Call to Hear

Good morning!

Today we’ll continue our journey through Asia Minor as we take a look at the third church to receive a letter from Jesus. The first letter was sent to the church at Ephesus. Those Christians had substituted duty for devotion and so the message for them was to turn back to their first love. Next, we visited the church at Smyrna. Smyrna comes from the word myrrh which means to suffer. Today, we know Smyrna as the Turkish city of Izmir and it is the only surviving city of the seven mentioned in Revelation 2 & 3. The letter they received was to encourage them to press on during their hardships. Things were really bad for them and it was going to get worse, but Jesus wanted them to remember to be faithful instead of fearful during their persecution.

This morning we go to Pergamos. So if you have your Bibles please turn to the book of Revelation, chapter 2 and verses 12-17.

Revelation 2:12-17

12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: 

13 “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 

14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 

15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 

16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. 

17 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” ’

Pergamos Background

About 50 miles north of the city of Smyrna you’ll find the ancient city of Pergamos (Greek). This was not a port city since it was located roughly 10-15 miles inland. Today, it’s mostly a pile of rubble, but in the 1st century A.D. it was a hopping religious center. As a matter-of-fact it was THE religious hot spot for pagan worshippers. Today, it goes by a different name – Bergama and it is located in Turkey. There are 15 mosques in the city. One of the mosques used to be the early Byzantine church of St. Sophia.

According to Pliny the Elder, Pergamos was “by far the most distinguished city of Asia Minor”. It boasted the second largest library of its time with an astounding 200, 000 volumes. The only library bigger than this was in Alexandria, Egypt. According to the Roman historian Varro, the story was told that envy led the Egyptian king Ptolemy V Epiphanes (ruled 203-181 BC) to put a ban on papyrus exports in an effort to stop Pergamos from surpassing his expansive library.

“Pergamum was the first city in Asia Minor to receive permission to build a temple dedicated to the worship of a living emperor”. The great altar to Zeus was also located at Pergamos, but it also erected temples to Dionysus, Athena and (the god of healing) Asclepius. Asclepius was symbolized by a snake wrapped around a staff. Sound familiar?

If Pergamos was known for anything, it was well-known for its patriotism and love of state as well as its idolatrous practices.

As we read what the Lord writes to this church, you’ll notice that His letter has a similar tone to the one sent to the Believers in Ephesus. He begins by introducing Himself and then He commends this congregation for their commitment to Him. Next, He points out some issues within the church and speaks a word of correction calling them to repentance. to them.  Finally, He closes with a word of consolation to them with a promise of spiritual provisions in exchange for overcoming.

You know, as we go through each of these churches and we read what the Lord has to say about them, I think that it is vitally important for us as a pastoral staff and you as a congregation to take a seriously deep inventory of our own lives and to ask ourselves this question: “What would Jesus’ letter to Britton Christian Church contain?” I believe that our great temptation, not just here, but churches all over – our great temptation is to see ourselves as a church of Smyrna or Philadelphia and not as the other 5 who were called to repentance. Let’s not kid ourselves – we have not arrived!

Revelation 2:12

?12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:

This letter opens with a stunning visual image of Jesus. To this congregation Jesus introduces Himself as “He who has the sharp two-edged sword”. In 1:16, when John sees Jesus in the midst of the seven lampstands, he notices that “…out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword…”. Later in this letter to the church at Pergamos, as Jesus is pointing out some of the problems with these folks, He warns them that if they don’t get it together He’s going to “fight against them with the sword of My mouth” (v16).

I think that as we read verses like these it’s natural to be inquisitive. What is this sharp two-edged sword coming from the mouth of Jesus? Well, the Apostle Paul would describe it as the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph. 6:17). And we know from Hebrews 4:12 that “the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” This is how our Lord will judge the world! And judgement will start with the church! 1 Peter 4:17 “17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 

And what will be the tool that God uses to judge His people?

Listen to this from John 12:48 “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” We see that happening in Revelation 19:15

“Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” 

Then look also at Revelation 19:20-21.

20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 

21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.

The beast and the false prophet were cast into the lake of fire while those who had been deceived by their signs and wonders were judged by the word of God. Remember, Jesus did not come to bring peace, but a sword. The double-edged sword proceeding from His mouth which He uses to judge the world.

Commendation (Revelation 2:13)

After He introduces Himself, Jesus tells them,

?13 “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

There’s a lot in this one verse and I’ll do my best to hit all of it.

Now, there isn’t a clear consensus on what exactly the throne of Satan means in this verse. The word throne speaks to authority and rulership. Some commentators suggest that the throne of Satan was the temple to god of healing, Ascelpius. Another suggestion is that it refers to the great altar to Zeus, or  possibly it was Pergamos as a whole because of its leadership in emperor cult worship. “A title which it bore was ‘Thrice Neokoros,’ meaning that in the city 3 temples had been built to the Roman emperors, in which the emperors were worshipped as gods.”

The Bible is clear that Satan has been given time to reign on this earth (Rev. 20). He is the god of this age. He is the one who has blinded the hearts and minds of those who do not believe, less the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, shining in the face of Jesus Christ, should break through and set them free (2 Cor. 4:3-6).

The church in Pergamos found themselves in this unimaginable place, but Jesus commended them for holding fast to My Name, not denying My faith even when My faithful martyr Antipas was killed

I find it very interesting that the wording is so personal. MY Name. MY faith. MY faithful martyr. And did you notice how Jesus refers to Antipas by the same name He calls Himself? Faithful witness (1:5; 3:14). This is how seriously Jesus views our commitment to Him. Our witness is His witness.

Colossians 3:3 says that we have died and our lives are now hidden with Christ in God. Christ IS our life. When Christ shows up in our lives, as we hold fast to His Name, as we hold fast to His faith, and as we are obedient to lay down our lives for Him, when He appears, then we will also appear with Him in glory. 

This is what the apostle Paul reminded us of in his letter to the Philippians.

1:29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

John Allen, one of our nation’s most respected journalists and a bestselling author, says that “80% of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed against Christians”. Furthermore, “90% of all people killed on the basis of religious beliefs in the world today are Christians”.

How does God view those lives sacrificed for His honor?

Ps. 116:15 “15 Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His saints.”

Rev. 14:13 “13 Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.””

Phil. 1:21 “21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Hold fast to Jesus!! Cling to His unchanging hand!

Correction (Revelation 2:14-16)

?Sadly, few at Pergamos were commended for this type of loyalty and commitment to Jesus. He follows up His commendation with a call for correction and repentance. 

Revelation 2:14–16

14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.

15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.

According to Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, there were two problematic groups in Pergamos. 

“One group was verging on apostasy with its advocacy of eating food offered to idols and spiritual fornication, participating in the worship of other gods. The rest, who appeared not to participate in this activity, were nonetheless tolerant of those who did.”

Here’s what I think happened in the church at Pergamos. On the one hand, some of those who had professed the Name of Jesus decided to “go along to get along”. They chose the path of least resistance to their faith and instead of suffering for His Name they compromised for the sake of peace. On the other hand, those who held fast to His Name, not denying His faith even after His faithful witness Antipas was killed they did not stand against the sinful practices they saw in the congregation. They did not apply Biblical discipline when needed and for that, Jesus calls them out and demands that they repent or suffer His wrath. Chuck Swindoll agrees that “Christ’s rebuke was directed toward the faithful Believers in the church who failed to take action against the Balaamites”.

In 2 Corinthians 6:14–17, Word of God tells us,

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 

16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.”

17 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”

Ps. 1:1 “1 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;” I believe that it is our Biblical duty as a body of Believers to confront the evils we see inside the church. This not only applies to false teaching, apostasy, and blasphemy, but it also applies to gossip and slander. This is not only true of abortion, adultery, pornography and homosexuality; it’s equally true of racism, segregation and bigotry. It applies to our justification of gluttony and drunkenness as well as our shady business dealings and passing flirtations. The church, in her failure to address the sin under her own nose, has become complicit in the evils of the world that have been allowed to sit in her pews. This may actually explain why we have so many sexually immoral pastors and abusive leaders in the church today.

Jesus does not ask us to play nice. He tells us to “…get rid of the leaven that you may be a new batch” ( 1 Cor. 5:6-7 ).

The Body of Christ needs to repent of this evil or Jesus will come and fight against us with the sword of His mouth.

Comfort (Revelation 2:17)

After commending the Pergamos Believers for holding fast to the Name of Jesus, not denying His faith, and after His words of correction, calling them to repentance, Jesus comforts them in verse 17.

Revelation 2:17

17 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” ’

Even though this letter is addressed to the church at Pergamos it is also written to you and me today. We have to pay very close attention to what the Spirit of God is saying otherwise we run the risk of repeating the same mistakes. To those who overcome, those victorious in the fight against compromise, there are two great and precious promises.

First, there is a promise of “hidden manna”. This sustenance can be used to contrast the eating of those things offered to idols (v14). Instead of filling up on things offered by the world we must feast on the Living Bread.

A traditional Jewish understanding of this phrase “‘hidden manna’ refers to the 

“physical bread that was kept in the ark of the covenant and buried during the exile (2 Maccabees 2:4–7; 2 Baruch 6:7–10; 29:8; Sibylline Oracles 7:148–49), to be revealed by the Messiah on the last day when He places the ark in the new temple. In this view, hidden manna is connected to the messianic feast of the end times, along with its new-covenant benefits. This is the most common view of the use of manna in Rev 2:17.”

However, it is quite possible that this phrase more directly applies to Jesus – the True Bread. Jesus, the manna from heaven; the Bread of Life which satisfies without end. Listen to what He says in John 6:31–35

?31 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”

32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.

33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”

35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

Jesus is the Hidden Manna. Hidden from those who think they see, but are blind. Hidden from those who think they know, but they are ignorant. Hidden from those who search the scriptures, but are unaware that what they read actually speaks of Jesus. Oh taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8 )!

Second, there is a promise of a “new name”. A promise of a new identity! What does the Lord call us today who hold fast to His Name? He calls us:

Beloved

Holy

Child of God

Precious in the sight of God

His own chosen people

Royalty

New Creation

Set Free

No longer condemned

Seated on high

Fearfully and wonderfully made

His own image bearers

Redeemed & justified

Saint

Salt and Light of the world

Ambassador

As beautiful as these names are, none of them compares to the new name Jesus will give those who overcome. Hold fast to Jesus.

Call to Respond

Jesus knows our situation church. He knows what good thing we are doing in His Name and He knows who is working against us. He also knows where we have compromised our faith in exchange for what the world has to offer. Pray Psalm 141:4 if you find yourself struggling in this area. “Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, To practice wicked works With men who work iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies.”

“…hold fast the confession of [y]our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful”  (Heb. 10:23).

Listen to what the Spirit of God is speaking to this church and ask God to reveal your own heart to you. Ask Him to show you where you have been going along to get along. Where you have compromised your own faith and then, repent. Turn back to God in the fullness of faith, trusting in His redeeming works and to those who overcome you will enjoy the precious and unending promises of God.

 

 

Bibliography

  • (Banks, E. J. (1915). Pergamos, Pergamum. In J. Orr, J. L. Nuelsen, E. Y. Mullins, & M. O. Evans (Eds.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 2323). Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company.).
  •  (Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus In Revelation, p56)
  •  (http://my-favourite-planet.de/english/middle-east/turkey/pergamon/pergamon-02.html).
  •  (Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus In Revelation, p56).
  •  (Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus In Revelation, p56).
  •  (Banks, E. J. (1915). Pergamos, Pergamum. In J. Orr, J. L. Nuelsen, E. Y. Mullins, & M. O. Evans (Eds.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 2322). Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company.)
  •  (Allen, Global War, 33).
  •   (Mulholland, M. R., Jr. (2011). Revelation. In P. W. Comfort (Ed.), Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: James, 1–2 Peter, Jude, Revelation (p. 440). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.)
  •  (Living Insights, p51).
  •  (Huffman, D. S., & Hausherr, J. N. (2016). Manna. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.)
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