Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Seven Churches of Revelation: Pergamos Part 4 of 8

The Seven Churches of Revelation
David Q. Santos

3. Pergamos: The Corrupt Church

Revelation2:12-17 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
The name Pergamos means objectionable marriage.[1] The church at Pergamos was located in what was the ancient capital of the province of Asia. It was located about 50 miles north of Smyrna.[2] The commendation given by Christ was that they had not denied His name even in the face of martyrdom. While this church was holding fast to the name of Jesus they were also compromising in multiple ways. They had fallen prey to the doctrine of Balaam. Balaam was the Old Testament prophet who was hired by Balak, the king of Moab to curse Israel in Numbers chapters 22-24. Balaam could not curse Israel but he explained to Balak how to make Israel curse them selves. Women of Moab went to the camp of Israel and committed sexual immorality which led to idolatry. In this manner, Israel was cursed. Walvoord explains, “Undoubtedly intermarriage with the heathen and spiritual compromise were real issues in Pergamos where civic life and religious life were so entwined. It would be most difficult for Christians in this city to have any kind of social contact with the outside world without becoming involved with the worship of idols or in the matter of intermarriage with non-Christians… Intermarriage with the heathen was also a real problem. Social relations with the heathen world would lead in some instances to partaking of the heathen feasts which in turn led to heathen immorality which was a part of idolatrous worship. Apparently there were some in the Pergamos church who held that Christians had liberty in this matter.”[3] This is of course not what the Bible teaches. 2 Corinthians 6:14 teaches that the believer should not marry a non believer.

Prophetically, this church represents the time period after Roman persecution was ended but was “married” to the world. In 312 AD Constantine issued the edict of tolerance, which made Christianity the official religion of Rome. While becoming the state religion may have seemed like a blessing to many who had seen and felt the pain of persecution it was really the marriage of the church to the world. The church was now “unequally yoked” to the world and compromise became the theme for this period. Historians now recognize that Constantine was only using the church for political gain. One author noted, “According to history, however, what really happened was that, substantially out numbered, Constantine noticed, that Christians were not enlisting in anyone’s army. Realizing that if he converted to Christianity, he would have access to a potential infusion of new troops, he became a Christian. And the Christians responded by siding with him.”[4] With the church and state acting as one it would become impossible to “maintain a clear distinction between the church and the world and to preserve the purity of biblical doctrine… the history of the three centuries which followed [the Council of Nicea in AD 325] is a record of increasing corruption of the church, departure from biblical doctrine, and an attempt to combine Christian theology with pagan philosophy. As a result the church soon lost its hope of the early return of Christ, and biblical simplicity was replaced by a complicated church organization which substituted human creeds and worship of Mary… for true biblical doctrine.”[5] The church had fallen into a state of corruption and idolatry; the same sins that Israel had succumbed to in the Old Testament.

Work Cited:
Courson, Jon. Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament. Nashville. Thomas Nelson Publishing. 2003.
Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nashville TN. 1997.
Ryrie, Charles, Caldwell. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago IL. Moody Press. 1999.
Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978.
Showers, Renald Dr. Maranatha: Our Lord, Come! The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc. Bellmawr, NJ. 1995.
Strong’s Bible Dictionary. The Online Bible Millennium Edition Version 1.2. Winterbourne Ontario, Canada. 1999.
Scofield C.I. Rev. D.D. Scofield Reference Bible-Reproduction of 1917. Greenville, SC. Stonehaven Press.
Townsend, Jeffrey L. The Rapture in Revelation 3:10. Dallas Texas. Bibliotheca Sacra. July-Sept 1980.
Wallace, Roy Dr. Studies from Revelation. Shreveport, Louisiana. Lin Wel Publishing. 2002.
Walvoord, John F. The Rapture Question. Grand Rapids MI. Zondervan Publishing House. 1979.
Walvoord, John F. The Revelation of Jesus Christ: A Commentary By John F. Walvoord. Chicago. Moody Press. 1966.
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[1] Courson, Jon. Jon Couson’s Application Commentary: New Testament. 1673.
[2] Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible. Pg 2168.
[3] Walvoord, John F. The Revelation of Jesus Christ: A Commentary By John F. Walvoord. Pg 68.
[4] Courson, Jon. Jon Couson’s Application Commentary: New Testament. Pg 1673.
[5] Walvoord, John F. The Revelation of Jesus Christ: A Commentary By John F. Walvoord. Pg 69.

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