Post #3, Preparing for the imminent return of Christ: Pergamum and Thyatira
The Church in Pergamum
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.“‘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. 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. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans” (Revelation 2:12-15 ESV).
Once again we encounter a need for repentance, which is the mark of true faith. Those who follow Christ come to him repenting of our sins, and then we live a life of repentance, for we sin every day in thought, word, or deed. Our lives should show the arc of growth in faith and in obedience to Christ, evidence that we are becoming more and more like Jesus.
Are we ready for the imminent return of Christ? Are we ready for this event to take place? Would we be prepared if it happened soon? That is a possibility.
We don’t know when. It’s possible that it could happen immediately, today, now. But “imminent” does not mean it will happen immediately. Rather, it is about to happen or could occur at any time.
Do any of us live where Satan dwells? What do we know about Pergamum?
Pergamum was a citadel, which changed hands repeatedly. Treasure was stored there by one of the successors to Alexander the Great. The city also produced papyrus and contained a vast library of 200,000 volumes, rivaling even Alexandria in Egypt. Mark Antony stole the library and presented it to Cleopatra.
However, the city also had a cluster of famous temples dedicated to Zeus, Minerva, Apollo, Venus, Bacchus (this informs us of the high level of debauchery within the city), and Aesculapius, the “god of medicine,” whose common emblem was the serpent.
The designation of being “where Satan dwells” may have been bestowed because of the particular wickedness of the city with all of its idolatries associated with those temples and the trials which had come upon the Church. One faithful member (Antipas) had already suffered martyrdom.
The church had moral failings. Some of the members followed the teaching of Balaam, who soon after the Israelites emerged from their wandering, taught King Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they would eat the food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality while doing so. This was the essence of pagan worship of that time period.
About the teaching of the Nicolaitans, nothing is definite. But it seems to involve dominating the people, rather than seducing the people. It probably aligned with the pagan revelries and with the immoral practices involved.
This is a mess. What was the church to do?
“Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and 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 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.’” (Revelation 2:16-17 ESV).
Pause to consider. Do we have in our lives a desire to partake in immorality in drunken partying or to view it for our pleasure? Have we been ensnared by this?
Do we encourage the corruption of the young, supplying them with immoral content, rather than protecting their innocence? Do we dominate others?
These are actions that merit judgment. This church is called to repentance, and so too are we if we engage in any of these, lest the Lord wage war against us. True faith is marked by ongoing reflection and repentance.
The Church in Thyatira
“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
“‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works” (Revelation 2:18-23 ESV).The Son of God says, "And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works" (Revelation 2:23 ESV). #EndTimes #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
They began so well, with love, faith, service, and patient endurance of hardship, but now the actions they pursued in their latter days have exceeded their previous actions that were in line with Christian conduct. They now have church members seeking the wicked practices and immorality of Jezebel, as well as turning to the occult to seek “the deep things of Satan.”
This is not pleasing to God.
Pause to consider. Are we involved in anything that is immoral or that harms others deliberately? Do we consult mediums or live according to the guidance of the zodiac or mystical viewpoints about the year of our birth? This is not how believers in Christ are to live.
Reflect. Do we live in ways that prepare us for Christ’s imminent return?
“But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule[shepherd] them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Revelation 2:24-29 ESV).Reflect. Do we live in ways that prepare us for Christ's imminent return? What does that look like? #EndTimes #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
Consider. Do we seek the deep truth of the Scriptures and the Words of Christ, rather than the deep things of the occult? Do we hold fast to the Lord’s teaching and to the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit inspired so that we know how to live?
The examples of these churches are here for two reasons. First, the letter was addressed to these specific churches of Asia Minor. They are actual cities with these types of histories. Secondly, sin is common to humanity even today.
These same types of sins repeat themselves in our towns and cities and homes and in our churches, unless we deliberately choose to follow Christ, to heed his words, and to repent of our failures.