Part 6 of a series through the book of Revelation
TRUTH OR COMPROMISE?
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write....” (v. 12a).
Jesus describes the city of Pergamum as “Satan’s throne” (v. 13). It was a city consumed with idolatry. Pergamum was home to a temple dedicated to “the divine Augustus and the goddess Roman,” another temple dedicated to Asclepius (the god of healing, who carried a serpent-entwined staff; cf. Revelation 12:9; 20:2), and a large altar dedicated to Zeus (ESV Study Bible).
The church in Pergamum faced both internal and external opposition.
Christ expects us to uphold the truth and refuse to compromise, no matter the pressure.
Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church, is an example of someone who has felt the pressure to compromise the truth.
On June 20, 2005, Joel Osteen appeared on CNN’s Larry King Live and was asked if faith in Jesus is the only way to heaven. Osteen’s reply: “I’m going to let God be the judge of who goes to heaven and hell.” Later, Osteen apologized for his disappointing answer. He returned to Larry King Live on December 22, 2006, and stated, “I believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven.”
On January 26, 2011, Osteen appeared on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight and was asked if he believes that homosexuality is a sin. Osteen’s answer: “I don’t believe homosexuality is God’s best for a person’s life.”
CHRIST’S MESSAGE TO A WAVERING CHURCH
In Christ’s message to the church in Pergamum, we find three reminders for those feeling the pressure to compromise.
When you feel pressured to compromise, remember…
1. Christ is the right one to please.
“The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells” (vv. 12b-13).
Pleasing both Christ and the world is not always possible. A man in Pergamum named Antipas was not able to please both. He was killed for his faithfulness to Christ (“martyr,” martoos, means “witness”). According to Christian tradition, Antipas was slowly roasted to death in a brazen bowl.
Paul wrote that government bears “the sword” (Romans 13:4). This was known as ius gladii (“the right of the sword”). The Roman government had the power to execute, but Christ, the One “who has the sharp two-edged sword,” is the ultimate authority. In John’s vision of the second coming, “from [Christ’s] mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations” (Revelation 19:15; cf. v. 21; Isaiah 11:4; 49:2). But Jesus is not only the judge of the world; He is also the judge of the compromising church.
2. Compromise never has a happy ending.
“But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth” (vv. 14-16).
Balaam is the prototype of all false teachers who lead believers into compromise.
“While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods” (Numbers 25:1 NIV).
“Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD” (Numbers 31:16).
“And the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand” (Numbers 22:23). (Many scholars believe “the angel of the LORD” in the OT is Christ.)
Balaam was killed “with the sword” (Numbers 31:8).
3. What can be gained in the present by compromise is nothing compared to the future Christ has planned for us.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” (v. 17).
Compromising is short-sighted.
Those who are faithful to Christ will receive “the hidden manna” and “a white stone.”
Manna is what the Israelites ate in the wilderness. A jar of manna was “hidden” in the ark of the covenant (Exodus 16:34). Manna is called “the bread of angels” (Psalm 78:25). The “hidden manna” could refer to the meal with Christ that will be “hidden” until the end of time—the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).
In ancient times, a white stone was used to gain entrance (like a ticket) to banquets. Those who put their faith in Christ will be admitted to the banquet of Christ.