Introduction: Continuing our series called “Can you hear Me?”
- This series subtitle, Letters from God, refers to the messages Jesus sent through John to the 7 churches in Asia Minor, found in Revelation chapters 2-3. (handouts)
- Theme verse: James 4:17 (NLT)—Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.
- In these letters, Jesus examined each church, recognized and encouraged their strengths, but also pointed out needed improvements to prepare them for coming persecution.
The Message to the Church in Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17)
#1 - Greeting (Revelation 2:12; C/R: Acts 19:10; Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 19:15)
- Revelation 2:12a (NLT)—“Write this letter to the angel [messenger] of the church in Pergamum….”
- The church was likely founded by Paul during his 3rd missionary journey (Acts 19:10).
- Pergamum was located 100 miles north of Ephesus, fifteen miles from the Aegean Sea, so it was not a port city and was not located on any major trade route; however, it was the provincial capital of Asia for 250 years and considered Asia’s greatest city.
- The city was an important center for the worship of four of Greco-Roman deities with temples for Athena, Asklepios (god of healing), Dionysos, and Zeus located there.
- However, in Pergamum, Roman emperor worship overshadowed the worship of Greek gods.
- Because of the city’s devotion to emperor worship, Christians were in more danger than in any other city—and the threat of punishment extended to every day, not just to the one day per year when citizens were required to offer sacrifices to the emperor.
- The city exists today as the Turkish city of Bergama.
- Revelation 2:12b (NLT)—“This is the message from the One with the sharp two-edged sword:” [One of the descriptive phrases from John’s vision in Revelation 1:12-17.]
- The sharp, two-edged sword, represents the Word of God. (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12)
- This introduction pictures Jesus as the executor of judgment by His Word. (Revelation 19:15)
- This is not a positive, promising, introduction; it is a threatening one—because this church faced imminent judgment because of her compromise with the world, which means tolerating, accommodating, even embracing, worldly values, beliefs and behaviors that violate the Bible.
- Compromise eventually leads to forsaking God and results in incurring His judgment.
- : As we begin, let’s each ask God whether He sees compromise in us.
This letter to the church in Pergamum includes…
#2 - Affirmation (Revelation 2:13; C/R: Mark 8:34-35; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Timothy 2:3-4; Hebrews 12:1)
- Revelation 2:13a (NLT)—“I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne,…”
- The throne of Satan may be a specific reference to the temple of Caesar, or the temples of the Greek gods, but perhaps it refers to the abundance of pagan idol worship which was authorized by Rome and enforced under the threat of punishment.
- Revelation 2:13b (NLT)—“…yet you have remained loyal to Me.”
- Despite pressure to practice idolatry, as well as persecution and suffering when the pagan practices were refused, believers in Pergamum remained faithful to Jesus.
- Revelation 2:13c (NLT)—“You refused to deny Me even when Antipas, My faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city.”
- Antipas, who was likely a leader of the church, was put to death for his faith by Roman emperor Nero. (Tradition says roasted to death inside a brass bull.)
- The word “witness” translates the Greek work martus, transliterated into the English word “martyr;” people were put to death for “testifying” about their faith in Jesus.
- Jesus commended these Pergamene Christians who refused to deny Jesus or worship idols, even when confronted by the death of a church member, martyred for his faith.
- Neither persecution nor satanic opposition can destroy genuine saving faith.
- : Are you loyal to Jesus even when pressured by others?
In this letter, Jesus expresses…
#3 - Concern (Revelation 2:14-15; C/R: Romans 6:1–4; 2 Corinthians 6:14–17; Colossians 3:5–10; James 4:4)
- Revelation 2:14a (NLT)—“But I have a few complaints against you.”
- Specifically, Jesus was concerned about false beliefs being tolerated at Pergamum.
- Revelation 2:14b (NLT)—“You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin.”
- King Balak of Moab was afraid of the Israelites, so he paid Balaam, an Old Testament prophet, to curse Israel, but God refused to curse them, and blessed them instead.
- So Balaam advised the king to corrupt Israel by using Moabite women to lure Israelite men into the sexually-centered worship of the god Baal. (Numbers 22-25; 31:8,15-17)
- Seducing these Jewish men into immoral idolatry caused them to compromise their convictions, defile themselves and dishonor God.
- God punished this immorality and idolatry by executing 24,000 of His own people (Numbers 25) and by killing many of the Midianites, their kings and Balaam. (Numbers 31:1-8)
- Revelation 2:15 (NLT)—“In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching.”
- The Pergamenes also tolerated people in their midst who followed a New Testament man named Nicolas (who may have been one of the first deacons), who taught that the grace of God allowed them to indulge in sin without consequences.
- Balaam and the Nicolaitans both encouraged immorality and idolatry among God’s people. (See Romans 1:32)
- The church at Pergamum apparently tolerated people who claimed to be Christians but defiantly disobeyed God, engaged in immorality and encouraged others to defy Him.
- And how does this relate to us? We act like Balaam or the Nicolaitans when we willingly sin without remorse because we presume Christ’s forgiveness, and—by our words or our example—teach others to do the same thing.
- We act like the Pergamum church when we refuse to confront these attitudes.
- : Do I compromise biblical convictions to “get along,” to be accepted by others?
Jesus issued a…
#4 - Challenge (Revelation 2:16a; C/R: Proverbs 28:13; Luke 5:31-32; Acts 3:19; 1 John 1:8-9)
- Revelation 2:16a (NLT)—“Repent of your sin,…”
- This church’s refusal to correct false teaching and confront disobedient behavior was sin that required repentance.
- Repentance (Gk. metanoeo means “to think differently; it is a change of mind that results in a change of behavior”). (We see the sin as something to avoid!)
- Repentance is not merely admitting something we have done (or are doing) is wrong; it includes ending the behavior and moving in the opposite direction, toward Christ.
- : Am I willing to repent of compromising with sin—in myself or in others?
Jesus said, unless the church changed, there would be…
#5 - Consequences (Revelation 2:16b; C/R: 1 Corinthians 5:6-7; Ephesians 4:15; 2 Timothy 2:24-26)
- Revelation 2:16b (NLT)—“…or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them [those who refuse to repent] with the sword of My mouth.”
- The church must obey God’s Word; we cannot tolerate or indulge beliefs, actions or attitudes that are contrary to biblical teaching—or Christ will judge us!
- The church is not a place where people are to be scolded and humiliated and for their sin, but it must be a place where people are humbly, lovingly, told God’s truth so they can become aware, then convicted, of their sins, so they can repent and turn to Christ.
- : Am I willing to graciously confront a person who is living disobediently?
If the church responds obediently, Jesus gives…
#6 - Rewards (Revelation 2:17; C/R: John 6:48-51; Ephesians 1:3; 1 John 5:4-5)
- Revelation 2:17a (NLT)—“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches.”
- Jesus stressed the importance of Christ’s words and a Christian’s responsibility hear and heed them, so we must practice hearing and obeying when the Spirit speaks to us.
- Revelation 2:17b (NLT)—“To everyone who is victorious [all believers; 1 John 5:4-5] I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven.”
- Manna was the honey-flavored wafer God provided the Israelites to eat during their years of wandering in the wilderness (Exodus 16:14ff.).(2 quarts in the ark; Exodus 16:33-34)
- Manna hidden away in heaven represents Jesus Christ, the bread of life who came down from heaven (John 6:48-51), who provides spiritual sustenance to believers (Ephesians 1:3).
- Revelation 2:17c (NLT)—“And I will give to each one a white stone,…”
- The Romans awarded white stones to winners in athletic contests.
- The stone, inscribed with the victor’s name, served as his ticket to a special awards banquet, which represents a believer’s entrance into the victory celebration in heaven.
- Revelation 2:17d (NLT)—“…and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.”
- This verse indicates that God will give each of us a new, personal, individual, name that will express God’s special insight and supernatural perception of each of us!
- : Are you eager to receive Christ’s reward and hear His name for you?