Now more than ever for our generation, Christians are sensing that evil is alive and well, maybe even that we are living in enemy territory where Satan is ruling. But this should be no surprise to us, for he is considered the “god” of this world (2 Cor. 4:4) and his entire goal is to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10). And what I’ve been sensing from the Christian culture is that Christians lately are tempted to sink down in a corner and sulk, licking their wounds and playing defense. We’re tempted to isolate ourselves from the world and build walls around our homes and churches to keep all of the sinning out, like monks in monasteries. But is this really what God, who sent His own Son into this world, would have us to do? I don’t think so.
Let’s take some notes from a portion of Jesus’ critique to the church of Pergamum, a church body that He built right where Satan’s throne is.
Revelation 2:12-13 says,
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
The church at Pergamum was built right in the heart of where Satan’s authority was. Satan is not omnipresent like God is so he has to take up residence somewhere and it appears that Pergamum may have been that place during this time period. It was the perfect place for him to set up shop.
This city was basically the capitol of Turkey at the time. It was a powerful city, a city that boasted the second largest library in its day, second only to Alexandria, and was a hotbed for pagan religious cults and emperor worship. On the highest acropolis, there was a temple to Zeus. Just below, a temple to Asclepius, the god of healing, where people might lay on the floor of the temple and hope that a snake would touch them, and they’d be healed. His symbol was the entwined serpent on a staff, and still a medical symbol to this day. The title picture above displays some of the artwork still found on the ruined pillars in the temple area. Then you had the temple of Dionysius, the god of wine and frivolity which yearly brought a giant Mardi-Gras-like party to the lustful city. And to cap it off, there were 3 temples to the imperial cult that worshiped the Roman emperor.
It was the imperial cult that one could lose their life over if they refused to pledge allegiance to Caesar by offering incense and worshiping him as god, saying, “Caesar is Lord.” Story has it that Antipas was a local dentist or physician who was secretly propagating Christianity and was therefore, accused of disloyalty to Caesar. Then he was condemned to death by being shut up in a copper bull and it was heated until red-hot. Whatever happened, this man died for his faith in Christ in the sight of many onlookers and just like with Stephen from the book of Acts, Jesus was one of them! One of the most encouraging things about his letter is that Jesus personally takes note of the faithful witness of local churches and individuals.
Even though they lived in one of Satan’s strongholds, we should be emboldened by how they lived as faithful witnesses for Jesus Christ! As believers, we weren’t called to isolate ourselves in nice, little, quiet monasteries out in middle of nowhere or to sulk and moan and groan about the state of our culture! We are called to have the attitude that we are soldiers of Christ who invade the territory of the enemy, going behind enemy lines. As God sent His Son into the world, so we are to go into all the world and be in it, but not like it!
Being in the world but not like it, by the way, is extremely important to point out because Jesus did have to rebuke those who were in Pergamum and who were getting involved in the immoral and idolatrous temples for business reasons or simply to satisfy their lustful cravings (Rev. 2:14-16). Please be careful to note that Jesus’ sword can be used to judge His people who are living in the world and like the world.
Verse 16 urges us to repent of the worldliness, saying,
“Therefore repent; or else I am coming quickly,
If you need to repent, do so now. Take Jesus' warning seriously as if this letter was written directly to you and your church (because it is). You can't be an agent of change in the world if you are just like the world.
But ladies and gentlemen, be encouraged by the conditions that the church of Pergamum faced. Be emboldened. Just like God built that church in the heart of Satan’s authority, so God has placed you in a strategic place at a strategic time to pray and reach out and share the gospel with those who have been taken captive by the enemy. You are here for such a time as this. He has not given us a spirit of fear or cowardice, but one of power and love and self-discipline (2 Tim. 1:7). Does that mean it won’t at time be extremely difficult? Of course not. But when it gets difficult, we refuse to quit. We get on our knees and pray. But we also get up and go serve like the Savior.
With the church at Pergamum, be encouraged by the sword that Jesus has in His mouth because although all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12), one day Christ will come and execute vengeance on His enemies with that double-edged sword from His mouth (2 Thess. 1:4-10; 2:8). It is more important, Wiersbe said, to fear Christ’s sword more than the emperor’s! So stay bold. Stay faithful. There will be rewards for being a faithful witness as a church and as an individual (v. 17).
Verse 17 speaks of the rewards,
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
For refusing to offer incense one may have not been able to do business and therefore lacked bread in Pergamum. But Jesus offers us “some of the hidden manna” of Himself – the Bread of Life to all the faithful. Also, to get into a temple party you might receive a white stone with a pagan god’s name on it. But Jesus offers us a white stone with a new name on it that allows us to enter the marriage supper party of the Lamb.
Praying you be encouraged by where Christ builds His Church,
Special credit to Dave Wyrtzen and his Truth Encounter ministry on Apple Podcasts.
Truth Encounter, Built On Satan's Throne (Rev. 2:12-17), 28 Sep 2020.
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