PERGAMUM: The Compromising Church
Many today prefer a “comfortable” God. They gravitate to the “gentle Jesus,” but are repulsed by references to His wrath. Jesus’ threat to “make war” with the sword of His mouth unless repentance occurs (Rev. 2:16) may sound more like the “Old Testament God” to some, but these words come from the God and Savior of both the Old and New Testaments.
Pergamum was a dangerous and challenging place for Christians to live. Situated in the center of Caesar worship, Christians lived under threat of death for proclaiming “Jesus is Lord!” Although this church was commended for holding fast to the name of Christ, there were serious doctrinal and moral issues that had to be addressed. The church was surrounded by an idolatrous, sexually immoral culture while also infiltrated with false teaching that allowed for worldly compromise.
Jesus’ counsel goes against the grain of postmodern thought as He calls for repentance. His rebuke was for the entire church, for those directly involved in immorality as well as those who tolerated church members who were involved in this kind of activity. Look for parallels between the church in Pergamum and the church today as you work through this passage.
MAKING IT PERSONAL:
Jesus’ words, “I know where you dwell” (Rev. 2:13), should encourage believers who find themselves living in difficult or threatening situations. Where does He find you dwelling today? What situations do you find yourself in or what challenges are you facing?
What commendation does Jesus offer this church? Would He consider you a “faithful witness”?
More background on “the teaching of Balaam” can be found in Numbers 22–24. God established a covenant with the Israelites as His chosen people and instructed them to remain faithful to Him; however, they broke their covenant and turned to pagan practices and idolatry (Num. 25:1–3; 31:16).
Read 1 Corinthians 10:14, 19–22; Jude 4; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15–17. What are some ways that God’s people practice spiritual adultery today?
Pray for the purity of your church. Intercede for your spiritual leaders. Ask God to fill them with the knowledge of His will and to give them courage and boldness to stand for righteousness in the midst of a dark culture.
What reward is promised to the one who “conquers” or “overcomes” (Rev. 2:17)?
As you read the following verses, consider what significance the promised “hidden manna” might have for believers (Ps. 78:24–25; John 6:31–35, 48–51, 57–58).
Read the following verses and meditate on the intimacy symbolized by being given a name that no one knows but you and your Savior (Isa. 41:10; 42:9; 43:2, 7; 44:22; 45:3; 48:6; 49:14–16).
Spend some time thanking Jesus for His willingness to bring rebuke when necessary in order that you might experience intimacy with Him.
Adapted from Learning From the Churches of Revelations Based on the Teachings of Nancy Leigh DeMoss
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