Friend who worked in sorting office royal mail – enjoy getting postcards
Didn't know who they were from or who they were going to.
Over the next 4 weeks – readings from Revelation.
Short 6 verses.
We do know who they are from – Jesus.
And that marks them out immediately a v different* sort of literature in NT–
- Used to the gospels record Jesus' teaching
- Used to the Epistles - speak directly to church situations. words of apostle.
- These 7 postcards. Messages/Letters. Directly from Jesus. Symbolic language refers back to vision of ascended Jesus. Oracle, prophecy.
- Speak with an immediacy which cannot be ignored.
- Remind us that Christ speaks to his church today.
To the Angel of the Church in Pergamum...
What is he saying to the Angel of the Church in Comberton...
Certain structure [POSTCARDS where you are – Hunstanton / bracing / sandcastles / wish you were here]
Christ speaks: Commendation – Condemnation - Challenge
COMMENDS THEIR COMMITMENT v13
Challenged to deny faith in Jesus
Pergamum. top of a hill - religious centre (Zeus, Athene, Dionysos, Asklepios) centre emperor worship. Emperors decided a pretty good way to get subjects to be loyal, proclaim themselves as Gods.
Revelation. – written 80s or 90s AD Domitian. Clash of loyalties btw Church – Roman Empire. Earlier books of NT not there. “Dominus et Deus”, “Lord and God” (cf Thomas). “Throne of Satan”
Underlies whole book of Revelation. Rev 13. Beast. Number 666 – Roman Empire.
American Citizenship – give up allegiance to other country.
Loyal member of Roman Empire – give up allegiance to Christ. Crime just being a Christian.
What does that mean for us today?
- Being a Christian NOT THE SAME being a good citizen. Going to church, helping your neighbour. tick off list. Remembering to vote in local elections, cheering on the England Cricket team.
- Remember parts of the world where Christians suffer extreme persecution. North Korea Kim Jong II Total Devotion. China.
Ascended Jesus commends the Church in Pergamum.
CONDEMNS THEIR COMPROMISE v14-15
Various pagan cults / temples in Pergamum. Food and sex.
Seems odd. Church stood up for its faith in face of severe persecution. Compromised with the culture around it.
Way the devil tempts us.-
Not to deny Jesus, but to place him alongside other things.
gradual drift away, full on challenge.
Illustration. Premiership – huge influx of foreign players. Great spectacle, but means English players far less of a look in.
1992 11 foreign players. Now over 300!
1992 If the FA had said “We're going to ban English players from playing in the Premiership”. Public outcry,
17 years on more foreign players than English players. Some teams 1 or 2 in starting 11.
CHALLENGES THEM TO CONQUER v16-17
Read v16 and 17
Imagery some we understand, some we don't.
Sword – Proconsul - “Right of the Sword”. Jesus has greater authority. Don't fear being on the wrong side of the law – fear being on the wrong side of God.
Manna, White Stone. New name – Jesus offers us all a fresh start and cares for us individually.
Challenges for us
If you were challenged to deny your faith or face fierce persecution, what would you do? How deep is your root?
Where are we being tempted to compromise?
Society which is a long way from sexual ethics of NT – personal life, what we look at on the internet.
Society where more and more hearing faith ought to be kept private. Nurses and teachers are suspended for offering prayer or talking about their faith in the work place. How do we respond?
Society obsessed with Money – MPs fiddling expenses. Do we in fact truthfully fill in our tax return, expenses?
Society obsessed with Fame. How does that affect our yearning to be recognised? Are we seeking to bring glory to God or do we actually put ourselves first.
What's Jesus writing on our postcard?
Hymn: Before the Throne of God above (partic v2)