It has been some time since I have posted a study on Revelation, and for this I apologize. It was not for lack of wanting, but since we started our fall tour, I have found it exceedingly difficult to make time to simply meditate on the Word and jot down the message I believe God is relaying. As mentioned before, the book of Revelation is a heavy book, requiring much time, energy and focus.
I have also been busy with finishing our latest installment of the Prophetic Times magazine, the largest issue, by far we have ever put out, but I felt it was necessary to complete it before returning to Revelation.
I believe the message to the church of Pergamos is a timely one, especially taking into account recent events, and I pray it blesses, challenges, and ministers to you as it did to me while I was studying it.
May the God of truth guide you, and give you understanding.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.
November 11, 2006
As the Message to Smyrna ends, the message to the church of suffering, the church promised the crown of life upon its faithfulness unto death, so begins the message to the church of Pergamos, a church situated amidst a city steeped in idolatry, given over to the powers of darkness. As in every letter to the seven churches, there is a message here for the individual believer, as well as for entire bodies of believers. May we truly have ears to hear, and hearts to receive, and may the truth of God's word pierce our innermost beings.
We cannot be afraid of the light, we must not have an aversion to truth, even if they conflict with, and contradict the teaching and traditions embedded in us. In order to know truth, one must receive truth, and in order to receive truth one must open their heart, and let nothing stand in the way of truth's revelation. So often, God speaks to us clearly and poignantly, but we shut up our ears and refuse to acknowledge His voice because that which He is speaking compels change in us.
Revelation 2:12, "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, 'these things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:"
Since as mentioned previously the book of Revelation is heavy with symbolism, and since the first two churches to which Christ wrote His letters held a deeper meaning in their name, it is right to assume that the name Pergamos has a deeper relevance as well. As we delve deeper into the study of the seven churches, you will realize that every name shows a certain characteristic or trait of that selfsame church to which Christ is writing.
The name Pergamos has a dual meaning, having been the combination of two Greek words, Pergos, and Gamos. Although as some may know it means 'city', or 'high tower' it also means 'married', or 'united by marriage'. The literal translation of Pergamos therefore, is 'married to the high tower'.
As Christ looks upon the spiritual condition of Pergamos, His letter to the angel of the church is one of admonishment, reprimand and rebuke. Once again, my prayer is that we search our hearts in the light of God's sovereign word, to see if any of Pergamos's characteristics are evident in our walk, and our relationship with God, and if such things are found, may we readily remedy them.
While some may look at the definition of Pergamos and assume that 'married to the high tower' would be a compliment, one must first realize what the high tower is. Contrary to some men's long held beliefs, the high tower is not Christ, but rather the world. The church of Pergamos had done what many churches are doing today, namely they had reached a compromise with the world. They had succumbed to the idea that compromise was an acceptable alternative to being persecuted and disdained by the world. By uniting with the world however, by being married to it, an individual or a church leads a life of spiritual licentiousness and fornication. No one has ever remained pure once they have succumbed to compromise, and such was the case with the church of Pergamos, which was in adultery with the system and the leaders of that time.
How is the modern day church any different than the church of Pergamos, having prostituted ourselves to the world for a little power, for a bit of political influence, and in exchange for said benefits abandoned truth, leaving it fallen in the streets, making an enemy of those who depart from evil?
Charles Spurgeon once wrote the following: "An unholy church is useless to the world, and of no esteem among men. It is an abomination, hell's laughter, and heaven's abhorrence. The worst evils which have ever come upon the world have been brought upon her by an unholy church."
In order to see how far we have strayed, in order to realize what sin has made of the church, we need only discover what God intended us to be. In the light of this truth, realizing that God intended us to be His bondservants, those who would carry the message of Christ and the cross throughout the world, many a knee should be bending in repentance, and many a tear should be spilled.
When Christian leaders begin to condemn those seeking to be set apart, seeking righteousness and holiness unto God, and label them provocateurs, admonishing them for speaking such inflammatory words as 'Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life', how can we deny that we have wed ourselves to this world, that in our quest to be accepted by it, we have become it?
James 4:4-5, "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend to the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, 'The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously?"
The devil resists God, and by association the servants of God in two distinct and destructive ways. The first way is by constraint, or coercion, by force and persecution, as we saw with the Church of Smyrna, and the second is by defiling men, by beguiling them to compromise, offering them worthless scraps in exchange for their eternal soul. The devil excels in the art of neutralizing the Christian testimony by deceiving them into compromising with the world, for the sake of the world's acceptance. There is no such ting as consecration, or sanctification unto God in half measure, and the enemy knowing this, attempts to blind God's children into doing just that. As has been said by many a preacher, the devil loves a lukewarm Christian.
Because they had compromised, because they had gone the way of the world, in His introduction to the angel of the church of Pergamos, Christ reveals Himself as He who has the sharp two-edged sword.
Due to the fact that they have bonded with the world, those suffering from the Pergamos condition have lost the ability to rightly discern, and even having discerned the truth from the lie, the good from the evil, they no longer retain the ability to keep the two apart. Thus the reason for the sharp two edged sword, which comes out of the mouth of Christ, which is the living Word, which is able to cleave and separate the light from the darkness, which either pierces not only men's hearts but their souls and spirits judging them, or strikes the rebellious where they stand. Christ wields this selfsame sword today, as He did two thousand years ago, striking at false teachings, and unscriptural doctrine wherever they are found. It is also the Christian's weapon against the doctrine of unification between the church and the world. It is the word of God that we must use, it is the word that will defend us and justify us.
Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of the soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
If we have gleaned so much from merely the name of a place, now we proceed to the actual message that was destined for the church of Pergamos, the message of rebuke and chastening that Christ spoke against them. In an age when men consider all things relative, we must keep in mind that we serve a God of absolutes, and while some men adopt the idea that it does not matter what you do as long as you can live with yourself, there is still a God that condemns sin, that looks down upon what His house has become and weeps. We must realize that the problems with which the modern church is confronted are not new problems, but they have existed since its inception, because the enemy, who prowls and seeks to destroy it, existed as well. Yes, throughout history there have been those who compromised their faith, but there have also been those who remained faithful even unto death, those who would make no concessions when it came to Christ and the cross. Countless examples are laid before us, and what we as individuals must do is choose which avenue we will pursue, never forgetting that there is consequence to every choice, and though we may have spared ourselves a little suffering, a little mocking, a little rejection today, tomorrow we will have to answer to God for our lack of steadfastness.
Revelation 2:13, "I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. And you hold fast to My name and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells."
We serve an omniscient God, who knows not only our physical condition, but also our spiritual condition. In His letter to the church of Ephesus, Christ begins by informing them that He knows their works, labor and patience. To the church of Smyrna, He writes and informs them that He knows their works, tribulation and poverty. As He begins his letter to the church of Pergamos, Christ reminds them that He knows where they dwell. Christ sees all, including you and me, and knows where we dwell both physically and spiritually. If spiritually we dwell in the heavenly places with Christ, all is well, and the new life we have obtained in Him matures naturally, becoming more and more like Jesus, even if physically we may dwell where Satan's throne is.
Ephesians 2:4-6, "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
With our bodies, we the children of God, are on earth, bound to it as everyone else; spiritually however, we sit in the heavenly places, and nothing tethers us to this place, through which we journey as strangers. We are not of this earth, and knowing this, we have but one calling in this world, namely to testify of Christ Jesus, and the Gospel of His grace. When we blend with the world, we invite spiritual death into our hearts, and all that has been built up spiritually is quickly torn asunder. We cannot live as the world, believe as the world, act as the world, and desire what the world desires, still claiming to be children of God. Although we can readily fool men concerning where our hearts are, although we can put on the mask of hypocrisy and be a brother to the brethren, but also a brother to the world when it is required, we cannot as easily fool God. God is not mocked, for He knows all things.
There is no better place where Satan feels more at home, than where he discovers the blending and mixing of truth with the lie, the amalgamation of God's word with the traditions and teachings of men, the combination of the heavenly things with earthly things, or the impossible attempt to reconcile both darkness and light in one place.
Whether in a single individual, or an entire church body, wherever one discovers the unification, and the blending in of the world, it is God's written Word that states it is the dwelling place of the devil, and that church or individual has become an enemy of God.
The theologians, who have studied the book of Revelation and say that the seven churches are seven periods in time, associate the Pergamos time period to the rule of Constantine the Great, which began in the year 312. It was then that Constantine the Great the king of Rome, in order that he may conquer the world, became a Christian in name only, and in the year 315 proclaimed the edict of Milan for purely political reasons. The edict of Milan was a decree that stated the official religion of the Roman Empire, was that of Christianity. He passed this decree not because he had found truth, or light in God's word, but to garner the votes of the ever increasing Christian population. Is it just me, or does this tactic sound eerily familiar?
After his victory, Constantine forced all of his soldiers to be baptized, and thus began an age in the history of the Church that was lauded and praised by many historians as a great blessing, but which turned out, in reality, to be a great setback and downfall for true believers. The Church became the defender of the state, and the Roman Empire began to patronize, and subsidize the church financially. The Church and the state became one, they were wed together, and being wed the Church soon began to dictate not only the religious aspects of society, but also the government thereof. All embraced Christianity, without embracing Christ. In short order, the Church could no longer be discerned from the world, there was no difference between the two, and soon the Church even adopted the image of the world. Many professed Christianity because it was in vogue, because it was the popular thing, but very few contemplated a true life in Christ, and those that did were readily persecuted and despised.
When I was a child, I wanted to be an archeologist. Before God called me into ministry, I would devour anything having to do with the past, I read history books not because I had to, but for recreation. Within the pages of history, even the most rudimentary search reveals that man is a repetitive being, and the sons readily repeat the mistakes of their fathers, just as the fathers repeated the mistakes of their forefathers. When Solomon says 'there is nothing new under the sun' in Ecclesiastes, at least when it comes to human nature and man's uncontrollable urge to repeat the mistakes of the past, I believe it is true. Although the same fraud has been perpetrated upon the house of God over and over again, still the children of God seem to fall for it every time. Although every time men have tried to widen the path of salvation they merely succeeded in watering down the truth to the point that it was nullified, we still continue to receive counterfeit gospels and revel in their liberty and absence of accountability. When will we learn? When will the children of God finally wake up and realize that the cost of friendship with the world is too high a price to pay? When will we wake up to the truth that compromise is as a cancer for today's Christian, a malignant tumor birthed out of negation of scriptural truth, and absence of spirituality?
What happened some seventeen hundred years ago, is a well known historical fact, one that cannot be denied, but the Pergamos condition has remained in the Church in perpetuity, and because we are willing to compromise, the world knows that if the offer is good enough, we will accept the deal, make a pact with the enemy, and help promote its agenda. The question is no longer will the Church compromise, but what will it cost. Every time an individual or a community sought authority or power from the world, compromising their identity of traveler and stranger in this world, separation from Christ and death soon followed.
Lest we forget dear reader, to the followers of Christ this life was meant to be only a journey, not a destination. If this present world, this present life, is merely a bridge, why are we so anxious to build our homes upon it? How readily we forget that Christ knows us, he knows where we have built our home, and where we dwell. The question is do we dwell in the heavenly places with Him, or on this earth where Satan's throne is? For a true child of God is no longer of this world.
John 14:30, "I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me."
John 17:14, "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world."
As long as we contend earnestly for the faith, that faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, we must without fail contend for His name as well, for the name of Christ is the message, the center, the fulfillment of said faith. When we contend for the faith, we fearlessly confess the name of Christ for the two are united, are as one, and cannot exist apart from each other.
When one no longer contends for His faith, but adds of his own volition that which he deems to be good, or omits certain truths that would impede individual aspirations or goals, he tramples underfoot the name of Christ, and nullifies His nature in their lives. The name of Christ, encompasses within itself all that is worthy of praise, both true God, and true man.
Jude 3, "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints."
While Jude was diligent in writing concerning the common salvation the Spirit of God, changed his plans and he began to encourage the brethren, and by association us, to contend earnestly for the faith. In His willingness to be led by the Spirit, Jude allowed his previous plans to be set aside in order to do the will of God, and write not what he believed the brothers wanted to hear, but what God knew the brothers needed to hear. For those who place no conditions or limitations on God, but submit to Him wholly and completely, the promise that God will be wholly committed to them stands true in perpetuity. The soul that has wholly committed itself to God, no longer has aspirations or agendas of its own, but has surrendered them all to God, and since He is God's and God's alone, he does not take issue when his plans are changed, but faithfully follows the guiding light of his master. A true follower of Christ, places his trust in Him, and this is where the church of Pergamos left the true path, for they believed that if they would associate with the current governing powers, if they compromised what they deemed to be little, in order to obtain more, it would be a worthwhile arrangement. History itself teaches us that it was not, but more lamentable still, Christ condemns their actions, and points to one, namely Antipas, who remained faithful unto death.
It does not matter where he resides, it does not matter how much resistance he is faced with, a believer's responsibility is to contend for the name of Christ, and lift Him high by his testimony that by living the life of one who has been redeemed, he may draw others to the truth and love of God.
Although very little is known about Antipas, his name having been expunged from the annals of history, the Bible tells us he was faithful to Christ, resisting the willingness of the majority to bend to the governing power's will. It didn't take much in those days to be condemned to death, in fact something as little as one's refusal to call Caesar Lord, would be enough for the pyre to be erected, and for the citizens to be called out that they may witness the punishment for disobedience. In the face of this many compromised, many bent, many denied, yet those who remained faithful, even unto martyrdom, remain as living testimonies for true believers throughout time.
Believers that contend earnestly for the faith, will always be in the minority, will always be persecuted and killed, whether by the sword of iron, or the sword of men's tongues, because they are unwilling to go along, simply to get along, and cause ripples in the pond when just a little compromise would make things go so smoothly. Because of their defiance of the norm, because of their steadfastness, true believers are not only hated by the world, but also by those of the church who have made concessions to the world, who have abandoned the absolutes of their faith in Christ. The truth is as simple, as it is profound, a child of God cannot have a spiritual relationship with those who do not possess His Spirit.
1 Corinthians 15:33-34, "Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits.' Awake to righteousness and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame."
It would seem much of the modern day church has forgotten this immutable universal law, as well as the fact that when we court evil company the consequences of such a courtship are grave indeed. Just as the church of Corinth had done, the church of Pergamos did not keep this truth at the forefront of their minds, and gave themselves over to circumstances in which they had no business being, they compromised the truth, and were slowly poisoned by the ways of the world, and the ideology thereof.
Although a man can readily contract a contagious disease from another, the same cannot be said for contracting good health. Evil company corrupts good habits, but good company does not better evil habits in the same measure. Man is more prone to do evil than good, and has a greater power to spread sin than virtue. It is one of the most striking truths concerning the fallen nature of man.
A man by the name of Alexis Carrel, considered by many a genius of his time once said: 'In order to cultivate intelligence, one merely needs mental exercise, while all other activities pertaining to the conscience need an environment in which to grow and mature. No one can escape his environment except through isolation or flight.'
Although I can continue to quote the thoughts and meditations of great and enlightened men concerning the tragedy of holding to evil company, of getting caught up in the world, and in the turmoil of the world, the simplest truth is always best, and the simple truth is whether for an individual or a community, evil company corrupts good habits.
Revelation 2:14, "But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality."
The word of God tells us that there are certain things He is for, and there are others He is against. Rather than detail all the things that God is against, we can simply say that He is against anything that does not come from Him, that does not have its origins and purpose in Him, and is jealous to see only those things which are His in the midst of the church. God knows, as should we all, that whatsoever does not come from Him, only leads to division, darkness and death.
If we remain in the light of God's Holy Word, and if the Holy Spirit guides us perpetually, then we can discern without fail, that which comes from God, and that which comes from the enemy. When we filter everything through the word of God, then we no longer have to guess at whether something is true or not, but we will know with certainty if God has something against us as He had against the church pf Pergamos.
There is one thing that God had against the church of Pergamos, and that is its mixing, integration, and amalgamation with the world. What's worse is that this condition was defended with a doctrine, namely the doctrine of Balaam. This was no longer a sin committed out of ignorance of weakness, but rather something calculated and placed upon a philosophy, with an apparent logic that was against the mind and plan of God. It was the doctrine that God found displeasing, it was the basis of this doctrine that God had against the church of Pegamos.
Through his teaching, Balaam laid a trap for the children of Israel, separating and dividing them from the truth of God, as well as from each other. He counseled the Moabites to tempt the children of Israel with their women, and the warriors of the Lord, those who knew better fell victim, and betrayed that in which they believed.
Numbers: 25:1-3, "Then 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. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel."
Numbers 31:16, "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."
It began with harlotry, it advanced to being invited to the sacrifices of the Moabite gods, it progressed even further to where the people ate and bowed down to the gods of Moab, and it ended with the Lord's anger being aroused against Israel, wherein there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. The enemy's plan is always multi layered, and he does not make his intentions known until it is too late. When Balaam counseled Balak to bring forth the daughters of Moab that the men of Israel may commit harlotry with them, he knew that this would progress further than just mere harlotry. What Balaam was teaching Balak in essence, was how to separate the people of Israel from their God, how to cause them to fall into disfavor with Him. One sin begets another greater sin, and one compromise begets another greater compromise.
There are men today that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who by their teaching encourage souls to commit harlotry with the world, advocating a life of half measures wherein one can walk with God and in the world at the same time. It is partly the reason that the either or mentality is so despised in modern Christianity, because the number of those advocating duplicity has grown to record numbers.
This is the sin that God perceived in the church of Pergamos, the false teachers, who as Balaam encouraged the church to mix themselves with the world, with their form of worship, with their aspirations, and their life. By this amalgamation they forsake the term of traveler, and foreigner, making this world their home.
From reading the message to the church of Pergamos in its entirety, we see that there are two great evils that had wormed their way into the heart of the congregation. The first evil was the doctrine of Balaam, and the second, the doctrine of the Nicolatians. The doctrine of Balaam represents amalgamation with the world, or defiling the purity of God's house by compromising for the sake of the world, and the doctrine of the Nicolatians represents the division and disharmony within God's own house by the empowerment of certain men over the rest of the brethren without the express permission or will of God.
Although these two destructive forces can be found in a body of believers, they can also be found in the single individual who holds to these heretical doctrines. It is easy to think of others when we hear God say, 'this is what I have against you', but rather than consider others, may we first search our own hearts in light of God's word. Inward study and introspection must first begin with us.