“I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city.” (Rev. 2:13) NLT
As I am reading through Revelation, I often wonder why all of these letters were included. What is the main purpose for us knowing the content of these letters which held a specific message for a specific church? The gist of each letter was to tell the churches that Jesus wants them to get their acts together. If they kept to their ways, Christ would have no choice but to remove their lamp stands and the message of the Gospel would be lost forever.
The letters obviously did the trick, so what does this have to do with us?
Let’s find out.
The letter to the church in Pergamum is short but packed with so much wisdom. At the start of the letter, Jesus praised the church for remaining faithful and obedient even after they witnessed one of their brothers being martyred for his faith.
The letter also tells us that this church’s address was in the same city where Satan had his throne. Could you imagine living in the city where Satan had his throne? His powerful influence kept this city’s air heavy with sin and blinded its citizens to kneel to a rule-set that flew in the face of Christ’s teachings. As a believer, the oppression would have been both stifling and frightening.
The Church’s small voice attempting to shout warnings into this sea of blackness could easily get lost among the churning of the winds.
It is a good thing our God is not a God of good or bad odds. In Pergamum, His flock is outnumbered, but numbers don’t mean much to Him. Remember Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed? Miracles can occur if we are willing to close our eyes to our human measuring sticks and be willing to accept the vision of our King’s.
Jesus did have something against this church, though. As strong as they were in their faith and obedience, they accepted some among them who still adhered to the teachings of Balaam—a false prophet. This nasty man was hired by Balak, king of Moab, to bring a curse the Jews. God protected the Jews from this curse. Balaam then resorted to tricking the Jews into partaking in pleasures and practices that were not of God. To make things worse, they also had those among them who still followed the teachings of the Nicolaitans.
“Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Rev. 2:16-17) NIV
I am beginning to understand why we are receiving this particular letter and why it wasn’t just read and discarded into oblivion. The comparison of what Jesus has against these churches, He also has against us. If this church kept tolerating even a few who believed in these sinful teachings, their sickness would eventually pollute the believers around them.
Have you ever had a pint of strawberries that were plump and sweet? I have noticed that when one starts going bad and it wasn’t caught early enough to remove, the rest seemed to quickly follow suit. The ripe strawberries surrounding the rotten strawberry would turn wet and smooshy and end up in the trash. My beautiful carton of strawberries suddenly decreased in number.
A teeny-tiny crack in the windshield could create a spiderweb effect in the glass if exposed to enough of the hot sun.
It really doesn’t take much to let things crumble.
These letters to the churches are just as relevant today as they were when first written. Sin hasn’t changed much over the years. While trying to adhere to God’s laws, we may allow ourselves a small sinful pleasure thinking nothing will come of it. I mean after all, aren’t we mostly good?
The amazing pastor of a church who does great things and leads according to God’s Word suddenly finds himself in the headlines on the front page because of a small sin he allowed into his life. The cancer grew and overtook his ministry, but He was mostly good, right?
How often are we “tricked” and led astray by turning our ear only slightly away from God to listen to the whisper of another who didn’t follow God’s laws? A few drinks a day even though we have a family history of alcoholism: a quick peek on the internet of someone who isn’t our spouse: a married person’s acceptance of an invitation to have a bite after work to discuss the stresses from the day with a coworker of the opposite sex.
These small cracks can lead to so much more than we think. When the unforeseeable becomes our new reality, Jesus would then have no choice but to use the sword of His mouth against the sin woven into the fabric of our souls. We let in the enemy disguised as a small, innocent decision which allowed God to be slowly pushed out.
If we find ourselves shaking our heads at the place we’ve landed and see our souls now soaked with the darkness of the sin that has taken over, turn against the sin and towards your God. Our God is not a God of odds, and He is able to do so much with so very little. His Grace is sufficient, even if we see no way out. We need to offer up our admissions and regrets to Him and through our repentance, He will turn back on the lights.