Sunday, May 3, 2009

May 3rd - Pergamum

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Answers Conference
Summit in General
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Mark Safely Back from Seattle

Text - Revelation 2:12-17

So, a recap, Ephesus; good church or bad church? Pretty bad, not totally awful.

What was their problem? Loveless, didn’t put their doctrine into action.

Smyrna; good church or bad church? Very good church.

Why? All the heretics were weeded out by threat of death; you really had to love Jesus to stay in this church, and that made it a great church.

What does Smyrna mean? Suffering, they were the persecuted church.

Here is the chapter out of Foxe's Book of Martyrs about Telemachus:

The Last Roman "Triumph"

As was customary on such occasions, there were bloody combats in the Colosseum, where gladiators, armed with swords and spears, fought as furiously as if they were on the field of battle.

The first part of the bloody entertainment was finished; the bodies of the dead were dragged off with hooks, and the reddened sand covered with a fresh, clean layer. After this had been done the gates in the wall of the arena were thrown open, and a number of tall, well-formed men in the prime of youth and strength came forward. Some carried swords, others three-pronged spears and nets. They marched once around the walls, and stopping before the emperor, held up their weapons at arm's length, and with one voice sounded out their greeting, Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant! "Hail, Caesar, those about to die salute thee!"

The combats now began again; the glatiators with nets tried to entangle those with swords, and when they succeeded mercilessly stabbed their antagonists to death with the three-pronged spear. When a glatiator had wounded his adversary, and had him lying helpless at his feet, he looked up at the eager faces of the spectators, and cried out, Hoc habet! "He has it!" and awaited the pleasure of the audience to kill or spare.

If the spectators held out their hands toward him, with thumbs upward, the defeated man was taken away, to recover if possible from his wounds. But if the fatal signal of "thumbs down" was given, the conquered was to be slain; and if he showed any reluctance to present his neck for the death blow, there was a scornful shout from the galleries, Recipe ferrum! "Receive the steel!" Privileged persons among the audience would even descend into the arena, to better witness the death agonies of some unusually brave victim, before his corpse was dragged out at the death gate.

The show went on; many had been slain, and the people, madly excited by the desperate bravery of those who continued to fight, shouted their applause. But suddenly there was an interruption. A rudely clad, robed figure appeared for a moment among the audience, and then boldly leaped down into the arena. He was seen to be a man of rough but imposing presence, bareheaded and with sun-browned face. Without hesitating an instant he advanced upon two gladiators engaged in a life-and-death struggle, and laying his hand upon one of them sternly reproved him for shedding innocent blood, and then, turning toward the thousands of angry faces ranged around him, called upon them in a solemn, deep-toned voice which resounded through the deep inclosure. These were his words: "Do not requite God's mercy in turning away the swords of your enemies by murdering each other!"

Angry shouts and cries at once drowned his voice: "This is no place for preaching!--the old customs of Rome must be observed!--On, gladiators!" Thrusting aside the stranger, the gladiators would have again attacked each other, but the man stood between, holding them apart, and trying in vain to be heard. "Sedition! sedition! down with him!" was then the cry; and the gladiators, enraged at the interference of an outsider with their chosen vocation, at once stabbed him to death. Stones, or whatever missiles came to hand, also rained down upon him from the furious people, and thus he perished, in the midst of the arena.

His dress showed him to be one of the hermits who vowed themselves to a holy life of prayer and self-denial, and who were reverenced by even the thoughtless and combat-loving Romans. The few who knew him told how he had come from the wilds of Asia on a pilgrimage, to visit the churches and keep his Christmas at Rome; they knew he was a holy man, and that his name was Telemachus-no more. His spirit had been stirred by the sight of thousands flocking to see men slaughter one another, and in his simple-hearted zeal he had tried to convince them of the cruelty and wickedness of their conduct. He had died, but not in vain. His work was accomplished at the moment he was struck down, for the shock of such a death before their eyes turned the hearts of the people: they saw the hideous aspects of the favorite vice to which they had blindly surrendered themselves; and from the day Telemachus fell dead in the Colosseum, no other fight of gladiators was ever held there.

So, we’re going to look at another bad church now, it represents the church that sin has infiltrated, married to and in love with the world; not taken down by blatant sinning, but slowly suffocated.

Revelation 2:12-17 And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.

Pergamum is not the worst church, it does have some very good things going for it, but it is far from the best church.

v.13 I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

Pergamum was the Roman capital of Asia, it was in effect the center of worldly power in that part of the world. As you see from the pictures, this city was built on the top of a large hill, it was what is called an acropolis, a fortified city on a hill. Pergamum means fortress. This city was impenetrable, as far as my research goes, it was NEVER conquered from the outside in, although it changed hands several times from people selling it out. This city was a pinnacle of human engineering, it was beautiful, functional, defensible, and self-sufficient. It’s easy to take most castles and cities like this, all you do is make sure they can’t get food or water, and they’ll have to surrender…but not Pergamum, they had designed the city so that they could grow crops and keep livestock, as well as gathering rainwater.

As a church, they had faced fierce persecution prior to this letter being written, as many false gods were worshipped in this city, and many bad things took place. This persecution was probably what was keeping this church alive in the midst of such sin.

v.14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.

Who’s Balaam? That guy with the talking donkey.

Numbers 22-24 summary; the year is 1250BC, Balak the king of Moab saw that Israel had conquered the Amorites, the Amorites were the superpower of the time, if Israel could beat them, they would have no problem beating Moab. So, Balak sends his messengers to Balaam, who was a prophet, but apparently one who doesn’t particularly like God. He says he can’t say good nor bad by his own will. (Numbers 25:13) He is the strangest prophet in the Bible, I think, he started out as a sorcerer, but then God actually spoke to him. But instead of following God, Balaam continued to try to figure out how to use it for his gain.

Anyways, Balak really wants Balaam to curse Israel, so he takes him up on a high place…interesting, Pergamum is on a high place…and they sacrifice to God, and Balaam preaches what God tells him to, which is a blessing on Israel. So Balak gets mad and decides they’re on the wrong hill, so they try another hill, from whence God through Balaam blesses Israel again, starting off by saying, “God doesn’t change his mind.” This whole time they can see this massive Israeli migration. Balak gets mad and says, ok, we’re gonna try another hill, but this time don’t bless or curse them! He is pretty much telling Balaam to remain neutral so that God is neither for, nor against, Israel, and he will try to conquer Israel by force.

Balaam blesses Israel again, and again, four times in all. He tells Balak that it wasn’t his will to bless Israel, but as a prophet he had no other choice but to speak God’s words, and God wanted to bless Israel.

Now at some point a secret meeting took place in an effort to defeat Israel sneakily. It is not recorded in Numbers 22-24, which is the story I just told you, but in Joshua 13:22, 2 Peter 2:15, Jude 11, Revelation 2:14 and Numbers 31:14-15, lets read the Numbers verse.

Numbers 31:14-15 Moses said to them, "Have you let all the women live? Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD.

The reason it’s not in Numbers 22-24 is my guess because either Balak or Balaam related the story and neither would want to tell how they tried to go around God’s plans. Somehow Moses found out about their plan; it’s difficult to know how, albeit women of Midian came in and one of them may have told how Balaam was the mastermind of their efforts.

Balak means “Waster”, Satan has a name of “Destroyer.” Balak here certainly represents Satan, it is interesting to note that many commentaries say he wasn’t a legal king of Moab or Midian, neither is Satan a legal ruler of the planet, but since people follow him, he has power over them.

Matthew 12:30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

So, Balaam and Balak, who know they could not beat Israel by force, instead tried to beat Israel through sin, by sending in beautiful women to seduce and intermarry and pollute Israel’s population. At the height of it, one of the men, Zimri, brings his new wife, a Midianite named Cozbi, to a meeting. It’s like a lamb bringing his new girlfriend, a wolf, into the flock. While she’s just a girl, she represents sin in the camp, intermingling with worldly lusts, and for it, Israel is stricken with plague, until Phinehas, a priest, kills the newly-weds and rids the camp of sin.

So the way that relates to Pergamum is that it is the church intermarried with the world. Satan knew he couldn’t take this church through force, he’d tried, he killed Antipas and the church thrived, because the persecuted church is a healthy church. So he decided to try something more sneaky.

v.15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

Uh-oh, these same cult members, who Christ has previously says he hates, are in the camp. How good do you think this class would be if I was teaching you while I was standing at the door making cat-calls at all of the pretty girls that walked by?

We have to call sin sin, and we can’t pretend it’s alright to have in our church. I’ll give you some blatantly offensive examples...after church you go home and watch tv shows and movies that blatantly make war on God, you sing in church that God is sufficient and yet you covet money and possessions so bad it hurts, you tell Christ you’d do anything for him and yet you won’t help your parents with housework.

God hates blatant sin, and while Christ is able to pay for every type of sin, no matter how heinous, if you don’t have a hatred of sin and an aversion to it, it is unlikely that you have been redeemed.

A terrible modern day example is the Presbyterian Church USA (Not to be confused with the PCA), who recently voted on whether or not their clergy have to be monogamous to one woman in a marital relationship while serving as pastors. It is godless paganism and that church is dead.

v.16 Therefore repent.

Even as bad as it was getting in Pergamum, Christ is still offering forgiveness if they will repent of their sins.

v.16 If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.

Remember, Pergamum was the unconquered, unconquerable city. An army would have to be foolish to try, and yet what does Christ say? If they will not repent, he will make war with them. And beloved, Jesus Christ does not lose wars.

So, Pergamum is the church who loves the things the world has to offer, who profess to love Christ, but embrace his enemies. Unconquerable from the outside, but dying from the inside out.

v.17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.

Once again, we’ll talk about these promises more later, but your church situation doesn’t necessarily refer to your situation. You may be put in a bad church in order to help lead it back to God, to correct sinful situations, and to rightly represent your Saviour.

If I had to pick one church to call Summit, and most Southern Baptist Churches, unfortunately I would probably choose this church. We stand up for Christ, we won’t deny that he is the only way to reconciliation with God, and yet we have no problem living in the world, trying to filter what we want through our worldview, and reading and watching things that aren’t God honoring.

I think the worst part is that many people start with what they want to do, and then find Bible verses to support themselves. It is much better to know the Bible and find out what it allows and doesn’t allow, instead of trying to make it say things it doesn’t.

I want to give you two major examples. The first is the book, The Shack. This book is blasphemy, it totally misrepresents God, and yet if we did a survey of the congregation, I bet 25% of people like it. The reason it slid by our heresy-RADAR so easily, just like Balaam’s suggestion to infiltrate Israel with pretty girls, is because it’s not a direct attack on Christianity, after all, it uses a lot of Christian terms, it’s a very subtle sneak attack. For more information please see Michael Youssef - Thirteen Heresies in the Shack.

The second is evolution. I bring this up partly because of our Answers Conference today. Evolution is a sneak attack on Christianity. It doesn’t come right out and say, “God doesn’t exist.” But it does work very subtly and deceitfully to say that God is not necessary, which in turn leads to God not being able nor willing nor necessary to work in our lives.

One of Satan’s awesome fallacies to this effect is his ability to convince us that we’re smarter than other people and previous generations. One of the pseudoscientist’s favorite claims is that science is self-correcting, that if science discovers a theory is wrong, then it will be found out and make a new, better theory. This is nothing more than a brainwashing technique to say that the generation we are living in now is the smartest generation ever to live. If you look back through history, plenty of generations have been smarter than us and have accomplished more. We think we’re smarter now because we have airplanes, computers, and cell-phones, when in reality the only reason these are possible is because God allowed us to discover how to make and use electricity.

For example, in attempt to get people on board during the founding of the nation, a book was written in the 1780's called the Federalist Papers, which is a collection of essays in favor of a Republic. I have taken more college courses than most people, and still I find the Federalist Papers hard to read, very interesting, but extremely intellectual. Here’s the thing, the Federalist Papers were written not to college educated men, but to farmers and merchants and normal people. Back then your average citizen knew how a Republic worked, why it was good for them as opposed to a monarchy, how its checks and balances worked, and a hundred more reasons why the United States was founded as a Republic. Today most people don’t even realize that soviet and democracy mean the same thing, and that this country was never intended to be a democracy, because democracy’s are dumb.

So, the church at Pergamum was wont to fall into worldly lusts, not on purpose, but for lack of knowledge and because the heresies were cleverly hidden. The only way to avoid being this church is to know your Bible and do what it says. When science and the Bible contradict, stand with the Bible.

So, all that to say, know your Bible, believe what it says because it is absolute truth, when somebody tells you something that differs, whether it differs by a little teeny tiny bit, or a whole lot, stick to the Bible, because it has been proven right over and over and it’s not going to fail ever.

Look out for sneak attacks, because if Satan can't kill you or beat you, he wants to trick you.

Psalm 118:8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.

Next week we'll look at Thyatira, this church has one of the scariest things written to it in all of the Bible for me, see if you can find it.