3. Pergamos, the compromising church: Revelation 2:12-17
As with other cities in the region at the time, Pergamum was a Greek city that was later taken over by the powerful Roman empire of Asia Minor. Pergamos was known for its impressive monuments with the building of amphitheatres, temples and stadiums. It was also known for its pagan worship with temples built to various gods but the gospel of our Lord Jesus reached there and a church was born as we see it in the book of Revelation.
How did the Pergamum church look like?
Jesus mentioned few good points about this church:
she dwelt where Satan’s throne is
She held fast to Jesus’s name
She did not deny the faith even when her bishop Antipas was martyred
To the brethren in Pergamum he says you live where the throne of Satan is. This was the official regional head office for the worship of the emperor.
Christ was commending the church which was surrounded by idol worship of the highest form that He was aware of what they were facing but had held onto His name. These brethren had one of them executed in the cruellest way possible, Jesus referred to him as "Antipas My faithful servant" and yet did not deny the faith.
These points might applied to some of us today in our Christian walk:
We have good works though surrounded by idols worship and the grip of the world, we still hold fast and profess our faith. Some even in the midst of persecution and death threats.
Regardless of all these qualities, the Lord Jesus had few things against the Pergamos church.
Not many, just a few. Why?
Because those few things had become a stumbling block in her way so much that she was compromising on major issues. These brethren of Pergamum allowed certain doctrines to creep into the church:
The doctrine of Balaam and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. What are they?
The doctrine of Balaam:
Balaam loved the world, he accepted gifts he shouldn't have and gave evil advice against the children of Israel. Balaam cursed the children of Israel but didn’t succeed so at the end used ruse to get them. He caused the children of Israel to sin against the Lord by inviting foreign women (Numbers 25: 1-2 “Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods” ) into the camp.
At first, it was just a harmless thing isn’t it? They were just trying to “socialise and integrate” their new community and “not isolate themselves” we can argue. But in doing that, the children of Israel removed themselves from the protection of God. It was a trick from Balaam to caused them to stumble (trip over) and sin against God (Numbers 31: 15-16 “And Moses said to them: “Have you kept all the women alive? Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord”). They committed sexual immoralities and eat things sacrificed to idols.
Balaam “loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:15) and was “greedy for profit” (Jude 1:11).
The doctrine of the Nicolaitans:
The Nicolaitans were a sect of Gnostics who not only practiced but taught impure and immoral doctrines. They believe in having multiple wives, eating food served to idols, commit fornication and all forms of immorality. They were suspected to have come from one of the six initial deacons of the church (Acts 6: 5-6 “And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them”). He was believed to have gone his own way teaching believers that their liberty in Christ permitted them to do whatever they chose including immorality. It is a liberalism kind of view whereby there is “freedom, liberty and equality”. So all these things about “Do’s and Don’ts” do not matter anymore.
Note: Nicolas was once among the deacons. These people gradually allowed themselves to be deceived and has adopted practices of the pagans that were living in that city. They allowed the world to creep in.
How does these apply to us today in the church?
Today in the church, people cannot take correction or rebuke any longer because “where the Spirit of God is there is liberty” and “Jesus loves them just as they are”, so they do as they are pleased, as their flesh dictates to them.
Abstinence, restrain and self-control are no longer part of their Christian worship. Believers are committing and leaving in sexual immoralities without seeing anything wrong with it. Brethren are taking all kinds of liberty and it is so hard to differentiate between them and the world, the same way the church in Pergamum was “eating things sacrificed to idols” which made it difficult to distinguish them from the pagans around them. We are dressing like the world.
Especially as we come to the close of the age we will have to deal with all forms of sins and dilutions that will want to make their way into the church of God. One of those things for example is this doctrine of grace whereby people can do whatever they fancy and feel like doing and still not feel condemned because they are “saved by grace”. It is so erroneous.
The church is compromising on some fundamental truths that made us Christians (meaning those who have been with Christ) in the first place, all in the name of integration and love. Some of these things are coming from even people that may be once upon a time, we highly esteemed because they were part of us like Nicolas was once among the deacons. But these people have now deviated from the truth and are propagating deception as it was in the time of the apostle:
"Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us” (1 John 2, 18-19).
Warning: People of God, it doesn’t matter how big the person’s church is, it doesn’t matter how well known he is, if such person is not declaring the truth of the gospel of Christ, don’t listen to him for the sake of your soul. It doesn’t matter how close you are with your friend, if he is not declaring the whole truth of the gospel and is compromising on certain truths, please beware of such a person. “He who has the sharp two-edged sword” cuts both ways. Therefore both the sinners and the people who are allowing sin will suffer equally.
Pray that the Lord will help you to be focused
Pray for the Lord to grant you the spirit of discernment
Pray for the grace not to compromise