Christ’s Message to the Seven Churches: The Church of Pergamum
September 6, 2020 (Sunday AM)
Bible Text: Revelation 2:12-17 |
INTRO: Pergamum was an impressive city known for its wealth, it was also known for shrines to gods of healing, and many made pilgrimages to the city. Ephesus and Smyrna were evil and wicked cities of idolatry, but Pergamum was even worse. It was an active center for royal cult worship. The Christians in Pergamum were bombarded by their surroundings and it had an affect on them. The church became a tolerant, compromising church with the world. It had relaxed its moral standards, even allowing false teachers to establish some authority among them.
The greatest threat to this church didn't come from the popular cults, or even persecution. The greatest threat came from wanting to fit in with the culture of their day: compromise. They wanted to be Roman and Christian at the same time. Participation in emperor worship was viewed as an expression of political loyalty. It was seen as patriotic- a way to support the nation of Rome! Rejection of emperor worship was seen as godlessness and mutiny in the eyes of the roman rulers, and the culture in general. It was a culture that wasn't much different than ours today.
So when Jesus says (v.13) “I know where you live” it’s important to recognize that He understood the culture of Pergamum and He understands the culture we live in today. So Jesus writes a letter to this church (as He did the others). In each letter to each individual church listed in the book of Revelation chapters 2 & 3, Jesus gives an accommodation (praise), some criticism, some instruction, and a promise. All were written out of an incredible love for His Church.
I. Commendation (v.13): In the midst of all of your evil, satanic surroundings- in the city where, "Satan has his throne", you remain true to the Lord's name and did not renounce your faith in Him. In other words, you didn't dishonor God by claiming Christ and living immorally.
II. Criticism (v.14-15): You have people in your church who hold to the teaching of Balaam (refers to "corrupt teachers and preachers who were leading people into fatal compromise with immorality, worldly living, and false doctrine, all for the sake of personal gain and agenda. This church of Pergamum had false teachers who taught that saving faith and a lifestyle of immorality were compatible." [Full Life Study Bible note].
III. Instruction (v.16): Repent. Jesus instructs the entire church to repent- some for being involved, but actually includes everyone for allowing this sin and this false teaching in the church.
This word, "repent" in the Greek means: "A change of mind that results in a complete, radical, total change of behavior; to completely change or turn around in your thinking, believing, or living; a total transformation affecting every part of a person's life, both inside and outside resulting in a behavioral change." [Rick Renner]. If they choose not to repent, Jesus said, "I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth." He will purge the church with His word of judgement.
IV. Promise (17): "Hidden manna", "a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." These are given to those who overcome (continually overcoming).
"He who has an ear, let him hear and heed what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God], to him I will give [the privilege of eating] some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone with a new name engraved on the stone which no one knows except the one who receives it.” (Amplified Version).
"Hidden manna" - May represent our hidden life in Christ. Jesus is referred to as the "bread of life." He also taught His disciples to pray (in the Lord's prayer) "give us this day (today) our daily bread." Jesus also said, "I have food to eat that you do not know of." (John 4:32). Jesus is the true "bread of heaven."
"White stone" - I have found that there are 3 things the "white stone" could be referring to. Here they are: 1. If you were on a jury, you would be given two stones- a white one (for innocent) and a black one (for guilty). And at the time of the verdict you would cast one. Jesus says, "I'll give you a white stone." When you come to Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior of your life, you receive a white stone.
2. If you were a slave (or a Gladiator) and you fought for, earned, or purchased your freedom, you were given a white stone as proof of your freedom. And engraved on the stone where the details securing your freedom.
3. Similar to an admission ticket, the white stone would get you into a certain place (a banquet, a festival, etc.). All you needed to do was present the ticket and you would be allowed to go in (ie: The Marriage Supper of the Lamb).
Aren't those three descriptions cool? I really like them because it gives us a much better understanding and makes us even more grateful for our relationship with Jesus!
CONCLUSION: "He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Right now the Holy Spirit is speaking to us through His Word. Please, stop for a moment and ask the Holy Spirit, "What are saying to me concerning this message? And then take time to listen.