Straighten Up! (Revelation 2:12:17) - September 29th 2013

    A visit to Pergamum was a visit to the political headquarters of the area. The Center for the Imperial Cult was ruled by the powerful proconsul. Rising about the Caicus Valley a 1000-foot hill was crowned with sacred and royal buildings. Slightly below the citadel was the Altar of Zeus with a frieze of a major battle in Greek mythology. Pagan cults attracted no little attention in the city, making life very difficult for the followers of Christ who refused to acknowledge “Caesar as Lord.” Secret Christians were not to be found in Pergamum.

    12 To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. When God speaks, His words are sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel. The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword… (Hebrews 4:12) God’s authority continues to live and actively interact with our lives.
    13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. 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. Many in the church were faithful. Antipas may have been an early pastor of the church who stood against the Imperial Cult.

    1. Confront the desire to compromise.
    Entering the next section of this letter, we are reminded of Moses’ words: You may be sure that your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23)
    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. Balaam’s story is found in Numbers 22-25; 31. When the Israelites swarmed to the edge of the wilderness, King Balak sought out Balaam to curse the Israelites. Balaam gives us a picture of a holy man begging God for an answer that would please the king and fill his pockets. At one point the Angel of the Lord told Balaam your path is a reckless one before me (Numbers 22:32). Why? Balaam promised to speak God’s truth but tried hard to not to see God’s truth. He was seeking to please himself and others rather than please God. In the end, he did not curse the Israelites verbally. However, he cursed them by advising the Moabites to intermingle with the Israelites, inviting them to participate in the sacrifices and sexual immorality associated with Baal of Peor. (Such sexual practices involved both mixed gender and same sex activities.) God designed sexual relations for the marriage between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24). He forbids unnatural relationships (Romans 1:24-27). The Nicolaitans taught that what was done in the body did not affect the soul. The writer saw a close connection with Balaam’s advice and improper sexual practices connected with the culture. 15 Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
    The early church sought to address the evils of sexual misconduct. What is done in the body does affect one’s relationship with our Lord Jesus.
    Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.      Colossians 3:5
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The deceit, the lie of the Devil consists of this: that he wishes to make man believe that he can live without God's Word.

    2. Choose faith’s promise.
    16 Repent therefore! Otherwise… 
    Admit sin. Stop what you are doing. Confess your rebellion. Accept God’s Word. Follow God’s way. 16 I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. God’s Word is not based on moral relativism or redefining what is acceptable and right by cultural norms or desires. To receive God’s blessing, repentance needs to take place. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
    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.
    Hidden Manna brings God’s provision in contrast with the food sacrificed to idols. God’s provision addresses the emptiness that the world’s wisdom and ways can never reach.
    I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. 
    The white stone and a new name admit the faithful to God’s presence so they can experience God’s blessings and discover fresh revelations of His name and nature. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

    The New International Version is the Bible translation used in this study.