Revelation Pt.3-Pergamum & Thyatira

INTRODUCTION: Two men were standing and looking over the Grand Canyon. Seeing the great depth of that world-famous canyon, one man said, “This is the hand of God. I’m awestruck!” The men next to him looked over the edge and spit. He said, “That’s the first time I ever spit a mile.” I guess it’s all in how you look at things. But a journalist, lecturer and writer named Hendrick Van Loon, on his first visit to the Grand Canyon exclaimed, “I came an atheist; I leave a believer.” [END OF ILLUSTRATION Contributed by Bobby Scobey on Jul 8, 2009]. 

You know, many people call nature God’s “natural” revelation. It is so amazing how two people can respond to the same revelation from God in different ways? My prayer is that God can reveal to us his plan for our futures, and reveal to us the things in our own hearts that he desires to be Lord over, and cleanse and heal.

And 

Revelation 2:12-16 (NLT) “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Pergamum. This is the message from the one with the sharp two-edged sword: 13 “I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city.

14 “But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. 15 In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching. 16 Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

Christ says that this is the message to Pergamum from the one with the sharp two-edged sword.  You live in the city where the throne of the devil is, but you’ve still been faithful and loyal.  Even when my witness Antipas was killed there.  However, I do have a few beefs with what you’ve done.  You tolerate the teaching of people whose teaching is like Balaam’s, who showed Balak how to trap my people Israel. They ate stuff that was offered to false gods and demons, and they engaged in horrendous sexual sins.  Your Nicolaitans are like those Balaamites. You need to repent, or I will suddenly infiltrate your church and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.  

Pergamum, a sophisticated city and center of Greek culture and education, boasted a 200,000-volume library that was second only to the famous library in Alexandria in Egypt. Pergamum was the center of four of the most important gods of the day—Zeus, Athene, Dionysus, and Asclepius. The city’s chief god was Asclepius, who was considered the god of healing. People came to Pergamum from all over the world to seek healing from this god. The city was also a center for the imperial cult. While Smyrna had built temples to the emperor, Pergamum was the first city to receive permission to build a temple dedicated to a governing emperor, Augustus, whose temple was built in 29 b.c.The proconsul of Pergamum had been granted the rare power known as “the right of the sword,” meaning that he could perform executions. To the church in this city, Christ described himself as him who has the sharp, doubled-edged sword (1:16). Christ was reminding Rome that only he has ultimate power over life and death. It was not easy to be a Christian in Pergamum. Believers experienced great pressure to compromise or leave the faith. The thing about spiritual or theological compromise is that it can only dilute our faith; thus, Christ said it could not be tolerated. 

Repent, or Christ will fight against us

So the sins that the Nicolaitans committed were sexual immorality and idol worship.   What is an idol? An idol is a statue made of wood or gold or stone that people actually pray to. Nowadays you have Buddha statues or statues of ancestors in Japan and also statues of Krishna, Kali or Kalika and Vishnu in India, but if you think people don’t make statues to their idol worship in the western world, think again.  In Detroit in 2015 a Satanic Temple was opened, with a one-ton bronze goat headed idol called Baphomet.  You can look it up if you are curious. 

Serious stuff folks.  Now, our stuff may not be as extreme as this, but we have idols. What in our hearts do we place above God? The late French theologian John Calvin said 500 years ago that the human heart is a factory of idols.  

“When the gift replaces the giver as the object of our worship, something surprising happens.” Kyle Idleman, Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart

     So if we have been placing anything, sex, money, career, spouse, kids, ANYTHING in front of Jesus, he is calling us to repent, meaning to change our minds about our sins.  Repentance means right is what the Bible says is right, and wrong for us is what the Bible says is wrong. PERIOD.  Christ challenged some of the believers in Pergamum for compromising, but he also encouraged those who did not.  So he continues with the promises that he always gives to the faithful.

 Revelation 2:17 (NLT) 17 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.

So Christ reminds us that anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and comprehend what he is saying to the churches.  To everyone who is victorious, he will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven.  Christ will give to each one a white stone, with a name engraved on that stone that no one understands except the one who receives it. This closing calls upon readers to listen to the Spirit and understand. 

Those who are victorious (faithful against compromise) will be given a reward that here includes three symbols: hidden manna, a white stone, and a new name.

Being able to eat of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven suggests spiritual nourishment that faithful believers will receive for keeping their churches doctrinally pure. On the journey toward the promised land, God provided manna from heaven to the Israelites for their physical nourishment (Exodus 16:13–18).  They ate heavenly bread, y’all, can you believe that? I love Caprice’s Bread and I’ve heard German break is super good, but Jesus bread? Wow! It is unclear what the white stones represent or what the names on each will be. Some were used as invitations to a banquet. The invited person would bring along the stone in order to be admitted. Each stone would have an invited person’s name on it. For those who refused to go to the pagan banquets, a place was reserved at the Messiah’s banquet in heaven.

The faithful will eat angel food, get white stones and new names

 The people of Israel ate angel food, can you believe that? They ate heavenly bread, out of this dimension, other worldly, planet Jesus food.  And Christ has it hidden, a secret stash of food for us who remain strong.  I love some good bread, I know it’s bad to eat a lot of bread, especially late at night, but this will be heavenly bread! This is angel food! It’s gotta be gluten free, no body will be allergic to it, it will have everything we need, I’m sure.  But most importantly, we will be sitting at the table with Jesus eating it.  When we get these new names that no one understands but us, we will change along with those names.  Jacob changed when his name turned to Israel.  He went from being a trickster to a father of nations. 

 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

     In verse 19 of Genesis 2, after God makes Adam, he sends the animals to Adam so that Adam can name them.  God made the animals, and THEN he made Adam and Eve.  So the animals were walking around nameless, without form and void, until the Son of God, named them.  Then at that point they became something.  Adam didn’t look at a rhino that already and existed, he saw an animal with no identity, and Adam decided that this animal would be a rhino, and then it was a rhino.  What’s my point?  Whatever we will be after Christ gives us new names is something beyond our imagination.  Wow. I don’t know about you, but want a new desk in my new executive office in heaven.  

Now after speaking to Pergamum, Christ turns his attention to the church in Thyatira.  Now this church has its own unique challenges, and so Christ introduces himself differently, and this letter is unique to this church and city. Let’s see what we can learn 2,000 years later.  

Revelation 2: 18-23 (NLT) 18 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze:19 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things. 20 “But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.22 “Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.

Christ had some sobering words for the church at Thyatira, it would seem.  But he starts out with much encouragement.  He says he has seen the love, faith, service and patient endurance of the Thyatiran church.  And he says he can also see their growth and constant improvement. However, they tolerate Jezebel, who is leading them astray.  She is causing the people to commit sexual sin and eat food offered to idols.  Christ in his love gave her time to repent, but she persists in her immorality. Because of this, Jesus said he would throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who committed adultery with her would suffer unless they too repented and turned away from their evil deeds.  Jesus said he would strike her children dead.  Then all the churches would know that He is the One who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person.  And he would give to each of us whatever we deserve.  

A letter carrier, upon leaving Pergamum, would travel southeast about forty miles.  There he would find Thyatira, a city known for its manufacturing.

The problem in Thyatira was a woman, called Jezebel, who was teaching compromise with the pagan world around her. Pagan means you’re involved in false religions.  Christ condemned such teaching. There can be no compromise with evil. Believers must be bold enough to call a spade a spade.

Thyatira was a working person’s town, a center for manufacturing, it was the most blue collar of the cities. The city was filled with many trade guilds for commerce such as cloth making, dyeing, leatherworking, bronzeworking, and pottery making. Lydia, Paul’s first convert in Philippi, was a merchant from Thyatira (Acts 16:14). The city was not important as a center for any temples to particular gods, although Apollo was worshiped as a guardian of the city. This was combined with the required worship of the emperor, considered an incarnation of Apollo and thus a son of Zeus himself.

Christ’s description of himself as the speaker to this church is that he is the Son of God. This sets him against Apollo and the emperor, who were said to be sons of the chief god, Zeus.  Now Christ was pleased to see their constant improvement in love, faith, service and endurance. Nevertheless, Jesus says, I have this against you: Thyatira had the opposite problem that Ephesus had. Whereas the Ephesian church had been good at dealing with false teachers but had lacked love, the church in Thyatira had lots of love but had become tolerant of false teachers. And, as was happening in Pergamum, the church in Thyatira was tolerating false teaching that was attempting to compromise with the pagan society.

In this case, the problem was Jezebel.  Now we don’t know if her name was literally Jezebel, or if John may have used the name Jezebel to symbolize the kind of evil she was promoting. Jezebel, a pagan Philistine queen of Israel, was considered the most evil woman who ever lived.  Her story is in 1 Kings.  

  Most of the people in the city were tradesmen, so they belonged to various guilds. These guilds (such as potters, tentmakers, etc.) each had an area in the city and a guild hall, which functioned as a center for the guild’s religious and civic activities.  So apparently, Jezebel was trying to tell the believers that it was okay to keep eating this food that was being offered to Zeus and Apollo and continue engaging in the rest of their extra curricular activities and flesh fests. But not so.

 Continue in love, faith, service & patience; stay away from Jezebel 

Often the three areas in the lives of people that they struggle the most with surrendering to God is their money, appetites, and sexual behavior.   Man or woman, single or married, it doesn’t matter. Any kind of immorality, physical, emotional or electronic, must be crucified and permanently removed from our lives.  The power of Christ is enough, folks. The phrase “I will strike her children dead” most likely refers to Jezebel’s followers, her spiritual children, those whom she had convinced to compromise with the pagan world. God wanted the church to deal with Jezebel, and deal with themselves.  He wants us to deal with ourselves as well. 

Ephesians 5:3 (NLT) 3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people.

I want to encourage you singles..God can give you grace and strength to live a single life, pure in your thoughts and actions.  If you go to sites like Christianity Today, they have many articles and book recommendations that you can use.  Also, for married folks, God can heal you fully from your past relationships and encounters, but you must cling to him.  The issue is most people scratch the surface of prayer, and wonder why they only experience surface-level deliverance.  The more we ask for grace, the more grace will be given. 

And as always, after a rebuke, Christ returns with encouragement. 

Revelation 2:24-29 (NLT) 24 “But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you 25 except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. 26 To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end,To them I will give authority over all the nations. 27 They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. 28 They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star! 29 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.

Christ is now writing to encourage the faithful in Thyatira.  For those who have not followed this false teaching under the disguise of “deeper truths, “ which Christ said are actually the depths of Satan, Christ would ask for nothing else, other than to hold tightly to what they had until he came. To all who are victorious and obey him to the very end, he will give them authority over the nations.  They will rule the nations with a rod of iron and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority Christ received from the Father, and he will also give them the morning star. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Holy Spirit of God and comprehend what he is saying to the churches. 

Now I spoke earlier about purity and encouraged people specifically in this area.  But this for everyone in the audience, single, married, formerly married, doesn’t matter, if you’re a believer this is for you.   We are supposed to love people, but hate sin and hate false teaching.  What is true teaching? The Bible, plain and simple:

2 John 9-11 (NLT) 9 Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.10 If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. 11 Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work.

 Jezebel was teaching that somehow the Word of God by itself wasn’t good enough and that we needed something deeper.  But it doesn’t get any deeper than the word of God, folks!!  Really, what Jesus was saying was this idea of “deeper Revelation” about God beyond what scripture teaches us about God was coming directly from Satan.  In 2 Corinthians 11:3, Paul warned the believers to maintain their pure and sincere devotion to Christ.  We need nothing else. Then finally, Christ says those that remain true to him will rule the nations with an iron rod, and that he would give them the morning star.  That morning star is a picture of the authority the saints will have in the heavens and on earth because of our faithfulness. I don’t know, Christ might have us write up the designs on new planets and galaxies.  I don’t know but it’s gonna be great! 

Christ says that those who are victorious (over Jezebel, etc.) and who obey to the very end will rule over Christ’s enemies and reign with him as he judges evil. The iron rod symbolizes total judgment.. Believers dare not take a light view of heresy, because heresy will destroy people for eternity. And of course 2:29 is self explanatory: “Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” The more I hear this verse, the more I am convinced that it’s something we should meditate on every single day.  Every day, let’s tune in to what the Spirit of God has to say to us. 

There’s no deeper truth than the One who is the Way, Truth & Life 

In the Gospel of John, who also wrote 1-3 John, and Revelation, Jesus told the Pharisees listen, you search the scriptures looking for eternal life, but you won’t come to me, I am eternal life itself.  Make sure you are seeking to encounter the living Word in the written Word. And then later on Jesus told his disciples this:

 John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

Christ said he was the way…hodos, (hoe-dose) meaning a line leading to a place or point.  He alone can lead us to salvation, to heaven, to the Father. He said he is the truth, aletheia (a-lay-thay-ah) meaning conformity to reality or actuality.  Only the words of Christ make the most sense out of reality.  Then Christ say he was the life, zoe (zoh-way), the condition of living or the state of being alive, especially healthiness, happiness, exuberance, energy and vitality.  No else can promise us these things.  By the end of the gospel of John, Jesus is betrayed and arrested.  He is cross-examined by the Roman governor of Palestine, Pontius Pilate.  So Pilate questions Jesus and this is what is said: 

John 18:37-38 (NLT) 37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.

Pilate asked Christ, what is truth, and then didn’t wait for the answer.  But Christ was clear….if anyone among you is sincerely looking for truth, look no further than Christ. I dare you to read the Gospel of John and not be moved. 

For those of you who have been on this journey into Revelation with us, Christ says I have no more to ask of you than to hold on to the scriptures, to remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and to pursue truth, hate sin and false teaching, and do all things in love.  For those who don’t follow Christ..truth is not a word you can throw around.   Truth is not found any and everywhere.  But truth is found on the lips of the Son of God.  

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