Revelation Explained

This site contains my personal views on Revelation. I will be teaching through the book verse by verse. My teachings will be from a conservative evangelical background.

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Christ's Comments About the Church at Pergamos

"I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth." (Revelation 2:13-16 - New International Version)

Pergamum was a city filled with idolatry. It was the first city to dedicate a temple to the worship of the Roman Emperor. It was a city where Satan was very active in promoting false worship and immoral living. Jesus describes the city as Satan's home.

Yet in the midst of such a wicked place, the Christians had continued to witness for Christ. One of them, Antipas, had been killed because of his faithful stand for Christ. The church could be proud of their steadfast witness in the face of opposition.

However, Satan attacks not only from without but also from within a church. Inside this church, there were problems. Jesus points out some faults that existed.

In order to understand verse fourteen, we must examine the historical Balaam and what he did. We find this in the book of Numbers. I will not get into the details, let me just briefly summarize the events.

As the nation of Israel marched towards the land of Canaan, Balak, king of Moab, became afraid. Wishing for any possible advantage he could get, he sent for the prophet Balaam. He offered Balaam a rich reward for cursing Israel. Balaam wanted this reward but God prevented him from cursing the people of Israel.

Because God would not allow him to curse them, Balaam suggested to Balak a way that they could get God to curse Israel. They sent some beautiful young ladies into the Israelite camp. These ladies seduced the young Israelite men into worshiping idols and sexual sin. This brought God's judgment down upon the nation. Balaam earned his reward.

Balaam, therefore, represents those in religion who are interested in personal gain and satisfying their physical desires. They will make any compromise necessary for their own benefit.

Within the Church at Pergamum those who held to the doctrine of Balaam would have encouraged compromise in order to ease the persecution. They would encourage Christians to be on good terms with the ungodly in order to avoid trouble. They would argue for a relaxing of moral standards.

“It is all right to worship in the pagan temples,” they would say, “after all we can worship Jesus while others worship their idols.”

There are many who hold to the doctrine of Balaam today. Statements such as, “We all worship the same God in our own way,” are based upon this idea.

You can see this doctrine being accepted when Christians call sexual sin an alternative lifestyle, when clergy talk more about social issues than they do the Gospel, when churches hold inter-faith services with non-Christians, and when there is no noticeable difference between the way Christians and non-Christians live.

Pergamum had some who held to Balaam's compromising ways. Among Christians today, there are many like this.

Jesus had more criticism for this Church. In the letter to the Church at Ephesus, Jesus mentioned the Nicolaitans. That church hated them. This church had accepted some of them into their midst.

The Nicolaitans taught that the clergy should rule over the lay people. They also sought to setup a power structure among all clergy. They wanted to be rulers. This church had allowed them in and slowly they would take over.

This church was compromising on moral issues and their stand for the Faith. They were allowing power hungry people to take over. The control of the church was slowly falling into the hands of an elite group. The lay people were being told to go along with what the leadership decided because they knew what was best.

Jesus was angry with this Church because of this. Yet this sounds like a lot of churches today!
Christ calls this Church to repentance. Jesus demanded that this Church change and throw out those who would turn her away from the true Faith. Those who would compromise, those who would encourage immorality, those who would seek personal power, were to be removed from the Church.

If they did not do this, Jesus Himself would! He warns that He is prepared to act and act quickly against those who dishonor His Name. His sword would go into action.

Most Bible scholars take this as a reference to the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Jesus would use His Word to expose those who are false Christians and judge them.

All of our religious activities will be judged by the standard of God's Word. Jesus is not concerned with sincerity; He is concerned with truth. A person can be sincere and yet be wrong. Jesus demands that we base our Christian stand upon the Bible and not compromise.


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