~ Commission (v12a): To the angel of the church at Pergamum write.
~ Description (v12b): The words of him who has the sharp, two-edged sword (see 1:16).
~ Commendation (v13): I know you dwell where Satan is, but you hold fast my name and do not deny my faith – even as Christians are being killed.
~ Rebuke (v14-15): Some hold to Balaam and Nicolaitans.
~ Counsel and Consequence (v16): Repent; if not I will come soon and war with the sword of my mouth.
~ Call for Discernment (v17a): He who has ears…
~ Promise for Conquerors (v17b): hidden manna; white stone; new name known only to you.
~ Commission (v18a): To the angel of the church Thyatira write.
~ Description (v18b): Son of God, who has eyes like fire and feet like burnished bronze (see 1:14-15).
~ Commendation (v19): Increasing in love, faith, service, and endurance.
~ Rebuke (v20-22a): tolerate Jezebel teaching immorality and idolatry. Whoever this “Jezebel” is, she will not stand. Jesus gives time for false teachers to repent but will cast them away
~ Counsel and Consequence 1 (v22b-23): The adulterous – Repent or tribulation / death.
~ Counsel and Consequence 2 (v24-25): The faithful – Hold fast; no other burden
~ Promise for Conquerors (v26-28): authority and morning star
~ Call for Discernment (v29): He who has ears…
Let’s identify some similarities.
~ They are in the midst of satanic influence. Satan’s throne, where Satan dwells, deep things of Satan. There is an especially strong demonic work going on around them. Pergamum was a city of false gods – known for an altar to Zeus high up on its Acropolis that resembled a throne. In addition they had temples to Athena, Dionysus, and Asclepius. They were also the first city in the Roman empire to build a temple to a human being who claimed to be a god (Imperial cult). Some or all of these may be why Pergamum is called Satan’s dwelling place. Regardless, it’s a hotbed for Satanic worship.
Meanwhile Thyatira is noted as a place where people are grasping onto the deep things of Satan – his teachings, his principles, his ways. There is strong Satanic influence all around these churches. But, Jesus doesn’t tell them to leave – because the people of God should be most where Jesus is needed most.
But there’s a danger.
~ Both of these churches are intermingling with the practices of the world. And, this is a problem. Acts 15:29: Jerusalem Council instructs the church to “abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourself from these, you will do well.”
Both of these churches were engaged in these kinds of practices. There is only a difference in degree. Pergamum has some people who hold to the practices of idolatry and immorality (v14-15). Thyatira is tolerating a teaching prophetess who is openly promoting the same practices.
In both cases they are related to an OT figure.
Pergamum: teaching of Balaam who taught Balak. Balaam’s story occurs in Numbers 22-25. The Israelites camped near Moab, and the Moabites were afraid. So, Balak, the ruler of Moab, sent for Balaam to get a word from God for cursing Israel so they wouldn’t attack and defeat Moab. Balaam ends up going. He’s confronted by a donkey and an angel. And, then three times brings back a blessing for Israel rather than a curse – because that’s what God said. Finally, he tells Balak, “I can’t curse them if God hasn’t cursed them.” Instead, he advised Balak to have inns set up with cheap food and women of ill repute so that the Israelites would eat, get drunk, lie with them, and deny God (Num 31.16; Jonathan ben Uzziel). So, there are people in Pergamum who are doing the same thing. Though they have held to the faith and name of Jesus – even as one of there own was being killed, they are living with a license to sin. They are engaging in these sinful activities under the guise of freedom and grace. The Nicolaitans are the NT version of the same idea.
In Thyatira: tolerate that woman Jezebel. She shows up in 1 Kings 16. She marries the wicked king, Ahab, and incites him to even greater evil. She’s so bad that when she’s introduced (1 Kings 16:31) Ahab has done more evil than all the kings of Israel before him. And, that’s a small thing compared to marrying her.
She killed the prophets of God and brought in nearly a thousand prophets of Baal and Asherah and housed them and fed them from her table. She didn’t just make opportunity for evil. She was seeking to wipe out the worship of God and establish pagan immorality and idolatry throughout Israel.
So, we have churches in evil places who are engaging in evil practices – to varying degrees. Probably being sold the idea that what they do in the body doesn’t matter; that they are freed by grace to do what they want. Likely under pressure from local trade guilds and government to give worship to other gods.
To them Jesus presents himself first as the one with the sword of judgment and execution. This likely references back again to the story of Balaam. When the priest Phinehas led the charge to slaughter those who were engaged in evil. Jesus says I will war against you – if you do not repent.
Then he also presents himself as the Son of God with flaming eyes (an image of judgment together with the sword – see Rev 19) and burnished bronze feet. He is the divine ruler who sees through. They have increasingly better works, endurance, love, and faith on the outside. But they are turning away from God. He sees. He knows. And, he comes with these holy, refined feet to trample out his enemies. He is God, the ruler; he has flaming eyes to see; and he is holy enough to refuse to tolerate their sin.
But, to those who respond, you gain Christ.
~ He is the hidden manna (John 6:48). I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna and died. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Eat and live forever.
~ He is the morning star (Rev 22:16). I am the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star.
And, you gain access to rule in his kingdom.
~ You are invited to the feast of the Lamb. Victors of the games would receive a white stone with their name on it. This was their ticket into exclusive banquets. (Rev 19:9) “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
~ 2:26-27 is almost a direct quote of Psalm 2:8-9 about the Messiah’s rule. And, we who conquer will share in that rule and kingdom.
** “Bring holiness to completion.” Engage in the battle despite persecution. These churches dwell where Satan dwells but they must not partner with him.
2 Cor 6:14-7.1: “What fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?…” So go out and be separate; touch no unclean thing and be welcomed; you shall be sons and daughters to me… “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”
** Guard the teaching of this church. I don’t care if it’s me or anybody else. If someone is teaching contrary to the word of God, it is your job to root it out of them or root them out of the church.
** Be wise; Be warned; serve the LORD. Psalm 2 which is referenced in Jesus’ promise of authority instructs exactly that: “Be wise; be warned…serve the LORD with fear…kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way…Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” There’s still time to find refuge in him.
Let’s draw some application:
First in regards to suffering.
*** Suffering doesn’t equal failure. Doing well doesn’t mean avoiding suffering. Notice that the churches that Jesus commends as doing well are caught in tribulation. Meaning that a church doing well for the kingdom of God won’t necessarily be avoiding suffering. In fact, it may very well be the opposite.
*** Because the gospel of Jesus Christ always has and always will proceed on suffering.
From Christ’s sufferings to purchase our salvation,
to the reformers who paved the way back to the Bible by their own blood,
to missionaries leaving home and family to seek and save the lost,
to bold witnesses who will not compromise the truth in order to be accepted by the world,
to individuals in this room who will get out of their homes or cubicles or desks to put aside comfort in order to share God’s love,
to those who commit to giving more so that the ministry of Jesus Christ will not die out on this earth.
The gospel of Jesus Christ proceeds on the sacrifice of his people.
Are you willing to sacrifice more?
Jesus is asking us to walk out in faith. It’s as if he says to these churches, “I see what you’re doing, now see what I will do…” He is the keeper of the keys and a door is open (to his Kingdom? to witness? Both?).
*** Further, trials prove faith. The same struggles that come upon unbelievers with no benefit are turned by God into a tool for our good. 1 Peter 1:6-7 reminds us that we rejoice even though we may face various trial now “so that the tested genuineness of your faith…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
This is one of the points of what is happening in the book of Job. God says to Satan, “Have you considered my servant, Job?”
In these letters rather than remove the trials, Jesus is preparing his people to go through them. Are you willing to be faithful unto death?
*** God uses those who suffer. We may feel that we are small and have little influence or possession or power. The church at Smyrna was poor. The church at Philadelphia had little power. But, these things don’t matter. [Image] If we keep his word and refuse to deny his name, he will keep us, he will establish us, he will give us a name.
*** Establish yourself in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Messages in this series
Messages by Greg Taylor