Title: MINISTERING WHERE SATAN DWELLS
Text: Revelation 2:12-17
The third letter Christ writes is to a church in a city referred to as the dwelling place of Satan (2:13). Needless to say, it was extremely tough for a Christian to live and minister in. Unfortunately, the believers in Pergamum did not rise to the occasion and shine brightly for Christ, but allowed their witness to diminish to a mere flicker. How? By compromising their standards with the godlessness of their culture. Like many of us, they fell prey to one of Satan’s most devious methods of causing spiritual ineffectiveness. Knowing that they compromised with evil, Christ pens them a letter that confronts their sin and alerts even us to the same danger. We need to be open to His piercing words concerning compromise. Read Text.
Pergamum was located on a hill 18 miles from the Aegean Sea. It was known as a flourishing center of pagan worship. In 29 B.C. it became the first town to dedicate a temple to living Roman rulers. Within a brief time it had three temples where emperors were worshiped as gods, along with temples to Zeus, Athena, Dionysos and Asklepios. Undoubtedly they were saturated with idolatry and satanic influence. The mere fact that believers at Pergamum had chosen to remain in Satan’s stronghold was amazing. As history proceeded, many Christians perished at the ruthless power of the Emperor who had them slaughtered for his entertainment. Eusebius, who wrote at Caesarea three hundred yeas afterwards, refers to the pastor of the church as being Corpus and that he suffered martyrdom.
- Notice how Christ announces Himself to the church at Pergamum: “The One who has the sharp two-edged sword.” What’s the advantage of a two edged sword? (It cuts on the stroke and the backstroke.) What do you think Jesus intends to do with this sword? (Bring it down upon their neck if they don’t repent.)
Insight: Since this is the sword of the Lord (the Word of God), there could be an application for each edge of our Lord’s sword: one for conviction and the other for destruction.
- Why is it that not many people really believe the fact that we are going to have to give an account to God? How much authority does Jesus hold? Matt. 28:18
- Jesus states this church dwells where Satan’s throne is. This must be figurative because his actual dwelling place is in Tartarus in the Abode of the Dead. But do you think there are pockets across the country where Satan seems to have a strong foothold? What is his domain today? Eph. 2:1-2; John 14:30
- How powerful is Satan? (He has superhuman strength, but divine power is greater.) Jude 1:9 Are we helpless against him? (Alone, yes, but with Christ’s power, no.) Eph. 6:10-13; 2 Cor. 10:1-5
- In the midst of strong cultic influences, Jesus praises this church for holding fast His name (2:13). What do you think He means by “holding fast His name”? (They confessed Him openly and did not deny the faith.) Matt. 10:32-33 Is it less critical to hold fast His name today?
- Jesus said they did not deny the faith “even in the days of Antipas.” Tertullian, a historian at that time, tells us of a legend where a Christian by the name of Antipas was slowly roasted to death inside a bronze bull. Whoever he was, Jesus calls him a faithful witness. Why do some live their Christianity in the church, but take it off in circles where they are met with opposition? What do you think Christ feels about that? What can we do to prepare to make sure we don’t do that? 1 Pet. 3:15
- Not everyone had the faithful character of Antipas. There were some who held to the teaching of Balaam (2:14). Balaam was a false prophet in the O.T. that influenced an enemy king against Israel to overtake Israel. His plan was to use Moabite women to seduce the Israelite men into sexual immorality, illegal intermarriage, and pagan worship. His plan was successful, thus he became a prototype of all corrupt teachers who betray believers into fatal compromise with the worldly beliefs. Deterioration began with participation in the meals where the meat had been sacrificed to idols. As they participated, it made it easier to indulge in sexual matters with the temple priestesses who were prostitutes for the gods they served. 2:14 Was Balaam’s plan effective? How so? (Yes; it sneaks up on you and gets you in its jaws unknowingly. We cannot go counter to the revealed Word of God or the will of Christ without suffering for it.) Is Satan using the same tactics today?
- Which is easier to stand up against: outright persecution or slow erosion of morals? What happens to the Body of Christ if we are blind to conformity to the world’s standards? What can we do to guard against this? How do you convince others of this danger?
- Jesus said some of them held to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. They were false apostles who taught that Christians were free from the law to the extent that they even opposed the Biblical teaching of keeping yourself sanctified for Christ. This led to endorsement of idolatry and fornication, just like Balaam led them to do. Acts 15:28-29 How far does our freedom in Christ allow us to go? Who sets the boundaries?
Insight: We must never lose sight of the Word of God as our source from which we base our conduct. We are to love what God loves and hate what He hates.
- Fortunately, the problems of the Pergamum believers were not insurmountable. Their solution lies in one act. What was it? (Repentance, 2:16. We must return to seeing the situations through God’s eyes and respond His way. We must first change our mind, then change our will, and finally change our life.) Whose duty is it to recognize false teaching? Acts 20:17, 28-30
- What was Jesus’ threat if they did not repent? Num. 22:31; 31:8 Is an unrepentant heretic who leads others astray on the verge of being destroyed? Why is Jesus so strong against false teaching? Matt. 18:6; Ja. 3:1
- What is the first reward Jesus promises the overcomer in this letter? What do you know about this manna? Ex. 16:33-34; Heb. 9:3-4
Insight: God provided the manna daily for Israel’s strength and sustenance. Thus to be able to eat of it again represents a special expression of God’s love and care.
- What is the second reward promised to the overcomer?
Insight: It was an ancient practice of jurors to cast their vote of innocence by placing a white pebble into an urn, and a black stone for a verdict of guilty. Clearly here, our repentance and persistence to become an overcomer brings Christ’s vote of forgiveness.
- What is written on the white stone? What would a new name given to you by your Savior mean to you?
Insight: Whatever the name, a new name signifies He sees a new character in you, and thus prompts Him to give you a new name. Think of the implications. He may change your name from faithless to faithful, dishonest to honest, impure to pure. The very fact that He engraves your new name on the stone indicates permanency. Only overcomers have the right to such a stone.
If we are to learn anything from this sharp warning to the believers at Pergamum, it’s to guard against the dangers of compromise. Since compromise has devastating results, perhaps these reminders will help.
- It never occurs quickly. Compromise begins with a second glance – it leads to flirtation - then to a first touch – and finally to its fatal plunge into unfaithfulness to your Husbandman. We need to stop glancing over our shoulders at sin, look straight forward and keep God’s Word fresh in our heart.
- It always lowers the original standard. Compromise never exalts; it only lowers – it never uplifts; it always tears down. The inevitability of compromise is sin and guilt.
- It is often the first step towards fatal disobedience. Compromise is like a slippery slope; once you start sliding, it’s extremely difficult to stop. But with a repentant spirit and the Holy Spirit’s help, compromise can be stopped in its tracks. If you find yourself slipping, plant your feet firmly on the mountain of God’s mercy, repent, and claim His promise of forgiveness and renewal.