In Revelation 2:12-17 we read of a church in the city called Pergamum. The Roman writer Pliny called Pergamum, “The most distinguished city in Asia” and the city (now called Bergama) still exists today, sitting atop a 1,000 ft mesa, still prompting some modern tourists to view it as sacred. This illustrious city was known for housing the “Throne of Satan” which scholars believe referenced the altar of Zeus, a horse-shoe shaped mantle measuring 120 feet by 112 feet, with a podium over 18 feet high, depicting the battles of ancient gods and giants.
In Revelation 2:14 Christ issues His concern with the church at Pergamum stating that although they called themselves a church and met like a church they weren’t in fact a true church. He specifies the reason why, stating, “You have some who hold the teaching of Balaam.” Who was Balaam? Numbers chapter 22-25 tells us the story. King Balak of Moab feared the Israelites. He hired Balaam (a prophet) to curse Israel but it didn’t work. So, Balaam introduced Moabite women to the young Jewish lads corrupting their virginity and vows to perpetuate the Jewish lineage. God stopped the plan by killing 24,000 people and at one point a donkey turned around to yell at Balaam.
The Worldly Corruption
The teaching of Balaam is the introduction of worldly pleasures into the church. Instead of a direct assault by Satan, ignorant and evil teachers, allow people believe that they can fulfill their pleasures all weekend and then come worship on Sunday like it’s no big deal. In the 1st century the Nicolaitians taught that people were, “Free in Christ” able to perform any type of sexual immorality because all was forgiven by Christ.
The Bible says otherwise. James writes, “Friendship with the world is hostility towards God…” (James 4:4) There is nothing in the Bible which describes a church attempting to look or act like the world around it. Christ designed the church to be an instrument of purification. A follower of Christ will walk into a true church and say, “I’m home.” An unbeliever will walk in and say, “I need God.” A partying, sexually immoral, line-walking “professing christian” should walk in and feel downright uncomfortable.
American Christianity is Pergamum Christianity. The church has little influence on the world because the world has so much influence on the church. This church uses the right sentiment on Sunday but then allows people live out their pagan pageantry all week long. And, the Pastors go right on letting it happen by preaching feel-good sermons that convict absolutely no one. Men and women of the pews will certainly stand accountable for their actions, but a much greater judgment is reserved for the Pastors who took pulpits only to falsify the gospel and entertain lost people on their way to hell.
Sin means to, “Miss God’s mark”. Paul tells us, “The deeds of the flesh are immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, and carousing…” Therefore, it is sin to channel surf naked bodies, look at pornography on a phone, laugh at improper jokes, envy someone else, get drunk and call it freedom, listen to hip-hop filled filth, sleep with the same gender, sleep with someone not your spouse, laugh at sexual jokes, cheat on taxes, wear clothes that prompt men look, gossip and call it concern, lazily not lead your family, not regularly be at church, nor fellowship with other Christians. It’s sin to get up on stage and preach something that we do not understand and do not perform ourselves.
The Worldly Confession
Revelation 2:16 says, “Repent, or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.” Could Jesus be any more clear? Repent is the Greek word that means to turn and proceed the other way. Note also that Christ uses a Hebrew idiom saying, “I’ll come to you” (singular) and, “Make war against them” (plural). His point is that the sins of one person impact the entire congregation and if the Pastor doesn’t deal with these issues He will.
People don’t like to think of Christ Jesus as, “The Sword.” Yet, multiple times in Revelation that is His description. He came the first time as servant to save and He will return as King to rule. A sharp sword is an interesting illustration because when held at close range it forces the defender to make one of three decisions. Fight, flight, or submit. To fight with Christ is what Satan has selected, and he will lose. To run from Christ is what many humans have selected, and they will be lost. The only blessed alternative when the Sword of truth shines, is to submit, allowing Christ receive you as His child, and you serve Him as Lord.
The Heavenly Contentment
Revelation 2:17 closes with a promise, “To him who overcomes… I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows who receives it.” Historians have debated this promise for centuries but it likely references the Victor’s Stone given winners of 1st century athletic games. On the podium, a king would hand the victor a white stone, inscribed with the winner’s name, and this stone would be his VIP ticket into the award’s banquet to follow.
To the church and the Christian who remain pure Christ promises entrance into His marriage supper of the Lamb! May it be a most urgent and pressing matter that every Pastor and Christian enter the house of God with utmost purity, avidly opposing the lust of eyes, lust of flesh, and damning pride of life.
Grace and peace.