The church and the leaders today are more fearful of man and the worlds opinions than of God's. The church is losing its witness because of fear. We need godly leaders, humble servanthood leaders like Jesus, the ultimate leader. We as Christians need to understand what we believe and why we believe it and I really think when you get into today's study of the Church of Pergamum, you will understand how relevant this speaks to so many churches today. In some ways the church of Pergamum did very well but in others not too good and thus the reason for Jesus writing to the leaders and the church of Pergamum. Remember that once again if you have been following this study into the Book of Revelation. there is a blessing for those that read it's words and hear the word written it in.
That it applies to real churches at that time in Asia Minor, not only the seven but that each church can relate to the things Jesus writes about in each of the letters to the seven churches. It also reveals to us, as believers where our own spiritual hearts are as we read them and understand what we need to do to get right with God again. Which means that these letters are applicable to us today. We also learned that these churches are listed chronologically to mirror the church age. The church of Ephesus was all about getting the Word of God out to the world and they were busy doing God's work, but they left their first love. Then we looked at the church of Smyrna that loved the Lord with all their heart, but were under the heavy hand of violent persecution to the point of death. We know that has existed and it is existing even today.
May our hearts be opened, our eyes wide open as we get into today's study and may we give up all our ceremonies and religious practices that are keeping us in bondage without knowledge, in bondage without purpose, that we would be set free in understanding God's Word and His will.
Revelation 2:12-17 ~ "To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live - where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city - where Satan lives. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: you have people who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entire the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him heart what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna,. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. "
It's probably a smart question to ask but why do so many denominations and representations of the Christian church? Why are there Baptist churches and Lutheran churches, Methodists, Catholics and many other churches? What's wrong or what is the point to all of that? The point is this, that based upon the founders of those churches who perceived or understood certain areas of scripture, a fellowship began. But you need to understand something, though the Baptists may differ from the Assembly of God, and the Lutherans from the Presbyterians, they differ on peripheral issues, that is all of them believe on the essentials of of Christianity, that is an important thing. Keep that in mind, that is what makes them Christian.
They believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, they believe in the resurrection of the dead, they believe in His return to earth, they believe that the Bible is the Word of God, there are Christian essentials that make a church "Christian." It is those peripheral issues that make them denominations. Some may believe that you have to be baptized forward, others believe you have to be baptized backwards, those are non essentials, some people want to be baptized in Jesus' name, others want to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but the denominations have spun off, because of peripheral things. What you wear, what you eat, when you eat, all things that God doesn't really have an interest in, except for those essentials.
We now come to the Church of Pergamum or Pergamus, which was a church that knows the Scriptures, knows the Lord Jesus Christ, is part of the grand body of Christ, but it has departed and has allowed false doctrine to infiltrate the church. We see that Jesus gives three strong commendations for their conduct, for their faith, conviction and their perseverance, but He also brings them one strong note of judgment because of the teachings and doctrines that they have allowed into the church to govern the church. This one will strike home.
Do you know that the people you hang out with, you become like them in one degree or another? It is a fact, that the people you hang out with, you become like one of them. Be it for good or for bad. You and I as Christians, can not live our lives without transmitting a message. That's important to understand. So when we ask which one of these churches do you relate to when you read the letters to the seven churches, we need to understand that for us, we are taking a spiritual check on our own lives to see where we stand as believers.
The church in Pergamum was a compromising church and when you think about it, no one wants to be a compromising church or a Christian. A compromising church is weak, a compromising church is all things to all men so that all men attend it. Not that all men might be saved. A church that compromises tries to establish itself in the community, that their witness is so skewed, that it looks just like the community. It doesn't say anything about sin, it doesn't say anything about the validity of the Bible, it would never cause anyone to think and reconsider about the direction in which they live, it wants grand and super crowds of people, then runs the risk of never getting to the point of the gospel. Not that crowds are wrong, but what it that church doing to get crowds, is it making the gospel convenient, rather than the gospel being preached and people being brought up to the gospel? Is it a church that is one conducted like a business than a family? That pastors are now CEO's, and are the head of the corporation. There are other corporate executives rather than assistant pastors, Is this a church that is trying to present itself to the world in such a way, that the world can not tell, if it's in church to worship the Lord God and have their lives changed by the power of the Bible, or it is just a big self help gathering on a Sunday morning? There is a big difference.
The church of Pergamum was a church in compromise. What kind of church are we, when we are living in a world of compromise. (verse 12).
Revelation 2:12 ~ "To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword."
Geographically the church of Pergamum or Pergamos was only 45 miles north of Smyrna and was a very wealthy city. It was a key center for imperial worship of the Roman Caesars. But based in the city it had some tremendous temples and altars dedicated to three key Greek gods, that were honored at Pergamum. (1) the god Zeus, in fact his temple was one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, the remnants are still there today. This temple had a wall that went out 90 from a rock mountain, 90 feet across and then 90 feet back into the mountain. On top was a great plateau where they practiced all kinds of grotesque pagan worship practices to these Greek gods. They would bring young children and young boys often the first born, and if you worshiped Zeus or Athena or Asklepios, you would bring your first born and they would be dedicated to grotesque sexual worship. They would set up these carvings in grotesque sexual acts, and they would take these children and perform these things with them until they were sacrificed to death on these altars of pornography.
Pergamum was a very wealthy city, vellum or paper was created and designed there. They were able to make parchments, and they rivaled Egypt in the production of writing instruments. They had a library there, that was the greatest in the world at that time, which comprised some 200,000 volumes of writings. Gross bizarre worship. If any of you have been to Berlin, there is a museum there, called the Museum of Pergamum. The museum houses inside it another great altar, that in the year 1903, was taken from an archaeological unearthing of the altar of Athena in Pergamum and was taken to Berlin where it has been reassembled and you can see it today. It is spectacular. It is marble, with great and many steps leading up to the top, where many Greek gods are being pulled in the various fresca designs by Athena. All around Athena and all those she is holding captive, are serpents that are holding them in bondage. For it is in Pergamum, the Christians and the Jews alike in the first century and on to later centuries that said that Pergamum was the seat of Satan, based on the worship of Athena and the worship of Asklepios, these demon gods.
Asklepios you may not know by name, this is the god, that if you go to your doctor, he has a little stick emblem with a serpent on it. This was the first temple that was dedicated to the healing of people. The tragic thing is that it was not a hospital like you and I know today. It was a place where healing took place through the sacrificial acts and ceremonies. They had doctrines made up there that had crept into the church from a world that was lost. Into that Christian church, which still has a witness today, there are still Christians living today in what is known as Bergama in Turkey, a highly populated Muslim community, and it had crept into the church. There are still Christians living there today. That is all that is left of the city of Pergamum.
It is interesting to note that the age of that church is still an age in which we are living in even today, one of compromise. We live in a world of compromise. When Jesus speaks to the angel of the church of Pergamum, we know Jesus is speaking to the leader or head of that church. Jesus is speaking directly to him. How does a church go into compromise anyway? It doesn't just wake up and it's compromised. A church allows compromise to come in, and it begins with the leader or pastor of the church first. It is scary to think that the way of the church goes as its leader does. If the leadership is withdrawn and unapproachable, then the church will be cold and calloused. If the church is approachable, warm and loving, and open, then the church will also mimic that. It is a spiritual law of God, when you look at Jesus Christ, where do you find Him? Among the people. If there was a bunch of prostitutes hanging around a street corner, where would you find Jesus? Telling them about the forgiveness of God. If there were people who were down and out, homeless, where would you find Jesus? Feeding them. If there were people who needed assurance and peace, where would you find Jesus? Among those who are insecure and scared. Wherever the outcast were or wherever a person was in need, that is where you found Jesus.
Something happened to this church. The one that was doing well, now was not. They were doing what was acceptable in the eyes of the world. Some how became involved and that the state began to honor the church. It had approval of things and of powers. The name Pergamum or Pergamos is translated to a mixed marriage. A marriage between state and church. Whenever that happens it is a terrible thing because compromise comes in. Jesus, we see, is speaking to the head or leadership at the church of Pergamum.
James 3:1 ~ "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing then that we will receive a stricter judgment.
God calls a minister to the pulpit. God calls an evangelist to the field. God calls His servants. He does that sovereignly. It's amazing how many people want to be pastors but don't want to do the menial tasks that a church often calls them to do like helping with the painting or laying of the carpet, taking out the trash or cleaning the bathrooms. Those things are born by God into the heart of a man or a woman. You can go to seminary or Bible college, but that doesn't make you a minister. God puts that in your heart to do. God puts that calling into your heart.
This man at Pergamum had been called to teach the truth, but something went wrong. But listen to the mercy of Jesus Christ. He is so kind and tender. He reminds the leader of a very important thing, and that is to stay on course. We need to stay on course, just like church leaders must. Reading our Bible, chapter by chapter, book by book, scripture by scripture, gathering together. Begin a church, reaching those who have been victimized by fires or those who are sick and hurting. Being real. Not some type of production thing. We must be leaders on course as a church.
Hebrews 13:17 ~ " Obey those who are over you, and be submissive to them, Because they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account."
We live in a culture where people look at their church leadership with disdain. "Who do they think they are? They have no right to tell me anything!" Or when a member of the pastoral staff sits them down and says, "I hear your marriage is on the rocks, what is going on?" And they both tell you this that and the other. Then you give them what the Bible says about what they should both be doing, do you know what they say? "What? That's ridiculous! Come on we're leaving!" When you ask them why they are upset and they say, "Stop judging me. That has nothing to do with what's going on in our marriage." And off they go! How do you help someone like that? You can't do it.
If a church is concerned about your soul, somethings are pleasant and some things are not. When we open the Bible, it speaks to us. It changes our lives. But if we compromise, why should someone get up early and come to church? Leaders who want to serve instead of serving people. People who are of God ordained authority. The church does not exist to serve the leadership, the leadership of that church has been ordained by God, to serve the people. This is key. If you are in a church where people are demanding your serve a leader, or two or three, that is so unbiblical, you need to tell them why you are leaving the church. Don't just get up and leave, but tell them why you are leaving. Jesus' model is that of a servant, not to be served. a biblically led, spirit led, church you will have servant leadership in authority and that is precious authority.
Tomorrow we will delve a bit further into the church of Pergamum.