THE MASTER’S VESSEL MINISTRIES, HOUSTON, TEXAS
Preacher: Pastor Uche Emenike
Topic: The Messages to the churches
Text: Revelations 1:9-11; 2:1-7
Letter to Pergamum
- This letter is being addressed to a compromising church and a church settled in the world.
- Pergamum was a city situated on the western part of Asia Minor and north of Smyrna and Ephesus and twenty miles from the Mediterranean Sea. It lies in ruins today close to the modern Turkish city of Bergama which is just a few miles away. In its time, it was a wealthy city but a city given to idolatry with its statues, altars, and groves devoted to certain deities. It also had temples dedicated to its different gods. Today, the altar of Pergamon believed to be associated with the Temple of Zeus, a Greek god, lies in the Pergamon museum in Germany, having being brought there in the 19th century by German archaeologists.
- By the very nature of the city and its religious practices and its obvious opposition to everything Christian, you can imagine why Christ calls the city a place where Satan’s throne is. In this city lies this small church being addressed by the Savior.
- In v. 12, Christ presents His character to suit the state of the churches being addressed. Recall the address to the two other churches – Ephesus and Smyrna.
- Christ has the sharp two-edged sword. This refers to the double-edged character of God’s word. It can save as well as judge. To the repentant, it brings salvation, but for those who reject his offer of grace, it brings condemnation and death.
- To this church steeped in compromise as we shall see later, He reminds them that just as He liberates them from sin and sets them free from the power of Satan, He can also judge them for their compromise. Jesus loves us enough to discipline us for our own good.
- In v. 13, He commends this church for her works. This is not surprising because the works of every church and individual shines brighter and has greater relevance when you consider the circumstances under which the work was done. Let me stop here and digress briefly:
- Your service for God is greatly pronounced when, even in the midst of sickness, ill health, and other debilitating factors, you are still serving God, and interceding in prayers and engaging in evangelism.
- In poverty, you still give to His work like the widow of Zarephath who ministered to Elijah in I Kgs 17.
- What are you giving up for the service of the Master and His kingdom? What sacrifices are you making and what inconveniences are you enduring? In America where we have open doors for evangelism, how are we exploiting it relative to the brethren in these other countries where their worship of God is outlawed?
- This church is commended because she is still serving in a place infamous for wickedness, perversion, idolatry, and cruelty.
- The church is not ashamed to be identified with Christ, holding fast to His name. This is remarkable in a culture where it is not cool to be a Christian.
- The church holds fast “My faith,” i.e. the body of Christian doctrines that accompanies faith in Christ. The writer of Hebrews mentioned some including repentance from dead works, faith toward God, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment – Heb. 6:1-2. As believers, when we depart from these basic doctrines to please the world, we become corrupted in our faith. This church passed that test even when one of her members, Antipas (meaning, “Against all,”) suffered martyrdom for his faith.
- This is a challenge for present day believers to stand true to the faith once delivered to the saints even in the midst of a changing culture.
- In v. 14-15, just as the church was commended, she was also condemned because of the activities of certain elements within the church which the church failed to address. This became the church’s liability.
- Some held there the doctrine of Balaam. What is the doctrine of Balaam? See Num. 31:15-16; 25:1-6. It is the teaching of Balaam to Balak to corrupt the children of Israel when he could not curse them. The corruption comes by making the children of Israel to commit fornication with the Moabite women and intermarry with them, thereby defiling their consecration and separation to God and abandoning their pilgrim character. They also engaged in idol worship. This all happened because of the counsel of Balaam to Balak. In the Pergamon church, there were believers who had no qualms with sex outside of marriage; they did not care who they married even if that partner was a pagan and will lead them away from the Lord. God warns greatly about unequal yoking in II Cor. 6:14-18. The believers there had no issues participating in the pagan feasts, including the immorality that is associated with such idolatrous worship.
- For such people, the question of Elijah to the Israelites still hold true today: “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” – I Kgs 18: 21.
- Christ is very serious with this issue in His church; no wonder Peter gave that admonishment of our being a chosen generation… – I Pt. 2:9-12. As believers, we must follow the word of God even if it conflicts with modern culture.
- In v. 15, we are told that some held the doctrine of the Nicolaitans who, as explained earlier, claimed to be Christians, but lived licentious lives, using the grace of God as a defense. They did not believe that you have to turn from your sins to be a Christian.
- This is a great warning to the church today as we are seeing congregations allowing people who have not repented of their sins becoming leaders and singing in the choir and serving as ushers when their unrepentant lives are evident for all to see. The argument given is that if they are given responsibilities in the church, they will hear the gospel and eventually come to Christ. No! Let them come to Jesus first as repentant sinners, then give them responsibilities later.
- In v. 16, Jesus warned that unless the people repented, He would come in and judge them. He loves His church so much that He is willing to do anything to keep it pure. If He does not intervene, the evil will continue and the church will be unrecognizable as seen in Rev. 17. God also judged His church in I Cor. 11: 31-32.
- In v. 17, Christ promises the overcomer three things:
- The Hidden Manna – in direct allusion to the manna that the Israelites ate in the wilderness which gave them strength for their journey, Jesus presents Himself as the Bread of Heaven that the world cannot receive – see John 6:48-51. He promises fellowship with Him and the spiritual strength that comes with such fellowship.
- The White Stone – Nobody knows what this means but different suggestions have been proffered:
- In ancient Greece, jury members cast a white stone when they acquit someone and a black stone when they find the person guilty.
- The white stone has to do with the High Priest’s breastplate which carried twelve stones with the names of each tribe of Israel engraved on the stones. He carried the names of God’s people into His presence.
- The Romans had an ancient custom of awarding white stones to athletes who won their athletic games. The names of the athletes are engraved on the stone. It was a ticket to a special awards ceremony. Jesus promises all overcomers entrance to the eternal victory celebration in heaven. There we shall tell the story of how we overcame. This is the more plausible explanation.
- The New Name – This likely speaks of the name of adoption given to the believer which symbolizes his heritage of the eternal glories of heaven
Christ is jealous for His church and will do all He can to put us on the right path. We cannot afford to compromise any longer.