Letters from Jesus: Pergamum

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Everyone holds fast to something.

Every single soul runs to, finds peace in, seeks meaning and satisfaction from something.

The 7 churches in the Roman province of Asia that Jesus gave messages to through the Apostle John (Revelation 2-3) were getting persecuted. They were in cities and places and times where claiming Christ could get you (a) slandered and (b) imprisoned/killed. So in those dark and lonely places, Jesus reminded each of the churches to persevere in devotion to Him. To cling to Him.

To hold fast to Him.

The third letter was to the little church of believers in the eclectic, artsy, spiritualistic city of Pergamum. It had one of the world’s biggest libraries, a famous theater (see below), temples to all sorts of gods… Think Greenwich Village.

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Jesus spoke this to them, through John:

“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. 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.’”

Some of these Christians were being seduced by the same sort of trickery Balaam pulled on God’s people in the Old Testament. Balaam had gotten God’s Israelites to fall into spiritual disrepair by getting unbelieving, non-God-loving women to seduce the Israelite men. And the Moabite idolatry and wickedness and sexual immorality spread like an infection among God’s elect.

So, rather than a light to and for the world they became darkened by the world.

Now some in Pergamum, like the faithful Christians in Smyrna, had held to Jesus. Had persevered through trouble and had sifted through the teachings and preaching of those claiming to be Christian, and had jettisoned what was false and clung to what was true.

But some hadn’t. A few had been (probably willingly) fooled into believing that sexual immorality was okay for a Christian. That loving or worshiping something other than God was okay for a Christian.

Jesus’ Word to them was “Repent. Turn from those sins. Stop facing the sinful desires of your still-fleshly hearts and face and follow and love Me.”

And He also told them that if they didn’t, He would war against them with the sword of His mouth.

John had seen that sword in the vision of Jesus that kicked off this letter/book (Revelation) of his. It was a two-edged sword, like the New Testament says the Word of God is. It was coming out of Jesus’ mouth, just like the Word of God does.

In other words, Jesus was ready to war against the unrepentant Christians (or “Christians”) with the true, freeing, wonderful, binding, concrete Word of God.

He was warning them, lovingly: Repent yourself, or deal with Me.

The Lamb who is a Lion. The Savior, as John saw, who has feet of bronze and eyes of fire and a voice like many waters.

He is ferociously loving, ferociously gracious, and ferociously jealous for His people’s hearts.

Loving money or acceptance more than Him (idolatry), or loving pornography or fornication at all (sexual immorality) will only end tragically for us.

His warning is loving.

He said it this way during His earthly ministry:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

Don’t hold to false teaching that leads to false Christianity.

Don’t hold to any idol, any thing, as though it could satisfy you more than the Most High and His free peace and hope in Jesus.

Hold to the only One who can get you through the worst, and the only One who can take you to the best.

Hold to the true and life-giving Gospel, the firm and wonderful Word of Jesus Christ.

And hold to that Word as you hold to Him.

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