Sun, Feb 06, 2000

The Compromising Church: Revelation 2:12-17

Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
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THE COMPROMISING CHURCH

REVELATION 2:12-17

Long ago, William Law warned that the world is now a greater enemy to the Christian than it was in apostolic times:

It is a greater enemy, because it has greater power over Christians by its favors, riches, honors, rewards, and protection than it had by the fire and fury of its persecutors.

It is a more dangerous enemy, by having lost its appearance of enmity. Its outward profession of Christianity makes it no longer considered as an enemy, and therefore the people are easily persuaded to resign themselves up to be governed and directed by it.

- Robert H. Lauer

As we study the letter Jesus wrote to the church of Pergamos, or Pergamum, that is the thought, the church in compromise or the compromising church. So Let’s read through this third letter that Jesus wrote to the churches in the Roman province of Asia beginning in verse 12 of Revelation chapter 2. (Read Revelation 2:12-17).

As with the previous two letters we have looked at, we are once again going to be looking at the 7 key principles or elements that are found in these letters. We will look at the DESTINATIONof this letter, the TITLE or DESCRIPTION OF JESUS, the COMMENDATION, theREBUKE, the EXHORTATION, the WARNING and finally the PROMISE He gave to this church. And so, with that in mind lets look at these verses in Revelation chapter 2 a little closer and see what the Lord will have for us this morning.

REVELATION 2

VERSE 12

The DESTINATION of this letter was Pergamos. This city was located some 75 miles to the north of Smyrna and about 15 miles inland. It was thus, not a seaport city, nor did it have any major trade routes going through it, so it never attained the commercial greatness of some of the other cities, but it did have other influences that drew the people there.

They had a temple to the god Zeus which had an altar some 800 feet in the air. They also had a healing center there and people would come and be healed by the god Asclepius whose symbol was two entwined serpents, a symbol that the medical industry still uses today. But notice its pagan origins. They also worshiped the gods Athena and Dionysus as well as others, and it was the center for Caesar worship. Culturally speaking, they had a library that contained more than 200,000 parchment scrolls, second only to the library in Alexandria, in Egypt!

Interestingly enough, the name Pergamos means "mixed marriage" and the idea here is the church uniting or marrying the world. Remember, prophetically speaking, the church of Ephesus represented the apostolic church or the church to around 100 AD. This is the church that left its first love. The church of Smyrna represented the persecuted church from around 100 AD to around 312 AD. Thus, the church of Pergamos represents the church from around 312 AD to the 5th century or the compromising church.

In around 312 AD two generals fought for the right to be emperor. And one of the generals, on the night before this battle, prayed that if God would give him the victory he would convert to Christianity. His name was Constantine and he was victorious in this battle and made the state religion Christianity. But also understand this, there is no documentation that Constantine even became a Christian!

And with this so-called Conversion experience, the persecution against Christians stopped, and the church moved out of the catacombs, where for some 212 years some 5 to 6 million Christians were martyred for their faith in Christ, and they now have moved into the government. And what this great persecution was not able to do, weaken the church, this marriage to the world, this compromise did. And with this compromise, this marriage to the world, we see the spiritual decline of the church as they attempt to combine Christian theology and pagan philosophy. And this will all led up to the corruption of the dark ages and the church of Thyatira as we will see next week.

The DESCRIPTION OF JESUS taken from Revelation chapter 1, is that Jesus comes to this church holding a "sharp two-edged sword." The word that Jesus uses for "sword" is not MACHARIA, which speaks of a small sword or dagger that was used in hand-to-hand combat. We see MACHARIA used in Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4:12 which speaks of the Word of God cutting away the hardness of a persons heart.

But for this church that is married to the world, Jesus uses the Greek word RHOMPHAIA for sword. This was the long broad sword that was swung to cut down the opposition. It is the sword of judgment, which is also the Word of God! In other words, if this compromising church refuses to deal with these problems, judgment would come upon them!

Yes the persecution of Christians was coming to an end, but they were faced with an even bigger problem. The Judge of heaven and earth was about to judge them for their compromise!

VERSE 13

As you look at this church there was not a lot to praise, and yet, within this church there were still some believers. I think that is important for us to remember, that even in churches where the Word of God is not being taught like it should, God has those who love Him, as few as that might be. And yes, their growth is stunted in that type of environment, but look at this compromising church, and God says there are some who honor Him there.

The COMMENDATION that Jesus gives to this church is two-fold. First, they held true to the deity of Christ and secondly they stood strong in the faith. They were unwilling to compromise what they believed in the face of this heavy opposition from the church itself. Talk about a difficult situation, but they hung in there.

In fact, during a period of time when persecution against Christians was coming to an end, there were those who stood in the faith and were martyred for their faith. And one of these faithful saints was Antipas, and his name means "to stand alone." And I believe the implication here is that those true believers were being attacked from within the church, by unbelievers who had attached themselves to the church and were even in the leadership of the church! When the church in general was enjoying peace and prosperity, the true believers were being persecuted for their faith.

How difficult it must have been for true believers to serve Jesus in this wicked and demonic environment. In fact, Jesus says of Pergamos, that it is the place "where Satan’s throne is."What is that all about? And understand that Satan is not the god of Hell, that is not where his throne is at, he is called the god of this age, the god of this world!

If you remember the story of Nimrod and the tower of Babel recorded for us in Genesis chapters 10 & 11, we see the start of this false religious system. The tower of Babel was just the beginning. By the time we get to the book of Daniel, and the Babylonians coming to power, we see king Nebuchadnezzar inherit a kingdom filled with magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, people who dealt in the occult. It was the center of occult worship, the center of false religion. But the Babylonian kingdom did not last forever.

When the Babylonian kingdom came to an end, defeated by the Medes and the Persians, what happened to all these priests, all these from Babylon who practiced occult worship? They moved their headquarters from Babylon to Pergamos, and thus, the place where Satan’s throne was at. It was the center of false religious activity and now the church was married to them. Constantine embraced these priests and allowed them to come right into the church. And thus, all those pagan holidays came from Babylonian roots, like Christmas and Easter. Many of the practices in the church today, come from this false religious system, like the worship of statues, prayers for the dead, and-so-on. And so, as John was writing, Satan’s throne was in Pergamos, and would eventually move to Rome in around 378 AD. And we will see that more next time.

VERSES 14-15

The REBUKE against this church was two-fold. First, they held the doctrine of Balaam. And secondly, they held the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. You see, the overwhelming majority of this church was drowning in false practices and false doctrines, and Jesus wants them to see and hear these things so they may come out of these practices.

Lets deal with the doctrine of Balaam first. Balaam was originally a pagan diviner from Pethor, a city of Mesopotamia, (Deuteronomy 23:4). It seems that this prophet came to know the true and living God and was given a prophetic gift which made him known throughout the land. Balak was a king of Moab and he was well aware of Balaam’s abilities and he sought to use this against the children of Israel, who he saw as a threat as they encamped in the plains of Moab. So Balak sends for Balaam to come and curse the Israelites.

But God tells him not to go, but through pressure from Moab and greed, his own selfish desires, he goes against God’s perfect will and heads towards Moab. And each time the king asks him to proclaim a curse upon the children of Israel, he proclaims a blessing, which infuriates the king of Moab.

Finally, even though Balaam did not curse Israel, even though he was unable to turn God against Israel, he got Israel to turn against God, which accomplished the same results. He did this by given to Balak a doctrine to weaken and stumble the children of Israel. He told them to gather their young women together, wearing short skirts and entice the young Hebrew men. And as they seduced them, these women would then show them how they worship their gods, which was found in sexual activity. And thus, they not only committed sexual sin but they also committed spiritual fornication before God.

In Numbers 25:1-3 we read of this taking place, and it worked like a charm. It fed on the fleshly lusts which these young men succumbed to. We read "Then Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel."

Balaam caused the people of God to intermarry with the world when they were to be married to Jehovah God. That was the doctrine of Balaam and Jesus is saying that this same doctrine has been used here in Pergamos.

You see, when Constantine made Christianity the state religion, he also allowed the pagan priests, and their festive pagan holidays to come into the church. The church was, in a sense, being married to the world. Thus, as Balaam introduced idolatry and fornication to the children of Israel, Constantine introduced idolatry and fornication into the church!

As Christians, we are to be separate from the world. That doesn’t mean we don’t go into the world, but that we are not of this world, we are citizens of heaven! Now some may not like to hear this, but hear me out. As Christians we are not to be dating or marrying unbelievers! We are to be separate. And for those that think they will take their unbelieving boyfriend or girlfriend and make them Christians, the other is most often true, they bring you down, you don’t bring them up.

Now before you get mad at me, listen to what Paul says in II Corinthians 6:14-18. And if you still don’t like it, then you need to talk to God about it, but He won’t change His mind! Paul said, "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship hasrighteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And whataccord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And whatagreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. AsGod has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.’ ‘I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." Don’t think God is being unfair, or trying to ruin your fun, He is trying to protect you from the danger that you are getting involved in. He is doing it for your own good! Look at what happened to Israel when they married Moabite women and what happened to the church of Pergamos, the wickedness they became part of. God doesn’t want you to go down that same path.

The church today has embraced itself with darkness also. We see homosexuality being accepted in many churches, even having homosexual pastors. We see women becoming pastors. We see the church standing up for abortion, euthanasia, and-so-on. We must remember, we are married to the Lord and not to this world. Don’t allow the darkness to put out the light!

The second rebuke against this church is they held the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. The church of Ephesus stood against this, but the church in Pergamos was embracing this doctrine that Jesus hates!

There are many ideas of what this doctrine is all about, but to me the simplest is to break the word down into two words; NIKAO which means "to conquer" and LAOS which means "the people." And thus, the idea here is the setting up of a hierarchical system where some people are over others, they are closer to God and to get to God you have to go through them. Any church or person that embraces that is wrong!

Job said, as he was speaking of God "For He is not a man, as I am, that I may answer Him, and that we should go to court together. Nor is there any mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both." Job 9:32-33. Sin has separated us from God and no man could ever restore that broken fellowship. No man could touch both God and man and bring them back together. It was a hopeless situation. No man could intercede for us.

But, in the New Testament, we see Paul tell Timothy that there is someone who could restore that fellowship between God and man. He says "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." I Timothy 2:5-6.

If you attempt to go to God through anyone else but Jesus, be they man or so-called saint, or even Mary as some would say, you are saying that His work was not sufficient and thus, I must go to another mediator, a man or a religious system to get to God. That is a slap in the face to what Christ accomplished for us on the Cross of Calvary. He restored our fellowship for us with the Father by His atoning death, and thus, God see’s us as sinless through the blood of Christ.

VERSE 16

The EXHORTATION is simple. For those that hold onto these doctrines, they need toREPENT! If you refuse to turn to God, to have a change of mind that leads to a change in your behavior, God will come and fight against you with the sword of judgment, the Word of God! That is the WARNING! In fact, that is exactly what Jesus said in John 12:47-48, "And ifanyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come tojudge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words,has that which judges him-- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day."

You can’t make a deal with God. This is not "Let’s make a deal!" All you can do is repent before Him, or judgment will come upon you. And God will fight against those who are leading the body astray and holding onto these off-base doctrines and practices!

VERSE 17

1. Here is the individual call to respond, "He who has an ear, let Him hear what the Spiritsays to the churches..." It is a call for all to hear and respond, and then Jesus speaks to the over comers, those who stood faithful in the faith, believing in the deity of Jesus, and He gives them a two-fold PROMISE.

First, He will gives us hidden manna to eat. Remember when the children of Israel were passing through the wilderness for those 40 years, God gave them manna to eat. It was the bread of life to them to sustain them during their journey.

In the New Testament, we are told in John 6:32-35, "Then Jesus said to them, ‘Mostassuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, give us this bread always.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst."

Jesus is that hidden manna, and even though we can’t see Him face-to-face yet, one day we will. We will see the bread of life, the one who has sustained us in this life. John tells us "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." I John 3:2-3. He is the bread of life!

The second promise to those who overcome is they are given a white stone with a new name written on it. And there are many theory’s to what this stone is all about, but I think it is simply the stone of acceptance, as the black stone was the stone of rejection. We are accepted in the beloved, in Jesus. We are accepted into the kingdom of God if we are joined to Christ and not the world. The world can’t give to you everlasting life, only Jesus can!

Our new name that Jesus gives us I think will sum up our character, what we stand for. It will be a new name that God will give to us. We see God give new names to people in the Scriptures. Remember Jacob, his name meant "supplanter," "heal catcher," and God changed it to Israel, "ruled by God," or "God rules." God will give us a new name that sums up our character, and it will fit us perfectly.

As I bring this study to a close, keep in mind that Constantine makes the claim that he has apostolic succession from Peter, and thus became the first Pope. And this church that married the world will grow more and more wicked as it moves on and we will see that manifested in the church of Thyatira. In fact, this diluted Gospel will continue to grow more and more wicked for some 1200 years until the reformation broke onto the scene.

You can’t allow the world’s doctrines to be accepted into the church and into your own life, as we see happening at an alarming rate today. Compromise has replaced doctrine, and it may look good in the eyes of the world, but not in the eyes of Jesus, who will judge those that fall into this kind of a compromise. We must take a stand for what we believe and hold fast to what is true.

Moses, in the book of Deuteronomy, as he was giving his farewell address to the nation before he died and they entered the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua, said "Observe and obey all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God. When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it." Deuteronomy 12:28-32.

We would be wise to heed those commands today. To cling to that which is good, that which is true, that which is from God. And abhor all that is evil, that which is not true, that which is not from God. You see, if we refuse to obey God, our actions will only bring death and destruction upon our lives. God wants what is best for us, and that is why He wants us not only to listen to Him, but to obey Him.

For over 200 years the persecuted church was strong in the faith, they were pure. They knew what they believed in and they were willing to die for it. Now the persecuted church has come out of the catacombs, the persecution has stopped, and the church has married the world, and they have become impure. What is ahead for them are the dark ages unless they repent and allow the light of God to shine upon their darken hearts! And that is true for us as individuals, if you refuse to listen to Him, you will walk in darkness and not the light. The choice is yours, but you know what God wants you to do, to come to Him and receive that everlasting life, and walk in the light as He is in the light!

As the Lord said in Isaiah 55:1-3, "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you-- the sure mercies of David." Come out of the darkness and receive the light of Christ, that everlasting life that He wants you to have. It won’t cost you anything because Jesus already purchased it for you on the Cross of Calvary. All you can do is receive it into your life.

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