20. THE CHURCH AGE OF PERGAMOS.
The Church of Pergamos, represents the third church age, beginning with the Council of Nicaeain 325 A.D., and ending 594 A.D. with the crowning of Pope Gregory the Great. Pope Gregory the Great, who reigned from 594 A.D. to 604 A.D. marks the beginning of the Middle Ages; also known as the Dark Ages, because during the this period most people had little or no access to the Bible (or any written words) in their own language.
During the second church age, represented by the church of Smyrna, 100 A.D. to 325 A.D. the Church’s greatest enemies had been external, but by the fourth-church age, 594 A.D. to 1517, the Church’s greatest enemies were dwelling within the Church.
In the Church of Pergamos we see the Church falling from a church that in inhabited by the Spirit of Christ, to a church that is inhabited by Satan and his evil spirits.
Revelation 2:12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: 13 I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. And you hold fast 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. 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. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give to him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows except he who receives it.”
Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Jesus Christ introduces Himself to the church in Pergamos as the One who has the sharp two-edged sword which comes out of His mouth (Revelation 1:16). The spoken word of God is called the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). The sword of the Spirit, cuts every way; it convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment; pierces between the joints and the marrow, divides between the soul and spirit. It not only convicts and exposes sin, so that those who fear God may come to repentance, but it condemns the ungodly, pointing out and determining the punishment they shall endure. Jesus has the sword with the two edges, because he is the Savior of sinners, and the Judge of quick and dead.
Before Jesus Christ closes this letter off, He warns them (the church) to “repent or else I will come to you quickly and I will fight against them with the sword of My mouth” (Rev. 2:16). This means, if we willfully continue in our sin and refuse to repent, Jesus Christ instead of interceding for us, He will fight against us.
In the parable of the mustard tree, the demonic spirits of Satan have come to dwell in the branches of the Church, while in the letter to Pergamos we find the Church dwelling where Satan throne is. Spiritually speaking, during the age of Pergamos, we find the Church and Satan dwelling together, and in many churches today Satan is still dwelling in the church, sitting on his throne in the church.
As Christians, we often think of Satan dwelling out there in the big bad world, but during the age of Pergamos Satan is not out there in the world, he is in the Church. Satan did not just come to visit; he came to dwell together with the Church. We, the Church, are the bride of Christ. We are betrothed to none other than Jesus Christ, yet all too often we choose to dwell with Satan.
How do you think God feels when He sees His bride dwelling with Satan?
It is written of God’s people
II Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
Exodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words saying: 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house bondage. 3 You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Two thousand years ago, a young Jewish woman was expected to keep herself as a chaste virgin for the day when she would be presented to her husband. If the young woman did not keep herself as a chaste virgin for the day of her marriage to her one husband, it was considered the right thing for the bridegroom to have a godly jealousy and put his unfaithful betrothed away from him (Matthew 1:18 – 21).
Likewise, God is a jealous God and as Christians we are betrothed to one husband, who is Christ. We should not dwell with another. To worship other gods is to commit spiritual adultery by inviting another to come and dwell in us. Then it would be a righteous and godly thing for Christ to put us away from Him.
Two thousands years ago Pergamos was the centre of idol worship and had many pagan temples. The largest temple was built in such away it looked like a very large throne. The pagans believed that their most powerful, all-supreme god would come and sit on this throne. Early Christians referred to this temple as Satan’s throne.
Most of the city’s social activities, such as weddings and memorial services, would have been held at one of these pagan temples and most of the city’s meat would first be sacrificed to pagan gods, before finding its way to market. Many Christians would still have non-Christian friends, family members and work colleagues heavily involved in pagan worship, for these and other reasons it would be hard to make a clean break from paganism without offending others and facing persecution.
Many Christians in Pergamos (just as many Christians are today) were sorely tried, tested, and tempted to live their lives with one foot in each camp. When visiting non-Christian family and friends, they were tempted to give honour to pagan gods before eating meat offered to idols and they were also been tempted to show indifference towards sexual fornication (sex outside marriage), to associate with idolaters in the heathen temples, and join with them in their religious festivals.
It is so easy for us to judge and condemn these Christians, by saying God’s word is very clear, you must come out and be separated from them (II Corinthians 6:17), but for many this meant separation from family, or even death. Would you be willing to pay the price?
It is a question of who do you fear? Do you fear man who can only destroy your body, or do you fear God who can both destroy your body and soul in Hell?
Knowing the great trials and temptations that would soon come upon them, Jesus commends those who hold fast to the name of Jesus, even in the days in which Antipas, Jesus faithful martyr who was killed among them. It is believed that Antipus was burnt alive, because he would not deny his Lord.
Then Jesus rebukes them.
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. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
Jesus rebukes them, because amongst them are those who hold to the doctrine of Balaam who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel. It was because of this doctrine of Balaam, that the children of Israel were enticed, through the daughters of the pagans, to commit idolatry and sexual fornication. It was because of his many pagan wives King Solomon’s heart was also turned away from God to idolatry. Likewise it would appear that many Christian in Pergamos were being enticed by non-Christians into idolatry and sexual fornication.
Before you say Christians today would never be enticed from God into idolatry and sexual fornication, let us consider what God says about rebellion and stubbornness.
I Samuel 15:23 “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.”
Most young Christians know the word of God tells us “do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common” (II Corinthians 6:14)? Therefore they know even to date a non-Christian is to reject the word of the LORD and rebel against God, and rebellion is as witchcraft. If this is not bad enough, many stubbornly continue to date non-Christians. This stubbornness against the will of God in our lives is as idolatry.
When you bow down to and worship an idol, you invite demonic spirits to come and dwell in you. When you rebel against the word of God and stubbornly continue to live in rebellion against God, you invite demonic spirits to come and dwell in you.
If you want to get rid of demons from your life, what do you do? You submit to God. Resist the devil and he and all his demons will flee from you (James 4:7). However, if you do not humbly submit yourself before God and do not resist evil, the devil and his demonic hordes will swarm all over you, like flies swarming over a rotting piece of meat and you will be powerless to get rid of them.
In the Church today, this is still a major problem. Many young Christian men and women stubbornly rebel against God and are enticed by non-Christians into sexual fornication. Too many young Christian men who go chasing a bit of non-Christian skirt, and end up getting dragged off to the pit of Hell. This in turn leaves a large surplus of young Christian women who, all too often, feel their only answer to their loneliness is to marry a non-Christian man. Unfortunately most of these Christian women end up living a life, full of torment and little or no peace.
II Corinthians 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idol? For we are the temple of God. As God has said:
“I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
17 Therefore “Come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing and I will receive you, and you. I will be a Father to you and you will be my sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
We are the temple of God! That means the Spirit of God dwells in us. What spirit do you think dwells in the non-believer? It’s not God. It’s an evil spirit, and there is probably more than one evil spirit dwelling in them. When God says, do not be yoked together with unbelievers, He is not trying to be a killjoy. He is saying it for your own good, for He knows very well the suffering that lies ahead for His children, should they become yoked to an unbeliever.
You’ve probably heard it said a Christian should not marry a non-Christian, but the Spirit of God would say, don’t even date a non-Christian because, before you know it, the lust of the flesh will take over. You just cannot help it; young men and young women are wired that way. Young man meets young woman, hearts go boomity boom, and they believe they are in love. However, you are not head over heals in love, you are head over heals in lust, and you cannot think straight. At this point many young Christians ignore God, and listen to their heart of flesh.
Why? Because the devil, the god of this world, says listen to your heart; but God says; “every intent of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Heart is self, and if you want to please God, you first need to die to self, because self will only take you straight to the pit of Hell.
Young man, young woman, when your heart goes boomity boom, don’t listen to your heart when it says, “dam the consequences and full steam ahead.” Instead listen to God, obey His word and flee from youthful lust.
II Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lust; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Others Christians when realizing they are falling in love with a non-Christian will hear alarm bells start ringing. The Christian backs off, telling the non-Christian “I’m sorry it is all off, I’m a Christian and Christians do not marry non-Christians.”
At this the non-Christian is disappointed, but the evil spirit within them isn’t. He is rubbing his hands with glee, and whispers, “tell them, ‘I want to become a Christian, I believe Jesus’ and they will become putty in your hand.” This evil spirit as been around for six thousand years, he knows all the right strings to pull. Next thing you know the non-Christian is willingly going through all the motions of becoming a Christian, but inside the evil spirits are gathering. For a while things look just fine, but a year or two after the wedding, all of a sudden all these evil spirits manifest themselves and, too late, the Christian realizes they have married a non-Christian.
Don’t marry a non-Christian. Don’t even date a non-Christian, or you will be sorry when the evil spirits dwelling in them rear their ugly heads. They will either drag you to Hell with them, or make your life on earth Hell.
Note: A fornicator is anyone who has any short of sexual relationship outside that of a relationship between a husband and wife who are formerly married to each other. The sin fornication includes adultery, sex before marriage, and any homosexual act.
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Jesus also rebukes them for having amongst them those who hold to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. Earlier Jesus commends the church of Ephesus for hating the Nicolaitans. Who are the Nicolaitans? In Greek ‘Nico’ means ‘conqueror’, and ‘Laitans’ means ‘the common people’. So the name Nicolaitans means ‘the conqueror of the people’.
Opinions are varied as to what the deeds of the Nicolaitans were, but given the literal meaning of the name; many scholars are of the opinion that the deeds of the Nicolaitans included the suppression of the common people, under a dictatorial priesthood who held all power and authority in the church. Thus their deeds would also seek to suppress any move of the Holy Spirit among the common people, and would ultimately quench the freedom we have in the Spirit, and thus bring the Church back under law.
Are you an oppressive, dictatorial leader growing fat on the cream of the land while the bride of Christ goes hungry? As church elders and leaders, Jesus Christ has made you ruler over His household, and left His bride in your care. Yet many of you are beating and abusing His bride. What do you think Jesus will do to you when He finds you beating His bride and eating her food?
Luke 12:42 And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? 43 Blessed is that servant whom the master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. 45 But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten by few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”
We all know that a worker is worthy of his hire and that those servants whom are faithful and wise, shall be raised up and made to be rulers. But weather that position is in government, business or in the household of God, why does God bless abundantly those He raises up to rule over all that He has? It is all His for He created all things for His pleasure (Rev. 4:11). The reason God blesses those He raises up to rule, is made quite clear; It is “to give them their portion of food in due season.” (Luke 12:42)
The reason God blesses those who rule over us is so that they may bless those whom they rule over. It is not so that the ruling class can grow rich and wealthy, while their workers are oppressed and live in poverty.
If the rulers oppress the workers, what punishment awaits them? God “will cut him in two” and “appoint him his portion with the unbelievers” (Luke 12:46). To be cut in two brings death to our body, which is the first death. To be appointed his portion with the unbelievers is to be thrown into the lake of fire, which is the second death.
Bosses, who oppress their workers while they themselves amass huge amounts of wealth for their own pleasure and benefit, shall be cast into the lake of fire where they shall suffer eternal torment forever and ever. Church leaders and elders, who live on the cream of the land while their flocks suffer in poverty, shall be cast into the lake of fire where they shall suffer eternal torment forever and ever.
Revelation 2:16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
Are you an idolater? Are you a fornicator? Or are you a Nicolaitan, one who lords over and oppresses God’s people? If you are anyone of these three and will not repent, Jesus Christ will come quickly against you with the sword of the Spirit. Then if you still will not repent Jesus, Christ like a jealous husband, will put you away from Him.
Revelation 2:17 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
“To him who overcomes I will give the hidden manna to eat” (Revelation 2:17). As the church age of Pergamos, comes to an end, the church enters into the church age of Thyatira; an age in which the Church of Rome would come to dominate the Church. During the age of Thyatira, the Bible, the bread of God’s word, was taken out of the hands of the common people. So to most Christians the written word of God became as hidden manna, but there were always little pockets of Christians who had the written word hidden away. If the Church of Rome found any Bibles among to common people, the Bibles would be destroyed, and their owners would be killed.
Jesus also promises overcomers will be given a white stone (Revelation 2:17). In the Roman court of law, to be given a white stone was to be found not-guilty. This is a reminder of our eternal destiny. In this world we may face trails, tribulation, and maybe even the death of our mortal body, but the sufferings of this world all pale into insignificance when compared to our eternal destiny.
Matthew 10:28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell.
Written by Kenneth Allan Clark and printed and published by
VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN MINISTRIES INTERNATIONAL. P.O. BOX 144 WYNNUM QLD 4178 AUSTRALIA.
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Scripture taken from the “Clarks English Translation” © Copyright 2011 by Victorious Christian Ministries International. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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