The text for the sermon today is Revelation 2:12-17. Our text can be found on page 1028. These are the words of God:
12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
13 “ ‘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. 14 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. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 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.’
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
55 miles north of Smyrna, and 15 miles inland, Pergamum, which looked like a crown on a hill means “citadel,” and even today you can see the ruins of the Roman theater, the temple of Athena. The city practiced strict zoning measures such that your wealth and influence determined how close to the top of the hill you could live. One only had to look at the architecture of the city to understand her heart. Zeus stood atop the hill. The first temple dedicated to a Caesar was found in the center, and most importantly, at the foot of the city, was a hospital/temple for Asclepion, the god of healing, symbolized as two snakes wrapped around a pole. What an opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ to stand out, yet you can tell by Christ’s introduction of himself that the letter to Pergamum will be sharp. (v. 1)
Satan loves to persecute the church through the power of the civil government, (Ps. 2; 2:13; 13:2) In such an atmosphere, living faithfully for Christ would be difficult; and the church at Pergamum had shing examples of Christian perseverance. (v. 13)
Nevertheless, Christ indicts the church for harboring false teachers, those who for personal gain, taught that Christians could participate in the sinful celebrations of the city without supporting the sin. These teachers are likened to Balaam who led Israel to do the same. (v. 14-15)
16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.
The church is called upon to repent of embracing these teachers, or else Christ will come to expose and expel them himself. (v. 16) Christians who forego the pagan feasts of Pergamum will feast on “hidden manna” that Christ alone can give in glory; a white stone indicating an innocent verdict. (v. 17)
WHERE YOU ARE, WHEN YOU ARE
“I know where you dwell,” (v. 13) is the same as saying, “I know the temptations you face.” Jesus Christ knew about Zeus crowning the city. He knew about the serpent cult. He knew every pressure Pergamum felt soften their own convictions in order to fit in. Lake Wylie Baptist, Christ knows the time in which you live, but do you? Do you understand the task and duties of a Christian in 2023?
We live in a culture that has rapidly shifted its posture to the church. Prior to the mid-1990’s Christianity enjoyed a privileged, or positive position in America. Between the mid-1990s and 2014, we watched Christian influence steadily wane in culture. In 2015, the Obergefell marked a distinct moment in our nation’s history. Our nation enshrined an abomination into law.
Christianity cannot take a neutral stance towards marriage. Christians cannot take a neutral stance to abortion. We can’t take a neutral stance to the harm done to children’s bodies who struggle with their gender. Therefore, American culture can no longer take a neutral stance toward Christianity.
The dividing lines in our nation are no longer over marginal tax rates. They are being drawn over the very nature of reality and who gets to write the dictionary.
Jesus Christ knows where you dwell. He didn’t put you here by accident. He is pleased to have you here, to serve his purposes in this time.
TICKLING THE EARS
If we’re honest, we all would love teachers who will tell us that being a Christian doesn’t have to be so difficult, so demanding, so costly. (2 Tim. 4:3, 4)
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
Having seen Antipas martyred for the faith, some at Pergamum likely said, “You know, the surrounding culture is so different from us. We ought to be more winsome as Christians. If we don’t change some things, we won’t have a chance of reaching anyone. We need to sit down and be better listeners, maybe attend some of their pagan festivals. I mean, “They don’t care what we know, until they know that we care.”
Church, not only are we faced with a negative culture, we regularly see popular Christian leaders retreat from clear Biblical truth in order to maintain their status.
- Last year, when the Dobbs decision overturned Roe V. Wade, I took note of which evangelical leaders praised the downfall of Roe and which ones were mum on the subject.
- Sadly, we’ve seen many pastors and spiritual leaders retreat on the issues of gender, marriage, and God given gender roles within the home and church. Sometimes in the name of the gospel itself.
- Many Christian elites today are saying, “If we don’t unhitch Christianity from the Old Testament, we’ll lose our place in culture.”
And Christ says, “If you do not repent, I will come with a sword.”
You know what the downfall of Israel was just before they went into exile? Isaiah 30:8:
8 And now, go, write it before them on a tablet and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come as a witness forever. 9 For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; 10 who say to the seers, “Do not see,”and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, 11 leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”
When all the words from the pulpit are smooth words, look for lies. When all the words from the national leaders are smooth words, look for lies.
The same Jesus who says to weary sinners, “I will give you rest,” also told Jonah to say to Nineveh, “Repent, or else in 40 days your city will fall.”
HIDDEN MANNA, A WHITE STONE
What is Christ’s encouragement to you today? What is the promise that he will hold you fast through the insanity of this world today? It is an invitation to table fellowship.
To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, (v. 17)
This is an invitation to come and dine with Christ, to enjoy table fellowship with Christ. But be warned, you cannot fellowship at this table and the table of idols. You cannot enjoy the richness of this table with divided allegiances.
If you consider yourself a sinner, then this table has been prepared for you if we are willing to confess your own sin and cling to Jesus Christ alone as the savior of sinners. If you are willing to that there is another promise in this text:
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.’
If you sit enjoy table fellowship with Christ you will be condemned by the lords of this world. You will be guilty of breaking their laws, their statutes, and disrespecting their idols. But in the end, the only judge that matters will give you a white stone, a new name, an eternal declaration not simply of innocence, but of perfectly white righteousness through his Son.