China is threatened by the rapid, uncontrolled growth of Christianity. So the Chinese Communist Party are gearing up for a sweeping crackdown. You see, China is an atheist nation with an estimated 115 million protestant Christians. Some have predicted that by 2030 there will be 247 million Christians in China. (https://thediplomat.com)
God’s Church and His Kingdom will grow anywhere, even in the midst of the most evil regimes. Today we continue with the letter the pastor of the Church at Pergamum received. It was dictated by Jesus to the apostle John.
1) The Lord Jesus knows where they live.
Rev 2:13 “I know where you live …”
As scary as this might seem, it is enormously comforting because they live
Rev 2:13 “… where Satan has his throne.”
That’s quite a statement! Maybe it was because of the huge altar in honor of Zeus which was situated on a platform situated on the hill overlooking the city. It was erected because of a military victory but John could have seen it as a symbol of idolatry. The hill itself was saturated with temples suggesting that Emperor Worship was extremely active. The picture we have from John is that Pergamum was satan’s headquarters. He was doing everything possible to annihilate the Church of God in Pergamum because its presence was a threat to his reign and control. That is exactly what the Communist Regime did in China in the most brutal fashion.
2) Even so, this pastor and his Church remained true to the faith. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives. Few today are able to understand the enormous pressure and danger Christianity was in, in that city. Satan was king yet this pastor and his flock were faithful to Jesus. They were intentional and genuine. Picture all the idolatry and emperor worship. Many of these “worshippers” were fanatical. Their zeal flowed into fury at the slightest hint of opposition. The Church of Pergamum with its pastor were strong, steadfast and extremely faithful. To them Jesus was all they needed. They were fearless in the face of the Roman Empire and the hordes of pagan priests and worshippers. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city. The language does not imply an organized execution of Christians under state authority. Rather it seems as though this was mob violence where masses of pagan people (idol worshippers and emperor worshippers) targeted Christians and used whatever means they had at their disposal to put God people to death. In reference to Antipas the term “witness” in the Greek means martyr. For their faith in Jesus they were prepared to be martyred. They would not hide their faith even it if meant death! We live at a time where many Christians don’t want to advertise their faith. They don’t want people to know what they believe. A reporter asked one of the presidents of our country whether he was a Christian. He had good morals, was a gentleman and a statesman … yet his answer was “My religion is a private matter.” That seems to be the order of the day today. If people don’t know that I am a Christian they can’t fault find me when my morals slide. I can hide behind my nondisclosure. However, these believers had been well school by their pastor. They were taught to love the Lord Jesus … and they did. They were taught to be gospel people… and they did. They were taught that even in the worst trials they needed to trust the Lord Jesus … and they did. There are many promises in God’s Word. One of them comes in …
Mt 10:32 “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”
What is more important … to save your life or to save your soul? Well taught believers understand that their life is meaningless without Jesus and should they die they will be in glory with the lover of their soul! Paul captured this when he said
Phil 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Will you pray that we as believers will be robust, committed and fearless in our love for Jesus? We need to be prepared that should it be required of us we will honor Jesus to the point of martyrdom. 3) They had the faith and they had the commitment but the Lord Jesus was unhappy with somethings happening in the Church. What the Lord Jesus says is not something new to the pastor. He knew what was happening in his church and although he taught the truth he gave a blind eye to people who either infiltrated the Church with their antichristian beliefs or were indoctrinated by false teachers and brought that doctrine into the Church.
Rev 2:14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15 Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
Two similar illustrations are used by John …
(1) The teaching of Balaam and
(2) The teaching of the Nicolaitans.
The Book of Numbers teaches us much about Balaam and him getting Israel to eat food sacrificed to idols and indulging is sexual immorality. Although nothing much was known about the Nicolaitans, they too encouraged what Balaam encouraged. The point is that within the Church Community people were following unbiblical teaching, subtly following forms of idolatry and disgusting sexual immorality. These things, being in the open are seen and held up as an offering to the congregation. Temptation is in their sights. Some of them exited from these practiced once becoming Christian and now they were being exposed to it again. The memory was vivid and fearful for satan’s methods are easily followed when offered on a silver plate! Right here we find the Lord’s rebuke to the Churches of today as well … and to their pastors. So many things happen in the Church today. Some are unknown and disguised and others are visible for all to see. There is so much tolerance of what the gospel opposes in the Church. To get the numbers, which means finances, some pastors will tolerate sexual immorality, adultery and other sexual sin … and people believing things contrary to the Gospel’s insistence that heaven is only for those who through faith in Jesus’ shed blood will enter by grace as they pursue holiness. Beloved, we are called to be true and faithful as we follow our Lord. At the same time we are to avoid all forms and shapes of idolatry and sexual immorality.
Father, search our hearts and forgive our sin. Help us to be true to You for Jesus sake. Amen.