work, you can tolerate the guy who comes in and kills an hour of your time every week or two because he’s the nerd who can fix any computer problem you have.
Illus. – But some kinds of toleration are bad.
* For instance, I know a boy with an extreme allergy to peanuts and any peanut products or even peanut residue. – It would be dangerous, and in fact life-threatening if he tolerates ANYTHING with peanuts or peanut oil in it.
* Another illustration of bad tolerance would be if a doctor discovered you had an aggressive, life threatening cancerous tumor. – You wouldn’t think too highly of him if he said, “Well, you should be able to tolerate it for awhile…until it kills you.”
Illus. – There’s good and bad tolerance in the Christian life as well.
* Paul tells us to “bear with” one another, which means to tolerate one another’s foibles and personality quirks and differences in opinion about disputable matters.
* But there’s something that we should never, under any circumstances tolerate—in the church or in our lives—and that is SIN.
In our series on Jesus’s messages to the seven churches in Asia in Revelation 2-3, we come now to the third message, the one to the church in Pergamum in chapter 2, verses 12-17. The first thing you notice is Jesus in a rather threatening pose – Revelation 2:12 says, “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges.” A two-edged sword in the scriptures is a symbol of judgment. We like knowing that Jesus will judge those who oppose Christ, but what about when that sword is turned in our direction?—To the church?—To us personally?
This is a fitting picture of Jesus’s attitude towards tolerance of sin, which is the theme of this message to the church in Pergamum. This is serious business, so we’d better sit up and listen carefully as we look at this passage.
You can outline this passage by three words: appraisal, admonition and assurance.
I. NOTICE FIRST CHRIST’S APPRAISAL OF THE CHURCH OF PERGAMUM. – VERSES 12-14
By the time John penned Revelation, Pergamum had been the capital city of Asia for 250 years and was considered Asia’s greatest city. Its library of 200,000 handwritten volumes was second only to that of Alexandria, Egypt. It was a magnificent city, but Jesus is not impressed by such earthly accomplishments. His interest is the church of Pergamum, and it had both good and bad things going on.
Look at verse 13 – “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.”
He describes Pergamum as “Satan’s seat” or literally “Satan’s throne.” There are a number of theories about why He would have called it that.
* Some believe he called it “Satan’s throne” because there was a great altar to Zeus there where animal sacrifices were made 24 hours a day.
* Others think it was because Pergamum was also the center for the worship of a god called Asklepios, the god of healing. Asklepios is depicted with a snake, and because of that association, the medical symbol to this day retains snakes wound around a pole. What’s really weird to us today is that hundreds of thousands of nonpoisonous snakes roamed throughout the temple. Sick people from across the ancient world would come to lay down in the temple, hoping to be touched by one of the snakes and be healed. Since a serpent in the scriptures is symbolic of Satan, these snakes no doubt reminded Christians in Pergamum of Satan.
* A third theory for why Jesus referred to Pergamum as “Satan’s throne” is because Pergamum was the leading center of emporer worship in the province of Asia. Caesar Augustus had a huge altar built to himself there in 29 BC. If a person didn’t bow down and worship his image he or she could be put to death. This had apparently already happened to a man named Antipas, whom Jesus calls “my faithful martyr.”
Now notice that Jesus does two things with the church of Pergamum: First he COMMENDS them and then He CRITICIZES them.