pergamum

Heresy Not Tolerated

Revelation Discipleship - Pergamum Pt. 2

Continued from Part 1 - Find that here...

Ah, Pergamum. Where religion was the kingdom, and Satan was the king.

The fact that a church even EXISTED in Pergamum is a miracle, and is the very reason that Jesus commends them in the beginning of his letter. They have remained true to His name. Imagine how hard it would have been to be an authentic Christian in the “seat of Satan”.

Even having remained true to His name, many of them have not remained true to His teaching. There were people in the church who were swaying other believers to follow ways that were contrary to orthodox Christianity. 

In Pergamum it all came down to meat sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality. In the culture of the time, people would take animals to the temple for sacrifice where they would burn some of the meat on the altar and bring the rest home to feast with their families. The feasting was seen as a feast for the god, so for a christian to participate in those feasts it was akin to them worshiping that idol. 

The heretics were trying to persuade the people that with the freedom they had as Christians it didn’t matter what they ate or where they ate it. But Jesus clearly thought it did. It would have been easy for them to justify this behavior in the name of relevance and outreach; to connect with those outside the church in an attempt to develop friendships and share the gospel with them.

But Jesus didn’t commend them for their relevance; he didn’t applaud their progressive outreach—he rebuked them for their compromise. 

Now, let’s talk about sex.

If you think our culture today is saturated with sex, you would be dumbfounded by the era of churches like Pergamum. Monogamy was not the norm. Temple prostitutes were used in worship. Concubines were assumed. Sexual promiscuity would have been part of their lives before coming to Christ, so it would have been a hard habit to break. Even harder if they had other “Christians” telling them it was okay.

The heresy that these people were spreading was not only abhorrent in the eyes of Jesus, it was a declaration of war. Jesus tells the leaders of the church in Pergamum that if they don’t put a stop to the lies that He will come and war against them.

It’s important here to notice that Jesus doesn’t say he will war against the church, he is very clear to say he will war against the heretics that had infiltrated the church.

He loves His church. He will protect His bride. 

He then exhorts them to persevere to the end. There are heavenly rewards in the end, hidden manna and a white stone with a name on it just for them. 

Most scholars agree that that “hidden manna” is a symbolic picture of Jesus Christ himself. The manna was given as a daily provision in the desert to the Isrealites, just as the “bread of life”, Jesus, is given to us as our daily provision. It is “hidden” because it only belongs to those who have eternal salvation through Jesus. 

The white stone is not so easily explained. Scholars look at it as a mystery because in biblical times a “white stone” could have meant many things. Jury members used the white stone to acquit in court, white stones were given as amulets against evil powers, white stones were traded between special friends as a token of friendship (like a BFF necklace), and on and on. 

The most commonly accepted explanation is that a white stone was given to the victor in the gladiator games. The victor was given a white stone that symbolized his freedom and his new “free” name. Jesus will declare us victorious and free with the white stone and our special new name.

What does it mean to us?

When it comes to heresy in the church, Jesus is passionately intolerant. “Intolerant” is a controversial word in our culture today, but sometimes it’s the only word that fits. And it’s important here to notice that it isn’t the church that’s intolerant, or John that is intolerant, it is JESUS that is intolerant. So we should stand up and take notice of what his intolerance is aimed toward.

Jesus desires that his bride remains pure, so anything coming from the outside and attempting to pollute her has to be immediately confronted and cut out. We have a responsibility to the risen Savior to remove false teachers from the church.

Western society today is all about being accepting of any and every inclination a person has, and this secular attitude has seeped into the church. 

Jesus says this to several of the churches, remember what we said about Ephesus?

“Satan comes as a wolf dressing as a sheep in order to move among the sheep undetected. As a shepherd, what would you do if you found this disguised wolf? Would you say “Well, God loves wolves, too. We should love it, no matter how wolfish it is acting and our love will win it over?” No, as we “win over” that wolf with our “love”, the wolf will be devouring the sheep one by one. This is going to sound controversial, and very unlike our 2020 modern views, but, as one pastor puts it, we "shoot the wolves". Good shepherds don’t tolerate wolves, they get rid of them. Good shepherds don’t attempt to domesticate wolves, they eliminate them.”

It was a common danger then and it is a common danger now. 

If the church in the West is going to survive and keep it’s lampstand, it has to deal with the subject of heresy. It has to be willing to “shoot the wolves”. The Church is being watered down one drop at a time as we tolerate sin under the banner of grace. Satan applauds our tolerance. Many churches are receiving a standing ovation from the forces of Hell. 

Theology matters. A lot.

It matters to Jesus; therefore, it should matter to us. 

We must be able to discern the counterfeits. The best way to discern a counterfeit is to have spent so much time with the real thing that the false is glaringly obvious. 

Spend time with Jesus. There is no other way. Period. If you get to know Jesus in a deeply personal way, you will be able to spot heresy from miles away, and you won’t be able to tolerate it. 

If we are going to learn anything from the letter that Jesus wrote to Pergamum, may it be this - Jesus cares that his bride remains pure, and he will fight to the death for it - so we should, too.

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