If crushing the Church doesn’t work, he works at corrupting it. Satan loves to pollute the pure and defile the clean. Outward pressure only purifies the Church, whereas, polluting it from the inside is an extremely effective means of defeating the Church.
#3: The Sins Jesus Christ Attacks (14-16)
Now we are going to see the Sins that Jesus Christ Attacks. Notice verses 14-16 with me, “…………..”
We have just seen in the previous point that Satan could not persecute the Church out of existence. So, when Satan fails to do that, what does he resort to doing? If crushing the Church doesn’t work, he works at corrupting it. Satan loves to pollute the pure and defile the clean. Outward pressure only purifies the Church, whereas, polluting it from the inside is an extremely effective means of defeating the Church. How did he pollute the Church? Well, Satan used false teachers to promote certain sins. Let us now look at 2 groups of false teachers in Pergamum, and the 2 kinds of sin they promoted.
The First group of false teachers were Balaamites. Verse 14 says, “you have people there who hold to the teachings of Balaam…” Who is Balaam? Well, it wasn’t someone’s name in Pergamum, it was the name of an ancient prophet of God found back in Numbers 22-24. Balaam was hired out by one of Israel’s enemies, the Moabite king Balak, to curse Israel. But when Balaam went out to curse Israel God only allowed him to bless Israel. This infuriated King Balak. So what happened? Since Balaam couldn’t curse God’s people, and Balak could not defeat Israel’s army, Balaam advised Balak that the best way to beat Israel would be to corrupt them from the inside. Balaam’s advice was “If you can’t strike them down from the outside with your army, Balak, then get God to strike them down by leading them into sin.”
What sins did Balak lead Israel into? Well Jesus says so in verse 14. It says that Balak “enticed the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and committing sexual immorality.” He got them to sin by idolatry and immorality. One sin had to do with mixing their worship with false gods and the other sin had to do with mixing their bodies up with sexual sin.
This was the problem in Israel and it was the problem in Pergamum. Satan could not destroy the church there, but, he was succeeding in defiling it. When Satan is making inroads into the church it will show up in 2 ways: false teachings will be on the rise and sexual immorality will be more acceptable. These are the signs of worldliness, and of the work of the great deceiver.
The second group were the Nicolaitans, whom we covered in Ephesus. Just as a reminder, the context suggests that whatever their specific doctrines were they were leading people into idolatry and sexual immorality just like the Balaamites were.
The Church needs to maintain purity both in its teaching and its behavior. Second Corinthians 7:1 says, “Therefore dear friends, since we have these promises, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
#4: About-Face (v16)
Next in verse 16 we read Jesus wants them to do an About-Face, “Repent therefore! Otherwise I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”
He wants them to do an about-face: to turn around immediately and go in the opposite direction. In a word He wants them to repent. They were going in the direction of sin – idolatry and immorality. But Jesus wants them to turn around and go in the direction of purity and devotion.
Notice He gives a warning: “Otherwise I will soon come to you and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” This sentence is interesting. First of all, we see that while Jesus gives believers time to repent, it’s not indefinite and it’s not long. He says “I will come soon”. He expects repentance to occur swiftly. No procrastinating with purity.
Secondly notice in that sentence Jesus says “I will come to you” speaking to the church at large, but then says, “and I will fight against them”, which refers to those people within the church that were involving themselves in these sins of idolatry and immorality. Remember in verse 14 He said, “you have people there [in your church] who hold to the teaching of Balaam…” Then in verse 15 He said, “Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans…” It wasn’t the whole church that was guilty of these things – there were sub-groups within the church at large who were delving into these sins. Application: The church at large is not to allow such things to happen. It’s not enough for the church at large to abstain but allow a sub-group to indulge such sins. The Church must purify itself and deal with sinning members or groups.
Thirdly notice in this sentence Jesus says He will fight with the sword of His mouth. Again this is His word. But this isn’t Jesus coming to debate. He is coming with the power of His Word to put an end to these sinning church members. The voice of the LORD is an unequaled force in the universe. Remember when Jesus spoke to John in chapter 1? “His voice was like the sound of rushing waters”. Psalm 29 causes us to tremble at the voice of the Almighty.
What we see in Pergamum is what we can see today in the Church, in other believers, in ourselves: spiritual incongruence. What I mean is the idea that I adamantly believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior and Son of God but I also hold to other beliefs that are incongruent with that.
#5: The Award (v17)
Finally we see the Award. Notice verse 17 with me, “…”
Following the same format Jesus offers to anyone who is willing to listen and overcomes there is a promise. An award. Actually, there are 2 awards promised here. Let’s look briefly at them.
First is the hidden manna. This ought to bring us back all the way to the Israelites in the wilderness when God fed them with manna. Miraculously, every night the LORD caused heavenly bread called “manna” to come down and be waiting for the Israelites in the fields. All they had to do was wake up, go out and gather enough for the day and eat. You couldn’t store it overnight because it would go bad. You had to go out each day and pick up what God had provided while you slept. It taught the Israelites to live in daily dependence upon the LORD as their Provider. He would provide EVERY DAY. It also taught them the LORD would provide all their needs. As Psalm 145:15-16 says, “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”
Now notice this manna Jesus mentions is “hidden”. What does that mean? In the audio message you will hear me say it is a reference to Jesus Christ. However, I think the hidden manna is true heavenly bread that we will actually eat and that Christ is reserving it for us until we are with Him. Why? Several reasons. First when we are raised up in our glorified resurrection bodies we know that we will eat (think Wedding Supper of the Lamb and Jesus eating fish with the disciples after His resurrection). Secondly, manna is real bread from heaven, possibly like the manna the Israelites ate in the wilderness. And third, eating together is a basic way of fellowshipping with someone. I think the hidden manna will be manna that is going to be enjoyed by those who have fellowship with Christ – Who will Himself give this manna to us. And lastly, there is no reason at all to allegorize this hidden manna and make it mean anything other than real bread made in heaven waiting for us when we get there.
Secondly, notice Jesus promises a white stone will be given to them, and on each stone is a new name, which only the person receiving the stone will know. Several explanations have been offered to explain the meaning. “It seems best however to understand the white stone in light of the Roman custom of awarding white stones to the victors in athletic contests. A white stone inscribed with the athlete’s name served as his ticket to a special awards banquet. In this view, Christ promises the overcomers entrance to the eternal victory celebration in heaven.” (MacArthur, pg 91).