Letters to Seven Churches (Part Four): Pergamos
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sermon; #1473; 72 minutes
Christ's epistle to Pergamos contains some encouraging commendations, but also some threatening judgements and a stern call to repentance. The Pergamene Church, residing as it did in a citadel of paganism and Emperor worship, designated as the Seat of Satan, displayed a decided tendency to be cultural compromisers. The leaders of Pergamos strictly enforced emperor worship under penalty of death. This threat led to many members of the Pergamos Church to compromise, yielding to doctrines of Balaam, wherein false teachers, motivated by monetary gains, persuaded the Israelites to indulge the flesh, succumbing to sexual sins. Another apostasy threatening the Pergamenes was that of the Nicolaitans—Gnostics embracing an ascetic philosophy. The extremes of the epicureanism implicit in the doctrine of Balaam and the stoicism of gnostic asceticism practiced by the Nicolaitans undermined the righteousness of the Pergamenes, threatening them with annihilation. Cultural compromise brings judgment from Jesus Christ, who wields a two-edged sword far more hurtful than any sword in the hands of a man. To those who steadfastly refuse to compromise their convictions, Christ promises hidden manna, a white stone, and a new name—all symbolizing eternal life. Manna, hidden under the mercy seat in the Ark of the Covenant, signifies beneficent judgment. The white stone signifies God's grace or acquittal from the false charges leveled by the world. The new name signifies genuine membership in the family of God. Compromise is a killer. It is preferable to die as a witness inheriting eternal life than to forfeit eternal life through compromise.