We rarely dive into the deep end of sin. We tend to slide into the shallow end, slowly inching ourselves deeper until it’s over our heads and we start drowning. No one sets out to be an addict or an alcoholic, they make a series of compromises that lead them there. No one plans on being unfaithful in their marriage, divorce was never the plan, but they make a series of compromises that lead them there. No one decides to reject Jesus in order to put money or material things or some other pursuit their god, but they make little compromises that lead them there.
We tend to do better with big challenges, but it’s the little compromises that erode our lives and our souls over time.
That’s what was happening in the church of Pergamum, compromise was eroding their faith. But Jesus had a word for them. In the book of Revelation, Jesus told John to write a letter to seven churches in Asia Minor. To the church of Pergamum, Jesus told John to write a letter calling them to uncompromising faith. We can have uncompromising faith.
Below is an automated transcript of this messageGood morning, church! It is good to see all of you here and it is good to be speaking to those of you that are watching online. We welcome you!
As we continue our series in the book of Revelation, we’re going through the first three chapters of the book of Revelation and we’ve entitled this series, “Letters from Jesus.” Today, we’ll be talking about the letter that Jesus told the apostle John to write to the church at Pergamum. We’ve entitled this particular sermon, A Letter Against Compromise.”
Now,when you think of compromise, sometimes you think of it in a positive light. Like when you’re going on a date with your spouse and you say, OK, honey, you pick the restaurant. But I get to pick the movie, okay? And you kind of make a deal like that. That’s kind of cool, you know, that’s a good compromise, where both of you kind of get part of your way.
That’s not the kind of compromise I’m talking about today. That’s not the kind of compromise that we see in the church at Pergamum. What we see here, is the kind of compromise where you compromise your principles, your morals, even your faith. And it’s never a well thought out thing. It’s not like you started by thinking, I’m going to compromise my morality or my faith. It’s more like you just slowly slide into it, one compromise at a time. People rarely dive into the deep end of sin. They tend to slither into the shallow in and then lose their footing. Before they know it, it’s over their heads and they are drowning. It’s just one compromise at a time, and then it’s almost too late, it seems, to get out of it. No one sets out to be an addict or an alcoholic. We just find ourselves there after a series of compromises that led us there.
No one sets out to be unfaithful in their marriage. No one says, I do, and then someday says, I don’t. It’s just one compromise at a time that leads us there. No one decides to reject Jesus or to keep some other thing on the throne, like money, possessions or some other pursuit. No one sets out saying, I’m going to put something ahead of Jesus. We compromise one thing at a time and find that we’ve dethroned Him and put some other idol in His place.
We tend to do better with big challenges; something that comes at us face to face. We know how to put our “armor” on and fight back. It’s that stuff that “comes in the side door or slips in the back door;” it often erodes our faith one compromise at a time. This is what seems to be happening to the church at Pergamum.
In the book of Revelation, Jesus told John to write a letter to seven churches in Asia Minor. Today we call that same geography, that same place, the land of Turkey.
To the church of Pergamum, Jesus told John to write a letter. calling them to an uncompromising kind of faith. I believe that Jesus is speaking to us today. He’s calling this church and these people to an uncompromising kind of faith. As we look at the text today, I think we’ll see three challenging words from Jesus on how we can have uncompromising faith.
Are you ready? Let’s read:
Revelation 2:12-17 (ESV) 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, Um 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.’
How to have an uncompromising faith:
We’re looking for three challenging words from Jesus on how to have an uncompromising faith. Here’s the first word; persevere. Jesus calls us to persevere, church. He calls us to hold fast. Do you see that in verse 13? Circle that in your notes there. “Hold fast” is the idea, in the Greek, here, the Greek verb has this idea of “to hold on with strength.” Not to hold on just by your fingertips, but to get a grip and hang on tight. He commends them all.
All the letters have a certain format. They begin with the person that’s from the place. At least five out of the seven begin with a praise and then go to a problem, then a prescription, and then a promise at the end. They all tend to have those six parts. This one has all the parts of most of the letters that John is writing from Jesus here.
We see that He commends them in verse 13; He commends the church of Pergamum. “…you hold fast my name…” and then He says, “…and you did not deny my faith…” You’ve persevered . You have persevered, Pergamum. Even though I know where you’re at, you’re in the place where Satan’s throne is; you guys live where Satan’s throne is.
I have a couple of thoughts on this one. Pergamum was the seat of the governor for Asia Minor. So, Pergamum was the capital as it were, of the Roman seat of governorship for the region of Asia Minor. And so, He might be referring to Rome. Jesus might be saying, you’re there where the throne of Satan is; that might beHis reference but I’m inclined to believe He might be referring to that big old altar upon the Acropolis that overlooks Pergamum.
I was able to visit Pergamum, in 2013, with my wife. Let me look at a map with you and show you where we’re at here. You know, I love maps, right? Why do I do this? I do this because I want you to understand that these letters and these stories are about real people in real places that really happened.
Here is John; he’s on this little island called Patmos. He’s seeing a revelation of Jesus. He is in exile. John the beloved, one of the twelve disciples, is exiled because of his faith in Jesus. He is exiled by the Romans. He is there breaking rocks. He’s an old man now, living in a cave, and he sees Jesus on the Lord’s Day. He’s told by Jesus to write seven letters. The one closest, that he starts with, is Ephesus. Then, up to Smyrna, and we go up the shoreline along the Aegean Sea here, and we go inland. We follow this little river up here about 65 miles inland, and we find the city of Pergamum. Pergamum is the seat of the Roman governor’s leadership over Asia Minor.
Here is a photo I took from the tour bus window as we were driving through what today is called Bergama. This was ancient Pergamum; you can see this Acropolis. There’s no missing it. As soon as you pull into town, you see it. Looking up there now, you can see little pieces of residue, which would have been these beautiful white temples that were up there at one time.
Let me tell you a little bit more about Pergamum, and then I’ll show you a few more photos. Sir William Ramsey described it as, “Beyond all other cities in Asia Minor it gives the traveller the impression of a royal city, the home of authority; the rocky hill on which it stands is so huge, it dominates the broad plain of the Caicus so proudly and boldly.” Sir William Ramsay had visited there and wrote of this place.
Pergamum gets its name from the writing material, “parchment.” In those early days , Alexandria, Egypt, was known for papyrus, which was came from a certain plant and the origin of paper.
Because Pergamum had such a huge library, it was about to rival the largest library in the world, which was Alexandria. Legend has it that papyrus shipments were banned to keep the library at Alexandria in the forefront.
So what did the Pergamum people do? Well, they invented parchment, which is made from lambskin or goatskin, and it actually became a superior form of writing that it kept longer and you could roll it up. It was very thin leather parchment. According to Pliny’s Natural History, parchment was invented in Pergamum, as a substitute for papyrus. That’s where that information comes from.
Let’s look at a few photos again. First of all, this one proves that I was, indeed, there. Go to the next photo; you can see the theater. The stage would have been down here; earthquakes have caused it to fall down the hill. It was a 10,000 seat theater. A library was up here. This is the foundation. Can you see how vast the city of Bergama is today? This was Pergamum and when they were down there, they would look up and they would see the most prominent temple of all was the temple called the altar of Zeus, who was the Greek king of the gods.
When Jesus is talking to them, He says, I know where you live. You live where the throne of Satan is. It was so prominent up there. You can go to Berlin today and see it, because in 1878, the German engineer Carl Humann excavated the acropolis of Pergamum. His team disassembled the Altar to Zeus, shipped it to Germany, where it was reassembled and is on display today at the “Pergamon Museum” of Berlin. I showed you a moment ago, upon that Acropolis, people used to be in the city and look up and see that gleaming white altar to Zeus, among others. The Germans excavated that whole mountaintop and carried it to Berlin. It’s all set up in the Berlin museum today. This spot was the place where the altar was; a bronze bull was there. They would burn fire under the bull and offer sacrifices to Zeus. More on that in just a moment.
Let me backup and cover verse 12, “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.” If you’re here for the first time, you know for the past few weeks we’ve been talking about the word, “angel.” It means “messenger.” And so, I believe this to be the pastor of the church, to the messenger of the church at Pergamum. It tells you who it’s from by giving you a portion of the Revelation from chapter one. In chapter one, John, on the Lord’s Day, was caught up in the Spirit. He saw the manifest presence of Jesus appear to him. When he saw Jesus , he wrote down all of the description of how he appeared.
As he’s writing these seven letters, Jesus tells him to take this part of the revelation and apply that as my identity towards this particular city. My task has been to try to think through; why did this part of the revelation apply to Pergamum? So, let’s look at it. How did Jesus identify himself? “Hear the words of him who has the sharp two edged sword.” So that’s what he wanted Pergamum to know; He is carrying a two edged sword. That’s the identity of Jesus; He is the one carrying the two edged sword. Now, this is noted, because Pergamum is the seat of the governor, and as we see in Romans, Paul says that the governor, the king, does not bear the sword in vain. He has the authority from God. He has the authority to judge. Jesus is saying, actually, I have this sword. Actually, I do. And so he’s applying it appropriately. That’s the part of the Revelation that He wants the city of Pergamum to know.
Today, if He were writing to Washington, D. C. or to Raleigh, North Carolina, He might say, Well, you know, actually, I have the sword. I’m actually the one that’s in authority. And so, I see this in view now. Satan’s throne, some have said, may have been a reference to the fact that Pergamum was the seat of the governor for the Roman province of Asia Minor. I tend to lean more towards it being the fact that they had the altar of Zeus, that he was the king of the Greek gods, and they worshipped him and that Jesus is saying, You live in a place where it’s hard to be a Christian. You live in a place where, no matter where you’re at in the city, you look up and you see, gleaming day and night, the altar to Zeus. You live where Satan’s throne is and it’s hard to be a Christian there.
Jesus speaks of how they were persevering. They were holding fast and they were holding fast to His name. They were not denying His faith during these days. It says , “even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.”
Antipas, we see from the early church father’s writings, was an earlier pastor of the church of Pergamum. He was ordained by John the Beloved to be the pastor of the church at Pergamum. He was murdered, executed under Nero, somewhere between 54 and 68 AD. He was executed for casting out demons worshiped by the local population. The manner of his execution was most terrible, as the account says that he was roasted in a brazen bull-shaped altar on the Altar of Zeus, which gives further weight to the temple being the “throne” and place “where Satan dwells.” In other words, his preaching was so powerful, and the spirit of God was so powerful in Antipas that he was diminishing the worship in those temples. They no longer were seeing the signs and wonders that the demonic would counterfeit because he was casting demons out of people. And so they executed him in a most terrible fashion.
If you go to a Greek Orthodox church today, you will often see this icon in one of the windows. You can see Antipas in the brazen bull with fire underneath. He was roasted alive until he died because of his faith. Here’s what Jesus is saying, you guys have persevered even when your pastor was executed in front of everyone. And I commend you for that. You’re the kind of church that when it comes at you through the front door, you hang on to My name.
Listen, I don’t know if you hold on to the name of Jesus or not. You can hold on to your Bible. You can hold on to your church. You can hold on to a lot of things. But if you say the name, Jesus, in public and you’re not cursing like you say it at school or at work, people would be running in every direction to get away from you because His name has such power. It concerns people to hear it. They are thinking, Oh, he’s getting ready, she’s getting ready, to talk to me about this one. I need to move.
But, these people at Pergamum, in spite of the fact that they’ve got Zeus up there and they’ve got other temples up there, were bold about persevering in the name of Jesus. And not only that, they were not denying the gospel, which is, He says, “you have not denied my faith, which is the gospel of Jesus,” even though they had seen their pastor killed.
Perseverance is more than endurance. It’s more than just hanging on by your fingernails. Look what Oswald Chambers says, “Perseverance is more than endurance. It is endurance combined with absolute assurance and certainty that what we are looking for is going to happen. Perseverance means more than just hanging on, which may be only exposing our fear of letting go and falling. Perseverance is our supreme effort of refusing to believe that our hero is going to be conquered.” Perseverance is more than just enduring. It means to hold fast with strength, to hold fast to the name of Jesus, to the person of Jesus, to the relationship with Jesus, no matter what’s going on, no matter the place you live or the culture you live in.
Hang on. Persevere. The church of Pergamum persevered, they hung on, but there was something sliding in the back door there. Jesus commended them, he says, I know your perseverance. I know you hold fast, but something else is going on. This leads to our second word.
How to have an uncompromising faith:
Look at verse 14; He identifies the problem. He says, 14 “But I have a few things against you.” I commend you for your perseverance. You hold fast, you don’t deny, even when things got really hard under your pastor Antipas some years ago. But I do hold something against you. That’s heartbreaking for me to hear. Oh, to hear Jesus say to me, Gary, I commend you. You follow me, you are faithful, but I’m holding something against you. If you heard that, wouldn’t that be heartbreaking; do you want Jesus to have anything against you?
My mom used to talk about, when I was growing up, keeping short accounts with. What does that mean? If the Holy Spirit has said to you there’s a problem somewhere in your life, don’t let it go. Keep short accounts. In other words, get it right with the Lord. Beware of feeling that separation between you and the Lord. Jesus said to the church of Pergamum, I’m holding something against you . Who is “you?” Well, I think it’s the shepherds, probably the pastor, that this letter is going to; it was going to the angel of the church of Pergamum. If He was talking to our church, He’d be talking to me. He would be talking to our teaching team, our deacons and our trustees. He’d be talking to our small group leaders and our women’s leaders; anyone that’s in any position of leadership or maturity. He is saying that He is holding some things against those mature leaders, men and women of the church, of Pergamum or here in eastern North Carolina, whether it’s in a Rocky Mount campus or our Wilson campus.
And then, He says something surprising; here is what He holds against you. I say it’s surprising, because it’s not something they’ve done, but it’s something some others have done. This makes me want to say what Cain said to the Lord back there in the book of Genesis. “Where’s your brother?” God asked. Cain said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I have enough mess of my own, Lord; I have to keep up with these other people? I have to take care of them too? But the Lord says He has called you to be mature in Him and to be a part of God’s family. You’re not only responsible for your own walk; you have a responsibility to care for those around you and to warn them. To tell them to be beware if you see them slipping into some compromise.
Pastor, that’s not what I wanted to hear today. It’s not just that I’ve got to deal with me now. I’ve got to make sure that I take care of us. And so you might think, Well, I don’t feel like I’m on that list.Do you have any kids? You’re responsible. Are you in a small group? You’re responsible. I know we’re all social distancing right now, but look, you’re still responsible for the people that are 6 ft or more away from you. You’re still responsible. He’s talking to you, saying that He is holding something against you.
There’s two categories of false teaching that have crept into the church of Pergamum and one is the teaching of Balaam. Do you see it? The other is the teaching of the Nicolaitans. This is in verse 14 and verse 15. 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.
Here’s the thing I’ve been saying for several weeks now. If you’ve decided to start studying the book of Revelation, I would ask, have you read the other 65 books yet, because the keys to understanding the book of Revelation lie in the previous books.
And so, here Jesus is, referring to an event that is recorded in the book of Numbers, where there is this prophet for hire. It’s a very unusual story, a prophet for hire named Balaam. His name means, “devour or swallower of the people.” That’s what his name means. He’s a prophet for hire. In other words, he preaches for money. That should trip you up right away. That guy has a problem right out of the gate; he is a prophet for hire. He is hired by Balak, the king of Moab. Moab is where the Israelite people had left Israel, and they’re headed to the Promised Land. They had passed near the land of Moab and Midian; they were coming around to the Promised Land Balak had seen the size of this group, and he wanted to stop them. And so, he hired Balaam.
Balaam gets on his donkey and heads out. On this particular occasion (it’s in the Bible now check it out) he had a talking donkey. On this particular day, God tried to stop Balaam from coming. He sent an angel who stood before the donkey and kept it from moving. And so Balaam is beating the donkey and the donkey wouldn’t move. Finally the donkey turned and talked to him and said, Look, don’t you see that angel? Then the angel appeared and said, Why are you beating your donkey? It’s a crazy story. Read the story. And so Balaam goes past God’s warning. God warned it in a strange kind of way, I’ll give you that.
Balaam gets up on the first mountain. He looks down. He sees all of Israel going by and he says, Build me an altar and Balak builds him an altar and pays him the money. Balaam opens his mouth to curse Israel and a blessing comes out. Let’s try another mountain. So they go to another mountain, they try again. He opens his mouth to curse Israel and a blessing comes out. He said I warned you about this. Look, we can’t curse Israel. God won’t allow it. But I know something about how to break them down. They won’t be cursed by God but maybe we can seduce them. You can read about this in Numbers 22 through 31. They had beautiful women. The Moabite women were beautiful. Let them go among the men of Israel and seduce them into adultery, fornication, sexual immorality and idolatry. And it worked. He couldn’t come at them through the front door. They were too strong in their faith. But He could slip in the back door and seduce them.
Often, Satan has learned that if he tries to defeat the church through persecution, he, instead, causes the church to be more purified and strong. But he has learned, through the ages, that he can attack through seduction and break us down, one compromise at a time. Now that’s the compromising doctrine of Balaam.
The conduct of the church of Pergamum is now starting to look like the rest of Pergamum that worships these false gods through idolatry, through sacrifices to idols and through sexual immorality. Now, church, you’re looking just like them; it’s crept in, so your conduct looks like theirs.
And then, he goes to the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which we are kind of uncertain about. We know that the name means “conqueror of the people.” Balaam means “swallower or devourer of the people.” Nicolaitan means “conqueror of the people.” Every commentary you read gives you another possibility. So we’re uncertain. But just from the name I have a suspicion that I know what it means. They are not sure what the Nicolaitans were doing, but just from the name “conqueror of the people,” I have a suspision.
I’ve seen this in our church through the last 28 years. And that is this, that an outside person comes in claiming authority over the leaders of the church. They say, I have a superior authority, and they have a “hidden word.” There’s something they have seen in Scripture that no one has ever seen. They come in and the young believers fall prey to them. The person usually is pretty flashy, kind of like Balaam.
So many churches are online now. I see people saying they like the way that guy or that lady talks at this church or that church. They may begin to accept authority from other places outside the church where they know their leaders and know their walk and other conduct. It grieves this pastor’s heart to see young believers get on fire for Jesus and then fall prey to a false doctrine from somebody that lives in another part of the United States because they have a great TV show. I’m not talking about anybody specific. I’m not going to, I could, but I’ll say this: Some of them are Nicolaitans and some of them are Balaamites. They’re doing it for money, and if you examine their life, their conduct is immoral. If they are Nicolaitans, then they are rebels; they won’t come under the authority of the church. They won’t come under an elder board or a deacon, board or congregation. They’re out there on their own, and they are conquerors of the people. Watch out. Beware. That’s the warning.
Jesus said in Matthew, chapter seven, Matthew 7:15 (ESV) “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Now, who’s He holding this against? I would remind those of us that are supposed to be protecting the flock, but also those of you that are new believers and you’re just hungry to beware. Make sure you know “which trough you are feeding from;”mature shepherds are to protect the flock.
1 Peter 5:1-2 (ESV) 1 “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly” Notice that last part is kind of a stab against Balaam; not for money. If you’re called to be community group shepherds, do you know where your flock is? These are members of community groups, which represents 80% of our church. People, there watching from home, many of you I know were meeting regularly in your Community Groups and are faithful to watch online. Do you know where the rest of your members are? Are you checking on each other? Are you taking care of each other? Young believer, are you willing to come under submission to those that God has put over you and to hear sound teaching and to beware of false teaching? Let’s go to our third word. How to have an uncompromising faith:
Persevere, Beware, Repent. Repent; that’s the third word. It’s in verse 16; circle the word, “repent.” It’s the only imperative in the whole letter; the other two are implied. He commended them for perseverance. He had something against them that they had allowed compromising doctrines to infiltrate the flock. Beware.
In verse 16, He says, “Therefore, repent.” It’s not a long verse. “Therefore repent .”
Stephen, our worship pastor, talked during our worship time about revival. He gave us a definition for revival. I pray for revival in our land, in our city, in our state, in our nation and in the world. Revival always begins with repentance. It always begins with people admitting, I’m wrong. I’ve gotten on the wrong track. I am not only admitting it, but I am being sorry for it. I am repenting with tears and saying, ‘Lord, forgive me.’ Jesus says to repent that you’ve allowed this compromise to become part of your church. Repent. I pray for repentance. Let it begin with me, Lord. My mother taught me repentance. I hesitate to say “taught.” She made me “learn” repentance. I’m the oldest of four children. My closest brother is four years younger than me. My parents were poets. He’s Barry. I’m Gary. He’s Barry Blaine. I’m Gary Wayne. So there you go. When it got to my sister, she stopped because she realized what a mess she had made. When you have three kids, you can’t remember all their names anyway. And it didn’t make it any easier that they rhymed. I would have a day where I would torture my brother, Barry. I don’t know why I would do it; I was born a sinner like the rest of you. And so I would punch him or hurt him, and he would tell on me. He would rub his arm and make it really red. He would go show it to her and it was time for repentance. Gary, you kiss him on the arm where you hit him. I would give it a quick kiss; I could do that. You look him in the eye and you tell him, ‘I’m sorry for hitting you. Please forgive me.’ Well, that was harder. And then I would do it. She’d say, Say it again like you mean it. So now, I’ve got to be an actor. And so I would do that. Then came the hardest part. She would make me hug him, kiss him on the cheek and say, ‘I love you.’ That’s repentance. I’m glad my mom taught me repentance. It has helped me in marriage, parenting and relationships with you people too.
We need repentance. It’s like the oil that keeps the engine and the gears from grinding and blowing up. We have to learn to say, I was wrong. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Jesus says, “Repent.” There is no revival without repentance. We can sing all day about revival. There is no revival without personal and corporate repentance.
Jesus says, 16 “Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. “ He is going to give two responses. A two-fold response to your lack of repentance. Part one is He is going to come to you soon. I don’t believe this is the second coming. I don’t think he’s gonna wait for the second coming to deal with Pergamum. I don’t think He is going to wait until the second coming to deal with us. You handle it or I will because I am the Lord of the church. He says, “I’m coming quickly.” Then he says, in this part two, ”I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.” I think he’s still speaking to the mature that allowed the compromise. They’ve persevered, but they have compromised. They have allowed it in the church. He says, “I will come to you quickly.” But then he says, “I’m going to war against them.” I suppose that means those who have fallen under these two false teachings. “I’m going to war against them with the sword of my mouth.”it. There’s that word, “sword,” again. Remember, how I told you Pergamum is the place where the governor lives, and he does not bear the sword in vain. What is Jesus talking about? He’s talking about the word of God.
Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV) “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” He’s gonna bring the word of judgment against those who have fallen away and followed compromising doctrines.
Church, have you compromised? Repent. Let’s be a church that’s quick to repent. I don’t want Jesus to remove our lamp stand, which is, I believe, our light, our influence as a church. I don’t want Him to remove your lampstand. You know, when you fall into poor conduct, one compromise at a time, you lose your influence, you lose your credibility. You know that, right? Because you become a hypocrite. Lord, I pray that the Word that’s coming out now reaches into the core of our souls to bring all of us to that place of repentance. I say this every Sunday; Whenever we hear God’s word, it always calls us to repentance.
Jesus says, as He is closing, he’s given this twofold response for an unrepentant church. And then, in verse 17, he has his usual close, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” “To the one who conquers…” This is also repetitive from earlier letters; we’ve already talked about this .
How do you conquer in the name of Jesus? Who is the one who conquers sin, death and the grave? The One who conquers, conquers not by war but by faith in Jesus. We’ve covered that in previous weeks.
Let’s get to the threefold promise for the one who keeps the faith, who keeps believing in Jesus and doesn’t fall prey to compromise, “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.’
First of all, some of the hidden manna; hidden has to do with secret, I think. Unseen manna. Here we are. We’re back in the wilderness again with Moses, just like we were earlier with Balaam and Balak. Manna was the bread that came from Heaven. Every morning they would get up, and it would just be on the ground that could just gather it and eat it. It was food from Heaven. And so he’s saying, if you would just put your faith in Jesus, you’ll be given spiritual food that no one knows where it’s coming from but you and Me, I’ll feed you. I’ll take care of you with spiritual food. Hidden manna; you’ll receive some of the hidden manna.
I’m reminded of what Jesus told the disciples in John, chapter four, when He had been talking to the woman at the well. They had come back with some food and they’re wondering if He had already eaten. John 4:3, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” He had to do the will of the Father. He had secret manna; He had hidden manna, hidden food. So that’s one promise; that I’ll take care of you and I’ll provide for you.
Here’s another one. “I’ll give him a white stone.” White stone is kind of a symbolic thing. I would remind you that Pergamum’s Acropolis was all in white stone. You can’t see it today because it’s all in Berlin now. But it’s temples were covered with white marble and limestone; beautiful to behold. There was a practice in those days that if you were a prominent citizen and you were inviting people to a banquet you might give them a white stone with the invitation to your banquet. Another use of a white stone would be in combination; there would be white stones and black stones. Whenever you were trying a case of someone that was convicted, that you would give them a white stone if you felt that they were innocent or to be forgiven. These are possibilities; we are unsure what he means by white stone. I would like to think it’s my invitation to the banquet in heaven.
It seems to fit the historical time, but it has a particular detail, and that’s the third part of the promise. It says. “I’ll give him a white stone with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives.” You get a new name. It’s a secret name that only you and Jesus know.
My wife and I have some secret names that we call one another. We’ve been using those names since we first became romantically inclined towards one another. Do you know what I’m talking about, married folk and maybe those that are engaged? Little names that you don’t use anywhere else, but you just call each other. Then you have your first kid and you forgot that they were special little names. And then, your kid starts calling you by one of those names. You realize that you need to keep that secret from the kids.
This is a name that Jesus is going to give you and already has. I believe it’s your true identity. It’s your truest of true names of who you really are. It’s between you and Him. No one else around you, your spouse, your kids, your parents, nobody else knows. Everybody’s calling your different identities, and we try to live into those . But He’s got a name for you and it’s who you really are. It’s between you and Him.
Repentance means to turn from sin and to turn back to God. It says in Acts 3:19 (ESV) “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.” Oh, church, let us repent wherever compromises creep in, where the mature have allowed the young to fall prey to compromising doctrines and teachings. Let us care for each other. Let’s remember to persevere when times get hard. Let’s beware when the evil one moves from persecution to seduction, which is his second move. And let us always be ready. Quick to repent. Quick to say I’m sorry. Please forgive me. It’s a choice. Three challenging words that Jesus gave to the church of Pergamum and He gives to us.
Let us pray. Lord, are there those in our midst today that came in far from You? They came in on a fine, thin thread. Today, they came in looking for help. Would you repent? Whoever you are right now; repentance just means saying, I’m sorry I was wrong. I’ve sinned against you. Lord, please forgive me. It begins with repentance. It’s a sense of knowing I’ve gone the wrong way. I want to turn back to you, Lord. Pray with me, Dear Lord, I repent of my sin and I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sin. He paid for that penalty, which is death. He took my death and on the third day, He got up. I believe He’s raised from the grave and that He lives today. I invite you, Lord Jesus, to come into my heart, into my life, and be my Lord and Savior. Forgive me of my sin. If you’re praying that prayer right now, believing, He will save you and make you a child of God, adopted into the family of God. Others are here today and you know the Lord. But you would have to admit that you haven’t been watching over your family, the family of God, as the Lord has called you. Lord, I repent. I haven’t checked on that one that hasn’t made it to Community Group in a while or I haven’t heard from in a while. You’ve put it on my heart, Lord and I have let it go. Lord, I repent. More than that, I’m going to call him; I’m gonna check on him. Lord, speak to people right now. Holy Spirit, show them the place where maybe compromise has crept in, where they’ve given over some part little by little. Oh, Lord, we repent. We turn back to you now. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.