Be Victorious! – The Compromising Church in Pergamum
“12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 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, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” Revelation 2:12-17 NIV
I have read that Pergamos was a city noted for its culture and education. Pergamos was also known as an extremely religious city with temples dedicated to the Greek and Roman gods Dionysus, Athena, Demeter, Zeus, and also having three temples dedicated to the worship of the Roman Emperor. Jesus, when speaking of Pergamos, said to the church, “I know where you live – where Satan has his throne…”
Perhaps Jesus said this because it was a center of Pagan worship, or maybe because it was the center for the ancient Babylonian priesthood. Whatever the case, Pergamos did not seem to be the most ideal place to build a church, or to worship a Jewish carpenter.
When Jesus speaks of the church in Pergamum, He commends their faithfulness to His name. He says, “You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.” It is amazing that Jesus recognizes the faith of Antipas. Antipas is one saint from the Pergamum church that Jesus recognized as a faithful witness. Antipas was the first martyr of the Roman province in Asia. Church tradition say that he was slowly roasted to death in a bronze kettle during the reign of Domitian – the same emperor who exiled John to Patmos. Although they found themselves in a very difficult environment, the church in Pergamum is remembered as being THE COMPROMISING CHURCH.
In their attempts to relate to the culture around them, Jesus found the church in Pergamum were too tolerant and too accepting of immoral living and false doctrines. Satan could not been able to overcome the church when he came like a roaring lion because of courageous saints like Antipas. Instead, the devil made inroads by coming like a serpent. The devil tried to accomplish his goals of diminishing the church’s influence by infiltrating the church fellowship and leading them to compromise their faith in order to fit in with those around them.
This, by the way, is a great challenge for the Christian church in America today. We aren’t physically persecuted like the early church, but we are ABSOLUTELY encouraged by our culture to be a compromising church that is tolerant of all people of all values and all beliefs regardless of what the Bible says.
“14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.”
To understand this passage, we need to understand the story of Balaam (from Numbers 22-25). Balaam was a prophet of God who prostituted his gifts to gain money from King Balak. Balak hired Balaam to curse the nation of Israel. God prevented Balaam from cursing His people, and actually turned those curses into blessings. Balaam still earned his money from King Balak. How? He gave Balak advice to befriend Israel, then invite the Jews to worship and feast at the pagan altars.
The Jews fell into the trap and became “good neighbors.” The compromised their faith and twenty-four thousand people died because of their disobedience.
The name Pergamos means “married.” It reminds us that each local church is engaged to Jesus Christ and as such, must remain pure.
The church of Pergamum teaches a central truth. Being in a difficult environment never justifies compromising our faith.
Jesus looked at the Pergamum church and even recognized them as living in the place where Satan had his throne. Just because they lived in a very difficult place to be, it is important to recognize what Jesus did not tell them to do.
Jesus did not tell them to run with their tail between their legs. When things get difficult for me, I want to think that “it is a sign from God” that I need to move on to other things and go to a different place. Jesus never told the Pergamum church to run from the enemy or from their hardships.
Jesus did not allow for their faith to be watered down. Just because their environment was difficult, Jesus did not allow for them to compromise or water down their faith. He sought faithfulness, regardless of what the situation was.
Jesus did not change their surroundings for them. When things are difficult, I often find myself praying that God would change my surroundings. I find myself praying that He would “open a door” so I can escape. I find myself asking that He would “soften the hearts of those around me.” Revelation 2 teaches me that sometimes He does not open doors or soften hearts. Sometimes He lets me overcome in spite of it.
Jesus did not remove Satan from their presence. Why didn’t Jesus just cast Satan out from the city? Surely He could have. Why didn’t He just send Satan into the herd of pigs like He did back in Matthew? Why not make it easier for the Christians?
In spite of all of the junk that surrounded them, Jesus did tell them that they were to be the ones who would be victorious if they would REPENT of their compromises!
In other words, Jesus told them that they weren’t supposed to back away from Satan, but overcome him. Jesus didn’t want them to back away from the enemy, complain about their situation and surroundings, and give the city over to him. Jesus wanted them to press forward! He wanted them to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit, repent, and to press on toward victory against the enemy!
Lord sometimes I get overwhelmed by what is going on around me. Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to not be overwhelmed, but to be victorious. In Your precious name, Amen.
Ty Tamasaka is an author who hold a Master of Arts Degree from Pacific Rim Christian University in Christian Ministry He is a Bible teacher who loves to encourage people to enjoy Jesus’ grace and extend His Kingdom. Ty just released his new book Starting Fresh: Following Jesus on the Adventure of a Lifetime in addition to More than a Conqueror: 5 Pathways to Personal Revival.