GRACE BIBLE CHURCH
Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries
The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary.
The Tree of Life from the week ending 2/22/04
The 2004 Florida Conference
The Church at Pergamum. Revelation 2:12-17
This week we held our third annual Florida Bible Conference. The Florida congregation did a fantastic job of hosting this conference, and we would like to thank all those who made this a success, especially the Pomeroy's, for a job well done!
Our subject was the Church of Pergamum, a continuation of our study on the seven churches of Asia in Rev 2-3. There are two different interpretations of these seven churches; one is that the seven churches portray seven historical stages the church would go through in chronological order; the second is that they represent seven different types of churches or individual believers that appear in every generation. Both interpretations are valid.
Pergamum became the capital of the Roman province of Asia (modern-day Turkey). It was a place of ever-growing population, a "melting pot" of growing interests, and it was a center of religious and cultic worship.
A conical hill stood behind the capital, and it was guarded by shrines and temples of pagan gods. The church and individual believers in Pergamum in REV 2:14 are warned about the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel and committed acts of immorality. Therefore, the Pergamum believer was warned about compromising and becoming a stumbling block to others.
In REV 2:12, the Lord says, "And to the pastor-teacher of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this"
The Greek word translated "sword" is romfaían, which is a different word than the word for "sword" in HEB 4:12, which is máchaira, the sword of the word of God. The máchaira was an 18 inch sword made for thrusting, while theromfaían was a long, broad sword used for slashing.
In REV 2:12, this sword is in the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ, and here He is pictured as the Son of God with the right to judge the nations, as well as His prerogative for divine discipline on born-again believers. All judgment is in the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ in His glorified Hypostatic union. In REV 2:13 the Lord is saying, "I am perfectly aware of the conditions in which you find yourself now. I am aware of the adversities you face, and I am aware of the inclination of your heart." God knows where every one of us dwells. If it is a place surrounded by carnality, we must remember how important it is to not compromise. The believer who makes a difference is the one who maintains an uncompromising witness as they remain on the cutting edge of evil.
The Lord continues in REV 2:13, "I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith, even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells." Satan has particular locations in every generation where he is most active. His throne will be found where there has been a meltdown of values and volition related to divine establishment, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and Bible doctrine. Pergamum was the center of the most concentrated satanic activity at the time, and in REV 2:13, Antipas was martyred, the first Christian to be put to death by the Roman state.
"And you hold fast My name" They had not compromised their doctrine, even though they were under satanic attack, and had not given up their testimony of the name of Christ. Antipas was one of the invisible heroes of the Church-age, whose names will be written in the historical record section of heaven forever, REV 3:12. Some of the greatest words we could ever here from our Lord are in MAT 25:21, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Antipas had become a witness against Satan, right in the midst of Satan's capital.
Antipas is one of the few names of the otherwise anonymous believers who become a "faithful witness." Faithfulness is what impresses God, NUM 12:7-8, and what brings blessings and riches to a believer in time (PRO 28:20, LUK 16:10-12) and in eternity (MAT 25:21). Faithfulness is found in a minister who consistently teaches doctrine to his congregation, 2TI 2:2-7. Faithfulness also results in the crown of life, REV 2:10.
Faithfulness must be shown toward God, right man or right woman, friends, the Royal Family, fellow congregational members, and workers on the job. Faithfulness toward God is the believer's capacity to love God and to respond to God's love based on Bible doctrine in his soul; it reaches its peak when the believer attains maturity and occupation with Christ. The command for faithfulness is found in such passages as DEU 6:5; DEU 10:12; DEU 11:13. Faithfulness toward God establishes the standard for grace and deliverance from the Lord, Psa 31:23, and bestows strength for adversity, HEB 11:27.
Antipas was executed in the pagan worship services of the serpent god, the so-called "god of healing." According to historical tradition, he was roasted to death in a large brass bowl used for sacrifices to demons. His persecutors threw him in and heated the bowl to furnace temperature. However, something extraordinary apparently happened, as Antipas was heard singing hymns to the Lord Jesus Christ! And at Satan's throne itself, the Lord Jesus Christ was glorified. Many of these demonized priests who officiated at the death of Antipas heard the Gospel from his lips before He died.
Pergamum was an ancient, wealthy city; the name "Pergamum" means "citadel," and it became a citadel and stronghold of Satan. Satan controls certain wealthy and powerful political and social celebrities in every generation, who have been instrumental in the perpetuating of his lie and all its forms. Celebrities can have a profound effect on thoughtless masses of people who mindlessly imitate their philosophy, politics, and religion.
Satan's methodology has always been directed toward weakening the nations (ISA 14:12) especially the corruption of client nations to God. Satanic hatred is reproduced in people who are jealous and hateful toward the principles that have made our nation a place of freedom, divine establishment, and evangelism. Many even within the U.S.A. hate this nation and what it stands for. However, no matter how evil the world becomes, the Lord Jesus Christ controls history; Satan does not.
In REV 2:14 the Lord Jesus Christ mentions Antipas as a witness for the prosecution, a faithful witness, to give encouragement; however, the Lord also has a warning: "But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality." In every congregation, some believers succumb to false doctrines and the demonic assault against the soul.
Balak was the king of the Moabites at the time of the Exodus generation, and he wanted to destroy Israel, so he hired Balaam. Balak basically offered to make him a millionaire, if he would curse Israel. One day this psychotic prophet was riding down the road on his donkey, or jackass, and the jackass saw a Theophany (an Old Testament manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ), the angel of Jehovah, standing in the way, to prevent Balaam from carrying out his evil task, but Balaam did not see Him. Balaam kept whipping the donkey until the Lord, in His great sense of humor, gave the donkey the power of speech for a few minutes, and the jackass said, "Why are you hitting me? I haven't done anything!"
Balaam thought that he could curse the people whom God had irrevocably blessed, but that is a losing battle. When he could not curse God's people, he kept advising Balak to induce the Israelites to eat that which was sacrificed to idols and to engage in sexual immorality. Balaam said in effect to Balak, "I know these men from Israel; if you start sending your women to them, they can seduce the men, and they will adopt your religion, and then they will fall. I cannot curse them because they are God's elect, but we can destroy their spiritual life."
The Lord is warning the church of Pergamum that they are too tolerant of antinomianism and false doctrine. Toleration becomes a breeding ground for serious compromise and damage to the spiritual life. The way of Balaam is residence and function in the cosmic system; it is the wasted life of the believer who fails to utilize the provisions of logistic grace, and therefore fails to glorify God. The way of Balaam is the willful acceptance of compromise and contradiction, and flexibility with evil. The way of Balaam includes rejection of authority resulting in arrogance and hatred. Balaam, as a believer living in the cosmic system, had a serious case of monetary reversionism, the lust for wealth.
Money is not evil in itself, but there are monetary dangers for believers as well as unbelievers. Money is a useful servant, but a very cruel master. God's Word clearly tells us that we do not "own" anything, but that God allows us to use His possessions, HAG 2:8, "'The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,' declares the Lord of hosts." When we recognize this, God's laws of prosperity will start to fall into place.
The error of Balaam was three-fold:
1. The assumption that money is a means of happiness.
2. The assumption that money can buy power and authority.
3. The assumption that money can buy security.
Balaam became the sixth sheik of the Midianites, even though he was not a Midianite. However, with all his power and wealth, he died miserably under the sin unto death, NUM 31:8. No matter how well you have succeeded in life, you have the responsibility to ask yourself, "Are you just another vapor trail?"
JAM 4:13-14, "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." If Bible Doctrine is not your priority, your life is a meaningless vapor trail that will disappear into the sin unto death.
The believers at Pergamum were contributing to the downtrend in the region. If they went much further, there would be no difference between them and the religious unbelievers. What Balaam could not accomplish by divination and cursing, he accomplished by teaching false doctrine. He taught King Balak how to destroy Israel as a client nation. Balaam earned his fee by showing Moab and Midian how to neutralize the Jews. The effectiveness of Balaam's teaching is noted in Num 25; the men began to indulge in fornication (the phallic cult) with the women of Moab. The old-time religion always used sex with evangelism. Balaam used the old-time religion of Canaan, the religion that God had warned the Jews about as they entered the land. Balaam attacked Israel by distraction rather than destruction. Religion is the doctrine of Balaam.
As goes the believer, so goes the client nation to God. This was true in the day this was written, A.D. 96. It was true of client nation Rome (S.P.Q.R.), just as it is true of client nation U.S.A. in the 21st century. Believers in the cosmic system destroy the power and effectiveness of the client nation.
REV 2:14-15 goes on, "But I have a few things against you, because you have there believers who adhere to the doctrine of Balaam, who kept teaching [or inculcating] Balak, to set a trap for the citizens of Israel, namely to eat things sacrificed to idols and to fornicate. Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans."
In the midst of the church at Pergamum, there were believers who put a stumbling block before other members of the church, and it is absolutely vital that we separate from believers like these. In 2Co 12:15, the more you grow spiritually, the less company you begin to keep. The last thing we need is to hang around people who influence our spiritual life in a negative way. There comes a time when God's people need to learn the importance of separation, and the importance of godly friends and fellowship. When we accept something or someone in the cosmic system, we are in partnership with the cosmic system; therefore, we are given the order: "Come out from among them." As a believer grows spiritually, one of his first functions in the plan of God must be to separate from the crowd that once lead him in the wrong direction.
The Nicolaitans were Gnostics in the pursuit of intellectualism, and their name was derived from two Greek words, nike (over) and laos (peoples), meaning the winner over the people, defeating or overcoming the people. Balaam found a way for Balak to overcome the people of Israel. While the phallic cult of the Nicolaitans was rejected in Ephesus, REV 2:6, it was effective with many of the believers in Pergamum. The doctrine of the Nicolaitans justified lasciviousness and anti-establishment behavior through a system of substituting religion for bible doctrine. This the reason for the command in REV 2:16 "Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth." The word "repent" is the aorist active imperative form of metanoeo, which means a change of mind, and is a command for all believers in the cosmic system.
The Lord issues declarations of divine discipline from the Supreme Court of Heaven to the believer who refuses to rebound and returns to the cosmos. This is a warning against arrogance and emotionalism, which are the two great enemies of the spiritual life and produce loser believers-even if those believers had once reached spiritual adulthood. There are no substitutes for rebound. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ says five times to five different churches to metanoeo, to change one's mind and recover, as in REV 2:16-17, "'Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war 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 [the winner believer], to him I will give some of the hidden manna [escrow blessing for time and eternity], and I will give him a white stone [votes were cast with colored pebbles in the ancient world; this is God's vote of approval for the winner], and a new name [a royal title in the eternal heraldry] written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.'" Both in time and eternity, believers are classified as either winners or losers. Winners are believers who live in the predesigned plan of God, pass the tests, advance to maturity, and glorify Jesus Christ. Losers are Christians who fail in time, but they never lose their salvation. They have no impact on history and therefore a lower rank in heaven and no authority in the Millennium. Winners are described in Rev 2-3 by the present active participle of nikao (he who overcomes), as inREV 2:7,11,17,26, 3:5,12,21.
At the Rapture, all winners will receive a "white pebble," a resurrection body with a new name of knighthood, REV 2:17. These believers have the greatest of all fame for eternity. The winner has phenomenal impact and blessing in time as well as reward in eternity. Mature believers have a tremendous influence on every facet of life. Blessing in time is a guarantee of blessings in eternity. Major decorations are given to the winner at the Judgment Seat of Christ:
· Crown of righteousness. This crown is awarded at the judgment seat of Christ to the Church-age believer who fulfills the predesigned plan of God by the advance to spiritual maturity.
· Crown of life. This crown is awarded to the Church-age believer who endured trials, heartaches, and disasters and glorified God, JAM 1:12. The crown of life is awarded to all members of the Royal Family of God who utilize the problem-solving devices, advance to maturity, and then pass evidence testing with God's perfect happiness.
· Incorruptible crown. This crown is given to those who mastered the old sin nature through dedication to the predesigned plan of God. These are the believers who were disciplined, faithful, dependable, and self-motivated. They gave and served and were faithful to Bible class.
· Crown of rejoicing. This crown is given to soul winners, 1TH 2:19, "For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?" These individuals were accurate in their communication of the Gospel, and were not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They led others to the grace and truth found in the Lord Jesus Christ.
· Crown of glory. This crown is awarded to pastors who faithfully study and teach Bible doctrine to their congregation, the doctrine by which he and positive members of his congregation attain spiritual maturity. The motivation for the pastor must be occupation with the Lord Jesus Christ.
History pales in comparison to all eternity. Your time on earth is a drop in the ocean compared to eternity. Anyone who places other things in life above doctrine in his scale of values is wasting the equal privilege and opportunity God has provided for us in time to advance spiritually. All those "other things" will become so very meaningless to you in eternity, at most adding up to your regret in eternity. Although we can never lose our salvation, we become losers without the right priorities. Part of the agony of the sin unto death is the realization that one had an opportunity to make his life count in a fantastic way, but instead chose to follow the plan of Satan. When you look at your life from the divine viewpoint and realize how meaningless, vain, and empty life is without the Lord Jesus Christ and a personal sense of destiny, you are faced with a decision: Do you want to be a hotshot in time, whose legacy is nothing more than a snapshot in an album or a picture on a wall?
Don't wait until it's too late!
For a more detailed study, order tapes 1880 to 1885.