To the Church at Pergamos
Continuing on our trek the next church was Pergamos, which was located 40 miles NE of Smyrna. The first part of the name Pergamos or “per” means improper, and “gamos” means marriage so “Pergamos” literally means “Improper Marriage”. Pergamos was located in the Roman province of Asia called Mysia in Caicus valley. The city was located three miles from the river, and one of the tributaries known as the Selinus flowed through the city and the other tributary called the Kteios ran along the walls of Pergamos. The early city was build on a cone shaped acropolis that was a thousand feet tall with steep perpendicular sides, which made the city an easily defensible fortress. After Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, Lysimachus left Philetaerus in charge and left him with 9,000 talents of God but Philetaerus decided to keep the money and make himself the ruler of Pergamum. Many evil kings ruled over the next few years in Pergamos, and they were worshipped as gods. However, Eumenes II was the most memorable king and during his reign the city reached its greatest height. During this time art and literature were encouraged, and the city library had 200,000 volumes which Antony would eventually give to Cleopatra. One of the biggest and most renown buildings in the town was the alter of Zeus, which was also one of the wonders of the ancient world. In 133 BC when Attalus III who would be the last Greek ruler died, he gave his entire kingdom over to the Roman government. His son Aristonicus try to retake it, but in 129 BC he was defeated and the Roman province known as Asia was formed and Pergamos was made its capital city. However, the term they used “Asia” was not the continent of Asia nor was it part of Asia Minor but it was simply the part of Asia Minor that the Romans controlled.
In Pergamos they worshipped four gods, which included Zeus, Dionysus, Athena and Asklepios. During this period the priests and physicians of Asklepios had a scam going on to make money. Invalids from all over Asia would come there and sleep in the court, and the “gods” would reveal to the priests and physicians in dreams the remedies needed to heal their diseases which gave many opportunities for the priests to deceive them. The priests used shills to make the people believe that people were getting healed, and this is how they made money. Pergamos was also called “Thrice Neokoros” meaning that in the city there were three temples built for three Roman emperors, and as we stated earlier they worshipped as gods. Pergamos was the main religious center of the region, but gradually as it grew it also became the political center. Eventually even the Jews that lived there assimilated into the Greek culture and even began using Greek names. Christianity came to Pergamos in the early days of the Church, and Antipas was the first Christian killed by the Romans and it was in Pergamos where he died. According to Revelation Pergamos is also known to be “where Satan’s throne is”, which could refer to the temples of the Roman emperors whom people worshipped in Pergamos.
During this period Satan was not winning his battle by persecuting and killing Christians, so he changed his tactics and decided to corrupt them from within (which was the same tactic used against Israel by Balaam). Constantine the Great, who ruled from 306 to 337 A.D. was the first Roman ruler to convert to Christianity. In the year 313 A.D. he issued a degree that gave religious tolerance to Christians. Even though Christianity soon became the state religion (which some believers liked), it also allowed for Roman pagan rituals and doctrines to influence Church doctrine (the way of Balaam) (2 Corinthians 6:14). The Church was never meant to have political power on this earth but spiritual power, and to mixing the Church with politics was a dangerous game…
To the Church at Pergamos Write:
12) And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
13) I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
14) But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
15) So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
16) Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
Chapter 2 Verse 12
Jesus is described in verse 12 as “he which hath the sharp sword with two edges”. Revelation 11:15 also says that “…out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations…” From these two verses in Revelation we can see that Jesus uses a two-edge sword, and that the sword he is using is the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). We must also remember that Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1, 14), and even when Satan came to tempt Jesus he had to use the Word to defeat him (Matthew 4:1-11). If Christ needed the Word of God to overcome Satan, then how can Christians not see that we also need to know the Word to overcome the enemy (Revelation 12:11, Ephesians 6:17). People like to say we need to “know” the Word of God, so in reality if Jesus is the “Word of God” then we need to know Jesus more to know God’s Word and know God’s Word more to know Jesus!! (Nice circular pattern indeed)
Chapter 2 Verse 13
In verse 13, Jesus states that he knows of their works and they dwell where Satan’s seat is. In addition, he says that they have held fast the name of Christ and have not denied His faith. Sounds pretty good, so what is the issue? Apparently the Church at Pergamos let things creep into their lives that shouldn’t be there, and in a sense they married themselves to those things.
Chapter 2 Verse 14-15
In the next two verses Jesus spells out exactly what the Christians at Pergamos allowed into their church and how it corrupted them. Apparently they became soft on doctrine because they allowed people who followed the doctrine of Balaam and doctrine of the Nicolaitans into their Church. Some people may not realize it, but God is very serious about who we allow into our Churches and he will not tolerate false teachings. 2 John 1:10 says “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.” Jesus wants his bride pure, so even allowing false doctrine (or a little leaven) will not be tolerated by him. If we remember the Church at Ephesus then we remember that they were admonished for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans. However, we when get to the Church at Pergamos we see that they decided to embrace both doctrines that God hated, but why did God hate these two doctrines so much? These doctrines were based on greed, selling the Word of God for money, idolatry, and sexual immorality so it is easy to see why our Heavenly Father did not want these doctrines in his Church.
Balaam was a false prophet who did his work for God for one thing, which was money. Sadly, in today’s churches we can see this same type of behavior. First we see televangelists everywhere fleecing the sheep by selling their “Word from the Lord” for $19.99, and by begging the sheep for cash to stay on the air. Next, we can also see “so-called” music ministers charging admission prices to come and receive what you need from God. And finally, we see many people selling their talents (such as musicians) to whichever church pays them the most to show up on Sunday to play. All three of these are in no way of God, and it is time for the Church of the Living Most High God to call a spade a spade. If we are truly called to do a ministry for the Lord then he will supply our needs and we should never EVER have to charge for it or beg for money. In addition, if we are doing what we are called to do in the Lord then it should be done out of the love for our Him and from a humble heart. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if a ministry is doing what we described above then the ministry in question is more than likely not of God. The sad part is that this new modern commercialized Church is far worse than simply being religious because it has turned the Church of Jesus Christ into a den of thieves (Matthew 21:12-13). Another sad point is that the Church has been deceived for years about this, and doesn’t even know it. A really good example of this new age demonic doctrine is the “Prosperity Message”. The Bible clearly states that we as Christians are to be blessed, however NO WHERE does it say Christians are to be rich or have huge bank accounts full of cash. The blessing of Abraham wasn’t so Abraham could have tons of money, but that he could bless others and this is what we as Christ’s followers should be doing as well. So much I could say on this devilish lying doctrine, but simple put God is NOT an ATM and if you are calculating your blessing based on what you give then you are not giving as onto the Lord. People who do this are trying to put Almighty God into their little blessing box. Have you heard a preach say “Send us XXX amount and God will do this or that”? If so then you are hearing the doctrine of Balaam for these “preachers” are using their ministry to make money. We as Ministers should never EVER do our service to God for reward, but out of a humble and thankful heart for all HE has done for us. Paul told us that people in the last days will “have a form of godliness, but will deny the power thereof” and we see that in full force today in many America’s churches and in MANY American ministries.
Another even more deceptive aspect of Balaam was that Balak instructed him to make Israel sin by having them eat foods offered to idols, and by having them commit acts of sexual immorality. When it comes to idolatry, most Christians that I know do not have a “shrine of Buddha” in their home however they may have “shrines” in their life which is still idolatry in the eyes of God. No you say, then let me ask you three pointed questions … What occupies your time? In your life do you strive for more money, a bigger house, that new fishing boat, or even a fancier car? Do you spend the majority of your time watching TV, going to sporting events, or playing video games instead of spending time with God or doing the work of the Lord? Idolatry is not just getting on our “knees” and bowing before a physical idol, but an idol is “anything” that we put before God! Jesus clearly said “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). God warned us that “Thou shalt have no other gods before me (or beside me). Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or 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” (Exodus 20:3-4). So we all need to look into the deepest reaches of our hearts often to see if we have any “grave images” there, and these “graven images” can be anything we idolize including musicians, actors/actresses, sports teams, or even ministers of the Word of God. Simply put, anything that takes time away from God or anything we put before God is an idol. I can hear it now (because I said it), isn’t that getting a little extreme? If we want to serve Jesus the way he told us to then we will seem extreme, but it isn’t extreme at all in the eyes of God. How about marching around a wall, blowing horns, and shouting so a wall will fall down, was that extreme? How about preparing a HUGE BOAT for a flood when there had never been any rain, was that extreme? How about leaving heaven to die for everyone ever born so they could be saved, was that extreme? God IS AN EXTREME GOD and that’s why we who follow him will seem extreme to unbelievers and to carnal Christians. Once again, a simple rule to follow is that anything that comes before God is our lives is an idol and to not cast it down is rebellion.
The next area that he spoke about was that the church at Pergamos ate food offered to idols, but what is food offered to idols? When we think of food we think of things we eat that keep our bodies going and gives us sustenance. However, in the Old Testament many foods were offered to pagan and false gods so that the gods would show them favor, and this is how Balaam tried to get the Israelites to sin. Jewish law forbid the Israelites from eating certain types of food (shellfish and pork for example) so by eating these foods the Jews committed sin against God. So thinking spiritually then, what is food (sustenance) offered to idols? First, let us look at some modern day idols that many people “worship”. If I were to ask you, who or what is worshipped today what would be your response? For me it was simple because all I had to do was look around the Internet or TV to find them? People today worship movie/TV stars, politicians, musicians, sports figures, Christian bands, and even preachers. So if meat is “sustenance” then what sustains these idols? Simple, money! Money is their sustenance so giving them God’s money is the same as feeding them and buying their products is just like spiritually eating food offered to gods. I know, back to the word EXTREME and yes we as Christians are to be a PERCULIAR PEOPLE. If we look a little deeper we can see that when we go to a movie or sporting event we are offering God’s money to these idols so that they can live their lives full of sin. When we spend time with our friends praising these people, we are in affect worshipping them as “gods and goddesses”. So sly is the devil, yet once our eyes open to the light of God’s Word we can never say that we didn’t know. Once again, Exodus 20:3-5 makes it crystal clear for God says “Thou shalt have no other gods before me (or beside me). Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or 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. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me”. Once again, people will say this is extreme but I will counter that with “where your treasure is” …
Finally, the Church of Pergamos were allowing people who followed the Nicolaitan doctrine into their church. The word “Nicolaitan” in the Greek means “destruction of people”, and this devilish doctrine was just that. First, many people believe that the Nicolaitan doctrine was a type of clergy-laity system, which means that the Church was ruled by the Clergy of the day. This meant that the Body of Christ was totally controlled by whatever their leaders said which is not how God intended his Church to be. We see this in many modern day cults such as the Mormons, Heaven’s Gate, and what happened down in Guyana under the infamous Jim Jones. First off, the Mormons people are in general a really nice people, but there is a devilish underbelly to this cult. What most people do not realize is that the Mormon people can only do what they are told by their leadership and frowned upon if they think of thinking on their own. One example that really sticks out to me is that for many years the Mormon’s were told they could not purchase a certain type of drink. However, the Church later bought stock in this company so the “Leader” said he had a “Word from God” that is NOW okay to buy that product. Also, in the Heaven’s Gate and Jim Jones cult’s people committed suicide because they were “told” to by their leaders. In all three cases, the cult leaders are and did “cause the destruction” of the people they were supposed to be helping.
Another aspect of the Nicolaitan doctrine was the sexual sins that the Church allowed to take place. In verse 14 the word “fornication” comes from the Greek word (porneuo), which is where we get the modern word “pornography”. It also carries the meaning of “prostituting” one’s body to the lust of another. However unlike Ephesus; the church at Pergamos allowed the doctrine of the Nicolaitans to become part of their church and this doctrine Jesus clearly stated he hates. Like the Gnostics of the day, the Nicolaitans were also an apostate group. They believed that for someone to be free from lust then they must submit to their sensual desires to overcome it. They used religion as the excuse to pursue whatever sexual pleasures they desired. We must remember that so far Jesus has told two different Churches that he “HATES” doctrine of the Nicolaitans Going back to the meaning of Pergamos which was “Improper Marriage” we can see why God hated their doctrine. Before man created the contract of marriage we know that God made the covenant of marriage. By this I mean that when man and wife committed themselves to each other they became “one flesh” (Matthew 10:8). If we are following the doctrine of the Nicolaitans than we allow ourselves to commit adultery because they had an “anything goes” type of sexual morality. An example of this was a preacher I knew years ago in Texas. Even though he was a “preacher” he also participated in the “Swingers” lifestyle. When I asked him about this he told me it was okay with God because he didn’t lust after his “swinging” partners, and he had his wife’s okay to do it. Even though this is an extreme example, it does give us an idea of why God hated this doctrine because it so easily polluted the minds and bodies of his Church. Even though we may not openly support this doctrine, our actions may say different. Let me ask you this, do you watch pornography? Most will answer this with a resounding NO. However, what shows do you watch? Do they have a lot of “sexual overtones” or even straight out “nudity”? If your answer is yes, then you are indeed following the doctrine of Nicolaitans. They approved of giving into sexual pleasures (to fix the problem), but it was only an excuse to pursue their perverted sexual desires. So why do you watch shows with sexual overtones or nudity? Back in the day men used to say they read Playboy and Penthouse for the “articles”, however we know the truth; it was to feed the lusts of their flesh. However, nowadays no one thinks twice about men (and women) who read these magazines. Remember, Jesus made it very clear when he said that “…whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Jesus is calling us to a holy (consecrated and set apart) life, and if we are dabbling in sins such as idol worship or fornication then we are cheating ourselves out of what God has for us. So if this is you then what is the remedy?
Chapter 2 Verse 16
Once again the message of Jesus is the same, REPENT! The word repent means to change your mind, and the Greek word is metanoevw (metanoeo). Metav or “meta” means to change and noevw (noeo) means the mind or thinking. So when we “repent” we are in reality changing our mind from one way of thinking (Satan & sin) to a new way of thinking (God & Righteousness). Feeling sorry and penance has nothing to do with repentance other than realizing that we are in the wrong when it comes to God. True repentance is when we do a 180 turn and change our mind and start walking in God’s ways. Once you do this and mean it then you will be “born again” or restored to where you were when you left (Parable of the Prodigal Son). He also said that if we do not repent “HE” would come quickly, and would fight against us with the sword of his mouth (which is the Word of God) or judgment. But, but, but… God is Love!!! Yes HE is, but he is a JEALOUS GOD!!! It is very important that we understand God is serious, and the time of the end is not coming, it is here. 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 says “And for this cause GOD (not the devil) shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness”. If you still have a conscience for your sins, then the time to get right with God is NOW. We are not promised tomorrow, and I have to praise God because he was SO merciful to me when I was away because I should have been dead so many times. The Father is standing up by the house waiting on you to come up the road so he can run to you, hug you, and restore you as his son or daughter so why wait?
Chapter 2 Verse 17
What is SO AMAZING is that once we return to Christ, not only does he forgive us and give us eternal life, but he gives us SO MUCH MORE. In verse 17 Jesus says that for those that overcome he will “give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it”. When you look at “hidden manna” you see that it is symbolic “concealed food that is kept in the heavenly temple for the food of angels and the blessed”. Okay, following it? We get the heavenly food that is reserved for the angels and the Saints. This reminds of the verse “However, as it is written: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV). God is awesome to us right now in this world, but he has even MORE for those who finish their race and endure till the end (Matthew 24:13). The word here for endure carries the meaning of remaining, not fleeing, persevere under misfortunes and trials of our faith in Christ, and to bear bravely and calmly being ill treated. The key is and always will be “overcoming”. Finally, for those that overcome they will receive a white stone with a new name, and only they will know it. Wow! One of the mainstream interpretations of this has to do with Roman customs. In ancient Rome it was the custom to award the victor of athletic games with a white stone. This stone gave the victors entry into a special awards dinner that was only for the winners. This analogy does line up with Revelations because the Marriage Supper of the Lamb is for Jesus and his followers. In addition those who make Jesus Lord will have an eternal victory celebration in heaven with their Savior. So are you ready to put down your idols, quit feeding the idols, and stop dabbling in fornication? If so, just repent and God will forgive you and he is waiting to restore you as though you never left so why not change your mind today…
Light in the Storm
When the storms of life are raging, and the clouds are all around,
And you think you’re all alone, just take a look around.
When there is no one there to talk to and you’re feeling sad and blue
And you think no one will listen, I’ll be the light in the storm for you.
Even though we’ve never met, or seen each other’s smiles,
Our friendship is from the heart, not sight, And it can span the miles.
We all are one winged angels, alone it is impossible to fly,
But if we embrace each other, we can span the sky.
The next time you’re feeling lonely, and the storms are beating you down,
Just come online and find me, and I will take away your frown.