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The Church at Pergamos - The Book of Revelation
Week 26, 2016
The next church the Lord addresses is the church at Pergamos. Theologians and Bible scholars viewing this as a revelation to the entire church age generally view this as a word to the church from approximately A.D. 323 to 538.
"And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, 'These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:
"I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is.
And you hold fast to 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.
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.
Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
"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"' (Revelation 2:12-17 NKJV).
The word Pergamos means “height” or “elevated.” This is most appropriate for the church of this period. It went from suffering its worst persecution to becoming the state religion of the Roman Empire virtually overnight. One day Christians were hunted and killed, and the next they were the most honored citizens of the empire. One had to be a Christian to hold positions of authority in government, and they were given favored status as merchants and landowners. Certainly this was a time of elevation for the church, but it was so dramatic and came so fast that it created some of the worst problems the church had yet faced. There was a huge influx of evil and evil intentioned people that the church as a whole did not resist well.
Many Christians yearn for a time when the church is again elevated to a position of power and influence over earthly governments. Yet the history of the church at Pergamos should give serious pause about seeking that. The dominion theology promoting this was the doctrine of the Pilgrims who formed some of the first settlements in North America, which helped promote the doctrine of “manifest destiny” here. Some good fruit came from this, but also some very bad fruit. Understanding this period of the church represented by Pergamos could help us to see and avoid the biggest traps in this doctrine, and there are some very big traps.
No doubt the church is called to be salt and light in this world and to have a prophetic voice to civil governments, but my personal belief is that the kingdom of God will not come fully to earth until the King returns. There are ways that we prepare the way for the Lord, especially by “making disciples of all nations,” teaching them His ways and laying the foundation for His reign on earth. However, the peril is great for those who start seeking to establish the authority of the kingdom over civil governments now. The history of the church age represented by Pergamos helps to illuminate this.
As we get closer to the end of this age and the coming of the Lord to rule over the earth, there will be an increasing clash of kingdoms. As we’ve studied in Daniel 2, when the statue that represents man’s kingdoms collapses, God’s kingdom, represented by the stone, grows and spreads throughout the earth. This is happening now, so the lessons of Pergamos are critical to our time. We will cover this in some depth over the next few weeks.
The Lord begins His exhortation to this church period with reminding them of the two-edged sword—His Word. In His Word, there are clear warnings about the corruption that started flooding into the church during this period, and it continues to destroy churches and Christians today. This corruption would dominate the institutional church for over a thousand years until the Scriptures were again esteemed as the only source of the church’s doctrine.
The point is that we must always seek to fortify ourselves in our knowledge of the Scriptures and heed its warnings. Always keep in mind that if Jesus, who was the Word of God, had to take His stand on “it is written,” how much more must we? We must anchor every doctrine and belief to His Word.
next week 27