In this sermon, Pastor Babij preaches on Jesus’ message to the Pergamum church in the book of Revelation. First, Pastor details Pergamum’s commendation for resisting emperor worship and holding fast to Jesus’ name and nature. Second,Pastor Babij explains Pergamum’s condemnation for tolerating the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. Third, Pastor Babij relates Jesus’ call to the church to repent of its sins of tolerating false doctrine and worldliness in its midst. Byway of application, Pastor Babij reminds believers that they, too, are saved to be holy and exhorts believers not to desire to be liked by everyone. Seeking the praise of men will result in compromise of the truth of the gospel.
Revelation chapter 2 verses 12 through 17 – let me just set it up before I read this. Remember, in this part of the Word of God, the Lord is speaking to seven churches. The first one was Ephesus, but the way it is designed in Scripture, it’s really about the entire church. Whatever time the church may be in existence, that all these things that He’s going to be saying to the church, every church should take seriously. What we have is Jesus walking in the middle of His lampstands. The lampstands are the church, because the lampstands bear the light of the gospel. Of course in those churches, there are messengers. Those messengers are the elders and the pastors that God is actually speaking through. He has a message to say to the churches. Then it tells us that as He walks in the middle of the lampstands, He’s one like the son of man. So it tells us who the glorified Son is in verse 13 of chapter 1:
I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash.
And so this particular person is representing a high priest. He’s representing a king, a prophet, and a judge. All those come together in the person of Jesus Christ. So Jesus Christ is seen as absolutely being exalted in His church, that He has absolute and total wisdom, that he has absolute omniscience. He knows all things. He knows what is going on in the church as He walks in the middle of the church, and He evaluates the church. He tells the church what He likes and what He does not like. And so we all need to take these messages and make sure that we are doing the things the Lord likes and not the things He does not like. In each case, if we don’t repent of those things, then actually the Lord’s judgment does come into play. So, let’s read Revelation 2:12-17:
the angel of the church in Pergamum write: the One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make 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 him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give to him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.
Let’s pray. Lord, as we come before Your word today, and as we know that You are the One holding the leaders in your hand, and You are the one who speaks to the churches. I pray Lord as we understand the truth here, that we can relate it to our own church and situation and to these days in which we live, so Lord we can evaluate as You evaluate, so we can move things around that may not please You and put things in place that do please You. And I pray Lord that we would always guard the truth, for we know the truth is under great attack today and always has been, because Satan wants to set up his throne and he wants us to usurp Your throne. And that will never take place, but he tries. Until You come back again and finish it all Lord, we’re going to have this struggle in this life. So give us wisdom and understanding from the word of God today. And I pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.
So as we look at the apostle John writing Revelation, really is giving a message from the Lord from the messenger. Then he takes the message to the churches, the seven letters to the seven churches. And what he does is there are five to seven things he does in each letter. This is a ministry that God has given to the church, of what ought to be in the church and of course the pattern that all church ministry should have. He wants to say something to the church to give them some kind of communication. The messenger is responsible to get the message from the living head – that’s Christ, and then turn and give it to the people.
Then of course, it tells a little bit of the character of the one speaking or the one saying these things. Like in chapter 1 verse 18, it says:
and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades.
Then in chapter 2 verse 12 at the end of the verse, it says:
the One who has a sharp two-edged sword says this:
So it gives us something about the character of Christ. And then in verse 18 again, it actually is referencing Christ, so the church would always center on Jesus Christ. That we would always keep looking at Jesus Christ and nowhere else. We should just keep looking at Him and get our direction from His Word.
He also wants to give a commendation to the church – the faithful One who commands you. He is commanding them for the good that they are doing. Then there’s a condemnation that He tells them – what doesn’t please Him. And then He tells them to consider the there’s always a way back, and the way back is to repent. If you don’t repent, there is a warning that He’s going to come and cut the lampstand down. In other words, close to church down, that church that bears the light, because they’re no longer bearing the light. Some cancer has gotten into the church and it needs to be taken down. And the Lord does that. He will do that. He tells us He will do that.
So see brethren, we need to heed the message that we see here. The Lord Jesus communicates to His churches. Verse 7 of chapter 2, it says:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
The theme then from the first message of the church in Ephesus was that they were declining in their love for the Lord. And because they were declining as light-bearers to fulfill their mission, Lord said to them: you need to repent and get back to your first love and do the first things. Today we come to the second warning, and the second warning is to the church at Pergamum. The warning is this: that they are compromising with the world. They have indiscriminate tolerance toward things that are going on in the church that should not go on in the church.
In fact, some background to this particular church. Actually, Pergamum means parchment, because that’s where parchment began to be manufactured, where they started writing on what we would call today paper. And they started manufacturing it there. Of course that was the start of many documents being written on paper or parchment. It was also the official capital of Rome, the Roman province of Asia, for 2 1/2 centuries. It was just seven miles north of Smyrna, this town call pergamum. Pergamum was a city just north of the Caicus river in the south part of Mycea, which is today eastern Turkey. One of the greatest cultural centers of the hellenistic era was when the Greek and the roman cultures came together. So it happened there because it was a city that was definitely growing. Actually the early geographer Strabo called the area around Pergamum the richest in Mycea. It was in a natural position of strength, combined this with its religious significance as a temple site, made it a desirable place not only to visit but a desirable place to store your wealth. It was a very wealthy city, using its wealth to build temples and altars to Greek gods and the shrine of Asklepios, Pergamum attained the height of its power and constructed the altar of Zeus under Eumenes, which stood on a hill 800 feet high above the city. And you can see this for miles. It is a tempting image of an altar to be a chief center of worship for the great pagan gods of Zeus, athena Deinonychus, and Ares. Pergamum was the center of emperor worship in Asia at that particular time. In fact, Pergamus was famous for the worship of the god of healing. It had a center of healing arts and this center had a medical school that trained celebrated physicians like Galen. And of course the god of healing was worshipped there. This idol was shaped like a serpent and the symbol used is actually a symbol that is used to date still in the medical profession, where you have a serpent that is on both sides with wings on the top. That was one of the symbols that they used – that came right from there.
I’m giving the background information because it is directly related to the second warning, and that warning is compromising with the world. I want you to be aware of how much influence the culture has upon the church, not only then but right now. At least you can examine how the world and its cultural demands can press upon the church, upon the group of believers and then get into the church. That’s what happened here. Some of the cultural beliefs got into the church and it was causing cancer in the body. The Lord is addressing that in this passage of Scripture. Now notice in verse 12 of chapter 2, it gives the character of Jesus. The last part of the verse where it says:
the One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:
This is how the Lord is described here. He’s described as in this way because this really symbolizes the judgment that can come when He speaks the word. When the Lord speaks, He can speak for blessing or He can speak for cursing. The church was facing a sobering examination of king Jesus. And in this case the church was toying with the world and as a result, religious compromise and sinful practices entered the church. Here the Word of God is looked at as a sword, a weapon, both offensive and defensive weapon. And of course in the hand of God, able to slay both sin and sinner. It’s also a sharp sword. It’s able to cut down in to the soul and the spirit of a person, right down to the deep recesses of the heart. And then it’s also a two-edged sword. That means it cuts both ways. This is the edge of the law against the transgressor and of course the edge of the gospel against the despiser. There is the edge that will wound, and of course an edge to open a festering wound in order to bring healing. So that is how the Lord is looked at here in His character. So there’s really no escaping the edge of the sword, or the Word of God. If you turn aside to the right, one edge and side will wound you. If you turn to the left, you fall upon the edge of the sword on that side. So in turn every way it turns, it will wound or heal. In other words, you cannot escape the Word of God. Either it will cut to save or to judge or condemn. So that’s how the Lord as described. It cuts every which way, and it surely does its work.
Next thing is the commendation that the Lord gives the church in verse 13 of chapter 2. It says:
I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
The church in this area was suited and situated in a very dangerous environment. Satan’s throne is a very interesting phrase there because it probably refers to that Pergamum was the chief center of idol worship for four great pagan gods, and was also the center of emperor worship. So Satan dominated and influenced the city. Satan didn’t simply reside in Pergamum. It says that his seat of power was there. So he was active there, active in both the religious realm and the political realm. Satan, remember, is behind all idolatry. All idolatry Satan is right there to help people worship other than the true and living God. And why does he do that? When he does that, he tries to rob worship from the true and living God.
So we can conclude that these Christians were directly up against satanic opposition. He had his throne in their midst. So that was a tough place to be as a church. Being there, we have to ask ourselves: how did they respond? Well, this is how the believers responded, and here’s a positive commendation that God gives. This is what they’re doing right in the midst of that difficult place. It says number one in verse 13, they were holding fast My name – that’s the name of Jesus. They kept holding to the correct teaching about Jesus Christ, that Jesus is God, that He’s the second person of the Trinity, that He is the pre-existing son of God who became flesh at a fixed point in real history and died on the cross for sinners and rose from the grave and then ascended to the Father. And they were waiting for his return, so they held fast to that.
In fact, that’s where cults go wrong. If you want to examine a cult, go right to what they believe about Jesus. You don’t even have to examine the rest, because if they get Jesus wrong, they get it all wrong. He is the center, from Genesis to Revelation, of what God’s plan was to redeem and save humanity. If you get Him wrong, your salvation that you think you have may be in jeopardy. In fact, in 1 John 2:22, it says:
Who is a liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
So the Word of God teaches that God has manifested Himself as one God, but in three distinct persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In Scripture it also tells us that in 1 John:
By this know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.
And of course they were saying that Jesus is Lord. So they were holding to that in the mist of the attack against them to give that up. And why would they want to give it up? People would say to them: listen, you got all these other guys here. You don’t have the only god. We have gods too. Why don’t you just take your God and added on to all the rest of the gods and we’ll all be a happy family. The church says: no, we can’t do that, sorry. You know why? Because Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only life. The only way you can go to the Father is through Him. So all your gods are false gods. When that message becomes clear to a culture that is against you, you’re in trouble. You’re not in trouble with God, so you’re on the right side, but you’re in trouble with that culture. And believe me, you want to see a culture get hostile? Bring up Jesus and say Jesus is the only way. You’re going to have a hostile group of people. You know, Satan’s throne was there. Satan’s throne is here too, right in our midst. What’s going on in government, what’s going on in religious systems, is all a plan where Satan is behind it against the true church, against the truth of the Word of God.
It looks like from the writings of the apostolic fathers, like Ireneus and Ignatius. Of course the apostolic fathers were the disciples of the Apostles. And they also wrote that there were aberrant doctrines of God and of Christ in the church. That led to live fleshly and pleasure filled lives. If you don’t have the true Christ, you can live any way you want. If you have the true Christ, you can’t live any way you want. Now that you have the Spirit indwelling you, now you have the Word of God telling you this is what God approves of and this is what God doesn’t approve of. We have very clear teaching in the Word of God. In fact, I’m going to come to it, but if you notice in verse six of chapter 2, it says:
Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Who were they? Well let me read what the church fathers said about them. It says: flee also the emperor Nicolaitans, falsely so-called who are lovers of pleasure. And then he says this about them: if anyone says that there is one God and also confesses Christ Jesus, but thinks that the Lord is a mere man and not the only begotten Son and wisdom and the Word of God and deems Him to consists merely of soul and body, such a one is a serpent. That preaches deceit and error for the destruction of men. This is what they’re saying about the Nicolaitans. This is a doctrine that came to the church and this doctrine was a wrong doctrine of Christ. Wrong or unsound teaching is going to bring aberrant behavior in the people. Sound doctrine brings holy behavior and godly behavior. That’s always true. And that’s why you see so many of these cults that are presented that we know about, the behavior of the people are really really strange. A lot of times it has to do with pleasure, money, wealth, and of course sexual perversion that goes on there.
And the church fathers goes on to say this: if anyone confesses the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost and praises the creation but calls the incarnation (that’s the enfleshment of Jesus) merely as an appearance and is ashamed of the passion of Christ, they have denied the faith, not less than the Jews who killed Christ. And then they go on to say this: if anyone confesses these things and that God the Word did dwell in a human body, being within it as the word even as the soul also is in the body, because it was God that inhabited it and not a human soul, but affirm’s that unlawful unions (that’s unlawful marriage unions) are a good thing and places the highest happiness in pleasure and as does the man who is falsely called the Nicolaitan. This person can neither be a lover of God nor a lover of Christ but is a corruptor of his own flesh and therefore void of the Holy Spirit and a stranger to Christ. Their admonition is to flee the wicked devices and snares of the of the Nicolaitans because they are children of the world, or children of the culture that of course is being led by and pushed by Satan himself.
So the apostolic fathers were the first fruits of the Apostles. When one reads them, you will find that your Bible is their Bible. Your faith is their faith. And your Savior is their Savior, and your God is their God. They say that on the writings of the apostolic fathers they can accumulate almost the whole of the Bible because they quoted Scripture so much. It really gives us another place where we can say, we have the Word of God given to us. It is reliable. It is accurate. It has been protected by God.
Here back in Revelation, here’s a second commendation that the Lord gives the church in verse 13: you did not deny My faith. So under tremendous pressure, they did not deny the essential gospel message that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. And by this testimony, they were saying your gods are not Lord nor is the emperor caesar Lord, but Jesus Christ alone is Lord of all. They stood true against emperor worship, which is in reality against satanic opposition. That means they were under a looming threat that hovered over them. If you continue to hold that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, then you can lose your occupation. In fact, you can lose your life. Look at verse 13 what it says:
I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
He was one of the pastors of the church there. And what did he do? He led the people to say no, you cannot even to the culture. You cannot add Christ onto a bunch of other gods and get Him to be worship along with all the other gods. No, He’s exclusive. He is the only one. He is God’s plan for the salvation of man. You cannot, and he didn’t. What happened? He got killed. He was martyred for his faith. Even today there are pastors being martyred for their faith. We don’t hear about it very much in America, but they’re being martyred because they’re standing up for the truth. It may mean they lose their family. They lose their home. They get imprisoned or even they get killed. Maybe being killed is the easier way out, so you don’t have to suffer. See, the reference to the martyrdom of Antipas, my faithful one, can easily be understood in light of the Christian refusal to worship the emperor in the city, which Satan was behind all that worship.
So we glean from this portion of Scripture that culture often tests our faith as to what we believe. Also, many of the pressures of life come from the enemy against us, Satan himself. The web that he weaves within cultural structures and idolatries are very complex. Because Satan tries to hinder the forward movement of God’s work. For example, when the apostle Paul tried to visit the Thessalonians, he wanted to encourage them. It says in 1 Thessalonians 2:18:
For we wanted to come to you – I, Paul, more than once – and yet Satan hindered us.
Satan is very much involved with being against the true church, trying to hinder its work, trying to discourage you, trying to dim the light of the gospel so you give in to the culture. As you give in to the culture, the light of the gospel gets dimmer and dimmer and dimmer until it goes out. See, this is the warning that is given to the church.
Now, let me just kind of diverge a little bit, get a bit philosophical. Let me do that for a few minutes, because I want to talk about cultural relativism. It’s something that we as Christians really must take seriously. Cultural relativism says there is no measure of right and wrong other than the standards of our society. That’s what they say. In other words, actions are right or wrong just by consulting the standards of the society. Usually when it comes to morals and the moral code of a society that determines whether a certain action is right or wrong, usually it’s held that there is no moral truths or universal truths that holds for all people all the time. So that means that it would be arrogant for us to judge the conduct of other people. Instead, we should adopt an attitude of tolerance. Tour the practices of other cultures. See, this mindset often expects and sometimes even demand that Christians be tolerant while they themselves are intolerant and often very hostile when others do not agree with their lifestyle choices.
For example, simple subjectivism says that something is morally good or bad based on whether a person approves of a thing or disapproves of a thing. For example, if somebody says abortion is morally acceptable. It’s morally right. It’s morally good. It ought to be done. Then see, the conclusion is that that is approved of in the culture. Well, it is approved of by the government in our culture. But is it approved by God? That’s the question that the church has to answer. If we turn that around and we say: okay abortion is morally unacceptable. It is wrong. It is bad. It ought to be done away with. Then that is the position of the church. But when we make that position, we go head on with the culture. And the culture with all its wealth and all its influence and even now with the history of it does not like that. However, nothing can be morally right or wrong simply because someone has strong feelings about it or some society says so or some group with a loud voice, money, and influence pushes it in some lobby. Without a standard set by the One who is all-wise, all-loving, all-powerful, then in reality one cannot know what is right or wrong for everyone based on just society.
Now some have called the divine standard. The divine command theory is a theory that says something that is morally right is a matter of being commanded by God and something that is morally wrong is a matter of being forbidden by God. Well that is true, but for followers of Jesus Christ, it is not merely a theory. Instead it is our standard to live by. Our standard is the authoritative, inerrant, infallible, trustworthy Word of God, which gives us timeless and universal principles to live by. The Word of God is God-breathed. It comes from God. It wasn’t just made up by man.
So that means religious moral views, social moral views, cultural and moral views change from generation to generation, and in our day from year to year. And so we have to be careful and we have to be discerning as a church. Jesus Christ had a serious complaint against this church because some were holding to, instead of the true doctrine of Christ which leads to practical holiness and a godly lifestyle, they were holding to a false doctrine of Christ which was manifested in their unholy and ungodly lifestyle.
Now let’s just take a few verses and look at that for a minute. Saying this: that true doctrine is designed by the Holy Spirit to lead one in the direction of a holy and godly life. Is that true or not? Well, let’s look at a few verses. Take your Bibles and turn to Ephesians 1:4 and then Ephesians 4 22-24. In fact in the letter of Ephesians, it says that we were not only chosen for salvation, but unto holiness. Look at what it says in Ephesians 1:4:
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.
In other words, when somebody is called to salvation in Jesus Christ, they are not only called to be saved, they’re called to live a holy life. And how does that happen? By true doctrine. And then look at Ephesians 4:22-24, it says:
that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lust of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of a truth.
In other words, when somebody trusts Christ as their Lord and Savior, the Spirit of God’s job is to make you holy. It’s your job to cooperate with Him as you are learning the Word of God. Unsound doctrine does not have that in its teaching. That means anything could go. I can claim that I believe in Jesus and do anything I want. But when you claim you believe in Jesus, you can’t do anything you want.
Now another passage I’d like you to turn to before I move on is 1 Timothy 1:8-11. In this particular passage of Scripture, you see how the apostle Paul teaching young Timothy about being a pastor and he says to them: listen, whatever is sound doctrine is going to lead somewhere. 1 Timothy 1:8 says:
But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.
That’s healthy teaching. It says in verse 11:
according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
The true gospel of Jesus Christ always leads with sound doctrine to a holy lifestyle. The question would be: what are you willing to stand for? Or what are you willing to die for? See, we often do not think in terms of dying for our faith. Yet the fact that we are followers of Jesus Christ puts the enemy’s crosshairs on us. And the reason why is because they hated Jesus, they will hate us also. Isn’t that what the Scriptures teach? The Scriptures teach in Mark:
You will be hated by all because of My name,
He also says in John:
If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.
So the Scripture even warns us about living in a way so that all people will like us. If you want everyone to like you, you will be compromising the truth. I’ll tell you that right now. This is what it says in Scripture, in the gospel of Luke. It says:
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.
In other words, they were giving in to the teaching of the false prophets and wanting the false prophet to say good things about them. We can’t do that. We don’t have that right to do that. We don’t want it to do that because that doesn’t please our Lord.
So let’s go back to revelation and notice in verses 14 and 15 – here’s the condemnation to the church. He just told them these are the good things about what you’re doing. Now here’s the condemnation that I’m telling to the church in verse 14. It says this:
But I have a few things against you,
Remember the church of Ephesus He only had one thing, but it was a very severe thing. That was declining love for the Lord Himself. Here it says: I have a few things. The state of the church is that they were tolerating two groups of heretics – those who are holding to the teaching of Balaam and to the Nicolaitans. It says in verse 14:
But I have a few things against you, because you have there are some who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.
Now that tells you right away they have an aberrant doctrine of Christ. Why? Because of the end result. The end result is not a holy life. The end result is idolatry and immoral living. That’s always the end result. It’s always about some sexual thing and something also about money. We’re going to find out in a second that Balaam’s problem was money. He wanted to do anything he could for money. Any deal you want, if I can make money on it, I’ll do it. That’s what his problem was. The doctrine of Balaam probably refers to the extensive influence of the immoral and idolatrous worship, of the idolatry going on in this city.
It says: “because some of you hold”. That’s an interesting word in the Greek to the teaching of Balaam. So all false teachers really proved to have similar qualities no matter what day they expose themselves. The first quality that they have is they have the ability to persuade others that their position has equal or even superior validity to what a person presently holds. In this case, it was the doctrine of Christ. How do they do that? They do that by, if you notice, it says “they who keep teaching”. That means persistent teaching. They keep teaching the same thing. What happens when you persistently teach the same thing over and over and over? You know what that is? That’s brainwashing. People end up believing it. If you say it six times, they end up believing that that’s the truth without any investigation. So that’s what false teachers do. They always really have the same message. And that message is just pounded on people until they say, okay, I guess that’s true. For a believer, you can’t do that. But that’s the characteristic. They usually have good oratory ability to convince people of something they don’t believe that they ought to believe. But if you know the truth, you won’t be swayed by that. You’ll stand strong. And this church wasn’t swayed by that, but they were tolerating these people. So there were some groups in the church who brought this into the church. The people that were looking at it would say: well, we’ll let you go for a while. The Lord says: no you can’t do that. Because if you don’t take care of them, I’m going to take care of them. That’s the job of the church, the whole church. The pastors, the elders are the people in the church. That’s our job to watch out for those things.
A second thing about false teachers is that they have an intense desire to have their own following of disciples. It says here in verse 14 they put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel. Now, he’s referring back to the Old Testament. The obstacle is really an instrument to divert someone off the original path, hopefully in the wrong direction, to entrap them in something they weren’t formally believing. So to encourage acceptance and participation with the seemingly harmless and culturally accepted practices already being done as the norm. That’s what happens when a message is repeated and repeated and repeated and repeated. And then it’s done. It’s done, it’s done, it’s done. It becomes normal. A lot of people today believe that abortion is a normal thing. It’s just a choice of the woman. Right? What they were doing here is that they were eating things sacrificed to idols. We know in Scripture that says behind every one of these idols is demons. So they were sacrificing to demons, and they were committing acts of immorality. This was becoming normal in the church.
See, Balaam taught Balak how to lead the Israelites into sin in both ways. Balaam tried unsuccessfully to prostitute his prophetic gift and curse Israel for money offered by Balak king of Moab. So he devised a plot to have the moabite women seduce Israelite men into intermarriage. Remember, Israelite men were not supposed to intermarry with other cultures, right? They were supposed to marry just Jewish people. If you go out that, then you bring their idolatrous practices into the community, into the family, into the nation. You’re already asking for cancer to take over the whole thing.
Now this is what I want you to do. I want you to take your Bibles and turn to the book of Numbers that’s in the Old Testament. I want you to look at this passage because this is really giving the background of what happened and what he’s saying in Revelation. If you’re not familiar too much with your Bible, remember that the Scripture is right there Genesis Exodus Leviticus, Numbers, so that’s where you’ll find it. And then Numbers chapter 25, I want you to notice verses 1-11:
While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people at and bowed down to their gods. So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the Lord was angry against Israel. The Lord said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people and execute them in broad daylight before the Lord, so that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel. So Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you slay his men who have joined themselves to Baal of Peor.”
Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting. when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he arose from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand, and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierce both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked. Those who died by the plague were 24,000.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy.
Now you read a passage of Scripture like that, it’s like: Whoa! Why did that happen? Because God always warned that if you let idolatry and other religious practices into what is true, it will corrupt it. So the only way to get rid of it, just like cancer, you got to cut it out. You got to get rid of it, because if you don’t, it will take over everything. You know what the end result is? False teaching. You know the end result is? False living. The end result is that you’ll end up compromising and dimming the light of the gospel. It leads to judgment. It leads to destruction. And it leads to death, and that’s what we see in this passage of Scripture.
But did you know that our northern neighbor, Canada, Ontario, the government of the province of Ontario just passed a law recently that allows the government to take children from the home of parents who disagree with their child’s expressed gender identity. For example, if Sally says that she is a he, or Sam says that he’s a she, if the parents are not seeking and supporting the best interest of the child in reference to gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation regardless of religious upbringing of a child or the moral compass of the parents, the government is putting the onus on what the child believes they should be. If they don’t comply with it, they break the law. See, this is an anti-parent law which does not support parents as the first educators. That is also anti-family, pro-sexual, and it’s promoted by the lgbdtiq community. And the letters go on. Of course, that’s not just in our northern neighbors. It’s in our universities. It’s in our high schools, right in our own towns. How did they get there so fast? The internet had a large amount to do with that. In other words, those kind of practices are already being pressed upon the church.
Some of those letters that I mentioned, let me just mention what is meant for just the sake of information, what some of those things mean. L means lesbian. G means gay. B means bisexual or biromantic. D means drag queen. T means transgender or transsexual. T means transvestite. T also means transberrian. I means intersexual, that means both male and female. Q means queer. Q also means questioning. A means asexual. A means agender or allies of those who believe that. P means pansexual. P also means paedophilia. And then O means omnisexual. And you’re not going to believe this – R means robosexual, that we’re being led to a culture where people will have sex with robots.
Crazy day we live. I tell you what, we have to be careful. Because all these things are being pressed upon our culture, our system, and eventually the church is going to have to deal with it. Either the church is going to let it go on, or they’re going to have to stand up. But that may mean unfavorable results against the church and against us as a community. In fact, our presidential candidates talked about churches losing their tax-exempt status in the last debate. What does that have to do with anything? Leave the churches alone. They’ll do fine and they’ll actually help you. But you come against the church – why is that? Because Satan is against the church.
Now you think I talked about Canada. Well, let me read this to you. There’s a resolution in the state government of California, which is trying to pass resolution scr 99. This resolution is seeking to force pastors to embrace the lgbtq ideology as normal behavior. That’s right in our backyard, right? It’s coming our way. And you know what, our young people are being barraged by this kind of teaching. They’re being barrage so much they’re going to end up thinking this is normal. Everybody’s doing it. It’s not a big deal. The thing is: that’s not the point. The point is that it will infect everything. And then we won’t be able to hold up the light of the gospel which saves people’s souls from eternal destruction. If we dim that light, then we’re all in trouble. So we have to take these things very seriously and we have to make them a matter of prayer, because that’s what goes on.
The Nicolaitans were people of what they call Nicholas, who actually some church fathers say he was a deacon and then was a false believer and became an apostate. Because of his credentials, he was able to lead the church astray. Like Balaam, he led the people into immorality and into wickedness. The Nicolaitan followers of Nicholas were involved in immorality and assaulted the church with sensual temptations. Even Clement of Alexander says that they abandon themselves to pleasure like goat, leading a life of self-indulgence. So they’re teaching perverted grace, which perverted the gospel, which dimmed the light of the church holding the truth of the gospel. And of course it gave liberty and license, that people could say they are believers and just live anyway they want with nothing that come against them.
In fact, 2 Peter 2:15 says they wandered off the right road and followed the way of Balaam, son of Beor, who loved to earn money by doing wrong. See, Balaam will do anything for money, Jude chapter 1 tells us. So here we have it: compromise, money, possessions, wealth, pleasure. The cultural pressures that are persistent upon our church, upon our communities, upon our state, upon our country until they repeat it so much that it becomes normalized behavior. Then nobody’s questioning it. See, that’s not good.
So young people – what they end up doing? I don’t have to get married. I’ll just shack up, because marriage – that’s an old fuddy-duddy thing. That’s what the old people did. I’m just going to shack up and that’s it. Or same partner unions – I’m glad they are not calling some places marriage but unions, you know. They think God won’t judge them, but it says in Hebrews God will judge them. Also, we we know that sexual practices sell. Sex sells. You’re always going to make money doing that. Doing questionable things for financial gain is something we all have to be careful about.
So what’s the counsel the Lord gives, as I close? Look at verse 16:
Therefore repent; or else I’m coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.
The Lord is saying to the church: listen, if you don’t take care of this inside the church, I will take care of it. Get right with God or lose out. So when believers tolerate worldly and pagan views and sinful practices, the church faces the possibility of losing its testimony and its influence. If the church fails to be different, it will compromise with the world. That’s what it’ll do. And what’s the challenge Lord gives to those who are faithful? Look at verse number 17. He always gives a challenge, an encouraging challenge. Verse 17:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.
Now, it’s really hard to unpack that. But hidden manna really refers to the manna that was the heavenly food sent by God to the children of Israel in the wilderness. So it typifies the spiritual food provided by God in His very Word. And then also the white stones – the white stones were used in ancient times to render a verdict. The white stone was acquittal and the black stone was condemnation. Here He mentions that it’s a white stone, in other words, being acquitted from any wrongdoing by God and forgiven, and of course like an entrance ticket into a heavenly feast.
So false doctrine and worldliness always go hand-in-hand with worldliness always leading the way. So Christians tend to forget that modernism was not first a theological agenda but a methodological agenda. Early modernists were not trying to hit the core of biblical faith. They were simply trying to make Christianity more palatable to a cynical world. We can’t do that. We should not do that. I don’t know about you, but the gospel is offensive. When you say that Jesus is the only way, that’s so exclusive in our pluralistic society. People just can’t tolerate that kind of language. Yet, God told Jeremiah the prophet, He said this to him in Jeremiah chapter 5:
An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and My people love it so!
See, that can’t take place. We all have to be careful that we want to hold to the truth. We want to purpose to do what pleases Jesus Christ, to do things that are honoring to the name of Christ. So we are never going to desire to be accepted by the world or influenced by power or by money to believe or do something opposite of what is true in the Word of God. I would like to say that when it comes to immorality, I would like to say that everybody, especially young people, need the purpose in their heart that first they would be a Christian and know what it means to be a Christian, but they would be a God-fearing Christian and they would seek out someone to marry who is a God-fearing Christian and not just marry anybody. Because when you marry someone, like the Israelites were tempted to marry the Moabites, when you bring that in you bring all kinds of confusion into a relationship. And the relationships going to end up being destroyed because one person wants to serve the Lord and the other person doesn’t want to serve the Lord. Either that’s going to break up or it’s going to be very difficult. You’ll never see eye-to-eye. You’ll always be like this. So save yourself, young people, a lot of heartache and pain and if you’re going to get married (not everybody needs to get married but if you’re going to get married), marry someone who’s a God-fearing believer. Not just somebody who has a profession of faith, but someone who lives their faith, who believes the Word of God, who could lead you in the truth, and who stands for it. That’s what we have to do.
So this second warning to God’s light-bearing community is don’t loosen your grip on the truth because it will bear the fruit of sinful compromise, sinful desires, and of course will lead you to desire wealth and to fulfill sinful pleasures and all kinds of deviant stuff that goes with it. Then if you don’t stand for what the culture is trying to press on the church, then Satan will win. But in this case, the Lord says if you don’t take care of them, I’m going to come against the church Myself. And I’m going to do it with my two-edged sword and I’m going to cut that cancer out so My church can still bear the light. So that’s a heavy message, but it is a true message. And it’s a message that’s very real to us today.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank you for the truth. Lord, I must admit the truth is very cutting, but it is also very clear. Lord, help us in this day in which we live. Some of the things that are going on right outside our door, right in our own communities and schools and universities and government, that we would not give in to their pressure. But we would trust you. That we would hold to the truth, and that our main goal would be to please You. And Lord, I pray that You would intervene on our behalf and give us the wisdom to know how to navigate these difficult waters today. I pray, Lord, that You would make us everyone here today serious Christians who know what we’re in for. And I pray make us people who pray that Lord you would give laborers for the harvest is white. I pray Lord we would be able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those who have not yet heard it and believe it. I pray Lord if there’s anyone here who does not know You as their Lord and Savior, today would be the day they may come and confess You as their Lord and Savior. And I pray this in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.